Curse You, DVR

If there is one thing I would change about my family it is their ownership of DVR. If my weary eyes didn't deceive me, my family had something like 90 different programs DVR'd. Really, this is my mother and brother. My father's primary relationship with DVR seems to be asking others to stop recording things so he can watch a program in the other room.

For my mother, the DVR is the modern equivalent of sending newspaper clippings. Every moment of pop-culture advice over the past six months that in any way suggests to my mother something about me has been saved for my pained perusal. For my brother, it's a means of making sure that every inane thought that passes through his head gets heard in real time. We used to get to wait for commercials, when we at least could prepare by going for a drink. But not anymore: just getting into something when a flash of something red moves in the background? Pause that puppy and launch into a sermon about a that one time at camp some guy I never met said something factual about frogs.

You know how I know the DVR is evil? On December 26th, my mother and brother - denied their Christmas madness by my sadness - could contain it no more, and sat down to watch....Santa Tracker.

As I retreated to my hideaway, I asked "We are all over the age of 25, right?" There was no response. I didn't have the remote.

My Father Designs Christmas cards...

I'll spare you all the poem inside, but I will wish you a happy holiday season!

Hope you're all merry and bright and such.

Less angst, more creepy

creepy Santa photos!

Enjoy. Or something.

Worst bar story ever

My oldest friend's father has been diagnosed with cancer. We were, to be sure, the happiest customers at the bar.

For years, we joked we shared a brain. Tonight we were strange opposites. His girlfriend is starting to want children. After nursing his mother through illness and with his father now ill, he fears the burden of responsibility to children: that one day, they'll be in his position. Trying to cheer him up, I told him first how that level of maturity made me sure he'd be good as a father. And we talked about how I'd like kids but can't seem to get past the fears of the things that might actually get me there.

Seriously, didn't trips for Christmas once involve whole moments sans angst?

In the manner of my people...

...I shall drink a little too much, get a little too emotional, and go to bed too early.


Home: four people, five TVs, four dogs.

For whatever reason - call it irony or what you will - my whole day has been inundated with talk about dogs. Three members of my family have asked if I'm planning to get another dog. One person asked me if I read a story about dog fighting. Tonight, my mother found a stray that she wanted to talk about the right thing to do to help.


From the book I brought home to read:

She said, "What are you going to do out at sea?" and I said, "Don't worry about the future."


My parents have been renovating. Tonght I was forced to ask, "There are two buttons on the new toilet. What do they do?"

I feel like my parents' home has become a weird hybrid of "My Name Is Earl" and "Tetsuo II: Bodyhammer."

Go on. Try to reconcile that. Netflix and Advil will help.


And now, to bed.

The Holidays

I'm due to head home for Christmas today, which is not the easiest decision. I'm on edge, and having conversations is an effort.

I debated staying here. Depressing, I know, but less likely to end in argument, as my family inevitably irritates me by the end of a long trip, and I'm usually in a good mood at the start. Who knows where I'll be by the end of this one? But my family has been fraught with illness of late, and it seemed like there was too much potential for regret if I didn't go.

So for now, I'm packing the bag for a late night flight, and hoping I don't get seated next to anyone too chatty.


In an effort to feel a bit more Christmasy, I spent much of last night trying to duplicate an old holiday tape - actually tapes - that I had from my radio days of holiday music by all sorts of old blues and Motown artists (okay, there were some more modern ones in there - Springsteen's "Merry Christmas, Baby" is well worth hearing).

It's been a challenge, mostly because I haven't seen the tapes in about 12 years and can only remember a few of the songs I was thinking of. I am, at the moment, trying to decide which song is more of a holiday imperative: Eartha Kitt's "Santa Baby" or Clarence Carter's "Back Door Santa."


Thanks to all for the warm thoughts in the midst of this calamity. It's helped. I hope you're all enjoying the holiday, whatever your persuasion. Hope that bit of music is the start of a fair thank you.

Assorted Lines from the Journal

The heater in my apartment makes strange creaking noises in the walls. I was to go to a party, but I couldn't. I felt sick. Groups make me tired, even on good days: all that networking and shaking hands and small talk. There was work to do and nothing to come home to, so why leave?

I don't go down the back stairs. I cannot look at the park.

I don't look under the coat I wore, collapsed over all those things. I thought I'd give it away for its proximity, but now I can't stand to lift it.

I try not to sneeze. For whatever reason, you loved that. Each sneeze, a phantom limb.

There's no snow out. Finally, I had something good to say about it: that it gave you a little pleasure to eat once, to run through. Perhaps I am cold enough without it now.

My friends are blooming with babies. Thinking of it in the shower, I coughed out to the steam and the empty room: it's springtime somewhere.

At night, I wake up - less now, but still too often - and reach to your empty spot. Sighing, I repeat to myself that there is work to be done, even if there is nothing to come home to.

Make Of It What You Will...

Perhaps it's a generational difference or perhaps it's the joy of having tenure. It could even have something to do with where one went to school (it was noted to me that all the faculty in my grad program who went to a particular graduate school shared a certain year-round tendency towards red noses and rosy cheeks).

I don't know.

But today, a colleague saw me in the hallway and noted I appeared to be having a rough day. I nodded, not wanting to go into any particular detail, and made some vague excuse about finals week.

They nodded sagely, and ushered me into their office where they pulled from the bottom drawer of their desk a bottle of their finest libation and poured me a cup. It was all terribly "Don Draper," and I'd lie if I said I wasn't grateful for it, particularly as it turned out to be my old libation of choice as well. And it did hearken back to grad school days of alcoholic blended drinks in the office.

I'll assume it means they've accepted me. But still, an odd moment.

Stuck In My Head

A little music for the broken hearted...


The one time I road a horse, my aunt told me to expect to fall off. No rider, no matter how good should always be prepared to fall she said. So if it happens, practice how to land.

Today I am practicing how to walk in the door to an empty apartment.

Tomorrow, I will practice how to talk to people.


Today my dog fell down the stairs; he'd been diagnosed (tentatively, of course, because no one's sure of anything in medicine) with lymphosarcoma. There had been some small hope dangled and latched onto that it might be something viral.

And so you can imagine my shock and horror, discovering today that my dog - my truest companion for nearly a decade - had lost his sight. Every noise scared him. At the pet ER, more small bits of hope were given - maybe a month, maybe two, maybe remission. And all the while, my dog was more scared than I'd ever seen him, sought the center of the room so he wouldn't smack his head into anything even as he started at every noise. When I finally calmed him down enough to get him to lie down, I heard his breathing change: there was a rattle, and he was obviously uncomfortable. I realized why he'd been so antsy the last few nights - he couldn't breathe right when he was lying down.

I sat there with him on the floor for a couple of hours, petting him and trying to work the angles. And all the while, my sad dog, shaky on his feet, unable to find me if I wasn't whispering to him, was trying to make me feel better.

Letting him go wasn't easy. I thought about seeing him when I came in the door. About the way he'd peek over the bed in the mornings, infinitely patient with my laziness. I thought about how he's been the constant for almost a decade, the one thing I always always always looked forward to, who made every day, any day, better. Then I thought about the hours I wasn't home, and what it would be like to be left home in the dark. I thought about pacing the floor, unable to sleep, and not getting to do the things ones loved.

I had to let him go.

As the Term Winds Down...

As a bit of catching up, it turns out that it may not be lymphosarcoma (but it might). It's the pooch, by the way - my family has confined their illnesses to pulmonary embolisms, high blood pressure, diabetes and fainting episodes.

I am beginning to suspect the pup faked the super swollen lymph nodes as a way to get me to cook him sausage every morning. Still, at least he's eating.

The weekend was spent visiting with friends. I'm convinced my friends have cuter babies than other people's friends. And they - the friends, not the babies - seem to make better desserts. A Saturday night eating chocolate baclava, cupcakes, and flan isn't a bad way to spend an evening.

The term's winding down, and I'm debating how best to spend the break. I'm flying home, I think (assuming the pup recovers enough to be kenneled). But I feel like I should be working on some things beyond that. For tonight, though, I'll bake some brownies for the students of the first class at the new job that's winding up this first weird, wild term.

Just So You Know

Added to the list of words I didn't want to learn the real definition of (right up there with "pulmonary embolism" and "heart failure"): "lymphosarcoma."

Seriously, why doesn't medicine have long words for things like "nice ass" or "very congenial"?

Belated Happy Thanksgiving and Such

Dear Readers,
If, in fact, there are still readers here, I want to wish you a belated Happy Thanksgiving. As I've probably said once or twice before, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and this year I took a slight bit of techno-vacation with it.

Why is it my favorite holiday? A story from this year's dinner explains it well. Sitting at a back corner of a big, cobbled together table with some dear grad school friends and other Thanksgiving orphans, the charming Swiss woman to my right asked the charming German woman to my left and me whether there were any Thanksgiving songs. The German said not that she knew of, and I said that's one more thing to be thankful for. There aren't cards for it, songs about it, decorations that HAVE to be put up. My traditions aren't your traditions, and no one really blinks about it.

The charming Swiss woman patted my arm and said she could see why I liked it. Then she offered me more mashed potatoes. She gets it.


Evidently, after I left the celebration to return to my own home to wait out the food-coma, I became quite the topic of conversation.

Earlier in the evening, I noted to my charming German friend that I have accidentally perfected a sort of scruffy orphan vibe that causes people to want to look out for me just a bit. I'm getting invited to lots of dinners and sent home with lots of food. Folks in the department have been e-mailing me links to restaurants and grocery stores and asking if I need anything. And people are trying to fix me up.

In case I haven't said it before, the fix up is particularly distressing. Generally speaking, people are either strongly for or strongly against the fix up. I'm clearly strongly against.

One reason for this is that the logic of the fix up generally works like this: "I like Person A. Person A is single. I also like Person B, and they're single, too! They must meet! And mate! And produce beautiful babies that I will be partially responsible for in that I'll have made it happen but won't actually provide any support for, not even changing a diaper!" The fix up is the relationship equivalent of an unruly child throwing spaghetti at a white wall and coming up with Monet's "Water Lilies."

In part, this desire to fix me up is my own fault: I'm wickedly private, and so even when I'm dating, most of my friends don't know it. Being so private, you can, of course, imagine how thrilled I was to have the topic of my love life become an after-dinner conversation starter. But I also think it owes to the other tendency that seems common to folks in the pro-fix up camp: the certainty that other people's lives can be handled - and enjoyed - like theater.

To try and get the full effect of my fear and distress, imagine this: think of a friend who makes your head hurt. Or one who you have to think really hard to explain their charms. Now imagine they're the one who has decided to fix you up. Without consulting you. About anything. At all.

What is worst about all of this is now, whenever I see anyone present at the dinner, this is now a source of discussion. Except, of course, for the folks fixing me up, who are content to believe that I'm oblivious and naturally don't want my input anyway. It's like being confronted over and over again with a mistake everyone is convinced you'll make before you ever actually come to the choice about it.

Curse my scruffy orphan-like vibes!


And that, dear readers, should catch you up and give you plenty to speculate upon. Perhaps in the coming weeks, I'll get my shit together and start some sort of pool about all of this chaos. In the meantime, enjoy some leftover pie for me!

Stuff I've Been Up To

Lordy, it's almost Thanksgiving, which I love. That also means the term is almost over. I also love that.

It's been maddening - two family members have been juggling hospital stays: one in, the other out. Of course, my family doesn't really speak well to each other, so I've juggled more than a bit of that drama. It hasn't quite died down: pulmonary embolisms are nightmares and they don't get dealt with quickly.

Since last I wrote, I've tilted multiple times with the school's curriculum committee and come out with an approved course. I've also been to another conference where I found one of the secret joys of Twitter: watching sycophants scoop quotes from their leader like pearls. I've been to dinners with senior faculty members, filed my expense reports, asked for more money for a conference next term (and been approved), been evaluated, responded to the evaluation, and written yet another biography.

And I am proud to report that I think I'm getting the hang of it. Now if I could just manage to get some actual research done when I wasn't away at a conference.

Walking to a meeting, my department chair said to me something to the effect of : "They're going to ask you to be department chair, one day." I laughed and was then advised "Of course, tell them no."

Conference thoughts

I don't sleep well when I'm away, and so last night, I lay in bed trying to find the perfect music to put me to sleep. The closest I managed was "Sketches of Spain" by Miles Davis. And tomorrow, I've got a first-thing-in-the-morning presentation which is just lovely, so you know tonight's going to be lovely. Recommendations?

Today, though, what I spent a lot of time doing was thinking about the difference between presentation styles by discipline. Mine tends to do informal presentations, built off notes. Interesting how many focus on reading an entire paper, though. I also got treated to a debate about the relative merits of presentation software. Is Google Presentations really better than PowerPoint or is it just that it isn't made by Microsoft?

Wish me luck!

Reasonable Question

Why do I only get writing done in conference hotels?

Chillin' and writing in Northampton MA after driving out for a conference. And since the I don't get TNT to watch the Spurs game, I guess writing is it.

RBOLove and Hate

  • that I have tilted with the charming folks at curriculum and only made one awkward suggestion about their math skills
  • that I made it through my in-class observation without dropping a single curse-word
  • that I'm off to a nearby conference for the weekend
  • Blueberry Cobbler ice cream
  • the Lose It! iPhone ap (and because the FTC or somesuch say so: no, I'm not sponsored by anyone or getting paid for that): I just hate the gym but this harnesses my own brand of anal-retentiveness, yolks it to my sometimes-love of technology
  • the gym. But I've said that before.
  • that males of a certain age think a spray down of Axe equals a shower. As if men's locker rooms didn't start with some disadvantages smell-wise, Axe takes it to a whole new "if they bottled Victorian hooker sweat" sort of level
  • that I have managed three whole words of writing this term so far. Holy crap, do they love meetings here.

Just a quick test...

Using Blog Press from my phone while I consider the next steps in the online whoring of myself started with the creation of a "professional" Twitter account.

Things I'm pondering: should I switch to Word Press? Where should I put up my "professional" web site? And, of course, what have I, what have I , what have I done to deserve this?

Little Breakdowns

In the hallway tonight, I felt a little panic nibbling around the edges. Naturally, someone stopped me to talk.

The last few weeks have been a lot of little hoop jumping moments, and they've added to the vague sense of distress that I had the wrong idea about what I was being hired to do. There are, I am reminding myself, a few ways to build a department and to handle new hires. You can hire someone who does something your department is lacking. This is what I'd thought was happening. But you can also hire someone who does something similar to what your department or someone in it already does. And, realistically, there's the possibility that you weren't being strategic at all.

So there was some mild discomfort when I discovered the two of the courses I thought I was being hired to teach were already being taught. But I bucked up, little campers, and got on with it. Imagine, though, the horror when I found out today that the other course I'd been developing and shepherding through various hoops and hoopla is being taught in another department.


An economic luxury?

Soon-to-be bureaucratic piƱata?

Oh, how tired I am tonight. If you see anyone coming with sticks, warn me. Or at least stuff me with candy. They shouldn't disappointed.

Three Pointless Confessions

Finally, some understanding of why people claim to like Fall.

Sometimes a quick road trip is just the thing.

There's still no sense to the people who like Winter (I guess Goths have to have a season to enjoy, too), but it's nice to finally have some grasp of the mentality of the elusive Fall lovers.


Long weekend - zero productivity + big car repair = Ah, well!

The only plus side to this is that for the first time in something approaching five years, I was able to afford a big car repair without having to wait for months and give up things like friends and name brand canned goods. We'll call it progress.


Honestly, watching "Heroes" is like sending myself to nerd-conversion camp. Every week, it's like a beating that I've earned for liking comic books. It physically hurts me. And yet, I can't seem to stop watching. I think this may be the equivalent of wearing a hair shirt or self-flagellation. It's like a super-hero train wreck, attempting to set back every moment of mainstream acceptance of anything comic bookish.

And since I'm still stinging over the last 10 minutes of BSG's finale and am feeling a little underwhelmed by "Dollhouse" in Season 2. I need some nerd-hope to latch on to.

Catching Up

I promise, I haven't forgotten the blog. I'm still struggling with scheduling, though at least some of the giant scheduling errors weren't actually mine. Of course, all of this is fueling doubts: if I'm having this much trouble, am I cut out for this job at this place? Or is it just the first term at a new place?


Of course, I've recently been convinced that family is the worst committee I've ever been asked to serve on. The meetings are always painful, the solutions always half-assed and obvious. And as someone pointed out, the work always gets pushed off on the person not in attendance.

My sister has developed blood clots, a few of which are near her lungs. And because of her, shall we say, "slacker status" health care is, of course, an issue, as is how she's going to get things like disability without raising all sorts of red flags. But it's the family questions that are most vexing because my sister and my parents have had such an adversarial relationship over the years.

So you can imagine my irritation when my father called the other evening to tell me that he'd heard that my sister was in the hospital and did I know anything about it. I didn't. And to my surprise, he had no idea of what hospital she was in. My father gave the phone equivalent of a shrug and said he'd wait to hear from her then.

Mind you, they're in the same city.


And there's all the madness here. In the last week, I've helped with an open house, schilling for prospective students, put one course in to the curriculum committee, submitted two for special status, started the scheduling process on my evaluation process, and attended two campus film events.

The best moment of awkwardness in all of that: after one of the events, I stopped to chat with a colleague and was asked "Are you going to the thing after?" I didn't know there was a thing after, and in new-faculty-panic-mode that I might have missed someplace I'm expected to be, blurted "There's something after?"

Their reaction, naturally, was to make the face of someone who just mentioned a party you're not invited to.


The great Twitter experiment continues. It was funny, initially, to realize that Twitter is where people go to spam you about teeth whitening. It's an impressive notion really - e-mail for porn and Viagra, Twitter for teeth whitening and ponzi schemes. What is it for blogging? My favorite new trend: watching right wing Twitter folks sign up as followers the minute sexuality is referenced in a tweet.

The Most Tedious Bit About Being New Faculty?

Right now, it's got to be writing bios of myself. Honestly, we're like a third of the way through the first term, and I just had to write another one. It's been a bio a week for this or that publication. Sum yourself up in two sentences. Now expand that two 500 words. Can you write a 500 word, two sentence bio? Which Ring of Hell is this, Dante? What did I do to get here?

But notice how positive I'm being, after being told that the one piece of equipment I need for the one course I'm teaching didn't actually make the purchase list last summer. But no problem, right? It's only central to the last eight weeks of the course. That should be easy to adjust, right?

Things I Should Not Be Doing

  • Sitting in office hours, playing this game
  • Mixing up dates on my calendar. Seriously, I feel like I'm developing some scheduling-centri version of dyslexia
  • getting frustrated at my ill sister to the point that I had to say (in an attempt to get her to focus and abandon a little of the melodrama): "Just write a note and tack it to the refrigerator about what we should do if we find your body."
  • looking this forward to this, and its soundtrack by Karen O

The Great Twitter Experiment or...

...the Trouble With On-line Identity


...Climbing the Ladder 140 Characters at a Time


So, as I mentioned previously, I'd been quietly encouraged to think about starting a Twitter account. It's seen, in the current university climate I'm in, as a way of promoting one's self to the broader world. And I, suffering from a whole range of insecurities with this new job (though not just related to the new job), could think of no truly compelling reason why I shouldn't. If having an account might help a bit, so be it.

Except that I forgot about the delicate dance that is juggling dual (or dueling) identities. I mean, if keeping my voice distinct here while not ponying up revealing details was problematic, what would it mean to welcome into the now budding constellation of voices one that has only 140 characters to convey itself? I like to think there's a flavor to how I communicate - or at least some consistency to each medium. I mean, there are things that I've adopted as rules for e-mailing students; there are things I do and don't allow on Facebook. There's the whole host of hoops involved in posting here.

Throw into the mix the fact that, this week, an ex who I think may be well and truly crazy now - the kind of crazy you imagine when you're splitting up with someone to make you feel better about it, the kind you make jokes about while locking the doors and thinking about firearms - actually found not just the Twitter feed I'd created but, worse, my private, non-work-related e-mail address. I am, I think it is safe to say, a private person. The possibilities raised by this - ignoring the visions of said ex doing her Glenn Close impression, manically turning off and on a light while thinking about boiling my bunny - are more than a little distressing.

So, Twitter? How do you help one of those voices? And how do you help someone who is fundamentally private market themselves.

The answers, respectively: you don't, and you're not sure yet.

But there are other benefits, even with my meager following and my slightly less meager feeds followed. For one thing, I'm able to keep a little bit of track of what the public intellectuals I have so admired and wished to be like are thinking about. And thus far, what I've seen suggests one of the following possibilities:
  1. Public intellectuals are assholes, and Twitter exposes this
  2. Twitter makes assholes of even public intellectuals
  3. I only like public intellectuals who are assholes
Twitter, for the public figure, seems to demand focus on the thing that made you public. And that, sooner or later, comes across badly. If you're not careful, Twitter helps you to believe your own press in the same way that getting interviewed by a network might. I should note that this experience hasn't made me like these people less intellectually. It has just made certain that I am no longer in any hurry to communicate with them. I mean, if you're going to show what a twit you are, at least take your time doing it, I say (hence, the blog).

At the same time, I've found some people and sites that don't do exactly what I do, but that have information and interests that intersect. Twitter has become a useful scratchpad for me that way - rather than trying to talk about what I'm doing, I'm starting to use it as a means of archiving things that seem interesting to me, in hopes that I can come back and draw some meaning from particular postings or groupings of them. And that it might help someone who's reading is great. Even better if it might get them to send a little something back my way.

Wednesday Night Fortune

One of the benefits of the move is the decent Chinese available for delivery (it's not great, but then that's sort of how I like my Chinese food). And in the midst of all the little attacks of insecurity that have been plaguing me of late, my fortune was - for a change - not some trite aphorism but actually advice:
Welcome change.
Good advice, though probably not what the delivery person wanted me to read.

The Reading List

Still making sense of the week and the push towards Twitter from colleagues and various sundry other career-related sources. So, while I get my head on straight, here's what's being read or in the chute to be read:
  • Quantum Lyrics - A. Van Jordan
  • The Interrogation - J.M.G Le Clezio
  • Naked Economics - Charles Wheelan
  • Shoplifting from American Apparel - Tao Lin
  • Push Comes to Shove - Wesley Brown
  • The Painter of Battles - Arturo Perez Reverte
  • Smashing Open the Door - Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno
  • Let Fury Have the Hour: the Punk Rock Politics of Joe Strummer - Antonino D'Ambrosio
So if you've read any of them, or you're dying to talk about any of them, let me know, and I can put some period posts up about them as I go. And, of course, if you've got some great recommendations, I'll take those, too!

New Job, New Media?

Guess I really wasn't thinking about some of the bigger differences going.

In a meeting last week, one of the things that came up was the desire for faculty to find ways to use all these new fangled media devices to promote themselves - and hence, the U. - better.

"Consider running a blog," someone said. I snickered and tried to look aghast. But worse, they want us to do things like Facebook (Okay, I'm already there) and Twitter (which I'm less than convinced is useful for me to promote myself, and hence, the U.). I don't think I'm at the point in my career where I have profound things to say every hour. Honestly, there are days where I find myself stretching to complain in this blog.

Really, though, what I wanted to ask was: what's the model you're thinking about here? Because it seems to me a half-assed attempt to use something like this only looks bad (I was going to say makes one look like a whole ass, but isn't the phrase "half-assed" implying that a "full-assed" attempt would be the way to go? I don't know...). Is there any evidence that prospective students are using presence of a Twitter account to make their decisions? Are grant givers factoring it into their assessments on whether or not to give funding?

Because on some level it feels like that, best case, we've become convinced we need Twitter because we hear the word so much. Thoughts? Is this happening elsewhere? In particular disciplines?

Many Forms of Panic

I am in my office, reading a book of poems I ordered to help lessen the trauma of reading all the books that will hopefully catch me up so that I can appropriately mention names at parties, and many forms of panic begin to visit my lonely office vigil.

First, the colleague the chair talked to in the office next door about her loud study sessions. I've heard much about this in the last week, though as a music listener, I'm largely unfazed. Does she, with all her tenured might, think it was me?

Second, a parade of faculty down the hall, muttering about a conference room. Am I missing a faculty meeting? Why can't I find it in my e-mail? Who can I ask without exposing my horrible skills as a new colleague?

Third, the realization that my old lecture notes are all in a format that Microsoft Word for Mac refused to admit exists. Will I spend my whole term reinventing the wheel of my thoughts?

Excerpts from the Weekend

"I don't understand how you could not like networking," she said. "Meeting people is fun."

"Networking isn't meeting people. Meeting people is meeting people. Networking is meeting people with the express hope of bettering yourself. I find that more than a little sad."

"It isn't that calculating. Anyone can do it."

"Given many homeless people your business card?"


And, lo, it was fated that not long after our hero began his new journey that doubt crept in. Like a thief in the night. Like a boorish party crasher. Like a bug in your bed sheets.

Having wandered through a couple of get-togethers in the past few weeks, listening to people name drop and conference-check, I began to wonder whether I'm about to be out of my research depth. Four years on a 4/4 didn't exactly do wonders for my knowledge of the field. Over the course of the term so far, I've been read by colleagues as working in at least three different areas - all close to theirs - none of which are the areas I actually work in.

This is what I love about academia - no matter how good things are going, you can always find a reason to believe you're there on a loophole.

Random Thoughts From Office Hours

So, I've been made aware that no students know me. This made them less likely to take my classes., and it seems to follow that they won't be beating down my door at office hours for awhile yet.

Okay, they really probably won't ever. I do want to be realistic. But the office next door is learning French loudly. I have to do something.

In theory, this means office hours can be productive (or at least a productive as I'm capable of since the thought that students MIGHT come by and interrupt stops me from doing any truly intense work). Instead, of course, I'll spend my time thinking of random things. And since I haven't blogged in ages, today I am compelled to try to make your lives better with some of the things that have made mine better:

First, Kathleen Edwards. Her most recent album, "Asking For Flowers," is probably the most consistent listen for me over the past six months. It haunts me. In a dream the other night, I was back in class, and when it was my turn to present, I tried to start a sing-along of Johnny Cash's cover of "Pocahontas" and Kathleen Edwards' "Goodnight, California." I closed with her song. That's how impressive she is. You should check her out. And if you don't like her, you should check yourself in. To a mental hospital.

Second, cayenne pepper on corn, especially corn on the cob. Especially when it's been grilled. Especially at summer barbecues.

Third, Breaking Bad. Think of it as "The Sopranos" meets the health care debate. I wish there were more episodes in a season, and I need to figure out what the first episode of season two is so I can catch up, but it's good. I'll also plug "Dollhouse" though it took me an age to get into it. TV is getting tough to enjoy as I bought an HD TV, and I'm convinced that everything looks awful on it. I'm not swayed by those people - typically sports fans - who rave about how clear it is. "You can see the grass on the field," they gush. Newsflash: I don't want to stare at grass on my TV or elsewhere.

So that's it. What am I missing?


In my experience, the first truly bad experience with any new academic job is orientation. Think back to your own, and I'm betting you'll agree with me. While there's a ton of things to complain about - there is, for example, invariably someone with hyper-specific questions and tedious back story to the question. Really, it's like any class you've ever taught or attended, ever. That might explain why it's so frustrating to attend them when they often seem so poorly thought out.

But rather than spend much time worrying about those things, I want to offer some quick suggestions to make orientation a bit more useful, rather than the enormous time-suck that they so often are. So with that in mind, here's what I need from an orientation:
  • enough time in advance of the term to make use of the information given
  • a comparison of the benefits and costs of each
  • someone who can actually answer my benefits questions (it's interesting that at every orientation I've had, the HR reps seem to actively fear answering benefits questions - is it a legal thing?)
  • any specific language that's expected in my syllabi (for example: plagiarism policies, disability policies, departmental objectives, etc)
  • how to get my parking decal and ID
  • my e-mail id and how to contact IT
  • a brief profile of the student population
  • a copy of the faculty handbook and an explanation of who to go to with questions
  • a copy of the campus directory
What I don't need from an orientation:
  • a parade of people
  • a meeting with different groups whose benefits options differ (honestly, do you need to rub adjunct noses into discussions of health care, etc?)
  • meetings that involve decision making about long-term university projects or anything that has a context an incoming freshman couldn't intuit
  • people talking about things that I won't be dealing with in the first two weeks (for example: study abroad). And if they must be there, then they should speak for a minimum amount of time
  • acronyms and buzzwords
  • references to policies that are no longer in effect
  • references to web pages without a written URL
  • references to forth-coming e-mails
  • discussions of teaching that include the phrase "I'd never do what I'm doing now in the classroom" or anything similar
I think that's a pretty good start. I'm probably missing some, though. Thoughts?

Notes from (A Bit After) the (Now?) End of the Road

It's been awhile.

Sometimes I've felt a bit overwhelmed, sometimes a bit lazy. I've jotted notes - a few of lines of which made it into this in different points. Really, I've been writing and rewriting this post for a bit. But it feels overdue.

So let me catch you up.


After the move was so crazy, the arrival was much easier. On each end of the trip, I'd hired someone to deal with getting things moved between the truck and the apartment. In the old town, as you may recall, they didn't show. In the new town, they turned up 15 minutes early, finished a half hour early, and were polite, smooth, and funny the entire time.

Getting unpacked, however, has proved less than compelling. There are still boxes which I simply can't bring myself to get to. The couch, which I spent awhile worrying about here, does indeed go okay with the carpet. Here's a picture, as promised somewhere in the distant past. But the apartment is set up for the most part, as is the office, though it needs some artwork to deal with the tremendous amount of blank, white wall space. The bright side there is that it means I've got a bigger office than I ever had before since my usual calamitous mess hasn't been enough to fill it.

The expected fireworks over Tupperware never happened with the former roommate; instead, we spent nearly a month haggling about how the deposit should be split. It was tedious and a little ridiculous; in the end, I gave him close to what he was asking simply to make sure that he didn't bad mouth to me former friends and colleagues, as he's never had much of a poker face about his grudges. Honestly, I had bigger fish to fry.


A week or two in the door, I had to leave for a conference, which meant that the week or two I was here were spent not just wrestling with boxes, but trying to figure out how to get funding through the system double-time.

It was, I must say, one of the nicer surprises to see that not only could it be done, but that no one blinked, everyone said "please" and "thank you," and I didn't have to pay a dime out of my pocket.

Until recently - IT again my nemesis - that has been the experience here.


I haven't explored much. The drivers frighten me a little. Once, driving to help a friend unload his U-Haul (I've moved two people since I've been here, plus a trip with another to buy furniture), a police officer stalked up to my window and seemingly wanted to pick a fight because I didn't get a local driving queue (I still, frankly, don't know what it was that I missed, but he made it clear that I did something).

Where I have spent time has been with some of my dear friends from grad school. While we haven't been going to a bar the way we used to, I've probably had more drinks in the past month than in the last year and a half at previous job.


At my first real meeting in the department, I was caught unaware. It's what I get for focusing on my cake and thinking that birthday get-togethers would be staid affairs.

An older colleague looked up over her cake and mentioned her son going to a strip club. I blinked a little - about the same way I did when a friend in grad school announced they liked to go to massage parlors. Then, my horror was that "massage parlor" was, where I came from, a gentle euphemism for brothels and gun fights, while around my grad school, they were simply another form of hippy delight.

Evidently, strip clubs might be seen somewhat similarly here.

As the only male in the room, I wasn't quite sure what to do. So I looked down at my cake and tried to move on. Obviously there was nothing I could say to this. But everyone in the room began to offer up stories. One of them told of the time HR at their school organized a trip for faculty and staff that ended up at one. Another told a story about their favorite club in a nearby city. They swapped brutally punned club names they'd gone to. In short order, every possible thing I might say began to feel like it would be taken wrong. Even complimenting that tasty cake seemed like a bad idea.

But the conversation was funny.


At night, in the hotel room at my out-of-the-country conference, I received an e-mail: "No one has signed up for your class. Please advise." My time, attempting to speak the language, slowed me a minute. Was I supposed to know enough, two weeks in, to advise?

If so, I was in trouble.

Evidently, promoting my class at the end of the Spring fell a bit by the wayside, and so I was offered a choice: teach "horrid freshman class" I've never taught before and that no one ever wants to teach, or teach a single course in Fall and three in Spring.

Easy choice.


At orientation, the History faculty member began to detail for us, in rapidly devolving tangents, about the time classroom technology let us down. She told the tale earnestly, as though she had made a great discovery that all professors should be aware of: technology fails. The Accounting professor was not to be topped. With each item related to health care, she offered a story of her teenage son's clumsiness. With each retirement option mentioned, she spiraled about her ex.

It was, as most orientations are, a tennis match of boredom. Only later would I be tossed into the deep end of acronym heaven. The VP of Something Or Other spoke for six minutes using only simple verbs and acronyms. Everyone nodded sagely. It seemed like we might make it out only 45 minutes late.

But then the History prof had an epiphany.


Sitting at the closing reception, the Latin American journalist who'd crashed the party looked at me and proposed a strange question. We'd been talking about H1N1 and about our favorite authors, and it didn't seem so bad, until that moment, that I didn't have full command of the language. He told me how he feels people from his country have a block - a sort of psychological vomiting reflex - that keeps them from ever wanting to learn or speak English. I explained that I think for many people from the U.S., to learn another language seems like a sign of weakness.

But then, across the table from a group of older, established Australian scholars I'd been giving a slight effort to impressing, he asked me if I wanted to drive out into the desert and do some peyote.

I paused. Maybe I'd missed something in my translation. Just to be safe, I declined, and mentioned that I'm really only into alcohol.

He was incredulous. And persistent. The Aussies could only manage awkward silence.

But we recovered. We went back to discussing publishing across the Americas. He suggested he could get me published in Bolivia. Then he gave me his blog URL, so I could read his theories about the CIA and various pandemics through the ages. And then, because perhaps the Ausssies got too comfortable, he returned to peyote. And when I didn't bite, he went a step further.

"You like the women here?"

I did. I like the women everywhere, really. But that wasn't what he was asking. Oh, to understand the nuance.

"They're not too expensive. We should get some, and have a good going away party before you head back."

The Aussies, it seems, spoke the language better than I did. They all looked at each other and left the table as a group. It seems, in addition to being a journalist (of sorts), I may have been drinking with a pimp.

Swigging my last shot of mescal, it seemed time to leave the table. And so I did.

And so I am doing now.

Notes From (Just Before) the (Now?) End of the Road

I have neglected this. Consider it part one.


The whole move started with rain. It was a sign, much as it was in Biblical times (if you believe in that sort of thing), that there was a cleansing coming. Or that God was pissed. Or something.

It rained and it rained. Omens. Portents. Soggy things.

In the weeks preceding the move, I spent much of my time either putting things into boxes or going out for drinks with various colleagues. I only went in small groups because if the group got larger than five, there was was no way to avoid having the same guilt-ridden "you're leaving us behind" conversation which would have killed the entire buzz. But I made sure to pack. The plan was to have everything boxed and ready to go two days prior to the move. I stayed on track.

What could go wrong?


The rain followed me from there to here. Halfway in between, at the point where I would most likely have to pull the truck over to feed my dog, it rained like Tammy Faye's tear ducts on losing the mansion.

The food for the pup was in the back of the truck, and so there was no way to keep from opening it. I had been hoping to park the truck beside an 18-wheeler to steal a little shelter from the elements. I could do it, if I got lucky, because I was towing my car behind and that meant the only spots for me would be ones for large vehicles. One of the few advantages of driving the big truck with the car behind is that parking is rarely a problem because truckers really only stop when they need more amphetamines, so I figured I'd have good luck.

Pulling through, around the outside, I could see a spot that would be perfect....naturally, some idiot in a Lexus SUV had taken the spot and parked dead center in it, so there was no way for me to pull in.

And thus, no shelter from the storm.

As I opened the back of the truck, a box fell out. The one with my photos, of course. It'd been put to the back so nothing heavy would go on top of it, but the load had shifted.

This was in no way surprising. Looking to the heavens, I issued a quiet fuck you, quieter than the day before. Even fury wears down over time.


The plan went like this: I was getting good money to move, and I was going to take advantage. It's part of why I took this job over the other, honestly. They were going to help pay my move. I know times are hard and all, but honestly, if you're going to move hundreds or thousands of miles, if they can't kick in a little bit of something to help out, do you really want to be there? And when you've moved as many times as I have, often almost entirely on my own, the prospect of someone paying to help is so exciting one could wet themselves.

I got lucky this go-round. They were giving me enough that I actually found myself struggling to try and spend a significant portion of it. I don't have a lot of things. When I moved in with the roommate way back when, I got rid of most of my furniture. All I really kept was the stuff for the bedroom, the boxes of books, and my photos.

I was going to do the packing. And the driving. But I'd worked it out so that I wouldn't have to actually lift, unhook, or load anything if I didn't want to. Take a look around you right now. Imagine picking all that stuff up, ordering it in a truck. Now imagine someone else could do it for you. You'd jump at the chance if you had to move. Some of you are drooling right now, if you have any sense. It's a dream to have someone else do the moving. It's the blue collar equivalent of the joy some folks get of having children but paying someone else to raise them.


Two hours into having the uHaul, and the loaders haven't shown. I'm too hands on to have let it go without me loading some things, but still.

I call. No answer. I leave a message. I have two hours until I have to go and get the trailer hooked up, the car loaded, so that I'll have some time to clean and still hit the road in the evening after traffic has died down.

I call again.

No answer.

I'm not going to make my deadline, and I've crafted this carefully. It should take about two hours for all of us to load my things. My roommate's gone for the afternoon so as to be out of the way. The dog is in the crate, anxious as he's been for about a week. If I don't get on the road tonight, everything goes out the window. I'll miss my unloading time. I'll miss getting the keys to the apartment.

The first drops of rain begin to fall. So, too, the first round of cursing.


The loaders never show. They never call back. They never call. I leave one final message, containing every curse word in every language that I know.

It is, I conclude. one final kick in the pants from a place that's made a hobby of it over the past four years. And so, I begin to load in the pouring rain.


I load into the night, when the rain allows. I sleep on the floor in my sleeping bag, or I try to. During the night, my dog paces the room nervously.

In the morning, when I finish, just as I'm loading the pup into the cab, my roommate tells me he wants to change the big-talk plan we'd agreed to a month ago about the apartment. We were sure the landlord would give us none of our deposit back, as they'd been - much like the loaders - quite conversant at finding ways to screw us over the last year. And so we were going to do a minimum of cleaning. But no.

I close the door on the pup, and prepare to walk to my side, when he asks if I can come back in and help him clean.

I stare in a way I hope is inclined towards blankly. He's been a good roommate, and it would be a shame to end that by killing him with my words. Or my hands. The blank look fails.

"I'll just clean. But I should get more of the deposit back if they give us any back."



Other than the rain and being 12 hours late, having missed all the appointments I'd set up, the drive itself is uneventful. My dog is good in the car, and having his head to scratch and my own music on the radio helps immensely.

And so, I arrive at the new job. To be continued...

Are There Any Sadder Words

...than I packed the stereo?

Okay, I know there are. But seriously, the stereo being unhooked is the moment at which I realize just how far things have gone.

Of course, there's lots happening here. The roommate is also moving, and this has caused a sort of apartment version of Risk. First, I took the living room for storage. Then he struck back. Now I have retreated to my bedroom, where I am marshaling my forces in the form of cardboard boxes. It's like when I built forts when I was a kid, only now, the walls are all my belongings - particularly books. We're in a holding pattern now, though this morning while he was away, I began to sift through the Tupperware drawer in the kitchen - one of the few places where our things have co-mingled.

I expect shots will be fired come dinner time.

The process has been harder than any other move, or so it seems to me from the midst of it. Having everything so packed around me at night has begun to give me odd dreams. It's tough to even be in my room because it reminds me of the clutter of my parents' house, and I'm finding myself claustrophobic in the room that used to be a sort of sanctuary. Lying on my bed to take a phone call is almost panic inducing, and I find that I'm having a hard time focusing on conversations or saying much of anything even when I am.

I narrowly headed off a visit from my parents, who claim to now - after four years of me living here - have an interest in seeing the Great Attraction of the Area.

And yesterday, I had coffee with one of my best students, who is thinking about graduate school but who is trying to work with my most absent minded of soon-to-be-former colleagues. While I probably don't have to be as delicate in suggesting that they, as an undergrad, are going to have to learn that most useful rule of graduate students - that committees are things to be managed and carefully fed information - it wasn't an easy thing to explain that what matters is a finished Senior thesis as much as the masterful work my colleague is threatening to make them conjure from thin air.

So it's back to packing and the odd little almost-panic attacks that come every time I step in my room. More to follow.

Too Far Gone

Today, in the store, the clerk complained to me.

"Jesus," he said, "it's cold out there. It's killing me." (no, my name isn't Jesus, and the only time anyone ever uses it for me is when something is exasperating them - usually that something is me).

"Oh, this?" I replied, "This is nothing. And better this than humidity."

Four years, I've been here. And now I'm telling locals to stop fussing about cold weather. Just in time to pack it off elsewhere.


New job, new town, new purchases. Here is the partial list of things I have bought:
  • couch
  • recliner
  • new glasses
  • new sunglasses
  • new dvd and vcr player
  • a big boy prestige cell phone
  • all sorts of car repairs
  • moves here
  • movers there
Things I am preparing to buy:
  • a tv?
  • a faintly modern computer
  • some sort of big bookshelf/entertainment thingamajig
  • end tables and lamps
  • a big boy prestige vacuum
My Marxist ideals are stinging.


Yesterday, a sweet package - or a package of sweets - arrived in the mail for me. Among other things, the card said, "...maybe cookies for strength [are] just what a guy might need int he middle of a move."

And I thought, "Hooray! Cookies...and another box!"

What Makes a Microcosm

It's funny the things that you can obsess over in moving. Today marks exactly 14 days to the move, and I'm in what I think is a good stage of packing. In a day or two, nothing you say about this will convince me that I am, in fact, in good shape.

But aside from the couch and what it says about me in life, the thing that is truly funny is just how obsessed I've become with what goes in the bathroom.

That's right: I'm obsessed with designing my bathroom.

I won't try to count up how many trips I've made to the Target bathroom aisles trying to decide what shower curtain I wanted. It has become a topic of dinner conversation. Multiple dinner conversations, in fact. And that I actually had a 20 minute discussion about what type of bath mat was ideal with someone probably makes me a candidate for Chief to help poor old McMurphy me out of this pickle once and for all.

And I've been debating it, to be sure. If the big guy won't bring the pillow to put me out of the misery of becoming fixated on things like this, I'm clearly going to have to do it myself. This is not who I am. I mean, I almost never have anyone over (I could probably count on one hand the number of people who've actually sat and talked with me in my apartment in the last four years). And yet, here I am.

What I think has happened is that in all the chaos of the move and fighting with the university and having the roommate come home and explaining to my parents that coming to visit me during a move is the worst possible time is that the bathroom of the new apartment was recognized as the one part of this move that is of a size and complexity that I can actually think about and still feel like I'm on top of it. One of the frustrating things about these moves is that, inevitably, you want them to be perfect: to land you in the perfect job, in the perfect city, etc, etc. I've moved enough though - and this doesn't have to be about what places I've moved to: just the process of moving serves for this example - that I know imperfection is a part of the game.

In the end, I did decide on a shower curtain and a bath mat. And I've bored more than a couple of friends talking about it (and now, I've bored you, folks of the Intertubes). It helps, though I still haven't decided what kind of soap dispenser to get.


I think.

Is This Thing On?

Hm. A blog.

Yes, I used to have one of those. Poor, neglected thing, lost and alone wandering the Intertubes. Oh, I'm a bad blog owner. And this is probably the 1,217th time I've tried some apology for not turning up on the blog and suggested some vague commitment to being better about it.

I have no excuses. Not because I don't want to have one, but because I don't know what the reason for the the neglect really is.

Maybe it's the move. Certainly that'd be a good excuse. No one could fault me for ducking underground because I took a new job and have been planning a move. I should use that one. Mental note. No, I've been scattered. I'd better not trust a mental note. Someone take that down for me.


Or maybe it'd be because of the conference we were planning. That was crazy busy. Balls were dropped. Balls were picked up. Dinners were planned and a good time was had by all. That'd be a good one, too.

Or maybe because of leaving a good program at an okay university in a place that feels dubious and students who I've grown to enjoy for the unknown. Well, not the completely unknown, but you get the picture.

The point is, I don't know why exactly the blog has fallen to the wayside. Some days I feel really bad about it. Some days, I think about it not at all.


The move is in 15 days.


The big struggle with the university is mostly done. They still haven't paid me for last summer, but, oh, they've paid dearly for this one. I am not popular at the moment, but I have been paid.
If nothing else, bureaucratic revenge feels nice. It'll feel nicer when they do the right thing once and for all.


My father wanted to come help with the move. I, of course, opposed this.

My father, with the heart and respiratory conditions, all 73 years old of him, wanted to come help me move. All I own is books and a bed. Right now, my office is packed (12 boxes of books). There are boxes of books under my bed (10). I have books yet to pack (???). My apartment looks like I knocked over a paper supply company. And into this, my father - with my mother's blessing (no, with my mother's boot in his ass) wants to come help me move. My family, as ever, is crazy but sweet. I'm blessed.

Fortunately, he can't come. But I do appreciate the thought.


The other day I bought a couch. This, I feel, marks me officially being old.

When I move in here, I got rid of my furniture - what furniture there was - except the stuff for the bedroom. Paying off bills was a priority; having my own stuff wasn't. So my roommate got to keep his furniture and got to choose how the living room worked. But now I'm headed off to the new job and to my own place, and it was time to replace the stuff I got rid of.

For a long time, I had a policy that I'd not own anything I couldn't move myself. A couch clearly violates this.

This hurts me worse than the fear that I'm approaching 40. It distresses me just a little more than my most recent thoughts about buying a cell phone.

A couch. And a matching chair. Grownup. Scary.


I am so excited for this move. And I'll try to keep you posted.

Anyone Know a Good Labor Attorney?

So rather than go out on a high-note here at my soon to be former SLAC, it's going to be a struggle. I'm still working to get paid what others were for a canceled class from last summer (the university incorrectly canceled classes, and when the mistake was pointed out, paid $1,000 to all the faculty this happened to except me because mine was a graduate course).

This summer, when I pointed out that I was in the same situation that caused the courses to be erroneously canceled in violation of the union contract last summer and that I expected the university to adhere to the contract this time, I've been informed that even though I'm teaching two summer courses (they've met for two days now), the union contract doesn't apply to me because I gave my letter of resignation. Of course, things being what they are, I was never offered a different contact to work under.

Only In Your Dreams

Here's a little goodness I stumbled across while nursing my apartment searching sun burn in the soon to be New Town. Proof that if there is a God, they're a fan of the ridiculous.

Don't say I never gave you anything.

Creative Ways to Experience Anxiety

I received another thank you letter from a student today. They've been very sweet about my departure. One of the students this morning told me they want tow write a letter demanding millions so the school could keep me. I told them it wasn't entirely about money.

And in the midst of it, I began to fret about what all these student letters might mean. There are some commonalities to them, after all. First, they tend to come from working class students (though this isn't particularly unusual here as most of the students are). They tend to be from students who struggled as part of their time here. And they tend to be from students who have been casting about for what they want to do.

The connections aren't particularly surprising. I was a working class kid, though I didn't quite realize it until the middle of my undergraduate. I struggled quite a bit myself. Between the freedom that college offered, the first true romances, and the working load that comes with putting yourself through as a working class kid who doesn't know any better, it was a struggle to get out of and a shock when I actually went back to school. I started out pre-med, jumped to a much more liberal arts focused degree, and took enough outside classes to have had five minors had the university allowed it.

And then I thought about what I know about the student population at the New Job, and those things aren't particularly present. Most of them don't seem to be working class. I'm told they all have very well-defined goals of where they want to be. What if my teaching doesn't match up?

Really, there's no way to know until I'm there and into the swing of it. And it's fair to say that it wasn't until maybe a year into my time here that I started to click with students, so it could take awhile anyway. But I think the impending departure has had weird reverberations on my thought processes. I was telling a colleague today that I think I might be grading senior seminar papers with a little nostalgia grade boost. And the other day, I tried to explain why a big goodbye party creeps me out.

End of Term Follies

Yesterday, a minute before I was to leave my office, a student stopped in to ask if I could be the third member of her honors' thesis committee, who would be "meeting tomorrow for the defense."

It's a busy end of the term here, not just because of it being my last term, but also because of the workload. I've already served on two honors committees. I'm supervising 17 senior research projects. I've got portfolios from 21 students, and essay exams from 12 others. Also, I have an article to restructure. I've no business on last minute committees.

Naturally, I said yes.

The topic seemed interesting, and I've known the student through some of the causes happening on campus this year. It felt wrong to say no.

And now I've read the thesis, and I realize that there's a reason there was no third committee member. And worse, I don't think they could have been thinking about what my own research and interests are or they wouldn't have asked me to be on this because there's almost no way I can avoid shredding this.

What's frustrating, though, is that I tried to speak with the chair about this, and there seemed to be little recognition of the problems and even less interest in hearing out my difficulties so they might either prepare the student or their own defense of this. Because at the end of the day, a failed thesis defense - and that's what I think this might wind up being - is a failure of the committee.

And While I'm Posting Ridiculous Things... scholars - are any of you media scholars? - tell me what you think about this?

Clearly, I should not be grading finals and watching late night television. Honestly, AMC, who the hell is your after midnight audience?

I'd Feel Better About This if Rabbit Said It...

...I never quite trusted Rabbit.

Their graduation, mine.

It has been far too long since I've written, longer still since - maybe - since I wanted to write.

The days have been filled with writing, of course. There's a conference to be planned, and I am reminded that I am, however reluctantly, a Type A- personality: not quite type A, but a little too something to settle into Type B. I envy Type B's; I dread Type A's. But the conference begs for it. This is the problem with folks of a particular ideology (I wont say which: you can fill in your own blanks): they mistake organization for fascism. And, so, I find myself answering the e-mails for the conference: dull, banal little things in great numbers like gnats. To put any thought down became a chore, swatting at these things just a little more when I should be resting.

Tonight, I feel like writing.


Sometime back, I started writing a letter to our Seniors before they graduated. It was born out of a sort of necessity: herding cats in the graduation rodeo to a place where we could send them off into the sunset, though I have yet to attend a graduation that wasn't cold and rainy (at least for part of it). It became a tradition for me, a touchstone. And so, this year, it took on extra importance.

I'm leaving.

My advisees - many of them, anyway - are leaving with me. Well, not with me, but at the same time, to similar questions. In a strange way that no one ever told me, I walked the same path as those scared little Freshmen four years ago. Their steps were mine, and now, a tiny piece of their parting. The letter this year was much the same - congratulations and a little bit of a wish for them.

And a little bit of thanks.


The last two days have been awash in bureaucratic frustration. I find it's process that makes me lose my temper. And these last two days, I've found that a lot: everywhere I looked, there were problems: invitations sent to people who shouldn't have been; people who should have been who weren't. Names left out of programs. Programs out of order. I've found myself very protective of these students here at the end.

In recent weeks, we took a busload of them to a research conference. They rocked it. We took several to the school's research presentation. Most of them blew it away. Even my most problematic students - the ones who gravitate to me - have done well. Pick the student who you thought was the picture of unrepentant, unearned privilege. Remember how they walked into your office two years ago like royalty and made demands. Even that student got it, enough to make a couple of heads turn and faces pause at their moment of lucidity.

I am trying to focus on these things, amidst the chaos.


This evening I received a letter from a student that made me think of poetry. It was a letter that made me want to sit down and write. I want to share it, but that wouldn't be right. It was a private thing, but it reminded me of all the things we so rarely know as teachers, and that just because we don't know doesn't mean it isn't there or isn't happening.

It reminded me of the postcards friends used to send me, with haiku of their days on scrawled in thin, small writing. It was true, and tangentially I was a part of it.

Naomi Shihab Nye wrote "No one sees/the fuel that feeds you." Tonight, this term, these four years, I have been fed.

RBOC: More Catching Up

Attempts at blogging have largely failed. I'm still trying though. I promise.

In the meantime, things worth noting:
  • April snow froze my car shut this morning
  • for those wondering about when it would happen, word of my departure has reached the students. It happened largely by accident. The first reveal was intentional - a student asked if I could be the faculty moderator for a student atheist group. The second was my slip-up in discussing an event being planned. And more recently, a candidate was brought in for my position, and the department took them to a restaurant where a number of our students work.
  • Surprisingly, the stack of boxes in my office has yet to draw a single question.
  • I came in 7 out of 63 and 9 out of 33 in my March Madness pools. Good enough for a little bragging, but no actual financial gain.
  • I've recently watched Synecdoche, New York and Gran Torino, and loved them both for very different reasons. I strongly recommend both, but each with a warning: the first is not an easy film intellectually, the second is not an easy film in terms of cultural sensitivity.
Hope you're all well.

Signs of Growth

Spring is here. And gone. And back again. And likely gone again tomorrow.


The conference planning continues along, in that way that suggests that the ruling members of the planning committee don't exactly have their feet on the ground. I spent a significant portion of last not looking for my temper which got off leash and access to my e-mail. Drafts were written. Things were quoted - perhaps the worst thing one can do in an e-mail argument. In the end, I found it and reigned it in.

I was tempted to resign, to cancel the things I'd organized and to let them go it alone. I was tempted to give back funding and salute as the remaining organizers were left to twist in the wind.

Cooler moods prevailed. It's been awhile since I've found myself pushed to that point. Had it not been for the love I have for this organization, which has been kind to me and instrumental, I might have.


The other day, coming out of the gym, strangers were talking in the hallway. They were circled, and sprawled across the corridor, so no one could easily pass. There are boundary issues at play here. It's one of the things I won't miss - that sprawling lack of awareness that others might also - must also - pass through space. But I digress.

One man said, "As you can see, I have a problem with shrinkage."

The others laughed. And as I squeezed through, I suppressed the reply that raced automatically to my lips. Ten years before, it would have slipped out before I'd seen it coming. Growing up, my friends and I made jokes on each other whenever they came up, whatever they may have been. It was hard to ignore the urge.

But I couldn't help laughing a little on the way to my car, and wishing I'd only known one of them so I could have let fly.

"You can't call it shrinkage if it's always that way."

Checking In

I'm sitting here, sore from the gym, tired from the whirlwind of the term, reading "Joe Gould's Secret." Lurking at the back of my head over the last few days has been the fear that I am not the academic I thought I was.

I am thinking about writing, which isn't what I do, and thinking it is something I might like to try more. I'm thinking about how the research I do isn't the thing that my students connect with. Shouldn't it be? Why is it when I teach the things around the edges of my part of the field, trying to define it, that it is those things the students connect with?

I'm feeling guilty as my department is slowly descending into panic about my departure. It would help if, when people asked me about the new job, they didn't always begin with "So, you're abandoning us...." A friend mentioned wanting to throw a party for my departure, and I immediately thought of 40 people all starting their celebration for me that way, followed by loud demands for a speech.

Earlier this week, I looked at an ad for an apartment that said tenants could get use of the washer and dryer in the basement for $50 in additional rent, provided the use was limited to one load per week. Everything about looking for apartments depresses me.

All of this is funny as I'm still excited about the position.

Whirlwind of Productivity

Today, I'm in my office, which is freezing though it sounds like the heat is on, and I've got the song "Mercedes Boy" by Pebbles stuck in my head, though I haven't heard it since probably 1989 and I've got iTunes on loud shuffle trying to exorcise it from my head.

Go on, click that link and suffer with me. I bet you didn't know there was an extended version. Thanks, YouTube!

As the title says, I've been all kinds of productive in the last 24 hours. Yesterday, I graded 25 projects and provided detailed feedback. I wrote two reference letters - though I need to proof them this evening. And for the conference we're "helping" to co-host (the other co-hosts have largely vanished and my co-conspirator here has been the usual level of disorganized) was falling behind on things, so I also sent out 50+ acceptance letters.

The conference is tiring me out, as I knew it would. All the things I was afraid would go wrong have. Big Ideas/Bigger Mouth from the other U - who asked to co-host - has found all his promised funding gone, all his "friends who would do us favors" vanished, and may well have gone on vacation. That's left us to find the keynotes, to review the proposals, to send the acceptances, and thus far, to come up with all the funds that have been come up with. For my part, I've put together a banquet, transportation to the banquet and a local tourist attraction, found a band, ordered drinks, ordered the furniture and the setup, found the funding for all of that at a tiny university in an economic recession, and last night, sent out all the acceptance letters.

I'm tired. And yet my grading is caught up, and my lectures are planned. I do not deserve "Mercedes Boy." I don't. If this is karma, I'm sorry for inventing polio. I didn't mean to. Please stop this song and let me rest.

Place Your Bets

So a few of you have asked about this, and I thought it'd be a good thing to bet on. Tonight, at 7:04 p.m., I told a student that I've taken a new job and won't be here in the fall. The student isn't in my department, but I'm at a university of about 2,700 students.

Anyone care to bet on how long until my students hear about it and begin to ask questions (and possibly freak out)?

Or maybe I smell

I described an event a few nights back to my roommate as feeling like I'd attended my own autopsy. Really, the last few days have felt that bumpy.

There's a point, I suppose, after you take a job but before you've left for it where everyone has to give up on you. I suppose I've hit that point, and it's been strange trying to deal with it. A few nights back, I attended a party one of my colleagues was throwing, and throughout the time I was there, I actually found folks I work with moving away from conversations with me. And when conversations did happen, they almost invariably began with something like "So, traitor, have you found an apartment at your new job yet?" As I entered the kitchen - where folks in my discipline invariably gravitate to at any party - I heard someone whisper "Do you think you'll take Curmudgeon's office?" To my credit, I didn't interrupt or immediately think about pranking the person who gets my little slice of poor ventilation. This, though, seems to be the tone of things for my remaining weeks.

I suppose it's a blessing that I've stopped getting asked to faculty meetings, but it's another strange symptom of things. But it's a little odd that people actually get quiet when I round a corner or stick my head in the doorway. It's like I'm being forced to be a short-timer: if I can't do the right thing and lose all interest in things here, interest will be lost for me.


So after much delay, I heard from the editor of my book today, and the word wasn't bad but it wasn't good. Mostly it wasn't good because this book is taking forever, and now it's going to take a bit more. Part of the problem is due to some bad information I was given, evidently, and I can point this out, but it wouldn't really get me much benefit. The long and the short of it is that it's back to the keyboard for me on the book. I'm trying to stay calm about it, as it seems like everything ties back to this book somehow: the new job, funding, conferences, blah blah blah.

At the end of it, I suppose, it will still be published, and probably it won't take as long as I think it's going to. And there was some very useful feedback - some nice critiques of things that didn't come out as strongly as I wanted and some suggestions for places to go to bolster my research. But it still feels like a huge setback.

Are You Frakkin' Kidding Me?

Maybe I'm about to spoil the BSG finale, though I'm going to tap dance around as much as I can. If you can't stand the possibility of spoilers, please stop reading.

[I'm serious: if spoilers irritate you, stop reading]

[I'm not kidding...]

[This means you, fangirls and boys...]

[This is your last warning...]

[New command: Rant]

Angels? Really? 'Cause I thought the Deus ex Machina taken quite that literally went out of style a few centuries ago.

Even though a lot of the last BSG episode was satisfying - that they didn't feel the need to do happy endings for everyone, for example, or the reappearance of the old Cylons, the sweet use of the old show's theme, some good sci-fi blow up and even a little fight twist, there was a lot that left me irritated. Angels, for one. Or at least one Viper flying angel. And most of the 11 minutes past the hour.

Ugh. I feel like I was prostelitized to. I feel a little dirty. And that's not helping me cope with the plunge I'm taking in my March Madness pool.

[End of Line]


The Resignation Letter

So, one detail that had fallen to the wayside of this whole New Job Business was the formal resignation letter. I'd never had to write one before, and since there are some outstanding matters between the University and myself at the moment, writing it wasn't easy.

I don't know that this is necessarily a model, but the strangeness of it - combined with a need I felt to address some things, however tactfully - made me think that maybe it'd be worth posting here.
Dear ___________,

It is with no small amount of regret that I offer my resignation as Assistant Professor in the Department of ________________ at the end of my contract year.

My time in the Department of _____________ has been extremely rewarding. The program that has been developed here is amazing, fulfilling an important role in our field and in the world. The things that I have learned while working with this excellent faculty cannot be stressed enough. The delicate balance they have struck so successfully - not content to just teach _____________ but to graft those skills to a vision of social justice - is to be commended. In the coming years, I have every confidence that you will find other departments working for a model that has been present here all along. Working with them has inspired and instructed me, and I hope to carry the seeds of this department into my future endeavors I cannot praise the department and my colleagues enough for their commitment to creating something dynamic, unique, and equitable.

My departure is bitter-sweet as _____________ is taking important steps towards becoming a university that truly represents social justice for all. Such steps are rarely easy, and it says something that the University is risking them. I hope that in my time here I have helped with those steps, and that, just as the _______________ department asks of its students, I have made the department and the University a better place. I regret that I cannot continue that work here, but I hope the University will continue with it, even when it isn’t easy, and I will follow the changes and lend what support and well wishes I can.

I wish the University all the success in the world. I’m grateful for my time here. Thank you.
Certainly, the letter is longer than it probably needs to be for a resignation. But it feels like one of those rare moments where the young, untenured faculty member has something like the attention of those above. I tried to make the point on a different issue that, unfortunately, sometimes the only voice university structures allow young faculty is heard in the quiet syllables of feet on pavement. My leaving isn't entirely about that - though it certainly is a part. But the lesson is important.

It is probably entirely unrealistic to hope that anyone actually pays attention to these things, but since the letter was to be sent to the V.P. and my Dean, it seemed worthwhile to take the shot that things the school has been struggling with are important - and not easy - but that it shouldn't be taken as a sign that it's okay to quit on them.

Checking In

Okay, so maybe I'm just not in a bloggy-space right now.

Last week, periodically I'd think of something I wanted to blog about, and then the day would mop the floor with me. The next thing I knew, it'd be half past midnight, and I barely capable of spelling my own name. And then the week was up, and I was still struggling along.

It isn't that things are going okay, though I've got one class where a literal 95 percent of my students are half-assing it so badly that they're going to be lucky to pull C's. My focus is just not where I want it. I'm trying to help the department find my replacement - an odd moment, to be sure - and I'm trying to finish setting up for the conference we're helping to co-host with the new caveats that the school we're co-hosting with has no budget and my university has given us money provided we can pay for everything before the conference actually happens (though the parts of my university that are actually involved with giving us a bill won't respond with prices).

I've also found that I've managed to - in very short order - make myself a thorn in the side of one of the more important administrators here. Mostly this seems to have happened because there comes a point in any meeting when I tired of beating around the bureaucratic bush and either ask for what I think we need or suggest what I think needs to happen. A colleague described me as "prickly" in these meetings, which made me laugh with more than a little bit of pride.

I have, though, managed to start back to the gym. I've been four times since the last post, and (of course) every time, it has been packed with my students. But that may well be the price I have to pay right now.

So that's things. I'm still committed (ish) to trying to blog fairly regullarly, but we'll see how it goes. I am, as always, open to suggestions for topics.

Big (Bad) Realization

Somehow in the midst of all this term, I've gotten fat.

To keep this in perspective, I wasn't small to begin with. But I'd done a semi-decent job taking some weight off in the last couple of years, and I was horrified today to discover that I've actually managed to put it all back on, a majority of it since the start of this job search. That is, of course, a very anecdotal correlation, but still.

It's a strange moment to be this distressed at my appearance - and probably a bit late in life to be developing this sort of body image complex. But isn't that the joy of marketing? Sooner or later, we're all going to measure ourselves against the cover of "People" and find ourselves wanting?

RBOC Griping

Happy Sunday to you all. I don't have much to say, but I feel a bit like I'm losing touch with the blog (or losing the blogging touch, or something). So the goal for the next bit is to do something, however useless, regardless. It may well be time to take suggestions for posts again. Honestly, isn't the start of Spring (more or less) the time when we start doing pointless memes? I'll keep you posted. In the meantime:
  • Daylight Savings Time is the new Office of Financial Aid: seriously, never have I been so thoroughly screwed by one bureacratic concept since second semester of Freshman year of college.
  • One More Reason I Don't Want a Roommate When I Move: baseball season has again come to take over the television. Baseball announcers might be more mindless than reality television.
  • One More Technodisaster For the Road: just in case I wasn't sure, IT has done its bit to help me out, by telling me there was a piece of software on all available computers on campus. Tonight one of my students e-mailed to tell me the software was a trial version that has, evidently, been expired for some time now.
  • The Trouble With Healthy Eating #314: cooking fish makes an apartment impossible to actually live in.
More soon.

Job Tracking - Addendum and Part of a Conclusion

We've been on break here, and I've been enjoying staying off the computer and the radar generally. But there have been a few things worth noting for those following the job tracking posts. First, all the money that I'm going to get for reimbursement has come in, and second, there have been more rejections.

So, without further ado, here a link to the last job tracking post and here are the updated numbers:
Total # of academic jobs applied for/# of jobs identified: 23/25
Total # of non-academic jobs applied for/# of jobs identified 0/0
Total spent in U.S. dollars on applications: $192.90
Average cost in U.S. dollars per applications: $23.94
Total spent in U.S. dollars on travel, etc: $357.78
Total amount in U.S. dollars reimbursed: $339.97
The Chronicle of Higher Ed: 9 0
Other online service (listserv, etc): 14
Friend/Colleague: 2
Personal Research: 1
Total number of paper submissions: 19
Total number of e-submissions: 4
Total weight in pounds of application packets: 22.13
Total number of recommendation letters requested: 48
Total number of requests for references: 5
Total number of "proof of teaching excellence" packs : 9
Total number of requests for Teaching Philosophy :11
Total number of research packs: 13
Total number of transcripts requested: 3
Total number of acknowledgments of receipt: 21
Total number of confirmed reference contacts: 0
Total number of phone interviews: 2
Total number of conference interviews: 0
Total number of on-campus interviews: 2
Total number of offers: 2
Total number of rejection letters: 16
Total number of canceled or unhired positions: 2
The first thing to note about the reimbursement, is that I didn't get the full amount I spent. This may have been because of regulations on percentages of particular types of costs or it may have been some other problem. More importantly, it took roughly a month and a half for the reimbursement to happen. That's one of the real pains about this process - particularly if you're doing multiple job interviews on limited funds. This year, the costs weren't too bad for me, but imagine you're going from one coast to another as a grad student, you can imagine what a pain this will be.

Housing Resources

So, it would appear we've found the new blog obsession here at The Doctor Isn't: housing searches. Fortunately, in my soon(ish) new town, I've got the makings of a legion of folks who can help me with this. At last count, there are five people I went to grad school with, one person I went to high school with, plus various friends of friends. This is very good fortune, as it means I've got a lot of folks I can ask to check a place out once I'm interested.

I like to find guides to the cities as early as I can, and in some places, that's more possible than others. The job before the one I'm currently finishing up, I found a guide written by a local cab driver. The grammar was awful, there were some downright racist comments, but as a guide to the city it was invaluable. Here, I found a couple of self-published books, but I had to look for them. And the new town has proved pretty easy to find information on.

And, even better, because so many of them have been nomads like me, they've started to funnel housing resources to me, and I thought - in the interest of sharing something more useful than my blather for a change - I'd pass some of them on to you:
  • a really nice site, particularly as it isn't just useful for places here in the U.S. Thus far, everything I've seen is more expensive than I can afford, but it's a very good resource.
  • ever wonder what useful things people were doing with Google Maps? Here's one that searches popular apartment sites and combines them with Google Map data. Way cool, and I'm not just saying this as someone who's geeked to go see "Watchmen" on opening night. There's also a blog that explains the features.
  • okay, as someone who's moved more than a few times, let me offer you this endorsement: Penske trucks are cheaper, in better shape, and actually reserved unlike their competitors. If you have to rent your own, I have never - in four states or three cross-country moves - found a better price (they also take AAA).
  • having planned so many moves, the worst thing - particularly as an academic with a book problem (yes, that's right: worse than your regular academic) - is the actual loading and unloading. And while it's nice when you can lean on your friends for this (paid for with beer and pizza, of course), it's better when you can order beer and pizza for your friends who aren't sore and let someone else do the loading and unloading. This site is great for that.
And, of course, there are the old standbys like Craig List,, and If there are others that I come across, I'll certainly share them.