So it has been a while

Things are looking up!! I had an amazing time in Sydney and was planning on uploading pics but never got round to doing it.

I got the preliminary results back from the Marie Curie and was stoked to see that I scored 82!!! I know it won’t be enough to get funding but the fact that I improved by 10 points and scored above my goal (80)  is great!   Now I am waiting on the ranked list, and while I know there is no way I would have made it on the A-list (definitely funded).  I still keep hoping and checking the website everyday even though the results don’t come out until the END of december.

I have also started the first tentative steps to getting things sorted for my move back to Sydney, very tentative I might add, since I have just checked what I need to do to start visa process.  Once again it is a lot of bullcrap.. but it has to be done.

And then my work in the lab, I am trying really hard to complete one experiment which I am positive I can get done by my Xmas break on the 23rd.  The other experiment is kinda falling to pieces, while I do hope that I can at least have a protocol ready by the time I leave, I am not that positive.. And then there  is all the organising I need to do to actually leave this freaking place!!

Luckily for me,  Conny and her GF want to spend Xmas in Tours  (not b/c of Tours, but they just want to get away from home) and since they are driving down they were more than happy to bring back whatever I need bringing back (mainly books,shoes and clothes). I am hoping to sell all my furniture to the Frenchies here.

Fingers crossed everything runs smoothly



So France is on strike. It is the weirdest thing to see how people take to the streets to protest.  For me it is a first since neither in Holland nor in Australia have I experienced anything like this.

As far as I understand it the main thing that they are protesting is the retirement reform, however it seems that it this is being used as a catalyst. The Frenchies have been unhappy for quite some time with Mr Sarkozy and I guess when he suggested that the retirement age needs to be increased from 60 to 62 it was all that was needed for people to go on strike and show their unhappiness with Sarkozy.   Not only are many different unions on strike, students have also joined. The very interesting thing here is that there is a clear difference between the campuses. I am at the science faculty, where students and teachers just continued with whatever they have going on. The campus in the city however houses Law, Language and Art students and there everything was blocked for  3 days.   The scientists at least over here don’t seem to bothered with the change of rules. In my lab, while no one went on strike, there is one dude who totally agrees with the strike while my boss thinks that it is necessary to do the suggested reforms. I tend to agree with her especially after hearing the argument of F when I said: but does it not make sense to save some money by increasing the retirement age, with the crisis etc”  He answered me and said that there is deficit the Goverment should just take money from the rich companies and use it.  He was definitely not joking when he said he was a believer in Communism.

EDIT:  Senate has voted, the reforms are made law but major protests are planned for Thursday..  I got caught up in my work and never finished the  post…

What I wanted to say, is that it is really fascinating to me  that people firmly believe in the power of Strike and they obviously do have reason since many things have been achieved using Strikes.   As I said I am not really affected by it, today the trains were running just fine but there is hardly any Petrol in Tours,  there are massive queues at the gas stations and people are actually getting pretty aggressive with each other. .Thankfully I have TESSA and she does not require any gas!

I am not sure how much longer this will continue, the laws changed and people that are striking do not get payed salary so I think it would be hard to keep going for a very long time. And surprisingly, while people do support the strikes, they also nearly all (except F, my workmate) realise that it is necessary for future generations.  Will see what is going on in 3 weeks when I come back from Sydney!





Back from the neurogenesis conference in Bordeaux.  It was very interesting  and has gotten me more excited to do some work. The meeting was pretty small, about 60 people. But the speakers were interesting and being such a small meeting meant that there was a lot more discussing going on. I initially applied to do a poster, but was contacted and asked if I was willing to give a talk, I said yes.   After hearing the first guy speak I  started to freak out, I was soooo out of my league it was not even funny!!  And this feeling continued throughout the first day (it did not help that I still had heaps of work to do on my presentation).  So that evening instead of going for the dinner I went back to my hotel and worked on my talk.  The hotel that I was staying in had given me this MASSIVE room, actually it was more like an apartment, to stay in. I was on the top floor and had 2 bedrooms, a lounge room, a kitchen and bathroom. It was not the cheapest place but I had such a hard time finding a room that when I finally got a positive response I said yes!

The next day I had to give my talk ( I slept for about 4 hrs) and was so unbelievably nervous it was not even funny. I could not even focus on the the talks before mine which sucked since they too were very interesting.  Then it was my turn and it was a bit of disaster, my voice was breaking and I my mouth dry.. it was horrible!! I managed to get through the whole thing, but seriously the worse 20 min of my life.  Luckily I got easy questions and managed to answer them..

After the lunch break there were more talks and one of them was from Piazza.. oh man did he give a talk.. I know his work from addiction stuff but had never seen him speak before.  He openly attacked my boss,  he put up one of her papers and said it was bullshit because there are no models for depression and just went on and on. I was not sitting next to her but was hoping she would say something during question time.. she did not (neither did I) . When I spoke to her after she said that this is what he does, he likes to cause a stir and he only enjoys it more if people engage.. I just thought it was rude and out of line to attack someone like that ESPECIALLY since that paper never once mentioned a link between neurogenesis and depression!!  Anyhoow it definitely woke me up for the last 2 talks.

I am counting down the days before I go on my Holiday.. just 22 to go!!


And everything is dead, I mean really  even the town is like a ghost town.. no people nothing. Saturday I had lunch with a friend (yep found some new ones) and the main square , which is usually packed was empty.  Initially I thought there

might be some festival going on or a national day of staying inside, but seeing that she is French and from Tours  even she thought it was odd! Lunch was lovely and we celebrated her finishing off her last big experiments for her PhD  and me that my final paper from my PhD got accepted.   It only took 3 years, about a gazillion comments from reviewers and then I got the email that is was finally all good!!

Now all I need is to get an email telling me: Here is your fellowship go and do what ever you want for the next X years.. it is exciting and nerve racking at the same time.  I am in way better place now than I was 2 weeks ago.  I think it has to do with the fact that I am making a real effort to get out of this place.  I have been working hard on my fellowship applications and also sent an email to a lab in Sydney to see if they had any opportunities for me to work there. I told Iain and Glenn that I want to come back and am hopeful that something will turn up sooner or later.  The grants for Australian universities won’t be out until end of  Oct/start of Nov I believe so will have to be patient for now.

The lab is dead, there are 2 students here and one of them is mine.  I have been a bit distracted lately and felt really bad about it, but he is a smart guy (i thought for a second there that he had no clue what was going on) but as it turns out he does and I am really happy with all that he has done!! We are moving on to the next step in our experiment and I hope that it turns out as good as the previous one!

That is it for now! Fingers crossed there will be some news on the job front SOON

You Got to be Kidding


This morning I was ready to check my slides under the microscope only to discover that the thing is broken, the lamp burned out or something!  In any other place that would mean get a replacement lamp and change it. Here not so.. For one there is no replacement lamp and secondly we can not order one because the accounts are closed for summer.. This means that from the 15th of July until the end of Aug it is impossible to order anything and in our case it is actually even worse since the only person who can put through orders is our secretary who just retired and the replacement is not starting until late September.. Do you still question me wanting to get the hell out of here.. I am considering just moving to the other lab permanently and work there full time at least they have microscopes (now even a confocal) and great FOOD.

I am totally procrastinating on my fellowship application (for the UK) in my mind I have moved to Sydney.. This week I am really going to try and focus though!  I did apply for a fellowship for France, my boss contacted me saying she had just found this foundation and that the deadline was the next day.  I don’t I have ever handed in something in such a rush, I could modify an older application so it is not like I had to write the whole thing.. Will see what happens. No other news on the job front and am not sure if I should contact the dude whom I applied to.. It has been two weeks, maybe he is just not that interested, but he could at least send me a: Thanx but no thanx??

Gotta run, just needed to vent!

It has been a loooooooooong week

Lots has been happening here in France and somethings not as fun as others, but it seems that the not so fun things are resolving and I think that it will be back to relative normality soon.   Let’s just say there was a massive misunderstanding, people got upset and then there was a lot of tension.

On to the funnier things: GAY PRIDE PARADE. Having a quiet beer with a friend at the pub and suddenly there was music and people marching, not quite sure what was happening until I saw the rainbow flags, drag queens and bare chested men dancing.  There were about 50 people, ok maybe 100 but obviously nothing like Mardi Gras in Sydney. I had a wee dance and a big laugh, it was like the baby of parades just really cute and tiny and you could see that the people had tried but it was just not there YET.

She managed to climb onto the fountain and have a dance, then jumped down hopped back into the truck and drove off!

Working has been very rewarding and frustrating: Getting one thing to work and having another fail.. So today I am back trying to figure out WHY it just does not want to do what I do and hopefully get it to work.  I did nearly burn the lab down trying to improve my staining,  luckily I was pretty calm while my little experiment exploded in front of me!  OK I might have let out a wee scream, before diving in to save my slides.  It is pretty stressful working, knowing that in September it will all end and I need data before then! My boss is great though and trying very hard to find funding for me to stay a little longer.  I realise more and more that I do not want to be here for a long time.. I miss Sydney like crazy, every single day I wake up I thinking  about going home.  And obviously when shit hits the fan I miss it even more.  But having to chose between being without a job and staying here a few more months,  I am choosing to stay here if possible.  Need to look into the fact if I can get dole money or something, that would give me the opportunity to at least do some work in the lab and finish my experiments and not move back home immediately  if I do not find work before September.

Dad is doing a little better, but he still not well which sucks!  The good thing is he is not smoking any more so my mum is ecstatic, the bad thing is that he is not smoking anymore which makes me the BAD guy now!  Although when i am home I do not smoke too much and only outside..I know I need to stop.

Part of the Parade

It sucked and then I cried

Yesterday morning I got the email from the FRM informing me that they will not be giving me any money.  And it really sucked.  The crying came when my boss kept saying how sorry she was for me and how she really  wanted me to stay.   I am OK, or actually I am doing great.  At least now I know and can keep my eyes open for another job.  My boss is going to try to get some money from the industry so I can continue after September but who knows.  I never wanted to really stay, but now that my experiment is coming along and I can see it all falling into place I would really like to finish everything which unless a miraculously there are no glitches is not really possible in the time frame I have!

My boss is not someone who ever tells you what to do.  But she does make it clear what she wants.  In my case I have 2 experiments I am working on.   One of them is really straightforward and one that I can finish within the time frame. The other one, the original one, is a lot more challenging and I am not convinced (yet) I will be able to finish in 3 months (and this is excluding the paper writing).  I would like to at least get one publication out this year and think that if I focus on experiment 2 I can, however she made it pretty clear that she wants me on the original project. While this is the most interesting one, I hope it does not blow up in my face and I end up with nothing.  I am sticking to my original plan which is work like a maniac on Project 1 until the first of June,  if it is a total failure I will focus on the second experiment and if it is a success I will keep on at it.

In totally different news that also SUCKED and made me upset; my Dad was admitted to hospital 2 weeks ago. He was really sick and spent some time in the ICU, which was pretty stressful not only for me but for my mum also. Luckily he is a trooper and is now back home trying to gain some weight (he lost 10 kg and is pretty skinny as it is) and strength.  He is of course happy to be at home and I think that he finally has realised that it is OK to go to the doctor when he feels sick.

I also had another birthday, this time in France and this year it did not end with me spending the night at a strangers house.  All the people from the lab came over for drinks and food and it was pretty subdued  but fun. The Frenchies lover their alcohol and so do I.  I was initially planning on going out for a dance but that never happened.  Everyone left around 3 AM and drunk me surprised hungover me by cleaning the whole apartment at 3 in the morning. It was a great and total surprise to wake up with a massive hangover and realise that there was no cleaning to be done!!!  And seriously cleaning the toilet/kitchen/ lounge room while drunk is quite funny!

So that is all for now, need to get back to work!

Passive aggressive?

I live in old house that has been converted into  2 apartments.  My apartment is on the top floor and the other apartment is on the first floor. The ground floor has 1 studio, but has always been empty.   The first few months I was living all by myself and  then I the new couple moved in.  They seemed very nice although my first impression of the dude was that he was a bit of a stickler for rules and wants things done  a certain way.  We have a shared basement that I basically used to chuck all the packaging from my furniture in, the basement is HUGE.  After introducing myself he wanted to know what to do with the basement and made me come down stairs with him to check it out.  Although the cardboard there was mine, I had put it together in a corner.  He needed to know exactly how much of the space I was planning on using etc. Once I told him that I was not planning on using it at all (except for the cardboard stuff) he seemed pleased.  I have not been down there since so have no idea if they are actually using it.  I bumped into him a few days later when he said they were planning on inviting me for a drink, but had been really busy and would invite me over soon. GREAT,  until that weekend, they had a party and when I got home at 3 AM the music was blasting through their speakers into my bedroom. I waited for another hour but then went downstairs and asked them if they could turn it down a little.  They did and ever since then, even when they have people over the music is ALWAYS turned down by 10 PM.  FANTASTIC although I never was invited for said drink.

So the other day this appears on our doorbell:

Basically because other people lived in our apartments before us, we occasionally receive mail for these people. The note says that besides us there are no other people living here.  I did not think too much of it except: WHO CARES that we get mail addressed to other people.  Not even one week later the following is stuck next to our mailbox:

I nearly pissed myself laughing since it is obviously a major problem for him to receive mail for other people even it is only once every 3 months..


That is what I was and still am when I saw this:

My in situ worked, I realise that it has taken me 7 months to get it working and this is really only the half way step…. It was great being back at the other lab. I really do like it there and not just because of the great and cheap food.  All the people are really lovely too.

Performing the hybridization takes 2 days and on the first day I had to bring a million andone things to the lab. Looking at the protocol I figured it would take max. 2 hrs and I asked Bruno if he could drop me off. he did and said he would like to stick around and see how it all worked.  Unfortunately for him instead of taking 2 hrs we were there for about 5.. I felt really bad.  The next day I took the bus  since I knew I was going to be there the entire day.  Once again I thought it would only take me 6 hrs but instead it was more like 10 hrs.  And so I missed the bus.  Luckily one of the girls working in the lab was happy to drive me back to uni  (I had to pick up Tessa).   And then Arnaud and I went out for beers to celebrate my success.

Since my contract ends in September I now really have to work hard to finish my experiment and while I love going to the other lab it will save me a lot of time if I can perform everything here. I spoke to my boss and she is willing to buy equipment in order for me to do so.  In the mean time I am keeping my fingers crossed that I get a fellowship and I am also looking at other jobs just in case.

Crazy few weeks

It has been absolutely crazy at work. I spent the past 5 weeks running my experiments and not until last weekend did I have any time off.  Luckily for me it seems to have paid off, with my preliminary data being very promising.

This week I am going back to INRA and working on my in situ stuff some more.  I realised that although I think it is a fantastic lab, it would save me so much time to be able to do the experiments here. My boss was happy to spend some money on equipment and as far that I can tell we will only need a microwave and a water bath…But the first step is still to get the in situ to work!

I had my high school reunion on the weekend, it was weird being back. But really nice to the see the school again and walk around (hardly anything changed, except that they built a new library and removed the wooden shacks.)  It was funny to see how fast we all fell back into our old patterns: Standing in the same spot as we used to 15 yrs ago (Argh I am soo OLD)  being COOL… Anyway the weather was great, the beer cold and so by 9 PM I was tired and drunk and wanted nothing more than my bed (or my friends bed since I was spending the night with Juud).  Sunday I was back on the train to France..

Regarding my felloship applications well the news is not so great, or actually it is pretty CRAP:   I  did not get through the EMBO one, I expected as much,  but deep down I do hope for the best and the Fyssen one refused to even enter me into their application round since I already am a postdoc.  So I am waiting until the end of June to find out whether or not I will have money.

I did decide that if I am staying in France for another year, I am going to do an intensive French course over summer so that hopefully I will be more fluent next year.   The problem I have now is that every time I send off an application I get my hopes up to leave this lab and go to the UK… and so it is more like a temporary stop and I don’t really feel like putting too much effort into learning language etc.. This is stupid of course since I will most likely end up staying here for another 23 years..

Spring has definitely arrived here in France and I am enjoying the long days and the warmer temperatures, too bad there is no beach near by..