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


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


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


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.