Tag Archives: frustration

September 26, 2012, 3:02 pm

It could be worse

Sometimes when things get overwhelming at work and I start humming my dearly departed father’s favorite song (“Take This Job and Shove It,” by Johnny Paycheck), I try to remind myself that things could be worse. I could be in the private sector.

I spent a couple of years in the corporate world between college and graduate school, in the typesetting department of a financial printing company. As nice as it was making $50K/year with awesome benefits right out of college, the main thing I got from that job was the firm knowledge that I DID NOT WANT TO BE THERE. This was 1996-1998 – exactly the time period that the movie Office Space was based on. I almost cried the first time I saw that movie, because it was such a perfect representation of how awful my job was.

Just a few of the many things I hated about that job:

  • Having to work overtime/weekends/holidays whenever needed, or else…

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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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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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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.

June 2, 2011, 2:50 pm


This paper got accepted this morning, with no further revisions. Hooray! I’m especially pleased about this one because two undergrads who worked with me (one as an REU student, one as an intern) are co-authors, and I am very proud of them. A year ago right now, we were just getting started on the main experiment in the paper – for me, this is extremely fast turnaround.

Things have suddenly gotten busy here at the Center, as we are planning our annual Center conference and also our first meeting with our external advisory board. We also have a meeting with our funding agency in a couple of weeks… pretty stressful stuff, especially since people keep asking me for a schedule for the conference, which I can’t make until I get feedback from people who aren’t answering my emails!! Grr. I politely reminded them last week that I am leaving in two weeks for the field, and if they want my help …

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May 2, 2011, 2:04 pm

Adjuncting ruins lives

The recent kerfuffle in the blogosphere about advice for adjuncts, plus my own recent observations of friends’ lives, really got me thinking about my own experiences. I have done my time as an adjunct, and I remember it as a very dark period in my life. Unless you’re one of those happy adjuncts who enjoys the job, is treated well, and has financial stability, adjuncting can ruin your life. We are told that it can benefit our careers – and sure, it can be a good way to get some teaching experience. But in many cases, especially if you end up doing it for a long time, I think it can harm more than it helps.

At my graduate institution, being a graduate assistant or a teaching assistant wasn’t a common option. However, the university relied extremely heavily on adjunct labor, and was more than happy to hire grad students as adjuncts to teach classes. I taught my first class in 1999, and…

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March 10, 2011, 2:22 pm

Research Week, Day 4 Report

I don’t know if any of you out there have ever tried to work productively at home, with 8 territorial and emotionally needy pets (ok, only 7 – the tortoise doesn’t really give a shit about anything except his heat lamp and food) – which is bad enough, but just wait ’til you get to the end of the sentence — while having a new furnace installed. If you haven’t tried it but are considering it, let me give you a word of advice: don’t.

I did my 30 minutes of crap writing this morning, and then sort of fumbled through 90 minutes of researchy writing cutting and pasting. It was too difficult to concentrate with the banging coming from the basement, the dog barking and whining, the cat growling at the noise in the heating vent, the other cat insisting on climbing into my lab because he’s cold and there’s no heat, and the parrot squawking. I haven’t even bothered trying to read any scientific…

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February 16, 2011, 7:13 am

Waiting for co-authors

At the moment, I do not have any articles in review, which pains me. I do have four that are pretty close to getting out there (or back out there, as the case may be for a few of them) – two are papers on which I am the first author, and two on which I am a co-author. All four of these have two co-authors in common – my postdoctoral adviser (PA), and a grad student (GS) in PA’s lab.

PA is notoriously busy and important, though well-meaning, and it always takes a long time for PA to get around to reading and commenting on drafts. I won’t lie, it pisses me off – but I try to remember that PA puts a lot of work into reading carefully and making helpful comments. Also PA has been around a long time and has hundreds of publications, and my research is somewhat outside of PA’s main research interest. So, I get it. I don’t like it, but I get it.

GS takes even longer to get drafts back to me. …

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December 1, 2010, 7:37 am

Big deadline today

Major report about the Center is due today. This report is one of the primary responsibilities of my job. I have written the 100-or-so-page narrative, that’s all ready to go. But we are still pulling together the financial reporting side of it — which is the responsibility of someone else. And it’s not ready yet and I am getting antsy about it. We also have to gather some signatures. This is going to be a big pain in my ass.