Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bizarrely Appropriate or Inappropriate?

Robert spotted a guy wearing a t-shirt proclaiming

"Polar Bear Plunge for the Special Olympics"

and commented, "Yes, support the Special Olympics by doing something --------."

I suppose this could also be an appropriate/inappropriate fund-raising choice for a psychiatric facility as well in the "support the X Psychiatric Center by doing something -----" line.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Preparing for the Onslaught

UPDATE:  I've received my boots and they are awesome.  I'm not exactly feeling all "bring it" about the upcoming winter but at least I have a better chance of surviving with all toes intact.

I spent about $500 today ordering my winter gear - a down-filled coat, down-filled gloves, a bomber hat, silk longjohns (all from LL Bean), and extremely serious snow boots.

These are Cate the Great boots from Sorel, and customer reviews promise that they are warm enough for Minnesota winters.  I guess we'll see.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Just in case you're feeling all, Man, I wish I were going to grad school in a reading-intensive field, here's an excerpt from what I'm reading today:

"...but a second intrinsic desideratum is the opposite characteristic of internal contradiction, which is an asset from the Hegelian viewpoint that intrinsic contradiction between thesis and antithesis is ubiquitous in the Ding-an-sich being represented and can be a source of creative synthesis both in the actuality and in its knowledge representation" (McGuire, 1989).

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Work of an Academic

One of my current pet peeves is when people think that college professors don't work very much because they only teach 1/2/3 courses per semester and "have the summers off!" and so forth.  A favorite statement on these lines was when I read a commenter on a blog discuss having been to the gym at 2:00 in the afternoon (over the summer) and met another person there who is a college professor -- see!  It's the middle of the day and this professor is at the gym instead of working!  (The commenter could easily have encountered a waitress, factory worker, nurse, call center supervisor, or other working person who does shift work; would they have drawn the same conclusion?  Also, what the hell was the commenter doing there himself at 2:00 p.m.  Highly suspicious.  Obviously a slacker.)

Clearly, some professors work a lot harder than others.  Some certainly do not work enough, such as the many professors in Robert's department who were getting in trouble with the administration because of it.  There is also a huge divide between tenured and untenured professors.  Assistant professors are under incredible pressure to publish at the same time they are teaching classes (generally 1, 2, or 3 preps) that they do not already have all their lectures, notes, project assignments, exams, etc., written for.  Many of them are thrown into serving as advisors for undergrads or grad students undertaking research projects.  The typical assistant professor is in the same situation as the grad student of deciding which 60-80+ hours per week he wants to work.

Some academics (professors and grad students) try to accomplish as much of their work as possible in the office.  People like Tam basically live there.  But a lot of people like to work elsewhere, and the nature of the work is such that it isn't always obvious to others that work is going on.

For example, I spent four hours in a restaurant yesterday with Robert talking about my self-control research project (that I am doing as part of my RAship) and generating ideas that I am presently going to transfer from the napkin I covered in ink to my computer.  Then I need to start developing (and completing over the next couple days) the design of five or so experiments to test these ideas.  This development will happen while I'm walking to school, riding the bus, eating lunch, folding laundry, etc.

It's too bad people seem think that doing scholarly work always involves typing furiously at a computer keyboard or looks like this.

Friday, September 9, 2011

What We Need Less of is Philosophy of Science

Today I walked on my treadmill then read 10 articles regarding philosophy of science issues as applicable to psychology.

That really felt like a lot of reading and it took approximately forever.  I'm not sure I'm going to be able to maintain this level in the coming weeks so I guess I will have to do what so many of my classmates at My Masters University did in our program - skim and/or just flat not read some papers, start getting some grades below an A.  (Fortunately I have reached the point where nobody ever again will care about my grades except to know that I am meeting the minimum GPA required to stay in good standing in my program.  I don't remember this standard off the top of my head, but it is clearly below a 4.0.  GPAs do not mean squat when going on the academic job market.)

One good thing is that I kept taking notes with ideas for the short paper I will need to write for this class by early October.  (And thankfully my writing is faster than my reading.  I seriously do not know how people who struggle with their writing do PhD programs in the humanities/soft social sciences.)

I am going to finish one more article (marketing) before bed and go to sleep with the pleasant feeling of being done with the readings for 2 of my 3 classes next week.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The City Bus

About 6 blocks from my apartment, I can catch the bus - there are three different bus routes I can take from there to within a block of the business school and during most of the day they run every 5 minutes or so.  This morning, I got to the bus stop, waited under 90 seconds, got on the bus.  The elapsed time from the bus stop to my entering my office: under 8 minutes.

This afternoon I figured out how to catch the bus from school - I have to make a sort of downward spiral around some buildings and down a ramp to the road (the campus is basically astride this major east-west road).  I waited for less than a minute and got on the bus.  The place where I get off the bus is even closer to my apartment - about 2.5 blocks.

So far, I'm loving the bus thing.  Of course, once the winter weather hits, I might want to take a different bus that picks up and drops off about one block from my apartment, but it runs much less frequently, so I'll have to actually consider the timing of it.  (Right now, with 3 super-frequent buses to choose from, I pretty much can get on a bus immediately from that other bus stop so at any normal time of day, thinking about timing is utterly unnecessary.)

No classes today.  I sat in on the undergrad CB class again and met with the second prof I am RAing for (who also teaches that undergrad class) to talk about research ideas.  Let's call her B.  As opposed to the other prof (let's call her K.) who is putting me to work on an idea she's been interested in for a while, B. is encouraging me to come up with my own project (with her input, of course).  I have several very general ideas for things that would fit with the work she does and one in particular that I want to consider first.  There is an extensive lit review in my near future as I try to figure out what the state of the science is, so to speak, in this area.

Tomorrow, I have nothing taking me to school, so I am looking forward to spending the day churning through as many as possible of the very many articles I need to read for next week's classes.

My officemate is a quant, so her life is about pushing her way through problem sets in econ (which is basically math and is especially grueling at a top-10 econ program like ours).  As a CB person, my life is like those in the "soft" social sciences and humanities - astonishingly long reading lists.  So even though we're both in marketing, our work is very, very different.  (We will both be taking the core seminars in marketing, of course, which will sometimes play to her strengths and sometimes to mine.  This semester, it's mine.)  It might seem like reading some articles is a lot easier than doing a bunch of proofy math problems (and the gods know I prefer it) but in grad school, professors often assign a nearly impossible amount of reading, and the reading is generally not easy because of the content or the poor writing or both (and the readings are especially grueling at a top-5 psychology program like ours).  And because my classes are at least nominally seminars, we have to show up ready to discuss the papers (and we have to submit response papers in advance every week). 

So, basically I guess I'm saying that grad school is tough all around.  That being said, it's also awesome.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Day 2

I calculated that yesterday I walked to school averaging over 4 mph.  Today, I left about 15 minutes later and took the same (river trail) route a little bit slower, about 3.6 mph.  I wore a pair of the cheap, cushy backless mary jane shoes I am hoarding and was surprised by how comfortable they were.  No rubbing, no soreness on the bottom of my foot.  (I did notice when I got home that my feet are turning into two gigantic calluses from all this walking, but I guess that's OK.)  I got to class with time to spare. 

This "seminar" has about 18-20 people in it, several of whom are also in my class from yesterday (including the woman from the psych department whose first + last name is the same as mine only without the leading "S" and the two second-year marketing students).  Our first set of readings is "And monkeys" in a big way.  For example, did you know that rhesus macaques, like humans, automatically distinguish between members of their own social group and others, spontaneously associate novel objects with specific social groups, and implicitly evaluate ingroup members positively and outgroup members negatively?  And did you know that capuchin monkeys, like humans, show different levels of risk tolerance depending on whether the outcomes are framed as gains or losses? 

This afternoon, I printed approximately 3 gazillion articles (and read about 1.5), but my office was unbearably warm and stuffy, so I left at about 3:00 and walked home the shortest route (down the major street) with a short side trip to the public library to pick up the last two books I requested before school started.  (The rest of my request list is on a Netflix-like "hold" for now.)  It was extremely sunny and warm (in the upper 70s) and I was glad to get home, change some of my clothes, take off my shoes, turn the A/C fan from low to high, and crack open a cold can of Diet Coke. 

This evening I have a bunch of reading to do so I can meet with the other professor I am an RA (research assistant) for this year.  Good times.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

First Day

Today was the first day of classes in my PhD program.

I walked to school this morning in the very pleasant weather (sunny and temp in the 50's) - I was about 20 minutes early (class starts at 9) and easily found the room.  But nobody else showed up.  About 5 minutes before 9, a fellow marketing student (a 2nd year) came by and I found out that the professor emailed us that the room had been changed.  And when we went to the new room, we found out from a psych student that the email also said that on this first day, we were meeting at 10 instead of 9.

I went outside, sat at a table, and started reading an article for another class and was soon joined by a guy in my marketing cohort.  We chatted about the fact that the stats courses at the university are basically all using R as the statistical package instead of SPSS, SAS, Stata, etc.  (The aforementioned 2nd year student told me later that this switch in the educational psychology stats courses is extremely recent; her course used SPSS.)

So anyway, the class (research methods) sounds like it will be interesting but a lot of work - there is a significant amount of reading of sometimes very difficult articles.  (This course neither teaches stats nor provides information about various experimental design options, but is more of an overview of current controversies in the field.)

This afternoon, I also sat in on the first lecture of the class I'm going to be TAing for next year.  I finished up printing some things in my office and decided to try taking the bus home, but I wasn't able to easily find the bus stop, so I walked instead.  (I've now looked at it on google maps and think I understand where it is; I'll try again tomorrow or Thursday.)  Rather than take the scenic route I used this morning, I walked down a major street through downtown for a change.  It's about 5.5 miles round trip, and it was pretty easy (though my shoulders do feel a little tight after carrying the backpack so long and I rubbed a spot on my left foot so it's a bit sore).

Now I'm home so I can start doing some actual work.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

When Winter Comes

How will I like Snow City once winter comes?  A fair question.  I don't think I can even imagine how cold it's going to be. 

I am collecting characterizations of Snow City winters - like that it's snot-freezing cold or gasoline-freezing cold.  I also like the comparisons people make between the winter here and other places.  It's already been established from several people that it's colder here than many places in Canada, for example.  This week, a guy told Robert and me that he used to live in the Swiss Alps and it was cold there, but it wasn't as cold as it is here.  I am still waiting for the person who used to live in Siberia to tell me that the winters there are not nearly as bad as they are here.