On the non-linear process of grant writing

Dr. Isis recently tweeted:

I hear that. Like, right now. Seriously.

At the beginning of a writing task, especially grant proposals, I always feel like a sad sack who is procrastinating her time away when *THERE IS A DEADLINE OMG, HOW CAN YOU NOT SEE IT COMING?!?!?*. But the thing is, there's always this phase at the beginning of putting some creative endeavour together where your thoughts have to marinate, where the right way to present them has to emerge, where the sparkling way to motivate and reveal your objectives and the (naturally) brilliant way you plan to go get 'em comes forward. For me that involves a lot of scribbling stuff on paper, staring at a wall, going for a jog, writing garbage I know I'll delete later, and consuming a lot of coffee. It feels *SUPER* unproductive. But so far, I've found that otherwise I stare at an unrelenting blinking cursor that fills me with anxiety as the seconds to the deadline tick away. Or, if I'm really stubborn and write without being ready, I'll throw away even more time writing something disconnected and disorganized that has to be largely discarded anyway.

So, two questions:

1. Does anyone have a more efficient feeling formula for getting past this stage? (my deadline is in less than a week...)

2. Has anyone studied the non-linear progress of writing tasks? (my deadline is in less than a week: if my productivity takes a major hockeystick upturn on say.. Tues, all will be fine. reassurance that will happen is welcome.)


An observation on interviewing for academic positions

I am far more impressed with someone who slightly understates their abilities and accomplishments than someone who even slightly overstates them.

As a student, you can get away with this a bit. You might get found out, but it's ok to ask for instruction. Interviewing for a faculty position though.. well, that's different. You are presenting yourself as an expert, and the work you present defines that area of expertise. My observations on several recent searches indicate you will get discovered. Damn, it looks embarrassing. Overconfidence will work in your favour.. to a point. And stepping outside your comfort zone is important, but be ready to acknowledge where you are stretching yourself and know where your true wheelhouse is. I was pretty brash when I interviewed, but I'm also pretty sure I said "I don't know" at least once and I don't recall anyone pointing out any logical or factual flaws in what I presented.

So here's the second kicker.. of recent such search-related events, more male candidates than female candidates have gotten caught in this trap. Now, these are still small number statistics, and they're not 100% even at that. But it is a curious observation, and I will keep collecting data. In the case where people started digging into the female candidates' knowledge (something I also noticed happens more often.. but that's a different story), they more often than not revealed the depth of their knowledge and ability to communicate it. Apparently they were holding this on reserve, or were sparing us those "I'm saying this so you know that I know" moments. Male candidates were more likely to get tripped up as the questions started to flow.. usually because they had left an obvious thread to tug at.

What are your thoughts on interview strategy? Present yourself as all-knowing regardless of your experience? Present yourself as close to "you" as you can under such artificial circumstances? Does anyone else have observations on gender differences? Does a preference here one way or the other here represent an unconscious bias in some way? And am I swimming against the tide by going for the understated? What should I tell my trainees when they go out to interview?


Things I didn't even understand about myself, but Dr. Isis does

So, first, YAY! Dr. Isis is back. Apparently I have been living under a rock and missed this momentous occasion. Oh, and if you've been "following" this blog, I'm sure you'll agree that I must have been living under a rock. Something like that.. it's called "tenure track". Second, she's seriously BACK, writing brilliant, poignant and witty posts as per usual. Like this post that describes Dr. Isis' evolution of her own understanding of herself and the male-dominated world she operates in that resonated with me to an uncanny degree. The progression she underwent of "fitting in as one of the boys" but actually being some sort of novelty, and thinking maybe she had some sort of upper hand being the young/cute/unique one are phases I identify with clearly. And yet I too have outgrown both attitudes. I've recently been bothered by being bothered by my place as a woman in a highly male dominated field. I wondered why it was that *now* I suddenly was struggling with this just as it should really be having less and less impact on me. But the reality is that *now* is the time more than ever I want and need to be respected for what I'm capable of and am doing.. not for being cute, and coincidentally smart on the side. She ends with: "I still wear makeup, I still dress nicely, and I still have killer shoes, but I am secure enough in my own abilities to want to make my achievements the focus of the positive attention from my colleagues. I’m secure enough to answer comments on my appearance with an eye roll and to realize that professional compliments that come hand-in-hand with remarks about my appearance don’t come from anyone that is going to really take me seriously or see me as their peer. Those true intellectual relationships are the ones worth finding and cultivating." I hope that someday none of this will matter at all, and a compliment can just be a compliment and not risk diminishing the apparent level of respect between colleagues. But in the meantime, I have no intention of giving up my cute shoes, so I suppose everyone will just have to get over it.


Dear Online Learning Management System

You are not managing to help manage any learning, if I cannot manage to login ever to post valuable learning resources. Sincerely, Disgruntled Professor


Signs the undergrads have returned...

You walk out of your favourite coffee shop into someone shouting "OMG BEER PONG!".


Don't back down

My new mantra: "Don't back down."

It is easy to say "gee, I don't know if I'll have time", "I'm not sure if that's something I really want to do" and so many variations of this when deep down you know that saying yes is what you should do (maybe it's an extra project with a colleague, one more student than you were planning to supervise, a talk to give, an invitation to review, or even an invitation to an event). I've been busy. So. busy. in my first semester as an assistant prof. Most of the time I resisted the temptation to back down, but a few times I let things slide until it was too late to do them anyway. The things I took on despite some lingering reservations I'm mostly glad I did even though it meant some extra hectic times. Don't get me wrong, I'll say no when I need to say no, but there are those times when you'd rather say no because you know it will be tough but you know the answer ought to be yes.

So next time I'm on the edge of a task precipice? "Don't back down, it's time to dive in."


Visual Information

I just got totally pulled in by this:

Really, in this visual world we live in, and with so much information overload, how can this not be the way of the future.

I've always tried to find visual ways to present my data, in large part because I understand it better that way, but I have to say this inspires me to do more.


I think you might want to rethink your ad there...

So, this may not be the great return to blogging I had in mind, but I simply couldn't help but post this when I saw it today on an academic newsletter I receive:

"Kill harmful bacteria including H1N1."

Really? Kills bacteria? Even H1N1 bacteria? That's special since H1N1 is a virus. If you can't get that right for the ad, do you really think I'm going to trust that it works? Ha!

Moral of the story? General science literacy is IMPORTANT. For consumers who might get sucked in and Ad Execs who majorly FUBAR.

(Oh, and the (*) there which I thought might redeem it? if you look really carefully it says "When used as directed" not something along the lines of "yes, yes, we know H1N1 is a virus, we were just trying to play off the general panic of the public about swine flu".)


still here

bokeh blossoms, originally uploaded by physics*chick.

I'm still here. I'm still planning to blog again.

I'm trying to decide what I want this space to be. I don't feel like I have time to maintain multiple blogs (ha! maintain? you mean like this one?), but I don't like how scattered this one is. For now, posts will remain scattered and sparse.

Take care, enjoy life! I'm going to go enjoy some sun.


science... always harder than you thought it would be...

Quote of the day:

Every problem is like an infinite goldmine of hard.

And so I continue to muddle though, working on this thing that was just supposed to be quick and easy, but turned into a way bigger thing than I wanted right now. Thankfully hubby can help!