Sunday, February 24, 2008

Graduate school plans, a review

The process of transitioning from a master's program to a PhD program has been a bumpy one for me. Officially, I'm listed as a PhD student here at B.A.U. despite the fact that my master's thesis is not complete. At this point I have completed more than enough credits to be done with classes and preparing for my qualifying exams. My thesis has been lagging for a number of reasons. (I'm trying to convince myself that this isn't a sign of my lack of suitability for an academic career.)

1. Last year I agreed to work with my adviser on a long term project and take part of the analysis to create my thesis. This cause no end of trouble because (I later found out that) we fundamentally disagree about what kind of analysis should be done with that data. Then the data collection process wasn't very successful.

2. I have had all sorts of bad luck and family issues in the last two years: a broken foot, relatives in need of care, a stolen car, my grandfather dying, Beorn's cat disappearing.
There has been some confusion about what discipline I want to be in and what degrees was pursuing. This was my fault. When I started, I thought I would pursue a dual degree in "hairdressing" and "head studies" because there are jobs for "hairdressers" outside of academia, which would have taken me 31/2-4 years, so really I'm exactly on schedule. (Right, right?) I always felt that I ultimately wanted to teach and so might want to pursue a PhD, but I didn't communicate that very clearly to either my professors or friends and family outside of academia. I think Beorn understood, but other people not so much.

Last year, when it became clear that my Adviser and I weren't meshing, I started thinking about who I might get to advise me on a PhD project. I met with professors from all over the campus looking for a good match, but while several people were encouraging about my project ideas, none of them seemed appropriate considering my degree will be in "head studies" and none of them come from closely related disciplines, so Beorn and I started thinking about applying to other grad schools.

I could stay at B.A.U. because things seem to be looking up for the "head studies" program here. Its interesting how many people seem threatened or upset by my choosing to leave. Friends from my cohort make pressuring comments, despite the fact that I rarely see them, and they know I have good reasons for leaving. Professors here keep emphasizing how great other professors here are (I think will little actual knowledge of the person in question.) Friends and family outside of academia mainly seem puzzled. They think I should be done already and start making money. They are probably right in one sense. Pursuing a PhD doesn't make much sense financially, but I'm surprised, because these are people who didn't choose their careers/jobs for their money making potential.

I understand not wanting a friend to move away, particularly one who you see frequently, but I have a feeling that many people just aren't comfortable with my decision. Either they don't see the value in pursuing an academic career or they are uncomfortable with my dissatisfaction with the current program. In my mind, if I'm going to pursue an academic career, I need to pursue it full force, not settle for a program that doesn't suit me.


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Two good things and one bad

Bad news first:

I'm spending my weekend grading exams. These are essays, so each one takes a while.

Good news:

1. I found out this week that at least one of the PhD programs I applied to wants me. They said I was "on top of their list", or something like that. They offered me three years of guaranteed teaching fellowships, which I think is the best they have to offer.

2. Pineapple guava jam is good. Beorn and I made some last winter and now I'm enjoying it on buttered toast.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Cat Update

Big Orange Kitty is doing better now. His tail has survived the ordeal. I'm very glad we got him to the vet when we did. He's such a beautiful cat and his whiskers and tail are his best features. I would hate for him to lose either one. He is amazingly good natured about getting treated and taking his medicine. I can give him a pill without much trouble and he mostly didn't mind as looking at his tail. He didn't want anyone to touch it, but he would just try to get away, not bite or scratch.

On the down side he is amazingly persistent when he wants in or out of something. We call him "the kitty to whom no door is barred." We have an Ikea bed with storage underneath and he insists on opening the drawers so he can hide inside. His ability to slip out of his e-collar is impressive. We have had trouble sleeping all week because we keep waking up to check on him or because we heard him trying to scratch.

Beorn took him to the vet today. No more stitches or collar, just another week inside with the antibiotics.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

External Fellowships & Grading

Last week I applied for my very first external fellowship. I know, I should have been applying for them from the start, but damn, that was a lot of work. I don't know how people do it. They could have asked for a C.V. but instead I had to put everything in one field at a time. It was exhausting and took up a bunch of time I could have used for something else, but I'm proud that I got it done. I don't think I'll get this one, but it's good practice. It made me write something up.

After that I spent most of the weekend grading papers and worrying about Grandma. For whatever reason her dementia or depression seems to have gotten worse. She wanted to stay in bed all weekend and have me bring her food in bed. Sounds fun, but not when you are 80+. Getting up and walking around is key at that point.

Paper grading was frustrating because the prof I'm working with decided that we should grade the papers, then give them back to the students for revisions, then only record their final grade. Guess what happened. Lots of people turned in papers that read like they had been completed in 1-2 hours the night before. Yuck.


Crazy Weekends and Cats

Beorn and I stayed with Grandma with weekend so my father could have a weekend away with his wife. This meant we weren't at home much all weekend and the cats were stuck inside. When we got home, exhausted from sleeping on someone else's bed and being woken by strange dogs at 5 AM, we discovered that Big Orange Cat was acting strange. He had been feeling down for a week or so but we had assumed that is was digestive trouble from a hairball and would work itself out. A downward facing tail and complaining when we tried to touch his back end indicated something more serious.

Luckily, we live in a university town with an all night veterinary teaching hospital. We called after his wound started seeping something foul and they said bring him in. Mind you, late night vet care is not cheap, but it was fast and efficient.

It turns out he had been bitten three times on the tail. The bites had become infected, so the vets had to cut off the dead tissue and stitch up what was left. Sunday night they told us he could lose his tail, we would just have to wait and see.

Tonight I brought him back in for a checkup and they said it looked better than expected. I am grateful because a kitty without a tail is basically disabled and he was already running away when they bit him. He is a very large kitty, but not very brave. His mild temperament means he's a good patient though, he takes his pills and tolerates warm compresses very well.


Real life sucks...fantasy is much more fun

Beorn has been playing Lord of the Rings Online again. A while back we quit WOW and got into LOR, and then we had serious real life issues and gave up gaming for a while. I'm still way too busy to really game, but tonight I'm taking a break.

Getting use to gaming after a break is frustrating. If I haven't gamed in a while I get disoriented and can't keep up with other players. Usually everyone is level 50 anyway, so whatever area we are traveling through is very familiar to them. Also, I have forgotten all the commands, so I'm not very good at anything.

Tonight we went on a raid with our "kinship." Raids are confusing if there isn't a clear leader. It's difficult to keep up and keep track of everyone, especially since our internet connection is somewhat slow. Everyone expects you to know what quest we are doing or who to attack or not attack. Since our connection is slow I fell into a ditch/ravine which was filled with giant spiders. Not good. Everyone tried to jump in an save me, but it was too late. Ah well, c'est la vie.