Month: August 2017


This morning, by way of Google Scholar alerts, I found out that we’d almost sorta got scooped.


I work on roughly four loosely connected topics, and a group that works on one of them (and only that one) published a paper that presents an alternative approach to ours. It’s less rigorous, it has similar numerical requirements, and I think they might get in trouble if some of the physical constraints are broken (see lack of rigor), but overall it’s a contender for the same type of stuff we do.

I was a bit ruffled for about 45 min, i.e., the duration of my kickboxing class this morning. But then I got coffee, did some work, did some non-work-related writing, and soon enough I was thinking “Whatevs.”

When novel contributions in a field become infinitesimally different from one another, so you have to bend over backwards and stomp on your colleague’s work to claim novelty, it’s time to move on, into a field that’s newer, less mature, and not saturated yet. Where there’s time to think and breathe, and not rush to publication.

Haha! This is my summer brain talking; there are no such fields. Immature yet promising fields are the dragonflies of science — fragile, with a short life span, and born around festering swamps.

Maybe what I am thinking of instead are the fields that are so mature — elderly, to be honest — that only the super-hard problems are left, so if you successfully tackle one of them, you can rejuvenate the whole field. There is definitely no rush there, but alas, no grant funding either.

Welcome to the fall season of proposal writing!


Pain in the Arse

I am feeling a little too rested, which makes me unbearably restless. I am really looking forward to the new semester and the return of structure, even if powers-that-be yet again make us use a completely new electronic course-management system.

Eldest told me yesterday, “Maybe you should write another book. The last one kept you occupied for a year!”

This was a well-deserved burn, because I tend to drive everyone crazy (even after concentrated efforts not to) when I am not sufficiently busy. I don’t do vacations well.

In the coming academic year, I will keep kickboxing/strength training 5x per week, as I’ve been doing this summer. Getting up at 4:30 am is not my favorite thing in the world, but with the early slot I’ve been attending regularly, which wouldn’t have been feasible with afternoon slots. Middle Boy has been showing interest in kickboxing, so I might buy a heavy bag for the two of us to punch and kick to our hearts’ content.

I am contemplating starting a weekly webcomic on academic life. I am looking at some resources to improve my drawing skills (remember, I have no formal training and my last art class was in freshman year of high school) and to learn about story-boarding, but mostly I think I just have to start and see how it goes. More on it when the comic is ready to go.

I am also working on some short stories, but I don’t think anything is ready for prime time. Again, I am looking as some online resources, both free ones (like this one) and short web courses.

I don’t like sucking at things, so I am clearly trying to preempt ┬áthe suckage… Although deep down I know it’s inevitable.

I receive the reviews of my proposals and papers non-stop, so there is no shortage of criticism in my life. Do I need even more rejection, as I put comic strips online or submit stories for publication? A glutton for punishment, I must be.

I am also looking into enrolling into some evening courses at the university to brush up on my so-rusty-it’s-basically-pulverized German. At least that should feature sucking without rejection.

Off to revise a paper. Hopefully everyone enjoyed the summer, and those who could took a nice peek at the solar eclipse!

Psedonymous Camp Counselors

My younger two kids have attended a summer camp for a couple of weeks. The camp is affiliated with the university and the counselors are students.

What I find really disturbing is that the counselors don’t go by their names, but rather by pseudonyms. For instance, assume that all counselors have the names of green vegetables, so one would go by Kale, another by Broccoli, a third would be Spinach, etc.

So my kids come back home with stories like, “Today, Kale did this and then Spinach said that.”

I leave my kids there all day. How are the kids supposed to trust these counselors if they can’t know the counselors’ names?

Yesterday, I asked the two counselors who were there at checkout time about the pseudonym weirdness, and they said it’s for their (the counselors’) protection, so the kids wouldn’t be able to find them on social media.


According to the counselor, many camps do it (?!). There are camps with teen campers, who then find the counselors on social media and then… I don’t know what. Send friend requests? Annoy counselors? I don’t know what exactly happens, but the counselors feel it’s inappropriate that the kids are able to contact them on social media, so they all have pseudonyms. The “green vegetable” theme (not really, but there is a common theme) was suggested by the camp director, who’s not a student counselor but an adult staff member of the university.

Let me get this straight. You are using a pseudonym in real life in order to protect your real name for the purpose of safely using the real name in social media? How is that not twisted and totally backwards? Shouldn’t the real name be protected for safe use in real life? Since when is partaking in social media mandatory?

And since when are adults (young adults, but adults nonetheless) supposed to be afraid of and protected from the children — children!!! — in their care?

This is fucked up.