Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Get the f— out of here

I just had a telephone interview for a tenure-track job.  The job that I thought wasn't tenure-track, until I asked in the interview.  I was going to cut it all short by saying I'd just been hired by CBU, and then they clarified that the contract-sounding job was actually tenure-track.  Good heavens.

My head is kind of spinning.  My short take is that this job is not for me, since, if nothing else, they made it clear during the conversation that they want a pseudologist who specializes in Fishing Whoppers, and I am very clearly not trained at all in that.  (I've always been a specialist in Damn Lies, if you're interested.)  It's also at a religiously affiliated school, which is not my favorite thing, although at least the affiliation is something I think I could live with.  And, to my dismay, the new hire would be asked to work extensively on developing online courses.  I find this horrifying, although of course I offered much more measured concern about the pedagogical value of such for pseudology.  I was a little surprised to hear that the interviewer largely agreed with me: zi let it be known between the lines that this was being forced upon the department by the money-minded administration, and they had to make the best of it.  The most ridiculous thing, which was definitely not clear in the job posting, is that the position is primarily for someone who would develop course for an online master's program in Fishing Whoppers.

Why the fuck are they even talking to me!?

So, questions:
  1. Unless these people are total idiots, or are completely out of other options (not bloody likely), I shouldn't be hired.  I simply would not serve the purpose, if only because I am essentially ignorant of Fishing Whoppers.  And jeez, I know lots of colleagues who are experts in Fishing Whoppers and need jobs — why isn't this school going for those obvious candidates?  
  2. But if for some reason I advance in my candidacy, should I even proceed, or withdraw myself respectfully?  Wouldn't I be setting myself up for failure if I somehow ended up with a job creating online courses in Fishing Whoppers?
  3. Something about all of this doesn't make sense.  A t-t job in a big subfield of pseudology, with a distasteful pedagogical slant, conducting its phone interviews in late April?  With a job posting so vague and uninformative that I applied to it even though I literally couldn't do the job?  What the hell is going on?
*deeply confused*

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

New job!

Cute-as-a-Button University offered me the job!!  I'm over the moon about this, for all the reasons that I have previously detailed.  And, as icing on the cake, it pays a lot more money than Ghosttown U.  I mean, whoa.  They're even throwing me a sizable packet of moving expense reimbursement.  On the merits, there is literally no professional reason to stay at Ghosttown U. now.  I already told my chair here, and although zi was disappointed that zi had a late-breaking vacancy to fill, zi understood the situation once I quoted the salary and the teaching load.

I am going to leave Ghosttown U., and Ghosttown itself.

I don't think I can even describe to you how happy this makes me. 

I have renewed optimism that I can and will hit the job market full force this fall.  The early signs – and yes, maybe it's just a smokescreen, but why be negative? – from my soon-to-be colleagues at CBU all indicate that they're interested in me and my work, and they want to help build me up as a good job candidate, even when I won't be their long-term hire. 

Plus, now that I know the path my academic year will take, I can finally deal with all those fiddly details that had been on the back burner: which new bank to look for, what sort of summer plans to make, etc.  I feel a lot of security in knowing how things will play out, despite the fact that I am a professional pseudologist whose stock in trade is, to some extent, making sense of near-chaotic uncertainty.  My blood pressure has already dropped, I slept like a log last night, and I have various appointments with friends to drink in celebration.


Friday, April 20, 2012

Aaargh – false alarm

Well, fuck me, it looks like I didn't read between the lines carefully enough.  The job I posted about – in a post that just went *poof* – is not tenure-track, but merely "full-time."  Uh-huh.  Serves me right for getting all hot and bothered before double-checking my own spreadsheet notes.

So now I'm just going to sit back and wait like I originally planned.  If this new potential job is contract, then there's no reason to go for it in comparison to CBU or Ghosttown U.  Whatever I hear this weekend will be what I hear, and then I will make my choice accordingly, and then email this third school to withdraw myself.

Sigh.  At least I'm no longer vibrating nervously.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

New drink recipe!

It is a momentous occasion this evening.  For the first time in about two weeks, I not only managed to wrap up my day on campus at lunchtime, but I also had time to unwind at home, cook myself a proper dinner, and fix myself a drink more complex than uncapping a beer or pouring a double whiskey. 

In fact, the drink I'm having is, as it would appear, my own creation.  Here's how the invention occurred, as well as I can remember: I was having drinks at my favorite bar with some colleagues, one of whom shares my general distaste for gin.  I observed to hir that, at this particular bar and no other that I have patronized, there are gin-based cocktails so tasty and balanced in flavors that I can actually enjoy them.  Zi didn't quite believe me, although hir significant other likes gin and got aboard pretty easily.  After some discussion of the matter, and some more alcohol consumed, I...well, my memory gets hazy at this point, but I think that we argued about until it came to our minds to look up gin-based cocktails that zi might be able to tolerate. 

And here is where we may always face a mystery, for at that point (approximately), I somehow latched on to the basis for a cocktail that zi might enjoy, and then I started doctoring the recipe to make it more interesting.  Please note that none of us was mixing anything: we were just patrons at the bar, and I was fiddling with drink recipes on my iPhone.  (Side note: for the serious cocktails fans out there – hi, Dr. Becca!! – the Mixologist app is the bomb.)  Days later, my colleague and I could not determine precisely how this recipe was generated: I thought that zi had suggested particular ingredients, but it turns out that zi has an aversion to some of them even stronger than hir dislike of gin, so that's not possible.  Plus, zi swears that zi didn't suggest the name to me.  The name of the drink that I found in my iPhone app the next day doesn't seem to apply to any drink known to the world of online cocktail enthusiasts in the form in which I recorded it.  There is another gin-based drink of the same name, but the mixers are way different; you couldn't confuse these two for the same drink.  My best guess is that, in my booze-mellowed state, I thought, "That's a cool name for a drink," and I promptly applied it to mine.  I will not mention that name here, because, frankly, it makes no damn sense for my drink.  I'll take reasonable suggestions for a proper name.

Once I had this recipe down, I realized that I didn't want to buy all the ingredients, since I usually don't like gin and didn't want to be stuck with a bottle I wouldn't drink.  I went to that same bar on a slow night and asked a bartender to make the drink for me, showing him the recipe.  He added the black pepper garnish, as well as upgrading the dash of lime juice to actual quarters of lime for muddling, both of which I thought were nice touches.  Once I tasted it, I knew the drink worked as an aesthetic whole, and I bought myself a pint of Tanqueray so I could practice.

Anyway, here (at last!) is the recipe:

1 hefty jigger of good London dry gin (I used Tanqueray, but whatever you like should do fine)
Plenty of sprigs of fresh cilantro
3 to 4 thin slices of fresh cucumber
1 T. simple syrup
Half of a lime, cut into quarters
Freshly ground black pepper

Muddle the cilantro, cucumber, and two of the lime pieces in a rocks glass.  Add the simple syrup.  If you have finely crushed ice, add it on top of the muddled ingredients; if all you've got is the regular big cubes of ice that the fridge makes, put them in a shaker or, if you can fly without a net, a separate glass.  (A wine glass worked well for me.)  Pour the gin over the ice — if the ice is in a separate vessel, then you must swirl, stir, or shake the gin and ice for a bit to get the gin good and cold, and then strain the gin into the muddle.  Stir gently.  If you like a big hit of citrus with your gin, squeeze the juice of the remaining lime pieces into the drink; otherwise, keep them handy for the next round.  Grind a little pepper (not too much!) on top as garnish, and serve. 

NB: If you have small rocks glasses, you may be tempted to ease up on all the greenery.  DON'T DO THIS.  I don't enjoy gin anyway without a lot of mixing flavors, and I find that it responds especially well to high doses of vegetation — the combination suits the botanicals in the gin. 

I haven't tried the pairing yet, but I strongly suspect that this is the ultimate drink accompaniment to a good bánh mì, given the cilantro, cucumber, and lime.  If I ever come within striking distance of a Vietnamese neighborhood again, I'll try it out and let you know my findings.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Post-visit ruminations

I'm back in Ghosttown, after a whirlwind visit to, er, Tinytown, home of Cute-as-a-Button University.  CBU brought me in for a campus visit, and it all felt so positive and collegial that I am left with some hard questions no matter what comes of the visit.  Let me see if I can organize my thoughts a little.
  1. CBU faculty are happy people, and Ghosttown U. faculty are unhappy.  You know how you don't notice how miserable you are until you get to taste how happy people live?  That's what I experienced during my visit.  I didn't quite realize how much tension, distrust, and pettiness circulate in my department at Ghosttown U. until I got to hang out with CBU faculty.  Of course, I didn't realize it partly because I'm sort of beneath the notice of my department's politics, but that stuff seeps into everything after a while.  
  2. CBU students care about learning, and Ghosttown U. students don't.  Plain fact, for the most part.  There are exceptions aplenty, but the general trend is as stated.  There is merit in forcing academically apathetic and mediocre students to try hard and to succeed, but I have to admit that it's getting to be a real grind.  CBU more closely resembles my own beloved Alma Mater College than a typical university: liberal arts focus, an expectation of academic intensity, and, for the faculty, a priority of teaching students well, rather than gritting one's teeth and getting through classes on the way to publishing some more.  Witness the fact that my tour guide at CBU talked about her academic opportunities and classes she enjoyed alongside the sports and extracurriculars of the school; at Ghosttown U., the tour guides hardly mention academics at all, and concentrate their pitches on how old the campus is, and the great party scene fueled by Greek letter organizations and the athletics teams.
  3. CBU faculty derive a sense of meaning and self from their teaching, and Ghosttown U. faculty do not.  At least, that's the general trend.  Within my department, most of the faculty seem, from my perspective, awfully lackadaisical about their teaching, and regard it as something that just comes with the job.  The few of us who really care about making the students struggle, and about making students learn things they did not know before, are all a few steps away from burn-out — even the new hires like me.  
  4. I might be happier at a liberal arts college than an R1 university.  I know, not exactly a stunner; lots of people have this realization.  At this point in time, I feel like I'd have to run myself ragged to rack up the number of publications that R1 schools demand for tenure.  My work comes a little slower, partly because of the nature of pseudology and partly because I'm not one of the hardcore theory geeks of my discipline.  I don't think I could pound out a major theory article each year, even with a gun to my head.  Somehow, I didn't quite put it together that a liberal arts school, which values (and valorizes!) good teaching, might rank that higher than publications in some ways.  Whatever happens with CBU, I may want to step up my game in some fashion for apps to liberal arts schools, to drive home the point that I get what these places are about.
  5. I hate Ghosttown.  There's no getting around it.  Yes, there's a great bookstore in town, and yes, there are a few lovely places to eat and drink.  But that doesn't really compensate for the fact that this place makes me existentially unhappy.  I felt a sense of relief and even impatience to be on the plane to CBU, as a respite from Ghosttown.  And I felt dread as I drove back into town.  My therapist has already noticed my distaste for my current locale, and has suggested we talk about it.  And, generally speaking, this has been the unhappiest academic year I can remember, including that rough final year of dissertating.
    Now, mind you, Tinytown isn't exactly my utopic vision.  It's actually half – half!! – the size of Ghosttown, and has even less to recommend it in a general way than has Ghosttown.  But it's less isolated from the, uh, civilized world than Ghosttown, too: only about 45 minutes away from a really big metropolitan area with lots of stuff to do, lots of people around, and a nice straight shot down a highway from Tinytown.  (Ghosttown is about twice as far away as that from Major Regional City, and that is partly so because one needs to drive half an hour just to pick up the main highway that leads to MRC.)  Most faculty at CBU, as I understand, live in one of the suburban areas of the big city in order to take advantage of the city's offerings, although of course Tinytown is dirt cheap for real estate.
So the upshot of this is that I don't think that I'll be very happy, in the long term, if I remain at Ghosttown U. or go to another such large state university with relatively little investment in teaching or intellectual engagement.  Obviously, I can't just demand to go wherever I want, but it's worth remembering that some jobs are better for me than others, even as I spam applications each year.  I also would be happier, in the long term, in a living situation very unlike Ghosttown, but that is, to some degree, an epiphenomenon of where I work.  I went into academia partly because I wanted to do work that I loved and found satisfying; if all I cared about was living in a convenient location and making a lot of money, there are a lot of other things I could have done.  It's a scary and potentially embittering realization that being a professional academician could leave me in a sadder situation than if I had, lord help us all, gone to law school.  I need to make sure I don't become one of those sad, bitter characters one finds in some schools, who wish they had gone some other route.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Time to focus

I just got back from another emotionally draining visit to Hometown.  It's a damn good thing that they make drugs for these situations.  (To say nothing of red wine.)

Brief update on my cousin that might disappear, depending on how dishy I feel it is: zi is recovering well from the stroke, although the aphasia is apparently known to be the most stubbornly lingering effect.  Zi literally cannot say very many words right now, but has full (and sophisticated) comprehension of what zi hears.  Zi is also relearning how to read and write.  It's a little daunting to see what the stroke did to hir, but it's also a huge relief to see that the mind and psyche remain fundamentally the same.

Now that I'm back, I have a few more days to get ready for my campus visit.  Perhaps I should draft that job talk.  Ahem.  Hey, don't look at me like that — if you had to spend the last few days the way I did, you'd be behind on work, too.  I'll get to work on that tomorrow morning.  Right now, all I can do is fold laundry, drink wine, and attempt to beat my own high scores in Angry Birds.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Campus visit attire

All right, now that I have a campus visit coming up, let's talk about what really matters: clothes.  Last year, Historiann had a post on this subject in regard to academic conferences, and the comments together with the post seem as close to an authoritative treatise on the topic as you will ever see.

But hark: this is no conference, but a short-list interview for a non-tenure-track position.  My gut instinct is that the temporality of this job suggests a slightly more casual dress standard than tenure-track, since you're trying to convince people to set in motion the process of hiring you forever.  On the other hand, I imagine that it would be inappropriate for me to show up in truly casual teaching clothes — in my case, jeans, a polo or button-down, and maybe a sport coat if the weather isn't too warm.

All right, theory section concluded, and on to praxis: should I wear a suit, or should I wear a sport coat-and-slacks combo?  I hope very much to hear from my friendly neighborhood bloggers who have served on hiring committees, since they will have been through this process on both sides of the table.  Let me give you an idea of my thoughts on the matter.

The bad:
  • Not as comfortable.
  • Makes me feel like I'm at a wedding or funeral.
  • Despite my best attempts to seem debonair, the suit probably doesn't flatter me as much as I would like.  (I'll never be able to afford a tailored suit.)
 The good:
  • Indexes respect for audience and people encountered more certainly than any other clothing choice.
  • If the weather is warm, a suit might actually be a little less sweat-inducing than any of my sport coats.
The bad:
  • Less formal — does that mean less respectful?
  • May index casualness of attitude toward job?
  • If the weather is warm, I will be a sweaty mess.
The good:
  • Generally more comfortable.
  • Makes me feel like a professor, rather than a job applicant; I often teach in these clothes anyway.
  • Feels more natural to me, and will make me feel more at ease.
  • I think that these clothes drape a little better on me, and look at least a trifle more fashionable than my undertaker-on-holiday suit.
Hmm.  I guess my question is ultimately, "Oh, pleasepleaseplease, can I pleeeeeease wear a sport coat and trousers instead of a suit?  Pretty please?"

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Happy update

Ghosttown U. wants to renew my contract for the next academic year.  Apparently, I'm not as much of a failure as I sometimes fear I am.  So hey, job for next year!

This, of course, doesn't mean that I'm throwing in the towel with that other place inviting me to a campus visit.  I mean, hell, I already bought the airfare.  My position on these matters is that I should never turn down a campus visit: it's a chance to make myself a little more visible to colleagues, and possibly seed the ground for a tenure-track job that might crop up a few years down the line.  And you never know, after all: maybe this other place will not only offer me the job, but will offer a salary so high that it would compensate for moving expenses and general aggravations of resettlement. 

I told my chair about this other possibility when zi let me know the good news that I need not go unemployed for next year.  It sounds like I can do the campus visit and wait at least a bit to hear from the other place before giving a final decision to Ghosttown U.  Given the practical constraints of a contract at a public university, I doubt there's much room for horse-trading here, but I'll see if I can use the competing opportunity as (modest) leverage for a salary increase.

I definitely have mixed feelings about staying in Ghosttown for another year, but ultimately, when I look at the cost-benefit analysis in terms of my professional development, it pretty much makes the most sense.  I'd have minimal summertime costs, since I wouldn't be moving.  I'd have virtually no prep work to do, since my courses would be just the same as this year.  I'd have plenty of time, relatively speaking, to work on my publications.  (That would definitely not be the case with the other job.)  It would be useful to build up some positive reputation with a university department as a faculty member, rather than as a grad student.  As much as I gripe (and will probably continue to gripe) about Ghosttown and its discontents, there's something to be said for the professional benefits.

On a side note, it seems that Haphazard Musings and I continue to follow parallel tracks in our respective careers.  Eerie, right?

And no, none of this is an April Fool's joke.  I gave those up years ago.  Long story.