Frogs and Ravens 1.0

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Monday, June 30, 2003

Another Pre/Post-Academic Blog-Forum  

If you're in graduate school and thinking about leaving, either part-time or temporarily, Phoenix Rising may be a good site for you to visit. Most appreciated is the author's Pledge, in which she refuses to take any stance that makes those who leave feel bad about their decision. For post-academics looking to make transitions out of academia, much of the site will feel like it's aiming at a different though clearly kindred audience -- BUT the links page includes several sites addressing that experience. The site as a whole seems to be a work in progress, but what's there is good -- let's hope that the Phoenix can keep rising.

{edit} Some of the links are outdated. "Escape Pod" has been retired, for example. Sellout has been recommended in my own comments and reviewed earlier by me (along with some other transition sites). Again, pre-post-academics (or whatever you want to call pre-degree departers) will probably find more here than post-degree career changers.

Carine's related site, PhinisheD, is "A discussion and support group for people who cannot seem to finish their dissertations or theses." Again, not terribly helpful for those of us who've been there, done that, but it looks promising for members of the target audience. More useful may be the "phorum" called Phinally Phinished, which is for people who have, obviously, finished. If I have time, I'll take a look and report back.

A small stylistic warning, by the way -- "ph" (as in Ph.D.) is used in place of "f" in a number of words (like "phorum," "phinally," "phinished," "phriends" and "pholk." I wearied of this cutesiness fairly quickly and found it hard to focus (and hard afterwards not to write "phound" and "phocus") on the actual information. Your mileage may vary.

posted by Rana | 6/30/2003 11:32:00 AM Permalink

Sunday, June 29, 2003

"Pieces of Pastry that I'm Not Allowed to Eat"  

Yami, over at green gabbro (wonderful name!), wonders if graduate school in the humanities and undergraduate science programs might have common ground in their effects on students. Given this wonderfully evocative description -- "for the past four years, I've struggled to maintain health and balance while watching bits of my intellectual self-confidence flake off like pieces of pastry that I'm not allowed to eat. Sometimes I've managed, and other times I've hidden under my pillow." -- I suspect that this may warrant further inquiry.

posted by Rana | 6/29/2003 11:57:00 PM Permalink

Life in the Blogosphere  

This cheered me up -- thanks, Aaron!

posted by Rana | 6/29/2003 11:05:00 PM Permalink

Arrested Motion  

Like a tennis ball
Caught suddenly in a fence --
Bird on the screen door.

posted by Rana | 6/29/2003 03:10:00 PM Permalink

Saturday, June 28, 2003

Here's A Thought  

Yoga Journal has published an article on yoga sequencing for depression.

I think I will have to give this a try. It certainly couldn't hurt.

posted by Rana | 6/28/2003 10:48:00 PM Permalink


This wrenching post from Tim Burke reminds me to be happy for what I do have, and to appreciate that things could be much, much worse than being unemployed.

posted by Rana | 6/28/2003 05:41:00 PM Permalink

Functional Depression  

Today Dorothea over at Caveat Lector wrote "I strongly resist the idea that depressed or angry people are completely non-functioning. For Pete�s sake, I know better! In the grip of the same paralyzing depression that left me unable to read, I taught forty-odd people Spanish, and did so pretty damned well, thank you. So I don�t believe in telling people that they can�t get anything accomplished unless and until they fix their thoughts."

This sounds terribly familiar. Appearances of this blog to the contrary, most people don't know when I'm depressed. I have the lovely ability to suddenly look happy and cheerful when someone pokes their head into my office to say hi, then go back to the doom and gloom once they've gone. I know full well when I am depressed, why I am depressed, what I need to do to mask my depression and that -- often -- there is no good reason for my depression. My reason knows this, anyway; try telling this to whatever part of my psyche is responsible for being depressed in the first place. It doesn't like to listen to reason.

It's at times like this when I begin to understand why depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders seem to be related diseases; when I'm depressed, I know it on an intellectual level but I can't stop obsessively wallowing in it. Anxiety I seem to have a better handle on; I used to get panic attacks, not know what they were and panic some more. Now I think "Oh, it's another damn panic attack" and patiently wait it out. If only I could learn to do that with depression!

posted by Rana | 6/28/2003 04:57:00 PM Permalink

Another Obvious Step  

It belatedly occurs to me that it might be productive to throw open the door to suggestions for possible work environments, since that seems to be the bone my mind keeps digging up and gnawing on.

I like Western environments, particularly deserts. I enjoy observing the animals and plants that live in such environments, though I lack the scientific training to avoid reinventing the wheel. Photographing and sketching often accompany these observations, and my skills are not bad in these areas.

My research work has been interested in questions of adaptation (of self/culture to environment and vice versa) and the social and individual representations and understandings that govern the processes of adaptation. In other words -- how people come to know the place they inhabit, and how that knowing shapes and is shaped by the experience.

I'm somewhat interested in environmental ethics and its relation to effective political action, but I'm not that interested in politics per se (nor am I good at critiquing policy, as previous efforts to do so in this blog indicate!) I'd be happy to work with activists, but I don't believe that I have the passion for any given cause to be one myself.

I like solving problems and working with my hands -- I did once contemplate a major in mechanical engineering that foundered on the higher math involved -- though that would not be enough without associated intellectual challenges. (In other words, I'm good with machines, handicrafts and pottery, but I don't want to work only with people who are good with machines and little else.)

I like writing and I'm a good editor. I like reading.

I like playing with the graphical presentation of information; I am fascinated by maps and web design (though not necessarily the coding that underlies it) and graphic layout more generally.

Activities that consistently give me joy: Making things with my hands. Watching animals. Fixing machinery. Solving problems and learning how to make things work. Learning weird science facts. Knowing obscure information others don't. Writing or presenting something and hearing people's reactions to it. Playing with old documents and artifacts. Wrestling with theories and devising my own out of them. Yoga. Reading books. Photography. Playing with maps. Teaching people how to do something. Playing with new languages, but more in terms of solving grammar puzzles than learning to speak them. Organizing data and playing with it to discover the relationships between variables.

I also prefer informal over formal working environments, casual or arty clothes over suits, workspaces filled with plants and toys and cartoons over cubicles and formal offices. I like small companies more than large; I want to know my co-workers and work for people, not faceless boards of directors. I want colleagues who see their job as a place to play and explore and make a difference, not a place to maximize profits, garner status and live by the rule book.

So... what does this add up to? What career venues might prove a satisfying home for my interests?

Working in a museum has occurred to me, but the market there is even worse than in academia.
Should I look for an environmental non-profit? If so, any in particular?
Go to work for someplace like the USGS? Other options?
Apprentice to a periodical like the UTNE Reader? Other possibilities?

Other suggestions?

Throw 'em at me; I have no plans now, so I have nothing to lose by exploring a wide range of possibilities. In fact, I will be doing this with the temp agency; it would be nice to give them a few examples of the sorts of places I'd like to be placed, if the option is available.

posted by Rana | 6/28/2003 01:29:00 PM Permalink


Sometimes, when I re-read posts like the last three, I think that I should not be allowed near a computer while I am depressed or angry.

If I didn't, however, I'd be letting those thoughts fester in my head. Blogging, then, is rather like lancing a boil; it can be disgusting, but the alternative is worse.

This is also part of the reason why having comments enabled is so important to me. I figure things out by trial and error, including ideas and attitudes, so the comments help me figure out just what it is that I think and feel. Cheap therapy!

I am terribly grateful that my readers not only put up with these lancings, but offer graceful commentary and salve for the wound of the day. I can only hope that others are learning from my pain and benefiting from others' comfort; I don't know how to repay that support and sympathy otherwise.

posted by Rana | 6/28/2003 12:02:00 PM Permalink

Psychic Footbinding  

In the previous post I tried to explain why explanations of why working outside of academe is not a waste of grad school time tend to rankle. Unfortunately, that is a small component of my overall reaction to the experience of being booted from the nest. Assertions like those strike me as annoying, or stupid, or well-meaning but not applicable to the real worries that are currently besetting me. If I get cranky about such assertions, it ultimately doesn't mean much, because whether or not those arguments prove true is a matter of opinion.

So, you may be asking, what are those "real worries"? This is a good question, because it sure isn't a worry that I can't handle a temp job that leads me to weep in the shower late at night. If I were feeling melodramatic, I would say it is because I am in fear of losing my soul.

In truth, though, I'm not that worried about my soul. I am worried about what my work does to my personality and sense of self. As I've suggested in earlier posts and comments, I have tendencies and experiences in my past that make me worry about losing myself in an effort to conform to group norms and the pain that this causes. Much of my childhood was spent being an outsider and I still carry the scars; not the big scars one gets from being a reject or an outcast, but the subtle scars that come from never quite fitting in and always having to hide or prune aspects of oneself in order to find some measure of acceptance. As a result, I'm very sensitive to social cues about acceptable behavior, beliefs, etc. and often unconsciously find myself adapting to the norms of the place I'm in and the people who surround me.

If the difference between me and the others is small, the distortion is minor and fits within the fluctuations of personality I experience on a regular basis anyway. If the difference is large, what I experience is the psychic equivalent of footbinding -- a cramming of myself into an ill-fitting space until I fit. So what, you say, everyone does this to some degree. You go home at the end of the day and stretch and return to yourself. Unfortunately, I've found, I don't. The echoes of the distortion persist, and the longer I am with a group of people the more like them I become and I begin to forget the parts of myself that don't fit into the group norm.

Again, you may say that I'm being melodramatic, but I've watched myself in action too many times to not believe that this can and will happen again. Like the frog being slowly boiled alive, I don't realize how hot the water is -- how far I have strayed from the person I am most comfortable being -- until something tips me out. I spent a month once living in a house of a British translator; by the end of the month I had developed a slight British accent and could complete her sentences. More tellingly, there was the month-long trip with people who teased me for always using "big" words (my ordinary working vocabulary); by the end of it I was no longer using those words, and no longer even having to think about it. I literally became a simpler thinker as a result; it took a return to grad school to remind myself that I did still have the capacity for more complex thought.

I think you can see where I'm going with this.

It was only in college, then grad school, and now in the presence of either family or academic friends, that I feel entirely myself. No distortions, no adaptations to the group, no foreign habits slowly adopted until they become my own -- THIS is why I am so afraid about leaving.

posted by Rana | 6/28/2003 09:31:00 AM Permalink

The Value of Grad School  

I've been trying, over the last day, to figure out why I am having such difficulty "thinking positive" as Kevin Walzer suggests.

I think partly it is because I do, deep down, feel that any career outside academia does, indeed, represent a waste of the seven years I spent in graduate school. This is not because I did not come out of grad school with skills that an employer may or will value. It is because the quality of that appreciation is quite likely to be different from my own, and because what such an employer is likely to value are things I did not need to attend grad school to obtain. When I look at my new resume, I see a long list of practical skills, like "Used PowerPoint to enhance public presentations" or "Developed a database using Excel to track student performance" or even "Produced analytical summaries of others' performance and writing," that really have very little relation to grad school beyond context. I never took a class in PowerPoint while in grad school -- did you? I figured out how to make an Excel spreadsheet for tracking my students' assignment and participation grades on my own. I do not remember more than the most informal instruction in how to contact an archivist, arrange an interview and begin working through the documents; most of this I figured out on my own, albeit in response to the impetus created by classes and professors' assignments. I am presuming that these are the sorts of things that make me valuable to future employers -- my skill set and my ability to add to it on my own initiative -- but did I need to go to grad school to obtain them?

What I did learn in grad school -- as a matter of formal training -- covered the writing of historiographic essays, learning how to parse arguments quickly and accurately, how to identify a school of thought, and more specific information about trends in ideas. My minor field exams required knowledge of a general topic area and of scholars' arguments about it. So too for the orals, with the added ingredient of knowing where to situate myself and my work within that larger body of knowledge. These things, to me, were the real essence of grad school, the knowledge that I could not obtain working alone. Will a future employer find these abilities as valuable?

When I hear these arguments about the value of my degree to employers, the analogy that comes first to mind is that of a person wearing an antique pin that belonged to a much loved relative from the time she was a girl, and which was given to the person when she was thirteen and scared about entering high school. She meets someone in an elevator while wearing the pin, and that person says, "Hey, nice pin. How much is it worth?" Both would agree that the pin is valuable -- but do they share the same sense of value?

{edit} Kevin's post is actually helpful; I don't want to give the impression that I'm including it among the mindlessly chirpy optimists. (Indeed, Kevin takes care to distance himself from that kind of fluff.) I'm not in a space where I can fully appreciate it yet, but other folks might be.

posted by Rana | 6/28/2003 09:06:00 AM Permalink

Friday, June 27, 2003


Earlier, Invisible Adjunct posted about Mary Dillard Johnson's article "What Else Can I Do? And Other Frequent Questions." In it, Johnson talks about how an academic can begin thinking about moving out of academia into the wider world of work.

Some of what she has to say is useful in a vague way, and her suggestion (which IA quoted) that looking at the NY Times "commitment" pages might be a good place to explore career possibilities is delightfully humorous.

I must take a grain of salt when she suggests "Read Do What You Are, a helpful guide by Paul D. Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger that uses personality as an additional factor to consider in making career choices. For a comprehensive and sensible view of the whole career-search process, I still recommend the classic and frequently updated What Color Is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles. I think it is also worth looking at the classified ads in major newspapers, not so much to find a job opening (although that is always a possibility), but to find out how employers think about their needs, how they describe the duties and requirements of different types of jobs."

I read the former, and it is not very helpful (the latter is the one that language hat threw from him). You start with one of those personality quizzes to chart you on intro/extroversion, feeling/thinking, sensing/judging, etc. then read about your "matches." This is all well and good, but it doesn't address the complaint I've been making over and over again:

This is not only about what you might like to do, it is about what your skills qualify you to do!

I am reminded yet again about the time in grad school when I went to the career center to tentatively explore alternatives (just in case). The tests I took advised me that I had the makings of a nuclear physicist -- 'nuf said.

And then there's this bit of happy-happy-joy-joy we've all heard before about transferable skills (and note, again, the assumption that leaving academia is a chosen course, not a forced one):

"Question: My adviser is urging me to apply for jobs this coming academic cycle, but I'm not sure whether I want an academic career or not. I feel that I should be sure and that I will have wasted the last six years if I don't become a professor. But I think I want to look into other options. What should I do?

"Answer: Your uncertainty and conflict are common to many graduate students in their final years of study. When you decided to go to graduate school, you may well have thought you wanted to become a professor. Then for the first few years of graduate school you concentrated on your academic work and thought no more of careers. There is no reason to feel guilty if you don't want an academic career now. People change; circumstances change. And there's no reason to feel that you have wasted years of your life if you don't stay in academe."

Oh really?

She continues,

"During the course of getting your Ph.D. you have developed not only a specific area of expertise but also an array of skills that are transferable to many types of careers. And in completing all the requirements of the degree, you have demonstrated your ability to do something hard and to accomplish something significant. That is experience that many employers will value."

Surely the Chronicle can do better than this.

posted by Rana | 6/27/2003 09:31:00 AM Permalink

Learning to Ask for Help  

I think I have figured out the lesson that is embedded in my not gaining an academic job this season. It is learning how to ask for help.

I've always tended to be someone who does things on her own. Partly it is that it is difficult to work with other people successfully, and I'm a nit-picker when it comes to my own work. More so, I think, is that somewhere along the line I developed this belief that one should not need to ask for help and that it is vaguely improper to do so. The impropriety is important; I suffer from a mild form of what D. and I have called "vampire disease" -- I'm reluctant to do things that I'm uncertain I've been invited or permitted to do (hence the name, like the vampire who can't enter a house without an invitation).

In some ways, that sense of vampire propriety is a good thing, but I've learned that I have a lousy sense of what other people judge "proper" and so tend to err on the side of caution. This includes asking people for help; not only does it run against that belief in self-sufficiency (which, oddly, only runs one way -- I'm always delighted to help), but I'm also afraid that I'll offend someone by asking. Stupid, I know, but there it is.

Anyway, being unemployed begins to change that equation. So does blogging, where I can feel that I'm not imposing on people, but rather inviting them in to offer advice (or not) as they wish. I'm somewhat ashamed to admit, therefore, that when I did finally act on the advice of some of my visitors and emailed my non-blog friends and family about my situation, I was surprised at the response. Everyone was sympathetic and helpful, and that is why I feel ashamed -- I should not be surprised that people who care about me would respond that way. But I was, and I believe that these might be the lessons I need to learn:

To be willing to ask for help from those who are willing to offer it, and to gracefully accept it when it is given.

And to not so badly misjudge my friends.

posted by Rana | 6/27/2003 08:44:00 AM Permalink


Working again, thanks to the expertise and hard work of Phil Ringnalda. THANK YOU!

posted by Rana | 6/27/2003 08:10:00 AM Permalink

Thursday, June 26, 2003


Well, Blogger has upgraded its input screen. At present, I can see this is not going to make me happy. First, it's not letting me code in my special font classes. Second, it refuses to type a capital "w"! They show up in the preview, but not in the original screen.


posted by Rana | 6/26/2003 08:52:00 AM Permalink

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Parrot Wisdom  

Here's what the virtual fortune-telling parrot has told me: "CYBER KILI SAYS ... You have picked Lord Murugan! You are likely to be caught in a tangle with too many thoughts. Never mind, whatever decision you make, Lord Murugan is with you. Do everything with sincerity and devotion. Success is always yours!


posted by Rana | 6/25/2003 12:16:00 PM Permalink

Cool and Overcast  

Its tail wet from rain
The squirrel ransacks the feeder
Shells and water fall

posted by Rana | 6/25/2003 09:41:00 AM Permalink

Tuesday, June 24, 2003



On the advice of D. and some of the people who have posted here, I have returned all my job search books to the library. I was tempted to do what Language Hat did, and fling them from me, but they are library books and thus not mine to fling.

I've been trying to think of what my next step should be in this transition, but there really isn't one. That is, there isn't one that can be done to any effect right now. What I should be doing at this point is all those things I will (hopefully?) not have time for once I am working the ol' 9 to 5. I should be revising chapters, working on my book review, crunching through my ARCDesktop GIS tutorial, and -- shudder -- packing. What I want to be doing is running around looking at new apartments and learning how to work at places that require me to wear nylons and suits. (Well, maybe "want" is a little strong in that last case.) I do have general plans, such as emailing all my friends to let them know of my move and to ask them to keep an eye out for work for me. But, like packing, that is not something to do a month in advance of the move. In a week or two, yes. But I'm not there yet, and it's bugging me.

In other words, I want to be in motion towards something, not from something. Nor do I want to sit brooding about things to do that I can't yet do.

So much these days is about waiting, and it's hard to persuade myself that waiting is okay, and not "wasting time."

posted by Rana | 6/24/2003 05:48:00 PM Permalink


A Matter of Perspective

It is hot -- and damp
So am I -- gently sweating
Wind is not so bad.

posted by Rana | 6/24/2003 03:26:00 PM Permalink



I don't know what is up with me these past few days -- I've been staying up much too late and sleeping in much too late and getting very little done in between. I really need to snap myself out of it!

I am very glad, therefore, that Invisible Adjunct is exploring the mysteries of resumés and career searching this week. One, I am too tired this week to rant and whine about these things in my usual way. Two, she has a larger readership, so I am looking forward to reading the comments and advice she gets. (I'm very appreciative about the suggestions people have made to me here, so I'm hoping that they might post similar comments at IA's and get wider coverage!)

posted by Rana | 6/24/2003 10:32:00 AM Permalink


Cranky -- Blame It on the Heat

Somehow, I just can't work up much sympathy for the author of How to Handle 12 Interviews in 45 Days even though I can appreciate how grueling an experience that might have been.

posted by Rana | 6/24/2003 10:25:00 AM Permalink


It Ain't the Heat...

Before I moved out here to the Midwest, I'd always thought that the weather phenonmenon I disliked most was wind. It still leads the list, but is now joined by humidity as Weather That Will Make Rana Cranky.

Wind irritates me by blowing my hair around (wavy, fine, static-prone hair -- need I say more?), making me chase loose bits of paper, shoving my car around on the road, stirring up dust... shall I go on? A light breeze I don't mind, but wind!

Humidity bothers me by making me spend the whole day feeling warm and lethargic in that "I just got up from a nap that was too long" sort of way. It makes me feel sticky -- 'nuf said. It also annoys me because, growing up, I developed a vast array of ways to deal with arid-lands heat that simply do not work here. (I found this out the first time I tried wrapping a wet bandana on my head to cool off. Yech!)

Ayurveda would say that this is because I am a combination of vata (nervous air energy) and pitta (intense heat energy), which are aggravated by wind and moist heat. I say it's because wind and humidity suck.

posted by Rana | 6/24/2003 09:58:00 AM Permalink

Monday, June 23, 2003


Sell-By Dates

I just saw some writing on my wall: a fellowship for "junior scholars" that sets the earliest date for getting one's degree in 2001. I received mine in 1999. What, aren't I "junior" enough for you?

posted by Rana | 6/23/2003 09:54:00 AM Permalink

Sunday, June 22, 2003


Beaming and Blushing (but Not a Bride)

I got the Invisible Adjunct Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence (No Cash, Just Glory) for this week! Whoo hoo!

I'm amazed, given that the competition is quite stiff; IA has wonderful comment-writers who are very insightful. I look forward to seeing who'll be next!

posted by Rana | 6/22/2003 10:21:00 PM Permalink


Template Tricks

Well, here goes. Be warned that all of this was gleaned by trial and error, so you're getting a crash course in how I went about it. There is no doubt a better, more elegant way than this, but it worked for me.

WARNING: BEFORE YOU MAKE ANY CHANGES, SELECT ALL OF THE TEMPLATE AND CAREFULLY COPY IT INTO A TEXT PROGRAM! I also recommend doing this before each change so that you can undo it if necessary. If you are like me, you will probably be doing a lot of testing following by undoes and redoes. I therefore recommend doing this through a fast connection; dial-up was hideously slow.

The simplest change is color. Pop open your template in Blogger's "edit your blog" page. You should see, after the font descriptions, something that looks like {table border="0" cellspacing="0" cellpadding="0" width="100%"}
{td width="100%" bgcolor="#666666"}{img src="bloggertemplate59_cleardot.gif" width="1" height="13"}{/td}

only with arrow brackets instead of the {s. This basically is setting that top color bar, just below the blogspot ad (if I remember correctly -- a lot of this will require testing and checking -- I won't guarantee the exact results, just the process). The key variable is bgcolor. The number will be different for your site; 666666 is the code for that medium teal I use.

There may be a list or key of the color codes somewhere; I figured it out by opening Netscape composer (6), typing some text, selecting it, then double-clicking on the color to see the options. You can do something similar with MSWord, though I've forgotten the exact mechanism -- you want to open the window that allows you to manipulate text colors. (This was all found out by messing around -- no doubt someone out there can offer a more elegant method.) If you are a clever person, you can also go to a page with a color you like and peek at its code and see what # corresponds to that color -- the trick is finding the relevant piece of code!

When you've found a color you can live with, replace the old code # with the one you prefer, and click on "save changes." Then click "publish" and hit "view web page" (if you've already done this, then reload it) and see if you like the change.

You can do this with any place in the code that says "color=#..." -- you can do it with the tables (at the top, at the bottom, with the fonts). Darker colors work better with the fonts, obviously. Watch out for #fffffff and #000000 -- these are white and black (or is it the other way around?), and probably shouldn't be messed with too much in the sake of visual clarity.

The other two changes you can make easily -- and, again, SAVE BEFORE EACH CHANGE and, preferably, MAKE ONE CHANGE AT A TIME -- are to change the fonts and the table widths.

I've had uneven luck changing the main font, but all of the font.blank descriptions can be changed. You can even create a new one and use it in the template (my link descriptions are all coded like this: {font class="linktext"}descriptions{/font} for example) or in your blog entries (I regularly use "font class="title"; the code for font.title is "font.title {font-family: palatino; font-size: 12px; color: #339999; font-weight:bold; line-height: 17px}" -- in this case the {} should stay as they are, and not be replaced by <>. Note that I changed the font from verdana to palatino, a serif font, and the color to dark teal (339999) and the weight to bold.

To change the table widths, look for code like this: "{td valign="top" width="575" class="body"}" and replace "575" (or whatever -- yours is probably a smaller number) with another. Again, save, publish, reload.

These are my meager bag of tricks, but they seem to work. Other suggestions from others would be great!

{edit} These instructions presume that you're working with the same template I used (it looks more or less like mine, but with a tan scheme and narrower columns than this), though the basic principles should be useful regardless of which one you start with.

posted by Rana | 6/22/2003 09:52:00 PM Permalink


Hulk Reviews Hulk -- and Grad School Economics

I came across this funny line in a review of the Hulk movie written as if Hulk had gone to go see it with the author of the blog:

Girl wants to know why Movie Betty have such big house on grad student salary. Hulk not know. What student? Girl also want to know how Movie Banner (puny Banner! Hulk hate Banner!) have such great house, too. Hulk not know that either, tell girl to shut up.

Hee hee.

posted by Rana | 6/22/2003 02:02:00 PM Permalink


Blogger Templates

I have discovered that, among the circle of blogs I frequent that are hosted by Blogspot, a certain template is very popular. I have to admit that I find this somewhat disconcerting, in that I tend to be a visually oriented person and so easily learn to associate certain words and personalities with certain appearances. (I was unsettled when Invisible Adjunct had to re-do her site -- I still miss the typewriter!)

Heck, I should probably include myself in the list, because it was that very template that I used to develop this one. It makes me wonder if those of us who use it share a similar aesthetic, and that is why we are all part of a set of overlapping blogs?

By the way, it's very easy to customize the template simply by altering the colors. If anyone's curious, I'd be happy to explain the code.

What an incoherent post. Clearly, I need to go eat something.

{edit} I don't mean to say that anyone is wrong to use the template as is. It's an attractive template! I'm mostly just fascinated by its popularity among the blogs I frequent, and amused at my own reactions to this.

posted by Rana | 6/22/2003 01:32:00 PM Permalink


Search Engine Referrals - A Poem

Harry Potter, PhD, can't find a job
Affluence and academia escape him
Although he wears a tweedy sweater of the proper pattern.

So he writes complaints in his head,
Standing in long grocery lines
Buying dairy products and molds

His iritis flares
While ravens croak,

The actual search phrases:

ravens molds
affluence and academia
PhD can't find a job*
Harry Potter knitting sweater pattern
grocery complaints long lines
autoimmune dairy iritis

*When I followed this up with Google, it turned out that this blog was the only entry in which that exact phrase appeared. Go figure!

posted by Rana | 6/22/2003 01:00:00 PM Permalink



The rain is slanting down
Heavy drops falling
A low rumble of thunder
A windbell ringing in the wind.

posted by Rana | 6/22/2003 10:56:00 AM Permalink

Saturday, June 21, 2003



I now have Harry Potter right where I want him! (Or is it the other way around?) Choice number 2: scarf the book down in a great orgy of reading, then go back to life bereft, or dole it out bit by bit and go mad with the delays but have it around to entertain me longer?

Of course, I could also scarf it, then re-read slowly.

One complication: strictly speaking, this is D's birthday present, so it would be cruel to hold onto it longer than I ought, even though his birthday is not until August. It'd be cruel for me as well; I hate spoilers, so I will be about ready to burst with things to share with him until he has a chance to read the book too.

This is a much more pleasant set of dilemmas than others I have posted about of late!

posted by Rana | 6/21/2003 01:14:00 PM Permalink

Friday, June 20, 2003


Harry Potter Tonight!

The dilemma: attend the midnight book party or get up early tomorrow and pick it up then? One brings the possibility of velvet and hair glitter; the other cool fresh air and the opportunity to do yoga. What to do...

I guess it will depend on how sleepy I am around midnight!

posted by Rana | 6/20/2003 06:14:00 PM Permalink


The Yoga of Change

With all that's been going on in my life, I've found myself increasingly comforted by yoga. Some of this is due to the asanas -- the postures -- but not as much as it ought, perhaps; I've not been practicing regularly. Rather, it is the philosophy of learning to see things as they are, not as you would wish them to be or assume that they are. The self is a central locus for this perceptual growth, with the postures intended to quiet and strengthen the body so that it can be receptive to the insight that such examination will hopefully bring. Richard Rosen's The Yoga of Breath has been particularly interesting to me this past week.

Here are some of the things I've read this week that caught my attention:

"Practice has two poles -- an active pole that entails intense and persistent exertion (abhyasa)and a passive one that encourages what yoga tradition calls samatva, an attitude of evenness or equanimity toward the world. Yoga practice is a balancing act between doing and not-doing: we must somehow exhibit all the prowess of the charioteer in mastering his horses and yet remain the same whether in success or in failure." --Richard Rosen, p. 15.

While formal training is the most common way we learn about yoga... it's definitely not the only way. Yoga also has an unrecognized element of play... We like to think of ourselves as serious students and regard play as something childish, just playing the fool. But James Carse, in his book Finite and Infinite Games, reminds us that to be playful is not to be "trivial or frivolous, or to act as though nothing of consequence will happen. On the contrary, when we are playful with each other we relate as free persons, and the relationship is open to surprise; everything that happens is of consequence, for seriousness is a dread of the unpredictable outcome of open possibility. To be serious is to press for a specified conclusion. To be playful is to allow for possibility whatever the cost to oneself."" -- Richard Rosen, p. 17

In the final stages, meditators in both traditions [yoga and Buddhism] see that the world of ordinary experience and the Self are actually constructions, compounds in nature rather than "real things" in and of themselves." -- Stephen Cope, "Seeing Eye to Eye," Yoga Journal175: 123-26, p. 126.

The first two seem to speak to my current situation very well, and to the comments AKMA and language hat and others have made about being open to luck. Part of what makes things currently difficult for me is that I feel like I'm not in place for luck physically; I won't be in California for another month and a half, and there is not much I can do from here to help set things up. I have some friends I can -- and should -- explain my situation to there, but otherwise this is a time of waiting, of suspension. I should take advantage of the lull, no doubt, to go through the mental equivalent of my asanas so that I am ready to move and be flexible when the time comes.

The third one has less to do with me directly and more to a general body of ideas I've been chasing through my research and other work: the question of how and why boundaries are formed, the how and why of our ordering complex and dynamic reality into relatively simple and fixed concepts and categories. When I began my thinking in these areas -- which have profound implications on the level of environmental ethics, among other things -- I did not yet see how deeply personal these questions were for me. I thought I was pursuing an interesting line of intellectual activity. I have since come to realize that many of my questions about crossing boundaries and adapting to new places (or new places to my existing expectations) stem from my own experiences growing up. My move to my current location really brought them home to me, as I came to discover that while I understood the cultural terrain for the most part, the physical environment was (and still largely is) profoundly strange to me. Things other people learned on a gut level I don't know; my own gut senses prove me false. Now I am finding that even my very self is open to question -- the old questions of Who am I? What is my purpose in life? have been revealed to have multiple possible answers -- an unsettling and profoundly troubling realization.

This is why reading the yoga books is so comforting, I believe. They accept the inevitability of change -- indeed, they embrace it -- while recognizing that change -- especially changes of perception and self -- is distressing to experience. I am not a "religious" person (unless you count being a Unitarian Universalist -- an open question) but I am a quester after larger understandings. My life, it seems, has become a "teachable moment," and I -- along with all of those who offer me sympathy and advice -- am both teacher and student.

posted by Rana | 6/20/2003 01:47:00 PM Permalink

Thursday, June 19, 2003


Cool Stuff

I'm too tired to provide a coherent summary, let alone analysis, of Alex's posts this week on the history of word spacing and silent reading and on rethinking the meaning of "cyborg," but they are worth reading.

posted by Rana | 6/19/2003 10:30:00 PM Permalink


An Observation

I just noticed that many of these job search books are written by people who were/are in sales. Perhaps this is why they rub me the wrong way. I had no trouble with the temp ladies or the Gen X dude.

posted by Rana | 6/19/2003 09:03:00 PM Permalink


Small Graces

At least I managed to finish my general resumé. It covers far too much ground for a specific job (that recurrent theme, again) but it should serve to introduce a temp agency to my qualifications.


posted by Rana | 6/19/2003 03:18:00 PM Permalink



I've been reading more find-and-win-a-job books, and I'm feeling increasingly intimidated by the whole process. One even said that you were not doing a proper job search if you weren't seeking out and establishing at minimum 250 contacts a week -- about 50 a day, in other words. While I am doing this, I'm also supposed to be researching companies, sending out hundreds of carefully crafted individually-targeted letters, resum�s and "Executive Briefings" -- each to be followed by a call to the addressee. Should any of these result in an interview, I am then expected to create and maintain a very carefully crafted professional persona and do battle (graciously, with a smile) with stress interviews, drug tests and tests of my IQ and personality. *sigh*

I feel increasingly not up to this task, especially since I am continuing to fail at step one: identify companies for which you might want to work. For everything I have read, I still cannot figure this out. I like Ben & Jerry's ice cream -- but does this mean that I'd want to work there? Does it mean that they need people with my skills? I enjoy reading Yoga Journal but do I want to work for a similar periodical? I don't even know what sort of position would interest me -- though I suppose that's the point of temping and making all those innumerable contacts. "Hi, I'm clueless, and I want to learn about your profession" doesn't seem like a good way to begin, however.

I am discovering that I lack all but the most basic understanding of what it means to work -- and THINK -- in a non-academic setting; my experiences are over 10 years old, and involved putting clothes on hangers, filing papers, typing letters and stuffing envelopes. That may produce a paycheck, but it's not a career. I know how to present and explain my credentials to an academic audience (at least I believe I do) but I feel woefully equipped to do this elsewhere. I'm not used to thinking of literally selling myself, nor of talking about profits and expenses and the bottom line -- it feels so forced and so fake when it comes out of my mouth -- those are honestly not things that interest me. I suppose I can fake interest -- if I can successfully pretend to know everything in front of a room of sceptical 18 year olds, I can probably manage it -- but I feel almost nauseated at entering a field of endeavor so alien to my basic beliefs. Money is fine as a tool, but it is not an appropriate locus for ethics and values -- at least for me. I hate, hate, hate the idea that I am a "product" to be "marketed."

There was a reason why I never went into sales -- every experience I've ever had where I had to tout something in order to get someone else to fork over money for it made me feel awkward, rejected and crass. I suppose academic interviews do entail this, but at least it is clothed in the rhetoric of colleagiality and in finding a new member of the community. Nor is it likely that your chair might later haul you into the office to complain that you are not contributing enough to departmental income. The interactions these books describe seem so nakedly mercenary by contrast.

Perhaps I am worrying too much about this. I know that I am intelligent and friendly enough to do well in pretty much any job that doesn't require specialized training, and that such training can eventually be amassed. I just thoroughly dislike the process by which one gets into a position to demonstrate this.

Another problem is that, having done such a miserable job identifying a satisfying career goal, and wasted years and years trying to achieve it, I have trouble trusting my ability to correctly identify a replacement. I don't want a job; I want a vocation -- but how does one go about manufacturing a calling out of thin air, let alone one that doesn't demand going back to square one? How do I find something to do with my life that is satisfying and lessens the odds of my waking up at age 43 thinking, "Well, there's another 10 years wasted."?

I realize that all of this sounds whiny, and that I appear to want a job to magically appear on a silver platter before me. (Who doesn't?) But I am trying to come to grips with something that is a job, requiring its own specialized training, in itself: identifying a chosen career and finding employment in it.

I lack that training.

And I hate feeling ignorant and stupid.

posted by Rana | 6/19/2003 02:21:00 PM Permalink

Wednesday, June 18, 2003


If You've Ever Owned a Cat...

...this post on cat barf will have you laughing and laughing.

Ah. I rather needed that.

posted by Rana | 6/18/2003 06:19:00 PM Permalink



I can't tell whether this warrants another Clueless Award. From Martin Yate, Knock 'em Dead 2002 (more bedtime reading, whoo-hoo):

"On a radio talk show earlier this year I listened to a problem from a listener. She said, "I'm in the academic field and I've been unemployed for two years, and I don't know what to do." I asked her how many organizations she had contacted, and she said 250. I asked her how many possible employers there were, and she said about 3,000. I said, "Next caller please." The world owes no one a living. You have to go out and find a job."

I'm puzzled because I can't figure out what exactly caused him to make that comment. Did she look at too few jobs? Did she do something else wrong? Or is he clueless about the fact that a large number of organizations and employers does not necessarily translate into a large number of positions? (And what the heck does "in the academic field" mean, anyway?)

I want to figure this out, because I'd been appreciative of his approach up to this point.

posted by Rana | 6/18/2003 03:34:00 PM Permalink



It's been one of those days. I'd say I woke up on the wrong side of the bed, but I sleep on a futon on the floor. Oversleep, today.

I'm feeling moody and quiet -- lassidic? is there an adjective form of lassitude? -- and I can't pin down the precise reason why. There are certainly enough things -- or lack of things -- in my life to make me feel depressed (which I think of at this point as connoting not the mental condition per se, but the feeling of being slowly pressed beneath a heavy weight). Yet there is nothing in particular this week or today to make me feel this way, no obvious trigger for my mood. I know, too, that this will pass -- it always does -- but what governs the coming and the going?

I feel very calm, but it's the calm of suspension, not contentment. I have the feeling of being poised on the edge of something and not wanting to move. It's not paralysis, nor apathy, but a kindred emotion. Fatigue, perhaps, but a fatigue of the spirit, not of the body.

What changed? What ripple in the worldsoul found its way to me?

posted by Rana | 6/18/2003 01:09:00 PM Permalink


A Visitation

A toy car's honking,
Rustling of seeds, a whirr of wings --
A morning nuthatch!

posted by Rana | 6/18/2003 08:47:00 AM Permalink

Tuesday, June 17, 2003



I sold my old desk
For seventy-five dollars.
A dream is changing.

Shiny and so red
A bowl of ripened cherries
Is slowly rotting.

Warm melancholy,
Humid in the darkness.
Awaiting cold rain.

Pellucid morning
I assume Tadasana
Cool air and bird song

posted by Rana | 6/17/2003 07:05:00 PM Permalink


Another Lifejacket, Please!

I was cruising the forums over at the The Chronicle when I came across the following post in the the "Leaving Academe" section. Anna, in "Remaining Upbeat," writes:

I know people are tired of hearing about the dismal job market, but I would like suggestions on how to keep focused in the face of an onslaught (it feels like that right now) of rejections that seem to be pouring in lately. Granted, I have only been on the market for three years and have had a series of visiting appointments during that time, so I can't complain because many posters have been on the market longer.

I'm trying to focus on my research, but lack the motivation to write a paragraph, much less a couple of chapters for my manuscript. I set a goal of having two complete chapters and an introduction by the end of the summer. If I weren't preoccupied, I could finish this sooner, but when I sit down to write I start dwelling on my lack of a job and what that means in terms of finances and benefits. Needless to say, nothing gets accomplished.

I realize I am not alone, but it is hard to explain to people outside academe why a Ph.D. can't find a job. I didn't go to graduate school with blinders on and was fully aware of the tight market, but it still hurts to think that I may have to close the door permanently and move on. Any suggestions on how to block the job market off for right now and concentrate on what I can control -- i.e., my research?

As I told her in my response (not yet posted), I could have written this. I tried also to point her in the direction of our "tenuous track" and ex-academic blogging community.

So, I'm asking that, if you're a member of that community, you consider going over to the forum and giving her some support. I'm not happy where I am, but at least I know I'm not alone, not a failure and not nuts (just slightly loopy). While Anna claims that she knows that she isn't alone either, it wouldn't hurt to make sure that she's not just saying this to buck herself up.

Who knows, we may even be able to persuade her to take up blogging!

posted by Rana | 6/17/2003 03:00:00 PM Permalink

Monday, June 16, 2003


A Burst of Energy and Focus

I seem to be coming out of whatever weird slump I was in last week. Yesterday I actually got up at 6am and did yoga and meditated and tidied -- all before the Sunday paper had even arrived! -- and did all that sewing.

Today I didn't duplicate that feat of early rising, but I finally got around to re-reading one of my chapters and discovered that while major changes are indeed needed, they are more matters of organization than revising prose or amending data. Develop some good transitions to fit between the rearranged, and it should be much improved!

Then I went grocery shopping and used the bike to get there and back. I even had the desire to do laundry, though that will have to wait until I can go by the bank and get more quarters.

I don't know quite what's gotten into (or out of) me -- but I'm not complaining!

posted by Rana | 6/16/2003 05:09:00 PM Permalink


"Positive" News!

In today's business section of the paper, I ran across an article by Mark Jaffe with the headline, "Feeling Bad? That's great, because adversity, misfortune and self-doubt are the first steps toward success."

His basic argument is that business is currently stagnating and suffering from corporate malfeasance as a result of positive self-esteem being valued over self-doubt. He writes,

"The process by which self-approval became the Holy Grail for modern civilization is not exactly clear. Somewhere along the way we adopted smugness as a symbol of affluence.

"Yet we know perfectly well that misery and squalor have always been the springboards to real accomplishment. Indeed, men and women of singular achievement often are recognized by the traumas, insecurities and bad complexions that gave birth to their larger-than-life vision."

There's more -- somewhat tongue in cheek part of the time, but with an underlying seriousness. It almost makes me hopeful about my own doubts -- of course, what he doesn't say but should, is that simple misery is not enough -- there must also be a drive to correct it -- again and again and again.

So maybe grad school has been doing the right thing, after all?

posted by Rana | 6/16/2003 10:03:00 AM Permalink

Sunday, June 15, 2003



I just learned tonight that my little brother is planning to get married! We didn't even know he had a girlfriend!

But, then, he's always springing startling stuff on us like this, so I probably shouldn't be too surprised.


posted by Rana | 6/15/2003 09:36:00 PM Permalink



Just when I begin to think I've gotten over this year's job search fiasco, I write a post like the preceding that demonstrates I have not. *sigh*

posted by Rana | 6/15/2003 02:25:00 PM Permalink



I just ran across this post by Archidamus in response to Thomas H. Benton's piece on grad school over at Invisible Adjunct's a while back. I appreciate his vehement defense of history as a calling and historian as an important identity -- I feel very strongly on both counts myself -- and agree that important scholarly interaction can and does occur in grad school, but where we deviate is in regards to the preceding question about what you do with yourself after grad school. Archidamus sees grad school primarily in terms of fulfilling that vocational urge and argues that one will always be called, regardless of whether you can find a job in the field afterward. He is also scornful those who demand more from the institution in terms of professional outcomes and complain when they fail to be fulfilled.

I have to politely disagree. An institution that permits the exercise of one's calling at an apprentice level but then fails to ensure that a majority (or even half) of the apprentices go on to become masters is a failed institution -- no matter if the people who were called found their apprenticeship fulfilling. I did find my apprenticeship fulfilling. I believe that I have achieved journey-woman status at least. But is that all that was promised me? No. Were those other promises fulfilled? No. That's where the problem lies, not in the vocational aspirations of the supplicants.

When he then concludes, "But if things don't work out, they don't work out. But I won't some less-than-perfect fortune ever deprive me of what I've learned in graduate school, and my own self-conception as a historian" I feel that perhaps the larger point of many of the complaints, my own included, was missed. My grief stems not with the loss of "my own self-conception as a historian." It stems from my rejection, systemic though it may be, by the very church in which my faith matured and was nurtured. A sense of knowledge and self may be important, but I also feel called to do more with my skills and experience, and am hurt that they are apparently unwanted by the very system that claims to prize them. I am a historian, but the traditional space for the practicing of my art has been denied me, and the system that trained me is part of a larger system that perpetuates that denial. You cannot separate the good from the bad, no matter how good the good. I may find other spaces for my craft, but this does not undo that moment of disillusionment and sense of failure resulting from that rejection.

At least grant me the space in which to lick my wounds while they are still fresh!

(I would have posted this there, but there is no commenting option. And yes, I am taking this personally. How could I not?)

posted by Rana | 6/15/2003 01:51:00 PM Permalink


New Email

You can now send me email at frogsandravens [at] yahoo [dot] com. I will probably check it about once a month; if you need a quicker response, use the comments.

posted by Rana | 6/15/2003 09:59:00 AM Permalink


Latest Sewing Projects

Here's some good pictures of a corset made using the pattern I used. I'm not as curvy as the woman depicted, and my corset is made out of a floral tapestry material that looks good with denim, not lovely blue satin.

This is the site for the rectangular tunic pattern; it generates a pattern for you using your own measurements. (I had trouble with the arms being too short and too tight at the elbow, so perhaps I measured wrong.) The main site here also includes the custom corset generator -- which works quite well. It produces a different kind of corset than the one shown above -- Elizabethan style, which means it will flatten whatever bust you have for that lovely flat-front look.

This is the pattern for my latest project: a camisole top and drawstring pants pajamas set. Very easy -- except that one step on the instructions is somewhat wrong. (The picture for the step in which the shoulder strap is being attached shows the right side of the strap being placed against the wrong side of the top. It should be right side against right side.) I made it in a very Harry-Potter-esque fabric of blue moons, wispy clouds and lots of flying owls.

And, since I'm bragging, here's a picture of a completed version of the sweater I'm knitting for my dad, in about the same color. You can see why it is taking me forever to finish!

posted by Rana | 6/15/2003 08:05:00 AM Permalink

Saturday, June 14, 2003


Who Am I? What Shall I Be?

These questions keep popping up, both in my own life and in the blogosphere. Well, I guess they are essential "life questions, " so I shouldn't be too surprised.

Today, Dorothea, over at Caveat Lector, was musing over these questions in terms of her own life and in response to Invisible Adjunct's recent post about the ambiguous future of adjuncthood and the implications for her own career and sense of identity. I've also been reading Richard Rosen's The Yoga of Breath, which is about using breath work (pranayama) to learn more about the universe and the self. I'm certainly not up to tackling the universe, but I'm so self-reflective, I'd like to think that some knowledge comes out of it!

Anyway, all of this brought me back to the place I was a few weeks ago (spiraling, again), trying to figure out who I am professionally and where I would fit best. Unfortunately, I keep coming around to the following dilemma: I have a fairly good sense of what I like to do and what I am good at -- historical research specifically and problem-solving in general. Given that I also like messing around with old documents and organizing data, this has so far resulted in two clear career matches: research historian and -- if I were to get the necessary training and experience -- museum curator or archivist. However, while gratifying to rediscover my excitement about these areas of my professional self, I find myself in the same awkward place I was before I started these explorations. That is, there are very few jobs in these fields and lots of competition, making it virtually impossible to secure steady employment even when I have the qualifications. (Museum curating is even more impacted than the history academic job market, if such a thing is possible!)

So the question turns from the exalted questions of "Who am I?" or "What is my vocation?" to a grosser one: What can I do that I will like and be good at but which will also be accompanied by steady pay and health benefits? This is the tricky point -- trying not so much to figure out what will appeal to me and gratify my needs and sense of self, but rather what my existing skills are worth to someone else, and who that someone might be. It's a rather unfamiliar line of thinking, at least in the latter regard; I've had a fair amount of experience selling myself to academia, but that was because I knew that there was demand for my type of skills, if not, in the end, those skills as embodied by me in particular.

In other words, How do I find new buyers? How do I learn their needs to that I can sell myself to them? There seem to be plenty of books on the latter, and the Happy Tutor has offered good advice in this regard. I feel like I've gotten no further on the first question, though, despite having added another round of the spiral. I guess I'll have to wait and see what appears as I temp this next year, and explore as many fields as I can.

Part of me is deeply worried about the formlessness of my life and career future, but another is finding it surprisingly freeing.

posted by Rana | 6/14/2003 10:27:00 PM Permalink


You Know You're Creatively Lazy When...

Instead of actually doing the laundry, you spend the day making new clothes.

(It's been that kind of weekend -- hence the brief blogging.)

posted by Rana | 6/14/2003 09:33:00 PM Permalink

Friday, June 13, 2003


Oh, No!

A morning cutting out
Rectangles and triangles
Of fabric
A rectangular tunic -- actually two --
In the offing.

Attaching triangles and rectangles,
Long lines linking up
A shape emerges
Headless gingerbread girl.

Here's the neck (tricky!)
Even fancy
Cartridge pleated cuffs
For the sleeves.
Pinning up the sides --
The last step before hemming -- yay!
But wait!
What's this?

Oh, no!
Gussets placed on the wrong side.
Time for the seam ripper,
More pinning,
And another attempt.

But not today!

posted by Rana | 6/13/2003 02:05:00 PM Permalink


Book Proposal

At Michelle's request, I've brought this post up from the thread responding to "Looking Both Ways Before Crossing the Street" (10 June). It was in response to her wish for a book addressing the experience of grad school.

On a more serious note, then:

Climbing the Mountain: Entering and Leaving Grad School with Sanity Intact: Advice and Stories from People Who've Been There

Part I: Planning the Expedition
1) Tim Burke, "Should You Go to Grad School"
2) THB, "title here -- I forget the name of it"
3) Maybe something on stats? or do we want this to be primarily experiential?
4) Something enthusiastic

Part II: Making the Climb
These would be chapters on the experience itself -- hopefully a mixture of the good, the bad, and the ugly...
Dorothea's story could go here, or in the next section

Part III: Descent
Some of the post-academic essays, like Michelle Tepper's, and that one on being a post academic (I forget the guy's name) -- basically pieces about leaving, both with and without degree in hand.

Part IV: So You've Climbed a Mountain: Now What?
Here's where we could include advice on the market, success stories, the stories of people still struggling in academe, and stories of people who've moved on -- maybe with a to-the-point conclusion about fixing the system?

Amend, please!

Should anything else be included? Left out? Want to toot someone's horn as a possible contributor? (Your own, maybe?)

Organizational changes? A different metaphor? Better title? The frogs have pencils clutched in their little webby hands; the ravens are waiting to start pecking at the keyboard...

posted by Rana | 6/13/2003 01:59:00 PM Permalink

Thursday, June 12, 2003


Small Town Life

There are times when I, a big-city girl born and bred, really enjoy living in College Town. Take tonight. After stopping off at the local library to pick up more career books (*sigh*) and some fresh sci-fi, I decided it was too nice an evening not to walk to the grocery about 4 blocks away. (My mind still boggles at the idea that one can walk to the grocery, or at least ride to it from home on a bicycle.) While I'm in the check-out line, a woman asks where the liquor is shelved, thereby revealing herself to be an outsider. Now, I don't myself buy alcohol (I fear having it in my fridge, even though I don't drink it except with friends. I know this is not entirely rational.) but I have now lived in town long enough to know that it is only sold at the "muni," or municipally supervised liquor store. So this is one part of the coolness of small town life -- knowing where everything is, even if you never go there yourself.

Then I was walking back to my car (yes, I drove -- lazy me) with my groceries on my head (easier than in my arms, plus it makes people stop and look) and ran into one of my colleagues (wearing her "publish and perish" t-shirt, which I covet, along with Alex's "I'm blogging this" shirt -- even though I don't wear t-shirts most days). She was there with her family to enjoy some free music being played in the central town square. Two more coolness points: running into people, and a public space where people actually gather.

Moreover, the festivities turned out to be "Dairy Day" -- complete with real calves, three dairy princesses, and a person dressed up as a cow. (One adorable little boy kept toddling after the cow saying "Cow!") Add in a bunch of little boys catching fish out of the river, old people nodding on the benches, and moms buying their kids fresh milkshakes, and you get a wonderful sort of small town experience.

Then, as I'm continuing on to my car, I run into the woman from the grocery again. She recognizes me, and asks for directions to a pay phone -- so I send her to the library. Such neat circularity. And, as I said to her as she walked away, "Small town life -- gotta love it!"

And, College Town being as small as it is, if any of my colleagues are reading this blog, they will have no doubt as to what College Town's real name is, and probably wouldn't have to work too hard to figure out who I am in turn. Oh well. The story isn't as cool without the details left in, so I'm willing to take the risk.

posted by Rana | 6/12/2003 06:03:00 PM Permalink


Re-Envisioning, Redux

I've finally gotten around to checking out the links on "Re-envisioning the PhD" -- being on campus with a fast connection is really helpful! Here's what I found (this round I've limited myself to sites that address the "post-academic" situation, plus any that look too good or quirky to pass up).

The first link I followed was Dottie and Jane's Adventures: Out of Academia! (Warning: annoying pop-ups!) Verdict? Not enough meat, too much cheese. The accounts of how Dottie and Jane decided to leave grad school are disgustingly breezy and vague in the details (except as far as Dottie learning how to drive a moving truck -- yee haw). The links under "Resources" don't look too bad, though; someone may find something useful here. They promised a section on interviews with "ex-academics" but, whadda ya know, there's nothing there, even though this site's been up since 2000. Pass...

Next thing on the list that caught my eye: "Escape Pod for Humanities Ph.D.'s", which has been closed down. We are redirected to So What Are You Going to Do with That: The Complete Guide to Post-Academic Careers. More pop-ups... Hmm... this site seems mostly intended to shill books. Let's look at the resources -- oh, look, here's Dottie and Jane again! Pass...

Moving on to Sellout, which presents itself as "A resource for PhDs considering careers beyond the university." No pop-ups -- a good sign! Lessee... FAQs about the ins-and-outs of going from academe to industry, list of successful transferees (including Car Talk host Tom Magliozzi!), articles, links that look practical, a sense of humor... Emphasis is on entry into IT jobs, but a lot of this would be useful elsewhere too. Verdict: Worth a visit.

Next up... A Yellow Wood: Diverging Career Pathways for Humanities PhDs. Ew, icky site design. Too much yellow! However, the "Travelogs" and "Paths" sections could be helpful; the former is brief stories of how people found employment in a non-academic field, and the latter describes some of the possible career options available. The other links are less helpful; they cover information (such as job clearinghouse sites like Monster) that could be found more readily elsewhere. A slight bias towards Lit & Lang folks, less for those of us in History (which always seems to fall between the two stools of Humanities and Social Sciences). Verdict: not a bad place for exploring alternatives, but it doesn't offer much in the way of practical strategies.

Finally, let's take a look at Ivory Doghouse. More pop-ups. (Damn geocities!) Opens with this promising remark: "I would not presume to tell anyone not to get an arts or humanities Ph.D., if that's what you really, really want to do. But don't do what many of us did. Do it with your eyes open. If you dream of being a professor, have a realistic idea of what your prospects are for academic employment -- and have a backup plan." "Readings" is good -- includes links to sites that offer a good mix of resources, state of the job market pieces, warning stories and ones explaining why staying in academia is not a bad idea. "Research" and "Societies" and "Academic Labor" are also solid; all offer links for organizations studying and addressing the problems of the academic job market. "Societies" is especially interesting in that it is intended to provide field-specific analyses of the issue. "Advice and Moral Support" is also useful, but it suffers from age; the Doghouse is copyrighted 2000-2001, so none of our beloved bloggers make an appearance. Still, not a bad list, and definitely the right attitude. Verdict: very solid, worth a visit -- then follow up with the likes of Invisible Adjunct, Baraita and Caveat Lector.

posted by Rana | 6/12/2003 01:33:00 PM Permalink


And There Was Much Rejoicing!

And not that weak pitiful "yea..." that goes with that quote. Invisible Adjunct is BACK! Her site's looking a bit odd while she recreates her template, but the content is there and that's the most important thing. YAY!

posted by Rana | 6/12/2003 10:39:00 AM Permalink

Wednesday, June 11, 2003



A crow dives
From the roof past my window
The trees ripple in the wind
Like grass in a field
A person dressed all in red
On a red moped
Speeds by.

posted by Rana | 6/11/2003 01:26:00 PM Permalink


Grad School Lowers Self-Esteem!

Yeah, I know this isn't a real news flash, at least not to most of you who visit F&R and other blogs on the academics' circuit. It does seem to become the hot topic of the moment, however. Naomi Chana I believe gets the big credit with her piece "Graduate School, by Victor Hugo" but people like Michelle over at Phlebas and Cindy at making contact have added useful comments of their own. And then there are all the people posting comments in response here and at those sites. As Cindy noted, it's a terrible time for Invisible Adjunct to be experiencing server errors. I guess we'll just have to muddle along as best we can until she's relocated.

Mike, of Yet Another Damn Blog, posted a response to Naomi's piece in which he enumerated key factors in his own disaffection. I'm feeling inspired by his example, and have a desire to see if I can make things make more sense to me than they have been. As always, I make no pretensions that what I come up with is applicable to anyone beyond myself, but maybe others will get something out of it nonetheless.

So... let's see...

Pre-existing factors:

**Moving around fairly frequently as a kid, thus always being the new kid and somewhat unsure of my place.

**Being a skinny gawky kid after about age 6, then glasses added around age 14, bad acne, etc. etc. Not the best way to be popular, most places, even without the new kid factor.

**Being assessed as "gifted" at an early age, leading to the following relevant side effects: love of school, assumption that I would always be "the smart one," adoption of intelligence as my primary noteworthy trait (see skinny, acne, glasses, etc. to see why this was a desirable option). A less-positive side effect is hostility to being told what to do and being "talked down to" by people I perceive as equals or inferiors.

**Being very adult-oriented; for all of the above reasons, I did and still do look for authority figures for approval, assessment, etc. (This is not across the board, however; I have learned that one of my less attractive personality traits is a sneering contempt for authority figures who fail to fulfill the requirements of that role -- a teacher who knows less than I do about the subject they're teaching me, for example.)

**As a result of all of the above, a reluctance to admit ignorance and/or ask for help. Add in a dose of stubborness and some shyness, and you get someone who will doggedly slog away at something the hard way even though an easier way might well exist, if one only asked.

So, in a nutshell -- we have a kid who rarely felt like she fit in or was praiseworthy except when she was being a good student and doing smart things, and who was used to doing things on her own (and occasionally with equally misfit friends).

Now, combine this with various (I believe intrinsic) aspects of grad school:

**It is difficult and complicated, both in terms of the work and in terms of the administrative hoops you need to jump through (often in a particular order). This is a situation that demands a good understanding of all of the variables, but many of them are not easy to discover.

**Advisors often are not equipped to provide such understanding, whether because they are busy, don't know the answers, are playing games with you, don't think to ask what you need help with, have too many advisees, are burned out, are simply jerks... etc.

**Academia (at least in the humanities) is structured around three main approaches to knowledge (by which I mean interpretations of data more than data itself) -- amassing it, tearing it apart, and creating it. Amassing it is time-consuming and hard, especially if the material or approaches are new to you. This is, however, somewhat expected, and can be quite rewarding if the material is interesting; I believe that many people focus on this when they think of grad school. Tearing it apart is trickier, but one gets very good at it. In fact, as Tim Burke has noted in "Should You Go to Grad School," this can become a lifelong habit. Having torn something apart, you are then encouraged to develop something to replace it -- which gets torn apart in turn. In short -- tearing things apart is an essential part of grad school in the humanities, and quickly becomes a habit that can carry over into other aspects of your life.

**Praise is irregular at best, indifference or simple acceptance is common, hostility and denigration exist and can be particularly devastating. Remember that grad school involves tearing things apart for a living. Applying this skill to students' work, and to students themselves, can be a predictable result. Indifference to or acceptance of accomplishments (by which I mean that hard work and brilliance are viewed as unexceptional) encourages students to adopt the attitude that they are average at best, since their accomplishments are viewed as nothing out of the ordinary. Praise, therefore, has to work upstream to have an effect, and that effect is often short-lived.

**Insularity encourages students to believe that these conditions are normal.

To sum up, grad school requires help to get through, but the help, while probably available, is not obviously so. The culture of grad school in the humanities encourages the adoption of a mindset in which 110% is only average, and all work -- including one's own -- is imperfect and vulnerable to attack. Countervailing forces exist, but are not strong enough to challenge this culture; indeed, praise may even be viewed through that same sceptical lens and thus discounted as well-meaning ignorance.
Now, add the personality traits I described with these aspects of graduate school. To a bright scholarly person whose identity revolves around those traits, grad school would seem to be an ideal match. In some ways it is -- it demands full use of those talents and gives them room to grow. In this regard, I found grad school intensely rewarding; when I am researching, writing and talking with colleagues about ideas and projects, I feel the same. But... (and you sensed a "but" was coming, didn't you?)

If that same person is used to believing that her value rests on being one of the best students, on being the person who gets the right answers and is praised by teachers for doing so, to learn that she is ordinary at best in that regard is disconcerting to say the least. If then you add in a culture that says even the best is not enough, that even the best will be dissected and chewed up and spit out as unworthy, how could such a person not despair? At the very least, such a person will carry scars from the experience, even if later she finds a new source of self esteem; at the worst, even that new source will never go unquestioned, both because the first source was proven imperfect, and because she has been trained to be sceptical of perfection and to seek out its hidden flaws.

And all of this is, of course, even before she goes on the market and tests her worthiness against others'.

I am wryly amused to note that I shifted into the third person by the end of this. Too painful to deal with? A desire to universalize my experience after all? See: here's tearing apart in action -- I can't turn it off, even when (especially when?) talking about my own life.

posted by Rana | 6/11/2003 01:00:00 PM Permalink


And We're Back

The frogs and ravens have finally worked their magic on the template and we are up and running again. There are even some new links!

It also seems that there is some activity over at Invisible Adjunct's at last; I believe we are witnessing the transition to a new server -- let's cross our fingers that all goes smoothly!

posted by Rana | 6/11/2003 10:09:00 AM Permalink

Tuesday, June 10, 2003


Having A Day

Why is Blogger doing weird things with my template? Why did it wipe out all of the formatting info and my links? Why?

(There must be bad vibes in the air or sun spots or something... mutter, mutter... hit keyboard too hard, as if that would accomplish anything...)

The links will be recreated in the next day or so -- I'm not up to fighting my way through dial-up right now: the utter essence of slow.

posted by Rana | 6/10/2003 05:43:00 PM Permalink


Dr. Rana, Please

An article in The Chronicle today raises the question of how students should address their professors. I've wrestled with this issue myself. I've had a few classes where the students called me "Rana" but that didn't work out well because some students were uncomfortable with that level of informality. Before long some students were calling me "Rana" and others stayed with "Dr. Rana" or "Professor Rana" and it felt like a weird hierarchy had developed.

I'm also starting to get old enough that it feels weird having first years -- especially ones I don't get to know very well -- see me on campus and yell out "Hi, Rana! What up?" This is particularly awkward when I'm talking with a senior faculty member whose respect I'm trying to earn, or when I've had several people in a row that day mistake me for a student. (I'm not one, but I play one on tv...)

So... Professor or Doctor? (You notice that I don't include Ms. Rana or Miss Rana. The latter is again too juvenile and reeks of spinsterhood, and Ms. Rana is okay outside the classroom but feels like a slight dis inside somehow. I'm not sure why. )

My preference is for Dr. Rana, both because I like how it sounds and because it is an accurate title. "Professor" always produces a little voice in my head saying "It's Assistant Professor!" -- though not (I believe) from feelings of inferiority. Rather, I'm a person who likes to know and use the exact names of things if they exist (otherwise I'm happy to make some up). I've been an instructor, a reader, a teaching assistant, and a visiting assistant professor, but never a professor. (Of course, by this logic, I might one day find myself wanting to be called "Full Professor Rana," which would be both snobby and imply that I'd just had a big lunch.)

On the other hand, "Dr. Rana" is vulnerable to charges of being hoity-toity -- "Look at me! I have a degree! Aren't I so special!" What to do... pick the title I like which carries connotations of superiority, or accept the title that conveys respect and authority but which bothers me because of the inaccuracy?

Someone once said that neurotic people are that way because they have too much mental computing power to handle everyday thinking loads -- basically the machinery spins around and around making much out of little. I think this may well be an example of that in action!

posted by Rana | 6/10/2003 02:24:00 PM Permalink


Looking Both Ways Before Crossing the Street

Michelle has a knack for phrasing questions in a way that makes me want to write really long comments and then hijack them for my own blog. Today she was writing about the phenomenon -- common to grad school -- by which otherwise smart, capable people come to believe that they are 'frauds" who only appear competent on the surface. (This was in response to Naomi Chana's post today about trying to address that problem -- another very good post you should read!)

My initial thought, reading this, was that part of this may be because graduate school is the place for many people where the big-fish-meeting-other-big-fish experience first happens. I remember that all through elementary and high school I had the (often smug, but more simply unthinking) certainty of being smart, "gifted," etc. Indeed, it became a real part of my concept of self; I might have been the new kid a lot, or the girl with the glasses, or the gawky one, etc., but I was always smart and thus able to find acceptance at least in that way.

This attitude managed to remain intact during college (when I was surrounded by equally bright people, and some geniuses) in part because my professors helped reinforce this belief, and because my friends used their intellects at least as much for fun as for anything. Then grad school...

Now, most of the people there did not make me feel stupid. I have a lot of friends from graduate school -- including some professors. But some did make me feel dumb. This was not an experience I'd never had before, but for perhaps the first time this evaluation was made by people I believed had the authority to pass such judgements. In other words, they had the power to make such an assessment a matter of fact (or at least of persuasive argument), rather than merely opinion.

In some ways I think it's like my experience going to Australia and learning to deal with the different traffic patterns. We drive on the right; they on the left. For pedestrians new to the country, this can be unnerving when you get ready to cross a busy street. At first you figure out that you should look in the direction that feels "wrong" in order to be correct. After a while you realize that both feel equally correct and wrong, and you simply muddle along, following the lead of fellow pedestrians and looking both ways. If you stay in the country long enough, you might develop a new sense of "correct" and reflexes to go with it.

But here's the kicker, no matter what happens and how well you adapt. You can never take the "correct way" for granted ever again. Every time you cross a street, there will always be the tiniest little sliver of doubt, even if you try to ignore it. So too with having an essential part of your identity called into question. It may remain part of you, and may even be the most important part, but it will never again be a part beyond question.

Thus -- academics and postacademics, having learned that all knowledge and assumptions can be questioned, and to be sceptical towards certainty, end up doing the same number on their very sense of self and self-worth. Yikes!

{edit} I was re-reading Naomi's post, and this sentence caught my eye: "But an awful lot of them -- not necessarily the ones who haven't "succeeded" in academia, either -- an awful lot of them spent or are spending much of grad school in a state of moderate-to-utter misery, convinced that at any moment the entire ivory tower might give voice: 'You are a dunce and have no business being here!'" My first year of grad school, in the spring (the harshest season, somehow), I worked myself into heart palpitations and anxiety attacks while working on a research paper for a seminar. When I got the paper back from the professor leading that seminar, I looked at her comments on it. To my dismay and great distress, she said -- outright, if in somewhat different words -- exactly that.

Oddly, though, this proved a strange source of strength through later struggles (how's that for alliteration?)-- I disliked her so much I just had to prove her wrong. I'd like to think that I've succeeded!

posted by Rana | 6/10/2003 11:35:00 AM Permalink


A New Kind of Graduate School

Dorothea offers an alternative to the standard approach to grad school -- a per class basis in conjunction with the usual onward-to-degree approach.

Having just completed a GIS workshop at our college that was an utter BLAST I really like this idea. I think she's correct in thinking that there is a real untapped market here...

posted by Rana | 6/10/2003 11:08:00 AM Permalink

Sunday, June 08, 2003


Re-Envisioning the PhD?

I just found this site via one of the columns on career change at the Chronicle of Higher Ed. It is called Re-Envisioning the PhD. This particular subpage, Ph.D. Career Resources looks interesting. It's late and I don't have time to explore it now, but I'll take a look and see if there's anything useful here.

posted by Rana | 6/08/2003 09:08:00 PM Permalink


A Reminder about Comments

In case you missed the comments advisory following the commenting fiasco, here's the deal with the two comments links currently appearing. (If you only see one, and I've not yet posted a note of explanation, hit reload -- sometimes the connection gets lost because of the overlapping systems.)

The one on the left, in no-caps, is hosted by enetation. This is the NEW system, and the one you should use if no thread has yet started.

The one on the right, reading (hopefully) "No Comments," or appearing in Capitalized form, belongs to squawkbox. I will be taking out the code for this service when all active threads using it are archived. So, please, don't post on this link unless a thread is already in progress.

If you posted a comment before this to the wrong service, I have moved your comment over to the enetation version of the thread so that it will not be lost during the changeover.

Again, sorry for the confusion!

posted by Rana | 6/08/2003 08:26:00 PM Permalink


Another Academic Link

(I don't know how Invisible Adjunct does this regularly and manages to add insightful comments, too!)

Kevin Walzer's blog is now safely relocated to a new home (though the comments don't seem to be working yet), and has useful things to say about adjuncting. He speculates, among other things, about what would happen if adjuncts simply decided to leave en masse. I don't see it happening anytime soon, given that there are still so many who haven't had their fill of frustration waiting in the wings, but it's interesting to think about.

posted by Rana | 6/08/2003 08:19:00 PM Permalink



It seems that the past few days have been more about posting links to other sites than coming up with my own ideas. Partly, it's because there is so much out there (and the fact that I'm finding it all suggests I need to spend less time online) that is good and worth sharing.

The larger issue is that my life is currently boring. I did finish my test corset but don't have the energy somehow to drag the sewing machine back out to work on the "real" one or even to make a tunic I need for an SCA event I'm attending next month. (Not my usual thing -- I have trouble sticking with one hobby long enough to get into it on the level that most SCAdians do -- but I have a friend I don't get to see much, and it's one place where she and I can meet and talk before I move out of the area.)

I should be taking time to work on chapter revisions and book review, but I keep getting distracted. I think I need to stop staying up so late and getting up so late -- it's really whacked out my sense of time. I did manage to pull together an application for a late-hour academic position posting (though the job's not to start until 2004) and send it off -- yay, me. There's also going to be a GIS workshop this week that I'm attending; should be fun -- I'll try to remember some details to share.

I did think about going back to my old journals from grad school and comparing my observations then with my sense of it now. My thought is that it would help me make more sense of what the experience was like, and to reflect on the stories I want to tell myself about my life and self as a scholar and historian. Unfortunately, those particular years seem to be stored at my parents' and thus inaccessible. It would be an interesting exercise, though, so maybe I'll try to visit my parents at home this summer (if I can afford it) and dig through the boxes in the garage.

I am also looking forward to the whole experience of finding new housing and employment. Well, let me rephrase that. I'm not entirely thrilled by the work each will entail or the insecurity that will prevail unless I am successful. But in terms of self-exploration and ethnological observation, I can't help but think that this will provide rich blogging fodder. Mwah!

Well, look at that. I managed to find something of my own to write about after all.

posted by Rana | 6/08/2003 05:01:00 PM Permalink



There's a good post over at Gallowglass in response to Tim Burke's essay on consistency and public discourse.

posted by Rana | 6/08/2003 04:50:00 PM Permalink


Think Happy Thoughts!

IA's server is not working! AAHH! Let's all send good "get back to work" vibes to the system! We need our Invisible Adjunct!

posted by Rana | 6/08/2003 12:40:00 PM Permalink


Somehow I Missed This One

Jennifer Stone Gonzalez (wonderful name, by the way) wrote an interesting essay called "Four Steps to Succeeding Outside the Ivory Tower" for Salon back in 1999 (the year I got my degree in fact).

She writes:

"At first, having a doctorate proved to be an albatross. Out on the streets, my new one-page r�sum� in hand, I appeared to be overqualified for every job possibly open to me. I looked where I thought my skills in analysis and critical thinking might be put to good use -- in marketing, public relations, government, public policy, print journalism, cable television and corporate communications. Potential employers couldn't see how my academic expertise transferred to the "real world." It didn't help that I carried around a vague sense of guilt about somehow disappointing my graduate school mentors, people who, in fact, had neither the connections nor the desire to help me find employment in the non-academic world.

"In the business world, you succeed through networking, since the most important information flows through people, not texts. Having hung around almost exclusively with other academics for a decade, I had to create a non-academic network from scratch...."

Hmm. Sounds familiar!

Later on she continues,

"To do well, I had to put my Ph.D. and all its attendant ideology aside. Gradually, I figured out how to communicate with new co-workers, and let them see my skills on their terms. My corporate colleagues liked having me on projects because I could help "drive to the goal line." I was "problem-solution oriented," "audience-centered" and "customer-focused." For them, my extensive reading of critical theory and cultural studies was irrelevant. Everything I had done to pay my dues in graduate school appeared unnecessary and insignificant -- except for one crucial fact: I had spent several years thinking hard, exercising my mind into a taut little muscle."

(I love that last phrase.)

There's more, and it's good, and reading it I feel an enormous sense of dej� vu -- it's all there: the importance of networking, learning how to sell oneself, the issue of self-criticism, figuring out how to adapt to a new culture, and so on. (She even writes, "the business world is the thinker's Mount Everest" -- anticipating my mountain metaphor years in advance.)

So how did I miss this when it first came out?

(Thanks to All Day Permanent Red for linking to me and thus calling my attention to his site where I found the link to this article. Ahh... the blogosphere! Now, THERE'S networking!)

posted by Rana | 6/08/2003 12:28:00 PM Permalink

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