Friday, July 29, 2011

You Have No Free Time

A very short, useful description of the "free time myth" for my readers not currently in grad school.  Allow this to help guide your expectations for my availability outside the 9-month academic year.

Readers still in grad school - you know the score.

At My Masters University, the professors were very upfront about the fact that they spent most of the summer trying to catch up on all the writing they did not get done during the school year, when they had to manage classes, advising undergrad and grad students, data collection, meetings/committees/service work, etc.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Understating the Case

The numbers presented in this blog post (on the interesting "100 reasons not to go to graduate school" site) are only part of the reason that I don't personally worry about the horrible prospects for newly minted PhDs on the academic job market.

The average salaries for new assistant professors in 2009-2010 were:

My relevant categories have been highlighted above (inadvertently in the colors of the local football team; perhaps I was unconsciously influenced by this recent post from a local fashion blogger -- who is not me).  (Also, I am very amused by how my clueless PrtSc method of moving this Excel chart to Blogger allows you to see that "plot area" box.  Yep, this is just another fine example of the high production values we at Empirical Question bring to you.)

The other reason, not shown here, is that there is also a lot of variation in the average number of job offers received by the graduates in different disciplines -- in some disciplines, over half of grads don't receive even one job offer (not even in a state where they have no interest in living).  So that new assistant professor of English, who spent 10 years getting her degree at Ivy League University and is now teaching at Podunk College or a regional branch of Directional State University for $51,000 per year, is among the luckiest English doctorates around.

The situation for marketing PhDs is pretty damn good (though not quite as good as for those finance and especially accounting PhDs entering the academic market).  The 2011 survey of new grads reports that marketing PhDs received an average of 2.6 job offers (from 78 applications and 15 interviews).  Actually, that report is a wealth of interesting information, and looking at previous years shows that these numbers are not a fluke.

I think the comments on the post are wonderful.  You can check out my (anonymous) contribution on the comment with today's date and 6:01 p.m.  (I initially wrote that the comments are "priceless" - hah!)

Hat tip: Robert, who sent me the link to this Slate article, from which I found the 100 reasons site.  I particularly liked this proposal from the article:

"Disrupt the graduate-school labor scheme. Independently verified information about individual graduate programs should be made freely available online. That information should include acceptance rates, financial support, teaching requirements, time-to-degree, attrition rates, and, most important, job placement, accounting for every graduate with specific details. (No more claiming that a visiting assistant professor—an academic temp—is "successfully placed.") This cannot be a one-time report; it must be updated continually. Even though college fundraisers keep tabs on alumni easily enough, many graduate programs will resist it, saying that the data are too hard to gather and that they don't have the time. (Also, the results will probably be damaging for most of them, including the most prestigious.) But pressure from the boards of accreditation, disciplinary and professional organizations, and, ultimately, the students themselves should bring most programs into compliance."

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Feed the Freezer

On Thursday, Robert and I put 32 servings of chicken-based meals into our big freezer (as well as cooking another 10 servings for us to eat right now) using the Frozen Assets mini-session methodology.  We used our own recipes for this - chicken tetrazzini, chicken enchiladas, salsa verde enchiladas, and chicken & broccoli.  We packaged the (strategically under-)cooked and fully cooled servings in plastic wrap with an outer covering of heavy-duty aluminum foil.  In the past, we've used plastic (ziploc-type) containers but it seems that the tightly wrapped plastic/foil combination should do a better job of keeping out moisture and thus preserving the quality of the food.

Because I am cutting back a lot on my wheat intake, I made a tetrazzini for myself using rice spaghetti, which is not as flavorful as wheat pasta and tends to break down more easily and is thus just generally less desirable in every way.  However, a taste test of the tetrazzini demonstrated to my satisfaction that it is a reasonable substitute in this context.  The other recipes are wheat-free.

This kind of bulk cooking is obviously more time-efficient than cooking one recipe at a time, and it was also a bit cheaper because we purchased the boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the large packages at $1.99 per pound as well as a large (6 c.) package of shredded cheddar cheese.

Next: a beef mini-session.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Frugal Beauty, Eh?

This post about "looking good on a budget" on Get Rich Slowly cracked me up.  For example:

"I’ll tell you a secret: I haven’t washed my hair in weeks. I rinse it with water every morning when I take my shower (in my fancy, newly-repaired shower that now features hot and cold running water!). But I only shampoo and condition it about once a month. When I do, I use a 50-percent solution of shampoo and water. This means I’m using about 1/60th of the shampoo I used to use when I washed my hair every day with full strength shampoo. Needless to say, one bottle of shampoo lasts me a whole lot longer."

Where to begin?

(1) This really saves very little money.  Yes, reducing shampoo usage to 1/60th is a large reduction, but shampoo isn't expensive.  I really don't know how many bottles of shampoo I use in a year, but let's say a person uses one bottle per month, which seems like a lot, at a cost of $5 per bottle - that's $60 per year.  So this barely-shampooing tactic saves $59 per year, or 16 cents per day.  That's pretty damn trivial, in my view.

(2) OK, so you save your 16 cents per day (or whatever) but at what cost to your personal hygiene? I do not find it plausible that any but the very smallest proportion of people (if any) will have hair that is no oilier, dirtier, smellier, more unmanageable, or more generally disgusting when left unwashed 30 days out of 31. If you live a normal working-class or up existence in the US in the 2010s (and are not some kind of freak in the tail end of the distribution of scalp-oil production who never sweats, etc.), you do not have walking around in unwashed hair as a serious option.  And if you send your kids to school this way, the school will (at least they did when I was a kid) do an intervention.

(3) Does giving herself such an infrequent, low dose of shampoo actually do much good beyond the even cheaper option of never shampooing at all?

(4) And how about other needless expenses - deodorant, body soap, laundry detergent for cleaning clothes?  Why not eliminate all of these.  And live on the street while you're at it (I mean, you already will have the look for it).

It is not hard to write frugal living advice when all you're saying is, Don't spend money. Period. Even on things that all the people around you think are basic necessities of modern life. You know, like soap.

I admit that I think the idea of not shampooing is pretty much crazy, but I understand that some people argue that all this shampooing is screwing up the body's natural ability regulate oil production and whatnot.  (I don't know if this is an extension of popular heuristics like "natural is good" and "ancient practices [e.g., like before people started shampooing regularly] are good" or what.  I mean, yes, people used to not wash their hair (or bathe or whatever) as often as they do these days, but that doesn't necessarily mean squat regarding how clean they were. Maybe standards for cleanliness have changed and what was acceptable in those days is not acceptable now - you know, like dumping shit into the gutters to be washed away after a rain.)  Whatever.  If that's the case, the argument for giving up (or greatly reducing) shampooing should be about hair health and/or appearance, but the argument on that blog post is about the expense, and I don't get it.

I would also like to question the usage of the term "no poo" for the no shampoo movement.  Is the "poo" = "shampoo" equivalence intended for us to view shampoo in a negative light?  Cause it's hard to see this without laughing when people who don't wash their hair have hair that looks like shit.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


I am happy to report that I have registered for my classes for the fall semester, 3 seminars --

Attitudes & Persuasion (marketing dept) - Monday afternoon (time not finalized)
Research Methods in Social Psych (psych dept) - Tuesday 9-11
Social Cognition (psych dept) - Wednesday 9-11

I have not yet heard which professor(s) I will be working with as a research assistant.

Welcome to Snow City

I've been in Snow City since Friday, and the weather has been unusually warm (highs in the 90s; readers in TX, OK, etc., can bite me) and very sunny, but today is wonderful.  Today Robert and I took our second morning walk along the Mississippi River on the hiking/biking trail (which is 2 blocks from our apartment) and the sky was overcast, the temperature in the upper 60s. 

Our move was pretty easy and straightforward (if such terms can apply to moving everything you own over 900 miles in a truck, including across a mountain range).  We're still unpacking, though I'd say that the living room, dining room, kitchen, bedroom, and both bathrooms are about 80% - 90% ready.  My office is still a disaster zone, and we are waiting for the maintenance people to figure out our phone line situation downstairs (where the bedroom and office are) so we can set up my computer.

It's going to take some getting used to being in an apartment that is both smaller than the previous ones (we've downgraded in size on our last two moves) and is a townhouse.  We're also on a kind of interesting climate control system - the building generates A/C or heat (depending on the season) and each apartment can turn on a fan (with 3 levels of air) to bring it in.  The nice part is that we only pay for the electricity that powers the fans, not that changes the air itself, but we also have less control over the temperature.  On the warm days this weekend, it got up to about 83 degrees in the dining room (where our thermostat lives) in the late afternoons.  The downstairs is distinctly cooler than the upstairs (as you might expect).

The apartment building is of that style I associate with urban areas - you go into the building, then down the hall to the specific apartment, like in a dorm or hotel.  We are on the fourth (top) floor but are very close to the elevator.  (The climate-controlled parking under the building is an open plan, but we have been parking in spot K-9, which is close to the elevator.)  The trash situation is pretty much awesome.  There is a trash chute next to the elevator where you stick in your trash and it gets sucked away.  Large trash and recycling you can take down to bins next to the elevator in the parking garage.  The mail box is on the first floor of our building, though for some reason the mail drop off is only in the other building (so far as we can tell).

Some specific pluses, minuses, and oddities about our apartment:

Kitchen:  The refrigerator is surprisingly small.  The top shelf is too short for a bottle of beer (i.e., Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout) to fit, so our Brita pitcher is on the bottom shelf.  We do not have a pantry, so I set up my metal shelves from my old bathroom in the dining room, and this seems to be working.  There is a lot of counter space and there is a microwave pre-installed above the stove.  The stove top has two large burners (our previous one had only a single large burner, and it was annoying).

Dining room:  This is a combined Robert office / dining room space (luckily, it's pretty big).  Its most salient feature is the overhead light, which is a big metal monstrosity that Robert and I have both hit our heads on multiple times because it hangs so low.

Living room: The living/dining areas have large windows as well as a skylight.  In keeping with our vampiric habits, we leave the blinds on the windows closed, but we can't do anything about the skylight, which being oriented to the west allows a bright shaft of light to cross over the dining area during the late afternoons.  The vaulted ceiling is really high.

Office: Hard to say until we unearth it from the 6 gazillion boxes.

Bathroom: It comes with no storage space at all, but the combined bath/shower with the molded plastic interior (much better than tile) and the sliding doors are nice.

Bedroom: The closets are on either side of a short hallway that leads to the master bathroom, and they have sliding doors, so it creates a sort of dressing area.  The bizarre thing about the closets is that in the longer closet, there are two rows for hanging things (that combined hanging rod + shelf typical in new apartments) but the top row is so low that you can't actually hang shirts, pants, etc., from that rod without it bunching up on the bottom shelf.

Master bathroom: All the storage is in this bathroom, but it has only a shower stall, which is a bit cramped.

A cool thing about the townhouse layout is that we have what Robert calls a Harry Potter room under the stairs to use for extra storage space.

Oh, we also have a "powder room" upstairs but we have used it to store our packing boxes and other stuff.  Because the door is set back from the wall, we can close the door and use the inset space for our upright, stand-alone freezer.