Because there's no time like the present to write about the past

Living la vida loca (or, I'm a PhD candidate and all I do is READ)

Because I refuse to call it "summer," still...
Not only did I make it through last week (obviously...), but I also made it through with, well, flying colors (I think). My grading got done, my assignments got done, and on Friday I let my students out about 20 minutes early. (I even got a round of applause, but that was either them being glad I let them out early, or being appreciative of my teaching. I'm assuming the latter, simply because I can. Also, I got a compliment from a student, so I think my assumption is fair.)


The strange thing about now is that although the semester is over, I still have a bazillion tons of work to do. Of course, it's all reading. And revising two papers. And starting to solidify my dissertation topic. And, starting in a week and a half, working four jobs, plus my research/reading/dissertation stuff this summer.

And I feel...strange. One part of me knows that I'll get into the summer jobs and be happy as a lark, enjoying new experiences and time off from classes and generally having a blast with all the movie-watching I'll have in the "spare time". Plus, I can now start my Second Annual Buffy the Vampire Slayer marathon.

But let's face it: I'm really just a school nerd and I want desperately to start Year 3.

Soon, grasshopper, soon.

Papers, papers, papers
I'm theoretically writing a paper. No, really, I am!

My research paper for this semester is due on April 24, the last week of classes (and the last day of that class). This is fantastic in many ways, because between this class and my other class, I'll actually be done on April 27 and will just have grading to do a bit over a week later. I am very, very happy for that; last spring, I had a research paper due early in the finals period, then two 20-page historiographical essays due within 1-2 days of that. Last year, I literally spent a week holed up in my office collecting cans of Diet Coke and bags of Hershey's Kissables everywhere.

Last spring, it was fairly chaotic, but it came out well.

As I've mentioned, this year is different (hooray!). The undergrads in my seminar are REQUIRED to turn in a rough draft of their research papers on Tuesday; for us grad students (all 2 or 3 of us), a rough draft is optional. HOWEVER, I like to think that I'm being smart to take advantage of this rough draft option. It does several things for me:

First, I get the crappy first drafts out of the way well in advance of the final due date.
Second, I get professorial feedback (and this is my advisor who's teaching the class).
Third, I will stress less in the coming weeks.

So this weekend is writing weekend. I'm on page 11 of the rough draft (the final paper is supposed to be 25-30 pages). I've gotten through the historiography and I'm just now moving into my various evidence on the topic, so from here on out it should be rather smooth sailing.

In fact, if I'd just get off the 'net, I could probably get this done in an hour and a half.

Yes, granted, this is the really crappy first draft and there's no way I'm turning THIS version in on Tuesday. BUT finishing this first round today means that I can play with it over the next three days and pop in my citations and have something reasonably non-crappy to turn in Tuesday.

Oh yeah. I also need to get started on my review essay that I'll turn in Thursday or Friday, plus do some grading and reading.

With a month left...
The semester is both winding down and getting incredibly busy at the same time. It's hard to believe - and yet not that hard, really - that I'm already at the end of Year 2. In just a few weeks, I'll be able to call myself a third-year PhD student, and just one year from now, I'll be hitting the illusive ABD (All But Dissertation) designation.


A year ago, I was panicking that I wouldn't make it through the first year. Now, I have no doubts about my abilities....although let's face it: African history has been my Achille's heel this term. Although I've had plenty of doubts about that, the fact of the matter is I've come a long way, baby...Collapse )

The big yawn
Dear Sean Wilentz,

While I really do appreciate The Rise of American Democracy, did you really have to make it almost 800 pages long? And couldn't your publisher have let you do footnotes?

Footnotes make an 800-page book so. much. better.*


*For example, please see Michael O'Brien's fabulous analysis of Southern intellectual life. All 1202 pages of it were more bearable because of footnoes.

About an hour and a half ago, I started typing up an entry that basically told how I was giving up on this African seminar review essay.

Yes, that's actually a possibility, as we don't have due dates in this class - we choose when to turn in the assignments whenever we want during the course of the semester. On the one hand, this is fabulous; on the other, it can be a bit flustering - particularly with the professor's comment that "well, if you don't do well on some papers, you can always do extra papers...". So I decided a couple of weeks ago (before turning in my first assignment) that I'd plan to do one extra of each (we have to do 3 discussion papers and 2 review essays).

I got my first discussion paper back, though, and it turns out I did well ("particularly for a non-Africanist," the prof wrote). This means I probably won't need to do those extra papers after all, but we'll see how later assignments go.

Next Monday, we're reading John Thornton's Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400-1800. I read this in my first semester of grad school in the historiography survey course we got, and I LOVE it. I may have issues grasping early African history, but Atlantic history and the slave trade? Yeah, that I understand. Don't get me wrong: I find African history fascinating now, but when you've spent a year and a half being inundated with American history, stepping outside your field is a bit intimidating.

Because I like this book so much, I figured I'd do my first review essay around it. The problem? We have to have 1 book and 3 articles - as it turns out, written after 2004!, which I had wrong at first - beside the assigned work. That shouldn't have been an issue; after all, I found and read 3 books besides the Thornton.

...and I sat down to rough draft my essay and got five pages on Thornton this and Thornton that and just couldn't get it to go anywhere, which is when I decided, you know? I can do this in March and April.

I thought that was that. And I started to make a note to myself to get the materials to do my previously-planned discussion essay for NEXT week - and then it hit me: certainly I could do a discussion essay for THIS book! Sure, I'm supposed to use some outside sources, but there's no preset rule on how many, and I can talk about the differences between African slavery and Caribbean slavery! Heck, within five minutes on Jstor I had 2 articles by prominent scholars. Plus, I've got a book on New World slavery by one of those guys that I'd just finished recently.

As you may have guessed, I now have a rough draft of my discussion essay. I'm feeling pretty good about this one, and I'm glad I went with it. Now, if I actually DO do a discussion essay for next week, too, I can have all of those out of the way...

The best day of the week
I did make it home okay last night, although it was a stressful ride. My house is literally 30 miles from campus, which I generally don't mind - I like to drive and find it relaxing - but on days when the weather's bad, I DO mind. Quite a bit.

I grew up in places that tended to get snow, but here? We got snowfall once or twice a year. They'll close schools for a half an inch of snow, which my family used to think was ridiculous (coming from Montana). The worst part is, people around here just aren't very good at driving in the snow.

...hence the bazillion accidents I saw on my way to school yesterday (fortunately, those were on the OTHER side of the highway).

Coming home last night, things were actually pretty decent until I crossed the river into my county. I mean, there were some bad patches on the roads, but it wasn't too horrible - mostly slushy, really. When I got into my county, the roads got even better in places, but then those good patches would alternate with really, really, REALLY bad patches.

In fact, things got to their worst within a mile and a half of my exit - where, incidentally, the road widens to six lanes (3 coming off from an extension highway) as it slopes downhill. In that huge downhill spot, it was pure snow-packed and icy roadage, and I'm surprised I was able to stay in my lane. Once I got off the highway, though, it was even worse. I live less than 2 miles off the highway, just off a fairly major road, but that fairly major road had MAYBE half a lane cleared on each side - if even that much. I was driving in the right lane, which wasn't so much of a lane as it was a great spot to slide one's bobsled (if only I had a bobsled...). It was so bad that I didn't even try to turn in to the grocery store parking lot and just came straight back to the house.

On the plus side/down side last night, I discovered that the book I checked out yesterday as a last minute "read this for my review essay! QUICK!" book doesn't exactly meet the requirements. Although J-Stor SAID it was published in 1998, that's just the English translation; the original edition was 1986, and since the scholarship technically isn't that new, I can't really count it (my sources have to have been written after 1995). I'm sure in some world I could make it work, but the fact of the matter is that I really don't have time to read another book - in fact, I should've started drafting this paper yesterday (for my own piece of mind). It'll get done, though; I can turn it in tomorrow night, or even early Friday morning at the absolute latest, although Thursday's preferable.

So today, on my lovely day-off-from school for the week, The Spouse headed to work an hour late (due to traffic) and is expected to call me when he arrives. Really, I want to know whether I can make it the two miles to the store later today. I've successfully completed and sent off an application for a summer institute and played with my conference paper, so now it's really time for that review essay...

(no subject)
I'm usually quite up-beat and perky in person. Very few people get to experience the down-beat and non-perky me; it has to do with my own personal philosophy that no one else should have to suffer from MY bad days, if I can help it.

This generally means that, however down or negative I'm feeling in my "me time" (which includes driving time, walking around campus time, reading time - all non-social interactions times), I get back my typical up-ness when I interact with folks.

And, despite the crappy, crappy weather, my terribly stressed-out mindset (driving in said weather is NOT helping me today), my exhaustion (didn't sleep well last night), and so on, I'm somehow managing to operate NICELY in conjunction with other people. For the most part.

...but I'm not sure how this will hold true for my seminar this afternoon. Unless it gets canceled or lets out early.

Week 5, really?
Before I dash off to finish off my to-do list (and eat lunch), I thought I'd pop in to say hi and all that.

Funny, I got a lot of reading done this weekend, but I still feel behind. This is primarily because I'm working like a maniac to finish off the required portion of one of my exam reading lists - and am on track to finish in about two weeks, which is great timing. The downside of this is that I'm badly overloaded. And I know this. And I should stop, but I'm not, for several reasons (one of which being: I'm THIS close!).

However, aside from reading 7 books this weekend (one for seminar tomorrow, 4 for my exam list, and 2 for my Africa seminar paper), I also graded some essays and went to the gym. Oh! I also prepped the preliminary bibliography and rough drafted my research question/statement for my sexuality seminar (to be turned in tomorrow). I did not get the laundry done (it's going NOW), nor did I get vacuuming done or bathrooms cleaned - or grocery shopping for that matter. Some things just end up by the wayside, and I'll get to them this week.

This morning, I've walked the dog, gone to the gym, started laundry, showered, typed up summaries of four books, revised my CV for a summer institute application, revised the summer institute application, played with my sexuality paper research question for tomorrow, and am now off to pack my bag and eat lunch before moving on to some essay grading before I go to school (at which point I hope to start reading).

More to come soon, like: my thoughts on my upcoming trip to NYC, the reasons why I'm killing myself with all this reading, and how in the world I think I'll make it through this term!

Done, Done, and More Done:
-Two chapters in my African history textbook
-A difficult article about some sort of compendium of West Africa Arabic written sources
-Two pages of a rough draft of a paper for my Africa class
-Three pages of random ideas for said paper (me writing to myself)
-A two-page outline to support the two pages of rough draft and three pages of random ideas
-A 20-minute nap (before Puppy woke me up)
-Speaking of, an adventure with Puppy and a neighborhood dog on our walk this morning.
-Cleaning: swiffered the kitchen, vacuumed the living room/hall/my office, wiped down counters, put dishes in dishwasher, dusted
-Typed summaries for the six books read last weekend
-Grocery shopping (such as it was)
-Department website updates
-Identified library call numbers (and availability status) of remaining titles on an exam list
-Created list of final proposed titles for another exam list (and figured out what other books on the list I'd read already)
-Emailed all qualifying exam committee members regarding meetings to discuss next year and my plans
-Watched several episodes of Veronica Mars: Season 1
-Finished reading an honors thesis meant to help me think about my sexuality research paper
-Prepped a PowerPoint presentation for my students
-Watched Beauty and the Geek
-Ate dinner (Quiznos...)
-Prepped a preliminary list of possible resources for sexuality paper.

To do tomorrow:
-Retrieve library books loaned to an administrative office
-Return said library books, plus another pile of library books
-Attend lecture
-Complete African seminar paper
-Prep for Friday teaching
-Draft preliminary application for a summer workshop thing
-Identify resources for Next Africa paper
-Grab too many books from the library (for sexuality paper, Africa paper, and exam list reading)
-Attempt to do more reading
-Go on field trip
-Return home to collapse in front of Grey's Anatomy.
-Pray week ends quickly....

Busy: the way of the world, when you're in grad school
To assure you all that I have NOT, indeed, fallen off the face of the earth, here I am!

I have more to say later in a locked post regarding the teaching stuff, but for now, I'll crawl out of my study hole to say hello and let you in on all the fascinating things I've been doing...

This semester, I'm taking African history to help prep me for my world history exam field. In the fall, I'll actually take world history, but the prof teaching African history is teaching that one and both courses are offered only rarely. Truth be told? Africa's not really my thing. It's not that I don't like it, but rather, it's been my Achilles Heel for years (case in point: I almost made it to the final three at the state level of the National Geographic Geography Bee, but lost because of a question on Africa. doh!). Also, I had an undergrad African history course that was - of course - predominantly colonial history (despite the fact that the prof was from Sudan), probably because it was a 100-level course. It was also very dull, again, probably because of the course level.

Now I've spent so long getting acquainted with my own major fields that doing African history is really, really foreign to me. I've only recently come to that point where I can name major authors, works, themes, and arguments in US and women's history...but African history? Um, yeah. I saw the King Tut exhibit this last year....does that help? (Answer: no, not really)

I really, really, really like this prof, and I like to challenge myself. In short: it will be a good semester, but getting oriented to African history books is a bit of a challenge. It's sooo different from what I normally read, and I know soooo little of it that I often feel like everything's over my head. Also, we have a total of five papers due this semester, and we choose our own due dates. I'm doing one for next Monday's session - which means I have to have it done by tomorrow afternoon.

I've successfully written a bit over 2 pages, plus another 3 pages of rambling ideas, plus a 2-page outline on what I think this needs to be (the outline's the last thing I wrote). This will get taken care of tomorrow, but for now I'm a little spent on it and need to move on to something else and let that breathe a little.

Also, I have a general topic area for my history of sexuality research paper - not exactly what I *dreamed* of doing, but by now I know that there's no way I could get the sources I need over the semester. Later today, I'll look through an honors thesis on a similar topic to pull some resource ideas; in two weeks, I hae to turn in my research questions and a preliminary bibliography.

Those two courses really are the main of it - aside from my teaching this semester. And that? It's not so much difficult as it's just a matter of making time to prep for it each week - which I enjoy.

Still, I think I'll feel much better when I get this five-page African history paper out of the way tomorrow...


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