Monday, December 31, 2012


A few friends went to visit the Museum of Mathematics in New York City right before Christmas. It is a new museum, and it makes me want to move back to NYC in a few years so Epsilon can enjoy it fully in his late elementary school years.

My friends took their nephew with them, who got to play on a bike with square wheels (pictured on the website), a fractal wall that projects a fractal image of you that you can move around and play with, and a giant room of spacial logic puzzles. What a brilliant idea!

Their only complaint was that, as the museum has just opened, not all the exhibits are up and functional now, so maybe give it a few weeks to work the kinks out of its system. Oh how I long to be in NYC again. If you live near by and happen to visit, do leave me a comment about how you liked it.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Lessons from the Arctic

I've just returned to the warm from a week of vacation above the Arctic Circle. I've learned a few things.

1) A clear winter's solstice sky during day (= twilight) is much more spectacular than the possibility of a northern lights after sunset.* 7 hours of twilight is nothing to scoff at.

2) Snowshoes aren't magic devices that let you walk on the surface of a snowdrift like the recent birthday boy's ability to walk on water. Neither being related to a deity, nor being good at snow shoeing, I sink in snowdrifts.

3) The only clear shadows above the arctic at this time of year are cast by the moon. Reflected by the snow, the forests look very alien. To bad I couldn't get the following out of my head.

*Perhaps this is because we only say a weak northern lights show.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Something about the season

Something about this time of year makes me intensely grateful for the circumstances that I live in. A time and place where, when three years ago, it was time to give birth, I had a sterile hospital room, and not a cowshed.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Online Forms .... RAGE!!!

I've spent a good chunk of the last 2 weeks applying to jobs and writing letters of rec for my students applying to grad school. I HATE online forms.

Let me start with the positive:

There is one system (ApplyYourself?... I can't remember) that makes life very easy for the letter writer. One username. One password. They send you the link, you see ALL of the students you need to write letters for in this system on one screen. Click on student. Fill out school specific questions. Upload. Submit. Click on next student. Continue until done. LOVE!!!!!!

I am applying to several posts at University A. I have a login for their jobs page. It brings up all the positions at this university I have EVER applied for. It gives me an option to copy all the personal and rec details from a different application if I choose. I change the relevant information. Upload the appropriate documents. Done. LOVE!!!!!

There is another system for uploading letter that sends me a username with a jumble of letters, and a password that is my last name. I click on the link. IT ASKS ME TO CHANGE MY PASSWORD! Why, I ask you. All the security is in my username. I'll never be able to log in again without my link. I'll only use this username for ONE student. Once I'm done, you can trash the login. I've had three different logins in this system this year. A-NOY-ing!

University B's graduate admissions fails to recognize the domain of my previous academic e-mail. REALLY?! This took my poor student a week to figure out. That's okay, I have a different academic e-mail. I do get the link sent to this address, BUT.... I can't upload the letter. Each time I try, my connection times out. Ah, but they have an option to cut and paste the letter into a box. I try this. The connection times out when I try to submit. I really hope they are checking the general contact inbox for the admissions department for letters. If this is a new system, I really hope they fire the group that developed it. RAGE!!!

I am applying to several posts at University C. Their jobs website is down for servicing for one of the job deadlines. I get permission to submit when the page comes back up, but since the deadline has passed, the job is no longer available in the on-line system. I get the appropriate forms from a poor administrator dealing with many requests like this. They require that I download and fill out an application form. The application form is a .doc file with fields. Some of the fields show up as read only when I open it in Open Office on my Ubuntu machine. Trying to save the file crashes OO. But exporting to pdf works. When my partner downloads the form to OO on his windows machine, he can't see the check boxes. I can't set up an account with my current e-mail address. Luckily, I've already set up an account from my previous academic address. When I upload the documents, I can't click on them to check if they look okay. Something about a header information problem with the webpage. OMG I HATE THIS!!!!!!

I really hope to be done with all this nonsense by Saturday.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Waiting for Tuesday

The term is winding down. Work is not. That's the funny thing about not having any teaching. My work schedule seems to have nothing to do with the student schedule. This will take some getting used to.

I have 70 more comments to go on an R&R (many many thanks to the thorough reviewer), a few more letters of recommendation to write, and talk to prepare for tomorrow. All the rest can wait. Tuesday evening is the start of my vacation. Events this year have conspired to keep me from sending work related e-mails to colleagues on the 24th and 25th of December. Instead, I hope to be spending much of those days skating under a near full moon a sky full of stars.

I can't wait. There's too much to do, and not enough time and too many days until my flight takes off.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Silly me

It's time to give out teaching assignments for the term.

Female grad student (FGS) sits down with her advisor (A) to talk about what she felt comfortable TAing. FGS tells A that she has no problem teaching any of the subjects he has proposed, but could he please make sure she is not assigned to work with Post Doc (PD). When A inquires further about her request, FGS explains that she feels uncomfortable around PD because of his attempts to hit on her and his misconception that her face hovers somewhere in the region of her breasts. A decides to grant her the request, but tells her to be careful in the future not to create a situation like this with any other of her colleagues.

Somehow I still manage to be shocked by things like this. Naively, I believe that stories like this can only happen if one of the actors are 20 or more years older than me. Silly me.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The hard choices

It's snowing outside.

I should wear my princess boots. They'll keep me warm.

These are like Cinderella's boots!

But I'm Rapunzel. Rapunzel goes barefoot. I can't wear these boots!

But I'm a princess. So I should wear princess boots.

It's cold outside. If I don't wear boots, I'll be cold.

But Rapunzel doesn't wear shoes!

Sometimes, I feel sorry for Epsilon.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Building community

When I first started my blog, I told a few friends, and no family members. My anonymity was not so much to protect myself from other people finding out my opinions, but more to protect my family from exposure to opinions that we are on a don't ask don't tell position about. Since then, I've found that there is safety in a pseudonym is convenient in protecting the identity of people I want to write about. 

Over the last year an a half, I've found that I've made anonymous friends on this blog. Since the initial point of this blog was to help me survive a hard 2 body problem, this is a very good thing. The downside of having more people I know reading this blog, of course, is that there are sometimes posts that I cannot write. That's a price I'm willing to pay.

In fact, I am willing to pay more of that price. Specifically, I'm noticing that many of the people I used to love to read and hear from on my blog roll have disappeared. This is not surprising: I read a lot of small blogs, which tend to have short lifespans. Unlike RL friends, a blog dying usually means I fall out of touch with the writer. So, my question is: Those of you who have run teeny tiny blogs like mine for years, how have you managed to maintain a community?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

First snow

Today has been a hard day for stupid reasons. Lots of emotional ups. Lots of emotional downs, mostly conspiring to keep me from getting much work done.

At some point, I looked out the office window to see the ground covered in a thin layer of white. Closer to the window, the white is speckled with dots of green, blades of grass that have yet to realize that their time is up for now.

Across the street a large white paper star hangs in a darkened window, lit from the inside by Christmas lights. Their neighbor's house is well lit; a chandelier shows me their library. It looks cozy. My office is warm. I am lucky to live in such an age, to be born in such a class, that the threat of exposure is as far removed from me as the thought of snow was to my grandparents.

I face a quiet street. Even now, as people head home, I only see a few headlights slowly maneuver the slick roads. Not many tracks on the sidewalk, either.

Epsilon had his first snowball fight today. He saw the snow falling and declared that Santa would come. I missed the snowball fight. Maybe I'll surprise a stranger on my way home in his honor.

Patting myself on the back

Last year at this point, I was flipping out. I was counting down to my partner leaving the family for 3 months. I was in the middle of job applications. I was convinced I would never get a job. I was worried about my academic progress.

This year feels so different. I think I started it thinking that I would only apply to TT jobs that are near His Town. Now that I've started seriously looking at jobs, that restraint, of course, has flown out the window.

I am applying from jobs (4 deadlines left this week). But unlike last time, I am actually being able to work on the applications and do other work at the same time. The panic has subsided, in part due to the fact that I have a job to come back to next year, and partly due to the fact that I am in a place 4 days a week where I can work on my schedule, rather on my child's.

For various reasons, I wish that the job market was in a few months. I have several things coming up that will make my cv look more impressive in a few months, but that is the way of things.

I'm trying to be aggressive about asking for advice on how to make my profile more attractive (other than the useless advice of "publish.") I appreciate the feedback that I get, even if it often comes with hard pills to swallow. So far, I think I am doing a good job of not reading statements like "Congratulations on X, it will help your profile" for what it is, rather than code for "You have a weak profile."

This too will pass.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Thoughts on Christmas

This time of year usually finds me hunkering down in an underground cellar somewhere, trying to avoid contact with radio, TV or shop windows. When I do have to go to the grocery store or drug store,  I try to make it as minimal a trip as possible, skipping the usual wander down aisles not related to my grocery list to see if there is anything we need that I forgot to write down. If it can wait until next weeks' trip, it does.

Not that I have anything against Christmas. It is a perfectly legitimate religious holiday for cultural Christians. However, as neither I, nor my partner, consider ourselves cultural Christians, we don't wish it thrust upon our household.

I do have an awful lot against Christmas muzak, blinking strings of light in bright colors and the red and white fluff that seems to take over every storefront in sight starting the day after Halloween. In short, the I spend November and December in the US hiding from the in-your-face commercial loudness of Christmas in the US.

If, in your exuberance over the upcoming holiday, you wish me a Merry Christmas when passing me on the street, I will wish you the same. If your store asks you to wish everyone at the checkout counter "Happy Holidays," I have an issue to take up with your manager.

November and December in the US are filled, for me, of feeling outcast and marginalized a country that is so fundamentally based on religious freedom.


I cannot tell you the relief I feel this year at not experiencing this anger and sadness this year. Maybe it is because My City's and His Town's celebrations are not as garish and loud as in places I've lived in the US. Most of the lights I've seen around have been the simple strings of white light, which can be quite pretty.

Maybe it's because muzak is less of a thing in the places I find myself now a days. I spend a lot of time every week in airports and train stations, waiting, and window shopping. My main disappointment this Christmas shopping season has been that the earrings that I really liked but didn't buy before Thanksgiving at Claire's are no longer there, the display having been replaced by seasonal earrings featuring glitter and red bows. If I walk into one shop to hear Christmas muzak, I wander out and into the next one, which isn't playing it. No one, not one, clerk has yet to wish me Merry Christmas, or Happy Holidays.

I should point out that both His Town and My City are in countries that have a much closer constitutional relationship with Christian Churches than the US.

Neither University E, nor University F, have put lights up on campus. I am not aware of a "Holiday Shrub" hanging out in the student center or main quad anywhere. Though His Town did put up lights a few weeks ago, with a big todo involving Batman, Santa and fireworks. There is also a large tree in one of the main squares (in the center of a shopping district) in town. My city has Christmas markets up, including little kids rides.

Maybe it is that I am not keyed into the things that these cultures do for Chirstmas, so I am not noticing them as they happen. Maybe in a few years, local Christmas practices will grate on me as much as the ones in the States did. Maybe the European caricature of the US is correct: all the religious fanatics from this continent fled to North America, which explains much of its current state.

Whatever the reason, I am grateful to feel included as a resident of my two cities, not by any active act, but by just being left in peace.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Post Thanksgiving eggmus

I thought I had a lot of posts to write after thanksgiving, but either they turned out to be too personal, or I turned out to be too sick/jetlagged/swamped.

But there's nothing like coming back online with stories about Epsilon.

Jetlag is lousy. Jetlagged kids in your bed are worse. 
1:30 am 
Epsilon: Daddy, I can't sleep.
Partner: I know. Keep trying.
E: (Kissing head) I love you. (Rolls over to try to sleep.)
1:34 am
E: (Kissing head) I love you. (Tries to find a comfortable position.)
1:37 am
E: (Kissing head) I love you. (Rolls over.)
1:39 am
E: (Kissing head) I love you Daddy. (Rolls over again.)
1:42 am
E: (Kissing head) Daddy, I love you. (Tosses and turns a bit.)
(Repeat at approximately 3 minute intervals)
3:00 am
E: (Snoring)

Can't quite get upset at him for that one.


Epsilon's always liked bright colorful socks. Recently, he's become a huge fan of pink. The definition of pretty is now "has pink in it somewhere".

Partner: See that big girl with the pretty shoes?
Epsilon: (Pulling off his galoshes) I know. I have pretty socks!
Big Girl (aged about 5): Are you a girl or a boy?
E: I'm a big boy. .... I'm a big girl.
BG: (Confused) Are you a girl or a boy?
E: I'm a big boy. .... I'm a big girl.
BG: (Frustrated) Are you a girl or a boy?
E: I'm a big boy. .... I'm a big girl.
BG: (To Partner) Is it a girl or a boy?
P: Does it matter?
E: I'm a big boy. .... I'm a big girl.

Sometimes I worry about him holding his head up high in this world of gender roles. Sometimes, I don't.