succumbing to peer pressure

Thursday, May 08, 2008

More Odds-n-Ends

The lovely and talented Kate has been published! Or, perhaps more accurately, will be published in September when this anthology from Morrigan Books comes out. Be sure to buy a copy.

Acting like a runner
Around noon today, as I sat on my deck, alternating between plowing through the first 50 pages of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency and staring up at the bright blue sky, I decided that I just really didn't feel like going to work. Luckily for me, Kathy provided the perfect rationalization. Apparently a rule of thumb for runners is to take off the number of days following a race equal to half the distance of the race. So after a half-marathon you take a week off, after a full marathon you take two weeks. Not sure how long of a race a dissertation proposal translates into, but that's definitely going to be my excuse for the odd day off now and then.

My university organizes monthly dinners for all the graduate students with my particular fellowship, and tonight was the overlap dinner, where the incoming fellows meet the outgoing. It's a pretty cool idea. Tonight the discussion turned to pedagogy, which isn't something we talk much about in my department. In my limited experience, math/stat people who are willing to teach are so few and far between, not much thought is given to whether or not they're actually any good at teaching. We have one course that's called "How to Teach Biostatistics" but, at least when I took it, there still wasn't any discussion of pedagogy. There was some strategizing about handling difficult students, and some sharing of interesting examples, but nothing about structuring homework and exams, the order in which topics are covered, the way topics are explained.

Realizing tonight that I was completely in the minority in my lack of formal training, and being the sort of person that I am, I'm trying to figure out how to get more structured coverage of pedagogy into my program. I'm thinking of reaching out to math, econ, poli sci, psych, and soc departments at my university. They all have to teach stats - surely at least one of them discusses teaching methods with their grad students, right? I've picked up a few excellent tips from the lovely Heebie-Geebie, but any and all additional suggestions would be most welcome. What sort of resources are out there? Books, journals, websites, courses? I'm not aware of anything within my various professional organizations, but I'm not up on the education literature. Basically all of my knowledge of teaching techniques is from living with AWB, so I inherently associate pedagogy with the humanities. Surely someone out there is developing it for the math/science set, right?

Word to your mother
Who knew the original meaning of Mother's Day? I surely didn't, but thankfully, Sybil Vane over at BitchPhD has the details: Mother's Day was originally envisioned as an opportunity for anti-war activism. Vane also has what will be going in my Mom's Mother's Day card this year:
What I want for Mother's Day is some demonstration that the adult-ish people to whom my mothering matters (which is currently only my husband as our daughter is young) have reflected on what it means to try to mother with intelligence, grace, courage, and kindness in this historical moment. I want a recognition that I am under-served by social and business policies that do not value the work I do as a mother, and that I am under-served by the sentimentalization of motherhood. I want awareness that while the domestic labor I do is unpaid, it is not, de facto, my labor and has very little to do with mothering. I want conscious decisions to value the social and political influence of mothering, and commitments to increasing the visibility of the ways mother's are disenfranchised.

For my own part, I will try to give these things to my mom. I will think hard about the obstacles she overcame, the work she quietly and sometimes invisibly balanced and the sacrifices she made, in particular the ways that she shouldn't have needed to make them. I will promise to do my part to make those sacrifices less necessary for my own daughter, should she decide to be a mother herself. I will try to show my mom that I recognize what she did and the fights she had to do them how she wanted.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


AWB says far more eloquently what I was trying to a few weeks ago about academia:

I never say, as my friends often do, that it’s a bad choice. Grad school is an excellent choice for people who have enormous resources of confidence and poise in the face of anxiety-producing situations. Sometimes I’m that person, and sometimes I’m not. I wish the profession were all it purports to be, a safe haven for smart people who don’t fit in. (This is what my students seem to fantasize it will be, anyway.) But it’s not. As I’ve often whispered to myself while wandering around at conferences, “What a nest of vipers we are.”

Thanks to Cecilia over at PhD Comics, I just found out about this alternative to AAA. I haven't had a chance to look over the site much, or do any research about AAA (of which I've been a member, through my family, pretty much since I turned 16), but this Better World Club sounds pretty cool - environmentally friendly, and they provide roadside service to both cars and bikes!

My previous post was about It Can't Happen Here, which I originally (ages ago) said I picked up because it contained one of my favorite quotes ("When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross"). Although I'm still glad I picked up the book, turns out that quote is nowhere to be found in its pages. People with more time on their hands than I have done the research on the evolution of this quote and its misattribution.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Books Completed

I FINALLY have another book to put in this column - It Can't Happen Here, by Sinclair Lewis. Just because it took me 2.5 months to slog through the 380 pages, don't take that to mean that I didn't enjoy it. I just had, you know, other stuff going on. ICHH is very1984-esque (though, written in 1935, it by far pre-dates, and is much more frighteningly prescient) - it tells the story of America's slip into fascism, following WWI and the Great Depression, and includes these gems (remember now, written in 1935):

Remember when the hick legislators in certain states, in obedience to William Jennings Bryan, who learned his biology from his pious old grandma, set up shop as scientific experts and made the whole world laugh itself sick by forbidding the teaching of evolution?

The tyranny of this dictatorship isn't primarily the fault of Big Business, nor of the demagogues who do their dirty work. It's the fault of Doremus Jessup! Of all the conscientious, respectable, lazy-minded Doremus Jessups who have let the demagogues wriggle in, without fierce enough protest. ... It's my sort, the Responsible Citizens who've felt ourselves superior because we've been well-to-do and what we thought was 'educated,' who brought on the Civil War, the French Revolution, and now the Fascist Dictatorship. It's I who murdered Rabbi de Verez. It's I who persecuted the Jews and the Negroes. I can blame no Aras Dilley, no Shad Ledue, no Buzz Windrip, but only my own timid soul and drowsy mind. Forgive, O Lord!

As the story comes galloping to it's end, I can't help but see Bush (whiny, petulant, vaguely well-intended) and Cheney (borderline-evil mastermind) in the characters of Buzz Windrip and Lee Sarason, but I'm probably reading too much in to things.

Books Started

So I've just started The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith. I'm literally only a few sentences in, so no opinion yet. Except that I'm going to have to ask Kathy how to pronounce a few things.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Pulling myself together
(warning: this post definitely falls under the heading of No One Cares What You Had for Lunch)

So the past 10 days have gone like this:
Friday - propose dissertation (2-4), spend night at hospital, no sleep, minimal food
Saturday - catch up a bit on sleep and food, which of course generates serious disorientation about day and time, go out drinking to celebrate a friend's successful dissertation defense (more disorientation)
Sunday - sleep until noon, run errands like a chicken with my head cut off, bowling team dinner party, hospital until 11pm
Monday - intend to swing by hospital for a few hours, instead wind up helping with discharge to another friend's house, home again sometime after 11pm
Tuesday - another couple of hours with my friend, then coaching the kiddies in gymnastics
Wednesday - manage a few hours of work, then clean house and do laundry in preparation for two (lovely) overnight guests, go out drinking again to celebrate successful dissertation defense and say goodbye to friend who is moving away the next day
Thursday - wake up 'early' (by standards of previous night's 'bedtime'), say goodbye to departing friend, brunch at the Flying Biscuit, quality time wandering through Decatur (and searching in vain for Mother's Day gifts), yummy Thai and sushi with visiting friends for dinner, ready to pass out around 9pm
Friday - early morning tutoring session, tiny bit of work, several hours impersonating Nurse Ratched as I attempt to convince my friend that eating and walking around will actually make her feel better, pass out just long enough in my own bed to drool all over myself, then rally for the open bar at our school's graduation send-off party and yet another friend's going away party
Saturday - wake up 'early' for kickball game that gets subsequently canceled after we arrive, spend a couple of hours at the nearby pizza joint where I realize that I just really don't have energy left for socializing or, you know, sitting up, spend rest of afternoon dozing off in bed in front of the tv, wake up enough in the evening to get some random household chores done, then inevitably can't fall asleep again
Today - more tutoring, but thankfully, that's pretty much the only thing on the agenda.

I'm off for a run shortly, in an attempt to build up some much-needed serotonin. I'm still pretty unclear as to what day it is or when my meals should be occurring. I'm afraid that I'm sort of setting myself up for another trip down the rabbit hole (I have this lovely habit of generating all sorts of fun stress reactions after the conclusion of a stressful event. I guess this is useful since it means I remain calm enough to get through the event successfully, but it just makes the post-wind-down sucky and confusing). So. There's that. I know I choose to structure my life this way, but some days I should really know better.

And of course, hopefully, a return of enough of my brain cells to cobble together coherent blog posts about something other than "Oh woe is me, I have all these friends and social engagements and not enough time to sleep or eat because I'm too busy going out and having fun!"