Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Another example of why they don't often let Geekman interact with students*

Geekman: "What have you been up to this afternoon?"

Me: "Lots of students came by to talk about their assignments. Most of them wanted to know how to get more marks in future, and I politely explained that they should try actually reading the questions and answering them, rather than making up their own random unconnected tasks. But then as usual there were a few students I feel really sorry for because there is no way they will ever pass the course. They are just terminally dim. I have tried explaining the material over and over, and they have spent lots of time and effort on it, but they are still so far from understanding even the simple concepts that there's nothing else they can do. I have no advice for them at all."

Geekman: "I do."

Me: "What?"

Geekman: "Don't breed."


* See also examples one and two.

Don't look now, but - eek!

Yesterday we had a huntsman sitting on the department noticeboard. (Don't click over unless you can handle images of big scary spiders.)

His legs spanned nearly from one side to the other of the A4 notice he was sitting on.

The notice was bright orange, and more than one student thought he was an out-of-season halloween decoration of some sort, before he waved a lazy leg and freaked them out.

I thought it was pretty cool.

Until I arrived this morning to find he had teleported. As huntsmen often do. And before I considered the fact that the noticeboard in question is right next to my office door.

I'm paying a lot of attention to where I sit today.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Birthdays and biscuits

It's my birthday!

Geekman gave me this cute little teapot and cups, and a selection of fancy teas.

He also gave me some virtual shoes, in that we went shopping for them, but I couldn't find any I liked that also fit.

My parents, in the best StyleyGeek Parents tradition, appear to have forgotten. Which is still better than giving me one sock, so see me not be devastated.

In other news, who needs a birthday cake when you can have orange and almond biscotti?! (Well, me. Apparently I need both. Hence the Armenian Nutmeg Cake currently in the oven. But let's pretend it was a rhetorical question.)

Orange and Almond Biscotti Recipe

2 ¼ cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 ¼ cups sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 Tbsp olive oil
¼ tsp almond extract
finely grated rind of 1 orange
½ cup chopped almonds

Sift together the flour and baking powder; stir in sugar. Make a well in the centre and gradually stir in remaining ingredients; mix well. Divide dough in half and shape into two logs 6cm wide and 20cm long. Place on greased oven trays and bake in 180°C oven 30-35 minutes or until browned on top. Cool slightly then cut into 2cm slices. Lie slices flat on tray and return to oven for 15 minutes or until brown. Cool on wire racks.

Friday, April 25, 2008

This has nothing to do with the falafel on the ceiling

Watching Outrageous Fortune (best show EVER):

"Those are the cutest pajama bottoms! Geekman, did you see those pajama bottoms Pascale was wearing?"

"Yes. Actually, I was watching her arse quite closely."


"You know, you really don't give me enough credit for attention to detail."

"Dear Student: no."

My tutor got this email from one of our students recently:

Dear [Random Collection of Letters Approximating Tutor's Name],

I am a visual learner. Can you please make me visual aids for all the classes so far and email them to me?

Also, if I send you my notes for the course, can you go through them and check that they are correct?

Student with an Impressive Sense of Entitlement.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Desktop on my desktop

I was tagged for this meme by Jana surreptitiously via email. I think this could be a whole new fashion: doing memes without posting them on your blog. But I'm going to break the chain and share the result with you.

This is my office desktop.

Notable highlights:

  • Left mid: Coffee. For working purposes.
  • Upper left: Window. For parrot purposes.
  • Upper not-so-left: My desktop. Ubuntu. The background changes randomly every 30 minutes. Currently some generic abstract picture of crystals.
  • Just right of the computer: plan of all the work I had been going to do during the semester break. Mostly not crossed off, alas.
  • Just right of that: My Communist Leaking Mug. Which never holds enough red pens. (The world does not hold enough red pens; such are my students. Ha! Just kidding! They are awesome! (And they read here.))
  • Right lower quadrant: Big stack of assignments. The sticky note on top says "Re-mark: these are too lenient." I guess they were the ones I did after drinking a little to numb the horror. (See above for obligatory "ha just kidding" disclaimer.)
  • Mid right: Wall chart listing all the branches of Indo-European with dates of first attestation, approximate dates of dialect divergence, and dates of extinction (where appropriate). I love this chart so much I want to marry it. (Sorry, Geekman. We can be polygamous.) Updated to say: Get your own copy here!
  • Bottom right: Dialect Change: Convergence and Divergence in European Languages. You have to love a book that gives good subtitle.
I guess I should tag people now.

I vaguely remember people posting pictures of their workspaces a while back, so if you already did this, feel free not to bother. Bearing that in mind, I tag:

Tactful he is not

So my father finally got around to telling my mother that he is now engaged to the woman who he had an affair with for six years of their 25 year marriage (even though up until a few weeks ago, he was still pretending he didn't see her any more).* The divorce only came through a few days ago, so my mother was understandably still a little emotionally tender.

So how did he choose to break the news?

By text message. Way to go, Dad.


* I know: convoluted sentence from hell. I've been reading too much student prose.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

An observation

Sleeping in would be so much more fun if I didn't spend the extra hour dreaming about being at work anyway. And then wake up to find that I still have to (re)do all that work I just did in my dream.

Seriously, what is the point?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I'm not sure who's at fault in this exchange

Geekman: "What are you eating?"
Me: "Cheese and crackers."
Geekman: "Can you make me one?
Me: "Sure. How many?"
Geekman: "Two."

Monday, April 21, 2008

Can any Chinese speaker explain this to me?

Why would a Chinese student repeatedly refer to a table in his assignment (i.e. a chart with rows and columns) as "the blanket"?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Actually, I can think of other explanations, but they are all depressing

The course I am teaching this semester is cross-coded for three levels of students: first-years, later years, and postgrads. They have separate tutorials and after this first assignment that I am currently marking, their assessment diverges too. But up until now they have covered the same material, had the same readings, same in-class work, and the same assessment.

I have just finished marking the first assignment, and the median and mean for the first years is much higher than that of the later-years (think: 80-ish for first-years, 60-ish for later-years), and just about all my fails are postgrads.

The only possible conclusion is that the more years of university study you do, the dumber you get.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Yes, I am scraping the bottom of the barrel here

Last night in my dreams:

  • There was an aeratosaurus. It looked pretty much as you would imagine.
  • They terraformed the piece of bushland outside my office window and it became a red, volcanic planet.
  • My 11-year-old sister was knitting herself a whisky still for her birthday. No one seemed bothered. She said she got the pattern from her girl guide group.
  • A shark came up out of the ocean that was mysteriously just below my balcony, and told me about what it was like to live in the sea. He walked upright on his tail fins, and thanked me politely for the beer I gave him. He left behind damp carpet and the smell of salt.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

How's the vegetarian experiment going, you ask

Me: "What should we have for dinner tomorrow, do you think?"

Geekman: "What food have we got in the freezer?"

Me: "Uh, spinach..."

Geekman: "That's not a food! It's a colour!"

Monday, April 14, 2008

Lucky escape

This morning I blew off the work I had scheduled to do (3 or 4 hours' worth). Then just now, at 5pm, I got an email telling me I don't need to do that specific task after all.

Isn't it wonderful when life works out that way?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Tell us what to do!

One of the members of my committee wants to nominate me for a fellowship. It's a good fellowship. A very prestigious fellowship. A fellowship of the sort where the letter and paperwork all stress that you should not nominate anyone at all, because pretty much no one is going to be good enough to win it.

I have no idea why he thinks I even have a chance, although I am very flattered that he does (especially since he says he has only ever nominated one other person for this during his 30-year career).

But here's the problem. If I did win it (which presumably could happen if everyone else in the whole world who is eligible to nominate someone is scared off by the paperwork), then we would have to move to the USA. For three years. In the middle of next year.

Geekman's job here currently runs until the end of 2010. At that point, his entire centre loses their funding, which would leave 20 or more physicists unemployed. So there's a gamble with staying here that long. Either he will then end up competing with 20+ other people for the one or two other jobs that might be going in Australia at that time (many of whom will be his superiors on the academic ladder), or some smart people will secure new funding and he will be able to get a slice of the cake. The latter seems most likely. In the next three years there will be a few retirements in our department, so there's a chance I could worm my way in there too. Alternatively I can keep applying for grants and eventually fund my own damn research. Meanwhile, long-term adjuncting isn't out of the question.

I should probably point out here that Australian universities do not have tenure (although there are still people around who were hired back when tenure did exist, so they still have it). Three year renewable contracts are now as good as it gets. So Geekman is currently in a very good position, with a pretty good chance of longer-term job security.

So. If by some remote miracle, I got this fellowship, I would then be in a fantastic position career-wise, because I think any university in Australia and many elsewhere would jump at employing someone who has one of these fellowships on their CV. Geekman, on the other hand, would be facing three years of unemployment during the fellowship—he tells me there's no way he could get a job at that university, nor would he want to work with the people there anyway—followed by the problem of starting from scratch trying to find a new job afterwards.

Living apart is just not an option. I'd rather not have an academic career at all than do that.

In the long term, it makes more sense for his job to be the first consideration, since I can continue my research without any more department support than a library card, which most universities are happy to give me whether or not I have a job there. Geekman's research, on the other hand, needs super-computer access, expensive software, and a bunch of experimental minions to build him mini black holes or whatever they do down there in the radioactive bowels of the physics department.

Given all of this, my first reaction to my committee member's suggestion was, "Nuh-uh. Doesn't work for us. Thanks anyway." I couldn't see any chance that I would take the fellowship even if I should get it, and I'm not about to apply for something I wouldn't take if offered. But he (and everyone else in the department) looked at me like I was crazy. And that made me wonder if maybe I'm just being stupid.

And the one thing I keep coming back to is, what if, at the end of 2010, there really is no more funding, and Geekman is out of work, and I haven't managed to make my position here any more secure, and I never applied for this fellowship, and we're left unemployed and haunted by what-ifs?

Friday, April 11, 2008

This is teh awesome

This haiku generator gave me some great haikus created from my blog. Apparently my blog is all about:

Trivial mundanities:

if you really
like me better than those guys
i'll show you a bag

reasons to mention
it it might be easier to
have an iron

i need to buy a
thicker whiteboard marker
i requested one

The realities of academia:

supervisor is
also expected to do
research and service

Shameless self-promotion

pretty in pink look
at me i'm prettier than they
are too expensive


a gang gang made a
noise like a squeaky door why
are you doing this

to rustle there was
a swooping and a squawking
and a chattering

How I'm not from around here:

hour before bedtime
it's my accent isn't
it i just found out

new zealand news is
just weird turns out they are they're
just boring and grey

And finally, a general summary of what my blog's about:

serious weirdness
potential and it might save
her from eating her

(Seen at The Hussy's).

Thursday, April 10, 2008

If there were a bloggiest blog competition, Finslippy would win it

This here is the archetypal blog post. It has the why-I-haven't-been-posting trope—the just-posting-to-say-I'm-not-posting subtype thereof— it has something cute about the blogger's cat, a sentence all in capital letters, and a mention of the blogger's child.

Somehow that just tickled me.

God knows, not much else does lately.

Monday, April 07, 2008

You made me a theory, but I broke it.

In the two weeks since my last flat, I have made a big effort to keep my tyres pumped rock solid.

But guess what happened today? Yup. Another one.

Let's face it: I just have bad tyre karma.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

How geeks spend Saturday morning

Geekman enters the room, wearing camouflage cargo pants.

"You look so cute in those pants," I say. "You look like you're off on a mission through the stargate."

He brandishes part of an encyclopaedia at me, volume Aust-Blin. "I'm on a mission to the BATHROOM. I'll let you know if I find any aliens."

How many lines can you cross in one conversation?

Two older male faculty members (OMFMs) approach.

First OMFM, "Hey, we were just over at the campus bar, and we saw Geekman. He was having a drink with a really cute blonde."

Second OMFM, "Yeah, but don't worry. She's no real competition to you."

Friday, April 04, 2008

Google scares me

I have never used Google Reader to read linguistics blogs. Mostly what I read are pseudonymous semi-personal academic blogs, with a mixture of blogs by people in other occupations that interest me (mainly the medical profession), and a few mommy blogs, because they remind me of why I don't really want children any time soon, kthx.

I do sometimes browse linguist blogs, but not through a feed reader; I have them bookmarked.

So how come Google Reader decided to add The Linguist List (the major professional website for linguists) to my "recommended feeds"?

And how come, five minutes after I joined Ravelry, Google Reader started displaying Ravelry feeds in the recommended list?

Google, you frighten me. Stop being so creepy.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

So this is just weird

Turns out this was the world's lamest wedding invitation.

I told Dad I could probably arrange for someone else to be on hand for my exam, and if necessary I could skip the conference I was planning to attend, so I could manage either of the first two dates he gave me. The third, my graduation, was an absolute no-go. Not only for my own sake, but because my mother already has tickets to come over here for it, and I cannot imagine her reaction if I told her she had to cancel her visit because my father was getting married.

But unfortunately (?) he has decided that third date works best for them. Which on the whole isn't so bad, because I think this wedding has serious weirdness potential, and it might be easier to have an iron-clad excuse for skipping it. It does mean I'm unlikely to meet his new wife (and her two school-age children who I just found out about today) until after they are a big happy family already, but I can live with that.

This is going to make NZ trips even complicated than they are now, though, since my father will be moving to Wellington, which will mean Geekman and I have parents who expect regular visits in Auckland, Tokoroa, Wellington and Christchurch. (For those unfamiliar with NZ, imagine a long skinny country and four cities fairly evenly spaced along its length).

One other consideration: do we send them a wedding present? Does it make a difference that Dad didn't give us one? Or would it just look petty not to?

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Help me out here, or I'll have to take a nap

I've been staring at the screen so intensely today that my eyes hurt. Now that I'm home, I want to relax, but it strikes me that I don't have any hobbies that I can do with my eyes shut. Except sleeping, and I'm not sure that strictly counts as a hobby. I guess having sex isn't usually eyestrain inducing, either. (Note: if it is, you're probably doing it wrong). But there's only so much of that a girl can do in one evening.

The other problem is that I'm an incorrigible multitasker. When I listen to music, I generally knit or read; I have never been able to enjoy a good soak in the bath without a book to read. I don't usually multitask while having sex, you'll be pleased to know, but mainly just because it doesn't seem polite.

So reading, knitting, watching TV, doing a puzzle, blogging, surfing the internet, playing computer games, computer programming, writing, studying, etc, are all too tiring. What does that leave? I could exercise, but today is my recovery day after yesterday's all-out-just-about-killed-me gym session.

Any ideas? What do you do for fun that doesn't use your eyes?

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

What Geekman does for fun

Last night, this was re-deriving the equations here so he can edit the page* and make it all better.

This meant our conversations yesterday went along the following lines:

"Geekman, you know what? We had three fire drills yesterday."
"Hold on, I've lost a minus sign."


"Do you want to watch some TV?"
"No, the whole page is full of errors. I'm going to have to totally rewrite it."


"Geekman, why exactly are you doing this?"
"It's my job!"
"No, actually. Editing Wikipedia is not your job."
"But educating the masses is!"

Because the masses? They spend a lot of time hanging out at the calculating a physical force arising from a quantized field page and trading functional integrals.


* If you're a physicist and looking at that page, Geekman hasn't actually put his edits up yet, so it's still full of errors.