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  • I just woke up from a nap after having stayed up until 3 AM grading annotated bibliographies.
  • Week seven is hell.
  • I am almost finished taking classes – forever and ever — two more weeks and one of those is the week of Thanksgiving.
  • Apparently some college freshman have never heard of apartheid. I’m adding that to my long list of things students are too young to remember.
  • Also, students only vaguely remember Hurricane Katrina.
  • Lack of sleep makes me want to eat carbs.
  • Grading makes me want a glass of wine.
  • I wrote a draft of my comps questions and sent them to my advisor, but he is sick, so there has been no word.
  • Our comps process takes six weeks. (WTF.)
  • I am so ready to be done with classes and focusing on my research.
  • I don’t have funding for my research, so I need to get moving on the fellowship applications.
  • If all goes well, I will spend April-August “in the field” and be ready to start writing in September.
  • This time next year I could be sending out job applications.
  • I really need to find a post-doc because I doubt I will be “ready” for a TT job by next winter.
  • Some kind of Oprah Christmas present special just came on the TV and the people in the audience are screaming like they won the lottery, which they kinda did. But it is still creepy. Sort of like a revival meeting, only consumerism = god.
  • My Spanish skills are finally returning to their 1992 levels. Between homework and classes I have been spending several hours a day working on this. Too bad that after this quarter is over I have no way to maintain or improve these skills since I need to focus on my comps and dissertation research.
  • I still don’t have down the names of all 66 of my students. How do other people learn their students’ names? (I think it it must be some sort of learning disability on my part.)
  • That is all for now.

There is a debate going around on the academic blog-o-sphere about faculty salaries and whether or not TT faculty have a right to complain. As far as I can tell it started over at Tenured Radical’s. When folks found out that TR makes over 107K many said she shouldn’t complain or that they themselves don’t feel the need or the right to complain. You can read a few different views: HistoriannDr Crazy, another post by TR, Squadratomagico, and undine.

Here’s the thing folks, from the mouth of someone at the bottom of the academic totem pole…(I make 12-14K depending on whether I get the privilege of teaching over the summer.) If Tenured Radical or other full professors in secure positions are willing to unionize or in any way help organize for better working conditions in academia, I welcome their help. I would be happy to discuss with them what organizing priorities the union should have. Although raises for full faculty wouldn’t be my first priority, I wouldn’t be opposed to organizing for such raises. Certainly we could all agree to organize in opposition to increasing teaching loads and larger and larger class sizes. Unions filled with grad students and adjuncts are weak compared to unions that also have tenured professors as members. There is a campaign happening now at Crunchy U. to unionize the faculty – adjuncts and TT together. It seems that many TT faculty are reticent to join, despite their Marxist leanings.

If you can’t unionize in your state, maybe it is time to start organizing to change that law. There are lots of workers out there who are in worse positions who could use your help. If you can’t unionize legally, maybe it is time to organize. Maybe we should start talking to our students about the conditions we work under. Faculty and students could be allies in organizing for improved education funding.  Civil disobedience could be considered. For that matter, you could do something to help K-12 educators who are struggling under crappy conditions. (Our new roommate is a 1st grade teacher at a low income public school.) Or doing something to help improve the working conditions for preschool teachers. Having well trained (and well paid) preschool teachers would make a huge difference in children’s lives. No one values preschool teachers, yet these are the folks that really need to understand developmental stages and how to provide kids with the foundations to do well in school.

Just don’t expect making change to be easy. I’m just saying.

Tonight I am grumpy for some reason. I think it is because I have spent the last six months teaching and struggling through language classes. I like teaching, really I do, but my department doesn’t assign me to teach within my specialty area. This spring I was assigned to teach a gen ed class that has literally been called “the impossible course” because you are expected to cover the globe in a quarter. I got very little done spring quarter. Then the first four weeks of summer I spent in an intensive grammar course for my foreign language. (Two more third year language classes for me in the fall.) The last three weeks I have been teaching the same technical course as I did last summer. Last summer it took me a ton of time and energy to prep that course. Thankfully, this summer it was basically all ready to go. I’m just not motivated to teach. Research is calling me…only it has been so long that I have lost track of what my dissertation is about and what my next steps should be.

I also have a small research project that is related to the dissertation which I am suppose to be getting done for a regional conference in September…problem…the project proposal is stuck somewhere in the office for the protection of human subjects.

Basically I’m busy beating myself up for not getting enough research done. At the same time I would really like to have a few weeks vacation. Instead, I agreed to write a book chapter that has to be done by the end of the month. Publications are good, so I can’t really be picky, but I now have three different projects to deal with between now and October (when classes start.)

I have also been thinking a lot about my research and trying to imagine what my next research project would be after my dissertation is complete. Now it may seem premature considering that my comps aren’t done and I still need my committee to approve my final dissertation proposal, but I have been doing research related to my dissertation project all along, so I feel like I have already learned some things I like and don’t like about this project. Reading Notorious PhD’s series on the fox and the hedghog in research has gotten me thinking. I’m definitely more of a fox. My research interests are all over the place. But the question that keeps bouncing around inside my head right now is how much I want to subscribe to one particular line of social theory. I know what I like, what research resonates with me, but some days I’m feeling postmodern and other days a bit of traditional western Marxism seems more appropriate. Also, how much can I let current fashions social theory dictate the direction of my research? Hopefully all will become clear through the initiation process that is called comprehensive exams. Duh, duh, duh….Epiphanies will abound.

P.S. I don’t know if I will ever get back in the habit of blogging here on a regular basis.

First,  congrats to my good friend Trillwing! She was offered a TT position, I won’t say more because she should reveal that herself but let’s just say that she is fabulous and deserves the best.

Here the hypothetical situation I would like you all to consider. You have an advisor who is smart and well thought of but inaccessible, just very difficult to keep in contact with. This person on paper is the ideal advisor for you, but in reality is difficult to handle. Do you find another advisor? Do you continue to persist in trying to manage this person despite the warnings of other graduate students and faculty? How long do you attempt to “make it work”? Do you talk to this person directly about the issue?

As I have mentioned, I’m planning to work through my comprehensive exams process during the fall quarter and so need to get my advising and my committee worked out. Unfortunately, the available professors are all real people with their own unique quirks.

This term I am in a seminar with an unusual twist. We are using about half the class time for a sort of writing workshop. Each week we turn in a bit of our term paper and get feedback. I should be very excited about this because I have been in grad school a very long time and have rarely gotten any feedback on my writing. The professor for this seminar is a very well know, senior scholar in our discipline so it’s exciting to get help from him. His logic is that normally we would all write our term papers during the final week or two of the quarter anyway, so we might as well just spend some time each week on our writing and get some actual feedback so that the final paper might be publishable. He also laid out which sections we were to turn in each week: abstract, outline, introduction, literature review, and so on.

This all sounds great so far, except I’m finding in practice it’s not. Here’s the thing, that’s not how I write my term papers. It’s true that I don’t get started on the actual writing of the paper until the end of the quarter, but I spend my spare moments all quarter researching, finding “data”, and reading through articles to build my literature review. By the end of the quarter I usually have a good idea of how my paper will be structured. Sometimes I write it from the beginning straight through, but often I start writing and then discover that the point I’m making needs to be moved later. My original intro is usually crap because I have to write some overly general rubbish in order to get to the heart of my argument. I don’t write a complete outline first, although I do write down some sections headings and points I need to make. So getting feedback on pieces of my paper before I have finished doing the research I need to come to a conclusion and make a solid argument is somewhat pointless. It’s also somewhat embarrassing because  it makes me look like I don’t know how to make an argument.

I’m only writing this now because I don’t know how to proceed with the next section of my paper which I’m suppose to be turning in today. My paper is tangentially related to my dissertation, but is something that I haven’t researched at all before this quarter. This specific topic hasn’t been written about much in the academic literature. Historical information about rural parts of this country is not easily available outside of local historical societies, and the one I need happens to be closed for remodeling until next spring. Arg!

This summer, for the first time since I started grad school, in fact, for the first time ever, I’m “doing” summer school. This has kept me very busy! My department here at Crunchy U. offers summer classes, so for the first time I got the chance to teach my own class. Unfortunately it was the class from hell. I don’t want to tell the entire story, but there were a bunch of students in the class who weren’t ready for that class and my TA was no help. I think I worked 60-80 hours a week for the 4 weeks. On the up side, colleges and universities everywhere need people to teach this particular class and since it’s technology related, there are a limited number of people willing and able to teach it, so it will be good for my CV.

As soon as that was over, I started a Spanish class. I’m required to have two years of a language for my PhD. Unforunately, it’s been more than 10 years since I took any language classes, so those classes don’t count. Because I have limited time (I’m hoping to graduate before I’m 40) I decided to hop right in to second year Spanish. Since I had been teaching during the first four weeks of the summer, I had to start with the second quarter of second year Spanish. Make sense? Needless to say, there are huge gaps in my memory. My pronunciation is terrible now. I think it’s my age. Also, I can’t spell, even in Spanish! My previous college courses in Spanish were focused on speaking, now I’m expected to write, and I’m discovering a little of what it’s like to be illiterate. I have been making progress over the last three week though. Next week is the end of the class, so I will finally have some time off, and a chance to do a little more of my research.

Last week I took a couple of days off and travelled to my research site to do a couple of interviews. I need to get at least 15 or so interviews done by the end of September when school starts, so that I have some priliminary results to work with over the next year. I feel luck about the topic I’m working on and the location. Friends at Crunchy U. know people in the area, so I have been able to find places to stay and make connections locally.

The point of telling you all about my summer is to say that I’m burnt out! I need at least two weeks of lazing around doing nothing before I will be motivated to do anything again. I know many academics seem to be able to work long hours day after day, without a break, but I have become overly grumpy. Overwork is not good.

Now I’m getting off the computer and going to make some gazpacho and pizza. On Saturdays we have friends over for dinner and games.

Dear Bloggy friends,
I’m still alive and sometimes reading other people’s blogs, but feel ambivalent about continuing to write on this blog. All the transitions I have been going through have made me rethink what I want to be spending time on.

I feel vindicated by this article in the NY Times, featuring Barbara Ganley, a friend of a bloggy friend. After experimenting on some other blogs, with writing more regularly, in order to build audience, I have decided it’s not for me. The thing I like about blogging in making connections with people, not thinking up things to write about every day.

I think I write less when I’m confused and more when I have a passionate opinion on a particular topic. Right now I’m more confused than passionate. I think I’m enjoying my new program, but I still feel nervous because I don’t know who is trustworthy and who I need to be politic with.

Also, Beorn has been getting sicker and sicker and I’m not sure what to say about that. It wasn’t until last summer that I realized how disabled Beorn had become, but it started about a year ago, and yet we still don’t have a diagnosis. We suspect rheumatoid arthritis, but still haven’t seen a rheumatologist. Between the joint pain, particularly in his knees, and the sciatica, it’s difficult often difficult for him to get up out of bed or out of a chair. Walking up and down the stairs is a major production. And he’s fatigued all the time, partly from the anemia and partly because the pain wakes him up a night.

The prospect of living with someone with a chronic, painful illness has left me rather speechless.

The good news is despite Beorn not being able to really work, we have medical coverage through my program. Beorn has been seeing a chiropractor and massage therapist, which helps some. Also, we have something here in Crunchy town called a “community” acupuncture clinic, which means that the acupuncturist treats several people a once and charges on a sliding scale. The acupuncture seems to be helping somewhat. Until we know what the problem really is, we are just having to wait. This illness has disrupted the illusion that I had that that it is possible to plan for the future. Right now I’m just enjoying the moments when Beorn is relatively pain free.

I am so angry right now. It looks like Beorn and I won’t be able to vote in the election because of what amounts to voter registration fraud.

In September soon after we moved to “Crunchy Town” we ran into some people registering voters at the local farmers market. This was our first chance to register, so we jumped on it. And handed our completed forms over to the volunteers to turn in.

Well now we have discovered, well after the deadline is past, that they never turned in our registrations.

Considering the stink that the MacCain camp made over Obama’s links to Acorn I feel very upset. I had a roommate working for Acorn in Chicago when I was in college and they work to empower people stuck in terrible situations, educate people and help them get themselves out of poverty.
If they did over-register people I have to believe that it was unintentional on the part of the organization. If they were paying people per registration then some unscrupulous person/people registered false names. But that wouldn’t lead to false votes, unless someone was going to the effort to vote under those false names. Since the motivation to register false names was money per registration, not per vote, that seems unlikely.

On the other hand, the people that took our registrations and threw them in the trash were intentionally throwing out our votes. I’m angry because I was looking forward to voting in this historic election. I wanted to tell my grandchildren, if I ever manage to have children, that I voted for the first black president of the US.

Does anyone else out there ever get tired of talking about gender? I’m experiencing feminist fatigue, it’s sort of like chronic fatigue, only caused by having to explain basic concepts of how to treat women like people to someone over and over again.

Right now I have an especially bad case because our roommate, lets call him Viking Boy, is strangely obsessed with gender, as if women were some sort of strange aliens. He will regularly say things like “This is man food!” or “I don’t want any of that girlie salad!” with little or no irony. So I feel the need to try to explain to him that everyday activities like eating or (last night) pumpkin carving are not particularly gendered.

I attended a pumpkin carving party last night and carved a very scary bat into my pumpkin. 

Then again, I feel obligated to point out to other men that gender might be affecting how people interact with them. For example, the professor and two other TAs I’m working with this quarter are all men. I get 6-12 people showing up for my office hour each week and they get 1-2. Now there might be other factors involved like the fact that I chose a time the middle of a Thursday afternoon or that I have emphasized repeatedly to my students that they should ask for help. But considering that I get some of their students too and that another grad student (also a woman) has been helping another female student from the class with her homework, I think there is a good chance that gender might be influencing who students ask for help.

So now I’m wondering if there might be a link between men who can’t seem to notice when the dishes need doing and men who can’t seem to notice how gender influences their lives?

Would it help if they read Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog?

I am very grumpy after my “entry evaluation” with the faculty graduate adviser of my new program. Despite having something more than 72 credits of courses through my program at BA U, it looks like I will have to retake many classes. The problem is that most of my classes at BA U, weren’t officially listed in “head studies”. That’s because there was no department of “head studies” so now they want me to take five out of seven breath requirement courses as well as the language requirement. Seriously, it’s like my MA doesn’t count at all. Arg. I thought I had researched this.

Problem #1: They might be right. My transcripts look horrible, they are filled with independent studies and group studies, courses that don’t say anything on them. So it might be better for me to have a transcript that looked like I went through an actual program.

Problem #2: I will likely be very bored sitting through all these requirements and I don’t tend to focus well when I’m bored.

Problem #3: This will slow down my time to degree and I have already spent waaaayyy too much time in grad school.