Tuesday, July 15, 2014


I think I shall make my blog's unofficial hiatus official for the time being.  I'm spending way too much of my days in front of a computer screen anyway.

Have a good summer, all!

Monday, June 16, 2014

RBOC: Notes from the Bosstown job hunt

  • Hi, guys!  I'm in Bosstown now!  (See photo of downtown Bosstown.)
  • Bosstown seems to run on meetings.  Meetings in order to set up more meetings.  Which pave the way for even more meetings.  At some point in this seemingly endless feedback loop, a job materializes for the job seeker.  Everyone here swears to me that it is ultimately a matter of acquiring a sufficiently large circle of acquaintances who know me personally that one of them will realize that zi has a job I'd be perfect for.  The whole thing feels distinctly like the Underpants Gnomes business model:
  • Fuck me, new wardrobes are expensive.  Here in Bosstown, people dress a lot more formally than in any university I've ever heard of, and that goes double for interview attire. 
  • On the plus side, I've got some nice shirts now, and some killer ties to go with my new suits.  I also have a beautiful pair of business-dress shoes.
  • On the down side, the stupid screen door where I'm staying has already scraped my left shoe a few times.  No doubt about it: I'm hard on footwear.
  • We can put a man on the moon, but we can't develop truly tropical-weight wool for business suits?  WTF?  It's in the goddamn 90s already; it just isn't right.
  • Still, the clothes are fun.  How do you like today's ensemble?  (I know, it's not quite my best angle.)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Say I can say words only simple

I feel the nervousness in my stomach and in my head, but I think it's the good kind.  I set up mail forwarding today, and started making appointments.  I booked a hotel room tonight, and printed out my driving itinerary.  Tomorrow, I have to go to campus for the last time ever, and get all the books moved out of the office and return my keys.  I need to eat or throw away the last of my perishable groceries by Tuesday.  Two days from now, I will drive out of Cornstate and begin the process of relocating myself (and eventually, my stuff) to Bosstown.  Eeep.

Stuff is beginning to happen, rather fast.  Not just stuff, you know, but Stuff.  I'm pretty scared, honestly, but I'm also hopeful.  I'm too excited and scared and nervous to say much more than that. But I'm hopeful that all the changes will bring good things.

Wish me luck, friends!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Scholarly affiliation?

Someone mentioned to me recently that I should consider obtaining formal affiliation with one university or another in my upcoming locale as an aid to my academic job hunt for 2014-2015.  The idea hadn't even crossed my mind, to be honest, so now I'm pondering whether or not to bother.  As I hear it, being affiliated simply means that you can put "University of Hoo-hah" on your name tag for conferences and print your correspondence on university letterhead, and sometimes allows you use of the library as well.  For sure, continued access to JSTOR and whatnot would be a nice convenience, but is it actually meaningful to be affiliated with a university if you're not, er, employed by them?  Would this be the equivalent of a lawyer styling hirself "Doctor X," on the principle that the juris doctor degree says "doctor" — technically true, but essentially bullshit?

For those who have opinions one way or another here, I have a few follow-up questions: whom should one approach at a university to request affiliation?  Should I hit up the chair of the pseudology department?  A colleague I happen to know a little in said department?  The dean?  The president?  The kid who hangs out by the snack machine in the student union?

How should one make the request?  Can I be direct and to the point? E.g. "I would like to be affiliated with you for technical purposes in my job search, but I won't ask you for money or even for anything at all, save perhaps access to the university letterhead." Or must I bow and scrape?  I've kind of had it with bowing and scraping for the moment, to be frank.  I only have so much energy I can devote to being smiley and glad-handy.

Ideas from the ether?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

RBOC: Liveblogging the graduation exercises

  • Why am I here, you may wonder. A friend of mine is hosting a small reception after the formalities, and I didn't want to miss it. And, like I said, every use of the regalia helps to amortize the cost.
  • Of course getting here in time to stash a bottle of wine in the fridge meant that I didn't have time to finish my morning coffee. This will probably become a problem soon.
  • The more songs, prayers, addresses, and parades that a university includes in its graduation exercises, the less dignified it will seem.
  • Having someone do her best Kate Smith impersonation while singing the entire fucking text of "America the Beautiful" will leave all dignity in tatters.
  • The more the speakers repeatedly emphasize how amazing the students are, the more they actually index the rampant mediocrity of the school. Truly elite schools do not perform such inferiority complexes in front of all and sundry.
  • Valedictorian or not, 22-year-olds rarely say anything worth hearing in their speeches.
  • At least the keynote speaker is a better choice than last year's. Pretty bizarre choice, though.
  • Speaker praises the graduates as the most tech-savvy generation ever. Apparently no one mentioned to hir that most of my students could not figure out how to download a PDF from the library reserves.
  • Clear bonus, though: unseasonably cool day for May. For a change, I'm relatively comfortable wearing my regalia, even if my hands are a little cold.
  • Those beautiful shoes I ordered were too tight. Naturally, I cannot order them in a wider size from the store that sold them to me on sale, so I had to return them after admiring them on my feet, even as they shut off the blood flow to my feet. The moral if the story is probably that I shouldn't bother trying to buy dress shoes in Cornstate.
  • But hey, I won't be here much longer, so no worries!
  • Is it normal that CBU has a keynote speaker distinct from the honorary degree recipients? Not that it's a bad thing, but it strikes me as a bit odd.  Fortunately, all the honorees were short and pithy of words, so we're none the worse for it.
  • These folding chairs are desperately lacking in lower back support. We're only up to the Es in the graduate roll call, and I could already use a massage.
  • I am getting sleepy now. Need coffee. Up to the Js now.
  • What's with the graduates tossing around beach balls during the whole affair? Must everything be reduced to a frat party? (As the speaker hirself cannily noted, a lot of the graduates are pretty hungover today.)
  • Up the Ss now. My feet are cold and I'm hungry.
  • Finally, all graduating students named!  Now, unfortunately, come the pompous self-congratulatory administrative speakers. Jeez, how many of those are on the roster?
  • Hitting up the fresh graduates for alumni contributions from the stage. Very classy, alumni association douche.
  • One more song, and then we are...
  • DONE! Off to the wine and cheese!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

RBOC: Liveblogging the final exam and thinking of the future (and shoes)

  • I am not pleased about CBU's habit of scheduling final exam blocks on a Saturday.  They do this in order to speed up the grading cycle, since the final grades for seniors have to be tabulated far enough in advance to let the administration work out who is actually going to graduate and who isn't.  I get it, but still.  
  • Plus, as I might have mentioned on this blog before, it's total bullshit that they give the students exactly one reading day between the end of classes and the start of finals.  Once again, the administration demonstrates that it doesn't really care that much about academic quality, but really just wants to hustle its customers through efficiently.  Sigh.
  • Several students I had this semester enjoyed my classes enough to declare either a major or minor in pseudology.  In a school at which most students seek the path of least resistance, I consider this a personal victory.
  • Thank heavens, everyone is here.  A few times in years past, I have had a student all but assassinate hir GPA by not showing up to the final exam.  It's really depressing to see a grade sink to an F because the student simply never even walked into the room and threw something together on paper.  Even a disastrously failing exam counts for some minimal points, in my rubric.  I take my cue on this issue from King Lear: nothing will come of nothing.
  • I have complex feelings about overseeing final exams this semester.  On the one hand, I doggedly cling to my sense of self-worth as partially rooted in being a rigorous teacher, which requires me to spend a lot of energy considering how to grade essay exams.  On the other hand, I have the distinct sense right now that I must expect to make my living outside academia, and thus feel like spending more than minimal energy on grading is a waste of effort.  (Does anyone beyond the academy even give a shit about my teaching portfolio?)
  • If nothing else, though, I feel like I still need to be rigorous for the academic benefit of the students who really tried.  I may well go to an early grave because of my insistence on encouraging excellence and discouraging mediocrity.
  • So, have I mentioned that I'm looking for a job outside academia?  Long-time readers know what that implies as a start for a self-absorbed would-be bourgeois like me: new clothes!  I picked up two of this bad boy, in gray and navy.  (Slightly more understated patterns than the stripe pictured, but you get the idea.)  These are the first suits I've ever owned for which I actually paid attention to the style and cut to make them look good on me. 
  • And, comme de juste, new shoes!  I've become aware that there are dress shoes and then there are dress shoes: specifically, the kind that I have always worn are meant to last for a few years at best before falling apart, but others are built for the long haul.  I can't yet consider purchasing a $700 pair of shell cordovan oxfords, but I seem to be inching closer to that.  For the time being, I'm sticking with my cheap-ass might-actually-be-plastic black cap-toes from DSW, but I'm adding some good-quality brown shoes to my wardrobe.  Check 'em out!  (I ordered them in walnut, if you're curious.)  I'm told these shoes will last for decades, with a little care.
  • This class is blessedly quiet and focused.  Makes it much easier to geek out about suits and shoes.
  • Oh, poor soul of a student staring at that blank page!  I feel for you, I do, but I effing told you repeatedly that you need to come to class in order to grasp the material.  Please do not look surprised, now that you confront essay questions you have no idea how to answer.  The look of resigned misery, however, is appropriate.
  • I feel emotionally torn between the two extremes of my career-seeking advisors: those who are sure that next year will be the year! and those who are convinced that academia is just a con job and I should run.  It feels a bit like dueling cults vying for my loyalty.  If nothing else, it suggests an exhausting job hunt for the foreseeable future, as I try to live in two worlds at once.  I suspect that this will not work out well for me, and I will feel obliged to drop academia as too much time and effort to spend when I have to earn a living elsewhere.  But we'll see.
  • Back on the topic of business dress, I feel like a schmuck right now with my full academic regalia hanging in my closet.  I know, I know, it's always there for Harry Potter-style Halloween costumes, but y'know?  I bought that outfit as a goad to myself to secure an academic job.  Perhaps this is yet another reminder that, whatever effort I put into this business, I am not ultimately in control.
  • On a related topic, do I really want to march in the graduation exercises this year?  I know every use of the regalia helps to amortize the cost, but fuck, people, I don't know if I want to sit there shvitzing for several hours while a parade of idiots old and young speak on the dais.  Every encounter with academic ritual right now feels like touching a raw nerve.
  • Wow, first student to finish took an hour and fifty minutes.  And zi is no scholar, either.  I think it's a good sign that even the so-so students are taking this seriously enough not to rush through.
  • Damn it, I'm getting hungry already.  I rose earlier than usual today, probably out of the ancient anxiety of sleeping late and missing an exam, but this meant that I had time to cook a proper breakfast for myself.  I was hoping that would sustain me until a little closer to lunchtime, but I forgot to factor in the physical effort of standing for three hours.  Now I just want the few remaining exam-takers to hustle so I can get some food.
  • Burgundy/oxblood shoes: too much for ordinary office wear?  Opinions?
  • My shopping habits seem to me an indicator of the kind of employment I need to pursue, in one form or another: research.  I can't even buy a pair of shoes without researching leathers and cobbling techniques for several hours.  Hopefully, this obsessive tendency of mine will pay off in a good job that uses my geekiness skills to best effect.  I wouldn't mind also ending up the best-shod pseudologist at the party.
  • OMFG, kids, there are only fifteen minutes left, and you've been at this for 2.75 hours.  What the hell could possibly take any longer?  If you're waiting for inspiration to strike, I have news for you: it's not happening.  Just wrap it up so your professor can go to lunch.
  • Stop sitting there staring at the page.  You look like your ass could take root in that chair at any minute.  It irritates me.
  • Did you know that I get cranky when I'm hungry?
  • Down to two minutes now.  Whether they like it or not, in five minutes' time they'll all be out the door no matter where they are with this exam, and I will be in the sunshine heading toward lunch.
  • DONE.  Aaah, only two more of these to go!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Beckettesque moment, plus chametz

Subtitled, "I can't do this anymore.  I did it some more."

Out of habit more than hope, I checked the Big Giant Pseudology Association's job board, and saw a newly advertised position at a fancy name-brand school.  Most of my job-hunting energy these days is oriented toward non-academic work of various kinds, so I just don't have the strength to deal with the one-year VAP bullshit anymore.  But this job is multi-year, and is in a nice place, so...

My point is that I dashed off an entire application for it in approximately ten minutes.  And then went back to other, more promising stuff.

In other news, I am deeply relieved that Passover is over, because I ran out of potato vodka on the last night, I'm TIRED of matzo,* and I could make myself breakfast tacos this morning.  I am also happy to be drinking lovely wine this evening, although that has nothing to do here or there with Passover.  Because, you know, wine.

* Did you know that Blogger considers 'matzo' the standard spelling?  I tried typing 'matzah,' and it complained of a spelling error.  Apparently, if Blogger were Jewish, it would be Orthodox.