Archive for the ‘February 2014’ Category

Time travel

In February 2014 on March 1, 2014 at 9:19 am


Sarah: Kirsti’s post of yesterday has me thinking. Thinking about how a changing perception of time has influenced my life.

I look back to the days when I was a student. I worked very hard, a had extra jobs on the side and I did lots of exercise. And yet I had a sense of time freedom I did not appreciate at the time. I set the agenda and I moved it as required. I controlled my time (at least it felt that way).

Baby number 1 threw me big time, so to speak. I was the boss no longer; even when he slept it was as though he was an alarm clock which could go off any minute. I hovered terribly, waiting for and even trying to predict the inevitable ‘buzzer’. What a waste of time! So silly!

I also found it difficult having no sense of weekdays and weekends. Each day involved milk, poo and washing. No matter what. I didn’t have the sense to create a structure which loosely matched that of my working partner so that a regular but changing pattern over 7 days emerged.

Two further babies improved my approach a hell of a lot, but even so I still grappled with time issues. As an example: free time became a gift, something so rare and so exciting that I’d rush about and try and achieve too many things in a small window. Far from being relaxing, my free time became a flurry of everything and nothing. Again, so silly!

Kindy and school gave us some routine, and a sense of being part of the grown-up world again. We had a daily and a weekly timeframe. I loved it. With that sense of structure, I became more efficient, more effective and happier.

My kids are now of an age where sporting and other commitments are starting to creep up and up. Not only do we have school as a daily fixture in time, but other things as well. Four week days out of five, after the 9-3 school period, we leap in the car and head off to a second or even third venue.

My little one is in his final year of pre-school before he too will join the 5-days-a-week commitment to education.

I actually like being busy, and I love the kids to be broadly educated and doing lots of sport. But I’m determined to avoid that the sense of RUSH RUSH RUSH which can inevitable creep in. We’re lucky enough to live near our school, and many of our activities. This has been deliberate, not just in choosing where to live but also in which activities to sign up for. For example, we chose not to follow most school friends to a footy club 6 kms away, but instead registered at the very local one 1 km away. It doesn’t sound like much of a difference, but I know that when we’re in the car fighting 4-5pm traffic, that’s 5 kms fewer that I will spend swearing and hollering at the clock.

We walk to school on as many days as I can get my act together. Although it can be a scramble to leave the house a good 10 minutes earlier than if we drive, once we start walking it’s as though we enter a warp. Time stands still.  No matter how many cars are queued to turn left onto the main road, we always assume the same pace. We know how long the walk takes, and accept it as a given. That’s pretty precious.

And sometimes, we feed our neighbour’s chooks on the way home. This also relates to time, sort of like a flashback. It makes me think of my grandfather, and the days when everyone had a few birds hanging about to eat the vege scraps and produce eggs.

A different time.

Tick tick tock

In February 2014 on February 28, 2014 at 1:39 pm

Kirsti Clock Earls37a Flickr

Kirsti: What does time mean to you?

Think about these questions:

Do you think about the past a lot, or are you focussed on the here and now?

Are you a fatalist, or do you believe that with planning and deliberate actions you can influence your future?

Do you make snap decisions when under time pressure, or take in and process information for as long as you’ve got?

I am here to confess that I am a little bit obsessed with the concept of time. So much so that one of my favourite things to do as a uni student was to tell people it was about 3 hours later than it actually was when we were out at the pub or elsewhere. Try it – people freak out if you advise them it’s midnight when it’s only 10pm. Or even worse, if they think it’s 3am when it’s only midnight. Wish I’d collected some data on that…..

Anyway, I am reading a recently published book at the moment called “WAIT: the art & science of delay”, and finding it a fascinating look at the importance of timing, from milliseconds through to years. It advises that delaying decisions and actions, often for as long as possible, is a desirable thing to do. The book also reinforces the concept of ‘clock time’ vs ‘event time’ for me. Most of us live on clock time (have to be at soccer at 10am). This is good if you want to be efficient, but it’s when you can use event time that you can be more effective.

Curious to know more?  I don’t blame you. It could change the way you organise yourself and your family.

Phillip Zimbardo agrees.  His book “The time paradox: the new psychology of time that will change your life” discusses his and John Boyd’s idea of time perspective; how our perspective on the past, present and future can influence the way we lead our lives every day.  There’s not one paradox, but a series that shape our lives and our destinies. To use his words, here’s an example:

Paradox 1
Time is one of the most powerful influences on our thoughts, feelings, and actions, yet we are usually totally unaware of the effect of time in our lives.

Paradox 2
Each specific attitude toward time—or time perspective—is associated with numerous benefits, yet in excess each is associated with even greater costs.

Paradox 3
Individual attitudes toward time are learned through personal experience, yet collectively attitudes toward time influence national destinies.

Now look at the clock. What’s your first thought? Late? Need to be somewhere?



[photo thanks to earls37a on flickr]

TV in a test tube

In February 2014 on February 20, 2014 at 10:06 pm

Fail lab snip

Kirsti: If you’re like my family and don’t have a television of any sort, you might turn to YouTube, iView, SBS On Demand, and other channels that float your boat, or source apps that both entertain and educate.

Recently we’ve come across a channel that might pique your interest. If you’re remotely curious about anything, and like science in any way, shape or form, you will love TESTTUBE – a Discovery digital network.

There are so many shows it will blow your mind – even including one called Stuff To Blow Your Mind – and the presenters are a young, diverse, articulate and professional mob.

I can’t choose a favourite, but the FailLab episode that explores what makes us vomit, and some food textures that your mouth/stomach can’t deal with is pretty up there!

I (and I’m sure Sarah) would love to know what you think of these shows. Point us in the direction of your favourite science channels too.  We might rank them in a future post.

Happy viewing!

Friendships in Science: Part 2

In February 2014 on February 12, 2014 at 1:21 pm

Sarah Kirsti 2

Kirsti: It’s hard to know exactly how friendships have shaped my career in and around science. I can’t quantify it, and the multiple ways in which individuals contribute to my skill base, confidence, decision making and direction is too complicated and long a history to dissect.

But through science I have met some of the most brilliant minds, passionate people and wonderfully creative souls. People as a child I never imagine existed.  And it makes me want to stay in science almost because people like that are there. These types of people are everywhere you might say, but for me, and my type of personality, with my own interests and love of learning, my people in my spaces inspire me. They challenge me, support me, teach and motivate me.

Reflecting on people that have influenced me in science, there are two stand outs that gave me very different views and values about science. They appeared at the right time and I remain friends with them both.

Honours supervisor – brilliant and rebellious, almost obnoxious and unforgivingly right. All the time. And it hit a chord with me during that ‘I can do anything’ phase of my life. His enthusiasm for bugs, for science, research and for working hard toward personal goals have stayed with me.

PhD supervisor – measured, thorough, deliberate and accurate. A natural historian and dedicated researcher in the most traditional and treasured sense of the words. Can be grumpy, but always genuine.

But my true-on-the-ground-everyday-down-n-dirty-I-am-doing-it-all-right-next-to-you friends give me support, strength, wisdom, conviction, ideas, laughs……and coffee.

Every. Day.

I have a friend who will no doubt be an inspirational leader in science education. I have a friend who has travelled to beyond the horizons to search for chemicals in plants. I have a friend who, when she tells stories, the whole room stops and listens. I have a friend who loves concrete and yoga and organic food and art all at the same time. I have a friend who devotes every cell of her being to being the best she can at bloody well everything, and succeeds!

And then there are new and unexpected friends. New perspectives and discussions that have steered me sideways from research and into a science communication and education arena. I am grateful, for here I have found more amazing people.

But after some deliberation, I keep coming back to the fact that it’s science that I have chosen, but my friends that keep me here.

[disclaimer: this post in no way diminished the role of my family in doing all these things too!]

Friendships in Science: Part 1

In February 2014 on February 12, 2014 at 1:20 pm

Sarah Kirsti 1

Sarah: How important are friendships in science?

Last week I caught up with friends old and new at a conference of the Australian Science Communicators. Meeting Kirsti was a total highlight – I’m laughing out loud remembering the scene we must have made as she spotted me, yelled out my name in a busy lecture theatre, and I pushed past other seated attendees to have a big hug.

It’s made me think about how important friendships can be in helping you survive a career in science, whether you’re a student, researcher, leader, communicator or teacher. The importance of friends who ‘get it’ and support you through thick and thin would appear to be particularly relevant in the current political and social climate, with grant budgets shrinking and a low value placed on science by some in public office. This is perhaps one reason why many scientists seem to find some solace in connecting through social media. (We touched on this in the November 2013 #onsci chat ‘Looking after each other: professional wellbeing in science’).

I’ve been lucky enough to have experienced some strong and lasting friendships in my science career. Way back in *gulp* 1995, one fabulous research assistant who – with her husband – saw my desperation at the 11th hour, and helped me stick images (yes, paste them onto paper with glue!) into the multiple copies of my honours thesis. She’s since visited me in hospital when babies arrived, drank champagne at my 40th and comes to my place for coffee and cake about once a year.

The most wonderful epidemiologist anyone could hope to meet was my friend in need and a friend indeed when working in infectious diseases research for the US Navy in Jakarta, Indonesia. She was a military chick, and yet somehow was everything the stereotypical recruit wasn’t – open, warm, caring and a fantastic sense of humour. She’d come up to my desk in the lab, and we’d chew the fat over missed families and life in a foreign land. I’d teach her strange Aussie uses of words, like ‘feral’ (to describe a person who needed a good shower and haircut) and ‘bulldog clip’ (for those black and silver document-securing items). With her equally wonderful husband, she had a baby; I would smuggle him away on weekends, and kiss his fat cheeks. We named our daughter after this friend.

My more recent science friendships have formed away from the laboratory. These friends – with whom I connect in real life and via social media – ‘get’ that I become obsessed with issues, that I love to read and share diverse media, that I stay up too late blogging and reading and thinking. In addition to sciencey and communications stuff, we chat about raising kids, and exercise. We laugh and cry and swear and post sub-tweets and laugh some more.

And now with Kirsti here, I have a mate to ScienceforLife.365 with. That rocks, just quietly.

Water leaked from my face

In February 2014 on February 6, 2014 at 9:12 pm

me and my shadow

Sarah: The conference is over baby, it’s never gonna be that way again.

I arrived in Brisbane on Sunday, buzzing with both the anticipation of catching up with new and old friends, and my involvement in several presentations. Yesterday, I left feeling intellectually inspired, tired, happy and maybe a little overwhelmed.

My main presentation was a case study describing how ScienceforLife.365 has contributed to my professional development as a writer.

Preparing and talking about this year-long blogging project required me to cast my mind back. Back to when I was in-deep-up-to-my-neck-no-escape, blogging every day and entirely focussed. It was a very solo commitment in a way. Most of the time, it was me and only me, alone with my thoughts and my ideas and my writing. Feedback received in the form of counting views, ‘likes’ and chats on social media offered a welcome reprieve from this isolation.

Taking it even further, in the conference session I had real-live people offering me fantastic feedback and comments and personal tales of their own blogging experiences. Really positive smiling people. So wonderful. (So wonderful in fact – and to use Will Grant‘s words – water leaked from my face. I think I got away with it….right Kirsti and Jenny?).

Next up, a joint post from Kirsti and myself, celebrating the fact that we are now officially friends in real life! Stay tuned.