Feb 28, 2010


Cuba. Wow. Where do I begin? Well, let's start at the beginning. It rained. A lot. And there were Canadians. Many of them. With BMI's way over the norm. 

Such is your lot when you decide "let's book at an all-inclusive resort, how bad can it be?". The answer is: bad. Don't do it. No matter how much of a deal you think you're getting. 

Luckily, we escaped. We rented a car for the first half of the week. Partly because we knew it was going to rain and what's the point of sitting on a beach in the rain. But mostly because we needed to get away from all those people. It was like living in the Mid-West, in the States, except with funny vowels and transported to a beach resort in the Caribbean. 

So we managed to avoid the people, but not so much the rain. And did it ever rain. Boy. But we had fun all the same. We quickly realized that we would not be able to make it to our chosen destination (the town of Trinidad) in a day. Instead, we went to places closer by. We saw LOTS of country side. That meant lots of horse-drawn carriages. This still seems to be the main mode of transport in central Cuba. 

We also saw lots of mountains (on the way to Havana), and the obligatory 50s-style cars, Fiat 500s and modern Chinese buses. All of it was exciting, but Havana was by far the best. It reminded me a lot of Mumbai, but with fewer people. Basically, the place is fabulously falling apart and chaotic, except for an area in the old town. Take it from me: if you go to Cuba, hang out in Havana (do yourself a favor).

The rest of the time we made do with enormously long beach walks - I'm suffering from sunburn on my calves that I forgot to protect - and trips to the mangroves where we got to jet ski at very high speeds, or trips to the classic Tropicana show "under the stars" during which I wore my winter jacket because it was so cold.

Overall, a very successful trip. Sure, we had little heat and sun, the reason we went. But we did see lots of new and interesting stuff. Of course, we had to put up with the endless request for tips by the locals and stupid questions like "Oh, you rented a car and drove around the country side? But how did you eat? Won't you get sick?". And I blinked so hard at a woman who kept complaining that her back was killing her (sun burn), mainly because I wasn't sure she was speaking to me since we hadn't met, that her companion said, "I don't think they understand you - they don't speak English". Hubby and I laughed over that one and then moved discretely to another table where we could "not speak English" to each other.

More pics can be found on my facebook profile, for those of you who are savvy enough.

Feb 18, 2010

A week of poop and spew

Well, what can I say? It's been one of those weeks. Full of poop and vomit. Not mine or hubby's, but the pets. Our cat continues to have issues with the litter and has decided the entire house is the litter box, and our dog decided to throw one of her nervous epis since hubby was in New York. Crazy week. And one that left me wondering at the end of it when I would get a day of rest that did not involve cleaning up after some kind of animal.

I did manage to intersperse these episodes with some fun. Went night skiing on Tuesday night, and pilates (on Mons and Weds) is getting tougher. That's more like it! After all, as of this weekend I'm going to have to show off my new abs in my new Ed Hardy bikini. Yes, we're off to sunnier parts for the spring break. Sometimes, being an academic isn't so bad. Although that reminds me ... tons of stuff to do before we go. Better get on with it!

Feb 12, 2010

2010 is turning out to be ok (so far)

In my humble opinion, 2010 is turning out to be ok. Over the last month and a half or so, life has progressively been getting better. By that, I really just mean that I'm feeling better. In a million small ways. I have found a very good friend here in Montreal, who is fun, cool, around my age, single, a new prof like me - in short, a treasure. I feel like I'm getting back in control of my academic life: I'm managing to find research assistants who do good work, getting on with my papers, had one accepted for publication (!) and have been invited to be on the Board of Reviewers, i.e. editorial board of THE journal in entrepreneurship (!!!). 

I am also getting to be much happier in myself. I will admit that the last few years have been a struggle from time to time, partly caused by my job, partly caused by me. But these last two months, while by no means perfect, I have begun to feel a bit like my old self again. Some of this is due to a shift in mindset. But I also negotiated with my doctor to increase my thyroid hormone intake a little bit, and a week or so later, the difference is indescribable. I'm literally *bouncy*. My metabolism works properly again (I feel hungry and eat a normal amount without gaining weight), I'm gung-ho about doing work and have don't feel tired all the time. I suspect that although my TSH and T4 hormonal tests were coming back normal, that I was slightly "under" in the hormone levels. It's so nice to feel like a positive and active person again, mentally as well as physically.

All this new found energy left me frustrated with my hair and looks. And I decided to take the big leap into cutting my hair short again. I've simply come to terms with the fact that long hair just does not suit me as much as short hair. It just doesn't. No matter what I do. Or maybe I just don't know how to "do" longer hair. I will be the first to admit that I'm not a real girl in that sense. My solution was simple - to control my hair and look sexy, I just have to cut it off. 

So here is the new look. I'm really excited about it, and even my hairdresser and the girl who sweeps the floor in there were both impressed with how my looks changed with this super cute cut. Although the color was a bit of a surprise to all of us. It was supposed to be several shades darker than my own hair, and after the required 20 minute wait, it turned out almost blonde! Luckily a quick toner topping fixed most of the golden tones, and it turned out pretty. Though not quite the sexy brunette I'd had in mind. But I'm feeling so happy about the entire thing that I am embracing this whole-heartedly.

Feb 9, 2010

From one thing to the next

Sometimes I get the feeling that my body just decides to go from one problem to the next. For instance, last week I had a cold sore as a result of walking around in insufficient clothing one Saturday night because a friend of mine convinced me to see some light display that was anything but. This week, also on Saturday, my back gave in. I have no idea what happened but I do know that it hurts. Like hell. 

Now my back giving in is nothing new. It happens from time to time. The first time was when I was 16 or so at boarding skill, and a random skip over a puddle resulted in a massive spasm that had me in bed for the next few days. Since then, I've been plagued with neck and back problems, usually whenever I spend too many hours at my desk, working away. Or, as a result of being stuck in an airplane seat for far too long. Or, I'm sleeping on a bed that's too hard (or too soft) and my back ends up in some weird position. 

Usually I know the cause. This time, I really have no idea. It's in my middle back, right on the spine. It almost feels as though I've bruised the vertebrae itself, except that I know from experience that this type of pain is muscular, not the bone. It might have been that the dog tugged too hard one day on the leash, or that I bent over too much at my desk. Who knows?

All I know is that I have had difficulty moving since Saturday. I'm treating it at home, since it's nowhere near as bad as two very bad spasms I had over the last few years that basically affected most of my movements. So for now, it's icepacks and NSAIDs, and a few stretches without stressing. 

That means no skiing tonight. Boo-hoo. Sucky day. Luckily I'm seeing my osteopath on Friday anyhow. Maybe she can set me right.

Feb 4, 2010


My recent absence can be explained. One, I had a visitor. Two, I'm neck deep in data.

The visitor was great - a friend from Toronto who spent two years in Michigan with me. It was just so good to catch up. I had thought that I was lacking enough social contact after my move to Montreal. So I was truly looking forward to her coming over, in order to seep into friendship chat in a way that I haven't been able to do for months. This part was great. But I came to realize that I'm not that short of a friends/social life. Instead, I've been missing good academic contact.

By that I mean talking to someone who really "gets it" when it comes to papers and research. So much so that we spent about 4 hours one evening running models for her on my software, and many more hours discussion both our research ideas: how to move forward, what to do about certain obstacles, who to work with, ways of tackling an "introduction", you name it.

I had not truly realized how lucky I was to be at Michigan, surrounded by people that "speak" Academics. There, I had my Toronto friend, my running buddy, several lunch-time brownbag seminars I could attend, librarians who bent over backwards for you, etc. And while I don't want to discount the research being done at my current university, it's simply not the same. Standards are different. Emphases are different. PhD students lack drive. Librarians aren't as clued in. People don't "speak" about their research in the same way. There is no sharing. Not in the way there was at Michigan. And until now I didn't realize how much I miss it.

As for reason number two: data. I love working with data. I will swear that doing data work is the anti-dote to depression. Even so, there are boundaries to my love. Those limits hit me when I close my eyes and see typefont in the colors of my statistics software (black and green), or see diagrams from my network software (circles and arrows). That happened a few times this week, mostly at about 11pm at night.

The rest of the time I'm happily coding, merging and analyzing away. The trick is to overcome logic puzzles. Like, oh, if I replace data from 2009 with that of 2008 (because the 2009 is "current" which was really 2008 and not 2009), what happens to the data? Does it create an unnatural "jump" from 2007 to 2008? If so, does it matter? Should I try to fix this? Or, since "current" was really 2008 anyhow, it makes no difference? ... You see what I mean. My life exists of such decisions, and has done for the last 2 weeks or so.

The following week will be busy. Need to review lots of papers for the Big Annual Conference which will be held in Montreal this year (no travel, hurray!), and I have another journal article to review as well. So in the mean time I'm saying an emphatic "NO" to newspaper articles, becoming a media contact, and other things that don't progress my research in any way at all. I recite the "JUST SAY NO" words in my head daily.

Oh, and then there is skiing, of course. Three, night skiing.