Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Interview Q&A

EcoGeoFemme sent me six interview questions, which I answer in this post. If you'd like to receive interview questions from me, please leave a comment. The first five commenters will get questions from yours truly.

  1. How do you like living in Tennessee? How does it compare to Illinois?
I like Tennessee overall. It is quite different from Illinois in a number of ways. First of all, the states have very different government types. Tennessee has a philosophy of low taxes and low services, while Illinois has higher taxes and more services. That's something I really miss about Illinois, actually. I'm not crazy about paying taxes, but you got so much for your money. I paid close to $3000 a year in property taxes on my crappy starter home in Illinois; I pay half that for a much bigger house here. That's a lot of money to pay in property taxes, especially on a graduate student's stipend, but you get good libraries, parks, schools, colleges, and mass transit for that money. Urbana's library was consistently ranked as one of the top libraries in the country. On the other hand, the first time I went to the library here in Tennessee, I cried because it was so pitiful. In Illinois, I took karate through the park district for $25/month. Here, the park districts don't even offer classes. So I really miss all the fantastic services that my property taxes paid for back in Illinois.

On the other hand, Tennessee really has a lot more natural beauty to it than Illinois. There is really nothing more beautiful than an early morning fog breaking over the green hills, or a spring green landscape dotted with the bright pink blooms of redbuds. Nothing in Illinois can compare.

As for the people, you can find like-minded folks wherever you go, although they are seemingly more scarce here than they were in the People's Republic of Urbana. (I mean, compare election results and you will understand that I vote more like an Illinoisan than a Tennesseean.) But our neighbors here are very nice, and there are plenty of wonderful people at my workplace as well. And salespeople and others you interact with here are generally more friendly than comparable people in Illinois, because Southern culture just tends to be friendlier than Midwestern culture.

  1. A while back you blogged about buying a bunch of new clothes. Do you still enjoy your wardrobe as much as when you first got it? Have you added to it?
I am still enjoying my new wardrobe. For those of you who may not know, I got a whole bunch of clothes for work (mostly business casual) in tall sizes about a year ago. I am now sold on tall sizes. Until I bought tall blouses, I never realized how poorly my clothes actually fit. I've added a few new tops every couple of months, usually a couple of items at a time. I usually try to get things on sale, and with free shipping too if I can.

When I put on a blouse or sweater that's not a tall size, I feel really uncomfortable because if I lean over too much my bare midriff shows. I'm just so used to that not happening anymore.

  1. Do you feel like the timing of having Vinny was optimal? Would your answer change if Jeff worked outside the home?
I am a somewhat risk-adverse person. I did not want to have a child until I was sure that I would be able to support that child without the help of my extended family, the government, or anyone else. So it had to be after I was out of school. While I was a graduate student, Jeff was our primary breadwinner for most of that time, so if he stopped working to take care of our child, we would have been completely broke. I didn't think I could concentrate on both having a child and getting a Ph.D., and childcare would have eaten up his entire salary and probably most of mine too, so it had to wait until after that.

So I think the timing was right in the sense that I can afford to raise my child the way I want to now. But it probably would have been better if I'd waited until I was a staff member and not a postdoc, because as a staff member I would have actually gotten maternity leave rather than having to use up all my sick days and all my vacation days and then go without pay for a month, for a total of 8 weeks away because I couldn't afford any longer. Certainly if Jeff were working then the financial impact of my time away from work would not have been as drastic, and I might have been able to take longer. But having him at home made it easier for me to go back to work -- who would be a better choice to leave your child with than the child's other parent?

  1. I think you’ve mentioned that you are quite tall. What’s that like? Name the best thing and the worst thing about it.
I am in the 99th percentile of heights for women. I can't really say what it's like to be tall because I've always been tall (I was taller than my 5th grade teacher, for example) so I can't really compare it to short. The best thing about being tall is that it is really good in my male-dominated profession because I am at the same height as most of my colleagues (5'11" is about average for men). I don't get lost and they don't look down on me (literally -- figuratively, they very well could). The worst thing is probably the fact that I have to buy special clothes that usually cost $5 more per garment than the regular size. Maybe also sometimes it's hard to fit in places -- for example, in one car that we have, I can't sit up straight because the ceiling is too low, which makes travel pretty uncomfortable.

  1. Do people ask you to fix their home computers? Can you do it? Are you willing to do it?
When people hear I'm a computer scientist, their minds inevitably turn to their home computer problems. While I wouldn't mind helping people with their home computers, I'm actually pretty ignorant when it comes to that. I haven't used Windows in ages, and Windows machines are what most people have. When people ask me to fix their computers, I always defer to Jeff because he actually worked in the cable modem service area when we lived in Illinois, and knows a lot about computers as a result. I tell them I could make their computer solve systems of equations really well, but that's about all I know how to do.

  1. Have you taught or do you have plans to teach Vinny to cook anything other than pancakes?
The reason we cook so many pancakes is because he loves to use the whisk, and as an extra bonus he enjoys eating pancakes. They're pretty simple, and making them doesn't involve much that's off-limits to a two-year-old, at least until you start cooking them up. He also loves the mixer, so I had him help me make rolls at Thanksgiving, a cake for some occasion that I can't seem to remember, and banana bread a couple of times, including last weekend.

Ultimately, my goal is for him to become a competent cook so that when he moves out on his own someday, he'll be able to create delicious and nutritious meals for himself. But two-year-olds can't yet do a lot of the things he will need to learn, such as chopping vegetables or using the oven. Someday, he will learn. In the meantime, we'll just mix pancake batter together...


EcoGeoFemme said...

Great answers!

Your comparison of IL vs. TN is interesting, and pretty much what I expected.

I too find that I feel much more confident when I'm wearing clothes that fit well. I can especially see your point with shirts that ride up.

As for the pancake question, I hope it came across a little tongue-in-cheek, which is how I meant it. I think it's great that you are exposing Vinny to many different things without regard for gender stereotypes. It makes complete sense that a 2-year-old has limited kitchen skillz. :) I thought of it because you blogged a couple of times about pancakes sort of recently. Hmmm,t That reminds me, you haven't posted about any cakes lately...

Rebecca said...

Thanks for the comments, EcoGeoFemme. Hopefully my answer to the pancake question was as light-hearted as the question. :)

Here at Casa Rebecca, if we cared about gender stereotypes, we'd have to blindfold Vinny all the time. Jeff actually does most of the day-to-day cooking. I try to cook at least once a week (usually on the weekends) because he deserves a break.

As for cakes, I haven't had any occasion to bake a special cake lately... hmm... maybe for pi day (3/14).

rachel said...

Interview ME! Or, hm, you probably already know more than you want to about me...