Friday, February 29, 2008

I'm Going For Speed

More from Second Suitor. --PGS

I’m sure all graduate students have come across it sometime. The study where some scientist got spiders high on all sorts of drugs and observed how they subsequently spun their webs. Sure the one on Peyote did alright. The weed spider seemed to forget what he was doing sometimes, but let’s let her be. What worried me was the caffeine spider.

A personal note: chilling in the coffee shop, procrastinating my way through a large cup of coffee I realized I needed to be productive. No worries, I got my refill and did work. Strong work. Lots of work. Sounds great right. So long as I’m not caffeine spider.

--Second Suitor

Update from PGOAT:

Nice web, Mr. Crack Spider.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

You are not alone.

In comments, whipitgood brings us this encouraging report:
Great news, everyone who's working as an adjunct instead of as a "real" professor:

Indiana Jones is one of us!

(see 1:35-1:40)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Dollar When I'm Hard Up VIII

I put another round of applications in the mail today, and left the post office $15.54 poorer. I'm not going to bother figuring out my total for the year so far, because even just thinking about it is making me dry heave.

Please, Please, Please

Another dispatch from Second Suitor. --PGS

I’m running into a problem. Ok, it’s a dissertation problem. You know, the kind that you have to solve before you can get back to real, philosophical work. When I was but a fledgling grad student worrying about seminar papers, I always had a fairly good grip on my ‘my documents’ folder. With a folder for every semester and subfolders for each class it was easy to get to the information I wanted. I adopted a numbering system that points me to the most recent version of a paper and identifies when significant changes happened to the document. So far so good.

The problem comes in having a whole year to think deep thoughts. The number of documents on my computer has exploded. Sure some of it has to do with the fact I have 2-3ish different intros (Don’t worry, I’ve skipped that part for now) and some of it has to do with having a new version of at least one document (almost?) every day, but I also seem to be generating a lot of ‘dissertation related but not part of the dissertation’ stuff. I need a way.. a program.. a system.. something to organize my ‘dissertation and beyond’ folder. If anyone has a good way of keeping your dissertation files (or even all of your documents) organized, that’d be really helpful.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Bouncing Off the Walls, Unraveling the Thread

Last week I mentioned how tired I am. It's a physical tired, but not just that. It's a tired that's in my head, too.

In comments, M.A. Program Faculty Member reminded me of something Old Fart said a while ago. Think of getting a job as a marathon, not a sprint. I get the point of the marathon metaphor. I need to take the long view of my prospects. True enough, because it's not like getting a job is a sprint, either--or at least that's not how it's turning out for me. Also, it's impossible not to appreciate sincerely the kindness and empathy that's meant in this advice. In some sense that's the really important thing.

But still, I can't quite buy the marathon metaphor. It gets the rhythm all wrong. Getting a job's not slow and steady, so that's not how I'm going to win the race. I fucking hammered for months. It's not just the amount of work I was doing, although it was that too. It's the heart palpitations and cortisol-level spikes; it's the insomnia; it's the hope and it's the fear.

But now that's all over and I'm left feeling like I lost three pints of blood. Now every day's about trying to get some momentum back, trying to find my groove. Come September, I'll do it all again, hammering for months and then crashing hard. That's not a marathon. I don't know what it is.

Monday, February 25, 2008

So You Want to be a Rock 'n' Roll Star

Shit. I thought I remembered Sisyphus on this beat before. Here it is, and this shit is the truth.
I'll stop and make a snarky side note here to point out that the two-years-ago group who went out was really really large for us, and the vast majority were on second or third job rounds, although our big "coups" were all ABDs out on the market for their first time. The entire department has conveniently forgotten last year's group completely, because we were a smaller group and none of us got any jobs. So conveniently, in fact, that you'll notice that the job placement page on the web site was just never updated and our year's "stats" mentioned (which would bring down our placement rate). Future grad students, assume that your potential departments are "accidentally" and not-so-accidentally lying on their stats pages to look good for you. You'll really have to dig to get an accurate picture of their placement record. Oh yeah, and the two people who got no job offers at all from the two-years-ago group and who have quit academia are counted under "decided not to pursue academia" not "couldn't get an academic job for five years of trying come hell or high water."
"Convenient forgetting." That's exactly right. It's why departments think it makes perfect fucking sense to tell you about all the awesome jobs their grads got fifteen fucking years ago. Because all those rock stars of the nineteen-nineties are just more salient to profs when they're thinking of their own programs' placement records.

Programs aren't necessarily trying to lie. But whatever. Don't get took.

Thanks for the Information, I Know I Should Look Before I Leap

I need to be thinking about more applications right now, but every time I try, it just makes me want to go to bed and pull the covers over my head. So instead, let me say one more thing to prospective grad students.

Wiser people than me have already told you to make sure you get a look at the placement stats for the departments you're thinking of going to. That's really, really important. But at the same time, you've got understand most departments are probably--in at least some small way--juking their stats, as Major Daniels might put it. Not lying exactly, just, well, juking.

So let me try to lay out the information I think you want, even though I suspect you're not really going to get it all from most departments.

1. How long to people take to finish the program, and how many people bail or get kicked out before they finish? Suppose you get a five-year funding package, and whoever you're talking to in a department keeps telling you, "It's a five-year program." Well, maybe. I'm sure there are places out there that get people through in five years. But there sure as hell aren't a lot of them. So when you get told you're looking at a five-year program, you're probably getting a pile of bullshit. If you can, I'd suggest e-mailing a senior grad student in the department and asking them what their sense is of how long people take to finish. And ask them how people pay the rent in their sixth, seventh, and nth years. Those years can be damn lean.

Okay, onto placement stats proper. Here's what you want to now about them.

2. How many grads of the program get tenure-tracked jobs? This seems like it should be easy to get, right? It's not. For a department to give you a meaningful number here, they've also got to give you answers to these questions:

3. Exactly who does the department count as not getting tenure-tracked jobs? Here's where things get shady, because a lot of departments aren't going to count people who choose not to go on the job market. But what does this choice look like, and why do people make it? because they think they've got no chance on the market? That's certainly one obvious reason to choose not to go on the market.

So one guy from my department realized he had no chance on the market, and so he went straight to law school. He doesn't count. Another guy was one-half of a two-body problem, and realized he had no chance of ever getting a job in the same place as a partner. So after a year on the market, he bailed on academia. He doesn't count. If someone strikes out on the market four or five years in a row and then decides to throw in the towel, do they count? (Afer all, they did choose to throw in the towel.) If the placement stats are going to tell you much of anything, you need to know this shit.

Now here's a killer.

4. On average, how long do people spend on the market before landing a tenure-tracked job? Do most people coming out of the program get jobs as ABDs? Do they do a one-year? Or do they bounce around the country doing one-year after one-year after one-year before finally getting a chance to settle down?

Do not, under any circumstances, expect faculty from a program to be giving you honest and fair-minded assessments of their own placement stats. Maybe they are. I'd like to think most are. But maybe they're not, so don't get took.

The Blueprint Vol. 2

A follow-up on an earlier post from my boy, Second Suitor. --PGS

While I’m sure publishing now won’t hurt my job prospects, a lot of schools seemed to focus more on teaching. This poses a problem in preparing for the job market. Unless you have some nice deal, you’re like me and don’t have much control over what you get to teach/TA before the holiday fun ensues. The good news is that even if I don’t have that much control over the syllabus, I still get to run my recitations.

As I see it, the kids on the job market got a lot of questions about two things. First, how do you approach teaching students with diverse cultural and educational backgrounds? And second, how would you include interdisciplinary material into the courses you teach?

Well fuck it. I’m going to make sure that my recitation on Hegelian metaphysics relates to critical race theory. Seriously, it seems like the best way to answer this question is to be able to talk about how you’ve included these perspectives in class before. Do I have any in depth knowledge of feminist critiques or the latest fMRI research? No. But I’m sure as hell going to teach them before Christmas.

--Second Suitor

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sunday Comics

Apropos of people's advice for prospectives, here's "Get Paid", from Soon-to-be-Jaded Dissertator. (Click to make it big.)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Another Day to Wake Up on the Feed Kill Chain

Okay, one more really basic piece of advice for prospective grad students. Maybe even more than with my first two pieces of advice, take this as one guy's opinion. Like I said in my last post, this is just something I wish someone had told me when I was thinking about grad school.

This one's a little more complicated than the first two.

3. If you do not get in to PhD programs in the top-35(ish), and if you want to teach less than a 4-4 or 5-5 load, do not go to grad school.* I've made this a little more nuanced than I used to put it, since people (rightly) criticized previous overly-blunt versions. But the basic idea is pretty simple. If you go to a program below (roughly) the top two-thirds of Leiter's list, you have no reasonable expectation of teaching at a school with a 3-3, 3-2, or 2-2 load.

(I know people are going jump on me for saying this. There's great stories floating around out there about people who went to programs in the 40s or lower and ended up working their way up into Leiterrific departments. And that's great. But it's also irrelevant, because no one's saying it's not possible to do that. I'm saying it's really, really unlikely. You've got no reasonable expectation of having that happen.)

Let me elaborate on this advice in way that might make it more meaningful for prospectives. If you're a prospective grad student, you're probably coming out of a university or a liberal arts college (either "small" or "selective"). That means your profs teach either 3-3, 3-2, or 2-2 loads--that is, six, five, or four courses a year. You see some of what they do the rest of the time. They're traveling for conferences, they're publishing stuff, etc. Here's the point: if you want to have a job anything like the one you see your profs have, you have to go to a top-35ish school.

If you go to a program ranked below (roughly) 35, you're much, much, much more likely to end up teaching eight, 10 or more courses a year at a (non-selective) small liberal arts college or community college. For most people, that ends up being a very different kind of job than the job your philosophy profs have. For most people in those jobs, their jobs tilt much, much more towards teaching and service to the school. They travel to conferences a lot less, and they write a lot less, if they write at all Their tenure requirements are much more about teaching, and much, much less about research.

Am I saying you shouldn't go to grad school if you don't get into a school in the top-35? Absolutely not. Teaching philosophy can be, and very often is, an unbelievably rewarding thing to do. Unlike when you're writing, the rewards are immediate and tangible. You see the light bulb go on on kids' faces, and it makes your morning. If that's what you want your job to be about, then you should absolutely go to grad school.

However. If that's what you want only half your job to be about, and if you want the other half to be publishing papers, then don't go to a program ranked much below 35 on Leiter's list. Coming out of a program below 35, you've got no reasonable expectation of getting the kind of job you want.

Why do I feel like I should duck and run for cover right about now?

*Two important caveats. First, I'm sort of pulling the number 35 out of my ass. I suspect some people are going to set that number higher, others are going to set it lower, and obviously it really is a gray area.

Second, this advice doesn't apply for continental programs or Catholic schools, neither of which I know anything about. Can anyone give decent advice about that stuff (besides "Go to SUNY Stony Brook")?

But I'm on my Third City, And I'm on my Fourth Car, And I'm on my Fifth Apartment

I'm coming late to the party, but I want to lay out my basic advice for prospective grad students. Keep a couple of things in mind, though. First, there's a lot here that needs to be fleshed out. This is just the bare bones version. Second--and more importantly--I make no claims about this advice being worth anything more than what you paid for it. This is just my sense of what I wish I'd been told before I went to grad school.

Enough throat-clearing. Here it is.

1. If you'll ever want to choose where you live, do not go to grad school. If you're a philosopher and you want a career in academia, you have no reasonable expectation of being able to choose where you live until you're close to 40 years old. By the time you hit middle age, you might--might--have some very limited choice about where you want to live. So if you really want to live in the mountains or on a lake, do not go to grad school. If you really want to live in a big city, do not go to grad school. If being with family and old friends is really important to you, do not go to grad school.

2. If you have, or suspect you'll ever have, a significant other who can't pick up and move at the drop of a hat, do not go to the grad school. This one's really just a corollary of #1, but it's worth really hammering, because not seeing this one coming can cause life-tearing sadness.

If your SO's career or family or whatever means they can't move whenever and wherever your career demands, here's the likely best-case scenario. You'll negotiate many, many years of a long-distance relationship, sacrificing plans for houses, kids, and dogs. You'll never take vacations, because any time you have off from school and work, you'll only want to spend with your SO. When you finally get to live with your SO, you'll be able to only because you're making sacrifices in some aspect of your career. Maybe you'll leave behind a great a bunch of colleagues and a college that suports the kind of curriculum development you're into. Maybe you'll have to turn down an offer from a Leiterrific department. Maybe you'll have to turn down an offer that would have paid for the house you've always wanted. Whatever it is, you'll give something up to be with your SO. Remember, that's the likely best-case scenario.

Here's the worst case, but still appallingly common scenario. You'll one day have to choose between your career and your SO. Given what, by that time, you'll have invested in both philosophy and your relationship, that choice will likely be one of the most painful things you ever experience. If you can, better just to avoid ever having to make it.

Okay, this post is already too long, and I haven't even gotten around to my third piece of advice. Stay tuned for that.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The illusion of control.

I've long been aware of my habit of using domestic mundanities for procrastinatory purposes. (My bathroom is never so clean as when I've got a stack of grading that needs finishing.) But the job market is turning this into a whole 'nother thing. I spent the better part of last night tackling mountains of laundry and ironing and mending. I dropped off a bunch of dry cleaning this morning. And I'm all excited about my big plans to take all my knives in to get sharpened tomorrow.

I've realized that this is all a pathetic attempt to pretend that I've got some degree of control over my life right now. I was commiserating with PGS about this, and he told me that last year around this time his officemate started making a bunch of doctor's appointments to deal with the random aches and pains she'd been putting up with for a long time. Apparently she said she was doing it because she felt like her body was the only thing she had any control over.

Great idea. Maybe I'll get my teeth cleaned or something.

Here We Go, We're Off Again

Okay, well, the the new JFP's out today. My physiological reaction to the first JFP of the season was unfocussed vision and shortness of breath. This one's just making me feel sick.

Fuck. Here we go again.

Update: New plan. Let's all become environmental ethicists.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I Got a New Complaint

As a quick post-script on my last post, here's another general principle of prospective-grad-student-advice-giving. Don't tell prospectives to "think very hard" about grad school, unless you tell them exactly what to think about.

This one really picks my ass. By most accounts, pure rational cogitation couldn't even get Descartes out of his own fucking head. It's sure as fuck not going to tell prospectives anything about grad school.

Forever in Debt to Your Priceless Advice

In comments, Potential Philosopher reminds me it's getting to be about time to talk about advice for prospective grad students. (Actually, it's probably getting late for that. Oh well.) I and everyone else have things to say about that, so we'll get to that in time. But the actual advice will have to wait another day.

Right now, I want to make a case for a general principle of advice-giving. It's a principle that, if you really take it seriously, I think puts serious constraints on the advice you can give to prospective grad students.

Here's the principle. The advice you give a prospective grad student has to be based on the rule, and not the exception, of what prospectives can expect about grad school and philosophy more generally.

Why is this a good principle? Well, I take it most people who want to go to grad school in philosophy were the exceptions in their college philosophy classes. They were the smartest people in the room. Or if, like me, they weren't the smartest people in the room, they were at least pretty smart, and certainly better at philosophy than most other things they ever tried to do. One thing this means is, prospective grads are used to being the exceptions. Now, some of them are going to go to grad school and continue being the exceptions. But the overwhelming majority won't. Their days as the exceptions in the class are over.* I take this to be damn near analytically true. So for the overwhelming majority of prospective grads, whatever might be true for the exceptions isn't true for them.

Now, here's how the principle constrains the advice we can give. Take just one example. Suppose I give some pessimistic-sounding advice about how long it takes to finish a PhD in philosophy in America. Like, say, some school's offering a five year package and saying they run a five-year program, but I say it's probably more like a six, seven, or eight year program. Suppose I say that.

There's always going to be someone who wants to come back at me with, "But I know someone who worked really hard and finished in four years! It can be done! Quit saying it can't be done!" First, no one's saying it can't be done. But more to the point, how the fuck does pleading exceptions help give a prospective grad student a fair idea of what grad school is normally, probably, usually like? What, in all likelihood, grad school will be like for them?

The advice we give prospectives should give them a sense of what they can reasonably expect. But they can't reasonably expect to be exceptions. Our advice needs to reflect that.

*Side-bar to prospective grads: This isn't a knock against you guys. In fact, it's one of the best things about grad school. If you got to grad school, every one of your classmates is going to be really, really bright, especially compared to the some of the dumb-ass knobs who won't STFU in your undergrad classes. Imagine taking class after class after class where the discussion never gets hijacked by someone who's real beef with Davidson is, he's not nearly as cool as the ideas that come to you at 2:00am when you're taking rips off your room mate's bong. It's really awesome having a bunch of smart people in your class instead of that guy.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Watching a Horse Running Down its Last Legs

I hinted at something yesterday I've been meaning to post about. I'm exhausted.

My body just decided to take itself off-line for a couple of weeks after the APA. I tend to get sick more when I'm stressed and sleeping less than when I'm feeling good and getting lots of sleep. No surprises there, it's pretty common. The cold hit me a week before the APA, but I beat it back with a battery of expensive herbal quackery, so I was okay at the conference itself. But about 18 hours after I got back from Baltimore, I dropped like a rat in plague times. For the next two weeks, I couldn't walk up stairs without losing my breath, and running for the bus made me feel like I was going to fucking die.

But physical exhaustion's not even half of it. There's the other kind of tired, the one that comes from working with a singular focus on one thing for months, and then seeing your work produce exactly nothing. It's the kind of tired that eats through your motivation and leaves a gaping, empty hole in its place. It's the kind of tired where you can sleep nine or ten hours a night and still wake up just as tired as when you put your head down the night before.

That's a hard tired to shake.

Monday, February 18, 2008

I've Been Working from Seven to Eleven Every Night, It Kind of Makes Life a Drag

Motivation's hard to come by right now. I've been scraping enough of it together, day to day, to get some work done. But it's not coming easily. I've been managing by trying to keep a pretty steady eye on my dissertation and trying as hard as I can not to think about the job market. Actually writing philosophy feels alright, even if it's slow and painful in its own way.

But the job market's back. Deadline's are coming. I've been putting off dealing with some stray post-doc applications, because, right now, thinking about the job market makes me feel like an unqualified failure, too beat down to think a clear thought. But they couldn't be put off any more, so I started them today.

I got some shit done that needed to get done, but I can't work on any of these application without feeling a bodily, physical sense of revulsion. It's like my body's trying to get me stop, because it feels like it's taken enough punishment from this shit already.

Fuck, I hate doing applications.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sunday Comics

"Dreamin' Man." By Soon-to-be-Jaded Dissertator. (Click to make it big.)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Bronze Medal

More questions about next year from Second Suitor. --PGS

Okay. So I have a question and recognize that it probably doesn’t have a clear answer. How do conferences factor in? It’s a line on the CV. I mean I’m working on the publishing thing, but that’s clearly going to take a while. In the meantime applying to conferences feels like something I can do. Clearly presenting at something fancy like the APA must be good, but I’m under the impression that at least some faculty seem to think graduate conferences are about as impressive as undergrad conferences.

Right now I’m kind of using conference deadlines as fake ‘real’ deadlines for relatively self-contained 10 page chunks of the dissertation. It’s a strategy that’s definitely helped me make progress on the diss, but it would be nice if actually going to any of these conferences would help on the job market.

Also, I hear conferences area good place to network. Makes sense. Throw a lot of philosophers in a room and we have to talk to each other. That said, it’s not really clear that chatting with people at conferences in fact helps on the job market. I have no idea if that’s right, but I’d like to find out from people who know.

--Second Suitor

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Blueprint

Second Suitor, a good friend of mine from my program, is going on the market next year. He's having a lot of the same experiences I did. --PGS

If philosophy’s a contact sport, the job market’s the gauntlet. I’ve been able to spend this year complaining about how long it takes to write a dissertation and watching the class above me try to tackle the job market. Now they’re done (one way or another) and all of a sudden I’m up next. The trick is figuring out what the hell I should be doing to prepare for this daunting process next semester.

Fortunately, figuring out what to do isn’t that complicated. Let’s take this one step at a time. A lot of jobs focus on research. Last week in comments, m.a. program faculty member kindly pointed out it’s time to try to publish. According to m.a.:
You should do so right now, in Feb., if you want a realistic shot of (i) sending off a paper, (ii) getting back reviewer reports and a decision, probably 'Revise and Resubmit' at best if you're lucky, and (iii) having time to revise and get an acceptance prior to job deadlines for the next Eastern APA.
Point taken. Too bad I didn’t get the memo before Christmas break.

--Second Suitor

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Voices, Another Sound, Can You Hear Me Now? This is Planet Earth

I found two interesting things in my mailbox at school yesterday, along with all the usual academic junk mail. One was a burnt copy of the Drive By Truckers' new album. I have no idea who left it for me, but some kind-hearted mystery person must have known this is the time in the job market cycle for alt-country, and also that if I kept listening to Calexico's "Garden Ruin" my slide into alcoholism would pretty much be a done deal. Thanks mystery person! My liver thanks you too!

The other thing I found was a PFO from a school I interviewed with at the APA. Obviously PFOs aren't normally interesting. But this was wasn't a form letter. Or at least, it wasn't completely a form letter. It had a single dependent clause that was directed specifically at me.

It was still a PFO, and it was still telling me I wasn't going to get a job I really, badly wanted. So it still hurt. But apart from the rejection, there's something deeply dehumanizing about having nothing but a wash of crappily-written form letters to show for the work you put in to your applications. You spend months putting together an application package that says who you are as a philosopher, and when you're done you've got no sign any of it registered with anyone. It's like you're shouting out into the darkness, and you never hear any response but echoes of your own voice.

Well, this PFO was like a voice calling back, letting me know someone heard me shouting.


Ugh. Sorry about the unannounced hiatus there. A nasty confluence of laptop-, blogger- and dissertation-related problems has kept me off-line for a couple of days. However, I think we should now be back our regular schedule here at PJMB world headquarters.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Your Love's Got Me Lookin' So Crazy Right Now

Remember Bertha Mason in Jane Eyre? You know, Rochester's crazy wife, who he secretly keeps locked up in his attic? Well, I am Bertha Mason.

The Future Dr. Mrs Dr. PGS has had some fly-outs, which is awesome. (In fact, she's had an all around better year on the market than I have. She works on the language and literature of a part of the world that's salient to a lot of Americans these days, owing to events of the past few years. It seems a lot of schools are looking to beef up their course offerings in the sorts of things she can teach.) Anyway, one of the things she's been dealing with in conversations with faculty in the departments she's visiting is the need to keep my existence on the down-low. All the advice she's got from her people, and all the advice I've got from mine, is to keep the two-body problem out of the picture until she's got an offer in hand. Especially in cases where there might be different factions in a department pulling for different candidates, she doesn't want to give anyone any reason to think she's going to be complicating their lives.

This puts the Future Dr. Mrs Dr. in a totally different position on campus visits than another friend of ours. Unlike us, this friend had the good sense to find an SO who wanted be a lawyer. So now that he's got his law degree, he's all portable and she's an academic with no two-body problem. Nice. But she's also cunning, this friend of ours. So on her campus visits, she made sure to drop enough information to let department members know her SO was a lawyer and could follow her. (When I've got the chance, I'll come back to why it seems like this is information women need to convey a lot more than men do.)

But the Future Dr. Mrs Dr.? Not so much. She's been bobbing and weaving like the sixth-grade dodge-ball champ she never was. She's had conversations where, frankly, it was just weird not to mention me. Like, she just moved to the city I live in last year, so why does she have such a first-hand feel for how it's changed over the past n years? Hm. But in any case, so far she's managed to keep hidden the dark secret of her BF, the loser philosopher.

And me? Up I trundle into my attic, to wail and gnash and be generally insane.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sunday Comics

"A Valentine's Story." By Soon-to-be-Jaded Dissertator, with a credit to his GF, the Ambivalent Psychbot, for the idea. (Click to make it big.)

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Five Passengers Set Sail that Day, For a Three Hour Tour, A Three Hour Tour

I know it's not exactly the season for this sort of issue anymore, but this piece by a law prof in Inside Higher Ed's got me thinking again about how academics dress. I'm actually one for profs dressing reasonably well to teach, and that obviously goes for candidates in interview and job-talk situations too. But something was really rubbing me the wrong way about this clown's finger-wagging defense of wearing tie and creased pants to teach. Part of it was the patent vacuity of his "arguments". ("The tie is important because it’s always been important; its importance makes it important." Got that?) I mean, I think the author thinks this is funny. Tough to say, though.

But the real problem was, the guy's got no actual fashion sense. He pretty plainly hasn't passed his eyes over the cover of a GQ while waiting in the grocery store check-out line since at least 1978. Get a load of this: "For men, Fussell’s default rule works: “You can’t go wrong with the classic navy blue blazer and khakis”." A "classic" navy blazer and khakis? Seriously? This is supposed to be advice for academics? But that's Mr. Howell, asshat, not the Professor.

Hold the Line, Love Isn't Always on Time, Oh Oh Oh

In response to my last post, Anon. 4:59 says,
This is just false about VAP positions and lectureships; there is no other way to spin it. . . . If the CHE author is being sincere, I don't understand at all what his department SC is doing, unless it's just an accident and coincidence that the finalists ended up that way. But then the author shouldn't draw the general and sweeping conclusions that he does. If the author is not sincere, or if he is just being careless and not thinking, then that's pretty awful, given the demoralizing force of his message. But it's just not true.
The claim at issue is whether doing one-years after you finish your can negatively affect your odds of getting a tenure-track job. I don't want to pick on Anon. 4:59, because I think his or her reaction's both common and pretty natural. But I also think it's wrong.

Of course you can offset the negative influence by getting some teaching experience, getting into a more structured groove working or whatever. But you're still offsetting negative influences. Finding a more structured routine for working is the only upside of having to teach three or more times as much as you'd have taught as a grad student. And most of those classes are probably going to be new preps, since grad students usually don't get to teach upper level classes. You're also going have to start worrying about picking up the taint of loserdom. No, not that kind of taint. The taint some search committees see on candidates who've been kicking around from one-year to one-year for a few years. "No one else thought this guy was worth hiring, so do we need to look all that closely at him?" Again, that's not all search committees, and those negatives can hopefully be offset. But it is some search committees, even if we wish it weren't, and we're still dealing with negatives.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

I Don't Like the Odds You're Giving

I'm trying to get my head around the idea that in all likelihood I'll be on a one-year next year. For various reasons, it's not an easy thing to reconcile myself to. But one of the reasons is, I know the more my paycheck depends on my teaching--the more time I spend teaching--the harder it's going to be to do research. But research is what's going to get me the job I want.

So when I read this, from a someone on an English department search committee, it hurt:
Of the 30 candidates who made our initial cut, almost all were in the final year of their Ph.D. programs. Four were in their first or second year as postdoctoral fellows, two were in their first year as visiting assistant professors, and one was in her first year as a full-time lecturer. In other words, the odds were against you if you were applying for our position as an adjunct or a lecturer -- not because we wanted a fresh Ph.D., but because we wanted promising research. And those who don't have the luxury of a graduate stipend or a light teaching load have a hard time producing scholarship on par with those who do.
I know it's possible to publish your way off the teaching treadmill, but I also know teaching more is only going to make it harder, not easier, to publish. Looking ahead to next year, I can see my odds getting longer.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

I Don't Want to Talk About it Now

I'm tired of getting asked about the job market. I'm tired of people who know I'm on the market asking me how it's going. You know? The line that goes, "Hey, PGS, how are you doing? You're on the market this year, right? How's it going?"

When I say I'm tired of the question, I mean it actually makes me tired. It sort of deflates me a little, like it takes some of the air out of my lungs. What the fuck am I supposed to say? "Well, gosh, friend, it really fucking sucks. All the work I did this year made no fucking difference getting me closer to a job than I got last year, and I'm spending a lot of time trying to convince myself I'm not a complete fucking failure at the only thing I've ever really wanted to do with my life. How the fuck are you?"

Can't say that, can I? Wouldn't be polite. But as I've been getting more tired with the question, my answer's been changing a little. There's pressure to be upbeat about it all, to show you're keeping your spirits up. Actually admitting in public that you're getting the shit kicked out of you is sort of an unseemly embarrassment, like pissing your pants in public. And at first, when people asked me how I was doing, I'd clench my face up into my best happy-optimistic-simpleton smile and say, "Nothing happening so far! We'll see!" or some thing just as insipid. Then I'd keep the same idiotic expression on my face while me and whoever I was talking to went through some bullshit about how something was sure to come up or whatever.

But fuck it. Right now, the job market's not small talk for me, and I don't have it in me to pretend it is. So now when someone asks me about the market, they get a blank look from me and I tell them, "Nothing's happening." Then they figure out it's time to talk about something else.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

'Cause What You Say is What You Say

Just a quick housekeeping note. As you can see down on the left, we've added a recent comments feed, which will hopefully make it easier to scan for whatever you're looking for in comments.

Also, here's a shout out to PJMB reader DC for patient instructions on how to do something so easy, I should retroactively fail my qualifying exams for not knowing how to do it.

Travel fund for female grad students.

There's been a lot of discussion here lately about the dearth of women in philosophy and what the hell we can do about it. (Which discussion I will confess to having mostly sat out because I tend to just get too freaked out and pissed off when so many of the people who are supposed to be my colleagues in this discipline show themselves to be so mindbogglingly misogynistic. It's like I'd almost rather not know what the dickheads really think of me, you know?)

Well, Feminist Philosophers brings news of some of the good people at ESWIP putting their money where their mouths are. They've set up a fund to help female grad students defray some of the (sometimes prohibitively expensive) costs of attending the Eastern APA. Go. Donate if you can.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Come on Pretty Baby Call My Bluff, 'Cause for You My Best Was Never Good Enough

So here's an admission that hardly puts me in the minority of grad students. I have some perfectionist tendencies. I'm almost never happy with my work. I know perfectionism's supposed be bad because it's keeping me from being happy and it's unhealthy and blah, blah fucking blah, but fuck that. I want the work to be good, so cram it Dr. Phil.

Except that right now I happen to be gunning to finish my dissertation, so spending two days getting the language and organization of a single paragraph exactly right isn't going to work. The problem, of course, is that you can't just turn the perfectionism off when it won't work with your schedule. So I'm fucked, right?

Actually, no. It turns out getting the shit kicked out of me on the job market's been really awesome for making me not fucking care about the quality of my work. I wrote a sucky paragraph this morning, and when I reread it and realized just how deeply sucky it was, I thought, "Fuck, that paragraph sucks. I should really fix that." Then I stared at it for another minute or two before thinking, "Fuck it." And then I kept writing.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Sunday Comics

Soon-to-be-Jaded Dissertator tells us we need to "watch out for search committee pirates." Sounds smart to me. I sure as hell feel like holing up with some real work for a while, and not having to worry about search committees. (Click to make it big.)

Friday, February 1, 2008

I Hope that Someone Gets My Message in a Bottle

Leiter's posted an e-mail from someone whose department's hiring, and who got recommendation letters from students in some application packages. There's the question of how useful those letters could be. (Answer: it depends on the letter, doesn't it?) But there's also the question of why anyone sent them in the first place.

Well, as one of Leiter's commentors points out, letters from students were required by at least one school that posted an ad in one of the fall JFPs. I can't remember what school it was (and I'm too lazy to look it up), but I remember the ad. It asked for (I think) at least six letters, three of which had to be from former students.

I remember, because it made me think, "Hey, maybe I should get some letters from students to go in my teaching portfolio." To be a little more precise, it made me think that for about 30 seconds, before I realized I had no way of contacting most of my students. Even if I could get in touch with some of them, I'm just not sure I could get good letters from them. (Taking a barely literate kid, and working with him over only a single semester, getting him to the point where he was only a terrible writer--that's actually something I'm pretty fucking proud of. But I still don't want my letters written by terrible writers.)

Anyway, here's the thing. A lot of people applied to that job asking for student letters, because a lot of people apply to every job. So a lot people got letters from students. Now, they were also applying to a bunch of other jobs, and a lot of those asked for "evidence of teaching excellence" or something just as vague. Why the not send the letters? Because who the fuck really knows what "evidence of teaching excellence" is?

Update: Okay, thanks to Jennifer in comments, who says the schools asking for letters from students was Oxford College at Emory University. Also, she's curious to know if people did send student letters, and if it helped at all.