Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Ack! When "Issues" Attack!

This whole thesis process is driving me insane. To clarify, my program doesn't require a "defense," my committee just has to sign the damn thing. After my adviser having read and reviewed it, in sections, I gave the full draft to the two other committee members. Requesting that they give me feedback within two weeks. I would have liked to get the three of them together in a way, it would have meant that I had one dose of feedback and then could have revised. My adviser said they should send her their comments. Committee member number one is on sabbatical, so I had to mail him a copy. He read it the day he received it and requested a meeting with me. The meeting was somewhat painful since he pointed out many of the same problems that I see in the project and my writing of it. Unfortunately, I can't write what I would like to because it would be a serious critique of my adviser's work. Committee member number two is also my current boss on campus. I don't see him often because he is only in the office 1-2 days a week, but I'm now convinced, since it's been two weeks and I haven't gotten is comments, that he must not want to talk to me about it because it's so bad. (See, I have "issues.")

The thing is I know it's crap, but I promised my adviser that I would write something in exchange for her employment of me as a research assistant for a year. I have tried to gently point out to her the problems with this project. She isn't interested in hearing about it. My committee members are two of the smartest and most senior professors on campus. I'm sure the problems with the project and the things I'm not saying are obvious to them. I just want to get out of here and move on, preferably without having to burn bridges with anyone.

If I ever get the signatures from everyone, my second problem will be the fact that my adviser wants to publish an article from my thesis. We had talked about this, back before I understood the depth of the problem. I really, really don't want to have to tell her that I don't think this is publishable, but I also don't want to have my first publication be something I'm so embarrassed about.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Learning to Write

I made it through a meeting with one member of my thesis committee this morning. Now this may not have been the best strategy, but in order to get through the process in a timely fashion, I left my thesis somewhat incomplete. I knew that there were issues I wasn't addressing, but rather than try to address all of the inconsistencies and incomplete points, I decided to see what my committee members wanted me to add and what points they would bring up. Normally this wouldn't be my preferred mode, but these are two very senior professors who's opinion I trust and this project is so screwy that I am trusting them to help me straight it out just enough for them to sign off.

The meeting this morning was the first outside feedback I have gotten on it. The big issues he brought up were all expected and so didn't feel too threatening. The worst part was his comment on my lack of editing. He went through the thesis finding lots of small grammar and editing problems. His comment was that I should work to eliminate these from my writing before I hand stuff in to professors because people will judge me negatively because of these small errors.

He makes a good point, but I'm still somewhat frustrated because I would have appreciated this advice during my first year at grad school. If this is a pattern, why hasn't anyone else mentioned it during my four years of grad school? Also, I already showed the thesis to my adviser and apparently she didn't catch these errors. Maybe the problem was more prominent in my thesis because I dislike the project so much that I did a poor job of proofing, but I suspect that I have some blind spots when it comes to grammar. For example, I'm aware of the misuse of "it's" and "its" but in my own writing that isn't something that stands out for me as a glaring error. Split infinitives? I know they exist, but how to spot one? I'm not sure. (This makes my editing of undergrad papers somewhat ironic. Often I can tell them that a particular sentence is incorrect, but couldn't explain to them why.)

I need an editing buddy, someone who is willing to trade drafts with me. Beorn and I do this sometimes, but I would prefer having a backup person. And I need to come up with some additional strategies to improve my editing of my own writing. Generally I just take a break from whatever I'm writing, leave it for a day or two and then reread it slowly for errors. I know people say reading it out loud helps, but the best I manage is mumbling it under my breath.

(Blog posts are posted as is, so I'm sure they are riddled with grammatical errors.)


Sunday, May 18, 2008

This applies to academics as well...

Sleep deprivation is not a badge of honor - (37signals)
"Forgoing sleep is like borrowing from a loan shark. Sure you get that extra hours right now to cover for your overly-optimistic estimation, but at what price? The shark will be back and if you can’t pay, he’ll break your creativity, morale, and good-mannered nature as virtue twigs."

David writes about this in relation to work in the private sector, but his point applies to academics as well. Doing good intellectual work requires we be at our best, not fuzzy-brained and grumpy. Yet anyone who admits to relaxing once in a while and getting enough sleep risks being viewed as a slacker as less than ambitious, not worthy of accolades.

I have been meaning to post a link to A Blog Around The Clock : A 40-hour workweek?
which links to posts by academic bloggers on the 40 hour work week. I don't think everyone should maintain a 40 hour week any more than I think everyone should work 12 hour days all the time. Everyone has their own limitations, but I don't think working long hours necessarily means you are more productive. Alternately, you might produce lots of product, but the quality might not be what it could have been had you had time to rest and reflect.


Friday, May 09, 2008

Testing Contribute

Hello blog readers! I'm testing out a software program called Contribute, that works with Dreamweaver. Contribute is suppose to allow WYSWIG editing of web pages and blogs. We will see if it has any benefits. Ironically, the Contribute spellchecker doesn't recognize the word "blog."


Wednesday, May 07, 2008


Have I told you how much I love ScribeFire? The more I use it, the better I like it. For example, you can right click on whatever page you are browsing and then click "blog this" and the ScribeFire window will open with the link in it. You can choose which blog you want to post to, without having to log out and log in to another account. Also, if you browse to another page and want to link to it, when you click on the link button, the link to the page you are on pops up without you having to cut and paste. I'm using it right now.


Gender Confusion

This piece, "Two Families Grapple with Sons' Gender Preferences : NPR", on NPR pushed gender issues into the front of my brain again this week. Listening to the radio this afternoon I was struck by the parent's stories. How difficult it must be for them to find that their child, at two or three, cannot accept the gender role assigned to him/her. Knowing that your child might face a lifetime of discrimination and violence, what would you do?

When I was a little, little girl my parents did their best to raise me without gender biases. Despite this, I loved frilly pink dresses, fairies, and princesses. My grandparents and other kids didn't help, but since we didn't watch TV at home I can't really blame the media. It wasn't until junior high that I grew out of my girly-ness.

In college a good friend of mine was a cross-dresser. Antioch was probably one of the few places in the country where a trans-gendered person could be out without (much) fear. Still, I was too embarrassed to really talk to him about it. When he hit on me or my other women friends I just felt confused. I had no issue with friends who were gay or lesbian or bi, but I didn't "get" his identity.

These issues get really confusing. For example, last week at a party some folks were discussing the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival and Osento Bathhouse. Apparently the Womyn's music festival only allows "womyn born womyn" to perform meaning that transgendered male to female performers aren't welcome but transgendered female to male performers are allowed. Osento on the other hand permits male to female transgendered patrons, which makes some other female patrons uncomfortable.

All of this still confuses me. How can someone who is two be confused about his/her gender? Could the desire to be a girl arise from some trauma? From the recognition that the way that men are socialized in this culture leaves many men disconnected from their emotions and unable to connect with other humans? Or are some people born with an innate desire to wear frilly pink dresses? Can anyone talk us out of this desire? My parents certainly couldn't.

Update: NPR has more on this today. Now transgendered teens can choose to get hormone treatments that allow them to fit in better as adults. Never having gone through puberty in the opposite gender, as adults they are more like other people of their chosen gender. Somehow this comforts me, and yet I wonder how much of this has to do with the need or desire to hide one's transgendered-ness. Could more acceptance help transgendered people feel comfortable with their in-between-ness?

As a woman who doesn't fit the idealized image of what women should be, I wonder about transgendered male to female people and their desire to fit that mold. My college friend tended to wear make-up, high-heals, and short skirts much more than my hippy women friends. As a young woman I felt a lot of pressure to "fit in," yet in some ways my transgender friend stood out as more feminine than the women she was friends with. I hope we were both "being ourselves" and not bowing to outside pressures or internal anxieties about who we "should" be.


Thesis Progress

Finally had a meeting with my adviser today. I was horribly nervous because I had written the entire thing, submitting sections of it to her as I went, but had had no feedback about it. No feedback is fine, if you are in agreement about the general plan, but there was no agreement about the plan. Adviser is very nice, but not terribly consistent.

She gave lots of comments, but they were all clarifying points. Nothing wild. Yay!

Now I just have to get it through the committee and filed.


Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Update

My decision to attend Visitation U. coincided with my trip to Big Conference, so I forgot to tell y'all. I would have liked to go to Great White North U. Did you know that Canadian TA's only work 10 hours a week? Union rules, ya'know. 10 hours a week and short semesters, I would recommend it to other grad students.

If it wasn't for Beorn I would have jumped on the chance. Beorn will have to find his way, either way, since he didn't get in where he applied last fall. I think he didn't put his best effort into his applications last time, so I'm hopeful that, if he really wants to do grad school, he will put in a stronger effort next time. Leaving the country under uncertain conditions just didn't seem reasonable. To get residency we would have to prove something like $12,000 in savings, which isn't going to happen anytime soon. Too bad.

I'm excited to be going someplace new though. Visitation U. will now be called Crunchy U. Hopefully there are enough "crunchy" places for that to be less than obvious.

Did I mention that Beorn will be graduating soon and then attending a "field school" over the summer? He will have to live away from me for the summer and spend a ton of time being active in the sunshine. Hopefully he won't need to yell, "The sun, it burns!!!" Or collapse from heat prostration. Computer geeks aren't known for their enjoyment of hiking. I'm crossing my fingers for him.

I will be continuing my current job on campus over the summer. I have a ton of work to catch up on in that vein. Don't tell the administration that I'm actually leaving.

I don't feel that excited about starting over at a new place, but I'm hoping the excitement will build. Getting away from my current entanglements would be nice though. My father has called twice (once while I was in Boston) in the last two weeks for help with Grandma. I don't mind helping, but it's always last minute and an emergency with him. If I have to say no, I feel anxious and stressed. It probably sounds horrible, but I don't think Grandma will be negatively affected by my absence, but being a little further away from family will help me get my degree finished.


Happy May Day!

Workers of the World Unite!
Jump the Beltane Fires!
Make Love Not War!
Etc! Etc!

Saturday we are going to the beach to celebrate May Day. I can't wait.