A provocative essay on administrative assessment-mania, written by a friend of the blog, Alex. His take focuses on universities, but K-12 has long ago fallen prey to the same trend.
An excellent post at Tenure, She Wrote:
philipa asked for some book recommendations, so here are a few!
Science fiction magazines: I love Interzone and have received sample packs of Analog and Asimov’s. In case it’s not obvious, I am partial to science fiction over (many, perhaps most subgenres of) fantasy.
Short story collections: Other Household Toxins (literary flash fiction by one of the masters of the form, Chris Allen) and Tales from the Realm (a dark fiction “Best of” collection from Aphotic Realm):
Nonfiction (on Clarissa‘s recommendation):
And, finally, plenty of sci-fi and dark/weird fiction that I have yet to read, but am optimistic. I hadn’t read Octavia Butler’s classic Kindred before, which is a shame, but there you have it. Claire North is one of my favorite writers (her book The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August is among my all-time faves) and I’m looking forward to what she’s got in store this time with 84K. Passing for Human is hilarious as cutting satire. Stay Crazy won a top British award. All Systems Red is part 1 of a series. The Unyielding is a body horror novella that drew me in based on its premise.
Finally, I am forbidden (by me) from buying new books until I’ve read the books above. The exceptions are the new books by Becky Chambers and John Scalzi, both of whom I love. So these have been preordered:
Happy reading! And please leave us your own recommendations in the comments.
- I have to write an evaluation letter for someone’s promotion. The person’s record is incomplete and also just not that great. This makes me very grumpy, because I don’t want to write a bad letter, yet it’s not at all easy to write a good one in this case.
- The student on the project I received funds for last year really wants to move to a project I received funds for this year. So I have a year of money spent with very little to show for it. That, too, makes me grumpy. I will have to bring in a postdoc.
- I have to submit an annual project report on the project where we have little to show for. (See 2).
- So far two new grants in, and maybe a third this year. It will be a good time to go on sabbatical in academic 2019-20. I have been doing and redoing calculations for covering self and students and postdocs and travel and summers and also 35% of academic-year salary that I won’t get during the sabbatical year and also external funds to possibly travel to the UK for a few months in Spring 2020.
- I spend far too much time on literary Twitter. Far too much. Even after reducing it significantly, it’s still too much.
- I feel I should be a good literary citizen, so I committed to reviewing several short-story collections, and now it just adds to my stress. How stupid am I? Very stupid.
- In related news, I read far too much short fiction. Seriously. Short fiction is like a double espresso shot to a novel’s or novella’s 20 oz (Stabucks’ venti) filter coffee. Too much short fiction per day (and yes, I read several stories every day, and that’s not even counting the days when I read microficton for my editorial gig) makes me jittery. I literally go to a novel for a gentler, longer-term fix that I can metabolize before my mind blows up.
- I think I need to buy a heavy bag. Or a rowing machine. Or both.
- There is a book chapter, a review paper, a complete paper remaining after a student left, and a paper that I have to write from scratch but all the data is here, all of which should be done by the end of the summer. And I am bored out of my wits with all of them. I honestly don’t want to work on any of them.
- Science, where is the science in all this? BWAHAHAHAHAHA!
- There are no fewer than four short fiction pieces and two nonfiction pieces that I want to write and would write if only the rest of the world would go away for maybe two weeks and I could somehow purge my mind of all the things I need to do ASAP (see 1 and 3). I think this would be one of the so-called writers’ retreats. I could probably afford one, but they sound so…never mind. I’m never gonna do one.
- I have always been introverted, in that I need time to myself and being alone makes me happy. But with my family as large as it is, and it being summer, it’s extremely hard to have any alone time at home. At work, there’s noise all fuckin’ summer in the classroom right next to me even though I’ve asked several times that they please not put the noisy summer-program people there as plenty of similar classrooms are empty all summer long. Anyone else having dreams of being on a deserted island for just a little bit with no one wanting story comments/paper drafts/juice and chips/cooked meals? No? Just me?
- Writing all this down makes it sound nutty. And mostly self-inflicted.
- Which reminds me of “Brain on Fire,” a new Netflix movie I just saw, even though the movie isn’t about overwork or stress. It’s not a great movie, but it’s based on a compelling true story and is done decently enough.
Yep, that’s me! As old as the hills.
I will celebrate by…
…having a party for Smurf, whose 7th birthday is on Monday. The morning involved getting coffee, getting cupcakes with blue frosting and superhero plastic rings, and telling Smurf every 2.3 minutes how much time is left until his party (which is at 1 pm).
I treated myself to…
…Lose It app premium ($3.33/mo).
I received congrats from…
…parents, plus a friend whom I’ve known since elementary school and who never misses my birthday. He kindly congratulated me on turning 28.
Two days ago I found out a colleague who’s about my age has leukemia. That puts things into perspective, for a few days at least.
It’s sunny outside, I’m caffeinated, everyone is alive and kicking, and now I’m divisible by both 5 and 9. Not too shabby.
Academic blogosphere, I have a ponderable issue for you.
We all know there are academics, age 70 or 80 or more, who seem to be as passionate about their work as ever, getting grants, running huge labs, showing no sign of slowing down.
When I started on the tenure track, I thought that would be me; I thought I would never retire. I don’t think that any more. Assuming I stay healthy for the next few decades, I believe I will retire not too long after 65 (so 20+ years to go), and when I retire I won’t look back.
I started a lengthy post on why I feel how I feel, but I got bored and ran out of steam (telling, innit). Instead, here’s a concise bullet-point list of some of the reasons (reasons other than personality) which might explain why Prof. Silverback keeps chugging along while others run out of steam.
Peppy octogenarian Prof. Silverback:
- Relatively smooth career trajectory with ample funding + early and consistent recognition + family run by someone else so most energy reliably devoted to science. Silverback never had his heart broken by his job and never fell out of love with it.
Low-enthusiasm middle-aged likes of me (or maybe just me):
- Lots of energy dispensed daily on emotional and mental labor for family. After 20 years, the reserves of peppiness are significantly depleted.
- In the fields with few women, constant energy seepage owing to background bias that acts as head wind: forever being incompetent until proven otherwise, which necessitates constantly having to prove to every new colleague everywhere, no matter how young and wet behind the ears the colleague is, that we’re actually experts in something and not just a fat decoration or someone’s significant other or a diversity token.
- For men and women in STEM at research schools today, the hustle never stops. As we get more senior, we’re supposed to maintain or exceed tenure-track research momentum, while also taking on more professional service and service to the institution. Becoming an admin or dropping research to do more teaching+service are considered failure or treason, and often mean research-career suicide, even though they are likely perfectly legitimate ways to fulfill a natural need for a change in our jobs. [Clarissa has a couple of interesting posts (here and here) on the issue from the standpoint of a research-active humanities faculty at an undergraduate institution — i.e., where raising grants not necessary.] STEM faculty at research schools are trapped in perpetual tenure-trackdom, but with ever more non-research obligations. Even without the additions, it might be hard to maintain motivation to do the same job the same way for decades. Does your 100th paper really excite you just as much as your 1st or even your 10th? How about your 200th or 500th paper? Now, how do you feel about your 100th grant proposal vs your 1st or even your 10th? I personally need a lot of variety and change, but I know there are others who contentedly work on a niche area for decades. Maybe the latter is key to staying motivated?
- Less support all around (staff, state support, intramural funds) than was common even just 20 years ago; loss of time and energy on doing and filing all sorts of paperwork that (travel reservations and reimbursements, grant budgeting)
What say you, blogosphere? What am I missing? What are the reasons behind some people’s boundless interest in their science well into old age? If we can identify it, maybe be can bottle it and sell it.