Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I Hate When This Happens

So I'm nearly done with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and I learned today, much to my chagrin, that the second book in the trilogy won't appear until the end of the month!!!! NOT. FAIR.

I've not got much else to report. I am a boring blogger. Sigh.

Monday, June 29, 2009


  • It was very cool actually seeing my book live in a bookstore.
  • It was even cooler than that to visit with my aunt for the first time in years - and for the first extended time in more years than that.
  • The Pride parade in NYC was very cool indeed.
  • The kitties went on a slight hunger strike in my absence (meaning that they refused to eat wet food but gobbled the dry, as while they like to make a statement, they do not like to be hungry).
  • I got to see High School Best Friend and her mom while in the city and that was super-awesome as well.
  • Dunno what else. Don't want to teach tonight, but isn't that what I say almost every day? Only 4 more weeks left....
  • Oh, and I'm finally reading that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo book by Stieg Larsson, which a Lebanese cousin had recommended to me last summer, but which I never got around to checking out. Engrossing.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

How to Succeed in Academia without Really Trying?

This post is partly inspired by my lunch today with the awesome Historiann (It was great meeting you! And thanks again for lunch!), and it's partly inspired by something I just found in my work email in-box. So, as Historiann and I had our lunch, we got to talking about publishing and such, and I said, in an off-hand way that I never would have been able to get my book out without my dissertation director refusing my claims that "a good dissertation was a done dissertation" and forcing me to spend a full year revising the thing. That's right: I had a complete version that I tweaked for a full year. But so H. said that I should do a post about how grad school prepared me for the job that I have now, and how it has enabled me to be a productive scholar at a teaching institution. I know I've got a lot of readers out there in situations similar to mine - maybe not with 4/4 loads but with 3/3s - and who are similarly productive, so I thought, you know, maybe this would be a good post to do and hopefully people will contribute their own experiences in the comments.

This won't be the first time that I've talked about scholarship on the blog, but I think I tend merely to a) complain about things I'm working on, b) express joy when things work out, or c) to talk about it as something that happens magically and that I don't entirely understand. But in the conversation with H., it became clear that I really can map my productivity now in circumstances that wouldn't seem to lend themselves to scholarly productivity back to my training in graduate school at an institution that is radically different from the one at which I work. H. encouraged me to post about this because, and I'll paraphrase her here, most people do not end up at jobs at institutions like the ones where they train, and so laying a foundation at those places for the kind of job you will end up having is important, and has everything to do with the scholarly things one might achieve, particularly early on in one's academic career. While I don't think that an excessively long time to degree is desirable, I do think that the continued push toward shortening times to degree can get in the way of the foundation-laying that really does need to happen if one is to have a life as a scholar as one moves forward on an academic career path. So.

What foundations were laid in graduate school that have gotten me to this point?

1. First and most significantly, I was able to get my book out before tenure with a 4/4 load because my adviser pushed me to get my dissertation as close as possible to a book before I defended. This is not to say that I did not have to put the manuscript through massive revisions after the defense - I did. I did not just publish my dissertation with only a few minor changes. But, and this is crucial, the shape of the dissertation is the shape of the book, I created a dissertation that had a book-length argument in which each chapter built on the chapter(s) before it, and in my final year - in which I had moved back to Hometown and was temping for 11 bucks an hour to make a living - I really spent the time refining not only the content of the thing but also the prose. That's not to say there wasn't a ton of dissertationese still there at the end, but I did find my voice as a scholarly writer in that time, and I really did get beyond the phase of just getting ideas down on paper. I still have problems with fleshing out my ideas with the sophistication that they require, but in that final year of tweaking, I learned how to spot when I do that. I learned how to take very specific criticism of particular passages and to translate that criticism to a project as a whole. I learned how to think beyond myself, if that makes sense - to put myself in a reader's position and to get outside of my own head with a draft. All of that took time. It took a willingness on my part to think that deeply, but it also took the pressure and the demand to think that deeply from my director - otherwise I would have defended that thing a year before it was as ready as it could be. This was huge for me because I got my job ABD. I defended on August 5, and I started my job on August 15. Could I have defended sooner? Probably. Would that have been good for my subsequent career as an academic? I do not think so.

2. This is connected to the previous: my mentors in graduate school encouraged me to think in very deliberate ways about my scholarship, and to think about how the various projects on which I was working fit together with each other. In other words, I guess I learned to think about the big picture of my scholarship, as opposed to thinking in a single-minded way about just the dissertation, or just a seminar paper. My mentors (dissertation director and others) encouraged me to flesh out my identity as a thinker, and to realize that the dissertation was not an end but rather a first step and just one piece in a long career. One outcome of this was that I presented papers at conferences throughout graduate school, and those papers were not all culled from the dissertation project. Further, the publications that I managed during graduate school were not publications that came out of my dissertation. Nevertheless, nothing I did was totally unrelated to the bigger questions that the dissertation took on: rather, I was encouraged to flesh out a scholarly identity that extended out from my dissertation project, and that would continue to do so. This gave me confidence to start a new line of research once I started on the tenure track, and it gave me the skills I needed to work independently on new ideas without a great deal of mentorship. This is huge once one starts actually working in this profession, because most of the time, we work as scholars without a whole lot of support. Sure, we get support at conferences, or in periodic visits with friends, but much of what we do must be undertaken independently. If I hadn't been trained to those skills throughout graduate school, I'm not sure that I would have understood how to proceed as I moved forward into my career on the tenure track.

3. My mentors instilled in me the necessity of connecting what I do as a thinker and scholar to the work that I do as a teacher. I don't think that they necessarily realized how important this would be in my current situation - I think that they imagined this only in their own context, in teaching graduate students and in teaching undergraduates at an elite university - but I still learned the lesson, and I did carry it with me into my current professional life.

4. My mentors were not terribly generous in the sense of offering their guidance, and this taught me how to ask for mentorship when I needed it. At the time, I did not like this very much. Now, I am grateful for it. This more than anything else has helped me to forge professional relationships with colleagues at my current institution and at institutions other than my own, and it gave me a sense of ownership over my professional life and autonomy within my professional life that I'm not sure I would have felt as quickly otherwise. And, ultimately, I do think that it's this ability to forge relationships when people aren't necessarily banging down my door that has resulted in a lot of my scholarly success over the past six years.

5. I learned from my mentors that publication was ultimately just a part of the job, just as teaching is, and just as service is. It was presented to me as a worthy goal, and as a responsibility, but it was not presented as the end-all be-all of my identity. Rather, my identity was about thinking interesting and sophisticated stuff. Publication, ultimately, was presented as the result of my ability to do that. Nobody really made a big deal out of publication, or made it seem as if it was this holy grail of achievement. It was just expected. And I think that this attitude has definitely shaped my continued productivity in terms of publishing, especially as I work at a place where nobody is throwing parties for me when I publish something. I just putter along, having my ideas and fleshing them out and publication happens and then I go about my business of day-to-day stuff. The motivation to publish, ultimately, isn't about external praise or reward. It's about the fact that my job is to add to knowledge - teaching is part of that, speaking at the public library once a year is part of that, and scholarship is part of that. It is not this weird or lofty thing: it's just part of the gig I signed up for.

But so those foundations have led me to a place where I've been a productive scholar in conditions that many would say are not ideal for productivity as a scholar. I left graduate school with strong foundations: I knew how to work independently, I knew how to figure out research problems on my own, I knew how to ask for feedback, and I knew how to put myself out there as a scholar. I knew not to be intimidated by more esteemed people in my field, and I knew how to take opportunities that came my way. I knew how to network. I knew , in short, how to be a thinker and how to be a professional.

The result is that my research didn't stop with my dissertation. I had that major project, a very strong draft of a manuscript, under my belt when I started my job. This gave me the freedom to begin having new ideas and to translate those new ideas into new scholarship. I forged new professional relationships, and as I did so, new opportunities came my way. And so yes, over the past six years, I have often felt like I don't really have a plan in terms of scholarship, but partly that's because I haven't really needed a plan. Because I had such a strong foundation, I could in some ways ride that wave to more scholarship, more ideas. Or perhaps it's fairer to say, I have had a plan, but it was a plan that was set in motion long before I ever got my tenure-track gig.

It's all very strange, especially when I think about how things have gone with my scholarship over the past few months. I just had a book review come out in one journal, I was invited to have an essay in an edited collection based on a conference paper that I presented, I found out that another essay will be published in a collection that has finally found a home with a very strong university press, a very good journal would like to publish my article that I revised and resubmitted, and, today, I was just invited to review a book for one of the top journals in my specialization. All of this since the end of April. None of this was premeditated on my part. You know what my spring was like - scholarship has been pretty much off my radar since the book came out, and I'll be honest - I've not really had scholarship at the top of my list of priorities for most of the past six years. I do it because it feeds me intellectually, and I do it because it's what made me want to be a professor in the first place. But I don't put a lot of pressure on it, and I, throughout the academic year for sure, typically have a lot of things that come before scholarship in my professional life. I plod along as a scholar, and apparently am doing well at it, not because I have some grand agenda, but rather because I started off with carefully cultivated foundational skills that have allowed me to sustain scholarship as part of my professional life. If I hadn't gotten those skills in graduate school, I'm not sure where I'd have gotten them. And I think that I got those skills in graduate school because I had mentors who slowed me down, rather than sped me up and out.

But so anyway, those are my thoughts. I'd be interested to hear what others think about how their graduate education has influenced their continuing lives as scholars, particularly if they are not at research-intensive universities.

Oh, but one last thing. At our lunch, H. also marvelled that I've been this productive while at the same time keeping the blog and teaching the 4/4. As I said to her, the reason that the blog is possible on top of everything is because I don't draft or edit. I sat down to write this post an hour and a half ago. And now this post is done. If I were a more careful writer on this blog, or a slower typist, this blog would totally not exist. :)

I'm off for a weekend getaway! More upon my return!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Excellence without Money; Cutbacks without Students Suffering

I grew up without a lot of money. We lived in a shitty neighborhood in the inner city; my dad worked in a steel mill when he wasn't laid off (which was pretty much most of the time from 1980 until my parents divorced); both my parents came from huge, poor families (mom's = 10 kids [2 disabled, one set of twins]; dad's = 7 kids and his father divorced his mother when his youngest sister was in the cradle). And I remember quite vividly being told when times were tight, and I remember quite vividly how that directly affected me. I remember my mom reusing packaging bags for school lunches because she didn't have the money to buy sandwich bags. I remember having to wear plastic bags inside of my hand-me-down boots because that was the only way my feet would stay dry in the winter. I remember years when I was told that times were tight for Santa, and since I already had "so much" that he might not be able to bring me very many presents. There was no nonsense about pretending for me that money wasn't a problem, nor did I not face the negative effects of not having money. My parents did their best, but I was not sheltered from tough times. When tough times hit, they hit me, too.

But so what does the above paragraph have to do with the title of my post? Well, I'm getting to that. See, I've been reading a lot of late about cuts at universities, on blogs, in the news, etc. And one thing you hear over and over again is how we need to do everything in our power to make sure that students don't actually notice a difference in the quality of education they're receiving. I think that this might be the most ridiculous (and maybe the most dangerous for higher education structurally) idea ever.

Now, I'm really not a monster, and I do think that we should do everything in our power to give students the best education possible. I think students and student learning should be our top priority. But, and this is where I may be a monster, I think that the key word in the past couple of sentences is possible. Giving a student "the best education possible" means something very different when budgets are flush than it does when budgets are collapsed.

Example. When budgets are flush, it's possible to get release time from teaching in order to perform in other (required) areas of the job. With release time, an instructor can maintain the number and type of assignments as well as the level of rigor in all of his/her courses while also being a high performer in another part of the job (which, I'm going to note again, is REQUIRED - not a "pet project" or something like that, but REQUIRED). Now, even though things are comparatively good at my institution, release time has disappeared. And let's say that a faculty member has to teach four courses while also doing a REQUIRED part of her job that will be exceptionally time-intensive. What gives? I'll tell you what gives: stuff in the classroom. Because, realistically, I can control that part of my life more than I can control the required service thing. And so, what I will do is I will assign fewer papers (which means students will not get scaffolded writing assignments and their learning will be affected), I will stop doing quizzes in my lower level classes (which means many students will not be as inclined to keep up with the reading, which will mean that they learn less), and I will eliminate as much prep as possible across my classes, effectively finding time in my teaching to do another REQUIRED part of my job. While it is true that I could take time out of my non-work life instead, protecting students from the reality that my institution expects work from me that they don't support, I refuse to do that.

I'm not sure how protecting students from that reality teaches them, or how it helps the cause of higher education. At the end of the day, students become taxpaying voters. Why should they vote for more state support of higher education if their undergraduate institutions did a job that was just great (from a student's perspective) without more funding? Why should parents of current students support higher education funding, if their kids are doing just fine under the cuts, getting one heck of a college education? Clearly, higher education is not in crisis if students are not affected! This "crisis" is actually a blessing, right? It means we can "trim the fat" from these institutions, and put those fat-cat professors who only work 12 hours a week in their places!

And yet, the rhetoric that I hear most frequently as we discuss the dire budget situations across the country and at my own institution involves faculty (and to a lesser extent staff) taking one for the team so that students will not be affected by reality. Here's another example. A colleague of mine asked me, just days after the budget for the entire program (which has no permanent faculty housed in it) was slashed, to serve as director of Vibrant Interdisciplinary Program. If I had agreed, I would get two courses of release time (except probably not - a few weeks later they tried to take away that release time from people in administrative posts that were similar) and a small (TINY - think less than 5 grand) stipend (for which in exchange I'd be on a 12-month contract - meaning 25% more work for only 10% more pay). I said, swiftly and with conviction, no. Every time there has been a budget crises in the history of the university, this program's budget gets annihilated, and yet, faculty keep the program afloat out of the goodness of their hearts. Students never know that the university continually undermines this program, refuses to give it the resources it needs (last year they took away its administrative assistant, which means the director now serves as the program's secretary as well), and basically undercuts any attempts the program makes to grow. Does this serve this program? No. It doesn't. And it also doesn't serve students, because students who choose this program could really learn something about the content of this program from watching how the program itself is treated. Instead, students are given the impression that the inequities and injustices that they study in the classroom don't actually exist in the real world. Nice.

Professors across the country are taking pay cuts and going on furloughs, and the rhetoric is, "but obviously I care so much about students that I will work for free in order to shield them from the reality that there just isn't enough money for [insert thing central to student learning and success here]." Effectively, when professors make the choice to work on days when they are on furlough, to do the same amount and quality of work for less compensation (whether in pay or time), or to teach more classes without overload pay, they are extending a line of credit to institutions (and by extension, to state legislatures) that nobody is ever going to pay back. Because that's the thing: the benefit for this uncompensated labor is not, ultimately, to individual students. It is to those budgets that find a big pot of free money that will seemingly never dry up and that will seemingly never need to be repaid.

I'm lucky that at my institution we are not (at this point) discussing furloughs. But I'll tell you what. If we were? I can say with certainty that I wouldn't do a lick of work on those non-teaching days for which I wasn't being paid. Yes, I would walk into class and explain that I didn't grade because I was on furlough. Yes, I would explain that students would need to run discussion in the following class because I would be on furlough the day before. Not because there wouldn't be work to do, or because it wouldn't affect my students, but rather because it would affect my students, and perhaps that's the only way to make the point. If we don't value our own labor, why do we expect upper administration at our institutions, state legislators, or taxpayers to do so? Why do we expect students to do so?

And at the end of the day, isn't the attitude that we've got to protect the kids (or ourselves) from financial reality at least part of what got us (broadly) into this mess in the first place? The idea that we are entitled to things that we don't pay for and that we can't afford? How exactly does continuing in that vein when it comes to higher education help to solve the problem?

***Note: I just want to state for the record that I know that for the untenured and the non-tenure-track that the above position just doesn't work for any number of reasons. My point, I suppose, is that it's the job of people with tenure to fight this fight, precisely because we have the job security and status to do so.

Monday, June 22, 2009


So you know how I agonized over that revise and resubmit? Well. Pending a few more minor revisions, IT SHALL BE PUBLISHED! I just received word today! Huzzah!

What this means is that it is entirely likely that I will have not one, not two, but THREE publications appearing in 2010 (well, or one may be 2011, but you see), of which I was sure of NONE of them as recently as THE BEGINNING OF MAY. So, the point here is that even when one doesn't think that the scholarship is going terribly gangbusters, it can be going gangbusters without you even knowing about it! And then people tell you they will publish your things! Like magic!

(Well, like magic with a lot of moaning and work and agony and slogging away and guilt and procrastination and buckling down and and and. But magic nonetheless.)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Cucumber and Onion Salad

So, I've spent today doing things around the house. I'm not really into father's day this year, as you might imagine, though I did call G. on the phone.

Anyway. One of the things that I just finished doing was making a cucumber and onion salad that always reminds me of my Polish grandpa on my mom's side, the father of 10 and so who better to think of on Father's Day? He died when I was 7, but this salad was one of his favorites, it's super easy, and much more delicious than the ingredients would indicate. You will find many a recipe for this online, recipes that call for fancy newfangled ingredients like "lemon juice," and that call for a specific type of onion, fresh dill, etc. All of this is far too fancy and detail-oriented for this salad, and also, it's not like people in Poland had lemons, so I do not feel badly for ignoring these modifications. My experience with this salad is that it did not have such high-falutin' requirements, though it was a summertime treat, and I always felt like it was exotic because of the sour cream, which my grandmother didn't keep in the house normally. So here's the salad:


  • 2 cucumbers (medium to large in size), peeled, and chopped into bite-sized half-circles.
  • 1 small onion, sliced very thinly (I like to do circles, as if you were making super tiny onion rings)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of sour cream (depending on how sour creamy you like things; reduced fat works fine, but don't use nonfat or it's not going to be right in terms of taste/texture. People claim you can use greek yogurt, but I'm in love with sour cream and I can't imagine substituting it out.)
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Paprika


  1. Peel and chop the cucumbers, put in a big bowl, and add the salt. As you know, I do not measure when I cook. I'd say start with a 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, and add more later if you feel like it needs it. The reason for adding the salt at this step is that it starts to get the liquid out of the cucumbers.
  2. Slice the onion, and when finished, mix the onion in with the cucumbers.
  3. Add the sour cream, and black pepper and paprika to taste.
  4. Mix.
  5. Stick in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours to let the flavors marry (and also to let the sour cream become more like a dressing by mixing with the liquid from the salted cucumber and onion).
Probably would serve a good 4-6 people as a side salad, though I can't imagine that as I could eat this all day long until it was gone.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Free at Last! Hostage No Longer!

Once upon a time, in April of 2004, Crazy gave a conference paper, which she then submitted to the organizers for a potential publication. At some point over the next year, it was decided that an essay collection would be organized with the most fancy of the papers, and so Crazy had to transform this conference paper into a full-length article. This actually involved a fair bit of work on her part, as in the intervening year, she'd had another article accepted that was a variation on this material. So in other words, she had to make sure that she wasn't repeating herself or saying identical things from one piece to the other.

So. Crazy turns the paper into an article. There is interest from a publisher. I think three - perhaps four? - rounds of fairly substantial revisions happen. And then the publisher announces that they've changed the direction of their list and they're not publishing this sort of thing anymore. This was like a year ago? I think? There have been many times over the past years when I've wanted to take this article back. I mean, sheesh. This thing could have been out ages ago if I'd just submitted it to a journal. But my friends/mentors are the editors, and it would have been bad form for me to pull the piece, and it's not like I was desperate for it to be out anyway or like I needed the publication.

But so anyway, it's been a full five years since I had the idea for this article or even cared about this idea. And the collection has just received a contract with a fantabulous university press! Hooray! Huzzah! The article that was being held hostage will finally see the light of day!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ah, That's More Like It!

I was very cranky yesterday - pretty much all day. In part, this had to do with the fact that I had to have an unpleasant medical procedure yesterday that left me out of sorts, and then I was just irritated by a vast array of topics, not the least of which involving my teaching load for the fall. Anyway. I taught my class last night, giving them a prorated amount of my attention to match my prorated salary, and then I came home and talked to BFF, and went to bed to begin my rereading of the Potter books. But so anyway, this morning I have awakened with a much brighter outlook on life, and I'm feeling positively chipper. I made very delicious coffee, and I have high hopes for a day that is both productive and pleasant.

On the agenda for today:

  • make a pot of chili.
  • work on at least one syllabus for fall. Actually, did two!
  • run dishwasher.
  • sort laundry.
  • work out.
  • teach (which this evening will involve showing a movie, I do believe - which will give me time for grading)
All in all, I think it shall shape up to be a fine, fine Wednesday. Or, at least, I've decided that I need to make it a fine, fine Wednesday.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Do You Ever Get That Feeling...

that because you manage to accomplish things without institutional support that they now have decided that you don't "need" support because you manage "just fine" without?

I have that feeling right now. And my response is that I will not be doing so much grading in the fall, I'm eliminating my availability for student mentoring (for things like theses and such), I'm refusing any and all service requests (beyond those to which I am already committed) no matter how noble the cause. Because you know what? This is bullshit. Let some of the people who are getting help do the motherfucking work.

A Compendium of Posts about Blogging under a Pseudonym

I am bored by conversations about whether it's appropriate to blog under a pseudonym, whether anonymity and pseudonymity are both just "hiding," and about the link between writing under one's legal name and "accountability" or "authenticity." I am bored by them because apparently, I have done at least 6 or 7 substantive posts (perhaps more - I didn't actually go digging with a great deal of zeal) since I started blogging in this space in 2006. That's right. This whole line of conversation is three freaking years old. Actually - older. Indeed, way back in olden times when I had my old blog I even posted about this stuff. So really, is it possible that I have more to say?

For the moment, no. Other than that I can't believe some people are still equating anonymity and pseudonymity, and that I am extremely irritated by the suggestion that people who blog under pseudonyms should be pitied, for "they're not beginning to use the power of this new medium."

For those of you who may wonder what I have thought about issues of pseudonymity, back when I actually thought it was something interesting and new about which to think and write, check out the following links:

These posts will give you hours worth of material about which to think. They talk about blogging without tenure, blogging as a woman, the conventions of writing under a pseudonym, the stupidity of people thinking that one is not authentic if one doesn't use one's legal name, the freedom and constraints that come with pseudonymity, pseudonymity and community-building, etc.

If there's anything I've not covered, I'm at a loss for what it is. And thus, this will be my all-purpose post from now until the end of time related to these issues.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Fitness (sigh)

Since January 31, I've gained 15 lbs. This is pretty much the opposite of what I'd aimed to do this year, as even before this 15 lbs, I had some weight to lose. But so, now I'm even further in the hole. However. I did have a lot of shit go down this spring, and well, apparently I ate my feelings, but that's no reason to feel badly about myself now. Now, I've gotten all of the things that are super-stressful off my plate (literally), and now it's time to focus on the physical as well as the intellectual/emotional. I figure I've got 2 months to really make some good habits, and the idea is that with that much time to get the habits set that they will carry through in the academic year. In theory this academic year will be easier than last (only teaching 2 days a week, shouldn't be the year of death and relationship upheaval). Also, I'm hoping that after two solid months of putting this as the number one priority that I'll see some positive results that will motivate me.

God, I know this is boring. Even I'm bored and it's about me. But yeah, that's what's on my mind since getting the complete draft of the article hammered out (I had allowed myself to get all of the writing projects off the table before embarking on this project - I figured I'd have a greater chance of success if I did it that way).

Ok, now must shower and get ready to go to school.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Stuff and Nonsense

  • Will it stop raining before nightfall for at least 45 minutes? And, if so, how does one know when that 45 minutes will happen? Because I would like to get a walk in today, but I am not going to get wet on purpose in order to do it.
  • It occurs to me that I'd be a much more fit person if I had a dog rather than the two lazy kitties who share my home. Or, if we're really honest, I'd have an obese dog.
  • The kittens are grand, by the by. The Man-Kitty especially has been working up to do a post. He isn't telling what it will involve: he would like to keep an aura of mystery and suspense around the project. Mr. Stripey makes a noise that sounds something like this in your direction: "Blllrrrilllppp!" He also puffs out his cheeks and makes clicking sounds. As of yet, only an errant housefly or spider and the Man-Kitty know what these noises mean.
  • I defrosted and cleaned my refrigerator today. Eww. Only now clean, so yay.
  • I also took myself out for coffee, where I began making a grocery list and enjoyed a iced chai tea latte. Yummy.
  • I'm currently reading The Secret History, which I'd thought I'd read before, but apparently no. It's pretty engaging, though for me it was a bit slow in the beginning.
  • Ok, just took a gander at the hourly forecast, and apparently there is the potential of severe thunderstorms with hail and lightening strikes throughout the evening. I will not be braving the elements for a walk. ETA: This was a lie. Well, maybe there will be more storms, but it looked like it was clearing, so I chanced it. By the time I was sweatily coming home from my walk, the skies had cleared and the sun was shining. Stupid forecasters.
  • I do believe that's all. I should return some phone calls, although I'm not really feeling like talking on the phone. Perhaps I'll make a snack for myself and read a bit, and then see how I feel.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Aw Yeah Aw Yeah!

The article, while not finished, is complete! Hooray!

Still to be done: I need to let it sit for a couple of days (for my scholarship must age like a fine wine), weave in a bit more theory/criticism, and copy-edit. But this requires me letting the thing go until at least Monday. Which means that my weekend is MINE! This, my friends, is spectacular.

In non-article-related stuff, thanks for your comments to yesterday's post. The support helps, and it also helped to write about it all. Now let's hope that I shall have frivolous and non-article-related things to discuss in the coming days and weeks!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Taking Care of Business, Taking Care of Me

I don't usually think of myself as the sort of person who puts other people's needs in front of my own. The problem with that, however, is that on occasion, I have been known to do so. Since I don't think of myself as this sort of person, it can take me a really long time to figure out that I can periodically and in certain situations do that to my own detriment.

This summer, thus far, has been all about me taking care of me in terms of where I'm investing my emotional and intellectual energy. This is important, because 1) I need to get myself back in a happy place after all of the upheaval of the past academic year, and 2) I need to realize that my happiness isn't something that should be an afterthought. I'm sure this sounds selfish. I don't mean for it to sound selfish. It's not like I don't care about other people - my friends, my family. I do. But there's caring and then there's caring. And I can't be my last priority and then expect that I'll be higher on other people's lists.

One thing that I think has been helping me to become centered in this way has been working on scholarly stuff. The job may be just a job (and I do think that it is) but scholarship is part of my identity. When I'm not thinking in that particular way, I think I lose myself a little bit. So as much as I've been struggling through this article I'm working on, it is making me feel like I'm getting back in touch with who I am in important ways. It's nice to have that kind of focus; it's nice to feel like I'm working toward something concrete. And, while I love teaching and I'm passionate about teaching, I never feel this kind of focus in relation to it. Maybe because it's too interactive? Too immediate? (Which of course are the reasons that I love teaching.) I'm not sure.

But one result of all of this is that I've pulled back lately from taking care of other people, or, probably I should admit, a particular person. It became clear to me a few months back that my desire to take care of this person, which came from a real and genuine emotional place - or, let's just call a spade a spade, love - was ultimately not good for me. Now, I didn't shut this person out entirely, and I really do wish it would be possible to maintain a friendship with this person. But apparently the pulling back that I've done for my own good has caused this person pain. While I feel badly about the result, I can't find it in myself to revise my approach. I can't find it in myself to be "nice" or to go back to the way things were, or to forget what I've figured out about this relationship. I can't find it in myself to care about myself less. And, since I'm laying it all out on the table, I also can't find it in myself to feel guilt over how things are going.

I worry, though, that this means I'm a hard person. I worry that this means that I'm not an open and loving person. I don't believe that these things are true, but they nevertheless cross my mind.

The thing is, it's not easy to set new boundaries. It's not easy to protect oneself from past mistakes. It's not easy to refuse a person for whom you really do care a great deal, especially when you know that your refusal hurts that person. But I can't in good conscience do anything else. I have to take care of myself right now. I know this. The other person doesn't seem to get that. The other person seems only to see his own position, his own problems, his own predicament. And I think this person kind of hates me for pulling back. I think this person sees this as me not giving a shit about him.

I've tried to explain myself to him, but I think that may be doing more harm than good. I think that I may be cruel to him, when I think that what I'm being is honest. I know that historically I've had a hard time realizing when what I think of as honesty is really cruelty.

This is what happens when I realize that it's time for me to take care of me, maybe. Maybe I become cruel.

In spite of all of that, though, I feel very centered right now, and even happy. Maybe not ecstatically happy, but basically, happy. My life is what I want for it to be right now, if I'm honest with myself about how I'm really feeling. I'd rather be taking care of myself than waiting for somebody else to do it when that person just isn't going to do it. And it's difficult for me to beat myself up for that (although I've given it the good college try in this post), just because somebody spewed some passive-aggressive bullshit at me via email. What I feel more than anything, about the passive-aggressive bullshit, is anger. Anger at myself for responding to it, even if I did protect myself in my response, and anger that this person doesn't seem to see why things are as they are, that this person is projecting onto what I do/say/write things that I don't mean. Clearly, I give a shit. But, no, I won't hurt myself in order for somebody else to feel better. I feel like the distinction here is a pretty easy one to get.

And so, I return to the article. It's going along well, I think. I think I've finally figured out the structure of the thing, and what I actually mean to say. And as silly as this article is, I suspect it will be more widely read than most of what I've written to this point - it might even be a thing that non-academic family and friends could plow their way through and be interested in - and that is satisfying. And I suppose I'll run the dishwasher, and have a glass of wine. Because at the end of the day, I'm in a good place. And I'm not going to let the haters get in the way of that.

Freaky Shit

As if I needed another reason to boycott the Facebook.

I just got a recommendation to friend the guy from this fateful date. Let's just note that we (as far as I was aware) knew no person in common and we have not spoken since that night. I kind of want to kill myself if the world is this small. Seriously.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Um... Later Start Than I'd Anticipated...

I blame the fact that it's a gloomy, rainy day. And for whatever reason I was exhausted last night and thus needed lots of rest. But so what this means is that the whole "finish the article goal" that I'd set yesterday may well not happen today. See, I have plans to meet BES for coffee at two, and my original plan had been to go to the coffee shop like 3 hours before in order to get some solid work done ahead of time. Given the fact that I probably won't be able to get myself showered and out of the house before 12:30 (and that is if I'm excessively motivated), the reality is that I'm just not going to be able to work on the article solidly until after my class tonight (which lets out at 9 PM), which I'm thinking probably won't happen since Top Chef Masters premieres at 10. Now, once upon a time when I was a spry young graduate student I might have thought to myself, "Self, you can totally start working in earnest on the article at 11 PM!" I think, however, that this is totally unrealistic.

And so. I'll do what I can on the article today, but I think the more realistic goal is to say that Friday is D-Day for the article. One can only do what one can do. And hell, it's summer. And the thing isn't due until the end of the month.

So yeah, that's pretty much all that's going on in this neck of the woods. I've become a ridiculously boring blogger this month, but I think a) this is pretty normal for me in the month of June and b) it may well be a sign of the fact that I'm relaxed and pretty content at the moment. I've just got nothing. I hang out, I teach, I think about my article. Boring, and perhaps exactly what I need this summer.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Mmm. Yummy Lunch, and Other Thoughts on a Monday

So I just made myself a delicious tuna salad wrap for lunch (am back on the healthy eating bandwagon which is doing wonders for my mood and sense of well being - now I've just got to get back in the groove with working out), and now I'm considering whether I should be productive this afternoon or whether I should indulge myself in lazing about. Note: I ended up going to the pool yesterday rather than working on the article all day, so it's not like there was no lazing about this weekend, though it is true that I worked on the article for about 2 solid hours last night. With a few small gaps, I do have a complete draft (I'd say about 50% of it is tight and close to publishable - the other 50% needs some major editing/revision). I think I need to let it sit today, maybe, print out a copy, and then go from there tomorrow or the next day. Hmmm. That seems like a reasonable plan.

You know, maybe I should work out this afternoon. The problem is, I don't actually feel like going to the gym but it's kind of gross (hot/humid) outside. I suppose I must think on this.

Other than that, I've got nothing. I do have lots of things I need to begin thinking about accomplishing this summer, but for now, I'm sort of enjoying just chilling out. I suppose I will go in to the office no later than 4, though, so that I can get some grading done and some prep, and maybe do some stuff around my office. Right now, though, I think I might go have a banana.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Buckling Down Sucks

It is a beautiful, gorgeous, sunshine-y day outside, and I am chained to my computer writing an article I don't know how to write that is, as far as I can tell, going to be an embarrassment to me as well as to the collection of which it will be a part. I am not feeling hopeful about my ability to turn it into something other than a steaming pile of crap.

Why didn't I just go to the pool today?

I'll tell you why: because I need to get this thing done. Once it's done, I can go to the pool every single day guilt-free. Or even if it's not done-done, but just a complete and polishable draft - that would be good enough. But I cannot have fragments of notes, no structure, and all of the bits and pieces of nonsense that I currently have. I have a whole paragraph of rhetorical questions, people. This is not good writing.

You know what the problem is? I don't know how to write about shit where there is like NO criticism of it already. I mean, sure, that's what makes this probably the most important (ha!) work I've ever done - it will be among the first pieces of criticism about this thing. But seriously: how does one write something with any scholarly merit when you're just blabbing about reviews in Entertainment Weekly and crap? JUST HOW? And how does one not be derogatory to a TV Guide critic who said something that just doesn't make any sense at all about exactly what you're writing about?

I know I just need to do this thing. I know that it does not need to be perfect, or even very good, at this stage of the game. But it's difficult to keep working on something that you have come to decide is the most ridiculous thing you've ever attempted to write. (And yes, this is more ridiculous than posts on this blog in which I write in the voices of my cats. At least those are funny.)

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Summer Teaching: Just What the Doctor Ordered?

I've just finished my first week of my eight weeks of summer teaching. Now, I've been feeling quite cranky about having to teach, just in a general sort of a way, but let me tell you: I think that this is actually a good thing for my psyche right now.

See, I felt so out of sorts all spring. My classes weren't the worst I've ever taught (well, at least 2 of the 4 were ok), but I really did not have my usual teaching mojo. Really, this spring I didn't have much mojo at all, if we're going to be real about it. But these classes I'm teaching right now? Off to an excellent start. One class is more... outgoing... than the other so far, but this may have to do with the material more than it has to do with the potential. Whatever the case, I know how to get students actively engaged, so I'm not worried even about the second group. No. I really have this.

It helps that both of these classes are gen eds that I could teach in my sleep. There is something about teaching classes that require no prep that makes teaching truly, truly joyous. I just walk in, open my book, and voila! I teach! It's all there in my brain! I don't even need notes! Or what notes I need are in the book! I don't need to think about the material - I just need to respond to the students and to the vibe in the classroom, and the time just flies by.

And you know, that's what I think good teaching really should be, ultimately. It really should be me without a precise agenda just working the room. Or, perhaps, more precisely: yes, I've got an agenda, but it's so ingrained that it is subordinate to what is happening in the class in the moment, and subordinate to what students have to say. It still gets accomplished, but I don't need to be so heavy-handed. I don't need to hammer my agenda home - it's just there in the background happening.

But so anyway, in spite of the fact that I do resent teaching in the summer - and I do, even though I'm doing it with a purpose and I have chosen it - I think that perhaps teaching this summer is really helping me to get my confidence back after what was a pretty awful spring. It's easier to be a good teacher when I've got none of the other commitments of my job breathing down my neck. It's easier to think about my teaching when I can focus on it almost completely for discrete periods of time. So as much as I resent that I don't have this summer off, I also kind of think it's a good thing.

That said, I need to write for the next two days solidly to get on track with my other goals for the month. And I need to start thinking in earnest about my fall classes, about the conference I'm in the beginning stages of planning, and I need to get on coming up with my sabbatical application project. The idea is, I'm going to get all of these things ironed out (in a fashion) by the time that summer teaching is done, so that when I'm done with July, I'm totally free for about three weeks of leisure. I need the three weeks of leisure, and I need to remember that those are there waiting for me if I get things done now.

So that's the latest in the World of Crazy.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Key, Found!

Apparently, I just had to blog about it twice. This makes me very happy, indeed. Also, both of my classes are now in the room in which I most enjoy teaching. Now I think I'm going to see if my library has the movie version of the thing that I'm teaching today, so that perchance I can show some portions of it.

You Know, I Think Facebook is Giving Me Low Self Esteem

I don't know how much more I really want to say about it other than that, but seriously. I may need to give up facebooking for a while, because it's making me feel like I'm a lame loser.

In other news, apparently I never signed the form that said I received that key. This is intriguing. So either I took the key from my mailbox and carried it somewhere (with the only likely place being my office, though that seems unlikely since normally when I get keys I immediately put them on my keyring) or someone stole my key. Totally. Though I bet I've just misplaced it.

You know what's becoming clear to me over the past few weeks? How totally fucked up I was all spring long. It's like I've just woken up from a dream in which I lost tons of things, forgot to do tons of things, and completely fell apart. And now I'm like, seriously? All of this was going on? Huh?

I need lunch, but I am feeling very lazy and I don't know what I want to eat. Sigh.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Blogging the Lost

Ummm.... I feel like I was given keys for the classroom I'm supposed to be teaching in within the hour. Are they on my desk? Lost in my bag somewhere? I HAVE NO IDEA!!!!

(This is why it's totally uncool for our very efficient office person to give people like me at the end of April keys that I won't actually need until June. Just saying.)

RBOC, Because That's How Boring I Am

  • Summer teaching is underway. I am feeling pretty good about the first class, and I'll find out how I feel about the second class tonight. We shall see.
  • I have been busy attempting to get that article for the collection done, although mainly this has involved watching many episodes of the television show about which I am writing.
  • I seriously might be the most boring person in the world. Because I can't actually think of anything to write other than those first two bullets. How pathetic.