Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Three Immutable Rules

  1. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, perhaps especially those placed on very high ceilings, will only ever run out of batteries and begin emitting shrill beeps between 3 and 4 am.

  2. Setting one's alarm for 5:30 on a day when one doesn't teach until 11--in order to "get a jump on things"--will never work. Especially on mornings after Rule # 1 goes into effect.

  3. Every fall, there will be one freshman who simply cannot get hir shit together to go to class. Inevitably this student will be administratively withdrawn, but not until ze has engaged in lengthy email exchanges with hir professors, missed numerous scheduled meetings, and required hir professors to correspond extensively with the registrar's office, thereby wasting a great deal of time and energy.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Boring Sunday To-Do List

Because I'm feeling a little overwhelmed and I need the accountability:
  • Read/skim half of a book for The Book [DONE--or will be by bedtime]
  • Type up notes on book read last week [DONE]
  • Type up notes on article read last week [DONE]
  • Finish reading other article
  • Grade 5 composition papers (I'm doing 5 a day until I'm done--no binges this year! Because 32 comp students is a luxury after last semester's legendary 57!)
  • Grade Middle English translations
  • Figure out how I'm going to grade Middle English translations (better do this one before the preceding)
  • Read and prep for comp [DONE]
  • Prep for the survey
  • Read for Tuesday afternoon class
  • Make yogurt [DONE]
  • Finish making granola (i.e. put it away) [DONE]
  • Get laundry on the line [DONE]
That doesn't look...so bad. Is there something I'm forgetting? Most assuredly!

Edited to add:

Oh, and also:
  • Write up prompt for composition paper [DONE]
  • Revise and finish mid-term prompt for senior class [DONE]
  • Make food items for this week's lunches: [DONE]
    • split-pea soup [DONE]
    • cucumber gazpacho [DONE]
    • baked tofu strips (great protein snacks for the days when I'm stuck on campus) [DONE]
    • salad dressing [DONE]
  • This also requires a quick trip to the store [DONE]
  • Swim [DONE]
ETA (2): Okay, so, I have not done 5 out of 21 things, and I am now very tired. Note, however, that of the 5 things that I have not done, 4 are for class, and will therefore get done sooner or later. I was very intelligent today and put off all of the things that I have to do in a very short time, meaning that I actually got through the things that I ought to do but that were not pressing. I'm pleased with this system. And the world will not end if I wind up returning all of my papers--gasp!--a week after they were handed in. (Didn't I used to strive to hand back papers in only a week? When did 2-5 days become my hyperefficient norm? eh?)

In other news, I have a lot of mosquito bites. They itch.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Well, I Did It

I bought my airline tickets for winter break/MLA. I'm zigzagging across the country on a 3-city tour, flying in and out of obscure airports at my end and my mother's--and yet I somehow got all the tickets I need for only $750! Not chump change, but not as disastrous as I feared. (Yesterday, in fact, the lowest price I could find was $811. I wasn't able to buy it at that moment, and I had all kinds of panic--those "Only 1 ticket left!!!!" notices were everywhere--and yet?)

In fact, I just had a little panic attack and had to go verify that I hadn't accidentally bought a return ticket for December 30, 2009, or something.

So hey, I'll be at the big stressfest, and hope to see some of y'all there! (And if anyone needs a roommate, I'm available! Is that pathetic? I don't know. Whatever. There it is: my desperate plea to the internets.)

I still haven't reserved a hotel room, though. Or paid the registration fee. Or renewed my membership for next year. Feh. That'll all have to go on a later credit card bill.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

In the Interest of Accuracy, and a Question

I have now actually read through all of the reviewers' comments, and I have some real work to do. There wasn't much in there that surprised me; the readers seemed to pick up pretty well on the weaknesses that I already knew I had (and that I was hoping could just slide on by under the radar. Alas, the radars are more powerful than I had given them credit for being).

So I've made a long list of things to do, with some ideas for how to tackle all of the problems. I hope to finish it this semester. We shall see. For I teach 5 classes, remember. (One of which is only 50 minutes a week, but still.)

My question is this: How do I now list the MS on my CV? It was "under review by [press]," but that's not truly accurate anymore. However, I don't want to just take it off the CV, since it received a very positive review and the editor added remarks to the effect of, "We look forward to being able to publish this book" and "It's clear that this is a book that we should publish." So what's the protocol here? Is it "in revision for [press]"? Is that even a thing? What's the language? Help me, internets! For the job app due dates loom in the not-too-distant future, and I really want this sucker on my vita.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Two things that made me feel better this afternoon:

1) Listening to Regina Spektor's "Apres Moi," loudly, on my ipod as I walked back to campus after lunch.

2) A message from the editor at Press No. 1, saying that the reader reports indicate the necessity for some revisions but that on the whole this is a book that they'd really like to publish!!! (If I adequately address the revisions, that is.)

2b) A glance at the reports (which I only just got) indicates that a very big person was one of the reviewers. Which is alarming. And yet, s/he says some positive things! (Along with some quite legitimate criticism, of course.)

A quick look at the many single-spaced pages of comments tells me that I have a lot of work to do, but this is incredibly exciting, and definitely the best news that I could have hoped for. I had no illusions about having written a ready-to-go MS, so this is pretty cool.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


I don't know. It was a long day; my temper is high. Walking home just now someone almost ran into me as I was crossing a street (I totally had the right of way, but it was dark and they whipped around the corner quickly), and instead of being startled or relieved or whatever I just fumed the rest of the way home, which wasn't particularly helpful.

Classes were/are fine. Work in general is fine. That's not the problem.

We had a two+-hour faculty meeting today; obviously I can't blog about it, but there are just so many things wrong. There was some bizarre and incomprehensible presentation that made no sense and we were told--over and over--that we couldn't ask questions or respond to it. (I did voice a response, to something that was patently offensive, but I don't think that the presenter understood.) So that was one thing. And there's other stuff. It's hard to even say where the problem is, except that more and more is being laid on us with no intention of additional compensation or acknowledgment. I sometimes get the feeling that, no matter what's wrong on campus, it's the faculty's fault. And we get scolded for it.

Well, okay, that's a bit of an overstatement. But when there was a terrible storm last year and a senior faculty member's office was flooded, ruining all of his equipment and files going back over his whole career, the email that went out notifying us about it and offering condolences to him also managed to indicate that he was really responsible for not making sure that all the windows in the area were closed before the storm came in.

That might be true. But if it was, did it need to be said? Right then? What did that serve?

So yeah. There was that meeting.

Second thing (non-chronologically): Earlier in the day I received a pamphlet from the Secretary of State about an electoral issue, addressed to "Residential Customer, [STATE]." This pissed me off. Customer? Of whom, exactly? I've drafted a letter to send back. I may post it here. It is Strongly Worded.

So then I get home tonight from what turned out to be a refreshingly funny lecture/presentation, and find that of the 9 students who were supposed to submit discussion questions for tomorrow's class, I've heard from two. {OK, I just got the third, more than an hour and a half late.} What the hell? It's still early in the semester; are they all slacking off already? These suckers are graded. These are English majors in the class. And now, I'll need to do extra prep because we won't have the discussion questions to structure our session. Maybe I just won't do the work and will let them go early, in scorn, for not having done it. But I always question the punitive value of an early release.

Better yet--I'll make them come up with questions in class, for no credit. Ha! My wickedness knows no bounds.

Anyway, feh. I feel all wound up and tired. I'm concerned that my registering my complaint during the meeting today was inappropriate and awkward (I was sort of shaking as I said it). But really, the presenter said something (race-related) that made me want to walk out of the room. I know that other faculty supported my sentiment, but I worry that I'm getting too big for my pre-tenure britches or something. But then, oh well; it's years to tenure and I may well be somewhere else by then.

On the other hand, I just got some new shoes in the mail, and I haven't even opened the box! Maybe that will help.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Rain, Rain

Seriously. When will the monsoons stop?

Tomorrow, says Firefox, but Firefox has been wrong before. Firefox is usually wrong, in fact.

Anyway, on this preternaturally dark and dismal Sunday morning, I am staring down the following tasks:
  • Write a dummy paper for my comp students to revise. This should take me all of 10 minutes--in fact, I will deliberately limit myself to 10 minutes--but I find the prospect soul-crushing and can't seem to get myself to do it. Hence the blogging.
  • Read like 6 pages for a Tuesday class.
  • Drag my ass back to campus to get last year's notes on SGGK out of my office. Then use them to come up with a wildly exciting SGGK lesson plan for tomorrow. Hey, you know, I taught one of Marie de F's poems on Friday and it went really well--far better than last year. I think it was partly because, when a student called the fairy lady "the hottest chick ever," I replied, "Yes, she is the hottest chick ever," which greatly amused the class.
  • ...Start working on the job letter--particularly that pesky "future research" paragraph. Grouse. The whole letter needs redoing, really, since it's still got lingering traces of gradstudentism all over it, I think.
I am feeling highly ambivalent about the market this year--and it's not just the expense of flying to SF that's got me down. On the one hand, there are some pretty awesome jobs (though not as many as last year--but that's okay, because I have no intention of applying to 40+ jobs this fall). And I don't really want to spend my career at Field or a place like Field, not because it's a bad place (it has its problems, of course, but there's a lot here that's lovely), but because I enjoy research and writing. I know that it's possible to maintain an active research agenda at a 4-4 school. But this 4-4 school.... Well, there are basically no publication requirements for tenure; you just need to show that you're "active" in your field--to the tune, as far as I can make out, of attending an occasional conference; I don't think you even need to present. While that might take some pressure off, it also means that there's no reason for the institution to support its faculty's research aspirations. We get a little bit of money to travel to conferences, but it's extremely difficult to get a sabbatical here (I know people who have been here for more than 20 years without a semester off); there aren't currently course releases for research; and the service requirements are intense. In addition to the traditional service requirements, by the way, we're constantly informed that we should be attending more student functions and involving ourselves more heavily in student organizations. The thinking seems to be that teaching + service should take up all of your time--and the senior faculty here, well, they're awfully tired. They work really hard. Many many hours a week. So no one has time to do any outside research. I can think of one senior faculty member who publishes, ever. That's not many.

The lack of research support and expectations, coupled with the very small size of the faculty, means that there's very little sense of a larger academic community at Field. First, no one really has anyone else to talk to about his or her specialization, since we all cover different areas. And second, the total orientation on undergraduate teaching gives us little incentive or opportunity to stay really current with scholarship, which seems to erode the faculty's engagement with the broader world of academia. I miss talking about my work and hearing about other people's work. The Minister and I have shared some of our writing, but of course we're in pretty different fields, and there are only two of us. Since my actual professional training was all about research, I hate to think of never doing any of it again--much as I value and enjoy teaching.

Oh, and the pay = not good. Raises--even cost-of-living increases--are extremely infrequent. At least one full prof who's been here for more than 15 years makes less than 50k. Given my starting salary, I'm unlikely to wind up in the same boat, but it's also scandalous that they've increased starting salaries for junior faculty so much (they're still low, though) while senior people had salary freezes. The financial problems, they run deep.

So why wouldn't I want to go on the market this year? Well, I'm getting more comfortable here. I like some of my students a lot, and like almost all of them at least a little, and I'd like to stick around and work with them for a little longer. I love my tiny house; I love my garden; I'm in a local relationship (although he may not stick around here forever, either). Also--I admit--I feel guilty. My people are not going to be pleased if I jump ship, and I dread asking for a letter. So, yeah. Guilt. Which I know I don't need to feel--but since they basically did two searches (the VAP and the t-t) to get me here, I think that I feel a little bit of an extra obligation to stick it out for a while.

Anyway. We'll see. I'm only applying to jobs that are clear moves up, not to jobs that would be lateral moves or about which I feel ambivalent. Most likely, nothing will come of these applications, but I'm going to have to buy that ticket to SF regardless.

Friday, September 12, 2008

What's with the Gouging, MLA?

So, in order to go on the job market, one must:
  1. Pay an annual membership fee.
  2. Procure a separate subscription to view the JIL (or poach one from a friend if one's institution does not subscribe to it).
  3. Pay an immodest conference registration fee ($125!).
  4. Buy a passel of one-way plane tickets so that one can attend the conference and also visit one's family for the holidays. These aren't cheap in the best of times, and people, these aren't the best of times.
  5. Pay for a hotel room in a city with which one probably isn't familiar, which often leads one to stay in one of the conference hotels ($$$$) rather than risk getting lost on the way to/from interviews, which one may or may not have.
  6. Let's not talk about meals, or dossier processing fees (should properly blame my grad school for this one), or postage or copying fees.
Okay, not all of that is MLA's fault. But it struck me this morning that it's truly weird to withhold the job list from people who don't have subscription numbers. Seriously, does any individual pay for a JIL subscription? I don't even know how one would go about doing such a thing.

I haven't made any decisions about my own future, by the way. I'm just railing against the currently overwhelming expenses that I will incur should I happen to follow Option A.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

You know?

Clothes from [letter] [letter] [legume] are fine. Really. I own a couple of things--a coat, a sweater--and I like them. Sure.

But I despise their catalogues. The people in them: with their sweeping blond hair and matronly khakis, the button-down shirts tucked all the way in, reclining stiffly against a railing while smiling fondly at the antics of dogs--or laughingly trekking across a mountaintop in a sweater-set and "barn coat" (whatever that is)--the men grinning bashfully at the attractively leaf-strewn ground whilst running a hand through their tousled hair, their chinos neatly pressed and their flannel shirts well-starched--oh, they make me itch.

Yes. Okay. Had to get that out of my system.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

I Had A Clever Title, But I Forgot It, For I Am Tired

It is...yes. It is underway. The semester, she's rolling. Good lord. I'm tired.

Yeah, definitely not into the work schedule yet. Tomorrow we'll have been in class for a week (minus Monday, of course). So seriously. Four days? That's all I've done so far?

I am overwhelmed, friends. I'm not exactly behind yet--just teetering on the brink. How did this happen? I was so organized! so ahead of things!

At the risk of being boring, I shall give you the quick run-down of my semester:

Five classes. I'm teaching five classes (= 4 preps, and one of them only meets for 50 minutes/week, but still). So far they're all going really well, especially the senior-level majors-only seminar, which is awesome and on a topic that I love and only has 8 students in it. Comp is even going well (although we've only met twice) (remind me to tell you about the Mystic Binder one of these days). And the survey is fine, although I'm not particularly interested in it; I loved this class last year, but now? Kinda done with it. Also I'm in a terrible, terrible, feng shui-violating florescent nightmare of a basement classroom, and I hate it. The one-hour class just started today, but I think that it'll be fun and pretty lightweight. At least, that's the plan. So the classes are fine, just frequent and tiring and never-ending. The prep, the prep! It is always undone!

Advising. I've never advised before. It's not too bad, yet, only I was handed several of WriterBoy's old advisees (he's gone on to greener pastures) and a few of them have some real scheduling problems. Like, graduating seniors who haven't fulfilled the lab science requirement. Not sure what to do about that, frankly. Yikes.

Honors. As I've said, I'm directing the Honors program now. What this means at this point is that I need to meet with every one of the incoming Honors students to go over the program's requirements. This isn't horrendously taxing or anything, but it does require me to stay on top of my calendar, which used to be my strong suit, until I started teaching and the organized part of my brain fell out of my left ear.

Extra teaching. One student who needs the senior majors' class can't come to the class, for reasons too complex and detailed to describe, so I need to meet with hir every week in the afternoons and also devise a different grading rubric that matches what ze will actually be doing.

Organizations. I recalled, today, that I'm the faculty sponsor for a student organization, and I need to get on top of determining new members' eligibility and also corralling the members into meeting and whatnot. Resolved: I will not take over the student organization. Which I kinda did last year.

College-wide. We're doing this whole curriculum reform-type thing this year which requires lots of extra meetings, as well as assignments between meetings. There was some stuff that I was really supposed to review before tomorrow's meeting, but you know? I didn't, and it's unlikely that I will. Oh well. Nobody else did, either. (Except the Minister, for he is good.)

Is that all? I think that that's all.

It won't be too bad once I get into the rhythm (I hope?), but right now it's like this series of flashes of panic: Oh! Wait! I had to do --! and what about --? Have I emailed --? What classes do I have tomorrow? What time is it? Good God! What have I done?

Only 15 weeks to go! Seriously, does anybody else have a 16-week semester? Wisely, however, I have scheduled almost no readings for the week and a half after Thanksgiving. Hurrah!