Frogs and Ravens 1.0

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Sunday, September 28, 2003

Pointless Blog  

After a weekend of not blogging, I'm not sure if I want to continue this blog any more. It takes up time I don't have and these days it's more depressing than comforting. I don't know what I should expect to get out of, say, telling the world that I just spent the equivalent of four week's tedious labor in the space of 20 minutes, between rent and loan and credit card bill and other random necessary expenses -- which doesn't even include things like health insurance and groceries. I mean, what's the point?

Nor does grumping about my employment situation seem beneficial. I'm tired of the whole thing, both the jobs and the looking for jobs that don't exist. I'm not even sure if I'm going to bother with the academic job search this fall. I look at the prospects and weigh my chances and it doesn't even seem like it's worth the effort of visiting web sites, writing letters, rounding up references, etc. -- there are only 12 jobs available this year for which I might stand a chance of making the first cut, and I am more and more convinced that I'd be extraordinarily lucky to make the second cut, let alone the third or be made an offer. Even the out-of-academia job market stinks. I found two -- yes, two -- entry-level positions I could do cheerfully, and neither came to anything. Why should I expect more?

I did enjoy working in the historical society this weekend -- I even dreamed about it all the following night -- but there's no career potential there, either. If anything, the museum market is even tighter than the academic one -- maybe 30 jobs nationwide, total.

So this blog is feeling like a waste of time -- I grump about my miserable future, lament my lost potential and nothing changes, except in banal or meaningless ways. Why continue?

posted by Rana | 9/28/2003 08:34:00 PM Permalink

Friday, September 26, 2003

Weekend Off  

I don't know if I'm going to post much over the weekend -- I'm tired and I have a lot to catch up on. If I feel like I can spare the time, some possibilities might be the dangers of chameleon tendencies and my thoughts on re-entering the academic job search.

Otherwise I'll be busy with exciting things like laundry and catching up on a week's worth of newspapers. Until the next post...

posted by Rana | 9/26/2003 06:24:00 PM Permalink

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Small Amusements  

Everyone was punchy at work today. I am not alone in wanting the weekend to come!

My co-workers in processing are a pretty nice bunch; they are hard-working and everyone in our section seems to have a sense of humor. It also doesn't hurt that we have a common adversary -- the sales agents responsible for creating the packets we put together and process. Nine times out of ten any problem we encounter with a file can be traced back to agent error -- and they get very cranky when we ask them to correct it. Plus most of them have that aggressive bulldog personality that makes an effective telephone salesperson and little tolerance for occasional sarcasm from the repeatedly aggrieved processing staff. (Many of them also can't spell worth spit. A "banine" tumor, for pity's sake!) It makes for an interesting and often entertaining dynamic, to be sure.

(Ooh, look, I'm using "we" not "they"!)

In between bouts of shared snarkiness, I've been devising ways to keep me entertained:

I try to find the best way to use the staple remover, or test out new ways of writing quickly yet neatly, or strive to master the art of precision wite-out application, or learn new keyboard shortcuts, or try to figure out the best way to line up a new signature stamp on the line -- you get the idea.

When these skills-based amusements pale, I turn to the sociological. How many people, I wonder, file as couples rather than individuals? What is the point of including a child on a life insurance policy? Is the client population really skewed toward people in the South or is that just a misperception? Are there really that many people with speeding tickets out there? If I started sorting people by birth date, would any patterns emerge?

Another option is to think about the people who are applying and try to figure out what is going on that would prompt them to seek life insurance. What's the story about the couple from the Caribbean? Or the young father with a 2-month-old child? Why did this mother of four only list two of her children as beneficiaries? Are the two women filing together relatives or a couple? When did this guy take up sky diving, and what keeps him doing it, despite the risks?

Obviously, more questions are raised than answered, which makes idle speculation an amusement in its own right.

posted by Rana | 9/25/2003 05:41:00 PM Permalink

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Another Exhausting Day  

The good news is that I processed 7 more applications than I did yesterday. Unfortunately, that's also the bad news.

It's only day two and I'm already feeling tired by this job. Probably a large part of it is the result of being genuinely tired; I am wonderful at getting up at the crack of dawn if I have enough sleep, but getting up when it's dark -- fugeddabout it. Too, I find myself trying to make up for the tedium of the day by cramming all sorts of little activities into the night (like catching up on the blogs) and, because I'm tired, I have poor judgement about the best use of my time or the will needed to go to bed by 9pm. How people manage to do jobs like this and have social lives and kids I have no idea. (Although I suppose that children, tending to be early risers, would be good alarm clocks.)

Coupled with an increasing disinterest in the job itself and its larger context, this is not good. I'm not bored, exactly -- I'm too busy for that -- but I don't feel inspired, either. Nothing about the job speaks to my interests, or my goals, or even really my skills. All one needs is a good eye and memory for detail to do a good job here.

Now, I know that some of this is par for the course with any entry-level job. Yet I look around me and have to ask -- just what am I entering here? Do I want to supervise other people doing this very same tedious job? Do I want to brainstorm ways to bring in more clients? Would -- shudder -- sales be a way to move laterally? There's no job in the place that I'd rather do than this one, and I don't really want to do this one! Sure, I could probably find a way to rise in the company, but what an empty life. (I will admit that this is my own prejudiced perspective; if others find it rewarding and fascinating, more power to them.)

I've heard that one way to deal with such a scenario is to treat the job as a way to make money that allows me to then do more rewarding things. This is fine in theory, but in practice? In the evening I'm too tired and brain-dead to manage much more than a brief bit of web surfing and maybe some tv plus make dinner and call D..

Even if I were lively and perky, what would I do? All the archives and libraries I've used before close by 5pm (most of them are government organizations) and most don't open on the weekends (which are in any case reserved for grocery shopping, laundry, bill-paying and squeezing in a visit with D.). Hiking and drawing don't work so well after sundown. In fact, most of the places I like to go are closed after hours; I'm not a hang out in a bar kind of person. Evening yoga class is the only thing that I might be able to enjoy -- and so far I've been too exhausted to consider it.

So, not only is this job a dead-end in a career sense, it is deadening me in a larger sense. Not good. Yet, even so, I worry that my stint will end soon, because I need the money and can't afford to "indulge" my desire for a more fulfilling existence.


{Edit} When I woke up (well, was woken up) this morning I realized how self-indulgent much of the above is. I mean, really, in some ways I'm only frustrated because I've lived a privileged enough life that I can reasonably hope for more. Were I a third-world farmer or an inner-city single mom, a job like I've described would be a godsend -- clean, reasonable hours, no heavy labor, benefits, etc.

Maybe thinking on this will help at work today?

posted by Rana | 9/24/2003 05:46:00 PM Permalink

Funny Search Phrases  

Here's a phrase that someone used to find my blog: "yellowing frogs." How bizarre.

posted by Rana | 9/24/2003 05:28:00 PM Permalink

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Leaving Academia  

Here's a nice poem on the subject by Kevin. It says a lot in a small space.

posted by Rana | 9/23/2003 06:34:00 PM Permalink

Corporate Droning  

Today began at a ghastly hour -- dark and misty and far too early -- followed by an eye-opening commute through heavy traffic.

The rest of the day was not bad, though I would never say that it offered a desirable model for the rest of my life. I was paired with a trainer -- the first such any of my temp client companies has provided -- and we spent the day going through client applications together. Lots of highlighter pen and yanking out unnecessary copies of unneeded forms and stamping lots of stamps. It was tricky, and certainly gave my memory a work-out (not a bad thing) but, again, it was one of those "check your brain at the door" kind of exercises.

As I think about it, I didn't have one thought about anything beyond which button to push and which line to highlight and how to sort the papers properly except during lunch and for two brief moments during my break.

I don't think that this is going to be the break-through job that sends me winging upward toward intellectual bliss. It will, though, cover my student loan payments for this month and maybe some insurance. Yay...

posted by Rana | 9/23/2003 06:04:00 PM Permalink

Academy Girl  

In the mood for some feisty academic snarkiness? Here you go.

posted by Rana | 9/23/2003 05:57:00 PM Permalink

Monday, September 22, 2003

Grump and You Shall Receive?  

Shortly after posting the previous bit, several things happened in quick succession: I got a call from the volunteer folks at the historical society; my agent called to offer me the insurance job on a temporary basis; my colleague rang me up to see if I wanted to come by to chat and see his new house. So things are a-poppin'!

In particular, the meeting with the archivists at the historical society went really well. We all got excited by the idea of me coming in to work on several of the larger projects -- the tasks sound really interesting to me -- but now I'm going to have to call them back and say that I can't do it, at least not until this current temping stint runs its course. I did warn them that my schedule is erratic in the extreme, but I am disappointed that I didn't have even one day to play with the old stuff first.

Well, maybe, given that I'm to report in at a hideously early hour tomorrow, I'll get off in the afternoon with some time to spare. Probably not, but I can always hope!

Also, the new cell phone proved important today in all of this. Nice to know that it's earning its keep!

posted by Rana | 9/22/2003 09:21:00 PM Permalink

Is There Such a Thing as an Independent Scholar?  

One unfortunate side effect of my current employment situation is that it is hard to think about much beyond the need for money, or the desire for something more stable. Even simple hobbies like knitting or yoga have fallen by the wayside, as they either themselves require money or I feel too antsy just sitting about the house when there are Jobs to Be Found. I suspect that this is typical -- a weird mix of apathy and anxiety seems appropriate for the un- and under-employed.

What is more annoying, however, is the effects this is having on my scholarly persona. You'd think that having all of this unscheduled time would be a boon to the never-a-free-moment academic who's behind on her research, wouldn't you? Yet this is not the case. I haven't cracked a non-fiction book since I left the Midwest, unless you count handspinning bibles and the like. I haven't written a lick beyond the blog. I haven't revised my permanently in-progress article-to-be-submitted-to-a-respectable-journal. I haven't gone anywhere near an academic library or archive or museum.

Lately, I've been trying to figure out what has happened. I think part of it is that the whole exercise is seeming increasingly pointless. I did agree to write a book review, for example, but one of my thoughts on reading the offer was "Why can't I be paid for this?" I've been trying to contact the local historical society to offer my services as a volunteer -- repeatedly -- and have heard nothing back from them. Until this week I've been reluctant to hole up in an archive away from my phone (I finally broke down and obtained a cell phone) . And the idea of academic job searching is not appealing -- it's become lumped into a larger search for jobs that won't make me puke or move to rural Alabama rather than a quest for a home in the ivory tower.

In short, I feel stripped of purpose beyond finding a tolerable job that will keep the roof over my head. It's difficult to think about contributing to the greater knowledge of humanity when this small bit of it feels ignored and irrelevant.

I also feel isolated. Perhaps if I had colleagues in similar situations to chat with regularly things would be better. Unfortunately, there's only one in the area and he is busy, busy, busy himself trying to scrounge enough part-time work to support himself and his family. D. and my grad school friends are good for emotional support, but their experience of research and writing at this point is so different from my own, even without the job complications. The people I encounter in the course of temping are no solution, either; I often feel like I'm checking my head at the door when I walk in with my timesheet -- it's the only way to stay sane.

So I ask the question posed in the title again, but in a slightly different way: can one be a scholar without financial support and in isolation?

I'm afraid that the answer has come to look like "no."

posted by Rana | 9/22/2003 09:39:00 AM Permalink

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Picky Picky  

I'm beginning to experience mild feelings of dread every time my temp agent contacts me about a new lead for a permanent job. So far the positions she's come up with are not at all appealing, though they certainly seem within my range of abilities -- such as fact-checker for a medical insurance company.

Why the dread? Well, none of these positions have been anything I'd want to do except on a temporary basis. It's one thing to do something boring or in a field that doesn't interest one if it's only for a few weeks. It's another to make it been your permanent Job. (Yes, I know -- there's nothing keeping me from continuing the search while so employed -- I feel uncomfortable doing this if I don't have to, though.) So I am quite reluctant to say yes, and then I feel both guilty and ungrateful; my agent is working for me to find something she thinks I'd like, and I keep saying no. Guilt would be a lousy reason to take a job, of course, but the promise of financial stability such jobs offer makes me wonder sometimes if I'm cutting off my nose to spite my face. I DON'T want to be a clerical drone in an uninteresting company -- but how long can I afford to be choosy about this?

I don't even know if I am being unduly picky, or not. I have no standards by which to judge such things -- is this PhD-induced arrogance, or simple awareness of my interests and skills? Not having a cohort of friends in a similar situation (beyond you, dear readers) adds to my confusion and hesitation.

It's hard to let go of one's dreams -- even when they are second choice dreams.

posted by Rana | 9/21/2003 05:17:00 PM Permalink


If you haven't done so already, you might want to sign up for the no-call anti-telemarketing service by calling 1-888-382-1222 from your home phone, or by going to (Note: the site did not seem to work properly with Netscape 6, although Netscape 4.7 worked just fine. Go figure.) The block will take place 3 months after you register.

posted by Rana | 9/21/2003 05:08:00 PM Permalink

Friday, September 19, 2003

Like Reality, But Not  

I think I've finally figured out the essence of Chronicle first person articles. To the casual observer, they look like representations of real life. For the person actually experiencing the sort of events narrated, they bear as much resemblance to true life as Disneyland's Main Street does to small town America.

This article today offers a case in point. In it, the author shares her thoughts and (initially) mixed feelings about leaving a tenure-track job for an uncertain career path outside the ivory tower. As someone who was tossed out, and not from even a tenure-track job (well, at least I didn't have far to fall), reading this felt like encountering a sick parody of my own life.

She worries about what to say to her colleagues, fearing that they will find her frivolous. I, meanwhile, feared their pity.

She frets briefly about finding work, then decides to take the advice of her husband and just enjoy being "free" from the demands of academia. I am still fretting about work, and would love to be free from worries about where my next paycheck will come from, whether I can afford rent and health insurance and food, etc.

And this just made me laugh: I spent time with friends and neighbors, and talked freely about my job situation and desires. Then, somewhere along the line, I made a thrilling discovery: I was networking.

I thought I had made useful connections as an academic, but the speed with which contacts are made beyond the ivory tower simply blew me away. Forget six degrees of separation: It seemed that everyone I knew either knew someone who did what I was contemplating, or knew someone who knew someone who did.

Mention to a neighbor that you're interested in a certain kind of freelance work, and suddenly there's an e-mail message in your in box with contact information for three other people in town who do just that and can help hook you up. Express interest in writing careers to one of the parents in your child's play group and a week later find yourself invited to dinner with their friend, the technical writer. Joke casually at a neighborhood potluck about the fantasy careers that sustained you in grad school and discover not only someone who has done the first (mail carrier), but also someone who secretly harbors the second (opening a coffee house) and happens to know the owner of an up-and-coming fair-trade coffee roasting venture that just moved into town.

This has very much NOT been my experience. None of my friends, old and young, have any connections or suggestions to offer beyond periodically emailing me yet another URL for an online job search engine. The only thing resembling spontaneous networking has been repeatedly encountering someone doing customer service or similar who says, "Yeah, I was a temp once too. Isn't the flexibility great?" (Not really.)

She's living in Chronicle-land, yessiree...

posted by Rana | 9/19/2003 04:19:00 PM Permalink

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Filing Zen  

I had work today! Combined with another day of work tomorrow, I'll be able to pay for my groceries for this month -- a good thing.

It was soothing work, too. Mostly filing, plus some faxing and sorting and stapling and mailing. I spent the day in a quiet back room with one other person and nothing was difficult or frustrating. Yet I was not bored, just calm. I don't know that I'd want to do this for the rest of my life -- or even for more than a week if there's nothing new to learn -- but for today it was rather nice.

posted by Rana | 9/18/2003 06:15:00 PM Permalink

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Rough Seas around the Ivory Tower  

The image I've always had of the ivory tower has been a lighthouse -- a tall pinnacle made of ivory, fluted like a narwhal's horn, with ivy twining around its base. A poetic image, yes?

One aspect of the ivory tower as lighthouse is that it serves as a mediator between the learning (light) of those within and the needs of those trying to sail past the rough shoals and high waves of an often stormy sea. The importance of this role means that those who man the tower can often find it easy to assume that they are the only source of light in the world, and that the rest of humanity would crash into briny darkness without them.

In some limited ways, this is true. The lighthouse is necessary, and offers insight along an often rough passage. Yet what the denizens of the ivory lighthouse sometimes forget is that not all travel in the world is done within sight of its beacon, and that the lighthouse itself is not immune from the storms that assail the ships it guides.

In this context, you might want to take a look at this thread on the Chronicle's jobs forum; here's a pretty clear example of how the folks housed in the lower stories of the ivory lighthouse are good -- but often ignored -- sentinels when the waves from the outside world begin tearing at the base of the structure.

posted by Rana | 9/17/2003 09:52:00 AM Permalink

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Lighter than a Feather, Weightier than Gold  

Today this site told me, "Your soul is worth �54814. For your peace of mind, 11% of people have a purer soul than you."*

Not bad. At least I can now count myself among the virtuous poor.

I wonder, though, if splurging money on a haircut today will reduce my asking price?

* That's US$87,024.80, according to this currency converter.

posted by Rana | 9/16/2003 04:41:00 PM Permalink

Monday, September 15, 2003

Personal Libraries  

Here's an interesting approach to sorting one's books -- my topic/author/size/aesthetics approach seems woefully prosaic by comparison.

posted by Rana | 9/15/2003 04:03:00 PM Permalink

Job Search Absurdity  

Starring Rana Unemployed, Job Seeker and Accidental Thespian.

Opening montage of Rana eating breakfast, cruising job sites on the web, writing and revising and editing again a cover letter, struggling to convince the computer to print, to send a fax, to check email.

Rana carefully dresses as if she is going to work. She puts on pantyhose, nice skirt, blouse and jacket. Discovers rip in skirt, repairs, and finishes getting dressed. She pulls on her low flat pumps, picks up a neatly labeled envelope containing a cover letter and resume, swings her purse over her shoulder, and leaves the house. She unlocks her car, places envelope and purse on the seat, and removes jacket. She then gets in the car and drives away.

Scene of urban traffic, viewed as if through a car windshield, at double or triple time.

Rana parks her car outside the company that advertised for the position she wants. She gets out and carefully puts on her jacket and checks her appearance in the car mirror. She walks over to the parking meter and inserts two dimes. She pauses, then inserts two more. She then strides up to the front door, takes off her sunglasses and walks up to the receptionist's desk.

Receptionist: Can I help you?

Rana (holding out envelope): Yes. I have this packet for Human Resources. Will you see that they get it?

Receptionist (taking envelope): Yes. I'll see that it gets to them. Thank you.

Rana: Thank you. Good-bye.

Receptionist: Good-bye.

Rana leaves the building, puts on her sunglasses and walks back to her car. She puts the purse on the seat and takes off her jacket again. She sees a woman pulling into a parking space across the street.

Rana (loudly): There's still time on this meter!

Woman in Car: Thanks!

Rana gets into her car and pulls away while the woman in the car pulls in behind her.

Reprise of high-speed trip through city, in reverse.

Rana arrives back at her apartment, picks up the purse, puts on the jacket again, and returns to her apartment. She then takes off her professional clothes and puts on a tank top and comfy shorts.

Fade out as she logs on again...


posted by Rana | 9/15/2003 03:51:00 PM Permalink

Modes of Transportation  

Delivery trucks
Cars and vans
A big yellow schoolbus
Planes flying overhead
City buses
A bright red trolley
Bicycles flying by
People walking

All of them seen
Without turning my head
In three city blocks.

posted by Rana | 9/15/2003 03:38:00 PM Permalink

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Lazy Sunday  

Morning newspaper
Farmer's market and fresh milk
A walk in the park.

posted by Rana | 9/14/2003 05:28:00 PM Permalink

Saturday, September 13, 2003


Chip! Chip! Omigod!
A bird flew into my home!
Go out the door, you!

posted by Rana | 9/13/2003 06:14:00 PM Permalink

Counting Chickens  

It is far too soon to get excited about this, but today I sent my resume and a cover letter to a local environmental consulting firm. They are looking for an entry-level editor/proofreader to process their reports. Given that the company has an excellent record of coming up with innovative regional designs for integrating development and environmental needs, I would really enjoy working for them. Let's hope I can convince them to hire me, or at least invite me to an interview.

But I'll limit myself to counting the eggs until then.

posted by Rana | 9/13/2003 06:00:00 PM Permalink

Linki Linki  

In the interest of good blog karma, here's a link to a blog that linked to me (or, more specifically, my yoga post I submitted to TruthLaidBear), Winds of Change. John's themes blend politics, religion and spirituality with observations about life. The blog is moving to a new location; be forewarned.

Of course, vanity is being indulged here at the same time; John wrote about me that I'm "not a political blogger, just a sharp observer with good writing skills and a poetic soul."

Nice to encounter such words, as I struggle to find a new place for myself.

posted by Rana | 9/13/2003 04:11:00 PM Permalink

Friday, September 12, 2003

Musical Chairs  

"Between Two Stools" -- an interesting parallel to that of not quite fitting into the proper holes on the top of the box. Increasingly, that's how I've been feeling, with good reason:

First Set of Stools: Environment/History
This is an on-going situation and a good example of the hazards of following one's own research interests rather than those sought by hiring committees. Environmental studies programs (and the rare full-fledged department) seem to advertise almost exclusively for positions in which "environmental" means "based in the physical sciences" and/or "linked to environmental activism and policy making." Despite the fact that many of these programs require their students to take courses in history or anthropology or geography -- all of which my research abuts -- it never seems to occur to them to hire someone to handle those courses in-house in addition to more "traditional" ES courses like environmental ethics. (Compare with the way they work with science-based faculty, most of whom hold the key positions in such programs.) History departments, on the other hand, offer only minimal work in the "environmental" side of my specialities. Most times, the job is presented as US history, with environmental history "on the side" with a bunch of other possibilities, like ethnic history or borderlands. (Compare this with how positions in African-American or women's history are advertised.)

Add in the fact that I tend towards the interdisciplinary in both methods and approach and it's a wonder I can find anywhere to sit at all.

Second Set of Stools: Academia/"Real World"
Apparently both view me as entry-level at best; permanent temp at worst. 'nuff said, though see also the Third Set, below.

Third Set of Stools: Overqualified/Underqualified.
I have a PhD, extensive experience in writing, teaching and public speaking, good analytical skills and a cheerful manner. People say my research is fascinating and colleagues rave about how efficiently I work and how quickly I learn new things. But I haven't published enough. Or meet the needs of the department. Or I don't know how to use program X or have no experience in Y industry. They advertise for someone with a BA for an entry-level position and tell me others are "more qualified" and/or that I'm "overqualified" and will get bored. A position opens that fits me to the letter and I don't even get a campus interview.

This particular set of stools mystifies and frustrates me daily.

Fourth Set of Stools: My apartment: Lonely, Expensive Albatross/Wonderful Abode
Compared with the above, this is a petty situation to complain about. Still, it's been one of the things on my mind of late. I've been waffling between adoring my apartment and fearing/loathing it. I love how it looks, I love the neighborhood it's in, it's nice having a place to go and think (and thus allow D. space to think). But it's hideously expensive for someone as woefully underemployed as I am. I've gotten spoiled having D. to eat dinner with every night. I like having someone to sleep next to and to whom I can say "I'm home! How was your day?" The lovely neighborhood is filled with fun things to do -- part of what makes it lovely -- that I can't afford. It's too small to hold all of my stuff currently in storage.


I wish the music would stop for a bit and let me rest -- hopefully in some chair, somewhere.

posted by Rana | 9/12/2003 10:01:00 AM Permalink

Angst and Food  

Amanda, at Household Opera, nails how I've been feeling this week with her post about academia seeming to be in a retrograde state these days.

I also agree with her observation that eating can often make one feel better. When I'm cranky or depressed, D. knows that he should feed me before attempting any efforts to cheer me up. I'm still trying to learn that lesson myself!

posted by Rana | 9/12/2003 09:24:00 AM Permalink

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Now I'm Worried  

I went to the Chronicle's jobs section this morning and, as usual, looked over at the list of recent articles to see if there were any that might be worth reading.

This was what I saw:

Ready to Start Over?
A Ph.D. who left the academy only to return offers a few questions that she's learned to ask herself in making career choices.

Down, but Not Out
Unsuccessful on the academic market, a history Ph.D. turns to consulting, but he's not giving up on academe quite yet.

Some Reflection on Rejection
For all the advice offered on landing a faculty job, not much is said about dealing with the other side of the coin -- not getting one.

Dizzy With Options
For a Ph.D. considering alternate careers, the possibilities are endless. Hence the nausea.

If the eternally optimistic Chronicle is posting such articles at the start of the academic job market cycle -- and all at once, too -- perhaps we should be afraid. Very afraid.

Perhaps I shouldn't have turned down that data-entry gig this morning after all.

posted by Rana | 9/10/2003 09:10:00 AM Permalink

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Smell Historians  

Inspired by Yami's mention of the smell map, Amanda at Household Opera offers us a condensed scent autobiography.

I find a lot of overlap, at least for the early years. (I'd forgotten that funky chem lab smell.)

Smell of one's desk while breathing on it, heads down in quiet time, anyone?

posted by Rana | 9/09/2003 08:26:00 AM Permalink

Monday, September 08, 2003

A Quiet Day  

Not much to post today. No calls from the temp agency. Quiet chores at home, like revising my c.v./website for the fall application frenzy, and calling various places to update my information.


posted by Rana | 9/08/2003 01:57:00 PM Permalink

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Setting Up House  

Today I began putting the apartment into order. It's beginning to look like a real place!

The trick, I am finding, is that I rather like an orderly, open look -- not spare, but everything well-spaced -- and I have a LOT of stuff. (As those of you who enduring my weeks of blogging about packing are well aware!) I have not yet exceeded the space I can use without beginning to look cluttered -- in part because there are still essentials (like pots and pans) that need to be transported to the apartment -- but I know that cluttering is inevitable if I do indeed bring all of my stuff home to live with me. So I'll probably be keeping things in storage, which feels faintly silly and is an expense I'd rather not have. Still, it beats trying to haul file cabinets up stairs....

posted by Rana | 9/07/2003 08:49:00 PM Permalink

Saturday, September 06, 2003

"Gandhi"-Induced Moving Violations  

This post over at Green Gabbro cracks me up. I also like Yami's thoughts about GIS and quirky maps like the "smell map." Check it out!

posted by Rana | 9/06/2003 07:34:00 PM Permalink

Educational Sidelines?  

This ad from Google (spotted over at Household Opera) cracks me up:

Teachers Extra Income
Earn money in the summer! Italian ice business is the answer.

posted by Rana | 9/06/2003 07:20:00 PM Permalink

Playing House  

Today D. and I made two trips to my storage space and began moving stuff into my apartment, carefully observed by the neighbor's cat.

Perhaps we should have made one more trip, but we were tired and there was certainly enough for me to play house with tomorrow. I did get everything I believe I'll need for the moment -- though where did I pack the telephone?

Afterward I treated D. to a well-earned Italian soda. Since the cafe was near the yoga studio, I also picked up a new schedule.

The apartment is beginning to feel real!

posted by Rana | 9/06/2003 07:01:00 PM Permalink

Friday, September 05, 2003

Rana in Snarkyland  

No work today, which was bad from a financial perspective, but probably good for my psychic well-being. I did pick up my first paycheck today (woefully small -- especially since I figure that I'm losing about 15% of it to various government-type things), which was slightly heartening.

Then I spent two hours sitting in the DMV to get my "new" California license. I say "new" because it turns out that my old file was still "active" so all they needed was my $12. Even a new picture was optional, but I decided to get one anyway, as a way of feeling like I'd accomplished something by sitting there so long. (They've been touting an on-line reservation system as "more convenient" but since the earliest available one was not until October I'm glad I didn't take the "convenient" option. I also overheard one woman complaining that she'd had to wait even with an appointment!)

Then groceries, library, and home. After lunch D. and I went to IKEA -- partly to look for a wastebasket and partly to be snarky. I took particular delight in the weirdness of their chairs; there were barely any that I sat on that didn't contain some sort of surprise for the sitter. There were the "rocking" chairs that didn't, the strange wicker/rattan contraptions that were hard to get out of, the soft-looking poof that turned out to be a fur-covered inflatable, the plastic chair that went "bwonk" when sat on...

I was allured by lights and baskets, though I didn't buy any. The snark shield is vulnerable to these blandishments, it seems.

Then Thai food for dinner, to give D. a break from cooking (and because we like Thai food) -- a good ending to a generally good day.

posted by Rana | 9/05/2003 08:30:00 PM Permalink

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Mirror, Mirror?  

This article at the Chronicle about discarding the remnants of an academic past in some ways feels terribly familiar. I did finally toss out the myriad revised copies of my dissertation-in-progress before I moved out here (though I've kept the actual primary sources and related notes). I too am struggling to find a place for me either in academia or outside. I find too that adjunct teaching is a false hope for me as well as the author.

If I think too long about it, I feel a sense of forboding -- is this the sort of life I'm looking at? Always wistful, always full of what-ifs? (For all the author speaks of getting rid of old academic baggage, it is hard to make out what she might have found to replace it.)

I hope not!

(On the plus side, it seems like the Chronicle may be trying to address in a serious way, if still rather shallowly, the consequences of a tight academic market and the effects of having dreams both deferred and dead. It's about time.)

posted by Rana | 9/04/2003 07:11:00 PM Permalink

Time and Money, Money and Time  

The last few days I've been grousing about not having enough time during the week.

I've also been worrying about money (a perpetual worry these days). Despite this, I finally decided that I had better opt to extend my health insurance from my previous employer for at least a month while I shop around for something cheaper. This will increase my bills for this month by the equivalent of last week's pay. (Erg.)

So this afternoon I learned that I have done a bang-up job for current employer (yay). Unfortunately, the immediate result of my efficiency is that there's no more work for me after today, hence tomorrow I'm back to being unemployed.

I don't know whether I am happy about all this or not.

posted by Rana | 9/04/2003 06:55:00 PM Permalink

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Blarg. (AKA Envious Snarking)  

From the Chronicle:

"CAREER NEWS: Rising Stars Among the new Ph.D.'s joining the faculty ranks this fall are four to watch in herpetology, music, political science, and philosophy."

Each has a bio associated with them under a "catchy" title: "The Sweet Sound of Frogs"; "Lyrical Writing About Music"; "Rebel Groups and Social Justice"; "The Metaphysical Thinker." (Sorry for linking only to the first; the others require a subscription that I don't have.)

I really shouldn't be snarky -- they sound like interesting people with promising careers (and one even went to my alma mater) -- but it's really hard not to.

Gads. I'm becoming a bitter ol' has-been, and I haven't even been, nor am I old. *sigh*

(Lots of sighs tonight, I guess.)

posted by Rana | 9/03/2003 08:51:00 PM Permalink

"Others More Qualified"  

This was the terse explanation given by the automatic job application tracking service for a position I'd recently applied for. The job was for an editorial assistant, and I believed that I was a good match for the job.

The same thing happened a few months ago when I applied for a curatorial assistant job.

Both were entry-level positions in fields I am interested in and would be capable of doing -- doing well, even -- yet it seems I can't even get my foot in the door. It was bad enough not being able to land a tenure-track job, then not being able to get a one-year job, and now it seems even jobs that only require a BA and some enthusiasm are out of my reach.


Just how am I to make a career switch if this keeps happening?

posted by Rana | 9/03/2003 08:09:00 PM Permalink

Working to Live?  

Today was less harried -- thankfully -- and I found at least one task that I found genuinely absorbing. This was doing grade audits for possibly graduating students. I think the reasons I found it interesting were that I was allowed to stay focused on it for once, and that it required discriminatory thought -- does this transfer count toward the requirements or not, for example.

Things seem poised to change yet again, though; one of the regulars in the office will be assuming the registrar's job full time tomorrow. This means at the very least a switch in offices; apparently (I heard this from our boss, not him) he'll even be moving his own computer into the registrar's office. How my responsibilities will change is unclear, though I am seemingly still expected to be around at least through Friday, as the boss spoke of signing my timesheet then. Good thing I'm learning to be flexible, I suppose.

I do find the prospect of my paychecks stopping somewhat worrisome, though, not least because today my iritis was acting up again in a way I couldn't ignore. I've been thinking vaguely that I should have someone take a look at it, but have been dithering about whether I want to try extending my previous place's insurance or not (I'm hung up on the relative expense and the question of whether the coverage works in this state too). I shouldn't ignore it too long, though.

It's faintly ironic, too, that I should be worried about not having daily work, in that I've been feeling chafed by having to spend my days at work. The things that give me pleasure are relegated to the few little hours I can manage during the evening -- some, like visiting the library, are now entirely impossible due to scheduling incompatibilities -- so it feels perverse spending my day earning money so I can enjoy things that I don't have time (or energy) to do anymore.

It's probably good that during my lunch breaks I'm reading a book about a family imprisoned in harsh conditions for 20 years. It helps me keep things in perspective.

posted by Rana | 9/03/2003 06:46:00 PM Permalink

Tuesday, September 02, 2003


I thought about a livelier, more emphatic title, like TIRED or Tired! but, well, I'm too -- tired.

Today was not long, in the sense of hours, but boy was it exhausting in terms of ground covered over and over again. Now that students are back, a lot of sh-t is apparently hitting all sorts of fans, and the paperwork is mounting accordingly. Lots of leaves of absence to process, or change, lots of rescheduling, etc. Plus we discovered that there is actually an in-box for the registrar (I'd been wondering if there might be one) and it was full of stuff a lot of people had been looking for. Argh.

The most tiring, frustrating part of today was that the program/database I do all my work through does not allow you to do multiple tasks at the same time, or even to interrupt one task without completely backing out to the main menu. So, if I'm working in the attendance area, or the scheduling area, and a student needs a leave of absence to be entered RIGHT NOW, I must back out of all of the menu levels for that particular attendance task, then down through all the menus relating to that student until I get to the leave menu, then back out of that until I'm at the uber menu, then back down until I'm able to resume what I was doing when I was interrupted.

Repeat endlessly throughout the day. What I wouldn't give for the ability to open different windows for different tasks.

Another frustration was that when I did go to do the tasks thrust at me, and for some reason couldn't finish them (class not available, etc.) the immediate assumption was that I didn't do the right thing in the database -- that I was at fault, not the schedule, student or computer. I'm willing to accept that this may be indeed the case. But it's hard not to feel insulted on some level when the person making that assumption then proceeds to do EXACTLY what I did in my efforts only to discover that, hey, I was telling the truth when I told you that the class was for some reason capped at zero. It's even more annoying when it is clear from casual observation that, for some tasks, I now actually have a better sense of how some functions work than the person "instructing" me.

I can see why people worry that people with PhDs will be arrogant know-alls if hired into lower-level jobs. It is hard for me to remain polite and attentive and not become defensive when my work is questioned again, and again, and again -- especially after I have done everything I could possibly think of to manage a fix -- and the solutions offered are ones I've already thought of and tried without success. Occasionally there was something I didn't try -- but I don't make that mistake again.

All of this reinforces something I'd already suspected -- I don't always play well with others. My two hot buttons are being patronized and not being able to do things at my own pace in my own way. Both seem to have been pressed today; I'm amazed I stayed as pleasant as I did.

No wonder I'm tired!

posted by Rana | 9/02/2003 07:10:00 PM Permalink

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