Becca Stareyes
13 April 2014 @ 09:13 pm
Yesterday I visited UNL's observatory in Mead, Nebraska. We have a telescope on-campus as well, but this is the one that was used for a lot of the research*.

I swear, the place hasn't changed. Up to and including posters that still mention the USSR and don't mention dwarf planets** or that Pluto has all kinds of friends out there. On the car ride over, I got a overview about how the astronomy part of Physics and Astronomy has somehow managed to get worse: both the Mead telescope and the Student Observatory telescope have had problems, and we continue to have one astronomer who is close to retirement, one temporary person hired to teach Astro 103 specifically, and one who is part-time with the math department to keep his position and will probably never get tenure. They stopped offering the astronomy track for their physics major because they couldn't guarantee they could teach the courses.

About the only reason there's talk of actually changing this rather than continuing to let Nebraskan astronomy die its slow death was that the University of Nebraska at Kearney hired several astronomers and is setting itself up as the school in the state college system for astronomy, and somehow that pisses the physicists at UNL off. Even so, they'd probably have to start from practically nothing.

... If they do, I wonder if they'd hire me.

* I used the on-campus telescope for mine, partially because it's convenient (10 minute walk versus 30-40 minute drive that usually means staying at the observatory all night), partially because I could, and partially because of departmental politics. But the official reason we had the telescope on campus was for class viewing and student labs, but if no one else was using it, you could do whatever. Including letting friends in to look at Mars.

** I gave a talk, and I did mention dwarf planets in my solar system overview, even if the talk was on Jupiter and Saturn.
Becca Stareyes
31 March 2014 @ 07:48 pm
Today was my first driving lesson in over a decade. It went well -- I didn't hit anything*, even considering that the wind was blowing trash cans over into the street. Most of what I did was drive on residential streets making turns. Still don't have it all the way down, but my next lesson is on Thursday.

Who knows, by May I may be cruising the Interstate.

* Well, curbs. Do curbs count?
Becca Stareyes
25 March 2014 @ 12:59 pm
Mom thinks she saw a mouse in the laundry room. The cat is willing to sniff around, but didn't find anything. If we have a mouse, it is either stupid or infected with Toxoplasma gondii, since the laundry room is where the litter box is (and the food isn't), so it's pretty obvious from scent that 'a predator lives here'.
Becca Stareyes
21 March 2014 @ 07:57 pm
Having one of those weeks where I'm convinced that no one will hire me because my teaching experience is all 5+ years old, and science budgets (to pay for postdocs) stink, and I am going to be stuck in Mom's guest room (possibly working retail) for the rest of my life. I'd take even a temporary position just so I could have it on my CV.

It'll pass, but something other than a rejection letter would really help my mood. I still have one place I interviewed at which is making a decision around now, but even getting another interview request would be nice.
Becca Stareyes
12 March 2014 @ 09:10 pm
One job called me and said they went with another person. The other is supposed to get back to me any day now, so I'm hoping. They were hiring two instructors, and I was really excited about the job, so here's hoping.

I got 500 words of writing done yesterday. Today I took a nap. Tomorrow I need to write.

I did find some bugs in code I wrote for my dissertation, so the numbers that get published-published will be different (by a factor of no more than two-ish for some of them, but some of them had error bars of that size anyway). But it agrees better with my Florida collaborator's code.

This says something about me. I'm not getting paid to do science any more, but I still want to finish my project and help my collaborator and get this science published. I think it bodes well that, even if I teach, I'll be able to keep my toe in the field.
Becca Stareyes
06 March 2014 @ 03:44 pm
I think my interview at Coastal Carolina went well. Bad news is that my other interview (at the South Carolina Governor's School) just called back and said they went with another candidate.

Also, I have a learner's permit. The roads are no longer safe in Lincoln. (Well, at least once I find a driving teacher...)
Becca Stareyes
25 February 2014 @ 04:46 pm
I've spent so much of February trying to prepare for interviews (and also being sick) that finding my 'normal' routine is hard. Today I have a couple more job applications to send out, and some science to do, and I should probably see if Mom tackled the Giant Laundry Folding Backlog, but it feels weird not prepping for something.

Anyway, I got back from my interview on 10th February, and after a couple days, got plane crud (aka a cold). I recovered, then managed to get norovirus, possibly from Dad's cooking*. Forty-eight hours before I needed to be on a plane for a job interview. So rather than write my teaching demo, I got to sleep and freak out about still being sick when I needed to fly, and watch my little brother treat me as if I had the Black Death or smallpox. (He had a basketball tournament last weekend, so was determined to Not Get Sick.) The only one who was happy was the cat, who can't catch norovirus, and likes it when humans lie in bed all day because he can sleep next to a nice, warm body. (Plus my room is the most awesome room in the house in his opinion, because he's not supposed to be in there.)

The flight out was a bit turbulent, and I missed a connection, but I got there. The interview went well: the more you do something, the better you get. And despite forecasted thunderstorms and fog, the weather in South Carolina in February is welcome after Nebraska in February. Also, I recovered enough to have sushi on Friday**.

* Two of the five people who ate Dad's black bean-and-rice salad got sick. Not enough to confirm it, but definitely suspect.
** I suspect my hosts were hoping that they got a job candidate who likes sushi.
Becca Stareyes
12 February 2014 @ 01:28 pm
In the game Fire Emblem: Awakening, they let you name and customize* the tactician character, with the possible intent of creating a character you can empathize with. I think it's working, since last night's dream involved Fire Emblem with me taking on the tactician's role and trying to decide whether to recruit a (totally made up by my subconscious) mage whose rival was up to No Good and he was more interested in leaving the bad guys in a fit of pique and challenging/undermining said rival than in helping us.

I'm really enjoying the game, but maybe I need to take a step back and play something else.

(Given my normal play-through philosophy, of course I wanted to recruit him. I have most of the default cast available**.)

* Within limits. You can choose name, gender, hair color and style, birthday, best and worst stats, and have a choice of 3 voice actors, but, say, the Avatar's skin color is fixed.
** I missed Donnel the villager, and still haven't gotten Olivia's kid because both she and Gaius (the only single man left) are under-leveled and die in any battle I put them in. I suppose I can just haul them off in the corner and have Olivia just dance every turn, then recruit the kid with Chrom... especially given how ridiculously over leveled I am and that I'm playing on Casual Mode (which means any defeats of my units on the battlefield are presented as severe wounds and retreats, not deaths, so I can lose units in fights without losing them for good).
Becca Stareyes
12 February 2014 @ 01:10 pm
So, I went on an interview, at the South Carolina Governor's School for Science and Mathematics, a public residential high school program for 200+ of Carolina's most high-scoring and interested high schoolers.

I think most of the question-asking went well, but I totally flubbed the teaching demo. The lecture part went okay with a few technological hiccups, but one of the interviewers asked me to work a problem on the board for the students, and I froze up doing it, which really made it look like I didn't know my stuff. Next time I do a teaching demo, I'll not focus so much on the lecture and make sure I can handle fielded questions.

Anyway, the town was small, but nice. A bit weird to get used to places where the residential streets didn't have sidewalks. It's really a driving culture down there, and not just because of the NASCAR track within 15 minutes of town. (I was counseled that unless I was attending a race, to avoid the area during races... much as one avoids driving near campus and downtown Lincoln when the Huskers are playing at home.) So if I get a job in the area, I'd have to learn to drive finally. That was actually a question asked of me: was I philosophically opposed to driving, or just never in a position to need it.

Besides that, there are always the bits of culture shock. Pickup trucks aren't new, nor are the proximity to farms. Between Lincoln and Ithaca, I'm used to things, and the realtor giving me a tour of town mentioned that there was a Farmer's Market last year**. Our Sunday dinner plans changed because half the restaurants in Hartsville close on Sundays -- we did end up at a very nice Mexican restaurant that probably does a good business on Sundays. That and

My flight back was needlessly complicated. I was flying out of Florence, SC, which is a tiny airport. I might even count it as smaller than Lincoln and Ithaca, since unlike them, it doesn't have a cafe, just some poorly stocked vending machines. Mechanical problems* meant that my plane didn't arrive in time and my connection was in doubt, but I decided to risk it. I didn't make the connection, so got to overnight in the city of Charlotte, North Carolina. Hey, new state for the checklist***.

On the morning I did fly out, it was snowing, and flights were already being canceled in expectation of the ice storm that is now blanketing the Southeast. I made it out in a not-quite timely fashion as airline schedules in Charlotte don't build in 'de-ice plane'. (Actually, they don't account for it in Ithaca where it's common in winter, which was why I never scheduled a tight connection in winter if I was taking the 6 AM flight, since we'd sit on the tarmac for 20-30 minutes while they sprayed down the plane with antifreeze).

So, next interview is late next week, and I should start prepping. And keep on the job market.

* Of the sort that propagate forward all day, since the plane has a schedule.
** Which is a nice thing for me; I like having lots of fresh seasonable veggies, and I'm starting to investigate being a slightly more humane omnivore and picking up (more expensive) animal products from local farms where the cows/pigs/chickens had a more pleasant life before their death. I'm probably never going to be a vegetarian/vegan, but I figure I can do what I can when I have the money to spend on happier hamburgers.
*** Airports and driving through states don't count as visits, but overnights or visiting any attraction does. Though seeing the Charlotte airport AND the Sleep Inn is not much of a visit to North Carolina.