Thursday, July 26, 2007

Passing the Test

For the first time in recent memory, I had a test -- two days in a row! Yikes!

This is one side effect of being in bioinformatics. Unlike professional fields such as medicine or law, there is no concept of formal continuing education for us run-of-the-mill biotechies. Since leaving Harvard I've taken a couple of outside courses and a bunch of Millennium-sponsored workshops and such, but none had formal grading.

Which is fine by me. The stuff that matters I get tested on in the most rigorous way possible -- on-the-job. I'm actually historically pretty good at tests & don't have much anxiety, but I've also spit the bit more than a few times during my academic career. Tests are really not fun.

Now these tests weren't too bad, but I did have to (1) learn a bunch of new (and semi-new) vocabulary (2) pass a practical exam requiring dexterity & patience (two traits I have -- in clubs) & (3) dust off some once burned in but very rusty information. However, it was worth it to get my license, which means I can now menace innocent bystanders all over the country.

Well, if they get too close to a sailboat I'm piloting, which primarily means if they are in the sailboat I am piloting. I took the beta unit out one very windy Sunday & skipped ahead to the not-yet-covered capsize-and-recovery technique. After three times in the drink (laughing hysterically each time), he'd had enough. Not that I'd had any trouble righting the boat -- one place where a not-quite-slim physique really comes in handy. The written test wasn't bad, but the practical took some time. Most things went well, but nearly half-a-dozen tries were required to get down the precision sailing (turn around a U-shaped dockage without touching the sides).

Sailing has two classes of moments: calm, easy times when everything goes right & moments of sheer thrill when you get close to going over. It is a real rush getting the boat up nearly 90 degrees and racing ahead -- so long as you don't complete the flip. If you liked driving your grade school teachers crazy by balancing your chair on two legs, that ain't nothing. Of course, it is one thing to try it on a small pond with a lifeguard ready to fire up a motorboat; I really wouldn't want to go over in the shipping channel of Boston Harbor.

In the calmer moments, one can be contemplative. This is a lot closer to where I thought my interest in biology would take me than what I actually do. I originally planned, when deciding on a biology major, that I would go into ecology or wildlife biology. No, it isn't all glamour, but field work does take place in, well, fields. Later, I thought my graduate career would be in plant genetics, where I might at least spend a lot of time in greenhouses and perhaps in experimental plots.

Bioinformatics really doesn't mix well with sunlight -- if the shade is right I can work on the buggy side of the house via Wi-Fi, but normally the laptop is too washed out in the day & the buzzers too thick at night. If only I could somehow get funded to go sailing on a genomics mission, in my own private yacht. Nah, could never happen -- nobody has enough chutzpah to attempt that.

No comments: