Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 in the rearview mirror

Last new year I posted 2007 in photos, and I've decided to do the same for 2008.
Trees, some dead
Signs of Times
End of the semester
Stepping carefully
See no, hear no, speak no ...
Memorial Cross
LPO higher ed crew

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas to all (who celebrate it, at least) and to all a good night!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Weekend hikes

Nice day
Originally uploaded by TheTurducken
This weekend I did two hikes.

On Saturday we went to Brady Mountain, a 7.9-mile segment of the Cumberland Trail. My mental image of "a mountain" is conical, but Brady Mountain is more like a snake; the hike follows along a long top ridge. The trail had recently been reblazed, and the trail was easy to follow - which had apparently not been the case previously. I didn't find it to be as scenic as some parts of the CT, although it had some charms. There are two airplane wrecks on the side of the mountain; we didn't see them because halfway through it started to rain and we hustled. Those would be worth hunting for. There aren't any real viewpoints, making winter or early spring the best time to do it. Otherwise, the trees would be too thick to see the valleys on either side of the ridge.

Sunday I led a hike at Edgar Evins State Park, also 7.9 miles. We did 9, though, because I mistakenly repeated a loop. I have to work on this leading thing! Some hikes I know really well, and others you can't get lost on because there are no intersections and they are well-marked. When I'm by myself or just with friends, I tend to be a lot more cautious about looking for signs and not being afraid to pull out my map. But when I lead a hike that I know only moderately well, I tend to get overconfident. And the group tends to assume I know what I'm doing, so they're not on the lookout until it's too late. However, we got back on track and completed the hike. Although the day was cold it was sunny, and we had some really nice views of Center Hill Lake - like this photo here.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Now I have a headache

I am reading a report written by the Smith Consultancy. It was managed by Kindof University Association, which contracted it out to Smith. However, it was commissioned by the quasi-governmental Governments & Universities Council. Which in turn was funded by the government.

My head hurts. Surely there is a middleman that could have been cut out somewhere.

(All names are fictional, duh, to protect the bureaucratic.)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Today I defended my dissertation proposal, and it was mostly a success. I have to make some revisions before they will sign the documents, which isn't unusual, but the revisions don't involve substantial changes to data collection or methods - they're more about organization and theory. And I don't have to schedule another meeting. So, hooray.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Job outlook

A friend asked me the other day if I couldn't get a job here in Nashville, and I said, "Well, not unless I want to work at Starbucks." Which wasn't really very funny, because it's tough to get hired anywhere at the moment, and I don't have experience as a barista.

All of you know the economy is tough. It's tough in higher ed too. At least two jobs I applied for canceled their job searches because of hiring freezes. I saw a posting for a faculty job at a public university here in Tennessee (not one I qualify for), and it bore the note "contingent upon state funding." Well, you can pretty much write that one off: Tennessee colleges are getting cuts in appropriations of over 20%.

But more specifically in Nashville, that means we can count out TSU, and Vandy doesn't hire its own grads as faculty. That's all the programs that have higher ed programs around here. And Vandy has a staff hiring freeze, so it's unlikely I could get a postdoc or a staff position. Quite a few of our grads have gone on to work at the state board of higher education or the Tennessee Higher Education Commission in the past, but those agencies are already frozen and are facing cuts.

Then envision this across not just Nashville, but the entire country ...

I'm not trying to elicit sympathy. I have another year of funding guaranteed, so I won't be out on the streets. Most people aren't so fortunate, even many students on the job market. It's just that the kind of job I thought I'd get used to be narrow because the kind of job I wanted was rare. Now the kind of job I think I'll get is narrow because jobs are rare.

Links about education, food, and loneliness

"Blue-skies research driven by curiosity can have a far greater social and economic impact than research carried out with a specific commercial application in mind."

Not lonely in the big city.

Pretty art. Man, I'm hungry.

Could you get into a grammar school? (This is the British kind. For Americans, it means "elementary school." Across the Atlantic, it means "private classical high school.")
Tenure or unions: Pick one.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Tacky nonprofit advertising

The following sorts of ads are as old as professional fundraising itself, and like horror villains, never rest quietly in their graves. They're tacky, sure, but they also invite backlash and are often ineffective.
  1. The scare tactic. "Give to to us or these cute children/animals/women will get it." It's one thing to quote scary-but-already true factoids, but another to tell us that this charity is the only thing standing between society and a free handbasket ride to hell.
  2. The suicide note. "Without your support, our nonprofit will have to close its doors." While technically true of all nonprofits not supported primarily by grants, contracts, or fees, this tactic emphasizes the urgency of their claim - people will be laid off tomorrow!!! And so what? Despite popular opinion to the contrary, "nonprofit" is not supposed to be a synonym for "poor management." Put the organization out of its misery and it's likely a more stable one will fill that niche.
  3. The voyeuristic gaze. "Look at these poor children/people of color/bearded ladies." We used to call this a freak show back in the day. It's different from number 1 because it shows actual problems, not theoretical ones. It's voyeuristic because it shows only the before picture. One hopes the organization is spending money to ameliorate the world's problems, not just to photograph them.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


The view from my office in my apartment is of the fence between our building and the house next door. It's not really an inspiring view, except that the fence attracts a lot of birds. Some of them I know and some I don't - I'm not a birder. But I don't like not knowing, even if I have no desire to take up ornithology in a general way. Often when I read books from 100 or 200 years ago, the writers describe nature with a specificity lost on many of today's readers. How many of us know wildflowers, for example? So when I try to describe what I've seen in nature, it comes out as, "There were purple flowers. And yellow ones." Conversely, many of these older descriptions don't conjure up quite what they are intended to, but they at least sound poetic.

Today I was watching some little gray birds, and with the help of Google image search I figured out they were Carolina chickadees. At least now I know one thing I didn't this morning.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Holiday season

I'm busy with dissertation stuff (and holiday festivity), so apologies for the sparseness of posting.

Last night I went to a holiday party at my adviser's house. He cooked up New Orleans-style food, and his wife (a professional pastry chef) made desserts. The food was really, really excellent.

Today I did a short hike at Shelby Park.

Various other activities have involved eating, working on my dissertation, studying, yoga, and more eating.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Short winter hike

Originally uploaded by TheTurducken
I hiked the Warner Woods trail at Percy Warner today. The Warner parks don't have overlooks or waterfalls or any dramatis personae, so it's hard to take interesting photos of the landscape. But in the winter, you can really see the shape of the land.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Roller skating

Originally uploaded by laurenmichellebeck
I've got nothing particular to post about (want to hear about this cold that is waxing and waning?), so here's a picture of one of last weekend's adventures ... roller skating! It's been a really, really, really long time since I last tried it.