Friday, June 29, 2012


Awwww yeah, that's the throes of abandon there! Timido has thrown off all his inhibitions and is completely without worries there.

I like it when I'm writing (*cough* or internet surfing, true) on the couch and he curls up next to me and just chills out instead of hiding under the bed or in the kitchen cabinets all day. After laying there like this for a while, he usually either balls up and attaches himself to my leg and purrs (awww) or he sprawls out and gets really comfy like in the first picture.

See, doesn't that look relaxed? Don't you wish your days were like this? (That's the Other Cat blurred in the background there. Timido is not a contortionist.)

I hope you are having a good summer. Mine would be better if I could get my cats to revise my book for me.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Discretion is the better part of --- oh never mind

Recently I went to one of the local poetry readings --- not because I thought there would be good local poetry (there wasn't) but because I wanted to see people before absolutely everybody scattered for the summer, and I am still, fitfully, trying to get on the good side of a certain clique of profs who are a bit of a boy's club. And I am soooo glad that there are postdocs here! I've said in the past it has been nice to have people to hang out and complain with who have no investment, really, in the department and are feeling culture shock. That way I can talk about the positive sides to the profs who have made a life here and not get them all defensive.  Also this means I have people in the same academic "life stage" as me and I am not hanging out with the MA students.

Now, our MA students are nice, many of them more my age than just out of undergrad, and are interesting people. However, they are not really socialized to the profession. Or, any professional norms, really.  I have chatted with them in the faculty lounge and been sociable, but distant. And I have wondered if I should expand my social network a bit and hang out with them more regularly. Nope. My first instinct was right.

At this poetry reading (at the local hippie bar/music venue/"coffee shop" that doesn't actually serve fresh coffee/oasis in the wilderness --- you have heard me talk about its benefits and drawbacks multiple times since I have been here), I listened, hung out with a postdoc and her partner, and then afterwards drifted inside to chat with a couple of the professors at the bar (these are English dept. people, though I have been introduced to quite a few biology profs at this bar. Dunno where the other departments go for a drink). One of the MA students came up. This was a painful performance to watch, made ---- well, neither more nor less painful but rather infused with a sort of inevitability and impending doom ---- by the fact that this MA student earlier had asked my name and if I was a postdoc and then hit on me, and then, after discovering that my fellow postdoc was not in fact an undergrad (and thus only worth brushing off) but a postdoc, had hit on her too, despite her wedding ring. There was much awkwardness involved.

The awkwardness continued, as I have already explained, with the same sort of slow impending doom of watching the Titanic steam toward the iceberg, as I watched this MA student alternately fawn on and insult these professors, and just have no clue how to talk to adult colleagues and sometime bosses. One should never expand on the crappy-ness of one's MA program to some of the people running it. Complaining that it would be better "of course, if you offered more grad classes" does not, in fact, help your position. Nor does bragging about the (low-ranked) PhD programs you were accepted into, while at the same time insulting entire fields of literature (studied by a prof and a postdoc at the table) help you dig out of the hole.

I don't know about what the profs were thinking, but I was wondering a) what it would be like to teach an entire PhD program of misfits and b) if this MA student would ever grow out of this foot-in-mouth syndrome. I had this very blank, plastic smile plastered on my face; I felt the most fake and Californian I ever have. But really, I had to keep my teeth clenched so that "wow, are you always this much of a dick?" didn't pop out of my mouth unexpectedly. I hoped that I came off as slightly more collegial and mature by comparison.

Things got worse when the student started telling us in great detail how drunk he was and purchased a pitcher for the table, telling us that ________ was better quality than anything we had ordered. "That is what I ordered," I said. "Here, top me off." The MA student talked some more about how he was drunk. By this point the profs were completely silent, almost frozen, and I was making bits of small talk with the other postdoc and kind of listening with abject fascination and horror to the monologue coming out of this guy's mouth. After dissing the company's ability to hold alcohol and the quality of the dept. literary magazine, which I guess he helped edit this spring, he asked if someone could drive him home.

"Yeah I could drive you home," said one of the professors. "____ street? Yeah, I could --- that's not too far from my place." I asked where that was (isn't it within walking distance?) and we all got off on a lively conversation about the stupidness of the streets and navigation around here, and suddenly, when we looked around, the MA student was gone.

"Where did he go? Has anyone seen ____? Hey, could --- someone should check the back, the bathrooms, see if he's passed out or something back there" said the professor. Nobody moved. The postdoc's partner reached out and emptied the last of the free pitcher into his glass.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Senior cats and junior colleagues

Not, as in, seƱor cats, which of course they are, but as in senior, as in they are getting old. :( Nooooo!

I took them to the vet and I guess everything was ok (one peeve is that they put me and the cats in the exam room but when they take them into the back to draw blood, they do most of the exam there so I don't get to watch and ask questions as they go, grumble.), but the vet noted that as of next year they would be considered "seniors," and she wanted to do some more extensive checkups on them then. And they need teeth cleanings, which is also freaking me out from a cost and a worry-about-my-kitties-under-anaesthesia standpoint. Yes, I am the type of person who mourns my cats' impending old age a year early. It's who I am. Deal with it.

One of the other postdocs mentioned that teeth cleanings are not completely necessary, especially the way the vet talked about it (more about tartar than any infections or rotten teeth as of yet) and she said that just having teeth pulled later was a cheaper way to go. Yeah, I replied, but they are so good at making me feel guilty at the vet's, like I am somehow a terrible caretaker if I don't do everything they suggest. This postdoc had worked as a vet assistant before going to college, and she pointed out that vets know this and are very good at working on your guilt to "upsell" procedures, procedures that would have seemed utterly ridiculous and unnecessary just a few years ago when pets were not seen as substitute children and anthropomorphized the way they are now. Which is true and yet I am contemplating getting my cats' teeth cleaned come fall when they have their "dental special."

In related news, the cats have gained weight, and I want to track the food I give them much more carefully and get them to lose some of the weight. Of course, I too have been circling around the same five pounds or so on the scale and could do with losing it myself (well and more than that, actually). Putting all of us on a diet at the same time has caused problems, however. I don't need hungry cats nagging me for snacks when I am also grumpy and hungry. Furthermore I believe that cats have secret mind-rays and can make you hungry when they are hungry (Loquito has a powerful, unblinking stare he uses to get my attention when meowing doesn't work), and this also contributes to my snacking. It's not me, I swear --- it's the cats! They have mind control!

Other than that? Things are quiet and slow around here. I wish I could report massive progress on the book manuscript, but it is inching along. I gave up and played computer games for hours over the weekend, which didn't help me with getting these library books read and returned or the chapter revised, but now I am bored with the games so perhaps I have worked that out of my system. It doesn't help that everyone seems to be gone right now. The few people who are in town keep blowing off or bowing out of my invitations to go places and do things, which makes me feel paranoid that I am one of Those People who is annoying and unpleasant to hang out with. It's also tough when you are the lone single person, as other people are getting their RDA daily people-intake from spouses and kids and whatnot, and would rather chill at home with them than go out and see people in town. Unfortunately, the single postdocs have all left for the summer.

Even more unfortunately (from my standpoint) Angry Anarchist Postdoc got a tenure-track job! So hooray for him! I hope. It is one of those places on the earth I would not want to move to, and frankly, just couldn't navigate as a female alone. The Angry Anarchist constantly slags on how terrible America is (and I quite agree), but I wonder how it will feel being in a completely new and alien culture that doesn't particularly value the "American-ness" he hates or the anarchist philosophies he loves. And I wonder how isolating it will be not speaking the language at all ---- to say nothing about how difficult it will be teaching English literature as a foreign language! Anyway, I looked at those kinds of jobs and did not apply,  and he did, so he knows what he is getting in to. I will miss such a good beer-drinking and hiking companion, though.

I am less than hopeful about the "new class" of postdocs coming in, mainly because there don't seem to be any coming in. The pay is too low, the amount of relocation funding laughable. I am, on the one hand, glad that this is becoming an active problem for the department and it is making them confront the lowness of their pay scale. On the other hand, what does it say about me if I was stupid enough to come here despite the fact that I have dug myself into a financial hole? There might be some who show up, since one prof mentioned they were pushing their negotiation time limit. It would be nice to bring in some new friends for me to hang out with. Especially since The Angry Anarchist is gone and another postdoc is just up and quitting. It would be even nicer if they could throw some more money or fewer courses our way, but I'm not holding my breath. If not for me, then for the cats. Think of the kitties, oh department chair! They need their senior pensions.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Blast from the Past!

So things have been pretty uneventful lately: sitting around, doing some but not enough work on my book manuscript revisions, doing absolutely no exercise and eating too much random crap that is around the house. Things are ok, but could be better.

And then! Wham! Out of the blue! I get a phone call from Dissertation Buddy! Who has bought some crazy book called "How to Revise Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks" and wondered if I would be interested in being her writing partner again. Would I??? Of course! We are going to actually call each other and talk through the various exercises in the book and work through them together. So, more formal and official --- and hopefully more productive --- than when I went through this book on my own. I'm quite glad. Plus, I want to also have a nice phone chat with her and catch up on things and life.

Even cooler? She left me a message because I couldn't get to the phone ... because I was in the middle of doing a yoga session after I don't know how many weeks of not dealing with any exercise. So, things are looking up!

I am excited and jazzed and full of energy --- I don't know if it's the yoga endorphins talking or the Make a Writing Plan! that has me pumped, but I'm feeling good!

The one small bit of bad news is that some of my scholarly books I'm still working my way through didn't get renewed when I just tried to renew them ... I guess I have been holding on to these ILLs too long ... so I need to get down to it and plow through these puppies as soon as possible. I may even hunt up my hat and my sunscreen and go read them out by the pool! Aww yeah.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Summer Meme!

Yay! People are taking the meme! Hooray!

1. What is your favorite part of summer?

Picking raspberries off mom's raspberry bushes in the back yard and eating them right there. Or alternately, the way it goes forever before getting dark in the evenings, and how it becomes this lovely hazy purple glow for a long time before getting full dark.

2. What's your favorite quintessentially summer food? Least favorite?

Mmm, barbecue chicken on the grill! Although corn on the cob and ice cream are also delicious options. Watermelon leaves me kinda meh.

3.  Best beverage to beat the summer heat:

If I don't have to actually make it, fresh lemonade is the most awesome thing in the world. You could also add a little somethin-somethin if it is the right time of day. Ooh, related --- have I told you about the awesomeness that is a Pimm's Cup when down in New Orleans? Mmm.
4. Least favorite/most annoying thing related to summer?

 I could be obvious and say the bugs, but another peeve is trying to sleep when you can't get the house cool enough.

5.  Pick one: the lake /the beach. Why?

There appear to be no Tahoe fans amongst my circle in the blogosphere. I will go along with them and choose the beach, if it has really soft warm sand and I can take a nap.

6. Most amusing summer vacation trip you've ever taken?

When I was about to start college my grandmother messed up her car, so my family got together and got her a new little civic. My cousin and I got to drive it across the country to her in my first without-parents road trip. It was awesome, and involved us spending way more time than we were allowed to by my parents reconstructing various famous movie scenes (Forrest Gump, any Western shootout ever) across the southwest. I only have half the pictures, unfortunately.

7. Most ridiculous/cringe-inducing/blush-provoking summer outfit you have seen? (Bonus points if you yourself were wearing it!)

Just the other night I saw a woman who should not have been wearing a skin-tight maxi dress without a bra. FYI, people, maxi dresses are for the tall and lean types, not those with huge sagging double-ds and a potbelly.

8. Your absolute dream summer afternoon would be:

At the park, grilling and hanging out with friends as all the Mexican families around us celebrate birthdays and quincineras and you can smell the tri-tip and the tamales and hear all the kids laughing and running around with dogs. Hopefully someone shelled out for a mariachi band.

Remember, if you want to play, leave a comment so I can go see your answers!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Whatever happened to memes, anyway? Or, the Summer Question Meme

I'm bored. And nobody is posting fun things. And over here, CK asked, first of all, "hey, what the hell should I write about?" and secondly, "hey, what ever happened to the meme? why doesn't anybody post those anymore?" Or, words to that effect. So, I thought: hmm. Could I start a meme? Everyone in the world is officially tagged to answer the following questions:

1. What is your favorite part of summer?

2. What's your favorite quintessentially summer food? Least favorite?

3.  Best beverage to beat the summer heat:

4. Least favorite/most annoying thing related to summer?

5.  Pick one: the lake /the beach. Why?

6. Most amusing summer vacation trip you've ever taken?

7. Most ridiculous/cringe-inducing/blush-provoking summer outfit you have seen? (Bonus points if you yourself were wearing it!)

8. Your absolute dream summer afternoon would be:

If you answer, leave a post with a link in the comments so I can go read all about it! I'll post my answers tomorrow.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Uh, is it June already? I already blew my first self-imposed deadline, which was to finish revising chapter 1 of the book manuscript. Heh. That was wildly unrealistic. I'm not sure I can even promise to get through it all by the end of the month when I head off to mom and dad's. This is discouraging, as I know I will not have revising time in the fall, what with four classes and the job market, and yet I really wanted to be able to say on the cv that the manuscript was out at a press. But, it is what it is. I can't look too closely at the timelines and the amount of work that needs to be done without becoming discouraged and quitting, so blinders it is!

The problem is that clearly this is the worst chapter of the dissertation. It is the first chapter, and I didn't really know my argument yet. Worse, I didn't really understand how to insert myself into the scholarly conversation, literary-wise (I have copious citations to prove everything historical including proof that the year I am discussing actually happened --- well, almost that extensive of overkill), and what's even more horrifying, I did a shoddy job documenting that conversation. It's not really clear from my chapter where I am engaging with other peoples' arguments, particularly where I was obviously inspired and riffing off of someone's claim. So, agreeing with a little fillip of difference. That is becoming clear to me as I go back through my booknotes for these critical texts and I am very worried, so I'm having to go back to the actual scholarship and reconstruct. It may be ok, if unclear, to have a sudden rant about something in the chapter without explaining that it is a vehement disagreement with X or Y critic, but a passage of brilliant insight that is not acknowledging that it is very closely drawing from W or Z critic is, if not plagiarism, not acknowledging that one is standing on the shoulders of giants.

The problem is, who remembers what submerged affiliations and arguments one was having with criticism back in 2003? Not only am I having to track down and read tons of crap (well, interesting, well-written crap) that people published at the end of the 00s (despite my telling them to STOP PUBLISHING ANYTHING ALREADY --- see), I am combing back through the "classics" and criticism that I had already grappled with once. Ah well. It will be a better chapter for it. It just has to be done. (And to say, "well your first dissertation chapter just shouldn't have sucked, so there!" isn't really realistic either, now is it?)

And it shows what I was terrified about actually pulling off --- the historical background --- and not, because I didn't cite a single critic unless they used the word "nosepicking," which was pretty much nobody when I first started with this author. The idea that I should acknowledge the people who shaped my general understanding of the text? Totally absent from the footnotes. Heh.

All of this reviewing is complicated by the fact that Postdoc City doesn't have much of a library. So I ILL a lot, and then get caught up in something else, and then it is the weekend and the library is not open, and etc. etc. I can't tell if this is significant or not, but Postdoc City library seems to have a lot of Peter Lang, Edward Mellen, and Palgrave books published in my field. I don't know if this is saying something about University presses no longer publishing books or edited collections in my field or and these presses are taking up the slack or if Postdoc City college has just decided that it's not fancy enough to order the snazziest of scholarly tomes, but it's interesting. It's also kinda heartbreaking to see that consistently, the articles in these edited collections that I find most cutting-edge and interesting are by people listed as postdocs or lecturers or postgrad fellowship people in, say, 2007 and 2008, and looking them up now, none of them are in tenure-track positions yet. Yeah, I'm not going to think about that too much either. I'll just slap some blinders on my blinders there.

Probably this says something about getting back in there and revising the dissertation immediately so you can send it off to a press without having to do a ton of catch-up work to get it up to date, but I can totally see why I reread this chapter and went ick! and decided to procrastinate by writing and publishing something else (to be fair, I also decided to quit academia twice and decided to spend 4-5 months of full-time job searching each time, and just never landed anything, so the timeline for graduating and revising the book is complicated). At least reading all this new stuff that's come out is fun. I think I have made it through all the book-type material now and will now switch over to articles. I prefer reading print books, definitely, and yet whenever I click on the "get article" button and it points me to Postdoc City's physical stacks instead of a scanned JSTOR or Project Muse pdf I groan: what, I have to go on campus and find that now, and then figure out how to either copy or scan it? Bleargh!

Anyway I think now I will eat some leftovers, and then try to stir some of this criticism into my chapter (without having it make a big mess like when I try to stir berries into the cake batter) and then I will go to the grocery store. Just like I hoped, the next coupon they sent me was for blueberries!