START THE PRESSES!

Previously on Old Fart Back in School, our hero was seen graduating from his studies with a degree in communications. His flowing gown, colourful sash, and crisply-pressed coiffure were a statement of pride, of confidence and self-respect. His mood was good, his attitude strong. 

But there was doubt about what the future held. Would he be moving soon? Would he find gainful employment back in the race of rats? Or would he return to school, to battle shoulder-to-shoulder with the other kids, for another prize, another point of pride, another feather for his massively oversized cap?

In today’s episode, our hero is proud to announce that the process of the Masters pursuit has begun. Even as we speak, references are being sought and forms are being filled in. The gathering of documents is in full sway, and the gathering of administrative knowledge is under way. 

Of course, the Masters degree is a different animal to the Bachelor’s. It starts with some obligatory courses, proceeds to some elective courses, and finalizes with a year-long research project in support of a written thesis. There are written exams, and at the end an oral exam shows unequivocally whether or not you know your material. 

Our hero has chosen a thesis idea and is proposing it as part of the application process. In essence, his thesis explores the role of technology in the job-seeking process because – as anyone who has applied for a job recently knows – technology is a decidedly complicating factor. 

All too exciting. Stay tuned for further developments!

And now, a picture.

 

Update

The journey continues. This week I finished two assignments, leaving 11 to go, and I’m currently working on the proposal and annotated bibliography for the final project of the last communications course I will ever take. Exciting stuff. 

Meantime, the house must be cleaned, dinner must be made, the dog must be walked, and the frigid temperatures must be endured. But hey, it’s February: we’re closer to March, now, than December, and that’s a really nice thought. 

Library time!

  

14 minutes

The Experiment

Alright, the experiment is over.

I’m a disciplined, self-starting kind of guy, but this is ridiculous. So here’s what I’m going to do. 

Starting next week I’m going in to the campus a couple of days a week to work in the library. I’m doing my best at home, and I’m getting stuff done, but there are just too many distractions – a TV, a radio, a dog to walk, a meal to cook, and I feel really lazy and house-bound staying at home all the time. The temptation to wallow is just too great.  

To enable discipline I need structure. Discipline builds more easily in a focused environment where everyone has the same goal – one like the school library. I know the traveling is a pain in the apple, but there’s simply nothing else for it.

I’m just glad it has taken me only two weeks to figure this out.

 

Now, here’s a topical shout

Grammar is one of my buttons.

And we’re back

A particularly furry little animal

This is week two of the new semester – my final semester – the final steps on the road to the educational grail. 

I’ve waited a couple of weeks before making an entry this time because I wanted to become familiar with my schedule first – you know, rooms, times and so on. It’s a very complicated schedule. First are my Monday classes, from noon to 245pm, and 4pm to 645pm. Then I go home.

I almost feel guilty with this schedule – underscore ‘almost‘. I’m finishing up a second degree but my schedule makes it feel like night school. I mean, I don’t have to get up early, I get a solid hour for lunch in between classes, and I get a six-day weekend every week.

This pseudo-guilt is quickly overcome, however, by memories of my first two semesters in this place when I had to go to campus early, six days a week for eight months. Oh, I know, compared to a five-day week in a full time job it sounds easy, but while work passes quickly because it’s constant, the school process is very irregular, and in my opinion harder because of it. The semester starts with a certain calmness, but then deadlines hit, reading, research, writing, presenting, citing, and all the while the quality must be high enough to make the professor happy. This is a herky-jerky process of compilation and rendition which can be quite taxing at times. The deadlines come in waves. The pressure can be likened to that of a thumb screw – it hurts, but you get used to it, it hurts more, then you get used to it again. 

Anyway, this one-day-a-week thing is easy in one respect, but it calls for more discipline than I’ve ever had to show before. I’ll get it done, I’ll pull my weight – with a lifetime of team play in the workplace behind me I know how to get and keep people moving. But the temptation to coast is definitely there because the pressure won’t ramp up quite as often as in the past and every week I’ll get the chance to decompress. Honestly? I am already guarding against relaxing too much.

Did you see that? I’m trying hard not to be relaxed

Oh, what an odd and furry little animal is post-secondary education.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

Cluing In

Who doesn’t like a tummy rub?

It has only taken me (mumble-mumble) years, but I think I’m finally getting it. 

My dog had a talkative spell last week – sidling up to a lot of other dog buddies on Twitter. He made lots of friends, followed lots of folks, clicked, read, commented, liked, favourited and retweeted to his little heart’s content. He put photos up, lauded others on their photos, commiserated, loved, licked and well – you get the picture. He was a very popular little guy for about two shiny days. He got responses to his responses – he had dialogue with doggies from all over the world – lots of mutual (virtual) nose-rubs and butt sniffs, and hours spent comparing the vaguaries of the ‘hoomans’ and their many well-meaning if mis-guided attempts at parenting. 

Then he quit. Well, let’s face it, I quit. Schoolwork called, snow-shovelling beckoned, the actual world trumped the virtual,  and the pixels just had to wait. For two days he was nowhere in sight, and do you know how many contacts he got from all his new Twitter friends? Not one. 

Anyway, it’s not really important whether Poopsie hears from his friends or not – frankly, he’s far too busy here eating chicken and licking the floor. But what this made me realize is that in our modern, technological world people only bother to look elsewhere when they think there’s something in it for them. As I sadly learned in the Co-op program at university – the answer to the job search conundrum isn’t talent or grades or experience or effort or intent. The answer is networking, rubbing elbows, socializing and social networking. So what we’re seeing in fish-eye sociological terms is that the name of the game, today, is reciprocity – that talent and ability aren’t as important as audience-building and marketing – that presence means more than ability; appearance trumps integrity. Who you know is more important than what you know.   

I’d better stop before you see sour grapes where there aren’t any. I don’t begrudge anyone the right to carve success out of nothing – I rather hope to do that myself. I just hope that success (mine or anyone’s) is ultimately a product of skill and talent, not just the construction of appearances, because a world – and a society – founded on the appearance of stability is a world that’s due for a tumble.

 

Ps: I’m handing in the next two papers today.

Fascination

Alright, it’s a beautiful day, so here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to get a coffee, pull the patio table out, haul my books outside with me and park my ass under the sun. I’m going to get some of my reading done. 

I’m bright and alert, vibrant and keen, so why not? I’m focused – sharp and adept. I’m thinking diligently only of my schoolwork and future successes, of the grades I need to be able to go to an ice cream store and buy one of those sweet, delicious peanut treats with all that wonderful caramel sauce and – 

I’m focused and keen, deliberate and firm of purpose. I think only of my books and my processes, never of those really weird-looking clouds floating by, or of the people talking really quite noisily (rudely so!) while walking along the sidewalk in front of the house. What business is it of mine if the neighbourhood crows want to fight with the magpies? Why should I care if the ants on the ground are making their way closer to me with every passing minute, or if that really attentive bee wants for some reason to settle on my head? Why should it upset me that that stupid helicopter keeps flying overhead – over and over and over again!

I’m keen and determined. The words on my page are clear and concise – the grammar perfect and beautiful. There are no distractions, like wondering what on earth I’m going to be cooking for supper later today. There is nothing whatsoever to prevent me from enjoying perfect, productive, scholarly, retentive, laser-like focus in my reading.

Yes, I’m determined and alert. I’m not in the least tired. Not at all dozy or droopy. No, I’m really not right on the point of falling asleep at all. Not at all. Not in the least. Nope. No way.

Fading

 

One of my favourite photo blogs: click here.

Done

Today is that day. The last day of class. All the work is done. My fancy-schmancy spreadsheet shows 100% completed, the la-di-da grade sheet shows (mumble mumble) and the excitement at the end of term is almost palpable. I feel a little like a twelve year old, just gearing up for eight indolent weeks of summer vacation, of heavenly nothing – of busy-ness, the way nature intended.

Here is my final paper (my last final paper) beside me, hot off the presses, ready to be handed in today. As I look at it there – supine, languid, inert and surprisingly inoffensive considering all the gosh-darned work that went into it – I am reminded of the first day of class when I went up to the prof to have a chat.

I always do this at the beginning of term. I say, in a soft and confidential voice replete with paternal overtones something along the lines of “I may not always get the answer right, but you’ll always be able to read it.”

I take pride in this. I think – stop me if I’m wrong – that someone seeking a degree in communications should actually be able to communicate. Communications requires proficiency in at least two of the three R’s, and if you ain’t got that, then what do you got? If I’m going to try to set myself up in a career as a writer, communicator, or pundit then I think I should have the capabilities, not just the desire and the piece of paper.

So here I go. When I hand in this paper I’m officially closing the book on the 2013 winter semester – my fourth – at the University of Calgary. I’m saying farewell to noodles and Stromboli. I bidding adieu to smelly washrooms and a library that never seems to get cleaned. I’m waving bye-bye to broken chairs and desks that squeak and wobble, and an administration that wants to save money but never acknowledges any of the suggestions I send in. Until September, anyway. If they’ll let me back in after this.

Last day. Last assignment. Last call.

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