Monday, June 28, 2010

Pounding away at the drawing board

To be clear: I am pounding away at the drawing board.  The US soccer team, however, just has to go back to it.  Sigh.  My professional training has made me analytically skeptical and even suspicious of nationalisms of all forms, and yet I always find myself drawn into rooting for the US in international sporting events.  (And I don't even like sports that much, honestly!)  It didn't matter that I could see clearly that Ghana was outplaying us hugely and with tremendous grace, or that everyone knew that the US was mostly out of its league among the other teams in the Group of 16.  I just had to do it, and therefore I just had to feel like crap watching my country's team lose.

At least I can hang my hat on this: Ghana beat the US 2-1, which is an acceptably close game.  England, however, looked like a bunch of fucking idiots, losing to Germany 4-1.  It annoys me that the US seems unsure how to seal the deal whenever they get a striking opportunity, but that's better than talking a lot of shit about your opponent and then getting stomped.

Anyway.  After almost a week of avoiding it nervously, I tackled my article draft anew this morning, and hacked it down to 29 pages.  I feel like this gives me a reasonable amount of room for brief intro and concluding remarks, so I suddenly feel much better about it.  Now I can deal with another existential problem for academic writers: how do I say exactly the same thing in the introduction and conclusion without it appearing to be exactly the same thing?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Video round-up


Item the second: Is Obama losing the smug, self-satisfied bourgeois consumerist war pig capitalist fucks?

Item the third: This is just so bizarre and yet so hipster-smartass mundane at the same time that I'm too dizzy to process it fully as yet.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


  • Sigh.  I sharpened my editorial chef's knife today and cut the article draft down from 52 to 39 pages.  Still too long, and it has neither an introduction nor a conclusion as yet.  Can I get a newbie break on page limits, please?  Pretty please?
  • I actually did something entertaining and social with my Saturday night: a colleague's husband premiered a ballet he choreographed, after which we all went to a party at the house of some of the performers.  I actually hung out eating, drinking, and chatting with people until 3:00AM.  Of course, I feel stretched a little thin today, but it was worth it.  It reminded me of how much I enjoy socializing, and how starved for that I can feel during periods of academic isolation (final diss write-up, summertime, etc.). 
  • I have to tutor a student today, gotta cram in some of the mounting pile of theory readings afterward, and then tonight I'm going for dinner and drinks with some friends. All of this on five hours' sleep.  Gonna be hitting the coffee hard, I fear.
  • The Nationals' new album is full of sad music, but somehow I find it inspiring and bolstering while editing.  Not sure I can listen to music with words while trying to read, but I may give it a shot.  They're helping me through a period of unpleasant editing against my expectations, so who knows what else they may help me achieve?

Friday, June 18, 2010

E-readers: good idea or waste of money?

I met yesterday with another of my committee members, the one whose question during my defense reduced me to stammering idiocy.  Zi is a hardcore devotee of a particularly stream of theory, one which I would like to know better.  (And, judging by hir reactions to my dissertation, zi would also like me to know it better!)  I will spare you the details of our theory chat, except to note that, in hir inimitable fashion, zi managed to kinda-sorta imply that zi would not have allowed me to bring that draft to defense, had zi been my advisor.  (To which I just thought: Ooof!)  But, luckily for me, what's done is done, as Dr. Egojab -- I warned you all that I'm bad at pseudonym invention -- even acknowledged, adding that now I can focus on getting my theoretical knowledge up to speed so that I don't run into worse trouble down the line when I try to publish.

Zi also recommended, in the context of loading me up with theory works to hunt down and study, that I purchase an e-reader, so that I needn't shackle myself to 500 pounds of books when I depart for Research City.  I understand the philosophy of this, and I've even experienced first-hand the misery of shipping serious book poundage home from Research City.  (NB: never use Media Mail unless your boxes are packed as securely and firmly as Fort Knox containers.)  But, after poking around the internet a little, it seems to me that e-readers are a good idea in search of a reason to be.

Specifically, it seems that the big e-readers -- and, in this regard, the iPad is sort of a blinged-out member of the club -- all have various attractive features, but they're not books; they're just the empty containers into which books may be deposited.  And books, in paper or digital format, cost money.  It seems somewhat insulting to me that these companies would have us fork over hundreds of dollars that don't actually include any books I'd want to read.

To compound the insult, digital books look hardly any cheaper than their paper counterparts.  Wasn't part of the rationale of developing this technology that the digital stuff would be cheaper as well as more accessible?  And further compounding the insult -- Amazon may as well be cracking 'your momma' jokes now -- is that, unless you spend a minimum of $500 on an iPad, your e-reader will be a proprietary arm of the merchant that sold it, locked into whatever stock of digitized books that merchant happens to offer.  Postcolonialism and gender theory do not come cheap online, if they're offered as digital merchandise at all.  Social scientists -- and probably almost any kind of academic outside of lit people -- are kind of screwed if they hope to use an e-reader to read books for any serious professional purpose.

By the way, note that this is all a different story if your discipline ignores books in favor of journal articles.  If that's the case, then I would recommend you buy an iPad and rejoice, for lo, it doth enlarge PDF files easily and with great clarity of reproduction.  One of my friends at my school alma mater has an iPad, because 99% of the scholarly works he consults are journal articles that he downloads as PDFs; he speaks of his iPad in quasi-erotic terms of endearment.

I also read a lot of journal articles,  fact which, despite my distaste for the iPad, turns my head in that direction, but I read a fair number of full-length books too.  Hence my quandary.  From what I've gleaned so far, the marketing of this technology is still so hidebound that I may as well just stick with my computer as my e-reader.  Sure, scrolling through PDF pages with a mouse isn't as sexy as stroking a lascivious finger along a touch screen, but the hard drive capacity of my notebook dwarfs even a big iPad, and I'm not convinced that buying any kind of e-reader will grant me any practical access that I don't already have.

So, does any of my readers have some first-hand knowledge of how to navigate these seas?  Have you bought an e-reader, and have you managed to use it fruitfully for work?  Have any hot tips on cheap downloads of recent scholarly works?

Thursday, June 17, 2010


I've set to work on this journal article, in keeping with Dr. Awesome's kind guidance, and now that I've collated and (more or less) streamlined the relevant bits of my diss, I am now faced with the awful prospect of...cutting things.  I know this has to happen, because the draft -- such as it is right now -- is sort of trying to tackle two subjects at once, which doesn't always fly for a modest journal article, and moreover it is currently 52 pages of double-spaced Times 12-point.  I am painfully aware that scholars at my entry-level status do not have good odds of success if they send a journal editor 52 pages of anything.  But I have to work through the instinct to pull the six-shooter from my hip at the suggestion that any of my gorgeously worded and intricately interwoven ideas be removed from the manuscript.  You know what I mean -- the feeling that you would almost put up your dukes rather than admit that something has to go.

I recognize that this instinct is neither rational nor ultimately useful, but it's tough nonetheless.  It's very difficult for me to see the two subjects under discussion in my manuscript as being comprehensible apart from each other, even though I am perfectly aware that many scholars in fields related to mine might not give a goddamn if I only spoke about one of the two.  I've edited a journal issue myself, so I know that I'm not the only one who has to let go of a futile sense of holism for a simple article.  I suppose I just have to find ways to talk about just one of the two things in and of itself, without spinning off into "and this connects to this through this and that and OMFG don't you feel the interconnectedeness of all human knowledge?" madness.  Don't yet know how, though.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Two minutes' hate

I've just seen a fourth apparently sane, apparently adult human being walking around town wearing a pair of running shoes with toes.  I really do not consider this acceptable behavior for a socialized person.  Maybe if he grew up raised by wolves with a fixation on physical exercise.  Maybe.  You want to go running in your super-special toed shoes in order to celebrate the miracle that is hominid evolutionary biology?  Go ahead, knock yourself out.  But take those damn things off afterward and dress yourself with a little concern for not looking like an idiot.  We evolved culture and subjective social standards only a short spell after we evolved the spiffy sprinting feet.  Catch the fuck up.

Monday, June 7, 2010

I feel invigorated today, after a meeting with Dr. Awesome to discuss publication options.  Zi has kindly offered (in the form of a friendly command) to help me prepare and edit a journal article based on parts of my diss.  Since I now have to regard Dr. Chair as a ghost of academia past, it's immensely comforting to me that Awesome can/will still lend a helping hand of guidance.  I have a month to transform diss material into Journal Article #1.  And away I go!

On a side note, I should post here -- for where else would such an observation be more appropriate? -- that I had a minor panic attack last week while setting up today's appointment with Awesome.  I noticed that hir emails were increasingly brief and hard-sounding as we zeroed in on a time and place.  I started feeling all stressed and lachrymose, wondering if I had somehow angered Awesome, and did that mean that zi would now cut me loose, since I'm no longer the charge of anyone in the department?  What would I do for academic guidance?  What would I do??  Where would I go???

And then I realized that I was having a moment of insanity, and I talked myself down.  The emails were increasingly brief because you don't necessarily have to write "My dear Dr. Koshary" in the third email that day about a short appointment with a junior colleague.  Awesome is busy; our appointment was but a small matter in hir day; we're on a first-name basis and don't need to write flowery emails all the time.  (I mean, I certainly have to do that at first to Awesome, but that's power relations for you.) 

What amazed me about this when I was calm again was that I was acting like I'm still a student, anxiously awaiting words of praise from a teacher.  But I'm not a student anymore.  My teachers have become my mentors and senior colleagues.  I can't and shouldn't read all sorts of political and emotional subtexts into one-line emails saying "Let's meet at my office."  I suppose I may have to regain this neurotic habit once I have a tenure-track job, but for now it's just overkill.  Awesome was glad to see me; zi offered me clever and useful advice; and zi did this out of no other obligation than friendship and slightly parental concern for my professional advancement.

Does this mean I can stop being a basketcase now?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Back from mental vacation

Like the title says.  I spent a week blissfully checked out from most of my higher mental faculties after graduation.  I read a book just for pleasure.  I noodled around on the internet.  I slept in. 

But the lotus eater life is not for me in the long term.  I took delivery of my copy of From Dissertation to Book, on Dr. Crazy's recommendation, and I'm now working through it, stifling my groans of fear when I read at the cafĂ©.  If I have a summer of unemployment punctuated by brief tutoring gigs to look forward to, I may as well make the most of it for writing purposes. And, thank heavens, my unemployment benefits claim was validated by the inquiry, so now I'm less afraid of starving to death.  (And hey, it's not like I'm not looking for work!)

It's bewildering to consider what my dissertation can/should become in terms of professional publications.  I've had the mentality of an academic lifer for years now, so I've always expected to start working on a book manuscript right after school.  (Because, as even I knew way back when, I'm not so on top of things that I could structure a dissertation that was actually a book in disguise.)  But do I have enough in this sucker for a book?  If not, will I be able to gather enough extra data during my postdoc to round it out?  Do I give up on the book idea for this particular body of research and frame it as journal articles instead? 

I'm in the process of nailing down a meeting for next week with Dr. Awesome -- jeez, can I just call hir Awesome now as a professional peer? -- and I'm hopeful that zi will have some useful things to say here.  All of you who are years ahead of me must know (I hope, anyway!) how difficult it is to look at one's own complete dissertation and recognize the useful from the useless in it.  Right now, I kind of feel like I wouldn't be able to see it with fresh eyes if I dropped acid.  I'm lucky that Awesome is around.

Dr. Chair, meanwhile, can go take a flying jump.  Zi saw me on the Thursday before graduation, and asked me, "So, Koshary, are you walking in the ceremony tomorrow?"  Tomorrow?  Tomorrow is Friday, right?  I reminded hir that doctoral candidates would graduate on Saturday, not Friday.  Chair furrowed hir brow and said, "Oh.  Ooooh.  Oh, I'm so sorry, I won't be there."  Twenty-five years at DOU, and Chair still doesn't know the day of the week on which doctoral candidates are hooded?  It never varies, damn it!  As is so often the case, I can't tell if Chair is totally out of it, or if zi is passive-aggressively giving me the middle finger.  But, in either case, zi didn't show up to the graduation of hir only doctoral student.  Fuck hir.

There, I said it.