Sunday, September 23, 2012

What's Yours is Mine, What's Mine is ---- wait, what?

Hmm. I haven't told you anything about the new postdocs as characters around here yet, though I plan to as soon as I have enough spare time and energy to make it entertaining, but I got a kind of odd request I wanted to bounce off people.

See, we hired a Stripey scholar as one of the postdocs --- remember me saying I had been teaching this random course (I color-code the different classes; this one has stripes) that I had no background or preparation in and the only saving grace is that at least they've been throwing this same random course at me every semester instead of rotating me through all the possible surveys I haven't taken? Well, that's the situation. At this point I am together enough that I can run the class, though you aren't going to hear me name-dropping any scholars in that field or taking particularly sophisticated approaches to the stuff. Anyway.

The Stripey scholar emailed and sent me a syllabus for a polka-dot class,* and said, ooh hey could I see the Stripey syllabus cause one of the jobs I'm going to apply for wants syllabi and I haven't had the chance to teach my field yet kthanksbai. I haven't looked at the attachments zie has sent yet, but I'm kinda confused. Why would this person need my syllabus --- surely, as a Scholar of Stripiness, this person has a way better idea how to put together a syllabus in that field than I do! And really, how much work is it to craft a syllabus? (the kind you slap together for job apps, that is.) And would the search committee even want to see a syllabus from a class you haven't taught yet? Besides, I should think a syllabus is pretty personal and individualized --- I mean, if it's not, then there's no point in a search committee requesting to see them, right? I am just confused.

 Another wrinkle added to this situation is that my syllabus is, like, totally plagiarized. Not having any idea what should be emphasized in a Stripey course (the Battle of Barege? The Earl of Corduroy? The epistemological debates over horizontality and verticality? The question, god forbid, of plaid?) I did what any desperate, overworked young scholar might do: I googled "Stripey course syllabus." And I looked back and forth between several that seemed promising and stole a bit from this and stole a bit from that, decided that since everybody assigned this author, I might as well too, and looked to a bunch of samples for how much reading I could slather on to each class period. One person who has the course and syllabus and writing assignments up on the web had an entire FAQ page of all sorts of stuff you should and should not expect from this course. Since all of the warnings were about things I hate about Stripeyness, I plonked that whole damn thing down on my first page, with minor tweakings and a bit more emphasis on my voice.

So I am not at all sure that I would give this syllabus to a search committee, given that the FAQ and several other of the more interesting parts of it would clearly show up in a google search. On a web site with a name that's not my own, I mean. On the other hand, last job season was so long ago I have no clue if I remembered to not send it or not. Ah well.

Any wise readers want to weigh in?

* Why yes! They are allowing me** to teach the survey that actually corresponds to my dissertation and my field next semester! Clearly if stripes are against everything I stand for, then my specialty must be polka dots. Nose picking and the polka dots of literature. Makes total sense, right?  

**I could complain, but one of the other postdocs has been run through the roster of all the surveys, including the Classical literature in translation survey, I kid you not. So he's taught his specialty ... and had to prep a fuckload of other random stuff that probably was way more work than any possible payoff for his job search. Compared to that, my life's not all bad.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


I wish I could say that I spent today getting all caught up on my grading and am all ready to work on my book manuscript Voltron, Defender of the Universe tomorrow. Alas, grading a whole crapload of essays doesn't seem to put much of a dent in the pile.

Plus, I was very tired and bleah when I got up this morning, so I putzed around on the internet and just sat there for a long time too. I basically only did grading this afternoon. But, I was thinking about the fact that I have been feeling exhausted upon getting up for several days now, and I rather randomly googled that phrase. Huh. I found a news article (CNN? Don't remember, too tired to get a link) listing all sorts of common sleep problems, and it mentioned acid reflux, which I have had in the past. The article said it usually manifested as nonrestful sleep rather than insomnia or waking up a lot. Grumble grumble. Yeah, I could be feeling symptoms of that right now. So I got me some prilosec and will run through another course of it, despite my usual resistance to taking any medicines on an on-going basis if I can help it.

This is annoying though because usually it is a sign that I a) am having panic attacks over food allergies (someone tells my the food they just made me might have come into contact with the stuff I am allergic to and then I often get this, blormp, wash of acid up into my throat) or more rarely b) when I am way high at the top point of my weight range. And right now I am very near the low point of my weight fluctuations and I was hoping to actually lose weight down to new and exciting plateaus this semester. I haven't been having panic attacks or out in any situations where I might freak out about food lately, so the thought that I might be dealing with this more frequently is frustrating.

But I spent my "tired and brain dead time" this evening actually cleaning up the kitchen and packing up for school instead of clicking on things on the internet, so I have less to do tomorrow morning, and I will take a prilosec with breakfast and start attempting to fix my sleep problem, and so I am working to fix things in whatever small ways I can. I am pretty pooped already right now though. Oh, and I found a plagiarizer so that's one more thing I get to deal with tomorrow. I didn't even catch it myself; I happened to click and check every single t.u.rn.i.t.i.n  report and one of the essays I had graded had a couple sentences directly cut and pasted from schmoop. It's only a two page close reading, so in a paper that is thin on the analysis side, two sentences can be the majority of the actual thought being expressed. Not sure if the chair or the dishonesty board will back me up on it, though. We'll see.

And I will go to bed! Bleah.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

When punctuation marks attack; or, how spellcheck is not always your friend

I am peeking at the first pile of homework I received (and running away to procrastinate at every opportunity). The students have to answer some of the questions listed at the end of the essay, such as a request to discuss how the structure or writing style of the essay contributes to its logic.

One student wrote that the essay's argument was hindered by the short, choppy sentences produced by an overuse of comas.

Yes, comas.

Should I write a comment asking if this produced sleepiness in the reader? Heh.

Also, that passage being analyzed has a bunch of very short sentences being used for effect. Fragments, even. The only punctuation in that spot consists of periods.

Whooof ---- it's going to be a long semester. Maybe I can get the cats to eat the homework instead of me grading it.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Job Market to Sisyphus: You're Too Old, and You're Ugly, Too!

I'm sure that you have seen the various other posts about the Colorado State job posted in the Chronicle --- basically, they have set a cut-off point of 2010 for the filing of the dissertation:
Required qualifications:
1. Ph.D. in English or American Studies or closely related area awarded between 2010 and time of appointment.
2. A promising record of scholarship/research in pre-1900 American literature and culture.
3. Ability to teach a range of subjects in American literature and culture between 1600 and 1900.
 Now, I know what you're saying ---- no, no, of course this is not discriminating against the candidates by age, since someone with a 2008 PhD-granting date could easily be younger than someone with a 2011 PhD. It's just saying that your 2008 dissertation, research agenda, identity as a scholar, all of that has gone stale and rotten and has started to smell like a pile of dogshit in July. Too bad you were stupid and stored your academic identity out on the hot and moldy basement of adjunct-dom rather than the temperature-controlled refrigerator of tenure. Besides, it's not like there are a lot of scholars who graduated and then didn't find tenure-track employment in the last five or six years, right?

Meh. I'm actually not all that offended by this. (It helps that I'm not an Americanist and so wouldn't be applying for this job regardless.) I think I'd rather people put this shit in their ads, straight up, if they are using the PhD conferral as a freshness date, than have the majority of the searches not list this and secretly use it as an exclusionary criterion, which I have been paranoid about for the past few years anyway.

I don't think though that it will cut down the applications by that much, and I don't think it will necessarily help them parse out the best candidates. And then, if we're going for something truly arbitrary, let's just highlight the sick random aspect of the job market and start specifying height or shoe size in our ads? Left-handedness?

I suppose it is kinda better than having punishing publication requirements to apply (two books and six articles in order to upload an application even, you worm!!!!), or throwing in an unnecessary amount of application materials as a way of discouraging large numbers of applicants. That doesn't actually work; it just makes applicants work even harder. And get grumpy.

And if cutting down on the number of applications they have to read through is the real reason they are specifying this, I am tempted to send in a packet simply out of spite. You'll be able to recognize my application easily --- it'll be in the flaming brown paper bag on your doorstep.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Writng group update

Ok, I slept in late and then did yoga and cooked a whole buncha stuff and even cleaned a little bit and then I spent an hour revising my chapter --- whoo-hoo! --- so I am rewarding myself by bragging to the world about how awesome I am. Hey, whatever keeps you going, right?

Yes, this will be a very boring post.

 I posted this update over at Dame Eleanor Hull's writing group but it didn't seem to post, so I might as well post this over here too.

Main goal: Revise and Beautify chapter 3 of diss as book chapter;

last week’s goal: revisions/cleaning up citations for chapter 1, and work a bit every day.

accomplished: worked either 30 min or an hour each day and rough revised 5 pages of ch 3.

next goal: work an hour each day and revise 7 more pages of ch 3. This would mean I finish revising the entire chapter Nov. 7, which I have entered into my calendar.

commentary: Ok, you might notice I didn't go back and finish chapter 1, but I am pretty sick of it and was exited to reread and get into the thick of chapter 3. I am having trouble fitting in a whole hour *and* working out *and* getting to campus early enough to find a parking space, but I am making incremental progress. Also, the first sets of student essays are looming and I may soon become completely buried in grading. I hope to keep up the momentum though!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Not dead yet, but forward progress is slow

I haven't hit the piles of grading yet, but even going through piles of quizzes is taking lots of time (side note to rant: I hate quizzes! I hate making them, especially questions that have a clear answer, and I hate hate grading them --- partly because of that aforementioned problem I have with writing questions that actually have multiple correct answers, which means I have to keep reading back and forth through the reading to find all the possibilities, and weigh the various partially-wrong answers for how on point they are). I haven't even gotten into major job search work yet, except for asking my committee to update my letters --- but that is a major thing off my to-do list, since I tend to work myself up into a state of anxiety about making these kinds of requests.

I have been managing to work every day this week on revising my chapter, though! The problem? I have been working about an hour every morning right before teaching --- so not the most calm and focused part of my day --- and I have managed to revise two paragraphs. I have to get in to campus very early in order to grab a parking spot, and then I am thinking a lot about how I am going to deal with teaching in a little bit and constantly getting interrupted by the phone and knocks on the door and whatnot. I am polishing sentences, so with all the interruptions sometimes it feels like I am just reading out loud the same sentence over and over again, switching it back and forth. Then I am so tired from readjusting to teaching that I go home and take a nap, so I haven't been working on much in the evenings.

On the other hand, I am trying to ramp up my healthy workout type stuff again and have been doing very short yoga sets a few times a week. Maybe I need to look on the bright side and think of my chapter revision work as similarly setting some good habits now and slowly ramping up to a full workout --- write-out? --- once I get in the swing of things. Eh. Maybe.

Of course, this weekend, I need to haul ass on the first of the job applications and on grading the first of the diagnostic essays and other first assignments. You know what sucks? That my unscheduled, relatively open free time happens during the hot and nasty yucky weather around here, and I will be buried in work right about the time the beautiful fall weather will kick in. Maybe that's a sign I need to just make sitting inside and drinking my hobby instead of hiking or walking. Hmm --- that's a thought. Are there any fall-hiking themed mixed drinks?

Hmm, maybe I've got a good idea here.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Too tired to grade the stupid quizzes I am sitting on (and when do I ever want to grade, anyway?), not quite tired enough to head to bed early. It's nights like these that inappropriate internet purchases get made. I'm going to have to really watch that this semester and work on staying within a budget rather than letting the credit cards balloon up any further.

But these are tres cute, no? Modcloth has been showing some really nice stuff lately. Boden, my other internet crush (too expensive!) has been a bit disappointing recently. Although they have introduced a "boden for work" button and they have some very nice wardrobe basics there. it's just, if it looks basic and standard, I don't want to pay oodles and whatnot for it.

Sigh. Maybe I should start playing solitaire or something before bed. I've just got that weird window where I am mentally too tired to do anything that requires concentration and just way to alert to lie down and close my eyes. It's a long window. Yes, I packed my bags and my lunch already. The kitchen is clean.

Maybe I should paint my nails. Purple and pink, anyone?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Spa Day (or semester) for a chapter!

I'm participating in Dame Eleanor Hull's writing group as a way to continue to make forward progress on my book manuscript, however slow and pitiful. I have hope, although, being a master procrastinator, I have already started re-reading chapter 3 instead of finishing up those final bits of chapter 1. This might come back and bite me in the butt, though I am telling myself that having enthusiasm and willingness to do any revision is so important I have to work with whatever I can.

This chapter has an argument. (Which is good, and better than I can say for chapter 1.) In fact, it has an argument, plus, an only-partially explicit sub-argument, or implications of the main argument, which may in fact be more interesting than the argument itself. So I want to flesh out those ideas and bring them out in relief more. The down side is that it has lumpy, awkward, long, drunkenly-careening sentences everywhere. I mean at every level of every page. I re-read my marginal comments from the last time I re-read the entire diss at one go (you can find it in my archives --- I think it was 2009?) and they are pointing out "long" "wordy" "what?" "awk" everywhere. I think I can keep the structure, but every single sentence needs polishing up and beautifying. Dame Eleanor Hull referred to it as a Spa Day and wondered if I was getting a manicure or a facial? Ha! I love it! Particularly because it is thematically relevant. Poor chapter. You can't beautify the pharmakon. Poor thing.

I was thinking that the chapter needs that facial thingy where they do dermabrasion, except, really, we're talking about sandblasting, if not an actual face-lift. But what's that? I was humming something... fa la la...

Yup, that is exactly the makeover I was looking for! Too bad I can't find the whole song/scene for you on the internet. Have a different clip instead:

And now I'm off to see what Voltron, Defender of the Universe will look like with long sausage curls...