Random Bits of Sunday

Best laid plans are…well, never that well laid, it seems, when they’re mine. I managed to finish the proposal and the grading of the midterm, so that’s something. But my editorial duties and homework grading still await.

I wish I felt more relaxed. My kids have had a real break; I wish I could have had it, too. But jobs with real breaks don’t usually come with very good salaries, at least not in this society. So yeah. Thanksgiving  grading and proposaling it is. 

Some days, the job really feels like a job. It used to feel like such a privilege, and there are still many such days, but the longer I do it, the more frequently I feel the jobbiness of it all. That’s probably natural with any long-term job. 

Someone asked in the comments to the November post why I remain in academia. I still owe the reader  a full post, but for now, I think it’s because an academic job is still the best job someone like me can have. In no particular order: no direct boss, lots of flexibility with time, working with young people, working with smart and interesting colleagues, working on fun and creative projects, job security of tenure, good benefits. See, listing it all like that does remind me that my line of work is a privilege. 

Tomorrow’s Monday again, so I bid you farewell, because that cheesy show isn’t going to watch itself  before bed.  

What do you do to unwind, blogosphere? Do you watch something? Read? Exercise? Bang head against wall until you pass out? Meditate?

Random Bits of Gobble-Gobble

  • Just finished my lecture (I’m teaching in person, but folks might be traveling, so today’s lecture was online and recorded). The advances in videoconferencing and everyone’s comfort with various tools used for the purpose are a positive thing that has arisen from the last two years of craziness. 
  • I am teaching a massive undergraduate class next semester. It’s twice the size of the same class that’s being offered right now, and I am puzzled and a little terrified. It would be great to think the overflow is because I’m a popular instructor, which I am, but it’s likely because of increasing enrollments and/or some student schedule conflicts. Still, it’s a lot. A LOT.  
  • Which brings me to the fact that I am glad I will be mostly done with this season’s (many, many) proposals by the end of January. 
  • Today I had a story accepted after a wait of 134 days. That’s a lot for a flash piece, and A LOT for someone as pathologically impatient as I am. It’s a story I really like, going to a market I really like. I should be jumping with joy, but I’m not. And it’s not that I am not happy, because I really am. It’s that the joy doesn’t break the surface, if that makes sense. Maybe because the surface is all business, thick and leathery from grownup concerns. Maybe it can’t because it’s such a tiny, niche, private joy, the kind that’s too small or too weird or too mine to share with most people. And if a joy can’t break the surface, you don’t really feel it, no matter how much it bubbles underneath.   
  • Over the next four days, I need to: 

a) Grade one exam and a homework assignment (graduate class, so manageable) 

b) Write solutions for current homework and prep class for Monday

d) Polish an existing proposal and submit it to a new program on Monday

d) Review a paper

e) Editorially handle a bunch of papers at two journals

I’d also like to edit a couple of very short stories to a publishable form. 

Oh, and I’d like to watch some movies and read some novels. And cook. And hang out with kids. 

What are your plans over Thanksgiving break, American blogosphere? And for non-US folks, what are your plans for the rest of this week? 

Whimsical Fauna

Grab a Chair

Apparently, I am at that career stage where I get solicited (with increasing frequency) to apply for the position of department chair or department head at various institutions. I am wholly unsuited for such positions, not because I can’t figure out what people need or solve interpersonal and logistical problems, but because:

  • I cannot do it without it perturbing my inner equilibrium for longer than is healthy or prudent. I am probably worse than most when it comes to leaving other people’s bullshit at the office and not allowing it to affect my personal life, even when I know the bullshit isn’t about me at all.
  • I cannot stomach the requirement to kiss the a$$es of alumni and folks with deep pockets in other to milk them for donations. There are some people who excel at this and don’t seem to find it prohibitively distasteful; more power to them. A few such individuals are academics in STEM fields and make excellent upper-level administrators. Yours truly, alas, is not among these specimens.
  • I like many facets of the job I have now. I am really good at teaching and draw a great deal of satisfaction from it. I enjoy working with graduate students and thinking about cool new science. I like being an editor of technical journals (usually). I like talking science with colleagues. Based on what I see among my peers, it is hard to go back to being a regular faculty member after serving in a demanding administrative capacity.
  • Moving. The other day, Middle Boy said winter was his favorite season, which surprised and puzzled me for about five seconds, until I remembered that he was Midwest-born, and long, snowy winters feel natural because this place is his home. So, yeah. We’re staying put.

Blogosphere, anyone among you considering switching to administration? Why and why not?

No Rest for the Wicked Weekend

Blogosphere, do you work weekends? 

During the summer, I usually don’t. During the semester (winter break, too), I always do. There is just way too much going on and I simply need the weekends. I wish I didn’t, but I do. When I take a weekend completely off, usually I end up hopelessly backlogged and missing deadlines in the week ahead. 

When I am not in a proposal crunch, weekends are usually for: 

a) Assigning homework

b) Writing homework solutions (mostly relevant the first time I teach a new class, like this semester)

c) Grading homework (see a pattern here?)

d) Grading exams

e) Catching up on editorial duties (assigning reviewers, chasing reviewers, making decisions on manuscripts that came back from review)

f) Catching up on emails

g) Catching up on writing miscellaneous documents that fall under service (letters of recommendation or evaluation for tenure/promotions, reviews of people’s papers)

Blogosphere, do you work on the weekends? If yes, what do you do? If no, show us your ways, oh wise one!


From the Archives: Elementary, My Dear Xykademiqz

Originally appeared here. (Only this past January. Jesus, feels like eons ago.)

I chatted with DH today about our childhoods. Mine often feels like another life, or like it happened to someone else. Perhaps that’s how everyone feels.

As I wrote here and there on the blog, I had primary school (equivalent of elementary plus middle, 8 years total), the placement into which was solely based on geography. Then high school (4 years), which, during my time, involved light specialization (for example, mine was natural sciences, but there was also a parallel social sciences and humanities track in the same school that my BFF attended; my husband went to another school where his specialization was math and programming). Then, in college, one enrolled in a major right away and was pretty much railroaded to graduation. There were several tracks to choose from as upperclassmen, but, again, no course cherry-picking; you pick a track and the course sequence is fixed.

Because of this specialization, since high school I was surrounded, more or less, with people who were similarly academically minded. Today I thought of some of the people I went to elementary school with.

There were two siblings born under a year apart in my class in elementary and high school. I look them up sometimes, and they have done well, have BS degrees in math and mechanical engineering and work in their fields.

I also remember the kids who used to sit with me in the back row in physics lab (yes, we started having physics in 6th grade; twice a week; chemistry in 7th grade, twice a week; not too much math initially, but I asked Dad to teach me some trigonometry in 6th or 7th grade so I could do physics problems with inclined planes).  Anyway, each row in the lab had two long lab desks that sat three each. I was tall and was always relegated to sit in the back, usually with boys.

In physics, I sat with these two who were supposedly “bad” kids, but I never had issues with them. They were always nice to me and respectful of my intense nerdiness. (The “nice” girls were always way nastier than any “bad” boy.)

Years later, I heard one of the boys had spent time in prison for a robbery, and was at that point out, taking care of his kid, while his wife was still locked up. It seemed surreal. The other boy I always thought was very sweet, but he was a hell raiser who, in hindsight, might have simply had ADHD. I wonder what happened with him. Unfortunately, I only remember his nickname.

And that’s the thing, I don’t really remember most of the kids I went to elementary school with. I might remember the first or the last name, but not both. You might think it’s not a big deal, but we were together, in the same class, for eight years. I feel like I should remember them better.

I was a middle-middle-class kid. A lot of my classmates were from blue-collar families. A few were what even then I’d recognized as somewhat classy, coming from old money, having had highly educated parents and grandparents and probably great-grandparents, too. In contrast, my maternal grandma had four years of schooling; my dad had a BS and got a MS when I was older; my mom had an associate’s degree.

I’m easily googlable, so, on occasion, a very rare occasion, I get a “Hey, what’s up?” A few years ago, one girl from elementary school contacted me and we shared how many kids we each had and who we were in contact with from school (me: no one; her: about half a dozen people via Facebook), and then it fizzled. It always does. I know there have been reunions, from which I’m separated by one ocean and several decades. We’re mostly curiosities to each other now. Still, I hope the kids are all right.


From the Archives: Ponderable: People Are Different

Originally appeared here.

Apropos nothing, I remembered a post by a frugality/early-retirement blogger who is of some note in the early-retirement blogging community. She and her husband have achieved financial independence and are now homesteading somewhere in the Northeast.

What matters here is her post on when she knew she’d marry her husband. The pair dated in college. In their senior year, she was taking a women’s studies/feminism course that she really enjoyed, so she kept talking about it to her boyfriend with great excitement. Lo and behold, one day she showed up to class, only to find her boyfriend sitting in the audience, grinning. He had rearranged his senior-year schedule (he was majoring in a technical field, very different from her humanities major) in order to enroll in that class with his girlfriend; he did not speak to her about it first, he just did it.

She thought that was super romantic and showed her that he really listened to her when she effused about the course. They seem happy, so good for them!

In contrast, when I read her post, I thought her then boyfriend was being creepy and boundary-violating as all f*ck. When I was young, if my boyfriend had done that, I might not have broken up with him, because at the time I didn’t believe I had the right to many of the things I wanted or needed, including my own boundaries, but I know for a fact that I would’ve freaked out and felt very, very uncomfortable.  Today’s me, if I were that girl in college, would likely break up with the guy and drop the class.

It’s nice that the blogger’s boyfriend was interested in what the girlfriend had to say. But don’t freakin’ hijack her experience! Maybe that’s just me. Apparently, my creepy and boundary-violating is someone else’s romantic, committed, and paying attention. But I generally need a lot of space, seemingly more  than many people. DH gives me space, and I am really grateful for it.

Dear reader, what are some ways in which you feel that you are—at your core—different from many people around you?