I had a job interview today (for this job). It went okay, but I doubt I’ll get the job. I probably wouldn’t have been the best fit for the job anyway. I mostly just applied for it because I was so desperate for a job, and it’s not particularly closely related to my background or interests. It also seems like the project is not yet clearly defined, so it’s not quite clear what sort of skills are going to be most important for the position. Probably not my skills, though.
It’s kind of frustrating the way these jobs all seem to expect substantial relevant background and skills. That’s the kind of stuff I came to grad school to learn. It really puts people like me at a disadvantage relative to people who come in with a lot of related experience. Which makes sense from the perspective of the people doing the hiring, of course, but it’s still frustrating.
I did see another position advertised right after I got out of the interview. It looks a lot more like the kind of thing I’m interested in, so I applied for it. No idea how likely it is that I’ll get it, but here’s hoping.
So, remember how I was running out of money and desperately looking for a job? Well, it turned out my financial aid exceeded my tuition and fees this semester, so I had a big refund check waiting for me at the student accounting office. There was some mix-up with the paperwork, so I didn’t get it at the beginning of the semester like most people did, but I picked it up today and used it to open an account at the bank around the corner. I’m still looking for a job, but this is plenty of money to live on while I do that, so it really takes the pressure off. It’s all from my loans, of course, so it’s not exactly like I’ve earned any of this money, but I’m very willing at this point to kick that can a little further down the road.
Like any self-respecting planning student, I am generally in favor of dense, walkable development, and I’m quite happy to be living in a town where I can easily walk to pretty much anything I need. There definitely are disadvantages to this level of density, though, including a certain lack of privacy and an occasional feeling of being surrounded by people. The latter may not be an issue for most people, but it gets to me from time to time.
Lately I’ve been dealing with a situation (hopefully now resolved) that really brings this home. It seems that my downstairs neighbor, who has to get up early to go to work, can hear my rolling chair through her ceiling and it’s been keeping her up so late that she’s gotten way too little sleep in the month or so since she moved in. I stay up really late, and I had no idea this was bothering her, so I’ve inadvertently been causing her problems for weeks now. She finally told us about this a few days ago, and today we worked out what was causing the noise (my desk chair) and figured out a solution (I’ll switch to a different, non-rolling chair at night).
I think we’ve got the whole thing settled, but it’s a reminder that there are real costs to density and reasons that a lot of people like auto-oriented suburbs. I still prefer the density, of course, but it’s a welcome reminder that urbanist evangelism needs to take these things into account.
Matthew Yglesias has two good posts on Armistice Day and its problematic transformation into Veterans’ Day. I think another way to look at the point he makes in the first post is that unlike many other countries, the US has never experienced a war that ended in a Pyrrhic victory. This contributes to the extraordinarily simplistic way war and the military tend to be viewed in American public discourse. The way a day commemorating the horrors of pointless war became a day honoring the military is a case in point.
For some reason registration for next semester began at 10:00 pm tonight. The system was a little slow, presumably because of overcrowding by people anxious to get into their preferred classes before they filled up, but I got into mine with no trouble. So that was nice.
I don’t know what it is exactly that has caused such a change in my mood, but I’m feeling a lot better than I did just a week ago. I’m really busy with school, which I guess takes my mind off of other things a bit, and while I don’t know if I’ll get that job I applied for, just having gotten an interview is a big step up from where I was before. I also stopped drinking after my license expired; I don’t expect this to be a permanent thing, but it’s certainly enhanced my productivity a lot. I wasn’t drinking all that much, but it was enough to keep me from getting as much work done as I need to right now, and it was probably having some effects on my mood as well. Anyway, I’m feeling good now, which is nice.
I went to two panels at the conference today. The first was on career advice for young planners. Not a lot of good news, but it was interesting to hear a variety of perspectives. I’m still not really sure if I want to go into public-sector or private-sector planning. Most jobs are in the public sector, primarily with local governments but also at the state and federal level and with various regional-level organizations. Those jobs tend to be pretty stable and have good benefits, which is certainly something that appeals to me. I think in some ways I’m a born bureaucrat. Private sector planning, on the other hand, is mainly consulting, and it pays better than government work but also involves a lot more risk and longer hours. The flexibility of that sounds kind of nice, but I’m pretty risk averse. So I don’t know. Luckily I’ve got plenty of time to find out, and if the economy doesn’t improve much by the time I get out of school I’m not likely to have much choice in the matter of where I work or what I do.
The second panel was on railroad right-of-ways and the importance of keeping them preserved now that rail is becoming more popular for both passenger and freight transportation. New Jersey is full of these inactive right-of-ways, and they’ve begun to be encroached on by development or even converted to other uses, which in a state this dense will make it virtually impossible to add additional rail capacity in some areas. The presenters had some interesting things to say about the very successful light rail line in Hudson County and the importance of freight rail access to industrial development, and they made a good case for why preserving the right-of-ways is crucial for any of this to happen.
The keynote speaker was a guy who’s just written a book about Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses. He talked about Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses.
Unlike many of the state chapters of the American Planning Association, which move their annual meetings to different locations around the state from year to year, the New Jersey chapter always holds its annual conference in the same location: the New Brunswick Hyatt. The Bloustein school, which is the only planning school in the state, has close ties to the state APA chapter, and cooperates closely on organizing the conference. Part of this is that Bloustein grad students volunteer to staff the conference and as a result get free admission, which is a really good deal because the conference is quite expensive.
That’s all a buildup to the fact that I volunteered to help staff the conference this year. I helped with the initial setting up this afternoon and staffed the registration table for a while. I was kind of nervous about doing it, but I’m glad I did. I got to know some of my fellow students better, met a lot of people attending the conference (though only briefly, as I checked them in), and generally began to ease my way into this social and professional network. There were some panels today, which I couldn’t go to because I was working the desk, but I’m not scheduled to do anything tomorrow so I’m going to go to some of the panels instead. It should be interesting.
One of the nice things about the way my school works is that a lot of the jobs for graduate students are grant-funded positions working on specific projects, which means they can come available at any time. One such position appeared on the school mailing list today. I applied for it, and the person I sent my resume to wrote me back saying I had excellent credentials and asking when I could meet. So it sounds like I have a pretty good shot at getting a job now, after despairing about my inability to get one just a few days ago.
Really not such a popular guy, it seems.