— The conference food is awesome, but the coffee is just plain disgusting. I found a nice coffee house today and finally had a decent cup of joe, so my outlook has significantly improved.
— The conference is technically excellent and I have a whole bunch of exciting new ideas to pursue.
— While the late-career speakers are mostly white, the early and midcareer speakers are mostly Asian; this is in keeping with the composition of the modern graduate student body.
— The speakers are virtually all male (one woman out of two dozen speakers).
We had an election for future conference leadership. There was a sizable roster of nominees; not a single one was female. Shocking. Except that it’s not.
It seems that most male colleagues just don’t care. Many think this whole women in science business is somebody else’s problem, not theirs, if the issue ever crosses their mind at all. Alternatively, they think they only see merit; if the women were any good, they’d be well known.
On the upside, Former Postdoc (male) noted the ridiculous absence of women and went WTF? (This was without any prompting whatsoever from me.) It really seems that men who work closely with women can become sensitized to the fact that women are nowhere to be found in the professional sphere and can become genuinely bothered by this fact. I suppose that’s how allies are made. Men who work with female advisors or have close female collaborators or advise excellent female graduate students: Guys, please help us out! Don’t you think it’s unfair that the contributions made by your advisors, colleagues, and trainees seem to be invisible to most people? We really need you to speak up and speak out on our behalf!
— I have some work on a paper to do tonight, so I find myself listening to the The White Stripes.
Here are some great older ones:
— Man, I love driving. I think I should increase the distance which I decide to drive (as opposed to fly) when going to a conference. How’s 1000 miles?
— Pro-tip: When driving in the middle of the night, find a truck and just stay behind it. It shields you from the wind and rain and helps with poor visibility, let alone with the creepiness factor when you are the only car on a poorly lit road.
— The conference has been all that I want in a conference thus far. Great talks, plenty of room for discussion, conference venue close to lodging and food, good food (included in the registration), a somewhat secluded location that further facilitates interactions among attendees.
— This particular conference places extraordinary weight on the free exchange of ideas. There is a lot of interaction among attendees in the morning and evening sessions and the afternoon poster session. All the face time is leaving me completely exhausted, so the free time in the early afternoon (where we are supposed to mingle further) I spend — napping. I am a total baby. Or an introvert, expending a lot of energy to simulate being more extroverted than I am.
— I got to see my former postdoc (FP) who is midway through the tenure track and doing great. We had a nice evening yesterday catching up with some local beer and peanuts. I am so happy to see he is well supported by his department and generally quite content, both professionally and personally.
— Which got me thinking… How proud do I get to be of FP as my intellectual offspring? I know that FP’s PhD advisor gets to claim that his PhD graduate is now a prof. But in reality, FP would not have been competitive for faculty positions at all without the 4-year, very productive postdoc he had with me. I have one former PhD student who’s doing a postdoc elswehere and who I think will eventually be faculty; do I get to be proud of him? Or does his postdoc advisor get most of the credit for the success? Or do we all (PhD advisors and postdoc advisors) all get to be proud and brag about our intellectual offspring doing well? But even in the eyes of the NSF, FP was “just” my postdoc; NSF considers a PhD advisor-advisee relationship to be a lifetime conflict of interest, while the postdoctoral equivalent only for 5 years. So PhD advisors are forever, postdoc advisors are chopped liver?
— There’s this upper echelon of scientists who don’t seem to operate like the rest of us plebs do. When I look at the literature, I read and cite broadly, regardless of who the authors are. These creme de la creme folks seem to only look at what their equally stationed buddies do (they know everyone worth knowing, amirite?), so the work outside of this network is completely invisible to them. Even if you do good work, careful and thorough, you cannot get them to notice you because you are inherently not noteworthy (if you were noteworthy, they would already know you; the fact that they don’t means you are not worth knowing).
— Maybe you don’t penetrate the in-crowd, but there are plenty of other smart and hard-working people who do good work, who do look at the literature, and who will find your results, appreciate them, and build upon them. So put your head down and just do good work. And keep reminding yourself that we should really all be in this for the science, and that science does eventually self-correct.
— Some people give their talks titles that are a complete snoozefest. I almost missed a couple of presentations because I thought they’d be totally irrelevant to what I do (no abstracts). It turns out, they were both great and relevant, but poorly named.
— It’s “how something looks” or “what something looks like”; it’s NOT “how something looks like.” Ugh. This is one of my pet peeves; I heard one speaker use “how something looks like” 5+ times in a talk today. Ugh ugh ugh.
— Note to self: Never again go to a conference where you are not genuinely interested in a topic. It’s a waste of time and money. In contrast, a conference like this one, where I really am passionate about the topic, is a fountain of excitement and inspiration. Even if I have to nap midday, like a toddler, in order to process everything.
I am traveling for work again. I hope to have a number of “Notes from the Road” posts for you!
I have some paper resubmissions to work on while away, as well as my editorial and refereeing duties. But, I also have to carefully inspect a paperback proof of “Academaze” so we can finalize the text for the June 20 release! (Update: Turns out print edition is out early!)
The book is really gorgeous in print. I don’t think I fully grasped how beautiful the greens on the cover were until I was able to hold a physical copy.
Below, Middle Boy is posing with a paperback proof — he volunteered! He’s the most excited one among my brood about the whole book business.
Melanie did a fabulous job with formatting, so I am really happy with the layout. (Thanks, Melanie!) The book is beautiful and hefty, at 339 pages (without back and front matter). You can see the side view, with a 5-ft kid for size. Yet, I ended up using roughly 20% of all the blog material from 2010-2015, so the collection is nice and tight!
Before I forget: Melanie sent out ARCs (advanced reader copies) yesterday. If you signed up to be an advance reader but for some reason didn’t receive an ARC email from Melanie Nelson of Annorlunda Books yet, please let me know. Kindle users: the mobi file is a bit large, and many email servers will cap your attachment size at 25 MB. You can transfer the file via USB onto your Kindle directly or you can do what I did (I don’t have a Kindle device, but use Kindle for PC or the phone app): the file zips nicely to below 25 MB, and you can email zip to your Kindle address (it will unpack automatically upon receipt). Any problems, let me know.
I will shut up now about the book, at least for a little while.
Two awesome links before we part ways:
From Pharyngula: Midwestern rivalries
The Prodigal Academic is back! The Prodigal Academic and I started blogging around the same time in 2010, but she stepped away for a little bit when things got crazy on the tenure track. She’s tenured now and back to writing great stuff! I highly recommend that you go say hi to The Prodigal Academic and browse through her archives — many good posts there! And a must-not-miss Non-academic Science Career Information Aggregator.