Yup, I feel lucky

March 10, 2009

For any of you keeping score, my PhD waiting game came to a close yesterday with this final tally: 6 no’s, 1 yes. And as I’ve said before, that works for me, that works just fine. I only needed one. Even better, that was an enthusiastic yes—they’ve guaranteed (for whatever it’s worth these days) six years of funding, three of which will be fellowship years without teaching duties.

That certainly takes any sting out of the other six skinny letters, but I’m hanging on to them. I’ve got them in my PhD application drawer, in between my statement of purpose drafts and subject GRE flashcards, in a folder I’ve mentally labeled “don’t get cocky.” I was one letter away from having to deal complete failure to gain admission. I’ve heard from a couple of my friends that their programs are accepting about a third of the number of applicants they’d normally accept, and that this is turning out to be a very difficult year to land a spot anywhere (it was never easy, and I am well aware that even in a more normal year I might not have ended up admitted to any of the places I applied to). I know myself well enough to know that this would not have been of any immediate consolation to me. I would have been depressed for quite a while. I eventually would have gotten over it, embraced my job as a librarian, and been glad that I at least tried, but I would not have been very mature about it right away. And I want to remember how close that was now that I am thinking about the next six years of my life and realizing that I am going to need to work harder than I ever thought possible and that the opportunity to do so is a kind of gift. When I’m getting skinny letters (or no letters at all) in six years from all one hundred jobs I’ve applied to in a market that will almost certainly be even worse than the one new PhDs are facing this year, I need to remember how badly I wanted just this opportunity, whatever comes of it. More than anything, I need to remember how far I have to go to become the scholar that I want to be.

And now to get started.


In awe

March 9, 2009

This morning’s news makes me endlessly happy. Look at ’em! Congratulations, Team HA!!!!!!!!!!

Just in time

March 11, 2008

Okay, I know everyone on the blogosphere is busy–so I hardly need to say I am, do I? But just for the record, I am. I declare feed aggregator bankruptcy on a nearly daily basis (except for those tagged “Friends” and those that would be tagged “Friends” if I didn’t have a thing about calling my profs friends prior to graduation, which I read religiously). I have a six? five? weeks left to wrap up my MFA coursework and come up with a final project for Medical Informatics, develop my mad librarian skillz, and all while keeping a determined eye on the job market and trying to stay in the game in general. Oh ouch, I just stubbed my toe on… what was that? Oh yeah, my limit.

So, this morning’s six word memoir meme and Bradley’s tag came just in time, and I think it will serve as an introduction to an extended period of blogging by constraint. I’m thinking maybe a 50 word limit, like the poet Crg Hill recently imposed on his blog. Because I miss blogging, and I really can’t offer anything more thoughtful that 50 autobiographical words about any given day right now. SJ = the opposite of “in-depth” until further notice.

With no further ado, my six word memoir:

Seeking a pleasant peninsula, looked about.


And of course, b/c I could never have just one, I present the following rejected six word memoirs:

Talk to the hand state, eh?

California girl grown mild got riled.

Double reeds, reads, feeds on digestives .

One passport, two cats, three blogs.

Librarian by day, librarian by night.

Meme procedure:

1. Write your own six word memoir

2. Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you’d like

3. Link to the person that tagged you in your post and to this original post if possible so we can track it as it travels across the blogosphere

4 Tag five more blogs with links

5. And don’t forget to leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play!

Okay, AH, Fragonlina, and Subservient No More, you= tagged!

Random tornado advice

March 5, 2008

We’ve had at least two tornado warnings in south Florida since the start of 2008, and it occurs to me that much of my calm in the face of such possibilities has to do with my Midwestern education about what to do, what not to do, and how to know when it’s serious. Today, I got to put some of that knowledge to use. And I’m going to share, mostly b/c I love to talk about tornadoes. Also, b/c I once found my Florida in-law’s strolling merrily outdoors while tornado sirens were going off. They were all like “what is that strange noise? I wish it would stop.”

So, I was driving home around 3:45pm, and I turned toward the west, and  I saw a very odd horizon that was black on top and yellow on the bottom. That was sign 1, which didn’t freak me out because nothing else made me think, hmmm, tornado. There was a slight thunderstorm, but no discernible temperature change or trees bent halfway over in freak wind gusts. But I took note.

Then, it started raining really really hard. When I pulled into the Publix to get my weekly fix of frozen pizza and Corona, it was raining so hard I did not went to get out of the car, so I pulled out a book and waited for the rain to lighten up. Then, I started hearing a pinging sound that definitely wasn’t rain. I opened my door a crack to check, and sure enough, in came little ice pellets. Hail. That was sign 2, and a sign that I never ignore. I immediately got out of the car into the pouring rain and ran into the Publix as fast as I could without getting hit by a car. It was worth getting completely soaked.

Why? Well, my third grade teacher once explained to me that the moment before a squall produces a tornado, there will usually be hail. Hail is a sign that serious s*** is going on in the sky.  If you see hail, it is not a good time to be sitting in your car. I’m sure there have been tornadoes not preceded by hail, but in my experience, it’s been a pretty good indicator.

Nothing happened while I was in the store, but when I got back to my car, I learned that a tornado warning had been declared for northeastern Broward and southeastern Palm Beach… right where I was. So, that means that something could definitely have happened.

So, to summarize:

Signs that a severe storm that could produce a tornado is in progress include a rapid change in temperature, an unnaturally dark sky with other weird colors in it, and often heavy thunder and lightning ongoing. After you’ve seen it once, you’ll know.

Hail = get inside.

Tornado watch = conditions are somewhat favorable for a tornado to occur. Cancel the picnic, but don’t skip your dinner date. Usually, nothing happens.

Tornado warning = a funnel cloud or something very very close to it has been sighted. It is real. You must take cover immediately.

Random sirens = tornado warning.

Hopefully, no one who reads this blog will ever have to know these things.

The happiest life?

February 26, 2008

Right before I graduated with my undergraduate degree, I had a conversation with one of the poets on the faculty about life after college. She explained her path after graduation with a quote that I believe she attributed to Simone Weil: “The happiest life is the one with no choices.” (Fortunately for her, having no choices meant that she only got into Iowa… a no choice I think most of us would be happy to have!)

That thought has stuck with me, not as a kind of guiding principle or anything, but as a check to my constant urge to keep my options open, even though there are costs to doing so.

Turns out, I am not alone. See John Tierney’s Findings for today: The Advantages of Closing a Few Doors:

The next time you’re juggling options — which friend to see, which house to buy, which career to pursue — try asking yourself this question: What would Xiang Yu do?

Xiang Yu was a Chinese general in the third century B.C. who took his troops across the Yangtze River into enemy territory and performed an experiment in decision making. He crushed his troops’ cooking pots and burned their ships.

That’s right, no retreat for that army, you have no ships. You must go forward. The piece goes on to explain that behavior researchers have found that people are kind of pathological about keeping doors open, even when there is no rational reason to do so. Dan Ariely, the author of the book Tierney is drawing this from, has his own story of useless door opening:

When he was trying to decide between job offers from M.I.T. and Stanford, he recalls, within a week or two it was clear that he and his family would be more or less equally happy in either place. But he dragged out the process for months because he became so obsessed with weighing the options.

Ah that’s so familiar! Well, not the MIT and Stanford part, but I remember agonizing over my first job after college. I had to choose between two, and there were no clear reasons why one or the other would be best (they both had major drawbacks). I literally made myself ill in the course of a day from worrying about it too much. Of late, the main agony has been, stick with the professional path I’m on or make a drastic change… and I do have to say that in the last month or so, as I’ve become more focused on taking the next step in the path I’m on I’ve felt less need to worry about the paths I’m not on. And it’s felt good.

Of course, it’s hard to tell the difference between obsessive door opening and genuine questions about what the best choice is. I’m not opposed to making a commitment, I don’t think. I just have no idea which would be the right one to make, or if there even is a “right” one, and the pressure to at least try before I get too entrenched in one at times feels overwhelming. On the other hand, it’s a lot of wasted energy that could have gotten me well down any one of them if I had just let the others go.


Well, I did play the game. The first time, I opened 14 doors and scored about 1600 points. The second time, I opened 4 doors and scored almost twice as many.

It turns out my Whole Foods does not stock neti pots, probably the only trendy homeopathic remedy du jour in the history of such things that it has failed to supply, but this NYT article on the ineffectiveness of antibiotics for treating sinus infections has inspired me to try harder. I’m a little skeptical, because the reporter bases the conclusion on a study that only had people taking a basic antibiotic for ten days. The one time that I have had a full blown sinus infection, I had to take a more intense antibiotic for a full 21 days. At least now I know why: sinuses are hard to reach with antibiotics, possibly because they are just little pockets in your skull that have no actual blood flow? I’m not sure on that one, it’s just a thought. Anyway, it’s interesting to see evidence that sometimes, drugs are no substitute for just taking a couple of days to really take care of yourself.

It’s Monday, and that means I’m back in Boca after a Sunday gritting my teeth in the parallel world called In-Law City, and on this particular Monday it also means that I have been given a wonderful early Christmas present by my dermatologist which is, I only have to go in once a year now. He must have been reading my wish list, because that is what I really wanted to hear. So, seeing as it is always a great day not to have skin cancer, I am going to go out on a limb here and post a link to my sister’s Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Team in Training fundraising page. It’s  right here.
She’s got a little less than a month until the Disney marathon, and she’s a little over halfway to her mandatory minimum fundraising goal to participate. This is not due to lack of effort–she’s been sending out emails since August and she’s gotten great results from the people who don’t always procrastinate these things until the very last minute. She is really gung ho about this, so she’s planning on putting the balance on her credit card if some people don’t step up to the plate and give already. My sister makes me look like a slacker–she’s currently commuting from Miami to West Palm every day and putting in ten to twelve hours of accounting due diligence in between. Plus, she’s training for this marathon and of course raising money to support cancer treatment and research. So, if you have an extra 5 or 10 ten dollars and a minute to fill out an online donation form, I am encouraging you to make a merrier Christmas for one overworked public accountant, and as a bonus possibly cure cancer. Seriously, the survival rate for children under 5 with Acute Lymphocitic Leukemia is now 90.4%. This is still not reassuring enough for people such as my friend Carol in BC who was just diagnosed w/ ALL as a young adult, though, so I for one am giving to support the research that has brought us this far.

I know this is the time of year to be hit up for a bazillion things, but the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society could use whatever help you could spare. And if you’d like to donate, here is a great place to do it.

PS As an added incentive, if I see any of my known reader’s names pop up on the little sidebar in any amount, I will buy that person a lot of beer.  As much as they can drink in one night. So this could actually be more like an investment opportunity if you play it right.