Since you asked…

Philip of BioCurious (certainly one of the best blog names ever) wants to know: Does your office or any of your labs have windows? I hate love to gloat, so I just had to post this by way of an answer. Portland, yo.

view1.jpg   view2.jpg   view3.jpg

(I cheated a bit — the first one was taken from a lab window at my last job, and the others are from my current job. The sunset one is actually an underexposed sunrise from the front entrance, but is not substantially different from the shot I would have taken had I been in the shared postdoc office at the time.)

Impostor Syndrome

Dr Shellie went to a workshop on Impostor Syndrome, which is “a behavior pattern in which high-achieving individuals (particularly women and academics!) have a hard time believing in their own success and intelligence”. As you’d expect, female academics are particularly prone to IS, and Dr Shellie tacitly admits to having some impostor issues herself.
I thought it might be interesting to have a kind of impostor — a male scientist — take the impostor syndrome diagnostic quiz, so here goes:

Do you secretly worry that others will find out that you’re not as bright and capable as they think you are?
Nope — I’m pretty secure about being bright and capable. (Modest, too, no?) I bet that’s a man thing — I’ve always been praised for anything I’ve done that indicated intellectual firepower, whereas women largely don’t get that kind of encouragement. Or, to the extent that they do get such encouragement within academic circles, it’s offset by pressure from the wider culture which tends in the opposite direction, focusing on female appearance and disparaging women’s intellectual achievements — see also this post from Dr Free-Ride on women and nerdliness.
Do you sometimes shy away from challenges because of nagging self-doubt?
No. I do wonder if I’m up to some parts of the larger job — getting funding, planning a long term research endeavour, managing a team — but those are long term challenges and so sorta hard to “shy away” from. Shorter-term things like giving a presentation or picking up a new technique I’m pretty confident with.
Do you tend to chalk your accomplishments up to being a “fluke,” “no big deal” or the fact that people just “like” you?
I think I do sometimes overdo the self-deprecation thing. That might be cultural though, as I grew up in Australia where it’s much more common (to the point of pathology, see also Tall Poppy Syndrome). On the other hand, I think it’s important to realise that luck does play a healthy part in many scientific accomplishments.
Do you hate making a mistake, being less than fully prepared or not doing things perfectly?
Sure. Doesn’t everyone though?
Do you tend to feel crushed by even constructive criticism, seeing it as evidence of your “ineptness?”
Not crushed — it annoys me, I can’t seem to help that reaction, but I realise it’s asinine and I always manage to step back and do my best to learn from whatever criticism I’m offered. If someone does catch me in an error I could have been expected to avoid, I do feel “inept”, foolish — but I think that’s normal, not Impostor Syndrome.
When you do succeed, do you think, “Phew, I fooled ’em this time but I may not be so lucky next time.”
Um, not really. Maybe a little. It depends on whether I felt secure going in — sometimes I’m not well prepared (for a seminar, say), and if it goes well I do feel I got lucky.
Do you believe that other people (students, colleagues, competitors) are smarter and more capable than you are?
I flat-out know that some of them are — but I think the question is aimed at a general feeling of not being up to standard, from which I do not suffer.
Do you live in fear of being found out, discovered, unmasked?

In fact, I think a resounding “yes” to any of the last three questions might indicate serious anxiety and/or self esteem issues, possibly related to depression, and I think I would suggest professional mental health support in addition to Dr Young’s ten steps to overcome Impostor Syndrome. (If that sounds like a put-down, note that I have major depressive disorder and see a psychiatrist regularly. I know whereof I speak, when it comes to living with mental health issues.) I don’t mean to suggest that Impostor Syndrome should be subsumed into other “real” diagnoses — I think IS is a real problem, and like many (if not most) such problems it overlaps with several other parts of the mental health spectrum.

So much for using the early adopters as cannon fodder.

Bloody hell. I waited a few weeks to upgrade to Firefox 1.5 (MacOSX), because I know from bitter experience that every single time the bloody thing is upgraded, something breaks. I figure the early adopters run interference for me. Well, it appears I have to wait even longer — it took about five minutes after upgrading for me to run in to Bug 298502, which is where you get the Beachball of Death and have to force-quit the second (but not the first) time you try to use a drop-down from the bookmarks toolbar. It seems to have been around since June, so that must have been on 1.0.x builds, but I’m back on 1.0.7 now and it’s not happening. Gaaaah.

Truly, deeply weird.

Alistair Cooke is sorely missed since his death last year, and never more so than now, as the story breaks that his corpse was defiled:

The bones of Alistair Cooke, one of the great broadcasters of the twentieth century, were stolen days after he died last year at the age of 95, according to reports in New York.
Cooke’s bones were removed by a surgeon and then sold for around $7,000 (GBP4,000) to two companies that provide tissue for transplant operations, said The Daily News.

I don’t know what Cooke’s beliefs were, but I do know that he had his family break the law by scattering his ashes in Central Park — so I rather think he’d have been amused by all this, and I wish he could somehow be here to send in one of his wry Letters From America about it. (I don’t mean to say it’s funny — it’s ghoulish and astonishing and vile, of course — but I can almost hear him making droll humour from the horror, and all in that lovely voice.)

October is breast cancer awareness month.

Prof B has the goods, and because I’m busy I’m just going to swipe her whole post. Watch out for that first link if you’re squeamish, it’s a post-op picture of a mastectomy.

This is what breast cancer is about.

Here’s a place to start doing research on the latest news related to breast cancer: disease, diagnosis, treatment.

Here is an animated explanation of how to do self-exams. Do them. If, like me, you forget, order yourself a free shower card to help remind you.

October 21 is National Mammography Day. Call and schedule a mammography for yourself. And/or encourage your wife, sister, girlfriend, daughter, to do so.

Wanna donate to breast cancer research or activism? Think Before you Pink.


Matthew Baldwin is a genius:

Speaking of this, you know what I think they should do? I think they should make it so if you press an elevator button that’s already lit, it goes off. This would serve two purposes.
First, it would allow a rider to cancel a button pressed in error.
Second, it would thwart those A-personality types who enter the elevator and press the button for their floor even when it’s already lit. This would obviously be the greatest boon of the technology, because, as we all know, those people are totally fucking annoying.

The “this” link goes to a post on Matt’s other blog, Tricks of the Trade (which I just added to the blogroll because it, too, is sheer genius). Apparently there’s a way to get most elevators to go straight to your floor without stopping for anyone else; evil, but useful.