Droppings in Other People’s Comment Sections

A surefire way to tell I need to blog is that I start leaving increasingly verbose comments on other people’s posts. Here are a few recent gems turds examples.

[Seasons] I love fall; it’s my favorite season. I love rain and gloomy skies and wind and leaves changing colors. Nothing makes me feel like I am young again and the world is my oyster like the smells and sounds of a rainy October afternoon as I walk through puddles. When I was a kid, I always loved the start of the school year, with new classes, new material to learn and keep my brain engaged. (I don’t like winter here in Midwest; we get too much snow for my liking, and it is too cold to go outside. Although I really need to continue my murder-prevention walks through this winter in order to, well, prevent murder, so maybe some targeted purchases of fleece-lined pants and such are in order.)

I was born in the summer but hate summer as a season. It’s too hot, and it’s such an annoyingly pushy and extroverted season. I always feel like I have to go outside and do stuff, because it’s so nice out, like I must not miss out, but in reality it’s humid and hot and buggy and there are far too many damn people everywhere (pandemic or not), and I generally hate doing stuff everyone says I must do (this, much more so now than I did as a kid; middle age does make one more ornery!). Moreover, when I was a kid, summers were endless stretches of boredom after being dumped on my grandparents in their ancestral country house with no phone, TV, or running water. While I enjoyed those times on some level, we weren’t allowed full freedom of movement because grandparents were worried we (sister, cousin, and I, all city kids) would get bitten by snakes or get lost in the woods, and the local kids had chores so couldn’t play most of the day, so it was a struggle to fill my days after I’d invariably quickly run out of reading material. God, I read and reread everything (lots of very inappropriate stuff) so many times, I did math and physics from books of problems, but there was only so much material I could physically bring with me. My brain was always so hungry.

[Editorial duties] I am an associate editor for a disciplinary journal and sometimes have to send 8-10 requests to get 2 reports back. Everyone on the editorial team says the same. People are swamped.

The way I use comments to the editor when I am a reviewer is to convey something that can’t really be seen by the authors. For example, in recent months I have submitted several non-review reviews in which I read the paper and have thought about it, often deciding it should be rejected for lack of novelty or a complete ignorance of the state of the art (so, so many people don’t read enough!), but didn’t have the time to go digging for all the pertinent references for a full review. I basically conveyed what I thought, recommended the editor send to an additional reviewer who might have more time or provide a more charitable read, that at that point I didn’t have the time to write an ironclad review with all the references where I’d be ready to battle a rebuttal from authors, but that FWIW my opinion was what it was and I was sending it in for them to use as they saw fit.

I also use comments to the editor in conjunction with a review to convey, for example, if I think the paper is boring, derivative, etc., all words that are useful to the editor but must be couched for the author. On the plus side, I did send comments to the editor a few times to highly recommend the paper for excellence, novelty and/or elegance, and at least once the paper ended up getting featured as Editors’ Choice, which I thought was really cool.

One of my proudest reviewing moments: A really cool paper suffered from some suboptimal structuring that obscured its coolness. I suggested rewording a number of places, and asked them to restructure the paper according to my specs, all so as to better showcase the paper’s coolness. Upon re-review, I saw that the other referee had outright dismissed the initial version, but upon seeing the revision (the authors did follow my instructions) changed his mind and supported its publication. (It was for a pretty highfalutin journal, too, so I bet the authors were happy!)

[Attention issues] I might have mild attention-deficit issues (or, you know, just being a tightly wound pain in the ass) which I handle with stimulants like coffee and working with music on.

[Headaches and general midlife health issues] I have given up pretty much all alcohol. Red wine gives me headaches, and both beer and wine make me feel weird and bloated. (I also avoid pasta for similar reasons; I feel comatose-sick after a plateful of it.) I can still drink hard liquor; Malibu rum neat is my drink of choice, but I also do well with many cocktails.

[Handling the pandemic, written on a particularly grumpy day] The pandemic has been OK, I guess. Going outside every day helps immensely, and I am in notably worse spirits when I skip. I am amused and amazed but mostly aggrieved by how everyone expects me to never skip a beat, while they require and receive all sorts of help and accommodation, yet most don’t have even a fraction of daily obligations that I have.

I wish someone would be my mother for a change.

Mostly, I’m trying to take one day at a time. It helps.

How’s everyone doing, blogosphere? 


  1. I used to drink a 16oz Vanilla Coke before sitting down to study or do a problem set. I also use that technique for standardized tests (I drink the coke during my break). It helps A LOT. The music can be hit or miss. Often it helps, but sometimes I am too distracted by it. It has to be the right music. Thank you for reminding me about the Coke though! It has helped me stay focus on this revision I’m working on!

  2. The music can be hit or miss. Often it helps, but sometimes I am too distracted by it. It has to be the right music.

    omdg, I have experiments for that! 🙂 My theory, supported by a number of experiments on one subject (me) is that the music has to be something I know really well in order to help me get “in the zone.” If it’s a new album or an unknown artist, it demands too much attention and doesn’t work. So yeah, it has to be very familiar. What I do is listen to a few playlists on Spotify over and over, or for short burst of really intense focus (like when I participate in hourlong fiction-writing sprints), I will pick one song from the favorites and play it on repeat. It works miracles! Kicks me out of my “conscious” mind and lets me access the subconscious and get in the flow like that! *snaps fingers* I can (almost!) select the genre that ideas come in by changing the song I play on repeat. (Working with headphones and music also has the benefit of drowning out the noise from my crazy household.)

  3. Don’t ask me why, but I needed country music to write proposals. It was such an intense writing I needed the music to get into the zone. No idea why country, I’m not even American, maybe from listening the radio I started enjoying it. Downside is, now some particular songs remind me of specific proposals.

  4. I have some acapella cds for writing. If I really need to focus, I use New Day by the kings singers. When my DH was In high school he would put They keep calling me from the crow soundtrack on repeat.

  5. I am amused and amazed but mostly aggrieved by how everyone expects me to never skip a beat, while they require and receive all sorts of help and accommodation, yet most don’t have even a fraction of daily obligations that I have.

    Yes, I totally relate – as faculty, we are getting all sorts of requests to be accommodating to everybody, but nobody thinks that faculty members are humans too! We also need a break once in while…. If could get a penny each time a student this semester is asking for permission to turn in a late assignment, of students in my research lab also asking for accommodations, or email from the powers-that-be telling the faculty to be lenient. Yes, everybody is surprised if we ever skip a beat…..

  6. My favorite part of fall, and the thing that makes me feel like a kid, is crunching through leaf piles. I have a cemetery nearby, and the leaves tend to pile up on the back edge in big drifts that I can scrunch through to my heart’s content. I make as much noise as possible whenever I walk through the piles.

  7. On my last teaching evaluations– you know when I was trying to do everything with kids newly at home and figure out how to suddenly go remote on top of everything else, etc? One of the guys complained that I didn’t smile enough and wasn’t welcoming enough once the pandemic started. Like, FU kid.

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