Ableism rearing its ugly head

Please let me start this post by saying that I am probably going to get all the hate in the world for writing it.

For once, I DON’T CARE.

I need to vent about ableism in a profession in which I have worked. (I am well aware that there is ableism in other professions besides the one about which I am going to write, but since I haven’t worked in those kinds of jobs, I cannot speak for those who do or have.)

Let’s talk about scientific research—specifically, biomedical research. I received a master’s degree in biochemistry and worked in this field for eight years. I love science, especially biology, biochemistry, and molecular biology. I also have mild cerebral palsy which affects the coordination of my small muscles, especially those in my hands. It is because of this that I work significantly slower than most lab technicians of equal intelligence.

Some labs in major research universities have fired me for working too slowly or not having enough dexterity (in one case, calling me “unskilled”). I was stripped not only of my livelihood, but also of my dignity and self-confidence, all at the same horrific time.

But the staff saw results and grants as more important than treating those with disabilities with respect, so…

I attended the 2017 and 2018 Marches for Science in Washington, DC even after I had been forced out of science by those who just didn’t understand and didn’t want to. While being part of those marches was a wonderful experience, I felt jealous of all those scientists there who were not chewed up and spit out by a field they loved.

Now I am an editor, and I do not regret this one bit. Do I still love science? Yes, I do. Do I love editing just as much? Yes, I do. But typing on the computer keyboard and clicking on the mouse as easier for me than trying to restrain a mouse so I can snip off the end of its tail for genotyping (I still do not get how people do this).

Were you ever in a profession that you found ableist? If so, tell me about it in the comments.

A severed lifeline

This past week, something happened in my home that crippled my editing business for two days.

Our internet service went out.

What happened specifically was that our local cable company was making upgrades in our neighborhood, and they warned us in advance that we would experience outages during that time. Let’s give the cable company credit for the heads-up.

Still, in the present day, not having internet service is like not having electricity. Almost as bad, anyway.

We sort of had internet service during those two days, but it sporadically kept going in and out. “I cannot work in these conditions!” I thought.

Add to this the fact that the cable company spent only one day making their upgrades, yet the next day, we were still having problems with the internet. It made me very nervous at first, because I wondered if the problem was our modem, or our router, or my laptop, or our desktop.

On the second day, I tried the best trick I know to restore the internet. I unplugged the modem and let it sit while I visited the restroom before plugging it back in. No luck. I finally heaved a sigh and realized that I was going to have to call the cable company.

The robot on the other end of the line sent a signal to reset my modem. When that didn’t work, I was switched over to a representative, who tried every trick he knew. Again, no dice. So an appointment with a cable tech was made for the next morning. It had been years since a cable tech had come to our condo, so I thought the problem was serious.

When the cable tech arrived the next day, he measured the signal from our modem and declared that it was too high. “Too much signal is as bad as not enough signal,” he said. Then he screwed some kind of metal connector into our modem and measured the signal again. This time, the reading was perfect.

I mentioned to him that the cable company had been doing upgrades the previous day, and he was unaware of this. (Huh? You don’t know what your own company is doing? Talk about a communication breakdown.) He said that could have been the cause of the signal being too high.

I will say that the cable tech was very polite and friendly and he knew what he was doing, despite his company not telling him what was going on. Our internet service has been perfect since.

Have you ever lost your internet service? How did it affect you?

Sign on the dotted line…

Editors like me often work under contracts with larger entities, such as universities or publishers. I have no issue with this type of arrangement. When I was a scientific laboratory technician, I very often worked under contract.

The downside of this, however, is that contracts last only for a given period of time, such as one year, and then they must be renewed. And that may or may not happen.

It doesn’t just depend on one’s job performance, either. It depends a whole lot on M-O-N-E-Y.

You can be doing a wonderful job and your boss is loving you to pieces, but if the organization doesn’t have the money to pay you…Adios, Tonto, and the horse you rode in on.

Twenty years ago, I worked as a lab tech for a research university in the area where I lived at the time. I worked under a contract that was funded by my boss’s scientific grant. I loved my boss and my boss loved me. I could have worked for him until he retired. Sadly, his grant only funded me for a year, so I had to go after a year. (His wife said to me on my last day, “If he gets another grant, can he have you back?”)

Following that position, I spent four years in a different grant-funded position at the same university. I worked under a contract that had to be renewed every May. That was no problem at all, save for the fact that my unused leave went away every May and so I ended up having to take leave without pay to go on my wedding and honeymoon. After the fourth year, however, my boss could not get grant funding for additional time, and I had to leave.

Perhaps what they say is true: Money makes the world go ‘round.

Have you ever worked under a contract? What was your experience?

The importance of saving and backing up

As an editor, I cannot stress the importance of saving and backing up your material.

Can you imagine losing several hours of work because you forgot to press Ctrl + S (or click the Save icon) before you closed your program for the day?

Actually, MS Office products are so smart that they won’t let you do that. If you start to close your work without having saved part of it, you will see a dialog box asking you if you want to save it.

However, you should save frequently, and not just when you are done for the day. There might be an unexpected power failure in your building—you know, those annoying ones that only last a fraction of a second but are just long enough to make your computer shut down or reboot. Or there may be a blackout that lasts for hours. In either case, you could lose a painful amount of work.

Or your computer or program could crash and have to be restarted. Same scenario.

I am an obsessive saver when I am using, for example, MS Word. I wrote this blog post (as I write all of my posts) originally on Word, and I pressed Ctrl + S (the Save keyboard shortcut) after every paragraph. Oftentimes, I save my work more often than that.

I used to save by clicking the Save icon (the picture of a floppy disk), but now that I am learning macros, I am trying to use keyboard shortcuts as often as possible. Besides, who uses floppy disks anymore? What is this, the 1990s? And speaking of outdated storage technology, I’ve noticed that flash drives are slowly going down the same path to obsolescence. Cloud storage is the way to go. (Someone once asked me where exactly the cloud is. I replied, “It’s in heaven.”)

One thing I have learned this week in my macros class is how to back up the macros that you have installed in Word. I won’t overwhelm you with the details here, but it’s actually quite easy to back them up—and very important. If Word or your computer crashes, you could lose all of them and then have to reinstall them one by one.

Are you an obsessive saver?