Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Back to separated

The family and almost all of our stuff have now returned to our modest town home in our modest-sized city.

On Monday, Hub drove back into work at my now-former institution in my now-former city. We are back to the status quo, with a few exceptions.

1. We still have our au pair, who has been super helpful this week. She works upstairs and I work downstairs and the kids have a grand time. She has been useful in getting the kids stuff in order.

2. The day Daddy drove away, we were delivered a little kitten. The kitty had been dumped behind a doctors office, and a nurse put a signal out via social media. We have been discussing getting a pet for a few weeks, but the timing made it possible to avoid a big let down that evening when we all went to bed for the first time without Daddy. Kitten Picture

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

What THEY are really like

I grew up in a lower middle class community, and we had ideas about what rich and successful people were like. THEY were exclusive and cold. THEY saw people as tools and weren't genuinely interested in anyone that couldn't benefit them somehow. THEY were surely unhappy from a lack of true human connection. THEY took themselves and their work too seriously.

This weekend we attended a milestone reunion for Hub's university, an extremely selective institution. He/we had never attended a reunion before, so we expected for there to be a lot of THEM there, as we are in some of the prime earning years of our middle-aged lives. Hub and I were fully prepared to mentally strain to overcome our intimidation of THEM and the inevitable comparisons that would ensue.

What follows is a random-ish list of observations of Hub's classmates at the reunion. Please note that there is an inherent bias, as attendees of a class reunion are a group more interested and skilled in socializing than their non-attending peers. But, this was presumably still a good sample of highly successful people (THEYs).

1. I expected more obvious trappings of wealth than I actually observed. Jewelry, clothing, etc was not showy in most cases.
2. Not a single person smoked.
3. I didn't see anyone look at their phones during the social events we attended.
4. These families in their late 40's had a lot of small kids, even babies. This was a topic of discussion among us.
5. People were very gracious and graceful at initiating and taking leave of conversations. I felt more awkward than usual. I want to learn these social graces better.
6. Conversations felt truly genuine. Each person seemed to be "present" in the converstions.
7. People made easy eye contact in the crowd and did not tightly self-segregate into groups.
8. Everyone knew not to ask intimidating questions. "What do you do?" came up naturally and comparisons were very few.
9. There were a few comparisons of children's accomplishments, but it was done graciously with the spirit of respect and admiration for the kids. This was also in the context of "my kid does such-and-such and can't even get into Alma Mater".
10. There were several "less-accomplished" folks un-intimidated to share their position in life.
11. There was also a bitter classmate- "My education cost twice as much as our house, and I suffered blatant discrimination at work, so I quit working". Discrimination is an ugly thing, and can derail even people like THEM. It's not just a birthright of us lower-class folk.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

IHE on Spousal Hires

For your two-body, trailing-spouse, spousal-hire blog-reading pleasure:

"How can you avoid the painful letdown that might emerge after the initial excitement of landing a position that allows you to live with your partner?"
The trailing spouse

Recent references form this blog to a similar fear:

Monday, June 2, 2014

Can I take my class to a big meeting?

Something that probably doesn't happen at large R01's (weigh in!). My letter:

Dear Dean, Dept Head, anyone else who needs to see this;
[Adv Course] Labs; Nontraditional [Adv Course] will not have a traditional weekly lab this year due to space constraints, but some amount of flipping will allow us to conduct about 1/2 to 2/3 of our labs during the lecture period. In addition, with permission and funding, we will go to the [Big Meeting Close By (BMCB)] this year.

One day's international scientific meeting is worth a million labs... (of the smokin'-hot-new-science variety). Going to the entire meeting would be equivalent to an entire grad-level course (3 hours *14 weeks).  It's [When and How Long]. I don't know if all week is appropriate for our students, but I'm trying to give a sense of the massive learning potential there.

[BMCB] Funding
In the past I have taken my research lab students (7) using "course fees" to pay for their registration costs. What funding options are available to me for taking [Adv Course] undergrad and grad students? The registration fees are cheap for this sort of thing, but they need to become members of  the [Science Org.] first, which is ridiculously cheap (and looks good on their resume).

[Links about fees and membership]

There are also guest registrations (for one day), but I'm not quite sure that our students would count as "guests". This is intended for folks like [Philosopher of Science] (who has joined previously in his role as a philosopher).
[BMCB] Logistics
Those costs are for a week of meetings. There are only guest (one day) and full registrations. I will attend the entire meeting, but I haven't decided how many days to offer for the students. My research students gladly went for all the days and crashed on friends' couches. As expected, some of the students became pretty saturated after a few days. It would be different as "requirement" for a course.
Financially, for four undergrads, it's totally do-able. For 2 grad students, probably OK, but for 9 grad students, it will need to be discussed.
In practical matters (how long? how much? logistics?), the same applies.

I'd still love to get them there somehow, for some amount of time. It's a rare and great opportunity for them. I argue that it is fundamentally different from other undergrad-driven data meetings. The field of [My field] is changing SO FAST right now with the advent of new tools, [Special Programs], etc. that even our brand new text is out-of-date. Sitting in [Adv. Course] will teach them about the last 20 years of the field, going to the meeting will teach them about the NEXT ten years, the years they will participate in.


PUI Prof.