Friday, April 30, 2010

Haiku Challenge Update

Thanks to everyone who had already submitted. For those who haven't, you have until May 7, so one more week to get those haiku in tip top shape!

I've received some good and grad studenty questions about the challenge, so here are some clarifications. The simplified haiku version of the three line, 5-7-5 syllables is acceptable, as opposed to the complicated extended guidelines.

The haiku will be judged by a committee of me. So a high-performing haiku will have a little dash of whimsy alongside the essence of graduate school.

Keep sending those haiku, folks!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


This Meta-Wednesday requires reader participation, in part because I want to see what you come up with, and in part because I'm meta-exhausted.

Here's the game: It's Find a Comic Loosely Related to your Research Interests Day! Post links in the comments and I'll incorporate them into the post after I get some meta-sleep.

Here's mine, matey! Blow me down!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Interspecial Encouragement

This, courtesy of grad student correspondent/icanhascheezburger phenom Maggie:

As long as "right" and "rite" are the same, we're good. Good luck to all who are taking finals, grading finals, and more luck to those doing both.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The 2010 Haiku Challenge!

In order to make finals a little more fun, I'm running a contest which combines my two favorite things: haiku, and total madness.

Here's the game! Write a haiku which captures the graduate student experience. There's a reason that "kids are killing me" and "sleep deprivation" are both five syllable strings, and its because it is time to get your haiku on like there was a fellowship up for grabs.

While a fellowship is unlikely, I am prepared to offer a kick-bum prize to the winner. More details on the prize will be forthcoming.

In order to play, you must submit your entries by midnight on May 7, 2010. No extensions! You can either post in the comments and send a copy to me via message, or just send the message and not have the haiku posted (unless you win, of course)! Either way I'll need some way of contacting you if you're the winner.

Here are the Rules:
1) You don't have to be a graduate student to enter. Allies are also eligible to participate!
2) You can submit up to 5 haiku before petitioning me to accept more of your haiku brilliance.
3) In order to claim aforementioned kick-bum prize, you'll have to be willing to fork over a mailing address.
4) All work must be original. For details, see generic academic honesty policy. All work must also be a real haiku.

What could be better than taking a 15-minute procrastination break and possibly getting a prize?! I look forward to reading all these haiku instead of* all these articles.

*by instead of, I really mean "in addition to"

Life Beyond Ding Dong Day

As most of you know, and many of you have obsessed over, April 15 is the deadline for responding to offers of admission. However, the story is far from over on April 15. Despite the increased waitlist activity and rapid-fire notifications that happen after the dreaded date, it is almost impossible to put that aside when you're waiting for offers to come in. Instead, you panic.

I handled my wait in a poor way: by hoarding and then eating tons of Ding Dongs. Even worse, I did this twice, once during my round of MA applications and then again for the PhD session. I cleared out the store's selection of Hostess snacks, then stacked the Ding Dong boxes in every available cabinet and moped around, talking about how when April 15 rolled around it would be Ding Dong Day and I could be released upon my processed treats like the Kraken.

So far I have only found one remedy for this sorry state of affairs, and that is "friends with a good sense of humor". My roommate once wrestled a Ding Dong out of my hands when I tried to eat one early in a fit of insanity. She also forced me to leave the apartment one day, took me to a park, and made me swing on a swingset until the wave of anxiety passed. She also, as you may recall, brought home a children's book about baby animals, which was both cute and the only thing I was capable of reading at the time. I remain grateful because even though I clearly needed an intervention, I wasn't aware of the depth of my obsession until I took a meaningful break to enjoy fresh air and look at adorable baby seals instead of my empty email inbox.

People, if you have a friend who has melted away during the application process, fear not. They can be brought back from the edge with a little concern and creativity. You might need to take initiative. Now is not the time to break out Schindler's List for a marathon evening of depression. Plan fun things and express support. Children's activities seem to work especially well: paint by numbers, play-doh, and jungle gyms were all things I enjoyed around Ding Dong Day.

And people who are waiting: take off the sweatpants, leave your house, stop sitting outside waiting for the mailman, and stop refreshing the page. For goodness sake, get off GradCafe. Two years in a row I missed early spring because I was reloading my email over and over. Learn from my mistakes.

Also, back away from the Ding Dongs.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Clue #1 that a comic is suitable for Meta-Wednesday: having "complexity", "nuance", and "atomic level" less than a breath apart. Like this!

Don't forget about the subatomic today.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Getting Jig-y with It

Hee hee!

This would have been a very visually excellent way to solve most problems in American history while simultaneously allowing for history-inspired ballets. "Tories v. Patriots: Dance Dance Revolution".

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


This week's Meta-Wednesday is a fun little exercise in two of our favorite things: academics and ethics. We have ethics to thank for all those "I have not injured any invertebrates in the course of my research" forms, and ethics is also involved in a new study about cash incentives for learning.

You decide: Should kids be bribed to do well in school?

Were any of you overtly bribed, or is the scope of this a new thing? I remember being bribed a few times when bombing the test would have been catastrophic (like the CRT you had to take every year to keep moving up a grade), but the idea of being paid per book read is foreign to me. If only I could get that deal now!
Another question: is rewarding for attendance and behavior substantially different from gold stars? Obviously a gold star doesn't cost a dollar, but it always seemed odd to me that gold stars could motivate even the worst kid in class to stop pushing other kids' faces into the water fountain or hitting them with a clarinet. At least addiction to money is a national problem; addiction to stickers beyond a certain age is just bizarre.
Finally, what does this mean for higher education instructors? I expect that bribing is actually fairly widespread, but not consistent like Fryer's programs. I expect that a couple of weeks before the semester ends there is a lot of haggling and begging and promises of stuff if there are no C's. Here the most important part of the article might be on page 3, regarding the kids' inability to figure out how to simultaneously earn more money and achieve success.
Part of the conclusion is that younger kids tend to respond better to the incentive programs. I'd be interested to see how many of these kids maintain their higher books-per-annum numbers several years after leaving an incentive program. This could go one of two ways. The first is that the lack of cash is felt immediately, and reverses the trend. Or it could go like clicker-training, where the reward eventually switches from the food reward (in this case, money) to the clicker (or, a love of reading) being the only reward. For the love of textbooks and the future of our profession I hope it is the latter.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Academic News

The good news: The Closest Thing to "Google History" We're Going to Get. Thanks, Britain!

The bad news: Lots of schools are seriously broke due to their endowment troubles. Here's a pictorial of the ones worst off.

The ugly news: You can buy your place off the waitlist at this school. For an explanation, see above link.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


This week we are learning about Freud. Unfortunately this post about Freud has turned into a dumping ground for all things weird. I think Freud would appreciate this little doozy, which came to me courtesy of Grad Student Extraordinaire Milly:

Women Try to Take Body on Plane

But it gets even weirder once you play the 1-minute clip interview with the women, who swear that a) the man was alive, b) he'd "been acting like that [dead]" for over a month, and c) they somehow know of eight people who can attest to the man being alive.

Perhaps a better strategy would have been to claim the man was never alive at all. This just in from a local police blotter:

April 2

  • 3:09 p.m. — Checked on a caller's report of three unattended infants in a parked car near Market Basket on Woodbury Avenue and found three "very realistic dolls in the back with notes on them."
Freud would have a field day with this!!!

And while we're speaking of things that can kill you:

This is a little something called the psychology of history. It invades your dreams, causes transference of affection from people to books, has you trapped in the Dissertation Stage, and it's all your mom's fault.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April Fools -- That's Us!

April Fools Day provides a good opportunity to have a little practical joking fun. It also provides the opportunity for awkward conversations like the one I overheard this morning.

Professor: You failed the midterm.
Student: this April Fools?
Professor: ...No.

Now, I wish I could chalk the following list of bloopers to April Fools. I found them while googling "grad student jokes", which unfortunately appear to come from bad papers. Here's the full list, I've selected a random few since they're all so good.


The Bible is full of interesting caricatures. In the first book of the Bible, Guinessis, Adam and Eve were created from an apple tree. One of their children, Cain, asked, "Am I my brother's son?"

Solomom had three hundred wives and seven hundred porcupines.

Socrates was a famous Greek teacher who went around giving people advice. They killed him. Socrates died from an overdose of wedlock. After his death, his career suffered a dramatic decline.

Queen Elizabeth was the "Virgin Queen." As a queen she was a success. When she exposed herself before her troops they all shouted "hurrah."

Abraham Lincoln became America's greatest Precedent. Lincoln's mother died in infancy, and he was born in a log cabin which he built with his own hands. Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves by signing the Emasculation Proclamation. On the night of April 14, 1865, Lincoln went to the theater and got shot in his seat by one of the actors in a moving picture show. The believed assinator was John Wilkes Booth, a supposedly insane actor. This ruined Booth's career.

Julius Caesar extinguished himself on the battlefields of Gaul. The Ides of March murdered him because they thought he was going to be made king. Dying, he gasped out: "Tee hee, Brutus."

I think my favorite is the "Tee hee, Brutus". It is straight out of Monty Python. Which do you like? Also feel free to add any amusing anecdotes. Someone ought to be keeping a running list!

Happy April 1st!