Post Academic


Posted in Housekeeping by Arnold Pan on September 7, 2010
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We haven’t done “Footnotes” in awhile, but here we go again.  To refresh our memories, “Footnotes” is supposed to be a semi-regular series that collects some stories and postings that are semi-relevant to the semi-academic focus of the blog.

"Kindle DX Front" by Jon "ShakataGaNai" Davis (Creative Commons license)

1. Books vs. e-Books Grudge Match: You know one of our big interests, especially of late, has been publishing.  Here’s a handy, super stylish chart, courtesy of Digital Inspiration, that gives us the tale of the tape on the coming showdown between print and digital.  Obviously, the cost of production seems to tip to e-Books, but other economic factors favor print: authors get more royalties from real books ($3.90 vs. $2.12 from a download) and sales are still almost ten times greater at this point ($249.2 Mill to $29.3 Mill).  One interesting point of comparison is that the carbon emissions needed to produce one e-Reader is equivalent to those used in making 40-50 books, so I guess the environmental issues depend on how much you use your Kindle or whether it’s a novelty.  Noting that only 15% of e-Book owners will stop buying print, the best point of the chart makes is that both media can and will co-exist, debunking the idea that they are mutually exclusive forms or that virtual books will make hardcovers obsolete.

2. Drake U’s “D+” Ad Campaign: A lot of folks — a surprising amount, actually — are getting their kicks out of a really bad ad campaign put out by Drake University.  Courtesy The Awl,”The Drake Advantage” campaign uses a giant D+ as its logo, explaining that ,”When we talk about D+, that’s what we mean. Every moment at Drake is one that has the power to educate, to transform, to open minds and to unleash potential — to introduce who you are, to who you hope to become.”  The obvious rejoinder is that “D+” idea earns a F grade, but, instead, I’d like to think that the “Drake Advantage” is just doing it’s part to combat grade inflation.

"OutKast 2001" by Joe Goldberg (Creative Commons license)

3.HuffPo College’s Rapper-College Analogies: HuffPo College’s inane photo slideshow polls, we just can’t quit you.  Here’s one of the more absurd but somehow compelling one just in time for back-to-school, analogizing the hip-hop pantheon to higher ed.  Some of the comparisons are pretty good, with gold-standard Jay Z equating to Harvard and the Eminem-Princeton connection tagged as “The whitest of the truly elite.”  And with Tupac repping the west coast from Marin, the Stanford namecheck isn’t bad, though I’d probably go with Berkeley as a point of reference, then bump Lil’ Wayne from Cal to some counter-cultural school in the South, since even a rap know-nothing like me knows enough about the genre’s geographical specificity.  And, in the end, all anyone needs to know about the agenda behind the concept is revealed when Wesleyan student Charlie Alderman matches OutKast to his home institution, with the explanation, “Doing its own thing.  Well.”  Seriously, because Wesleyan doesn’t ring any march-to-the-beat-of-its-own-drummer bells to me?  If that’s the criteria, Andre 3000 and Big Boi would be better off representing Deep Springs or Evergreen or UC Santa Cruz or something.

Are Your Students Betting on You?

Posted in Housekeeping,The Education Industry by Caroline Roberts on August 30, 2010
Tags: ,

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionDid you think Rate My Professors was the only website you had to worry about when it comes to teaching college? Well, a new website is allowing college students to place bets on their own grades:

A website called Ultrinsic is taking wagers on grades from students at 36 colleges nationwide starting this month.

Just as Las Vegas sports books set odds on football games, Ultrinsic will pay you top dollar for A’s, a little less for the more likely outcome of a B average or better, and so on. You can also wager you’ll fail a class by buying what Ultrinsic calls “grade insurance.”

Since students can only bet on themselves and the site isn’t gambling in the sense that you’re betting on what others will do, Ultrinsic paints itself as a motivational tool. Ultrinsic’s home page text proclaims: “The right amount of cash should provide you with the needed motivation to pull all-nighters and stay awake during the lectures of your most boring professors.”

Via: More after the jump! Image of the French gambling aristocracy from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Great Employment Opportunity! #1: The ethnic lit catch-all

Posted in Housekeeping by Arnold Pan on August 29, 2010

Now that we’re so close to the start of the academic job search season, I thought it would be good to begin a recurring series of posts highlighting the ridiculousness of job ads.  Mind you, the new “Great Employment Opportunity!”–herein abbreviated as GEO!–is not meant to point out what are the plum positions, which, anyway, depend on the eye of the beholder.  Rather, we’re gonna parse the rhetoric of job calls as best we can, though with the disclaimer that my track record on this front hasn’t been the greatest.

"Old Main, St. Olaf College" by Calebrw (Creative Commons license)

Our first example is a personal favorite of mine, the ethnic lit catch-all.  Here’s the posting, courtesy of whoever posted the St. Olaf College position on the Academic Job Wiki:

“The Department of English seeks an individual with teaching and scholarly expertise in the area of twentieth- and twenty-first century American literature, with emphasis on post WWII multicultural literatures such as Latina/o, Native American, African American, Indian American, and Asian American literatures. Desirable secondary interests include film; transnational literature; and generic, cross-cultural, and cross-disciplinary approaches.”

So basically, this ad *could* appeal to pretty much anyone who works in 20th c./contemporary American literature, which is, like, half the job market.  Indeed, the best thing about the ethnic lit catch-all is also the worst thing about it: anyone can apply.  It can boost your spirits when a specific specialty has a dearth of openings in a given year, but that also means that the pool becomes insanely large.

The problem is that you might read the position as appealing to anyone, when, in fact, it might have a more specific target, but won’t commit to anything in the job ad.  Here, I’d read into things and suggest that Latina/o takes priority and so on down the line to Asian American, because there’s no particular rhyme or reason as to why the different racial groups are listed the way they are.  Of course, the vagueness of the ad also leaves it open for a strong candidate in any of those other ethnic lit fields to apply, so you might as well give it a shot.  If you can work in multiple ethnic fields, your chances would probably tick up, too.

But even if the dept does want someone in a specific field, though won’t reveal it for whatever reason, it’s likely that whoever holds the winning ticket will be teaching in many of the fields vaguely alluded to, since the school (especially a smaller one with fewer faculty) obviously needs someone to fill those gaps.  So in the end, I guess the job posting is accurate in what your teaching responsibilities will be, but only after the fact!

Post Academic is 6 months old!

Posted in First Person,Housekeeping by postacademic on August 28, 2010
Tags: ,

We used to celebrate random milestones more often in the past, probably due to the immediate excitement of starting and maintaining the blog.  We haven’t marked one in awhile, in part because we lost track of time and what counts as an accomplishment, but we are commemorating our first half-year as Post Academic!  Not to toot our own horns, but we’ve achieved a lot of the goals we set out to meet when we started the blog and wrote up the statement of purpose, which we probably need to refresh now.  Indeed, maybe the best way to judge whether or not we’ve done anything–at least for ourselves–is that our bios are now outdated.

"Six-ball rack" by SMcCandlish (Creative Commons license)

Rather than just point to our favorite posts to reminisce, let’s take a progress report to see if we’ve made any, you know, progress…

#1. Did we get jobs? YES, we did get jobs, as Arnold documented.  Of course, Caroline did too, but she’s more circumspect and Arnold is a much harder case, really.  Not sure if we’ve helped anyone else with concrete results or even could, per our statement of purpose, but we’ll take credit if anyone wants to give us any!

#2: Did we keep our minds and writing skills sharp? Another yes at least to us, though you, gentle reader, would be a better judge of that.  One thing we’re definitely proud of is posting every single day during the last six months, often with multiple entries per day back when we started.  Writing the blog has not only pushed us to write regularly, but it’s also imposed some much-needed discipline.  Plus, we’re getting caught up with the social networking era, since we’ve been able to link up the blog with Twitter and Facebook, which we’ll try to keep expanding on, too.

#3. Did we get seek out audience participation and get much? Yes, we’ve gotten great feedback from our very smart and faithful readers!  And that day WordPress touted Caroline’s post was most heartening because of all the wonderful responses we got in the comments thread.  Still, we could do better on encouraging more audience participation than just running those fun little polls by putting out more calls for folks to contribute, although a lot of you have your own great blogs already.  So if, say, anyone wants to be a guinea pig and ghost-write a diary-like series about her/his experiences on the upcoming academic job search, we’d love for you to get in touch with us.

#4. Did we piss anyone off? Not as many people as we think, but probably more than we know.  We did get a testy retort from one of the subjects of a snarky post, but we might’ve deserved that.  We probably don’t have the constitution to get into flame wars any more.

#5. Did we get academia out of our systems? Yes and not really.  Caroline had gotten past the neuroses of academia long ago, which is why she’s able to write with more perspective and offer less baggage-laden observations.  Arnold is still working on it, although maintaining a blog that gives iffy advice on how to approach diss writing and job rec gathering doesn’t really show much improvement, does it?  But he really has gotten past a lot of the mental blocks in his way just six months and one day ago.

Thanks to everyone who’s read Post Academic!  And here’s to another six months and hopefully more, if we can only get ourselves on the blogging equivalent of the tenure track…

Top Grad Student finale: Polls close in a few days!

Posted in Housekeeping by Arnold Pan on August 15, 2010

Hope everyone is having a good weekend!  We’re putting in a plug to get folks to vote in our “Top Grad Student” finale, which is in the campus visit round.  However, voting might be futile, thanks to a very committed Media Studies constituency, which has put our Media Studies contestant at the top week in, week out.  Here are the results, up to this point:

Week 1, CV writing — Winners: English, Media Studies (Loser: Poli Sci)

Week 2, curriculum builder — Winner: Media Studies (Losers: Engineering, History, Physics)

Week 3, extracurriculars — Winner: Media Studies (Loser: Math)

Week 4, convention interviews — Winner: Media Studies (Loser: Life Sciences)

So far, English is putting up a good fight and it might come down to the wire for this one.  Polls close on Tuesday!

Student Loans: Now With Punchlines

Posted in Housekeeping by postacademic on July 31, 2010

Are any of you keeping up with “Last Comic Standing”? One of the finalists, a comedian named Roy Wood Jr., has a clever bit on student loans:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Yes! It is the for-profit model of education at work! Full refund for material not learned! Or, even better, full refund for jobs not received. Then grad students (who always learn all the class content) can get in on this deal, too.**If Hulu shows the full clip, the student loan part starts about one minute in.

Footnotes: Sunday Funnies

Posted in Absurdities,Housekeeping by Arnold Pan on July 4, 2010
Tags: , , , , ,

Happy July 4th!  Footnotes is a semi-regular series that collects some stories and postings that are semi-relevant to the semi-academic focus of the blog.  Since today is a lazy summer holiday Sunday, we figured we’d keep it short and sweet and funny.  This time around, we’re linking to some Ph.D. oriented comics.

"Jorge Cham giving a talk at the EPFL" by Rama (Creative Commons license)

PhD Comics: Probably anyone who reads this blog is aware of PhD Comics–aka Piled High and Deeper--since it gets, like, a gajillion pageviews.  The title pretty much explains it all, but for anyone who’s unfamiliar with it, it ‘s the product of Jorge Cham, a PhD in Mechanical Engineering and one-time instructor at Caltech.  PhD Comics really is a phenomenon, spinning off books, merch, and tons of appearances for Cham at a campus near you from the original enterprise.  The comic captures a lot of the absurdities of Ph.D. life, and some of the recent comics cover what it’s like for grad students to grub around for free food and a Mad Libs version of a conference CFP.

LitBrick: LitBrick is a more recent concoction of John S. Troutman, whose inspiration for his great books inspired webcomic seems to be have been his attempt to read the Norton Anthology from cover-to-cover.  According the LitBrick’s about page, Troutman whips up something about whatever piece of classic lit he feels like, including a comic and a commentary.  So far, it seems like he’s at the beginning of the Norton Anthology, rendering and/or musing about ye olde canon into comic strip form, like Bede, Beowulf, and, currently, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.  We’ll keep track of how far into the Norton LitBrick gets!

Nobody Scores: OK, Nobody Scores isn’t a webcomic primarily about academia, per se, but it does bill itself as a “little comic about inevitable disaster”.  It definitely touches on some of academia’s absurdities from an outsider’s perspective and, besides, it’s the brainchild of a great childhood friend of mine (with whom I’ve fallen out of touch), Brandon Bolt–if you get a pingback at your site, Brandon, howdy!  For us post/academics, one of the main characters, Raoul, is a professor-type, who’s described as “a man of peerless logic, scintillating intellect, and great, and always irrelevant, accomplishments”.  So that how a well-read, well-educated non-academic might look at academia, huh?  It’s serendipitous for us that the current edition of Nobody Scores is titled “Triumph of the Nerds”.

Have good holiday and enjoy a few days off!

Save Your Sanity by Backing Up Your Computer Files

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionAt work, one of my colleagues suffered a hard drive crash, and it’s going to be a while before she can access her files. In the Hamster World, an IT department can come to your rescue. But what do you do if you’re a grad student or an academic and you don’t have IT guys at your disposal?

It’s time to get in the habit of backing up your files regularly. The process is kind of like flossing. It seems tedious, but it can save you from losing your files, which is almost as horrific as a root canal.

I use Norton 360, which nudges me every so often and tells me that it’s time to back up my computer. Windows also has a Backup and Restore feature.

A backup won’t do much good if you aren’t backing your files up to a CD, DVD, or external hard drive. The external hard drive is your best bet. It might cost a little something, but it has plenty of room. All you need to do is connect the external hard drive to your computer via a USB cable, plug it in, turn it on, and launch the backup program.

If that seems unwieldy, consider saving your files in the cloud. Try opening a free Dropbox account at The Dropbox software creates a folder on your hard drive. By saving a file in that folder, it is automatically saved online, and you can fetch it when you need it. An even simpler alternative is Google Docs, although it has some space constraints and might not be the best fit for a dissertation-sized file.

A glimpse of the horror you will feel after a busted hard drive from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Transforming your diss chapter into an article

Picking up on last week’s post on how to work through writer’s block, I thought I’d cover the process of how I have excerpted essay-length pieces out of dense, lengthy dissertation chapters.  In my own case, this process has met with mixed results, so take my advice for what it’s worth: On the one hand, it did culminate in a published article that went through multiple self-imposed revisions, but, on the other, it also yielded an essay submission that was in limbo forever before I decided to give up on it.  Still, even with the latter, I think that the revised essay was an improvement over the original chapter, in part because the writing was much tighter, due to constraints on length as well as the need to find a more focused argument for a proposed article.

""BotCon 2006 Costumes" by Bedford (Public Domain)

Of course, this works from the assumption that you are starting with a big chunk of a diss chapter to begin with and not the other way around, where you start with an essay that you turn into something bigger and better.  So if that’s the way you work, please feel free to chime in and let us know how you go about things!

Be practical: Before you start to look for a coherent essay in the midst of a tangled jumble of a diss chapter–whether in progress or completed–know what the parameters of your end goal should be.  That means figuring out the length requirements for the journal you’re planning on sending a submission to, so that you have a target to aim for.  It’s probably not a bad idea to try to compose a 20-25 page essay out of your source material, since that’s a good length for an article and useful, too, for job application writing samples.  I know from experience that there’s nothing more nervewracking than having to tailor a 30-pp proposed article down to 20-pp essay on the fly when you receive that email from the search committee with a writing sample request.

More conversion tips below the fold… (more…)

The Lighter Side: Search Terms That Lead to Post Academic, Part 2

Posted in Housekeeping by Caroline Roberts on June 27, 2010
Tags: , ,

Since it’s summer and we’re shaking up the Sunday schedule a little bit, it seemed like the right time to address a few of the search terms that lead to Post Academic. What follows is a list of search queries, followed with our responses.

“school bans stupid things”: The Man can get you down, can’t he? If you aren’t liking The Man in college, wait until you get to the Hamster World and he forgets to stock the vending machine or, even worse, pay you on time.

“leopold bloom is annoying”: Post Academic isn’t taking any sides on the greatness of certain literary characters, but those are fighting words to many professors. How did you wind up here?

“sexy checklist”: Boy, do I regret naming a post “Making Checklists Sexy.” I extend my deepest apologies to Atul Gawande.

“courteous rejection letter sample”: If you are a member of a search committee who is trying to be kind to the people who didn’t get the job, good for you and your professionalism! Arnold can help you with the ever-popular “Rejection Letter Do’s and Don’ts.”

“how academia messes with your mind”: Read the whole “Surviving Grad School” section. It’s not easy. We’re here for you, friend.

“why do people bloat after death?”: This is not our field. HowStuffWorks can handle it from here.

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