Friday, April 07, 2017

Is a puzzlement

I still can't quite let go of this predatory-conference thing. I've been turning it over in my mind.

You have to understand: I teach at a small, perpetually cash-strapped (now more than ever) university. Travel money is small - at its most generous, we had $150 in funds PER FISCAL YEAR. Need more? Write a grant for it. Or, as I usually did, pay out of your own pocket.

So I admit I'm baffled at a conference that charges $250 PER DAY just to walk in the door - no lodging, no meals. Wouldn't that peg *everyone's* BS meter? Also, given the vagueness of the "society" listed (I have never heard of it, though the topic is a bit out of my field), wouldn't people be suspicious?

For comparison: the last conference I attended (summer 2016), the registration was around $150 total. That was for a four-day conference, with a field trip, with lunch on the field trip and a barbecue one night included, and it included the price of a t-shirt I wanted (it would have been, I think, $15 less without the t-shirt). The optional banquet (which I did not attend) was $20. 

(Hm. Maybe some of the big universities need an administrative position - something like "BS Detection Czar." I'd happily take that one, especially if it came with a six-figure salary: it's time I benefited from being a suspicious and untrusting person)

Are there really researchers with that kind of money to burn? Are there really universities or institutes where someone in some office somewhere doesn't look at the details and go "Wait a minute..."

I mean, given the hoops I had to jump through to get mileage reimbursement on a grant I had been awarded, where I had documentation of the mileage and what I had done....

Or, alternatively: is there some whole weird underground economy of cruddy researchers who can't get published in legit journals, who then pay predatory journals to publish their drek, and everyone knows that it's bad research and wouldn't get published were it not for the greased palms and it just kind of makes my brain hurt but then my mind comes back around to, "Well, maybe I should feel pretty good about myself because I've managed to get stuff published in legit journals where there was peer review that was genuinely aimed at helping me make the paper better..." but still, it just kind of breaks my brain because I was raised to be honest and earnest and it seems so bizarre that there could be this sort of research demi-monde out there where everyone is kind of winking at one another because it's ALL a giant scam...

And then again, there's this. Basically, it's a guy deciding to go "419eater" on a predatory journal - so he wrote a totally fake paper based on an episode of Seinfeld, and listed minor Seinfeld characters as co-authors.....and got it published. So yeah, I guess it really is a business where people just wink at one another because everyone acknowledges it's a giant scam.

And that makes me sad. Because I'm out here, bustin' my hump, trying to do some good in the world, and a lot of the time it feels like I'm just mired in the mud and spinning my wheels trying to get out....and it really IS that money makes the world go 'round....

(It also makes me slightly sad because of the Seinfeld link: I went to high school with a couple guys who wound up being writers for Seinfeld. "Jay Reimenschneider" (who ate horse, apparently) got his name from a guy I knew in high school (asked him to a dance once, got turned down. Don't know if it's because I tried to use a friend as an intermediary to ask FOR me and he didn't like that, or if he just didn't like me, or, as was more likely, he was "out of my league" - in terms of social class, not necessarily looks, though if you had asked me back then I would have 100% said it was looks).

So anyway, it also brought up the whole, "People you knew back then did stuff that made hundreds of thousands of people laugh, and here you are laboring in obscurity" and I know that really, it's the people who labor in obscurity who keep the lights on and food on the grocery store shelves and all, but still, it is sometimes a little hard not to wonder what it would have been like if things had been different....)

So I don't know. Life is weird and there are so many things about adulthood I neither chose nor expected.

Part of this is just the vague dissatisfaction I feel at this point in the semester, where I feel like I am pulling off bits and pieces of me to give to other people, and there's nothing left for me. (My comment about keeping other people happy but not having the energy left to worry about my own happiness of the other day stands.) And it's really easier to imagine the grass on the other side of ANY of the many fences in my life is greener than that in my own little pasture. (That could, perhaps, be the theme behind an MLP episode: somepony leaves town or changes jobs, and then realizes that nowhere is really better than anywhere else and that you need to strive to be happy in the little spot where you are. Or at least tolerate the bad stuff)

I also alluded to bad dreams in the last post. Yeah, I've been having them. Part of it may be that my house is a terrible pit. (So anyone passing through my town? We'd have to meet somewhere else, because I'm embarrassed at what a mess my house is). A bigger part is I'm starting to stress out about teaching Environmental Policy and Law. I finally finished the chapter on Environmental Impact Statements but wow, it's DIFFICULT. Law is hard. And a lot of it is kind of, I don't know, not intuitively obvious to me.

So anyway, when I'm worried about stuff at work, I have bad dreams.

The first one: I was either having to do a second dissertation or re-do the first one. I was living with my parents but they were the age they are now and we were also living in my maternal grandmother's home instead of their house (My "office" and bedroom was the little room I used as a bedroom at her house when we visited). I kept trying to write but stuff kept coming up - my dad, in the dream, was immediately post-knee-surgery and he needed help getting up out of chairs, and my mom wasn't strong enough to lift him out on her own, so I kept getting called to pull him up out of chairs. And there were things that kept breaking and I needed to be the one to fix them. And in the real world, my parents would never impose on me like that (not when I was working on something as deadly serious as finishing a dissertation so I got to keep my job) but somehow in the dream it made logical sense that OF COURSE I was expected to do all this caretaking but also write my dissertation....

the second one - the next night - was another house-falling-apart dream. In this one, the closets in my house had been invaded by rats. Not the cute domesticated rats some people keep as pets, but full-on, big grey Norway rats. And I didn't know how to get rid of them. And they were destroying stuff.

I think at one point some tiny corner of my brain saw my distress and tried to throw me a bone of "Hey, this is just a dream, go ahead and wake up" because when I looked into the closet at one point, one of the rats was wearing a frilly pink doll dress, and I was like "There's no way it could have put that on itself, and I didn't put it on it...."

But yeah.

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