Tuesday, February 26, 2008

old work, new work, plus a question

bonus question comes first! Can one easily get from Long Beach to Irvine by public transportation? (I'm talking to you, SoCalians... any hints? I have the chance of free lodging in place IR but conference will be in place LB.)

Very little success at breaking into Chapter 2 thus far. Exacerbated by the bout of drinking-and-discussing-movies that followed the diss workshop on my Chapter 1 last night. That discussion had some resemblance to a confused octopus--one tentacle would latch onto something and drag itself in one direction, another tentacle would get distracted and start playing with tentacle 3, and they'd end up in a knot, while tentacle 1 persistently grabbed onto its object and tentacles 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 watched amusedly or patted me on the head. (No one-to-one correspondence between persons and tentacles should be implied.) The bulk of the suggestions were either minor or things I already figured I'd have to deal with whenever I return to the chapter; the one larger interesting conceptual issue that came up happened in a side discussion while other tentacles were arguing amongst themselves about what the role of theory should be in a dissertation chapter.

One of the slightly annoying aspects of the meeting was that the faculty member who attends, and whose interests actually overlap with mine, didn't have that much to say, and what he did say was along the lines of "theory sucks, get rid of all other voices in your chapter." (I believe I will get rid of *some* of them, thanks.) Thus far he hasn't been particularly active in giving feedback, perhaps because he doesn't want to seem overbearing as the only faculty member there; what feedback he gives is often polemical in a non-hostile way (i.e. one can argue with him without worrying about a Faculty Power Dynamic). What I'd been hoping from him and from the other students was that if they didn't have substantive improvements to suggest, we could discuss some of the issues in a more collegial way. That happened with a couple of people, but not as many as I'd hoped.

So... not *the* most useful meeting, but not the worst. I received independent confirmation of my adviser's comment that it's "very much a first chapter" (translation: still working through some larger issues that frame the argument overall; overly polite). And today I received confirmation that going to sleep at 3:30 results in a lazy day.


JD said...

I like your positive outlook, but I can understand the frustration, too. And man, I wish I had the energy to stay up until 3:30 -- though perhaps, as you point out, doing so has its own costs.

Sisyphus said...

puuuuu---b--lic trans??? Nope, sorry; I don't get your question. Pasadena to Long Beach is about 45 minutes drive in light traffic and a _huge_ problem with traffic. Plus all the names of the freeways change right about there. I think it's about the same distance to Irvine but you'll need some of the Irvinians to weigh in on that. Now if you wanted to go in to central downtown LA or Pasadena, they have this nifty new thing --- it's like a car? only you don't drive it, someone else does? and lots of total strangers all get on it at the same time? and you pay about a buck twenty, and then it goes somewhere, but you don't get to say where, and it stops every block or so along this elevated track, and it took me about 2 hours to get in to central. But it goes nowhere near Irvine.

About the chapter meeting (was it open to the public? how strange), all I can say is that when I hear stories involving an octopus reaching all over, they usually end with someone getting slapped on a date. It's a weird thing to think of that in a dissertation setting.

SK said...

That's really interesting, because in all my comps meetings it's totally the opposite - like, "I like your research as it is, but one of the other professors doesn't like reading about homosexuality so if you want distinction you should draw more theoretical conclusions." Maybe undergrad wants to be sure you can use theory, and grad school wants you to be more independent? But that seems kind of lame to me. And if anything, sociology seems like it's more practically applicable, and literature more theoretically pondering-ful. only said better than I just did. :)

Anyway, moral of the story is I should stop ranting about comps, and you should take a vacation from dissertating and reward yourself for having survived the tentacular attack.

kermitthefrog said...

JD - I had the energy to stay up til about 2. For the rest of the time I was, shall we say, rather muted.

Sis - yeeah, that's kind of what I thought. Would this newfangled device you speak of be called a "bus"? In any case, it might be useful in getting most of the way to Claremont, my next stop after the conference...

The meeting wasn't open to the public -- in fact there were only around 10 people there, the usual number, and I am dating only one of them -- but they were able to have three different conversations at once.

sk -- No one else but the professor objected to the theory. He wasn't claiming to speak for the discipline, just to register his own objection and point out certain logistical complications.

Also, you are supposed to avoid discussing homosexuality to spare the feelings of another prof? I vote that person should get over him/herself.

Sisyphus said...

No, it's called a "metro"! How weird is that? I think it was the Gold line. I must have found info on the web to prep for my trip, so noodle around.

and 10 people ---- if I had me and my entire committee in a room (which I did for my prospectus defense) it would only be 4, 5 with an outside reader if I'd wanted it. How many people have you got there?

kermitthefrog said...

Ah, the mythical "Gold Line" of which I have heard. The relatives in Claremont/formerly Pasadena have mentioned this strange entry of public transportation into their area.

And this meeting was nothing official: it's a mostly grad student dissertation workshop that's based at another university, so no one with actual authority over me or my dissertation was there. But it is a group of people whose take on the subject I generally respect, hence the hopes for productive discussion.