Day: March 25, 2020

Seals and Losers

I’m trying to finish a story for a contest that closes soon (really soon), so I won’t be long.


Yesterday’s shopping was an operation that would’ve made Navy Seals proud. Quiet, quick, precise. Hopefully not deadly. I dropped a large amount of money but we’re set for over a week again. It’s so weird seeing all these counters empty — meat, deli, hot food, salad bar. I talked to my meat guy, a butchering enthusiast whose affection for his job often cheers me up. He said they carried most of the stuff they usually did, but everything was packaged and tended to fly off the shelves. I did get enough meat for a week and then some. Everyone was wearing gloves, including me. It was eerie.

I am wondering if I need to buy a second small fridge. Our regular fridge and freezer were not meant for this volume of bulk shopping or cooking.


I got that declination from NSF the other day. I don’t know why, but NSF declines always fuckin’ slay me. Every time I apply as a sole PI, for the past however many years anyway, I get the same bullshit critiques. It doesn’t matter if I put a ton of work into the proposal or very little. My scores are always very good, but no money; regardless of how many papers I have on a topic, people don’t believe I can actually do stuff. Sometimes they literally say one person cannot be an expert in all these techniques, even though I’ve published on all of them. No matter how many papers by someone I cite and how much I position myself with respect to prior art, people say I didn’t cite that relevant work  (this time, one reviewer said I didn’t compare to the work of one person with whom I a) collaborate, b) have cited probably 15 papers from, and c) from whose papers I have used three figures in the proposal, with attribution. Submitting to the NSF,  again and again, is like getting up in the morning to go to school, where I will be relentlessly bullied, and there’s nothing I can do about it, because I have to keep going to school, over and over again. Applying to the NSF makes me feel stupid and hopeless and like I should quit my job. I always get sunk by offhand comments made by people who didn’t bother to engage with the proposal in good faith. No other agency review has this effect on me. With the NSF, as a single PI, it’s as if the community repeatedly tells me I am dumb, untrustworthy, and should just go away already.

Whenever I think of myself as the sole PI vs the NSF, I remember the words of a colleague two doors down from me. The first and last time I shared with him some vulnerability and frustration in the face of grant rejections, he dismissively waved me away and said: “That’s loser talk.” Which obviously made me feel so much better, only not. Not then and not ever. Thank you, colleague, for adding salt to the wound and helping me feel like the biggest loser.

I know it’s really entitled of me to whine about this now, when the world is burning. This counts as my daily allotment of non-COVID freaking out.

Blogosphere, do you have any recent Navy Seal / biggest loser stories? 


P.S. OK, to leave on a positive note, this insanely complicated but amazing contraption: