Friday, October 31, 2014

Still here

I'm still here. Having an almost calm work semester. Particularly compared to previous deadline ridden ones, this one is easy piecy. My personal life is complicated to say the least but it's nothing I can blog about. Some things I can't even tell my best friends about. So let me get to the most juicy things I can possibly write semi-publicly about without hurting anyone or get fired. Actually my job is very safe and Sweden is liberal, I could probably even sleep with my students and still be okay. But I try not to do that anymore. Not that I didn't have someone just yesterday who made it quite clear that if he got just a hint of a chance he would take it.

I wish I could fire people though. The job security in Swedish governmental institutions (universities go under this category) makes it completely impossible, in fact after several meetings about a particularly difficult case, it turns out that because we are such large employer, we have to try to find another role to the person first, even if that is in a completely different department. So we are stuck with a person who cannot perform their duties. At all. Then we are also stuck with a person who makes other people's life miserable. Anyone around him gets a nasty comment and he has no lid whatsoever to put on his negativity. I have others threatening me they will leave if he stays and I can't get rid of him. I had a good chat with one of the people affected yesterday and he said some interesting things about the situation, which helped. I got a plan now and it's not pretty. Luckily I have no sense of closeness to this place, I'm an outsider and I don't plan on sticking around. My weakness is that I care about people, particularly when I get to know them. Even Swedes. Then I just want to go and hug them and tell them to take a day off and be good to themselves. Tell them not to worry. I'll wave a magic wand and make their problems go away. Except I can't do that and when I go home I don't care anymore.

I'm a bad boss because I do people favors. I twist and turn the truth and make sure I can keep the people I like and let the ones go that I don't like. Without looking at the bigger picture because I don't care about the bigger picture. I'm sure a lot of old white men in CEO positions do the same but it doesn't make it better. Right now my one consolation of a boss is leaving and a new one is entering. Someone I don't trust the least. Again I have to play a game and do people favors such as manipulating work tasks and cover up the truth. And it turns out I have a lot more power than what I initially thought and I am of the 'its easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission' type person, so at least I do things. And I have no patience with people who do not do things, which unfortunately there are many of here. Or complain about working more than their allotted 37 hours.

Yeah, my work is dull and full of a lot of listening to people I couldn't care less about but at least I have my tiny research group and 1-2 days of research fun per week. I long towards each Friday which is research day and I get to work from a cafe and home. Today was one and i got one page on a paper written. At least that's something.

Saturday, October 11, 2014


One of the apparent perks of living in Sweden (and other Scandinavian and some European countries) is that on paper we have 5-6 weeks of paid vacation per year. I often hear non-academics, international people telling me how lucky I am and how nice this must be. I have to agree not to seem ungrateful (which I am not). But fact is that I used to go on actual vacation or holiday, (that kind of trip where you fly somewhere, stay at a hotel or similar, and relax for x number of days, expanding your cultural horizon) way more when I lived in California than when I moved to Sweden. In fact I have not had a single holiday since I moved three years ago. Instead I take days off going to Copenhagen for a prolonged weekend, I have a summerhouse with my family in Denmark where I go during the summer for a week or two, and I take the occasional extra day or two in extension to a conference, most often with Zoe. Zoe has never been on such holiday either, not that I think she is missing out on anything, she has plenty of variety in her life, flying places with me and seeing the world, but traditional holiday, she has no idea what is.

As a researcher focused on my career, trying to publish as much as possible, six weeks of vacation is not really an option, unless you want to not move up in the system. I would never have time to do the research needed to maintain an academic career if I didn't spend teaching-free periods on this, and this is a fact generally acknowledged among researchers. What I often end up doing, is taking 'fake' vacation, entering it into the HR system and working anyway. Since the university requires you to take all the vacation that you have, because otherwise they have to pay you cash for it, and that is not within their budget I usually just take the last bit in the end of the year (I understand it from their perspective, as a large organization, they did not have much influence on the broader academic system and the negotiation of vacation time among workers in a country, so it should not become an extra expense to them).

But I do miss real holiday. I miss planning a trip through Europe, taking the train, flying to Japan and exploring different cultures. But with no partner to do this with and a single income to live from, it is no longer really an option. I look forward to when Zoe is just a bit older and her and I can go exploring in far-off countries. Right now I'm planning extended weekend trips with her to other European capitals. Perhaps Berlin, perhaps Amsterdam. Perhaps next year.

I know most researchers are in a similar situation and that vacation is something rarely taken in the traditional way and I'm not being ungrateful for what I have, because I know that many people in this world don't even have options for days off. But I do find it to be one of the things I miss the most from my previously married life and it becomes apparent around this time of year where I enter my fake vacation into the system.