Monday, February 24, 2014

Information Overload

Ever make or help your Mom make Thanksgiving dinner? Every burner on the stove top occupied, the microwave buzzing, the oven baking with as many items as you can shove inside of it, all bubbling and baking simultaneously. It has to be a carefully coordinated production to get everything served up hot at, reasonably, the same time. I have often marveled at my mother's ability to successfully complete this dance year after year: the turkey comes out, the stuffing goes in, a little bit of time and the rolls join it, all while the mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, sweet potato casserole and green bean casserole are all going on either the stove top or microwave re-warming cycle. It is incredible to watch and humbling to try and assist as I know I would never be successful at the same task.

That same overwhelming sensation that I experience when trying to help with even half of the Thanksgiving stove top prep has been hovering around me the past few weeks. I have so many different projects on various burners that I cannot seem to devote enough attention to any of them. It feels like I am jumping around like a cartoon character on hot coals, I never rest my feet long enough to get settled. And even when I do pause and focus on one thing, I can almost smell the smoke off the burning neglected projects.

Focus comes briefly when I can temporarily assign one project a higher priority than the others. Unfortunately, that means studying for quals often gets shoved down to the bottom of list because the threat is imminent but not immediate. I have the "honor" of lab meeting this week, so most of the reading/studying focus will go to writing my presentation. I have a few PCRs to do that I am hoping will be done by Wednesday so that I can include the info into the presentation. Otherwise all I have to say is, I'm waiting for soybeans to grow! They grow slow.

The course that I am taking this semester is a plant biology seminar, with the current topic being development. Seminar courses are cool as you get to explore topics outside, but related to, your work. They are annoying in you have to become the "expert" on your chosen paper's topic and present it to the group in a relatively short time. I picked my papers at the beginning of the semester with a naive hope that I could spend more time reading the background information and really become a faux expert. For the first talk that did not happen, I have two more chances to be more on top of things. But more realistically, these presentations will end up as the sweet potatoes on the back burner, left to simmer until suddenly a smoky scent fills the air and panic sets it to try and recover.

12 weeks until qualifying exams begin. I just finished the biochem book and am moving onto the molecular biology books. Do I feel confident about the biochem material? Of course not! :( But I need to keep reading and try to fill in the holes during study times which I hope to set aside starting this week. This will be a time set aside for studying previous material notes and not learning more.

I also am trying to find other projects to do while I wait for my soybeans to grow up, which means reading as many journal articles as I can squeeze into my schedule. I try to sprinkle this in when I need a break from quals, trying to make it a small distraction, read an article then go back to quals. While that sounds like a great plan, what usually ends up happening is disappear into a rabbit hole and end up in Wonderland.

That's four different pots going right now, and that does not include any of the non-reading pans. My kitchen is very full this semester.

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