Thursday, December 28, 2006

Miscellaneous Christmas rants

Hope you all had a joyful Christmas! Mine was okay.

The evening before Christmas, we spend with Jimmi’s mother and her boyfriend, a very relaxed evening - despite the intensity of the rolling-dices-for-presents-game (everyone brings some small presents specifically to this game. You role a dice, and every time you get a 6, you are entitled to pick a present on the table. When all presents have been picked, a timer is set and the game continues, only now, when you get a 6, you pick a present from one of the other players).

Christmas morning Jimmi and I went to the local zoo, as entry was free between 10:00 AM and noon. When leaving, we talked to one of the inspectors at the entry, and she said that in these two hours more than 5,200 people had entered the zoo. The weather was nice, so it was actually a great opportunity, especially to families with younger children, to get out and use a bit of time and energy walking around the park.

We spend Christmas eve at Jimmi’s father’s house with his wife, Jimmi’s younger brother, S (11 years old), and their sweet little dog, Fido. We had a three-course dinner (split into two, because S was too excited about lighting the Christmas tree and getting presents). Appetizer: Rice porridge with cinnamon. Main course: Duck and roast pork with potatoes, potatoes in caramel coat (they are called “brunkartofler” in Danish, and are essentially small potatoes that are coated with a mixture of warm, liquid sugar and butter in a frying pan until they are warm and coated with this brown sugary stuff. Yum!!), red cabbage, prunes, and apples and jelly – a typical Danish Christmas dinner. Due to the excitement of S, we then danced around the Christmas three – Fido joined us, not really knowing what this was all about, but she definitely did not want to be left out of it, much to our joy – singing a few song and then S was allowed to distribute presents. When everybody had opened their presents, we went back to the table for dessert: Ris a la mande (the dictionary says it should be called rice pudding, although I don’t think that is quite the same) with cherry sauce. There was a bit discussion about who actually got the whole almond hidden in the dessert, and therefore, who was entitled to the almond-price, but as the dispute was between S and his father the price stayed in the family :-)

Christmas day (Dec. 25) my parents stopped by as they had taken my sister back to see her new apartment. Otherwise the day was used to relax.

The second Christmas day (Dec. 26) was used on Christmas lunch – again at Jimmi’s father’s house – allowing us to also say hello to Jimmi’s younger sister and her boyfriend. They live in Copenhagen so we don’t see them too often.

My BG-levels behaved very well during the Christmas days. Almost all readings was in range, only a few outliers – 2.0 (36) being the lowest and 9.8 (176) being the highest. I have been experimenting a little with the use of the dual wave bolus for more meals, and it does actually seem to smooth sugars out even more.

Overall this would make a very nice Christmas if it wasn’t for the early “Christmas present” that I got just 4 days before Christmas, and people, of course, couldn’t help asking about – explanation follows!

December 20 was the big clean-up-and-Christmas-lunch-day at work. Everyone had been assigned to an area, in order to keep everyone busy and make sure that every inch of the lab and mass spec-rooms would be cleaned. It worked very well. After a common breakfast in the coffee-room – to make sure that everyone had energy to use for the clean-up ;-) – we swirled through the labs leaving them clean as ever. I worked with a couple of post-docs in the back part of the main lab. We worked pretty effectively, so by 11:30 AM we were done, and since the lunch was not until 1:00 PM, we took a round to make sure no one else needed help before we drifted back to our offices to clean up there.

I share my office with 3 master students, none of them being there for the clean-up. One of them was excused, though – she went into labor that day, and by the end of the day she had given birth to a beautiful baby girl :-) Being the only one in my office, I could of course be tough and throw out everything that didn’t have a name on it, but I refrained from doing that and just focused on my own stuff (which, by the way, takes up most space in our small office). When I could actually see my desk again, I checked my mail. I was excited to see a mail regarding the PhD-application I just managed to send in before deadline end of November. I knew that the assessment committee was to meet at December 18, and I was told that they expected to be able to give answers to the applicants before end of December. To receive a mail regarding the application less than 2 days after the assessment committee meeting, what could that mean? Was it rejected or accepted?

I opened the mail, and was referred to an attachment. I opened the attachment and couldn’t help scanning it quickly – only to find out that I had not been chosen to receive a stipend :-( I then carefully read the letter. They had found my application to the specific project very qualified (no kidding – the project was about mass spectrometric quantitative phosphoproteomics in mitochondria from T2 diabetic muscles, and I have worked with quantitative proteomics in my Master’s and am currently working with phosphoprotein analyses, having 6 years of mass spectrometry experience plus a lot of knowledge about diabetes!), but they had found another candidate to be better qualified! My initial thought – besides disappointment – was “Who the hell could that be?”

I ranted a bit about this rejection to a couple of people, including Jimmi of course, and decided that I would question my supervisor, who happens to be one of the supervisors on that project too, about what qualifications I was missing. Just before the lunch I ran into him in the hallway, asking him: “So, I heard that someone but me was better qualified for the project….?”

“Yeah, I had the chance to place both Z and you in Ph.D-positions, and we (as in you and I) have this meeting with W from Hamburg in January, so Z was given this one – but I would like to discuss this with you”, he replied.

“Sure” I said, while inside me anger was starting to build – in close contact with the aforementioned disappointment!

I didn’t enjoy the lunch as much as I had wished to, and really just wanted to go home early. Before going home however, I wanted to discuss the issues with my supervisor, since I wasn’t sure when he would leave for the Holidays (turned out that this was actually his last day and he wouldn’t be back until beginning of January). Fortunately, he had the time to talk that afternoon.

“I didn’t know that you had applied for that stipend” he said, closing the door to his office.

I told him that I saw the advertisement just 3 days before deadline, and he was out of the house at that time so I didn’t have the possibility to discuss it with him, but as he had mentioned it to me earlier in the fall, before it was announced, and because the deal with this guy from Hamburg is far from settled yet, I saw no reason not to apply for this.

He could understand that. He then told me that he had encouraged Z – one of his Master’s student, who just graduated the week before - to apply for this stipend, and that we were both very qualified for this project, but he thought that it might be good for me to get away from our lab for a while – once again mentioning the up-coming meeting with W from Hamburg.

I told him that I of course do not intend to never leave the university, but that I was beginning to loose patience a bit, and therefore saw nothing wrong in applying for whatever possible positions and project of my interest.

I guess this actually requires a bit more background for you to understand my reaction. You see, when I graduated in October 2005, I clearly stated to my supervisors that I would like to obtain a PhD-position, in case they came across something. Back in the beginning of summer my supervisor at the university was contacted by this guy, W, in Hamburg, who would like to set up a cooperation with our group. He was also looking for a candidate to a PhD position linked to the anticipated cooperation, and thus asked my supervisor if he happened to have any candidates at hand. My supervisor asked me if I might be interested, otherwise he had thought about Z for this. I said that I might be interested, but that I would like to learn a bit more about the given project before I made my decision. My supervisor fully realized that and agreed that we would need a meeting with W before we made any decisions about the cooperation and PhD position. Unfortunately, my supervisor had a very busy fall, so he and W didn’t manage to find a date that fit both of them until November 7. W would come to Odense, and plans were made for him to give a talk and for a subsequent meeting discussing the project plans. However, shortly before the meeting was to take place, W sent us a mail that he would have to cancel our appointment as he was set to go to a job interview that he could not re-schedule. He would like to re-schedule our meeting as soon as possible. Again, my supervisor’s calendar made the call – a new meeting will not be until January 17. Because of this unsettled Hamburg-deal, and the fact that a possible future supervisor might be looking for another job (that is not very reassuring in my point of view!), I of course did not stop looking for alternative answers to my PhD-wish. One of them could have been this project within the PhD school of Molecular Metabolism. Just my bad luck that this project was almost assigned to another candidate before being advertised. Z is an exchange student, who has just completed her Master’s in our group (a week before Christmas this year). She had a wish to stay, but without work or further studies on hand she would have to leave by January 2007, so of course this stipend was a golden possibility for her. However, it does leave me a let down, seeing this stipend go to a newly graduated candidate, when I graduated 15 months ago and have worked with protein and mass spectrometric analysis in this group for the past 6 years. When I was preparing to leave after having discussed the issue with my supervisor, I heard him bring Z the good news (she hadn't heard yet that she had got the stipend). Z replied that this was the best Christmas present she could get this year. I didn't really feel like stepping by her office to congratulate her. Sorry for that, I just needed to vent!

My supervisor and I agreed that we would have to get clear-cut answers from W regarding his search for other working places, as well as the exact project plans before agreeing to anything. I believe I got my point about impatience through, as my supervisor continued to say that if we could agree to start the project, then he wouldn’t mind aiming for a start in March, or whenever it would fit W, relieving me from my current contract, which otherwise does not terminate until May. So far so good. Still, I just have a feeling that I need to be prepared for something else, if this Hamburg-deal doesn’t work out. Therefore I am currently signing up for the competition about other PhD stipends other places too, so that I will have something to fall back on, just in case.

In hope of a Happy New Year fellow bloggers!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Christmas lunches

Today is probably the major day of Christmas lunches in DK. On work we have the department Christmas lunch this afternoon, followed by the entire faculty Christmas party in the evening. I miss both of these though, as Jimmi and I have other Christmas lunch-plans.

Next week the research group that I work within will have a local Christmas lunch. We have this every year, the last couple of years combined with a thorough cleaning of the lab, mass spec-rooms and offices. So on Wednesday next week we will start at 8:30 AM with joint breakfast and planning of the cleaning. When we are all done around noon, we will gather in the newly cleaned, and now decorated, coffee room for the last group meeting of the year and, not least, the Christmas lunch :-) It is usually very enjoyable so I look forward to it.

Christmas and Christmas lunches have always been a challenge for me since the D entered my life, so I am also looking forward to see, how it will work with the pump in stead of injections. So far (2 Christmas lunches/parties) the results have been satisfying, but that could just as well be “beginner’s luck” ;-)

I had an appointment with Alice earlier this week, and once again we concluded that those late afternoon basals need to be tweaked just a bit more, as I still has a tendency to run low during those hours. Alice has just been to Cape Town for a diabetes conference, where she had heard/seen results on studies of augmented use of the combined bolus even for ordinary meal that we usually do not consider to be fatty. According to Alice, it seemed like the use of the combined bolus could smoothen the BG level even more if also used for ordinary meals. She suggested me trying it, something like 80%/20% or 90%/10% for 1-2 hours, on some of my meals to see what the effect would be. As it is now I virtually only use the combined bolus for pizza and lasagne. I was planning on using it for the traditional Christmas dishes though, but maybe I should broaden my use of it even more? I haven’t decided how to go about it yet. If I am to try it, I need to do it in a “controlled” fashion, so that I do not have to take too many variables into account when evaluating the result.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Busy days and hypos

Why do these always seem to go together? I have been quite busy lately: Application to finish before Nov. 30, numerous samples to prepare for mass spectrometry now that our instruments are finally up running again (work), seminars to attend (work), different arrangements of the Christmas months, preparation of a talk to 140+ students that I am to give this afternoon…….

This pace obviously does not pair up well with low BG’s, but that is what always seems to happen when I am busy: Chances of getting low increase.

During the last months or so, I have noticed a tendency to go low late in the afternoon. I have decreased my basals as well as my insulin:carb-ratio (i.e., less insulin for a given amount of carb than otherwise needed during the day) in these hours. I haven’t completely solved the issues yet, though, so I am looking forward to my appointment with Alice next week, to discuss this with her.

I am most annoyed with the fact that these lows always seem to interfere with my indoor soccer practice sessions on Tuesdays – preventing me to start practice on time, mind you! This week was another brilliant example of this. I had to finish my talk for today as much as possible, because I had to hand in the presentation to the organizers on yesterday. However, I also had to attend a seminar for the Danish Proteomics Society (DAPSOC), starting at 9:30 AM on Tuesday. Fortunately, the seminar contained rather long breaks for posters and exhibition, and they were most welcome for me to retrieve the samples I expected by mail that day as well as start some experiments to be continued the next day. I had decided that I would skip the last session of the seminar anyway, in order to be able to make it to soccer practice in time, but also to take care of these experiments, and as we were much too many people in a much too small seminar room, it was actually nice to get out of there :-)

At 3:10 PM, after a 2 h seminar session, and successive questioning about my poster, my brain felt pretty crushed, but testing revealed I was at 9.0 (162), so my bolus guestimate for the served lunch hadn’t been that much off after all. I had my usual afternoon snack along with 1.8 U of insulin to cover it. Before leaving for practice at 4:30 PM I was 6.3 (113) and had the pump going at 60% basal (0.15 U/h). I had a 4.5 km (approximately 7 miles) bike ride to the sports facility, fortunately with the strong wind in my back most of the ride. Anyway, after having changed, preparing to test before starting soccer practice, I noticed I was sweating a lot more than I thought was fair, even after the bike ride. Sure enough, the test gave me a 1.3 (23). Damn!! That’s a pretty hard drop in less than 30 min! I didn’t want to miss out on most of the practice, like I have had to before, so I downed a full bottle of OJ (33 ml), a couple of glucose tabs and some m&m’s, only waiting 10 min before re-testing. At that time I was 2.1 (38), so I just waited another 10 min until taking part in the game.

By the end of our session (6:25 PM), I noticed the symptoms of a low re-appearing, but as one of the others twisted her ankle just before, we were only 6 players left, 3 on each team, and we had decided to stop at 6:30 anyway, so I thought I could just pull it off by taking it easy, watching the goal for our team. I managed, and when I tested afterwards I was at 2.9 (52), so I had to have yet another snack in order to be able to make it the 8 km back home in head wind. I felt like crap when leaving anyway, and the weather didn’t make that better. Besides the strong wind, it was also raining. At the beginning of the trip the rain wasn’t too bad, but soon it was pouring and by the time I got home, I was soaked and could literally pour water out of my shoes. After a nice hot shower, while my dinner prepared itself in the oven, I tested again, now getting a decent 5.8 (104), and I was fortunate enough to maintain in-range levels the rest of the evening.

Today I am to give that presentation to 140+ students at 5:15 PM in the afternoon. While I have ample lab work to do today, I also have to take a break to prepare my talk (only the slides are done, and I haven’t had time to test whether what I want to say fits with the slides and the amount of time available, so I might have to make some last minute adjustments). I just hope that, despite me being busy today too, the BG will behave this late afternoon!