Thursday, November 30
No, not some adorable guy at the campus coffee shop, but another professor in my own department! It's not the first time we've talked. His office is close to mine. He knows things about me, he just doesn't know my name. If you know about someone's personal life, I mean beyond what most know, shouldn't you take the time to learn her name? I saw him look at the nameplate beside my door as he opened his mouth to speak. Ugh.

Of course, another professor who's been around here as long as the first (and has the same tenured, full professor status), and whose office is equally close to mine, has never even spoken to me. This didn't stop him from sending a student my way to have me head a thesis committee because, and I quote, "She's a new assistant professor and will have more time for work like that than I do."

I guess it's just the end of the semester stress that has me venting. Unfortunately, unlike my students, these guys don't go home for winter vacation. I can't wait to move up in the ranks, or until colleagues like these move up in the ranks enough to retire.
Saturday, November 25
I am reviewing some submissions to a conference. These are supposed to be anonymous, but some people are not very good at anonymizing their manuscripts. I figure the goal of anonymity is that the reviewer not be biased by the identity of the author. So I then figured, once I have made a decision about a submission and the author was sloppy enough to leave their name in, it's not that big a deal to look them up. (Or is it?) To be honest, my main motivation came from intellectual curiosity. I had no idea what the proposal was talking about and was eager to see whether reading up on the person and their work would give me a better understanding. (And when I say I didn't understand the writing, I don't mean that it was too high level. It was simply incomprehensibly bad.)

So I looked up one such person the other day, a "Prof. Somebody" as noted by the author in the text itself. (First of all, who refers to either themselves or their advisor as "Prof. Anybody" in the middle of a paper?)

It turns out that this person is not a prof, but a student! So why refer to oneself as Prof X? I know, I know, to make the product seem more worthy. It was crap regardless so it doesn't matter. But what bs! I can't believe people pull this kind of crap. And of course, I can't say anything to anybody since it is an anonymous process. (Thanks to a.secret for providing an outlet though!)
Wednesday, November 22
I can't wait for it to be next semester.

Let me rephrase that, I couldn't wait. I couldn't wait to start new. I couldn't wait to get semester #1 of my first year as an assistant professor under my belt. I couldn't wait, that is ,until I logged onto my account just a few hours ago only to discover that my worst student from this semester decided to take another course from me.

He's not my worst student ever. I mean I've had some doozies. It's just that they never came back. Coming back for more, well that's like a zombie or something. Or like a cat. You know, "and the cat came back, the very next day..." I'm allergic to cats.

Maybe it will be like the one other time when I had a student (who I had failed for cheating) who took another class from me and ended up invaluable. Maybe, though, it will be like a bad zombie movie and either he, or the fear and dread I instill in myself just thinking about his presence, will make my skin crawl and the spring semester creep by just as slowly as it has this fall.
Tuesday, November 21

So I was wondering the other night when I couldn't sleep about what I could and couldn't blog about, for fear of anonymity purposes.

And I couldn't think of anything for here that I could share. Partly becasue I have been really wrapped up in this one project and my life has been lame as a result.

But anyway, the question that came to mind was this, why have people chosen the colors/names they have on this blog? Does it say something about you academically? non-academically? does it say something or nothing? basically, why did you pick your name?

I'll start and tell you why I picked strawberries, and why.

Strawberries are my FAVORITE fruit. and I love red, partly because it looks great on me with my hair color. But also, its my favorite person in the world's favorite color, and so I have always liked the color for because it reminds me of that person. But what does strawberries mean to me?

When I think of strawberries I think of babies with their rosy red cheeks, and I love babies, and they are so cute, and I want babies. But of course, in order to have babies, I would like to have a husband, and well, I'm lacking in that area. And also, though it is *way* to early to be worrying about this... I know that it will be super hard to have cute starberry cheeked babies as a professor, if I want to stay at home at all with hypothetical baby strawberry, and that brings up all those things that I worry about, the difficulty of getting my desired job in desired place as a woman, and how hard it will be to try and get tenure as a woman with a baby/child.

And what does being a strawberry say about me? Well, strawberries, while the best fruit ever, are also quite fragile. They must be packed specially, especially for transport. And I am also very fragile. In life outside the ivory tower, I am known to cry quite a bit at sad situations. But also when hurt by people. Inside the ivory tower, I lack confidence. Sometimes I have it, and sometimes, I don't. Usually when I need it, it's not there. Just like you can get a good strawberry that has made it though the transport process, sometimes I feel more like a slightly bruised strawberry who wants to be the best tasting one in the bunch.

But of course I didn't think about all this when I picked strawberries. That day, I looked at the other colors, read their names. Saw pumpkin, thought, mmm, I like pumpkins. I also really like strawberries and red cheeked babies. And red is nice. I'll be strawberries.

What about you?

Thursday, November 16
Is it just me, or are more and more of our colleagues turning to blogs?

In recent weeks there is increasing blog-buzz around my department. I don't know where it came from, but I am scared to death of being found out.

I ask myself if I post risky things here, or if I would be fine with my name being tied to my musings. Maybe it's time to read the archives...

...and to begin using more caution when deciding what to post, and where to post it.

Is anyone else feeling the pressure?
Tuesday, November 14
Here’s *my* job market secret: I don’t want to go on it.

Well, that’s not exactly true. As distasteful as the process sounds, I think I will be able to adapt to a lot of it. Even though I hate the idea of “selling” myself, I can live with doing it (or trying to do it). Of course I want a job, and this is how it’s done.

But I haven’t yet told my advisors that I’m not willing to “go anywhere” for a job, the way you’re supposed to. And I think I’ll continue to keep it to myself.

I feel like I’ve been fairly dutiful with most of the professional activities we’re supposed to take part in – going to conferences, publishing, serving on committees, etc—and I’ve even enjoyed those experiences. But this is one thing I don’t think I can be dutiful about. Not only do I feel there are certain parts of the country I truly wouldn’t be happy living in, but there’s this itsy-bitsy problem of having a life partner whose career is location-specific. (I can’t go into what the career is if I want to keep my anonymity, but let’s just say it’s not like being, say, a lawyer, where you might have to give up a great job in order to move but you could probably work almost anywhere. Let’s say, for the sake of (silly) argument, that his career is slaying vampires, which only live on the hellmouth. Or something.)

To be honest, I’d be almost as happy adjuncting forever as I would be in a tenured position. As long as I got to teach, I’d be ok. I know it’s about other things too, like retirement and health insurance; I know I’ve got to consider that. But I’m just not willing to give up living with my partner, and it makes me mad that I should have to consider it. And before anyone suggests that he should be willing to change his career for me, please note that he dreamt of having this career since he was a kid (whereas I was in the “finding myself” stage for years before grad school), not to mention that he has been helping support my little grad school habit, and now (after years of service) his job pays better than even a tenured position would. As a feminist, I’ve always made sure I was financially independent (believe me, it’s my name on the loans), but he has provided a lot of extras, such as vacations, I would otherwise do without. (Just fyi, we don’t have kids, and don’t plan to have them, but have been together for almost 10 years.)

Once, his mother tried comforting me by reminding me that neither of us is in the military, where couples have to live apart all of the time, but with the added burden of being, you know, in the military. So it’s all relative, I guess.
Wednesday, November 8
I'm not on the job market so I'm a bit late to this, but in case others haven't seen it, I thought you may find it of interest.

People in Astrophysics have been tracking the job market for years. However, recently social science disciplines have caught on as well. Sociology has a rumor mill as does the field of International Relations within political science. This article from the Chronicle has links to a few others.

It's interesting to compare Sociology to IR. The latter seems much more sophisticated. Then again, they've been around longer. Plus I'm not actually sure if it's "more sophisticated" to be listing the names of the candidates. What do people think? Is it a good idea to have this information out there this public? Why or why not? I can't decide.

I wondered about such possibilities when I was on the market.. but nothing happened that year. Maybe it's just as well. I think some such information exchange is definitely beneficial, but after a certain point it may not be so good for one's health. Then again, the academic job market process generally speaking is pretty unhealthy.
Friday, November 3

When I was first being introduced to my new colleagues here at SuckyU, one introduced me to her thesis student (undergrad).

He wanted to do his thesis on X in the region. Think, Oranges. No that might actually be interesting, cause you could always do an economic analysis and then talk to the people who are picking the oranges and their different experiences, and the growers of the oranges and the eaters. See, it could be interesting. Ok, X is kind of like, hmm, houses that are painted blue. So student was going to do his thesis on houses that are painted blue.

To show interest and because I am sort of a nice strawberry, the first thing out of my mouth was a supportive “wow, how interesting.”

Colleague says: “But he didn’t do that.”

Strawberries says, “oh why not?” I has just begun to warm up to the idea of blue houses. Maybe there was some significance or something. Plus, people may think my own research is like blue houses, so who am I to judge.

Colleague looks at me like I am a more than a bit weird. “Because he could never have finished the project, I mean that is like a doctoral dissertation.” Please shoot me if I ever advise anyone who wants to concentrate on Blue Houses for his/her PhD. Frankly, it seemed a bit easy to me. I mean count up all the blue houses in the region, which I am sure the data already exists, it's not like poor student has to actually travel to each blue house. And then write some sort of [boring] history on blue houses.

“So instead he did it on Blue Houses in the tri-city that were stolen.” (Now the stolen metaphor really doesn’t fit with Blue Houses, and goes better with say, Oranges, but remember, Oranges are more interesting than Blue houses. So just pretend that the CIA came with all their super-duper equipment and stole some blue houses). And this student is going to write about the ones that were stolen. However, since it was the CIA that stole them, and frankly, when are they going to ever let a student researcher into their archives, student can’t say much more than: There once was a blue house here. It was built in 1783 by Miss Peacock and then bought by Col. Mustard, until it was stolen in 1974 by the CIA. Oh, and look over there, there used to be another blue house that…

Sounds kind of boring to me. But anyway, that is not the point of this post.

What got me was the professor telling the student that he coudn't possibly do all blue houses in the region because it was impossible and that if he wanted, he could get his doctorate in Blue houses. Now, many times students are interested in something, say Gender, but they really can’t do a thesis on that. You have to focus it. But not just because of time restraints, but also because Gender is really broad. Blue Houses present in the region is not broad, just boring. So are stolen blue houses in the city if you’re keeping track. I was just surprised that this professor would say that this was not feasible when it seemed very feasible. I mean this kid had a year to do Blue Houses. Sure, stolen blue houses might be nominally more interesting than all blue houses, but couldn’t it have been a subsection of the thesis?

Which brings me to my final point/question. When do you tell a student that they will be unable to study X? Shouldn’t advisors rather explain that it might be a more in-depth project and it would be doable but hard rather than say outright, nope, you can't do it? There are times when advisors should discourage students from studying Y in favor of Ysub1 because it would be more feasible. Ok, if Y was lets say Education , and Ysub1 was Education of Women and how it has been defined by Z. But this was clearly not the case.

So now what? Student has produced one heck of a doorstop on stolen blue houses. Sure, even blue houses would have been a doorstop, but what is important here is the experience.

If someone told me I could not do it, I would not give up right away, and maybe ever. What sort of service are we doing to students who want to do something and are instead told they cannot?


Thursday, November 2
The other night I (doctoral student) was asked to go to a reception for prospective doctoral students in our program, to mingle and answer questions. Some faculty were also at the reception. A very professional-looking, together prospective student sought me out because she had questions about my advisor and the specific topic I study. We were in the middle of a pretty detailed conversation when a faculty member came over, introduced herself, and began trying to convince both of us to choose the program (that I'm currently in). The faculty-member didn't realize I was a current student, and kept contradicting things I was saying. I would say, "well, one challenge you'll face is that we don't offer coursework on xyz" and the faculty member would say, "oh no, we have some great offerings in xyz".

The faculty-member is from a completely different part of the field, knew nothing about the specifics of what the prospective and I were talking about, and was wrong, but seeing as she thought I was only a prospective student, there was no way she was going to let me knock the program. I kept trying to the let the faculty member know I was a current student, but she wasn't paying any attention, and didn't get it for like ten minutes. The prospective, meanwhile, kept raising her eyebrows at me as if to say, "WTF?" and "Why won't this weird lady in irrelevant-subfield leave us alone so we can get back to talking about the questions I have?".

The kicker is that the clueless faculty-member and I served on a committee together last year, but she didn't recognize me because she ditched all but one of the committee meetings.
Wednesday, November 1
This semester, I noticed a group of students who basically sit in the back and laugh the whole time. Turns out (perhaps sadly), this is nothing new. But for some reason, it's bothering me a lot. It feels like they're lauging at me.

As a result, I'm finding myself growing more and more self conscious, and I'm losing my lecturing mojo. I'm constantly checking my fly, touching my nose, the whole nine. It's stupid, but it's bothering me.

The thing that's so weird about it is the way they laugh. They look at me, but turn their heads, and put their hand up in front of their faces to whisper something to the others. Then they all giggle. While staring at me. With their hands over their mouths. Imagine a 7th grade lunchroom, and you've got the idea.

The thing is, they're not really disrupting the class, just themselves and me. I once made a joke directed toward the entire class to the effect that the lecturing stage was not, in fact, a television, and that I could actually see them chatting. The class laughed. For once, the little group did not.

But they also didn't stop. I'm not sure how to handle this - I don't want it to be obvious that I feel bad, because that's unprofessional. Or is it? Gah, what do you all think?
I almost got sucked into a really unnecessary online discussion about some topic that's close to my heart. Does everyone here know what trolls are? Trolls are people who seem to be engaged with you in a discussion seriously, but in reality are just trying to derail the conversation. They are to be avoided. The only outcome of engaging in a discussion with a troll is rising blood pressure and major frustration. Oh, plus lots of time lost. So stay away from them.

I am so proud of myself for having removed myself from that discussion just in time! I had to share this with my fellow a.secreteers.

And how is everyone? Are people walking away from a.secret? No secrets to speak of these days? Everything is going great for everyone?