Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Roundup post

It's official: This fall, I will be working two jobs at Vanderbilt. I will be TAing Organization Theory classes, and I will be working on assessment projects in the Office of Greek Life.

Last weekend I had to do something I'm not fond of - perform. My capoeira group played in front of the audience for Shakespeare in the Park, so there I was. Luckily, there are no photos of my doing anything other than playing an instrument.

My yoga teacher is opening her own studio. Nashville people should check it out.

Monday, August 23, 2010

North Chick hike

At the swimming hole
Originally uploaded by TheTurducken
I haven't hiked as much this summer as I would like, so this past weekend we did a classic summer hike - the North Chickamauga section of the Cumberland Trail. This is a typical South Cumberland hike in many respects, but what makes it stand out is the swimming holes.

There are several within the first mile, but these are very popular. The best place to swim is four miles in at Green Hole - and you don't have a lot of company out there. This photo shows us frolicking at our swim/lunch/relaxation stop.

Of course, then you have to turn around and go back. We always talk about stopping at another swim hole near the end of the trail, but it never happens.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Conference time

The ASHE schedule is posted, and on a break from transcription today I took a look. Our symposium is scheduled for the final slot - so stick around, folks! Don't rush to get home. Mostly, I looked to see what else looked interesting, and I didn't find much.

Now I feel the need to repeat my usual caveats that just because I don't think it's interesting personally doesn't mean it's not important or it shouldn't be a part of ASHE. For example, I am not interested in the issue of student retention - but it's important. Okay? When I first went to conferences, I'd try a lot of topics out just to see what they're like, but by now I have a pretty good idea.

There's one session on institutional revenue generation strategies that dovetails with my research interest in fundraising. There's a panel discussion on the pervasiveness of racism. There's a session on the underuse of historical research. There's a session on international policy diffusion that had nothing to do with anything I study.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Job market again

Here's another PhD seeking employment and staring the reality of the job market in the face. (I was with her right up until the end, when she promises to tell us in future columns how we can stand out in the job market. Where, exactly, did she get this expertise?)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Dr. Crazy (whose blog you should be reading anyway): "The big picture is that I’m turning 36 on Sunday, it’s ridiculously hot and humid outside, I am getting to the point in my next book project where it’s no longer fun and exciting and new and instead is sort of frustrating and overwhelming, and I’m alone, desperately alone. (That last part, while true, is phrased in that way to be funny.)" I can relate, although, selfish brat that I am, I can't bring myself to feel sorry for Dr. Crazy, because her situation sounds like mine - except she has tenure and a house. Whereas I have ... a job search.

Portugal gets 45% of energy from renewable sources. "Holy crap. Whenever global warming denialists and anti-green grouches talk about the ‘extreme costs’ of catering to hairshirt environmentalism they make it sound as if the entire economy comes to a cratering halt due to efforts like this."

People read faster in print than online. I feel like I'm reading slower online, and here we go. Proof.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Capoeira is still hard

Oh gosh, I haven't bored you with talk of capoeira in a while. I better fix that.

Practice is paying off. I can now sing and play the pandeiro simultaneously, at least most of the time, and in the roda I maybe use the right defense for the attack at least half of the time. (The rest of the time I either react with the wrong instinct, or I just don't know how to counter the attack.)

One thing I started doing that helped was I decided that every time we played, I would pick out three attacks in advance and be sure to use them. I figured, if I went in knowing I was going to do a bensao instead of having to pick from the total array of possible moves, I wouldn't be overwhelmed. Clearly that's not a technique a mestre would use to kick butt, but it's better than just reacting the whole time.

(For the record, I don't think "kick butt" is a sanctioned capoeira term.)

So that, plus of course practice, is paying off - one of our teachers told me my roda play was much improved. Sweet. That doesn't mean I'm actually good, of course. It just means I can move on to worrying about new things.

Like, when I don't know how to counter the attack - often these are sweeps, which baffle me. Or moving beyond one-attack-move, one-defense-move rhythm, to trying more complex things. Or playing the berimbau.

Playing it? I can barely hold it. After a five- or ten-minute lesson, my left pinky will be slightly number for close to a week. I need to get a berimbau and just practice holding it first.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Your career

There's a lot of pondering in the academy about how the faculty identity can swallow up your personal identity (and whether this is a good thing or not). One thing that is clear is that, at least during your graduate education the pre-tenure years, work is not a 40-hour-a-week proposition. Part of the fair exchange for this is that, having earned tenure, one has job security.

But tenure-track jobs are disappearing, our present economy exacerbating the trend. Someone told me there were only six tenure-track positions advertised in philosophy last year. Six! Better prepare for an alternate career, I think. But there's something a wee bit discouraging about learning your last five or ten years of preparation for a career were a waster.

"A waste?" I can read the op-eds now. I have read them. "A PhD opens plenty of other doors. Students just aren't aware of them."

Maybe in other times and places. But the idea that there all these alternatives out there, now, in this economy, is balderdash. Education is a field that has always had a plethora of alternatives to faculty jobs, such as working as an analyst for a state or research firm, or working for a national organization. Now the economy has taken its hit there, too, and there are a lot fewer of those openings than in the past. Available graduates are beginning to stack up like cordwood at the PhD level, just like they are at the baccalaureate level.* Imagine what it's like for the philosophers.

If I don't find a faculty-or-reasonably-equivalent position, there are jobs I could get - jobs that ignore my five years of PhD study or my seven total years of graduate study. If I take one of them, I displace someone else who has the minimum qualifications. It's a game of dominos.

But why give up? There are some jobs out there. I just have to be the one to get one of them. And to do that, all I have to do is let my academic identity swallow up my personal identity. No guarantees, of course - I could end up in adjunct-land, working 80 hours a week and being eligible for food stamps. Does this strike anyone else as a risky gamble?

In today's world, no one's job is secure. I'm watching my dad's company decimate its employee ranks (after turning a profit in the last fiscal year, a near-miracle for a luxury-goods retailer in 2009), and even if the laid-off can find another job, it won't be in the same geographical area, and the mass firings have made it impossible to sell a house - so how do you move? "The American Dream" of home ownership is an albatross for those people.

Sooner or later, most of us will lose our jobs or have to substantially retool our skills, whether we want to or not. And we're being told that, the "competitive" candidate will be the one who devotes 110% to his or her work identity, and not just in academia. This is the economy that Generation Y, which has been announcing for years that it won't accept anything less than work-life balance, is graduating into. This is the economy that Baby Boomers, after a lifetime of work, are being laid-off into. This is the economy that Generation X, never idealistic to begin with, has been struggling to make a secure living in. We are all scrambling to prove we deserve our piece of the ever-shrinking pie. (Grapes of Wrath, anyone?) Or we retreat into the fantasy of self-employment via Etsy, the under-40 woman's equivalent of hoping to make it in the NBA.

There are days I'm tempted to end the all-or-nothing gamble, skip straight over the game of dominos, and go straight to the nearly inevitable end game - and take their jobs. Hell, if I do it early enough, maybe I can at least get a book deal out of it.

* This is one reason that saying everyone needs to go to college for economic reasons is so horribly flawed. The jobs that require that education just aren't there.