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Friday Afternoon Confessional: First ever

I confess that I did not confess last week. It was the first time since its inception that the Friday Afternoon Confessional did not appear. I confess that normally I would have posted at least some kind of cheap placeholder, but I did not, because it just didn’t seem worth the bother.

Now that the chain has been broken, I confess that I feel free to retire as a confessor. Previously, I had kept things going simply because of the fact that there had never been a Confessional-free Friday — even though it was becoming an empty ritual that, to be perfectly honest, probably didn’t make much sense in the first place.

My co-bloggers should feel free to continue the tradition if desired. (All the front-page posters have administrator rights and are thus able to add users.)

February 17, 2012 Posted by | Friday Afternoon Confessional | 10 Comments

Friday Afternoon Confessional: Cookie-wise

I confess that at times, computer problems reduce me to the emotional maturity level of a three-year-old. I confess that my life would probably be improved if I could afford a new computer — but it’d have to be a Mac, because the entire internet would revile me if I bought a new PC at this late date. I confess that my current laptop is so big and clunky that I might as well have just gotten a desktop, which I may well do next time around.

I confess that I am afraid to do my taxes. Many of my income streams involve various forms of freelance or other non-payroll work, so I almost always have to pay out.

I confess that The Girlfriend and I will be going to the Symphony at the end of the month, because we’re so damn civilized.

I confess that I continue to find ever-new things to worry about. My surplus-anxiety must find an outlet. I assume part of it is just the fact of being in a new job — and post-job market stress disorder takes its toll as well. Hopefully as I get settled in, I can experiment with actual happiness.

February 3, 2012 Posted by | Friday Afternoon Confessional | 1 Comment

Friday Afternoon Confessional: Dynamics!!!

I confess that I have been relatively non-anxious since my paycheck situation was resolved, leading me to think that my anxiety is mostly situation-bound rather than pathological.

I confess that, particularly when The Girlfriend has to leave for work, my lifestyle sometimes strikes me as unrealistic. I may well have enjoyed more “freetime” in my adult life so far than many people will enjoy pre-retirement. I have weeks- and months-long periods with only minimal structured obligations — I work a lot, but outside of class and meetings, I plan out my own time as I choose. I feel lucky, but I’ve never felt guilty — I honestly think that everyone’s lifestyle could and should be more like mine. I am the change I want to see!!!

I confess that I can already tell that teaching in a discussion-centric environment is going to prove very helpful in moderating my perfectionism. Classroom dynamics can always be improved, and especially at this early stage of my career, I’m continually seeing things I can do (or should’ve done) to help matters — but there’s an inherent limit to what any one person can do to improve a group discussion. Indeed, that’s the entire point. And this makes me think that there’s an important ethical or even character-formation issue at stake in the kind of pedagogy Shimer does.

January 27, 2012 Posted by | Friday Afternoon Confessional | 4 Comments

Friday Afternoon Confessional: It’s always something

I confess that the holiday season is my least favorite time of the year, and I always feel a profound sense of relief when I wake up in the morning on January 1 — finally it’s over. The Girlfriend and I had enjoyed a quiet New Year’s Eve at home, and we hit the ground running with the new year, cleaning out our closets and thoroughly cleaning the apartment. I enjoyed a week of relative bliss, working steadily on class prep and research-oriented tasks.

Since then, however, I have been in a state of continual worry. First, it was my teaching evaluations (which were actually fine but — horrors! — contained some critical comments), then it was the grim prospect of a regularly-scheduled early morning meeting time that would require me to come to campus a full six hours before my first class, and then it was an error with my direct deposit that delayed my paycheck by a week. What was strange about this is that the objective events overlapped somewhat, but I didn’t start worrying about the next thing until the previous one was resolved — i.e., only once it was settled that the regular meeting time would be more convenient did I begin to worry in earnest about my paycheck. This “wait in line” feel is especially odd given that the paycheck issue seems to be objectively much more important than the meeting issue.

I confess that last night I deposited my replacement paycheck after what felt to me like a strong end to a pretty solid first week of teaching, so hopefully I can calm down.

I confess that my fascination with sartorial concerns has not died down in the new semester and that I have in fact entered into a new experimental phase. I’ve ventured into the risky brown-plus-gray combo and attempted to subtly coordinate apparently clashing plaid prints (on jacket, tie, and shirt!). My students seem to find it amusing to comment on such matters.

I confess that The Girlfriend brought up the possibility of foreign travel during the summer this morning. Though we’ve discussed it many times, this morning I suddenly decided that I would renew my passport today, right now. I confess that this process led to the revelation that The Girlfriend possessed a previously unknown stapler, a piece of office equipment that I have been lacking for over a year — this made me happy.

January 20, 2012 Posted by | Friday Afternoon Confessional | 5 Comments

Friday Afternoon Confessional: The vacation’s over

I confess that my winter break is soon ending, as classes start Tuesday. I confess that I’m looking forward to my classes for this semester, but more than that, I’m looking forward to getting a clean slate. My experience in my previous position was that there was a huge difference between my first term and my second — it was as though I had to get a bunch of obvious mistakes out of my system so that I had something to start from. Given the uniqueness of the Shimer approach, starting here was not entirely unlike starting totally fresh, so the same rule applies, or so I hope.

I confess that I experienced acute stress when I realized I was coming to the end of my check register. I am one of the only people I know who still fills out the check register, as I like to know how much money I really have available when automatic payments are factored in, etc. — in my many years of living on the financial edge, this technique served me well, as I’ve literally never overdrawn my checking account in my entire life. I confess that I was even considering going to the bank simply to ask them for a new register, but I found a spare.

I confess that I very often use the last of The Dog’s poop bags without replacing them. As someone who normally keeps up with every little detail (see above), I find this very embarrassing. Thankfully, The Girlfriend and I devised what I think will be a pretty robust system to prevent this unacceptable pattern from continuing.

January 13, 2012 Posted by | Friday Afternoon Confessional | 1 Comment

Friday Afternoon Confessional: Fitter, happier

I confess that in the past week, I’ve been eating healthier and exercising more, and as a result I feel better. I confess that this makes me wonder if part of my holiday-related depression stems from eating really poorly during that time of the year.

I confess that our toilet has a problem that is seemingly within the range of things I could fix myself — certainly it doesn’t seem worth calling a plumber — but that I’m afraid I will somehow screw it up, leaving us without a toilet. The problem is that sometimes it just keeps “topping off” every few minutes, which seems to stem from the fact that our flapper — the official term — is corroded or is simply not landing in quite the right way. If I stick my hand in there and shift it around, I’m usually able to get it to stop, yet I confess that over the New Year’s weekend, I refrained from even touching it, in the fear that I would somehow break it during a time when it would be difficult to get a plumber. I confess that this is perhaps yet another example of being over-cautious to the point of paranoia.

I confess that probably the biggest improvement I’ve made to my life in the last few months was buying more underwear and socks. Now my laundry schedule is much more reasonable.

January 6, 2012 Posted by | Friday Afternoon Confessional | 3 Comments

Friday Afternoon Confessional: Dignity, Always Dignity

I confess that for the past couple weeks, I have been fixated on somehow “clearing my accounts” before the end of the year. I’ve returned my library books, renewed my magazine subscriptions, done my dry cleaning, done the laundry, cleared out my folder of e-mails to follow up on, etc., etc. I confess that it feels strange to take the arbitrary turning of the calendar page so seriously, and I’m not sure what I’m trying to accomplish — what it would mean or even if it’s possible.

I confess that I have travelled a great deal in the last two months and that I find the process degrading. Airport security — and new Amtrak security measures that didn’t exist when I was taking it regularly — is a humiliating ordeal, and I confess that I get a little angry every time I have to take off my shoes. In response to this, I’ve decided that I need to supply my own human dignity for the trip, which I do by dressing nicely and, thanks to a Christmas gift from The Girlfriend, carrying nice luggage. I confess that I find the standard cheap black suitcases depressing, all the moreso the larger they are. The variations that are commonly seen remind one of nothing so much as a grade school child’s backpack. When people dress like slobs and pull around their huge-ass suitcase on wheels, I feel like they’re effectively endorsing the dehumanizing process of modern travel.

I confess that The Girlfriend and I have started a tradition of opting out of New Year’s Eve. We stay in and go to bed well before midnight, normally after watching a few episodes of MacGyver.

December 30, 2011 Posted by | Friday Afternoon Confessional | 6 Comments

Friday Afternoon Confessional: White Elephant! WHAT FUN!!!

I confess that I am writing this on Tuesday, as I will be visiting The Girlfriend’s family in Florida for the rest of the week. I confess that I find it almost incomprehensible that it will be around 80 degrees the entire time we’re there.

I confess that we are returning on Christmas day, meaning that this year will be the first time in my adult life when I will be in my actual home (as opposed to the place I politely call “home”) for at least a part of Christmas. The Girlfriend and I have a tradition of watching the Always Sunny Christmas special every year, and this time we can do it actually on Christmas day, all while enjoying a nice beer. I can’t wait to scream again when Charlie attacks Santa!

I confess that my parents got us nice presents this year, even though we’re not going to Flint for Christmas. The Girlfriend’s gift, a sewing machine, arrived first, and she has already used it to repair a tear in one of our sheets and to sew a thank you note. Mine was a new keyboard. I’ve had my previous keyboard for probably close to 20 years, and it’s been showing its age — certain keys are no longer very responsive, and it had an annoyingly narrow range. The new one sounds much nicer and is at least closer to a full keyboard at 76 keys. I played for hours the first day I got it, and I realized that there are pieces in my repertoire that I haven’t played in years because I’ve been so frustrated by the need to improvise solutions to the lack of certain notes. One Chopin prelude felt particularly cruel, as the final note was only a half-step out of the old keyboard’s range.

I confess that today is my mom’s birthday. I confess that it is the only family member’s birthday I have ever remembered, solely because it’s so close to Christmas. I confess that it’s a shame that I grew up pre-Facebook, because now it’s so much easier to “pass” as a considerate and thoughtful person — you just get your computer to simulate the outward appearance of caring about and keeping up with people for you.

December 23, 2011 Posted by | Friday Afternoon Confessional | 5 Comments

Friday Afternoon Confessional: End-of-semester-mas comes but once a year

I confess that my semesterly duties have officially ended. I believe my first semester at Shimer was basically a success, though I still have much to learn.

I confess that I devoted a disproportionate amount of energy to sartorial concerns during this semester. I am reasonably confident that I did not wear the exact same combination of clothing items to school more than once over the course of the term. One slight exception was yesterday, my last day of “official” duties on campus for the semester, when I wore the exact same thing as on my first day of classes, with the addition of a tie clip that The Girlfriend got me for Christmas.

I confess that we exchanged Christmas presents this Tuesday, as I had done my Christmas shopping that day and was excited — and we also have a tendency to do our exchange early, so as not to have to do it in the context of whichever family Christmas we’re attending. This year, I got The Girlfriend a grandchild-esque number of presents. My proudest purchase was a purse (inspired in part by the weekend travel bag I knew she was getting me), which many of my friends felt was a bold and even risky choice, given how picky women generally are about purses. I seem to have selected well, however. I also got her two aprons from Anthropologie, a rolling pin, and a new umbrella that fits in one of the outer pockets of her purse. In addition to the travel bag and some tie clips, she got me a long-desired item: a bottle opener for my keychain.

I confess that we are visiting her family in Florida this Christmas, resulting in my first Christmas away from my family. I was home for Thanksgiving and then unexpectedly soon thereafter for my grandfather’s funeral, so hopefully that will be some compensation.

I confess that I do not now own, nor have I ever owned in my entire adult life, any waterproof footwear. This despite the fact that walking is my primary means of transportation.

December 16, 2011 Posted by | Friday Afternoon Confessional | 6 Comments

Friday Afternoon Confessional: On the road again

I confess that I am heading back to Michigan this weekend, as my grandfather died last weekend and his funeral is on Saturday. I confess that he was afflicted with Alzheimer’s and that my primary reaction to his death is a feeling of relief that his suffering is over.

I confess that my plan of focusing on teaching and putting off any new research project this semester, while perhaps necessary in the long run, has left me sometimes bored and frustrated in the short run. I have been planning on writing a book on the devil as my next project, and now I’m trying to figure out ways to get started on it over the course of next semester (as well as potentially working on learning to read Hebrew).

My current idea is to focus on getting a feel for the secondary literature, with an emphasis on figuring out which primary texts are most important and relevant for my approach. Secondary scholarship is perfectly suited for commute reading in my experience, so it will be relatively easy to integrate this into my schedule, and it will concretely set me up for more concentrated work this summer. With any luck, I’ll be able to work up a proposal by the end of the summer and to start writing in the fall.

In the meantime, however, I need to actually finish this semester. I confess that Shimer College’s approach to the end of the semester, which includes a week-long self-directed project for most students (i.e., those who aren’t taking comprehensive exams or working on their senior thesis) and a final conference where students meet with a committee consisting of all their instructors to reflect on the semester, is in many ways very compelling — yet it is proving to be incompatible with my preferred “get it over with” approach to final grading. I will survive, however! And thrive! In part by doing most of my grading during my train ride to Michigan.

Speaking of which: I confess that after two years of near-constant Amtrak travel, I have finally signed up for their rewards program. I confess that to be as rigorous as possible in missing the point, I even signed up after buying my ticket for this weekend. Who knows what rewards I could have earned had I taken the two minutes to sign up before buying my first ticket to Kalamazoo? I confess that I’m an idiot.

December 9, 2011 Posted by | Friday Afternoon Confessional | 3 Comments