In which I am dialed back

2973026I am trying– I have said this to a number of people in the Real World, but I don’t think I’ve made it clear here– to maintain a very healthy sense of what Is and Is Not My Problem in this job.  I have absolutely no doubt that I will frequently be doing things at work that are, officially at least, outside my purview.  Hell, I already am.  I did twelve of them today.  But there’s shit that’s not my problem and then there’s Shit That’s Not My Problem, if you know what I mean, and while every previous teaching job I’ve ever had has been positively riddled with capital-letter Not My Problem stuff, I am bound and determined that I’m not letting it happen here.  I need to keep reminding myself that I’m coming back to education because the last time I had a job in a school it led to ambulances taking me from the building twice and I had to go on fucking medical leave and then resign.  I am not letting that shit happen again, and one of the ways I’m doing it is by very strictly monitoring my boundaries.

Not that anything in particular happened today that’s making me bring that up.  Not really, at least; I walked away from a couple of student conferences that I might have sat in on and participated in in the past, and I got an email during dinner just now that I’m not taking time away from my evening to respond to, because here’s another rule: when I walk out of that building at the end of my day, I’m done, and barring special circumstances of some sort or another I’m not gonna be doing Work Shit once I get home.  I kind of wish I could figure out a way to tell my work email to stop pinging the server for new messages after 4:30 every day.

Hell, there’s probably a way to *do* that, come to think of it.  But seriously: I was talking about getting too much email the other day?  I got two work emails at 10:30 last night as I was going to bed, and I damn near replied to them and told the people who had sent them to put their phones down and go to sleep.  At which point I decided not to bother and, instead, took my own advice, put my phone down, and … well, okay, I read for another hour– Mira Grant’s Into the Drowning Deep is starting off well— but I did it in bed and without anything electronic staring at me.

I didn’t mention this yesterday, because I hadn’t pieced it together until today, but along with talking to Auntie No-Pants’ niece I had a bizarre moment at the end of the day where I heard someone shout “Bye, Mr. (my real name)!  I liked your book!” as he– it was definitely a boy– was leaving the building.

This was a problem in a couple of ways, prime among which was the fact that I was pretty sure there weren’t more than one or two kids in the building who knew my name in the first place, and none of those knew me well enough to yell goodbye at me on the way out the door– today was the fifth day of school, after all– and there damn sure shouldn’t be anyone who knows who the hell Luther Siler is.  The fact that the kid yelled goodbye at me as I was facing a different direction and he was headed out the door and I wasn’t able to get a good look at him beyond “one of the boys in the midst of this large group of students” wasn’t helping.  I couldn’t have picked this kid out of a lineup if my life had depended on it.

It had me a bit concerned, if I’m being honest.  I’ve never been anything other than clear-eyed about my own anonymity here; I’ve left enough clues lying around over the hundreds of thousands (millions?) of words I’ve written here in the past several years that a dedicated interloper could probably figure out where I work and even where I live within a few miles’ radius given a day or two of reading, at most.  I’m not anonymous to keep people from figuring out who Luther Siler really is.  I’m anonymous to keep kids from Googling my real name and finding their way here.

Oh God, now I want a word count for the blog no goddammit I’m not doing that.

Anyway, this story has a happy ending, of sorts: I managed to completely randomly discover that a certain 8th grade student has a rather distinctive last name that matches the last name of a couple of kids I had in my very first group of Indiana 6th graders, kids who I just happen to still be in fairly regular touch with, and I dropped one of them a quick text message and discovered that yes her little brother does go to my school, and then a moment after that I realized that I’d actually had a conversation with his mom at Open House and had somehow not connected that conversation with the fact that since she was at the school she probably had a kid there somewhere.

How her son’s existence didn’t come up while we were talking, I have no idea.  In my defense, it had been an incredibly long day and I was both 1) really tired and 2) trying to get out of the building so that I could get to my kid’s Open House, which was the same night.

So yeah.  I don’t have to shut the blog down or anything.

On doxing myself

job-huntThe two-year anniversary of my formal resignation from teaching passed without comment a couple of weeks ago.  It took six months of looking before I found the job I have now, and I basically have not stopped looking for work since then, as I’ve never really felt like furniture sales are a viable long-term career for me.  The hours are killing me, in particular; I can count the number of weekends I’ve had with my family in the last two years on one hand, and there are still multiple days a week where I don’t see my son at all in between dropping him off at school in the morning and putting him to bed immediately when I get home at night.  Plus, while I am actually pretty good at my job– I was #61 in the company in overall sales for the year, and this is a company with over 250 stores– the economy is slowly starting to collapse and I really don’t like working for commission.  We get paid on delivery, not on initial sale, and right now a huge percentage of the stuff I’ve sold in the last few months is still backordered to March.

To wit: I made less than minimum wage this week.  I have two Master’s degrees, and I made less than minimum wage for the 42 hours that I was at work this week.  My boss is barely 30 and my two assistant managers are both in their mid-twenties.  I have already been offered chances to move up to management but the simple fact is I honestly don’t want it, because every time I wargame it out it becomes clear that it would actually lead to less money for more hours and more responsibility, and … nah.  I can keep calling the kid who is young enough to be my son “boss” instead.  It’s just not that big of a deal.

I’ve applied for several dozen different jobs in the 19 months or so since I started at my current job.  I’ve had, I think, two interviews.  I did not have a second interview for either position and heard through the grapevine that one of the jobs ended up going to a relative of one of the people who interviewed me, which was fun.  I’m at the point where I’m so deadly tired of writing cover letters that I’m having to scan them carefully for sarcasm before sending them out, and I was so annoyed by a rejection later that I got today that said they’d “evaluated my skills” that I was halfway through a go fuck yourself, you assholes sort of response before I got control of myself.

You didn’t “evaluate my skills,” you fucks.  You glanced at a cover letter and a resume and didn’t immediately see the boxes you wanted checked so you moved on.  If your letter had said that, I wouldn’t be pissed off.  But I wouldn’t have applied for your job if I didn’t have the skills to do it.  I assure you that my skills are fine.

Most of y’all know that “Luther Siler” is a pen name.  I had perfectly good reasons to take some steps to conceal my identity when I started the blog, but while I’m not considering abandoning the name (I’ve written six books as this dude, and have an actual network of real people who only know me by that name) it’s occurred to me that if I really want a different job, this blog and my Twitter following probably legitimately do represent my best networking opportunity for finding one, and I haven’t used it at all because I’ve always wanted to keep Luther’s and “my” lives separate.  I may need to reevaluate this conceit, is what I’m saying here.  Because this furniture selling thing is really getting old, and I don’t seem to be having any luck finding any alternate work as me.

Somewhat related anecdote: we have a Saturday morning meeting every week as a staff, since everyone works on Saturdays, and this week we did this little team building exercise involving our goals and fears.  One of my co-workers noticed that I more or less dropped out of the exercise entirely when the “write about your fears” bit came up, and asked me about it later in the day.

I told him the truth: that damn near all of my legitimate fears right now involve being stuck selling furniture forever, and that I hadn’t really thought that sharing that little detail with the rest of my co-workers was the smartest way to start my day.

PPP&P: In which I accomplish something, sorta


It’s surprisingly simple to set up a new digital identity.  I created a dude today; he has a unique name (if you Google him, everything you get is links to people who have been dead for decades) and now he has an email address, a Facebook, a Google+ account, a Twitter, and two different domain names, both of which (plus, which I also registered today) redirect here.

I even spent a few minutes cracking myself up by trying to get a half-decent selfie.  I was unable to take one that wasn’t embarrassing or ridiculous in some way, so so far I don’t have a picture of new me.

Awesomely, he is also the only possessor of his name on Facebook.  And it’s a name that is alphabetically close to four different other prominent sci-fi and fantasy authors I’m fond of, which means that if I get to the point where books with my new pen name are appearing on bookshelves, they’ll be placed in spots where people are already looking and thus hopefully will get more eyeballs than otherwise.

So, what’s the name?

I ain’t sayin’.  I’ll tell you once the ebook is available.  Yes, I know I’m being a dick.  It’s fun sometimes.  Sue me.  Just spell my name right when you do.  🙂

On prose and privacy and paranoia and pens

UnknownI’m going to spend the day choosing my new name.  I’ve never written that sentence before.  Feel free to make suggestions in comments.

I take moderate steps to conceal my identity around here.  I’ve never named my school, I don’t ever use my real name, and I’ve occasionally altered comments from people who know me so that they don’t use my name.  I name my specific town and district occasionally but not often.  I am under no illusions that someone determined could wade through my posts, collect clues, and pin me down to one or two buildings– and through that, very likely uncover my actual identity– but I’ve made it so that you will have to work for it.  And that’s a sufficient level of anonymity for me.  My main thing is not to make sure that you don’t know me, it’s to make sure that my students never do a Google search on my name (they do that) and find my blog.  Note that I have another blog, registered under my actual name, called “Stop searching for your teachers, you creep.”  If you go to my real name and throw a .com at the end, that’s where you’ll land.  Yes, they do that too.

All of this presents somewhat of a problem if I want to start using my blog to sell my writing.  I would be an idiot to not use this space to market my writing– I have close to 1500 followers and traffic is continuing to increase at an impressive pace– I got nearly twice as much traffic in January as I did in December and I’m averaging around 425 page views a day right now.  That’s not much compared to lots and lots of places, but it’s a hell of a lot more than I’d have if I tried to create another real-name “author” blog and had to start over.

Which means a pen name.  Once I have something up and available for purchase somewhere I’ll put up some contact information here and start using an actual name that people can call me.  It won’t be my real name, but it’ll let me put a face on the site and make a start at an actual public presence for whoever “writer me” turns out to be.

I’m trying to come up with some guidelines for my new name.

  • Relatively unique.  There turns out to be a country musician with the exact same name as my first choice, and “formalizing” the first name makes it sound a lot like a well-known actor.  I need to not get any obvious Google results when I search for it.
  • Available domain name, which I’ll point at this site.  I suspect anything that fulfills goal #1 will also fulfill goal #2.
  • Easily spelled, pronounced, and remembered.  This goal works slightly counter to #1.
  • It should sound like a human name; I just spent three seconds considering making my new last name “Bumplehammer,” which means that perhaps I should not be trusted with this decision.
  • Shouldn’t sound porny, or like a venereal disease, or a combination of the two, which “Bumplehammer” certainly does.

Fuck it, it’s Bumplehammer.  Marvin Q. Bumplehammer.  Wait, new rule:

  • Also nothing that sounds like Dr. Seuss.

I’ll let you know when I come up with something.  It’s snowing like hell so once I get through with school stuff I’ll have hours to worry about this at OtherJob today.