Sunday, September 02, 2007

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Travel: In the summer, I typically do a fair amount of traveling for professional and personal reasons, but this summer I was away more than usual. For example, I have been on the road for 6 of the past 10 weeks, and that was too much. Next summer I will organize things differently so that my travel is more spaced out, and I might say no to some invitations to participate in workshops and conferences if they require non-stop travel for weeks.

Research, writing etc.: I wrote several papers, revised several, reviewed a lot, edited a lot, and so on. Fortunately this type of activity can occur even during travel, though I wish I were the kind of person who could read and write in moving vehicles. I feel satisfied with my research progress overall, though once I started traveling in July, I was no longer able to get in the lab myself and collect data, and that was frustrating. I am teaching two classes this semester (and taking the intermediate level of the language class I started last year), so it might be a while before I get back in the lab for more than a few hours here and there.

Advising: Most of my students were very busy this summer and it was fun keeping track of their various activities and discussing (either in person or by email) their results and ideas. We will have a party later this week to celebrate that we are all back in the department and to welcome the new students and researchers in the group.

Outreach/Service: I did more of this than is typical for me in the summer. I don't regret the time, but I definitely didn't know, when I agreed to participate in some educational activities, how much time it would all take (i.e., weeks, including preparation time and travel). One of the organizers of the most time-consuming event said to me and another professor from a research university "Do you know how difficult it is to find people like you who would agree to do this?". I think it was meant as a compliment, but the other professor and I later discussed whether it really meant that we were just more gullible than our peers. When asked to suggest faculty to teach next year's workshop, we hesitated to suggest people we actually like [that's mostly a joke, but not 100%]. The rewards of participating were great, but the commitment of time and energy was immense.

Reading: The best books I read recently were "A Spot of Bother" (Mark Haddon) and "Number 9 Dream" (David Mitchell; I also loved his other books). The worst book was "Giraffe" (J.M. Ledgard).

So, despite being stuck on a long flight with nothing to read but a book whose first chapter is narrated by a giraffe fetus, Summer 2007 was pretty good. Things have turned around for me in terms of my department habitat owing to the new department chair and the continued presence of an excellent and fun colleague, and I feel much better at the start of the new academic year than I did at this time last year.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, I need to learn how to multitask, I have a serious problem with that. That and getting distracted...

Can you read on the plane, or does that count as a moving vehicle? I find that people who can't read in a car can do so very easily on a plane. Unless it's one of those short stop one engine ones that are 30 years old and don't pressurize the cabin.

Quantum Moxie said...

While I have never read the particular Mark Haddon book that you mention, I did immensely enjoy his book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, a surprisingly poignant novel written from the point-of-view of an autistic kid.

Female Science Professor said...

Yes, I really liked that book as well, so you might like the new one too.