Monday, March 29, 2010

Back to work, Prexi

A big nonprofit commentator argues in today's Inside Higher Ed that college presidents shouldn't spend their time on boards but running their own institutions. While the institution should surely come first, I couldn't disagree more.

It's true, presidents are busy; for most, the job isn't just 40 hours a week. And surely there is an upper limit, if a college president were on 30 corporate boards, I would be concerned. There are only so many hours in a day, after all. But being on a few boards? How much time does that take? How does that compare time-wise to having a family or a hobby or even just taking a vacation?

It's typical, after all, for corporate CEOs to be on other boards, corporate and nonprofit alike. Think about that for a moment. Do you think the president of a Fortune 500 company is less busy with his or her job than a college president?

Let's be blunt. Your college wants corporate CEOs on its board of trustees. If those corporate CEOs have the time, so does your president. And if your president doesn't, either he/she has time management problems or has chosen to do something else instead. (There's nothing wrong with not choosing to be on corporate boards, either.)

Where I would be concerned is when we have what are called "interlocking directorates." An example of an interlock would be if your president is on the board of Corporation X, and Corporation X's CEO is on your college's board. This is a conflict of interest issue, and it's important for presidents to keep in mind. But that's not the problem that the commentator is interested in.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Spring flowers are out

Spring flowers
Originally uploaded by TheTurducken
Flora started blooming last week; spring is attempting to come to Middle Tennessee. This photo is from the 2.5-mile Warner Woods Trail at Percy Warner Park. It was the perfect day for a hike; I was actually too warm in long pants and a short-sleeved t-shirt.

Although it was sunny, mud lingered in spots. The trail widened in these places, where walkers had searched for dry ground. That's not good trail etiquette, but it happens on any popular urban trail. The problem isn't the dirt aspect of the mud so much as it is the slippery aspect of it. (Anyone who hikes in shoes they want to keep clean is deluded.)

I was surprised to see as many wildflowers as I did; around town, I've seen primarily redbuds, dogwoods, and daffodils out. Most of my photos didn't turn out as well as this one, since they were taken with my iPhone. I should get out there with an actual camera.

Modern happenings

I've felt dumber than a box of rocks this weeks, thanks to a cold. (I never see "feeling like your IQ has dropped 50 points" listed as a symptom of illness, but it should be.) Thanks to Mucinex-D, I at least have the choice between sleeping and breathing - which is an improvement over doing neither. This is why I am posting at nearly midnight despite being ill.

Today was Graduate Student Research Day, at which I presented my scholarship of teaching and learning project, which is part of earning a Teaching Certificate at Vanderbilt.

Yesterday I saw the Nrityagram Dance Ensemble.

Wednesday I experienced a free lunch.

Tuesday I reached a milestone in dissertation data collection.

Monday I went to a birthday party.

That's the past. The future? This weekend I was supposed to do trail maintenance, but I backed out due to the aforementioned cold. Then it was canceled anyway. This at least frees me up for a very important happening on Sunday - the return of team Shazam! to trivia competition.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Why Twitter hasn't lived up to the hype

I am tired of "social media experts" wondering why Twitter hasn't taken over the world yet. It's because, duh, we're not all "social media experts," and that's the sort of folks it works best for.

Twitter works for (a) people who others tend to search out, primarily celebrities and (b) people who want to be in category a and can develop a niche or hook. So I want to keep up with Neil Gaiman; I follow him on Twitter. I doubt he follows me in exchange.

But Twitter doesn't make it easy to connect with friends or acquaintances, not like Facebook does. I have a friend I know is on Twitter, but I don't know her username. I searched for her using her real name, but no luck. I have other friends that I know are on Twitter, whose usernames I know, whose Tweets I don't read because on Twitter they are an expert - on something I don't care about. They tweet about relational databases or something instead of their life. I care as little about their expertise as they care about mine.

Sure, there are services that help you find people of interest. In my experience, 95% of the suggestions are garbage. Of the rest, some are theoretically interesting but not practically so. I'm interested in higher education news, but if all you do is tweet articles from the two main industry pubs (which I already read), what value do you add? (Especially when you make me go through your website to get to the actual article.)

The best use I've found for Twitter is backchanneling at conferences and events, yet in my field there still isn't a critical mass for this to really be valuable.

The thing is, Twitter seems to be best for disseminating information or hive-mind commentary. It isn't a relationship/network manager like Facebook and other social media websites, which is really of interest to more people on a daily basis.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Monday, March 15, 2010

There's good news and there's bad news

I found out this morning I was waitlisted for a writing workshop I had applied for. That's the good news and the bad news.

I nearly didn't apply, and I had no expectations going in. The competition was pretty tough this year - at least 145 applicants for 18 spots. Many of the applicants are already published or are regular participants in workshops and critique groups. To be considered one of the top 30 out of this pool is, for me, a huge honor. Don't get me wrong, a waitlist isn't as exciting as a "yes," but it told me what I needed to know - I'm not wasting my time. And think of the money I'm saving!

Technically, I have over two months to continue to wait - but realistically, I figure it's over now. I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for bad things to happen to the folks who are going!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Thanks Ricky!

New Manduka mat
Originally uploaded by TheTurducken
So last weekend I went to a yoga workshop with Ricky Tran. It was pretty awesome, although I was very, very tired by the end.

RIcky is sponsored by Manduka, and at the end of the weekend he gave away the Manduka mat he had used for the workshop. He decided to give it to the person with the sorriest mat - which was me! I had been wanting to buy a new mat, but was trying to wait until I could afford a decent one. So thank you!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Job updates

No, I don't have a job. Yes, things are happening. But this post is about other people.

Several of my friends at Vanderbilt (or formerly at Vanderbilt) are on the market, and congratulations to them for getting jobs at the University of Southern California, Cumberland University, and the University of Tennessee!

I was chatting with a friend in K-12 about opportunities this year. He interviewed at some pretty darn good schools. By contrast, there were no top ten higher ed programs with assistant professor positions this year, and I think that there were no top twenty jobs available, either. (Just to reiterate: At the assistant professor level, which is what I am eligible for.) This is just an illustration of how the first faculty job someone takes is only partially influenced by the opportunities available, which are somewhat random.

Friday, March 5, 2010

When I grow up

I'm at Vanderbilt's central library, trying to get some writing done, but I got distracted by the pencil sharpener. It's the kind of sharpener that was in every classroom growing up. It bolts securely to the wall, has a dial of holes to accommodate pencils of every size, and is hand-cranked.

I love those things. They're so much more satisfying to use than electric sharpeners*. I have something of a fetish for devices that are mechanical rather than electronic. That's why I have a Zassenhaus burr coffee grinder and a French press, for example. That's one reason I'm better prepared for the apocalypse than you. Never mind that I'll only last as long as my glasses do. (The moment they break, I won't even see the alien overlord preparing to idly stomp me underfoot.)

A serious pencil sharpener is definitely on my list of Things To Put in My Faculty Office. Number one, of course, is bookshelves. Yes, they rank higher than a desk, because I can sit on the floor with a laptop - not that I don't want a desk, too. Also, an enormous bulletin board for right over my desk, and unnecessarily expensive and arty pushpins. But no simply decorative tchotchkes, thank you.

Hm, do you think anyone makes hand-cranked paper shredders? Because if they do, I'm going to run out and get one and start shredding for the thrill of it. (ETA: OMG, I want one of these. Please, please, someone crafty, make me one for graduation, pretty please?)

* Unless, perhaps, you have to sharpen 100 pencils at one go, and you end up with dreadful hand cramps. But how often does that happen?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Picture find

More deer
Originally uploaded by TheTurducken
Sorry for the quiet around here. I've been busy with the dissertation, especially with traveling. As an indicator of how busy, here's a photo from hiking on Sunday - what is noteworthy is that it was the first hike I had done in a month and a half. So, to keep you busy ...

... Kids! Can you find the six deer in this photo?

OK, it's a trick. Three are to the left, out of the frame. But can you find the other three?