31 October 2008



Tomorrow's Halloween. Do you know what we do on Halloween?

Yeah! We det some tandy!

And who are you going to be?

I be SUPER WHY!!! And you be NOTHING!

29 October 2008

Random Bullets

  • I love fall- love it. The trees are turning colors, the air is crisp, we have three happy jack-o-lanterns all ready for the trick-or-treaters, and it's almost time to put away the outside toys and furniture.
  • Obama is ahead in the polls--yipee. I'm still not holding my breath yet, but I'm hoping that in a week, maybe I'll be excited about this country again.
  • Now that my applications are all finished and mailed away, it's a matter of waiting. And waiting. But I did get a request for a writing sample and recommendation letters from a school I thought was a long-shot, so that makes me feel slightly better.
  • We have an opossum. It lives somewhere around here, but it comes to our backyard at night and uses it as its latrine. It's like having a dog--and I don't have a dog, because I have no interest in shoveling up something's cr@p. But here I am, shoveling up something's cr@p.
  • I should work more, but I'm addicted to reading. I keep telling myself it's just research for the book I'll write someday... you know, plan C and a half.
  • I need to get back to work--I have a conference to attend in 2 weeks and I haven't written the paper yet. Blech.

22 October 2008

The Pursuit of Happy-ness

In a recent post on RateYourStudents.com, a person responded to a question about whether to tell prospective grad students the truth about their job prospects by saying:

"Anyone who advises someone into graduate school should be sent to advise young men and women to volunteer for active military service in Afghanistan, because their chances of happiness are better there."

I'm feeling that right about now. But at the same time, I can't help but think that if I had known my job prospects would be so dismal, I still would have done the degree. I can honestly say, I didn't know. When Mountain State recruited me for my MA, they showed me an impressive list of their job candidates from the last 8 years--97% were in tenure track jobs within less than three years. You'll get a job coming out of this school, I was assured. By the time that I came to Prairie state to do my PhD, I knew that the market was rough, but I also "knew" that people who were well prepared, with publications and teaching experience, could still do just fine.

Maybe they can, in theory. I'm not so big on theories lately.

The bottom line is that I don't think anyone who wants to go to grad school should be dissuaded from going after an advanced degree. I have come to believe, at least for the humanities, that there needs to be a bit more honesty about what it is you're going to do with that degree.

In my field, people don't get non-academic jobs. Or at least, that's the myth. Instead, people stick around in adjunct hell, basically with about as much standing in the department (and funding) as a public school substitute teacher. But that's the dream, right? Just keep teaching part time to pay the bills and someday that little liberal arts college in the sky will learn of your existence and come to find you.

Once you're out, you're out. Right? And getting out means giving up on being an intellectual. Right?

I can see why people adjunct, really, I can. They get to keep doing what is comfortable for them--teaching, hanging out in academic buildings, reading obtuse theory. And if you're happy making a living doing that, then I think it's great.

But I also think that part of the misery of the job market could be ameliorated if grad students got more guidance with non-academic jobs. You know, the kind that only give you 2 weeks vacation a year and make you wear *gasp* suits to work. Five or more years of living the grad student life--even though you really do work around the clock--can make anyone nervous to leave it behind. The scheduling freedom is a wonder in and of itself.

I can't help but think, though, that hundreds, probably thousands, of smart, capable PhDs are adjuncting because they don't know what else to do. That to leave the halls of academia is to become a failure. There are moments, for me, when it surely feels like that. And then I think about how exciting it might be to get up every morning and go into an office, to have a job with retirement benefits and health insurance that includes a prescription plan and allows me to see a doctor that specializes in something other than mono and STDs. In a real doctor's office.

Because it's true that it would be miserable to be on the market for four years, as the writer above is/was. But it must also be true that it's possible to take your time in grad school as your first career, the one that most people aren't lucky enough to have, and to go out and find something else that makes you just as happy. Right?

13 October 2008


I have a dissertation to finish, a job to find, and a house to clean. So what have I been doing?

And this too:

What is a Racist?

Things on the campaign trail are getting heated. In rallies for McCain and Palin, supporters are getting downright mob-like. In different rallies people have chanted "kill him" and "off with his head," calling Obama a "terrorist." The McCain campaign's response:

"I think there have been quite a few reporters recently," said Mr. McCain's closest adviser, Mark Salter, "who have sort of implied, or made more than implications, that somehow we're responsible for the occasional nut who shows up and yells something about Barack Obama."

True. I don't think that McCain can be responsible for his supporters' preconceptions, but I think that the McCain campaign's decision to pretend that they aren't responsible for the anger emanating from these rallies is disingenuous at best.

We don't get a lot of political campaign ads out here in prairie state, so when I was in Ohio recently, I was surprised and fairly disgusted at the ads that I did see coming from the McCain campaign. In particular, there was an ad talking about Obama's goal to raise taxes for all Americans. As the ad lists the many, horrible taxes that Obama will raise, a dark shadow creeps over the image of Washington, DC, engulfing first the Capiltol, and then the rest of the city. The ad ends with that same dark shadow slowly engulfing a sleeping baby.

I really don't think it takes someone with an advanced degree to see the symbolism here-- dark shadow engulfing a white baby? What the heck does that have to do with taxes? It's a scary image, especially for a country that has a long history of fearing blackness and darkness.

Coincidental? Perhaps...if it wasn't for the fact that it isn't a singular instance. In his Sunday Op-Ed piece, Frank Rich writes, "when the McCain campaign ran its first ad tying Obama to the mortgage giant Fannie Mae. Rather than make its case by using a legitimate link between Fannie and Obama (or other Democratic leaders), the McCain forces chose a former Fannie executive who had no real tie to Obama or his campaign but did have a black face that could dominate the ad’s visuals."

But here's the problem, in the same editorial, Rich claims unequivocally, "McCain is no racist."

Really? Why is that? Because he, himself, has not specifically called Obama a "terrorist"? Because he doesn't outright call him a "n*#ger"? Oh wait... we're not supposed to use that word, right? We're supposed to say "racial epitaphs were hurled." Right? Use that passive voice to remove all blame from the people doing the hurling, and of course, never mention that someone might still use that *gasp* word in public.

This is what is utterly frustrating about the whole issue of race in this campaign. McCain's campaign, especially through the seemingly-unassuming aw-shucks Palin, has succeeded in playing into Americans' fear of the other. It's improper to talk about someone's race, but we can replace race with the term terrorist. We don't need to call Obama a n*#ger. We have something much better at our disposal: we can call him a terrorist. Because, hey, it's permissible not to simply hate or fear terrorists, but to kill them.

So in one breath McCain says that Obama is a family man and a good person, and in the next he refers to his link with Ayers, a known terrorist. Connect the dots.

But McCain is nor racist, right? Haven't we gotten to the very enlightened place in America where no one is a racist? Or at least no one who doesn't where a bed sheet and burn crosses in people's yard. That must be the definition of a racist, right?

I don't think so, and I think that because being racist is so taboo, racism has become more insidious than it was before.

Obama can't bring up the McCain campaign's dirty games. McCain doesn't have to be responsible for the supporters that his rallies stir up. He's certainly not a racist, just because he is willing to come out on stage and pretend that nothing is amiss when a preacher giving a blessing in Iowa prayed,

"I would also pray, Lord, that your reputation is involved in all that happens between now and November, because there are millions of people around this world praying to their god - whether it’s Hindu, Buddha, Allah - that his opponent wins, for a variety of reasons...And Lord, I pray that you would guard your own reputation, because they’re going to think that their god is bigger than you, if that happens. So I pray that you will step forward and honor your own name with all that happens between now and Election Day."

Nope, nothing wrong with that. Obviously McCain's not a racist just because he benefits from the ire raised by these kinds of speakers and this kinds of crowds. He's just a coward.

09 October 2008

Why was it that I didn't go to law school?

I have the great pleasure of looking for a job in the middle of the worst economic meltdown in a very, very long time.

Oh- and did I mention that I'm in the humanities. You know, the "useless crap" courses that the "make" you take in college. So there's a big demand for me. Right.

At first I was fairly freaked out. ok, totally freaked out. I'm sending out 20 applications so far--not a huge number considering the 100s of us freshly minted PhDs that will be out there this year. That definitely makes me nervous, because even coming from a top-20 program, the odds are decidedly not in my favor.

I'm slowly, but surely letting go of that, though. I should know by Christmas if I have interviews. If I have interviews, I have a real shot. I'll know by March or so if I have campus visits. If I have campus visits, my odds just skyrocketed. And if I don't, or if I don't have very many, I have a good 2 months before the University stops paying me to find something else to do.

I'm lucky in one respect--I could stay on as a student next year. This might actually be a smart move if I took that extra year to add a chapter or two to my dissertation that makes me eligible to apply for contemporary or 19th c. jobs. The problems? 1) I don't want to pay for daycare if that's the case-we could use that extra $5000+ a year in other ways. 2) I'd still be a student--albeit with health insurance. 3) Doesn't really allow for a baby-- you really can't be showing when you're interviewing. 4) There's no guarantee that another year will make any difference and I'll just have more student loan debt to show for it.

But I have other options- I could adjunct. My department will supposedly "support" me for 2 or 3 years after I graduate. I don't think that includes health insurance, though. I also really, really want that to be my worst case scenario. Really. It puts me at a disadvantage in terms of scheduling, class assignments, and seniority. Blech.

But I could also go find something else to do. Right now, staring at 150 pages that badly need revising and another 50 or so to write, something else is sounding mighty good to me. Mighty good. Also a bit terrifying. But lots of people retrain and get different jobs, right??

Damn, if I only had some fabulously rich long-lost relative who could bequeath me their fortune, I could fall back on my master plan of moving somewhere near water and opening a B&B not decorated in the usual Victorian frillery. Not happening.

So I'm applying and waiting and wondering what comes next. But it's getting better. Really.

03 October 2008

Random Bullets

It's been a while, but I honestly just don't feel much like writing anything of real substance. So here are some random updates:

  • We spend most of the last week and a half back in OH for J's grandpa's funeral. It was a lovely service, but there seemed to be so little emotion. Just very, very odd for me.
  • Applications are going out daily now. I know I've proof-read them multiple times and gone over them even more just for content, but there's still that little voice in the back of my head wondering if I missed a typo that will make me look like a complete moron.
  • There still aren't very many jobs-- less than 30 right now, including post-docs or fellowships, but some of them are in decent places. I guess.
  • Little man is getting spots. Not bad spots, tiny little freckles here and there. He has 3 right now. I'm not sure when they popped out, but there they were one day. Strange to watch him change and to realize that he's not a baby anymore.
  • The "Steve Songs" on PBS is just kind of creepy.