October 28, 2014
It has been a while since I have written on here, being that I am so busy with my thesis, with two jobs and a family. trying to find time to decompress and be normal is quite challenging as a grad student. Recently I tutored someone who seemed to have difficulty opening up to my input and it concerned me because the student in question didn’t seem to understand what an academic paper requires. As I tried to help, I was met with resistance and I felt like it was more of a “I don’t need your help” kind of attitude than it was a “I know what I want to say and I don’t want to change it” type of deal.
The student was writing a paper on the film World War Z, which is a paper that many students are assigned in GEW 100. The class picks between that film and the original Night of the Living Dead by George Romero. I will discuss what was proposed, and then discuss what I think the paper could have covered.
The student wanted to write about “the appearance of zombies”. Now as we explored some ideas to fill the blank outline that was brought in, I tried to expand the interpretation of what “appearance” could mean, and why the appearance of zombies is so scary to most of us. Of course, an academic paper requires the writer to provide a “why does it matter?”
Not only could the writer discuss the physical appearance of zombies, but providing metaphors as to the decay and hunger of the zombies would be key. Are the zombies’ bodies representative of something else? Law? Society? Justice? Are they only scary because we compare them to normal, healthy human beings? these are issues to be explored and explained.
Another topic the student brought up was the lack of law in most zombie films. I asked if they had seen other films and the answer was “no”. My suggestion to watch more films to compare World War Z with was met with resistance and so I became concerned. Research is a big part of any paper. If you watch World War Z and say that no law exists, you would be inaccurate because in the film there exists Marshal Law. Also, in several zombie films, society has not totally crumbled. We may see a small group in a localized area, or hear some news via television or radio news. The assumption can be made that law still exists in these films, because the dead cannot be murdered. Immoral acts are still viewed as undesirable, and things such as theft, rape and murder of the living are still considered criminal.
There are many directions that can be pursued when writing a paper. this is only one of them. Please keep in mind, especially when writing on a topic that one is unfamiliar with, research is the key. Any paper should involve research and accuracy along with some background knowledge to inform the writer. When writing about the zombies of World War Z, some knowledge should be displayed on what makes the film unique from other zombie films. A much better creative argument can then be made through comparison and the highlighting of innovative ideas within the execution of World War Z’s reality.
July 30, 2014
While doing some research for the Graduate Studies portion of the Writing Center’s online network, I came across a few articles, ranging in date from 2010 to 2012, about how graduate students are increasingly eligible for assistance from welfare programs. Students with Masters degrees and PhDs alike are unable to find work, or are working but not making enough to stay above the poverty line. As a result, I decided to dedicate this posting to providing some financial advice. The best personal advice I can give myself? Make your own meals, cut back on the drinking, and hang out with friends at home when possible.
Financial Advice for Graduate Students
Information compiled by the GradSchools.com team – last updated August 2010
Money is a major issue for graduate students, and good financial habits are essential to cutting costs, managing money, and making funds last. More than a few grad students enter postgraduate education with undergraduate debt, and financial management becomes of paramount importance.
Good financial habits in grad school depend upon the student’s ability to identify which costs are necessary and which can be avoided, put off, or rationalized away. When standing in the aisle of the store, ask yourself questions about the product in your hand, such as: Do I need to buy this now? Can I find less-expensive options? Can I live without this? Much of cutting grad school costs involves differentiating between what you need, and what you want. You may feel like you really want something, but if you don’t purchase it, will you seriously miss it a few weeks down the road? It can be helpful to make a list of direct and indirect graduate school expenses.
Direct expenses include: tuition, fees, transportation, books, supplies, and loans. While you will definitely need that textbook for your biology course, you may be able to avoid paying full price by getting it at a used bookstore or searching on a site like Half.com.
Indirect expenses include: living expenses, personal expenses, and child care. While many of the indirect expenses may prove to be necessities, they are the best place to look for expenses that may be on the frivolous side. Just see if you can’t find a way to rationalize why buying the newest video game or DVD might not be the wisest choice.
Budgeting in graduate school
If you want to establish good financial habits while in school, you must create an expense budget. If you’ve never been the budget-type-of-person; you need to change that. Write down a list of the necessities and figure out what you will need on a weekly and monthly basis. Factor in: rent, bills, school supplies, meals, transportation, entertainment (cable costs, movie tickets, concerts…) and any other expenses that you will incur. It can also be helpful to set dollar limits for your expenses, that way, if you’re having an expensive month, you know that you just cannot afford to get pretzel bites and a large Coke when you go to see the next “Die Hard” film.
You must think ahead and come to grips with the fact that you may experience a loss of income while you’re a graduate student. Budgeting can be made easier if you can pre-pay for things like rent and utilities; contact your landlord and utility companies to see if this is possible. Set up a plan to pay bills, and dedicate yourself to following that plan. You can also purchase pre-paid phone cards to keep those bills under control.
Effective budgeting involves a great deal of organization when it comes to record-keeping; it also involves planning to some extent for the unexpected. Having a little wiggle-room in your budget each month, if possible, can really reduce your worries. What if your pants split 20 minutes before you’re scheduled to defend your dissertation? You’ll be glad you left yourself some emergency money.
Banking in graduate school
Good financial habits in graduate school also depend on establishing excellent banking practices. It is advisable to transfer your financial aid from your savings to a checking account in monthly increments. Managing your bank account responsibly involves opting for low and no-fee checking accounts, as well as recording all transactions.
Graduate students should plan out ATM withdrawals by taking out what they need for a specific period of time and putting the ATM card away. Direct deposit for paychecks can be of great help and students should look into direct deposit for their bills. Each month, compare your checkbook with your monthly bank statement to ensure you are balanced, and to spot the occasional banking mistake.
Credit cards are the source of many graduate students’ money troubles, as well as their debt. These cards should be used with extreme care. Students should be sure to make their monthly payments on time, and to pay more than the minimum required payment. Choose a credit card with a low or no-annual fee plan and read the fine print. Be alert for the traps set by special credit card offers. Don’t choose a card based on that free cell phone – you will pay for it in the end through poor credit card rates.
Cutting costs in graduate school
As a graduate student, any chance you get to cut costs should be examined and taken. Check for resources and freebies provided through your school. Look for part-time jobs, work-study assignments, or tutoring jobs to bring in more money. Shop around for the best deals when buying just about anything, but particularly textbooks. Most college bookstores offer a certain number of used texts, websites such as Amazon.com provide customers with discounts as well as used texts, and many college towns have bookstores that specialize in textbooks purchased from students at the close of previous semesters.
If you are really having trouble with living expenses, consider taking in a roommate. Students can also choose to live at home with their parents if possible, and bearable. Rather than buying a new car, buy a used one or opt for public transportation. Clip coupons and keep your eye out for student discounts. If you pay for your own utilities, turn lights off when you leave a room and turn your thermostat down when you’re going to be away for hours; It’s estimated that you save about 5 percent off your electric bill for every degree you lower your thermostat. Instead of eating out, stay home and cook. You might also share home-cooked meals with your graduate student friends, as a way for all of you to save some money.
Your days as a graduate student may not be prosperous – and you may get devastatingly sick of Ramen Noodles – but it’s only for a few years. Remember, graduate school is supposed to ultimately increase your earning potential; the last thing you want is to be repaying student loans long after graduation, and to that point, every dollar counts. Even if you have to budget, even if you have to slum it for a while, in the long run, it’s worth it.
July 2, 2014 HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY
Having had a rare weekend where I got to spend time with my family, juggling two jobs and working on my graduate thesis, I was able to watch Transformers : Extinction and celebrate my birthday at Bucca di Beppo in Mira Mesa and Red Robin in Escondido. The weekend ended horribly as I was rear-ended while entering my apartment complex. I seem to be okay, and luckily I was alone in the car. Now I am just hoping that my car doesn’t get totaled.
Since most of my time was taken up in dealing with the fallout of the accident, I didn’t really have much prepared to say today, although I did come across an interesting article regarding Matthew Weaver, the junior student who rigged the Student Body President election here at CSUSM and was caught. What I found interesting about the story, dated 7/19/13, was that this business student thought himself to be really smart and capable. Now while he had a complicated plan that involved stealing usernames, passwords, and impersonating students via emails and fake chat rooms, this guy set himself up for failure. As a network administrator/technician trained by the Marine Corps, I would never have done what this guy did. Not only is it ethically wrong, the self-styled genius made it easy for himself to get caught and he didn’t have a clue. Please take this article as a lesson in honesty and ethics, and compare it to the problem of plagiarism. Stealing someone’s password and username may not be exactly the same as stealing someone else’s work, but in the end, both transgressions amount to impersonating someone else.
Today is June 24th, 2014. It is my birthday, and as I was about to start writing this I was surprised by my boss Dr. Harlig and the department staff with a cake and card. It is already a great day, to say the least. Recognition from my colleagues is something that I have learned to appreciate and not take for granted. While the pecking order exists almost everywhere we go, and not everyone is as pleasant to interact with as we would like, I think that on some level we all want to be treated with respect, and given our “proper place” in the rank structure. I am sure we all agree that no one wants or expects a junior member to be sassy and condescending, nor a senior member to be dismissive and rude. For my first blog, I would like to re-post something I had written for the CSUSM Writing Center’s previous blog on Blogspot.com. While that turned out to be a little-used forum, I am hoping that with my daily attention to this Online Resource Network, that I can maintain a consistent level of material and contribute some thoughts on a regular basis. The following expresses my desire to not only improve myself, but to be worthy of being included in the company of my professors and mentors who are in short, my future colleagues.
Writing my History 601 Final Paper was an eye-opening experience. After having completed Hist 301 during the final semester of my undergraduate program (It was supposed to have been done during my first semester in upper division coursework and as a transfer student I had not been informed), I was ready for the super-heavy, reading-laden trench work of 601. The semester went fairly well as we read various works, including That Noble Dream by Peter Novick and The Cheese and the Wormsby Carlo Ginzburg. We learned about the development of the profession of History and how we were to embark on a mission to educate the world about humanity and all of its glories and follies. For my final, I chose to write a paper on The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II, by Iris Chang. Of course, as I had done the entire semester, I waited until the last minute to research and write my paper. We were reading books at the pace of one a week; with work, children and a needy girlfriend occupying most of my time, I was forced to read the books in one or two days. I am a quick reader. Although digesting the information, interpreting it, formulating an argument and selecting passages for support and evidence are more than simply reading a text. I needed more time than I was allowing myself for each assignment, and the 7/10 that I was consistently earning never quite pierced the veil of my brain and translated to the raw 70% that would eventually become a B, which led to a lower average than I needed to maintain in order to remain in good standing within the graduate program. So there I was, one week left to write my final paper, and of course life did not slow down to accommodate me. I did not use enough sources and one of the ones that I had selected was known for being written by a very lousy example of a historian. I would have known that, had I done more research and examined more sources. I look back and recall the large stack of books I used for my history 301 paper and I can’t understand why I didn’t think to do the same with Hist 601. I remember making three or four trips to the library looking for sources for my 301 paper (Which was on the relationships between Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt and Truman during WWII) and I even bought one book for 25cents as an additional source. Somehow, that commitment wasn’t there for hist 601. Was it hubris? Was I so full of myself after being accepted into the Master’s program that my academic standards became inexplicably lax? I believe so. I was forced to face the truth: I hadn’t only let myself down; I let down every professor who wrote a letter of recommendation for me as well. I learned a very valuable lesson in Hist 601, and that lesson is that no matter how skilled we might be the effort has to accompany that skill and be infused into every work. The first great job you do, regardless of the form, format, field, etc., sets the bar for the future. Each assignment should improve on the previous one in any way possible. Each subsequent piece of work should include no less effort than the one before it. Following this ideology, I have been able to produce high-quality work even when the subject matter fails to mesmerize me. I realized that if my standards drop, then so shall the rewards. And frankly, I want platinum medals, not bronze ones. -John Thursday, June 13, 2013