Monday, December 30, 2013

When does the good part start?

Back from Hometown.  Applying for jobs.  Drinking coffee and rye.  2014 is on track to begin the way so many others have: another one of the worrisome years.  What the hell, I'll wish for a better year anyway.

See you all in 2014.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Walking far from home

This morning, I finally finished grading my terrifying stack of essay exams for the Intro to Pseudology sections.  Heartily cheered by this, I rewarded myself by listening to the album I just bought a few days ago, Iron & Wine's Kiss Each Other Clean.

Several hours later, while attending to sundry job application matters, I made myself look at the pseudology job wiki.  Established that I have been rejected by some twenty-five of the fifty or so jobs I've applied for — probably more, in fact, but not all of them are listed on the wiki.  Made myself coffee spiked with rye.  Swallowed my pride and began adding one-year VAP positions to my spreadsheets (one for me, and one for my referees). 

And in moments of both triumphant pleasure and defeated sorrow, I took solace in this song.

Wish me luck making it through this winter.  It looks like I have to keep walking far from home for another year.

Thursday, December 19, 2013


The downside of a chili party being cancelled because of a fast-spreading stomach bug: I don't get to show off my chili-cooking prowess to my friends until some unspecified date in the future.

The upside, however, is that I got to reacquaint myself with my chili-cooking techniques, as well as experiment with a few small changes to my basic recipe.  All in all, it turned out well, and I anticipate much carnivorous celebration when everyone involved has a settled stomach.

Extension of previous observation: the one real flaw in my technique here is the "one for you, one for me" philosophy of adding a can of beer to the pot of stew.  As I learned to my chagrin tonight, when I pour myself a pint of beer to sip while stirring the chili on the stove, I have a distinct tendency to let my attention drift to the fucking awesome music showcased on another blog, become obsessed with memorizing the lyrics and parsing the harmonies, and then suddenly become aware of a burning smell coming from the kitchen.

Monday, December 16, 2013

RBOC: Liveblogging the final exam

I'm proctoring.  I'm bored.  So.
  • There is a noticeable scent of Axe body spray in the air this morning as CBU students begin their exam week.  I wouldn't be surprised if a few of the boys are putting it on as a talismanic gesture in preparation for an exam, but the smart money is that they stopped showering days ago and believe that a rampant chemical stench will cleverly disguise their poor finals-time hygiene.
  • It fascinates me to observe the varieties of boots that students wear for winter weather.  This can be broken down in several ways:
    • Men very rarely wear boots.  It is sneakers, loafers, or bust around here.  How they avoid pneumonia is more than I can say.  (Of course, I write this with some decidedly non-boot oxfords on my feet, so maybe I should shut up.)
    • Women are all about the boots here.  Sure, there are the usual Uggs and Bean boots, but there's an impressive array of alternative styles on display — most of them, to my eye, fashion boots rather than actual heavy-weather gear.  (I sure hope you waterproofed those nice leather boots, sweetheart.)  
    • Speaking of the Bean boots, I am amused to see how many of those look absolutely, flawlessly new.  And expensive.  You don't get hot pink or fur-lined duck boots cheap.  (To say nothing of hot pink and fur-lined.)  I wonder if the owners ever actually walk in such fancy footwear any further than the distance to the dining hall.  I mean, yes, the shoes are cute, but wear the damn things!  Buying something with a lifetime guarantee motivates me to test its endurance, not baby it.
  • Given how lazy time-inefficient some of the students have proved at semester's end, and how much I've heard colleagues grumbling about catching plagiarists of late, I'm really glad that the heavily weighted final assignment in my intro classes is an in-class exam.  It's simply not possible to plagiarize such things without flat-out cheating like a first grader.  In my grading rubric, even a disastrously failing exam earns a positive integer of some kind, which makes even flaming idiocy earn a higher grade than dishonesty.
  • My, it's warm in this classroom.  My stylish professorial four layers are perhaps a bit of overkill in here.
  • Including the awesome red lambswool sweater I'm wearing.  Have I mentioned that I've been stocking up on nice grown-up clothes ever since Black Friday?  I'm aiming especially to vary my color palette, since the dark greys and browns are starting to depress me.
  • Oh man, I have to go to the bathroom.  It's just unavoidable after my morning coffee, you know?  But can I trust all of these students not to whip out notes the moment I step out?  Probably not.  Oh dear.
  • A miracle! Out of bladder desperation, I ran to the men's room for a few minutes, and when I returned, no one was cheating!  They didn't even look like they had frantically dug out their notes and then thrown them back in the bag as I walked in.  SO relieved, for multiple reasons.
  • I'm a little surprised to see how long this exam is taking my students.  I had estimated one and a half to two hours to complete it, but most of them look on track to take the full three hours.  Good student and poor student alike seem to need more time than I expected to write the whole thing.  Unprecedented.
  • This probably has something to do with the fact that this is the first exam I've ever written without any multiple choice questions at all, and heavy emphasis on essays.  They really get to show their stuff on this exam, and with no softball questions, they have nowhere to hide. 
  • Somehow I find it distasteful to see students chewing gum as they write exams.  It always reminds me of the scene in The Bird Cage when Nathan Lane disparages a gum-snapping dumb bunny of a dancer.  But it's just not appropriate to say to a student, "Sweetie, you're wasting your gum."
  • Fifteen minutes to go, and half of the class is still writing.
  • OMFG why haven't they finished yet?  Why can't I go to my office already?  I think time itself may be bending around some kind of black hole created by the energy of my students' brains working on overdrive.  What if they reach critical mass and we're all crushed to death by the pressure of the implosion?
  • It would really suck to be crushed to death in a black hole before I've had my lunch.
  • Oh, students, I see you turning in exams with questions left blank. *facepalm*  Don't you understand that you're sacrificing at least the possibility of points that way?  Nothing comes from nothing.  It frustrates me to see good students screw themselves that way.  Is it a point of honor for them that they don't try to bullshit?  I supposed I understand that way of thinking, but surely they can see for themselves that this is mathematically damaging to them.
  • Then again, considering all the boneheaded questions I endure every semester about GPAs and maximal final grades, maybe they're even worse at math than they are at pseudology.
  • DONE!!
  • Now I have a full ninety minutes to enjoy before I have to do the whole fucking thing again for the other section of Intro to Pseudology.  Sigh.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Office hours in opera form

The vast majority of my open office hours through the semester run pretty much like this:

But this week, mere days before the final exam for both of my Intro to Pseudology classes, my office hours suddenly turn into — well, kinda-sorta* turn into this:

Uno alla volta!

Naturally, after the exams, I have to go into hiding, lest my office hours devolve into this:

* I mean, minus the gratuitous skeeziness, misogyny, and the crazy pantaloons.  I actually dislike this version, but the only staged version on YouTube that I like so far is an old filmed version with Tito Gobbi, and he performs it without anyone else on stage, so you sort of lose my point about being in high demand, and...I've explained too much, haven't I?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

RBOC: Teaching and cooking with a head cold

  • God forbid I make it through the semester without contracting a head cold.  I love lecturing when I can barely breathe.
  • Ditto driving the thirty-mile trek from home to campus.
  • Especially when the forecast calls for freezing drizzle overnight, thus likely yielding black ice all over the roads tomorrow morning.
  • My stuffed-up sinuses and the headache caused thereby also make it extra-special awesome to plan out my final exam reviews, and to prep tomorrow morning's lesson.
  • I could feel this cold coming on yesterday, so at least I had time to prepare with groceries.  I just cooked up a big pot of chicken soup, with an abstemiously small teaspoon (...maybe a heavy teaspoon) of chili powder for sinus kick.  So good.  
  • The irony of cooking this soup with a stuffed-up nose is that I can't be bothered by the raw onion, but this is the only recipe I know in which the onion goes into the pot pretty much whole.  It's a missed opportunity to not tear up while chopping an onion, but then again, maybe it's for the best that this soup doesn't require a lot of knife work.
  • I went to a party the other day thrown by a couple who have a daunting number of dietary restrictions between them, and I was flummoxed for what to bring.  (The host had suggested I bring something savory.)  I'm really low on savory recipes that don't involve a) meat, b) lots of hot chiles, or c) both A and B, and I was worried I'd be reduced to bringing a bag of bread sticks.  Luckily, after tooling around the internet for a while, I found an excellent vegan recipe the ingredients for which are easily found in Cornstate.  I added my own little touch, and voilà, my biggest crowd-pleaser in years!  To wit:

    1.5 lb. Brussels sprouts
    Good olive oil
    Kosher salt
    Freshly ground black pepper
    Mustard oil

    Slice the sprouts in half lengthwise.  Toss them with a pleasing amount of salt, pepper, and olive oil.  Pour them onto a cookie sheet and spread them out in a thin layer.  Drizzle a modest amount of mustard oil over them.  (NB: DO NOT bathe the sprouts in this stuff!)  Roast them in the oven at 400º for about half an hour.
  • I'm still so pleased with the reception my Brussels sprouts got that for a minute, I actually forgot to feel kvetchy about my head cold.  That minute has now expired.
  • Kvetch.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

RBOC: Mired in the semester

  • This semester may never actually end.  CBU actually lists the due date for grades as December 26.  Fucking seriously, CBU?
  • I just finished grading the papers for my little topics course.  On to the two intro courses' worth.  Oy.
  • Two more weeks of classes before the exam period even starts.  Seriously, FML.
  • On the plus side, I'm still wringing the occasional tenure-track job posting to apply to out of this semester's listings.  This seems more exciting than it really is only because I've already begun to steel myself to give up on the tenure track and apply to more contract jobs.
  • Three weeks away, and I'm already dreading going to visit the folks in Hometown.  At least I'm only going for a single week.
  • This should be the place in the post in which I complain about having to teach a truly pointless January term course, thus rendering my winter break almost non-existent.  But, since that will at least occupy some of my mind and make me wake up at normal hours so I can work, it may well be a blessing in disguise.
  • The wretched Christmas shopping season is upon us, complete with that goddamn music in every place of retail business, including my local bar.  I grit my teeth.
  • Which reminds me: when people here in Cornstate ask you this or that about "the holidays" coming up, and you explain that you don't actually celebrate that holiday, they think you're setting them up for a punchline.
  • Then, when you explain that you're a Jew, they think you're using some kind of profanity in a sick self-deprecation bit gone wrong.  It terrifies me to see South Park come to life in any degree.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

My worst self

I am back from the Big Giant Pseudology Conference, slumped in my home office chair.  I'm worn out after so much conferencing.  This year's BGPC was relatively successful, I think, especially in terms of schmoozing with colleagues.  And, of course, it was tonic to see old friends.

At the same time, I feel dissatisfied, and I think I'm the one to blame, for the most part.  I've been developing an awareness of how stressed I feel for most of BGPC, especially as it comes across to my old friends and colleagues when they ask how I'm doing.  Put bluntly, I fear that attending BGPC invokes my worst self: the anxious, self-conscious, permanently unhappy and self-loathing person who perpetually gripes about having a book but no tenure-track job, having no family, and generally being a miserable little storm cloud.

I admit that readers of this blog who do not know me in the meat world may suspect that this is who I am, but I swear to you that I'm really not (quite) that insufferable anhedonic person.  When I roll into BGPC, though, I become acutely aware of the comparisons and judgments that potential colleagues could be making about me.  This year, I learned that many of my colleagues from DOU have landed tenure-track jobs.  People are having children, cranking out articles, producing books, getting fancy jobs — often two or three of these at the same time.  And here I am, all by my lonesome, happy to have my book but daunted by the prospect of producing articles at the same time while being weighed down by my teaching obligations, and increasingly fearful of what may come to pass next year.

I worry that I'm beginning to smell of flop sweat to my colleagues.

I would like to share in my friends' optimism that my book surely will land me a job.  Really, I would.  But I remember people saying basically the same thing to me years ago, when I was fresh out of Research Country with splashy cachet, but with no serious teaching experience.  Or last year, when I had just gotten the book contract.  And it's only when I'm at BGPC catching up with people that I hear second- or third-hand that Whatshisface or Whatshername got an interview at some school or other that I applied to, thus clueing me into my inability to get anywhere with jobs I hoped would at least grant me a prelim interview.  It's difficult not to look bitter and disappointed.  And afraid.

It's also hard not to wonder what I did or am doing wrong, in comparison to my erstwhile classmates at DOU.  Was it my lazy, uninterested supervisor?  My lack of sexy subfield?  My general nuts-and-bolts approach to pseudology, rather than the high-theory approach?

Or, despite my forthcoming book and my dogged attempts to remain employed, am I just not that good?

Honestly, how does one put a good face on this internal turmoil?

ETA: I sincerely hope none of my pseudology colleagues reads this blog, but if any of them does, then I feel bad enough about my attitude to apologize for being a dick this year.  I didn't want to be or mean to be, I promise.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The (underemployed) authority

I ended up having a decent time at Secondary Disciplinary Interest Conference. (Many meals shared with old friends helped considerably.). In fact, I even had some professional fun: I made sure that my panel chair introduced me as the author of Forthcoming Book, and damned if people didn't treat me like an expert in the field. They seemed to address me in slightly more measured tones, and a number of the grad students there - many of them older than I - were actually obsequious. People came up to me later asking my advice on how to get a book published. (!!!)  I was stunned.

More importantly (I think), I attended the business meeting for my designated interest section, which let me introduce myself to nearly every colleague there who works in SDI. A whole bunch of them showed up two days later to hear my talk. I know this because the heavy hitter on our panel was the first speaker: when zi finished, a number of people quickly departed for other panels, but the movers and shakers all stayed on for the entirety of the panel. I feel that I have made a proper debut at SDIC. :D

I've spent the last few days de-stressing and, to the extent that I can be bothered to think about it, my job. Now, however, I am on the road again, taking breakfast at one of the generic "family restaurants" by the highway before heading out to Great Big City for the Big Giant Pseudology Conference. Pseudologists are way harder to impress than my SDI colleagues, so I can't get a swelled head unless/until I pull off the same trick twice. Wish me luck!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Grumpy conference-goer

I haven't posted in the last few weeks because I've just been worn out.  My teaching schedule is hectic with evaluative assignments and planning right now, I had several conferences to prepare for, and I'm beginning to get that yearly anxiety about what may or may not happen with the job market.  All told, I've just been dog-tired at the end of every day, and not much into communicating.  Grump.

Now I'm at the first of my two conferences this season, Secondary Disciplinary Interest Conference.  SDIC is new to me, and I know very few people who will be in attendance.  I am currently huddling in fear relaxing in my hotel room right now, typing this post, rather than mingle half-heartedly with total strangers whose work does not interest me.  I already ran into a former classmate, and one actual friend, which was nice.  But beyond that, I'm kind of waiting for my pal who organized my panel to get to town so we can catch up.  Zi just moved to an expensive new address, and zi and hir spouse are still paying off moving debts, and I have travel funds from CBU, so I've promised to treat hir to a nice dinner so we can trade stories properly, with food and wine.

Also, the first talk I went to kind of sucked.  (No big shock, I know.)  What dampened my mood more was going to a second talk by one of my professor acquaintances from DOU and discovering that zi had to withdraw from the conference for some reason.  Sigh.

Writing this stuff down brings into focus for me just how much I cherish conferences as a way to catch up with old friends long separated by distance, and how little of a damn I give about any other aspect.  (Especially when, as is the case at SDIC, I'm only tangentially in the orbit of their job market.)  Guess I'll go get lunch.  By myself.  Grump.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

RBOC: Cooking, jobs, and great music

  • I nearly asphyxiated myself on smoke whilst practicing my skills at pan-searing steak.  Even with my oven hood roaring and the windows open, I don't think my apartment has enough ventilation to make searing a practical option.  I would love to hear from readers about other good methods for cooking a nice steak medium rare.  I know the ultimate method is to grill it, but I don't own a grill, and don't want to buy one until I know where I'm living long-term.  Am I kidding myself, or can I make this work without a grill?
  • I'm going to try out a spontaneous and improvised red wine-cream-tomato sauce tonight, if I don't lose my nerve.  It's largely motivated by my cheapness: earlier in the week, I opened a bottle of what turned out to be an undistinguished tempranillo, and even though I don't consider it more than barely passable as a beverage, I hate to throw it out.  I throw out really bad or ruined wine, but feel bad about doing that with something that could be useful in the kitchen.  Since I already have some cream on hand, I'm curious to see if I can work out a darker, richer tomato-cream sauce than the usual.  Wish me luck, or offer your own variations on this in the comments!  
  • (No white wine ideas, though, please: now that the weather is getting chilly, there will likely be no white wine at chez Koshary until April or May.)
  • I have mixed feelings about passing the 1st of November as a job applicant.  On the one hand, it's nice to have sent in that crapton of applications in timely fashion.  (Many pseudology job apps were due by then.)  On the other hand, it now means that I hardly see anything else to apply to, when I scope out the job postings at my various professional association websites.  The t-t jobs will mostly dry up from this point, and be replaced by the limited-term contract jobs that I've been subsisting on for the last few years.  Sigh.
  • But: first tiny nibble of interest from one of the jobs I applied to!  Here's hoping that it's the pebble that triggers an avalanche!
  • This:

Friday, October 25, 2013

Everything has changed — or has it?

I need to get my ass in gear for the upcoming Big Giant Pseudology Conference, and my abstract has become a stumbling block.  My (semi-)brilliant idea for a presentation that I concocted last winter is now out of date, in some ways.  Research Country's irritating habit of not freezing in historical time Brigadoon-style means that some of the assumptions that drove my abstract are no longer factually accurate.  (Although they were when I wrote it, I swear to you!) 

BUT...has everything truly changed?

(Ominous and portentous rumblings on soundtrack)

The key observation to draw out in my presentation should really be that my original analytical point is even truer now than it was then, even though some of the surrounding historical architecture has altered somewhat.  The cast of characters has changed a bit, and there's been a classic reversal of fortunes narrative in the works, but the way that people think about Important Research Stuff has not really changed at all.  I'm using this state of affairs to write a paper that offers the same analysis while cleverly swapping out a number of concrete examples, or shifting the emphasis from one bunch of stuff to another.  It isn't a bait-and-switch, folks, it's just cutting-edge research!

I kind of knew this before, but it actually didn't become crystal-clear to me until I sat down and thought it out here, writing this blog post.  I guess I should go and write that paper, now that my thinking is clear(er).  Thanks for serving as my sounding-board!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Five in one evening

I managed to crank out five completed job applications this evening.  Good grief.  I dared myself to try, thinking I wouldn't actually succeed.  But here I am.  Still, seven more job apps to go before I clear all of the deadlines that fall during the first week of November.

Now that my right shoulder is aching from typing and my left lower back is aching from sitting in two different office chairs and my car for so many damn hours today, I'm going to soothe myself with a glass of Zinfandel and a heating pad.

Three more days until Fall Break...

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Grading 'til I plotz

I remained sleep-deprived for another solid week; last night was the first in weeks in which I really got a full night's sleep, and rose without the aid of an alarm.  This past Sunday, I managed to catch some interesting conference proceedings over in Major University Town down the road.  It put a number of interesting ideas in my head, about which I might blog someday, depending on how fast the gears start turning.  But of course, doing one thing sometimes prevents you from doing another, and going to the conference (and, er, the party afterward at the organizer's house) meant that, even though I started grading essays on Saturday, I couldn't get hit the bulk of my huge stack of papers for Intro to Pseudology until Monday. 

It took me the full damn work week to finish grading the essays.  No joke.

I've never felt grading to be such a challenge as this turned out to be.*  I'm trying to be a kinder, gentler Koshary, so I kept it firmly in mind that the process of composing a reasoned argument supported by source materials is actually way more important for my students than any particular fact I might tell them.  (This goal is really a subject for a post of its own.)  This meant that I had to read past some truly daffy thinking and concentrate on whether or not they demonstrated good practice in how they got to their daffy ideas. 

It also meant that, since I really do want the students to learn how to write a clear analytical essay, I ended up having to write far more extensive comments than has been my style in years past.  Most of these students didn't even process what I said to them when I explained how to structure an essay like this, because they have absolutely no experience with it.  Couple that with their previous total ignorance of pseudology, and you can imagine the bizarre meanderings that I had to read and grade all of this week. 

Perhaps the greatest challenge for me in all this was figuring out how to channel my impatience with stupid ideas and terrible command of the English language into positively phrased comments.  There's a lot of effort involved in the changeover from "Indefensible claim, unsupported by sources, and this is a sentence fragment" to "Be careful to double-check the exact language of your sources so you don't misstate their ideas.  Also, it's a good idea to proofread your work for correct grammar and clear meaning as well as spelling."  Also some wine.  Wine helps, as long as I'm winding down the evening when I pour myself a glass.

I was dreading diving back into grading for these classes, since they just took their first test on Friday, a test composed primarily of long essays.  Two classes of three- to four-page essays took me six days.  But today, I sat down with my coffee and a classful of tests, and four hours later (including breaks!), they were finished.  I should be able to do the other class in roughly the same time frame.  I'm trying to find some way to parse this difference other than to note dolorously that grading is a lot easier and faster when you don't have to care as much.

*That is, not when I felt there was any hope to teach the students anything.  Lord knows grading at Ghosttown U. was a challenge, but that was more Sisyphean heartbreak than pedagogical process.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Chronically underslept but highly recommended

The title says it all.  I've been operating on less sleep than I (apparently) need all week, even though I haven't been burning midnight oil.  The last two weeks, really, have been draining for me.  The benefit is that I feel like I've been productive, especially in regard to this year's job hunt.  I recently completed a soup-to-nuts revamp of all of my key job application materials, a process that took something like six weeks in total.  Now that my portfolio is thoroughly refurbished – and ooh, look, my writing sample is now a press-formatted book chapter! – I can throw myself into the irritating but necessary task of tailoring job letters for the relatively small crop of jobs so far that I could fit.

In combination with that, I successfully recruited three shiny new referees to write letters for me: one of my colleagues at CBU and two colleagues in my field who teach at universities I've never attended or worked at.  I feel an odd sense of satisfaction when I look at my list of references and see no mention of Dear Old University.  It makes me feel a little more like an academic grown-up to see that three people with no skin in the game are willing to write on my behalf, and even more so that two of them are highly respected pseudologists of Damn Lies in Research Country who teach at fancy-ass R1 institutions.  (Of course, I still have two referees from DOU up my sleeve as well, just in case some jumped-up school demands four or five references.) 

Of course, when you're working that hard on something, something else has to give a little.  I've been so discombobulated about my schedule this past week that I somehow convinced myself at frequent intervals that it was a day later than it really was.  My cooking schedule that allows me to make myself dinner and bring the leftovers for lunch the next day got totally fucked up, and I had to subsist on pistachios and some old doughnuts for lunch on Thursday.  Worse, I forgot to set my alarm for Wednesday morning, and it's only by sheer luck that I woke up soon enough that I could get myself to work mere minutes before I had to walk into class.  And on Thursday, because of the aforementioned crappy lunch, I compensated by drinking too much coffee: I was pretty tweaked out during my afternoon class, and after I came back to my office from that, a colleague remarked that I looked strangely wide-eyed.  Fortunately, zi knows me well, rather than suspect that I had a drug habit.

The cherry on top was that, much as Academic Cog has been dealing with lately, I cannot keep straight what the hell I teach from one day to the next in my double helping of Intro to Pseudology.  These different time banks are hell on wheels to manage, although I admit that it's a pretty speedy education in pedagogy: since one class runs half an hour longer than the other, I not only have to teach different materials at times but must also cook up different ways of engaging the material.  My brilliant achievement in fucking up my shit this week was – hi, Academic Cog!! – forgetting to check my syllabus and assuming I knew what I had said.  Consequently, we spent ninety minutes discussing a piece that I meant to discuss for perhaps thirty, because I forgot that I was supposed to show a film in class. 

The truly amazing part of this to me is that not a single one of my students even mentioned this.  Not in class, not in an email, nothing.  I'm relieved about that, too, because I would have looked like a goddamn fool in front of them.  I came perilously close, even so: when I showed the film (on schedule) to my other class, the stupid worn-out VHS tape (!) died on me, and I had to discard everything I was going to ask them about it on the test.  The silver lining to this problem was that I then got to email the first class and explain that I opted (ha!) to concentrate on our reading last time, but now the film that I "planned" to show them next week was ruined, and we would have to move on to other topics.

And yes, before you say it: I am painfully aware that the moral of this story is, "Read the fucking syllabus, Professor!"

Monday, September 23, 2013

Memo to college boys

OMFG you fucking filthy animals, FLUSH THE FUCKING TOILET.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The self-loathing never ends

I got the verdict on the article I submitted this summer: revise and resubmit. This is good news, I know, and yet it has made me mope for days.  It's hard for me to remember, whilst staring at the entire list of suggested revisions by both reviewers, that I am not obligated to do all of them, nor any one in particular, but rather those which I think are good ideas and feasible within a reasonable amount of time.  Instead, I went to bed in a deep funk last night, excoriating myself for being a fraud of a pseudologist* who would never properly understand theory and would have to read for six months at a shot to grasp what everyone else already knew.

In short, my academic self-loathing returned the moment I read the critiques.

Really, I was in the same headspace today until I consulted a colleague about it, and zi assured me that R&R was definitely good news, and that it's just a matter of talking with my editor and figuring out what needs to be done and what needs to be politely refused, based on what I want the article to be.  It all feels astonishingly like grad school, which especially surprises me because the form of the correspondence of this R&R resembles the revision process for my book manuscript far more than any dissertation chapter I ever drafted.

Do other people feel like this when they receive an R&R on a journal article?  Am I actually responding in part to the thorny matter of my research statement for my job applications?  To my general anxiety that I won't land a job this year?

And of course, to pose the question is to provide the answer.  Of course my reaction is influenced by all of those scary existential questions of what I will do for a living a year from now.  I'm genuinely curious, though, whether or not other people temporarily despair when they receive an R&R, rather than celebrate not being rejected.

*How's that for meta?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

My research statement

Dr. Koshary's Research Statement

My current research project takes several bodies of study and magically twists them into beautiful delicate rainbows of cutting-edge theory on which unicorns gambol and shit publication-ready articles for top-flight journals. Okay, seriously, that's so not true. I have no fucking idea what my research is now. Straight up. Lest you think I'm being modest, let me walk you through it.

I just finished writing a book. Do you hear that? I just wrote a motherfucking academic monograph. It's in copy-editing at Reputable Academic Press at this moment. I sent in the revised manuscript to RAP mere weeks ago. The only journal article I have moving through the system right now is based off part of that same book. This book has consumed my scholarly attention for the last several years. GIVE ME A GODDAMNED BREATHER. 

Oh sure, I've got some vague ideas here and there for my Next Book. They're only slightly better fleshed-out than my vague ideas about how I'd most like to die, or what I'd say if I somehow won an Academy Award. If you ask me to explain the theoretical basis for my Next Book, I will fucking hurt you.

The real pain in the ass for me is that all of my most interesting ideas operate on the assumption that I can/will go back to Research Country for some more extended field research. That's all well and good when things are stable in RC, but stable is right out the window nowadays. For the first time ever, I am seriously worried that the paper-pushers in RC will not let me back in. Let's just say that they're a little paranoid right now, and the scuttlebutt I hear is that even pretty innocuous research projects now draw closer scrutiny and more skepticism from the kind of very scary people that I hope never to encounter. This is not to say that I'm some covert saboteur; the point is that I wouldn't be all that surprised to see RC essentially forbid all foreign researchers from entering the country, even for ostensible tourism vacations. I may not be allowed to do anything that interests me professionally.

So yeah, I can tell you this or that idea, but there's no more substance to most of it than water-cooler chitchat. I also happen to think that this description also fits a fair number of the high theory pieces that people jack off to nowadays, but of course, if you're really so interested in what those insufferable fucking douchebags at Theoryfart University babble about, I really doubt I'd have any chance of landing a job at your institution anyway.

Just to cover all my bases, though: unique and innovative.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

My teaching philosophy statement

I'm re-drafting all of my job application documents as this year's job cycle gets underway, and now that I've cranked out a shiny new cover letter and the CV is almost done, I need to start thinking about the dreaded teaching statement. As long-time readers of this blog know, I have been banging my head against pedagogical techniques and approaches for a while now, since I keep bouncing around to different schools with different institutional cultures, and I am still working out my personal philosophy of how to deal with students who may be unmotivated or even recalcitrant to put forth what I consider essential effort. I figure the thing to do is to start with the writing exercise of writing exactly what I mean to say, then revising that into something smoother and more diplomatic. How does this look?

Dr. Koshary's Philosophy of Teaching

I teach by making my students read stuff outside of class, and then we talk about that stuff in class. I do this because it has worked for the last 5,000 years or so, or however long it's been since classes began to focus on written texts rather than memorized orally transmitted texts. Human beings seem to have worked out how to have a conversation many tens of thousands of years ago, and I am fond of the idea "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

I am told that one must demonstrate a unique and innovative pedagogical approach in order to obtain a job in today's academic market, even though what I describe above is actually what 99.99% of social science classes still are. That being the case, I consider my pedagogical approach unique and innovative, because I said so. There, I used those two stupid words. Are you assholes happy now? Good.

I have always adhered to a firm standard of doing whatever your institutional culture demands of me, as long as it doesn't make me want to drive a stake through my heart. Please give me a frank heads-up beforehand so that I know if a student who does not produce even satisfactory effort, much less results, should earn a C, an F, a B, or whatever other grade you are used to assigning in such cases. In the absence of other marching orders, I may give Ds for shoddily written bullshit that doesn't contain any clear ideas at all. Don't get on my tits about that, just because those students have been conditioned to think everything they do deserves plaudits. But if you feel that children from wealthy families need to be encouraged to give alumni donations by earning Cs for anything better than setting fire to the classroom, then just tell me so I don't have to think harder about my rubric.

My grading rubric is magically unique and innovative, too. For realz. I'm thinking of replacing my number/letter grading system with a twelve-sided die a la Dungeons and Dragons, with each side bearing an image of a different fruit or nut — say, a jalapeño or an almond. I would roll the die for each paper, and assign the result of the roll. The student would then interpret that image however they desired. For ease of reconciliation with the registrar's grading system, I would employ a second twelve-sided die with ordinary Arabic numerals that can be entered on a spreadsheet. The student would not know any of these numbers that I roll until final grades come in. I think you will agree with me that this system is unique and highly innovative. It's also kind of stupid, but then again, so is using the first five letters of our alphabet to evaluate the quality of someone's subjective effort to comprehend the world around us. (And wouldn't you rather have gotten three bananas, a chili pepper, and a walnut in that intro class you took, instead of that C+ average that you couldn't rise above?)

I am aware that the old-fashioned lecture format has some genuine pedagogical weaknesses, and that even using the word in a job interview is like using the word 'vagina' in front of a Republican legislator. Rest assured that I avoid lecturing as often as possible, except when students need to acquire a set of unfamiliar facts in order to analyze material. A few facts in near-isolation are easy enough to bring out in open discussion, but if you are foolish enough to insist that I teach a quantitative course in spite of my clearly defined areas of expertise, I am going to lecture as often as I think necessary, and you will shut the fuck up about it. Similarly, we all know that, once one can number the students enrolled in a course in the dozens or even hundreds, it is utter nonsense to discuss any other pedagogical format than the lecture. I have little love for such a learning environment, so I'll gladly avoid this situation if you will. However, if you actually advertise this position as a research professor in a big R1 institution who would teach an intro lecture whose enrollment is capped in the hundreds as well as grad classes, I will regard that as acknowledgment that you don't really give a fuck how I teach undergrads, and I will laugh at you openly if you dare to discuss my unique and innovative pedagogy.

Back on classroom discussions. I am always stealing good ideas incorporating new strategies to goose along conversation, since of course most students are a bit hesitant to speak and a minority are always champing at the bit to dominate the discussion. But for fuck's sake, people, do you really, truly care which little games and stratagems I use? Of course you don't. You understand that I'm having an open-ended conversation with my students, right? Don't you have over 300 of these applications to plow through? Just trust me when I tell you that my pedagogy works, and students learn stuff. Many of them even enjoy it! Oh yeah, and it's all magical and unique and innovative and shit.

If you are a small liberal arts college, then I shall draw your attention to the ways in which my classroom interactions with students subtly influence not only the way I write books and articles (which is absolutely true) but also shapes the research projects I take on so as to accommodate undergraduates' research conveniently (which is totally bullshit). Have no doubt that I will devote all of my waking energy to thinking of new stuff to do in class and new assignments to grade, rather than work on any of the publications that you will later privilege in your assessment of whether or not to fire me. If you are intent on hiring someone who can oversee undergrads' research projects conducted on and around campus, then you may not be terribly interested in a pseudologist like me who needs expensive airfares and a living stipend in order to conduct my research far, far away from your institution. But if you bring me in for an interview, be honest with yourselves about what you're doing: don't annoy me or yourselves with stupid questions about how I would involve students in my research, because I won't, and because you're not really that interested in overseeing student research anyway. 

(Except for that one guy, right? And he doesn't actually want to do it, does he? He just made a fuss about it during the committee discussions about the posting, even though he's about to go on sabbatical/retirement/death and this committee is the first service he's done since the McKinley administration, right? Yeah, I thought so.)

If you are a large R1 institution at which faculty live and die by their publication records, and you expect me to present an icy demeanor toward everything except publishing more books and articles and winning grants, please disregard every word above about undergraduate research. Just ignore it all. Instead, focus on the $250,000 death ray that I will require as part of my start-up costs so I can vaporize every unfortunate soul who tries to gain entrance to my office outside of my formal office hours. Seriously, I'll melt a motherfucker.

(If you are a SLAC, please disregard that last paragraph, thanks.)

In closing, I will sacrifice all that I hold dear for my (pick one) students/research, since this teaching philosophy statement is ultimately a statement of my seriousness of purpose and dedication to the mission of the (pick ONLY one) university/college/department as a first-rate (pick one or two, but be honest!) scholar/teacher. If I had any choice in the matter – and I know that I don't – I would be very good at both and understand that I will probably not be either the nationwide Teacher of the Year or the most productive dues-paying member of the Big Giant Pseudology Association. If this floats your boat, then you should bring me in for an interview and prepare for blinding awesomeness! If you are firmly in one camp or another, though, you should bring me in for an interview and give me a discreet signal which way to lean. I am a man of firm principles, but I can always change those if it's convenient.

Finally: unique and innovative.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

I wrote a book!!

It is written! It is shipped! I FEEL AWESOME.

Pity that I can't enjoy any real vacation after that, since classes start tomorrow. But you know, you roll with the punches. And honestly, it doesn't bring me down that classes start tomorrow. I have written a book. I have seen its voluminous pages neatly tucked into a Priority Shipping box and sent off to my editor. I have formally updated my CV to list the book as 'in press'. (This is the right term once it goes to copy editing, right?) I feel good, the rest of the world be damned.

So for a change, let's just have a little fun on this blog, shall we? :)

Flavia jokingly included a link to a recent post of mine as defensive citation, which just tickled me. Even if she and I worked in the same field, which we do not, she is quickly attaining the status of what my grandmother would call "a big macher," whilst I am...well, not nobody, but not much above that. The idea of someone of her status citing someone of mine defensively is frankly hilarious to me.

But her post reminded me that I have pulled off some mildly ridiculous citations in my book* that, if I'm honest, are there for one of three reasons.  These are, to wit:
  1. Another scholar is more famous and powerful than I, and I don't want to make an enemy out of that person — even if hir work is all but irrelevant to mine. (This is more or less what Flavia characterized as 'defensive citation'.
  2. Another scholar is a friend of mine, and I want to give them a tip o' the hat. This reason goes double if said scholar has been a friend of mine since our grad school days, or if zi directed me to some information that I found useful for the book.
  3. I thought it would be fucking hilarious to get away with citing it, whether or not it truly required a formal citation.
So for more entertainment, let's play a little game of Dr. Koshary's Ludicrous Book Citations.

1. How many old friends did Dr. Koshary cite just give them a shout-out, even though their work is relatively small-scale and largely irrelevant to his topic?
a. 1
b. 2
c. 3
d. 4
e. He stopped counting at 15.

2. How many of Dr. Koshary's citations qualify as 'defensive', as per Flavia's description, and/or sucking up to more powerful colleagues likely to read the book?
a. 5
b. 10
c. 15
d. He should have stopped counting at 20, before his face turned that red.

3. Which humorous music video did Dr. Koshary manage to cite?
a. 3-Way ("You guys are still here?")
b. Iran So Far ("...But you're in New York now, baby!")
c. Jack Sparrow ("Now back to the good part!")
d. Motherlover ("Every Mother's Day needs a Mother's Night!")

4. Despite proof-reading everything repeatedly, how many mistakes did Dr. Koshary find in the bibliography after mailing the package to the Press — in fact, while he was looking at it to find material for this post?
a. 1
b. 2
c. 3
d. 4

5. After discovering the answer to Question 4, what colorful language did Dr. Koshary just bellow to himself in his apartment?
a. "Fuck me and all of creation!"
b. "Son of a bitch!"
c. "Klatu verada nikto!"
d. "Goddamnsonofabitchbastardfuck!"
*Unless the Press' copyeditors force me to discard any of these citations as needless clutter, I suppose.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

RBOC: Proof-reading, re-formatting, and drinking

  • Yeah, I know that this is not the ideal scenario, and usually one should proof-read one's work whilst sober. 
  • That hypothetical goodie-two-shoes, though, can suck it. He didn't have to make sure that every last em-dash was re-typed as an en-dash.
  • Or ensure that all the bibliography entries were thoroughly formatted with headline-style capitalization, no matter what Zotero did automatically. 
  • (Have you ever noticed that Zotero's headline-style capitalization is thrown off by hyphenated compounds?)
  • Or make sure that, even in said bibliography, every goddamned character that Zotero formatted in italics is re-formatted as underlined.
  • Or figure out how languages written in non-Latin alphabets might constitute formal exceptions to any of the above, given the demands of both the Press and the Chicago Manual of Style.
  • Oh, pardon me, I meant: Chicago Manual of Style. 
  • OMFG, no, I didn't: CHICAGO MANUAL OF STYLE. CHICAGO MANUAL OF STYLE. CHICAGO MANUAL OF STYLE.  See, motherfuckers? We can handle italicization in the current technological age. What the bloody hell is the good of using one kind of font strictly to indicate that we really want to use another font? 
  • F.M.L.
  • I bet that this hypothetical jagoff also didn't feel obliged to do this kind of proof-reading at 1:00 on Sunday morning in order to raise the odds that he might actually ship out the entire manuscript on Monday.
  • Fucksox.
  • On the plus side, I bet that this hypothetical jagoff couldn't mix a Manhattan half as smoothly knee-weakening as can I. So fuck him.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Not-so-RBOC: Did I finish?

  • I just finished writing the book. I think. I tied up the last page of the last bit reasonably well, I think. I think. Now there will be no more new words to add, but only the proofreading to do. I think.
  • I am so, so ready for this work to be completed. As I've gotten close to deadline, I have found myself grinding my teeth as a nervous habit while I work. The gums around the molars of my lower left jaw are aching.
  • I think I have finished in no small part because, as I ended the last paragraph, I had a feeling of 'Gee, now it all comes together!' I can see this book as a whole.
  • Oh, yeah, there's still the matter of one photograph whose copyright permission I need to secure. FML.
  • But once I do that, then I can proofread it and, pending any last thoughts my editor wants to drop on me, I can ship it.
  • I think.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

CYA citations and memes

I may well have worked the last of my citations into the manuscript this evening. To be perfectly frank, I was motivated to look into a few sources as a CYA maneuver to head off criticism that I never thought about XYZ analytical approaches.  Several pseudology colleagues of mine, who I know are going to read this book when it sees print, are more interested in XYZ than I am, and I live in possibly-maybe-just-a-little-bit unreasonable dread that they will be disappointed with my analysis and pillory me in the book reviews. (One in particular terrifies me, since zi has actually been awfully kind to me so far, and I am quietly aware that I owe hir big time.)

I've already had the realization several times over that I cannot and will not, despite all best efforts, completely thrill everyone, and that it's a bad idea to try.  And yet it's hard to let go of that grad-student-y desire to cite everything that moves!

But I at least feel like looking up these last few sources did me some good. I'm certainly not going to develop a new analysis for the book based on them, but I like the ideas they dropped on me, and I may follow up on them in the future.  And, more to the point, I feel – reasonably or not – like referring to them in a few well-chosen places throughout the manuscript is the equivalent of reinforcing a chink in my armor.  That's probably a really unhelpful way to view this whole process, but since I'm re-reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy again this summer, that's the first image that comes to mind. (Are you starting to think that I need to read something new?  I'm starting to think that.)

What the hell, if it works, it works.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Home stretch

I am now within ten percent of hitting my ideal word count for the manuscript. A lot of today's production was actually cutting and pasting: I had deleted some chunks of the last draft because they seemed to meander and distract from my larger points, and today I was able to see how to re-insert them in different places and contextualize them better. (I think/hope.) I also wrote some new passages here and there, so I feel good about the day's work.

Good thing, too, because I have to shake a leg if I'm going to make this deadline. I've almost finished figuring out the permission scenarios for all of the images I want to include, but I really have to discipline myself not to zone out on such relatively minor issues when I have writing yet to do. If one picture doesn't work, then another will take its place, and I will not worry. I've still got a little over 8,000 words' worth of fish to fry.  I'm still anxious about coming up noticeably short, but there are a few things I know I need to flesh out still, and then there's the chapter overview in the introduction, the preface, and the epilogue to round out.  It should be in the ballpark, at least.

But hey, 4,000 words since Wednesday!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Storm coming

The news of late from Research Country is fucking horrible. Never mind my chickenshit whining about how this complicates my writing, or changes my theorizations. People are being slaughtered and terrorized up and down RC by multiple oppressive forces, and it's just godawful to read the news updates and see all the photographic slideshows labeled "Warning: Graphic content that may disturb viewers." I am almost unspeakably angry at all of those forces who think that death and destruction are the way forward.  As one of my go-to historians lamented, "May God extirpate them all."

Times like this, there's not much besides music that comforts me.  This song was my jam of the day while writing, and it seems as good as anything right now.  I like how it starts out sounding ominous and scary, and turns beautiful and hopeful through each verse. Please God, may RC see a similar progression, and soon.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Oenophilic observation

Humans have been fooling around with representational scratches and doodles for a bloody long time, but it's only within the last 5,000 years or so that people developed coherent drawing systems that represented spoken language.  In this sense, all of human (written) history and literature only goes back this far.

Of course, it's not as though no one said anything cool before then. Many cultures have handed down oral literature that goes back who-in-the-hell-knows-how-far. But a brief survey of the offerings reveals that precious little of this oral literature seems to have been composed in the total absence and ignorance of fermented beverages. Go ahead: I double-dog-dare you to try to find an ancient saga or epic tale that doesn't refer explicitly to wine, beer, or some other fermented alcoholic beverage.

In other words, human literary endeavor seems to have gotten started only after humans figured out how to ferment sugars into alcohol.  No beer, no epic.  No wine, no history.

Coincidence?  I think not.

Pardon me while I go off to enjoy a last glass of Burgundy.

Friday, August 2, 2013

One month

I'm down to one month before a) classes begin, and b) THE BOOK IS DUE.  I am currently attempting to power through syllabus creation so that I can put in my book orders and then restore my attention to the manuscript, which is coming along, but needs — well, just look at the progress meter and you'll see what it needs.  Can someone please arrange for a metric ton of coffee – unground, if you don't mind – to be delivered to my door?  I don't know if I'll have the strength for this otherwise.

But of course, I must, so I suppose I must.

Meanwhile, I can't think of any appropriate song for the phrase "one month," so I'll be a cheapskate and just give you "Two weeks."

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Writing like a Sith

After wrestling with my feelings about current events in Research Country for several days during which I wrote little, I busted out almost 1000 words this evening.  How did I do it? 

The Dark Side of the Force.  I allowed my burgeoning anger and dismay guide me for a bit, rather than more dispassionate, academic feelings.  As Palpatine once remarked, anger and fear can make you stronger.  I mean, yeah, for a little while, and then eventually you'll be overthrown by a bunch of teenagers driving an aluminum falcon, but for a few moments here and there, it proves useful.  

The trick, I think (and hope), is to rein myself in before my particular perspective on events turns into a sheer ranty op-ed.  So far, I believe I have pulled that off, but it will be interesting to see what I write over the next few days as I try to reconcile all of this stuff with my pseudological analysis of all the Damn Lies I've been working on for years.

And yes, this post was about 50% an excuse to post a link to a funny video.  Got a problem with that?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


I'm crowd-sourcing this topic to get a survey of opinions: I'm toying with the idea of becoming a premium reader subscribing to Scribd so I can access some wonky policy papers and some medieval texts that are hard to find in print form.  (I pride myself on my catholic tastes.)  But so far, there is exactly one of each on my to-read list, and I'm not sure how much else of value to me will be on there.  I don't mind paying money for something useful, especially since some colleagues and I have just been griping about the library holdings at CBU.*  But I'd feel like a sucker paying any level of subscription fee to download two documents – although one of them is/was a full-on codex – and then find that the rest of the field is some idiot's self-published vampire novels and a bunch of dimestore romances gone digital.**

Has anyone out there in the blogosphere used Scribd's subscription service to fruitful scholarly effect?  Even if it's really only good (in my eyes) for medieval texts in RCish that went out of print 500 years ago or are simply impossible to acquire in the U.S., that would probably be worth a month's subscription to me so I could hunt them out.  And if I could look forward to downloading government and think tank papers that barely exist on actual paper, I'd be willing to do long-term.  I just don't want to throw away my money and, maybe more importantly, my research time on a wild goose chase.

* The library isn't really bad, but it isn't research-quality, either.  This goes toward a much longer post about CBU's priorities in word and in deed, but that's another cup of coffee.
** Wonder what I'm talking about?  Check out the home page.  It's not promising.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Writing goal jinxes

Clearly, I need to bone up on magic and ritual surrounding the craft of writing on deadline.  I made the mistake on Friday, after a good writing day, of ordering myself to push ahead to a total word count of 75000 by the end of the weekend. 

I then proceeded not to get there until right now.  Sheesh.  Do I need to consult a shaman about this stuff?  Or do I just need to stop setting myself intermediate word count goals when I have a bright-line final deadline anyway?

What jinxes your attempts to write toward a goal?  What counter-hexes protect you?  Share your sorcery, please!

Monday, July 15, 2013

So it begins

The Big Giant Pseudology organization has started listing job postings for this upcoming year's market cycle.  I already have four of them earmarked in my spreadsheet and my little file bank.  It has begun.

I'm going to need a stiff drink this evening, once I knock off writing.  :S

Saturday, July 13, 2013

My greatest lifehack ever

My lower back has been bothering me lately, and I've noticed more that I slouch in my desk chair in an injurious way when I'm focused on my writing.  I've had the idea in the back of my mind for a while now that I should try a standing desk, particularly since Dr. Becca blogged about building her own makeshift standing desk arrangement in her office.  Now that I'm spending so much time sitting at my desk at home – with my little MacBook, not with the lovely ginormous computer at my office at CBU – my back has begun to revolt.  I nearly had back spasm until I stood up and walked away from the computer for a bit, and that was the tipping point. 

I am now standing in comfort, typing this as my computer sits on top of an obnoxiously colored file crate turned upside down.  If laziness and cheapness are our criteria, then I daresay that my solution is even more awesome than Dr. Becca's — if only because it is HOT PINK.  :D

Friday, July 12, 2013

Moment of selfishness

I won't pretend this is noble, but I feel the need to plead with the people of Research Country:


You have no idea the havoc you are wreaking on my linchpin book chapter.  I'm writing as fast as I can, and you are making my life harder by continuing to do stuff.  Could you all just fucking hold still for two more goddamn months?  I mean, don't try to hold your breath or anything crazy like that, but please, please stop doing interesting things for a little while.  Go read a book or do a jigsaw puzzle or something.  Maybe catch up on Breaking Bad, I don't know.  But please, just give it all a rest.  You are wearing me down to the bone.

*collapses across keyboard*

P.S. Could you please also stop killing each other?  I really feel like you're going to regret that later.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

My heart is never cold

It's been a rough week over here at chez Koshary.  Lots of emotional turmoil: not just my usual unbloggable misery – though that was certainly part of the mix – but also some unusual unbloggable misery stemming from the troubling events of late in Research Country.  It's miserable just to recount the general outline of events, so I'm going to skip that.  Suffice it to say that a lot of people I respect (and perhaps a few that I even fear as well) are acting in disrespectful and disrespectable ways toward each other, and I feel the need to keep my head down, lest I get sucked into some absurd argument on Facebook.

But yeah.  This week kind of sucked balls.  And with nearly all my friends out of town right now, I've felt rather alone as I dealt with all the bad shit.

Fuck it.  I need to cheer myself up somehow, so I'm sipping an Aperol spritz made with champagne – okay, fine, método de champaña – that I opened for myself because fuck it, I need a break.  And of course, some great music.  It starts off a little slow, but wait until the second verse begins.  That's when this recording comes into its own.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Editing on the big screen

I added about 4000 words to the manuscript today this way.  Gotta do more of this!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


How the hell am I supposed to concentrate on my work when there are Supreme Court rulings like this to read?

Excerpts from Justice Kennedy's majority opinion:
The history of DOMA’s enactment and its own text demonstrate that interference with the equal dignity of same-sex marriages, a dignity conferred by the States in the exercise of their sovereign power, was more than an incidental effect of the federal statute. It was its essence.
DOMA’s principal effect is to identify a subset of state sanctioned marriages and make them unequal. The principal purpose is to impose inequality, not for other reasons like governmental efficiency. Responsibilities, as well as rights, enhance the dignity and integrity of the person. And DOMA contrives to deprive some couples married under the laws of their State, but not other couples, of both rights and responsibilities.
What has been explained to this point should more than suffice to establish that the principal purpose and the necessary effect of this law are to demean those persons who are in a lawful same-sex marriage. This requires the Court to hold, as it now does, that DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution.
 And the money quote:
DOMA singles out a class of persons deemed by a State entitled to recognition and protection to enhance their own liberty. It imposes a disability on the class by refusing to acknowledge a status the State finds to be dignified and proper. DOMA instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others. The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity.  By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment. This opinion and its holding are confined to those lawful marriages.
Pardon me while I sniffle happily a bit at this ruling.  I'll be skeptical and analytical tomorrow, but right now I just want to savor the moment.

Monday, June 24, 2013

RBOC: Buckling down to summer in spite of my advancing age edition

First, the more personal, grumbly stuff:
  • I had a birthday recently.  I was not happy about it.  I've never been conflicted about my birthday before, but I was grappling with the anxiety of being [insert milestone age] and not being all the things I once envisioned I would be at this age.  Fortunately, several friends, including the lovely Fie Upon This Quiet Life, took me out for cheese and wine, which made it much better.
  • I'm really not so thrilled with the increasingly evident male-pattern baldness that I can see on my head every morning before I shower.  It's not a pattern I've ever seen in any living ancestor of mine.  I find myself scanning old family photographs to divine some idea of what I will look like in another ten years or so.  (The endemic genetic tendency on all sides?  Dorky.  I'm doomed.)
Okay, now for the better (or at least more academic) stuff.
  • This is THE SUMMER OF SCARY WORK.  Okay, maybe not quite creature-feature scary, but it's intimidating.  I have until the end of summer to finish my book revisions whilst I plan my syllabi, one prep of which will be brand-new.  And, at time of writing, I really don't give a damn about the syllabi.  Ho hum.
  • The book, now that I care about.  I've been digesting ideas for a while now without much committing them to print, but now that I've kicked out the most recent article, I have a lot more stuff to shoehorn into the manuscript.  Naturally, that doesn't fully address the critiques on my plate, but it will go some way toward that goal.
  • Oh, and just in case you missed reading my anxious thoughts about employment, I'm back on the job market this fall, as I roll into the second year of my term contract.  At the moment, I have delusions that I will blast into the job market like an avenging anti-hero in a revisionist Western charging into a saloon to annihilate everything that moves.  No doubt, though, that I will soon fall back upon my more familiar metaphorical avatar of Frodo desperately clawing his way up Mount Doom before he expires from exhaustion and despair.  But hey, that's another day and another cup of coffee!
  • I'm getting paid this summer!!  The pro-forma renewal letter that CBU sent me explained that my second contract year begins in July, which means I will have no paycheck gap this summer.  I am even more pleased about this than I am astonished.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Back to the online world

It seems that my brain needed to hibernate for a bit after the semester ended.  This wasn't really possible, since I had an article to revise and a trip to Hometown to execute – unbloggable sad stuff blah blah blah – but my brain tried its hardest to shut down anyway.  The upshot was that I had no psychic energy to deal with posting about these things in media res.  Only now that I am back in Cornstate, and have uploaded the doubly revised version of my article manuscript, do I feel like I can do this again.  Funny how the mind works.

So, hi, everyone!  I hope you all haven't abandoned the blog for lack of new posts.  I'd better go catch up on yours, so you know I'm still alive.

Monday, May 20, 2013

I hate paying for car repairs

The post title says it all. Apparently, my car has blown its catalytic converter,which must now be replaced at, ahem, significant expense. It's always sobering to be presented with a bill whose cost outstrips my bimonthly paycheck. No help for it, though: the longer I let this go, the worse it will get. (I, uh, might have exacerbated the problem by dawdling in scheduling the maintenance work.  Oops.). 

So now I'm basically trapped at the mall all day today, while the dealership works on my car. This dealer is out in suburban hell, and there's not much here beyond the mall. I'm going a little stir-crazy already, but I'm trying to keep my mind focused on work as a distraction from my boredom and impending wallet-suck. 

At least I'll get paid again at the end of the month. Sigh. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013


The grading is finished! No more papers, no more tests, no grade-grubbers being pests!  TO THE BAR!!!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Making a difference

It's been a heavy day of work over here around CBU.  Since there's something of a rush to get the finals and grading done in order to graduate the seniors on schedule, the administration came up with this cockamamie schedule that only underscores how few fucks they actually give about teaching students to do good work in which the students had one reading day after the end of classes, followed by a day of exams, followed by one more day of reading period, followed by three more days of exams.  For yours truly, this meant that mere hours after my last class, I felt obligated to hold office hours for students preparing for the exam that I had to administer on a motherfucking Saturday morning.  This also meant that I felt obligated to hold office hours today, before I had even finished grading the aforementioned final exam, since my other two classes are writing final papers for me due later in the week.  It's not often that my Saturday turns into a twelve-hour workday, and it's even less often that I wish it were so.

Today, like I said, was also heavy.  Besides finishing the grading of that exam, I saw students working on their final papers.  As it happens, the only students who showed up today were all in the class for which I assigned a final paper with multiple drafts: they had to write the paper, get comments on it, and revise it accordingly for a final draft.  The sessions were a mix of good and bad, although I will honestly claim a bit of optimistic high ground and state that things ended reliably on good notes.  First, the bad:
  • One student failed the first draft of the final paper.  It was a total disaster, which zi admitted was due to a catastrophic lack of foresight and planning. 
  • Another student earned a D on that same draft, due to a similar set of fuck-ups.  
  • One of these students extended hir twenty-minute appointment with me to an hour – as you're about to read, I thought it necessary – whilst detailing not only hir confusion about how to proceed with various technical aspects of the paper, but also whilst explaining to me that this last month has been sort of a disaster for hir after experiencing what I can only describe as an especially violent sexual assault.  (And yes, if you're asking, I understand exactly what that description implies.)  That would certainly explain why one of my most talkative students in class suddenly went almost silent at that time.  Tragically, this fits in all too well with what I know of the campus culture.  Zi has been dealing with some awful shit that I simply never had to worry about when I was a college student.
And now (not a moment too soon!), the good.
  • Every student left my office with a clearer idea of how to approach the revised draft of the final, if only vaguely.  (After all, I'm not a damn miracle worker.)
  • Both students with the very low grades on the first draft left my office confident that they could write a much better second draft.
  • In fact, both of them explicitly stated to me that they were "excited" to write the revised draft.  Excited!!  I cannot help but feel cheered to know that my students are actually looking forward to writing their papers.  In both of those particular cases, I had coached them through a way of looking at the class material that resonated with their personal experiences, and that made them realize one thing or another about their own ontology and how they fit into their web of social relations.  I cannot fully describe the warm fuzzy of hearing and seeing a student visibly excited to go back to the dorm to revise a term paper to account for the breakthroughs they've had in their thinking.
Perhaps you'll understand now why, half in celebration and half in self-medication, I just finished an enormous Manhattan that I mixed after I finished grading the final exam and uploading the grades for Intro to Libel and Slander.  (Last time I have to teach that course for a while!)

I'm going to go enjoy the buzz from the combination of rye whiskey, beautiful vermouth, and a dash of bitters.  And also the feeling that I may have actually made some kind of positive difference in someone's intellectual life.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Wringing out the new: on writing theory

I have a bunch of papers to grade and several lessons to plan, and I haven't looked at any of them yet.  I spent most of the daylight hours yesterday crafting a revised draft of that article that my blog mendaciously tells you is finished.  (I want to put a new meter up for it, but I can't figure out how to track my progress in editing down an article, rather than adding words to an initial draft.)  I sent it out when I started to bleed from the brain, and then set all my work aside to go play with my friends for a little while. 

It amazes me that I can be so physically tired out from writing.  I haven't even showered or dressed yet today, and I need to go to the grocery store.  That's the kind of exhaustion I feel.  And yeah, it probably doesn't help that this fucking semester is not yet over, and that just about all of my colleagues are worn down in general.  It should tell you something about my physical and emotional state of mind that I feel the need to go make another pot of chicken soup, even though my allergies have largely receded. 

Writing is hard; no two ways about it.  Writing is even harder when you're trying to push yourself to innovate a theoretical concept.  You and your editor are trying to wring out of your brain something that no one has ever said before, which means that you literally do not know what you're trying to say.  I still find it an odd sensation, and I've been doing this for years. 

I had a moment of "what the hell am I doing here?" yesterday whilst trying to tie up the draft: I was scanning the same three pages of my article over and over, frantically tearing through the pseudology texts I was supposed to incorporate, and a quiet panic began to rise in me.  I have already read these books, I started thinking to myself repeatedly.  I cannot cite them in any other way because I already have elsewhere, and I have already read them, and I already know what is in them, because I have already read them...  You know how it goes.

But then I got hold of myself and reminded myself of the issue at hand: I was developing a new theoretical idea whose contours I only dimly perceive as yet, and this idea meant that I had to go back to the books and speed-read them in a white-hot fury re-read them for a different sort of content than I'd had in mind before now.  The panic didn't exactly recede, but it stabilized at a manageable level.  I didn't entirely feel like a professional, since I was essentially skimming for handy quotations to support my argument – I can remember doing this back in college! – but it yielded usable material that will suffice for the moment, and that can be developed further as I keep up with the project.

There's a bizarre exhilaration to the whole process.  I often feel like I'm right on the edge of discovering that I no longer have anything worthwhile to say, that I'm tapped out.  And even when I don't feel quite that desperate, I frequently have the sensation that I have something worthwhile to say, but I cannot fucking figure out what that might be.  And when I hit upon what it might be, I am humbled by the realization that I barely understand the implications of my own idea.  It'll be back to the books pretty soon, to wring some new insight out of my own mysteriously ordered brain.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Burning midnight oil

Monday was the first day in about a week that I have felt measurably better than crap.  Naturally, I'm risking that precarious degree of recuperation by staying up late to edit my article draft, rather than get extra sleep.  Oh, fuck it, who am I kidding?  I'll get extra sleep anyway, because I'm totally going to blow off my yoga class for the fourth time in a row.  I rationalize this with the observation that there's little point in going to a yoga class when I'm physically unable to breathe through my nose for most of the morning.  So it is that I'm still at the computer at this hour, pounding water, herbal tea, and chicken soup (spiked with dill and cayenne, naturally) to stave off the late-evening discomfort of the stupid cold.

I wanted to have this second draft out the door already, but a week of illness threw off my schedule.  Now I feel the need to hustle, since the whole point of revising the draft was to get a colleague's critique on it in time to incorporate hir suggestions into the final draft I have to submit by the end of May.  I already prepared the quiz for my first class on Wednesday, and I'll be showing a film to the other class that day, so I felt comfortable taking the evening to focus on MY OWN GODDAMN WORK.  Yeah, I said it.

These revisions are kind of a bear, since the essential critique I've gotten so far is to advance the theoretical argument.  It feels much like the diss-writing process, when I'd push my theoretical arguments far enough that my brain felt like a pretzel, only to hear from my committee that I was just laying the foundation and needed to go way further with my arguments.  On the plus side, I'm excited by the direction I'm going in, and I can see dimly ahead some cool intersections with the work of some colleagues I've been dying to cite.  This article is, truth be known, the first really meaningful advance in my analytical thinking since my dissertation.  (The cool stuff that got me the book contract is much more about tangible data than the analysis thereof.)  It's quite satisfying to see a new and unanticipated theoretical intervention taking shape in my work.  That emotional high from crafting something shiny and new is primarily what has given me the energy to focus on my writing after a full day at work replete with irritated sinus membranes and an inexplicable lack of orange juice available for purchase at the café on campus.

But now it is late, and I can feel my brain shutting down for the evening.  I added a good 500 words to the draft, and I think I've figured out a way to answer a thorny potential critique of my analysis, so I'm content to call it a night.  Off to waterboard myself with the Neti Pot, and then to bed.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

RBOC: Still freaking teaching edition

  • Some of my students have begun coming to class barefoot.  I'm accustomed to seeing people take off their shoes during class for comfort's sake, but these people aren't even bringing shoes with them.  We're still getting early-morning temperatures in the upper 30s here in Cornstate.  Why are people doing this?  Is this a thing now?
  • I'll give the barefoot people this much, though: they at least look better than all of those guys who walk around wearing this.
    (Photo credit: Ryan Dunn)
    I cannot see this combination without thinking of poverty.  This looks like an outfit scrounged from the free bin at the Salvation Army.  Awful.
  • In my cold/allergy-induced haze*, I completed flubbed my grading calculations for the test I just gave, and included only 80 points of regular credit instead of 100.  (I meant to make the last question worth double the others, and I just fucking forgot to do it.)  There were some hard questions in there that I anticipated would bedevil a lot of students, so I was relatively generous with the extra credit section.  Now at least half of the little buggers have test scores breaking 100, which will only encourage them to screw around more instead of buckling down and studying for the final.  I FUCKING HATE BEING SICK.
  • Speaking of which, I went to my allergist yesterday, and on their recommendation, I picked up a Neti Pot.  So far, I'm not sure this isn't some practical joke at my expense.  All I'm doing is drowning myself in salty, phlegmy water*** while feeling certain that someone is watching me and laughing as they say, "I can't believe that asshole fell for it!"
  • A pseudology colleague of mine at another school just walked away from a good tenure-track job.  Zi is now in training for a completely different line of work.  Part of me is impressed that zi knows hirself well enough to recognize that academia is not for hir, and is willing to change course so drastically.  Another part of me is sad that I may not get to see many publications from hir, since zi is brilliant and was, by all accounts, an up-and-coming star.  Another part of me is just annoyed that the person who walks away from a job we're all killing ourselves to get is the one who has already been so blessed professionally.  And a small and very petty part of me is relieved that at least one colleague genuinely better than I am is permanently off the job market.  I'm not proud of this feeling, but it's the truth.
  • My Saturday afternoon has been devoted to a load of laundry, a Neti-drowning episode, and about six hours of grading.  I think I'm going to postpone my next dose of decongestant and head to the bar for a beer.  Sigh.
*I can't figure out if this is a cold as I first thought, or a serious allergy attack.  I'm starting to suspect the latter, since a huge build-up of mucus throughout my poor head is really the only symptom**.  Well, that and exhaustion and fuzzy thinking as a result of all the oxygen I'm not getting and the feeling of congestion from blocked sinuses.  
**I know, you really wanted to know that, right?
***See above.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Stuffed-up nose, wounded pride

I have a cold that I caught through some combination of the ever-present miasma of contagions that thrive on college campuses, and the miserable, dragged-out, never-going-to-fucking-end winter that we're having.  (Spring appears to have been a false alarm.)  I have no strength to deal with anything, and I have to go to campus soon because I have multiple student meetings scheduled, to say nothing of my evening class.  I literally no longer care what my students earn for their final GPAs.  Give 'em all As. 
Or Fs. 
Or Cs. 
Or Qs. 
Fuck. This. Shit.

I'm also nursing some sprained pride: it looks like my upper-division topics seminar course scheduled for the fall will be canceled, since exactly one student has registered for it to date.  (SLACs love their small classes, but there's still a minimum enrollment that we have to hit.)  If this happens, the seminar will be replaced in my roster by a second section of the Intro to Pseudology course.  In fact, from an utterly selfish standpoint, that would be a great outcome for me.  I'll be hitting the job market full-time in August, and it would be a relief to have only two preps to teach — and an even bigger relief that the most difficult syllabus to plan and execute would be off my plate.  I suppose I should be pleased at this possibility. 

But it feels like burning down the house for the insurance money; shouldn't I want to teach new courses, stretch myself, and demonstrate my professional versatility?  I also wonder if this doesn't reflect poorly on me as a teacher (and, by extension, my department) that I can't seem to get the measly minimum enrollment.  My intellect tells me that this is not about my poor skills, but about my status as a little-known quantity at CBU: the students are mostly risk-averse, and aren't highly inclined to take a new upper-division course with a professor most of them don't know.  But still, my emotions are stung.  Come on, people.