In love

Alison in Wonderland, Observant, Maastricht

I was given some lovely Christmas gifts. One was a pair of metal squares for poaching eggs, so that they come out precisely the same shape as your bread. (Because heaven is a perfectly geometric breakfast.) Another was an 1100-page book called On politics which promises to take me on an informative yet lively journey from Herodotus to the present day, and which I fully intend to start reading just as soon as I’ve finished the pile still left over from last year. But the best thing of all? A bicycle! And not one of those shiny new-fangled contraptions, but a proper, vintage piece with flaky paint under a layer of rust, no gears to speak of and those glorious, Dutch-style high handlebars that have you practically leaning back as you ride. I’m in love.

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Overly honest research methods

Alison in Wonderland, Observant, Maastricht

Lying about your research methods to get a journal article published? Not okay. Telling the whole truth? Probably not your best option either. Twitter geeks will have noticed last week the explosion of tweets under the hashtag #overlyhonestmethods. Here are some things you DON’T want in your manuscript: ‘Samples were incubated for exactly two hours, unless it was a Friday afternoon’; ‘Figure 2 shows a typical plot of the data, by which I mean the prettiest one’; and ‘We are unsure how the results were obtained, because the postdoc who did the work has since left to start a bakery.’ And my personal favourite: ‘The wrong reagent was used for experiments 1 and 2 because my adviser has an Australian accent and I misunderstood.’

All worked up about relaxing

Alison in Wonderland, Observant, Maastricht

I spent New Year’s Eve surrounded by corporate and academic types with three degrees each and New Year resolutions like ‘I’ll make partner, take over a bank, publish a monograph, cycle the Alpe d’Huez and sponsor a dozen Burmese orphans’. This was not conducive to my own 2013 goal, which was, for the second year running – and in the immortal words of Ryanair – to ‘chillax’. (This includes not getting worked up about cheap marketing tricks like forcing two perfectly good words into one.) Doing my PhD and running a small business on the side, I often fail spectacularly when it comes to relaxing. And for the second year running, I managed to last four days before finding myself in the library again on a Saturday night. But you see, with no one else around, it’s really quite … chillaxing.