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Archive for February 13th, 2010

publish or perish

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Definitely don’t want to be glib about or otherwise make light of a terrible story, but there’s probably not a junior academic out there who didn’t drop an underbreath No shit… or some variant upon hearing about the murders at Alabama-Huntsville.

The shootings opened a window into the pressure-cooker world of biotechnology start-ups, where scientists often depend on their association with academia for a leg up. Ms. Bishop was part of a start-up that had won an early round of financing in a highly competitive environment, but people who knew her said she had learned shortly before the shooting that she had been denied tenure at the university.

On Friday, Ms. Bishop presided over her regular neuroscience class before going to a biology faculty meeting, where she sat quietly for about 30 or 40 minutes, said one University of Alabama faculty member who had spoken to people who were in the room. Then she pulled out a gun and began shooting, firing several rounds before her gun either jammed or ran out of bullets, the faculty member said.


Mr. Garner said Ms. Bishop was first been told last spring that she had been denied tenure. Generally, the university does not allow professors to stay on after six years if they have not been granted tenure, and this would have been the final semester of Ms. Bishop’s sixth year.

The university does have an appeals process, and people who knew Ms. Bishop said she had appealed the decision.

Ms. Bishop was quick to talk about her tenure worries, even to people she had just met. A businessman who met her at a technology open house in January, and who asked not to be named because of the close-knit nature of the science community in Huntsville, said, “She began to talk about her problems getting tenure in a very forceful and animated way, saying it was unfair.”

Believe me, I know it sucks to complain about the business when I’ve got (for now anyway) a really good job at a really good place, but the truth of the matter is that the stress only gets worse the further along you make it. Any line of work that can leave a 42-year old Harvard PhD basically completely out of the game after a six years of apparently solid teaching is bound to make people go mad. It’s clearly getting worse on the tenure front, as university administrations cynically use the “tenure hurdle” to keep costs down.

If only this story would make university administrations take pause to consider their policies on promotion. What they’ll do instead, I’m sure, is dump a ton of cash into the coffers of “career transition” consultants and campus security forces.

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February 13, 2010 at 7:16 pm

Posted in academia

public transport – beginning, middle, end

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He feels three things on his way home, late Friday night.

First he feels menaced at the bus stop because there are packs of drunken youths around and for some reason (because he is big, something else – because he looks like the sort of guy that it would be worth fucking up – little do they know how worthlessly with the grain of things it would be) is absolutely sure they’re going to come over to where he is and start something. He has learned not to smoke at bus stops at night – it only draws the attention of kids like these.

Later, he feels frustrated when another group of youths board his bus and argue with the bus driver about Oyster Cards and fares for about ten minutes, delaying the journey. Something in him has always made him feel like it’s his duty to intervene in situations like this – but again, he seems to be the right sort to fight it out with, and four on one is no good. Thankfully, a middle-aged woman with a strong West Indian accent shouts them down for having no respect for their elders and they leave. One of them spits on his window as the bus pulls away.

Finally, he feels disgust with England mixed with a overwhelming sense of fear when, as the bus nears his stop, the driver slows down because a man has fallen over dead drunk, legs on the sidewalk, head on the street right where the bus is meant to go. Some kids – themselves drunk – run up and lift the guy onto the bus stop bench. He does fucking nothing, walks home.

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February 13, 2010 at 1:27 am

the nyt continues its campaign against low testosterone levels in male writing

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Interesting: Joel Agee’s roiphes Peter Handke’s new Don Juan: In His Own Words in the NYT this weekend:

For all its engaging and delicate ruminations, and despite its bold, humorous claim to be “the definitive and true story of Don Juan,” the book left me wanting to hear again Mozart’s treatment of the same theme. That music has everything Handke’s prose lacks: brio, verve, declarative intensity, a vast range of emotion and, last but not least, brilliant, joyful virility.

It’s starting to look like a concerted, and very strange, campaign that the NYT is conducting against all manner of literary flaccidity and impotence. Odd. Just ordered the novel anyway. Why isn’t it being published in the UK?

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February 13, 2010 at 12:16 am

Posted in handke