In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.
Notes from the First Week Back
September 6, 2007 - 6:31am
- The Boy took a nasty tumble off his bike and displayed iffy acting skills. He skinned his knee, which I'm sure wasn't fun, but spent the next several days alternately forgetting and remembering to limp. At one point, as we were walking back home from the drugstore having bought batteries for a new game, he was so excited that he ran. He also limped on the wrong leg a few times. I'm thinking he's fine. His limp was sort of like Dick Van Dyke's accent in Mary Poppins – he'd remember, then forget, then remember.
- The Girl was flipping through The Easter Story the other day. (Although she can't read yet, she likes to flip through picture books and tell herself the stories.) The Boy started to read over her shoulder. Annoyed, she turned to him and said “He dies in the end.”
- TB starts first grade today. He's oddly matter-of-fact about it. Kindergarten was a huge deal; this just seems like another day at the office.
- A few days ago as we were watching tv, one of those 'back to school sale' ads came on, and TW commented that we don't have to buy school supplies. Our district actually supplies the K-5 students with everything they need, other than backpacks. Folders, pencils, crayons, etc., are provided. I think the idea is to make sure the lower-income kids aren't disadvantaged, but it's pretty convenient for the rest of us, too. Hell, for the taxes we pay, the school can damn well afford some pencils. Gotta admit, I don't miss doing battle with the crowds to get the right folders, binders, etc. It's a remarkably civilized policy.
- A confession of techno-lust: those new iMacs are awfully tempting. We don't have anything resembling the disposable income right now to justify the purchase, but jeez, they're nice. (This is especially true with the Deanmobile showing some troubling signs of late. I am not in the mood to start making car payments again.) No good can come of browsing in the Apple store. You'd think I would have learned that by now.
- The Wodehouse line I'm going to have to try to slip into conversation this week: “He shriveled like a salted snail.” Love the image.
- Two great posts recently from two great academic bloggers: Tim Burke on anger at academia, and Bitch PhD on making a living. Maybe it's the social scientist in me, but I'm a big fan of getting real about costs. It has a wonderfully clarifying effect. In the comments to Burke's piece, several folks point out that academics – to a greater degree than most – choose a place based on a job, rather than the other way around. Once you're ensconced in East Nowhere, that's where you are; it's incredibly difficult for non-superstars, once they have tenure, to move. So some very smart people feel trapped in some very inhospitable places, with predictable effects on morale. Nobody told me that when I arrived in grad school – I got the “great wave of retirements” line, as did everybody else.
- Bitch breaks the final cultural taboo and posts concrete info about her income and expenses, essentially to wonder how it's possible to make six figures (!) and still feel strapped. If you can put a sock in the easy snark (“that's a problem I'd like to have!”), the discussion is actually incredibly valuable. What it boils down to is exactly what Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Warren-Tyagi wrote about in their last couple of books: you can cut out all the lattes you want, the real culprit is housing costs. (At least our property taxes cover our trapper keepers!) Given that most academics are place-bound, there's no elegant way around that.
- She may be a pain in the neck, but Lily Allen's album has to be the funniest music I've heard in many a year. Anybody who can deadpan a line like “you've got to be joking me/if you think you'll be poking me” is worth a listen. And her song to her brother – imagine Dr. Phil as rendered by a bratty ten-year-old on a sugar rush – is an instant classic. (For the younger readers: imagine a cross between Amy Winehouse and the Powerpuff Girls.) I rarely laugh at loud at music, but her stuff works every time. Well done.
- Signs it's going to be a tough year: yesterday I used the phrase “Kubler-Ross” as a verb, as in, “we have to give them time to Kubler-Ross it.” (We're at the 'bargaining' stage now.) In my defense, at least I didn't append the -ize suffix...
Associate/Full Professor Chair, Department of Environmental & Occupational Health in the Robert Stempel College of Public Health