Editing documents

I’ve said this before, but I’m not a great writer.  I’ve been told I write like I talk: too casually.  I’m fine with this because I feel the ultimate point in writing is to convey a message and (I hope) no one is confused by my writing.  Last year I realized I needed more help and I didn’t have the patience to wait for a physical person to do fine edits.  I still send it out for comments about readability and content, but passive voice, participles, commas, typos, etc. are not my specialty.  So last year someone recommended Grammarly and my school happens to have a site-wide premium subscription.  The online interface is simply wonderful with a little to be wanted with the Office plug-ins.  But I’ve noticed that my documents are coming out easier to read.  Even my collaborators have mentioned it.  This begs a question: have I always been terrible and they never said anything?  I don’t like to be handled with kid-gloves.  Just give me the truth and I’ll try to get better.

My previous editor has also mentioned that my documents are far easier to edit lately and I mentioned Grammarly.  It won’t put her out of business since computers are only so good for now, but it’s saving my budget about 10% on editing cost.  That should add up over time, though I’ve vowed to write fewer grants to get things under control so just that would save on editing time.  I’ve now asked all my students to go through this editing software and I’m curious how much better their documents will read.  English wasn’t my first language, and for the most part, they write like English wasn’t their first language, as well.

One last thing I like: the statistics and scores.  Grammarly ‘grades’ the documents and gives you weekly scores.  I’m apparently very bad with commas:

  1. Missing comma after introductory phrase               76 alerts
  2. Missing article                                                                 40 alerts
  3. Missing comma in compound sentence                     21 alerts

 

Didn’t mean for this to sound like an ad.  But I’m impressed with even the free version.  I don’t think I would ever pay for the premium version, but if you can get it at no cost and you write a lot, and you suck at writing, then I recommend it.

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Grants grants grants!!!!!

With the semester having started the research has taken a dip.  Luckily my last grant from all the summer work has been submitted.  This was absolutely crazy, and I don’t think I’m going to make this kind of push again.  I feel I have enough to submit for tenure, and I don’t want to fall into a rut after/if-I-get tenure, but some R&R is needed.  I have to leave tonight for a meeting with my old employer about the status of some research, but this weekend will be a ‘no-work’ weekend.  After a while all of these grants started to blend together and I was mixing up aims at a very high rate.  My students even had to keep me on track, which is not good at all.  But one of them did come up with an interesting idea in all this preliminary data collection we were doing.  So that will go into a fellowship app for her.  I don’t want to do grants until next year so now becomes the time for publications publications publications.

I threw a party this past Labor Day at my house.  The students were over and we had a grand time.  We played some Switch (if you haven’t played Overcooked yet, you should).  I cooked a bunch of food and had a hefty amount of beer.  My SO finally got to meet my students and played some Cards Against Humanity with them.  It was grand and they deserved it.  This will definitely be a thing we do after every semester.  The only downside is that I beat them so bad in Mario Kart that they won’t play against me anymore.

Small things

In the majority of articles about dealing with the death of a dog focus on the small things like not interacting with people on walks, not having the morning routine, etc.  Also, there are the articles about missing the warmth of their body or their slobbery kisses.  My dog died recently and I’ve been reeling for a while.  Yes, I do miss all the things about him that the other articles talk about, but I miss the even smaller things.  When my brain tricks me into thinking I heard little paw-steps on the floor I dart my eyes and he’s not there.  When my A/C blows my blinds and it makes the rattle noise he used to make when going to the back door to let me know he needed to go to the bathroom I hurt.  Sometimes he would run crazily around the house looking for me and not realize that I was in the original room he was in; I was just being really quiet and readings.

He had the ability to make everyone happy.  When my parents passed away, when I had high stress, when I was depressed, he would lick up the tears, try to take the snot from my nose and tell me in his own way that it’s all going to be okay.  I miss all of that.  I feel like there’s a bigger hole now than any event I’ve ever had.

Why does everything have to have a balance?  Every time there’s something great there has to be something to balance it.  I understand that to truly appreciate the good you need the bad for perspective.  Fine, I get the philosophy.  But why does the bad have to be AS bad as the good was good.  Why can’t we ride highs with only some turbulence or just a slight downturn.  I fucking hate this.

Work is a distraction, but I’m certain my students know something is off.  They seem like they’re “kid-gloving” me.  I just really don’t know what to do.  And with some grant deadlines coming up I don’t think I have a choice….

Motivation

I’m putting together the things I want to have done for my tenure package and for the summer.  Everyone has their own goals, and normally, I’m all about ensuring my students finish their goals, but this summer it’s about me.  I’m already starting to push the pretty hard; especially since I missed a few weeks.  This involves a few critical papers in some (relatively) high impact journals.  I want to get these fully accepted in the next two months, and that’s a tall order since the two students (my superstars) that I’m relying on have pretty full schedules.  So I’m basically pulling them off of helping with other projects that I’d like to get a grant submitted based upon, and a few conference submissions.

My time in industry helped me do project management.  Tight deadlines, getting the team rallied, and ‘wow’-ing management were my specialties.  I haven’t busted out a Ghant chart yet (I swear I will NEVER use Microsoft Project ever again), but I do have a calendar up with when we need critical data and specific parts written and submitted.  The days are getting a little more packed every day.  I can tell my students aren’t digging it either.  After all, in industry if people rallied they would get an extra bonus or a promotion.  When my students rally I buy them a pizza or have them over at my house for food and games.  Nothing compared to an extra $10k in their pocket.  Ultimately, this is to benefit me, and get a line on my student’s resumes.  All of whom want to go to industry, so won’t be needing a huge publication record.  So keeping them motivated is tough regardless of my master project management skills.

I’m trying to figure out what to do for this push, since it will be the craziest.  I think I’ll take them out of town.  Maybe get a huge Airbnb for them and their families.  But that’s the light at the end of the tunnel.  In the meantime I don’t want to order from Papa John’s, but there’s a few New York style pizza places, and Mexican and Sushi places up the street.  Time for some coffee and tacos to keep the home fires burning.

The ‘okay’ prof down the hall

There’s a new prof that just started this summer.  He’s setting up his lab down the hall from me and he’s asking a lot of questions.  Dumb questions.  I assumed this is because he’s new, but after a couple months of dealing with him I’ve realized he’s just dumb.  Some of the setup questions are very newbie, so those are forgiven, but he’s talking about some collaborative ideas and they’re just not scientifically sound.  I don’t want to collaborate with him because he will ruin the research.  He’s very nice, and I have gotten coffee and couple lunches together, but I do not want him in my research.

He came from a two year post-doc so I assumed that maybe he’s great at publishing just maybe not as great at developing ideas.  I looked at his publication and presentation record and it’s worse than a my third-year student.  Now, I’m not from this country, I’ve dealt with discrimination, so I feel like it’s okay for me to say this (but maybe it’s not…but also I don’t care): diversity hires are total bullshit.  Apparently, the past 10 years my department has been focusing more on diversity than talent.  I hope I’m not part of this initiative, but maybe I am?

Talking to a Full Prof, sort-of mentor, I asked her about this initiative, and how the department has changed.  She mentioned how the grant activity has been crawling, though the quality of education, as measured by student satisfaction, has gone up.  Maybe administration wanted to improve on student satisfaction.  Ultimately, they are the ‘customers’ of the education ‘business’.  But I came into this to do my research so having collaborators that have less talent than a post-doc is something I don’t like.  Now, the satisfaction could be up for three reasons from what I’m hearing: 1. these aren’t great researchers, but great teachers (then why bring them in on the tenure track), or 2. students are more comfortable because their teacher looks like them, or 3. I dont know, but I’m going to stop typing before I go off too negative or offend someone….

Back from vacation

I just got back (last week) from a wonderful vacation.  Some backpacking, some beaching, a decent bit of travel, and a whole lot of reading.  Completely disconnected with a shit load of emails to attend to when I got back.  My inbox is officially completely read.  Also, my students didn’t go too off the rails.  Maybe because they also didn’t work much.  Recharging is healthy.  It’s needed.  I’ve always been of the standpoint that I don’t want to regret not having spent enough time on myself and my friends/family.

As someone addicted to work, I felt so weird taking this vacation.  I would only do, at most, a week a couple times a year of vacation before.  This multiweek endeavor was pretty tough at first, but eventually I disconnected and I’m so glad.  I felt ready to take on the world when I came back.  And one big difference between this and my industry job: I didn’t get any shit for taking the time off.  I used to get shit all the time for taking ‘me’ time.  I’m pretty sure my students were actually kind of glad I was gone.

In industry, everything moved so fast that if I was gone I fell behind, and the mentality is usually: ‘If you can take a lot of time off, and the company continue on, then they don’t need you.  You have to constantly prove your worth.’  Well now, I didn’t have to prove anything.   I just came back and everything picked up just fine.  Plus, my students seem refreshed.  Plus, I look great with a tan.

My last (untenured) summer (hopefully)

This is it.  The semester is nearly done.  Just one final and I can dedicate myself solely to my research (and some fun travel!).  I’m trying to put together a list of what I want to do, important deadlines, and who I want doing which tasks.  Planned more meticulous than I’ve ever done before.  And why?  The T-word.  This is my last summer un-break that I have before I need to start preparing my package.  My goal is to have five papers nearly done, three grant applications in, and ten conference abstracts submitted.  I have this awesome set of experiments I am so excited about seeing the results of.  All of this while not having to worry about teaching in the classroom.

Vacation-wise I have four trips planned: two backpacking trips, and two tourist-ey trips.  For the backpacking trips I won’t be able to keep an eye on my students since I won’t have reception, but for the vacation I can, and will.  Normally, I don’t care, but it’s crunch time.  The summer are partially why I decided to make the jump to academia.  I’m not the kind to fuck off and screw around, and I do love teaching, but 100% dedication to my research will keep this fire going.  Time to science