Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Eulogy for my Summer of Bliss

When I started this summer, I had all sorts of glorious plans. No, I wasn't running away to Cinque Terre (though I wish right now that I had). For the last few years I have been pushing hard - working like a machine to get papers out the door, build my lab, and write grants. The fruits of that labor have been more or less paying off this past year - the papers are coming out and my students are making great progress. The grant thing has been a little stymied by the 8% fund rates that have haunted my panel, but putting the proposals together has helped me cook up some cool science ideas, so not a complete waste. In addition to things rolling along, I come up for tenure this fall. I have been told that once my packet is submitted  in Sept, nothing published after that date "counts", so I figured this summer was a good time to shift gears; there was no way anything I started now would be out in time anway. So, I planned on picking up and babying a languishing pet project but otherwise I would devote myself to a bunch of reading and thinking and strategic planning about my research path for the next 5 years; oh and clean my office as a physical symbol of my fresh start. My mental image of my summer was something like this:


Instead it has turned out to be more like this:


One by one my summer plans have vaporized (Perhaps I'll blog more about that later) and I have been feeling more and more down about it.  A couple of days ago, General Disarray came into my office, looked around, and said "Your office looks like a  college dorm room". When I nearly burst into tears, I realized that it had nothing to do with his criticism of my office, which does frankly look like this:


My despair had everything to do with the fact that my office had come to symbolize the dead and decaying body of my blissful summer of joy and self-investment. 

To quote one of my favorite bloggers: Dude, Fuck, Sigh.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Why won't they call?

It's that time of year again; that nail biting, anxious, 'why don't they love me', maybe they called while I was in the bathroom, time of year. No, no, no, I don't mean the new National Academy of Science members announcements. That came out end of April, and I noticed I was passed over once again this year in what I can only interpret as blatant ageism. I mean, how is someone as young as me supposed to accumulate the absurdly high research record the Academy 'demands' for consideration?

No, it's the time of year when the yays and nays start to filter out of NSF for the DEB panels (that's Division of Environmental Biology for my non-ecology/evolution friends). NSF program directors tend to call with good news (or send you a blanket form letter with bad news). This results in all sorts of interesting behavior this time of year, especially from junior people. I find it surprisingly similar to those awkward early stages of dating:

1) Excitement: I know the odds are not in my favor. Afterall, NSF is so totally hot right now. They've been rejecting 92% of the proposals that hit on them....but my proposal(s) totally rocked! How could they reject me?

2) Doubt: The "yays' are supposed to filter out quickly...if NSF was totally into me, I think perhaps maybe I should have heard by now?

3) Denial: No one else seems to have heard anything. Well, no one but that one guy who got a 'yes', but that was for such a totally different panel. I'm sure my panel is just busy or, you know, out of town or something. They'll call. Hopefully. Maybe.

4) Insanity: Maybe they just don't like to leave messages. I have been out of my office lately, working in the lab. Did I put the lab phone on my profile? What happens if they call and I'm not there? Do they give my money to the next person on the list? Maybe my phone doesn't work (pick up phone, hear dial tone)..oh shit, maybe they  tried to call right then! God I have to pee but I don't dare leave the phone.

5) Depression: They're not going to call. I'm such a loser. How could I have been so stupid to think NSF would ever love someone like me?

6) Binge Eating: ummm, chocolate good.

7) Resignation/delusion: Well, there are more proposal deadlines in the sea. July is starting to look pretty good. In fact, I bet the July panel will LOVE me.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Professor Chaos and the Case of the Missing Brain

As school came to a close, I - like many of the professoriate - became excited about all the time I would have to work on the things that have languished during the school year. Writing exciting papers, generating interesting grant ideas, reading stacks of cool papers published this past year, these were the things I was salivating to do. After school ended, I sat down at my computer, cracked my knuckles, and opened a document to work on. Imagine my surprise, when after staring blankly at the screen for several minutes, I noticed the following post-it note stuck to the computer display:

Dear Prof Chaos:

On vacation. Be back "soon".


Your Brain

P.S. Don't bother looking for me, you'll never find me.

Shit. For over a week I searched for my brain. I looked in video games, books, and long naps. I even cleaned my office looking for it (though I'm not sure you could tell by the current state of said office). Nada. I don't know where it went, but yesterday it showed back up when I sat down to work on a new paper. Crappy thing didn't even apologize for its long absence. We did, however, make some kick ass progress together on the manuscript. However, this morning when I sat down to finish up one last paragraph, I found the following note:

Dear Prof:

Yesterday was lovely but its beautiful outside today. Gone fishing. See you tomorrow...maybe.


Your Brain.