Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Blurb, blurb, blurb

(Edit: hello Inside Higher Ed readers! psst, this post will not actually tell you how to create course blurbs, because I had no idea there was a market for that sort of thing. Wouldn't you rather follow some of the silly adventures of a grad student in English by looking at some other pages, like when I accidentally invented antigravity by discovering the procrastinatron, or I rewrote my prospectus in haiku, or disguised myself as a science student to get additional funding? Or if you want more substantial crap posts, the discussion on when one can officially call oneself "professor" generated a lot of comments, plus my old post on how to write a statement of teaching philosophy gathered some good advice as well. Or you can follow some of the links to old favorites on the right. Happy reading!)

I haven't been back to the dissertation in a while, but I have been hard at work. Like an obsessive-compulsive phenomenon or unfortunate addiction, I've been hitting the job ads in between bouts of sloth or depression. It sucks when you're behind in your second job (which is to get a real job) while at the same time you are doing little that would actually improve your chances of success (like, say, completing grad school).

What sucks even more is that I haven't been even applying to permanent jobs or national fellowships/postdocs. I've spent a solid week trying to gather enough adjunct courses here next year to for it to be worth working as a lecturer. This has meant applying out to three departments (so far --- more on the way) much like for a tt job: they want evals and a (discipline specific) teaching philosophy, and I assume the cover letters they want need as much effort as for a permanent gig (meaning my old letters need complete revamping). The most time-consuming aspect has been going through the general catalog and working up blurbs for courses they have on the books.

Now, I am learning things ---- like the fact that there is an art to blurbing a course, an art that I have heretofore not practiced and could stand to get better at ---- and when I'm done I will have a cubic fuckload of course descriptions I think are sexy and interesting that I could teach. And it has actually been fun. I'm proud of those little blurbs and would be excited to teach any of them. They spin out from or impinge upon my dissertation and my research, which I haven't gotten to teach before. I hope I get to actually teach my own courses at the college level someday because these look so fun.

On the sucky side, however, I have no guarantee of any of those courses being accepted by the departments, or of them making enrollment if they do get chosen. So I can't rely on the possibility of adjuncting here, so I guess I need to go back to slapping together more apps for visiting and late posted jobs, including a postdoc or two that I think are due tomorrow but I haven't been excited about getting ready the shitloads of different documents and research plans that are required. Which means, I don't know when the fuck I'm supposed to go back to my dissertation --- another round of papers come due Monday.

I'd really like to just quit. And by quit, I mean, "give up on the job search and just power through the fucking last chapters," not give up on grad school. But at my back I always hear, Time's golden chariot the fucking rent and student loan repayment collectors drawing near, and it really is like a compulsion ---- I don't think I'm going to be able to stop obsessively worrying and sending out applications until I have a fairly long-term job nailed down.

Adjuncts being on the bottom of the food chain, of course ---- and, as one chair pointed out to me already, adjuncts fill in the holes and gaps in a schedule, so s/he has to set up the schedule and have a couple crises or last-minute sabbatical/fellowship appointments before he'll even know he needs me ---- so this may mean I'd be on tenterhooks until mid-summer. Gah. I'm hoping that a couple of my peeps who believe in grad mentoring and sisterhood and all that translating into actual monetary support come through for me sooner, if you catch my drift. They have done so for others in the past, and are more understanding of the need to know early about money and security than others in this profession. (Of course, several of the departments and their sub-programs teach things that --- how shall I put this --- I don't embody; and there may be representational politics that kick in at the instructor level whereas a TA is a warm body to fit in a slot, and some of those open courses and programs I may have no chance at. But you don't know if you don't apply; everyone else could get hit by lightning or something.)

Further compounding the suckiness is math: to live here, I'm going to need a 3-3-3 load. My dept, it has been made clear to me, does not have that kind of money and I'll need to take what I can get and supplement the rest elsewhere. I weakly countered that offer (ha! as if I could bargain from this position) that this lectureship would only work for me if I get something every quarter, so I want a 1-1-1 from my home dept. I'm hoping that this was actually accepted (the whole saying things without actually committing to anything is an amazing administrative skill) and I just need to make up the difference through the places I've been actually getting work the past few years.

But. I was encouraged to submit a full slate of courses so that the powers that be could pick and choose what they felt would help them the most. The other departments so far have indicated the same. So I think I've created, what, 30 course blurbs and tentative reading lists over the past week or so? Yeah, if I ever do get into the profession, I'm set for a looong time. The absolute worst case scenario, of course, would be to be offered a lone winter quarter course and nothing else. I'll have graduated and so I can't get more loans; I can't live under a bridge in a cardboard box; guess I'll have to send out apps for cc adjuncting (and get in line behind everyone else who's already been cut off of funding in my department) and tutoring and have to think hard about the temping/waitressing route. Gah.

I ran into my friend the art historian serendipitously last week; she told me she's gotten a job at what she says is a not-very-good school with a heavy teaching load and lots of service and no resources. "It's true what they say; you'll never be less busy than when you are in grad school," she said to me.

Humph. I am doubtful of that. But even if it's true, I'd gladly trade up to a heavier work load ---- innumerable meetings and course proposals and curriculum change sessions ---- if it meant I had at least some assurances that my work would count for something. Or at least guarantee me a paycheck for longer than 10 weeks at a time.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

OMG it’s like they KNOW me

A while back Scott went crazy. This is to be expected; he's dissertating. But he documented it all over at Acephalous in this post. Perhaps he was looking for a machine that would pad out his dissertation. But then became disoriented when instead of writing the dissertation for him, it produced a meta-narrative of the vast and epic agon between Scott and dissertation, a sort of postmodern version of Moby Dick, except possibly without whales. (On the other hand, there was that chapter about the whales and dolphins being books, so who knows?)

But then I went and tried that site out and was horrified! Every word is true. And not just because we are trained to overanalyze and look everywhere for hidden messages and secret lucky signs as literary scholars, or traumatized and made paranoid by the job market process. See for yourself:

Does Sisyphus discover job market? Sisyphus objects to the horrible leisure past the southern basket. The mandate mutters across a duplicate! When will Sisyphus twist? Sisyphus rests.

Sisyphus raves in job market. Sisyphus roots for job market. Sisyphus copes opposite an untidy rescue. Sisyphus notices job market. The mighty puzzle succeeds throughout the wedded jargon. The pride cruises with job market. Sisyphus rockets an individual above the bat. Job market joins with Sisyphus opposite the mnemonic culprit. Job market guides its swamped banana. The enough cruise addicts job market across the surplus.

Sisyphus wrongs job market throughout a suicidal ingredient. A window hastens Sisyphus around an absent supporter. An organ pales outside the simplistic glue. Sisyphus paces job market. A transported swamp strays before the skeptical thoroughfare. Job market pushes Sisyphus around the involved corridor. The tea wipes job market. Near the relative coasts job market. Why won't the unconscious riot past Sisyphus?

Sisyphus reasons below the crunched undergraduate. The gold exists before the shy master. A funnier art tasks job market. How will job market disappear? When can job market trip on top of Sisyphus? The plain questionnaire conveys a classic in an easier toad. The promise lathers a petty hassle. Sisyphus spits the fuse.

Sisyphus differentiates the clash. The screaming horde rules underneath job market. The huge manner exhausts job market beside the trash. A stress expires inside the crossroad. Job market spins throughout Sisyphus. The hook reports job market. The platform shouts Sisyphus inside the alliance. The fork explains job market with the instinct. Job market farces a gross change over a spike.

Sisyphus colors our invisible analogue.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Other gifts, other registries

On the edge of dozing off the other day I randomly remembered a woman in my program talking about being at a conference. Another academic, passing by her in the book exhibit, animatedly was telling her friends, “I think I’m pregnant with my next text!”

So why don’t we have parties celebrating the inception of books the way we seem to do for people?

I guess we have some ceremonies for academic completion — like the doctoral defense or graduation — but we don’t seem to look very highly, or at least not to commemorate in some formal and happy way, on the beginnings of academic enterprises, those shaky and excited steps into the adventure of a new argument, unthought histories, unenvisioned archives. Those beginnings, because they are so full of hope and potential, all openness and possibility, shouldn’t those be made much of and celebrated even more than accomplishments? How might that change our view of the profession, our attitudes toward research?

What would a party for the embarking on a new project, the initiation of an academic book, look like?

I’m hoping there’d be lots of red everywhere like the lucky color of a new year. And good food heaped all over to symbolize the abundance of new ideas for the book — the food must be spicy and zesty, burning your mouth and making tears of joy come out your eyes. And of course there must be plenty of booze — for doesn’t a wake send dead spirits off into their final unknown journey with a night of drinking and remembrances? Everyone you know and admire must be there.

And then, of course, people would bring gifts.

Some people would go the obvious route: fancy pens, lucky pens, sharp new pencils, stacks of crisp creamy paper for the writing, a journal, a big eraser to draw the obligatory laugh. But I’m hoping people would bring other stuff as well: a favorite quote, a necessary book, a nicely-written paragraph for inclusion (“now you’re one page closer already!”), an unfamiliar source, stacks of interesting verbs, a shiny picture, tea for working, a kitten for one’s lap, a blanket, a color, an idea.

(that reminds me of a joke I’ve often heard told: on the Dalai Llama’s birthday all the monks gather together and bring him a brightly-colored box. The Dalai Llama opens it to discover that it is empty. “Just what I always wanted!” he cries joyfully. “Nothing!”)

And if you didn’t want to be inspiring and original some of the old favorites would be quite nice as well — I think that a nice box full of gold, frankincense and myrrh, for example, would have a wonderfully appealing set of textures and colors and smells — something to open and admire, something to sustain you through the long journey through the writing wilderness.

Some magic beans would also be good, to remind you to climb to new heights. And a crystal vial of water would help you, hobbit-like, to make your way through dark times.

So why haven’t we created these rituals already? And what’s to stop us from changing the way we do things now? We could make the profession be anything we want. After all, as teachers of literature, aren’t we experts in the marvelous, the wonderful, the imagination of the possible?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

It’s a Nice Day for a White Wedding…

Milestones in the Age of the Registry

Continuing in the vein of my graduation-related posts, Kermitthefrog mentions the existence of store and internet gift registries back in the previous set of comments. Registries are indeed trippy and weird things. Now you can sign up for wedding and baby gift-lists at a huge range of stores and price points, and we’ve gone from those clunky touch-screen displays for silverware in the corner of Macy’s which I remember from way back to little cordless price guns that you can run around with in everywhere from Crate and Barrel to Wal-Mart, shooting at bar codes everywhere in an ecstasy of consumerism. Amazon’s genius was in creating the Wish List, because not everybody is a bride or new mother but surely everyone deserves to get exactly what they want for as many consumer occasions as possible, yes?

And the notion of the gift has really changed recently ---- I know there have been wedding registries for at least 60 years, but at one point, the thought really was what counted. Hence all the stories of getting 12 gravy boats and not having any silverware, or hauling out an ugly vase or picture every time the relatives came over, only to banish it in the attic as soon as they were gone. (Thinking about it, this whole fifties-style “you must get an entire formal entertaining set for dining” expectation is also weird. My sister clashed a lot with mom over the whole “but you need a set of good china” thing when she got married --- she doesn’t do a formal entertaining style and wanted living room lamps instead; she never did get her lamps.)

But back to the idea of the gift ---- it used to be that people thought about celebrating you or some specific milestone, and thought about who you were like, and then bought something based off that. Now there is an expectation that whoever is getting the gift deserves to get what s/he wants, exactly. So the gift giver must either find the wishlist or the registry of the gift receiver, or give a “check card” or “gift card” so that the recipient can get exactly what is desired. ---- My mother, growing up in the 40s and 50s as she did, is still horrified by this development; she thinks it is tacky and low-class, exactly as if you were throwing a wad of cash at the person rather than bothering to pick out something nice and wrap it up prettily, an investment of time and thought and planning rather than a sheer commercial transaction.

She’s right ---- the gift card is money, just not money in the paper greenback sense we automatically think of. Stores use the pretty colors of that piece of plastic and its strategic placement by the greeting card section to distract us from that fact and sell it to us with rhetorics of convenience. But really, when it comes down to it, you could probably hand a wad of cash to the gift recipient yourself rather than introducing the store as middleman. The only thing the store is doing is providing a fig leaf over a money transaction. Which I guess was all it was doing in back in the instance of the gift as well.

Except I don’t think it was. Somehow that slightly older notion of the gift was more focused on a sense of relationship between giver and receiver, and on the moment of exchange, of unwrapping, of surprise and the theatrical moment of revelation (“Oh! So you got that for me!” “Yes, I got that for you!”) whereas, in the wishlist/registry model, all the emphasis is on the recipient. The giver almost drops out of the equation ---- in fact, ads have been pushing us to give gifts to ourselves for a while now. The “women should buy themselves diamonds” campaigns come especially to mind. In this new model, the emphasis is on the recipient desiring things and picking them out long before the occasion of the gift exchange happens, or desiring things and picking them out long after the exchange happens, in the case of the gift card. Where before the gift-opening moment was about recognition of the relationship between the giver and the receiver, now it is about pure potentiality --- the anticipation of whatever future purchases that gift card will become.

How to get out of this consumer trap, I don’t know. What this has to do with my graduation, I don’t know. I do know that I have been hassling my family both immediate and extended to come to the graduation, and behave in ways I want them to behave. Sure, it would be nice to get gifts --- especially because I’m not moving on from graduating into an immediate secure job (but most of the stuff I need to replace is big and expensive anyway so, meh) --- but what I’ve been pushing for from my family has been more about recognition: I want them all to be there and stand around while everyone takes my picture and pay attention to me with me being the focus of everything. I have a lot of specific demands for them and they all revolve around these ritualized, theatrical moments of recognition, and some of my family, which doesn’t like parties or crowds or these types of moments, has been reacting with “oh, do we really need to be there, do we need to do all of that, can’t we just send you gifts and you bring back the pictures” statements.

It’s funny --- I do know lots of people who didn’t attend their own graduation or walk in the ceremony because they “weren’t interested” or “just don’t care about that sort of thing” or who felt that any celebration they did would be private and more meaningful to them that way. It’s just odd that my whole family is like that except me, and I want the party and the nice dinner and the posed picture in front of the school mascot and the ceremonial hooding and the flashy whatever. I’m not really into the gifts (and yet I can be incredibly picky with getting gifts particularly regarding my family's bad sense of taste, so I can’t say I’m above the gift-registry mentality) and the idea of being handed money or gift cards in this situation squicks me out.

So, yes. Not filthy lucre but unmitigated adoration is what this cog desires, for she is a jealous Cog and requires many sacrifices of time and effort and offerings of photographs and silly hats. And dinner at that nice steak place, with a fancy dessert, that would be good too.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Prospectus Game

Ok, I'm going to steal one of my own comments and post it here, even though that might be cheezy. But first, a little background.

Do you remember trying to choose your dissertation topic? And then trying to actually write about it, without having done any research on it yet, in a plan/prospectus/proposal/project submission? I bet your answer was Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!MAKEITSTOPMAKEITSTOP NOOOOOO THE PAIN BURNING BURNING BURNING

or something like that. And if I've resurrected heinous, long-forcibly-repressed traumas, oops.

The point is, picking a dissertation topic and then actually explaining what you will do is hard. It's pretty much unlike what you do as an undergrad or even in the early stages of grad school. Dissertations are big unruly projects, so you ask different questions and give them different structures than seminar papers (and if you were one of those .02% of people who already knew their topic and then wrote chunks of the diss in all their required seminars: pththtthththth! Even the people I know who tried to do that ran into various unforeseen problems though.)

Our grad advisor at the time I was flailing about had a very simple metric to test our proto-dissertations by: you needed an X in a Y, where an X was a theme or issue or problematic, and Y was a contiguous field of texts. So, for example: nose-picking in eighteenth-century literature would be an X in a Y. Once you have this, you have your single-sentence dissertation blurb for at cocktail parties, assuming you go to the kind of boring cocktail parties where people actually ask you about dissertations.

I could say more about this step (including how it is nowhere near as "simple" as that grad advisor always claimed to write up) but instead I'll jump to the next stage, which is where you actually have to flesh out what parts of "eighteenth-century literature" you would be working on, what sort of archives or types of sources you would be exploring (ie are you looking at nose-picking in relation to science and medicine? the economy? gender? philosophies of the sublime?), and how would you justify 1) the study of your X at all and 2) the relevance of X, the necessity, to connect your X and your Y (plus the side point of "why are you studying X in Y time period and not Q time period?" which I am always being asked. Grr.) Suddenly, you need, if not an argument, then something that looks reasonably like one. You need verbs and connections and the ability to make large but not sweepingly large statements using more specific terms than "in mainstream society."

At a certain point, you have stared so long at the shreds of your proposal and a pile of books you don't even see anymore that you don't know up from down and feel completely crazy. WTF do I need to define? What can I assume my readers are familiar with? Everyone knows about the Great Pickers' Debate that ended with the murder of bookseller Mortimer G Whufflebottom of Grub Street, right? Do I need to explain why that's important? What about "literature"? Fuck! Do I have to define that? And meanwhile you are trying to figure out which version of heavily-annotated proposal draft pages go together because you dropped them, all 47 versions, and your advisor used the same color pen on all of them. What to do? What to change? I don't even have a clear picture of what I'm doing here anymore!

All of this is a long lead-up to me pointing out that Lucky Jane is going through this (from the advisor stage --- I hadn't really thought about how I must drive my advisor crazy from her perspective before, huh) and that I suggested that sometimes rewriting one's proposal or argument in a completely different format can help clarify your point or get you past writer's block. But really I was busy having fun trying to imagine things to translate a prospectus into.

So, let's play a prospectus game! What interesting and useful ways might you re-write a prospectus to get a different handle on it? Or, perhaps you are an evil and capricious advisor, or possibly more like the vengeful god of the old testament. In which case, what would be the most horrible or absurd or wrenchingly bizarre way you might command your minion to re-write a prospectus?

Here's what I have so far:

Could you write it out in heroic couplets?
As a dinner invitation and grocery list?
The opening statement of a murder trial? (hmm, are you presenting for the defense or the prosecution?)
The overture to a tragic opera?
A letter to a long-lost brother explaining what you've been up to?
Portray it through interpretive dance?
How about a zen koan?
Maybe paint it in a medieval tryptich?
A mathematical formula?
The proceedings of the Congressional hearings?
Assembly instructions for a futuristic widget?

I could probably come up with even more. But instead I turn it over to you! Please put suggestions in the comments. Impersonating sadistic, insane or completely-out-of-it thesis advisors is highly encouraged.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Circular Reasoning

I have stuff to do. I don't feel like doing it; I want to do something else. But I don't do the fun stuff, because I have stuff to do, and that makes me feel guilty when I want to do something else. And then the not doing the fun stuff makes me feel so crappy that I don't feel like doing the stuff I have to do.

Thus in a nutshell has been pretty much my experience of grad school. It's especially bad right now as I've gone back to my chapter at the same time everyone I know skipped town for a Presidential Valentine weekend ---- that makes me think of Hallmark cards with pictures like this on them, except maybe with a bouquet instead of a hatchet ---- and thus there's no one to take a break with. Usually when I feel so wound up that I can't even make myself slack off, leaving me staring dully at the computer and counting down the minutes until the next day, when I will be doing the exact same thing, then I know it is time to skip town and go camping. Or at least head out for a mindless movie. But no one is around! Grah! Argh! I don't want to go camping or movie-ing alone. And campus was closed this weekend, so I haven't even run into random people to have human interaction with. I think I'm going stir-crazy. (Ok, ok, I know I had some people over for a (very quick) movie session on Sat, but please, I'm whining here!)

Once I get into the circular mode of guilt and ennui, nothing looks good. Well, just give up and watch one of your DVDs or Greenecine picks ----Nah, I can't be bothered. Ok, go hang out somewhere? ---- And do what? I don't want to do anything. Hmm. Go shopping or out to the beach? --- Meh. I don't feel like doing that either, and if I tried it I'd just feel guilty and miserable about not doing my diss work. Fine then! Why don't you read back through this book and figure out what you need to put in that paragraph? ----- Whah-ah-aah! Not that! God no, I don't want to stare at that stupid paragraph any more! Hmm, work on your conference paper? (squalls of misery) Uh, look at the other chapter? (wails louder) This thing? That one? Apply for more jobs? MwaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ok, ok (jingles keys) Calm down, you're fine, you're fine, that's a good cog there...

You know you've come to a sad place when talking to yourself is actually a sign that things are going well, as opposed to baby-sitting your own id. These days, I wish I talked to myself. At least I got paid in pizza and soda when I dealt with this back in high school. (jingles keys again) Rock-a-by cog, up in a tree...

I obviously need more to do. Or some sort of hobby. No, better yet, some horribly onerous and mindless task that would drive me to work on my dissertation for hours in the hopes of avoiding it. (Nope, grading's done, before you suggest it.) Maybe it sounds counter-intuitive, but I think I work better when I'm overscheduled and rushed and flustered and I don't have time to overthink things, just hurry through them bam bam bam. Of course, all that stress and overwork and ignoring the self is bad for me too, but when I have lots of open time filled with nothing but dissertation deadlines, I feel too behind and under the gun to stop things and exercise, but there's always time to walk to the refrigerator and have a bite of something. Or maybe I'm just not doing enough drugs. Ritalin, Valium; up the energy and focus or mellow out the overthinking until I just don't care anymore ---- you choose; it's six of one, half a dozen of the other.

In other news, it turns out I started blogging a year ago back at the beginning of the month, but I missed the anniversary. Seems fitting, since I didn't notice the various impending holidays until I tried to schedule up some activities with my friends and discovered no one was around. Thinking back on it, this may also explain section attendance this week. Hmm, yes, I see you, you little finaglers; since when is there a "Valentine Week" vacation in our schedule? Now it all makes sense.

Humh. This should get better once I have meetings and assignments and people to deal with at school this week. But anyone have any advice for getting out of the circles? Any straight lines, off-ramps? Magic beans that would let me climb out of this situation entirely?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Random Bullets of Merlot

--- is it Merlot? I think it's Merlot. Huhm. I'd have to check; I tossed the bottle in the recycling already. I think it is.

Everyone has left --- we watched an art movie, and it was Slow, as befits Deep and Meaningful Things --- and in the interest of not letting anything go stale, I poured the last of the wine into my glass and now I must finish it. Considering that the glass was fairly brimming, it may be a while. And I've finished reading everyone's blog stuff which now leaves me in the awkward position of either creating my own blog-related amusement or going to bed ---- which I was going to say was silly, it being only 10:30, but I'm noticing that the wine is having its effect and I am getting tireder by the minute, so trundling off to bed would be only logical were it not for the fact that I don't know how to pour the last of the wine back into the bottle, which brings us back to waste.

Have I mentioned how I love periodic sentences? Truly, no one should ever have to come to a conclusion of any sort. The dash --- or even the semicolon-dash --- is the only punctuation worthy of mention, with the exception of the commas, those wonderful, bourgeois little fuckers.

But typographic marks were not my point tonight. What was? Hurm. Oh wait --- I have no point tonight. Righto. Well, then I can complain about my friends, who all left after the movie instead of entertaining me. This is a problem ---- all my "advanced grad student friends" are leaving me, either to go off to wonderful jobs or move back in with their parents/long-distance significant others after graduating (not that I haven't thought of that, but I'm not quite ready to give away the cats, which would be required by my dad's asthma). The "middle grad student friends" are all hitting the tough part of seminars and midterm grading right now and so don't want to hang out or do anything fun like us ABDs do, who have more flexible schedules and fewer immediate deadlines. And the newbies, as I believe I have already mentioned, are all getting drunk with their undergrads and then bragging about it or criticizing their professors' seminars in public department spaces, which is so unlike my style that we won't ever hit it off well enough to want to hang out. The fact that I've told them to shape up and act more professional surely doesn't help either.

The upshot of all this is that, whereas I turn into a pumpkin at midnight, everyone else seems to be pumpkining at 9 or 9:30 and leaving me all alone. Sad, truly it is.

What else? Well, even my cats have forsaken me ---- Loquito to sleep and Timidio, naturally, to hide under whatever furniture would most convince my visitors that there were no cats in the house. Really, he does exist --- I just haven't gotten any external corroboration for it yet. Oh yeah, and when I was cleaning stuff up for my visitors I was struck by how all the cheap crap in my place is falling apart. (Yes, this is related to the earlier point. My cats eat/chew/scratch everything I own.) My brilliant plan was to just keep all the cheap assemble-it-yourself stuff I got back when I started my first grad program, lo these many years ago, and then trash or just give away most of what I own when I went off to my brilliant tenure- track job. Well. The timeline has come to that point, but there is no job in the offing. And so I keep looking in frustration at a couch with big holes chewed in it or bookshelves that are bowing and pulling away from the back piece or just the generall raggedyness of various towels, rugs, and curtains. Right now I'm kinda sick of it all --- the threadbareness, the style, the colors --- more than I am sad about not having a job, so consider this a new and different point of whining, and I may just up and buy some things soon regardless of my earlier plans, so don't pity me or think that I'm in my post-MLA funk. This is an entirely new funk right here, and one that's layered with all sorts of anti-capitalist and environmentalist anxiety. (Even if I had a job I'd be worrying about if I needed new widgets.)

I think I mentioned in an earlier post, though, how I recently was looking on craigslist and noticed that my town's shitty rental rates meant that I am living in a place currently cheaper than the studios are going for right now. And places near my parents as well as places in the "sketchy' poor parts of SoCal are no cheaper! Gah! I'm not against living with a SO but going out on the hunt just to find someone to get serious enough about we could split the rent doesn't seem like the wisest idea. So I'm not sure then what to do with myself next year ---- it doesn't seem to actually be a benefit to moving if I wanted to adjunct locally. So, no need to move + no money to buy nice new stuff leaves me with all my boring cheap 10-year-old assemble-it-yourself crap. Sure, tell me not to be so materialistic and I'll tell you to duct tape some holes in your sofa and bed and see how long you're content. So, I may buy or fix some things with money I don't have just because I want to be happy here, and because I can stay and think of it as home a bit longer.

I have just noticed that this post has no actual bullets and that pleases me immensely. Since I'm barely keeping awake as it is, I'm going to pound the last of this wine and go to bed. Happy dreams of highly significant, slow silent tracking shots to one and all!

Good night everyone! Be sure to leave me exciting future blog fodder in the comments!

Friday, February 15, 2008

This is why I go for the tousled-curly, slightly punk look*

I don't know what's happened to my alarm clock ---- most days the time I get up isn't an issue, but I like to get up at a consistent morning time to feed the cats and at least pretend to get right down to work --- but for some reason I woke up on my teaching day this week with 30 minutes until section started.


Don't forget I have to drive and park on campus too. I don't know how I managed to get dressed so fast and still look ok, if perhaps a little too clubby for teaching (think black mini and boots), but I got in there in time to throw all my stuff down on the table and announce I was going hunting for coffee. And I made it back before the bell rang. Whew!

Of course, I was starving and unwashed and with the remains of the day before's eyeliner that hadn't come off completely made me look somewhere between sexy rock star and rock- star- trying- to- make- a- comeback-out-of-rehab- but-actually-headed-straight-for-late-night- infomercials, but it all worked out ok. Thank god I tend to pack up my bag and stuff the night before! The lesson from this little adventure is that prep is totally overrated. At least, when you're TAing ("Ok, what was the most important point from Prof. Wonderful's lecture last week?" is always a valid discussion opener. And you can always remember more without rereading than they can pick up when they're prepared.)

Unfortunately I came home and couldn't find one of my cats. Turned out I had shut the door on poor Loquito when he was investigating the shower drain and had run out before noticing. They're not allowed in the bathroom because they want to try and climb the shower curtain, but when I finally found him, there was no evidence of destruction. Poor kitty! But it's all good.

That's all I have to report for this week. I'll go double-check my alarm, that's for sure. I'm treading water on the grading and able to breathe through my nose again, but haven't worked on the diss in a while. I need to dive back into that crap. I hope that the couple weeks away from it will give me a fresh perspective for how to quickly and easily revise away all the problems.

*Ok, while theoretically I love this look, I find it too much work to keep up. Usually I dress as boring Gap-preppie as possible, because I don't have to think about it and I don't get crap from people and in lots of situations I just don't want to be looked at. The chinos and fuzzy sweater I'm wearing right now are the sartorial equivalent of wallpaper --- I don't have to think about matching or appropriateness and don't get shit from my students. Just remember that on the inside I'm dressed like Vivienne Westwood, The Banshees, or the members of The Slits.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I am SO behind

it's not even funny. (whimper) Picture me trying not to hyperventilate here, with big sad puppy eyes and a trembly lower lip. Like the sad look Puss 'n Boots uses as his weapon in Shrek. Not that I actually look like that right now, but because I find it amusing to imagine me sounding like Antonio Banderas. Heh.

It is a sad thing when you say you feel absolutely disgusting and that is an upgrade in your condition. I'm hoping that I will be able to breathe lying down tonight because it's so hard to sleep when you've got 8 million pillows under your head. But then again it's hard to sleep while not breathing. So, in a word, current status: miserable. (A huge improvement from the weekend. Oh yeah, and no more fever.)

So I have a pile of papers yet to be graded, and now I have midterms as well, and I have section prep to do and the week's reading to catch up on ... hmm ... I should probably reverse the order of those when I actually get around to doing it. I did not turn in a draft of my chapter today like I planned, because I have not worked on it even in the slightest since Friday, but since I did not tell my advisor that she would be getting a chapter draft today, she is blissfully ignorant of the fact that I missed this deadline. Grumble grumble. I went through my list of VAP and spring job ads that I'd pulled and crossed off a whole bunch ---- because their deadlines are far in the past, sigh ---- and there are still a bunch due this week, so this morning I ran around hastily compiling some applications and sent some off. More await. And I haven't gone back through the various job lists in a little while, so I bet I could find even more. Gack. I wish I knew what I was doing for food and rent next year already, because then I could be spending all that time finishing the dissertation and getting stuff off my plate. Oh yeah, and my abstract was accepted for a conference, but that means now I'll have to write the paper for it at some point. More helpings on the plate instead of finishing anything off. Intellectually I know that branching out a bit from my dissertation is a good thing, especially because I'm trying to convince people that my wide-range of teaching subjects actually relates to my position as a scholar, but I feel like I don't have the time right now. Well, I probably never will have "enough" time if it comes down to that, so I should just suck it up. When I'm well, I have the energy to do that. Right now, I have to stare at the empty breakfast bowl, going, "damn, it is a long way to the sink. Maybe I should rest a bit before carrying it over there."

Oh yeah, and a lot of the other departments I have worked for are calling for TAs and lecturers right now for next year, so I need to get on that and figure out how to apply for those positions too, if I want to scrounge together enough classes to just stay here next year. I'm a big wuss when it comes to travel and striking out into new situations, so that sounds easier and more comfortable than taking a pissant VAP or adjuncting somewhere across the country, but when I compared the per-course pay rate to my rent (I'm in an expensive part of an expensive state, yo), getting the hell out of dodge seems more attractive. (ooh, have I missed the call for the local CC already? Gotta check that out too.)

Sigh. No rest for the wicked, that's for sure. No, wait ---- I'm going to get a snack and then take a nap before dealing with lecture and section. Just try and stop me.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Blarg! Misery! Misery, I say!

I'm hot, I'm cold, I'm hot, I'm cold, I ache everywhere, my head is a big ball of nasty mucus ---- misery, I say! I went to bed around 9 last night. I am a most unhappy cog!

I have no energy to think and certainly none to do all the work I am supposed to do this weekend --- I don't think revising under the influence of cold medicine would be very beneficial, and I definitely am not up to dealing with the piles of grading. Gah! Why me??? (whines) Whyyyyyy me?

I don't care how long I've been in bed; I'm going back. I wish I had trained the cats to fetch me tissues and tea, or at least clean up their litterbox after themselves. It's looking bleak in here. Somebody post something entertaining and easy to comprehend on their blog so's I can read it. Please let this be over soon. I don't have the time for this! I don't have the willpower either.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Grumph. Maybe I need some Red Bull...

Working hard yesterday, I decided I needed a snack from two of the most important food groups: salt and caffeine. Then when I was in the snack food part of the student center I was unable to pick something ---- unfortunately, I looked at the ingredient list of some candies, and was squicked out that every clear candy is basically high-fructose corn syrup. I ingest way too much of that as it is through soda. (I gave up regular candy years ago. Dark chocolate, however, is not candy, but the Elixir of Life.) I noticed that everyone else in line with me was buying Rockstar and Red Bull, so it must be midterm time. That stuff tastes like industrial cough syrup though. I can't imagine actually using it.

I had so much to do yesterday. (And even more today, because I didn't get my stuff done.) I'm freaking out about my chapter and want to get a draft of it in this Friday, except when I counted my subsections, even if I finished one subsection a day it that would be past Friday. Yesterday I got a lot done unbolding problems on one section, but I didn't finish them all. Grumph. Grah. Maybe turn it in on Tuesday?

I worked about three hours on it and was quite proud of myself, since I usually can't stretch it that long. (I have a limited number of moments to successfully write transitions and topic sentences per day.) This was early in the morning. Then I read for class and got most of it done. Then I looked at the stack of papers I needed to grade if I was going to be on track for handing them back.

Then I looked at the stack of papers I needed to grade if I was going to be on track for handing them back.

Then I looked aw, fuckit. I wonder how the primary returns are shaping up? And I clicked over and read blogs too.

Then I had student meetings and sent students emails and had a TA meeting which ran late into the night.

So all of this is to say that I finally put together everyone's comments about how hard it is to do research while on a heavy teaching load ... something which I've always said I understood but thought, "but what if you just crammed a little block of writing early in the morning? I'm sure grading takes different brain muscles anyway." Doesn't matter. Sitting there and writing takes all my willpower and then there's none left to do something else unpleasant. I can see how if you have lots of classes, the effort of forcing yourself to keep up on the grading takes priority. And I didn't even have to write the lecture for yesterday, just listen to it.

I need to:
  • finish the last of this week's reading
  • prep for section
  • grade 10 (?) essays
  • get stuff ready for a paper norming session
  • do the stuff I said I'd do about the midterm
  • help set up a guest lecture
  • clean the huge pile of filthy dishes in the kitchen
  • oh yeah, either finish revising that chapter subsection or jump into another one
All I want to do is sleep cause I didn't sleep well last night for some reason. Today all I feel is tired ---- except for a nagging start of a sore throat. Uh oh. I'm hoping that the reason I didn't sleep last night is not that I'm fighting off something ... but that is a warning sign of impending sickness for me. Who has time to be sick? Well, at least that Red Bull stuff really coats your throat.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Can I profess to be a perfessor?

So, as you know, I'm looking forward to being finally and unequivocally done soon. I was trying out the phrase "Dr. Cog" over the weekend and really liking the sound of it, as well as "Professor Cog," when one of my friends who was present mentioned that I will not, in fact, be able to call myself "Professor Cog" in the spring because I will actually be, at that time, unemployed.

Is this right? A professor is only someone employed by a university? Personally, "Professor Cog" sounds so much better than "Dr. Cog," because I'm not getting a medical degree. Back at my undergrad we called all our teachers Professor So-and-so, rarely using first names and never calling them "Dr." ---- that just sounds weird. I mean, I'm gonna make everyone from the mailman to my committee call me that right after graduation, but I just like the sound of professor better.

(Oh, yeah, and I am quite cognizant of the fact that I have no title whatsoever right now and that I am only ABD. I'm just visualizing the reward as a way of keeping my momentum. I wrote a nice little paragraph for the chapter this morning and am taking a little break and having some lunch before heading back into the salt mines.)

So, what say you? Will I be a professor when I graduate or just (heh, just?) a Dr.? Will I have to have a tenure-track job before I can, uh, profess things? Ooh, and do I want to get the mortarboard or the silly fuzzy velvet hat? Oh, I'm going to look at the graduation regalia websites now! Yay!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

But what about the wombats?

In yet another effort to cleverly procrastinate by doing seemingly useful things, I did all my errands the other day, and got the cats one of those laser-pointer toys along with their food.

(Hmm, that sentence ... am I getting wordier and wordier, or is it just me? Anyway.)

They have one of those "feather on a string" toy things, which they love, but I hardly ever use it to play with them, because I am so damn lazy. I figure I'll be more likely to use something where I don't have to run all over the living room like one of those creepy baton-twirler types ... you know, the ones who dance with a long ribbon on a stick. So far, the laser pointer stands up to the Sisyphus Test of Sloth.

But the packaging caught my eye as I was getting ready to recycle it. "Drives cats wild!" it promises, and that is certainly true, though my cats don't have that stupid an expression on their faces. But what I love is how the packaging tries to be inclusive of diverse members of the animal kingdom, without simply using the same slogan over again:

"Reptiles are intrigued"? Interesting. While that brings to mind my cousin's story of working in PetCo and discovering that the iguanas had escaped their cage, forcing the employees to chase them all over the store as well as call the paramedics for one poor old woman who discovered the foot-and-a-half-long lizard in her shopping cart at the other end of the parking lot, I had no idea that reptiles could be intrigued of their own accord. Clearly I don't mix with the sauropsidian world enough.

Oh anonymous English major who toiled long and hard to vary the word usage on that cheesy piece of advertising, I salute you. (I would put an exclamation point there, but you seem to have them all tied up.) Remember that no matter how much your job may suck, you are getting paid more than I am.

And if I can ever figure out how to take pictures while holding down the on button and waggling the pointer all about, I'll post some cat action photos for you all. Or I would if the camera wasn't all the way across the room.