Thursday, August 14, 2008


We are leaving for the mountains tomorrow. I was looking forward to the trip until I realized that my in-laws would be with us slightly over half of the time we will be there. Now, this is their new mountain house and I can't very well say, "no, we want to be alone," but at the same time, my mother-in-law told us that we could have the house to ourselves whenever we wanted so I was looking forward to some downtime. Somehow one night with them present has become three.

So J and I are having a disagreement. I say it isn't a vacation if in-laws are present. My reasoning: I can't wander around in my pjs, I have to be on guard as to what I say, and I have to plan meals and mealtimes around them. NOT a vacation. J says it is a vacation because we are away. If we invited my parents, I am guessing he would feel differently.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Time for sightseeing

I finished interviewing candidates a little while ago. In all, we met with 23 new or soon-to-be Ph.Ds. A few were very, very good. A few were very, very bad*. Most fell somewhere in the middle.

Now it is time for a little sightseeing. I just came back to my hotel, changed into shorts and walking shoes, and . . . .watched as clouds enveloped the city and rain began to fall. Shoot. Hopefully, this will be a short lasting downpour.

In the meantime, I'll look through my Boston guide and try to decide what sort of small gifts to get the girls. E, who is nearly four, is VERY aware that the departure of a parent means a gift upon return. In fact, rather than get upset that I would be gone for four days, she grinned as I left the house and called out, "I want a present, Mommy."

Ha! The sun is breaking through the clouds. Time to be a tourist.

*One candidate would not look me in the eye. Each time I would address him, his would turn his body away from me and stare across the interview hall. The other two interviewers from my institution noticed, too. Very, very strange.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Wheels up

I’m sitting in the airport waiting to board the first of my two flights to Boston. The woman on the PA just helpfully informed us that we are on “orange alert.” Whatever.

I resisted this trip. I really didn’t want to leave my girls for a conference. But as program director, I was told, “you have to be there,” so I dutifully packed, filled out my TA and now I’m nearly on my way. I’m not presenting my work on this trip. Instead, I am interviewing 24 people for an assistant professor position. I think 20-24 is obscene, but that is what the committee decided and who am I to argue? It will be like speed dating. With nerds. We already have their vitas, but this will tell us if candidates have necessary social skills to be a colleague who won’t drive us to despair and infighting and gnashing of teeth and wailing and backstabbing and all the other behaviors that we frequently witness from less couth departments. After the meetings, we’ll invite the candidates we liked to apply for the position and hope that the money we spend screening pays off.

Our decision to pour resources into these screening interviews stems from one interview a few years ago in which the candidate wore a Breathe Right nasal strip the entire interview and snorted loudly at odd times. During his teaching demonstration, he made a comment about a colleague’s ass. Later, at a department social gathering held at the home of a colleague, he railed against the evils of tract housing, in her tract house. For his job “talk” he picked up a local rag and just started blabbering nonsensically. We did not hire him, but his interview made us much more sensitive to the fact that while you can study society, you don’t necessarily belong in it. We also learned that a nice vita and good letters mean nothing.

So, here I go. Three days. 24 candidates and no idea how I will tell them apart. They all look alike-- so new and sparkly. I’ve been a professor for ten years, and I am far enough removed from my grad school days that I now find grad students to be kind of cute in that earnest, untested and as of yet unembittered-by-politics-and-the-realization-that-you-are-never-ever-going-to-get-rich-doing-this kind of way.

I’m hoping I’ll find ten minutes here and there for sightseeing. I miss my girls already.