Frogs and Ravens 1.0

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Saturday, December 20, 2003

Away for a While  

I'm leaving to visit my parents for Christmas and New Years. See you when I get back!

posted by Rana | 12/20/2003 01:23:00 PM Permalink

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Everybody's Doing It  

So here's my result from the color quiz:

you are lightskyblue

Your dominant hues are cyan and blue. You like people and enjoy making friends. You're conservative and like to make sure things make sense before you step into them, especially in relationships. You are curious but respected for your opinions by people who you sometimes wouldn't even suspect.

Your saturation level is lower than average - You don't stress out over things and don't understand people who do. Finishing projects may sometimes be a challenge, but you schedule time as you see fit and the important things all happen in the end, even if not everyone sees your grand master plan.

Your outlook on life is bright. You see good things in situations where others may not be able to, and it frustrates you to see them get down on everything.
the html color quiz

What's interesting about this is that the last paragraph (brightness) seems to vary with my mood, while the color blend and the saturation remain consistent. Not a surprise, certainly, but interesting nonetheless.

posted by Rana | 12/18/2003 01:36:00 PM Permalink

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Academia vs. Survivor  

I'm not a long-term die-hard fan of Survivor but this season D. and I found ourselves caught up in the drama taking place in the Pearl Islands. At the end I was sufficiently curious to track down a description of the application process for would-be Survivors.

Ya know what? It doesn't look much worse than the academic job market! Doing a 3-minute video seems easy-peasy compared to a one-hour teaching video. Explaining which Survivor one is most like is not that far from answering the question, "Which theorists have influenced your work?" Going in for a mental and physical evaluation if invited to the interview couldn't be much worse than interviewing at the AHA. Willingness to be flown in to an unknown location where you will find yourself interacting with total strangers under tense, intimate conditions? Gee, sounds like being prepared to move to a college in a small rural town in a part of the country you'd normally avoid.

Here's the kicker, though: the odds of success are probably about the same, and while both can in theory lead to national fame and a million dollars, Survivor is over in less than two months and while physically challenging, probably has less long-term impact on one's self-esteem (at least to judge by the people on the show this season).


posted by Rana | 12/17/2003 06:25:00 PM Permalink

The Trouble with On-line Polls  

Is that it is virtually impossible to screen who answers them. It's also hard to tell who those responders are -- who knows if they're using their real names!

If you're feeling mischievous, you might want to pop on over to this poll (link courtesy of yami at green gabbro), especially since the American Family Association is only "pro-family" in the most limited sense.

posted by Rana | 12/17/2003 02:01:00 PM Permalink

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Little Bits of Paper  

I just received my brand-spanking-new membership card for the American Association of Museums.


posted by Rana | 12/16/2003 05:57:00 PM Permalink

Monday, December 15, 2003

Another Silly Blog  

I'm not quite how to describe Hitherby Dragons beyond "bizarre" and "highly amusing" and "unlike any of the other blogs in my list."

Enjoy, all you grading people and avoiders of work!

posted by Rana | 12/15/2003 05:31:00 PM Permalink

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Commenting Update  

Observe my updated FAQs about the enetation comment service. I still don't fully understand what is up with it these days, but the long and short of it is that there are often comments even when they are not listed at the end of the post and even sometimes when they don't show up in the comment window.

So... if you see a post you're interested in, check out the comments even if nothing seems to have been posted. If the window's empty, try either (a) re-loading the window (if your browser permits it -- Explorer seems perfectly happy to do so, but iCab isn't) or (b) clicking on the "master server" link below the commenting box. If it's there (and sometimes it isn't -- also mystifying) it will reveal all the current comments. If you post a comment yourself and it doesn't automatically appear among the posted comments, doing (a) or (b) will allow you to confirm that it was indeed posted, eliminating double-posting.

posted by Rana | 12/11/2003 01:20:00 PM Permalink

A Question  

Those of you who've switched from Blogger to TypePad, how did it go? Do you like the new service? Were there any glitches? What would you have done differently? Were you able to transfer your archives to the new server, and was it easy or hard?

(I'm thinking of asking for a TypePad subscription for Christmas, but since that raises the probability of my family wanting to actually _see_ what they're paying for, I want to know if it'd be worth it.)

It's the idea of integrated comments and the ability to post pictures that appeals to me, along with the perhaps mistaken belief that a popular system is likely to stick around longer, that's making me lean toward TypePad. If there's another hosting system that seems to fit this description, I'd like to hear about it too.

posted by Rana | 12/11/2003 11:10:00 AM Permalink


It is cold and blustery outside. The eucalyptus and pine and other trees I can see from my window are being blown and buffeted about by the wind. There may be rain, too; it's hard to see from here.

Unfortunately, I am out of milk.

Given that I can't eat breakfast without it nor indulge my tea-drinking habit in its most pleasurable form (hot tea, then sugar, then milk to cool), I need milk!

The place I like to get milk is the local independent grocery. It's a tiny affair, but it's trying to be both upscale and homey and "of the neighborhood," so I like to support it. Usually, too, the walk to the grocery is a pleasant thing -- just the right length and meandering along several streets with appealing houses and yards.

In bad weather* the walk is bound to be less pleasant. Yet, given that it is only about 4-5 blocks long, driving would be silly. What to do...

I guess I'll wrap myself in my PNW raingear and make an expedition of it. Could be fun, and the toast and hot milky tea when I get back may be all the more enjoyable for it.

*On the one hand, I feel like I should apologize to all of those enduring snow and freezing rain and other unpleasantries for daring to call our wind and rain "bad weather." On the other hand, I hate wind and cold, and my blood is thin. So there!

posted by Rana | 12/11/2003 11:06:00 AM Permalink

A PhD Is Not A Form of Vocational Training  

I'm not sure who first wrote that phrase, but it is an interesting one. It comes from the comment thread for Invisible Adjunct's post "Life Outside the Academic History Box". I've been reading this discussion with interest, as I am currently in the process of re-tooling that Alexandra Lord and Julie Taddeo's site Beyond Academe (see sidebar) is meant to address (and, indeed, was one of the beta testers of her site).

I have to say I agree both with Timothy Burke and Lexi Lord, the main debaters, who I think are arguing from different sides of the problem: the phrase "a PhD is not a form of vocational training" sums it up perfectly, I believe.

Lexi on the one hand asks what to say to those people who went through a doctoral program and came out only to discover the truth of that statement. She suggests what Tim characterizes as a "salvage operation" should instead be viewed more positively; that her site is intended to give people with doctorates in history hope that their degrees will be of use in a variety of interesting, exciting fields. In other words, she argues that the doctorate can be re-jiggered to meet the needs of a variety of vocations.

Tim attacks the problem from the other side of the equation, wondering why this re-jiggering is left up to the PhDs after they leave their programs. He worries that a site like Lexi's allows departments to go on believing that their doctoral programs do indeed provide a solid grounding for a variety of careers (which, perhaps ironically, those leading these programs know little about personally and don't seem to wish to).

I'd say that both are right, but also talking somewhat past each other. I think Lexi at times mistakenly reads Tim's comments as hostile to the PhDs who are her intended audience; my sense of his position is more that it is aimed at prevention of more such unprepared PhDs than attacking current ones. She is correct, though, that an argument like his CAN (note, I say can, not should) be read as damaging to those PhDs in that pointing out such failures to prepare doctoral students for a variety of careers can lead said PhDs to imagine that the failure is their own personal one. However, this is not what I believe Tim meant.

Tim, for his part, is arguing (as I read it) that the failure is an institutional one and that talking about alternative careers provides comfort to those who don't want to acknowledge that the disjunct between graduate training in history and the skills needed for jobs outside academia can be quite large. In this he is like Lexi in seeing the implications of the other's position for an audience other than the one intended.

If Tim is to be faulted for not thinking about how his line of argument (addressing institutional failure and addressed at those currently running graduate programs) might affect PhDs failed by their programs, Lexi should also be faulted for the way her line of argument (addressing those PhDs and showing them ways in which they can make their graduate experience a positive rather than a negative asset outside academia) can comfort complacent departments as well as her intended audience.

I have to say that, while I am grateful for Lexi's work in the short run (and personally) as I re-tool myself into a museum curator or some such, in the long run I am with Tim on this.

As those of you who read this blog regularly know, my own situation has made this debate one of deeply personal significance. I do think I was failed by my department, though not out of any ill will. Rather, virtually no one was able to envision a career outside of academia, so there were no classes offered to train me in the ins and outs of how such careers might operate. Nor were there arrangements to work with other institutions that might be able to provide such training.

Possible examples: Internships with museums such as those offered by art history programs. Work-study in the library with research librarians rather than just TA-ships. Junior editorial positions helping journal editors. Research internships with non-profits. Collaboration with local newspapers and periodicals in which graduate students write articles on historical topics. Internships with researchers in media who need historical background. Work with Hollywood on research for all those historical period pieces. And so on.

I used to rail about how departments did a woeful job preparing us to teach (it was all research, research, research when I was in grad school -- teaching skills were learned in the classroom and in outside workshops I tracked down). Now many of them do indeed offer courses in syllabi design, classroom management, etc. (Not in response to my complaints, obviously, but in recognition that researchers who couldn't teach were unlikely to be hired in academia.) So there is not a lack of precedent, nor of need -- it is a lack of will and imagination (and perhaps simple denial that one is a rat on a possibly sinking ship).

It's good that Lexi and Tim are hashing this out; Lexi offers that outside perspective, while Tim demonstrates the will and interest in letting it in. If these two perspectives can be combined and result in larger transformations of graduate school -- so that a doctorate is indeed a vocational credential in the career sense as well as the spiritual or personal sense -- there will be far fewer folks like me falling into the cracks and having to fight our way out.

posted by Rana | 12/11/2003 10:20:00 AM Permalink

Really Good Grad School Advice  

The comments to "Jane Bast, Undeterred" over at Invisible Adjunct are really good and astoundingly thoughtful -- particularly after Jane herself shows up and begins to ask questions. If you've any interest in grad school (either going, currently attending, or having been) I do recommend you stop by. It's the most thoughtful discussion of the subject I think I've seen (and I've seen a lot).

posted by Rana | 12/11/2003 09:28:00 AM Permalink

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Ah, Hell  

Writing boring posts is no fun. And I felt physically ill yesterday after trying not to think about things that worry me so I wouldn't be tempted to blog about them. (You know, I would not be all that surprised if I learned that Blogger and Typepad and all the rest have a satellite beaming "you must go blog now" rays at all of us.) Add in a visit to an online Tarot site (yeah, yeah -- but it's a Zen Tarot site) that had Every. Single. Card. turning up a "dare to be vulnerable and trusting" message, and I guess I'm back. Whee!

posted by Rana | 12/10/2003 07:47:00 AM Permalink

Tuesday, December 09, 2003


I hate the work I am currently doing now, namely scheduling students for classes. It is fussy and for each schedule that goes through smoothly there are five that do not. Only 43 more minutes to go...

Plus my upper back is tight and unhappy. I suspect I'm repressing stress and that's the only outlet it has at the moment.

posted by Rana | 12/09/2003 05:18:00 PM Permalink

Market Research  

Market research may be a good option for some post-academics.

According to the person I interviewed, it is a job that favors those able to collect, analyze and explain data. You need to be comfortable with people, whether potential consumers or clients. Being able to entertain both while collecting your data is useful.

Hours can be flexible, if you freelance, or you can opt for security, if you work in-house. Large industrial cities are the best places to find work. Interning and/or taking classes in the field or in advertising is a good idea.

posted by Rana | 12/09/2003 12:38:00 PM Permalink

Sunday, December 07, 2003


Well, it seems an old friend has managed to piece together enough from my posts to figure out who I am (hi, J.R.). I haven't quite decided what effect this will have on this blog. On the one hand, what has made this blog worth writing is that the posts are real and, if not uncensored, at least an honest look into the ups and downs of my life. On the other, what makes it possible to do so is the comfort of anonymity and the concurrent implication that I won't have to deal with potential blowback in my actual life.

What J.'s discovery means is that I've been putting enough into these posts that someone I haven't seen in years and who I didn't tell about this blog was still able to figure out who I am in real life. Be prepared, therefore, if this blog becomes more impersonal -- I will still keep writing about things I care about and some daily activities, but I don't know if I want to keep posting my heart on my sleeve if I'm not able to prevent recognition by people who can directly affect me as me -- and J's email was a wake-up call that I'm not.

posted by Rana | 12/07/2003 04:02:00 PM Permalink

Friday, December 05, 2003

Random Question  

If you are reading something while listening to the radio, which gets tuned out? For me, text takes priority; if I see something I have to read it (or, more accurately, I do read it, with no conscious volition), while I find it pretty easy to ignore aural input (indeed, I often have to close my eyes in order to pay attention to purely audio input). In the worst scenarios I literally hear nothing while reading; I've gotten better over the years, but this provided my family with much entertainment and frustration when I was a kid.

So I'm wondering what other folks' experience with this has been. Thoughts?

It occurs to me that there may be a third category, that being people for whom touch is the primary sense. I can't speak to it personally, though.

posted by Rana | 12/05/2003 01:14:00 PM Permalink

More Fun with Referrals  

call tutor now from rana academy

things to do with RED FROGS lick

crochet stuffed frog pattern

geography phd job

I remain astounded by the number of people who search using one-word phrases like "frog" or "ravens." Dang, people, how time-consuming that must be!

Even more astonishing: my blog is on page 2 at google for the first, page 1 for the second. Who'da thunk it?

posted by Rana | 12/05/2003 12:54:00 PM Permalink

One of Those Mornings  

A nice cup of tea
Goes a long way
When it is tipped
Off the edge of the table
Onto the floor
Where it bounces
When I am late for work.

posted by Rana | 12/05/2003 08:21:00 AM Permalink

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Advice I Don't Heed  

Dear Self,

No matter how much you think you deserve to read some fun fiction mid-week before bed, don't. Or at least restrict yourself to short stories.

Oh, my head.

What's particularly pathetic here is that I "only" stayed up until midnight. Unfortunately, by Wednesday creeping sleep debt begins to catch up with me, so I can't really spare time for not-sleeping after 10pm. And then there was the neighbor's cat, who kept waking me up... all in all, last night was not a good night for sleep. Though this morning would have been great for snuggling in -- *sigh*

posted by Rana | 12/04/2003 02:44:00 PM Permalink

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Where is everyone?  

No comments for a while -- is everyone busy, or just bored?

posted by Rana | 12/03/2003 05:13:00 PM Permalink

Informational Interview  

This week I had the opportunity to participate in a focus group and had a blast. I also discovered that directing one seems a lot like leading a good student brainstorming session. So, in a spasm of networking, I asked the director if we could arrange an informational interview to learn more about this kind of work.

(I have no problems talking with or asking for advice from strangers in person or via email; I intensely dislike doing so over the phone, especially if it is a cold call. Any good advice on how to get over this?)

So: what questions shall I ask? I'm figuring that since this my first such interview, it's good that it's in a field I've not given too much thought too -- if it proves useless, I won't feel upset. I'm also thinking that it may be good practice for similar interviews with people in fields I have been contemplating, namely museum work.

So far I have the following list:

Why did you choose this career?

What was your path into it? Do you recommend that path? If not, what would you have done differently? (And perhaps: my background seems very different from yours -- do you think this is something that would be a problem? If so, how might I address the issue?)

What would you look for in a candidate if you were hiring someone for a position like yours? What would you want to avoid?

Can you walk me through the responsibilities your job entails? How do they fit together?

What things about your job would you like to change? How? Why? What things do you like about it? Why?

Where do you suggest I go to learn more about this profession?

Where would be a good place to learn about job openings in this field?

Anything I missed?

posted by Rana | 12/03/2003 12:49:00 PM Permalink

Tuesday, December 02, 2003


Last night D. came over for dinner. As I was messing around with the vegetables I heard a knock at the door and D.'s voice saying with some alarm that there was a possum on the porch and would I please let him in now?

There was indeed a possum on the porch -- a big one. The "porch" itself is quite small; it's a platform at the top of my stairs that barely admits one person when the door is being opened. The door swings on a hinge on the side away from the stairs, and the possum was on that far corner.

Since having such a creature around when the cat is visiting is not good, I took a broom, intending to gently nudge the possum off the porch (there is a rooftop only a foot away from the edge) but it hunkered down, bared its teeth and hissed. Choosing discretion over being bitten, I retreated. Being curious, I kept peeking out at it (which necessitated opening the door). Eventually I figured out that I could shoo it by sloshing water at it (not on it -- the evening was cold) and it ambled in haste down the stairs.

In some ways its presence should not have been a surprise; a few weeks ago D. had encountered a baby possum in the yard. (D. -- what is it with you and possums?!) Yet having such a strange and large animal on the porch -- in a fairly settled part of town -- was disconcerting. Opossums in general are unsettling animals to look at (I'm sure the were based on possums); seeing one at broomlength in a small space intensifies the effect (to say the least).

I kept talking about it sporadically throughout the evening ("I can't get over the possum!"); as I told D., "I'm going to have to blog about this and get it out of my system." And now I have.

There was a possum on the porch!

posted by Rana | 12/02/2003 08:30:00 AM Permalink

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