Staycations seem to have become popular these days, but of course I’m just happy to have any time off, whether or not I get to do anything special. When I was a kid we always went camping or to a camping near the beach. (A friend of the family owned the cabin.) I never thought of those times as vacations exactly. I was a kid. Many kids at my school went to Europe or a tropical island for vacations.

My summer school is finally over. Thank the deities! I passed my Spanish class and now have six weeks or so to get some research done and relax a bit before the fall term starts. Living as we have been for the last year, with Beorn not working, makes taking any time off very challenging. Summers have been the worst for us in the last few years because we haven’t gotten financial aid. This year, even with some summer financial aid and two paychecks for summer teaching, not getting money in August will be challenging.

I enjoy having free time to putter around the house and “get things done.” (Ever seen the TV series Dead Like Me? In one episode a character reveals that she records herself doing stuff around the house and broadcasts it on the web. The show is called “Getting Things Done with Delores Herbig.”) There are a number of things I need to catch up on around here. Here is my list of things to do when you have time off, but no money to speak of.

1. Work on your vegetable garden. This week my mom visited and helped me get caught up on weeding me vegetable garden. I have a yardshare garden of about 600 sq ft that has been terribly neglected. When I got the space it was terribly overrun with bindweed.

Isn’t it cute? Any yet it’s evil. I can’t believe how much bindweed I have pulled this year and it is still winning!

2. Do some “spring” cleaning. I’m also spending time going through all the boxes in our closets. I gathered some old clothes to give to Good Will. Later in the week I will probably spend an afternoon at a few thrift stores looking for some clothing for the fall. My sewing machine and serger also haven’t gotten any use this year. The serger I bought for $5 at a garage sale last fall and I’m eager to try out sewing with it. I have a large tub full of various fabrics so I have lots of free material to experiment with.

3. Cook for the freezer or preserve some summer fruits and vegetables. Most likely, I will do some major cooking for the freezer. Having some already prepared food in the freezer makes it easier to avoid being tempted to buy food out when I’m tired or busy. We have also been freezing fresh fruits. While my mom was here we visited a pick-your-own blueberry farm and brought home several pounds of blueberries. I also froze quite a few strawberries and cherries while they were in season and so cheap.

4. Go to the library. When I was a kid we went to the public library a lot. As a grad student I don’t have much time for leisure reading, but I’m taking advantage now.

5. Play on your computer. Lots of people who are truly poor don’t have computers, which is another reason to go to the library, but I need a computer for work, so that’s a lot of recreation available to me. I can even catch up on my blog reading!

6. Go to a park. My mom and I visited the local arboretum and went for a little hike. Beorn’s mom went fishing at the county park while she was here.

7. Go swimming. Beorn and I have been swimming at the pool here at our complex, but there are lots of public pools and even rivers around here. I prefer to swim in natural water. It’s more interesting and there’s less chlorine. If you live near an ocean, even better. Swimming is the best exercise for people with rheumatoid arthritis because there is no stress on the joints.

8. Go to a museum or a concert. Most university towns have some sort of museums and concert series. As a grad student I get free entry into the museum and can get inexpensive concert tickets. Most museums have a free day at least once a month.

Now all of you academics will probably be wondering why I’m not spending all this time working on my research. But I will be spending a significant amount of time on it and I don’t think it’s healthy to drive yourself work once you have reached a certain point of exhaustion. In order to have good ideas I need time to refresh my brain.

Anyone else have ideas about what to do with “time off” when you don’t have a lot of money?

This summer, for the first time since I started grad school, in fact, for the first time ever, I’m “doing” summer school. This has kept me very busy! My department here at Crunchy U. offers summer classes, so for the first time I got the chance to teach my own class. Unfortunately it was the class from hell. I don’t want to tell the entire story, but there were a bunch of students in the class who weren’t ready for that class and my TA was no help. I think I worked 60-80 hours a week for the 4 weeks. On the up side, colleges and universities everywhere need people to teach this particular class and since it’s technology related, there are a limited number of people willing and able to teach it, so it will be good for my CV.

As soon as that was over, I started a Spanish class. I’m required to have two years of a language for my PhD. Unforunately, it’s been more than 10 years since I took any language classes, so those classes don’t count. Because I have limited time (I’m hoping to graduate before I’m 40) I decided to hop right in to second year Spanish. Since I had been teaching during the first four weeks of the summer, I had to start with the second quarter of second year Spanish. Make sense? Needless to say, there are huge gaps in my memory. My pronunciation is terrible now. I think it’s my age. Also, I can’t spell, even in Spanish! My previous college courses in Spanish were focused on speaking, now I’m expected to write, and I’m discovering a little of what it’s like to be illiterate. I have been making progress over the last three week though. Next week is the end of the class, so I will finally have some time off, and a chance to do a little more of my research.

Last week I took a couple of days off and travelled to my research site to do a couple of interviews. I need to get at least 15 or so interviews done by the end of September when school starts, so that I have some priliminary results to work with over the next year. I feel luck about the topic I’m working on and the location. Friends at Crunchy U. know people in the area, so I have been able to find places to stay and make connections locally.

The point of telling you all about my summer is to say that I’m burnt out! I need at least two weeks of lazing around doing nothing before I will be motivated to do anything again. I know many academics seem to be able to work long hours day after day, without a break, but I have become overly grumpy. Overwork is not good.

Now I’m getting off the computer and going to make some gazpacho and pizza. On Saturdays we have friends over for dinner and games.

For some reason, I haven’t felt like writing much this year. I hope this blog isn’t dead because I have enjoyed talking with various folks and reading other people’s blogs. Some academics seem to view blogs as a place were folks are just negative. I find that I’m able to write about things I wouldn’t be able to discuss elsewhere.

I think the reason I haven’t been writing is Beorn’s illness. This probably sounds very self centered, but I have found that it’s difficult to talk about the illness with folks who have never experienced a chronic illness. (Except for folks I’m very close to.) Beorn is now seriously disabled. As his wife and support person it’s difficult for me to explain the process I have been through in coming to terms with his illness and attempting to adjust.

Rheumatoid arthritis is such a strange illness, it took a long time to diagnose. For a long time, I thought Beorn was depressed and that was the source of his physical symptoms. His case is particularly severe. His rheumatologist said he had as much damage in one year as many people experience in ten years.  Being married to someone with RA has changed my life and yet, I’m not the one who is ill.

I have been very, very busy with my graduate studies. Now I’m just taking a Spanish class and getting ready to start my preliminary dissertation research, so I’m hoping to revive this blog. I still won’t write often, but hopefully I will average a post a week. As soon as I get into academic writing again, I’m sure the angst will set in.

Just drinking a glass of red wine and trying to figure out what to do with myself now that my quarter is officially over. I just spent the last five days writing two ten page papers. The good news is my writing is getting faster. The bad news is I’m not sure faster is producing better quality. Both papers focused on themes I’m developing for my dissertation, so it wasn’t like I was creating them from scratch. I had been researching them for weeks. On the other hand, getting the actual writing done was left until the last week. I hate it when I procrastinate. I need to impress my professors with my insightful writing, not turn in stuff with typos or organizational problems.

Also, teaching, what’s up with that? I’m great at helping students with their work. That’s important, I feel good about it. On the other hand I suck at recording grades. I only had 40 or so students this quarter and yet I couldn’t keep track of all their paperwork. It’s true, they turned in a lab every week, so that’s a lot of paper, but still! I can’t believe how many time students have pointed out that I haven’t managed to get their grade into blackboard. One or two mistakes, ok, but this is getting close to double digits!

This brings me to my own academic ambitions. In my heart of hearts I would love to get a job at a SLAC (small liberal arts college) and yet, the idea of a job at a research U. where I would never having to do my own grading again is appealing. I need a research assistant to help me stay organized. In this economy I will be lucky to get any job, but a girl can dream!

Years ago I made a joke to some coworkers that I needed a wife. One of them was not amused by my comment. I was just saying that my husband was crap at keeping the house organized and I’m no good at that type of thing either. I would really value having someone around who could help me stay organized. If only I could afford to pay such a person well!

Related book:

Waring, Marilyn. Counting for Nothing: What Men Value and What Women are Worth. 2nd ed. University of Toronto Press, 1999.

Waring, a MP from New Zealand, outlines how the accounting systems of nations (like GNP) systematically discount the work of women.

Best quote: “when a man marries his housekeeper the GDP goes down.”

Also, as heard on NPR:

Rent-a-Negro

Need to show off your multicultural-ness? This is the website for you! Buy the book today!


Assuming that all students should learn some science, just to become educated citizens, should scientists in training be expected to learn a little social theory?

Should they read a little Foucault? a little Haraway?

Should they learn about the history of their own disciplines? Maybe read The Structure of Scientific Revolutions?

I, like many in academia, have a love-hate relationship with social theory. If I lived in a sane world, I would probably be a marine biologist, that’s what I dreamed about as a child. But as I grew up I realized that science wasn’t enough, that science wasn’t solving the world’s problems in the way the Enlightenment promised.

Now I do my best to read some of those difficult social thinkers and writers, so that I can try to understand some of the crazy things we do to each other and the planet. Reading social theory isn’t fun. It’s work. Some of what I read is just pompous crap, created in order to position the author as cutting edge and get him published, tenured, or promoted. Yet some social theory helps me understand the world and function more effectively in it and because of that I think it is worth the work. I also don’t think scientists should allow themselves to be intimidated by the unfamiliarity of the subject, the name dropping, or the attitude of some social theorists. It pisses me off when people use social theory to dominate and silence others.

So, my friends, what do you think? What social theory (if any) is important for scientists to know? If you were creating a class for new graduate students in a science field that would introduce them to concepts in social theory and make them better scientists, what would you include?

History: Why Nationalization Isn’t Un-American | Newsweek.com

It’s easy to forget how quickly the discourse has changed.

I really shouldn’t be blogging right now. Nothing brings on the urge to blog like having a really difficult paper to write. This quarter has turned insane. I can’t really keep up with all the reading I have to do and now I have to write a paper comparing the theories of Gramsci and Lefebvre.  Cross your fingers for me, as I have really had very little time to read deeply and reflect on their work. The good news it that I have a lead on a possible case study for my dissertation, which is what gets me excited. I’m enjoying my classes this quarter, but so far it’s been feast or famine. Fall quarter there were very few classes I was interested in, then winter there were too many to choose from. Next quarter there are a few classes that might be interesting, but I’m not sure that any of them will really help me get my research done. Also, there are quite a few departmental requirements that I need to get out of the way. I also need to pick committee members and try to test out of as many spanish language classes as possible.  I need to have three years of spanish by the time I take my comprehensive exams, hopefully a little over a year from now. I took four years a spanish in high school and then conversation classes in college. Unfortunately, those classes were so long ago that they don’t count for my PhD. Although I may use some spanish in my research, most of my work will probably take place in English, so this all seems somewhat “academic.”

As seen at The Philosophy Factory
1. Bold the shows you watch/used to watch.
2. Italicize the shows you’ve seen at least one episode of.
3. Bold and italicize the shows you own* on DVD.
4. Post your answers.

50. Quantum Leap

49. Prison Break

48. Veronica Mars

47. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

46. Sex & The City

45. Farscape

44. Cracker

43. Star Trek

42. Only Fools and Horses

41. Band of Brothers

40. Life on Mars

39. Monty Python

38. Curb Your Enthusiasm

37. Star Trek: The Next Generation

36. Father Ted

35. Alias

34. Frasier

33. CSI Las Vegas

32. Babylon 5

31. Deadwood

30. Dexter

29. ER

28. Fawlty Towers

27. Six Feet Under

26. Red Dwarf

25. Futurama

24. Twin Peaks

23. The Office

22. The Shield

21. Angel

20. Blackadder

19. Scrubs

18. Arrested Development

17. South Park

16. Dr Who

15. Heroes

14. Firefly

13. Battlestar Galactica

12. Family Guy

11. Seinfeld

10. Spaced

09. The X-Files

08. The Wire

07. Friends

06. 24

05. Lost

04. The West Wing

03. The Sopranos

02. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

01. The Simpsons

I think this means I watch waaayyy too much TV.

I have been crazy busy trying to keep up with my schoolwork this quarter. I wrote my first paper for the quarter and turned it in this morning. Then I proceeded to ditch class so that I could go out “in the field” with my adviser on a short research trip. This evening, as a reward for being so productive I decided to relax by watching a little TV and catching up with my RSS feeds. Here is some strange news from the land of academia:

I hate sitting in class, listening to those painful silences that indicate that no one has done the reading or that they tried to read but didn’t understand what they were suppose to be getting from it, or whatever. Breena tends to be willing to say something stupid rather than have to sit through the silence.
One of my classes consists of many painful silences and I’m just making myself the annoying person who talks too much. Yuck! Next class I’m going back to extensive doodling, it gets me in less trouble.