goat monkey

Up until recently I thought I was a monkey. As it turns out, I’m a goat.

I’m talking about the Chinese lunar calendar, of course. I was born in 1980, and that’s a Monkey year. And while I don’t necessarily believe in horoscopes or zodiacs or anything like that, it always kind of made sense to me. According to the Chinese zodiac, the monkey is inquisitive, clever, and creative. People born in a Monkey year often make good scientists and engineers. They also tend to be reluctant to settle down, as they are easily bored.

I thought that described me pretty well. After all, I’m an engineer/scientist traveling the world and trying to have different adventures on every continent. I like observing people, which is also apparently a Monkey trait, and specific to Monkeys born in 1980, I’m warm-hearted and likeable.

But then I found out recently that due to my birthday being in January, I wasn’t actually born in the Monkey year. The Chinese New Year varies a little each year, and in 1980 it didn’t come until after I was born, so technically I was born in the previous year. A Goat year.

The Goat is creative and intelligent, but also insecure and most comfortable being part of a flock. Not strongly individualistic, a Goat would never volunteer for a leadership position, and is most comfortable with a stable, secure home life.

At first, I thought this didn’t sound like me at all. After all, I’ve spent more than a year on five different continents. I volunteered in Africa, went ice climbing in Scotland, horseback riding in Inner Mongolia, scuba diving in Panama, and got attacked by a cassowary in Australia. I’m a monkey, dammit! I’m adventurous and inquisitive!

Plus, monkeys are just cool.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I really am a Goat, not a Monkey. Hell, I don’t even like bananas. And when I look back at how I’ve spent the past ten years of my life, it’s clear to me that I’m just a goat who has been pretending to be a monkey. After all, while I’ve hopped from continent to continent over the last decade, the first thing I do when I get to a new one is settle into a routine. I may make one or two big trips per year, but I actually am somewhat of an anxious traveler. I love seeing new things, but the travel itself is stressful to me. And while I have chased different girls on different continents, I think deep down I really have been looking for that special someone to settle down with.

So yeah, after denying my Goat nature for far too long, I’m finally ready to accept it. I want some stability in my life. A good, steady job, and a companion to share my experiences with. Plus, Goats can be pretty awesome. They’ll eat ANYTHING. Just like me.

Again, I’m not saying I necessarily believe in the zodiac stuff, but it does provide a good metaphor for my realization that I’m ready to settle down and be “normal”.

Well, as close to normal as I can approximate, anyway.


guest post: get an editor

After slacking off for months now, I want to get back to doing a blog post a week. But since I still don’t have internet at home, for this week’s post I’m just going to point to a guest post I wrote for the lovely Sirra Girl:


Yes I’m being lazy, but hey, I still wrote it.

so far so good

I’ve been at my new job—research fellow at RMIT University—just over a month, and I have to say it’s exceeded my expectations in every possible way.

Research isn’t normally a 9 to 5 job. You’re generally expected to work over 8 hours a day, and if you don’t go to work on the weekends, at the very least you should be working from home. But my boss didn’t tell me what time to come in on my first day. So I arrived at about 8:45, eager to get started, but….no boss. She didn’t even show up until after 10:00. And when she brought me into her office to discuss my project, she also mentioned that I can come and go whenever I please, and the only important thing is that I produce results. In fact, she usually comes in around 10:00, leaves around 5:00, and doesn’t even come in at all on Fridays.

So apparently research is a 9 to 5 job. At least here, anyway. I’ve been coming in at around 9 and leaving at around 6 because I’m still trying to make a good first impression, but even those hours are less than what I did during my PhD or my first postdoc. And what I’m finding is that when I actually take breaks, it’s so much easier to come back with a fresh outlook and enthusiasm. In fact, I look forward to going to work every day.

Of course, it’s only been a month.

Despite the lack of long hours, my boss does produce results. She has multiple collaborations with other research groups in both universities and private companies, and she has multiple papers published every year. Which is the most basic, albeit sometimes inaccurate, way to judge the quality of a research group.

My project is part of a larger plan to develop a material that can be put over reservoirs to minimize evaporation. Another research group is making the materials, and my job is to run computer simulations on them and find out how they work at the molecular level. The best part about this is that there’s no wrong answer. Whatever results I get, those are the ones I share with my collaborators. And publish. And since I’m coming into this project after it’s already been underway for a while, all the hard stuff has already been done. Basically, all I need to do is modify and fine-tune some things, and everything will go forward smoothly.

Which is pretty awesome.

Another thing that I particularly like is that there are two other people working on this project with me—a PhD student and another postdoc. I felt pretty intimidated at first because they’re both thoroughly familiar with the work and I’m coming in as an outsider, so I wondered what I could possibly add. But to my surprise, being an outsider actually helps. I’m looking at the project with fresh eyes and from a different perspective, and while I may not be as familiar with the details as they are, I can suggest alternatives that might not have ever occurred to them.

Plus, it’s nice to be part of a team. My colleagues really love what they’re doing, and their enthusiasm is contagious. The other postdoc and I often spend our days separating problems into chunks, and then working individually to come to a solution. And it’s just so great to have that feeling of accomplishment when something we’ve worked hard on to put together succeeds beyond our expectations.

Honestly? I mostly took this job because I needed the money. After all, I make more now in a week than I did in a month in China. But I never could have predicted that it would end up essentially being my dream job.