Tuesday, December 29, 2009

If Only It Were True!

So I've circulated a couple of surveys about grad student stereotypes, among other fascinating things. I'll be giving you all the official results sometime in the future, but I'm jumping the gun to make this post because a) I have a really great visual, and b) there is one stand-alone stereotype that every person surveyed so far had pretty blistering things to say about.

And that is, that we're a bunch of lazy bums.

See exhibit A:

While I can't speak for the 12th year of the PhD, December is better known as the Deadline Dance of Doom and Death. How many pages can you write in a day when you have swine flu? How many books can you carry from the library, through the snow, up the many hills to the overflow lot where the grad students get to park? It's the same premise as "American Gladiators", except in "American Academics" we don't wear the sparkly costumes, and most of the time we're not suspended from monkey bars.

One person surveyed had no time to wrap any gifts, and went the "it's under the paper bag!" route. Another student, spared from the survey but not from inclusion in this post, was, at deadline time, seriously considering buying all Christmas gifts at highway rest stops on the way home.

So to all the people who received post-it notes and highlighters in their stockings -- and were excited about it -- I salute you! Get down with your never-stop-reading selves, and Happy New Year!

Monday, December 28, 2009

No Two Front Teeth For You: Santa's Revenge

Sometimes Santa really gets it right, and other times, you wonder what he must have been drinking to think that thing was a good idea (note: it wasn't milk). The only good thing about bad presents is that they usually become pretty funny once enough time has gone by, and then you can laugh about it.

Usually. Sometimes your gift is a pet mouse that gives you scabies. Then everyone else laughs, but not you.

I've received a few whoppers of poorly-chosen gifts*, but nothing like these people, who collectively have some serious good-gift karma due them after receiving half a roll of tube socks, a spoon-pin, and a "European bathing suit".

So here's hoping you got everything you wanted, and if you didn't, that at least you made out better than the Something Awful folks.

*The "best" of these was a key, with no explanation to what it opened, which, drove Type-A me nuts for months before I gave up and purposefully lost it.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Former Bishop of Turkey is Near!

So here's your dose of holiday cheer, from me! Your chicken soup for the post-exam soul. I held off posting this until Christmas Eve, but you have a good 48 hours to listen to it over and over again until you're finally drowned out by "Deck the Halls".

I have to hand it to David Sedaris, who, while discussing the topic of Christmas, manages to make fun of the following things: Michigan, the Dutch, Spanish "tapath" [tapas], Turkey, virtually all children, and ostensibly, blind people. Sound good? Click through to the YouTube audio file. It's a three-part extravaganza.

Merry Christmas Eve! I hope none of you are about to be kicked and carted off to Spain in the near future.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Top Ten Reasons to Go AWOL

So I'm back from my semester off...of blogging. Don't worry, I was plenty busy reading about epistemology and trying to learn how to say "where are all your documents about slaves?" in Portuguese. In addition, I wanted application season to be well underway before returning to my post. So next semester you can expect a lot more chicken soup, and I'm hoping you all still have souls at the end of this semester.

A few things to look forward to. I will be live-blogging from the AHA (that would be, the American Historical Association) grand-high annual meeting, held this year in the balmy San Diego. This should be fun for everyone. Especially if the side-trip to Tijuana goes according to plan.

Also, stay tuned for my reviews of several films about college life in a hysterical countdown of stereotypes. Should we all be very, very afraid of our professional futures? I'll let you know.

But I'll leave you with these amusing tidbits. TIME went majorly nuts with Top Ten lists for 2009, covering everything from Top Wizards to Top Things You Didn't Know about Hanukkah. Here are a couple of my favorites.

Top Ten Ye Olde British Criminal Trials

Right up my alley!

Top Ten Toy Crazes
I remember all of these except the ones from the 80's, which I've repressed.

Top Ten Disney Controversies
Finally, "Song of the South" is going to be dealt with.

And for those who enjoy dumb people getting busted, this one's for you.
Pure awesomeness.

Enjoy these time-sucking top ten lists, and have a great holiday season!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The New Western History

I will pay more attention to this blog in a week when school starts; I am still under the delusion that summer is not "school time". However, I couldn't help passing along this little doozy which found its merry way into my inbox this morning.

Hee! Take that, Turner.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Quick Guide to Boxing Books

All right folks, I have eleven hours before before I start revising the fifth draft. So all I have left in me is this:

How to Pack Books

Let's face it, an academic's net worth is mostly in books. Together they are far and away the most expensive thing I own, and I'm not about to risk the lives of my babies because my job requires me to move them about the country. Here's how to pack them!

1) Find medium-sized boxes. Unless you are a part-time body builder, a large box is a mistake. If you are reusing boxes, make sure the box is not damp or damaged.

2) Reinforce the bottom with packing tape. A lot.

3) Wrap delicate or special books in packing paper. You may think you should wrap books in plastic or in bags to protect them. Do not do this! If you are very concerned about dampness, line the bottom and sides of the box with a plastic or garbage bag. If you are going to be storing the books for a long period of time, wrap books in acid-free paper.

4) Put large hardcover books flat against the bottom of the box, with the spine against the sides of the box. Stack paperbacks on top of them. Fill open spaces by placing books sideways, always with the spine down.

5) Lift the box halfway through packing to make sure it isn't too heavy. If you don't fill a box, stuff the top and open spaces with the packing paper or big bubble wrap.

6) Seal the top and sides of the box with tape. Mark the box well.

Other Tips:
-If ever you wanted to catalog your books, now is the time. It will never be easier.

-It might help to pack books according to general theme. That way, if you find yourself needing to look at a book about tobacco growth in seventeenth-century Virginia, you can just open the box with "Early America" books in it.

-Check for library books or borrowed books before you pack. This sounds like a no-brainer but you'll be kicking yourself when the library is hollering for their Stedman critical edition and you aren't sure which of the 18 boxes it is in.

Hopefully this will be of some use as we all prepare to scatter once again!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

"As long as there's a dead Nord, it's hard to go wrong."

Here is a short article on Scandinavian crime novels; namely, why Scandinavians want to read about crime when they've reduced their crime rates to among the lowest on the planet.

It also might provoke some of you to put "Scandinavian-crime-fiction writer" on your list of backup careers if this academia thing doesn't work out!

Monday, July 6, 2009

F. Unny. Funny.

I've been off the radar since late June due to thesis work, and will likely be in and out throughout July. Aside from putting the pressure on some of my fellow graduate students to pick up my slack here, I will be stopping in to dispense the occasional hilarity.

Grad school support staff Will pointed out the other day that with this whole swine flu scare, which apparently even those Harry Potter kids aren't immune to, we've forgotten our last round of Revenge of the Barnyard: Avian Flu.

But MadTV has not forgotten. Take a look.

This is what happens when childhood meets reality.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Room for Debate: College Costs

An issue which affects us both as students and future educators. Let's hear from some experts.

Here's something of a round table on skyrocketing college costs, and the panelists' take on the solution.

How Much Student Debt is Too Much?

I will say that I think one of these people is wholly incorrect, and I suspect another may also have missed the boat, though their argument is somewhat defensible. But that's all I'll say, so you can make up your mind and then sound off in the comments.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

"The Idea Strikes Me As Close to Being Nuts"

ChixSoup med school correspondent Laura and I were discussing our basic dilemma regarding the news. We both think that it is important to watch the news, so we know what's going on. We also think that the news is depressing. And then when we finish watching the news, we have to turn to the enormous pile of work that awaits us. Major bummer...

...except that there's a 5-minute hilarity boost. See below.

Autotune the News: Spa Regulation, Serbians, and Sotomayor

It, too, is fair and balanced! There's a few more where that came from, including one on a topic near and dear to my heart: pirates. Cheers to my work being relevant!

EDIT: There's more where that came from...plus lyrics. Auto-Tune the News Website

Monday, June 15, 2009

Smart People. Bad Ideas: Part 1

Graduate school escapee Kate sent me an email with the following text:

"You have to watch this and make sure you don't have anything in your mouth!"

This followed:

Cat Meets Insanity

It is clear that an innovative but unhinged individual is behind this. It is like they thought, "Hey, cats like fish, so let's take cats SCUBA diving in the ocean! Also, I happen to be mechanically inclined and able to outfit little Cleo here in her own personal Nautilus!". Grad students, these people are in your departments. Hire independent pet-sitters and proceed with caution.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Historical Movie Review: Night at the Museum II

I've been MIA for a bit, simultaneously attempting to finish the thesis and recover from mono. I think the thesis is winning. I'm not sure if that's good or bad.

In any case, a few weeks back Kristina and Kate were going to the movies and I tagged along. We went to see Night at the Museum II, a welcome respite from our usual Nights at the Library: Eternity. We left the theater both amused and slightly disturbed. Below, excerpts from our email chain, preceded by my summary.

The main gist: Ben Stiller is called back to the museum mothership from his lame but lucrative job when his sometimes-fake, sometimes-real buddies are shipped off the Smithsonian. Having stolen the magical tablet from the American Museum of Natural History and consequently losing it to an Egyptian pharaoh who lisps a British accent, aforementioned buddies rely on Stiller and a resurrected, very flighty Amelia Earhardt (no pun intended) to save the day. Oh, and Teddy Roosevelt is still seeing Sacajawea.

Kristina opened with a generally positive description: "delightfully achronological mix of characters that also spans continents and disciplines, probably the only film that can {almost) meaningfully combine Egyptian pharoahs, slapping monkeys, a bouncing balloon dog, and Albert Einstein -- in bobble-head form, no less"

Kate was pretty PO'ed and not about to let the film off the hook for its assault on archives:
Speaking of the vault and the 'wholly-accurate preservation methods,'... good grief. Um, clothing, like say, space suits and uniforms, go in drawers. So do skeletons, come to think of it. Was that supposed to be a real specimen of a giant octapus or a rubbery and conveniently-life-like model? And please, that place cannot be effectively climate-controlled. Or cataloged. Which, take it from me, is a curator's worse nightmare. But, I think we now have another possible location for the Ark of the Covenant. Maybe we should tell Harrison Ford."

I wonder if historical and "historical" films will be ruined for me. Frankly, reading Last of the Mohicans makes me slightly ill, but watching The Patriot still makes me laugh instead of inspiring a tirade about familial loyalty and the chance of people falling into wells. What do people think? Can medical students watch Scrubs? Do law students even bother with the many Law and Orders? Can anthropology and sociology students watch anything?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

My Gift To You

Well, I am off to a rare weekend-of-no-work in honor of a good friend's wedding 14 hours away. Celebrating friends' good fortune is certainly one of the top ways to spend one's time. If one does not have such an occasion to celebrate this weekend, one can instead celebrate that they are not a part of this:

Awkward Pose of the Day: The Pile On

Posted using ShareThis

Look at these photos. Now imagine that these are the templates for annual department pictures for the website. Feel your mind start to bend. Cable-knit sweaters, pasted-on smiles, and climbing up risers never sounded so good.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Culture Camp

Bored? Unlikely, but in case you feel the past year encased you in an academic vacuum devoid of any form of expression other than a book review or lab report, check out Time's Summer Arts Preview.

I'll be creating my own recommendation list in the coming weeks. Note that my rendition is more likely to include Family Guy, Robot Chicken, and the like. Additional suggestions are always welcome. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Would You Like Bullets with That?

Some fellow snarky writers provided me with the perfect opportunity to mix moderately good advice with a truly absurd and horrifying back story.

Don't throw waffles, kids.
Or you might get shot.

HELLO. More of these great write-ups can be found at Dumb As A Blog, A Daily Digest of the Dumbest Stuff People Do. And people must do a ton of dumb stuff, because those writers are busy. Check early and often for your daily fix of dumb.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Status Update: You're Busted

There has been a lot of discussion about Facebook's advantages and horrifying pitfalls. A great way to keep track of friends' addresses, birthdays, and life events: yes. A potential reputation abyss: also yes! With bosses now screening the Facebook profiles of potential employees and police using Facebook statuses, groups, and photos to arrest people, there are plenty of reasons to keep your profile clean.

The problem, then, is not what you do to your profile, but what others do to it.

So you friended that fellow fraternity pledge back in freshman year and promptly forgot about it. Now you're a fancy TA, and while you're trying to talk about econometrics, your students are all on Facebook looking at that Beer Pong Championship photo he tagged you in. Suddenly your victory is not so awesome anymore!

It takes some real profile wrangling to undo this kind of damage. Luckily, Will has alerted me to an article that may help a bit:

Do This Now

After poking around the site and playing with all of the privacy settings, the two best things to do (in my opinion) are to disable photo search functions, and manage your networks and settings. Students shouldn't be able to see your profile, at all -- make it friends-only. And unless you've got some seriously questionable taste in movies, the biggest single issue on the profile is your name tagged on photos you did not upload yourself. Facebook's answer to these issues isn't perfect, but at least you get some control over what other people can see and search for.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

They're Making a Fool of Us

Sometimes graduate students, surrounded by books, eyes transfixed on JSTOR articles, ears attuned to the clock ticking down to the deadline, ask themselves, "Could this get any worse?".

In order to find the answer, three more questions must be asked.

#1) Has death-defying swine bulldozed your grandma?

#2) Has Thanksgiving dinner broken into your house, and gotten sweet sweet revenge on all your stuff?

#3) Is a brain-damaged sea lion out for your blood?

Suddenly writing 40 pages in my non-pig-stampeded room with my non-turkey-broken lamp and my non-sea-lion-chomped hand sounds pretty great.

Also, if any of those things had happened, it would probably make the Animals Turned Criminal photo slideshow a lot less amusing.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Everything Fail

As exams approach, the panic sets in. Can we write 60 pages in 20 days? Only time will tell, but to assuage fears of total failure, check this out:

fail owned pwned pictures
see more pwn and owned pictures

FailBlog provides many amusing examples of really dumb things. If everything is relative, this should make us feel better!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

One-Stop Shop for Stress Relief

With finals approaching, who has time or energy for fun? We're exhausted! We have to write 60 pages! We're ridiculously behind! We need a one-click solution!

Wiley tipped me off to this, the instantaneous pick-me-up:


One click and this appears:


The best part about Daily Puppy, as well as other sites of hilarity like the better known www.lolcats.com, is that material changes often enough that you can reasonably expect to be continously entertained through exams. For instance, Lolcats offered up this doozy today:

Amazing! Between Taco Cat and Puppy-in-a-Barrel I can definitely tackle this 12-pager. Unless I decide to use the time to track down that outfit for my own cat...

Friday, April 24, 2009

Facebook, Stat!

Although this blog is very clearly dedicated to aiding graduate students in advanced procrastination, I am aware that it is heavily humanities-focused. A recent conversation with good friend and medical student Laura revealed that the other type of doctoral students do indeed procrastinate! This is only slightly disturbing to me, since thing like blood, oxygen, and defibrillators are often needed stat, whereas colonial history papers are not.

There are other clear differences. Exhibit A, an email exchange:

Laura: ::tries to focus eyes:: I passed insanely exhausted about three exits back and if I have any more "stew" I am going to throw up.* But I have to stay awake so that I can take a 2 minute practical exam at 11:30am.

Me: I have no idea what a practical exam is. Nothing I do is practical in any way. I am going to try to pitch this to the committee though -- "Hey, Professor. Instead of comprehensive exams, I'd like to take a practical exam. Make it happen!". Heads would explode.

*Stew is a graduate student delicacy involving very strong coffee...recipe to follow in the coming weeks.

When I further pressed her for details on her procrastination techniques, she sent me this crystallized list and an order sheet, in full doctor-style, which I have taken the liberty of titling:

Med Student's Guide to Procrastination and Fun Not Involving Spleens

(1) surfing The Internet (which, as everyone knows, is for corn). ^_~

(2) talking to people on AIM. - "Yes, we said the same things yesterday - what's your point?"

(3) YouTube - "Follow the Related Videos!"

(4) volunteering - "Who me? I have three tests next week? Clearly this is no reason not to spend all of Saturday at the Free Clinic..."

(4) Talking on the phone. "It's a business call. Really. No, I have no idea where those schmoopy sounds you just heard came from!"

(5) Political action e-mailings. "They show up in my inbox. What? I'm supposed to ignore them? That would be irresponsible..."

(6) Actually reading the news, which invariably makes me mad, which leads to (1) and (2), followed by (4) and (5), and eventually to decompressing via (3) and (1) again.

Yes there are two #4s. Don't question the doctor! She is a trained professional.

Hearing this from a medical student, I can't decide if I feel better or worse that healthcare providers are watching the same YouTube videos I am. All in all, it's probably better that they watch those than "Grey's Anatomy".

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Grad School: A Glossary

Every so often, a non-academic reader (I have those!!!) will ask me what the heck I am talking about as I spew some alphabet soup sentence like, "OMG I can't believe what that ABD said to the DGS". Fair enough. Here are some basic terms and my take on all of them.

ABD: all-but-dissertation. No more classes, just writing. Major academic milestone, akin to learning to crawl.

AdComm: Admissions Committee, usually some assortment of faculty that read through the application files and ultimately decide your future.

CGS: Council of Graduate Schools. Most relevant is their membership list and their resolution, which stipulates that applicants have until April 15th to decide on their offers. Non-CGS members do love exploding offers. Stand back.

Comps: Comprehensive Exams, also qualifying exams or quals. Involves reading, writing about and talking about hundreds of books. Something of a hazing ritual, it quantifies your life.

DGS: Director of Graduate Studies, i.e. Grad Director. A faculty member saddled with the administrative responsibility of keeping us students from falling off the academic wagon.

Diss.: no, not an insult, but rather a dissertation. Can also be a verb, 'to diss' or 'to dissertate'.

Funding: Money. The dough. Cash. Moo-lah. Comes in full, partial, or nonexistent varieties.

Grad Coordinator: A wonderful human being employed in the department office who will help you run your grad student life. Bring them cookies and never make them angry.

LOR: Letter of recommendation. I blathered on at length about these sometime in February.

SOP: Statement of purpose. Describes in some detail why you and your project are awesome. More on this later.

As Kristina once said, we grad students speak our own language, but fear not, readers who have real lives: while true fluency requires enrollment in the program of your choice, real-worlders can definitely become conversational in Ivory Towerish.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Will Study for Food

My graduate school applicant comrade David and I have been engaging in a series of conversations about the impact of the economy of grad school admissions. These exchanges begin as highly scholastic and evidenced debates (we even cite The Chronicle!) and quickly descend into panicked madness and wild speculation (much like our theses). In true form to our personalities, David believes that while a concern, the economy isn't bound to doom our dreams, while I am preparing for the graduate school admissions apocalypse by stockpiling Bernard Bailyn books and Ramen noodles.

To help you decide whether to roll with the punches or begin constructing a bomb shelter for your books, an excerpt of our recent thoughts.

David: Everyone's been saying there will be so many more applicants, but I don't know if that's really possible.
Me: You don't see how it is possible that thousands of unemployed people with no prospects want to go back to school?
D: It's not that, it's that they can't all be qualified. You can't learn a language overnight, you can't write a good SOP [statement of purpose] overnight, you can't just get a good writing sample or good LORs [letters of recommendation]...
Me: True.
D: Those people won't make it through the first round.
Me: But what about all the people who are qualified, but would have preferred jobs if they were available? All of those people might be in the applicant pool, but wouldn't have been before.
D: Yeah that is a problem.
Me: Also keep in mind that there are fewer slots. Even if the applicant pool hasn't increased dramatically the competition has. Fewer students = cheaper.
D: Won't schools just switch their funding structures instead of guaranteeing multi-year packages though?
Me: That does not help US, man!!! You better recognize!
D: I'll bet there will be a discrepancy between private and public schools. State schools are having a lot of trouble because of budget release delays.
Me: I'll bet that's what all those Brandeis applicants thought. Until Bernie Madoff stole their art museum and Deis went for broke!
D: Crap.
Me: There might only be one funny thing about this death cloud of an economy.
D: What?
Me: This.

Crap indeed, David. Now we need a bailout. Maybe we'll even get bonuses!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

"You're Giving me Sh!t, We Gotta Duel"

Fellow history enthusiasts Kate and Katy tipped me off to this spectacular video. Someone interested in public history really ought to get involved with this.

Drunk History is so much more than that. It is some combination of frat boy antics and a bastardization of the Founding Fathers (though vol. 2.5, about Benjamin Franklin's playboy tendencies, is shockingly accurate). The result is this hysterical 5-minute video, which might remind some of us that you don't need a PhD to "do" history. A bottle of scotch seems to do the trick.

Monday, April 6, 2009


Woo hoo, it is a good week for comics. Check out this little doozy from www.qwantz.com, about when pre-history takes on history and, apparently, 90s television. Click on it to expand the wonderfulness.

This serves as a warning to people like me, who are tempted to describe seventeenth-century idle youth as having "started making trouble in the neighborhood; they got in one little fight and their moms got scared, and said, 'You're going to be an indentured servant in the New World'".

Really, I'm just glad I have to contend with The Fresh Prince. I have high hopes that my age-group of historians will completely miss the "Dawson's Creek Effect".

End Note

This sums up my job, and my feelings, completely. All sarcastic, witty, and slightly misanthropic types must now report to www.xkcd.com immediately.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Tang Thang

There is something about the graduate school admissions process that resembles the state of nature. I'm not even talking Hobbes/Locke/Rousseau here -- though by all means nasty and brutish, the admissions game is by no means short, and reason most definitely does not govern it. I mean the state of nature which preceded such "natural precepts" as striving for peace in favor of the natural precept "I want that banana, so gimme it or I will end you", where a funded acceptance might serve as the proverbial plantain.

Let us examine the following possible scenarios of the process. In honor of fellow crazed student Maggie's impending birthday, I have solicited the help of her favorites, the orangutans (afterward Tang), to provide a visual component to this study.

There are four general outcomes to the process, with each having several substages. If I can get a social scientist to diagram that for me later, we can explore those further. For now, we'll stick to the main categories: Acceptance, Waitlist, Rejection, and Nuttin'.

The good news first! Acceptance!

In the state of nature it resembles this:

Go, you! You're in! You are on your way to the highest tree in the forest, the ivory tower of nature, if you will. You might as well go beserk from the treetops and let everybody know: you are going to be Dr. Tang!

Less immediately enthralling is the Waitlist...

Which looks, both in the state of nature and in whatever state you reside in, like this:

Sad Tang. You are ranked somewhere between first alternate and eightieth. The admissions committee may or may not tell you this information. It is also possible that they may be lying to you. About everything. Adding to your misery is the fact that the goddang Accepted Tang is swinging about the jungle, throwing nuts and berries all over the place, and you just wish his vine would break already.

Still, it could be worse.

It could be Rejection.

I need no words. Big Aman here is taking care of it.

A lot of programs receive 200-plus applications for about 10 slots. That means each program produces at least 190 Big Amans annually between January and April. Multiply 190 and the hundreds and hundreds of programs, and add in Yale which rejects roughly a gajillion people per annum, for the total number of rejected applicants in the Big Aman army. The result is terrifying.

So it isn't really a wonder why the Adcoms like to play their Wild Card: Total Lack of Information!

No, Sad Eyes and Pouty Lip won't make the DGS return your calls, answer your emails, update the status website, or otherwise acknowledge you as a human/primate/whatever being. It is better for them if you exist in a state of anxiety, constantly refreshing the webpage and hitting redial, than for them to give any concrete information that might result in them a) having to prepare the campus for the giddy swingers, b) having to deal with Eternal Waitlistees, or c) facing their Big Amans.

It remains unclear if the graduate school itself is a civil society. I will report more on this in the future. In the meantime, I will give a shoutout to Wildcat U, which has ensured that this blog can exist for the next 5-15 years. ::throws nuts and berries::

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Before and After: Spring Break Open the Wine

It's "break or be broken" over here! If Cancun ever sounded good to me, it doesn't anymore, and I will instead retreat to a mid-Atlantic hideaway where the Interlibrary Loan people will never, ever find me.

Back in a week or so!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Snow Day! Finally, Time to Waste!

Classes canceled! This is even better than the second grade snow day because we don't have to go a day longer in summer and miss the annual field trip to the zoo. As a side note, there should totally be a grad school field trip to the zoo.

Because I brought you the virtual zoo yesterday, I will instead discuss the beauty of procrastination through self-enlightenment, reflection, and the predictive abilities of The Google. This morning, once I realized I had all day to peruse the stack of books by my bed instead of the usual Monday Two Hour Crunch, I came across an omniscient comic strip that predicts my future. A good use of my time, for sure.

Here it is!

Fine, fine, I'm already hitting up Happy Hour despite my technical first-year status. I seem to be straddling "Revolutionize your Field" and "Hope they have Pepperoni Pizza", trying desperately not to fall into the pit of "Get a Job".

This little doozy and more can be found at the PhD Comics website, http://www.phdcomics.com/comics.php. We should all thank Jorge Cham for providing these cartoon likenesses of ourselves.

Also, we should all thank the snow, without which my future would not have been told to me.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Power of the Cute and Fuzzy

As the grad school notifications began to roll in this week, I found myself in a state of total anxiety. There are few things as nerve-wracking as "waiting for the postman to deliver your future", as an anonymous grad hopeful put it. After the first waitlist followed by a rejection, I turned to the only thing that would make me smile.

Freakin' cute animals.

I stumbled across Buddy by accident. Here he is:

Completely adorable, yes? He is like a hug on a webpage.

I then moved on to cover several more categories of wonderfully cute baby animals.

Little chickies:


Baby Wild Animals:

Barnyard Babies:

How wonderful! All of these photos came from the fantastic website www.babyanimalz.com, and many more photos await the panicky applicant. Seriously, you'd have to get rejected from approximately 195 programs to run out of photos to pacify you.

Just in case that does occur, my roommate discovered that the children's section of the library holds a ridiculous number of books devoted to baby animals, the purpose of which is likely split between second graders doing reports on baby monkeys and parents getting sick and tired of reading Seuss every night. Ark selected "Harp Seal Pups" by Downs Matthews (Simon and Schuster, 1997), to calm me down. The book now resides on the bottom shelf of my nightstand, and it is a highly effective relaxation tool. I'm probably going to have her renew it...sorry, 7-10 year-olds this book is actually intended for.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Caulking and Floating

Through the tenacity of my mother and the glory of eBay, I obtained a copy of The Oregon Trail for Christmas. At the age of 22. And guess what...it is even more amazing than I remembered.

The game triggered a lot of procrastination ("Hey, Western history is history, too!") and many Oregon Trail-related Facebook statuses. It also led to an interesting discussion between yours truly and my friend Clare, who also lives the grad student life, in which we debated the ways in which The Oregon Trail is similar to graduate school. Clare offered up "life at a grueling pace" while I bemoaned the "meager rations and lack of good health care". True, we don't have to forage for food, and the chance of a hostile Conestoga overtaking our wagon train is low. But I take Clare's point. We pack all of our belongings into a vehicle of finite size and move off into the unknown, spewing Manifest Destiny rhetoric about how we're doing this "to make a better life" than we could have with our humanities BAs. And the grad student mind is a lot like crossing the frozen Snake River, in that it could crack at any time.

I expected The Oregon Trail to provide me with good clean fun. And it has, save for when my party ran out of food at Deep Sands Pass and I had to trade Alana's last dress for some salt pork (whoops). What I did not expect was the mad rush of fellow graduate students, begging to come over and play. It is like third grade, except that now we know how nasty dysentery really is and the fleeting obsession with the Donner Party has passed.

I must give these Oregon Trail people due props for the quality of the 5th edition game. Great visuals, accurate representation of the fauna and flora, a little weak on Native American representation but very, very good on class hierarchy (shocking!). These things matter when you're a social history graduate student trying to explain why you're playing The O-T on the department computers.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Playing the Waiting Game, Part 2

Why have I gone M.I.A. this past week? Why, because I've been dividing my time between thesis revision and procrastination, of course! Turns out procrastination got the upper hand. Schools begin to notify acceptances in late January/early February, with the Johnny-come-lately contingent emerging from hibernation sometime in mid-March. The result? Total insanity from Martin Luther King Jr. Day straight through Easter.

The real problem with this extended notification system is the total lack of safety valve. One cannot pace oneself in the process. I told myself, "Don't worry! Throw yourself into your work!". I read 600 pages, wrote 35 pages, then mentally collapsed. Somewhere between playing with my roommate's and my insane collection of HappyMeal toys and spending 30 minutes Hoola-Hooping in my living room, I realized that I only really had the capacity to sit in front of something amusing and mutter, "Heh. Heh. Heh heh!".

And so, I present to you, CRACKED.com.

Here is just a taste of what this website of awesomeness has to offer:

"The 6 Cutest Animals That Can Still Destroy You":

I will warn you that CRACKED sometimes goes off the deep end. It is not guaranteed to be appropriate, and you probably shouldn't click on that link if you are at work. Especially if you work around children. Yeah.

But what CRACKED provides is so much more than humorous lists. It can be educational! I can guarantee that I never, ever had a professor tell me, "Stay away from platypus. They will punish you". And really, what good is your graduate degree if you shimmy right up to one of those killer dolphins? CRACKED will tell you, not much.

Monday, February 2, 2009

"Enjoy Every Day as if it were a Spa Day"

Since coming to graduate school my roommate and I have learned all about Hobsbawm, the Progressives, how hot it is in the South, and how to move cars from spot to spot to avoid those pesky 2-hour parking restrictions. Through some combination of "Top Chef" induced procrastination and being generally hungry people, we have also discovered many foods that are now necessary for our continued existence as students. We thought we would share a sampling, a smorgasboard of sorts.

*Now before people go freaking out about why we don't eat any salads, do not worry -- we do eat healthily much of the time. Because we eat so healthily, we can afford to splurge on our favorite treats. If you're already gone too far down the Little Debbie and Cup 'o' Noodles Path, this culinary adventure might not be for you.

Foods We Cannot Do Without—


All the yummy deliciousness of Ben & Jerry’s with fewer calories and grams of fat. We like Cherry Garcia, but have been known to hit up the Half Baked (and sometimes, we are). Non-frozen yogurt afficionados might enjoy any of Edy’s Loaded varieties, which are made with skimmer milk.

Gummy Bears

After discovering that the affectionately-termed Doof Lion (local grocery) carried a mesmerizing selection of gummy candy and that the Walmart could supply us with 1.25 lb bags of the bears, we were hooked. Who doesn’t like to buy in bulk?

Foods You Feed to Third Graders after Pee Wee Football

This includes Bagel Bites, chicken nuggets, oven-bakeable French Fries, and the healthiest possible choice in this category, Morning Star Grillers Prime soy hamburgers. No, we aren’t getting endorsement deals for these items, but with the amount we consume we really should be.

The Chocolate

See quote above? It was inside a Dove’s chocolate wrapper. The gift that keeps on giving.


The classy grad student’s alternative to ramen noodles.

Snyder’s Pretzels

We routinely enjoy the Hot Buffalo flavor, which is shockingly good. A spicy pretzel – who would have thought? It’s good to see what the power of invention is producing for our palates. Fans of the less spicy might enjoy Honey Mustard and Onion.


We put it on breakfast burritos. We put it on crappy soy chicken patties. We put it on crappy real chicken patties. We put it on the fake quesadillas that we make from shredded co-jack cheese on whole-wheat tortillas. We serve it to our friends in a nice-looking bowl with slightly stale chips. It will always taste good and it will never go bad. Perfect.

Apple&Eve Fruitables Juices

A fruit-vegetable juice blend with no sugar or high fructose corn syrup. Far and away the healthiest thing we consume all day.

Are there any that we're missing? We are always open to suggestions!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Playing the Waiting Game, Part 1

Observe, an exercise in attempting restraint.

I have the sweetest coworker. She is smiley and friendly, and once made me a cup of tea when I was feeling unwell. She is a marshmallow Peep personified. Every day she asks me how I'm doing and utters those terrifying words, "So...what have you heard from those schools your applied to?".

She is genuinely interested and means well. She is seriously aiding my descent into madness.

A fellow applicant proposed that after your apply to graduate school you should have the option of living in a cave for the next 2-3 months or going Survivor-style on some remote island. I countered that the application packet should have arrived with Xanax. The bottom line is, none of us know anything, and some of us are pretty close to losing it. I mean, my friend would rather roast rats for food than wait any longer. That isn't good.

So when I respond to my coworker, "No, nothing yet," she cheerily replies, "Oh, don't you worry, I bet you'll get in everywhere!". This is the nicest of the mandatory comments, since Option B often sounds a lot like, "Oh, yeah, well, this year is going to be bad because of increased applicants/lack of funding/the massive waitlist/that antelope incident".

The key to surviving conversations with Over-Interested Parties and their Alternative Inflated/Deflated Responses is to try to keep yourself distracted the rest of the time so you only have to think about this exchange for a few moments per day. I aspire to one day be able to answer her, "Huh? Applications? Oh yeah, those things!". So I bring you, 5 ways to keep your sanity and pass the time.

1. Bubble Shooter

This computer game will absolutely help you pass many, many hours in a fun and painless way. All you will be thinking about is how to obliterate all those colorful bubbles.

2. Volunteer

I pet cats and throw Frisbees for dogs once a week. It is quite wonderful. Good for them, good for my blood pressure -- everybody wins!

3. Law and Order

It is on all day, every day and whever you require distraction, Lennie Briscoe and Jack McCoy can deliver. Doink Doink!

4. Read Pages out of the Dictionary

The dictionary is long, absorbing, will amend and augment your abiility to use abnormal or affecting words in an amazing manner. It also improves your talents at alliteration, and every so often you come across a doozy like agonistarch (a coach) or aspectabund (having an expressive face).

5. Bake

I once brought cupcakes to my historiography class and it was great. Worst case scenario here, you're going insane, but you've got cookies.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Not Recommended

Every so often I suppose I should actually drop some helpful information in here. For those contemplating the application process, please enjoy an outline of the many months it took to procure recommendations, and plan accordingly.

August: Bliss.

Mood: Blissful.

September: Decided to apply to graduate school. Freaked out that I didn’t have enough professors to write letters. Flooded any and all office hours.

Mood: Manic

Began scoping out referees. Had long conversations about my field, interests, background, career plans, etc. Got so good at this that I could repeat all relevant information in under 4 minutes. Formally requested letters. Made a pretty chart with all mailing addresses and deadlines to aid referees in their quest.

Mood: Shockingly Calm

November: One month from first deadlines. Hardcore old-school referee insisted on typing each letter on a typewriter; advised him to start soon. Online application program to upload recommendations crashed; spent hours emailing graduate coordinator for help. Referee misspelled my unspellable last name; spent hours emailing graduate coordinator to correct the problem. Found renewed appreciation for graduate coordinators.

Mood: A Little Nuts

December: Deadlines arrived. Everyone was sick with the flu. Referees waited until the Robitussin phase has passed to write letters (widely considered the correct move). Spent many hours being told that letters can arrive past the deadline without believing it.

Mood: Inconsolable

January: Compulsively checked application status websites. Recommendations were missing. Tracked down referees in a state of panic, new letters were sent. [Note: This will always happen on a weekend when there is no one to talk to at the prospective department.]

Mood: Utterly Impatient

One day I’ll have the time to sit around and ponder what those letters of recommendation actually entail. But now I’m too busy reloading these admission status pages.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What Grad Students Can Learn from Convicts

As a graduate student, I was slow to discover the benefits of low-involvement, reliably hysterical entertainment. All that changed the night I heard my roommate utter, “Hey, do you like prison shows?”.

The “prison show” in question is “LOCKUP”, a documentary series produced by MSNBC. Crews spend several months filming inside the prisons, conducting interviews with inmates and correctional staff, and editing thematic pieces with titles like “Prison Love” and “Hell in a Cell”. While I must commend MSNBC for this quality program, it appears that the editors and interviewers have an appreciation for hilarity, because they’ve managed to locate and showcase what must be the most entertaining convicts on the face of the planet.

Especially choice was last Saturday’s “New Mexico: Extended Stay” episode entitled “Fight or Flight”, which highlighted inmate Chris Shiverdecker, a diminutive convict whose tiny hands enable him to slip his handcuffs and cause a major headache for New Mexico prison staff.

Let’s meet Mr. Shiverdecker now:

Shiverdecker spends his time in prison growing his hair for Locks of Love and creating innovative shanks, in what he hopes will create a karmic balance. He reports that when people think of him, they think of “somebody like Macgyver because [Shiverdecker] stabbed someone with Jolly Ranchers”. That’s right, people, Jolly Ranchers, a bizarre feat that earned him a reputation as a troublemaker and ended all other inmates’ hard candy privileges forever.

Because of Shiverdecker’s fights and flights, prison officials spend a lot of their time trying to convince him to demonstrate to rookie officers how he slips his cuffs and share his tactics for creating weapons out of anything under the sun. Shiverdecker’s reasons for refusing to participate in this training seminar mostly have to do with illuminating the differences between prison and kindergarten playgrounds. But when you “go away at ten-and-a-half for grand theft auto”, you probably have little else to compare prison to.

The clip of the episode alone is highly amusing:

I can guarantee that this show will both make you laugh and instill you with a conscious desire to avoid prison at all costs. Not that the educational element will be lacking during this hour of your week. For instance, I never knew Jolly Ranchers could kill you, and without LOCKUP, I probably never would have.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Meat and Greet

Welcome one and all.

This is the time of year when graduate students really lose it.

Potential graduate students have submitted all necessary forms and have now entered the Eternal Waiting Period, which lasts from December or January into April or beyond. Current graduate students are writing theses, bibliographies, project proposals, and fulfilling any number of obligations/jumping through hoops in hopes of clawing their way to the end of another semester. And a special group of people fall into both of these categories. I feel your pain.

In mid-January, any graduate student who tells you they aren't crazy has most likely not yet realized their insanity. This is a defense mechanism. Do not challenge it.

Everyone knows (or soon will) that breaks in graduate school are really a sham. "Breaks" mean "more time to work"! Hence, the need for some cheer. If the holidays blew by you with only a lump of coal and a looming deadline remaining, perhaps some of the results of my graduate-level procrastination will prove worthwhile.

Instant Smile for the Day: Go to Amazon. Set the search function to "Toys and Games". Then type in "Meat". The list of products that emerges from the combination are amazing. Especially amusing are the Variety Meats Pencil Toppers. Let's go to the close-up.
Oh my yes. I am grateful to Amazon.com for this image, which continues to blow my mind and inspire me to begin Christmas shopping for next year immediately. Alternatively, they might make a nice gift for recommenders, advisers, meat enthusiasts in the cohort. After hours spent buying textbooks online, this has the potential to make your day. And there's a lot more where that came from.