Thursday, February 23, 2006


I was driving myself crazy earlier in the week worrying about my progress in graduate school. Being very interdisciplinary can be difficult at times. I often feel like I'm in an uncomfortable in-between space, which makes me worried that when it comes time to find a job no one will know what to do with me. But mostly, my discomfort is a sign of the uncomfortable nature of the quarter system. I have been stimulated enough by all the reading and discussions this quarter that I now want to write and get research ideas down on paper, but its starting to be crunch time for various class assignments, work for my advisor, and grading. Actually my discomfort is a good because if I'm frustrated that I'm not working on the right stuff then there must be something I really want to be working on. There are so many things I want to learn and work on that I think I need to be in school for a few more years. (I have been debating between a MA and a PhD.) Its very easy for me to become impatient and feel that I'm not getting enough done. If I continue with a PhD then maybe I'll feel less pressure to read everything right now. When I get too tired everything seems less fun and I start doubting myself (as Lisa, of The Paper Chase, rightly pointed out.) The strange thing is that I don't realize that I'm becoming overly tired because I get myself so wound up that I become manic and have trouble sleeping.

I still have some worries about my degree program because of lack of support and coordination, but I love my advisor. After searching all over for other people working in my speciality I'm just not finding another program that would be more appropriate. Also, our department and a related one are hiring three new faculty members this year, so I'm hopeful that will renew the energy of the department. At the moment my advisor and another female professor are carrying most of the departmental work, which makes it somewhat difficult to get her attention.

Recently, someone came to Big Ag U. to give workshops on The Imposter Syndrome. Its funny because sometimes I can relate to women who feel inferior, but at other times I'm completely judgemental and frustrated at the incompetence of those around me. (It must be a sign that I need more therapy.) In fact, I still remember thinking one day as an undergrad, after a session with a particularily incompetent professor, that if this woman could get her PhD, certainly I was capable of getting one. Isn't that terrible?


Monday, February 20, 2006

extistential academia

Recently I have been having a sort of academic existential crisis. You know...Why am I here? What does this all mean? Etc, etc, etc.

I spent many years trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up and waiting to go back to school until I felt confident about what I would be doing. Unfortunately, that actual process of returning to school has been somewhat destabilizing to my identity. Since I am in an academic program and not a professional program, all things are focused on the academic world. I am, unfortunately, very susceptible to peer pressure and have begun internalizing many of the values of academia. I find myself concerned with the importance of defining myself within a discipline. I'm worried that I'm spending too much time and effort teaching and not enough time on my research. Hot topics such as global migrations or GIS are beginning to seem appealing.

After reading way too many blogs by aspiring academics, all my thoughts seem to return, again and again, to how I can position myself to land myself a tenure track position. I haven't begun my research and I have already lost sight of what I'm doing and why.

Sometimes I wonder what I'm doing in grad school. I seem to spend all of my time reading what other people want me to read, writing what other people want me to write, and teaching what other people want me to teach. Maybe I'm just overly naive but I'm wondering when does academic freedom come in? How can I have any freedom when I have to jump through so many hoops in order to get that freedom?

I'm also concerned because I doubt, in general, the validity and importance of much research being done. I read lots and lots of boring bullshit. Sorry, this post is extra self centered. Blogging is always narcissistic, but today it seems especially so.


Saturday, February 18, 2006

Saturday cat

For some reason I never get around to posting for Friday cat blogging. Here's my cat, BOK. He looks scared but a minute before I heard a strange noise under the couch. When I looked under the couch he was laying upside down clawing the underside. Unfortunately, I couldn't get the camera out fast enough.


Thursday, February 16, 2006

This poem is perfect for my day...

I want

by she falters to rise


the world is irritating

Yesterday I spent most of the day trying to do something using illustrator and photoshop. For some reason, this made me overly grumpy. Poor Beorn, he just kept apologizing for stuff that wasn't his fault. Now I'm angry about everything that I have to do. I don't want to go to class, do my homework, anything! Also, when I posted that book list it had strikethroughs but when I look at it on the web they don't show up! What's the problem?

I don't really understand why I'm finding everything so frustrating. I just want to be caught up on things so that I relax and do some thinking about my research.


Saturday, February 11, 2006

books, books, books

Bold the books you have read. Italicize the books you might read. Cross out the books you probably won't read. Underline the books you have on your shelf to read or have started reading. Pass it on. (As seen on The Clutter Museum )

The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy - Douglas Adams
The Great Gatsby - F.Scott Fitzgerald
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman (I don't know how, but I loved this series and the Narnia books.)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - J. K. Rowling
Life of Pi - Yann Martel
Animal Farm: A Fairy Story - George Orwell
Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
The Hobbit - J. R. R. Tolkien
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
Lord of the Flies - William Golding
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
1984 - George Orwell
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J. K. Rowling
One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel García Márquez
Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
Slaughterhouse 5 - Kurt Vonnegut
Angels and Demons - Dan Brown
Fight Club - Chuck Palahniuk

Neuromancer - William Gibson
Cryptonomicon - Neal Stephenson
The Secret History - Donna Tartt
A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess
Wuthering Heights - Emily Brontë
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
American Gods - Neil Gaiman
Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card
Snow Crash - Neal Stephenson
A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - C. S. Lewis
Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides Cloud
Atlas - David Mitchell
The Lord of the Rings - J. R. R. Tolkien
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Brontë
Good Omens - Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman
Atonement - Ian McEwan
The Shadow Of The Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafón
The Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemingway
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
Dune - Frank Herbert

I’m not proud of having read some of this stuff, but Beorn calls light reading “mind candy.” Yum!


sewing makes me tired

I spent most of the day sewing instead of doing my homework like a good grad student. Since we moved I have managed to get the new house mostly organized, including all my crafting stuff. At the moment I'm too poor to shop anywhere but the thrift store. This week I found a blue blouse and a pair of jeans, but its not that easy to find things that fit me. So I decided that I could use some of my fabric stash to make some spring clothing. My sewing machine was already sitting out since I had to hem the jeans. Once I get started on something I tend to overdo it. So now I'm stiff and tired but I have a new skirt. :)


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

I'm an angry feminist now

Recently Trillwing (who I always want to call Trilliwig) commented that she sometimes feels feminist angst because of her lack of righteous indignation. The Clutter Museum: Should I be angry? Today I find myself full of judgmental anger! My feminist geography class was discussing recent feminist writings on women and work. Of course, much of the writing focused on the trendy themes of globalization and migration. The professor (always willing to spread gossip) described the rude and demanding behavior of a certain female, South Asian professor. This professor had written one of the articles and, being good feminists, we had to discuss her positionality. We eventually landed on the fact that she was used to having servants in her home country. Someone then commented on the terrible dilemma many professional women face between giving up their careers or hiring underpaid immigrant women to raise their children and clean their homes. I mean what the hell? Poor rich white women, forced to exploit other women! Have any of these women ever considered just telling their men to buck up and do their share??? (See: Bitch Ph.d.’s Radical Married Feminist Manifesto) Or maybe we could admit that the nuclear family and romantic love are not working as the basis for child-rearing??? Are the most educated, privileged women in the world (namely tenured faculty) not capable of figuring out something better? While we are at it, how about demanding the male faculty do their fair share of the committee work and teaching?


supporting yourself through grad school

This week the class schedule for spring quarter arrived on campus. My first move was to look up the class I will be TAing in order to determine how it will fit into my schedule. To my horror, I discovered that one of my least favorite professors will be teaching this course. She's an adjunct who taught the required course my first quarter as a grad student. That course was the first she had ever taught at the graduate level, having just graduated from the same program. She, like many new professors, was overly demanding, argumentative, and a mediocre teacher. Having taught for ten years before returning to grad school, I'm quite discerning when it comes to teaching. I also didn't like her need to indoctrinate us into our new discipline. So I regularly wrote about my dislike for the readings and the whole "grand tradition" in the response papers we were required to write. The last thing an new professor, not yet confident in her own abilities, wants is someone who is willing to speak up and disagree. I'm sure she remembers me and my attitude. So now I facing a dilemma, because I would like to TA the class, it sounds interesting, and I need the money, but I don't want to get into an uncomfortable situation.


Saturday, February 04, 2006

Saturday morning cats

I have been meaning to post photos of my cats here. I know its not deep, meaningful content, but I love seeing other people's photos of babies and animals. Besides, I saw them lying there and I wondered, "Where's BOK's head?" In this photo you see how the princess is laying on him, with her tail mostly covering his face.


Friday, February 03, 2006


Pop Quiz: What famous landscape from history is this?

Sometimes I think it would be easier to teach classes myself than to TA for others. Today was the midterm review session for the class I'm TAing. Frankly I feel bad for the students. I have a pretty good idea of the big concepts involved but I don't know all the little dates and details they are being expected to memorize. Frankly I'm not a big fan of scantron tests and memorization. I don't think the professor knows all the details she is asking the students to remember, but more importantly, I don't think spending all that time on the details really helps students to understand the important concepts involved. I would rather students understand the social forces at work during different times in history. Right now I'm afraid that all they will end up knowing is the names and dates without any deeper understanding.


Thursday, February 02, 2006

Happy Imbolc

Happy Imbolc, or as my mother would say "Happy Holy Sacred Groundhog Day!" Imbolc is a cross-quarter day. It falls half way in between a solstice and an equinox. What are the other cross-quarter days? May Day (May 1), Lughnasadh (August 1), and Samhain (Halloween, October 31). These are the "big" neo-pagan holidays. For some reason, for me one of the easiest ways to understand unfamiliar concepts is to look into word origins. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem that anyone really knows what Imbolc means. Wikipedia has a good description of the important ideas. Personally, I like the idea that Imbolc means "in the belly" but I think that it’s more likely that people would celebrate the ewes lambing because then there would be milk to drink. Since late winter and early spring is the lean time of the year, ewe’s milk must have been an important source of food. In my particular neo-pagan tradition, Imbolc is mainly celebrated as Brigid's Day. The tradition is to announce, in front of the whole community, your promise to Brigid for the next year. Its also a good time to start seeds for your spring garden. Brigid is a goddess with many associations. Often she is referred to as a triple goddess, whose domains are poetry, healing, and smithcraft. She is also very associated with both sacred flames and sacred wells. I always think of Brigid as a sort of bi-polar goddess; she both the transforming fire and the healing spring. Ouch!


clone me

So tonight I ditched all three things I had scheduled and had a nap instead. I always wonder why the expectation is that I'll be able to work 60-80 hours a week and not go crazy.
So what am I learning in grad school?
1. How to get away with doing as little work for others as possible.
2. How to pretend that I know what I'm doing.
3. How to say NO.