Skype, Life, and Another Month Gone…

I can’t believe I’ve let another month slip by with no blog. But, I do have good reasons. I am teaching seven classes (that’s 21 units), taking 11 units toward my doctorate, and writing the first drafts of my dissertation. And, just before classes began, I broke my left index finger and found out about a week after we got home from Canada that I’ve most likely torn a ligament in that hand. That repair might need surgery, but I won’t know that until this coming Friday. So for now I am in a cast that is thankfully removable so I can take showers (or cheat and use the hand for typing).

What else?

Oh yeah. Finishing edits on my book. To give my lovely (and she truly is) editor some space (and buy myself time), I sent off the first half of the rewritten work to her. She sent a great note back saying how pleased she was with the changes, how “alove” the book was now, and how much more suspense their was in the action. So I am apparently on the right track, thankfully.

S. is, as I type, in the living room amidst an explosion of clothes and doodads. She is packing for her month-long Guatemalan adventure, which she leaves for in just two weeks. However, before she leaves for that, she will be gone a week in Portland for a conference, so she is essentially leaving me for a month and a half starting next Saturday.

What does that mean for me? No sleep.

I tend to stay up to all hours writing and working when she’s not at home, not stopping unless the dog gets insistent about it. So…Charlie, it’s to you now. Keep mama off the computer all night! Oh, and we learned how to Skype today, so…we’ll see if we can make that work while she’s gone.

He makes a good 'stop working' alarm clock!

The doctoral program is chugging along. We have, singly and collectively, gone to various PTB (Powers That Be) to voice our concerns over how things are working…or not). The U. hired faculty whose most recent experience was teaching community college undergrads, a long and far cry from doctoral students. And that lack of experience is telling. I, for one, am tired of the oft-repeated refrain, “remember, you are the first cohort, it will get better for the next group.”

Bully for them. I am here now, and I am not a moody 19-year-old trying to skyve off. Even one of the co-instructors of the course vented about the other instructor when things went south in a lecture Q&A. You know it’s bad when even the sweetest person in the room says, “I don’t trust X (instructor) and will not be bothered to speak again.” An instructor who twists your words and is inflexible to the point of snapping rigidity is to be avoided at all costs.

Had jury duty last week Friday and managed to avoid two trials due to the upcoming surgical consult on my hand. The second judge even joked that I “should be on the other side of the docket as a ‘party’ and not a juror.'” Without thinking, I said, “Well, your Honor, you should see the other guy.” He cracked up, which was a nice break in the day.

I want to serve, I just wish they’d call me in summer, not during the academic year.

Let’s see. Air Force lost, Wisconsin won, Army won. That was Saturday. Today we were split 50/50 as thr Packers won but the Vikings couldn’t get it done. All in all, a satisfying weekend.

Tonight: Writing. Lots and lots of writing.


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And So We Begin Anew…

One semester down, seven to go and the doctorate will be complete! Well, save for the comp exams and the dissertation, but hey! Details, I tell you! Details!

The semester begins tomorrow with a special session. It really began for me on Monday as I began writing lessons and prepping for my single, tiny class that I’m teaching. Thus brings a dilemma. Keep the tiny little class that goes from 12-1:20pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays, thereby killing all opportunities for a “regular” job, or ditch that golden opportunity in a private community college in hopes that I’ll land a more “regular” gig?

It’s insane that in a house where we have four able adults, 3.2 doctorates, two master’s degrees, three bachelor’s degrees and two associate’s degrees we’re still living paycheck-to-paycheck. We don’t go out, we don’t party, we don’t really even vacation anymore. Last week’s short hop to the Mouse in Orlando was covered by S’s conference speaker’s fee (and my designing of their fabulous people-drawing-in brochure), airfare included.

Where’s our economic stimulus? I’m surprised Al Gore and the Green Party have not come a-knockin’ on my door demanding that I stop sending out resumé’s ’cause I’m killing too may trees! Where’s our refinance plan for those of us “under water” after being hosed by the bank?

I’m frustrated, irritated, ridiculously in debt, and upset about it all.

And yet…Haiti. 45,000 100,000 potential dead? Sweet mother of mercy, those people. How do I help? What can I do? My “issues” pale in comparison.

Truly.

And Pat Robertson is an asshole of the highest order.

Tonight: still more unpacking and lesson writing. Oh, and finished that damned 20-year “life plan” for that dumb class. Here’s my plan: get a freakin’ job that even the crappiest economic downturn can’t kill!


Chicken and Rice…and Other Things Not Quite Right.

When I was in college (waaay back when, LOL), I called my mom and asked for her chicken and rice recipe. It’s not a particularly unique recipe, I’ve since found it online in several variations. It is, however, the ultimate comfort food for me. The aroma of the sauteed onions and celery in the browned-chicken drippings, the moist rice…yum.  So, since I’ve been sick with both the flu and strep this week, and since Wednesday is usually “my” day for cooking, I decided that I needed the comfort. I’m mostly over the strep, the flu seems to have abated to “just” exhaustion, yes…it’s time. I pull out my dog-eared recipe card and begin. And once again I realize that the final product, while edible, won’t be just right. Why? Because it wasn’t made in the pan.

THE pan.

The chicken-and-rice pan.

The one used in our house since the dawn of time – or in this case – my childhood. The pan, as far as I know, resides with my mom in Florida. It, like many of us so many years later, is somewhat the worse for wear. The handle is mostly gone, the sides are dinged, the cover, if it’s even still in the vicinity of the actual pan no longer has a handle. But…that’s THE pan. The right pan. With that pan I can make some pretty amazing chicken and rice.

Without it…eh.

So-so.

I am nearing the end of my first semester in the doctoral program. The “real” work has finally kicked in and, as challenging as it is, I am enjoying it. My main struggle this semester has been (aside from the recent death of my father, the continuing struggle with melanoma, hand/ligament surgery, strep throat, and now the flu) has been the looming prospect of no teaching jobs for the upcoming spring 2010 term.This despite pretty outstanding, if I do say so myself, teaching evals and observations.

Zip.

Zero.

Nada.

Every place at which I have either taught in the past or applied for the future has no classes to offer. The State of California is going bankrupt and taking its higher education institutions along for the ride. It’s gotten so bad that I’m applying in Phoenix and in northern California, figuring I can fly and/or drive home for doctoral classes/weekends if needs be.

To get me out of my funk, several good friends have pointed out to me that I am missing a golden opportunity. I have a good many writing projects in the works; a solid screenplay pitch that’s already gotten good feedback, a manuscript under review by a well-known publisher, several other stories and/or script ideas just begging to be written. Those projects have been sitting dormant because of my normally busy schedule. Perhaps it’s time to dust them off?

So, with their words in mind, I am concentrating again upon my writing (in addition to, of course, the doctoral work, which has priority). I have been stressing and worrying, fussing over my CV, subjecting myself to painful self-examination and hyper-critique, wondering why I can’t land a permanent teaching gig. And then the “apostrophe” hit (Spielberg’s Hook reference, look it up.) I have decided that perhaps the problem with my CV and my applications is the same problem that I am having with the chicken and rice.

I just need to find the right pan.

Tonight: so-so chicken and rice and completing my SLO paper.


McCarthyism Rears its Head

So. I signed.

For the five of you who regularly read this blog, refer back to yesterday’s post. Basically, any civil or public employee in the state of California must, by state law, sign the following “Loyalty Oath:”

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter.”

What’s my objection? Are you kidding me?

A loyalty oath? Where the hell are we living now, Communist China?! What’s next? “I have not now, nor have I ever been a member of…”

How about that “morally straight” bit in the Boy Scout oath? Will that slip into my HR paperwork sometime soon too?

I have a moral issue with signing something that requires, under thread of up to 14 years imprisonment, me to defend a constitution that is currently denying my human rights.

I’m gay. I can’t legally marry.

Oh wait. I did get legally married last summer, but only because we took advantage of a legal window. Those not lucky enough to do so are screwed. And if you don’t think filling out the government’s tax forms are hellish because of that, think again. Do I check “Married” or “Single?” But that’s an issue for a different day.

I met with the VP of HR today who insisted that this “comes from the state.” Funny thing is, I’ve worked for two other public institutions before, a Cal STATE U and another Community College. Neither of them put forward this form for me to sign – despite that requirement in the state constitution.

Sigh.

But, as I said, high morals don’t pay the mortgage. I’ve called my union rep, I’ve contacted Lambda Legal.

I’ve signed the effing form.

I signed it with the following objection noted on it (and that was signed by the VP of HR):

“Signed under protest – moral objection. Only signed as condition of employment.” (Keep in mind I still have a half-cast on my arm, so can’t really write a novel on the thing.)

I’m fairly certain that my civil rights (as in Civil Rights Act of 1964) have been trashed here. If I objected on religious grounds I’d have some legal footing, but because I’m objecting on moral grounds I’m in a bit of a morass of grey. How funny is that? Religious objection: OK. Moral? Not so much.

The more I think and write in this the angrier I get.

What am I looking for? I don’t want millions. I don’t want to own the state of CA (who the hell would?). I don’t want publicity. I want that damned form taken out.

My compromise is that I have modified an addendum filed by a UC Berkely professor and printed it to submit to HR. It follows:

ADDENDUM

It is my belief that the State Oath of Allegiance is a disgraceful document and its requirement deeply disturbs my conscience.  Its history and motivation are authoritarian, antidemocratic, totalitarian, fascist, and antisocial. Under no circumstances would I have accepted its condition for employment had I been informed in advance.  Finally, it seems to me a matter of logic that the Oath is self-contradictory in that it is inconsistent with numerous “inalienable” rights expressly guaranteed in both the California and United States Constitutions.

1. DEMOCRATIC PRINCIPLES AND THE OATH

The text of the Oath and its requirement for employment at [Edited] College are profoundly disturbing to my conscience.  I take them as an affront to the rights of every citizen and antithetical to the principle of academic freedom.  They must be viewed in the context of the long and ignominious history of the various loyalty oaths and “red scares,” the wartime internment of Japanese-American citizens, and other attacks on citizens’ rights that stain with everlasting shame both Constitutions to which so many people today remain required to swear loyalty

No less than the threat of a perjury charge “punishable by imprisonment in the state prison not less than one nor more than 14 years” under Section 3108 of the California Government Code looms over anyone whose scruples interfere with his or her willingness to “take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion.” Simultaneously, my livelihood depends on my affixing my signature to ideas repugnant to me, and, had I been informed in advance of this requirement, I would have absolutely never considered employment with the aforementioned institution, or indeed, any California institution requiring this form.

It is a principle of democracy and of human freedom that the state derives its legitimacy from the population, and that it is granted power only to that extent.  The converse—that citizens be granted full rights only by proclaiming loyalty to state power—is, I think it is clear, diametrically opposed to the whole of the democratic tradition.  The definition of fascism is “a political philosophy, movement, or regime that exalts nation . . . above the individual” (Merriam-Webster 1998). Coercion not only of behavior but also of beliefs through the threat of imprisonment or other forms of state violence is an expression of the totalitarian mentality at its most extreme.

I feel the Oath pits me against an ominous and pernicious category of unnamed, undefined “domestic enemies.”  The implication that I place myself into this category by resisting the Oath is unmistakable to me.  This Oath and its predecessors—and its analogues in societies unflattering for ours even to be compared—have been very effective at dividing the populace and intimidating and isolating conscientious, honest, law-abiding dissidents.

Consequently I strongly believe that the Oath articulates an explicitly fascist, explicitly antisocial vision.

2. CONSTITUTIONAL GUARANTEES AND THE OATH

Article I of the Constitution of California guarantees the following: “All people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rights.  Among these are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy” (Section 1).  “Every person may freely speak . . . his or her sentiments on all subjects. . . .”  This guarantee necessarily includes the right freely to hold beliefs (Section 2). “Free exercise and enjoyment of religion without discrimination or preference are guaranteed,” obviously including my deep moral beliefs as described in this Addendum, cited as a “liberty of conscience” (Section 4).  “A person may not be disqualified from entering or pursuing . . . employment because of sex, race, creed, color, or national or ethnic origin” (Section 8).  It is in my view, then, clear that the Oath and its requirement deny me my freedom, attempt to deprive me of property and livelihood, violate my privacy, attempt to legislate my beliefs under threat of imprisonment, and threaten to deny me employment on the basis of creed, thus repeatedly and directly violating, to the letter, numerous specific rights guaranteed by the same document that contains the text of the Oath (Article XX, Section 3).

The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, of course, guarantees every citizen’s right to freedom of “religion,” again including the beliefs discussed above, and “freedom of speech,” obviously circumscribing freedom of opinion.  It is in my view obvious that the Oath violates these rights.

My objection to the oath is on moral grounds. I cannot in good conscience swear to support and defend a constitution which continues to discriminate against a portion of the population. By declaring gay marriages “equal but separate” under the law, the Supreme Court of California has legalized discrimination, a violation of both Article I of the US Constitution, and Section 1 of the 14th Amendment, which states (in part): “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Finally, it must be noted—must be insisted—that human rights are intrinsic and inalienable; they are emphatically not granted by governments through constitutions or any other means.  To repeat, our political ideal is the precise opposite: governments are granted any and all rights and power by the assent of the governed.  Nonetheless, in my opinion the Oath contradicts itself in its own terms as it cannot be consistent with rights explicitly guaranteed by both constitutions which it apparently seeks to protect.


So…Controversy of a Sort…And it’s Just My First Day.

Well, when I’m not working on the doctoral stuff I’m teaching. I was hired at a local community college last week and classes begin today.

During my HR session the other day I was presented with a State of California Affidavit form – basically an oath stating that I would support and defend the constitution of the State of California. I asked the HR folks about it and was told it was optional, so I told them I was opting out of signing it.

This morning HR just called and the Vice President of HR wants to meet with me at 1pm today, regarding my refusal to sign the form. When she asked if it was a religious reason I told her that “No, it’s political. The State of California is denying me my constitutional rights to equality; therefore I’m not going to sign the form. I am serving the students of California, not the State.”

So…now I have a meeting.

If it becomes a condition of my employment I will sign it, but I will also make a notation on it stating that I’m signing it because it was made a condition of my employment. High morals won’t pay the mortgage.

Tonight: First classes at aforementioned CC, more reading for the EdD.