Thursday, December 31, 2009
1. I am addicted to paper towels. Meaning, I still use paper towels when I should be using rags. I need to stop that, so I can justify putting the extra cash toward fully recycled paper products.
2. No more corn syrup-based sodas. Which basically means no drinking soda except in my house, where I will limit myself to organic sugar-based sodas, and those only on burger or pizza nights. We'll also be cutting back a little on processed foods, like making our own veggie burgers instead of buying the Boca burgers.
3. A more regular yoga practice. I will justify a new video or two with a promise to myself to actually practice yoga regularly, instead of just using it as a backup for days when I don't feel like running.
4. A little more self discipline. As in, a regular sleep schedule, a self-enforced workout schedule, a more efficient use of time. No more shitting around for no reason and wasting hours at a time (though that has primarily occurred over the break, so I guess it's not all that bad of me).
5. Finally, since I should probably have something career-related in here, I'm going to re-start my attempt at writing regularly, in small pieces. This worked pretty well for me when I made it happen, but I also let it slide quite a bit. I think if I can get this going I will make a lot more progress, which is needed.
Happy resolution-making and a Happy New Year to you!
Monday, December 28, 2009
Things I learned (or relearned) over the past week:
- People with stuffed animals in the rear window of their cars are either extremely slow or very bad drivers
- Sometimes having an SUV is actually useful and potentially life-saving
- Napping is a bad idea
- I hate plaster walls with a raging passion
- Partner is a very patient and forgiving man
In addition to doing nothing useful, I have stuffed myself to physical discomfort at least twice, and my house is still a mess. However! This week will see the end of projects (no matter what), a mad cleaning frenzy, and a panicked return to the office where I will face the work I've been neglecting with a heavy heart. Or, maybe with relief, depending upon the house project status.
I hope you all got some time with friends and/or family over the past week!
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Tomorrow: maybe some house work before we head out for the xmas visit. Sometimes, such as now, being only a few hours away from (Partner's) family is nice (well, it's usually nice. But particularly now).
Xmas "time off": I have job apps to read that will be coming with me. I have revisions that I've only barely started to deal with, and my laptop is coming with me. Likelihood of doing any of this work? Minimal. For some reason having it with me makes me feel less guilty about it; if I leave it at home I just feel lazy for not bringing it. This is probably a pattern I should try to break.
Next week: Syllabi, paper revisions, phone conferences, class scheduling, department and committee meetings, lab preparations. I also have some serious lit searches that need to get done before the term begins, and I'm doing some field work in about a month and I need to get organized for it. Likelihood of being well-prepared for the beginning of term? Minimal. Que sera.
This year, Xmas really just seems like a distraction.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
- Went to the post office and mailed the few boxes that are going out this year (hooray for internet shopping). The line was long, but nothing compared to mailing xmas stuff in City. Hooray for Small Town.
- Progress on house stuff since last week: zero.
- Drama in immediate circle of friends and peers: up 60%. Stop having babies, people. Seriously.
- Spending a lot of time on service stuff. Might have to rethink this "no field work in December" thing if it means I get to deal with a lot of service obligations instead.
- Next week is Xmas. Holy crap, how did that happen!?
Thursday, December 10, 2009
And so, of course, the project I began last week has already become a much larger beast than we anticipated. Not all that unexpected. Except that now I have a great little guilt spiral going, wherein if I'm working on the house I'm worrying about all the shit I was going to get done at the office, and if I'm working on WORK, I'm worrying about how I'm going to finish the house before the next term begins. Because the house is a disaster area, and if I don't get it done before classes start we'll probably just live in the disaster area until Spring Break, at least.
Friggin home ownership. Friggin academia. Frig.
Monday, December 7, 2009
The term is over, which means an immediate regression to my non-work sleep schedule. Which is very similar to the one I had in college. Which is fine, except that getting up at 10 and going to be at 2 am makes it a little bit difficult to function in the real world, and I have some morning meetings to go to later this week, so that's going to hurt.
I've always been a heavy and late sleeper - my parents hated dragging me out of bed during high school, my various college roommates could start a support group to complain about my snoozing habits (I was usually not the one who eventually turned off the alarm clock) and every once in a while Partner ventures the term "sleep disorder" when things get particularly skewed. Hey man, it's the rest of the world that's disorderly. I truly believe that if I were locked into one of those windowless basement sleep study rooms and allowed to sleep on my body's schedule I would sleep for 12 hours, stay up for 14-15, and progress my way around the clock every few weeks. That type of sleep schedule doesn't fly, unfortunately. But, screw it. For now, I'll just deal with a few 9am appointments and let myself sleep in the rest of the time.
Friday, December 4, 2009
Monday, November 30, 2009
Today I made an effort to find a general practitioner in Small Town, and was told that they would have to "talk to the doctor" and call me back regarding new patients. Um...what? Either the guy is taking patients or he isn't - are you going to run a background check on me first?
Also, I finally hired a DJ for our wedding - apparently this is something I barely accomplished in time, since everyone seems to be booked. WTF is up with that? People are far too organized.
I guess this means there's nothing pressing left but to deal with the giant stack of grading...boo! I want my Thanksgiving vacation back.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
I realized that I haven't produced anything entirely new in over a year. Revisions, conference stuff, sure, but not taking a blank Word document and making something out of it. I forgot how good it feels to get something accomplished. Good thing I remembered, because there's another one on the burner just itching for some typing time - in December.
And tomorrow, I am sleeping in a bit, because I don't have to be at the gym at 7 am to guarantee myself a spot on my favorite aerobic equipment...because I have my very own, and it's sitting in my house right now. So I will get up and I will NOT go outside in the cold and I will work it out in my own house, and it will be awesome.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Partner's advice on buying exercise equipment was, "just admit that you're addicted to exercise! But it's a good addiction, so buy the equipment, because it will make you happy." Never underestimate the power of a cranky lady, I suppose. I'm still slightly nervous that it won't work out for some reason and I will have wasted a non-trivial sum. But I don't think so; I'm only doubting it at all because of how much the damned thing costs. It will be delivered on Tuesday, and then I guess we'll see. A random dude I met at the store gushed about his recent purchase of the same thing, so that made me feel a bit better.
Also, it is now the season of Silk Nog. I think that warrants mention and joy.
The first part of this week is mandatory "finish the manuscript" time. And then there will be food, followed by editing.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
This week has been a bit intense for the LAL household - I have failed to clean, cook or shop. We're running out of food and our house is disgusting. We've been living on leftovers and Partner's famous "throw whatever we have into a pot" soup (which is actually really good, because Partner is a good cook, unlike others who live here).
Everyone I know is announcing pregnancies, which is annoying me for some reason (I blame them for making me feel old) - such that Partner and I had a conversation earlier about how impossible our current lives would be in terms of procreation. As in, completely, utterly, not possible for us to even consider having a kid unless someone quit their job. Not really relevant to life right now, but an interesting observation.
This manuscript really needs to get finished by early next week, or I'm in deep shit. It's about 1/3 finished minus figures and formatting. 3000 words isn't particularly long, so I think it's doable...though I am taking Friday night and Saturday to decompress, so we'll see how Sunday goes. There may be some late nights in my immediate future.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
- Don't refer to the school as the "University"
- Don't tell us how the success of your research depends upon graduate student labor
- Don't send us only a portion of the materials that we asked you for
And then there are the more nuanced things that I was looking for, but rarely saw:
- Is your research doable with the resources SLAC can provide? And if not, how will you deal with that problem?
- How does your research make use of/involve/teach undergraduates?
- How does your previous experience relate to what you would do here? Teaching experience is great, but if it was all at the graduate level I want to know how that translates. What could you teach that we currently offer, or are missing?
- Why are you interested in a SLAC, specifically?
I know a lot of these are just people throwing their previously prepared materials into a new envelope, and I understand to some extent why people do that. But if you aren't going to take the four minutes to actually stick in our SLAC's name and say something about undergrads, you're wasting your time. I'm by no means an expert at this, but even I can see how ridiculous some of these apps are. Lots of people also seem to have great research backgrounds, but say nothing about applying that at a small school or bringing it into their teaching. They should spend more time on the teaching statement; too much research without an equivalently strong teaching philosophy makes me think that they don't really want to be at a SLAC.
More to come - I'm sure there will be more gems in the next pile.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
So the question now becomes: is it worth dropping yet another pile of money for the one piece of gym equipment I use all the time, to have at home where I can use it regardless of the hour? And then I could ditch my gym membership, but that's a drop in the bucket compared to the total money pile required for this purchase.
Partner is pushing to buy, probably because he's tired of dealing with my insanity, and he argues for a "quality of life" value. Also, I'll soon be turning a number that ends with zero...that might make me feel less guilty about spending so much cash on myself.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Today I also received a phone call from a Senior Faculty member asking me to serve on another campus committee. This puts my service load at five committees (including the above) plus faculty meetings, student advising and mentorship/research supervision. Those committees are not all equivalent work loads, and two of them are not permanent assignments, but it's still a huge jump from the "service free" first year. I don't know how this compares to other SLAC faculty or even other faculty at my SLAC - I may ask around to see what other people do in terms of service load. But, honestly, when Senior Faculty members call you to say "hey we want you to do this important thing for us" am I going to say no? No, I am going to say yes, even if I'm up to my eyeballs already, because at a place like this not doing that kind of service is a Bad Thing. I often receive general advice from more experienced academics, who all say that "you need to learn to say no!"-- and ok, that's fine if I'm saying no to the public, or to extra student projects that aren't my problem, or to student groups. But the Senior Faculty do not get No, and that's just how it is. So I just hope they stop asking me for stuff, because my service is becoming a bit crazy. Sometimes fun, but crazy.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
-- I've agreed to pursue a local research project with a tenured colleague in a very different department.
Pros: relevant to my experience, local, doable a few hours at a time, gets me kudos for networking between departments, easy to involve students and work into one of the classes I teach, forces me to network with local government people relevant to my work.
Cons: research of minimal relevance/importance and probably only publishable in small/local journals, I have a lot of crap going on already, if I can't get enough students on board I'm going to have a shitload of crap lab work to do, and if it doesn't work out or if I somehow am viewed as abandoning the project my colleague is also one of the people who evaluates me for promotion and tenure...so that could be really, really bad.
It's too late now, but as we get started this is making me nervous.
-- I've become a total slacker in some ways...I think it's just because so much is going on that I have a hard time motivating myself to make use of small pieces of time. I find myself wasting chunks of the day online or doing life-related stuff when I should be doing work-related stuff. Or I come home after work and don't open my laptop at all. This is bad, and I need to stop doing it.
-- I got an extension on a manuscript and still haven't bloody worked on it.
-- We are trying to find thermal curtains for the downstairs that aren't ugly, and this is proving to be an impossible task. I think we will have to go with a separate lining layer and a regular curtain.
-- Our house has ridiculously weird window sizes, so I'm buying the closest relevant widths and hoping the blinds work. If not, we'll have to go custom, and that will suck.
-- We got that bloody expensive boiler installed, and have yet to have a completely functional system. First one thing was leaking, and now another thing is leaking. Damn you stupid heating system, function why don't you!
-- Today we went to the local ginormous hardware store and I found out that I could get an entire kitchen's worth of very nice cabinetry for way less than I thought (provided we install it ourselves). Partner says we can't have a new kitchen until we pay off all the current crap and get married. Damn you, practicality!
-- I need to start going to bed instead of blogging at night.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
- "I have to be somewhere" is not a valid excuse DURING the designated lab hours. You do have to be somewhere, but you're already here, so suck it and do the work.
- I'm more than happy to write you letters of recommendation...though you might want to think about coming to the lectures if you want me to say anything good about you.
- When I tell you to "dress appropriately" for outdoor work in November, that does not mean flip flops and soccer shorts, and you therefore do not get to whine about the cold.
- The fact that you asked me about the paper topic three days before the due date does not give me hope for your future.
- Handing in the exact same thing for two different drafts of a paper is not ok, particularly when you basically plagiarized the first time.
To my various colleagues:
- You take things far too personally, and you need to get over yourself.
- Please don't drag me into your research agenda for my expertise just to pretend that you know what you're doing, thus embarrassing both of us in front of people who actually do know what they're doing.
- Why does tenure turn reasonable people into crazy people? WHY?
To various strangers:
- Please don't work out in clothing that hasn't been washed in years. I don't care if that smell is moth balls or sweat, it needs to move farther away from me.
- I hate you when you drive around with your loud car stereo. I also hate you when you honk for no damned reason. Knock it off.
- Christmas is still two months away. Do you really need to put up giant inflatable snow globes right now?
Friday, October 30, 2009
In some ways, in my in-between status and as a recent graduate of a large university, the things the profs here at SLAC get worked up over seem quite ridiculous. They are minor, or they have more to do with semantics and details than seems absolutely necessary. This is a place where I have email or personal exchanges with my Dean at least once a week, and I have a huge say in how the school is run in general (compared to larger universities). I can even voice an opinion on how other people are running things, even if at this point that opinion would mean very little to the powers that be. But they would still listen before throwing my vote out the window, which is more than you can say for the school I came out of last year. In a place like this, you'd think people would be more empowered to effect change and would spend less time bickering, but that is not the case. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised, considering the fact that there are just as many egos and old-timers set in their ways at a SLAC as anywhere else.
Also, it's interesting how a few strong voices can really turn opinion, or create a new faction, since the size of the faculty overall is so small. Again, you might think that this more personalized power would be a helpful thing, but it seems to create more rifts than it mends. Sometimes maybe it's a good thing that someone in a paneled office somewhere just makes a decision, though I'm not convinced of that quite yet. We'll see how long it takes to work through these issues as individuals - if it takes as long as I think it might, I may be revisiting my opinion in favor of top-down decision making.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
A small group of early faculty here at SLAC actually started up a writing group recently. We held a meeting at which we set out two-week goals. And then all of us promptly over-scheduled and missed the two-week meeting. ALL of us. Apparently we need a better system.
If the above doesn't mean anything to you, November is traditionally NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. A few years back this was modified into InaDWriMo, International Dissertation Writing Month, for academics who don't write novels but may need a motivator to keep writing. Since then it's been utilized by academics in general, not just graduate students writing dissertations. Sometimes a word goal is a good thing.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Since then I've been catching up - and spending the majority of my time with students. Which is fine, but once again the one-on-one time is killing me in terms of having time to do anything else. This weekend I succeeded in doing the most important cleaning tasks, and spent approximately 1.5 hours on yardwork. I also watched a movie with Partner, which was sadly the most time we've had to sit down and hang out for several weeks. Otherwise I finally have a field trip organized but I didn't get all my grading done.
Last night I gave up at 2 am and went to bed, which led to a later morning than usual. Which is probably why I forgot my office keys, and had to go back home and get them. Which led to my running late for class, which of course occurs on the same day that every printer on my floor is jammed and I have to run around trying to get my handouts printed. Oh Monday.
And then, of course, it's suddenly 3 pm and I have no idea where the day has gone. I guess I should go home and make dinner. It's probably a good thing that Partner works crazy hours, too.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
The tomatoes could have done better; we had them in a less-than-ideal bed in terms of support and sun. We have plans to improve those things next year, and even with bad placement we had plenty for eating and sauce-making over the past month or so.
The purple viking potatoes did really well, and we have a pile in the basement that should last us through part of the winter. They hold a lot more water than the russets I was used to; I have therefore had to adjust my baking techniques, particularly when making french fries. Mostly, purple potatoes are awesome.
The lettuce failed - we should have started it inside, because we didn't have the time to keep the beds clear and the plants got lost. We planted some strawberries that were not very good - probably we'll ditch those in the future. I think it was a good start considering that Partner was here all by himself all summer and there was minimal time for garden maintenance.
We're planning on some garlic that will go in the ground soon, and in the spring we'll be rotating the tomatoes and potatoes. Lettuce will be started inside and then taken out, and maybe I'll go for some peas. I think we'll do the zebras again, a brandywine or two, maybe find a new heirloom. Another potato variety would be fun. I want some cherry tomatoes.
Otherwise we've been finding some random local foods where possible - there's a farm near Partner's job that has a big fall stand, and I've recently become fairly addicted to a salsa that our local grocery store is selling for a local farm. It has zucchini in it. Yum.
Small steps, maybe. Better than nothing, with life as crazy as it is.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Also, I made the mistake of incorporating a famous fantasy novel into a few questions on my Midterm exam. Instead of actually answering the question I asked, students are sometimes providing long discussions of fantasy-novel politics and skirting the topic of -ology entirely. I assume they're thinking something like, "if I show her I'm as big a geek as she apparently is, maybe she'll give me points even though I don't know the answer to this question." Little geeks, you are sorely mistaken.
Friday, October 9, 2009
Saturday, October 3, 2009
- Comcast sucks my butt and I hate them. Never trust anything they say to you; I knew that already, but now I learned it again.
- Rain, rain, knock it off until I can find a roofer.
- No writing. Ack!
- Partner is out of town in about a week, for about a week. While that's lame, I might be able to spend a lot of time writing while he's gone and save my ass.
- I finally got in a good workout. That makes everything better.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
At least this came back in time for me to include it in my review materials, since an editorial "revise and resubmit" is way better than me just saying "hey I submitted this paper, ain't that great?" Also, I have a hard time believing that a two-year review is really that useful, since I just got my feet under me. I guess we'll see what they say.
I have a different manuscript due in one month, and yet NOW is the time that by brain decides to come up with interesting grant ideas and get me all excited about writing up some stuff for NSF. Likely just so I can see how much they hate it in the spring, and fix it for later. But I guess being excited to write SOMETHING is better than complete and total apathy. At least if I revise one manuscript and submit another by Nov., I should be guaranteed something in 2010, keeping me on my one-paper-a-year goal, which in turn should keep me from going into a blind panic as I approach year six (but I shouldn't be worrying that far ahead...should I?).
Saturday, September 26, 2009
I know this doesn't really count as "writing," but honestly nothing was going to get accomplished until I figured out which papers I already had and which ones I really needed to go find in the library. Also, I've been in this office for just over a year now and my filing cabinet drawers just got labeled this afternoon. A few hours sacrificed to the gods of organization, but it should pay off fairly soon in the form of knowing where the hell my references are. Plus now I don't look like a total slob, which is nice when I have students coming in for help. It's always awkward when I have to move a pile of folders before I can look at their work.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Partner is also crazy, working way too many hours plus a commute, and often getting home with just enough time to shower and eat before having to get to bed in order to get a decent amount of sleep. Which means that I'm on house-stuff duty, until his schedule slows down (in a month or two). I don't mind doing the house stuff, like taking out the garbage, doing the laundry, grocery shopping; I have way more time for that stuff right now than he does (in the sense that "way more time" means "any time at all"). But it is bad timing that we're both going insane at the same time.
Also, I think I've actually found a wedding photographer (will be meeting hopefully next week). Maybe a DJ. Maybe a baker. Maybe I should be spending my time on other things. Probably, yes. The fact that our roof is now leaking just a little bit is not helping me deal with my list of people I need to call, even for non-work-related purposes. Once the wedding "vendor" stuff is out of the way, I will be happier.
Partner and I both have family stuff going on. We both have business-related travel coming up. We both end up spending the few hours we get on the weekend (= Sunday) doing something together instead of working on whatever needs doing, which is always nice but doesn't help us to get ahead.
All this is pushing me one step farther toward canceling my early-winter field work plans (mid-winter field work plans are still a go, and also part of the reason I don't want to be gone for several weeks during the early winter). At this point I should probably just say they're canceled, since my list of cons is quite a bit longer than the pros and there's really only one person who would even be slightly annoyed at me for canceling. Since that person is a student of mine they'll just have to suck it up.
So, Fall 2009, you are kicking my ass, and I hope that having acknowledged that fact means that you'll let up a little. Seriously. Don't give me anything else to deal with, or I think my head will explode.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
It helped, actually, that EVERY SINGLE student in my lab this afternoon decided to blow off everything that didn't absolutely have to be completed in the lab itself, and they all took off early. Awesome for me, not so awesome for you crazy kids when you figure out that the stuff in the manual is hard, even if it is strictly possible for you to do it in your dorm room. Have fun!
Also, I may have a DJ. And I found two available photographers with whom I will have to argue about details. Woot.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Advising students, as it turns out, is a huge, ginormous, immense and stupendous time suck. I had no appreciation for how much time this steals from your day-to-day work life...also, half of them aren't even my advisees, and yet I end up advising them. WTF? I guess I feel appreciated, kiddos, but seriously. GO talk to YOUR advisor, and not just to tell them what we discussed.
I am way too easily distracted by the fact that I am supposed to be planning a wedding - we actually set a date right before I left for the summer, and now that I'm back I have to get shit organized. It's not for about a year, but still, I let that serve as an excuse and I allow myself to do a little googling over my lunch hour and suddenly I've killed an hour. Today I failed to exercise OR write, and I have to stare at that lunch hour of wedding planning as a very bad, bad influence.
Tomorrow I get to make up for my missed 15 minutes from today. Hear that, self? Do it.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
While I'm not depressed, however, I am having some trouble getting myself out of "summer" mental mode and into "holy crap it's year two and I need to get shit done if I'm ever going to get tenure" mode. This is not helped by the fact that prior to this year I had maybe one month of summer fieldwork a year, and after spending so many weeks abroad this year my brain is saying: wait, we should have at least one more month free before we have to dive back into a work schedule! To bad, brain, time to get used to the new schedule. Seriously.
On the good side of things, I have a lab completely constructed and almost completely equipped and I'll have students in there starting this week, and that's awesome. I am also free of my previously-mentioned visiting colleague, which means I don't have to share my space. Call me petty, but that also makes me happy.
On the not-so-good side of things, I am annoyed by the following:
- paper still in review, after ONE YEAR. Slightly more than one year, really. WTF journal. Also, you appear to have updated the status recently, so I can't even harass you about not updating the author status, which was my previous excuse to harass you.
- colleague who promised data in late spring has still not provided data. I have hope it will happen soon. I think they feel bad at this point, which works in my favor.
- lots of new project ideas, but no time to implement all of them. And the one I actually really want to go forward with is the one for which the required equipment has not arrived. Of course.
Things are going well so far this term, if such a thing can even be said this early in the term. And I am, starting TOMORROW, implementing a 15-minutes-per-day writing rule for myself. Everyone keeps saying it, from bloggers to academic career guides: writing during short periods of time on a regular basis is absolutely essential to getting shit done. I know that, and I know that it's what I should be doing, and yet I haven't done it yet. Tomorrow I begin.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
In my personal accounting, based on what I do with most of my time in the field, should I die while working the most likely causes would be:
1. Car accident
2. Falling off of a cliff (on foot/in a car when this happens is probably 50/50)
3. Disease/medical condition. Something insect- or water-borne and/or my appendix bursts too far out in the field. I like to think that my Evac. insurance would prevent this from becoming deadly, but if I'm honest with myself I know it probably wouldn't.
4. Bitten by poisonous animal/insect/whatever
5. Something dog-related: mauling might be more likely, but I also count rabies, even though I have the vaccination that would buy me more time and I keep it up to date
6. Equipment-related accident. Large metal things falling on my head, in particular.
7. Shot by some yokel (I don't really think this is likely, but I guess it should be on the list because it's strictly possible). This category also includes bullets falling from the sky, which is probably a more likely scenario than intentional shooting.
In contrast, in the States I think my list looks something like:
2. Car accident
3. Other accident (ya know, I fall off a ladder, or do something equally stupid)
4. Flu/other communicable disease (I do work with snotty students)
5. Heart attack/stroke (I don't think these likely, but I guess they are strictly possible).
The top causes of death in the States, as reported by the CDC are:
1. Heart disease
4. Chronic lower respiratory diseases
5. Accidents (unintentional injuries)
7. Alzheimer's disease
8. Influenza and Pneumonia
9. Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis
Honestly, I expect it to be Cancer many years from now; when I go into the field I don't really expect that I won't be coming back. But these are the things my mind spends its time on when I'm busy doing other things, like walking. Morbid? Maybe. A good time-waster when you need something to occupy your brain? Definitely.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
What I find both perplexing and fairly amusing is that our evil cat HATES, HATES my mother. Our cat is always more Partner's cat than mine, and usually dislikes visitors in general, but she's been a little jerk to my mother since she arrived and hasn't let up. The cat hisses and swipes at my mother's feet, sits on the guest room windowsill just to throw a fit when my mother enters the room, and makes a point of being in my mother's way. The hissing is a little intense, even for our cat. I wonder what it is about my mom?
In the meantime I'm attempting to line up my year of conferences - I keep telling myself that I need to branch out and attend conferences X and Y that I've never been to, but yet again the abstract deadlines have gone and I didn't submit. There are also at least two smaller meetings that I had told people I would try to make but which I will probably not be attending. Oh well. I do have a session I'm chairing at the large fall meeting and an invited talk at the smaller spring meeting, so maybe that's plenty.
Partner's busy fall of long work hours and minimal home time started today, and mom is leaving this weekend, so I'm expecting to get down to some serious work starting Monday and I might get to come up for air around late November. Let the fun begin!
Monday, August 31, 2009
Goals? I suppose:
- Two first-authored papers by the end of the fall term. One of these will have to happen, and I have a deadline to motivate me. The other is more likely to be in draft form by Christmas, but a submission wouldn't be impossible.
- Fix the labs for the intro class that I'm teaching again. I actually have a functional lab space now, which will help, but I need to work on a few of them and in general focus on tying them to the lectures - specifically rearranging things so the lectures and lab build on each other more than they did last time.
- Figure out my winter research plans. I have no idea if I'm even going anywhere at this point.
- I need a grant this year, and it would be nice if I had something ready to submit (or close to) by the end of the fall as well. I'm not really hurting for cash yet, but next summer may depend on getting some money from somewhere and at the very least having a submission sometime this year gives me time to revise and have a better chance later on, in time for the tenure decision.
I think those are the big ones - little stuff abounds, but it's really not fair to throw in stuff that will almost necessarily be accomplished regardless of my personal motivation.
Partner is working a crazy schedule for a few months this fall - I'm hoping that I can use his long work hours as time to get my own shit done. I think it can work. I just can't believe it's September!
Friday, August 14, 2009
Things I have done so far:
Slept. In my bed, with clean sheets and Partner.
Read my mail. Read my email. Wasted some time on the internet.
Spent some time appreciating bathrooms, including the novelty of sitting on toilets and being able to drink/brush my teeth with the tap water.
Eating and planning what I'll be eating next. I also made a trip to the store to make sure I'd have what I needed to make what I really wanted to eat for dinner.
Stressed out over the amount of work I have to do now that I'm back, and then stopped thinking about it.
Discussed plans for doing stuff to our house.
Done five loads of laundry.
Snuck onto campus to pick up my mail, then I ran away again.
Next, I think we might be going to see a movie. And then eating some more. I really like coming home.
Friday, July 24, 2009
1. As a vegetarian, my food staples consist of, in order of importance:
rice and/or pasta
peanut butter/jam/processed cheese
cauliflower (this one I find interesting. Why?)
junk food (coke, chocolate bars, local shitty biscuit-like foods. keeps you going)
This is why I bring myself supplements and energy bars; always a good idea. Also, about now I'm having some serious cravings for TOFU.
2. No matter where you are, get a handful of guys together on a project and they will become obsessed with their facial hair, eventually organizing some sort of shaving event in which they often decide to sport mustaches as a group.
3. Hygiene standards shift drastically, so that not stinking is just about good enough for any occasion. Having clothes that look clean is a bonus.
4. After the first month I start to make lists of the foods I will eat on my first few days home. People start to discuss the foods we can't get, making conversation a form of slow torture.
5. I never get any of my "real life" work accomplished, even when I have manuscripts to work on, stats to run, classes to prep. The "few weeks from the end" point that I'm at now is when I start to think things like "holy shit I have so much to do when I get home!" And yet I never learn, and it happens again the next time around.
6. I spend way too much money because I'm spending it in foreign currency - this is true no matter what the exchange rate.
7. I run out of books to read and have to scavenge from other people, project libraries, and hotels that we pass through. I usually end up reading drivel that I would never touch at home at some point, just because it's something to read.
The project continues to go well, with some decent pilot data taking shape. Hooray for productivity! And weekends in hotels are also nice - especially the large meals that go with them. After this weekend I should be well recharged for another week in the sun.
Friday, July 10, 2009
I'm also really enjoying being in a new country - it's been a while since I've been somewhere completely new, and this is quite a nice place to visit. So far so good, and all is well!
Friday, June 26, 2009
Enjoy the summer!
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
I think I've been away from the classroom long enough (and have had enough time to digest the final student evaluations) to reflect on the first year, even though part of me is shocked to find myself suddenly in "summertime." It went quickly, that's for sure!
So let's start with the most obvious failures! Whoo!
Huh what? Yeah...not really. I bought shit for my lab. Not all the shit I need, but a good starting batch of gear, and I am mostly set for physical space. But research didn't happen this year. At all. Unless you count a little bit of literature review for some grants and stuff, which I really don't. I did a good deal of talking to people and feeling things out, and spent one day in the field testing some stuff that I bought. I think that after all that, I have a good idea of what I want to do with myself from here, but I didn't make any progress at all in terms of obtaining real results.
The one thing I did accomplish was to figure out that the fancy machine here at SLAC that I was excited to use for FREE will not actually tell me anything useful. Which is too bad, but it's nice to get SOMETHING out of a hypothesis, even if it's just a negative result.
I wrote up two small external grants - one rejection and one success. Not that fabulous, particularly considering that I haven't even STARTED writing a larger grant. Which I really need to do. But I think the grant I write will either be related to the new project I'm starting this summer or to a collaboration that has been only very briefly discussed and will be started in earnest in the fall. So I need to get my ass in gear in terms of grant-writing in the fall, Priority One.
I got two papers revised and finalized and in press or published. I resubmitted a rejection to a different journal. I gave two talks at conferences and proposed a session for an upcoming meeting. I have one additional paper in review, and will hopefully be getting the preliminary data for a new paper sometime next week. Even though most of this was carry-over from the year before, I don't think it's that bad for the first year, and I'm guaranteed to have papers with my name on them from both the current calendar year and the next. That gives me time to work up the next batch and try to keep a paper-a-year minimum, which should be more than enough for SLAC tenure.
Here's where I spent all of my time. I made a lot of mistakes, but I also learned a lot, and I enjoyed it. In general, I've done pretty well. My reviews have been pretty good for the first year, or so I've been told, and by this last term I was getting some very nice, ego-boosting feedback from some of my students. They seem to like me, which is always gratifying, and they seem to be learning something too.
A lot of the mistakes that I made are easily fixed. I need to be more clear regarding expectations, particularly in my lower-level classes. I need to spell things out, and explain WHY we're doing all the things we're doing. I thought I was doing that, but it became obvious that the things I needed to clarify were not things that would ever have occurred to me on my own. So, live and learn. I get to repeat my fall class this coming year, so I'm really looking forward to making it better.
I think my biggest failure was my upper-level class. I need to get myself out of the mindset of my own background and think about what these kids have actually done and how prepared they might be for the material I want them to cover. I also need to get better at leading discussions - I think this is my biggest weakness. I feel that I've really found my place as a lecturer in terms of style and level of interaction (at least for a beginner), but I suck at leading discussions. I tend to either talk too much or too little, and the students either feel that I'm lecturing them or that I'm letting people say whatever they want without direction or cohesion. I think I might try to find a good discussion-leader and sit in on a class or two in the fall.
Despite those shortcomings, I haven't gotten any hate mail or horrible reviews, so I'm pretty happy. I think I can be GOOD at this, and I hope things will start to come together next year. I hope that I'll eventually be able to tweak the details instead of overhauling entire courses before I teach them again.
I really like this job. There are a few places where I really need to improve, but I think I know what they are. I've largely been left on my own during the first year - freedom to fail, I suppose - but SLAC has also been very supportive whenever I've needed some help. That might not be the case everywhere, I'm sure, but I appreciate the atmosphere here. And the students make it very worth-while, even on the bad days.
This summer I'm back to some research, which will be nice and will hopefully motivate some grant writing in the fall. If I can manage that and get a paper written, I'll be happy with my progress in 2009.
Friday, June 5, 2009
For now, a few reasons why I'm feeling overly young this week:
Forgetting to wear my faculty name tag has gotten me a lot of comments like "Congratulations on graduating!" and "You did it!" During finals week a student I had never met told me "good luck on your exams!"
A student came by to discuss grad school preparations and asked me, "you went to grad school, right?" First of all, little students, how else do you think people get this job? Also, don't give me that face of horror when you find out how long I spent going to grad school. Yes, I am old enough for that to have happened.
A few weeks ago when I was sick the local pharmacy refused to sell me some drugs without an ID because I had to be EIGHTEEN. It wasn't even sudafed. I was too sick to know how to respond to that, so I left. My students thought this was pretty damned funny, and informed me that I should be happy that people think I'm so young. I tell them how old I am, and they don't believe me.
I don't think I look that young, people! But apparently I'm wrong. Before I even started this job, someone at a workshop told me that I should make sure I dress up, because otherwise I would be mistaken for a student. I thought she was crazy. I guess she was right.
Monday, June 1, 2009
Crap! If I can't prove they plagiarized, I can't justify giving them a low enough grade to fail them in the course. This pisses me off something fierce.
Many people tell me that passing them with a D- is just as bad as failing them. I guess. But I have an over-developed sense of fairness and justice, so it still rankles.
In other news, Partner and I have now been together for six years. And we still put up with each other. He even bought a car while I was gone, and as sneaky as that might be it was still ok, because he was just being a responsible deal-hunting guy. Too bad the new car has now been hailed upon. Stupid thunderstorms!
Happy Anniversary to us!
Sunday, May 31, 2009
I was told that the rental company I had reserved with had no cars left, so they would have me rent from a more expensive company and reimburse my credit card the difference. While this seemed sketchy to me at the time, I didn't have much of an option, so I said fine and got my car and was off.
Fast forward to my return to the airport, just in time to check in and not get yelled at by the people at the counter for being late for an international flight, and I'm returning the rental car. Except that I'm not sure whose return garage I should be entering: the company I theoretically rented from or the one who owns the car? I chose wrong, and caused all kinds of problems. People at various desks told me different things, everyone was confused, and eventually some guy just took the car and drove it back to the other company's area. And they gave me a receipt, so I went back to the ORIGINAL desk to see if that reimbursement they had promised me had actually been applied.
And I'm told that, yes, I had been reimbursed this ginormous sum of money that far surpassed the total expense of the car even at the more expensive rental place. And I said that it sounded like that number was too high, and perhaps they could double check? So the woman, obviously in a hurry to do something else, had me come behind the desk to show me that, SEE, right here is the rate...which was the total bill provided by the other company. And since their rate was only $20/day, I was being reimbursed the difference...between their rate (days x $20) and this crazy thing that they apparently thought was the other company's rate, but which was actually my total bill multiplied by the number of days I had rented the car.
Call me vindictive, but the whole thing had been such a ridiculous and frustrating exercise that I just thanked them and left. I don't really feel bad for taking money from people who won't let me explain why they shouldn't be giving me money. We'll see if they notice.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
I forgot to bring pajamas.
I've taken advantage of the cheaper "on campus housing" option, and while that's just fine in general I am remembering that dorm rooms are not that fabulous, and one of the major downsides is the lack of temperature control.
My students have largely chosen my few days out of town to begin their papers and projects. Thus my inbox is suddenly full of "oh crap I don't actually know what I'm doing!". Sigh.
If my lungs allow, I might do some nice hikes/walks. There are several options for some "nature" near here.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Since I don't seem to be the only one neglecting the interwebs at this time of year, I have no guilt, but I'm also off to a conference next week and will be in grading jail right afterward, so things will probably remain relatively quiet(er).
Random recent events include:
- I finally committed to an itinerary for one project and decided to give up on another for this year. It is not my job to play a supporting role for someone else's grad student if they can't even email me with logistics in a timely manner. I will still be outta here for most of the summer, though, which is both exciting and sad. Too bad Partner is employed! (not really...but it would be cool if he could come).
- awesome senior is doing cool stuff with new expensive toys I bought. Fun, yet mostly for them and not for me.
- I am still not ready for this upcoming conference, but hope that I will have enough down time prior to my presentation that I might be ready by the time I need to be. I've never done that before - last minute tweaks, yes, but writing and potentially doing some stats in the hotel, no. A first time for everything, I guess.
- Sick! The past week has been tedious and snotty - and now there are evil beings living in my lung spaces. Get out! I'm going to be leaving an entire half of my month to sloth between being sick and traveling. I'm going to have to try to get in shape again in early June before heading into the field!
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Last night we finished Deadwood Season 2 (hooray Netflix) and I was in a "I just want to lie on the couch" kind of mood, so I thought I'd see what was on "TV". It turns out that "TV" is a place where women are objectified and demeaned every five minutes (I know, I'm really out of the loop, aren't I?) - I was a little shocked, as a non-TV-watcher, that this shit was on NBC and CBS and whatever other major channel, and that I wasn't watching reruns from the 90's. Are we really still living in the feminism stone age? Damn. And I had managed to forget, by not watching TV.
I was particularly disgusted by something called "Deal or No Deal," and while I still haven't really figured out how the game WORKS, WTF is up with those rows of identical Cylon ladies in matching dresses and shiny legs? Where are the shirtless men? Stop smiling you Cylon ladies, you are freaking me out!
I settled on a Nature episode about turtles. Did you know that Blue Whales move too fast to be studied effectively by boat? Or that Hawaii has saltwater crocodiles? I did not know those things, though it seems like those are things I should have known. They did show some squid. Squid are awesome.
Perhaps this couch incident is indicative of my energy level these days, as I've been getting too little sleep and mustering too little motivation - we're almost done here at SLAC, but not quite. Also, why did I decide that attending a conference and workshop during the last week of classes would be a good idea? I think it might be a good conference, but I feel a little overwhelmed that I have to travel and get back just in time to give final exams. And while I thought earlier in the term (of course) that a conference would motivate me to do some damned research, that has not been the case, and so I am not at all prepared to give a talk. There's still hope that I'll pull out some Excel magic at the last minute...but I'm not overly optimistic.
To all of you with your GRADING done by now, making your summer plans and enjoying the spring weather, I hate you. Just a little bit. And only for the rest of the month.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
City, in its infinite desire to make my life hell even if I'm NOT living there any more, has decided to send a collection agency after the ticket that was obtained by the jackass who stole my car two years ago - yet is still in my name/assigned to my plates. I've sent in the required paperwork TWICE already stating that I was not driving the car, and am now quitting and sending them their money, because I'm sick of dealing with them and don't have the time to go back there, nor do I want any more ties between me and that fucking hole. Yes, this is exactly what they want me to do, and why they ignore citizen requests in general, and I'm fueling the corrupt pit of despair that is City, but I'm just too tired of it to motivate my inner outrage. I hate myself a little bit, but the thought of this shit hanging over my head makes me crazy. Maybe next time I will be the responsible citizen and fight the good fight.
Important lesson learned: make copies of EVERYTHING you send to any government, even if you're doing it at the last second while homeless and traveling. The fact that I can't PROVE that I wrote them those stupid letters is partially motivating the throwing in of this particular towel.
Also, Windows Vista, how is it that you STILL don't have your act together? How long have you been for sale? My printer will not install correctly. I hate you.
Important lesson learned: Vista sucks.
To my insurance company: I hate you too. You won't let me take prescriptions in advance, making it very difficult to leave the country for several months at a time. I find this ridiculous.
Important lesson learned: Insurance is a pain in the ass. But really, I already knew that.
To my cat: your claws get stuck in the rug with every step, and yet you still hate me for clipping them and making your life that much better. You're a jerk.
Important lesson learned: My cat is a jerk. Too bad I already knew that too.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Larger (yet still small) external grant #2, however, was a success, which means that I won't have to pay my own way to do fieldwork this summer. Well, I would have dipped into my startup fund, but it's good to not have to do that either. Also, one grant for my CV, however small, doesn't hurt. Maybe if I get one small grant per year I can not worry so much if larger funding bodies never look my way? I have no idea if that will work, but I can hope. Or maybe just start writing more larger grants so that I don't have to worry about it either way...
Monday, April 27, 2009
This morning made up for it, as I found an email in my inbox from a Highly Venerated Retired Scientist in my field, complimenting me on a paper that just came out and asking some questions related to the methods we used. The fact that I can totally answer those questions and/or have the same questions myself makes it even more ego-boosting. Thank you HVRS, for making my entire Monday (and, maybe, my week...we'll see!).
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Moving to Small Town has been both good and bad in terms of "greenness" - I live about a mile from work, so I bike a good portion of the time (except during freezing temperatures, bad weather, or when I need to haul equipment). Having a house has opened up a lot of other possibilities - we've been slowly replacing bulbs with more energy-efficient versions as they blow, we have a gas-free reel push mower (which works just fine), we have energy-star washer/dryer and I often hang clothes outside to dry, etc. Some of our green upgrading was put off - before Partner had a job we didn't really have the cash to add insulation to the attic, for example, but we'll be doing that this fall for sure. It's an old house, but we can make some improvements to make it semi-efficient, or at least better than it was.
My favorite part of the home-owning in terms of environmentally-related improvements is the possibility of gardening. Last weekend we went out and bought a composting bin - we'd been piling up our compost all winter, but we really needed a place to put it that wasn't just a pile of food scraps on the garden beds (we've been keeping the local rabbits happy and well-fed, at least!). Partner had been planning to build a bin, but now that he's working he hasn't had time, so we went out and purchased one. We also started some seeds indoors and have received our seed potatoes, so one of these weekends we'll be planting! I'm not sure how well things will do - we've already managed to kill some tomato seedlings by not paying close enough attention to know that their grow bulb had burned out, so we're not off to a great start. I also worry that the garden and yard will be a lot for Partner to handle when I'm abroad doing research for most of the summer, but I guess it's worth a shot and then we can reevaluate how much we want to grow next summer.
We have gone backward a bit in moving here - we no longer have a place to recycle plastic wrapping, which we had done through Partner's work in City. We throw away a lot of plastic, so that gives me some guilt. I do try to buy in bulk and avoid packaging when possible, but it's difficult to get rid of it entirely. The other major environmental crime we commit comes from Partner's long commute and our gas-guzzling vehicles (which we acquired, so to speak, instead of choosing, and while we do appreciate having them they are big vehicles). We are looking for a small car to buy, so that Partner can at least get some decent highway gas mileage, but we haven't decided what we want and we might just wait until the fall. There are surprisingly few cars we'd want to buy and fewer good incentives from car companies that aren't going under, and so far we haven't been motivated by the pricing.
I'm not sure that I have any specific resolutions for the coming year - I want to get some good compost going, see how the garden does, get some kind of new car before winter rolls around again. I would eventually like to get a home gym set up - I end up driving to my local gym several times a week, and I'd save both time and money if I could just walk downstairs. Unfortunately, I have some specific wants in terms of equipment and would end up spending about the same amount that we're about to drop on a new roof for the garage, so a home gym probably won't be happening soon. Still, it's nice to dream, right?
Happy Earth Day!
Monday, April 20, 2009
In other news, teaching a computer-based course that requires me to provide help to seated students makes it all the more apparent that undergrads don't shower as often as I might want them to. I might start giving out some Head & Shoulders bottles with graded assignments. Not a huge problem, but something I hadn't really noticed as much before teaching this particular course.
The one thing that kinda bugs me about SLAC - students can withdraw from classes fairly late in the term. My computer course is also only 1/2 credit, which makes it an add-on to most students' schedules and not their priority. And since they can just withdraw later on, why not? I get a dozen emails at the beginning of the term from students begging to be let into the course, but I don't have room for them, and then I end up with empty seats because people don't feel like putting in the effort. Can't be helped, but I wish students got more than a "W" on their transcript for pulling that crap.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Tis the season for organizing all potential field seasons for next academic year. Am I a bad person if I end up flying to far-away-country twice in four months? I think I like that idea better than just hanging out there for a few weeks in-between, but I have eco-guilt. Maybe I'll buy some carbon credits.
Also, I am much more excited about being someone else's field flunky (or, more officially, co-PI) than I am about organizing my own field logistics. Apparently I am extremely lazy.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
I've found that I'm suddenly more confident in my ability to lecture without a set of slides - since I'm managing just fine by reviewing my lecture topic right before class and then letting myself talk. I don't think I'd want to go totally technology-free on a subject that I'm less familiar with, since then I wouldn't be able to elaborate with random stories and asides or come up with on-the-fly illustrations, but I think that doing this seminar without the PowerPoint option has really helped me focus more on the information itself, student questions, and the big picture.
My students, who are required to give presentations on some of the course topics, are less than thrilled with the lack of PowerPoint. Which is a little bit sad, I think, since when I was an undergrad we were just learning how to use the technology for the first time, whereas now we seem to be ready to wean them off the technological crutch already! I think it's a good thing for all of us, in the end, and I'm really glad (now!) that I was going to be kicked across campus this term unless I went without.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
I ordered, for example, piece A. Piece A is identical to piece B, except that B has a hole for piece C. I ordered piece C because it happens to be useful for a different purpose. So I ordered pieces A and C. The company decided that since I had ordered piece C, I obviously had meant to order piece B instead of A, and so they sent me pieces B and C.
I was kinda pissed about this, yet kinda felt bad about being mad, since it was nice of them to actual say, hey this person really needs to order this so we'll fix it for them. Still, I wrote them an email and said, hey I don't appreciate you changing my order without telling me. I was a little worried that piece B would actually not work the same way as A; that the hole would make it less useful. Turns out I was wrong (in theory, anyway), but still: how do they know that I'm not just ordering piece C for something I already have? It seems a little presumptuous to change up my requests on their expectations of my needs.
Today I got an email back from the company, telling me that I was confused about the differences between the two pieces and telling me that I needed to APOLOGIZE to them for accusing them of changing my order. Bitches!
Now I am totally pissed off, except that I can't afford to piss off a small company that makes the equipment that I need to buy. Bitches again. So I wrote back and I said that I was sorry that I had confused the utility of the two pieces and I appreciated their help, but that if they were going to send me the one with the hole in it, they should fucking tell me that ahead of time.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
I went to City for a graduate program - I hate cities. I dragged Partner to City because I couldn't handle long-distance relationships - he hated City, just like me. He got a crappy job to support his presence in City, because he's a good partner. He kept me sane, which was worth much more than his half of the rent. And the funny thing is that I really enjoyed my PhD program, and my lab group, and my advisor, but I hated the place we were living (and this was true no matter where we lived). This was in part because of my apparently high standard of living. For example, I demand to live in an apartment that has an attached outer door, as opposed to one with doors that regularly fall out of their rotting door frames. I demand that the utilities I pay for as part of my rent actually function. I shouldn't have to play the role of caller-of-police in order to prevent the injury of my neighbors living with domestic abusers. I shouldn't have to answer the building door and find my neighbor's dealer on the front step. I should be able to expect that my neighbors won't physically or verbally threaten me, and that if they do something will be done about it.
I should have just sucked it up and moved to a different part of town, and in particular to a non-student-housing part of town. But we were poor, and rent isn't cheap, and we were sooooo close to being done. So when the last of my above preconditions was not satisfied during the fall of my final year, I demanded that we move, and Partner was kind enough to drag all of my stuff into yet another apartment. Which, as it turned out, was a block from an extremely loud bar, which kept me awake until 2 am every night until May of the following year.
The series of bad housing situations that we had been through culminated in this final apartment-by-the-bar, and my hatred of City grew. As I sat awake waiting for the pulsing music to end every night, I also focused my hatred at the loud car stereos, the city traffic, the drunken college students and the sirens. I became extremely sensitive (or, at least, much more so than previously) to the ambient noise and I wasn't getting any sleep.
At the same time I was preparing for two months in the field, my final pre-dissertation season. I was going to be leaving Partner for the holidays, which is stressful anyway, but he was also hating his job more than he had before and I felt bad about leaving. I was applying for jobs and going on interviews. I was writing my dissertation. My car was stolen. My plates were stolen too, and I started getting red-light-camera tickets that weren't mine. The cops were useless in any of the above situations, and I started to feel like the whole world was out to get me and there was nothing I could do about it. City was my mortal enemy. I was losing my mind.
When I got back from the field, I was supposed to be buckling down. I did, actually, get a lot done, and finished about 2/3 of my dissertation writing in the three months following my field season. But, I was also still living by the bar, I was carless, I needed a job, I had a defense to schedule. I had analytical data that I needed, but the techs who had to run my samples were taking their sweet time (or, even more frustratingly, asking me if they were for my Masters project, since I could always put that off a few weeks if necessary...).
By this point I was, in retrospect, depressed, anxious, angry. I felt powerless, stuck in a situation I couldn't change (primarily for financial reasons) - looking back it seems like a silly thing to get so worked up over, but one of the many lessons that came out of that time is that I am extremely, overly, excessively sensitive to my environment, and that includes noise to (what I assume is) a higher extent than most people. I was stress eating, I wasn't sleeping, I was miserable.
I got a job offer. I got a marriage offer (I have my suspicions that this was an effort at distraction - it was partially successful). I wrote my ass off, and I defended. It went well. I got the HELL out of there. We ended up living in Partner's parents' basement for a month, but I didn't care, we were out of that City and we were never going back. I came to Small Town, and I bought a house. I still have noise issues, but I'm slowly getting over them, and trying to disassociate noise in general (particularly loud music) from the City-ness that I still carry with me. I have a hard time trusting people, sometimes, and I have a general dislike of humanity as a whole, as a result of several years' worth of negative interactions. I'm hoping that this too will fade away, given enough time.
However, I don't have any misconceptions that I "overcame" anything. I left, and I left before I completely lost it, but that was it, and I was otherwise completely incapable of dealing (emotionally) with my situation. Partner, I'm fairly certain, was looking into mental health options. I considered taking some kind of anxiety medication, and after talking it over with a friend in the field (of psychology) decided that the short-term nature of the triggers (I was definitely going to be out of there in May) meant that it wouldn't be worth dealing with the addiction that comes with such medications, unless things somehow got worse. I don't know if that was a good decision or a bad one, or if I was really in a place (mentally) where I should have been allowed to make a decision regarding how badly I needed some kind of help, but I made it through.
I still have some shame related to this emotional weakness - prior to this episode I would have considered myself much hardier in an emotional sense, and certainly able to withstand such petty environmental factors as pounding music and loud traffic. I think part of my issue came from the immediate stress of finishing, but more so from all the years of bad interactions with neighbors, with people. I was tired of dealing with people asking me for money on my way to work...tired of having to watch my back, secure my belongings. I still have those habits; sometimes I lock a colleague's car here in Small Town and they laugh. I'm glad that I'm finally living somewhere people don't feel the need to lock their cars, but I doubt I'll ever be leaving my doors open. I also doubt that I'll ever feel that I didn't set myself up for a horrible last year in City.
There have been some good things that came out of that shitty eight months. Partner took the brunt of my anger for most of that time, and yet he stuck around. I wouldn't have blamed him (in retrospect, of course) if he had decided that this raving bitch wasn't someone he wanted to spend his life with after all, but he gave me the chance to make it up to him. I hope I have. I think I have a lot more faith in "us" after what we've been though. I also have a much more realistic sense of my personal capabilities and boundaries - I have a better idea of what I can deal with. And I feel good about the career choice I've made, because I don't think I could deal with another City. Not soon, in any case. Maybe, hopefully, never again.
Friday, March 27, 2009
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Today was my last day of freedom, so I did some important things like getting oil changed and meeting with a roofer. A ridiculous roofer. Quote #1, I doubt that you will make the cut, and not just because you insisted that you "only use commercial grade" materials, which incidentally are very expensive. No, it may have more to do with the fact that you referred to me as "hon" repeatedly, and spent almost as much time pointing out all the things (non roof-related) that are wrong with my house as you did looking at the roof you were supposed to be quoting us for. I am actually aware that the storm door needs to be fixed, thanks. And yes, I know that the wetness indicates a leaky roof - that would be why I called you in the first place. Finishing your visit with "God bless!" might not be unexpected in these parts, but it was the icing on the cake. I guess I should have expected this sort of thing from the get-go, since your secretary asked me for my Husband's Name when I first called you. Why that might be relevant, I have no idea, but I can think of a few reasons why that might be a bad thing to ask. Maybe you guys are so overworked that you don't need non-Christian, female, gay or unmarried business...great for you, I guess.
I have 1/3 of a lecture for tomorrow, and I'm thinking that maybe that's enough for the first day after break? Why do I feel burned out already!?
Monday, March 23, 2009
- I am incapable of making just enough popcorn for one person. I am also incapable of not eating too much popcorn when too much popcorn is placed in front of me.
- There's still nothing good on TV
- Apparently getting to the gym at an ungodly hour is still not enough to guarantee that I'd get to use my preferred equipment
- I am so not ready for classes to start up again
Sunday, March 22, 2009
We are back from visiting Partner's family, which was preceeded by a trip to City, wherein I remembered that I actually like Small Town quite a bit in comparison except for the lack of clothing stores. So I bought some clothes before coming home, and all is well.
Most of the recent conversation has circled around the issue of what to do with Partner's money now that he has a good job - we accumulated a decent list when we had nothing to spare, and now it's time to prioritize. Things we need include: roof work, a non-gas-guzzler for Partner to drive, student loan payments, savings, a couch (does this count as a need? I think it should. We still use a futon, and it has seen better days). Things we want start with a decent desktop computer for home and some money for wedding planning, and they go on from there. I suck at prioritizing.
Break is almost over, and what have I accomplished? Not enough. One of my vendors cancelled on me and I didn't do anything useful while traveling. I did, however, get to visit a local field area with the person who knows the most about it, and I'm now very excited about some work I'll do this spring. I think I even know exactly what gear I need to purchase to get it done. It will be experimental, but I think it will be good. Tomorrow I get to test-drive some microscopes. Sweet.
Also, I just noticed that it's almost April, which means I have to take some students to a conference, arrange travel for a May workshop, and really start thinking about summer fieldwork. I think I need another spring break.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Sunday I hope to head out to City, eat way too much and sit around for a few days, shop and celebrate life events with some good friends, and have some fun. Then I will head back to Small Town, meet with various vendors of expensive equipment, potentially buy some of that expensive equipment, test some lab methods that I'll need to use in April, visit a local field site, set up my lab for class, get estimates on some roof work that needs to be done on our garage, buy plane tickets for summer fieldwork, write an internal grant proposal, start getting gear together for summer fieldwork, visit Partner's family for a few days (probably - unless Partner ends up having to work), and dive back into the term. Spring Break! Er...Woot?
Although - I still have today and tomorrow before I get to think about being on break, so I shouldn't be jumping the gun!
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
- I can't get ahold the one brand of frosted shredded wheat that doesn't use gelatin in their frosting. It can't be that necessary, if one brand doesn't use it. Why are we throwing cattle hooves into our food for no good reason? Kashi's flavored shredded wheat is a close second, though.
- Battlestar Galactica includes spoilers from the CURRENT episode in its title credit sequence - WTF is that about? Dumb.
- My students think that if they've already given presentations they don't need to come to class any more. Ok kids, but you're missing out on some serious participation points, and you aren't going to be happy when grades come out.
- All but ONE day of my spring break is already scheduled and full of shit to do! Blah.
Monday, March 9, 2009
Today we got mail (from Partner's family) addressed to Me and Partner Partnerslastname. I'm not sure what I think about that. Mostly, I'm surprised that it's starting before we even get married.
I might be making a quick trip down to City to celebrate with various people who have recently gotten jobs and tenure. Which is even more super awesome than normal job-getting, considering the state of the job market right now. Multiple times this year I've thought, man I'm so glad I graduated LAST spring.
If I go to City, I am so buying piles of spring/summer clothes. And I'm going to Whole Foods, also, in between eating at good restaurants. Poor Partner has to work. I should probably stop talking about all the food and shopping in City - a nice place to visit, but I'm glad I no longer live there!
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Startup funding snafus have been cleared up to my satisfaction, and I am admittedly quite relieved. The attitude of most people at SLAC (in which we are all a happy family, even when we aren't) kinda makes me feel bad for mistrusting administration and allowing myself to stress over a potentially simple misunderstanding. But then my common sense snaps me out of that mood and reminds me that I need to be looking out for myself.
The students in my software class are finishing up a big project, and revealing their inner awesomeness. Several of them are going way beyond the requirements of the project just because they think it's cool. And then there's the kid who takes one look at his dataset and gives up because it doesn't look exactly the way he wants it to. Can't win them all over, I guess.
I get to buy some fancy toys and do more playing outside pretty soon, which makes me happy, and an annoying coworker is going to be gone for at least the short term, which makes me even happier. Spring is looking up!
Sunday, March 1, 2009
This month I asked for posts related to role models. I wanted to know who inspires women scientists today, in honor of Women’s History Month and the Anniversary Edition of Scientiae. It turns out that we all have different answers, but our answers falls into similar themes.
Some of us are inspired by the works of relatively high-profile or historic women.
Lab Cat writes about Marie Curie. "I connect to Marie Curie and see her as a role model because she gave her all to science despite the conventions and expectations of women at her time."
Podblack Cat applauds the work of consumers rights advocate Loretta Marron, whose “…diagnosis of cancer in 2003 gave her first hand experience of the scope of misinformation that contributes to the exploitation of our most vulnerable Australians.”
At Women in Astronomy, Hannah writes about pioneering astronomer Vera Rubin, who “…became an astronomer in an era when few women were even working out of the home. She discovered dark matter. She has four children, all of whom are now scientists themselves and raising their own families.”
Others find motivation close to home.
Cherish at Faraday’s Cage reveals that her husband and her advisor both “helped me move from a place where I was certain I couldn't do anything on my own to a place where I felt very comfortable with my independence.”
Friday Afternoon finds that her mother has had the biggest influence on her professional life. “…my mom is still in inspiration to me, through the way she has lived her life, is living her life.”
The Silly Conservationist writes that her own advisor has been her mentor, and leads by example. “I am learning to be a good senior and “Supervisor” from Lady Advisor’s successes and of course, mistakes.”
At the Physicality of Words, we can read about the power of having peers who will tell you the truth. “I had always felt that if you could not be enthusiastic about your research all the time, you were somehow not worthy. Being frustrated and bored to the point of crying was to me a shameful secret. Maybe, just maybe, this was something that happened to others too? Even smart, successful students!”
Academic tells us about her admiration for older academics who love what they do. “I want to be someone who's known for my ideals, even if they are quirky as all get out. I want to have fun with what I'm doing. I want to have a realistic picture of myself even if that means telling humorous stories at my own expense when I'm an invited speaker.”
Melissa contemplates her teaching persona and decides to be herself, since “…I’ve finally given up trying to find exactly one person who will be an ideal mentor/role model for me. That person doesn’t exist.”
Pat at FairerScience outdoes us all by taking a well-deserved break! “Yup I'm being my own role model and accepting and acting on the idea that sometimes you just need a break in between making and remaking history. Please let me be your role model too.”
Some of us are looking for role models who can show us that we can be scientists and professors while having a family.
Patchi of My Middle Years discussed this very topic last year, revealing that she became aware of success stories only after her own pregnancies stimulated family-related discussions:
Why doesn't "family" come out in conversations with female professors, while male professors always seem to mention that their wife stays home with the kids? I always thought the latter was the problem, the bad advice that one needs a "wife" to have kids. However, the lack of realistic discussions about career and family might be the biggest problem. Are women keeping women out of science?
Some of us were lucky, and found ourselves in a supportive environment from the start.
Laura at Neurotypical credits her early science teachers as well as her neuroscience mentors, who provided a network of female scientists and make her want to give something back.
As I reflect on all of these people who have helped me get where I am today, I'm anxious to give something back to other women like me. Although I'm relatively inexperienced, I, too, have support to offer.
Some of us, perhaps expectedly, find that female role models are few and far-between in the sciences.
Mrs. Comet Hunter finds inspiration in friends who have managed some degree of that sought-after work-life balance. She writes,
I find it unsettling that I have a hard time finding female role models. There should be more women in the sciences that can lead the life they want and not feel they have to sacrifice their other roles as wife (or fiance or girlfriend), mother, daughter, sister, or friend…it's time to take action. In order to do so, we need the support of our male colleagues, so we can create that change as a whole.
In my own experience, I seem to have these sought-after supportive male colleagues, and I have to wonder why they seem so scarce in the experiences of most other female scientists.
Volcanista reveals a similar lack of female mentors, but offers an anonymous tribute to one woman who kept her in grad school. “It was like a magical breath of fresh air to work with a supervisor who, well, kind of gets it innately…it got me over my burn-out and renewed all of my vigor for my degree, and it just gave me hope again, so that I could return to my all-male home world for another 3 years.”
Rivika at Life and Then Some discusses the lack of significant contributions from female mathematicians. “It’s pretty easy to find biographies of female mathematicians on the internet. Harder is finding information on the mathematics that they worked on.”
The best mentorship I have received has explicitly appreciated my hard work, creative thinking and mind, and has clearly articulated criticisms throughout whatever project I was doing. Less helpful mentorship has ignored hard work, and avoided criticism until the very end of the project. But I also want to say that there is a lot that both the mentor and mentee can do to improve communication; it does not necessarily have to be only up to the mentor.
Thank you to everyone who submitted! Hosting was a lot of fun, and I appreciate having the opportunity to put this month’s Scientiae together.