When will we leave a sharply worded comment on your post?

You have been warned… !

These are gathered from general patterns across the blogosphere, not from anyone’s particular blog.  (Well, except #4.  Thank goodness we’ve only seen one blog that does that.)

  1. When you claim that it is poor people’s fault for being poor, or black people’s fault for being unemployed, or Hispanic people’s fault you don’t have a job, and similar things.  (Note:  these are not true.)
  2. When you attack a woman’s children because she is successful and thus cannot be doing a decent job of raising her kids.  (Note:  this is not true and there are better ways to justify your lifestyle choices.  If you need to attack someone else’s choices that they have no cause to complain about, then perhaps it is time to re-examine your own.)
  3. When you’re always blaming other people for your problems.  We try really hard to avoid these blogs but occasionally (we click on a tantalizing headline off someone’s blogroll and) we snap.  And although in this case, our comment is generally gently worded, we have made an enemy for life (because, oh yeah, you see the worst of every single interaction you’re in).
  4. When you sexualize infants, children, and attachment parenting.  That is just MESSED UP.
  5. When you’re always complaining about the SAME THING and then you go and make BAD CHOICES that are going to result in the same thing you’re always complaining about only worse.  We don’t mind complaining about the same thing if it’s justified (it’s not your fault your ex isn’t paying child-support), we don’t even mind what kinds of foolish choices you make with your money, it’s the digging yourself into a deeper hole just so you can complain even more that gets to us.  We try reallly hard to never read your blog again, but sometimes Schadenfreude wins, and when that happens sometimes we say something even though we know it won’t do any good.
    • #1 has much more of a hair-trigger on this one than does #2. #2 is hamstrung by the fact that my browser keeps logging me out of wordpress, so leaving comments becomes a several-step process and by then I don’t care anymore.
    • #1 notes that isn’t true– #1 is much better at not visiting said blogs.
  6. When you tell everybody that your life choice is the One True Path and that everybody else is destroying their children, is a wimp, a spendthrift, a loser, and so on.
  7. When you say that other people are not doing enough even though you’re not doing anything yourself.  Example:  telling infertile couples they should just adopt when you haven’t adopted, saying that people who don’t send their kids to public school are selfish when you’re not supporting public schools (this one even inspired a post)
  8. When you say that worrying about education for gifted kids is a terrible thing and you should let kids be kids.  Or that kids need to stay with their same-age peers.  Or that there’s no reason for kids to read early.  Hulk smash.

What gets you ticked off enough to be snippy?  We already know Cloud doesn’t roll that way, but what about the rest of you?



  • My new nephew was over 11lb when born.  Vaginally.
  • Our new department chair is a dick.  He told me to stop playing the gender card.  When I then explained about how small incivilities hit genders differentially ON OUR CAMPUS (I’m on this university-wide committee and they did a study), he told me that his wife experienced real sexism and was brave enough to combat it.  I’m like… wha?  It’s like a double whammy of oppression olympics and my best friend is black (only in this case, I’m married to a woman who is more oppressed than you could ever be).  (Hint:  while that is terrible and your wife is to be commended, that has nothing to do with incivilities hitting female faculty more than male faculty on our campus.)
  • Was at another one of DC1’s friend’s parents’ excellent parties.  This time the woman who was bitching about the mom doing the awesome party last time bitched about:  1.  her husband, 2.  how being a housewife means she needs to have a perfect house but she can never get to her level of perfection and she hates people who can, 3.  the teacher, 4.  the school, 5.  after school activities, 6.  her husband (again)… and a lot more I’m not remembering off the top of my head.  She’s having her son shadow at the Catholic school in town.  But hey, at least she didn’t bitch about the hostess this time.
  • When I decided to make an effort to stop changing people (bad former habit of mine), I stopped liking so many people.   I think that’s related.
  • It is nice when all the questions that a referee poses are answered in the article the referee recommends you include in your paper.  “Cite me here!”  Yessir, I will do that!
  • I keep having the same conversation with my students, “Dr. #1, I keep trying to do this thing and I keep getting an error code, could it be because [something that makes no sense]?” “What does the error code say?”  “Huh, I don’t know, let me see.  It says [something totally reasonable]”  “Then I think your problem is [something totally reasonable].  Does it say anything else?”  “It says to try [suggested solution]”  “Did you try [suggested solution]?” “No.” “Try [suggested solution].” “Oh hey, that worked.  Thanks Dr. #1!”
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Money can’t buy me love

But it sure can make our lives easier!

Remember what, 13 years ago?

We were about to move to a new city (well, technically we were about to drive to Canada, but in a few weeks it would be a new city).  We had about 4K total to our name, much of it saved up from my work-study jobs in college.  When we got to the city, we slept on the floor of a friend from college at night and searched for housing during the day.  We ended up in a tiny 10×10 apartment.  We had to borrow money from my parents to put down a deposit.  We walked everywhere because we couldn’t afford the 70 cents to take the subway until school started and we got our subway passes along with our stipends.  We bought used kitchen equipment for $20 and a terrible desk for $10 from some people who were leaving, and a new futon for $120 and a paste-board dresser for $80.  As the pastor who married us suggested, we ate a lot of macaroni and cheese.

We bought an overpriced bed with that first stipend (after paying my parents back), and a Le Creuset pot.  I remember calling my dad before making the purchase because he’s the most skin-flinty person I know.  He argued that we spend more time on the mattress than any other place and it’s important to get a good night’s sleep.  Also Le Creuset pots last forever.  In retrospect, we should have tried to bargain the guy down on the mattresses, but it did last 10 years without problem (although the salesman swore it would be good for 15).  We had to put that purchase on three different credit cards because we didn’t have enough of a line of credit to put it on one.  The guys at the shop said they broke up purchases like that all the time.

We ate mostly vegetarian and lots of cheap starches.  We’d go to the open air market once a week and stock up on veggies, and then we’d rush home to process them before they went bad.  Soon after school started, we got an offer to move to student housing– a two room 10×30 apartment for the same price.  We jumped at the chance and broke our lease.  We didn’t lose all of our deposit though because our old place filled up very soon after we left.  After a year we had enough saved to pay for car insurance, and we retrieved my car from my sister, complete with shiny new dents.  (That a lot of random people in the city wanted us to know they could fix whenever they saw us in a parking lot.)

After two years there, we moved to be RAs.  Our apartment was still two rooms, but smaller, and we shared a kitchen with the students.  Saving 20K/year on rent, we were able to save quite a bit of money.  We bought a video projector which we still have.  I can’t believe we just had to get a new bulb for it.  We’re growing older, my beautiful love.

After two years of that, we realized we’d need more time to finish our dissertations, and left the students.  We had a hard time deciding between a smaller apartment and greater savings or a bigger apartment and finally having some space to ourselves, maybe getting a cat.  One of your labmates told us her apartment building had two openings, and we visited, and we picked a large apartment.  It was expensive and falling apart, but oh, in such a lovely neighborhood.  And the kitchen was tiny and awful, so we had a granite-top bureau made to extend the kitchen space to our dining room.  We also impulse-bought an expensive butcher block that we don’t need and has been a pain to move, and a lovely dining room table.  Our dining room here looks a lot like our dining room there, though we no longer use the butcher block except to hold our knives.  We traveled out to the suburbs and bought a living room set and felt a little bit like grown-ups.

Before we even moved in, we drove out to a no-kill shelter and got our kitties.  The baby who had had babies, so tiny and yellow who became my best friend when I gave her chicken and who cleaned up to a lovely lively white and black cutie within a few days of not being surrounded by scary big cats.  The big kitty who loved on you just the right amount at the shelter and has the same heart condition as your grandma.   They’re currently reminding you of their presence through generous gifts of cat-hair, just as they have every summer.

An increase in income and change in location meant we could upscale our food choices.  Whole foods, Trader Joe’s… but we still walked to the local grocery too.  The walk to WF was nicer.  Heck, our entire neighborhood was lovely.  What a change from our first 4 years.  The radiator may not always have worked correctly and might have been prone to flooding, and the water from the pipes might sometimes have been dangerous, but we still loved that apartment.

And then with one thing and another we got jobs and with the money we’d saved we had a housing down-payment equivalent to what we’d need if we were paying on mortgage what we’d paid on rent.  Silly us, we thought we’d need a house this big.  But it’s a lovely house.  And somehow right at the top of our price range… the most expensive place we looked at.

When we first got here, after the downpayment and expected and unexpected fees and emergency expenses, we couldn’t afford to buy a w/d, or rather, we could get cheap ones, but we wanted nice ones.  So you took our laundry to the local laundromat/pub.  (Why don’t more towns have that combination?)  We were about to get new furniture when our planned second car purchase got pushed up by an F150’s sudden stop.  And then suddenly we had a baby and money and no time to get more furniture.  But we didn’t need it– toys from your parents and children’s books from mine ended up filling every available space.

We finished furnishing the house right before going on sabbatical.  Pardon, Faculty Development Leave.  We don’t have sabbaticals.  People suggested putting pictures on the wall so the place didn’t seem so bare.  So we did, from one of those cheap home furnishings places.  I’m not sure if it helped.  We split that living room set across the two living rooms.  Eventually we rented the place out, even though it was furnished.

We’d saved a year’s spending to go on that faculty development leave, and we enjoyed it to the fullest extent.  I wonder if we’ll have another year like that again.  In the end, we still had money leftover and made a pretty big dent in our mortgage when we got back.  You tried out the self-employment lifestyle that year and liked it, even though your company didn’t bring in very much.  But we didn’t mind.  Your business partners though, their wives didn’t make quite as much as yours, and they didn’t like each other as much as they both liked you.  And so the experiment ended and we went home to our regular jobs.

Back at home you toyed with keeping your job, maybe going into administration.  But your heart wasn’t in it.  So we started thinking about what we could do to make you happy with your career.  And we unexpectedly needed to start DC1 in private school.  And DC2 came along.  And now you’ve been self-employed for a month or so.

And here we are today.  Still working things out.  Happy that we saved so much so that we can have the freedom to try new things.  That we can spend on what’s important.  That we can not worry so much about so many things that aren’t important when you have money but are terrifying when you don’t.

I love you so much.  I hope that we have decades and decades more of saving and spending and living and loving together.  Life without you would be nowhere near as rich.

Related:  A year ago today.

link love

NIH explains why they no longer provide even coffee at meetings.

Mineral phys with a guide for designing experiments.  [It is a comic!  Click it!]

Congrats to shedding khawatir for the new baby!

Congrats to academic cog for the new job!

The kids should see this.

This made us giggle:  Gold stars for all!

Huffington post does coverflips.

Could not stop laughing at this amazon review.

Linda discusses horsies some more.

confidential to What now:  Our comments seem to be going into your spam filter!  (Or else you’re deleting them as objectionable, we’re not sure which… if the latter, carry on.)

Ask the grumpies: New Faculty triage

Stacie asks:

I said something today in a faculty meeting and now (7 hours later) am starting to freak out about it. I was wondering if I could get some advice and/or comfort.

The rundown: My department does not have a workload document. Combine this with when I asked my Chair about my promotion requirements I was told “3, 4, 5, or 6 articles and being a good member of the community.” My Chair talks in riddles and is very evasive. It is very difficult to get hard numbers/fact out of zir and there is a tendency for zir to get upset if you go to the Dean to ask questions w/out ze’s permission.

When I talk to other faculty they seem to also be confused and irritated by the lack of a workload document or say they have never heard of such a thing, but think it would be useful – however, when I brought it up in faculty meeting today, I received ZERO support from them. I tried to give the example that this is something that helps prevent inequitable loads and is a good idea and NOBODY liked the use of the word inequitable and they started shaking their heads. The chair said “we, at this institution, would never let that happen.” This is complete and utter BS, but everyone just nodded and smiled along w/ the chair and I felt like I looked like a huge troublemaker. Yet, I’ve heard them ALL complain about unfair workloads. So now I’m worried that they think I (new faculty) think I am overloaded and they will think ill of me bringing this up.

Overall, I am feeling like I can’t win and am wondering what my strategy should be? I vacillate between “speak my truth” since I’ll be criticized no matter what I do or fall in line, don’t speak, and be miserable along with many of my other faculty members.

Do you have suggestions regarding feedback/composure/assessment of personal contributions related to faculty meeting participation?

I’m so confused!

There are a number of things going on here:  How much should new faculty talk at meetings?  How should faculty talk at meetings?   How do you figure out what expectations are for you without getting overloaded?  Should there be a written document of expectations?  Should there be a general idea of expectations?

We have to admit that one of us has also not heard of a workload document, which appears to be one of those documents that breaks apart expectations into Full Time Equivalents (FTE) and details how many FTE should be devoted to service, teaching, and research.  As Stacie notes, these are used to clarify the desired distribution of effort and to create consistency.  How well they work at either is unknown, but at least if you’ve been given an unfair load, you can use the document to point out the inequity (and that might give you further confidence to say no to things when you’re already overloaded).

The other of us has a workload document.  They seem to be popular with unionized faculty, which makes sense as they can demand them, and are more common with schools that are not top-10 research institutions.  At-will states and top research institutions want to keep that extra flexibility.  They want to be able to let go someone who hits all the boxes but doesn’t make a big enough “impact” or to keep someone that is on the margins, but everybody likes.  (And, recent research suggests this will have a positive impact on white guys, less so on everybody else.)  It’s much harder to do things that are unfair if you have documentation explaining what fair is, and places don’t like to give that up.  Additionally, fields move, things change, budget cuts create more service, research expectations creep up… some places don’t want to have to change this document every year to match the new reality.  (You may have noticed that meetings and getting people to agree are difficult.)  There are strong reasons that administration is resistant to creating such a written contract.

So, given that a written document is unlikely to happen, how can you figure out how much service you should be doing?  There are a couple of ways to go about this.  You can, as you’ve done, observe how much service everybody else is doing, keeping in mind that you should be doing less than what full and associate professors are doing.  Don’t take an average, but look at the lowest amount of service someone is doing, then the next lowest until you hit someone that nobody is complaining about as selfish.  You can also do the minimum until someone tells you that’s a problem, and then you can step up based on feedback.  Do you have annual reviews that discuss your progress on service, teaching, and research?  The standard recommendations for junior service apply– do something visible, important, that has a finite number of meetings and accomplishes something.  I like admissions, but there are other similar committees.  Volunteer for the good service so you can say you can’t to the bad service.

So what if they think you think you’re overloaded?  You probably are overloaded!  If they stop asking  you to do additional service, that’s a good thing!  Why do you think so many people complain about service loads to begin with?  If you don’t have enough service, you can always volunteer for something.

In terms of whether you should speak up at faculty meetings… The standard advice is to keep your head down for half a year to a year until you understand the lay of the land.  Some suggest keeping a low profile until tenure.  Our suggestion is to do a cost-benefit analysis.  #1 often spoke up at early faculty meetings, including one memorable time when we were going on and on and on complaining about another department and she flat out said that she didn’t want to be part of a faculty that always focused on the negative, and unless there was something we could do about these problems, that we should stop wasting time ranting.  Also that we should think of them as our allies rather than enemies as we’re all on the same side.  (She said it a little more politely, but not much more.)  #1 was able to do that because she really was willing, at that point, to seek new employment if she was going to have to listen to bitching for a minimum of two hours every month.  #2 spoke up frequently, but also accidentally offended some people pre-tenure because of it, even though I was being very polite and professional.  They’re just touchy.  But I apologized and it worked out.

If you’re going to speak up, you need to be willing to deal with the consequences.  What is your walk-away point?  And remember, the more you focus on those 4, 5, 6 articles, the more likely you’ll be able to walk-away to a better position.

In terms of how to communicate, a certain level of detachment helps.  Stay calm, rational, not frustrated.  #1 is reading an excellent book now called, Crucial Conversations— get yourself a copy!  At some point I will write a more detailed review on it.  The first step the book recommends is to think hard about what you are really trying to accomplish– in this case, the work document isn’t your main objective, it’s knowing what your expected service load is and to make sure you do not have an unfairly large load.  A work document would help that goal, and have positive spillovers for others, but there are ways to work within the current system that will help you achieve that goal as well.

Other general things to remember, use “I” statements instead of “You” statements, remember that you’re all on the same team, don’t just vent to vent, try to find solutions and create action items.  A good mantra is, “stay professional,” especially when those around you are not.  One sneaky thing I’ve been doing lately is mirroring language of the person I’m talking to– that’s supposed to promote buy-in.

#2 suggests reading a Ms. Mentor book that will tell you some advice about meetings and soothing ruffled senior feathers.  Not everyone agrees with her, but it’s a useful perspective.  Ms. Mentor might say that the problem was that you made the senior faculty take a stand in front of everyone without asking them first.  When you had conversations about “wouldn’t a workload policy be great”, you might have also asked, “Would you be willing to spearhead a committee to write one?”  Maybe they don’t care enough to put in the time and work, in which case, they’re not going to be much help in a meeting.  As a junior person, chairing such a committee yourself is asking for trouble and for people to get grudges against you, both faculty and administrators — don’t do it.  But maybe you can orchestrate for someone else to do it.  Otherwise, you’ll have to wait it out and publish, publish, publish.

Another tip:  senior faculty tend to like to be asked for advice.

All in all, don’t worry too much about this faculty meeting.  It will blow over.  We suggest stopping pushing on the work document, at least until they can’t fire you anymore.  You have better things to do than to sit on interminable meetings trying to figure out what such a document would look like anyway.  Focus on your research, getting the minimum teaching evals, and doing the minimum service.  If you can’t figure out what the minimum service is, wait until someone says you’re doing too little and then step up your game.

Good luck!

Grumpy Nation:  Are we totally off-base?  What advice would you give Stacie?

Pre-tenure book route contemplation

Now that I’m an old tenured woman…

My department is the kind where you can either write a book and a few articles before tenure or you can write a bunch of high quality articles.  I chose the article route.  I never really considered the book route because my sub-field’s conversations mainly occur in journals.  (It is true that my dissertation director does have a book, but only one!  My senior book route colleagues here all have multiple books.)

So far during my time here, all of my colleagues doing the article route have made tenure.  Only one choosing the book route has made tenure, and he had two books, went up early, and eventually got hired away at triple my salary.

This whole process was mysterious to me until I got tenure and got to sit in on my first 40 minutes of a committee meeting about when a book should count, and how my senior colleagues are worried about our assistant professors choosing the book route given their current progress.

I recently overheard one of our first years talking about how ze hadn’t gotten much research done, and one of our second years said, yeah, ze thinks that’s normal.  But at the committee meeting, they were worried about the second year’s lack of productivity.

Anyway, the next time I saw the first year, I did that horrible thing and asked hir how the book was coming.  Ze said ze’d taken the semester off from it.  There was so much other research that ze wants to work on besides the dissertation and the book.  Ze was thoroughly sick of the book.  And I can totally relate to that.  I wrote two articles that were completely different from my job market paper when I got out.  Nothing at all to do with my dissertation.  But… I also got my dissertation articles out to journals, as much as I hated them.  I wanted them done and gone more than I wanted to not work on them.  Since then, I’ve rediscovered what made me like my dissertation topic in the first place.

My senior colleagues tell me that leaving the book alone is dangerous.  That dissertation must be turned around quickly.  The book makes a scholar’s name in the field just as articles do for those of us who do the article route.

So I told my junior colleague, I think they expect you to have a book draft by the end of your second year.  You need to work on that.

I felt bad for being so out like that, when my colleague had stopped by to discuss baked goods. Ze had kind of settled into my office before I asked about the book, and left a bit abruptly.  I hope because ze felt like ze had work to do and not because I’m a buzz-kill.

I wanted to lend hir my copy of Boice, but I loaned that to my junior colleague in my own sub-field (another article route person) who I’ve felt more competent to mentor, and ze still has it.

So, lots of questions for academics.

Do you think it’s a good idea to take a break from the dissertation topic before you’ve gotten your main publications from it (the thought being you attack it with renewed interest when you return)?  Do you think you can get research done your first year on the job?  When does a book “count” (contract?  proofs?  reviews?)?  When should a book be done by in order for it to count for tenure?  What advice do you have for junior faculty expected to write a book?

My body defies science, or else everyone lies.

Ok what is it with this idea that you are getting enough sleep when you can wake up without an alarm?  Who does that?  Maybe if I set my alarm for 11am!  Even when I go to bed early, and set the alarm for 8 – 9 hours later, the alarm always wakes me up.  What is WITH you people and your freakish lack of need for alarm clocks?  That’s why they make alarm clocks!  Because we need them!  Perhaps if I never had a class or meeting before 2pm then I wouldn’t need an alarm clock.  But seriously!  Getting 8 – 9 hours of sleep is NO guarantee that I will then wake up at the right time.  Ha ha.  I laugh upon your alarm-clock-not-needing!  [#2 does not usually use alarm clocks, and even when she does use them, she usually wakes up before they go off.] [#1 sticks out her tongue at #2.]

I *always* feel groggy when I get up.  And there is nothing wrong with my thyroid [#2, using her armchair internet skillz, suspects it’s a difficult to diagnose thyroid problem], I get plenty of vitamin D, I exercise several times per week (which only makes me MORE exhausted, but that’s a separate post).  If I was pulled over on my way to work, I would fail a field sobriety test because I am uncoordinated and usually sleepy at that hour.  I can’t even reliably touch my finger to my nose when stone-cold sober, and I do drive sleepy.  I know I shouldn’t.  But there’s no other way to get to work!  Or, if I’m awake when going TO work, I’m very exhausted when coming home, which leaves the same problem.

Who’s with me?!?!?!?!?