Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Are the Chronicle blog titles always this tongue-in-cheek/ironic?

Or is it just a bad day?

Princeton Gives Top Marks to Its 3-Year-Old Policy to Control Grade Inflation

Thanks to Colleges, Students Just as Ignorant as They Were Last Year, Report Says

In related news, I'm so glad that, due to my circumstances, I have a free online subscription to the Chronicle. I'm getting to cultivating my academe nerdiness/navel-gazing to an extent not previously thought possible. Look, I even used the term "academe."

In unrelated news, I'm sick. Ugh.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Pseudo-productive things I did today

(That "s" in the title is misleading...)

During a lull in work this afternoon (not so much a "lull" as an "oh my God I CANNOT read/answer any more e-mails or I'll end up forking myself in the eye") I paid a courtesy call to Better Than U Grad School's online application. I took the opportunity to enter the contact information for my second recommender, Advisor Guy, whose assistant had just let me know that he'd be fine with using the website to submit his letter. I already had the go-ahead from Mentor Woman to enter her in last week, so aside from the (rather significant, natch) next step of getting said recommendations actually submitted, I've two down, one to go.

And that's where we have a problem.

My would-be third recommender, outside my discipline but quite relevant for my academic interests--and, most importantly, knows and likes my work--has gone on "deep leave." Meaning that she's not writing any recommendations unless prearranged. And I did not know this until I sent her an e-mail in mid-August and got an auto-reply saying as much.


I'm aware of how necessary it is for faculty to protect their research time, especially when presented with the opportunity to take a sabbatical--I don't want it to seem as if I'm not sympathetic to that. But, dude! AUGUST, and already no deal if not prearranged? Can't I get a grace period? A grandfather clause? I didn't even know for certain that I would be applying in this admissions cycle until a week before I e-mailed! (And I thought I was being good by asking four months in advance...)

All is not lost. She did write me a recommendation for something a few semesters ago, and I wrote a cordial and tiptoe-y e-mail asking if she might be able to find time to pull that out of the deep freeze and send it along, just change the dates or whatever. And, most charitably on her part, she did respond, though unfortunately to say that she hasn't been able to find it in her files. aaaaaaaaaaaaagh. So now what I do is pray that she stumbles across it before earlyish November, probably the latest I should be asking people for recs. (Unless any readers think otherwise...?)

This wouldn't be so bad but for the fact that she's basically the only person who knows me as an academic being from whom I haven't already requested a recommendation. I know other professors, in a few cases fairly well, but they have little experience with my work that was a) not mediated by TA grading, and/or b) the best stuff I'm capable of.

Presuming my would-be third doesn't find that old letter, I think what I'll do is schedule an appointment with Professor I've Assisted, From Whom I Took Two Classes, And Who Likes Me to talk more about my academic interests and plans for graduate work, and then hope that's enough for her to go on to write a compelling letter on my behalf. Although I accidentally saw a letter she wrote for me for another thing awhile back, and it was pretty "eh."

Of course, all of this probably doesn't matter, given that those first two letter writers are tenured members of the department to which I'm applying for admission--one of them actually being the guy I want to work with and have advise my dissertation.

Any advice, ether?

Peace! And quiet! ...!!!

I had a feeling my burst of sociability last week would burn off quickly. It's probably due to more factors than my introverted side's strangled cries for mercy, namely, that I've been so ridiculously busy with work (and now, school--hooray for auditing a most wonderful class with Advisor Guy) that I have not furnished my body with enough rest to actually enjoy consciousness--much less consciousness in the company of others when I feel like I have a bunch of shit to do that's not been done. Along those lines, my room's really messy and there are a bunch of dirty dishes in the sink since it was my week to clean the kitchen and I most certainly have not and though my roommates are lovely and understanding and care more about my physical and mental health than about the stagnant water collecting in our dirty half-rinsed wine glasses--this bothers me.


(There is cause for exclamation points!)

Not ONLY was I able to sleep an extraordinarily helpful twelve hours last night, but...! My lovely and understanding roommates?


For the whole weekend!

All three of 'em!!!


Sorry, I'm a little giddy. I had known that two roommates would be away, but it was only about twenty minutes ago and after an evening of puzzling (albeit very serene puzzling in an atmosphere of quiet relaxation) that I remembered the third had also been planning to go out of town this weekend. And this makes me way, way too happy.

But not as happy as I'll be once I have those damn dishes done.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Random bullets of wisdom teeth. And angst.

Okay, the title of this post is kind of a lie, but I don't care. First, non-bulleted wisdom teeth update (fascinating):

Last Wednesday I went to the dentist (yay having dental insurance!) to get some x-rays. I was originally supposed to have had that appointment tomorrow morning, but they were able to squeeze me in last week because I called whining about my sudden inability to swallow without swells of jaw pain. Verdict? I'm teething! Or on the top of one side of my mouth, I am. Apparently one of the little suckers was able to fight its way through without getting too impacted, and that mysterious okay-something's-pinching-something-but-there's-nothing-in-that-area-of-my-mouth-to-pinch pain that was waking me up at night? Tooth, ripping flesh. And now it's extraordinarily weird to grope around the back of my mouth and feel, hey, more chewing capability back there!

Now the bottom tooth on that same side is starting in, but it's semi-impacted and thus going to be much more annoying to wrench out. And speaking of annoying, the wisdom tooth on the bottom on the OTHER side is, like, completely horizontally impacted. So, it's off to the oral surgeon for me, and with all due speed. By which I mean September 27th. For the consultation. Yeah. Thanks, guys. I'm hoping none of my shifting teeth begin to inconveniently press on any nerves before then. I'm actually still up now because I'm having this inexplicable headache/sinus pain, and I know nothing about whether that could be connected to my teeth, but dammit, until I know better I'm gonna blame it on them.

The angst, believe it or not, is actually completely un-teeth-related. It was prompted by (another) conversation with (another) grad student. Basically the example this guy sets has got me all in a tizzy about my own motivations and ability to trust/believe in myself. More on that soon.

Another good reason to be angsty? I had to get my MacBook's power adapter replaced because, um, the wires were starting to burn through their protective covering (thanks, Apple!). I sent my craptastic fire/death hazard of an adapter back in the little box the AppleCare people sent me, but the bastards apparently did not receive it, because they just charged $76 to my credit card. *(@$&*(&%$^*(#*@&$#). Although I guess I should be glad that now my computer poses a slightly (?) lowered risk of immolating me while I sleep. Cheers!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

You know it's fall

when they bring back the pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks.

Okay, back to work...

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

It's fun to be social!

I knew I'd have to work harder at having a social life/being a non-loser when I left college. It's only natural, no longer having forty of your closest friends living ten to sixty seconds away. But I didn't anticipate how accomplished I'd feel simply by virtue of having a successful dinner with my housemates and a new person I met at my HR orientation. The food thrown together was kind of crap (we're none of us cooks around here), but the company was lovely--New Person, a fellow recent grad who just moved to the area, really clicked with our merry band, and we're all hanging out again next week. Yay for non-loser-dom!

I've been feeling particularly warm and fuzzy about social things lately--two of my undergrad friends who now live far and farther away came to visit yesterday, I'm getting to know and quite like my coworker who also just graduated from BTU, and all my non-grad friends have been coming back for the start of the new semester, so there's been an unusual influx of people to catch up with. Plus the pestering-grad-students stratagem has been a good way to get acquainted with more folk; I like having a reason to talk to new people. That's the rub--I love knowing people, but I hate having to find and meet them. The grad student thing, and the HR/recent-grad thing, and the coworker thing, we come equipped with stuff to talk about! Instant acquaintanceship.

Wow. I'm afraid if this continues I might lose my misanthropic credibility. But right now I'll just enjoy it. I mean, it's hard not to have fun when one is like so totally popular! *gigl*

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Maybe herein lies some explanation for the neuroses articulated by the previous post

'Cause I just can't resist, more personality test results. This time, personal DNA:

(I also like that I'm both low masculinity and low femininity. Does that mean I'm androgynous, or just bland?)

Talk to me.

My default course of action, no matter the situation, is to gather information. Knowing more about something can never hurt, right? If I have perfect information, I can anticipate all consequences and be confident in the perfection of my own response.

As the amount of times I used a variant of the word "perfect" in the preceding sentence might indicate, this so-called course of "action" amounts to procrastination, the M.O. of those afflicted by crippling perfectionism (hi!).

This is enough of a pathology on its own. My problem is, given a critical mass of evidence, I tend to resolve myself to whatever course of action "feels right," which is often congruent with assuming whatever I really really want to happen will happen. And, stupidly, for several significant life decisions this has worked out okay. I applied early to Better Than U for undergrad, had a good feeling about my chances even though it's a complete crap shoot for ALL students, and after I got my acceptance notice in mid-December it thankfully no longer mattered that I had not started a single application to other schools. This summer I stumbled upon a job opening that I had reason to believe I was an excellent candidate for, and despite the disturbingly excessive length of the search and hire process, I thought to myself, "what's the point of writing all those cover letters and redoing your résumé to send to a bunch of positions you're nowhere near as enthusiastic about? It makes so much sense for them to give you this job. They will!" And they... did.

I know, poor baby. But bear with me for a moment while I work through my issues.

I can maintain my perfectionist street cred because my refusal to do any real work in pursuit of Plans B once I've put all my eggs in one big-life-decision basket does not in any way keep me from worrying about my lack of work done on behalf of alternatives. I spent endless time from junior year of high school on, obsessing about which schools to apply to, reading the Fiske guide, honing my list of colleges according to constantly-evolving Perfection Criteria. Then Better Than U emerged as a first choice, and my gut told me this was it. Which did nothing to stop me from worrying about the essays I did not want to write (and didn't) and audition tapes I did not want to record (and didn't) for other schools while I awaited BTU's decision. And as the hiring cycle for This Job dragged on and on, I would check BTU's HR website, constantly finding other suitable openings for which I reeeeally did not want to submit applications. Once I have my ideal situation in mind, I make bad faith overtures toward preparing for the worst-case scenario without actually applying myself, unless you count the stress and obsessing.

This, as you may already have been thinking, is stupid. Really stupid. The wisest thing would probably be to prepare my back-ups more concretely. And if I'm not going to do any triage work, I should get the fuck over myself and at least be a little carefree about it.

I know this, intellectually.

But. Here in front of me, we have graduate school. Hi, graduate school! You look fulfilling and benign here from my not-in-graduate-school vantage point. Anyway, again it seems like I've stumbled into a pretty sweet situation, through no effort of my own. First of all, BTU's department in my discipline is excellent for my interests. I did not realize this until, by sheer dumb luck, I came upon Big-Deal-particularly-in-Subfield-of-Interest Advisor Guy my senior year. I wrote my senior thesis with him, he liked it, and he seems to have my back in all things admissions. Also by sheer dumb luck, three years ago I also happened upon Also-a-Big-Deal-in-the-Discipline Awesome Mentor Woman, long before I knew the first thing about what I might want out of advanced academic study (if I wanted advanced academic study), much less what discipline in which to pursue my all-over-the-place interests. She let me into one of her graduate seminars as a lowly sophomore, which I appreciate even though I felt like I didn't really belong there and was intimidated as all hell by the grad students, and she has been a wonderful intellectual and personal support the entire time I've known her. She's also, naturally, in my corner for admissions; that's just the kind of person she is.

Leaving the it's-likely-I'll-get-in thing aside, there are other compelling reasons for me to stay here. I like BTU City; if I enroll next fall I know I'll still have social support around, since one of my roommates is staying at least another year, too; my one-of-a-kind music teacher is here, and I do not want to give up the seriousness with which I study singing just yet. And, like I said, BTU's department looks unique in terms of what it can offer me as a student in Subfield. I already know I have productive working relationships with Advisor Guy and Awesome Mentor Woman. It can't really be this fucking easy for me again, can it?

Of course it can't. I wouldn't let it, natch.

In practical terms this means I end up talking to a lot of grad students. I could, you know, study for the GRE or start writing my personal statement or even attempt to contact some professors in my field at the other departments I was looking at earlier in the summer, before I concluded that BTU is where it's at. But, nah! I talk to BTU's graduate students. I talk to them and ask them questions about applying to grad school, this department, its culture, blah blah blah. All of that conversation is useful, and pretty pleasant, too. But what I'm really looking for is for people to tell me that given my situation, no, it's not the most ill-advised thing in the world to apply to only one department, (presumably) get in, and go on my merry way.

And you know? That's pretty much what I've gotten. It is going to be that easy for me, apparently(?). Maybe. Again.

And if it isn't, I can only hope all this information I'm gathering will cushion the fall for which I'm so richly due.

Saturday, September 1, 2007


Shit. I think my wisdom teeth are coming in. Wisdom tooth, at least. I grope around the back of my mouth and I can feel a horrible evil little tooth point lurking below the surface on the one side, and that area's been all tender the past few days.

Shiiiiiiit. But at least I might get some Vicodin out of all this.
Reductionism who in the what now?