Monday, February 28, 2011

Time to pay myself

Spent the weekend doing my taxes. I used the old-fashioned method, paper and pen. Snail mail it out tomorrow. I prefer to do them myself because in the amount of time it takes me to explain my complicated situation to a tax pro, I can just go ahead and fill in the forms myself.

Shouldn't I be exempt from paying taxes on the portion of my salary that comes from grant money? I never understood how that one gets justified.

Friday, February 25, 2011

What is a PO anyway?

Is it like a write-off for the postoffice? Should I get the insurance? (See appropriate Seinfeld episode)

Everyone seems to interpret it differently. Some companies just send me stuff right away along with a bill. Some send me quote to then place the order. I request a PO, our purchasing department issues POs. Some places let me pay via PO. It's all very confusing. What is it anyway? Is it a wire transfer? Do my people send your people a check? I don't know, I don't really even care, I just want my stuff by Monday.

Today it took me 4 emails to clarify how to buy something using a PO from a particular company. I have have to send them a copy of the email I send to my people requesting payment using a PO.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Pseudo Sciency Work Post

Although it's technically not past the deadline yet, yesterday I admitted defeat for the grant proposal I was working on. It's no where near being done. This is a first for me. Failure to complete a scheduled task, especially one that involves my success in academia and being able to pay my trainees salaries, is unacceptable. Of course I'm writing this post instead of working on the proposal. Ugh.

A major reason (lying to myself) it's not done is because it's my first proposal outside my core areas of expertise. I want to use a new laser thingy in the proposed research. I have a rudimentary understanding of how it works and I think my minions can make a widget that will extend its functionality. I'm an expert in making these types of widgets.

The person that owns the laser thingy is an expert in the field of laser thingies and when I talk to them, I feel like a complete dumbass, and while they are willing to let me try out my widget, they are quite skeptical as to how awesome it will be. My gut tells me the widget/laser combo will rock and that they just don't understand how awesome my widgets are.

Do I need to become an expert on laser thingies when writing the proposal? Or should I stick with my new plan of having my minions build the widget, get preliminary data, then go off and write the proposal? I asked the laser thingy expert to be a co-PI and haven't heard back in over a day.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Growing Engineering Community

I think hires english majors to make the normal weather days seem more interesting. Here is a sampling of the forcast for my area: a mainly sunny sky, cloudy, mix of sun and clouds, abundant sunshine, partly cloudy, a few clouds, and a mix of sun and clouds.

Cloudy and abundant sunshine are obvious, but how should the others be ranked? What is the scientific conversion into percentage of cloud cover? And why are people so obsessed with what the sky looks like? Doesn't everyone work in a windowless room with no clocks anyway?

Also, Scientopia is hosting guest blogger, FrauTech, who is part of It's a new blog site for us engineers. Can't wait to get some chemical and biological engineers on there to round out the discipline.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Declining education standards

I never thought I would be one of those people. Especially so soon. Back in my day, which is by no means that long ago, there was this notion that not everyone was meant to be an engineer or to get an engineering degree from an accredited university. Apparently, this is not the case any more. I was "informed" today by our special "education faculty" that engineering is changing. That today's students need to be engaged, that they need to have things explained to them 3 different ways because not everyone learns the same way. These statements I don't disagree with, and I do try out emerging teaching methods, as much as possible during TT. I go to workshops. I try to be more enthusiastic than the profs I had that just faced the board for the entire class period and rewrote their notes without taking questions.

This next one shocked me. Over 20% of college undergrads are in contact with their parents 4-5 times per DAY! What college kid that has just moved out of their parents home for the first time wants to talk to their parents instead of enjoying and exploring this ultimate freedom? Who are these parents that want to hear from their kids multiple times per day?

This final one blew my fuken mind. "Experts" agree that toughness is MORE important than being SMART! Holy Fuken Shite! You did not just say that. Since when is trying good enough? I hope that engineer isn't designing nuclear reactors or airplanes. Please, for the sake of humanity, tell me that no one else is taking this crackpot stance on engineering education! I went to a giant public top-tier university. The class average in engineering classes was a B-/C+. Getting a D of any kind meant you had to repeat the course. You have a problem with that, there's the door. I worked my ass off and I liked it. Did I complain to my parents that it was hard and that the instructors sucked? Yes. I'm not perfect. Did I have them call the school and complain? No. Did I ever complain that I DESERVE a better grade for trying? No.

Are all private schools so money driven and appeasing of their money stream? Not to mention the extra kicker, these budget models where the college gets money based on enrollment. Great business model, terrible education model. Why would we ever fail anyone? And don't give me that crap that our students are so awesome coming in that they can't possibly fail at something. Using that reasoning, why bother even having classes? Just give them the degree when the check clears.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Fun ancedotes for Monday

I am giving my first exam of the semester next Monday morning. After today's class a student came up to me and asked if they could take the class on a different day. I asked why. They said that they were going on a vacation with their parents over the weekend. (strike one) I played along, will they not be back by Monday morning? No, they were coming back Sunday night, but then would have to study all night for the exam. (strike two) Would you rather take the exam on Thursday before you leave so you can enjoy your vacation? Maybe. When would you study for the exam if you took it on Thursday? Wednesday night. I think you should take the exam on Monday and study Wednesday night before you leave and hope that you don't forget everything before Monday morning. I guess I can study Sunday night. Great.

I ordered an under the counter safety cabinet. I assumed that under the counter means it fits under a counter. It arrive today. It is taller than a standing height work bench. Ugh. Hello new bright yellow benchtop space.

In my mailbox at home was a letter from my current employers College of Professional Studies. They invite me to hone my competitive edge and earn a graduate degree. I wonder if I can get credit towards a degree for a class that I myself teach. I've known TAs that were students in their own class, why not professors?

And it's only Monday.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Another week gone by

Sorry about the lack of posts. Proposal deadlines this month have been eating up my fun time along with teaching.

On the teaching front, our department has been struggling with the amount of emphasis it wants to place on teaching versus research for the faculty. As a private school, there is much talk about how we are here only because of the undergrads. I was hired to be research active faculty. I care about teaching, but I have no plans of redesigning courses or having office hours during the nights and weekends to keep students happy. I'm a bit worried because we have some well liked teaching faculty (we call them academic specialists or something like that) that do things like this and are loved by the students. The faculty that push teaching also quickly and often point to these people as examples of model educators. Granted they are teaching four courses per semester, but they have no research or service responsibilities. They are also not tenure track, yet I feel like my teaching is being held to the same standards. And of course, I can't seem to get any official feedback from anyone.