Monday, September 28, 2009

Postdoc Pains

Arrrrrrrrrgh! I hate hate hate applying for postdocs! Stupid postdocs and their persnickety requirements and themes that require you to revamp all your job materials to match their stupid ideas! And the themes! Arrrrgh! Why yes, I do find the study of earwigs to be fascinating! In fact, my current project all about 18th century nosepicking exactly matches your fascinating theme: Earwigs of Tomorrow --- at least it will once I rewrite all my job materials to highlight a different set of keywords and write a research proposal that situates my work at the intersection of nosepicking and earwigs. What the hell can I make up within a few days that will make the appropriate crossover? How about Enlightenment Orifices: Transgressing the Boundaries of Body and Nation? No? Ok, um, how about Exquisite Filth: Rational Hygiene and the Diseased Other in Eighteenth-Century Culture?

Ok, now to change around all my keywords and highlight different strands of my argument than I usually do and ... wait, what? Check the what? Oh, check the MLA bib to see if someone has already written this book/argument or used this title? Ok. ... What the..? Has everyone written on this already? Fuck. Fuck! FUCK!

Fucking postdocs. How bout this as a statement of future research: Dear Postdoc People: I am poor. Give me lots of money now or you will never see your cat fluffy again! Fund me already! Fuckin'A.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The UC Walks Out To Protest Fee Hikes, Budget Cuts, Furloughs, and Loss of Shared Governance

This web site, ucstudentwalkout, makes a good point about the budget cuts:
These budget cuts are not inevitable. Rather than accepting the state legislature’s cuts to advance an agenda of privatization, the UC should be advocating on our behalf to re-prioritize public education in the state of California. There is a budget crisis, but there is also a crisis of priorities. If this 32% fee increase goes through it will mean a serious blow to the quality, accessibility, and diversity of the UC system. And it will open the door for further fee increases in the years to come, which will systematically price out California students from what was once the educational jewel of this state.
And this sign, found at UPTE's strike images gallery, makes the point even more concisely:

This site has no pictures but gives a breakdown of activities on all the UC campuses.

'Naked rally' at UC Davis sets stage for Thursday walkout, reads an article in the Sacramento Bee. Uh huh. I would have expected this from Santa Cruz, but the Aggies?

A large crowd but surprisingly few naked people at Santa Barbara, with an article here.
Here's a news story of the walkout at San Diego, with some more pictures at this news site.
This news story on the Santa Cruz protests makes the important point that the campus's Child Care Center is slated to be closed because of the cuts, making it even more difficult for faculty, staff and students to create a work-life balance. I'm sure that moving from subsidized to astronomical child care costs while simultaneously dealing with a pay cut or fee hike is going to be real easy. Not.
And, of course, at Santa Cruz they took over a building. Or as locals would call it, that's what's known as "a weekday."

This site has a short description of the rallies at UCLA. And the Daily Bruin has a news story with slideshow. I can't link directly to the slideshow but it has wonderful shots of the whole day, with audio overlaying it.

Zunguzungu has some great photos, along with an explanation of the location's importance as the origin of the Free Speech movement, and links to coverage by the main local news sites.

As the largest campus population, Berkeley naturally can pull out the most people. No fair writing news articles about how the walkout is a washout at Merced because it barely drew a hundred people. How many students, faculty and staff are there total? PS more good pics of Berkeley are at this indy news site. Huge crowds and great signs!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Breaking: UC President Mark Yudof is a Major Douche

Reporter, NYT Take Runner-Up in Douchiness Contest for Crappy Journalism

Get a load of this weird Q&A with Yudof if you want to be annoyed. Not only does he come off as an incompetent, pompous asshole who can't even describe what his job is or justify what he does, but the interview itself does almost nothing to lay out the larger stakes for why he needs to be questioned ---- California's budget mess, the fact that the legislature accepted Obama's stimulus package for the UC and then took an equivalent amount out of state appropriations for the system, the fact that undergraduate tuition is skyrocketing while students are unable to get into classes --- as witness the four different students I met today who are enrolled but do not have a single class ---- yes! they are sitting around hoping to crash a class, they are paying full tuition for zero credits!!!!
Some of the more annoying passages:

Do you raise a lot of income from private donations?
We don’t do it in the office of the president. The focus is campus by campus: Santa Cruz or UCLA, or Berkeley or San Diego, Davis. They have their own development offices, and I’m there to — some of the things I do very well. I smile, I shake hands, I tell jokes.

Why can’t you raise money, too?
I’m out there hustling, but I go where the chancellors invite me. Otherwise they get upset.

You don't even do a good job at fundraising??? The campus chancellors have to order you around and tell you where to go to fundraise? Why are you even in this job? Who the hell thought you would make a competent UC President? Dude, as I have said before, I can smile and tell jokes (you might even get more money using me than Yudof if you squeeze me in a dress and tart me up for all those grip-and-grin events), I have a PhD and lots of experience in higher ed, specifically the UC system, and I would be UC President for a pittance compared to Yudoff's massively bloated salary --- and I promise to put the money saved when I "furlough" all those top administrators right back into undergraduate education where it counts.

For more infuriating links about the UC budget, you can see my older posts here or here. And I found another Yudof link --- an oldie but goodie --- that shows us that, hmmm, maybe he's not the best man for the job, if the job is to be accountable to the students and workers of the UC system rather than corporate interests and construction companies.

Walkout roundup to come --- and if you have campus pics, pass them along!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

UC Profs speak out about the budget crisis

Heads up: there's going to be a huge UC walkout tomorrow, which corresponds to the first day of class for many of the campuses.

Here are some presentations I found on UC TV:

Catherine Cole makes an impassioned plea to students about the importance of UC's mandate to be a public university.

Alan Karras, a grievance officer for the lecturers' union, explains how the cuts have affected non-tenure-track faculty. On some campuses, entire departments of lecturers (like in writing and langauge programs) have been laid off for restructuring. "I know for a fact that there are between 60 and 75 fewer lecturers on this campus than a year ago. That's the loss of four hundred classes."

George Lakoff explains how California got to this place with the passage of Prop 13, which defunded public coffers and made it so that CA legislature needs a two-thirds vote to pass a budget rather than a simple majority.

And this study --- UC's Hidden Wealth: An Analysis of 10 Years of UC's Financial Reports: A Study for the Coalition of University Employees (CUE) --- has been going around my facebook feed for several days now. I'm not entirely sure how to read it, especially since it is from 2001, but it makes a case that the UC is playing fast and loose with the definition of "restricted funds"; the UC argues that large amounts of its reserves are restricted and therefore cannot be used to expand course offerings or fund pay raises, when in fact restrictions have not been placed on these funds by the state legislature or outside grants, they have simply been labeled "restricted" by its own administration. I tried to poke through the numbers on these slides and those of UCOP's, but am having troubles. I am seeing the need, if not the joys, of going back to grad school for a degree in forensic accounting. Always follow the money!

And I've got a protest to get to. See you on the flip side! (Wanna send me walkout pictures from your campus? I'll post 'em!)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Dammit, I found another ref

Well I finished this book, the one that I have started three separate times and has taken me years to finally get through. And ---- I found a big nosepicking scene.* Not a climactic, lynchpin-type scene that turns the whole plot, but, still, a big and pretty significant one. I could indeed do a profitable reading of it. Sigh. Now I guess I have to think about whether I put it into the book. I could, I guess, potentially pair it with a couple other texts by the same class of person, or maybe with some different texts, organized thematically, on nosepicking and drunkenness, which I have idly considered as a chapter topic at one point. I have some vague swirling ideas that I can tell could become an argument and make an important point, but it is all just smoke and vagueness at this point. And since almost all of my essays and chapters start out as vague and stupid ideas that doesn't mean anything much. It's all about revising it into some sort of shape later.

I guess the good news is that I now know it is there and no one can surprise ambush me with its presence at some job talk or conference presentation. I was going to say that the problem with writing about this text is that it sucks, but, unfortunately, it did some really artistic and complicated things at the end that brought together all the themes from before. No, the problem with this text is just that I can't stand it. It is so damn long and boring! I know I could write a good article/chapter thingy on it, but I don't really want to if that involves rereading the damn thing, particularly if I have to reread it as much as I usually do reread novels I write about.

I am shocked to admit that my mom was ever right, but, she is right: she once told me that in arts and literature there are "firsts" and there are "bests," and that sometimes we read works for their historical significance rather than their artistic worth ---- and you know it is kinda surprising that my mom, who hates fiction and is rather proud of being anti-intellectual in some ways, came up with something like that. But really, yeah --- as I start digging down into my authors' oeuvres, having read their most famous and most canonical works and then moved on to their unpublished or juvenile works or the texts they were later embarrassed by, yeah there really is something to the first/best thing. This text is historically significant, an early first, a recovered text. I was hoping to have something to assign to undergraduates but by about 30 pages in (the first and second tries) it was clear that they did not need to have this inflicted upon them. It is so damn boring! And unpleasant! And nothing happens! But that could be me ---- as I like things to have complex plots and patternings and draw me on through them, and this text does not. And yet it does all this really cool artistic stuff at the end, so it could be that it does not suck as an artwork, just as the type of art I don't like. Hmm. But granting that it has a different-yet-equally-valued-frame-of-aesthetics and me actually rereading it to write a damn paper on it are two different things.

Other than that, not much happening here --- finally got back on the exercise, edited my writing sample and puttered about on that to-do list today. I wish my stuff was all ready and letters in so I could just bang bang bang send out the entire season's stuff this week and go back to trying to publish. Ah well. I'll live. The cats are both grooming themselves right now. Maybe I should have dessert.

*If you're just tuning in, my dissertation research topic has a pseudonym: nosepicking in the eighteenth-century cultural imagination. I, however, really am a small black cat, and let me tell you I have the worst problems with maintaining authority in the classroom. People are always saying "meow" and "hello, kitty," to me and skritching my head instead of turning in their homework or taking notes. Ah, where is the dignity?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Random Random

First of all, thank you to everyone who wrote me or offered their application-reading services lately. There were a lot. You all are cool and helpful. At some point I realized the polite thing to do is to write back to all these people, but that feels kinda overwhelming right now, so you'll have to make do with blog acknowledgements. Besides, I sent out my stuff to Dissertation Buddy and a prof and want to wait for them to give me suggestions. They are not responding instantly, however, which is irking me a bit. How can I obsess over my job letters if the most current copies are out with other people? But I understand that I am being obnoxious and weird.

On Friday I puttered about for a while and then finally went to the Mexican food place, where I not only ordered chips and salsa but the fajita combo plate as well (shout out to my blogfriends who are not in the Mexican-food-belt! This post is for you!), and I had a delicious very early dinner and sat around on the patio people-watching and reading my book for a couple hours. Then I got back home and lazed around in a food coma because really I do not need that much food. But it was goooood! Mmmm! The only trouble is my book, which I'm kinda forcing myself through as I do not like it much. Do you have an author that you work on? And have you read all the books said author has written, including the ones everybody says are not very good? Yeah, I'm on one of those --- totally not loving this text but I feel I need to have read it to be well-read in my field and with my authors. This means that progress on it has been extremely slow. (it's still sitting there on my side table as we speak.)

Today, more puttering (there is no time-waster like it! You'd think my apt. would be clean and my job materials organized, no? But there is always more puttering to do!) and a muffin at Peets (not the best one I've had there I will admit) and I re-read my writing sample, which is lovely. I haven't read my writing sample in months --- and haven't looked at my dissertation since filing it --- and this chapter chunk is so nice! The best of all my chapters, even if it is a bit lumpy --- there are more colloquialisms in here than I'd like, and even some slack sloppy writing --- but there are ideas, oh, so lovely, the ideas, and I do lots of crazy, out-there stuff and connect it all in really complex ways. I heart me! I am so brilliant! Seriously, it is good. So far I have made a lot of little changes and comments in the margins (prepositions are especially tricky to get right) but I have not changed them on the document yet. I don't think there are any major changes, and I only caught one egregious typo (whether that is the only one that exists is another question), so really all I want to do is smooth and tighten some phrases, and to "breath test" some sentences. Not like they're drunk, but they might be too long and awkward. I like the idea of a prose breathalyzer though. Hmmm.

And then I met up with a friend for a movie! Yay! Sociality! The only problem about being social during job market time is that a) if you meet up with grad students and share funding troubles stories and discuss the paucity of jobs this year, you become anxious and miserable, and b) if you meet up with people who are not grad students you become rage-filled because you are talking to people who have no clue what you're going through and they are making plenty of money. And yet I think that being a hermit for the entirety of the job season would be a Very Bad Idea.

Seems like my friends who have not graduated have it just as hard or even harder than me right now, and are definitely getting squeezed in even shittier ways. I graduated and filed because I had an outside job (now dried up) and because I felt like a loser who had been in the program too long, but I managed to get those last few TAships in winter and spring even though I had maxed out my teaching availability. But other people got advised not to file this past spring because the department would only be able to offer grad student, not adjunct, funding --- and then they got axed. My grad student friend (who I have talked about here before but can't remember his pseudonym) had this happen to him and his teaching for the year has been yanked. And he is not ready to file, because a) he has been working on other stuff and made a schedule and plan which did not involve him filing now and b) his advisor is now out of the country on a research leave. AND!!!! He has not maxed out his teaching availability!!! They are pulling it from him because he is "beyond normative time" --- I think he is only at year 6. This is shittiness! Ultimate shittiness! Just last spring they made exceptions for me at year 8 and over 18 quarters of teaching, and now they are cutting him off --- they closed down his full sections because they did not have a replacement TA --- at year 6 and only 14 quarters of teaching! Fuckers!!!! (Let me note for those of you who are not familiar with UC that, on paper, we are not supposed to go over 18 quarters. And we are not supposed to exceed normative time to degree ---- which our department, being stupid, never changed from when it was set at 4 years for English.)

So my poor friend, through much begging and pleading --- and very time-intensive fighting --- has a TAship for this quarter but not for winter or spring. Which means he has to pay those damn skyrocketing grad fees for the next 2 quarters and can't teach. And they just eliminated the ability to take a research leave --- I heard this was because impoverished grad students were using it to avoid paying through the nose to the U, and thus it was targeted as a "loophole" that students were "abusing." Oh, and the "lecturer" positions that, when I entered the program way back when, were just handed to all the grads who didn't get jobs when they filed? Cut, over my stay here, first down to three and then down to one, and this year? They have split up all the classes --- that's a 3-3-3 load --- amongst everyone who filed. Everybody gets one class. Except for some of the people who didn't get any. (And me, but I was told that since I graduated the year before, I was fucked and really the department didn't owe me anything. It's my fault I didn't get a job after the first year.) I challenge you to live for a year off of 4K.

Thing is, with the UC switching to more large lecture classes as part of cutting its teaching budget, there's actually a huge demand for TAs. Like I said, we have about 8 or 9 sections that had filled that are now listed as "canceled." But graduate division is enforcing those time-to-degree rules (that were ignored or even unknown back when I started here) with ever more draconian fervor, like a tightening noose. I think the department is letting in enormous cohorts in response to this (who will now only get 3 or 4 years of funding; don't know what they're going to do to force turnover), which of course all makes me very pissed off. Seriously: thinking of going to grad school in English? I would very strongly urge you not to come to a UC, because people now are not getting the full funding packages they were promised, and what do you think will happen four years down the line from when you come here?

Anyway, I don't want to end this post on that note. The UC can go fuck itself, I have no love for my school or department or even much interest in what the fuck happens to it in the future. I hope they shut down all the PhD departments in the UC literature programs. Would serve them right. Did I tell you that I got Hulu to download? Sorta? If I try to go beyond about 2 hour-long programs the computer overheats and crashes. But I'm watching House, which is fun. I needed to pick a show that you don't have to watch in order or by season (and they only have the first episode of Mad Men up for this season anyways) and one that it didn't matter too much if it froze for buffering about every 10 minutes, so voila! House. My brilliant plan is to set it up so I have something to amuse me while doing all those damn dishes, which are boring. And since I don't really like House (why is it no one on that show can act? Is that why they spend so many minutes telling other characters what that person must be feeling?) it doesn't matter if it skips or hangs or stutters or I can't hear it much over the rinse water.

Ideally, however, someone would bring me even more chips and salsa and then do the dishes for me while I watched House on the sofa. But I haven't trained the cats to do that yet. And, you know, you can't have everything.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Hey I got Hulu to stream on my laptop! Who0-hoo!

Update: spoke too soon. Dammit. See why I need a job? I need a new faster shinier computer. Mmmm, computer! (drool.)

Friday, September 18, 2009


Not great, though. Just better.

Done with cramps but need more sleep. The other night I conked out around 6 and woke up, totally awake, at 10, so I'm trying valiantly to bring myself back to a nighttime sleep schedule rather than vampire time. Haven't touched the new article in a while (need to get back to that) but I have been picking away at job materials. And took the cats to the vet. They are perfectly healthy and up to date on all their shots now. So if you come over and they bite you, you can't sue me, neener neener! You could get really pissed off though I guess. Whatever. I have Timido on my lap as I type, being adorable and I can't imagine anyone getting pissed off at him. I must have a very short memory or have blocked out all 5 am occurrences of play sessions. Heh.

The other thing I have been dealing with, and it's surprisingly anxiety-inducing, is the temp job racket. All summer I have put out a few feelers, sent some cover letters, answered a few ads, spammed out some adjunct-availability emails, and in general had no luck getting some sort of "random paycheck job" together. But all this work ---a couple hours one evening, an afternoon maybe a week later, spread out across the summer --- actually eventually germinated and grew and now may be bearing fruit. See, this is why I would suck as a gardener. Because really, hello? Where are the instant results or acknowledgment? I wanted a job back in July, not this whole "plant seeds and water and wait" thing. At least when you feed pets, they run up and eat the food and then the food is gone. You water this patch of ground and it just gets wet and muddy and sits there. No payoff or reinforcement.

So anyway, I thought that sending out emails and letters and ad answers and everything and having them result in resounding silence meant that I hadn't gotten anything. In reality it means that there is often a 4-month turnaround towards actually filling a business job too, which I find interesting, given that everyone loves to slam academia for their weird way of running things and talk about how "oh business is just so much faster and more efficient." Well maybe at the top, professional levels it is. But at the "damn I just need a paycheck" levels, they stuff all the resumes in a pile and go back to other, bigger projects and putting out various fires, even if hiring this low-level peon might mean that they had more help in the fire fighting.

And of course adjuncts are last-minute contingency hires anyway. So this week I have done some, uh, "pre-interviews," where I met with people who I think wouldn't hire me or interview me earlier because they did not know me, and now want to have a "getting to know you" type meeting thing so that they have a face to put to the name and resume when they pull it out of the "we'll keep your name on file in case anything comes up" pile. They really wanted to have these meetings. The meetings have been surprisingly the same for "business" and adjunct work, and everyone has promised me that they do not have openings right now and can't predict when they will, but if they do, they'd love to call me and bring me in. So I'm feeling like I have made the hurdle into actual consideration for the next job that gets posted or comes up. This may all result in me not getting anything at all this fall and getting fifty-seven different types of work for winter. And knowing me I'd probably take all of them.

So I get nervous for interviews and I get nervous for "just getting to know you" meetings and I get nervous for those "come in and drop off your resume and we'll chat" thingies too. They're not particularly draining or bad, but, you know, it's small talk and lots of active listening with someone you don't know yet or particularly care anything about, and there's always this little clench in my stomach as I worry I'm going to screw something up royally, and then I don't, but I also don't get any definite offers to work for them right then and there, and I leave.

And since I don't like doing this, I have decided it is an "eat your vegetables" or "go to the doctor" type of thing, and I can just be nice to myself for the rest of the day. I went out and had a beer and chips and salsa yesterday, for example, even though it was only 3 in the afternoon, and I'm thinking I might do that again today after I write this up. I'm certainly not bothering to make myself write my article or fill out a postdoc app after these, because, really, actually making myself go to one or two of these is quite enough. If that shows I am incapable of doing adult work-type things, pffft, whatever. It certainly shows that I am not a go-getting people person who should work in sales (seriously! go look on and read some of the sales people advice and their resumes! Horrifying! I'm kind of appalled these people even exist!).

Anyway, I had a surprising number of those all get scheduled up this week, and now I seem to be done. Until something happens and I graduate to the next level of interviewing or something. That means that tomorrow, I promise, will be full of highly productive thinking and writing and applicating. (I need a better word for "filling out job apps." Well, maybe applicating works.) But first, I'm going to go find a Mexican food restaurant with a nice patio and hang out with some chips and salsa and beer.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

On the other hand, sometimes the grass really IS greener...

My friend says there are only 8 medieval positions (I only counted 6, but I hurried) in the JIL, compared to about 30 last year. 8!

My UC alone is going to field more candidates for medieval literature than there are positions open in North America.

I'm pretty sure we could match or come close to filling all the other fields too. If not us, then UC collectively, definitely does.

Damn. This profession is dead, people. We witnessed the death of tenured academia and didn't even notice.

The Grass is Always Greener

Bleah. I did not sleep last night. The choice was between cramps and high-caffeine daytime midol. I am not in any mood to think or work or do anything useful today. I skipped my exercise class and have been lying around, watching all my friends and colleagues freak out about the job market on facebook and various listservs.

And my, my, my. I won't go into any detail here but let's just say my department is being run by incompetent idiots at the moment. And I don't expect the placement advisor to step in and actually provide any help. And the comparative people here are running around like rabid hamsters because as a program rather than a department, nobody buys them MLA list access and they are told they are told they are on their own for finding access to the jobs so they are frantically trying to get help from us. Surprise. The only thing different from our department is the honesty of admitting "you're on your own."

But anyway, after I discovered that the job list was up, since I was on campus anyway, I started downloading and printing out various jobs that afternoon. The dept. owes me some printer toner at least, right? Another grad, who I keep thinking as a "new" grad but who it turns out is going on the market for the first time this year (god I'm old), came into the lounge and was soon joining me in looking at the list.

Well that was distracting and annoying, because she kept freaking out and laughing and being being appalled. "Sisyphus," she told me, "I am not going to get a job. I'm just going to have to leave academia. I mean, look at where these jobs are."

"Ah, the list." I smiled and shook my head. "It is a disillusioning experience to look for the first time. What is your field, anyway?"

"Contemporary postcolonial and global lit." I frowned, thinking, ok, aren't those really actually "diversity jobs" and you're not really going to be considered for them as a white person?, but decided not to pile on too many layers of disillusionment and depression all at once. She continued, "I mean, look, at this, there are no jobs. I mean, Minnesota? Milwaukee? This? where is this place even?"

Now I am really frowning. Those sound like good places. That teeny little liberal arts college on the east coast she is snitting at there, I have heard of before I started applying to jobs, and considering that I've only been on the west coast and done public school, that is saying something. I would love to have a nice little 3-3 at someplace like that.

"Just wait. I applied to places in rural Arkansas and Texas last year. At least those schools are in cities." Where did you think jobs would be, I am thinking. There are only 50 states, so there are maybe 50 R1s or so in existence, most of which are not along coastlines. And if you think applying to BFE Wyoming or whatever is humbling, wait until you get a rejection letter from them. But I don't say anything.

"Well, what about women's studies? Do you do women and gender type stuff in your diss?" I ask, and immediately feel a little pang when she says yes right away and starts looking for jobs that I myself am applying to. Bah. Soon I am back to printing things and updating my excel sheet and she is back to scanning through things and laughing softly to herself like a madwoman. "Comp? This place wants me to teach composition. What?" I am still printing things.

"I mean, this? What is this?" she gestures at the monitor. I look up. "Oh yeah, that's a nice place. I applied there last year and the year before." I go back to my own stuff.

"But, I mean ... Sisyphus. I had only planned to apply for a few places this year?" She looks at me, troubled. I am not reacting in the way she had expected.

"Oh ... yeah. Sure. A lot of people only do a small-scale search their first year." A pause. "I mean, I didn't do that. I applied out to everything, including a lot of stuff that I don't really fit. And then I did the same thing the next year, and the next year. I'll apply out to everything that conceivably fits me and everything that doesn't too, this year. --- What about postdocs? Are you looking at postdocs? Maybe you could just do a run of them this year."

It gets quiet in there for a while until the newbie grad had to leave to go prep. Meanwhile I'm thinking of a guy in our dept. who has done 2 years on the market to my 3 and had just as little luck. But when I talked to him at the last MLA (sharing beers over our shared lack of interviews) he had made a cutting-off gesture with his hand when I mentioned a specific college and said, "That's a 4-4- load. I didn't even send stuff out to the 4-4s." Now he's doing the office work that our undergrad work study student was doing for us last year.

So I'm actually unclear on whether I should be sending my stuff out everywhere. On the one hand, I want a job, any job. On the other, the faculty and other grad students here are pretty much united and open about their contempt for certain jobs and certain places. So, if Rural Cow College of Upper Nowhere already has it in their heads that our grads are prejudiced against them, and our grads are openly saying in public all over the place that they are prejudiced against them, what could I possibly say in my letter that would overcome this and show that I am not like the average grad from here? I don't have any liberal-arts college or rural location in my background that would work to show I "got it."

I dunno. I think I'll still send out an application to absolutely everything, but I hope to come up with a better answer or secret handshake, something, before I have to send those letters out.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

O Hai!

JIL's up.

(from icanhascheezburger, of course)

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Squadrons Attempt a Holding Pattern as They Await Their Chance Against the MLA Death Star

Sisyphus: Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrh!

Sisyphus: Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrh!

Sisyphus: Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrh! Holding.... holding ... T-minus five days and counting!

Placement Advisor: Stay on target ... stay on target...

Sisyphus: Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrh! Holding.... holding ... T-minus three days and counting!

Sisyphus: Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrh!

Other Job Candidate: Um, Sisyphus, shouldn't you be writing your article and starting the applications you already know about rather than just clenching your teeth and shouting "Arrrh" while going down in a death spiral?

Sisyphus: Wait, what?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Happy One Year Anniversary to me!

I am still a Dr.


And while I confess that I don't quite get the same thrill anymore at hearing the words "Dr. Cog" (unemployment will do that to you), rereading this post from last year brings back all those feelings.

So, on behalf of all my friends and colleagues and even totally unknown people who have filed this week, I raise my glass and salute you before going back to tailoring these damn cover letters.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Where IS Everybody?

Come on, people! You are all back now, start posting things on all your blogs, so that when I have a bad day like today there is actually something there for me to read! Don't you have any gossip, any news of new classes and silly department meetings, or updates on decorating projects from the summer to fill me in on?

I am highly disappointed. You have made me turn to the archives of lolcats. For shame.

Today I got a credit card bill and had a fight with my dad about my health insurance and was incapable of focusing to get anything done working at home because my brain was scuttling round the room like a mouse trapped in a cage, too skittery to actually apply to jobs that might get me out of this mess eventually, and you! You all had bupkis. Go post a cat picture and distract me from my worries. Or tell me about your new fall wardrobes. Or the weather. SOMETHING, people!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


I think I pointed out how I caved and ordered a heart-rate monitor? Well, it arrived a few days ago, and I just took it out and am playing with it so that I know sortof what I'm doing in spin class. (I love how Bardiac also ordered one not too long ago and the day it came she ripped it out of the box and immediately went on a 20-mile bike ride with it. More proof, as if anyone needed it, that I am sooo not an athletic person. I am a couch potato who is trying to force herself to exercise.)

I may have to bring a cheat sheet because there's no way I'm going to remember what all my numbers should be. I went outside and tried jumping up and down and was surprised that it barely registered. So I got out a jump rope (oh just ask what sorts of crazy workout equipment I have that I don't use) and tried jumping and even that didn't move it much and then I got bored. Heh.

While playing with it I was briefly disappointed that I had gotten the cheapest version, because, you know, it would be sort of cool to clock how many miles my "bike" goes in spin class each week, but after checking prices and models, I'd have to go up to something way expensive that had a GPS monitor and way too fancy of a processor (I don't think I'll be getting lost on my stationary bike any time soon). So it's probably all to the good. Although now with carrying that and all the other stuff to class now I feel like it would be nice to have a real bag to keep my stuff organized. Damn you, purchases! You are just a slippery slope of consumer slipperiness! Keep strong, Cog.

I was pleased at how early I hit the coffee shop this morning and that I got a good chunk of work in --- put in time all morning. Then I was sleepy and slow and didn't do much all afternoon. Ah well, that's the way of things. I did run into some people in my program and commiserate though, that's something. But other than that, not much has been going on here to report. Will fill you in on the excitement of my new heart monitor soon.

Monday, September 7, 2009

A Messy Desk

I sent off those emails almost right after posting to my blog. It's amazing how some sort of external pressure ---- not even pressure, just public knowledge ---- can motivate someone, eh? I wish it worked for writing too. Well, it works for putting in the time, but it doesn't magically make the writing go faster or more easily, which is what I really want.

So, like I said, last night I sent my emails, and today I turned back to the article. Which is totally not written, barely even started, so I don't think I could put in on my cv as anything but "in progress" any time soon. I may end up playing a big game of chicken with the apps that have later deadlines, trying to get it out so I can send them a cv that says "submitted for publication" instead, but I have bad feelings about that. Ideally I'd just pump a whole pile of apps out in a weekend long before their deadlines come knocking, and that way I'd be able to concentrate on research without missing or dropping every third deadline. So instead I'll probably go back and forth as much as possible.

Unfortunately (or maybe this is the way it's gotta be, I don't know), when compiling my quotes and notes and fifty-seven different potential outlines and questions to myself and patterns I'd noted and all sorts of other stuff, I just put every separate idea in a word file and saved some of them to my desktop. Others I printed out. Others, I printed out but then went back and rewrote or changed stuff and didn't re-print out (but not all of them are like this. Which ones? I don't know.) Others I just left as open files (oh about 2 gazillion open windows on the desktop). Others I saved in my desktop folder I helpfully named "New Article." Others, I suspect, got saved to documents or downloads because I was in a hurry and didn't change the default when I hit save, which means I may never find them again.

The open files have no titles, of course, where others have such helpful titles as "draft," "draft 8 22," "notes," "revised notes," "what do I think about this" or even just "this," as sometimes I don't remember to create a document title when I save so whatever comes before the first punctuation mark stays (I have quite a few saved as "ok, but" --- well just the ok part, as it cuts off with commas), the names of the people involved, or "thinking." I have quite a lot saved with some variation on thinking, or maybe "thinking about x topic."

So today I decided I needed to figure out what I had and what order it should go in, and ideally also what I don't need in here or what I still needed to get. And people, it was overwhelming. I didn't know where to start. In fact, my brain kept just shutting down from the impossibility of it all. I kept picking up a piece of paper, then putting it down in a slightly different place, then feeling just as unproductive and overwhelmed.

(someone I know posted a great photo of the diss-writing process on facebook, but I don't think I should take it and put it here. Just imagine zillions of papers and notecards and post-its and color-coded tags and ripped-out bits of notes laid out on the floor in some insane, complex form of organization, with the caption: Great---- now I just need to write it all up. Yeah, it feels like that)

So I alternated between cutting and pasting and moving things around, trying to get it all into one central file that I could clean up into prose later, and going and laying down on the couch in a fit of information-overload-inspired narcolepsy. But I think I have a much better handle on what I have ---- or at least I have consolidated my blurbs and files and saved all the old stuff in one place, never to be looked at again I bet.

It's too bad pressure doesn't convert pages of junky notes into prose like it converts carbon into diamonds, or else I could pile all my books on top of my stacks of paper, weight it with a couple OED volumes, and go out and play. Unfortunately instead, I think the proper conversion metaphor for piling up a big hunk of undigested notes under pressure would be compost.

Sigh. Tomorrow I go in to the library to aerate the bullshit.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Job Market Prep 1: Asking for Help

Bleah, I hate asking for help. I'm sure I have issues around asking for help that go way deeper than the usual classing and gendering of feeling entitled to help and that only a therapist could clear up, but then again, I don't do therapy. Why give them any more ammunition than they already have, is my philosophy. But anyway, now comes the time to ask my recommenders to update their letters, and to check on my letters, and to find someone willing to look over my material and work with me on how to update it all to reflect my status as someone who has been a finished PhD for almost exactly one year (yay!) --- for example, I have a perfectly good dissertation abstract that reflects what is actually in the finished dissertation. Do I update it as a "book manuscript abstract" and just toss it in all the envelopes regardless? Bleah.

So I'm blogging this with the expectation that it will function as a to-do list, or pact with the blogosphere, or some other such spur that will help me do what I need to do right now, which is to open the email account and send courteous, deferential emails to people. Bleah! It just feels so wrong. I mean, not only is it a particularly sharp reminder of the fact that I haven't gotten a job over multiple years of trying, but I have barely talked to these people lately --- some of them not at all since last year when I asked them about the letter --- and I feel as if I have long ago used up whatever obligation I once had. Seriously, this whole being on someone's committee is a commitment! I'm looking ahead to being a professor with not a little trepidation: you mean I'm going to have people coming at me for years after graduation asking for letters of rec? Whoah.

I think it is also partly about being worried about rejection. That is, rejection from people I know and like, as opposed to the fairly anonymous job market rejection, which for the most part is pretty easy to get used to, unless you start thinking too deeply of the implications of the SCUM letter pile when it starts mounting up. I'm the same way about phones. The rejection thing, I mean. I hate calling people and will often sit there and let the phone go to voicemail even when I know it's somebody I want to talk to very much, because of this irrational fear that they are calling to tell me something mean and horrible. Sounds crazy, maybe, but it was reinforced by first doing telemaretking work as an undergrad and more recently doing union and political phonebanking ---- which, since nowadays that involves everyone PBing from their cell phone and leaving messages, has often meant that I'll get someone checking their missed calls and contacting me hours after the PB is over, only to go ballistic and apeshit and ream me out for daring to think I would expect them to a) vote Democratic, b) go precinct walking, c) go out on strike, or whatever. I swear. Phones can bring out the nastiest shit. I don't know why people would go off on a political volunteer like that, unless they are like that all the time, in which case America is more fucked than my level of fixing will do any good.

Anyway, I'm rambling.

Another fear with the asking people for help/letter is that they will get mad, or point out without getting mad, that I don't have anything different on my cv from last year, and they hardly need to update the letter besides change the date as I am clearly a lazy slob. (On the other hand, that should make me feel better about being an imposition, right?) And they would be right --- I still have no publications; I have revised stuff and sent it out again but really that's no different from last year, just that I've put in different names on the cv. Stupid academia and its insanely slow publication schedule. And no new conferences this year because I wanted to really throw myself into revising my stuff for publication. I still think that was a good idea, as I have managed to not distract myself and really get a lot of work done. And I think I will continue to get good work done during the fall, but not necessarily in time to have stuff ready for the deadlines. Ah well. Absent a time machine I can't do much to control this besides keep working. (Although a time spinner like Hermione's --- now that would be great! And totally more achievable than a time machine. Perfect!)

Ok, I must do the emails tonight and figure out who's around campus right now to look at my stuff. (mmm, the quarter system sucks especially in relation to the job market timing. Fun!) If I do those things, I can go amuse myself. I do not have to go do the next annoying thing on my job market list: read my past year of student evaluations. That will wait.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Dispatches from the Library

So I have not been sleeping well all week. In fact I went out on a quest last night for a second fan. This one is a little table one that I can put on the dresser right in front of the window, in the hopes that it would draw in cooler air from outside. Of course, (apart from the problem that last night it didn't cool off much, unlike other nights this week) the fan sounds like a prop plane taking off, so it was restful in some ways and yet still I did not get a good night's sleep.

This has affected my ability to work during the day and even my ability to not completely shut down and become a lump. Pretty much everything I need to do right now, including cooking/eating/cleaning up the piles left over from this, is on hiatus.

So today I am in the library, because my attempts to use air-conditioned coffee shops on M and T did not work out; they were all packed and there were no outlets available.

Our library is not really air conditioned (usually they regulate the temperature based on what the books need not the people, and books are strange contrary objects that love air conditioning in the winter and the heater during summer months), but this morning it has been quite tolerable. I put in a fairly good show of work this morning and then went on to start reading through this book.

Now I'm taking a bit of a break and I may need to take an additional break to walk around and not be reading things, as I can't just sit there all day. (Note to those of you who actually have this skill of hyperfocus: one of my friends developed a blood clot in her leg when pushing to hit a dissertation deadline recently Now she will be on coumadin for the rest of her life. So if you are in your 40s and capable of sitting and concentrating at the computer for hours and hours at a time, you might want to force yourself to get up and take breaks. I never have this problem --- 30 minutes without moving is very difficult for me.)

Alas, long gone are the days when I was eligible for a grad student carrell room, and was awarded with an old abandoned classroom because they accidentally took my name out of the wait list. Aahh, having a room where I could play music, and pace around, and could lock up with a key whenever I went to the bathroom was nice! Still, I've gotten pleasantly used to working in the main reading area --- although I probably should not as they have configured it to be wireless capable --- I like the high ceilings and skylight and openness of this room. And it may be just because it is summer but the students are all quite quiet and diligent. (those of you who think your students are nothing but lazy slackers should do their work in the quiet parts of the library rather than on the campus green or an off-campus eating establishment.) I bet this part gets more crowded during the school year, but right now I like it.

There are a lot of homeless people here, of course, as with any public university or library these days. Most of them don't bother me, and they are all quiet and mellow here, but one has been annoying me to one end, just his mere presence.

We have quite a few of them who are using the free computers or playing chess or hanging out ... or, you know, either waiting to score something or sleeping it off ... this guy, who looks like a disgruntled Santa Claus, is clearly one of the ones on the mental illness-schizophrenia end of the spectrum of homelessness. Or possibly some sort of obsessive, repetitive disorder. Anyway, he angers me like you wouldn't believe because his symptoms come off as this mocking parody of all things academic.

Disgruntled Santa can be seen on the local shuttles and bus, wearing suspenders and a tweed jacket, and whatever else he has currently been given from the shelter, and he always carries this stack of books under his arm, bedecked with paper fragments and post-its. Today I finally got to take a look at them --- they clearly were picked up from abandoned piles someplace. One is a Danielle Steel novel.

So he will come in to the reading room with this huge stack of books under his arm, lay them in a stack on the table, take off his jacket and roll up his sleeves, and then go to the nearest stack, where he will take down for or five books, one at a time, and walk them back to his pile. Pick a book, bring it back. Repeat. Then he sits down and goes through the motions of reading them --- although its more like skimming and turning pages, clearly too fast to be reading ---- all the while rocking back and forth and grunting, ever so softly. This maybe lasts five minutes to go through all these books, then he replaces them one by one in the reverse of the earlier ritual. (No, he doesn't return them to the same shelf or even bookcase. Search for these books at your peril.) Then he puts his jacket back on, collects "his" books, and shuffles out. He usually bums cigarettes off the students outside the library.

He can go through this little ritual as many as twenty times in the amount of time I'm here, and as I pointed out earlier, I can't stay and work a full day, only a morning or an afternoon. He drives me nuts!!! I know he's harmless and not bothering anybody --- he still pisses me off! If he just sat there and mumbled or downloaded youtube porn I wouldn't care. But I'm already poor enough and my work is obscure enough in the mind of the general public that the sight of some crazy homeless dude mimicking my every action and reducing it to the point of parody really sticks in my craw.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Classic Sisyphus: The Perils of Publishing

Even more useful than my handy compendium of advice and bitching about the job market are my many posts about research and publishing, because I had no clue how to go about publishing (and now I still only have three-quarters of a clue, so there is much still for me to learn), so therefore I did less snarking and more actual asking of advice. That means there are fewer punchlines, however. Enjoy!

-- Academic deadlines are all about multitasking. or juggling. Or crisis management. When you’ve been set on fire.

-- Sometimes you just have to bitch and whine about writing. Or more precisely, I do.

-- How do you cut up an article that is too long? More important, how do you stitch it back together?

-- The problem with revision is that you have to write the same thing all over again, but with different words.

-- The secret to successful research is getting funded. Or maybe getting someone else's funding.

-- Procrastination is the root of all evil. Unless not procrastinating is the root of all evil. How do you prevent it? Utter a magic charm.

-- The slow grind of journals toward publication is not just a worry for those on the job market, so I'll link to it again here.

-- Ahh, revision. Someone once described it as "first you make a mess, then you clean it up." That doesn't nearly get at the feelings of carnage and entanglement that revision involves.

-- In honor of the fall contest, National Novel Writing Month, I initiated a spring writing challenge: the Magical Month of Academic Publishing. I forget what I did during it but I'm sure it was magical.

-- While working in the MMAP, I polled the audience: what is a research agenda?

-- Also as part of MMAP, I reviewed Wendy Belcher's Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks.

-- And participated in a very edifying conversation about the extent to which starting scholars should cover their asses when making claims. (hint: it's less than you think!)

I think I wrote some stuff over the MMAP and sent it out, but I don't remember what. And thanks to the slow, glacier-like pace of humanities publishing, I still haven't gotten any of my things accepted. You know, that means you should probably take any publishing advice on the blog with a huge grain of salt. Preferably, I would suggest, on the rim of a margarita.

Classic Sisyphus: Surviving the Job Market in English

For those of you about to go on the job market, and those of you who have just been wondering what I've been doing with myself the past two or three years, I thought I'd collect all my various posts and advice and bitching in one place for handy reference. The picture is clickable over on the sidebar.

Although these posts cover several (urgh!) attempts on the job market, I'm mixing them around a bit here to show the entire annual circle of life, as it were, from growing legs and losing one's gills to being eaten and shat out by an egret. May the end result be better for you!

-- The first step of going on the market is to completely deny its existence.

-- Is it worth it to apply to the big nationally-recognized humanities postdocs?

-- From my perspective after applying to them, no.

-- a partial list of my job market costs the first year out.

-- sometimes the job market process just makes you want to break out into song. Or profanity. Or both!

-- Writing the statement of teaching philosophy. My single most popular post. Sigh.

-- Timing the job search. At one point I worried over whether I would be going on the market "too early" or risk having a "gap year" on my resume. Now I say: hahahahahaahahahahhaaha!

-- At some point you will want to confer with your advisor about the job search. Good luck with that.

-- Do I send all my TA evals and narrative comments, or just the first six pounds?

-- To craft the perfect job letter, you must first know what you want. But you won't know what you want until you have that perfect job. Repeat, ad infinitum.

-- If you don't know how to present who you are, there are plenty of other people who want to do it for you. Unfortunately, no one will agree on anything.

-- Sometimes search committees even solicit applications from you. This letter and a buck seventy-five will get you some coffee.

-- After you mail out your applications, you will need a mantra: don't look at the wiki. Don't look at the wiki. Don't look at the wiki.

-- Like I said, it's the waiting that makes you a little crazy. Unless, of course, you've been crazy all along.

-- Also: beware the long lag time for publications. Your colleagues who give birth will enroll the little spawns in kindergarten before you hear back from some journals.

-- Some lucky souls will get MLA interviews and flybacks. If I had had any, I would post about them right here.

-- Instead, I made an excursion into the spring job market for community colleges.

-- And after multiple years on the market, including countless hours and dollars invested, what do you get? This, and this.