Archive for: January, 2011

"top searches"

Jan 22 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Found this as a search that led to my blog:
"can you collect unemploymment if you don't get tenure"

That is kind of depressing.

5 responses so far

calling in reinforcements

Jan 16 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

A long time ago, I lived in a very "red" state. The place I now call home is not so conservative, which I like because it is more aligned with my own politics. I may not always agree with my blue friends, but we agree on some basic premises that enable us to have interesting/productive conversations. This is not true here. While it is always a shock when I take a trip back to catch up with folks and find myself immersed in the red-state culture. This trip, for some reason, has been particularly frustrating. I have had several conversations in the past couple of days that make me want to tear my hair out.

Here are a couple of positions that I have had to defend:
1. Tenure is not a mechanism for lazy people to suck at teaching.
It became clear in this conversation that the folks I were speaking with felt that teaching is the main/only job of an academic faculty. I tried to explain that teaching was a small part of my job, and that basic research is important for laying a foundation that allows for the development of treatments for diseases, etc. That research leads to economic development and jobs. The response? "meh. maybe we'll go along with that. but tenure is evil and makes it so you can't fire people that suck at their job". So I follow up with people that suck at their job won't get tenure. I try to explain that tenure is a way to keep smart people in a difficult job that doesn't pay well. It is a "carrot" at the end of a long career training and it allows folks to study topics that may become politicized without fearing for their job. I told them that people don't check out after they get tenure, and, while you can't be "fired", at least where I work, you do have to cover part of your salary by landing grants.

I would say that we agreed to disagree on this one.

2. people, in general, do not avoid getting jobs so they can collect unemployment
I almost exploded my head on this one. This topic is a little out of my league, and I haven't really researched it well enough to be a good advocate for my position. But I tried. The basic premise of the argument that I heard was that most people are lazy and just want the government to give them money. Or else they will go sell drugs (WTF? I have no idea where this came from so I just ignored it). The first piece of evidence presented to me is that there are a lot of jobs available out here (this anecdote is supported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which indicates the lowest unemployment is in mostly rural states). So, if people really wanted jobs they would move here. I tried several approaches here. I raised the possibility that some people can't move, because of family, child care, medical reasons, etc. Or that there might negative consequences if we force the entirety of American workers to become migrants that "follow" the jobs. Or that people who were trained to be computer scientists might actually not work out so well working on a farm. Over and over I heard: if they WANTED a job they would make it work. So I changed tactics: suppose that all the jobs were in the big cities on the east coast. Would you move out there to take a job doing something that are totally unfamiliar with? The predictable answer: I would if that is what I had to do to feed my children! Then came the "I heard Joe say that he wanted to hire someone but they wouldn't start for 2 weeks because they still had that much unemployment". I tried to explain that even if this was a true story, it was probably not representative of the entire population.

We declared an impasse.

3. white people are NOT discriminated against
Now, I really felt like I had some good arguments when this topic came up. And that I was RIGHT! The argument started when it was proposed that the fact there were Associations for *insert your favorite non-white here* that it was discrimination - there is no Association for White Men, after all. I pointed out that almost every "business association" or the like is basically the AWM. They argued that the non-whites should learn to "work within the system". I pointed out that it is hard to do this if you are blocked from entering "the system". They argued that discrimination ended long ago. I called bullshit, pointed out that there are still overt discrimination based on gender and ethnicity when it comes to hiring not to mention other less obvious barriers that prevent people from having the opportunities that WM take for granted. A female in the room pointed out that she had witnessed discrimination, but had been able to become successful anyway. So discrimination is not an excuse for failure.

My head exploded. Thankfully it was time to call it a night.

I feel like there was a time in my life when I could engage better with folks more conservative than myself. I wonder if the fact that I now live in blue-topia has dulled my debating skills? The people I'm talking to are not stupid (though they may be misinformed in some regards). In my view, these discussions are chances for folks from very different viewpoints to understand why we have such different perspectives. But I don't think that I understand folks out here any better than before these conversations. And I suspect that my arguments haven't actually done anything to make the folks out here think any differently of the "liberal elite".

So, dear readers (both of you!!). I need some help. What is it that I am doing wrong with my interactions here? Please keep in mind that "don't talk to those people" is not very helpful.

22 responses so far

It gets better - in Canada, too!

Jan 14 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

I am crushed with trying to get the lab in order so that I can head back to the homeland and visit the folks. But I did sneak a few minutes to check out some blogs and ran across a post from Cath at VWXYNot that is fantastic. She has embeded a super-awesome music video from the "It gets better project", and highlighted the Canadian version of the project. Bullying is a big problem in schools in general, and it can be especially devastating for GLBT teens that may not have any support at home. After a series of gay teens committed suicide, Dan Savage started the "It gets better project" to try and reach troubled GLBT kids and give them some external support and, hopefully, a reason to hang in there. It may not be the perfect message for all kids, but I think that it is great. I know that a major thing that kept me going in high school was the idea that it would be better when I went off to college. AND IT DID!!

Take home message: bullying sucks, for all kids that are targets. We need to stop bullying in the schools. But for the kids suffering now, please try to hang in there. There are people that care about you, and that need to have you around.

One response so far

I admit, it is my fault

Jan 11 2011 Published by under queer, Uncategorized

That is right. Birds are falling out of the sky because of me. And also gay soldiers. But lets not lose focus...because I, apparently, HAVE THE POWER TO MAKE BIRDS DROP OUT OF THE SKY!!


damn, shit like this pisses me off.

12 responses so far

How Saturday ruined my week.

Jan 09 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

It's a rare moment in my world: I'm sitting at home ALONE! One of the most unexpected changes in my life after Mini-G came onto the scene is that I almost never spend any time at home by myself. I planned to head out for a nice run and then head into lab to work on my grant, but first I'm taking some moments to enjoy this opportunity.

Whew! So, this last week has been a whirlwind! I had three new peeps start in the lab. So far as I can tell, they are doing super! Folks are getting along. Everyone seems to be getting the hang of  the system pretty well, and data is starting to trickle in. It seems like a great group. Woo Hoo! I have also started moving toward 2 new collaborations with folks in my MRU that I think could be really fun.

I went into lab yesterday afternoon (after a super morning with Mini-G) feeling pretty good about how 2011 had started. Then I turned on the computer to discover the horrible tragedy that had unfolded in Arizona. I don't know whether to be more sad or angry. I have no idea why this young man did such a horrible thing, and I really don't think it matters. In the past couple of years there have been a lot of hateful words thrown around. These people, like Sarah Palin, may now claim that they were speaking metaphorically. But words matter. I want to hope that this tragedy will force people to reconsider how they use words, making it possible to have a more civilized discourse in this country. I want to believe that using violent speech will no longer be tolerated in the public arena, even from folks that are "on your side". Surely we can do better as individual citizens and as a country?

My thoughts are with the friends and families of all the people that were killed and injured in that parking lot in Tuscon.

4 responses so far

Happy New Year!

Jan 04 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Thanks everyone for following me around! I'm glad that you could find the place alright. I'm still settling in, but I wanted to get the New Year started off over here.

I have cut-and-paste my old posts from LabSpaces, but (unfortunately) I have not been able to bring along the comments, which were generally super useful. My apologies to all the folks that left such excellent comments.

the following is cross-posted at LabSpaces

There is no one reason that I am leaving. When I joined LabSpaces, I didn’t really know what I was getting into. At first everything was great. The people were fantastic, I made some new friends, and I felt like there were a lot of interesting commentators that I hadn’t been able to talk with before. But, like others I have been feeling to feel a little unsettled recently. I just feel like there are some things that aren’t working out as I had thought they would. In any event, I’ve decided to try flying solo. I would like to thank Brian for giving me a shot in his group, and I wish him and everyone at LabSpaces the best. I will, of course, still stop by to say hello.

Have a great new year!

14 responses so far