Thursday, February 26, 2009

The party had to end sometime

So I got a call from my church leader last week asking me to come to church early to meet with him. I thought that he was going to ask me to help out with some committee, or head up a church dinner. What I didn't expect is for him to release me from my totally awesome calling as Relief Society Chorister which I totally rocked at, to Nursery Leader (nursery is for children 18 mo-3 years old during Sunday school). I was totally blown away. I was really liking my other calling and I was teaching them all sorts of cool stuff like how to sing alto, how to sing solfege, and I was about to start on key signatures when I got released. Now granted I have taken quite a few children's music classes and so I could experiment a whole lot on these kids with different games and songs, but I'm afraid it will really isolate me from the rest of the congregation. The lady I'm taking over for was in this calling for four years. FOUR YEARS! So if any of you have been in my situation before, help a sister out with some ideas.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Good Times...

Some things never get old...

Nothing new, but I come back to these time and time again when I need a good chuckle.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Research Report

One of the most vexing questions I have to answer on a regular basis is: "what do you do at the university?" This probably does not sound like a difficult question, but it's much more complex than it may appear. You see, the program I am in is entitled Behavioral Neuropharmacology. You can't exactly rattle that name off to people without (1) sounding pretentious, (2) receiving a blank stare in return, and/or (3) having the question repeated. Alternatively, I could say that I study psychology (our home department), but that results in a different set of problems. Generally, people either (1) make a joke about how you should "psychoanalyze" them, or (2) promptly change topics by mentioning something harmless like the weather while not so subtly eyeing me up and down as if I had all to recently escaped from a mental institution. When people hear you study psychology they automatically jump to the conclusion that you are training to be a clinician or desire to author the kind of self-help books on which you might collaborate with Dr. Phil. What's worse is that I don't really believe that I study "psychology" at all, but that is just where programs like mine end up at universities, for historical reasons. For this reason I tend to give the Behavioral Neuropharmacology / Neuroscience answer, because blanks stares, repeated questions and pretention are far more tolerable than being perceived as a sweater-wearing, sofa-enthusiast with a penchant for writing on clipboards.

The problem with answering that I study neuroscience is that most people unwittingly demand further explanation. What they don't realize is that they don't *really* want further explanation because that warrants a much longer, detailed, and tedious conversation than they originally bargained for. What people really want is "small talk," and there frankly is much in the way of small talk in behavioral neuropharmacology. Oh sure, I can say "I work with rats" or "I study drug addiction," but that inevitiably leads to probing questions that lead into the above-mentioned tedium, or to different sorts of misperceptions (Willard anyone?). Let's face it, when you ask someone what they do, you aren't really asking them to give you a ten to fifteen minute lecture on animal models of drug addiction, how they do and do not help us better understand patterns of human drug abuse and potential treatment problems, and what they tell us about general principles of learning which is what you really care about anyway and all this drug business is just a means to the end (and where the grant money is found).

I've tried to find ways to solve this social problem, and the conversational awkwardness that it precipitates, but not to much avail. The first solution I came up with was to lie. You know, just say I study something else that I know a little something about and that is far less conversationally inhibiting, but still interesting. The best way to do this is to pick a subject that virtually everyone knows something about, and that sounds interesting, but not too interesting (Political Science is a definite no-no here...). For instance, biology, genetics, or economics. Of course, this strategy runs into major hiccups when (1) someone else present already knows what you study, (2) the person you're talking to specializes in the field you just chose. Of course, my first attempt at lying about what I study resulted in the latter possible outcome, creating the sort of awkwardness I had hoped to avoid.

Since lying about what I do doesn't seem to work as I intended, I have to come up with another way of getting around this social predicament. In the meantime, I will have to fall back other flawed strategies or learn to deal with the standard social awkwardness that is the burden of scientists who inject animals with illicit drugs. However, you can avoid hearing a long and boring lecture on neuroscience by either accepting the fact that I study economics when I tell you so, or by reading our blog! I recently published my first peer-reviewed article (as 2nd author) in the journal of Behavioural Pharmacology. I can't link you the full article for copyright reasons, but I can provide a link to the abstract. As I publish additional articles, I will likewise link their abstracts via our blog, so that you CAN avoid awkward conversations about how I don't really privately speculate about what deprivations you may or may not have had during the "oral" stage of you psychosexual childhood development. Perhaps you might even find them interesting! One can dream, can't they?

"Nicotine does not enhance discrimination performance in a temporal bisection procedure."

Saturday, February 07, 2009

It. Was. Awesome.

It couldn't have gone any better. They are wonderful, excited, and willing. This is going to be great.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Jordy's wedding

Last weekend we flew out to Salt Lake City to see my brother Jordan get married to Abbie Laurence. It was a wonderful weekend full of lots of family and food. I got to hold lots of babies and see neighbors who I hadn't seen in a long time. We really like Abbie and we're amazed that she wants to hang out with us forever. Here are some fun pictures of the weekend: