Monday, October 30, 2006

Cheaters vs. children

[Parenting post follows]

Frustrating week. Fridays is my day with the boys. I wanted to take them to a large and glorious local botanic gardens. $15 entrance fee for adults (children are free). Decided that I'd like to get a membership. I've found that family memberships for zoos, botanic gardens, science centers, children's museums, are well worth the cost, as they encourage regular visits, and the children enjoy them.

Thing is, we've got an au pair. It's our choice. I prefer having a dedicated caregiver for the boys when we're not watching them, I like the idea of international exchange. But, see, it would seem most of these memberships cover only two adults, and their children. In Paradise, the zoo had a nifty little add-on feature for family memberships to accommodate just this scenario, an extra person who could take the children in the absence of the parents. It was something like an extra $15 or $20 added on to the cost of the membership. GREAT!

But here in Rocket City every place we go they throw up road blocks. I'm sorry, you can only have two adults on the membership. You see... they add in a hushed confidential tone, some people would take advantage of it. They'd try to service two households.

Oh... I think you mean, like, mothers or fathers from separate families couldn't possible claim to be a couple, put their names on the membership cards, and bring their separate children whenever they liked. What a stupid idea!

The people who suffer most by such short-sighted membership policies, and inflexibility, are the children who would otherwise be exposed to a great deal more of what the world has to offer. I bought the $100 basic family membership to the botanic gardens, only to be told that (although they'd make a one-time exception for me) the basic membership doesn't allow "early entry" into the gardens. You have to get the $300 membership if you wish to enter BEFORE NOON! Oh... and the "children's garden" and the buildings with exhibits are all closed until after noon as well. [SIGH].

This means for some memberships, we need to give the au pair one of the membership cards, and have her pretend to be my wife when she goes alone with the boys, and hope they don't require identification. Or, we could simply list me and the au pair as the members, but then, my wife could never take the boys without one of us. Is there really a benefit to forcing families like ours to buy two memberships, if we wish to remain honest?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Dissertation-to-book proposal (draft) complete

Done, done, done! I had written to Tasse Plein last week to elicit his long overdue (but promised) commentary on my dissertation. His remark at the time, after signing off on it, was that he'd have some suggestions for revision should I ever wish to publish it. In that email, I wrote: "If you have specific comments, requests, cautions, or what have you, now would be the time to articulate them." His response was to request a look at my proposal. I sent it to him this morning.

Now, what to do? I've got cleaning, unpacking, and organizing. I want to do some more reading about literary agents for my more commercial book projects. I've got a backlog of articles to read for my longitudinal project, and I've got to start recruiting volunteers for that and gathering data.

In all, I'm feeling good about my work again, motivated, dedicated.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Almost finished

Exhausting. This book proposal is. I think I take a 20 minute break every hour. But I'm almost done. All that remains is my market analysis, then a final editing. I guess this is where it all comes together, where I make explicit the audience for whom I'm writing (as much for my own clarification as for their sakes). What kind of market is there for a book like this? I'm pleased with the changes I've proposed to the content of my dissertation (at least in outline form). This would be work for me, but fun and interesting work, taking the foundation of my dissertation, and the seeds I sowed in my dissertation distillation article, combined with some of my current work, and a sprinkling of work I've written grant applications for. I like the project. Let's hope it gets accepted.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Oh so many things

Hi Larry,

It's been nearly a year since we last wrote. I see now there is an open position in [subfield 1] in the [Field 1] department at Big West Private (in addition to the post at [your center]). I am, as you might have guessed, quite interested, especially if it might permit collaborations with your group.

Do you know anything about the post? Is it a replacement for someone who has retired, or is it entirely new? Are they targeting particular curricular needs, specific courses? Let me know what you can.

Larry Strope is a professor in [Field 1], and director of a research center, at a big west coast private school. He also happens to be the son of Harry Strope, the member of my dissertation committee whom I've mentioned before. We had been in touch before when I had applied for a post-doc at his school last year.
Hi Articulate,

It's great to hear about your interest. We have the one opening in [subfield 1] and are short at least 3 or so faculty after retirements, etc.

I don't have the answers. Usually, we search pretty widely. I'm cc'ing Jasmine Lear so you can be in touch with the committee directly for better information.

Best of luck to you -- it would be great to see work like yours become part of the fabric here. And if you think the [Research Center] post fits better, let me know how that angle suits you.


And, I spoke today for about 20 minutes or so, with a professor at [Lake View U.], the one who served on a panel I organized a conference a couple years back, and who has been quite open and supportive in the past. Let's call him Joe Krowicki. He was the other departmental contact whom I wrote to about the post. He had written back with him home number for me to call and talk.

It was a good conversation, open, honest. This is someone I could trust, a good colleague. In the end, it sounds like there may in fact be two positions open or opening. Joe happens to be chairing the search committee, and weakened the blow a bit from the email I had received from his colleague, saying that yes, they are looking for someone who could teach courses in [subfield 2], but he indicated the specific courses would likely depend on the individual. He spoke as if not to discourage me from applying. He also indicated that, should the second post open up, they'd certainly have more flexibility.

He volunteered quite a bit of information, and was willing to discuss what might be sensitive areas (like for instance why a colleague of ours had failed to get tenure, and had taken a post elsewhere). We also discussed the two-body problem a bit. It's refreshing to talk and listen without minced words.

It's a tough call. LVU is near the Rocket Scientist's family, but the area offers her little in the way of her specialization. LVU would be a great place for me to work. I guess I apply, and we make the decisions when we have them to make. I told Joe that it sounded like I should send them my stuff, that I won't hold my breath, but if there's a job for me to fill at LVU, I'd be delighted to fill it.

As for BWP... that's another one I'll be applying for. There's one more definite after that, and two or three maybes that I still need to research. That makes one down, three to go, then we'll see from there.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Existential Crisis 2.0

First, a little domestic tranquility. What have I been doing with my spare time of late? Yesterday I started a batch of sauerkraut. It's amazingly easy. Basically, you shred up cabbage, and add salt. Uh... yeah, that's about it. Then you have to weight it down a bit to squeeze out the liquid, which combines with the salt to make a brine, and you check it every day or so, to skim off the... well, the stuff that grows on top. After about three weeks, you've got the most delicious tasting sauerkraut you can imagine.

And today... I started four quart jars of kosher garlic-dill pickles. Yum. This is my first time (uh... this decade) making pickles. I'll let you know how they turn out. But I'm pretty optimistic. So, call me weird... well, to be honest, call me Ashkenazi. It's tradition, you know.

These little things bring me great pleasure. There's something about being self-sufficient to an extent, or as Emerson put it self-reliant. I remember a lesson my step-father (er... ex-step-father) taught me years ago. He's a writer, cum college professor of writing. Back then, my folks had an old row house in Baltimore (three stories tall) with a gorgeous old oak banister. Only... it had been painted over, numerous times. For perhaps two years, it was a work-in-progress, being stripped, and stained.

Stepdad's remark was, you know, I realized somewhere along the line that I wanted to be a writer, not a home repairman. It made me rethink my self-reliant posture. But, I've come back to it of late. There is something truly rewarding about doing it yourself, satisfying in a way that paying someone else just can't touch.

And, I like our new home (even if we don't own it). I like it more than our old place in Paradise. I'm enjoying the kitchen, and looking forward to the garden that I will create. I keep thinking about eating out, then opt to cook something at home. That's a good sign.

This afternoon, while driving back from the greengrocer's (where I bought the kirbies for pickling), I got a callback from the national sales manager for Big Academic Publisher. I said that I had called him mainly just to get a better sense of how things stand. His response was essentially: management has decided to keep the post open a bit longer, until January, to expand the pool of candidates. As I interpret it: "we're hoping something better will come along, but we'll keep you in mind."

I kept talking, and listening, however. I was frank in my apprehension, but also clear in my confidence that were it something I chose to do, I'd have utmost confidence in my ability to hone up on the needed knowledge and experience.He clarified a bit that I remain a strong candidate for the post, but that I lack the sales experience in publishing, and that with their present small pool of candidates, they're uncomfortable making a choice.

Like the color of my skin or my gender, there are things I have no control over. I can't fabricate experience I don't have. My question for you is what can I do in the present to allay your concerns? In the end, he suggested that I come to an upcoming conference in the area, where he himself will be representing the firm, so I can get a better sense of that aspect of the job, and so we might be able to meet face to face.

Alright. I could do this. Selling textbooks, while not my first pick in careers, would at least maintain me in education, and wouldn't feel like selling my soul, since we all use textbooks. It's just a matter of which ones. Assuming I do show up at this conference, I'd think my persistence would likely impress them, perhaps enough to garner me an offer. Who knows? But the question remains, what do I want? I keep thinking of my 5-10 year goals. Those remain. How do I get there from here?

I never thought I'd be one to say this, having lived much of my life below the poverty line, but not needing the money, in some ways, is harder than needing it. (At least, it's harder in terms of the present questions I deal with. Trust me, I don't advocate poverty as a lifestyle choice--though, come to think of it, I'm sure there's some researcher out there convinced of finding the poverty gene some day, just to prove it's not a choice after all.) We live comfortably. If my wife retained her career, and I made not a dime for the rest of my life, we might not be able to buy a house again any time soon, but we'd not go hungry or homeless.

In terms of getting a job, I don't really need one. So, what is driving me to it? To some extent, it is the money. In our society, money is the ubiquitous form of applause. I want the validation that comes with someone paying me to be me. Of course, in a way, my wife does that. I cook, she buys the groceries. I'm not materialistic enough to think that's all there is, but neither am I so un-self-aware to think it's irrelevant. With a second income, we'd have that much more to save, or spend, or donate, as we saw fit.

As Pooh would say: Think think think. What do I want? How will what I do today get me closer to that plan for 5-10 years from now? I'll work on it. Monday, it's back to the dissertation-to-book proposal. I'll have to make some decisions about conference abstracts after that. I'll need to decide whether or not to attend this regional conference to meet the national sales manager and whatnot. One thing at a time.

Can I say it again?

Correlation does not constitute causation. This morning, I was greeted with the following article on IHE: Want to Get Ahead? Get Hitched. Why is it that journalists (or, gasp, researchers!) insist on making broad sweeping statements of causality, based on mere correlation? This reminds me of a classic article I read years ago (I'm talking late 70s, perhaps early 80s) in one New York city newspaper which proclaimed: "Calculators Cause Pregnancy!" As I recall it, it was an hilarious lampoon of just this sort of gee willacres, did you ever notice that traffic lights cause accidents?

It's a very pervasive thing, however, and distorts so much of our education, especially of science. No wonder so many people are confused about evolution. No... unless we stipulate an ultimate cause or shall I say Causer we simply can not say things like "ladybugs secrete a foul-tasting liquid through their legs in order to make themselves distasteful to predators". Sorry, that's stipulation, not science. Fine if you believe it, but it's still not science. Let's try: "Interestingly, ladybugs secrete a foul-tasting liquid through their legs, which evidence suggests has had a dampening effect on the desires of predators, likely aiding ladybugs in the goal of species survival."

Sheesh! Again, for the record: Correlation does not constitute Causation.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Trudging through it

"I'm hoping to finish this book proposal today..." [SIGH] Sometimes my optimistic expectations astound even me. Suffice it to say, it ain't done yet. I'm trudging through it. What an exhausting process this is. They ask for so much in the proposal (Statement of aims and rationale for the project; 300-word overall abstract; chapter outline with 500-word chapter abstracts; biographical sketch with "concise CV"; assessment of likely competition and description of the target audience, etc.), then write with sadistic glee that "the proposal should therefore extend to between 2-5 pages".

2-5 Pages!?! In what, 6-point font? That's like asking someone to lecture on the major events regarding Civil Rights in America, from 1933-1968, paying particular heed to the role of women, pointing out areas of convergence and conflict between African, Latino, and Asian populations, making mention of literature, music, and art as protest expressions, and doing this all in 25 minutes, allowing time for questions.

But it's not for me to complain. I want to do this, do it well, get it accepted, then move on. I'm planning some major overhauling of the dissertation, far beyond what I did in the dissertation distillation article: the addition of historical and biographical notes and sketches, to fill in more of the story; and the inclusion of a great deal more translations from original source materials that have never appeared in, let us say, any major world language. That and editing, revising, and reorganizing. All of this, of course, makes a chapter synopsis somewhat more complicated an endeavor than I imagined at first. Better to do it now, however, so I have a to-do list once it's accepted.

Hats off to those of you with book contracts under you belt. Wish me luck.

Beginning to settle

It's been a rough few days, up/down/up/down. The mornings are mostly good. Somehow, when my wife begins to tell me about the young turks at work, fresh out of school with a bachelor's degree, it hits me hard.

But, truth be told, I am where I want to be (except for wishing I had already found that ideal job). I'm not (over)working a post somewhere, teaching classes that don't appeal to me, losing time to meetings and administrivia, that I'd rather spend on reading and research. For that I can be thankful.

The trick is doing what I want to be doing. I've been working on this dissertation-to-book proposal this week. Well, that and getting things set up. Internet at home went online yesterday. Yay! We're planning to vacate the hotel room this weekend. I can't really see keeping it just for the sake of it. I'm comfortable at home, even if a bit more distracted.

I'm hoping to finish this book proposal today, and unpack a few more boxes, set up a few more details of home life (for instance, getting the chimney inspected, so we can finally have a wood fire... ah!). Next week, I'm going to work on some agent contacts regarding my more commercial book ideas (a few children's books: two already written; and a memoir/collection of my dad's poetry/letters between father and son; I also have planned a parents' guide on childhood cognitive development that comes from my research, which I'd like to move ahead with).

I spoke briefly with the regional sales manager for Big Academic Publisher. It's been about a month since I last heard from her, so I thought I'd follow up. "We've kind of put that position on hold for the moment. We're in the heat of conference season. You're definitely still a candidate though. Feel free to check in with me whenever." I had already sent her a couple emails, keeping her informed of my move schedule and interim contact information, to which she hadn't responded, so I can't take that last comment too seriously.

That's real useful: you're definitely still a candidate. It's like the dog turd on the sidewalk that you keep meaning to clean up, but haven't gotten to yet. I think I'll call the national sales manager I interviewed with as well, just to touch base, and see if I can get a better feel for what to expect, what may or may not be in the works, and what their time frame is looking like now. Otherwise, I'll put that possibility to the back of my mind. Not even sure I'll take it, if offered, but I don't like loose strands dangling.

I called the [Field 1] department chair of a local community college, which has a full-time position advertised. The posting was somewhat vague. He clarified it on the phone, and it looks like it would be inappropriate for me. And it's a 5+5 teaching load, ~15 hours of classroom teaching per term. Youch! But, he said he was intrigued by my background and interests, and suggested they might likely have use for me to cover some part-time teaching. I sent him my CV. That'd be nice to pick up some adjuncting. Get me back in front of a classroom! I'm missing it.

Meanwhile, I'm looking over job postings as they come up. My wife and I did a bit of researching on the internet to see which of the current postings that interest me might provide local opportunities for her career as well. We ruled out a few. So far this year, I've applied for one. There remain five more between now and January, that I plan to follow up on. This year, I plan to make phone calls or send emails before applying to any post, to feel out the prospects, and get as good a sense as I can for what they are really seeking. My job as I see it, is to weed out as many weak prospects before applying as I can, which hopefully will make the few I apply for that much stronger.

I mentioned the new post at [Lake View U.]. Yesterday, I wrote to two of my contacts there. I heard back from the first. He was my main contact there when I was applying to their doctoral program. I had known him from SII conferences before then, and have kept in touch since.
Hi Articulate,

We have the [true interdisciplinary field-related workshop] here in the next couple of days so I am up to my eyebrows in details.

I'm glad to talk after that. My clear understanding is that my dean is ONLY interested at this point in folks who are from a [subfield 2] background, so I'm not sure you fit her paradigm. We are talking [details of the sorts of courses], that kind of stuff. Let's talk sometime next week when the dust clears.


That confirms my suspicions. Too bad. But it's good to keep up my contacts with them. At present, there are only three universities in The States with programs in [true interdisciplinary subfield], so it's a tight bunch, and it serves me to stay in the loop. In all honesty though, while I'd love a post there, the prospects for my wife's career in the region are slim-to-none unless she moves to a different sort of work, which doesn't seem likely at the moment.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Aesop's fables for an academic

I think of the Tortoise and the Hare. Last night, as my wife was preparing and worrying about today's start of her new job, I said that as much as I hate to admit it, she sometimes intimidates me. Sorry, she said, I don't mean to intimidate you. I explained it's not so much her as her success; that I feel like the hare in the race. Me, with all my ambition, and ideas, and drive, and confidence; she with laissez faire patience. Almost despite ourselves, our careers have recently taken unexpected turns. Slow and steady wins the race.

We were talking Saturday night over dinner (after the boys had gone to bed--sometimes you just have to eat late to have time to talk). I was mulling over my present difficulties with the question: So... what do you do? I asked, So... what do you do? just to see how she might couch it. She replied. Pretty impressive really, and I told her so. She does interesting, important work. That's really pretty neat, I said.

And what do I do? There's the question. I have a PhD in... No, that's not what I do. That's just a thing... a thing I have, a thing I've done. But, it's done already. Should I submit a formal proposal for turning my dissertation into a book? I've been thinking about what I'd do to change it. I probably should. It could be done inside a year, without preventing me from other activities, I'd think. I'll work that proposal up in the next couple weeks. Still settling into everything right now. But I'll find the time. I'm not sure where it will get me. A little academic capital. Not sure where or how I can spend it, unless it helps me get a faculty post, or gives me a leg up on tenure.

What do I do? I research... Do I? Not much lately really. Is that what I want? Is that what I want to do? If so, I need to get back to it. These are the questions. I can't say... I won't say I'm an unemployed college professor. What does that mean? I'm a teacher. Not for a few years now.

What do I do? I'm a father of two wonderful sons. I give talks, and freelance. I write. I work in [Field 1] and [Field 2] studies. Yeah. I really do. Hmm. So many projects. So many directions. Which path to choose... today?
Last night, my wife continued: You have so many wonderful ideas. This has been a hard year for you. I've kept wishing that I could do something about it.

I smiled gently, Yes, but apples in a basket rot for want of a nickel.

You could always start lobbing them at people. If you won't buy my apples, then take that!

Good idea, maybe, huh?

I think you really should write up those new children's book ideas; and try to get a publisher for the ones you've already written; and publish your dad's poetry. It'd be a good break for you, without so much pressure.
Maybe. Maybe. What do I do? See... many people wouldn't even ask that question, wouldn't worry over it. Who are you? Now that's a question people like. But, for me, my career really is important. Not necessarily in the traditional sense. I'm not a career man. But what I do is a major marker of my identity. Life is work.

My mother recounts the tale of me at 3 or 4, attending a Montessouri school in New York City. The big kids went upstairs, while us youngsters remained downstairs. What did they do up there?, I always wondered. Downstairs, I was bored, terribly bored, with the little games they would play, the mind-numbingly simple tasks they would have us do, as if they were challenging.

What's wrong, honey, why are you crying? my parents asked one day as we headed home.

All they do all day long is play play play... and I want to work work work I blustered.

So my mom made me up a Very Important Work Box filled with 1st and 2nd grade readers and math books, so I could get started on that very imporant life work I was going to do. I was happy. I was content. At 10, I took a paper route, getting up at 5:00 to spend an hour tossing papers into yards (or as often as not, falling asleep on my stack of papers, until my mom discovered me there, and taking pity on me, drove me through my rounds). At 11, I was working after school at a barbeque restaurant, carrying in firewood, dicing vegetables for the salad bar. I've never spent so long in my life without a hitching post, either school or a job, and if not a job, then I ran my own business.

This has been the hardest year of my life. I achieved a great, long dream of being a father. Now, two wonderful, challenging, frustrating, delightful boys. I reached a pinnacle with the PhD. Dr. Dad, me. But that wall stares me in the eyes. I feel boxed in. Where do I go from here? Ah, yes, that basket full of apples. I need to start lobbing.

There's a new post at [Lake View U.]. I've written about them before. It was my top pick for graduate school, but they didn't take me. I've applied there for three or four posts. The new posting is in my true subfield within [Field 1], but listed as part of [subfield 2]
Preferred: Candidates able to teach a range of courses in [subfield 2] and whose research interests include [true subfield].
Hmmmph. To be honest, I'm not sure it's a post for me. I'll write to my contacts on the faculty in that program to get a better sense. It'd be close to my inlaws. My wife would like that. But then, there's not really any work for my wife in her area of expertise and interest in that area.

Be a professor? I'm not sure. Oh, I'll apply... for a few jobs. But you never know... maybe them grapes is sour after all.

Friday, October 13, 2006


I'm blogging from the hotel, but all our stuff is moved into the new house. Most things are unpacked, but there's a heck of a lot of sorting and organizing and rearranging to do. We still have to set up our trash pickup; better do that soon, before our can is full. Need to arrange some sort of internet at home as well. And a phone. But our fridge arrived today, and the stove works fine. We tested it with a frozen pizza.

It's a weird feeling being here. I feel up and down. I like our new home. I'm excited about the new city, and surroundings, about seeking new contacts, and developing the ones I've made. I feel like this is the beginning of something big. I'm just not sure where it will lead. It may be this is the year my patience (I try!) and perseverance pay off, when I finally get a faculty post I'll love. But it just as likely may be the year I decide to hang up those dreams, and strike out in different directions. I'm ambivalent in a way, which is very odd for me. Perhaps it's just the change hitting me at once. Maybe the next couple weeks will iron it all out.

I expect to blog lightly for a while, as I have been the past couple weeks, especially since I don't have internet at home yet, and I'm not sure how much or how long I'll be using the hotel room. Now it's late. I came to get our toiletries, and couple stuffed animals for the boys, then back... home.

Articulate Dad... out.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Ethical considerations

Lately, it's been as if I am undergoing a test of ethical conduct. Here is how it began:

A couple months ago, I deposited a $50 check in an ATM machine at my bank. After swallowing the check, I received the message that the ATM machine was temporarily unable to process deposits. Gee. Thanks. The deposit didn't show up online. I called them to see what could be done. They said they'd look into it. A few days later, I happened to pass by the very branch with the faulty ATM machine, and figured I could just stop in, to check up on things, since they'd likely have opened up the machine to discover the physical copy of the deposited check, even if the machine was unable to register it. I explained that I had already called about it. No, they didn't have any record of the transaction, since the ATM machines are emptied into a bag, and taken by courier somewhere else for processing. A couple weeks later, I received two credits of $50 to my account, in conclusion of their investigation. You know the old Monopoly card Bank error in your favor. Collect $200.

Then, for our 9th wedding anniversary, we decided to order ourselves a new stereo. Being frugal folks with a bent for high quality audio, we went shopping for a top end refurbished item. Sure enough, we ordered ourselves a really nice receiver for just over $300. It was running a little long in coming, so I called to check on status. The online system showed it as "in preparation" with "unknown" delivery date for more than a week. They took my contact info and promised to call me back within 48 hours. It arrived the next day. I received a call back anyhow, and they assured me the unit was on its way and would be expected in the next couple days. It arrived yesterday. Thanks.

About a week and a half later, while we were on our house hunting trip, a second receiver (exactly like the first) was left on our porch for us to discover on our return. We contemplated it for a few days, then I called them up to explain the mishap, and offered to return the extra unit. Thank you very much. I'm taking notes on this. Please use the return label. Most people wouldn't do this. The next day, I set up a pick up with FedEx, to return it.

Today, I received an email:
We have received and processed your refund request. The charge for
the following item has been credited to your account: ...

Sheesh. How hard do you have to work to give something back that doesn't belong to you?

Now, finally, I'm faced with this: when my wife was negotiating with Rocket Central, as regular readers may recall, we inquired as to the possibilities for spousal assistance, to help me land affiliation with their administering institution, or to grant me some start up funding for my research. Nothing doing, they said. We don't offer any sort of spousal assistance.

Nothing for the spouse, but they are okay with providing the entire family up to 45 days of temporary housing, (at a rate of nearly $250 a night!). For those of you following along at home, that comes out to a grand total somewhere north of $10k. WOW! That'd been a nice start up pot. We're in the temporary lodging now, which they've reserved for us for 45 days, even though my wife indicated we'd likely be moving out in less than a week, once everything was delivered, and unpacked, and we'd gotten our appliances set up (believe it or not, we have to buy our own refrigerator, and washer and dryer, since they don't come with the place). Just check out when you're done.

Okay, we've signed our lease and gotten the keys; the movers deliver tomorrow. But... I could sure use an office for a month to get going, now, couldn't I? Of course, $10k could get me a rather posh space for a year or two, I'd imagine. But hey, we don't write the rules. Is it unethical of me to suggest to my wife that, hey, if they'll cover the temp lodging, what's to stop us from keeping it for a month instead of a week, for me to use as an office outside the house, as I get set up in town, and look around for an office of my own? Internets, what do you think?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Many lives lived

My life has been at times a series of episodes, disjunct, remote. Several times in my life my circumstances and motivations have varied enough that it has seemed one life ended, and new one began.

As I embark to leave Paradise likely for the last time, to cut the umbilical cord that ties me to my doctoral institution, to head to a new city, I wonder if this present won't prove to be a border that marks yet another life lived, the end of the old, the start of a new.

I long for the certainty of being on a stable path, of knowing the results to my inquiries. When I ran a landscaping business, I took pleasure in knowing I had recievables yet to come in. Even deliquent accounts brought me some degree of satisfaction, since I expected funds to come in. In ways, awaiting news from article submissions or grant applications is not that different, but the outcomes are less assured.

I've grown weary of the chase. Perhaps the satisfaction I took from a horde of receivables was in direct proportion to my anticipation that they would soon move to the paid column. I need some rabbits in my traps, some berries in my basket, some roots in the cellar. I grow ravenous in waiting. A new life perhaps, with a full stomach to boot.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The next few days

We're sorting and purging. There's a large pile of items we've decided to donate. But we're still going through things. The packers come on Monday, and the loaders fill the truck on Tuesday. It is nice to have others take care of those tasks, but there are ways in which having others move for you is not quite the boon it would otherwise seem. We're trying to take the opportunity of a move to downsize anyhow. The two of us are allergic to waste, which makes it difficult to rid ourselves of otherwise useful items, despite the fact that they've been of no use to us for years.

In any case, it hasn't quite settled in that we're really leaving, that this house for instance will cease to be our home in just a few days. I think I'm looking forward to the change... but I'm not really sure how much of a change it will be, how much it will impact my life, other than finding new places to shop and eat. Energy. That's what I'm really seeking now. Get moved. Get settled. Get going.

It will be a busy few weeks coming up. I've got several conference abstracts to work up, a book proposal to draft, a guest lecture to prepare, and more job applications to attend to. There are two interesting University posts with December deadlines, and a very close full-time tenure-track community college position with a November deadline. More articles to work up and send off. And I am committed to starting data gathering for my [Longitudinal Project] just as soon as I can. There are so many things I could be moving ahead on, if I can only find the energy to pursue them, damn the job market and limbo-induced depression.

Energy, energy! That's all I need.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Final Harvest

Here is the final harvest from my garden. The plants have been stripped, and ripped from the ground. The rebar and chicken wire, the boards (acting as retaining walls), and the stakes have been removed. I expect to buy some grass seed tomorrow, and a bit of hay to serve as shade and cover for the seedlings until they take. Sad to see it go. There will be a new garden for me, I'm sure.

I'm not quite sure where it will be just now. I got the lease for our new place via email, and noted the glaring addendum absolutely no pets. Too bad, I think, they'll either relent or lose us as tenants. We've had cats for over eight years now, longer than we've had children. With us, they will remain. This part of the country, and here alone in my experience (regular readers know how many places I've lived!), security deposits can run the equivalent of two months' (exorbitant) rent or more. Perhaps that was reasonable when rents were lower, but today I'd have to break all the windows, knock down a wall, and set the floor on fire to justify it. Let's put it this way, their security deposit is more than I've ever grossed a month in my life! So, no, if they ask, I'm not willing to grant them an additional pet deposit. We only looked at places which did not prohibit pets in their ads. I think we've got a good chance they won't want to back out now... but the ball's in their court. I'll call the owner in a little while, once I calm down.

The good thing is the move package provides up to 45 days temporary housing. At least we won't go homeless anytime soon. So, we don't need to be desperate. There are options. If not here, and not now, then somewhere, and soon.

**Updated to add:
Good news. We won't be homeless at all. I talked to the son of the owner, who is managing the property, to say we had cats. You have two? Um, no. We have three. The momma cat, and two of her kittens, who are now about eight years old. She's about ten. I'll have to discuss it with my mom. It's her decision. Apparently, she's 82, dependent on the income from the property for her living, and recently had a bad experience with the previous tenants who had dogs. (They were ten year residents, so it's hard to imagine it was such a bad experience!) In any case, the son and daughter-in-law are managing the property, and both seemed to be taken by me, at least convinced by me that they'd be better off sticking with us than starting over. This experience only reinforces my belief that once someone has committed to something, they are loath to reconsider. Good to remember when negotiating a job contract (some day), that you are the best they've got, so you might as well get what you can.

The daughter-in-law called me this evening to say that they told the owner "which is true, that you have one old and dear cat, who is part of the family." What they neglected to tell her was that we also have two of her spawn. "She's not going to come over, and she doesn't see very well anyhow, so you'll be fine." That's what my fifth grade teacher would have called the safe side of lying. Ah well, as long as they know we have three cats, I'm happy. And, the daughter-in-law indicated that we'd be fine setting aside part of the yard as a vegetable garden as well. What more could I ask for?

Readying for the move

We found a place near Rocket City. It's just a tad bit smaller than our place here in Paradise, but will cost us 20% less. There was a humongous house we really liked, with a yard to die for (I mean four or five times the size of our rather sizable yard here). But it was significantly more expensive (though only a little more than our current rent). Just didn't seem to make sense. The street was busy and noisy, and the backyard, while expansive, was overlooked by an apartment complex next door. So, we opted for the nice house, in a wonderful neighborhood. We'll be able to walk to dim sum and sushi, big plusses in this household.

And, while it's a little smaller than our current abode, the layout is slightly better for my working at home. I may still look for a small office/studio space to rent, but I'm somewhat discouraged by the prices I've seen so far. Meantime, I wait to hear back from Big Academic Publisher.

I've begun applying for faculty posts. The first application of the season (to Turf) went out yesterday. Two of my recommenders, Tasse Plein and Jim Lodz independently sent me copies of their recommendation letters, with notes to the effect that I should know how my recommenders write about me. Honestly, the letters brought tears to my eyes. Damn! They think I'm good. Hell! I'd hire me. What is wrong with these committees? Oh well, it did my confidence some good. I was quite pleased to see a good deal of specific mentions regarding my research and teaching and initiatives.

I was a bit discouraged on Monday when I sat down to write my letter for Turf. I was doing some sleuthing about the research and teaching of current faculty, to see how I would fit in. I noticed there is a "visiting lecturer" hired in 2003, who teaches the areas covered in the job posting. Inside candidate. Jim Lodz' history is exactly that. He was lecturer here at the University of Paradise for three years before a tenure-track post was opened. Now, he wasn't a shoe-in, but in the end, he was a known quantity, capable, energetic, and well-liked.

Monday, I couldn't write or edit. Tuesday, I just jumped in and crafted a nice letter, mostly from stratch. I printed it off, worked a little on my CV, then packaged them up and sent them off. The posting requested merely a cover letter, CV, and three letters of recommendation. Harry Strope was the third letter writer. This time, I asked each of them to write specifically for the position, rather than sending file letters from career services. Gratifyingly, they each obliged within a day or two. I'm planning to be much more selective this year. As a result, I won't feel bad about asking for a letter or two each month of the job search. If they can't oblige, I'll send the file letters. So far, there's Turf, and two more coming up in December. I'm looking nearly everyday, but discarding many or most.

For now, I've got move preparations to attend to. I had coffee last week with Pat Crystal, the professor at a research university near Rocket City. He was pleasantly receptive and supportive. He gave me a good sense that I'd be able to work something out on their campus for "hanging my hat" so to speak. Once I get settled, I'll start attending the group's weekly meetings, to learn more about what they're doing, and present some of my ideas. I also need to get moving on recruiting volunteers for my [longitudinal project].

I've got my book proposals to work up and send off to the publisher I've been in touch with. There are a couple more conference abstracts I need to draft in the next month or so. Work is waiting for me. I think of Prof. Me's recent posting and I remember just how lucky I am to be able to pursue my work on my own terms. The grass isn't always greener... it just comes in different shades. But I still await the applause.