Saturday, September 27, 2014

Kimbap (Sushi) for Breakfast!

This morning I had a lovely, if unusual, breakfast of leftover yummy food from last night! Kimbap (the Korean word for sushi -- my friend Jen who helped me make them, wants me to use the right word) and Korean soup!
(There were about ten or twelve, but when I remembered to take the photo only these we're left!)

My younger son, who shares my taste for lunch/dinner foods for breakfast, had leftover penne with garlicky broccoli!

Do you ever eat unusual foods for breakfast? I'd LOVE to know!

P.S. BTW, for most Brazilians, typical American breakfast fare such as eggs, bacon, potatoes [home fries or hash browns] grits, sausages are very strange indeed! I love them because I love savory food much more than sweets.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Some Reasons Why I Hate Cold Weather/Winter

I even dislike Fall and early Spring (though Spring is a hopeful time -- warmth is coming! -- as opposed to depressing Fall), and some of the reasons are:

- the cold kills the plants and the world becomes all brown and grey and sad. :-(

- I strongly dislike wearing pants, socks and closed up shoes (and I obviously loooove sandals and dresses!). I've never cared for scarves & other accessories. Thankfully, I do love hats & gloves & I don't completely despise boots.

- I hate feeling cold, and my feet are often cold (sometimes even in the summer I wear socks to bed!).

- Putting on coats and taking them off is a horrble nuisance! Not to mention the cost of dry cleaning them (and their cost to begin with!). I have a bunch of filthy coats that I NEED to have cleaned -- why oh why can't I just wash them at home???? (I don't mind buying coats. I just wish I could afford more)

- I love snow (and snow days!!) and think it's beautiful (though messy), but it doesn't snow a lot here, so it's mostly really ugly & dreary.

- Winter is just way too long. Not having grown up here I don't really enjoy the seasons that much.

I need to drive now, so I'll publish this. If I remember anything else, I'll edit the post!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

What Wise Man Noam Chomsky Said about Adjunct Labor & Higher Education

I'm late* to this since it was published online in February at AlterNet, but "better late than never" is my motto!! *(but not as late as publishing a 2009 article as "new/news" here this year, that was embarrassing and I'm thankful for the commenter that pointed it out. No link for obvious reasons!)

and thanks to my dear friend Diber for the link!

WARNING: this is a "Soap-Box" kind of post. My apologies in advance for the inflammatory language!

"Chomsky: How America's Great University System Is Being Destroyed" (subitle: Faculty are increasingly hired on the Walmart model as temps.) is a great article not only explaining how/why the university system is "adjunctified" nowadays, but also exploring in great historical detail how universities have fully adopted a "corporative model"or the model of private enterprise. 

I suppose people on the right would probably argue that his arguments are flawed, blah, blah, blah... but seriously, he is perfectly right in saying that it is only possible to have a really profitable corporate world by exploiting lots of people and, at the same time, relying on them as consumers. 

I'm sorry if you disagree with me, but I cannot, in any way, shape or form, understand how people cannot see the truths he's pointing out in this speech/essay. I cannot help but be a "leftist," and I cannot really understand anyone who thinks that exploiting other people and not granting everyone (including women, children, people of color, people of other countries, people of every sexual orientation, etc) equal rights and protections is the way the world (and this country in particular!) should operate. I just cannot understand. 

You don't need to be "communist," "socialist" or any other "ist" to believe that people are inherently greedy and that there is no way any system (particularly a supposedly "communist" one) can work without exploitation and, most importantly OPPRESSION of weaker classes of people (and suppression too -- that's why I secretly, and not so secretly admire whistle blowers such as Edward Snowden and the WikiLeaks people). 

Chomsky outlines a series of ways in which Higher Education is being destroyed in this country: 

1) relying on very vulnerable (i.e. graduate students and adjuncts) teaching body, while hiring less and less tenure track faculty, is conducive to CONTROL. In addition, reducing the time and the quality of the time students are in contact with faculty also enhances control and decreases the possibility of dissent and critical thinking. The vulnerability of this group (ME, MY FRIENDS!!) is great and in many cases prevents them (US!) from organizing, unionizing, protesting. 

I LITERALLY CRIED reading his paragraph about that. 

2) Hiring lots of administrators (and staff too) and paying them higher and higher salaries. I had no idea that the numbers of students and faculty hasn't been changing much, but the number of administrators (of all levels and their staff, under-deans, secretaries, etc) has swelled incredibly.

3) Increasing the cost so students will be saddled with LIFELONG student debt that they will be forced to repay. So, they are most effectively controlled for life because of their debt!

I HAD NO IDEA that education, even an Ivy League education, was relatively inexpensive 60-70 years ago (until WHEN? I wonder). 

If you've lived in this country all your life, you may not know this (and you should see my students poor wistful faces every time I tell them that -- I just did last week), but in most other countries, UNIVERSITIES DO NOT CHARGE TUITION. Getting a college degree from a prestigious university is free or practically free in most developed countries, but not in the United States.

OK, I'm getting of my soapbox right now. Screaming like this is exhausting!!!! 

It's just I wish with all my heart I could be a "real" activist, but I just CAN'T! And it's not just that I'm a vulnerable adjunct, but I really don't have any rights here where I live. I cannot unionize, I do advocate for myself as much as I can, but although that can give me a temporary one more year of a full-time contract, it doesn't guarantee AT ALL future work. 

Sigh... all this is exhausting. I wish I could take a break from these thoughts, but they are my whole entire life, day in and day out. The mega-commute, the teaching of too many classes, the meager paycheck (which is actually great compared to other people in a similar situation).

It's easy to just feel too weak and tired to fight back. It's easy to feel defeated and powerless. But I don't want that for myself. I don't know how, but I will fight. I won't give up! (hopefully)

thanks for listening, if you're still here. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Boyhood: Delightfully Brilliant, yet Riddled with Stereotypes...

... or should I say brilliantly delightful? And... are some of the stereotypes slightly mysoginistic?
I don't know, but I wonder...

Well, after a summer of constantly wishing to watch movies, but not having time, I finally got to see Boyhood last Sunday with my husband in the small local theater!

(this viewing was preceded by a Richard Linklater "Before" movies marathon the weekend/week before, but I'll blog about that later! Can't wait!)

First of all, Boyhood, filmed over twelve years, is a groundbreaking film-making experiment/experience. It is incredible to see the characters age, particularly Ellar Coltrane, the boy, and his sister, played by Linklater's daughter Lorelei. Trailer:


Apart from Rebecca Woolf's commentary on the movie (and her previous post), I avoided reading reviews or criticism of the movie online, but I knew not to have too high expectations, so I wasn't disappointed.

The film is pretty moving and funny and I loved how (and I'd read about that ahead of time) Linklater chose to use music from the different years the action was taking place. I particularly loved the opening scene with Coldplay's Yellow!

I think -- although I haven't grown up in this country, so I wouldn't be able to really evaluate that! -- the movie accurately portrays American families (particularly with divorced parents) and the way American kids are raised. I loved that I have family in Texas and that I'd already been to most of the locations and I could recognize the landscape, which is very similar to where my sister-in-law's family lives. The NYT had an article about this in July, titled "Texas Gets Love Letter in 'Boyhood.'"

I was looking at my students today and thinking that I better understand their elementary/high school experience and their worldview after watching this movie (I felt that way particularly when I was looking at one of my female students who has lots of earrings in one of her ears, kind of quirky like boyhood's Mason) -- Brazilian kids' upbringing seems to me to be so different (of course in my generation, I haven't lived in Brazil and taught kids there for the past 18 years, but I still think it's different).

I liked the movie, but I think it's very hard to give it much depth and really develop the characters when you're filming over a twelve year span and that is the film's weakness. Filming like that is also very conducive to reducing the characters' lives to countless stereotypes. The single-mom who keeps finding abusive partners, the misfit high-school kid, the way boys/men see women.

I don't know... maybe I'm being too picky and academic here in being annoyed with the stereotypes and the way women/girls are portrayed. The sister seems to fade away so much towards the end of the movie, since the focus has to be on the boy(hood) of her brother.

And maybe my viewing was colored by this having read this tweet by Joyce Carol Oates:
(tweet was looking great, but then it became text only when I deleted a comment I had here before, I hope it works again! YAY, it is working!)

In any case, women, particularly the mother, seem to be viewed as victims of men (maybe that's a good thing? To show how women can be strong and overcome abuse?) and since it's a movie about a boy growing up, we also have stereotypes of the way young men see women. I like the girlfriend and what happens seems realistic, but I don't know if I like the girl at the end.

I don't really know exactly what/how I feel, but as a girl/woman, I wish there was another movie like Joyce wrote. Sometimes this whole being-a-feminist-thing and seeking gender equality is exhausting to me... I wish I could just move on, but it's not possible, not with depressing statistics about the gender gap (particularly one I can't find now about how mothers make even less money than other women). The fight has to continue... sigh... and the awareness of gender stereotyping really did take some of the "magic" from this movie for me.

Last, but not least, I kept wondering if his mom wasn't just an adjunct and probably not really a tenure-track professor (like her second husband -- what a piece of work! And then they also totally make fun of this crazy supposed UT Austin professor who talks to himself in a diner, yikes!). She obviously seems to have a full-time position, but she's also pretty broke (and she clearly only got a master's degree not a doctorate). Well... it doesn't matter, but that part really resonated with me (obviously!).

Overall, I really enjoyed the movie and I loved Ethan Hawke, though I prefer him in the Before trilogy much more. Ellar Coltrane was superb, I want to read the interviews and articles about him and also view Q&A's with him and Linklater that are available on YouTube. I liked Lorelei Linklater's performance a lot and Patricia Arquette was OK as the mom. Now I can go read some reviews and I may come back to edit this with some links to my favorites (or not!).

I'm glad I finally got to do something I'd been really looking forward to! We do make it a point not too watch too many (if any!) movies, but this was one I wanted to see very badly. Hopefully this post doesn't have too many spoilers for you if you still haven't seen it!

P.S. As a mom of two boys I also got to think about my sons and my mothering of them, but they're still too young for me to identify with the teenage years that were a large part of the movie. In addition, their upbringing is/will be just very different from the boy in this film. Oh, and I thought that including stereotypical views of religious people was fine, almost funny. And the guns in a Texas ranch detail. I just thought that the dad's marriage came out of the blue and was left completely unexplained... but the movie wasn't about him. The mother is always closer to the boy, so she's portrayed in more depth.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Missing my boys

I haven't seen my 10 year old since Wednesday morning! And my 12 yo since yesterday morning. L had outdoor education at a camp 1h30 away & Kelvin had the 7th & 8th grade retreat. 

I miss them!! K & I couldn't really enjoy our time to ourselves because we had so much work and I "needed" to finish a free photo book (I know... Bad me, but 29 dollars off is good, no?).

We still got to have dinner together last night at this tiny Middle eastern restaurant and froyo afterwards. And we watched a movie at home! (More about the movie later! We overdosed on Linklater last week, hopefully we'll get to see Boyhood on Sunday!)

I can't wait to go pick up my boys in school though! (I'll leave in a few minutes) and then... We head to a house church retreat later today. I LOOOVE retreats, can't wait!!! (Though I'll be busy cooking/coordinating the food)

Friday, September 05, 2014

Sometimes, I just want to sit down and have a good cry...

... But I have a hard time doing it. There are too many good things in my life, and I know I should count my blessings instead.

 Sometimes, however, it is too overwhelming! I am always doing too much, being pulled into too many directions. Most of all, this lack of a real job and a definite direction in my life sometimes takes its toll on me.

Today I spent four hours with other faculty at University number one, and I felt keenly aware that all those other people in the room had an actual job, but I didn't. After four full years of this, it is starting to get old and hard to bear. 

As much as I enjoy this these new initiatives, and getting to know more people at the University, and, why not say it? Being paid to go to this... Sometimes I wonder if it's not just a waste of my time. A waste of precious psychological energy too, all because I'm passionate about researching teaching and learning.

I love to learn new things! I enjoy challenges and working in a group. I thrive doing these activities (like various faculty institutes). But, at the end of the day, I know they're throwing crumbs at me by allowing "part-time faculty" to participate of these faculty enrichment activities.

I feel like saying outright "I have all these great ideas, why won't you just give me a job so I can put them into practice?" The associate dean was there, I wish I could have said this to him! I wish academia worked in a more straightforward manner. But it's impossible, there are too many of us desperate overqualified souls.

 Too many things go through my head as I walk around each of the campuses, that's why I just wish I could sit down and have a good cry.  But crying won't solve my problems.  It will provide momentary relief, but that just means I'll cry again soon in the future.

So I just hold the tears. I don't allow myself time to break down and feel like a failure (and I know I can still cry and know I'm not actually a failure, but still...).

I "spoke" this post into my phone while driving to pick up my boys from school. I'm almost there now, so I will stop. It felt funny, like I was recording for an NPR show! Maybe I will do this again soon!

This is not a letter or an email, but I still want to finish saying that I hope everybody has a good weekend! :-)

Gluten Free for a Week

I'm doing an experiment. I'm going gluten free for a week, just to see if I'll feel any different. Some adult ADHD specialists, particularly Jacqueline Sinfield affirm that going gluten-free helps people with ADHD. Frankly, I'm skeptical, but why not give it a try? Of course the recommended period is 30 days and I may continue longer and see.

I'm also curious to see if it'll have any effect on my IBS (which is relatively mild, mostly with morning symptoms).

I don't eat lots of gluten to being with. I eat bread sparingly, and I totally don't mind not eating pasta. I have always, for as long as I can remember, been drawn to and LOVED gluten-free foods, particularly potatoes and manioc starch products (especially "cheese rolls" -- pão de queijo --> links to mouth-watering images!).

I've also been paying attention to food labels for a while now and I think I can do pretty well -- as far as frozen meals for work are concerned. All of the Amy's Kitchen frozen meals I like are gluten-free!

Oh... I have an event at the university tomorrow and I don't think they'll have gluten free options!! (I didn't ask ahead of time, I didn't know I would be doing this experiment boo!) Oh well... having to cheat on my second day is no good... In any case, I can keep going later.

I don't know if it's the lack of gluten, but I'm not sleepy at all tonight! I bet I'll be tomorrow morning, though, I'll see!

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Reveling in the Warmth, Dreading the Freezing Cold

ETA: written on my cell phone, walking from the car to the building where I teach :-)
I'm not just "enjoying" the hot weather, I'm drinking it like the thirstiest person would. I'm trying to soak it, absorb it, try to feel it so much on my skin so I can keep the delightful sensation in my memory for as long as I can because I know it won't last long.

I almost feel a quiet despair thinking that it will soon be all over. That's why I don't enjoy he Fall season anymore, unlike many of my blog friends. I know the cicadas will stop singing and the crickets too. The world will have almost no green. 

And (silly superficial me!) I have too many dresses -- ha! You call them "sundresses" in this country. Too many summer clothes that I feel I barely get to use. :-(

Yeah, I'm not looking forward to Fall & Winter!

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Saudade (& Gorgeous Maragogi!)

When distress and almost despair overtook me last week K & I felt like we always do in such situations -- a rare feeling, to be frank! -- we felt like we might want to go back to Brazil if things didn't/don't get better.

Home. I don't even talk like that about my home country now that home is really here. And not because we own our fourth house in this country. And even in spite of the fact that we always feel like "accidental immigrants."

I can hardly believe that I was there this year. January feels so so distant from the sad "shores" of early September! Sigh...

Talking of shores, I never shared images more than one image of where we were in Maragogi, right? -- only borrowed from other people [scroll down] before I'd even set foot on that sand and that water. No filters, first two photos taken by my sister-in-law D in her Canon, remaining taken by me with my Nikon (D5100).

Last week, on the morning I had my conversation with NH s/he asked if I'd gone to Brazil in the summer and when I said with sadness in my voice that I probably would only be back there in 2016 s/he asked "Why?" "Because I cannot afford it!" I answered, to which s/he retorted, "Oh, that's right, you have kids!" (and then I added that we're going to the Middle East + Europe(hopefully!) next summer with my in-laws and that's also why I can't afford to go to Brazil as well).

Anyway... I thought it was pretty bad timing to be talking about the fact that I can hardly ever go to Brazil while they didn't even wanted to offer me a full-time job. Sigh...

Yeah, we know that going back is not a "cure-all" solution and never would be, but sometimes it feels like it would help.

The lovely beaches (thousands of miles away from where we'd live, haha!) would be nice too. ;-)

Monday, September 01, 2014

New (to me) Wedding Music

This summer I went to two weddings which couldn't have been more different and I want to share some of the music since I don't know if I can or should share photos. (maybe in a another post?)

Two weekends ago we went to Philadelphia to attend my husband's Brazilian/Chilean postdoc colleague (not tenured at UPenn!) who is a really dear friend of ours. I met the bride at the wedding, but my husband had already stayed at their house so he knew her -- such a lovely young woman!

The bride walked in to "The Book of Love" and I couldn't believe I had never heard this delightfully moving song (covered by Peter Gabriel). I'm sure you know it, in case you don't here is a HQ youtube version I can't stop listening to:

There's also a live rendition by Peter Gabriel and while the orchestra and the backup singer are great, he's more speaking than singing in certain parts. Blogger wouldn't let me have three embedded videos, I don't know WHY!! :-( so it's this one here.

At the other wedding, the bride walked in with a live (and extra slow, because it was too hard for the pianist) version of this pretty earworm that apparently is all the rage at weddings all over the place (because of Twilight, apparently):

And I also gather (from YouTube comments) that "The Book of Love" has been in quite a few movies & TV shows and the cover was actually recorded for a movie (that I learned from Wikipedia).

I'll try to find some wedding photos that don't show people to share.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

August, be gone already! / Agosto já vai tarde!

Seriously, I'm so over August. The end of this month was traumatizing, to put it mildly... sigh.

Last week after I gave one of my office-mates the good news she told me that now I could go celebrate with my husband.

Celebrate? I don't think I have any reason to celebrate. I am very relieved that it worked out, but I'm just even more bitter about my whole work situation. It's getting too tiresome to advocate for myself and to try to avoid being even more unfairly exploited.

I feel stronger, but at the same time even more cynical, skeptical and bitter. You know... I truly love getting older and I don't feel like going back to my younger, more naive and inexperienced years -- no way! I value all my past experiences, good and bad. One thing I kind of feel sorry about, though. I've always been kind of "childish" in a way, very enthusiastic, motivated, energized and these troubles only make me less so. They seem to seep into the fabric of who I am and deposit a thin layer of bitterness over everything. That, I don't like.

It's part of life though. And I can choose to remain positive and enthusiastic. I don't want to be one of those bitter old ladies, oh, no! And I think I won't be, so I need to get over it. That's why I'm glad this month is over. As we say in Portuguese, "it's leaving late already."

Good riddance! ;-)

Friday, August 29, 2014

In Print

Just got the scanned offer letter in an email.

Relief.

Now to sign it, take a picture and email it back, and, more calmly now, carry on.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Whole

Maybe it's weird, but I feel "whole" again now. It seemed, after all my indignation about the unfairness of how I was being treated and the distress I went through, that something was irreparably broken.

Walking around the sun-drenched building on my way to my office after I'd taught my classes on the first day (Tuesday) around 2 pm, I felt very raw and out of place. Not only because I was utterly exhausted, having slept only from 5-7:20 am and not having eaten a thing since about 10:30 pm the night before and feeling still slightly high on adrenaline, but because I felt just plain broken. Like a piece of cracked china that will eventually be discarded. I had fought and lost. I felt that I didn't really belong in that building. The only lecturer who was not full-time. The odd one.

And I opened my email to find a strange email from the chair that I didn't much like. I responded with two other emails, asking why we couldn't offer another class in the Spring, and by the time I wrote my "perspective" post he had written me a nice email saying he was meeting with the dean the next morning. I volunteered to compile some numbers in a document, showing that 24 students had remained on the waiting list (for a class of 18) when classes started and to demonstrate the demand for the class which, I argued, could be offered again in the Spring. I emailed him the document and went to bed.

To make a long story short, I talked to new hire (NH) briefly in the morning (s/he needed to approve of this plan of the new class, according to the chair -- I had also emailed NH the document) and had another brief meeting with the chair in the afternoon and s/he said that the dean had agreed with them letting me teach one more class and, thus, have a yearly full-time contract.

My husband had been bit upset about my angry email from the middle of the night, but I guess it worked... I'm happy, but the way things transpired was quite strange. Last Friday the chair had said that it looked promising, that he would use this money/line from "other language." Why did he change his mind? I really don't buy the "blaming the dean" story. Sigh... Since yesterday he said that he had told the dean that there wasn't a need to ask for funding because he was using another line that hadn't been used. (and I was "You said what??" in my head). Anyway... and there's one more thing that NH said that demonstrated that they'd obviously been talking to each other about the situation.

So... yeah, my fight will continue, but at least I don't feel broken anymore and I know that in the long run I'll be stronger and even more motivated to advocate for myself. Not that I have much, if any, leverage 'cause I don't.

Most importantly, I'm no longer the odd-one. Now I can look all my lecturer colleagues in the eye and not feel a pang inside. (Of course it's still kind of painful to know that some of my colleagues have a 3 year contract & make 50K, not 36). I've got a long way to go, I guess... we'll see what will happen.

(if you're curious, what I'd really like is that a position opened at U#1 where my husband works & I could go back there & not have the long commute anymore)

"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you" Matthew 7:7 KJV

(and 7 is my favorite number [teary-eyed], I was born on 7/7)

"For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened."

Matthew 7:8 (English Standard Version)

I was offered the full-time position.