I\’m Too Sexy for My Master\’s Thesis


piled higher and deeper

Posted in scholarship,tips by Rae on 14 September 2006

When I first subscribed to PhD, the only notification option for new comics was a link via email. Now Piled Higher and Deeper has an RSS feed, and new comics are delivered directly to Bloglines!

For a good sample comic, click here.

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bad grad student eating habits

Posted in tips by Rae on 30 June 2006

I’ve developed some very unhealthy habits while writing my thesis. I stay up late (usually until 2 or 3 am), get up late (around 10 or 11 am), and I eat terrible food. One of the great ironies of the past month or so is that I watch cooking shows while eating fast food. I love to cook, but like most of my favorite activities, cooking has fallen by the wayside while I write my thesis.

But there are options out there for quick, tasty meals. I’m in a somewhat more difficult position because I’m a pescitarian (mainly vegetarian with some fish, but no shellfish because that’s not kosher) but my husband’s not. Here’s a quick run-down of the food we’ve been eating for the past two months and what we think of it.

Fast food: This includes Qdoba’s (Mexican fast food), which is good but heavy on the beans. That may not be the best option for someone dealing with a lot of stress and not enough sleep. I like their grilled veggie burritos and cheese quesadillas. We order a large pizza once every few months because that’s all we can handle. If it were pizza from Lombardi’s, we’d eat it every day. As it is, we’re a bit far from SoHo. And we are so over Sonic, where I ordered their egg sandwiches, served all day, and their tater tots. Uber unhealthy, and really not that tasty. I was so desperate for new food that I even tried Burger King’s veggie burger one day. It tasted like everything from Burger King: gross. We finally ordered Chinese food the other night. I always end up with a huge container of lo mein. I’ve had three servings and the container is still full. How much of this stuff can one person eat? Beyond the unhealthy, not-consistently-tasty factors of fast food eating, it gets very expensive. Grad students=poor. Even when fast food is made with fresh ingredients, it usually gets old fast.
Frozen food: My sister recommended Bertolli frozen skillet meals for two. My sister, who also loves to cook and eat, is to be trusted in her food opinion. So, my husband went to the grocery store to find said frozen food. They have a nice variety of meaty meals, but only one meatless option. I tried that one option, which I probably won’t buy again. Who puts huge chunks of raw garlic in a pasta dish like that? My husband has yet to try the chicken meal he bought, but it looks promising. My husband also bought a frozen, meatless lasagna. It’s a bit big for two people, so my guess is that we’ll get really sick of it and won’t be able to eat it again for a very long time. Which is fine, because there are special circumstances and normally I’d just make the lasagna myself. My husband bought several different kinds of frozen chicken dishes and frozen wings, which he especially likes. I have my pseudo-chicken nuggets by Quorn that taste very similar to the real thing and are just like the real thing when dipped in honey. I also have frozen stuff by Amy’s, but I’m really sick of it all. It’s always either bland or too dry. I’m even sick of the Amy’s mac and cheese (which I didn’t think would ever happen). So, there are both good and bad frozen options out there. Don’t be afraid to venture into your grocer’s freezer section. It will save you money, time, and probably an aching stomach.

Ready-made deli food: This is a good option for special occasions. It’s less expensive than eating out, and you can take the food home and have a nice, full meal. This is what my husband and I often do for Shabbat dinner and date night (which happens to be the same night). It’s too expensive for all the time, though.

Since my husband and I are celebrating our 5th wedding anniversary tomorrow, we might actually spoil ourselves and go to a restaurant. We’re having a hard time deciding which one, though…

eye strain and the grad student

Posted in tips by Rae on 8 June 2006

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Eye strain is a serious problem for… well, just about everyone who uses computers (not just grad students who may be spending hours and hours and hours staring at a computer screen hoping that the next word will come soon).

I started wearing glasses when I was a teenager, after the people around me noticed I was holding books awfully close to my face. I switched to contacts two years ago, and I think some of my eye strain may be due to my contacts. I wear the kind of contacts that can be left in overnight and up to a month. So, I only change my contacts once a month and that's certainly not the best thing for eye health. I'm planning on getting my glasses perscription updated so that I can do month on, month off with the contacts. I hate having stuff on my face, but my desire to be able to read for the rest of my life trumps the whole "stuff on my face" thing.

I don't have time or money to deal with the glasses thing right now, but I do want to take steps to reduce eye strain. Besides, as long as I use a computer, I'll need to be careful about my eye health.

I know I need to take more breaks, but I often (almost always) forget. I know of one tool, the USB Vision and Posture Reminder, that hooks up to any computer. There are also downloadable programs that remind you to take breaks. Some of these are not free (like Albion StopNow! and Chequers Software Break Reminder). However, I'm a poor grad student and like free options, like Workrave.
Reducing monitor glare is also important for relieving eye strain. Blinking, too. BiggestBook.com has lots of useful information, including the 20/20 rule:

It's never wise to constantly be staring at something for extended periods of time. When it comes to computers, you can relieve eyestrain by following this simple rule: every 20 minutes take your eyes off the monitor and look at an area 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

I'm going to make use of the 20/20 rule in just a moment, as I've been staring at this monitor for approximately two hours. I'm also going to try these eye exercises.You know you've been staring at the monitor for too long when your eyes start stinging and tearing uncontrollably.

super sexy wednesday 4

Posted in history,scholarship,tips by Rae on 31 May 2006

From Tomorrow's Professor Blog, "Are You a 21st Century Library-Ready Instructor?" looks at how to make campus libraries more attractive and useful to students and faculty.

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"The Future of Free Information" (PDF) by Lawrence M. Sanger. (via Open Access News)

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So sad: UK educators shun Israeli academics. I agree with Jim Davila's sentiments. When will they learn that these actions only put egg on their own faces and harm academic freedom?

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Home Schoolers Learn A B C's of Keeping Fit:

Six years ago, when she became their teacher, Ms. Massey, 36, easily got up to speed in math and science, but the fundamentals of physical education left her stumped. "I didn't feel adequate enough to teach them myself," she said. Although her children, the oldest of whom are 8 and 11, played backyard soccer, she wanted them to understand that there was more to fitness than just kicking a ball. "P.E. is just as important as academics," she insisted. "I want my kids to understand how heart rate works and how you can get a good workout even if you can't go to the gym."

Do people think kids learn that in public or private schools? As someone who spent time in public, private, and home schools, my level of physical fitness and knowledge of the body and excercise didn't vary from one to the next. My firm belief is that lifestyle habits like good eating and exercise are learned at home, anyway.

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There is a technique for researching in Russian libraries: How to Get Past Face Control at the Library. (via Rare Book News)

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Inside Higher Ed has a smart article, titled "Stop Chasing High-Tech Cheaters."

Outside the classroom, cell phones, PDAs, PocketPCs, Internet access is everywhere because we need it and use it in our information driven lives. But inside the classroom, the very skills humans need to succeed are discouraged and viewed with alarm. So schools do not teach effective use of Google, of text-messaging, of instant-messaging. They don’t teach collaboration. They barely teach communication outside the stilted prose only academics use. No wonder students are prepared for nothing except more school.

I suppose everyone assumes kids know how to use all the popular technologies, but those students mostly (only?) use those tools in a social milieu. I agree with Ira Socol (the article's author). I also think that colleges need to make courses on how to network mandatory for all students. Every job and opportunity I've been offered since college has resulted from networking, but I only realized that in retrospect. If I had known that it really matters "who ya know" during my undergrad years, I'm convinced I could have made better use of my time then and after.

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A new blog: Digging Digitally – Archaeology, data sharing, digitally enabled research & education.

getting organized

Posted in thesis,tips,tools by Rae on 19 May 2006

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Note: These are not my books. My book piles are very neat. 

May 12's PhD comic summed up the organizational difficulties a lot of graduate students (and everyone else, for that matter) face. But there are solutions for managing the chaos that is undoubtedly your life, and I'm going to share some of the effective tools I've stumbled across.

There are several books about getting and staying organized, but the one that has the largest and still-growing cult following is Getting Things Done (known affectionately as GTD) by David Allen. Unfortunately I came across this one a bit too late to fully implement for my thesis, but it's changed the way I think about being organized and my productivity has improved. Two very helpful websites on GTD are the 43Folders wiki and Steve Lawson's "Lunch and Learn" tutorial.

Good email management is also important. Steve Lawson recommends reading these two guides: Ole Eichhorn's "The Tyranny of Email," and Mark Hurst's "Managing Incoming E-mail: What Every User Needs to Know." I've read them and refer to them in conversations all the time. I especially liked the concept that it takes three solid hours to get something done. To get in "the zone," you need to eliminate the distractions. Eichhorn tells you how.

I find to-do lists and calendars particularly helpful. I've tried Mozilla's various calendar applications and wasn't crazy about them. I'm generally a list person, so I use Remember the Milk. I can create my to-do lists and have them emailed to me every morning, plus they show up in my blog reader (Bloglines) via an RSS feed. Google Calendar is very popular, but for calendars I prefer a Moleskine. I bought the limited edition one in Commie Red last week and can't wait for 2007!

On Wednesday I linked to an article on overcoming procrastination. A few days ago, Gadgetopia posted that sometimes procrastination can be confused with thinking. While motivational articles and speakers often make me want to strangle someone due to their over-the-top postivity, motivational phrases can be useful without enraging.

Sure, a number of the above links are geared towards programmers and related geeks, but my readers are probably nose-in-book types and can therefore appreciate them just the same. 

Do you have ideas about getting and staying organized at work, school, or home? 

super sexy wednesday

Posted in tips,tools by Rae on 10 May 2006

I've collected a number of miscellaneous links of possible interest to graduate students and researchers, so I've created "super sexy wednesday" as a platform for sharing those links. I'll do this every week.

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Most researchers are probably familiar with Google Scholar, and Microsoft recently unveiled their Live Academic Search. Elsa Wenzel offers a quick comparison of the two here.The New York Times published an article today on Microsoft and Google's apparent collision course: Microsoft and Google Grapple for Supremacy as Stakes Escalate. (via Open Access News)

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Announcing the official Inside Google Book Search blog.

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You've probably heard about the Cornyn-Lieberman Bill. If not, it' a proposed bill that would make federally-funded research into open access research. I see it as aiding the intellectual and research community, but not everyone's enthusiastic. The Association of American Publishers issued their protest yesterday. Click here to read more about it and what open access proponents are saying in response to the publishers' concerns.

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The Chronicle has a piece on the problems posed by multimedia dissertations. My project is a plain, ol' words on paper kinda thesis, so this is not a problem I'm facing. Still, it's food for thought.

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Tomorrow's Professor Blog has a useful post that

looks at some practical suggestions for choosing the right dissertation topic in the humanities and social sciences. It is from Chapter 4 Finishing the Doctoral Degree in a Timely Fashion: The Dissertation as a Key Factor in the Humanities and Social Sciences, by Cynthia Verba, in Scholarly Pursuits: A Guide to Professional Development During the Graduate Years.

Check it out.

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A possibly handy tool for grad students: ExpressPDF lets you convert online Word, Excel, web pages to PDF for free.

(via Library Stuff)

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The 5th edition of A Pocket Guide to Writing in History by Mary Lynn Rampolla will be released in July.