Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Small external grant #1 - rejected, without so much as a non-form-letter response. Fab. Stupid small external granting sources. I was honestly a little bit relieved (or at least not particularly upset) by this, because the prospect of having to do the work that was proposed in that grant during the upcoming academic year was a bit frightening. I think it might have been impossible. So, next time I may be both more grantable and more prepared to be granted.

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

highs and lows

I had a crappy weekend. Saturday was a wash, as I crashed and did nothing useful. I had to cancel a field trip due to weather, which was annoying. I also found out that different companies treat $10,000-worth of purchases in very different ways, and that some apparently feel it's ok to just ship you a box full of your expensive stuff and call it done. Personally, I prefer the company whose representative brought me my expensive stuff. Much nicer.

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

Earth Day

Earth Day! Last year I talked about resolutions, and the things I wanted to work on to make myself a little greener. At the time I had some limitations: apartment living being the main one.

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

excuses excuses

Well kiddos, I realize that it's 4/20, but I really think you could have made it to my 1:30 class and held off on the smoking until later. As it was, half of you missed, and too bad for you. One of you even came up with the oh-so-convincing "I'm going to a neighbor's funeral" - dude, just skip class if it means that much to you. It's not like I didn't notice what day it was, or that you've given me "funeral" excuses in every class you've taken with me this year. You might want to cut back on that from now on - how many more family members do you have?

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

Pieces and bits

A long yoga practice after two weeks without really stretching much = ouch. First day back to the gym after said yoga session = OUCH.

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

pedagogical experiment

When rooms were being assigned for the current term, I was informed that I had two options: walk across campus to get a projector, or use the room behind my office, which has no technological anything. I said, give me chalkboards! And so began my current experiment, in which I am weaning myself (somewhat) off of PowerPoint. So far it's been surprisingly great - this is an upper-level seminar about a tangential field to my own specific it's something I know a lot about. We're reading both basic-level informative texts as well as primary literature, and I'm hoping that I'm managing to push the students a little in terms of their comfort level with the material. I'm throwing a lot of information at them, and expecting them to get the big picture even if they don't understand all the details (though we do go over those as well). There are no tests, which prevents them from freaking out.

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

my students are awesome

It's conference time, and I brought a few students with me. This is their first scientific meeting, and they've been largely on their own - they have a car, and I have stuff to do so I haven't required them to do anything in particular or check in with me. I expected to find them still in bed in the middle of the afternoon, but I was pleasantly surprised; these guys were up and at the meeting fairly early, and they sat in talks all day. They were even EXCITED about some of the stuff they saw, and they started asking me whether I could teach them about X or Y...or whether the college had funds to buy particularly cool pieces of equipment. While that might not happen, its nice to see them getting so much out of a meeting - and entirely of their own volition. My students rock!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


I ordered some equipment recently that had to be ordered piecemeal - the company gives you a list of parts and you tell them what you need. So I gave them a list, and I had specific reasons for ordering each piece. And I got my box of stuff, except that the company had decided to switch out some of the individual pieces based on their perception of my needs, without telling me ahead of time.

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.