Fuck “Passion”

(by thehermitage) Apr 08 2014

Your bestmonktress was reading Michael Tomasson’s recent post setting the stage for the next pubscience (Are you listening to that shit? Because if you aren’t, you should be). And one part, which I sure was meant innocuously, set me the fuck off. So let’s embrace this opportunity for an attention whoring blog post, shall we?

“While I agree with some criticisms of Dr. Kern’s piece, e.g. science should not be closed to people with families that need to work 9-to-5, I sincerely believe that intense, clock-ignoring passion is a critical ingredient for good science.  Can we revisit the passion and hard work debate?”

I immediately bristle at the notion of “passion” being brought up as a critical skillset to be emphasized, because it somehow implies there’s some cache of scientists who Don’t Give a Shit. Especially as Kern’s piece is the definition of a ‘kids these days just don’t have gumption’ argument. There are many things critical to science that are scarce: funding, funding, effective diversity initiatives, funding, affordable childcare, funding…but ‘intense, clock-ignoring passion’, imo, is something we have an overabundance of and I don’t know why the fuck we continue to discuss it.

It’s probably because when ‘passion’ is brought up*, it implies some extra song and dance that graduate students and postdocs are supposed to do. Glistening eyes while we turn 3/4s into a soft light source while espousing our True Love of discovery and objective answers. Showing up, doing your work, and cashing your check almost seems crass within our True Science Warriors cult calling. While families are morally acceptable obligations preventing you from taking that 24hr time course in perfect 1hr increments, you should want to be there. When you get pink eye, you should internally mourn the time lost that you could have spent analyzing your hawt data. When science cuts you off at the knees, you must wipe your tears and go ‘hey, now I get to engineer new, better knees!’


Oh, I’ve been in school for 10 years, making half of what I would have made with a B.S., dealing with clinical depression, ballooning debt, and science repeatedly kicking me in the nads…but am I passionate enough? Righttt...

Fuck that noise.

Coming in, doing my work, and cashing my check is an expression of passion. While there are some lazy ass motherfuckers out there, imo, they are vastly outnumbered by those who have effectively taken a blowtorch to their lives to be here and answer some question they find fascinating enough to do it all for. Rates of graduate student depression are ridiculous, their debt is soaring, discrimination is alive and well (and denied by their colleagues), and there aren’t even enough TT jobs to take a pittance of the number of PhDs produced. Oh, and when we pursue an ‘alt-career’, we’re stigmatized and made to feel like shit. And that’s just grad school! There are hundreds of thousands of n00bs who come in and do an exemplary job anyway, only for grand poohbahs to wring their hands about science going ‘too soft’.

I will work reasonable hours, not because I have a family, but because I want to sleep and watch the latest Game of Thrones episode before everyone spoils it. I will not pull multiple all-nighters in the lab unless the finger of Science Jesus has touched my experimental setup. I give precisely 0 fucks about my data analysis when I’m watching my nieces be the adorable little drunkfaces that they are. Also applicable when I’ve made fresh quiche, or when a new Marvel movie comes out. I am also an ass-busting, methodical scientist whose response to ‘how passionate are you?’ will be


*I’m NOT saying this is what Tomasson meant. Which may make you ask “Then Hermie, why are you quoting him if you’re going to screed on something completely unreleated?” To which I say, did you not read the part about attention whoring?

5 responses so far

I'm Back on the Prowl...

(by thehermitage) Feb 14 2014

And you muffins better have some good questions

Because I'm coming for youuuuuu*...

*By which I mean I need volunteers for this three-time shitshow, so feel free to waste your time help ladeeyz in the name of Career Progression!

** Dunno what I'm talking about? Go hur: http://meinhermitage.wordpress.com/wimminz-in-academia-now-with-100-fewer-babies/. Yes, I moved. Nu, dun ask me why.

5 responses so far

Standing with DNLee: aka don't be a dick to my e-friend or I'll e-shank you

(by thehermitage) Oct 12 2013

Reposting so as to propagate the shame upon biology-online throughout the internets, and possibly to the depths of bloggy hell. It's been so long that I've been in the digs that I had to reset my password, which I'm fairly certain will send scientopia off axis, bursting into a ball of flames, scattering pixy dust of my Fuck You Friday posts over unsuspecting upstanding people, causing them to develop the superpower of breaking all grammar rules at lightning speed (put a preposition here cause I can't think of one*).

Sneak peek for full post at Isis's blog:

The Blog editor of Biology-Online dot org asked me if I would like to blog for them. I asked the conditions. He explained. I said no. He then called me out of my name.

My initial reaction was not civil, I can assure you. I’m far from rah-rah, but the inner South Memphis in me was spoiling for a fight after this unprovoked insult. I felt like Hollywood Cole, pulling my A-line T-shirt off over my head, walking wide leg from corner to corner yelling, “Aww hell nawl!” In my gut I felt so passionately:”Ofek, don’t let me catch you on these streets, homie!”

Knowledge dropping youtube video provided for posterity (tell 'em what time it is). The "have a nice day" SLAYS.


*Take what you can get muffins and minions. Sometimes the blogger scallop funnies are wrapped with sad undercooked bacon, you just gotta power through it.


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Because academia needs to act MORE like magpies...

(by thehermitage) Feb 20 2013

So Science Career mag has a nice article up on a AAAS working group’s rebuttal to NIH’s suggestions to fixing the biomedical workforce “situation”*.  Their suggestions were very similar to ones brought up on Drugmonkey’s blog (and others), limit the number of trainees. The AAAS workgroup’s proposed mechanism of action? Increase trainee and postdoc salaries.

This is something that has been argued extensively before on Sally Rockley’s blog (I can’t find the Rock Talk post that CPP posted on, can someone point me to it?) from the workforce side of the equation. However, hiking up graduate and postdoc salaries by simple arithmetic eats up grant award $$$ that would have gone to research. Add on top of that RO1 payouts not keeping up with inflation, on top of budget cuts upon award, investigator labs will have to contract, painfully, with likely decrease in productivity.  It’s a nasty discussion, how much is science worth compared to “trainee” quality of life, who’s probably been “training” for over a decade? But that’s not the point your favorite D-List monktress is interested in.  No, I’m interested in what the grad student/postdoc Hunger Games would look like in this post-payhike apocalyptic wasteland.

Academia already has a problem with “pedigree”it is. The number of times a person is introduced by their attendance of Yes We Rock and You Can Suck It Uber U, rather than their research, is mind boggling. MacArthur “Genius” grant profiles make sure to list all the Glamormag pubs their awardees have published in, so, you know, you can believe they’re legit. K99 awards heavily weight your “environment”, which is a politically correct way of asking how big your BSD advisor’s dick really is. A perfectly logical consequence (in my famewhorey mind), of making labs operate on ½ or ¼ of its normal workforce is that this shit will push downhill. Will a postdoc with a mediocre PhD, through no fault of their own, still have a chance to get picked up by BSD lab and “make up” for their prior underperformance? Will PIs, who watch their R01s get eaten alive by salary and benefits, pick up that 2.80 GPA undergrad who discovered they love research their junior year?  I think not, and why should they, when every hire burns a nontrivial percentage of their grant money?

Figure 1: I got pedigree upon pedigree yo

Ironically, said article went up near back to back with another focusing on a different working group (was this working group palooza month?) addressing the leaky pipeline for women and ethnic minorities. I’m sure it was unintentional, but comparing the two groups' suggestions feels exactly like a case of the right hand not knowing what the left one is doing.  The fall out from the AAS’s group’s suggestions are most likely to screw precisely those underserved populations , who often lack the shiny accolades that PI’s will start leaning on even more heavily. An investigator with limited funds will hedge their bets and go for the students who’ve been able to run full throttle their entire career. The poor woman who had to work at WalMart every summer instead of attending prestigious, underpaid, REUs, or the minority who fell off the research bleeding edge to have a baby, will have little to no place in such a system (as if there were a lot of space for us to begin with).

I’m not saying that increasing wages is the Worst Thing Ever and shouldn’t happen, but I think this is an important side of the coin that people are not considering in these discussions.

I dusted off the retirement boots to blog diarrhea on this topic, I expect uber e-whore pay (points at comments box)!!!!

 *It’s a nerd bomb that will tick to zero, leading to a swarm of deranged postdocs running down the streets, screaming about “20 years of my life!” and “10% paylines!!!”

14 responses so far

It’s over, dawgs

(by thehermitage) Sep 19 2012

So, yes, the plan was to spend a month writing snarky and grammatically-incorrect posts—carrying you all away on a cloud of D-List epicsauce—until I rode off into the sunset while you all cried.

Instead it will be like that unsatisfying shit after you’ve been constipated all day, phuwwwt, done, over.

Your D-List Monktress and savior is hanging up the towel after several years of funny memes and curse words no one understood (“What the hell is douchecanoe, Hermitage?”). There is no special reason other than I have run out of things to say and n00b knowledge to drop. The closer I get to completing my own studies, the less I remember the anxieties and questions I had when I began. That and “use your fucking brain,” and “don’t be such a fracking asshole” seem to be my responses to 99% of academia drama llama encounters. I have become a crotchety D-List famewhore, the Lindsay Lohan to someone else’s Amanda Bynes, and that is simply not acceptable.  So I’m Norma Desmond’ing out of this bitch.

Figure 1: Aka, like a BAWSS

Our last D-List line break *sob*
I’m still looking for some reputable peep to take over my Wimminz in Academia Sanz Babies survey of AWESHUM. I will get links cleaned up and updated so people can easily access the last two years that I’ve hosted it. I think it would be a super nice carnival, so hopefully someone will flich it out of the gutter, class it up a little, and pretend it’s vintage. I’ve also been looking for some cynical blogasswipe to run Fuck You Friday with the level of bitterness and élan that I’m known for (stop laughing!), and found the bestest successor evah, Dr. Cynicism! So start heading on over to get your FYF on, he has my stash of best “Fuck You” memes and is funny as hell, you’ll all have a good time.

I heart every one of my muffins and minions, and appreciate so much that you made my low-rent corner of the science blogosphere so homey, intelligent, and fun! And if you retweet me really, really hard, you might feel that old D-List sparke again*.

*Dude(tte)s, I’m still a famewhore at heart.

23 responses so far


(by thehermitage) Apr 11 2012

Are like totes due earlier than I thought they were. But fear not, regular programming will resume shortly, with extra posts to make up for my tardiness.

Figure 1: Obligatory funny picture

One response so far

Fuck You Friday: You know you missed us

(by thehermitage) Apr 06 2012

Returning from hiatus to mad applause (right?), is Fuck You Friday, your weekly place to rant, rave, and discuss science, life, blogging, whether Phi Phi from RuPaul's Drag Race is an asshole, what have you.

Arggh, matey the GiveAFuck has eluded us, AGAIN!

If anyone has had an embarrassing email snafu recently, fear not! The level of shitstorm from your error cannot possibly be as large as it was for this Rutger's student, who hosted a showing of Song of the South and wrote "If you do come, hooch is most welcome, as are strawhats and other Darkeyisms. I might even buy a watermillyum if I get enough interest." Moral of the story: know your audience, muffins and minions!

14 responses so far

Reader Blog TakeOVAH: Training your n00b Grad

(by thehermitage) Apr 05 2012

A reader asked me to write a guide on how to crush the n00b monk(tress)’s minds. Instead, I will reframe this as a ‘how not to incur the wrath of your elders post’. Listen the fuck up, young’uns!

Figure 1: Do you really want a lab full of experienced engineers, scientists, and the like trying to plot your demise? I'll answer for you, oh gods in teh name of baby pandas no!

A small enough differential element allows you to assume curvature is insignificant, just sayin'. *Shove*

You’re a fuck up

“Excuuuuuuse me,” you may say. “I was a straight A student who was also the volleyball captain that won all four years I was in college, AND I engineered a self-propulsion robot.” Guess what? The era of N00b Who was Pro at All the Things is OVER. You are going to fuck up, in abundance, and at the worst times. You will spend years banging your head against the wall trying to get a hypothesis, any hypothesis, to work. This is what graduate school is all about, so gird your loins. Additionally, do not walk up to your elder monktresses after two weeks, two months, or two years bitching about “how hard science is, waaaaaah!” because they have been miserable a lot fucking longer than you. STFU (srsly).

Continue Reading »

5 responses so far

Reader Blog TakeOVAH: Dealing with Procrastination

(by thehermitage) Apr 04 2012

“What are methods for dealing with procrastination?”

 The concise answer would be, go read John Perry’s awesome article at The Chronicle, posthaste. But then I wouldn’t have a blog post, now would I? I am actually an epic procrastinator, a trait that seems to have only become worse as I get older. It doesn’t help that I have an also shortening attention span. To be clear, I am not claiming that I have ADHD to avoid the fact I have patience of a 2 year old coming off a sugar high. I just liek teh shinies.

Figure 1: My derp skills are unrivaled, bow dow-ooh a new blog post on Scientopia!

Herp! Continue Reading »

16 responses so far

How Gaming Makes Me a Better Graduate Student: Zergfest

(by thehermitage) Apr 03 2012

Everyone’s favorite (NOT) series rises from the crypt, plaguing gamers in their basements everywhere.  Today’s topic will be on tactics, specifically the case of LE ZERGFEST.

What the fuck, you may ask, is a zerg? Zerg is technically an insectoid race made famous in real-time strategy game Starcraft, and are often used to swarm the hell out of the opponent. Gamers have co-opted the term ‘zerg’ to mean using shear numbers to overwhelm your opponent. Think 300, the Romans? Total zergfest.

 Figure 1: Lol, zerging is liek an epic tactic bro!

Sparta break!

There are a few ways to respond in the face of an opposing zerg. If you have the numbers, you can hitch up your underpants and counter-zerg, where everyone flails wildly as fast as possible and hopes they make a contribution*. Hopefully, you end up crushing your opponent with your epic bicep and claim pyrrhic victory by standing on a pile of corpses (whose, you’re not quite sure).

If you’re outnumbered, you have no choice but find your inner Spartan and employ some tactics. Do you pull the opponent into a choke point that they can’t pass, but you can? Do you flank them from another direction? Do you perform a series of hit and runs? This is the canonical David v Goliath situation, except your brain is the rock. Hence, the quality of your result may vary (e.g. if you throw your brain at the opponent, you will definitely lose, especially if they are zombies).

The last case I will discuss is if you have equivalent forces and tactics. This is a true war scenario, sacrifices are made, battles are lost and won, and eventually someone comes out on top. If you can keep a cool head in the face of LE ZERGFEST, there’s a good chance you can hold your own, and even if you lose, you have learned something quantitative about the enemy.

I have found my experiences with zergfests to be translatable both to lab culture and field culture. There are labs and areas of study where people throw all their troops at a problem, not caring if one person’s success is built off a labmate or collaborator’s failure. There are fields where the lab juggernaut holds all the gold and smashes anyone who comes too close. In that case, others are forced to sneak attack to get a foothold and make something of themselves. In my humble n00b opinion, the best science happens when well-matched groups engage in battle for supremacy. But the key to surviving any of these situations is understanding that you are indeed in a zergfest situation. And then planning accordingly.

*And cursing wildly as their fps drops to 0.000025 and they get to watch a slideshow of their death.

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