Thursday, July 24th 2008

posted @ 12:20 pm in [ - - - - ]

It’s true, I haven’t been posting much.

Part of that is because I’m focused a lot on work and job stuff at the moment, and as we all know, I don’t blog about that. But here are the vagaries: I’m still teaching in the program where I’ve been teaching for the last few years, and that’s mostly good. I’ll also be teaching again at the same program where I taught last fall, and that should be fun. I picked up a little writing work for an ongoing media analysis project. I’m still trying to get the big honkin’ book published, and I have another article coming out later this year. In the meantime, I’m looking for a full-time gig with health insurance and stuff.

Looking for work is pretty much always a fairly soul-crushing experience if you give a rip what you end up doing, and it’s even more exhausting when you’re keeping up on other jobs while you’re doing it (which you have to if you’re addicted to things like food and electricity). Plus, I’m finding out that it’s a funny thing with advanced degrees: it’s still a numbers game, but instead of it being easier to get a better job with a fancy degree (which is what you’re told will happen), I’m finding it’s actually a lot harder. There are fewer near-perfect fits, employers are surprisingly inflexible about what they think you can do, and people want to put you through the ringer to see if it’s worthwhile to invest in you. The hopper has to be so much deeper and wider to yield the same result, and advanced degrees force you to specialize, not generalize. Plus, nobody will hire you for a job they think you’re overqualified for — which is a lot with a Ph.D. — because they think you’ll just leave in a month or two when you find something better. Can’t really blame ‘em for thinking that. So yeah, it’s draining. It does force one not to settle, though: the market won’t let me.

Dr. Meg will be on the air on Monday on KGNU Denver / Boulder / Nederland and at if you’re not in earshot. Syndication has been mentioned (and passive voice has been used). I’ll keep you posted, of course.

You have the bat and frog update below.

Lisa has been relatively close by this summer, which has been great. She’ll be around for another 5 weeks or so, and we have lots more fun to cram in before she goes home.

The thyroid deal is looking up. I found a delightful family practice in Boulder, brought my lab reports and stuff, had a brief but productive discussion with a sympathetic and fine, fine superfine physician, and walked out with a prescription for generic synthroid, which I got filled (wicked cheap!) on the way home. I already feel better, even after just a few days. I had the best dance class yesterday that I’ve had in months, in part because I didn’t feel sluggish at all. I haven’t been to the gym yet today, and I don’t even have unpleasant, depressive symptoms. I’ll probably get in a bike ride later this afternoon, which will be even better because I’ll know it’s actually going to have some sort of physiological result. Yee-haw!

Finally, the spambots seem to have declared open war on my moderation queue. I average a little over 100 pieces of spam an hour. In order to get akismet to work, I have to upgrade WordPress and install it, and I don’t have direct access to the server, so that’s taking some effort to resolve, and in the meantime, every time I log in, there are all those zillions of bits of spam (baked beans, spam, spam, spam and spam), and quite frankly, after I’ve gotten through them all, I often don’t feel like posting anymore. I’ll try to be better about that, and get the spammage fixed shortly.

So that’s what’s up. Or most of it, anyway.

Sunday, May 20th 2007

Really, really, really finished
posted @ 7:56 pm in [ ]

I finished the revisions to the dissertation beastie. I think I have to try to get it published, because in writing it, the problems with my field stopped being funny to me and started getting a lot scarier. I think any new idea ought to be considered, and if I have one, I have a duty to put it out there for consideration. It can only help. For this permutation, though, here are the final stats (including footnotes):

Title: Violent Societies: Theory and Methods for Tracing the Patterns of the Lost Violent Monoply Pages: 689 Words: 220, 152 Characters (including spaces): 1,372,904 Paragraphs: 5,271 Lines: 22,746

You know what I’ve been asked a lot, and I still have no idea how to answer? “How long did it take to write it?”. Technically, one enters the dissertation phase after comps, which I passed about six years ago. I didn’t really launch right into the process, though, and it took me a few years, while working full time and getting a committee on board, to get my prospectus (research proposal) together and approved. Once my prospectus was officially approved, it was a little less than two years before I defended my dissertation. I would say that I did the bulk of the writing in less than a year, though. It was a slow start, probably taking me about 6 - 8 months between setting up the document by slugging in my prospectus and really getting rolling, then the rest of the project wrapped up a lot more quickly. Basically, the first couple of hundred pages took as long to write as the last five hundred, so I guess technically, the latter part was almost twice as fast. So yeah, not linear. None of those answers seems satisfying to the askers, either. Maybe I’ll figure out a better answer at some point.

It feels weird to be finished.

Monday, April 30th 2007

posted @ 9:55 pm in [ ]

I’ve been working on the final revisions to the diss, and it’s going along. In light of our recent conversations and my fellow nerdy hotties coming out of the woodwork, I thought you might find this entertaining (and perhaps all too familiar).

I went to one of my favorite local coffee shops today to punch up my South Africa dataset. It’s a wild and wooly dataset all right, and it had a big honkin’ flaw in it, so I basically had to recalculate the whole thing. I’ve been procrastinating for so long, though, that I forgot how some of the computations worked and I had to go back and reconstruct some stuff and remember/relearn other stuff. Feh! I brought my laptop, my calculations and notes, and my fancy-pants calculator down to the coffee shop so I could spread out and, you know, drink coffee, while I sorted it all out.

So I’m minding my own business, calculating and reworking and fixing up my dataset. I’m also an obvious electronics weenie, from the laptop to the fancy-pants calculator, to the iPod, to the horizontal-flip, second-screen, full-QWERTY-keyboard phone that gets video, music, Internet, and in a pinch, could maybe have made my latte. I could probably have taken over Switzerland with the hardware I had lying around, so I might also be some sort of dangerous megalomaniac.

Anyway, dude comes sidling up to me, begins preliminary cheesy chat-up, doesn’t flinch at the wedding band, but takes one look at the crazy, crazy math I’m doing and looks like he’s just eaten a bug. Taking a fortifying glance at my cleavage, he regroups and asks if I’m doing homework. Oh, but they don’t teach this stuff in school yet, and I don’t do homework anymore — I inflict it from the other side of the desk. The smell of fear begins to mingle with the pungent coffee scent. Run, Scooby, it’s the pirate ghost! Why no, I’m finishing the revisions on my [comes out in distorted-audio slow motion] diss… er… ta… tion. The word has barely passed my pouty, cupid’s-bow lips before his Hanna-Barbera bongo-accompanied retreat begins. Zoiks!

Elizabeth, I feel you, man.

Friday, February 16th 2007

That’s Dr. Painintheass to you
posted @ 11:55 am in [ ]

Here’s something I never thought I’d say: my dissertation defense was a very low-key, positive experience with cookies. Good cookies, too: I think they were Samoas. That part was especially nice because I hadn’t been able to eat much over the last day or two, and I had slept about 3 of the last 48 hours. Having had various aspects of this program forcibly imprinted on my colon, I was pretty nervous, and more than a little concerned that I might puke in the trashcan, or worse, on my committee chair’s shoes. Instead of colon punishment, though: cookies. Given the choice, I’d take cookies every time.

Also, when you show up in anticipation of having a horrible, lubeless experience (albeit a necessary one for attaining your larger goals), and somebody’s put nice cookies out on the table, and made a pot of coffee and stuff, it makes you feel like probably nothing bad is going to happen. (Cardinal Biggles! Bring out… the comfy chair!) I mean, when Paulie Walnuts is going to lay waste to your patella with a baseball bat, he doesn’t run out and get some Samoas first so he can put out a nice plate. On the other hand, that would be a pretty good strategy.

Basically, I got to talk about my work with interested scholars for a couple of hours and eat cookies. It was like being a featured guest on Book Notes: IR Theory Weenie Edition. I didn’t think their questions were easy, but most of them were things I had thought about, and none of them were things I couldn’t answer. They were interesting, curious questions that I actually wanted to answer. They weren’t trick questions, or mean pretend-questions that were actually just veiled digs at me or faculty members they were mad at or anything. They were actually kind of, well, flattering. Also, the folks involved were all really nice and encouraging and fun to talk to — it made me wish I had had them all along for the ride from the beginning. Then, they sent me out of the room with a cookie, deliberated about my awesomeness, and congratulated me when I came back in and actually hugged me and stuff. No going medieval on my ass or anything.

So that was all very happy and surreal, and then I had to run off really fast to go teach for three and a half hours. It’s a special topics class about my work, too, so I then got to go talk to more people who were interested in what I’d been working on all this time, and were in fact even paying to hear about it (not to mention expressing cool ideas about it), which was even MORE happy and surreal. Then, when I got home, the whole lack of food and sleep thing caught up with me, so we went out to a diner. I got an omelette that came with toast, and the waitress brought out: mixed fruit jelly. I really like those little square blister-packs of mixed fruit jelly when I go out to a diner and have toast. I couldn’t really tell you why — it might just be the novelty. Anyway, it was at this point where I wondered if I wasn’t really somewhere in an alley dying of multiple gunshot wounds and just having an “Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” kind of experience. It was the mixed fruit jelly that tipped me off. It was just too much, you know? Even though I became aware of it, though, I didn’t snap back into the blood-soaked alley, so maybe I was just having a string of really pleasant experiences.

Then I went home and went to bed, and Petra gave me lots of pillow cuddles. Then I woke up this morning and a bunch of other people confirmed that all that happy stuff had actually happened. Yes, Phillip said, I really did get mixed fruit jelly. He took the day off today so we could drink and/or go to the zoo. I think we should just go nuts and maybe take in an Imax movie, too.

Basically, it isn’t sinking in just yet. My recently-graduated buddies tell me that takes a few days.

Thursday, February 15th 2007

I wonder what the king is doing tonight
posted @ 4:57 am in [ ]

Okay, so word has leaked out that I’m defending my dissertation in about 11 hours. I tried to keep it on the D.L. because my comps were a disaster worthy of an Irwin Allen movie. So FINE, it’s true, and that’s why I haven’t been posting much. I had a bunch of last-minute revisions to make, so I’m pretty tired, but fortunately, I’m quite certain I can talk about this project in my sleep. Of course I’ll let you know what happens.

Monday, February 5th 2007

Conveyance dreams and other anxieties
posted @ 9:36 pm in [ - ]

For the last few years, I’ve been having dreams about traveling. Not every night, but maybe a few times a month or less. The most common conveyances are airplanes, cars, and the occasional train or boat or bike. The airplane dreams usually involve trying to rush through an impossible airport and catch a plane for which I’m late (often with people waiting for me), while the driving dreams are often through middle America, nowhere near a destination of any kind or anything I recognize (”Well, ain’t this place a geographical oddity: two weeks from everywhere!”), often low on money and in need of a place to stay, and gas, or food, and sometimes driving a car with various mechanical problems or traveling with someone horrible.

Because I’m a happy traveler overall — and totally unafraid of being stranded in the middle of nowhere in sh*tbox vehicles because of my extensive acclimatization to that sort of thing — and these are anxiety dreams, I figured they were about the journey of my academic process. Over the last year, I started actually getting on the plane or making sense of the maps and determining where I had to go before the dreams ended.

I haven’t had one of the dreams in weeks, I imagine because I finally arrived at the conscious-world destination. I did, however, have an anxiety dream about defending. It wasn’t as colorful as my comps anxiety dreams were. One of my comps fields was political theory (a.k.a. political philosophy), and I had a dream about having to compete in some sort of athletic contest at the ancient Acropolis (in a toga, of course) that involved a chariot race, a foot race, some sort of ladder climbing thing, and other stuff. It quickly became too funny to be anxious. For some reason, a lot of the other comps anxiety dreams also involved the ladder. In the case of my comps, though, the reality was the nightmare. I think the hazing should be more standard: chug a beer, swim out to the buoy, like that.

I’m more optimistic about defending, which is supposed to be more of a formality. I’m dealing with the aforementioned roadblocks by ejecting the uncooperative from my committee. I feel like Boris Yeltsin firing his cabinet… and I like it!

Wednesday, January 31st 2007

I asked for it!
posted @ 11:31 pm in [ ]

Roadblocks to defending have indeed reared their ugly heads. Ugly head #1 is a policy problem. Ugly head #2 answers to the moniker of “anxiety-producing postponement.” I’m trying to argue with the heads, and I’ll let you know how it shakes out.

Wednesday, January 24th 2007

Shouldn’t there be a roadblock around here somewhere?
posted @ 11:44 pm in [ ]

So I handed in a draft of my dissertation to my committee chair on Monday, and things seem to be, well, proceeding. He’s going ahead with setting up my defense, and I’m doing some revisions: editing the bibliography and footnotes, making sure everything is consistent with the in-house style guidelines and Turabian (yeah, you editorial types out there, it’s not APA. Wacky, eh?), slugging in a few last references, revisiting Part III now that I have a little perspective on the calculations and all. I’m waiting for any revisions from my chair (probably minor) and my math guy (could be minor, could be major — I got some weird results, but they could just be, you know, weird. This is after all some pretty weird stuff). It’s all very finite and manageable, and after years and years of struggle all seems to be happening pretty quickly.

Shouldn’t I be all relieved and elated? Well, yes, quite possibly. I haven’t done a jigsaw puzzle yet, though. I haven’t busted out the bottle of Laphroaig I’ve been saving. I’ve been pretty quiet about the tentative defense date, too, just in case it has to be postponed or is a total disaster, even though there doesn’t seem to be a rational reason why either of those things would happen. (I did go ahead and set up my groovy little iPod, a wicked thoughtful Christmas gift from She Who Sends Me Thoughtful Technogadgets That Make Me Say, “Where Have You Been All My Life?!” I’m working on filling it up still.) Why am I so tentative about shaking my booty in celebration? Because my friends, I am deeply, deeply suspicious.

Where are the millions of terrible roadblocks? The punishing, soul-crushing, panic-inducing, bank-account-draining, therapy-necessitating, tree-killing, just plain annoying and unnecessary, how-is-this-NOT-hazing roadblocks? Something about this just doesn’t seem right. I feel like a cautious badger inching out of my cage. Someone is going to poke me with a stick any second, right? Then I’ll bite them, and all will be right with the world. Right? Sniff-sniff, where are they? Rrrahgrrrrrrrrr…

Sunday, January 21st 2007

How does it feel?
posted @ 12:28 am in [ ]

It hasn’t really sunk in yet that I’ve finished generating what has sort of been my life’s work for years and years. I’m trying not to get too elated about it, because I’m going to have a lot of revisions and stuff ahead of me. My math could be wicked wrong. My committee might decide they want to see some other sources throughout Part II or they might hate how I revised Part I. I have had so many setbacks in this process, it seems unbelievable that this part might actually go smoothly. Right now, my math guy has Part III, and I’m in the process of printing out the whole thing for my committee chair. I’ll give it to him Monday, and then get crackin’ on the nitpicky formatting stuff while I’m waiting for feedback from those two folks.

On the other hand, I feel lighter somehow. I slept late, and did some knitting, and talked to Lisa on the phone about her extrasuperfabulous website, Placeblogger, which is doing phenomenally well, and of course, the fact that I wrote a frickin’ book, and a bunch of other good stuff. I couldn’t say when the last time I slept late, indulged in a long phone call, or knitted all afternoon without feeling guilty about not writing was.

Incidentally, the real page count is 642. The master document reformatted a bunch of stuff without my permission. Feh!

Friday, January 19th 2007

Poke it with a fork…
posted @ 5:27 pm in [ ]

I finished the diss. Sure, there are some revisions ahead, and I may have to rework some of the calculations and what-not, but it’s all generated and stuff. Once I hit 700 pages, I changed the font, so it’s not quite continuous from the last updates, but first draft totals are: 628 pages and 194,705 words. Next, full draft to the whole committee, followed by the defense a few weeks later.

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