Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Adventures in gardening, slowly.

This morning I began breakfast with yogurt and fresh raspberries from my yard yes fresh raspberries from my yard. Are you jealous? Because you should be. It was delicious.

In general we have garden issues. On the one hand, gardens are delightful. Fresh raspberries and more! But on the other hand, we don't know anything about gardens, with the result that the barbecue we had a couple of weeks ago devolved at the end into a weeding party where everyone scolded us about our morning glories (but then the kvetchers pulled them out, so it worked out okay in the end). Well, this weekend, we're going to be unstoppable. We're taking on the first planting bed.

We're going to rip everything out. Everything. Don't panic, the raspberries are elsewhere. But if we clear out the planting bed with all the stuff that's intergrown and unusable, then we'll have free soil to plant stuff with a late summer or fall harvest. So what should we plant?

I can't wait to pull up some dandelions this weekend. I am so ready.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

New things.

I've been feeling pretty uninspired for blogging lately. Also exhausted. I am addressing the latter point by sitting around in pajamas all day today and the former by way of this post.

Last weekend we had a housewarming barbecue that we seem to have overstocked for by like an entire order of magnitude, with the result that we're grilling stuff pretty much every day now. Another consequence of getting stuff together for the party was the discovery of a clog in our plumbing that upon further investigation has been caused by roots in our pipes. Yay home ownership! Our first expensive home repair incoming. Hooray.

In the last couple of weeks we've also managed to secure three new residents in our home:

1. Megan
2. Jake
3. Ella

Megan is a human here for a monthlong rotation at Children's Hospital; Jake and Ella are felines and will hopefully wish to stay even when the month of June is over. I've never really had pets before, since my parents didn't get cats until they got divorced and were vying for my sister's attention and I was in college by then. There's something a little bizarre to me about the idea of animals and humans co-existing in the same space. Not bad bizarre, but bizarre.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


Oh, the good old days:

I remember the weird mixed feelings I had when I really truly made up my mind to leave academia. On the one hand, a career path that I was truly prepared for, with the right qualifications, training, and for a graduate student, publication record. On the other hand, employment?

The job market is not the only or even the main reason I left academia after finishing my PhD. It also wasn't the other classic reason that people leave: crash-and-burnout, exhaustion after years on the strong/fragile/strong ego treadmill and no real income to match it. The truth is that I left because I wanted to make something that people would actually use. The very best linguistics dissertations I can think of are read by maybe a couple hundred people over many years. Maybe it's different in other fields, but I doubt it. I consider myself very fortunate now: I have a job that I like, using my background but pushing me to learn new stuff all the time, and I make stuff that people will actually use. It's pretty cool.

But a few years ago, I wouldn't have read past the first four words of the above clause: I have a job. It would have been enough. And that's the unfortunate reality of the situation even for people who don't feel stifled by the fact that they aren't making stuff that people will really use. It's even more unfortunately the reality of the situation even for those rare academics who do find a way to make stuff that people will really use. There are a lot of smart, hard-working, and depressed graduate students who will never get academic jobs. And a troubling proportion of those students are not employable in any non-academic profession, making them smart, possibly hard-working, depressed ex-graduate students who can't get jobs. With no income and no marketable skills, no connections outside academia, and Everest-sized expectations for themselves. See also: strong/fragile/strong ego treadmills, etc, etc.

I wonder at the sense of civic responsibility graduate departments feel with respect to their students. In my department, there was some amount of lip service paid to alternative career paths. But the fact is that except for a very few students in a very few industries, graduates who leave the nest to make their way in industry don't improve department ratings. They don't have talented undergraduates who can in turn become talented graduates at the ol' alma mater. But most of all, they don't have mentorship. After all, they have professors who did end up with academic jobs.

One thing they do offer, however, and this is really underutilized by most graduate departments, is a contact in the Real World. An alumni network of PhDs who 1. made it through their programs and still chose to leave academia and 2. have jobs that are reasonably applicable to their graduate students can offer the kind of mentorship that most of us never had. They offer internships. They offer vision into alternative career choices. Most of all, they offer jobs for graduates, and jobs where those graduates might be reasonably happy, productive, and successful.