Welp, I’m back

Sorry about the break. I really did think I could write a blog post about each day of the written portion of my comprehensive exams. Friends, I could not. I had no idea how much energy that was going to take out of me, including the one-hour commute each way. The day I wrote 5000 words, I slept the sleep of the dead. But, I’ve handed in my answers and it’s in the hands of my committee now.

How do I feel? Terrible. Well, not today. Over the last day or two I have settled down, but where I thought I would feel relief I only felt shame. I came out of the process feeling stupid, unprepared, more than an imposter, but a charlatan. I was (and kinda am) still thoroughly convinced that my oral exam will just be my committed expressing this disdain and then handing me packing boxes to clear my things and go. I was exhausted on Friday and cried. I blew up on Saturday morning and cried. Today, no crying, but still anxiety.

I’m going to stay as busy as possible this week so I don’t have time to think about anything negative. I will listen to every Agatha Christie book my library has and catch up on all my manga. Yah. That’s the plan.

Comp Exams Day 1 – the OS update

Thanks to the advocacy of previous graduate students, our school changed the structure of the English Ph.D. comprehensive exams from a 5-hour, in-person essay test to a take-home, multiday writing test. We still have questions that test the breadth and depth of our knowledge, but now we’ll be answering them in a way that more closely reflects how we actually do scholarly work.

Today I received my questions via email at 7 am. I was ready, so ready I forgot to take my pills. (I didn’t notice a difference aside from my disappointment, but I will not forget tomorrow). I took some time to read over all the options, made a few early selections, then grabbed a few relevant books (yes, I had to take the heavy one) and left.

I have a long commute, so it gave me the chance to let the back of my brain stew while I focused on my breathing. By the time I got to my office, I was ready to go. I took some time to create my draft documents, copy the selected question into the file, then do a preliminary–more like prepreprepreliminary–outline and listed out the texts/authors I would be using. Some of the questions were really interesting and I felt myself being pulled into working on them. Others I’d already written a thousand or more words about the topic. I chose the latter where I could.

That all done, I spent the next thirty minutes just going through papers and taking notes while my MacBook updated…

…then I was ready to go! The writing was sluggish at first. I felt myself tripping over how to phrase ideas and wrote too floridly and sometimes too simply, then convinced myself to get SOMETHING down because you can’t edit an empty page. I was aiming for 2400 words and I left at 1911. That’s not a failure.

I still had to finish grading the work in my summer class and needed to get the final papers out. But after getting that finished, I still ended up working on one of the other questions and getting more words in. Since this is a different format, the word count doesn’t really matter, but the hard work of selecting texts is done.

I think tomorrow will be a more productive day. I’ll be able to start writing right away, knowing I have minimaps in every draft document. I plan to come back to my DAY 1 answer tomorrow night, after I’ve allowed it to stew while I work on DAY 2’s answer. NIGHT 1’s answer has the bones to it, and I have a book here that can help me make sure I put them in the right spots.

Feeling optimistic and ready to keep rolling!

2023.08.13 – media_log

I spent most of today grading papers and prepping for my comp exams, which start tomorrow. I didn’t spend much time online and only posted two humorous things on Facebook. I’m going to need a really good reason to put those social media apps back on my phone.


Courtesy of greeblie via Wikimedia

Nobody ever questioned where that database holding 10,000 hours of Olive Garden commercials was located. Now we have ChatGPT teaching kindergarteners. This is the most important read: AI Causes Real Harm. Let’s Focus on That over the End-of-Humanity Hype “Magic 8 Balls that we can play with by framing the prompts we send them as questions such that we can make sense of their output as answers.”

Barrels of drinking water for migrants walking through Texas have disappeared it’s so easy to automatically suspect someone of spiteful behavior. We’re driven by us vs them in so many more ways that we forget that these are actual people whom we exploit with impunity and perhaps deserve at the very least to not die

The Latest Trend on Yachts? Submersibles Good. Gooooood. Feel the power course through your veins! It took three reporters to write this ass-licking advertorial. The Oceangate disaster doesn’t make an appearance until paragraph 11.


media_log is a collection of media that I’ve consumed throughout the day – not in bite-size, headline-only, hot-take form as per social media, but actually reading the article and having a thought. Since taking the social media apps off my phone, I’m being more intentional with how I spend my attention.

2023.08.12 – media_log

I’ve been moving my research notes and memos into Obsidian. I like the simple Markdown files that are kept on my computer first, then synched, and the wiki-style linking between notes and topics. Also, moving the notes is a great way to review them before my exams start on Monday.


The most important story:
Police stage ‘chilling’ raid on Marion County newspaper, seizing computers, records and cellphones “The search warrant, signed by Marion County District Court Magistrate Judge Laura Viar, appears to violate federal law that provides protections against searching and seizing materials from journalists. The law requires law enforcement to subpoena materials instead. Viar didn’t respond to a request to comment for this story or explain why she would authorize a potentially illegal raid.”

The constitutional case that Donald Trump is already banned from being president. A look at that argument those “conservative lawyers” (so it must be true!) are making about the 14th Amendment. It’s soothing to think so, but my expectations are low.

Texas questions rights of a fetus after a prison guard who had a stillborn baby sues There is some possibility for this to bite Texas in the Lone Star. The idea of “personhood” cannot be applied to women carrying the fetus and not individuals threatening There is so much structural sexism on display in this piece–most importantly, not believing women about their own bodies– that we almost see the scaffolding that allowed the overturning of Roe v. Wade.


Was Bigfoot seen in Pennsylvania last year? Witnesses say ‘yes’ Obviously.


Penn State gender pay gap is among worst compared to public Big Ten schools, federal data show They mention the pay increase of the female president but not the pay of the football coach even though they keep saying “Big Ten.” (Coach’s salary in 2022? $7 million.) WE ARE, I guess.

A slightly sadistic experiment aims to find out why heat drives up global conflict “In other words, does extreme heat trigger a psychological effect that is driving up the violence?” I’m curious if the increased aggravation that people feel because of the heat is because of our social conditioning against sweat. Is that increased aggression a Western, white issue? The growing cultural preference for Western-style aesthetics is a problem. There was an article about sweat yesterday, I’ll have to find it. Got it -> We Must Learn to Love Our Sweat

media_log is a collection of media that I’ve consumed throughout the day – not in bite-size, headline-only, hot-take form as per social media, but actually reading the article and having a thought. Since taking the social media apps off my phone, I’m being more intentional with how I spend my attention.

2023.08.11 – media_log

Why Does This Racist Keep Getting Silicon Valley Money?
Required reading if you keep hearing the name “Richard Hanania” bandied around and want to learn about the next high-profile “totally not a racist anymore” bro is. I would hate watch the white nationalist and eugenics-loving billionaire fight for conch as they grunt their IQs at each other while the ashes of civilization dust their sweaty, Botoxed brows.

Zoom’s Changing Stances on AI and User Data has Faculty Alarmed
Why is only “faculty alarmed?” Oh because it’s a good business decision to outsource all of the intellectual work your scholars do. Zoom’s new TOS probably has a broad view of consent. Remember the CAN-SPAM Act that put that “Unsubscribe” in all those emails? Whatever happened to opt-in as the default? Fun fact: I had a meeting this morning and the “Accept the new TOS” note came up and I could either be late for my meeting and read it, or click “Accept” because that’s what we always do.

How should we remember Trinity Site, where the first nuclear bomb was tested?
An interesting look at the physical Trinity Site (not the conceptual idea we have collectively in our heads.) This led me to the FAQ on the Trinity Site Open House website, where the question on the dangers of residual radiation is second to last at number 25, right above whether or not marijuana was allowed on the site (it is not.) Incidentally, the question of whether or not you can bring your firearm is number 8 on the list. (No. “Leave them at home.”).

Seeing a new David Brooks column the same day I listened to the If Books Could Kill podcast on “On Bullshit” is … chef’s kiss!

Vivek Ramaswamy Has a Gimmick That Republicans Are Sure to Love
“Ramaswamy’s call to raise the voting age is a novelty policy for a novelty candidate. And yet it tells us something about the Republican electorate, and thus the Republican Party, that the eye-catching gimmick of an ambitious politician is a plan to disenfranchise millions of American voters.” Republican voters will never love you.

Biden’s risky Persian Gulf bet
“‘We’re talking about using the lives of US service-members as a deterrent,’ Emma Ashford, a researcher at the Stimson Center, told Vox.” Isn’t that what we always do?

There’s No Shame in Flaking
I had a friend that used to call me “Croissant” I flaked so much.

media_log is a collection of media that I’ve consumed throughout the day – not in bite-size, headline-only, hot-take form as per social media, but actually reading the article and having a thought. Since taking the social media apps off my phone, I’m being more intentional with how I spend my attention.

Dear NPR – take a long step back

You’re not implying that these two people are ‘rogue animals,’ are you? What a terrible fucking headline! I think every news organization needs to show its headlines and blurbs to a select group of diverse people before letting any of its copy editors’ (or interns’) ClevErnEss out into the world. Cripes!

2023.08.10 – media_log

media_log is a collection of media that I’ve consumed throughout the day – not in bite-size, headline-only, hot-take form as per social media, but actually reading the article and having a thought. Since taking the social media apps off my phone, I’m being more intentional with how I spend my attention.


Hot take: One of the reasons I don’t care for YouTube shorts, besides the fact that I can’t filter them out of my subscription page, is that there is no easy way to see what channel it’s from.

Who Was Fernando Villavicencio?
I feel stupid for not knowing who this man was before he was assassinated.

Never Tweet
I like Charlie Warzel’s take on this subpoena and what prosecutors could be looking for, though the idea that it’s a technicality to cover all bases seems more likely. I don’t know how many more “smoking guns” need to be found to get this guy gone. Scroll fast past the main image if you don’t want to choke on your beverage.

Pottstown’s ‘Chicken Hill’ a central character in new James McBride novel
Shout-out to Pottstown and the Pottstown Regional Public Library for their help with James McBride’s new novel, The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store.

After decades, a tribe’s vision for a new marine sanctuary could be coming true
Co-managing sanctuaries and sacred spaces with the indigenous populations is long overdue and a step in the right direction. Scientific knowledge can only be enhanced with a historical record of the land and its living things, as well as a respect for the interconnectivity of our ecology. Learn more about the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary at chumashsanctuary.org.

The Local-News Crisis Is Weirdly Easy to Solve
A great overview of the power and necessity of local news. I am quietly skeptical if federal funding would ever jump-start local news again–so much depends upon the local population engaging with the local news–we need so much more than “Patch” websites and Facebook.

2023.08.09 – media_log

media_log is a collection of media that I’ve consumed throughout the day – not in bite-size, headline-only, hot-take form as per social media, but actually reading the article and having a thought. Since taking the social media apps off my phone, I’m being more intentional with how I spend my attention.

Why Televising the Trump Trial Is a Bad Idea
I think it’s important that Nick Akerman compared it immediately to a Mafia trial. And I think he’s right. I think anybody that calls for this child to be televised it’s just looking for ratings, a cash cow, and not thinking about the integrity of the process.

A boy on the autism spectrum struggled with a haircut. His barber saved the day
I love this story! And I am also glad Ree was able to get a diagnosis for her son, Jackson. There’s a history of autism being ignored in Black children. I hope she also has the support she needs

Author Charlotte Ng @pronounced_ing on the Prosecraft situation:
“I hate to break it to anyone thinking of paying for this kind of service, but there’s a limit to what data can teach you about writing. It’s hard to make it in the writing world! But you get better at it by reading & writing & thinking more. Not by faux data analysis.”
I feel like one of the worst lessons being learned by new writers (and it comes from traditional and self-pub marketing) is that the way to write is by gaming the market. That may be the way to sell, but it ain’t the way to write.

The Supreme Court just handed gun groups a rare defeat
The only point of allowing this is for bud-bros who beat their families to be able to buy more guns. Fuck every maker of these killing kits.

Billy Porter says he had to sell his house because of the strikes, offers a “**** you” to Bob Iger Billy Porter has done the work and should be paid fairly. Exploitative, tabloid media makes you think all actors and artists are rich. They are mostly not.


One Froggy Evening – the birth of Michigan J. Frog via @TSting18


Hidden Brain podcast – You 2.0 How to Break Out of a Rut
Turns out that the middle of things is tough. But if you can set some markers and smaller goals, you can make it through.

5-4 podcast – Harisiades v. Shaughnessy
A case that reminds us that the rights in the U.S. Constitution also apply to non-citizen, legal residents…until they don’t.

2023.08.08 – media_log

Ridley Scott Regrets Not Directing Blade Runner Sequel
I love the Blade Runner 2049 we have and realize I’ve not watched Alien: Covenant yet. Also, AV Club saying 2049 is better than the original is just plain stupid. Different eras, subgenres, everything. Comparing apples and batteries.

The Prosecraft Controversy
Dunno, fren. If you want to know how many words are in a memoir, then look at memoirs, not 25,000 different books. I happened to be on “Twitter the X” when this started and it’s down to directly benefiting (lo its tilt or not) off of someone else’s work without their consent and compensation. Also, I don’t know why you would want to sound like another author outside of marketing purposes, I guess.

Conspiracy theories: how social media can help them spread and even spark violence introduces us to the author’s research in how conspiracy theories are spread. What I’m interested in is how I can work this idea into my class discussion of discourse communities. I think this is a good way to connect it to our later technology conversation.

America Already Has An AI Underclass
“In the coming era of AI, can the people doing the tech industry’s grunt work ever be seen and treated not as tireless machines but simply as what they are—human?”
The program might write multiple recipes for chocolate cake, which a rater ranks and edits.” Does anyone make the cake?
“the machine-learning company Hugging Face” the fuck?
“there’s nothing flexible about precarity”
There’s nothing more I can say that these quotes don’t already convey.

I did not know they made a film based on this chapter from Dracula, but I’m going to try to get to see The Last Voyage of the Demeter before my exams start.

Zoom Returns to the Office
I think there’s a way to make an adjustment without requiring people to be in the office and that’s Zoom Communal spaces- like Zoom sessions with four to five people online working together occasionally chatting and helping each other stay on task. I don’t know why employees don’t do this or maybe they do co-working all the time and companies just need to justify the high rental rates they’re paying for office space.

Seven Books That Will Make You Put Down Your Phone
I will check some of these out now that I took social media off my phone.

The Loneliness Epidemic
A generation of kids who stayed home alone because their parents didn’t make enough money for child care is part of this. Also, Reagan, it’s always Reagan.