Deep thoughts

Baa Ram U. has the eccentric (to me, anyway) tradition of cancelling classes all of Thanksgiving week.  I like having a fall break, but I’d prefer one that happened before there’s only two weeks left in the semester.  (But of course, a proper October Fall Break as observed in Eastern colleges wouldn’t coincide with the opening of ski season, which I think is the actual holiday we’re meant to keep here in Colorado.)  So having taught my last class, I’m in a pensive mood this afternoon, and these questions weigh on me:

  • In what other profession does “break” or “vacation” really mean “opportunity to do all the other work that’s part of your job,” teaching excepted?  To be fair, staff have to work Monday through Wednesday, so most grown-ups around here are still on the clock, but we still have Winter, Spring, and Summer breaks ahead of us, don’t we?
  • In what other line of work does a “promotion” mean that you are permitted to do the same job you’ve done for six years (or more?  Doesn’t “promotion” usually imply new challenges and exciting new opportunities?) 

Are there any other deep thoughts you want to share?

How gud iz ur reeding comprehenshen and Barbie knitting skilz?

You know what the problem is with pointy-headed academics these days?  We don’t write books that the average person can understand.  It’s all post-structural theory this and performative that, no reasonable ideas that normal people can understand, let alone use!  Well, Susie at Suburban Guerilla and Anglachel point us to commenter Robert Stanley Martin, who ran a bunch of lefty political blogs through the wringer along with this humble blog, too.  Here’s what he found (also posted at his blog, Pol Culture):

–Glenn Greenwald: Genius
–Nouriel Roubini: Genius
Pol Culture (me): College (postgrad)
–Anglachel: College (undergraduate)
–Paul Krugman (blog): High school
–The New York Times: High school
–Daily Kos: High school
–The Daily Howler (Bob Somerby): Junior high school
–Historiann: Junior high school
–The New Yorker: Junior high school
–Atrios: Elementary school
–Americablog (John Aravosis): Elementary school

There are some shockers there. I mean, the Daily Kos is written at a higher intellectual level than The New Yorker or Historiann? Are they kidding? However, I do think they pegged John Aravosis just right. I’m assuming a “Nursery school” option wasn’t available.

Thanks, Robert, for your gentlemanly defense of this humble blog!  When I ran through the analyzer yesterday, it was ranked as High School, so I’ve been promoted!  Yay?  (The company was much better in my old junior high, I have to say.)  Do I say “wev” too often?  Is that it?  Or is it the Barbies and their cunning, tiny knitted couture?  My guess is that Nouriel Roubini hasn’t posted much on the Sex and the City:  The Movie, and Glenn Greenwald has completely ignored Skipper and Judy Jetson.

Yeah, that’s gotta be it.  I love these–they’re not from the Historiann barbie knitwear collection, which you can see elements of here, here, and here, if you really want to.  It’s ski season here in Colorado, and since Historiann (a native-born flatlander) does not faire du ski, she’s got her eye on this apres-ski wear.  I don’t know if I’m confident enough to pull off the retro look of that knitted matching sweater and skirt on the left, but I would kill for that fur-trimmed coat and hat on the right.


Demoralized Debby from DSU desires to return to academia

detail from "Sad Woman" by Gilli Moon

detail from "Sad Woman" by Gilli Moon

Today’s mail brings an urgent plea from Debby, who needs your advice, dear readers:

Dear Historiann,

I graduated from a top university in my subdiscipline; I love research and writing and teach okay to well, depending on the circumstances. It’s tough to get a tenure-track job in my subfield, and I was the only one who did from my grad program the year I graduated:  a tenure-line, mostly administrative position as director of a program embedded within a humanities department at Disintegrating State University.  I got pregnant second year and got zero support, institutionally or from colleagues, and suffered from postpartum depression.  In my fourth year there, my colleagues voted “not to reappoint” (i.e., to fire) me, mostly because of a hatred of my subfield; malicious, scapegoating, and backstabbing colleagues; and bad department management.

For over a year, I’ve been mourning the loss of a career I love. My CV includes a frequently cited article in a top journal; one in a book from a top press in my field; a few articles tossed off in crummy journals; two forthcoming in book collections and one forthcoming in another top journal; a fancy award.   I’ve applied for a few jobs, but have had no luck. So here’s my question:  I think my dissertation topic is important, interesting, and timely.  I’d love to write a book about it.  Would publishing such a book help me get back on track–tenure-track, that is?  The caveat: I will never work at another place like DSU—only at a college that values good research and conducts itself with reasonable integrity.

Debby, it sounds to me like you were treated very badly by your former department.  Why would they hire a new Assistant Professor to run a program?  And if as you say, your sub-field didn’t enjoy strong support in the department that hired you, then it sounds like you were set up to fail.  In cases like this I think it’s really important not to internalize the judgement of people who clearly were clueless about defining the job and neglectful (or malicious) in not working to help you succeed.  I don’t know why departments do this, but they do, and it just perpetuates bad juju.

But, it sounds like  you’re clear about your strengths as a scholar, so why not write that book and see what happens?  Publishing your book may get you back on the tenure-track in a job that suits you.  At the very least, the process of writing and publishing will necessarily draw you back into supportive networks (through conferences and contact with publishers) who will affirm your worth as a scholar, and who might have valuable connections to job and fellowship opportunities.  And in the end, a book in your hand will make you feel like you achieved something distinctive.

All of this is contingent on you having the time (and therefore the money) to do this.  You mentioned that you were pregnant, so I assume you have at least one toddler or preschooler now–and if baby needs new shoes, that will certainly take priority.  Readers, what do you think?  How would you look at Debby’s CV if she publishes her book and applies for a job in your department?

Sisters in Arms roundup: P.O.W.s unite, yee-haw!

Wow, there sure are a lot of P.O.W.’s in my readership these days–Pissed Off Women, that is.  (I think I’m learning why right-wing talk radio is so popular:  conflict, conflict, conflict!  You P.O.W.’s are energized by conflict!)  Well, as a charter member of the P.O.W.’s, I thought as a public service I would provide you with a roundup of all of the links I’ve been getting over the past few days from bloggers who are sisters in outrage (just in case you haven’t seen them, check out “Ummm, you e-mailed *me* for advice, remember?” and, “Faculty women are just toys for your pleasure and/or scorn,” in case you missed them.)  So, before we slip into our turkey-induced and wine-and-pie exacerbated Thanksgiving comas, let’s mainline some rage and consider the many things we’re not so thankful for in this academic lifetime:

  • Dr. Crazy at Reassigned Time is probably the queen of the P.O.W.’s right now–go read.  It’s rantalicious!  Here’s a free sample:  “I no longer fret so much when a student finds me rude, for example. I’m not sure that’s actually a good thing: I think it just gives me license to actually be rude to students. But even though the frequency has lessened, it’s not like I no longer face these things. And learning to deal with them has been an extra part of learning this job, one I wasn’t trained to learn and one that has taken time that might better have been spent elsewhere.”  Yes–like reading and writing books, for example?  Just one of those things that takes us longer to do because of the inequitable demands placed on women faculty.  Yes, my darlings:  Embrace the rude.  Be the rude!  Live the rude.
  • Ann Bartow from Feminist Law Profs chimes in to inform us that because she’s got mad skillz with actual value in the marketplace, she gets requests for assistance from random strangers weekly, not just occasionally like us science and humanities types.  Says Ann, “[a] couple of times each week I get calls and e-mails and in person visits from people asking for free legal advice or representation, and when I refuse to provide same, a tirade. Most are random strangers, but others are part of the University committee. Many angrily claim that they were given my name by someone who promised I would help them- isn’t “public service” my job? And of course it is, at least partly, but I get to choose the kind of public service I want to do, and helping nasty jerks with legal problems isn’t too high up on the list.”  You don’t say!  (And, who the hell is promising your assistance to these lovelies?)
  • Many thanks to the Global Sociology Blog, which has picked up the discussion here and here, as has Anglachel.

Hum along with me now, after Nancy Sinatra, “this door was made for shuttin’, and that’s just what it’ll do.  One of these days this door is gonna shut all over you.”  (Or, substitute, “this phone was made for ringin’,” as in, ringing off the hook and not being answered by a P.O.W.)

Feel free to send me photos of your closed office doors and phones merrily ringing away!


Faculty women are just toys for your pleasure and/or scorn

Wow–Someguy really gets around.  Check out this post at Female Science Professor–it’s like the live-action version of the folie-a-deux e-mail exchange with the male student who thought he was entitled to treat me like teh Google (h/t Erica):

I was sitting at my desk, and my office door was open, as it almost always is when I am in my office. A young man walked into my office and started talking to me, without any introduction. My first thought was that perhaps I am losing my mind faster than I think I might be — perhaps I have met this person and just don’t remember? Perhaps I am supposed to know this person? But no, it became apparent during the conversation that we have not met before.

Random Young Man (RYM): An International Scientist [names person I have never heard of] will be visiting in July for a few days and would like to start a collaboration with Scientists here. Are you interested in working with him?

FSP: That’s hard to say without more information. What is his specific field of research?

RYM: I’m not exactly sure (ed. note:  you’re not sure?  And yet you’re serving as his emissary?), but he has done some work on X [names research field that is not even remotely related to my research].

FSP: In that case, no, but there is another department at the university that does research in that field.  (ed. note:  Duh!  Were you just trolling for open doors, dude?)  Perhaps you can find someone there who would be interested in meeting this scientist.

RYM: So you’re not interested in working with International Scientist? He is coming a long way and he really wants to collaborate with scientists here.  (ed. note:  Well then, he should have done a little advance work, shouldn’t he?  Let me guess:  he’s the kind who relies on secretaries and grad students to do this for him, isn’t he?  Does he work in a cave, or does he have e-mail access and Google?  Even non-specialists could use these primitive tools to ensure that he has people here ready to greet him.  How is this FSP’s problem, or even your problem?)

FSP: No, I am not interested in working with him. From your description, there is no overlap whatsoever in our research interests.

RYM: So you never work on anything outside your narrow field of research?  (Ed. note:  yeah, pal:  ever heard of tenure?  Do you think they give that to people who teach only “Intro to Earth Science?”)

FSP: No, never.

What a tool.  As for me, I’m highly doubtful that a really big-shot International Scientist would have to rely on Chuckles here to drum up an audience and group of “collaborators” for his super-fabulous and extremely important visit to your campus.  (And I’ve been contacted by a highly placed former official in the Nigerian government who told me he’s got millions of dollars he wants to share with you, if only you can lend him a sum of money to hold in escrow while he waits for the money to be deposited into his account.) 

As Female Science Prof. says, “Apparently [all I] do [is] sit at my desk just waiting for random people to stop by and ask me to do random things, and then insult me when I refuse. ”  Well, yeah–who do you think you are, baby?  You oughta smile more too–what a shame you don’t, with such a pretty face.  Don’t you broads have any sense of humor?

Welcome to, a NASCAR and law enforcement blog by and for menz

Rose at Romantoes and Erica (a.k.a. “Cleanser”) at the good old daysfound some fun little gizmos for blog analysis last week, so I decided to put through the wringer too to see what we’d have left over to hang out on the clothesline.  Here’s what the random and non peer-reviewed internets have to say about chez nous:

  • This blog is probably written by a man, “however it’s quite gender neutral.”  Yes, there’s a 59% chance that I’m a man!  (I guess most blogs that contain the word “feminist” and “feminism” over and over again are written by angry men, and not angry women?  Wev.)  The program must have a grammar-based rather than a content-based algorithm.
  • This blog is worth $47,421.36.  Not bad for a very part-time job.  (Actually, that number is disturbingly close to what I earn at my day job!  When those lines cross, I’m outta Baa Ram U., baby.)  Of course that website doesn’t tell me who precisely would pay me $47K+ for my blog–but I’m sure that once I’ve resigned, I’ll have lots of time to figure that out.
  • The typealyzer analysis was disturbingly accurate in some ways, and comically off-base in others.  Apparently, I am a “mechanic.”  Here goes:
  • “The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts.” 
  • That’s me, for the most part, and this blog has become something of an agony column this semester, not to mention all of the posts on academic bullying that have proved so (unfortunately!) popular.  So, what else?

  • “The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters.” 
  • Fun?  Sure.  Action and risk–oh my, no.  The most adventure I get is hunting for a parking space Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings at Baa Ram U., and the biggest risk I take is the occasional cup of black coffee after 3 p.m.  I live in a happily predictable routine, and actually prefer it this way, after working so hard and spending so many years wondering if I would ever have the kind of professional and family life I enjoy now, at the same time and in the same state.  “Risk” at this point would mean severe illness or disability for me or the illness, disability, or loss of a friend or family member, and I can live without that kind of drama, thanks very much. 

    Here’s what’s kind of funny:  Erica is an engineer, and Typealyzer says her blog is written by a “Performer,” you know “[t]he entertaining and friendly type. They are especially attuned to pleasure and beauty and like to fill their surroundings with soft fabrics, bright colors and sweet smells. They live in the present moment and don’t like to plan ahead — they are always in risk of exhausting themselves.”  And I’m the “mechanic!”  (Those of you who know me in real life will have a laugh at that one.)  Sorry, Erica–I’m just as baffled as you are, although I think your blog is “especially attuned to pleasure and beauty,” not to mention humor and retro-domesticity, which is why I love it!  Oh, and Rose and Tom:  you’re “Performers” too!

    Run your blogs through the wringer and let me know what you find.  (I’ve already checked some of you out–there are a lot of “Performers” on my blogroll!)

    Hotshot Harry in Tucumcari has happy problems

    Because that last letter in the mailbag was such a buzzkill (but thanks very much for all of the supportive comments!), here’s a very polite someone with very nice problems.  Hotshot Harry (who is a historian) has a question about juggling prospective publishers:

    Howdy Historiann,

    I sent my book proposal out recently, and I now have two presses interested in my book project.  I had sent the proposal to one, hadn’t heard back for a short while, then sent it along to another colleague for review.  This other colleague forwarded it to his editor.  In the meantime, press #1 got back to me with a “we’re interested, but could you clarify a few things?” so I did.  No sooner did I ship the proposal off to press #1 did press #2 contact me to express interest.  What to do?  I want/need the thing off my desk (for sanity and extended contract purposes), so I don’t want push one off only to risk losing the other “upon further review.”

    I normally wouldn’t lose to much sleep over this, except for the fact that friends helped make contacts with each of the presses.



    It seems to me that Harry’s problem is really two:  how to juggle interested prospective editors, and how to manage the friends who generously helped Harry make contacts with both presses.  First, the easy problem:  have a glass of wine before bed and stop losing sleep!  You’re lucky to have such helpful and supportive friends, Harry, and I don’t think that they’ll really be disappointed when you go with one press over the other.  They will understand that only one press can publish your book, and they should be pleased (and not to mention impressed) that two presses are interested in your project.  That fact alone will ratify their judgment that you are a worthy scholar and friend–and most sensible people realize that different presses are better for some projects than for others.

    Secondly, the slightly-less-easy “problem” of how to manage two editors who have signaled interest in publishing your book.  At this stage, Harry, it’s just a proposal, and I think that editors and presses know and understand that savvy authors will be talking to and circulating their proposals among more than one press.  Signaling their interest in your book proposal is just an invitation to a second date, not a marriage proposal (or book contract!  As you suggest, they can change their minds at any point, too.)  While most authors end up making their decision about which press to go with at the point they send out their manuscript, I’ve heard that it’s OK to send your manuscript out to two presses at the same time so long as you notify them that you’re doing so.  (In other words, you don’t want Obnoxious University Press to ask someone to review your manuscript, only to have that reviewer inform them that she’s already reviewing the same manuscript for the University of Pretension Press.  That would definitely be bad form.) 

    But, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in lo these many, many years in academia, it’s that no two people’s paths to book publication are the same.  And, I’ve only submitted one manuscript to one press and published one book, so what the heck do I know?  Not much.  I’m eager to hear what my erudite and accomplished readers think, especially those of you with more publication experience, those of you who work (or have worked) in publishing, and those of you who have recently submitted book manuscripts (I’m thinking of you, Notorious Ph.D. and Bittersweet Girl, in particular.)  Readers:  can you advise Harry how to handle his happy problems?