Thursday, August 5, 2010

Next-generation paranoia

I'm back from my trip with more photos than I can reasonably fit into a blog post, so please bear with me while I attempt to cull the collection! Until then, it's enough to say that it was an amazing experience that proved once again that there is simply nowhere else I'd rather be than the BC coast in summer.

Luckily, I have plenty of post ideas that don't require any agonising decisions over which photos to ditch. Here's one about a dream I had the night before we launched.


In my dream, I was on one of my twice-annual trips to San Diego to meet with collaborators. As always, I was part of a group from my institute that consisted of four or five PIs plus me, and after an interesting first day of meetings, our wonderful hosts had taken us out for a wine-soaked dinner on a sunny patio. One of the senior hosts had brought a friend, but forgot to introduce him to the group. The friend told a distinctly unfunny joke... and then got in my face angrily demanding to know why I hadn't laughed. When I replied that I was sorry but I just didn't think the joke was all that funny, he yelled "WHY DO YOU HATE AMERICA???!!!", tipped my chair backwards, threw a bag over my head, and man-handled me into a vehicle. I could hear everyone at our table loudly protesting and saying they were going to call the cops, and my assailant shouting "I'm the head of the fucking CIA! Call the fucking cops, they won't do nothing!!!!"

I was taken to a tiny, dark cell filled with people, had the bag roughly pulled off my head, and was told that I would rot in jail. I had all my belongings taken from me* and was not allowed to call my husband, my boss, or the Canadian (or British) embassy.

My cellmates asked what had happened, and when I told them they said "DUDE!!! You always laugh at the head of the CIA's jokes!"

After a long and scary night, and then many hours of waiting the following day, I was finally summoned from the cell and told I was free to go. The desk staff were clearly embarrassed, and one female officer apologised for her boss's drunken temper tantrum as she handed me back my belongings. "He's just an ass", she explained helpfully, and called me a cab.

I asked the cab driver to take me to our collaborators' facility, where I found the second day of meetings in full flow, with one of our PIs in the middle of a PowerPoint presentation and people excitedly asking lots of questions. Everyone looked round as I entered, and someone said "oh good, they let you go then?"

"Why the fuck didn't you come and get me??!!" I demanded, not unreasonably given the circumstances.

"Sorry Cath", said one of our PIs. "We were going to, but the conversation about our latest next-gen sequencing results just got soooo interesting! Look at this slide, this is a totally novel finding!"

Cue me waking up, equal parts disturbed and amused.

The moral of this story?

It's wonderful to have colleagues who are passionate about their work. Really, it is - it's one of the main perks of my job.

However, if you're so completely dedicated to your research that you make your colleagues have paranoid dreams about you letting them rot in a jail cell rather than disrupt your conversation about your latest results, maybe it's time to ease up a little, eh?**


*the list under "contents of purse" included "iPhone". Under "contents of iPhone", I wrote "life". This dream was clearly trying to tell me many, many different things.

**none of my colleagues would ever actually do this for real. I don't think. I guess it depends on which project they're discussing.


  1. That is an amazingly coherent dream! Mine seem to jump all over the place and make no sense when I go to retell them.

    Welcome back!

  2. Cath, if I were a psychiatrist or psychoanalyst, I would be afraid, very afraid, to look into the recesses of that mind of yours... Wotta dream!! :D

    Oh, and don't be alarmed at my hithertofore-unseen-by-you Google handle; underneath, I belong to all nature... Heh, heh, heh!

  3. Clearly they're not your dream colleagues.

  4. Gee Cath :) Apart from the obvious interpretation of you feeling alienated at your workplace, another interpretation must be that you feel valuable to silly demands of North-American authorities!

    Also, now I wonder if a present-day Freud would characterise the Iphone as a phallic object... ;)

  5. I have to update with my dream from last night: Someone was trying to sell me these wonky "connectors" that would allow me to connect my dreams in a coherent way! Ha!

  6. Yikes! Did you tell your colleagues about your dream? I'm wondering if they'd defend themselves or not?

  7. Alyssa, that's hilarious! Careful who you do business with in those dreams though :)

    SUIRAUQA, hello and thanks for clicking through to this blog!

    Blogging is the only therapy I need. No, really, I'm fine. (twitches).

    Bob, not that night, no...

    Lisbeth, I LOLed at the iPhone comment. Wrong shape though, surely?

    I do get a little paranoid whenever I enter the US... but I think the immediate inspiration for the dream came from watching and reading too many detainee accounts from the G20 protests in Toronto!

    Have you all seen the Officer Bubbles video yet?


  8. Elizabeth, I haven't yet... I might save it for when we're actually down in San Diego next (in October). I'm sure they'll find it hilarious!

  9. WHAT?! Then any 'deliberate act' could get anyone arrested! Hasn't this silliness had any consequences in terms of official apologies o.a.??

    About the Iphone, all I can say is: shiny, sleek, slender... but yes, I think, wrong shape :)

  10. What grabs me most here is the phrase:

    "the conversation about our latest next-gen sequencing results just got soooo interesting"

    Like *that* could ever happen... pffft... ;)

  11. Lisbeth, there may or may not be an inquiry, but nothing binding. The whole thing is very murky indeed.

    Ricardipus, oh I don't know... we've got some pretty cool stuff going on. Like, recurring mutations in druggable prognostic markers kinda cool...

  12. HA! I just talked to one of our collaborators and told her about the dream. She a) thought it was hilarious and b) guessed which PI was giving the presentation when I got back to the meeting, on her first try!

  13. Sorry ... what was the moral of this story? I was too busy thinking about the deep 16S rDNA sequencing data I'm about to get back from the lab.

  14. Stories are supposed to have morals?

    Um... work-life balance. Yeah, that's it.

  15. I meant to comment on this post when it first came out but the phone commenting thingy didn't work. Now, after reading your TMA post, I see Acronyms Everywhere and Capital Letters where there aren't any - surely that's becuase your dream included the CIA.

  16. heh - sorry about that! (this comment written in lowercase only to compensate)

    i started to draft a new post on my lunch break today and found it a huge relief not to have to find, capitalise, bold, and redden every single word starting with b or c


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