Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Paying me

In an earlier post, I pasted some of an email to my coach, in which I wrote:
I deserve to have someone pay me for being me. It's simply not fair that the only one "paying me" is my wife, who feels diminished it would seem, from that payment.
He wrote to the first part:
Yes, you do. I’m glad to finally hear you say this.
but went on to add:
Remember our first call. I don’t do the victim thing, nor do I support my clients indulging in victimhood. It is not the world’s fault. Life is not fair. Nor will it ever be. You chose a very difficult career path by going into a field that is very specialized and where jobs are very scarce. Part of our work together is going to be to help you come to terms with that decision by taking full responsibility for the decision and the consequences of the decision. If you did that, how would your life change?
My reply:
Okay. No self-pity. How would my life change? I'd be in charge, at least of me. An old family friend used to recite endlessly the words of William Ernest Henley from his poem "Invictus":
It matters not how straight the gate,
how charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
Okay. I accept the responsibility. The winds may shift, but I'm steering the ship, and what's more, I'm the one who chose to climb aboard.
This is what I'm paying for. I've got work to do on me. At least now, it's being done.

James Robert Orville

The sign read:
A bearded middle-aged man, with sallow eyes, and beady pupils, knit cap on his head, cracked hands, dirty finger nails, stood at the traffic light. I couldn't look at him much. Only a small container of goldfish cracker crumbs lay on the tray-table in the front of our van. Not worth handing over. I prefer not to give money. No telling where it will end up.

The light was red. He stood just feet away. He is a human being, I thought. I rolled down the window, and asked if he'd eat a burger. He was numb, stumblingly incomprehending. I asked again, and said I'd get him a burger and bring it back. He mumbled something about putting a lot of arsenic on it.

I drove on, to Staples to buy some colored printer paper for flyers for my [longitudinal project] (damn it, I'm going to get subjects one way or another!). I looked for Nutrigrain bars at the store. Perhaps something he could store in his pockets would be better. Nothing but candy and pretzels.

I drove to the Jack in the Box, and bought a breakfast sandwich, drove down the block, parked. I grabbed an audio recorder, and the sandwich bag, then walked to the corner. Hey, buddy, buddy... take a break, I brought you a sandwich. He nearly dashed into traffic before I warned of oncoming cars.

He walked, and sat with me on a bus bench. I asked if I could record him. Let's just say that part of my research entails listening to people talk. Why not do a kindness and get some potential research done at the same time. He wasn't so dumbfounded and wary this time. I suppose it's like unexpectedly hearing a language you speak; though you understand the words, you're not sure you heard aright. He replied to my inquiry: I wrote a poem... back in 1992, in a cemetery in Denver. Want to hear it.

I listened, and recorded. Much road noise. Don't know if the recording will give me much. I sat for 14 minutes, watching him shake while he ate. His breath smelled of stale alcohol. But, he was human. A bit worse for the wear, for sure. Didn't learn much about him, not enough to fill out the story of why he went from earning $980/week driving trucks and working on a farm in Iowa to subsisting on 80 cents a day (and I wasn't pan-handling... I'd find it under soda machines and the like).

He said: thanks for the sandwich.

I shook his hand and replied: Everyone deserves to eat, buddy, everyone deserves to eat.

And I meant it.

Make it so

Reuters yesterday reported on hearings before the U.S. Congress.

Two choice citations:
"I think the constitutional scheme does give Congress broad authority to terminate a war," said Bradford Berenson, a Washington lawyer who was a White House associate counsel under Bush from 2001 to 2003.
"It is ultimately Congress that decides the size, scope and duration of the use of military force," said Walter Dellinger, former acting solicitor general -- the government's chief advocate before the Supreme Court -- in 1996-97, and an assistant attorney general three years before that.
Ted Koppel's opinion piece on NPR this morning calls into question the honesty on both sides of the debate. Perhaps, as he intimates the world (or more precisely, "the oil-rich Persian Gulf" in Koppel's words) is a more dangerous place today than it was before our invasion, and perhaps a hasty retreat would not in the end change that fact. But time moves in one direction. The question is not what we might or should have done, but what to do from now. I am neither in a position to affect nor know that proper course, but elected officials are.

On the one hand, I'd like to see the decision-making ripped unceremoniously from the administration, yet that would create a dangerous precedent. In real times of crisis, decisions need to be made rapidly and clearly, rather than by committee. That is the role of our President. Yet, this one? I don't trust him. I don't respect him. I feel the world is today a far worse place than the one it was when he took office, and in large part because of his disastrous decisions. Perhaps the best thing would be to impeach him if cause enough could be found (but first Dick Cheney, who's arguably far more dangerous as a leader)... but is that really practicable? Would it really solve anything today and tomorrow? Would it possibly set yet another bad precedent, and perhaps worse enmire this nation into wasted effort, which better could be spent on positive action?

These dilemmae, sad to say, are the result of democracy. Conspiracy theories of stolen elections aside, I credit the majority of the American voting public with failure, in electing (or at least re-electing) this awful team of morons to lead our nation and the world into the maelstrom.

So, I say to the congress, take the reins as best you can, not precipitously, nor callously, nor carelessly. But take the reins out of the hands of those who steer our cart, and find a direction that works. You have been entrusted with great power. Use it, wisely and good.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007



Productive session I think. I think we need to work more on figuring out a plan, goals, direction. I get the sense that you have an idea that our aim is "action," that perhaps this is one key element that is missing my current behavior. I think we need to work through that a bit, so we both understand what each other is expecting on that count.

In part it comes down to the question of "patience" again. I never expected this job search to wind up dragging on like this. I don't understand it. I'm not sure whether to keep at it, or to pursue something alternate (or to try doing both together). Okay, those are perhaps "circumstances" rather than the "person." I need to figure out my aims and goals, my own direction. I need to be clear with myself, with you, and with my wife, on what the plan is, what deadlines and measures might be useful. Just to be clear, from what I hear, it is not uncommon for a PhD seeking an academic career to wallow in uncertainty for years. Some work as adjuncts (teaching part-time) for as many as seven years before landing a permanent job. Others, who knows how many, simply fade away from the academic path. Of course, there are many others who move smoothly from graduate school to faculty post, without a hitch.

It's been frustrating for me, that I haven't yet even landed any adjuncting, which would at least be on the path, would give me some validation, would encourage me that a faculty job is forthcoming. That said, there is a good possibility that I may be invited to adjunct at Lemon University, for next fall, where I gave a guest lecture a couple months ago. That's the time frame of these things, job applications are submitted often months before an interview, a year before a start date. The same for many conference presentations. The results of effort are a long time in coming.

In pursuing research, it could be years before a usable application could emerge. There's where patience comes in. However, "why bother" is also foremost. In part, I believe that I don't have a job and a paycheck, because I haven't needed to. This has freed me to pursue a longer term horizon, a 3-5 year goal, rather than an immediate one. Yet there is fear in the uncertainty of that path. If I knew doing X, Y, and Z would ensure me a job in 2 years, I could simply do them. But I simply don't know, and so, I'm afraid that at the end of it all, I will still be where I am today.

Could I get a job if I needed it? Sure, I think so. But there is a little fear that says maybe not. I've applied for other jobs beside a faculty post, some university staff positions, even a sales job for a textbook publisher. The failure to even be interviewed for those positions has hurt as well. Maybe I'm not good enough for them. Of course, intellectually, I don't believe that. In both cases, I applied for the position because I was convinced I could do a great job. Perhaps I haven't been motivated to do what it would take to land one of those jobs. Maybe they look at me, and think, "he doesn't want this job, look at his resume, he'd rather be doing something else." But where do I really want to be, and doing what? That's a question I can't fully answer yet.

Added to this is some uncertainty on the Rocket Scientist's part. She supports me, yet I often feel the sense that she lacks confidence in my ability to succeed. Why should she believe another few months, or another year will change things? Two years I've been applying. I've had a few interviews, but no offers. She picks up the phone, a week later has an interview, two weeks later an offer for twice what I might earn as a junior professor. Even off the faculty track, she seems unconvinced that my dreams of commercial applications are anything more than Articulate's pie-in-the-sky dreaming. It's subtle, but I sense it. It's honest though, she's not candy-coating her thoughts for me. Can I blame her, my ideas are a dime a dozen. But they sit on my imaginary shelves, lined up in sealed cans, like a butterfly collection, pining for air. It's as if she's saying (despite herself), show me more than your dreams, show me the money. But it's not a simple thing. Money's not that important to her either.

But she's discovered how easy it is for her to earn a good wage. She reflected last night: "Do I begin to value money more, the more I earn it?" We've realized that she, and we together, need to work through some of our priorities, our goals for the future, our dreams, our hopes. I think of Thomas Paine: "...that which we obtain too cheaply, we esteem too lightly." It's a conflict for us right now, for she obtains career success and income quite easily, so it's esteemed poorly. On the other hand, the two evade me. "What's wrong with him, that he can't make it?" She's never said that. I don't know if she's thought it. Certainly I have. "What's wrong with me, that I can't make it? What good are all my passions and dreams if I can't measure them?" And how do we measure our value in society, but by our ability to earn income?

No, I am not my money. I am not my career. But then, how do I measure success? I have obtained great success in being married to a wonderful woman, in having two marvelous boys, in cooking fabulous meals, in gardening. But I want success in my career. I want to be able to hold my head up and say "the PhD was simply a byway," my life didn't end there. Damn it, I deserve it. Paul, you wanted me to catch myself being shallow and a snob. Well, here it is. Damn it, I deserve it. I deserve to have someone pay me for being me. It's simply not fair that the only one "paying me" is my wife, who feels diminished it would seem, from that payment.

But, if we really have most of what we want in life, perhaps it's okay to be happy, to let ourselves revel in that happiness. Okay, there's the contradiction. Can I be happy, while I'm still striving? Can I find contentment while I still feel something is lacking in my life, and also find the strength to aggressively pursue it?

So there you have it, Paul. I'm not going to make this easy for you. But I'll do my best not to allow myself to be the hindrance to my own success.



Your honesty and willingness to do the work are making it very easy for me. Let me digest it tonight and we'll either trade some e-mails tomorrow or talk on the phone in the next day or two.




Baited breath. I suppose many of you are tasting the worms of such bait, awaiting my commentary on yesterday's coaching. It's intense to spend two hours face to face, one on one, discussing oneself, one's life, one's meaning, one's goals, one's dreams, one's hopes. It's raw, and it's naked.

Overall, I think the initial session was productive. Some of the things I got out of it were a sense that it's okay to be where I am. It doesn't change it, at least not yet. And there are conflicts which remain, that I'll be talking about here a bit as time goes one.

I made a recording of the session, which I've been listening through this morning. The first thing that came up through the method of process coaching, which is a sort of updated ego-stripping, with the aim of breaking down one's defenses, (as Paul put it) to dig down to the lie that you're telling yourself:
you got a little lie made up for yourself
which is that
from over here is hysterical
[laugh] for a guy like you to say
I don't have any power man
[laugh] I can't
I don't have any power over that
you're a person of immense power, okay
but you got a little gremlin back here
saying, you don't have power, okay,
and the confusion is between power in here
and power out in the world
I think of Francois Villon:
Je suis Fran├žoise dont il me poise
ne de Paris empres Pontoys
et de la corde d'un toise
saura mon col que mon cul poise
A man, condemned to be hanged. What more can you take from one than their life? Yet, in the face of it, he did not shirk, but with humor faced it, unwilling to relinquish his own power over self. There are things indeed about which we have no control. It is in finding the strength to harness our inner power, without concerning ourselves too much with those outer forces we can do nothing about, that our task is to be had.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Tomorrow, my coaching begins

I'm a bit nervous or apprehensive. I suppose that is a good thing. Tomorrow may likely prove to be a signal day for me, a punctum saliens of sorts. 10:00 am my coach will arrive, a guest in my office, ready to goad me and guide me. Will I be ready?

The past few days of self-reflection have been difficult. I posted a few days ago some supplemental questions that Paul volleyed at me. Tonight I sent him my replies:
To follow up on your supplemental questions:

What is your assessment of the job search that you've been engaged in over the last couple of years? What did you learn about YOU?

My assessment of the job search is that I am playing a game of which I only vaguely understand the rules. I learned that being driven to new sorts of research can be a liability, when the departments I'm seeking to hire me are conservative in their outlook on the field. I learned that the statistics do apply to me, despite my self-confidence, which has suffered these past two years. I also learned that I am not driven to be a professor "at all costs," to wear a shirt that doesn't fit me, in order to appear closer to what they are seeking; that I am motivated as ever to blaze my own trail, even if it limits my career choices, because my commitment to that path is at times at odds with hiring committees' motivations in seeking a new hire.

If you could do it over again, what would you do differently?

I might rethink what field it is I choose to pursue a PhD. Yet, I realize, I am most comfortable in the space between disciplines, and that I might likely not "fit" much better in another field. I might simply plan an alternate path, without regard to a career in academia. I returned to school, because I wanted to gain the experience of doing serious research and writing. I've done that, but I might have spent more time at the beginning thinking about practical applications of my research interests.

If you were to write a song about the state of your career right now, what would you call it?

Know your audience before the curtain rises.

Where do you give your power away and when do you tend to do it?

I have given my power away each time I send an application to a search committee, when I seek to see myself wearing the job description they have drafted. In seeking their acceptance and approval, I devalue my own vision. In feeling rejected at my lack of a job offer, I give them power to override my determination of self-worth.

Where do you hold back in life?

Pursuing options that seem self-indulgent, or motivated by profit. There is a part of me, that trusts me, that believes that I would not waste the opportunity to do good if I had more means to do it, and a part of me that feels I deserve more. In the end, I've become convinced that people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, though seemingly motivated by profit, will have far more impact for good than I can reasonably expect of myself. And I wonder if a bit more profit-seeking isn't appropriate. Yet, I fear the self that seeks profit; I fear that that goal would consume me.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Latest from Lemon

I've been keeping up an occasional correspondence with my friend Sara Chaisano at Lemon University. After many years of trying, she and husband are now parents. So, she's a bit overwhelmed with all the details. Fortunately, she recently received tenure, so a large burden has been lifted, as she steps into this entirely new territory.

Lemon is a medium-sized liberal arts college. She is the only full-timer in [subfield 1] in the department, which seems to serve mostly a service status there. As you may recall, after my guest lecture for her class, she was excited to try and bring me aboard as an adjunct, especially as they've had somewhat less than stellar results from having a visiting [subfield 2er] teach the intro courses. There is also a good possibility that she will be taking a sabbatical at least part of next year, meaning her courses would need covering as well.

Here is what she wrote today:
Hi Articulate,

Things are still overwhelming, but good. No time for anything! I did talk to my [subfield 2] colleagues and they both agree that you'd be great to have to teach [intro to Field 1] and to teach the [interdisciplinary Field 1] class, so we talked to the dean and he was interested, but he said he didn't have the money to hire another part-timer this term and we could probably do it for next academic year. Don't know if that's true, probably could hire someone this term, but he doesn't want to for some reason. So I'll let you know........

Hope you and your family are all well!
I also sent out a couple emails yesterday following up on possibilities to adjunct at other local schools. They were places I contacted early in the fall, when we were about to move to Rocket City. One school wrote back right away that there were no immediate openings, but that there is often a need in [Field 1/subfield 1], so they'd let me know.

Share and share alike

One of the things that my career coach asks for is total honesty. Fair enough. But do I tell him about my blog? In many ways, I feel this has been a therapeutic outlet for me, one which might be subsumed in my coaching relationship were I to edit myself, knowing he might be reading. For one, I have so few friends at the moment in my real life. Partly it's circumstance. We've moved a lot. Partly, it's the realities of being a parent: who has time? Partly, it's my self-induced seclusion, as I have at times avoided being around anyone to whom I might have to explain myself, my present state. That's something I need to work through, something I've begun working on. We've had friends over for dinner. We're trying to do that more. I love to cook, and share good food and wine with those whose company I enjoy.

But you, my readers, have become my friends. I share myself here, unadorned, though admittedly somewhat revised, edited, honed. I feel it may prove useful for me, and likely for many of you, if I shared some of the experience of coaching. There is a small ethical question: by sharing these things with you, am I stealing his ideas, his questions? I think it's a gray area. To be honest, if I gain from my interactions with him, they are things I would take with me in life, to use as I interact with or advise friends. So, for now, I will withhold the URL, and share with you the journey.

So, here is the first installment of coaching interactions:
Hi Paul,

First little issue I thought I'd share with you: going over the survey, there are several questions regarding my current occupation. Tough to answer them in a way, as I haven't a job. That said, I clearly see myself as having work, as doing work. So, there is no employer's name or address. And as for occupation, I confess to having wondered that myself. In part, my hope from our interactions is a better sense of how to define that.



Thanks for the note. You intuition is correct. We'll spend some of our early time together fleshing a lot of those questions out in terms your "ideal". What is your ideal work? What is your ideal employer? Etc.

If you like, when you are filling the forms out, dream a little bit about your ideal situation around work. Try not to get too specific at this point. Keep it general like we did when we were talking on the phone. Think about the things you value in work. Think about what part you want work to play in your life. Think about what is missing in your life without work. Also, chew on these questions a bit...

What is your assessment of the job search that you've been engaged in over the last couple of years? What did you learn about YOU?

If you could do it over again, what would you do differently?

If you were to write a song about the state of your career right now, what would you call it?

Where do you give your power away and when do you tend to do it?

Where do you hold back in life?

That's it for now. Talk to you soon.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Put that in your hat

Today's mail brought:
Dear Articulate:

Today I had Tim Ginsburg [prominent cross-over researcher] in to speak about his new book. I mentioned your name and that you had applied to [center at Big West Private]. He said, "I wish I'd known, I'd be glad to write him a letter." So put that in your hat until you need it. His book has done quite well, and a letter from him could be useful at some point.

Hope all's well!


That brought a smile to my face. Ginsburg happens also to be on the faculty in a different discipline (but with a joint appointment in Field 1) at another university (in Canada) where I've applied, and from whence a couple days ago, someone did a Google search for my real name.

Meantime, I've done a lot of cleaning up in my office today, trying to find my notes on which essays by [protagonist of my dissertation] I need to translate. I did some of the translations last year, when I was writing up my dissertation distillation article, which material was incorporated into the text. I still haven't found those notes, but it's a good exercise to clean and purge.

Plotting a course

I've long had a to-do list, that I keep on my computer desktop, updated periodically, with new items, striking out those I've completed, highlighting the ones that are in process, with notes on what I've done and what remains to be done.

On Monday, I created a "daily tasks" list. So far it has only three items on it, one of which I've yet to do since writing it. That's translating for my book proposal. As I'm thinking now, I might wish to make this into two books: one, based on my dissertation, with allusions to and excerpts from the translations; the second, a collection of translations, since virtually none of this material has ever appeared in a language spoken by more than a few million people. I just have to get on it. The number one item is actually homework for this language class I'm taking (the same language as the majority of the materials I'm translating). I'll be adding to this list as well, and hope to set up a routine whereby I can actually work on everything regularly.

I've been spending a good deal of time going through my dad's writings, and typing up things for the blog that I keep of his stuff, which once I've completed going through enough of his writing (it may be another year or so!), I plan to compile and edit, sprinkled with letters and reminiscences, into a memoir of sorts. If any of you are particularly interested in what "Articulate's dad" was like, drop me a line, and I'll send you the URL for that site. This work is item three on my list. There are many other things I have been doing with my time, like job applications, but I haven't decided that they are "daily tasks".

I haven't really worked on the children's books for a week. I'll have a lot of time to think about those things, and to prioritize my time and efforts, as I begin working with this career coach. Talked with my wife about it. She's thinking she might like to get a career coach. She suggested that perhaps this is a better investment in our future than my flying to all these conferences. Over six months, coaching will run us in the range of $2500 or so. My trip to Germany next month will run about $1000. Hopefully, one of the upcoming conferences in the UK will cover my expenses. The other one (in May), well, my paper was accepted as a poster. I'd like to go. We'll just have to see what things look like as we get closer.

In any case, these are some of the issues I will be working through, with assistance now. My coach, let's call him Paul Becker sent me the new client package, including a survey. Lot's to think about. Maybe I'll share some of it with you as we go along.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Bagels, Love, and Sunset

On a lighter note, here are some recent images from my life:

These are the best bagels in the world. I have finally perfected the recipe, based on Rose Levy Beranbaum's recipe in "The Bread Bible," with emendations to add some rye and whole wheat flour. Yum!

This was on the easel one day last week, when I came home from my office.

This was the view from a sailboat a couple weekends ago, in Paradise.

What was I saying about priorities?

A couple of days ago, I suggested a new national goal.

Last night Texas Yahoo, still proud of his C average in college, proved once again the current lack of interest in higher education in America. The loyal opposition's response? Nothing to write home about.

From Inside Higher Ed:
Higher education is rarely front and center in presidential State of the Union addresses — but rarely is it invisible, either, as it was Tuesday night in President Bush’s seventh such speech. In a speech heavy on foreign affairs, he did not mention any college programs or efforts or in any way refer to higher education. The closest he came to an issue relevant to colleges was a plea to Congress to cut back on the earmarks, or directed grants, that lawmakers love to give to their constituents, and for which many postsecondary institutions line up. The president’s references to education focused on his signature K-12 program, No Child Left Behind, which is up for renewal in Congress this year. College officials hoping for some nod from the president toward a hoped-for Pell Grant increase may wonder if his neglect of higher education portends what will happen in Congress in the coming year — with the No Child Left Behind reauthorization eclipsing higher education issues, including efforts to carry out the recommendations of the Secretary of Education’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education. (For what it’s worth, the only higher education-specific statement in Sen. Jim Webb’s Democratic response to the State of the Union address was a reference to “off the chart” college tuition prices, in a list of reasons why Americans are struggling economically.
Just to clarify, the principal reason tuition rates are high is because of the low level of support from the government. The funds must come from somewhere. When I was an officer of my graduate student union, dealing with our periodic renegociation of health insurance, I remember having to bring this home to graduate students who wished to add new coverage, and to avoid raising the deductible, both of which were opposed by the administration. Why? If more was spent on insurance, less would be available for fellowships. More coverage, fewer recipients.

Bear in mind, I am a person who finished my bachelor's degree with more than $40,000 worth of student loans. One great tragedy of the present Bush fiasco was the stepping back from the great program of Direct Student Loans, started under Clinton, returning to the brazen government subsidies of private lenders, wasting tax dollars to support private profits, at the expense of taxpayer and students. But, while I am aware of a move in Europe toward the "American model" of higher education, I wish to point out that requiring their students to pay a few hundred dollars in tuition is a far cry from the burdens of American students and families. The answer, however, is not to decry the cost of tuition, as if it were the fault of institutions of higher learning, but simply to raise the level of support from the government, increasing not only Pell Grant funding, but adding billions of dollars of support for graduate student and faculty grants, for new infrastructure, for increased hiring, for technology, for staff. Again, I ask, what are our priorities?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Career coaching update

A week ago, I wrote about my trials at contacting career counseling somewhere that might be available to me. I finally got the courage again, this morning, to do a little searching online. Sent an email to someone at a local community college, who gives career coaching sessions. Then, I called someone relatively local who came up through a Google search.

We wound up talking on the phone for nearly an hour. While I was distracted a bit (at times) during the call, I felt good energy there. He asked some good questions, got me thinking about some things. He seemed genuine, honest. It'll set me back $100/week. His fee is less than the career coach I spoke to last year (he would charge $125/wk). His focus is broader as well. Most importantly, however, (though I liked the other guy as well) I felt more rapport with him, and a sense that this could really help me figure out my goals, and draw up a plan for reaching them.

I like a lot of what he had to say. For instance, he asked what I value in a career, in five words or less. Hmmm. Okay: Freedom; Creativity; Contribution (to society); Acknowledgement (applause); and Compensation. Later he asked about academia: Rank a faculty post according to your five values (1-10, 10 being the best). Okay: Freedom (8); Creativity (9); Contribution (10); Acknowledgement... hmmm (probably 6); Compensation... ha! (5). Good call there, I'd say. A faculty post still looks pretty good to me, 3 out of 5 up there; two, well, if I'm not compensated enough, I can make money in other ways perhaps (but it's not all about the money; we're not going hungry); and as for the "applause" well, perhaps that's something I ought to require less. Frankly, I think having a job I'm happy about would be a heck of a lot more applause than I have now.

He remarked: You may find that you are 100% committed to having a faculty post, in which case the time it takes will matter less. But the fact that you're measuring the time makes me think you may not be committed to it.

Look these observations may not be earth-shattering, but the conversation seemed productive to me. I also liked his comments regarding how coaching would differ from psychotherapy: Psychotherapy would focus a lot on your past, and the reasons you are the way you are. We would be focusing more on where you want to get, and how to get there. I've had 39 years to settle with who I am, and where I've been. I still prefer the motto: Everyone who got where they are, started where they were.

And today, this is where I am.

Monday, January 22, 2007

A new national goal (after war)

Okay, let's say (with great optimism) that we are on the tail-end of the recent push to war in American politics. Let's assume that the end of our military involvement in Iraq is in sight. Let's believe that the obscenity of military expenditures we've seen over the past especially six years is winding down.

I spoke with my wife this evening. She says she's in a hotel suite big enough for ten. How odd I think that our government (her career is, in some round about but rather tangible way, supported by government agencies) and economy has so much money to lavish on engineers, yet there is unceasing lament over the cost of higher education, such that an announcement from Princeton that it will not raise tuition is hailed but briefly as momentous.

Remember 1999? President Bill Clinton was pushing for more cops on the streets, and pledging federal funds to do it. What would happen to this country, and the world, if a president with vision (work with me here) would propose a goal to increase the number of professors in the country by 100,000, or let's be bold... why not set a goal to double the number of college and university professors over the next 20 years? I mean, honestly, the $6 billion that Clinton pledged for increasing the police force is a drop in the bucket next to what Texas Yahoo has spent on ensuring that those who hated us before hate us even more. What are our priorities?

A day like today

Today, the weather was fine, a typical spring-like day in my memory, warm, dry, quiet: the kind of day that never fails to raise in me a certain kind of nostalgia. Weather at times has great effect on me. Endless rain induces a deep lethargy. But days like today normally put me at a distance from myself, granting me the ability to observe.

The Rocket Scientist is out of town today, and tomorrow, in the city where we met. She's there for work. The au pair went to the gym before dinner. It was me, and the boys, alone in the house. Quite a pleasant evening all around. I love those boys.

I got to thinking a bit this afternoon as I sat in my office, settling into my routine, what is my routine, and why? What is my work? I've never been a religious person, I question too much, never able to let go and accept, to rely on faith, or the wisdom of others, tradition. Sometimes, I wish it were otherwise, for I think there is great strength in belonging, in believing; strength that lies ever just out of my grasp, like the grapes of Tantalus.

My father taught me (in the great tradition of my people, known as Tikkun Olam) that my job in life (quite simple really) is to leave the world a better place for my having lived. It's a nice lesson (a burden when you it take it seriously), but in the end a bit hollow, like the cavity of a barrel, wanting wine to fill it. The shape is clear, only its fulfillment remains obscure. In faith, or religion, I suppose there is an acceptance that we might not know the contents of the barrel, but it is ours to carry or store nonetheless. If I were Lot... I'd have turned to salt, just for a peek inside, like Dorothy unmasking the Wizard.

So what is my work? If I am to leave the world a better place for my having lived, what means will be mine to accomplish that end? Without faith or religion, there is always work, the hustle-bustle of involvement. One might not need a deeper answer, if time is occupied, full, proscribed. But mine, just at this moment, is free, wide-open, like the vistas of Montana.

On Friday, I received a rather innocuous email from Inge, the acquisitions editor who is considering my dissertation-to-book project:
Dear Articulate,

I'm just looking at your proposal again, and before I send it off for review, I wonder if you could put together fuller abstracts of your sections: at least 500 words each if at all possible. Because your sample material is not from the actual book, it is important that reviewers receive as much information as possible about the proposed book itself.

Many thanks,

You know, there's really not much to it. She is still interested in the project; One might argue that her intention in fact is to strengthen the case. A good editor would do that. It's not too much for me to do. But, I've yet to respond. Perhaps tomorrow I will.

For a moment, however, I've chosen to pause, to hesitate, to question, like my friend WhatNow?. I wonder what my motivation is in this project. To write the dissertation was clearly motivated, as that task stood between me and a PhD. But what will this add to my life, transforming the diss into a book? For an academic, the answer again is rather clear: we must publish to gain tenure. Ah... but there is the rub. I can't get tenure without a job.

So, I wonder: will writing this get me closer to that goal? Putting that aside, for I no longer define myself according to that standard: What end would be served by such a book? It's not that I reject or devalue my dissertation research. No. But such a book, despite my arguments in the proposal, would likely have a narrow audience, the same audience perhaps that has so far failed to hire me into their club. And I wonder, will they really care? If it's for them... do I really care?

Put another way, is my time well spent in the effort this project would consume? If not for them, what will I gain through the process? In part, it is my aversion to start something I may not finish that stays my hand. Before I start, I must be sure I wish to end.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Still in the running

Dear Dr. Dad,

Thank you for submitting additional materials for the faculty opening at the [Center] in the [Field 1] Department at Big West Private. Please allow this e-mail to serve as confirmation that we have received your packet of materials and at least three reference letters.

I will be in touch once the committee has had time to review all material received.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions.

Yours sincerely,

Staci Trotter
[Center] Administrator
Big West Private University
I really really really can't let this get to me too much. I'm excited, even though they haven't so much as given me an interview. And recall that this Staci had told me over the phone that they had asked for supplementals from a lot of people. Who knows what that means.

I guess in some ways, my years of rejection for academic posts has prepared me for not really expecting this to come through. But, I'm quite encouraged that they are at least interested in me, that I am in the running. If not now... Who knows what the future will bring?

Early commute

I'm in my office, but heading out in a little while. I've got to meet with the professor for this language class around 12:30. Still need to register, and since it's concurrent enrollment through their extension program, I need to gather several signatures and pay my fees before class.

I also meet this evening with a native speaker of said language, to help me go over some dialectic materials that I will be discussing at this [Field 2] conference in Germany in about a month.

Got cc'd on an email from Tasse Plein to [Center] at Big West Private, which included a rather glowing reference for me. We shall see. I would really like this job. But, I'm not holding my breath, or leaving my life on hold while I wait.

For anyone interested in my childish ideas, take a peek at the comments to the earlier post of that name. That should gain you access to a few of my children's book sketches. I'll be putting up the two with songs as soon as I get around to transferring the music to an electronic document.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Updates on several fronts

Put an ad on Craig's list for volunteers for my longitudinal study. Every previous attempt has so far failed to garner me subjects. Got my first email today, and just spoke with the woman on the phone. I'm quite pleased and excited. I know I can do this. I know that the data will be a rich mine for future studies. I know that what I have to contribute is unique in these studies. But I've got to prove it. My current plan is for a 3-6 month pilot study, paying volunteers (modestly) out of my own pocket, to reward their participation, in the hopes that I will have enough from that pilot study to win some grant funding for the long-term (3 years) project. But, this is only one subject, and only preliminary. I'm aiming for five for the pilot study.

This afternoon, I've been doing homework. Really. I just can't stay away from school. I'm going to take this language class, despite the horrors of commuting. Maybe I can start a language club, and connive others to join me for a non-English dinner after class on Fridays. (<--Btw, I'm quite aware that connive is an intransitive verb... but then I'm also aware that language change occurs through subtle means.)

I emailed the center administrator at Big West Private to inquire as to the status of their search. I got an email a day or two ago from the search committee for the other [Field 1-traditional] post at Big West Private to inform me that I was no longer being considered. So, it looked like the timing was right. She wrote me back to say that they had only received two of three letters of recommendation. Tasse Plein's was missing. Aaarrgh!
Can you contact at least one other reference and have them e-mail me a copy to complete your file?

The committee is reviewing all the files and we will be in touch within a few weeks.
So, I wrote Tasse:
Can you please send a letter on my behalf to [center] at Big West Private? They seem not to have received one from you.
To which, he replied:
Not only did I send a letter to them, but I received confirmation of it from them. I'll of course send another one out tomorrow morning, but this is really crazy.
Hope it works out!
The upshot that matters is that I'm still in the running, at least for now.

Also saw a new listing for a post at a small four-year school in the Midwest. There are potential opportunities for the Rocket Scientist. The cost of living is substantially lower than here. I did a search in the area for 4 bedroom/2 bath houses under $400k, and came up with nearly 750, of which more than half are below $250k! There are two largish cities within about an hour's drive. Anyway, it sounds interesting.

Work work work! It's a rollercoaster I ride, but I might as well take advantage of the ups, while I can.

Early to rise

Just wanted to say... it's nice to get to the office early. I've taken a ride in with my wife the past couple mornings, getting to my office before 8:30. (It's been colder than I like for bike riding, but I'm sure it'll change soon enough). It's really a delight to look at my clock, expecting it to read somewhere after 11:00 and note that it's not quite 10:00 yet.

The Rocket Scientist begins a new schedule of 9/80s beginning next week, so her getting to work early will be ever more important. And, nicely, it will also give her every other Friday off to spend with the family (or a bit by herself, as needed or desired). Recently, the au pair has been working 8-4 M-F. Of course, with my Friday class being such a commuter's nightmare, I won't get home until 6:30 or 7:00. It should work out fine, however, with her having every other Friday off (long week-short week-long week-short week).

In any case, I'm looking forward to greater productivity, feeling like I'm doing real work, even if a paycheck is forthcoming. And it'll be good to have more family time (just think 3-day weekends twice a month!).

Childish ideas

Focus focus... okay scattered focus.

Took a look at some of the children's books I've been working on. (WhatNow?, sorry if I've neglected to more directly answer your inquiry previously). I've got two pretty good ones I'm honing right now, both playful, introducing concepts (colors, life cycles of plants, seasons, money), and both including a newly composed song that accompanies the text. I think these could fly. There's a third as well, without music, which may be the best, about creativity and discovery (a found object becomes a number of useful and playful things for a prehistoric boy and girl). I took inspiration from having found an object that plays the role of protagonist in the story, but also from books like "The Glob" (1952, by John O'Reilly--the first book I ever read) and the "Clan of the Cave Bear" series (by Jean Auel).

For now, I've put aside the two earlier ones that I had submitted to that agent who turned me down. They were more personal, dealing with emotional issues (sadness, death) a bit tougher sell. (To be honest, maybe they were a means for purging some of my own feelings at the time). I may return to them at some point down the road and rework them. If I can come up with ideas for a series it might work better. Problem is: I'm no artist. That doesn't seem to be a deal breaker as many children's books are the combined effort of a writer and an artist. But do I let an agent or an editor choose the artist for me, or do I take more initiative in finding one I think is appropriate, and attempting to coax their involvement?

At this point, I'm wondering if I should try submitting to another agent, or if I should try my hand submitting a couple (well-honed) books directly to publishers. Or... if I should try a "Baby Einstein" approach and just start my own label. How would one go about doing that? Do I have enough to make that work (perhaps I'd have to come up with say 5-10 good, publishable books to start)? Do I have the commitment to this project to make it work?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Beginning to focus

Years and years ago, my mother had already caught on to my M.O. Not so different from my father, I suppose. His mother used to tell him: tell me about it in a week... if you remember. My mother told me beginning at least in Junior High (oh, so many times, I'm not even sure the Painter could count that high): if you concentrate on one thing... there's nothing you can't do well.

Ah yes, focus. You know, I have found that strength inside at times. I did write a dissertation. There's something to be said for that. Ph.D. You can't take it away. It's my title. I earned it. And in earning it, I learned something, something beyond the classes I took (both those I enjoyed, and those I dreaded), something beyond the subject about which I wrote. I learned something about me. It's true. If I concentrate, there's nothing I can't do well.

It's not the doing that ever gives me trouble. And Lord knows it's not a lack of ideas. Too many in fact. They flow and trip over each other, like letters climbing to the top of the coconut tree. But, I can follow through. I know that. The trouble is deciding which path to take.

Alright, I still haven't settled on one thing. Don't suppose I ever really will. I look at the Painter especially. And I know that what he reflects in personality didn't arise in a vacuum. Little children learn from their parents. Perhaps it was my own stubbornness in defiance of my mother's dictum. I don't have to concentrate. I don't have to focus. I can do many things well. Just watch me. Of course, I'm not a little boy anymore. I realize there is a value in focusing.

What I can do, what I'm willing to do, is narrow down the field. Okay, not one thing perhaps, but I can't do it all. I'm proud of the fact that, in writing my dissertation, and now in my writing in general, I have no trouble at editing, at paring down, and deleting a word, or phrase, or section. My dissertation was about 300 pages, but not, I wish to add, because I didn't delete upwards of 100 more. I did. It wasn't needed. It didn't contribute to the whole.

What can I pare down in my life? For one... I think it's time I shed cognitive neuroscience. Not because it doesn't interest me. But, I can read. Why not let others do that research. I can quote them. I'm no psychologist either. I don't really wish to put too much effort into laboratory experiments. I can discard that desire. Let others do it. I can read. I can quote them.

Little things. Little steps. Paring, pruning, weeding. I'm a gardener. I can do this.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A totally off the wall proposal

Think Fulbright.
Think Teach for America.
Think global post-docs.

Why are there so many highly qualified, energetic, enthusiastic, intelligent PhDs wallowing away, frittering their talents? Why will so many of us wind up throwing away those strengths rather than sharing them in teaching and research?

Are there not needs for faculty, scholars, and researchers at universities around the globe? Sure, Fulbright offers grants for scholars, researchers, and faculty, but from my experience, these are opportunities reserved for (or highly preferenced towards) the already affiliated.

But just what could we do with a program that placed recent post-docs within their fields at universities around the world, for one year or two or three year stints? I think a great deal of good.

When you can't jump ship, where do you turn?

Life can be thoroughly frustrating!
It's up; it's down.
This past weekend, we took a trip to Paradise for a mini-vacation. The Rocket Scientist had a three-day weekend for MLK day, so we took advantage of it.

One thing: Motel 6 is nice if all you need is a bed and a shower... you know, if you're passing through, but not such a good idea as a destination location (at least not with two young children). Okay, that's off my chest.

Somehow being back in Paradise tipped off some low feelings. Well, that, and my recent sense of despair regarding the current job season. I don't handle silence well. It's good to read BrightStar's description of the job search schedule for a post she's in the running for. First, looks like many places with early deadlines still drag their feet in the process. And (reality check) some of the schools I've applied are still open, or have just recently closed. Patience. Patience.

But, my wife and I have had long conversations (what else you gonna do on a road trip) about careers, and future plans. I said, "there comes a time when you can't keep your life on hold anymore." I'm just open to exploring. What options are available to me?

A few months ago, you may recall, I spoke with an academic career coach. I decided not to hire him. I guess what I've gotten repeatedly (and he was no exception) was that I'm really doing all the "right things". It's not like there's a list of items that I need to check off, and I need someone to inspire me or chastise me to get them checked. It's just... a mystery. So, I felt I was just as fine continuing what I was doing, without sending hundreds or thousands of dollars his way.

Now, I'm thinking I need to talk to someone. Talk to a career counselor. Talk about my options. Hear the wisdom of experience. Well, I thought I'd start with career services at my doctoral institution. About eight calls later, and several transfers (mostly to voice mail), I gave up on them. Looks like nothing is available to me without a fee... but it's not clear to whom I must pay this fee, how much it might be, and most importantly, what services might then be available to me.

Hmmm, I thought, well, if I've got to pay anyhow, maybe I should try to find something in my area. Hey, fancy this: I'm actually enrolling in a course through extension at a local university. Well, local is relative... on Friday for the first meeting of the class, it was about a 45 minute drive there, then about 2 hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic returning. FUN!

But, when I called them, I got about the same run around. Transfer here, check there. Nothing available unless you join alumni association. But I'm not an alum. Oh, that's fine, you can still join... but you wouldn't have access to in-person career counseling. But that's what I need. Oh, in that case, you should join the alumni association, and they'll give you a list of private counselors in the area, who will give you a discount off their fees.

Sheesh. This is my life. The whole point of seeking counseling is to take some burden off of me, to help me rethink where I am, where I'm heading, how to get there. You know, like handing off the map, and asking someone to help navigate. Only...

[SIGH] My parents, giving directions:

Mom: Okay, so you go to Laramar and Wilson... at the corner. Okay, so you'll see this old Shell station. It's really funny because the yellow of the sign looks almost brown. Anyway... you drive straight there, until you see a large bell, like the liberty bell, above a restaurant. I think it's still open. In any case, it used to be there, like 3... no 4 blocks down. Alright, so you keep going... then you'll see...

Dad: So... how do you want to come?

And they help me navigate still.

Fortune Cookie

Happiness can be achieved by using your patience.
That's the fortune I received in a cookie last week. I taped it to my computer keyboard this morning. Now... if only I could figure out how to use patience... and I mean figure it out NOW, I'll be fine.

Friday, January 12, 2007

New face

I have a habit. Every few months I grow or shave my beard. My mother sometimes jokes that there's only one beard in our family, but it migrates between the males.

In the midst of removing the facial hair, I often find it amusing to half shave, or try on different (silly) looks. I'll shave all but the middle of my side burns, or test out the tough-cool look of a tuft of hair below my lower lip. I'll shave only the middle of my mustache, and the middle of my chin.

My wife likes the look of my beard, but finds it normally too prickly, which often prompts me to shave, as it did a couple weeks ago. Nothing spoils a romantic moment like "ow... ouch!".

I thought I'd try a little face lift on the blog. I may play around with the look a bit, or I may be lazy and just leave it.

***Edited to add:
I modified the header as well. I have long thought the blog title would transform into PhD Rainbow at some point, as I transitioned from post-doc limbo to tenure-track. Ah, the hopes. I'm still on the market, but more inclined to self-define my mission, than continue waiting for the magic wand of a hiring committee. Articulate... it's your ship, damn it... so steer!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Trust it

My wife sent me an email suggesting I "do something to feel better". It was a forward regarding the current Red Cross urgency for blood donors. I'll try to give blood in the next week. Also, bought some masking tape to begin covering my office walls. I put up a "painting" that the Inventor and I collaborated on a couple weeks ago. The Painter wouldn't give up the one he made of a rather elaborate and colorful sun. But, I'm sure I'll coerce him out of something to put on my walls sometime soon. For now, I still have his Daddy, I Love You collage from last June, which is magnetted to my filing cabinet. And, I put up a calendar of Israel, a gift from my inlaws.

Next, soon, I hope to put up my birthday present from my wife, as soon as it arrives.

Mostly, I know, what I need to do, is keep on keeping on. I trust my path. I fear it, but I trust it.

A down day

It's not a happy day. Yesterday, I called Western Flagship to check on their search status. It'd been a month since their deadline for supplementals. I'm impatient. I hate being left in the dark about things. It's a bad personality trait, I know. Got a call back today to say they had invited three candidates for campus interviews, but the search remains open until filled. Oh, gee, that makes me feel so much better, to know that I just might be fourth or eighth pick. [I didn't say that].

Around and round we go. Deadline for supplementals to Big West Private were January 1. I suppose they could still be looking at them. But I'd guess if I don't hear anything in the next week or two (and frankly, my pessimism meter is off the charts), I can say goodbye to that prospect as well.

Some of my friends out there have jumped ship, or are ready to.

Me? I'm not steering the vessel. It tosses of its own. The winds of direction and the swell shift violently port to starboard, fore to aft. Stern to bow is covered in salty mist. It is impossible to see.

How odd these feelings. A publisher is interested enough in my dissertation-to-book proposal to send it along for external reviews. I have a conference presentation in [field 2] coming up in a couple months. I've recently made contacts at a large local public university in hopes of moving my research ahead.

Excerpts from emails I've received in the past week or so:
From a random visitor to my PRW:
I happened on your website, which gave access to your fascinating dissertation.
From an instructor (PhD, herself) in one of the languages crucial to my present work, whom I contacted about continuing to improve my language-specific knowledge and skills:
It sounds like you have a very interesting research topic. I'd like to hear more about it.
It is interesting work. It is my work. But I sit here in my office, white walls staring blankly at me, road noise, emptiness. It's been good of late, really. Yet today I sink into depths. It's a gray cold day here. My knee hurts, still, despite my increase of activity, my more frequent stretching, my bicycle riding and walking.

I want this writing to purge me of these feelings, to swallow my pain, like a fish ingesting tashlik.

My new year's resolution? Ah, to be whole again. I'm working on it.

Just what that will mean, I still don't know. It's not that I haven't sought other prospects, beyond the tenure-track. I was disappointed last year when I applied for a staff post in the graduate division of my doctoral institution. I had had good relations with many folks there. I had been active and engaged as an officer of the graduate student government. But I didn't get an interview. I didn't look like someone who wanted to be staff, I heard. I looked like someone who wanted to be a researcher or professor. I'm not sure much has changed there. I wear my heart on my sleeve.

A few days ago, I got a response from the assistant to the literary agent I had submitted an inquiry to regarding two of the earliest children's books I wrote:
Dear Mr. Dad,

Thanks so much for your thoughtful query letter.

Your projects sound interesting, but [Agent] is taking on very few clients at the moment, so he's going to have to decline the invitation to read your work. As you know, these decisions are highly subjective, and another agent may have an entirely different opinion.

Thanks again for thinking of us, and best wishes for finding a good home for your writing.
No big deal really. It was a hasty move to send the inquiry. I've written two other children's books since then which are in fact much better. I may still resubmit to another agent, but I'll probably lead with these more recent works, possibly revising or discarding the early attempts.

The future hides her offerings in a cloak of mystery.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

First harvest 2007

One of the advantages of living where I do: garden fresh lettuce and arugula in January!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Personality type

As seen on Meandering through academia

You Are An ENFP

The Inspirer

You love being around people, and you are deeply committed to your friends.
You are also unconventional, irreverant, and unimpressed by authority and rules.
Incredibly perceptive, you can usually sense if someone has hidden motives.
You use lots of colorful language and expressions. You're qutie the storyteller!

You would make an excellent entrepreneur, politician, or journalist.
What's Your Personality Type?

Interesting. I think I'm normally an ENFJ. Perhaps I'm less judging than I used to be.

***Edited to add:***

Just to double check, I took a second test. Here are the results:

Personality test center

Personality type results
EI: 4 out of 17
Extrovert |---------------------------------------| Introvert
SN: 13 out of 17
Sensation |---------------------------------------| iNtuition
TF: 10 out of 17
Thinking |---------------------------------------| Feeling
JP: 10 out of 17
Judging |---------------------------------------| Perceiving
Your Personality type is ENFP

Please print this page and keep a copy for your records.

Definitions: The four pairs of preference alternatives above (Extrovert, iNtuitive etc.)

Description: Find out what your type means, which job is suitable for you, which type you are
most compatible with and more!

Copyright 2005

Back and heading... ?

Sometimes when I take a few days away from the blog, I have nothing to say. Other times, like now, I have too much to say.

The conference was good, but different; different from the SOD conference in November. As my wife put it, there weren't so many ups and downs for me. I guess it's largely because I expect to feel like an outsider in [Field 2], although I was a welcomed outsider. At the SOD conferences I feel like an outsider within my home discipline, the field in which I trained for three degrees, like an returned exile, in spirit neither home nor away.

There was a memorial service for one of the three deaths I mentioned in November. It was quite touching. Remarkable the impact one scholar could have on a field and so many colleagues, young and old. I had lunch the following day with his widow, also a distinguished scholar in the field. She was unreserved in her "unsolicited advice," which I was most eager to accept. Her warmth was one of the main factors in my feeling of being a welcomed outsider.

The one time I met her husband in person was in her office about a year ago, when I gave an invited lecture to their department. It is a memory that will always stay with me. I have a feeling (and a hope) that she will continue to take an interest in my career path and research, and that she will continue to proffer "unsolicited advice" whenever possible.

What I have to take with me now, as I move ahead, is a sense that I really am on a path, even if it veers from the typical course for a scholar. There is a place for my work, though I recognize a need to focus more, to find my niche, to settle in it.

I'm still overwhelmed a bit by the flurry of thoughts that assault me. Today... I am 39. Who knows where I will be when I turn 40.

... I just have to say, right at this moment, before clicking "publish" the Painter called me on the telephone to sing me "Happy Birthday." Tears of joy flush my face. I am happy!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Quiet applause?

At the end of September, I posted the initial response from my inquiry to an acquisitions editor regarding some academic book proposals I had, beginning with a transformation of my dissertation into a book. At the [Field 1] conference last November, I met with three acquisitions editors, including the one I had written to. Her press is the smaller of the three, and so far as I know has no representation in [Field 2], whereas the others are large, well-established, respected, and both have strong lists in both [Field 1] and [Field 2].

However, I had been approached by this acquisition editor's predecessor at a conference in Belgium back in 2002, when I had organized a panel (the one with the same focus as the upcoming conference I've recently written about), indicating an interest in covering off-the-beaten-path areas of [Field 1], which appeals to me. In addition, they have recently added a new series which is right up my alley, further supporting that supposition. I chose to send her an exclusive proposal for the dissertation-to-book project, which is as one might suspect a far more circumscribed effort than some of the future projects, being derived from my dissertation. I was frank in my comments to her which accompanied the proposal, noting my interest and activity in [Field 2], and suggesting that some of my future work might better be suited for the other two presses, while also mentioning an interest in the new series. Here is what today's inbox brought:
Dear Articulate,

I have now had a chance to read through your book proposal. I am interested by what I've read and I'd now like to move on to arranging some external reviews. Before I do, I was just wondering if you had any further sample material available from the book itself?



Inge Fleur
Senior Commissioning Editor
[Publishing House]

Projects. Work. Staying busy.

Blissful rest & bread

We arrived back home from the airport a little after 1:00 am. I had spent over an hour circling the airport in the minivan, waiting for the au pair and her friend to get their luggage. It was swamped.

The boys woke us up around 7:00 as usual, but my wife was kind. The au pair had to drive her friend to the train station around 7:30, so she was kind as well, beginning the day when she returned.

Blissfully, I was allowed to return to sleep until 9:30, a real treat I assure you. I slept well, dreaming of my 39th birthday and our 10th wedding anniversary, both coming up this year. When I finally awoke, I was a bit confused what day it was. That's sleep!

I rose and entered the kitchen, where my wife had kindly taken the bread dough from the fridge, and set it to warm on top of the stove. I've been experimenting with freeform loaves, trying to emulate the bread we ate daily in Central Europe, since we've not found an appropriate bakery in the area. I shaped it, and left it to rise. Now it is in the oven. I'm hopeful. The first was too flat. The second used more flour for a stiffer loaf, which would better hold shape. But it was too dense. I used more yeast this time, as well as a sourdough starter I grew myself.

These are little pleasures. Things that serve to leaven life. I find, when I'm full-time dad, I sometimes wish nothing more than to be somewhere else, doing something else. Yet, today, as I sit still at home, puttering and blogging, I smile at all my boys antics, wishing nothing more than to be just where I am.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Cutting it close

Tonight around 11:00, I'll pick up our au pair from the airport. She's been gone nearly three weeks, visiting a friend's family in South America. Tomorrow ends my latest stint as full-time dad. (Each time I seem to get worse as I seem to get better. Ah well, I do the best I can.)

Tomorrow, the main [Field 2] conference begins. Fortunately, like the recent [Field 1] conference I attended, it is within commuting distance. I'll need to renew my membership, then register as an "unemployed member". (Ah, the indignity of it... but at least the society's open recognition of that status makes me feel in good company).

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Welcome to tomorrow

A happy, healthy, and prosperous 2007 to all my friends in the blogosphere!

Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow.

Last week, I commented on growing weary of the chase for a faculty post. I've thought a good deal about the matter during the past couple weeks. (Couple weeks?, you say, you've been obsessed by the matter as long as I've known you. Conceded.)

My first year on the search, '04-'05, the year I finished my dissertation and became PhD, I was far less picky. Ironic, isn't it? I would have been content to take just about any post that afforded me the title of assistant professor somewhere, anywhere. I would have been eager to teach any service course, to cover every committee assignment, sit through all department meetings without a huff or complaint. But then... a season passed with only close calls.

Last year, many of you met me, as this blog came into being, granting me an outlet for my frustrations and hopes, my fears and opportunities. The season came and went. The only interview I had last year was for a one-term sabbatical replacement in Beautiful Nowhere. In the end, another close call (2 against 3, as I was told). And now.

The season has come to its ebb. It's not over, for sure. But the new year (reflecting a break between terms) seems to mark a separation between early and late postings. Most of the latter will be one-year interim fills, which other than local possibilities, I don't anticipate applying for (for pragmatic and logistical reasons). In any case, the majority of my applications are already out. Most of what remains is waiting. I wait to hear if the two which have requested supplemental materials will be inviting me for an interview. I wait to see if any of the other schools will contact me, either for supplemental materials, or to set up a telephone interview.

I am still quite excited about the post at Big West Private. There's a history there with that position, as I've been in touch with the center's director for a couple years now. The more I think about the position, the more I realize it is in many ways the type of position I've been hoping for. At the moment, just about everything else pales in comparison, which leads me to the sentiment at the end of "I grow weary of the chase" (linked above).

And it leads me perhaps closer to striking out on my own (in earnest this time, not in consolation while I continue to wait). I have been self-employed for just about all of my adult life (other than waiting tables, which is rather close to freelancing, in any case). In part it's due to my drive and spirit; in part, it's also due to my stubbornness and thirst for freedom (both of which are somewhat anathema to surviving in a university department). As a graduate student, the former qualities made up for the latter. So far, I haven't been afforded the chance to see if that continues to facultyhood.

What I have resolved is that now ends the time in which my self-identity is defined by my lack of a university title. From here on, I'm Articulate Dad, PhD: researcher, writer, entrepreneur, husband, father, brother, son. If yet a faculty post comes along, whether an offer from Big West Private, Western Flagship, or somewhere else, I will consider it, in consultation with my wife and family. But I resolve to be whole without it.