Sunday, November 28, 2010

Giving Birth to a Mouse: Stuart Little

E.B. White's Stuart Little creeps me out a bit.  The expectant parents go to the hospital and come back with a ..... mouse!  The woman gave birth to a mouse! 

It doesn't phase my kids at all. But I can't get past it. 

And I can't imagine a woman having written it.  (I'm assuming the creepiness part never occurred to White.)

I notice that in the movie version, Stuart is adopted.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Job Interviews and Breastfeeding

For the campus interview for my current job, I had to leave my 7-month old daughter for several days.  I left her, but brought the breast pump.  I know I'm not the first one who has had to worry about how to gracefully bow out from the interview for a quick trip back to the hotel to pump milk.  But I've never heard or read anyone tell their story before.  So I thought I'd put it out there.

Breastfeeding moms need to pump their milk (for me, at least a couple times a day) to ensure the milk supply continues.  My nursing friend called it "pump-and-dump."  In this instance, you're not trying to save up that milk, just keep it from drying up.

But at campus interviews, they think they own you for 48-hours.  It might be very awkward to tell the person doing the schedule that you really need to go back to the hotel before dinner.   If you don't tell them the reason, they might think you're anti-social, or stubborn, or not a team player.  After all, no other candidate asked for such special treatment!  If you do tell them, you might wonder at dinner, "Is it just my imagination, or are they staring at my breasts?"

My milk supply was pretty reliable.  So in my case, I just suffered through it and pumped at 9pm, once  back from dinner.  In retrospect, for someone who must pump earlier, I would let the chair of the search and the person in charge of scheduling know that I needed some time back at the hotel for...what? Medical reasons?  Personal, medically-related reasons?  I wouldn't want to just say "personal reasons"--too vague and too open to interpretation (is she a diva? is she lazy? ....).

In my department, I'm open about such things. But on a job interview, I just don't want to go into details.

Any stories or ideas out there? Have you been interviewed as a lactator?  What would you advise someone to say or do?  How to make it not quite so awkward?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Kids of Academics--Joy in Their Joy, Smart Approaches to Their Smarts

The academic community is awash in brilliant children.  We love our little geniuses.  And we tend to stress out about them and their brilliance (myself included). 

I always thought my son (10-yrs old) was smart.  He could follow complicated plots from an early age and had sophisticated and nuanced understandings of the stories I read.  He also was good at math concepts as a preschooler, such as squared versus cubed (yeay Montessori!).  Also, he had a very high vocabulary and incredible recall (excellent listener).

BUT, transitioning from Montessori to 1st grade public, he performed poorly on the basics.  He was behind most of the kids on reading and writing, and about average on math (lot of smart kids in our university/high-tech community).  There were a few problems.

First, he wasn't good at basic memorization (too boring).  So while he could figure out how many square inches in a cube, he couldn't quickly recite 3 + 4.  And while he had much more advanced taste in reading material, he couldn't rapidly identify basic sight words (your, our, she....).  In 1st-2nd grade, none of his strengths were apparent, as all focus was on the basics. 

Second, he was a very process-oriented, not results-oriented, kid.  He was engaged with the process of learning, but wasn't interested in performing it for others or even finishing a project.  He's obedient and would do his schoolwork, but he wouldn't feel the need to be very careful or very fast.  He had an excellent grasp of physics for his age and loved to experiment at home--but never wanted to put together an actual finished project for the science fair.

I was happy that he was still in love with learning.  But I also wanted him to get past that boring phase of memorizing sight words and basic math facts so that he could enjoy the higher-order stuff.  I also worried that he was starting to think of himself as "not smart"--I was getting signs from him this was wearing on his self-esteem.

Neurons started connecting in his brain (or something!).  That, plus a LOT of work with flashcards at home.  He made major progress on reading levels in 1st grade.  Math came along.  Writing took a couple of years.  He remains a very poor speller (no two ways about it).

So we knew he was smart, but it wasn't reflected in the classroom.  And he wasn't marked for "academically talented" testing.  I was OK--I figured he'd do fine in college.  Plus, he was a very happy kid, and that's what matters most in life.  We took it upon ourselves to expose him to a lot of material, ideas, and experiences that were educational and engaging.

But after a 4th grade standardized math test, I got an email that my son was eligible to skip two grades in math.  For the first time, the school recognized his intelligence.  I had trouble processing.  The school had treated him as average for so long.  Had someone failed him up to now?  Me?  His teachers?  Ultimately, I think his brain developed and his attitude changed such that he wanted to do well and finish on time and had the ability to focus.  The next 4th grade standardized state-wide tests in reading, writing, and math further revealed to the school that he was "smart"--one of the best in the grade. 

So I am the parent of a child who has never advertised his intelligence. He was a stealth smart kid.  Until now.  Last night, talking to his cousins by phone, I heard him bragging about being in 7th grade math as a 5th-grader.  Ideally, I'd like him to continue to be "in love with learning" without needing to let others know (without exactly saying it) that he is smarter than they are.  He was on the losing end of this hierarchy until recently, and it sure didn't help his self-esteem back then! 

Not quite sure how to handle it.  He is rightly proud of himself, as he worked really hard this summer to master 5th-6th grade math.  And it is certainly fine to tell others that he's in 7th grade math.  The trick is how to do it in such a way that it is not at others' expense.

When it comes to smart kids, there's considerable amount of talk on parenting blogs about skipping a grade.  I must say that skipping up two grades--but just in math--has been GREAT for my son.   We had a quick mid-semester meeting with his middle-school math teacher, and I confess I was surprised that he had 100%.  I don't think he ever scored a perfect score in math until this year on a test, never mind consistently.  Plus, he now officially likes math.  But he doesn't have to leave his friends behind and form new friendships with kids a year older.  He is socially mature and tends towards kids older than him. But completely skipping to the next grade would probably be too much.

I like this method of skipping grades in a subject, as opposed to skipping the child in all subjects (which seems still the norm).   I have some insight, as I skipped 4th grade.  All in all, this was a good thing for me.  However, there are a LOT of issues regarding social development that never seem to come up, except for here in this NYT Motherlode post by Lisa Belkin and the comments.  For example, a comment by Anne from Wisconsin points out what the social world is like once those grade-advanced kids reach high school (including that s/he will be driving a year later than everyone else, putting them at the mercy of friends' driving skills).

Getting back to academic kids--some of my professor friends (including 3 good friends) have children on the autism spectrum.  All Asperger's.  Extremely smart, but also facing many challenges.  The challenges include an apparently higher rate of depression and even suicidal thoughts at a surprisingly young age.  I don't know where I'm going with this, except that so much of this all seems in large part inheritable--intelligence, but also Asperger's and its attendant emotional/psychological challenges. 

More than anything, I want my children to be happy in life!  Happy store clerks--that would be OK.  Maybe not ideal--but better than depressed academics.  Seriously.   

My son is a happy boy.  My daughter careens between cranky and joyful and bossy -- we're working on this.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

My Thanksgiving Backlog

Happy Thanksgiving! 
I am thankful for so much. My family most of all.

But Thanksgiving week is also the week when I try very hard to catch up on my backlog.  This year is particularly bad.  So I am also thankful that my family hasn't yelled at me yet for working this morning.

Meet my To-Do list:
  • Grading:
    • 1 term paper for Euro university (40 pgs) asap
    • 36 papers for class (5-7 pgs ea) by Tues but haven't started yet
  • Reviews:
    • 2 manuscripts for journals - both due in 2-3 weeks
    • 1 book review for a journal - due last August :(
  • Research:
    • revise and resubmit by Dec. 17 (this is what is killing me the most)
    • prep campus lecture (new) to give Dec. 2
    • continue to work on paper with student for submission by Jan. 31
    • my book manuscript - draft last 3 chapters by May 2011
  • Read and give comments:
    • 2 chapters of colleagues book manuscript - due asap
    • 2 chapters of grad student dissertation - due week of Dec. 6
    • 1 article manuscript by grad student - due whenever she makes an apptmt with me and sticks to it.
  • Service
    • prepare two new course proposals - due a year ago
    • all sorts of other little things
  • Courses for next semester:
    • prep an entire new course! gulp
  • Recommendations
    • three letters of recommendation - not so bad
I am thankful it's not worse!  But yes, I am working (for just a few hours) on Thanksgiving day. 

My son is bummed because nearly every single one of his friends has gone somewhere this week for the holidays.  Unfortunately, I couldn't dream of taking a vacation right now.  I so desperately need this week of no classes so I can catch up on work!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

And Now for Something Different-Fashion Report

Two years ago I discovered Not Your Daughter's Jeans (NYDJ).  They are really comfortable, well-made, and fit middle-age women.  I bought two pair of the boot cut jeans (wide-leg, but not bell-bottoms), even though they are about $100 a pop--that's how good they are!  

And I was happy with them, except that they look best with a couple-inch heel shoe--pointy-toe.  You know that style.  In my area a lot of women over-30 (myself included) wear clogs with the boot-cut jeans--less flattering, but we're moms!

Then I went to Europe a few weeks ago.  European women (at least in the country of my visit) have fully embraced the jeans tucked in boot style.  You know what I mean.  On my campus, nearly every single female student is wearing jeans (or black leggings) tucked in Ugg boots or riding boots or rain boots (Hunter brand).

I felt like such a fashion fuddy-duddy.  In Europe, I was the only one around (under, say, 65) who hadn’t made the transition.  I was bummed, since my boot cut jeans still look almost new.  Plus, I thought you had to be skinny to wear this style.   But then I saw a lot of average weight women wearing the style.

Long-story short, I went to Nordstrom’s and splurged on a sweater ($68), two pairs of KUT from the Kloth Skinny Stretch Jeans ($69 ea) plus these:

Cole Haan.  They were $189.  Definitely my most expensive shoe ever (except for ski boots).  But I LOOOOOVE them.  I wore them 6 days in the first week.  They are so comfy.  And notice--they are flat.  That's the best thing of all--flat shoes are fully back in style.  The jeans are great too: less expensive than NYDJ, well-made, and very comfy.  And my 5-yr old says they don't make my butt look big.

Until recently, I tended to buy less expensive shoes, say $30 - $50 on sale. But I'd buy several each season.  I've started buying one really good, expensive pair of shoes each season.  They last several years and they are so much more comfortable. 

So, that's how I've rationalized my big Nordstrom shopping extravaganza. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Unequal Pay--Don't they have laws against this?

A grad student that I work with is on the job market.  She is doing great as an ABD, especially in this market.  She has 3 on-campus interviews thus far. 

Get this: a university contacted her via email and told her they had narrowed the candidates down considerably. Due to budget cut backs, they needed to ensure that the salary range that they were authorized to offer for this job was acceptable to the candidates before they flew anyone out for an interview. She was told her salary range was $48,000-$50,000. She agree to that.

Problem: the same school contacted another ABD in the department who had also applied. He is set to defend same month she is. So same degree, same stage in career, same job.  BUT he is told his salary range was $50,000-$59,000!  Yes--you read that correctly!

She is naturally curious as to how the calculated such different salary ranges.  Interestingly, she got an interview; he did not.

Amazing how stupid people with Ph.D.s can be--what could they be thinking?  For now, she is waiting to see how the job interview plays out.

Have you heard of similar stories in academia?  What do you think she should do?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Blogging Angst

Why do I blog? Behold, the facts:
  • I am boring.  I struggle with everyday tensions and conflicts and joys.  It is good for me to write about them--to explore, to vent, to write down for posterity.  But I can't expect anyone else to be very interested.  Really.
  • Blogging does not help my career in any way I can fathom, but for the need to vent.  
  • Sometimes I like to get on my soapbox. 
  • Sometimes I like to share something I've learned that helped me survive the publish or perish world or the parenting world--or both.
So, I blog to vent, get on my soapbox, share some news or lesson learned, figure something out through writing about it, or simply remember it later (usually kid-related).  I also like the virtual community and the mutual support that develops among bloggers--that is neat.  And I will try to write in a clear and engaging style for readers' sake.

But I will never make money, become even semi-famous, become a noticeably better parent, or get promoted from associate to full professor by blogging about it.  

I have to write this down, to document it for myself because I'm the type of person that could become a little too fixated on building a successful blog--pleasing the audience, looking for new followers, etc.  But that would take up waaaaaaay too much of my time and not really pay off much for an anonymous blogger such as myself.

So, back to work on my book, plus that revise and resubmit article due in 1 month! 
  • Oh, plus I have to arrange for four days worth of snacks for my daughter's kindergarten (it should have been 5 days, but we forgot to do it today!).  
  • And make sure my son finishes his homework (had a 7:30am mtg with his teacher this morning about the fact that it is taking him 2+ hrs to do his homework.  Unfortunately, nothing much resolved. And my son is going on 2 hrs again tonight as I write this.).  
  • And I didn't mention yet that I missed half my daughter's ballet recital tonight because my bus was 20 minutes late! It is NEVER late--except for ballet recital night.  (Luckily, her dad and brother were there for the entire recital. She hasn't figured out exactly when I arrived--so she's not mad. But I'm mad).

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Chairs and Deans--Crazy to begin with? Or does the job make them that way?

Big conference nearby.  I wasn't planning on attending, as I blew my measly conference money already, and I didn't see much on the program that I was dying to go to.  But some friends from my previous U called up from the pre-conference (they weren't on the program). 

It was so great to see them!  They are both such smart, reasonable, sane people.  And they manage to be very successful career-wise while having a nice life to boot.  In fact, one of them is now an associate dean.  She was chair for 8 years, and she published tons at the same time (still trying to figure this out). She also runs in marathons and manages to ski 20+ times a year.

So now the question is, why don't such people (especially women) exist at my current U?  People who stick their neck out here by going into admin positions seem to either get them chopped off or they get sucked into higher admin positions (which eventually takes its own toll, apparently).  Somehow, so many of the people who were chairs or deanlettes here are bitter, carrying a lot of baggage. 

Lesson learned--don't go into admin here, no matter the salary. I don't even want to be chair--ever! 

I wonder--is my current U is the norm or the exception?  Do deans seem to be a bit nuts most places?  Not quite healthy, balanced?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Online Courses--Love 'Em or Leave?

Yesterday, in a post on online courses, I mentioned that I had questioned whether quality was compromised.  I suspected that I had touched some raw nerves (though I asked the question not as an attack but rather as a concerned professor of a future online course). 

This morning, at 8:01AM, I received this message from the person in charge of online classes:
"I'd like to follow up -- if you don't think we can offer a quality online course  then we don't want to do it." 

This irritated me.  It is hard for me to formulate exactly why.  But I would have preferred a statement like, "We are firmly committed to online courses that retain the high quality of X University.  We look forward to working with you to ensure that you are able to produce a rigorous online learning experience for our students."  The response I did get seems more like, "Well if you don't like it, we'd prefer you leave."  Not a healthy environment for learning, I would say.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Are online courses dumbed down?

I went to a faculty forum for online classes, attended by a provost, many deans, as well as faculty that will be teaching such classes (like me). There is a big, big push this year (actually a pull--they are enticing us with money) for tenure/tenure-track faculty to teach online summer classes.

Two senior faculty discussed their experiences and gave some thoughtful advice. It was a pretty good forum.  So I'm coming along to the idea of online classes.

Except for one thing.  Both profs noted that they found that they couldn't shift the writing assignments from the semester course to the 5-wk online summer course. Students just couldn't keep up, for example, with 7 papers in 5 weeks.  So mid-semester they cut down the number of papers, in response to student complaints.

Doesn't that imply that summer school is easier (he said this would have been the case for any summer class)?  And why in the world can't the student write 7 papers in 5 weeks if they could write them in 15 weeks?  They are only taking 1 or 2 classes in summer.

Well, I REALLY touched a nerve by asking if this were the case.  The faculty weren't bothered by it (and several nodded their heads at the question).  But oh my did the summer/online administration get defensive!  And no, they did not suggest that student culture/expectations needed to be addressed.  Their main response was that, well, not all classes are appropriate for online teaching.

 New York Times has a recent article on the growth of online classes, especially at public universities.

Do you all have any insights?  Is your university/college pushing for online courses? In summer only (like my U) or all year round?

I'm baaaaack--forging headlong into endless meetings

Back from Europe.  Whew!  Last night I was trying to get my family people to understand that I was really, really tired.  I explained how time zones work--and then my son figured out that I had been up for 24 hours (not counting a few cat naps)!  No wonder I was falling asleep reading to my kids.

I scheduled many meetings with students today--to demonstrate my super-availability to them and make up for being gone a week. Guilt.

Plus, two 1.5 hr meetings that I'm not looking forward to.  I've been in this bulldozer-type of mode--just pushing through all these not-so-pleasant time-barriers (5am trip to airport, loooong flights, meetings).  Not thinking much, just doing. Light at the end of the tunnel, it's got to be there.  (Mixing metaphors--I'm still delirious).

Friday, November 5, 2010

Daphne on a Pumpkin

Doesn't the photo make you want to read more about this fabulous boy?  Go here, to nerdyapplebottom's post.  

To give you a taste: "If you think that me allowing my son to be a female character for Halloween is somehow going to ‘make’ him gay then you are an idiot. Firstly, what a ridiculous concept. Secondly, if my son is gay, OK. I will love him no less. Thirdly, I am not worried that your son will grow up to be an actual ninja so back off."

Moving, wonderfully written, and funny all in one.  Fight the power!

Taking Stock of My European Teaching Week

All in all, I enjoyed my 1 week course here in Europe.  It is exhausting teaching 3 hr lectures with jet lag.  But there were some highlights from this multi-national group of grad students:

* On the first day, before class, a student calls out from the back, "Hello Professor! Welcome! Have you ever met a Maasai before?"  That just cracks me up.

* One student is a famous stage actor in this EU country.  As if that's not delightful enough, he is also a gay father of a baby and a 6-yr old.  He stays here during the week with baby; 6-yr old and spouse are in big city 90 minutes away.  Seeing him with his baby, I realized how rare it is for me to see a man who is the primary parent, the main nurturer for a baby.  He calls himself the "mother."  He is indeed a beautifully loving parent.  Sigh...he makes me want another baby (ain't happening, though).

* One student is a retired child soldier from Sudan (often termed "Lost Boys/Girls of Sudan").  He is an inspiration--a wonderful example of humans' ability to overcome and triumph. 

* There is a great walking trail system here. Since this is my 2nd year here, I'm getting bolder. The trails go all over.  Luckily, the village is on a hill.  So I just head down a path and keep the village in view most of the time.  I've always managed to get back by some lovely path within an hour or so.

* I've eaten some wonderful meals now that the restaurants have opened up again after their two-day holiday (during which I could only buy cookies and chocolate at the little market).

Lovely spot, neat students--these make up for the low pay and long flight! 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Teaching Tips--or Survival Guide

I am not the perfect teacher. Indeed, my first semester at my new university--after 10 yrs teaching as a tenured/tenure-track professor elsewhere--really threw me for a loop and into the gutter.   But I bounced back (or clawed my way out).  And I've learned a few things through the years.

1. Try to convey why you find a topic fascinating.  Show your excitement (a smile or some facial expression that says "wow, isn't that amazing!")--or at the least say that it is fascinating.  I think this is the main thing I have going for my teaching.  Students mention it a lot. (Added plus: I find that acting excited or trying to find reasons to explain why something is fascinating can actually make me more excited.)

2. Praise in public; criticize in private.  Try to nip a problem with a student in the bud by asking him/her to talk with you after class.  Best not to show irritation--especially in front of others.

3. If the class does poorly as a whole, I don't tell them that.  Instead, I remain positive, praise the fact that some students did very impressive work (which thankfully has always been true), and encourage any students who might be disappointed with their grade to visit me in office hours. Then, if they do talk to me, we can focus specifically on that single student's work.

4. Try really, really hard to cut yourself a break when making up the syllabus.  Don't overload yourself with quizzes or research paper summaries--you'll just hate yourself for it later.  And maybe one less day of reading, so that you can spend a class before the midterm and final reviewing.  A longer test isn't necessarily a better test of students' mastery of the subject--but it is more likely to drive you crazy because remember, YOU have to grade it.  See Inktopia's post for more on this.

5. In the long-run, lectures are easier than discussion-driven classes.  I used to hand out reading-based discussion questions ahead of each class day and then run class by discussing their responses. It worked wonderfully--got me a campus teaching award even.  Until one semester it didn't. And students became resistant to the idea that they should have to do the readings on time. And since they didn't read, they thought class was unreasonably demanding and boring.  I give lectures these days to undergrads, and then generate discussion through asking questions within the lecture.  Getting those lectures up and running was hard.  But now it is a lot easier than rereading my own reading assignments for each class.  (A lot of you are probably saying "duh" right now. But hey, this was a big lightbulb for me.)

6. The first time I teach a class, I show a few documentaries or schedule some guest lecturers if at all possible.  Or else have 3-4 classes in which students give mini-presentations. Students love all these.  I usually phase them out over time, as I always find more to say each semester--but maybe I shouldn't.

7. Don't always stand rigidly on principle.  Sometimes you need to just cut your losses with a class and adjust your grading standards or policies.  Sometimes you even need to go into triage mode--and think of yourself as the patient.  I came into a new job in which the major had seriously languished and the students had very low expectations in terms of workload.  I caved in the first year, and over a couple years brought standards up to where they needed to be.  Now our majors are some of the best in the university.

Has anyone out there any good lessons learned?  Small tips or big light bulbs--all are welcome!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Is It My Heart That's Broken--or My Career?

I received a couple interesting comments to an earlier post, in which I rue the number of my female students who've turned down excellent law schools or have quit grad school in order to follow the men in their lives.  They made me think and produced a new post-length series of reflections.  So here goes....

Izzabitz noted that she had similar experiences and wondered if some of the talented women that she has seen forgo career opportunities to follow boyfriends/spouses is partly to do with fear of losing them.  I think she is right.  I wish I would see more couples meeting each others' career needs half-way. 

Nicole wrote, "In the past I would have thought the above stories are injustice and horrible. But now that I'm older and more experienced... academia and law school really aren't all that. People who are high quality and hard working will end up succeeding at whatever they do. And there's something to be said for not killing yourself working 80 hours a week whether you're single or familied."

I definitely agree about not killing yourself working 80hr weeks.  And I certainly hope these women's choices will lead them down a happy and successful path.

However, that is only part of the story.  Many of my undergrads go on to law school and don't directly impact my career either way.  But their willingness to defer their own career plans to those of their boyfriends speaks to a broader trend with my female grad students that has implications for my own career and future women in my male-dominated area of study. 

I am at a research university.  My own long-run success partially depends upon my ability to produce Ph.D.s, particularly those who do work similar to my own, who become known as "my students," who publish with me, get great jobs, and continue to cite me over the years.

I have had a terrible track record in terms of my female graduate students (but not my male ones).  You see, for their own individual, very good(-ish) reasons, the best ones have been getting married, having babies, and leaving grad school.

My best friend from grad school advises his students not to have children if they want to be successful (Yes, he's a jerk--we're not so close now).  I can tell that it even bothers him when they get married.  And you know what?  He has become very, very well-respected in our field for producing great graduate students--grad students that he published with and that get great positions themselves.  This success moved him from a good university (like my own) to one of the top five programs.

I don't want his job.  But if I did, I should be a lot more strategic about whom I take on as a grad student, only investing in those who seem the sure bets.  Not just saying yes to whomever asks (as I do now).

Grad students are incredibly time-consuming.  This summer, I had weekly hour-long Skype conversations with a sobbing student doing fieldwork.  She sends me papers she writes for other classes, expecting my feedback.  We're doing a joint project for which I got her funding at her request (which she currently seems to have put on her back, back, way back burner).  Etc, etc. 

In sum, I have a lot of time invested in her.  Yes, I said "invested."  It doesn't mean I don't like her.  It doesn't mean I don't care if she is happy or not.  But it does mean that I see this relationship ideally as somewhat reciprocal in the long run.  I am not Dr. Self Abnegation, working my butt off for the poor, suffering grad students and expecting nothing in return.  I really need the occasional win-win situation, in which we work together and both benefit career-wise.

It isn't all about me--but some of it needs to be.  As my blog bio says, I'm an academic mom struggling with the work life balance.  And every hour I spend attending to a graduate student seems to me an hour that I don't spend with my kids. 

And maybe that is part of why it hurts me a bit more than it should when they drop out to have their own kid....

Monday, November 1, 2010

Teaching and Burning Torches in a Medieval Village

OK, I'm in my cool European village.  From my (dorm) room bed, I can watch the sun rise over mountains and a castle tower.  I'm across from an old church, the steeple clock of which I can also see from my window while lying in bed--the clock is perfectly framed through a funky triangular window high on my wall.  And it first chimes at 6:30AM, a very reasonable hour.

I'm recovering from my 24-hr trip getting here (door to door; I got to the airport early for once, and found out the flight was delayed 3+ hrs. Grrrr.).  This time around, I tried to sleep every chance I got (in the airport, in the flights, in the 90minute taxi).  Though I did watch 2.5 movies over the Atlantic.  I should have slept more--but I'm too busy to watch movies at home, especially non-kid movies!  (I watched Date Night--love that Tina Fey!)

This teaching gig is no picnic.  Changes in funding have meant fewer students from the developing world and more from wealthier countries.  I'm paid about $1,200 U.S. for a week of teaching (15 hrs teaching, plus the travel time, prep, student discussions outside of class, grading...).  Plus I now have European taxes taken out!  So I'm receiving less than last year, and it is harder to justify (given most students are from relatively privileged backgrounds now).  But I should withhold judgment until the end of the week.

I observed a ceremony on the church grounds this evening.  It involved tubas and priests.  But also a large group of military-uniformed youth carrying burning torches.  It confused and disturbed me a bit. (I speak two languages--but not the one that these folks do). Was this about All Saint's Day?  But then how does that fit with the military uniforms?  And frankly, in this formerly fascist country, youth in military-looking uniforms with burning torches? Yikes?!

Turns out, the uniforms were for the volunteer fire department! (Though seriously, they look military--with medals, etc).  And the priests were talking about peace!  Sheeeez! Me, thinking the worst.