How Hard Do Professors Actually Work?

If there were a “10 Things That Piss Academics Off the Most” list, ranking near the top would be the perception that academic life is easy and relaxing. Professors get annoyed at having to explain to their neighbors and family members that their work extends far beyond the lecture hall—and far beyond the seven-month-or-so academic year. They might be seen walking their dog in the middle of the day, but chances are they’re going back home to grade papers or prepare a seminar discussion or conduct research.

Despite broad consensus among professors that their job isn’t for slackers, they tend to disagree, primarily among themselves, about exactly how hard they work. While some scholars say they maintain a traditional 40-hour workweek, others contend they have a superhuman workload. Take Philip Guo, an assistant cognitive-science professor at University of California, San Diego, who on his blog estimated that in 2014 he spent 15 hours per week teaching, between 18 hours and 25 hours on research, four hours at meetings with students, between three hours and six hours doing service work, and between 5 hours and 10 hours at “random-ass meetings (RAM).” That amounts to as many as 60 hours per week—which, he noted, pales in comparison to the 70 hours he worked on average weekly as an undergraduate student at MIT.

America’s higher-education system is under increased scrutiny largely because of rising tuition costs and ballooning student debt; concerns about liberal indoctrination on college campuses, which are subsidized by taxpayer dollars, have also started to bubble up. People want to know where their tuition and tax money is going—are professors working hard for that money?

More here


Property Tax in New Jersey

Taxes in Jersey suck. They just do.

Walk into any diner on Route 17 and ask the guy at the counter. He’ll tell you, “our houses cost a lot, and we pay a shit load of taxes. Now get me a egg, cheese and Taylor ham sandwich, dammit.”

Here in Jersey, we are going to get royally screwed with Trump’s new tax plan. We used to be able to deduct part of the giant-assed local taxes from our federal taxes. Can’t do that anymore. Am I slightly laughing at the Trump voters in New Jersey right now? No. Because I’m too pissed off at them.

The towns directly around us are considering a plan to convert taxes into charitable donations, which still can be deducted from federal taxes. Our town must be considering the same plan.

More on Transportation


We didn’t move willingly out to the suburbs. We were pushed out of New York City by the need for good neighborhood schools and the mosquito-like annoyances of being poor in the city — alternative side of the street parking, inconvenient laundry, four flights of stairs, a heating system that might conk out in the middle of winter for two days, cockroaches in the kitchen. There wasn’t one particular issue, but when all those problems swarmed around you constantly, nipping at your ankles, city life became draining.

Still, in the back of our heads, we planned to move back when the kids finished school. Since Ian will be in the system until he’s 21, we thought we had another six years before getting a two bedroom on the A Train line.

But I’m not so sure about that anymore. My family and friends who live in New York City,  DIE-HARD city-types, are miserable. The subway system is falling apart. The cars are more crowded than ever. Crammed into cars trying to grasp a handrail isn’t a fun way to start the day. And the trains keep breaking down. Repairs means that trains are rerouted, so it might take three trains to get to work, instead of one.

Everybody knows that the subway system, which still uses 120-year old parts, is falling apart. While corruption and union rules have made repairs prohibitively expensive, the real solution is to rip it all out and start over again. Which is impossible. Nobody could get to work or school for five years.

And then getting around the city by car has also been a nightmare. We drove into the city to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art this week. In ten degree weather, the line to get into the museum curled around the front fountains. (Insider tip — the parking lot entrance to the museum was empty, so we zipped right in.) There are tons and tons of tourists in New York City these days.

After the museum, we went to our favorite dive Chinese restaurant in Chelsea. We drove down Fifth Avenue. It was bumper to bumper Uber cars all the way downtown. Uber cars have made traffic so much worse.

So, that’s just my commuter gossip for the day.

Dr. Manhattan sent me two links to transportation articles that he likes. I’m still reading them: James Q. Wilson piece from 20 years ago writes there’s no way in hell the car could be invented today.  Charles C.W. Cooke piece on the politics of self-driving cars.

The Times has had several excellent articles on the transportation issues: How Politics and Bad Decisions Starved New York’s Subways and Your Uber Car Creates Congestion.

Self Driving Cars Are Coming

The topic du jour during Christmas festivities was the self-driving car.

My brother-in-law manages the New Jersey division of a major, international architecture company. They do office buildings in Times Square and corporate headquarters out here in the burbs. He recently attended a presentation about how the firm should deal with the upcoming changes to automobiles and was like a fanatic on the topic. He showed us the CEO’s power point presentation on self driving cars after Christmas dinner.

The firm is convinced that we’ll be fully transitional into an Uber-like shared self-driving car system in the next ten to fifteen years. The first changes will happen for trucking in five years.

And it’s much more than self-driving cars. People won’t own their own vehicles. They will call for a car, like an Uber service, and then chillax inside the vehicle, even taking naps, while the car takes you to work or on vacation.

My BIL’s architecture company is already designing their office parks with this future in mind. For example, they are building parking lots with external ramps, rather than internal ones. That way the ramps can be easily eliminated and the parking garages can be converted to other kinds of space.

On Christmas, everybody had a different reaction to this discussion. My parents were sad that they might not be around when all this happens. They’ve finally had to stop driving into New York City for their ballets and operas, because too many people were beeping at  my dad as he drove 30 mph on the West Side Highway. They take the uber in now, but hate paying the fees.

I liked the idea, because I don’t give a crap about cars, and my astigmatism is so bad that I can’t drive on highways at night anymore.

But my in-laws hated it. They are Mid-western, and cars are a big part of their lives. And now they live in a shore community in North Carolina; they are afraid that the uber services won’t be that effective near them.

If some people get are all “Obama is steeling our guns” over gun control, imagine how they will get when we tell them that they can’t drive their trucks on the highway anymore.

Life and Work

Yesterday, I finished the rough draft of an article that has been killing me for three weeks. The editor can’t look at it for another week, so I have a nice reprieve. I don’t want it to come out until after the holidays anyways, because nobody reads online articles in December.

Tomorrow, I’m going into New York City to watch a video team prepare a short clip on an alternative school. I’m supposed to write an accompanying article for the video, but I won’t have to do much until January.

So, I’m finally able to get my holiday chores in order. I’ll run to the mall in an hour, after the Adobe technical team and I hash out the last issue with transferring my old computer applications to my new computer.

I need this day really, really badly. We’re all off our game here with my work and Steve’s. Steve got a nice promotion this week. Yay, Steve. But he’s had a couple of late nights with holiday parties and all that, so I haven’t had his help with Ian’s homework and kitchen cleanup. He’s going to have more responsibilities at work, so that means more for me at home. Which is fine. It’s not like I have two little kids with one being very autistic-y anymore. I can get a full day of work done in my little office and get to the gym and make dinner.

In the early days of Apt. 11D, I was very frustrated by my inability to make progress professionally while having responsibility with the kids. Poverty made things more complicated, because we couldn’t afford help; we lived in an area that only had very expensive help.

Autism made things even more complicated, because nobody could help. If Ian threw up in the school cafeteria, because of food sensitivities, only I could drop everything to pick him up from school. Only I could go to the IEP meetings. Only I could calm him down when his anxieties got the best of him. Only I could understand his garbled speech. We’re in a whole different place now. Today, he plays with the school marching band.

Steve and I were thinking about poverty this week. When we were finishing off our dissertations and Jonah was a toddler, we survived in New York City on $30,000 for the whole year. Even a couple of years on, when I first started blogging here, we made very little. We’ve been thinking back to the poverty years and how time-consuming poverty was.

Being poor meant some obvious hardships. I had one pair of shoes. I returned Christmas presents in order to buy diapers. We didn’t go to restaurants. No vacations. But it also meant that I had to get WIC to purchase baby formula. That took time. I had to walk twenty blocks to Columbia Presbyterian, talk with a bureaucrat, attend mandatory lectures on health, get the vouchers, walk to a supermarket that accepted the vouchers, haul the supplies back to the apartment.

Doing laundry was horrible. After a week with a kid with a stomach virus, we would have to carry all those stinking clothes and towels down four flights of stairs and around the corner to the laundromat. I couldn’t carry it on my own, so laundry had to wait until Steve could help. We would spend all Saturday afternoon in the laundromat, while pushing Jonah around on the wheelie laundry carts.

We couldn’t afford the fancy pre-school at the hospital, so I had to walk Jonah to the cheaper half-day school which was almost two miles away. Ian would be strapped to my stomach in one of the baby sacks.

I got shingles from the stress.

Why did we do that? We were in our mid 30s. Other people our age had nice jobs in law or business. Many already owned their own homes. As “smart” people, why were we living like that? We didn’t have much choice. We had to dig ourselves out of the hole that we got in by spending our 20s in grad school training for jobs that didn’t exist.

Being bourgeois now has meant that I can buy an extravagant coat for Steve for Christmas and replace my computer without excessive stress. We’re not so rich that we can afford a private college for Jonah or a new car for Steve, but we’re coat and computer level secure. It’s nice.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to write about in 2018. I think it’s going to be mostly about people like the 30-year old me, not bourgeois me. I don’t make a lot of money with writing, but I do have a nice soapbox. I’m going to put a laser focus on those issues in 2018. It will be fun.

Friday Randomness

I am working on an article this week, which took a sharp left turn. I started writing about a small problem. I did a bunch of interviews, and the information took me into a whole new area.  It’s like I’ve been writing about tigers for years and suddenly realized that tigers have morphed into turtles. I’m not sure what to do with the information. Sit on it and write the little article? Write it all up now? Who should I tell about this? Do I really have the right story?  I spent more time thinking than writing this week.

Did you know that there aren’t any organizations or groups, with real power or visibility, that represent the interests of college students?

Luckily, we can afford for me to waste time thinking and not constantly churning out words for dollars, like most writers today. Still, one does have to actually produce something eventually. So, I’m shutting down all distractions for the morning and producing a rough draft, even if it is triple the size of a normal article. I’ll divide it up later.

Does anybody feel a little sorry for Al Franken?

Check out Harry’s post on 529s at Crooked Timber?


Wedding Cakes, Business, and Minority Groups

About 1 this afternoon, I pulled myself away from my book and went to the running trails to work off some steam. I have a ridiculous amount of work including one article that I think is a home-run. So, I shouldn’t have wasted a morning with the book. It’s just that I was very, very upset.

I needed a really fast, hard run, which usually calls for some very nasty pop music on the headphones. I think I was too upset even for Beyoncé. I wanted some angry news. I put on the New York Times podcast and got lost in the discussion about same sex marriages and that wedding cake guy.

It was a good debate. One side is humiliated and fears a slippery slope, and the other side demands the right to self expression.

I do suspect that both sides were hired by opposing groups and aren’t really aggrieved parties. Because who would buy a cake from someone who hates you. Spit happens.

Also, the podcast didn’t discuss the fact that all businesses discriminate. The GAP discriminates against obese people by not carrying sizes about a 12. Running stores discriminate against special needs people when they don’t carry sneakers with velcro. And public schools discriminate against special needs people.

Our school district hired an auditor to look at our town’s special education program. Now, it shouldn’t matter to me all that much because my son now attends another public school, because I figured out how bad things were and got him moved. He’s doing great. But the report does matter to me because I really, really like special needs kids.

So, this report was devastating, but the auditors buried the findings. I printed out the 90 page report and pulled out all the bad things. And then went to the school board meeting, which is televised, and told them what the auditors found. The School Board members tried to distract me and buzz me away with a timer. I kept talking. I told them how they really shouldn’t house the special needs kids in a windowless basement classroom. The superintendent told me that it was okay because they provided the room with ventilation. Yes, he actually said that we should be happy because the kids were given oxygen.

Anyway, getting off topic here. The point is that the wedding cake story has larger implications. If wedding cake suppliers have to provide cakes for all, then does the GAP have to offer super large sizes, do sneaker stores need to accommodate people who can’t tie shoe laces, do schools need to provide a windowed classroom for all kids?

I hope so.