I’m going to stop talking about how much work I have to do. I’ve made this promise before. I will try to stick to it. I’m like a chocoholic, but with talking about work.

talking about being overworked : conversations : : _______________:______________
(a) napalm : forest
(b) sleeping pills : the human body
(c) a murderer : a murder victim
(d) all of the above

The thing is, there is plenty of time to get all the work done. You just do it. You don’t get on Facebook or check your email or twitter. You just do the work with focus and panache and then go to the gym, it’s not a big deal, you have an awesome life. For example, today I am not working at all, but rather making an apple pie and going to a dinner party.

“I think professors only complain about being overworked because they waste too much time on the internet. I bet Oliver Strunk never complained about his job workload.”

“Yeah but his wife did literally all the other work in his life for him.”


Note to self: stop comparing your life to those of famous professors of past eras, who lived like kings.

famous professors of past eras : current anxious junior faculty : :__________:__________
(a) Kim Kardashian’s butt : people with body dysmorphia
(b) billionaires : resentful millionaires
(c) daddys : sons
(d) all of the above

Conversation I listened to at the coffee shop yesterday:

“There are some things too serious to quibble about morality or innocent lives being lost”
“Uh huh.”
“Any city where ISIS is hiding, we just gotta nuke it.”
“nuke it?”
“Yeah, we just gotta nuke the entire city. I’m not saying it’s a great solution; I’m not saying it wouldn’t be a terrible thing. But some dangers are just too huge to worry about that stuff.”
“I mean, unless it’s Paris or something.”
“Ha ha! Right, right”
“But of course, it WOULDN’T be Paris. It’d be some city in, you know, ‘Pakistan’ or wherever.”
“Uh huh”

(when the first guy got up to leave, I saw he was carrying a Malcolm Gladwell book. NO COMMENT)

overheard coffee shop conversations : my sense of well-being : : a nuclear bomb : a city

Posted in Opinion | 3 Comments

I Was Gonna Read This Marxist Book About Women Rebelling Against Un-Waged Social Reproductive Work But All I Got Were These Eight Thousand Emails From Students Who Want To Enroll In An Already-Full Class

My Time Breakdown:

- 8,000,000 hours a day: writing back to students who email me asking only one of two things:
* please can I override the school’s enrollment system because they waited too long to register for classes and now my class is full but they really need my class to graduate so can I please add them to the class along with all eight billion other students who desperately need my class to graduate for some reason
* if my class will be easy to get an A in. (They don’t say this outright but they write me unintentionally extremely rude emails demanding to know “what is the workload of the class” and “what will we be graded on” and “what do you mean by ‘papers,’ are they research papers or personal reflection essays” until I write back tersely telling them it is not my job to help them decide if my class will be an easy A or not, and I currently have over 400 students and I would really appreciate not getting eight trillion emails of this nature from random kids I am not directly in charge of (joke: I have never said this back to a student, don’t worry)

- 7,000,000 hours a day: dealing with the logistics of this one class I teach. Constantly editing documents, dealing with weird student issues, and having a non-stop barrage of meetings, meetings, meetings. The fact that this class is counted in my contract as a regular class is irritating to me. My other classes for example do not necessitate a full-time course administrator or a staff of eight people, nor do they involve having 3 hours of meetings a week (! true) with various people.

- 6,000,000 hours a day: grading

- 2 hours a day: classroom teaching

- 4 seconds a day: thinking about or doing anything even vaguely related to my own research, which accounts for 60% of whether or not I get tenure

- 1 second a day: eating

- .5 troubled and uncomfortable seconds a day: trying to sleep


In other news the dog is stupid and we got two pizzas last night just for the heck of it. I fell asleep watching Caesar Must Die and I dreamed I got a job in Long Beach that I had forgotten I’d signed the contract for. Then walking skeletons (as differentiated from zombies) attacked and I helped a small family survive by leaping across balconies. The entire time I was still worried about what I should do about the Long Beach job. Then Katy told me “it’s not the Long Beach that’s in LA.” I said “Is it the Long Beach from the Beach Boys song?” and she said “No.”

Anyway today is my day off and like I said I am trying to read feminist marxist stuff about how capitalism requires the un-waged labor of women in order to continue functioning as a system and how we should all go on strike from social reproductive work (having babies) until that work is recognized as waged labor, which will never happen so instead our species should die out, which I agree with. And instead of reading that I am getting upset by my work email, which I should just close and not look at but that gives me the cold sweats to do. And then now instead of doing either thing I am writing here about how I am annoyed, which seems doubly counter-productive.

However, the $600 of books I used my startup funds to buy have started arriving and I am hoarding them and gloating over them like Smaug or Scrooge McDuck, rubbing my claws in the fitful candlelight and watching their covers gleam like rubies and jewels. I got a bunch of encyclopedias and sat on the floor reading them. Hegelian notion of history. Birth of political economy. Leigh Hunt. I also re-organized my bookshelves and stuck a plant on one of them, lets class this joint up for once. It is very cold and very bright outside, which I like, and maybe I will just evade all my work duties and walk downtown or something. Whenever I decide not to do work I am always at a loss. I can:
- cook dinner
- go to the Y
- play Zelda

Beyond those three things I rarely have an idea of something I could do. I was sitting here looking out the window wondering what people with regular jobs do on weekends. What do you people do on weekends? I really want to know. Is it all fun trips and projects, or do you read a novel all day, or what? Some people probably sleep a lot but that has never been my jam. I know I used to have normal weekends but I can’t remember what I did during them, plus back then I was much younger and some of the things I did I might no longer wish to do or be able to do. I don’t really have projects anymore. I don’t write music, I don’t write fiction, I don’t knit or anything.

Things I get excited about are:
- dinner
- going grocery shopping
- watching a movie
- drinking a glass of wine
- going thrifting

here is a sorrow: there is no thrifting here! There is one DEEPLY shitty Goodwill and from what I can tell that’s it. Although I did find some serious cast-iron there one time, it is mostly wicker baskets and super creepy stained clothing. I need to perhaps do some research and find some weird rural army surplus store or something.

Cutting down on my internet usage is still in effect and still feels pretty good. No Facebook, and then I do twitter and instagram in short contained bursts. I do feel better in my mind; more focused, and like there is more time in the day. I could cut down more. We’ll see.

I had a meeting with a guy on campus who helps faculty apply for grants and fellowships. He gave me some basic beginning deadlines and goals. It is so great. An office on campus that gives you deadlines and then edits your shit, for free! I have a Thanksgiving deadline for two little summer stipends I’m applying for. He says we will work up to the big ones–NEH and ACLS. But even for those, he already gave me a lot to think about in terms of situating my project. I also liked his vibe, which was realistic but cheery. He basically said I’m not going to get an NEH grant, maybe ever, but certainly not the first time I apply, but that applying is still great because it helps you articulate your project and your goals, and the more you apply the better you get at this, plus you get feedback, and also no one looks down on you for applying again and again, and so I just need to get into that cycle, of constantly applying for grants I know I’m not going to get, and just accept it. He has a PhD in Buddhist Studies or something, which I feel makes him good at this facet of his job. I really really like this concept. Just accepting that success is not really a goal, or like, that there are other successes that are reasonable goals (getting better at talking about a project; learning how grant-writing works; getting feedback). His office was full of terrariums.

Like all humanities professors, I am just desperate for time off teaching and service so I can actually perform scholarship and contribute to my field. But because our neoliberal society doesn’t give a shit about arts or humanities except in rare cases when they can be heavily monetized, there is almost no money out there for this sort of thing. Contrasted with the sciences, which, IT IS A FUCKING JOKE. Like, a dude at my new faculty orientation who is in Biology said they don’t even teach their first year on the job; they just hire assistants and set up their lab and work on their projects. After that they teach like a 1/0 course load (I teach a 3/2, which is considered pretty reasonable in the humanities). When I told him I teach a 3/2 he couldn’t even understand what that meant. “But when do you have time to work on your research?” he kept asking. I was like, “I don’t know, like 1/3 of Christmas break?” I know a dude in some branch of the sciences who makes $300,000 a year and teaches one class a year. I know another science dude who couldn’t understand why I didn’t just “do a couple of postdocs” instead of immediately getting on the job market. HA HA HA. I don’t begrudge these people their insanely awesome lifestyles but I do think that this world we have created sucks. Things that biotech firms want to pay for are of value, and things they don’t want to pay for are stupid. If you’re in the humanities, increasingly you have to “prove” the “value” of what you study to people who can only think in the terms of the STEM fields, i.e., the marketplace (scientific discovery on its own terms is even increasingly pointless, when it can’t be directly related to improving some consumer product or inventing some new drug to make people pay an absurd amount for if they want to continue having boners or, you know, living). And anyway, that doesn’t work. Because humanistic work functions under a completely different and unrelated set of precepts, goals, values, and ideas of “usefulness.” So when the Dean says the music department has to demonstrate its value to the university in monetary terms, it’s like, well, we can’t do that, because the study of music under neoliberal capitalism is an absurd and pointless pursuit and all the bullshit “arts entrepreneurship” programs in the world aren’t going to demonstrate otherwise. So, ultimately, the music department gets closed, so only the profitable fields get taught at the university, which is now a profit-driven business, and that’s just the way it goes, no free lunch. And then we are a nation of people who literally don’t know how to think or articulate a thought, who know nothing about history, who have no concept of notions of value and worth that aren’t tied to a dollar amount. I consistently try and fail to comprehend how there are people who don’t find that prospect terrifying.

So, that is pretty rough, when you’re someone who thinks that the shit in the arts and humanities is basically what comprises “human culture” to begin with and it seems pretty bizarre to have to argue for the worth and value of that.

But that is life.

I told this grants dude “I actually got a ton of startup money” and he asked “how much” and I told him and he tried and failed to disguise the look that crossed his face. He said “I’m really sorry for laughing; I know that to you that seems like a lot of money and I respect that that is your reality.”

Anyway, it’s all just life and there is no use flailing wildly against it. All you can do is try your best and be the best person you can be, and try to do work that you think is meaningful, and try to get even one student to think differently about how they value the shit in their life. And focus on the good stuff and try to eat a pizza and have fun anyway because soon enough it’ll all be over. Also, be ready to join the revolution whenever it happens, of course.

how I long for the revolution

I feel like I missed my window on getting this marxist feminist theory read. I fucked up.

I am still in sweatpants. I am really blowing my Friday. I’m so bummed.


Posted in Opinion | 2 Comments


Oh man. Alex has just alerted me to the fact that it has now been TEN YEARS since I posted my fabled journal, kept while “in training” at a cell phone call center in 2004. And actually the journal was from a couple of years earlier, before I had this blog! I saved it in analog form until this blog was born and Kevin asked me to post it. I was 25 years old, maybe 24, I can’t remember what year I actually had the job but it was before I met my old man, which happened when I was 25. I was living with my boyfriend and his 19 year old one-eyed cat, and we were in an early laptop band together in which we did things like sing Michael Jackson covers into children’s musical toys, or dress up as an octopus (that one was mostly me). We lived in a pretty nice 2 bedroom apartment on the top floor of a classy old building in the fancy part of Portland, and it cost, in my memory $626, which, how do you like them apples, Mr. Inflation and Mrs. Gentrification? I got the job because Mike worked there and he put in a good word for me, although realistically, I am pretty sure they would have hired anyone who could sign their name (or at least make an X on the appropriate line).

It is really, really great to revisit this. I have not thought about it in years.

My reactions:

- I can’t believe how little my relationship to bringing lunch to work has changed
- I loved when Jake delivered pizzas. He had so many great stories. He had a work friend who called hamburgers “sandwiches” which blew my mind, and one time he delivered a pizza to a stripper at a strip club WHILE SHE WAS DANCING
- my impression of this type of bullshit work has remained remarkably consistent. And I hadn’t even read Marx back then! Nor have I now
- I remember saying things like “I am morbidly unhappy”
- I really like this: “this must motivate me to force my way into grad school, or into the life of the traveling bohemian like that guy in The Sun Also Rises who got his genitals shot off in the war.”
- remember when I literally worked for a dot com that went bust?? When it failed I went around town and picked up all the returned DVDs from all their drop boxes, in a sort of misguided attempt to recoup what I considered to be my losses (although, who was I kidding? It was a dot com in I think the year 1999, which meant they paid me an absurd amount of money plus benefits plus paid time off to almost literally do nothing) but when I got all the DVDs home I realized that almost every one of them was just a copy of the Legend of Bagger Vance, plus one porno, all of which I sold somewhere. Where would that have even been? Which place bought 7 copies of the Legend of Bagger Vance plus one porno?
- There was an article recently about bullshit jobs and how they are destroying society. so many people make a living doing bullshit that nobody cares about and that isn’t useful and that doesn’t benefit anyone and that they themselves aren’t interested in. I spent years doing these jobs, before I went back to school. It makes me sick to think that for so many people these are the ONLY jobs. If they’re lucky! There are even worse jobs! If you keep an animal in a cage without anything interesting to do, it will go crazy and gnaw off its own foot.
- that is pretty sweet, that someone put “Turd Ferguson” as a fake name in the training system
- I love that I only made it 3 days at that job

As I recall, after I quit (it was at lunchtime) I got a burrito and went home, where my boyfriend was doing something on the computer. At that time, I didn’t yet have a computer of my own and I remember I made a lot of rude jokes about how he loved computers so much. Now he makes a living doing computers in various ways, and is still in a laptop band! Time flies I do declare. And I moved to Los Angeles and started a whole new life, and had to read Hegel, and married some weird tall dude, and now I spend my days writing emails to students who I catch plagiarizing. And soon I’ll be dead, basically. But it’s okay! Get it while it’s hot, that’s what I always say

speaking of, the aforementioned weird man I married left me stew cooking in the slow-cooker and it’s ready now so PEACE BE UNTO YOU


Thank you to Alex for this very useful walk down memory lane.

TEN YEARS! In ten more years I’ll be 47 and god only knows what will be going on. I hope good stuff but you never can tell, and that’s a fact.

God bless the people of America

Posted in Opinion | 2 Comments