Month: June 2017

Divisible by Eleven

Today, a dear friend from my childhood congratulated me on turning 22, twice over!

In that honor, I will blog every day for 22 days; if I hit my stride and am in the mood, maybe I will do that twice over, as well!


How did I spend my birthday? I got up at 4:30. Yes, I have joined this [insert adjective] crowd… Never say never, ’tis all I say. I am an extreme morning person, so the drive and the morning freshness and the endorphins are all so awesome! Who knew? Anyway, I was kickboxing at 5:15, back home by 6:25, ready for work and out the door by 7 am (DH is taking a few days off and staying with the offspring). All day I have been working hard on a paper that one of my student has been bugging me about every day for weeks. I have also been obsessively checking for any updates in the status of my two remaining pending NSF proposals [NSF will go offline end of June, as they are moving buildings (no more Balston *sniff*) and going to Alexandria]. I had a meeting with collaborators regarding pitching a white paper to another government agency. On my way back home, I will stop to grab some food; I want steak, but Middle Boy has been a little butt and doesn’t want to go to the steakhouse I like, so we’re not going anywhere because if he’s gonna sulk we may as well save some money and not spend the whole evening trying to get him to not act like a little butt while racking up the bill that could only be justified by a wonderful relaxing evening which ours will most definitely not be with Sulky McSulkerson.

There might be some consumption of Bailey’s with DH over video entertainment later this evening.

Tomorrow, I get up early-ish in order to drive another 5 hours round trip to bring Eldest back from Big Deal Music Camp before it’s time for Smurf’s barely-after-lunch 6th birthday party. (Smurf’s b-day is on Sunday, but the magician wasn’t available, so Saturday it is.)


A senior colleague told me that I might improve the chances of getting taken seriously by some very old-school (read: assuming only dudes do good work) program managers in a Muy Macho Federal Agency by referring to my famous PhD advisor. I laughed. The colleague means well, I am sure. However, fuck that $hit. At this age and career stage, I refuse to request consideration based on who my PhD advisor was.

Navel, Meet Gaze: The Midlife Edition

This is a personal post; if you decide to comment, don’t be a douche.

I’m in my early 40s. I have a lovely family and professional “success.” I admit I constantly worry that I will run out of funding and that everyone else is somehow better at grant writing than me, and this is the main reason why I don’t feel like the professional success sans quotation marks that I objectively probably am. I could be striving for more professional recognition and indeed I do, but at this point recognition is quite amorphous: does becoming a fellow of the relevant professional societies (or maybe a member of the National Academies?) constitute further success? I suppose it does, but I can’t say I really care much about any of these. The fellowships should be feasible in principle, some perhaps even very soon; I just need to bother people to nominate me.

Yet I am still hungry, personally and professionally, and I need to direct that hunger in a way that’s neither destructive nor seems (to me) pointless or self-indulgent. For instance, I set some health and fitness goals and am working hard toward them. And maybe I will sign up for some races and whatnot, and while this is all fun and good for me, these goals are both ephemeral and unremarkable, achievable and achieved by many, and often so. What makes them superficial (to me) is that they don’t feed this hunger deep inside; they are simply distractions.

Maybe I need to learn to play an instrument, or learn a new language, or finally find some time to master the graphic tools needed to make digital comics? All valuable, but ultimately they, too, are distractions. Distractions from what? I don’t know. Midlife, I suppose. I know a number of people my age who are content to coast in whatever comfortable state they currently are until they retire or die. And there is nothing wrong with comfort, especially if you’ve spent much of your life being uncomfortable. I suppose I should be ashamed of my overall privilege that’s leading me to whine within the whole midlife crisis framework when what I should be instead is grateful for my good fortune.

The thing is, I am as hungry as I was when I was 20. I want more and bigger and different, of everything. There is so much to do, and experience, and learn.

But I am not alone, I have dependents. I feel guilty that all this energy that’s directed at me and away from them is shortchanging them, while on the other hand it’s probably a good thing that I am not smothering them too much. Besides, directing more energy towards cooking or cleaning  a) fuckin’ sucks and b) is not really going to help quench whatever is burning deep down, unless you plan on me cooking and cleaning all day every day until I drop.

If you read things on the web, all this can apparently be attributed to… *drumroll*
You guessed it — my ovaries! They are supposedly realizing that their egg-popping days are numbered and are freaking out about it. It’s funny how, for women, there can be no thought or feeling, especially one hinting at discontent, that does not allegedly have a source in the reproductive system. Seriously, since my ovaries seem to be doing all the thinking, maybe they should be nominated for that professional society fellowship.

I should have been crazier in my late teens and early 20s (although I have had a fairly nonlinear trajectory by most supernerd/academic standards), but I was too busy being crazy about one particular boy and too insecure about my professional abilities to let my freak flag fly.

Young women out there, especially scholarly types, please make good use of your youth. I promise that you are way cooler in every way imaginable than you give yourself credit for. Let your inner nerdy vixen out to play; party with wild abandon.

Back from Travel

I’ve been traveling. I had a great time at a conference in the UK. This was a meeting of my core research community and it’s always great to get together with old friends and colleagues.

I hadn’t been in the UK before and I was overall very positively impressed. The people are friendly and easy to chat with, and not in the polite-but-aloof way that I find most Americans to be around where I live. The Brits I encountered (not colleagues; random other people and colleagues’ spouses) seemed relaxed, not too guarded, funny/sarcastic, and direct — all things I love and miss.

Also, why can’t we have (more) passenger trains in the US? Seriously, every time I am in Europe, I love traveling by train, and British Railways didn’t disappoint. Trains are a perfect way to connect small cities to larger area hubs. It is stupid that they are not ubiquitous in the US.

I didn’t take many pics that could be shared online. But, here’s one, on maintaining dental hygiene while abroad: when you bring only one travel adapter, you might end up having to unplug your computer in order to charge your toothbrush.