Monday, July 31, 2006

Cocteau Twins!

When was the last time you listened to them? I think for me it was 1989 or so. Maybe 1990. How did I forget about them for fifteen years? Love the Pandora, but feeling kinda old.

I Don't Wanna...

  1. Go to the gym, even though I did want to go to the gym this morning before I left my house. The problem is the heat. And the humidity. And my allergies.
  2. Make a To-Do list. The minute I make the list, I'll have to do the things on the list. I'm not into that.
  3. Be bored not doing things that are productive, which is a problem since I don't want to do the things that ARE productive either.
  4. Eat food that's good for me. I've been doing really well with this, but I really am craving something.... I don't know.... something high in fat and with as many processed carbohydrate type things as possible. Of course, I am PMS-y right now, so maybe I should just give in to the craving? Maybe life's too short always to make healthy and sensible decisions about food? And I'd really love potato chips and dip.....

All of that said, I think I am going to try to do at least a couple of productive things so as not to be bored, and I also think that I'll most likely only let myself eat bad food if I go to the gym to compensate for it. Or I may just say that tomorrow is a new day and let today be a diet/exercise free day.

But I really am bored and kind of petulant. I think it's the whole wanting summer to be over thing.

And I met with the director of that program to come up with my list of duties, and so the whole semi-admin. position thing is a go for the 2006-2007 academic year. I'm kind of psyched and kind of freaked out.

I guess it's just I'd like for the semester already to be underway. And for it to be like October. That would be better for me.

Having spent all day yesterday taking a "personal day" with the Man-Kitty, I'm not really in the mood to hang with him all afternoon. I'm sure he's not either - he likes his alone time. Oh, and can I just say that I'm kind of ticked off at the Man-Kitty because he's been waking me up every day at 4:30 AM? What's his deal? Why can't he at least wait until the sun has risen?

Crazy as Fashionista?

Ok, so Friday and Saturday were spent - in their entirety - shopping.

On Friday, I went to one of those huge malls that has an upstairs floor and a downstairs floor, and I covered the length of the thing twice. I was there for about four hours. Then I went to Target. Then I went to Kohls. By the time I got home - and I'm not exaggerating when I say this - muscles all over my body ached. What did I buy? Well, I thought you'd never ask.

  • This skirt, originally priced at $54 but on sale for $11.
  • A Calvin Klein bra, on sale for $5.
  • Leggings. Incidentally, I priced leggings at a variety of retail outlets, and if you're planning on being part of the legging trend, I recommend a) going out and buying those leggings now, because they are flying off the shelves, and b) trying to buy them someplace like Target, because in specialty retail shops and department stores they cost between $20 and $50 per pair, and if you're anything like me, that is just too much to pay for something like a legging. Also, In Style magazine recommends the capri legging, but as a legging veteran (something I'll discuss later), I must say that one of the brilliant things about leggings is that you can easily fold them under or scrunch them into a capri length if you buy the full-length kind (this being made easier by the 21st century materials with which the leggings are made) and so I think that the capri ones are not altogether necessary. Oh, and some of the capri ones? Yeah, they have a striking resemblance to the "bicycle short." Which is scary.
  • Socks for working out. I just keep buying these. I probably have like 30 prs. What is wrong with me?
  • Makeup. Glorious makeup at Sephora. I bought this (in black), and this (in purple), and this (in "pull over"). Note to makeup lovers: The Stila Smudge Pot allows those who don't have the steadiest of hands to replicate the J-Lo Hewitt Ghost Whisperer Eye in like 3 minutes, as long as you've got the right brush, but you can also use it to do a smoky eye, or to do just traditional sort of eye liner. It is awesome, and it does not run all over your eye because it's a gel and dries, not a cream. (Once upon a time I had a similar product made my Shiseido, and the problem with it was that it ran all over your eyes, so you had to set it with a powder shadow.) Also, I've got to say it, I think that plum colors are the makeup colors for fall. I had wanted to buy a lipstick in a more plum-y color (Lorac in Pleasure) and the smudge pot in plum, and it was not possible. God, I love makeup. Those who see me at work every day would never know it, though, because I rarely wear makeup to work. Or if I do I do the no-makeup-makeup, so people just think I look "rested" but don't really understand that it's because I'm wearing makeup.
  • New sunglasses. My third or fourth pair this summer, because I keep losing/breaking them.
On Saturday, I decided to go shopping downtown. I browsed in Saks (where, incidentally, I really think that I will start shopping the sales once I hit my goal-size as it's not that much more expensive than other department store clothes - but only on sale, as otherwise I could never afford a pair of Theory trousers, for example), and then I went to Macys (where I can actually afford the clothes) and I bought this skirt, a sleeveless cream shell, and a taupe cardigan to wear with it. Then, I went to another mall-esque place (one of those outdoor thousand restaurants and like 20 stores sort of places that are cropping up all over the midwest) wear I tried on a bunch of clothes but ultimately only spent money at Borders, where I had a 30% off coupon, which I used to purchase the first 4 Harry Potter DVDs in a little box set and a Regina Spektor CD and Allan Hollinghurst's The Line of Beauty (which I should have owned long before now).

All told, I spent like 10 hours shopping over two days, if not more. And as you see, I didn't buy much. But I did try on A LOT. Some musings:

  1. For the first time in at least five years I'm excited about fashion/clothes. I think that this is because the bohemian look that has been dominating for the past few years is on its way out. Can I just say that on people of my build the "bohemian look" has the effect of making one look like one has just gotten off of a boat originating in Bohemia? This is not the intended effect.
  2. This season is the first time when I'm really experiencing the whole, "hey, I remember those clothes the first time around!" thing. This is both cool (I know what "looks" I can wear) and eye-opening (I realized, as I tried on pair of skinny jeans after pair of skinny jeans that my reluctance to be part of this trend has everything to do with the fact that when these were last in style, circa 1986, I had just developed a woman-body, was hanging around with a bunch of girls who'd yet to do so, and the skinny jean, or jeans with zippers on the bottom, etc. were the first clothes that I realized I couldn't - or shouldn't - wear, because they didn't look on me like they did on my little waif-like pre-pubescent friends).
  3. I, having tried on about 14 different pairs of skinny jeans, do think that I will buy one pair of them, if I find a pair that is not too expensive and that doesn't make my hips look like a small country. (See, the thing with my body is that I'm high waisted, have broad hips but not much of a butt. Thus, the skinny jean, if too low waisted, etc., can really make me look like hell. If the waist is high enough, it can be ok.) But for every day, I think I'm going to go with straight legged jeans. They look more modern than the boot cut, but are more flattering to the Hips of Crazy.
  4. Incidentally, the straight/skinny jeans are so much better what with the advances in materials made in the blue-jean industry.
  5. Red is the new black! Love that!
  6. All hail the return of the tunic!
I could go on, but I will not. I'm sure I'll be trying things on for about two more months before I really start with the buying. Why? Because this is what I do when I'm into fashion. I browse. I try on. I deliberate. I decide what I can wait to buy on sale and what I've got to get before it's gone. God, I love clothes.

(Oh, and somebody asked me about clothes for the job market. I'll do an actual post about this sometime, but when in doubt, my thought is that it's better to over-dress than to under-dress, and that when you do a convention interview, it can't hurt to look more conservative-business-y. On-campus you can be a bit more casual - and probably should be because of the miles that you will walk that day - but a great suit or two (ideally bought on sale, for suits go on sale right at Christmas time, and this great brown pant-suit I've got (Jones New York) which originally cost like $400, I bought on Dec. 26 (the day before MLA) for $98. It does not need to cost a million dollars to look great in a suit - just you've got to try on a LOT of suits to find one that, well, suits you. This is my overview, though. And if you look great you'll be smarter. And more impressive. Totally.)

Friday, July 28, 2006

Arrogant, Selfish, Job-Searching Me

I was going to dump this in the comments, as a response to the comments some people were making about something that I'd said over there, but I feel like it's useful to put this in a real post that isn't buried in a comment thread from days ago.

In a comment, I said this:

"Personal happiness and satisfaction is infinitely more important to me than 'changing the system from within.' Wrong or right, that's my position."

In response, Liz Ferszt says the following:

"Given this admission, which I find arrogant and selfish, if I were one of our current colleagues I'd just say, "Good luck on your search."

I might even find some boxes for your books."

Another commenter (Terry Porter) expresses concern that I am going to "regret" leaving my job for "purely personal reasons."

Well, first, I'm not really surprised that Liz would respond negatively to anything I might say, as she seems to take pleasure in thinking that I suck. Otherwise, why would Liz keep reading this blog when clearly she thinks that I'm so reprehensible? If it were me, and I felt as Liz seems to feel about Dr. Crazy, I would stop reading. And stop commenting. Because life's too short to be so irritated by the likes of a young whippersnapper such as Dr. Crazy.

But, because I'm a good sport, I'm going to respond. Also because I want to answer this for once and for all, and to assure my readers that I am being thoughtful and careful in my considerations about my professional choices, and that I do not enter into this - or much else in my life - lightly.

First, when I say that I put my personal happiness before my institution, that does not mean that I do not have a strong commitment to my institution or to my work as a professor at this institution. All it means is that I believe that it's important to prioritize things in life, and I believe that is important and sensible for me to make myself a priority in my life. My institution will pay me, but they will not take care of all of my needs. While I could sacrifice my needs for the greater good of my institution, ultimately I think that this would make me a bitter person and an angry person, and I think that this would be bad for my teaching, my research, and my service to the institution and to the broader community of which this institution is a part. Taking care of me doesn't mean shirking my responsibilities or treating my colleagues unfairly. It doesn't mean "dropping a bomb" on them by doing something for "purely personal reasons," as if those reasons, because they are only personal, are somehow criminal or at the very least illegitimate.

Let's think for a minute. Let's say that I were talking about deciding to go on the market for any of the following reasons:
  • In order to relocate to be nearer to my husband/partner.
  • In order to relocate in order to accommodate my husband/partner's career.
  • In order to facilitate the happiness of my children (better schools, being nearer to extended family, etc.).
  • In order to be nearer to an ailing parent or other close relative.
I suspect (though perhaps I'm being cynical) that everyone who has wondered about whether I'll "regret" the decision - not to take another job, mind you, but just to look for one - just to consider whether there might be something out there that would perhaps make me happier than my current position - would be the very vision of support of my "difficult decision." They would say things like how some things matter more than this profession, and they would even commend me on putting "what really matters" ahead of my stupid little job. Because, of course, for a woman, a stupid little job is just a purely personal thing that really has to go in the service of taking care of other people, right?

But, see, I don't have any of those "good reasons" to consider other employers. I'm single and my parents are in good health. I had the great good fortune to have my grandmother die during my second month on this job, so I don't even have an ailing grandmother potentially to validate going on the market. And, in fact, the thing that I probably devote most of my time/energy to is to my institution. So, many would say, it's just plain wrong for me to think about looking elsewhere.

But here's the thing. I don't plan on stopping being good at this job because I'm thinking of looking at other jobs. I care about my institution and my job. There are a great many good things about this institution, and I've gotten as much accommodation as is available to me at this institution (though often at a price in terms of service commitments, etc.). But the fact that I might consider my own happiness as part of the equation in my professional life does not strike me as "arrogant and selfish." Not at all. And I wonder whether anybody would chastise me or offer well-meaning advice on this issue in the precise way that has been done here if I weren't a single woman. Perhaps people would, but I wonder, only because I've never noticed anyone responding to a male blogger in this particular fashion.

(But then, what do I know? Because of course arrogant and selfish people don't generally recognize themselves as such, and maybe my questions about how people's responses to Dr. Crazy Going on the Market are gendered somehow show me to be even more arrogant and selfish than everybody already thought I was?)

But to continue. Let's go back to Liz's comment. She concludes with the following:
"I can't help but think a few more years in the profession will help you and give you some perspective. This discussion has been so similar to discussions I've had with young faculty over the years. "I just want to write." "I just want to have time in the summer to get away from the college." "I just want my books."

Well, get a library card, I say. Get a tiny room above a garage and wrestle with your thoughts, your cat, your literature.

The rest of us will be college professors (taking care of the students, the curriculum, being there for more than a brief visit along the way) while you're getting satisfied."

Where even to begin. Just for the record, I'm not going on the market because I just want to write (I don't), because I have some fantasy about having summers off (who, exactly, gets that luxury? I know people at RI institutions, and I think they're more crazed with work than anybody), or because I just want my books (what does that even mean?). I'm not an idiot. And I've been teaching for over ten years, and an assistant professor for three, so I'm wondering how much time I need to be in this profession before my sense of it has legitimacy.

I expect that if I am offered a position - which is in no way a sure thing - to make a basically lateral move. I do want a lighter teaching load, and I would like either to stop teaching composition or to teach it only one semester per academic year. I'm not trying to get away from teaching or from service in order to bury my nose in a book One of the reasons why I'm good at this job is that I'm really good at balancing the demands of all of the parts of it. I do take care of my students - who incidentally often ask what in god's name I'm doing at this institution - and I have made more of a contribution to the curricular process in my department in the three full years that I've been at this job than many of the tenured-and-inactive members of my department. I'm not here for a "brief visit," and longevity does not necessarily equate to productivity or utility within a department.

This is the appropriate moment to go back on the marketto have a look-see before going up for tenure. I will not make a decision to leave this institution without a lot of agonizing, because I do, ultimately, really care about this place. But you know what? Caring about a job is not enough in life. I want more in my life than what this particular job has to offer. That isn't wrong.

That's enough for now. I'm sure that Liz is rocking back and forth and humming in a corner somewhere in an effort to come to grips with my audacity in responding to her, and I'm sure many others are shaking their heads at what a stupid, selfish, naive girl I am. I'm hoping, though, that this clarifies my position, if it needed clarifying, and that this post can be the last in this vein. Really, the reason I posted the LAST post about going on the market was to try to head off this kind of bullshit at the pass so that I could get into the actual nuts and bolts of what it's like to go on the market at this point in one's career. And to talk about things like my class background in relation to the academic job search, and I don't know, other stuff that's infinitely more interesting than all of this.

And I'm tired and cranky and hungry. I spent all day shopping, and I really had hoped to write about that. I suppose that will have to wait until tomorrow, though, because I've blown my wad on this crap.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Things I've Learned from Pandora

No, not the one who opened the box, etc., but rather from the one that's part of the Music Genome Project:

Well, I've learned a great many things. I've learned that there is a huge part of me (at least in terms of music that I gravitate toward) that is still a little skater-dater-alterna-girl. I've learned that I really like some bands that I'd never heard of, like Superchunk.

But you know what else I've learned? I really like Dave Mathews and John Mayer. A lot.

I'd resisted it for a long time (see above about being a little punk rock wanna be), just as I resisted listening to The Grateful Dead in high school when all of the cool kids wanted to be hippie-ish Dead-Heads and had posters of Jim Morrison on their walls. No thank you, I said, this music is not for me.

I said the same thing about what I consideredgirlie music, this Dave Mathews Band and this silly John Mayer, loved by teenaged girls and soccer moms alike. But the Pandora has shown me my own prejudices. Because, really, both are just cool to listen to. I won't be admitting this in real life, though. I would much rather like for people to think that I'm edgy. (Ha!)

Technical Difficulties, and News I Wish I Could Spread

Technical Difficulties:

To everybody who has expressed frustration with the new template (it seems to be a problem only in some browsers, though there is a weird 2 blogs for the price of one thing going on at the bottom of the blog even in my browser which is the culprit) and we're at work on fixing it. As I'm a dummy with the computer languages, this could take a while, so please accept my apologies and know that I'm trying to get the situation under control in the coming days.

News I Wish I Could Spread:

One of the things that sucks about having a blog with a pseudonym is that one can't talk in a non-cryptic way about certain real life things. Suffice it to say that a journal article that I wrote and was accepted over a year ago for publication in "the journal of record for [insert literary period here] literature" has finally come out today! I'm really, really proud of it, and I suppose of myself, too. I realize that having an article published isn't the biggest deal in the world, and I've got other publications, but this one... well, for whatever reason it's very special to me. Maybe because it is the first time that I felt like I was doing work that was really important or meaningful to my field, or maybe because it came along when I was pretty green on the tenure track and it helped me to feel like a Real Live Professional Scholar, you know?

At any rate, I am wicked pleased with myself, and I feel like I want to celebrate. Perhaps I can con my best friend in my department into going out to dinner tonight? (Incidentally, I really, really need a pseudonym for her. What would you like my best friend here to be called? Please provide suggestions in the comments.) And maybe after I go to the gym and then shower I will go shopping. I still resist the skinny jean (though I'm sure even I will cave eventually), but I can totally get behind the legging trend, and I think I might be able to manage the straight leg jean... At any rate, I'm in the mood to do some shopping. This is really the point. And I'm really excited about the purported nod to the style of my fashion-coming-of-age era, grunge. Also, I should note that one reason I'm excited about shopping is that I lost my vacation weight and now I'm beginning to build on the weight loss of the spring. Feeling very healthy and strong (though sore from lifting weights because, well, I'm a weak out-of-shape woman, but not for long!)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Reading for Pleasure Wednesday - Passion: A Novel of the Romantic Poets

Ok, so first, let me just say, that I'm not too fond of the Romantic poets. I do not study the Romantic period, and my only connection to the texts of the Romantic period comes in two forms: 1) I really did dig the poetry of Byron and Shelley when I was in high school, and later Keats in college, and 2) I do teach the Survey of British Literature II, and thus I've got to give the quick and dirty overview of the Romantic period in there.

So, you might be asking, why did I pick up this novel by Jude Morgan, a student of Angela Carter and Malcolm Bradbury, Passion: A Novel of the Romantic Poets on my last library trip? Well, there are a few reasons:

1) I do enjoy the historical fiction. Has anybody else out there read any of those books by Margaret George? Awesome.
2) A friend of mine had just been telling me about a horrible book she'd read that seemed to be of the same ilk, and so I thought I should see if this was anything like it.
3) You can't go wrong with a book entitled "Passion" before the colon.

So. The first thing is, the book is long. Very long. That said, it's engrossing, and I liked that it was long because short, easy books I generally get through in a few hours, and this took me almost a week of pretty steady reading. The writing is interesting, as the p.o.v. shifts between each of the different women in the lives of the poets, and each has a distinct voice and perspective both on the historical moment and on the Great Man whom she loves. The book isn't sentimental, and it presents all of the sexual escapades of the poets (oh yes, for in a book entitled Passion there must be, well, Passion, though there isn't any explicit porn ala Judith Krantz, it's more hinted at) in a way that is completely unfazed.

Is it the best book I ever read? No. Was it a great book to read during a week in the summertime? Totally.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A New Pretty Template! Yippee!

As you all are aware, I had a pretty ugly template since starting Reassigned Time. I just could never get it up to learn the html to make the thing not suck. Luckily, the awesome, incomparable Clare over at Ink and Incapability took pity on me and made this confection of orange-y-stripe-y-Man-Kitty loveliness. Yay!!!!!!

On the Market - The Why of It

I just finished having a conversation with Job Search Mentor (JSM), and it was good. I want to write about this decision of mine, to go on the market, and I want to write about it in relation to what I've experienced in three years on the tenure-track at a regional comprehensive university in a metropolitan area. I'm not sure how to do this. I had toyed with the idea of starting a separate blog for posts related to the job search, but I'm not sure that a) I want to compartmentalize in that way or b) that I could compartmentalize in that way if I tried. The truth of the matter is that this decision to look - and that's exactly what it is, a decision to look, not necessarily one to leave - feels like it's imbedded in my professional life at this institution, and it doesn't make sense to separate it out.

So I think that this will be the first in a series of posts in which I try to be reflective about all of this crap.

Why Go on the Market?
A lot of people would say that I should be happy in my current position. And you know what I'd say? I'd say that I am. I am not in any way "unhappy" with my current job. Dissatisfied in some respects, yes, but that's not the same thing as "unhappiness." Let's list the positives of this job, just to show you that I'm not delusional in claiming happiness:
  1. I am in a small-medium city. This means that I have good libraries (research and public), good museums, and good restaurants.
  2. I am paid a good salary for my field and my area of the country. Since leaving graduate school, I have been able to live like a grown-up and to buy things without thinking about it first.
  3. I have a great deal autonomy in all areas of my job. This can be annoying sometimes, but for the most part I would rather have complete control over things like the courses I teach, classroom practices, research agenda, service I choose to do, etc.
  4. My department is collegial and friendly, without too many weird factions or points of tension between people.
  5. People seem to think that I'm doing a good job, and I've received a number of opportunities that confirm the high opinion of my colleagues.
  6. I've been able to maintain an active research agenda, in no small part because I've had good support in the form of travel money, as well as some awards from the institution that have helped.
  7. I like teaching first-generation college students.
I could list more, but these are the main things. And so, those of you who have been on the market multiple times with no luck, or those of you who are stuck in horrible departments or geographical locations or both, or those of you who are in long-distance relationships, etc. might want to tell me to fuck off and to be happy with what I've got.

Part of me thinks that I should fuck off and be happy with what I've got. I feel guilty for wanting more or better or different or whatever. But here are the reasons why I don't listen to those nagging voices of negativity in my head.
  1. Whatever good things there are about my job, it's a job with a 4-4 load which includes 2 composition classes each semester.* I have absolutely no passion for teaching composition, and what passion I have for teaching literature is sapped both by teaching composition and by the sheer amount of teaching that I do.
  2. Socially, this is a very hard place for a single person to live. People my age in this location are married. Shit, people 10 years younger than me in this location are married. I feel like a freak. At nearly-32, I should not feel like a freak and like I'll be barren at any second, and intellectually I know this, but emotionally it's hard to remember.
  3. While I feel appreciated at this job, I don't feel like real value is ascribed to some of the activities that are most important to me.
  4. There is no reason for me to stay here. No reason for me to leave, but no reason for me to stay.
  5. I am ambitious. I believe that I could do better. I'm not saying that I am so awesome or anything, or that there wouldn't be trade-offs, but ambition tends to make one a bit restless, tends to make it tough to settle for the "ok" thing when the "great" thing might be around the corner if you try.
  6. I don't like when people judge me negatively based on my institutional affiliation. I don't like when people pity me because of my institutional affiliation.
  7. As much as I like the kind of students I teach and believe that teaching them is really important work, I also wish, sometimes, that the level of preparedness of my students was just a little, teeny bit higher. I'd like to teach students who have read an entire novel at least once in their lives before they find their way into my class.
And so today I talked to JSM about all this and more. She was totally great, and she seems to think that I'm in as good a position as anybody to try to do this thing, although, of course, a lot will depend on the job list (in a discipline where job pickings are slim generally, I'm in a specialty that's pretty small, as things go), and a lot depends on things beyond my control. But you know, I don't want to look back and wonder whether I could have ended up someplace else if only I'd tried. And I don't want to lock myself into tenure at this institution without making sure that I wouldn't rather be someplace else. It's so hard, though, because one of the things that attracted me to this profession is the security of tenure, so why does it now feel like a life sentence? And will it always?

So, now that I've listed all of my reasons, for and against, you may still think that I should fuck off and be happy with what I've got. Or you may think that this is the "problem" with kids coming out of grad school today, that we don't commit to a job and an institution for the long haul, that we're always looking for something better. Or you may think that the "negatives" or reasons for wanting to go on the market are bunk. But you know, it irks me that people only grant legitimacy to the decision to go on the market if candidates are in some way miserable (unemployed, away from spouse/family, in horrible location, at horrible institution). Maybe complete misery shouldn't be the only thing that drives us to make changes in our lives or situations.

*I realize that with the new Administrative Gig I'll have just one writing class a semester and a 3-3 load, but I'll also have to do the Administrative Gig, right? And what I'd really like more would be a lesser load without an added administrative responsibility. I'd like the lesser load to equate to a heavier commitment to research, which isn't really what I'm signing on for with the Administrative Gig.

Reading for Pleasure Wednesdays - 1st Ever Tomorrow!

Well, with all of the positive responses of yesterday, I think we should try to get this thing off the ground.

[Aside: you know, I kind of like the "Blog about X on this day of the week" format better than the carnival format, even though carnivals are good. I suppose the reason is that it's easier to be lazy about the "blog about x on this day" thing, and you know who participates (pretty much) and who doesn't, and you can choose to participate or not without having to do technorati tags or let people know or whatever. But maybe this is just because I'm lazy. And because carnivals make me feel guilty because I look at all those links, always intend to get around to reading them, and then never do.]

But so here's the dealio:

1. Wednesday will be Reading for Pleasure Wednesday.

2. Should you choose to participate, you should blog about something that you have read or are reading for pleasure.

  • "Pleasure reading" includes anything that you read for the sole purpose of experiencing pleasure. If you could teach this book, if this book is the "freshman book" at your institution and you're expected to read it, if this book is something that people in your field should/must read in order to be current - I don't care how much you claim to enjoy it, this book cannot be one of your selections. If someone else chooses a book that falls into one of these "not just for pleasure" categories, however, of course you can comment about it. I'm not a total fascist (wink).
  • "Pleasure reading" can include fiction, poetry, non-fiction - even drama, I suppose, though I don't think many people read plays for fun - and it can appear in book form or in periodical-type publications. (In other words, if you read a story you love in The New Yorker, that, of course, can count.) It must, however, be something that has words on the page, as the film people or the "visual text without words" people can find their own day. I would also say that we shouldn't include blog posts, just because, well, obviously we all read blogs for pleasure, and we all can get recommendations by going to each others' blogrolls.
  • You will notice that you need not be reading this book right now. You might choose to blog about the first book that you remember reading for pleasure when you were a kid, books you read for pleasure at other notable times in your life, or you might choose to blog about a book you read three months ago. One reason that this is the case is that of course we'll all read fewer "just for pleasure" texts as the academic year begins again, and so this means that we can use stuff from the "pleasure library" to keep the thing going when times are tough.
  • If you are reading the book right now, it's ok not to be finished with it.
3. Posts can take any form, from bulleted lists to more formal "review" sort of pieces.

4. Posts can focus on any aspect of the text in question, and need not cover every aspect.

5. Probably one should try not to do multiple posts on one text except for in the rarest of cases. (I'm just thinking that if we all got in that habit this thing could become really boring really quickly.)

6. Please include complete publication information, whether in the form of linking to the text or by just providing a bibliographic citation.
  • As somebody who sometimes can be too lazy to link, I figure that as long as we include complete publication information, that will allow people to get their hands on these books should they choose to do so. Because isn't the point that this will also expand our lists of books to read for pleasure? Well, that's one of my points....

Monday, July 24, 2006

An Idea for Blog Posts

So, this morning, I was procrastinating, lying around, reading a book I got out of the library called Glamourous Disasters, about this dude who is living in NYC making his living tutoring rich kids for the SAT, and I thought to myself, "Self, I realize that this is a kind of lame book, but at the same time, it's exactly the sort of book that I would choose to read for pleasure, and I wonder whether my blog readers would choose similar sorts of things, or whether they would like reviews of such material so that they can avoid it?" And then I thought to myself, "Hey, and wouldn't it be great if we chose a day - sort of like Poetry Friday, but instead something like Reading for Pleasure Wednesdays or something - and on that day people would post about a book that they've read recently that's NOT RELATED TO WORK. AT ALL. So, for example, I checked out this essay collection about chick lit when I went to the library yesterday, and I'm not using it for anything specifically, so it's kind of a pleasure read, but not really, because it's literary criticism, right? Thus, I would not be talking about that book on Reading for Pleasure Wednesdays. I would, however, talk about books like the following (just to give some examples):
  • The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman
  • On Beauty by Zadie Smith (Maybe, though this might fall into the category of work-reading, kind of...)
  • Sex as a Second Language by Alisa Kwitney
  • Passion: A Novel of the Romantic Poets by Jude Somebodyorother, which incidentally, is an awesome book.
  • Girls in Trouble by another author whom I can't remember.
See what I'm saying? Just crap that I'm reading - some of it of higher quality and some of decidedly lesser quality, but just the stuff I'm reading for fun. And the reviews wouldn't give everything away, but they could provide a basic synopsis and basic reactions - I'm not talking about professional-caliber reviewing here at all. I'm talking about "I was really annoyed because the main character was so whiny." You know, the sort of stuff I'd tell my students wasn't particularly articulate but that really does get at whether a book's worth picking up or not. (Also, I'm totally intrigued by the idea of getting to find out what you all are reading.)

So does this seem like a cool idea? Would people be into it? If so, I'll be happy to get the ball rolling with an inaugural post this week....

Friday, July 21, 2006

It's That Time Again - Blogroll Updating

Well, all, I probably won't post over the weekend, as I will be having the quality time with my Mommy. Thus, now seems as good a time as any to invite any/all who would like to be on my blogroll and who are not there to leave a comment so that you may be added. (In general, I try to link to anybody who links to me, though I do tend to stick with the blogs of academic-ish types for the most part, as I imagine anybody who's finding blogs through my blogroll is probably most interested in that kind. But don't be shy about requesting to be added - I've got blogs of all shapes, sizes, and kinds on here. Also, I know a couple of you have sent me emails asking me to change your adress, but I'm a jerk and I've gotten behind on that. If you wouldn't mind leaving a comment or emailing me about it again, that would be great. Sorry to be such a slack blog administrator!)

Deal with the Devil, or the Blog's Name May Not Be Obsolete

Well, I just had a conversation with my chair about yesterday's "opportunity." It was a good talk, and he's totally supportive of me. He has agreed that the course from which I will be released will be a composition course!!!! This means that each semester, should I take this position, I will teach not two but a blissful one composition course. I will have a 3/3 load, with three preps it's true, but a 3/3 load with two literature courses (one upper- and one lower-division, ideally) and just one composition course. Now, it's true, if I take the job, I will have other responsibilities in its place. Entirely, entirely true. But if I guard my time as I know I have to, then I think it might be a good situation.

It's still not a totally done deal. Before I give the director my formal acceptance I asked for a written description of the expectations/duties for the position as well as the assurance that the term of the position would be just one academic year, though potentially renewable. Until I hear back from him about the duties and the term, I'm not saying I'll do anything. And if the duties seem like too much written out, I'll decline the position. But really, what's too much compared with teaching a composition class of 22 at-risk freshman?


Obviously, a lot of people in the blogosphere are talking about the tragic situation in Lebanon. I generally don't discuss this sort of thing on my blog, but I feel compelled because for me there is a personal connection to what is happening there.

My stepfather, who has been more of a father to me than my biological father for the past 20 years, is from Lebanon. He and his family, who are Christian, began immigrating to the United States in the late-70s, with the outbreak of the civil war. My "Tayta" (I have no idea how to spell that, but it's the word for grandma) was the first in the family to immigrate to the United States. She left her husband, six children, and a handful of grandchildren, to come to her brother, who had immigrated to the States years before. She spoke no English, but she learned enough to take and pass her test for United States citizenship. And then, slowly, over the course of 15 years, she worked to bring her family to join her. My stepfather came in 1980. He had been in the militia. He came with his brother, a teenager who wanted to fight but who was made to come to America instead. They, too, are United States Citizens. Following them came their sisters and their older brothers with their wives and children.

Growing up "culturally Lebanese" from the age of 12 (for lack of a better way to characterize my position), it strikes me how little we in the West know about the history of this country and the different agendas that are played out on Lebanese soil. I spent my teens hearing about the Ottoman Empire in Lebanon, how France had colonized Lebanon, how Lebanon gained its independence in 1943, about the different religious factions that sought to control the country - Orthodox, or Maronite, or Shi'a, or Druze, to name just a few of them, because this is a lot more complicated than the Christian-Muslim-Jewish trifecta - and about the political agendas of various countries that surround Lebanon. I heard all about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in ways that were much more complicated (and utterly confusing) than in the ways I'd heard about it in classes in school. And I heard about how Beirut had been this amazing capital - "The Paris of the Middle East" - before the war and how it wasn't just a place where terrorists hung out.

Over the past week or so, in listening to and watching as much news as I can stomach about what's happening there - which admittedly is not very much - there seems to be so little context provided that there's no way that somebody without a personal connection to Lebanon and its people could possibly navigate the information provided to sift through it and to make sense of it. When we hear the talking heads talk about Islamic Fascism, for example, I suspect that for the majority of us we think about the fascism of Hitler or Mussolini or Stalin - the fascism of organized nation-states with recognizable leaders - and if we hear about this in the context of Lebanon, I suspect that many of us might logically conclude that Lebanon is a fascist country, that Lebanon = Hezbollah. We don't hear about the roots of all of this conflict in a history of colonialism. We don't hear about the ways in which the West is at the very least complicit in this conflict, if not a cause. We don't hear about the structure of different governments in the middle east, nor do we get much context about the current situation. We get film of refugees; we get talking heads supposing things about policy decisions that the United States might make. At least on the major news stations (NPR, the cable networks, the nightly news, etc.). Again, I'm not saying I've seen every bit of coverage, and I have not been looking at deeper news coverage that may be appearing elsewhere. The reason I comment anyway is that I suspect most of America is seeing about as much, or less, news coverage than I am.

When we hear about the action that Israel is taking in bombing Lebanon, we may see their position as identical to ours in going into Afghanistan or into Iraq, and depending on our politics, we may believe that Israel's action is justified or justifiable or even right. Or, whatever we think of Israel's justafiability, we might think that getting Hezbollah out of Lebanon is a good thing for the country, for the region. Or we might wonder why the US isn't doing more to stop what's happening. Whatever.

I don't know what to think. I know that I've got family (an aunt, two cousins, their husbands and children) who are trapped in Lebanon right now. I know that my uncle's best friend from childhood was killed. I know that my Tayta is watching the news constantly, calling my stepfather at the store during the day to talk to him about what she's seeing.

I get Israel's position, and I get Hezbollah's position, and I get the Christian-Lebanese position, and I get the US position. And you know, at the end of the day, people are going to keep making decisions that are about power and control, and people are going to keep dying in the service of political agendas. I think that's the long and the short of it, and I'm not sure whether anything anyone can say will make a difference in that.

Productive Procrastination

So. Here's the stuff that I really should be doing:

  1. Finishing the blasted (or insert vulgarity here - I'm so frustrated with it I can't even curse properly) journal project thingumbob that I'm co-editing. I have maybe two hours of work on it, and I am totally just ignoring it. I hate the level of detail that good editing requires. (What's funny though is I hate it much less when we're talking about just looking at my own work, but still I manage to miss many, many things, because, well, I'm just a big-picture person, I guess.) I suppose it's good I've found this out. But yes, I still need to complete my end of the project.
  2. Cleaning house for imminent arrival of the Mommy of Dr. Crazy. She's coming for the weekend. Yay! But I really do need to do the pre-mother-once-over of the old homestead.
  3. Laundry.
  4. Taking Man-Kitty for mani/pedi, as he's a little brat who will not let his Mama do such things for him in the home. Oh no, he will not.
  5. Nit-picky revisions on article for collection. (If you're wondering why I'm avoiding this, see #1. Also, they aren't technically due until September 1.)
  6. Work out. This week has been a complete lapse in the work-out regime. At a certain point, it's just too hot and humid even to drive to the gym, which is air conditioned. This is pathetic, I know.
But, see, I don't want to do any of those things. And I'm anxiously awaiting the arrival of my chair in his office so that I can talk to him about the "opportunity" I mentioned yesterday. Because, really, depending on what he's willing to do, I might not have a thing to agonize over. So rather than doing the things I need to be doing, I'm instead doing things that don't need to be done for AGES. What have I accomplished over the past two days?

  • Fall syllabi are basically finished, though I'm holding off on getting them copied a) to hide from people how anal I really am and b) because whenever I get things done this early it always seems like I need to change something at the last minute, and so it makes good sense to hold off until closer to the last minute to give things a once-over.
  • Updated my Real Life website.
  • Devised a new way to handle certain assignments that used to be a total burden grading-wise in my writing courses. This may or may not be less time-consuming, as any time I make these innovations I'm not sure how much good it does. Nevertheless, I hold out the hope that I will ultimately devise the Most Efficient Assignments Possible and thus cut my teaching time as close to the bone as possible. [Aside: I should really do a post about managing the 4/4 load one of these days. In talking to all of my friends who don't have the 4/4 load this summer, it occurs to me that the 4/4 load has taught me to be really brutal about how much time I am willing to commit to teaching and to fit the necessary tasks into that time. Thus, I think I might actually spend less time on teaching than some of my friends with lighter teaching loads, and yet I think that in so doing my teaching is as good -or not- as it would be if I were spending oodles more time. Yes, this may need to be a post...]
  • Agonized/fantasized about the "opportunity" and what exactly I'd need in order to say yes to it.
  • Read blogs. Of course.
  • Considered and weighed my options about what texts I would put on reserve for the classes in which I've decided not to order yet one more book. [Incidentally, to students of the world: I am doing you a favor by not requiring you to buy another book. Books are much more expensive than the $10-$15 dollars you may need to spend on printing/copying. I say may because the university does give you some free prints/copies, so really you may end by spending less than this amount. Please do not bitch on my evaluations about how I should "make copies for you." Thank you for your cooperation.]
  • Obsessively listened to the Pandora. I'm addicted. [Incidentally, my favorite stations I've created so far are one based on Sleater-Kinney's song "You're No Rock and Roll Fun" and one based on the band The Magnetic Fields. I'm not sure what's better about Pandora, how it reminds me of music that I LOVE that I forget about (like how did I forget my love of Bikini Kill?) or how it introduces me to music that I'm totally into but didn't know before (like who knew I love every single song by the band Superchunk?).

Thursday, July 20, 2006

We Interrupt the Navel-Gazing of the Previous Post....

Because we (well, I - I'm not sure why I'm using the royal We, especially as I'm not wearing my tiara) just received a call from a colleague who is the director of a program to which I am connected through a committee on which I serve. The colleague has offered me an opportunity that would guarantee me Reassigned Time (ala the title of the blog; you will notice I've been pretty quiet about the fact that the title of the blog seemed to have become obsolete) for Fall and for Spring. This would mean I'd have a 3/3 teaching load instead of a 4/4 teaching load. And I'm sure I'd get some sort of title, too.

BUT. With Reassigned Time comes Obligations, too. On the surface, these seem to be relatively small. No more, surely, than the obligations related to teaching a class. But this would not be a free ride. My instinct is that I need to think carefully about this "opportunity." I have said I'll get back to him on Monday. I don't know what I want to do.

Initial thoughts:
  • If I wanted a future in administration, this would be a good thing to do. I don't at all want to be an administrator right now, though, so this plus isn't really all that enticing.
  • I loved teaching just three courses last Spring. But if teaching three courses would mean that I had to teach 2 writing and only one lit course again I might kill myself. Am I living in a fantasy land if I wonder whether it would be possible to state that I would do this job if and only if I were guaranteed that the course that would be dropped would be a writing course?
  • While this would be a good thing at my current institution, I fear that it could become a total time-suck and wouldn't do me any good in contexts outside of my current institution (i.e., the job market).
Ok, my wise readers, taking all of this into account, what would you do?

Two Years Blogging: A Retrospective

I started blogging on July 22, 2004 - not on this blog, but under this name - and it strikes me that it's about time for me to do some reflecting on this blogging thing and on what's kept me going over the past couple of years. I've done a lot - too much - blogging about using a pseudonym, so that isn't what this is about. What I want to consider is what the benefits of blogging are for me, personally but also as an academic.

On Being an Academic Blogger

We've all read about what a foolish enterprise it is for an academic person - especially an untenured academic person - to blog. Even pseudonyms don't offer a great deal of protection. Bloggers can be outed, and in fact one of the more interesting parts of the blogging phenomenon is the media's gleeful embrace of stories about the latest and greatest outed bloggers, in which the bloggers are held up for public scrutiny and villification (Look how stupid he was! He got fired from his job!) as well as praise (But now she makes her living as a blogger! She doesn't have to work at a crappy job anymore! How awesome!).

I suppose what I see, having done this for two years, is that blogging has been good for me as an academic. When I began, I didn't really know what I was doing. It just seemed like a fun experiment, a medium through which to analyze my experiences and to put them into a broader context. But I made mistakes. The voice that I developed often felt alien to me, or at the very least I couldn't sustain it without deep ambivalence, and I felt very wary of talking about my work in a substantive way. I was an academic blogger who couldn't really talk about her academic life - the good as well as the bad of it - and there were many times when I thought I might just give up blogging. But instead of doing that, I moved to Reassigned Time. I retained my persona, but I fleshed it out. I worked through a problem with my writing voice, and I stuck it out even though it wasn't exactly a "fun" thing to do. And I was entirely conscious of that and of the process that I had to go through to get to a voice that felt more comfortable, and that, I think, has been an incredibly important experience for me as an academic. Blogging has made me much more conscious of voice and tone; it has made me much more conscious of writing for an audience, even in the writing that I do for my work. Moreover, blogging more than any of my other academic pursuits, has made me trust my voice, in that clearly lots of you read me and don't think I'm an idiot, so I must have some good ideas rattling around in my head, right?

I also think that blogging as an academic, and an untenured one at that, while it may be dangerous in some ways, is ultimately a really important thing to do. Well, maybe not "really important" in the way that finding a cure for cancer would be important, but "really important" in the sense that I think it's positive to give a public voice to the concerns of people who are often advised to keep their mouths shut until such time as tenure is bestowed upon them. I think it's good for graduate students to be able to read about the experiences of those just a little further along the academic track, and I think it's good for those who've moved beyond tenure to get some kind of insight into the way that their junior colleagues think. And I think that the medium of blogging creates conversations between people of different ranks and disciplines, and that can only be a positive thing. (Though I will say that it's interesting that this happens only virtually in my experience, and that in real life I don't think I've ever spoken to a person in, say, the history department at my university. Oh wait, there is that one guy who's on a committee with me. But you see what I'm saying.)

And this brings me to the whole "blogging for community" thing. The truth of the matter is that when I began blogging this was not what I was after, or at least not in a conscious and calculated way. I like the idea of conversation, and I like the idea of getting to know people through a conversation, but to characterize that as "seeking community" seems to me a different thing altogether. I think perhaps that one of the mistakes people make as they evaluate blogs/bloggers is that they assume that people who blog don't have rich, full lives, friends, interests. At least in my experience, blogging becomes just one more thing that people who blog do, and it's not an indication that they're spending their days and nights in isolation with only a computer for connection to the outside world. That said, while I didn't get into this seeking a community, I did end up with one. It's infinitely interesting to watch how that community grows and changes. The diversity of that community is fantastic. And I feel happy to "know" the people whom I've met in the context of that community. (Ok, so this is cheesy, but I can't help it. I had to say something about you all, my readers, as without you, I totally would not still blog. I mean, hell, it takes a lot of time and effort!)

On Being a Person who Blogs

While it is true that academics are people, I make this division because I think that the benefits I see for me as a person who blogs are different from the academic benefits. Or maybe they're related, but I don't know. One thing a blog offers me personally is a record of my life over a particular span of time. It's not a journal - I keep a journal separately, thank you very much, and I don't yammer on in it about the state of higher education or about things like cleaning out my office - but it does show a lot of parts of my life that don't make their way into my actual journal. By looking at the blog alongside the journal, I think it's easier to get an approximation of what's "really" going on with me at a given time. As I look back over the past two years of blogging, I realize that with my change to the Reassigned Time address I also saw a change in how I was feeling about my life. When I started my first blog, I was in a really crazy place. I had been in my job for a year, and that first year kicked my ass. I was beginning a non-relationship with a guy who was never that into me and whom I was never particularly into, either, now that I think about it. I felt really ambivalent about everything. And I was, thus, a little nutso. But now, well, I am much more under control than I was at that time. Sure, I'm a little bit bored. I feel like I've mastered the job (not that there aren't still challenges, but I feel much more at home in the job now), I feel like the personal life I've got is mediocre but at least it's not insane, and I'm taking much better care of myself. That's not because I blog, but the blog shows me that this is true, and I think that's a good thing.

So what will the blog show in the coming year? Impossible to tell, obviously. But a few months ago I was talking to my mom on the phone, and I told her (I have no recollection of the context for this comment), "I feel like I'm changing again." I remember when I said it I felt surprised, like I'd thought I was done with the whole changing nonsense when I got out of grad school and my 20s. (Incidentally, my mom claims that the changing does slow up when you hit your late 40s, but never stops completely. Good to know. Especially as my whole life I've always hated all change - in myself, in others, whatever. Change, for me, is something I fight with my whole being until I finally reach a kind of defeated acceptance.) And I've also been feeling like whatever changing is happening in me is a kind of weird gearing up for a real change. It's sort of like how you can smell a thunderstorm in the air before it arrives - I smell a change on the horizon for me. And I don't have a real sense of what it will be. Will it be a new job? A relationship? Both? Something else? I suppose I'll have to wait and see.... And you'll all have to keep reading.

(But watch NOTHING changes, and I look at this blog post a year from now and I'm MORTIFIED. How embarassing.)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Cranky, and Yet Productive

This happens every year in the couple or 4 weeks leading up to my birthday. I fall into this crummy funk, wherein I'm bored, and yet not in the mood to do fun things, and I create all of this anxiety about all of the stuff I "should" be doing. Now, in some respects I chalk this up to normal mid-summer doldrums. You know, it's like when you're a kid and you just get sick of summer and you miss school (or maybe you all didn't, but I know I did), not because the homework is fun or anything but because you see a bunch of people every day and you (sometimes) learn cool stuff and, well, you're busy.

Well, for me, as a professor, I start feeling the same way right around this time of year. It's not that I miss the work of the school year, or the grading, or the waste-of-time meetings, but I do start to feel bored and contentious. So what have I been doing to make myself feel better?

I just finished one of my syllabi for the fall. No, I'm not kidding.

And that means I've only got one syllabus left to finish of the three that I will use. Nope, not kidding about that either.

Oh, and I should admit that part of this is also a weird procrastination thing, because I've got shit to do around the house (especially because the Mommy of Crazy is coming to visit this weekend) and I need to take the kitty-cat to get a mani/pedi and I need to work on other crap that's slightly more pressing than getting syllabi done.

But it's 1 PM and I've been working on this stupid Survey syllabus for 3 hours. I think it's time for me to call it a day and go to the pool.

Clearly, Everybody Would Like a Tiara

Or at least it seems that way from the many, many comments in praise of my tiara. Thus, I have done some checking around, and so if you were thinking, "perhaps my writing would benefit from a tiara," you might check out this website. I'm pretty sure, though, that the bathrobe is one of a kind. (Not that any of you have mentioned it. How polite you all are.)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Pet Peeves Meme

As seen a bunch of places, and I'm going to be a lazy blogger and not do the links, which probably is a pet peeve of somebody else's, when people don't cite where they get memes from. But it was jo(e) who started this one.

1. Grammatical pet peeve. This is a very, very nit-picky one, but I really hate it when people use "I" - because they think that it's "proper" sounding - when really "me" is the grammatically correct form of the noun. Example: "Susan wanted to come shopping with Carrie and I." I is an object of a preposition people! This means it should be the objective form of the word. You know who makes this mistake all the time? Those kids on the Real World. In those dumb interviews they do that describe the action of the show. ALL THE TIME.

2. Household pet peeve. That while the Man-Kitty is really good at making demands (and messes) he refuses to help pitch in on keeping the household in working order. My mom suggests I should strap little tiny sponges to his feet and maybe he'll clean the kitchen floor, but as funny as an image as that is to me, I think it would constitute cruelty to animals. Oh, and I also hate that the house doesn't stay clean once it's cleaned so it seems like a never-ending project. That sucks. Really, when you live by yourself (well, and with a cat) it's hard to have household pet peeves because it would mean that you're peeved with yourself. I'm not into that at all.

3. Arts & Entertainment pet peeve. Hmmm. I love arts and entertainment generally, so this is difficult. No, I know! It's with The Devil Wears Prada. The movie that is, though I've also read the book, which is actually where the pet peeve(s) come from. 1) WHY did they embellish the narrative and include the sappy love plot wherein she lives with her boyfriend (or at least it seems that way) and has a one night stand with that other dude? Sure TDWP the book is chick lit, but it is unusual in the genre in that it really isn't AT ALL about finding Prince Charming. 2) Why did they take out the fact that a) Andrea/Andy the protagonist is kind of a loser and b) that the only reason she was thin enough to work at Runway is because she'd caught some crazy thing like Dysentary when she was traveling around afte graduating from College and so she is not, in fact, a "huge" size six who needs to become a four when she gets the job there but rather she is unhealthily the exact right size?

4. Liturgical pet peeve. Well. This is interesting. I'm not sure what to put here, and I don't want to put a bleeding-heart-liberal-anti-people-who-infringe-on-my-rights-trying-to-demand-that
I-conform-to-their-religious-beliefs sentiment here. Not that I don't feel that way, but I feel like it's a cliche. So then I probably should mine my Catholic roots. I suppose my liturgical pet peeve is that you have to tend Mass on all holy days of obligation (this being where the whole "obligation" thing comes in) even if one of those days happens to be the day on which you were born. Why should you have to go to church every single year on your birthday. That just doesn't seem fair. Not at all. Though it is nice to be born on a day that often coincides with many a church festival. It's like people all over the world celebrate your birthday, and that is nice. But the church thing, not so much.

5. Wild card. Well, I've got so many. What shall I choose? Oh, yes. When someone - anyone - leaves the cap off of a pen. Pens must be capped. At all times.

Bonus: Things that I do that become other people's pet peeves? Being a know-it-all sometimes, talking over the person to whom I'm talking and interrupting them, being loud, being very, very cluttered, and I'm sure any number of other things. Oh, and I swear like a sailor.

Secretarial Skills as Crucial to Professorial Success

Ok, so while I was in college/graduate school, I often fell back on the secretarial skills that my mom insisted were a good idea to have. (You know, along the lines of: whatever happens you'll always be able to get a job and make ends meet, even if you will be miserable.) I have worked as a receptionist. I have worked as a telephone operator (One of my favorite jobs, actually, being the operator in a huge office building. We were allowed to wear whatever we wanted and to do whatever we wanted as long as we answered the phones promptly when they rang and got the calls where they were supposed to go. This meant that during the summer I had that job I managed to do huge amounts of research about how to apply to graduate schools and that I read pretty much every novel by Margaret Drabble. Oh, and I had perfectly polished finger-nails. Yes, we polished our nails at work. Not a bad gig.) I worked for about nine months as a transcription typist. I've had temp gigs where the entire job was to file.

It strikes me, however, as I try to make sense of my office that these were not just "fall-back-just-in-case" skills. I'm still doing clerical work. After 10 years of higher education, after publications, after teaching, etc. I'm my own fucking secretary. I totally resent this.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Something I'm Embarrassed to Own/ A Favorite Outfit for Writing

It's true! I am finally getting around to the photo meme stuff! I decided to begin with this one because I think even you, my faithful readers, may be shocked and even a little embarassed for me that I own this. Or you might say, "Crazy, that is both embarassing and probably the craziest thing in your house," and thus it kind of fills two of the categories in which people wanted me to take pictures. And I might say in response, "Actually, it fills more than two: I am also sentimental about this item and it also makes up part of one of my favorite outfits." But, without further ado, I should show you this most embarassing item.

It's true. This, my friends, is a bathrobe that I've had since 1992. I remember the year precisely because I got it for Christmas from my step-dad and it was my first year of college, and living in the dorms, well, you need a robe. (So not only have I been wearing this thing for nearly 15 years, I began by wearing it in semi-public.) It is made of toweling sort of material, and really, it looks almost like brand new, even though it's as old as it is. You might be interested to know that I've only seen this robe in one other place outside of my possession, and that was at a thrift store about five years after I received the item as a gift. You will laugh when you hear that my first thought was not, "hmmm.... maybe this robe is hideous," but rather, "wow, why would somebody get rid of this great robe?"

But, my friends, it does not stop with owning the robe. I do, in fact, continue to wear this robe, and it in fact is the kind of icing on top of the cake that is one of my favorite outfits. This is not an outfit that I would consider "fierce" (unless we're talking about "fierce" in the sense of potentially dangerous to those who look upon it because they might die of laughter), nor is it an outfit that any outside of my most intimate circle (i.e., at the moment, my cat) would see me wearing. This outfit is my favorite writing outfit, an outfit for when I am having a hard time sitting down to write and which somehow inspires me. The first key to this outfit is that it's got to be cold. If it's summer, I turn on the air conditioning so that everything is really cold, just so that I can wear this outfit. Some parts of the outfit are negotiable. Generally, though, it includes some version of the following:

Footwear: either these L.L. Bean Slippers or these Adidas running shoes. If I wear the running shoes, I wear little athletic socks, but if I'm wearing the slippers I tend to wear wool socks.

From the waist down: either some kind of sweat pants (either the old school kind with the elastic at the ankles or yoga pants with stripes down the side of the legs) or plaid men's pajama bottoms. The choice of footwear has absolutely no bearing on the choice of the pajama bottoms or sweat pants. Also, and this is key, you must think about how this will look with the above bathrobe.

From the waist up: well, this does tend to vary more. Some favorites, though, are this t-shirt, or an ugly sweater (though only in winter, and yes, I realize it's weird to wear a sweater with a robe over it, but so be it), or a forest green sweatshirt that dates from around the same time as the robe (what was it about the early-to-mid-'90s and the color "forest green"?) that has the name of a university on it in plaid letters. Again, the choice of shirt has absolutely nothing to do with the choice of shoes or pants.

However, the most awesome part of this favorite writing outfit is the head-gear.

Normally, I don't put my hair in front of my face, but rather I use the tiara to hold the hair off of my face for better ability to see. However, the needs of a pseudonymous blog are such that I needed to disguise my identity.

But yes. I wear this tiara (which I acquired during the writing of my dissertation) when I need particular inspiration to write. I have a theory that it channels all of my brain energy and focuses it. Also, the tiara makes it uncomfortable to lie down and to take a nap - as does the footwear - in this, my favorite writing outfit, so it really does facilitate productivity. As for the layers of hideousness that comprise the rest of the outfit, well, they make it impossible to leave the house - even if only to take out the trash - for fear of being seen by, well, anybody.

So yes. The bathrobe is particularly embarassing. And with the rest of the outfit that I have described to you, perhaps even more so. But you know what's hilarious? I can blog about this precisely because it is a deep, dark secret that I have that really only people (or cats) who are very, very close to me would ever suspect. Mwahahaha!

Saturday, July 15, 2006


I have sat in my office, staring at my computer, for the past four hours. In this time, I have been working on formatting/copy-editing, things I hate, but I am (nearly) finished with the editorial duties, and I am nearly finished with my article for this special issue. (I'm finishing it tonight, as well as reading through everything once more just to make sure I'm not missing anything.)

In break-taking news, I sent emails to my dissertation director and to a mentor from grad school. I've been gearing up to send these emails for a couple of weeks. What this means is that I'm really intending to go on the job market this fall. Sure, I've known this for about a month now, but it wasn't for real until I sent these emails. And now that it is real, it means that I need to contact a few more people to make requests for letters of reference, among other things. I don't have any reason to think that any of the people I'll be contacting will reject my requests for letters/advice/etc., but I still feel so uncomfortable asking people for these things. In part I think I feel more discomfort now that I did when I was a graduate student - at least when I was a student it was these people's responsibility to do things like write letters for me and also I really didn't realize how much work it is to write a good letter for somebody, but now, well, I know how much work it is to write a good letter, and in a weird way to ask people for such things feels like a bizarre imposition on professional friendship. I know it's not, and that this is the way that the game is played, but I still feel like I'm imposing on people when I make such requests.

So. I accomplished many professional things today, and the day is not over yet. And I'm going to start posting the photo-meme posts on Monday, and I'll spread them out over a week or two, I think. And I've also been thinking a lot about my syllabi for the fall and updating them. Why I can't just fucking relax, at least until August, I'm not entirely sure. The thing I'm telling myself, though, is that by getting all of this stuff done in the next two weeks it will mean that I can relax during the first two weeks in August in celebration of my birthday.

In Man-Kitty news, all work and no play is totally not his scene, and he's totally not into the fact that I've been ignoring him.

"Dude," says the Man-Kitty, "can't you see how awesome I am? Don't you realize that hanging out with me is infinitely more fun than this 'work' nonsense you keep yammering on about?"

Thursday, July 13, 2006

A Hodgepodge of Things

Don't worry - I'm not reverting to the list-y, insubstantial posts of the first part of the summer. Well, I am, but only for today. Why can I not do a real post today? Well, I've got a lot going on - work-related, social, as well as plans for posts that are in the works.

First of all, I've not abandoned the Photo Meme project. In fact, I'm hard at work on it, and I've decided that I'm going to create posts that go with individual and/or groups of photos because to me it seems like that would be much more interesting than just putting up a bunch of pictures. (This is probably because I'm not a particularly visual person, as well. To me, a picture is not equal to a thousand words, no, not at all.)

Second, I've had a post about rejection percolating for months, and I think now might be the time to do it, but it's going to take some effort. Also, I've been spending lots of time thinking about how I'm going to commemorate my Anniversary as a Blogger (which isn't really this blog's anniversary, since I switched spaces, but still, I feel like this is a good time for a year in review as I began blogging on July 22, 2004), which will also double as my Birthday-Self-Evaluation-post, as that's upcoming a couple of weeks after the blog anniversary.

As far as non-blog-related things, I'm hard at work on the following:
  1. House-cleaning. I spent approximately 2-and-a-half hours cleaning my bathroom from top to bottom yesterday. (It was filthy, but I also think I went a little OCD on the thing. I mean, scrubbing the whole place down with bleach and then scrubbing it again to make sure it's clean with other products? That's kind of insane. The place is SPARKLING now, though.) On today's agenda is the living room and dining room. I've also been weeding out MOUNTAINS of paper, which is an ongoing process. And then this weekend I shall tackle my filthy kitchen.
  2. Finishing touches on the mini-journal project. Finishing touches which I MUST have done by Monday. There isn't terribly much to do, but it is tedious work. I guess that's what I'll do on Saturday.
  3. Reading my diss/book manuscript from beginning to end, making notes, changing chapter titles, and deciding which couple of chapters would best represent the project in terms of book proposal stuff. Because I'm turning that piece of crap into a book if it kills me, and now is the time to do it. So I feel like I need to read the manuscript by Wednesday, and then I can make a schedule about the other things I need to do. My aim is to have the thing turned into a book proposal to send out by mid- to late-September.
  4. The awesome (not) task of updating my PRT Book (as in, the notebook I must turn in yearly for reappointment/tenure/promotion). No third year reviews for this establishment - I'm reviewed every damned year. I think this is actually kind of positive, but I also think it's a big pain in my ass. Tasks related to this include things like updating my CV, writing all of these self-analysis-type letter things to explain the contents of the book, and putting "documentation" in plastic sleeves - but only after highlighting stuff to make it easy to see what's important! The whole thing is a thorn in my side. Especially since we're limited to one binder but at the same time they want us to show "everything" we do. If I don't find a way to edit, I'm going to be S-C-R-E-W-E-D. I'm only just finished with my third year and I already am on the second to biggest binder that you can buy (at least as far as I'm aware).
  5. Diet and exercise. Annoying, but throughout my travels I'd put back on about half of the weight I'd lost in the spring, and even in terms of the weight I'd lost in the spring, I hadn't reached my goal weight because I crapped out after the 10-week point. At any rate, things are going well with that.
  6. I sent out a call for papers for a panel that I'm trying to put together for a conference. I think it's a cool idea, the idea for the panel, and I hope that I get some responses that are cool. Otherwise? I may just nix the whole "organizing my own panel" idea and submit an individual paper proposal. The coolest thing about the call for papers is that it's gotten me back in touch with a friend from my Master's program with whom I've not been in touch for like 9 years.
  7. Preparation for job market. As of right now, this mainly includes agonizing about how to ask people for letters. And calculating who will be best to write letters. And then agonizing about that. And then coming up with a B-list in case anybody refuses to write me a recommendation. Oh, and then I throw in - just for variety, you know - a little bit of agonizing about the job materials, as I don't really know how to go on the market as a non-new person. I mean, clearly my cover letter, for example, will be slightly different. As will some of the other things. I'm just not entirely sure HOW. (To be honest, I'm not really that stressed about going on the market. I mean, the agonizing is just my process for this sort of thing, but really the market right now is not something I'm dreading or something that is terribly upsetting to me. You know why? The worst that can happen is nobody wants me. And I'm in the job I'm in. That's really not so bad, you know? Except for the teaching load. That is totally shitty, and there is no way to dress that up as anything but shitty, especially given the amount of research/service I do.)
So yeah. That's everything that's going on with me. Oh, and tonight a good friend of mine and I are going to dinner because she's in town on business. Very much looking forward to this dinner, and in preparation I am now off to the gym so that I can feel ok about eating, say, mashed potatoes.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Ok, So I'm Not Really Lazy

I suppose that this will be another post about the identity stuff that has been rolling around in my head lately, although I hadn't anticipated going into this territory today. I suppose it's because I just checked off the one thing I really wanted to accomplish (aside from the thing I can't accomplish that I mentioned in the previous post), which was to update my cv. I'm pretty good about keeping the CV updated with the big stuff - you know, publications, conference presentations, etc. - throughout the year, but nevertheless, I do need to sit down with the CV at least once a year to update all of the other crap that I do that I don't tend to think very much about. You know, the small, little things like serving on committees, or helping to organize an advising meeting for majors, or judging a contest.

So, I updated my cv, and it occurs to me that I'm totally not a lazy person. I'm a very, very busy person who accomplishes a great many things. And then this got me to thinking about the fact that I do tend to present myself as kind of a slacker most of the time (although not all of the time, because I think on the blog sometimes I present myself as having the weight of the world on my shoulders even though I don't tend to do this in life), and to wondering about why that is, and then to wondering about whether I really believe I'm a slacker, or whether this is all a clever ruse to try to dazzle and confuse those who would look too carefully at all of the things that I'm actually accomplishing.

Ok, I just deleted two entire paragraphs because what I was trying to say wasn't coming out at all. And so now I'm trying again. I think the thing is that in order to be successful in this profession, a certain amount of self-promotion (and self-absorption) is key. The people whom I most admire and who have achieved the most in this profession tend to talk themselves up - not down. Every time I see one of my mentors, she never fails to mention what she's working on, what most recently appeared in print, what her plans for her next project are. I've been actually trying to work on performing in this way, but I (for whatever reason) find it really difficult to sustain. For whatever reason, it feels more natural to me to downplay what I'm doing or accomplishing or planning, to act like it's no big deal and really not worthy of attention. This is not smart. This is, in fact, quite stupid. So what's the deal? Why is it that I have such a hard time with this part of things?

It isn't (at least I don't think) a problem with confidence. I'm actually quite self-confident, and I tend to have a high (perhaps too much so in fact) opinion of myself. The problem is not with me on the inside (it seems to me) but rather a problem with how I translate what's going on inside to the world outside. I don't want to appear a) big-headed (although I do literally have quite a large head), b) entirely self-involved, c) like a snotty person who thinks - in the words of my working-class family - "her shit don't stink." And so I think I try to avoid those pitfalls by talking myself down - oh, I'm not accomplishing anything, oh, I'm lazy, oh, I'm such a bad professor. But all the while what I'm really doing is talking about all of what I am doing - just not in a positive way.

So what does all of this have to do with identity in this profession, you ask? Well, I think that it has to do with one's identity because I think that many aspects of this profession are designed to make you feel like you can never accomplish enough, that you can never produce enough. And so if you fall into the trap that I fall into - and you talk yourself down constantly, or at the very least talk about what a huge amount you need to do that you're not doing or that you don't have time to do - I'm thinking that this will have to at some point have an impact on how you ACTUALLY see yourself as a scholar - or at the very least on how other people regard you, which is, perhaps, more important, at least in terms of professional success.

But then, isn't this version just the flip side of the positive self-promotion performance? It occurs to me that there is no model for talking about oneself in a moderate way in this profession, and so perhaps that's why it can be so difficult to have a moderate life for so many academics. There is no discourse for talking about work in a measured, balanced, non-crazy way. Either you're a crazy self-promoting narcissist, or you're a crazy self-loathing narcissist, right? There's no language for saying, "well, I accomplished a few things today and then I frolicked in the sunshine and then I had a nice dinner and took a hot bath," because if you talk like that, if you're not obsessed with the job, then you're not to be taken seriously.

I guess the thing is, I wish that I could talk about what I do professionally in a more moderate way without feeling like it's not permitted or like I won't be taken seriously if I do. I also wish I could be more comfortable with talking positively about my accomplishments instead of fearing that I'll be perceived as a jackass for being proud of myself.

Lazy Crazy

Ok, so I'm in my office. And I have a list a mile long of things to accomplish. On this list, I have accomplished exactly one task. This took me one hour and 36 minutes, because while accomplishing it, I also looked at blogs and futzed around and wasted time. Now, the thing that a productive and sensible person would do would be to move on to another item on the list. But I don't wanna.

1. I am annoyed that I cannot actually accomplish one of the things on my list (the main thing that I wanted to accomplish) because there is a snag that means I need to wait to hear from somebody before I can complete what I need to complete. This isn't that big of a deal, just annoying.

2. None of the items on my list are in any way appealing. While it is true that I would be happy to have accomplished the items on my list, I will not be happy while accomplishing them.

[All right, so I did just check off one of the things on my list. It only took 5 minutes. All other items on the list will take much more time than that.]

3. Eating lunch is not on my list, but I think I might enjoy doing that even though it's kind of early and it could technically be labeled as procrastination.

Why am I so lazy? Why is it so hard to get things done? Why do I have to work myself up into this kind of a tizzy in order to make myself do even the simplest tasks? Why do I think that writing about it is anything other than total and utter procrastination?

Ok, I'm going to go and check at least one more item off of the list. Then, I may allow myself to do a more substantive blog post. Or I may just say fuck it and do something that does not involve my brain (like basking in sunshine, eating, or napping).

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Photo Meme - Requests anybody?

As seen in a bunch of places, are there things that you'd like me to take pictures of and post on the blog? If so, request away. If not, well, that's fine, too. Because I understand if you don't want to see things in my life. And I feel kind of weird assuming that you would. But whatever. Request or don't. Whatever you choose.

If I Weren't So Pleased with Myself, and If I Had No Sense of Humor...

I might actually cry or at the very least be very upset with myself.

I just received notice that I have been chosen for the roster of speakers for a statewide organization. (Yay!) In other words, I will be paid (albeit a small sum) in order to "go out into the community" and to talk about something related to my field of expertise to community groups, etc. This is a GREAT gig, as all other civic engagement things (in which my university demands that faculty participate) seem to involve service learning and other MUCH more time-consuming pursuits, none of which have to do with anything I'm even close to expert in. And you don't even get a nominal fee for your "services," which, I'm sorry, annoys me, as it's not "service" that I'm doing out of the goodness of my heart but rather WORK that I'm doing in order to excel at my JOB and so I think I should be PAID. But I digress.

The point here is this is fantastic, right? I should be happy, right?

Well, I am. It's just I don't remember exactly what these talks (which are supposed to be 45 minutes in length, and I had to propose two) that I claimed I could give are supposed to be about. I can't find my copy of the form I had to submit to apply for this thing, and thus I am almost totally clueless. This could pose a problem, should I be invited to speak.

So Much to Write About, and Yet Rusty, So Not Sure How to Write Any of It

Well, I've been an erratic (at best) blogger this summer, and in part that has been because of my travels and in part that has been because of just being busy with other things and, well, I don't know. I think perhaps that I needed some time away from blogging in order to think about things and gather ideas to blog about, etc. And, hell, who am I kidding, my time that I usually devote to blogging has been spent lying in the sun and reading trashy books.

At any rate, now I'm feeling the itch to blog, but I'm not entirely sure how to scratch it, if you know what I mean. I've kind of fallen out of the voice that I use for the blog, and I've fallen out of the habit of crafting particular posts with readers in mind. And so here I am, bursting with things to tell you all, and yet I'm not sure how to get any of it from my brain and into writing. I know I can always fall back on the list method of posting, but, well, I've been doing a lot of that since summer began and it feels kind of lame and lazy to me right now. Also, well, I suppose I've got things to say that don't really fit into a list-y format. So, in no particular order, here are the things that are on my mind and what I've been doing, etc.


You might think that with my traveling and my lounging poolside that I don't have work-related things going on with me. Or that if I do they are not particularly pressing things. For the most part, I don't have much pressing on the table at the moment (except for the special issue of the journal thing that i'm responsible for that basically I'm going to force myself to do in a 48-hour period when the weekend is over, because apparently I just need to make a push and get the thing done), but I suppose I have a number of things that have been weighing on my mind related to work. First and foremost, in August it will be 3 years since I defended my disseration, and I've already done some revising of it but never gotten around to much else, and so fuck it, I've decided, I'm turning the thing into a book proposal, I'm polishing a couple of chapters, and I'm starting to shop the bastard. I mean, really. Now's the time, right? If I don't do it now, the whole thing will be out of date and basically useless. I really believe that it SHOULD be a book and that it would add to the field (blah blah blah), so I've got to just force myself to get my shit together and to get it out there. I realize that this may sound somewhat rash as a course of action, but well, worst that will happen is I'll be rejected, and even that would be better than letting the thing continue to gather dust. At least then I'd have confirmation that the manuscript is kind of a piece of crap, right? (By the way, I feel a sense of purpose and resolve related to this with a simultaneous feeling of fear and hopelessness. What's that all about?) The other big work-thing (and also something that I think relates to the fire that seems to have been lit under my ass re: the book thing) is that I'm pretty serious about going on the market this year. This is entirely daunting, as 1) I'm going to need to ask some people for letters that will require delicate handling, 2) I don't feel entirely "worthy" to go on the market because a) I'm not totally miserable b) I'm not trying to live nearer to a partner (which seems to be the only "personal" reason that the books, people in the profession, etc. don't question), and c) I'm entirely afraid that the result will be something along the lines of, "Dr. Crazy, who do you think you are trying to gain employment at a place better than your current place because really you're just not good enough." That said, insecurity and feelings of inadequacy have never stopped me from doing anything before, and thus, I need to get to work on job-search-related things.


Well, to be completely honest, I've been a bit of a recluse this last week or so. Partly, I've just needed time to myself after all of my travels, and partly, I'm trying to get back on track with just my life - things like cooking decent meals, eating at regular times, working out, sleeping on a nice schedule in which I get enough - if not more than enough - sleep. All of that takes a lot of time/energy, and I just haven't felt like dealing with people while trying to deal with all of that. This may, however, be making me somewhat crazy, and so I plan to venture out into the world and to interact with people in the coming days. Funnily enough, while I know that this is a good thing, I'm not looking forward to it. Oh, and the Man-Kitty thrives. I have some new pics of him, as well as pics of my various trips, so I should probably post those, huh? I think my camera is still packed somewhere....

Pop Culture
Ok, this portion of the post is going to be list-y, as, well, I don't have any deep thoughts about the pop culture things that are on my mind.

  1. I really enjoy that new Nelly Furtado CD.
  2. Does anybody else feel like the Pussycat Dolls are like the Spice Girls without the Girl Power? And does that depress anybody else but me? I mean, sure, the Spice Girls weren't exactly singing "I am woman hear me roar," but isn't a lyric like, "If you wanna be my lover/you gotta get wit' my friends" better than a lyric like, "And now, ain't nothing else I could need/ And now, I'm singing 'cause you're so, so into me/ I got you, we'll be making love endlessly/ I'm with you (baby I'm with you)"? I think so.
  3. Ok, that song, by The Fray? That "in over my head" song? A.) It's really catchy B.) Does the video remind anybody else of XTC's video for "Dear God"? I watched the video for a couple of weeks and I kept felt like I'd seen it before, and I think that's because it's the same as that XTC video (or very similar). And if that's true, have we really reached the point where videos are just remakes of other videos? (The answer to this is probably yes, as the new artist Cassie has a video for her song "me and u" (a song I've got to admit I love) is pretty much Janet Jackson's "Pleasure Principle" video.) And what ever happened to MTV designating certain videos as "buzzworthy"? And why is that horrible Matt Pinhead - oh, I'm sorry, Pinfield - now on VH1? Why didn't they just retire that dude outright?

Ok, I think that's all of my pop-culture related stuff. Anything else? Well, not really. I'm trying to weed all of the paper out in my house and to re-organize (for the umpteenth time) my study. My mom's coming to visit in two weeks, I'm late on getting my travel voucher in to be reimbursed for my trip and I'm pissed because it's not my fault I'm late getting it in (or at least not entirely my fault), I'm successfully through 6 days in phase 1 of the south beach diet (yes, I returned to phase one) and I'm feeling really energetic and good re: that but will be happy when I'm done with the de-toxing aspects of phase 1, for I miss things like brown rice (how sad), and I think that's all. Oh, and I'm thinking about starting another blog that just relates to job-searching things. Not sure. Basically, I'm not sure that I want to junk up this blogspace with that nonsense, but I don't know. Must think on it some more. Now it's time to print out my manuscript and to begin organizing a schedule for whipping the thing into shape and into a book proposal.