Friday, April 30, 2010


Today I had the pleasure of discovering that the fire alarms in my building are not normal siren-type alarms, but instead feature a male voice that asks for our attention, notifies us that a fire has been reported, and tells us we should proceed to the nearest exit. I found this a bit confusing at first...and then I found it much less horrible than the siren-type alarms, to the extent that I could finish what I was doing, pack up my laptop and grab my jacket before leaving. This is probably a bad thing for fire safety...just a hunch.

The other day I was exiting the library and overheard a student on a cellphone stating that she was going to see if her professor "would fall for that whole 'I emailed you the wrong document'" thing, by sending in an old assignment and using a few extra hours to finish the current assignment. Student, I wish you could know that you just killed any chance that I will ever accept that particular excuse ever again...yes, I do realize that this is likely a sham no matter who's trying it, but I like to think that sometimes people really do just attach the wrong document. I try to be nice until I find good reason not to be, but now I hope this comes back to bite you....take my class and try it.

Today, finally, student research! A brief glimpse of a cool question someday to be answered...and then back to lecture.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


This month's Scientiae Carnival is asking for stories of bumps in the road. I'm sure everyone has a contribution that could be made, but it got me thinking about how to define that particular idea. Is it still a bump if it doesn't go away?

I'll try not to bore my readers with yet additional descriptions of my slow death by this term's workload. Hence I am awake at 11:30 pm about to start writing my lecture for tomorrow, only to blog instead (classic!). My inability to handle the Spring took me by surprise, in part because this second year had been going so...functionally. Except that I hadn't been doing two new classes at once: eight lectures a week. As soon as I step out of the classroom I'm writing another lecture, and I've additionally (idiotically) covered for three lectures a colleague had to miss, taken on student researchers and independent studies, and spoken at a conference.

Partner is equally oversubscribed - working long hours, getting home just in time to eat dinner and go back to bed. Sometimes I don't see him for more than a few minutes, and the one weekend day he has off is often a day I need to use for a field trip or lab day. I know we aren't the only ones living insane lives; however, I am concerned that this is somehow seen as normal for a "young working couple". This isn't normal, and it shouldn't be. We shouldn't be working 15 hours a day each, throwing dinner together, barely managing the most necessary of chores. Our cat is perpetually pissed off that we leave her alone so much; if our schedules overlapped more she would probably kill us in our sleep.

Thus the question: why? The nature of Partner's job makes it necessary for him to work these hours during particular parts of the year. He could quit, but he won't unless there's a better option out there. The nature of my job makes me rationalize current insanity with the idea that this is temporary. But I wonder if it really is. Next term I'll be doing one repeat and one new course: will I have more time for research? Will I get more sleep? Will I be so accustomed to my current schedule that I'll feel GUILTY when I get to go home for dinner? Will I watch TV for fun and feel bad about it? Do I really think that I need to run myself like this in order to make a decent tenure case? Might I be focusing on classes when devoting time to research and neglecting my lectures would be better for my career?

I like to think that I came to a SLAC to allow for a more reasonable life, one not ruled by the power of the external funding agency, one where I might someday have a free evening once in a while. I like to think that this reasonable life is still possible, out there somewhere over the tenure rainbow. Or maybe I should stop waiting for that mythical future and try to create a more sustainable life for myself right now.

Sitting in my home office, the full moon caught my eye out our back door. I never notice the moon, it seems, when I'm not living in the field. It's nice to be reminded that it's still there, even when I don't have time to pay attention.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Guess who's writing lecture until the wee hours of Monday morning!? At least that means I win my own bet - winner!

Accomplished this weekend:
- did two good workouts
- cleaned the kitchen and bathroom, did all the laundry
- ate two really good dinners
- watched one movie
- slept. A LOT
- went grocery shopping
- graded student papers
- emailed students about grades etc.

I actually got an email from someone asking to postpone their makeup exam because they don't have the book, which "makes it difficult to study". WTF student. And I thought you were one of the sane ones.

The other thing we did today was a trip to the local giant hardware store, to price out our potential bathroom remodel. Our one functional (as in, not in the grody basement) bathroom is in dire need of an upgrade. If Partner does it, which he claims is "no problem" (apparently it will be easier if I'm in the field at the time, because I stress him out), it will be not insanely expensive. We might actually do it this year, though that may not be the smartest decision since we still have to pay for our wedding. And we might do something fancy for vacation, since a friend of mine will be living abroad and we'd love to visit. But. I am excited by the prospect of a bathroom that does not scream "decaying remains of the 70's" when I walk into it. We'll see.

Now, back to the Powerpoint. Damn you, Powerpoint.

Friday, April 23, 2010

weekend dilemmas

The weekend! This one is rare, without scheduled field trips, conferences, lab work. My seniors are wrapping stuff up, and I don't really want to get involved in things I won't have time to finish before my summer field season. Hence, the classic weekend dilemma.

Partner has one day off a week: Sunday. I am, by Friday night, sick of doing course stuff, making lectures, grading. I need a break. I want to sleep in tomorrow, work out, drink coffee, clean my disgusting house. Maybe take care of some logistical stuff, or do some writing, but I do NOT want to look at Powerpoint slides. However, because Partner has Sunday off, I want to spend that day with him. If I don't put together Monday's lectures tomorrow, I will therefore wait until Sunday night. Inevitably, Sunday night rolls around and I have two lectures to write, papers to grade, emails to respond to; I'm up until ridiculous hours of the morning, beginning the horrible cycle of my sleepless work week yet again.

I know I should suck it up and sit down to work tomorrow morning. But that is really hard to do, particularly since the last few weeks have been so brutal. My brain is tired. I'll bet against my own ability to break the cycle, no matter how much sense it would make to do so.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Today I was rushing from classroom to office right before an afternoon field trip, when I happened to pass by another department's seminar - as well as the pizzas left in the hall to encourage student attendance. Two slices came with me to pick up the vans.

That's pretty much how life goes these days. Hopefully sometime I'll have something to say other than "I'm busy!"

Monday, April 19, 2010


Conference time is over again - this time with lots of stuff purchased in a bigger city (REI! Whole Foods!) and the acquisition of several pounds of good restaurant-related weight gain. I gave my first talk on a new project, with success all around.

However, general insanity continues, with work completed on the way to the conference, a manuscript review submitted via hotel wireless, my talk written primarily the night before, this morning's lecture written this morning (and too short, damn it!), this afternoon's exam written with half an hour to spare. I'm getting really tired of such short lead times, even if I am making it work, however barely. Also, I forgot to bring lunch today and didn't have time to go find any.

I cannot handle you, Spring.

Monday, April 12, 2010


Today I went to a podiatrist, and my diagnosis has been shifted to cuboid dislocation, with verification limited to very expensive MRI results that I don't think I'll be getting. So, while I may never really know, the location of the pain seems to support that hypothesis. Still a lot better than it was, and not really limiting mobility any more.

Plus sides: Got my federal return (yay!), going out of town for a few days for a conference (change of scenery!), and some of my service crap is finally wrapping up. Also the wedding planning is drawing to a close in terms of preparation.

Down sides: I'm expecting my first really negative student evals this term, because I'm just barely making things function, and I'm not sure it's going to get any better. I wish I could remember whether my first term was like this or not. I expect that a major criticism at my next contract renewal will say something about "takes on too much at once".

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

they can't be serious

Dudes. I'm currently teaching an intro class that is offered regularly by my department, but this is my first time teaching it. It has no official (scheduled) lab component, yet it still fulfills the sciences requirement at SLAC. Which is justified, given the material this course covers. However, I had not previously appreciated the extent to which having a lab section discourages the seriously science-phobic from taking a course.

I'm dealing with an entirely new level of student, and I'm having trouble adjusting myself down to their level after teaching within certain expectations for almost two years. I know this is my problem and I need to fix it, but sometimes I just can't believe what comes out of their mouths.

A few examples. Student A last week raised a hand in class and after stumbling over a question, said, in complete earnest, "can you just start over?" Student B asked me to clarify what these crazy things called "log rhythms" are. Student C, after an entire lecture focusing on X, came to my office and said..."so, what is X?"

If this was my first term I would be seriously concerned that it was all me, and I was just really bad at teaching. Instead, I think the nature of this course makes students believe it will be an easy science requirement. My friends, that is not the case, and I hope you've figured it out by now.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

worst term ever

Maybe that's a little bit less specific than it should be. This is not necessarily a horrible term in the classroom. I have some awesome seniors working with me, I'm teaching new courses and learning a lot, and I'm racking up a lot of service work that will make my CV look fabulous (and maybe even lead to an eventual reduction in my service load).

I am also, however, generally doing shit for about 10 hours a day, such as teaching, meeting with people, helping students with problem sets, grading, helping students in the lab, and purchasing supplies. Most of the time I eat lunch. Notice that these 10 hours do not include any preparatory time, nor do they, most of the time, include exercise.

Therefore, I have recently been doing 4-5 hours of post-dinner class prep, leading to extreme sleep deficits. Not making me happy. Also, I'll probably have to take an extension on a manuscript re-write, and hope that's ok.

I know this is nothing exciting for other academics. But even my first year, I don't remember being this insane and sleepless. The second year sucks more.