Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Of course, the other day might have gone better if I had already read this:

Guidelines for Discussion of Racial Conflict and the Language of Hate, Bias, and Discrimination (website from the University of Michigan)

for example,

Spontaneous Discussions: Dealing with the Unanticipated

Ah well.

Now in the course of this discussion we got off on an annoying and possibly predictable tangent where white working class people were being castigated as somehow "worse" and "more racist," than, I don't know, "us." That's bullshit. They aren't more racist; they are differently racist. We all express racism in class-specific cultural ways. On thinking about this further I really want to go back and poke at this next session and particularly unpack the notion that conflict avoidance and restraint and not talking openly about certain subjects is not a universal guideline but actually a very class-specific form of social interaction. But I don't have any good stuff to go off of in my office and can't find any quick-and-easy links using teh googel. Anybody got me a fast fix? I should really be grading papers instead of obsessively planning class.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Dropping the Race Bomb

Race is such a tricky subject; talking about it can veer so quickly from tension to blatant offensiveness to sanctimonious platitudes in the course of an instant. It's so slippery, it makes the most of us wary, distrustful, only willing to touch on it in the most gingerly of ways. Race can't be disciplined, can't be defused, it erupts into the classroom, always, when you least expect it --- never on the day you have specially set aside for it on the syllabus, where there are readings to support you and you know to metaphorically gird your loins and eat an extra hearty breakfast beforehand.

No, it knows to enter a couple weeks before, when there is nothing overtly race-related on the table and everyone is innocently behaving like their usual selves. In fact, at times that is the problem. The usual behavior, I mean. And so, when one student says something and another student takes offense, you know --- if you've had this situation happen enough times before --- that there is nothing to do but sweep the day's lesson plan clean off the desk and to stop and unpack some discourse, right there, right now. If you wait until whatever your "designated discuss race day" is, you send the message to students that it is only relevant, only for talking about, at designated places and times. And that makes them even more likely to believe that most of "ordinary time," as it were, is a race-free time, which makes their reactions to sudden intrusions of race-related discussions even more startled and violent and just generally exacerbates the problem.

Sigh. Suffice it to say that I got blindsided in class today and have been feeling unsettled ever since. It was a very tense, uncomfortable class period --- and I know there's all this pedagogy about how a classroom does not have to be comfortable to be safe and Theory about living on the margins and embracing the painful states of liminality and talk about how the real power of Art is its power to disturb --- but really, people, how comfortable are you really with discomfort? Deep down, really, don't you want the smooth and easy class experience of everyone loving and reverencing you as the center of attention, rather than the prickly negotiations of student anger, hostility, or even boredom and disengagement?

In a tense class situation, suddenly you're the one stepping back and reading everybody's body language, trying to read them without intervening too much. And I think I did pretty well this time in not letting anybody get shut down or shouted over, but also not intervening to lessen the tension or smooth everything over. That is so hard. I'm pretty conflict-averse, more on the passive-aggressive than the outright aggressive side, and while I've gotten pretty good at waiting out the uncomfortable silence that means students haven't done the reading or won't do the thinking, I find it really hard to just stand there and let the tension ride when one student calls another out and waits for justification. Reactions like that from those groups are too extreme, one says. No, no they aren't. They are real and they are how we feel, is the response of the other student. Who are you to tell us how to feel?

In the silence that stretches out as we all stare at the pair, in the excruciatingly uncomfortable moment when they proceed to repeat, almost verbatim, the same short dialogue back at each other, twice, I so want to fill that moment with words, with analysis, with theory, explain away all the discomfort by tying this encounter to any one of many moments in history or even psychologize it by relating it to some sort of social interaction theory even though I don't know any, but I let it hang there, because they are talking, and because they both seem to be wary and tense and upset, but not so upset that either one seems incapable of self defense.

And I want to say "who am I, I am someone who has been conditioned almost all her life not to talk about this, to politely ignore the existence of race as you might someone's fly when it is open, I am someone who has been taught that it is rude to directly confront anyone about anything, who has been taught that allowing open tension or open hostility to persist in a room is a sign of my failure as a hostess and Good Girl, someone who desperately wants to fill the discomfort with words and to rescue someone who is being called out because I have been called out before and I know exactly how wrenching that is," but I don't. The conversation does not resolve; their differences are not patched up, and they do not ease all the tensions and become, or pretend to become, happy best friends. It was unclear to me even when the confrontation ended; when exactly is the right moment to break in on the repetition? --- or into the tense silence? --- and to guide the class back out of this labyrinth to the outer levels, to the first digression which involved terms and who gets to use certain words.

Oh yes, people. This was not a simple single discussion of a single racially-charged detail. This digression spawned all the other digressions you have ever seen and ran us through the entire class period and over by twenty minutes. It was as if this group of students is not having this discussion anywhere else on campus and so they had to cram into a single class session every single issue, stereotype, angry realization and disavowal that they have ever trained you on in student government sleep-away camp, minus the trust fall exercises. Poor author who I like! Swept from the syllabus. I have a feeling we're going to use our other class period this week to go over, less heatedly, a lot of what erupted in class today. At least that means we'll have some practice for later on when we get to some of the texts that have to do with race and empire; we might be able to actually tie our reactions to the text and find interesting things to say about it rather than be wrapped up in knee-jerk reactions. At least I'll know to eat an extra fortifying breakfast.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Dispatches from the Community College Job Fair, 1

"Yes, it's straight down the hall and then go left," explains the woman as she hands me a pen.

I examine it, puzzled, for a moment. Are you sure this is the right job fair? They're ... giving me stuff. I take another sweeping glance around, but no, the pen says ccc on it and the leadership development conference is up a floor, where I have been lost already. (So sue me: MLA usually has all its important meeting stuff on the second floor. I'm outta my element.)

I head down the hall, in my suit, passing many other people also in suits ---- so far, so familiar, especially the trays crowded over with empty starbucks cups and people leaning up against the walls nearby, awkwardly trying to juggle folders and coffee and a program while in expensive clothes. Then I pass through the doors into a large hall of organized mayhem.

Though I'm pretty early --- the fair will run from 10-3 --- the aisles are already packed. It becomes even more crowded as the day goes on, making it literally difficult to move, particularly when it's not clear whether we are stopped in aisle-traffic or have accidentally migrated into a line of people waiting to talk to a representative.

The place is strange. It's like ... the MLA book exhibit at its most busy and crowded. The community colleges of Southern California (with a few outliers from the north, and even districts in Oregon and Washington) each have booths set up, draped in brightly-colored cloths and with informational posters behind them. It almost feels as if they are the vendors and we the ones with purchasing power, instead of us as the job seekers in varying levels of desperation. The oddly corporate effect is heightened by the piles of swag on each table --- pens, notepads, postits, planners, mini-footballs and other squishy figures, key clips (Coastal Community College has decorated its booth with a beach theme and had to put "do not touch" signs out on the beach blankets and beach balls) and other tchotchkies sprinkled among the informational packets, job listings, and sample course catalogs. I take a few, but every time I do I am struck by the thought that the money spent on providing this free stuff could add up to an adjunct position if not a full-time one, and I soon stop, troubled by guilt.

But for some people the free stuff seems to be the point --- I am regularly elbowed aside so that someone can grab one of everything on the table, or have been waiting behind someone only to watch them ignore the booth attendant and methodically collect the lot. This, too, confuses me --- they appear to be dressed like job seekers (the brochure read "dress for success" and colorful suits are the norm here) but they seem focused on the wrong thing. Maybe they went and grabbed lots of stuff and then went back through and asked questions. Or they are sure they are getting a job. Or they are young and/or inexperienced and will regret this in a few weeks. I just don't know.

In fact, I'm not sure why I am here or how to make this experience useful, myself. Perhaps collecting a year's worth of free pens would have been the best use of my time. The job fair itself seems somewhat of a holdover from the pre-internet days. The booths are staffed by HR people, mostly, with the occasional dean or subdean in attendance, and while they are almost uniformly polite and helpful, one hour in to this day they are already looking glazed-over and faded. They do not take my CV --- "you will upload all of that information on our online application" --- and, with the exception of a few last-minute job openings, all of the postings and descriptions are already on line as well, and I have read them already. Still, I ask at every booth if they have English comp openings and collect some papers if they do.

But it's not clear to me why I am here or what I should be doing exactly, and I can't figure out if this means that the job fair is a holdover from a different time and way of hiring or if I am just so out of my element that I fucked it up and didn't do the important thing I was supposed to do that would give me an edge in a job. But what would that be? I'm not making face-to-face contacts with any of the people who would be hiring me directly, and I am sure that my name and face will be barely a blur in their memories at the end of this long, crowded day. There were a couple of deans who oversee the English departments and I did chat with them for a moment, but I didn't really have specific questions to ask and they only had vague recollections of how their English departments were structured. I couldn't leave them anything, and everything people told me about the application process ("the cover letter is very important") is something I knew already. It felt almost like they were enticing me to consider their campus and to convince me to apply, which just seems like a waste of time in this economy.

Perhaps, though, this job fair is geared more towards the disciplines and specialties that are more in demand --- although the place was crowded, I only ran into a few English teachers. I heard people talking about GIS, mathematics, there were several businessmen who wanted to teach in the marketing or econ programs, even a high school band teacher who wanted to lead a jazz group at the community college level. So perhaps other areas need to do more recruitment.

Or perhaps this fair was more about recruiting a diverse population of candidates ---- which it seemed to have done so already. I was actually touched by how mixed the crowd was in terms of age and race; inside the fair --- both the staff of the booths and the job applicants --- there was just as much diversity as outside in the LA streets and it was just wonderful. Like California, it was a "majority-minority" population and as a white person I was in a large group but distinctly under half. And I was surprised by the number of black people, of all ages ---- from clearly aiming to make a second career to a very young-looking man who is finishing his history MA now, I overheard ---- who were there. Latino attendance seemed a bit sparse, comparatively, but there were lots of Asian Americans; I heard what I thought was Korean being spoken and Asian Americans with accents and then others with the same surfer drawl as me. As I said, I thought it was great, and, especially because of the physical similarity to the MLA setup, kept wondering why the MLA and my other lit. conferences seem so overwhelmingly white. Let's get on that, MLA!

Of course, as I was finishing my rounds and trying to figure out what else I needed to do, this very same diversity made me depressed: here I am, a white girl with a PhD in a job market where only an MA is required and there is a large pool of people of color to draw from, some of whom, I assume, have come up through this very same community college system and who would thus fit the bill in ways far better than I ever could. I'm not ever so overwhelmed by my white guilt that I won't apply, but I do always have these roiling mixed emotions about whether I deserve to take a spot in such an undiverse profession and perpetuate the tradition of racial stratification and exclusion ("But I want a job!" "But we have to undo the history of preferential white hiring in the academy!" "But why does that have to happen now and mean I don't get a job!" "But we don't change anything structurally if we hire guilty-feeling liberal white people into the same old structure!" "But I want a job!").

This time, however, since I was at a community college job fair, and everyone kept reassuring me that an MA was the required degree, I was getting even more depressed about the sheer number of freakin' MA programs and how I was now competing against an exponentially larger pool of candidates, I'm sure. The rejection letters for my four-year college places regularly list that they had a couple hundred applicants; at least there is a fairly small population of people with PhDs. There's, what, 25 California State campuses? Each of which pump out massive numbers of MA students as part of covering their need for comp instructors? So if they're like my out-of-state-but-similar MA program, they take in about 30 people a year and graduate about 25 of them from a two-year program, meaning ... 25 x 25 ... plus all the ABDs at all the PhD programs ... plus adjuncts ... plus holdovers from previous years ... plus out of state people ... plus ... Aiiigh! Make it stop!!!! The burning!!!!!!!!!

When I finally met my ride and loaded up my bags full of stuff, I was tired, a bit overwhelmed, and in need of some time away from people to recharge. I also wasn't sure what I had learned or whether the day did any good. (At least I spent the afternoon today avoiding grading by writing about it!) Originally I had planned to go to both job fairs, the SoCal one and the NorCal one, which is next weekend, but now I'm not entirely sure what good would come of it. What do you suggest? Any advice?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Hooray for the Fluffy Dress Award!

Thank you to everyone who nominated me for the Blogger Inspiration Award, which comes with its own truly inspirational fluffy dress:

Obviously I need to wear that when I teach. Along with one of those powdered wigs that's about 2 feet high and has model ships from the Admiral's fleet, but that is a post for another day.

I believe heu mihi and LumpenProf and Belle at Scattered and Random have awarded me this trophy, and possibly others who I have forgotten about in the process of catching up on my bloglines.

Here are the rules as handed down with the award, which I am then going to break.
  • Please put the logo of the award (above) on your blog if you can make it work with your format.
  • Link to the person from whom you received the award.
  • Nominate 7 or more blogs.
  • Put the links of those blogs on your blog.
  • Leave a message on their blogs to tell them.
I'm glad that so many people enjoy my stuff enough to give me an award, because you can never have too many fluffy dresses. For example, when Historiann linked to her new ski pants that she is testing out this weekend, I saw that I absolutely needed this dress:

particularly because I don't own a single little black dress. On the other hand, perhaps I need it in this really pretty pattern?

On the other other hand, plain black would really set off the two-foot-wig-with-the-Admiral's-ships quite nicely. Unless all the powder dropping would look too much like dandruff? Hmm.

In the spirit of inspiring fluffy dresses everywhere, I hearby nominate anyone who currently does not wear enough fluffy dresses. Gentlemen? I'm looking at you.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

In which I am utterly petty and ridiculous...

It has finally happened: my nephew, who has just started high school, has found me on facebook and made a friend request. Sigh. This is terrible. Not that I wouldn't mind befriending him (although I usually post about how I am doing very little work and constantly procrastinating, which is hardly me being a good role model for him), but if I befriend him, I'll have to befriend his sister (that is, my niece) as well, and I don't want to. Is that petty or what? I'm not going to admit my horribleness to my family (only to the general world on my blog!), but I definitely have favorites ---- as evidenced by the fact that I've befriended my other niece for over a year now. *shrugs apologetically*

You see, my niece takes after my sister in law, her mom, in a way that is rather opposed to the philosophy of my family. She's very boy crazy and her mom encourages her in this. Even though her mom is an educator (2nd grade teacher), as my niece gets older, they've been more and more open about how "intelligence" is incompatible with "femininity" and "popularity." And my niece is not a brilliant person --- in fact, she has been diagnosed with several learning disabilities and I do see that she struggles with reading comprehension, and any form of paying attention. In order to make it in her classes she should be working extra hard and really struggling to overcome these problems ---- not that this if fair in any way, but when people really hold her nose to the grindstone and make sure she puts in extra work and studies extra and takes extra time and is forced to be very organized, she can actually pull off Bs ---- but instead her mom has lately been encouraging her to slack off and be completely unambitious. It's better to be liked than to pass your classes, it's better to have lots of dates with lots of different boys than worry about college or a career, and it's just too damn late to bother with learning any study habits or overcoming your limitations. Grrr!

I guess there are places in society for people who have no ambition, who want to just punch the clock and collect some money at the end of the week, but I for one am worried that this just isn't going to cut it in today's workplace. Especially if she wants to still live in California after graduation --- rent ain't cheap here, that's for sure. And the other part of the plan --- that she doesn't have to think too hard or work too hard because she will catch some husband who will do the heavy lifting for the family, economically speaking ---- doesn't even apply for her mom's generation; it's positively antediluvian. Seriously, my sis in law works and they really need her money --- and her state health insurance! --- to survive, and that's with my brother being an electrical engineer. For my niece to be a stay-at-home mom she's gonna need to marry a doctor. Or maybe a couple of them. (which brings up my radical, crazy-feminist-talk about how relying on somebody else for your financial security for life seems ... I dunno ... dumb? Oh, those feminists: such control freaks!)

My family philosophy, by contrast, is that Education Is The Way. My parents both pulled themselves up out of working class environments and went on to not just college but grad school, as well as permanently moved out of their rural hometown to the Big City and largely cut off ties to their extended families. Their ideology is completely about the meritocracy of hard work and the truth of the American Dream. (and damn! it is hard to argue politics with them, as they take their own personal success stories of hard work and education rewarded as justification for their conservative, libertarian beliefs. Well, maybe more old-school Republican than libertarian.) I joke that my family are honorary Asians --- we have the same belief in high standards and hard work and no academic challenge is so great that you shouldn't be able to overcome it and also make enough money to support your poor old parents in their old age. So obviously this "girly slackertude" philosophy does not sit well with my upbringing.

Anyway, I try to be a good role model for my nieces and nephews (when I remember); I've been giving them books and book cards for Christmas gifts, forwarding them academic info stuff, encouraging them in their hard work and study (though remembering to actually praise them when they succeed at something, as that was pretty rare in my family upbringing) and so on. So while I wouldn't mind more contact with my nephew and niece, I really don't want to be interacting with my niece on facebook, where she is constantly, flirting with boys and trash-talking about girls. I feel like I'd be reinforcing her worst tendencies.

Sigh. But what could be more cold than refusing a friend request from a relative who you are, in fact, speaking to regularly? This isn't going to be pretty.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

My life is not very interesting

Sure, I had a nice little relaxing weekend --- the kind of geeky relaxation involved in reading lots of books. And they were books I had not read before and knew nothing about. But I cannot tell you all about them since they are what I am using for my teaching.

So, instead I am going to give you a cat picture. Isn't he cute? He happened to be doing this tonight as I was prepping, so this pic is hot off the presses for you.

In other news, I have finished my prep for tomorrow, and therefore moved on to prep and other crap due for the next day. That doesn't count the job app crap that I still need to get started on. Sigh. This may mark the beginning (really, continuance) of a long period of light blogging. I'd promise to bring you all something interesting but I have already promised myself not to spend entire days in front of the computer, so I will be actively trying to spend my free time nowhere near you and the laptop. Sorry. You'll just have to deal.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Random Friday Pleasantness

I had a drive-by compliment on the way to the bus stop this morning. A woman --- black, with close-cropped platinum-blond hair --- hollered from the far side of the street "I just have to stop and say how absolutely stunning you look" from the driver's side of a sedan. It totally made my day.

I did not pour coffee on myself or my nice teaching clothes, but this may have been partly because when I got to the corner coffee place the espresso machine died right after I placed my order. I got a refund because I don't like regular coffee, and then had to wait to be caffeinated until I got on campus. The lack of coffee may have contributed to the mobile compliments though, I suppose, since it was impossible to spill it all over myself when I didn't have it.

It's Friday! Yay! That means I can spend the whole weekend prepping for class and hastily compiling another round of job applications instead of obsessively prepping for class and then teaching it. Whoo-hoo!

Unfortunately I've been having trouble getting to sleep --- a kind of anxious excitement --- on the nights before one of my classes, but not the other. I can't tell if that's something about the courses, or the fact that after a night of almost no sleep and mentally rehearsing things, I'm just wiped out for the next night and can't manage to worry myself awake, but I sure hope this is a first week back type of thing.

In fact I came home to day and fell asleep at the exact time I was supposed to be going to my exercise class. The nap was pleasant, although the exercise would've probably been pretty good too. Now, having woken up in time for a late dinner, I'm nice and alert and may have completely messed up any hope of a normal sleep shedule.

I just watched Thank You for Smoking, which was ok. It was nice. Pleasant. I liked it, and I kept thinking about how well it would work to teach in a writing course, as it's all about the dangers of rhetoric and spin, but I just wouldn't be happy watching it again in a class, which is why I feel it was ok, even though I quite liked it as I was watching it. Does that make any sense? A really good movie has rewatching value, sometimes I even want to watch the whole thing over again immediately. I did that a few weeks ago with Brick, which I totally loved. Loved but in a very analytic, studying-the-tricks kind of way (it's kind of an exercise in what makes a noir a noir, nad how to update it), but strangely that doesn't detract from the movie or the pleasures of viewing it at all. And you can see that for a while now I've been on a theme --- catch all the movies I missed in 2005, because for some reason I hardly got out to the theaters for any of the good little stuff. For example, I quite liked Junebug, which is yet another 2005 release that, like Brick, was a little film that went in and out of the theaters before I could really even process that it was there. But lately the very thought of living in 2005, as it were, has become very depressing to me and I may have to go back to some other time frame so that I don't constantly feel old and like I have been living under a rock.

Well that was a long paragraph, wasn't it? What more pleasantness do I have to pass along? I'm not looking at the wiki and am hardly having any despondency about it, which is nice cause I definitely spent a lot of time being depressed at this time last year. And the year before. Now I seem to either have some sort of fatalism or denial. I don't know what's going to happen with that whole job thing but at least I'm not eating my heart out over it every moment. Furthermore, I just drank some hot chocolate, which is much pleasanter than not being depressed about the job martket. (Must keep to my theme!)

My classes look to be shaping up to be a lot of fun. Well, fun and a big question mark of anxiety. It's that whole "I've just started and not gotten into the quarter rhythms yet"; probably knowing I'm the one running the whole show also puts more pressure on and gives me more butterflies than usual. Strangely, I'm liking the last-minute emergency course more than the main one at the moment; I'm not sure if that's because the new topic, which is a slight stretch of my interests, is a refreshing change or what. It could be because I can play youtube clips in that classroom, which is quite the pedagogical temptation, I tell you.

And today I walked by an open classroom door and there was a small group of students rehearsing Shakespeare, obviously a group that was going to return back to the main class and perform a scene. I heard the name "Malvolio" and lots of laughter; they were excited and really getting in to it. It made me happy, really made me feel at home, like I was in the right place. Maybe not as happy as a drive-by compliment, but, close.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Like a Hamster to Its Wheel, Like a Baby to Its Bottle

Why is it that when I come home from school a bit earlier than dark, with the express purpose of gathering together all the crap I need to do and work on it in the comfort of my own living room, I go straight to my laptop and open it up and ---whooosh!--- I allow myself to be sucked into reading and commenting on blogs for eons?

I mean, I know I am supposed to be doing items 2 through 47 on my to-do list. All of which are due tomorrow. Why do I go straight to my after-dinner mint, my relaxation and unwinding pastime, when clearly I am not done with my actual work?


Ok, now I'm off to read whatever I am supposed to be teaching tomorrow and then figure out what the hell to say about it. Because, like the brilliant planner I am, I spent the bus ride home today reading the book for my Friday class.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Global Theory Warming Deniers

Recent studies have revealed that, as seasons in, for example, Spain, get longer and drier, the olive trees there flower earlier and disperse their pollen for much longer time periods, extending the duration of allergy season for local sufferers.

In a similar fashion, my own extensive research reveals that the academic job search season is also extending far beyond the borders of its usual timeline, beginning earlier and earlier each fall and pushing further beyond New Years each succeeding year; we can expect that soon this will be a "season" in name only and academic job candidates will be applying to permanent jobs all year long, laboring under an application workload equivalent to teaching a course each quarter.

The reason? Global warming. You don't believe me? Countless scientists, academics, and policy makers have all come to the definitive conclusion that global warming is a real and immediate threat, but hardly any attention has been paid to the effects of global warming on the fragile ecosystem of the gentle and threatened species, homo academicus.

These unassuming creatures are in fact highly territorial, and the increasing loss of their habitat has driven this usually staid species to nomadic behavior, manifested in the phenomena of "visiting positions" and "freeway flyers." Competition in their extremely crowded ecological niches has led to the near-elimination of the more exotic subspecies such as the literary theorists and gender-studies specialists, while evolutionary pressures have driven increasing numbers to adapt to comp and technical writing.

(two postmodern theorists in the dwindling habitat of an ivory tower.)

Although not as cute as other endangered species, academics are in fact a "keystone species" vital to the health of their local communities, and as such function as a canary in the coal mine. Normally a very stable and settled group, academics provide education for some members of their local population while consuming the goods and services given off by others in the habitat. Further, the unique manner of their work enables them to participate in the activities that make for a healthy ecosystem, including service with area public schools, local governance, and a variety of charity and activist work. When academics are forced to travel huge distances or to invest massive amounts of work into job searches to survive on subsistence level wages, their involvement in community service and democratic participation declines, including their consumption of local goods, which can lead to a buildup of unconsumed goods, contributing to a stagnant economy.

So what does all this have to do with global warming? As you can see from the highly technical graph below, I have a graph. (Graph courtesy of the Association of Departments of English, which has more detailed job statistics recently posted at their web site.) This graph shows that the fluctuations in academic habitats (notated as "tenure track" habitats, the top line) highly correlates with the fluctuations in global temperature (see the bottom line).

We must act now to reverse these drastic trends and to ensure that our future generations will be able to share in the glorious sight of herds of academics on the fruited plains, plus reap the benefits they bring to a stable economy. I urge our new president to take bold and decisive action, setting up a series of "academic preserves" where academics can teach, research, and contribute to the community without worrying about insufficient wages. These preserves can be built by infusions of resources into already existing ivory tower habitats, whether public or private, and at far less cost than this year's earlier bailout of Wall Street CEOs, who are neither a small nor an endangered population. Just don't make the application process too baroque, ok? I'm a little tuckered out from all the prior ones.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The only time I will appreciate UC bureaucracy

Well, all of that socializing and running around actually talking to people must have used up my last reserves of human decency and non-grouchiness, because I am back at my place. I left bright and early this morning even though my entire extended family had come over to celebrate new year's eve and were all planning on spending the day together, and despite the fact that I think I made my mom cry by packing and leaving first thing in the morning.

But I was weirdly antsy and anxious and am simultaneously freaked out about my teaching and completely bored --- nay, sick --- of everything at my parents' house. They drive me nuts. And I can't work there. I especially can't fix the problems with my book orders and readers while there if it involves copying alternative stuff. So I feel bad that I spent a total of 6 minutes with my sister in law all break and hardly spent any time with my nieces and nephews and was grumpy and short with them besides. You know, being around my family brings out all sorts of money anxiety and depression about my fucked-up stalled nonexistent career. And I realize that I have all these memories of being very close with my nieces and nephews and them being very cute and small, but actually they have grown up and I have been bitchy and distant from them for about 3 or 4 years now because I am usually at my most stressed and overwhelmed when I see them and my parents' place gets on my last nerve.

But! I have been distracted from the point of my post! I was feeling like crap, trying to clean my apartment and plan everything for next quarter and actually deal with my finances, which are beyond bleak at the start of this new year. I have been putting off dealing with getting my student loan stuff together and setting up automatic debit and whatnot ---- in fact, I have been avoiding many things because I just can't deal with figuring out the loan payments, or even looking at the actual final number I borrowed. But tonight I finally logged in to the website, only to discover that my university didn't bother to notify anyone I was no longer at half-time status until almost November! Whee! I was supposed to be done and counting down my grace period back in September for a Jan. start date, but the website claims I won't have to start paying things back until May! This is wonderful ---- I just need to haul ass on the second leg of the job season and maybe I'll even have something lined up by the time I have to start paying it back. That way I'll be able to make payments (or at least look at the payment numbers) without feeling like I am having an anxiety attack.

Ooh, and I need to consolidate the loan at a lower rate because there are actually some low rates! Yay! Go Feds with your cutting of interest rates! I'll set that up, along with an automatic debit thingy, tomorrow, as soon as I switch banks. (Fucking bank with your aggregated $26 a month worth of fees! I saw you raising things right and left in my last statement! What are you feeding those Pony Express Ponies, anyway, gold? Fuck off! In celebration of the new year I'm hunting down a free checking account even if it is such a pain in the ass to switch over.)

I wish everyone reading this a similar reprieve through the accidents of bureaucracy. May your 2009 be shiny and bright!