Sunday, January 30, 2005

Paint factory escape, part II

You may remember the little stream of conciousness about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that I posted back in mid-December. I've been pretty lousy about blogging lately, but I figured it was about time to post an update for my two or three loyal readers.

As I vaguely remember telling a friend in a bar on Friday night, this really isn't precisely about escaping my job, so much as it is taking charge of my life. I could see scenarios where I could be happy where I am now. But I think it's going to be easier for me to make the life-changes I need to make if I'm not fighting 6 years of intertia. And I also think that this might be a good time to pick up some skills and credentials that will expand my career options further beyond the technology ghetto.

So, over the last month, I have applied to three graduate programs in Library & Information Science. (Link, link, and link.) I was looking at a dual program in Library/Archives and history at the two schools that offered it. I'm not sure if I really want to pursue that route, but the consensus was that it would be easier to drop a second program than to add one. But there were logistical problems associated with applying to the Maryland program. Because I already have a good track record in a Masters program, most schools do not require a GRE. But the Maryland history department does require it, and even if I had sat for the test immediately upon realizing this, my admissions portfolio would have been incomplete until at least a month after the deadline. So I decided not to apply for the dual program at Maryland. Simmons did not require the GRE, so I went ahead and applied for the dual program.

You may be wondering how I decided on these three schools. I was interested in programs with archival specializations, which narrowed the field somewhat. Simmons and Maryland both have very strong programs in this area. (Maryland is situated right next to the new National Archives in College Park, so it's a great location for that sort of thing.) Pitt has an archival option, and I also noticed that faculty are doing research on digital preservation, something else that I'm interested in. And then there's geography. Boston is ideal since I already have a lot of friends there. Maryland is also good, in that I grew up there and still have family and a few friends in the area. Pitt would be a bit of a leap, but it's still many hours closer to DC, NYC, Boston, and other Northeastern places I frequent.

I looked briefly at UCLA, partly because I think California would be an interesting change of scenery. But UC has an unbelievably strict "bilk the out-of-state students" policy that means you'll pay about $15,000 more per year if you're not from around those parts. To avoid this, you have to have lived in CA for at least a year -- and they'll check your drivers license, utility bills, ATM receipts, and possibly even major body cavities before they'll grant you in-state status. This all just seemed like a bit more hassle than I felt like dealing with, so I stuck mainly to eastern schools with less draconian out-of-state tuition policies.

I think the required forms, recommendations, transcripts, etc. have all been submitted, so it's just a waiting game at this point. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

I talked to my current and former bosses about the possibility that I might be outta here later this year, and they were both very supportive. The new boss also seems willing to rearrange my responsibilities to nudge them more toward what I'm interested in. (But as I mentioned above, this is about more than just not liking my job.) And he talked about other opportunities elsewhere in the corporation, possible consulting, etc. I'm keeping my options open on this, since as of yet I have no idea how I'm going to pay for a 1-2 year descent into academia. I've been careful to emphasize that no concrete decisions have been made as of yet.

In the meantime, I began a noncredit Spanish class at the Tennessee Foreign Language Institute. I initially signed up for the class geared toward total beginners, but I quickly realized that I had retained more than I thought from my two years of middle school Spanish and my frantic study sessions prior to last year's Mexico City trip. So I transferred into the next class up, which seems to be a better fit. In addition to the classes themselves, I've been watching Univision religiously, and have been working through a growing pile of flash cards. I'm making progress slowly, although it's going to be a long journey toward a fully functional Spanish vocabulary.

In other news, I'm heading to Florida for a few days in the middle of February to talk to a vendor and various other corporate flunkies about the possibility that an unofficial, unauthorized IT system we've helped develop may suddenly become very much official and authorized, and be rolled out to other branches of the company. And the day after I get back, I've been coerced at the last minute into teaching a class on "Digital Asset Management for Newspapers" at a conference in town. (If you have any ideas on what should be in such a class, I'd love to hear them -- it's not coming together very easily.)

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