Wednesday, December 17, 2014

End of semester

For last two weeks or so all senior faculty keep saying: "Almost over! Almost there! A few more days, and it will be all right! Yippee!"

But I cannot share this excitement; not at all. At least by now this whole teaching thing was working somehow; maybe not ideally, but it was functional; it worked! And now time is taking it away from me. Because the very day I grade my last exam this semester, I need to start developing two more courses for the spring, and writing protocols for about 25 new labs (I am not sure of the exact number, but it is something as ridiculous at that). Which obviously scares me enormously.

Mentally, I am aware of the fact that everything will be all right, because it always was in the past, and this challenge is no different. I will just approach it as any other project: break it into pieces, set the priorities, create a plan, and then implement it point by point. But emotionally the sheer amount of work to do, and stuff to learn, makes it rather unsettling.

It's like in mountain hiking: when you are some 1-2 miles from the mountain, it looks almost vertical, it looks like a wall. As you approach it, it "lays down", and becomes flatter, less imposing. That's because we are not that good in estimating 3D depth of objects when they are very large and very far away from us. But knowing that there is an optical illusion does not take the illusion away. Same with this whole teaching preparation thing. In exactly 2 months from now I need to give a lecture about the gut, and I know exactly nothing about the gut, except that it has villi, and can be, with some effort, reworked into traditional baroque lute strings. That's pretty much it.

But it will be fine of course. I've ordered two books about the gut, and they are thick and heavy enough to kill a bear, so it will be fine!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

War on Christmas

The "War on Christmas" is so nice as a brand that is should be totally reclaimed by the left.

You want a White Christmas? Wanna build a snowman? But it's raining instead, with mud and puddles everywhere? The lake you used to skate on as a kid now never freezes?

You know whom to blame.

It's the global warming denialist stealing your Christmas from you. It's the oil spender, steak eater, unnecessary-large-car-driver. They fight the war on Christmas, making sure that nobody can carol down the snowy streets anymore. It's all their work. It's their conspiracy.

Save the Christmas! Reduce CO2 emissions!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Before it's too late: my impressions from SfN

The first impression was very positive: wow, all these people are adults! So many adults in one room; people who know something, and can engage in meaningful informative discussions!

The second impression was more mixed: by forgotten gods, every time I say something stupid, they actually call me out on that! They don't just write it down, and they don't just dismiss it as something that could possibly be true, but is no really relevant for their (different) narrow field. No, they point out my mistakes!

That's why going to conferences is so important if you are in small college; if you are the only specialist in your field in the whole department. I'm only 4 months here, and it was already a bit of a cultural shock. You need to go to conferences for instant recalibration. Becoming a faculty is empowering: it's the first time in my entire life that I'm growing to realize that I actually know something, comparatively speaking (it's actually a pretty hard thing to believe in). But it can also make one a tiny bit delusional, every slightly, a little bit here and there. And that's when a cold-ish shower of a conference gets really helpful.

Yay conferences!