05 November 2010

A PhD, a book, and a class

I love a lot of things: coffee, fruit and fibre cereal, teaching, reading, writing, and thinking. If I judge a day by how many of those things I enjoy, today would be a perfect day. It is a dreary day in London, the way I’m sure people imagine it. I have finished one class and have one class to go, but unlike last year, I don’t feel like it is something to get through. I am genuinely enjoying it this year. The students are fantastic: bright and helpful. The syllabuses in both classes have come together after a little bit of shakiness. I know what I am going to test on, so I have confidence that I am preparing the students well. It is going very well.

My trips to London on Friday have also, so far, been very good too. I’m teaching an hour later than I was last year, providing me with an hour (if I choose) to hang out near Euston on the way up. I have been spending this time in a Starbucks across from the British Library. I recently acquired a Starbucks card that allows me to get a tall cup of filter coffee (with free shots) for £1. If I bring my own tumbler, it’s also 25p cheaper, and there is a free refill. So today, I sat there, drank two cups of coffee (net value £3.70) and enjoyed free wifi, all for 75p. Perfect for a student like myself. I was ecstatic. I have been using this card all the time. Starbucks red has appeared, however, meaning that I am now tempted to drink high-calorie, sweet lattes which are not 75p. Once in a while, I suppose.

I don’t mean to be a Starbucks shill. I’m not. I’m sticking it to the man, really. Taking advantage of their kindness to me.

As I sat in Starbucks today, I was working on the bit of writing I’m doing for my supervisors, the first part of my literature review. It’s coming together nicely, and after writing three paragraphs by hand, I only have about two more to fill in and I can send it off. I can see the placement of the section in a larger literature review, and I began work on a bit of the Introduction today. Soon, I will have a file on my computer called ‘thesis chapters’ and as I was riding up to Middlesex today, it occurred to me: I am writing a book. It feels like I am writing a book. Bit by bit, this thing will come together and in a year and half, I will have a book.

Another postdoc came across my metaphorical desk this week, one that has an acceptance rate of 6/200 (3%!), and one that, as I looked at it, I felt like I might have a shot at; that is to say, I could hear a narrative where they might choose me. It’s an American Studies Centre at the University of Sydney and although I am not really an American Studies person, they confirmed that my research would be considered. I was looking at the current scholars and it was like, Yale, Stanford, Yale, book published, associate professor: very impressive scholars. But there were like two people of six that I thought, okay, I’m not that different from this person. The thing about US PhDs is that they drag on forever so the students come out with tons of experience and publications. Their supervisors publish with them and bring them in on their projects. My impoverished CV looks very thin next to them, but it’s all mine. So although this is not Stanford, and I have not written a book yet, I think if there is some understanding of the British system, coupled with the publications I do (will) have, my unique subject area, and my (eh-hem) charisma, perhaps… perhaps I could get into the last round of voting. I had a bit of an afterthought though: the kids, the wife, dragging everyone to a new… but it was fleeting, and I thought, the future will hold whatever it holds and if we go to Australia for a year or ten, we go to Australia. It will be what it will be.

Again, though, it’s very, very good to be looking at these things now, to know what’s out there and what I can potentially compete for. Doing this all while writing up would be a bit harrowing, I imagine.

Lastly, I haven’t written about my weight in a while, much to everyone’s relief, I imagine. I should just say that it is plugging along. It’s pretty boring after a while actually. I still weigh myself every day and will continue till the end of the year I imagine, but it’s been staying pretty steady. I had to drop maybe 1kg since coming back from Spain, but that hasn’t been much work. I’m practically back to where I was this time last month which is the goal. At some point, as long as I stay under 76kgs, there will be nothing to report. Just keep on keeping on.