Kevin Walzer's musings on the corners of his consciousness: writing and publishing poetry, earning a living in the business world, fooling around with computer technology (and occasionally harnessing it for useful purposes), and being a former/recovering academic.

Thursday, June 05, 2003

I've moved...

The computer geek in me has found a blog system that I can configure and run on my own server, in my dining room (the Mac OS X Server-powered iMac). The site is up and running although I'm still in "test mode". Nonetheless, here is the new listing: http://www.kevin-walzer.com. I won't be posting here anymore. Thanks.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Work-life balance. Is that a phrase that gives away my generation? I'm 34, solidly in the middle of "Generation X." Ten years ago my generation was derided (mostly by self-righteous baby boomers) as a raffish, apathetic group interested only in immediate, pragmatic issues with no larger spiritual yearnings. We job hop. We participate in few large-scale social movements. Etcetera. Etcetera. Read the books by historians Neil Howe and William Strauss--13th Gen and Millennials Rising, about the new "younger generation" (called "Generation Y" by some pundits)--to get a feel for the issues that define my generation.

Anyway, enough context. One of the key differences between my generation and the baby boomers, according to social scientists, is that we are unwilling to give up everything for our careers. A lot of baby boomers, the social scientists say, are willing to work the 60 hour weeks, to strive only for "quality time" with their families rather than "quantity time," etc. But the advice employers are often given about my demographic cohort is to understand that "work-life balance" is a real issue for us--that we want a life outside of work.

This is what I want too. I struggle with it. It's extremely busy this spring at my day job, and I've put in more than a few 12 to 15 hour days over the past three or four months. I don't get to see my wife or kids nearly as much as I'd like. It's tough when your three-year-old son knows enough to ask, "Are you working late tonight?" If I answer yes, he knows I won't be putting him to bed. That's difficult for me, because my putting him to bed is a routine we both look forward to. Too many 15-hour days, for me, are simply toxic. I need to spend time with my family--it's essential to my mental (and spiritual) health.

Running a publishing business at nights and the weekends makes things even crazier, but at least I can put that aside for a day or two if things get too overwhelming.

Last night was pretty good. I was on Daddy duty with both kids because Lori was working on some business projects. I cleaned up after dinner, gave them both snacks, and put each one to bed. Then, I made the mistake of doing an hour of publishing work; it should have taken me fifteen minutes, but I was exhausted.

Tonight I should get home on time. And the computer won't get turned on at all. Life. Not work.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

I'm not usually one to hop on bandwagons. Yet here I am...the latest member of a new online movement called, inelegantly if distinctively, blogging. I used to think of this as pure navel gazing. Why should I care about the online ramblings of other people I didn't even know? Well, I am not a hardcore aficionado of blogs, but I have made some unexpected discoveries online that has persuaded me of the appeal of blogging. It is a cottage industry among academics, both current and former (I fall into the second category). Even seven years after I earned a Ph.D. in English and drifted out of academe because of poor job prospects, I stay in touch with the academic world via the Chronicle of Higher Education and its job forums. In the job forums--filled with tales of woe from unemployed and underemployed Ph.D.s, and incredibly anxious graduate students--I saw the perceptive postings of Invisible Adjunct, whom I later discovered to have a blog. She posts daily musings, responses, and comments about the employment crisis in higher education.

I have written about this crisis myself in the Chronicle and elsewhere, and I make it a priority to try and show anxious doctoral students that abundant job opportunities can be found in the business world, where I've made my living for the past several years. This remains true even in the present economy, at least in comparison to the academic world. One need not be afraid of the corporate world. I've managed to survive and even sometimes thrive as a corporate marketing writer for various companies.

I'll probably post on that issue from time to time here, but my concerns are also more varied. Leaving academe didn't mean I wanted to give up my passion, poetry (my doctorate is in creative writing), so I have struggled to find time for poetry in one form or another. I still write, although not as much as I used to, and I have essentially abandoned criticism and scholarship for creative work. I have also managed to blend my passion for poetry with my newfound passion for business by forming a publishing company with my wife, Lori. It started three years ago as a single imprint publishing one or two books per year, but now we are determined to grow into a major player in the poetry world. We're off to a good start, with six imprints that will have more than forty books under contract for publication in 2004. It's not easy. Lori works full time on the business, but I can only work on nights and weekends; we also have two energetic sons who demand much of our time. Still, doing the publishing allows me to blend business and poetry (and, since I am working with my wife as my partner, family) in a way that gives me great joy. There is a real thrill in building a business, watching it grow, that is not unlike watching my children grow--and which is completely different, and more satisfying, than any success I enjoy as someone else's employee.

Finally, computers. You may notice lots of links on the top of my page to poetry sites, academic sites, publishing sites--and a few to computer sites. I'm a low-level closet geek, not a programmer, but someone who takes a strong interest in technology and likes to learn about it and get my hands dirty with it. In my day job I use a Windows PC, just like everyone else, but I've recently renewed a long-dormant romance with Apple computers. "Think different." At home Lori and I recently junked our two PCs and bought two iBook laptops and an Apple file/web server. It wasn't cheap, but we did see it as a business investment. Apple was dying five years ago before Steve Jobs returned and took control of the company. REALLY dying, as in losing hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Today people still like to write Apple's obituary even though they are the only player in the computer business to be profitable, besides Dell. Yes, they are small, but they execute brilliantly in their market niche--they INNOVATE--and thus should remain profitable, and viable, for the long term. Apple's new operating system, OS X (developed by the company Jobs founded after he left Apple in the 1980s, NExt), is light-years ahead of Windows in stability, ease of use, and elegance. The superb Aqua interface lies on top of Unix, which is the highest-end, most stable OS out there. Unix on high-end servers such as Sun's and IBM's powered the explosive growth of the Internet. Apple has utilized an open-source version of Unix called BSD, and has incorporated other open-source technologies into the OS, such as the Apache web server. Anyway, this appeals to my self-reliant nature, which I guess is part of the entreprenurial bug. I have built nine web sites that I host on my own Apple server (from my dining room); I use my own e-mail system instead of that provided by my ISP; and Lori and I use the server for centralized print and file services. It has made us more efficient. I've also installed various open-source software programs such as web statistics and groupware that improve our management of our business.

Self-reliance: this is where the circle closes. I've managed to make my way in the world, now with a wonderful family, despite being shut out of one career (academe) and entering a new career (business) with dubious credentials (a doctorate), living by my wits. The publishing business--even if it only remains part-time--and computers are another expression of this impulse. Some may call this being an adult, and of course that's true. But when I see so many gifted people still in academe, scraping by on adjunct income with no real prospects for earning a decent living, my heart goes out to them and I want to say: You are too gifted and intelligent to be wasting your time in a profession that does not want you. Just as importantly, the world is not benefitting from your talents. Look elsewhere! You have earned a Ph.D. That is extremely difficult. If you can do that, you can do almost anything. If you find a place to use your talents in a way that allows you to earn a human living, not only will you benefit and be much happier; the world will be a better place as well. I feel I am doing much more for the world as a marketing writer/poetry publisher/computer geek/husband/father than I ever could as a bitter/poorly paid/apathetic adjunct professor.

Enough for today.

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