Friday, December 24, 2010

xmas eve thirsty (pun intended)

After reading the previous post, I was wondering what everybody's favorite drinks were. Because I know many of us will be imbibing over the holidays--if for no other reason than that the in-laws and little kids will drive us nuts otherwise.

But much more important is why they drive us nuts. My experience every goddamn year is that the family really doesn't have a clue what it is that I do. They think I just stand up in front of class for a few hours each week. They don't understand the pressures and the issues. I explain it all to them, but nothing sticks....

Q. What do you wish your in-laws/parents/significant others/siblings would finally understand about what you do?

A. Be honest, for little baby jesus h's sake.


  1. My Mom continually suggests that my next project involve validating a Reagan theory or writing a biography of Jesus or a pamphlet on the social impact of how the word "liberty" comes from the latin word for book. I keep telling her that none of those things have anything to do with my discipline and that half of them rely on false constructs but she keeps suggesting them anyway.

  2. My favorite Christmas drink is hot mulled cider with brandy. Basically, take two quarts cider and heat it (not to boiling, just barely simmering) with a couple of sticks of cinnamon, some cloves, and sliced apples and oranges. Let it simmer over a few hours and mash the fruit in as much as you can. I also put in maybe a cup of orange juice and about a half cup of brown sugar.

    The key is, after this, to turn off the heat and let the whole thing sit on the stove for a couple of days. Then, reheat in time for guests. Or, you can put the whole thing in the fridge and reheat in the microwave, cup by cup, if you want to drink it all yourself. When you get to the last bit of cider, that's been steeping there in the fruit (which you won't remove until the cider is gone), you won't believe how good it is. It has a certain thickness to it.

    Add brandy, of course. I usually go for a ratio of about 3/1 cider to brandy.

    As for the family members, I don't usually have trouble. I come from teachers and lawyers, and my SIL is a college prof, as well as my husband, and a cousin. Pretty much most of my friends.

    Now my mother makes me crazy but my job has nothing to do with it.

  3. I wish that my mother would stop suggesting that I'm a liberal/socialist propagandist who uses my classroom to indoctrinate my students. Or at least I wish she would get her information about the world from someplace other than Fox "News."

  4. Well... for Xmas, I wish Dear Lois would realize that, while (a) I'm certainly dispensable, (b) the department just can't have a "substitute teacher" fill in for me during certain parts of the semester unless I plan way ahead. Most of my colleagues know the theory and authors we discuss, but not the specifics. I sure don't want to post a notice on the door of a once/week class and say: "no class tonight".

    And... I wish she would understand what it is that I teach so I don't have to keep telling her.

    [Yes... some say I'm too dedicated.]

    For beverages, I will take any GOOD amber beverage (and not some common swill). My favorite is Arrogant Bastard (no joke).

  5. @ Surly Temple
    Shoot the TV Elvis-style....there is no cure for Fox News but the destruction of a viewer's television set. I've noticed way too much Reaganism from the relatives; none of them seem to remember how bad it was for the American farmer in the 1980s, or the engineered early eighties recesssion, or how the country was swimming in red ink in 1991. I'm sure these same people have also totally forgotten the Bush II years. The conservative mind works in weird ways.

    Merry Christmas to all, and a boot in the ass to the flakes!


    Sparky Electroshock

  6. No one has a clue. Nope. Right now they all call me "off from work." Why, I wonder, do they think I'm sitting with a huge pile of exams and a red pen? Frankly, my spouse is the worst. If I stay home from the office when the kids are off because god forbid I should make enough money to pay for childcare, he sees that as "vacation time" during which I should take over every single duty around the house. Never mind that I'm babysitting for free. Never mind that my exams still need grading. Now he has a stay-at-home wife! How lovely!

    As for alcohol, well, the mimosas I had earlier at a brunch made me very aware of how I could give some final grades and justify them later. Moving to a moderately-priced savignon blanc soon, and then perhaps I'll toast Santa with a single malt. It's a holiday, after all.

  7. that sure makes your office sound like a welcome refuge. I can't work when the children are home and awake, which results in a lot of very late evenings. I'm going to try what BlackDog suggested, and rent a hotel room for my marking extravaganzas next term (I'm teaching 350 students so I'm expecting a couple of paper tsunamis). We should all try it.

  8. @Strelnikov - I am eventually going to post a thread on Fox News memes in the classroom. In the online environment they are especially easy to record for later use. Over the past year or so, all kinds of problems throughout human history have been reframed with buzz words from Hannity and Beck.

  9. On the main topic here, I don't have the problem that people don't know what I do. I strongly sense that they are totally off the page when it comes to how much money I make, however.

  10. This doesn't just apply to family and pseudo-family. I don't know how many times this month I've had college staff, or even convenience store clerks, ask me if I was "off yet" for the holidays. "Off"? Oh, sure, on the last official business day before xmas, I just turn my brain off. No work for me over the holidays. Right.

  11. Ah yes, AA. It isn't 7 percent; actually it's 5. And I did not come up with those numbers; AA's own general service organization did. I gave a link back in September, but nobody checked it out. Here it is again:

    [The AA numbers are brought up halfway down the page.]

    Also, I never said that meetings were useless, I just advocated joining groups like SOS and Rational Recovery instead of the 12-step programs. After the September complain-a-thon, I have not brought up my beliefs about AA because it was so divisive, but if you want to tango, Merely Academic I'm ready to go.

    Happy Christmas, as they say in England.

  12. I would almost pay anyone who would NOT start an argument on here about AA. It is - I believe - off topic, whether it address the thirsty or not. Seriously. If you want to have a debate about this, do it elsewhere. It's not my page, but the last time this came around it was a smashing bore.

    Please, consider that this is a shared space.

  13. @ Darla and the rest of you
    I propose a toast: "Here's to not having a debate over AA." Gulp. Ahhh.

    Now, Darla, when do we get another look at your hot shorts?

  14. Beer. The nice thing about Christmas is that there are lots of kids around to get one from the frig for me.

    My family and those who know me best are just tickled pink that I'm gainfully employed. They don't ask too many questions for fear of finding out that I actually make meth and sell it to 5th graders.

    I hear Darla's comment and raise it with a request to skip the political.

    Merry Christmas!

  15. Darla et al - fair enough. I started it in a mischievous spirit, but shouldn't have. I've deleted my relevant comments.

    Strelnikov - I should have resisted the impulse to poke you, sorry. Shall we tango some other time, some other place? Nobody else is really interested, after all ...

    I raise a spiced cider to you all. Merry Christmas Eve!

  16. Out buying last minute stuff....

    In the spirit of these Holy (for the cash-register) Days, I will drop any argument about AA, alcoholism, any of the key players in the founding of AA, or even the movement AA sprang from, Moral Re-Armarment (aka the "Oxford Group.")

    Instead, check out "The Brass Figlagee", a podcast of most of the radio shows of raconteur Jean Shepherd, writer of "A Christmas Story" and a ham radio operator (callsign K2ORS.)

  17. I wish everyone (okay, many people) understood that "psychologist" does not equal "counselor/psychotherapist" and "professor" does not equal "k-12 teacher".

    Oh, and Flying Dog IPA is the beverage of choice here.

  18. 1. I want my in-laws to, at least, know what degree I have and in what.

    2. I want my spouse to stop saying that he thinks a PhD is just like "cosmetology school." You know, somebody just "handing" you a degree for something you are already good at.


    3. If I have to spend another minute listening to how great and important my husband's job is, and how AWESOME it is that he got his BS 8 years ago, I'm going to scream. Really.

    Drink: I love bourbon, straight, no rocks.

  19. @MLP:
    jesus fucking h, have you decided what kind of weapon you're going to use to kill your husband? Tell him there are 95 CM folks who are going to come over there and rip his fucktarded nuts off if he doesn't apologize and shape up.

    Peace on earth.

  20. The one person who should be on your side should actually be on your side. I don't understand people who don't understand that.

  21. I wish that the non-academics in my life would realize that teaching is NOT 100% of my job duties. Hell, it isn't even 50%. Second, I wish they would realize how much work goes into preparing classes, especially given the high rate of change in my field.

    When, oh when, will these happen?

  22. @Bubba: Sometimes the person is on your side but is afraid to stand up to his/her family. However, some people are too blind to see when the person IS on your side and IS sticking up for you when you are not there (I am talking about the ex-Mrs. Mathsquatch, not anybody here because I don't know if I EVEN KNOW anybody here outside of the blog!).

    Mathsquatch out.

  23. Thank you, Merely and Strel......

  24. Screwdrivers year round. Or if I can't afford the good orange juice or my boyfriend drinks it all, cape cods. They get progressively stronger, of course.

    My mother thinks that, because she taught one course at a for-profit (ALL materials given to her and using scantron), she knows exactly what I deal with and therefore decides to tell me I'm not doing my job right. My father tells me I should spend my time writing songs and children's books because that makes money.

    My boyfriend, who also started teaching this semester, finally understands how horrible the students can be, but not personally yet. For some reason he had awesome students, all of them. And, with less of a load in terms of student numbers, assignments, and grading, he likes to get on my ass and yell at me when he's done with his stuff and I'm not. Fun times.

    His parents both work at a university and therefore deal with students everyday. They know they're assholes. They don't understand the time everything takes, though, or the toll.

    Honestly I don't care that they don't understand, I just wish they'd stop making judgments and leave me alone about it.

  25. "When we see men of contrary character, we should turn inwards and examine ourselves" said Confucius. Surly has been called a liar for suggesting that in certain cases, secondary teaching can be intellectually rewarding and enjoyable. I'm not picking that fight again, just proposing that we should all be mindful of our preconceptions.
    Peace, love, understanding, and pomegranate-lemonade cosmos to all!
    Surly Temple

  26. What am I drinking? Well, we had margaritas for Christmas Eve. Today we will be heading to one of those beer/food/movie joints. I generally prefer girly girl drinks that taste sweet and fruity.

    As to what I wish people knew about what I do, I often have the opposite problem as those of you who say people think all you do is teach. Too many people think professors almost never teach and just do research with maybe 1-2 classes a year. (Too much Fox News brainwashing, I guess.) That's true for some of us I'm sure, but for those of us at community college level, teaching is at least 75% of our job. Many of us teach 5-5, 6-6, or even 7-7 loads. Then there are people on the other end (usually fellow academics at research institutions) who think community college is Grades 13-14 and all we do is teach. We have so much committee work and institutional research that many of us wish we had more time to teach or even to do our own research.

    People also think we get a lot of time off. Most of my colleagues teach every summer because we need the money. The few who don't are either on Fulbrights, are taking classes toward promotion, are writing books, or have spouses with high-paying jobs. During this "time off" period, I'll be putting syllabi online, contacting newly enrolled students with information about their classes and textbooks, organizing a new committee, and doing research for another committee which needs to have recommendations ready by February. I already used "time off" to analyze my learning outcomes and deal with last-minute HR issues.

    I am very lucky that my spouse is also a proffie but in a different field. We argue about workload and disciplinary conventions, but at least he understands firsthand what it means to do this job.

  27. Please add to my earlier list that I wish my family, friends, and extended relations could just understand that I can't wave my magic teacher wand (which cures all sorts of ills like dead computers and grammar) and get a job at exactly the school they want me to get one at.

    No cousin, I can't promise that I can get a job right by you, even though I did get an interview. I'm really excited about that interview too, but it's not as sure a thing as the campus visit I have on the other side of the country, so I'm not going to pretend it's a sure thing.

    No spouse/spouse's family, I can't promise to get a job at Big Name State U. In fact, they think that everyone at my Alma Mater is a big freaking idiot, and we sort of think the same thing of them. They didn't even ask me for a full dossier. It's okay, these other 16 schools actually DID ask for more info or an interview. What? Those aren't good enough for you? Well screw you then!

    Just because I applied to Small School State U doesn't mean they're going to interview me. Wait, what? They just don't understand how "special" I am? Give me a freaking break. At this stage in the game we ALL better actually be kinda special.


    Cousin called in the middle of Christmas dinner. I'd love to talk to her at length since she's one of the few people that knows what this job search thing is about (having had friends go through it). However, EVERYONE else at dinner is either denying that I'm doing it or are angry at me for doing it, so it was interesting to say as little as I can in front of them while hinting at her to call back at a better time.

    In all, holidays are INTERESTING ya'all!

  28. There is hope, people. At a Christmas party last night with nonacademics, I was asked how much I teach this spring. "Two classes, about 100 students." Mentally, my defenses were ready to be deployed: I do research, lots of advising, committee work, etc. You know the drill. Somebody responded, "Wow, that many students must keep you pretty busy!"

    I was speechless, which is a pretty unusual condition for a professor. I stammered that yes, there are a lot of exams to grade and lectures to prepare.

  29. I wish my step-mother-in-law would understand that I teach at a univerisity; her son teaches at a middle school. They.Are.Not.The.Same.

    No, I didn't get a snow day. I gave final exams. We've had 2 (at most) snow days in 4 years.

    No, I'm not "done" for the year. I have 3 weeks to prepare 2 new classes and revise 2 others. And that's *after* I finish grading, submitting grades, and listening to grade grubbers. I'm not sure your son's 6th-graders have learned to beg yet. Oh, yeah, I also needed to have the IRB application submitted by 3 days ago and work on research that I'm presenting in March. Maybe I'll do that during my "break."

    As for drinks, I prefer my wine red and my liquor white. I'm enjoying the wine now!

  30. I'd be deeply grateful if anyone could give me advice on how to stop from strangling my father-in-law when he (yet again) makes a "joke" about how little I work. And if I try to protest and say that that's not funny, he brushes away my experience because he used to teach at a college and so he knows exactly what it was like.

    Give me strength!!!!

    It's bad enough coping with working 180% of the hours I'm supposed to, but I really can't also take people suggesting I'm lazy. Anyone got any devastating retorts which are better than me screaming at him and running out of the room?

  31. @C

    People who minimize my profession (even family) I just don't fucking listen to. I say flatly, you don't have the first idea of what my world is like, so do everyone a favor and stop talking about it. Let's talk about something else that we all can agree on.

    And when that doesn't work, I smile nicely and go outside and have a smoke.

  32. I wish my family would understand that getting a decent job at a decent college is NOT selling out. They seem to think I'm now a hopeless bourgeoise who has forsaken all my left wing values, is rolling in dough, and should give it all away to charities. I think they'd be much happier with me if I were working retail and smoking pot all day.

    As for the rest of the population, where do I start? It would be nice if they realized that college is not high school and would stop asking me what grade I teach. It would also be nice if they realized that the time I am in the classroom is only a small fraction of the time I spend working.

  33. I wish my family would stop asking whether I've applied to any jobs in their geographical location recently. Um, no. There hasn't been a job advertised there in the past seven years. And that hasn't changed since you asked me last week. Yes, the university HR page DOES have a lot of jobs listed on it, but they are in completely different disciplines from mine. And yes, that does matter.

    Yes, I know YOU can always pick a city, move there, and THEN find a job, but that doesn't work in academia.

    I also wish they knew what the standards are like for getting jobs and grants in the academy. It's kind of sweet that they think I'm a genius, but I'm not just being "overly modest" or "self-deprecating" when I laugh off my two publications as "nothing".

    "But you've published an edited volume, sweety! Surely that puts you in great demand! And you have teaching experience! You taught that big course last year!"

    Yeah, that means I have the BARE MINIMUM level of experience expected of someone at my stage of the career. And when you introduced me to your friend who is also an academic, and bragged about how I had a paper published last year, she was laughing out the corner of her mouth too.

  34. 1. I am not drinking because drinking + meds = "Jesus Christ, Mom, I DO know how to clean up dog vomit. I do NOT need instructions, thanks. YES, the dog THREW UP because Dad fed it HAM FAT." (That was last year. Both her dogs and my dog got sick, but MY dog was the "bad apple.") For a gal who's never said anything more confrontational to her parents than "I'm sorry you feel that way," this was quite the explosion.

    2. Single Malt Scotch whilst ensconced safely in my hovel away from parents.

    3. Many have tagged what I would say already, but I have one horrifying story that pretty much sums up my family's heretofore unexpressed attitude about my job.

    I lied to my parents. I told them that I HAD to be back in College Town on the 26th because I was going to meet Atom Smasher's family. My folks live up in the "Just Got Crapped On By God" part of New England, currently blanketed by many inches of snow. (Yes, God's poop is white. Makes sense, right?) On the 25th, as the first flakes made their presence known, I slammed a coffee mug down on the table, stood up and said "Oh my God, I gotta go."

    I then threw everything into the back of my car ('everything' consisting mainly of the dog, two presents from the folks, and a box of Swiss Colony petit fours that for some reason they think I really like), and hauled ass back to Big Southern State.

    My mother SAID to me...

    "You know, if you were going back for work, I'd be ranting and raving. But this is more important."

    "This" being, of course, the trip to Atom Smasher's parents.

    WTF, Mom? The only thing that makes it OKAY for me to spend less than a week with you guys is A MAN? What happened to all that independent liberated woman bullshit you laid on me when I was a kid? A MAN? A MAN is more important than my freaking JOB?



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