Sunday, January 13, 2008

One of my three wishes:

The power, despite my peon status, to shut down logorrheic superiors so that meetings are actually completed in a speedy fashion, rather than in the niggling, time-wasting, mind-numbing way of the land. (Some disciplines have a greater disposition toward this than others, it seems. Granted, my sample size is small.)

Is there a way to finesse this such that one can make efficiency happen while not needing to be the equal or superior of everyone in the room? This sort of thing seems like it would be less of a problem in the day-to-day life of a garden variety grad student, but this period of relative calm could very likely circle back to bite one on the ass when one finally (hopefully) becomes junior faculty. I imagine it's best to acquire such skills now, rather than later.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Measuring class: the meme approach

Via many, many academic bloggers.

"Yeses" are in bold, caveats and comments in parentheses:

Total yes: 16
Total no: 18

1. Father went to college
2. Father finished college

3. Mother went to college

4. Mother finished college

5. Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor
6. Were the same
or higher class than your high school teachers

7. Had more than 50 books in your childhood home (A good chunk of them were probably children's books. Mom and I both made copious use of the library.)
8. Had more than 500 books in your childhood home

9. Were read children’s books by a parent

10. Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18

11. Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18 (more than two kinds, but never simultaneously)

12. The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively.
(with caveat--there's also the whole "woman" thing)
13. Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18.

14. Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs. (HA!)

15. Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs. (")

16. Went to a private high school.

17. Went to summer camp.
18. Had a private tutor before you turned 18.

19. Family vacations involved staying at hotels. (Never went on any family vacations.)

20. Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18.
21. Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them.
22. There was original art in your house when you were a child.

23. You and your family lived in a single-family house.

24. Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home.
(Nor after. Still have quite a few years on the mortgage.)
25. You had your own room as a child.
26. You had a phone in your room before you turned 18.

27. Participated in a SAT/ACT prep course.

28. Had your own TV in your room in high school.

29. Owned a mutual fund or IRA in high school or college.

30. Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16.
(Flights used to visit relatives on my dad's side a few times when I was under 7 or so. Father's funeral was in his family's state, so I imagine I flew then, though I don't remember that far back.)
31. Went on a cruise with your family.

32. Went on more than one cruise with your family.

33. Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up.

34. You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family.

(Copyright: Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, Stacy Ploskonka , "From What Privileges Do You Have?" Illinois State University)

The survey really highlights that there is no one good way to measure class. My family's always been working class by income standards, but the levels of and commitment to education in my immediate family were pretty high, as was my household's general "cultural capital." That, no doubt, aided me in gaining admission to an elite university and being able to seamlessly integrate myself into its discourse, both academic and social. (In other words, tee hee, I can walk among "them" undetected!) In that way, I consider my relatively high score to be pretty appropriate, even though on tax forms we looked a lot "lower-statused."

That said, you can look at many of these items (and many have) and interpret them in different ways, either as being able to indicate lower/upper class simultaneously (e.g. "why would a family go on a cruise twice, when they could vacation in other, nicer places?"; not having television in keeping with an ethical line that it's bad for kids, which seems anecdotally to be a more common view in upper-class households) or as indicating aspects of one's circumstances that are not particularly class-inflected (e.g. I had my own room because I had no siblings; an upper-kid kid who doesn't need a private tutor probably won't have one).

One can also argue over the relative weighting of the items (I personally wouldn't equate having a trust paying 100% of your college costs with having a phone in your room, but that's just me), as well as some significant omissions--being raised by one parent springs immediately to mind. In any case, I'm glad the exercise was developed, and I hope it eventually gets put to good use and discussion in college classrooms.

These things have added so much Zen to my life.

I'm not even kidding.


Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Oh, Gloria

I've seen a lot of people, online and off, comment and/or applaud this piece by Gloria Steinem in yesterday's New York Times. Although I was initially pleased to see a feminist voice in the mainstream media (unfortunate that it's so rare that non-"celebrity" feminists get a pulpit, but that's another story), the piece started to give me real pause starting here:

That’s why the Iowa primary was following our historical pattern of making change. Black men were given the vote a half-century before women of any race were allowed to mark a ballot, and generally have ascended to positions of power, from the military to the boardroom, before any women (with the possible exception of obedient family members in the latter).

That paragraph and the next definitely raised a "my oppression is greater than yours" red flag. I was glad to see that, at least, Steinem does explicitly deny that she's trying to engage in a pissing contest and references intersectionality, though it has a patina of lip service to it: "I’m not advocating a competition for who has it toughest. The caste systems of sex and race are interdependent and can only be uprooted together." But something still bothered me about it, and additionally, I was bothered that I liked the op-ed as much as I did.

Then, I read a post at Angry Black Bitch that expressed very well what the underlying problem is, and that's how Steinem's op-ed basically disappears women of color. The whole post is great, but this excerpt really encapsulated it for me:

What worries me is that this is kind of article that makes some black women wary of feminism…wary of the sisterhood…because eventually, just give it time, it will all come down to black and white or women and men with black women vanished from the equation.

Even if I think that Steinem has an impressive handle on and an accessible way of communicating the gender barriers that are still so deeply ingrained in our society, this kind of erasure of women of color remains pervasive in feminist discourse. I can't deny that the piece was initially very appealing to me (and I do love Steinem's writing style), but I also can't say that that's not at least partially because it pandered to white women's privilege. And that's not acceptable.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Does it make me a big dork...

...that I'm reading advice books targeted at faculty members even before I've officially been accepted into a Ph.D. program?

...that I would/will totally buy and wear this, without necessarily being 100% ironic in doing so?:

...that today I was struck by an itch for a Nalgene that is, in some fashion, theorist-themed? No, seriously, I swear I saw a fellow undergrad carrying one a few years back whose graduations were marked with major philosophers and some glib remark or another to go with each. (Google totally failed to help me out in my search, incidentally.)

I already know the answers to these questions...

Friday, January 4, 2008

It feels like the inside of my head is trying to escape by pushing through the back of my eyes.

I guess this is to be expected, since it's been awhile since I've had one of my recurring throat/nose-sinus-y affairs. Although I would have thought that recent frigid temperatures would have, I don't know, frozen the germs, or at least made them sluggish, whatever. This is why I'm not a scientist.

Related question: should one be taken ill, but one's body normally functions only with regular infusions of caffeine, does one continue or modify usual caffeine consumption?

Iowa: eh. My preference for awhile now has gone Edwards, Clinton, Obama. I used to like Obama more, but for some reason he's starting to rub me the wrong way. Maybe if I read one of his books it'd make me feel better about his substance. Or I'll ask my policy-wonk friends to convince me. In any case, I am, of course, happy to have him a million times over any Republican. Duh. Speaking of, I don't know whether to be happy or horrified about the Huckabee thing. I had thought that if he by some anti-miracle gained the nomination, he would wither and die in the general election. Cause seriously--have we learned nothing from the past eight years? But it just makes me sick to my stomach to imagine another religious right victory. Honestly, I would have to renounce citizenship, flee to Canada, or something more drastic. I'm actually getting sad thinking about it, so I'll shut up now and distract myself with some DVDs and pills.

Thursday, January 3, 2008


Application sent, fee waiver obtained (How the hell do you justify charging $80 to apply for admission to a training program for academics? Doctors, lawyers, sure, fine, I can see that, but academics?), personal statement beaten into submission by compulsive editing, yep, looks like I covered everything. And now my sleep schedule's so turned around that it's 4:45 in the morning, and I'm really not tired at all. Time to play around on eBay.
Reductionism who in the what now?