Wednesday 1 March 2023

Putting your affairs in order

That above would be the eight still-with-itus who were selected in 2018 by the Royal Irish Academy RIA to represent 21stC Irish Women in Science because they had recently secured a European Research Council ERC Starter Grant. In all of Ireland, in all the world, the RIA couldn't discover a woman capable fo painting such a group portrait; so they gave the contract to Blaise Smith.  Aoife McLysaght is identified by the arrow and I was up in Dublin recently for her professorial Inaugural Lecture in our Alma Mater TCD. I've outlined McLysaght's career on The Blob. Getting your Professorial "Chair" is a big deal. As well as doing excellent research [attracting a boodle of cash to the University] and teaching, you will have had to win some prestigious external awards [like the ERC grant] and served time on the boring-but-necessary administrative tasks like Head of Department, Registrar or the Dean of Insomnia. 

The Event turned out to be a  great networking event. I was able to introduce two young scientists of my acquaintance whose overlapping fields of interest could use a synergistic boost. I got to chat with Simone George my favorite autodidact of science and fight over the canapés with a bunch of people whom I hadn't seen in the present century but who were there when I was giving McLysaght her start in molecular evolution / bioinformatics 25 years ago. And of course it was nice to be acknowledged by name during the lecture for creating the opportunity. Saying thanks for those little nudges in your career path is important - it tidies up the loose ends.

So it was perhaps appropriate that on the bus up to town I was listening to The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson with Jane Magnusson read by Juliet Stevenson. It was on the NYT best-seller list for weeks in 2018. It's hard to see why because it's quite opinionated and weak on evidence and addresses a topic [end of life] which many people pretend isn't going to happen . . . to them. I may have missed something. I am aware that I missed a chunk in the middle of the book because I slumped into a drooling sleep some time after Arklow and didn't wake up until Kilmacanogue.  The diktats advice from Grandma Magnusson is that a) you can't take your stuff with you b) chances are none of your descendants will have the same, or any, associations with any of it c) as a courtesy to them, you should give, or dump almost all of it while you are still capable of making decisions and hauling a bag of papers to the shredder.

Of course, framed like that, I cannot but agree. But too often the author slips from advice and suggestions into prescriptive rules that can or should be universally implemented. I have for example been inconsistent about keeping birthday cards. Some Junes they have finished up in an envelope with the year written on the outside; other times they've got lost in the clutter of LIDL catalogues and electricity bills; after at least one birthday I was feeling salty enough to dump them all in the trash (when nobody was looking). As my cards & papers are as patchy and random as the Sibylline Books, an argument could be made that a clean sweep (into a bonfire) is the simplest solution.

But I'll tell ya one thing. In 2018, we again did triage on the books which, lacking shelf-space in the relative dry of our heated home, had been relegated to shelves in one of the sheds. Two years ago, these were again sorted and some went into Tesco-crates marked "Bob to keep, 2021".  I just checked on those and they are positively furry; so I can't love them that much, eh?

No comments:

Post a Comment