Thursday, December 30, 2010


We made it back without any trouble, despite all the flight issues here in the States, and it's nice to be home. The cat even seems to like us - for today. We also brought back some sort of fabulous Asian flu bug (nothing with an animal name descriptor to our knowledge) which is forcing us to cancel our plans to host a New Years party and is making me less than thrilled about the amount of work I have left to do before next week (as if I needed another reason for that particular attitude).

Partner got through most of this flu while we were gone, which means that I saw a bit more than he did, but it also means that he's now taking care of me while I hack up my lungs. Still, it was a nice trip - I'd really like to see more of Asia, but I'll probably have to wait until I forget the uncomfortable details of 14-hour flights. Our next vacation, at least, will definitely be closer to home.

I have about three weeks until my Winter field season starts up, with another plane ride and a really long trip on a bus. Before I leave I have to start the term and submit a grant proposal; maybe it's a good thing that I'll be having a calm New Year's Eve!

Sunday, December 12, 2010


It's friggin cold here in Small Town. The kind of cold where you notice every single crevice and window frame where low temperatures seep into the house. The time of year when Partner vows to never buy a house more than 20 years old ever, ever again. If we didn't have plants I would keep all the curtains closed for the extra layer of insulation.

Not much is new around here. I guess I'm not worthy of government funding, since I worked not at all on my grant this weekend. The more I write about something the more I don't like the idea/project/data, which means I go home annoyed and grouchy at the end of the day. I have no idea if that attitude has anything to do with the actual validity of the project, either, which makes it hard to keep writing. Tomorrow, I shall slog on regardless.

Here's a question. Is it bad form to use the same few primary descriptive terms in the majority of recommendation letters that you write? I think they're valid descriptive terms in all cases, but I wonder if it's bad that I seem to apply them to most of my good students.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Time to take a look at the travel schedule for the coming months.

This month: overseas vacation
Next month: overseas field season (very short!) with a day to see a friend while abroad (yay!)
March: 10-day field trip with students several days' drive west of SLAC
Summer: overseas field season with students and, if my grant gets rejected, some serious work adding data to our pilot project
Summer: mandatory trip to see my family

Note, no spring conferences! It's a miracle! A miracle made possible by the fact that there are THREE conferences I would like to/need to attend, and they are happening in September, October, and November. I will probably have to skip at least one, and that sucks. One is the big annual conference for my field and I plan to bring students; one is relevant to my primary field project and I should probably be there. The third is subdiscipline specific and is always a lot of fun. Guess which one I'll probably have to miss?

Partner has to come see my family with me, and I hope to drag him out for a week during the summer and, hopefully, to at least one conference. I always say these things, though, and they rarely happen. Partner, this is why I got you that jerk of a cat. I know you are grateful.


Winter Break Pros:

- Sleeping in
- Exercising every day!
- Time to clean, cook, and otherwise make life more livable
- Peace and quiet in the office
- No grading
- Last-minute dinner plans in the next town over can be accommodated
- No bringing work home with me at the end of the day
- Vacation (eventually)

Winter Break Cons:

- Every committee on the planet decides to make up for all those missed meetings during the term
- All the work I put off because I was too busy during the term
- Having to come up with interesting gift ideas
- End-of-year progress reports
- Student recommendation letters
- Library closes in the middle of the afternoon
- Too many odd jobs around the house competing for my time
- Being at work at 5:30 on a weekday and having to stumble through dark hallways because, apparently, no one is expected to be at work at 5:30 during break
- Realizing that the next term is coming up SOON, and I'd better get ready for it

Hmm...I think I need to work on my Pros!

Sunday, December 5, 2010


Having just been reminded about this month's Scientiae AND having just received my early christmas gift from Partner (a KINDLE!), maybe it is time to stop whining about work. Maybe it is time to start giving myself a break. Which I don't think is entirely possible, considering that yesterday I ran errands, cooked, cleaned, painted some woodwork and some repaired walls, worked out, spent some time with a friend and STILL felt guilty that I hadn't done anything research-related. It's a sickness, as we all know.

This week I'm hoping to schedule a classic margaritas-and-guacamole get-together with a good friend of mine, with whom I occasionally turn into a complete glutton. But I think that's good for us, especially since we're both under a lot of stress most of the time. I think we all need an excuse, and not just on holidays (though not TOO often), to just eat and drink whatever we want to with the people we most enjoy in this world. I also say that knowing full well that I've kicked my own ass with P90X all week, and therefore can afford a night out.

I've recently been down on my career, probably due to the end-of-term grading and stress (a very wise colleague always cautions that we should never make decisions about the next field season at the end of the current one, and their advice most likely applies here as well) - mostly about how much work goes into a job that pays what it pays. I need to get back my graduate student mindset, where I was really excited that someone else was paying my way across the Atlantic twice a year, and teaching lab was an opportunity instead of a chore. I still have that attitude, and a real excitement to be back in the classroom, for a few weeks each term, but it seems to erode more and more quickly. It's particularly annoying to see colleagues who don't do research - at a SLAC they are not hard to find among the tenured - and who are therefore not away from their families, don't spend their breaks writing grants, don't spend their own cash going to conferences. Somehow it seems unfair that I work this hard, sometimes.

I don't know why I let myself get into that mental spiral. Would I CHOOSE to stop doing research if I was told that I had "met" whatever standards were present for tenure? Would I stop going to conferences? Would I work less? No. But somehow that tenure "standard" makes what would otherwise be opportunity into imposition; I imagine I would change nothing but would feel much better about it if I wasn't expected to perform. It's funny what a mindset will do. I'm sure I could get away with fewer conferences, fewer field seasons, if I wanted that to happen. I just need to get my brain in the right place.

Hence! An entire half of December will be spent Sans Work. I will not be bringing my laptop. I will not be bringing articles. I will not be rewriting or grading or preparing lectures. I will have a Kindle and a Husband and I will be out of the country, and that is going to be FUN, even if I have to beat my brain into submission.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


The end is in sight. I don't think I've ever given out so many bad grades. A lot of it comes from students who just didn't turn things in on time. No matter how many times I try to tell them that turning in C work on time is better than making it B work but turning it in three days late, since I cut a significant percentage for each day, they never seem to do the math.

Small grant is in, grades will be done tonight, I might leave the house tomorrow. Exciting times. We also got a dusting of snow, which makes it officially December in my brain.