19 June 2008

Don't go to graduate school?!

Penelope Trunk's recent blog entry lists seven reasons why graduate school is outdated.

As someone who invested considerable money and most of his 20's in graduate school, I was a bit miffed at the article. I think it grossly oversimplifies things and has a narrow focus masquerading behind a broad pronouncement that looks good as a headline. In short, it's a perfect blog entry :)

One big issue is that it seems she is defining "graduate school" in terms of law school and MBA programs. In those contexts, her advice makes a lot more sense. But even law school evades most of her advice, because there is simply no way to become a lawyer without going to graduate school. Just like there is simply no way to become a college professor or doctor without going to graduate school. So if you want to be one of those things, graduate school is necessary, not outdated.

Really, the good advice contained in the article is don't depend on graduate school to solve your problems. Grad school is a bad place to figure out what you want to do in life or to take refuge from poor job options. That's good advice. Grad school (of any kind) is too hard and too expensive to do it just because you can't think of anything better to do. I tell my students who are struggling with figuring out their path that all they really need to do is find someway to support themselves while the figure it out. There are plenty of opportunities to take advantage of later, when the direction has become clearer.

18 June 2008

A wireless world

Right now I am sitting outside of Panera, sipping green tea and working on my online course. I think it's pretty cool that I am able to work without being in the office, especially on a nice morning like this one. The heat has abated a little bit; the high today is only supposed to be 85 or so. Now there is a nice breeze and it is 70ish.

Panera is also apparently a Winthrop hangout. I've seen two other faculty members since I have been here.

I just think it is cool that I am able to do this; to come to a cafe (even a chain) to get my work done. My internet course has been pretty frustrating so far, with lots of technical issues form my students. But an advantage is I can "teach" from anywhere that has internet access. As I was brainstorming where I should go this morning, I realized that Rock Hill is actually set up nicely on this front. All of downtown has free wireless. The big new park and soccer complex, Manchaester Meadows, does as well. So does Glencarin Gardens. Panera has free access and so does Mcallister's Deli, I think. Winthrop is partially covered, but there are pretty big dead spots. And the reason I didn't stay at Winthrop and go outside to work is there aren't really any outside tables. That will hopefully be rectified when the new student center gets built. The spec drawings, at least, have lots of tables outside.

South Carolina has the opportunity to become a free wireless state, but there is considerable consternation in the legislature about the hows and whys and whethers. I don't know enough to get into all the tech and policy aspects of it, but it seems to rest on the question of whether internet access is a public good. Is it something that will benefit everyone to the extent that everyone deserves access and shares the associated costs (like, say, radio)? Ideologically, I would answer yes to that question, realizing that there are still technical issues to wrestle with. Given the recent trend toward the privatization of everything, especially in my conservative state that seems to be the duly designated colony of lots of far-right groups (external groups forcing the voucher issue and various religious groups), I am not optimistic about the possibility of wireless as a public utility. But I can still enjoy my wireless office this morning.

11 June 2008

Some random but cool links

Brazen Careerist -- The Hook ran her column when we lived in Charlottesville. I always found it pretty interesting advice. This column on "Mommy Porn" is pretty provocative, but I agree with most of it.

Sandie has a cool blog at GeekedOff.

Trucker Steve is pretty interesting. He's a trucker who does live webcam stuff and blogging from the road.

From the Department of Giant Time Wasting is a new Planet Defender game.

10 June 2008

A Year of Living Googly

I am considering an experiment -- beginning in July and running until July of next year, I am thinking about using Google for as many computer related tasks as I can. I want to see if it can be done and if it makes my life easier or harder. It's still in the conceptual stages, but here are my thoughts so far:
  • I already use gmail for my non-work email. I think I can set it up where I can use it to check my work email as well. This may be a huge hassle and not worth it. Not sure.
  • Google calendar for, well, my calendar.
  • iGoogle for my general desktop organizer.
  • Google sites for a class website and as an organizer for some new research projects I'll be starting at the end of summer.
  • Google docs for all the things I normally do in Word, Excel, and Powerpoint.
  • Google Reader for all my feeds (replacing Bloglines).
  • I already blog with blogger.
The only exception will be things I have already begun in some other format -- like the Score Pollution and Reflective Equilibrium papers I hope to finish this summer.

What does everyone think? Am I missing something cool that Google does? Does this just seem stupid?

Two good movies

While Saturday was a busy day for the Popes -- a cookout, birthday party and graduation party (congrats Megan!) all in one afternoon, Sarah and I did take some time this past weekend to watch two films, both of which turned out to be very good.

Friday we watched Michael Clayton. All the accolades were well deserved, as Clooney did a good job as the conflicted title character and Tilda Swinton earned her Oscar. I was both impressed that Clayton immediately sold out his friend and slightly disappointed he later did the right thing. I say "disappointed" only because it would have been interesting to have him never really turn the new leaf. But Clooney did a good job of showing the conflict inherent in the character and, hey, looking at some horses and almost getting blown up can change a person. I also liked how Clayton was always between two things, often represented by people: the corporate lawyer and the lawyer with a conscience, the police and the attorney, the law and the criminal. Good stuff.

Sunday we finally got around to watching Into the Wild. I say finally because our GA Kyle loaned it to me almost a month ago. It was excellent. Well acted and well shot. I read the book maybe 10 years ago and left it with little sympathy for Chris. While I was initially intrigued and envious of what he did, I lost that as he (in my opinion) became more self-absorbed, focusing on his own quest and neglecting the people that obviously cared for him. The movie increased my sympathy, largely though the use of the sister as narrator and by portraying Chris' revelation at the end as he scribbles "Happiness is meaningful only when shared" in Doctor Zhivago. I don't remember either one of those being in the book; I don't think Krakauer included much of the backstory about Chris' parents, which was an interesting choice. I left the film with an increased sympathy for Chris and a small desire to be an itinerant used bookseller. Slab City, man! I found the movie quite powerful and really enjoyed the soundtrack.

04 June 2008

Lost -- 29 May (There's No Place Like Home)

I finally watched the season finale last night, courtesy of ABC.com.

It was everything a good season finale should be. It answered some questions and gave us lots more. And, in true Lost fashion, it provided us with some nice character moments and drama.
  • Again, we see the complexity of Ben's character. There were lots of sympathetic Ben moments, in particular his anguish when he was turning the strange wheel. He realizes this is it for him and the Island and is understandably upset. But, minutes before, we see the cold, remorseless Ben, as he replies with an uncaring "So?" when Locke tells him he's just killed everyone on the freighter. I've totally gone from hating Ben to rooting for him.
  • Locke assumes the mantle of leadership. Nice shot with all The Others looking up at him. Why do those guys always need some outsider to rule them?
  • I loved how the episode began the instant after last year's season finale ended. It was a nice bit of continuity, as well as reinforcing the non-linearity of time that the show plays around with. The same with Ben's jacket and cut on his arm. We see why he was wearing a parka when he shows up in the desert.
  • Michael is, apparently, finally dead. He gets the "You can go now" nod from Christian. He's redeemed himself by helping to save the 6. It was good to see Walt again; nice bit of story structure and acting, there, as Hurley knows Michael is dead but doesn't want to tell Walt.
  • Jeremy Bentham. Let's hear it for 18th century philosophers! (I'll return to this bit in a moment).
  • Jack has good taste in music. Nirvana, The Pixies, etc.
  • The Keamy/Sayid fight was awesome!
  • Great to see the Penny/Desmond reunion. That was a nice conclusion to an ongoing plot line. It also provided a happy emotional counterpoint to Jin and Sun.
  • We learned how much time has passed for the 6 -- 3 years since they were rescued.
  • What were the "bad things" that happened on the island after the 6 left?
  • Is Jin really dead?
  • What was up with the Claire dream by Kate? Was it just anxiety or was it more like a vision? Who isn't supposed to go back to the island? Aaron? Why not? Maybe she means Ben or Whidmore.
  • What happened to the folks on the raft that were going back to the island?
  • One new mystery is Charlotte. What's her deal? Why has she been looking for the island? What did she mean by trying to find the place she was born?
  • What will happen with Sun and Whidmore? Is she trying to help him? Does she join up with him to fight Ben? Much of this hinges on who else she blames for Jin's death. She told her father he was one of two. Who is the other? Jack thinks it's him, but it could easily be Whidmore or Ben for that matter.
  • And, of course, the big question -- how did Locke get off the island, become Jeremy Bentham, and end up in that coffin?
My guess is we will spend most of next season answering that final question, as the 6 work to get back to the island. Given the reluctance Kate demonstrated to that possibility, it will be interesting to see how that plays out.

02 June 2008

Monday Update -- June Restart

Sarah's at work and Eleanor is napping, so it's time for the general Monday update! I'll be lazy and just do it with bullet points:

  • Went to Knoxville on Thursday to visit Dad and see Robert Earl Keen at Sundown in the City. Had to leave early to get Eleanor to bed, but REK always puts on a good show. Downtown Knoxville is pretty cool.
  • Saw Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull on Friday night. Lots of fun! I liked it a lot, even if I would put it as my least favorite Indy movie (or maybe tied with Temple of Doom).
  • Drove back Saturday. Driving through the mountains always makes me want to do more outdoor stuff and just move to some tiny mountain town. Hot Springs is a candidate.
  • Watched Ratatouille Saturday night. Very good. I laughed a lot.
  • Sunday was church and a picnic with some Winthrop faculty.
  • Still haven't watched the Lost finale. I know :(
June also marks a bit of a restart on some personal and family goals. I haven't been going to the gym, so I am going to get back on that wagon. I also have had a serious Coke relapse, so I am getting off that wagon. Sarah and I are also not doing any traveling in June in order to save money for Key West in July and to focus on the house more. We've got a weekly plan and everything. I'll try and post more about that later.