Thursday, May 31, 2007

Exactly How Lame I Am

Why can't I write emails? or make phone calls?

Today's list of Things To Do is made up entirely of emails that need writing and phone calls that need, um, calling. I've managed to get through most of them, but it seriously took me all morning, with little rewards in between (I'll just send that one email to set up lunch with my friend, and then I can have breakfast!). There aren't even all that many--like 4 emails and 3 calls--so the length of time it's taken me to do this is totally unjustified. And none of them are scary. The phone calls have been, so far,

1) to tell my landlord that I forgot to leave him the rent and will give it to him on Monday when I get back in town (and since I'm never late with the rent, and am a very good tenant, there was no chance that he'd be mad about this), and

2) to ask how much doctoral regalia costs and when I can come in to order some.

The third call is slightly trickier because it's about an apartment for next year. But seriously. This is so pathetic. And that's the only thing left on my list for the day. Maybe I'll eat a sandwich and then make a new list of things I want to ask about when I make that call? And then actually call? And hope that I get voice mail and can redirect the entire conversation over to email?

Yes, I am that lame.

More productively, I've been revising my article like crazy this week, and I think that it's much better. I can't finish up until I'm back in HomeCity, though, because I don't have all the books I need. Still, I think that I'm very much on track to get it done by the end of next week, which is quite satisfying.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Regression

On Friday afternoon, the Class of '97 seemed a respectable lot. A handful of Ph.D.s and advanced ABDs, some lawyers, several MBAs doing arts administration and nonprofit organization, public servants of various stripes, and a surprisingly large number of people working at animation studios. Nearly everyone seems to live in Brooklyn, DC, and San Francisco--nice, grownup cities where they presumably pay rent and do all those usual adult things. And evidently the early 30s are not only the age of perfection, but the age of reproduction, as well: babies were EVERYWHERE. Their presence is partly attributable, I think, to my college's alumni's habit of intermarriage; entire family units were plainly in evidence.

In the beginning, we seemed civilized. Ordinary. Even dull. And yet, by Sunday afternoon, the dorm where we were all housed was--there is no other word for it--trashed.

Some of this, such as the cracker crumbs embedded in the hall carpet, may have actually been due to the presence of babies. But overwhelmingly the trashing was the result of plainly regressive behavior on the part of the reunion attendees. The floor of the lounge was covered--covered--in chocolate sprinkles and spilled beer. Coffee tables were scarred by rather inept efforts at uncapping beer bottles without benefit of an opener. Folding tables sloped to the floor, their legs buckled underneath them. Furniture had been dragged outside and left there. Fireworks of sketchy provenance had been fired into the outer walls of the building (in all fairness, I should say that they weren't actually aimed at the building; they just went--directly and with force--in that direction). At one point late on Saturday night, the cushions from all of the many sofas in the lobby were gathered and made into an enormous pile; one couch, denuded, was drawn up to the edge of the pile and used as a diving board. I'm sure that some of its springs were broken--surprisingly, no necks were--and only some of the cushions made it back onto the (wrong) sofas. The entrance to my hall had developed a stench so awful that one had to hold one's breath when passing through it. Other, older reunions had been repeatedly raided for beer, and empty bottles littered every public area. Clouds of marijuana smoke drifted across the quad. And one of the many old campus bands reconvened for a performance of their "hit single," whose name I don't know but whose chorus is "Fuck you, fuck me, fuck everybody; you suck, you suck, you suck big time."

What happened?

Perhaps it was the heady combination of escape from adulthood (we didn't have to clean up our own messes) with escape from studenthood (we couldn't be punished for anything that we did). Our age was showing, though. Even the childless had a hard time making it through the days without a nap, and I found that sleeping from 4am-12pm really doesn't work for me anymore.

Fatigue notwithstanding, I had a great time. I roomed with a really good friend that I'd been out of touch with for a while, and, in the manner of actual roommates, we spent pretty much all weekend together. My college, a small-town SLAC, generates a strong sense of loyalty and community, so going back there was--for everyone, I expect--a real mixture of pleasure and nostalgia. So much is the same: the smell of the mailroom, for example, took me right back to Orientation week; the steel drum band still wears ridiculous costumes and gets the whole campus grooving; and the comedy improv troupe doesn't make any more sense than it did in the mid-90s.

But a reunion is not a real recapturing, and there was an undeniable difference between my memory of college and this brief reconstruction thereof. Because we're not the same, despite the weekend's shenanigans. There were moments when I felt kind of sad, intensely aware that that time in my life--a time which I remember with intense fondness, when I was often very happy--is absolutely over. And yet, I know that I couldn't go back to it; I--the I that I am now--could never have that experience again. Would I want to? If I'm honest with myself, I know that no, I wouldn't. I like the self that I was in college, but the self that I am now is, in many ways, so much better off--more confident, more wisely restrained (most of the time), less desperately anxious over every little drama--and the thought of having to relearn everything that I've gathered in the last 10 years is, frankly, exhausting.

Even so, it was undeniably fun to catch a few glimpses of the past. And I found myself reassured by the fact that the students look more or less the same as they did when I was there. A friend of mine, spotting a few of them crossing campus, said, "That's what I came here to see. A big-ass beard, a tee-shirt that doesn't make any sense, and totally ironic light-up sneakers." It's good to know they're still out there.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Away

I'm leaving for my reunion in the morning. Back on Monday! Maybe! (By which I don't mean that I might not come home on Monday, but, rather, that I might not choose to post anything here until later in the week. I'll cross that bridge when I get to it, as they say.)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Stupid Liquor Store!, or, Disconnected Ramblings

Last night I went to my local liquor store for some beer. Standing by the cooler, I was distracted by a young pair at my left: the male was enthusiastically telling his female companion that, because they would be eating goulash, they should purchase a German beer. While I was contemplating how (or whether) to tell them that goulash is in fact Hungarian, I selected what I thought was a nice, ordinary Brooklyn Ale. However, due to my lack of focus, I evidently selected Brooklyn's Black Chocolate Stout instead. What's the problem? Well, it's a whopping 10.7% alcohol (yet conveniently priced at only $8.55/six-pack!). So tonight I had one beer, but then I really wanted another beer (in order to prolong the overall drinking experience), and thought, Hell, I'll have that other beer, why not? But of course now I'm only halfway through beer no. 2 and a little on the tipsy side. Which was decidedly not my intention.

You know what I hate? I hate it when, in movie trailers, they splice up the characters' dialogue so that it sounds like they're responding to the voice-over for the movie commercial. Like the one I just say for the new Pirates of the Carribean movie, where Johnny Depp says "Ooh, I like that," after the voice-over guy says something about seeing the movie right when it first comes out. It's irritating. And they aren't kidding anybody.

Speaking of movies, they're filming part of a movie right around the corner from my house! It's very exciting. The Costumes trailer is literally in front of my building--like, I could step from my front door into the trailer, if I had extra long legs, or something. Today I watched them shoot a scene where two of the main characters rush into a hardware store, and then some people walk back and forth in front of the store. (After three takes, I'd pretty much had enough; I think that the interesting part of the scene was happening inside.) It's kind of cool--they totally created this store out of an empty shop in about 3 days. I actually thought there was a new hardware store in town when I got home from my travels last week. And apparently the star of the movie (the one I watched rush into the store a couple of times) was on "Gray's Anatomy," but I've never seen it, so I don't know anything about her.

Well anyway. It's kind of a nostalgic week for me. On Friday, I'll be heading to my 10th college reunion, where I'll be rooming with a really good friend whom I haven't seen in a long time. The prospect has me thinking a lot about days of yore; I've even busted out some old diaries. Damn, college was crazy times. I do not feel at liberty to disclose exactly what about college was so crazy, but I'm sure your collective imaginations can fill in the blanks. Also, because I finished the sweater I was knitting (pictures forthcoming--I'm very proud!), I decided to resume work on my photo albums from last summer. Which inspired me to look at some other albums from the last six or seven years. It's kind of scary to find a picture of myself from 2002 and think, Damn, I look so young. Shouldn't that not be happening yet?

Okay. I think it's kind of a good idea not to drink and blog, so perhaps I'll stop here. Good night, one and all....

Aesthetic Decisions

There! Isn't that better?

The old template was just too, too busy. It bothered me. I tried not to let it bother me, but it did. Now I'm happy.

In other news, here is an International Reply Coupon.


I was admiring it the other day, and then I noticed that little guy in the upper left-hand corner. The one in the feathered headdress:

What's up with that, exactly?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Praise me!

--for today, I read one whole article! Like, a 30-page one! From start to finish! In a single sitting, no less!

Celestial trumpets sound....

Monday, May 21, 2007

Active/Passive

So I've been revising my novel manuscript for the past couple of weeks, and I'm struck, as always, by how interesting revising can be. I never used to revise my fiction very much, which is probably why it wasn't all that good, but one thing that the dissertation process taught me was that first drafts are never finished drafts. Revision works.

Anyway one of the comments that my SignifOth gave me when he read the MS was that the main character seemed too passive. I agree; a lot of things happen to her, and she thinks about them and reacts. SO found that this made it harder to relate to/sympathize with her. I can definitely see that. And I didn't want her to be passive; it just sort of happened. So that's one thing that I've been trying to fix in my revisions.

Passivity, shyness, submissiveness--these are things I've tried to overcome throughout my life; they're things a lot of people (maybe more women than men, but I won't get into that) struggle against. And what's interesting is that the changes I've made to the way that my protagonist behaves could actually be a sort of instruction manual on how to be less passive. I've added a few incidents to the story which give her the chance to be more assertive, but the systemic changes that I've made are all actually pretty minor. Mostly, they're a matter of just deleting certain verbs. Here are some of the things that my character is not doing anymore (or not doing as much):

1) shrugging, sighing
2) smiling
3) thinking/considering/pondering after someone else says something
4) agreeing with things she doesn't really think
5) pausing, hesitating, looking away, looking down
6) noticing the strength/power/whathaveyou of other people
7) not asking questions about interesting things that other people say

Once I noticed how pervasive these actions (or non-actions, in the case of #7) were throughout the MS, it really seemed that I'd been consciously constructing her as passive, even submissive. Which I wasn't. But what's particularly interesting, to me, is how just removing most of the instances of points 1-6 (and adding some follow-up dialogue to get rid of 7) totally changes her character.

Hm.

ETA: Another one: looking at people "gratefully." Yuck!

Comp!

How does anyone teach comp? I don't know!

Not that I've started thinking about my syllabi for the fall, or anything. Because I haven't. It's 1 AM and I'm just back from the bar. But hey, I need to teach a lot of comp next year, and I claimed to know what I was going to be doing, and yes, I have some ideas, but...how does this teaching thing work, exactly?

Actually, ever since it dawned on me (back in '01) that I was going to have to teach people actual things one day, I've had this feeling that teaching is a sort of mystical enterprise that I could never possibly understand. Like, you stand in front of a room and somehow manage to fill a certain block of time--never visibly spacing out, never seeming to get tired--and lead people to think a certain thing that they didn't think before. How does that happen? I suppose I've done it (either that, or I've wasted a whole lot of other people's time), but lately it's been hitting me that I'm going to have to do it for about 12 hours a week next year, and I'm flabbergasted.

Composition has me a little more stunned than the actual lit courses, I confess. Because I can babble on about literature pretty much endlessly, if I have to (I'm not saying it's interesting, or informative, but the time gets filled). VerySLAC does not have a set comp curriculum; in fact, everyone structures the class pretty much however they want. Which is nice, in a way, but at this stage in my career I'd really like some guidelines. (Guidelines are, apparently, forthcoming. However, I'm not convinced that they will be detailed guidelines; thus, some worry remains.)

So I ask my question again, knowing that it's vague, knowing that it's huge and impossible to answer, and that at this stage a Google search will probably yield my best results:

How on earth does one teach comp?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Good Beginnings

Today, I had lunch with my new department chair (how much do I love saying that?), who happened to be in the GradCity area, and the friend with whom she was traveling. They're both lovely people, and I'm feeling increasingly excited about next year. Yes, I'm still nervous about the whole 4-4 thing, but I'm getting such a good feleing about the faculty and community that I think the year as a whole might not be so bad. For example, during lunch, Chair and Friend offered:

1) to lend me enough furniture to basically fit out a whole apartment next year, making the move that much easier;
2) to pick me up from the nearest major city's airport (2.5 hours away from CollegeTown) so that I could save airfare, if I decide to fly out instead of driving;*
3) to introduce me to some non-college-affiliated people whom they thinkI might like, once I get there;
4) to put me up (in the Friend's sister's house) for a month or two upon my arrival, if I have a hard time finding an apartment;
5) to fly to GradCity and drive to CollegeTown with me if I decide to drive, and can't find anyone to accompany me. It's almost a 20-hour drive.

Such kindness is, frankly, astonishing. I was very touched. It also just bodes so well for the community I'll be moving into; it was clear, both from my visit and our conversation today, that everyone in town pretty much knows everyone else, and once you're "in," you're in. Clearly, they want me to feel "in," and are willing to do quite a bit to ease my transition this summer. I think that CollegeTown will be a nice place to live.

And on top of it all, they paid for lunch!

*I am getting some relocation expenses reimbursed, but it's nowhere near enough to cover a full-on move. The bulk of my possessions will have to languish in storage for the duration of my contract.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Someone Talk Me Down, Please

Yesterday I got an email from an online writing tutoring thing that I applied for a while back. I applied for this job thinking that, if I ended up adjuncting, it would be a way to make a little extra money. It is not a CV-building kind of thing. It requires giving undergrads writing advice for 10+ hours a week. It would be time-consuming and dull.

So the email asks me to do a kind of tutoring test online--it's the next stage in the application process. This job pays (*shudder*) $12/hour for Ph.D.s. That's $2 more than they pay BAs. On principle alone, I shouldn't go on with this, right? Never mind that I'll be grading eight billion papers a month next semester and this is the last thing I should do with my time.

No, I don't want to go on with the application process! I don't want this job! And yet...I can't quite delete the email. $12 an hour is almost $500 a month! $500 a month for forty hours of mind-numbing tedium that I don't have time for! Somebody, make me turn away from this terrible opportunity!!

Monday, May 14, 2007

My Dinner with M

I just had a really nice dinner with my friend M. M and I have been friends since high school; she now works in some kind of finance-related field and makes enormous amounts of money, all of which she's about to sink into her Very First Home-Ownership Experience. Through no fault of her own, dinner with M always makes me feel like the kid in our relationship; for example, at the restaurant we went to tonight (her choice), I glanced at the wine list and then passed it to her.

"What do you like?" she asked.

"I don't know," I said. "It's all a little rich for my blood." (The cheapest glass was $9, the cheapest bottle $40.)

She looked it over. "I think they raised the prices," she said. "I'm pretty sure the bottle I usually get was $35. Oh well; we'll get a bottle, and I'm paying for it."

Then I pretty much followed her recommendation for dinner (by default--it was the only vegetarian option), and let her pick out the appetizers. And more or less order for both of us. And then when the check came, she refused to take more than $20 from me. I hope this doesn't sound critical here, because it was all done in a very civil and not-condescending way; essentially, she knows I'm a Poor Student, and is happy to share her income. Also we only see each other every four or five months.

And, of course, the advantage to being The Kid is that Mom/Dad buys you a nice dinner. So.

But anyway, I told her about my job, kind of expecting/fearing that she'd be sympathetic, rather than congratulatory. Not that I'm averse to a little sympathy. But her career is so eminently practical; I worried that she'd say something about the insanity of academia and how soon can I get a job in a real city. She's one of the only people I know--perhaps the only person--who has, historically, teased me. A lot. I don't much like to be teased, but for some reason M is allowed to demand to know why I'm wearing such-and-such an outfit or what on earth did I ever see in such-and-such a boyfriend (whom, more often than not, she'd never met). She's a strong personality. We didn't agree on much in high school--I was goth, she was Catholic; I was the liberal vegetarian, she was the meat-eating Republican (that's changed, actually; Bush has made M into a...well, if not a Democrat, than at least a moderate! Huzzah!). Maybe one of the things I liked about her was the fact that she felt so free to disagree with me, as annoying as that could be, at times.

And yet! She wasn't sarcastic or even sympathetic. She was flat-out congratulatory. And interested in hearing about the classes I'd be teaching. And just generally all-around supportive. I hadn't expected her to be mean or anything, but I guess--and this is probably just my own issue--I was a little bit prepared to be defensive. It's so nice when people surprise you in a good way, like this.

She also enlisted her car service to drive us both home, which meant that I accidentally left my Signif.Oth. to make his way home alone. Which he's perfectly capable of doing, of course, but now it's almost 11 and I'm still waiting for him to get back.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

News

Well, I have been offered, and accepted, the one-year job at VerySLAC. I'm happy but alarmed. Here are some of my reasons for each feeling.

Happy
  • Next year is settled, at last! No more job applications! I actually have a couple in envelopes, all ready to go, which I will not need to send. Words cannot express the delight that this brings me.
  • The faculty at VSLAC all seemed very nice, very welcoming, and very collegial. I will be the fourth member of the 4-member English department (one member of whom just teaches comp--I told you this was a VSLAC). So I should get to know these people pretty well, and it's a good thing that I liked them.
  • While I'm less than thrilled about the composition classes I'll be teaching next year, the other classes I'll be teaching should be interesting. I don't get to come up with the actual topics, which are already set, but they're pretty general courses and they'll be good for me. So this whole deal will be an excellent learning experience.
  • The college is in a pretty rural area. While that isn't such a positive trait in the long run, I'm looking forward to spending a little bit of time in a quiet place with, possibly, a yard???
Alarmed
  • I will be teaching 4-4 (preps are only 3-2, though).
  • I have to move. And it's going to be a weird move: most of my stuff will be put into storage, and then I need to somehow get the Absolute Minimum out to the remote little mid-America town where I'll be living for a while. I also need to find a place to live--ideally a furnished place, as my furniture will all be in storage. The thought of doing all of this makes me tired. And I can't really afford/don't really want to go out there to look for a place, so finding an apartment will have to be accomplished remotely.
  • I will be teaching 4-4. I think that that's worth two alarms.
  • The semi-long-distance relationship will be truly long-distance for nine months or so. Which kind of sucks, a lot.
In sum: I'm not on the job market for a few months, and I have a tremendous amount to do. Hooray! Oh no! Hooray!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Intermission

Well I'm back, and in 10 minutes I leave for the train station. When will this mad jet-setter lifestyle come to an end????

I received an email today about a local adjunct opportunity, actually within my field. So if this campus visit went worse than I think that it did, or the other candidate's visit went better, or if I decide not to move halfway across the country to teach a 4-4 load, there are Alternatives.

At some point, perhaps tomorrow, I may write a bit about the visit itself. It was actually a pretty pleasant interview, and the faculty were all extremely warm and welcoming. For now, however, I would rather discuss something altogether unrelated. In brief:

Now that I'm not, you know, twelve, you'd think I'd be able to paint my frikkin toenails, right? Evidently, no. I almost never perform this bizarre and profane act, I confess, because when my toenails are painted my feet look like they belong to someone else, and I get kind of disoriented. Besides, feet are functional, not pretty, and gussying them up just strikes me as...bizarre and profane, I guess.* (I'm using "profane" in the sense of "vulgar, coarse," not in opposition to "sacred." Although, given how much walking I do--and how highly, therefore, I must value my feet--there is something kind of nice about the implied other meaning, here.) However I'm going to a shower in a few days and I have shoes that I think would just look better with some kind of decorated feet, so I bit the bullet and Performed the Act. I truly do suck at it, though. Perhaps my sucking has something to do with the fact that I fundamentally rebel against this particular act of adornment.

Whatever. No one at said shower will be close enough to my toes to notice, I hope.

Okay now I have 5 minutes until I leave for the train. I'd best pack up my computer!

And to all of you who are en route to The Conference, have fun and learn something!

*(I should mention that I don't usually think that other people look weird with painted toenails. It just feels to me like wearing an inappropriate and somewhat uncomfortable disguise. You know?)

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Last Words

All right, off I go! I'll report back in full on Tuesday...or, failing that, Wednesday at the latest....

Wish me luck!

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Minor Crises

As I prepare for my campus visit, I can't quite assimilate the fact that I'm leaving TOMORROW MORNING. And that I therefore need to get everything done TODAY. In connection with these little surges of stress, I've identified several small crises, or if not crises then problems, which I don't know how to deal with/don't want to deal with. (Yes, of course there's a distinction, but at this point I'm not quite making it.)

Minor Crisis no. 1: Clothing.

I'm fine for the interview proper. I have a suit which is season-appropriate and comfortable, and a little blue shirt that I wear under it which is actually kind of a flattering color. I'm experiencing a bit of anxiety over necklaces--my mock-interviewers told me that I should wear a necklace in order to appear less severe--because the only quasi-grown-up necklaces I own are, themselves, severe: picture a silver rectangle on a silver chain. (I have two that fit that description, in fact.) I have less severe necklaces, but they're little beaded things that might not be nice enough. But. The point is that I'm pretty much fine for the interview.

But I'm also having dinner with the search committee chair tomorrow night, and am really not sure what to wear. I don't want to wear a suit; it would be uncomfortable, for one (my second suit is not as nice as my main one), and besides there's not a chance that it would be appropriate for whatever restaurant we go to. This is a small midwestern town we're talking about, here. And I don't want to look all intense and hyper-professional. I'm probably going to wear pinstripe pants, a plain shirt, and a nice-ish cardigan/sweater; I could wish for a better sweater, but this might be the best I can do.

And then they've actually built in time in my Monday schedule for me to "change for dinner." What does this mean? Change into what? Can't I just wear my suit? I strongly suspect that this time is in there simply because they don't know what else to do with me for the hour and a half between my last meeting and dinner, but it makes me feel like I have a responsibility to change clothing. I have a skirt/sweater ensemble I could wear, but it kind of makes me feel young and vulnerable. It's funny how clothes affect you psychologically--I feel vastly more myself in jeans than I do in anything else, and most of my clothes are kind of...childish. At least, they feel childish to me. Oh well. There is no time to shop.

Minor Crisis no. 2: Laundry.
I don't have enough quarters. I thought I did, but I don't.

Minor Crisis no. 3: The Job Market Is Not Over.
There are applications that I'll need to mail out during the 3-hour window in which I'm back in Homecity on Tuesday, and I need to write these up today.

And I, like, really really don't want to.

Minor Crisis no. 4: Surely there's something else?
Because I won't be back in town for, effectively, 12 days, I can't help but feel that I'm forgetting...something...many things, most likely? Ohhhh I don't want to pack and get my house ready for vacancy! Not again!

Somebody make me stop this infernal whining. Everything I have to do in the next couple of weeks (short of the campus visit, which I'm really really happy to be going on, even if it'll be stressful) will be highly enjoyable. I think I'm just having a bit of a paralyzing freak-out, for lack of a better term. Because, um, I didn't know until yesterday that I'd be leaving tomorrow? And I've kind of been letting things slide this week due to my post-vacation readjustment? And stuff?

Oh, but it does make me look forward to getting to my mom's house and being Taken Care Of for a couple of days. And needless to say I'm very excited to be seeing my partner again, after nearly a month apart!

Friday, May 4, 2007

Why do I do this to myself?

Okay, because I like visual aids, here are my travel plans for the next few weeks:

Sunday, 5/6 (pm): fly out for campus visit
Tuesday, 5/8 (am--very EARLY am): fly back to homecity
Tuesday, 5/8 (pm): 4-hour train ride to partner's city (I'm giving myself this one treat: train, NOT bus!)
Thursday, 5/10 (am): 2-hour bus ride north to Momville, for my sister-in-law-to-be's bridal shower
Saturday, 5/12 (pm): 2-hour bus ride back to partner's city
...several days of not going anywhere...
Thursday, 5/17 (am): 4-hour bus ride back to homecity
Saturday, 5/19 (am): 1.5-hour train ride to friend's wedding; home that day, presumably
Thursday, 5/24 (pm): 4-hour bus ride back to partner's city
Friday, 5/25 (am): fly out to college reunion
Monday, 5/27 (TOO damn early am): fly back to partner's city...
...where I will stay, for some indefinite time, until I miss my house too vividly and have to go home.

Bear in mind, if you will, that I just got back from Europe on Monday.

Can't I just, like, not move for a few weeks?

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Please to advise me, please

So for this campus visit I need to give a 30-minute-ish teaching demo, described as "a lecture with some interaction." I won't be presenting it to actual students, as the students have all gone home, but instead to some faculty pretending to be students. (I actually find this slightly less intimidating than real students, oddly enough.) I think I have an idea for what kind of content to cover--I've decided to pretend that it's the first day of a course, or a segment of a course, and give a kind of overview of a subject that (I think) is really interesting, tying in some relevant literary materials which we'll look at in class. But I've never done anything like this before, and I've never talked to anyone who's had to do something like this before, so my question is:

Have any of you done this kind of thing? Or talked to someone who has? Or seen a job candidate do a teaching demo? And do you have any recommendations, advice, warnings, whathaveyou?

Oh, and I should mention: The material that I'm thinking of using for the demo would be something that I'd probably not actually get to teach, at least not in the first year. There's a reasonable chance that I could get it into the early Brit Lit course I'd teach in the fall, but it's not guaranteed; however, my feeling is that I should do something that I'm comfortable with, rather than choose something just because it's what I think they'd want me to do. Agree? or suicide?

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

And so it continues

Today I got an email from a very good friend of mine--in fact we're metting for pizza, beer, and ANTM this evening--saying that she'd got a multi-year postdoc. I'm really happy for her, of course; this is great news, and (although I haven't talked to her live yet) I'm sure she's delighted. It's a terrific position and she totally deserves it.

But, naturally--because the job search brings out the absolute worst in me--the news raised a little shudder of the god-I'm-such-a-loser feelings that I've become pretty good at suppressing (most of the time, anyway). The feelings were compounded by the fact that I hadn't heard back from Recent Interview School, which was supposed to make campus-visit decisions by Sunday. I've had six interviews this year, and no call-backs. And so I started the predictable moan: "What's wrong with me?" I wondered, my body creeping closer and closer to a fetal position. "My interview skills suck. I'll never get a job. Everyone got a job but me..." (which I know isn't true, but such laments care little for the truth).

At the nadir of my pityfest, the phone rang. It was the committee chair from Recent Interview, apologizing for the delay in getting back to me and asking whether I'd be available for a campus visit next week.

So now, of course, I have a whole new wealth of superstition to exploit: the conviction that I'm unemployable is what causes the phone to ring! Ah ha! I've figured it out: the magic spell!

Oh, and god: this means I need to do work, right? I need to actually...prepare a presentation! Dear lord. I've lost all habit of industry. I'd better get on this.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Home home home

Ah, jet lag. Yes, it's 6 am; and no, I didn't go to bed early, like a smart jet-lagged person; although I got back to my apartment at 10:00 I stayed up for two more hours, fixing a pot of spaghetti and watching "Sex and the City." And unpacking, albeit in a rather haphazard fashion.

Today's just going to be kind of a grind, is all. I have three things to do:
  • file my dissertation (10:30 am)
  • have my picture taken for the brochure pertaining to my fellowship (11:30 am)
  • stay awake in seminar (12-2)
  • come home and expire from fatigue.
Okay, that's four things, but the fourth clearly doesn't count.

(Upon rereading this list, I fail to feel any self-pity. My schedule is so absurdly light. Where do I get off complaining?)

So where am I back from, you ask? Iceland! I can tell you that, because of course my conference wasn't actually in Iceland; I simply stopped over there on my way home. It's a weird and interesting place--I kind of feel like the entire time I spent there (about 48 hours) was a dream. There are so few people and so much wind. Yes, the wind is terrific. And everywhere there are flag poles with no flags on them, banging away in the wind. I don't think I ever actually saw it get fully dark, either, since I went to bed at around 10 on both nights and the sun seemed to be all the way up by about 4:30. The light is also remarkable, being always on the slant, and so the colorful houses on the hills of Reykjavic look terribly picturesque. Reykjavic itself, however, was not as picturesque as I'd imagined. In fact, it's somewhat stark, being neither particularly quaint nor particularly modern. The houses are mostly covered in corrugated metal which is then painted; the paint was usually chipped and peeling, owing, I imagine, to the harsh climate. This picture will give you an idea of a typical street:


It's also extremely expensive. Here's the cafe where I ordered The World's Smallest $12 Sandwich:


Seriously, it was about the size of a cracker. It was good, though. I ate only one actual "meal" per day while I was over there; it was all I could afford.

I started to write a more detailed post about where I've been, what I did, etc., but I'm not sure that such a thing would be all that interesting. I'm not particularly interested in writing it, at any rate. So here are just some thoughts and observations, in no particular order:
  • Whiskey is a good thing. I knew this before, but my love for it has been renewed.
  • It's okay for me, a WOMAN, to go to a bar by myself. Always before when I've traveled alone, or been alone on an overseas trip--at 25, 27--I've been somewhat apprehensive about Going Out by myself. Which is a shame, because on those trips I often found myself somewhat restless and lonely, and kind of bored in the evenings. But I thought that going to a bar alone would make me too much of a target, or something. And so it might. Within reason, however, it can certainly be done, and on the second major leg of my trip (I was in Scotland; the odds of anyone using that information to track me down just seem too remote), I went out a couple of times and had a beer by myself. And it was fine. Oh, my stupid social anxiety. Most nights I went pretty early--like dinner-time--but for some reason even that used to scare me. And the one night when I actually went to a bar at night, because I wanted to hear some live folk music, I sat at the bar with my book and had a lovely time. It's true that men talked to me, sometimes, and in fact at this particular bar I ended up having a rather long conversation with a 28-year-old guy with OCD who has recently become interested in Wicca. But that was fine, too, and frankly it's nice to talk to someone now and again. I wasn't taking any weird risks, and I wasn't drinking very much, and so there wasn't much more to be afraid of than there is in the normal course of affairs. (There was one guy who was less fine, and hit on me rather too freely, on a different night; but that was at 7 pm, whilst I was writing some postcards, of all provacative behaviors, and he was clearly very drunk, and the bartenders sort of hovered around keeping an eye on things until the besotted fellow took his leave. That was annoying, and unpleasant. One should never declare that one is in love with a person that one has met less than five minutes previously, by the way; it doesn't quite ring true.) Anyway the point is that I realized I'm capable of handling myself, of making it clear that I'm not interested in anything flirtatious, and of not denying myself a small pleasure that I desire. It was actually kind of exciting.
  • I don't think that I want to spend my whole life in a city. Every time I came into a new city, I was vastly more interested in whether I could get into the surrounding countryside--of course, it helped that I was in some places with exceptionally beautiful countryside. But this is a tendency that I've noticed in myself before; when I had to go to Denver for a conference a few years back, for instance, I managed to get out to Boulder within 48 hours of my arrival.
  • Youth hostels aren't all that bad, if you can ignore all the other people. Especially the deranged 37-year-old gamblers who are on an overt husband hunt (and who think that the 14th century refers to the 1400s. Gah!). Remind me to tell you that story some day.
  • I've spent a weirdly long time crafting this post.
And on that note, I think I'll finish up. More later.

Oh hey! I got some good news at the very end of my trip. An extremely obscure, tiny literary journal would like to publish one of my stories. That makes two extremely obscure, tiny literary journals in which I will have published!