Saturday, September 30, 2006

Job description

Remember how I wrote about job ads that were too broad or put together an improbable list of subfields? Check out this one. It includes an interesting wish list:

"Assistant professor, joint appointment, 50% in Women's Studies and 50% in one of the following Departments: Communication, Philosophy, Health and Kinesiology, History, and English.

Specialization: Emphasis on women and gender, and/or intersections of gender, race, ethnicity, and class in one of the following disciplines: Communication Studies, Public Relations, Organizational Communication, Rhetoric, and/or Technology; Continental Philosophy, Ethics/Applied Ethics, History of Philosophy, Metaphysics, and Social and Political Philosophy; Sports Studies, with emphasis in current issues of public policy, ideology, and culture; Healthy Aging and quality of life; Century Sub-Saharan History; and Latino and Minority Literatures.

Qualifications: Ph.D.; commitment to interdisciplinary studies. . ."

Commitment to interdisciplinary studies? No kidding.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Lecture Hall

Well, today's my first day at the helm of a class that will fill a smallish lecture hall. I'll be in charge of two TAs and 100 students. I don't really have much of a lesson plan for today, aside from an activity around a poem by a Canadian poet (in an American Studies course--teehee!).

And yet I'm not worried. Should I be?

I'm worried about not being worried.


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

In other news

By the time I flew my parents' nest, I had been to the emergency room all of twice.

At not quite 13 months, Lucas has already met that record and is, I fear, aiming for more.

Today Mr. Trillwing was cheering Lucas as the little guy toddled around the living room with the aid of his little pushcart. Unfortunately, one of the wheels snagged on something and Luke toppled over, striking his forehead against the corner of the TV stand.

In order to calm the wailing, Mr. Trillwing took Luke into the bedroom and cuddled with him on the bed. Only then did he notice the blood. Blood on the carpet. Blood on Luke's blocks. Blood on the sheets. Blood on the comforter. Blood on Luke's clothes.

So he tried to call my cell phone, which I never seem to hear, and even though it was in my pocket and set to vibrate and maximum ring volume, I didn't notice it was ringing. Bad mama!

Accordingly, Mr. Trillwing took Luke to the emergency room by himself. I listened to a message he left on the home phone and I met them there just as they were signing out. Mr. Trillwing was entertaining the doctors and nurses (who had apparently earlier been impressed by the sheer volume of Luke's screaming) and Luke was happily receiving a sticker from a nurse.

So what's the damage? I can't believe Mr. Trillwing snapped a "before" picture, but here are the before and after shots. Note the blood on Luke's clothes--you can't even see all of it in this picture.

The ER folks closed the wound with some kind of glue (Dermabond?) in lieu of stitches:

Within 10 minutes of arriving at home, Luke was laughing and playing again. What a good kid.

Job application season: a rambling lament

Anyone else find applying for academic jobs to be absolutely exhausting and frequently demoralizing?

When I apply for nonacademic jobs, I get excited about the possibility of setting off in a new direction, of meeting new challenges and learning new skills. I convince myself that dammit, I can run a museum's education department, for example, even though my experience in such a field is limited to part-time work and to much reading into museum theory. And although I only have about a year of university development (fund-raising) experience, I believe I could serve successfully as the associate director of an alumni giving program or even a major capital campaign.

Faculty jobs are another story altogether. Tonight I've been writing and printing off this year's first round of academic job applications. Both the desired fields of concentration and the application documents make me feel underprepared, even though I know I could walk into a classroom and teach undergraduates just about anything in the humanities (except foreign languages--not so good with those). Of course, I'd fare better in some disciplines than in others, but I'm confident my interdisciplinary background and specific teaching experiences would help me to assemble meaningful courses in, for example, American studies, women's history, U.S. history, cultural studies, creative writing, museum studies, public history, bioethics, science and society, literature, technoculture studies, and composition. (Yes, I have taught many of those subjects in one manifestation or another, or my dissertation fell within them.)


However, the subfields tend to be narrowly defined or the job ads include what seems to me to be an improbable combination of subjects. Middle Eastern studies and environmental literature? (OK, I made that one up. But you get the idea.) When they allow for a broad applicant pool--for example, "any concentration in any geographical area of North America since 1500"--I worry that my dissertation topic isn't sexy enough.

For those of you who haven't applied for jobs in the humanities before, just the first step can be pretty grueling. Depending on whether the position is a postdoctoral fellowship or a faculty position, the search committee might ask for any of these documents:
- cover letter
- CV
- three letters of recommendation
- dissertation abstract
- dissertation chapter
- published article
- teaching evaluation summaries
- graduate transcripts
- application form
- sample syllabi or course proposals
- teaching philosophy statement

Usually programs ask for 3-4 of these things. In my case, I'm confident about how I'm represented in approximately half of these documents.

What makes the process especially daunting for me is the fact that I'm applying for positions in so many different departments and programs. There's very little I can pull from one letter to another, so each letter takes me a lot of time. I feel I need to reinvent myself every time. In one letter I'm an environmental historian. In another I'm a scholar of U.S. women's history. In yet another I'm a specialist in material culture. Each repackaging and rebranding of myself is true to varying degrees.

More anxieties: Which conferences should I attend? All of the disciplines to which I'm applying interview at different conferences, and only one of them is local this year. And my budget is very, very tight because hey, I'm an adjunct.

During application season last year, I got stuck behind a guy at the automated postal machine. From his mailing labels, I could tell he was applying for jobs in economics. He had about 50-60 envelopes, and all of them were the exact same thickness, suggesting he could just stick the same cover letter and documents into each envelope, affix postage, and be on his merry way. I was jealous.

And then there's the matter of to where I should apply. I know I like Iowa, but what do I think of North Dakota? Would I be happy in the South? Would Mr. Trillwing? Are the public schools decent there? Would Lucas have to listen to some crap about intelligent design? Could I live with the humidity? Do I put myself in the running for what seems to be a perfect job in a city I consider to be the armpit of the nation? Do I want to even bother applying for a position that advertises a 4/4 teaching load? Can I imagine designing as many as eight new courses in a year? Would grading 3-4 papers from each of 150+ students sans TAs drive me insane? Would I have any work-life balance at all? What about the upper Midwest or Canada? Do I really want to go back to the hassle of shoveling snow and winterizing the house and car? And how do I feel about relocating Lucas two or three thousand miles away from his grandparents and other family members? (Currently we're about 400 miles away from extended family.) Do I want to move closer to that family even though it means we'll never be able to afford to buy a house and my commute will likely be long?

My parents are retired high school teachers. I saw my mom wade miserably through stacks of papers for decades, and I started helping her grade those papers when I was 11 or 12 years old. I also was paid under the table by a couple of my high school teachers to grade their papers. That means I've already been grading papers for 19 years. I've been teaching my own courses since 1999. I love designing courses, crafting class activities, and interacting with students, but do I want to grade papers every 2-3 weeks for the next 35-40 years? I'm not so sure.

In the midst of all this angst, I'm grateful Mr. Trillwing is not an academic. He's really the ideal "trailing spouse" because he telecommutes and because it's pretty easy for him to find freelance work if necessary.

In summary: Aaaaaaaaauuuuggghhh!

It's enough to make a person apply for nonacademic jobs, even though they're open right now and accepting one of them would mean ditching my teaching commitments for the rest of the year. And oh, look--how convenient! I happen to have six or seven such job ads sitting on my desk right now. But do I want an 8-to-5 job? What to do? What to do?

Damn you, Blogger beta!

No, I haven't switched over yet.

But for those bloggers who have made the switch to Blogger beta: your feeds no longer work in Bloglines, even when I unsubscribed and resubscribed to them. I can't even bring them up in Bloglines by using the "past week" or "past month" feature--I have to click on over to the actual blog.

This is fine, of course, with one or two blogs. But every day the number of Blogger beta adopters increases.

Anyone have a workaround to this problem? (I'm looking at you, Julie.)

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Random bullets of what-have-you

  • Where Lucas is concerned, Mr. Trillwing likes a clean nostril.
  • Course description for one of my fall courses: What can we say about a decade that saw the blossoming of both automated kitchen appliances and the military-industrial complex? Throw in racial segregation, juvenile delinquency films, and anxieties about nuclear holocaust, and you’ve got a recipe for a very interesting Tupperware party. This course explores the material culture, literature, neuroses, media, and anxieties of 1950s America.
  • Lucas likes to draw on his Magnadoodle. Right now he's ambidextrous, with a slight preference for the left hand. Please, please let my child have a well-developed right brain hemisphere. If he's left-brained, Mr. Trillwing and I will not be able to communicate with him at all.
  • Lucas also enjoys playing with his little wooden train set. Best of all: track destruction that would make any U.S. Civil War general proud.
  • Luke's fine motor skills are, I think, exceptional. But baby signs? Walking? Drinking from a sippy cup? Not so much. We went to a playgroup last week where the kids his age (and some younger) were toddling, signing, and drinking from cups. I know all kids develop at their own pace, but playgroups aren't the best place for Lucas to showcase his mad fine motor skillz.
  • I'm going a little bit crazy about not knowing where I'll be (professionally or geographically) in a year. Major concerns:
a) Urge to fulfill my destiny by casting myself onto the academic job market in the interdisciplinary humanities.
b) Fierceness of said job market.
c) Desire to work from home, and especially to nap at 2 p.m.
d) Increasingly strong entrepreneurial streak, coupled with desire to work in museum/public history field.
e) Heartfelt longing to never, ever again grade 50-100 mediocre papers at once.
f) Desire to have weekends and evenings free for family time.
g) Yearning to be near family 400 miles south of here.
h) Growing love for my little university town and its damn fine public school system.
Yeah, figure that one out.

  • I didn't get the job for which I bought the million-dollar interview suit. I figured as much, of course. I don't yet know who won the job--I think they may be conducting another round of interviews. My own interview panels went about as I expected, with me answering (I think) questions about public history, museums, and the democratization of knowledge with my usual blend of academic insight and humor. Unfortunately, I had to answer such questions as, "Tell us about a time you constructed a world-class archives facility on a floodplain" with blank stares. And since the position is located at the city-county archives, well. . .you do the math.
  • Pursuant to my job angst, I've been listening to a lot of small business podcasts and practically cyberstalking Chris Brogan, who is establishing a series of new media channels. His enthusiasm for this technology and for crafting a meaningful life is infectious, and his success thus far is inspiring.
  • I declined the opportunity I mentioned earlier to write for a major blog network. I want/need to freelance a bit, but the subject matter was outside of museums/public history. I've realized it's in my nature to multitask, so trimming obligations won't necessarily make me more productive. Instead of trying to cut down on obligations, I'm going to focus them all on my favorite fields.
  • Exercising is not happening. Tomorrow I hope to get my two flat bike tires fixed--they cracked during that nasty July heat wave. Then I can bike into school four days a week, encumbered by backpack and laptop, dodging fallen black walnuts and fighting headwinds both morning and afternoon.
  • I've realized I'm not good at changing my diet. That means I need to exercise to lose these 20 pounds. Ugh.
  • On September 30, in order to raise money for prostate cancer research, my ridiculously fit little sister is undergoing what she calls a "crueling" workout titled "Fight Gone Bad." She writes that
Fight Gone Bad will include 55 lb push presses and high pulls, 14 lb wall ball and 20" box jumps (basically until I collapse-see Crossfit for pictures, video and more information).
If you have $5 or $10 or more to spare, might you consider supporting prostate research by contributing to her goal at this link. Thanks for your consideration! (If nothing else, click on over to see how frightfully photogenic she is.)

Saturday, September 23, 2006

A must-read

If you haven't read Limon de Campo's post Banana Land, you absolutely must.

I'm afraid I don't have any weirdo student stories to share at this point. In fact, I don't think I've had a truly weird student for several years. A bit eccentric, yes. Flat-out weird, no. One student who sticks out in my memory is the one who didn't know his own phone number.

Not so much weird as clueless and ignorant: An African-American friend of mine once had a student come to her office hours to ask her, "So, what's up with black people and watermelon?"

I'm in the mood for weird student anecdotes. Feel free to share them in the comments.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Identity whiplash--and trailing spouses

This morning I sat on a panel on work-life balance for new grad student orientation week. To my right was a 2004 ecology graduate who decided he'd rather not teach or conduct research and thus went into student services instead. To my left was a 3rd-year student (in ecology as well?) who had just completed an Ironman triathlon. To her left was--and this is the kicker--my former therapist from student counseling and psychological services. Ha!

I was on the panel because I had a baby and finished a dissertation in the same year. However, since the guy in student services talked about being married to a grad student, I talked a bit about being married to someone who is decidedly NOT a graduate student. In case you're unaware of it, Mr. Trillwing has only a high school education; he took one semester of college before realizing it wasn't really his scene. I've thought a lot about what it means to be the trailing spouse to a graduate student (a sad role, isn't it?). Mr. Trillwing is an intensely bright man and a creative spirit, and over the past few years, I think he's come to feel others (and maybe me) see his work as less valuable than mine. I believe he's doing important work, but it's tough to tell others about it because he sees many of his projects as for private consumption only, even though he's an amazing writer. His last project was a 900-page screenplay on the 18th dynasty in ancient Egypt, and one of his current projects involves Captain America; the other is under wraps, though I will say it involves Jesus. Mr. Trillwing, he likes the epics. I'm glad to be finished with my dissertation so that we can prioritize his creative efforts and time.

Anyway, from the panel I scurried over to another part of campus to catch the last couple of hours of an American Studies faculty retreat. The faculty were talking about pedagogy, current classes and new ones. It was all really quite interesting, but what stuck with me was the chair's lament that the English department here rarely offers lower-division American lit surveys and that the American Studies majors aren't reading enough American literature. Accordingly, I've spent part of this evening rethinking my syllabus for this fall's intro class. Looks like my students will get to experience a bit o' 19th- and 20th-century American poetry as well as some other "classic" texts. John Winthrop, anyone? I'm all about the Puritans.

The faculty retreat helped me realize that although I've been teaching my own courses (as well as TAing) since 1999, I'm finally making the transition in others' eyes to professional status. Making this transition awkward is that good friends from my graduate program will be my TAs this coming year. Even more awkward? As I contemplated this today, one of my fall quarter TAs was babysitting my son (paid work, of course!).

I always understood why humanities programs don't tend to hire their own graduates--intellectual incest and all--but it's just now hitting me that the boundary between the personal and the professional, which has always seemed blurred to me in academia, is particularly troubled when one hangs around for an extra year or two.

What about you? What were your experiences negotiating this transition, if you've made it? And how many of you are in relationships with other academics, and how many are married to/partnered with people outside the academy? How does this affect your relationships?

Where there's smoke, there's. . .no news?

UPDATE: There are not one, not two, not three, but FOUR fires in the county, totaling more than 5,500 acres. And the winds are gusting at 50 mph. Ick.

So much for 24-hour news.

I've been smelling smoke all night, a pleasant aromatic smoke carried on strong winds. Eventually, though, it became too strong and carried on too long for us to ignore, so at 4:20 a.m. Mr. Trillwing and I went outside to investigate.

And holy hell, it appears the world has burned up. The air is dingy. The lights in the parking lot reveal thick white smoke. It was hard to breathe, and ash clotted in my eyes. After one minute outdoors, I'm still laboring a bit for breath.

So Mr. Trillwing turns on the TV, and I start checking all the news sites. Nada.

We closed the bedroom window (the only open window), and yet everything in the apartment, especially the bedroom, smells of smoke.

It's going to be a great day.

How are things where you are?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Life overhaul, 2006-2007

Ever feel as if you just have too much stuff--be it physical, emotional, mental, or whatever? That's where I've been for many months. There's a reason, after all, this blog is called The Clutter Museum.

I'm not by nature a physical clutterer, although I am definitely a paper piler. But I carry with me a lot of mental clutter brought on by too many projects and too many small- to medium-sized obligations. In the coming months, I'm going to be assessing, sometimes in this space and sometimes privately, how important these obligations remain to me, and then I'm going to shed as many of them as possible.

A major problem: I'm spending way too much time on my computer. The reasons for this have included:

The dissertation: But no more! Ha! Until I need to transform it into a book proposal, it won't be appearing on my Mac's desktop.

Job application season: Jobs to find, hiring committees to stalk, letters to write.

Teaching: My students blogged this quarter. I wasn't nearly as good as I had intended to be about keeping up with all their posts. Fortunately, my reader was able to take up that responsibility for me. And of course, ongoing planning for fall and winter quarter classes will keep me at my desk quite a bit.

BlogHer: My responsibilities for BlogHer are weighing on me. I believe very strongly in the BlogHer mission, but my beat requires me to follow about 250 academic bloghers' RSS feeds, as well as keep the Research & Academia blogroll updated. I haven't been nearly as good an editor as I should be, and I'm vowing to redouble (literally) my posting to the site. Still, that's a lot of Bloglines time, and it feels overwhelming. Definite mental clutter.

Another blog thing: I've also applied to be a blogger for another channel, and my application was accepted. I'm not supposed to announce it yet, and it's nothing big, really, but it's a nice freelancing opportunity. Although I haven't posted to it for awhile because the dissertation was a priority, this pet project means a lot to me, so I'd like to keep it up.

In addition, the dissertation interrupted one hobby of mine, model horse collecting and customizing (strange but true!), that has allowed me to meet many interesting people and that has inspired my next book project. I'd like to start playing with the little horsies again, as well as engage more meaningfully with the large community of model horse folks.

I also would like to write more, in an academic sense, about scrapbooking, but my interest in the actual scrapbooking has waned. Which kind of sucks because in my short run at scrapbooking, I managed to accrue a lot of supplies. Perhaps once the job search season is over, I'll feel more inclined to reopen the albums.

Finally, there's other crafty goodness. First, my friend Innisfree has been kind enough to teach me how to knit, and she promises to show me how to purl as well. I'm starting out with a simple scarf knitted from a single type of fiber, yet I'm managing to mess it up pretty damn well (no fault of Innisfree's, I assure you--this mess is entirely trillwing's). Second, I bought a sewing machine a few months back, and I'd really like to learn to use it and make a few simple crafty things, maybe some plush animals for Lucas.

So, to summarize: Four blogs, four hobbies, four courses to teach this year, several dozen job applications, a dissertation to revise into a book, a journal article that has been in revise & resubmit limbo for way too long, and, oh yes, those little things known as marriage and motherhood.

Obviously, I have too many commitments. I need to simplify, as the mental clutter has quickly expanded into physical disarray: a messy desk and an office piled with paper and boxes, rooms that don't get nearly the housekeeping attention they deserve, a laundry crisis every couple of weeks.

I have a pretty objective perspective on all this stuff, and it's clear to me what needs to go, but I'm not yet ready to give it up, as I do enjoy a lot of it. Still, my goals are simple. By the end of this coming school year (June 2007), I want to:
  • have more time for Lucas and Mr. Trillwing. This is of paramount importance.
  • have a job. I'm hoping it will be academic in nature. My second choice is either a museum management-level position or a combination of freelance writing and museum consulting that lets me be a WAHM.
  • be well on the way to academic publication. I haven't emphasized this aspect of my nascent academic career nearly enough.
  • pare myself down to two hobbies, plus blogging. And get the damn blogging under control.

Anyhow, while not the most interesting of posts, this has been a good exercise for me in clarifying what I want to accomplish. I've started this evening with a major apartment cleaning that I'll continue in odd hours throughout this already busy week. It already feels cleaner, and that helps me be less scatter-brained.

What about you? What are your plans for the next 9-12 months?

Mr. Trillwing cracks me up

From the end of an e-mail he sent to me this morning:

Thanks Honey
Sorry again about everything involving me being me

God, do I ever love that man.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Again with the 2 a.m.

. . .and the 11:14 p.m., and the 11:48 p.m., and the 12:10 a.m., and the 1:18 a.m. In these terms, you could say Lucas is a morning person.

The dog is not appreciating being chased by a crawling babe at 1:49 a.m. And yet we are up.

Lucas does not want to sleep anywhere but next to me in our bed. Mr. Trillwing can't sleep under these circumstances because Luke flails.

Mr. Trillwing needs sleep. And, in the hopes of letting me get the most sleep possible before my job interview, he spent last night on the couch while Luke slept/flailed next to me.

So tonight we've been taking turns with the little guy. It's my turn again. Ten minutes ago I noticed Luke has a fever, to the tune of 102.3. So I administered acetominophen. And now he's pushing his Elmo monster truck and making car noises. (I've learned, BTW, that little boys come hard-wired with, as no one has ever taught him to make such noises.) So I'm guessing the fever has gone down.

I've tried to explain to Luke that he's a year old and that, like a big boy, he needs to sleep in his crib.* He's not buying that argument.

Mr. Trillwing has twice now shouted "Fireplacer!" at the boy. From behind the bedroom door: "Fireplacer!"

I don't know what the fireplace we're going to do.

Damn. Luke just pulled himself up next to me, and he's still burning up.

*What does one do when one's one-year-old is already 32 inches tall,** and the baby books and crib manuals declare that no child over 35 inches tall should remain in a crib because he could fall out of it? I mean, it's not like Luke's going to climb down safely from his crib after leaning too far over the railing; he can't even walk yet because hey, it's much more efficient to chase the dog on all fours. And I'm not about to put him in a twin bed, even with rails on it, 'cause he wouldn't stay in it.

**Have I mentioned that at Luke's 12-month well-baby check up, he surpassed the 95th percentile for height but was in the middle of the pack for weight? I've taken to calling him "Stretch."

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Suiting up

Today's the big interview day. Yesterday was interesting and kind of fun, despite the fact that I spent seven hours or so with my competition for The Big Job.

First event at the rendezvous site was the information that the tour would be 5-6 hours long, not the two one of the (very mistaken) people who set up the interview told me it would be. So I called up the fabulous administrative person for my department, who delivered copies of the final exams to my students, who I imagine were delighted with the news that instead of taking a two-hour bluebook exam, would be allowed to e-mail me their responses within an eight-hour timeframe. Yay for adminstrative assistants! Ours ROCKS.

Once I had put out that fire, we took a tour of a few of the facilities related to the job. First stop was the fantabulous Historic City Cemetery, which has murder, suicide, and scandal, er, planted everywhere, as well as some kickass tombstones that are much older than most in this state. (Yes, Jeff, I know we have nothing on Matherworlde.) Bonus: Alexander Hamilton's son is buried there, as well as a couple veterans of the war of 1812. Old stuff for these parts!

Second stop was lunch at a really nice restaurant I had never heard of. Yummy Mediterranean vegetable ravioli!

Third stop was a 28-acre National Register of Historic Places site that's also a major retail site. One challenge of the job is apparently keeping all the property owners and merchants in line with the historic guidelines. Sign ordinance angst, anyone?

Fourth stop was the history museum in this same place. It's in need of renovation; it feels a bit schizophrenic, but it has a lot of promise, and its outreach programs look solid.

Fifth stop, after a couple hours' break, was dinner at Trendy Asian Bistro. We met with Director of Important Department, the nominal supervisor for the position, and County Guy who's feeling angsty over the current county strike because he's at heart a union man but for now is just The Man. Dinner was pleasant.

It's clear (which I figured even before I met my competition) that I'm not the frontrunner. There's an inside candidate who has worked directly under the incumbent for a decade, as well as an outside candidate who has known, and worked on several occasions with, the incumbent for many years.

Accordingly, I'm going to go in today, write my response to the given scenario, and place myself before the TWO interview panels (a total of 11 people), but with no real expectation of success. I figure I have an inch-high stack of academic positions to apply for before I get desperate.

Still, I would LOVE to have this job. We walked into the storage facility for the city archives yesterday and they have a massive collection of stuff as well, everything from a Victorian hallstand to an entire apartment from a demolished building--from its floor tiles to its kitchen sink to its Murphy bed. I couldn't wipe the dorky, open-mouthed smile off my face. They also have a 150-year-old giant grasshopper marinating in alcohol. They said that was their most unusual object. It was, of course, my favorite. Their collection of signs was pretty impressive, too. Yes, I'm a total whore for material culture. Hello, my name is trillwing, and I want to be a public historian.

I'm donning my million-dollar suit from Nordstrom--I'll get Mr. Trillwing to take a photo and I'll post it later.

Then home again to finish grading. Back to real life!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Big day(s) ahead

9:00 a.m.: leave apartment and drive into neighboring city.

9:35 a.m.: drop off random documents for Mr. Trillwing.

9:50: park car in light industrial office park. Take several deep breaths.

10:00 a.m.: begin bus tour of facilities related to job for which I'm interviewing. Other candidates will be aboard. Stops to include, I believe, the old city cemetery as well as other historic sites.

1 p.m.(ish): return home; change into clothes for evening interview activity.

2:00 p.m.: administer final exam for summer session II course. Spend the two hours of the exam finishing up grading student work.

4:00 p.m.: conclude exam and drive back into neighboring city.

5:30 p.m.: dinner with other job candidates, prospective supervisor (director of important city department), and "other key decision makers."

later that evening: return home, dive into books on regional history to prep for next day's interview, which consists of a written exercise, presentation of exercise to first panel, then a second interview panel.

I'm actually very excited about all this.

Current nagging thought: Where are those nylons that approximate my skin tone? Grrrrr.

Monday, September 11, 2006


You know, everyone told me turning in the dissertation would be anticlimactic, but I haven't found it so. I'm enjoying this time.

In my final week of dissertation work, my worry was not so much an impending emotional let-down. Instead, I figured my post-dissertation days would usher in a series of illnesses the likes of which I haven't seen for awhile. See, when I relax after great stress, it's as if my immune system runs up a white flag and throws open its borders.

So tonight it hit. Let's call this Round 1 in what I'm sure will be a knock-trillwing-down, drag-'er-out fight. I'm feeling. . . I dunno. It's kind of a cross between morning sickness and stomach flu, with a bit of flashy vision stuff thrown in for good measure.

In other words, I'm feeling thyroidy--both hyper- and hypothyroid, if that makes any sense at all. See, I've been both.

Good times. Good times.

Of course, I promised my students I'd have grades posted by 10 p.m. That's not going to happen, as I'm going to bed soon as I finish typing this.

Bastard immune system. It probably resents me for believing it works in the cuddly "Danger Model" proposed by Polly Matzinger, in which newcomers to the system are allowed to hang out until they pose a danger. You know, a community-based model instead of a shoot-'em-up, Atari version with little T-cell spaceships like they used to print in TIME magazine in the late 80s when they were trying to explain AIDS. My immune system prefers, I think, the sci-fi model and resents my feminist intrusion.

Yep. Definitely losing my sharpness of mind. Time to sleep!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Turned it in

Turned in the diss, finally.*

* This post is brought to you by:
  • the workhorse Epson C82 printer
  • Epson print cartridges
  • Southworth Credentials Collection Diamond White paper (20 lb., 25% cotton bond, acid- and lignin-free)
  • Apple's iBook G4
. . .and by the letters P, H, and D.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Random thoughts o' 3 a.m.

This time last year I was still riding the epidural. The midwife would turn it down around 11 a.m., a half hour into pushing.

Three hours into pushing, with the epidural completely off and me pretty much exhausted, she asked, "Do you want this baby? Do you want this baby?"

At that point, I wasn't so sure.

* * *

I had no idea what I was up against. Do any new parents?

Right now it's Lucas's birthday, 3:24 a.m. He's in his high chair, eating a piece of wheat bread.

Yeah, I know.

* * *

Fang Bastardson has a nice piece on surviving the first year of parenthood.

His diaper-changing breathing trick really works, if you can master it.

* * *

Today's to-do list:
  • laundry
  • groceries
  • belated birthday gift for Grandma (yeah, I know)
  • pay bills
  • grade papers
  • bake/frost cake
  • make living room presentable for Luke's little party
  • prep for tomorrow's class (100 pages to read)
  • write final exam questions
  • come up with next student blog assignment
  • photocopy dissertation and title page
  • pack for trip to see my parents
  • order action figure variants for Mr. Trillwing
  • write 2-3 job letters
Piece of cake, eh?

* * *

Have I mentioned it's 3:30 a.m.? Luke and I have been up since 2 a.m.

I'm tired. Luke is tired but doesn't get that being tired means he should sleep.

Welcome to toddlerhood.

Monday, September 04, 2006

I mean, damn.

It is finished.

Mr. Trillwing is weeping.

(Printing shall commence tomorrow morning, during which time everyone is invited for margaritas.)

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Dissertation abstract

For the curious:

To Study, to Control, and to Love: Women Scientists in American Natural History Institutions, 1880-1950

Between 1880 and 1950, women entered American natural history institutions in significant numbers. In herbaria, natural history museums, arboreta, botanical gardens, and related institutions, women participated as patrons, curators, volunteers, club members, and in other significant roles. In fact, women managed collections and held high-ranking curatorial positions for several decades at institutions across the United States. However, despite their success, these women’s contributions are largely absent from the historiography of science and completely absent from science studies scholarship.

This dissertation does not merely recuperate and celebrate their lives, but rather uncovers patterns and discontinuities in their experiences as naturalists. Their experiences, taken collectively, provide us with a new context in which to comprehend the processes by which people came to understand varieties of “science” and the dissemination of scientific knowledge at the end of the nineteenth and during the first half of the twentieth century. These women found themselves ensconced in a matrix not only of research scientists, but of interested laypeople and supporters. Their founding of and participation in a broad spectrum of organizations provided the women with new spaces to showcase their expertise and, by extension, to recruit more women to pursue or otherwise support natural science.

Although most of the scientists discussed in this study were successful when measured by the standards of their disciplines, I argue that their greatest long-term contributions to science may have occurred outside the walls of their institutions. These women’s disciplinary contributions are eclipsed by their success in democratizing science through outreach activities. In spaces outside the museum, the women were allowed to experiment with the full range of their humanity, acting as both women and scientists in ways they may not have been allowed to do so inside their museums. In their lasting contributions to science—namely in their dedication to increasing the public understanding of science—women scientists were often more successful as women scientists rather than as women scientists.

Bloggy addendum

The primary women discussed in this dissertation include:
  • California Academy of Sciences botanist Alice Eastwood
  • Smithsonian carcinologist Mary Jane Rathbun
  • Freelance naturalist and taxidermist Martha Maxwell
  • Smithsonian agrostologist Agnes Chase
  • Smithsonian herpetologist Doris Mable Cochran
  • Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden founder Susana Bixby Bryant
  • Field collector and UC Berkeley museum founded Annie Alexander
  • San Diego Zoo director Belle Benchley

Women I hope to consider in the near future:
  • California Academy of Sciences ichthyologist Rosa Smith Eigenmann
  • California Academy of Sciences botanist Katharine Brandegee
  • Smithsonian entomologist Doris Holmes Blake
  • Smithsonian mammalogist Viola Schantz
  • Entrepreneurial collector Ynes Mexia
  • and many, many others

BTW, if you're interested in women in museums, you should also check out the blog The Museum Detective. Good stuff there!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

A year ago: Labor Day(s) weekend

There were tomatoes spilled at the sides of the highways.

New Orleans was flooded.

I went into labor on Friday. Luke wouldn't be born until Monday.

Little bastard.

Random Bullets of Huh-Huh-Huh--with BONUS questions about teaching and dissertation printing

"Huh-huh-huh"--spoken in triplet rhythm--was my late grandfather's way of saying "dog crap." For example, gesturing at the grass: "Watch out for the huh-huh-huh."

On dissertating:
  • The dissertation is complete except for the bibliography and abstract. The abstract is killing me. After writing 230 pages, I can't pull together 350 words. Why is that?
  • My university requires us to fill out approximately 456 forms to turn in with the dissertation. Again, I ask, why?
  • Writing the acknowledgements section was anticlimactic.
  • Any advice on ordering bound dissertations? The ones from UMI are damn expensive and not terribly attractive. Should I just get bound copies elsewhere? Maybe do a private printing at Lulu?
On childrearing:
  • Lucas is almost walking.
  • Lucas loves to play with sunlight and shadow.
  • Lucas is babbling almost nonstop. It cracks me up, his constant commentary.
On teaching:
  • It's tough to teach an intro American Studies class in only 10 class meetings. Don't try it at home.
  • I'm relieved that in the fall when I teach this course again, I'll have 20 class meetings, plus TA sections.
  • I'm regretting ordering 40 copies of Starship Troopers for my 1950s class without first reading the novel. Analyses of it made it sound so cool, and now. . . Well, now I have a book I don't think most students will read. But forge on I will! Oh yes, I will punish them as I am punishing myself by reading every. single. word. of the Heinlein masterpiece.
  • Also on the docket for the 1950s course: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, Betty Friedan's Feminine Mystique, and Holy Land by D. J. Waldie. Any suggestions on what I should lecture on to supplement these books, besides suburbs, housewives, and African Americans? Also: How difficult do you think it would be for my students to find women who were 18 years old by, say, 1955? I'd like them to interview such women after reading Friedan's book.
On Nordstrom (aka "Bait and Switch"):
  • Looking for a suit or two for my two-day, three-part job interview, I first went into Macy's, but their suit selection was craptastic, so I ventured into Nordstrom.
  • I was checking out a nice jacket/slacks pairing when the salesperson approached me to help. She ushered me into the dressing room with the $400 worth of clothes I had chosen--jacket, pants, blouse.
  • The pants didn't fit, and they didn't have any others my size.
  • Saleswoman returned with a couple of gorgeous suits. One of them fit beautifully, as if the jacket had been tailored to fit me.
  • I checked the price tags and just about fainted.
  • I asked myself: "Sofa or suit?" Job interview won out over living room.
  • Bought shoes to match suit, had pants tailored--for the first time in my life--to fit. Because I paid full price for the clothes, tailoring was free, thank FSM.
On the upcoming job interview:

Day 1:
  • Part I : bus tour of historic sites in the city--with other job candidates.
  • Part II: dinner with director of leisure bureau--and other job candidates.
Day 2:
  • Part III: writing test.
  • Part IV: presentation of written material to interview panel #1.
  • Part V: interview by panel #2.
  • Part VI: trillwing goes home and faints (after carefully hanging up ridiculously expensive suit).
On local warming:
  • Our energy bill for August was half the amount of July's.
  • July sucked.
That is all.