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'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.