I am not immune to the allure of cat blogging, so since I have some serious issues to write about today, I thought I’d start with cats and put all that other less fun stuff behind the fold for those who aren’t interested.
I have two cats, both of whom have made cameo appearances: Pascal is fond of sitting in a kitchen chair, so it’s easy to get a picture of him critically reviewing books. Harriet (also known as the Brave Little Toaster) is a little more eccentric and mayhem-oriented. Pascal of course is named for the physicist/mathematician/philosopher Blaise Pascal, for whom the international standard of pressure is named — appropriately enough, since when Pascal the cat stands with his weight on one paw on you, you understand what pressure truly is. The main reason I picked that name for him, though, is because “Le chat a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît point.” (If you don’t get it, compare the results of running that phrase through a translator with the text you get when you follow the link.)
Most cats when brought to a new place immediately seek out somewhere to hide; when I brought Harriet home as a 2-pound kitten, she swaggered around the kitchen exploring. Since she was so brave and little, I called her Toaster. Her “official name” is from Lord Peter Wimsey’s friend and companion Harriet Vane from the classic detective novels (not that cats really respond to names). She loves to watch the garbage truck and to chase helicopters as they fly over the house. I suspect she’s really a 3-year-old human toddler in feline disguise.
If my cats are all you want to know about me, you can stop reading now.
Now For the Serious Stuff
Two weeks ago, I wrapped up my summer astronomy classes, packed up the rest of my office materials, and turned in my keys. My job was a fixed-term visiting professor position (a type of job that’s altogether too common these days, since colleges can save a little money by hiring temporary faculty rather than tenure-track professors). The short version: I did not manage to find another job, so I am now unemployed after 6 years of full-time teaching college.
I hesitated to even write that last sentence. When people know you’re unemployed, they tend to think bad things about you, even though the unemployment rate is so high. I think it too: there must be something wrong with me. I’ve been teaching for 6 years, and I’ve never shied away from a challenge. I’ve done everything I’ve been asked to do and gone beyond my job description: I helped start a Society of Physics Students chapter at one college, where the permanent faculty couldn’t be bothered to do so. I worked hard to get the moribund pre-engineering program going again at another college. I produced original programming for the planetarium I ran as part of my job (and believe me, running that planetarium could have been a full-time job in itself!). All the while, I continued to do research (though I haven’t had time to as much as I would like) and recently started writing this blog as a public science-outreach effort. So to be unemployed at this stage in my career seems patently unfair, and I keep wondering why it has to be that way.
I have no lack of criticism for myself — I know I’m far from perfect as a teacher, and have struggled to improve my methods over the years — but I’ll spare you that kind of agonizing. I love teaching, despite my flaws, and I hope that love is reflected in my writing for this blog. As I’ve been searching for a new job, thinking about changing my career (including thoughts of writing full-time), and dealing with the fallout of losing income, coping with a house I can’t sell, knowing I may never be able to retire, etc., I’ve suffered from crippling writer’s block, wondering if I really have anything important enough to say that others aren’t saying much better. I’ve even thought about shuttering this blog, since I update it so rarely anymore. I have no less than 6 posts in various states of completion.
I ask you all to please bear with me. I will try to write as much as I can. I will attempt as much as I am able to keep my personal problems out of my writing, since that’s not why you read this blog. In exchange, I would like a favor from all of you: if you like my writing, tell your friends, repost the stuff you like on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or whatever. It’s not easy to ask this, but you might even help me get a job if you spread the word. (Trust me, I’m actively seeking employment — I’m not relying on this blog alone to get me a job.) Please be patient, and hopefully I’ll find a way to get back to regular posts, free from agonizing, very soon.