Day: April 16, 2020

Shopping and Mentoring


You know, I believe I’m doing quite well during this quarantine time. Generally in good spirits, productive, having time for extracurriculars, and keeping the family going.

Then I go shopping and get reminded that we all live in the middle of a shitshow.

The zombie-apocalypse (i.e., nonexistent) traffic; everyone at the store subdued, with masks and gloves on. Never before was the aisle with toilet paper and paper towels the first stopping point. At 7 am on a midweek shopping trip. I wish I could do it biweekly, but we go through A LOT of food (did I mention that the not-yet-13-y.o. Middle Boy is 6’1″?), and I don’t have the space to store two weeks worth of all that meat and produce.

Yesterday, one man in his sixties snickered at me as I picked out fruit while wearing a mask and gloves. I allow that my mask was ridiculous, but I don’t think that was it. He was the only shopper I saw all morning who wore neither a mask nor gloves. He probably thinks we’re all morons.

These days, every shopping trip completely drains me.

Blogosphere, how are you holding up? 



I have a postdoc (PD) who’s been with me about 18 months. Very energetic and productive, but communication has been an issue from the get-go. The problems stem from PD’s poor command of the language, as PD is a foreigner who got their PhD in their native country.

I just looked at a draft of our first joint paper, and my heart sank. On the first page in the preprint form (meaning the page contains the title and the abstract of some ~150 words), I made more than forty comments. There were multiple syntax, grammar, and punctuation issues in each sentence. It’s completely unreadable.

PD said they consulted the two native speakers we have in the group before sending to me, which I highly doubt. I can give some general remarks, but the line edits would just be too numerous. I don’t have the time or the bandwidth right now to teach someone English as a second language, especially remotely. Even if I were to mark everything up on the pdf, then send it back, it would only achieve readable English at the sentence level. We still have to rewrite completely for structure, clarity, and emphasis.

Even in the best of times, I cannot do as much hand-holding for a postdoc as I do for a graduate student, and these are far from the best of times. I said I would just rewrite the whole thing, and hopefully PD can learn from side-by-side comparison. 

Blogosphere, how would you handle this? In normal times vs. corona times?