I think we need a term for the feeling of jet lag after a conference, even when it's in your own time zone or +/- 1 hour. A couple of times this summer I've come back from a conference and basically felt like I just spent a week in Hawaii, without the tan. At first I attributed it to just being burned out after a conference, between the all out science and the typical shenanigans that occur when you get a bunch of scientists together in a place that offers adult libation. However, that wouldn't account for having a hard time getting to sleep at my normal "home" time once getting back. After a recent conference I got thinking about it and realized that I basically live in a different time frame during a conference, even in the same time zone. At home, the Wee One wakes up between 5:00 and 6:00 pretty much everyday and that's about it for sleeping. For that reason we are typically in bed between 10:00 and 11:00 (a significant departure from pre-child days). My conference schedule is quite different, however, typically lasting well into the early AM and getting up in time to scarf down some breakfast before the morning session (or maybe sleep in a bit of the morning talks aren't doing it for me). For all intents and purposes, it's as much a time shift as traveling a few hours west. Maybe I need to start attending more conferences in Europe so I can stay on my home schedule while away.
Archive for: July, 2009
I never knew or particularly cared who else applied for the job I currently have. It may have been interesting to know at the time I was interviewing to see who I was up against, but after I got the offer there wasn't much reason to care who hadn't gotten the job. However, just because those who were interviewed remain anonymous to me, any one of them could look and see who ended up with the position. Over this summer I have twice seen a reaction to my affiliation that made it pretty clear (along with the individual's research) that the person I was talking to had at least applied, if not interviewed for, my job. I guess that's bound to happen and I'm not sure how I would react in the same situation, but the hollow congratulations through gritted teeth still take me off guard.
It turns out that my friend wasn't blowing smoke when I got the heads up about being an external for a PhD defense and traveling for the defense. Honestly, I'm honored, a bit freaked out by the responsibility and excited for the event, but I am also watching my last semester of almost no teaching get filled up before my eyes. People have asked me what the time sinks are in this job outside of the nebulous "meetings" and I'm not usually sure exactly how to answer that question. I guess I would say that there is always something lurking which needs to be done. Here's a brief run down of the commitments I have for this fall semester, which have nothing to do with teaching, data analysis or getting my own work done:
The Albatross: The 20,000 word chapter I agreed to write.
Organizing the department's invited seminar series (which wipes out an afternoon a week).
An invited seminar that I will be giving.
Chairing a societal Education Committee and organizing a training workshop for next summer's meeting.
Co-organizing a local sub-discipline meeting for about 120 people.
Serving on a PhD defense committee and traveling for the defense.
Serving on our department's grad committee
The potential commitments:
Serving on a journal editorial board.
Being a panel member for NSF.
I'm sure I forgot a few things, but that's all the shit I can think of right now that I would consider outside of the regular day-to-day stuff. That doesn't include supervising my three grad students, preparing for a lecture/lab course in the spring, writing grants or data papers, reviewing papers, etc. I'm sure people more senior to me are looking at that list and thinking "that dude has it easy!", but I guess that's the point. The commitments just keep building in this job and it's not always easy to define all the things that suck your time like a million mosquitoes. I'm not complaining so much as trying to keep the long and short term tasks in my head so that I can prioritize what I do each day. There's a lot to juggle and every now and then someone tosses another ball into the mix.
I don't have much time to post at the moment, but I was asked today whether I would be willing to stand for election to the editorial board of one of the bigger journals in my sub-sub-discipline. As a junior faculty member just about to start my second year, my first inclination is to say "I need more work like I need fewer fingers, thanks but no thanks." On the other hand, it would look good for tenure, etc. Still, I think it can wait a couple of years. So, dear readers, thoughts?
Well, at least this is my last trip planned for the next couple of months. I've already been warned about the possibility that I might be asked to be an external for a PhD student in a foreign country, but I don't have a formal invite yet, and I did tell an NSF PO that I would serve on their panel if they needed someone... But, as of right now, my trip next week is the last of the summer and the last chance fate has to rattle my cage for a bit with some type of crisis while I am gone. Even if nothing explodes or implodes, it should still be an exciting week.
For one, I'm going on this trip without people from my lab, which means that any inkling I may have towards a "supervisor mode" is not in play (and by that I mean "making sure that my students have the chance to meet people, have fun and check out lots of good science", not some oppressive alternative where they are treated like children). I also think, for various reasons, that this trip will be a bit out of the ordinary for me, which is always intriguing. I don't think I will know anyone at this particular gathering, so it'll be a good opportunity to not get sucked into the safety of old acquaintances and meet some new people - something that I actually enjoy.
And finally, I'm driving. No planes, trains or boats. No Elmo singing or Rockabye Baby! renditions of classic albums (These CDs do kick ass, however. There aren't many kid-friendly CDs that don't make you stabby, but these do the trick. Where else can you find The Cure, Bjork and Tool songs played on the glockenspiel?). Just me driving and having some time to think without distraction and play whatever I want on the radio. Those moments are rare these days.
After weeks of writing and re-writing what seem like the same pages, days of harassing colleagues for letters of support or other documents and what seems like forever digging through papers and data looking for that one last piece of the grant puzzle, anyone can start to take on some funk. It's the sour stink of ideas made stale by the number of times they were rolled over and over. The unmistakeable odor that a massive deadline leaves in it's wake. Well, now there's a way to rid yourself and your office of grant-stench.
For just 12.3 easy payments of only $9.99 (plus S+H*), we'll ship a bottle of Grant-Be-Gone right to your home, office or colleague's office. No longer will your students scatter when you leave your office. After one application of Grant-Be-Gone, you might even answer your phone with more than a grunt**.
"Grant-Be-Gone even got those burrito stains out of my shirt!" - Andrea Blain, Beleaguered Assistant Prof, MRU
That's right folks, Grant-Be-Gone*** will wash that recently-submitted grant away so that you can get back to working on that manuscript / review / class / book / other grant that you have been neglecting for the past month.
* $29.99 for Shipping & Handling. Product comes on Dry Ice, MSDS available.
**Individual results may vary.
*** May not be legal in all states, check you local regulations on reactive phenolic compounds.
I think this s a timely meme, given recent conversations regarding writing a blog and how bloggers are perceived by their readers. Also, it would give me an idea of who is actually reading and what your interests are. I'm not saying it's going to change what or how I write, but there's some curiosity on my side as well, seeing as only a small minority of readers actually ever comment. So, here goes.
Ed Yong of Not Exactly Rocket Science has revived an old thread to ask his readers the following:
Identify yourself in the comments. Even if you've never commented before, speak up. Who are you? Do you have a background in science? Are you interesting lay-person, practicing scientist, journalist, sentient virus, or something else? Are you a close friend, colleague, acquaintance or stranger?
It's a simple but interesting request that DrugMonkey has picked up on and turned into a meme. So, if you have been reading the blog, let me know what keeps you coming back and why you read this blog instead of (or in addition to) the blogs that delve into the science more.
While you do that, I'm going to finish and submit this grant today.
I was not planing on resubmitting my proposal that recently got declined by NSF for the July round because the reviews came out so late this year and the timing didn't seem like it could work. However, I just talked with my PO who bot only encouraged me to resubmit (after dispelling what was apparently a major hang-up for the panel with a single sentence) in this round, but let me in on a secret. Due to the fact that the reviews came out so late as a result of delays incurred while they tried to figure out how the stimulus money was going to go down, NSF is allowing a three week extension for anyone who wants to resubmit their grant. All you have to do is write your PO with the request and they will confirm. I just thought you should know.
The topic of blogger identity (in all its myriad of potential meanings) is a constant hot button issue, for obvious reason. Every now and again someone will run into massive real life issues based on their blogging activity, as our friend DGT did most recently, and the shock wave will be felt throughout the blogosphere in various ways. It should not be surprising that those of us who blog under a pseudonym can be protective of our identities, even if we go out of the way to ensure we don't reveal much that might get us into any trouble. Nevertheless, there are readers who feel they will somehow be enriched by knowing the blogger's identity, even if it really has no bearing on what they reading. I can promise you that you know far more about me by reading the blog than you will ever learn from my CV or by browsing my publications. Perhaps for some, the ability to find my lab website or verify my track record gives some credence to my opinions, but you will only find that I don't claim to be anything I am not.
On three occasions I have been contacted by people who had "discovered" my identity - twice by an email from people who know me personally that recognized something on the blog, and once by an anonymous comment left on the blog yesterday morning on an earlier post. Though yesterday's commenter was complimentary of the blog and suggested that they had no intention of "outing me", there remains an element of discomfort in reading that an anonymous stranger spent time digging through potential candidates to figure out who I might be, while content to remain anonymous themselves. It is one thing to have a friend write and say "This has to be you", and yet another for an anonymous entity hailing from a city where you have never been to be searching you out. Perhaps there is an alternate version of Science Scouts out there, where merit badges are earned with each blogger identity determined.
Whereas I do not take special effort to conceal my identity, I also try and limit any details that might make it easy for someone to figure it out. Anyone who reads this or most blogs for long enough will probably gather enough information over time to narrow their search, but the question remains, what is gained in doing so? For those who find the search some sort of internet scavenger hunt and who feel the need to inform the blogger of their success, I would suggest doing so in a manner that is not entirely anonymous. We don't come to your house at night to whisper "I know who you are" through your window and it would be nice if we could expect the same. Though I am not particularly bothered by a few readers being able to find my lab website, the reason I blog under a pseudonym is because I try to be open about what I am going through to give those who are interested a feel for the trials and tribulations of this job. Can I do that honestly while getting "I found you!" notes slipped under my door? I'm not entirely sure. I guess it comes with the territory in our "US Weekly culture" that seems unable to separate the public from the private.