roasting marshmellows in phd hell

Archive for February 2013

3 Questions You Should Never Ask a PhD Student

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If you are so unlucky to be the friend/significant other/neighbor of a PhD student, this short list may help you avoid some awkward social terrain:

1. How’s it going?

Terrible.  Don’t ask.

Though a more offensive sub-variation of this question is “How’s your paper/essay going?”  My paper/essay is going fine because it was 500 words

What keeps me looking so young and fresh?  Foucault and Puppies, dahling.

What keeps me looking so young and fresh? Foucault and Puppies, dahling.

and I finished it as a first-year undergraduate.  I am doing a DISSERTATION. (throws self on floor kicking and screaming in the manner of a cartoon dictator.  Makes bodysuit out of puppies)


2. When will you be finished?

As I have told you repeatedly for the last coughcoughcough years, I have no fucking idea.  It’s done when it’s done.  I am not trying to be coy or zen about this, I swear.  I honestly have no fucking idea.

Sometimes people will ask follow up questions like, ‘well how many pages does it have to be?”  Again, see my answer to numero dos, part 1.  Nobody knows any of this shit.  The requirements for a phd are about as clear and factual as a campfire ghost story.  In fact, nobody in my department is willing to give concrete numbers.  The advice is usually something really helpful like, “it shouldn’t be short.  but you don’t want it to be too long either.  And beware of a scratching disembodied hand on the roof of your car if you’ve parked at Lookout Point.”

3. No, seriously!  When will you be finished?



Written by universityoflies

February 26, 2013 at 22:50

I am the Rhianna to Higher Ed’s Chris Brown.

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I don’t think that title is too dramatic.rihanna-headshot-big

(legal disclaimer: ok, maybe a tad..)

The whole thing does reek, though.  I am still in phd limbo and  have no idea what the next step is with my own writing.  Academia, I can’t wait until I quit you.

But the mindset is so pervasive.  This morning I was fantasizing about how fucking free I will feel when the whole thing is submitted and defended and I get a dumb title on my snail mail.  And my next thought was how I should just submit the dissertation to publishers, because it will basically be a book already.  It’d be a waste to not have it published, right?  And the I realized that it would probably need to be edited to hell and back, and the idea of that fills me with refried bean vomit.  And also, why bother? Why put myself in a position where I am wasting precious months of life agonizing over a document that nobody will ever read when I have no interest in joining the ranks of the Stuffy Tweed Brigade, as I do not want to become an endangered species/mythical creature?  It’s just the fucking mindset is so hard to break.  Just one more paper.  One more year on the job search circuit.  It’s like crack but without the good feelings.  Ahem.

Teaching is also kind of a sado-maschocistic job.  Like being one of those people who get paid to spank balding men who work in management.  Or  like dating notorious jackass and woman hater, Chris Brown.  It’s easy to get addicted to the adrenaline rush of it all.  The performance aspect, the russian roulette feeling that despite your meticulously planned lesson, anything could happen.  Sometimes it goes better than you could have hoped, and your students get into a heated debate about killing a mammoth spider in the classroom because you’re reading The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and they’re using bits of the text to justify their position, and wow.  It feels like you won the fucking lottery or saved 10000 souls for jesus that day.

But when it’s bad, its bad.

Here are some things that regularly occur in the classroom that I hate:

1. When, upon trying to be Socratic and shit, you send a pretty basic question out there into the ether and either a. 50 blank faces stare back at you like you are a fucking asshole, or b. someone tries to answer your question with the most random shit ever, like an anecdote about their dad’s girlfriend or the word ‘twentington.

2. When you spend 5 minutes explaining what “deus ex machina” is, only to be asked immediately after, “What’s ‘deus ex machina’?”

now 3. is a new one and a favorite… I have a student who sleeps with hir eyes open for most of the session.  But ze must have a well-concealed wifi connected device, because they randomly volunteer equal parts  highfalutin and random shit.  So the other day, ze raised hir hand and goes, “The metaphysical aspect of praxis is demonstrated in lines 98-104 of the text.” So I asked for some clarification or a specific example, and just got, ‘uhhhhh.. i can’t find it now.’ BAM muthafucker!!!! I got you! Which means absolutely nothing, you probably still think you are 8 million times smarter than me and who knows, maybe you are right.

That last one is probably what bothers me the most.  That I get so wrapped up in trying to ‘defeat’ plagiarists or students who are trying to get one over on me and it really doesn’t matter.  I won’t get paid more if I ‘catch’ them.  It doesn’t mean I ‘win’.  I can’t change a person like that and all it accomplishes is making me less dude-like.

So I am making a promise to myself that this is my last semester teaching.  I am still kicking around my business idea and am going to be more serious about making it happen.  There’s got to be a more satisfying and less destructive way to make a buck.

Written by universityoflies

February 8, 2013 at 21:25