Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Things I'll Say to Relatives this Holiday Season

"No grandma, I'm not that kind of doctor."

"What exactly is it I do right now?.......uh, need another drink?"

"Sure, I'd love to hear your opinion about the things we're doing wrong in the field of hamster fur weaving, Uncle Frank. Just let me grab another cold one."

"No, I only have a few more months on my contract. They don't usually ask the postdoc to just stay on as a professor."

"Oh, you are thinking about going to graduate school too, in-law Sara? No, I'm sure there will be plenty of job openings in the 8-10 years it will take you to finish. Yes, especially in that obscure humanities-related field. It can only get better, I suppose. How about some more wine?"

"You're probably right Uncle Frank, we should abolish that particular state agency. They only paid my way through graduate school and are now funding my postdoc. Excuse me, I need a refill."

"Look Mom, I just don't think having kids on a postdoc salary is a good idea right now."

"How is my job search going? Well...er....hey, who wants to do some shots?"


  1. Pitch-perfect, Bison!
    I had an uncle who liked to annually remind me that "we don't have tenure down at the steel plant."

  2. I hated being a postdoc. It felt like being a replicant. Replicants don't have mothers, though, who don't understand what a "postdoc" is, and assume that it was because there was something wrong with me. It says something very bad about how contemporary science is run that I wish I'd been adept at lying to my mother. I could have just breezily said, "I'm a research scientist now, don't worry, everything's fine."


    The second time he said that, I'd say, "You said that last year."

    If he doesn't take the hint and there's a third time, I'd say, "Steel plant? They still have those in America?"

    The fourth time, I'd let him have it:

  3. I love my relatives (even Uncle Frank) but most of them are not academics. To them, I do something mysterious and unknown, creating an end product that doesn't make much sense either.

  4. @everybody: the reality is that they *do* have tenure down at the "steel plant"--or wherever the farkle else they punch in and out at the timeclock...It's about due process, people, and my kid had that at flippin's MCDONALD'S after 30 days--as do most workers in America since for, like, ever--or at least with the advent of decent labor laws and the growth and strengthening of labor unions. When WE don't point that out--that THEY cannot be fired without cause and without due process with represention after 30-60-or-90 days, where WE lack that kind of protection for 1095-1460-or-1825 days or more--we feed their misapprehension that academics' jobs are protected for life. In my experience, once people "get" what tenure actually IS, they shut the fuck up and pass the godddamn peas.

  5. The one I love is "how much did you get paid for your book/article?" sigh

  6. Oh yeah, Morose...I LOVE that one. They're dumbfounded when they find out that shit don't pay...as if we're all supposed to be hauling in the royalties like Tom Friggin' Clancey.

  7. Post of the Week!


    "Yes, there is a college much closer to home. Too bad they're not hiring."

    "Actually, there are plenty of transitional fossils."

    "The human eye actually isn't well designed at all. There's that pesky blind spot, for one thing."

    "My son? He's been getting involved in community organization and police relations."

  8. One statement I have to repeat constantly, even to my own wife! : "No, even though I'm not teaching a class I am not on vacation. I still have to go to work."

    Eskarina, you've obviously taught biology - I've said those statements too, take out the "pesky" and it'd be identical.
    There's also "No, intelligent design is not a scientific theory."

  9. "Oh, but they are hiring at the college. Remember Eileen across the street? Her uncle has a friend at the college and he said they need someone to teach French. You had some French didn't you? I remember you were in France just last year. You could teach French!"

  10. Yeah, some of the most demented-though-well-meaning advice I got from a relative as a struggling astronomy postdoc was, why not become an astronaut? Even a relative ought to have known that I was never athletic, never mind also that NASA typically gets about 10,000 applications for about 20 positions that open up every other year. Since this was over a holiday meal, I also didn't mention the nasty ways how astronauts die.

    Another comment from a relative that I managed to dodge over Thanksgiving: "Anthropogenic global warning is not real, and I know because the Wall Street Journal said so!"

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  12. I just got contacted 8 times by my crazy father in law in the last 24 hours to discuss his hamster fur weaving problems, after he had already been to the hamster fur weaving specialists twice in the same day (and once to the emergent hamster fur specialist) so that he could try to accuse them of inappropriate weaving. Now, the man won't speak to me on a daily basis, but maybe if it would get him some extra fur, then he can totally manage to kill the battery on my phone- then not listen when I actually give him my opinion (which could be construed as hamster fur shopping).

    He then comments at how I should be teaching at a "good school" in Minnesota.


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