Decision Time

On the subject of the pusrsuit of the Masters, it’s decision time. I have done my research, learned what I can about what’s involved, what it will take, and the kind of commitment I must be prepared to offer to get it done. The only question remaining, is whether I have that kind of strength. 

Let’s not forget: there were 22 years between my first and second degrees. ‘It took me that long to recover’, he said with a sly wink. Seriously though, it took a huge life change and a hope for acceptance in a new career to get me to take the second degree. But this time the life change is not there, and my explorations of the working world have shown me the real  potential for career change – and it’s not particularly encouraging. The motives for doing a degree cannot be the net results. If I do a Masters, it has to be for its own sake, which – to my way of thinking – requires that I have a passion for academia in its own right. If I do a Masters now, it has to have the benefit of all I can give it, and I’m just not sure that I’m there.

The deadline to apply is January 15th, but the process requires a decision much earlier than that. My references are assured, as long as I can get a thesis idea in place, but that’s not as easy as it sounds, either. I thought I had something to move on with, but I’ve learned that what I think is a possibility is just not clear enough, or focussed enough to get through the application process. So, the grades are there, the references are available, the intelligence exists (so I insist on reassuring myself), but I’m not sure that I have the strength to do it now

I’ve set November 5th (Guy Fawkes’ Day) as the day I choose to either knuckle down, or back away. It feels symbolic, somehow: fireworks or nothing. 

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

Convocation

Lo, but the big day fast approacheth. 

Convocation. 

Of course, I applied for graduation in December as required, and got myself into the system. Since then I’ve been getting little reminders on this and that and I’ve been quietly paying attention. But schoolwork first, and my primary focus has certainly been there. 

But today, even as I was starting to finalize my last ever paper, my mind started to bend toward graduation. 

I’ve finally made up my mind to take part in the ceremony. This is big. After my first degree in 1990 I was so tired, so utterly, wretchedly, tired in so many different areas of my life that I did not take part – I just picked up my silly piece of paper, handed my silly photos to my Mom with an injunction never to show them to me again, and rode off into the sunset. 

This time though, I think I owe it to myself to attend, and I’m going for it. 

So I’ve ordered and paid for my cap and gown, I’ve gone over the checklist, and on Monday before class I’ll stop by the Faculty office to make sure I’m still on target.

I don’t know who’s going to join me since for my family attendance does involve some sacrifices, but let’s face it I’m not some dewey-eyed 23 year old just setting out in the world. Still, I’m going to invest in it for my own sake at least.

It’s been a tough slog for many different reasons, but now the end is most definitely in sight. 

I can’t deny it, it’s exciting.

A few thoughts for improvement

When I filled out the survey recently I thought I was being given a chance to air some thoughts. Of course, I’m not labouring in any mistaken belief that my thoughts in particular will be considered – I know that surveys are taken as data en mass rather than individualistically. There is no single person – most of the time – poring over the carefully entered and edited loving comments and ideas submitted by survey participants. 

Knowing this, I’ve always intended that toward the end of my time in university I would leave a few salient thoughts for the university here. It seems as good a place as any. I’ve never seen an idea box on campus, so I guess this will have to do. 

So here we go:

  1. Clean clean clean! The University of Calgary is not a cleaned place. Read that carefully. It’s not cleaned – at all – as near as I can tell. There are stains on the floor in the brand new Taylor Family Digital Library that were there when I arrived in 2011! Oh, I know they empty garbages, but floors are not mopped, tables are not wiped, stains are not removed, and it’s all really rather unpleasant. Sad that this should be my first thought on completion of my degree program – such a small point, really – but important to the overall enjoyment of time spent on campus. 
  2. Reduce waste. U of C tells everyone it wants to be environmentally friendly, but there are things that they could do to reduce waste. For example, I can’t count the number of times I’ve written four-line answers in quizzes using a booklet of twenty pages! There just isn’t anything efficient about that! The booklets can’t be re-used and re-cycling is up to the student. I wrote an Email two years ago to the President, suggesting the Profs be given an option for single sheets of paper rather than a whole booklet. I never did hear back. 
  3. Weekend hours are strange. The library doesn’t open until 10am on weekends, and yet most students who want and need to get work done get up much earlier than that. 
  4. Renovations. Do I need to bitch about marble floors in the administration areas when students are always being asked to pay more?
  5. Quiet spaces. The top three floors of the library are designated quiet areas, but there are so many students in there rubbing shoulders that it really doesn’t work out that way. I would ask that students be provided with additional areas where they can work without having to enjoy their neighbours’ coughing and conversation. That would be on my Christmas wish list. How about the old Mackimmie Library? It’s closed right now, and has been since I arrived, but as near as I can tell it would be quite easy to gut most of the walls from it, put down carpet tile, throw in some chairs and desks and let people get to work. There aren’t any structural issues so I’m not sure why this wouldn’t be an option.
  6. Actual shelters at the bus loop would be nice. The way it is, people have to stand in the cold and wind and rain and snow to wait for a bus there. Bus shelters wouldn’t have to be heated, but they would at least keep folks out of the wind. Just because we’re young, doesn’t mean we won’t freeze when the bus is behind its time. 😛
  7. More choice in the Food Court. I know there are massive renovations coming, and I imagine that’s in the works, but – you know – Jeez!
  8. Smoking areas. I used to smoke, so I don’t ignore the need that some people have to tank up on nicotine in their breaks, but there are supposedly rules about smoking at entrances to buildings. Even so, if I wanted to start a ciggy-butt collection that is where I would go. Create sheltered places where the smokers can mill around away from the entrances and building air intakes, and thus keep everyone happy. No, really.
  9. Web system. Between My U of C and Blackboard, the whole set up is not intuitive. I was told every year that I could choose and book my courses online, but I didn’t because it’s too damn hard to figure out what you’re looking at. I always went in and sat down with the awesome, patient, understanding Maria in Student Services to make sure I got my courses booked without error. It’s true there way be an old fart element at work here, but I maintain it’s why I’m graduating soon – I’m on track because Maria kept me on track, all the way along. I spoke to at least three students who thought they were finishing but found out that courses they took didn’t count. So how does that make sense?
  10. More power outlets for devices. Honestly, the old lecture halls and even the newly renovated Social Science building are woefully deficient in this area. You have to get to class early just so you can sit near an outlet!
Other than these simple gripes my experience at U of C has been awesome. Almost completely awesome. Just the right amount of mind-blowing, head-numbing, eye-rubbing stress, and silliness in all the right proportions. The fact that I’m an old fart has been an issue in some areas, but has bought me some credibility in others. The fact is, even though the university guarantees they will get every student through it, there is nothing particularly easy about getting a degree. Oh sure, you figure out a method after a while, but you still have to do the work. It always comes down to the work. 
 
That’s what I’m dealing with now, working on my last ever paper. My feet are already in the exit doorway, but my mind keeps saying “hold on, I’m not done yet!” I still have work to put in to this final paper, and frankly, it’s being bloody difficult. As always, I’ll get it done, but a simple paper is being perhaps as big of a challenge as I have faced in my entire time at the University of Calgary. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

History

I just finished my history paper. It was only ten pages in length, but I think it was the most difficult paper I’ve ever had to write. Why is this, you ask? Let me tell you, I answer.

They scare the bejeebers out of you about plagiarism. I’ve never plagiarized or cheated in my life, and the thought wouldn’t even occur to me, but the literature basically says you have to reference every idea that is not your own, or face the wrath of the judiciary! Well, kick me and call me a cowboy, but is there any such thing as a unique idea in a history paper? Surely everything we learn came from someone else!

Sigh. 

Not. Allowed. To. Use. The. Textbooks. 

For some reason the $60 text books are not good enough to be used as sources for this paper. I have no objection to doing research, but the text book should at least be a starting point. The reason given is that they are not peer-reviewed and footnoted, but does that make them inaccurate?

Sigh. 

I had a really hard time organizing my thoughts on this one, and not repeating myself. This is a big deal. Usually I can set paragraphs and talk up a storm, but this time it was hard to organize. Even as I’m writing this I’m trying to figure out why this is and I think because it’s history, and the salient points are relevant in all different directions. Something like this… ‘The decree of 1832 was an influencing factor in the dictum of 1874, and caused Sir Bolt to react as a total loonie against the Foofar tribe of Borneo whose primary modus operandum was the feeding of their families and the pursuit of the Decree of 1832.” You get the picture – it works in all different directions and my poor brain had a hard time, this time, compartmentalizing it. Believe me, I can’t wait for the next paper – it’s a simple, supported opinion piece. 

Sigh.

Chicago style citations. Citations in general drive me crazy, although I do understand their purpose, but most of my degree program has required APA style, so to suddenly throw Chicago at me now I consider a definite hardship. I don’t mind using footnotes – in fact I think they’re pretty cool – but the other stuff is just meshuga. 

Sigh.

Oh, and I had a nasty cold.

Speaking of the next papers – there are two of them due next Tuesday. Each has its challenges, but I’m sure that neither one will vex me like the history paper did. 

It occurred to me today that it’s November the 13th. That means that as of tomorrow there are precisely three weeks left in this semester. Man, how the time flies!

Here’s a picture. Sorry, I couldn’t afford a proper frame. I’m just a struggling student. 

Quiet Study Area

 

 

Presentation

Tomorrow is presentation day. My cohort and I are planning to regale the audience with tales of Open Science and trust in scientific delivery, and digitization of scientific content for consumption by various audiences. It’s going to be soooooo cool (please forgive the italics).

Gratuitous library shot

I should be nervous, but I’m really not. My toastmasters experience has helped with that: “Just picture them naked,” they told me. “Just pretend that the audience is nervous too.” Of course, I do this, but more to the point is that after two years in school I’ve been through this enough times that I know it will pass, and that no matter what happens the world will not end. Knowing this actually (usually) helps me relax, with the happy result that I get through it well enough to…  Well, you get my drift. 

Anyway, I’ve spent the better part of the last two days, and more, plugging away at the whys and the whatnots and the wherefores, and with any luck twenty-four hours from now I’ll be relieved and content. 

That’s certainly the goal.

 

Want more to read? Try The Judge’s Lesson.

Earnings

Remember the Vancouver trip? Well, here’s what happened:

We got there and it was raining – go figure. This didn’t dampen our spirits very much though, and we headed to the dealership before we even found a room. 

The car is ten years old, but it was in the showroom. We decided as soon as we saw it that driving it home, 600 miles in the rain would be borderline criminal, so the decision was made to put it on a truck. This, of course, obviated my purpose in making the trip, but I really didn’t mind. The car was worth it. 

The Reason

This, and the process of payment, checking the vehicle out, gabbing with the salesman and so on were all very important work, but I had other fish to fry and I set about heating the oil.

While the thorny details were being addressed I found whatever space I could and pushed the paper along. I started it, tapping madly away on my iPad, in the truck and finished it in the hotel room. Then, once I was home again, I tidied it up and fired it through the printer.

Rushing ahead now, my little submission managed to draw a 90%. The teacher’s comment was “You’re on your way” and I’m bound to say, when I saw that I remembered my 1,200 mile trip and couldn’t help but smile. 

Next up: Mid-term Madness.

 

Pressure

Ok, so now I’m feeling a little pressure. Not a lot, but some – primarily because I (darn it all!) can’t see the future. 

I’m doing a favour for a very good friend, being second driver on a trip he’s making to buy a car – let’s face it, we can’t drive two cars at once. This trip is about 1800 miles there and back, and well, that takes time. We left yesterday, and we do the deed and head back home on Sunday – or Monday. 

Anyway, it’s an unhappy coincidence that I also have a paper due on Tuesday, and that at some point in these proceedings my mind will need to engage my fingers, which will need to engage my creative cortex, drag the thing from cerebral limbo and meld it into evidentiary isness. Nope, the prof cannot climb up into my little cerebral gaps and spaces to grade my thoughts – she must have something tangible in her hand – a transference of my thoughts into permanent record is required – a proof, if you will, that the thoughts actually occurred.

The question is, with all this driving and recovering and driving again (in the pouring rain, no less) when do I find the time to actually call the thoughts to attention? When does the transformation occur? When do I bring the monster to life?

So here I sit in a friendly road-side diner, thinking about my assignment. Not writing it, mind you, but thinking about it, and the pressure builds because even though I know it shall eventually come to be, I can’t say precisely when.

Breakfast anyone?

The kitchen on the go