Monday, December 31, 2007

Cut that shit out.

Okay kids, I didn't get the chance to say this when it first came up a few days ago, but now that I've got time to breathe, I want to nip something in the bud before it gets out of hand.

We get that it's natural to speculate about who we are. But we've got to ask that you not do it in our fucking comment threads. We sincerely hope these threads are useful places for people to vent or read stuff about what other people are going through. So we really, really don't want to get rid of the threads. But since neither PGS nor I has the time to moderate comments, if speculation about who we are keeps going, that's what we're going to have to do. It'll suck, and I'd really rather not. But we've just got no incentive to provide a forum for people to try to fuck us over.

Cause I do look a lot different outside my work clothes

UNC philosopher Jesse Prinz (or someone claiming to be him) asks a question worthy of its own thread:
[W]hat do you folks think about the fact that people on the market are expected to dress in a way that significantly departs from what we wear in the classroom?
To which I add a (related) question: Which is more regrettable, that many philosophers teach while slovenly dressed, or that job candidates are expected to wear semi-formal attire?

Who will kill the fattened calf?

In comments, someone asked, "Whatever happened to nth Year? Drop out, get a job, in jail, all the above?"

None of the above, I'm afraid.

My partner and I made a deal during the summer: I could spend all the time I wanted writing the dissertation and prepping articles (which meant never seeing her) so long as I wasn't writing blog posts when I could have been doing family stuff. Fortunately, the deal seems to have paid off, since we're still together, the dissertation is defended, and I've got a couple of articles under review. Now that we're on the other side of the APA -- and my interviews seemed to go pretty well -- I think there's a way for me to return to PJMB. (I've also got a number of reflections from APA interviews and interactions worth sharing.)

I may be showing up just as the party is dying down. But, I don't think that the passing of the eastern APA will be enough to tame the job market beast. At least not for me.

Sunday, December 30, 2007


I'm home. Looks like I made it out of Baltimore alive. And, I'm somewhat shocked to report, I think some of my interviews went really well. Like, far better than I'd dared to hope they would. Turns out people think my project is kind of interesting. Turns out I'm capable of performing under pressure. Who knew? Certainly not me. I'm kind of stunned. In what world am I one of those freaks who actually enjoys herself in interviews? It's sick and unnatural. But there it is.

I'm droolingly exhausted. Bed, please. Maybe when I wake up, a good three days from now, there'll be some fly-back requests waiting for me in my inbox. That'd complete this insane series of events rather well, I think.

Take a Load Off, Fanny

I'm a big coffee drinker. I love the taste and I love the ritual. But for the past while whenever I've had even a small cup of coffee, I've been able to feel my heart beating in my chest like it was getting ready to explode. The caffeine, on top of my pre-APA anxiety, made me feel--physically--like I was going to die. So no coffee for me.

But my interviews are over, for better or for worse. And although I still have a lot of job market shit to do--say, write a job talk I'll probably never give, figure out how to pay Visa for the cost of my hotel the past few days--I don't want to think about any of that for a day or two. I've got a long trip back home, and I'm going to spend it trying to relax. And I'm going to have my first cup of coffee in over ten days.

I'm So Tired, My Mind is on the Blink

Well, I don't know about anyone else, but last night's smoker sucked for me. After one of my profs told me and my officemates that a glass of wine cost $10, I didn't even bother figuring out what the cost of a beer was.

But worse, my schmoozing sucked ass. I had a discrete eye on a couple of departments' tables all night and the people I wanted to talk to were just never free. In comments, "Right Said Fred" says about the smoker, "Meet some people. Talk about your work. Terrifying." Well, sort of, yeah. When you're lining up with another dozen or so candidates desperate as you to meet those people, and when you've been told that how well you talk about your work that night could possibly affect whether or not you'll have a paycheck in September--then, yeah it is sort of terrifying. Or if not terrifying, then at least really, really shitty.

Friday, December 28, 2007

I'm Not Saying I Beat the Devil, But I Drank His Beer for Free

Okay, I'm back in the hotel room and I'm fucking exhausted. I guess the obvious observation about the smoker is, seeing thousands of philosophers all crammed into the same crappy corporate hotel ballroom is really fucking weird.

I'll have more real commentary on the smoker another time, but for now I'll just say my pick for the evening's highlights were the lights going up and down at random times. At a couple of points over the course of the night, the lights in the crappy corporate hotel ballroom got really bright, and it sort of felt that point at the end the night when the lights come up in the bar and the bouncers start kicking you out into the street. Then, at other times, the lights went almost totally dark, and all the cool kids who go to rock shows started cheering, I guess from some sort of indie-kid reflex.

I'm Tongue-Tired, Waiting, Hoping, and Praying

Dinner with PGOAT and one of my office mates ran a little later than I'd planned, so I'm already late for the smoker. Oh, well.

Anyway, here's the problem we'll be facing tonight. For the civilians following along at home, there's an APA custom that says people who've interviewed should find the departments they interviewed with at the smoker, and make with the small talk. You know, show what a charming junior colleague you are. Okay, fine, right? What's the problem with that?

Well, my problem is, I have no idea how to start those conversations. I've been wracking my already shit-kicked little brain for natural openings, and pretty much all I can come up with is, "So, I'm supposed to come over and say hi, and I really, really want a job. So, um, hi."

Think that'll fly?

Hello, my name is ...

Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down

Here's some last minute interview prep: How to tie a tie.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Gotta Keep the Devil Down in the Hole

"This is Baltimore, gentlemen. The gods will not save you." That's Commissioner Burrell, for those that don't know.

Finally here. Now. I think there are lines I need to go stand in.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Sound of the Drums, Beatin' in My Heart

After a couple of days off, I'm starting to think about getting my game face on. So here's some Nietzsche. The The Gay Science, section 107 is the closest thing philosophers have to cranking AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" up to 11 in the locker room:
As an artistic phenomenon existence is still bearable for us, and art furnishes us with eyes and hands and above all the good conscience to be able to turn ourselves into such a phenomenon. At times we need a rest from ourselves by looking upon, by looking down upon, ourselves and, from an artistic distance, laughing over ourselves or weeping over ourselves; we must discover the hero no less than the fool in our passion for knowledge, we must occasionally find pleasure in our folly, or we cannot continue to find pleasure in our wisdom! Precisely because we are at bottom grave and serious human beings—really more weights than human beings—nothing does us as much good as a fool's cap: we need it in relation to ourselves—we need all exuberant, floating, dancing, mocking, childish, and blissful art lest we lose the freedom above things that our ideal demands of us.
See you in Baltimore.

'Twas the Night Before Baltimore

Sorry to disappear on you all for a few days there. But I figured that if I was going to ruin my family's holiday by being a grouchy, anxiety-riddled head case (Why, oh why didn't I take everyone's advice and go for the Xanax? WHY? Since when am I into clean living?), I might as well ruin all your holidays too by depriving you of your daily dose of self-absorbed snark.

Anyway, I'm back now. Spending the day cramming in as much last-minute preparation as humanly possible. Bring it on, Baltimore.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Sunday Comics

--By Soon-to-be-Jaded-Disstertator

(Click o see a bigger version.)

Advice For the Young at Heart

I got lost in my own snark yesterday, which can happen from time to time. So I didn't emphasize as much as I'd meant to that if you're lucky enough to have some APA interviews, you really should go read all of Ari Kelman's really excellent advice about conference interviews.

But also, I want to highlight the APA advice Old Fart was kind enough to leave in comments, since it's a little more philosophy-specific:
Old Fart here again.

Interviews are mostly noisy not informational. Mostly the interview committee -- especially if it has any degree of non-overlap with the search committee, which is sometimes the case at larger places- will not have read closely your writing sample or your dissertation abstract. That will often lead to their asking many not very deep questions about your work, on the basis of the little spiel you give them in the beginning. There will also often be interesting group dynamics within the interviewing group about which you will be clueless, but they may not be.

Imagine the crotchety perhaps somewhat clueless professor X who keeps pressing you on some inane point. You think to yourself "what an inane stupid point, why does X keep pushing me on this???" The others in the room are fully aware of how crotchety and clueless X is. What they're looking for from you is how you handle X, whether you can gracefully shut X up and move on, whether you can make lemonade out of the lemon that professor X is handing you.

Now suppose you do a great job handling the crotchety but clueless X. X's colleagues are impressed. They may think you are smooth and clever. They may even think you're deep.

Alternatively, imagine that you don't handle X so well that day. Maybe X gets you flustered and throws you off your game. Maybe X causes you to be distracted. Maybe X's colleagues don't really realize how clueless X is. Maybe they think X has hit on some deep point that points to some crater- sized hole in your approach. They sort of keep piling on. Now, you've blown your interview.

But now ask yourself have the committeed in the two scenarios I've imagined really gained much pertinent information about you? Is the information gained in scenario 1 more reliable information about you than the information gained in scenario 2?

My own view is that both scenarios are noisy. It's just that in the first the noise favored the candidate, while in scenario 2 the noise works against the candidate. In this connection, I should say that I tell my own students -- I have a good number on the market this year -- that they should think of the art of being a good interviewee as the art of introducing favorable noise and blocking the introduction of unfavorable noise.

That's what the professor who insisted that you shouldn't have to prepare for interviews was missing. If the interview situation wasn't simply and utterly noisy, then he would have a point. But to the extent that interviews are simply and utterly noisy, he doesn't have a point.

Is there a way to cut down on the noise?

Maybe somewhat. You could have the interview committee really read the writing sample and dissertation abstract in advance. The committee could come prepared with well thought out questions about the work. Then it would be more like a real philosophical conversation, in which the mutual background knowledge of the what's in the writing sample and abstract would make it less like that the discussion got sidetracked into stupid inane tangents.

This would be a lot more work for the committees, but it would lessen the need for the candidates to perfect the delicate art of introducing lovely noise and keeping out unlovely noise.

Short of that, I say that you should keep preparing for your interviews, keep practicing your spiel, keep repeating it to different people, let them interrupt you, tell some of them to act like clueless A-holes, etc. Learn to direct the discussion in ways that you want it to go, firmly but politely. Etc, etc.

Again, good luck to you all in these highly stressful times.
Echoing Mr. Zero in comments, let me just say, Old Fart, you are awesome.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Forever in Debt to Your Priceless Advice

In comments, A Prof Who is Interviewing at the APA offers this charming advice about interview prep:
If you had yourself organized properly, the researching and writing of your dissertation would be a fluid process which would end naturally and prepping for your interviews should be not that hard, since all the work you have been doing all these years is leading up to this moment – get your act together. It’s candidates like you [i.e., who actually prep for interviews] who just BORE me to death at APA.

Interesting. "Organizing myself properly" would make my dissertation work itself prepare me for talking about, say, how I'd teach classes I've never been allowed to teach as a grad student. Also, it would prepare me for asking a department well-informed questions about interesting things they have going on that I see myself contributing to. Well, that's one perspective.

Via Henry Farrell, we get another perspective from Ari Kelman, a historian giving advice to history grad students about how to prep for their conference interviews. You should definitely read the whole thing, but let me give you a taste:

5: Figure out as much as you can about the composition of the interview committee. No, this does not mean reading everything they’ve ever written. But you might want to know the arguments of their major works. And, at the very least, you should know what they’ve written about. . . .

6: . . . Know what your work is about, focusing on the so-what question. . . . It’s your responsibility, then, to tell the rest of the committee why your scholarship is important. . . .

7: You should also have a polished response explaining what you’d like to teach (recognizing that their needs not your desires should inform your answer), how you teach (methods and the difference between your introductory, intermediate, and advanced undergraduate courses, as well as, if relevant, your graduate courses), and what courses you’ve taught in the past. You should prepare an answer in which you detail how both your research and your teaching will complement what [the prospective employer’s] department already has on the books.

And at the terrible risk of BORING a Prof Who is Interviewing, Kelman adds:

8: Practice your answers. Which is to say, find a friend, have them ask you a series of questions that are likely to come up at the AHA interview, and make sure that you have replies that are both true and plausible.

Gosh, what different advice these two profs are giving about conference interviews! What could possibly explain the contrast? Well, one hypotheses is, the disciplinary differences between philosophy and history mean historians have to prepare for presentations of various kinds, whereas philosophers have the power to magically "organize themselves properly" so they never need to bother prepping for anything. Another hypothesis is, A Prof Who is Interviewing at the APA has his* head so far up his ass he has no fucking clue he's giving the Worst Advice Ever.

You know, I'm going to go with hypothesis number two. Not least of all because A Prof Who is Interviewing's advice is pretty much the exact opposite of what people in my program get told by the best senior profs in the department--that is, all of them except Evil Columbo. But also because it's the exact opposite of what all the junior profs tell us, who've all done this themselves in the pretty recent past. In fact, I'd say is just about the exact opposite of everything I've ever heard about interview prep from anyone who wasn't a complete know-nothing asshole.

*Yeah, I'm assuming a gender here, which I don't usually like to do. But come one, this is philosophy, and you know this asshole's a guy. If I'm wrong I'm wrong. Fallibilism!

Friday, December 21, 2007

You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch

A while ago a long-time PJMB reader pointed me to a great run-down of how the APA works, called "How the APA Stole Christmas." Then, because my organization skillz are so mad, I forgot to post about it. (NS, I owe you an e-mail!) Lucky for me, a few days ago the author of the piece, Carl Elliot, who works on bioethics in Minnesota, reminded me about it. There's a lot in it I want to come back to at some point, and you should go read the whole thing, but for now I'll give you a little taste. Elliot writes that the schedule of the APA
has the virtue of simplicity and predictability, but its simplicity and predictability are also the reason why it inflicts such psychic distress. The APA holds job interviews between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, thus ruining the holidays for everyone involved. Job applicants must leave family gatherings early or skip them entirely. Even Christmas dinner is ruined by the anticipation of the distress to come.

"Ruining the holidays for everyone." No doubt. And to be clear, the holidays aren't just the time we get to see our friends and family. They're the time we get off from teaching in order to get some actual work done. Right now, I'm blowing day after day on interview prep, instead of finally--at long last--getting back to my dissertation.

Friends, family, and philosophy. A guy like me wouldn't ask for much more in life than that. And the APA fucks it all up.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Special Offer

The fantastically polite and friendly James S. Taylor has written us here at PJMB to ask us to post an offer for you, our loyal readers. And since his request was accompanied by some very nice compliments about the blog, I'm not about to refuse. Let this be a lesson, folks. Flattery will get you everywhere. At least with me, it will.
I was wondering if any of you or your readers would like to write book reviews for the Journal of Value Inquiry? (Books to be reviewed should be in the general area of "value inquiry" broadly understood--basically, anything normative is fine!--and should be published no earlier than 2006.) Of course, book reviews don't count for much, if anything, for SCs, and in any case I'm afraid that this offer will come too late to help anyone with this round of applications. But if someone's addressing a new(ish) book for their diss. anyway, this would be an easy way to get another line of the CV, and some experience with the publishing process. And we can easily work out Spring (or later) deadlines to fit in with people's schedules.

If anyone's interested, please do get in contact with me directly, at: jtaylor -at- tcnj -dot- edu

So toddle off and write some book reviews for the nice man, will you? Good kids.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Rocking the Passive Voice XIX

Okay, I didn't think I was going to write any more of these this season, since what the fuck else do I have to say about all the PFOs I got last year? And this one isn't even mine, but I'm two beers into relaxing after a day of interview prep and this is just way too awesome not to pass along, so what the fuck.

In comments, Anon. 4:04 says,
One of the mailed [PFOs] referred to the "APA meeting in Washington DC this year" -- it's lovely to know that it was just cut & pasted from last year's PFOs.

For the civilians reading along from home, the APA is in Baltimore this year. It was in Washington last year. Whoever wrote this piece of shit PFO recycled their department's old copy to make a "new" letter and forgot to change the name of the city. Holy fuck, that is one weak-ass PFO.

And I'm Here to Remind You, Of the Mess You Left When You Went Away

People have a discussion going in comments about something I've noticed too--we're already getting rejection letters and e-mails from some schools. This seems weird to me. Or at least, it didn't happen last year. Was that just schools I applied to last year as opposed to this year? Or are some schools really doing things differently this year and sending people PFOs as soon as they're out of the running? Who knows?

Anon. 12:15 has a fair take on what a PFO means if you get it this early:
Even if all of our preferred candidates turn out to be mouthbreathing cretins and we have to go back to our applicant pool, we still wouldn't consider your application. That's how sure we are!


The Search Committee.

No doubt. A PFO a this stage in the game says, "Even if you were the last philosopher on earth, we still wouldn't hire your sad-sack ass."

That said, there's something about getting a PFO now that I actually sort of like. Okay, maybe not like. But there is something about it that's better than getting the inevitable rejection in June. Or never.

Here's the thing. Not hearing a fucking thing from search committees for months--for the better part of a year--after my application had ended up in a recycling bin really hammered home just how much I counted for nothing. I spent hundreds of hours putting together an application package and hundred of dollars sending it all over the fucking place. Those applications were the distillations of years of work and hope. But fuck it. After a five minute skim, my application was done and so was I. That quickly, I became so unimportant, I didn't even deserve a form e-mail telling me to Please Fuck Off. It's like I just stopped existing.

So I sort of appreciate getting those PFOs now. It almost makes it seem like some search committees remember I'm an actual human being, even after my they've dumped my application.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)

As we get further into this week, a lot of people are going to be facing the real possibility that they won't get any APA interviews. (Yeah, there's still time and once somebody got a call on Christmas eve, and blah, blah, fucking blah. But time is running out.) Some people without interviews might be able to cancel their plane tickets. Some of them, on the advice of their profs, will go to the APA looking for that fabled last-minute interview, as if that were a better use of their time than being with the people they love and shifting their focus forward to the spring job market and next year's fall.

The thing is, the job market is, above all else, about rejection--wave after wave of rejection smashing into your ribs, squeezing them so hard you can feel yourself suffocating under the weight of your own failure. I guess the idea is, we're supposed to keep fighting through all that until somehow, some year in the future, we end up with a job. That's the part that takes real work, I think--not the applications themselves, but seeing through rejection after rejection after rejection to the possibility of another shot next year.

So to those starting that now, I'm sorry. It doesn't make sense. There are no reasons to be found here. If you're going to do it again next year, good. Take some time off, and then start strategizing. If this year was your last stand and you're getting ready to give up philosophy, good luck. Now you get to live a life in a city you've chosen, near the people you love, doing a job where everybody's awed every day at how fucking smart you are. It's going to be nice.

Monday, December 17, 2007


I meant to get to this last week, when the news turned up on the Chronicle forums, but grading and some actual job market prep got in way. Anyway, it turns out the asswipes deleting the academic job wikis were doing so for "political" reasons. Interesting, you say. What could their reasons be? What entrenched injustices are revealed by the blinding glare of their radical critique's spotlight? What revolutionary vision of a new and better academy can they offer us? Good questions, all.

But here, via Sisyphus, is their "political statement":
This edit is not malicious, but is rather our own attempt to make a political statement against the current misguided importance placed on academic job searches.

Please be so advised.

Oh my fucking god, that's stupid. Listen, fucktards, when you write a manifesto, it's supposed to, you know, explain your views. Marx and Engels did it, and so did the Port Huron Statement SDS guys. Jesus, even the Unibomber filled a few pages. But what the fuck does this explain? Why is the "importance placed on academic job searches" misguided? The importance placed by who? What the fuck are we supposed to be "so advised" about here? That all y'all are fucktards?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Sunday Comics

"She said you'd given up"
--By Soon-to-Jaded Dissertator

(Click to make it big.)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Just Like the Old Man in that Famous Book By Nabakov

So I'm heading into the weekend with a non-zero number of interviews. Not nearly enough to make me feel good about my chances of actually getting a job. But it's a relief, and it's enough to put me in the mood for a little comedy.

So here, from the Chronicle forums (where else?), is a truly awesome story about a candidate who, uh, fucked up her campus interview. What's the advice we learn from her example? Here it is, straight up from someone on the search committee:
You probably shouldn't have slept with one of the students who took you out to dinner as part of your interview. And if you simply had to do it, it probably shouldn't have been with one of our high-school-in-college students.

Tip: Never trust a 17 year old boy not to boast.

First of all, holy fucking fuck. But the thing is, there's an obvious question here, which another commenter gets to, "are [you] sure he didn't lie rather than boast?" I know I wouldn't trust a pubescent little dickwad not to make shit up about who's been in his bed.

But no, the search committee had the goods (so to speak). The happy couple made themselves some DIY porn, and the little punk put it on Myspace.

What can you say to that? It's just too awesome for words.

Friday, December 14, 2007

I'm a wanton. (Maybe.)

Today's the last day in this, the week I've been told to expect the majority of interviews to be scheduled. And while I've landed a few interviews this week--THANK FUCKING GOD--I'd really be happy if the number of chances to completely fuck up and humiliate myself, but still stand a chance of ultimately getting a job this year, were a little higher. (Okay, a lot higher.) And so. The temptation to blow off everything and hang around waiting for the phone to ring or the emails to arrive is weighing pretty heavily.

But I've got a lot of work to do. Like, a lot of work to do. Grading, dissertation, job talk, interview prep. And experience shows that there's no way I'm getting any of this shit done unless I sequester myself away somewhere away from both email and phone contact. It's gotta be the coffeeshop around the corner with no wireless.

Obsessively-freaking-out-chest-pains-from-the-anxiety PGOAT says, "Fuck the dissertation! You've got email to check! Obsessively. Every two or three minutes at least. C'mon. Think of how good that, "You like me! You really like me!" high feels. You could be getting that fix right now."

Second-order PGOAT says, "What are you, an animal? Get your shit together. You don't stand a chance of getting any of these jobs unless you get this work done. Stop fucking around, asshole. Get your ass to the coffeeshop."

Yeah, I know. Get my ass to the coffeeshop.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

They Say Deep Down Inside, Lie Properties of a Healing Kind

It's late. I'm coming off of days of talking to students about final papers and exams, and trying to find some time between students to get ready for my mock interview. I'm starting to feel the first waves of rejection roll in as school after school I thought I had a shot at shows up on the wiki. I'm exhausted and I'm beat down.

But reading this today took the edge off it for a while. It's from a prof going by Old Fart. There's some stuff in here I'm not sure I get, but for now, when I'm getting the living shit kicked out of me, the empathy means a lot.
I was led to this blog by some conversations with my own students. (I've got a fair number on the market this year for whom I am either first or second reader of their dissertations.)

Hope my speaking as an anonymous old fart won't be taken in the wrong way. But here's the thing I tell them all. I know this job search business can be a terribly discouraging at times. It's can be especially discouraging if you are one of the many younger philosophers who probably won't land that killer first job that fully matches your talents and ambitions. Of course, some do land such jobs first time out. And fortunate those who do. But many, many don't.

To that majority, I say try to think of it as a marathon rather than a sprint. And try hard not to let where you are at any given stage of the marathon get to you too much. You have to make up ground little by little sometimes on those who start out faster.

The first job is for most people just that -- the first job. It was for me. I started out at a two year job at good liberal arts college. It was a perfectly fine college, but it was just a two year job. Second year on the market, while I was still there, I got no interviews. Third year, after my two year job ended, I got exactly one, but fortunately I did get that job. It was a tenure track job at an equally good liberal arts college.

Eventually, hungering to teach graduate students -- since my work was then kinda technical and not necessarily accessible to even good undergraduates -- I went from there to a massive but underfunded state university with a mediocre graduate program. Hated it-- well I hated the university, but I did adore a few of my colleagues -- and was determined to get out of there. Eventually I did. It was at times very stressful, being at places I didn't really want to be. I tried hard to not let the demands of my job on me define my professional aspirations.

Through a combination of something -- hard work, good fortune, stupid blind thrashing about -- things eventually worked out -- after about 11 or so years in the profession. I finally landed a great job that I absolutely loved.

My old fart point. There are many, many paths to a good academic career. The race doesn't always go to the swift. The path is sometimes brutal. (I remember crying in the shower my first year on the market about how my advisors were so ineffectual and uncaring.) But it can work out. It doesn't always. But it can.

I hope you all take a little heart in that. I know it's not much. I'm not at all trying to sound like a pure pollyanna. I know how stressful and debilitating this can be for you all. I've watched generations of my own students go through it and I want through it myself many times.

It's hard to remind yourself, in the midst of it all, when you're watching your dream interview go to somebody else, that it's really a marathon for most of us rather than a sprint.

All the best to you all in these stressful times.
Thanks, Old Fart. It's really appreciated.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Leave Me Alone, I'm Lonely

So while I'm waiting to hear about any interviews, my e-mail inbox has become a weirdly unfamiliar place for me. It's because every time I can see any new, unread e-mail, I have to check it right now . And when it turns out to be some bullshit, I delete it, and pay attention to something other than my e-mail for as much as 10 minutes before I check my e-mail for new messages again.

What I'm realizing is, my school sends me a fuck of lot of spam. Not just forwarded announcements for talks I don't care about (The Humanities Council presents an interdisciplinary panel on the theme, "Derrida, Deleuze, Delovely!"), but actual spam. Like, ads for the dining halls. Um, I can feed myself, thanks, and I'd really rather not get those e-mails.

The thing is, before this waiting started, I think I just deleted the spam without it ever really registering in my mind. Now I'm hyper-aware of every stupid message, and I'm sort of surprised to learn my inbox is filled with all kinds of bullshit pretty much all the time.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Google is smart. S-M-R-T.

To the person whose google search for "I majored in philosophy and now I'm fucked" brought them here:

Welcome. You're among friends.

I'm a Creep, I'm a Weirdo, What the Hell am I Doing Here?

I know everybody pores with rapt attention at the letters to the editor in the APA Proceedings, but maybe a handful of people, like me, haven't found the time to look at the latest issue. Lucky for us, PJMB reader J never misses an issue, and points me to this letter (sub. req., I think) from James Madison philosopher Charles Bolyard. It has his fourth-grade son's description of last year year's Eastern APA:

2 days after Christmas I went to a philosophy confrence [sic]. It was horrible. There were 200 philosophers. They all did weird things. They couldn't make jokes, many had beards.

In the elevator it was worse. Once a philosopher got off on the wrong floor, so said, "wait for me." "We'll take you to the 27th," said another. Nobody laughed. "Get it there are only 10 floors," said some random old guy in a country accent. You get the point it was creepy.

. . . I'll never go to a philosophy confrence [sic] again.

"They couldn't make jokes, many had beards. . . . You get the point[,] it was creepy." Yes. I do get the point. I get the point loud and clear.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Sunday Comics

By Soon-to-be-Jaded Dissertator

(Click to get a big version.)

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Make a New Plan, Stan

So last weekend I told myself if I got even one interview this week I wouldn't lose my shit. Well, looks like it's time for a new plan.

Yeah, yeah, I know. It's early, search committees procrastinate as much as I do, and most of the jobs I applied to haven't shown up on the wiki yet. But still, I really wanted something this week.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Motivation Going, Going. . . Gone.

Fuck it. I've got mountains of grading. A dissertation to finish. Interviews to prep for. (Because, in a totally out-of-character move, I've decided to be optimistic and assume that the fact that I haven't yet heard from anyone doesn't mean I won't hear from anyone.) A job talk to prep. (Because, WTF, if I'm going to try out this optimism thing I might as well go hog wild and assume that I'll get at least a few on-campus interviews. Also a pony.) Haven't even started xmas shopping. (Remember that episode of Family Ties where APK is overtaken by the spirit of the season at the very last minute but the only store that's open is a pharmacy and so he gives everyone cough syrup and shit like that for xmas? Yeah, that's gonna be me.) Sickeningly large piles of dirty laundry. Haven't been to the gym in like a week and a half.

But fuck it. I'm taking the day off. Spending the day in bed with a pot of tea and three months worth of Harper's. You suckas can be all productive and hardworking and effective if you like. Me, I've got some lying around doing nothing to take care of.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

A Dollar When I'm Hard Up VI

A job ad said I should include sample syllabi with my application crap. Okay, I thought to myself, my standard teaching portfolio's got paragraph format descriptions of courses I've taught and courses I'm prepared to teach. They include descriptions of each course's major themes and questions, a list of readings, and a few words about assignment. Surely that's going to be good enough, I thought. No one actually wants to read the day by day reading schedule, right?

Wrong again, loser. I got an acknowledgment of my application this week saying it was incomplete because I hadn't included sample syllabi. So a couple of days ago I had to spend another $1.31 on postage to send them some syllabi. That brings me up to $450.79 for the year.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

I Made a Lot of Mistakes, In My Mind, In My Mind

So last year in the interview I had with a teaching school, I got the question, "Which do you see as your primary focus--teaching or research?" No problem, right? I'd gamed out that question before hand and I had what I thought was a pretty awesome answer.

I launched into my whole thing about how I didn't really accept the dichotomy of teaching and research. I was all about how I want my teaching to compliment my research by always forcing me to sharpen my knowledge of classic texts and ideas in the face of inquisitive young skeptics, and how I want my research to compliment my teaching by giving me fresh ideas to bring into the classroom and allowing me to model for my students the sort of curiosity I want them to learn in my class. So the thing about teaching and research is finding the right balance to make each compliment the other and blah, blah, fucking blah.

And the best thing about this answer is, I really think it's true. Maybe I'm an insufferable asswipe for buying into that shit, but I swear to god, I buy it all. So not only was I giving an awesome answer to the teaching/research, question, I even believed it. Holy shit, right? I figured I was hitting that one out of the park.

As it happens, I wasn't hitting it out of the park. I wasn't fouling the ball off, let alone connecting for a respectable base hit. I wasn't even striking out. No, I was standing at the plate with my eyes closed, swinging wildly at nothing in particular while I peed my pants for fear of getting hit by the ball.

No doubt, some schools would have eaten my answer up, but not the school I was interviewing with. The farther I got into my whole thing, the more the department chair's eyes narrowed and the less interested he got. By the time I was done, I knew I'd lost him. He'd asked whether teaching or research was my primary focus, and it was clear as day I'd lost him as soon the first word out of my mouth wasn't "teaching."

So I fucked up that interview. Oh, well. I'm still not changing my answer to that question.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

And Maybe I'll See You, At a Movie Sneak Preview

Alright. It's not just me who's obsessively checking my e-mail and the wiki around here. The Future Dr. Mrs. Dr. PGS is also waiting for her first MLA* interview. And since waiting for interviews sucks, here's a little MLA-themed comedy. So take a break and go watch "The Trauma Scholar." I'd love to see an APA version of these.

*Modern Languages Association. Come on, people. Don't you ever make to any school-sponsored grad student mixers? The MLA discipline people are the ones who are way better dressed than us.

That's Right, You're an Asshole, You're an Asshole

To the asshole trolls who keep deleting the job wiki, here's a really simple thought: If you don't like the wiki, don't fucking look at it. If for some fucking reason you think I shouldn't be able to look at the wiki, and so your problems can't be solved simply by you not looking at it--well, then fuck the fuck off.


Monday, December 3, 2007

Baby, Tonight I've Got a Question for You

Let's get back to prepping for interviews with teaching schools. First, let me say a huge thanks to everybody who left ideas in comments--John Turri, Sisyphus, Michael Cholbi, and various Anonymouses--to say nothing of Inside the Philosophy Factory, who's put up a post about this stuff.

So here it is, a big list of teaching questions to prep for, divided into my not-very-well-thought-out categories.

Course content.

1. What kind of intro do you teach and why? As Anon. 1:58 puts it, "What do you cover in Intro and why? Do you give a historical or problems course? Do you emphasize methods or content? Primary sources or textbook?"

2. Inside the Philosophy Factory's got a broader take on the same idea. She asks, what's your "vision for 'normal' philosophy courses and your methods for teaching logic? Here you'll want to explain the kinds of exercises you'll do to keep students engaged. You'll also want to explain your assessment methods for those courses."

Interdisciplinary and cross-department teaching.

3. What would you teach if you got to design your own course integrating material from other disciplines?

4. From Sisyphus, "How would you teach our cross-listed courses with gen ed./the Core Curriculum/some other department/the writing program?"

As an aside, up to this point I'm feeling okay. I think I could get through these without so much as messing up my hair. But now things take a turn for the worse.

Engaging students.

5. How would you engage students that are required to take philosophy courses but who otherwise would not have?

Uh, isn't this question asking me how to make the horse drink once I get it to the god-damned water? Because I don't know how to do that.

6. Here's a variation from Anon. 1:58: "How would you get students at our school interested in your class X? Why would our students want to take it?"

7. John Turri's talking engagement too, but he's going a different direction: "What techniques would you use to engage students, in the same class, of very different levels of ability and interest?"

Which bring us to. . . .


Okay, these next questions make me feel like I'm getting hit in the face with a pipe.

8. Back to Sisyphus: "How would you work with our students as opposed to the ones at your current institution" (i.e., differences in diversity, age, college prep, money, types of feeder schools, a religious mission, they are all huge b-ball fans, etc.)" To be clear, there's a lot of fucking diversity here: age, college prep, cultural background, money, religion. Holy shit, that's a hard question to answer.

In fact, that question put me on the ground, bleeding out of my mouth. Then the next one starts kicking me in the ribs.

9. Here's Inside the Philosophy Factory: What are "your methods for adjusting to different preparation levels in the classroom? Here is where you'll have to explain how you'll deal with the kid who can't read and the kid who had to come home from Princeton sitting next to one another in your freshman Ethics course."

Uh, so far my "methods" have been to teach at a school that pretty much only admits upper-middle-class white kids who mostly went to private high schools. Is that the wrong answer? Because it's the only fucking answer I've got. Moving on. . . .

Teaching practices.

10. How does your research inform your teaching?

11. From Anon. 1:58: "What is your strength/weakness as a teacher? What is special about your classes? What do you feel you need to work on?"

12. John T again: "What incentives do you build into the course to encourage your students to actually do the reading?"

Just go back to earlier themes, are you saying it doesn't work to threaten them with getting a grade as low as B+?

13. What technology do you use in teaching? Besides chalk, I guess.

14. From Inside the Philosophy Factory: How would you "deal with a few students who are doing badly in the class -- and how you would deal with a significant portion of the class that is doing badly? She recommends, "The key with the student is to offer more help and to understand what resources are available to help students who need more assistance. With the class who is doing badly, discuss how you'd do some review to reinforce some important concepts AND to do classroom assessment techniques like asking about the 'muddiest point' etc."


15. From Sisyphus, "what sorts of limitations do you see yourself working around in your research here (i.e., how will you deal with our heavy teaching load and research requirements at the same time?)?"

16. And Michael Cholbi underlines the point: "Be ready to talk about how you'd teach large courses (50+) on your own."

Michael C. also recommends having a handful of memorable points to make about your teaching. Now, nothing makes a talking point go down smooth like a charming little anecdote. . . .


17. From Anon. 1:58: "What was your worst/best moment as a philosophy teacher and why? How did you react/respond?"

18. Sisyphus again: "Describe a time you had to deal with a problem student."

19. And back to Inside the Philosophy Factory: Describe "your most challenging teaching situation and your most rewarding experience. Here is where you tell the story about little Jimmy who was sure he couldn't do logic -- who had talked himself out of being able to pass the class and who finally ended up passing the class"

I'm absolutely fucked.

20. Anon. 1:58: "From a religious school: How would you get along with our students?"

True story: I totally fucked this one up at least year's APA. Totally.

21. Inside the Philosophy Factory Again: Talk about "your professional development. Here is where you'll want to talk about the teaching seminars you're attending via your grad university, how you are a member of APT etc... This is not where you give details about conference papers, publications etc -- unless there is a research element to your position. Then you make it about 50/50."

Ah, yes. The teaching seminars I attended at my grad university. So, so many teaching seminars.

22. Anon. 1:58 again, this time with a real sphincter-clencher: "Suppose someone (perhaps a community member, and not necessarily a student) came to you and asked how to resolve moral problem X. What would you tell them to do?"

I wouldn't even know how to begin this. Couldn't I just pretend I'm deaf or something?

23. Finally, here's one I got last year: "Which do you see as you primary focus--teaching or research?" If I get the chance, tomorrow I'll tell the story of the bloody carnage that ensued.

Okay, that's what I've got. If you want more, read through the comments here and go check out Inside the Philosophy factory's advice. Also, Michael C. points us to a thread at his place that gives a good look inside the heads of search committees at teaching schools.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Sunday Comics

"Fuck yr tie"
--By Soon-to-be-Jaded-Dissertator

(Fucked if I know why, but for some reason Blogger's not opening the image in a new window when you click on it. So you'll actually have to download the image to see a bigger version of it. Sorry about that. --PGS)

Saturday, December 1, 2007


Good work, team. All kinds of fantastic advice about teaching interviews left in comments. I'll leave it to PGS to write a post distilling out the most useful advice. He's responsible like that. Me, not so much. I'd rather draw your attention to the totally useless but fucking hilarious advice.

Here are Undetached Rabbit Parts' strategies for dealing with the super lame demand to spout new platitudes about the value of a liberal arts education:

Strategy One:
Interviewer: "What are the liberal arts to you?"
Me: "Pass."

Strategy Two:
Interviewer: "What are the liberal arts to you?"
Me: "What are the liberal arts to you?" (I throw their own question back at them. Now all of the pressure is on them.)

Strategy Three:
Interviewer: "What are the liberal arts to you?"
Me: (I excuse myself from the table and set off the fire alarm.)

Strategy Four:
Interviewer: "What are the liberal arts to you?"
Me: "English, philosophy, russian..." (I just list various liberal arts.)


Heh. Nice. And here's Blind Teaching the Blind on how absurd it is that we're expected to have all these insightful and original opinions about pedagogy when not one of us has any formal training in how to teach:

Isn't this a bit like expecting me to provide innovative military tactics when my background is playing RISK and watching war movies?

I don't know about you all, but my teaching philosophy is cribbed entirely from Mr. Holland's Opus.