Saturday, 29 October 2011

Comparing myself to others

Went to a Ph.D. completion party last night, for Frank, who is the awesome and very sweet boyfriend of the awesome and very sweet Erin, who is doing her Ph.D. on the animal side. Frank's Ph.D. was in Comp Sci and it sounds like he kicked some thesis defense butt. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

We went to dinner (that's three times in two weeks, yikes - but there keeps being things to celebrate!) and over to someone's house for drinks. And this is where I wish the dept was less segregated to so I could actually talk to other Ph.D. students more often. It really helps to have some idea of how other people work things and what their experiences have been.

First of all, I found out that some people who I thought would be kicking butt financially (due to having got one of those big scholarships that I have no hope for) are actually living on credit and begging for TAships to at least pay tuition. It seems that being insanely cheap and putting up with a not-great living situation because it's the least expensive option is actually working out pretty well for me, relatively speaking. At least I haven't taken on any new debt since starting the Ph.D. (not saying anyone else has, but I think that is still a win).

That said, I'm seriously considering giving my notice at the house on Nov 1 (they want two months notice of moving out??!!!) and finding something else for next semester... since it seems to be pretty clear that sticking around even after the writing up is done and collecting more data is probably a wise career move. Going straight to Oxford would be awesome but leave me with a pretty large CV and productivity gap. Sigh.

[The house isn't so bad, but it isn't great either. The undergrad housemate (UH) told me he was going to "have a few people over Thursday night" a couple of weeks ago. Come home Thursday night to find a raging kegger and screaming undergrads puking on my lawn. Awesome. Our neighbours hate this sort of thing, understandably, and I for one had to get up Friday morning and work. So, Mark and I tried to corral them into the house and convince them to stop screaming. Sort of worked: now they were screaming outside the door to my room. Apparently one of them puked in the sink and another broke Mark's expensive vase and another spilled a pitcher of beer all over the downstairs couch. The UH, when confronted, said, "oh yeah, I didn't think there would be that many people" and wandered off to class to leave Mark to clean up.

This was also the night I heard about poor Matt, so needless to say I was not in the mood to deal with screaming morons... kind of a bad night, all in all.

Anyway, that isn't typical, but the lack of cleaning (mostly by UH) and the boyfriend slumped on the couch seven days a week using our electricity but not paying rent ARE. Not the end of the world and the non-UH housemates are pretty respectful, but I'm about ready to get gone.]

Anyway, next semester will necessarily be more expensive, so saving like crazy now... we'll see how it goes.

(Speaking of finishing up soonish, I forgot to send my proof of student status to the student loan people this semester, resulting in a repayment notice - reversed, of course, but yikes, gotta be saving hard for that too in case I don't have a postdoc to jump into right away!)

Apart from that, seems like most people are taking at least four years (plus) to finish, despite Guelph's weird assertion that three years of guaranteed funding should be PLENTY to get a Ph.D. done. This leads to a lot of financial stress at the end. I'm still (knock wood knock wood) more or less on track to hand in at the end of my third year, plus a semester for the committee to read it and a defense committee to be formed and all that rigmarole. So that's only a semester over the three year funding guarantee, and they will probably throw me a TAship for it.

That said, getting through quick necessarily leads to fewer pubs (one girl is graduating with NINE of them) which might hurt me. Not more than sticking around Guelph for an extra year for that reason would, though. Am still hoping to get at least one from my practicum, and have started a number of collaborations that might be productive enough to get a few things out the door. Fingers severely crossed.

Did I mention, though, that we have two in press?? Both online now, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance and Acta Psychologica, woo hoo!

So yeah, could be doing better, could be doing worse... but nice to know what the rest of my cohort is up to rather than totally having to guess.

(plus - they are good to talk to and throw fun parties!)

Monday, 24 October 2011

There's a Reason that I Hate This Town

Most of the streets in Guelph are named after cities/counties or girls (Dublin Street, Surrey Street, Elizabeth Street, Alice Street).

There is also an Edinburgh Street and a Delhi Street.

How are these pronounced by Guelphites?

Edin-BURG and Del-HIGH.

Get me out of here...

Sunday, 23 October 2011


Just got back from an awesome weekend with a friend from New Haven (who was in Toronto for a conference). We went to see Josh Ritter do a reading (yes, he's written a book!) went to dinner and went out to a place with ants on the walls. Great fun and it was awesome to see her.

Today we went for brunch with another friend who lives in the city, and we had the most interesting conversation about ADHD and getting things done. One of my friends is a psychiatrist and took a "tendency to ADHD" measure when she was working with kids - and came out in the "probably a problem" range. The other one has actually been diagnosed. I've never been assessed for it, but a lot of the things they were talking about sound veeeeeery familiar. I know I have to leave twice as much time as a normal person would take to write something, because I will write one sentence and then go off and check email or make some tea or something. (I have ducked out at least six times while writing this paragraph). Not the most efficient, but on the other hand I allow for it and things still get done - eventually.

The thing is, the other two do exactly the same thing. It was really comforting to hear that I am not the only one who does this, although it is kind of depressing to think about how much time and brainpower are being wasted on workarounds to get us to the same point someone who can focus for more than two seconds is already at.

That said, all three of us have been relatively successful despite the fact that we can't focus for more than two freaking minutes. I wonder how many other people are in this boat (I know not everyone is: I have watched Helena sit down and write - actually write, not hopping around to 20 other things! - for 45 minutes at a time and get a paper out in a week or so). I also wonder how much I could accomplish if I could just figure out how to focus - and how much time I've spent developing workarounds. Anyway, I thought this was really interesting. (For the record, other things I do are keeping a list of stuff that needs to get done and trying to match my energy level with an appropriate item, otherwise there is no hope; and giving in to my slightly bipolar work habits and, when I have a totally unproductive week like last week, sometimes just take time off rather than trying to push through. I usually find that after going away for a while I can bounce back and have a much more productive week the next week).

Anyway, in other news my life is pretty boring. Back living at the same place in Guelph (cheap rent!) and doing pretty much nothing except work. This weekend was the first time I went to the city, and the second time I went out, since I returned to Ontario. I've been laying pretty low on the weekends and trying not to spend money. My goal is to have a thesis draft by December, and so far I've got two experimental chapters and most of the intro written plus another half-chapter (experimental). I think I'll probably end up with about 3-4 experimental chapters plus an intro and discussion - the intro is usually pretty extensive, though, so getting most of that out of the way is a big deal. I'm also running a couple more experiments, supervising a couple of students and starting up some new things, as well as TAing (always TAing). It's SO much more chill than this time last year, though. That was insane. This is a lot of hard work, but a lot less intense than last year.