vegreville

academics, as seen from vegreville. it can be cold here. and it is flat.

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What the hell have I been doing this (academic) year?

  • Manuscripts accepted: 2
  • Manuscripts under review: 1
  • Revise and resubmits to do: 3
  • Working papers: 3
  • New projects: 2
  • Conference presentations: 2
  • Seminars given: 1
  • PhD students in progress: 5
  • PhD students completed: 0
  • Other students supervised: 2
  • Courses taught: 0
  • Courses scheduled: 4
  • Referee reports to write: 2
  • Referee reports completed: 17
  • Committees: 3
  • Angry co-authors: 0
  • Angry students: ?

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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Why after seminar chatter might best be ignored

I have heard such comments after lots of seminars for good and bad papers. In my field, many seminal pieces of research were rejected time and time again before finally making it into print. Short term impact does not always equal long term impact.


Original iPod announcement thread at MacRumors - Signal vs. Noise (by 37signals):


Original iPod announcement thread at MacRumors Jason 28 Feb 2006

I love this:

I still can’t believe this! All this hype for something so ridiculous! Who cares about an MP3 player? I want something new! I want them to think differently! Why oh why would they do this?! It’s so wrong! It’s so stupid!

gee! an mp3 player with a HD! how original! kinda reminds me of a JUKEBOX i once knew.

I’d call it the Cube 2.0 as it wont sell, and be killed off in a short time…and it’s not really functional.

All that hype for an MP3 player? Break-thru digital device? The Reality Distiortion Field is starting to warp Steve’s mind if he thinks for one second that this thing is gonna take off.

There are already two products similar to this on the market. The Nomad Jukebox and the Archos which can come with a 20 gig HD. The iPod is obviously a lot cooler and has firewire, but it is far from revolutionary. I for one am disappointed and think that apple is making a mistake by trying to get into this market.

Apple should have just listened to their customers and never released the iPod.


link | posted by vegreville at 8:53 PM | 0 comments


A shallow insight

Even since I have put less on my slides, students pay more attention to me. You would think that would be better. Not always. Now I cannot just bullshit and be sure that they have a good record to use for solving problems. I need to engage them all.

Still need to work on handouts, I guess. Even thought the students have a perfectly good textbook that they don't read.

I still notice lots of great teachers have terrible slides. Maybe slides are not all that important.

Today I gave a lecture to 60 people in class. Three students were passing notes, and I finally had to ask them to stop. It was like a flashback to middle school, where I never got any notes, only watched everyone else pass them. Boo f*ck1ng hoo.

My faith was restored when good students asked quite perceptive questions in class. F*ck1ng A. Teach smart students interesting stuff, and they will get it. Don't baby them.


link | posted by vegreville at 8:43 PM | 0 comments


Monday, February 27, 2006

Impressed

I am always impressed with how powerful incentives are for most students. And the benefits of being clear about what you expect of them. If you are clear, then most will deliver; or at least do their best given their constraints.

I am also reminded how important it is not to take anything too personally. Students are busy, and will not do something unless they can clearly see the benefits. If they push, I need to push back and be firm.

Of course, most is not the same as all.


link | posted by vegreville at 9:14 PM | 0 comments


Sunday, February 26, 2006

More presentation tips

Presentation tips (apparently from Tufte)

Just a taste:
PGP: with every subtopic, move from the Particular to the General and back to the Particular. Even though the purpose of a subtopic is to convey the general information, bracing it with particulars is a good way to draw attention and promote retention.
Not so much a tip as a law: Give everyone at least one piece of paper. A piece of paper is a record, an artifact from your presentation. People can use that artifact to help recall the details of the presentation, or better yet to tell others about it.

Worth reading the whole thing.

HT: www.swissmiss.typepad.com


link | posted by vegreville at 9:12 PM | 0 comments


Saturday, February 25, 2006

Why I like being an academic

The beginnings of a list:
  1. You can work on intellectually interesting problems.
  2. Almost everyone you work with is smart: other academics and the students.
  3. It's great to see a student suddenly understand something new.
  4. It's great to understand something new myself. Learning is fun, and that is what I mainly do.
  5. Freedom. I set my hours (mainly) and my schedule. The flexibility is great. I can run mid-afternoon if I want.
  6. The pay is good.
  7. My academic work has the potential for a practical payoff--I could have a real impact on the world (not yet, but maybe one day.)
  8. The topics I work on are fascinating to me.
  9. Besides being smart, most other academics I deal with are reasonable people (although most does not equal all.)
  10. In general, it is fun: you can be playful with it.
  11. Most of the other people I deal with are pretty much geeks in the same way that I am. I am not weird, and I couldn't really say that until I entered grad school.
I am sure that I will think of more reasons, too.


link | posted by vegreville at 10:11 PM | 0 comments


Friday, February 24, 2006

Enthusiastic?

Either I am getting too old, or need a vacation. I am getting annoyed with seminars. I don't think that I ever noticed that before.

And now I am having trouble thinking about the paper before the weekly seminar. It used to be that I was obsessed with reading the paper beforehand and thinking about questions. Now, not so much. Why?

The field still fascinates me, and I like the technical stuff as much as before. But many of the papers don't seem to be teaching me much; nothing new under the sun.

Help! I want my enthusiasm back. Or I need to see some more rigorous papers again. Probably just the winter blahs.


link | posted by vegreville at 8:58 PM | 0 comments


Testing

I am trying to use a google widget to post this morning. It seems pretty good so far.

I have been thinking about meetings again. There are proposals to replace meetings with electronic communications. That could work, but I think that decision making would change dramatically. I often notice at meetings that there is a wave---someone says something and then everyone starts to pile on. You can often see the current shift visually. It all seems so manipulable.


link | posted by vegreville at 10:07 AM | 0 comments


Thursday, February 23, 2006

What's really important in my classes

is getting good TAs. Ones who the students feel comfortable talking to. Ones who know the material. Ones who do the work on time. Ones who I can trust. Ones who take it seriously. But most importantly, ones with common sense.

It's not always easy to find such TAs, either.


link | posted by vegreville at 8:24 AM | 0 comments


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Refereeing

confused and badly written papers is much less pleasant than refereeing clear and well written papers. But often the confused papers have a gem of an idea hidden in them---you just need to find it. And the well written ones can be vacuous.

There is a theory that says that you should put all your ideas into the paper, hoping that the referee will figure out which one is good and help you figure it out. I never believed that theory, but I realize that I often unwittingly provide supportive evidence in my reports.

My head hurts today.


link | posted by vegreville at 8:52 PM | 0 comments


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

E-mail

I read the linked article today from the NY Times: Why it's all about me in amazement. I teach large classes, and encourage questions via email, since it gives me a record of the students' questions and requests for meetings. Handy for revising the notes for the next time I teach. Hardly any of the students abuse my email. Perhaps because I tell them to be sensible, usually through a joke.

Also, complaining that students ask for copies of the teaching notes? Where the hell do the professors mentioned in the articles teach? Making notes available is so common where I work so as to be unremarkable. And you can say no, anyway.

Complaining about grades? Oh my---how could a student ever do that without my email address? It's useful to reply to the email; the student can reread what they wrote when they are calmer. It usually works to clear things up.

But being approachable yet also being clear about who is in charge is a fine line. I don't think I will give up my IM name yet, nor my cell phone number.

The tone of the article is also weird. The writer seems to have interviewed professors who think that they automatically deserve respect, simply because they are professors. No. You have to earn respect from the students.


link | posted by vegreville at 9:13 PM | 0 comments


Monday, February 20, 2006

Found this online



and it seemed neat.

On Tuesday nights, we have bingo, coffee, and cabbage rolls.

picture from: www.churchsigngenerator.com


link | posted by vegreville at 2:13 PM | 1 comments


Saturday, February 18, 2006

Missed exams

Why is there always someone who tries to reschedule the exam to their own schedule? Even if I announce the exam the first day of class? And why do they seem so surprised when I say no? I am the only one the does not reschedule?

It never seems to matter on the number of people in the class.

I am, as always, puzzled.


link | posted by vegreville at 7:10 PM | 2 comments


A useful link

Conversational terrorism. Found through lifehacker

(I should be reading files now.)


link | posted by vegreville at 4:42 PM | 0 comments


Useful teaching advice (for me)

I usually try jokes to lighten up the class. And try to keep my cool, but sometimes I cannot. I found this advice useful: How to deal with difficult audiences (at www.presentation-pointers.com) from the valuable post at presentation zen.

I should always remember not to personalize anything when I teach. I usually don't take it personally, but the times I have gotten into trouble are the times that I do take it personally. Happy and cheerful people (or those who are in class) seem to be the better teachers. It does not mean pandering, either.


link | posted by vegreville at 9:43 AM | 0 comments


Friday, February 17, 2006

What great advice

Original from Signal v. Noise: It just doesn't matter:

(Please forgive the quoting, I hope I don't take anything out of context.)
<snip>
My favorite answer to the “why?” question is always: “Because it just doesn’t matter.” I think that statement embodies what makes a product great. Figuring out what matters and leaving out the rest.
<snip>
The best designers and the best programmers aren’t the ones with the best skills, or the nimblest fingers, or the ones who can rock and roll with photoshop or vim, they are the ones that can determine what just doesn’t matter. That’s where the real gains are made.
Most of the time you spend is wasted time on things that just don’t matter. If you can cut out the work and thinking that just doesn’t matter you’ll achieve productivity you’ve never imagined. It’s there if you just don’t pay attention to the things that don’t matter.
<snip>

Building a model means ignoring what doesn't matter. A good model explains what matters by ignoring what doesn't matter. And explaining why.


link | posted by vegreville at 11:41 AM | 1 comments


Thursday, February 16, 2006

Must

learn to say no to extra work. Must learn to say no to extra work. Must learn to say no to extra work. Must learn to say no to extra work.

(I am hoping that if I write it enough times, I will do it.) But noooooooo. Not this year.

What matters for my salary? What matters for my mobility? Probably not the stuff I am agreeing to do.

/ramble


link | posted by vegreville at 10:32 PM | 1 comments


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

I hate microsoft word.

Although I do most of my writing using latex, some things are best done in word. Today I updated an class syllabus, and I found a bug in the tables feature in the macintosh version of word--text mysteriously disappeared, as if the text was too big for the cell. Word wrapping did not work, it was like the Bermuda triangle of text. And when I emailed my version to someone with a windows box and they mailed it back to me, everything was fixed. Weird.

That program is possessed.

Technorati Tags: ,


link | posted by vegreville at 11:40 AM | 1 comments


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Imagine all the reports I could write

if I could go without sleep. And all the research I could get done. And committees that I could serve on. Etc.

More importantly, I could do all that stuff, and spend more time with my family.

HT: sploid
No sleep for 33 years:

Thai Ngoc is a 64-year-old farmer in rural Vietnam, similar in most ways to his neighbors in the agricultural commune.

But Ngoc never sleeps.

For more than half his life -- since 1973 -- he has not slept.

He is strong and healthy, doctors and his family say. While normal people slumber, he works on his farm or volunteers to help neighbors with various rituals.

"Ngoc often does extra farm work or guards his farm at night to prevent theft, saying he used three months of sleepless nights to dig two large ponds to raise fish," Thanhnien News reported today.

"Neighbor Vu said Ngoc volunteered to help beat a drum during the night and guard the house for the relatives of the dead during funeral ceremonies so that they could take a nap."

He has tried traditional Vietnamese medicines, sleeping pills and lots of booze, but none of those things will put him to sleep.

"Sleep is a necessary part of life, like food and water," according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. But Ngoc is living proof that some people can go without sleep for three decades.


link | posted by vegreville at 1:39 PM | 0 comments


Monday, February 13, 2006

I've noticed

that sometime the tougher you are, the more that students like you. The nicer you are, the more wishy-washy you appear. And the less they respect you.


link | posted by vegreville at 10:41 PM | 0 comments


I should try to remember

that sometimes, the students in class forget that you can see them. Nothing like giving a lecture and watching someone check their watch every 5 minutes. Or watching someone put their coat on 15 minutes before class. Or put their notebook down 15 minutes before class ends.

They must think they are invisible.

On the other hand, I doodle during a boring meeting or seminar, and might even bring my laptop. So I am not better, maybe just subtler.

But damn, it hurts my feelings when when even one student isn't into class. I must remember: You cannot please all the people all the time.

Update: I get OK teaching ratings, too.


link | posted by vegreville at 4:58 PM | 0 comments


Sunday, February 12, 2006

Although February is cold,

snowy days are fun. Sledding and hot chocolate---what is not to like?


link | posted by vegreville at 1:37 PM | 0 comments


Saturday, February 11, 2006

It happens every year,

February is the month that I become overwhelmed. Classes are now in full swing; there are new PhD folders to read; there is a surge or reports to write, since people submit papers after the holidays; seminars are going strong; and committee meetings are starting up. The students are stressed as well. And yes, the weather sucks.

My office begins to resemble a war zone---coffee cups, napkins, newspapers, scrap paper, and piles. I have to spend a day just cleaning my office and my hard drive, because the mess causes me so much stress that I just stare at the walls.

But the spring is coming. The spring is coming.


link | posted by vegreville at 8:40 PM | 0 comments


Friday, February 10, 2006

One of my favorite parts

of my job is dealing with PhD students. Here are my rules.
  1. I ask the students working with me to meet with me at least once every two weeks. Even if they haven't got much done. But that schedule means that most of them are getting stuff done. I only starting doing the meeting thing in the last few years and it works for me.
  2. I try to provide honest feedback. If they are doing bad work, I tell them. If they are doing good work, I tell them. Most do good work.
  3. I try to build their self-confidence. Many really smart students forget that they are smart. But part of that is being clear about what is good and what is bad.
  4. I am all for tough requirements. If someone is not doing well at course work, early papers, and exams, then perhaps a PhD is not for them. You are not doing anyone a favor by keeping them around.
  5. I don't believe in micromanaging. People find their own level---with encouragement.
  6. No changing topics, once the student has decided.
  7. I try to encourage students to work together. I think that peer group effects are important--I sure learned a lot as a student from my classmates.
  8. I encourage them to present their work to others--in informal talks and in more formal settings.
  9. I never to give students ideas to work on. I will help them refine their own ideas, though.
  10. I am not a good editor. But I will tell them when the exposition needs work.
  11. I try to remind them that once they get a job, they will have much less time than now. More generally, I try to give them some sense what it's like to be a faculty member.
I'm sure there are more. But I'm tired now.


link | posted by vegreville at 7:58 PM | 0 comments


Thursday, February 09, 2006

random writing quirks of mine

  • I read a lot of papers with the words 'due to.' I always want to strike that out and replace it with 'because of.'
  • With undergraduate papers, wide margins and big fonts are the norm. With bad papers, thin margins and tiny fonts are the norm, though thin and tiny are relative here.
  • 'Therefore' and 'thus' are overused. Also 'Note that.'
  • I tend to write in a boring and monotone way. All my sentences are the same length. Unless I am very careful.
  • I am nervous of 'track changes.'
  • I now wish that I had needed to do more writing in high school, college, and graduate school.


link | posted by vegreville at 1:57 PM | 0 comments


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Works for me

Replace "critique" with "report" and "artistic works" and "design" with "manuscript."

An abridged version of the article could also go to students who fill out teacher evaluations.

from: Jason Santa Maria | Under The Loupe #3: Critiquing:

First off, let’s all get on the same page; a critique is a critical discussion or review, typically of artistic works. You might think you already know that, but there is an important thing to take away from that definition; you will notice the word “opinion” is nowhere to be found. This is not to imply that opinions have no place in critiques, rather, it is meant to show that the two are not synonymous. Critiques are about dialogue; a two-way conversation. There is critique etiquette to observe. Just because you may not appreciate someone’s work, does not mean it is without merit.
<snip>

When Giving a Critique
Ask questions. Critiques should be more of an investigation than an interrogation. Try to understand why the designer did something before suggesting that they do it another way. Basically, try to understand the problem they’re trying to solve.

A critique is not the time to show how smart you are. It’s also not the time to blindly state how you would do things as though the designer is wrong.
<snip>

Beware of nebulous design buzz terms.
<snip>

Keep it brief and poignant.
<snip>

“I don’t like it” is one of the least helpful things you can say. The fact that green isn’t your favorite color means very little in the grand scheme of things. Instead, stick to what is concrete. Did you have trouble finding valuable information in the design? Do you see anything that might be a problem when a design gets printed/programmed? Is there something vastly different than what the client is expecting?

Don’t make it personal.

<snip>
A critique is not only the time to bring up problems with a design, but also to highlight what is successful. Alternating praise with the constructive criticism is a good strategy for all-around happiness.
Think before you speak.
<snip>

When Receiving a Critique

<snip>

You are not infallible and neither is your design. Let yourself be wrong, you will learn more and become better for it.

Criticism by its nature is a tricky beast because it relies almost solely on subjective means. If someone is having a bad day, they can easily take it out on you in a critique. Don’t let yourself be drawn into a pissing match. Stick to the facts of the design and the challenges at hand.
Be open to all the ideas and feedback you receive. Try not to get defensive. You are often very close to your design work and may not see something that’s glaringly obvious to everyone else.
Sometimes you will need to prod people for their real thoughts. If people are stone-facing you with an “I don’t like it” angle, try and crack them. Ask questions to try and draw a real response out of them. Chances are, their problem may be with a small piece of the design and they are just having trouble communicating it to you.
By that same note, take feedback with a grain of salt. You should at least entertain comments from your peers, but if you feel strongly about an aspect of your design, stand up for it and make your case.
<snip>

When critiquing someone’s work, above all else, put real thought into what you are saying. Ill-conceived commentary usually feels as such, and will inevitably cause someone to call you out on it. Take the time to write or say what you mean, otherwise there is little point in saying anything at all. The person you are critiquing put time into what they created. If you are going to step up to the plate and offer criticism, good or bad, show them enough respect to put a bit of time and brain power against your thoughts.
Found through www.swissmiss.typepad.com


link | posted by vegreville at 10:17 AM | 0 comments


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

I don't normally whine,

but today killed me. I got to the classroom with my laptop and a second laptop---an old tablet that I wanted to try out in class. And the AV equipment would not work; I could not successfully plug either one of them in. So my beautiful presentation, including some neat interactive graphics, went the way of the Dodo. Onto the board, which I could not erase to save my life.

Damn.

I did do some playful stuff, but I was so tense about the equipment that I was off my game. All this in front of 60 over stressed students. On the bright side, I finished a report yesterday.


link | posted by vegreville at 4:47 PM | 0 comments


Monday, February 06, 2006

This paper kicks ass.

It's great to referee a manuscript in which I can say that. The more reports I have written, the better the papers that I get to review.

Here is how I write a report.

  • Try to figure out the point of the paper. Sometimes it's easy. Sometimes it's hard. If it's too hard, I may give up.
  • If I understand the point, then I decide if it's new or not (to me and the literature) and if the analysis in the paper is correct. If the point is new, correct, and interesting, then see if I can help the author improve the exposition, results, and scope of the paper. If the point is not new, or incorrect, or uninteresting, then clearly explain my position in the report.
  • If the writing is bad, I won't get the point. If the technical material is wrong or sloppy, I won't get the point. If the point is correct but the technical material is sloppy or the writing is bad, then it is going to take me a lot of work. I need to decide if the point is worth the work that has to be put in.
  • The subjective part here is deciding if it is an interesting point or not. The editor wants my opinion, or I would not be chosen to be the referee.
  • Sometimes what the author thinks the point is turns out to be different than what I think the point should be. Sometimes the author puts many points in the paper, so I need to help the author focus on a few of them.
  • I always try to help the author improve the paper, with specific suggestions, even when I think the paper should be rejected from the journal. This involves going through the manuscript carefully a few times with a pencil and pad.
  • I am always clear to the editor about what I think the outcome should be, and if it's a revise and resubmit I tell the editor and author exactly what I think would lead me to suggest acceptance.
  • I am never wish-washy about what I think should happen. That doesn't mean I rewrite the paper, but it does mean that I try to be specific as possible. I have been burned a few times myself by wishy-washy reviewers who don't tell me what is required to have a successful outcome. In all such cases, the paper has gone more than one round only to be rejected in the end. Probably my fault, but it did waste everyone's time.
  • I always try to take the work seriously.
  • I try never, never, never to be sarcastic or mean. Of course trying may be be the same as achieving. But that being said, the most useful report I ever got was full of sarcasm--intended or not. The report forced me to work on being precise and clear in that paper and in future research. Helpful in the long run, even though the paper did not get accepted at that journal.
Many of the journals I review for have double blind refereeing. But since I see so many papers at seminars and conferences, I always wonder about how blind it is. I try hard not to let the author's identity influence my refereeing.

I find that the best way to get a report done is to read the paper, think about it carefully for a while, and then start writing. I usually start by writing a short paper summary, and then by going through the manuscript with a pencil or my text editor open, noting unclear and incorrect things. I then write a few paragraphs about why I or do not think the paper is successful. Rinse, lather, and repeat a few times until I am happy with the report.


link | posted by vegreville at 9:21 PM | 1 comments


Saturday, February 04, 2006

I hope this is not what the students think about my class

80374078_d107ffdf57_m


photo taken by Max Sparber found through flickr retro records pool (the photo has a creative commons license, so I think I can post it like this.)


link | posted by vegreville at 3:00 PM | 0 comments


If you enjoy

cool images. Check out the retro records flickr pool.

HT: swissmiss.typepad.com

(I have struggled to get blogger to post this.)


link | posted by vegreville at 2:59 PM | 0 comments


Every paper and lecture should have a

"comma-stupid" phrase (from creating_passionate_users). Just replace user with the target audience for a paper, and replace use' with student for a lecture.

<snip>
I believe we all should spend time--a lot of time--figuring out exactly what should be in our "comma-stupid" phrase. We can start by asking, "What does the user care about?" Followed by, "OK, but WHY does he care about that?" Follwed by, "And why does he care about that? until we get to the heart of it. Then we pick a phrase... a message that expresses this in a way that everyone on the team can understand. Then from that point forward, every decision should include two questions:

1) How will this [thing we're about to do] support, enable, or amplify what the user cares most about?

2) How will this [thing we're about to do] potentially hurt or stand in the way of what the user cares most about?

And I actually believe that for 90% of us (my work included) the answer to the "comma-stupid" question is "the user kicking ass", but of course it's up to us to define exactly what "kicking ass" means for our particular context. So that's my challenge to you--ask yourself if you have a clear, "It's the [something], stupid!" Then ask yourself if it gets to the real heart of what is most meaningful to the user.
<snip>

One day, I would like to have the guts to write a referee report that simply says: "This paper does not kick any ass. Sorry."

(It was an exhausting week.)


link | posted by vegreville at 2:59 PM | 0 comments


Thursday, February 02, 2006

Risk-aversion

Taken from: passionate

<snip>
But whose fear? The metaphor Liz used (she got from someone else) was that many of the "leaf nodes" (what Microsoft and Sun and others refer to as "individual contributors") tend to be innovative and brave, but many of the "branches" (i.e. layers of management) can't stomach the risks. In their (admirable) desire to be strong and stable, the "branches" put safety above all else.
<snip>
So add one more skill to our career advice for young people: be willing to take risks! Perhaps more importantly, be willing to tolerate (and perhaps even encourage) risk-taking in those who are managed by you. Of course I realize that this is much easier said than done. I was a "leaf node" at Sun, and a zillion other places before that. I've even done a little time as a "branch" (and I sucked at it).

But can anything be done about all the spirit-squashing risk-aversion? Recognition is the first step. Unfortunately, those who recognize it tend to be the leaf nodes--the ones with the power to create and implement the ideas, but very little power to authorize them. Those with the most potential to create change are the branches. The Managers With a Clue.
<snip>
Regularly review your sacred cows

Regularly review the assumptions behind all your decisions
Are those assumptions still valid?

Practice LETTING GO
Here's where the Buddhists have an edge. Too many of us hold on to practices or ideas (including sacred cows) long past their sell-by date. If it doesn't serve us any longer, it's time to give it up no matter how well it served us in the past.

Of course, "letting go" means temporarily experiencing that painful, awkward, "I suck" stage again. But pro athletes do it if they want to break through plateus. Go players do it to move up in ranks. Musicians let go of habits and styles. Programmers do it (waterfall anyone?). Writers do it. Anyone who has switched from skiing to snowboarding (or switched from regular to "goofy foot") has learned to let go.
<snip>
Easy and familiar is safe, but often comes with built-in, unscalable walls. You can't get there from here.

Push the boundaries strategically, one-by-one
Whether you're a leaf or a branch, pick your battles carefully, one poke at a time. Better to live another day to keep fighting the good fight then, say, being fired for trying to do it all at once.
<snip>

Probably good advice for research, refereeing, and new course design. Taking chances leads to innovation, which leads to the big advances and payoffs. But you need to have some insurance. What if you do something risky and it does not pay off? That's the tradeoff. Since I can only write a few papers or prep a few new courses, I will try to mix them up. Try some base hits and also swing for the fences. Remembering that each is a paper, (or new course) and try to move on when the time comes.

In the end, base hits are often as tough as swinging for the fences.

And I will try to keep all this in mind when I review papers/grants and am acting as a branch.


link | posted by vegreville at 1:40 PM | 2 comments


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Entrepreneurs?

Most successful researchers are good entrepreneurs. Getting funding, access to data, getting good PhD students, finding co-authors, organizing sessions at conferences, getting new courses listed, recruiting new researchers to your ideas, and so on, all require a certain amount of drive and networking. Researchers work in the (cliche alert) 'marketplace of ideas.' Not all the markets are large, but there are markets you need to service.

Sure there are lots of entrenched people in academics, but even they had to be entrepreneurial at some point in their careers Although it may not take a lot of home-runs, it takes some. (Home run is surely a relative term here.)

And there is institutional power--once you are a professor at school X, you control lots of resources. But it requires a certain amount of entrepreneurial effort to become a professor at school X.

I always laugh when I see how academics are portrayed on TV shows. Corduroy-jacket wearing, dreamy wankers. With glasses, too.


link | posted by vegreville at 9:26 PM | 0 comments