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I must be a creative genius, because I have a crazy messy desk! According to the NY Times this is a sign of creativity.

“His studies and others, like a survey conducted last year by Ajilon Professional Staffing, in Saddle Brook, N.J., which linked messy desks to higher salaries (and neat ones to salaries under $35,000), answer Einstein’s oft-quoted remark, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk?”

Apologies for the long blogging hiatus, I had a minor health scare and it left me at a loss for words. Chest pain and a feeling that my face was going numb on the left side resulted in a trip to the emergency room and much stress. After several hours, an EKG, a CT scan, and several blood tests, the ER doctor diagnosed Bell’s Palsy. Bell’s Palsy has some sort of vague connection to viral infections so they gave me the antiviral that is usually proscribed for herpes. (Lovely!) The feeling of numbness lasted a few days, but gradually disappeared. When I checked in with my regular doctor she disagreed with the Bell’s Palsy diagnosis, since Bell’s Palsy involves the nerve that controls the facial muscles, but I didn’t seem to have any paralysis. Sensation is apparently controlled by a completely different nerve. Luckily, it will probably turn out to be nothing. I’m supposed to be getting a referral to a neurologist, but who knows how long that will take.

Whenever I have a health problem I imagine the worst, despite the fact that I have never spent a day in the hospital in my life. Until this year I had never broken a bone. I have a number of small health complaints, but they are all stress related, like my migraines. In general my family has very few serious health problems. I’m 33 and all four of my grandparents are still alive, so I’m pretty lucky genetically. My healthy history doesn’t stop me from engaging in frantic internet research when I feel a little twinge. The down side of the information age is having access to information about everything that could go wrong with your health. No matter how unlikely it is, I’m always convinced that I have some sort of rare brain tumor or degenerative disease.

Grandma G’s side of the family does have a rare genetic disorder, Joseph’s Disease, also called spinocerebellar ataxia type 3. It causes Parkinsons-like symptoms in later life. Joseph’s Disease victims used to be perceived as alcoholics because of their slurred speech and staggering gate. Last year Grandma tried to convince me to be tested because if I have it, I could pass it on to my children. It’s an autosomal dominant disease, so my kids would have a 50% chance of inheriting. Unfortunately, if I get tested before I start showing symptoms, then it becomes a “pre-existing condition” and so insurance companies would be able to deny coverage. The nice neurologists explained that it would be better for me to have kids by in vitro fertilization. Then the doctors could test each embryo, eliminating any genetically unfit ones, and not let anyone know whether they had found any with the disorder. Then I could have a genetically “perfect” baby without exposing my own genetic defects to the scrutiny of the insurance industry. The cost averages around $12,000 a cycle, with only a 15%-30% chance of pregnancy. So just conceiving a baby could easily cost $36,000. It seems like an extravagant expense considering the number of unwanted children out there. On the other hand adoption can be expensive as well, and if you don’t have the right qualifications you won’t be given a child.

During my emergency room visit, a young Latino couple arrived with an adorable little baby boy. I surmised from my limited Spanish language skills that he had a fever and diarrhea. Maybe my prejudices are showing, but I imagined that they ended up in the ER because they lacked insurance. The whole medical-insurance system is frakked in any case.

Funny thing happened last week, Beorn adopted two guinea pigs. He claims it was just to save them from the SPCA, but I think he’s just a softy. The pigs are funny and in combo with the cats they are really funny! They make hilarious noises, including funny purring sounds and loud squealing sounds. If you rustle a plastic bag around them they get very excited because they think they are getting salad. This afternoon while I was trying to grade papers, the princess got up on the fish tank, trying to get into the bag of fish food. For some reason she is convinced that the fish food is actually a giant bag of kitty treats. So she’s chewing on the bag, which makes the pigs utter loud noises.”Sqeeeeeee, Sqeeeee, Sqeeeeee!” This means I have to get the cat a treat and give the pigs some salad. Later I sit down in front of the computer with a salad. What do I hear? “Sqeeeeeee, Sqeeeee, Sqeeeeee!!! Can’t I even have salad in peace???

This quarter I emphasized the need for essays to have a thesis. (The class is not a writing class and I am certainly not a writing instructor, but it fulfills a writing general education requirement, so I feel obligated to try to assist students with their writing.) For the final essay, several students decided to do something to point out their thesis to me. One wrote a separate section titled “Thesis” and then proceeded to write “In this essay my thesis is…” Another kind student italicized her thesis so that I wouldn’t miss it. I guess the problem isn’t with their writing, it’s just that I don’t know how to read an essay and identify a thesis.

I the last few days several people have posted on academic issues I have been struggling with. Since they wrote articulate posts, whereas I have a headache and fifty essays to grade, I thought I would just point them out.

From Profgrrrl a story about irresponsible attitudes towards human subjects protocols. IRB: It’s Required, Buddy! I have been struggling with understanding and following the IRB process. Frankly, the negative attitudes of many professors makes it really difficult for grad students. How are we supposed to learn the process if our mentors make it sound like the most horrible, intimidating thing in academia? Really, I’m not afraid of any part of getting a PhD, except going through the IRB process. Additionally, I want to work with agency partners, but I recently found out the the agency people I was working with weren’t following the IRB processes required by their own agency. How was I supposed to know?

From Inside the Philosophy Factory some lovely thought on why college professors should learn to teach. Teach the Professors… As a TA, I have had way more work this quarter because Inexperienced Lecturer doesn’t know how to teach. It’s also very painful to watch poor teaching.

(Watch out, more complaining!) Inexperienced lecturer assigned a 5-7 page essay as the final exam. Students have to turn the exam by 5PM today. The quarter is officially over on Friday. I have approximately 65 students. If I only spend 15 minutes reading each exam it would take me 16 hours and 15 minutes to read them all. My goal is to be done by 5PM Friday. Grades are officially due 72 hours after the exam. Am I so wrong to want to be done by Friday and have a break like everyone else?

I really want to blog about my recent experiences in social science research, but I’m not sure I can blog about it in an anonymous manner. Let’s just say that it’s pretty confusing when you try to work with other people rather than just being in control of your own project. I’m trying to follow the proper procedure according to university rules and the people I’m working with weren’t. Yet somehow I feel like a narc because in the process of me trying to follow the rules I managed to bring their breech of protocol to the attention of the authorities.



So I decided to make some changes, including trying out the new blogger. I also cleaned up my blogrolling, so if I accidentally deleted you let me know.