Archive for April, 2009

Ivory tower

I read Professor Taylor’s op-ed about postgraduate education (particularly PhD programs) on Monday, and I’ve been letting my response ferment for a couple days.  I’m still torn.  It’s the classic paralysis by analysis that grad school prepares students for.

As some of you know, my PhD is from a top-20 program and I have a tenure-track position at the kind of instution that motivated me to pursue a doctorate in the first place.   I agree with Taylor – grad school is economic nonsense.  Even if you don’t have to take on student loans for tuition, it’s seven (and often more) years of training that would otherwise be prime income-earning years.  Instead, you bunk up with a roommate  (or thank your deity that you have a spouse with a job – Hi Missy!) and toil away at an assistantship to make ends meet.  When you stumble out, you get to face a dreary job market for shamefully-low salary.  To call it a lopsided relationship in favor of the universities would be a heroic understatment.

I love my job, but I recognize that I’m incredibly fortunate.   The advice I give about grad school belies my experience – get a PhD if you can’t not, and even then, refuse to enroll in any program that would necessitate student loan debt (which isn’t even my advice – it’s from this essay, and this one.  Also, this one).

So I think he’s spot-on in that regard.

However – and correct me if yours differs – my experience is that departments already value and strive for the kinds of interdisciplinary connections he proposes.  It would be an utter mistake, in my mind, to replace the department structure with “zones of inquiry”.  Unless tens of thousands of young faculty have their publication requirements taken off the tenure wagon, academia depends departments organized on discipline-specific lines to shake out the chaff.   I support the basic concept, though – but I think most places are doing it within the department structure.  An economist, a hydrologist and I study water together – brining department-specific knowledge to bear on a common problem.  Broad academic value aside, it’s intellectually rewarding on a personal level.

Also, there may be appropriate place for creative projects – video games, plays, films, etc – in the sciences, but dissertations ain’t it.  I feel like I’m overstepping my bounds here, but the point of a dissertation isn’t to generate a publication-ready book, right?  I’ve always understood it as a rite of research-related passage – an apprenticeship on one of the middle floors of the ivory tower.  The ones with the tiny, steel, windowless cubicles.

In the end, I think his advice – “Do not what I do; rather, take whatever I have to offer and do with it what I could never imagine doing and then come back andd tell me about it” – is solid.  But I give the argument that got him there a B+.


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Ohio Desk Co, Part II

Christopher (of Shaker Heights Restoration) knows his Cleveland landmarks – check it out:


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Ohio Desk Co


Ta-da – we found it.  I knew if we waited long enough, the fancy fairies of fate would fulfill my fantasy of finding a desk.

Well, not fantasy desk, because it isn’t made by Stickley or out of quartersawn oak.  On the other hand, it was $30, including delivery from two towns away.



A metal tag inside the center drawer identifies the builder as The Ohio Desk Co in Cleveland, OH.  The Parker Appliance Co, I presume, was the original owner.  According to the company’s website:

Parker’s history begins back in 1918 when a 33-year-old engineer named Arthur L. Parker founds the Parker Appliance Company. Mr. Parker rents a loft in Cleveland, Ohio to develop his unique pneumatic braking system for trucks and buses.  Although the beginning years were tough, Arthur Parker and his family persevere. The same hard work, ambition, and engineering spirit that brought the company through the early years are still what drives Parker today.

And now, with annual sales at $12 billion and growing, Parker is the world’s leading diversified manufacturer of motion and control technologies and systems, providing precision-engineered solutions for commercial, mobile, industrial and aerospace markets. The company employs approximately 62,000 people in 48 countries around the world. And everyday, just as we did decades ago, we continue to partner with our customers to increase their productivity and profitability. That is our culture, and our ongoing commitment.

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mud_1-lI think I speak for most Americans when I say that, in this economy, my beach house is looking a little dingy.  I can’t believe I’m admitting this, but it’s almost not worth flying my Cessna there anymore.

Once again, Coastal Living comes to the rescue.

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Quilted softness


Let’s have some democracy: Missy should make a dozen quilts for our house, yes?  She has the skills – of that I have no doubt – the hurdle is time.

Democracy, Part B:  Why doesn’t this bed have a headboard?  It should, right?  I envy their bench,  and I’m willing to arrange an exchange of hostages.


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Beach cottage

mpa102631_0707_kitch_01_xl1Some houses are so at-ease with themselves.  How do you get there?  Just crazy paint and chipped antiques?

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Twelve dollars

3n53p43l8zzzzzzzzz94i0b42c6ef44451835 This is exactly how Craigslist is supposed to work.

“Yes, the chair is here!  We will be home by 12:30 Sunday afternoon…you are welcome to come then to pick it up!!  I love this chair!!  You will too!!

We live at [secret address].
Our phone number is [classified]
Happy Spring!!
Naomi’s address?  A block and a half from our house.  Seriously – we’re going to walk over this afternoon and carry it home.

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