Monday, July 20, 2009

RBOC: Things in My Head on This Monday Night

  • I've got about 10 posts I could properly do if I had the energy, but I don't have the energy, so I'll be doing some bullets. It's been a while since I've done that, right? Might as well.
  • I've been obsessed lately with thinking about the Next Book. Thinking about how to frame the project for the sabbatical application plus the other things I'll apply for alongside it, thinking about the project itself and whether it's too broad or the right size or even interesting, etc. I haven't felt so obsessed about any research-related thing since I was in the dissertation proposal phase. On the one hand, this seems like a very good sign for the project. On the other, I also know that when I was in the diss proposal phase I was WAY too broad for producing an actual cohesive manuscript. And now I can't count on Diss Adviser to stop me from making poor choices. Instead, I have to imagine that I am DA and stop myself from making poor choices. This sort of blows.
  • Let's just note that part of why I'm obsessed with this is that I don't feel like doing the actual things on my to-do list and this feels like work. That said, I think all of this plotting and planning is a good thing. It's not like I'll have time once the academic year starts for these sorts of Deep Thoughts. I need to do all of this work now, really, so that during this academic year I can start doing preliminary reading/research and things.
  • One thing I've decided, related to the Next Book, though, is that I'd really like to make a persuasive case for money to hire a research assistant. One thing that's clear as I'm thinking about this project is that with the help of an RA, I'd be able to have a complete manuscript polished enough to send out within just over two years. Without that, we're looking at 3-6 years for me to be in that place. The fact of the matter is, I need support to do this thing quickly. And I so want to do this thing quickly. I can't count on course releases, and I am not in the financial position to take a full year sabbatical. This means I need help. Sure, I know more now than I knew when I started the diss, and this will make certain things go more smoothly. That said, I do not have the time now that I did then. This is where an RA would be key to getting this thing knocked out. And I'm not in the financial position to pay for an RA out of my own pocket. So the trick will be trying to convince those who have the power over such decisions that they should fund such a thing for me. I could probably wrangle some help by agreeing to do an independent study for a student, but then I'd be obligated not to have the student do busy-work type things, which are really the things I need a student to do. It's not that I don't see the role of an RA as one in which I will teach them things, but I also need an RA for grunt work that isn't terribly interesting, though it would teach a student a lot in terms of the grunt work that this field requires, even if what they're doing is xeroxing and data entry. So, let's hope that I can make a good enough case.
  • In other news, I finished the third of my four syllabi today. I may tweak it a bit, but the course schedule is basically done, which was the thing that had to happen. If I tweak, it will be to eliminate one paper assignment. I'm trying really hard to make choices in my teaching right now that make me less overwhelmed by it. Yes, this means that students will get less from me in a lot of ways. On the other hand, with the possibility of course releases seemingly gone for the forseeable future, I cannot do the other things in my job that I need to get full if I devote so much to my students. One of the issues here is that there is inequity between my teaching load and the teaching load of people in other colleges at my university. A&S is still on a 4/4 (again, with no course releases, as far as one can tell) and other colleges at my university are on a 3/3. The problem is that research expectations and service expectations at my university across the board do not account for this inequity. So guess what? If you've got me teaching 4/4, and 3 of those courses are service courses, the most realistic thing for me to do is to cut back on grading within my classes, if I hope to achieve under the current system. Let me just say for the record that I think this is bullshit, and I think this is most notably bullshit for my students. But let me also say that these are the consequences of excellence without money. And now that I'm in a position of total privilege (having earned tenure) I can make choices that make it possible for me to do my job without totally killing myself (though I'm sure I'll still kill myself a little bit).
  • Can you believe the 5-0 nabbed Henry Louis Gates, Jr. for going into his own house? Seriously?
  • My friend's cat Kittenface (and no, that's not actually a pseudonym but rather his at-home name, though he does have a much more officious name for the vet) is totally the skinny twin of my Mr. Stripey (though he's like two years older than Mr. Stripey). Complete with black spot birthmark on the back paw. It's a little freaky. That said, Mr. Stripey clearly is not skinny, and his face is a little pointier and his ears a little more batlike, so nobody would ever confuse the two, really. But seriously Kittenface = Mr. Stripey. And that is totally strange.
  • I'm going to be 35 in just under three weeks. I'll need to reflect on that at some point. At this point, I just think it's totally weird, as I feel about 10 years younger in a lot of ways.
  • I'm so jealous of everybody who's done Major Travels this summer, although I am also feeling very awesome about the fact that I've not done Major Travels, for the first summer in 3 years. As much as I wish I were off "traveling the world" (as a gradeschool friend of mine put it), I really needed this summer to regroup and to take care of business. That said, I'm itching for real travel, and I'm hoping I can find a way to make that feasible if not next summer then the summer after.
  • But speaking of business, I've YET to get my glasses, and it's been two freaking weeks. I sort of hate my eye doctor place. I keep calling, and today they were a bit more attentive to my concerns, but dude - I paid 240 bucks two weeks ago and STILL no glasses, and they said it would only be like a week initially. I'll be calling every day from now until I get them. Bastards. Don't they understand that I really need them so that I can do some self-portraits and change my facebook profile page so that I am the sassy lady with glasses? (And yes, this is the main reason that I'm irritable about this, aside from the whole "I'd so like to see better" thing.)
  • I really need to lose weight. I've gained like 20 lbs. since January (death of father, hellish stressful things at work) and before this recent weight gain I already needed to lose like 20 lbs. I know, I know, it's about being healthy and not about how much one weighs. I've actually got a really good self-image and body-image and stuff and always have had. But DUDE. I'm at least 40 lbs. heavier than I should reasonably be. I'm back on the good eating wagon, but I've only been sporadic about the working out. I'm thinking that my birthday marks the day that I make the real commitment to dealing with this. And seriously, this is my top priority for the 2009-2010 academic year - not scholarship, not teaching, and not even research. I've got to get this shit under control before the next book turns me into a 300 lb. lady.
  • I am horrified by the fact that school begins again in a month's time. I've accomplished a lot this summer, but I'm also feeling pressure now about all I've not managed to do. Whatever the case, I know I'll get done what absolutely must get done. And whatever the case, I really am taking off between Aug 1 and Aug 17. I need that in order to feel like a human being, and so who cares if I don't get x things checked off in that time.
  • And finally, I've been reading Historiann's post today, and the comments, about the way that teaching is valued for tenure with interest. That said, the comments have veered into the territory of hating on student evaluations because of how those evaluations undervalue women faculty and faculty of color (which I entirely agree with, actually) and not toward actually talking about how to evaluate teaching well. So I'm wondering: taking the student evaluation bullshit out of the equation, what makes good teaching? How do we determine that? I have my own thoughts, but as I noted at the beginning of this post, I'm lazy today, and I can't be bothered with my usual diatribes :)

1 comment:

Terri said...

I think you could tweak your RA/ind. study idea to work just fine. A little busy work can be part of an excellent learning experience in research.

Also, I think I gained the same 20lbs. for the same reasons: my dad died of pancreatic cancer in late May, three months after his diagnosis in Feb. How happy I would be to get back to my normal 20lbs. overweight! haha!