RBO Work

Lots of things going on, but nothing substantial enough for a stand-alone post. So here are some bullets!

  • Having read numerous articles about how bad it is for you to sit all day, even if you’re very active at other times, I’ve decided that I want a standing desk. Well, what I really want is one of those adjustable desks that moves up and down – standing all day isn’t very good for you either – but they’re ridiculously expensive. When I’m at home I sometimes take my laptop into the kitchen and prop it up on a stack of books on the kitchen counter, but I don’t have an equivalent at work, and we just don’t have the budget for adjustable desks. So, a few weeks ago, I cleared a section of a shelf on our team’s bookcase, and now use it as a desk whenever I have any hard-copy reading, editing, or drafting to do. It’s not ideal, and I’m only spending around 5% of my time there (yes I track things like that) because so much of my work requires me to be at my computer, but it’s better than nothing!


Bookcase, as seen from my desk


Post-it self-portrait

  • On a related note, a colleague has had a genius idea to get more people to be active during the work day. This is the same guy who runs all the work sports pools, and this initiative is along similar lines – everyone who wants to play puts in $5 and grants permission for their card swipes to be logged, and then for every day in March that you take the stairs from the ground floor to either the 5th or 6th floor, you get one entry into a draw to win the whole pot. (We share the building with another organisation, so we only have access to some floors, and have to swipe in (on the way up) and then out (except on the ground floor) of the stairwell). I think there’s about $400 at stake by now, and people are getting really into it – there’s even a side competition for the fastest climb to the 6th floor. I haven’t entered that one (my shiny new asthma’s still bugging me – yes, it has become chronic), but I did log my natural pace time at the beginning of March and will see if I get any faster by the end of the month. I was taking the stairs a lot before I got the cold that gave me asthma, but had been using the elevators since then, so this was a nice motivation to get back into better habits!
  • I have a notebook that I take with me into every meeting to jot down useful information, action items for transfer onto my to-do list, silly stuff that might make a good blog post, etc. When I first started my job, I wrote down every little thing that sounded like it might be important, so there’s a LOT of potentially very useful information in there – but I’m terrible at finding it amid all the other crap. So I’ve started spending 15 minutes a day transferring the important contents of the notebook into an Excel spreadsheet, with different tabs for different projects then different codes for different topics within the project, so that I have a searchable archive. I just type in the very basics, but specify the corresponding date and page number in the notebook so I can easily find more details. It’s already coming in very handy, to the extent that my supervisor has noticed and says he’s going to start doing the same thing. I get through about two weeks worth of notes in 15 minutes, so I’ll soon be caught up and will start just adding that week’s notes at the end of the day every Friday. I highly recommend this approach, and just wish I’d thought of it sooner!
  • I’m really very excited by the two papers in last week’s Nature describing circular RNAs with regulatory function. As with the recent discoveries of chromothripsis, RNA editing, and epigenetic modifications of RNA, it makes me wonder what other Big Deal phenomena are out there to be discovered. I’m also very curious to learn how long it takes other labs to jump onto this kind of discovery – the member of my team responsible for fielding sequencing requests from other institutes says she hasn’t had any specific epitranscriptome or circular RNA sequencing requests yet, but will let me know when she does. Methinks it won’t be long for either…
  • The birthday card I got from my colleagues last month is a) very apt and b) very useful:


  • I’ve taken it down now, but keep it in a drawer for easy access; my primary work drinking partner sits diagonally opposite me, separated by a divider, so I can wave the card over the top of the divider to discreetly invite her out for after-work drinks without disturbing anyone else. Her birthday card has a glass of wine on it, so she can reciprocate in kind.
  • Work is fun!

About Cath@VWXYNot?

"one of the sillier science bloggers [...] I thought I should give a warning to the more staid members of the community." - Bob O'Hara, December 2010
This entry was posted in career, communication, drunkenness, exercise, genomics, original research, personal, photos, science, silliness, technology. Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to RBO Work

  1. cromercrox says:

    Mr E Man is quite handy at joinery, is he not? I’m sure he’d love to make you a desk that can be adjusted for height.

  2. We’re moving into a new building this summer. I can’t wait to see what kind of fancy, ergonomic and probably uncomfortable office furniture we’re getting. Since the pneumatic height adjustment thingy on my current chair is kaput, though, I have to say I’m looking forward to it.

  3. bean-mom says:

    Ah, thanks for clearing up the defintion of RBO.

    Re your note-taking–you are frighteningly organized, Cath. And your colleague with the idea of logging card-swipes to track stair-mastering–and your work place for enabling this–is also a little bit frightening =)

    By the way, I just clicked on the article on circular RNAs–I’d seen the headline earlier but hadn’t yet read it–and just as I expected, I’m all WTF?! MicroRNAs, long non-coding RNAs, now we’ve got circular RNAs. . . I feel like someone should just write a review titled, “RNA: WTF?”

    • Grant says:

      I must get around to reading the circular RNA paper… erm, if I can find time. One thing I wanted to know if they’re related to the lariat RNAs that are the by-product of RNA splicing. But that would be getting way too serious for Cath’s blog 😛

    • Cath@VWXYNot? says:

      You should definitely, definitely write that article, bean-mom! There might even be enough WTFness out there for a whole book!

      re: the note-taking: if I was really organised, I’d have been archiving from the beginning, instead of having to decipher my notes months after the fact!

  4. Nina says:

    first bullet point: my advisor has done the exact same thing (minus the self-potrait!), but his health issues (sore back mostly) remain. I think he should slow down on rebuilding bathrooms and taking down roofs on the weekends, but that’s just my opinion.
    Regarding the last point: it is great that you feel that way about work! As will appear sometime on my blog, I feel quite the opposite.

    • Cath@VWXYNot? says:

      Well, not having to traipse around the office soaking wet carrying soil cores, or experience an earthquake from inside a fume hood, helps quite a bit with my attitude… 🙂

      • Nina says:

        edit: my advisor has improved his standing desk further by standing on a wooden board that balances on a small (but sturdy) plastic tube, to make him wobble while standing, so to keep working those balancing muscles, or something like that. The tube comes from one of my experiments. I will miss that “wtf I’ll create my own standing desk – pilates work-out” attitude, I must admit.

        • Grant says:

          Reminds me of the wobble board I was given to use after an ankle injury. Y’know, standing there watching the telly trying not to keel over…

          • Cath@VWXYNot? says:

            Oh geez, I’d be on my arse within seconds – my sense of balance is famously atrocious. I’m sure it’s an excellent work-out, just… not for me

  5. Laurence Cox says:

    What you need is a lectern. Do you have any under-used conference rooms where you work, from which you could swipe one without anyone getting upset?

    • Cath@VWXYNot? says:

      What does “under-used conference room” mean? We have to hold meetings in the lunch room or the cafe next door sometimes (their patio is actually very nice in summer).

      There’s only one lectern I can think of in the whole organisation, and it’s used a lot. I wonder if I can find one cheap at an old antiques store or something though?

  6. Beth says:

    Are you willing to share what that Excel spreadsheet looks like, exactly? I also have the problem of having bits of brilliance written in my little book, but I can never find them when I want them! Sounds like you might have exactly the solution I’m looking for, but I can’t quite picture what I’d put in the spreadsheet!

    Also, what do you use for your main “to do” list (i.e., the one your transfer the items from your book into)? I’ve tried various high- and low-tech options, but have never found one that quite does it for me.

    Also, I’ve been meaning to respond to this posting since forever, but see abovementioned lack of satisfactory “to do” list solution.

    • Cath@VWXYNot? says:

      Your timing is impeccable – I literally just got my spreadsheet 100% up to date! I’ll email it to you in just a minute – the contents probably won’t make much sense (BS stands for Bisulphite, by the way), but the format should be transferable!

      My main to-do list is an old-school hand-written list in a nice notebook (you know about me and my love for nice notebooks, I think). I update it neatly every Monday morning, at my standing desk, natch – it’s a nice way to ease into the week! It gets pretty messy by the end of the week, but that’s OK. I transfer action items into it from my main notebook ASAP after I get assigned the action item, and definitely by the end of the day.

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