Monday, September 08, 2008

She Said/They Said

The other day I was standing in line at a local eatery to acquire some take-out food so that I could have that cherished experience of eating at my desk, when the person next to me in line asked:

Aren't you [insert my real name]?

Me: Yes.

Other person: I work in the Development Office at the university, and we were just talking about you. You have children, don't you?

Me: I have one child, a daughter.

Other person: How old is she?

Me: [insert tween age]

Other person: I remember when my daughters were that age. [insert rambling reminiscence, at some point during which we both acquire our food]. Well, it was great to talk to you. [leaves]

Do I really want to know who "we" are and why the development office at my large university was discussing me and my offspring?

Imaginary scenario #1 in the Development Office:

Person 1: One of our alums was asking if there are any women faculty in the science departments. I know there are some. Do you know anything about them?

Person 2: What about that woman in the X Department? There was something written about her in that boring and crass glossy magazine the university publishes.

Person 1: Oh that's right, now I remember. She seems kind of strange. I wonder what her kids are like.

Preferred imaginary scenario #2 in the Development Office:

Person 1: I am so tired of chasing after big donors who are only interested in the athletics program or having their name on a plaque in a corridor of some biomedical building. I wish we could highlight something different for a change.

Person 2: Perhaps we could try to get more money for physical sciences research at the University. The physical sciences are central to most major issues facing the world today, and some physical sciences faculty at this university are doing fascinating research.

Person 1: That's so true. For example, there's that professor over in the X Department. I was reading about her research and how she manages her career and family life. Maybe that's the kind of faculty we should be supporting.

Person 2: Yes, I agree completely, especially if she can use the prefix nano in the name of some of her research projects.


Shriram Krishnamurthi said...

Hey, at least it didn't end with:

I remember when my daughters were that age. [insert rambling reminiscence, at some point during which we both acquire our food]. Now my daughter's grown up and become an investigative journalist, and she's got a great big scoop exposing the real identity of a famous blogger! So, thanks for confirming all that. Well, it was great to talk to you. [leaves]

Bright side, FSP. Bright side.

Meanwhile, here's hoping you get that endowed chair without having to slave yourself to nano-anything.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

"nano" ::snorts with laughter:: I was just talking about this the other day with a friend, wondering if putting nano in my book title (on law & gender in the middle ages) would help it find a publisher. It's down to either that, or "Harry Potter and the Gendered Construction of Medieval Law."

Anonymous said...

Notorious: "Salin Palin and Medieval Law" would fly like hotcakes!

and hey, throw Sex in the title to get the white male buyers and undecideds:)

Female Science Professor said...

How about nanosex?

Anonymous said...

Nanosex? Trying to decide if that would leave certain parts of our society (read those with Y chromosome) trembling with anguish, just in case their current or ex- significant other had written a tell all book OR if that title would lead people to buy the book assuming it was a book about having sex in that tiny Indian car - the Tata Nano. In either case, it would be a bestseller. Great! Now I am depressed and need a drink

Alex said...


I think of the trajectory of the internet, which started off as a toy of the military until people realized it could also be used to deliver pr0n (an early adopter of ecommerce, and allegedly a source of funding for some key work on image compression algorithms). At that point, it took over the world.

Although most nano stuff is just hype, I assume that at some point the military will find something useful, which they will implement rather inefficiently. It will remain a military toy until sexual applications are found. Either some of those bionanotoys used to make troops stronger and more alert and heal faster will turn out to have benefits in places other than the battlefield, or else some nanoelectronics will enable fully interactive 3D simulations that stimulate all the senses. At that point, nanotechnology will quickly find its way into every household.

As somebody who does nano-scale optics and lives less than an hour from the San Fernando valley, I suddenly see a whole new funding opportunity....

flit said...

"Harry Potter and the Gendered Construction of Medieval Law."

Too funny ... I love it.

I often am told that "we" have been talking about me... was fairly common at my undergrad u ... but it was a relatively small program in a larger college and I'd been there in so many different capacities, sometimes simultaneously, that I never really thought about it - although I was/am, of course, always interested in learning what "we" were saying.

The weird thing is that now that I am at a much bigger 'real' university, where I really do not expect to be known in the same sort of way AT ALL ... I have still had the experience of discovering that "we" are onto me already... during our first week of orientation to graduate studies, for example, there was way more name recognition associated with my very charming Hello My Name Is... tag than I expected...

most of it related to my scholarship success it seems. I suppose it could be worse.

Doctor Pion said...

"especially if she can use the prefix nano" is just hysterically funny.

I think they are even using carbon nanotubes in concrete.