Frogs and Ravens 1.0

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Wednesday, July 30, 2003

And We're Outta Here!  

Well, they say that human beings became bipeds in order to be able to carry things. If so, I and my parents have fulfilled our evolutionary destiny today. What a lot of boxes!

No blogging for a while -- we've got to get a U-Haul to California, unload it, visit the Pacific Northwest and return to California. Hence, blogging will be light at best, absent at worst. Have fun while I'm gone!

posted by Rana | 7/30/2003 07:34:00 PM Permalink

Monday, July 28, 2003

Packing as a Way of Determining Value  

I swear, my possessions are breeding in the corners when I'm not looking. How else can I explain the fact that I've been packing fairly steadily the last few days, the boxes of neatly packed and labeled things are becoming more numerous, the number of to-dos checked off the list is growing -- and it still looks like I haven't done anything!

(Voice of reason: That is because now you're packing things that have been hidden away in cupboards and there is lots of trash strewn about. Voice of hyperbolic ranting: Shut up.)

Ahem. Back on topic.

If you ever wondered how much you value your possessions, packing is a good way to judge. When you have lovingly swaddled a fragile glass globe into a box (labeled FRAGILE! DON'T DROP! DON'T CRUSH!) and kept it intact through several moves, you can safely figure that it is worth something to you. (Indeed, the act of caring so protectively for it may well temporarily increase its value.) When you spend a lot of time hunting for the right box to hold That Possession and for bubble wrap to protect it (drawing from one's carefully horded stash of used bubble wrap and packing peanuts), again, you can figure that in some way it is important to you.

On the other hand, the things that you look at and say "Okay, I can't make it fit in this box. Oh, well, I'll just donate it to Goodwill" or "Yech! Pitch!" have been clearly deemed Not Worth My Time (or Space).

Packing through several moves also lets you track how your values change -- that treasured something later inspires "Why did I pack this last time?" or "Okay, I have two of these now. How many do I really need?"

And on the meta-level, one wonders whether possessions are important at all, and if so, which ones and why. (Filling out a renter's insurance form can produce this state, too -- "If my house was on fire, what would I grab?"

Stuff, stuff, stuff. Someone once said that life consists entirely of moving dust from one place to another. Sounds about right.

posted by Rana | 7/28/2003 01:18:00 PM Permalink

Sunday, July 27, 2003

Slow on the Uptake  

Let's see. The past week I've been distracted, anxious, fretful, angry and unfocused. I've felt hot, flitty and frustrated.

Why? Well, the most immediate and obvious answers are (1) I'm moving and (2) it's been hot and humid.

That's not the whole story, though. I've been reading a book called Yoga for Your Type which talks about suiting one's yoga practice to your ayurvedic type. I waffle between being Vata (air -- intellectual, nervous, skinny) and Pitta (fire -- energetic, emotional, average). In ayurveda, this means that I have tendencies toward disorders associated with an imbalance of either type -- such as panic attacks or breakouts. This knowledge has been shoved to the back of my brain the past few days because I've been, well, busy!

So I was reading through the book and got to the section that talks about how environmental factors can aggravate imbalances and a little light went on. (It's a measure of how wound up I've been that this came as a "realization" -- I'd actually read about such things before.) Between the restless, messy chaos of packing (Vata-provoking) and the emotional upset of leaving friends and home behind and the heat (Pitta-provoking), it's not surprising that the past few days have been a bit of an emotional and physical tornado.

So this morning I followed the book's suggestions for a Pitta-reducing practice (since I was anticipating heat and humidity again -- which has indeed re-appeared)and I've been SO much calmer today. Ah. Tomorrow I think I'll do a Vata-reducing practice and keep alternating the two until life settles down again.

Note to self: such effects are part of why you do yoga, right? So DO YOGA! Stop blowing it off!

posted by Rana | 7/27/2003 01:48:00 PM Permalink

Saturday, July 26, 2003

Linki Linki  

This is a very funny piece on dealing with the illogical and having fun in the process.

c/o Green Boogers.

posted by Rana | 7/26/2003 02:56:00 PM Permalink

Panting Bird Hot  

It is meltingly hot today, even inside with the AC on. (I will admit that it is not on very strongly, but given that I am a cheapskate who prefers opening windows, the fact that it is on at all is indicative of the extremity of the weather.)

I am very glad that today is not the day of Moving Things Downstairs -- I am praying that the anticipated colder front comes through the day before -- but it is miserable nonetheless. I feel like I'm moving slower than usual; perhaps the extra humidity has resulted in more friction as I pass through the air?

The title of this post, by the way, comes from one of my informal ways of determining or categorizing the weather here. (Weather awareness is really important in the Midwest, I've discovered.) Wind from the south is often scented with the odor of grain roasting from a nearby plant; winds that bring rain come from the west; on really cold days you can see crows' breath; on days that are meltingly hot the occasional unhappy sparrow or house finch can be found panting on my porch, trying to cool off. It is a most pathetic sight.

The humid air sticks
To skin and spirit, while birds
Pray, panting, for rain.

posted by Rana | 7/26/2003 12:44:00 PM Permalink

Silly Ads  

I think my posts of the last few days have been confounding whatever rubric Blogger uses to generate the ads in the banner above my blog. For a while it was running ones for boxes and packing materials. Today it's offering free publishing.

The most entertaining were the ones for the previous two days, during which time visitors were informed that "This blank space is brought to you by Google."

(My traffic monitor has not been tracking google-based references lately, so I don't know if something involving recent searches is a factor. And on that note, go see Invisible Adjunct's post today on that topic.)

posted by Rana | 7/26/2003 09:14:00 AM Permalink

Friday, July 25, 2003


Uprooted, the tree
Topples, roots naked, exposed --
Worlds revealed beneath.

posted by Rana | 7/25/2003 06:35:00 PM Permalink

Geek Note  

Since I'm moving, I'll be leaving my current internet provider behind. Today I ran across a link to MacDialUp. Does anyone know anything about them? Good experiences? Bad? Links to reviews of them? Or is there another good alternative of which I should be aware?

My needs are pretty straightforward: email, access to the net, website space and (a new thing for me) national coverage (in anticipation of future moves). Good service and friendly folks on the other end of the line are nice, too.


posted by Rana | 7/25/2003 12:01:00 PM Permalink


The jury's out on this new article at the Chronicle in which the author talks about the nausea-inducing range of non-academic career possibilities open to him as holder of a PhD in English.

Part of me is amused by it, part wonders what exactly the point of it is, and part simply thinks, "Oh, this was less interesting and entertaining than I'd expected."

Maybe I too could become a street performer.

posted by Rana | 7/25/2003 09:00:00 AM Permalink

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Moving On  

Piece by piece by piece
I pack up my life and say
Good-bye home, and town.

My place for two years
I say good-bye in small stages
Each a small ripping.

Life falls, rises in pieces
Incrementally remade
And broken anew.

posted by Rana | 7/24/2003 09:14:00 PM Permalink

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

You Go, Girl!  

Amanda just finished her dissertation!

Feel free to congratulate her here, as she doesn't have comments (yet?). I know she visits sometimes, so hopefully she'll see them.

posted by Rana | 7/23/2003 10:44:00 PM Permalink

Enough Scab-Picking  

Well, after stewing over John Lemon's posts (and follow-up post, in which he presented me as akin to a student who has screwed up and needs to know that) I finally figured out just what exactly it is that bothered me about them. This is good, in that now I can hopefully stop picking at this scab and get on with my life (and back to packing).

It is this: he has no idea who I (or any of us) are. He doesn't know anything about how well we interview, how we've conducted our job searches, what we've published, how well we teach, who our references are -- anything about us, really, at all.

He may think that he knows his audience -- witness his confident assertions that we are smart, and cocky, and politically liberal, and scruffily dressed, and doing po-mo research on popular culture, etc. etc. -- but he clearly does not.

Yet he -- and many others like him -- assumes that, if we have not achieved success, it is because we screwed up somewhere along the way, and therefore might well benefit from some kindly advice. While I appreciate the later sentiment -- it's certainly better than "let 'em suffer!" -- it is that unspoken assumption of knowledge that rankles.

Well meant or no, such casual presumptions about the lives of others are simply arrogant.

posted by Rana | 7/23/2003 10:27:00 PM Permalink

Better Now  

I just splurged on some wool-flax yarn for socks and a couple of spinning magazines.

Nothing like a little consumption to cheer up one's mood!

posted by Rana | 7/23/2003 06:10:00 PM Permalink

Cranky as Spit  

Or should that be cranky enough to spit? Either way, I'm feeling cross this morning.

Packing no doubt has something to do with it, as with nearly missing a dentist appointment. (Whee. Actually, it wasn't bad, and because I'm moving they did the nifty thing of giving me copies of my x-rays -- very cool. My eye doctor also cheerfully gave me a copy of my records. This is wonderful -- and sadly surprising, since California doctors were never willing to give me my records directly; they always wanted to transfer them to the new doctor, unsullied by patient hands.)

Largely I think it is a return of my academic/career angst. Reading the recent posts at Invisible Adjunct were one factor, particularly those relating to John Lemon's Tough Love for Adjuncts, which made me feel both cross and a failure. I so looove advice that I'm no longer in a position to use, but which if I had, would have me smelling the roses now. And I've just read this article in the Chronicle about how a tenure-track assistant professor failed to find a(nother) job this year and is, well, okay with this. GRRR...

What's most irritating about all of these things is the corrosive effects they are having on my psyche. It is good to have a career plan and to do what it takes to carry it through. It is good to understand one's situation and do what you can to change it. It is good to be able to rejoice in your fortune and considerate to extend that to others in happy situations. On the surface, these articles and advice look benevolent and positive, and if I were secure I would no doubt be able to perceive them as such.

But I am not secure. As a result I sense underlying all of this a message that, because I haven't achieved success and because I cannot rejoice in the success of others, I am a failure. The two easy responses to that message are (1) to agree, which I think I may be finally moving past and (2) to become cynical and bitter.

I don't want either. I want to be happy and satisfied with my life and career path. I want to be a success at something. Even more so, I want to be secure enough that I could write pieces like these -- but grateful and humble enough that I don't.

posted by Rana | 7/23/2003 12:49:00 PM Permalink

New Academic Blog  

Care of Michelle at Phlebas, introducing Wolf Angel, which offers a perspective from inside graduate school.

posted by Rana | 7/23/2003 12:37:00 PM Permalink

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Hire an Adjunct -- They'll Work for Cr*p  

Okay, this Chronicle article just rubs me the wrong way. I can tell that the author is hoping to eliminate some of the stigma borne by adjunct professors by telling us that they can and do commit as much time to their students as tenure-line faculty. This is not in itself a bad thing.

What irritates me, however, is that the gist of the article is "Hey, administrators, parents and students! It's okay to hire people part-time and offer them bad pay and no benefits -- they'll still do the work! Heck, they'll even do a better job than those dead-weight tenure-track folks!"

So adjuncts do amazing things with little reward and little respect. While adjuncts are certainly praiseworthy for doing their best under poor conditions, this is NOT a situation to wax rhapsodic about!

{edit} Invisible Adjunct has also posted a response to this article and, as usual, her comments are astute and more developed than mine. Go, take a look! (Also note Amanda's comment to this post, here; even though enetation is claiming there's no comment there, there is.)

posted by Rana | 7/22/2003 12:31:00 PM Permalink

Academic Blues -- Aussie Version  

For a while I've had a quiet interest in the Australian academic job market; a few years ago I had the opportunity to attend a history conference in Sydney and it was an eye-opening experience. Briefly put, Australian historians were facing then what American historians are experiencing now -- an impoverished market, structural shifts in the university system and lack of opportunities for young scholars. (At one memorable panel on the difficulties of negotiating the difference between academic standards of truth and legal standards -- in regards to historians' testifying in native title cases -- one of the panelists actually handed out business cards for part-time researchers and got a sizeable number of takers.)

It's therefore interesting to read Gary's take on this at public opinion. He has some useful observations, particularly about how scholars themselves are participating in the de-valuing of their work.

posted by Rana | 7/22/2003 12:10:00 PM Permalink

Monday, July 21, 2003

Commenting Weirdness  

Just a quick heads up -- the comment server is behaving oddly this week. Notably, it is giving wrong counts for the comments attached to each post; some are over-counted, some under-counted. In other words, don't assume that there are no comments if a number isn't provided, nor that if "x" comments are listed that they will actually number "x."

This doesn't seem to have affected the actual comments, thankfully.

posted by Rana | 7/21/2003 04:12:00 PM Permalink

A Quiet Day  

Nothing very exciting to report today. I've been slowly working my way around the apartment tidying up unpacked things. I know this sounds somewhat counterintuitive -- why tidy something that's going to go in a box soon anyway? -- but there are two very good reasons to do this. First, the chaos is getting to the point where it is depressing me. Some order will make me happier. Second, if I do a good job at this, it will make subsequent packing (and unpacking, later) easier, as I will have sizable collections of like objects to pack (unlike now, when the similar things are strewn through three rooms).

I did have one set of odd thoughts about job related things, namely about clothing. As I was dividing my clothes into long-term, short-term and in-use clumps, I found myself wondering what to do about job-hunting clothing. This was less a packing matter and more a matter of further worries about transitioning from academia to Templand. Briefly put, if clothes make the woman, this woman is going to have fun trying to fit into corporate culture.

What I realized is that I do not think I have any clothes that meet the stereotypical "businesswoman's formal interview suit" standard. I do have two nice skirt-suits, but one is camel and the black one is a mini-skirt and funky jacket. I also have several dressy dresses and some decent pants, but nothing resembling a tailored outfit. Heck, even my button-down blouses (to go with the suits) are in funky colors and edgy or ethnic fabrics. I couldn't look conservative if I tried!

No bank jobs for me, I guess!

posted by Rana | 7/21/2003 04:09:00 PM Permalink

Sunday, July 20, 2003

NPR Dreams  

Amanda, at Household Opera, writes: "Sometimes when I'm less than willing to heed the call of the clock-radio and get up first thing in the morning, I start dreaming about whatever the NPR announcers are saying."

I have to laugh, because I've had this experience. It's particularly strange when the actual news is weird and I wake up thinking I've dreamed it until I see it in the paper.

She also writes about various forms of anxiety dreams involving meeting (or trying to contact) important people. I'm grateful that my psyche doesn't seem to produce these. More typical is the experience of discovering that I'm taking or teaching a class and being unable to find the classroom or remember when the class is scheduled.

Once, though, I had the same anxiety dream in the same imaginary school enough times that I learned my way around it and didn't get lost in subsequent dreams. I remain half-convinced, in fact, that this dream school truly exists somewhere in the real world.

Perhaps I've been having career anxiety dreams; if so, I'm not remembering them. This is probably a good thing.

posted by Rana | 7/20/2003 10:17:00 PM Permalink

Hitting the Wall  

I seem to have reached my first plateau of packing apathy, even though I did manage to pack some clothes, sort some papers (remind me again why I've been keeping multiple copies of my dissertation revisions?) and stuff a few more books in a box.

Partly it is because my knee continues to act up; I'm good for about 2-3 hours of packing before it starts to hurt too much to be ignored. It is now wrapped and feels sturdier; tomorrow I'll have to try wrapping it from the outset. What a dumb thing to have done to myself just before these two weeks of lifting!

(It's a very strange sort of injury, too; it's all in the back of the knee, as if it has been overstretched. Who knows, perhaps it has.)

Mental fatigue is more of an issue than physical, however. I'm getting to the point where I sit in the middle of a room of boxes (empty and full), piles of paper and random small objects and such, and just look despondently around at the increasing chaos.

I've been doing reasonably well so far, largely because I've left things like furniture and decorations alone and focused on things normally hidden away in cupboards and closets. Now, though, I either have to switch to those things that make the apartment feel like my apartment or begin rounding up the small and numerous Things-Without-A-Category and trying to come up with a way to describe them concisely on the box.

I suppose I could begin the "toss-in-a-box" stage early, but I know my future self will hate, hate, hate me if I do so. ("Where did I put the freakin' magnets? Why can't I find my favorite teacup? What the hell is in this rattling box anyway? Why on earth did I pack this?!")


posted by Rana | 7/20/2003 03:39:00 PM Permalink

Saturday, July 19, 2003

Packing Update  

It always takes longer than I think it will, but packing books is not the worst packing I could be doing. They are more-or-less the same shape (though not always the same size!) and it is a shape compatible with the squareness of boxes. They also tend to fall into neat categories (sci-fi A-B; desert books; urban history; social theory, etc.) which makes the labeling easy. They don't break if the box is dropped and tolerate some shifting if there's a 3"x6"x2" bit of dead air unfilled because I couldn't think of anything to stuff in it.

Clothes should also be fairly easy; take off closet bar (hangers attached), fold over, place in box. (Copier paper boxes work great!) If on shelves, take off shelf, place in box. Done!

It is things like glasses, knickknacks, food and bathroom stuff that will drive me insane!

posted by Rana | 7/19/2003 12:15:00 PM Permalink

Is that Your Phone ... Grunting?  

I don't know whether this is good news or not; apparently it may now be possible to program your cell phone with animal calls instead of music or ringtones. Birds I can see (or hear) -- the appeal of hippo bellows and pig grunts is harder to fathom.

posted by Rana | 7/19/2003 08:09:00 AM Permalink

Friday, July 18, 2003

A Moving Troika  

The skreaking of tape
And scritching of marker pens --
Packing is noisy!

Smell of damp cardboard
Cool cement and limp boxes
Stored in the garage

Why are there more steps
Coming up with arms laden
Than going downstairs?

posted by Rana | 7/18/2003 11:18:00 AM Permalink

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Post Academic Trajectories  

Dorothea at Caveat Lector offers an intriguing typology of post-academic work paths, from the Shell-Shocked Newbie to the New Careerist.

It's interesting to speculate where I fit on the continuum. If I do make the leap from academia successfully, I'm not sure whether I'd become a New Careerist or an Intentional Downshifter. I have definite tendencies toward the latter: witness my summer activities of sewing, travelling, spinning, yoga, etc. Am I working? Well, yes, but only in dribs and drabs -- a review here, a chapter revision there. (It reminds me of when I was an undergraduate and found myself avoiding my physics homework by doing hours and hours of Russian interspersed with recorder playing and computer games. Not much has changed, I suspect!)

I suppose one approach -- and it's the one espoused by all the follow-your-bliss genre of career books -- is to find a job that allows you to do those fun things and get paid for them. Unfortunately, I'm not sure that would necessarily work in my case. It's not so much the work; rather the idea that some activities are "work" and therefore obligatory rather than simply interesting sucks a good part of the pleasure out of doing them. I don't mind having goals, but I like to be the one setting them; if I screw up or miss a self-imposed deadline, no one suffers but me. (I do keep my deadlines -- I'm very obsessive about them if someone else's project or welfare depends on them -- but I worry about missing them, nonetheless. Residual grad school guilt?)

The other thing is that the activities that give me pleasure are not necessarily things I'm sufficiently good at to envision doing full time. Take knitting, for example. I like to knit. I can produce some pretty nice things doing it. Unfortunately, I am slow, slow, slow -- so producing enough goods to produce a living wage is pretty much impossible. (Sewing I might be able to manage.) Or writing things like I offer here in this blog. If I had a job where I could write fairly randomly on whatever pops to mind that day, it would work -- but to turn out directed copy day in and day out would require a lot more work. (Disclaimer: most of these posts are not mapped out ahead of time or edited except for spelling and small bits of style, which is only possible if I'm writing about what I know; if I had to write about things outside my immediate range of experience, I would not find it easy at all.)

As they say, Jill of all trades, master of none.

posted by Rana | 7/17/2003 10:42:00 AM Permalink

Avian Alarm Clock  

A sudden croaking
Startles me from morning sleep --
A crow on the porch.

posted by Rana | 7/17/2003 09:03:00 AM Permalink

A Brilliant Blog  

Courtesy of Household Opera comes this link to Beyond Brilliance, Beyond Stupidity.

What you see if you go there is two side-by-side blogs, one listing "brilliant" bits of urban design (and similar) and one listing the "stupid" ones. Great for cheering and venting!

posted by Rana | 7/17/2003 08:41:00 AM Permalink

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Weighing Costs and Benefits?  

Another good post at Household Opera, this time about whether the intangible joys of teaching and research do indeed outweigh other, often more material but not necessarily, rewards.


posted by Rana | 7/16/2003 03:06:00 PM Permalink

Tidy Office  

My half of the office now looks good. Everything is in a neatly labeled box or on a shelf waiting to be brought home and stored with others of its kind. Yay, me!

I'm going to the fabric store to celebrate.

I've also begun slowly exploring various non-profits for which I might like to work. The list (short so far) includes Working Assets, Heifer International and the Sierra Club. The only problem is that they seem to be advertising jobs that just don't appeal to me, like Associate Director of Finances. (Yes, I know that many jobs go unadvertised.) I guess I'll just have to stay alert!

posted by Rana | 7/16/2003 02:51:00 PM Permalink

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Grad School Humor  

These are oldies-but-goodies that cheered me up during my stint, so I'm passing them on to you.

The Top Ten Lies Told by Graduate Students

The Top Five Lies Told by Teaching Assistants

You just might be a graduate student if...

I will admit to points 1, 4, 7-11, 15-17, 19, 24-25. (appliances, nonreaders, reminders, sports, photocopying, microfilm reader, film versus fiche (fiche!), papers, turning in work, bibliographies, guilt, laundry, copy cards)

posted by Rana | 7/15/2003 06:10:00 PM Permalink

Passing on Some Links  

There is good stuff over at Household Opera today. One post likens writing a dissertation to sailing on the open ocean.

The other suggests that one way to begin thinking about alternative careers is to look at things that bother you enough to make you consider being the person to fix them. She also speculates that thinking about what people come to you for help might be another avenue for this rethinking.

posted by Rana | 7/15/2003 05:52:00 PM Permalink

Packing Blues  

The stacks of boxes
Create a cardboard prison.
Outside, the sun shines.

posted by Rana | 7/15/2003 01:05:00 PM Permalink

Reading Addiction  

I've been packing today, so I've not had much interesting to write about. During a break, though, I came across this amusing post at Yet Another Damn Blog: a list of questions to determine whether you are a biblioholic.

There's no hope for me, even if I wanted to break this addiction!

And, feeding my habit, here are some nice haikus at Notes from a Life.

posted by Rana | 7/15/2003 12:46:00 PM Permalink

Monday, July 14, 2003

Midwestern Monsoon  

A rainstorm is passing through right now -- huge sheets of rain and a sky the color of a blonde nearly gone to grey. It is an unsettling color; I much prefer threatening dark gray clouds that loom to this sickly sallow sky.

There is something enticing about a thunderstorm -- you want to run into it and be blown by the wind as the rain washes over you, then run back giddily as the chill shudders through you.

This yellowing sky, of a color like the teeth of an old person, worries me. It's not a sort of rainstorm I understand.

posted by Rana | 7/14/2003 07:01:00 PM Permalink

Lethargy or Apathy?  

I don't feel like I've accomplished much today. I've been feeling tired and I don't know if it's from lack of sleep or brain fatigue or that I'm getting sick. I may just be sick of the idea that I have to pack up all this Stuff with which I live.

I did send off my review and an essay and typed in revisions to one of my chapters, but all the work on those projects had been done before. Today was mostly tying up the loose ends.

I also drew up a tentative plan for my moving/packing project over the next two weeks. The tricky thing is that I can't just toss it all in boxes and call it a day. (Well, I could, but my future self would curse my present self every time she tried to find something.)

There are things to go in "long term storage" -- that is, in the back of the storage space and in the bottom tiers. If I do this right, I will not have to open them or dig for them at all while I am in California. These will be things like my class lectures and portfolios and journals and cold weather clothing.

Next are things for intermediate storage. These are things I expect to use or need while in Southern California, but they will need to be stored while I am looking for an apartment. I'll be staying with D. initially, but his apartment is too small for two households' worth of stuff and it has narrow stairs. It'll be easier to just put these in storage, especially since I'll be renting a space anyway.

Then there are the things I'll need during that first month, like job-hunting clothes and billing records, that I won't need while moving or travelling.

Next are the things for the move and trip to my parents' afterward, and things to keep me from going insane with boredom while I'm packing -- current projects, comfy clothes, camping gear, toothpaste, kitchenware...

Last are the things that will be needed after the U-Haul is packed and later before the unloading -- tools, cleaning supplies -- and which can't be packed until the last moment, like plants.

Plus there's the "What isthis crap!?!" category -- stuff I've been dragging from household to household for years and always wondering why. I think it's time to finally sell it or even -- gasp -- toss it.

Now I just need to get off my butt and actually bring up some boxes.

posted by Rana | 7/14/2003 04:51:00 PM Permalink

Snakes and Ladders and Academic Careers  

Dorothea, in a discussion of a book on exploring work paths (Herminia Ibarra, Working Identity), wrote:

A week or so ago, on some blog or other (if I happen upon it again I�ll add a link), I found an insightful criticism of academics as careerists: they fully expect a linear path through their professional life, almost the last people in this country to do so. Given that mindset, the only thing (they think) that can force them to deviate from a linear path is�failure.

Talk about hitting a nail on the head. I definitely have this sense that my career is supposed to progress neatly toward an end goal, with each step on the ladder leading directly to the next. Thinking about a career path as a ladder, unfortunately, suggests that stepping to the side of that path is going to result in a startling plummet to the ground!

I'm a bit more comfortable with the notion of my life overall consisting of multiple ladders (or jungle gyms? that would make sliding or swinging in place more fun!) than my career doing so-- perhaps because I've already had enough shifts to be sceptical of neat life paths. Maybe that's why the notion of a steady career trajectory is so appealing -- life is messy.

posted by Rana | 7/14/2003 11:27:00 AM Permalink

Sunday, July 13, 2003

One Stop Shopping  

The SCA event was a blast -- it was good to have some time to spend with my friend, first of all, and nice to escape my packing responsibilities.

However, I have emerged with a whole new set of potential obsessions. I had forgotten (how, I don't know) how dangerous SCA life is for Jills-of-all-trades like myself. Want to wear funky nifty clothes and stare at other people doing the same? Check. Like lots of artsy-craftsy obsessive-compulsive hobbies like knitting, spinning, embroidery, applique, sewing, weaving, dyeing, etc.? Check. Like camping outdoors? Check, if we're talking events like the one I went to.

Add in the fact that sizeable portion of the community is actively interested in history (some for just general interest, others because they are crafting their personas' backstories and virtually all for the practical skills) and loves to talk about it -- I learned an awful lot about various handicrafts, the cultures who made them, the history of those cultures, etc. just by talking with random merchants.

I'd wonder what caused me to leave this enticing place, except that I know why -- the actual people were rather geeky and weird the last time I was at all involved in this. This time, I didn't notice so much of this. Partly this was because my friend's circle are steady, no-nonsense types. Largely, though, I think it is because I'm older and also more likely to talk with older people now. There are a few cool college-age folks in the SCA, but a fair percentage are nerds who are not yet comfortable with that idea and lack a certain social grace that comes with self-acceptance. The older Scadians, on the other hand, generally know who they are and are happy to interact with someone who shares their interests and sense of fun.

Or it might just be that the Northshield region is full of friendly, no-nonsense Midwesterners. We'll see how it goes when I get back to California.

posted by Rana | 7/13/2003 02:47:00 PM Permalink

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Off to the Faire  

Tomorrow I'll be away, dressing up as if I were an early modern English merchant's daughter and wandering about knitting and spinning and watching people throw knives and shoot arrows and such. No giant turkey legs in the foreseeable future, but I will be attempting to bake bread in a dutch oven over a fire. I should be back Sunday, hopefully without too many bug bites.

Meanwhile, if you liked the previous post, check out the Ecotone wiki (see travellers' links).

If you're still bored and looking for something to do, an amusing site is Where's George? which allows you to track the geographical movement of individual dollar bills. The web is a weird and wonderful place sometimes!

posted by Rana | 7/09/2003 05:15:00 PM Permalink

The Devil You Know  

When I moved to the Midwest, I completely misjudged what would bother me about coming here, in terms of climate. I was deeply fretful about snow and cold, but I've come to realize that neither is very fearful. People here are competent with a snow plow, and homes are well heated. (D., if he is reading this, is firmly squelching an "I told you so!")

Instead, I've found what irks me more is humidity and mosquitoes. These, however, I can live with.

Tornadoes scare me. The green sky, the nervous electricity in the air, the progressive alerts flowing from county to county, the sirens, the hiding in a basement -- it all adds up to simple -- but deep -- fear.

When I express this fear to locals, they are invariably puzzled. A tornado is a familiar, if unpleasant, hazard of life. Those who know I come from California are even more puzzled. They find earthquakes terrifying and thus wonder why, if I've lived with those for most of my life, I could be afraid of the relatively predictable tornado.

I've thought about this. Partly, I suspect, it is that element of surprise -- earthquakes are unexpected but they are over quickly for the most part. Whump! Rummble... and that's it. With the tornadoes, I stay in a state of nervous anxiety for hours, always looking out the window for menacing clouds and sitting by the radio listening intently for the next alert warning.

More, though, I believe it is that my sense of earthquakes is bone deep, embedded and encalcified by years of life in California. I can tell in my sleep whether an earthquake is big enough to bother waking up for. I can be under a table or braced in a doorway before I have had time to register consciously that a quake is happening. Quakes are familiar. I know how to judge them. I know what to do.

My sense of tornadoes, by contrast, goes only as deep as the nerves beneath my goose-pimpled skin.

It's moments like this that I realize how important having a deep knowledge of place is to me. Here, where I did not grow up, I have found beauty and charm, but it has yet to feel like home in that deep unconscious way. Too often I feel blind to the land and discover my instincts about how to respond to its rhythms untrustworthy.

I can hear the thunder rumbling, and my skin prickles. Life is unsettled enough these days without the air being so too.

posted by Rana | 7/09/2003 04:48:00 PM Permalink

No Wonder  

Observing my work "habits" this summer, I am reminded of some of the reasons I never enjoyed 9 to 5 work schedules. I'm task-based, not time-based, in my approach to work -- and I'm not even very good at the former, if the task is something I'd rather avoid and there's no immediate penalty for doing so.

I was so good Monday, less so on Tuesday (though I did get up for morning yoga!) and today... Let's just say I ain't done much.

posted by Rana | 7/09/2003 11:02:00 AM Permalink

Got Linked...  

... and I'm returning the favor. Nicely, Mr. Bad even reviewed my Weblog Showcase entry. I don't agree with this guy's politics, but his postings of dollar bills he's found with graffiti on them are fun.

Other sites I'm voting for at the Weblog Showcase (whew. I'm getting tired typing all this HTML, even with the joys of copy-and-paste. Teach me to go enter a blogging contest!)

Who Tends the Fires has a nice entry on The Beauty of Being Mom.

Dohiyi Mir explains "I Get It. Saddam Was Bad."

Steve Danforth writes about setting off In Pursuit of a Dream beyond the grind of his 9 to 5 job.

Also, courtesy of Household Opera, a link to FOUND Magazine. Very cool stuff there -- a gallery of found objects like photos 'n' stuff.

posted by Rana | 7/09/2003 08:33:00 AM Permalink

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Can I Just Say...  

...I HATE packing?

Today I began the slow process of packing up my office. So far I've managed to fill and label six boxes of books and journals. There are also two partially filled boxes of "leftover" books I discovered after taping the boxes with their topical kindred shut. (Can I say again that I hate packing?)

What's left, of course, is the random stuff, binders of class notes and lesson plans, leftover course reserve materials, piles of papers that need sorting (Why did I keep this announcement for a play three months ago? Or this catalog in a subject I'm not interested in? Or this pile of napkins? Why is this useless crap interleaved with stuff I actually want to keep?) so that they don't follow me to yet another office and begin breeding more of their ilk, and wads and wads of sample textbooks. I should have sold them off when the book buyers came by last time, but part of me keeps thinking that they may someday be "useful." Indeed, they have been in the past, but not in a way that couldn't be duplicated by, say, a quick Google search.

I won't even go into my thoughts about the weird and bulky pile of abandoned student projects. I did specify light and small in the assignment description, didn't I?

posted by Rana | 7/08/2003 03:59:00 PM Permalink


The blogosphere is an amazing and mysterious thing. I don't play BlogShares, for example, but apparently my blog's link values are rising fast. How did that happen?

(Probably from having friends in high places -- thanks, fellow linkers!)

posted by Rana | 7/08/2003 03:41:00 PM Permalink

Evolving Right Along  

I'm now a "Flippery Fish" (#1403) in the Blog Ecosystem!

(Warning: much like the physical ecosystem, the ecosystem page will take aeons to load.)

I am also in the running for new weblog showcase for this week; if you're enrolled in the ecosystem, stop by and consider voting for F&R by linking to the sample post.

{Edit} As of today (9 July) I have evolved into a "Crawly Amphibian" (#1268). I figure that's appropriate, since that does describe the Frogs, and I don't expect that the Ravens will reach Flappy Bird status anytime soon.

posted by Rana | 7/08/2003 02:03:00 PM Permalink

Monday, July 07, 2003

Pulped Non-Fiction  

A rather horrifying article from Times Higher Education Supplement:

Pulped Books Spark Fury
Phil Baty
27 June 2003

Details of thousands of irreplaceable research documents pulped by the British Library as part of a books disposal programme emerged this week, sparking outrage among academics. A 123-page document, seen by The THES, lists about 30,000 books, journals and official research reports from 28 countries that have been discarded since 1990 from the library's Official Publications and Social Sciences Reading Room, one of 11 reading rooms. Some 80,000 items have been disposed of since a 1989 review.

The material includes reams of official data on areas as diverse as the spread and prevalence of diseases, historic levels of forestation and soil erosion. The information is crucial to fields such as environmental studies and history.

Richard Grove, research director of the Centre for World Environmental History at Sussex University, said his ten-year research project on the environmental history of the British colonies had been thwarted by the library's disposal of key documents.

Dr Grove said: "There has not been a loss to the world of scholarship this big since the Great Library of Alexandria burnt down in the 3rd century.

"It makes a mockery of the British Library's global role as a library of last resort and a receptacle of all human knowledge."

This week, Clive Field, director of scholarship and collections at the British Library, admitted that although he was not in charge at the time "it is conceivable" that much of the material listed in The THES document had been pulped.

He said the disposal process was agreed after an open and transparent review of collection policy and space constraints in 1989, which led to the report Selection for Survival. The discarded material was not part of a comprehensive collection and was not often used by scholars. The process was completed by 1994, he said. The library had made no secret of what it had discarded.

Now only duplicated items were disposed of with the explicit agreement of the board of trustees. Disposals ran at between a few hundred and a few thousand items a year, compared with the collection of 2.5 million items each year.

Among the items pulped were 1,400 official documents received annually from Canada and 7,890 from Belgium. Included in 45 Malaysian texts discarded were a Malayan Soil Survey report from the ministry of agriculture and a national crop survey from the Department of Statistics. The 16 items discarded from Indonesia included a 1956 report from the Institute of Marine Research and a report on a 1961 earthquake.

Andrew Goudie, professor of geography at Oxford University, said that the academic community had lost "essential tools for addressing major environmental issues".

The burgeoning field of environmental history had been worst hit, he said.

"Crucial to reconstructing... past climates and other environmental changes, such as soil erosion, deforestation and fish declines, are archival materials and official research reports and data sets."

The size of the library's 1990s disposals became clear only in 2000 when a librarian wrote to a reader who could not find the material he was looking for. The librarian confirmed that between 70,000 and 80,000 items, taking up 2km of shelf space, had been discarded.

The librarian said items had been selected on a case-by-case basis by "comparatively junior staff".

Dr Field said: "We take 11km of paper-based material each year and we do not want to get into a situation where one cannot collect because there is not enough room.

"The policy is, wherever possible, to try to provide a good alternative home for material. Sometimes it's falling to bits and of no use, sometimes it is not of current interest to academic libraries and is not wanted. As a last resort - and only as a last resort - it will end up pulped."

c/o Dr Simon Batterbury, who sent this on to H-Environment.

posted by Rana | 7/07/2003 04:23:00 PM Permalink


Well, dang, here's one more thing I forgot to do while in grad school.

Given my current financial/job situation, this is probably a good thing.

back to work, dagnabit!

posted by Rana | 7/07/2003 02:35:00 PM Permalink

The Literal Cost of Graduate School  

There's an interesting -- though still short -- thread over at The Chronicle of Higher Education's forums about graduate school debt. If anyone has useful advice or stories to share, you might want to go pay a visit and chip in your two cents.

...finished draft of essay... on to the next task...

posted by Rana | 7/07/2003 02:23:00 PM Permalink

New (Your Adverb of Choice Here)-Academic, Scholarly, Writerly...(etc.) Blogs  

Amanda has begun Household Opera. The blog is brand spanking new (first entry today, on becoming a pre-post-whatever-academic) but it looks promising. Why not make a visit?

Other new sites to check out (found through the wonders of Technorati):

interpretiveAlchemy, which includes discussion of geography, cartography and a subject tantalizingly named "visual rhetoric."

Notes from a Life in Progress which includes some good "haikuish" poems.

Crooked Timber is a new group blog, which includes Kieran Healy and Henry Farrell among the contributors.

Dear Blogger offers short vignettes of the author's life.

And, from the linguistic section of the blogosphere, Uncle Jazzbeau's Gallimaufrey.

Back to work... book review is done, awaiting final editing to weed out obvious snarkiness...

posted by Rana | 7/07/2003 11:27:00 AM Permalink

Back to Work  

Next week will begin the Packing Extravaganza (a.k.a. Carefully Put Clothes and Books into Boxes and Generate Computer Lists of Contents, Then Lapse into State of Depressed Apathy before Madly Flinging Things at Random into Boxes the Day before Parents Arrive). Later this week I'll be going to an SCA Event, so this means the next few days will have to involve Work.

On the agenda: finish book review of well-written and well-researched but excruciatingly boring book; write essay for contest; make final (until the next revision) amendments to two chapters so I can send off the whole kit and caboodle to my editor; shop for said Event (food, briquettes); and begin packing up my office on campus so the new hire can move in (and to make my current office mate look bad when said office mate's stuff lingers for years). Oh, and laundry would be good, too. There is always laundry.

posted by Rana | 7/07/2003 08:48:00 AM Permalink

Sunday, July 06, 2003

New Weblog Showcase -- And Some Cat Care Tips  

Just linking to some of the contenders for The Truth Laid Bear's latest weblog contest:

All Day Permanent Red submitted this post on Cruising for Dean;

under the fire star writes about encountering a neighbor outside a theatre (I'm not doing this post justice -- go read!);

and Apropos of Nothing writes about the excitement of trying to bathe a cat.

I've voted for these because I like the blogs and want to support them, and because I want to give advice on how to do three of the hardest things to manage in having a cat: bathing, pilling and nail-clipping.

To bathe a cat, remember this cardinal rule: always add water to the cat; don't add the cat to the water. In other words, don't try to place a struggling, scratching cat into a tub of water. It won't work, and all will be traumatized by the experience.

The key to bathing the cat is to avoid scaring it and to give it something to grip with its claws. Think about it -- wouldn't you feel terrified if a big creature picked you up and tried to dump you in a big pool of water, or forced you to stand upright on a slick surface (bathtub!) with nothing to hold onto while unpleasant things were done to you?

Instead, do the following, in a sink with a spray hose if possible: place a towel, folded several times, into the bottom of the sink. Dampen slightly, but do not make a puddle of water. Set out the shampoo and a large dry towel. If you do not have a spray nozzle, fill several large cups or pitchers of water and set nearby.

Get cat; if the sink is in a room with a door, close the door. Place the cat gently on the towel and maintain a firm grip on the cat's neck. The cat will probably grab the towel with its claws and hunker down low; if it does not, you will have to get a second towel and wrap the cat into a cat burrito with its head poking out and feet tucked inside. (This is called toweling or wrapping a cat, and is a useful skill if you ever have the misfortune to try giving a cat a liquid medication.)

Now gently pour or spray water on the cat, avoiding its head and trying not to dump a lot of water on the cat at once. Maintain a firm grip, and expect some struggling. If you are dealing with a wrapped cat, you will have to uncover one part of the cat at a time for this and the next two steps. Having wet the cat, put a small amount of shampoo (maybe even pre-diluted shampoo) on the cat and rub gently to make lather. Rinse, again, being gentle. You may have to do this several times to get out all the soap.

Now, take the dry towel and place it over the cat and rub as dry as the cat will allow. Release cat, but don't let it out of the room if you can (otherwise it may go hide somewhere and get that place damp). Cat will dry itself; escape as best you can without letting the cat out.

Pilling and clipping are far simpler.

To pill a cat, first get some cream cheese. Roll a bit into a roughly pill-sized ball. Hold over the cat's head on the tip of your finger. What you are trying for is to get the cat to lick the ball off your finger and, because they are looking up at the time, swallow it without dropping it on the floor. Be sure that the ball is only stuck firmly enough to your finger to hold it over the cat; it should fall off after only one or two licks. Once you've done this with a piece of cream cheese and the cat has decided that "Hey, this stuff is pretty tasty!" take the pill and wrap cream cheese around it. Repeat; the cat should lick it off and swallow, with no fuss.

To clip a cat's nails, use a people nail clipper turned sideways; the pet clippers are too big and will splinter a cat's nail if you're not careful. In any case, make sure that you only clip the very tip of the nail; clip too deep, and you will hit the "quick" which will hurt the cat and make it bleed.

Relaxed cats are easy; hold the cat on your lap facing away from you and gently press out the claws one toe at a time, clipping as you go. To do the back claws (not normally necessary) you might want to use the cranky cat technique that follows. Cranky cats are those who pull their feet away or even run away when they see the clippers. You will have to trick them. The best thing is to wait until the cat is asleep and clip only one or two nails at a time. It is also a good idea to have a treat -- like Pounce -- near to hand in case the cat wakes up. Stop clipping immediately and give the cat a treat. Then leave the cat alone and let it have a few good naps before you try again (if you do it too soon, the cat will feel harassed and you're back to square one). What you are trying to do is to teach the cat that clipping is not scary nor does it hurt, and that it may instead result in a treat.

Now, if only I had such sage advice about getting cat hair off my clothes!

posted by Rana | 7/06/2003 03:30:00 PM Permalink

Saturday, July 05, 2003


Interesting ads greeted me in the Blogspot banner the last time I loaded this page:

(1) "Flexible Business PHD Online. No exams. Star Professors. Option to write a book or articles."

(2) "PhD Degrees Online. Post Graduate Degrees and more from Accredited Colleges & Universities."

Here's a sampling from the first one, offered through "Rushmore University":

" Your advisor will help you to set specific goals in regard to income, career, lifestyle, retirement plans and wealth.... Our star professors are good role models for business and personal success. Nineteen of them have written books. Others are (or have been) entrepreneurs & CEOs.... If you have extensive experience in a particular area, you can earn credits by teaching others.... No examinations are required. Grades are based on the papers you write.... At the end of your online MBA/Master's or DBA/Ph.D. program, you will have accomplished more. Your writing, more than anything else, will show employers or customers that you are a serious thinker. It will set you apart from your competitors. You will be an author while others will display just another degree on their r�sum�...."

There's more, but you get the general idea. For a further look into the wonders of a Rushmore education, you might want to read the founder's account of how he started the "university" or his story, "Failure to Success," which describes how he used the skills Rushmore teaches to get ahead.

The second one advertises links to "The best online degree programs from the nation's top colleges and universities." The featured institutions? The University of Phoenix Online (about which Invisible Adjunct has fruitfully blogged), Walden University, Capella University ("Education. Reborn.(tm)") and Kennedy-Western University. Funny, but these are not the institutions that usually come to my mind when I hear "the nation's top colleges and universities." I wonder why that is?

posted by Rana | 7/05/2003 10:04:00 PM Permalink

I'm Back  

I'm also warm, sleepy and empty-headed. Blogging will resume when I've had a chance to correct at least two of the above.

posted by Rana | 7/05/2003 05:39:00 PM Permalink

Inauspicious Omens  


Little squirrel running,
Crossing the road -- then stopping!
I am so sorry.


Little bird darting
Up from the roadside grasses --
Oh no! Not again!

posted by Rana | 7/05/2003 11:59:00 AM Permalink

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Gone Fishing  

Yeah, it's a clich�, but it also happens to be true. I'm going to visit my aunt and uncle, who've rented a cabin on a lake north of here. I'm looking forward to fishing, lazing about (in a new location, at least) and maybe waving a sparkler around on the Fourth. (Or burning a few "snakes." I love snakes and sparklers.)

I'd give you something interesting to stare at while I'm away, but I can't think of anything. Oh well.

The car is tuned up
The laundry is clean and warm
But I must sleep first.

Happy Fourth!

posted by Rana | 7/01/2003 09:16:00 PM Permalink

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