Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Really South (Prelude): A Lesson from Avshalom Caspi

A couple years ago as I was in graduate school, working my ass off on my dissertation and generally feeling stressed out of my mind, we had a guest speaker come to town by the name of Avshalom Caspi, who I had the privilege of joining for a free lunch at a classy restaurant as a part of his festivities. Dr. Caspi is a widely regarded authority on the study of genetics and personality development, and conducts ridiculously massive studies including one which consists of surveying an entire birth cohort of New Zealanders every two or three years (others are more ridiculous). He also has long flowing hair and was wearing bright purple socks with yellow spots with his suit at the time.

I was supposed to have gleaned many lessons about how to conduct research from him at this lunch, but given my generally stressed out state at the time I don´t remember anything from that day at all. Except for one thing: he told me that when he and his wife got married, they made a vow to one another that they would have a trip once a year where they would go someplace exotic for a full month. And after some 15 or so years of marriage, they have stuck by this vow, travelling to places like Madagascar and Ecuador and Thailand.

At the time this was a sort of revelation to me: you could conduct research that was good enough to get you papers published in Science and get you a job at Cambridge, while at the same time taking vacation that lasted an entire month out of the year. My last several years of almost incessant working started to seem... unnecessary and perhaps counterproductive. That year, I resolved to do one of these trips myself (I ended up in Turkey) and currently I am sipping pisco sours in Lima, Peru, just a couple days away from Cuzco and Machu Picchu. Thanks, Dr. Caspi! I´m now trying to spread the good word to other hopeless workaholics.

More later...

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