Thursday, July 12, 2012

I Might As Well Just Tell You

Here's what happened: sometime in the somewhat recent past, Mrs. Zero and I somehow ended up with a kid. We named it Junior Zero, which was the obvious thing to do, and things have been going pretty well. He's healthy and super duper cute, and it's been a pretty amazing experience so far. The only real problem we've been having is that taking care of Junior sort of cuts into the time we would ordinarily spend doing other things, such as sleeping, keeping the house clean, staying in shape, reading philosophy papers, writing philosophy papers, keeping up with sports, keeping up with the news, keeping in touch with friends and acquaintances, reading books, reading blogs, approving blog comments, and writing blog posts. Among other things. So that's why I haven't been posting very much lately.

Things do tend to slow down around here in the summer, of course. Even under the best circumstances, there's just less Smokery stuff to write about in the summertime. And then lately whenever I sit down to write a post, I usually don't get very far before some other responsibility presents itself. Sometimes this takes the form of preventing Junior from getting killed or destroying something important, but often it just means spending time with him. (This post, for example, has taken me a week to write. (Also, I don't like to just sit down and quickly dash something off--whenever I do that, I end up saying something stupid.(Which is not to suggest that I successfully avoid saying stupid stuff the rest of the time.))) Maybe this is weird, but I've felt more like spending time with my kid than writing. And then, when I do sit down to write something, my actual philosophy projects have been getting most of my attention.

But I thought I should come out of the woods to let you know that I'm still here, and that the blog hasn't died, and let you know what's going on with me. I'm just a lot busier than I used to be, and I guess the reality is that I'm not going to be posting as regularly as I used to. I think I'll get better as things settle down and I get more accustomed to the new stuff I have to do now. And I expect that I'll post more as job-market season approaches, and as school starts in the fall. And I expect that, at least sometimes, I'll be interested in discussing how one goes about balancing attempts at career advancement with successfully keeping one's children alive.

One thing I can tell you right now is that being a father adds an entirely new dimension to the stress I feel about the job market. I'm worried about all the things I was worried about before, but now, in addition to the length and breadth they always had, the worries have a previously inconceivable depth. I feel like a Flatlander experiencing Spaceland for the first time. Man alive.

Anyways, sorry about the no new posts in a long time, and thanks for hanging with us even though there have been no new posts in a long time.

--Mr. Zero

65 comments:

Anonymous said...

Congratulations!

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr Zero, I can only tell you it gets better. Those first 3 years are hard for an academic. I was a grad student when I had my kid (who is now almost 10) and it was hard...I especially remember the time when my life was still a blur, about 3 weeks after the birth of the baby, when I got an urgent e-mail from a book editor about resubmitting my paper. I think there's a good reason why academics have fewer kids. It's surely one reason (though not the only one), we have only one kid.
Perhaps it's simply very hard to combine with the monkish lifestyle people still assume us to have. And by the time you get tenure, it's often to late unless you want to adopt or go through fertility treatment. For a nice piece on this (now a couple of years old) see http://crookedtimber.org/2009/02/03/should-we-hire-academics-who-are-parents/

Anonymous said...

Congratulations. As a job market father myself, I couldn't agree more with what you say at the end about the added depth. Or I'd say it makes it all more meaningful.

Anonymous said...

Congrats Mr. Zero! Here['s an anecdote. I have a friend who had a kid in grad school. After VPing for a while and failing to get the elusive TT at a research or SLAC and feeling the desire not only merely to keep baby alive, but to make sure baby is well fed and provided for and that savings begin to accumulate, he said fuck it and took a TT job at a community college in a part of the country he actually wanted to live in (of course even these are getting more difficult to come by). And you know what? He LOVES his life now. Keep your chin up and enjoy your fatherhood. I wish you and Mrs. and Little Zero all my best.

Anonymous said...

A discussion of what it is like to balance family with philosophy would be great. I think the experience is very different for those philosophers with kids with stay at home partners than those with partners who are active researchers of some sort, and this could also be discussed.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations. And thanks for taking the time to write this update. I look forward to whatever you have time to do, and I'm grateful for everything you've already done on this blog. Good luck with all the life stuff.

Anonymous said...

Good for you Mr./Mrs./Junior Zero!! No need to apologize for blog neglect when real life intrudes. Congratulations!!

Anonymous said...

Congrats!! I had a 3 month old on my second year on the job market. I discovered that I was on fire. I wanted a job, I went after it hard and I ended up with 3 TT offers. The key is to manage your time effectively. I wasted a lot of time in grad school I now realize. An hour alone to do my own work is a magical gift and I am damned sure going to make the most of it.

Anonymous said...

Second enthusiastic vote for Anon 3:00pm's suggestion. There are more of us young philosophers with kids than one might imagine from the "monkish" stereotype. The different dynamics of the experience (one vs. two full-time wage earners in the household, "planned" vs. "unplanned" kids, one vs. multiple kids, gender variations, single parent vs. partnered parents, etc.) would be worth careful philosophical discussion.

Anonymous said...

A kid! Woohoo! Congrats.

And of course, posts about balancing family and work will be very welcome.

Anonymous said...

Could we also discuss the possibility of having more guest bloggers, so that we don't have to wait six weeks between posts? BTW, having kids is no accomplishment. Raising them well is. Sometimes raising your kids well requires making sacrifices, such as handing a blog over to bloggers who have more time to manage it or leaving academia for a better career. Don't take this the wrong way, Mr. Zero. I enjoy your blog and respect your family planning choices. The blog is just poorly managed.

CTS said...

@9:47:

I suppose you could find another blog to frequent.

Anonymous said...

Well put, 9:47.

I second the vote for JustinfromCanada as someone new to keep things going, though BunnyHugger could also be good.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, 9:47, for providing much needed perspective and focusing on what's important. In all the excitement and changes to his life, it's simply appalling he hasn't properly managed his blog.

The subtle suggestion that he might also want to leave academia was a nice touch.

Stay classy.

Neil said...

9.47 is right. We have an unconditional moral and legal right that you out aside your child rearing and blog; failing that, you have an obligation to enlist help. We're paying your 6 figure blogging salary, after all.

Anonymous said...

Uh... the point is, folks, that the blog is going/has gone off a cliff. And someone, be it Zero or someone else, should stop it, because we like the blog.

Why is that so hard to understand? Why take it as an either/or thing (either you wish Zero well with Junior and want to let the blog keep going to hell, or you wish the blog would come back from the brink and want Zero and child to go to hell)?

What idiots. Get some perspective. The mere fact that someone has a legitimate need to spend time with family in no way justifies the stance that nobody should be brought in to do the job that that someone is now not doing.

Sheesh.

Anonymous said...

I vote for J. W. Showalter.

Anonymous said...

justinfromcanada already has a blog: http://episyllogism.wordpress.com/author/justinfromcanada/

Still, this blog needs more writers to revive it.

Devoting your attention to your kid instead of your blog = praiseworthy.

Neglecting to serve the readership of a blog _while refusing to take enough responsibility to recognize that it's time for others to take over, just as you once did_ = being a dick.

There's no moral dilemma here, and no reason why Zero can't have it both ways. Just pass on the torch. It's time.

Anonymous said...

This is really funny.

Zero keeps a blog. Some people really enjoy following it. t's helpful and entertaining. And somewhere along the way, some of its readers decided that Zero is now obligated to keep his readers informed and entertained regularly.

I like the use of words like "neglecting" and "responsibility."

I look forward to the ensuing chorus of entitled brats whining about how a free service they in no way support has taken a month off. Over the summer. Because the author dared have a life outside of his profession and the internet.

Anonymous said...

Exactly, get some perspective. Yeah, yeah, kid, fatherhood, blah blah blah...

BLOG. Laptop Potatoes Need Entertainment. NOW.

Mr. Zero said...

Of course we think about the possibility of inviting new bloggers to the Smoker. We have done it, in fact. But the way we look at it is, you invite someone to contribute because there's a clear reason for inviting that particular person. That doesn't happen very often, though, in part because almost everyone who comments here posts anonymously and in part because it doesn't happen very often, anyways.

I realize that this blog is important to people. It's important to me, too. That's why I've been here for so long. But when you call me names, it doesn't make me want to go out of my way to make you happy, anon 12:14.

Anonymous said...

Congrat! I hope your kid will never choose to become a professional philosopher. Go something like this: "You are going to be a non-philosopher. Yes, you are. You ARE!”

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero apparently doesn't have either the time or the inclination to write the blog I would most like to read. Therefore, I demand that he find someone who will.

Anonymous said...

3:32, exactly -- I'm pleased to see you have perspective. How dickish not to anticipate our needs fully.

Xenophon said...

Hey, congratulations, man. That's great.

Anonymous said...

To all you motherf--ers complaining about mr zero's "failing" in his blog "responsibilities" I ask: what's stopping you from starting a blog yourself that picks up where he left off?

Mr. Zero said...

To the dipshit who has left several comments requesting that I solicit CVs from people with prior blog-management experience, post them on the blog, and then have an election for new blog manager, I didn't post your comments because they are retarded. If you can't understand why that's a stupid idea, there's no point in discussing it with you.

CTS said...

UNREAL. I assumed when I left my short snark yesterday that all the other replies would note the absurdity of (a) treating this or any blog as your private property and (b) insulting the person who runs the blog for not caring for your property as you wish. And, yet, there appear at least 2 officious idiots repeating the whiny nonsense.

P.S. Congrats to Mr and Mrs Zero. Eventually they do sleep through the night.

Justinfromcanada said...

CTS, the argument is that the blog is, in a sense, collective property.

I'd like to repeat yet again my offer to start up and host a blog to serve the purposes originally served by the Smoker. You haven't seen my previous offers because Zero is censoring them.

Mr. Zero said...

Hi Justin From Canada,

I approved your most recent comment because it contains a number of serious confusions—it's really astonishing—that, when they are cleared up, will allow us all to move on. I hope. You write:

the argument is that the blog is, in a sense, collective property.

No, it's not. It is a blog. Like all blogs, it is the property of the people who contribute to it. It's not the Tennessee Valley Authority; it's not Yosemite National Park; it's a blog that addresses concerns of up-and-coming professional philosophers. We're trying to be helpful, sure, and some of our contributors used to write for another blog that we're all nostalgic about. But the idea that any of this means that we're publicly owned is, like, not accurate.

I'd like to repeat yet again my offer to start up and host a blog...

The idea that you need my assent or permission to start up a blog is beyond ludicrous.

...to serve the purposes originally served by the Smoker.

As is the suggestion that the Smoker no longer serves its purpose. What I said was, I have a new responsibility that is very important to me and that I have reorganized my life around: ensuring that my child has a good father. I said, this will leave me less time to post here than I used to. I said, some of the posts from here on out will address balancing my roles as father and professional philosopher. I said, it's summer and I took some time away from the blog and spent it with Junior and the Missus, but it's slow around here during the summer anyway, and I'm not gone. I just have other stuff to worry about now.

You reacted by throwing a hissy fit—a tantrum consisting of a remarkably persistent series of ridiculously stupid comments—as though I have killed the blog forever, will never post again, and will never allow anyone else to ever post again, either. As though I owe it to you to find for you the person who will write the posts that will make you happy. No, no, no, no. Get a hold of yourself, for crying out loud.

You haven't seen my previous offers because Zero is censoring them.

It's true that I didn't publish a number of comments you left, because they were absurd and made no sense. The bottom line is, if the blog you want to see doesn't exist, then you can start it yourself. You shouldn't ask someone else to solicit CVs and hold an election to find the blogger you're looking for, and you shouldn't expect to be taken seriously or even acknowledged if you do make a request like that. But if you want to do the work of starting a blog and building an audience, you don't need my say-so and I won't stand in your way. Best of luck.

The end. Please feel free to post whatever else you might have to say about this on your new blog.

Geoff said...

Zero-

Congrats on having a child! though they can bring added worries about job security, they can also (as you likely know) provide much needed perspective.

Thank you for all you have done on this blog in the past and will continue to do in the future.

your reply to Justin from Canada is spot on.

Ignore the self-serving whiners.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero,

Just to confirm: are you now taking the view that you are a sufficient arbiter of good sense that we should trust your judgment on a number of posts you now admit to have withheld from us, your readers?

You're that good, and that objective when it comes to an issue in which you have a direct interest?

Wow.

Anonymous said...

This whole thing is 'beyond ludicrous'.

How are any of us to know where the other blog will be? This is the forum we all rely on for that information. I hope Zero will tell us where it is if/when someone starts it. Zero? What say you?

Anonymous said...

"Just to confirm: are you now taking the view that you are a sufficient arbiter of good sense that we should trust your judgment on a number of posts you now admit to have withheld from us, your readers?

You're that good, and that objective when it comes to an issue in which you have a direct interest?

Wow"

Oh my god, what makes people think this blog belongs to us? If Mr. Zero decided to prevent every single post that cast him in negative light, it would still be his decision to make. It's not like there was a blog in the wilderness and we happened upon it, and Mr. Zero said "I'll moderate it for us all. Will you trust me to do that?" It's his blog. He calls the shots. I can't believe people think that we have acquired some rights as a result of enjoying the blog in the past.

Anonymous said...

Yes, 12:10, Zero does have the legal right to block any posts he wishes from appearing on the blog. I don't think that's in dispute.

What's in dispute in many of our minds right now is how we should regard this blog, and whether to look toward starting a new one. And in assessing that, it's relevant to have some grip on what's going on. Personally, I come here in large part to see discussions of things. I go on the assumption that I am seeing, in their true proportions, the views of all the readers who choose to contribute, and also their accompanying arguments.

Now, if it were to turn out (as it's beginning to seem) that the moderator of this and other discussions takes it upon himself to deem certain views and arguments to be too unsophisticated for the rest of us to even see what they are, it becomes less clear to me that visiting here is a worthwhile activity. I have met few philosophers if any, of any stature, who did not at some point dismiss as 'too ludicrous for words' arguments that I and others thought were plausible. I trust I'm not alone in this.

So, does Zero have the right to engage in the sort of censorship he admits to? Sure. Is it good that he do so, and should we applaud him in so doing? Probably not.

Mr. Zero said...

Hi anon 11:52,

No, I'm saying that bloggers, as a general rule, have the authority to moderate the comments left on their blogs. That's how comment threads work. And since the only one of the four contributors to the Philosophy Smoker who is willing to read and approve our comments, I have some leeway as to where I will allow the discussion on this blog to go. I got this leeway when we, the contributors, had a discussion in which we all decided what our comment policy would be, and then we all decided that the authority to enforce this policy would be delegated to me. I am under no obligation to publish any old ridiculous thing that any lunatic with too much time on his hands and no perspective on what's important in life chooses to write in this little box.

I mean, really. What information of any degree of quality do you imagine that I withheld? A guy who contributes to a philosophy blog says, "hey, my wife had a baby! I'm a father!" and then this guy thinks that the proper response is to 1. call me names; 2. assume that I have stopped making meaningful contributions to the blog; 3. demand that I take the time to somehow engineer an election in order to find a replacement blogger who will make contributions that he finds more acceptable.

And here's the thing: I posted several comments like that. I didn't post them all, of course, but why would I want to do that? Because one or two of the comments—the ones that responded to my announcement of the birth of my first child by insulting me, then demanding that I turn in the keys to the blog I write for, and then demanding that I hold an election to find a successor—might have been really sensible and well-thought-out?

No. None of those comments were worthwhile, though that didn't keep me from posting several of them. What's sad about this thread is that it has been driven into the ditch, not that I didn't allow all the bile and stupid to get through.

CTS said...

@12:10:

Well said. And those who want to start their own blog - or find one in the wilderness - should do so. I'm sure Mr. Z will be happy to provide a link when, if ever, that new blog is created.

And, 12:45: Zero has always moderated and always been open about it. If you do not like this, then your new blog can be unmoderated - it's certainly less work to run one that way.

Anonymous said...

Zero, you need a dashing but troubled gazillionaire to *make you* blog.

CTS said...

P.S.

Further thoughts on blog moderation:

1) A number of blogs no longer accept comments at all because no one wanted to deal with the moderating and the threads were just full of drivel and junk.

2) Sometimes, out there in the mean-old blogosphere, individuals on group blogs ban pests and trolls; certainly, no one seems to feel they must suffer insults posted by visitors to their blog.

Anonymous said...

I propose that we start a new blog (collective property of job market candidates the world over, not the private property of Mr. Zero), allow JustinfromCanada to moderate it, ask that he post at least once a week and be more permissive in publishing comments that are drivel (objectively-speaking of course), and call the new forum "Smoke Philosophy and More! a blog in which job market issues are politely discussed (and sometimes complained about)" (since they are more permissive in Canada about what you can smoke and I always thought "bitched about" was thoroughly sexist language). All we ask of Mr. Zero is that he post the URL for the new blog, so that readers be allowed to choose which they would rather frequent (or perhaps they would even like to frequent both).

Anonymous said...

I for one am actually glad I didn't have to read the stupid comments that were censored by Mr. Z. If they had made it on here, I probably would have read them. And if I had read them, I wouldn't be able to get that part of my life back.

Mr. Zero said...

How are any of us to know where the other blog will be? This is the forum we all rely on for that information. I hope Zero will tell us where it is if/when someone starts it. Zero? What say you?

Sure. If Justin From Canada starts a blog, I'll let people know how to find it.

Anonymous said...

Wait, is he Justin, from Canada, or has he just arrived from Canada?

And 2:15, who is "we"? I'm not going to do it. If I start a blog and somebody or other who is either in or recently arrived from Canada writes it, I don't see how I can whine about how it's being managed all wrong.

CTS said...

@2:20:

Yes, there's that.

Anonymous said...

@12:45 "I go on the assumption that I am seeing, in their true proportions, the views of all the readers who choose to contribute"

If you make that assumption about any forum that accepts comments from unregistered users, and you put any degree of confidence in it, you are being naive. That goes double if they accept comments from anonymous users

Anonymous said...

Hey Mr. Zero. Congrats on the offspring.

I really appreciate the job you do on this blog. While I too was sad to see that posts weren't coming as frequently as they used to, whatever minimal annoyance I felt was mitigated when I learned that you *have a new baby*. I am really appalled by those whose reaction to that news was name calling and complaining. Those people suck as people.

I do, however, have some advice: when you block comments, don't tell us. Don't acknowledge it at all. Just move on. Whenever there's any suggestion -- usually by you -- that you've blocked a comment or some such, the discussion turns to your moderating. Some people have a problem with the way you moderate. They're jerks. Don't give them anything to go on by mentioning that you blocked a comment. Just block the crap and move on.

In general, I have no interest in discussions that devolve into back and forths about how the blog should be run, mostly because I don't sympathise at all with people that complain about how it is run. If I were you -- not just for your readers' sake, but also for you own -- I would just block all that crap.

Now enjoy your baby!!

Anonymous said...

Leiter's blog has never been an open forum for discussion, and neither has the Smoker. The prophilosophy blog, though, does allow comments on all posts and does not moderate them.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero,

My first comment on any philosophy blog, ever (though I read several and am a philosophy PhD student). First, congratulations on the birth of your child. Second, I've always thought your blog to be tremendously informative (both through the main posts, and comments), and thus very important for us grads soon to be on the market. Please keep up the good work--when you have time, of course (any remotely rational reader should understand the shift in priorities that presumably accompanies the birth of one's child).

I've noticed that in the past you have occasionally started threads based on the recommendations/requests of readers: frankly, I'm wondering what all the fuss is about from JustinfromCanada (sp?) and his cohort since, presumably, this is not something that need change now that your priorities have understandably shifted. If the readership lights upon a more-or-less well-defined theme for a desired discussion thread, why not send along an "open thread" request to Mr. Zero? What's the problem?

readingandphilosophy said...

Congratulations are in order!

Anonymous said...

No person who truly loves philosophy would ever have a child.

Anonymous said...

No person who truly loves philosophy would ever run a blog, let alone one where people can post anonymously. Nor would any such person ever read a blog of that nature.

Anyway, congratulations Mr. Zero, and thanks for all the good work you've done here over the years, including not letting the discussion derail completely.

CTS said...

Good to see that more of the grown-ups have shown up.

My spouse and I are still laughing over the idea that serious philosophers should not have children.

Anonymous said...

In my considered opinion non-serious philosophers should have the most children!

Anonymous said...

I think it is gravely immoral to become a philosopher.

CTS said...

@8:46: Well, that's a different matter: how many vs. none at all. Unsure as to my level of seriousness, I settled for 2 (couldn't figure out the .5 part).

@9:01: Agreed. I embrace my immorality.

zombie said...

Not to horn in on Mr Zero's apology and all, but I have a new edition to my family as well, and have been blog-slackerly this summer.

But parenthood, though time-consuming, adds some much-needed perspective to philosophizing. And bloggerizing.

CTS said...

LAST coment on this silliness (promise).

To the idiot who claimed that having a child is not an accomplishment, I have these responses:

1) I'm guessing you have not been through even a 'good' 10 month (that's right: 10 months) pregnancy

2) I'm quite certain you have never given birth.

3) I am triply certain that you have never been through either a difficult pregnancy or a difficult birth.

CTS said...

@4:09:

I don't think of Mr. Z's OP as an apology. I think that mostly very young and clueless males (not accusing you) see it that way.

From my perspective, it was an explanation: I cannot do as much of X as I have done in the past because I have other responsibilities.

I notice that no one is insulting the other PS bloggers who have been largely absent for quite a while.

CTS said...

YAY, Zombie! Sex, length, weight, etc?

Some [many] years ago I pointed out to some philo pals that only a person who could never become pregnant could be a Cartesian.

zombie said...

True, it's not really an apology. And need not be.

I, for one, have been extremely impressed by Mr Zero's ongoing dedication to this blog and his productivity after the birth of Zero Jr.

Anonymous said...

Congrats to both Zero and Zombie!

I too would love to see a thread on balancing philosophizing and family, but I am happy to wait patiently for things to settle for our busy smokers.

Also, I'm wondering if anyone else would be interested in a thread on the timing of having a family in the midst of a philosophy career. I've heard from many that the only reasonable time for female philosophers to have children is during grad school or after tenure. Is it really death to one's career to have a child after grad school, but before tenure? I can imagine the difficulty of doing so, but would think that it would be highly dependent upon one's personal circumstances.

Anonymous said...

A response to 4:07 on the general question of when to start a family:

My spouse and I did when we were both on the tenure track, with enough published and under review to feel fairly confident that tenure was likely. That cuts a few years off the "grad school or tenured" model you mentioned. We both found that there was a relative "lull" after the manias of grad school, the job market, and the early t-track push to develop the portfolio of work that would form the basis of the tenure case. By year three on the t-track, that portfolio was partly published and partly under review.

We had a kid in year four and another in what would have been year six but became year five because the first kid gave us a do-over on year four. We also took a kid-two-driven do-over on year five, even though we probably didn't need to. So the tenure track became eight years, with the second half mainly devoted to placing the portfolio developed in the first half.

As everyone knows, placing pieces of a project -- responding to R&Rs, rewriting from scratch when it becomes clear that an argument doesn't work, etc. -- is just as hard as developing the original ideas. So there was lots of hard work to be done in 20-minute work sessions while the baby napped. (I developed an analogue of carpal tunnel syndrome in my left ankle from rocking the cradle to keep the kid sleeping while I typed.) But, as others have noted, becoming a parent helps provide a focus and grounding that makes you much more efficient in your work. I think I got more work done in early parenthood than I had before despite having much much less time to do it. But it would have been especially difficult to develop completely new ideas in those briefer work-sessions, with so many more demands on my attention.

I think my spouse would make a similar report. In any case, we did both -- one male, one female -- recently get tenure with toddlers in tow.

Of course, it's useless advice to those who haven't yet landed a t-track job. But those starting on the tenure-track may find that they need not put off family till after they're tenured.

bobh said...

Congratulations! I have 3, and i really enjoy it. I was definitely all-in emotionally; i wanted the kids, and spent time with them, and i easily let go of the other things in my life, because this was a goal of mine. So, i have passion for parenting. As a professor, you're able to sniff out those with passion for the subject, and those equivocating, lost souls who are wandering around the topics, believing if some authority rewards them with an 'A', then they've accomplished something. Then, you have your students who just immerse themselves in it joyfully. Parenting is the same. It's a tough thing to fake, because it is all consuming.
I wish you loads of luck, Mr. Zero is a lucky guy to have such a wonderful father.

Anonymous said...

4:07 here, Thank you for the response 1:52 and thanks to Zero for the new thread!

Anonymous said...

Just looking over some of the comments about the status of the blog. Have some of you considered the possibility that the reason you are unemployed is because you're a complete tool bag asshole and this comes across to potential colleagues in your applications and interviews?