Sunday, December 19, 2010

Missed Opportunities

By not posting for a very long time in the fall, I missed the opportunity to give advice about applying for faculty jobs. The grad students from the math department have been asking me for job advice and have been asking me to read their teaching statements and research statements, and I have developed some advice. Too late for this job hunt season. If you're applying for an academic job in the future and need to write a teaching statement or research statement, maybe I will write up my advice in the future. Maybe my advice is useful? Maybe it isn't? Remember that if you are applying for a job in the math department that the hiring committee will consist of mathematicians. If you read your statement out loud and people in the room start laughing (in the sense of laughing at you instead of laughing with you), then you should strongly consider revising it. Be specific.

By not posting for a very long time in the late fall, I missed the opportunity to put together a holiday gift guide. I didn't end up putting together either a serious gift guide or a guide to the strategic acquisition of conference swag that your friends and loved ones would appreciate. My mom now has a totebag from the Alabama Supercomputer center and a set of highlighters from the ACM. I also gave her one of my two remaining boxes of dishwasher detergent with phosphates. Had I known that the ban in 17 states was going to lead to the complete discontinuation of phosphate detergent, I would have gone to one of those "club" stores and bought a lifetime supply.

By being overconservative about the weight of my luggage coming back from Germany (only 17 kg of checked luggage -- could have brought home 3 more kg of stuff), I do not have a supply of European paper (the A-sizes are magical) nor of nifty European foodstuffs.

By taking a grant-funded staff job, I have missed an entire semester of teaching. An entire crop of freshmen did not pass through my life. Mountains of papers did not need to be graded. Crazy excuses did not grace my inbox. Amusing anecdotes did not land in my lap just waiting to be blogged. Every now and then I got a fairly business-like email from a student hoping to take math class n+1 despite not having credit for math class n. But the missives were not filled with excuses or justifications. Just plain, unadorned and unjustified requests to take the next class in the series.

By making the ill-advised decision to drink the punch after having had four beers on the evening of Friday, December 10, I missed the entire day of Saturday, December 11. I also missed the grown-up (and punchless) party on the evening of Saturday, December 11 because even by the end of the day the idea of walking from one end of the house to the other was an ordeal. Until it was too late, I was unaware that the punch was made with Everclear mixed with the cheap grocery store fruit punch and assorted odds and ends from the liquor shelf. I have a vague memory of my doctor's son hitting on me, but that took place after I started drinking the punch.

By actually writing the statistics paper, I missed out on six to eight hours of my life. However, the existence of the paper likely did contribute to my receiving an A in the class. I don't feel like I earned an A because of the crazy way that the class was run. And the meaningless grading in which all work, no matter how lousy it was, was given very generous credit.

By putting some books on my Christmas wishlist, I will be getting some of the books that I want the most in the "dead tree" edition instead of having them be the earliest purchases on my brand-new Kindle (which I was given as a mildly early Christmas present).

By knitting various boring, solid-color, k1p1 objects from other people's patterns, I have not made any progress on designing and knitting more interesting and exciting patterns.

By being an antisocial mathematician, I find myself with no plans yet for New Year's Eve. I also have no plans for Christmas, but that doesn't really bother me. I'm quite content to spend Christmas cleaning my kitchen and bathroom and floors and organizing my closet or whatever other things I have not gotten done. But New Year's Eve? Normally I don't do anything, but this year I feel like I should. No good solution to that.