I've been putting off this post for a while, thinking hard about how (even, whether) to include it, because it doesn't really fit in well with much of the theme of the rest of this blog. But time's a-running-out, and it's getting to the point of Now or Never, and I finally decided that means Now.
The reason I've been hesitating about this post is that the money I'm going to describe is pure selfishness. I've mentioned previously that we got a tax credit for adopting J-son, and that we get on-going support for his care, and that my husband gets moolah and perks for serving in the military. All true. And all of these ways that you (and your tax dollars) have subsidized my family are much appreciated, but they're side-effects, as it were. We didn't seek out this money; we wanted to adopt a kid and to zoom around in helicopters, and the money came in without our even asking for it.
But what I'm about to describe is different. Because about a year ago, I asked the National Science Foundation to give me even more of your hard-earned money. I asked, not because I need it, but because I want it. In fact, it's not even really the money that I want, it's the cool professional prestige that comes from getting a grant proposal funded. I told the powers-that-be that this money would help me do some cool math . . . but the truth is, I'll do that math with-or-without the money. (The NSF knows that. They know that I'm in it just for the bragging rights, and they know that the more money they send my way, the more bragging rights I have).
But since I got the bragging rights (thanks, NSF!), I figured I might as well 'fess up and explain what the money's for -- both from the math side, and also from the Miser Mom side.
|How do you draw reflections of things|
(whether triangles, pens, or cows)?
|How do you draw shadows of things?|
The math side is cool, but I think I'll leave it aside for now. (If you really want to learn more, search for "mathematical perspective" -- the last time I checked, a book I helped write came up twice on the first search page).
|How does an 18-year old with no art experience |
learn to draw something that looks "correct" like this?
Technically it's not just me who gets this money. I'm working on a team, and the several of us all get to split up the dough. But first, a bunch of your tax dollars will go to the colleges/universities that hired me and my colleagues. After all, our employers give us the space and equipment to do our work, so it seems only fair that they should get to share in the prestige. A bit more money goes to paying an "evaluator" who comes in to see whether or how well the project actually works. Quality control is built in to the process.
But some of that money comes directly to me and to my co-conspirators in this project. For my part, that'll amount to about two month's salary. I'll get some of that next summer, and the other part the summer after that. Where will that money go? How will I spend your tax dollars?
Well, of course, I'm only guessing at this point. But here's the current plan. First step, as always with a windfall, is charity. I've taken to plowing money semi-anonymously into our student math club; I've also become increasingly aware of our local food bank. So first fruits will probably head to those two places.
And the rest, I'll sock away for 2015, when I go on sabbatical [right after the triathalon, or so she says]. The money will help me extend my sabbatical from one semester to a full year, which will in turn allow our family to spend one of those two semesters in the country of my husband's choosing: Rwanda.
Rwanda is not a country known for its excellent math research, although I figure I'll get to teach/do some research while I'm there. In fact, it's sort of famous for a not-so-pleasant 1994 genocide in which almost 800,000 people were slaughtered. But apparently, since then, it's been rebuilding itself and has (this is what attracts my husband) excellent roads for bicycling. So he thinks we ought to go there and bike around and live in a majority-black culture with our black sons, and we will ride our bicycles, and I'll do math. And maybe that will actually happen, because after all, life is an adventure. And maybe it won't happen, but either way, socking away that money will give us the choice. And that's what your tax dollars will go for.