Wednesday, December 21, 2011

lately

December is my favorite month, and not just because I don't have to spend much time at the office. I also love me some winter weather, although winter has thus far been pretty warm and disappointing. I'm going to be on leave this Jan and Feb in a much warmer place, and so I had hoped for a bit of snow this month. I'm sure everyone else hates me for even thinking of such a thing.

So, since finishing my grading and sitting through a variety of post-term meetings, I've largely been writing up my "statements" for my fourth-year review and cleaning my house, so that my house-sitter won't suspect that we generally live in a state of permanent dustiness. These thing have been good for my ego and my allergies; I actually really enjoy reflecting on the last few years in my job, and I feel very accomplished once I list everything that I've done. Also, packing, which is going slowly but surely. It's hard to pack while keeping the house clean.

Happy Holidays and enjoyable grant writing for January NSF deadlines to all.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

status

Recently I've been exchanging emails with various collaborators who have misunderstood field arrangements or have thoughts that I disagree with concerning our work. I find that in these cases, once I've read an email that contains something I feel needs correction, I obsess over the wording of the email I want to send in return until I've sent it, at which point I can forget about the issue completely. But, if I don't send the email right away, my brain can't let it go, regardless of whether I'm exercising, reading, or trying to sleep. This is new to me, but maybe it's just because I'm now more personally involved with the research collaborations I've developed. Or maybe I'm becoming more obsessive in my old age. I end up writing back immediately just to get this stuff out of my brain, which is probably not a good thing overall since I think I end up being more defensive and negative as a first reaction.

I've also been renewing memberships to professional societies now that it's the end of the year. Am I a horrible person for maintaining my "early career" status whenever I'm allowed to do so, and therefore continuing to pay less? If the jump between "early career" and "professional" wasn't so huge, I might be more inclined to do it, but c'mon professional societies, I'm broke. There should be some sort of discounted "single salary household" status that makes me feel less guilty.

I've begun the "small panic attacks" stage of planning for an extended research period abroad. This time with Partner coming too, things are a little more complicated and require more prep - like paying bills while we're gone. I think I've got most of it worked out at this point. I'm sure I'll find out what I'm forgetting when my car is repossessed, or something equally disastrous happens. Or, at least I'll be happy if the repercussions are less severe.

Monday, December 5, 2011

behind

As usual! This term was more insane than normal, since I was overloading my teaching schedule and had two extra conferences to attend. I also presented three different posters over the course of two months, which was a horrible idea, and submitted a grant proposal. It was ridiculous, but it's over.

Now, another grant to help others write before the end of the month, and a lot of planning/packing/prepping for my RESEARCH LEAVE, which I am very unprepared for. But, I'll be out of the country early Jan to early March, and I hope to get a lot done. I should also FINALLY get something written, which just hasn't really happened this year. I know I need to make time for it, but I've been writing grants instead despite the fact that I know it's a dangerous trap to fall into. Book chapter and journal manuscript, minimum, by February.

Also, admittedly, I have spent several days over the past few weeks doing absolutely nothing. Or, more specifically, I've been playing video games and watching movies and reading books and exercising and eating and sleeping. Which is awesome, and hard to stop doing now that the "solidly December" status of the date indicates a need to get my ass in gear.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

delusion

I've had a term full of delusional students, at least in comparison to every other term that I've taught at SLAC. These students come into my office to ask me what they can do to get a good grade, usually because they're sitting at "barely passing" and don't want to get a D. Usually, the answer involves something like, "if you want a C, you would have to get A's on everything from now until the end of the course", and these students whole-heartedly tell me that they WILL do that. I don't even think they're bullshitting me. I think they really believe that, if they just try, they can get an A+ on every assignment. While I would really love to ask them what part of getting D's on everything has convinced them that they have this particular ability, instead I try to make some reasonable statement about aiming for a passing grade. I don't think it works, though, if today's 5% exam score from one of these students is any judge. Big changes, just in the wrong direction.

So, maybe these kids are just really good at BS. I would prefer to believe they're delusional, though I wish I knew what I could say to snap them out of it.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Dear

Dear graduate programs:

Please stop making me comment within individual boxes on your webpage, just let me upload a damned reference letter! I comment on all these things you're specifying within the letter, I promise, and I have to rewrite it all to make it fit within your narrow damned boxes.

Dear weather:

Stop being crazy. It's definitely FALL now.

Dear conferences:

Why did I agree to so many of you this term?

Dear undergrads:

I can tell when you haven't done the reading. Really.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

status

After following the various Occupy Wall Street movements via Twitter this weekend, and then seeing The Ides of March (not to mention the 1995 Richard III film adaptation), I'm currently feeling more jaded than normal regarding politics in this country. My students are going to love me this week as we move into material that has some political connections. I'm that professor.

A recent discussion with my TA has revealed that I have reputation for being Hard. I'm not sure that this is a bad thing. I try to be difficult but fair and open to questions/tutoring/office hour help. This generally favors those who try over those who are apathetic, which is ok with me. But maybe I need to take it back a step? I am conflicted about my own opinion on this issue.

In any case, this past weekend was a nice domestic break, as I did a lot of cleaning, laundry, raking, and cooking, and only a little bit of work. The next two weeks will be work all the time every day, so it's a good thing I had some time for basic home maintenance. But, two more weeks, and then I'll basically be home free in terms of 7-day weeks. No more of them for months! I'm not even sure what I will do with myself with all those days "off". Yikes. Next thing you'll be telling me I'll be working 8-hour days as well (hah!).

And so, the mid-term doldrums, but I'll be free of them soon.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

lull

Back from conferencing, with students, which was fun. My first undergrad presented a poster, which was good. Ze was really nervous at first and very worried about remembering everything, but by the end ze was happily asking people if they had any questions and giving a great overview of both ze's poster and mine, since they went together to some extent. It was nice to see that growth in self-confidence over the course of an afternoon!

This conference generally gives me a boost in research motivation, but this year I'm a little bit more depressed than excited. I think this is partially because the scheduling of things left me postering during most of the talks I wanted to see, which was lame, but the fact that I didn't have that much exciting data to present was also a downer. I keep telling myself that I'm three years into a teaching position, my most recent field seasons have been cancelled, and I'm still without significant external funding, so of course I don't have a lot of exciting new data to present, and that's ok. Especially since I still had something to show for the past year and students are getting something out of their time in my lab.

But, I'm taking on some professional service things this year, and it seems like a strange time to find myself in a dissemination lull. I'm starting to worry about stalling out just as I need my research community to value me as a member, not least so that they can write me some decent tenure letters in a few years. Those of us who are younger seem to be the only active members of our subfield who are at small colleges; I can't help but wonder whether those who are more senior will consider that particular aspect of our jobs when considering our research output.

So, there's more stress for the next few months. Now, back to grading and all the work I didn't do this week. I should probably not end up being the only one in class who has not finished the 300 pages I assigned last week.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

perception

A student just left my office after telling me that she really likes Intro to Discipline but is worried that she isn't smart enough to do science. This after I finished telling her how well she did on the first big assignment.

I hope I talked her out of that idea. What I wanted to say was:

You're killing me, student. I think I might cry.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

weekend

Today appears to be Abortion Protest Day in Small Town, which always makes me angry. At least this group was using text-only signs; no pictures of dead babies that may or may not have been aborted. I'm just trying to go buy some liquor on my Sunday afternoon, crazy people, so back off.

Also, I am mostly annoyed that they have little kids out there holding signs. If you think so highly of a particular ideal that you want to hold signs, fine, but I don't think your 6-year-old is really capable of deciding that for herself.

So now that I've spent 12 full hours of my weekend on work, and still haven't gotten to my grading, it is time to procrastinate with some decent exercise. If I'm feeling so sore tomorrow that I can't climb stairs, I will feel much less guilty about the fact that I will have no time to work out.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

evil professor

Tomorrow I will be making enemies of every student who takes classes with me.

In my freshman course, the students are not particularly fond of our most recent readings. So, instead of me pulling/pushing/prodding them to talk, I will be making them run their own discussion of the chapters we read this week. These guys are turning in their first big paper tomorrow, so I'm sure they'll be thrilled to have to do group work too.

Then, as students in my Intro to Discipline course show up to deposit their first ginormous assignment in my hands, I will be giving them a reading quiz, and we'll talk about the two smaller assignments that are due soon and the exam they have next week.

Mwahaha.

If only I wasn't planning to suffer just as much, with a big paper and a big problem set to grade, plus a field trip and a research excursion planned for this weekend.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

payback

Guess how much work I did this weekend?! None! Or, more specifically, I felt like crap on Friday, lazed about and organized/cleaned my house instead of working on Saturday, and did required-but-not-useful-for-the-coming-week work today. And THEN I went out and had some fun, which was really where everything went wrong.

I will pay for this evening's enjoyment by working like crazy for the next five days. Plus a field trip next weekend, so, make that six days. And I doubt I'll get far enough on posters that need to be done soon, so...7 days? Well, better call it 14 days, to be safe. At least by then I have to go to a conference, so I'll have no choice but to get my ass outta town.

So, life is crazy. But I like that my students balance my moods. Whenever I get particularly fed up with whiny kids who refuse to partner themselves out for a class project, someone gets excited about a research project or a field trip. Whenever I get frustrated by my schedule and my lack of time to do anything well, I get some really good questions about lecture material. As usual, thanks, students, for keeping me sane.

Friday, September 23, 2011

friday

Having never taken a steroid, I was very unaware of the potential side-effects (also, I probably should have read the insert info). Now that I've been done for 24 hours, I'm having some lovely withdrawal symptoms that include feeling like complete shit and freezing my ass off in my office as I attempt to get through the rest of the day. Hopefully my doctor's office will call back soon so I can bitch them out for not tapering the end of that medication.

I won't bore you with the series of additional problems that have been caused by my damned meds. It's been shitty. I was unaware that I was so sensitive to these various pills, and it kinda pisses me off.

In other news, students and organizations are backing out of obligations, I still have too much to do, and I have to work for half of the weekend on non-research.

If I didn't have a film ready for my afternoon class, this day would officially suck.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

awareness failures

I missed an abstract deadline this week; after getting everything ready to submit, I just forgot. Although, in my defense, who the hell puts abstract deadlines on random days in the middle of the week? (probably everyone, all the time...but I would go for a late-submission late fee option, please).

Partner got home last night, and immediately added to my general sense of being befuddled by reality. I was confused that I had been sleeping poorly and sweating at night all week. Partner immediately observed, "aren't you taking a steroid?" So, the person who hasn't even been here is more aware of my life's context than I am.

Hopefully I have the rest of my to-do list in some sort of semi-complete form. I'll never finish everything on it, but if it's all there, at least that's some sort of progress.

Friday, September 16, 2011

week

This first full week of the term chewed me up and spat me out. I spent all the free time I had dealing with issues for a local group I am part of, and my cat now officially hates me for abandoning her during all daylight hours. And I still have all the things I didn't accomplish during the week to do this weekend.

Amazingly, astoundingly, ALL of my classes have gone really well. This is, of course, just my opinion, but I'm really happy with the time IN the classroom, even if all of the time OUT of the classroom sucked.

Also, I have maintained a decent workout schedule, even when it meant eating at 9 pm. This will probably be harder once Partner gets home (him on a family vacation makes my schedule much more flexible), but in theory things will calm down soon? Small victories, in any case, are better than none.

Monday, September 12, 2011

bits

Having dinner at 9pm means overeating due to extreme hunger.

Pay attention to Target's bulk "deals" - this evening I noted a single-pack of saline solution for $2.99, and a double pack for $6.25. I'm glad they want me to pay them more to save them some cardboard.

My doctor has me on a nasal spray, an allergy pill, an antibiotic, and a steroid, all for a low-discomfort sinus infection. I'm not sure whether this means I should be more concerned, or whether he's gone a bit overboard.

Regardless, I should probably not be having this beer.

Also, Mother Nature, I was all about the cooler temperatures. Taking us back into the 90s is not ok. Take note.

Friday, September 9, 2011

already

I'm already:

- so far behind on emails that I'm accidentally not replying to fairly important student requests in a timely manner.

- so overbooked that I can barely find time to meet with people.

- not getting enough sleep.

- overlooking lab management issues, including timely chemical waste disposal.

- missing the seniors who left last spring (or, in some cases, today).

I'm already:

- thrilled by the fact that my freshmen are taking good notes on their readings.

- looking forward to taking students to new places.

- impressed by the discussion skills and displays of verbal bravery by students who just got here.

- excited that so many students are utilizing a particular skill that I teach as part of their senior work or other projects.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

back to the classroom

Dear students,

You are adorable. But seriously, you need to do some things for me so I don't lose my mind.

a. Double check your course numbers when you sign up for classes. Also read your course schedule, and make sure the things you signed up for are on there.

b. Don't use Internet Explorer. For some reason I expected you guys to be more technologically competent and/or internet-savvy than myself; apparently that was a bad call on my part.

c. Don't back out of verbal commitments made at the end of Spring term.

d. Don't second-guess every single class choice until you've actually gone to one meeting for each class.

e. Don't send me emails without greetings that demand information about "the class" without specifying which class you're talking about.

This term I'm feeling much more like a mentor than I have before. I'm not sure whether this is because I finally feel capable of focusing on that aspect of my position, or whether it's because I'm now that much older than the incoming students. Whatever the reason, I'm more amused by their craziness than annoyed by it, which is probably good progress on my part. Hello Fall 2011!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

predictions

I have a new student as an advisee who is basing all of their class decisions on Rate My Professor, the desires of their family members, and the random opinions of the few upperclassmen they've met so far. This is going to be an excellent term for them, I'm sure.

I'm already taking on more independent study students, because I am perpetually a sucker for seniors who have only recently become interested in my field.

This new class is striking me as way more interested, involved and motivated than the new students I taught last fall. Maybe it's just a first impression, but I hope this bodes well.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

motivation

As the horrible blogger that I am, I've left this place empty for almost a month. I was off on a variety of adventures sans internet for part of that time, but for the rest all I can say is that I also haven't finished my grant proposal, my manuscript, or my syllabi, and all of this is going to be very bad for me this week.

This summer was probably the best stretch of down time that I've had since coming to SLAC, even with summer students and lab organization and everything else. But, I still fell into the "I wouldn't be doing this work if I was in the field, so why should I do it now?" trap early on, slacking off far more than I should have. I did get a lot accomplished, but much of it remains incomplete, as noted above.

This fall promises insanity and insomnia, as well as far too many conferences. On the list:

- three grant proposals, although one of them will be written primarily over the winter break
- three conferences, with three posters, one talk and one panel between them
- one book chapter and one manuscript; the chapter can be finished in the early spring, but the paper really needs to go in by Nov.
- taking on a more significant leadership role in a professional organization
- taking on primary responsibility for student applications for the field school I work with
- teaching an extra half-credit course plus mentoring a serious independent study student, not to mention seniors doing their research projects. The variability here is something I worry about, since I know the technology-heavy independent study will take a lot of time, but I'm not sure how much the other students will need until they get started.
- teaching the writing-heavy freshman course as one of my regular classes, which I find to be a lot of grading/editing/evaluating if I want to actually help them improve their writing

The extra teaching load this fall will leave me with a lower one in the spring, which is a plus, and the class is something I've taught enough now that it shouldn't be too bad. Still, going over the normal teaching load is always rough. Plus, I'm on research leave for a few months in 2012, and I need to prep for that.

I'm also up for my fourth-year review, which promises a fair assessment of my progress toward tenure, but also means I have to write up materials at some point in the fall. The fall that is already so full of stuff to do that I don't know when I will ever sleep. I am also concerned that I have this nagging sense that I've forgotten about something I'm supposed to be doing this term - I'm sure that will bite me in the ass at some point soon.

Which means I really should have gotten more accomplished over the summer.

On the plus side, I'm getting some data back from my summer efforts, I'm still enjoying the tomato harvest from my garden, and I'm excited about the term now that I've met with some of my incoming students. I love first years, they're so adorable and eager. I wish more of them would keep that excitement past the first term!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

off

The lab is semi-clean, my summer students are finished, and my samples are off being processed/analyzed/dealt with by others. I even cleaned and organized my office. So Partner and I are off for some real vacation in states far away from here, where the weather and views will be notably more pleasant.

Right now I'm filling up a data stick with spreadsheets, manuscript drafts, and unfinished syllabi, because although I don't plan on doing any work, I feel guilty leaving it all at home. I'm sure that's a sign of some sort of complex.

So begins the last hurrah.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

pace

This week my primary field project is meeting as a group to talk about goals, grants, databases, publications, students, etc. etc. - basically everything we could ever worry about or talk about, and we're getting it all done over seven days. It's amazing how much more useful it is to sit down in a room with people and talk, as opposed to scheduling topic-specific phone calls or emailing. It's been extremely productive, and we're not even finished yet.

It is strange to be holding a workshop at "home", though, as I'm helping to host this entire endeavor. For some reason I didn't expect it to be quite the same as a normal workshop. I thought I might still have time to exercise, for example, or get some other work done. I was completely wrong. The only difference is that instead of stumbling into a hotel room at 10 pm, I stumble into my own shower and feed my cat. Partner is off visiting family this week, which was a good call on his part - I wouldn't see him anyway!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

random

- I have fruit flies in my office, for no reason that I can discern. I'm hoping that a nearby colleague's office is producing them, not mine. But they're driving me nuts.

- I really need to figure out which books to use in the fall. Committing is difficult.

- I have to start getting up at a reasonable hour, starting tomorrow. Not looking forward to that.

- The heat wave leaves me torn on doing laundry. I want to do it in the afternoon so I can dry things on the line, but I don't want to use more electricity during peak hours. So far, I have just not done any laundry.

- I have yet to clean my mess of an office. Not that I think there are fruit-fly producing items in here...but it is a mess. It really needs to happen before Fall term.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

summertimes

So what is new here in mid July? Heat, both outside and inside my sick-for-no-good-reason self, but I am enjoying the clean house that is a nice side effect of hosting guests for the weekend.

My student is kicking some laboratory ass and will be done with everything I had set out for her before her hours are done, which means I get to make her do some of the data analysis too. My other student is barely finishing what I request, but I guess adequacy is enough to hope for from summer students. Progress, in any case.

My own efforts are far more lame: I have one negative result that I'm not sure how to publish, pretty limited initial data that will have to create a few conference abstracts, and some very early-stage grant planning going on. But nothing written, or even very writable, at the moment, which is frustrating. Also, MIA colleagues don't help.

I should probably just give up and paint something in my house. At least then I'll have something to show for July.

Monday, July 11, 2011

notes

- Do not break your datasets into multiple excel files without making a note somewhere in big purple sharpie. It really sucks to discover that you are not actually finished pulling data from your old excel sheets, because there's an entire additional file you had forgotten about

- Field notes from six years ago are hilarious

- Abstract deadlines account for exactly 64.3% of summer productivity

- People who interview me come away with the weirdest things, and never what I intended

Sunday, July 10, 2011

play

We just got back from another fun weekend somewhere more exciting than Small Town. Our cat seems to be dealing with these short absences pretty well, surprisingly, and I think we've been making the most of our free time this summer. I could get used to having an unemployed husband who is free whenever I don't have to teach...but I probably shouldn't.

The next few weeks I've designated as serious work time - I lost a lot of June to stupid details and equipment purchasing, and that plus travel has led to very little accomplished now that it is almost mid-July. The next few weeks are open, and I really need to get my ass in gear.

To do! More for my own reference than anyone else's interest:

- Abstracts #1 and #2
- 1st-authored manuscript (dear lord SOMETHING needs to get out there this summer!)
- Editing for 2 project manuscripts
- Small grants #1 and #2
- Internal funding request
- Large grant prep and quotes
- 3 syllabi, two of which are almost ready to go
- Watch 4 different movies and decide what I should show my freshmen
- Send in security forms for winter field season
- Run exercises for computer-based fall course and edit as needed
- Analyze data currently being obtained by student

So...totally doable by mid-August. Absolutely.

Friday, July 1, 2011

life without timestamps

It's 11 pm and I'm completely motivated to clean out our closets and repaint the water damage. Right now. Partner is not so keen on this idea, despite the fact that I just found him two nice jackets that he had forgotten about, buried in the back of a closet.

The summer continues to be a struggle between the schedule my body really wants to follow and the schedule that works if I want to interact with the rest of the world. Were I on my own, I would probably go to bed between 1 and 2, wake up around 11, eat breakfast for lunch, do some work, exercise around 4 or 5, eat a late dinner, and then the most productive part of my "day" would be from 8 to midnight. As it is, I try to get myself to bed by 1 at the very very latest, and to drag myself out of bed at a reasonable hour. If I wasn't sure that I would be so far off of reality that it would be painful to put myself back on real time at the end of the summer, I might just let myself do whatever I wanted to do. What else is summer for?

There would be the downside of seeing less of my husband. I guess there are motivators for maintaining a "normal person's" schedule, as well.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

it figures

We have an awesome, ginormous tree on the west side of our house - perfect for shade in the summer and one of my favorite things about our house. Today while being responsible home-owners and having our tree trimmed for probably the first time in many many years, we found out that the majority of the uppermost branches are hollow, and we should have the whole thing removed lest it fall on our brand-new roof.

I really should have expected that as soon as we dropped a large sum of money on one house update, something else would happen. This one I didn't foresee, which makes it even more frustrating. Partner has decided that we're not having anything else inspected/managed/trimmed ever again, because he just doesn't want to know what else this damned house will need.

Stupid tree. I hope it remains standing at least until Partner finds a job...which may be a while.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

bias

I just voted for a particular candidate for officer in a professional society because they graduated from SLAC. Is that bad?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

frustration

This has, so far, been the most frustrating and annoying summer I can remember. You would think, or maybe it's just I who would think, that not being in the field would make for an easier life, more work accomplished, etc. etc. Instead, I find all my time taken up with inane little details that need to be dealt with, software installations, network issues, purchasing problems, useless meetings, whatever.

If I don't get some real work done sometime soon I'm going to scream.

Friday, June 17, 2011

research fail

I have a student working in the lab this summer, which will probably be great once I get them comfortable with the work they're doing. Things are slow right now because we still need to get some samples through the setup phases before I can walk the student through the data collection. Until then, they get paid mostly to wait to press buttons and watch reactions and let things cool.

I feel like this is a waste of the money they're being paid, but the other things I have that they could do would take significant additional training, or would require me to reformat my insane data sheets so that someone else could understand them. Every time I open up a spreadsheet with the intention of handing off this work, I stare at it for a few minutes and give up, since it would be so much easier if I just did the data entry myself.

I fail at undergraduate research, not to mention making students do my work.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

timelines

The time it takes me to get extremely cranky due to....

Lack of food: 16 hours
Lack of exercise: 3 days
Lack of showers: 6 days
Lack of adequate sleep: 3 weeks
Lack of travel: 3 months
Lack of haircuts: 9 months

Zumba: 15 minutes

I am apparently not the intended audience. I'm pretty sure you have to be able to dance.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

heat

I sit on that wonderful committee charged with deciding who gets kicked out based on their academic performance. I find this committee both satisfying, since I feel like I'm really contributing to the life of the college, and depressing, since I get inside info on the accidents and illnesses and other issues that keep students from completing their work. After a few years on this committee, it serves as my benchmark for finishing a term. Now that we've made decisions for the year, I'm officially free for the summer!

Which means I should probably start going to bed and getting up at a decent hour. And stop planning fun things to do. And start writing. Damn it summer, I should have scheduled my vacation at the beginning when I should have known I would be feeling burned out, instead of scheduling everything for August.

I'll start being good on Monday. Right after the summer beer festival tomorrow.

Monday, June 6, 2011

radio silent

The end of the term is always exhausting, and then I find myself completely unmotivated to do anything at all once graduation is finally over. So, in an effort to avoid entirely negative commentary, I've had nothing to say.

And suddenly it's June 6! Which makes me realize that summer is going to fly by unless I grab some. So I guess I will try to make it into the office tomorrow - the heat this week is not helping my motivation. I do need to clean up the lab from the term so my summer students can get to work.

I will also be getting into shape this summer - we broke down and re-joined the local fitness center now that Partner has the time to spend lifting weights. I will probably still be doing my cardio at home, but I may see what some of these fitness craze classes are like - I somehow don't expect to enjoy Zumba, but I guess I will try it once.

We may not have done much over the past few days, but our new roof is almost finished. I think I get to count that as home improvement work, even if I just sat in the air conditioning and listened to the hammering.

Friday, May 27, 2011

things that shouldn't surprise me

End of term, which means students crawling out of the woodwork. It also means a light at the end of the tunnel, which makes those students bearable, but there are always a few of my favorites:

- students who couldn't be bothered to come to lab during the lab period, and send emails at midnight asking me to set up the entire lab again at their convenience, but asap since they're stressed and trying to finish their work for the term.

- students who just don't show up for the last week or so, leading me to wonder whether they've given up entirely or whether they've had something significant happen that I should probably know about.

- students who want to take their final exam early for various personal reasons, some of which are actually valid.

- students who don't turn anything in, leading me to curse their names as I anticipate their failure.

I have research sitting on my desk, begging for my attention, and I just can't make time for it...yet. This is the most tortuous period of the entire academic year - freedom is close, but yet untouchable.

I'll be back to loving this job, just give me about a week.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

moments of truth

Today was Partner's last day, which as a Tuesday during the end of my term had to be fairly anticlimactic. I didn't even get to have dinner with him due to various student-oriented events. Apparently it hasn't sunk in yet - I'm waiting to see whether he gets up super early tomorrow before realizing that he doesn't have to go anywhere.

So I've been making summer plans, since he can now do things on whatever time scale we see fit. It's amazing how full the summer has already become, when I still have two more lectures to give.

The grand single-income experiment begins, again.

Friday, May 20, 2011

collapse

It's been a hell of a (shitty) week, on a variety of work-related fronts. I'm hoping for a weekend full of thunderstorms so I can just hole up and avoid any reminders of the world outside my walls, at least to the extent that might be possible given the grading that has to get done.

Hooray for Friday, and a few nights of freedom.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

big deal

I'm quite excited to report that plagiarism is no longer "a big deal", as my student who took an entire paragraph of someone else's writing (from our textbook, no less) has informed me that this is a minor gaffe and not something I should be "punishing" them for.

Student, you are a lifesaver. In that case, I can't wait to stop having to read all these papers!

End of the term, you are awesome.

Monday, May 16, 2011

parent socialization

End of term. No time to actually do all my grading while also reading senior research papers before their due dates. Interesting.

In the midst of end-of-term madness I attended a friend's small child's birthday party. A party understandably intended as a small-person socialization hour, so I went to talk to my friends and peers who are parents to those small people.

The non-parent is quite obvious at this kind of event, and it's not because I'm not comfortable around kids - I like kids, I babysat quite a bit as a teenager, and I am happy to play with kids. But I don't do well with kid conversation, and I usually end up saying something that I immediately recognize as a likely insult to the parent, even though it wasn't intended that way.

I may, for example, stupidly voice my surprise that a kid still fits into his/her baby car seat, which is clearly taken as a commentary on the lack of growth of said child as soon as the words escape my mouth. At which point I hastily try to find something more complimentary to say, like admiring the baby's abundant hair (there's not that much to work with here!) Or I ask one of those "I'm obviously not familiar with kids at all" types of questions - if I ask you about teething, I am trying to distract you from my first disastrous observation and remind you of my ignorance.

To the parents out there, please give us non-parents a break - we have no idea what will piss you off, and we aren't trying to be assholes. We're just clueless and socially awkward around parents.

Monday, May 9, 2011

gah

Tonight we sat down to budget our soon-to-be-single-income household. Holy crap, single income households, I salute you for not starving to death by now.

I really hope SLAC gives us a cost-of-living raise for next year. And that we never have to go to the doctor for any reason ever.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

ordering authors

I have a particular weakness when it comes to research, because every team I have ever worked with has been made up primarily of people I considered very good colleagues, and often friends, either before we started working together or very early in the process. I guess this means I've been very lucky, but it has also resulted in my inability to deal with situations in which my collaborators are not friends and/or are not very well known to me. I have a hard time with the interpretive part of communication that is so easy when you know someone well or know how they will take your comments.

I have previously mentioned a new collaboration with international and high-profile researchers. So far we've gotten almost no real data beyond field observations, but we think we have some exciting things to say IF the data we anticipate do come out as expected. I was recently asked how I viewed the order of authors for this project, which I have a hard time answering since we haven't even gotten the data back much less started writing a manuscript.

I was working on this project very briefly before my colleagues were brought in, and I was therefore able to pinpoint field locations to start our work together, but the interpretive piece came together quickly because of their previous expertise. One of them in particular was able to get us a connection for the analyses we needed, making publishable data a possibility. I think the order overall probably depends in part upon who's doing most of the writing, and while I don't really feel the need to insist on being first, I'm also not ready to hand over first authorship without even seeing what we make out of what we've started and how much my previous work plays a role.

So, while I will probably answer with some version of "I'm not set on being first but let's wait and see", it seems like a strange question to be asked at this point in a project. Maybe older, wiser, higher-profile scientists have been burned before and see a need to organize this kind of detail? ...or at least I tell myself. Maybe I've just been sticking too close to my comfort zone when developing collaborations.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

continuity

I am currently drowning in meetings and grading. I have a field trip this weekend, and a lot of small grant stuff to deal with, and by then I'm sure whatever grading I do accomplish this week will have been replaced by something new.

The labs we're working on right now in my intro class are the kind designed to make a student think about things in a certain way, more than they are intended to produce a correct answer. I have one student who absolutely cannot handle this, gets frustrated if he/she can't immediately figure out the answer, and then asks me huffily why he/she would ever know the answer to the given question. At this point I usually point to some particular phrase in the lab manual that answers the current concern, or I walk them through the thought process required. This is fine, except that it happens over and over again and the student still refuses to spend three seconds reading the manual or thinking. I don't know what to do with them except to impose some sort of time-out requirement, in which they are not allowed to ask me questions until they have spent at least three minutes trying to figure it out.

Also, I do not appreciate huffy students.

Partner is still home, trying not to hurt himself any more than he already has. Contemplating his retirement activities. Budgeting. It's a good thing we were planning for this anyway.

Friday, April 29, 2011

frustration

Partner is home from work again with back issues, which is something I can't help him with at all and is therefore hard for me to handle. It's also frustrating that this is exactly why he was planning to quit his job, but he isn't quitting quite yet and so he just has to wait it out and then go back to work. Or, at least that is the current plan - enough of this and retirement will be coming early. Says I.

I've been a little depressed lately by my research progress. A few projects have been started and then fallen through, others are well on their way but not at publishable stages yet. Yet others are in the planning stages. I've maintained a decent publication rate thus far, but I think it's going to be falling off soon if things don't start panning out more quickly - and given the fact that my summer fieldwork has been canceled for this year, I'm not sure how likely that might be.

I think part of my problem is that my comparison point is graduate school. What had I accomplished by the end of year three? I know that's not the best comparison, but I also don't think it's so horrible for the first few years considering that my first few years of grad school were spent taking classes. And from a publication perspective, I'd be behind right now.

I just have to keep reminding myself that having the summer at home is a benefit, since I'll have the time to write and solve this problem before it even begins.

Monday, April 25, 2011

training

I'm trying to wean myself away from instantly answering student emails, especially when they come in at night. I'm ok with being available, but I think that after-dinner responses go a little too far, and I don't want students to start expecting me to be available whenever they want my help.

This of course breaks down in so many situations that it barely exists as a rule: if it's the night before an exam or assignment due-date, if the student is already doing so horribly that I want to try to help them, if the student is awesome and therefore deserving of my help, if I know I won't be online until late the next morning, etc. etc.

It's the thought that counts, right?

Friday, April 22, 2011

favorites

I'm having a snarky Friday. Therefore I can provide this list of my very favorite things from this week.

- Students blaming me when they leave work so last-minute that they can't possibly finish it on time. Specifically, being asked, "It's kind of last minute for that, isn't it?" I AGREE, student! It IS kind of last minute for that. Indeed.

- Being asked to work for free.

- Not receiving responses to time-sensitive questions.

- Having to walk across campus in the rain.

Luckily I have some awesome upperclassmen who have been, unknowingly, making my week a little bit better by actually appreciating their education. Thanks awesome students.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

schedules

I really, really, really need to figure out why I'm having trouble falling asleep at night. I don't wake up much, but of late melatonin and some post-midnight time-frames have been necessary for me to fall asleep in the first place. And because I try not to work too close to bedtime, the extra hours are not increasing my productivity. I've decided that for tomorrow I will be ditching my attempt at a morning workout (at least I got one in today!) and instead will be sleeping in a bit. Damn you, insomnia.

I have some funding that I need to finish spending, and I'm having a hard time narrowing down my purchasing needs. Am I better off buying things that would make my life easier yet are expensive and are not completely necessary, or should I buy equipment I don't yet have that may or may not end up being necessary for side projects in the future? It's a tricky question, and one that will probably be determined by my mood whenever I happen to be flipping through equipment catalogs, and/or current sale items. It's a good problem to have, I guess.

We recently booked ourselves a vacation in Las Vegas during this coming summer - given that we are usually drawn to camping-based vacations, this is a new one for us and one encouraged by some friends who really love Vegas. We figured we should at least do it once. Anyone out there who also loves Vegas, we would appreciate suggestions of where to go and what to see.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

workin' it

I had a really good three days of hard workouts, plus yard work, late last week and into the weekend. I was even riding my bike to work since the weather was decent. This week we're back to winter weather and I've been way too tired both in the morning and after work to try to exercise. I hate going more than one day without a workout during the week, but there are times when it can't be avoided. I've been wondering whether this trend of hard weekends and slacker weeks is somehow a bad way to exercise - presumably doing something is better than doing nothing, but am I mis-training my muscles or otherwise doing harm with this all-or-nothing cycle?

It probably doesn't matter - if I had the energy or the time for a 20-minute run, I would be doing it, so there's no point in wondering what if.

Monday, April 18, 2011

vendor fail

Our wedding photographer was great pre-wedding, and did a good job the day of as well, as far as we were concerned. Since then, he's been less than fantastic, notably post-payment. A few months back we ordered some prints from his overpriced gallery, and waited two months before finally asking him why our order had not moved past "submitted". He fixed it, and we got prints a few weeks later. Ok, arguably his statement that his automated system had failed us might have been the truth. I was not overly annoyed.

Today I emailed him to see when we might receive our disc of images, the final thing we've been waiting on. He claims to have sent it months ago, and wonders why the postal system has failed. Granted, he does say he'll be making us a new disc, but two crappy excuses make me think this guy is no better than my slacker students, who are so positive that they sent me their papers via email and can't imagine why I haven't gotten them yet. Get your shit together dude, at this point I would be calling my students into my office.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

items

I did not get enough work done this weekend - in fact, most of the work done this weekend is the work I'm about to start. However, I did clean my house, which was at a point where sinks were about to start moving around on the power of their bacterial hordes. I also got some yard work done, stocked up on herbs from the local garden store, and planted lettuce and tomato seeds (I know, I am late to the gardening party, it being mid April now).

Good weekend, over all, including a lot of time with Partner even though he worked half of Saturday.

The past week has been fairly good to me - I caught up on grading and, more importantly, found out I received a fellowship I had applied for that will pay my way out of the country during my pre-tenure sabbatical next year. I'm hoping that Partner will actually enjoy living in a foreign country for a few months - we will have internet access, at least. I plan to get myself some language tutoring, which he may join in on just for the fun of it.

I have a lot of little things to get done that are not super important or very time-sensitive, and so they have been falling to the end of my list every day. Soon I will be swimming in a to-do list made up of tiny little obligations, which itself is an intimidating thought. I need to start crossing things off, even if they are annoying and minor issues.

Monday, April 11, 2011

onward

I just graded a paper that I'm fairly sure was written under the influence of some sort of hallucinogenic drug. I can only hope so, for the student's sake.

I have a million hours' worth of grading to do; instead of grading yesterday I did yard work. Yard work that really needed to get done. But I'm paying for it now, and will probably keep paying for it all week. Exciting times.

I am officially not going to be in the field this summer. Partner is happy about this, and I am looking forward to SLEEPING during the summer and having a regular shower, not to mention air conditioning. But I haven't had my summer to myself for years, and I've forgotten how to manage that much free time. Right now I'm busy planning trips and deciding which parts of my house to paint - I need to back off those plans, probably, and schedule in at least one manuscript and maybe a grant rewrite, plus lab work. I think I need someone to make me a schedule, because I don't want to make myself work that hard now that I have the summer open!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

home again

I made it home, despite numerous delays. Good thing I didn't actually plan to help my TA today, because I would never have gotten to lab on time. Now, ten billion potential plans for the summer, to be decided right now! It should be a fun weekend. To recap the past week a bit:

- This new continent I had never been to is pretty cool - the few hundred km I visited, at least. I'm sure that's representative.

- I was approached by residents of this country TWICE and asked questions in a language I don't speak, apparently with the askers fully expecting me to know what they were saying. This doesn't happen anywhere I do fieldwork, so it was kinda fun.

- Networking is fun when there's no pressure to do so and everyone around is from a similar institution with similar goals.

- I had a lot of fun with people 15-20 years older than I am. I think this officially pushes me into the category of "adult" and is both interesting and terrifying.

- My cat actually missed me. It's a miracle.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

fly

I fly out of Medium-Sized City, most of the time, where there always seems to be one business guy who thinks he alone of everyone on the plane is actually going somewhere exciting or flies at all frequently. This time Mr. Big Shot made a point of loudly explaining his foreign itinerary to his seatmate, then asking the stewardess for gate connection information, being sure to note that he was going to a Foreign City and he didn't need a map of the airport, thanks, because he flies there all the time.

Once I connected, for some reason my Really Long Flight didn't seem half bad, and I actually fell asleep for a few hours. I'm still completely wiped out today - I'm not a fan of arriving in the morning when I fly abroad. I'd much rather get in around dinner time, stumble my way into some food, and go to sleep. Today I got in around 9 am, and even with a bus ride and checking in to the hotel I still have to wait around for several hours, then go find dinner, THEN go to sleep - but at least I got a shower and am starting to feel human again.

Hooray for being here!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

off and away...again

It didn't seem so close to the end of spring break when I made these arrangements, but now that I'm set to travel again it does seem like very little time has passed. But, too late to change things, I'm off again for another week in a different country, this time one I've never been to before. I'm excited to add an entirely new continent to my checklist.

I am having a hard time packing for 80-90 degree weather (I know, you can hate me), especially since this is a workshop and I have to at least attempt to dress like I'm a professional. Or at least like I'm not an undergraduate.

Tomorrow I get to finish a few final details for next week's lab, try to find the various pieces of travel gear buried somewhere in my office, and then I hunker down for a nice long series of flights. I've been lusting after some of those noise-cancelling headphones, but have been balking at their price-tag, so I'm waiting for the flight that pushes me over the edge. Will it be one of these? We'll find out!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

reviews

Ok, crazy editor people, if you ask me to write a review article, you have to know what you want, and then you have to still want that same thing six months later. You also need to get your editorial asses in gear before someone else writes the same review. In addition, I would appreciate it if your standards for the visual elements of the paper did not match those of an introductory textbook. I'd be more than happy to get you relevant photographs from all over the world, provided you fund those expeditions; otherwise, you're stuck with things I've actually seen and taken pictures of.

Note to self and others: don't agree to write review articles for "educational" publications that only vaguely fit into your field of inquiry.

Monday, March 28, 2011

300

300th post! Who knew I had that much to spew onto the interwebs!

For post 300, I offer a few random bullet points that have been rattling around in my head.

- I need to stop responding to facebook updates posted by high-school acquaintances who insist upon making everything a liberals-versus-conservatives, us-or-them dichotomy. They are not going to start appreciating nuanced political opinions just because I attempt to point out their oversights, and I am wasting my time making myself sound holier-than-thou to people I don't even know or care about at all. Which makes me wonder why I ever accepted their friend requests, or why they don't block me and my annoying commentary. Also, why am I blogging about this?

- I need to start using more phrases with dashes. Yes.

- Obviously, my early-to-bed sleep schedule is now completely toast, and I'm lucky if I get up in time to eat breakfast before my office hours. I have another trip next week, and I'm hoping my jet lag puts me back on Partner's schedule again once I get home.

- My summer field season is still up in the air, mostly for financial reasons, and I find myself daydreaming about all the stuff I could accomplish if I was here for those 2.5 months. Painting my walls! Travel! Gardening! And, yes, research and writing! It would probably be a good thing to be home, even if I do have some specific data collection plans that I'm excited to get started on this year in the field.

- I finally (!) got my wedding photos in the mail, after a stalled order and a slow photographer. They are nice, I admit, and I got a few bonus prints because, apparently, the sizes we ordered did not appropriately encompass the photographer's artistic vision for those particular photos, so he sent us the bigger, weirdly-sized, photographer-approved versions for free. This is ok with me, but I now have to decide whether I want to get weirdly-sized mats cut for my frames, or whether I am too lazy for that. Guess which is more likely.

- My parents want us to visit, and they also want to rent a house on the coast for the entire family to stay in for a few weeks this summer. I am torn about this: house on the coast = awesome, but living with my entire immediate family for several weeks = not awesome. At least when I visit the normal house, my siblings come and go.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

bad signs

Someone in my subfield once said (though he was perhaps not the first), "Life's too short to work with assholes"

If there is any perk to working at a SLAC, it is this: I don't have to be so concerned with publishing that I put up with asshole co-PIs just so I can get data and publish publish publish. And I have been really, really lucky to find an awesome group of people to work with at my summer field project - we all get along, we have fun, no one pressures anyone else when life happens and derails project plans. We even have an interesting mix of career stages and institutional settings between us, which provides for a lot of benefits (good insurance from an R1, good undergrad participants from a SLAC, etc).

My winter work is a different story, but one that has largely been tempered by the fact that it is secondary to my summer project and it involves my dissertation area, which I know a lot about. However, the team there is ginormous and I am largely just consulting, with very little interest paid in what I have to say. I have previously considered quitting the project, but haven't been pushed that far quite yet, and there are a number of people I enjoy there even if they aren't working with me directly.

Recently this winter project brought in some other scientists who had previously worked in similar settings; we got a lot of great work done as a result, and we might be able to tell a pretty cool story in the end. I enjoyed being part of a team again, instead of just doing my own thing, but I'm also finding that these particular colleagues are not my ideal cohort. In particular, the head of the team is Famous, and whether that is causative or not, pushy and demeaning of others' ideas at times. I particularly don't appreciate being told that I am wrong about things that I've been the only one to publish on, ever, by someone who just showed up yesterday. I think the collaboration will be useful, but I'm not really enjoying it, and I'm looking forward to my summer team even more this year.

We'll see how long I stick it out. I'd love to get a pub or two from my winter site, but if I don't, I'll survive, and I will probably be fine in terms of publishing for tenure. Lucky me.

Friday, March 25, 2011

plans

Despite my best efforts and Partner's fear of the future, I've started making long-term plans. Schedules of life events, best times to do X, Y and Z. It scares me shitless to make any kind of permanent decision, but I think we're at a point where we have to start doing it, not least because I'm tired of living in limbo.

Most of these plans involve Partner's imminent unemployment, because regardless of what he says, the fact that he was home today with back problems means that his current employment situation is destined for failure and I'm going to be enforcing its termination before the end of the year. He needs to quit before he does something permanent to himself.

We'll miss the dual-income figure that was so nice to see on our 2010 tax returns, definitely. We'll try to find him something else in the area, or at least something doable with a little relocation and both of us commuting. And if all else fails he'll get to travel with me, which would at least be fun, if not profitable. Some of my plans require this, in fact, so we'll have to see what kind of flexibility the job market might hold (and don't worry, I expect the answer to that to be "none").

Just promising to make some of these decisions has done a lot for my optimism this week - although admittedly my spring break travels reminded me of the bigger picture and the fact that there's so much more out there. I realized that I've started to feel a little trapped by Small Town, even with my tri-yearly trips elsewhere, and I need to start believing that I can build something from where we are now.

The fact that my plans include no means for long-term stability is something I'm going to ignore for the moment. Of everything I've done in this life so far, none of the things I enjoyed the most were of significant long-term benefit on paper, and I regret none of them. I refuse to give that up just because I'm supposed to be a responsible adult. I don't want to find that I've grown old without experiencing what I wanted to experience, just because those things were financially unsound, or perhaps not an ideal route to my preferred career status.

Fuck it, kids, this life is all we've got.

Edit, and P.S. Not about babies. With apologies to my MIL.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

small potatoes

I have a tax guy I really like - he always manages to get me a bigger return than I think I should get, he answers all my stupid questions, and he lets me do everything by mail. We've been using him since we lived in City, and liked him so much that we still have him do our returns.

Tax guy therefore knows our history, knows that I have always been the one communicating with his office and sending in the receipts. He knows that I have always made more money than Partner and that I own our house.

This year we filed jointly for the first time. Guess who is the "Taxpayer" and who is the "Spouse"?

Partner, at least, is having fun with this one. "I'm the Taxpayer!"

Also, I'm back from my spring break trip with students. It was good overall, and highly rewarding for me to get to witness students experiencing things for the first time. Some of them had never seen mountains before. Also, teaching a field science is SO MUCH EASIER when you are IN the field. The downside is that I have no downtime before classes start up again, but I think it was worth it. Maybe not something I'll do every year, but definitely something to try again in the future.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

road trip

Tomorrow I get in a van at a ridiculous hour and start driving a class full of students on a spring break trip. Why, I have to ask myself, did I think this would be a good idea? Also, watching students grocery shop for their own food is simultaneously amusing and depressing. Some are convinced they can feed a group of four for a week with a single jar of peanut butter, while others are bringing the majority of the produce section.

This will be interesting, no matter what.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

the term of doom

Term of doom! You have the worst students. Students whose apathy and disinterest was even noticed by someone who recently gave my class a tour during a field trip. The poor tour guide guy wrote to me to see what had gone wrong, and I had to write back and admit that my students just suck this term, sorry about that.

Term of doom, you have also been filled with computer bugs, which is, I suppose, what I get for using a new version of a software package. Still, this has been frustrating for me and for my students, and I will probably have to bring them donuts or something during finals so they don't hate me forever.

Term of doom! Too many service commitments! Too many meetings! Too much paper piled in my office for no good reason! Too many grant proposals written for no purpose other than the joy of receiving two-sentence rejection emails. A term devoted to setting up a field season that may not even run. A term of frustration.

A term that will soon transition into spring break. Screw you, term of doom. Get lost.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

this is a title

I need some more inspiring title ideas. Obviously.

Today I was rejected from another small grant - I hate these little society grants that don't give you any feedback and leave you assuming that you just didn't know the right people. Which is probably true, but it's still frustrating to get nothing at all other than "sorry!" At least tell me whether my interdisciplinary proposal was too interdisciplinary for you, so I can avoid writing for your grant in the future.

I also got to listen to a voicemail from a roofer I had contacted, who had called me mid-morning because he wanted to come by and give me a quote. Roofer, why can't you just ask me to make an appointment? Who sits around in their house all day and would therefore be available whenever you happened to call? I don't get this at all, and will probably just go with companies that schedule appointments, but this kind of thing happens so frequently when I try to hire services in Small Town that I start to feel like I'm the one with the unreasonable expectations.

My intro class this term is potentially the most difficult group I've taught (or, attempted to teach) yet at SLAC. They're apathetic, come in late, talk over me until I tell them to shut up, don't respond to email, don't do the readings, and don't seem to care that they're getting bad grades. I'm a bit late to try to change anything, but I also can't figure out what's making this so hard, other than the students themselves and perhaps the fact that I failed to create a "no laptops" rule. That one has proven to be disastrous, and makes me very sure about using a no electronics policy in the future. I actually get emails from students DURING class, sometimes containing assignments that were due that day. WTF students. You're killing me.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Saturday

Dear students: you are awesome for blowing off today's field trip, in numbers just significant enough that I didn't have to drive (I was the overload driver). I know I should probably not be happy about this, but it meant I had time to clean my house and do a billion loads of laundry, so, thanks!

While cleaning, I made our vacuum cleaner emit smoke, so I suspect it will be next on the replacement list. For today, however, new dishwasher = awesome. Thanks to Partner for his installation skillz.

When I get free return address labels, they say "Ms. Liberal Arts Lady". When Partner gets free return address labels, they say "Partner Lastname". What gives?

My mother-in-law (hello mother-in-law!) is passive-aggressively trying to get me to have a baby. Today's was in an email to Partner, in which she noted the importance of multivitamins to the pre-pregnant woman. Sigh.

Friday, February 25, 2011

week

Perhaps I should be more specific when I tell students that I can only meet with them at the beginning of a period. As in, let them know that I will be leaving at a certain time and they really need to be here before that time. Since I failed to do so today, I guess I'll sit in my office a little longer and share the following:

I recently published a book chapter, and this week I received a copy of the book. I like this system - my previous book chapter was in a conference proceedings and not only did I not get a copy of the book, I had to hunt down and borrow a copy of the book in order to make my own pdf of the final version of my paper. Apparently, official series are totally the way to go. This is probably not surprising news.

I'm running a field portion of a class this spring and I've already totally screwed my budget (or, more specifically, weather and gas prices have totally screwed my budget) to the point where I might not get paid very much in the end (my stipend comes out of the field fees). I'm not super pissed about this, since it is sort of a trial run and I'm excited to do the trip anyway, but if I can't standardize my budget I might not be able to feasibly run similar trips in the future, and that stinks.

Monday, February 21, 2011

to blog

One of the things I enjoy about keeping a blog is having the ability to read back through my own past. I was never very good at journaling, and I probably wouldn't write things down if they were just for my own benefit, but the creation of a personal archive has ended up being one of the primary motivations for my blogging. In some ways I don't care if you people out there are reading, because it's for me. And if reading this helps someone else along the way, that's a bonus.

Not to completely dismiss my readers. The other major reason I've kept the blog is its function as an entry-point into the blogger community, which has done a lot to make me feel less alone over the past few years. It's really nice to hear from people in similar situations. But that's a different post.

In my usual state of late-night uber-reflectiveness (hooray for post-weekend insomnia), I read through some of my posts from this time last year. I am particularly ashamed to note that I have been more negative recently, and that I was much more reflective regarding my job and academia in general a year ago. Some of this might be due to my being here longer - things become normal instead of bloggable and interesting. I think some of it also reflects dissatisfaction with our current state; Partner had hoped to find something more suitable by now, and I get to feel guilty for being the one with the satisfying work. But our timing was also pretty horrible, so we should probably just be happy he has a job at all... which also makes me feel guilty, since I obviously am not appreciating what we have when I'm worrying about finding something better.

Guilt spirals are my specialty.

Does this count as negativity? Maybe. I should try to be positive. Like focusing on the fact that I get to take my students West next month, to one of my favorite places. There's a job perk! I should also stop venting my frustrations onto the internet, most likely, unless they might be useful or instructive to others. Which is probably not the case very often.

I will say that I have been impressed by current events both abroad and domestic, as I am generally a pessimist and have very little faith in humanity's ability to do what is best for itself. I like that I am being shown that I am wrong, in many different places.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

to the pain

Oh, late 80's movies, I will always love you.

Tonight I made it all the way though the P90X Plyometrics workout, by working at approximately 2/3 the speed of the crazy DVD people whenever the activity involved both feet leaving the floor at the same time. Considering that my first attempt left me light-headed, I think this is significant progress. We'll see how the resulting pain (tomorrow) compares to my first attempt, before I call this a true success story. At least I now have a worthy fitness goal: complete Plyometrics at the demonstrated speed without passing out.

Speaking of pain, I was recently informed that I may need a new roof. Given the youthful nature of my current roof, this is sad news, and I'm awaiting proof of replicability before moving forward. Still, I am braced for some painful information in the near future. Savings, I quite enjoyed our time together, and I hope that someday I may have the pleasure of your company again.

Friday, February 18, 2011

jobs

My google tells me that at this time of year, lots of people hit my site because they're looking for advice on campus interviews.

I've previously given some advice based on my experiences with search committees regarding job letters and on-campus interviews at small liberal arts colleges, but you should also check out the job search advice aggregator over at Fumbling Towards Tenure Track. Not all relevant to SLAC jobs, but a good resource nevertheless!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

time

Last night Partner and I realized that, between our two schedules, this coming weekend would be our only completely free weekend between now and early May. Seriously. I know that running field trips accounts for a lot of this, but Partner also has his mandatory six-day weeks during certain times of the year. Therefore, because we are good little children, we will be driving to see Partner's family. If giving up my only weekend for months doesn't get me daughter-in-law points, nothing will.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

shit

It's hard to believe that so much can go wrong before 9 am. Today is not a good day.

To the editors of the online journal where my manuscript is still in limbo: please find new fucking editors when old ones retire. Thank you for convincing me to never write for "educational" publications ever again.

To the previous owners of my house: I hate you for making cheap decisions. I want to hunt you down and punch you in the face.

To an institution (you know who you are): Please make your fucking hiring decisions already, so I can know whether my husband will be unemployed next month, which will determine a number of decisions that I need to make soon.

To my readers: I hope you're ok with a lot of cursing today. If not...well, too late.

Monday, February 14, 2011

changes

The snow, it melts! I'm not ready for Spring. At least in the sense of the academic schedule. No! I need more time!

Partner wins at Valentine's Day, since he got me a very sweet card and I am still trying to decide what to run to the store and buy for a hopefully fancy-ish dinner. The fact that I am bad at making up recipes and I did not prep anything means that I am fairly limited in my options. I hope he will be happy with a good dessert.

I've been good lately about getting in whatever exercise I can manage - like the half-hour I talked myself into this morning. Better than nothing!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

travel dilemmas

Part 1.

I already have the entry-level elite status on airline A. Do I fly airline A, given the small chance that I might be upgraded for free during the long international flight, or do I fly airline B, given that this trip would push me into the entry-level elite status on airline B?

These are the questions that arise when you are forced to fly the cheapest option, no matter what, every time you fly.

Part 2.

Do I cancel one more day of class, making it a full week, if in doing so I get one more day abroad and time to adjust prior to a very short workshop? Keep in mind that I'm the only -ologist at SLAC, and I'm teaching entry-level -ology, which means I can't really get a guest speaker. I could show a movie, however helpful that might be.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

bits

I finally had time for a run this weekend, and discovered that my lung capacity is in the crapper. I guess that's what I get for traveling so much, and for adding so much weight training to my schedule prior to the travel.

I had a paper published last week that grew out of my undergraduate thesis, and therefore represents more than ten years of (sporadic) work. Here's hoping that it remains my maximum field-to-publication span.

I cleaned my desk in my home office this weekend, and cleaned out our home filing cabinet. We now have a giant bag full of shredded paper to recycle and I can actually use my desk without reaching around piles of random stuff. I feel so productive!

I'm almost unpacked, and only have one more load of field laundry to do. That might be a record.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

jaded

For the first time, I feel traveled-out. Too much movement. While on the plane this time around, I was thinking about how ten years ago I would get a rush from seeing new places, I would feel awed and grateful just to be standing in country X. I don’t think I’ve felt that in a long time, in at least two years, and my two-years-ago awe was the result of seeing a particular place that had been on my list since I was a little kid. A place where I now take students every year; a place where I’m no longer excited to go and which is starting to seem like a chore instead of an opportunity. How sad that having the chance to see something amazing every year is now just a thing on my list, like attending a faculty meeting.

This year in the field I was forced to clean out my GPS unit, which is completely full. This was my first field unit, the one I used throughout my dissertation, and since I’m currently working in my dissertation area I’d like to keep those points available. I was therefore dumping things from other projects, like my summer field work, which will be getting its own dedicated GPS unit. However, a few of my points are from places I went as an undergrad, or as a grad student, and I took the points just to be able to say “I was here!” A lot of these places were my first “I can’t believe I’m standing here” moments, and I may not visit many of them again. I will probably be keeping them in my GPS unit, for now, at least. I have to wonder when I’ll be so jaded that I erase them in order to record one more piece of research-related data.

This process of GPS cleaning just made it more obvious that I’ve traveled too much. Free trip somewhere? I have to check my schedule. I may say no, just because I’m feeling overstretched. And I’m a bit tired of monthly jet-lag. Everywhere new just seems like a variation on places I’ve been before, or it’s a belt-notch. If you count the last eight months, for example, I’ve been on four continents. I think I finally understand the frequent flier mile-junkies; after too many miles, you have to find SOMETHING to keep you interested.

Realizing all this had made me really sad. How do I get back that love of place, of standing on dirt I’ve never been connected to before? My current trip home has not helped, since the process of getting out of the field and getting home has not been easy. I'm not all that excited about my next scheduled plane ride.

Perhaps most importantly, can I use all this ennui to justify a cruise to Antarctica? There’s a place that has always been on my list, and which I suspect would at least temporarily topple my bad attitude.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

stuck

I was forced to leave the field early, but am now stuck due to crazy blizzards. I have, however, made it back to the States, and hope to get home at least a few days before my original return date. Crazy blizzards, you suck. Also, I'm amazed by how shitty big US airports are, in both customer service and navigability/signage, compared to European airports. Go Europe! I'm also currently working with the European carrier that brought me to the states to pay for my stay until I can fly on. I'm not sure that would happen with a US Carrier - but I hope I don't have to find out!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

out

Exam given, guest speakers arranged, assignments ready to go, fellowship applied for, student letters sent. Packed, organized (sort of), I even have a ride to the airport. As much work as I have to do, I may crash on the plane due to this insane week. See you in a few.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Drowning

Partner is interviewing today for something that I hope would work for him and, if so, I hope he gets. It would make his life a lot less stressful and I would get to see him more often.

I'm leaving on Friday for two weeks in the field. My NSF grant is in but I have two smaller fellowships to submit this week, and I'm currently being innundated by requests for student recommendation letters. WHY are so many of these things due on Feb 1st!?!

Friday, January 14, 2011

wildlife

Partner leaves for work about an hour and a half before I even get out of bed, so when my alarm goes off and I hear him coming down the hall to say hello, I know something unusual is going on.

On Monday he attempted to drive to work but turned around after he lost control of the car twice. Today he hit a deer during his commute. Now he's at home waiting for the insurance estimates. The right side of the car is fine, but the left front bumper is gone, as is the headlight and a few other important bits.

Hooray for having two functional cars. And this isn't a horrible time for this kind of thing to happen, either; he has the day off on Monday and I'll be leaving the country next week, so as long as he can get me to the airport we won't need to worry about who gets to drive to work. Not too bad for this situation: he wasn't hurt, and we can deal with the inconvenience. The deer apparently wasn't so lucky: it was put down by the police.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

early career

I have recently found myself only barely qualifying, or being disqualified by a hair, for advertised "early career" activities and conferences: either I'm a little too old (really, who puts an age limit on being "early career"!?) or my PhD completion date falls just after the oldest date that qualifies.

I'm also suddenly being asked to pay FULL PRICE for society memberships. I think there should be a SLAC value, honestly, that falls between "student" and "full". Those things are expensive!

I'm not ready to be done with my "early career" status! Does this mean I'm expected to know what I'm doing!?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

life

I recently decided to start paying more attention to our cash flow. In particular, we spend a lot of money on food. Some of this is due to Partner's on-the-go lunch requiring pre-packaged and processed stuff, but some of it is laziness, some of it is paying for higher food quality, and some of it is gluttony. So there we are. I made an effort toward obtaining coupons online, only to discover that none of the things we buy are things that have coupons associated with them. Strike one for my budgeting efforts. Maybe I should just stop buying so many nuts (says the vegetarian. So that's not going to happen either).

I'm teaching my computer-based course once again, and made it through one full week before I ran up against glitches and bugs and a general need to reformat the exercises from last year. I guess that's not such a bad run, really, as long as it remains a minor issue from here on out.

Snow made it impossible for Partner to get to work today, which was nice for him; some of us are not so lucky and don't have a crazy long commute. Or maybe he's unlucky with occasional perks. I'm sure he'll make it in tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

new year schmoo year

Five days in, totally failing all new resolutions! So far, two shortish workouts, nothing exciting, and only one reasonable bedtime. It seems that every time I think, oh it's time to start heading to bed, I notice that the water bill hasn't been paid, or an old friend initiates a chat to let me know she'll be in town this week, or I need to use a little time to clean my house so my friend who will be visiting soon doesn't think I live in a disgusting hole.

Of two lectures given, one initiated an unexpected coughing fit and a need for a break (I guess I'm still sick?), and the other had many technical difficulties due to our shitty internet at SLAC. I have not finished my grant, even though I wanted to be done by now. Partner is back to his 12-hour days. I leave for the field in two weeks.

Stupid new year. Why is it that every single term I look at my schedule and think, hey this won't be so bad. Well, except for last term. I knew that one would suck. But THIS term was supposed to be better. And here we are.

Also, I am convinced that if no one ever visited me I would live in a house piled with random items waiting to be put away. One of these days I will actually find a home for everything we were given as a wedding gift.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

new year

I missed completing my first round of P90X in 2010 by ONE workout, due to this stupid flu. Damn you, new year! Maybe my first resolution should be to stop attaching importance to arbitrary deadlines.

2011: hopefully less confusing than 2010. I would have thought that having a job would feel less transient than being a student, but so far it really hasn't, and I would like to feel some more solidity in my world. I think this will be helped significantly by Partner finding a new job (if and when, that is), and perhaps by my next performance review, but as usual I think it's also just in my head.

Last year I gave up drinking high-fructose corn syrup. You'd be surprised how many juice brands (most of them!) that removes from my shopping options. I've done pretty well, with only a few breaches due primarily to caffeine necessities (real ones, like having to drive after a red-eye flight, not just feeling tired in the afternoon). Unfortunately for my physical self, they do sell soda made with real sugar...which means that this year's resolution is to limit carbonated beverages to specific types of meals (pizza and burgers).

I am also going to start going to bed at a decent hour unless it is absolutely unavoidable that I work late. I did enough of that last term, with my insane grading load, and I really need to start making time to work out in the mornings again.

Finally, P90X take two, probably again scheduled as possible around life. I'm sure there are other things I should be resolving to change...but stopping with these is probably far more realistic!