Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Graduate Student Quiz

As a much as I love being the proprietor of a virtual restaurant, it is not what I would call a lucrative career choice…if by lucrative one means making any money whatsoever. Therefore, like most residents of the blogosphere, I am forced to seek a day job, one that provides me with a daily income, a feeling of self worth, a sense of personal accomplishment, and a legitimate excuse to get out of the house and maintain some sense of personal hygiene.

As a medical writer for a continuing medical education provider, part of my job involves writing grant applications and proposals to seek new sources of funding. Some of the proposals are small and some are big. Some of the proposals follow traditional models and some require more innovative thinking. Some of the proposals have long turnaround times and some have looming deadlines. As a matter of fact, I am currently working on one of those big, nasty, non-traditional proposals right now, and its deadline is looming ever closer like a hungry vulture circling over a wounded kitten.

Oh, yes. Just try to get to sleep tonight with that image stuck in your mind.

Interestingly, my recent work developing experimental designs for healthcare education studies has reminded me of my graduate school days. Thankfully, it reminds me of the good years of grad school – the years of exciting scientific discovery and learning – not the bad years of having my soul sucked away by experimental failure, impossibly high expectations, lack of direction, and a general erosion of self worth. It was kind of like a prolonged dementor attack without the giggles.

Yes, grad school was a mixed bag for me. In fact, it was in my last year of grad school that I wrote a quiz titled, “How close are you to finishing your thesis?” I think there were 5 questions to the quiz, but unfortunately only 4 of the 5 questions remain.

For all of you grad students out there, take heart. It will all soon be over, and it will get better. Of course, then you will have to find a REAL job. But that is your problem.


  1. What is daylight?

    1. God smiling on the earth

    2. That period of time between sunrise and sunset

    3. Something to do with “saving” and “time”

    4. A vicious lie

  2. Your friends think you are:

    1. A lot of fun to be around.

    2. A little stressed.

    3. In major need of a vacation.

    4. What are “friends”?

  3. Which of the following is the most stressful?

    1. Writing your thesis

    2. Cooking dinner

    3. Tending to a bleeding ankle while alien space invaders are firing on your encampment and your mother is standing over you discussing health insurance

    4. Can’t tell the difference

  4. When someone asks you, “So, how’s the writing going?” you answer:

    1. “Thank you. It’s going well.”

    2. “What writing?”

    3. “Leave me alone.”

    4. “I will kill you, and they will never find the body.”

The Fourth Law of Thermodynamics

My father in his former life was a physical chemist, so I've known the first three laws of thermodynamics since I was about 7 years old:

  1. Heat and energy are conserved. (You can't win.)
  2. Entropy is always increasing. (You can't break even.)
  3. It is impossible to cool a system to absolute zero. (So don't even try.)

Frankly, I think there should be a fourth law: There are an infinite number of people ready to burst your bubble at any given time.

About a week ago, I was seated next to a colleague who I knew was an avid biker. "Hey," I said proudly. "Last Saturday I biked the Monon trail...34 miles!"

"Hmm..." he said gruffly, "last Saturday I biked 160 miles. I did the Ride Across INdiana."

"Oh," I said. And then feeling like I ought to comment further on his understated accomplishment, I added, ""

Yesterday, after a long day of work, I took a long bike ride up and down the Monon. I wheeled my bike back to the office just as one of our directors was leaving the building. Feeling somewhat proud of myself, I told her in as cool and matter-of-fact a voice as possible that I had just biked 22 miles. "Wow," she said. "That's great. Good for you! You know, when I was in college, I used to bike 20 miles every day."

Yes, an endless supply of killjoys...

So, I hope, Dear Reader, that you will not let the air out of my tires (metaphorically speaking) when I tell you that I plan to ride the Hilly Hundred next October. The Hilly Hundred is a bike tour in central Indiana that covers 100 miles of hilly road over two days. It is a grueling event of camaraderie and endurance...or at least it certainly sounds like it based on all the promo material.

Last year, upon facing my 40th birthday milestone, I biked the Monon trail round trip. At the time, 34 miles seemed like a daunting and yet doable personal goal...a feat of strength to show the world that I could take 40 in headlock, throw it to the ground, and give it one hell of a noogie.

Yeah, well that was last year. Onward and upward. So, I'm telling you all now of my plan to do the Hilly Hundred . I figure that if I mention this publicly to enough people, I won't be able to wimp out. Nothing keeps you on track of your personal goals like public humiliation.

However, the Monon Milestone Birthday Ride is now an official yearly event. I am planning the ride for August 29th, a mere 16 days after my birthday. You are all invited, and I hope you will join me on the 34-mile ride up and down the Monon trail. As we did last year, we will celebrate the end of the ride with drinks and dinner at the Broadripple Brew Pub.

And any of you who wish to join me on the Hilly Hundred, please do so. But if you do, please try not to ride circles around me or brag about your own bicycling exploits. I have a fragile ego, and I have enough killjoys in my life.