Are my coffee orders dickish?

well, are they?

“Can I please get a 20-ounce decaf iced mocha, 2 decaf shots, no whipped cream, for here.” 

Usually the full-caf ones have only 1 shot, but usually not whipped cream on those either (but sometimes).  But they come with whipped cream unless you say don’t.

And for hot mocha, I’ll specify Dutch vs. Mexican.

 

I hate to be That Guy, but yet, I know what I want.  Verdict, readers?

Even the super-confident super-awesome are not immune to culture

Occasionally I have to take a break from mommy-blogs.

Why?  Because they make me anxious.

I know, you’re thinking, how could *I* be anxious about parenting?  I’m the laziest (non-negligent) parent on the planet and my kids are disgustingly perfect (though of course you note that I would never use the adverb, “disgustingly,” I would say they’re “awesomely” perfect or something [actually I would say "amazingly," but I grant you our frequent use of "awesome"]).  Both of these are true.

But mommy-blog anxiety gets even to me.  Culture is *that* strong.  There’s only so many blogs on having to lose the baby-weight, worrying about what/how much baby is eating or how much screen time toddler is getting or worrying about whether something is too early or too late or too long or whateverthe[expletive deleted] before even I start questioning if these are things I should be worrying about and are my kids really as wonderful as they seem [spoiler alert:  they are!] and if so, what’s wrong with them [rational answer: nothing!].

Now, I’m not talking about blogs where the kids or parents have actual real problems+.  [Also, I'm not singling out any one blog right now.  This unnecessary anxiety seems to be a contagion that is going through a huge number of mommy blogs right now.]  I’m talking about blogs where the kids are seemingly perfect, and the mom is seemingly perfect, but instead of acknowledging that fact, it’s anxiety this and worry that.  If their seeming perfection is wrong, then maybe I’m wrong about mine.

Of course, I’m not.  Even when the skinny girl complains about how fat she is, that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with my normal weight.  But (just like in college with the weight thing) I can only stand so many repeated hits before it starts to get to me.  The patriarchy is expert at using the virtual paper cut as a primary weapon.  It perfected the ton-of-feathers attack.  Any one blog or post or NYTimes article can be brushed off, or given a supportive comment in response.  At some point part of me wants to say, “CALM the [expletive] down!  You’re working for the patriarchy!”  But that’s not supportive so I try not to, especially since it’s not any one post’s fault or even any one blogger’s fault– it’s the culmination of many posts and blogs with the same message to be more anxious.  I get grumpy because the patriarchy does that to me.

And you may be thinking, “You’re grumpy because deep down you know things aren’t really that perfect.”  But that’s not true.  Deep down I know they really are, because I have huge trust in my family.  I have trust that even if there’s bumps and growing pains, that they’ll figure things out for themselves even if I’m not doing whatever is “optimal” for them.  I trust that there is no “optimal,” that there’s just “different” and “sub-optimal” is another word for “learning experience” (or, as my mom would say, “character building”).  I trust that my husband and I love our kids and will always be there for them and that they know that.  I don’t have to trust me to know deep down that my kids are doing great, I have to trust them and my husband and that we’ll tackle the challenges as they come.

And I’m sure there will be challenges and we’ll work through them.  But if there aren’t any right now, I don’t need to @#$#@ing create any.

I could do one of three things.  1.  I could comment super-supportive calming words on these blogs in an attempt to spread confidence (though of course this sometimes backfires because tone is difficult in writing among other reasons), 2.  I could do lots of introspection and re-affirm my core confidence and awesomeness, or 3.  I could avoid the anxiety paper-cuts by not going to those blogs.  Guess which option is the least work and most conducive to getting two more papers and a grant proposal out before summer ends?++

So… currently taking a break from mommy blogs, at least until swim-suit season is over.

+And we are *certainly* not talking about things like post-partum depression.

++Also note that we are not blaming people for working through their anxieties via the media of blogging.  It’s the patriarchy that is the ultimate root cause of that kind of unnecessary anxiety.  But that doesn’t mean we have to read about it if it has negative effects on our own well-being.

Is who we are what we do?: A deliberately controversial post.

Usually these posts start out with someone complaining about being at a cocktail party and being asked what they do.  The person complaining generally does not have a job.  Ze is financially independent or a SAHP or HouseSpouse or unemployed etc.  Depending on who is writing, the post becomes an ode to not working for The Man (and how you can only discover who you really are through Early Retirement and going to exploitative conferences in Portland, OR), a discussion about how taking care of hearth and family is the Most Important Job, or how to turn awkward and unfair conversations into networking opportunities instead of reasons to feel bad about ourselves.  And they all talk about how we’re so much more than our jobs and we shouldn’t be defined by our jobs.

This post is going to go a slightly different route.  I don’t know about #2, but I haven’t been at a cocktail party that wasn’t attached to a conference for *ages* (me either!) and when you’re at conference, you’ve got those helpful name-tags plus everyone knows that more likely than not you have a discipline-specific PhD.  Especially once you no longer look like a graduate student.

So this post is specifically going to focus on the question– is who you are what you do?

We say, Yes and  No.

We were both raised Catholic.  (We are recovering.)  And if you’re Catholic or Episcopalian, then belief is not as important as Good Works.  You’re not a nice person if you torture puppies even if you feel sad when you torture them.  If you ignore the impulse to torture puppies even though you desperately want to, you have as much of a shot at salvation as someone identical who would never dream of torturing puppies, maybe more, because you resisted a temptation that most people don’t have.

In economics terms, we tend to only believe preferences when they’re “realized,” which is just a fancy way of saying, “what you did”.  You’re showing what you preferred through your actions and your choices (very behaviorist!).  In that scenario, desire to torture or not torture puppies is meaningless– the lack of torture means that you preferred not to torture given the circumstances.  You are not a puppy-torturer unless you actually torture puppies (given your budget constraint).  We don’t know what’s in the black box or what the shape of your utility function is, but we can see exactly where your utility function hits your budget constraint.

In some sense, what we do defines us.  There may be some inner person trying to get out, but we can’t measure it unless it comes out.  We are what we do.

But also, no… Who are we if we’re not what what we do?   We are what we like and don’t like.  We are how we organize information. We’re a bundle of preferences and actions– we are what the outside world sees of us, though usually we are not how the world perceives us.  The patriarchy tends to twist our actions and our very existence to fit its own warped narrative.  We are bundles of energy and stardust masquerading as humans for now.

We are social scientists, through years of training.  Our disciplines shape how we see the world: how we make sense of the external world and our internal thoughts.  The narratives we tell ourselves, how we make decisions.  One of us used to be a mathematician, but that aspect has been dulled and replaced over time with graduate training and day-to-day work.  We are feminists of various flavors, and that shapes how we interact with people and information.  What we are directly affects what we do, and what we do shows who we are.

However, we are not our jobs.  They’re what we get money for, and they’re not all that we do.  We will still be social scientists without our current jobs.  We will still be teachers without our jobs, even if we never give another formal lecture.  We’ll still be cat-lovers and feminists and book-lovers and partners and friends and almost everything else that labels who we are.  We may no longer be “professor” without our jobs, but very little will change in terms of personal essence in the instant a job is left and a new job taken (or not taken).  Personal growth and change can (and will) come before a job change and after, but we don’t suddenly lose who we are or become a new person with a change in employment.  Maybe a happier (or temporarily sadder) person, but that kind of happiness seems to be more of an “estar” (in the moment temporary kind of being) thing than a “ser” (permanent kind of being) thing.

Who are you?  And how do you even define that?

The Shoe Drop’t

I quit my job.

(Wild applause, cheering)

This means I’m getting off the tenure track by default, because I don’t have another t-t job, and I’m not willing to live in terrible places (like this one) and teach high loads anymore.  I would consider maybe coming back to the t-t for the right position, but that’s not how the market works.  If my dream job appears I might apply, but the probability is low.  The dream job involves no teaching but not being on soft money.  Uh… and a pony?  I tried to bloom where I was planted, but it turns out you can’t bloom in poisoned soil.

Quitting my job is absolutely the right move.  There has been a lot of unbloggable toxicity that’s been damaging my sanity and health.  I very nearly quit in week 2 of the semester, and all the tenured colleagues I talked to said that I probably should, based on what had happened.  My partner said he would support me if I did.  Senior colleagues at other universities have told me, privately, to run-not-walk on outta here.

However, for a long time I was ambivalent about the end of my tenure-track career.  SO AMBIVALENT!  Because now I have tenure, and I’ve been working towards that since I was in high school.  I love so many aspects of academia (intellectual freedom, flexible hours, my own office, a variety of tasks, getting paid to do research, library access…) and I will really miss the job security.  The security of tenure let me sleep at night.  I have applied for numerous other t-t jobs while I’ve been here and gotten no hits, and finally had to jump.  I don’t know what I’m going to do without tenure.  I’ll figure something out.

But I will NOT miss teaching.  The more I thought about it, the less I even *want* another t-t job, because I am soooo burned out on teaching.  I just can’t, with the teaching, anymore.  Not even a leave of absence or sabbatical would fix it, because I would still have the residue of this university on me like slime that won’t wash off.  No more.  Not even grad students, not even small classes, not even my favorite topics.  Not online, not in a seminar.  I can’t handle students sucking my life force anymore.  Every semester for years on end: too many students, too little money, and twice a year two hundred 19-year-olds get to write inappropriate comments about my personal appearance on course evals, and then my boss reads them.  Who needs it?

I don’t know what I’m going to do about my next job and/or career.  Something research-based, perhaps.  You may see some self-absorbed bloggy rambling (e.g., my ideal work day).  We are very lucky that my partner makes fat bank and is willing to support me while I figure things out.  First-world problems.

Let’s tally the blog peeps right now: I technically have tenure this summer but after that I will be formerly tenured and (temporarily?) out of academia entirely… and unemployed for a while.  My partner has never been an academic, thank FSM.  #2 is currently tenured.  Her husband is a former academic who is much happier in industry.  (#2 is also much happier with her DH’s non-academic salary!)

I guess it’s true that people who have just quit their jobs are the happiest people in the world.

We are moving out of state and back to civilization as soon as we can (Current plan is end of August).  It was going to be sooner but this state is trying to kill us, and we haven’t been physically able to plan and implement those plans.  First my partner got the flu real bad for 2 weeks (which never happens), then we had 1 week of being ok, then I got pneumonia, which I’ve had for 3 and a half weeks(!) now and am still not well.  Also my partner needs frequent physical therapy for his genetically-misaligned knee and might need knee surgery.  The cat is not well and is now on a specialized diet which may or may not be working; I’ve been too sick to get back with the vet and I had to cancel my massage and dentist appointments due to pneumonia.  HALP.

I will miss the horse I ride, and a few of the people here, but that’s not enough to make me stay in such a toxic place.  (#2 notes: she also got paid next to nothing, even with the tenure bump.)  We are working on downsizing from our ridiculous-large house out here in the boonies to an amount of stuff we can maybe afford the housing for in a city.  We have plans about when and where we’re going apartment-hunting, when we’re moving, summer travel plans that were previously in place, work, insurance, legal stuff, we have a plan.

Wish us luck.

What makes a blog post popular? Drama or the hope of redneck jokes?

Laura Vanderkam had a post last week that inspired a lot of interesting comments.  One of the commenters noted that hir most popular blog posts were always the sad/drama-filled ones and more cheerful posts weren’t so popular.

So, I was curious to see if that held true for us.  (On that day last week, our own posting was a lengthy gripe about the lawn, which did not get so many comments as say, our more positive posts about things like getting tenure or having a baby…)

So here’s what our wordpress history has said:

These are the posts that got the most views in 2013.

These are the posts that got the most views in 2012.

From 2011:

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1.  How the used car market is like health insurance September 2010 25 comments
2.    About July 2010
3.  Mortgage Update and a worry December 2010 34 comments
4.  Why I’m in no hurry to become a millionaire September 2010 18 comments
5.  Searches that find our blog amuse us September 2010 5 comments

Many of our most popular pieces are pf posts about how we don’t need to go to extremes in money matters (or parenting or, you know, life).  We even have a post contemplating why they’re so popular!

In terms of most comments:
1.  Delurk for us today!
2.  Musings on why weight targets bother me
3.  Homeschooling: A deliberately controversial post
4.  Do the holidays stress you out?
5.  ******* creationists!

IIRC, the weight one and the creationist one resulted in some nutty commenter going crazy in the comments section.  But none of the above posts are about truly terrible things happening to us, except maybe me complaining about how hard it is to learn about evolution when you live in the Bible Belt.

So… I think we must have either pretty amazing readers who aren’t attracted to us for Schadenfreude reasons or we must be filling some kind of SEO niche that isn’t predicated on misery, but instead on redneck jokes, Mr. Money Moustache, and the love of a happy medium.  (Also, man, we must have been on fire back in 2011!)

If you have a blog, what are your most popular posts like?  Is your readership misery-seeking?  If you don’t have a blog, what are your favorite kinds of posts and what kinds of posts do you keep coming back to check on?

How do you get through piles of grading?

The reward method:  Grade an essay or grade a problem and then you get to read a book chapter (or a section of a book chapter).  Sure it sounds like it’ll take longer, but it takes a lot less time than procrastinating by hitting reload on the internet for hours and not actually grading anything.  Works best with short sections (romance novels!)

It helps to be on a couch away from people and away from the computer too.  Distractions are difficult to resist when grading, so they need to be minimized.  Having a big pile (on your lap, or on both sides of you) that’s difficult to escape from also helps, but you have to remember to use the restroom between problems or else you could end up in a bad situation.

My best tip is to grade in colored marker.  Any and all colors that you love.  The benefits are two-fold: 1) it makes grading more fun when you get to play with pretty markers; and 2) it prevents you from writing too many comments, so the grading goes faster.  Students who want details can always come see me in office hours, but they rarely do.  The thickness of a marker means you have to write your comments pretty big to be legible, and not a lot of words fit in the margin.  As it should be.  If you really MUST say a lot of things (why??), then you can always use the marker to write “Come see me.”  Switch colors whenever you get bored.

#1 prefers Pilot G2 gel pens (sensuous) or colored pencils (erasable!).  But we’ve had this conversation before.

Those of you who are or aren’t procrastinating, how do you get through your piles of grading?

How do you mentor junior faculty?

Being in a promotion and tenure meeting for the first time, one learns things.

Encourage junior faculty to publish on their own — get that dissertation work out, but also start steering a more independent course from the diss advisor.  (This may vary by field.)  If in a field where multiple authors is the norm, it’s important to have papers authored with different people (as in, not just the dissertation director!).

Book-article-book-article: make a choice and stick to it.  If you can, steer the juniors towards projects that will pay off faster.  If they do choose the book option, make sure they have a realistic idea of how long (very long!) it takes for the book to be published and all the obstacles that may come in their way through no fault of their own.

Tell them it gets easier after the first semester, and definitely after the first year.  It does.  But also don’t let them think it’s ok to do nothing their first year.   Yes, designing and teaching new courses is important, but often showing improvement in teaching over time is good enough to meet the teaching requirements for tenure (and you will improve).  Giving up that precious year of getting work done and getting your name out may make your research journey more difficult in the future.  Try to help junior faculty set up a research pipeline.  Research must start on day one, or you’ll never find a way to fit it in.

Share your strategies for recruiting, hiring, and managing students, if applicable.

Strongly encourage them to write.  It turns out some of our junior faculty didn’t want to “bother” those of us with tenure, until we explicitly told them that we wanted them to come to us with questions.  We said we’d be happy to read their drafts and give feedback about writing, journals to target, etc., and they said, Really? Great!

Here at Grumpy Rumblings we’re big fans of group accountability and research meetings.  Schedule writing dates where a group will get together to work in writing for a few hours in a coffeeshop.  Or start a weekly research group or writing group where one person presents each week and gets feedback at whatever stage they need.

Talk up their work when you’re out at conferences or giving talks.  Or while talking to administrators and other important people at your university.

Tell stories about how many times your papers and grants got rejected before they finally hit.  Show them all your tips and tricks for minimizing grading time.  Share rubrics, standard email responses, syllabus rules, “secret” resources on your campus, and the names of who to ask for special favors.  Sometimes there’s unofficial money that can be used for research, travel, paying a student, etc., and you just have to ask for it.

Model decent work-life balance, if you can.  My colleagues know that I don’t work on Saturdays, ever.  You might have different rules.  Talk about your hobbies, maybe.  Tell people who are new to town where they can sign up for a belly-dancing class.  Don’t ever assume that having a baby pre-tenure is incompatible with tenure.  Or that not having a partner is incompatible with staying in a small town.  (Or any number of wrong and -ist things that are even worse.)  And stop any of your senior colleagues who suggest such a thing, especially behind closed doors in important meetings.  They are wrong and their beliefs can end up being self-fulfilling.

Defend them from student complaints, and let them know what’s going on.  Share tips to avoid the problems.

Encourage junior faculty to come to you before they take on any service activity, and steer them away from useless ones.  Someone wants you to be on a committee with contentious members that doesn’t improve your working conditions or get you a publication?  Say no!

Take them out for drinks and food; tenured people often have more money than juniors.  Help them find a cat-sitter.

Give the gift of books by Ms. Mentor.  Celebrate every time they get an article accepted.  (If you tend towards jealousy– remember, at least after you’re tenured, colleagues who are more productive than you are more likely to benefit your career than hurt it.)  Cheer their progress.  Don’t let them disappear.

 

Savvy readers, what did we miss?

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