Thursday, November 17, 2005

One step closer!

I did it! It's in the mail! I think it is totally fitting that one of the final steps in this process includes boxing something up and taking it to the post office and waiting in line, etc, etc, which is something I HATE to do. I haven't mailed a box of my own since they invented the internets.

The one hitch in my plan involved the slackers who work at my local Kinkos. I went in there last night and figured I could drop it off and pick it up fairly soon. There were lots of workers who seemed to be standing around and no machines were running... nope, it will take at least 6 hours but I could come back at 1:00 a.m. to pick it up if I wanted to! Um, no thanks. I could have done self-serve but it would have cost $15 more, and once a cheap graduate student, always a cheap graduate student. So I had to go back this morning, when the check-out person tells me that I should check it to be sure it's all there because they didn't have time to check it themselves. Like I do? So it went unchecked.

Wow. I'm so strung out that I don't have much emotion to offer at the moment. Plus I've got to get myself ready to leave the house at 5:15 a.m. for my weekend out of town... I really wish I wasn't going. I want a few days just to rest and catch up and read and all those other good things, rather than chit-chatting with my mother-in-law. So, next weekend will be for resting, then. In the meantime I have to pack and make the house a little less disgusting so I don't scare off my friends who are feeding our cats.

I will pause to "celebrate," however, with a take-out pizza from my favorite place and the new CSI tonight.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The best laid plans of mice and dissertators

I almost had to laugh today (the other options were to cry or scream, and they didn't seem appropriate) when my teaching literally, directly impeded dissertation work. For me it has always been a nebulous battle between the time-suckage of Teaching Blob versus Dissertation Blob, each gaining the upper hand from time to time as they engage in an epic battle for my sanity. But since both are somewhat mushy around the edges, I can always cut corners to prioritize one over the other. But then I've never had an actual deadline staring me in the face!

So today I sat at my desk contemplating the Entire Printed Copy of my dissertation. Because of the aforementioned mucking about with the order of each chapter, I need to read it one more time before sending it off. Before class I got through about 20 pages. After class I sat down with my powerbar for lunch and prepared to put in a good solid hour of reading before my next class. Not my office hours. Door shut. Until... knock, knock. It's one of my best students and she wants help with the (admittedly dense) reading, and then to sit and talk about feminism, etc. 30 minutes later, and it's time for class. Argh! But in the end it was time well spent (as long as I make my deadline, that is!)

So I'm almost there. I screwed up the font on the notes in the footnote text and apparently the only solution is to go in and individually change the font of each and every footnote number. Well, that's not going to happen this week and may never happen. And I'm trying to make my perfectionist self live with that. I hope Bill Gates gets a really nasty paper cut today. And I still have the final paragraph of the conclusion to noodle with.

But yes, I'm almost there. My goal is to finish these last edits tomorrow (I won't be at campus), get to Kinkos at some point in the evening, and then to the post office on Thursday morning. I'm leaving to go out of town on Friday morning (obligatory visit to the mother-in-law, yippee) so that's an Actual Drop Dead Deadline for me. Convenient that the only 24 hour post-office in the metro area is next to the airport....

I always feel better if I've got a back-up plan!

p.s. Thanks to those who've sent supportive comments and/or emails! Obviously I've got a bit on my plate these days but will be in touch soon.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Um, so, yeah, what about that dissertation?

I have a bad habit of waiting to share news... I keep thinking that I'll wait until "X" happens, and then I'll really have something to tell. So while I have not yet reached the ultimate "I turned it in!" moment, I thought it was time for an update.

This feels like death (or life?) by a thousand small revisions. I sent an almost-complete draft, minus the conclusion, to my advisor around the first of the month. She gave it the thumbs-up and said that I should distribute the whole thing to my committee when it's ready. So that's good.

The not-so-good part is that I just can't quite seem to work on it! I know that the deadline will eventually be upon me (I should mail it around the 16th or so) and I know that I'll need a day or so for getting it copied and into boxes and into the mail (why does snail mail seem so annoying?) and I know that I don't have that much to do, but still.... ugh! argh! ack. I think the fridge needs to be cleaned out... and what about that laundry?

Okay, perhaps it is time for a blog-style reality check. I've still got teaching and some overdue grading. I'll be out of town from Thursday evening to Sunday evening and won't have much chance to work while I'm gone. So with that in mind, I need to fit in the following tasks:

*Revise the conclusion. It is written and has passed the initial review (the totally new second draft, that is) of my husband/editor. It also needs one final paragraph with some oomph. I figure that I'll end up revising the conclusion after discussions during the defense, so my motivation to make it absolutely perfect is low.
* Clean up the debris that must have resulted from a minor reorganization. My dissertation is about one single topic over a limited amount of years, so my chapters are not in a clear chronological order. Rather, I think of them as spokes on a wheel. My husband/editor and advisor both think that Chapter 4 should be moved up to become Chapter 2, with the rest of the chapters re-numbered as a result. I agreed, since Chapter 4 had always seemed out of place. Since each chapter really stands alone, it won't require that much work, but still... I need to read the beginning and end of each chapter and make sure they flow into each other. It's really strange, though, to adjust to this. My idea of "Chapter 4" has been "Chapter 4" for many, many years... and now it is Chapter 2? I'll have to devote some time to memorizing which chapter is which!
* Make an organizational chart. (Thanks to kj for earlier suggestions about that.)
* Finish checking the footnotes with a fine-toothed comb. I've already done 4 out of the 6 major components, Turabian in hand.
* Track down 3-5 small detail-oriented factual questions somewhere in my pile of documents.
* Merge the whole thing into one document and make the page numbers work.

And I really do think That. Is. It. I thought making a list would stress me out enough so as to make me put my nose to the grindstone, but actually it makes me pretty excited. I mean, if I do these things on this relatively small list of tasks, I'll be done!!! And if that isn't enough motivation to get me to work on it, nothing is....

Thursday, November 03, 2005


I realized that I tend to complain a lot in this blog, so before I begin my complaint du jour, let me first say that I just finished teaching the Civil Rights Movement in my course and we had an amazing discussion of Anne Moody's book. Many students participated and almost all agreed that this book had done a lot to interest them in the topic and to change how they perceived the CRM. Apparently there tends to be CRM fatigue among recent high school students -- I guess they hear a lot about the big events and the famous people. So I was glad that my approach (combined with a lecture about the big events and the famous people, of course) helped to expand their thinking. Last week most of them seemed to think that African-Americans in Mississippi should just "do something" about their situation, but today they seemed to understand and even sympathize with the justifiable fear that many African-Americans felt, especially of economic or physical retribution. And usually once students understand the fear and the obstacles...then comes the genuine respect for those amazing people who managed to transcend that fear.

One interesting thing happened -- one of the white students expressed his feeling that this book made him hate white people. Other white students nodded, as though they all shared this collective guilt. So I got to give them my spiel on the subject, which is this: unless they are all secretly attending KKK meetings after class, why on earth would they automatically identify with the white racists in Mississippi? Why didn't they identify with the young college students (black and white) in SNCC? Or the white allies of the CRM? They seemed to understand that. And one quiet student even stayed after class to tell me that our discussion and the film we watched made him really think about whether he would have had the courage to sit with the African-American students at a lunch counter during a sit-in and remain non-violent. He liked to think that he would have. I told him I would like to think so, too. So, all in all, an excellent day.

Here begins my complaint:

There are four male students who sit in a row together. Almost every lecture they engage in some small behavior (talking to each other, laughing, writing notes) that distracts me. It isn't loud enough to distract the class and I can usually ride herd on them by walking in their area a lot. I've also had individual discussions with them, but I reached the end of my rope on Tuesday. We were talking about conditions in Mississippi and how people faced being shot. I looked over and one of them was laughing about something. So I halted class and asked them what they were laughing at, since I didn't see anything funny about our discussion. They sheepishly looked down and shook their heads.

I figured that today was Drop the Hammer day if they misbehaved again. Sure enough, during our class discussion when every other student was listening and paying attention, they started chatting to each other. I halted class and called on one of them. Instead of making up some comment that would have related to our discussion (which might have been the strategic thing to do,) he plainly admitted he was "just talking to my buddy." I told him that wasn't cool and returned to class discussion.

I pulled them all aside during the break and laid down the law... how I didn't go to graduate school because I wanted to deal with behavior problems from immature high school students and that their behavior wasn't appropriate for a college classroom. I told them this was their final warning and any misbehavior in the future would result in extra paper assignments. I feel the need to be an Extra Hard Ass in situations like this because I worry that (as a petite, young, woman) I might have let authority slip away from me. (see some of Stewgad's excellent posts about this sort of thing.)

So 3 out of the 4 nodded and had the grace to look ashamed of themselves. But the fourth one said he was "angry." Puzzled, I nicely asked him why he was angry. He said that he felt angry that they had received my warning when, really, they didn't misbehave "all the time." I told him that other students seem to be able to go day-in and day-out without making a peep (except in discussion and when I ask questions) and that I frankly had a higher standard than having good behavior "most of the time."

So am I on crack? I am unreasonable to expect that students sit through class and pay attention without talking and laughing to each other??

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Chaos Theory

At some point in the semester do you just lose the battle? In this case I'm thinking of the battle to stay ahead of the river of paper that seems to flow into my office. I started the semester with a fabulous new filing cabinet and I really thought that I'd finally cured myself of my prior fondness for piling each folder (one folder per lecture, discussion, film, etc.) in an ever-growing pile that would become structurally dangerous by the end of the semester.

But, alas, apparently not. My years of being a slob are not fixed with new furniture. Yesterday I realized I'd crossed the rubicon. My office now features numerous small piles of files and, even worse, piles of things that need to go into files. And I won't even tell you about Drawer #3, which contains many more (hidden) piles of things that need to go into files.

Can I reclaim my office? Or will I write off this semester and start anew in January? I'll hope for the first, but probably will default to the second. As long as I can wade through the paper and still see my keyboard and mouse, I'm good to go. I know there's some annoyingly applicable acronym that self-help devotees espouse about only touching something once (i.e. instead of piling that file on the desk so I have to touch it several times before putting it away, I should just file the damn thing directly after using it) but obviously I haven't embraced that particular tactic. Can an old dog change her tricks?

And to add insult to my office injury: I killed my cactus. I've already accepted my pronounced lack of a green thumb, but really, this is a new low.