Sunday, November 30, 2008

Shoes

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

bandwagons

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:

Karina
Dr. Shellie
Addy
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

decisions

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:

Guns
Abortion

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

reactions

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

change

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!