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The Two Demons of The Doctorate

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I like to write about demons. Maybe it's my overall fascination with horror, my experiences with religion, or great appreciation for Supernatural (to be clear--it's a bad show but I still enjoy it), but I find that when I need to explain something such as inner turmoil, I like to draw upon demons.  I wrote about the two demons I run with.  Today, I'm going to talk about the two demons of the doctorate.  My guess is that some of you are quite familiar with one and possibly familiar with the other. 

Demon 1:  The Distraction DemonThe doctorate program, like many other big tasks is dominated by output and deadlines.  There's papers to be done throughout the courses leading up to the dissertation process and then more deadlines, bigger and more stressful deadlines along the way. 

I'm often challenged by deadlines.  I think Douglas Adams, in all the ways he has influenced me, maybe have influenced me most when I heard him say, "I love deadlines. I like the whooshing …

Review: Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress

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Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress by Steven Pinker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was a big fan of Pinker's previous book, The Better Nature of Our Angels that he wrote several years ago. I found it to be a relieving exploration into the world today and better understanding the myth of violence that is ever-present in news and political rhetoric about the world today. Thus, his follow up where he continues to make that argument by connecting it to the present-day issues and concerns that dominate discussions across many different places is appreciated and useful in gaining perspective. He moves through dozens of chapters taken on different issues and leveling the known research available while connecting the issues with the larger picture or with other concepts and research that can prove...well..enlightening. At the core of his argument is one that is similar to Kurt Anderson's in Fantasyland, that through the lens and application of evidence-ba…

Review: The End We Start From

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The End We Start From by Megan Hunter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a fun and short novel about a woman dealing with an apocalypse while also dealing with a growing infant, but, of course, it's about so much more. The novels' style is minimalistic, broken into small sections that can be one sentence to about a full page's worth. Hunter manages to provide the fullest of stories in the smallest of words and using a good amount of synecdoche, giving the readers glimpses of her bigger whole experience. Hunters desire to straddle this line between detail and reduction of words, that all the characters are merely denoted by a single letter, rather than a full name. It makes the reading experience move quickly and evokes the realization of how names themselves, though necessary, are far more complex than needed for a good story. The story starts with the birth of the protagonist's baby and the husband working to get them moving as a disaster is approaching (a flood by the sou…

Review: The Obelisk Gate

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The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jemisin's second book in The Broken Earth trilogy is just as fascinating as her first and pulls readers deeper into the mystery of a future and unrecognizable Earth where life has inevitably altered and the world of today appears only in the refraction of technologies and cultural artifacts long abandoned or lost. Essun, the protagonist of the first follow, has landed in a com, Castrima, which has been attracting orogenes like herself and who live in an underground construct build with technologies of previous civilizations. There, she continues to learn from Alabaster, her former lover and mentor while also coming to understand the place of orogenes in the past and the future. Meanwhile, her daughter, Nassun has been brought by her father to a place that he believes will rid her of her orogene powers. Instead, a Guardian takes a keen interest in developing her powers in new ways. The story moves seamlessly back and forth betw…

Review: Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race

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Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For many white folks, the title might fool them into thinking this book embodies the worst conjured stereotype of people of color activists who demand equity, equality, and fairness after centuries in which democratically republics have often failed to uphold these. But, they might be surprised that Eddo-Lodge's writing is welcoming, enlightening, and filled with history and deconstructions of racism in modern society that many white folks aren't familiar with. The title comes from a blog title she posted several years ago and what follows is a clear and explicit exploration of racism and how whites, particularly, are woefully unaware (by structural racism) of the ways in which culture has privileged them time and again to the detriment of people of color. By far, this is not my first book on the subject of racism, white privilege, and the impact of historically legalized inequali…

Review: So You Want to Talk About Race

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So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oluo provides a phenomenal breakdown of racism and African American identity in the US today. She uses a mixture of her own biography and experience and intersplices them with the work that she's been doing for years as a writer on the topic of racism in America. What I like particularly about her work is that she frames each chapter around a particular question, many of which are questions that' she's been asked and others are questions that are out there in the common milieu (I don't recall if she said in fact she's been asked all of these). These questions range from "Why can't I touch your hair?" (The same reason you shouldn't be touching anyone without permission & well, why the hell do you think you even have the right--read: privilege--to ask such a thing of people; it wreaks of fetishizing) to "Why am I always being told to "check my privilege"?" (b…

Review: How to Make White People Laugh

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How to Make White People Laugh by Negin Farsad
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Farsad's is a charming and delightful memoir and commentary on race/ethnicity, American culture, humor, and what it means to be an Iranian-American in a (Islamaphobic-poorly-disguised-as-obsessed-with-radical-Islam-terrorism) US culture. Her anecdotes and experiences offer insight into how she and others experience being marginalized as terrorists or somehow, having to explain all 2 billion Muslims in the world. She also shares some of the origins of her activism around better informing and explaining how she uses comedy to loosen barriers between herself, white folks, among others, and the intersection of her identities. She has two TED Talks that are definitely good introductions to the book and if you find them enjoyable or bemusing, then this book is likely to hit the mark. In particular, Farsad's ability to verbally disarm without necessarily attacking helps to present her message and a keen understandin…

Dissertation: QP Revised Edition

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Ok, I just submitted my revised Qualifying Paper.  It got "Accepted with revisions to my chair" back in January and the due date of about 2 weeks.  I submitted it and am feeling relatively good about it. 

After I got it back, I met with my advisor and he encouraged me to write down some of the big elements/ideas of the paper down.  From there, he told me to select what I feel are the 5 most relevant pieces of this subject I'm studying.  Next, I should pick what are the top 1-2 elements and then do the hard part--make a decision about where I want my emphasis to be.  So my QP had great content, I covered ample literature, but my problem was out of focus.  Therefore, I needed to decide just what was I going to focus on.  I ended up determining that it was useful for me to understand what impact my problem was having on scholars as they look to acquire research.  This helped me refocus the paper and put the emphasis throughout on how scholars have experienced the change in a…

Review: Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That Is a Problem, and What to Do About It

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Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That Is a Problem, and What to Do About It by Richard V. Reeves
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reeves addresses something that I've seen for a while but had trouble naming. He shows in many ways how the upper-middle class is essentially pulling up the ladder of opportunity in our culture just as much as the elites are in the ways they make personal choices--often canceling out or undermining the opportunities that they were afforded to get to their current economic status. Reeve explores how the tearing down of policies within education, finance, and public policy had been stalwarts to help grow the upper middle class, but that such policies are often being replaced with policy that benefits the upper-middle class in lieu of lower classes. Some of those policies include tax benefits around home-ownership, capital gains, college education, and the like. Reeves contends that every time there is an a…

Day 1, Semester 9: The Final Friday Countdown

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Here we are.  Our 9th semester with some 16 courses completed (48 credits) and we arrive for the first of our Fridays for the final cohort course.  There are some more courses after this--a few more electives, but this begins the final countdown of Friday courses and you can bet your damn ass that I'm counting down every one of them!

The nervousness of the QP has mostly passed; though I'm concerned about the amount of revisions I need to do.  Once I get past that, then deadlines are self-selected and at least a year off--that being the dissertation proposal.    

I get to class and settled in so that I can set up Zoom for a cohort member that can't physically join us.  As our cohort trickles in, we exchange hugs of congratulations and support.  We get settled in and start the final cohort class.  It's somewhat fitting that we are ending with one of the same instructors that we started with our first June session.   We get to work unpacking our experiences with the QP and …