Sunday, December 16, 2007

First Interview

It's over and done with - I had my first real job interview in nearly 6 years on Friday and I cannot emphasize how happy I am to be done with it. And though it's over, I still feel like I could have done a better job.

I prepped for it ever since I heard I had been selected as a semi-finalist a little less than two weeks ago. I did two mock interviews, both of which reminded me exactly why I hate interviewing and being on the spot. Why can't my CV, writing samples, and recommendation letters speak in place of me? Why does this whole proces have to be so drawn out?

The questions I got asked were both predictable and unpredictable; by the end of the interview, which lasted 45 minutes, I was exhausted. My brain was kaputt and I definitely felt my energy level draining. Some of the questions I got asked included: 1) What were some of the challenging teaching experiences I faced? 2) What books would I recommend and why? 3) How do I gauge if students are learning the material I'm teaching? 4) How do I use historical documents as an archaeologist? 6) What is my larger cultural quesiton or problem I'm interested in solving through the study of American culture? 7) What is the importance of Califorina prehistory? 8) What two topics would I teach if I taught a course on America and Race? 9) What courses would I like to teach? 10) Do I feel comfortable teaching courses on American history?

I can't help but go through the interview in my head over and over. Why didn't I answer this question in such a way? Damn...why did I use that phrase or word?! I need to just forget about it and move on...but I really really want this job!

Argh. Anyhow...back to grading. Hopefully I'll get another call back...

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Going on vacation...

I wish. I received the most amusing email from one of my students this weekend. He/she sent me an email telling me about how he/she is going on vacation for a week and needs my lecture notes before he/she leaves. [rolls eyes] Gee, I wish I could take a nice, long vacation during the semester and not have anyone bug me with any responsibilities! I realize that sounds bitter but since when do students just up and go on vacation during the middle of a semester (during a non-calendar holiday!)?

This particular student has been irking me since the beginning of the course, sending me long diatribes about he/she has all these responsibilities and issues at work. I just want to send he/she a nice long list of all the things I accomplish during the week because I know this student's mouth would drop from astonishment. I realize my bitterness stems from the fact that I haven't had a vacation in over two years and am in dire need of one, but still, who the heck does such a thing?!

What amazes me about some students is their lack of time management skills. Okay, so I sucked at time management when I was 18. But I also never asked for an extension. Not once. It's disrespectful to the teacher's schedule. There is a reason for a deadline so meet it. And please please please don't go on vacation during the academic year! End of story.

In other news, my life is insanely hectic. I wake up at 4:30am on MWF to get to school at around 6:30am (I get the best parking spot on campus!), TA from 9-9:50am, hold office hours, go to the writing center, research, do labwork, grade my online course, and then go home around 7-8pm so I can miss rush hour traffic. I get home around 9-10pm, eat, crash, and go to sleep. I am beyond exhausted and it is only week 3 in the quarter. But I'll get through it like I always do. This is my last TA requirement and I need to fulfill it. Plus, I'm working for an awesome prof so it's all good.

As for job stuff, I haven't reallly heard anything. I'm not too upset about it right now because I am really focused on getting other stuff done. One of my articles got forwarded for review, which is a big deal. I finished the first chapter of my dissertation (66 pages and all!) a few weeks ago. I just got invited to an important conference session. I'm editing two pieces for publication. I have three conference papers to write. I have two grant applications due in a month. Jobs will come at some point, just not right now. On top of all this, the spouse has a very important job interview this week that could change our entire financial situation and mean moving back to my hometown. Things are moving in all sorts of weird and exciting directions!

Tomorrow I have a very important talk at a small liberal arts college I need to go back to practicing. Fun times!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

You know you need to take a break from writing when...

You know you need to take a break from writing when....

1) You start to use the same phrases, adjectives, and verbs over and over and over again. You get the idea.

2) You write a chapter's concluding remarks around Kafka's ideas of human-animal relations. This would be okay if you are a literary criticism Ph.D. candidate focusing on the existentialist movement...but not when you're an archaeologist.

3) Suddenly everything becomes way more interesting than your writing. Cleaning the fridge out never seemed so appealing until now!

4) You develop an unusual interest in horribly bad tv - reality tv shows that involve washed up rock or hip-hop stars on VH1, for example. And you don't even like tv.

5) You are up until 2am writing this list.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Limitations of Democracy

Recently there has been an uproar at Stanford regarding Donald Rumsfeld's appointment at the Hoover Institute, which is located on Stanford's campus. The Hoover Institute is a well known conservative think-tank that has housed such crazy right-wing scholars as Dinesh D'Souza, so Rumsfeld's presence isn't exactly shocking.

Numerous Stanford professors, including the famous "Prison Experiment" psychologist Phil Zimbardo, have started and signed petitions of protest, requesting that Rumsfeld (who serves on Hoover's board of advisors) stay far away from Stanford and the Hoover Tower. I agree that Rumsfeld's war crimes are unforgivable, and I do feel he doesn't belong among the ranks of other Stanford "fellows" intellect wise. But when forwarded the circulating petition and asked to sign it, I thought twice and decided against it. Why would a democrat like myself do so?

This question of what are our limitations of democracy has been plaguing me for quite some time. I believe in free speech, whether it be litigious, lascivious, or, believe it or not, downright sexist. That doesn't mean I agree with it. In fact, I denounce it in my dissertation. But what does democracy really mean if we don't permit freedom of speech?

If we ban Rumsfeld from our campus, we may miss out on an opportunity to educate him, to sway him to our side of the debate. Okay, so perhaps that is SO optimistic and naive. But if we force him off campus, we are limiting an individual's civil liberties. We are banning him from a certain space, criminalizing him for trespassing on the basis that we are "academics" and take the high road. In limiting his ability to freely move about our campus, we are doing the same thing this administration has been pushing for: tighter borders and the delineation of citizenry based on national borders. Most liberal academics believe in the idea of a global citizenship - that democracy, in fact, really means that EVERYONE should be able to move about the world equally.

Obviously this isn't going to happen anytime soon. And it certainly won't happen in my lifetime if we police our own citizenship. So let Rumsfeld come to campus. Protest his presence by standing outside of Hoover Tower, but let him go about the campus as he pleases. This is a democratic society, right?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Career Paths

Today I had an important meeting with one of my dissertation committee members, who is arguably the world's most influential and famous professor in my discipline. It may sound like an overstatement but it's not. What's amazing is that he is actually a really nice, humble person who likes students. A rare combo in academia.

Anyhow, he told me I need to get out some peer reviewed journal articles, which I already knew and am working on as I write. I told him the whole process of going through journal article publishing was intimidating, and he looked at me with a puzzled look. "What do you mean by that?," he asked. I looked back at him a bit taken back by the fact he had no idea what I was referring to. "The rejection," I said, "I appreciate feedback but it's still hard to stomach at this level of the game." He smiled and remarked, "You'll be fine. We've given you all kinds of critical feedback here." True, but it's different when your advisors give you feedback - you expect them to be hard on you. But when you start sending your things off to people you don't know and get rejected, it makes you wonder if you somehow got into [insert famous university here] as a fluke.

Another issue that came up is my job application process (cringe). He doesn't want me applying to little colleges and universities because he'd "hate to see me at a small, unimportant school for the rest of my academic career." I'm flattered that he thinks I belong at some big important university but on the same hand, I have no problem working at some small school if that's where the job is. He also wants me to apply for fellowships in the UK, which I would absolutely love to do if I didn't own a home, have pets, and have a husband. I know he'd pull some strings to get me one of the fellowships there (he's from the UK) but do I really want to spend a year in London living on pennies? I dunno.

Once again, I am faced with the question I have been dreading: do I want to be a full fledged academic at a famous university? Or do I want to be at a lower tier school living a semi-normal life? The crazy, anal perfectionist in me revels in the idea of being well-known in academia. For the past 8 years, I have had professors pushing me in this direction. My friends in academia say I'm the "archetypal" academic...which is probably a backhanded comment. But the pragmatist in me says to slow down and enjoy life before it passes me by.

The answer to these questions will partially be answered for me when I apply for jobs over the next two years. But I may be faced with this question soon and I'm not sure how to answer it. I love my family, and I know that they will continue to suffer if I end up becoming Ms. Famous Professor. I know how much time goes into being a good researcher and I'm not sure if I am willing to give up all the good things I have just for my work.

Otherwise the meeting went fine. I really admire him - I wish there were more people like him in academia. But I have to admit that I always feel like I am going to have a mental breakdown when I'm awaiting his feedback on my writing. I mean, he's super famous and I don't want to let him down writing wise.

Okay, back to grading my online times!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Writing = Frustration

When I write (which is all the freaking time), I keep a log of all the time I've spent editing and composing it. I do this to remind myself just how long it actually takes to write a piece from start to finish so I won't over-commit myself to publications and conferences. It's a bit anal retentive but what can I say...that's who I am anyhow.

My log from this summer is depressing. It has taken me close to three months to write one, 30 page chapter. Okay, so this isn't any ordinary chapter - it's the first chapter of my dissertation, which is sort of a big deal. But usually it takes me anywhere from 3 weeks to a month to churn out a well edited article or conference presentation. Which is exactly why I am going BONKERS with this first chapter: it is still in the "shitty first draft" stage where things make little sense and I repeat the same words and sentence structures over and over again trying to figure out what the hell I'm writing about.

And guess what? This shitty rough draft (using Ann Lamont's words, I believe) needs to magically turn into a beautiful, well composed dissertation chapter by this Friday since I have a meeting with one of my committee members. He is like a God to me and I hate to let him down or lose his respect.

I told my advisor about my situation and she said this is what happens when you go to write your first chapter...and the reason why a lot of people drop out at this point in the program. That is definitely not my plan, but I can now see why people give up. I will push on as I always do but still, I hate not being in top form. The perfectionist in me wants to strangle the writer in me right now.

And to top this off, I just read through a draft of a chapter I submitted to a hiring committee...only to find some minor errors in it. ARGH. Writing sucks.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Finding life in broken things.

Oh-my-GOD. It has been one of those weeks. Thank goodness it is Friday because I was beginning to think this week would never ended. Or at least it seemed like that.

It all started last week when our dishwasher started to give out. We replaced that thinking we wouldn't have to buy another new appliance for awhile. Then comes the weekend and our washer and dryer BOTH conk out. We have a Sears guy come and give us an estimate to fix the darn things. That costs us $75 bucks, and by the time he leaves, he has given us a quote for $834 in repairs. So that means the washer and dryer have to be replaced. We look and look at a 100 different appliance stores and find a cheap, new pair for $200 under market value.

Then comes Tuesday and I spill water on my laptop. An entire glass of water. Yes, I am a klutz. I rush over to Fry's and have them take the darn thing apart. I let it sit to dry for two days, only to turn it on last night to a blank screen. However, the hardrive is working as is the motherboard so it's not a complete loss. The techs at Fry's didn't charge me for looking at it and letting me get data off my hardrive to work on while my laptop was drying for the past two days.

In addition, I've been reading the Wall Street Journal as of late and freaked out when I read about the supposed upcoming recession in the US economy. My dad's biz is already feeling it, as is the housing market in our neck of the woods. We are on a five year fixed mortgage which expires in 2 years...which we may not be able to refinance if a recession occurs. I immediately freaked and talked to our mortgage broker a few weeks ago about refinancing it. He thought that our house might not appraise for the purchase price right now because of the economy, sending me into major panic mode (see below for current status of this dilemma).

Yesterday, I took little dog to the world famous UC Davis' Animal Hospital where she was poked and prodded for 3 hours straight by nearly 6 different residents and 2 faculty members. Luckily, one faculty members has taken an interest in her because she has a very rare disease the faculty member is researching. This faculty member thinks we might be able to cure her of her immune disease with the right medications and foods. This includes me cooking home-made pork and sweet potato meals for little dog for two months...maybe the rest of her life. The spouse has to give little dog her medications (creams) twice a day while wearing gloves because her meds can mess with my immune system. And since I'm trying to get preggers, that is definitely not a good thing for me. Little dog is feeling very tired from yesterday - she's been sleeping all day and doesn't want big dog to bother her. I hope these meds and her new food make her feel better soon.

I spent most of the week worrying about these things and money. On top of that, I thought I was pregnant because my period was late....not something I was really expecting at this moment in my life since all of these things were adding up to a lot of money. I was quite miserable...went through the regular cycle of wondering why the heck I'm in graduate school when I could be making good money and why the heck these things happen to me.

But these things don't just happen to me. In fact, everything turned out okay. When the water spilled on my laptop, I immediately tried to think about "why" this had happened. Taking a few days off from having my laptop constantly in my lap reminded me just how unproductive that is. Maybe this whole thing, as well as the chain of events related to my appliances, was meant to happen to me for a reason.

I took off a few days of work and enjoyed myself. I needed that. I went over to my neighbor's house and brought her and her hubby dinner with my husband. They just had a baby, which they had been trying to have for three years. We enjoyed the evening and forget about all the electronical craziness in our house. It was nice.

These crazy experiences has also made me appreciative of the fact that nothing truly BAD has happened. No one is deathly ill or sick. While my dishwasher, dryer, computer, and washer are all important things, they are ONLY things. They shouldn't determine my happiness as a person. But having faith that things WILL be okay is also important. I tried to keep that in the back of my mind the entire week as I was simultaneously freaking out. Things seem to always turn out okay, and they did this week. Examples of this in action:

LAPTOP: I didn't have to pay for my laptop to be fixed because the Fry's tech was sympathetic to my lowly grad student status. My best friend's husband knows how to fix computers and gave me advice on how to proceed with the screen issue. It shouldn't cost too much...probably the amount I would have had to pay Fry's if they charged me.

WASHER/DRYER: We shopped around and got them for $200 under market value. Free delivery and installation!

DISHWASHER: We used a gift certificate for Home Depot we've been holding onto for a year or so to purchase 90% of the dishwasher. We got a $50 rebate on it so we didn't pay a cent for it. Free delivery and installation, too.

MORTGAGE: My mortgage broker thinks he'll be able to lock us into a 30-year fixed mortgage in the next week or so. And we can afford the payment.

LITTLE DOG: They think we'll be able to cure her with the proper diet and meds. Keep your fingers crossed!