February 2009


The scientiae theme of this month is your hero, and while pondering who would be the most influential in my professional life, it still turns out to be my mother.

My mother never had ambitions for her children beyond that we would be happy, but she did as much as possible to reassure that we could reach for the moon if that would make us happy. For example, there never was a lot of money in our house, but she still made it possible for me to study at the university I insisted on (because of the teaching system, you see). This included room and board, obviously, since it was too far to go up and down each day. In return, all she asked was that I cook on saturdays, since she worked saturdays. Through her effort, I never had to take out a student loan, either.

It’s probably my grandmother’s insistence that her children would be allowed to study if they wanted to. My grandmothers (both of them) were not allowed to continue their education after they turned 14. They should learn a trade, and preferably a useful one such that when they got married, they could support their husbands and be a good housewife. While I like sewing and knitting, and am glad for the connection this gives me to my grandmother, I am also very happy that I am able to pursue other activities to earn professional regard.

It’s weird how, say 10 years ago, scoffing at the maxims now regularly coming from my mouth was fun. For example, one of the things my mom used to say (still says, too) is “Do what you need to do before going of on a pleasure bent, you’ll enjoy the pleasure bent much more”. Although this was mostly quoted at us when we hadn’t done the laundry yet, or dishes, today it probably refers to weekends I would enjoy more if I had managed to prepare that lecture for monday earlier.
While I quite enjoy spending a weekend working on a lecture, my family might not appreciate me traveling to see them and then disappearing behind my laptop because there’s this lecture, you see. On the other hand, it’s also possible that my mom is quite proud of me giving lectures, so maybe together they cancel each other out.
Either way, my mom is still in inspiration to me, through the way she has lived her life, is living her life. Mostly right now through the support for her children: enough to know that we can always fall back if necessary but very able to kick us out of the blues and to make us fly on our own. Hopefully I can do the same for students (and future children)!

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Let’s try the meme again, but this time with the booklist of the The Big Read .

1) Look at the list and bold those you’ve read and italicize those of which you only read part.
2) Add a ‘+’ to the ones you LOVE.
3) Star (*) those you plan on reading.
4) Tally the ones you have read completely

(more…)

Because SW asked so nicely…

BBC Book Meme

As seen everywhere.

BBC Book List

I wonder whether only having seen the movie / miniseries also counts?
Instructions:
1) Look at the list and put an ‘x’ after those you have read. (screw the x, I’ll bold those I’ve read and italicize those of which I only read part.)
2) Add a ‘+’ to the ones you LOVE.
3) Star (*) those you plan on reading.

So, here we go…
(more…)

Recently, during a discussion with my UniversitySupervisor about data, I mentioned that doing the analyses she suggested might take a while since I didn’t know how to implement them in Matlab. UniversitySupervisor wondered whether this dependence on others isn’t annoying for my work – wouldn’t I want to learn how to do it myself?

Why, yes… in a way… but I want to learn what I need, which isn’t really on offer around here since it mostly concerns statistics in Matlab. Also, frankly, rumming around with data without really knowing what I’m doing was a scary idea. Until realizing that that’s what we do most of the time anyway, so why not take the plunge, read lots of Help files and see how far I can get without calling in my Matlab-person? And while things haven’t been exactly smooth sailing, and asking for help from several people was necessary betimes, so far it has worked out. Now I have a better feeling of accomplishment, not to mention a better understanding of which processes my data have gone through exactly.

If only my data would make as much sense as the processes, life would be entirely enjoyful this week.

A couple of days ago saw me quaking in my shoes somewhat because I had a meeting with UniversitySupervisor but didn’t feel particularly prepared. However, she was very enthousiastic about the results obtained, and managed to cheer me upĀ  completely.

It’s lovely when UniversitySupervisor does this to me, since it gives me some much-needed confidence again that my research is worthwhile and useful. While on average I think so too, sometimes it feels like I should do research that is maybe more life-saving.

Also, the current students are so much better to work with. S2 lately felt himself drowning in the theory, but hopefully after our conversation he’s feeling better and more able to support his head to breath while swimming the literature/theory river.

s1, who was off to a different continent for three months, has shown up again. Because of other bullshit he pulled in the past, I insisted that UniversitySupervisor also be present. We had a nice, brief (mercifully!) conversation, in which we cleared up that he should look at the data of his experiment, get them clear in his head and then come to us and talk about them. We’ll see whether he manages to do. Right now, my hopes aren’t very high though, so it shouldn’t be that difficult to surpass them.

Last week, four out of the seven days I spent being sick and hanging around in my home. Being sick of course doesn’t prevent one from reading or writing email, although friday was a rather low point and the laptop was turned off as much as possible. However, students still emailed.

Wednesday was the introduction to the course I’m coordinating this semester, and not everything went as smooth as I hoped. First, a student emailed that she couldn’t find the literature in the handouts. Well, no, since the literature was hosted elsewhere on the internet. Location: specified in the syllabus, obviously. (Acutally, there were more emails in that vein, but an announcement on the intranet took care of that.)

Second, we recently received an email from our students (and it’s still unclear to me whether these are the bachelor or the master students) concerning mandatory attendance, grading exams and level of the lectures. All of it rather positive actually, since they mentioned they would like the staff to keep track of attendance, return grades within the specified time (in my alma mater, if grades weren’t returned on time everybody got a pass, period), and make sure lectures were tailored to the appropriate level. Well, huray, rejoiced I! Students care about education and show they care!

So I mentioned the letter in the introduction, but unfortunately several students took this to mean that the mandatory attendance in our course was because of this letter. Uhm, yeah… so not, giving that letter way too much credit. Of course, this has to be rectified, since it’s rather unfair for the student who sent of the letter to get thisĀ  kind of blame from collegea student.

These appear to be some of the side effects of me opening up my mouth in lectures without thinking through beforehand what I will or won’t say. Obviously, there’s still much to learn in that corner. But at least it didn’t deter me in showing up, or feeling quite good about being able to coordinate a course for the first time.

Learning point: carefully think through notions and consider consequences before opening mouth to say something to students!