Wednesday, July 28, 2010

In which Koshary whines about offices

I hate office jobs.  I know, as an academic I aspire to have an office tucked into an alcove off a corridor someday, or maybe even a fancy-pants corner office.  I also wouldn't mind something like this:

But I really hate "office work."  And that, as I have previously kvetched to you, is what I'm doing at the moment.  Yeah, it pays some bills, which I suppose is a good thing.  (Especially since I've been delving deeply into my student loan repayment options.)  But I'm the kind of person who takes a job like this hoping that, after perhaps a week, things will settle into routines, and I'll have time left over to grind my way through some theory reading and maybe even a little book proposal drafting.  Therefore, as I discovered this morning, I am also the kind of person who feels a momentary burst of red-hot rage upon arriving at the office, computer and theory reading in hand, and finding a motherfucking shit-ton of work waiting for me in my chair.  This was supposed to be a very light day.  WTF?

By the way, I think my interview with TAJ went well.  Not much that I can say here, except that it went pretty much as I expected, and was definitely a prelim interview: just a half-hour, no opportunity for me to grill them in response.  It'd be such a cool job to have that I've immediately set about getting into the Zen mindset of "Well, that was fun to fantasize about, but you won't get that job.  On to the next round of applications!"  Such is the way of the samurai academic, right?

And yes, I know that Zen Buddhism and the samurai lifestyle probably don't mesh well, but I'm not a scholar of Japanese culture, damn it!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Too much to do

The summer already seems over to me, in the sense of that dead, fallow period of the academic's year.  Suddenly — okay, maybe it wasn't out of the blue, but I'm still reeling — I have all these practical matters to deal with that overlay, and largely overwhelm, my professional goals for the summer.  Let me see if I can get my mind around this, and use this blog post as a kind of open-ended to-do list.
  1. I have to start packing up my apartment to put most of my possessions into long-term storage.  I've done this before, when I went to Research City for my doctoral research time, but the goal in mind is different now.  Now that I've graduated, I have to plan ahead for the probability that I will be semi-nomadic for some years, and that the only thing that could keep me in DOU-Town at this point is totally lack of employment and inertia born of despair
    Therefore, it is time to retire my furniture, which is all either cheap stuff that I bought for grad school, or a few nicer pieces that have soldiered on with me for a long time, but are now aging and breaking down in little ways.  Of the nicer pieces, there is my 600-CD rack, which I have since re-rigged to mostly hold books.  (I had a lot more CDs, and far fewer books, before I went to DOU.)  There is also my beloved desk chair, which is comfy and inspires a sense of power and agency when I sit at it.  I picked out that chair with more care than any other piece of furniture that I have owned, knowing that I would spend a lot more time sitting at my computer working (or possibly goofing off) than sitting on the couch or sleeping in the bed.  Everything else among the furniture, I could throw out tomorrow and not miss at all — except, you know, when I try to sleep on the floor. 
    This realization is attractive: if all I'm really storing long-term is a few clothes, my books and the CDs that I bother to keep in the age of iTunes and humongous external hard drives, I can rent a pretty small and cheap storage unit!  But it's also scary: getting rid of the furniture commits me to buying new stuff wherever I land next, and I don't yet know where that is, or if I'll even draw a salary large enough to buy more than the essentials of life.  It makes my mind wander into intimidating territory.
  2. I'm still waiting impatiently to make contact with Dr. Awesome, who appears to have been on vacation for three solid weeks while my article draft sits unread in the departmental mailbox.  Sigh.  It'd really be nice if I could at least get some face-to-face feedback before I leave DOU-Town, since Awesome and I will be forced to communicate electronically for years after that.  And, as we all know, even great advisors and mentors are sometimes hard to reach when you can't just stalk them in the corridor.  But this isn't the only bit of writing I need to give some thought to, because....
  3. ...I should really try to draft a reasonable book proposal, because I'm expecting an exploratory call from a university press some time next week.  Frankly, all I've got so far is my dissertation, which only a madman would attempt to publish as-is.  I don't even know how to think about it as a book manuscript yet, since I haven't yet made up my mind about what should be there and isn't.  Could be one new chapter, could be two.  (Or more?? Heavens!)  I feel like I shouldn't plan to add more than that, because that would probably require too much more research than I could complete in the research time at my disposal at present.  But I'm hopeful that the editor will understand the situation, given that they originally expressed interest in my work before the dissertation was even complete.  I hear that at least some university press editors know how to help writers knock disses around and turn them into worthwhile manuscripts, sometimes even at the planning stage.  We'll see; my head kind of swims when I contemplate this matter. 
    So much so, in fact, that I'm highly amused that Edith Piaf is singing La foule on my iTunes right now as I write this.
  4. But ALL of this writing business is only my second order of professional development this particular weekend, since I'm gearing up for my interview for TAJ on Monday!  Aaaaack!  Can someone explain to me how to sound smart and hire-able?  I've been submerged in the depths of wonkiness for so long that my interview skills may have atrophied.  Adding to the fun is that the interview will be conducted via Skype, so I'll have to get all dressed up — what is this strange device you call a 'necktie'? — so I can sit at my computer for a few hours and wait for the call to come in.  Remind me not to overdose on coffee that morning, lest I have to run to the bathroom just when they decide to call me.
  5. Theory reading.  Whatever.
  6. Laundry.  Whatever.
  7. Being here now.  Whatever.

Monday, July 19, 2010

RBOW/PC (Random bullets of whining/positive crap)

  • The postal service destroyed my diploma!  Some douchebag mail carrier threw the oversized package over the back fence of my ugly little garden apartment, and didn't think to leave me a note saying that I could find a delivery there.  I never go out there except when I have to ask my worthless fucktard neighbors to shut up at 3:00AM.  When I discovered the package, it had been collecting rainwater, muck and mold for two weeks solid.  Insert obvious metaphor here.  *Anger*
  • The longer lived of my family's two dogs had to be put down last week.  I'm more at peace with this than a lot of people might be: he was really, really old for a dog, and had many health problems, and his quality of life had slid down the scale too far.  He really should have been put down about six months or more ago, when his hind legs became too weak to hold him up for more than a few seconds.  But my poor mother couldn't bear to think of it.  She lived alone with the dogs after my parents got divorced and my brother and I moved out of the house, and now she really lives alone.  I feel less sorrow than relief for the poor old hound — as my girlfriend at the time observed to me after meeting the dog, "He's very sweet...but he needs to go to puppy heaven."  My dominant emotion towards the whole business is concern for how my mother will cope.  Coping's not one of her strengths in general.  *Fret*
  • Working for my friend at hir office has refreshed my memory of how much I despise working in windowless places for eight-hour shifts, doing the bidding (and filing) of other people to earn a paycheck.  Hate, hate, hate.  I seriously wonder if I would have opted for this over unemployment, had the employer been someone other than a much-loved friend who needed help in a pinch.  My hatred of the work is compounded by the fact that today, while attempting to do something smart with the accounting software, I somehow managed to erase all the record numbers from all the transactions the office has ever recorded.  It could have been way worse — all the accounting itself remains in good condition, and the money is where it should be — but it won't do to leave the record numbers off.  I shall have to spend all of tomorrow re-entering them by hand, poring over all of the office's old receipt books.  *Hate*
  • I'm dealing with more of this real-world grown-up stuff at once than I would prefer.  At the same time that I have to figure out exactly which ass-reamingly high interest rate Bush Jr. and his shitbag cronies have foisted on my student loans, I have to start getting my apartment ready to vacate in a month, which requires finding long-term storage for my life personal library.  (When it comes down to it, I own few possessions of value, other than the books I have amassed.)  I also need to figure out various other logistic bits and pieces relating to my upcoming postdoc in Research City, none of which I find particularly pleasant.  *Grumble*
  • Simultaneously, I'm supposed to be powering my way through all these library books I've borrowed from DOU while the opportunity exists.  Would anyone like to guess the ratio of Books Read/Books Still Collecting Dust On My Living Room Floor?  *Shame*
  • I'm also supposed to be getting my article ready to send out, but I've been waiting on Dr. Awesome for weeks, since zi has, apparently, just returned from yet another trip abroad/out of town/to Mars.  My brain is all worn out from the past two years' feverish activity — okay, really, the feverish activity of October to May — and I cannot fucking read my own work straight and determine its strengths and weaknesses right now.  Why, oh why can I not locate Awesome?  Oh yeah: because I have to spend all day cooped up in a windowless office space fucking up my friend's accounting software, and can't just go to campus as is my wont.  *Mutter*
  • Wasn't I supposed to have more of a life now?  Fame, fortune, at least a regular job and possibly the opportunity to meet some unattached women looking for unattached men?  I guess not.  I suppose I'm not unique in wanting my immediate postdoctoral life to feel like a side character in a mid-1980s Woody Allen film.  I'll get used to it soon enough.  *Sigh*
I can be so negative so easily that I have to forcibly remind myself that my life doesn't actually suck by most measurements.  In support of this positive-minded project, I offer a few more bullet points of a different hue:
  • I have what I think is a preliminary interview coming up in a few weeks for Totally Awesome Job (henceforth to be known as TAJ).  I'm nervous and excited.
  • I'm still in somewhat tenuous contact with a press about First Book Idea.  It's not as though literary agents are beating down my door while Truman Capote looks at me balefully over a martini, but I feel optimistic that this press seems to see some promise in what I've shown them so far.  I'll have to generate a proper First Book Proposal if this is going to go anywhere, but that just requires the sudden short-order pressure of an impending phone call.  (I work best under pressure.  This was true when I was twelve years old, and it remains true today.)
  • I'll get to spend some quality time with my family in about a month, once I pack up and leave DOU-Town.  As aggravating as they can be, I've missed them, and it will be good to spend some unhurried time in their company.
  • I get to start my postdoc in Research City this fall!  That, my friends, is awesome.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Can you see me?

Details must be kept to a bare minimum here, but I'm making a little forward progress toward a job I applied for.  (No, not the job I'm doing right now -- a career job!)  The institution wants to interview me via video conference, which I suppose is not so shocking nowadays, with budget crunches and airfares and whatnot.  They asked me for a prompt reply stating whether or not I was willing and able to do this.  I gave them a reply within twenty-four hours, once I had confirmed through my people -- you knew I had people, right? -- that I could access the necessary fancy-pants technology.  I explained in the response that we have such-and-such system, which can communicate with corresponding systems X and Y, and that as long as this institution has its own set of X or Y, we're good to go.

That was Tuesday.

Yeah, it seems that I'm back to waiting and nail-biting on the job market.  It has begun.  These institutions are not on my schedule, but rather I am on theirs.  I have to keep this in mind, so I don't freak out and start panic-calling them every day like a loser they met at the bar one night.  It's not as easy as it sounds.  Aaargh.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


I have just risen after perhaps four hours of restless sleep; even if I think I'm relaxed, my body lets me know that I'm really a bundle of nerves.  I just took on a temporary position in an office with a 40-hour work week, an office run by a good friend of mine.  It promises a lot more money (as summertime jobs go) than my haphazard tutoring, but I'm anxious in a chicken-y sort of way about working a full-time job outside of any academic sphere while trying to keep up with my theory reading and article writing.  Yeah, I know, people do this all the time, I'll adjust.  But my eyes forced themselves open at 5:45 this morning, and no tossing and turning could convince them to stay closed.

I may have to rethink this entire tutoring business, assuming that this job really lasts through the summer.  After putting in a shortened day at the office yesterday -- I was called in on an emergency basis -- I had to claw my way uptown through rush hour traffic so I could tutor yet another out-of-it kid who scheduled a last-minute appointment in the two hours that I kept open for such things on Mondays.  I didn't get home until after 9:00PM, and I was beat.  This is clearly not how my day should go on a regular basis, if I have any ambition to read the library books in my possession or draft a good journal article.  One of the first thoughts that ran through my head as I lay in bed, uncomfortably awake, was dread that I would keep getting called to appointments filling up my evenings after a full day of work elsewhere.  Dread is bad, don't you think?