footsore and tired

I'm at my office, having taught my first day of summer school -- I'm grateful to be able to check my email and just sit on my rear for an hour. Then I have to go back to the chaos.

Actually, things haven't been so bad. If I'd had more time to pack in advance, it might have been easier. But it is what it is. And we're getting through it.

Thursday we packed and bought a new (larger) bed & mattress.

Friday, the big day, went really well -- a very strong friend of a friend who was also a good truck-organizer (not all move helpers are) really saved our butts. So we got all the furniture and most of the heavy boxes moved Friday. We also put the new bed together and spent the night at our new place.

Saturday we unpacked a few boxes and went out to buy a washer/dryer. (We have so totally moved up the ladder of bourgeois comfort, it is a little scary. Also scary how much money you can lay out in a single weekend.)

Sunday and Monday was a mixture of unpacking at the new house and packing up the kitchen and odds and ends at the old. Amazing how many odds and ends there wind up being. All of this delayed by the plumbing problem that showed up Sunday afternoon -- a few hours later we had diagnosed the issue (a "slow pipe" -- something too big for us to handle) (after my gf bravely plunged and snaked to no avail) but at least we figured out how to have a workable toilet for the rest of the holiday weekend.

This morning our landlord had dug up the backyard and was replacing pipes when I left the house. You know the dogs are going to love the smell of the yard now. . .

I'm hoping to get the remaining things out of the old place tonight. Maybe do the final sweeping out tomorrow before turning in our keys. Cleaning out the old place is always the worst part for me -- I'm ready to be settling in to the new house, not cleaning up the giant dust bunnies that have suddenly come out from every corner.

Later this week our DSL gets turned on and our washer/dryer get delivered. Hopefully I'll get all the boxes emptied by the end of the weekend -- since I actually have to teach this week, it's going to be a little slower than I might like.

What I have learned: we are definitely getting older. The blisters on the feet, the sore hamstrings, the general tiredness are worse this time around. But my gf and I also work together as a team much better than we used to, so it's mostly been pretty smooth overall in terms of our getting along. Moving is such a weirdly emotional process. And isolating -- I feel so out of touch with the rest of the world -- I've had terrible internet withdrawal, and have barely talked on the phone to anyone either. (Plus not showering and wearing grubby clothes contributes to feeling out of sync with the world during our brief forays for food and coffee.) Up in front of class today I felt like quite an impostor, as I pretended to be articulate, sane, and organized. (I'd had to wash my face (no shower) at the old house because our water was off; I barely managed to find matching shoes; and I'm definitely underfed. But I managed the first day OK anyway.)

Maybe tomorrow I'll have a chance to actually read some blogs and see what you all have been up to. . .


flashback to 1993

As I've begun packing up our house, I've been remembering some of my previous moves. One of the best and the worst was at the end of my second year of my PhD. My long-term girlfriend had broken up with me -- she'd moved to my Grad School Town to live with me, and within a few months begun an affair with a seriously crazy person (who then harassed her for years). After that affair had ended, and we'd tried to work things out, she took up with her boss. And at that point I said we had to break up. (Of course, being young and stupid (and lesbians), we then got back together a couple years later for 9 months before ending it truly and finally.)

So my heart was broken, and I was stuck living in the same apartment with my now ex-girlfriend for a long month or so before I could start my lease at a new place. Horrible, awful, terrible days. And then I found what would be my last grad student apartment, a place I stayed in for five years, longer than any prior or subsequent residence. It was huge and quirky and old-fashioned and I loved it. But I wasn't yet strong and heroic or even able to see how great my new solo life would be -- I basically felt like a wrung out dishrag. But my friends all took my side and descended on my apartment at 10 in the morning, each packing stuff into cars and the pickup truck my old college roomate's husband had driven 150 miles to help me with. (She had to work that day, but sent him instead). Within a very short time we were unloading at my new place. I must have had five or six people with me that day, and their support (physical and emotional) was so incredibly helpful. People who weren't even close friends of mine came by -- other grad students who just pitched in and helped. That was a really amazing day -- I feel touched even now, thinking about all the help I received when I needed it.

I used to always offer to help people move -- I'm good at packing things, and fairly strong for my size. I kind of like the brutal physical labor of moving, especially when it's not my own stuff -- it's no stress to just carry things. In recent years most of my local friends have been staying put, or have found themselves in the age bracket or financial bracket where they hire movers. So my moving points might have diminished a little bit -- I used to figure that if I helped people then I'd receive help when I needed it. Not from the same person necessarily, but just evening up the score in the universe.

My gf and I can move almost everything in our house ourselves, just the two of us. Which makes me feel good, that we can be almost self-sufficient in that way. We're hoping to find someone to give us a hand with two large/heavy pieces of furniture. But otherwise I think we'll be able to manage. We're trying to pre-move as much as possible so that when we have the truck we can just focus on the big stuff. This is sort of a new strategy for me, so I'm interested to see how it goes.


and now the fun begins

Our trip to the Midwest was actually pretty nice -- we caught up on sleep, and I got to see a couple of old friends. Since my gf was with me, dealing with my mother was much, much easier. She loves a new audience for her stories. Her internet connection was down all weekend, which was frustrating but in another way was probably good, too, to have an enforced break from everything.

The dogs seem to have done pretty well at the new fancy place. Rescue Remedy is my new favorite thing. I had read up a little bit on flower essences a long time ago, but had never tried them (for us or the dogs) before. But watching the immediately calming effects of it on our youngest dog (and on us -- it disperses into the air and calms everyone down) has me really a convert. So once the move is done, I'm going to learn more about the whole Bach system. Meanwhile, I'm getting a spray bottle to make a calming mixture that can be sprayed into the air -- we're all going to need it over the next few days.

Today we went and got boxes. Friday we have the moving truck. It's a very short distance (maybe a mile) so we can make supplemental trips in our cars before and after Truck day. And somehow it will all get done. Luckily we'll have the three-day weekend to unpack and get settled, since the summer session begins Tuesday.

So blogging will undoubtedly be kind of light for the next few days, though I am sure I will need a few breaks from packing.



In less than two hours we have to leave for the airport. We're going to visit my mother for her birthday. This trip was planned long ago, before we knew we would be moving next week. I'm not looking forward to the trip, but at the moment I'm so sleep-deprived that I'm trying to think of the plane ride as a chance to rest.

We had to take the dogs to the boarding kennel yesterday afternoon -- it was very strange to be in the house last night without them, very sad. But it does mean that my stress about leaving them, and my ability to cope with their anxiety, was separated from our stress about packing, getting to the airport, etc. We're trying a different kennel this time, one that was highly recommended. I have a good feeling about the staff there -- they seemed very understanding of our younger dog's nervousness. So we'll see how it goes. We started giving her Rescue Remedy beforehand on our vet's recommendation and it seemed to be really helping. And the kennel staff already were familiar with it! so that really made me feel better about this place. So often any mention of holistic dog care just meets a blank look.

Now I just have to prepare to see my mother. But at least I'm not packing up her house, as I was last year. (Just mentally getting ready to pack up my own.)

Don't know if I'll be able to blog at all over the weekend -- have a good one everybody!



Because I am truly a child of my generation, we went to the midnight show of Revenge of the Sith, even though I'd been seriously disappointed in Phantom Menace & Attack of the Clones. We got there kind of late, around 10:15, at which point most of the seats were already filled -- some people had been there since 3:00. But we got center of the back row, which gave us an unobstructed view.

There were far fewer people in costume this time around -- some sabre fighting in the lobby, but the theatrics were pretty muted. We're all getting a little older I guess. A guy three rows up from us had a baby in a Star Wars onesie on his lap.

Although it's no Empire (what could be), I did enjoy the movie. I liked it far, far better than Phantom or Clones. The racist overtones of the first are mostly gone (though it's a very white future) and the obscure political shenanigans of the second are simplified as the Senator becomes Emperor. There are some really painful clunkers in the dialogue (especially between Anakin and Padme) but R2 and Yoda both get to kick butt. And the Wookie planet is cool too. Visually, there's some amazing stuff in the film -- though Lucas gets awfully carried away with filling in extra droids and life forms and meteors in the background, to the point where it is sometimes distracting from the main action.

You know of course what's going to happen -- and the last 20 minutes of the film are well worth the wait. But the problem of this whole first prequel trilogy is that for the evil character to be interesting and compelling (like Milton's Satan) he has to be complicated -- and the good guys have to be sort of dull. If you grew up on the original trilogy, there's no complication in Darth Vader, no little bit of good. And Obi-Wan Kenobi does some pretty awesome things in the original film (IV). The young Anakin in this prequel trilogy is whiny and arrogant, and Revenge doesn't do a lot to change that. And rather than the Jedis being prissy-good or dull, they're well-meaning and either super competent (Yoda) or sort of bumbling (young Obi-Wan). The tension just isn't really there. Add to that the killer of all romantic tension -- marriage and pregnancy-- and you can see why there are 10 zillion fight scenes in this movie.

Padme ain't no Princess Leia. The poor girl doesn't get to do much of anything in this movie except brush her Pre-Raphaelite hair and worry about her man. And look out for this painting towards the end (with perhaps a dash of the Lady of Shalott mixed in for good measure).

I'll have to see it again to really have a full evaluation. But the experience of another midnight first showing was a lot of fun. Star Wars was such an important part of my life that I can't help but respond when that music plays and words scroll across the screen.


old style mail

One of the chores I'd been putting off for too long during the end of semester chaos was sorting through the pile of postal mail. I've known a number of people who've had phobias about receiving, opening, or sending mail -- and I don't believe I'm in that category. And I didn't use to procrastinate about the mail. But over the past year or two I've become someone who just lets the mail sit for a few days (or weeks) before opening it. I do all of our bills online, so we don't receive any statements in the mail. I very rarely get any personal mail -- and if I do, my gf will alert me (since she's usually the one bringing it in). So going through the stack (sorting into keep, recycle, & shred) is just plain tedious. It falls into the following categories: (1) credit card offers; (2) notices from my current cards trying to get me to join this or that program, or do balance transfers; (3) requests for donations from schools I've attended and political organizations; (4) a couple of catalogs; (5) account statement from my bank; (6) maybe 1 or 2 other things that are actually worth paying attention to.

If someone actually did send me something important, chances are I might not see it for quite some time. Which is Not Good in the larger organizational scheme of things. But the crappiness of the postal mail I receive only encourages me to be so slack.

Long gone are the days when getting mail was exciting. And when I used postal mail for communicating with my friends. I miss the aesthetics of writing letters (the decorated envelopes my friend V would make, the fun of choosing new writing paper) but I just don't have the time. And if anyone else's mail habits are like mine, a real letter might just get buried under 200 solicitations from Discover card. . .


despatch from the grading front

I must have been drinking time-release coffee this evening or something. I've been pretty heavily caffeinated the past few days and it's just going to get worse over the next week. And I have a high caffeine tolerance anyway, so I frequently drink tea or coffee at night with no disturbance of my sleep. Well, tonight the coffee wasn't working -- I was fuzzy headed and nodding off at 10:30 and so I actually went to bed at 11:30 thinking I'd have to get up super early in order to get the exams finished. (Because I was too busy dealing with pre-moving arrangements this morning to make much grading progress.) Well, at 12:18 I decided I was tired but too awake to really sleep, so I got up. And now I'm 2/3 of the way through. So that is a huge relief -- I was beginning to wonder if the Procrastination Demon would score some truly evil victory this time around.

However, I'm breaking all my usual habits by grading in my pajamas (I didn't think I'd stay up -- I really thought 20 minutes of grading would put me right to sleep). It feels kind of ickily intimate to be handling blue books while wearing pajamas (even though I'm on the couch not in the bed). I did have a clip board on my lap, though, to maintain some separation. I know these distinctions are realy just all in my head -- what I would normally wear to grade in would be sweats and a t-shirt -- and my pajamas are not much different, just lighter fabric. But it's a category violation. Pjs are for sleeping, sweats are for working.

Best "new" word from the exams: drippling. As in, "the blood drippling through the ceiling". Somehow seems much more evocative than plain old dripping.

And, did you know that "the upper classes were very stuck up and snobbery in the 19th century"?

When I was a student, I was extremely conscious of all of my interactions with my professors. I didn't want to be seen as sucking up in any way, or demanding extra time from them. So there was no way in hell I ever would have written a friendly little note at the end of my exam. (Like, "I really liked this class and will be in your class next year!" or "Thanks for a great last semester!" ) And now, as a professor, I try not to allow such little notes to influence my grading in any way. They're nearly always from students who are in the top range anyway. But stumbling across one of those little notes feels like spotting wildflowers in a big field. A nice little reminder of the people behind the blue books, the personalities and minds I've been in contact with for several months. Otherwise reading exams is mostly a big blur.


it's ours!

We signed the lease this morning on the new house! Yay!!!

So now it'll be REALLY crazy for a couple of weeks. But the payoff is well worth it. The house is so beautiful. And our new landlords seem perfect: they don't want to be meddling in our business, yet they've taken really good care of the property.

Our current place has been really nice -- we've been here for four years and there's lots I love about it. We got to paint the rooms whatever colors we wanted. The yard is huge and has been fun for our puppy. The house itself is tiny, but we've been happy here, until the past six months or so.

Things I won't miss about our current place:
  • the hippies two houses down who have jamborees in their backyard with fully amplified bands every other Sunday as soon as the weather starts getting nice. It's so loud I can't concentrate to read or write, even with all our windows shut.
  • the leaking pipe under the sink that never could be properly fixed
  • growing tension with the couple who are our landlords, who were our friends before we moved here. They're increasingly hostile with each other as their relationship disintegrates and so we and their other friends/tenants get caught in the middle.
  • the herd of stray cats taking over the block due to Crazy Cat Lady down on the corner, who has at least 20+ cats that she feeds and never spays/neuters.
  • the construction that will start this summer as the developers tear down and rebuild across the street. (Three lots sold to them already; who knows how many more they'll get -- this particular company has beenvery agressive in this neighborhood.)
It's definitely time to move. And amazingly it all worked out with really only one week of searching.

I hate the upheaval of moving, but I'm feeling really happy about what the end result will be.

Now that we've signed the lease, and made a scouting trip to look at washers/dryers and bookcases, I guess I really don't have any excuses any longer for being distracted from grading the final exams. Time to put this semester to bed.


think good house thoughts for us

I think we found our new place this morning! We'll meet with the owners tomorrow and sign the lease if they approve of us as tenants.

It's a beautiful old house -- they've owned it for 48 years and kept it in wonderful condition. It's much, much larger than our current space, with lots of windows and wood floors. It's big enough that we could actually have people over for dinner or to watch movies -- something we can't do in our current tiny cottage. (Who knows, maybe we're not entirely reclusive by choice -- it might be partly our living space.)

Wheeee! So if this works out, we'll be moving in two weeks. Just before I start teaching again. Yes, it'll be crazy and stressful. But when is moving NOT stressful and chaotic?

So, my plan is this.
(1) grade exams, calculate final grades, turn them in (by Monday)
(2) finish a long-overdue project (by Thursday)
(3) go out of town to see my mother (next weekend)
(4) pack up our house in a week
(5) move.
(6) start summer school and my new fantasy summer life. (In support of that fantasy, let me just point out that in the new place my study would not also have to be the laundry room, and I'd have great space to do yoga at home!)

And the new house is cheaper on rent, though the difference might even out with the utilities. But it won't be more than what we're currently playing.

So here's hoping that nothing happens to jinx it between now and tomorrow. . .


where oh where has my little brain gone?

no, seriously. I don't know when I last thought critically about anything of consequence. Well, OK, I did read a couple of articles the other day when my students were taking their finals, but the articles weren't for my current research, just general stuff that I'd picked up because I thought I might blog about something related some day. Have I done that yet? No. What have I done? I'm not even really sure. The week went by in a blur of meetings, grading, exams, and life stuff.

It's not like I've been taking time "off" or like I'm yet completely done with the semester. I've been incredibly busy, and getting things done, but my brain feels like a hamster running in a wheel round and round.

I'm not good at transitions: once the semester is done, once I'm into my summer routine, then things will be better.

And I'm really not good at uncertainty. We decided we might want to move; we started looking around for a new place. But we don't have to move, and we haven't given notice on our current place. So on the one hand, I'm going to be making calls early tomorrow and setting up appointments to visit some houses. On the other, I'm supposed to NOT be thinking about packing and moving and instead be focusing on my work. Kinda tough for me to do.

Plus, at the end of next week we have to go out of town for a long weekend which is stressful and not going to be fun.

End of term exhaustion plus possible move looming plus an imminent visit to my mother. No wonder I can't focus to get anything done.

in the morning it will all look different, right?


I'm looking forward to...

So I give my last final exam tomorrow, and therefore have to finish grading this stack of papers by noon. Somehow, I know I'll get through them all. And I've decided this term to dispense with my ritual self-flagellation about why I didn't grade them a week ago, etc. Instead, I'm going to focus on fantasies: all those dreams and ideas about how glorious the summer will be, how different it will be from regular life.
  • I'll get more sleep
  • I'll have a neat and well-organized office
  • I'll go to yoga 6 times a week
  • My brain cells will be supercharged with brilliant ideas that flow easily onto the page
  • I'll work my way through my "fun" reading stack
Mmmm. Yeah. Summer. I can almost see it if I peek around the corner of my pile of grading.


arrgh. (your input needed)

OK, so I got my brand-new car on Thursday, right?

Yesterday (Monday) as I was in the right turn lane, waiting for the through traffic to thin (I had the red light, they had the green), in order to turn onto the main street leading into campus, I was rear-ended by a girl anxious to get to her final exam.


She claimed that didn't have her insurance card with her, that her husband takes care of it and that it was his truck. That she had taken him to the airport and that she didn't know his cell number and didn't have her phone with her because she was going to her exam (which I find dubious since she was extremely pregnant). Sure, maybe all that was true. Or maybe she doesn't have insurance.

The damage to my car was very minimal -- two small scrapes on the rear bumper. (The front bumper on her truck was actually much more damaged, which says something for my new car I guess.) If my car were a couple years old I would not even think about getting it fixed. But my car was only 3 days old. Arrggh.

My neck is still sore, too, but I can move it in all directions and a couple more days of yoga and ibuprofen will clear it up.

Two questions I want your input on, dear readers:
(1) should I bother to get the scrapes fixed? or should I just say, well, my car is now lived in, and I'm happy it was nothing worse, and that's what bumpers are for. (i.e., will this really lead to rust and evil decay? bear in mind that I'm planning on keeping my car for at least 10 years, not likely to turn around and sell it in a couple.)

(2) and if yes to #1, how hard do I try to pursue this girl and get her insurance (if she has any) to pay for the repair? (she was supposed to call me after she talked to her husband, but she didn't. I have her phone # etc, but haven't called her yet )

UPDATE Wed 5/11: my neck is fine today after hot yoga and an application of arnica last night. So it's really about the car, not about me.



How to get through the end of semester without hardly noticing: get caught up in major life decisions instead.

I bought my new Toyota on Thursday, in what the internet made a totally painless and easy process. I'd already done the research and knew exactly what I wanted to get, so on Wednesday I requested quotes via one of the independent auto sites. Instead of driving around to a bunch of different Toyota dealers and talking with annoying salespeople, I got email bids from their internet sales offices, which are a very different thing. I picked the one with the best quote and the most professional communication, went in Thursday afternoon and got my car. Turns out that (at this dealership anyway) the internet sales is supposed to turn over cars, to increase the dealer's volume, so they sell them at extremely low prices. The floor salesmen are the ones supposed to push extra options and fancier models to increase profit. So the guy I worked with wasn't trying to sell me anything extra, he wasn't unpleasant to deal with -- we basically had the whole deal worked out before I came to the dealership.

So I have a new car, which is very exciting but also a momentous thing. I still go and look out the window just to see it. And it's especially nervewracking to figure out how to keep it clean & nice for a while, now that I'm a dog mom (I'm ordering washable covers for the back seat). So basically for all of Wednesday and Thursday I was pretty distracted by car stuff.

And then on Saturday, we decide that it really is time to start looking around for a new place to live. We don't have to move out -- we haven't said anything to our landlord, but we aren't on a lease anymore, so we have the flexibility to leave any time. And a variety of things have been going on that are starting to make us consider moving: our rent went up $200; 3 houses across the street are going to be torn down and new construction put up; the house next door is up for sale; the shack (I'm hardly exaggerating) 2 houses down is going to be rented out to a family with a zillion kids. Plus, our landlords, who are a couple who are friends of ours, are on the verge of splitting up and so the future seems really uncertain. It might be time to remove ourselves from the business part of our relation with them and just have whatever friendship is left.

So then over the weekend, when I was reviewing job candidates' writing samples and grading papers, I was also calling about rental houses and driving around to look at some. Haven't found anything great yet (and it has to be really great to get us to move: either significantly cheaper or better than where we are now) but it's really only been a couple of days.

But once you open that door it's really hard NOT to be thinking about possible neighborhoods to go drive through looking for signs, about things to clear out and give away, about the exhausting labor of moving, and about the possible good things at the end of it all.

Those papers to grade? they're just fitting in around the edges of all my major life distractions.


saying goodbye to my car

About a year ago, my mechanic diagnosed an incurable engine problem in my car, and said I probably had 6 months left in it. Because I don't have a very long daily commute, I've been able to squeeze 12 months out of my car, but over the past couple of weeks I've been slowly preparing myself to get a new car this month. And then, yesterday, my car started really acting up. It's following all the signs that my mechanic told me would happen. Which means that engine failure is somewhere in the near future (how near, I have no idea). So it looks like I'm getting a new car this weekend, even before I'm done with grading.

I have no bumper stickers on my car, and no decorative accessories on the inside. I don't think my identity is really expressed through my vehicle. Sure, I drive a small gas-efficient import, which does reflect my concern for the environment, though it also reflects my budget and sense of practicality. But I would never buy a car based on how it looks, for instance, because it just isn't that important to me. I don't wash it all that often, and really don't pay that much attention to what other people drive, or trends in automobiles.

And yet, this particular car has been part of my life for 12 years. And so saying goodbye to it is actually kind of tough.

It's only the second car I've ever owned. The first was a troublesome used car that served me really well for 1 year, then started developing all kinds of mysterious problems. So when I bought this car, new, it was such a relief to have reliable transportation.

I bought this car with the life insurance money I got after my father died. My parents would never have bought me a car under normal circumstances, although they had gotten my brother one when he was in high school. It felt kind of like a gift from my dad, although it was something he wouldn't have done when he was alive.

My then-girlfriend and I drove this car to the 1993 March on Washington. It was still in the engine break-in period, so we had to drive 55 mph or slower on the highways getting there. On the way we'd see other cars clearly going to the March, many decked out with rainbow flags and signs. We chatted with circuit boys and motorcycle dykes at highway rest stops, and while driving, we'd all honk and wave at each other. There was such a festive community spirit for that event, even as we mourned at the ever-growing AIDS quilt.

I took other trips in this car, over the years: my first solo drive of more than 12 hours in one day; trips to art exhibits, to see my friend's new baby, to take care of a friend having minor surgery. When I moved cross-country to take my job at Large Urban, my belongings went on the moving truck, and I got into my little car with my friend Glam Girl who rode with me to keep me company on the trip. Even though I was totally stressed out about leaving what had been my home for seven years, and starting everything over, she made it a fun trip. That was such a lovely gift of her time and energy.

There was darker stuff, too: the crazy woman who my then-girlfriend had had an affair with who keyed my car only a few months after I got it. The kids who destroyed the lock trying to break into the car (at least, I've always assumed they were kids just practicing -- because who would want to get into my crappy little car?). The broken window and stolen factory radio. (Probably the same apprentice thieves, I'm guessing, since it was within the same month.) The guy without insurance who hit my car on the freeway, sending me into the concrete barrier (not at full speed, thankfully). But through it all, my trusty little Toyota kept going. Even when it developed its terminal oil problem, it hid its symptoms from me and my mechanic for a long while. I knew something was wrong, but my car just kept saying "no, no, I'm fine."

There's a stain on the back seat from where my casserole dripped as I was bringing a potluck dish to a grad student gathering. Our puppy threw up in my car when I brought her home from getting spayed. On the driver's seat, the upholstery is disappearing, and the foam rubber is starting to flake off every time I get in or out. There's dog hair everywhere, and dirt from the park, and nose prints on the windows, proof of how often my family rides with me.

Every person I've ever dated or been involved with has ridden in my car.

I've had this car for almost one-third of my life.


vacation, and how (not) to talk about it

Why is it that people who can afford the time and money to take vacations always tell people who can't afford it, "you should go on vacation"? Especially since we are not exactly a culture that encourages or promotes time off -- the number of vacation days for most workers in the U.S. is far behind that of most other developed countries. And even if we're just talking about academics, you know that most of those people aren't really going to be taking time off, just schlepping their work with them to the beach or the mountains or whatever. So that the question just becomes some other version of competitive consumption and competitive work ethic. (i.e., "oh yes we go to our mountain cottage every year for two months -- it's so ideal for writing)

In my fantasy life, I'd love to go on vacation, a real vacation where I would get to see a new place, do the things I like to do, and not work. But my real life doesn't really allow for that sort of thing.

And deep down I'm bascially a hermit, so just having time off to stay home, play on the internet and watch movies is fun too. So once I'm done with grading etc, I'll designate a couple of days as days "off" -- and try not to get too caught up in household chores and projects.

So what I ask people when I'm chatting in the halls is "what are your plans for the summer" -- it's much less awkward to respond to for those of us without a lot of extra money or time than "are you going anywhere" which presumes that you will be or will be wanting to travel.


discussion blog for June

OK, since there are some other people interested, I've gone ahead and created a group blog we can use to discuss Hall's The Academic Self: http://academicself.blogspot.com/

I will send invitations to those who commented to my previous post expressing interest. If you want to join, add a comment (with your email address filled in) to that post or this one. As a member of a group blog, you can both create posts and comment on them. Nonmembers can't write posts, but they can comment freely. It's up to you.

To accept an invitation to the group blog, you will need to click on the link in the email, which will take you to Blogger. Create a Blogger username if you don't already have one (takes about 1 minute and you don't have to divulge any private info). Then you will be able to post to the group blog. If you have any problems, try checking Blogger Help or email me.

Discussion of the book will begin in June, and I posted a proposed schedule at http://academicself.blogspot.com/.

Just thought I'd get the ball rolling, let everyone get a copy of the book, and give us something to look forward to once we're done with all the grading...

reflections and an invitation

How did I get here? Where am I going?
As the spring term winds down, I'm re-entering a period of reflective thinking about my relationship to academe, about the current and future paths of my career, and about what my own goals (as opposed to those externally imposed) might be. I'm never too far away from such existential considerations, but I had set them aside over the past six weeks because I simply had too much else to be doing. The short version of where things stand is this:

good stuff
  • I have tenure in a job offers me a lot of flexibility in what I teach.
  • I love teaching the student population we have at Large Urban U.
  • I am well respected in my department and could probably have a pretty comfortable career here.
  • This city has been a good place for me to live and there are many things I like about it.
  • did I say I had TENURE?
not so good
  • Our salaries are far, far below the national average for my field and don't have much chance of improving.
  • I don't think I want to spend the rest of my life here in this city.
  • It is not an intellectually engaged department and I feel isolated from current developments in my field
  • As tenured faculty at a 4th-rank state university I've lost the professional prestige that my (1st-tier) PhD institution conferred on me (as far as getting accepted to conferences in my field, etc).
  • I'm not at the kind of place I was trained by, and trained to work in. I'm not sure I would want to be at a 1st or 2nd tier school, even if I were competitive for such positions at this point, but the internalized academic hierarchy still sometimes pinches me (the feeling that I could or should be more successful)
big picture questions
  • are my larger values really reflected in my current job? in my research? (they are in my teaching)
  • what hierarachies of value do I really believe in, deep down? does academic status really matter to me and why?
  • research? teaching? administration? other??

a long-term goal (3-5 years)
My partner wants to return to another city in which she used to live -- partly for career reasons, and partly for general lifestyle reasons. Our trip to this other city in March convinced me that I too would like to move to this other city.

Which puts me in the very difficult position of trying to find another job when I'm not miserable in my current one, and when I feel damn grateful to have a tenured position at all. Finding a geographically limited position means considering a wider range of kinds of jobs than I might have considered on my first time on the market. And it is raising all sorts of questions related to the existential lists above.

An invitation for YOU
I started reading Donald E. Hall's The Academic Self: An Owner's Manual (Ohio State UP, 2002) during the spring of 2003, when I was in heavy-duty tenure preparation mode (my dossier was submitted in August 2003). I don't think I actually finished the book, and I don't have strong recall of what I did read, except that much of it seemed thoughtful and thought-provoking. It's a short book (100 pages) that takes up some of the kinds of questions I've been scribbling here. At the time I started looking at it I can remember wanting to discuss it with others -- I recommended it to two friends but neither of them wanted to really dig into these kinds of questions.

Would any of you be interested in reading and discussing this book over the summer? Counting the Introduction, there are 5 chapters (Introduction; Self; Profession; Process; Collegiality, Community, and Change) and a brief postscript. So maybe a reading schedule over 5 weeks, taking a chapter at a time and discussing it? We could set up a separate blog just for this purpose. Maybe beginning in early June?

Let me know what you think.