Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tick Tock Goes The Clock

I am pretty sure I will struggle with organization - both physical organization and time management, for the rest of my life. Its just "how I roll". In high school people sometimes would tell me I seemed really together or organized. Well... I am glad I could create that illusion because in actuality, I am really not at all together. Yes. If I have an assignment, I get it done... except on the occasional times when I forget I have an assignment. The worse grades I ever received had more to do with memory than ability. They came from those "oh crap!! thats due tomorrow?" moments that are so pleasant to experience. I remember some particularly bad incidents involving a seventh grade English group project, and a 10th grade biology project. I believe I got C's on both. Always ended up with A's in the classes though. Also, I have improved with time. I don't remember any particularly bad incidents during my undergraduate years, and only one in graduate school, and I have an excuse for that one... practically no one in the class knew or realized it was due when it was. Oh well.

Did this post have a point when I started? I don't think so. Oh well.

Monday, September 29, 2008

I've Been Tagged

I have been "tagged" by Erin at http://www.babyfat.blogspot.com and Allison at http://www.bouncingbuckeyebaby.blogspot.com.

As far as I can tell, this is the blogging equivalent to those email survey forwards I used to LOVE in high school.

Basically, it means that I am supposed to post 7 random facts about myself, and then tag seven new blogs. I am not sure if I can tag 7, but we will see.

Seven Random Facts about Me

1. In high school I was on the small school State Champion math league team, and the state runner up Music listening team. We should have won music listening, but their rules are stupid (though I might be bias).
More on Music Listening - http://www.musiclisteningcontest.org/

2. I have a lifetime membership in Girl Scouts and earned their highest award, the Gold Award, equivalent to an Eagle Scout.

3. I am attracted to bright colors to an extreme degree. Especially orange, or orange next to red, or orange next to red next to yellow next to pink... you get the idea.

4. When I am bored or procrastinating I take my scissors and cut up whatever junkmail or scrap is laying around me, usually into a spiral or a snowflake. Frequently I keep these ad-hoc works of art in my office for months before getting rid of them.

5. I think the only beverage better than real, fall time apple cider is fresh-pressed real, fall time apple cider.

6. When I was looking for colleges I toured 13 colleges in 7 days from Chicago to the Jersey Coast. The school I ended up attending was not any of these 13 colleges, but it was a super fun road trip with my Dad!

7. I will eat almost anything you put in front of me - spicy, sweet, sour, tangy, mushy, crunchy, gooey, ugly, odd.... except mushrooms. They are absolutely disgusting.

And now to tag people. I am not going to tag seven, that seems like way too many!! If you are tagged you should post a link to my blog, seven random facts about yourself, and tag some more people!!

Tales of the Light House Keeper - Opal
All Creatures Great and Small - LEK
joie de vivre - kli
Welcome to the Insanity - Simi

Thats all folks!

Weekend? What Weekend?

The weekend flew by! I had stuff planned pretty much every minute of it, and even though I enjoyed everything I did was fun, it also made it feel like there was no weekend at all, because weekend means downtime, and I had none. On top of it all, I am sick (a cold), so I probably should have slowed down and given myself a chance to recover, but alas, I am too smart to do that.

Friday night, despite the fact we had a bit of a time crunch, I decided I really needed to make my cooking club recipe that I had all the ingredients for - Chicken Chili with Cornbread Topping. It was a lot of work, and it took longer than I was expecting. I planned for it to take an hour, which is a long time cooking, but it actually took more like an hour and a half. I also managed to make a massive mess of the kitchen and burn my arm pretty badly. The result? A tasty meal, but not nearly worth the time or effort.

Leaving the kitchen (and whole house actually) in complete shambles, we ran off to a debate party after eating. The debate was OK, marginally informative and lacking anything really exciting. I was very annoyed by McCain's condescending tones and continual inaccuracies regarding Obama's position and history. Of course, what I think does not really matter. What really matters on these debates is what swing voters think. I am definitely not a swing voter! The funny thing is, if McCain has been in the 2000 general election, I would have been a swing voter, but he has changed his tune SO much since then.

Saturday morning we got up early (early for Saturday at least), and headed to a friend's house via Dunkin' Donuts for a pre-game party. Mmm. Mimosa. We headed over the the game slightly later than intended and missed the pre-game band show (Script Ohio), which was unfortunate, but we can see it at the next game. The game itself was a lot of fun. Our seats are decent this year, and the team played well for the most part. Unfortunately, they stopped playing before the game ended. What should have or could have been a 34-6 game ended as 34-21. It is like I said before, if we truly want to be great, the team needs to play for themselves, not to the opponent. Its still not happening. I was happy to see the other college football scores. USC, Florida, and Georgia were all upset. The more good teams lose, the more chance we have of ending up higher in the polls by the end of the season. Despite the fact that by the end of the game I was a miserable pile of snot, I could not resist going out to dinner. After a quick shower we met everyone again for dinner at Applebees. It was tasty and fun. However, after dinner my condition deteriorated rapidly and I was quite miserable all evening.

Sunday morning I got up, and since I felt mostly better, elected to go on my planned girls-day out shopping trip to the Jefforsonville Outlet Center. It was a fun day and a successful shopping trip. I got a much needed pair of pants and shoes, along with a skirt that my friends thought looked terrible on the rack but looked great on (as I predicted). I successfully resisted buying a new Fossil wallet and was highly tempted by but never actually considered a super cute and bright Fossil purse. Once again, by the time we got back I was a miserable pile of snot. So miserable I cancelled my evening plans and vegged out, falling asleep for the night before 11pm.

Now its back to the school week, and into the real bulk of what I will be doing this quarter. My oral exams are now officially scheduled for Monday, October 13th at 10am. Its kind of a cool date, 10-13, its a running number used in the X-Files, so maybe that is good luck or something. I think I have actually made it through most of the beginning of the quarter bureaucracy. I am registered for classes, have paid my fees, picked up my football tickets, canceled insurance, sorted out my generals, and applied to graduate (aka, get my Masters) contingents on my exams. Onward to more useful things!!

Message Board Smarts

I have been spending a lot of time on a political message board lately, and am amazed at people's (1) choices about what to post and (2) inability to communicate. It has lead me to compile this list of ten rules for successfully participating in a friendly message board on a contentious topic.

Rules for Good Message Board Communication

1. Don't start posts with accusations or bias questions. If you honestly want to hear other people's opinions, make the question unbiased.

2. Only post facts that you know for sure are true. There is no shame in googling something before posting it to make sure you are understanding it correctly or using a term correctly.

3. Write your posts to be as clear as possible in both purpose and opinion. If the purpose is explanatory, state that up front. If the purpose is to express your opinion, make sure your opinion is directly stated in plain language. If the purpose of your post is you wanting to express or vent an opinion, don't put it under the guise of trying to start a non-bias debate, admit what it is from the get-go. Trust me, you will still get people to argue with you!

4. Reread your own post at least twice before posting it to make sure its actually saying what you want it to say.

5. Remember that there is no such thing as an objectively right opinion. If there was, it would be so clearly obvious that everyone would see it and there would be no debate. Rather there are only arguments and counter arguments, some stronger or more ethical than others.

6. Whenever you are posting a response, read the post you are responding to at least twice.

7. If you don't understand what someone is saying, don't respond unless its to ask for clarification. Do not assume that you know what they are saying when it is unclear.

8. If someone says something is a joke, take it as a joke and don't get riled up about it, even if you disagree with it.

9. If someone makes a good argument, but you disagree with it, recognize its validity in your response.

10. Admit it when you are wrong or make a mistake.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Chatty Cathy

Did you know that the term Chatty Cathy is actually the name of a talking doll from the 1950s? And here I just thought it was a made up saying, like Nagging Nelly.

Anyways, I have a million little thoughts flitting around in my head that ideally I could form into something coherent to post here. I have been a very Chatty Cathy for the last day or two. I talked a friend's ear off all day yesterday and then proceeded to talk to DH non-stop for most the evening and the morning. Its like a cyclic pattern - sometimes I cannot stop talking, mostly telling people about new stories I read, gossip from my online message board, and ideas I have, and then other times I have nothing to say. I have not been a Chatty Cathy for a very long time, so its nice to be on the upswing of the cycle. I am sure a lot of other people find it annoying!

So what am I chatting about? Since I have class in a half hour I cannot really get into it all, but here is a list of my topics of choice.
1. Spore - a new video game
2. The bail out negotiations and the economy in general
3. Political Message Board etiquette/people's inability to communicate
4. Dissertation Workshop
5. My feelings about my economics class
6. The history of poverty and the welfare state
7. Clientelism
8. Twin's Win (I like that that rhymes)
9. Football Pick'em
10. My Sims2 Mansion I am building
11. Rockband 2 is coming out
12. John McCain and the Debate that might happen tonight
13. The origin of peanut allergies in children
14. Walking the Dog every 12 hours
15. Preparing for Oral Exams
16. Thomas Friedman's argument in his bookHot, Flat, and Crowded

and plenty of other random stuff I am sure...

If your interested in hearing anymore about any of the above topics, I am sure I could chat your ear off.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

First Day of School

So, I do want to post about my wonderful day yesterday, because it was nice, but that will have to wait until I have pictures. A post about today being my first day of school for the year does not have to wait.

This is the first year in my memory that I was not looking forward to school starting. I have always looked forward to going back to school, at least some little part of me, you know, the excitement of new classes and new ideas, of getting back into a routine. But not this year. Not even a little part of me is excited. I am not excited about my course load. I am not excited about my teachers assistant assignment, and I am not excited about spending day in day out in Derby Hall trying to get work done.

The only thing I am excited about at all is getting to see my friends more, but thats more of a function of generals winding down than school starting.

So I have been trying to figure out all morning if this lack of excitement is a bad thing, or just something that is to be expected. Are there people out there that love going to work every morning? I wonder if people who are professors now still get excited for a new term. To me it just feels like same-old, same-old. My first day of the year is a big to-do list instead of just a big to-do. I have plenty of paperwork and bureaucratic nonsense to worry about.

I really do not want to go to my class at 1:30. It is graduate level microeconomics in the economics department. I will not know anyone there, and I do not know what to expect in terms of style or difficulty. Isn't not wanting to go to class supposed to enter sometime later in the year? Like towards the end of the quarter?


Oh well. Keep moving forward, eh? New student reception is this afternoon, and that always provides good foods and good drinks, and then I have a party - a cohort reunion celebrating everyone being done with written generals.

Football Fancies

Over the last week or so I have been compiling in my head a number of comments to make about football.

First, I cannot really say I am surprised by the OSU-USC outcome. As much as I wanted the Buckeyes to do well, looking at their past performances, both this year and against the PAC 10 in general, the outcome did not look good. As it turned out, the outcome was downright ugly, and lead many OSU fans to seriously question the coach, Jim Tressel, which is not a very common around. I usually feel like its "in Tressel we trust". At least, however, it seems Tressel got the message as he changed his strategy significantly in the next game and we beat Troy easily, though perhaps not as gloriously as one could have hoped.

Second, the New England Patriots defense is killing my fantasy football team!! When is the last time that they allowed 38 points? Actually I looked it up. It was in 2005 at Indianapolis (thank you Wikipedia). I don't know when the last time they allowed it at home was! But in all reality, while I would have appreciated getting 10 or 15 points from them instead of the -8 I got (yes, they not only failed to earn me points, I was penalized for their issues), it would not have made a difference in the final outcome. I lost my fantasy game this week by 35 points. I would have one if New England has performed better, and if I had had the psychic ability to know that Roddy White was going to tear things up this week... but alas, he sat sadly on my bench watching my team lose. At least I won handily in my public league, though I value my private league much more. Its always more fun when you know the people you are competing against!

Third, I very much enjoyed Monday Night Football this week. If you are from Minnesota, you know that the Vikings/Packers border rivalry is intense. It was especially strong to me since I grew up in a border town going to a high school that drew from both states. Anyways, I really have always hated the Packers, but was surprised this year to discover that a lot of my animosity towards the Green and Gold left with Brett Favre, and became a hatred of him, or his current team, the Jets. I think it is because (1) he has embodied the Pack for my entire conscious memory, and (2) all of the drama he caused this summer was ridiculous. I also am a sucker for young, new quarterbacks with worlds of possibilities and uncertainty (AKA, Aaron Rodgers). Therefore, on Sunday night, I found myself cheering for Green Bay to beat Dallas!! While it helps that I really hate Dallas, it was very strange to find myself rooting for our biggest rival. I guess times have changed. Then, on Monday night, I was definitively rooting against the Jets, and was very pleased to see them get pwned and Favre perform poorly.

Fourth, I picked up my OSU football tickets this morning. I was expecting it to be a hassle. I always expect hassle when I deal with bureaucracy. I thought I had everything in order - fees paid, classes registered for, IDs and marriage license in hand, but you just never know. My fears were increased when several girls in front of me were turned away because their tuition was showing up as not paid even when they claimed they had paid it. However, my turn came and things went smoothly. She didn't even look at the marriage license. She didn't question that DH's ID has my maiden name spelled incorrectly on it (it should have had our married name). So, I have the tickets in hand and we will be going to the first of four games this weekend against Minnesota.

Go Bucks!

PS: slang definition: pwned - verb, meaning to own on someone severely, to beat someone heftily with a demeaning connotation. history- a common typo of owned in rapid video game communication that has come into common usage. Pronunciation: powned (rhyming with owned)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Onwards to Orals!!

I just finished my final written candidacy exam, which means I only have orals left. I am trying to ignore the fact those are the scariest, most nerve-wrenching part of the entire process. Especially since every time I think about defending certain essays I wrote in the last few days I want to cry.

But, putting that aside, I am currently not sure what to do with myself! I really want to be around people right now, not to sit here and ruminate on the fact that the I did not really answer the third question on the formal theory exam. I mean, I wrote down an answer, but it did not do what the question asked. Thats what they get when they put a literature review type question on a closed-note exam. Oh well. Unfortunately, other peoples exams are happening at all different times today, and I am unsure if I can call anyone before 3:30. I am also stuck on/near campus until Aaron gets off work. My goal is to get lunch now, kill some time, then find people to go to happy hour with. That sounds really nice right now.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Past is Behind Us

Last night when I finally convinced myself to climb into bed, around 1am, I had one of those existential moments that only comes around so often and leaves you feeling slightly unsettled even after it has passed.

I had put on the movie Boondock Saints, an old favorite, to fall asleep to. I was laying there, extremely relaxed, when it suddenly occurred to me that the past doesn't exist... not really. All that is left of things that happened in the past is consequences and memories, and both of those things inevitably fade away.

Now, this might not seem like that much of a revelation to most people, I mean in writing it down in words it is pretty obvious, right? But I have always valued the past strongly, it is alive to me in so many ways. Ever since I can remember, sharing stories of the past was a fundamental part of socializing with my friends, with expressing myself. Sometimes I think that my high school and college friends more know about my childhood than most people know about their spouse's. I was always surprised how hard it was to get people to reciprocate this. I would ask my high school friends, "tell me something about when you were little," and they would be at a loss for words. I am unsure whether this desire to embrace and share the past is something of my own making or something instilled in my by my parents, either way, it definitely is part of what defines who I am.

So, the sudden realization that the past will never exist again and is in fact mere imagination in so many ways came as quite a shock. It was a very sad moment, and at the same time it was the closest I have ever come to being "in the moment" in the Buddhist sense of the word. I am not sure whether that is a good or a bad thing. Of course, it was gone withing minutes, replaced by the worries of the coming days.

Meanwhile, the studying for my exam tomorrow is not going very well. Every time I start to work through a problem or something, I feel like its no good, of no use. Chances are I will be fine on this exam, but I still wish I could do something more to prepare.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

2 Down, 2 to Go

So, I am still recovering from the 12 hours of exams and 2 hours of intense tutoring on Thursday and Friday, yet already need to be deperately preparing for the last 4-hour written exam that I need to take on Monday.

My final written exam is my minor exam, a Formal Theory exam. If you don't have a clue what formal theory is, or why someone who studies political science would be getting a minor in it, welcome to the majority of people I meet. Formal Theory is a type of mathematical analysis of strategic situations, looking at what an individuals best course of actions would be given certain decision they have to make and goals they are pursuing. For a more in description, try http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game_theory. This upcoming exam is why I spent 2 hours on Friday afternoon, when my brain was already complete mush from the 12 hours of exams, with a game theory professor being tutored on a certain type of model I struggle with. Luckily, he gave me some confidence. I think his exact words were "Well, you just have to show you have the intuition of formal theory and they will pass you I am sure." I don't think he has figured out yet that he, being the minor representative on my committee for oral exams, has the bulk of authority to pass or fail me on my minor.

Anyways, I am sure everyone is actually wondering how the exams went. It is hard to say. I will not know how I did on them until I take my orals in the middle of October. (I am shooting for October 13th in the AM, 3 of 4 committee members have OKed it.) The questions were less than desirable, especially on the first day. Here is a basic highlight of the exam.

Day 1: (I had to answer 4 of 9 questions)
#1 - Institutional Equilibrium vs. Equilibrium Institutions - I was prepared for this question and was fine, unfortunately its the only question I was fully prepared for.
#5 - Why do people vote the way they do? - I sort of think I answered this incorretly in that I turned it into the question "are voters rational"? Hopefully they will look beyond that a bit.
#6 - Agency versus Structure - My arguement is sound I think, but the way I went about proving it is questionable.
#8 - How useful is Social Capital as a concept? - I pretty much had to research this question as I wrote it, but its the only one that seemed doable. My answer was therefore shallow.

Day 2: (I had to answer 2 of 4 questions)
#1 - How do we prove causation without experimentation? - My answer? We don't. Think this essay is fine.
#4 - What role does normative theory have in political science? My answer? None. Pretty sure this answer is a giant rant, but since I used lots of citations in other answers, I should be fine.

And thats that... I have to defend these answers later on. They will get torn apart. I still don't understand how you are supposed to write a really good answer in only 2 hours to any of the questions they asked, but such is life.

I am off to study, nap, watch football, and worry.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I Love Fall Weather

Ike may have brought a lot of destruction and grief to central Ohio, but it also brought fall weather. This morning when I went out to walk the dog I could see my breath, which is wonderful to me. It makes me think of home (Northern Minnesota). I just wish that I had more time to go out and enjoy it. I could just sit outside in the cool weather forever.

Some readers have wondered how I manage to post about things like football and squirrels and weather when the exam is so close and I am so stressed. It is simply, this blog is both an outlet for me to express my stress, and also at times a procrastination tool. When you see a post like this one - seeming unconcern in the face of a huge task (i.e. my written major exam tomorrow), it means I am procrastinating, distracting myself from thinking about the stressor, for better or worse. Today, it is probably for the worse, because I need to be getting studying for the minor exam out of the way.

I do not plan to post again until Friday afternoon or evening (when my written major exam is over). Wish me luck!!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Lucky Squirrels

The squirrels are not actually lucky. This post should be titled "Luck and Squirrels," but I thought lucky squirrels sounded better, so there you go.

First the squirrels, then the luck. Two squirrels have moved into the birdhouse in our backyard. This is not a very big bird house and I am rather amused that they both fit in it. I frequently see a head coming out the top and a tail out the bottom, or two tails out the bottom. I can see the birdhouse from where I spend most of my day sitting and studying, so they provide entertainment. Maybe they are lucky because they have found a house. They have been using it for the last three days pretty consistently, and weathered the storm in it. You should have seen those little tails hanging out the bottom flapping in that wind. It is about time I name them, if they are going to keep hanging around. If anyone has a good pair of squirrel names, let me know.

And now, the luck. I did not realize how lucky I was to have power until I started reading message board posts from a local board and found out how many people do not have it. It is out all over the city still and some people are not expecting it back on for 6 more days! I even heard there is a neighborhood that has been told one to three weeks!! Also, I tried to pick up a friend and get some coffee yesterday. We thought, surely, if we both had power, we could drive up High Street far enough that somewhere a coffee shop would be open. We returned to her house an hour later with no coffee. We are lucky because we have power, because Aaron is able to go to work, and because the worst damage we have is this tree in our front yard. It is still attached, so we will have to call someone to cut it down. I hope they don't try to charge us an arm and a leg, but we are willing to wait a little while if they are. Its not endangering anything. DH went to work early today so he could come home early and start cleaning up what we can. It seems like we are the only yard in the neighborhood that is still a mess. I do not know how people got to it so fast! I guess though that a lot of people did not have work when DH did, and I was studying.

I went into campus today to try and get some of the bureaucratic
nonsense out of the way. The trip was highly unsuccessful. I did manage to register for my problem class, but when I tried to talk to a professor about scheduling my orals they got defensive saying they hadn't had a chance to respond to it because of the power outage. I wasn't trying to be demanding, just sorting this all out. Also, the mail room was being waxed. Just my luck, I could not pick up my reams of mail that are waiting for me with more paperwork to be filled out and turned in.

Here are a couple last pictures of storm damage. The first is a tree down in an athletic park on the corner of Calumet and Weber in Clintonville. It is so huge! But is is obvious why it came down - completely hollow!! The kids seemed to be hoping a newspaper reporter would show up. The tree will probably be there for quite sometime as its not on the road or a power line. The second was taken during the storm (on my foolish trip to the grocery store), where a street sign was completely parallel to the ground. Here you go!!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Ike's Revenge - Exams Delayed

I thought that at this time today I would be well into my first exam question, figuring out the thesis, finding citations, and structuring the essay. However, I got the call at 7:15am this morning, 15 minutes before the exam was set to begin, that it has been postponed due to the power outages in the area. And why were their power outages?

Enter Ike.

That's right, central Ohio, 1200 miles from Houston, had serious damage from Ike. I knew the rain/storm from Ike was supposed to hit us Sunday evening. However, Ike had other ideas. Instead of sending rain and lightening our ways, it decided to take a straighter path north, and the edge of its winds hit a cold front from the northeast creating hurricane force winds of a sustained 45mph here in Columbus, gusts up to 60mph. It was windy all day, but really started to pick up and be noticeably stronger than average around 3pm. Around 4pm I heard a large crash, and looked out our front windows to see a 30 foot chunk of our front tree hanging down to the ground, still attached about 25 feet up. I am hoping we can think of a safe way to get it the rest of the way down ourselves, but we might have to pay someone to come cut it down. Its small enough in diameter that we could take care of cutting it up/disposing of it ourselves if it just would detach.

Anyways, despite the winds, around 5pm I headed to the grocery store to get lunch and snacks for the exam day. The wind was unreal, the force of it hitting the car. When I was driving into the wind it was hard to accelerate. When I was stopped at traffic lights, the whole car shook. The grocery store was open but power was out to their freezers/fridge, so they couldn't sell out of them. I ended up with some snacks and a boxed Asian meals. Coming out of the grocery stores I felt like I was in one of those old movies, where they show people leaning against the wind. The gusts were literally stopping my forward process. If I stopped bracing myself/moving forward, I would lose my balance and step back. Putting the groceries in my car was crazy, I couldn't just open the trunk for fear that it would be ripped off. Back in the car, I saw lots more damage on the way home then I had noticed on the way there. There were plenty of trees down, and I even saw a street sign bent 6 inches from the ground, so it was parallel to the ground. Crazy stuff. I was going to go to fast food and grab dinner on the way home, but the fast food restaurants that had power had lines out the doors (I assume all the people without power).

I got home around 6:15, and shortly after that the power went out. I was a mess. Would exams happen? Did OSU have power? How would I know? Where should I go if I did not have power in the morning? If I did have power, would I have Internet? AHHH!!! Not to mention, of all the nights in the world, it was the one night I really needed to not just be sitting around and thinking. I got an instant stress headache. I ended up sitting in my car charging my cellphone and listening to a Harry Potter audio book until around 10pm and then trying to fall asleep (which was a relatively unsuccessful endeavor). I woke up several times throughout the night, and when I woke up at 5:20am, I realized our fan (and therefore the power) was back on.

The biggest problem with exam delays is that most of those things that I wanted to take care of after my major exam (studying for minors, registering for classes, scheduling orals, etc). In fact, as soon as I finish writing this blog entry I will be off to study formal theory, my minor topic. This is all just one more stressor I do not need - this Dragon seems to keep getting bigger. Guess I would still rather be facing it though than spend my life bored to tears.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Final Count Down

Yes, the song Final Countdown is very much stuck in my head, which brings thoughts of the movie Team America.

I am a giant ball of stress at the moment, and I don't expect it to get much better over the weekend, though it certainly will wax and wane. Right now its waxing big time. The weird part is, a large portion of the stress is not even coming from the exams themselves (at least not the ones on Monday and Tuesday). Although those are certainly scary, I am sort of resigned to them. I am more stressed out by all the the bureaucratic nonsense I have to deal with in the next few weeks, and all while starting classes and still studying for the final parts of the exam.

Here is what my next few week looks like:
Monday Sept 15th- Written exam on comparative politics 8am - 5pm
Tuesday Sept 16th - Written exam on comparative methods 8am-12pm
Tuesday 16th until Sunday 21st
- Study for my minor exam (I haven't done much because I have been concentrating on the major exam, so I need to be concentrating on this)
- Get registered for classes (which involves several signatures and other nonsense)
- Drop OSU health insurance (more bureaucracy)
- Schedule Oral Exams (coordinating my schedule with 4 professors?)
- Apply to have my masters granted (assuming I pass)
- Meet with professor about all the things I didn't do this summer
- Meet with the professor I am working for this fall and find out what his demands are
- Turn in paperwork to work this Fall
- Pay Fees
Monday Sept. 22nd - Minor Exam (in a professor's office), 6 hrs (timing yet to be scheduled)
Tuesday Sept 23rd - Finish up anything I haven't done yet from the previous list.
Wednesday Sept 24th - Classes start, Deliver copies of my written exams to the committee that is doing my orals.

After that - Study and Prep for Orals, go to 15-18 hours of my own classes a week and 4 hours of that I am TAing, pick up football tickets (a hassle because it requires paperwork to prove I am married), get to the Doc (I am already over due), and start thinking about what I want to write my dissertation on. Then, sometime in Oct. (hopefully around Oct 8th), I will take my Oral exams and actually find out if I passed anything.

If I pass... onwards to that propspectus and dissertation.
If I fail... reassess what I have been doing for the last 2 years and what I really want to do for the next forty.


Yeah. I think the giant ball of stress thing is justified.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Thoughts on 9/11, Seven Years Out

I was not planning to post about the fact it is September 11th. In fact, I was specifically avoiding posting about it. But then I got sucked in to watching this video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HkThGE6v7t0, and now I pretty much have to post.

Watching this video made me cry, and I am not much of a crier at all. Seeing the plane crash into the towers, seeing the towers fall, knowing that they were filled with thousands of normal people just going about their normal daily business... that was a horrible day.

But it also inspired many other emotions -mainly, anger. All of those quotes from leaders "we will find the terrorists", "we will back the president," all these promises, all this crap. Looking back to 9/11 also reminds me of all the horrible things that have happened since then... how we never really pursued preventing terrorism in a meaningful way, how we never found Bin Laden and are still struggling to bring order to Afghanistan but don't have enough troops because we burst into a perfectly sovereign country with no meaningful link whatsoever to international terrorism, how the war in Iraq has actually increased terrorism, how the reason we are in Iraq is because the president lied to us and played on peoples genuine fears and emotions with false information and fear mongering, and how the rest of those people responsible for protecting us - the Congress, Colin Powell, etc, just went blindly along with these lies out of fear of being labelled unpatriotic. It just makes remember how pointless so much of the violence in the world right now is, especially the violence that that U.S. is involved in, and brings me a whole other kind of sadness.

And then, thinking of the vote in congress... and how 3/4 of both the senate and the house voted to go to war in Iraq despite the fact that there was no real evidence supporting the invasion and it flew in the face of international norms. I get mad that so many of these people are still in power, especially in the executive but also in Congress. I find a fury pride in the fact that both Minnesotan Senators, Paul Wellstone and Mark Dayton, voted against war. And then of course comes the sadness thinking of Paul Wellstone's sudden, unexpected death when he is one of the few Washington politicians I truly respected, "Never separate the life you live from the words you speak." I love that quote. Yes. My emotional/mental connections got the best of me today.

Anyways... my point is this. I want a government that respects these freedom it claims to be defending, that acts wisely on the international stage to bring those who actually perpetrate terrorism to justice while still earning respect and focusing on peace, that brings the country together in pride, not in fear. I cannot believe that we have been dealing with this terrible situation, the fear mongering, the lies, the abuses, the tension, for seven years. I can only hope that the next president, whoever he may be, and the next Congress collectively, will find a way to move this country forward away from this twisted legacy of 9/11 and towards something we can be proud of.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Productive Day

Today at 10am my friend from school, a fellow third year comparative politics student, called to invite me to a 10:30am meeting to talk through past generals questions. This was very unexpected, very last minute, and very appreciated. I imagine it was so last minute because her and the other girl had talked to each other at some reasonable hour (like 8am) and set the meeting time, and then she waited to call me to invite me until ten out of fear of waking me up, as in the past I have told her 9am was too early to call someone! (Though, admittedly, I did make the disclaimer that nine is too early on a weekend). If she had called me at 9am, I would have been awake, but not yet functioning. I admit I have fallen into a rather bad sleep schedule considering school is starting soon. Seeing as the exam will start at 8am, tonight I am starting to change my sleep schedule to make sure I can function at that time in the morning.

Anyways, enough rambling. I headed off to drink coffee and study with them. The good news - I am in a good mood, the meeting was very productive, I feel like the exam is doable and things may just turn out alright. The bad news - I managed, between breakfast, coffee, lunch, and snacks, to spend $16.50, and I plan to do it all again tomorrow. That is a lot of money to waste on food in one day. I think its worth it though. I am pretty sure if you asked DH if he would be willing to pay $20/day over the next ten days to put me in a good mood and stop my incessant worrying, he would take you up on it in a heartbeat. At least I hope he would.

Monday, September 8, 2008

One Week Out

One week from now, exactly, I will be reading through the available exam questions and starting to decide what to answer. My feelings regarding the exam run from resignation to desperation, with bits of frustration mixed in. This has been described as a hazing into the field of political science. I have professors that talk about how stupid of a practice and what a waste of time it is, and simultaneously tell us how hard it is going to be and how high the expectations. It is as if the want to make it as stressful as possible for us. Unfortunately for me, I have never been one to respond well to pressure. I am not a type A personality. I hate pressure. I hate competition.

I am sure my mood is not being helped by the fact I have a raging migraine. My headache has an endogeneity problem if I ever saw one (just a little political science humor) - I slept terribly because of the migraine, and the migraine is so bad this morning because I didn't sleep well. I have both been blessed with good health - I have never had a broken bone, major disease, a surgery, and have not been hospitalized since I was baby, and cursed with plenty of minor annoyances to drive someone mad - migraines, tension headaches, sore muscles, a chronically stiff back, a chronic hacking cough... none of which can really be treated effectively medically. I just hope that I am feeling good next Monday, or it will be a miserable day.

On a completely different note, though I will relate it back to generals, I saw a chipmunk on Grim's walk this morning. We see squirrels all the time, but I don't remember the last time I saw a chipmunk. He disappeared into a hole in the lawn he was sitting in. It reminded me of my seventh grade science class. It was taught by Mr. Weber, an award winning teacher and author (see his book Backyard Almanac on http://amazon.com). The structure was simple- Monday and Tuesday go through slides in the classroom describing the appearance and behavior of a set of something (all frogs, all deciduous trees, all flowers etc in northern Minnesota), Wednesday go on a "Web walk" (a hike into the woods near school where we would find something from that weeks topic and discuss it), Thursday type of summaries of what happened on the Web walk, and Friday take a quiz showing we could properly identify whatever we were studying.

I do not remember a thing from that class. Labels have always been a horrible weakness of mine. If I did remember anything, it would more likely be how a certain species behaved than what it was called. This is also one of my biggest problems with political science. I understand the theories, but I cannot name them. If a question is phrased, "what is the difference between new institutionalism and the original institutionalism?" or "Compare structuralism to neo-institutionalism and statism," like many questions have been phrased, I will be left scrambling. That is my self-assigned task for today - get over my headache, and start to sort out the labels, and if nothing else, make a list of them so when I start scrambling, I won't have to scramble too far to find the answer.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Buckeyes Bust?

Today the Ohio State Buckeyes played Ohio University. Based upon the size of the schools, and all rankings and expectations, it should have been a blowout. We should have owned on them. Unfortunately, it seems that we are our own worst enemies. I feel like every season its psychology that gets us - over confidence, lack of confidence. Today's game made it clear that that problem has not changed. Because we were supposed to blow them out, the team decided not to show up. They went down 14-6 before finally deciding they might want to, you know, play football. I am sure a different team will show up next week for the USC game (ranked above us in the polls). However, I don't think we will ever win a championship until the team consistently gives 100%.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Dragon Dreams

I love rainy days. We have not had nearly enough of them lately! In fact, I am fairly certain there has only been two rainy days in the entire last month. Maybe the drought is really broken this time and not just on pause? I would be happy if it rained straight for the next two weeks, it would fit my mood.

For the first time last night I had a dream about exams. Now, I have had plenty of exam-related symptoms - insomnia at night, inability to get up in the morning, overeating, weight gain, teeth grinding or jaw clenching (I am not sure which), and a random outbreak of acne, but this is the first time I actually dreamt about the exam. That fact is kind of odd in and off itself since I have always been a vivid dreamer and the dreams frequently are related to reality.

Anyways, I pretty much dreamt that it was the day of the exam. I was sitting there reading the questions, picking out four to answer. They were all very difficult quesitons but I started in on the ones I thought would be easiest. It was very slow going. Then, when I was about a third done with the first question, I was informed that we had just passed the two hour mark. I went into overdrive, trying to finish the question (we get 8 hours to answer 4 questions the first day, so 2 hours per question), but my brain would just not function and I could not work any faster. That was the end of the dream. Its unfortunate I remember it. I prefer to remember interesting dreams, not mundane, or in this case, stressful ones.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

DH is a Sweety!

So, apparently yesterday when I was talking to DH on the phone while he was at work I sounded so depressed and pathetic that he stopped on the way home from work to get me flowers to make me feel better! It was a great surprise. I love orange, so he picked the bouquet with the giant orange gerber daisy. I am one lucky girl!
Oh, and I had to post the second picture because DH claims Gandalf manages to get into every picture, and sure enough he was right up there getting into this one. Looks like Nox always managed to sneak into the corner!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Useless Reading List

In preperation for the exam, we were given a 10 page, single spaced, double sided reading list sorted by topic (Democracy, Political Economy, Accountability, etc). We spent the majority of the summer hacking our way through this list - dividing up readings amongst the four of us and creating summaries for everyone. Now, of course we knew that "the list was not complete", they made sure to repeat that disclaimer. However, I have been shocked over the last view days as I have run into questions from previous exams that not one single reading on that entire reading list applied to, especially methods questions. I guess we should have taken their disclaimer more seriously.

It leaves me in the awkward position of researching topics 10 days before the exam, when I should writing practice essays or gathering reading summaries into question-based groupings. Not that its that bad, I mean, I think I prefer researching topics to the other things I should be doing, but if these previous questions are so far off the reading list, who knows what might be on the exam this year. Cross your fingers.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Of Older Sisters and Exam Questions

I finally got to have a good conversation with my older sister, LEK, tonight after about 6 weeks of virtually no contact. She is in her fourth year of vet school and travelling all over the country on rotations. She spent the last three weeks in Iowa learning about pigs. It was so nice talking to her, although I tried to avoid dumping my stress on her since she has plenty of her own. She is already worried about her board exams this coming winter. Maybe her early worry will help her avoid my situation though...

Speaking of which, I am feeling slightly better about my position this evening. Besides talking to LEK tonight, I also had a long conversation with my good friend Opal. I told both of them "if the exam was tomorrow, my ability to pass would depend entirely on what questions they ask - there are plenty of questions I know the answers too, and plenty that I have no clue about". So, to shore up that opinion (and to make a plan of attack for the next 10 days), I have spent the last half hour or so looking at old exam questions, analyzing whether I think I could pass them. Reading all the old questions made me realize I might be ok, that I can answer some of these, and I still have time to work on the ones that I iffy on (and I plan to ignore the ones I am completely clueless about since the structure of the exam allows me to skip a few). Maybe this is doable. Maybe I can sleep tonight!

Lakamo Market Research

I just got back from my first experience with Lakamo Market Research - it is a firm that does consumer research here in Ohio. I was participating in a usability study about a car insurance website - $75 for one and a half hours work. Not to mention I find the "work" of giving my opinion quite enjoyable. Sweet! Granted it was an hour and a half I should have been studying, but as usual I don't feel the worry nearly as much in the daylight, and the $75 will contribute nicely to my new, more professional wardrobe I need to develop for this fall.

Now lets see if I can't crack down and use the afternoon in such a way that will allow me to sleep at night!!

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Real Dragon

Its nearing 1am and I have been trying to fall asleep for over an hour. I have yet to mention the real event that inspired this blog, mainly because I am in denial that is going to occur in less than two weeks. The dragon I am currently trying to slay is that of PhD Candidacy Exams. Basically, its a test covering the entire field of study that determines whether I can continue on in the program or not. The written exam takes 18 hours over three days (Sept 15th, 16th, and 22nd), and then I have to defend my answers in an oral exam with four professors. I have never struggled with something so much.

I have been "studying" for generals all summer. Really, I have been intending to study for it all summer. I have wasted the entire summer thinking about studying for generals, worrying about studying for generals, pretending to study for generals, questioning whether I wanted to study for generals, and watching bad TV. Its become a living nightmare. I spend all day in denial of what is to come, pretending to study, going to see movies, playing video games, and then when night comes I cannot fall asleep because I am so worried about what is coming, about what I did not get done that day. I have never failed in academia, ever. One might say its my biggest phobia, yet it is like I have spent my entire summer setting myself up for failure. Is it because I am scared of the exam? Or do I want to fail to avoid having to decide about my future? Or perhaps I am just really lazy.

The thing is, there is still time left. I have 13 days. If I crack down, if I really concentrate, that is plenty of time to pull myself together enough to pass. However, even if I work feverishly for the next 13 days, even if I pass with honors, I cannot change the fact that I have thrown this summer away, that it has been a horrible waste of time. I have been told by older students that I will pass generals without even knowing how I did it. I have been told that when I pass generals, all the worry I put towards it will seem for not, that it will be an insignificant blip in the past that I never think about. Some how that is hard to comprehend from the front side of things.

I guess I will head back to bed, see if I have become tired enough that there is no time between closing my eyes and falling asleep in which to start panicking.

Prince Caspian and the Crystal Skulls?

Fall is a great time to start hitting up the dollar theater - all of the big summer hits on the big screen for less than 2 bucks a person. Yeah, I know, the dollar theater is actually $1.25, or $2 on weekend evenings. They probably should change the name... Anyways. Friday night DH and I finally got around to seeing Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skulls. I had intended to see it when it first came out, but once it had been out a month or two and I still hadn't made it, I decided to just wait for it to hit Carriage Place. When we got there, I realized there are a bunch of good movies to see, so we followed it up today with Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. Both of them lived up to my expectations, both were entertaining. DH (dear husband) was not amused by either, well, maybe slightly amused, but he would not endorse them. As we were discussing the movies, I realized that a majority of movies I have seen lately have been sequels. Is it a sign of the times or of my choice in movies? DH sure wishes I did not want to go to so many sequels!!

But I appreciate sequels, at least most of them. Its so much easier for a sequel to be good, however, when its planned from the get go and not just added on because the movie made money. Then there is the middle branch - story lines that lend themselves to sequels, but are not written specifically intending sequels (mainly, super hero movies).

Good Sequels (in my opinion)
- Harry Potter
- Lord of the Rings
- Pirates of the Carribean
- Spider Man (In fact, I think Spider Man 2 surpassed the first movie)
- Indiana Jones
- Back to the Future
- The Mummy (2)

Bad Sequels
- The Matrix
- The Mummy (3)
- The vast majority of Disney Sequels
- Star Wars (after the first three)

Movies I hope get (more) sequels
- Hancock
- Batman: The Dark Knight

Welcome to my blog!

"What's life without a few dragons?"
- Ron Weasley, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Welcome to my blog! Its title and theme, Life without Dragons, is inspired by this quote from the Harry Potter series. To me, the quote is a reminder that it is the challanges that make life worth living. If everything came easily to us, we would be bored out of our minds. This blog will be a chronicle of my day to day life, view of the world, and the dragons I must attempt to slay!! I hope it will be a blog about siezing life by the horns and living every minute, but I make no guarentees!