Monday, November 18, 2013

How to Write a Graduate School Paper

Day 3, 31 hours until deadline.

5:00pm.  Decide to do laundry because a) you would rather do anything at this point than work on your paper, and b) you've been wearing the same outfit for the past three days.

8:00pm. Take a shower to try and clear your brain.  Debate the structure of your argument out loud with yourself.  One of you storms out of the conversation (and you still haven't fixed your thesis).

8:10pm.  Get out of the shower.  Ignore the clean laundry, and put on the same outfit.

8:15pm. You wonder what smells like onions.

8:16pm. You realize that you smell like onions.

8:17pm. Change clothes.  

9:00pm. You realize that your freshly-laundered cardigan has pockets, which is perfect for carting around chocolate chips.  

11:00pm. Having spent five hours trying to construct the last point of your paper, give up and take a totally different approach.  Eat more chocolate chips.

11:30pm.  Actually write down some cohesive thoughts.  Congratulate yourself.  
12:00am.  Realize that your paper was in 12-point font instead of the required 11.  Your paper is now 1.5 pages shorter the you thought it was.

12:01am.  Bang head on keyboard and give up for the night.

12:15am.  Stroke of inspiration.  Reopen laptop and type nominally coherent thoughts through half-closed eyelids.

1:15am.  Realize that you're now just staring at the computer.  Decide it's really time to go to bed.

4:00am.  Wake up type a few notes about how the entity's current strategy is another form of privatization.  

8:00am.  This is all you actually typed: privatiztiom.

12:15pm.  Breakthrough on your original argument that you abandoned last night.  You are both really excited and really irritated.

1:15pm.  Scrawl notes on scratch paper on the bus en route to a volunteer event you signed up for three weeks ago.

1:30pm.  Make eye contact and smile when you come across a homeless gentleman about your age sitting on the street corner.  In response, he says, "hey, it's adopt-a-homeless-kid month.  You can take me home anytime."  

3:50pm.  While doling out coleslaw to 500 people (Potluck in the Park does this every week!), a gentleman leans and whispers, "I'm not sure I should have any of that stuff - I heard it makes you fart!" You both descend into giggles.  He gets some coleslaw anyway.

6:30pm.  Get home.  Drink coffee.

7:00pm.  Coffee is not working.


9:25pm.  Print down paper for final edit with red pen.  Paper looks like it's bleeding.

10:17pm.  Paper submitted.  In celebration, make some oven-roasted Brussels sprouts with garlic aioli dipping sauce (a snack with which you are currently totally obsessed).  As you take your first bite, you raise your glass to your new friend and the effects of cruciferous vegetables.

12:15am.  Coffee is still working...

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Danger of a Single Story

This is not a new TED Talk, but well worth watching if you've never seen it before.  Nigerian-born, critically acclaimed novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie shares about what she terms "the danger of a single story."  I've re-read the transcript several times now, considering how her words illuminate not only the paper I'm working on at the moment, but also my relationships, my perception of self, and my perception of others.  Here is just one out of several favorite quotes from eighteen powerful minutes: 
"All of these stories make me who I am.  But to insist on only these negative stories is to flatten my experience and to overlook the many other stories that formed me.  The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.  They make one story become the only story."