Thursday, March 29, 2012

Crawfish Boils and On the Road Again...

Last week's post came to you from the LIGO-Virgo Meeting in Boston, MA.  This week, it is coming to you from Atlanta, GA.  I just arrived here for the APS April Meeting.  My room is a beautiful corner room with two great views!  So I've chosen the better view from one of my windows:

Actually, I am here a day early so that I can attend the Professional Skills Development Workshop which is designed to improve the communication and negotiation skills of women physicists.  I'm looking forward to this as, while I would love to improve my communication skills, I really feel that I need to develop negotiation skills.  I am currently working to transition my current postdoc position (which is temporary by definition) into a more permanent position, not only because I love my work and the opportunities I have here, but my husband also works at the LIGO Livingston Observatory as an engineer.  The fact that I am this early in my career and living under the same roof with my husband, who is also happily employed in his field, is almost unheard of.  This is known as the two-body problem - when two academic professionals are challenged to find a way to find jobs together; I plan to write a blog post on this later.  That being said, I almost want to jump and any offer that can be scrapped together for me - the last thing I want to do is ruin the good thing I have going.  This is exactly one of the reasons that women tend to make less than men, even in physics - we undersell ourselves.  While I have no intention of trying to wring every penny I can out of a new position, I want to make sure that I am at least being compensated properly for my work.

As for the APS April Meeting, I will be giving a talk on the latest burst gravitational wave all-sky search results.  The information for my talk is here and the "plain English" science summary of the paper is here.  Once I give my talk, the presentation will be publicly available on the LIGO Document Control Center (DCC).  I will also be attending the APS Forum on Education Executive Committee Meeting and this will be the last of my term.  I have more than enjoyed the others I was privileged to serve with and it has been wonderful to get a chance to spread my wings a little more in physics education.  Of course, I have days and days of interesting talks and other activities to look forward to.  I will make sure to Tweet points of interest so make sure to follow me @livingligo.  You can also follow others' Tweets from the meeting using the hashtag #APSapril.

Between my trips to Boston last week and this one to Atlanta, I did get to be home in Baton Rouge for a few days.  Yesterday, the observatory staff was updated on the large scale status of the Advanced LIGO upgrade by the program leader, David Shoemaker.  While that was very informative (all is going well), the best part of the day of the crawfish boil we had outside afterwards.  For those of you who don't live in the American South (specifically the deep south), crawfish/crawdads/mudbugs/crayfish (but don't call them the latter around the natives lest you truly out yourself as not one of them) are essentially small freshwater lobsters that yield about the same amount of meat in their tail as a shrimp.  The meal takes "family style" to a new level: everything is served in heaps and you get a tray instead of a plate and it is heaped with the crawfish, sausage, corn-on-the-cob, and potatoes.  Oh yeah, and you don't get utensils.  This is a get-your-hands-dirty kind of meal.  Here is what my lunch looked like (before I started tearing the little critters apart - the communal aftermath from everyone at the table wasn't nearly as pretty):

This is considered a "dainty" portion.  A few other tips on how to fit in as a local:
  • Don't sit while you eat crawfish - you stand so that the juice that can sometimes explode out of the body when you separate the tail from the head doesn't get all over you.
  • Suck the heads!  Once your remove the tail, don't through away the top part of the body - that's where all the best flavor is.  As I have never done this myself, I am not sure if they are referring to the seasoned boil that remains inside or if they actually suck the "stuff" out.  To me, it just looks like the poor thing is trying to escape!
  • Again, don't call them crayfish.
And a point of common sense - take your watch off!  Mine still smells like crawfish!