"In many disciplines, for the majority of graduates, the Ph.D. indicates the logical conclusion of an academic career." Marc Bousquet

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Your New Mantra

If you are thinking about quitting academe, are frustrated by the working conditions, low pay, and lack of opportunities, I recommend repeating the following words to yourself every morning when you wake up, before you teach your next class, grade your next assignment, and work on your next article or dissertation chapter:

This is work. 

I am a professional. 

Professionals get paid. 

End of story.

*     *     *     *     *

Those words are a quote by a postdoc. If you don't follow the world of science blogs, go here to read the full story. Although in context they don't relate to academic employment, I have no trouble imagining they easily could. 

In a nutshell, the postdoc is a scientist and respected blogger who also happens to be black and female. When invited to guest blog elsewhere, she inquired about compensation and was called a "whore" for daring to decline an unpaid gig. The post I've linked to is her response, and we might all take a lesson from it.

*     *     *     *     *

Really, the longer I work outside academe, the more mystified I become at how many smart people back on the inside are willing to sell themselves short. 

The bottom line is that academic work is WORK. If you don't feel you're being adequately compensated -- whether you define compensation in terms of money, respect, opportunities, or all of the above -- take a stand for the VALUE of the work you are doing.

Now, repeat with me and the rest of the post-ac community:

This is work. 

I am a professional. 

Professionals get paid. 

End of story.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

No, this post is not really about wombat poop, but I promise you'll get to see some!

Apparently, according to some Internet weirdo, I am now a Koch-funded stealth operative sent to infiltrate the Petting Zoo. Ipso facto, the Petting Zoo is now a Koch-funded front group out to promote Evil and Destroy the World.

Uhhhhh ... ... ... huh ??????? I'd link, but, you know, the sham of anonymity and all ...

The Internet is full of weirdos.

It's pretty funny, actually, but it does make you wonder what goes on inside people's heads.

Here's what happened:

The Petting Zoo lately has been doing some work on Fuzzy Purple Wombat Poop.

[Oh, go on and watch the video. You know your day won't be complete until you watch a wombat shit square turds!]

There was a report, an event, and a bunch of blog posts and other publications. I have been involved in all of this work. You might call me an expert on Fuzzy Purple Wombat Poop That Floats. I am an expert not in the sense that I did original Fuzzy Purple Wombat Poop research but that I have read the peer-reviewed literature, talked with academics who did do it, looked at the consequences and implications for policy, and spewed my analysis of the whole Fuzzy Purple Wombat Poop -- with especial attention to That Which Floats -- situation out to the world in ordinary, everyday person language.

And, to be clear, I did not work alone. Many Petting Zoo colleagues were involved. Enviro Shark, for example, is an expert in Fuzzy Purple Wombat Poop That Sinks. The Big Dolphin is an expert in Fuzzy Purple Wombat Poop That Won't Flush. And so on. You get the idea. We did some research on some shit and then we published some shit on the shit we researched.

And now there are some people who think we full of shit. Well, it's really just this one weirdo that targeted me personally (getting to that -- just a sec!) that has gone to such extremes, but it arises, I think, from the fact that the PZ's conclusions about Fuzzy Purple Wombat Poop did not entirely align with the views of some of the organization's traditional allies. Whereas many of them would like to ban Fuzzy Purple Wombat Poop, the PZ has been calling for better regulation, more research, and more transparency. In other words, sanity and pragmatism.

So, this Internet weirdo woman is apparently on the PZ's email list and gets a message about one of the publications. She is incensed. She cannot fathom why the PZ would be saying the things it appears to be saying. It strikes her as sinister. Perhaps there are evil machinations behind the scenes. Why would the PZ say these things? Why would the PZ claim there is scientific evidence for the things they are saying when these things just don't jibe with her only lonely oneofakind superspecial mustberight personal experience conclusively non-empirically linking Fuzzy Purple Wombat Poop with the Apocalypse?

She thinks she smells ... ...

wait for it ... wait for it ... wait for it ...

Now, say it with me, folks: She thinks she smells The Kochtopus!

And so she goes digging around, and what does she find? Well, for starters, she must have Googled the names of all of us at the PZ associated with the Fuzzy Purple Wombat Poop work. She found an old webpage from Think Tank (remember them?) with my bio on it. Think Tank has long since deleted my bio from its website, but the cached page still appears in search results. [I know there's gotta be a way to fix this!]

Internet Weirdo Crazy Lady must have thought she found gold.

And she also must have been having some reading comprehension issues. In her mind, the tentacles of the Kochtopus apparently have the power to turn the past into the present and merge the two into one Evil Kochtopia because she seemed to think I was currently employed at BOTH Think Tank and the Petting Zoo, even thought my bio on the PZ website clearly states that I USED TO work at Think Tank. I don't try to hide it, but she seemed to think she had uncovered some big ugly dirty secret. Then she claimed, almost with a sigh of relief, that I was not an author of the one particular publication she most objected to, but that publication clearly DOES list me as an author.

Shhhhhh!!!!!!! Don't let the cat out of that litterbox of doom.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

I Started a Meme

So funny ... so, as I've mentioned in woefully bygone posts (sorry I've been kinda absent around here lately), I blog these days for the Petting Zoo. I have a bit in my mouth over there as far as what I can and can't say. You know: Stay on message, no profanity, don't insult anyone, be careful with humor because people might take it the wrong way. Booooooooooooring .... right?

I try to play by the rules and have been pretty good about behaving myself. But I can't resist playing around every now and then. A while back I made a reference to Shakespeare in a post. It wasn't subtle or anything. Just a little play on words to get readers' attention. I didn't think anything of it other than it made the writing (and hopefully reading) of that post slightly more fun.

Then a few weeks later, a colleague in a totally different program -- someone I don't even know very well who doesn't even blog that much -- used the same Shakespeare quote in a different way. I thought, "Well, that's nice. A little weird, but I guess imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." The next time I saw that colleague I said, "I liked your post. You saw mine, right?"  Colleague said, "Haha, yeah. That was exactly how I was thinking about it, though."

Then, a few days ago, ANOTHER colleague makes reference to a DIFFERENT Shakespeare play. This was actually a little more subtle. I didn't even get the wordplay in the title until I opened the post, and then it hit me right away. And I was like, "Hahahahahahahahahahaha! That's awesome. "

Look at the havoc one literature nerd can wreak outside of academe. Now it's on, people!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Headed West

For a big Petting Zoo event this week. Won't be spending too much time on the beach, alas, but maybe I'll find an hour somewhere. A sunset would be nice.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Big Stinky Flower

That video is from 2007. Although not from the  U.S. Botanic Garden, it is coincidentally the last time the DC titan arum or "corpse flower" bloomed, too. It's supposed to smell like a rotting mammal.

The one in DC is supposed to be unleashing its stench any day now. I can't wait!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Two Cats in a Doorway

That's Luca up top and Midnight below. They're semi feral, but they know we're suckers and come around begging for food because they know we'll feed them. I don't know how Luca gets up to that perch. I believe it involve something like a four foot jump from the top of the neighbors' fence. He's a bit of an acrobat. Midnight is also known as Growler because he growls all the time but is gentle as can be.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Eh, maybe I spoke too soon

I really should learn to stop complaining so much. The Big Dolphin was in town today and we chatted about some of that stuff in yesterday's post. I didn't bring up my future employment, but ze did hirself. Essentially, they do see me (at least the Big Dolphin and Enviro Shark do - and they're the ones that matter) as integral to the program, and the Petting Zoo is interested in making my position permanent if funding can be found in a year.

However, that last part is the catch. I am not at all certain funding will be found. And I still have concerns about many of the things I've complained about the past few days.There are still people here who would prefer I went somewhere else. And the issues with organizational culture remain.

I suppose what that means is I need to keep my eyes and ears open to new opportunities -- figure out what they are, find people doing things I might like to do, and generally make connections -- so that however things shake down over the next year, I have options.