Monday, March 28, 2011

Another Day. . .

after another night of Tot's restless nursing. I've felt a lot of external pressure lately to wean the Tot (from doctors and such), but ultimately had decided not to. Right now, I wonder. Though I guess that if he woke up in the middle of the night and I did not nurse him, I'd have to be much more awake than I need to be when nursing. On the other hand, I don't get a lot of sleep flipping us over from side to side either. Anyway.

Another day in which I discover another big lack of communication around a specific issue that absolutely affects students. It's one of those classic maneuvers actually, one of those that shows how faculty members do not understand how our classes build on one another, how faculty members treat their classes as if they are all one-offs, accountable to no one. No wonder students have such a fragmented experience. No wonder knowledge seems so disparate to students. Students are rarely encouraged to put it all together in a whole. Apart from the cognitive dissonance that this causes, other problems emerge with the bureaucratization of the mind, each piece in its own compartment. We're like that too, each faculty member in hir cell. It's not good. Not good.

Some of this is because of my department specifically. But I've also seen this in other departments, though, perhaps, less so because of majors and things. Sigh.

This week is my "spring break," as much as one exists on the quarter system when one still has all one's Winter grading splayed out over one's desk while syllabi are calling forth from the World of Possibility to be birthed into the world by next week, when we'll do it all again. I hate the transition from Winter to Spring quarter. I really do.

But today I have other fish to fry. Tot's eye doctor has prescribed patching, so I'm going in search of pirate hats and patches to make it all more fun for Tot (who is currently being annoying by taking apart the Hot Wheels track I just put back together). Any ideas of where to find pirate patches and hats during non-Halloween times? I figure a party store might be good.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Rallying for the Right to Know: Label GMO Foods Now

Even if it's all icy outside (gorgeous -- the ice glistening on the trees), it's still time for a springy change here on the blog.

Today, there are Right to Know-Truth in Labeling for GMO foods Rallies all over the country. I'm not going to the one about an hour away because I got very little sleep (sick -- yes, still -- plus Tot sleep shenanigans), but I want to support them in any way I can. Even if you can ignore the research that shows that GMO foods are bad and ignore the doctors who are prescribing non-GMO diets to everyone as cranks, the fact is that here again we have big business unduly influencing government agencies. Apart from potential harm to human and animal health and the environment, the danger is that the biotech companies involved in GMO development (you know who I'm talking about) spend millions of dollars on lobbying the FDA to keep GMO foods unlabeled -- which means most of us are consuming GMO foods without knowing it. I don't want Big Biotech to decide what it's okay for me to eat. I don't want to be their guinea pig. And I don't want to have to find out whether GMO foods really cause pesticide production in our guts.

Moreover, scientists are warning the FDA that new pathogens are being developed from GMOs, pigs are too smart to eat GMO feed, and then there's this incredible scariness: agribusiness takes schoolteachers on Agriscience Bus Tours so that teachers will develop curriculum based on what they learn. And they are not learning about the dangers of GMO, nor are the tour leaders answering GMO concerns satisfactorily. I challenge you to look up teachers and GMO -- while there is plenty of stuff that is anti-GMO, there are also things like the Biotechnology Activity Book and other biotech lessons, "educating" our kids so that totally unnatural foods seem normal by teaching them in schools. Yuck.

Corporate propaganda in our public schools. Corporate influence on regulatory agencies. It's disgusting. I say we all revolt.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Conversation I Would Like to Have

If Mommy doesn't get more than three hours of sleep per night, she will never ever get well from this cold!

To review the action for those lucky enough to have slept through the play by play:

9-11:30: Tot too restless and overtired to sleep. Mom would've had no trouble, but alas.
11:30: Woke up from what Mommy thought was a sound sleep
12:00: Finally got him to bed. Mommy went to bed.
2:00: Tot woke up with a leaking diaper.
2-3: Fitful sleeping by Tot and Mom with Mom fighting for space from Tot and Cat.
3:00: Must've slept.
5:00: Mom had to get up.

GAH! Thank God and all the little angels that this is the last day I teach at 8am.

As is usual when I wake up on time, I'm still late getting into the shower. No doubt my being in the shower will wake Tot, still in our bed.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Few Minutes R & R

from the I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired war.

I'm only letting myself write this blogpost because even though it would be great if I would use the last dregs of today getting some grading done to make tomorrow easier, I will probably go insane if I don't do something fun, something that reaches out past my life and its tight circles right now and toddlers who refuse to sleep at reasonable times.

You remember how in my last post I said I hate being sick? Well, let me amend that: I hate being sick for more than a week. Because this cold bloomed on the last day of the conference and was instrumental in me deciding not to bother turning back across the reservoir to hit up Taco Cabana, which is the greatest "fast food" in the world and can only mean I was feeling very very bad, its start date is etched on my memory: Friday, March 11. Today is Sunday, March 20. For the record: ill every moment since that time. It just sucks. (Then I got my period. And that super-sucked. TMI. Enough about that.)

So it's the end of the quarter and, having gotten so sick, I'm totally behind so now I'm grading a lot and being ill and taking care of Tot (that is, the usual -- and he's sick too) all at the same time. I'm also planning things to make my overall life better, like putting Tot into daycare another day each week, and picking him up earlier so that sometimes we can spend time together going to the park or whatever. But this doesn't help my immediate grading drama, because he's also got an eye appointment tomorrow -- and even if Absurdist Lover calls the daycare in the morning, which he said he would, it would be silly to put Tot in daycare for a few hours in the morning so I can get some grading done. (Of course, when I write it out like that, it seems perfectly reasonable to put him in daycare to get ahead. Well, if I can get up at a decent hour tomorrow, then maybe I can get a few done before Tot even wakes up. That would really help.)

During the times that I'm either wearily taking care of Tot or when I absolutely cannot grade and so am doing something else, I'm daydreaming a lot. I find myself obsessed by two different big and important work-related thoughts. I think I'll focus on one here and then save the other for another time.

I've decided to write a book.

How did such a decision evolve? Because it did evolve and now seems inevitable, but of course a few days ago it wasn't so obvious. Since I went to the conference, I've felt that I really should get on revising my dissertation work and writing this article for my Fave Journal. I even saw this CFP that is completely up my alley that I decided I wouldn't pay much attention to because what I really need to do is write this article for Fave Journal. In thinking about my problems with that article, I had this visual epiphany -- that I want each argument to really be a big file folder unto itself because I feel like everything I read is connected to those arguments. I just need more space than an article allows. And so I thought I'll write a book, but then thought I'd organize it completely differently from the dissertation. And then it occurred to me: instead of writing a book that places this new theory into too many sites and possibly takes on more than it can chew, why don't I look closely at the site I care most about and which will be most important to people in my field? I've gone back and forth on this in the past, deciding it would be a good idea, but not really being passionate about it, but this feels different. I want to do it, I ought to do it, I can do it, and I'm going to do it.

When I look at books in my field, some of them that are very powerful are actually very short. Some are barely over 100 pages. Of course, there are books that hit 200 pages, even 250. But that's about it. Not very many really big books. So I'm thinking about 180 pages, because I just can't imagine it being any shorter than that. And I've been thinking about how I want to proceed, how like Dr. Crazy, I'd like to set up a three-ring binder and tabs, though I also need some pockets as well to just put stuff in. I tend to end up cutting stuff up.

I think that the real hard part is going to be finding each major chapter's organization. I hope that at least one or two will come together organically; others I'll probably have to construct each awkward plank that gets us from here to there. Organization is my weak point because to me every argument ends up leading to every other argument in a way probably easiest to imagine representing with hypertext, but who wants to read that? I certainly don't want to construct that. (Sorry, all you hypertext scholar-writer-innovators.)

What does this mean for my tenure bid, which I had decided to base on articles? Well, as much as I've had a good year so far with decent things in the can, and another piece drafted, and another piece promised, I really want to keep it up. I'd like to have three pieces published in really stellar places by the time I go up for tenure. I've already got one, I think. A very important collection, I think, though I haven't yet seen any post-publication reviews. (Though this is the scholarly world: it could take years and probably will to get the thing reviewed. Now, if anyone quotes me, that will be a very different thing.) But what I'm saying is that even though I want to work on this book, I also want to work on articles. I must write that piece for Fave Journal; as I work on it and see the difficulties, I'll take notes for the book. If Fave Journal hates it, I'll revise it closer to the book and send it to Cool Journal.

What I'm doing is allowing myself to work on the book for 10 minutes per day -- and then that's it, because I have so much grading to do and when I get some time (like the three seconds between this quarter ending and the next one starting -- oh I hate this schedule so much) I need to really just cobble together a draft of the Much Needed Article and get some people to look at it. It just must be done and out, so I can think of other things.

But at least in my head, I'm writing a book. 10 minutes a day.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Back Home: Conference Reflections, Scholarship Concerns, Illness

So I'm back from my conference. I survived. But here's the thing: I'd like to do a little better than surviving. I presented and people talked about my work (which was lovely, considering how isolated I am by the fact that no one does anything like my work at Specialized U -- that is, I focus on Root Vegetable Studies and related things, while my colleagues work on all sorts of other things in the Vegetative kingdom), but I felt underprepared and it showed. That is, I think my paper was underdone. The next conference I go to, which may be Interesting Conference or Fabulous Interdisciplinary Conference, both in the fall, I want to go with a much stronger paper. In order to do this, I think I must circulate it to my colleagues first. (I did this for my paper for last year's Big Conference, but ran out of time for this conference.)

But as I think about it, I realize that the problems I had were not general, but pretty specific to the focus of the conference -- as in not being able to speak to one thread of scholarship involved in the conference. Mostly I couldn't speak to it because I think the theorist and thus much of this one particular trajectory is bogus -- everyone in the world has critiqued the main theorist, but then they go on using some of the language and assumptions of the main theorist, when some of the main assumptions of the main theorist, in my opinion, are so flawed as to make any of the theory unusable. It's as if everyone feels they've got to argue with . . .Freud, let's say, but if we all keep agreeing that Freud was totally whacked, then what's the point? The issue, of course, is whether I'm in one of those fields that depend on Freud. (Like, if you're in psychoanalytic theory, I guess you'd still have to tangle with Freud.) I don't think of my field as having to tangle with this particular Freud. I didn't position my paper in any relation to Freud, but that didn't stop one of the featured presenters asking me to speak to my argument's relationship to Freud. Gah. I couldn't and ended up saying so. Though of course I spent the next 24 hours first thinking maybe I shouldn't position my work in the particular trajectory of my field that I do (which I still don't think depends on Freud, but maybe others do), then thinking through my ideas about what I remembered of Featured Presenter's question, then coming up with what I should've said to FP. Useful, in its way, but for a while there I was thinking I should just position my work in a totally different trajectory and get rid of all this crap. The truth is that my doctoral program wasn't strong in the trajectory of the field I eventually chose (which still doesn't depend on this Freud and that mini-trajectory), though very strong in another trajectory. This question and my lack of an answer really did mess with my confidence about myself as a scholar -- and I guess is still making me feel pretty iffy, though at least now I'm not thinking I should position my work in a totally different way.

In any case, this conference showed me a number of things, totally apart from whether Freud belongs in my work (and whether FP maybe had hir own ax to grind as well). One, that one of the major conversations of my General Field doesn't apply to me anymore because of the needs of the institution I work in. So when everyone talks about that, I feel really outside of things. This is sad to me. And one of the reasons why I think I really can't make a career out of teaching at this institution. Two, that I'm too isolated where I am, and that I need somehow to work on that. I really need the conversation of other people who are doing things sort of like what I do. As I think of people from grad school, for example, I knew several people doing work in my field, but only maybe one or two doing anything related to my specific focus. Now, those two that I'm thinking of were not people I was really close to. And there are problems with me trying to invent a group with them. But one way or the other I really need to find people who do work like mine, because somehow my work is so different that if I had to figure out outside reviewers right now, I'm not sure I could name them. Maybe I'm just not up on things anymore. Which wouldn't be terribly surprising. Seriously -- I was up on things, finished my dissertation, went to Adventure City, came back, got pregnant when I was underemployed, adjuncted, and got this job, which doesn't promote my being up on my field. So I guess I should cut myself some slack.

I say all this, but it's mainly my dissertation focus that is the trouble. It's so sweeping, really creating a new theory. Who else creates new theories that are like mine? Well, there's this one guy who is not in my field, but I've read his theory-creating before. But since he's not in my field, he's probably not a great choice for an outside reviewer. In some of my other work, I know who the movers and shakers are, who I'd call on to affirm the value of my work. Still. It's daunting.

Anyway, I would just once like to feel like I rock at a conference. I realize that's not the purpose of sharing one's work at conferences, but here I felt the stakes involved in presenting and wanting to come off as a serious young scholar, whereas at the biggies, I haven't. Of course, here one of my favorite scholars in the field, someone whose work was instrumental to my move from Backburner Field to my current field, was at my panel (not to see me, but to see someone else). Here's what I really want to say: I don't want to be mistaken for a grad student at my next conference. Period. End of story.

So, I need to make use of what resources I have. Circulate my paper to my local colleagues. See about making better relationships with people who can sustain my work, either because they're good friends or because they do similar kinds of work.

Oh. And also, going to a conference where you don't know anyone is not fun. You can't just sit there at dinner eating alone, which means you have to talk with people. But deciding where to sit is not easy. I realized how much social anxiety I have. It's just not easy for me to go up to people I don't know.

I realize that my attitude toward all this is also not the best because I managed to get sick on Day 3 of the conference, the day that I was returning home. So I have been sick ever since I got back, have saddled with AL with even more housework and toddlercare since I got home, got very little grading done, and am SO behind and am staring down the end of the quarter, which is great, but I've got to get so much shit done, it's scary. And I'm sick. I can't really even think of what to do about it all, except that I'm going to try to get some work done tomorrow (later today really) when I'm taking care of Tot. Gah.

I hate being sick.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Teething, Grading, Conference Paper Writing. . .Long Layers???

I'm having one of those classic moments. I'm so anxious about the conference paper I've got to write and ALL the grading that is piled up (just give it up, English -- it ain't gettin' done), and I've got students emailing about their revisions and everything so that, of course, I'm browsing the internet for hairstyles. Oy gevalt. (Is this me trying to have me time or is this just avoidance? I am thinking about getting my hair cut for increased confidence at the conference, since my clothes are threadbare and my work not so hot.)

We finally figured out that Tot's cough that keeps waking him up is probably not a hold-over from his last cold, but from a new round of teething. Yay second molars. Oh goodie. Tot slept for a whole half hour of his nap yesterday and then woke up after about an hour last night. Tot ends up nursing all night, so I'm not getting much sleep. So I'm grumpy anyway today. I don't anticipate that tonight will be any different -- and I've got to wake up at 5am tomorrow. And as if I weren't already freaked out about going out of town (not being prepared plus just hating being gone, often convinced I'm going to die on the plane), now I'm worried that AL and Tot are going to have a terrible time because Tot won't have the comfort of nursing.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to figure out what to say in those three pages. I mean, who cares about Animal Mating anyway. And what does it have to say to Root Vegetables anyway? Am I just a pretender to Root Vegetable Studies anyway, since I'm really more of a theorist? Eeegads. So, in the interest of naming things properly: anxiety plus. Waaaa.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

I Feel Better: Back to Overwhelmed

I feel much better than I did when I last posted. I went to my therapy appointment, and Therapist is great. She nailed something about me immediately: I'm very anxious, but it comes out as anger. So true. I mean, for frigg's sake, I'm nearly forty years old, and I still bite my nails. Down to the quick. Except for a couple periods when I became devoted to getting acrylics, I've never had long nails in my adult life. I tend to bite off the acrylics, even.

So I feel better about the things that I was really worried about, mostly because when I came out of the therapy session, I decided to address them. And, as impossible as resolution seemed, they got resolved.

So now I'm just back to overwhelmedness -- or as I like to say -- overwhelm because of the normal things: I have a conference in mere days that I only have four pages for my seven page conference paper. In the paper, I'm presenting this research that comes from a Totally Different Field, so different we could call it Animal Mating, that I often draw on that illuminates some important issues and proclivities to Root Vegetable Studies. (You can see that people would often say: why use research from Animal Mating in Root Vegetable Studies? Well, I may be the only person who sees that these are related.) So I have four pages of Animal Mating -- and now I've got to draw out the implications for Root Vegetables and Root Vegetable Studies. Gah. Important work, of course, but could someone else do it please?

Last night, between the time that Tot went down to bed the first time and when he woke up coughing three hours later, I organized all my teaching materials for Freshman Class -- so now I know exactly how much grading I need to do, and it's all organized. Wow, I have a fair amount of grading to do, and it really would be good if the majority of it were ready for class on Tuesday. Could I carve out some time today and tomorrow to do it? Of course, but if I do that. . .what about that conference paper? Do I just leave it for the plane? Dear lord.

I must be in denial -- or I'd be anxiety-ridden and therefore, likely, angry. Instead, I'm just tired tired tired even with the thought of all this. While I was never good at the networking part of conferencing and the thought always stressed me out about conferences (note to self: anxiety), I really don't like conferences so much now that I've had Tot. I always get depressed at the thought of leaving town. And then I get there and can't sleep and feel all weird (note to self: anxiety about being gone) when I should feel elated that I can go to sleep and wake up when I want.

All that said, I've been doing some wonderful research gathering for my new elective. There's a field that I've long argued is vital to Turnip Studies that I'm really boning up on. And there's some local interest in there too, so I can immediately turn this stuff over to students too.

I'm teaching the exact same courses in Spring, which starts maybe a week or ten days after Winter ends. Blech. But at least I'm saving all my materials and handouts. I'm determined to be able to get more research done and stay caught up more on grading in the Spring, because I'm not making anything new. Prep done. These are my two core courses. No wonder I get burned out easily. Thank goodness I have an elective coming up soon after.

PS There's a terrible situation at my uni that I really feel I should do something about. Very depressing.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Today, everything in my life seems like a compromise. A compromise in which I've had to give up something important or several important things in order to have what I have. Today, I wonder if these compromises are worth it, whether what I have is worth having. In all this, thank God for Tot's smile and jubilance, without which things would be a whole hell of a lot worse.

How can I tell whether these compromises are worth it, just the cost of doing business, just the way it is and I should toughen up and not be such a whiner? My feeling about this fluctuates. Today, well, today just sucks.

Therapy tomorrow. That's good. And that's all.