You are currently browsing the monthly archive for February 2010.

First,  congrats to my good friend Trillwing! She was offered a TT position, I won’t say more because she should reveal that herself but let’s just say that she is fabulous and deserves the best.

Here the hypothetical situation I would like you all to consider. You have an advisor who is smart and well thought of but inaccessible, just very difficult to keep in contact with. This person on paper is the ideal advisor for you, but in reality is difficult to handle. Do you find another advisor? Do you continue to persist in trying to manage this person despite the warnings of other graduate students and faculty? How long do you attempt to “make it work”? Do you talk to this person directly about the issue?

As I have mentioned, I’m planning to work through my comprehensive exams process during the fall quarter and so need to get my advising and my committee worked out. Unfortunately, the available professors are all real people with their own unique quirks.

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This term I am in a seminar with an unusual twist. We are using about half the class time for a sort of writing workshop. Each week we turn in a bit of our term paper and get feedback. I should be very excited about this because I have been in grad school a very long time and have rarely gotten any feedback on my writing. The professor for this seminar is a very well know, senior scholar in our discipline so it’s exciting to get help from him. His logic is that normally we would all write our term papers during the final week or two of the quarter anyway, so we might as well just spend some time each week on our writing and get some actual feedback so that the final paper might be publishable. He also laid out which sections we were to turn in each week: abstract, outline, introduction, literature review, and so on.

This all sounds great so far, except I’m finding in practice it’s not. Here’s the thing, that’s not how I write my term papers. It’s true that I don’t get started on the actual writing of the paper until the end of the quarter, but I spend my spare moments all quarter researching, finding “data”, and reading through articles to build my literature review. By the end of the quarter I usually have a good idea of how my paper will be structured. Sometimes I write it from the beginning straight through, but often I start writing and then discover that the point I’m making needs to be moved later. My original intro is usually crap because I have to write some overly general rubbish in order to get to the heart of my argument. I don’t write a complete outline first, although I do write down some sections headings and points I need to make. So getting feedback on pieces of my paper before I have finished doing the research I need to come to a conclusion and make a solid argument is somewhat pointless. It’s also somewhat embarrassing because  it makes me look like I don’t know how to make an argument.

I’m only writing this now because I don’t know how to proceed with the next section of my paper which I’m suppose to be turning in today. My paper is tangentially related to my dissertation, but is something that I haven’t researched at all before this quarter. This specific topic hasn’t been written about much in the academic literature. Historical information about rural parts of this country is not easily available outside of local historical societies, and the one I need happens to be closed for remodeling until next spring. Arg!

It’s now Week 5. Yay, the quarter is half over. I’m super overloaded taking two seminars and finishing up second year Spanish. When I start to feel depressed and overwhelmed I tell myself this is the last quarter I will have a full load like this. Spring quarter I will be teaching a large entry level class and taking one seminar. (That will most likely be an overwhelming amount of work, but I’m trying to convince myself the opposite.) During the summer I will be taking third year Spanish and then take my qualifying exams next Fall! I keep telling myself that I’m making progress because sometimes it seems my writing and thinking is getting more confused rather than less.

Beorn’s health is improving. The Embrel seems to be having some positive effect on his RA.

In other news a friend visited last weekend. She and I went out Saturday night to a concert/dance with some great live music. Since I hardly ever go out or dress up, I decided to paint my nails.  Unfortunately I forgot the depths of my clumsiness. After getting through one hand, I got distracted and suddenly I had spilled the nail polish all over the table, the floor, and the cat. Poor BOK was very upset. We tried to wash him off, but of course it wouldn’t come off with soap and water. Then I decided that the only thing to do was to shave off the affected hair. Beorn held BOK and I used to clippers on him. He wasn’t happy, but he didn’t try to bite us. When I got down to the skin I discovered that some of the polish had gotten onto his skin. I got worried that he might get sick from licking his skin, but it was Saturday night, so I decided to call the animal hospital to see what the vet would say. I think the vet tech was a bit amused, but she asked the vet for me and then reassured me that the cat would be fine, but might have some skin irritation.

That’s all the excitement I have to report for now.