Saturday, September 19, 2015

Creative Outlets

One thing I've never understood is people who bitch about their jobs.  If you hate your job enough to complain about it daily, why not redirect that energy into finding a new job, perhaps one you hate less?

At a certain point, the buttons you keep winning just aren't worth it.

Yet sometimes, bitching is still easier than the stress involved in applying, interviewing, waiting for HR, signing the forms, and getting oriented.  I know this because my stress levels are through the roof.  Next week is my last week at my current job and it's not a moment too late.  Our staff has been at about 50% of what it should be and it's working me to the bone.  I'm exhausted all the time, and even if I didn't have this new job lined up, I would have probably put in my two weeks' notice anyway and started searching.  On top of my stress due to overwork, there's the stress of worrying about my new job.  Will I be good at it?  Will it be challenging?  Will I mess up?  Will I have fun?

For those just joining us, my new job is as the head researcher / lab manager of UCLA's new gnotobiotics lab.  Note that "head researcher" just means "researcher who's been there the longest" and "lab manager" just means "person who orders more pipette tips."  The true boss is the PI, which stands for Primary Investigator and not Private Investigator, which would be far cooler.

According to stock photography, both professions use magnifying lenses to an excessive degree.

Gnotobiotics is the study of microbial influence on neurological development.  This is also called the "brain-gut" axis.  Whether you like it or not, the reality of the situation is that you are mostly microbe.  You have ten times more bacteria than cells that are "you," and when you take a dump, 30% of the mass of that dump is E. coli.  With that amount of bacteria floating around in your body, it's inevitable that some of it is going to have a degree of influence over your thoughts, perceptions, and increasing cynicism about your job.

Then again, it's not really your microbes' fault that you got a liberal arts degrees.  ...OR IS IT?

Since switching over from one job to another takes time, I've been in a sort of career limbo where I'm not yet established at my new job, and tying up loose ends at my old job.  I'm feeling increasingly anxious about starting anew and being given new challenges and responsibilities.  It's a lot to think about.  The paperwork alone is a daunting, Sisyphean task.  My response to this has been to sleep a lot and to try to find creative outlets at home.

As usual, RedditGifts is one of my major hobby projects.  I signed up for two "secret santa" exchanges: an animal-themed one and a pet-themed one.

Here's a pretty typical wrapping job for the animal-themed exchange.  As you can see, each package has a dirty limerick attached to it, lovingly crafted and hinting at the contents of what's inside each gift.

I was especially proud of this one.  (The person I was gifting to mentioned that her boyfriend really likes ducks.)

As for the pet exchange, Andrew and I make a snake hut for someone with snakes.

  Lol, snake puns. 

Not that I spend all of my time at home painting houses for snakes, of course.  That would make me crazy.  And I'm certainly not crazy, which is why my friends often rely on me to get things done for them.  For example, one of my friends, a professional drag queen, was doing an Elvira act over the weekend and asked for two 4-ft.-tall cardboard cutouts of Elvira's dog posing with a boombox as stage props.  Does that sound crazy to you??? 

Here's the outline, and then the finished product.

Wow, this post has had a lot of artsy-fartsy stuff, huh?  Don't worry, blog.  I'm still a scientist and absolutely not a crazy one.

If I were crazy, my dog, who is also my captain, would have honorably discharged me by now to get some of that top-notch mental health care that America provides to its veterans. 

Next time, on iAlbatross: My picks for what Voldemort's Horcruxes should have been, two new short scary stories, and a charming Halloween video to ring in autumn 2015!  Also, some science stuff: insects and fish, and the world's smallest horse!

Also, sorry for the infrequent updates.  As always, please feel free to visit Andrew's more frequently updated but immensely less endearingly batty blog, SHRAD.ORG.  The name of his blog is not, regrettably, any sort of reference to a death metal band.  In fact it's quite the opposite.  For example, he recently wrote about an excellent date we went on to see Audra McDonald the soprano sing at the Hollywood Bowl, followed by a ballet performance of Fancy Free.  Not especially hardcore, but nonetheless amusing.

Fancy Free is a ballet about some totally heterosexual sailors, and the resemblance to Carlisle is uncanny.

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