Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Finish line in sight

Tomorrow is an exciting day; we do final presentations in practicum. The papers themselves are due Monday, but we have a good chunk of ours written already. It's also the last class my cohort will ever take all together, and for two members it's their last class, ever. To celebrate we're having happy hour afterwards.

Next week the focus shifts from classes to work, since our first summer institute starts in less than two weeks.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Collins Gulf hike

Yesterday we hiked Collins Gulf in the Cumberlan Plateau. Everything in the Plateau is quite scenic and more dramatic than the pleasantly pretty Nashville area. The trail starts, like many of the hikes in area, by going downhill from the Plateau - this is what we did at Virgin Falls last weekend, too. We did a lot of boulder-hopping next to tall rock cliffs. The hike follows the Collins River at this end, and it hops over the river or creeks feeding into it. This picture at left shows a bridge over the river, which is probably necessary most of the time - but not on our visit. When it is wetter out, the water is much higher; the hike is recommended for spring because all the water also makes the waterfalls better. Eventually we passed out of the dramatic rocks and into more level forest. We were hiking through the woods at the top of a ridge, and along the way there were three scenic overlooks. All the hills have flat tops and are the same height; that's why it's called a plateau. At one overlook we had lunch; at another we found a rattlesnake. After almost six miles we start going gradually downhill on Stagecoach Road Trail, which is a real pain. There are rocks the sizes of oranges and grapefruit everywhere: too small to hop, too big not to walk on. This road is only 1.6 miles but it feels like forever.

Finally we hit the other end of the Colins Gulf trail. Not long after, we reached a side trail to Schwoon Spring. There is a small cave at the spring. We went in far enough that we couldn't see the entrance, but the cave doesn't go too much farther beyond that, I understand. The picture is of a nice little formation near the entrance.

After that point it's mostly uphill out. About two miles from the end, we reached Horsepound Falls. Horsepound Falls were pretty, despite the dryer weather. Not all the falls fared as well; a little bit later on, Suter Falls was only a thin trickle. I was really dragging on the way out. I know it was a long hike, but not that much longer than a hike I did not too long ago at Frozen Head, plus the elevation change was less than half of that hike. Part of it was the mid-80s temperature and humidity, part of it was that a couple of odd muscles were sore from yoga class the previous day, and part of it was that I let the other hiker set the pace. I tend to lollygag, and since he is very tall, he set a brisk pace - we were doing 2 miles per hour for the first 2/3 of the hike. Also, it was a long hike, period. Actually, today I'm stiff all over, but I am not experiencing any particular muscular soreness.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Meet the candidates

Nashville has a mayoral election coming up. When, I'm not exactly sure. Who the candidates are, I'm not sure. Oh, I know their names, but Karl Dean or David Briley don't mean anything to me. So I want to be an informed voter, and I head to the internet. After a lot of headache, I located the Tennessean's coverage. Their site is ugly and busy, making it a nightmare to find anything (the search tool? ha!).

I don't know that I like my choices. Clement would make every city employee read Good to Great. Karl Dean named his son Rascoe and one daughter Wallen. Buck Dozier doesn't sound like a name of the New South. Kenneth Eaton has no political experience, other than running for mayor once before.

Alright, maybe those aren't the soundest reasons to reject candidates, except for Mr. Eaton. Briley has the teacher's union endorsement and was against the baseball stadium. I don't have an opinion on the baseball stadium. If a candidate promises to move Titans stadium out of East Nashville, now that would get my vote. But ... thanks to the Tennessean, I still don't know when the election is. And their news? "Dean says his message is Nashville is a great city." What does that mean, and do I look down on Dean or on the Tennessean for such a platitudinarian message?

To the candidates' websites. David Briley has an alarmingly trendy logo I've seen around town. But he is in favor of green building standards, open-space acquisition, expanded recycling, alternative fuels, and trees. (He also is in favor of safer streets, which I'm sure really sets him apart from the pack.) Alright, I could get behind Briley.

Then again, Bob Clement wants to expand public transport. Hm. Still, there's that Good to Great thing.

Yes! Karl Dean's website explains why his signs have the Shelby bridge on them. I was wondering. But his stands on issues could be taken from any candidate's page in any U.S. city. Education, public safety, and economic growth. Maybe he's afraid that if he reveals his plans, we might disagree and vote for someone else. I'm going to have to blame him, not newspaper spin, for the "great city" message.

Oh my sweet ... wow. Buck Dozier's site is as retro as his name, except for the link to his myspace site. I have to give major props to his web designer, although style gets in the way of quick info access. Maybe he's taking a page from Dean but doing it much, much better.

Howard Gentry doesn't say anywhere that he's in favor of public safety. Uh oh. His info on the issues is sketchy, addressing only education, arts, and the music industry. I know music is important here, but it seems to be doing swell without his help, hardly a top three issue.

Kenneth Eaton's site is retro in a totally different way that Dozier's, as in, approximately 1999. He wants (among many other unrealistic things) professional soccer, basketball, and baseball teams to come to town. He does realize the mayor gets the keys to the city and not the magic wand, right?

Well, there you have it. Four white guys and a black guy. (We might get our first-ever female vice mayor, though. Aren't we progessive?) August 2, be sure to vote.

Friday, May 25, 2007


Unlike the other Monday holidays, Vanderbilt does celebrate Memorial Day. Perhaps it's because for those of us still in classes in Maymester, we need time off for good behavior after nine months - even with the end of the semester only a week away. So I am getting out and having fun, although it's not a complete vacation. Hopefully I'll have pictures after. Happy Memorial Day everyone!

P.S. The dreams have stopped.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Near the end

Today was the last of our three-hour practicum presentations. We only have one day of class left, next Thursday, when we do conference-length (12 minute) presentations; in the meantime, we are supposed to be revising things that came up in our presentations. (Step 1: Get PowerPoint to work properly.)

Tonight, however, I am not working on practicum at all. I've had dreams about it the last couple of nights, and that has to stop.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Virgin Falls hike

Virgin Falls
Originally uploaded by TheTurducken.

Today we did a classic middle Tennessee hike, Virgin Falls. (Most of this entry will be about hiking. If you wish to not read about coffee and go straight to the hiking, skip the next paragraph.)

The plan was to meet east of town at 8:30, which means I had to leave Eaast Nashville before 8. I was out of coffee beans, and much to my horror neither Sweet 16 nor Bongo Java opened until 8. What is wrong with this city? In Seattle, everyone leaves town on the weekend to go hiking, cycling, kayaking, etc. And of course you need an espresso first thing, and you must get started well before 8, or you will never get back down Mt. Si before lunch. (The fact that I never made it down Mt. Si anywhere near noon gives you all the proof you need that I am a slacker.) I ended up drinking gas station coffee, which was a shame, since the rest of the party was running late and I would have had time to wait for the coffee shop to open.

Anyway, we eventually made it to the trailhead, along with every youth group and scouting troop in the neighborhood. Virgin Falls is one of those classic local hikes, considered one of the more scenic hikes as well as reasonably rugged. ("Local" means 1 1/2 hours away on the Cumberland Plateau.) It was on my to-do list and seemed like good training for Rainier, although the round-trip is two miles shorter and the entire thing is half as steep.

The biggest drawnback to the hike is that it is downhill on the leg out and uphill on the way back. The trail starts off following the Big Laurel Creek. The flowers, which we assumed were rhodies but were more probably laurels, what with the name of the creek, were in bloom. After .8 miles we reached the first waterfall; not long after we took a side trip to a set of two overlooks that is supposed to be a loop. However, the trail climbs up and then down some bluffs, and the second time involves a ladder - or it did, until the ladder fell off the bluff some time before today. Rather than leap to our deaths, we retraced our steps. About 2 miles in we reached the second waterfall. After that the excitement abates for a while until you come to Sheep Cave (which we did not visit) and Virgin Falls, pictured above, at 4 miles. Then you hike back, mostly uphill.

It was a good hike overall. And we'd hike to report that the sign saying it takes 6 to 8 hours is way overestimating how long the hike is - it only took us 5 hours and 54 minutes.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Counting down

I've been reading a book by Veysey lately. Of Veysey, Jonathan Beecher, in a memorial piece in the History of Education Quarterly wrote, "Then in graduate school at Berkeley ... he embarked on the dissertation on the emergence of the American university that, when it appeared in book form in 1965, was to make his reputation. The Emergence of the American University has had an extraordinarily long life. After forty years it continues to be assigned regularly in courses on the history of American education, and it has attained the status of a classic."

Of course, historians are a little different from many folks in education; books are their currency, and a dissertation must become a book. That's not the case in much of education research, where a dissertation becomes a couple of articles. Even so in most disciplines a dissertation, no matter what its ultimate form, does not remain a classic masterwork for decades. The student is advised not to attempt to emulate Veysey, usually with the phrase, "The best dissertation is a done dissertation."

Of the eight people in my cohort, two are finishing coursework this spring and moving on to the dissertation phase. Technically, they can't start dissertating until they pass their comps, which are in August, but I'm sure both that they will pass and that they'll start on their proposals this summer anyway. That leaves six of us in coursework, several more of whom will finish up in the fall. Only a very few of us will trail into the spring.

Both of the students who are finishing up coursework have topics that were chosen in close conjunction with their advisors, who will become their dissertation advisors as well. While any dissertation seems like a mound of work at this end, I don't think their topics are Veyseyian in scale - in fact one hopes to defend before 2007 is over.

I, on the other hand, am nowhere near that yet. In addition to one year of coursework remaining, I need to find a dissertation chair. My advisor cannot serve as my chair, although he will be on my committee. My chair must be someone in our department, and it is preferable if he or she is higher education focused; unfortunately, there is no one that fits that criteria that works in the disciplinary frame I have in mind. I suppose I could pick any old advisor and adopt a topic of theirs, but I actually have a program of research - admittedly in my head; there's no CV trail - and I recall advice from someone to think of your dissertation not as the end of your PhD but as start of your career.

Well, there's still time. In the interim, I have plenty to do on the Turducken Research Grid to make myself the person my elevator speech says I am.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

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Tired of not dating in grad school? Tired of trying to meet people outside of academia, and then spending all your time explaining why you're poor, why you don't have any free time, and that you'll be lucky to have one job offer when you graduate? Afraid to date anyone in your department but unable to meet anyone outside of it?

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Maymester, with an entire semester crowded into one month, produces the most undifferentiated days of the academic calendar. During a regular semester every day of the week has its own flavor, but during Maymester each weekday is the same. That's one reason I don't have much to post.

My mornings are divided between collaborating with Mr. Kindhearted on our practicum project and working on getting things ready for the Peabody Professional Institutes. There is an occasional diversion (on Monday my advisor and I dived into Project Snowball for the morning), but not many. In the afternoons we have practicum. This week we're in the middle of group presentations, which are supposed to be three hours long. I spend some spare minutes, especially in the evening, working on odds and ends from practicum or PPI as well as another project, which I suppose needs a code name. ("Project Inputting Data by Hand Sucks" isn't going to work, though.) I try to go to the gym most days. Tonight I'm really mixing things up by reading some Veysey.

The weekends bring some variety. I get to take one day off from school.

My to-do list for the next couple of weeks reads something like: a) submit that journal article b) gather all the data for the as-yet-unnamed project c) finish our practicum project.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The structure of my world

The other day I made a facetious reference to something violating my assumptions about how the universe worked. At that moment, one assumption died, because apparently Stata does not in fact have an option to do anything I want it to. Apparently I have to wait for Stata Version 9.Turducken or start programming my own add-ons. As if! I want to date a nerd, not be one. But that left me with plenty of Assumptions About How Turducken's Universe Works still alive and guiding my behavior in mostly predictable yet occasionally quirky ways:
  1. I will be lucky in academia but unlucky in love.
  2. I will probably die in a car accident.
  3. There is not enough money in the world to solve all of society's problems.
  4. My generation will never receive Social Security.
  5. Taking the high road pays off in the long run.
  6. My presentations will always run short.
  7. Microsoft Office will find some way to make you unhappy.
  8. I will run into acquaintances when doing errands only if I look like a mess.
  9. I will never get a chance to go into space.
  10. Everyone else hates the music I listen to.
  11. The cool kids might like me, but I won't believe it.
  12. Girl Scout cookies are awesome.
  13. There is no such thing as fate.
  14. The only appropriate first date in online dating is at a coffee shop.
  15. It's best to prepare for the worst.
  16. Orange is the worst color ever.
  17. Lots of sleep and a good breakfast are the keys to daily happiness.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Another one down

Despite practicum hanging over us, I did get away this weekend. A few of us went out to Camp's Gulf to go caving and camp out. (Note: In the local patois, "gulf" doesn't mean the opposite of a peninsula. It means a valley.) We went as far as the third big room, which doesn't require any vertical but involves climbing a lot of breakdown. No pictures, because I never bring my camera caving. Caving is murder on cameras unless you have a tough (and waterproof) case, which I don't. I came back to town Saturday night because I had some plans and obligations for today. One of those plans was to go with another friend to Kali Yuga Yoga, a new studio a few blocks from me. It was a gentle class, which I needed after caving.

As far as practicum, I've been making a lot of graphs with Stata. That's about as much as you want to hear about that, I'm sure.

Lesson learned

April is indeed the cruelest month, and I have learned that fiscal responsibility is not responsible. From now on, I'm going to be an impulse shopper, no matter what the cost.

Near the end of last month I found two things I wanted to buy. I had been looking for a fun summer purse for over a year - a year! - and I finally found a cute one at a boutique. It was only $45, which is within even my price range. My momma didn't raise no fool, so normally I would have purchased it on the spot. But I had just paid my taxes and gotten a new clutch, and on top of that I was about to leave town for a wedding. My bank account was running on empty. In fact, I was only in the store at all because I had lost my sunglasses, and for me sunglasses are an essential ranking right up there with, say, underwear. In fact, they're probably ahead. For the same reason I passed on buying a tube of "Rocking Chick" lipstick at M.A.C. It was from their Barbie line of all things and was a ludicrous plastic shade of hot pink that looked fabulous on me. It would have been great for those days when I wanted a little more panache or for evenings, because the typical deep red isn't really me. But I held off.

I went back to the boutique as soon as I got paid and the purse was sold. Being a boutique, they weren't going to have another one. I didn't make it back to the mall until today, and to my horror they told me the lipstick was available for a limited time, and that time was up. I was too despondent to even look for another fun color.

So here I am with no purse, with boring everyday lips, and a completely demolished shopping vibe.

Update: Thank goodness for eBay. I was able to find a tube for sale (for twice the M.A.C. price of course). A girl's gotta have priorities.

Monday, May 7, 2007

When educators attack

Arthur Levine has released his latest broadside against schools of education. You won't find much in there that Peabody faculty will disagree with (at least based on this writeup), except for his concern that education hasn't settled on one methodology. Well, no. There are two kinds of departments in colleges. Disciplines start with a method (field observation or looking at particles) and apply it to whatever it can reasonably be used for. Fields start with a question and beg, borrow, or steal methods to answer it. Education is a field, and hence no single method, and Dr. Levine ought to know that.

Anyway, if anyone has been reading a lot of dissertations lately, they would find variety in quality to be staggering. (The answer to the question, "Does anyone read dissertations?" is "Yes.")

Sunday, May 6, 2007

One more down.

Having just turned in my last paper for the semester, I hereby pronounce spring semester 2007 to be officially OVER. Normally I would rush off for lunch at Noshville in celebration, but it is 9:15 at night, and anyway I had a big barbecue dinner. We were out hiking in Montgomery Bell State Park, doing a shorter hike than we meant to - our eyes being bigger than our feet, or something - and we were all craving barbecue. It turned into something of a quest, as the first two places we went to were closed. We finally got our barbecue and sweet tea, though.

Actually, the hike wasn't our original plan, either. We had intended to do Fiery Gizzard, which is either 9 or 13 strenuous miles, depending on the route you pick, but last night we decided we weren't up to it. Instead, we decided on nearby Montgomery Bell; its long hike is 11 miles, but the terrain is flatter - about 100 feet of elevation per mile. Once we were out there, we decided instead to do only one portion of it, which ended up being 7.5 miles. I can't speak for anyone else, but I was tired from both too much and not enough exercise. That is, I never work out enough during the last few weeks of the semester; then this last week I exercised a lot after joining the new gym by me. So 7.5 was plenty.

And then I finished my paper and emailed it in.

Tomorrow, however, practicum starts back up. No rest for the wicked.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Keeping up with the modern world

When dogs blog.

Terribly geeky things you will want, like a wafflemaker that makes keyboard-shaped waffles.

Are cell phones killing bees?

When I needed I new clutch, I figured it was time to learn how one worked. Here's how.

Sci-fi archive. There are a lot of interesting stories here - far more than you'd want to peruse at one go - but so far I've mostly looked at the "classics." There are a lot by big names in sci fi, and some of them are surprisingly bad. I won't name names, but writers I know and enjoy have some mediocre work here. Reading old sci fi is often an exercise in fitting your brain around yesterday's future, which sometimes works better than others. Futures where all the women are housewives and all the men smoke are one thing; futures where unfunny gender and racial stereotypes drive the plot are another. It's as painful as reading the comic strips in Parade Magazine.

Then again the short story is a very demanding art form. You have little space to convince the reader the characters are real and behave realistically. This is hard enough in stories set in our present world, and it gets harder when writers depict humans encountering something that we never have before. Frequently too the author builds a story around a gimmick and doesn't think the implications through. A story I read years ago - I don't remember the author - had the premise that all the pollution produced in a year could be shrunk down to a doughnut, which could then be neutralized by human digestion - killing the person in the process. Scientific dubiousness aside, I never bought the author's further premise that a random citizen was chosen by lottery to eat it with great ceremony (and why it was done this way was not explained). Why not pick from willing suicides, suffering cancer patients, or death-row inmates? Why not have super-secret agents send it to the slums of a third-world nation to be unknowingly eaten by a waifish street urchin? You'll encounter a lot of these types of gimmicks here. But there is also some good stuff. I had never heard of Ward Moore, and the couple of stories by him are both excellent.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Free things

I don't know that any of you feel a burning need to look up faculty salary surveys, capital campaign news, or presidential appointments, but if you do, here is your chance. The Chronicle of Higher Education, which normally requires a subscription to access, is offering their entire site free through May 8.