the Mammal Chronicles: February 2010

when it comes right down to it, ya lactate or ya don't.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Random Notes from the Rockies, part two

I think I've found my apartment. It's not my dream place, but it has enough of the right ingredients that I think I could be happy there: spacious, big closets, some wood floors, granite counter tops, big tub, covered parking, on a bus line, and right next door to:

  • a bagel place
  • a thai place (more on this in a bit)
  • a deli
  • a falafel place
  • a starbuck's
  • and all of them have vegetarian options, often plenty

We ate at the deli and the thai place. The thai place had nice atmosphere, really good food and black sesame dumplings in ginger sauce, which is my new favorite dessert.

The ginger sauce is more like a sweet ginger soup served piping hot. The dumplings, essentially mochi, are filled with a sesame paste that tastes like peanut butter. Heaven. And they deliver! I imagine all long, stressful days will end with dumplings in ginger soup.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Random notes from the Rockies

People from my state university system like to find each other when we're in other places. Somehow even if we're not from the same campus, there's a sense of camaraderie. I feel it and I can't even explain to you exactly why it is. Perhaps it is that we are all from 4 year teaching institutions that are about (or are supposed to be about) access. Perhaps it is that we are all dealing with the same budget crunch. Or that despite campus to campus differences in size (from just a few thousand to tens of thousands of students) and internal politics, stuff more or less works the same. Or is supposed to. Whatever it is, we seek each other out as if we're all members of the same extended family.

So it wasn't surprising in a workshop the other day when during the break a gentleman from another campus made a point of finding me by my nametag (after seeing my name on a list) and introducing himself. He said, "Wherever I go, there's always someone from your campus. You must have a lot of money there!" To which I replied, "Oh no, not at all, haven't you heard our Provost is being called The Greyhound of Elimination?" I'm not sure what that moniker even means, but it's not good or complimentary, of that I'm sure. Later, looking at the list myself, I realized this guy was the Vice Provost of his campus. Oops. He probably knows my Provost.

Still later, during another break I'm chatting amiably with the man and as we walk back into our session I ask, "so what's your disciplinary background?" "Physics," says he. Oops yet again. Our provost is a physicist. These guys definitely know each other. Oh well. It's no secret on our campus that I'm leaving and that I'm not fond of the Provost.

In all, the conference has been great so far. I'm getting as invigorated about the subject as I'd hoped, and I've run into a number of people from the search committee for the job I may be taking, and they're all complimenting the heck out of me. I've been trying to attend workshops and sessions on assessment because I know it's something I need to know more about but what I've learned about assessment is the following:

  • Numbers, graphs and statistics still make no sense to me no matter how many workshops I go to
  • People who like numbers tend to be very dry presenters (Whereas the best, most entertaining presenters tend to be the professors who've been teaching for decades: they enjoy what they do, know how to do it from practice rather than analysis, and don't give a damn so they're pretty hilarious and inspiring at the same time).
  • Still, the powers that be tend to like numbers and graphs, so I'd better at least partner with someone who understands them when I do this
  • And I think that all these numbers people really need us truly qualitative people (not those qualitative folks who run supposedly qualitative data through a program -- that's *not* qualitative!). Sporksforall, I think our next AFS paper should be "Why Those Numbers People in Assessment Need Folklorists."

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Sunday, February 07, 2010

Weak End

Weekends are rough on me these days. During the week, I have to be "on" and there is comfort there, even in the 10 to 12 hour days. I have to admit I love being in an office environment. As much as I told myself this year I'd spend more time in my faculty office, I find myself more and more in my administrative office because I love the bustle of people and conversation around me. This is a time of my life when I do not need to be alone with my thoughts. Granted, I brought all this monumental change in my life on myself, but it is still damn scary.

So during the week, I have no problem: I roll out of bed, drive-through the Starbuck's (unless I miss the exit, in which case I decide, do I get back on the freeway and turn around or do I go to the one on the other end of campus and try to balance all my bags and my latte??), get in before anyone else does, and start on my to do list. I juggle tasks, emails, staff crises (lately at least one per day, god love 'em), meetings, and finally get to class at 5 pm and head home at 7 pm exhausted. That's Tuesdays and Thursdays. On other days, it's the same without the class, and on occasion lately the Administrative Coordinator and I ditch a bit early to hit a thrift store (While I need to pare down my life for the move, I justify this flurry of consumerism by telling myself I need a more professional, non-hippy wardrobe for my new job and that I'm really spending so little by thrifting).

On the weekend, however, I find myself struggling to get out of bed in the morning. When I finally do, I find myself overwhelmed by the prospect of tasks like grading or packing up my life to move and end up sitting on the couch with my laptop or iphone most of the day instead. Yesterday I was in such a funk, I couldn't even get myself to Target to look for a garment bag or to socialize with the friends who had invited us over to hang out. That's when I know my depression has really hit: when I can't bear the thought of socializing even with people I love.

My psychiatrist urged me to take Ritalin on the weekends too. "I thought it was for energy and focus," I told him, "So I only took it when I was at work." "No," he said, "it's for your mood too. And right now in your life you need it." Thing is, I did take one yesterday and still managed to stay depressed. This morning I made sure to start the day with a latte and Ritalin -- thus the energy to write this blog entry, but we'll see if it leads to anything more solidly productive than that.

Luckily, next week there will be no weekend. I'm headed to the Rockies for a conference and more meetings with my potential new employers. Six full days of it starting Friday. In the brief bit of downtime, I will look at apartments. I already have two appointments: one 3 bedroom 1911 duplex with a Starbuck's on the corner and a new 2 bedroom apartment with covered parking and all the amenities newer places provide. I mapped out all my prospective apartments according to the following criteria:

  • Proximity to work/public transportation
  • School District
  • Proximity to Whole Foods
  • Proximity to Vegetarian restaurants

The two I'm looking at so far fit well in all those categories. It'd probably be a stretch to walk to work, but they're maybe a 30 minute bus ride. I'd like to look at some that are walking distance to work too, but they would not be in a decent school district.

I love conferences. I love learning new things, getting ignited by other people's passion for a subject. I'm taking three intensive workshops in addition to the normal round of watching conference presentations; I can hardly believe I'm excited to take a four hour workshop on assessment of all things.

At the end of the conference, I start my round of meetings with people on campus. While there is already an offer on the table, I'm nervous because things still aren't finalized: will they or won't they give me tenure? Will something unforseen fall through? In a way, it's like another full day interview, but as I've established previously, I get a rush from interviews. It is like being in the office times ten.

Inevitably though, there will be the crash afterward. I will return home exhausted and still have to finish out the week at work. On the weekend, I will hope that the latte and Ritalin will do their job as well as I have when I'm "on."

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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Riding the Whirlwind

Here I am again, the day after a job interview, and I am drained. Job interviews are a drug, a performance high, maybe a runner's high (not that I've ever run, but I imagine it involves a similar pushing of your limits and releases the same sort of endorphins). I adore everything about the process: looking for the positions that don't know they are looking for me with my odd background, positions I have to narrate my way into in order to show them how perfect a fit I am for them even when they did not imagine me when they crafted the announcement. I love the rush I get when I'm notified that I made the cut. Phone interviews are more odd and awkward than anything -- a hurdle to jump. Once I've made it to the fly me out stage, that's where the real excitement begins. I love dressing for the interview (all thrift: suit $8, shirt $1.99, shoes $8, and three pairs of retail priced black tights to bear the cold of the East coast). I love the endless, whirlwind day without a break, sometimes preceded by the awkward, not yet an interview but really part of the interview dinner with the search committee the previous night. Time to be as much yourself as you can be, begin to let them see the real, quirky yet uber-qualified you. Then, the next day, interview after interview with individuals and whole conference rooms full of people who have a vested interest in bringing in a person they can work with. Worrying that the one guy on the search committee isn't too keen on your quirkiness, then having him ask you to repeat the story you thought he hated to another group. The open forums that often almost no one comes to, or the lunch with students where they have to drag in random folks wandering the halls who have no idea who you are or what your position is about. The woman who asks the hard questions, then tells you at the end of the day that she loved your spunk and how you gave it right back to her. Getting as happy inside as a toddler given a compliment when someone remarks on what a good question you asked, or when a previous answer you gave is quoted back to you as an answer. The woman who walks in late and jokingly asks what the question was because "that was such an interesting answer."

Still, despite the positive feedback, you never really know after it's all over if you will get the offer. Yet that doesn't really temper your enjoyment but for a moment when you are rejected. It is all practice for the next one, and when you do get an offer, you know who they want is really you -- you have flown your freak flag at full mast and shown them how you are unexpected but ideal.

I have two potential new jobs: the one I interviewed for yesterday in a small city on the East coast and another in a bigger city in the Rockies. Prior to going yesterday, I'd thought I'd like the job of this one better but the circumstances of the other more. After exploring the area and the position, I think I would indeed like the circumstances of the other more but the job about as much. And, if the one in the Rockies somehow falls through, I could be happy at the other. It's not a bad position to be in. Let's just hope that both don't fall through. If that happens, well... given the state of things personally and professionally, I don't know what will happen. I suppose though, it's on to the next challenge, freak flag flying high.

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