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.


Money Issues (or why I'm in grad school, Part I)

Jory writes in Fast Company about how the companies can be more aware of the financial difficulties of their employees. How I wish that certain non profits and universities would read her article.

This month I have yet to be paid by either of my university jobs. Meanwhile I'm expected to shell out for gas and thank you gifts for the folks participating in our research. For a university professor (or even the woman who does the payroll for our department) that amount of money would be nothing. When we found out that I hadn't been paid we had $70 in our account and no money for rent.

In comparison to most of the people in the world we are rich, so you will have to take my complaining with a grain of salt. Yet there are times when I feel deeply frustrated at the lack of understanding by the people I work with.

My husband and I are both in school at the moment. My feeling is that this is not by choice, but by unfortunate circumstance. If I had been able to see into the future I would have returned to grad school much earlier, but I wasn't very confident and didn't know what I would want to study. Beorn had a decent job, but he was so unhappy most of our money went into our living expenses and to feed his addiction to electronics. We spent way too much money on eating out. I worked at jobs I loved but that paid me poverty wages. I guess I hoped that I would be able to move up into more reasonably paid management jobs.

In 2001 when the bubble burst Beorn was laid off. He didn't have a college degree so he had trouble finding a job after that. For a while he worked as a consultant for a startup, then when that went sour he worked at the local computer repair shop for little more than minimum wage. The repair shop didn't last long either. It's pretty demoralizing to go from $70,000+ to less than $20,000 while being repeatedly fired on trumped up excuses, so that they don't have to pay you unemployment.

Meanwhile my nonprofit job expected lots of unpaid overtime and kept on promising me pay raises that never seemed to come. After working there for four years my salary was barely above that of the new hires that I was being expected to train.


Saturday, May 12, 2007

Another Breena

There is another Breena and she likes Donna Haraway. I had no idea that there were people out there actually named Breena. I thought I made the name up. Her blog also has a great name: Superb Lyrebird.


Friday, May 11, 2007

Everyone get thee over to Styley's place

All academic bloggers need to read Styley's hilarious post:
Fumbling Towards Geekdom: If the academic blogs I read got together and created their own university


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Stupid People Come in All Types

This makes me really upset!
Vegan couple gets life over baby's death - Crime & Punishment -

Where were these people's families? Where was their midwife? The story doesn't tell anything about why someone wasn't there to advise them. It just makes vegans and people who have their babies at home look really stupid. Feeding a newborn soy milk and apple juice is not normal for vegans or people that have home births.

Normally a home birth is attended by at least a trained midwife. I can't imagine a sane person thinking it's OK for a totally inexperienced couple to deliver a baby at home without anyone to help or advise them. Even the folks from The Farm started out with supportive friends and experienced parents around. Later Ina May Gaskin gained experience and training as a midwife. (I think mostly through delivering babies and reading.) If you read Spiritual Midwifery (I have only read pieces) you'll find they did many stupid things, but I just can't imagine not reading or getting advice from anyone during your pregnancy.

I can only speculate that these parents thought that the baby was getting enough breast milk and that he wasn't? Where was La Leche League? I don't know if baby formula that is soy based is actually made with no animal products but it's just common sense that you don't feed a newborn just any liquid. Can you imagine going through nine months of pregnancy and not reading anything or talking to anyone about becoming a parent?

There has to be something else going on with that family. Something very wrong.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

I have so had this thought...

I love Devil's Panties. Conventions don't appeal to me much because I'm not a fan of masses of strangers, but some things about them are fun. I miss being involved in weird counterculture. Maybe this summer I should go to Burning Man or something, get it out of my system.