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


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


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


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.