November 14, 2011, 2:16 pm

So very tired

Confession: lately when my friends with colds, the flu, or Lyme disease comment on Facebook that they are spending the day in bed with cats, television, and hot tea, I think to myself, “Oh, that sounds so nice.”

Sleeping gray tabby catI’m tired. So tired that I am, bizarrely, jealous of my friends who are sick. And I feel guilty about feeling tired. I’m still relatively young, I don’t have children, I don’t work more than 40-45 hours a week. I should be able to find time to go to the gym, cook nice dinners, and go out and be social a couple of times a week. I should be able to keep my house cleaner. It’s not too bad, but sometimes it smells like dog, and my desk drawers are a mess. And there’s that one lightbulb in the kitchen that we’ve never gotten around to replacing. Don’t even mention the back yard.

Compared to other people in academia, I always thought I was pretty good at “taking care of myself”…

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November 4, 2011, 12:41 pm

Reference formatting woes

At this very moment, I am taking a break from making reviewers’ very minor revisions to a paper that I submitted recently. I am very pleased about just how minor these revisions are, but of course I can’t just leave it at that. I noticed that Reviewer #1, who was particularly enamored of the paper (thank you, Reviewer #1!) only made 5 tiny changes – three of which were in the bibliography and were errors caused by EndNote’s poorly defined style for that particular journal.

Disgruntled tortoiseshell cat

I am disgruntled.

This drives me insane. I have used EndNote for years, and I like many things about it. EndNote is one of the main reasons that I still use Microsoft Word for all of my writing. Well, also because I do a lot of collaborative writing, and if I were to send my colleagues a file in, say, Scrivener, they would think I had…

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November 2, 2011, 9:45 am

Recovering from a big project

Yesterday I had to turn in a major administrative report, one that took about six weeks to prepare and required bending nearly 400 people to my will. (My spouse says this makes me the equivalent of a lieutenant colonel. I like that.) As a result, there are many, many tasks that I put off until November 2: manuscripts to review, a paper to revise and resubmit, encyclopedia chapters that I agreed to write, emails to answer…

Sleeping cat, hiding his face with his paw

What I'd rather be doing right now.

Now I’m sitting here, staring rather blankly at my computer screen wondering where to start. I feel like my brain is broken. It’s like a work hangover. I know I should just put down the Halloween candy, close Firefox, open up any one of these files, and just get started. But all I want to do is go back home, get under the covers, and finish reading…

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October 27, 2011, 7:06 am

How to get people to respond to your requests

Disclaimer: Note that the title is not “how to get people to DO what you want” – obviously I am no authority on that topic. These tips are just for getting people to acknowledge that you made a request and increase the likelihood that they will do it.

Two gray tabby cats fighting

Pro tip: Catfighting is never a very effective way to get what you want.

I spend much of my energy trying to collect information: research reports, budget numbers, statistics on software downloads, names of people who will attend events, etc. I also need people to do things, like send out my press releases, give seminar talks, or show up to meetings. After more than a year in this job, I’ve discovered several things that seem to be pretty effective for getting what I want.

1. Never send your request on a Friday afternoon. It will get buried over the…

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October 18, 2011, 12:53 pm

The pain of revising manuscripts

Kitten sleeping by a laptop

A well-deserved rest after submitting a manuscript.

My favorite moment of research is right after I hit the “submit” button on a journal’s article submission website. I can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that I don’t have to worry about that project for a few weeks or months. I move the folder with all of the paper’s files out of my “active research” folder on my computer and into my “in review” folder. I can take the whole category off of my to-do list. Sure, having a paper accepted is a lovely moment too, but for some reason that first moment after submission is extra-special to me.

But the manuscripts always come back to you, which is my least favorite moment in research. Whenever I see that email in my inbox with the words “Decision on manuscript…” in the title, my chest…

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October 6, 2011, 10:54 am

Away message

Wow, you guys. That was intense… In case you missed the madness, my last post was featured on WordPress Freshly Pressed the other day, which brought over 3000 visitors. Holy crap!

Cats and suitcaseSo: Welcome, new readers! I hope you will enjoy what you find here. But right now, I’m off to Europe on vacation for a week!! My default comment setting is that new commenters go into the moderation queue, so if you comment for the first time over the next week, it’ll be a few days before your comment gets approved. Don’t worry, I’m not ignoring you!

I’ll be back in a week. Perhaps I’ll post some pictures. But now I must finish packing.

October 4, 2011, 11:55 am


In the Chronicle yesterday, there was a nice piece about “procrastination productivity” that several of my friends posted to Facebook – about all the things you get done because they are a distraction from the real things you have to get done, and while they make you look like you are being productive, you know the truth.

Gray cat sleeping on open laptop computerI am very familiar with that tactic, but I have another one that’s even worse. Fake productivity, or “fauxductivity” as I like to think of it, is where you surround yourself with accoutrements of productivity and busyness so not only does it look like you are busy and important but you are hoping to trick your brain into acknowledging the need to get work done and then spend extra time doing it.

I am in a very importantly busy stage at work right now, and I have given in to my favorite fauxductivity trick (well, it’s less of a trick and more of an affectation): I…

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September 28, 2011, 11:00 am

Deluxe apartment in the sky

Hey you guys! Guess what, guess what! I’m moving to the Chronicle Blog Network!

I know, I know. You hate it when people do that. You think it’s inconvenient to get a new login in order to comment, you don’t like the new location, and for some reason you think bloggers are less genuine or something when they’re hosted by a big network. I get it, I do. But I like the Chronicle, and I think it’s important that non-traditional academic types like myself are represented in these forums. I’m incredibly pleased to have been invited to do just that.

If you read this blog through an RSS reader, all you have to do is update the feed address and nothing will change. They will never put the blogs behind a subscription wall, and they have no editorial control over what I write. Plus they’re designing a snappy logo for me.

I have decided that it’s best for me to maintain my pseudonymity over there….

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September 23, 2011, 9:05 am

Advanced faculty wrangling techniques

Getting a group of faculty members together to accomplish something has often been compared to herding cats. I disagree. When I want to get my cats all into one room to do something at the same time, all I have to do is stand in my kitchen, open a can of Friskies, and yell “Num nums!”

Three cats in a neat row.

Cats, neatly lined up. Completely unlike faculty.

Not so with faculty. If you have, say, 20 professor cats, and you would like them all to arrive in the same place at the same time, you can’t just send out a general email to all 20 of them that says “Num nums will be served in the kitchen at 6 pm.” Most professor cats will just delete that email, if they see it at all. Only 2 or 3 professor cats will show up – the ones with the most interest in num nums and the most criticisms to offer. They will spend the whole time coming…

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September 16, 2011, 12:27 pm

Email autoreplies

I understand and accept the usefulness of email “away” messages. But I must admit it drives me crazy when someone emails me, and I hit “reply” and send a prompt response, only to get their “away” message in return.

Especially when the away message says “I will return on September 9 and respond to your email as soon as possible”… and it’s September 15.