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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Gingerbread Man

September 1 marks the start of when most graduate schools will accept applications.  Now regardless of your application’s place in line, they all claim that there is no “line” and that each application is read and considered fairly.  But I snuck all of mine in just under all of those respective deadlines last year so…  getting them in sooner than later is a good thing.

But in typical procastination fashion, I set that September 1 date as my deadline and missed it horribly.  Missed it like a third grader misses his mom at summer camp—that’s just a saying, not a, uh,  personal history or anything…

So you would think I would take this (acknowledging of my application suckitude) as a sign to get moving on this stuff, but instead I wrote this poem to an old AmerCorps buddy who’s moving to the Phillipines shortly.  Tomato, tomato, right?  Hmm, that doesn't really work here.  Anyway, it’s the only thing I’ve had time to write this week so please enjoy this non grad school related blog;

Ode to a Ginger

Henning or Henningway?

No Earnest, you are not,

Because he wrote books and junk,

And you just move your shit a lot.

What's that a shot of?  Penicillian?

From Sacramento to St. Louis,

And Ethiopia to the Philippines,

Forget shot glasses and T-shirts,

You just come back with STDs.

EOCing and HIV prevention,

That’s your gift to humanity,

That and the ten red-headed babies,

Left behind  you in each and every city.

Upon referencing the dictionary,

Your name can be seen,

It's the second definition of "tramp",

Right after Charlie Sheen's.

To say you're global lothario,

Doesn't quite fit the bill,

Because you've screwed more people around, 

The world than BP and Cargill.

You are crude, brash, and arrogant,

Without even an ounce of shame ever shown,

You struggle to stay clothed in public,

And you're one of the greatest guys I've ever known.

As much as a try, and I don't,

I can't seem to deny the facts,

Most of my good stories include you,

And that's you without wearing slacks.

I guess Buffalo just got too small for you,

Heck, it’s barely in the US of A,

It would have been great to come up to visit,

But it would have been wrong to want you to stay.

It's basically Souther Canada, or Junior America.

See you're not like most people I know,

With wives, and mortgages, and commitments,

You just see life so much clearer,

And seize it without hesitance.

I know this could have been,

Perhaps, our last chance to meet,

But you're one of the only people for whom,

I'd spend 30 hours in a plan seat.

Honestly, my only reservation,

In making this Pilipino journey,

Would be the cost of and time lost...

In finding a good international attorney.

So Henning, you are certainly no Hemmingway,

And I can't seem to fake a poet's tale,

I wish I could be there this weekend, but I'm not,

So remember to call someone else for bail. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Relative Theory of University Annoyance

Now that you're clearly pulled in, you have no choice but to read my blog, buhahahaha!  Enjoy~

Annoyance can be defined as dealing with the rigmarole of a university.  Whether you’re in school, applying to school, trying to repay loans to the school that you went to, it’s an endless runaround, a labyrinth of frustration that accomplishes nothing while driving you insane. 

I’ve gone through it all before and I’m currently going through it all again.  I can vouch that the added experience doesn’t count for anything.  I still want to reach through the phone and stab someone’s eyes out just as much as before.  You call one department, and they pass you off to the next, and this guy doesn’t know anything, so he shuttles you over to some lady who pretends to know the answer, but she doesn’t know, and then you have to start the whole thing over again.  Looking up arbitrary numbers that might work, getting the wrong number from uninterested attendants, playing phone tag—what is their deal!?!  Get it together eggheads!

Luke, want to play racquetball later?
Well, here’s the rub; now I work for a university.  I’m part of the machine.  Is it apt to compare me to Darth Vador, turned to the Dark Side?  Only if Vader did it for the sweet, sweet health insurance and access to the campus rec center.  But the point remains; why join the enemy?  Why become part of the system that has vexed my kind for decades, if not centuries?  Aren’t I just hypocritical for complaining about being shat on by other college collectives while doing the same myself?  Probably, but I have this theory.

So let’s say a student comes into my office and asks me to enroll him into a certain class.  He already has permission from the course’s instructor and I have the access to do it for him immediately.  A pretty simple, reasonable request, right?  Not so fast Billy—the student’s hypothetical name in this hypothetical scenario is Billy—think again.  That request must first be taken to the Registrar, approved, sent back the original professor to be approved, and sent to a couple more approvers before it’s finally returned to me for actual application.  Ridiculous?  You know it. 

And there are similar protocols for getting student workers paid, inquiries about grad school, everything and anything.  There are four people you need to call to stamp off on it before anything can happen.  If things were more centralized then all of this run-around could be eliminated.  Instead of going through four people, it would only have to go through one.

Ah, but wait!  Here it comes.  What happens to those three other university employees who may only be there to provide their respective e-John Hancocks?  Boom— gone!  And therein lies the reason for all of this hullabaloo surrounding every single, solitary collegiate function; it creates jobs. 

Here’s my theory; when new graduates go forth into the world, armed with only a diploma and the hope that it actually counts for something against the likes of student loans, bills, and crushing reality, it is the universities who provide the meager jobs just sufficient enough to keep the reality monsters at bay.  These aren’t great jobs mind you, and that’s probably why most of these folks are so curt and unhelpful to the students who, unlike them, still have hope and promise until they too graduate and are forced to take crappy jobs to pay the bills.  It’s a vicious cycle. 

Obviously, there are exceptions to this theoretical rule--old ladies and such.  And despite how it might seem I’m not so cynical—yet—that I don’t want to help people.  Supporting college students is kind of at the crux of being a professor, and one of the main reasons why I want to become one.  But in my position I’m only given enough information and access to help them so far before having to pass the buck on to someone else who’s been trained just a little differently from me, so he can help students just a little bit more before having to pawn them off to someone new himself.  They’ve thought of everything. 

Words of wisdom that don't cost $40,000/yr
So there’s the dirty secret behind the university runaround; these people that you hate so fiercely over the phone or from behind fiberglass countertops, are really just alternate versions of yourself, or even additional versions of yourself.  The universities syphon off your money for an education that doesn't necessarily get you anywhere, and then give you a place to go in return.  So to re-use Homer Simpson's infamous quote about alcohol; "To universities, the the cause of and solution to all of life's problems." 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Bringing Down the House

This week is move-in week!  Hurray!  Move-in week for college, you ask.  No, I answer, that was two weeks ago.  This is move-in week for the two new house mates of my six-person house.  Six-person house!, you screech.  Do you live in a frat house?  Are you in some kind of special Bio-dome like experiment against your will?  Are you just that poor?  Surely there is a good reason why you would subject yourself to such horrors!

Minus Pauly Shore and Stevie Baldwin, of course
Not really to the first one, I wish to the second, and kind of to the third.  You see, we are living in an unemployable world, and I am an unemployable girl, or a barely employable boy more accurately.  If I really wanted to I could stretch my budget and manage to live in a two-person, or even a single apartment.  But then again, I have become awfully accustomed to this whole eating thing.  Having five housemates definitely takes the chokehold off the wallet and I can actually enjoy myself as opposed to eating Raman Noodles for dinner every night—now Raman is only a Tuesday-Thursday meal!

The other factor is that I like living with other people.  I sincerely do.  When I interned in Chicago for a semester during college, I lived alone in the holiest of hole in the wall apartments.  That part I could get over that pretty easily.  The part that I couldn’t get over was how I woke up each morning, rode the El to my unfulfilling internship, rode the El home, made dinner while watching TV, went to sleep, and then did it all over again the next day without talking to anyone.  Definition of depressing.  I thought to myself back then that if this is the real world, I’m out.  Dunzo.  

Since then I’ve lived with roommates at every juncture, citing my financial situation as my sole excuse when met with skeptical looks.  But honestly, even if I could comfortably afford to live on my own, I wouldn’t, and here are my Top 10 Reasons Why;

      10.) Someone always owns a strainer, you know, for noodles and junk.

9.) The more roommates, the greater the friend base for parties, sports, all day caving expeditions. 

8.)   More movies, books, CD’s—pff, who owns CD’s anymore?  Your room mate is lame.                      

     7.)  If your roommate has a pet, you have a pet without any of the responsibilities, usually.

     6.)  Hilarious sitcom re-enactments; Perfect Strangers, Three’s Company, The Brady Bunch if    you have enough roommates (you may have to use the pets for this one).

     5.)  You don’t have to own/ buy as much stuff.

     4.)  Someone always owns a pair of nail clippers.

     3.) There is someone to come home to.

     2.)  When burglars break in you don’t have to go all Home Alone on them, by yourself.

     1.)  Just think of the greatest times in your life: college, road trips, summer camp.  Now how many people were you living with then? 

I will preface all of this with in order to get the full effect, you really need to be friends with your roommates.  Living with roommates = fun.  Living with tenants = bad freshman roommate experience all over again.  That’s really the only drawback of this lifestyle; as more of my friends continue to subscribe to uni or bi-person residencies, good roommates become harder and harder to find.  I can see the writing on the wall, but the show must go on, right? 

I'm aware that at 26 I should either be living with a girlfriend/ wife/ family, or financially stable enough to live on my own in a place that would attract those things, but none of that really appeals to me right now.  That could change, but in the mean time, why mess with success?  I can only hope that by the time I hit 30, there isn’t as much of a stigma on that as there is now, although the likes of Bert and Ernie really aren't helping my case here.  Maybe think more along the lines of Chandler and Joey--wait, is there a difference?

They're just good friends, right?

Also, how'd I manage to post 2, count 'em, 2 pictures of Chandler and Joey in my blog?

So with an ever so sympathetic frown on your face, you might ask, Doesn’t this mean that you’re just afraid to grow up?  Nope, I resoundingly answer, humans are naturally a social species and I’m just being true to my roots.  So don’t cry for me Argentina, because sometimes I laugh at you behind your back.  

Friday, September 2, 2011

More Observations from the Peanut Gallery, Again: Part Deux, Observe Harder! II

Last week the college that I work for had an all-employee mandatory assembly, mandatory meeting, mandatory casual breakfast to kick off the fall semester.  This is where the prez rattles off all the things that he’d like for the university to accomplish this year, and everyone else whispers “yeah right” into their Styrofoam coffee cups.  It’s apparently tradition.

But little did I know that I would be met with another tradition that day, this one dredged from the depths of middle school lore.  After scooping up my requisite bagel and blueberry-ish muffin along with the department’s administrative assistant, we walked into the banquet hall of tables to find one surrounded by faculty members from our department.  But upon moseying up to them our, “Is this seat taken’s?” were met with vacant stares and feigned conversation.  Shunned from the lunch table?  These are the same people intellegent and/ or old enough to have doctorates, right?  Even after we sat alone at the lame kids table, and some other professors from our department joined us, they quickly jumped ship as soon as they spotted their faculty cohorts.  Forest Gump, eat your heart out.

"Can't sit here.  Seat's taken.  I got my PhD at Columbia, where'd you get yours?"

And that’s pretty much the relationship between college faculty and staff, at least at my college.  Be it me, the administrative assistant, the custodian, even the adjunct professors (part time profs); all are met with the same disdain of a 7th grad pecking order.  If you don’t have a higher degree and aren’t at least on the tenure track, get used to eating your fish sticks in the corner of the cafeteria.
And I really want to sit with these guys.  I want to be one of the cool kids.  I want to talk with them, chat their ears off about just how they got to where they are so maybe I can too. Maybe get some great application tips--who knows?  Whatever they've got, I want it.  That--and the health insurance--is a big reason why I took this job in the first place.  But this gap in communication is compounded by another obstacle, also social.

Peppering a little Chompsky into the convo = intellectual 
For example, if I wanted to I could always brush up on my advanced Communication theory—I think I minored in Comm in college, but hey, who didn’t, right?  However outside of class, Noam Chompsky's comm theories are on their conversational radars about as much as the location of the closest Goodwill is.  Even the administrative assistant can occasionally chew the fat with them and she’s a full year younger than me.  The reason is—survey says—she’s married, has two kids, and owns her house.  Ding, ding, ding ding! 

Just about everyone in the department is at least ten years my senior, and usually 20, 30, or 40 years my senior.  That makes having a real conversation tough, but more than that, and for the most part, they all have spouses, kids, mortgages, tax brackets, home equity, social security options, all that jazz, thus, social rocketing them into a totally foreign cultural stratosphere from my own. 

I mean, what can I offer to this morning coffee-maker conversation?  “Hmm, so you decided to move in order to be located within a better school district to accommodate your daughter’s needs, huh?  Hmm, interesting, interesting stuff.  Well, last night two of my roommates came back from the bar and one just missed puking in the fridge, which is good for our home equity, right?"  Is that what home equity means?  For the love of God, what is home equity!  I don’t know!  I just don’t know!

Whoosh!  I'm a professor now!
Somewhere, somehow, at sometime, these profs made a jump from where I am to where they are, which involved more than just additional schooling.  It’s like they vanished into the Field of Dreams cornfield, and reappeared ten years later as different people.  I can’t imagine they were all like this at my age.  Is it wrong to assume that I won’t be like them at their age?

I think what can be taken away from all of this is the following;

  • You better have a kid or know what the hell home equity is if you want to sit with the cool kids at lunch
  • Don’t use Styrofoam, it kills mother earth, and hurts her home equity, right?   Bah!