Archive for January, 2012

Independent and original

January 30, 2012

I doubt if I can offer any deeper insight or more pointed advice to a tenure track assistant professor in the sciences, than what anyone can find on a number of reputable science blogs.
Often times, however, as I go through posts describing the “dos and donts” of young scholars wanting to maximize their changes of eventually landing tenure, while I find myself in agreement with the general ideas expounded (we are not really talking secrets, anyway), I also feel that some of the most common recommendations could be taken too far, or interpreted too rigidly, ultimately doing the probationary faculty more harm than good.

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Mend it, don’t end it (email, that is)

January 26, 2012

I blissfully went through the first half of my life without electronic mail, and yet I cannot imagine living without it now. There are specific tasks for which mail (narrowly defined here as the transmission of text written by the sender, to one or more recipients) is simply irreplaceable. People have corresponded in that way for centuries, and electronic mail is in many respects nothing but the obvious evolution of “snail mail”. I hardly see any reason for going back to slow, clumsy, expensive, unreliable snail mail; I cannot think of anything that it did, that electronic mail does not do much better.

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Education disadvantage

January 21, 2012

If a cash-strapped province or state had to make painful cuts to public services, the immediately noticeable effect would be the outright elimination of some of them.
One would not think of, say, laying off a fraction of all bus drivers and asking the remaining ones to work longer hours, in order to keep all existing bus routes active — some would be phased out, based on various considerations of priority, in order to minimize the inconvenience to denizens, while continuing to offer as much of the original transportation as possible. Some people, however, would have to go to work or to the grocery store in some other, less convenient or more expensive way.

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Double whammy

January 16, 2012

We all understand that, sometimes, financial hardship is simply a fact of life. And I do believe that most of us are willing to endure painful sacrifices, in the pursuit of a common good.
What exasperates people, is the perception of a general lack of vision, of a concrete, well thought out crisis management plan, on the part of those in charge of overseeing operations. Particularly disconcerting is a reassuring public rhetoric, filled with generic statements of understanding of the gravity of the situation, and of resolve to ensure that the period of scarcity be weathered with minimal suffering and no permanent damage, and a concomitant pattern of actions suggesting all but the opposite.

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