Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Farewell to 2008: a review

Apologies for a silent December; I was off in far-away states visiting family and some landscapes that I am deprived of here in Small Town. It was a good holiday, and since Partner came with me for the first time I had a lot more fun than I usually do - we got away for a weekend and saw some sights.

Now I sit here facing down 2009, and since I plan to be, you know, busy tomorrow night and into Thursday, I thought this might be a good time to look back.

2008 was potentially the most eventful year I've had so far. I spent the first month + (continuing from late 2007) in the field, finishing up one field project and getting almost nowhere on another. But I got enough data for the writing that ensued from mid February onward, as I wrote probably 3/5 of my dissertation between returning to the States and turning in my diss at the end of April. Needless to say, even with the majority of the data collection finished, it was a stressful spring. But there's nothing like a deadline to get the juices flowing, right?

In the meantime..

In February I went on a few campus interviews, lined up a few more. Had a fabulous time visiting SLAC and then sat around at home praying that I would get a phone call.

Then Partner asked me to marry him. This happened to occur on the same day that I received a phone call from SLAC offering me my current position (I gotta wonder if he was waiting for that job security...but then he did already have the ring at that point ;) - in his defense we had decided to do xmas presents once I got back from the field, and mine was the ring, but we hadn't gotten around to the gift exchange until the middle of the month). I made a lot of phone calls and sent a lot of emails over the next week or so - both telling people we were getting married and telling potential employers that I was no longer interested!

That was the high point, and the rest of the spring was a low - I had the "usual" last-minute failures of equipment and technicians while trying to get a few more pieces of data, my defense date kept moving around, etc. I let a lot of things slide, like exercise and eating well; I wasn't sleeping, and for a lot of reasons I hated where we were living. I had some rage at sources of ambient noise that was probably not good for my overall mental health.

In May I defended my dissertation and walked/was hooded. After saying goodbye to the family members who came to my graduation we packed up our apartment and got the hell outta there. Driving that Uhaul out of City took a huge load off of my shoulders. We dumped all of our belongings at Partner's parents' place for the summer and started looking for a place to live in Small Town. We originally planned to rent and see what we thought about buying later on, but rental options were almost zero, house prices were low, and I could actually swing a down payment. So we started looking, and found a place we liked in late June.

August 1st we closed and spent the first night in my/our first house. A few days later I bought my first washer and dryer, which I will admit have changed my life more than owning the house, and still make me happy on a weekly basis.

The fall was a learning experience - Partner learned that it might be a lot harder for him to find work here than we expected, and I learned that I really like what I'm doing and I don't completely suck as a professor (so far!). I got decent student reviews, got some research done, started writing a grant, got one of my dissertation papers published and submitted another two manuscripts. I'm learning the ropes and feeling more confident. I'm starting to spend my start-up and am planning some field work for the summer and winter of '09.

I hope 2009 will complete my transition from student to proffie in my own mind - I need to be more assertive and self-confident than I am, sometimes; I need to make sure I get what I need and stop trusting that SLAC is looking out for me (because it may be a friendly and supportive place but no one is looking out for me but me), and I also have to keep myself from putting things off just because it's still my first year.

This coming year will also hopefully give us a better idea of what we can expect for Partner - is this place going to be a wash for him? And if so, what do we do? Should I be keeping an eye on the job ads, just in case some sort of SLAC job opens up in a more likely location? Would I be an idiot to look for other alternatives before tenure, when I'm liking my job so far? Questions that can't be answered at this point, but I might be asking them with more sincerity around this time next year.

More importantly, I hope 2009 is more positive. Some of my experiences in City in 2008 really shot my faith and trust in people, and made me even more of a pessimist than I had been before. My students have already done a lot to revive my optimism, and I think being at SLAC will counteract my negative mindset if I let it happen.

Happy New Year and a positive 2009 to you! More blogging will ensue during post-hangover January.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

bandwagons part deux

Barring something useful to blog about, here is meme for you. No tagging, so if you haven't, go ahead.

Have done the following in bold.

1. Started my own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than I can afford to charity (I would like to say yes to this, but I wasn't starving, so it probably doesn't count)
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sung a solo
11. Bungee jumped (this will never, ever happen)
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched lightning at sea
14. Taught myself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown my own vegetables (well, a tomato plant on a fire excape. Which the squirrels ate. But it totally counts)
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch-hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill (although...being a grad student and not working probably doesn't count)
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon (this will also never happen)
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught myself a new language (or parts of some, anyway)
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had my portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkelling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theatre
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving (number three which will never, ever happen)
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favourite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten caviare
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had my picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Ridden an elephant

Thursday, December 11, 2008


I've blogged this elsewhere before, and it's been on other blogs as well. So I'm not claiming any great discoveries. But I came across this link again tonight, and it's just as funny now as it was back in the fall.

Even funnier, now they have links at the bottom right to ringtones, mp3 files and WALLPAPER for your desktop. Random sciencechick standing by the ocean! Random guys in lab coats! Is this actually a good way to get scientists to buy your expensive machines? Apparently.

The slump may be subsiding; at the very least I've gotten some work done this week. So far.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


The term is over, my grades are done, and now is the time to get to all those things that were shoved onto the back burner, or just planned for post-term in the first place. I'm supposed to be writing, and collaborating, and preparing! Right!?

In theory. Except that I'm having a serious post-term slump in which I find it difficult to do anything more exciting than websurf or exercise - the latter takes a decent amount of willpower, but I've managed to keep it up. At least I'm doing that much, I guess...I'm also turning into an insomniac again, which is not good. I have some research meetings set up for later this week -- I'm hoping that by then I can get my butt to my office by 9 am.

Today I pulled out a syllabus for next term, and made some progress. But what I should be doing is slogging through the tome sitting next to my computer, which will tell me all the secrets of Method X prior to my meeting with Method X Expert on Friday. But am I reading it? No. At this rate I'm going to walk in there as unprepared as any undergraduate he's had, even though he's been nice enough to offer his services in Method X to a first-year ass. prof. I'm such a jerk (ass!).

This might be my downfall - barring serious deadlines I've always worked in spurts, with several weeks of really good productivity followed by a period of minimum motivation. But it always evened out, since I could work at my own pace once I was ABD. Now I can't ride out the sluggish periods, and it's no fun.

How do you beat the slump?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Also saw this recently: Nature reviews FemaleScienceProfessor's book! I have to get a copy.

somebody loves me

Hooray for email, which provides such an uplifting end to the lousy mood I've been in all evening for no good reason:

"Dear Liberal Arts Lady,

The paper you submitted to Journal X has now been edited, and I am happy to inform you that it is acceptable for publication subject to a few final modifications."

Dissertation paper number 1, done (pending a few grammatical changes)! And just in time to count toward my first CV review. Sweet.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


I'd like to know what genetic mistake left me with absolutely no appreciation for girly footwear. It's not just that, since my feet are "special" and have always been so, I can't wear any type of heel without enduring some serious pain. Even with that specific genetic issue, you'd think I might appreciate other people's shoes, or think they were cute, or even wish I could wear them myself. But no, I look at things like the Naughty Monkey line and I cringe inside, wondering what crazy person would want these monstrosities (although, if I was going to try a monstrosity, the name of that brand would likely lead me to try them first).

And so, I wear flats (usually relatively boring ones), and have no shoe fetish, and am one of the few females I know without a significant shoe collection (I generally have one pair for each purpose). Maybe that will bring me some pity from someone, but I'm fine with it. Until I'm asked to measure my science by the hotness of shoes. In which case I can only say that shoes have nothing to do with it.

As a field scientist I've always had the good fortune of combining work and travel; I spend a lot of time in 'exotic' places doing things that other people would probably pay a lot of money to do. And sometimes when I'm forced to actually be a tourist that annoys me, because I'm used to being more integrated into the local culture and I know when I'm being an annoying foreigner - this is far less avoidable when traveling as "tourist" instead of "researcher." Sometimes the scientific questions I'm examining aren't terribly fantastic, but when you put the name of a far-away country at the end people seem to pay more attention.

When I made the move to SLAC, and hell even when I was just thinking about applying to SLACs, I worried that my research areas might be out of reach, and I would have to find something new and local to focus on - I just can't answer the same questions in North America. However, I've been pleasantly surprised to find that SLAC might end up being an even better place to pursue my personal research than I had hoped:

- My students are only in my classes, or in my research group, because they want to be. Teaching is so much better when the information is desired instead of forced down their throats.

- SLAC is far more generous than I expected concerning research money, especially student travel (which was going to be my biggest obstacle).

- SLAC has a fancy machine that I couldn't get access to as a grad student at R1U. I'm now gathering some preliminary data on this machine, which I can use for FREE. This is completely insane from my pre-SLAC viewpoint, where using this machine would cost me lots of money and probably require extended time in a national lab. Now I can take the next step on some of my dissertation work without any grants or red tape, and if things work out the data might take some of my fieldwork in an entirely new and exciting direction.

- Much of my work is multidisciplinary, which gets me points from administration and gives me a much wider net to cast for potential students and collaborators. I'm hoping to get something local set up this spring working with colleagues in other departments.

Half a year ago I was accepting this job, worried that I was saying goodbye to travel, important research questions, and funding. Instead I find that I have too many opportunities, minimal stress regarding publication or grant-writing, multiple funding opportunities within SLAC, and free unlimited access to high-end equipment. I'm looking forward to taking over my subfield with an army of interested, well-funded undergraduates. And I'll be wearing hiking boots.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving adventures

We went to visit Partner's family for Thanksgiving (since they are within driving distance and my family is not). This was also mini-Xmas, since we'll be visiting my family over actual Xmas. Confusing, a little. But it is nice to get things for Thanksgiving.

The first night we were there we stayed up talking, and then decided to shower and get things organized after other people had gone to bed. We discovered too late that the guest shower was broken, producing only cold water. So our shower turned into a cup-and-bucket bath using water from the sinks, which isn't half bad and something I've done before, just not in North America. One point to this holiday for adding one more thing I'd never done before to my life list.

Turkey day = potatoes/stuffing/soup/pie day for us, not being meat-eaters. But it was still far too much and food coma ensued. With birthday cake for dessert, since that's something else we'll be missing during our Xmas trip. See how confusing this is?

Friday we made the mistake of shopping in the early afternoon - for food, primarily, and hardware. But it was still a bit crazy out there. And today we made the trek home, to discover that the cat left us poopy presents on the rug - one for each day we were gone. I'm assuming this was her retribution, and not an illness. We'll keep our eye on the carpet for the next few days and find out which - if it's retribution that means all the rugs will have to be stored away pre-Xmas trip!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

full circle

As we edge closer to the end of the term here at SLAC, I've been inviting my students to provide me with anonymous (or not so anonymous) feedback regarding the course I've been teaching. Some of them have chosen to do so, and for the most part they have specific complaints regarding certain assignments or aspects of the class but have very nice things to say in general. They make me feel much better about impending student reviews, and about the potential for making this class super awesome in the future.

I've spent a lot of time recently trying to figure out the "what next" aspects of this having-a-job thing -- what grants I want to apply for, what research I want to pursue. My grad advisor has been very supportive and generous in terms of turning over parts of projects to me should I wish to pursue them. This is both exciting and frustrating in the sense that much of it is very hypothetical and uncertain at this point.

I've also been doing some research regarding my new collaboration in Far Off Country I've Never Been To. If it turns out to be a good field area I will be thrilled, but not having been there invites the dilemma of not knowing exactly how to prepare. And, to make things more interesting, working in this new place will bring me into the region of interest of the Very Famous Scientist who tore into me after my very first conference talk as a graduate student. Many of his complaints were more related to my not portraying aspects of my work in enough detail, but some of his criticisms motivated me to change the way I presented my work afterward (which was probably a good thing). Still, gathering all his papers and reading his work reminds me of that confrontation and makes me wonder if, assuming I ever publish anything from this new area, he will remember my name or perhaps think to himself, "oh, it's that idiot student!"

I'm finally finding time to clean my office. By the time I'm done, students won't need to come talk to me anymore, and I'm sure it'll be a mess again by the time the new term begins.

Monday, November 17, 2008


Tagged by ecogeofemme: The Five Things Meme

5 things I was doing 10 years ago

1. Planning my very first field experience (it was a bad one, but that didn't keep me from trying again in a slightly different field)
2. Getting to know my roommate, who is still a very close friend
3. Playing a lot of Age of Empires
4. Swimming competitively
5. Studying Spanish (which has completely abandoned me at this point)

5 things on my to-do list today...er...tomorrow!

1. Meet with students
2. Online workshop thingy (I have never webcam-teleconferenced. It's gonna be weird!)
3. Write abstract for regional spring meeting
4. Try to get ahold of two previous mentors for advice re: purchasing and grants
5. Start price comparisons for lab outfitting

5 snacks I love

1. popcorn
2. hard pretzels (with mustard. of course.)
3. chocolate (of the milk variety. call me crazy)
4. chips n' salsa
5. frosted mini wheats

5 things I would do if I were a millionaire

1. Pay off my student loan
2. Set aside enough that I would be making some decent interest (what, invest? Is that what that's called?)
3. Fund my research - and my "I want to go there so maybe I can study something there" trips too
4. Create a fund to support undergraduate student research in the department I enjoyed most at my alma mater
5. Get friggin married already, with the appropriate level of festivity and drunkenness and fancy food

5 places I've lived

1. In podunkville, East Coast
2. In a crappy apartment above a druggie domestic abuser
3. In a crappy apartment above violent, psychotic international students
4. In a not-too-crappy townhouse too close to the local bars
5. In my house in Small Town, which I own, which still blows me away

5 jobs I've had

1. Babysitter
2. Circulation Assistant (mini-Librarian)
3. Camp Counselor
4. Teaching Assistant
5. Assistant Professor

5 people I'd like to share this meme with:

Well, while I'm fairly certain I'm one of the very last people I know to have actually filled this out, if the following notice the summons and are willing they can consider themselves up next:

Dr. Shellie
Brazen Hussy
Cyn (do it!)
T (you won't do it. But I tag you anyway.)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

two bodies update

I noticed that most of the google searches bringing people to this blog involved either the blog name or some combination of terms related to the two-body issue and unemployment anxiety (and now I'll probably be increasing that component of my traffic). Which made me think that an update might be in order regarding my non-academic yet still two-people-needing-work situation.

Partner is still on the lookout for work - applying for jobs, hearing very little back, and for the most part being told that he'll have several months to wait before some companies will be calling people, assuming they call people at all. It's still early(ish) to be worried about him not having a job - we've only been here a few months, and it often takes that long no matter what the economy is doing. As the economy stands at the moment, I'm feeling lucky to have a job that is likely to be reliable (i.e., still mine and/or still in existence) for the next several years.

In the one-year term, we have tentative plans to let him go do something fun if he hasn't found something more worthwhile to do by early spring - we were both (in our more fancy-free days) long-distance hikers, and it would be great if we could afford for him to go walking for a few months if he had the time. I also hope to be able to drag him along to my far-off fieldwork if we can afford the plane ticket. Or, if he finds a job that he likes, that would be great too.

This is probably a more fortunate two-body problem than most people deal with - we can survive, if carefully, on my salary. We have no little people. Etc. Extra income would help, but I'm more concerned with Partner being bored and/or frustrated by lack of employment.

In the long term, I have some plans, but I hope to not worry about it until next fall. If Small Town turns out to be a wash for him, I could consider looking for other options in bigger places, though I worry about how that might look to my current employer -- especially if it's just a "let's see what we can find" kind of situation. We could also consider moving to the closest Bigger Town, where I would have an approximately 1 hour commute but he would be within not-unreasonable distance of some other employment options (right now we're too far away from those employment options to make them feasible -- the commute would cost too much compared to what he would make).

Right now I'm liking this job. I'm becoming more comfortable, I like my students, I think I could do some really awesome things with them and potentially help SLAC as far as their grant record is concerned (or at least I hope I could!). I already have a number of research options that have opened up with other SLAC faculty. I'm looking forward to my future here.

Given that aspect, I might wait for tenure (or lack thereof) before making any significant moves. It might depend on just how miserable Partner is when he runs out of rooms to paint and ends up sitting around twiddling his thumbs all day. Basically, a lot of things are up in the air and will depend upon the next year and how things go. I'm trying not to dwell on these issues too much, not yet.

To those out there who need that second job, or who have little people in the equation, good luck. I have hope that come springtime things will be shaken up enough to make more opportunities for all of us. Or, at the very least, that tax season will send me some love in monetary form.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Well, I have obviously failed in a big way on InaDWriMo 2008. After much more minor revisions than I expected before submitting a paper earlier in the month, I've been doing more grant planning than grant writing (where grant planning is actually happening, yet grant writing = 0). That will hopefully change this weekend, but I've decided to extend my personal deadline through December. I'm much more likely to get something done over part of my break, and having a word goal will make that likelihood even greater. So, while I'm still at 2%, I'm only at 21% of my time in my own warped little head. It's my InaDWriMo 2008 and I'll extend it if I want to!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

holiday frustration

Want to guarantee a ruined morning full of stress and residual frustration? Try to call United Airlines with the following request:

Buy two plane tickets, one using a free voucher, one using frequent flyer miles, on the same reservation, during the holidays. Also, the two people flying do not live near a major airport and don't have the same family name.

It was my particular luck to get an especially incompetent employee who just repeated herself instead of answering my questions, and then refused to transfer me to her supervisor until I INSISTED. And then she came back on the line to ask me Partner's name, which I refused to give her and instead said that I wanted to speak to her SUPERVISOR damn it. Eventually I just hung up, called back and asked to speak to the people who do the vouchers, which was much more effective. I probably should have stayed on the line long enough to get the incompetent employee's name, but I was too angry at that point. Good news for her, I'm sure.

Now, barring postal issues in getting my voucher to United, we have two tickets for an extended stay in Far Away State for Xmas, even if we're not flying the exact times or dates that we would have preferred. This trip may or may not end up being good for my mental health, but it will be a change of scenery at the very least.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

a schedule

The holidays suddenly appeared, in grocery stores and commercials and on a few local houses as well. So...are we just going to come up with one word for post-Halloween pre-New Years? It would simplify things, since everyone is apparently going to put up trees on November 1st regardless. And my students have hit a precipitous downward slide in both lecture attendance and quality of work.

It's been a good weekend - it started out pretty well with a Friday night coffee meeting, where I hashed out a grant outline and job allotments with a new collaborator. I'm really happy about this one as it's the kind of thing SLAC really likes yet will require less than huge amounts of work from us both in grant writing and in carrying out the plan if it does get funded.

Saturday I didn't work too hard, wrote the majority of my lab for this coming week but mostly procrastinated and went to the gym, which permitted a Mexican feast with real strawberry margaritas. Today I turned domestic, and after another good workout did some laundry (whee!),cleaning and grading. I even made dinner AND dessert. I have guilt sometimes that I don't do as much of the around-the-house stuff as I could, so it's nice to get in a good day's worth of domestic activity.

Tomorrow I hope to get more of last week's to-do list finished, and maybe make the phone call I've been promising to make for well over a week now. I might also get back some potentially cool preliminary results. And I have another, yet unrelated, coffee-with-potential-collaborator meeting to attend. I'm feeling potential in the air. I sometimes like pre-collaboration better than actually doing the work!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

in which I am missing something

Although I spend the majority of my time with people who share my political ideology to at least some extent, I also know a decent number of people who are die-hard supporters of the Other Party. And I don't even have a political identification; I'm registered as an independent but end up voting with one party almost all of the time because I think they more closely resemble what I want for this country.

Given that random information, I would like some Other Party voter out there to explain something to me, without being sarcastic, rude, annoying, demeaning, uppity, or racist. Just an explanation that really states why you are voting Other Party this year if:

You are not racist
You make less than 100 k per year (or even just less than 200-250 k)and/or don't own your own business
You are not religious and are not being told to vote Other Party by some preacher somewhere
You are not afraid of terrorists and/or believe that having a good name on the global stage might be a good thing
You are not in the military
You are not just voting Other Party because you always have and still think that Other Party today stands for the same thing it did fifty years ago.

The other two options I've heard most often cited for why people end up voting Other Party are:


In these two cases, I would like someone to explain to me:

1. Why gun control is the issue you vote with, which trumps all other issues, considering that it has been a minor player in at least this recent election AND considering the fact that given American History, the number of people with guns in this country and the strength/support of the NRA, I really really REALLY doubt that you will ever actually be in danger of having your guns taken away. You might have to wait an extra two days to get one, but seriously, the day you have your guns taken away is the day I actually witness an uprising in this country. It isn't going to happen any time soon.

2. Why the life of a fetus trumps the life of a mother. All the abortion-related legislature that has been put up recently makes very few, if any, allowances for a mother's health or legal rights. I have never understood why pre-life wins over current life. I'm also curious about how ending abortion can possibly have beneficial, or even neutral, societal impacts in the long-term. Look at current population growth and the history of countries where abortion had been outlawed in the past. But, that's another story, and I'm really more interested in having an explanation to the first part.

In general, I am interested in knowing why Other Party proponents are so generally interested in being able to control what other people do in the privacy of their own homes.

Maybe I've missed an issue that turns people Other Party. Or maybe just these accounts for the percentage of the popular vote that went to McCain (in case Other Party wasn't clear. You never know). It scares me that people call Obama "socialist" - his ideas are relatively centrist in general, and less "socialist" than the distribution of oil money in Alaska, which people seem to be ok with.

Maybe I'm just underestimating the tendency for people to cling to stereotype and avoid fact. Or maybe, as I suspect, I'm just missing something.

I hope to avoid too much political back-and-forth, but if anyone wants to answer any of these, I'd be interested to hear it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


I was watching election coverage last night while writing my lecture for this morning, and looked up at some point to see the headline about the "president elect" -- apparently California's results had come in without my noticing. I was a little confused for a minute or two. And then I stayed up long enough to watch the speeches and a little post-election coverage. Can I tell you how shocked I am that we even know the results at this point? I expected at least a little bit of contention.

I had a lot of anger during this election season, which is now seeping away. I'm not sure why - maybe because I won't have to hear any more stupid commercials telling me that so-and-so is the best for some vague unexplained reason.

Also, I love the Onion's headline today.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Saturday, November 1, 2008


How is it NOVEMBER!?

I spent much of yesterday being paraded in front of important people in an effort to raise cash for SLAC, then went to a neighbor's Halloween party. I think I was more social over that fourteen-hour period than I have been in maybe two months; it was nice but exhausting.

I also had my first pangs of grad-school-sickness (ya know, like homesickness. but for grad school) after calling my old officemate yesterday afternoon. We needed to talk about a conference session we're trying to put together, but ended up chatting long enough that she had to hang up and head to the Friday afternoon happy hour. Since I was waiting around to attend more fancy-pants schmoozefest events, I was very jealous -- I haven't had a rowdy Friday afternoon drinks-and-dinner since I left City!

Life goes on; but I'm not the only one being productive. Partner has been working hard on winterizing, fixing the garage roof, and redoing the bedrooms - two bedrooms have had their walls repaired/painted, radiators cleaned and painted, etc. One still needs a new ceiling. The other is finished except for some moulding, and is now our bedroom. It used to be a kid's room, which we had been calling the "lady bug room"

Now it's very cozy and perfect for sleeping (I might keep it even after the master bedroom is painted):

We bought matching fans for all the bedrooms, which will replace disasters like this one:

This photo also illustrates why some of the ceilings need work. Damn you, popcorn!

Thursday, October 30, 2008


I was in the local graveyard this week for entirely work-related purposes when I found this:

One of my biggest pet peeves inscribed forever on some poor schmuck's gravestone. When I die, just scatter my ashes, because I don't want there to be even the slightest chance of grammatically incorrect gravestone inscriptions that keep my memory alive.

Tonight we played "quick, carve a pumpkin between dinner and writing tomorrow's lecture!" (except that I'm posting this instead of getting to that lecture...). Partner is wonderful and did all the prep work. But here are the results; I had briefly considered FSM pumpkins or maybe pirates, but I got lazy. And busy. Oh well.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

potty mouth

I've been cursing in front of my students. Not in lecture, where I generally have a fairly good filter, but in out-of-lecture situations such as lab and field trip settings. And not in anger or in exclamation, but in the sense of a calm statement of disgruntlement like, "now what the fuck is wrong with you, computer number three?" or I might refer to a particular situation as "bullshit." When I catch myself I apologize, and the student involved usually just laughs at me, but I'm trying to keep it from becoming a habit and I just can't seem to stop. I'm wondering how much they really care, and whether I'll have comments on my end-of-term reviews about "swearing in lab" (I don't do it ALL the time. It just happens once in a while).

Regardless, I'm wondering how I get myself to keep the same filter that I manage to use in a lecture setting. Maybe I need to create a penalty for myself. No dessert? Actually, no gym time as a penalty would probably do the trick. I tend to go crazy when denied adequate exercise.

Monday, October 27, 2008

what writing?

It's InaDWriMo 2008. Awesome.

Every time I have coffee with my potential collaborator/fellow newbie prof we talk about a writing group, and every time we are too busy to put the plan in motion. This is just the motivational shove (I hope) that I need to at least start writing the grant I had already decided wouldn't get submitted this year. But there's no harm in starting early.

I'll be putting a counter up, and hopefully it won't stay at zero.

in which I was not aware of the commentary

Piggybacking on recent articles regarding motherhood and fieldwork, I was made aware of this book and the related blog, contributing to the general discussion of academia and parenthood. Not a direct answer to my particular concern, but relevant.

I've also been reading Advice for New Faculty Members, and my opinion has gone downhill as I've gotten farther into it. This book is written for kindergarten students, except for all the overblown vocabulary. Every other page I want to yell at the author to STOP REPEATING HIMSELF because I GET IT. I get it already! I don't need your list of methodology every five seconds! Gah!

I've stopped reading, because I was getting so frustrated, and now I'm just skimming for useful content. Which does exist, because I am definitely guilty of some of the negative practices discussed (like being afraid of pausing in class...however, I am NOT going to lead a class meditation. Are you kidding me?). The author's attitude is so condescending that I'm surprised the book is so popular. If you need to reread the same crap every chapter, you must have gotten to your current faculty position through plagiarism and blatant cheating. Aren't we supposed to be good at making connections and remembering shit? Damn.

Hah, apparently this blog may be traveling a downward spiral into vulgar vocabulary. Fuck it.

Friday, October 24, 2008

kids of the present and future

A few people have pointed out this article, which essentially answers a question I asked a while ago concerning mothers who need to do fieldwork with their kids (I'm not planning, I'm just wondering).

I'm both impressed by the snowshoeing-with-the-baby and dissatisfied that the short answer seems to be "do short trips with help". I guess the short answer for myself, should I ever need one, would be "get a local field area". Which should probably happen anyway, but it seems like giving up somehow.

I wonder about these things primarily because my research occurs largely as part of a team, in places that require airplanes and foreign languages. I've seen people bring their kids into situations like this, but they were almost always the sole PI of whatever project they were working on, and they often had a preexisting local support network of project staff and their relatives. Which is also great, but not exactly my situation.

I shouldn't even been worrying about this right now, but it is current blog fodder.

In other news?

I voted early and love being done with "my part" in this election season. I can't deal with the snarky back-and-forth (good thing I don't watch TV) and I cannot wait for the political ads to disappear. I get to just sit back with my popcorn on the 4th and see how things play out.

I finished a revision draft today, which if approved by my co-author would leave me with NO OUTSTANDING REVISIONS. Imagine. Unless my submitted article comes back with reviews soon (I wouldn't be surprised).

This weekend: lots of kids in vans driving out to see exciting things. My first field trip, organized and arranged and scheduled by me. Wish us luck!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


It's almost time to spend a lot of someone else's money. Any advice out there on saving cash when outfitting a new lab? I'm talkin' basic fisher-sci type stuff. Nothing fancy on the money-saving end of things.

It's finally colder. I love fall.

Re: lab sinks -- there's a possibility of extending faucet heights. Which will pretty much solve the problem, if not provide ideal working conditions.

New in the land of teaching: my students most likely hate me now that most of them have, let's say, done not so well on their midterm. Classic new proffie mistake, isn't it, to make things too difficult? Hmm. Time was short, apparently, and I'm also learning that timed exams are not the norm here. Which I find strange, but not strange enough to want to do untimed exams. I consider the ability to get it done in the time frame provided to be part of the test. Ah well. Curves exist for a reason.

Due to my recent conference travel, these kids had weeks to complete their last assignment. Still, I'm not surprised to be getting emails right now asking how to do it, now that it's due tomorrow. Am I being too nice when I write them back?

Friday, October 10, 2008

stinkin sink

My lab is finally almost done. Well it's the building of it, actually, that is almost done, which means the buying of stuff still has to happen, but at least I can start doing that!

It's actually a nice space; big windows, plenty of electricity/counter space/cabinets. Big enough that I will be able to put a small table in there and it won't get in the way. Plenty of room for people to spread out and use different equipment at well-dispersed "stations" that I have invented in my head; or we can have a bunch of groups doing projects at once. However, there is one problem.

They had done most of the construction this week while I was gone, and today I find that the sinks I requested are where I wanted them, but they are tiny. They're not even real-sink-sized, much less lab-sink-sized. I was never asked specifically about sinks, and had assumed that they knew what a lab sink was.

Shit. It's one of those "I can live with it but it will be inconvenient" kind of issues...it's not like I really need super huge sinks. But it would be nice to actually fit glassware into the sink while washing it. I doubt it will be changeable, unless I want to pony up out of my startup.

Eh. Maybe I'll just make my students do all the dishes.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

the awesome

Home again home again, just in time to write a lecture for tomorrow. Or half of one, at the moment. Hmm. Maybe we'll do something "interactive." Yeah, that's it.

I love meetings. Particularly those most relevant to my actual work, where I get to meet famous scientists and feel relevant to my subfield community. I always come back jazzed up for science, and I hope that feeling will stick around for a few weeks and inspire me to actually start doing those early professorship things like contacting potential collaborators, ordering stuff for my lab and writing grants (or at least making a list of the grants I should be applying for!). I have no more excuses for not having started these things, and I should do them now! I really need this kind of re-invigoration every three months or so, but since that would be economically disastrous I guess it's ok that I get it at least once or twice a year.

On my way home I got to trade my seat on my final connecting flight for a free round-trip ticket, and ended up getting home only an hour later than I was originally scheduled to arrive. Awesome. This significantly lightens the financial burden of December, when I am obligated to fly far far away in order to visit my parents. With a free ticket Partner will get to come, and it will be his first visit to that part of the country, his first significant visit with my parents (after many years of being together, he's spent a total of maybe two days with my family) and our first trip anywhere together in quite a while (moving from City to Small Town just doesn't count as quality time). Hooray!

I started reading Advice for New Faculty Members by Robert Boice. I've heard conflicting opinions from other people - so far the language seems unnecessarily heavy but otherwise it looks quite useful. Two chapters in, anyway. Maybe I'll get a chance to finish it before the advice is no longer relevant.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

too early

Conference time, far to early. I'm having money stress, after my first paycheck failed to cover the backlog of summer expenses that, while stress-inducing, were not unexpected given the lack of paychecks between May 15th and September 31st. Maybe I should have gotten a retail job in the meantime. And maybe I should give myself a few months to get my financial feet back under me before I panic, but I am prone to anxiety about things like this. My laptop has also decided that it will no longer function off of battery power, which makes me worry for the immediate future of my primary work machine.

So conference time is causing more stress, as I will presumably (but not assuredly) receive some funds from SLAC to cover this travel, yet have to put it up myself for now. And I'm trying to remember when I've ever had to pay $55 for taxi fare before today (maybe I've just been lucky so far...). I also don't appreciate getting past-due notices from our digital cable provider, when they never sent us a bill in the first place.

But that's for Partner to deal with this week, since I'm sitting in a far away city trying to motivate myself to actually write the talk I have to give in a few days. I have my predictable pre-conference cold, which prevents a stress-relief run. How else can I blow off steam if I can't drink or go running?

I should be feeling good, since this week I finally submitted a manuscript revision that has honestly been the most frustrating bullshit ever, now several years in the making (everyone who shared my grad school office knows of the infamous flaky co-author). But it's decent, and it's done, and I can now stop hating said co-author, who is a good person if not a good writer of papers (there are a lot of people in this world I would have liked a lot better if I had never had to work with them).

I'm hoping this foul mood can be dealt with and I can actually enjoy seeing people and learning things over the next few days.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


This weekend I attended my college reunion, and it was far more fun than I expected. I went to a SLAC only a few hours' drive from Small Town, so it wasn't too much trouble to attend, but I didn't have high expectations. I figured I would catch up with a few people, get away for a few days, see how things had changed and maybe get some work done. Instead, I got nothing useful accomplished and I'm still paying slightly for a late night last night. But it was totally worth it.

I found that people haven't changed at all, except that we all have a "plus one" that we drag around now. My college has changed very little; I could almost trick myself into thinking I had never left.

I got to visit my old advisors as well as one of my favorite professors, who was (and still is) an adjunct, though she's no longer working for the SLAC that I attended. It was interesting to talk to her now that I'm on "her side"...we discussed teaching, student attitudes, and whether everyone should really go to college. I was reminded of how shitty a place academia can be, when someone as amazing as she is is scrambling for positions. I can only hope I do half as good a job with my gig.

I'll be looking forward to the next reunion, when I'm sure I won't be the only one in my class with a PhD (I was surprised -- I assume someone out there has theirs as well, but didn't show up) -- there are plenty of people still working through their grad programs. I do admit to taking a small amount of pride in having that title when a room full of classmates didn't...which probably makes me a jerk.

Now it's back to work, with a lingering jealousy left over from a visit to the fancy science building at my alma mater.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I love Wednesday

I think I've finally gotten myself into functional schedule. I'm teaching one class with two lab sections this term, lectures M/W/F mornings and labs T/Th afternoons. While I'd eventually like to have a whole day for research, this is fine for now and makes me structure my time a little bit more than I would have to with a full "free" day...it's good for really cutting the chord between grad life (where I often woke up at 10 am and worked late) and real life (where I get up at 7:30 and that's probably later than most).

The repeated lab section on Thursday means that I have minimal prep work to do on Wednesday afternoon and evening.

I really like Wednesdays.

I should probably be using this afternoon as research time, even though I'm tempted to get ahead for Friday so I'm not prepping lecture all day on Thursday. But I am getting better at using small chunks of time productively - like this morning when I spent the one free hour before my lecture working on a revision. Except that I tried to finish a figure and ended up having to run to lecture. Then I had to come back to my office for my Powerpoint, which I had forgotten.

I guess now I just need to get better at the transitions between teaching and research. They never talk about that part at the faculty development meetings.

Friday, September 19, 2008

I need a counter! For counting!

Anyone know of a webcounter that I can install on a page made with Seamonkey? I've tried stat counter and site meter -- stat counter does nothing, while sitemeter just records my own visits (and yes, I know there have been visits to this page by other people). So maybe I'm just doing something wrong with site meter, but a little html shouldn't be that hard to install.

Maybe I'll eventually break down and go back to Dreamweaver. Maybe. I'm not sure I'm that desperate to see who's visiting my academic page.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


I'm using the course management system Moodle for my current class...I was reluctant at first, because it's not very pretty or customizable, but it was easier than getting a separate web page set up before the start of the term. And now I'm becoming a convert, because it tells me when the students signed on and what they looked at. Awesome. So now, when the slacker who left my lab an hour early without even looking at the second half of the assignment claims that he couldn't find the background materials, I can pull up his Moodle history and show him that he hasn't even logged on this week. And I will also know who's doing the reading ten minutes before class.

I think this is the same voyeuristic side of me that enjoys wasting time on Facebook coming out during the workday.

In life news, we finally joined a gym a few weeks ago - having regular access has made life much better. Stress levels are down compared to August, even with the whole job thing.

House painting has progressed in stages into another room -- we need to cover the ceiling in the office, and for that we have to wait for additional paychecks. But painting of walls can continue. Yesterday Partner discovered that the ceiling in Bedroom #2 (eventually to be the one we use, because it's back off the street and farther from the associated noise) was wallpapered, then painted. A long, long time ago. Who does that?

In a week things get more hectic - for some reason I'm going to my college reunion, and then big fall conference. I should be getting ahead...instead I'll probably be watching Flight of the Conchords, season one.

Monday, September 15, 2008

in which I complain about things that I should have expected

My chair, while a very nice person, has been assuming that I know all kinds of things, even though I specifically told him that I was not provided with an official mentor of any kind and really have no other source of discovering things like how to use the printer shared by all the faculty in the building. I really want to ask him why he finds my ignorance surprising (because he really seems to).

I have also apparently been left off of a semi-critical faculty email list, leading to complete ignorance regarding faculty meetings and campus events. And again, I'm supposed to magically know who I should have contacted. Blah.

I got my first "Mrs." from a student today, via email. It had to happen eventually, I suppose.

I officially feel old.

I wanted to do a food demo today, but couldn't get the food in question to do what its packaging states it will do (namely, become food), and therefore I have to go buy more of it tonight and see if I can force it to do my bidding by tomorrow morning.

Even with all that, I'm enjoying this gig so far. My students are pretty cool. And ask questions that start with "isn't it also true that..." and "how do you know that..." Pretty sweet for intro level.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

nothing interesting

We've had, ya know, a little rain the past few days. And it turns out that yes, the garage roof does leak. At least now we know where. The basement, at least, is almost perfect. Given a choice between the two we're pretty happy with a leaky garage.

The cat has yet to accept the presence of a washing machine in her house. Whenever we use it she sneaks up to it and watches it, then walks quickly past the laundry room as if it was going to bite her. Today she hissed at it. However, I'm getting more cat love these days, and Partner is less the favorite, maybe because now I'm the one gone most of the day. If that didn't also mean I was having more blood drawn on a regular basis, it would make me very happy.

Friday, September 12, 2008


Is it bad to drop the USB end of a USB mouse in your coffee? Or will it still work once it's dry?

Also, I don't think I should have to respond to reviewers who question the basic tenets of my field in their commentary. Like questioning the potential age of well-known and accepted events. Obvious craziness should really be dealt with by the editors.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


So far:

- I failed at producing a revision I had hoped to finish before the start of classes, and still haven't gotten around to hauling it to the top of my "to-do" list.

- A coauthor holding all the pieces of another manuscript revision due very soon isn't returning my calls or emails.

- I have a promising new collaboration in New Country for next summer. Very exciting.

- I decided to go with my original "big conference in the Fall plus International conference in the Spring" plan. But I still get my name on abstracts for the others, so it's a win-win.

- I still don't have a phone, a trash can or a name on my door.

- I made the mistake of visiting the space provided to another new proffie in a field with more funding. I am feeling insignificant this afternoon. Also, some of my space is still under construction.

- I'm starting to see where the "vision" of my chair is completely at odds with the functional reality of the things I'll be doing. I plan to just do things and assume he'll say something if he has issues...for some things he's just going to have to suck it up, because it just can't work the way he had assumed.

- I'm managing more consistent early-morning-rising than ever before. Maybe I really am an adult now.

Monday, September 8, 2008

sorely tempted

Oooh...Dell mini. It's so cute. It's so small. It's so reasonably priced. I might just do it. 1 gig would be just enough to have internet functionality, Microsoft Office and the one mapping program I need in the field.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

the first year...conferences?

I should probably wait and see how I handle the first few months of this job (and, getting a paycheck would be good, too) before I start to plan my travel. But I'm starting to plan the year and I'm torn:

I'm so far going to Big National Conference in my field this fall, and debating about other options for additional travel.

Option #1 is a conference I've always wanted to get to but never managed to because it's held during my prime field season time; this year I'm not going into the field, so I was thinking maybe I'd try to submit for Option #1. However, I'm not sure I'll actually have the time to get a decent presentation together, and I'll probably have enough going on in the late fall/early winter.

Option #2 is a spring conference in a field that isn't really mine, or exactly my subfield either, yet I work with a lot of people in this field and my work is relevant to theirs. It's usually more useful for networking than presenting or learning new things.

Option #3 is an international conference in my subfield, which will include a workshop on an awesome method that I have no experience using. Downside is it falls toward the end of the spring semester and will be expensive.

I'm assuming that I'm crazy to even consider four conferences during my first year as an assistant professor. I'm killing all my allocated travel funds with the conference I'm definitely attending in the fall, so cost may help me decide. I'm leaning toward Option #3 only, but I have time to figure it out.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Just in time for the start of the semester, my laptop is giving me warning signs of impending doom. During a workshop this summer it decided to flash the "hard drive not found" message, causing a minor panic until a few reboots brought it back to life. This wouldn't have been so alarming if my external drive hadn't been in storage...and then since things seemed back to normal I of course didn't bother digging it out. Yesterday the 'y' button decided to take on a life of its own, alternately demanding input so that my tyyyyyyyypyyyying looked like thyyyyyyyyyyisyyyyyyyy...and then refusing to work at all. That has also miraculously healed itself, but today I dragged out the external drive and backed up the small amount of work that got done over this summer.

C'mon laptop, you can survive! You're only 1.5 years old! Gimme a break!

I dislike the college computer policy, which makes me log on to their network in order to use my office desktop. This would be no big deal if I had a functional connection, but they have yet to provide me with that. Or a phone. They're lucky I shell out for decent internet access at home (well, I'm an addict, so there's no chance I wouldn't pay for it at home, but still..)

I finally have a drivers license for New State. And as usual I love my license photo more than most photos of me; I'm apparently never as photogenic as I am after taking a written exam, sitting in front of a colored cloth.

And there goes the summer.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


I have an office! With a lock and a computer (ok, well, a computer without a network connection) and furniture. Sweet. I admit that I will use that office more often once the network connection is functional.

Today we hauled the giant pile of boxes that were my "office stuff" over to the office, providing us with a much emptier front room. Who knew I had so much office stuff? Also, make friends with the warehouse guys, because they can get you stuff. Awesome stuff.

There's a lot of "stuff" in that paragraph.

Otherwise, I should be working more but am largely just taking advantage of the last remnants of pre-semester freedom. And watching (or sometimes even helping) as Partner makes amazing progress on things like establishing a compost pile, putting up a (collapsible and removable! it spins! I am still obsessed with laundry!) laundry line, and priming the back bedroom for the most amazing paint job this house has ever seen (I assume this because the previous residents had heinous taste. I know very little about color, and even I can tell that they sucked).

This weekend there will be another trip to the hardware store. And maybe I'll even do something work-related. Or go camping.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

the "not a two-body problem" problem

Lots of people I know, and read about, and hear about, have the typical two-body problem, wherein they and their significant other are both academics, sometimes in the same field. This makes it difficult to impossible to find adequate (read: fulfilling and career-relevant) employment for both of them in the same town/university/region. I feel for you guys. That totally sucks. And as Partner is a non-academic I originally thought, "awesome, this is going to be so much easier because he can get a job anywhere". Which while true in theory is not so true in practice.

Small Town is a decent place to land, it seems, since it's only a few hours from places we have called home and it's within a not-too-ridiculous drive of bigger places if Partner got a job he felt was worth the commute. However, the pickings are still relatively slim compared to City, where Partner held off on getting career-relevant employment following his most recent schooling because he knew we'd be moving to whatever random place decided they wanted to employ me. And now that he's free and clear to get whatever job he wants, he might find it more difficult to find a job he wants.

I've been told that I could have asked the Dean to help Partner find employment, but I think that's kinda silly, really, since there are positions he could take at College but none that would be his ideal, or even near the top of his list, and I think he would feel awkward in that situation. I also somehow feel that this doesn't qualify as an actual two-body-problem, but maybe it does, and maybe I should have treated it as such when looking for a job. But I don't think I would ever have had the balls to say to a Dean, "so, I have this significant other who works in industry, think you can make a few calls?"

I'm ok with him not working, maybe forever, and at the very least for the short term. The guy's been dragged from apartment to apartment for the past few years and lived in City (which he hated), so I owe him some down time, and we'll be doing fine on one salary, if perhaps not buying a summer home on the beach. But I can understand that he might end up feeling a little aimless without a job, and I know he has his own hobbies that he'd like to fund. So we'll see what happens, but I'm hoping he keeps his standards high, because it just isn't worth a two-hour commute if he's working somewhere with shitty managers or making peanuts.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

kinda blah

My on-campus space is not yet finished. I'm starting to figure out the administrative avenues required to get the gear I need for my first few weeks of labs, but I'm not sure it'll come together in time. Ah well, I will live without fancy stuff if I have to, but things are kinda up in the air. I finally picked a textbook. Yeah, cutting it close.

A manuscript revision I resubmitted earlier this summer with the expectation of rejection has in fact been rejected. At least they were quick about it. I have hope that I can resubmit elsewhere with minimal changes.

I spent today scouting a field trip, and have a few workable options but failed miserably at finding a few things I had hoped to see. This makes it likely I'll have to re-scout before the trip actually goes. Damn.

Nothing too exciting going on. I'm hoping to get things rolling soon.

Monday, August 11, 2008

oh yeah, there's work to be done...

We've gotten to that "oh those few boxes can just wait" stage of unpacking, which may potentially last until Christmas. Especially because Partner is antsy to get painting. Which is fine with me, because I have this class to teach pretty soon, and it looks like the rest of academia may be gearing up as well.

My session in the big _____ science meeting this fall was just moved to early morning on the very first day (Gah!). This makes me very glad I had already booked a hotel room for the night before the start of the conference, but also makes me sad that I'll have to get my shit together and be a functional scientist so early on my first day in Conference Town. But at least I'll get my talk out of the way.

I also got some reviews back on a manuscript from my dissertation, which gives me more to do during the next few weeks. And that's great, except that one of the reviewers is on crack, writing totally stupid (read: if I didn't have to respond they would be amusing) things about my research area and generally driving me crazy. I'm afraid I'm going to fail in my efforts to keep the attitude out of my reply; I guess I'll have to go back and edit my editorial responses before I send them. Thank you to the sane reviewer who actually wrote insightful, useful criticism. Wherever you are.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Finally, I am somebody

Partner thinks I'm a little ridiculous, because I tend to get really excited about small details and am comparatively calm when it comes to huge life-altering events, like getting my Ph.D.

So I guess this gets filed under "ridiculous" as well, but tonight I did my very first load of laundry in my new washer/dryer in my very own house, even while wearing pajamas. I was so excited I took pictures.

I'll spare you the action shot (oh yes, I took action shots). In my defense I've been lusting after my own laundry equipment for several years, and finally buying these and putting them in my house makes me feel more like an adult and an actual home-owner than anything else so far. I mean, I'm still paying someone else a pile of money every month to get to live somewhere, even if it is a large step forward in quality and size.

I'm also quite impressed by the leaps and bounds made in washers and dryers while I was off using the quarter machines. These things don't have load settings, they figure out how much water or drying time is needed all by themselves. I am amazed. And will end my laundry talk before I have more people questioning my sanity.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

walk the walk

As seen (a while ago) at the Aspiring Ecologist

The walk score of the new place in Small Town: 57 out of 100 — Somewhat Walkable. This is down from my previous address in City, which scores an 86 out of 100 — Very Walkable. So goes the price of downsizing. No wonder I could survive once my car was stolen! The balancing point: Small Town is much more bike-able.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


We're in, and full of boxes, but slowing digging ourselves out. I'm finding that being finished with the move has done wonders for my stress levels...I guess I'm not so nervous about the new job, after all!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

are we done yet?

Partner and I spent all of yesterday hauling our stuff from the second floor of his family's barn onto the first floor in preparation for truck-loading. It's been great having free storage, which would have cost us a large chunk of cash otherwise, but while emptying our storage "area" we discovered that we own way, way more stuff than we thought we did, primarily because we've been slowly moving things here for the past three years. Over three years I managed to forget that we had anything in storage at all!

The stuff coming with us on Sunday will include things from our City apartment, things we put in storage, and things Partner has been keeping in the barn since high school and college. That adds up. When Partner moved to City, he basically moved in with me and brought only those items that supplemented what I already owned; I didn't quite realize how much he had left behind. It looks like we'll be the proud owners of at least three different sets of dishes in varying states of completion, more coffee cups than I will ever find a use for, and more books than we'll have shelving to hold.

If we didn't have to move it all, I'd be far more excited, but unpacking will be like Christmas. That's my favorite part of moving anyway, and this time I won't already know what the boxes have in store. Next week is going to be fun. This weekend, maybe less so.

Tomorrow we close (finally!). Sunday we actually move in. And if we can get to city hall tomorrow in time to avoid having the water shut off until Monday, I will count us exceptionally lucky.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Now that I've had a few weeks of down time, I feel as though I'm waking up from a long, largely negative dream. The past six months or so have seen more significant events and personal stress than any other six-month period in my life so far. Sometimes I think all these things couldn't possibly have happened to me; I must just be wishing for an end to grad school, or a change of location. And then there are so many new, intimidating things looming ahead that I start to wonder whether grad school in City was really so bad after all.

Since January I have:
- worked in three different countries
- gotten engaged
- gotten a job
- finished and defended my dissertation
- graduated
- moved out of City
- bought a house
- planned a lab
- done all the other normal academic stuff that would have kept me busy all on its own

I didn't realize quite how crazy this year has been until I caught up with a friend I hadn't talked to since January. Last winter seems like such a long, long time ago right now. But even with all that stress, I think I'm more worried about the upcoming semester than I was about the spring, and what makes me most anxious about my upcoming job/life is the permanence of the whole thing. I've been "in transition" my entire life, until now. Undergrad and grad school were just several-year jumps on a path leading here, and this job suddenly becomes the "point" of everything that came before.

I think I'm getting cold feet. But it's not the job itself, or even the house-buying, responsibility-taking, or research-leading that I'll be doing that intimidates me. It's the idea that this might be it, forever, or at least for quite a long time. And as much as I should be hoping for that, for tenure and for job security, I wonder if I'll get antsy in about five years, waiting for the next phase of my life to begin.

I'm surprised I feel this way, since I've been waiting for something more permanent for a while now. I expected to be thrilled about buying a house, staying in one place, and being somewhere Partner can pursue his own career without worrying about moving every few years.

One week from today we'll be moving into our new house, and then the new semester looms, so I should have plenty to keep me occupied for now. Maybe I'll be happy about settling down once we're actually settled, or maybe I'll find other ways to satisfy an appetite for change. I'm looking forward to it, though I hope I can get away from the negativity that has characterized 2008 so far.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

new job anxiety

My lab and office space is being constructed/reconstructed at the moment; I provided my input last month and I haven't been contacted since, so I assume they got what they needed from me. Unfortunately, I apparently have very little trust in things happening in my absence, and this has turned into one of my favorite insomnial "I-can't-control-this-so-I'll-just-worry-about-it-all-the-time" issues.

Last night I had some interesting dreams, in which the offices and computer lab for the (small) department were built from cubicle walls and given curtains for doors. And I just stood there thinking, "shit I can't complain about this, can I?" And then there was a dream about teaching my first lecture, leaving the classroom, and later realizing that the students present had been those in the first lab period and I had wasted an entire lecture on only half the class.

These aren't entirely based in fantasy land; I get the feeling I'll have to argue for the final pieces of furnishing that I'll need, like filing cabinets and shelves in the lab. I just wish I could stop worrying about it right now, when I can't do much about it.

My other concern is that I'm teaching a course with a lab, which will be Tues/Thurs. Half the class will be going to lab on each day, giving me a smaller population to work with. Problem: classes begin on a Thursday. Do I scrap the first (and later, the last) lab periods, or do I somehow make that first lab group do something useful without having any lecture or introduction to the course, and then get stuck with a Thursday-group-first lab schedule (which will be annoying because of my conference schedule among other things)?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

my first auction

Temporary Summer Home is rural enough that the only internet access comes from the sky, which sounds fine (given the functional nature of most satellite television) but in practice has more glitches than most high-speed internet services. Every significant weather event leads to a loss of signal or some strange issue, like the past weekend when rebooting the router gave us 15 minutes of access before we'd have to reboot again. I have to wonder whether dialup would be less frustrating (ok, that would never be true, but at least it would be reliably very very slow).

My other weekend activity (other than all the rebooting) was a trip to a local auction barn, where we hoped to pick up some cheap antiques and see what this auction thing was all about. I quickly realized that antique dealers are running a ridiculous scam; this place was piled high with furniture, knick-knacks, farmhouse goods, etc., and most of it was in fairly good shape. Anyone with some paint stripper and a sander would make a killing in the city; many pieces didn't even sell, or could have been purchased for $1. We picked up a few things, mostly for Partner's workshop, and I admit I got into the adrenaline rush of the place, waiting for things to come up and hoping to beat out the rest of the crowd. It would be way too easy to fill a house with $5 furniture, and never get around to the sanding and staining.

I still haven't gotten much work done...that will most likely be the theme of this summer, to be honest. But there are still a few more weeks to kill...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

still July

So only two months after I looked at the swathe of summer and thought, "I can get all kinds of things done!" I'm finally starting to get things done, think about the class I'll be teaching, etc. I'm not working hard by any means, but it's a step forward.

I also got my first email from a student; they wanted to know what we'll be reading so they can get a head start. Really? Man, when I was in college I was a total nerd, and even I didn't want to do the reading three months early. I almost want to make them write some kind of essay illustrating that they spent time having fun over the summer...while they still have summers to enjoy!

One question answered: will my students be needy and grade-obsessed? Most likely.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

poor planning

We have horrible timing. We both have (or had, I should say) fairly random schedules: as a grad student I could pretty much set my own hours, and Partner had a non-regular work week. So we took off on Tuesdays and had random weeknights free. Yet somehow we always ended up going out on Fridays, and wondering why there were so many people around.

This trend has not improved with Partner's (temporary?) unemployment and my pre-employment break: we moved out of City on Memorial Day, and are now planning to head out of SLAC-town tomorrow. I also made the mistake of trying to go to the bank this afternoon, where the manager eventually took those of us without business transactions to another desk. I have yet to figure out why my subconscious decides that public holidays are the best days to move (they really aren't), or why my schedule randomly comes around to "oh, this day would be the best day to do X. Oh shit, that's *random public holiday involving high gas prices and no services*".

I'm going to have to start actually paying attention.

Also, I'm hoping there's a laundromat open tomorrow. I don't think T wants her sheets back if we don't get to go...maybe we'll leave on Saturday if it's closed (it couldn't be closed TWO days in a row, could it..?)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

not quite a home owner

We're still bumming around during our summer of sloth; I'm getting organized as an employee of SLAC and making some lab orders, but otherwise not doing much. Partner is checking out his employment/schooling options and weighing the pros and cons. Everything house-related is done, so now we're just waiting until August, when we can move in!

When we made our offer we had made a list of requests: mostly appliances, but a few extra things (porch swing) as well. We got a few of those requests, but not all (porch swing), presumably because the current home owner is a woodworker and made a few of those items himself. Today we get an email, stating that the owners are going to be selling some of their property and wanted to give us first choice at buying their stuff for cheap. On the list? Porch swing! We think this is kinda lame; we're not buying it. We're buying a few other things that are cheap and would be nice to have, and even though we'll probably have to make our own swing for the porch at some point, we felt it was a little money-grubbing to try to sell us something we had asked for as part of the house price, when they're only asking $50 for it and we're paying them the asking price.

Yes, I am very passive-aggressive.

Maybe they found a new house without a porch. Still. If it were me, I'd just leave it. They also wanted to sell us "plans" for a bathroom they never built; yes, we were thinking of putting a bathroom there as well, in the future, but I have some specific things I'd put in there. Also, how are those possibly useful to them once they move? Again, that's something I'd just leave behind.

Maybe I am overly generous. Maybe I won't feel that way once I've put ten years into a property. But I think it's a little strange.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


It's so far been a summer of rushing and then waiting, running around for a few days and then sitting on our butts for a week or two. We're still waiting for all the pre-house-buying pieces to come together, and while I've started filling out the requisite paperwork I'm otherwise without much to do as far as prep work for the fall; my office and lab are being revamped/constructed over the next few weeks, and since we'll be out of town for most of July it seems silly to get too involved in anything, anyway.

I should be working, at least a little bit, and getting some lecture materials and labs together. I'm not feeling much motivation, though. We'll be staying close to home instead of doing anything particularly exciting for a summer vacation, so I should have plenty of time to get things done.

I feel like I'm in limbo, just watching time pass until I have things I actually have to get done. It's not so bad, really, and I should probably be enjoying it more than I am!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

when should we learn how to teach?

Since lining up a job I've been attending various workshops on teaching, research, and random professional development. These vary from programs directed at graduate students to those directed at faculty members, and while they're all helpful to some extent I find the latter much more useful and educational. However, as a pre-faculty member I find myself absorbing a lot and contributing very little, and I have to wonder whether I would have been better served (and a better participant) if I had waited until AFTER my first teaching year before I attended larger-scale professional workshops.

Other people commented that they wish they had done workshops earlier...before their third or fourth year on faculty. So when is the best time? Am I doing it right, getting the workshops in before I ever have a chance to mess with younger minds? Or would I have more to learn if I had already spent a year teaching and knew some of what I had done wrong the first time?

I'm not sorry I went early, but I'm not sure what I would suggest to a peer if they asked me whether they should do the same.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Homeowner's Insurance: check
Inspectors: contacted
Mortgage Loan: in the works

Walked through all the local hardware stores spouting plans for the future: check

Paperwork is such a pain, particularly when you've been a grad student on a fellowship with paperless everything. I'm hoping my PDF printouts actually count.

Now it's time for the mid-June return to City, where we will have music and food and people for the weekend, and then I'm off for a week of scholarly doings and seeing more people I never get to see.

My next big decision: July vacation? And if so: very local, fly far away, or drive to mid-range place-with-bugs for backpacking?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


We offered, they countered. We countered their counter, and they accepted! Tomorrow: mortgage broker. And if all goes well, we close in August!

Monday, June 9, 2008


This morning we did another walk-through of House #1 (see post below), to remind ourselves of what it actually looked like and make sure there were no serious issues we had overlooked (that we could see, anyway!). And then, finding no reasons to change our minds, we made an offer.

Tomorrow morning we'll see what they counter...in the meantime I get to freak out over spending several times my future yearly salary all in one shot.

Friday, June 6, 2008

making decisions

We went out for our second session this morning, looking for houses we could love. And we may have found one. I'm scared to say that, since the thing came on the market yesterday and could be swept away by Monday, I suppose, which is when we hope to see it again and make a final decision on whether we want to make an offer. Hopefully that won't happen, but as much as I hate to put any emotional stock in things like this, I always end up doing it anyway. We'll call this House 1.

We also have another in mind, which is a much much different house that we like for very different reasons. We'll call this House 2.

For anyone who would like to give first-time home-buyers their two cents, here are my lists:

House 1


- In town, in a nice neighborhood a quick bike ride from work
- cute front porch, cute back deck (I could have a porch swing!!)
- lots of recent upgrades mean we wouldn't have to do anything unless we wanted to
- wood floor throughout, and I liked the floor plan
- nicest bathroom we've seen, cool kitchen with original leaded glass
- Two-car garage PLUS a heated workshop and a shed/garden area, in addition to decent yard
- Nice decorating, would only need minimal wallpaper removal/crack fixing


- No bathroom on main floor, toilet in the otherwise not very useful basement
- Appliances (except for dishwasher) are "negotiable" and theoretically would cost us
- Taxes are higher
- Driveway and garage floor need to be fixed/repoured
- only a gas fireplace

House 2


- full acre of land in a QUIET wooded area, very vacation-home feel
- Great three-season room plus a patio, huge space for gardening
- Fruit trees and lot of veggie plants (rhubarb, asparagus) already established
- All appliances included, which includes fridge, dishwasher, stove/oven, a giant freezer, washer/drier, and potentially a riding mower
- If I actually biked to work, I wouldn't need to do much else to stay in decent shape.
- It's been on the market for a while, so we could probably get it for maybe 10k less than House 1 (they have similar listing prices)
- Big (two car but two garage doors) garage with a workshop area on the side
- Two fireplaces: wood and gas.
- A piece of land in a developing area near a country club = great resale potential.
- Out of town means we can do stuff like install solar panels without getting in trouble


- Front would need some updating: has awnings and cement stairs that I hate.
- Interior is dated: I would want a new sink in the main bath, potentially enclose the basement toilet and shower into an actual bathroom, and put in new kitchen counters. Wood paneling on walls might have to go in some rooms, and eventually replace carpet/vinyl flooring throughout. But Partner could do most of this, and it could wait until we wanted to do it.
- Well water from a (we think!) community well, which may or may not be a bad thing
- Part of the acre isn't very useful - the yard slopes significantly into a gully out back (as a plus, that gully guarantees that no one will build behind or ruin our wooded view, and the land to one side is for the well, so no neighbor there either)
- small (2 bedroom), so we would definitely have to upgrade if we had a kid over age three (not that this is really a concern pre-tenure).

We were both kinda torn between the two. But we think being in town might end up being more convenient, assuming we have a house we like in a good area. I guess it's good to have options.

And of course there's always the additional assumption that our pre-approval will turn into an actual loan!

It's going to be an interesting week...

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

phase two

We're finally on to the next stage of our summer: subletting and looking for a house! New Home Town is relatively quiet compared to the City we came from, but we're decently busy despite the lack of "entertainment" options (we were warned repeatedly that we would be bored out of our minds).

The house hunt has begun, and as with most house hunts we're probably going to be bumping our price range by a few ten thousand bucks. Funny how that seems like nothing at all when you're talking about a hundred thousand dollars. Am I really ready for that kind of debt? Hmm. Maybe then I'll feel like a real American.

The search will continue. The questions:

- how good a trade is more land for a smaller house size?
- how much work do we really want to do on an older home?
- do we really need a shower that isn't in the basement? (this is actually common)
- in town or out of town?

I'm hoping that something will jump out at me at some point; I'd rather spend a little more on something I think I can love than spend a decent amount on something I think will do just fine!

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Who wants a baby?

I hear that women in academia have fewer children than similarly educated women in other professions. I am not surprised, though I hadn't really given it much thought. Other people with actual parenting/academic experience have commented on this, and as I am entirely unqualified to do so I will point you in that direction if you're interested.

However, this did make me think about my own plans and the fact that I have absolutely no peers or mentors who are FIELD SCIENTISTS who have (or had) children in their 20's or early 30's. Most of my peers are still grad students, post-docs, or are just entering their first tenure-track positions. Those I know who are expecting or recently had children are lab scientists; most of these people just started new post-docs or technician positions and won't be going anywhere for a while. The few field scientists I know who had kids did so in their early 40's. Which is great for them, but not something I want for myself; I'd like to have at least a vague chance of seeing any potential grandchildren, assuming I have a kid of my own.

I'll be teaching at a small liberal arts college (SLAC), so I know that I'd have an easier time than some giving up some research in favor of family. But I LIKE my fieldwork, I hope to keep doing it, and it wouldn't be easy to give it up entirely. How do other people make that balance...or do they just choose one or the other? That seems to be the only way to go, unless I can somehow convince Partner to be a stay-at-home dad. This is possible, I suppose, but it's still not very fair of me to take off to other continents for several weeks or months every year and leave him at home with the (hypothetical) kiddo.

I'm not too concerned right now. I'm hoping to get myself established before making those decisions, and I figure I have a few biologically relevant years left. Just one more bridge that we'll burn when we come to it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


I got all of my wishes during the move: amazingly we filled the truck right up to the door, but everything fit! This was probably due to Partner's amazing van-filling skills and creative packing ideas, such as: taping one end of the futon mattress to the ceiling of the van in order to fill the available space as completely as possible and avoid box spillage. But hey, it worked!

The cat was as well-behaved as could be expected, and the rain stopped before we had to load. The trip was uneventful, and Partner's family even helped us unload the truck once we arrived at our interim location. So now all of our belongings are safely stored away, the truck has been returned, and we're ready to sit around for a while.

Partner's family is conveniently within a few hours of our soon-to-be new home, so we'll be hanging out in a more rural setting before heading over to look for a house. I love listening to birds instead of car stereos. I already feel like a weight has been lifted, even if part of me doesn't quite believe that we're actually done with the "Grad Student" part of our lives! But I get the feeling that a lot of what we'll be doing this summer will have that unrealistic, unbelievable quality to it. It'll be interesting to see what the world has in store over the next few months :)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

ready to go

Everything but the mattress, the coffee maker, the computer and the wireless router (we have our priorities) is packed and in the living room, ready for the short trip out our front door and into the UHaul truck that we'll pick up in the morning.

We're told that it will rain all day. But I expect these parting gifts from a city I'm happy to be leaving. We picked up all the boxes from my office this afternoon, so we only have one location to empty and it will hopefully be a quick few hours of loading.

My hopes for tomorrow:

Extremely "scattered" thunderstorms. As in, not over my place.

A well-behaved and adjustable cat, who just got her first collar and name/phone tag in anticipation of her escape during the move.

Everything fits in the truck. Partner assures me that the truck will be plenty big enough. At least we have a pickup in case we have some spillover.

We can be ready to go by early afternoon, and get the heck outta here!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

political interlude

My political views are probably not difficult to guess, and I don't plan on discussing those views in blog form. But given recent reactions to the Obama/Clinton race, I wanted to vent the following:

I'm getting tired of reading and hearing things that imply I must vote for Clinton in order to make a stand for women's rights and equality, yadda yadda. That I would otherwise be some sort of traitor by supporting the continuation of the boys' club that has always existed in the political sphere.

Regardless of my own decision, and regardless of the sexist/racist/classist views of both of these candidates (and there are some on both sides), aren't we supposed to be aiming for a world where we don't discriminate, vote for OR against someone simply because of their gender or race? I think basing my decision primarily on these factors, or encouraging other people to do so, is just as bad as choosing not to vote for them for the same reasons.

And maybe I'm not alone there, but I've been hearing the feminist pressure these days. /political commentary.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


I've been hooded and lauded and now I have some checks to cash (is this really the last round?!). Everyone went home and now it's time to get organized!

One week until moving day, and I found out that Budget had allowed me to make a reservation for a truck even though their office will be closed. So we're going with UHaul for an extra 30 bucks, though we'll get more mileage for free and its closer to my apartment anyway.

Things I've finally accomplished:

- Cleaned up the lab and organized all the samples/notes/books that are going with me into three little boxes. It's amazing that so many lab shelves and drawers can be condensed into such tiny containers. I've also gotten rid of the last of my haz waste, finished doing dishes and returned borrowed equipment. One part of my life, officially packed!

- Finished one of the very quick experiments I wanted to run, even though it probably isn't useful as the only one. Oh well. I'll have something for potential undergrad projects right away, I guess.

- Submitted a new manuscript that was ready to go following dissertation submission. Then I had to fix a formatting issue. But it's in!

- Organized the revision of another paper, ready to send in tomorrow (or whenever I get back to the office). I don't think it will be accepted in the end, considering that I've been back and forth with multiple editors and that what they seem to want out of it is not what I want out of it (that's what I get for going for higher impact factors!). But I'll give it the final try.

- Contacted coauthor for revision #2, which won't be done this week but which might be done in June..? But I've been saying things like that about this paper for YEARS now, so...maybe.

- Started packing the office. I have way too many papers to file.

Hopefully I won't forget to do things like turn in my keys and cancel my utilities. Good thing we still have a week before we go!