Adventures in traveling for work to a state with a really bad Covid outbreak

This summer right before Delta, I got asked to give a talk in person in the fall.  I was feeling optimistic.  New cases were down to the single digits in my town, DC1 was vaccinated, and it seemed likely DC2 would start the vaccination process in early fall, maybe September.  So I said yes!  And I bought plane tickets.

Then Delta hit.  My county is getting 150-200/100,000 new cases a day (which may be an undercount because it is not always easy to get a same-day test).  DC1 has been exposed at school at least 6 times, maybe 7 (I literally lost count after the fifth time, plus I missed checking one day last week).   About 7% of the students in our school district have been diagnosed with Covid since school started.

But… the place where I was giving a talk had both a vaccine and mask mandate, so … safer than me teaching my class which has neither.

Still, I had to *get* to the place.

I chose to wear N95 Respokare masks  for the airplane portions of my trip.  These are extremely good but also expensive ($10/each for a disposable mask!).  When they’re fit perfectly I cannot smell my fancy Bath and Bodyworks hand sanitizer.  Even when not fitting perfectly, all smells are muted.  Except the smell of my breath, which turns out gets worse and worse as the day goes on without taking the mask off.  They are not incredibly comfortable– after removing it I definitely had lines on my cheeks.  The head straps can take some adjusting as well and don’t necessarily play well with pony tails.

During my day at the place I was talking, I just wore a much more comfortable Botn KN94 and did not have to smell my breath.  Everyone else was nicely masked indoors and mostly masked outdoors.  It was all really great and I felt a bit rejuvenated work-wise.

HOWEVER.  The rest of the world was not great.

The airport in my state wasn’t so bad– there were some noses, but not a whole lot of flagrant violations of not wearing masks except for people genuinely eating.  And these folks were pretty easy to avoid because there was a lot of space.

At the Hilton hotel in the state I went to, none of the front desk workers were wearing masks.  The only employees who were wearing masks were minority women (mostly cleaning staff, but also the woman at the concierge/parking desk outside), and nobody else was masked.  The white woman who seemed to be in charge got pretty angry at me “I’m fully vaccinated I do not need to mask” (silence from me) “FINE” when I asked if there was anybody working the front desk with a mask.  She went back to find a mask and never came back after yelling at me.  I’m not sure if I’m actually checked out of that hotel.

The taxi driver at the airport was masked, but the one from the hotel was not.  I asked him to put one on and he did.  I should have taken an uber!

The big problem was the airport in the other city.  At least 40% of the people there were not masked or were wearing masks inappropriately.  I could not find any place to sit down that was not within 6 feet of an unmasked jackhole.  Literally.  I would find a gate where a flight had just left and sit down, and a few minutes later, some guy would come by and then sit behind me and take his mask off.  Or a woman would sit next to me and then take her mask off to talk on the phone.  I started swearing at people.  I saw that one masked woman found a single spot lonely on the floor near where they were doing construction (far from any gates) to sit unbothered, but I didn’t want to bother her.  I took a picture of some asshole employee who was walking all over the airport wearing her mask well below her nose and she took the entire mask off and smiled at me and thanked me for taking her picture.  It was terrifying and exhausting.  And of course my flight was delayed.  Usually I’m able to sit down at an airport and read a novel and just kind of chill out.  Constant vigilance is NOT FUN.

Did I mention that the other city has one of the highest covid rates in the country right now?  I did not move my mask even to drink until I got to my home state airport.

Readers, I will not be traveling to an airport at any point in the near future.  I will probably continue to not leave my home/work/library front desk routine.  And after DC2 is fully vaccinated, I will likely limit my air travel to places that aren’t terrifying.

Teaching a first semester required course

This is a post initially started in 2011!  But apparently not much has changed in the intervening 10 years…

Teaching a first semester required course is really hard!

The reason for that is that you’re not just managing expectations about the class itself, but about the major and about what it means to be a college student (or graduate student!).

It’s ok to tell them that they need to be taking notes.  They honest to goodness don’t know.  A lot of them went to high schools where they could just get by on their smarts.  In college, at least in a challenging major like ours, they are going to need some memory aids.  It’s ok to tell them to put their cell phones away and laptops down.  I tell mine that they need to be taking notes with pencil and paper and they can only use a tablet if they have a stylus.  Trying to draw diagrams using a laptop without a stylus is a huge waste of time and takes them out of the more important parts of actually understanding the lecture.

We also added to our core syllabi information on how college is different from high school– they’ll be expected to think and deal with ambiguity and ask questions, not just memorize lists.  We tell them they should expect to be stressed out sometime in the middle of the semester and they will feel dumb, but at the end of it they will feel a lot smarter.  That seems to help a lot.

A lot of books written by white-haired white dudes will tell you to treat students like adults.  My teaching evals got a lot better when I started treating them like toddlers (keeping in mind that I would be an excellent pre-school teacher).  Students understand the “teacher” persona and seem happiest when a female teacher fits into a box that they can understand.  They like guidelines and structure and clear expectations while still being expected to learn and grow.

For those of you that teach, do you have any tips and tricks for students just starting out?  For those of you who have been taught, what do you wish your first semester teachers had done, or what did they do well?

I am not ok

I have not dreaded a school year starting this much since grad school.  Or maybe even middle school.

My state government wants to kill my family and me and everyone else too in some kind of political power move.  It is unpleasant knowing that super villains are both real and in charge.  And most of the parents I know are too burned out to fight anymore.  (The irritating “liberal” White Doods, though, are still happy to tell us that everything is pointless and also anything we do is wrong.)

Last year’s thing with the associate dean really killed my desire to get up in front of a required core class, especially one where I have all the people who signed up late because it’s an 8am class and the later sections are full.  The previous year’s cheating scandal also still lingers.  And the year before the insane and potentially dangerous student who started threatening me because on the first day of class I asked him to move up a few rows (and my chair just sat there after forcing a meeting with him and listened to him accuse me of things until I left)– he did get moved to the online version of the class and went on to threaten other female faculty members and students in his other classes… nothing was done about him.

I don’t want to go into the office, and one of the reasons is because the anti-masker pro-gun faculty member who encouraged last year’s student to go to the associate dean now has an office directly next to mine.  And of course he goes in every day.  I assume he’s gotten vaccinated, but if he keeps up what he’s been doing (meeting with crazy right-wing students unmasked in his office and classroom) eventually he’ll probably get a breakthrough infection.  Who knows.  Maybe he’ll take horse dewormer and get super sick.  One can always hope.

I worry that I can’t protect my kids.  DC2 is homeschooling but DC1 or I could easily bring the virus home.  And probably zie would be ok.  But there’s also a chance zie wouldn’t. Or that there would be long-term consequences that affect hir entire life.  I will do a lot to protect my kids that I will not do to protect myself because they don’t have the power to make these decisions yet.

One of my colleagues quit this summer without another job lined up because he and his wife couldn’t stand living here anymore.  Last night I dreamed he got a last minute position at Delagar’s school where masks are required.

I wish I were taking this semester off as unpaid leave.  And indeed, if I get called into the associate dean’s office again this year, that’s what I’m going to do.  Take leave without pay for the rest of the semester.  The students can have the monotone adjunct for the rest of the semester while I do more job applications.

Maybe it won’t be as bad as I’m worrying.  But now that I think on it, this class has been wildly problematic for the last 3 years.  And this year I have nothing to protect me from the rabid Trump loving anti-masking anti-vaxxers like I did last year.  It’s not irrational to be dreading this semester.

But I do have an escape plan.  I can leave.  Heck, I could even quit my career at this point and Barista FI (though being an actual Barista sounds pretty awful).

Ask the grumpies: Can we talk about masks?

Lisa asks:

Since you mentioned masks, can we talk about that for a minute? I’ll be teaching a class full of students tomorrow – they should be masked and I will be masked. I’ve been reading about which masks are “best” (for me and for my kids who are at school). But I feel like the “best” masks don’t work so well for a few reasons.

If I were to fly on an airplane or something, I’d wear a KN95. Best protection, fairly easy to wear. However, when I’m talking, the KN95s and surgical masks move all over on my face and I’m constantly adjusting them, so I can’t really wear either of those options to class. The Old Navy masks fit me really well and stay on well while I talk, so that’s what I’ll be wearing, even though cloth masks are not as efficient at filtering things out. The ON masks are triple layer, though, which is not nothing…

Same issue for my kids – the two oldest can wear KN95s although one of them prefers the ON masks. I feel like either is OK since they’re vaccinated and the vast majority of the school is masked as well (for now). The little one doesn’t have any KN95s that fit well (we’ve ordered a few to try), likes the ON masks pretty well, but is wearing some double layer minecraft character masks I got as a special back to school surprise (which is clearly my fault, I should have made them stick with the triple layer ON). I’m wondering how much of a difference it really makes. As long as the mask fits well and the kids will wear it, and as long as everyone is wearing a mask and the ventilation is good, I’m hoping our cloth masks are protective enough. If we were in the situation your DC1 is (few classmates masked or vaccinated), I’d go for as much protection as possible. But I’m hoping that with near-universal masking the stringency doesn’t have to be as high. What do people think?

I am not a medical professional and I don’t study the effects of masking or modern virus transmission.

From what I’ve read and from what natural scientist has said, the #1 thing (after will your kids keep them on) is fit.  Filtration particle size is a distant second after that.

If everyone else is masked, then yes, it is safer!  It is such a simple solution, and yet evil evil people have made this a political issue such that I will “get in trouble” if I ask my students to wear masks.  I had a really cute anonymous survey planned at the beginning of class where I was going to compare people who got Moderna to people who got Pfizer across another characteristic, but I have to scrap that because we got a lengthy email from general counsel about not asking people if they’ve been vaccinated, even anonymously.

DC1 likes cambridge masks and primalwear masks.  They are thick and hot and expensive.  DC2 is a HUGE fan of enro. They are light, washable, fit really well, and are cute(!) but they are likely sold out.  We have been unable to find KN95 that actually fit DC2, though that’s moot now that zie is homeschooling, at least until DC1 or I bring covid home. DC1 also likes the Old Navy masks, but they don’t fit completely around hir face–there’s gaps, so that’s out of the question for now.

The last two days at student orientation I’ve been rethinking my mask choices because so few of our students were masked (like 30% the first day and maybe 10% the second day). Day 1 I double masked with a crappy “Vote” mask and a KN95 construction style and it would just not stay put (though to be fair to n95maskco.com, I’m not sure if I used one of theirs or one of the KN95 from the grocery store– I had better luck double masking with them and a cloth mask back last February). So day 2 I double masked with a really nice (and very expensive!) disposable N95 (Respokare® NIOSH N95 Respirator Mask) that works way better. I’m trying to decide whether to steal one of DC1’s fancy masks or to just use N95 or to double mask with an N95 and a cute but useless redbubble mask. My initial plan of loosely and comfortably masking is completely out the window.

Double masking was hard on my ears last spring and I had some trouble keeping both sets on my ears at all times.  N95 are nice because they’re head straps, not ear straps, though they are incompatible with me wearing a pony tail.  DC1 has added the head straps to the ear straps on all hir Cambridge masks.  We’ve been doing a lot of experimentation.

Jenny F Scientist adds:

I did a post on this (http://naturalscientist.blogspot.com/2021/07/masks-yet-again.html) and the answer is… ??? Everyone wearing a mask is definitely more effective than any non-N95 mask you could wear (and even those, if the fit is not PERFECT, are generally no better than a surgical mask, no really, they fit test them for medical professionals annually with hoods and a bittering agent and really and truly the fit is no longer okay after 3-5 on/off cycles). If you look at Figure 5 there, the *source* wearing a surgical mask captures 90% of particles and the receiver also wearing one will capture another 50%(ish). And also, yes, fit, i.e. sealing, makes a difference (SMNat vs. SF data points; N95 with vaseline or without).

I have worn N95s and KN95s in both medical and scientific settings, everyone hates it and they are super uncomfortable and sweaty no matter what. I tried to wear a really fancy Cambridge Mask in the airport last week and I was so hot I nearly fainted and had to take it off. “Objectively the best but unwearable” is, as you say, perhaps not ideal.

Honestly the next best thing you can do in a classroom is more air exchanges: tape a 22″ square filter to a box fan, mask off the edges with cardboard if you want, and set it running in the doorway…. (like this but you can do it with one filter: https://www.texairfilters.com/how-to-improve-the-efficiency-of-the-box-fan-and-merv-13-filter-air-cleaner/)

SP says:

I’m interested in this topic. In the toddler classes mask use among kids was pretty spotty, but they seem to be more consistent in the preschool so we are trying to upgrade our masks. By the time I went to google to see what was recommended for kids (Enro, but probably not a fit for toddlers, and happy masks), they were completely sold out with months long wait list. OK, fine. I am starting with a better fitting set of masks with low cost, which is better than some of her others – but still shopping around for something I’m happier with.

On the flip side, it all feels a bit futile because LO is not yet 3, so even best case use seems to be marginally useful with a room full of little ones. (Teachers are masked/vaccinated too.) And I’m happy to take ANY margin I can get, I just don’t know how much difference the mask choice will make in the long run. And they also must remove masks for nap time (indoors, 1-2 hrs). But, this presumably is not going to go away any time soon, and her proper mask usage will likely improve over time, especially with comfortable/good masks.

Alice adds:

I tried to get a better quality of mask (happy masks, others) for my 5-year-old, and got too frustrated by the Not In Stock situations everywhere I looked. It doesn’t matter what’s best if you can’t get it anywhere. We’re still using basic cloth masks with a filter pocket, and I’m using the PM2.5 filters that you get from Amazon. She at least loves the patterns. (Space! Favorite colors!) Based on what I see at pick-up, she’s on the middle-to-high end of standard for her class. Everyone is wearing masks (thank goodness for the mandate), but there are definitely kids wearing single-layer no-pocket masks. They do all have them on, though.

 

Why we decided at the last minute to home school DC2

We were not planning on homeschooling DC2.  We’d bought all the school supplies and scheduled the bus and the after school care.  We even had submitted a grocery order full of easy to pack and quick to eat DC-approved lunch foods.

If our schools had the same protections in place that they had last year, we would not be homeschooling.  We were even still planning on sending hir to school with no mask mandate, though we were uneasy about it.  What happened?  Well, first, at schedule pickup, less than 40% of everyone there was masked (it was waaay less at high school schedule pickup, maybe 15%?, though presumably all of the kids in high school have the option to get vaccinated, though in reality they don’t because they need parental permission).  Second:  we found out some really horrifying things about lack of parental notification and how they are discouraging quarantining, in exact opposition to CDC recommendations.  A kid could sit next to an unmasked covid positive person every class period and lunch and the parents would NEVER KNOW.  Additionally, quarantining will only be allowed for covid positive children, not children who have been merely exposed.  Since people can be contagious before they show symptoms or get the results of a positive covid test, this spells disaster.

I think what happened was they saw headlines from other states that had already opened without mask mandates and thought, well, we can’t have 800 kids quarantined for exposure if we don’t allow quarantines for exposure!

We started looking into virtual schooling options a few weeks ago when it became clear that no masking would stay the rule.  But it seems like it was too late and all of the highly rated virtual options were full while the ones remaining got poor reviews or looked scammy.

We are also going to have to be careful with DC1 since vaccinated kids can get Covid too.  We’ve upgraded DC1’s masks. When the weather cools down a bit we’re going to keep windows and doors open and the fans will be on all winter.  We bought an extra air filter for the mystery of the musty cupboard though I’m not sure whether to put it in DC1’s room (as the most likely carrier) or DC2’s (as the most vulnerable).  Possibly we should buy a third filter and do both.

I know there are naysayers who probably don’t read this blog (or who hate-read it) who think we’re being too risk averse.  But the thing is, we do not know what covid is like in a situation where someone without 100% working protective gear is constantly exposed to the virus.  (Healthcare workers wear protective equipment that fits AND they can eat lunch away from the covid ward.)  If nothing changes, these schools will become seas of virus particulate.  And no, I don’t think this is fear-mongering– it is just logic.  There’s a reason we have quarantines!  And we know that there are breakthrough infections and we know that covid infections are worse the more exposure to the virus someone has had.  On top of that, our hospitals are full and the children’s hospitals in our surrounding towns have been turning people away.  Any non-covid emergency is going to be more dangerous because of these problems.  And I’ve seen the full gamut of what can happen to covid-positive previously healthy young adults… there is no way of predicting who will be asymptomatic and who will have a brief hospital stay.  Or who will recover after a few days and who will still have massive brain-fog for the rest of the semester, possibly longer.  And DC2 is a foodie– losing taste and smell would be awful.  Not to mention that we have no idea what the long-run outcomes will be.

I’m a little worried about DC2 although zie assures us we shouldn’t be.  But this summer and last year zie had virtual classes with a teacher and other kids and had regular minecraft playdates with hir friends 2x/week.  The playdates are ending since hir friends are returning to after school care (we’d signed DC2 up too, but that was before our state and school district decided to go crazy).  There’s no virtual teacher to ask questions, no virtual class to socialize with.  And DC1 won’t be home during the day.  We did hire a Spanish tutor and are considering an English tutor, but that may not be enough.

I am also worried about how this is going to affect our careers.  We’re both working full-time.  During the school year I’m already frazzled trying to get all the parts of my job done plus just seeing day-to-day things with the kids.  There’s just too much going on.  This year will be especially bad because we are hiring for 3 open positions and we have several third year reviews happening.  DC2 has been given strict instructions on when we will have time for hir and hopefully that will be enough.  And zie has sworn zie won’t whine or tantrum, which I find extremely draining.  Hopefully zie will stick to that.  If I were planning on staying here forever, not getting stuff out this year might be ok, but I am desperate to leave this state, so I need to be active.

We hope to return DC2 to regular schooling just as soon as it is safer.  Right now we think that means mask mandates + actual quarantining + lower community transmission rates OR DC2 getting fully vaccinated + quarantining or parental notification or something.  But there might be some combination of the above that would encourage us to send hir earlier.  We were told that school returning from homeschool should only occur at the beginning of grading periods, so every 6 weeks we will look at what is currently happening.

I guess I’m going to split this into two posts.  This one explains our reasoning.  Wednesday’s will be a less emotional “what we’re actually doing” post.  Maybe there will even be some dollar values in it, who knows!

Passion Planner review

Over the past few months, I’ve taken my daily planning systems and to-do lists and consolidated them all into a single Moleskine notebook plus a small weekly calendar (which is technically a planner, but I don’t think of it as such as I only put appointments and deadlines in it).

I really love the Moleskine, but I wish I didn’t have to write out the times each week.  I explored washi tapes and stickers and stamps, but nothing seemed right.  And there are a ton of planners that have the times already listed out.

So I read a whole bunch of planner reviews on the internets and looked at a whole lot of different blank spreads and decided that the Passion Planner (not affiliate), weekly, Monday Start, was the best match for my current planning setup.  I wanted something that had the times laid out, but also had space for my to-do list post-it and my projects post-it and just space around for other things.  And I wanted a little space for deadlines above the hourly set.  I was also looking forward to having monthly calendars in the same planner as the weekly calendars instead of (alas, I will likely still be printing out google calendars and stapling them together :( )

There’s a bunch of passion concept map stuff that I will generally be ignoring.  I love the major weekly project goals, but otherwise I don’t have much use for reflection, at least not the monthly reflection the book has space for.

Weekly spread

Weekly spread with identifying information craftily obscured by two of DH’s fountain pens.

Things I like:

The weekly spread is great– exactly what I wanted.

The paper is REALLY nice.  The mokeskine has a thick creamy paper that is prone to feathering, so I love using my small tipped Clenas on it.  But the PP has a smooth bright white paper that LOVES a fountain pen.  There was something sensual about borrowing DH’s fountain pen with his fancy sparkly J Herbin ink and moving over regular appointments for the first time.  I *almost* want to get my own fountain pen, but… like a swimming pool, I’d rather have someone else own it and do the maintenance on it so I’ll likely borrow DH’s from time to time and otherwise use gel pens.

It has an elastic strap to keep it closed just like the Moleskine.

There’s free pages at the back that I will be able to use to take notes at meetings.

Monthly calendar

The month of August (anonymized with DH’s vanishing point fountain pen).

Things I don’t like:

I didn’t realize it was soft cover instead of hard cover.  It looks nice and it’s probably lighter with the soft cover, but I just prefer the Moleskine hardback.  This reason by itself is not enough for me to seek out other planners.

Instead of having all of the monthly calendars together at the beginning of the planner, as I assumed they would, instead each month starts with the monthly calendar for that month followed by the weekly planner pages.  I don’t plan by the month so this is not helpful for me– I need to see what’s happening a few weeks in the future at any point in time or else I get surprised by deadlines or mess up homework assignments for the students.  I do plan by the week, so the weekly spreads work.  But I also plan by the semester, not the month, so having those months separated by 4 weeks of weekly spreads is just irritating and I probably just won’t use them.  Another possibility is that I will print out their monthly spreads from their webpage and paste them in over the used weekly spreads once I’ve finished with August.  Or I might get small tabs that make it easy to flip to month spreads. We will see.  This problem won’t stop me from using the planner the entire year, but next year when summer rolls around I will be looking to see if there’s another planner out there that better suits my needs.  Maybe I’ll pick something less pretty that has rings so I can move pages.  (Or maybe I’ll try the Jibun Techo though I suspect it doesn’t have enough space for me.)

I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how this works for me once school starts!

I already asked you all about your preferred planning systems so… um… I have no questions?  But feel free to comment anyway!  Or tell me about your preferred planning systems if you didn’t last time.  It’s all good!

Ask the Grumpies: Flying into the department 2-3 days/week and family time

traveling parent query asks:

I have a preschooler, my husband has a stable government job he loves, and we just bought a house in our current city. I have a potential (who knows…academia is a dumpster fire) opportunity which is a short plane ride away. It’s an amazing post in my niche but not a city I’d want to uproot my family to given the lack of comparable job opps for my husband + our love of our current city. It is a very exciting job and might allow me to make a lateral move back eventually. I think given the changes in remote work, I’d need to be in 3 days a week during the semester, and maybe 1 week a month during the summer. Am I bananas for thinking this is totally doable given our financial situation, my husband’s overall competence, etc? I mentioned it on a mom site I read and people thought it would destroy my family, but like, my husband is an equally involved and competent parent, his job is very normal hours, my kid is easy going? Management consultants have kids and I could make up for term time travel with flexibility during the long (not in the US, shorter semesters) summers?

I thought in your careers, you might have met someone who has done something similar? Did they end up miserable?

I live in a location where it is difficult to solve the two body problem so I know a lot of people who spend 2-3 days/week on campus and the rest working from home (or from coffee shops in their home cities). As far as I know their family lives are fine, even those with children. Even those racking up frequent flyer miles. I am unaware of any divorces or delinquent children.

Interestingly, the person I know who did this with a preschooler is a woman (she was the next pregnant lady in our building after I had DC2, so she gets DC2’s outgrown clothes… I think we’re at the friendship level where I’d hear about problems, and if not, I’m really close friends with her mentor who knows everything in their department). The men generally have older kids or no kids.

The two in my building that rack up frequent flyer miles say that it is a good idea to get into the habit of using the airport and plane time to get work done.  It’s actually easier for them to focus because there’s no interruptions.  (This is not my experience with flights, but I guess if you’re taking the same flight over and over it becomes more automatic.)  My external friends who do long daily train commutes (think San Diego to LA or SF to Palo Alto) say the same thing– commuting when you’re not the person driving allows you to do focused work (their advice is to leave on an early enough train that you can snag a seat).

Alice offers this advice:

I’m not an academic, but can speak to the travel for work side of things a bit. Early in my career, I worked for a company whose business model involved heavy travel, and when I was pregnant/when our child was younger, my husband’s job required a lot of travel.

When I was the one traveling, I didn’t have a relationship or a child. Most of the people at the company were single or in relationships but only a scant handful had younger children. The travel was fly onsite early Monday/fly home on Friday afternoon, and videochat wasn’t the thing that it is now. I know one man whose wife and daughter moved to the onsite city with him even though it was a 1-year job because his toddler would forget him while he was away. She’d be shy and hesitant at first on Saturdays and then engaged and joyful on Sundays… and then he’d fly out on Monday morning and it would start all over again. He said the pattern was too heartbreaking for him to continue it. So that’s a negative potential with a very little kid.

However. When I was pregnant and until my daughter was about 3.5, my husband’s job had him away every other week or every third week, depending on what was going on with his work situation. His travel was usually Sunday-Thursday. We didn’t have the problem of our daughter forgetting him. We did do some videochatting, but not much. I made it a priority to make sure that he and I were communicating, generally via text, every day. And I made sure to send him a lot of photos, particularly while I was home on maternity leave. The travel was hard for him emotionally– he got tired of it and felt like he was missing R&R time that he would’ve had if he was home. But it didn’t wreck our marriage or our family.

From a family relationships and kid emotional development standpoint, what you’re outlining could be fine for all of you. In my opinion, it could even be good from a gender roles standpoint. For us, my husband’s travel really cemented the Mom Does Everything pattern. With you being the traveler, it might do the opposite. To me, that seems like a good thing. If your husband is already responsible for family logistics or if he’s willing to take them on, this could give your family a level of balance that mine doesn’t have.

I can’t speak to the financial side of things, but would advise being really thoughtful about your flight timings and keeping a sharp eye on weather forecasts if you get the job. Never book the last possible flight you’d need to catch in order to make it to your first commitment, and if the weather is predicting something big in your home city (blizzard, hurricane, etc.), consider getting to or staying in your work city before it hits. For my husband and myself, the companies had planned and paid for the travel, so if flights were cancelled or if there was a delay, missed time at work was accepted, even if something important was missed. If you’re doing a more DIY traveling for work setup, travel-related flight/weather complications may not be okay in the same way.

Grumpy Nation– have you seen families where one person travels a few days a week work?  What advice do you have for someone about to embark on weekly journeys?

 

RBOC

  • A 10-15+ person silicon valley startup is different than a smaller established SBIR mill/Consulting company in many ways.  It’s interesting how the processes are much more modern but also there’s a lot less stuff figured out.
  • This company calls for a lot of video meetings, whereas the old one did skype but with the video always off.  DH moved back into the guest bedroom (he also has a desk next to mine in the office next to our bedroom) which has a much better setup for video and we can both have zoom meetings at the same time.  (One day a week, all 4 of us are zooming in different rooms at the same time).  I miss him.
  • DH decided to decorate the guest bedroom to make it more his office and less a guest bedroom (he’s left all the pictures of waterfalls up– my whimsy suggested decorating it like a mid-level hotel room–Gen X does cliché ironically).  His mom got him one of those fake street signs that has his name on it so now the little bathroom hallway that separates the Great room from the guest bedroom is called “[DH’s first name] Rd”.  The guest bathroom is a little alleyway or cul de sac off the main road in this scenario.
  • He bought a standing desk and a new monitor and a new keyboard/mouse setup because the guest bedroom setup isn’t perfect.  He’s contemplating getting a new chair, though I’m actually the one who needs a new chair and he can take my old aeron once DC1 (who I traded chairs with) is back in school.  We’ll see what happens.  Money is a little part of it, but the big thing is me wanting to actually go and *sit* in chairs.  When you’re spending $1K on something you want it to be perfect, or at least not to cause back pain!
  • DH has decided to raise his allowance an additional $720/year for a total of $3,600/year.  Not all of this is going to jetpens for fountain pens and ink.
  • I know the whole point of an allowance is to spend on what you want without anybody judging you or saying no, but I did tell DH that I would not feel comfortable with fountain pens that cost over like $500 being in the house.  So he bought this one to add to what is now a collection (if you have three of something, it becomes a collection). It is substantially pricier than his other two.  But he’s had the other two (and his space pen) for at least 2 decades, maybe more, so I trust him to take care of it.
  • DC2 requested a fountain pen for hir birthday, so zie will be getting a platinum preppy that DH will be installing a converter for hir so zie can use his inks instead of just cartridges.
  • Part of me really wants to buy a fountain pen that matches the iPhone I plan to get just because it matches.  But then I remember that I don’t actually *like* fountain pens all that much (I like paper that makes fountain pens feather) and would not choose a fountain pen over a nice gel pen or rollerball.  Plus I would feel *terrible* losing a $25 pen.  (I think I can handle losing a $5 pen these days.  My beloved Clena is $3.30.)
  • None of those jetpens links are sponsored.  I just like the company.
  • My aesthetic is mostly black, but there’s something appealing about getting a light purple phone.  A touch of whimsey amid the darkness.
  • I have been learning a lot of new pen jargon from watching jet pens videos.  They don’t always explain the terms but I’m starting to pick them up anyway.
  • RBOC two weeks in a row– I think that matches my currently scattered personality.  I really need to do some deep work on two of my papers (my current two important papers) and instead I’m just futzing around on minor things.  Bad bad me.

How to get more citations as a junior scholar (in a social science without embargoes)

With Google Scholar being so easy to access these days (compared to other citation indices that you had to get from the library and look up one article at a time), getting your work cited becomes more important than ever for things like promotion and tenure.

Unfortunately doing good work isn’t enough if people aren’t aware of it.  On top of getting things published in good journals, you also have to get your stuff out there so people know about it and recommend it to other people.

How do you do that?

If you’re in a field that allows you to put up working papers prior to publication, then do that!  You can put it up on SSRN and/or on your own webpage concurrently with sending it to a journal.  (Or sooner!  Though do be careful about having a version you’re happy with posted and make sure you’re not in an area where people steal ideas from each other prior to publication.)

You can also send your paper to people that you cite– people are generally very nice when junior people do this and sometimes they even send back helpful comments and encouragement.

Make sure you cite other people and other important papers– google scholar and other indexes often let people know when they’ve been cited and if your paper looks interesting, they may look at it and keep it in mind the next time they do work.

Make sure you cite yourself, if appropriate.  I had a junior colleague who at one point had more publications than citations.  That should not be!  Not after your first two publications, at least.  Google scholar doesn’t care if citations are self-citations, though some indices do keep track of that.  In any case, citing yourself appropriately means that people reading any one of your papers can find other relevant papers of yours without having to look you up personally.  That means they’ll be more likely to add multiple relevant papers of yours to their next literature review.

Also:  get out there and submit your stuff to conferences.  Even if you don’t get in, the committee will have read your abstract at the very least and might remember it then next time they have a student doing something similar.  Even better is getting accepted and having people see your work in progress.

Have a short elevator pitch for whatever project you’re working on– once conferences are back in person, people like to ask junior people what they’re working on, and if you have a short summary of something interesting, they may remember it and you.

Grumpy Academics:  How do you get more citations?  How do you get your work and your name out there?

Ask the grumpies: Time to retire?

CG asks:

How will you decide when it’s time to retire?

#1:  I am always ready to retire.  For me this will come down to money.  I will need enough money to keep myself in books and housing and food.

#2:  I don’t think I will…?  It will probably end up being a combination of life circumstances (like health) and job stuff.   I dunno.  I’m still in the taking it a week at a time mode.

Grumpy Nation:  How will you decide it’s time to retire?