Wednesday, March 31, 2010

First signs of Boy missing Hub

About two weeks ago, Boy toddled into his parents' bedroom and said "Dada?", looking at the side of the bed where he can often find Daddy napping. It was a bit sad, and apparently caused Hub some distress when I relayed the story to him.

Tonight, when Boy and I were Skyping with Hub, Boy responded with his usual delight, and smiled and said "Dada" as soon as Hub's picture appeared on the screen. But then he started to cry and hold out his hands to the computer as if he wanted to be picked up by his Dad. This went on for far too long before we said goodbye, cut the connection, and I took him in for bath.

I was afraid Hub would really lose it at this scene. So we decompressed a little after Boy was put to bed and tried to look for a positive side. We decided that it was a good sign that the baby was attached to his partially absentee father and that was an indicator of how much time and love he gets from his Dad while he's home. I will rehearse that, but to be honest, I'm still sad.

Monday, March 29, 2010

A doozy of an excuse

I got this fourthhand. If you think YOU'VE heard some pretty good excuses for getting out of a test, try this on for size...

Dear Professor,
Hi name is Stu Student and I am currently enrolled in your upper level Blahdy-blah course. To make a long story short, a video I posted on YouTube of me balancing 15 books on my head, solving a rubik's cube, and reciting pi recently went viral and I have been contacted by the Ellen Degeneres Show wondering if I could come in on April Xth and perform my talent on the show. I am emailing you to make sure we don't have a test that day, and if so if I could take it early or late. Thanks so much! Stu Student

P.S. Here is the link if you want to watch the video :)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The donors tour

See my previous posts here and here.

Well, we were prepped. Early and deep. We did three animal surgeries this week to make sure that we had good samples to show. And they seemed pretty good. The student's rehearsed their spiels with me, although it became clear that one had no freakin' idea what was going on. So stu and I rehearsed and rehearsed until we reached some level of understanding that would pass muster.

I will have to mentally process how the failure of responsibility for this is distributed: My lack of attention and no "journal club"-type requirements until the end of the project, or the student's lack of ability/ training to see the forest for the trees and not to perseverate on the techniques at the expense of the question.

I said to Stu, "I expect you to know this stuff, but its like a class in which there is only a final. Those classes require a lot of discipline on your part to keep up with the material." Stu replies, " Yes, but this is also like the final being moved up five weeks unexpectedly." In any case, I will have to modify my advising of research students to prevent my future students from ignoring the question after the original meetings and using all of their mental energies solely on techniques and troubleshooting.

The bigwigs were late showing, but the lab was filled quickly with photogs, PR people, and fundraisers. They came in the wrong door of the lab which was logistically challenging, but we eventually ended up across the hall in front of my best posters. One joked about the title (they were not all scientists) and tried to pronounce the words, saying he and his wife were just talking about that at breakfast.

I introduced myself, gave my educational background, and joked that this was the smallest town I'd lived in. I also stated that I loved working at SRU, and in part it was due to the students, who I believed to be a little different than others. I explained the our philosophy behind undergraduate research (primarily synthesis of all they've learned in their science classes and higher-order learning). I pointed to two of the techniques and explained how they were unique in an undergrad lab setting, so much so that my graduates have been sought after for their expertise in that technique, but not difficult enough that an undergrad couldn't master them after being in the lab a reasonable time.

Then we went into the lab and spilt into two groups, where they observed the students, who gave them all quick spiels. Others engaged me to ask specific questions, so I was not able to really listen to what the students were saying. I did intercede briefly for stu who was struggling with a technical thing and not able to talk while concentrating.

One person asked how I do the research with my teaching load or some such thing. I answered that the students who do research at an institution like mine learn better to work independently than students who do research in a lab at a larger institution where there's always someone in the lab they can ask (a tech, post doc, grad student) I thought, of course my students are also exposed less to other ideas and techniques and apparently can flounder in the lab for nigh on 7 months without really being forced to ponder their question... but I DIDN'T say that.

One of the scientists questioned my use of a certain chemical, causing me to re-evaluate the entire project. Good, my first reviewer! but CRAP! he has a good point. More on that later...

The tour quickly turned from the science and techniques to general conversation. As the tour ended, the dean of a med school was talking to one of my students about getting her into his med school. Others were checking their blackberries. Then the organizers herded everyone out to take a tour of our facilities. One of the PR folks whispered and gesticulated that we did a GREAT JOB. I heard later from the fundraisers that they will form a committee of powerful alumni and could we do it again?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

More silliness twixt me and Hub

Hub sent me an online news article to read. Here's the morning report and then silliness ensues.

Me to Hub:
I skimmed the the article this morning.
Morning report: Boy woke up at 5 but was hysterical, at least this
time I wasn't completely flustered by it and just held him for a long
time. We broke the cycle of hysteria [he's too tired and hungry but
too busy screaming to eat or sleep] by offering him milk to drink
out of an espresso cup. Then he was bale to drink the full sippy cup
of OJ he had in his hand since he woke up. He crawled up in the
stroller which was still out and fell asleep a bit later. If I would have
had a 8:00 this morning, I probably would have been late, due to
the hysteria, but we got him to day care at 8:15 and all was good
from there.
I'm feeling very tense, but that is to be expected.
Can't wait to see you tonight. Usual time?

Hub: Yes, around 8:30 unless something untoward pops up.

You mean like you driving untoward us and ending up in Georgia?

Hub: If I knew how to roll my eyes, I would.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Another "one of those days"

This is not an untypical day at SRU for me right now.

7:20a: late getting baby to day care because of a melt down. My goal was to leave the house at 7:00a and be into work by 7:15 to finish setting up an elaborate lab for 8:00. Luckily, had a highly competent work study student working yesterday and lab was very well prepped.

8:00 Was able to start lab right on time with complete set-up.

9:20a: At this point, I am working very hard, as the students are unsure of what they are seeing in the microscopes, so I must go to each one (in the order that hands are raised- not spatially efficient)... a lot of "waitressing" type of work.

9:30a: students start wrapping up lab activities, and as they clean up, I give a very short lecturette/ demo introducing a new concept.

9:33a: in the middle of my talk, the Babyphone rings, I answer, apologizing to the class. I listen (with the entire class watching) as the day care director explains they have discovered a large injury on Boy that looks like a burn. I ask to call back in 5 minutes. I finish explaining the concept. I explain what the call was about.

9:37:, I slip out and call the day care back. I say, "If I can't be there in the next 5 minutes, I won't be there for another two hours."

9:38: I determine that I can make it to the day care and back before the next lab section starts at 10:10a. I ask the students if everyone can carry on in my absence, and check to make sure there are no potential safety issues. Then I leave.

9:45a (yes the day care is close... so close it is embarrassing to drive there). Boy certainly does have a huge welt of unknown origin. I decide some Greer's goo may help and run home (also close) to get it. Boy wails after he sees me and doesn't want me to leave.

10:00a drop off the goo. Boy wails after he sees me again and doesn't want me to leave.

10:08a back in the classroom again. Since the last section used all the materials that had been set up by the work study, I must rush to 1. give instructions and 2. distribute new materials. I would have done this in the period between labs had I not gone to the day care. This section is considerably more chaotic due to the lack of adequate preparation. This is a lot more "waitressing" work as I am running to get materials to everyone as needed AND answer microscope questions. Demo again, ask the students to clean up completely after themselves AND the previous section that didn't do so adequately because I want there to supervise them. There is lab from a different class immediately following mine.

11:55a, though there are still students working I leave early for a pre-natal appointment.

12:00 I drive by to get a decaf latte for lunch since it seems to be the only option. My joints ache from the "waitressing".

12:20 I arrive at my 12:00 "Centering" class... Centering is prenatal care in groups. The theme today is proper prenatal nutrition. I gulp down my latte for lunch during the talk. In addition, the group was asked to place ourselves on a series of continua: how well we eat, our dental hygiene, how stressed we feel, how well supported socially we are, how much caffeine we drink, etc. I was standing alone on the very stressed side. I decided that the stress has to go down, that my baby (fetus) may be at risk if I don't just let some things go!

2:00p centering over... important information that could have been conveyed to me in about an hour had it not been in the group setting. I have mixed feelings about this chunk of 2 precious hours used. I get fast food on the way back. It was totally unsatisfying.

2:30p: back at work. Immediately greeted at my door by multitudinous requests for my time starting with my research student working on the experiment for the big presentation. We discover my lab microwave is coated with unknown purple stuff. I am thoroughly irritated!

3:15p go into my office to send an e-mail request to my colleagues for information about the purple explosion, and am cut off by a student who is desperate for help on a paper presentation on Thursday. She waited too long to start, but I will help her nonetheless. She sits while I finish the e-mail, and then I start working with her.

3:40p Another student who is failing (and again, waited too long to talk to me about her grade) approaches and asks, "are you busy?, should I come back?" [Uh, yes, see this student in my office and the papers we are pouring over?] "Well, what is about?" "My grades" "Uh, no, please come back. I'm sorry". I choose the senior level procrastinating student over the freshman-level one whose efforts are likely futile. They were both drop-bys. Triage, I guess.

3:45p Research student returns to interrupt for some quick info. I have to send an e-mail to the other research student to make sure they don't duplicate effort. All while the "paper presentation" student is waiting.

4:00 I tell paper presentation student, that she's on her own from there.

4:10 A student with a dilemma about which summer research opportunity she should choose has her folks call me to ask about what to do. She has several deadlines and they are all tomorrow. She is in a Kibbutz in the Middle East on a semester abroad and needs her folks to do a bit of legwork for her. They aren't helicopter parents. We have a nice, but long talk.

4:45 Research student again, confirming plans for the week.

5:10 *&@#$^)@*&!!!! Where has my day gone!?!?!? I only wanted to accomplish ONE tiny project today: get ONE problem on a test graded, and I couldn't even get that done. AUUUUUGHGHH??!?!? Ah, yes, must not stress. Relax for the baby... deep breaths, deep breaths. Stress must come down for the health of the baby....

Getting out of committee work

An e-mail exchange: Reminder to any new readers. SRU is the pseudonym of my Small Religious University (Not Slippery Rock U or somesuch...)

Colleague to me: Congratulations, you have been nominated to serve on the Faculty Senate.
This is a two-year term and is by faculty election. May I ask two things:

1. REPLY to me by Monday to consent or decline to run for
2. If you decide to run, prepare a candidacy statement for the
election website and send it to blahblahYour statement should be 100 words or less, and can address either or both of the following:
a. What unique strengths and gifts do you feel you could bring to
the SRU Faculty Senate?
b. What particular challenges do you see SRU facing at this point in
time? How might you be of service in addressing these?

Thanks for your consideration, and your service to SRU


What an honor! Thanks to the faculty for considering me. But for happy
reasons I must decline, as I will be out most of Fall semester 2010 on
maternity leave. I don't feel as though I could serve the faculty
senate properly for the first year of my term. I hope the faculty will
reconsider me in the not-too distant future.

[the compliments are not a lie, but if I never get re-nominated, it would not hurt my feelings]

Colleague to me:

the lengths people will go to to avoid committee work..! Actually, it sounds like you have a rather more important constituency to attend to.
Blessings in the next few months!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Scientists marry other scientists as successful as themselves

Anybody else take the nature salary survey? I did. I said that I didn't make much money, had few financial resources, was not entirely satisfied with my benefits BUT that I had a high degree of job satisfaction, liked my colleagues and supervisor, had a very high degree of freedom and a great vacation package.

There's a question at the end asking how much the "two body problem" had a factor in my decision to where my current job is. It's great that they are thinking of that. Clearly this has become enough of an issue that it ranks right up there with health insurance, salary, etc. on this survey.

I recall a conversation I had in graduate school at a dinner table for a retreat. Sitting there was a very senior scientist in a different but very closely related department than mine. His hobby was/is to track and run stats on all of the trainees of the combined PhD programs he was associated with and nationally, and had been doing that for years.

I said to him jokingly, "so should I marry a plumber to be successful in science (probing his knowledge about the two body problem)?" He said something very simple: Scientists marry scientists as good / successful as themselves. Excellent scientists marry excellent scientists, and mediocre scientists marry mediocre scientists.

I was shocked at this fatalism.

This rang through my head when I dated a guy in my class for a short time. He would make a lot of promises but not keep them about showing up for dinner, going out, etc. He was extremely unreliable as a companion. Very often this had to do with him staying at work much later than he expected or going in at odd hours, but not always. I was working my butt off too, don't get the impression that I was an underachiever just trying to tempt him into goofing off all the time. His broken promises and rejections were completely unreasonable (can't we eat in the hospital caf together at least?). I broke up with him, knowing that I couldn't live with that for my whole life. Well that guy is now at [Top Three research university] in a tenure- track position. Let's call him Rock Star.

Now I have a guy (Hub) who is faithful and trustworthy, someone who makes me very happy. I think Hub is brilliant, and he's doing OK career-wise. He's trapped in the senior post-doc treadmill, but that isn't really because he's not talented. It's because he's pretty meek and is much more comfortable working semi-independently as opposed to fully independently. I have a job I love that my personality and affinities are clearly cut out for. I certainly wouldn't call us mediocre scientists, perhaps A-/B+ scientists. And strangely happy, happy, happy together.

I would likely have been divorced by now had I chosen to "follow" the Rock Star A+ scientist. I could be in some sort of instructor "trailing spouse" position or teaching at a community college in the same city as "Top Three". The choice between Hub and Rock Star scientist was very natural- and has lead to my happiness. Perhaps this senior scientist was right, and fate says that I couldn't have chosen for Rock Star even if I knew it would have been better for my own scientific career.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

March Madness

So far I have successfully avoided any sports references in this blog. But I just have to wonder if my few (2) Kansas readers are KU or K-State fans... weigh in?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Feeling Guilty?

Here's an e-mail interchange between Hub and I. You need
to know a few things:

1. I love pierogies
2. I hurt my ankle the day before and called him crying
from pain and frustration the night before

3. I have started to give a morning report by e-mail about
how Boy does in the AM; this was a particularly bad morning
in which Boy threw a huge fit and could only be "reset" by
using Daddy's trick of giving him a

Hub: How are you?

Me: I'm very tired. My ankle turned overnight from very
painful and immobile to tender and annoying. If I am
concentrating on taking care of the boy, then I don't
feel it. If I am walking alone with my thoughts, it hurts.
I'm still walking slowly, but I am relatively functional

Boy took to the bath, not instantly, but after a brief soak.
You saw (cell phone pic) that he insisted on having his sippy
cup in the bath with him (!). After, he his normal human self.
The only problem with this whole deal is that "hysteria
interventions" take TIME, so even though we woke up at a
(un)reasonable time (5:15) we were still rushed getting out
(7:30). He fell asleep in the car on the way to day care,
and as far as I know he may still be sleeping in one of
those pack-n-plays.

Since I woke up earlier than usual this morning
(I called at 6:00a), I am a little tired. I did manage
a brief morning nap. In the end, I needed to skip my
shower and just slap a hat in in order to gain momentum
for getting out of the apartment.

That bruised skier apparently placed cheese on her shins
in preparation for the Olympics. Perhaps a pierogie or
two would help?

Me: On my shin?!?!? WASTE A PIEROGIE?!?!?!!? I'd rather
Where's my husband? I want him back!
Daycare just called: 3 runny poos in his diaper in a very
short time.
If he doesn't eat well, I will have to pick
him up. (Then what??!?!)

Hub: Are there any available babysitter that you can locate
on short notice?

Me: They haven't called back yet.

BTW what I meant by "Where's my husband" was "Aliens have
abducted my husband that he would think I would waste a
pierogie for my shin" vs. "I want my husband here at home
to help me!"

Didn't think how that could be misinterpreted by a guy
who feels a little guilty about being away! Sorry.

Spoiler alert: I did have to get Boy from the daycare
and then couldn't bring him back the next day... the
subject of my next post, BUT the ankle healed rather
quickly. I'm starting to get my energy back, too. Yay.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Calling in favors

Donors are touring my lab in two weeks, which could be problematic since the lab is getting a bit dusty these days.

My research student returned today looking really peaked, obviously not back to his regular vim and vigor. In addition, he has weeks of makeup work for his classes to do. I said, "I need your help for the next two weeks to prep for this donors tour, then we can relax a little and you can make up your research project time in the summer term." He was pretty agreeable. He's highly motivated to do the donor tour since one of the honorees is the exec. director of a company he wants to apply to.

The second favor I called in was of my old research student who no longer works in the lab, and I proposed that her extra time would be back-applied to the semester she didn't work very hard (in the lab) and got a lower research grade. Since I can go back and change her grade, if she does put in the extra work, I will retroactively bump her grade up by the appropriate amount according to the research rubric.

So I have a fully powered lab, at least for two weeks.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Donors to tour my lab


Like many schools, our facilities are outdated. Wayyy outdated. We are in a campaign to raise money for a new science center. It will be so expensive, that our fundraising department is not even bothering us peons yet, they are spending all their effort on people who can make a substantial contribution. A goodly portion of these people will be touring the facility in a few weeks. I've been asked to give a demonstration of my research- complete with student doing experiment and all. There are a few concerns about this. 1. The student hasn't been in the lab for weeks and has yet to get a successful experiment. I'm very nervous about the success of this "demo" experiment. 2. The list of donors, once I looked over them, were not wealthy alum business owners as I expected, but heads of research corporations and science bigwigs including a name you know. Yes, I know you know this name. That big.

*#^*#@*$^!*@!!!!! What have I gotten myself into?!?!?

I wish I could put aside all my teaching responsibilities and just perfect the lab for the next few weeks, but I can't. Moreover, I wish the student was available for that full time, too, so I could assure myself that he really knows what he was talking about. He likes to speak with confidence about everything, no matter whether he knows his stuff or not. Wealthy businessperson alumni could be fooled. These people absolutely cannot.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Lazy Bum, Good Dad

Spring Break, ahhhh...

Big plans to get all the grading done and get all the equipment ordered and tested for upcoming labs. Oh, yeah, and go the gym more. Oh, yeah, and organize the office and, and, and...

This morning I had a glucose tolerance test that they give to old preggos like me to make sure I don't have gestational diabetes. So, Boy woke up as normal at 5:30 am and I got him ready for the day care. I found it very difficult to go for 2 hours with nothing to eat until 7:30 when I was to drink the magic orange drink, then make my way to the Dr.'s office to have blood drawn at 8:30.

Well, I passed with flying colors, so my ice-cream rich diet is not in danger, but I was starving to deff! So I took myself to a diner and had a good-ol' American breakfast of eggs and hashbrowns. When I got home at 10a, I was pretty sleepy and took a wee nap - UNTIL 3pm!!!

Egads! I hope that this was refreshing and will "reset" me for several days, and not just indulging my fatigue while getting no benefits (BTW, still anemic; Hb 10.7). If I benefit from the rest, hallelujah. If I don't, I just wasted a huge chunk of a good day in which I could have gotten something significant done. Auuuugh!


Last night, the Boy was having a major meltdown while we were Skyping with Hub. He wouldn't allow himself to be set down, but wriggled out of being held. There was much screaming and crying, all visible to his Dad on the Skype screen. I said: I've fed him- I don't think he's hungry, maybe he's overtired- but there's no way I can get him to sleep like this- help! I'm exasperated and desperate!

Hub thought for a second, "try putting him in the bath" (not an every night occurrence for us, but one that Boy really enjoys). There mere mention of "bath" was enough to bring some sanity to the scene, and by the time Boy was surrounded by suds, he had returned to his human, happy self. The rest of the bedtime went perfectly.

The significance of this is that Hub 1) Misses boy terribly while away at his job and 2) feels guilty about not being able to help parent while away. There are 3)-10), but we will focus on 2). The fact that Hub could come up with a creative parenting solution from far away made him feel great. And of course I pointed out how helpful and insightful it was (I never would have thought, "I know! Let's try a bath!"). Apparently Hub felt so good about this that he e-mailed his parents about it. :) Well, that makes us all feel great.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Give 'em essay tests?

Yes, another grade-turn-in-deadline has passed. And No, I did not make the deadline today. Just like always. But at least I didn't get the call from the registrar.

Its seems only last Fall that I was lamenting about how I really need to change my tests to something easier to grade. In Pet Class (60 students) I give 150 point tests, 20 points of which are an essay question- of which they know in advance. I tell them I give the essay question because their future will always involve explaining the subject to others, and that I want them to get good at formulating their thoughts in a clear and succinct manner. Mainly, they learn to write in the manner I like. Judge for yourself by this blog...

2/3 of the tests are multiple choice and I go back and forth between having them do a scantron (bubble) sheet and computer grade it, or just grade it myself. I'm equivocal on this.

The other portion is generally short answer or labeling, and I give a reasoning question as extra credit, often requiring a written response.

In any case, it takes me VERY LONG to grade these tests. Every time I grade these tests, I grumble about making things hard for myself and being inefficient, wasting my own time. OTOH, I do believe they learn from the writing, and if they wanted to take all scantron tests, they could have gone to a much larger school. I'm still convinced that this is one of the things I can do here at a small liberal arts school where they pay more tuition to get more of my time and consideration.

But is it sustainable for me?? Can I get my tests back in enough time for there to be good feedback? Or are the students "so over" the material by the time I get their test graded that it's all for naught? And why do I have this debate with myself at minimum 4 times per year, and I am still not be able to change?!?!?!?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Missing the cheerleaders.

One of our athletic teams is doing particularly well, going to a national tournament. We actually got tickets to a tourney game, hired a bbsitter and went. Before moving to Small Religious U, I had always been involved in a Division I school (international readers: for athletics purposes these are the largest schools; the smallest are division III). Athletic events, the few we went to, took a long time to get into, were in huge stadiums and arenas, had either a marching or pep band, and quite a big show during half time. When the game was over, there was a throng of people exiting so it took a while to get out.

The game we went to tonight had only recorded music, no cheerleaders to watch, and no half-time show. This was particularly noticeable to me since I was on the dance/drill team in HS. No half time show? You're kidding?!?! Nonetheless, the game was exciting and the small arena was packed. It was fun, and our team won. And we got home within 10 minutes.

Update on the health: I bought an iron supplement and with great hopes started taking it (Floradix). I couldn't keep it down, so when I took it, not only did I NOT get iron, but also wasted the meal I took it with. I bought another supplement, a big slice of beef liver, a bunch of beans and some iron fortified cereal. I'm hoping this combo will work. I'm just disappointed because my fatigue recovery will be delayed further.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Is that IT???

You can't tell me that I've been absolutely defeated in the evenings for the last month was because I'm anemic! All I need is an iron supplement? Let's hope you're right.