Friday, February 26, 2010

Reader, I married him--here's why

If you're not reading Fang's Forum, you're really missing out on some great writing.

Some favorite quips from recent blog posts:

On music videos by Croatia's Johnny Cash: "They could have been shot by Matthew Brady 150 years ago if Brady made music videos instead of battlefield corpsescapes."

On Johnny Cash's American VI: "Only Cash could sing the words, 'Oh Death, where is thy sting?' not as self-pity or a brash challenge, but rather as a teasing lover to a would-be paramour. Cheeky and cool."

From Dear Tiger Woods": "Great speech. I wonder if Chris Matthews forgot you were black for a while."

Experiencing Mountain Dew: "like drinking a sweetened industrial solvent."

On our impending move to another university town: "I keep trying for a passable brave face for her, but all I’ve come up with so far is a perfectly-realized petulant sulk."

Living with Fang keeps me humble about all those expensive degrees I spent a dozen years pursuing. Dude can write circles around me, and his only diploma is from Amphitheater High School in Tucson, Arizona.

Go check him out. And then offer him a job, 'cause we need to get the man some bifocals:

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Turning the ship

As regular readers know, I grew up in Long Beach, California, home to one of the largest ports in the U.S. and to a number of offshore oil platforms and oil islands.

Long Beach horizon, looking southwest, Christmas Day, 2009,
with ships, oil islands,
breakwater, the cranes of the Port of Long Beach,
smog obscuring Catalina Island. Isn't it lovely?

Accordingly, oil freighters were a common sight on the horizon, and I learned early on that the less oil on board, the higher the tanker rode in the water and the more I could see of the broad red stripe on its hull.

Friends, my ship is full. I'm weighted down—with good things and bad things, terrific opportunities and terrible challenges—so much that the red stripe is completely submerged.

Shall we review?

First, the job.

I don't think I can sufficiently express how awesome this particular new job promises to be, and how grateful I am for the opportunity and for the support my excellent new colleagues continue to show me.

Because—and this bears repeating—it is a tenure-track job. In history. In one of the crappiest years for history jobs in quite some time.

And I don't have a degree--any degree--in history. I mean, I'm an historian, but I didn't arrive here via the usual route. So while this new position is very much what I've wanted for longer than I care to admit, I'm still a bit surprised because, you know, after so many years on the academic job market, one gets more than a little beaten down.

Second, moving.

We'll move in late July or early August. I don't know yet when we'll fly up to look for a house to rent; in my current burb, the leasing market for the fall begins in January (yes, you read that correctly), but Craigslist has plenty of affordable, decent-looking housing available immediately in the new city, so I'm guessing we'd only be wasting time and money if we flew up there this week to try to secure housing for late summer. We also need to find a preschool. My new colleagues have been awesome, offering me temporary housing and cars and assistance finding schools, which is a huge relief.

Yet there's all the stuff that's attendant with moving: turning utilities on and off, figuring out internet and TV service, convincing potential landlords that a big dog isn't necessarily a liability, finding enough boxes and packing supplies, weeding out old crap we should have tossed years ago, holding a yard sale. It's all in the service of an exciting new chapter in my life, but the road there is still a bit too long and rough for my liking.

Plus, as my peripatetic blog readers know, moving is difficult emotionally. I've lived in this town for a decade, nine of those years in my latest stint here with Fang. Lucas was born here. I have made some very close friends here, and although I've become used to the comings and goings of friends and colleagues in a university town, I had begun to assume that we'd be here for quite a while longer. So I'm in the process of detaching myself from the town, while promising that I'll keep in touch with friends.

Third, Fang's job.

This morning Fang learned that a newspaper that provides more than half his income has been sold. Everyone was let go today, and the publisher didn't even bother to call Fang to let him know--Fang heard through the previous publisher, who was busy extricating herself from the last little legal connections she had to the business. His coworkers who live and work in the town where the newspaper is located were fired by voicemail or learned the paper had been sold when they showed up for work and saw the furniture being removed from the office.

Need I point out that we have some moving expenses coming up? Sure, the new university covers much of the household moving expenses, but there's a lot of other stuff for which we'll be footing the bill.

Fourth. . .so much more.

I could write so much more, but I'm going to stop here before I feel too defeated by the stress of a couple class preps in a discipline in which I've never taught, diving back into research, keeping up my energy in my current job, planning a 600-mile move, scraping together some additional freelance income for Fang and me because I'm furloughed and he's half-jobless, and and and.

Because really, on the whole, I'm crazy excited and optimistic when I think on the scale of months and years. But days and weeks? Those are hard right now.

As I said, my ship is very full. It's going to take some time to slow it down enough to make a significant change in heading.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Offered the job!

In case you don't follow me on Twitter or Facebook, here's the news: I was offered the history professor job yesterday afternoon. I'm planning to accept it, but I'm still in negotiations, so I'm not going to blog any more about it right now.

I am so thrilled!



Accepted the offer! (I was instructed by my new department chair to update this blog posthaste. Ha!)

Monday, February 15, 2010


Well, the search committee for the gender/public history position has made its decision and forwarded one candidate's name to the dean, provost, president, HR, etc. Which means waiting. . . for not too long, I hope.

I'm not one to obsess, really, but sometimes the not-obsessing becomes obsessive in that the compartmentalizing of thought takes too much effort. So while I've spent this long weekend building robots from Tinkertoys, cleaning house, making Play-Doh pancakes, cooking (raspberry crepes this morning!), walking, sketching on the computer, playing that damned Echo Bazaar, editing Fang's manuscript, prepping tax materials for our agent, enjoying a luxuriously long lunch with a good friend, and taking Lucas to the park, a fog of what-if has been seeping through the cracks in the walls of my willpower to not. obsess. about. it.

Meanwhile, I've let myself reread a few of the kind (and even enthusiastic) e-mails I received in response to the thank-you notes I sent to the department faculty who participated in the on-campus interview. I'm confident I impressed a couple folks mightily, but in the end it's a matter of "fit" and department consensus, which is something out of my control.

If nothing else, the campus visit refocused and reinvigorated me intellectually. I wrote in a previous blog post that I felt more authentically myself there, talking about research and teaching and public history, than I do in my actual job. It was a pleasant passage, though to where, I don't yet know.

It brings to mind some of my favorite lines by Seamus Heaney, from section XII of his poem "Station Island." In this section, James Joyce is advising the poet, who has just completed a pilgrimmage to Station Island:

...'Your obligation
is not discharged by any common rite,
What you do you must do on your own.

The main thing is to write
for the joy of it. Cultivate a work-lust
that imagines its haven like your hands at night

dreaming the sun in the sunspot of a breast.
You are fasted now, light-headed, dangerous.
Take off from here. And don't be so earnest,

so ready for the sackcloth and the ashes.
Let go, let fly, forget.
You've listened long enough. Now strike your note.'

It was as if I had stepped free into space
alone with nothing that I had not known
already. . .

In other news, I'm anticipating spring. Today was warm enough for me to bike downtown for lunch in short sleeves. Yay! I'm also keeping close watch on tree branches. Here's a couple shots from my iPhone. The first is on my current campus, out on the student farm at dusk. The second is from my neighborhood, and I love how there's a bit of fall, winter, and spring bundled together in the twigs and sprigs.

What are you waiting for?

Saturday, February 06, 2010

A virtual visit with my grandfather's brother

I'm mostly posting this for family, who seem to have an easier time finding my blog than they do anything on YouTube, but I'll provide some context anyway:

My mom's cousin, Ian Lind, just posted this video of his father, John Lind, whom I mentioned on this blog three years ago. My great-uncle John is suffering from Alzheimer's, and apparently this visit to John's nursing home was one of the better ones in a while.

It's fun seeing John talk, even in his illness, because he reminds me so much of my late grandfather, his younger brother, who passed away in 1991 when I wasn't yet 16.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I've inherited the gene that keeps hair from going gray. John is 96 and still hasn't gone gray. I remember how fantastic he looked when he visited Long Beach for his 60th high school reunion, and how he complained that all his old girlfriends had somehow become old.

As I understand it, John was kind of central to the multicultural Hawaiian surfing scene in the mid-twentieth century. If you're interested in surfing history, definitely check out the John Lind collection at Ian's blog.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Campus interview update

You know how everyone says that when you return from an on-campus interview, you'll feel as if you've been hit by a truck?

They're absolutely right. I am beyond worn out.

That said, I had a delightful trip. I felt more authentically myself there, talking about research and teaching and public history, than I do in my actual job. I'm sure those of you who work as staff members in higher ed know the feeling; it's similar to what I've experienced at really terrific conferences on learning, and it comes not just from intellectual engagement and the excitement of new possibilities, but from receiving a greater than usual amount of respect.

I really liked the history faculty I met, and I was impressed by their collegiality and by both their academic and public scholarship. They were generous with their time and candid about the university and the city.

I also really liked the students I met, both in the classroom and in a private chat I had with a handful of them on my last day there.

The teaching talk went OK--it wasn't my best day, but not my worst by any means, either--and the faculty seemed to appreciate my research talk. They asked really thoughtful questions, ones that were challenging rather than intimidating.

One downside: It would be a major pay cut, and the cost of living isn't really low enough to offset the difference.

I had a ton of great conversations with a lot of really interesting people, and the city, while significantly more isolated than any city I've lived in, is self-contained. The word everyone kept using to describe it? Convenient. I don't know if that sums up everything I'm looking for in a city, but I was interested to learn about the interfaith and human rights campaigns in the city. There's a little white supremacy presence in another part of the state, and the occasional intrusion of Aryans into the city has fortified the citizens' commitments to civil and human rights. Now if only the rest of the (very red) state would join them, and pass legislation in support of GLBT folks. . .

But I digress.

The campus's teaching center is not to be believed. It's a young center, but oh. my. god. It's physically lovely and spacious, and its programs seem to be first-rate. While we're cutting programs due to budget cuts and layoffs, they're growing their outreach efforts. While we're moving our teaching center into a windowless cube farm, they're in their campus's newest building, in a space filled with natural light and comfy, welcoming furniture. It was inspiring and depressing all at once.

Anyway, the history department is interviewing two more candidates. Overall, I think I made a good impression, but I understand departments' decisions are driven by a number of factors. Still, I'd be delighted to be offered the job, and I should hear back within another week or so. I'll keep you posted. Kindly keep your fingers crossed for me.