Posted by: CJ | December 4, 2010

Autumn Hurries On, Winter Worries Come

This is a various compendium of recent thoughts.

Tyler Cowen says we should trust our peer’s reactions more as a gauge for our own reactions. I know I don’t trust my own peers reactions’ enough. I generally feel either too contrarian or like I’m too different. That might have been true once, but it generally isn’t in the hallowed halls of the ivory tower. I should trust them more.

I’ve been applying for some summer internships recently. It’s gotten me somewhat worked up about getting a job inside or outside of academia. It’s harder than it looks. It’s not enough to have the credentials. You have to have a good resume, a good cover letter, good references, and interview well. I’m nervous about all of those. Especially the interviewing.  I’m not noted for my interviewing skills.

In that vein, I’d feel better applying for jobs if my computer programming skills were much better. That’s what almost every academia says, though, so I’m not special. Academics rarely code often, and even when we do we code for entirely different reasons, situations, users, and time-scales than coders outside of academia.

And, as long as I’m groaning over things I wish, dealing with job applications also makes me vaguely wish I was in another field or a different grad school. My field isn’t the sexiest field, so it doesn’t make people really curious and want to hire me. (It isn’t a really bad field, though, either.) Ditto with my school. Not bad at all, but I’d been accepted to better. And could have been accepted to even better if I’d gone in a different program or waited a year to work someplace and make contacts. I feel vaguely foolish for rushing off to grad school instead of taking a couple of years off to weigh my options.

(On the other hand, I didn’t make that suboptimal of a decision. At least assuming I don’t go into academia, which I probably won’t. I just feel like I’m not rubbing shoulders with the future elite, compared to my friends in Boston. For better or worse. Course when I do rub shoulders with the elite I generally think they’re privileged, egotistical, jackasses with an astonishing sense of self-entitlement and obsession about status. Usually brilliant and hardworking too, but I can only put up with so much nonsense. Unfortunately I moved away from that partially because I didn’t want to play their status games. I guess I wasn’t completely right on that score.)

On the flip side, the longer I’m in grad school the more I realize it’s not really about learning. It’s about socialization, doing research that the field wants done, and making friends in your area. And being part of the great university teaching swindle. University’s aren’t really about learning either. They’re about churning out a product.

And that leads directly into my final gripe. One of my teachers this quarter is bad. One of the three worst professors I’ve ever had. He’s new, so he had some excuse. But it’s still bad. Offensively so. The girl I’m dating doesn’t understand why it upsets me so much. Her take is, “A professor’s teaching doesn’t have to be good, just above the bar of acceptable. That’s the nature of the job.” And the sad thing, to me, is she’s right. But I still can’t see it that way. To me, taking on a job and not doing it as well as you can given your other constraints is offensive. You don’t have to be perfect, but you need an explanation every time something is really imperfect. This guy doesn’t have that. So I’m pissed at him and have a hard time not thinking, “what a fuck-up”.


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