Soundtrack to August, 2017

July was a very busy month. Been running the Research Experience for Undergraduates with Raj. I’ve also been teaching online classes three nights a week. And every July, Raj and I take the research students to UGA for a graduate-student run conference; however, this year there also was a separate conference that I was co-organizing and at which Raj was a plenary. So instead of a usual 2 days in the Classic City we had a week long road trip to Athens.

I’ve been back to Athens every summer since I’ve graduated in 2014. But for the first time, I felt like I didn’t recognize the place. That’s right: this blog is about the oh-so-deep realization that you can’t really go home again.

Academia is a weird world. I say that a lot so let me try to be more specific. Today by “weird” I mean academia simultaneously changes very slowly and very quickly. Typically one thinks of tenure as all-but-guaranteeing faculty won’t change for decades, and historically that is the case. Still, every four years (hopefully) you get an entirely new batch of undergrads, and maybe every six years a new batch of graduate students. It creates a very weird ebb and flow.

So maybe one thing that was shocking to me is how much the faculty has changed. In my particular general area of research alone, there have been at least four professors who have retired and/or left since 2014. The Georgia Board of Regents proclaimed shortly after I graduated that all 100-level entry classes should be capped at 20 students, when previously the ceiling was 40. By doubling the number of sections for these 100-levels, UGA has almost doubled its numbers of instructor/lecturer/postdocs. Semi-related note, at least four UGA PhDs now work as instructors (of varying titles) in the department–when I was there not a single UGA PhD was on staff.

And then there are the students. I’m quickly approaching the age and stage where I do not recognize any of the graduate students (though five alums of my summer program with Raj are now PhD candidates at UGA). This previously-mentioned graduate student conference I’ve attended every year since 2011. But this year felt different. First there were the speakers; it appears that fewer first-years have been presenting. I’m suspecting the idea is that first-years don’t have as much to speak about yet, since they’re still working on qualifying exams and not their own research; they may be intimidated to talk about something so basic in front of the more advanced students.

Fine. Whatever.

But given that it was surprising that very few of the talks mentioned current research; by that I mean very few featured a result or a specific project that was attached to the person giving the talk. That doesn’t mean that the talks weren’t advanced (though some covered areas that UGA historically is not known for at all). They just weren’t the same flavor as previous years. The conference was still an unbelievably positive experience, and the summer research students really enjoyed getting to see a conference and meet current graduate students. I just felt like I was in a totally different universe, even in comparison to 2016.

But I guess that’s the point. While I may have places frozen in time or people frozen in age, life moves on. And if I can’t adapt, then I’ve really become an old fart.

So now, to music. The trip to Athens was around 300 miles. I was taking three of the research students with me. Again, to highlight how times change and effectively how old I am, our music tastes are almost orthogonal. If I had played any of my typical car mixes heads would have rolled. What I knew of the tastes of the others in my car were “classical music” (fine. I can work to that and read to that and sleep to that, but I don’t think I can drive to that) and “Taylor Swift” (no. Just…no.). But I tried. I didn’t want to be stuck in my old-fogey Outkast/Weeknd, etc., ways. While I’m not sure I’d ever play this in a car by myself, it did make the trip calm and I think no one had shocked systems. And I did sneak a little bit of myself onto the mix.

This is atypical, even for me. We have 300 miles of mixtape here. This was on a Shuffle, so between that and the length it was fine in my mind that artists repeated.

  1. Chasing Pavements, Adele
  2. I’ll Be Waiting, Adele
  3. Take It All, Adele
  4. Oh! Darling, Beatles
  5. I’ve Just Seen a Face, Beatles
  6. And Your Bird Can Sing, Beatles
  7. Money, Beatles
  8. Expectations, Belle and Sebastian
  9. Dress Up in You, Belle and Sebastian
  10. Funny Little Frog, Belle and Sebastian
  11. Kate, Ben Folds Five
  12. Video Killed the Radio Star, Ben Folds Five
  13. She Don’t Use Jelly, Ben Folds Five
  14. New York State of Mind, Billy Joel
  15. Little Numbers, Boy
  16. My Back Pages, the Byrds
  17. Don’t Doubt Yourself Babe, the Byrds
  18. My Best Friend’s Girl, the Cars
  19. Just What I Needed, the Cars
  20. I Feel Free, Cream
  21. Life on Mars? David Bowie
  22. Rock & Roll Suicide, David Bowie
  23. Five Years, David Bowie
  24. The Crane Wife 3, the Decemberists
  25. The Sporting Life, the Decemberists
  26. 16 Military Wives, the Decemberists
  27. Don’t Believe in Love, Dido
  28. It Comes and it Goes, Dido
  29. Let’s do the Things we Normally Do, Dido
  30. Son of a Preacher Man, Dusty Springfield
  31. Sing, Ed Sheeran
  32. Don’t, Ed Sheeran
  33. Photograph, Ed Sheeran
  34. Thinking Out Loud, Ed Sheeran
  35. Tiny Dancer, Elton John
  36. Levon, Elton John
  37. Take me to the Pilot, Elton John
  38. White Winter Hymnal, Fleet Foxes
  39. Tiger Mountain Peasant Song, Fleet Foxes
  40. The Chain, Fleetwood Mac
  41. You Make Loving Fun, Fleetwood Mac
  42. Dog Days are Over, Florence and the Machine
  43. Kiss With a Fist, Florence and the Machine
  44. Drumming Song, Florence and the Machine
  45. Some Nights, Fun
  46. We Are Young, Fun
  47. Why am I the One, Fun
  48. Halo, Harper Blynn
  49. Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene, Hozier
  50. Work Song, Hozier
  51. Take me to Church, Hozier
  52. Radioactive, Imagine Dragons
  53. Demons, Imagine Dragons
  54. You and I, Ingrid Michaelson
  55. A Well Respected Man, the Kinks
  56. Dedicated Follower of Fashion, the Kinks
  57. Sunny Afternoon, the Kinks
  58. Team, Lorde
  59. Glory and Gore, Lorde
  60. Walk on the Wild Side, Lou Reed
  61. Fat Bottomed Girls, Queen
  62. Don’t Stop me Now, Queen
  63. With Arms Outstretched, Rilo Kiley
  64. Portions for Foxes, Rilo Kiley
  65. 19th Nervous Breakdown, Rolling Stones
  66. Paint it Black, Rolling Stones
  67. Street Fighting Man, Rolling Stones
  68. Simple Song, the Shins
  69. It’s Only Life, the Shins
  70. Port of Morrow, the Shins
  71. Chandelier, Sia
  72. Elastic Heart, Sia
  73. A Hazy Shade of Winter, Simon and Garfunkel
  74. Mrs. Robinson, Simon and Garfunkel
  75. Cecilia, Simon and Garfunkel
  76. Where the Streets Have No Name, U2
  77. Running to Stand Still, U2
  78. One Tree Hill, U2
  79. Moondance, Van Morrison
  80. Crazy Love, Van Morrison
  81. Into the Mystic, Van Morrison
  82. Pale Blue Eyes, Velvet Underground
  83. Sweet Jane, Velvet Underground
  84. Sunday Morning, Velvet Underground
  85. Whenever You’re Ready, the Zombies
  86. This Will be Our Year, the Zombies
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