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Calgary: Where it Can Be -5/Snowing in the AM and +22/Sunny the Same Afternoon - MrPutter: doing things the hard way, because it is there.
April 28th, 2006
05:40 pm
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Calgary: Where it Can Be -5/Snowing in the AM and +22/Sunny the Same Afternoon
It's almost the end of semester!!!

And oooooh. Ow. Worst monster hangover ever this morning. Sigh. I really have to learn not to guzzle alcohol like that.

I also sent a rather... ill-advised email last night. Luckily my rather severely inebrated state caused an inability to play the keyboard with the same proficiency as that to which I am used... and the only outcome of the email was a bounce message resultant from a mistyped address. Believe me: this is a good thing.

So the semester that just. won't. end. Is almost over. Should be done on Monday. I just don't see how Dr. Incomprehensible can really delay it any longer. It was supposed to be finished as of today, but I was given an extension on my final paper. Dr. I has to turn marks on Monday (presumably by 4:30), but he said it would be fine for us to turn our papers in on Monday AM. Whatever. I'm grateful for the extension (it was sorely needed by all concerned), however on the other hand I really just want at this point to get the semester over and done with. It's dragged on for far too long already.

So I really need a break right now. This has been an extremely difficult semester. Unfortunately no break seems particularly forthcoming. Dr. I has in the past indicated that there is little funding available for the summer. (The field into which I have directed my studious efforts is not particularly sexy, and money is harder to come by than it would be if I were in, say, computer graphics (*ugh*). They get all the sweet sweet funding.)

Thus I arranged several weeks ago to get a summer job. Only to be told by Dr. I on Monday that I have a break for the first half of May while he is in Australia, but after that, he expects me to be in my office doing research "all summer long" and that he was hoping I'd make significant progress by September.

Hold on... WHAT??!?

I don't know if was my expectations that were deficient, or his, but whatever the deal, the ensuing conversation was not particularly pleasant. The place where I work, being a non-profit org, exists mostly on grants (from foundations, the government, wherever), and they had already received a grant for me to put in 32 hours a week — it would have been difficult to just tell them I wasn't coming in, notwithstanding the fact that I still have to pay things like rent and tuition over the summer. Dr. I seemed to think, however, that the $500 per month he was able to pay me would be more than sufficient to cover all my worldly costs, and was quite annoyed that I would go "behind his back" and commit my time elsewhere.

After a rather heated conversation, the compromise is that I will go into the AWA for 3.5 days a week (to cover my 32 hours), and into school the remaining 3.5 to do research. So yeah. I'm spoken for all 7 days every week from mid May until mid August.

Now this does not sit particularly well with me. I'm sorry, but I really NEED my summer. Not necessarily to sit on my ass and do nothing; I work just as hard for the AWA as for school, but I need the opportunity to give my brain a break, as it were, and do something different with it. I seriously need to recharge.

Every year it's the same thing; I'm completely wiped by May. I'm sick of school and want to quit, I take the summer off to recharge, then by the time September comes around I'm raring to go and get back at it again. The prospect of not having that this year... well, quite frankly, it terrifies me.

This semester has been complete shit. Dr. I's course has been somewhat interesting, although I have really lost said interest in the last month or so. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of Dr. Drill Sergeant's course on matroids. Before taking the course, I had some notion of what matroids were, and thought they held the potential to hold my interest. I have since been (not so) blissfully cured of this misconception.

I hate matroids.

No. I mean I really HATE matroids.

And I HATE Dr. Drill Sergeant*

And I HATE HATE HATE that stupid fucking course.

And I hate being here. And I hate what I'm doing. And I hate everything about this department. And I just want to dump everything and get the fuck out. Cut my losses while I can.

This is not to mention various issues I have with doubting whether I really deserve to be here or not. I hinted at that when I mused whether it was my expectations that were out of line, or Dr. I's. I'm leaning towards "mine." I certainly have discovered that I really don't want to be doing the sorts of things that Dr. I wants me to do. And I'm afraid I may have lead him on a bit regarding that when I first talked to him about applying. There's no question that I certainly gave the impression that I had some small measure of mathematical ability and would be quite interested in doing a bunch of theory work. Which was true to some extent.

But since then it's become all theory all the time, and I've really discovered that that is not me. I can hack theory, certainly. I even enjoy it some. But everything in moderation. One needs to keep in mind that as an undergrad I was a compsci major with a math minor, not the other way around. Which was no accident. And now Dr. I seems to be labouring under the impression that I am some gung-ho mathematician when... I'm really... not. I need some balance. I need some hands-on work — some programming in my life. Some of that stuff that I originally came to school to do.

Fuck, what I need is to find some way of overcoming my passive-aggressive avoidant personality, and let him down. Or, in the so-called vernacular, to "grow a pair." But I'm really nervous about giving the impression that I got him to back my admission under false pretenses, and causing him to feel betrayed. Because fucking dammit, I am NOT cut out to do the shit that he wants me to do. I am certainly not cut out to blab math with him for 10 hours at a stretch, several times a week. That's not me. And unfortunately, from talking to fellow students, that doesn't sound like it's a completely exceptional occurrence in the math world.

In other words, I just am not supposed to be here.

So I've been seriously looking at getting out. Apparently one can withdraw from the program over the internet (via U of C's InfoNet program). I have been so worn down this semester that there have been several occasions when I've filled the entire form out, and sat there with my mouse cursor on the button, debating the merits of clicking it.

Since about mid-March or so, the pressure has been building, and from an average of 30 seconds a day spent pondering whether I wanted to drop or not, it's gone up to a good hour per day or so in the last week.

I mean, really, it's just been a terrible week all around.

I have been taking solace recently mostly in the fact that the semester is (almost) over. And I really need some time off. Which it doesn't look, for the most part, like I'm going to get. To reiterate, this scares me. My plan for now is to see how the summer and fall semesters go. I think I can probably hold out until next January, by which point (if I'm still in school) my degree will be half over, my courses all but done, and hopefully my research far enough underway that I'll be able to see some prospect of proverbial lights related to proverbial tunnels, and the ends thereof.

I really hope.

I really hope this was just an exceptionally shit semester. I hope fall doesn't go the same way. I really really hope the lack of significant downtime over the summer doesn't completely wear me out before January.


Anyway, on to sunnier things. Because it's sunny (mostly**). And warm (mostly**). And summertime. And the semester that just won't end is almost at an end. And I just went down to the Greyhound station to pick up my pass this afternoon, yay!

Because dubaiwalla is planning on attending GWU in September, and so he and I have made plans... Oh yes, and such plans they be. Part of the compromise I made with Dr. Incomprehensible is that I get the last two weeks of August completely free, so have NOTHING to do and can go do what I want.

So... them plans...? Dear esteemed dubaiwalla and I will be Greyhounding around the eastern seaboard this August. Tentative plans are to hit DC (where dw will be going to school), Philadelphia (I loved Philadelphia when I went through there on my bike trip), New York City, Montréal and Toronto.

I planned to do (the Canadian leg of) this trip last summer but never got around to it. So this time, I'm gonna do it, by gum! Like I said, I made a stop at the bus station to buy my pass today. $600 buys you a one-month pass to anywhere in North America (Canada + USA + "selected points" in Mexico). And I now hold said pass in my hot little hands. Of course all this is somewhat dependent on the US visa deities smiling on dw and granting him access to the continent. But hey, if that doesn't happen, then... uhh... I've always wanted to see Yellowknife! Or Newfoundland? PEI? New Orleans? Chicago? Alaska! So if you has a one-month pass to anywhere in North America, where would you go...?

Oh boy, I'm excited. For that, at least. Now to survive through the rest of the summer...

Dear Lord, if you make this hangover go away, I swear I will never. Drink. Again.
"Dear Lord, if you make this hangover go away, I swear I will never. Drink. Again."

* Okay, no I don't. Dr. Drill Sergeant's actually a pretty cool guy.
** See post title.

Current Location: T2N 1N4
Current Mood: exhaustedexhausted
Current Music: The Fiery Furnaces -- Quay Cur
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(15 comments , Leave a comment)

Date:April 29th, 2006 01:44 am (UTC)
Blargh, I'm sorry to hear school is so suck! There's something about the academia machine that is able to suck happiness and self-esteem dry without even trying. I hope it works out in a way that makes you happy. 7 full days of work a week sounds insane, at least if it's not something that has you fired up.

One month, ooh, I'd probably try to go to 4 sci fi conventions on the 4 weekends. I'm so retardedly obsessed with going to cons now that it's.. uh.. retarded? Yes.
Date:April 29th, 2006 01:45 am (UTC)
That's not me sticking out my tongue at you, that's a picture of me on a bus to seattle, BTW. THIS one is a picture of me sticking my tongue out at you.
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Date:April 29th, 2006 07:38 am (UTC)
Ha. No worries. If I had a tongue-sticky-outy icon, I'd tongue it back at you. But I, uh, don't (other than this default). Probably for the best.
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Date:April 29th, 2006 05:01 am (UTC)
My suggestion is that you go see Dr. I and tell him you are dropping out of the program, and why. See reaction. Do not settle for more than a living wage.

Those motherfucking academic slavedrivers will push you to the end and think nothing of it. Seriously.

I've done 7 days a week at some point. It wasn't even intellectual labour, it was just manual labour (gas station attendant on weekends, fuddling around a sheet metal shop during the week). After a month, I was wiped. I had no brains whatsoever, and when I put regular fuel in a volkswagen, I got fired and I was very relieved. I mean basically, I time that was meant to sleep in order to actually spend time with my brain, so something had to give.

Also, I noticed something else in the schedule you posted here. When you speak to a normal person and say you work 7 days a week, they would assume that you work seven 8-hour days per week. The schedule you have posted, however, lets me think that you are planning on working the equivalent of at least NINE 8-hour days per week.

You already mentioned that you need your summer. You know in your heart that this does not make sense at all.

You know, some of motherfucker academic slavedrivers have tons of money. Seriously, go on sshrc.ca or nserc.ca (I think the sshrc site also shows nserc funding) or whatever funding body that oversees him (i.e. search at least the school's funding sites), and find how much funding he has received this year, and in previous years. If this guy receives more than $20K a year and expects you to work for peanuts, go tell him to fuck himself. Select but numerous profs in the arts / social sciences / humanities routinely get between $50K/$150K with their CRCs, and most of that money is spent on PAYING THEIR GRAD STUDENTS. F is getting by this summer getting funding from a prof she's not even working with, and has done so for the last 4 summers.

If you're not getting funding, don't slave away. It might be school, but this is the first world. Students either get paid doing other people's work, or work for free when doing work directly related to their masters. If this prof gets no money, either tell him that's his problem to figure out.

I seriously advise against doing any work for this motherfucker this summer. Sure, you're letting down... his completely unreasonable assumptions. Fuck this shit. Switch to an American university, where they will shower you with money, if you must. Or at least threaten to.

I mean, if you were totally in love with what you're doing, I wouldn't really bat an eye because people do lots of stuff for free. But this guy is being an asshole and this is not meeting your needs, which with the 9-day a week thing, is the recipe for a meltdown not very far in the future anyway.

F suggests switching programs, recuperating some of your coursework if possible.

Also, UofC, no union. Haha. York students get lots of stuff guaranteed. :P
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Date:April 29th, 2006 07:35 am (UTC)
Oh. Wow. Where to begin...?

My first instinct was to invite you to remove your cotton-pickin' nose from whence it did not belong. But after some thought, that's perhaps not fair. I do realize you are trying to help :-)

But it's interesting that your first take on this is from a financial standpoint. Please let me be absolutely clear that this all has, really, nothing to do with payment or finances, except in that money was the catalyst for an extra complication. I mean, really. Money doesn't much come into this at all from my point of view. I could be raking in the dough hand-over-fist this summer, and it would make no difference to anything.

The fact that my supervisor didn't feel able to pay me much was what prompted me to go looking for work elsewhere, but that's all. Had I really tried, I have no doubts that I could have gotten more money out of the school somehow (whether from my supervisor, or elsewhere in the department — it's really immaterial). The point was not that I was broke. The point was that I had several avenues to choose from, and I chose the same one I have done the last two summers; an avenue that is non-study-related in nature, and this does not sit well with my supervisor.

And at this point, I have made a commitment to the AWA, and refuse to be someone who does not honor their commitments.

But what this is REALLY all about is not that I made a commitment to someone, not that I had an argument with my supervisor, not that I'm working 7 days a week... what it's REALLY all about is that I'm not getting a break from school. That's what I need — what I know I need — and what I'm not getting.

Working 7 (or more) work-days in a week during the summer is not actually anything particularly new to me. The last two summers, I have been putting in an average of 70-odd hours a week... generally 14 hours a day during the week, and a half-day on Saturdays. I don't mind, really. In fact they generally only pay me for about half that, but I don't mind. I enjoy it. I believe in what they're doing. And I know they underpay me not out of malice, but because they truly can't afford more (I know this for sure because I do their accounting). And I re-iterate: this amount of work does not bother me in the slightest.

The point, again, is that it's an entirely different type of work from what I do for school. It requires the use of a different part of my brain. It means that for four months out of the year I get to shut off the "learning/studying" part, and that gets to recharge, while I do other stuff.

And so far, I've been lucky that I've been able to do this. But this year I'm running smack into the reality that most people /don't/ get a four-month break every year while they do other stuff. I'm running into the reality that I am expected in some capacity to continue my research and my work even during the summer. Which in all respects is not particularly unreasonable. I don't believe I'm getting a raw deal.

I don't believe my supervisor is shafting me in any way. Again, this is my own research he's expecting me to work on, nothing more. It's not something for which I should have any expectation that I be paid... if I wanted to be, I could have applied for an NSERC (or Alberta Ingenuity, or likewise) grant myself. I didn't do so... why? Because I didn't want to be working on this stuff all summer. I wanted to take a break and do something else, in the hopes that come September, I would be completely over this horrible shit semester, and ready to go again.

And now I've been told that's not an option. And I'm being a whiny brat about it. That is all.

> UofC, no union. Haha.

And here's where I will ask you to (not so) kindly fuck off. As it so happens, the U of C actually is unionized, and indeed when working as a TA, this causes my salary to be rather higher than makes me entirely comfortable. Please remember you are speaking to someone who stands in complete ideological opposition to unions.
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Date:April 29th, 2006 02:18 pm (UTC)
Please remember you are speaking to someone who stands in complete ideological opposition to unions.

That was the point! But it seems that I was relying on an unreliable source. I'll have to go bitch about that.

I see what you mean about the summer break versus the expectations to continue your research. The reason I brought up money is that a lot of profs don't care about their students' financial situation and just expect them get money from money-growing trees. On the other hand, I'm kinda baffled that you, like another tabber, didn't apply for nserc funding when it's there for the taking... But I fully understand the need for a break. I have a better idea of where your problem sits at.

In the end, I think you should do your research at the rhythm you can, and not along some prof's assumptions from non-existent discussions. I mean if it's YOUR research, what do you owe him? I mean some students have children, even. Would he have not backed a student with a child because they wouldn't have been able to work up to his expectations?

I mean, non-existent contracts should not be expected to be enforced.
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Date:April 29th, 2006 02:23 pm (UTC)
non-existent also meaning completely nebulous.
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Date:April 29th, 2006 05:19 am (UTC)
bounce message resultant from a mistyped address.
I suspect this post would probably have been a bit longer if the email had gone through. Or alternately not have been made at all, if you were packing up to leave town. At any rate, you are now rid of the worst reason to drop out of school.
Also, if you want to get to DC, spend time a little while there, then spend 14 days wandering around the other 4 cities (and really, there will be enough to do in NYC alone for that much time), you will need more than two weeks anyway. Besides which frandroid is right; the whole 64-hours-a-week-on-all-7-days-until-mid-August idea sounds completely insane if you're not actually really, really looking forward to it. Doubly so given that you're already burned out. Maybe you could threaten to switch advisors if he doesn't come up with something more reasonable.
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Date:April 29th, 2006 07:30 am (UTC)
> Also, if you want to [...] need more than two weeks anyway.

Ok, I completely fail to understand this comment in a great many ways. Could you please clarify & repost?
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Date:April 29th, 2006 09:18 am (UTC)
As per your current plans, you have the the last two weeks of August free. I have to be back in DC by about the end of that month. If you were to get out of Calgary exactly two weeks before the end of the month, you'd be out on August 17.
Assuming we were to plan on leaving Montreal on the same day, and this day were August 30, you would have to use the 14 days before that to first go all the way from Calgary to DC and hopefully show me around one or two of your favorite hangouts, then ride up to Philly, then spend time in NYC, and then take in Montreal and Toronto. Based on what I've asked a colleague who used to live in those two fair cities, the Canadian leg ought to take about a week.
Given that NYC is so full of things worth doing, we could probably spend two weeks there alone if we wanted to (and yes, this is despite my having been there before for 10 days). The length of time you have currently allocated for this trip would therefore seem to be far less than the optimum. Hope that made a little more sense.
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Date:April 29th, 2006 02:26 pm (UTC)
I did the whirlwind tour last summer and I disliked it. I got to see a lot of modern architecture and not a lot of people and neighbourhoods. Then I spent 5 days in New York City and that was much better, even though still way too short...
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Date:April 29th, 2006 05:07 pm (UTC)

Personally, I like faster trips. I pertty much grew up on whirlwind tours with my family when I was younger. France, Germany, Austria and Italy in 2 weeks. Malaysia and Thailand in 10 days. Toronto, Quebec, the maritimes and New England in 12 days. That sort of thing.

It's hard for me to force myself into remembering that other people may not consider that normal, or even desirable.

Personally, I'm cool with spending only a couple of days in a city. Sure, it leaves a lot unseen, but this both avoids the potential for boredom (something with which I get afflicted), and also leaves something for a return trip.

I don't at all intend for this to be my last trip to New York City ever. And I'd like to have something new to see next time I'm there.
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Date:April 30th, 2006 02:10 am (UTC)
I also grew up on whirlwind trips... I don't think I'm normal either, I don't like "visiting" place as an idea to start with. I'm always like "stop! let's just stay here!" I like to go to once place and stick around, hang about and just soak it in... I do agree though that boredom is pesky, and I've learned to prepare my trips so as to not be in some place where I'm bored because I don't know what the hell there is to do.
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Date:April 29th, 2006 05:03 pm (UTC)
Ok, I'm still rather confused. On the trip front, nothing's really changed, as far as I can tell. My plan was never to spend much more than two weeks (+ travel time to DC / from Toronto, which shouldn't be more than a couple of days).

My apologies if your impression was otherwise. Even without this extra complication, I wouldn't have really felt comfortable taking much more than two weeks off of work.

But that still leaves a good 2-3 days per city. Which again was what I had always had in mind. If this doesn't sit well with you, we can probably cut some out. I still want to spend 2 or 3 days in each of the Canadian cities, but if you wanted to, say, split a week between DC and New York, that's also cool with me.

Tho' really, that conversation is better had over ICQ.

You also seemed to be insinuating that the trip might be not worth taking at all. That is completely not the case. My arrangement with
Cockett was not that I work 7 days in return for taking 2 weeks off. He wanted me basically working full time all summer long. I pretty much just told him that I had a prior arrangement, and was taking the last couple of weeks off whether he liked it or not.

And I WANT to take this trip. It's the only thing this summer that I have to look forward to at this point.

Also, I'm not necessarily getting out of Calgary exactly two weeks before the end of the month. I'm taking off whenever the fuck I feel like it, so you & I get 2 weeks before you have to be back in DC. At which point I will return. That probably makes it more like 17 or 18 days that I'm gone. Whatever. If Dr. I has a problem he can go and hang.

But the exact days that I'm gone will be mostly dependent on your schedule & availability, not some arrangement that I've already made at this end...
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Date:April 30th, 2006 05:23 am (UTC)
Ooh, could you tell Dr. I that you'll be happy to put in the time, but that you want to spend 25 of those hours focussing on the programming aspect of your work?
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