Monday, December 17, 2007

dinner and music

Dinner tonight: Chapagetti
Watching: OK Go - A Million Ways

Obviously I'm way behind in my You Tube watching. Is this kind of "reality" video appealing because these days it's so much of what we watch is over-produced? Is this an appeal to "reality" and/or "authenticity"? Would this video have been appealing 20 or 40 years ago? Is there a name for this phenomenon/style? Baudrillard anyone?


Saturday, December 15, 2007

Caterday Photos

The Princess

BOK (aka Big Orange Kitty)

Here are some bonus photos from last spring at our old house...

(There are little girls under those big umbrellas.)


Why Blog?

Lately I have been considering this blog. Sometimes I think my tone is too negative and I spend too much time complaining about grad school. Of course, this psychologist, supports me in my enjoyment of whining. I love her.

Despite her recommendations, I have decided that the problem with this blog is that I don't let enough aspects of my personality out. I'm completely ADD in terms of my interests and this causes me some anxiety. I feel pressure to focus. Articles about how to write a successful blog always recommend focusing your blog on a particular topic and thinking about your audience and what they are interested in.

Instead, I have decided to blog about as many different topics as possible, which is fine because I'm not interested in attracting a large audience. In fact, this week I discovered that I can't keep up with reading all the new academic blogs out there. My bloglines is overflowing with them, as evidenced my blogroll.

Let the randomness commence! (Wait, this might be an early New Year's resolution.)


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Random bullets

  • My neck has been hurting since Saturday. You know, like I slept wrong. It hurts to tilt my head to one side.
  • I have been feeling nauseous and achey, also since Saturday, especially in the morning. No, I'm not pregnant and I don't have a fever, so I don't know what that is about.
  • I finally got my haircut today, which I haven't done since August. I'm letting it grow out, but I still need bangs to hide my gigantic forehead. (Bonus weird fact about me: I have a huge forehead which kind of makes it look like my hair is receding, but it's been like that my whole life.)
  • I waited on hold for a half an hour this afternoon just to hear from the advice nurse that I should use Advil and hot and cold packs for my neck. REALLY? I know she is used to dealing with 19 year old undergrads but she has my file right in front of her on the computer screen. If she was paying attention she could have figured out that I'm 34. She kept on asking me if I needed a note for my classes.
  • I wish my problems could be solved by a note from the school nurse.
  • My new haircut looks a little like Eve Myles from Torchwood, only my hair isn't as long as hers.
  • I'm spending some time at work learning web design. It's actually kind of fun. My fabulous boss suggested I could take a class (offered next quarter) in video production and then work on creating videos and other multimedia stuff to put up on the web for his office.
  • If this whole academia thing doesn't work out maybe I'll be able to find a job in "new media."
  • Beorn and I are now firmly involved in the grad school application process and both having small panic attacks about it. I mean we are talking about uprooting our entire lives here and moving across country and this all depends on the stupid, arbitrariness of the admissions committees, and we are too old for this crap, and we need to have kids soon, and and and...
  • I really like trees and being outside. I miss having a job that involved moving around and being outside. Sitting at a desk for 12+ hours a day leads to mental and physical health problems.
  • I'm considering taking up folk dancing 0r some similar activities. My favorite exercises are hiking and swimming in a lake or the ocean. Swimming pools and walking around town are just not the same.


Thursday, December 06, 2007

More thoughts on graduate school

I started writing a comment in response to Articulatedad, but then decided it was getting too long and deserved its own post.

1. I completely agree that it's no good to be swayed by other people's research interests, that has been my big mistake in graduate school so far. When I couldn't get my adviser to give me any help or feedback I took it as a sign that there was something wrong with my research proposal (despite having had positive feed back from two of the senior professors in the program.)

On the other hand, I do think it's important to fit your work into a theoretical framework and understand how it contributes to a particular line of research. (I know, that's basic advice all grad students get, but I think lots of people ignore it.)

2. That said, I have been pretty successful and lucky so far, given the particularities of the program I'm in (and my own situation.) Let's just say that when I talk to people at Big Ag U. about my program they say, "Oh, THAT program." It's pretty dysfunctional and I don't think I'm badmouthing it by saying that. (It would be difficult for anyone here to deny that the program has had some troubles.)

In general students in my program are getting substandard treatment, even for graduate students. It's difficult to go into without revealing all the details. Most students don't understand that they aren't being treated well until late in their program or after graduation. Certain unsupportive administration policies towards graduate programs in general combined with the particular history of this program to create a bad situation. Some people do well here, I think because they find a good match in an adviser.

3. When I arrived I was trying to do a sort of dual degree or dual major thing (as offered by the "hairdressing" professors.) That didn't work out so well, but it did make clear to me which of the two disciplines I fit with. "Hairdressing" is out. Now I just have to make up a name for "field I share with JustMe."

4. I really appreciate many of the professors here. I have gotten some wonderful support and advice. Unfortunately, many of the people who's research interests matched with mine turned out to have just retired or to be in semi-retirement. Programs are always in flux and now a few new people have been hired who might be good to work with. On the other hand, it might be good to try a different different university, one that appreciates my field a little more.

5. Although I am worried about the huge debt we are accumulating, I'm not sorry about my decision to go to graduate school. I knew as a college student that I wouldn't be satisfied with my career unless I went to graduate school. My intellectual curiosity, independent thinking, quirkiness, and disgust with capitalism make me unsuited for most other careers.

In the long gap between college and grad school I taught in various different ways. I didn't know I wanted to teach, but I really love it. I would rather teach at the college level. While teaching younger students in enjoyable, I'm not comfortable with the school system in the U.S., which is even more dysfunctional than academia. Also, K-12 teachers aren't well appreciated or paid. I'm excited about my dissertation idea and the intellectual challenge that research in general provides, but teaching is my main goal. (Don't tell my professors.) If I end up teaching at a community college, like Inside the Philosophy Factory or in a staff position, lecturing part-time, like Trillwing, I will be happy.

6. Graduate school has forced me to learn some hard lessons, that I wasn't getting in my previous career. It has challenged me. Mythologically speaking, grad school feels like the hanged man.


random bullets of thanks

  • Ok, I just noticed that JustMe tagged me for the 7 things meme and I missed it! Here I was thinking no one tagged me. Thanks JustMe.
  • I also want to thank Anastasia for blogging so openly about life and her job search. It really helps to hear I'm not the only person facing difficult dilemmas.
  • Thanks to Academic Cog for being so funny. I just discovered her blog and it makes me smile.


Happy Saint Nikolaus Day!

Each fall, as the days grow shorter I'm surprised. I always forget that my milaise and lethargy are caused in great part by the season. My perfectly reasonable desire to veg-out in my cozy house during the dark time of the year directly conflicts with (post)modern American commercialized/capitalist (or whatever you want to call it) ideas about how to celebrate the season.

In recent years I have been a real Grinch around this time of year, having trouble appreciating the holiday and feeling sorry for myself because I wasn't having a Hallmark kind of time. Today I feel better. After reading Wil's lovely post on the Twelve Days of Christmas, I was delighted to come home this evening to find that my stockings (i.e. slippers) had been stuffed by Saint Nikolaus! Beorn's family is German, so I have little background on this tradition, but I love it. Beorn's mom sends us lovely care packages each year filled with German sweets and little family heirlooms. Below are my slippers filled with chocolate coins, jewelry, marzipan, and Stollen (sweet roll filled with almond paste.) Yum!


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Sometimes the internet fails you

It's the final week of classes here. Beorn is in the middle of a massive paper writing marathon. This afternoon he sent me to the thrift store to by an air popcorn popper. The thrift store is super cute. The lady who owns it has all the Christmas decoration out in front as well as some antiques. The back room is filled with dishes and appliances.

When I got my new popcorn popper home I thought I would look on the internet for directions about how much popcorn to put in it. I googled "Poppery" but failed to find any information about how to use my new device as a popcorn popper. Apparently I should take it apart to jury-rig it as a coffee roaster.


7 things meme

No one specifically tagged me, but everyone else is doing it. Lots of people have been too lazy to actually tag anyone, so I'm taking it as an invitation. Academic Cog posted the rules, which helps.

1. Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 random and/or weird things about yourself.

3. Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
4. Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

7 things (in chronological order)

1. When I was a very small child, my father was an organic farmer. His big cash crop? Watermelons. Later, after the divorce my mother told me she hates watermelons. I like to imagine that is why they divorced. (There are tons of pictures of me as a small child in corduroy with straggly hair, standing next to the trailer we lived. I look very 70's white trash.)

2. After the divorce we stayed for a while at a commune. This is where I tasted pop-tarts for the first time, as my parents were macrobiotic vegetarians.

3. In high school I was a drama geek. Mostly I designed costumes, but I had some small parts, including Jaquenetta in Loves Labors Lost.

4. When I was 16, I traveled to Russia with a group of high school and college students. My last night in there I stayed out all night with a Russian artist I had just met.

5. In college my friend asked me to go with her to an audition and I ended up playing "Old Woman" in Ionesco's "The Chairs." That was fun.

6. Beorn and I met online, before people did that. On UseNet. For a long time I was embarrassed about it, now that seems silly.

7. We now live in a 600 sq ft cottage, that used to be part of a motor lodge. (Isn't it cute?)


Did you know?

Beorn and I have given up watching broadcast (or cable) TV. We pay far too much for internet now, as we had to get satellite internet at my grandmother's house and are locked into an 18 month contract. Luckily, many interesting programs are available on the internet. I watch the videos at home, but apparently it's common for people to watch them at work, because CBS's video player has a "BOSS Button." Press it, and a fake email pops up to hide the video.

There are also some weird differences between the players for different networks. CBS's seems buggy and keeps playing the same commercials over and over or suddenly going blank. ABC's works find for me, but you have to click every time the commercial ends, which is annoying. How am I suppose to get my CSI fix???


Saturday, December 01, 2007

I need to be writing my thesis and applying to PhD programs

so what am I doing? Anything but what I should be doing.

I feel really conflicted now, because officially I have already been accepted into the Phd program here and suddenly, they have hired new professors, who work in exactly the subfield I'm interested in. Strangely, three new professors in my discipline were hired in the last year, two in 'hairdressing' department. One of these, lets call him "enthusiastic new adviser," as repeatedly offered to be my dissertation adviser. He also gave me tons of useful advice, recommended appropriate literature, and generally acted interested and reliable. I'm not sure how to take this, because while I'm excited to have found someone who is interested in working with me, I still have a number of misgivings about staying in a program that has basically no support from either the university administration or from individual departments (where the money is.) I don't want to sound like a big whiner (although I'm considering including the word "whining" in my new blog title), but I don't trust the faculty in the 'hairdressing department.' Its not that they aren't nice people, its just that they have no idea of how to work with graduate students and they are wealthy and from upper middle class/upper class backgrounds, so they have no clue. They are generally clueless. Nice, smart, but clueless.

My class background and general poverty are beginning to give me a clue about how people of color feel. A while back, I was involved with a group in which one woman was a Latina. She is a chemist and kind of weirded out by the touchy-feely meeting we had. I really appreciated her honesty though. I forget why this came up, but for some reason she just said to us one day..."I don't trust any of you. You are white people, and when I meet white people I don't trust them, until I learn different." (Or something similar.)

I can understand her feeling. "Class" isn't even part of the vocabulary in this country. I have trouble when I hear people talking about their housekeepers and their trips to Italy. It's difficult for me to take advice from these people seriously.

Here's the unusual situation I was in coming into grad school...

I had a job that in some ways I loved, but it was paying me like a grocery store bagger.

Working part time as a grad student paid me a similar amount to what I was making full-time previously.

Since starting grad school I have worked 75%-100% most quarters. My first quarter in grad school I worked 33% as a TA and 20hrs a week running a field trip program for elementary students. So that was 33 hrs a week, while starting a new grad school. No wonder I was crying all the time.

For whatever reason, I'm a masochist, unless I'm overworking myself, I tend to feel I'm not accomplishing anything. Luckily, as a grad student I have good health insurance. My therapist has been so great.

My point is, I feel conflicted. I have struggled so much with my adviser. I still think she is clueless about the particular project I have been working with her on. In general, she has been unavailable, and given me little to no helpful advice or feedback. Also, there was a lot of confusing about research sites last year. I want to be mad, but still, compared to the other people in the hairdressing department, she is pretty cool.

Enthusiastic new adviser seems to have his heart (and mind) in the right place. I don't want to come off angry and bitter, but when he suggested a particular, senior professor from the 'hairdressing' department as a possible chair for my qualifying exam committee I wasn't sure what to say.

Thoughts on having a newly hired, tenure track professor as an adviser? Thoughts on getting a PhD from a crappy program, a R1 U, but with excellent advisers? Feelings/thoughts on changing PhD programs part way through? Is it worth it?

Beorn is finishing his undergraduate degree and is ready to move to another part of the country and a new graduate school.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Moms, give yourself a break

I love Shannon Hayes recent post, "Homespun Mom Comes Unraveled." Shannon's story was featured recently in the New York Times. Reading these articles got me thinking about the discussion I witnessed last weekend at a screening of The Business of Being Born. Moms are so hard on themselves and each other.

The Business of Being Born is the brainchild of Ricki Lake. Apparently Lake wasn't satisfied with the birth of her first child in the hospital and sought out midwives and home birth for her second. She became somewhat obsessed with the topic, attending conferences and reading all she could. Rather than become a midwife, she decided to enlist the help of a friend, who happened to be a filmmaker. During the filming her friend gets pregnant and has to decide whether to go with a home birth or not.

I enjoyed the movie itself. Some of the statistics and historical footage of hospitals from the early twentieth century were shocking. I didn't realize what the standard procedures in most American hospitals were. The movie is definitely pro-midwife, but I thought did a fair job of being open minded.

On the other hand, the post film panel turned fairly quickly towards accusations and judgment. I don't know if the phenomenon is exaggerated in this time and place, but the pressure to be a perfect mom is on. For whatever reason it was amazingly easy for the discussion on the pros and cons of home birth to turn nasty. Home birth advocates are often highly judgmental of anyone advocating painkilling drugs. One the other hand, doctors are often dismissive of the risks of caesarean sections. According to the documentary approximately 1/3 of the births in the US are caesareans, a much higher rate than an other industrialized nation. The US also has extremely high rates of death and injury to both mother and baby in comparison to most industrialized nations. What's not clear, is whether one factor causes the other, or whether they are both simply the result of a substandard health care system. The movie also implies that in most European countries normal births are supervised by midwives and the outcomes for mother and baby are better. Again, the two things aren't necessarily causal, but it's certainly something to consider.

I haven't had a baby (yet) but the wisest advise I heard during this discussion was for women to share their birth stories with each other. Women have wildly different experiences of labor. Some women have massive orgasms while giving birth, most don't find it so pleasant. When I asked a friend about her experience of having her first baby at home she said, "It was the hardest thing I have ever done. It was like climbing a mountain." I can sympathize, having done some mountain climbing. I'm familiar with the feeling of just putting one foot in front of the other, taking it one step at a time, the entire time thinking to yourself, "I can't do it, there is no way I can do this, I have to stop." Only with a baby you can't just stop and turn back around. The funniest part of the movie was the film a New York midwife giving birth, the entire time whining and whimpering that she couldn't do it.

Many home birth advocates love the book Spiritual Midwifery, a classic from the heart of the counterculture. While I'm fascinated with the birth stories and the gumption of the midwives, I'm not sure the tone of the book is entirely helpful. Denying the fact that labor hurts isn't going to reassure expectant mothers that they can deal with labor. Passing judgment on anyone who decides to get an epidural isn't going to improve things for mothers and babies. On the other hand, the movie pointed out that most labor room doctors have never seen a birth without drugs. Many new moms don't seem to understand that having a
caesarean section is major surgery. It's risky. The second or third caesarean is all the more risky.

Useful information about the risks and benefits of various choices is helpful. Declaring one way of giving birth is the only "right" way, no so much.


One Day Until Thanksgiving...

Beorn and I went out to lunch at an Afgani buffet. As we walked back into our little cottage we discussed the fact that we are expecting a call from my father. After all the drama over the summer with my family Beorn and I agreed not to spend the holidays we them. My father never tells me the family plans until a day before the event. We already made plans to have Thanksgiving with another couple and Ian's best friend. So I wasn't surprised to find a message on my cell phone from my father. He called while we were out. He's feeling really bad if he didn't tell me about the Thanksgiving plans, of course he can't remember. He wants us to come to dinner at my grandmother's house. My uncle is cooking. The uncle who threatened to kill my father. The uncle who threated to call the cops on us or to sue us. The uncle who called us "welfare cases." Guess what? I'm not interested in breaking bread with him. My father seems to think it's OK for my uncle to behave that way. My uncle has my phone number, if he wants me to come to dinner he can damn well call me and apologize. I can't believe my father thinks I would be willing to sit down to dinner with my uncle. If I was at all important to my father I think I would rate more than a last minute call attempting to guilt trip me into spending Thanksgiving with them.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Hairdressing as an Academic Discipline, take two

Last winter, almost a year ago, I briefly discussed my discipline, let's call it "hairdressing." What I didn't realize then is that I was up for a rather large ass-kicking related to my involvement in the discipline and the direction of my academic career. Although I didn't know it at the time, April 2006 signaled the beginning of the end of my career in hairdressing.

Sometime in April 2006 I broke my foot. Considering the fact that I had been, once again, rushing from one obligation to another, the universe, it seems to me now, was signaling me to slow the fuck down. Maybe the fact that all my hairdressing classes were held on the second floor of a building too old and run down to contain an elevator should have been a clue. At the time all I knew was that I needed a break. I assumed that I would get back to the hairdressing curriculum as soon as I was well. But that fall I decided I had better not take more hairdressing classes, and instead took research units and became, unfortunately, embroiled in a confusing attempt to do fieldwork related to hairdressing. After nine months of "field work" I came out with virtually no data, completely frustrated and demoralized about applied research in hairdressing. During this time I also began to confront the mess that is qualitative data coding. It took me six + months to convince my adviser that the coding on her data was incomplete and inconsistent.

In the spring of 2007 I attended my first two academic conferences. A large one and another small one, recommended by my adviser. To my surprise, during the large conference I attended few hairdressing related presentations, being attracted to another sub-discipline entirely. The presentations in this new sub-discipline opened my eyes. True, many of these folks where unnecessarily pretentious and obsequious, but at least they were interested in the kinds of questions I was. In contrast, I felt strongly out of place at the small conference. I was neither comfortable with the practicing hairdressers reporting on their latest hairdressing projects, nor the academics trying to mix research and applied projects in hairdressing. The quality of research presented varied wildly, but more importantly, it became clear that hairdressing researchers were afraid to admit the fact that some of their projects were less than successful. No one wants to write up a new haircut if that cut is unpopular with it's recipients or in other ways problematic. Unfortunately, the haircutting process is not simple, requiring a significant investment of time and money, and so academic hairdressers need to produce journal articles for each hairdressing project they are involved in.

Also, during the 2006-7 school year I spent a significant amount of time searching for an internship at a hairdressing office. I had a couple of interviews, but it became clear that entry level positions involved the rapid production of haircuts using computer programs and long hours in the office for low pay. It would take me 3+ years as an apprentice hairdresser before I could take my hairdressing exam. During that time I would have trouble making a living and paying my student loans. Hours would be long and hairdressing offices are not known to be family friendly. Once I had a hairdressing license it would likely be quite a time before I could have my own hairdressing office, which is what I really wanted. If I really had my heart set on hairdressing maybe I would have stuck it out, but during the last school year I discovered other interests, other passions, and people who shared my interests.

If I hadn't had my ass kicked repeatedly, I might not have realized that hairdressing was not my thing. Don't get me wrong, I'm still fascinated with many aspects of hairdressing and may pursue it as a hobby or side business, but I have let go of my academic aspirations in that area. My new subdiscipline fits much better with my central concerns and questions. People researching in this area aren't expected to be both practitioners and researchers. My questions and interests are no longer marginal. Also, I no longer work for the hairdressing department, which abuses it's TAs terribly.

In my experience, this is the way of life. At the time I never understand why I'm facing a particular trouble, but looking back, I see the pattern, the direction I'm being pushed. The key is to understand the difference between patterns that direct me into more productive directions and those which, shaped by the over-culture (whether you call that capitalism, the patriarchy, or the man) seeks to put me in "my place."


Joss Whedon, a Writer Before His Time

Beorn and I have been watching lots of Sci-Fi since we no longer have cable. Giving up on broadcast TV (including cable) is a relief. I know lots of people enjoy their TiVo, but that's one area in which I don't feel the need to be surveilled. Now I'm watching the occasional new episode online and mainly relying on our extensive video collection. Recently we re-watched the entire FireFly series and Serenity. When FireFly was first broadcast in 2002 I wasn't a big fan, but after five years the series has grown on me.

In 2002 FireFly's western setting appeared strange, in my mind consigning it to B-movie land. For whatever reason I couldn't get past the mixture of space travel and the wild west. Fast forward to 2007 and the mixture doesn't seem so strange. Considering the recent surge in science fiction and fantasy TV series, Firefly's eccentricity seems less geeky and more visionary.

Once you get past the strangeness of the western costuming (I used to be a costumer for a community theater company, so costumes are important to me.) the characters are just as challenging and fascinating as those from the more widely appreciated Buffy. Like the new BattleStar, Firefly deals with challenging, relevent themes, like what happens to veterans after the war is over and the freedom to be unhappy.

The special effects rather than distracting from the story, either through their showiness or amateurishness, are almost invisible, a natural part of the world. Characteristic of Joss's world, the female characters break out of stale stereotypes. Kaylee, the ship's mechanic, manages to be girly, sexy, and a mechanical genius all at once. The character isn't tough or boyish because she has mechanical abilities and although she sometimes displays little-girl characteristics, she's not asexual as female geeks are frequently portrayed.

If there is anything to find fault with in either the series or the movie, it's that the male characters are less interesting than the females. At times the men seem flat and predictable in comparison. (Also the naming of the series, which rightly should be called, like the movie, Serenity.)

If you haven't watched these sci-fi classics, or were turned off five years ago, I highly recommend you take a second look now.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

This Blog's Reading Level

cash advance

Cash Advance Loans

I feel good about this. Long ago, when I worked at a small science center, my boss gave me a hard time because I was writing at too advanced a level for elementary school teachers. I guess I was assuming that elementary school teachers would want to be reading stuff at a high school level. My boss learn in grad school that all written materials aimed at the public should be written at a 5th grade level. Ick.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

reminding myself

Lately I have been grumpy. Still, there are many things to be thankful for:

1. Both Beorn and I are healthy enough to work. We aren't disabled or chronically ill.
2. As students we have decent health insurance. That's more than we often had while we were both working full time.
3. We have a working car.
4. We have a safe and secure place to live, with heat, electricity, and running water.
5. There is no war or major threat of violence in our community.
6. We have access to a world class library including subscriptions to the top journals in most any field.
7. We have enough food.
8. We have shoes and clothing to keep us warm in inclement weather.
9. We each own our own computer and have internet access.
10. We have cell phones.
11. We have clean, disease-free water.

When I taught science to small children one of the most basic lessons was,

"What does an animal need in its habitat in order to live?"

The Answer:

Many, if not most people in this world struggle to get the basics. And yes, we, as humans, have more specific needs than that, but those four are pretty darn important.


Feeling Betrayed

I really, really, really want to write about the politics at Big Ag U and my feelings around of betrayal and frustration around academia in general. I'm not sure I can do this without revealing more about myself and the U. than would be wise. One thing I'm trying to learn as a grad student is how to practice restraint, but I haven't quite got the hang of it yet.

Since starting at Big Ag U I have experienced a number of incidences in which faculty members have said one thing, and done another. (I know, surprise, surprise.) Some of these have been small, like not getting papers returned to the class on time. No big deal, things like this happen, who adheres to strict deadlines these days? Others have been not so small...

Last week a key faculty member in my graduate program announced his retirement effective Jan 1. This person will be leaving several courses untaught because of his sudden departure. When I heard this I assumed that someone must be sick, that there was some unexpected event that precipitated this, but he claims not, that he had received offers for more interesting work elsewhere. This is a full professor who directly stated to his department last year that he had no plans to retire.

In light of earlier betrayals by other faculty members in that department I'm starting to wonder if the majority of faculty at Big Ag. U are so two-faced or if it is something particular to that department. I really try to understand how to deal with politically charged situations, but there is some part of me that just has trouble with people who don't tell the truth. Just be honest.

I'm frustrated because it seems everywhere I turn someone is being dishonest or not following through on their commitments. I just don't understand why people can just say what they mean. So here are somethings I would like to say to folks...

Coworker in a related department: If you aren't going to answer my repeated emails, phone calls, and other requests for a meeting just tell me that. No problem, I can then go back to my supervisors and let them know that your department doesn't want help on that project.

1. Last winter I explained to you very clearly who I was working with and that we were going to try to get some more data from folks in Midsized City using your research protocol. Why did you act surprised when the people that organization called you? You told me that you were fine with my plan. I stated several times and in writing what I was doing.

2. After all that why did you then go back to my research site and begin using it as a site for one of your class projects while excluding me from any involvement? Didn't you know I had been working all year to build a relationship with that organization? Didn't I explain to you that I was trying to develop trust between myself and the organization? Why not include me so that I could continue to work with them after your class had gone?

Big Shot Professor: Why did you claim that I could complete a dual degree with your department and then fail to do anything to support me when, after several years of work, the U. claimed I couldn't?

Literature Professor: Why bother conducting an independent study if you aren't going to actually read or comment on student work? When I wrote you several months later to request comments on my paper because I was considering submitting it to a special issue of a journal why not write and say "Sorry I don't have time right now?" rather than promising to look at it? Stating "I'm sure its great" does not inspire confidence.

Grad Student Coworker: Why do you say you are frustrated and confused by the data coding when we talk privately, but then turn around and claim that everything is great when discussing it with Adviser? I know you are angry at me because my desire to get some research done made it clear that almost nothing had been accomplished in almost a year of "work." I wasn't trying to ruin your gravy-train, I just need to write my thesis and couldn't do that when Adviser thought that all the work had already been done. I can't write up research I know to be based on incomplete data entry and sloppy, unclear coding.

Sorry, I had to rant. I could go on, but those are the big ones. Although I have met some great people in academia and learned some interesting things, I'm starting to believe the the system rewards people for being co-dependent, narcissistic backstabbers and that all others are the exception to the rule. Seriously, I'm trying to have compassion for these people, but at the moment, I'm failing. I don't see the harm in being truthful. You aren't sparing my feelings when you lie to me, you are just lying. I don't mind hearing NO. Really. Just say it and I will move on.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Halloween plans

I'm still not back in the swing of things. My blogging is still terribly irregular. Beorn is strangely interested in attending some sort of Halloween party. Too bad we don't have time to get together costumes or figure out where to go that we won't stand out as super old and square. I want him to dress as Hagrid, because he's perfect for it. One year I made him a Wizard of Oz themed costume, the gate guard for the Emerald City. He wants to dress as Hagar the Horrible.

I have also had an idea for a Halloween movie fest. One of my college roommates had us all watch two movies about the summer in Switzerland that inspired Mary Shelly's Frankenstein: Haunted Summer and Gothic. Apparently since then there has been another version made, "Rowing with the Wind," starring Hugh Grant and Elizabeth Hurley. I hate Hugh Grant, so it's probably delightfully terrible.


Look, I was tagged! Only my brain is mushy these days, so we'll see if I'm doing it right...

First, the rules:
There are a set of questions below that are all of the form, "The best [subgenre] [medium] in [genre] is...".
Copy the questions, and before answering them, you may modify them in a limited way, carrying out no more than two of these operations:
* You can leave them exactly as is.
* You can delete any one question.
* You can mutate either the genre, medium, or subgenre of any one question.
For instance, you could change "The best time travel novel in SF/Fantasy is..." to "The best time travel novel in Westerns is...", or "The best time travel movie in SF/Fantasy is...", or "The best romance novel in SF/Fantasy is...".
* You can add a completely new question of your choice to the end of the list, as long as it is still in the form "The best [subgenre] [medium] in [genre] is...".
* You must have at least one question in your set, or you've gone extinct, and you must be able to answer it yourself, or you're not viable.

Then answer your possibly mutant set of questions. Please do include a link back to the blog you got them from, to simplify tracing the ancestry, and include these instructions. Finally, pass it along to any number of your fellow bloggers. Remember, though, your success as a Darwinian replicator is going to be measured by the propagation of your variants, which is going to be a function of both the interest your well-honed questions generate and the number of successful attempts at reproducing them.
So, without further ado:
My great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparent is Pharyngula.
My great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparent is Metamagician and the Hellfire Club.
My great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparent is Flying Trilobite.
My great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparent is A Blog Around the Clock.
My great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparent is Primate Diaries.
My great-great-great-great-great-grandparent is Thus Spake Zuska.
My great-great-great-great-grandparent is a k8, a cat, a mission.
My great-great-great-grandparent is Monkeygirl.
My great-great-grandparent is DancingFish.
My great-grandparent is "No One".
My grandparent is Field Notes.
My parent is Trillwing.

The best children's novel in SF/Fantasy is: Greenwitch by Susan Cooper
The best recent comedy movie is: Stardust
The best uplifting song in country music is: Johnny Cash's "Man in Black"
The best cult novel in classic fiction is: A Room with a View (Maybe it isn't the best, but I did enjoy it.)
The best high-fat food in Mexican cooking is: Quesadillas
The best dissertation-related words I ever received from a scholar are: "It doesn't have to be earth-shattering"

I'm tagging anyone who hasn't already been tagged and specifically:
Moyen Age


Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Ok, so my previous blog post was interrupted by a knock on the door. Ignacio, who is apprently a neighbor, came to offer a gallon of milk for the cats. Earlier we let the cats out for the first time at the new place and BOC (Big Orange Cat) immediately disappeared. He is very skittish when it comes to new places, so we were concerned. Beorn started cursing himself and the cat alternately since he still hasn't recovered from the loss of his favorite cat, almost two years ago.

So when BOC disappeared I spent a 1/2 hour wandering around the neighborhood yelling "BOC, here kitty kitty!" and similar things. When that didn't work I drove to the hardware store to get a maglite. I figured he was hiding and if I got a really powerful flashlight, I would be able to find him by his eye-shine. (I used to have a job that involved night hikes with large noisy groups of elementary school students. It's pretty cool if you can ID and animal just based on the size and color of their reflective eyes.)

By the time I got back home BOC had made it back inside, but apparently our entire neighborhood had heard me calling for him. Ignacio's gallon of milk expired yesterday, so he didn't feel it was fit for human consumption. It was very nice of him to bring it by, especially since I would have just drunk it, if I wasn't lactose intolerant. I almost told him that, but I think it would have been rude, so I thanked him and took the milk. The cats just looked at it confusedly. It's skim and they prefer pure butter.


Back to Life, Back to Reality

Everyone survived the move. We now have our very own tiny house. I'm starting to feel more normal, although the last week and a half has not been without drama.

Did you know that the average square footage of American homes has been creeping upwards for many years? In 1950 our little 600 sq ft cottage would have been above average in terms of sq ft per person. Now it seems embarrassingly tiny, although in most other way adequate. If it wasn't for the need for two computer desks, a giant color printer, a 40 gallon fish tank, and an obscene amount of books, there would be plenty of room for a couch.

Grandma sort of woke up last week just enough to accuse us of absconding with her TV. For the record, when we moved in there were two TVs in grandma's living room. The old one was having some sort of tube problem, which made the picture go wobbly. My uncle, the rich restaurateur, bought her a new flat screen, but no one could figure out how to hook it up to the satellite dish. Beorn hooked it up and we moved the old TV out, along with a bunch of trash from that attic.

On the positive side, Beorn and I sat with grandma Friday night while my dad and his wife had dinner out. Since grandma was temporarily lucid she talked to me for over an hour about her life growing up as a farm girl on the great plains during the depression. It was fascinating. Also, she commented repeatedly on what a good life she had then. I probably should have written it all down as soon as I got home.

Here's one funny story. My grandma had three brothers. Apparently, once her father had bought a newer vehicle, her brothers still occasionally drove the 1928 Ford. In the winter, when their drinking water reservoir froze over they took the Ford out for a sort of car skating adventure, drinking it across the reservoir and purposely creating spins.

Similarly, my grandfather, at 14 drove his father's pickup truck to work on the cattle ranch.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Arg, the drama continues...

So the place we are suppose to move into isn't ready. The folks who run this place are very informal, so they just said "plan on this weekend." Well the guy who is vacating the place hasn't moved out. I seriously doubt he will be able to move and they will be able to clean by this weekend. Classes start tomorrow at the Big Ag. U.

In other news I desperately need my thesis to be completed so that I can apply to PhD programs in far away places, but I don't feel in I'm in a good state of mind to be working on it while everything is so up in the air. I'm so frustrated.

I have been pouring over the websites of other programs, looking for likely advisors and comparing program stats.

My case of impostor syndrome has never been worse. It sounds strange, but I haven't experienced feeling this way often in my grad classes here, but now that I'm applying to "real" programs, I'm super conscious of the ways my record doesn't measure up to a stellar performance.

Things I need to do in October...
Take the GRE (again.)
Contact possible advisers and suck up.
Make serious progress on my thesis.
Get some actual work done at my job.

None of these things feel possible if we don't move soon. I know there is nothing really stopping me from doing these things...I mean life goes on, even when your relatives are crazy. It's just that its difficult for me to concentrate on intellectual work when my living situation feels icky and unsafe. Writing, to me, feels like an art. I don't think people make good art when they are in distress, although sometimes artists make good art about their distress. Currently my thesis work is set up on my home computer, but I'm considering taking the file back to the slow computer in my adviser's research office. It would be slow and frustrating, but I would feel less anxious.

The point is that my "generalized anxiety" symptoms, which I had mostly under control are back with a vengeance. I have trouble sleeping, my stomach hurts, I'm restless and always in search of activity, but not able to produce anything useful. Through therapy I have learned that I have to give myself a break when this happens, do things to relax and decompress. The problem is that when I feel so uncomfortable in my living situation its difficult to decompress. My uncle hasn't been around in a while, so the problem is mostly in my head. I'm anticipating the next bit of drama and can't relax because I know it could happen at any moment.

I'm driving Beorn crazy because he doesn't see what the big deal is. Intellectually I know things could be a lot worse, but emotionally I'm a wreck. Frankly, I don't know how grad students who are short of money live on ramen for weeks, that would drive my bonkers. The point is I know my problems aren't that big in the scheme of things, but they are big for me, for my life and I want them fixed.

Now! Now ! Now! (stomps feet)


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Random Good News

1. We got a call back from an apartment today just as I picked Beorn up from campus, so we went to see it. It will be ready in a week and a half. It's fairly inexpensive, reasonable deposit, no cat deposit, and they seem eager to get someone moved in. It's also in Ag Town, which means that we wouldn't have to drive to campus. Might be too good to be true, but I'm crossing my fingers. As we drove up I noticed a friend from work with a hose in her hand. We chatted a little and I introduced Beorn. Running into her seems like an auspicious omen.

2. My therapist is so great! Talking to her today really helped me accept that as much as I would like my family to love and understand me, they can't and so I'm beating my head against a wall when I seek approval from them. (Only she said it in a much nicer, gentler way.) I also talked to her about how to get through the next little while that we have to stay here. She brought up that I could spend time talking to grandma, and listening to her stories. I had completely forgotten that this was one of the original pluses to the idea of moving in here. It sounds strange, but in all this stress I might have missed that opportunity.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Trying to be thankful

I know that Yoda says "there is no try," but I think trying and imagining a different state of mind comes before attaining that state. Tonight I'm imagining a mental place in which I wouldn't be focused on how messed up my family is and pitying myself for being born into this dysfunctional mess. Instead I would be grateful for all of my supportive friends, my health, my wonderful partner, and having the luxury of pursuing a career that I'm passionate about.

Ever since we moved into my grandmother's house I have been profoundly uncomfortable. I just haven't felt like myself. I'm not sure how to describe it, but I have felt like I don't know who I am anymore. It's a feeling that emerges from deep within my childhood, a feeling of being invisible.

Last night Beorn and I watched Denzel in "Deja Vu." Denzel, in a classic sci-fi plot, travels back in time to change the sequence of events that leads to a disaster. It's eery for him to interact, in the past, with people he knows are dead. My life seems to have taken a similar sort of Twilight Zone feel to it. As if I had woken up one day and my normal life had been replaced by some nightmare.

Another sci-fi example? (Sorry folks who aren't sci-fi fans.) "Frame of Mind," The episode of Star Trek TNG in which Riker starts hallucinating that he is in an asylum. His consciousness keeps switching back and forth between the reality of the ship and the reality of the hospital. While he's in the hospital the doctors and attendants insist on telling him that there is no ship, that he isn't who he thinks he is. My family is like that. They can look at me and completely miss who I am. It's like they are talking to someone else. I can try to talk to them, but they only hear what they want to hear.

If I spend enough time around them I start to think that I am the person that they say I am, that the world is the way they say it is.


Thursday, September 06, 2007

Graduate School and the Nurturing Side of Things

Today I had lunch with a friend I hadn't seen in a while, who was in my entering cohort. She seemed eager for me to move out of my grandma's house when I explained the situation. While I do agree with her, she seemed a little confused as to why I was moving. It's not that Beorn and I can't help out with my grandmother, it's just that my uncle threatening physical violence makes the situation intolerable. I started to wonder though, is having a caring relationship with an extended family impossible during graduate school?

If my family wasn't so crazy I think living with my grandmother would be just fine. I don't mind watching out for her, even if it's sometimes unpleasant or frustrating. I strongly believe that an extended family situation is preferable to a "nuclear" family. Yet it seems to be difficult to work out in our individualistic, self centered culture.

Long ago, as an undergrad I had to read a book called "Learning from the Ladakh." I strongly suspect the author, is presenting a romantized view of traditional culture in Ladakh, sometimes called "Little Tibet" yet there is something amazing about the stories she tells. She speaks about the people of Ladakh as being profoundly happy and satisfied with their lives, even though they live in one of the harshest environments in the world. Traditionally people in Ladakh have practiced polyandry, because it took the work of several men to successfully raise one woman's children in such a harsh environment. Can you imagine a man and his brother marrying the same woman and learning to get along together? It sounds crazy, yet somehow this is what they did for hundreds, maybe thousands of years. They also ate a ton of yak milk and liked it. It's amazing what you can get used to.

I have other friends who care for their children or their parents during graduate school (although I have yet to meet someone who has tried to do both.) It's clear that engaging in this type of caring is detrimental to an academic career, but I'm not sure it's completely incompatible. What do you think? Can you care for your family and be a grad student?


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Puppy Update

Thanks again for all the great advice. Beorn and I have agreed that we will probably have to move since my uncle is scary. We can't risk the puppies "disappearing" since it would provoke him. None of his brothers (including my father) are willing (or able) to stand up to him. My father, as executor is responsible for her wellbeing, so he will have to figure out another way to make sure she is taken care of. It's going to be a big financial strain on Beorn and I, but my mental health is important. I haven't been sleeping well since the puppy drama came to a head. Last night my father and uncle got into it over the phone. Then my uncle called back and I (stupidly) answered the phone. He proceeded to tell me that Beorn and I were selfish "takers" and "welfare cases." Then he showed up out here at Grandma's house again, so when Beorn informed me of this I told him to stay in the attic. I don't know my uncle's opinions on gun control, but I'm not risking it. If I could just get my damn thesis written...


Monday, September 03, 2007

Puppy Dilemma

Today the puppies arrived along with my uncle, his wife and daughter, and my other uncle. When we explained that no one had asked us if we were willing to care for puppies, my uncle started yelling and threatening to call the police. I told him it was fine with me if he wanted to call the cops, but we weren't going to be taking care of puppies. My second uncle stepped in and tried to say it wouldn't be so bad to care for them and that it's grandma's house, she has a right to get them if she wants. At that point Beorn and I decided to get out of the house and went to dinner.

The problem is, Grandma has the mind of a two year old. She regularly pees her pants and doesn't have the sense to change them afterwards. She would eat herself into a diabetic coma if we let her. There is no way that she can take care of those puppies. They just aren't appropriate for her.

Jack Russell Terriers are fox hunting dogs. They are extremely smart and energetic and so go crazy with boredom if they aren't given enough exercise. Here are some quotes off the web:

"Jack Russell Terriers can be difficult to deal with because they are true hunting dogs. They should be kept on leash when in rural/country areas, because if they take off after a ground squirrel or other quarry, they will not hesitate to dig and go underground. Terriers have been known to stay underground with their quarry for days, with no food or water."

"The majority of dogs (in Russell Rescue) are unwanted simply for being Jack Russells by nature and behavior," according to a pamphlet provided by the group. "Owners often find that they were unprepared for the care required for this feisty terrier and did not understand the nature of the breed and their instinctive desire to hunt."

"Like most terriers, the Jack Russell is a digger and a barker; if not given enough opportunity to indulge these inclinations outside, he may dig holes in the furniture and bark at everything that moves."

"Jack Russells who are not trained on a consistent basis, or are not exercised regularly, may occasionally exhibit aggressive or unmanageable behaviour, including excessive barking, escaping from the yard, or digging in unwanted places inside and outside the house. In America, several Jack Russell rescue networks have to work constantly to find temporary and permanent homes for JRTs whose owners could not meet these requirements for keeping JRTs as house pets."

We told my uncle that we weren't going to be caring for the puppies, but they left them here anyway, so the question is now what do we do? I don't think it's fair to the dogs to simply leave them here and not take care of them, but I don't want my uncle to think he can get away with that kind of crap. Options I have thought of so far...

1. Beorn and I find a new place to live and move out.
2. We inform my relatives that they are going to have to find someone else to care for the puppies, particularly on the weekends when we are the only ones here to watch grandma. If they don't take care of it we find the puppies a new home.
3. We let the puppies remain here, but make sure they stay in the dog run and have food and water.
4. We find the puppies a new home, and then when someone asks what happened to them we say, "we have no idea, they must have run away."

If the puppies stay here the best case scenario is that they grow up to be annoying, untrained brats, more likely in my estimation is that they run away or get run over. Just to be clear, there is no fence around the property and cars regularly speed down the road at 70+ mph.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Maybe this explains why I'm so spacy?

Saw this at Dr. Brazen Hussy's...

?? Which Of The Greek Gods Are You ??

Take this quiz!

Quizilla |

| Make A Quiz | More Quizzes | Grab Code


Why I can't seem to get back into blogging

So this morning I was trying to work from home, to do some analysis for my thesis. I woke up super groggy and couldn't seem to snap out of it. I suspect this has to do with air quality. Between the fires, the smog, and the agriculture outdoor air quality around here isn't too great. Additionally I'm living in an attic with carpeting that is about as old as I am and a bathroom full of mold damage. I have always had trouble with moldy rooms, although it doesn't seem to be too bad right now, maybe because it's so dry here, so the mold isn't actively growing.

I got some coffee and breakfast, started some laundry, and then proceeded to procrastinate for a while. I was excited to discover that the new calendar for Thunderbird will sync with Google calendar, so I set that up. Then I searched around for a way to sync my Palm with Google calendar as well. I decided to go downstairs to get my palm, so I could try to get it to work.

What did I discover when I got downstairs? My uncle, talking excitedly about taking my grandmother to get some puppies. Specifically, he found some Jack Russell Terrier puppies, which is what my grandmother said she wanted after the funeral. The thing is everyone has warned us that Jack Russells are very hyperactive and will turn into monsters if not properly entertained and trained. We told my uncle this, but he doesn't seem to care.

My grandmother talked about getting puppies in the days right after my grandfather died, but she hasn't mentioned it since. She can't take care of herself, so there is no way that she can take care of puppies. My uncle doesn't think to ask us if we want to take care of puppies. Also, we don't really know what is going to happen in the near future, if the dementia gets worse she may end up in assisted living. What will happen to the dogs then?

I don't think a normal person would get someone else's child a puppy without talking to the parents first. Well in this situation I think he should be talking to Grandma's caregivers before announcing that he is getting her a pet. It won't do any good to talk to him about it though, he has the emotional maturity of a small child, so it will just result in a tantrum, which is rather scary when it's coming from a six foot tall, fifty year old man.

So now I'm simultaneously angry and anxious. There is no way I'm going to be able to concentrate on work this morning.


Thursday, August 09, 2007

NYC here I come

As you can see I'm still not back into regular blogging. Thanks for all your kind words. I'm hoping things will feel more settled soon.

For the weekend, I'm off to a conference in the Big Apple. (Does anyone say that any more?) Suggestions for places to eat or things to see are welcome.


Monday, July 30, 2007

'Cause everyone is doing it

Click to view my Personality Profile page


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Sorry for the long interlude

My blog suddenly went silent.

Things got away from me and my normal routine has still not fully returned. So here are a few important details from the last month or so.

1. My grandfather died.
2. This caused great turmoil in my family.
3. The same week we were scheduled to move out of our apartment.
4. Then we stayed at my father's house for a while because my grandmother's attic was still filthy and full of trash.
5. We got it mostly cleaned up and most of the junk moved out.
6. Now we are helping to care for my grandmother who has dementia.
7. The attic where we are living still needs a lot of work.
8. I'm frustrated that I can't be in control of the manner and speed of the repairs.
9. I still don't feel much like blogging.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Things I Learned at Antioch College

I attended Antioch College from 1991-96 and despite what a number of people have said about Antioch shooting itself in the foot, I learned many important lessons during my time there. The education I got at Antioch was so different from that I see the undergrads here at Big Ag U that it's difficult to cover everything.

In many ways my Antioch education wasn't that different than any liberal arts education, so the accusation that somehow it's Antioch's unconventional education that resulted in it's financial demise is just not true. Yes, there are some things about Antioch that are unconventional, but it's hardly fair to accuse them of not preparing their students for a competitive job market.

Everyone is mentioning the lack of letter grades and the use of narrative evaluations, as if employers hire based on graduates' GPAs. The truth is that my narrative evaluations meant that I had what amounted to numerous glowing recommendations of my academic work when it came time to apply to graduate school. Just as at other alternative schools, such as Evergreen and UCSC, it was possible to request that letter grades be placed on your transcripts.

No one is mentioning the most important aspect of the Antioch experience, the cooperative education program. This program, which started in 1921 requires all students to participate in several paid internship experiences. I expressly chose Antioch because I would get job and travel experiences. Each year at Antioch I spent 3-6 months working full time at a real job. I spent time interning at a major museum in Chicago. I worked as an environmental lobbyist in West Virginia. I tried my hand in a chemistry lab. I even ran the college's community garden, marketing the produce at the Yellow Springs farmers market. (I'm glad I got the organic farming bug out of my system.)

My first year at Antioch I worked as an assistant in the registrar's office. I must have been frustrated by the dilapidated state of the facilities, because the registrar, who had worked there seemingly forever, explained to me the demise of Antioch's endowment. It had nothing to do with Antioch's leftist leanings. During the 70's one of Antioch's presidents spent the endowment opening up satellite campuses all over the country and hiring his buddies to administer them. At some point in the late 70's most of the satellite campuses closed down, leaving the campus with practically no endowment. Since then the college hasn't had enough money to repair it's dilapidated buildings.

The commencement speaker at my graduation was Harvard professor and popular science essayist Steven J. Gould, himself an Antioch graduate. At the time I found his speech both amusing and slightly insulting in that it's thesis was that Antioch was like a bacteria or amoeba, small, adaptable, and difficult to eradicate. Now I hope that Gould was correct, that Antioch will reappear 2012.


Random philosophical problems

I'm writing a paper to do with posthumanism and the question of the moral standing of non-human animals. Today I ran into an undergrad I know who asked me what I was doing. Then I did a very poor job of trying to explain what the class was about. (I didn't even try to explain what my paper was about.)

He said something like, "I always have trouble explaining classes I really like." Thanks. I don't know how you philosophy folks do it. I felt like I had to try to explain critical theory (which I don't really understand myself) and then explain humanism before I could even get to the point about non-human animals. I have tried to say to people, "I'm taking this class about animals." This results in them saying something like, "You mean like wildlife ecology?"

Last week at an end of the year party I told some other grad students in my program that I'm interested in discourses on/about nature and everyone looked at me like, "What did you say?" I ended up explaining why I think there was a link between whiteness and and concern for "nature," which probably offended and/or confused people because I didn't explain it well.

I have also taken (when slightly drunk) to attempting to insert, as many times as I can, the word hegemony unnecessarily into conversation. One (if one is a frazzle grad student) can accuse people of being hegemonic in sort of the same way that the peasant at the beginning of Monty Python and the Holy Grail yells "Help, help, I'm being oppressed!" But it's only funny if you have recently read "Contingency, Hegemony, Universality."


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Married Date Night

Beorn and I have been having a little bit of a difficult time. We have our ups and downs, both of us being in school at the same time is very challenging financially. Beorn tends to retreat into the computer and online gaming. Last weekend, after some complaining on my part he made an effort to spend time with me and have a "date night." We went to sushi and then rented movies. Sunday night we watched "Little Miss Sunshine." I think it is now on my list of the best movies ever. It's been a long time since I laughed that hard. If you have seen it click below for the rest of my review, if you haven't, then go rent it right now!
The thing that I loved about the "talent show" scene was the way that it played up the double standard in America about little girls and sexuality. According to the pageant organizers it's OK for little girls to be sexual as long as they are emulating the proper role models.

I love this video, where the cast talk about working with the little girl, Abigail Breslin.


More Family Drama

So my father has proposed that Beorn and I move in to my grandparent's house for a while to help care for my grandmother. This will most likely be the source of much drama. My grandparents already have a caregiver living with them during the week, but my dad and my uncles are supposed to be caring for them on the weekends. This doesn't work very well because my grandmother forgets to take her medications, which she needs to do four times a day. Also, she's diabetic, so she needs have someone monitor her blood sugar and make sure she eats. She's having mild dementia so she need someone there all the time. My grandfather must have been helping to keep track of her, but now he is in the hospital.

I'm worried about him because he survived the surgery, but doesn't seem to be getting better. His breathing is very labored and his blood pressure is very low. He isn't strong enough to even move around in bed much. I had to help him to call the nurse because he couldn't find the button in the tangle of tubes and monitors. Hopefully he will be going to a rehab facility soon. If he doesn't get better there is a possibility that he would come home for the family to care for as long as he lasts.

For me, the sad situation for my grandparents isn't the biggest issue. I feel strangely able to deal with my sadness and their sadness. It's my father and uncles' inability to deal with their emotions. Any negative emotions on their parts are channeled into anger and yelling. I have trouble dealing with it, which is why I have tried to avoid major entanglements with the extended family until now.

The smart thing to do would be not to get involved, but since Beorn and I are home all the time anyway, if we lived there we could be a big help. Also my grandmother doesn't eat unless she likes what she is given and Beorn and I are both good cooks. I can't help but think of all the times when I was little that my grandmother took care of me, especially when I was sick.


Thursday, June 07, 2007

Apparently this is my week to let out my inner geek.
As seen on the Paper Chase:

You scored as Ranger, The forest are home to fierce and cunning creatures, such as the bloodthirsty Owl bears and malicious Displacer Beasts. But more cunning and powerful than these monsters is the ranger, a skilled hunter and stalker. He knows the woods as if they were his home(as indeed they are), and he knows his prey in deadly detail.























Which D&D Class Are You?
created with


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

BBC Religious Sitcoms

Lately we have been watching The Vicar of Dibley, a hilarious comedy about a female vicar in small town in England, starring Dawn French. I love Dawn French. (You might remember her as the Fat Lady in Harry Potter.) She's funny, smart, and beautiful. I also love the fact that her weight doesn't seem to be an issue in the show.

Someday I want to have a face off between the Vicar and Father Ted. Father Ted stars three slightly cracked Irish catholic priests, forced to live on Craggy Island because of their un-priestly ways.

American sitcoms can't hold a candle to British ones in my mind. These two shows are so funny, they really cheer me up. Very few American shows have ever done that for me, maybe MASH as a kid. I'm not obsessed with all things British, but British TV is the best.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Fractal Geometry and Boyfriends

Tonight I'm watching The Colours of Infinity and reminiscing about old boyfriends. In the early 90's, I was just starting college. My first college boyfriend was a physics major. He was a senior and had keys for almost anyplace on campus. Why? I'm not sure, but he had a way with the campus staff. This gave me a feeling that he was strong and competent. The fractal sets playing on his computer screen made me feel that he was intelligent and philosophically "deep." I guess I was innocent in my own way. I'm sure that he wasn't the most socially competent person on campus, but he had a geeky allure. My crush had little to do with him, but much to do with the idea of a scientist, the idea of intelligence, and the glamor of the search for knowledge. I was in love with my own idea of what a scientist was and fractal images were a major part of that. (Also, he was building a robot dog as his senior project, I kid you not.)


Cyborg Grandpa

My grandpa made it through his hip replacement surgery! Yay! He's not out of the woods yet, but I'm hopeful. He already had a knee replacement, but now he has another mechanical part.

Grandpa has nothing on Michael Chorost. Chorost has a cochlear implant, which allows him to hear, but produces some interesting side effects such has a magnetic spot on his head and periodic software updates. A friend gave me a copy of Chorost's book, Rebuilt and I'm really looking forward reading it.


Sunday, June 03, 2007


I had a interesting time at my conference. Nothing terrible happened during my presentation. Unfortunately, on Friday my grandfather fell down and broke his hip. He's in the hospital, in need of surgery. For years he's been on blood thinners to make sure he didn't have a heart attack or stroke. Now they have to take him off the blood thinners to do the surgery, but that means that there will be a high risk of heart attack or stroke.

The worse part of this is that both my grandparents have terrible hearing loss, so it's difficult to spend quality time with them.

The point is that I may not be blogging much until this all gets sorted out.


Friday, June 01, 2007

Central Park Historical Trivia

A friend (who shall here remain nameless) pointed out to me that there is no such thing as a "tenement farmer," apparently the proper term is "tenant farmer." I googled this, not because I didn't believe her, but because I could swear that I heard it from other people. At least 34 other people have made the same mistake, so I'm not the only one.

I was trying to say that before Central Park was built there were people farming some of that land and they weren't all tenant farmers, some of them were squatting farmers. Saying squatting farmers doesn't sound right though. There must be a better word.


Thursday, May 31, 2007

Queen of West Procrastination posted in response to conversation at One Bright Star's. It's all about PhD students who say they "just want to teach" or "don't want a research job." I used to say these things, but more and more I think I do really want to do research. Mostly though I worry about not being able to find a research position or having to give up too many other things in order to do research.

Ironically, in contrast to most R1 universities, I recently discovered how many people in my program don't want professor positions when they complete their degrees. Some want positions in government or non-profits, others feel that they would never be able to measure up to a full professorship.

Also, it seems to me that many of the professors I meet here are not that interested in research. Either they are "practitioners" who write up practical work as research so that they can get promoted or maybe they were passionate about research at one time but have been burnt out by the pace of university life.

The more that I see poor research being done the more that I want to do it well.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Professorial Availability

I understand that professors need to limit the amount of time they make themselves available to students, so that they can get other work done. On the other hand, as a grad student I have things I need to talk to people about and I feel guilty standing in line with the undergrads during office hours.

I know that this is the undergrads' only opportunity to get attention from their professors, so I hate to "steal" that time. There are only limited office hours available and in the last few week I have stood around, waiting in line for several professors. Then I feel guilty because I'm causing people to miss their lunches or neglect other work when they finally get to me. I would much rather make an appointment. Then I could make it to the appointment on time and wrap things up on time, so as to avoid abusing other people's time.

Whatever. Obviously I have an overly developed sense of not wanting to inconvenience other people. Or maybe I just hate wasting time standing around in people's hallways. It makes me feel like some sort of interloper, begging for an audience.

Sometimes I "accidentally" run into faculty members when I know where they are going to be, just so I can get a couple of minutes with them. Otherwise a whole quarter might go by and I might not be able to find someone for a signature. I feel guilty about this, but then again, it seems like the only thing that works.


Friday, May 25, 2007

Friday Cat Blogging

Lately my blog has been a downer, but there are two things to look forward to here:

1. I think I have figured out how the whole full post vs. summary thing works, so that now when you click on the text that says "full post" it actually takes you to the full post and if there is no "full post" it doesn't show up. Make sense?

2. Cats are so great.

Isn't our couch ugly? We got it for free from freecycle and it's really comfy.


Academhack Timeline for Qualifying Exams

Taking Exams

So helpful!


Thursday, May 24, 2007

I have a big problem

What do you do when you have a very basic disagreement with your PI about the research project that she is paying you to work on?

Normally I would just do the project in whatever way she was requesting and then get a new job ASAP. Unfortunately, what she wants me to do is analyze the data and come to conclusions, but I don't think we have enough data to come to any conclusions. I'm suppose to be writing my thesis from this data, but I can't write because I don't think there is anything conclusive in this data. The more I look at the information we have the more I have questions instead of answers.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

I'm trying the expandable post thing again. I hope it works. If you want the hear more about my recent adventures in getting my thesis written and approved click below...

Here are the things I have done this week to move myself towards graduation:

First, I wrote a very clear email to my advisor explaining the help I need from her before I can proceed with my analysis. Namely, I'm hoping to analyze some text that is part of one of her larger project. The text is being coded using a qualitative research software. I counted the number of codes in the project currently. There are approximately 1176, which means that if you put the codes into outline with each code taking one line, the outline fills around 26 pages! Until these codes are sorted out I can't really proceed with my analysis.

Second, I went ahead and asked two professors that I really like to be on my thesis committee. I'm worried about it because I'm not sure how they will get along with my advisor, but I decided that it would all work out one way or another.


Sunday, May 20, 2007

Does this mean I was once an ugly duckling?

Your Power Bird is a Swan

You are a truly graceful and gorgeous creature.
You easily see beauty in yourself and others.
Intuitive and in touch, you can often guess what the future will bring.
And you're flexible enough to accept the changes that life has in store for you.


Friday, May 18, 2007

Cat Blogging Friday

I just uploaded my first youtube video. Last weekend I happened to have a camera out when my friend's tiny dog met the neighbor's little black kitty. They didn't seem to be fighting as much as having fun, but we eventually decided to separate them since the dog was accustomed to cats with no claws.


Harry Potter and the Suspension of Disbelief

Today my dear friend Trillwing pointed out something very interesting about Harry Potter. So here is the question...Why does Harry Potter wear glasses? If you can transform someone into a cat, wouldn't it be fairly simple to fix the shape of their eyes?

In response to this I thought that certainly Harry Potter fans must have thought of this and explained this plot flaw. As the story line of Galaxy Quest points out, fans often have the important details of fiction worked out more clearly than the stars (or writers) do.

So here are a few quotes from The Leaky Lounge...

"why doesn't Harry or a better witch at charms or transfiguration, just say, "REPARO!" and fix Harry's eyesight!!!"

"I've actually wondered about this too - I mean Hermione fixed her teeth didn't she? And yet, it always seems there are things in the wizard world that just can't be fixed with magic. Also, I believe Arthur, Dumbledore, and Percy (?) all wear glasses, so maybe its not that simple."

There are also some interesting speculations about the symbolic meanings of Harry's glasses and the possible plot significance of the glasses. I'm still not satisfied with any of the explanations.


Monday, May 14, 2007

Ok, so we aren't really that poor...

Maybe we just make poor financial decisions. Soon we will be moving to a smaller apartment since currently we pay more than half our monthly salaries on rent. At the moment we have a two bedroom and use the second bedroom as an office, but I think we could get by in a one bedroom. I'm not sure we could get any work done in a studio, although we shared a tiny house for a while. Both our desks and computers were in our little 12x14 room and we folded up our bed each morning in order to make space for walking around.

We rarely eat out or got to the movies anymore and have only one car since we can get to school by bike or public transit, but we do have some luxuries, for one we have pets. As my recent public television viewing has taught me until recently only the very wealthy could afford to keep animals that didn't work. We also spend more money than we should on groceries and alcohol. We are working on consistently packing lunches and not spending on coffee or soda on campus.

Our main luxury though is our computers, our high-speed internet, and our online gaming. We have given up Netflix and other movie rentals, but haven't given up gaming. Online gaming gives us as much entertainment as we want (and sometimes more than we really want) for around $20 a month. I usually only play a few hours a week, but I still think it's worth the expense.

A few months ago we gave up on World of Warcraft. Since we only play a little bit a week we can't keep up with a guild that wants it's members to regularly participate with endgame raiding. Raiding feels more like work than play to me anyway.

After playing Civ 4 for a few months we started beta testing Lord of the Rings Online. To me all online games have the same ups and downs, but there are some things I like about LRO. For one thing it's nice to play a game that isn't known inside and out by several million people. I can't just go lookup all the quests on Allakhazam. The main thing I like about it though is the scenery, the graphics are just beautiful. The clouds float across the sky, the flowers wave in the breeze, and the water sparkles and shimmers.

What luxuries do you want to keep when money is tight?


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Why I'm in Grad School (Part II)

So I encouraged Beorn to go back to school, more for the moral boost I knew it would give him than for any financial reasons. When I finally got up the courage to apply to grad school I realized I could make as much working 20 hrs a week than I had been making full time at my non-profit job. The university also gives us better health insurance (and some minimal dental) whereas Beorn had been completely uninsured while I was working full time.

Unfortunately the department I work for doesn't seem to value it's grad students at all. My adviser, the department head, and the MFO don't seem to care that I haven't been paid. They regularly wait until the first week of the quarter to hire their TAs. Much of my mental energy goes to how to find enough work for the next quarter.

Currently I'm working 3o hrs a week at two different jobs because I know that one job will be running out of funding after this quarter. I have no promise that the other job will employ me over the summer although the staff seems to be working under that impression. My jobs pay the rent and utilities, Beorn's 1o-15 hrs a week as an undergrad tech support monkey pays for our groceries. All our other expenses are covered by student loans. I know we shouldn't be taking out loans for grad school, but it's preferable to the credit card debit we would be running up if we weren't in school.

The problem is that it's difficult for me to get any of my own research done while working 30 hrs a week and wondering how I will pay my rent in a couple of months. This really hit home for me last month when I went to that big conference. My poverty in comparison to most of the people there really hit me. While many attendees were enjoying their stay at the Hilton and touring one of the most beautiful cities in the world, I was commuting to my mom's studio apartment.

Although I have been in grad school for three years now, this is the first year I have attended any conferences and that is just because they happen to be coming to nearby cities. I don't have money for hotels, airfare, but even without those things I spent several hundred on gas, train tickets, and food out.

At the end of this month I'm supposed to be giving my first presentation. This week I expressed my nervousness to my adviser as my presentation is the first one of a panel on the first day of the conference, so their might be big names there. She informs me that everyone dresses up the first day. Great, so now I have to figure out how to get money for a fancy outfit and a haircut.

Scraping up money for books and conferences wouldn't bother me much, it seems to be a normal part of grad school. I'm pretty used to being poor; we have been struggling for several years. What bothers me is that no one in my department cares whether I get paid for the work I do. So that's why I'm looking at programs elsewhere, because I can't see writing a dissertation while searching for a new job every three months, especially since I can't seem to get anyone in my department to actually read any of my writing.