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Buried with a donkey

May 6, 2011

I’m sitting in my usual spot in a campus coffee shop stealing electricity from the university (well, technically I guess I pay for it) without buying coffee. I came down early for a meeting with my advisor, who was AWOL but who arrived an hour late after I tracked him down by email in his study in the library. The meeting was more productive than I expected given that I’m still mired in the chapter that ate Mars (now over 200 pages long and counting and probably doomed to be subdivided at some point down the road). But we drummed up another job for me to apply for. This one’s local. Another long shot, but an interesting non-teaching but education related gig at a place where I did a lot of my diss research. In this case, it’s clear that they think they want a different kind of applicant but they actually want someone with my skills. It should make the cover letter relatively easy to write, because the point of the argument is clear.

It’s an entertaining day to be down here. For one thing, the weather is gorgeous. I met my friend H. for our usual lunch. Instead of holing up in the cafeteria, we walked to the deli and took our sandwiches and ate them on the edge of the fountain in the park. It’s nice to see people out and about. There are still a lot of gloves, recently thawed from their ice age flattened on streets and sidewalks – I counted five on my walk back to campus. Winter is not yet so far gone.

Back on campus, it is the end of the week of the annual scavenger hunt, where undergraduate teams find insane numbers of things and perform crazy stunts for points in order to gain a year’s worth of bragging rights. In the middle of the quad, teams of students were building small replicas of the pyramids of Giza out of plywood, spray paint and duct tape. One team carved the face of King Tut and impaled it over the door of their pyramid. Another made a mummy that looked so lifelike (if it’s even possible for a mummy to be lifelike) that there may, in fact, have been a real person under all those bandages. Another team had people dressed up as King Tut and Cleopatra wandering around and posing for pictures.

When I walked back toward the music department, I discovered that someone had installed a pair of giant googly eyes the size of tympani heads over the second floor balcony of the building next door, making the whole building look like some crazed jack-o-lantern.

I am hanging around waiting for a dissertation defense at 1:30. Dissertations defenses in our department, unlike most places, are usually a big event. They are open to all. Defenders often come with a posse of friends and sometimes bring snacks. My advisor has been suggesting I attend one in advance of my own (I’ve been to many over the years, but not in a while), an as luck would have it, not only is there one scheduled for this afternoon at a highly convenient time for me, but the person defending is from my original grad school cohort. We studied for comps together. I went to the baby shower for her first child, a child who is now probably in high school. The defense, however, is in a teeny tiny room, so I am hoping I don’t get booted out to make room for faculty.

And now to get a little more work done.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. freshhell permalink
    May 6, 2011 5:36 pm

    Every building needs some googly eyes on it!

  2. May 6, 2011 6:17 pm

    I agree completely. And they go particularly well on the high and mighty Gothic confections on our campus.

  3. May 7, 2011 9:36 am

    In case anyone is interested, here are the relevant items from this year’s list:

    40. Affix a pair of appropriately enormous googly eyes to the campus building of your choice. [8 points]

    120. Last year’s Captains were but pharaohs, but through death they have ascended to godhood as well. To that end, they require an appropriate 1BR/studio for the afterlife. It should have a sarcophagus, pets or servants, royal treasures, and maybe some snacks to tide them over in the eternity to come. It’ll need four rigid walls between eight and twelve feet wide, but it won’t need a ceiling. That’s right: Pyramids on the Quads. To be completed by 1:00 p.m. on Friday. [number of points for this one was listed in hieroglyphics – the sign of the scarab beetle]

    This year’s list is 21 pages long and include 277 items/proof of activities. A number of items require travel to Wisconsin and/or Minnesota. It’s the 25th anniversary this year and they’re trying to get in the world record books for the world’s largest scavenger hunt. I’ll let you know if they make it.

  4. Cranky permalink
    May 8, 2011 8:28 am

    I thought of you this week bc apparently in the 3pi dept at CU you have a private proposal defense (my friend who is incredibly smart just had her butt handed to her on Fri), a public proposal defense and then a private diss defense and then it’s over. I find that to be very bizarre–I “like” the idea of a public diss defense. Not that I have any intention of doing that.

  5. May 8, 2011 8:37 am

    Your poor friend. Our proposal defense is private. Not even the whole faculty is invited — committee members and the defendant only. I think part of the reason the diss defense is public is that it is generally a formality by that point. I know my professors would disagree with my use of that term. Maybe what I really mean is a forgone conclusion. It is extremely rare for someone not to pass a dissertation defense. Your advisor/committee is not supposed to let you get to that point if you will not do well. So why not make it a celebration? I have only been to two defenses where things got ugly. In one case, it was because the person’s advisor had clearly not done his job. The defendant passed a few months later after much rewriting and a second (private) defense. The other case was when two professors had at it using the questions to the defendant as a way of getting at each other. Fortunately, the defendant was prepared, confident, and not the kind of person to take that kind of bullshit. That person passed with flying colors and is also tenured. The idea of having two proposal defenses seems very weird to me. I could see doing a private diss defense and then some kind of public presentation of your research. That would be kind of nice, actually.


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