Wrapping up 2012 was a bit exhausting. I got a copy of the first four (hopefully complete) chapters of my thesis to my mentor just before Christmas out of town at Cori’s parents’ place. Coming back from that, we had to promptly pack and I drove the crew out to Long Island for Cori’s college friend Kenny‘s wedding. As she was in the wedding party, it wasn’t exactly a tame weekend. We were basically busy every day. Without having a lot of downtime, it at least provided me some time to decompress from the thesis writing, and play around with the replacement Nikon I picked up (as my D80 was finally on its death throes). I got a few lovely shots out of the weekend, but I learned the hard way just which focus mode I should be using (I knew I should have stuck to my old guns!). We spent all weekend hopping from domicile to domicile to hotel. The first two nights were rough and short in sleep, and the stay at the coastal hotel was far too short, especially considering the lovely view!

Coming back from Long Island, I was pretty much a zombie last Sunday. With ten hour drives back to back over that busy weekend, I needed just some raw sleep. Using that down time to recover, finally got to thinking about how I need to setup this year.

This lack of activity is killing me. I’m no longer power-walking around the lab, lifting 50–lb centrifuge rotors, or squatting down regularly to get into low cabinets and floor–sitting incubators. Writing my thesis has killed my muscles and my ass. My quadriceps and hamstrings are tighter than they’ve ever been, and I’m so tired of sitting in a less than adequate computer chair all the time. I need some steady exercise, and it needs to be doable. I have been taking roughly three mile walks to break the monotony of writing. Considering they only take about 50 minutes, I figure I can eek out at least four of these a week. Ten miles of walking a week. Hopefully more, weather permitting, but I got to get this body moving again. I’m learning the hard way what happens when you neglect to regularly use your day–to–day muscles, let alone put them through full ranges of motion.

In addition to that, I will really need to get back into a gym again at some point. I’m worried my torn calf (from November of 2011) is weakening and getting tighter. My patellofemoral pain in my right knee has flared up a bit more than usual. I still do okay lifting heavy objects, but my back needs more work supporting my upper body and arms in those endeavors. I need to do some resistance training. Free weights. Legit squats. Calf raises. Good mornings. Good ol’ bench press and cleans. Get my core back to somewhere I’m comfortable with. With that in place, shucking the pounds to get me back down to 200 (or less) should be substantially easier.

Writing needs to be more frequent. More organized. More coherent. I’m going to need to write a lot more in my post-doctoral work. I’m going to need to put it together faster and better than I am now. Anything and everything I can do to improve that, I should be. A good start would be regular blogging, much to the desensitizing chagrin of others. Doing this in the early days of Toronto should be easy. The trick will just be to keep it up! Keep it something novel. Not just day–to–day humdrum or trivial stuff. Congeal some coherent, novel writing!

That pretty much sums up what’s on my mind right now. There is more floating around in there, but those thoughts will have to be coalesced later. For now, I need to give the laptop a break, revel in the Bison having won the NCAA FCS Championship Game, and root on Green Bay to a win on this wildcard weekend of playoffs!

In some of my random web-browsings between experiments in the lab, I happened to come across a website belonging to a company that writes documents for people. Documents of the more serious variety, more specifically theses and essay-style papers. Theses!!! I kid you not, they even clarified that they will write portions if not all of a master’s or doctoral thesis for you for a price. I was rather shocked to stumble across something like this! Granted, I was aware of sites in my past that advertised to write high school and college essays for you. Seriously though, come on, most instructors can tell when it’s not your writing. You have a style…it’s not necessarily easy to mimic unless you already have impeccable writing skills to start with!

What really startled me about this was two-fold. Firstly, they actually have the gall to state that they have an assortment of writers that include masters and doctoral degree holding individuals who specialized in writing and such, but that it also includes former professors and doctoral holders that encompass all of the sciences as well. Granted, some of the other fields out there such as literature are likely a little less expansive in nature due to the repetitious focus on certain literary pieces. However, the sciences as a whole is an ever expanding field, that I hardly feel can be summed up and/or tracked by 300’ish of these professors/doctoral “editors.” The amount of expertise and focus that would be necessary to go into a doctoral thesis just seems like it could not be summed up in an adequate time frame to have someone write your thesis for you. This is not simple regurgitation of existing work either; they go to the trouble to glorify the fact that they write an unique and individual document just for you. This is only a smaller half of the disturbing nature of this work.

There must be people who actually pay for this service…and a substantial number at that. My follow up to that site found discussion boards that argued for and against even more of these sites!

Really…you’ve put 3,4,5, hell even 7 years of your life into this work! Is it really so difficult to write it all up and give that work the recognition that it deserves??? I am unfamiliar with the majority of university guidelines for the writing of a thesis. In my departmental program, however, it is stated that the writing of a thesis summative of the doctoral candidates work is one of the requirements for conferral of a doctoral degree to the student! Frankly as I stated before, I don’t think the work could be done justice unless the person who was most intimately involved in the generation of that work was the one who wrote it. Anything less than that would just be the student giving up on that degree. I’m fairly certain that most institutions would find that to be in violation of the graduate ethical guidelines of the department, if not the university.

Why would someone really want to jeopardize their hard work over something like this? Granted, spending a couple months writing your thesis is not exactly child’s play, but you’ve already spend X number of years working towards this. Why the sudden change of heart?

I guess I will just add this to the growing list of concerns about the dilution of the graduate student population…more and more I see sub-standard acceptance and/or graduation of candidates when realistically they should have been scrutinized more closely. Not to be an elitist as I am far from the idealistic and brilliant graduate student, but I really do worry with the ever-growing doctoral-bearing population (which isn’t necessarily all deserving of the degree) and the way basic science research is being funded through NSF and NIH right now.