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.


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.