On Membership in Professional Societies

Show of hands: How many academics actually consider professional-society memberships to be useful?

I recently renewed my memberships of two professional societies. They were not cheap.

For one of the societies, I do not remember ever having had a real use for the membership. Ever. I understand that for people outside academia these memberships perhaps provide a way to stay current with the technical literature, but for this particular society I fully admit that I renew because sometime in the next few years I plan to go up for fellow, which is expected of a reputable academic in my department and at peer institutions. I have done service for the society, again mostly to help with the eventual fellowship application. I don’t like to publish in their journals (slow and don’t have high impact factors). I engaged with them in the past (the year Smurf was born) about the conference I was organizing, but they did not make anything better, easier, or cheaper — quite the contrary. Further involvement of the society would’ve resulted in vastly higher conference registration fees and far too much of a trade-show feel, both of which I wanted to avoid. So never again.

For the second one, my main reason for renewing is, also, that I eventually plan on applying for elevation to fellow. However, I am also more engaged with this society, as I like their journals; I both publish in them and review for them often, but I could do that just as well without the membership, if we’re being honest. The membership does offer benefits for the attendance of certain meetings, including a massive annual one, but far less now than when I was junior. The membership costs less than for the first society, so I don’t get quite as grumpy when the time comes to renew.

Overall, I keep renewing grudgingly every year because it is expected, but I don’t actually see the benefits, not in my daily work or meeting attendance. Again, I understand there are benefits for professionals outside academia.

Blogosphere, what are your feelings about professional-society memberships?

New Semesterish

The new semester started and the return of routine is somewhat invigorating. I need to get back to exercise; it fell somewhat by the wayside during the winter break.

I spend a lot of time interacting with undergraduates this semester. Basically, three days of my workweek go into teaching or teaching-related contact and activities.

I have a big deadline coming up on March 1, which is daunting/paralyzing, as well as exciting. I am very deadline driven, so it  should be fine.

I’m not too psyched about my latest crop of graduate students, that’s all I will say. I got spoiled by my most recent graduates. Expectations need to be recalibrated.

The problem with academics is that we’re expected (by colleagues and higher-up admins, but mostly by ourselves) to pour our entire beings into the career. But sooner or later, most of us find that careers don’t really love us back.  It’s a cumulative effect of ever mounting administrivia, eroding support for the higher education especially visible at state schools, and constantly being slapped around (critical reviews, rewrites, unrelenting grant rejections). And at some point we turn around to find out that few people actually care about what we do, and that those people might include us.

I think I am finally at the place where I am OK saying that this is a job. A good job, with lots of perks and freedoms, but it is a job. It is not an embodiment of my soul, or at least not all of my soul. It is OK to enjoy parts and not enjoy other parts, and for these parts to change over time. It is OK to not put 100% in, especially when no one else seems to do things above 70% of their capacity. I know these sound like trivial insights, but the good little girls (and boys) among us need constant reminders that being less than perfect is OK.

There are many exhausting things about being a faculty member, and a woman in a men-dominated field, and also a theorist in a field seemingly filled by experimentalists who appear convinced that theorists (except for the one or two they have heard of) are useless time wasters. But I am too exhausted to list all the things that are exhausting.

Instead, I will go look for the incarnations of the pieces of my soul elsewhere. One might be among the Amazon Prime movies. Plenty are at the local library and in online fiction magazines. The parts of my soul that are still inside me all want chocolate.

(Btw, top 2017 commenters lyra211, gasstationwithoutpumps, and Prodigal Academic, your rewards have been sent! Check your email!)

The First Rant of 2018

I have been battling low-level pissiness for months now and I think I have finally figured out (sort of) what’s bothering me.

I am so sick and tired of people wanting stuff from me. Time, energy, expertise, good will, various accommodations.

I had more than one graduate students in the past couple of years go back on our agreement on a timeline or work needed because life happened, so I had to make big adjustments to plans or funds or workload. To two of them, life happened repeatedly. To one of them, life kept happening in a way that suggested that the happenings were deliberate, our agreement treated as irrelevant, and leaving me blindsided was not accidental.

You have to be a supportive advisor, you say, and I am. I listen and sympathize. I accommodate. I adjust. I pull my hair out to find a way to redistribute and stretch the funds.

In reality, I feel mostly resentful and taken advantage of because I feel like my trust and my boundaries have been breached and I have been put in a position — repeatedly — where I cannot say no.

I don’t fuckin’ want to know so much about your life. We agreed to something; stick to what we agreed on. If I refuse I am a heartless monster, because only a heartless monster would refuse, but why is there a never-ending stream of requests for accommodations or adjustments?!

Students and postdocs, if your advisor seems like they might have draconian and inflexible policies, it might just be that they were are one time flexible and accommodating, but were burned because with some people there is no end to requests… Some people always want more.

I feel like in life there’s a certain number of fucks to give, and my bucket is now empty. Every additional request makes me livid.

But you might say: People can just say ‘no,’ right? What’s the harm in asking, right?

There is plenty of harm in asking. 

Let me be overtly hyperbolic for a moment. Let’s say person A needs a kidney and their family somehow found that person B, a complete stranger, is a perfect match. Then they ask B for the kidney or else their loved one will die; B is  their only hope. Sure, B can say no, but this is such an unfair thing to ask of anyone — to give up their kidney for a stranger. By the act of asking B, they are making B a monster if B refuses; B becomes someone who will de facto elect to kill A, whereas in reality making the very request of B is a gross violation of B’s boundaries and the request should’ve never been made. B has a right to bodily integrity. B should not be asked to go under the knife to save a complete stranger at a great personal cost.

Women are socialized to always put others first, to always be accommodating. Every single one of my noes carries an emotional penalty for me and depletes my energy, because I have to override years of programming, and am left to battle the guilt for saying no as a lovely lingering effect. It’s exhausting.

It’s also exhausting to say yes and then have to do the thing I never wanted to do in the first place.

I fuckin’ wish people were more judicious with deciding whether to ask for stuff to begin with. I wish people were less selfish with dumping their needs and wants on me, and then me having to use up my energy and time to battle myself into saying no only to spend even more on the lingering guilt.

My PhD advisor wants me to review his book. How could I say no to him? But he keeps writing books no one reads and this one will be no exception. My PhD advisor probably thinks I owe him that, and I suppose I do; he will not be grateful for the yes, he’ll take it as something for granted, and I will sink a ton of time into something I resent that the world doesn’t need and for no benefit other than the absence of guilt.

I declined participation on two proposal-review panels. I declined one immediately, hot on its heels accepted another one because I am always the most vulnerable when drowning in guilt over a recent no, only to realize I just can’t, so I finally declined that one as well. I really do not have it in me to read other people’s proposals and give feedback right now; I just don’t. Pushing myself to do it would be worthwhile if either program were likely to ever fund me, which neither is. So no, I can’t.

I decided to take it easy with work until the start of the semester, in an attempt to recharge. Yet several colleagues wanted stuff ASAP — busy work, with no good reason for urgency, just because they wanted it. I got into a confrontation with a colleague when I said I was too old to drop everything, again, in order to do something unimportant and random on someone else’s arbitrary last-minute schedule.

***

I am also saturated with words. Bad words that are poorly stacked together, in particular.

I received several papers on which I am a coauthor for comment. Even attempting to read them sends my blood pressure through the roof. In one of them, so much is bad, I don’t know where to start and I don’t want to deal with it.

In my role as one of the editors for an online flash-fiction zine, I read many, many entries and need to provide feedback for aeach. I started doing this in order to learn how to write better, and having to articulate what’s wrong with each piece has been really helpful. The problem is that many pieces are quite bad and would have to be summarily dismissed… But I still need to provide constructive feedback in the sandwich form (something good/constructive criticism/something good), which is really hard to do for bad pieces. I need to take a break from editing because it leads me towards resentment of the written word.

Twitter is also getting on my nerves (I have two separate accounts, but am mostly active on the fiction one). I don’t follow all that many people and I keep muting (apparently, many folks get upset when you unfollow them *eyeroll* so I mute instead) and blocking retweets from the people who amplify far too much content… And I still feel that I read far too much of what I don’t care about and keep missing stuff that I do care about. Twitter is not contributing to my happiness, I will tell you that.

I just read on a blog I sometimes visit: “I could care less.” NOOOOO! The expression is “I couldn’t care less,” as in “I don’t care at all.” I wish people stopped for two seconds to think how wrong it is to indicate a complete lack of caring by saying “I could care less,”  because the phrase clearly indicates that you do care a lot and could care less. It drives me freakin’ bananas.

I might need to find a place with no internet and no people, and expose myself to abstract art and nature. And perhaps pantomime.

2018 Blog Delurking Week (Jan 7-13, 2018)!

Happy Festivus! I hope everyone has recovered from the relatives and/or overeating and is back to a more-or-less regular schedule.

Traditionally, the first week of January is the blog delurking week… So without further ado, I give you…

The Belated 2018 Blog Delurking Week (Jan 7-13, 2018)!

2018Delurking

 

Please stop by to say ‘hi’ in the comments, whether or not you’ve ever commented before. Don’t be shy! Tell us a few things about yourself, what you hope to achieve in 2018, and/or what you would like to read about at xykademiqz in the coming year.

Thanks to everyone who has read and commented in 2017! Blogs remain a great outlet for the people who like to write and read longer pieces. Thank you all again for the support, and I am looking forward to another year of xykademiqz!

Update: This week — on January 10 — xykademiqz blog will be 4 years old! May will mark 8 years of my blogging altogether. Time flies!

 

2017 in Review: Hindsight, Resolutions, Stats, and Prizes!

This has been a good year. I have been battling with what’s probably a midlife crisis, trying to find ways to scratch an amorphous itch… To feed the hunger for something new and meaningful.

WORK

Work has been OK, but it’s definitely been far less fulfilling than in the past. I think boredom inevitably settles in, but it’s hard to indulge the desire to do really new things when a prerequisite for doing new things is having the funding to do them, and you can only get the funding if you have a track record of doing very similar things… Maybe it’s OK to just be bored for a while, keep doing what I’m doing until I’ve figured out a way, through learning new things on my own (without money for students) or new collaborations, to reignite the spark.

I’ve written some cool new grants this year, had one awarded. Next year, my bread-and-butter project is up for renewal, but I’m confident I have a very solid plan to propose. I graduated two PhD students, taught many undergrads, and generally had fun with the younglings.

I received a cool professorship that comes with some money, which has been a nice recognition. I was really touched by how many of my colleagues showed up for my professorship award ceremony.

I’ve come out of some ridiculously time-consuming service and am still on the mend.

Work goals:

I’ve decided it’s OK to not go full throttle for a while. I need to find ways to genuinely recharge my science batteries.

In the meantime, I will work on renewing funds, holding the fort for existing projects, pushing the students along. Maybe I’m not raging fire, but I can pull off smoldering fire (hehe, Hulk v. Thor joke), which should be enough for a while.

Continuing to say ‘no’ to stuff that’s not glaringly obviously (ugh, two adverbs, ugh) useful for my career goals.

I’ve realized that I am the most vulnerable to saying ‘yes’ to stuff I don’t want to do after I’ve just said ‘no’ and am both drowning in guild and feeling far too proud of myself for persevering. That’s how I refused one panel attendance only to agree to another a mere week later. Ugh. I have to work on this. I wish people wouldn’t constantly ask me for stuff; my capacity to say ‘no’ is not limitless — each ‘no’ requires intellectual effort to counter lifelong programming that everyone else’s needs are more important than mine, that being nice and pleasing is paramount.

So, for New Year, I wish for everyone to just stop the fuck asking me for stuff so I don’t have to waste my intellectual and health units on battling myself into saying ‘no’ (or saying ‘yes’ and then losing precious time and said intellectual and health units to do the stuff I don’t want to do). I want everyone to be so scared of me so as not to ask me for anything ever again. Or at least until I’m done with the proposal renewal in March.

FAMILY

Family life has been OK. We’ve taken a few shorter trips together this year.

DH and I have been on some nice dates; we like live comedy shows, rock concerts, and movies, and we’ve seen some of each. It’s nice to have Eldest to babysit.

Eldest is a senior in high-school and the college application stuff has been far less stressful (on me) than what other parents report. He applied to two schools, to both early, and he got into the science programs at both. We’re waiting for his music school auditions this January, and then we’ll see where he goes. I’ve enjoyed road trips with Eldest before he achieved vehicular mobility and I will miss driving all around the state for events… We got him a used car this summer, and he’s been enjoying it. He has a job at Subway which pays for his gas and provides him with spending money. He’s a great kid and I think we’ve done a good job of not ruining him.

Middle Boy is finishing 5th grade and he’s a tough nut. Very bright, but a bit lazy and very stubborn. He’s a great athlete and craves sports with lots of physical contact with the opponents. He is very tall and excels at basketball; he really wants to play football but we won’t let him (flag football is fine). His friends are VERY important to him and he is the alpha male among his peers; we worry about the social aspect being too much of a distraction going forward. Girls are also becoming VERY important. MB starting middle school next year is the main reason I won’t be taking a sabbatical, as I don’t want to be away as he gets hit with big waves of puberty hormones and all the social drama that goes with it. He’s a sweet and passionate kid with an endless desire for the new and different (kind of like his pain-in-the-a$$ mother) and he’s always had a mind of his own; he’ll do great in life if he doesn’t end up making some awful choices early on. DH and I adore him, but are bracing ourselves; the next couple of years will be challenging.

Smurf is the cutest kid on the planet. He’s a first-grader, among the youngest in the class (late June birthday) but he’s very bright and he’s well above average in both math and reading. He’s temperamentally mellow and sweet, more like Eldest than MB. Smurf really likes school, but also friends, movies, games, outdoors, just about everything. He’s easy-going, chatty, cuddly, curious, and just such a joy.

I’m not really in contact with my primary family but I think they’re doing well. My baby sister turned 40 and I saw the pics from the celebration. My parents are getting older and that brings closer some concerns that I am so far pretending don’t exist. I live so far away that it’s hard for me to do anything but send money when needed. I don’t have the emotional bandwidth for more.

Family goals:

More meaningful time with Eldest before he leaves, more time as a family. More one-on-one time with MB.

I don’t give DH enough credit on the blog, but he’s the one who has contributed the sweetness and calm genes to our offspring (I am solely responsible for all the pain-in-the-ass bits of DNA that any of them carry) and he’s instrumental in keeping me level-headed and away from catastrophizing, which I am prone to do. I want us to go to more standup comedy and generally just have grownup fun, especially before we lose our built-in babysitter, the college-bound Eldest.

EXTRACURRICULARS

I got back to kickboxing. I’ve been doing it since June, 5x a week most of summer and fall, then down to 3x this winter. When it’s no longer so goddamn dark in the morning at 4:30 when I need to get up for it, I hope to go back to 5x a week. For now, I will consider keeping continuity a win.

I’ve started writing short fiction and it’s been going well. I started submitting in September, and I’ve had 17 flash pieces published in 2017: 10 micros (up to 100 words) and 7 longer flash-fiction pieces (flash is up to 1000 words). Going into 2018, I already have 5 longer pieces slated to appear (4 long flash pieces and a short story, ~1500 words). Of the 2018 stuff already accepted, there is one great satirical piece and two more that have a lot of humor in them.

I’m already better at writing than when I started, and I think considerably so; much of it is thanks to volunteering at a magazine that promises personalized feedback, so every time I reject I have to articulate what didn’t work and how to make it better. I am deeply allergic to schmaltz and cannot stomach (or write) moody pieces where cloudy skies are a metaphor for inner turmoil and whatnot. These just irritate me to no end. I also really hate sloppiness in writing, like when an author flails random noninteracting metaphors and calls it abstract (also resists editorial pleas to tie up those loose ends — experiences as an editor are a whole different can of worms). Anyway, “abstract” as a synonym for “I threw some imagery out there without bothering to rewrite for some coherence or plot or character or anything really”; I see a lot of that and say nope to the never. I am drawn to the ridiculous and to spare prose with judicious use of incisive lines and strong, well-placed literary devices. I am working on improving my own style, getting the writing to where I feel it needs to go, and learning which zines appreciate what I have to offer.

I’ve tried a few competitions and I don’t think I am good at those. Given a prompt word or phrase or other constraints of the competition, I’m the person who gets inspired to write a fantasy piece when everyone else writes realism, or I will eschew the obvious route toward a sci-fi piece and write lab lit instead. Then I read the winning pieces: 20% of the time they are phenomenal and I wish I could write like that; 60% of the time I don’t particularly care for them one way or another; the final 20% of the time they are irritating plotless blobs of freefloating imagery that I would turn away if I got them as an editor.

Writing goals:

Submitting some speculative fiction to paying markets (so far most has been literary fiction, even if some had speculative-fiction elements). If I were to get a speculative fiction publication in a professional market (means it pays 6 cents or more per word), not because of money but because it would qualify for eventual membership in SFWA, I would consider it a great success this year; however, I am not sure I am at that level yet.

Writing more satire and getting it into ever better zines. I think I’m actually quite good at writing humor (certainly better than writing about goddamn stormy skies as a metaphor for constipation) and at finding humor everywhere, even in (or particularly in) the sad, the heavy, and the tragic.

Making peace with the fact that I will never be a superstar fiction writer. Not that I really want it, to be honest, it’s just that my inner ambition is always beneath the surface, ready to pounce, even when emotionally I don’t really want things and intellectually I know that I likely don’t have the chops, and ultimately who cares anyway since this is a goddamn hobby.

In literary fiction, I want to find a way to be as weird, insightful, and genuinely emotional as I know I can be. Also, get into a few select markets I like.

I want to toughen my hide into that of the thickest walruslike blubber so as not to feel the sting of rejection at all.

And just keep writing. (Btw, if you are interested in reading my fiction, send me an email and I will give you the coordinates.)

BLOGGING

I will answer the as -yet-unanswered queries from November and leave that post up for people to add requests.

I would like to somehow re-ignite the dialogue in this space, but I know blogging is no longer as fashionable as it used to be, and much of the activity has moved to Facebook and Twitter. Still, I’m here, and there will be a delurking post coming up early in January, as every year.

I have no intention of leaving this place; it’s been a cherished outlet for my academic wisdom and/or angst for many a moon. I can’t imagine ever running out of things to say (although I do sometimes repeat myself), so I’m not going anywhere.

Stats

Finally, here are a few stats and some prizes!

About 181, 000 views, 44,000 visitors, and over 1,000 comments!

Here are the most popular posts:

Top referrers — thank you!

As for top commenters, that’s a bit tougher to extract now that WordPress doesn’t do the end-of-year summaries for us, but this is close enough (I did a manual count for the top commenters and the actual comment numbers in the year are a bit higher than what’s given below, but not by much). Thanks everyone for reading and commenting, and the top three commenters — lyra211, gasstationwithoutpumps, & Prodigal Academic — will be getting some Amazon gift cards via email!

 

Happy New Year everyone!