January 22nd, 2008 by Potato

It’s been a rough new year, and I haven’t been able to shake a vague feeling of being “loser-ish”.

First up has been paper rewrites. This one has been particularly grating since I’m a good writer, damnit. I was supposed to have finished this while at my parents house over the break, but didn’t even look at it there. In the process of writing the paper the first time, I had to keep it very succinct so a lot of stuff from the first draft was cut out. After being rejected from the first journal, I should now stretch it out to about double the length so it’s an appropriate length for our second and third choice journals. However, it’s not a simple as just going back to the first draft and cut & pasting some of that information back in. For the most part, I was convinced that what was cut should have been cut, and I don’t like that text any more. I also need to tailor the text to the audience of our target journal, which means I largely need to pad out the introduction and include some topical references, and that’s the part of scientific writing that I’m the worst at. Particularly since I don’t have the references I want to cite handy, so I’m doing literature searches at the same time. All this is complicated by my peculiar “publication performance anxiety”. I don’t seem to have any problem giving presentations of my data to large groups or leading classes, but as soon as it comes to submitting my stuff to a peer-reviewed publication I get all panicky. I worry and obsess over the fact that my work is now going to be part of the body of scientific knowledge in a very indelible way, and fret constantly over my data and arguments, because any mistake is going to be out there for years, misleading scientists who follow in my footsteps, and dangling in front of my detractors as proof of my fallibility. It’s worse with rewrites of course, because I hate rewrites. I’ve always been a one-pass writer. Often, I don’t even read what I write here, just trusting that it came out of the keyboard making some kind of sense, and hoping that no errors creeped in. So wordsmithing a paper to get that exact subtle meaning, to include exactly what we want to convey and waste no words on anything extra can be quite painful for me.

I’ve got two other drafts to work on as well, though neither one is really even at the “outline” stage yet. Plus some short story ideas I could work on. Usually having a number of things to flip between works well for the scatterbrain spazzy writer inside of me, but this week it just seems to be paralyzing me. I don’t want to write any of them, so I stare at my word document, like a deer in the headlights, then decide to let that one go and open up another one, just to also draw a blank.

The weather hasn’t helped much. To stave off winter, the hospital keeps the heat on. Really, really on. Most days in the office I’m so hot even in just a T-shirt that I can barely think straight. Oddly enough though, I don’t sweat through it like I do in the summer. At home though, I’ve been getting cold, which is very unusual for me. Usually Wayfare gets so cold so quickly that the thermostat creeps up enough that I’m quite comfortable in a T-shirt at home, as long as I have nice thick socks on. The last few days, I’ve been layering up in sweaters and blankets in front of the computer, which doesn’t help fight the desire to put my head on my desk and take just a little nap.

That loser-ish feeling hasn’t been at all helped by the other things in my life, either. I’ve been really sucking at curling in the new year (though admittedly, one night I was so tired I could barely stand, let alone curl). This is particularly disturbing since it was not too long ago that I was starting to think of myself as really hot shit out on the sheets, even thinking I was good enough to try out for competitive curling. I thought I made a decent showing at the varsity try-outs, and while I didn’t make the team, I figured with a bit of practice I could have a real good run in a few spiels. This week though, I can’t even hit the house, let alone the button. To think, they used to let me teach new curlers the sport!

At work, we had a very important grant rejected. I don’t know how much I’m allowed to say, but suffice it to say we were not impressed with the tragically mis-informed reviews we got back on the proposal.

And of course, the stock market has been an absolute nightmare in the new year, yesterday in particular. I feel pretty stupid for buying on the way down and not listening to conventional wisdom about catching falling knives. There were a few stocks that looked like they were priced at more than fair valuations last week (TSE:RUS and TSE:YLO.UN in particular) that I snapped up, only to watch them fall much further just a few days later. I spent some time researching the financial sector and came away really liking TD, especially at the $65 price point it was at over a month ago… after buying it I was proven right by a decent rally, only to find all that and more wiped out yesterday. My dad says that I picked the right company for all the right reasons, but the “macro environment” is just hammering financials, and the good ones are going down with the bad. And the pain is not over yet, with indications that today is going to be just as bad. I’m trying not to panic, to stay the course, and to remember, as Wayfare tells me a few times a day, that it’s just a paper loss. As long as the Accord doesn’t die on me I won’t need the money for at least a few years, and by then the market should have rallied. However, that doesn’t make it hurt any less when I look at the sheer magnitude of that “paper loss”, or when I look at my portfolio update and see nothing but red numbers all the way down the column… nor does it make me feel any less stupid for seeing that my most recent buy, at what I thought was a great value, is one of the worst stinkers in the lot.

Buying opportunities should be ahead, and for those who aren’t in the market with some cash, and a long investment timeline (i.e.: the young people who actually read my rants) this might be a very exciting time. I’ve decided to pace myself much more than I have been. I’ve cancelled most of my “bargain basement low-ball” standing bids which turned out to be a little too optimistic about the bottom of the market. I put a sticky note on my monitor with the word “patience” on it. I was in a “stock picker” mentality last week when things were looking pretty bad but figured I could find the gems with real value in there, the stocks that may have been unfairly oversold. After yesterday’s crash across pretty much the entire board, those TD e-series index mutual funds are looking a lot more attractive again. While they make up a small part of my portfolio, I’ve been steadily buying them up every 4 weeks here (with my 3rd round of buying due in ~2 weeks), $100-$150 into each of the Canadian, US, and International indexes. For the long haul, I think those are pretty good bets, and the small, steady buy-ins save me from some of the pain of the markets going down and at making any effort to call the bottom.

Remember: even if I may spout advice, it is generally useless. This is particularly true for financial advice: while I’m learning fast, I’m terrible at this. Don’t listen to me, just go off and do your own research or consult a proper advisor. For those curious, the “lowball” bids I haven’t cancelled are NAL.UN at $12.50, which I might very well get today, GE at $27.20, which I doubt I’ll get. Feel free to laugh at me for being foolish, either right now or in the coming months.

2 Responses to “Loser-ish”

  1. Ben Says:

    I guess today’s TSX results must have made you feel a little better about things…

  2. Potato Says:

    They did! :)