(another) first day of school

Fifteen years ago this week we woke up in Carothers dormitory and toddled off to our very first college classes. Today Bryan headed back to UT to teach a computer science course as an adjunct professor. So proud of that one.

class of 2018

(Under the same “things that make us feel old” heading, file the fact that today’s entering freshmen will be the class of 2018. 2018! And no flying cars at all.)

married and whatnot

Well hello there! Apologies for the fairly long absence, but if you’re reading this you were probably invited to the wedding, so you already know where I’ve been. Which is great because I definitely don’t have the energy to crank out some enormous post about the last two weeks. Suffice to say, I graduated,

graduating

did some manic last-minute wedding preparations,

wedding prep

and got married.

wedding ceremony

(Oh yeah, and went to Bay to Breakers, with Mom and Dad.)

M&D at BtoB

The pictures from graduation and Bay to Breakers are online. I’m still in the process of stealing wedding photos from my friends as they post them.

Now we’re taking our apartment apart and putting it back together before we leave for Germany in a week. There’s something very satisfying about reorganizing and rethinking all the makeshift solutions that we’ve come up with over the last two years. Today we did the kitchen. As Bryan said, no one will appreciate our brilliance, but we’re fairly convinced that we have the most functional and beautiful kitchen in the apartment building, and possibly the world.

We’re also married, which frankly rocks.

black kids CAN read

It’s easy to think that social science fields (like say, education research) have not advanced in the last 30 years in the same way that more technical fields (like say, computer science) have. I mean, we certainly don’t seem to be doing a much better job of actually educating people.

But every once in a while (like say, now, while I’m still writing this damn thesis), I’ll stumble across something that makes me think otherwise. This report was cited in one of the articles I read recently:

Weber, G. (1971). Inner city children can be taught to read (Occassional Paper No. 18).

Revelation! I guess we have learned something since the 70s.

anxiety dreams

It’s April, that frantic month where the pace of my APA (thesis), wedding plans, and arrangements for the future (Germany, my job, a possible move) accelerates toward the deadlines. Everything’s just gotten a touch more desperate. In a wedding-planning calendar my mother and I put together in August, there are no big items this month—though of course there is still plenty to do—except, written across the page: PROBABLY VERY BUSY.

In response, I’ve started having alternating anxiety dreams. Like clockwork, they started the night of April 1. That night it was one of those classic dreams where you discover you’re enrolled in a class that’s about to end, and you haven’t done any of the work. In your first foggy moments of waking up, you think, Crap, I’ve got to get on top of that, and then you remember with relief that you’re not IN a History of Philosophy class.
April 2 it was the wedding. The wedding was tonight; I was making frantic phone calls to find someone to do my hair, and then I realized we didn’t even have a ceremony put together. And then I was showering in a public bathroom and some British lech was making passes at me, and I was like DAMN IT MAN, I’M GETTING READY FOR MY WEDDING.
Last night: death in the family. And being chased through the jungle.

I’ve had all of these dreams before, with varying details, and expect to meet them like old friends many times between now and mid-May. At least there are no school children involved.

Updates on the big stuff

I was already familiar with the paper we were discussing in my education reform law class (this one), so I spent the time making a long list of things I’d meant to write about but hadn’t. 2007’s not been a great year for the self-indulgent internet posting. But I intend to catch up over the next few days. The first installment: quick updates of the spring’s major themes.

1. The APA*/work – School and work overlap almost completely this semester, which is great to the extent it means I earn $20+/hour for school work, but lousy in that it cuts my total workload in half. And having a light workload itself is great since it allows me to plan a wedding, hunt for a post-graduation job, and keep up with Grey’s Anatomy, but lousy in that I have trouble motivating myself without the urgency of deadlines and the feeling of being in over my head. So, the APA is inching along. Meanwhile, the office where I’ve been working since June (and that’s hosting my APA) is going through one of its annual crumbling cycles, wherein the bulk of the staff is fired or quits in disgust. I’m still enjoying my little corner of the work, but I am trying not to get caught up in the implosion and am VERY ready to work in an environment that’s a little less toxic and insane.

* Remember? Basically my thesis.

2. The Wedding – Holy shit, we’re getting married in 3 months. Fortunately, things are chugging along, and I don’t think we’ve forgotten any major elements. My mom came out for four days last week, so we could exchange craft projects (invitations, flowers), shop for decorative elements (vases, picture frames, fabric), and do a first fitting with the actual dress (eeeeeeeeeee). I also had a long talk with the officiant a couple of days ago to begin brainstorming about what on earth to do for the ceremony. Bryan and Dad have purchased their wedding suits, in which they look very dashing, and almost all the bridesmaids have chosen their dresses, in which I’m sure they’ll look like beautiful flowers.

3. Miscellaneous – I finally got a library card, so I’ve been keeping myself up late and neglecting all kinds of chores in favor of exciting new books. We’ve cooked several “keeper” recipes, including braised short ribs and coq au vin. I unloaded a month’s worth of photos from our camera, in the process discovering that several people took pictures with it at a very drunken gathering at our place. And Bryan and I are only six lessons away (which means we’ve done 84) from finishing our “Essential German” tapes! Hurrah! Next we’re doing to listen to international newscasts, designed for German beginners. Oh yeah, and on Monday I entered my late mid-twenties, celebrated variously with three remarkable meals, brownies, muffins, flowers, and flip-flops printed with a picture of the World Trade Towers.

End of Semester Eve

I’d forgotten about lousy group members.

Actually, I realized today I’d forgotten to hate group projects for the past year. Of course I always used to hate them, as do most people, I believe, who don’t suck. But group projects are the norm in policy school, and they’re usually a joy. It’s a whole school filled with those people who would always pick up the slack, and volunteer for the hardest job, and give the paper that one last revision, and write the whole damn bibliography after everyone else sort of shuffled it off. It’s not all puppies and rainbows, of course. Sometimes you find yourself sitting around a table with four other people, doing the 15th word-by-word revision of your 60-page semester project and having a debate about semicolon use that’s making you cry a little.

But now that I’m engaged in the final evening of a group project in another school on campus, one that shall remain nameless but starts with Ed and ends with cation, oh do I long for those nit-picking wonks.

I won’t go into details. (That sentence just replaced a lengthy paragraph that involved the words “mewling,” “drivel,” “my ass,” and many capital letters.) Instead, I will simply send a little love-thought out into the world for all the good group members. You know who you are.

Former Secretaries of Labor give good job advice

(n=1)*

It’s that time of year when you realize it’s the last meeting of class and you haven’t done the reading since October. Magical. We had our final session of “Leadership and Social Change” (formerly “Agency Management” but revamped to focus more on being a, you know, leader, and less on running a bureaucracy).

Anyhoo, the topic of the class yesterday was Your Fabulous Careers. Bob passed along some common-sensible but valuable job advice, which I thought I’d continue to pass for all of you current or future job hunters out there.

*sorry, sorry

Here we go:

Resist the temptation to want a fancy-sounding job title. A lot of people come out of grad school looking for a title that justifies their dedication of years and work and money—something a little more high-status than you had before school. This is completely understandable, and might work out, but don’t prioritize status, at all.

What you do want to look for is a good perch, a good boss, and potential mentors. Perch means you are able to see a lot of your field, get the lay of the land, meet a lot of people and find out who is doing what kind of work. Good boss: someone who will stretch and develop your skills, is a decent manager, and won’t make you feel like you need to compromise your intergrity. Potential mentors: people who will be willing to teach you.

How do you find these things? Not the crap-shoot of job listings, that’s for damn sure. Start by calling up three people who are about five years ahead of you in whatever field you’re interested in, and ask them for advice about how they got where they are, what sort of work they like to do, etc. And, ask them who else you should talk to. Repeat several times, till you talked to a dozen or so people. After a month of this, you should have a much better idea of what kind of jobs are out there, who might be good to work for, and who’s looking for help. To me it sounds like benign networking—it’s not just about who you know or whether you have an in to some twisted cabal, it’s about who you’ve talked to and what you’ve learned. Much less…seedy.

Anyway, it lessened my terror of life after graduation, so I thought I’d share.

Got an hour?

A couple of (long) articles today give good overviews of things that interest me.

From Time, “Why We Worry About the Things We Shouldn’t…And Ignore the Things We Should” [link] [pdf]
(Short Answer: We’re monkeys.)

From the NY Times Magazine, “What It Takes to Make a Student,” all about the achievement gap [link] [pdf]
(Short Answer: A lot more than we’re offering.)

Another week begins!

Two points of interest (to me)

1. High-achieving low-income students go to college at about the same rate as low-achieving high-income students (according to a new report that looks at National Education Longitudinal Study data). Which makes total sense when I think about all the dumb-asses at my high school that trotted off to [insert elite college here]. Feel free to comment about grade inflation and whatnot at high-poverty schools—you line ’em up, I’ll knock ’em down.

College-going rates

2. The Fundamental (except not really) Attribution Error. (Amy could probably tell you all about this since it’s a psych thing.) We talked about it briefly today in my Research Design class. Basically, people have a tendency to over-attribute people’s actions to their character.

For example, if a man steals a loaf of bread, they are more likely to say it’s because he’s dishonest or corrupt, and less likely to say it’s because of the situation he was in.

When (American) psychologists first discovered this, they named it the Fundamental Attribution Error. Later they tested for this in other countries and found out that—whoops—it’s actually mainly an American thing. In many Asian countries, they over-attribute people’s actions to their situations.

Just an interesting little insight into our national character.

Off to Texas for Thanksgiving tomorrow. Lots of family and friend bonding.