16 September 2006
23 August 2006
Draws have been completed and posted. Mostly I'm interested in the draws because of unseeded Andre Agassi, a legend playing in the last tournament of his storied career. His draw looks ... meh. Could be better, could've been much, much worse. Agassi is likely to meet Baghdatis early, but that Cypriote's play has been so streaky, that I think Agassi has as good a chance as anyone in his corner (including Thomas Johansson and perennial bad-boy Sebastian Grosjean) to make it to the Round of 16. Here's to hoping.
Of course, there he'd be likely to meet up with Andy Roddick, who I see as the American man most likely to make a run at Flushing Meadows. Love him or hate him (and I know you do, NK), teaming up with Jimmy Connors has been good for A-Rod's psyche and he's playing with guts and belief for the first time in recent memory. Yes, James Blake did win Indianapolis, but his results since then have not only been dismal, he hasn't been playing with any really belief or spirit (more worrisome to me than even his results). After his early exit from New Haven (after failing to convert 5 match points, no less), I'm tempted to believe that Blake's ascent has reached its summit for the forseeable future.
On the women's side, I haven't seen Amelie Mauresmo play since her win at Wimbledon; with the "choke" monkey off her back, I imagine that she'll be swinging for the corners with greater abandon. I look forward to that. Unfortunately, Clijsters' ubiquitous wrist injury (though this time it was ligaments, not tendons) made a nasty reappearance in Montreal, and the relatively unknown, and blissfully dark-haired, Russian Ana Ivanovic clinched the US Open Series and has a lot of momentum going into the Open. Two other Russians, Sharapova and Petrova, both have something to prove at this Open, with lackluster results through the Spring and Summer. And, of course, it'll be great to see Americans Lindsay Davenport and Serena Williams (a wild card!) in action, as well as the up-and-coming Shenay Perry.
Yup, I love this time of year, and not just because it's the start of school.
I'm excited to announce that my advisor is really stylish. Flattering, funky clothes, cool glasses, and a great haircut.
I don't mean to be superficial about this, but you have to realize that, in Old Discipline, a stylish advisor was extremely rare. I don't know if my new advisor is an anomaly in Mysterious Discipline, but either way, I'll take it.
Of course, my advisor is also extremely intelligent, has strong intellectual commitments, and absolutely loves her job in a very palpable way.
While I ended up with a great committee chair my last time in grad school, he was from New Discipline and wasn't really into the academic advising side of things. She's just the kind of advisor I didn't have in my M.A. program, both in terms of style and substance, and I'm grateful.
So, I am hoping that our relationship will be productive and satisfying both professionally and personally. It is a testament to this little corner of the blogworld that I can admit that having a stylish advisor matters to me, at least a little, and that I feel happy and lucky to have just such an advisor as I embark on my doctoral studies.
(I'm also giggling to myself that I get label this post with the tags "graduate school" and "fashion." That's a first for me.)
22 August 2006
It's a home where I can see myself dissertating. And it feels good to be home.
In other news, I've migrated this blog to the new blogger beta. So, I've changed my posting name and e-mail address in order to keep everything a bit more streamlined. I've also tweaked my template to (sort of) match my office area in the new house. The new template customizing feature ends up making my sidebar and title fonts huge and underlining my post titles, which I'm not crazy about, but I can live with it for now.
So, new homes all around.
A dinner of salmon broiled with fresh pesto, steamed corn on the cob, and organic red zin awaits. Yup, feeling good.
21 August 2006
It feels so strange to type these words. I'm starting my Ph.D.
I had a feeling I'd get around to the Ph.D. at some point, but I had no idea it would be so soon or in this discipline. (You can read more about that here.)
Tonight, as I pack my bag for school (a weeknight ritual, involving preparing my lunch, tracking down my keys, putting coffee beans in the grinder and water in the electric teapot, etc.), I am slipping a book into my backpack. It is the book that seduced me away from Old-School Discipline and continues to inspire me as I pursue a Ph.D. in Mysterious Discipline. It is beautiful and compelling and important.
Tomorrow I will shared this book--worn and well-loved--with my advisor, who is interested my area of study, which I'll call InterDiscipline, but doesn't have much background in it. In my humble estimation, this unorthodox book provides the best introduction to the burgeoning field of InterDiscipline. And the pages, with my fading highlighter strokes and comments tucked away in the margines, provide the most raw testament to my own beginnings and growth in this area.
Inside the book, which I bought across an ocean and in another hemisphere, the price--60.00 in the local currency--is noted on the title page. The edges of the pages are beginning to yellow.
I see this book and know it changed me, and the course of my life, profoundly. I am excited to begin the next, and hopefully last, stage of my schooling.
18 August 2006
Big Sis, Niece, and Nephew are not actually family. That means we don't share genes or ancestors. (Then again, Niece and Nephew are adopted, so they don't share those things with Big Sis, either.) It also means we don't have to stress about having everything perfect when they visit and we have a lot of fun when they come. But they are close enough to feel like family. If anything were to happen to Big Sis and her husband, we would raise Niece and Nephew. Though I don't like to contemplate this "God Forbid" scenario, it means a lot to have this special relationship with these kids.
We were up early, playing Legos, fixing Cheerios and oatmeal (for the little kids) and veggie frittata (for us big kids), taking Dog on a walk. Clark and Big Sis went to do some errands. I made lunch while they were gone: 2 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and 3 tuna sandwiches. Pickles, yellow pepper strips, and baby carrots for all.
We are getting ready to go to the TownNextDoor Festival. Niece is excited to go on the midway rides and see the crafts; Nephew is pumped for tractors and the kiddie tractor pull. I am just happy to get experience it all with them. (Except for the rides; that's Clark's area of expertise. Rides pretty much make me want to ralph.)
Although I don't envision a life where Clark and I are raising kidlets of our own, it is impossible for me to imagine a life without children. Niece and Nephew are as much "mine" as anyone I have ever known. Their quirks, their faults, their successes, their charms feel familiar and safe.
It's good to have them visit, good to have Big Sis, Niece, and Nephew be the first visitors with whom we share our first, our new home.
11 August 2006
So, I got to take the GRE for the second time last week, seven years after I took it the first time.
I am one of those annoying people that does not get nervous before standardized tests. I only took the SAT once (and I never took the PSAT or the SAT in junior high or any of that crap), and got a 700 on both sides. That was fine with me. Maybe I would’ve felt differently if I hadn’t done as well, but I never felt like I should get a higher score on the SAT or that the score was somehow indicative of how “smart” I was.
The first time I GRE’d, there were verbal, quantitative, and analytical sections. At that time, analytical was basically logic problems and generally gave test-takers the most trouble. Because of my training in philosophy, that’s the section I scored the highest in (I can’t remember the number, but it came out to 94th percentile). I scored in the 60th percentile in math, which was fine with me because I was pursuing a Ph.D. in the humanities. In verbal, my score was only in the 85th percentile. I was disappointed with this score, because I felt it didn’t accurately reflect my facility with language. However, I wasn’t disappointed enough to re-take the $100 exam (that was the price in the late 1990s).
After taking the GRE again, I’ve confirmed that my math skillz are bad. Well, really, they’re more “rusty” than “bad,” if that distinction makes any sense. I scored in the 50th percentile in math. And that score would’ve been much, much worse if I hadn’t done some test prep.
This time around, verbal score went up quite a bit—from 85th to 95th percentile. I guess grad school and work have made me a little smarter, after all. That feels good.
Of course, ETS has eliminated the section on which I scored the highest the first time around, analytical. However, I am sure that this time around, I would not have scored so high on that section. It’s been a long time since I took symbolic logic.
Instead, there was an “analytical writing” section in which I was given a choice of two statements. I chose one and had 45 minutes to write a persuasive essay based on the statement. Then, I was given a short paragraph about an issue, on which I had to write a critical assessment of the argument in 30 minutes. I felt pretty solid about those, though that kind of writing always feels so contrived to me. I don’t get my score on the writing section for another two to three weeks, so I may have more to write then.
Of course, none of this commentary means that much, because the GRE is supposedly undergoing a major overhaul. ETS is rolling out a new, and supposedly much different, version in Fall 2007. I still think the GRE sucks. Educational testing is a racket! At $130, the GRE is, by far, the most expensive part of preparing a graduate school application. Yet, GRE scores, in my experience, do not correlate to one’s success or failure in grad school. At all.
It’s hard not to feel more than a little cynical about ETS’ call for more “accountability” (read: testing) in higher education. ETS is supposedly a nonprofit, but I don’t buy that for a minute.
I was a bit nervous about telling Grad Director about my GRE math score. Mysterious Discipline isn’t particularly math-oriented, but it does use applied math quite a bit and certainly values the math score a lot more than a humanities program. He said my math score was above average for the discipline and that my verbal score was excellent, boosting my strength as a candidate. So, $130 and a few stressful weeks later, I guess I accomplished what I needed to on the GRE. But it doesn’t it make me any happier about having had to do it.
I know the GRE is a distant memory for most of my readers, but how did you feel about the test? Your scores? Their impact on your grad school application?
Ugh. That’s how I feel right now. Why? I’m not sure. There’s a lot of good going on. But I’m exhausted. I am working every day, and then going home and working 5 to 6 more hours at home helping Clark with home improvement projects. So, I’m dragging
But I have lots I want to share about:
Clark’s home improvement injury
my weekend trip to metro Boston
ESPN’s coverage of the US Open Series
Maria Sharapova’s money lust
GRE prep and the exam itself
Adjusting to a new Megaboss
starting Grad School, again
Reading for Pleasure Wednesday: Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
Any suggestions about where I should start?
And, Dr. Crazy, I miss New Kid, too.
03 August 2006
"The true strength of a country is best demonstrated by the willingness of its government to tolerate challenges from it's own citizens."
Do I get extra credit for finding bad grammar in the GRE's own test-prep material?
27 July 2006
Today, Clark rewired a couple of electrical outlets and tore down 4 walls to their studs, in preparation for drywall tomorrow. Living with someone handy rules. I'm so grateful.
But for now, margaritas and taco salads beckon ... I will continue the scintillating construction/moving news tomorrw.
26 July 2006
This spring, I picked up the novel My Sister's Keeper, by Jodi Picoult. I had never heard of the author or the book, but the premise of the novel--parents intentionally have a third child who is a perfect match/donor for their second child, who has leukemia.
Morally, I'm very interested in issues of fertility treatments, family planning, genetic planning, and whatnot. They strike at the heart of who we are and how we identify ourselves personally and as families, so this novel was really appealing to me for that reason.
Picoult does a good job of representing the characters and their viewpoints with an unflinching but graceful gaze. The organization of the novel, in which each chapter is written from the perspective of one of the main characters, helped me empathize with their widely diverging outlooks.
In the end, the book was not wholly satisfying to me, but it did keep me up late a few nights because I got so absorbed in the story. The narrative is compelling and Picoult gets to the heart of the moral complexities rife in modern medicine in a way that feels insightful rather than educational.
We just had the final walkthrough with our tenant, who left the house spectacularly clean. I consider this some sort of cosmic recompense for all the rental properties that Clark and I have left in much better shape than they were when arrived.
Life is good, and I am ready to move into our beautiful house. Now. I know that there is work to do on the house--we want to pull up the carpeting and refinish the wood floors underneath as necessary, and Clark has drywall sheets at the ready--but can't we at least set up our bed and the kitchen?
I don't want to wait 'til Saturday. I want to start sleeping, eating, and studying for the GRE in the new house.
Sigh. That's all for now. We'll see if I can convince Clark.
25 July 2006
It's summer, which means that it's moving time for academics.
I've moved a lot since college (every year but one in fact), but for the first time in my life, I'm doing the "across-town" move. I've never moved locally before, and so far I'm finding it much less anxiety-producing than the numerous moves to new parts of the country I've endured.
We already have some friends, who are lending us their trucks, dollies, and hands. Hooray! We already know where all the relevant stores are located and what they are likely to carry--not much in Hilly Hamlet, but it's still good to know have the 411 on household goods for the local area. Most importantly, we already know this town and the university. And we like them both well enough to buy a house, thereby committing to at least three years here.
Furthermore, since the move is just across town, we don't have to "pack." We just have to place our stuff in boxes in a safe enough arrangement to ensure that said stuff won't break. (Besides, even with expert packing, stuff ALWAYS breaks. I've moved enough times to be at peace with this fact.)
So, expect light posting ahead, as most of this week and through the weekend will be taken up with moving and preparing for the GRE. Yep, I thought I'd up the stress a little by scheduling the exam for next week. This deserves its own post, but suffice it to say that while I can kick some a** on triangle-related questions, exponents are public enemy #1 right now.
To all on the move, preparing for the move, recovering from the move, or still finishing the move, I wish you comfort and the timely installation of internet access! Pretty soon, it'll be hard to imagine we ever lived anyplace else.
24 July 2006
21 July 2006
Battlestar Galactica (the new series) is not my favorite TV show, but I find myself enjoying it more and more. Last night, we did a marathon viewing of the first season’s last five episodes. Of course, since we began watching the series mid-way through the second season, the cliffhanger season finale was not quite so dramatic, as we already know who survives and who dies. I’m not a superfan of the series, though apparently there are those who love the show enough to apply for a Battlestar Galactica MasterCard. WTF? Am I the only who thinks that's taking things a litte far?
Every time we do a marathon of Battlestar Galactica episodes, it gives me weird dreams that don’t seem to be at all related to the content of the series itself. Really weird dreams in which I am a teenager, sort of, and there are all kinds of boyfriends (who I’ve never seen/known) and ex-boyfriends (who I do know). Nothing scandalous happens, but there’s lot of running here and there, meeting up, and hanging out. I wake in the morning feeling totally exhausted and oddly old.
19 July 2006
The first is that in my "On the Tenure Track" section, a significant number of these women are starting their first year in tenure-track jobs. It's been wonderful to experience their successful job searches vicariously through their blogs, and I'm sure that following their exploits on the tenure track will be equally gratifying. Congratulations Another Damned Medievalist, Dr. Four Eyes, Professing Mama, and terminaldegree!
As for the Living Liminally, I should explain that I'm not crazy about the word "liminal." I promised that I have never used it in any of my academic writing. To me, it's like the late 90s/early 00s version of "dialectic" and other over-used, misunderstood has-been academic buzzwords.*So, I'm using this phrase somewhat tongue-in-cheek to describe people like me, people who are connected to the academy in some way, but are not on the tenure track. There are a lot of us in this position, for many different reasons, and it's not surprising that these folks' blogs make up a large part of all my blog reading. The spaces in between often have the best views.
Completely unrelated observation: I read the blogs of a number of medievalists, but it always takes me three or four tries to spell that damn word correctly.
* I used to harass a newly-minted Yale Ph.D/visiting prof who expressed a penchant for pretentious humanities-speak by openly mocking his use of "liminality" and similar words. He was so excited about his oh-so-liminal research that he didn't notice me snickering at him. Anyway, I digress.
18 July 2006
The man is a genius, I tell you. I have now been totally sweat-free for three hours. In a row.
The Mecca even has free wireless, so I was able to help my friend, Overeducated Mama, locate PDFs of some scholarly articles that her university didn't have electronic subscriptions to , all while munching on hummus and pita so tasty I think there might've been crack in it. And did I mention the air conditioning?
Plus, it's $1 cone night at the local ice cream shop, so Clark got to have some ice cream, too. (I was too full from the aforementioned hummus and pita.)
Now I'm working on, I mean about to start working on, the statement of purpose for my grad school application. I'm feeling cool, dry, and in just the right frame of mind to do so, thanks to Clark's dinnertime intervention.
I have very different duties and background than all of the other folks in my Unit, which sometimes make it difficult for me to talk with my colleagues. But, as I'm learning, there's at least one thing that's good about the heat: it provides a common experience around which me and my colleagues can talk. We talk about cooling strategies for homes without central A/C (surprisingly common in an area so prone to humidity), favorite no-cook meals, and how furry pets cope with the heat. For the first time since I've started this job, I feel like can be just a "regular" Unit employee. It's a nice feeling, even if I'm already planning to go back to school full-time a year from now.
And, the silver lining: 12 days until we move into our new (to us) house. That house has central air, thank goodness.
17 July 2006
Why did I chose to take classes at five different undergraduate institutions, making ordering transcripts an ordeal that takes weeks?
Why do I only have two good possibilities for recommendations?
Why, oh why, do GRE scores expire?
Why does it cost so much freaking money to take the GRE, anyway? What a racket?
Why did they change the GRE by eliminating the section where I scored in the 99th percentile?
Why do I need to prepare my application during the hottest week of the freakin' summer?
15 July 2006
14 July 2006
Even though I only got little more than four hours of sleep last night, I am feeling happy and hyper.
It’s been a long tim since I’ve felt this way, but I remember it vaguely.
It’s strange how alienated I’ve become from the good feeling I get from academic research and writing. I think that my graduate program only nurtured this feeling in fits and starts; most of the “glow” during those years was from projects I pursued independently from the program.
By the second year of graduate school, I was questioning my desire to get a Ph.D. in my Old-School Discipline. I decided to finish my M.A., teach for a year, and use that year to figure out where (both in terms of discipline and university) I wanted to pursue my Ph.D.
My first year as a visiting professor, thinking and writing about my own work grinded pretty much to a halt. Why you ask? This Boice quote from Dr. Four Eyes’ thought-provoking post pretty much answers the question:
New faculty tend to spend most of their time preparing for teaching (even in research universities) …
In my first year, I become totally (over-)consumed with class planning and preparation. I thought about it all.the.freaking.time. When a class session didn’t go well, I obsessed over it. When it did, I just felt nervous that the next session would be a failure. Teaching didn’t come as easily to me as scholarship, and I really felt like I was not cut out to be a professor. And, as Boice puts it,
… and when they fail at teaching, they lose the self-efficacy they need to met challenges of research/scholarship ...
In the midst of preparing brand-new courses and refreshing course content for existing courses, it was hard for me to justify the “indulgence” of my own research interests. And the more I struggled with teaching, the more time I felt I needed to dedicate to being a better professor.
Furthermore, in the fall and winter of my first year as a visiting professor, I was applying to Ph.D. programs in a New Discipline that has considerable overlap with my M.A. studies. I got into a prestigious program in comebacknikki’s city, as well as a program on its way up in SoCal. In the Spring, they both flew me in for visits and even though they were good programs, I wasn’t excited. In hindsight, I know that some of this is because the my values/interests didn’t quite line up with New Discipline. By the end of that year, I was questioning my desire to be an academic at all. When
I tried to continue doing academic research and writing, but I struggled. Working a 9-to-5 job, it was hard to find the time and mental space for intellectual work. Furthermore,
I’m still not sure what brought me back. This spring, I learned about a Ph.D. program on campus that has interesting areas of overlap with my areas of research interest. For the life of me, I can’t remember how I stumbled onto the program, but thank goodness I did. Though it’s not one of the university’s sexiest or most-flaunted programs, I’ve learned that it’s one of the top 10 programs in its field. The faculty members are sane, the structure of the program is exciting, and the collegiality of the department is heartening. I am currently applying to the program, and I hope to begin part-time this fall and full-time in fall 2007.
This led me to get in touch with my M.A. committee chair, who promised to write me a recommendation so long as I provided him the chapter I owed him, as the whole book is due to publisher this afternoon. I received this e-mail from him on Wednesday morning.
I worked steadily Wednesday night, most of the day and all evening and night last night, and from 4 to 10 a.m. this morning. And I feel great. I feel alive and invigorated, in a way that no other kind of work makes me feel. Finishing this chapter also closes an intellectual chapter for me; the chapter I’ve written is part of a book for students and scholars in New Discipline and M.A. committee chair is a professor of New Discipline. This chapter is a strong piece of scholarship that is valuable to New Discipline, but I feel that I’ve exhausted this discipline’s utility in terms of my own research area.
I am grateful that my research area will now have an intellectual home in Mysterious Discipline.
I feel better today than I have in years. It's about time.
12 July 2006
I was vaguely aware of it.
And I have been slowly collecting research and thinking about it.
Good thing, because today I got an e-mail telling me he needs it by the end of the week. And, I don't really think I can say no or back out at this point, because his e-mail was a response to an e-mail I sent asking him to write me a rec for grad school.
I have e-mailed him back to ascertain what exactly he means by "end of the week." I am hoping for midnight on Saturday.
Yup, this post officially counts as "blogging to avoid academic work." Sigh.
Edited to add: Clark did his heroic deed for the day by rescuing some relevant research/writing from my long-defunct PC.
10 July 2006
- Zidane's head butt and subsequent red card. What a disappointing end to the World Cup. A total downer.
- A new addition to our household arrived tonight. I'm learning it's very difficult to get good pictures of an eight-week-old kitty.
- We intended to just "look," but there was a great sale on and we were really taken with some custom fabrics, so we've ordered a couch that will look like this, but in a darker/brighter orange color:
06 July 2006
It is getting boring to watch the Belgians play. Their matches are always exciting and competitive at the beginning, and then Clijsters wilts. I really like Clijsters, but I sort of wonder about the motivation of a healthy elite athlete who, at age 22, has already pre-announced her retirement.
It is getting annoying to watch Amelie Mauresmo play, because all the commentators want to talk about are her mental struggles and when she's going to choke. Mauresmo's all-court game is actually very enjoyable to watch, especially on grass, but I so wish there was a way to mute John and Mary. Mauresmo often just goes away for a set; it doesn't mean she's a mental basketcase.
Sharapova hasn't made it past the semis of a Grand Slam since winning Wimbledon in 2004. I guess she's so pretty that the commentators just choose to not fixate on it.