July 4, 2012

The not-vacation vacation

I have been visiting my family for the past two weeks.  It has been a nice visit, but I feel like I fell into that trap where I really needed a vacation, but I had convinced myself that I was going to be productive -- so I ended up not doing very much work, but also feeling stressed and guilty the whole time because I was "supposed to be" working.  I spent a lot of time sitting here with my dissertation open while mindlessly reloading twitter.

I feel like this is a common problem for academics, since we're often working without structure.  Sometimes you just need to decide "I'm not doing anything for two weeks."  That's what I should have done.  I had just had a really terrible month, and I needed to recharge.  But since one of my committee members scolded me for being "slow" last month, I felt like I couldn't take a break at all.

Now I don't have much to show for these two weeks, and I didn't recharge -- but I can't take a real vacation now, because I'm behind from all of my procrastinating... not to mention the months I wasted on personal problems before my trip.

Sometimes I really, really want the kind of job that ends at 5.

May 26, 2012

Still not graduating

My sixth year of grad school is almost over. To be honest, it was a very rough year, mostly because of personal problems. I'm finally free of an unhealthy relationship, but getting over the heartbreak has been hard. I really allowed my progress to get derailed -- again -- by distractions that consumed far too much of my time and energy.

Now, I'm scrambling to finish the last case study for my dissertation, and then I need to spend the summer wrapping up the project and preparing for the job market.

Miraculously, I have funding next year. Seventh years don't normally get any work at my university, but one of my committee members offered me a research assistantship. My university actually rejected the appointment at first, because they are becoming very strict about not allowing 7th years to have any financial support whatsoever. So, a few days after getting offered the assistantship, I was informed that I couldn't be hired after all. I was crushed. I e-mailed everyone that I could think of to appeal, but nobody would even respond to my e-mails. But then, a few days later, my professor got them to reverse the decision.

I don't know why my university thinks it's helpful to deny 7th years any sort of funding whatsoever. I can understand cutting off TA funding that comes from the university (even though I don't agree), but this assistantship is funded by my professor's grant money. They just don't want 7th years to have work at all, probably to pressure us to graduate. But only two members of my cohort are graduating this year, so it's not unusual to graduate in 7+ years. Starving us out is cruel and unhelpful.

I hadn't been counting on getting any funding next year, though, so I'm quite lucky to have the assistantship. I'm going to need to take out loans for summer, for health insurance, and to pay off some debt -- but it could be so much worse. Many of my classmates will probably be waitressing and going into much more debt.

I'm determined that this year will be my last, whether I find an academic job or not. My dissertation is so close to being finished that if I can't wrap it up in a year, it will mean that I got hit by a truck or something.

March 11, 2012

I get e-mails

My students are working on their take-home, open-book exam this weekend. I've encouraged them to ask questions.

But so far, nearly all of the questions are answered in the instructions. For example:

Where do we turn in the exam?
How do we cite sources?
Are we allowed to cite lecture?
How long should the essay be?

When I teach my own classes, I think I will include some sort of bonus in the instructions to reward the three people who actually read them. It would be like leaving a $20 in a hotel Bible.

December 26, 2011

Dissertation update

I finished another case study on Christmas Day.

But I dated it 12/26 and e-mailed it to my advisors today so they don't think I'm a loser.

December 17, 2011

Course evaluations

I finally didn't get any negative comments at all on my course evaluations. I only got four written comments, but the number ratings are good (5.5 out of 6) and three of the comments are very positive and sweet. One even said I was the best TA s/he had ever had.

Unfortunately, one the four students had to write "I don't know, I never went to section so I didn't get a clear perspective."

THANKS M______. Otherwise this would be a 100% glowing document to show people.

And, obviously that one comment doesn't mean anything about me, but it's still distracting. Oh well.

December 9, 2011

Epic screw-up

I have been an extremely hardworking, responsible, and dedicated TA this quarter. I really have.

But then I screwed up the final exam... apparently, the professor intended for the exam to be open notes, open book, even though they only had two hours to work in the lecture hall. He announced this once on the first day of class, and then never talked about it again -- so everyone forgot, including me and the other TA, and we never reminded the students to bring their notes because we thought it was closed-book.

So, many of the students didn't even bring their notes to the exam. And when we realized the mistake, I had to admit that two hours before the exam, a student asked me if they could use notes, and I said no. Then the professor asked how many were told they couldn't use notes, and nearly everyone raised their hands, just because they had also been assuming it was closed book. So even though I only gave one person bad information (which was bad enough), it looked like I had told the entire class the wrong policy.

But the other TA and I absolutely should have realized it was open-notes and reminded the students, so it was my fault in a big way, and I felt horrible. Stressed-out angry students, letting down professor, logistical anxiety... just awful.

We allowed the students who hadn't brought their notes to go home and get them, and we stayed an extra hour so that all of the students would have two hours for the test. But one student said he wouldn't be able to stay late, and the only time he had before his flight tomorrow was 9 p.m.

So I had to stay at the department until 11 p.m... by the time I got home, there was no parking, and I didn't find a spot until midnight. And I have to clean the entire apartment now, because we have extermination tomorrow.

Such a bad day....

November 14, 2011


It's almost 1:00 in the morning. I've been grading all afternoon and evening. I have six more midterms to grade, and I just want to plow through them and go to bed.

And then...

I open an exam where whole sections have obviously been copied from the internet, so now I have to stay up dealing with plagiarism.


November 11, 2011


Today, I got to my classroom early, and so I sat down in the corner of the carpeted hallway to wait for the other class to vacate the room. I was reviewing my notes, when an older professor walked out of his office and saw me. He said, "You look like you've been bad!"

I said, icily, "I'm the instructor. I'm waiting for my classroom."

I don't know why men talk to me like this, like they're teasing a little girl. It happens to me all the time. And then I'm supposed to smile and respond like it's funny.

I'm a friendly and open person, and I like talking to strangers. I even like to make fun of myself. But I'm not your four-year-old granddaughter. I'm an adult.

He seemed to realize he had offended me, and he just walked away. But eventually he walked back over and asked me what I teach. I said, "statistics and research methods."

I actually wish I had said something even more badass, like "advanced astro-mechanical physics" or something.

November 8, 2011

Okay I confess

I've been cheating on you guys with my old LiveJournal. I'm sorry.

But lately I've been consumed with personal stuff to the point where I don't have much to say about grad school, because I'm not really thinking about grad school at all. It's like how in shows about high school students, class happens in the background while the students are daydreaming, passing notes, worrying about themselves, obsessing about each other, just waiting to get back into the halls where they can talk about what is really on their minds. The past few weeks have been like that. I've kept up with teaching and made some progress on my dissertation, but I have been really distracted.

I do have some good news to report, however. Remember how my ex-landlord was withholding my security deposit? I sent him a formal letter threatening to sue, and it worked! I received the full amount today. Eight hundred dollars!! It's already spent, of course, but this is really going to help me to finish paying my debts from this summer. And from several parking tickets.

October 25, 2011

My least favorite question from students

"Can you look at this and tell me if it's okay?"

In other words: Can you read my entire paper / problem set / whatever and basically grade it in advance, and then tell me exactly what I need to change to get a perfect grade? And if you give me a vague suggestion instead of telling me exactly what to write, I'll just send you revisions and ask you if they are "okay." I'll keep doing this until you either tell me the answer or relent and say it's fine. Then if I get anything less than a perfect grade, I can protest that you said it was fine.

I don't mind answering a lot of questions -- I really don't -- but they should be specific, thoughtful questions. Some of them ask so many questions that they effectively get me to tell them how to improve everything in advance, but at least they're working for it instead of just expecting me to do the work.

October 23, 2011


You know that feeling when you're so anxious and upset that you can actually feel your stress level damaging your body? The excess cortisol production, the loss of appetite, the tight sick feeling when you can't even cry? And you know that you really need to calm down and eat something, but you can't stop freaking out and you can't focus on anything else. The past two days have been like that.

Right now I'm supposed to be cleaning my apartment and working on my dissertation. All I do is lie on my couch listening to music.

Also, I have these student e-mails to answer. Extension requests, questions, someone is thinking of dropping the class. I've just been staring at them.

Last night, I babysat for my professor, and I was fine. As soon as I was there in front of him, I was able to smile and say everything is going well. I know I'll be able to teach my class and hold office hours -- I can do my job when other people are looking at me, expecting me to be normal and pleasant and fine. It's just when I'm alone that my stress takes over.

October 22, 2011


I'm really, really, really stressed out right now.

Entirely about personal / family / relationship stuff not grad school

But this made me smile a little bit today. Someone just found my blog using the following search on Google:
help my friends are humanities students

October 11, 2011


I'm not sick anymore. So that's good. My nose hurts, but I think it's from getting hit in the face with a soccer ball recently. Let's review how my life is going.

Teaching: Challenging but awesome. I really like my students, and teaching statistics is fantastic. They actually need my help! I'm not just a roving participation grader who tries to force them to "discuss" reading that only three people even did. I'm actually teaching and explaining and answering questions, and I really enjoy it. The material is too hard for them, and the professor is drastically overestimating how much they know from their stats prerequisite -- but I'm working hard and helping them as much as I can.

Dissertation: Ugh... behind schedule. And just had to face committee at department party. I had this whole plan to finish my chapter before I saw my advisors at the party, but instead I got sick and didn't work on it for a week. The chapter is really, really, almost done but between illness and teaching it just hasn't happened. Maybe this week?

Personal Finances: appalling, because:

1) Ex-landlord still withholding $800 security deposit because he's an enormous cockwhore who thinks he can fuck over his low-income tenants. I'm going to have to sue him for it.

2) $2000 in credit card debt because I didn't get paid all summer.

3) AT&T charged me $160 to activate my internet and then deducted an additional $115 from my checking account because of a billing mistake. So, $275 of my first paycheck in three months went to AT&T.

Guess what happens when AT&T accidentally overcharges you and then makes an unauthorized deduction from your checking account? They will send you a refund check that takes six weeks to process. It's funny how when you fuck up, you owe them late fees, but when they fuck up, you get your money back six weeks later with no interest penalty whatsoever.

Thankfully, I was able to persuade them to send the money by next week after spending an hour on the phone with various departments. But it still won't be here in time for my credit card bill.

Sweet-talking customer service representatives has become a big part of my life.

4) Spending money. Okay, so I haven't made any big, stupid, impulsive purchases. But I have been purchasing six dollar smoothies, lattes, chimney cakes, and pints of ice cream because I need my vices to sustain me through trying times.

I mean, it could be so much worse. Some people cope with their horrifying bank statements by drinking until they pass out, or by doing a lot of meth, or by setting up meth labs in their apartments. My problems drive me to consume moderately priced comfort foods.

And okay, there have been a few bar tabs because on occasion, certain women will cause me to drink somewhat excessively. But I've been really good about not doing that for the past 11 days. (readers of my LiveJournal know what I mean)

Gay soccer: Lots of fun when I'm not getting hit in the face. Playing soccer really helps to take my mind off everything. Even if the rest of my week is a total disaster, having a scheduled activity makes me feel like I have a life -- the healthy, adult kind of life where I exercise and socialize without doing anything stupid. I sort of wish everyone else in my life could somehow see footage of me playing rec sports and then drinking responsibly afterwards.

Cat: She's sleeping on her side right now and it's the cutest thing I've ever seen.

October 6, 2011


I'm against meth and everything. I mean, believe me, the last thing I want in my building is a damn meth lab.

But pseudoephedrine is the only cold medicine that works. It's the only reason I have been able to teach my classes without stopping every 60 seconds to sneeze and cough and blow my nose.

If they ever take my pseudoephedrine away from me, I will probably jump off a bridge next time I have a head cold.

Everyone write your legislators.

October 2, 2011


I have my first cold of the quarter. My throat hurts, my head is congested, my muscles ache, I feel nauseous, and I'm exhausted.

I hate that feeling when you first realize you're coming down with something nasty, and you have a whole week of work obligations ahead of you... and you just feel dread because you know you're going to be miserable for dayyysssss.

It's an unwritten rule, but I have always sensed that teaching assistants are expected to work through illness unless they're in the emergency room. I can't imagine saying to a professor, "I can't teach my sections this week because I'm sick."

So I don't even consider the possibility that I could stay home if I were really sick. I just assume that however I feel, I will work through it.

Which is why the onset of illness makes me feel so awful. I feel crappy right now, but the worst part is knowing how crappy I'm going to feel when I have to get out of bed and go to work tomorrow.