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.