So I’m not normally a forgetful person. In fact, sometimes I recall things that surprise others around me (i.e. random birthdays, etc…). And one thing I’ve never had trouble remembering is the tasks that I have to get done, both long and short-term. Major parts of my job(s) don’t fall through the cracks. So why do I use a to-do list service? The little things that go bump in my head… Continue reading “To Do Lists For Sanity’s Sake!”
Mitch walked into the office. He was 15 minutes early for the interview, so he sat by the reception area after checking in. The receptionist smiled at him, however he couldn’t help but notice her prolonged gaze, almost as if she hesitated before telling him that Mr. Smith would let her know when he could head back.
Mitch was 20 years old, and a college graduate. He’d studied hard, and his internship at a small branch of the larger company had earned him the interview. He was nervous, but well prepared for almost anything. It turned out that no amount of preparation could have helped him in the awkwardness that was about to occur.
Mr. Smith called for Mitch about 20 minutes later. Mitch walked down the hall and was beckoned into Smith’s office by his loud booming voice. Mitch could be quite loud too, however that was with friends. Today he was somewhat reserved, sitting in a new suit, mentally ready for the barrage of questions.
Smith and Mitch looked at each other for a moment after shaking hands, as Smith got a pen and pad ready to take notes.
“Uh”, Smith began, slightly taken aback, “Where are you from, Mitch?”
“From outside Newberry”, Mitch replied.
“Newberry…. “, Smith said, rolling it around in his mind and mouth. He almost visibly shook his head as if shaking off the feeling of discontinuity. He asked Mitch several pre-written questions from a standard interview form, but stopped about 10 minutes in.
“Mitch, I gotta ask this – have we met before?”, Smith asked.
“I don’t think so, I’ve never been to the city before, and I don’t think you ever visited the branch I interned at”, Mitch replied.
“But still, you seem really familiar”
“Yes, you seem a bit familiar too”, Mitch said as he glanced around the room. Noticing pictures of presumably Smith’s family, Mitch was shocked to see people who looked familiar as well. Smith noticed Mitch’s eyes glancing and took down the photo with the most number of people in it.
“Is that your mother?”, Mitch asked as he pointed to one of several older women in the photo, “And an aunt – there – from your father’s side?”.
Astonished, Smith replied affirmatively. Mitch looked at each member of the family and guessed their relationship to Smith, guessing correctly every time. Mitch then pulled out his wallet and showed Smith several photos. Somehow, Smith was equally able to name them.
“Mitch, you just graduated college, correct?”, Smith asked after the photos had been stowed and shelved.
“Yes, in December 2011”, Mitch replied.
“I graduated in December 2001”, Smith said.
The began to compare life histories, and over the course of the hour, an hour that was supposed to be filled with questions about a prospective job, benefits, challenges, and the like, they realized that their histories ran roughly parallel, 10 years removed. They even bore a resemblance to each other physically, although they didn’t notice this until near the end of their meeting.
The two men parted company but promised to consult with family and friends, looking to see if somehow they were connected. Obviously Smith liked Mitch, and recommended he be hired. Some months later, Mitch received a call from his great-grandmother, who was ill and normally not able to talk. She was feeling good that day, and wanted to speak to her only great-grandson. Mitch asked her about Smith, telling the matriarch the details of their meeting.
“Well Mitch”, the old woman began, “When you reach my age, you realize something. We’re all fundamentally living the same lives, just years apart. Some times it’s more noticeable than others, such as with you and your friend there. And you, my child, have hopefully saved yourself a lot of grief by learning this life lesson early.
“What do you mean Grandma?”, Mitch asked.
“It’s easier to spend life recognizing the common threads that bind us together, and not focus on the loose ends that distinguish us.”
Danielle’s mother pulled her along, across the side street toward the shops. Today they’d be shopping and spending time together, Danielle being only 3, the world was still a big place with much to explore, and not enough time to do it, straining against her mother’s pull.
3 years goes by, and Danielle’s mother pulls her toward the school building. The child is reluctant to give up her own ability to explore for the guided exploration of her teachers. Her new friends, whom she will meet shortly, will ease the transition.
6 years goes by, and Danielle’s mother pushes her toward activities she’d rather skip. Spending time with her grandparents, going to Sunday school, and practicing her piano skills pale in comparison to the excitement of the conversation of friends, the shopping at the mall instead of the stores on main street, and exploring what being a teenager will be.
6 years goes by, and Danielle’s mother taps her daughter on the shoulder. It’s graduation day, and while college awaits, today marks the end of the guided exploration started 12 years earlier. Danielle is on her own, for a while, to learn about the world. Her mother hopes she can guide herself.
6 years goes by and Danielle’s mother beckons her daughter to hurry up, the guests are seated, they await the bride’s entrance.
Many more years go by, and Danielle’s mother, father, and husband pass on. She sits in a coffee shop that stands where her mother once took her shopping long ago. It is then she realizes that she never finished exploring the world. She gets up and drags herself out into it.
“I don’t get it”, Apostrophe said to his friend, Comma. “People keep calling me up at all hours to go sit in “its” when they obviously want possession and not a contraction”.
“It’s your own fault Apos”, Comma said with a smile, “Just like me, people have figured out how darn useful you are, and sometimes they throw you in where you’re not needed”.
“I feel like a grammatical failure”, Apostrophe said sadly.
“Oh come now, you’re not a failure”, Comma said reassuringly.
“But I’m so misused, it’s horrible”, Apostrophe cried.
“No, what’s horrible are our friends who aren’t used at all – take ole Guillemmets – no one uses him at all except to be ‘cute'”, Comma said, “And poor Slash is always getting confused between his back and front!”.
“Yea, but it’s different to be overused incorrectly”, Apostrophe said.
“Hey buddy – at least you’re not Hyphen or Dash – those guys have complained for years”, Comma replied.
“Well… I guess it could be worse”, Apostrophe said as he wiped the tears from his eyes.
“Yea, at least we’re not…”, Comma started.
“INTERROBANG!“, they said in unison.
And off in the typesetting wilderness, Interrobang sighed.
The old library sat unused, the new one sat next door. The old library was the site of many a hot debate by impassioned undergraduates inspired to succeed as they were the first to attend college in their family, the first to be able to sit around all day and think as opposed to work. The first to be given that sort of freedom. The new library’s claim to fame was that it sported a coffee bar, and lots of big plush chairs near power outlets.
The old car sits on the used car lot, abandoned by it’s owner. They had been through good and bad, and many jury-rigged fixes in place of regular maintenance. He had driven it down to fumes numerous times, praying that it could make it just a bit farther to the next gas station. It had been where he got his first traffic ticket, and made out with his future-wife. Now the new car sat in the garage, and he felt he’d earned it through years of hard work. But it never felt the same.
The old computer waits for the child to play with it. It’s the location of the first article she wrote, and where she slaved over her resume that she used to get the position she loved. It’s the computer that held the games which she used to relax after a long day studying. It’s the computer that traveled the 2 hour commute during her first years of working here. Now the new computer purrs and moves about quickly, she seldom thinks of the old clunker.
The old lover feels the sting of the rejection, and sits lonely with the old friends, and the forgotten family. They wonder aloud why they were abandoned, why they were cast aside as useless by the person they once knew. The replacements never see their predecessors, they are too busy enjoying the time with their new friend.
It’s fine and well to take away the old and replace with the new when progress demands. But one should carefully consider the consequences, directly proportional to the sentience of the object being replaced.
Dear Mr. Bean,
I feel compelled to write an open letter to you on behalf of my many friends who display a certain addiction to you. While I, myself, enjoy a cup of coffee on a regular basis, I have yet to experience all mood changes, productivity lapses, anti-social behavior incidents, temporary bouts of insanity, and other acts of tomfoolery attributed to the absence of your caffeine goodness. Others I know, however, are a different story.
There’s Mr. X who is quite perplexed at daily affairs without warm care.
There’s Mrs. Y who would rather die than live without you for a day or two.
There’s Mr. Zed who’s liable to lose his head if during a fight you should decide to take flight.
There’s Mrs. A, who just today, told me she was addicted as I had predicted.
There’s Mr. B who I never see without a mug of your warm drug.
There’s Mrs. C who would be quite irate without her brewed mate.
There’s Mr. D who, just like B, appears quite the scene without you, Mr. Bean
There’s Mrs. E who longs to be in your embrace during the rat race.
There’s Mr. F who seems bereft as he drowns the last sip of your soft nip.
There’s Mrs. G, a widow you see, who once drank tea but abandoned him for ye.
There’s Mr. H who with I can relate, he wonders aloud why your devotees are so avowed.
There’s Mrs. I who wishes she could be dry, your spell holds her tighter than any guy.
And finally there is Me, a gold card member you see, who is beyond your spell – I don’t need you I tell! I just wish that in time, I could drop all this rhyme. Without relying on your frequent aid!
Late last week, a friend of mine forwarded me something he’d gotten from a third, mutual friend (gotta love email). It was this list, taken from the Marian College Psychology Department’s handbook, a basic “how-to” for graduate students on becoming so-called “Superstars”. The list is an excellent resource for incoming graduate students in psych (and other fields as well), and echoed a lot of my own personal goals and personality in grad school. I figured I’d post on it and point out a few anecdotes.
- When I was in graduate school, I was in the office 3-4 days a week, and made it a point to say hello to people, roam the hall a bit, poke my head into other’s offices to see what was going on, etc.. I did this mostly because I was tired, bored, or a combination of both. However this made me highly visible in the department. Other students I knew for a fact were in 5-7 days a week, working many more hours, did not do these things (In fact, they were annoyed at the suggestion they should). When they were tired or needed a break, they’d surf on their computer, go somewhere outside the department (the union) or just close their office doors and pretend they weren’t there. While this gave them the same temporary unwind as I got from wandering around, it also made others go “so-and-so is never around…”
- The list notes that “superstars listened, learned, grew, and produced through close working relationships with faculty” which I apparently did without realizing it. I believe I enjoyed a very close and mutually beneficial relationship with my advisor, J.D. Jasper, which helped him both get work done and evaluate my progress, while also allowing us to become friends. Still, I never tried to take advantage of this, knowing that while we were friends, until the day I defended, I was still his student. In the years since, during my postdoc, I’ve realized that this is not the norm – most graduate students I observe at Columbia are detached from their mentors, have multiple mentors that they see perhaps 1-2 times per month, and generally don’t check in unless prompted to. Even worse, I’ve also noticed a few students (who shall remain nameless) who take advantage of the detached mentoring style to do subtle things that, if their advisors were to know about, would not be tolerated. How in the world are you supposed to build a good working relationship with people / a community of researchers if you make it clear that you don’t care to form any sort of social interaction with them? Your advisor can be your friend, within bounds, and should never be considered “just my boss”. This is why you went into academia in the first place – to have a boss that cares about more than just the bottom line.
- Speaking of “taking advantage” of a faculty relationship. Shortly after I defended, I began to wonder how it happens that students fail their defense (Mind you, I was worried I’d fail mine, which in retrospect seems a bit like worrying that a tornado could strike my house – possible, but not plausible). I found a few threads that talked about how defenses were failed, and one story stuck out in my mind. It was of a student who failed simply because she felt that she’d been around long enough in the department that she was on level with faculty. I suppose I can understand how this happens. During my time at graduate school, we hired new faculty who, while 5-6 years advanced in their career from me, were still “new” to the department and thus it could have felt like I had “seniority” in some odd way. I can especially see this in situations where graduate students are teaching a “faculty” level load, have been doing so for a few years, and have a brand new tenure-track person come in who hasn’t taught in years due to a postdoc.
Anyway, I think it’s a great list for anyone advising students, or new students coming into a program. Graduate school is meant to be a time of learning, exploration, training, and even fun. Why some choose to treat it like a dreary boring job where they tred water for 7 years and then get to leave, I’ll never know!
Title: Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
Author: Doris Kearns Goodwin
More Information: Amazon
Jon’s Summary: If you ever decide to read a book on Abe Lincoln, you should probably read this one. Why? Well because about halfway through the book I realized that it read more like fiction than history. You really feel connected to historical figures that died over a hundred years ago due to Goodwin’s writing style. And even though you know that the book will come to an abrupt stop on April 15, 1865, you still hope things may turn out differently!
Read this book mostly over 3 weeks, as I didn’t get much reading in over the holiday. It goes surprisingly fast as you want to know what will happen next. For me, someone who did extremely well in US History, it was a great refresher course for material I hadn’t studied in 10 years. It also gives some interesting insight into 19th century relationships, including the lost relationship type known as “intimate platonic male friendship”. While I’m fairly close to a few of my male friends, I don’t think I would ever write to them about how I “longed to feel their love”!
More than anything else the book underscores the benefits of rational thought over emotional even under pressure. Many times Lincoln could have succumbed to petty emotional decision making regarding subordinates, however he always gave himself time to refocus — in many cases writing letters he never sent due to his rashness of tone within them.
So since some have asked, here’s some data on my weird 200 pageviews:
Here are my “norms”, as you can see, this is a pretty big shift!
So what were they looking at? Well, nothing in particular! Mostly old blog posts. My usual articles are toward the top, but then a bunch of really old content got scooped up as well!
Of that 81.32% direct:
So it looks like a bot to me. Why they want my inane old posts is beyond me…
The plot thickens though – I had another spike a few months ago, on September 29. On that day again it was 80.7% direct. Here’s the interesting part though – the locations of these spikes are all England. Here’s Sept 29 (first spike), the time between, and yesterday (Second spike)
September 29 Geographic Breakdown:
September 30 – Nov 11 Geographic Breakdown:
And Yesterday (Spike 2)
So it looks like I’m a hit in England, on certain days, this fall. Or maybe it’s something more sinister. Any thoughts? These are unique visitors, from the same geographic area, but not the same address!
One of the more interesting ad campaigns I