Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Postdoc Hmm

I have gotten word that they are putting my contract through (if I still want it) and that they will contact me and let me know when to come in to the office and sign --- it will take a bit to draft it up and grind it through the various levels of bureaucracy.

Here's the thing: instead of extending my current contract, they just wrote me out a new one, like for the new people they will be bringing in for the fall. That means it is a two-year contract instead of a year extension. Hmm. I wonder if that means I can adjust my book writing and job-marketing plan accordingly. At the very least I will give myself permission not to go full-bore attacking the market if I get too exhausted and overwhelmed.

Of course, who knows if there will actually be any jobs listed this fall or next? With all the news articles representing various college systems as if they were going over Niagara falls in a barrel, I would not be surprised.

I'm still getting the occasional note of interest from jobs I applied to way back when. I don't know if that's a good thing or not. I mean, when I went on that community college trip that didn't pay for candidates' visits, yeah, that was a gamble that would have paid off extremely well if I had gotten the job, but I didn't get the job and now my bank balance is sad.

I also haven't heard what I will be teaching next year here in Postdoc City, which is making me antsy as I want to procrastinate with class prepping. Some of the senior faculty were shocked, shocked! when they heard that the postdocs were only teaching the comp and GE classes ---- they were sure that the postdoc had been set up for us to teach in our fields and get experience teaching upper-level classes. But I think the chair is way savvier than that and s/he wants us to fill all those comp classes and surveys so that the fulltime faculty don't complain about having to teach too much GE stuff, so I am doubtful. And part of the reason why I stuck with Stripey class is that I refused to change it, excepting the trainwrecks, and so I did very little prep work. Getting some new classes actually relevant to my academic interests would be fun, but a lot more work in an already-heavy semester.

I have not done any looking about for the freelance writing thingy jobs like ETS and so on, mainly because I have plenty of things to read and change in my chapter, so any time I have some more energy, I push forward more with revisions. Thing is, revisions don't pay --- not in a cash-on-the-barrel, help- pay-down-my-credit-cards sense. So I should probably try to multitask my way through the summer.

Hmm --- I wonder if the barrel I just put cash down on is going to go over Niagara falls? That's what I get when I try to go for themes in my bizarre metaphors.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Random food post

Huh, I haven't done a single worthwhile thing all day. Well, I did load and run the dishwasher. That's gonna have to count.

Yesterday I was plowing through a bunch of criticism books and the plan was to finish them all today, type up and slap the notes into the chapter Monday, and then return them for different materials I need on Tuesday when the library is open. Maybe I will get the energy to go back to it, but today I am just liking the laziness. Ahhh.

Have I mentioned how much I love my local hippie-ish grocery store??? Remember, they are the place that gave me a coupon for a free chicken. They are always giving me coupons that I would actually use, that are for healthy stuff people go through every week, instead of random processed crap that I never use or don't like or want to keep to a minimum in my diet. So, for example:

I got a coupon for these a couple weeks ago! Another time I got a coupon for pears! And that is to say nothing about the free cage-free eggs, the orange juice, the Irish cheddar (yum!) and brown rice. The coupon for ice cream from last week, alas, I did not print and then couldn't bring up on my phone in the store, but perhaps that is all for the best. You can see from this list that the free stuff makes a major difference in my grocery bill, since I'm usually buying these things anyway. Of course, the fact that I am buying lots of fresh stuff and not packaged/preserved crap full of corn and soy filler means that my grocery bill is pretty damn high even with this help, but oh well. Good health is a worthwhile tradeoff, I think.

What with all the berries appearing in my store and the prices going down, I'm hoping that the next coupon will be for a big box of berries! Yum.

Ooh, the other thing they sent me that I liked was a coupon pack encouraging me to have a potluck. It had instructions and you were supposed to give everybody a 5$ off coupon and keep the 10$ off one for yourself. I didn't actually have the potluck since it was the end of the semester and everyone was going away, but I did hand out some of the coupons. One of the postdocs actually snitted on the present (if you can turn "having a snit" into a verb like that)! "We are moving, Sisyphus, we are trying to get rid of all the food we have!" And they are quitting the postdoc and moving back near family rather than stick it out another year, and of course that state does not have this hippie chain store. But so what? It's a coupon! Look, buy a tin of coffee and some granola and then you get a bunch of free snack food and veggies for the trip! I'm sure you can fit a smidge of food in the car! Whatever.

At the end of it, I had two coupons left, and you need to have a different email address on them, so now I am going to get mailers at my school account as well as a bunch of my various gmail accounts. Bleah. Although, if I can somehow snag multiple sets of coupons... hmm.

Anyway, you might wonder what I did with the tomatoes. Well, I experimented with quinoa, which I find rather boring and mushy. But really, it's just that quinoa is not interesting enough to eat plain --- you need to experiment with making salads and dressings! See:

This is red quinoa. I was inspired by this post by the Amateur Gourmet on how to convert haters to quinoa lovers, although, as you can see from the pic, I created something a lot more like a tabbouleh salad. I made a mustard/lemon/olive oil dressing (left out the honey from that recipe and toned wayyy down on the mustard) and added a bunch of chopped parsley and leftover celery, which made it nice and crunchy. Then I added red onion, finely chopped ---- something I like but as I get older the onion breath from raw onions stays longer and longer and really starts to bother me now. My dad complains of the same thing. Which must mean one thing: I'm old!

I'm going to practice making more dressings and putting them on things other than just lettuce-based salads, because it really does bring my basic cooking up to a more interesting level. Remind me to post the 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil somewhere in my kitchen so that I don't have to go looking through four cookbooks and the internet every time I want to experiment.

Today I made a nice, simple little green salad with a lemon/olive oil dressing, involving only those ingredients plus fresh zest from the lemon and some salt and pepper. It tasted great, so fresh and lively. And that tip they tell you about how it is easier to just get an old glass jar and shake up the dressing instead of trying to whisk it together is totally true ---- as long as you're sure you didn't beat up the lid when originally opening the jar, preventing it from completely sealing anymore. Yeah, take it from me: it's not pretty.

Friday, May 25, 2012

News flash: revising still sucks

And I am still way too good at procrastinating. Today I was looking back through my old blog posts, because I had the weird idea that when I revised that one article from a conference paper, it was easier than revising the diss into a book. It wasn't. At least the good news is that I was able to take crap and make it into something really good, which bodes well for this project. I guess it is also good news that revising is no harder this time than in the past --- but what I'm really looking for is some sort of magical, painless revision trick. Haven't found it.

The good news is that I am actually asking the million dollar impossible question of this chapter: what am I really saying here? Are you sure that's what you really need to say, instead of what you are currently saying and just could clarify a bit? Sigh. I would much rather fix some comma splices and move on without really confronting what this chapter does well and poorly.

Way back when I met with my advisor over my first completed prospectus draft, she was encouraging, but noncommittal. After discussing the scope and argument of my project for a few minutes, she pointed to the prospectus itself and said, very gently, this is a good draft. Now, when you write the next draft --- she very slowly turned over the whole thing --- open up a new window and start over without looking at this. Ask yourself what are you really trying to do here? What are your claims? What argument are you presenting? Only pull the sentences from this draft that you really need. 

I remember being somewhere between stung and devastated, with a panicky, sinking feeling in my chest. But I went and did what she suggested, and in fact, the first draft was very narrative --- me coming to the discovery of this project --- and historical background, whereas the "really need" draft made a series of claims and then positioned my work in the scholarly conversation.

It is so much more work to start over with a clean draft instead of revising. And yet, I think sometimes it produces better work and helps you see what you "really need" instead of working with whatever you actually have. And this first chapter is the oldest chapter, the one where I was learning how to write a chapter, how to be a scholar, how to write a dissertation --- it is certainly the worst in terms of sentence structure and organization. Thrashing around in the thickets of old prose that have already been revised a million zillion times, I can see how starting over with a new document and what do you really need to say here could be way better than revising what is here.

But oh god. The level of work of starting over. Ugh.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Random cheap crap comes to those who wait

I have been idly longing, for the past few months, for some way to fix up my office room into something I would like to hang out in. It only has the desk chair I bought and which I never figured out how to make it less tilty, so that it would not threaten to dump me out at any moment. So while I have this lovely place and lots of surfaces for piling stuff and printing, I would never hang out there and read. What I needed, was a comfy chair for my torment:

But when I looked online I could never find something I liked that matched my budget and that had a nifty color or pattern. And then as I thought about it more, I realized with sorrow that my budget was actually zero. So I went and looked at shoes online instead.

However, all was not lost!!! The semester ended and some of the postdocs are leaving --- one is moving out of the country as a way of getting some sort of job (I am somewhat dubious about this, but wish the Angry Anarchist well) and one just flat-out gave up and will not come back for a second year (man, that third slot in our office just scares people away, I guess). Since this is the same person who first drove students to mass plagiarism and then dropping courses, and who constantly complained about how much zie hated it here, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that perhaps it is better that this person leaves academia for something else. Zie is probably being smarter about it than me, anyway.

As part of this exodus, postdocs have given me various free things. So many free things I have rejected quite a few of them (I do not need any more microwaves or toasters, nor do I want those particle-board self-assembled bookcases that look like they will not survive the trip to my place). I was thrilled, however, to be offered a Comfy Chair. It is now ensconced in my office. I am also taking someone's coffeetable and a cushion and will be storing another postdoc's pile of boxes while this person goes back home to the partner for the summer, so I might wait on pictures until I have the place all fancied up. I am quite excited though. It is not an Ikea Poang chair, I was told, but the next price level down. However I have too much fun shouting the word Poang (which I pronounce midway between Po-ang and Poing and I add a bunch of exclamation points) so I am going to call it that anyway. And at "free if you can haul it away," it fits very nicely in my price point!

The cats were afraid of going near it for a couple days, but then after I sat and read on it for a while, they slowly came to accept its presence. They will now sit on it and look out the window. Of course, they are far too clever to be stopped by any anti-cat hair schemes --- the chair cushion is black, but because they have that white belly, they leave white fur all over the chair. I am thwarted in everything I do. Alas.

But I do have my comfy chair! I can't wait to sit and read in it when the rain is pattering down on the roof.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Revising is hard/Cleaning out the stale prose

*Sniff, sniff* Ok, something is wrong with this chapter. What is off, exactly?

It doesn't really look off. I can't put my finger on it. *Sniiiiiiiff sniff sniff* 

Do I really have to dump everything, scrub it out, and start over? Ugh. 


No. I don't think the problem is over here. *Sniff* And I don't think the problem is over here. *Sniff sniff* But when I look at the whole thing, something just isn't right.

*SNIFF sniff sniff sniff Sniiiiiiiiiff* Oh my god I think I'm getting lightheaded from all this inhaling. And yet I can't figure out what I need to do with this chapter! 


What is wrong, what is wrong. Hmm...

Maybe I should reorganize. I dunno.  *Clink clank clunk jingle shuffle shuffle*

*SNIFF Sniff Sniff* I don't think the problem is here.

Is this the problem? *Snifff* Is this the problem? *Sniff sniff* Ok if this area is fine, why do I not like it?  Maybe it is all in my head? *Sniff sniff sniff* Gah I hate revising! 

I can't bear to even look at any of this! I just wanna close it up and order a pizza.

Leftovers, anyone?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Writing with beans

Step 1: set up your writing mise en place. Open up the file(s) you will be working with, pull and arrange all of your notes and draft passages, get out your writing notebook and pens if that's how you work, your to-do list or list of questions you will be addressing for the section you are writing or revising. Reread enough to find your starting point and remember what you are doing.

Step 2: take a cup and a half of dry black beans and cover them with six cups cold water and put them on to boil. If you don't have these, substitute others, but you cannot make a grocery run while writing with beans, so no fair leaving.

Step 3: Reread and rewrite. Start working your way into the day's drafting or revising. Prewrite or do generative writing answering the question: what am I trying to do at this point in the writing project? or where am I going next, in the next subsection, paragraph, sentence? Soon you will hear the faint shh shhh of your beans boiling. Give them a stir and set a timer for ten minutes. Leave them at a hard boil. Return to your writing.

Step 4: You are in the middle of writing about your topic, without regard for editing or censoring your prose, when you are recalled to the present by the beep of the timer. Give the beans a stir and add an onion and a half a teaspoon of oregano, or even more if you like. Keep thinking about what you were writing. Put the heat down to a simmer and set the timer for about 30-40 minutes. Return to the writing.

Step 5: The timer goes off again. You are starting to get a bit tired or stuck on the writing. Give the beans a stir and add about a teaspoon salt, then let it continue to simmer. Or perhaps you are still going strong on your writing, whole sentences still coming to you. Keep writing them down as you add the salt and let the beans go. Beans are very forgiving, so don't worry about the cooking. Keep simmering away at the writing.

Step 6: You are thinking about how all those ideas should be re-organized, or perhaps you are pondering how to incorporate someone else's research into this passage. While you stew away at the writing passage, dice an onion and a tomato and cook the onion in some safflower oil until it gets soft. Ponder how this writing passage will connect to your larger writing project. Add the tomato and about a teaspoon of adobo powder. If the beans are nice and tender, add them and simmer the whole thing on low for another 15-20 minutes. Either type up your morning's writing or print out what you wrote on the computer. Continue to contemplate the writing.

Step 7: When the beans are simmered enough or you have exhausted your willpower for writing and revising this morning, slice up a couple bell peppers and cook them in some safflower oil. Get out tortillas, avocado, maybe some cheese or sour cream, and take the bean mix, sauteed bell peppers, and all the other ingredients to the table. If you haven't printed what you produced this morning, print it now. Stop and contemplate where you are and what you will need to do tomorrow. Make a little to do list. Eat your black bean burritos --- it is helpful to invite another person in at this point, or else you will be eating these black beans all week. You can also tell them about your writing project, if that does not distract you from the work.

Step 8: You are sleepy after a nice big lunch. Clean up the kitchen, but also clean up your writing space. Set out everything neatly in the mise en place and make sure everything is prepped. Put your to do list on top so you are set for the next morning. Move to pulling books and article for the next section, or, if you are awake enough, start reading them. Savor the spiciness of the beans, the tastiness of your writing.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Rereading, rewriting

The other day I re-read a book, Joan Didion's Play it as it Lays, which I know I posted about reading during one summer when I lived in California, but I can't find the link now, so there. It has been so long since I just up and read something for pleasure, and re-reading something ----! Boggling! Insane!

The choice of reading was because the last few Mad Men episodes seemed to really resonate with the existentialism of the book. That and I keep thinking Don Draper is about to cut out for the light-suffused modernist glass houses of Southern California, and for some reason I had thought the Didion novel exemplified that oversaturated, David Hockney-style landscape. Funnily enough, no! Why do so many people describe Play it as it Lays as cinematic? There is practically no description anywhere. Gorgeous writing, but your mind has to supply all the details of the city and the desert and the feel of slaloming down all those freeways yourself. I still think though that we're about five minutes from the confusion and social upheaval of the current Mad Men episodes to the cool narcissism of Didion's work.

I was surprised by how much of the book stayed with me; it's quite compelling. And I'm surprised it hasn't been written about all that much --- I had wondered if any scholars had written about what disease or disorder the daughter Kate actually has, so I looked up in the MLA bib and saw surprisingly few articles published on it. Not that I'm going to write on it, but if anyone is interested, they should check it out. I'm sure there are still fruitful things to say about it, if you have things to say.

No, what I need to work on ... is my book manuscript. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! I have started and run away from that project so many times it is clear now that there is some sort of block or problem there. And yet, that is what needs to be done. So that is my project for the summer: a) revise the dissertation into a book manuscript and b) do not avoid, procrastinate on, or hide from the revision of the dissertation into a book manuscript. Sigh. I wish I wasn't so "done" with this topic. I don't know how to make it interesting and new to myself once again. But I already avoided the book last year by starting up a brand new and different article and here I am again, back to staring at the book manuscript. I don't know if putting it off from last year was a good choice or not, but now it is the only big thing left on my plate and it has been listed as "in progress" on my cv for a very long time, so it is time to actually get it out there.

I have the feeling that this rereading project will not be as pleasurable as the novel-rereading one, alas. Though it might turn out to be a similarly existential nightmare.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Doctoring time

Is there anything more horrible than making doctor appointments? Well, possibly the actual doctor visits, but I actually go to those rather than endlessly stew and procrastinate dealing with them.

I turned in grades on Sunday and have been dealing with all the piddly little errand type things I've put off during the school year. I might be caught up with them now. I have all* the doctor checkups scheduled, which I hate so much! If I have to suffer the annoyance of scheduling doctor's visits, then everyone should! Go schedule your checkups! I even took my car in and called the vet for my cats' checkups, I am so into spreading around the pain to everyone.

Of course this means that the rest of this month and actually most of next month is littered with the actual visits, which I am sure I will also find stressful, but this means I can turn my attention to complaining about my academic work instead. And figure out some extra work, since I did not manage to scare up any summer teaching, alas.

And what am I doing, academic-wise? Uh, I'm not quite sure. I definitely need a schedule, that's for sure. I actually don't work well with all this unstructured free time and "relaxing" business. Also, all the people who were all "oh, we must do all this great hiking and sightseeing and fun stuff this summer" a few weeks ago are now vanishing, so I'm kinda wondering who I'm going to talk to this summer. Seriously, super unstructured time and me sitting around at home on my couch alone doesn't sound like a good plan. And it makes me wonder why I should spend this time here, rather than being annoyed by my family while sitting around on their couch. Of course, there are the cats and the possibility of holding on to this place for next year and the lease I haven't signed yet etc etc and really I can't deal with all these questions and plans. This is why I sit around on the couch, avoiding things. Hey, at least I did finally get to those doctor appointments!

I am also crampy and irritable and suffering from lots of food I shouldn't have eaten yesterday (in response to the cramps) so I have decided that I don't have to deal with any of those questions right now. Instead, I will look around my place and see what might be fun to read. I made it about halfway through Eric Schlosser's Reefer Madness, --- I know! how long have I had that lying around here! --- but was getting all riled up and angry, so I need to find something else to read that doesn't make me so infuriated at the injustices of the world. Good luck with that, eh? I do have a pile of composition theory and teaching writing textbooks that I grabbed a while back, but I'm saving those for right before I go to bed in the evenings. They are working quite well at putting me to sleep, unlike stories of the war on drugs and exploitation of immigrants.

* Ok, the eye dr. recommendation I got fell through, so I emailed a couple other people for recommendations. I don't technically have that lined up yet, but give me credit for the rest, yes?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Shrodinger's Job Candidate

I'm surprised I hadn't thought of this before.

First Job Candidate: So, how are you doing?

Second Job Candidate: I don't know. I can't see a thing in here. You?

First: Nah. I don't even know who I am. It's really wearing on me.

Second: Seriously! I never thought I'd wish to be dead, but being in limbo like this sucks.

First: Yeah, I just want someone to open up the box. I can't even tell which condition I'm in. Just get it over with and let me find out one way or another. Whoah, what was that that just moved?

Second: A cat maybe? Jeez, I hope there aren't sand worms in here.

Tune in next fall when an entire graduate cohort goes on the market and discovers they are actually re-enacting the plot arc from Lost...

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Summertime, and the living is ...full of plan-making

Wow. It is gorgeous outside this morning! Not too hot yet. Very nice out on my back porch. I missed this all semester, without really noticing that I missed it. Once I finished writing my article, I haven't done any more writing, and for some reason I wasn't grading out here. (Also, I haven't done a workout since, like February, and it is showing, and I need to get back to that.)

All around the blogosphere, people are posting about writing and learning to teach writing. I totally will get to doing a roundup on that, but I just finished my grades (still have to enter them in) and want to spend my time thinking about other stuff instead for a bit.

Of course, I need to make plans for the summer. But I don't actually know what I am doing. I guess I am staying here for yet another round of the crappy underpaid postdoc? I haven't gotten rejected everywhere yet, so I don't actually know. I should probably plan as if I am staying here, and just go ahead and make some plans. Ok, well then.

I guess, since I have sent off Floyd the article and don't have anything else out for revise and resubmit or anything, that I can turn to The Book. Maybe this is The Summer of The Book. Holy crap that sounds scary. No wonder I've been finding out ways to put that off for years (even if I didn't really know I was procrastinating it until just now.) I guess I can do that. So: next step is to make a book-revising plan!

And I need to think about possible conference stuff for the fall ... wherever I might be living and working. Maybe I don't and can just continue to ignore conferences? I don't know.

Also, I am hurting for money, once again. Last year I did a spring conference but never got the shit together in the right form to get the dept. to help pay for it, and it was very expensive. All my Christmas money from the family went to that and car repairs. This year (partly because I was being worked like a dog) I didn't buy anything outside of food and cat stuff, so I was doing pretty well ... until I got campus visits. Which are nice, but which are not reimbursed at the community-college level. So now I have all of that shit sitting on the credit cards and I am wondering if I can manage to visit the family for July again.

Complicating all this is that I wasn't offered any summer teaching, since it is a perk they will only give to returning employees. (Pthththt!) As soon as I get all my rejections in a row and go in and force them to hand me a contract to sign, I will ask (plead?) about summer teaching, but I bet the online classes have been handed out already. Glug. This might mean that I would be stuck here teaching amongst the heat and bugs and humidity all summer. Bleah. I also looked up tutoring centers, and noticed that there is a Proprietary Learning Center (where I worked my summers during my first Master's) and I could always try contacting them. It may be too late. And I'm sure they are not paying the regular rate they should be paying. This would also put a crimp in my family-visiting plans. I am willing to listen to suggestions for additional summer money. I'd feel really embarrassed to meet up with my former students while working retail or steaming coffee at $B, though. 

And in other news, I would like to have more Fun in my life than this previous list implies. So I will be compiling up a summer fun reading list and could even post it here if you'd like. I also think I need to watch more weird old movies like The Unknown, and post crazy-ass movie reviews for you all. I would of course take suggestions on those. Or even form some sort of fun movie-watching discussion group, since the peeps I like the most here don't really like fiction films and I'm not so big on documentaries, which means we never have anything to say about what we're watching.

So watch this space for more exciting lists! Summertime here we come!