Saturday, June 23, 2007

Oh what a beautiful morning!

Well, I woke up this morning to find Tenured Radical had called me "ever-fabulous" and "younger", noting that she, and not I, was the one up writing on the blog on a Friday night. I have to thank her for thinking I am fabu, and I send the compliment right back to her, but my youthful exuberance was in bed early on Friday night, not out partying.

I am happy to say that I am back home after my week in the field! I took the early plane and the gf picked me up at 8am. It was great to see her. I spent the day in a fog of sleepiness, came home to be greeted by my smiling dog, and hit the sack quite early.

The trip was great and I will start planning the next trip on Monday, when I also plan to hire the person to begin transcription of this week's interviews. Today, I will check in at school and start prepping the office for painting next week.

So, just a few bullets of info/commentary before I head out:

  • Cheney can just decide he isn't part of the Executive branch? Really? Then I want to know who came to the Energy meeting. I mean, he gets Executive privilege only when he wants it? What is that? My lawyer-friends tell me that either you are a strict constructionist or you are not--you don't get to opt-in to strict constructionism when it suits you.
  • In light of Cheney's declaration, I have decided that I am no longer a faculty member or an administrator. I inhabit a netherworld of facadministration, where I am the Supreme Leader (who still has tenure, by the way). And I hearby declare that this post comes with regular subsidized massages twice a week!
  • Grad students need to be trained about the concept of faculty governance. We (those of us who think it is important) should all pick a week to hold university-wide trainings on the history, role, and importance of appropriate faculty governance and the ways in which faculty members can work to support it. Perhaps we can invite an old-time AAUP member to come and discuss why they joined in the first place!
  • Discipline-specific academic organizations have their place, and subcommittees within these groups are also useful for doing work within the discipline, but have you ever considered the ways in which they inhibit LGBTQ organizing across disciplines and within the larger purview of academe? For example, each discipline has at least one major organization and, within it, a queer group (e.g., Sociology has a committee, the Folklore Society has a section, Psychology has a division (44), Philosophy has a committee, etc.). My question is how can these groups work together to get something done on a larger basis? How can we learn from one another?

Okay, I seem to be full of rabble-rousing spirit now that I am home, so I am gonna take some of that middle-aged/youthful energy to my office to do some scut work.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Ignore this rating!

What's My Blog Rated? From Mingle2 - Online Dating

Get this! The damn site actually rated me R for the following words:

lesbian (10x)
queer (3x)
gay (2x)
suck (1x)

How interesting!?! Apparently, nonhetero verbiage is problematic. Golly.

All this lesbian can say is that this queer aversion to gay language sucks!

Ah, fuck 'em.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Adventures in the field, Installment #3

Okay, folks, since Sheri seems to like these entries, I will do a final entry. Tonight marks my last day in city #2 and the end of the field trip. (I have one more planned for this summer.)

Because I finished up my research here earlier than expected, I am going to try to fly standby on the earliest morning flight tomorrow (circa 7am). As this is a larger city with the corresponding busy airport, I gotta get up early, check out, get the rental car from the (required) valet parking, drive to the airport, drop off the rental car, check the bag, get through the screening process, and get to the gate all before 6:40. All of this necessitates an early morning for me! Even earlier, as this is a different time zone. (I know you parents are giggling at my late sleeping self, but I am SO not a morning person!) So, wish me well. I am already packed and ready for my early morning mobilization.

My time here in Southern city #2 has been pretty great. I really got the Southern vibe during this trip: everyone greeting me and beginning conversations in that easy Southern way, things moving a little more slowly and graciously, and a warmth that I miss in the Midwest. When I got my car yesterday at the airport, a wonderful woman, who I believe was a lesbian, hooked me up with a pretty cool-looking little car (Dodge Caliber) and a portable GPS system. The car drives fairly well, got good gas mileage, and looks so different that I never had trouble finding it in the parking lot. And it was this lovely blue, not the ugly white of the other potential cars. The GPS has been very helpful getting around.

When I arrived at the hotel, they had prepared the room by bringing in a bucket of fresh ice. That was the nicest surprise I could have imagined, since I had picked up a soda at the airport. I sank into the chaise in the room, sipped my soda, prepped for this morning, and fell asleep early.

Today, I did my interviews, though some of the folks were hard to reach. But I feel happy and think I got what I needed. I spent an outrageous sum of money in a bookstore, buying presents for the gf, friends, and myself (of course). Also, as promised, I did get to visit the archive of the famous lesbian and even see the boxes labeled with her name. (I asked to take a pic of the boxes, but the archive people said no.) I met some wonderful folks here and enjoyed myself immensely! I also got to spend some time with people from a different racial culture and be in the minority myself. It was wonderful. I miss that in my current campus home.

One thing that was weird for me was having that minority experience as a middle-aged person. I grew up in a very diverse community, so I have had the minority experience a lot as a child, teenager, and young adult. But I have not been the only white girl in a room for more than 6 years, probably, and it has certainly been even longer since I was the only white girl in a room of perhaps 300. Yet, it felt quite familiar and even somewhat reassuring. But I did keep thinking, "Wow, they see me as some older white person." Weird.

But the best part of today was dinner with my friend. She just moved to City #2, which she loves. We had a great meal with spirited conversation and a good deal of laughter, followed by a walk. It was a wonderful way to end my visit.

So, if you are up at 5:30am, think of me! And we will resume our regularly scheduled blogging...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Adventures from the field, Installment #2

Well, today is my last day in very hot and clammy host city #1. All the interviews have gone well, the digital recorder has worked, and all required forms are signed. I have not been so sad being alone, which is good. I am thinking this may be a reflection of (a) age, (b) being busy with multiple interviews each day, and (c) developing routines in the host city (breakfast at the same place everyday, etc.). Of course, it does not hurt that I have called the gf probably 4-5 times each day!

I am struck, as I often am, by the local recent history of this city. Sometimes it is the race history of a place that interests me, especially in the South, but this city has some queer history that informs my study as well.

Also, almost everyone I have talked to is gay or lesbian, and I love to see the great diversity of our community. Everyone has their own stories regarding coming out, their perceptions and expectations of the community's friendliness and support, and their levels of openness.

I always wonder, when I do fieldwork, what the people I interview think about me. In my dissertation fieldwork, I had local informants who would pass along information they had heard about me from community members: assumptions people made, criticisms, concerns, jokes, etc. It helped remind me that my identity was being constructed by my participants as I worked to develop my own understanding of the people and their community. It made me feel a little more humble as a researcher.

In this study, it is less possible to know what they thought of me. I assume they know I am lesbian: I sometimes talk about my partner, my own experiences as a lesbian, or my other queer research. They also know some of my story, because Southerners, even those who started somewhere else, always begin a conversation by asking where you are from. (If I actually lived in the area, and they were born-and-bred Southerners, they would ask who my people are.) So, I have told my tale of academic moves more than once here. And I tend to disclose personal details that I have in common with the interviewee, such as religion, professional pursuits, places I have been, people I know, and so on.

Tonight I fly out to host city #2, a much bigger city, also pretty hot. (Of course, it is June in the US. Most of the country, especially the South, is very hot. I am just whining, as usual. If you haven't guessed, I do not like the heat.) For the rest of today, I hope to stay as late as possible in the hotel in City #1, perhaps spend remaining time in a local air-conditioned restaurant or library with internet access, and then head to the airport. Stay tuned...the fieldwork continues!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Adventures in the field, Installment #1

Well, I am officially in host city #1. It is hot, hot, hot. The flights were fairly uneventful, but the second flight, a puddle jumper, seemed to be a small oven on wheels. It never really got cool, which made for a very sweaty and stagnant climate, intensified by some rather strong bouts of turbulence and an annoyingly chatty seatmate who seemed to enjoy repeating the same stories again and again. Needless to say, I was happy to get off the airplane.

I got to the teeny tiny airport terminal, retrieved the baggage, and signed for the rental car with no problem. The nice young man brought around the car, a small sedan, and had the windows open and the air conditioning going full blast. "How nice," I thought, "He wants to be sure that the car is cool." Yes, that is what I thought originally. Then, after I dropped my stuff at the hotel and got back in the car to tool around the town, I started to smell something...smoke. Hmm.

I opened the ashtray to plug in the cell phone charger, and I found the source of the smokey smell. There were no fewer than 40 cigarette butts. Seriously. I am loathe to complain about such issues; I rarely return food, ask for a different room at a hotel, or quibble about taxi fare. This was different, though. After about 10 minutes in the nasty car, I called the rental counter at the airport and reported the situation. The guys at the rental counter were very kind and offered me an upgrade if I returned to the airport. (They promised the new car would be clean and smoke-free.) So, after a nice dinner at an air-conditioned restaurant (did I mention it was hot?), I returned to the airport (only a 15-minute ride from the hotel). As a result of my complaining advocacy, I got myself a hybrid SUV. Pretty cool... and (sorta) eco-friendly.

I came back to the hotel to find a sweet email from one of the folks I am interviewing, apologizing for not being more solicitous and offering to take me on a tour of local town. Okay, so maybe doing fieldwork is not so bad after all.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Leaving on a jet plane

I'm headed to the field! Time to get back to research, in an applied way, with someone else's money!

The last part is perhaps my favorite. As I have noted before, money is not growing on trees (or falling out of the sky or handed out in big gobs from NIH, CDC, DHHS, NEH) for queer research. The last big project had some (limited) intramural funding, but the proposals for external funds never went anywhere. Now I have some cashola from outside and it is FUN! Instead of staying with friends or driving my own car for hours to meet participants, I get to stay at a real hotel and use a rental car that I pick up at the airport to get around. I get to use the new digital audiorecorder, with which I can upload interviews to the new computer! Then I can load it into the free transcription software to make the computer into a transcription machine. (Yes, while I have funds to pay for transcription, I may play with the new software just because it seems fun. Friends tell me that that should last for only 2-3 interviews.)

As any extrovert who has done solo field-based research can tell you, even quick field trips like mine are both a blessing and a curse. I will get to meet and interview smart and creative people in different settings about topics in which I am interested (follow that??). I get to learn more about my research area. I can use what I learn to make a contribution to my discipline and, perhaps, to other LGBT people.

Yet, the downer for me is that I have to spend days alone. Eating alone. Sleeping alone. Watching TV alone. Exercising alone. Traveling alone. Not a good thing for me. I am already a little anxious about it. I have great respect for people like Tenured Radical and other historians who spend hours alone in archives in strange places. (I hate libraries and archives, for the most part, though I may go visit a famous lesbian's archive while on my trip. I dunno what I will do there--probably just root around and touch the materials lovingly and with the greatest respect?!)

You'd think I'd have given in and started doing more team-based research, but establishing a relationship with co-investigators seems as fraught as developing a love affair to me. (And students are as much trouble as they are helpful.) I have to trust someone a lot to share all the decisionmaking, data collection, and analysis. I haven't found the person to whom I can make that kind of commitment yet. The gf will tell you, though, that if I find the right person, I can jump in without reservation. (Actually, it may have been easier for me to make a love relationship than a research relationship!)

I learned a lot doing solitary field-based research for the diss. My plan this time is to make it a short trip (unlike the grad school experience), to have some fun, to do some work, and to use the cell phone a lot. (Hey, I may even blog a little more!) Good news (for me) is that I have a friend in one of the locations who has agreed to meet me for dinner late in the trip. So, that is one meal with a familiar face. For the rest of the time, I will focus on the project... and all the money, toys, and fun stuff that comes along with it!

More from the road...

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The countdown

Okay, so I have officially hit "mid-life," I think. The winning of tenure, while not all that tangible, has brought about a thoughtful moment of "where do I go from here?" And for me, that question is compounded by a larger question, "And how fast do I have to get there?"

The gf and I did some math last week, looking at a proposed age of retirement and the corresponding length of my career. I know I want to move on into higher administrative posts. If, let's say, I want to retire at 63, then I should be in my final leadership position by my late 50's or early 60's. (For those of you laughing at the thought of retiring so early, let me point out that it reads "childless" above, so there are no pesky college tuitions to pay for. And the gf is older than me, and I want some time to be retired together...) That "final position" timetable seems closer than ever, since I have a step or two (or three) to take before I reach that position. If each step takes 3-5 years, and the awarding of full tenure along the way, that seems to require a little more focus on securing a bigger job in the next couple of years.

Okay, I will admit that I am a driven lesbian...I find that I do best when I have a goal. That said, I try to learn (and flourish) where I am. I am always looking for opportunities to try something new, take on a challenge, and just do better at my current job. I have plenty to accomplish in my current position, over the next year or so, and I am going to be participating in a leadership training program. But I am starting to think more long-term... to make more concrete plans, knowing that plans can be completely upended by family tragedies, health issues, changes on the job, etc.

On the lighter side, the gf talked me into asking the powers-that-be for new office furniture, and lo and behold, they said YES!! So, in celebration, I plan to paint some walls, hang a picture or two, and try to feel more settled in my office.

I am leaning toward an adobe-type color (the main color of the wall in The gf thinks it is too much for a small space like mine with only one window. I am sensitive to light (and darkness), and can't stand too dark a space. However, I need to ditch the white walls for something a little warmer. I am up for suggestions...