Wednesday, August 30, 2006

It's late and I am going to bed. I just wanted to note that I got my grades in tonight, closed out my classes, handed in my keys, and I don't work at the puppy mill anymore.


Saturday, August 26, 2006

Five-forty-five a.m. gas station blues:

I put in thirty five dollars to last me two days. While the gas is pumping I put an old dress-shirt in the charity bin. I’ve wrapped the shirt in a plastic grocery store bag in accordance with the hieroglyphics on the container. The pump has a new sticker warning about sparks from static electricity. Does that happen? Do businesses explode from the static spark? I suppose there is always the potential.

Inside the station I buy water. I guess I really buy the container, the purification and the shipping. The pit bull in the station smells my dog Sebastian on me and he follows me growling. During the day the dog is behind the counter, but at night he is free range.

I am a dog guy. I handle him. But he’s a big brown pit bull, one hundred percent jaw, so I worry a bit, but don’t show it. Doesn’t’ matter, he senses my worry. Dogs are conservative and this one is a racist. In my favor I am white and have dog smell, but the long hair is a problem. Dobermans, German Sheppards and Pits all have a hard time with either long hair or hats. The real problem is the faint whiff of fear. Mental note: kick for the neck if it comes to that.

That’s the vignette. Then there’s the drive.


Friday, August 25, 2006

No time to blog Dr. Jones…

For the past few weeks I have been working two full time jobs. I teach eight until three and then again five to eleven three days a week. This coming week is my last week at the puppy mill. I’ve had some good interactions there with staff who are sorry to see me go and many of my current students who were planning on taking me for the next tier of composition classes, or even Ethics, have expressed their sadness at my departure. One of them said, “Man, it seems like all the good teachers are leaving.” It’s a nice sentiment to hear. I don’t want to burn bridges and may even teach there next summer. Probably not actually, I’ll need a rest.

I’m still not sure what my comfort level is going to be about writing about my job(s) and life now that I am more in the public eye, but I would like to say that even with the commute I haven’t been this fulfilled in my work life in a very long time; I’d say six years to be precise. I didn’t want to leave my Truman job and I didn’t know at the time that I didn’t have to. It broke my heart to leave full time teaching like that and discover some of the horrors of urban adjuncting: no matter how much one works and is of service to institutions, it is impossible to make a living at it. Oh well, if I hadn’t left Truman I wouldn’t have the life that I have now, and it is a very good life.

I get up now every morning at five. I shower and walk the dog to be out the door by six. I travel partially by interstate and partially by rural, winding highways to my school. Halfway there I pick up another teacher and we alternate driving that leg to save on gas and sanity. We see all kinds of wildlife on the trip. This week I saw a fox and had a large hawk fly alongside the car for a hundred yards; it was so big I thought it was an owl at first. I’ve had to stop the car and honk at deer to get them out of the middle of the road. I think my deer count is currently at eight. My cow count is in the hundreds. It’s interesting to note the variety in breeds as heirloom “crops” becoming increasingly the stock-and-trade for the small farmer; it reminds me of D’s parents.

So it’s Friday and tomorrow is Jes’ thirty-first birthday. I got home from school at five. I went immediately to sleep and woke up at ten. I’ll probably try for another four to five hours and then get on with birthday prep. The wheel keeps turning.


Sunday, August 20, 2006

For Jes' Dad in response to a post on his blog:

I’ve always found it odd that a nation of immigrants should get upset about becoming a nation of immigrants. One shouldn’t be surprised that the fear factor can be quite politically useful and also lucrative.

As part of a class on Asian American studies I looked at how California has historically dealt with immigration from China and Japan. When the Japanese Americans were interred in the desert camps during WWII there were mass seizures and forced sales of land that had been owned by third generation decedents of immigrants from Japan. Typically we don’t think of anyone who is a third generation resident as an immigrant. Unfortunately, this is not true for non-whites, who often continue to be seen as cultural outsiders. Many of the huge agribusinesses in California today farm land taken in those seizures. Restitution has been long in coming and minimal with regard to the value of that land.

Fear creates economic opportunity because wealth can be generated through differences in desirability. The St. Louis real estate market has a long history of using race, class and gender to influence home value, generating wealth through trafficking on people’s xenophobia. You build a suburb, sell the homes, start deliberately moving in “undesirables”, thus devaluing the homes by changing their desirability, and then you build another suburb just a little further away from “those people”: how to profit on racism 101.

This works in terms of gender issues as individuals with “alternative sexualities” are often the vanguard of urban “reclamation” and the consequently problematic gentrification which ensues. This is true in my neighborhood where ten to fifteen years ago, perhaps longer, this process began. Pride parade marches up Grand and celebrates in Tower Grove Park because relatively disenfranchised people, who don’t necessarily have access to all the economic rewards of conformity, were able to get good property cheaply and build a neighborhood and a community that was/is safe.

Some of these same “economic” principles are in play in NAFTA and the hysteria over Latin American immigration reflects that. In simple numbers immigrants generate more wealth than they use in terms of services like education and health care (which we no longer fund anyway). Americans are also not having children and thus without mass immigration none of the driving forces of both growth (a healthy and educated workforce) and stability (social security in particular) can continue to function.

We don’t need a taller fence – we need tolerance. I admit that the term tolerance is problematic because it still partakes in a power hierarchy where the powerful group is gracious enough to tolerate the less powerful group. But that is the short term goal. If you have a better term I’d love to hear it.

On a related note, the mixing of immigration issues with fears over terrorism has further muddied this debate. It is simply not possible to prevent people from crossing into the country and it’s a fool’s errand to try given the size of the boarder. More importantly we need to realize that it is not possible to successfully fight terrorist ideology with force. You can’t bomb a population back to the Stone Age and then expect them to love and embrace the ideals of the people responsible for blowing off their limbs. Any force applied to an ideology reinforces that ideology. What you have to do is come up with a better story. Idealism is the only way to win the war on terror. It was enlightenment idealism, plain and simple, that succeeded in getting Protestants and Catholics in Europe to stop killing each other in the way that Shiites and Sunnis are now; that and the lebensraum of the Americas. Maybe living space is the key, because in semantic space the lebensraum is infinite.


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I start with students tomorrow. Today is last minute planning and grading for P.M. (Puppy Mill INC.). The commute is going ok. I am carpooling to H. with another teacher from a commuter lot that is about halfway to H. for me, so that is saving on gas. The puppy mill is killing me. I let the students go early last night as things are really winding down. I can’t wait until that’s over – just two more weeks of double duty. I imagine the double checks will be nice around wedding time to take care of incidentals.

I don’t seem to be cracking under the pressure. In fact on the contrary I am more relaxed now than I have been in months. I think there’s an enormous sense of relief in simply getting on with my life. I am still thinking of the house deal as the one that got away, we could have made it work and been happy there, but maybe we’ll find something better. As our social network in H expands I am hearing more and more about houses that are not on the general market. There seems to be a small town distrust of realtors and as a sanctioned member of the community who they would like to see put down roots, we may get a better deal for having waited.


Sunday, August 13, 2006

Wedding stuff progresses: we had our “tasting” today at Bevo Mill. There had been a narrowing of our food options a few months ago during a sit-down with the banquet coordinator. That meeting got us to our tasting menu. We now have a new coordinator, as the previous woman has been promoted within the company that owns the Bevo. We spent part of our day today confirming all the side promises that the old coordinator had made, such as how late we can really stay (one a.m. as long as we have music), and we spent the rest of the time eating: food coma.

It looks like we have a menu now for buffet service. We chose the roast beef with a carving station over the London broil so that people can more easily get the cut and doneness that they prefer. We chose the salmon with dill sauce on the side over the various chicken dishes because it was simply better. We are going with both a band and a DJ. Band first. We went out and picked the cake last weekend (lemon with lemon filling, German chocolate with raspberry filling, and marble cake with fudge) and Jes chose the flowers from Kabloom earlier in the week. The wedding dress is in and did not require alterations as it fit perfectly. The tuxes are ordered, but I think BJ and Brad still need to get their fittings done. The ducks do seem to be lining up.


Saturday, August 12, 2006

I have mountains of stuff to do, vast endless mountains of preparation and grading, however the stress has been getting to me a bit. Sometimes when that happens you just need to unplug. I got up at seven this morning and pulled The Horse and His Boy, by C.S. Lewis, down off the bookshelf. I had read it cover to cover by ten thirty a.m. and then spent the rest of the day knocking out important paperwork for a local community college. Sometimes I have to go left to get right.

In compiling the paperwork I felt like they wanted everything but a blood sample before they put me on payroll. I had do dig up addresses for the last seven years and contact information for former employers stretching back just as long. This wouldn’t have been too painful if I’d only had a few jobs, but I’ve been working at least part time since I was fourteen.

Theoretically the FBI was supposed to streamline this process, but of course they’ve actually added a few layers of paperwork. I am socialized, or institutionalized, enough at this point to anticipate the needs of higher education bureaucracy and have a master binder from which I can pull all the needed info, but I still had to make a trip up to Kinko’s to finalize my file.

To clarify the “why” of the paperwork, I am teaching three dual enrollment classes so my high school students’ will get college credit. I will get a small bonus stipend from the college for every student that enrolls in the program and thus I need to be cleared to work for the college. Once I am cleared they might also offer me spillover evening and weekend classes for adults. My debt picture is not great right now and any extra that we can pull in will go a long way towards ensuring future financial stability.

Jes and I are working on developing multiple revenue streams for this impending marriage of ours and every little bit helps. Some adjunct work may have also opened up at UMSL – live to grade, grade to live – so we’ll see if that pans out early in the coming week. As long as I am pulling round trips everyday I might as well kill myself with a little additional work, right?

I only have a few classes left to teach at the “puppy mill” and want to end on a good note there. I suppose not referring to the institution as a puppy mill might be a good place to start, I’m just still flabbergasted that they would actually lower the per class wage for all their adjuncts. It’s hard to give a year of your life to a company and not take that fiscal insult deeply personally. This has just been my gas money job, I can’t imagine what I’d feel like if I’d given years to a company and then have my monetary worth to them downsized. When TWA tanked we had a number of those walking wounded get retrained at the school I was with then. It makes you question the value of where we have gone as a society. Labor hasn't really had any power to negotiate since the air traffic controller walk out in 1982.

I’ll need to spend tomorrow doing all my prep and grading for them for the week so that my double days aren’t too painful. I am in school in meetings on Mon. & Tues. Wednesday is not a contract day and then I start with students on Thursday. The first two days are “getting to know you” stuff. I won’t really be up and running on lesson plans until the following week.

I’ve been listening to this Fiona Apple CD as I drive around in our new car and there’s a lyric about the arrival of a better version of herself. I feel like a better me is arriving in that now that I once again have the opportunity to embody what has long been a frustrated sense of vocation. I can’t tell you how good it feels to get on with the work that I am best at.


Thursday, August 10, 2006

We bought a new car today. We traded my van in on a 2005 Suzuki Forenza Wagon.

It's blue. It had thirty one miles on it when we bought it - eleven of which came from our test drive.



Friday we'll have a meet the car party if you're up for it. I was thinking a polynesian/shinto car blessing involving an eight foot tiki totem.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Here it is. Here is life. Everything I’ve ever wanted – at least the things of substance. I am a lucky man and luckier still to know it and be grateful.


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Hard to get Dooced when you quit:

I have three weeks left in my summer teaching gig. I was going to continue into the fall with them, teaching just one night class a week, but they made the odd decision of lowering all adjuncts’ wages. When I factored in the round trip from H. in gas and the time spent in preparation, grading and commuting, their offer worked out to four something an hour. I went to my boss and politely told her that I could make more working at McDonalds and that I would not be returning.

I like the material I teach and the kids are the grown up versions of the at risk kids I’ve been teaching on the high school level. I feel committed to the students, but it doesn’t make sense for me to continue to prostitute myself for what has essentially become an educational puppy mill.

The school has simultaneously dropped admission standards and raised class expectations/difficulty. The higher expectations are in line with accreditation standards so that the students can get federal student loans. The school can thus enroll more students who couldn’t otherwise afford to go to school, and then they can bill them for each attempt at taking the general education classes for which they have not been prepared by previous educational experience. Hypothetically in this situation a basic writer could run up thirty thousand in loans over multiple semesters trying to pass a single composition class.

It’s ironic that one of the classes I teach for them is Ethics.


Sunday, August 06, 2006

So now, because we are insane and because the house deal fell through, we are car shopping. If I am going to commute for any length of time we need to get a vehicle that is cheap, will last us into having kids, is safe, and fuel efficient. Our field of inquiry is mid size sedans. I am paying forty bucks a day right now in gas at 17 MPG and a fuel efficient car could cut that in half or better.

The Toyota Corolla currently tops the list, with much consideration being given to the hatchback Matrix version – which is essentially the same car in a different body style. The hatchback would accommodate both kids and dogs in a way that the standard sedan wouldn’t. Toyota claims 38 MPRG. We are also looking at GM’s Cobalt, the Spectra by KIA, and a few others. I test drove the Scion and the Corolla on Saturday and I hated the Scion. It’s a kid’s car that reminds me of my long dead Ford Fiesta. The Corolla is safe, efficient, and boring.

Our original plan was to use my van as a trade in, but that seems unlikely. All the web page estimators of trade-in value stop at 1994 and my Town & Country is a 1993. When you factor in the damage to the passenger side door from the break in and the fact that I still start it with a screw driver, it seems even less likely that they will given me something for it on anything other than push or pull your trade-in day.

I am missing the house we did not buy. I am having non buyers regret. Oh well, I’m sure it’s for the best in this the best of all possible worlds. I mean that in the same ironic sense that Voltaire did as Candide satirized Gottfried Leibniz. Yup, that’s what it’s like to live in my head.Wait for it… it’s like playing paintball with monads.


Congrats to my friends John and Milena on the birth of their son Jonathon Kristian!!!

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting


Saturday, August 05, 2006

Pop goes the archive cause the archive goes pop.


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Crazy week – up at five – in H by eight – in workshops until two – back in St. Louis by four – teaching until ten-thirty at night – home around midnight – up again at five – three days in a row. We signed a mutual release on the house contract yesterday so that is all over and done with. Now what are we going to do? Who knows, go to bed and get up and do it again I guess.