Friday, August 12, 2011

Le sigh

You know it is a bad day when the major accomplishments are getting my drivers license and hanging my diplomas in my office. Oh, and that I didn't completely fall off of the chair I was using to hang the degrees--just bobbled a little.

The day started out bad with a headache of unknown origin, the kind where your eyes ache and you feel slightly nauseated. It was quickly followed by an argument with the gf over stupid banking stuff, as we try to manage our old account in former state, and the new account here--for which we have no checks and no automatic deposit from my work. Add to this the minutiae of trying to find documentation for the drivers license, and you have a pretty crappy morning.

This experience was followed by a trip to the very full DMV office. The wait took about 45 minutes, which wasn't as bad as it could have been, though that just gets you through the door for another set of lines to process documents, take the visual test, the computerized driving knowledge test, and the photo. I was glad I had my iphone with the kindle app. Of course, they had misrepresented the cost of getting the license, so I had to leave and find cash, which took a while because the first cash machine I found linked to my new bank was out of order. Thank goodness again for the iphone, which allowed me to locate cash machines in the area.

There was something kind of sweet about watching 17 year old kids and their parents waiting anxiously for the computer and driving tests. You get to see into a real cross-section of the community, as well. I got to watch a small child on one of those leashes; that always creeps me out, though she was an active kid who dragged her poor mother all over the waiting room as she talked to herself and asked for her older sister, who was in taking the computer test.

I eventually got my temporary license, picked up lunch at the drive-thru, and made my way into the office. I arrived to find two emails asking for more things my predecessor failed to turn in in a timely fashion, along with several other questions, a request from a journal to serve as a reviewer, and requests and reminders for meetings.

My original plan for the day seemed so simple: get up early, get the drivers license, and spend the day at work writing--perhaps even cutting out early to see the movie, The Help, since everyone is arguing about it. (See different perspectives here, here, and here. I am nor sure I agree with all of the critiques, at least of the book, but I will save that for another post after I see the movie--and if I feel brave.)

End of day, and what is the outcome? Late out of the house, late to the office, drivers license done, stupid degrees hung, but NO WRITING (and no movie). I really need time to focus, time that isn't taken up with the crap of moving. I am hopeful that is around the corner soon, but I won't really believe it until it happens.

Le sigh.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Reflections on orientation as an old timer

You know you are old (e.g., not in your first  second third academic job) when you:
  • wonder why you have a long-ass benefits orientation if they won't let you fill out paper forms to sign up but instead require you to go online and sign up. I don't want time to reflect! I want to get it done now, lest I forget and get signed up for some ridiculous plans. 
The HR folks ought to make benefits enrollment like student registration: hold it in a lab with computers and get us to sign up immediately. This is especially important because there are multiple websites to visit--no one stop shopping here!
  • don't even consider going for the state retirement benefits and want to automatically sign up for the optional program (i.e., TIAA-CREF). Once you have been to more than one other school, you know nothing is forever and vesting is a cruel bitch. Plus, even though the market is undependable, pensions seem to being going the way of the dodo, and I don't trust anyone to really provide for me for the rest of my life.
  • don't get nervous about asking questions about domestic partner benefits. I used to worry about coming out. Now, I know the HR folks have heard it before, and they actually have an answer. Times have definitely changed.
  • don't even fret over the fact that (a) my domestic partner is not covered for most benefits and (b) the ones she does get are paid for with my taxed dollars. It is a total drag, but so normal now that it is just the way of the world. If I want to get grumpy about it, I take that energy to the federal level and turn my ire on stupid DOMA restrictions.
Other reflections on orientation...
  • Why do the people who gather data about the campus always talk about the numbers of "diverse students" when they mean students of color? Can we do some training for them about language? For the university administration? For the government, who requires all these data?
  • Food, interactions with peers and campus folks, and frequent bathroom breaks make orientation so much better. So does an iphone or Ipad.
  • Telling grown people what they can wear for orientation is ridiculous and sends a bad message.
  • Evaluations might be improved if you asked, "What are three things you learned that you are taking away from this orientation?" I bet you would be surprised what made a lasting impression. Some of the negative comments about the undergraduate students are my biggest takeaway. Don't think that was the intention.
  • Linking the orientation to the university mission was a HUGE plus. It was easy to see how our sessions and field trips reflect the mission, and therefore how we could also help further this mission. 
  • I find it interesting how challenging it is to connect to people who don't look like me at these kinds of sessions. Like seems to attract like. International faculty talk to other international faculty; young white faculty talk to other young white faculty; men talk to men. Are people looking for friends, and these seem the most natural alliances? I wonder.
Okay, enough reflection. Now on to finish my syllabus, as the semester approaches!