#metoo and Power Imbalances in Academia

Hello, Miss. I’m Dr. Monster.

Whew, it’s been a hot minute, what with the quarter starting up, proposals to write, paper reviews to submit, etc… To kick things back off on the blog, let’s start with a very fun and lighthearted topic (not) that’s been on my mind lately: sexual misconduct in academia, particularly in cases where there’s an imbalance of power (e.g., a prof and a student).

The reason that this has been on my mind is that over the past year, there’s been a drama playing out at my former grad school. There was a prof who was put on probation after sexual misconduct claims with his own grad student (inappropriate touching), and later dismissed after discovery of a consensual relationship with another student. This guy was a huge giant in his field. Without him, along with several other recent personnel losses, the department is a shell of itself in that research area.

This incident got me to thinking – how common are these cases? To clarify, I consider a case as consensual or non-consensual interactions between two people of different standing in the same institution (most often a prof and a student). In STEM and academia, these cases generally involve a male prof (age 30-60) interacting with a female grad student (age 30ish)

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What are the most expensive things you’ve ever bought?

My most expensive items.

For this post, I thought it’d be fun to look at the most expensive things I’ve ever bought in my life. By listing them together irrespective of category, I wanted to see the equivalence between different items or categories of items, and the opportunity cost of my dollars. Is a luxury item really the same cost as a household appliance? Let’s find out! Note that I’m counting physical goods only, not services or repair.Read More »

Not Perfect Linen Review

Not Perfect Linen skirt and scarf.

California is hot, hot hot. I grew up in the northeast, and sure it does get hot and humid there, but nothin’ like California. I know people say that humidity is bad, but I swear the dry heat out here is even worse. The sun…. it burnsss… *Gollum impression*

So my wardrobe has slowly been adapting to the heat in the form of lots and lots of hats (you’re welcome, mom) and linen. I’ve been using linen sheets on my bed, and it’s heavenly, and also bought a few linen tops from Everlane and J Crew. I first heard about Knock Knock Linen on JENKR, and from there found a whole bunch of Lithuanian linen sellers on Etsy, all of them with a similar rustic sort of aesthetic. I eventually ended up ordering a skirt and scarf from Not Perfect Linen, and here’s my review!

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Luxury Shopping with My Mom

My one stab at luxury: a Chanel wallet-on-a-chain bag. Besides my condo and car, the third most expensive purchase I’ve ever made 🙂

(Btw, there was a glitch with my RSS feed over the weekend. You might’ve seen an incomplete post accidentally published, grr.)

Back in August, I was visiting my family when my mom suddenly expressed a desire to purchase a luxury handbag. Now, my mom’s not exactly a regular luxury purchaser – she used to be a big fan of Walmart bags, and gradually migrated over the last 10 years or so to Nine West and now Coach-level  bags. There isn’t much opportunity to purchase or appreciate luxury handbags in the small-mid-sized city where my parents currently live – the lifestyle there is probably more geared towards hiking than Hermes.

What prompted her desire for a luxury handbag? I think it was her recent visits to China – there, people are much more sensitive to brands and to “face“, and my mom didn’t want to appear cheap. Whether that’s a good reason or not, it’s not for me to judge, but I’d guess it’s a common driver of luxury purchases.

At that time, we were visiting Montreal, which has a good collection of the luxury stores  – think Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Prada, etc. I like seeing all the pretty things, so of course I agreed to accompany her. I didn’t really know what to expect – my one luxury handbag, the Chanel bag pictured above, was a gift from S when we were dating. To be honest, I was a bit apprehensive – I was imagining snooty, elegant salespeople vs my mom, who is more… direct and hands-on, with both the bags and the price, if you can imagine 🙂

Anyway, we first hit up Louis Vuitton, because, well, that LV checker pattern is ubiquitous and thus my mom knew it. The store had all kinds of trendy new models on display, but since I know *a little* bit about luxury bags from my blog reading, I asked the saleslady to show her the more classic Speedy and the Neverfull models. My mom’s major complaint with these “revered” 😉 classics was “more pockets! these bags don’t have any pockets inside!” So we exited the store without credit card damage,.

We next headed up the street to the Hermes shop. My mom had never heard of Hermes, but I pointed out an oddly-colored Kelly on display and whispered to her that it is one of the most expensive bags in the world. A Mandarin-speaking saleslady came over, which was helpful (good staffing for overseas tourists, I suppose). The saleslady had one white glove on, Michael Jackson style, which I found hilarious. My mom asked if she also had to wear a glove to touch the bag, but luckily the saleslady allowed us to touch the bag with our greasy paws 😛

Since she wasn’t very familiar with the brand (“how will people recognize it’s a Hermes bag?”), my mom nixed Hermes and we left the store and went upstairs to Chanel. There, the most intimidating saleslady I had met all day was standing there, all French and fancy looking. I immediately felt self-conscious about the state of my fingernails and eyebrows. But she turned out to be very nice and helpful! She didn’t mind at all my mom’s window shopping and numerous questions. The store had a couple of the classic flap bags, but my mom deemed them too small and too pricey (~$4000, compared to the LV which were more around the $2000 range).

The little luxury mall we were in also had smaller brand displays, along with the standalone stores that we had already visited. So I took the opportunity to ogle the other bags and introduce my mom to some other brands, like Celine and YSL. (My current fave, in the unlikely event of me making a luxury purchase, is the Celine Classic Box or the Mansur Gavriel north south tote.) Unfortunately, the number of choices led to bewilderment on the part of my mom, who had mostly been aware of LV, Chanel, and Gucci up til then. She massaged a couple of other luxury bags and agreed they were equally nice as the LV and Chanel she had been liking up til now. What’s the difference, she asked?

Then, to really open up a can of worms, I told her about the resale website, TheRealReal. She decided to go back to the hotel and check out the options and prices online. We spent the rest of the afternoon browsing the website, and guess how that ended? Well, if the number of choices in store was bewildering, then browsing online led to real decision paralysis.

So in the end, what was the result of our afternoon of window shopping? Take a guess… My mom didn’t end up purchasing anything! Too many brands, too many styles, too many colors, too many prices… she decided to continue checking the resale website and see if anything popped up that really struck her fancy.  And what did I get out of it, besides a lot of FitBit steps? A very pleasant afternoon spent window shopping with my mom 🙂

Do you enjoy the process of shopping as much as the purchase? Have you ever felt intimidated in luxury shops? Do certain bags jump out at you from a sea of choices?

Clothing Budget: August 2018

The goods.

My Not Perfect Linen order came! Yayy! Actually, it came while I was on vacation, so I put a vacation hold mail notice at the post office, which worked out perfectly. Wouldn’t want that stuff sitting around on my doorstep or getting returned all the way to Lithuana (yikes!). I’ll do a full review soon, but so far it’s been awesome.

  • Linen scarf (Not Perfect Linen, $30): A nice summer scarf. It’s not quite big enough for a wrap (when did that trend of huge scarves start, anyway?), but it’s perfectly airy for hot days and low-cut dresses that you want to cover up a bit.
  • Linen skirt (Not Perfect Linen, $70): I bought the “dark graphite” color, which is a little lighter than the photograph above. At first I thought it was a little too peasant-ish, with the linen fabric and the slightly schoolmarm style, but it’s grown on me. Plus my style is a bit 1950s anyway. So hard to find good quality, longer skirts with pockets!
  • Exercise top (Under Armour, $30): After last month, I promised myself not to buy any more items for my trip to Peru, but I really wanted a long-sleeve exercise top to wear under my fleece while hiking. It ended up being quite neon, more than I expected/prefer. I think I can pull it off for now, but I think in 10-20 years, all those neon clothes will be going to the donation bin :/
  • Dress (Madewell, $25): Ah, random Internet browsing. I’ve cut down a lot on random browsing online, but sometimes one gets through 😛 It’s a trendy midi length, very comfy, and a really pretty dark heather green (doesn’t show up in the photo well). I actually saw another girl wearing it on the street, with a completely different body type, and it looked great on her too. The online reviewers say that the shape changes horribly after washing, though. Let’s see, fingers crossed…
  • Work backpack (Lululemon, $115): After reading Xin’s post on professional backpacks, and flip-flopping between various options (including the Cuyana one, leather being fine out here in sunny California), I was visiting Canada and got tempted by the excellent exchange rate. After accounting for taxes, it worked out to ~$25 off compared to the US. Anyway, I like the color and the clean design (the straps don’t dangle), and somehow the fit is really excellent. I can’t say what it is exactly, but it feels more snug to my body – maybe it was designed for women specifically? The downside is that there aren’t enough interior pockets, so things end up getting lost in the cavernous main compartment.

In other purchases, I re-stocked my Drunk Elephant Vitamin C serum during the Sephora sale. The color of the serum in my new bottle is definitely lighter orange than my old bottle, which means the old one was getting ineffective. I stopped using the serum for the 2 weeks when I was traveling, as I have this weird idea in my head that my skin occasionally needs a “break” from these active products. No scientific basis at all, though. I resolutely did not order any other beauty products, as I’m waiting for my current products to run out. Next up on the replacement list is a new sunscreen (thinking of the Biore one), but apart from that I really have no excuse to be purchasing any skincare/makeup products.

Summer 2018 budget: $300 –  $155 (June) – $110 (July) – $270 (August) = -$235

Oops, way over. Spent my entire budget for the year, and I still have until end of November to go. I’m not going to beat myself up over it, though, since I set a pretty tight limit this year, and I think I’m doing fairly well overall compared to previous years. I’m actually thinking of switching to a quantity-based budget rather than a monetary budget. I feel like my current system is encouraging me to purchase cheap stuff, instead of quality stuff, to stay under budget. Or maybe this whole budgeting thing is a load of tosh, but at least it forces me to think a little more about what I’m shopping.

Peru Travel Diary

Petting a llama at Machu Picchu!

Hola! It’s been a while! For the past 2 weeks, we were on vacation in Peru and Canada, so there was a lack of activity here on the blog. I had intended to schedule a few more posts while I was gone, but those plans didn’t exactly come to fruition. Anyway, I figured I’d do a little recap of our Peru trip.

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How Much Do You Work? An Assistant Prof’s Perspective

Home office. The quote on the wall is The Man in the Arena.

A few months ago, I was inspired by Cait Flanders’ slow work experiment and decided to try one part of her experiment: tracking my work hours. Some professions have time-keeping built into their jobs (e.g., Xin’s billable hours or my friend who works for a defense contractor and has to charge every 6-minute increment to a project 😮 ). However, as a prof, I have a ton of time flexibility: as long as I don’t have in-person meetings or a class to teach, nobody could care less where I am. There aren’t any vacation days or sick days. I could be in Bora Bora 99% of the time, as long as I bring home the bacon (i.e., research funding).

There’s a whole culture of assistant professors working their butts off. There are legendary stories of very successful young profs working day and night, and I can certainly believe it based on their research output. But I also suspect there’s a bit of exaggeration going on too, akin to college students bragging about all-nighters. Philip Guo is one academic blogger who I like, and he’s written about working hours and estimated 45-60 hours per week. So I wanted to see where I stack up. I hypothesized that I would tend more towards the lower end of the workaholic spectrum, as I’ve observed I’m slightly more relaxed about work compared to my peers.

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