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False Positives, False Hope

Matt and Gabumon stuck in a cave made by Matt's negative thoughts. (From Digimon: Digital Monsters, S01E52) I wish I had a Digimon, too in times like these!"

Matt and Gabumon stuck in a cave made by Matt’s negative thoughts. (From Digimon: Digital Monsters, S01E52) I wish I had a Digimon, too in times like these!”

I haven’t written in a long time because I’ve been swimming in what I’d like to call “Grad School Limbo” or the grey area where you don’t really know where you are and it’s getting difficult to navigate. My primary source of unhappiness has been stemming from the fact that my projects are just not working out. But maybe not exactly…

I’ve always been a perfectionist and found it very difficult to accept failure. I’ve almost always blamed myself, scrutinized my abilities and concluded my own incompetency when things didn’t work out. The simple truth about science is that, well, things hardly ever do work out and it’s nobody’s fault. Despite having been told this before and even reading about it in the context of biographies of all the great scientists in history, it somehow didn’t sit with me. I still believed that anything I can touch will magically be set to work by some mysterious force of hope and light. If you think that’s naive, you are definitely right. So for the past few months, I’ve been in grey limbo of low self-esteem, hopelessness and lots of anger against the fates that set me up with my project!

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Keeping it trivial

Some of his woodcuts are titled Puddle, Dolphins, and Metamorphosis. Though he did not have a significant mathematical background, he was fascinated by figures such as Necker Cubes that are contradictory. This artist usually made lithographs, including Still Life with Spherical Mirror, Relativity, and Drawing Hands. For ten points, name this 20th Century Dutch graphic artist whose pictures contained logical contradictions.

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“Don’t let your degree get in the way of your education” …

The MOC House!

The MOC House!

Hidden McGill gems, part 2: after cooking with the Midnight Kitchen a few weeks ago and reporting about it on this blog, I want to bring up another great group on campus: the McGill Outdoors Club (MOC). As its name suggests, the Outdoors Club is an all-purpose sports/travel/adventure club which serves as a hub for outdoor activities of all kinds. What’s not to love?

And yet, having known of the MOC for two years, I had, until recently, never done anything with it. Not, mind you, for lack of opportunities: their mailing list, which I’ve been on since I’m at McGill, witnesses emails every day from people proposing trips and offering shared rides for anything from skiing at Mont Tremblant to trekking in up-state New York (or just building snowmen on McGill’s lower fields). I was even an MOC member last year, but no – no trip, no outdoors, no adventure; it was always for “next time”, when I would have fewer things on. But not this time! After one and a half years at McGill, it was time to stop “letting my degree getting into the way of my education” – the MOC’s motto, incidentally. And – *spoiler* – it was fantastic.

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Indecision Québec 2014

PLQ Corrumpu

Anti PLQ election graffiti in MontréalParti BourguoisAnti PQ election graffiti in Montréal.

In case you’ve been living under a rock the last few weeks (or under a thesis), you should know that today, Monday April 7, 2014 is election day in Québec. Across the province, people are making their voices heard in what has been an interesting (to say the least) election campaign.

This year, it was easier than ever for students to vote, as we could vote on campus over a period of four days. As a resident of a riding outside of Montreal, this made life easier for me, as I’m sure it did for many other students. I actually cast my ballot last week, without trouble. Then again, I have been resident here for more nearly 7 years; I pay taxes here, I have a Québec driver’s licence, a RAMQ card, and I own a house in Trois-Rivières. I’m already on the list of registered voters. I walked up to the polling station, presented my identification, and was handed a list of candidates for my riding, marked my ballot, placed it in a sealed envelope and went on my merry way.

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3 minutes to summarize 2 years

My master’s thesis is about 95 pages long. That’s a lot of information to reduce down to a two-page script that can be read in three minutes. But that’s what I did, along with 11 of the most inspiring young researchers I have ever had the chance to meet at McGill. It all happened on March 31st at McGill’s 3rd annual 3 Minutes to Change the World.

My fellow *amazing* presenters at 3 Minutes to Change the World

My fellow *amazing* presenters at 3 Minutes to Change the World 2014

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3 Minutes to Change the World – Bilingual Audience Member Edition

3min-logos-web

 

This Monday, March 31st, McGill’s Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, Office of Sustainability, and the Post-Graduate Students Society, hosted the third annual Three Minutes to Change the World event. It was a self-dubbed Ted-like event and it certainly delivered on that aspect. The students presenting (mostly Master’s students) gave dazzling performances both in English and in French.

Let me walk you through the presentations while peppering my summaries with some of my thoughts as an audience member. To keep in theme with the fact that this was the first time both English and French talks were given, I will summarize the English talks en Français et les présentations francophones in English!

Here are the cast of presenters – and a cast it is since this was quite the show:

Jay Olson a commencé l’évènement avec un tour de magie: “Choisissez une carte, n’importe laquelle et gardez la en tête” (Je traduis et je ne suis pas magicien donc ne vous attendez pas à beaucoup de magie de ma part!). La structure de la phrase et la façon dont elle est posée influence notre choix explique Olson; en fait la majorité des gens choisiraient l’as de pique ou une carte de coeur à visage. Utiliser cette forme de suggestion dans le contexte de thérapie de réhabilitation est un objectif de la recherche d’Olson. J’avais choisi le Joker noir en passant! (more…)

Be kind to yourself

kind to yourself

In our fast-paced reality of to-do lists, meetings, places to be, people to see, deadlines to meet, friends and family to be there for, and hobbies to stay true to, our hectic lives involve figuring out that fragile balance between work and play, ourselves and others. The most delicate part of this game is managing to stay healthy while being so busy – managing to stand steadily on the ball while we juggle all the pins and the balls and the fiery hoops.

It’s a serious worry many of us have, especially in an endlessly long season of arctic temperatures, snow, ice, flus, viruses and whatever else may be going around. None of us can afford feeling ill, falling behind, feeling weak. We all have way too much to do. But, funnily enough, it is always the case that the exact point in time where we can least afford to fall ill is precisely when it happens. This is no coincidence, though. Your body knows when you are over-worked, over-stretched, over-stressed and over-tired. Bodies know when they are being abused. Bodies aren’t stupid.

Sometimes, whatever you catch absolutely floors you and you have no choice but to stay in and recover. Other times, the feeling of illness is much more gradual, more subtle, more complex, and easier to ignore. You notice you haven’t quite felt like yourself the past few days. Then those days stretch into a week, the week spills into the next week, and suddenly you don’t know where the month has gone, but you feel like you’ve lost your groove. Whatever the ailment – be it physical or psychological, or a bit of both – the drill is the same: we need to put ourselves first. It is funny, actually, how we put just about everyone and everything ahead of ourselves sometimes, until something happens to make us realize that this may in fact be the wrong strategy.

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A silent witness

[Disclaimer: Aspects of this post may cause emotional discomfort]

Monday began like an ordinary day. My alarm clock forced me to greet the morning at five-thirty. I responded to e-mails and penciled a to-do list over three cups of coffee. I squeezed myself onto the ridiculously crammed metro, caught the bus, and unlocked the door to my lab about thirty minutes later. It was an ordinary day of collecting and analyzing neuroscientific data, of meeting my supervisor, and of writing bits of my dissertation. I was busy, focused and pretty reserved all day long. The afternoon was also quite ordinary; I waited for rush-hour to subside a little and left work around six-thirty, in order to have a less stressful time with overcrowded transportation. I recognized the bus driver, got a seat towards the back like I usually do, and was at Sherbrooke metro in fifteen minutes – just like any ordinary day.

When I pushed the heavy door to enter the metro station, I noticed two police-offers were shooing a man toward the exit. “Outside!” one officer yelled in English (which, I remember, surprised me more than the fact that an itinerant was being asked not to loiter). The man began to retaliate, but I couldn’t make out what he was saying, as I was listening to my iPod. “Outside!” the officer yelled again, and added something that sounded like a threat to intervene if the man didn’t comply. I passed the busker who was singing joyously with her guitar, passed the turnstile as my STM pass emitted its routine “beep” to let me through, and walked slowly down the stairs to the platform. As I walked down, I could hear a man shouting something below. A different man than the one they had just ushered out of the station, obviously, but someone who sounded equally distraught. I removed my iPod and continued down the steps. He was loud and sounded upset, like he was venting about something. He did not sound like he was well. Before I even got to the bottom of the stairs, I could tell roughly where he was standing, due to the converging glances of passengers waiting on the track. Everyone was silent – listening, watching, pretending not to listen, pretending not to watch.

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Unconformity: the Sixth McGill Anthropology Graduate Student Conference

POSTER-Final[Resize]What is the role of the ‘what-is-no-longer-there’ in shaping the present?  How do anthropologists, and other academics, engage with residuals, traces, and artifacts? How do intrusions, differences, ruptures, and discontinuities speak to investigative areas of inquiry?

Such questions will be addressed next Friday (March 21st) at the McGill Anthropology Graduate Student Association’s (AGSA) sixth annual Anthropology Graduate Student Conference: “Anthropologies of Unconformity: Erosions, depositions, and transformations.” The conference will be held in the Thomson House Ballroom, from 9AM to 4PM.

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Food for Everybody! Cooking with the Midnight Kitchen

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The Midnight Kitchen in Action

One of the better-kept secrets among graduate students on campus is the Midnight Kitchen. The Kitchen – also known simply as ‘MK’ – is a non-profit organization that provides a free, balanced and complete vegan lunch to students, every day of the week, every semester, since 2002. Whilst it is quite famous among undergraduates – partly because it operates out of their SSMU building (3600 McTavish) – it is somewhat less well-known among graduates, although it’s always been open to them, too. Either way, I wanted to take a look behind the curtains, and so I decided to join the MK team for a morning, to cook it up for the around 250 hungry students – grads and undergrads alike – that were, like every day, to be expected for lunch!

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