Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I guess there's an upside to being locked in a room for 8 hours

Although at several points during the day I felt exhausted and so wanted to go home and take a nap.

Got there promptly at 8 am, and since I had been too tired to finish grading/commenting on all the drafts the night before, I hauled ass on my grading, even though my first conference wasn't until 10. I have officemates, also conferencing, so I was using a sorta storage-closet-slash-meeting-room-slash-other people-use-it-as-a-temporary-office all day. I was feeling pretty stir-crazy by the end of the day. But! The upside is that there was *nothing* else to do, so I pushed on through all of tomorrow's drafts ---- had a couple no-shows, and all of the meetings ran short, so I had spare time. And I still had time in the afternoon, so I went back to grading that big honkin' stack of midterms I got Monday.

See? There is something to the "prison method" of to-do list productivity.

But.  I was feeling great about all that work, but then I looked at what I have left to do this week --- I need to get all those midterms finished and back, and I have both the conferences and my other classes meeting tomorrow, and I have to grade all the drafts for Thursday, and I have a bunch of job apps coming due and other stuff on Friday, and I still have to prep classes for everything. Gah! Now I don't feel like I've accomplished anything at all!

Tomorrow's conferences are sandwiched between my other classes, so I think there's going to be more running amuk and less grading. Luckily I have another "prison" day on Thursday. Yay?

I would say "just shoot me know," but instead I will count down the minutes to break.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Post-Chicken Complications

The day after I roasted the chicken --- or maybe two or three days later? --- I followed the recipe from this website and popped a can of tomatoes and all the chicken pulled off the bones and a bunch of spices that I just eyed the measurements for in to a saucepan and boiled it away for maybe 20 minutes. And it turned out quite tasty! Though I notice now, looking at the site, that he caramelized the onions with brown sugar, and that sounds lovely, wish I'd tried it.

However, today I went to roast up some potatoes and beets, and as soon as I started to preheat the oven, lots of black smoke came out the vent. That freaked me out. I hadn't even put new food in there yet. So I turned on my fan on high, and opened the window, and periodically opened the back door and waved it open and shut, all the while watching for potential creatures entering (luckily it's not mosquito season yet). and basically just suffered through it while the veggies were roasting. By the end of the time, regular steam was coming out instead of black smoke, but it doesn't look clean in there by a long shot. And I spilled some olive oil when taking out the pan.

So I went and looked up what kind of oven I have (the apartment people didn't leave me a manual) and found the manual on line. And I am totally creeped out by the health warnings they give for running the auto-clean cycle --- basically, you need to be there in case the thing catches fire, but you should have all your doors and windows open, for about three hours, and oh yeah small birds tend to die or get sick if they are in the same room, so be sure to remove all pet birds to another room or even from the house completely. Um. I am sure that anything that kills off small birds will still be doing a number on my body, and my cats' bodies, and I don't like the idea of running the autoclean cycle at all. Besides, what would I do to prevent the cats from running out one of those open doors? Yeah, I don't like the potential health hazards one bit.

But. Black smoke was pouring out my oven, you know? And it smells like a roast chicken in here, even though I was cooking vegetables. I also heard something once about a rental unit catching fire because the landlord never had anyone clean the oven and never checked if old tenants cleaned before they moved out and all the grease in there started a fire. So I think I might need to clean it --- any thoughts or advice would be appreciated!

Likewise any thoughts on how to clean my dishwasher, since the pan came out pretty clean looking and feeling once I ran the washer, but now the entire bottom of the washer is greasy and beige. I've run it twice since the chicken pan, I think, and I don't think it's getting any better. And I know from undergrad what happens if you put hand dish detergent in a dishwasher (heh heh my silly roommate's boyfriend --- it looked like an I Love Lucy episode in there!) so I'm kind of at a loss as to how to clean it.

Yes, I am a total paranoid weirdo who overthinks everything while cooking. It's not gonna change. Luckily I have spent years on learning about chopping up and cooking various vegetables, so I can make a lot of very healthy stuff without much thought or consulting of cookbooks, the internet, or various friends.

I did get a lot of grading done today. Maybe I'll be able to post a semi-interesting, semi-academic post one of these days instead of stories about chicken.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Say what? Chicken butt.

What's that? Chicken fat.

And here is the final roasted fowl from yesterday. Complete with yummy roasted potatoes.

They're from my phone, so not so sharp or good quality. I have the nice camera but I'm lazy enough that I went for the phone. Still haven't picked apart the rest of the leftovers and made burrito filling yet, but will probably do that tomorrow. Will let you know how it goes!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Well, that was kind of ... gross

So there were giblets and crap inside the chicken. And I cut into the chicken and that part of it looked fine, so I turned off the oven and let it rest, and then discovered when I took the bird apart that no, it wasn't actually all the way cooked through. Possibly because of the damn giblets. So I cut what looked nice and done off and left a lot of not-fully cooked meat on the carcass.

According to this video, I did everything wrong --- didn't truss the bird, didn't put lemons in the cavity (or take out giblets) or slip my flavorings under the skin.

And it got so smoky/steamy in here! I was running the fan once I took it out and everything and still it is nasty and my eyes hurt. I tried opening the back door but it is all cold and wintery out. Maybe I have to run the fan thingy the whole time the bird is cooking?

I can see why you'd want to invest in a regular roasting pan with rack. And a meat thermometer. Not sure if I cared enough about the result to invest in the tools. But cookie racks are only partially useful, let me tell you. The sides held in all the grease and stuff fine, but because it was very heavy and full and the cookie sheets are not all that reinforced, the pan wanted to torque or twist when I pulled it out of the oven. I was very careful, and lucky, but I almost lost a lot of hot grease all over my kitchen floor, and that would not have been fun to clean up.

Speaking of the grease, what do I do about that? Is it like bacon grease and you should never never put it down the sink because it will clog everything? I poured off a lot of grease and stuffed it in the fridge. Now what? I'm hoping it will solidify and be easy to throw out ---- I want to keep that tupperware bin because it is small enough to fit nicely in my lunch bag, so I will be pissed if I need to throw away the whole thing. The cookie pan is in the dishwasher as we speak and I'm hoping it will be clean or at least mostly clean once it's done. By the way, is it true that, as some of the cooking web sites I've just looked at say, I can never use it for cookies/baking again because it will always be greasy and chickeny? Thanks a lot.

So my lemon-oregano roasted chicken recipe from Fast Easy Fresh involved potatoes tucked all around the base of the bird and those turned out awesome! Soft and also crunchy on the edges, and soaked up the taste of the chicken fats and oils and was just delicious. The chicken? It was meh. You know, I only eat it every few weeks, since I don't cook meat at home, and my parents have been on the reduced-fat-and-salt old-people diets for most of my life, so I'm just so not used to eating the skin or the dark meat. Once you slip the skin off it doesn't really have much taste at all. (The last time I went to the Greek festival I had grilled lemon chicken there and the skin was the best most wonderful part! But this time neither the skin nor the chicken itself had that great lemony flavor.)

And after having to constantly fight my cats and get the whole damn mess cleaned up right away so they didn't get into trouble, I offered them some cooked pieces and they turned up their noses! Why they want to get at the carcass and try to put their paws in the pan full of grease but not eat some nice meat bits in their bowl, I don't know.

Dealing with all that cleanup/carcass chopping and tossing business, I don't know that it was worth it. Oh wait --- it was free. Yeah, still might have not been worth it. Maybe I should have gone for the veggie burgers. We'll see if I like my plan for recreating the leftovers --- I may even try making my own tortillas.


I got a nifty coupon from my local grocery store in return for signing up for their healthy shopper program. Last January. I got that first of the emails I was supposed to get a couple weeks ago. But I'm not upset; it's not like this is something that really matters to me.

So now I have a chicken in my house.

It's just sitting there, being a chicken. Right now it's staying in my fridge. What the hell do I do with it? I'm trying to read some instructions on how to roast a chicken and am getting all confused and worried. What have I gotten myself into? I think I could handle it if it were already cut up into parts.

Hmm. Maybe I should have gone for the free veggie burgers after all. This may be out of my league.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Run over by a cold.

Well, I think it's a cold, since the other postdocs haven't met all this semester as some sort of crud has been passed through our ranks, one by one, but it feels like I was run over by a Mac Truck. I did not sleep well last night, and today I am stuffy and muddle-headed and achy and cold. Bleah.

Also,  I thought this was the Weekend of Neverending Grading, as I really need to catch up on all those homeworks and quizzes and a couple big assignments I just got, but actually it is the Weekend of Applying to all the Community College Jobs, it seems. I've done four and I have two more that are partially done over there on the pile, but I have to write up new things for those guys and I'm not at that state of mental alertness anymore. Sadly, this hasn't made my apply-out pile any smaller, just gotten me up pretty much through the end of Feb. That means I will spend all week grading things and next week it will be time to shovel off a bunch of applications again. Sigh. Triple sigh. You'd think I could get ahead. It's not anything like rolling a rock up a hill; much more like trying to shovel yourself out of quicksand.

I need a nap. I thought I had something else to report or something mildly more interesting to say, but I can't think of it any more. I need more cokes and cold medicine. I'm caught up on the laundry. We might get more snow in a couple days. Nope, none of those were the thing  I wanted to pass along. Ah well.

A nap, then I will decide if I should apply to more things or grade more comp homework. What an exciting weekend!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


I thought life would be easier once I finished pushing a rock up the hill every day. Thing is, that can often be done in the comfort of one's home.

Full-time teaching can be an exercise in more than just mental agility, you see. Thankfully, I now have spare copies of my comp textbook and other textbook that I can just leave at home all the time, freeing up space in my bag and weight off my back. The Shorter Norton Anthology I used in grad school is about three editions out of date, but I've taught this class before. If the reading isn't there I can wing it and prep off of previous powerpoint slides.

The only drawback to having a school edition and a home edition of books is that sometimes you forget and make notes to yourself in the margins, or leave helpful post-its to flag important passages, only to glance ruefully at the unmarked textbook you pull off the office shelf the next morning: Argh, damn!

I'm glad I'm not carting around three or four bricks sets of books every day any more, but it hardly seems to make a difference, as, like kipple, the sheer quantity of stuff I need to schlep back and forth between school and home is constantly growing.  It's amazing.

I need to eat less. Or invest in smaller tupperware, since when I take ordinary leftovers in as my lunch, I pack the lunch bag so tight it bulges, and then have the near-impossibility of cramming a lunch sphere into my shoulderbag. But these are long days, you know? It's cheaper to pack snacks and sodas ... just not logistically feasible.

That's to say nothing of the finished, half-finished, and completely ignored grading I routinely cart home, promising to work on it, only to cart it back the next morning, promising to work on it right before my classes. Am I expecting a medal for finishing the relay? Am I expecting the homework to slowly "cure" into graded homework, much like churning butter?

Don't get me started on the random informative papers and/or flyers I need to bring home, then don't actually clean out of the bag. I will stop for a moment though to complain about possibly my weirdest habit ever: every morning, I dress and clean up and put on makeup, and then grab a lipstick. I put on the lipstick or gloss after breakfast and starting to drink my coffee, then throw it in my purse, because I will have no lipstick on by the time I actually teach class. I never actually "touch up." Every month or so, I clean out an enormous pile of lip sticks, lip gloss, chapstick, and pots of color from my purse, take them upstairs, and pile them in the bathroom. Then the process begins again. Sometimes the reverse process happens through the accumulation of dry-erase markers that I then deposit on the front table where I leave my keys. The eternal exchange, the slow transfer of lip sticks for dry-erase pens might be the ultimate example of sisyphean labor, or a comforting demonstration of the Law of Conservation of Matter. I leave it for you to decide.

If I could get all of this crap into my bag, things might work out all right. But it seems that no matter what I have planned for class that day, no matter how few classes are actually meeting, I'm going to have to take at least two trips. From anywhere. The exigencies of weather mean that I get out of my car while juggling two bags, a purse, an umbrella, a travel mug of coffee, and a spherical lunch bag that will neither stay put in a bag nor hang from my wrist --- maybe I should just kick it across campus; I've certainly dropped it enough when it squicks out of the shoulderbag like a greased pig when the barn door's been left open --- and all of this frantic dropping and slipping and cussing and fumbling is with gloves on, since they've given up on regular rain here and have upgraded, according to the weather service, to "ice pellets." Isn't that hail? Snow-hail? It's snow-aining? Rainowing? Cold and slippery and intermittently painful, that's what it is. I am inventing entire new book's worth of profanity while juggling hot coffee, an umbrella, and multiple bags (along with the greased pig) in my bemittened hands. Someone in their infinite wisdom put a "quick retract" button on the handle of the umbrella right where I hold it, too, so often I have to stop and put everything down and manually re-open it to escape the rainow.

So, yes, I'd like a Sherpa for my birthday. Or maybe I am the Sherpa. Or maybe I'd just like to grow extra arms. Not a Sherpa then but a Shiva. Sounds like a plan.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Postdoc flexibility

The much-lauded "flexibility" involved in a postdoc or adjunct position, of course, is all on the institution's side. My flexibility --- or more precisely, my stability, as I think pretty much every adjunct would take the guarantee of a certain number of future classes as a tradeoff over the flexibility --- has to come into play about now.

Sigh. I don't know what to do. Basically, my Intro to Fruit Studies class is actually a huge, much-coveted reward for the adjuncts here, who really like teaching it. I didn't even know this when I mentioned, at my arrival, that I would like some teaching experience in it --- another invisible privilege of being higher in the hierarchy than the adjuncts. My teaching it means that the course gets covered by someone with a grad certificate and 18 grad level credit hours (which is important to accrediting bodies, in case you didn't know) instead of someone who has previously taught it but has only a HS credential or is currently getting an English MA. --- Most of our adjuncts are former HS teachers or current students.

Anyway, the Fruit Studies coordinator needs to know, and needs to know now, whether I would like an intro class for fall, to try out the second level course (so 201 instead of 101), or no Fruit Studies, and she needs to know which time slot. I get (all the postdocs get) scheduled before the adjuncts, but the adjuncts are all chomping at the bit and harassing her for a chance at something more fun than intro comp.

Basically, I have to commit to my classes and schedule right now, or tell them that I'm not coming back in the fall.

Here's the thing. I've basically decided that I need to not come back in the fall.

But I don't want to tell them that yet and I can't even quite bring myself to make the decision for sure, because it means giving up on an academic job and that makes me sad.

But I have been looking at my monthly expenses and budgeting, and while I admit I am pretty bad at holding myself to a budget, my pay is only barely covering my necessary expenses and it comes out to less than a basic office or retail job by my parents' house, where you can't fill a position for less than 9 bucks an hour. I think I need to move home, back in with my parents, and begin a nonacademic job search. Siiiiiiiiiigh.

And I think it's hugely important for me to tell my department chair that they aren't paying me enough to make it physically possible for me to stay. Especially since half of the postdocs are going to leave at the end of their first year, because of money and workload, despite the fact that they have no job to move to. And they are having a hell of a time getting anyone new to sign on to this postdoc once they tell them the salary. So I really need to outright tell the chair this rather than just not show up come fall or accept and then back out. That kind of confrontational act, that kind of decision-making where I definitely close an avenue off, really doesn't come easy for me.

But I have four unanswered emails from the temporary Fruit Studies coordinator and I need to respond. Damn that Fruit Studies course! So much more fun than comp! It's making it hard to give up this crappy temporary job! Argh.

By the way, if you look at the google doc of adjunct salaries currently being compiled, my postdoc wages are about the middle of the road, and certainly better than many peoples'.  And I have health care and benefits. But I also have a $246-per-month student loan payment to make, and I can't afford to pay that but let the groceries or the vet bill pile up on the credit card.

Of course, postdoc city school, if you wanted to hire me as a permanent lecturer and have me teach 4-4 for about 40k, or even 35k, I would happily stick around permanently. But I bet that's what you're paying the tenure-track faculty --- I know you pay the full-timers here about 27k and the adjuncts much less than that, and I just can't stick around for those numbers.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

As for an alternate career...

There's a homemade sign posted on the student bulletin boards --- you know, those places where everyone posts flyers for various grad school and ROTC and make quick money at home! type ads. This one is advertising for a heavy metal band singer. The logo is a full-on, early Metallica rip-off, with pentagrams and runes and flaming axes and everything.

Too bad I can't stick my tongue out the way Gene Simmons can. On the other hand, I can scream pretty loud, so I should just go for it.

Instant fame and easy money, here I come!  

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Bullets of ?????

  • I was packing up and leaving my class the other day and saw a sheet of paper left behind. Was it one of my students' essays? I went over and looked and saw it was a composition prompt. All I managed to see before turning away in disgust was: "What is your research question. What audience do you intend to reach." Seriously? Question marks are no longer allowed? I am highly annoyed that people are not modeling actual proper punctuation in their composition handouts --- or maybe they just are terrible writers/editors themselves. Bleah! 
  • Why did I have a terrible night of sleep last night? (punctuation optional.) I don't remember waking up a lot, and I went to bed early, but I was so tired and lethargic when I got up this morning that I skipped my workout and sat around working in my pajamas. (why does that look spelled wrong?)
  • What did I work on this morning, you ask? I wrote a syllabus. For yet another job application. (So, I've only completed one app today.) And I can't get on to my email to send this app, because they have been working on my school computer and when they updated it, they reset my passwords. Of course, they did not warn me that this would be happening when they replaced the computer, those fuckers, so I tried so many times to access my email that it has been locked for the next 24 hours. Seriously? Fuck you! I cannot believe the inanity of this place.
  • I haven't gotten much at all done today, actually. I finally figured out my comp lesson plan but still need to finish re-adapting my stripey class plan (I haven't really changed the syllabus, but going back and forth between T/TH and MWF is making things messy). I still haven't done the other things on my to-do list or grading, either. And I need to put on clothes and wash my face (and hair?) so that I can go out and get more cokes and ingredients for tonight's dinner.
  • Speaking of, I'm going to make (vegan) red beans and rice. And I bought mustard greens in a fit of experimentalness. This should be interesting. Is there any special way I should cook mustard greens? 
  • And this week I get assignments from two classes --- then, I get one class assignment every week from now til finals. And that's not counting homework. I hope this pace will be a doable pace, but I am not at all sanguine about it.
  • And I still don't know what I am doing with my life. What am I doing with my life? Please, tell me. I still haven't even decided if I'm going to stick around here another year or go move back in with family. Ugh. Now I really want to avoid thinking about the whole situation by sleeping. Must keep awake! Must work!