Hear the grass, it sings

18 11 2019

Oy, this semester.

I think I bitched earlier in the term about the hassle of creating new notes for a new textbook, but holy mother of pete, whattafuckin hassle.

And I’m teaching a writing-intensive course for the first time, which, while I enjoy, is also more work than a non-writing-intensive course.

(Not too much more work: given that the regular version already required two 10-page research papers, the add-ons are just that, add-ons. Still, more work.)

Then there’s the second job, which is fine, I like who I work for, the work is even sometimes interesting, I get along well with my boss, but, y’know, it’s hours on that that I don’t have for. . . anything else. As I told my parents: it’s good that I have so much work, but it also sucks that I have so much work.

Next semester should be so much better (notes written!), but in meantime, I’ve used some of that money I’ve earned for one of my favorite Speyside whiskies—and may end up picking up an Islay whisky, to boot.

~~~

When I was young I sang all of the time. I wasn’t a great talent, but I was good enough.

Then I kinda stopped—apartment living will do that—so that when I sang one season for a local choir I was aghast at how bad my voice was. I got better in the singing, but still, aghast.

Then I pretty much stopped singing altogether, and SURPRISE, my voice now sucks.

Well, mah friends, I am here to turn that around. It is now winter, which means the windows are closed, and while I have little time I do have enough to shower every day so: shower singing!

I am presuming that my voice wobbles because I haven’t used it, and that if I sing every day in the shower it should get stronger. I’m thinkin’ it’ll be like my (long unused) guitar: you gotta work to keep it in tune.

I think I forgot this lesson because I used to sing so often that it didn’t occur to me that I was, in fact, keeping it tuned up. Then the choir thing left me so aghast that I couldn’t really admit that my voice wobbled. Then I finally got over myself and thought, Criminy, Terri, just sing, already.

Lynda Barry once wrote in her old comic that if you want to sing, you should sing, even if you can’t.

(Maybe it wasn’t her, but I think it was, because Lynda Barry is sensible like that.)

And if it wasn’t her? The wisdom holds: If you want to sing, you should sing, even if you can’t.





Sunny came home

16 09 2019

Hi! Hi! Hi!

Sorry I’ve been away for so long, but I was:

*Away, for a bit, in Chicago. I really like Chicago—it’s the place I’ll move to if I ever get chased out of New York—and every time I visit I think “Ohhh, maybe I should just move now.” But that’s just because NYC can suck hard, and when you’re in a likeable city for a few days it’s easy to think that that city won’t also have its sucky moments. Anyway, I was there with friends from Sheb Falls, and it was fun.

*Trying to cram in all of my hours on my second job. Whenever I work at my long-standing second job, I feel the need to work every last hour they give me, not least because these gigs are only temporary. I try to bulk up my bank account, because I just don’t trust the work, be it teaching or freelancing or this job, will keep coming.

*Prepping for classes. I’m using a new textbook for my American govt and politics course, so I have to take all new notes. It’s my contention that all American govt textbooks are mediocre, and that new editions are a scam—usually the only thing that gets changed (besides the price) are the 1- or 2-page intros to each chapter—but the text I was using was 5, 6 years old. I have tended to use the second-most-recent version, in order to keep the costs down for the students, but as American politics in the Trump era are occurring at hyper-speed, I thought I’d best go with the newest version of whatever text I chose. I looked first at the new version of my old text, but, jeez, that cheapest version of that one was 75 bucks; other books were even worse. So I said to hell with it, and went with a (legit) free online textbook, and, y’know, it’s fine.

*Writing an ‘intro to politics’ essay for those same govt-and-politics students. I’d long led discussions of ‘what is politics’ for relevant courses, and this essay pulled together a number of those ideas into a less-fractured format. In fact, this was an excerpt of an incomplete draft of what I plan to develop into a short-ish manuscript I’m calling “A Partial Politics” (have I mentioned this before? I think I’ve mentioned this before). Once I get a bit of breathing room, I want to get back to the manuscript; I may try to pitch it to the same online publishers as that textbook.

*I have a new great-niece! My second niece gave birth to Lyana Rosa two weeks ago. She is a wee angry potato, and it is all I can do not to pester her mum for more pics. No, I wasn’t there so I can’t really excuse her birth for my absence; it’s just good news.

So now that we’re all caught up, I’ll try not to fall behind (again). . . .

 





I keep finding hate mail in the pockets of my coat

7 09 2015

Long ago I promised a follow-up to my various religious exemptions/one law/pluralism posts about how to preserve that pluralism.

This is not that post.

Instead, it’s a quickie follow-up to yesterday’s post about doing one’s job.

As I have mentioned ad nauseam, I am a hardliner when it comes to one’s work duties, namely, that if you’re unwilling, for whatever reason, to perform a job, then you should quit.

Yes, you can try to negotiate these duties, try to convince your bosses that their policies are wrong, but, in the end, if you can’t do the job, then you shouldn’t do the job.

The flip side of this, which I have only occasionally mentioned, is that what you do off the job should have no bearing on the job.

There might be some reasonable exceptions to this, but I’m pretty comfortable stating that those exceptions should be few and far between. You might be a racist piece of shit on your own time, but if you can keep it together while you’re on the clock, then that’s all that should matter.

Now, some might argue that someone who’s a racist piece of shit off the job is highly unlikely to keep it together on the job, but unless and until that person loses it, she should keep her job. Judge someone’s work performance by her work performance, and that’s it.

Furthermore, this oughtta be a law—and not just as a protection for the worker (who most needs it), but as a defense for the employer: I can’t fire someone you don’t like just because you don’t like ’em.

This, to me, is an obvious corollary to telling the Kim Davises of the world to suck it up: if there are limits to how far you may take your personal life into a job, then there are also limits as to how far a job may enter into your personal life.

This is not a position I would have taken when I was younger. Back then, I had notions of throwing my whole self into a job, of defining myself almost completely by the work I do. Now, however, while I do gain a sense of self from my work, I’m also aware of the necessity of boundaries—both as a practical matter and for my own mental health.

I really do love teaching, but I do it because I get paid. It’s a job which I need in order to pay the rent, and I don’t care for my employer to take into account anything about my ability to do the job except for my performance on the job.

And not that I have much going on, but I most definitely to do not want them poking around in my private life.

~~~

There’s a thing about living in a city in which you can see into your neighbor’s apartment or hear your neighbor’s conversations/sex/fights: You pretend that you don’t. Your (and your neighbor’s) privacy might be a kind of fiction, but it’s the kind of fiction that works in real life.

I think we should take the same approach to social media and on- and off-the-job behavior as well: If the person sitting next to you is fine at work, but after work engages in behavior you find repugnant or ludicrous, pretend that you don’t know. Just let it be.

A little bit of breathing room is good for all of us.





Everybody knows the deal is rotten, 19

16 08 2015

When I was younger—much younger—I thought I’d get the kind of job I could really throw myself into, an all-encompassing career that would provide me with all of the pleasure and meaning I could want from life.

Touching, isn’t it, how little I knew.

Now, it could be said—has been said, by the likes of me—that my current inability truly to commit to my work (paid and unpaid) takes things in rather too far the opposite direction, but I do think that my unwillingness to commit to a Stakhanovite* work-ethic is generally more healthy than not.

Consider Amazon:

Every aspect of the Amazon system amplifies the others to motivate and discipline the company’s marketers, engineers and finance specialists: the leadership principles; rigorous, continuing feedback on performance; and the competition among peers who fear missing a potential problem or improvement and race to answer an email before anyone else.

Some veterans interviewed said they were protected from pressures by nurturing bosses or worked in relatively slow divisions. But many others said the culture stoked their willingness to erode work-life boundaries, castigate themselves for shortcomings (being “vocally self-critical” is included in the description of the leadership principles) and try to impress a company that can often feel like an insatiable taskmaster. Even many Amazonians who have worked on Wall Street and at start-ups say the workloads at the new South Lake Union campus can be extreme: marathon conference calls on Easter Sunday and Thanksgiving, criticism from bosses for spotty Internet access on vacation, and hours spent working at home most nights or weekends.

It must be admitted, of course, that Amazon would never hire, much less interview, me: I lack tech skills and corporate experience, so I am most definitely not the Amabot they’re looking for.

Some employees do relish the competitive atmosphere at Amazon, thinking that it makes them better, sharper, more able employees; that this kind of bionic work ethos won’t do much for the person they are outside of being an employee is, of course, irrelevant.

(As an aside: I used to that going to grad school was like sticking your head in a pencil sharpener: you do come out a lot sharper, but you also lose a lot in those shavings.)

And as loathsome as I find Amazon’s “purposeful Darwinism” practices—their treatment of employees who do exhibit human frailties is appalling—they seem to me more different in degree than in kind to many other workplaces. Google and Apple and Facebook might provide all kinds of goodies for their employees, but these aren’t these goodies simply the happy-clappy way to get those workers to spend more time at work?

Now, as an employee I’d rather work for someone who wants happy rather than frazzled workers, but really, I want to work at a place that knows its place in my life: important, but not everything.

I may not have much in my life (this is one of those above-mentioned issues), but I do at least have the possibility of having something more.

And that ain’t nothing.

~~~

*h/t to Chatham Harrison for this reference. My first thought on reading of the need for self-criticism was that that sounded Cultural Revolution-ist, but hey, given the contradictions of a company ethos that demands both that workers be self-critical and that they not admit of any doubts or lack of knowledge, why couldn’t it embody both Stalinism and Maoism?

And no, for the record, I don’t think Jeff Bezos is the bald offspring of Uncle Joe and Mao; I mean, there’s no record of him being a genocidal maniac, is there?





Money’s too tight to mention

2 07 2015

So, the second summer session course was cancelled, and work at the second job seems to have dried up.

Which means that, for the first time in my life, I’ve applied for unemployment.

Actually, when I went to the unemployment claims page, I discovered I could have applied for unemployment when the first summer session was cancelled: that I had part-time work in addition would not necessarily have torpedoed the claim. (There’s process for applying for retroactive UI, which I may try.)

I had never thought to apply for unemployment insurance in previous summers (or during the hell year of 2011) until a colleague (also an adjunct) mentioned that she was on UI: I had thought that, as an adjunct, I wasn’t eligible. I almost certainly left some money on the table as a result.

That’s fine, though. Yes, I could have used the money back then, but I somehow figured it out. I’m pretty clearly motivated less by maximizing my gains than minimizing my losses.

(That lack of motivation is an issue, actually, in terms of career advancement, and is something on which I need to do some serious thinking. But. . . , well, yeah, I might need an motivation adjustment.)

I don’t know how long this process takes, or what, exactly is involved in terms of my obligations. If my claim is accepted, I’ll have to do 3 job-related tasks on 3 different days each week, which seems reasonable. I’ve been meaning to update my c.v. and send it to a coupla’ other colleges, so this would be a good time to do it. And I think there are opportunities for some training courses; if there are computer/software courses, yeah, I’d sign up for those. Never know when those skills could come in handy.

I’ll be grateful is this does come through. I’ve put up a freelance ad on Craigslist (where I’ve had decent luck in the past) and there may be more work at the second job eventually, but it’d certainly relieve some anxiety to know I’d have at least some money coming in.

Which I guess is one of the virtues of insurance.





Wait wait wait

20 05 2015

Two things:

1. The reasons I want to be on Twitter are the reasons I shouldn’t be on Twitter.

2. Want to make something relatively small relatively big, and then small again?

Easy: Don’t do that small thing, day after day after day, until it looms so large that you can’t not do it, after which it shrinks back to smallness.

Bonus thing! Delay checking enrollment on your summer session-I course, and then, upon finding out it’s so low it likely will be cancelled, think, Huh, guess I should put up a freelancing ad, and then not do it.

You know, on the off chance that in the next 10 days enough students will sign up and everything will be all right.

Because nothing like doing nothing to make sure everything will be all right.





Marchons, marchons

16 02 2015

FINALLY.

I’d collated all (+/-) of TNC’s posts on the Civil War, then at some point began annotating the list. There were two large chunks (120+ posts total) which remained naked.

Until today.

Since I didn’t have work for my second job—office was closed for President’s Day—I thought I might as well start backfilling those annotations. I didn’t think I’d finish them, but at some point thought, Ah, what the hell.

I’m sure I’ve missed posts I should have included and included posts I should have missed, and some of my annotations are. . . odd, but the mess is now more or less complete as of today.

~~~

Another reason for doing this might have a little something to do with another bout of self-pique: yesterday I turned a bunch of my dissertation research into printer paper—did I really need to keep a copy of a DOE ELSI Contractor-Grantee Workshop from 1997?—and proceeded to have a mini-meltdown.

Nothing serious, and nothing I haven’t had experienced before.

It happens whenever I confront all of the work I have done and how little I have done with that work. If the paper of all of that research wasn’t wasted, it seems like the research itself was. Yes, I created a dissertation out of all of it, but beyond that, nothing.

Nothing.

The dissertation matters unto itself, but it’s also supposed to serve as the cliff from which one is to dive ever further into the work. And for me, it didn’t: I peered down from different overlooks (my bioethics fellowships), but ultimately backed away.

Reasons, reasons: I had my reasons, but those reasons were no good.

And so, periodically, I am reminded of what I tossed away when I walked away, and not having any good way to deal with that deliberate waste, I stew.

Today, at least, I did something productive—if not with my own work, at least with someone else’s.