Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I don't understand

how it is that over the course of my recent caffeine detox, downgrading from energy drinks to Dunkin' Donuts iced coffee produced fewer headaches than downgrading the iced coffee from a large to a medium.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Help me I am uninteresting

Seriously, ridiculously boring over here. The heat does not help, as it induces further lethargy and uninterestingness.

Here are a few of the uninteresting things I have been doing lately:
  • Getting paid for being neurotic! Or rather, will be getting paid a cool $50.00, after I complete the second part of a psych study for the self-identified anxiety-ridden. I love living by a research university; I've accumulated at least $400 just doing medical/psych studies like this one.
  • Finally trying out Pandora. It's all right, any given channel gets repetitive fairly quickly, but I've found some good stuff so far, like Madeleine Peyroux and Adele. And it offers me a greater variety of Bonnie Raitt than I've found on YouTube.
  • Procrastinating about my RA write-ups. Adviser Guy doesn't nudge me at all, which is sorta terrible, since I'm a person who needs to be nudged. I'm doing the research, just not the formal reporting on it, as I'm a class A perfectionist and am horribly afraid of the suckfulness that will emerge as I try to write the reports.
  • Finally getting dinner and catching up with a friend who lives literally less than a block from me. She's been there almost a year, and I'd never seen her apartment. We commiserated about how transient our friend groups are, affectionately mocked local activist politics, and made tentative plans to get together and be friends more often.
  • Drinking beer at 2 in the afternoon because it is the coldest beverage in the house amidst all of this horrible, horrible heat. It does make me more sleepy, though.
...And with that I am off to watch the last few AbFab episodes on this disc before I return it to Netflix.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Clean house, maturity angst

Gifted with an empty apartment this weekend, I took it upon myself to do some major clean-up.

Why? A friend and former roommate visited last Friday, as he was in town to conduct his own apartment/condo hunt. He's a wonderful guy and a great roommate; we're not living together again because the lease was up last month, and at that time he was planning to move a few states over, having been stuck in waiting list purgatory at one of BTU's professional schools. Happily, a few weeks ago he got notice that he's in off the waiting list (huzzah!). Since he's doing a joint professional degree/PhD program at BTU, he's going to be living here about as long as I am. I.e., we get to hang out for forever!

So, he was crashing at my place while he looked at a few apartments, and we got to talking about what kind of spaces we'd like to live in as we continue our studies and as our twenties gradually slip away from us. After this year he's going to give some thought to buying an apartment/condo, which took me by surprise. It seems like such a grown-up move.

This naturally induced me to become vocal about my maturity insecurity, and from there we discussed the distinct post-graduate feel of my current/his former domicile. It's sort of a mess, with a bunch of kitschy accents left over from previous tenants (like the beaded curtain in the living room) as well as our own personal touches added in a like-minded spirit of whimsy over the past year (like the holiday garland draped over the inflatable alligator head) (no, really). And it's dusty and slapdash--our auxiliary TV/internet devices sit on a dining room chair because we don't have a proper stand. And the cords and duct tape. Everywhere!

So, on Saturday, after my old roomie left, I impulsively got to work. I had two discs of 90s sitcom "Living Single" to keep me company as I got to cleaning every damn thing in the living room, in addition to doing several loads of laundry, washing dishes, and going through old clothes I've been meaning to toss out. The living room was the primary focus, though, and, if I do say so myself, the results were spectacular. The floor is so shiny, and the cords are so pretty and orderly, and the dead plants have been cleaned out and their pots cleaned up.
Having a respectable-looking space makes me feel much more like a real person.

We're keeping the alligator head, though.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Indecision 2008

I gchatted (is that a verb? it is now. woo branding) with one of my college friends a few days ago. He's worked a really awesome-sounding non-evil consulting gig for the past year but has been making eyes at law school for as long as I can remember. He took the LSAT last month and got an appropriately fantastic score for a guy who made it his mission to be an overachiever among overachievers in college. And I know from Type A--the two of us actually "met" online the summer before freshman year via the circle-jerk that is the Princeton Review college admissions boards. (My tool roots run deep.)

Anyway, given said fantastic score and fantastic college GPA, he has as good a shot as anyone at getting in to one or more of the top law schools. When we chatted it turns out I caught him on a day that he, glowing with the shallow yet undeniably warm and pleasant affirmation bestowed by a decent standardized test score, was slacking at work in favor of looking up the strengths and weaknesses of various law schools. I contributed what I know, since I briefly considered law school though did not end up taking the dread LSAT. Hearing him so excited and excited in particular about programs with a strong social justice/social responsibility orientation, well--it didn't make me jealous, exactly, but it did sorta make me want to run off and buy an LSAT prep book and start reading law school guides and plan to audit a law school class or two this semester. To keep my options open. Or something.

I'm having the occasional moment,
particularly after conversations with friends like the aforementioned, when I think of how, with very little real-world experience, I'm embarking on a commitment of upwards of six years with few employment options aside from the professoriate waiting for me on the other side (that is, if I can get a job, knock wood)--and it makes me feel like I'm looking into the abyss. Law school seems so much more practical, and a shorter commitment with more options at the end if I turn out to really despise it. And I may not despise it! How do I know! I could just love it to pieces and I'm not giving myself the chance to find out! Fool!!

And then I think of the debt, and I'm back to thinking the doctorate isn't such a bad idea, after all.

Anyway. I doubt this feeling will ever go away completely, at least until I take and subsequently hate a law school class. And I sort of doubt I'll be doing that any time soon. I know it's my natural impulse to want to learn everything about every potential life path before I commit to anything, and of course that's impossible. But still, it seems like graduate school is a particularly harsh mistress in terms of what you give of yourself and what you potentially get back, or where you can turn if you end up not liking it or if you don't get a steady job. Maybe that's just how it looks from inside the fishbowl, or rather, when you're getting ready to dive into the fishbowl.

Given that I will be second-guessing myself no matter what I do, it seems that the best way to go from here is to just shut up the doomsaying voices for awhile and keep my eyes and ears open. I have a tendency to live anywhere but the present, and I'm not going to learn anything about myself or what I want unless I commit to experiencing the situation first. Maybe then I'll start thinking about law school again. But maybe I won't.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Can I just say

that I really, really hate the "word" "proactive"? What's the matter with just plain ol' "active"?

The worst part is that this non-word is showing up frequently in good-hearted documents produced by good-hearted (well, maybe) people on improving diversity in the academy and effective ways to support junior faculty.

Back to cringing at intrusions of management jargon...

Monday, July 7, 2008

When national politics alienates...

So, I think I'm done with the presidential election. I'm really, really trying to like Obama, but he continues to fuck up royally--regarding FISA, faith-based organizations, reproductive issues, etc. etc. and so forth, all in the interest of pandering to people who would never vote for him anyway. I don't live in a swing state, so for whom to vote doesn't have to be a gut-wrenching decision for me--at face value McCain sucks more on, well, EVERYTHING, and I'd never in a million years actually cast a vote for him, but Obama in this incarnation does not represent my politics, and the amount of misogyny that many of his supposedly-progressive supporters were all too happy to engage in during the primary was incredibly demoralizing. Not to mention, the policy of complete non-criticism and metaphorical wagon-circling to which some of his followers are now subscribing really scares the shit out of me. My vote's not completely committed to the Greens (I still need to vet McKinney properly) or to abstention, but Obama had some serious damage control to do to earn my vote post-primary, and he just hasn't been doing it. But like I said, I'm not in a swing state, so I can feel free to vote closer to my real political stance, which is honestly a relief.

All of this to say that, since I've not been given sufficient reason to invest myself in the national campaign, I'm looking forward to using that energy elsewhere. I used to do a lot more work for our local Planned Parenthood than I do now, and with even the Democrat candidate taking up right-wing frames and religious-y rhetoric on choice, it seems like they'll need as much volunteer power as they can get.

The other thing I'm looking forward to doing is contributing toward graduate students' efforts to unionize when I join their ranks this fall. A few months ago I had coffee and what felt like the beginnings of a very aggressive organizing relationship with one of the lead union people--you know, I understand where she's coming from and am just as pro-union as she, but I found and continue to find the hard-sell approach to these things distasteful; she was trying to get me to agree to head up organizing another department in my first freaking semester of grad school. She's attempting to seal this deal a good five months before I've even enrolled. And then she had the gall to get sort of sullen when I refused to commit to her grand plan, seeing as how I'M NOT EVEN AN OFFICIAL GRADUATE STUDENT YET AND MAY NEED SOME TIME TO ACCLIMATE WHEN I AM jesus.

I mean, obviously keeping people focused on the unionization goals is necessary if you're an organizer, but fucking hell, can you at least express some basic respect for the boundaries that might be necessary for me to draw, depending on how fast I get a handle on this whole going-to-grad-school thing? Oy.

Okay, this is turning into more of a rant than the expression of enthusiasm for the grad student unionization cause that I wanted it to be, but yeah, if you know activists, you know that some of them can be just the most amazingly annoying people, if just in their activist capacity.

Trying personalities notwithstanding, I think I'd be able to make a good, solid contribution to the work the union's presently doing. It's a cause I've been aware of for a number of years, and it would give me another reason to abstractly root for getting a Democrat into the White House (hello, NLRB) in the face of feeling ambivalent about this candidacy in particular. I've thus been trying to more formally acquaint myself with matters of academic labor lately--I'm still in the midst of Bousquet's How the University Works--and I hope that will make me a more effective advocate on the grad student level. And actually, reading a bunch of academic blogs over the past year has been a wonderful education in itself. I really am looking forward to putting that education to good use.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Good to know I'm keeping it real?

blog readability test

Fourth of July and friends

On the fourth of July I was treated to the news of both Senator Jesse Helms' long-overdue demise and Barack Obama's fucking ignorant and privileged remarks on late-term abortion. On balance, a politically ambivalent day.

Luckily, I had the opportunity to take my mind off of politics, if not the patriotic spectacle of fireworks, and trekked over to a friend's parents' apartment for an Independence Day reunion. This guy whose parents' apartment it was, well, he works far far away in an area that is not the most socially progressive--it was lovely to have him back if just for a few days, and even better that several of our college friends in the area made it there. It was a grand old time, with his mother encouraging us to imbibe in their impressive variety of liquors. And the apartment had a beautiful view--we could see three or four separate fireworks shows over the course of the evening, though the ash pretty much blocked our view after two or three minutes.

I should probably make more of an effort to see my friends, particularly the ones who only live an hour or two from where I am. But it seems that everyone's extraordinarily busy and exhausted, figuring out first jobs and figuring out themselves, and before you know it you're suddenly content seeing people once every six months when you used to see them every day. I suppose with the sense of "I can get it touch with them any time I want" imparted by Facebook and Gchat and text messaging and all the rest, it's not necessarily a dire thing. Time passes so fast that it doesn't feel dire except insofar as once in awhile you get jolted with a thought of "holy shit, it's been a year already? You're totally going to be dead before you know it."

Anyway, I'm rambling now, but summer around here's been lonely, and I have to admit that this get-together was a really nice reminder that there ARE people out there who get me and who are gotten by me, as it were. I just wish they were more accessible.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

My intuition was correct.

In other words, the meeting of which I've been afeared this past week turned out to be underwhelming, as far as sources of potential terror go. Pretty collegial, actually. I think I've gotten a little less on-edge around Adviser Guy--at least I feel freer to be my normal sarcastic, misanthropic self. He seems to find it amusing. Which of course makes me wonder, is this something he appreciates in everyone, or is this part of the process of Golden Child-ification where I do no wrong, or does he find me more amusing/less threatening because I'm a woman, or all of the above?

Yeah, it's sort of stupid. It's better to be liked by the ones in charge than not, so I guess I should shut up and enjoy the fact that my dark humor's appreciated, and that more generally I seem to have become one of the favorites (typing that makes me feel sort of gross, but I'm not the only one who's noticed it, unfortunately). I'm just left wondering what will happen if/when I piss him off. I have no reason to believe he easily dumps students he finds promising or that he's fickle...

On second thought, actually there's some anecdotal things. He doesn't seem to appreciate the decisions of women students (perhaps men students, too, but the anecdotes in question don't involve men) who end up choosing a more family-centered life, like taking a job at a less prestigious university to be close to loved ones or putting their own career on the backburner for a bit to accommodate a spouse's or whatever.

I don't think I'd necessarily make similar decisions (life being what it is, though, that could change). My current ambitions are pretty much in line with what I imagine his ambitions are for his students, him being a professor at a fancy-pants university--I'd like a job at a research university that has a good name for itself, sufficient resources, all that. I'm not so hot on teaching, I don't think. But then again, I've never taught, so who's to say that I won't end up liking it? Who's to say what I'll want, six years from now?

It's this uncertainty that makes me wary. I feel like I won't become a black sheep as long as my ambitions for me and his ambitions for me continue to match. And there's a good chance they'll continue to do so, all the way through the time I go on the market. But the prospect of my life goals' changing, as scary as such transformation can be on its own, has much more dire consequences if the favor of my adviser depends upon their continuing to look a very particular way.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Lazy days of summer &c.

It's been particularly pleasant around my life for the past couple of days, as the office has really gone into suspended animation--I can't do anything on this big important report until we get more edits from the higher-ups, one of the new people has gone off on a planned vacation for two weeks, and the other new person is still getting her sea legs, so it's quite educational for her to be doing all of the things that I could ostensibly helping with. Besides, there's not much to be done in general, so, you know, it's good for her to get in all the acclimation that she can, with me just doing troubleshooting. Heh. Nice work if you can get it...

In any case, it's finally given me more time during the day to do this research that I'm supposed to have been doing. I've been plugging away for the past three days, especially because I've a meeting with the supervising prof tomorrow. Unfortunately it's not going as fast as I'd hope, though it has become significantly more fun for me, for whatever mysterious reason. Perhaps due to my starting to take the anti-anxiety meds again. Who knows.

Anyhoo, I'm quite pleased because it appears that my original slacking intentions for the summer are finally coming to fruition, and I'll get to use my 9-to-5 hours to do a good bit more academicky things. Although, it's going to land me with no real time off, no real summer between now and the start of grad school, if I do the RA gig all the way through. I was thinking I'd ask my adviser for a one-week vacation, officially sanctioned, starting tomorrow. I want to do some Nothing for the tiniest while, you know?

But I'm having second thoughts about that request, especially since I got a slow start on the research. I feel a responsibility to my adviser and I'm disappointed in said slow start, to be sure, but I'm also thinking that having a real initiation into a lifestyle of "get up, work for a long time on research, crap out, go home" on a regular schedule, rather than just the frantic preparation I'm used to doing immediately before deadlines, will be a necessary kick in the ass for me. Plus, I tend to get antsy when I do "nothing" for too long of a time, anyway. So I might not ask for time off until about a month of intensive researching has gone by. Maybe it'll teach me something.

Anyway. Back to summarizing articles. I'm a bit scared of this meeting tomorrow, but I'm usually scared of meetings with authority figures, which then subsequently turn out to be not as horrible as I expected, so I'm hoping things will go relatively smoothly. I know I got some 'splaining to do, but I'm ready to do it and to grovel but good. I also have some interesting new stuff, so I'm hoping that will serve as a successful offering while I bow and scrape, as a cat offers a dead bird to its caretaker.

Okay, I've had either too much or not enough caffeine, off with me now...

Reductionism who in the what now?