January 17, 2005

Restating the Obvious

Yes it is true that I have had my nose to an academic grindstone for a long time. As an undergrad at Maryland, I took summer and winter courses each year in addition to a full courseload during the semester (except for the first, when I was terribly unsure how much I could handle and I took 12 credits—still full time—instead of 15).

I had Spring and Summer 2002 off, but I sold a house, bought another one, and moved. Hardly relaxing. I took a week off last summer, after finishing up a summer class in German. Then came my boss' departure, the new boss' arrival, and less time than I had expected to prepare for my prelim. Then Mookie died. It was a pretty horrific semester, all told.

I have taken three courses each semester since I began grad school. I was told that this was a normal load, but I am beginning to realize that most grad students do not take this many courses each semester. Of course, it is hard to finish all the requirements in time to finish both prelims inside three years, as is required in order to guarantee funding. So far, I have not heard of anyone being denied funding as a result of failure to complete exams in a timely manner.

The big question remains: Is it fair to me expect that the nature of the stress or the amount of it will differ in any significant degree as a junior faculty member? Granted, not all colleges are not Research-1 universities, and the need to publish is not so great. But still, I will be expected to publish occasionally at least and to teach. And the stress of another large uncompleted project will inevitably loom ahead. Will I be happier then? THAT is the question.

Posted by webs0080 at 11:32 AM

January 14, 2005

I Am Not a Quitter

People cannot know whether Ph.D. programs are right for them until they try them. Period. Even if all your friends can have Ph.D.'s, only by sharing seminars and discussions with peers genuinely suited for the task can you see whether you are their peer. Sometimes I am there, and sometimes I am not.

I envy my cohorts' interest and talent. And as much as I like the idea of a Ph.D., I am not so sure I like the reality of academic life. Giving up on one's dream is not an easy decision to make.

It is hard to say "I am not a quitter" when one is quitting.

Posted by webs0080 at 7:29 AM

January 11, 2005

Murmurs in the Blogosphere

I can't say I know what exactly is going on over at Generation Bob. All I can say is that a book is more like a tattoo than a balloon. And that blog content is easily exportable to book form. And that books and blogs are two very different media; it would be pretty amazing for a book to work as a blog. And if it did, it would probably work better as a blog than a book anyway. Some bloggers even get publishing contracts based on their material.

Photoblogs are popular, both at the U. and in general. And for genuine polymaths, blogs provide a means of bridging public and private lives. Most blogs have pretty short life spans; people get bored because they have no readers (ie the public function is not served) or they get in trouble because of them (privacy is violated). Thus, the "freedom of speech" which sounds so appealing is actually self-limited in the interest of protecting our private selves. Blogs are memoirs of the immediate past or the present even. They allow us to peek into someone's psyche not as they recall it years later with the benefit of hindsight but in real time.

Let us know your thoughts, but keep in mind that your mom (and mine) might be reading.

Posted by webs0080 at 7:22 AM

January 8, 2005

Message from the Geriatric Ward

I am sober now. Roomie heroically drove out in the sub-freezing temperatures on the chance that she would see me exit the Loring Pasta Bar. This is what is known as True Love, especially since we have been out of gold stars to place on her side of the ledger for a week now. Approaching her third pass in front of the LPB we met up where the River Road meets University. I drove for two blocks, then Roomie took back over.

It was really fun talking about Italy. Your reason for holding off on Italy for a longer separate trip makes a lot of sense. But Italy cannot be rightly snubbed for any length of time. Plus, Austria is already in some sense his, whereas in Italy you can share the language barrier. And he will like Brixen (Bressanone) and Bolzen (Bolzano) since his Austrian-inflected German will serve there quite adequately. Check out where Stilfserjoch (Passostelvio) is on a map. Then yodel.

Burning Man vs. Coachella is another dichotomy upon which I pontificated. The two events share dust, discomfort, lots of people, and entertainment galore. Coalita appeared at both Burning Man and Coachella, but she was born at the former. BM requires a commitment to actually participate in some small way. This replaces the passive "entertain me" component with an active "here I am and this is what I am doing" role. However, by no means do you need to come up with something on your own. There are probably hundreds of people going to the Burn from the Cities, and many are likely toting person-powered craft. A quick search of the listings can put you on to a smorgasbord of groups doing all kinds of wicked crazy theme camps. A friend of mine in San Francisco sets up a croquet lawn, complete with wickets and mallets, and kicks your butt. And then there is always Pedal Camp. Burning Man is a transcendental experience: The hardships are universal, there are no garbage cans (you pack it out), and Black Rock City is a giant collective. If you go to Burning Man, it will be a project. But it is one that I think you will really really enjoy. But what the heck do I know?

Previously in this blog I have already blathered about the relative merits of scooters and motorcycles. You may also want to check out the Susan Synarski Interview, where I ask her all about her experience as a new rider and purchaser of a Vespa LT150. I think Susan may have mentioned it, but I will reiterate: Women who ride motorcycles are HOTT.

Posted by webs0080 at 8:41 AM