Tuesday, December 31, 2013


The end of the year has decided to throw us a few irritations, but I can't complain too much since this year has been a pretty good one overall.  At the moment, baby is saying "screw you and your tax deduction" and refusing to come out - a few more days and it won't be up to baby any more, but for now we're still waiting.  Also our sewer says "screw you and those guys who came out to fix this problem last month", so we had a New Year's Eve roto-rootering and will be seeing the plumbers again later this week when they come back with a camera.  Hooray for sewer line insurance and the fact that my mother is visiting, so we don't have to worry if we have to run to the hospital during a plumbing call.

I have nothing to request from 2014, except that we get through January and figure out all the new challenges in store (and fix the sewer line).  I'd say that my goal is to get tenure, but my file is in already so that seems like cheating; I can't do much to help my case at this point.

Happy New Year and less troublesome households to all of you!   

Saturday, December 21, 2013

the funnest things

The funnest things of December: A sarcastic list

- the inability to make any plans for anything because there may or may not be a baby showing up
- in particular, not knowing when exactly to clean the house in anticipation of my parents' arrival, because if we do it too early and don't have a baby it will get dirty again, but if we wait too long and go into labor we will never do it at all
- crossing that line between "being pregnant is ok/sometimes nice" to "get this thing out of me"
- answering student emails about why they received the grades they received
- having students who continued to blow off their coursework even after I kindly granted them extensions into the break, since they earned the same crappy grade they would have gotten in the first place despite the extra time and work on my part

Some good stuff: Sincerity

- having the time to do all of the million and two loads of preparatory baby laundry
- not having to leave the house during snow/ice/other crappy weather
- having Partner home on break
- December: low-stress, cozy, and generally pretty quiet, this is my favorite time of year, even more so when I don't have to worry about traveling 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

My ECV (oh yes, a baby post)

This pregnancy has been pretty good so far - minimal nausea, some tiredness to fight but nothing actually dangerous or seriously disabling.  I know a lot of people who have had difficult pregnancies, so I'm not complaining.

The one issue we did have was baby remaining head-up well past the point when that was ok.  We waited a few weeks to see if I could get some flipping action to happen, but right before 38 weeks we went in for an external cephalic version (ECV), where the doctor attempts to manually flip the kid from the outside.  I had read a lot of conflicting reports about what these are like - some people report a lot of pain, other people say it's no big deal.  I had no idea what to expect, but I figured even a painful attempt would be better than a c-section if it worked.  The potential down-sides included putting the baby into distress or triggering labor, so there was a small chance we'd end up having the baby instead of flipping it, but at about 38 weeks that was ok with me.  We did bring our hospital bag in the car, just in case.

We showed up at the hospital at an ungodly 6:15 am, went up to labor and delivery, and sat around for an hour while they monitored the baby's heartbeat and movement.  This happened in the outpatient/c-section recovery room, while sitting in a bed facing the door to their operating suite; I found this a little intimidating and distracting given the chance I would end up being wheeled through that door. 

Eventually I was given a muscle relaxer, which was a very sharp needle prick in the back of the arm that felt like a wasp sting.  Which is no big deal, but I mention it because it was the most pain I felt through the whole procedure.  Next the doctor verified baby's position via sonogram, gooped up my belly with gel and put pressure on the baby's head and butt to try to get her to turn forward.  There was a little resistance from baby at first, and there was a lot of pressure and some cramping, but it couldn't have taken more than a few minutes and suddenly we were done, with very little discomfort overall.  I had spent most of it waiting for the pain to start.

I had a few things going for me - baby is still riding high, and there was still plenty of fluid in there and some space to turn.  My doctor is also reportedly very good at this procedure.  I've heard that first-time moms have less luck with the ECV, but it seemed no problem at all for me.

Another hour of monitoring and we were out of there, though the day was pretty much shot for me between the very early wake-up and the muscle relaxer.  In the aftermath I was shaky and tired and couldn't control my shivering in the cold when we went outside; I sat around and took a nice 3-hour nap in the middle of the afternoon and that was my day  Otherwise, no negative effects other than a little soreness in the abdomen.

So far baby is keeping the head-down position, though there's a chance that could change.  Hopefully not.  But I'd recommend trying the ECV for those facing a potentially breech birth - just don't believe them when they say you can drive yourself home (you probably could, but you probably shouldn't), and don't plan anything for the rest of the day if you can avoid it.  I had read a lot of anecdotes online about women who just skipped it and went for a c-section instead; that seems like a rough decision to make when the ECV might be pretty easy.  I'm sure it depends a lot on personal circumstances, but it's probably worth a try, especially since it shouldn't go on for long if it isn't working.

We were pretty relieved to have at least a few more days to get ready - I'm not a huge fan of this "any time now, but maybe not for weeks!" thing that happens at the end.  Still, we are more prepared now than we were at the beginning of the week, and the laundry pile just keeps getting smaller.  Baby says, hurry up and wait! 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

letting go

Somehow I have created a mess out of what was supposed to be pre-baby prep time and maternity leave.  This week I'm trying to get some samples ready and run for a grant proposal, I'm grading, and I'm reading up on tenure file guidelines.  Next week I'm probably going to be finishing the grant and the tenure files, if I'm lucky.

I have two students submitting late work this month for various reasons.  I have two students doing independent work next term under my supervision, despite the fact that I'm on leave.  Friggin' seniors and their graduation timelines and their desires to work on things that no one else can mentor. 

I'm also on a search committee for a departmental position next term, despite the fact that I'm on leave.  Which I really want to be part of, despite its timing, because I would like this new tenure-line colleague to not suck.

I need to stop with my desire to micro-manage the rest of the year and deal with everything before I'm gone.  It's hard to let stuff go and trust that it will all get done in my absence, despite knowing very well that it will all get done at some point even if I'm not there.  That whole thing about other people doing their jobs, or at least the fact that I should not feel responsible if they don't, and whatnot.

Kiddo is still head-up, so we will probably be trying an external version in about a week, which the doctor refers to as "a lot of massaging" but which the internet implies can be painful and not much fun.  Because there is a chance that trying to turn the kid will lead to immediately having the kid, we are trying to finalize stuff like car seat installation and online purchases.  Which lead me to small panic attacks over details like, can the car seat actually be touching the front seat of the car, however slightly, or will that contact of cloth-on-cloth somehow lead to a fiery death that would otherwise have been avoided?  What if I don't get all the laundry done in time?  Can I possibly stockpile everything I would need for 3-4 weeks before the baby gets here (I will try, anyway)?

You know, basic high-anxiety paranoia stuff.  It's usually short-lived, but I have my moments. 

Strangely all of this is being channeled not into dreams about babies, but instead into dreams about taking college courses and not getting my work done on time or having horrible professors who are out to get me. 

The mind is a weird, weird place, and I hope mine will settle down once I cross a few things off my to-do list over the next few days.  You people who work in your actual jobs with 8-hour days all the way up to your due dates, I have no idea how you do that.  You are amazing.  

Monday, November 18, 2013

in which stuff is pretty normal

Today I spent some time figuring out what we'll likely have to pay in childcare expenses next year.  This was not a good idea.  It's a miracle that any of us reproduce (and a good thing most of us don't look this far ahead).  Time to start looking forward to revisiting grad-student levels of financial stress, wheee!

Last week I miraculously met a paper deadline, mostly by ditching a few figures.  Revisions, right?  Right.  This week I am way behind on grading but it's nice to have a big project out of my hands for a little while.  Just a few more days, and then I can focus on a grant proposal and maybe think about my tenure file, or at least look at the list of what I'm supposed to put in it.

Every term I tell myself I'm not going to end up on this treadmill, where by the end I feel like I'm barely keeping myself from falling off; though, with this term, I should have known better than to think it would change significantly.  Counting down, it helps.  

Saturday, November 9, 2013


I can't tell whether it's just my students this term or something about my mental state, but I'm about to explode and we're not done yet.  Usually, it's not this bad, but over the past few days I've had to spend some time holding myself back from rude responses to the following requests (supplemented by my own frustrations):

- can you give me the email for Staff Member X, which is both available online and set up as an auto-entry in the school email system?
- can you tell me whether there are seats open in class Y, which I am perfectly capable of viewing on my own on the registrar's website?
- can you tell me again the answer to procedural question Z, which you have already answered at least eight times in class/on the board/on the syllabus?
-  can you tell me something that is very clearly written in the two lines of directions at the top of the worksheet that is currently in my hands?
- can you give me credit for late work despite the fact that your late policy on the syllabus clearly states that you would not take my late work under these specific conditions? 

I don't mind this kind of stuff at a minimal level, but it's a constant barrage these days.  I think the freshmen are in fact needier, but it seems like everyone is doing a shitty job of listening, even my upperclassmen.  Partner suggests that maybe I'm on a shorter rope this term - maybe.  Then again, I can't convince myself that it's just me. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Add some conference poster-making to my normal schedule and apparently things go crazy.  It's been a rough 1.5 weeks, but there is light at the end of October, at least.  Tomorrow is the last of our baby-prep classes and I will then have a little bit more evening time to use.  Plus the onset of coldness means no more yard work.

I am officially transitioning to one of Partner's winter coats; even with the very long sleeves and extra length, it's better than being completely unable to zip up when it's 40 degrees outside.

It's the time of the term when keeping your head above water is doing really well.  

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


While filling out a form today I was told that it is October 15th.  I have no idea how that happened; it seems like yesterday it was early September.

Today the internet is informing me that it's time to pack a hospital bag (!!), which is freaking me out a little.  Because, what the hell internet, I have 10 weeks left, and while we have a crib it is currently in pieces in the downstairs room where we keep stuff we haven't had time to deal with.  I also have about eight million loads of baby-related laundry to do, we have no car seat, and I am generally just putting off everything baby-related until the end of the term.  At which point I will probably need to finish my tenure materials, because who has time for that right now, and I will therefore end up going into labor with zero preparation and the kid will sleep in a box for a few days after we walk home from the hospital (given that we have no car seat).

Needless to say, I am not really focused on tenure right now.  Maybe I should be more concerned, and actually work on a publication or two that might theoretically be ready to submit before the deadline.  But I am feeling pretty ok about my chances, particularly from a publication standpoint, so I am instead trying to not suck at teaching and get everything done that I have over-committed to, as usual.

Next spring I'll let you know how that plan works out.

We did recently, finally, finish re-staining our deck with fancy "deck restore" stuff that promises to last for more than two years and to keep our old deck alive.  It looks pretty awesome, but it had better last given how much more it costs to get this thicker gritty coating (with a primer!) instead of just buying more stain.  I highly recommend not waiting until the fall to do this kind of thing, particularly when you are an academic/student couple with limited time trying to work around the weather.  Lessons learned.

I am, however, loving the cool weather; my favorite time of year is when we don't need to turn on the heat but it's a little too cold to hang out outside.  We've been enjoying apple- and pumpkin-based foods and I am really excited that 80 degrees is behind us for a while.

Now, time for some apple cider and a giant pile of grading.  

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

weeping for the future

This term somehow feels like more of a student disaster than most.  Notes from the past few days:

- I ran an in-class exercise that included both on-the-board demos of the questions as well as a fully worked example problem that was given to each student with the assignment.  These were pretty basic high school math problems, finding percentages and change over time.  A frightening percentage of my class was completely lost even after I did the examples on the board, in which they would have to change only one number to do their own work.

- In my senior course, several of the students went to the wrong classroom, which is not completely unexpected since our building is a little bit non-intuitive in its layout and there are classrooms that look very similar to one another.  However, rather than checking the classroom number on their schedules or just peeking into the other similar classrooms to make sure they weren't in the wrong place, the students left after waiting a few minutes.  Me = not impressed.

I have a few freshmen who have actually come to my office to go over lecture material.  I love them, and this week they are keeping me from complete despair over the future of our country.  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Things I would really like to say to my students, now that things have barely begun:

- How is it that you missed the four emails I've sent over the past four months, each of which reiterated the same information with a reminder that it was very important for you as an upcoming senior to read it and respond, and are now emailing me to say that you never received any of these emails that are currently in my "sent" box with your name on them?

- Your question is whether we're meeting at the time that is listed as the class time on your schedule/online/in the registrar's office.   Really?

- You need to take a class on social issues and inequality, kid from the 'burbs.

- You will not actually be an engineer/doctor.  Sorry.

- I predict that I as your advisor will be hearing about your poor grades in approximately 5 weeks.   

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

notes from vacation

We finally went somewhere non-work-related just before the term, and it was really nice.  Some things we learned (or relearned):

- we are officially old now, since we would rather pay for a hotel than camp when it is 90 degrees out with 95% humidity.
-  large bodies of water are one of our favorite things but I cannot just lounge next to them all day.  Maybe this is a genetic abnormality or something, but I am not a traditional beach person.
- other people are idiots.
- pregnant tent camping would be totally doable if not for all the peeing, or specifically all of the hauling of self out of the tent to pee, during the night.  Also a 3-man tent makes a body pillow way more comfortable.
- small children should not be included in activities that have anything to do with tours or old houses.
- old friends are awesome

This trip was the first time a stranger made conversation about me being pregnant, which was kinda cool.  I also did zero work, and didn't even bring a laptop, which was very cool. 

Too bad vacation has to end.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

terrible ideas

In the spirit of allowing others to learn from my experience, here is a cautionary tale:

When dealing with an unresolved lower back problem and coming up for tenure, you may not want to get pregnant, much less end up with a due date that is almost exactly one week before your tenure file is due.

I shouldn't complain, since I kinda just said "fuck it" and did this anyway.  But if you are the kind of person who doesn't like added complexity in your life, this is one thing to avoid.

The back has been surprisingly manageable so far, though we'll see how it goes as we head closer to the dreaded Trimester 3.  The work part has been less fabulous, as I spent a lot of this summer fighting pregnancy fatigue and not getting a lot done.  I'm not regretting the lack of real field work, either, even if that might have been a useful thing to do. 

I will have to pay for all the naps and down time soon; this term is going to be killer.  I have an extra course load (which I'm being paid for, but my leave was really going to mess with the course schedule available for seniors so I volunteered to offer a class now), I stupidly agreed to some writing projects, and of course I would ideally like to get the tenure file done well ahead of time. 

So, I'm an idiot, but it's too late now.  Wish me luck.

Thursday, July 11, 2013


So - to write an encyclopedia entry, or not?  I already got some advice on this, which I appreciated, but I need to figure it out this week and I'm still torn.

- editors are people I would put on my list of tenure letter-writers, but maybe I'm focusing on this too much.
- it would be done in time for the tenure file, and  SLAC is the kind of place that would not completely disregard this as productive work (at least not to the same extent as most larger universities)
- acknowledgement of my expertise?  Or something?

- it's a really long entry, full journal manuscript length
- I am not particularly good at writing literature review articles - I mean, I can, obviously, but I don't think it is my strength and I don't love doing it
- fall term is already going to be busy, as I'm teaching an overload and getting final stuff done for my tenure file


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

summer slump

This always happens.  The weeks that follow the very last committee meetings and grade submissions and paperwork are weeks when I don't want to do ANYTHING.  I sleep late, I stay in my PJs until unseemly hours, I read books for fun, I do housework if my brain makes even the smallest suggestion that perhaps I should get my ass into the office.  This year has been much worse, and now it's July and I am only now getting my butt back in that saddle.  I blame my lack of foreign field work, among other things.  Not having to get on a plane and organize people by a particular date really gives your motivation an opportunity to screw you over.

To be fair, I did some stuff prior to this week.  I have a student working with me and I took them through some lab procedures and some field work.  I cleaned my lab a bit, cleaned my office a bit, did a lot of paperwork and a minuscule amount of writing.  But certainly none of the stuff that takes serious brain power.

So, July!  The month of productivity!  So I hope.  I have at least gotten myself to the office and written something that needs to get out to others, so that is a step forward.  Soon I will have to talk myself into data analysis and modeling and abstract writing, but one day at a time is fine...right?  

Sunday, June 9, 2013


The term is over, and this time I wasn't sure I was going to make it with my sanity intact.  My mid-level course was a bit of a flop from my perspective - it was my third time teaching it and the energy level was just way below what I was used to.  I guess it was just the group, not to mention the strange levels of dedication from a few who came once a week if at all, and then seemed surprised when they were failing.  One kid skipped the entire last half of the class except for the exams, showed up to give a final presentation, and turned in absolutely nothing else.  What is the point of that, kid?  F for you.

My intro course was better, good discussions and interest, but I had a couple of plagiarism cases and then a few students who had to be forced into dropping the course before the deadline so they wouldn't fail.  I understand a reluctance to give up after all that effort, but when I tell you that there's no way in hell for you to pass, you really need to get over it and DROP.

Overall, it seemed like a needier group than I've had in the past.  Plus, my favorite seniors all graduated early this year, so I didn't even get to enjoy a decent project or two to counteract the classroom insanity.  Survival, check.  And I can only hope my reviews aren't terrible.

Now I need to muster up some motivation for writing and some field work.  It's harder for me to get it done when it's totally free-form, unscheduled work that can be done at any point during the summer.  I do have one student working with me, so I will at least have to get my act together for their sake.

I'm also still waiting on word from my NSF MRI proposal resubmission, which gives me a little bit of hope since others I know of who applied to this program received rejections last week.  I'm trying not to get overly excited, but the next year could be so much more awesome with this instrument.

We shall see.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

head to desk

Throughout this term, there have been no fewer than 15 different extra credit options for students in my course to utilize, with up to five counting as extra points to exam grades.  Today I receive an email asking me whether there will be any additional extra credit, since student x is not happy with their grade.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

up and down

I received a very nice email last week from a recent alum, thanking me for a class they took with me.  I've been asked many times by various students what they should get for the professors they appreciated, and I still tell them that a note like that is way better than any other gift.

I caught a cheater, cheating on the most trivial and ridiculous assignment I have ever seen cheated upon.  I almost wish there was an additional penalty for cheating on stupid things.  Plus now I have to deal with the process of holding them accountable. 

I had an almost two-week run of zero pain and zero back problems, and then I took a trip for a meeting that involved soft hotel beds and airplane seats, so now I'll be back to the chiro this week.  I never noticed before, but seriously, WHY do all hotels have beds that are so soft they offer zero support?  Is that really what people like?  I myself am a firm-or-tempurpedic type of girl, and that was true even before I got old and broken.

I have a big intro class, and I'm sensing hostility and frustration, as well as some boredom, from a senior or two who are only now getting around to taking the intro-level (which, kids, is bound to leave you a little frustrated and bored when you are a MAJOR).  Also, entitlement to good grades that have not been given.  Prediction: a hit to my teaching evaluations.  Which is lame, because I kinda want those to be good now that I'm heading into the final few terms before my tenure evaluation.

Que sera, I suppose.

Monday, April 22, 2013

a weekend

House partially cleaned, local research trip, graded, lunch with a friend, class field trip, grocery shopping, turned the compost, mowed the lawn, read for class, picked up visiting speaker at the airport, talked to my parents. 

Why is it over already!?

This week should be a little bit less insane: student projects are at their most awesome when I don't have to lecture.  But, lots of stuff to attend, and a conference next weekend.

Last week I gave a lecture in which the US was shown to be a bit behind the times in terms of its policies to a particular issue.  One student gave me beatnik applause every time I mentioned US rankings and responses as being below-par; I guess this student does not approve of the US on this particular issue?   A first for me, and less disruptive than you might imagine.

Friday, April 12, 2013


So..it's been forever since I've written anything here.  Primarily due to life's normal insane activity levels, but that's nothing new.

Winter, which seems to still be upon us, officially ended just after we broke down and bought ourselves a snow thrower, as predicted.  Which, as it turned out, we used several times into March, and which I have to say was one of the better things we have ever paid for.  It was Partner's decision, since he's the only one shoveling these days and it's his paycheck going toward anything superfluous, but I am a huge fan after using it once.  Much better than having a house full of invalids trying to clear a driveway without breaking ourselves again, and next winter we won't be spending that kind of money on anything, so I'm glad we own it now.

At this point I'm hoping that we won't have to use it again prior to at least November.

I remain a slave to weekly doctors' appointments, but slightly less frequently than before.  Still, I had hoped that I would be in a better place about now, because I really need to make a decision about how much time I'm going to spend in the field this summer.  I'm nervous that a long plane ride will by itself be a bad idea, and then, even if I manage to keep myself from doing any of the actual hard work while I'm there, I will have several weeks minimum without access to a reliable chiropractor.  That makes me worry, since my chiro is the only thing that seems to help while I'm trying to strengthen the appropriate muscle groups.

Partner is traveling for work, leaving me to eat dinner at 9 pm and completely disassociate myself from anything resembling a reasonable life schedule.  Apparently he is the only reason why I don't gorge myself on dairy and stay up all night.

On the work front, I did finally write the paper I didn't want to write, and I consider myself now free and clear of a crappy research situation, which is nice.  I have some local projects I need to work on, instead of just doing teaching stuff all the time, but that is the normal trap and I will probably just try to focus on research once classes are over.

Also, my ankle-twisting student from the winter turned out to be a broken ankle, not a twist, and I had a lot of guilt about that happening on one of my field trips.  I also didn't force them to go to the hospital, which I probably should have done, but I always feel bad about stuff that will cost them money.  I guess they are adults, right?  At least in the sense of making their own medical decisions.

So far nothing of the sort during the many field trips of this month.  Knock on wood.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Student failing my class: "Can I pass if I turn everything in on time from now on?  Do I have to get A's, or is it ok to get C's and still pass?"

Me: "Do you think you will actually turn in everything on time from now on?"

Student: "Yes!"

Me: "Ok, well have you started writing the paper that's due on Friday?"

Student: "No"

Me: "Then I think it's probably not realistic to say that everything will be on time from now on"

Credit for optimism?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

snow redux

Today I walked to work, since shoveling is forbidden to me and I wasn't sure my car would manage.  It was actually really nice in the morning, in that quiet that snow brings, but the afternoon slush/plow remnants/wind was not as enjoyable.  And then three of my students didn't show for my once-per-week small class.  WTF students, I know you live on campus and/or in town, and I made it, so you can too.  Especially by 1:30.

How is February almost over!?  Last year I would have been prepping to return to the states; it's hard to believe it was a full year ago.  I'm not ready for March, though it will begin with a wedding that should be a lot of fun.

Treadmill is here, and Partner spent his one shoveling-free evening putting it together, so now I hope to get a little bit more active when I'm not just walking to work.  The new question of the day: will tomorrow bring a discussion of snow-blower purchases?  I'm suspecting this might be the next purchase, now that I'm broken and the shoveling is a one-guy job.

Also!  That controlled elliptical experiment proved a huge failure: back to the chiropractor I went.  Sad, but knowledge is power, I guess. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013


So, grant submitted, manuscript yet to begin, and the realization that if both grants I'm involved in come through this year I'm going to have way more work to do than I can probably handle (a good problem?  an unlikely problem?   both, I guess).

Today I had my first consultation with the physical therapist.  No useful information as of yet, but I'm scheduled for the real therapy thing next week.  Also, I'm finding that working with multiple medical professionals is actually a huge pain in the ass.  My chiropractor tells me I shouldn't use an elliptical ever again, whereas everyone else thinks it's fine.  My physical therapist just told me never to take steroids, whereas everyone else thought it was a great idea (and, arguably, it helped).  At least they all agree that I should be fixable and that the MRI was a good idea.  They also all seem to agree that crunches are useless and actually bad for you in terms of lower back stabilization.  Who knew.

After almost two weeks of doing nothing, today I tried a little low-ramp, low-resistance elliptical work followed by easy back extensions - the PT take on those activities made me think it would be ok, plus I'm going nuts waiting on the "safer" treadmill, so we'll see how I feel tomorrow.  Hopefully no worse, especially after icing all evening post-"workout". 

And now, blizzard time - tomorrow I may just walk to work, since I'm not supposed to shovel and I don't think my car will make it out if we do get the projected snowfall.  Poor Partner, it's a bad time of year to be the only functional body in the house.  

Monday, February 18, 2013

ups and downs

Recently, the ups:

- Received chocolate by mail as thanks for writing recommendation letters for an alum
- Was invited to a current student's wedding
- Got some research done
- My two research students are kicking ass
- Finished my grant proposal
- Had an MRI and I get a copy of the images sometime soon (this is awesome.  I am excited to see them)
- Finally got a DIAGNOSIS for my back issues
- Bought a treadmill, which will make my current need to cut back on high-impact exercise much more bearable

The downs:

- Was diagnosed with a small disc protrusion, and will now be on meds and physical therapy for a while
- Had a student twist an ankle during a field trip.  Not great, for the student or for the productivity of said field trip
- Treadmill won't be here for another week, and I'm basically banned from all other activities
- Need to get started on a manuscript for a project with bad emotions involved, so I'm not motivated
- Need to get a lot of other work done, which is also not happening right now
- Got some bad news about the health of my father-in-law

February has been a little dramatic - lots of meetings, lots of doctors' appointments, lots of frustration.  Lots of waiting, which is probably the worst part.  Also all those warnings about what my field work would eventually do to me: yeah, they were right.  I'm just waiting for that skin cancer prediction to come true, and then I'll be a complete stereotype. 

Still, feeling remarkably optimistic.  Knowing exactly what's wrong with you can actually be really uplifting. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013


The most productive work I did this weekend was grading, and running a review session.  But, I also spent all of Saturday getting tax return documents together and cleaning my house, so I'm still feeling pretty accomplished just because of the "home life" stuff I managed to finish.  I also pressed "place my order" on a treadmill purchase, which is a little bit stressful only because living here in podunkville the best I could do was to go look at a sort-of-similar model by the same company and then order what I wanted online.  I'm hoping it arrives in a fixable state.

This is the current culmination of my ongoing battle with my spine: new chiropractor, new advice, and an "almost no exercise" edict that I know I can't live with.  We've thought about getting a treadmill before, and it was my dedication to my elliptical that ended that discussion.  Now that the new chiro is pushing the idea that the elliptical itself might be part of my problem, I'm going to try this "walking only" thing and hope I can build back up to weights and squats and maybe a little bit of elliptical time.  I might go insane in the meantime, but at least winter won't keep me from moving, and Partner will have an at-home workout option too.  The primary trick is going to be finding a place to put the damned treadmill, even with its folded storage option (I'm hoping to keep the elliptical, despite the fact that it sits in the only good space we have for a piece of workout equipment, since maybe I will get to use it again sometime in the not-too-distant future when I'm no longer broken.  Overly optimistic?).  

Otherwise, same old.  This term my students seem to be either superstars with high A's or slackers who don't turn in any of their work.  Seriously, I've never seen so many kids in a mid-level course who just do nothing, including failure to sign in just ONCE to our online course management system, which in theory they would have to do to access the readings.  Tomorrow is Exam 1, so I'm sure it will be more than obvious soon enough.

Friday, January 18, 2013


Now we've been back in the classroom for a little while, and I'm already caught in this vicious cycle of a daily schedule:

first-thing am: Lecture
immediately after lecture: Sometimes finally get a chance to eat breakfast, indulge in brain-candy in the form of email and facebook, then do stuff I really need to do like administrative items, lab supervision, sometimes student help, phone calls, etc.
lunch: Eat?  or meetings
after lunch: Sometimes lecture again, sometimes I attempt grading or manuscript writing or something more pressing like student recommendation letters
a while after lunch: Think something like, I should really start prepping lecture for tomorrow.  Instead write a problem set or put readings online or do something relevant that is not lecture prep.  Office hours. 
4 pm: Meetings.  Or grocery shopping.
evening: Home, workout, laundry, dinner
9 pm: Realize nothing is ready for tomorrow am, and work way too late getting something prepped

Right after I teach I am really not in the mood to get ready to teach again.  And then it gets late, and even if I get started I won't be done before I have to get home, and then I'm up late working.  And then I'm tired and even less inclined to work harder the next morning.

I am doing it to myself by having four lectures a week, but I really need that much time.  Says I.

It's Friday, and my brain can tell.  I finally got my flu shot earlier this afternoon, and I was sitting here a few minutes ago wondering why the hell my shoulder was so sore, trying to remember what I did yesterday that would make it hurt.

Next week: try to prep lecture in the afternoon, and go to bed by midnight.  New Week Resolution.  

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

current states

We have a new system at work, wherein the files I save to my desktop while connected to the campus network will be available on the desktop of the classroom computer when I log in.  This is nice, in that I don't have to keep track of a usb stick, but I'm a little bit displeased by the fact that the students will get to see my computer desktop every time I exit out of my powerpoint to show a video or website.  So far, I've attempted to clean things up prior to each class period, and to at least put things into folders when they have students' names as part of the file name.  I should experiment with limiting display settings, but that seems irritating since any changes made in the classroom will be reflected in my office. 

Which leads us to right now: I still don't have a lecture ready for my 9 am class, but my desktop files are super organized.

I have two students doing serious directed research this term, the kind that will hopefully be publishable.  One is doing part of a local study that they helped to design, the other is helping me with the lab portion of an external collaboration that involves foreign samples.  Both are great students, but hey, undergrads need supervision and direction, so I have already spent a lot of time in the lab with them over the first few days of the term.  It's been a while since I've had two students at a time doing work that actually needed to be reproducible (read: actually working on lab work that is part of MY research), not to mention that one is working with samples that can't be replaced, and I admit that I kinda forgot how much time it takes for me to be as available as I need to be.  It's great, and I like that I'm forced to spend time in the lab, but today I didn't have time eat lunch, so I will probably have to reevaluate how this is going to work from a scheduling standpoint.

The theme for this week: busy.  Back to lecture writing.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

bad signs

First weekend of 2013.  So far, this year is not my friend.

-Back problems continue (damn you body, behave now that I have permission to stop paying doctors).  
-I'm already a bit daunted by this term's "to do" list, which includes two full-time research students, some upcoming manuscript deadlines and a class that I'm reorganizing significantly. 
-Partner was called in at 3:30 am last night, and then went in again at 10 am.  He will probably be on call a lot over the next few months, so I hope this 3:30 am thing is not going to continue. 
-Our oven decided to go crazy while I was making dinner this evening; some research reveals that it was actually recalled in 2009, but even the recall fix might not solve the problem (if the citizens of the internet can be trusted) so we're better off buying something else anyway. 

Maybe time for a New Year's resolution after all: don't complain too much on the blog. 

I'm also commissioning a small table (via Partner's carpentry skills) to put on my desk at work, to accommodate my laptop and mouse as a standing desk.  I have a kneeling chair in there already, but that becomes a bit much for the shins after a few hours.  Let's see whether I can stand while writing; if so it might be a nice third option for the office. 

2013, you are welcome to improve at any time.  

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


New Year's was a bit of a non-event around here - we spent a nice evening with some friends but went home early, because we are old and lame like that.  We watched the ball-fall-rerun and went to bed.  Now I'm having a hard time remembering that it's 2013, though I suppose it's only been a day so I shouldn't feel too bad.

I spent xmas at my parents' place, and Partner stayed here because his work schedule didn't really allow for a long trip to another part of the country (though a friend recently referred to this as "Partner got to stay home").  As usual, all the old irritations of family became dominant after about a week, and yet I stayed longer than that, so by the end it was nice to leave.  My family is composed of largely unhappy people (not everyone, and not all the time, but dominantly), and I have a hard time with the things that drove me nuts as a teenager yet are still there (like my sister's complete disregard for my parents' needs), so there is usually tension.  I'm glad I went, but maybe next time it will be a little shorter.  This was the first time I hadn't spent xmas with Partner yet was not doing field work, so that was a little strange as well.

Now I have a lot of unfinished stuff to do and unresolved things around the house, so somehow I'm not feeling the "clean slate" relief of a new year.  I'm not really one for resolutions, though.  This year, my primary goal is to try to do that thing they always tell me to do in yoga but to which I never listen: don't push myself too hard.  Physically, in this case, since I was just told by my chiropractor yesterday that I am now ready to "play it by ear" and come in when I feel like I need to.  This is a big step, since only a few months ago I was in that office three times a week and still in pain a lot of the time.  So I need to not jump immediately back into my old workout routine with its high-impact activities, and I need to be ok with modifying things I used to do, like yoga and weights.  This makes me feel old, and weak, but the absence of pain is a great motivator (and so is the large chiropractic bill I just paid).

 Even without a clear mental transition, I feel like 2013 will be about moving forward mentally - maybe because I'll be turning in my tenure materials, maybe because I hope to be past all this physical stuff.  Hopefully it will be good, either way.