Friday, December 30, 2011

Trouble in mind

Dame Eleanor's comment on my last post reminded me that I should say something here, lest my readers think I've taken a turn for the worse.  It's been a very long ten days.  I am generally feeling pretty terrible after this family visit, and wondering if my low-rent university health insurance will pay for any therapy visits.

I can't write any more about this stuff here.  Listen to music instead.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Music for hard times

Sigh.  I'm gearing up for a week and a half up in Hometown with my family.  As usual with these things, I will not go into details.  I need to vent here, though, that this visit is going to hurt.  I am dreading this visit the way I used to dread going to the dentist.  As a lot of us know, there's no ultimate cure for the kind of bone-deep wounds that family relationships can inflict.  The best we can do is salve the wounds a little.  Hence the music.

June Tabor – The Great Valerio

Mary Gauthier – Mercy now

Gillian Welch and David Rawlings – Hard times

Sarah Jarosz - Come on up to the house

Friday, December 16, 2011

Wardrobe update

Like all good bargain hunters, I know that half of the battle is a matter of patience: you need to wait for the really good sales to roll around.  Finally, a good one came up, and gave me the chance to update my wardrobe a bit from "harried and impoverished grad student" to "harried and semi-impoverished professor."  I am particularly pleased that I've finally bought myself a second sport coat, and – oh, happy, geeky day! – sweater vests

I feel  :)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

RBOC: Post-grading

  • Most of my students ended up doing tolerably well, I'm pleased to report.  Most of them, I'd wager, ended up getting pretty much the grades they wanted.  The rest of them got the grades they deserved.
  • We are now in the post-finals grade-grubbing period.  I will never entirely understand why students believe they can get their grades adjusted upward just by asking nicely.  It's not second helpings of pie, kids; it's an evaluation of your performance.  Live with it.
  • Speaking of grade-grubbing, I'm amazed that some students are so self-deluded that they don't understand why they failed.  Look at your grades on Blackboard, you jackass!  How can any of this be a surprise?
  • In one impressive case, a student seemed to believe that zi was destined to pass, despite skipping half the work throughout the semester, and failing almost all of the rest.  All of this is clearly delineated in a web page to which Stu has access.  How does zi not know this?  And whence comes the chutzpah to ask me if I can just give hir a passing grade?  I won't do this for anyone, but it seems additionally bonkers to ask it of a professor for whose class one has exhibited virtually no effort at all.  
  • I feel like I need to vent about this here, because my inclination is not even to dignify the grade-grubbing email with a response.  Partly, this is due to my sense of principle: the grades are published, there's nothing else to be done.  And partly, it's because I fear my own capacity for sarcasm under such circumstances.  I don't know that I'm capable of composing an email to someone who irrationally believes they should pass, in which I point out an almost unbroken chain of disastrous failure leading to a failing grade, without sounding sarcastic about it.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Post-conference exhaustion

I'm feeling a little knocked out right now, after going through finals week as a professor for the first time ever.  Please accept my apologies for saying so little online lately: I couldn't think much about the blog this week.  A week ago, I was just getting back to Ghosttown from the Major Area Studies Conference, where I got to see Shedding Khawatir again, and had the pleasure of meeting and hanging out with Ajnabieh.  (See my sidebar for their respective blogs.)  I had a fine time there, and enjoyed feeling a little bit more like a scholar on the loose than a kid at the grown-ups' table.  Much like I did at the Big Giant Pseudology Conference, I savored the chance to see my old friends again; the smaller number of such friends at MASC is tempered by the sweetness of seeing a number of people who live quite far overseas, including some countries that are prohibitively expensive to visit without a grant or an expense account. 

Right on the heels of the end of MASC, naturally, I came down with a cold, which I've been enduring all week while administering final exams to my classes and, when time permits, grading them with my TA.  It's lucky for me that I have so little pride — otherwise, I suppose, it would have been embarrassing to arrive at a grading session with a huge box of tissues in hand.  (My nose has been running all day.)  But tonight, I uploaded all my final grades to the university system, and they have been finalized.  I AM FREE!!!...for a few days, anyway. 

I guess that, after a day or two of seeing colleagues getting 'faced on cream-based cocktails at the local pre-Christmas parties, and grappling with the maddening conflict between Nyquil, Dayquil, and bourbon, and other post-Finals Week issues, I need to focus a little attention on my sorely neglected writing.  And then, of course, I need to plan out my syllabi for next semester for reals.  Lord help me, I'll be teaching my first-ever upper-division course, and I will use this blog as a way to vent the sad fact that

I have no fucking idea how to do this.

Please don't tell anyone.

I haven't been in an upper-division course targeted toward pseudology majors in, gulp, twelve years.  And that was back at Alma Mater College, which was quite a different place from Ghosttown U.  I've already planned out a pretty feasible reading list, I think/hope, with the assumption that I shouldn't slam my students the way we were slammed at AMC.  But I need to do the fiddly work of scheduling weekly assignments and so forth, and I guess I'll just have to learn through trial and error how to lead a discussion-based seminar course.  (Moan.) 

On a side note, I assume that a lot, if not most universities are going through the same finals-and-grading stampede right now, so I'm willing myself to be calm and detached about all those prelim interviews I had a few weeks back.  Nearly all of them told me they'd let me know the status of my application some time this month.  I'll probably start climbing walls and forging prescriptions for sedatives in another week if I don't get some good news about those jobs, but I'm okay.  For now.

Meanwhile, I'm going to swaddle myself in woolen clothing, because it's fucking cold here in Ghosttown, and try to get myself to the supermarket so I can buy some more generic cold medicine so I can try to fall asleep without feeling like my nose is revolting against my body's structural order.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Useless heap of conference-going flesh

Another night before I fly to a major academic conference, another night that I find myself helpless and paralyzed in the face of a presentation that refuses to write itself.  On the plus (?) side, I have no job interviews to prepare for at Major Area Studies Conference, so I can devote a little more of my intellect to making this shit make sense.  So it goes.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

RBOC: post-T-Day, inter-conference edition

  • It occurs to me to mention that, although I brought my suit with me to the Big Giant Pseudology Conference, I never wore it.  I actually put it on the morning that my interview onslaught began, but as soon as I saw myself in the hotel room mirror, I knew it wasn't right.  (It doesn't help that the cut of the suit somehow makes me look like an undertaker.)  I wanted to look professional and respectful at my interviews, but a suit would be going way too far.  I ended up substituting my sport coat for the suit coat, and wearing the suit pants as separates.  Felt much better.  
  • For those of you who find yourselves in a similar position to mine, try bringing a suit and something just a little less formal (but business-appropriate) to your next conference.  Scope out the scene before you have to swing into action.  I think that I saw only five men at BGPC wearing suits, the entire time I was there.  Sometimes a suit just isn't what you need to look professional.
  • Coming off the BGPC and getting ready for the Major Area Studies Conference coming up soon means that I was actually back in Ghosttown for Thanksgiving, which in turn meant that I spent Thanksgiving by myself.  I felt a trifle sorry for myself about this, even though Thanksgiving is one of those holidays where I feel like I'm supposed to be with other people because everyone tells me I should.  (Valentine's Day is the worst offender of these.)  In time-honored fashion, though, I stopped feeling sorry for myself after a ten-minute phone call to my family in Hometown.  As they passed around the phone so I could send greetings to everyone, I could clearly hear three of my close relatives yelling at each other in the kitchen about how to do the cooking prep — especially when someone put the phone down for a solid minute without anyone else picking it up.  I know exactly where all of that was going, and when the call ended, I gave thanks to whatever powers might exist that I was nowhere near Hometown that day.
  • And really, I get a little more uneasy about celebrating Thanksgiving every year: all this stuff and nonsense about "what are we thankful for this year?" seems to me a band-aid for our consciences, given that the source of the holiday is really a celebration of successful colonialism and the establishment of a toe-hold of British imperialism in the New World by "some Mayflower-cruising Jesus freak corn rustlers." 
  • Since I've been having trouble focusing on work after BGPC, it's only yesterday that I really began to write my talk for MASC.  Of course, I never make things easy on myself, so I've also begun to fiddle around for the first time with iMovie, so I can edit together bits and pieces of things for my presentation.  I'm not sure I can make this work, but I'm hoping to knit together some clips and some subtitles, and have it all come out looking good.  No doubt this will require many hours at my computer muttering under my breath as I learn on the job how to use iMovie.  But at least that's more productive than spending many hours at my computer surfing YouTube clips, repeatedly checking hobby forums, and generally skiving off work.
  • The other thing gluing me to the internet for long stretches of time is the current wave of unrest in Research Country.  It's arguably worse than earlier this year, for a number of complex reasons.  And now, to be self-centered for a moment, it hurts me more, because it's beginning to hurt people I know.  (I knew people involved from the start, but they all caught lucky breaks at that time.)  I won't go into details here, for the sake of their privacy and mine, but it's giving me and a lot of my friends gray hair.  I'm supposed to share a hotel room with an old friend at MASC, and now we're not sure that zi will be able to travel out of RC.  Not that zi is likely to end up in a dungeon or anything, but the sense of instability, to say nothing of potential travel bans by the government, may make it seem more prudent for hir to stay in RC with hir family.  I certainly couldn't blame hir if that's what happens, but I'd be sorry to miss out on seeing an old friend — which, as I've been saying lately, is the best thing about academic conferences.  
  • And, naturally, it raises everyone's anxiety to think about why people would have to make such choices.  The beauty of non-violent civil disobedience can also be its weakness: it doesn't push violent people from power.  We're, uh, coming to the end of the non-violent phase of RC's political transformation, I fear.  (Really, it ended quite some time ago, but here we would have to start parsing language about who is coordinating violence in premeditated fashion for political ends.)  There are many violent people still in power in RC, and they are willing to kill whomever they think they have to kill to maintain that power.  Getting rid of them may require RC to endure a proper civil war.  I don't know how any of this will pan out, but it seems a sure bet that there's going to be a lot more death and destruction before the dust settles.  
  • The neighborhood that I lived in for several years, and where I spent untold amounts of time during my doctoral research, is turning into a genuine war zone.  A lot of my area studies colleagues and I have similar experiences there, due to the presence of a major academic institution in the area, and we're all heartsick to look at the videos on YouTube that show our former stomping ground transformed into a battleground, complete with front lines, field hospitals, and poorly observed ceasefire agreements.  It's hard to see such things, even when your professional judgment tells you that these sorts of events had to occur sooner or later to sort out long-standing political disputes.  It''s just hard. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Big Giant Catch-up

Please insert your prophylactic superstition of choice here, because I don't want to jinx the fact that I feel like I kicked ass, for the most part, at my interviews at the Big Giant Pseudology Conference.  I had prelims for four different tenure-track positions, and two contract jobs.  I feel that I acquitted myself very well at all the t-t interviews, as well as at one of the contract jobs.  There were little things here and there, but really, with the five interviews that went well, my only doubts are essentially about the level of my rapport with the interviewers.  There were moments at three of them when I worried that my "I am so awesome and cool" hypnosis was weakening, but the two others went just beautifully, and I'm really hopeful that I will hear encouraging news from those two soon. 

The sixth interview...well, it was the classic bad interview scenario in which the interviewer couldn't shut up about hirself.  I was astonished to see this: usually, it's the interviewee under scrutiny who screws things up by getting nervous and droning on and on.  But here, the interviewer, who basically has nothing at all to lose no matter what happens, seemed bent on ruining the possibility of determining my potential usefulness by talking about hirself constantly.  Zi went so far as to cut me off when I was beginning to answer hir question about being in Research Country earlier this year to tell me at ungodly length about the fun zi had as a tourist in RC ten years ago.  Srsly?  Why have an interview at all?

Anyway, that crappy interview was for, by a long shot, the worst position that seems interested in me thus far.  I have absolutely zero desire to lose a year of my life to the sinkhole in which the institution resides, and even less desire to take on a high teaching load for a one-year position that cannot under any circumstances be extended.  Now that I think about it, I also would be perfectly happy never to encounter that interviewer again, either.

But enough about the low note.  I did well (I think, I hope) at five interviews, four of them t-t positions!  And I gave the worst conference talk of my career thus far, I admit.  But hey, I told you all last week that I would — no surprise there.  I took it on the chin for that from a friend and colleague of mine during the Q&A, but that's what happens when you try to be hip and timely.  (And, to be generous to myself for a moment, that's what happens when you have to submit a conference abstract when you're living in evacuation from world-changing events in your own field site, and you can't really bring yourself to think about business as usual.) 

Plus, I had the chance to sit down and meet with my potential book editor.  I feel really good about where this book project is going, after feeling out what the editor would like to see.  In a sharp distinction from my admittedly crappy talk, my (potential) editor clearly wants to see well-theorized and carefully crafted work, even if it takes a little while.  I can gladly do that.  Now I need to channel that good will into a fresh burst of writing.

Finally, I had the chance to see some dear old friends again, whom I never get to see otherwise.  This is rapidly becoming my favorite part of the Big Giant Pseudology Conference, which had heretofore felt like an albatross around my scholarly neck.  Now that most of my closest friends from grad school and I have graduated and moved on to positions in far-flung locales, we really can't see each other except at BGPC.  It's just wonderful to see them again, and catch up on the personal news, and see how they mostly look just like I remember, except for the stray gray hair or post-pregnancy pound.  The best moments at BGPC are almost inevitably the ones that happen with old friends over dinner or drinks.

And, once my head clears tomorrow from the tequila I'm drinking now, I need to start preparing my talk for the next conference I'm going to, the Major Area Studies Conference.  MASC isn't nearly as crucial to my career in most ways as is BGPC, but in my recollection, it's more fun — when you don't have as much riding on your personal interactions at a conference, it gives you more room to relax and enjoy yourself.  The hotel bar at MASC, last time I attended, was a crazy place in the evening.  Guess I'd better script that talk, so I can earn my drunken bonhomie at MASC.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Big. Giant. Pseudology. Conference.

Just a short post, since my time isn't exactly my own this week.  I'm here in beautiful Conference City, and am enjoying the taste of urban and urbane sophistication.  Plus, I'm seeing all my old friends again!  And I'm giving a paper, naturally, although I can't pretend that I consider the research I'm presenting as quite ground-breaking.  (Haven't worked through enough of the implications to get that far yet.)  Most importantly for professional purposes, though, this is My Big Year of job interviews: I've lined up six prelim interviews at BGPC, which my more senior colleagues tell me is a really big number.  Coolness!  The next step, of course, is to do well at those interviews.  The blitz starts tomorrow, so now I need to put the finishing touches on my talk and then steel myself for a lot of interview scariness.  But hey, I already feel a little ego boost from my friends' reactions to my schedule!  I can do this, right?  I mean, I CAN DO THIS!

Off I go.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Pre-conference anxiety

I'm not usually the type to get tied up in knots prior to conferences.  I like to hobnob, and catch up with old friends, and generally feel professional and professorial.  But this year, I have a sense of dread, largely because I feel a distinct lack of confidence.  (Thanks a lot, Journal of Pretentious Self-Justification, for taking the wind out of my sails.)  I'm still struggling to put the subject of my impending talk into words that don't sound superficial and played out, since that journal rejection seems to think exactly that of me.  And that journal's home discipline is, ostensibly, less theory-centered than my home branch of pseudology.  Can I offer any analysis that will not yield a shower of rotten vegetables from an enraged audience?  My blood runs cold to wonder about this.

The fear is ratcheted up as well by the fact that a friend of mine is chairing the session, and zi is pretty well up to date on my work.  I feel personal pressure not to repeat too much of what zi has already heard, although zi is certainly more intimately familiar with my research than 99% of pseudologists.  And I'd die of shame if I left myself open to a serious criticism from my friend about my methodology or my analysis.  Avoiding shame would be nice.

Speaking of fear, shame, and colleagues, have I mentioned that I'm on the job market this year?  Lord love a duck, I've lined up three preliminary interviews at the Big Giant Pseudology Conference so far, as well as a face-to-face chat with the press editor I've been corresponding with about my manuscript.  My intellectual knowledge that I have acquired a sophisticated repertoire of questions and answers for job interviews is at war with the id-like fear that I will only continue to humiliate myself the way I did the last time I attended BGPC.  I've already had one prelim interview this year via video-conference, and it was a struggle for me to speak about my research, because the criticisms/dismissals in the article rejection were so fresh in my mind.  I was afraid to say what I was working on, because I was newly aware that people might all but say out loud that it was stupid.  That I'm stupid.

We all go through moments of this, right?  I just need to get my theory brain going again — I feel like I've been spending entirely too much time thinking about my classes, which is exactly what everyone and his mother warned me not to do.  And I need to get my game face on for impressing potential manuscript-buyers and hiring committees.  I need to spend a little time thinking of myself as a functioning scholar, instead of a contract teacher.  And maybe I also need to drop by the haberdashery, since I just realized that my dressier shoes and accessories are all black, but my only sport coat and my best non-suit trousers are both brown.  In my anxiety, I'm planning to pack both my (charcoal gray) suit and some more professorial clothing, and I find it easier on these business trips to pack a wardrobe that goes with a single overarching color to match or complement.

And yes, I am aware that this clothing-buying impulse is probably yet another way for me to avoid writing my conference talk.  FML.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Bad week, good week

BAD: My journal submission got rejected hard this week.  The peer reviews were little short of scathing.  I'm not sure if I totally misjudged the inclinations of the journal, or if those reviewers were especially invested in a particular direction for publications.  In any case, they hated it.  It looks like I have to go back to the drawing board in a serious way for this article.  In an annoying twist, I had selected this journal in the first place because I thought the article made a better fit for them than other pseudology journals.  Apparently not.

GOOD: I've lined up a few preliminary interviews so far, and I'm hoping to add a few more, since the Big Giant Pseudology Conference is coming up soon.  It's good to hear from people interested in me and my work, since some others have been so, uh, unenthused about it lately.

BAD: I got shot down by two different women this week over in Large Regional City, which put a damper on my interest in driving up there for a day trip this weekend.  I've got a lot of prep work to do for BGPC, and the only reason I would absent myself from that is to go try to have a dating life in LRC — there's a distinct shortage of single women in Ghosttown, in case I haven't mentioned that yet.  LRC ain't showin' me no love, y'all.  Back to the salt mines with me, for lack of anything better to do.

GOOD: Lately, I've had a number of 'light bulb' moments with students, where I could actually see the flash of understanding on their faces as they processed some new ideas.  It's really gratifying to see them begin to understand something for the first time, right there in class.  You know what I mean, when their faces change expression and they look vaguely surprised as they realize that they know what I mean now?  It's awesome.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Stuck with a syllabus

I've come to the conclusion that, for the long haul, I will have to severely re-tool the syllabus I've been using this semester.  For a number of reasons, it doesn't always work as effectively as I hoped it might, and in a few ways it actually seems to be counter-productive.  I'm not going to be super-negative and say that this is due to the intellectual inadequacy of my students — because that's genuinely not true.  I will, however, lay the blame for this largely at the feet of the great state of _______, which has apparently been bent on robbing its public school students of all critical thinking skills and allowing their nascent intellectual muscles to atrophy.  One of my students, whilst explaining to me why zi had found the course curriculum challenging, clued me in to the fact that the state educational structure encourages high school students to get their 'hard' courses out of the way during 9th and 10th grades, and then they do little (memorable) for the latter two years of high school other than study for standardized exams.  Historiann has sounded off on this topic before, and she's got lots more statistics and fleshed-out ideas about this than have I, so I'll let you play with those links and cede my time to her.  I gotta say, though, that I was stunned to hear from the horse's mouth just how little serious education high school students got, and how much time was devoted to studying for tests that literally would not help them after they matriculated to college.

Anyway, my point is that I think there are some structural problems with my syllabus, given the level of student preparation that I can expect to encounter.*  In the long run, this won't be a really big deal to fix: give me a few weeks of downtime with a few textbooks and readers, and I'll be able to put together something more suitable that will more easily reach the students "where they are" while still challenging them to go further.  But in the short run, I am – as are my students – stuck with the syllabus more or less as it currently exists.  I'm teaching four courses at a time for the entire academic year.  I'm firing with all cylinders on the job market.  I'm trying to write my first book.  I simply don't have time to cook up a new syllabus and its accompanying entirely new slate of lectures.  Practically speaking, I'm unable to divorce myself from my current syllabus, except perhaps to swap out a few readings where they proved seriously unworkable.

I'd ask for advice here, if I thought there were any to give.  All I can see is that I must do a little triage work on the parts of the syllabus that clearly do more harm than good, and then do what I can to present the rest of the syllabus in a more sugar-coated fashion.  Largely, this means accepting that diligent first-year students are going to try their best to do the reading, but will not understand it to any significant degree.  Therefore, I need to walk them through the meaning of each reading, instead of assuming that they'll get at least the gist if they try.  It also means that, next time around, I need to assume that no one has even taught them the basics of how one does college, and that as a result, I'll have to demonstrate to them in the early weeks how one engages with a piece of academic writing.  That in and of itself will eat up some time in the semester, giving me less time to deal with readings and concepts — but, then again, maybe that's not the worst outcome anyway.

Meanwhile, I'm exhausted from spending way too much time this evening parsing out the meaning of tomorrow's reading for students who have no idea how to pull ideas out of a relatively simple text.**  (Relatively simple = written for perhaps a 10th-grade reading level, and assuming little if any prior knowledge of the subject.)

* And, in the case of a few readings, sometimes I just blew it, and a particular piece wouldn't really register for students no matter what university they're at or how much college prep they've experienced.
** And yeah, I'm the first one to point out that a few of my top performers actually do get this stuff, and are stimulated by it.  But I don't want to face my judgment someday before the Flying Spaghetti Monster and have to explain why I directed my courses to the top 5% of the enrollment, and let the rest stumble around in confusion.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Repeat applicant etiquette

Ah, another dubious pleasure of academic job-hunting: seeing the same institutional names again, as one attempts to get a position at a university that rejected one from consideration last year.  Aside from avoiding the sense of failure resurrected, there's a particular trick about these that I'm still not sure how to do right.  Is it appropriate to refer to one's previous application, even if it was for a different position within the same department?  I'm tempted to say to Repeat U:

Please refer to my academic transcript from my previous application to your department.
It is, after all, sort of stupid to have to pay DOU-Town to send the Pseudology Dept. at Repeat U the exact same transcript that they sent last year.  It's not going to change at this point.  But good applicant etiquette demands that I do this anyway, doesn't it?

For that matter, in general, should I not mention my previous application?  In the case at hand, Repeat U is a pretty small place, and the Pseudology Dept. therefore is a very small place.  I'm already personally acquainted with the intended recipient of this letter as a result of last year's application process, if only by correspondence.  It seems somehow odd not to acknowledge this fact, especially since a lot of the form of my letter is the same from year to year — although, obviously, some pertinent facts have changed about my CV, and the nature of the position being advertised is also different in focus.  But does etiquette demand that we politely ignore this reality?  Must we (pretend to) start fresh?

I'm quite interested to see what readers have to say on this topic, both my fellow job-hunting rookies and more senior faculty who have served on hiring committees.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Clock it

I received my first rejection email of this job-hunting cycle today.  And we're off!

On the plus side, I had a freakishly good week of Q&A sessions with my students.  Who knew that they would have such an appetite for, uh, Fruit Studies? 

*waves at Sisyphus*

Monday, October 17, 2011

In these shoes?

 Hmm, shoes.  The responses to my last post suggested I may need to upgrade my footwear for teaching purposes, to help ward off lower back pain.  (And yes, I get it, I should also be exercising.)  Since this relates to an earlier post in which I wondered about buying new shoes versus repairing old ones, I am now considering afresh what to do about the damn things.  (Obviously, I never made it to a shoe repair shop this weekend.  Midterms.) 

So first of all, here are the shoes I've been wearing pretty much consistently for the last few years.  I don't like to think too much about this stuff, so I buy a pair in tan and another in black, and I'm covered for almost all wardrobe situations in my working and private life.  They work fine with business-casual trousers, they look great with jeans, and on occasion – including my memorable campus interview this past winter in a heavy snowstorm – I can even get away with the black ones when I'm wearing my charcoal-gray suit.

These shoes have several virtues in my eyes – versatility and comfort – but durability is kind of a problem.  A year and a half walking around DOU-Town did in my last pairs, and less than a year in Research Country accomplished much the same thing to my current pairs.  So, with that in mind, as well as my aching back, I'm no longer sure that I should bother to repair these, or even buy new pairs.

So, tell me, O internet, what other options have I, as a dorky academic who just wants a nice pair or two of plain-toe* oxfords for all occasions that fit comfortably and are good for my health?

Yeah, yeah, I know, Dr. Martens are supposed to be nice.  But I never really understood the point of these shoes, once we all graduated from college and were no longer allowed to look like...well, like college students.  That stupid-ass yellow stitching and creepy-colored sole utterly ruin color coordination with anything that didn't come out of the $1 bin at the Salvation Army.  And really, I never went for wingtips.  Wingtips are, from my perspective, kind of douchey.  Even the ironic ones.  For that reason, I'm not much fonder of these (non-ironic?) Dr. Martens.  As a final complaint on these shoes, I find the heel very thin and knife-like whenever I've tried them, and I really hate shoes that make my heels blister.  Comfort is key!

Swinging in the other direction, there are some seriously cushy-heeled shoes out there, like these Tims.  And Timberlands, as I've found, are pretty hardy shoes.  But these?  They're a little too boot-like for my taste.  As far as I can see, they are Timberland boots, except with a lower top that doesn't go over the ankle.  But this doesn't make them look like any classroom-to-dinner-date shoe that I've ever seen; it only makes them look like industrial-strength safety shoes.  (Don't they look like they should have steel toes?)  I can't imagine wearing these to a conference, especially in a year like this year, when I'm on the market and, pace Historiann, should be prepared to wear a suit or something close to it for my (fingers crossed!) preliminary interviews.

Now these more formal Tims are closer to what I'm looking for.  Nice simple lines, no wingtip nonsense, no ooh-look-at-me ironic-hipster trimming, and even a little cushioning around the heel.  Frankly, the only thing I worry about with these – apart from the obvious fact that I won't know how they fit unless I buy a pair online or trudge all the way up to Major Regional City and go shoe shopping – is that the sole may not offer the level of support that I need to teach on my feet all day long.  Well, that, and the inescapable fact that they cost $120 per pair.  The Dockers I've relied on for years cost half of that.  But perhaps this is one of those situations in which you get what you pay for.

I dunno.  Can anyone lend me some fashion brains for a few minutes?

And, lest the post title leave you hanging...

*Cap-toes can be fun, but a little ostentatious for me.  I have a ridiculously over-the-top pair of cap-toe oxfords that I've worn with my gray suit for ages, though.  Maybe I should get something a little less flashy and workaday, but I can't bring myself to do it, given that I wear a suit about four times a year and want to enjoy the occasions as they come.