Month: October 2020

Updates and NaBloPoMo

Anyone still around and reading? Pandemic plus a general dissolution of the once vibrant academic blogosphere (and its move to platforms like Twitter) equals fewer people reading and commenting, and consequently less of an impetus for me to keep blogging, especially since life stuff and fiction writing already vie for my time.

Anyway, as in (most? many? some?) years past, there will be daily blogging in November (NaBloPoMo — the blogging equivalent of NaNoWriMo). I think it’s good for me to have these intense blogging periods as a way to reconnect with this space, and hopefully good for you, dear reader, as there will more content. I can’t promise 100% highbrow fare, but something will be up every day in November.


I’m knee-deep in grading a midterm. I have a proposal due next week. Four papers need to be revised and resubmitted (after the proposal is in, duh).

This coming summer, I am looking forward to graduating probably the weakest student I’ve ever had. This students shouldn’t have gotten a PhD to begin with, but they managed to somehow pass one procedural hurdle, then another, and with a lot of help from others, and some strategically applied (and possibly not entirely conscious) manipulation and guilt-tripping of advisor , which I really shouldn’t have succumbed to but did, I continued to work with them even though several colleagues told me to cut the student loose. I tried all the tricks, changed their topic, then changed it back, tried being super hands off, then super hands on, but at the end of the day they were upbeat and enthusiastic but nothing was sticking, and they kept not being able to grapple with technical problems or do anything without a lot (A LOT) of help from me and others. All in all, we are now at a point where I can get them out with a minimal PhD that is well below the standard for my group, but passes the department, college, and university sufficiency tests. I suppose sooner or later we all (as advisors) have such a student.

My terrible professional mood these past couple of years has likely been linked to several bad hires I had made once three grants were funded in short succession. These new people were in stark contrast to the absolutely stellar crop I had graduated just before. For months, going into years, nothing was getting done. I started feeling hopeless, surrounded by all these nice and social but completely unproductive people spending all my money for naught, and panicking that this would be the end of my grants as we would not be able to renew. One way or another, those people are mostly no longer with the group. One has found their groove, and then some, and is being quite productive. I’ve since lucked out with a stellar student who transferred from another group, an absolutely fantastic undergrad, and another great new international student. The group is finally back to its usual output, and not a moment too soon, as two grants are up for renewal in the spring.


I have a bunch of stories coming out in late October and early November, and some exciting holds at prestigious markets. Fingers crossed!

It no longer feels impossible to write a novel. I (jokingly) promised my husband I’d write a bestseller, so we could retire early to someplace warm. No pressure! 🙂


What have you been up to, blogosphere?

Random Bits of Quarankademiqz

I am an associate editor with a disciplinary journal. Another associate editor incessantly sends me manuscripts to review (as a reviewer) and I turn it down. I specifically avoid sending stuff to my fellow associate editors to review because I know they already read plenty for the journal. I wish this associate editor would take a hint and stop sending me stuff. (No, I am not the only or the best person for any of the work he sends me. I bet I’m just the first sort-of in-area person that comes to his mind.)

I had a “battle” with university-level sponsored research office at award closeout. I love how these always start with them being condescending and commandeering toward the PI, as in “Lowly PI, thou have transgressed. Thou must obey!” I pushed back hard, because I know my program managers would approve these expenses and the expenses have already been scrutinized heavily (heavily=taking way too much of my time) by department and college. Doing computational work, I dared buy computers for my students and I guess those are considered office supplies; no, for us they are not, they have custom configurations and are essential equipment). Eventually, the admin folded, but all this red tape irritates me to no end and is such a waste of time and energy.

I am teaching in person and it’s going OK. What I don’t understand are the students who have never showed up for class. Not once! Why sign up for an in-person section if you’re never going to show up and there’s another section that is completely online?

I have done a ton of writing for service since the semester started. All the blogging and fiction writing made this probably far easier for me than it is for most; I have almost no barrier (other than sheer laziness) when it comes to writing technical or admin materials. I wish we conveyed to prospective faculty members everywhere just how much of a faculty member’s job is writing. IT IS ALL OF THE JOB. Seriously. It feels like all I do is write or edit someone else’s writing.

During the pandemic, I have been doing OK. Some cabin fever, but not too bad, as I’ve managed to take my hourlong “murder-prevention walk” most days. But, in more frequent (online) interactions with colleagues these days, it is clear, yet again, what a wide chasm exists between those of us who have to take care of others and those who don’t. The thing is, overall I actually enjoy having all this extra time with my kids. During the day, Smurf sits at a desk next to me, while Middle Boy is just outside, in the next room. And no, I don’t kick anyone out when I have calls, because they have the right to go to their Zoom school. But I see some impatience and irritation from people on the other side whose kids are either nonexistent or safely tucked away. I heard from one kidless partnered colleague how some people have been just fine, working like nothing has changed. Yeah, I bet he’s been fine. All his comment did was made me want to cut him. (Look, I know all people have problems. But I am just not in a very charitable mood toward those who cannot see past their own nose and imagine how the pandemic affects those with significant caregiving obligations. And before anyone thinks to say “Well, you chose to have kids,” don’t. Just fucking don’t.)

Men v women. In my class, I polled the students about some class logistics and offered, as response options, strong preference for one or the other, some preference for one or the other, and neutral. All the boys expressed a strong preference, and all the girls expressed mild preference. That made me furious, because I guarantee that girls have preferences just as strong as anyone else’s, they’re just trained not to be too loud, not to demand too much. In contrast, the boys think that, of course, their wish should be everyone’s command. I remember this from my own relationships, where the man says we should do as he wishes because I don’t seem to feel very strongly about something (or anything), whereas the whole time I’m contorting myself not to be too demanding, too intrusive, or too much.

We have been instructed to strictly hold exams within our class periods, to minimize student clustering in the hallways and whatnot. Yet there’s of course an instructor (wanna guess their gender?) who insist on extending the exam 15 min into my class time. I am all for breaking stupid rules, but some rules are reasonable and necessary. Why are some people so fucking selfish to think these don’t apply to them? Just stay within your own goddamn exam period. It’s not that hard.

I’m so fucking tired of having to tone myself down, shut myself up, make myself small in order to palatable to people. It’s amazing how I didn’t see or rather didn’t mind it when I was young, all the mansplaining/condescension, and how much I do mind it now, and even mind it retroactively, fuming over the injustices done toward my younger self.

Yeah, I fume a lot.

In other news, writing is going well and I have had some contest placements and even have a request to revise and resubmit from a pro-paying market I’ve been trying to crack since I’ve started writing! Thanks to biweekly writing challenges, I have a ton of new flash to shop around, and the benefit is that I am less precious about any one story than when I write one every few months. The abundance (as opposed to scarcity) mentality is really something. And, as a result of constant practice, my writing leveled up—not only has the volume of my output increased, but so has its quality.

What’s going on with you, wise and worldly readers?