Students will drive me out of academia

When I was putting together my tenure binder I had to do the awful thing of reading my student evals, and that was horrid in every way.  And I cried to my partner for hours about it and we worked it out, but the fact is, I still have that job.  I still have the job where, in every class, there is one student who will write inappropriate things that are extremely mean, and I don’t know who that is, so all students are the enemy.  I have the job where a hundred 19-year-olds judge my appearance, and then my boss reads it and it goes in my personnel file. HOW IS THAT OK?!??!?!?

It shouldn’t be.

But that’s how academia is.  19-year olds are going to insult me for the rest of my career and say mean things about my appearance, forever.  And I don’t get to say mean things about them, because I have to be professional and they don’t.

It’s not even necessarily the ones earning bad grades who are writing hurtfully inappropriate anonymous evals.  I mean, it has to be correlated, but it’s not direct, I’m sure.  I suspect some former A students among the worst commenters.
You might say that nobody cares what 19 year olds think except advertisers.  To which I reply, AND THE DEAN, and the provost.  Though maybe they won’t have the time to read my evals anymore after tenure.  Who has that kind of time?
This time around the evals hurt when they shouldn’t have because they picked one thing I was already bothered about and poked it.  ASSHOLES.  Rationally I know they’d just make fun of something else if it weren’t this one thing.
For just that reason, I considered investing in a completely crazy and very weird-looking hat, just so that I would know what they would criticize.  It would be like a hate-catcher.  Except they’d probably say it was cool.  They’re messed up like that.  Goddamn bastards.
I have a job where they get to lash out at me and say whatever they want, and I can’t lash back.
And I’ll probably get to keep this job forever, if I want it.
But I don’t have to read the evals anymore.  Ever again.  (Unless I want to go up for full.  Your eval numbers have to be even higher than for assoc here.)
I can worry about that then.  Stupid @#$%ers.

What are we reading?

Finished Damned Busters.

It was good and I look forward to the next two books, though I identify more with Henghis Hapthorn!

Black Sheep (sweet) [#1 reread this recently!  <3 Heyer!]

Three Men in a Boat (quite funny!) [free on kindle!]

Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions, by James W. Pennebaker — informative.

I really liked this one:

This one was powerful and recommended:

I love them:

Latest one I read in this series and it’s starting to get seriously weird as well as tying lots of insanely complex plot lines together across multiple books (#1 sent the author fan mail right before her death.. very sad):

Fair readers, got any good suggestions for more stuff? I’m far too lazy to read the new Hillary Mantel book because it will probably make me think. Other ideas?

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How much do you get to choose where you live?: A deliberately controversial post

A reader, in email, notes that sure, she gets to live near a Whole Foods, but she made that choice of where to live.  We could have made that choice, but we didn’t.  (Implicit:  so we should stop complaining.)  Indeed, one of us could commute a couple hours into work if she wanted to live in a city with a Whole Foods and the other would have to live in an entirely different state.  Seems as if the red state folk aren’t as into WF as those blue coastal cities.  (Which is weird, because isn’t WF from like Texas or someplace?)

Anyhow, that gets to the question:  How mobile are people?

Most of us are living constrained optimization problems.  Most of us aren’t quite qualified to be tenured professors at Stanford (we are ignoring people who would prefer Harvard or Columbia).  So we have to make trade-offs.

Currently the trade-off we’re making precludes us from walking to a Whole Foods (and don’t even get us started on the lack of Trader Joe’s).

It is true, we could re-optimize.  We *could* move.  But… making the trade off to be closer to a Whole Foods seems kind of the opposite of the advice to make the choices that make us happiest.

Many people have even more difficult choices and are even more constrained than we are.  In our optimization problems we generally have to balance:

Jobs– this is what our revealed preferences have put our strongest weight.  We’ve made most of our mobility sacrifices based on our ability to be tenure track professors at research universities.  We could have made the choice to have a more mobile career, but we didn’t want to.

Family– We’ve both asked our partners to make sub-optimal career and lifestyle choices in sacrifice to our jobs, and they have.  For a while #2 was living apart from her partner and that sucked more than anything.  With couples, often sacrifices have to be made for one or the other or both.  We don’t make choices in a vacuum.

Credit constraints– If we were independently wealthy, we could quit, pack up, and buy that house in the SF hills or Palo Alto or wherever.  We could walk to all sorts of fancy food places, and no longer care about our careers, finding fulfillment in high level charitable work instead.  Alas, we are not independently wealthy.  And many many families have it much worse than we do with our comparative privilege.  Rent for places near WF is generally not cheap.

Weather– I could very easily get a job in Boston or DC but I don’t want to live on the East Coast!  #2 likes the DC area, however.

Given that we’ve made choices that have these consequences… are we allowed to complain?  Well… yes and no.

Under constraints, rational actors try to find work-arounds that optimize their utility.  It’s easy to buy baby tomato plants at the grocery store to plant and get your tomatoes that way if the only tomatoes available at the stores are tasteless mush imported from the Netherlands.  So although we’d love to live closer to WF, and many other amenities, we’ve found some work-arounds.  We’re doing what we can.

Even though we complain about many red-state aspects of the culture here, it can be fulfilling to get students to see two sides of an issue that they once thought was only in black-and-white.  It’s still bad that homosexuality is thought of as a sin here, but that would be bad if we were living in the SF bay area (we just wouldn’t have to know about it because people wouldn’t talk about it in polite company).

And complaining about bad weather is totes fair game no matter where you live.  Even if you’re complaining about it being the short-lived rainy season in Santa Monica.

What do you think?  Have you managed to get everything you want in life (career, family, quality of life)?  If you haven’t, should you be allowed to complain about the trade-offs you’ve had to make?  And what tradeoffs have you made?

Binders full of link love

A couple who retired to be modern vagabonds.

Scalzi with an excellent article on why taking away a woman’s right to choose just helps the rapist.
(Caution:  triggers, really for real)

White coat investor explains the compulsion to max out your tax advantaged savings options and why maybe you shouldn’t do that.

Miser mom talks about money, love, and employment.

Oh man, this woman’s blog is so hilarious: Tweets from the bathroom, at Lorca Damon.

And another giggle-inducing article:  Filthy Jokes in old art.

The troubles of organizing one’s bookshelf.

We were in this week’s carnival of personal finance.

If you googled us a question

Q:  in pregnancy wheat allergy go away after pregnancy?

A:  It seems like it, but I’m still having a really difficult time deliberately eating wheat because of the revulsion factor.  So I haven’t ingested enough to see if the baby is truly ok with it or not.

Q:  how would you handle a crying baby child care interview answers

A:  PICK THE BABY UP.  Try to find out what is wrong.  Check baby’s diaper.  Check for hunger.  Burp.  Bounce.  Sing.  See if baby is bored.  If crying is inconsolable, ask if parents want to be contacted.

Q:  interpretation for ngo field staff inside a parachute and management holding the parachute

A:  Not a question, but this sounds really unpleasant.

Q:  things kids don’t like to do

A:  clean their rooms. pointless  homework.

Q:  how much should i pay a graduate?

A:  of where?  for what?  If it’s me you’re talking about, you should pay me more.

Q:  where do sleepy student carry their book?

A:  You don’t want to know.  (Sadly, to class all too often… sleepy students need more sleep and more coffee.)

Q:  how to sell a house in a bad school district?

A:  Price it well.  Declutter, pre-pack, clean, and stage carefully.

Q:  can i change the name of the owner of a house before paying off mortgage

A:  Yes, in some states at least.  Talk to a lawyer about it.

Q:  can someone go to college and have a car under a minimum wage job

A:  Yes, if they have scholarships and/or debt (or, of course, someone else paying the bills).

Q:  what we should do when we don’t want to do something we are pushed to do

A:  cry.

When I am an old tenured woman

When I am an old tenured woman I shall dye my hair purple
With a green streak which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my income on books and high-heeled boots
And horseback riding lessons, and say we’ve no time for meetings.

I shall show videos in the classroom when I’m tired
And drink in public and say what I mean
And tell students what I think of their attitude
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.

I shall wear sweatpants to the grocery store again
And pick the most interesting research projects
And give the grades that are earned.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And speak about whatever issues are important
Or give the President a book to read that’s not about online edutainment
And hoard pens and plane tickets and writing time and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not be too feminist
And set a good example for the students.
We must not argue with the dean or the chair.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am tenured, and have purple hair.

(with many apologies to Jenny Joseph)

#1: I think when I get tenure we should call the blog Grumpy Rumblings of the (formerly un-)Tenured

#2: When you get tenure you can change the name to whatever you want.

#1:  Spring Break is gonna be Epic.  My shit gonna ALL hang loose.

DCs’ favorite music


  • ABC song (especially Daddy’s)
  • Shiny Happy People (REM)
  • Stand (REM)
  • These boots were made for walking (Nancy Sinatra)
  • Love Shack (B52s)
  • Anything by the mamas and the papas


What do your children like to listen to?  What did you like to listen to as a child?