Sunday, September 27, 2009

What Graduate Schools Are Missing

Graduate school is not such a bad setup, in all honesty (see previous reflections). I can say that now, having just turned in my first full-length paper this afternoon, half an hour before the deadline.

But after serious and thoughtful reflection of the most serious and thoughtful kind, I have determined that a few simple additions would take the graduate school experience to a whole other level.

For example...

Stairs leading from the commuter parking lot that are spaced for either one or two strides. Not one and a half. I realize that universities are popular sites for weddings, but really, the likelihood of couples choosing this particular set of stairs for the processional is very slim. Ergo, the step-together-step-together rhythm produced by the spacing of the stairs is completely wasted.

Coffee fountains. I know water is healthier, and less disastrous when accidentally squirted up your nose and all over the front of your shirt, but think of the bright eyes and rapidly twitching pens that would emerge as early as 9 a.m. Think of the additional fees the university could tack onto student bills. Think of the protests that would allow non-coffee drinkers to practice civic engagement. Who wouldn't win?

Tutorials on the proper use of serration on plastic wrap. The act of writing is dependent on two things: intact fingers and an active brain. The brain can be solved by the aforementioned improvement, but the fingers are strongly connected to the ability of graduate students to pull plastic wrap out of a box (or aluminum foil) to wrap their peanut butter sandwiches WITHOUT serrating their fingertips.

Padded stairs in the library. If you place sleep-deprived and over-caffeinated students on the fifth floor of the library, load them down with books and computers and giant coffee mugs and illicit food items and notebooks and cell phones, the least you can do is pad the stairs. Metal stairs are just begging for an accident, especially where loosely flapping shoes or high heels are concerned. These are grad students. They will save the books and computer, not their knees. Have pity.

And last but not least...

Campus-wide conveyor belts so students can safely use their cell phones while moving between classes. I know, it might encourage rather than discourage this anti-social behavior, but it's a public hazard for the rest of us, folks. Side-stepping can only get you so far. These conveyor belts should preferably be soundproofed, so those of us who prefer not to become privy to the intimate drama of your roommate's friend's aunt are free to remain blissfully ignorant.

It's not much to ask, right?


I thought not.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Wisdom Teeth

When I talk to friends I haven't seen for a while, one of the first questions they ask is, "How's grad school going?"

There are a lot of potential answers, but let's just say that I'm currently cutting a wisdom tooth, both literally and metaphorically.

It's a slow process. There are good days and bad days. It can be painful. It can seem like just cutting the thing out and eating jello for three weeks would be a better option.

And yet, there are moments when I get a glimpse of the bigger picture, of where I'm going; moments when I stop, take a deep breath (something that I am finally beginning to be able to do again), and revel in the fact that I can play with words all day long, smell the dusky books on the fourth floor of the library, and chew on complex, fascinating ideas with people who are much smarter than I am.

It's a process.

So how is grad school?

It's two sharp white nubs pushing through the corner of my jaw. How's that for an answer? :-)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Today I am...

Today I am not making a catalog of the things I have missed while being sick... contra dancing...
...the church picnic...
...swing dance practice...
...two shifts of work...
...four games of frisbee...
...the free Jon McLaughlin concert on campus...
...the dance workshops...
...the NC book festival...
...the farmer's market...
...the swing dance...

Okay, so I am.


Unfortunately, today I think I am feeling (-)grateful.

Friday, September 11, 2009

I Remember

Today, the Washington Post ran an article called "Teaching 9/11 to Teens Too Young to Remember." My first reaction was incredulity. Too young? How can they be too young?

I guess I forget that I'm not a teenager anymore, and that it was eight years ago.

But I remember.

I remember sitting in tenth-grade Latin class in my teacher's basement, probably doodling on my page of translation in the yellow, creased-spine book we used that year.

I remember the door to the upstairs bursting open and my teacher's son thundering down the stairs, yelling, "Turn on the TV! We're going to war!"

I remember sitting on the couch beside two of my friends, one of whom had a family member who worked at the World Trade Center.

I remember the coverage of the first plane being interrupted as the second plane crashed into the tower.

I remember talking with friends about what it would feel like to be the pilot on one of the planes. I remember having a hard time imagining that.

I vaguely remember the soccer game that was cancelled because it would involve driving past an oil or natural gas repository.

Fear. I remember that.

I remember just wanting to get away from the images that were played over and over and over again. I remember going outside to play soccer to try to forget what was happening on the TV inside.

I remember it was a beautiful day, sunny, clear, a little cool. I remember thinking how hard it was to be properly solemn when it was so peaceful where I was.

I remember.

Do you?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Aegra sum.

Aegra sum. Je suis malade.

I'm sick.

Nope, not H1N1 flu, thankfully: this time it's bronchitis. I went by Health Services today, and now have drugs that are supposed to make me better. I hope they work. Quickly. (Come on, immune system, try harder!) Forget about missing classes and work, I'm going through dance withdrawal.

Health Services is a fascinating place. Because of the current rash of flu cases, everyone with a potential flu-like illness is required to put on a mask when entering the building. Being told, "You can take off the mask now, I don't think you have the flu," is a surprisingly liberating moment.

Being sick has its advantages, I suppose. In another week, I will have finished filming the new greatest thing in ab workouts: The Deep Chest Cough Master! Just 15 minutes every hour, guaranteed to produce results!*

*Not recommended for those with fragile ribs.

Marvin, because of his greater mobility, is the android of choice this week. He was so shocked that he's been continuously hyperventilating for the past twelve hours. I guess he's afraid to fall asleep for fear he'll wake up and find out his hard drive has been wiped.

Trust me, self-imposed quarantine in a 10 x 15-foot room with Marvin is not ideal for low-key rest and recuperation. I've tried to explain to him that computers can't catch bronchitis, but he's obsessively virus scanning and updating nonetheless - "just to make sure."

(Meanwhile, Linus is enjoying some quality snuggle time with his power outlet.)

Ah, life... Ah, irony... Ah, grad school...

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Marvin versus Linus

If you've been reading my blog, you're probably familiar with the ongoing contest of wills between me and my erstwhile ill-tempered computer, Marvin. There was much rejoicing when I discovered I'd be receiving a laptop from the graduate school. Erroneously, I associated the word "new" with that discovery.

Enter Linus Eddie, my two-year-old ThinkPad computer, formerly owned by a Wake Forest freshman/sophomore. Linus is younger than Marvin by a year: his youth manifests itself in that his touchpad works, and he has thus far demonstrated the ability to virus scan and run an Internet browser at the same time.

However, Linus is not without his own quirks...

He has an overly protective streak that can manifest itself in odd ways, such as not allowing me to log on to one of my blogs or access my site feeds. He is also imbued with every network encryption device possible.

Despite that, his battery life is approximately T-eight minutes on any given day. The power outlet is reminiscent of his blankie. He has a loud tantrum when forced to rely on his battery pack for more than ten minutes, and he has goes through withdrawal and abandonment anxiety on "laundry day" (e.g. field trips out of the library).

As a result, Marvin isn't out of a job permanently. But coexistence for these two androids is not exactly peaceful. The jealousy and suspicion is growing.

It won't be long.

A general smackdown is coming. I can feel it.

Can you?

Friday, September 4, 2009

That's Fluorescent

Today marks the end of my first (full) week of graduate school. It's a momentous occasion. I celebrated by catching the toe of my shoe on a larger-than-average gap in the sidewalk and doing a very un-graceful "caught myself before nose-planting in the concrete" move. I knew there was a reason I didn't wear shoes on a regular basis. Even flats are not conducive to health.

Sickness is on everyone's mind these days, as Wake Forest is currently experiencing an outbreak of H1N1 "swine" flu. The Incubator is everyone's friend. Especially viruses.

I hope the pigs' PR people are on the ball.

Me, I think it might be a collaborative conspiracy by part of tea growers, honey harvesters, and lemon juice extractors (and a few stubborn moonshiners, more than likely).

So...having passed through the initial flames of erudition, has my cerebral capacity expanded in noticeable ways?


I have, however, come across a number of enlightening moments, which I would love to share with you. With no further ado...

When the Light Hits Your Eye Like a Big Coffee Pie, That's Fluorescent
  • I have a one-comment brilliance moderate intelligence quota for class discussions. The probability of meeting the quota decreases exponentially between the hours of two and four p.m.
  • I kind of liked being a big fish.
  • I occasionally experience an inexplicable craving for math. Something solid. Concrete. Two plus two sounds good. Differential equations would be okay too.
  • Facebook is still an amazing tool of procrastination. So is blogging.
  • Whoever established the twenty-four hour day was not a working graduate student.
  • On the question "to socialize or not to socialize," it's don't ask, don't tell (your sleep deprivation sensors).
  • I remember when I used to like the word "irony."
  • Coffee.
  • Tea.
  • Chocolate.
To be continued...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Today, I am...


-For the many friends God has placed in my life. Being busy because people care is a pretty good problem to have.
-For the chance to study something I love, with people who are similarly eager to learn.
-For the conversations that force me to slow down and breathe and think about who I am in Christ.
-For just enough work that I can be independent, but am required to trust.
-For getting up and seeing the beauty of the morning.
-For music and singing at the top of my lungs out the car window on a beautiful night.
-For strange looks from strangers that make me laugh.
-For being able to watch things grow, no matter how small or fragile.
-For the ability to learn.
-For the ability to feel delight and joy, and the reminders of how precious that is.
-For grace.

Here's to Thursday. And my Latin quiz. It's a beautiful morning.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


One full week of graduate school is over, and I'm taking a deep breath for the next 14 weeks.

I like to be busy, but I also tend to look at the big picture to the exclusion of "one step at a time." The combination of those two factors can lead to panic. Ergo, I am trying hard to keep my mind clear and my panic switch turned to off, or at least hibernate.

More updates to come. Time for Latin class.

Femina litteras amat. Femina litteras amat. Femina festinare litteras legere non amat.

Malheureusement, il n'y a pas assez d'heures par jour.

Eh, bien. Ce qui sera, sera.

Happy September.