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.