Friday, January 27, 2006

Jackass University

In my 25 years, I've learned a lot of things. A few of those things have been useful; most have not. For example, I've learned that every house needs a pencil sharpener (although we are still lacking one), poppyseeds get stuck in a certain spot in my teeth, and you shouldn't go looking for support from Jackass University.

Jackass University is not my current school, which I prefer to call Granola University. Granola University has a less-than-stellar graduate social group due in large part to a very wide demographic spread and very broke students, but my department is so supportive and lovely and cozy that you can't help but love it. Jackass University is the previous academic home of myself and the Hubster, and while the student life is great, the department has a large population of selfish jackasses -- hence the name. I should say that I have had better luck that hubster in dealings with the department, but not entirely. I burned a few bridges while I was there, but I now think that's normal and even preferable to coasting through your program as Smiley McNeutral. But I'm getting sidetracked. Here are some examples of the jackassery:

-I emailed a prof I had taken a cross-listed graduate course with (prof was not a member of my home department) to say hello and thank her for her comments on a paper I had written for her. I had recently presented the paper at a conference and recieved excellent feedback. (Incidentally, I had received only a so-so grade on the paper initially -- clearly ideas and execution at conferences matter more than grades!). I received a reply that was at best indicative of a forgetful prof and at worst was quite curt. I think it was one line, and I'm pretty sure she had no clue who I was or where I had come from. It was her first grad class, and I was one of the most vocal students in the class. My guess is that she just didn't really care, but it was a bit weird as I'm used to nicer communications with past profs.

-Professor Smartuscamelopardalis was very nice to me after I left and wrote me a stellar recommendation letter for my next program and a couple large grants. I did not have an A+ in Smartuscamelopardalis' class but did well enough and was apparently in the top 5-10% of the class. Hubster asked for a letter the next year and Smartuscamelopardalis agreed, then started to pull back at the last minute, which any student will realize is not a very nice thing to do as letters are a pain in the ass to arrange. Eventually Smartuscamelopardalis delivered a letter which ranked hubster in bottom 50% of class despite his mark being 1 percentage point below mine and in the same grade range. Most assoholic.

-Professor Pitbull just plain hated me, but loved the hubster. Unfortunately, Pitbulls don't easily reply to emails and hubster bore the brunt of it. More likely, hubster bore the brunt of my burnt bridge. I guess that's professionalism in the pitbull world.

-And lastly, if you give someone a solid A+ in a class, why would you not write a letter for them? Are you really that scared that your record will be judged by one letter for a student whose field of interest isn't the same as your own? Or are you really just that uncaring for past students?

Jackass University continues to perpetuate their jackassery in new and exciting ways year after year. Just recently a good friend of mine left the university due to stress. She was/is a top notch student, but stress is often compounded by an unsupportive department, and being unsupportive is, after all, what jackasses do best.

Thank god for granola.
doctor T 1:38 p.m. | 3 comments |

Saturday, January 21, 2006

End Cancer

One of my Hitched friends is participating in the 2006 Weekend to End Breast Cancer walk in Vancouver. All the proceeds go to the BC Cancer Foundation. Jennifer's mom is a two-time cancer survivor, and Jennifer, being the always-generous and wonderful gal she is, is walking for her and for other friends who are fighting cancer. Every little bit counts, so if you can afford to make a donation please do -- or if you're in town, join in the walk if you can.

You can make a donation at Jennifer's page: 2006 Weekend to End Breast Cancer
doctor T 8:44 p.m. | 0 comments |

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Migraines + Studying = bleargh

Today was a good reading day until I sat down to do my evening round after the hubster went to class. My neck was achy, my eyes were hurtin', I felt sick in the tum -- ugh, a migraine was coming on. I caught it early enough that a couple Aspirin and some coffee would have helped, but all I had was Tylenol and my tum was not up for coffee, especially the thought of leftover microwave-reheated coffee or instant crap. So I downed a bunch of water instead -- a poor substitute, but gentler on the stomach. I decided to try my non-drug solution of wrapping a scarf around my temples tightly, and of course the only scarf on hand is the green and yellow giant floral polyester number I bought for my Mrs. Jefferson halloween costume 2 years ago. So on it goes. My eyes were also starting to get a bit sore from reading so I grab my old glasses to help make the print bigger on my article. Then I catch a glance of myself in the mirror. Yikes. I looked like a stoned 60s philosophy prof. I also have a lovely cold sore which is now drying out so I look like a stoned 60s philosophy prof who took the free love vibe a bit too far and ended up catching herpes from whatever grad student they were doing at the time. Not a good look for me. So the "bleargh" above doesn't actually refer to my studying -- the scarf trick worked pretty well and I finished my article. It actually refers to what I looked like. That was some scary shit. I can only hope it wasn't some kind of freaky omen of what the future holds.

In other news, I accidentally recieved a full copy of my upcoming candidacy exam today. Luckily honest Doctor T did her duty (hee! I can't even write duty without laughing) and let the supervisor know right away. Really, it sucks more for the committee than for me. I just get a sneak peek -- they have to write a whole new exam. That's why Track Changes in Word should NEVER be on in the background!
doctor T 8:48 p.m. | 2 comments |

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Doctor T Goes Global

I found out yesterday that I've been accepted to the Interdisciplinary Nineteenth-Century Studies 2006 International Conference. It's at Durham University, which is pretty much east of middle-of-nowhere in England but also happens to be about an hour away from my sister and brother-in-law in Leeds. I didn't think I'd be able to go, but my most wonderful parents are keen that I attend so will help me out with the ticket. The only catch is I have to be back by the 8th for a wedding so I think I'll be going early to chill with the sissy and then hit the conference.

Now to actually write the paper!
doctor T 2:53 p.m. | 5 comments |

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Smithing the Poop

Let me introduce you to the Poopsmith. He is one of the residents of Strongbadia, but he is also the unofficial mascot of English graduate studies, and English in the academy in general -- at least for Mike and me (Really, this post should belong to wargoon, but Mike is a lazy blogger so I have dibs).

A lot of what we do amounts to poopsmithing. Every once in a while we have a great idea and somehow have the time, energy and money to explore it, but most of the time we sift through a lot of crap we're not interested so we can write a paper we aren't interested in for someone who isn't interested in it. Face it: grad profs are just as selfish as grad students -- their classes are meant to promote their own research projects and they're looking for cheap labour. Or they don't actually need any more research but want students to kiss ass and validate their work. I don't know why I would expect anything more from them, but I do -- maybe because my own supervisor is a more involved, interesting teacher and I think there should be more teachers like that at the graduate level.

But back to the poop. Poopsmithing, for me, involves reading various articles and books that are tangentially connected to my own idea but really aren't going to contribute to my thesis or the framework of my project in general. Why do it then? Because it's expected that we will show that we've waded through all the crap and emerged victorious, poopsmithing implement in hand, above the putrid piles of academic writing that will then cling to our brains like horrible little butt crumbs. I'm not saying that all journals are useless piles of hangover-black turds on porcelain white printing paper. There are important articles and books out there for almost every essay I write, but I hate the expectation that my tiny little 20 page article (15 without those stupid double-spaced blockquotes the MLA decided are the new standard) is actually going to address or even need more than 3 reference citations. Maybe I'm a bit old-school in my attention to the actual text, or maybe I like to talk about bigger ideas and thus my background reading tends toward larger trends rather than specific smaller articles. Or maybe I'm just lazy. But if laziness lets me get away with a little less poopsmithing on every third essay I really don't care about, is that really such a bad thing?
doctor T 4:29 p.m. | 2 comments |