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The best laid plans of mice and men… September 4, 2017

Posted by mareserinitatis in research, teaching, work.
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It’s the beginning of the new school year, and I decided my blog has been left neglected too long.

That, however, was the thought I had in early August, when I was in the middle of putting together a lab for the fall semester.  I therefore wasn’t in a good place to be writing.

I figured that, this semester, I’d have more time.  That was before a couple weeks ago.  In addition to teaching two new classes, I somehow ended up on faculty senate for the next year (along with a committee as part of that responsibility). I decided to continue my involvement with a committee I was on last year and ended up as chair.  And then I found out that I would be coordinating a search committee for a couple new faculty members.

My chair asked me how that happened.  I shrugged.  Best laid plans and all that…

There was also a CFP for a journal I’d like to submit to.  I have until December to write something up.

It’s a lot to do, but it also has been enjoyable in a way my previous job wasn’t.  I liked doing research, but when that’s all you’re doing, it’s a lot of time working alone or with a select group of people.  I always looked forward to teaching my class of freshmen in the fall just because it got me out and talking to people, which was a great way to break up the monotony.  While talking to myself was a great way to do some problem solving, I would get bored with my own company after a while.

I definitely have a lot of opportunities to be interacting with people now, so there’s little chance it will become monotonous.  At least, not until next summer.

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New Year’s Goals: The 2015 FCIWYPSC edition January 1, 2015

Posted by mareserinitatis in career, family, grad school, personal, religion, research, running, work, writing.
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I’m not doing resolutions and haven’t done them for a while.  Goals, however, are another story, particularly when they’re of the quantifiable type.  While some of these are large goals (like with running), I break them down to weekly and daily goals, as well.

Writing this out is helpful because not only does it provide me with some accountability, it helped me realize I was bogging myself down with too much.  I had to cut a few items.

These are the things I think I can manage with some consistency:

  • Career/Work: Publish at least one paper and attend at least one conference.
  • Career/Dissertation: Set a minimum amount of time to work on my thesis each week, though the weekly total will vary if there’s a holiday involved.  (I do some version of this, but I think I need to make my planning a bit more specific.) Also, attend one conference this year.
  • Family time: Family play day once per month.
  • Marriage: Keep up with the weekly date with the spousal unit.
  • Self-care/Religious: Center down (or if you prefer, meditate or pray) for at least ten minutes a day, not necessarily all at once.
  • Self-care/Sleep: Stick to a consistent (and early) bed-time at least 4 days per week.
  • Self-care/Physical activity: Run or walk 500 miles by the end of October.  I did about 200 outdoor miles this year but didn’t keep track of treadmill time at all, so I think this is doable, especially in light of my next goal.  I’ve also learned I like to ramp down the activity around the holidays (too much to do), so that amounts to about 11.5 miles per week.
  • Fun goal: Do half-marathons in two new states this year.  Two down, 48 to go. I’m hoping to cross Wisconsin and Michigan off the list this year.  (And I’ve already registered for one of them.)
  • Misc/Blog: Post on the blog at least twice per week.  (I do that on average, but sometimes there are long gaps in between.)
  • Misc/Email: I will keep my main mailbox below 3000 messages.  That may sound horrible, but this is 1/5 of what it was just last week.  I need to either delete those messages, read them, or unsubscribe from all the spam I’m getting…probably mostly the latter.  Lots of unread email makes me overwhelmed.

So do you have any goals for the year?

Role with it December 12, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in education, engineering, work.
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I am always nervous when I have to deal with the middle and high school crowd.  I’ve had such mixed results in the past.  A couple years ago, I helped out with an astronomy workshop for middle school girls.  My job was fairly easy: I just had to help them find the sun in some solar telescopes.  It was pretty obvious, though, that the girls in the last group just weren’t interested and wanted to be done.  That may have been the time of day, but they weren’t particularly subtle.

I was therefore nervous when I was asked to give a tour of my workplace to a group of high school girls.  How in the world do I keep them interested?!

While we were waiting for the last couple people to turn up, I started out by asking where they were from.  This was a good move: I found out they all went to my old high school, and so we talked about some of the teachers there.  I think that having a way to connect was helpful for all of us.

It also turned out that they were already rather interested in the topic and had lots of good questions and comments.  After I thought we were done, one of them asked another question which led us into another part of the building and looking at even more stuff than I had anticipated.  They didn’t seem all that eager to leave at the end, and I’d wished I had more to share with them.

I know that doing tours is a formality, but it’s nice when the people are actually interested.  It makes it seem less like work and more about conveying how exciting it is to be an engineer.

Oh, that’s right! I have a blog! August 29, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in family, grad school, older son, personal, work, younger son.
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Summer, at least the social construct of summer, officially comes to a close this weekend for most people.  The younger son has been in school for a week, and I’m scratching my head, wondering where the time went.  It was the summer of “the best laid plans of mice and men,” if you get my drift.  

I did accomplish a lot at work.  However, shifting deadlines there required I push off other stuff.  In response to that, I decided to take some time off and get caught up on some of those other things, which will be easier now that the younger offspring is busy plodding through the halls of a reputable educational institution rather than ones created in Minecraft.  I have a couple weeks of crunching numbers at home before going back to work to do it.

The other thing that will help is that the older offspring has decided that his odd work schedule really isn’t doable, despite a serious effort on his part.  I am relieved because I seem to be getting more sleep again, which has made me a saner, kinder, and more productive human being.  Also, I appreciate being able to form a coherent sentence…

I hate to say it, but I’m glad school has started again.  I usually love summer, but I’m very glad to have a routine and time to work on my own stuff back.

How was your summer?

“I’m busy” is a euphemism July 22, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in education, family, grad school, personal, work.
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I’ve read a couple articles about how we all get caught up in being so busy.  A lot of them talk about how we need to escape the busyness spiral.  Xykademiqz expressed frustration with people who are always busy.

I guess I’m coming at it from a different angle.

I’ve come to realize that the phrase “I’m busy” is just a polite way of saying, “My priorities are different from yours.”  That is, the requested action is more important to the person asking than the person who is supposed to perform the action.  Particularly relevant to my personal situation, it’s also a way to avoid saying, “I need time to work on my thesis.”

Because I’m starting to find that pretty much nobody cares if you need time to work on that.

“Aren’t you done with that yet?”

“You sure have a lot of time off.”

“I’m sure you can do that some other time.”

“Can’t you put it off for just one day?”

Except I’ve been asked to put it off more days than I even have available to push it off from.  As much as I hate telling people I’m busy, I hate even more that people won’t respect my schedule.  Part of the issue is that I am technically only part time at my job.  If you’ve ever had to work part time at a job without a very explicit schedule, you can forget that.  People want things done on their schedule, and when you’re gone you’re taking “time off.”  Apparently raising two kids and a PhD is “time off.”  I’m jealous of those people who actually get to take vacations on their time off.

A lot of times the outright rejection of working on a dissertation isn’t verbalized.  Kids, in particular, really don’t get that you have other things to do besides take care of their needs night and day.  Not that I can blame them as I sure wouldn’t mind if my mom showed up to clean my house once in a while.  (I know, Mom…you’re busy, too.)

Admittedly, doing all of this is a choice.  It’s just unfortunate that a lot of people don’t respect that choice.  It’s particularly frustrating when people want you to do things that they’re capable of doing but are “too busy” to do themselves.  It seems that rather than get into a verbal sparring match with them about how they disagree with my priorities, it’s just easier to say, “I’m busy.”

Doing the victory dance…on my own July 14, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, research, work.
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Over the past couple months, I’ve been putting insane amounts of time into a project in preparation for some field testing.  Once the widget was deployed, I was fully expecting to feel this great sense of accomplishment.  In particular, this was something that some people were skeptical would work, so getting working widgets out for use is a big deal.  Even some people who advocated for the widget were probably not expecting I’d be able to get it to work as they seemed surprised when I informed them I had finished.

One would think I’d be overjoyed.  I should be waiting for people to pat me on the back.  I should be intensely satisfied that I can tell the doubters, “Told you so!”  I should feel vindicated and totally kick-ass.

Except, I don’t really feel that way.  I just feel a huge sense of relief that the crunch in over and maybe I can actually sit and focus on finishing the never-ending dissertation (aren’t they all?) for a while.  I can disappear for a few days and not have constant distraction.  I don’t have to field questions and phone calls and emails even in my off time.

It’s not that I even want to go on a vacation or do something like that.  I’m okay with working…I just don’t want it to be around other people.

This, friends, is success for an introvert: being left alone for a while.  But I’m dancing on the inside.

dilbert

It’s not a lab coat June 16, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, research, work.
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I’ve been doing some work in the lab, and after I fried something, decided I needed to be a bit more careful.  So out come the blue smocks.

Of course, some people prefer to call them ESD jackets.  I’m one of them, but I absent-mindedly revert to ‘smock’ when I’m not thinking.  I prefer to call them jackets because ‘smock’ evokes images of an granny in a ruffly apron who speaks in a high, squeaky voice (almost as annoying as Karen from Will and Grace).

Come to think of it, they’re about as flattering…

My coworker had a pretty good description: he said we looked like the Bobbsey Twins.  I’d never heard of them, but after seeing this, I think he’s right:

Bobbsey Twins

 

That’s approximately the correct shade of blue for an ESD smock.  However, I wish my ESD jacket had a ruffled collar.  Or that it was actually purple.

Check, please! May 6, 2014

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Today I had one of the more bizarre experiences that I’ve had at work.  It’s not that the experience is bizarre, but having it at work is.

I was chatting with my student when she off-handedly mentioned to me that she’d felt a tickling on her skin and found a spider crawling on her.  In fact, she said, it’s still there on the ground.

I looked…very closely.  It wasn’t a spider.  It was worse.

It was a very sizable wood tick.

My student is from Malaysia and, in her four years here, had apparently never encountered a tick.  I, on the other hand, have had more experience with ticks than I really care to have had.  Of course, any experience with a tick is more than I really care to have.

I grabbed a piece of scotch tape, grabbed the tick, wrapped it up and threw it in the garbage.  Tape is awesome for immobilizing ticks.  Then I proceeded to explain that ticks are blood-sucking parasites that burrow into your skin.  She mentioned that she keeps her apartment very clean, so I had to explain that it likely was a hitchhiker who grabbed onto her as she was walking past a bush or tall grass.  After recalling several other horrible facts about them and explaining the proper way to remove them, I suggested that she have a roommate check her over, especially her hair.

I think I must’ve made her really panicked.

“Would you check my hair?”

You really can’t say no in a situation like this.  You certainly can’t say something like, “I’m sorry, but professional etiquette makes it impossible for me to make you feel better now that I’ve scared the crap out of you.”  I was amused, though, because the previous students I’ve worked with were all male.  I could easily see them saying something like, “That’s okay.  I’ll go home and die from lyme disease,” before they’d ask me to do a hair check on them.  Unless, of course, we’d been on a geology field trip together.

I spent the next twenty minutes sifting through her hair, which was incredibly thick and ebony in color.  It occurred to me at this point that blonde Scandinavians have a distinct survival advantage in this type of situation given a dark tick will stick out like a sore thumb.  On this particular student, you could’ve hidden a whole nest of them and it would be hard to find a single one because they would’ve blended in so well.

The good news is that she didn’t appear to have any other unwelcome friends. And the good news for me is that no one walked in and made me explain something that I’m sure would’ve looked very odd in an electronics lab.

Not married to my work May 4, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in career, engineering, family, research, work.
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A few weeks ago, I posted about the difficulties that go along with working with my husband.  That is no longer an issue…not because I’m not married anymore but because Mike has since changed jobs.  He’s back to working in industry, and enjoying all of the fun of a more stable job.  (As an aside, he must be type A because all of the anxiety about the job situation at work has now transferred into unfinished remodeling projects at home.  I suspect we’ll have an entirely new house in about two years.)

We are adjusting to spending a lot less time together, and I’m getting to hear all about the joys of an industrial job.  He has me convinced that is not the route I want to go.  The primary reason for this decision is that, by leaving academia, I would no longer have unfettered access to research journals.  That sounds like my personal idea of hell.

October sucks October 13, 2013

Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, family, older son, personal, teaching, work.
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I really am starting to dread October.  Being in the midst of it, I understand why.

October is when *everything* happens.  There’s no way to handle it but to keep going until the sheer exhaustion kicks in.  For me personally, I have NSF proposals due.  I am deep in the throes of teaching and grading.  I have reports due and conference papers to prepare.  My kids have all their various sports and other activities in full swing, meaning that we have activities going on 3 or 4 nights per week.

This year is definitely worse than last year because I’m still recovering from my medical fiasco last month, complete with lots of fun follow-up tests, and still am not able to engage in complete stress relief on a regular basis (i.e. running).  Further, the older son is going through the college application process, which is generally more time consuming than either of us really likes at this point.  I am hoping that these factors won’t be present in Octobers to come.

Half-way there, though.  Just a couple more weeks, and things will ease off.  One of the sports that both boys are in will be done until spring, NSF proposals will be over, most of the major grading I have will be done…and there will be leftover Halloween candy.  As long as someone saves me a peanut butter cup, I’ll be fine.6a0120a5580b8e970c013485bc4913970c

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