Monday, March 31, 2008

What's Your Answer?

Okay kids, it's time for multiple choice fun! Here's the question.

Suppose you read a comment in a blog comment thread, and you think the comment's wrong. Maybe worse, you think it gives some really crappy advice. What do you do?
(a) In the same comment thread or even in a comment thread on a much-more widely-read blog, you respond to the problematic comment by explaining why you think it's wrong, offering better advice, and suggesting readers look down-thread for further useful reponses to the first comment;

(b) Do some or all of (a), but then also leap at the chance to tut-tut the "costs" of anonymous blog comments, call for the offending blog comment to be deleted, rather than simply answered, and otherwise make sure all the other hens know you're clucking right along with them.
What's your answer?


Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Grand Don't Come For Free

The advice to prospective grad students floating around a bit ago is worth paying attention to. You need to know what you’re getting into when you sign up. You’re (hopefully) going to be teaching the rest of your life. There are not a lot of other job opportunities that will fully appreciate our skills. The market’s tight. All the departments you're looking at are going to put their best foot forward. The stipend tends to be good enough to subsist, but usually isn’t guaranteed for the length of time it takes a lot of us to finish.

That said, there’s something to keep in mind. Being a graduate student is awesome. Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes it hurts, but it can hurt so good. You get to seriously engage in the most interesting issues with others who can keep pace. This is just because all those formerly exceptional undergrads are now your peers. No one should go to grad school unless you're ready to start down a potentially life-long path that will include facing the the job market. But at least in my pre-job market experience, the past few years have been an incredibly rewarding social and intellectual time of my life. I mean, I get paid to sit around and think (hard).

So to all you newcomers to the ranks of philosophy grad school, Welcome! Who knows, maybe some of us will end up being your advisors.

--Second Suitor

Sunday Comics

After much deliberation, this week's comic remains without a title (and also without [blatant, or otherwise] copyright infringement). Though after drawing it I can't get that damn song from the beginning of The Hills out of my head. I'm not sure what that means other than I should probably spend more time writing my dissertation and less time following the slightly scripted lives of twenty-somethings in the Hollywood Hills.

Or should that be vice-versa?

(Click to make the comic big)


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

But Baby I Don't Intend to Leave Empty-Handed

In the Chronicle, here's a prof talking about civilians' perceptions of what academics do, and academics' perceptions of getting paid shit after doing a PhD and surviving the job market:

"I wish I had your job," said a friend who works in the banking industry, when I characterized last summer's poolside reading as work.

"I wish I had your savings account," I replied.

You know what's sad? Thinking to yourself, "30K a year? I don't know what I'd do with all that money!" No doubt that's what people are talking about when they tell us to stop thinking like grad students.

-- PGS

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Blueprint Vol. 3

In figuring out what we should be doing now, publishing and going to conferences were the obvious things to do. Only slightly less obvious, it may be worth taking a minute to figure out if there are any fellowships left that worth applying for. I admit, this post comes a little late. It looks like the Ford Fellowship was due Nov 29th. A Mellon Fellowship was due Jan 14th. The Newcombe was due way back in last November. Well, set your bookmarks and google calendars to get ready for next year.

But wait! All hope is not lost. Some schools seem to have a few fellowship opportunities still available so it's worth taking a quick look to see if you're one of the lucky ones.

I'm thinking that getting one of these fellowships may be a feather in your cap. Before you apply though, make sure you don't cut off important sources of future funding.

--Second Suitor

Monday, March 24, 2008

Everywhere You Look You Only See Red

I just got the rejection from the last postdoc I really wanted. Not the last application I have out there, but the last one for something I wanted. This was the last thing I was still hoping for, my last chance to not feel like an unqualified failure.

What's wrong with me? What the fuck is wrong with me? Every last application I've sent has failed. What the fuck am I doing wrong?


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Sunday Comics

I was told by my attorney that I can't be sued if it's an homage. So, if you never hear from me again, or from Team PJMB after today, blame it on my attorney, and PGS for giving me posting privileges. I hope he doesn't rue that day (and that I used rue correctly).

(Click to make it big.)

--Soon-to-be-Jaded Dissertator

Friday, March 21, 2008


Recently "the ethicist" commented on whether it's ok for a professor to take videos of his 8:00a lectures offline to get students to come to class. The answer? It's fine if the teacher thinks there is some pedagogical reason for encouraging students to actually be present during lectures. Then the ethicist defends the plausibility of the worth of going to class. But, not posting the videos is wrong if the teacher is doing it for some self-regarding reason.

Now I know sometimes I may act like a prison guard in the Stanford prison experiments, but I do try to get my students to express a certain regard for whatever I’m teaching. Not showing up to class or (even worse) coming late does not express that regard. For the most part it hasn’t been a problem since I’m such an engaging teacher ;). But, I recognize that my efforts to get my kids to come to class largely stem from the fact it makes me feel good when they act like they care. That may well fall into the ‘self-regarding’ category. Fuck!

-- Second Suitor

Thursday, March 20, 2008

You Make Me Feel Like, Feel Like Saying. . . Foxy

Trolling through the Chronicle forums, I came across someone worried about some crappy Rate My Professor comments, and how the comments could influence a search committee. Here's they advice they got:
1. Post a bunch of positive reviews on RMP for yourself. Not all at once, that would be suspicious. . . . But log on every now and then, create a new hotmail address for each fake persona if you have to (although I'm not sure it's necessary) and post away!
Sounds like that'd do the trick.

But you know who really needs to take this advice? The Future Dr. Mrs Dr PGS. She's got a lot of seriously unprofessional-sounding comments on her Rate My Professor page. I know, because I put them there. Heh.

-- PGS

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Sometimes You're the Windshield, Sometimes You're the Bug

Okay, so one of my office mates got an awesome PFO today. It went beyond ink-on-paper expression of passive voice bullshit. It was an avant garde experiment in mixed media conceptual art--and all just to tell a candidate to fuck off! On the letter itself, just to the right of the middle of the page, there were the squished remains of a green bug smeared across the paper.

I think the subtext is clear enough.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Your third drink will lead you astray

With the insight provided by the PJMB about my academic job prospects, I visited the APA’s site on non-academic jobs. Much to my surprise and relief, I found out that my Ph.D. in philosophy (should I ever finish the dissertation I am currently not writing) uniquely qualifies me for many jobs outside academia.

For example, I could be a brewer. A brewer? Fuck yeah! Excitedly I (fake) called up a (fake) major brewery:

Brewery Rep: Hello, thanks for calling [fake brewery’s name]. How may I help you?
Me: Yes, I’m calling to inquire about the assistant to the brewer position.
Brewery Rep: What are your qualifications?
Me: I’m working towards my Ph.D. in philosophy.
Brewery Rep: I’m sorry, sir. You said philosophy and not chemistry, right?
Me: Yes, I’m writing a dissertation on [some radical and cutting edge topic].
Me: And uhhh, according to the APA’s website, someone, at sometime, with a Ph.D. in philosophy became a brewer.
Me: Ummmm. (Silence) Oh! I also drink a lot of beer when I’m not [and when I am] writing [said amazing dissertation].
Brewery Rep: Are you serious?
Me: Sure I am. In fact, I think because my beer of choice won a blue ribbon in some beer competition I am uniquely qualified to come up with a formula for very tasty beer. You see, it begins with only the finest hops and grains...
Brewery Rep: Goodbye, sir.
Me: Did I mention I drink a lot of beer?
(Dial tone)

Fuck. I should’ve known I had a better chance at being an assistant manager of a hotel. Yeah, I like the sound of that: Dr. Assistant Budget Inn Manager.

--Soon-to-be-Jaded Dissertator

I'm feeling kinda thirsty

Troubling news is spreading. I may have been going about my dissertation all wrong. The New York Times is reporting on some new 'research' that looks into to why some scientists are more productive than others. The findings? Productivity is correlated to the amount of beer the researcher drinks. The article states, "the more beer a scientist drinks, the less likely the scientist is to publish a paper or to have a paper cited by another researcher." Apparently alcohol's role in networking hasn't been helping the scientists.

Now, before anyone goes off the deep end, keep in mind that drinking some beer is good for you and the study does not say anything about bourbon. Here's to hoping that philosophy research is that different from scientific research..

-- Second Suitor

Update (from PGOAT): Let me take this opportunity to gratuitously re-post the Crack Spider video.

Nice web, Mr. Crack Spider.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Murderers You're Murderers, We Are Not the Same as You

Oh my god, this piece in the Chronicle is pure gold. It's by someone who spent fifteen years working on HR-related crap, writing books and teaching seminars on how to get jobs in the non-academic world I keep hearing so much about. But now she's finishing up her PhD in something business-y, and she's been out of the academic job market three times. Why three times? Because—wait, wait for it—her non-academic job-seeking skills are totally fucking irrelevant! Can you believe it? I know! Who could have guessed?

The thing about the piece is the tone. The author isn't just talking about how different the academic and non-academic job markets are. She's talking about how utterly fucking gobsmacked she is about the differences. Her realization that the markets were different was an “epiphany”, and she “continues to marvel” at just how different the markets are.

The point isn't that the author made some serious rookie mistakes. The academic job market is really weird and fucked up. Who isn't going to make mistakes the first (or second, or third) time out? The point is, why is it such a fucking revelation that the academic job market is nothing like the non-academic market? Why is it so hard to convince some non-academics that, no, you should not be making follow-up calls about your applications, and their advice to do so is terrible, terrible advice?

-- PGS

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sunday Comics

"Spring Break!!!" Drawn by Soon-to-be-Jaded Dissertator, with a credit for the idea to his GF, the Ambivalent Psychbot. I don't know about you, but I don't think you can really understand logical positivism unless you read it in a thong.

(Click to make it big.)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Spring Break!!!

It’s taken a few years, but I think that now I can officially say I’m becoming part of the academy. As we approach that magic time of year that involves the annual filming of ‘Girls with Low Self-Esteem,’ it hasn’t even occurred to me to do anything exciting for spring break.

Actually, my thoughts were more along these lines. What? A week without any colloquium, classes, advisors to meet with, or other general professional obligations? Maybe I can get a good 10-15 pages done! Optimistic I know, but also a little sad and proof that I’ve been in grad school for a long time.

-- Second Suitor (Since I'm posting this all by my lonesome hopefully the formatting won't go awry)

Friday, March 14, 2008

I Mean the Game of Going Insane

In comments, Anon. 5:14's talking about the howling fantods:
I'm (happily but stressfully) in the middle of my tenure evaluation, and I've been remembering lately just how much worse--worlds worse--l I felt during my two years of being on the market and not getting a job. (Sometimes three times really is the charm.) One day just after finding out, for the second year in a row, that I wasn't going to get a job, I was sitting at the front of the classroom looking at my watch to see if it was time to begin. I looked down and saw the socks I was wearing. They were perfectly ordinary socks. No different from any of the other socks I usually wear. But I was gripped with a deep, undeniable feeling that they were The Wrong Socks. I was wearing The Wrong Socks. I couldn't do anything right. Not even socks.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

I Want to Tear it All Down and Build it Up Again

The worst part of this is something I don't have a word for. It's a kind of frustration, I guess. It feels like paralysis, as if I were straining to move my body--focusing as hard as I could--and yet feeling myself lying perfectly still. Or it's like I keep screaming until I can't breath anymore, except that I never manged to make any sound at all, and all I have to show for myself is my own exhaustion.

Most days are better, but for no particular reason today was worse.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Sunday Comics

No, it's not Sunday. What's your point? Here's an untitled effort from Soon-to-be-Jaded Dissertator. (Click to make it big.)

I Know What it's Like to Have Failed, Baby

The Professor means well, but the advice he's giving just makes me feel even more like a loser than I already do. Ever since it's been clear I wasn't getting a tenure-tracked job this year, he's been telling me--repeatedly--what I "need to do" to get job. His advice? He says my research is what's going to get me a job. So what I "need" to do is get a really sweet research postdoc. That way, I'll have all this time to move my work forward, so I can crank out more and better papers. Then I'll get a job.

I bet I would have a better shot at more jobs if I spent all of next year working on nothing but my research. Okay, but almost all of the research postdocs I applied for have already told me to fuck off. For most of them, I never even had a shot.

The Professor's telling me what I need to do, and I have to tell him I've already failed. He's trying to help me out, and I fucked up his advice before he could even give it. God, that feels like shit.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Hello World

Second Suitor, folks. --PGS

Teaching introduction to philosophy one day seems like it’s going to be fun. I mean you get to convince a lot of kids that philosophy goes beyond the deep thoughts you have when you’re sitting around stoned, and you get to blow their mind with the power of argument. If you’re lucky, some may even learn how to argue for a position.

I just wanted to highlight a resource that may be helpful - Teaching Philosophy 101. Some of the suggestions seem kind of basic, but as someone still fairly new to the world of teaching it’s nice to have someone break it down.

Also, it appears that all my bookmarked websites about philosophical movies are gone. C’est la vie.

--Second Suitor

Monday, March 10, 2008

What's the Use in Trying, When Nothing's Going Right

I am spitting fucking mad right now. I can't believe how fast I get spitting fucking mad as soon as I start dealing with more fucking job applications.

As I've mentioned before, my department secretary needs us to address the envelopes our letters go out in, because all she does is stuff the envelopes and drop them in the campus mail bucket beside her desk. Okay, fine. But that's not all she makes us do. She won't stuff any envelopes if they don't come along with a nice printed list of the names and addresses of all (and only) the schools she's got the envelopes for in the particular batch she's dealing with. What does she need that list for? Who the fuck knows. (It's not the same list my supervisor and the placement committee get.)

Well, an hour ago I was typing up that fucking list. Then I tried to print it on the shitty printer us grad students have to use. Then the printer fucking bailed. Repeatedly. It took me so long to get this fucking list printed, that by the time I was done, I was sprinting to the office to give the list and the envelopes to the secretary before she closed the office at 5:00. I wanted her to have that crap so she could send out my letters tomorrow, without me having to come into the department just to give her two fucking envelopes and a piece of fucking paper.

The secretary saw me running, locked the office door, and then refused to answer when I knocked. Because it was--by the office clock--5:01. All I wanted to do was hand her two fucking envelopes and her pointless fucking list. So they'd be there for her tomorrow.

But no. Instead of tomorrow being uninterrupted writing, I get to come into the department to deal with this bullshit.

Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.

Twenty Million Other White Rappers Emerge

In case someone hasn't seen this yet, it turns out that white people like graduate school!
After acquiring a Masters Degree that will not increase their salary or hiring desirability, many white people will move on to a PhD program where they will go after their dream of becoming a professor. However, by their second year they usually wake up with a hangover and realize: “I’m going to spend six years in graduate school to make $35,000 and live in the middle of nowhere?”
Click the link to find out what happens next!

ps. Sorry to disappear there for a couple of days. I had my head down getting some work off my desk, and PGOAT's been otherwise occupied too.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Time Can never Mend the Careless Whispers of a Good Friend

Via Yglesias, it looks like John McCain thinks students should be "at the center" of their education. Student-centered education, huh? What the fuck? That's my idea. Who leaked my teaching philosophy to the McCain campaign?

Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter

More from my boy Second Suitor. --PGS

So it seems these days more and more graduate students hopping on the bandwagon and creating their own web pages. Several schools appear to have space dedicated for every student on their website. Makes sense. It seems like an easy way to market yourself… But wait. Should we really have our own websites? Sitting here posting on a blog I tend to think having a website doesn’t hurt. Just make sure those drunken facebook photos stay safely behind some privacy settings.

Assuming for the moment that someone decides to have a webpage, what should you put on it (besides, of course, a link to the PJMB)? There seem to be two schools of thought. Some are more informal with pictures of cute little kids. The informal approach tends to be more like personal websites with a cv. The second approach uses a website more like a business card. In addition to the CV, these websites seem to include things like research interests or maybe even a statement of teaching philosophy.

I’m guessing professionally the second approach is best? At the end of the day I’m not sure that it really matters. I mean the main person that’s going to look at your website is you (and maybe some obsessive blogger).

--Second Suitor

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

I'd Like to Shake Your Hand, Disappointment

I've mentioned before how discouraging it is to be doing spring applications. I keep thinking about how my senior profs talk about one-years. Way back when I was a first-year, Evil Columbo was talking to a few of us first-years about how to think about the job market. He said post-docs could be a respectable way to spend a year, if the market was really bad your first year out. Post-docs weren't respectable unless the market was really bad. And if you had to do more than one, that was bad too. His exact words were--yes, I can remember them--"fresh PhDs get dog-eared pretty fast." Message received. The longer we were out without tenure-track jobs, the less likely we'd be to get them. In the entire conversation about respectable routes to a tenure-track job, I don't remember one-years coming up even once.

Now, Evil Columbo's a buffoon, so what he thinks isn't hard to shake out of my head. A lot harder to shake is a conversation I had with my supervisor, the Professor, about a year ago, just after I got killed on the market the first time.

We were sitting in his office, talking about, well, how I'd completely fucking failed. At some point I asked him if I should be thinking about applying to one-years. The gist of what he said was, since I didn't need to finish my dissertation, I shouldn't worry too much about it and the department could probably find some work for me to do to pay my rent. He talked about how much it sucks to pick up and move your entire life for a single year. And, yeah, I hear that. But the Professor's exact words in this conversation were, "Generally, I don't think one-years are worth it."

Not "worth it." Those are the jobs I'm applying for right now. The one's that aren't worth it.

The Professor's moderated that kind of language this year. At least, he has when he's talking to me. I appreciate that kindness. But I also remember how he talked to me about one-years when he could say what he thought without having to bite his tongue. I can dismiss what a lot of people say about one-years, but the Professor's my supervisor. There's no way for what he says not to matter to me. So applying to one-years feels like shit.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Sunday Comics

This week's comic from Soon-to-be-Jaded Dissertator is untitled, but it speaks for itself. (Click to make it big.)

Saturday, March 1, 2008

You Load Sixteen Tons, What Do You Get?

Let me tell you about an observation I've made over the past couple of days. I've been back into my dissertation, and I had one good morning last week. You know the feeling? Time sort of recedes into a distant background and your focus is all about the tick-tock of ideas, coming out in exactly the order you want them. When you finally finish the section you've been working on, you look up and realize two hours have passed and you're already late for something. It's awesome when that happens.

But besides how awesome those runs are, they make me feel fucking good. I feel like I've got real work done. I mean, I feel like I've spent my time on something and actually got something to show for it. It's satisfying.

This week I also put a few applications in the mail. Besides photocopying all the shit I needed for the applications, I also spent a stupid amount of time writing customized cover letters. Then I made sure my department secretary had what she needed to put my letters in the mail. Then I headed to the post office, waited in line, and dropped off my crap. It took pretty close to a full day.

The thing I've noticed is how I felt after getting all those applications in the mail. I'm not talking about feeling the pit in my stomach that comes from thinking about my rapidly diminishing chances of getting anything out the year's efforts besides unqualified failure. Bracket that. That's not what I'm talking about here. I'm talking about the feeling of having spent a day putting together application envelopes, and getting them in the mail. Those are more concrete products than anything else I ever get from writing or teaching. You can hold those envelopes in your hand. They have weight. They're real. Putting those envelopes together, I should feel like I've done something.

So what did it feel like? Nothing. There's just no sense I've got any work done, no sense I've got anything to show for the day, no satisfaction. Like I spent the day doing nothing.