Friday, February 25, 2005

A complaint

Since Porko doesn't think I complain enough, here I go!

I just counted the pages in my different dissertation documents and my dissertation is well over 300 pages. And those are actual, usable pages, about 3/4 of which have been approved by my advisor. One chapter alone is 127. With an intro and a conclusion, that chapter alone could have been my entire dissertation.

My complaint is that my advisor did not help me enough in reining in my topic to an actually manageable task. I spent about 9 months after writing my proposal completely overwhelmed by my original topic. So I actually cut out 9/10 of the original subject to get to what I have right now. And even this is too big. But my advisor, who is generally an immensely pragmatic person, never said that I needed to whittle anything down. As I made my changes he just said "good idea." Sure, I should have known at the start that I had bitten off more than I can chew, but part of the advisor's job is to measure the topic against the time frame of the dissertation and my abilities.

I'm too far in to turn around now, so I'll finish my last chapter and conclusion and finish with a 400+ page tome.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Scared and Encouraged

So my meeting with my dissertation advisor went much better than I would have thought, considering I only had nine new pages to show (half of which were an edited version of a snippet I wrote in 2003) and she wanted twenty-five. But she was in a good mood and she was mining me for ideas for the article she's writing. She got really excited about my comments and said we should publish something together. I guess that gave me some encouragement. My mom said I shouldn't do it, that I shouldn't let her appropriate my ideas...but the truth is she does that anyway. I don't know if she's conscious of it or not, but she's tried to discourage me from writing something in the past and then used the idea for a conference paper (I think I posted about that a while back). She's done the same thing to a friend of mine. Somehow I can't help blabbing about my ideas when I'm with her, though. I guess I'm trying to make up for the fact that I haven't written them out. So maybe it's not such a bad idea to write something with name would be on it (I've never even attempted to publish anything before) and I would get some prestige from her "fame." On the other hand, the thought of doing anything with her beyond what is absolutely necessary for my dissertation would be a nightmare.

A tip

Someone gave me a good tip today that works well for dissertating and other things as well.

When you leave your workspace at the end of the day, tidy up a bit and put out the materials you will need for tomorrow's first task. Set yourself up for a good day of work by putting that article that needs reading or the bibliography that needs revising right on top. That way, it's harder to avoid that task and to procrastinate!

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Where has she been!?

Sorry to have abandoned this blog, and the lovely Ms. Porkorama. I've been working, and not working. Here's my excuse.

So I went back to Boston for the Big Important Archaeology Conference and gave a paper about a fake work of art. I was insanely nervous about the paper and that wasn't quelled by the fact that there were more than 300 people in the audience, including my evil undergraduate advisor and Mr. Important Greek Sculpture Man from Berkeley. But the paper went extremely well and I got very good comments from the audience. A number of Important (do you see a pattern here?) Scholars suggested that I publish the paper in the Important American Archaeology Journal.

So I came back "home" to CA (Boston feels more home-like than ever) with a fire in my pants to start work on this article. My health had another idea. For more than two weeks, I was laid up with a really bad cold/flu thing. I'm only now just recovering. I think I've also been suffering from S.A.D. because of the gross grey and rainy weather here in CA. I've been exhausted, bored, and depressed.

But I managed to pull myself to the computer and churn out an article version of my paper. It's now in the hands of my (nice PhD) advisor, who will submit it to the Archaeology Journal, for he was the editor there for 20-something years and knows whose buttons to push. I would be thrilled to have it published and it would be a great thing to have on the CV for next year's job applications. I only have one measly publication right now, plus two published translations (Italian > English), which I don't think amount to very much.

About a week before the semester started here, I got a frantic email from the department secretary (or whatever she's called) asking me to send her my revised syllabus for this semester ASAP! Umm, huh? No one had told me I would be teaching this semester. Fortunately, it's a course I've taught before and I just had to tweak the syllabus a bit to get it ready. It's just the Intro. to Art History course, so it's not too taxing. Nevertheless, it is something that cuts into my dissertation time. If you'd like to follow along with the course, email me and I can send you the link to the class website.

The dissertation was on hold for all of January because of the conference and the nasty sickness and SAD. Last week I got started again on my last chapter. I wrote eleven pages in two days. I'm pretty pleased. Those few pages also put me over the 300-page mark for my dissertation. Too bad it won't be evaluated in terms of gross weight or the number of trees felled!

This last chapter so far is a snore. All description and little analysis. The description (of wall paintings) is very tedious because there are all these teeny, tiny details to discuss. Most of which I think are totally meaningless in the overall interpretation of the house I'm studying.

So enough of this blogging procrastination. Can I squeeze out 8 pages today? Or at least work for four solid hours?

Friday, February 18, 2005

The Tyranny of Mediocrity

Has anyone every noticed how mediocre people actually LIKE their mediocrity? This extra job I took to make some cash is the worst nightmare ever. It involves creating a certain product for what you'd call the average person. The person that hired me (let's call him X) talks big, but the material he gave me to make this product is ABSOLUTE TRASH. I've seen much better work done by students. But I have to use this stuff to make the "product," right? So I f*cking slave away at this. The whole process could have been a lot easier if X had his shit together and had informed me of certain key information from the start. Anyway, I come up with what I think is a *miraculous* save...something I wouldn't be too embarrassed to show. But guess what? It's not good enough. No, wait...let me rephrase that. It's not BAD enough. I have to make this a duller product. I've seen X's work and it sucks...I thought when he saw my stuff he'd be, if not floored, pleasantly surprised (he expressed a lot of doubt about my abilities at the start--you know, one of these people who thinks they're the experienced expert). But it turns out X LIKES shit. This explains a lot.
The sucky part is making it shittier is not easy for me. I have a hard time understanding this shit standard. It's just a different mindset entirely, and explains why there is so much of this type of product out there already that is so awful and boring. So now I have to figure out how to finish the damn thing. I'm fuming a bit too much right now to concentrate.

On the other hand, maybe I'm just really bad at accepting criticism and what I did sucked and X produces shit but is a discriminating critic. It is so not worth it, but my natural instinct is to concoct a way to produce something he'll find acceptable that I don't find completely worthless. And THAT is going to take a stroke of genius.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Finishing the Dissertation

I can't wait to have time to read this article about how to finish your dissertation without the agony.

Oops, gotta run.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

I Am Going to Die

This is SO much worse than I even imagined. No time to write....wasting precious sleep time.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Fahrenheit 102

I've always felt guilty about not working to my full potential. In high school I did well without working very hard and I felt guilty. When I was in college, I always left papers until the last minute, and I felt guilty. In grad school--let's not even go there.
The thing is, sometimes I wonder if I'm being too tough on myself. If you looked at my resume in college, you would call me anything but inactive. I worked 20 hours a week, took a full load of classes, did volunteer work, was on the fencing team for a couple of years, was an RA, peer advisor, committee-for-just-about-anything member....(ha, ha...even as I'm writing this I'm feeling guilty because I still feel like I was faking it).
Grad school was a different matter. For the most part I've done the bare minimum and not even that. Just plain burned out. I never took time off from school. And I had too many soul-crushing experiences knocking out whatever gumption I'd managed to muster along the way. Isn't it ironic, for example, that the semester I worked the hardest in grad school, and that was damn hard, I got the lowest grades? (There are a couple of side stories involved in this that I will write about sometime in "another reason I hate grad school" posts.)
So, this year, it was my resolution to, above all, FINISH MY DISSERTATION. But also to do some other activities that would help build my experience and resume in the direction of what I want my career to be. I have to say I started off well...I've been waking up early, exercising every day from 1/2 to 1 1/2 hours, being an extra-attentive pet owner, eating regular healthy home-cooked meals, attending meetings and doing what I gotta do for those extra-curricular university activities I shouldn't have signed up for.... And continuing all of that without exception while taking that extra job that has now proven to be too much.
I thought I was doing well. But I STILL felt a little guilty, because it seems like other people get so much more done than I do, and because I wasn't doing half the things that needed to get done. And then I get sick.
So it doesn't help that when I talk to my father yesterday and I tell him I feel awful because I'm in bed with a fever and I supposedly have to turn in 25 pages of my diss the next day (have not told him about extra job so as not to upset him), he says, "I hope you have the strength to at least write something."
I know, I'm sick, I'm being oversensitive, he only meant to wish me well...but it kicks in that built-in guilt. OK, so maybe the fever wasn't one of those 104 fevers that make you delirious, but at 102 degrees your brain does not really function well. I didn't even have it in me to watch television.

There is something in this worth thinking about. Especially its relation to my procrastination, to putting things off.

When I came home with As from school as a child, my mother would say "A+s, I want A+s!" Not in an angry tone or anything, just in the "only but the best here!" tone.

Half the time I think I'm not trying hard enough, not performing up to par, and half the time I know I'm working harder than most people.

It's hard for me when someone says, c'mon, just try a little harder, because when I say I need to take a break, I usually REALLY need to take a break and have pushed to my last ounce of energy (though, of course, one can always take that one....extra......step.....) For example, a couple of years ago I was on the roof sweeping and cleaning the gutters with a friend. It was summer and very hot, and I kept on going until I really felt like I was going to pass out if I didn't have some water. I told my friend that I had to take a break to get some water, and he said, "why don't we keep on going until we feel like we really can't do anymore?" I said...yeah, that's right now. I feel annoyed when someone says something like that, or what my father said, I guess because of that built-in guilt...this really basic feeling I have that I'm not hard-core enough, not tough enough. And yet I know I'm strong and can withstand a lot at the same time. It's such a mess in my head how this works. Weird family dynamics are involved, I think.

I'd been trying to pace myself this past week, as much as you can pace yourself working 14-16 hour days, so I wouldn't burn out. Kept on exercising and eating well, took a minute to breathe deep if I felt like I was pushing myself past a limit, allowed myself a small indulgence like blogging at the end of the day before bed. But apparently I didn't do a good enough job, because I got sick. I keep on thinking I got sick because I was feeling too stressed out, trying to do too much. But regardless of what I feel, there are certain deadlines that will not go away. One of these jobs needs to be done come hell or high water. I have to relax, though...getting stressed about it is only going to make it take longer for me to get well....

Monday, February 07, 2005


What have I done to myself??? This is the pace I kept up as an undergrad, but back then I was trained into the six hours is a reeaaaally full night's sleep thing. I can't do that anymore! It derails me entirely. Why am I even writing in here after already having spent all day staring at a damn screen? I guess I need to decompress. I think I'm getting sick. And I haven't written a single page of those 25 that are due Thursday (like that ever was going to happen). I have to walk in there with something, though. But this other project is a "real life" project, where the deadlines actually matter and you'd screw a bunch of people over for not meeting them, not just yourself.
Which reminds me...I think about this a lot...if I were writing this dissertation for somebody else, it would have been done a long time ago.
OK, I have to go do something about the rigor mortis setting into my back muscles.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Poor Judgment?

SquirrleyMojo reminded me in her last comment that it pisses me off that I gotta be secretive about who I am. There are two people I know in "real life" that I have revealed my blog to. Hopefully it won't spread. I know this can seem like some kind of crazed egomaniacal paranoia, and, well, it probably is--but I plan to divulge more of the nasty things that have happened to me while in grad school and I live in a very gossipy place, so I'm gonna fight to keep that anonymity. Actually, the only thing that bothers me about it is that I can't be specific about ..uh...stuff.
So here goes another post filled with vague references. I just got offered this "gig" doing a version of what I *really want to do*...great resume builder though not the least bit interesting in itself, very good practice for my career-to-be. But it's incredibly time-consuming. Full-time work is what the people who offered this to me calculated (40 hours a week), but I know it will take me quite a bit longer because I've never done this before. Do I have the time? No, not really, considering that I stupidly got involved in this other, in this case non-paying, activity in what I'll just call "student leadership" which has been taking up about 10 hours a week, I TA, and my advisor wants 25 new pages by next week on my diss.
No, no...don't try to talk me out of it. I already said yes and am on my way now to the "facility" to start the work.
I'm a little scared...but the good thing is I've only got two weeks to hand over the finished product. So the next two weeks are going to be hell and then I'll say no when they ask me to do it again.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Warning: Somewhat Cheery Post

Hoo-boy, so I got this friend who's also a grad student (go figure) and probably hates being in the diss writing process as much as I do but is way better at the whole thing than I am. Maybe it's her wry optimism (yes, there is such a thing), but she's the only grad student that makes me feel better about this whole process. I actually almost got excited (*!) the other day when I was emailing with her about my current chapter topic. I realized it was because I didn't feel like I had to impress her and I could write it very casually without having to worry about seeming "critically correct" (politically correct's way more evil twin). I wish she would join this damn blog and post something because she is so damn funny, too. She just wipes the grime off my glasses with her snaky loopy sentences. Here's my official thanks, ______. I'd name my diss after you if they allowed that kind of thing.