Bits and pieces of doing the job:

— Emailing with one program manager while working on a project report for another, from a different agency, and I feel a little like I am secretly juggling two significant others, nly instead of flirty texts we exchange graphs and Gannt charts and highlight slides and requests for revised budgets.

— One program manager is MIA for months on end, but when they’re on, they send out a flurry of emails and are super accessible for a brief period. So the other day I was emailing with them between 12 and 2 am. Yes, all of us involved in academic science are nuts. 

— I’m writing an evaluation letter for the promotion a candidate and want to make the letter as strong as possible. I look up the most highly cited papers and want to highlight the importance and originality of the contributions, and I realize that the papers, while technically fine, sound wishy-washy. The statements of work (in abstract, intro, conclusion) are all weak and equivocal. Reader, if a well-meaning evaluator cannot easily figure out why the hell these papers were written to being with, what’s new and important in them, then your bleary-eyed, attention-challenged colleagues will quickly dismiss your work. Learn how to write clear, concise, persuasive statements of work. What did you do, why did you do it, why should people care, and did you find anything of note/advance the state of the art in some way?

— Will I ever be senior enough not to constantly be assumed clueless in the reviews of my papers? Like, “Are the authors reeeeeeally sure what they say holds, because it doesn’t seem to me that it does, based on me flipping through this textbook.” Yes, we are fucking sure, because I have dozens of paper on the topic spanning nearly two decades. I know how to fucking recognize it.

— At least with papers, I can rebut the above comments. I cannot fight the presumption of incompetence in grant reviews.

— Is there a way to have a sabbatical that actually feels restful? I fear it’s not possible when you have a research group. The work never stops. Maybe you’re not teaching, but all the research supervision happens just as before, so you’re constantly tethered by the needs of the group. Even when I procrastinate, all the stuff I have to do for my students hangs over my head.

— I’m teaching in person this fall, in a gigantic classroom, under a face shield. Both I and the students will be expected to undertake extensive pre- and post-lecture cleaning of our work space. Should be just peachy.

— How is it that the society considers me old/useless/invisible, yet I still have two more decades till retirement? That’s two more decades of grant writing… Man, I better stop futzing around with short fiction and start writing best-seller novels.

How’ve you been, academic blogosphere? What’s new at the dawn of a new academic year? 


  1. I’m contemplating a nice nervous breakdown, or just taking my coronavirus relief paid leave time when the public schools inevitably close in October. (This would, of course, be a disaster for my 8-person department, particularly if my spouse then took his…)

  2. All our nearby universities are closed for in-person classes. I’m sad for the students that they wont get a normal academic start but happy their lives are valued.

    It does feel a bit like apocalypse bingo here. Beyond the pandemic there’s the heatwave, the thunderstorms, the wildfires which turns the midday sun red, the rolling power outages, and I’m 80% sure my lamp is haunted.

  3. @RFon Please go on – inquiring minds need to know what a lamp haunting entails 🙂 Flickering softly? Making strange ‘wooo’ sounds? Spontaneous combustion?

    We have a handful of lab classes in person, but most classes are online only. Everything goes live on Friday – good luck everyone!

  4. @RFon, same here, except that I went out last week to get new LED light bulbs and my lamp is no longer flickering when I read at 4a.m. I’ve not seen such an impressive lightning show in decades (California is usually sadly deficient in lightning, but the dry lightning was almost frequent enough to read by).

  5. I’m finishing up a long overdue paper, working on a figure for a multitude-author paper and wrapped up a grant 2 weeks ago. That out of the way, Im just about ready to start completely freaking out about COVID and how I’m not in any way ready for if/when my class goes from completely in person to completely online at a drop of a hat. I really, really wish I was not teaching labs.

    Also I got my nose probed today so I’ll know in about 5 days whether I’ve somehow gotten an asymptomatic case while ensconced in my house except for grocery and camping trips.

  6. Glad I’m not alone in having a haunted lamp. Yeah, one bulb would go on and off randomly. It’s a two-way lamp with multiple bulbs up and down and it took me a bit to figure out what was making the light in the room change. It’s all somewhat moot at this point .. the beautiful lightning started a wildfire and now the lamp (and, I hope, the ghost with it) has likely burned up. Not exactly spontaneous combustion, but apocalypse bingo checks another square for 2020.

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