Saltmine U


Randall, you hit it out of the park with today's xkcd. I cannot stop giggling.

Today's comic sums up the last ten years of my life.

I wish more people knew how much agony, arguing, and heated debate goes into designing a university's website, especially at a large state-run institution. It gives 'design by committee' a new meaning, as no one on this earth does committees better than academia. Public relations wants to turn it into an alumni magazine; admissions wants it to be a recruitment tool; staff want to know how to find HR paperwork; students want class and housing information, and visitors just want to know where to park. It's got to be everything to everyone, intuitive to use, and bulletproof. It must also be accessible to every browser and platform known, but still look good, and somewhat uniform in appearance across departments and divisions. We fight battles to the death over taxonomy, hierarchy, and user interface issues.

I'm proud to say we have all of these available at Saltmine U; six of them are available directly from the home page, and the other two are a level down. (Having a university that spans an area larger than some cities means that there's no one single campus address. We have our own zip code, for crying out loud, so you have to look at the campus map or directory to find the address you want.)


Speaking of Saltmine U, I have to say that this last academic year has been rough. Which is perhaps one of the great understatements I've ever made. 2009-10 shall henceforth be known as The Year I Busted Ass To Keep My Job.

From July 2009 until now, my primary focus has been almost solely on justifying my existence and proving I'm still useful. It's meant that I do little else besides go to work, bring work home in the evenings, work on my days off, and work on most weekends. Not much art. Not much writing. Not much else. My typical weekdays have looked like this:

  • 4-4:30 a.m. - work out / panic that I've overslept and skip working out
  • 4:30-5 - get ready for work / even greater panic because I've really overslept
  • 5-6 - commute to work / drive in if I've overslept
  • 6-8 - sort myself out, drink coffee, read and answer email, deal with any overnight crises
  • 8-12 - meetings
  • 12-1 - lunch
  • 1-3:45 - design / more meetings
  • 3:45-6 - commute home
  • 6-10 - dinner with friends or family / cook dinner / work / collapse / work out if I missed it earlier
  • 10-12 - wind down for the evening

Yes, that's four hours of sleep a night, roughly. On the days I'm not in the office, I've spent at least an hour, on average taking care of work. Maybe more like two hours. Then run around doing errands, visiting friends who say they never see me. Or trying to work up the energy to create something for myself. Stress relief is now a necessity, not an optional way to spend my time. It's not been exactly the most fun year ever.

Don't misunderstand me: I'm happy that I'm still here at Saltmine U (the last few weeks' deadlines aside). I'm doing good work, and I've been reassured about my position being stable. That's a huge relief. I've won a couple of internal awards, for the fifth year running. I'm relatively safe, as jobs go. Soon, my salary will be restored to its pre-furlough state. Budget willing, I might eventually get my long-overdue cost-of-living increases which I haven't seen in three years. No idea when exactly that might be, though.

As you might imagine, I'll be very happy once the pressure eases up, and I can once again work on things I find fulfilling on a personal level. Like those 'art' and 'writing' things I hear so much about. Until then, back to the saltmine…







Saltmine U