Friday, April 27, 2012

When a talk is just a talk

In academia, before you have a full time position you are often given the cautionary advice, "every talk is a job talk". This is often true, though not always in the short term.

Once you have a position, you are also told this, and "every talk is a funding pitch", i.e., to program officers, potential grant reviewers, etc.

There are other types of talks too. There are the "I might want to come to your university and am testing you out" talks, and also there are the, "We may want you to come to our university so are testing you out" talks. There are "tenure tour" talks, which is when TT professors travel to other universities to show off their steak knives and court letter writers. Sometimes this works in reverse, where junior faculty invite potential letter writers to their university to give talks.

Sometimes people give talks due to geographic convenience, or because they want to start a collaboration/friendship/etc with someone at that university.

I suppose sometimes a talk is just a talk, but I suspect that's the exception to the rule.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Stress, baking, and a new venture

The stress of being a professor has been absolutely brutal on me. With the teaching prep, grant proposals,  research group management, departmental/professional service, and all the other things I do - I really feel like my head is going to explode. I can't think of a time I've ever felt this stressed, except maybe as an undergraduate in college, or when I had a colicky newborn.

Since it's generally not socially acceptable for professional women to show any emotions other than joy, I started taking my work stress out on bread. As soon as I get home, off goes the smile and out comes the flour. I douse the counter, grab all my ingredients, add water, and knead. They say 8-10 minutes, I usually go for 30-40. To me the end product is not so much about making a delicious, well-proportioned, beautiful loaf of bread as it is about beating the crap out of my enemies.

About six months ago, after a particularly bad day at the office, I decided to start making my dough resemble particularly troublesome colleagues before I kneaded the heck out of it. At first it was just little motifs here and there - a jutted chin, a moustache, glasses. Then I started getting more elaborate, with different kinds of food dye for the hair and eyes, sprinkles for whiskers, etc.

I got pretty good at these "bread sculptures". In fact, so good, that I couldn't bear to destroy them. The best thing I could do was bake them, photograph them, then place them on the porch for the small animals to nibble upon.

Here's the thing: I *love* this. I enjoy bread sculpting so much, I can't imagine doing anything else with my life. This professor thing is just a sham, a veil hiding my eyes from the real world: the world of people-shaped bread.

So I told my chair I needed a leave of absence for "personal reasons" (I suspect he thinks I'm pregnant). I went down to the bank, took out a small business loan, and rented a store in the center of town.

No emails. No meetings. No websites. Just bread.