Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Reading List

I think it was YoungFemaleScientist who suggested that "Mr Darcy Takes a Wife" was a good book, so I decided to read it. I am enjoying it immensely. Also good in a juicy and decidedly feminist way is "A Great and Terrible Beauty" by Libba Bray. There is a sequel out now but the wait list for it at my library is very long indeed.

I've been reading more lately because I am making a lot of progress in getting my kids to bed without falling asleep myself. That leaves me with a precious hour or so to read. I suppose if I was more dedicated to my profession I would use that time to read journal articles or something, but I absolutely HATE to read that kind of stuff. I only do it when absolutely necessary, which usually means when I am writing a proposal. I can (sort of) get away with that because my research is pretty unique. There aren't any other researchers doing what I am doing right now. (At least, none that I know of. Perhaps if I read more I would find some!)

Must dash off to meet a post-doc candidate (to be paid from our $1.8 million grant). I still feel strange to be the one who is making the hiring decisions and not the one who is desperately looking for a job.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

I can jump-start a car

I was reading somebody's blog (sorry, can't remember who) and they complained that their female neighbor, who was plenty smart, had to ask the blogger's husband for help in jump-starting her car. Today I got the opportunity to prove to the world and myself that I can jump start my own car (in the rain, no less). My husband was actually right inside the house, but he screwed up his shoulder skiing and was heavily sedated, so I didn't want to disturb him. I'm so proud! But, at the same time, thoroughly annoyed that my son left the dome light on.

Anyway, the new semester started yesterday. Although I did borrow lecture notes off the internet, I did also give credit where it was due. Thank you, Sandra Porter, for pointing that out. If I may allow myself a little rant on the subject...

When my post-doc advisor (Big Famous Guy, BFG) left for Europe, leaving me to manage his lab and teach his classes, he had just hired a new post-doc. I hoped that New Post-Doc and I could work together to keep BFG's lab running. I was supposed to teach the same class I teach every year that spring, but I got pregnant and went on maternity leave instead. So New Post-Doc got stuck teaching the course. I had previously co-taught it with BFG, and he was of the old school and used overheads. Thus I had only a few lectures in electronic form, which I gave to New Post-Doc (along with the overheads). New Post-Doc then made up a whole new set of electronic lecture notes and used them to teach the class. A year later I had to teach the class again, and I asked him if he would share his lecture notes with me. He told me he had lost them. How does one lose electronic lecture notes? I knew he had to be lying, but I didn't say anything. He and I didn't get along too well anyway, so I kind of understood why he didn't want to share. So that was bad enough, but to make matters worse, a week or two later, when I was furiously making up my powerpoint slides for the class, he came and stood in the doorway of my office and waved a CD and said, "I do have these, but I put a lot of effort into them and I don't want to share them. " I told him I understood, and then he said, "I might be willing to share them if you had something to trade..." I was flabbergasted. As I look back on it, I realize that this might sound like some kind of sexual proposition, but I don't think it was. I still don't know what he thought I might trade for them. I just said, "no, I don't have anything to trade," and he walked away.

This was the same guy who refused to help one of my students (who was working on a BFG project, and therefore should have been deserving of help from BFG's post-doc) while she floundered for over a year trying to make a method work. He just didn't want to do anything that would make me look good, or even competent. When BFG finally inquired why the project wasn't moving forward, New Post-Doc told him it was my fault because I had never asked for help. I thought that was odd, considering that (a) I had asked for help, (b) I don't think I should have to ask for help from BFG's post-doc for a BFG-related project, and (c) I thought that he and the student were friends, and that even though he hated me he would help her. Just goes to show that he would even screw a friend to achieve the desired object of making me look bad.

Anyway, the moral of the story is to be generous. Give people your lecture notes! Help them! Don't be an ass. I would rather give someone help and not get credit for it and get a reputation for being a generous patsy than not help people and get a reputation for being a dick.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Lecture notes on the internet

One piece of very useful advice: no matter what you are asked to teach, odds are someone has already taught it and posted lecture notes on the internet. Don't drive yourself crazy. Borrow them. If you make up nice notes of your own be sure to post them and return the favor.

I am being asked to teach a 50% of a course on Soil Chemistry. Like I know anything about soil chem. This is where the internet comes in handy. Google has made it so easy to find a lecture on soil pH. I just hope I survive this coming semester. I carefully avoided thinking about it until this week, but I have to teach 1.5 courses this semester. One is the same class I've been teaching for years, so it is kind of on autopilot, but the other is this soil chem class. Unfortunately it meets right after my other class on Tuesdays and Fridays, so on those days I will frequently have to lecture for three hours straight, only pausing to run across campus and eat my lunch along the way. Yech.

Does anyone else miss The X-Files? It's been off the air long enough now for me to forgive Chris Carter for the last couple of seasons, and now I find myself growing nostalgic. Maybe because it reminds me of the Clinton administration, when I felt the world was generally headed in the right direction. I may even buy the first few seasons on DVD, although when would I have time to watch it? Hmmm... d'ya think I could play the DVDs on my computer while I write soil chem lectures?

I don't watch much TV. Only kids shows. Is there anything worth watching on TV these days?

Friday, January 06, 2006

New Years Resolutions

Happy New Year! I am free of the semester from hell, and the new and improved semester from hell has not yet begun, so it is time to indulge in a little goal setting. This year I have decided that I am going to have all my students set goals for the year with deadlines, and then I am going to post them on the wall outside my office so we can keep track of how we are doing. A little public shame can be a good thing.

Here are my goals for 2006:

Submit at least 4 manuscripts for publication on which my post-doc advisor is NOT a co-author. Three of these are chapters from the dissertations of my two students who are trying to finish. They are in really raw form, though. The fourth is a final progress report that is written and is in pretty good shape, although I will have to do a lot of re-writing.
Write a CAREER proposal. Still thinking of a good topic.
Write a proposal to HRF
(if they ever put out their RFP). Have a good topic for this.
Write at least one additional NSF proposal. Still thinking of a good topic.
Get Saphira to work (get two important methods to work on her). Saphira is my new instrument. I call her Saphira because of her sapphire blue casing.
Have regular lab group meetings (which I didn't do last semester because I was so crazy).
Prepare my junior student for his qualifying exam.
Continue my BUFF meetings.
Take my kids camping in the Rockies.
Don't let my husband's negativity get me down.
Enjoy life.