Thursday, March 29, 2007

Coming Soon: Talks, Teh Tehsis, and The Office Space Follies

While I was hoping to keep blogging during spring break, it appears my plans were cleverly foiled by the arrival of TB and various fun escapades in Hot State. I couldn't actually finagle leaving for spring break for $$ reasons, and given our schedules it was easier for TB to visit here (and, of course, grad students aren't REALLY students so we don't get spring break, much like how we are not REALLY employees and only get paid part-time). Suffice it to say that much relaxation ensued - I worked from home when I could, I got to reap the various bonuses of having my partner *around* (*:D*), and we clocked the fastest "vacation" on record, taking off to another part of Hot State for about 40 hours over a weekend and cramming in much outdoor fun. Life is good when TB is around. Sadly, he has just left, which always makes things seem a bit quieter around here. It also tends to have me listing in my head the conversations we were supposed to have had but never got around to - those State-of-the-Union-type long-distance relationship questions ("Where's this going, anwyay?" "Are you happy?" "How's the future lookin'?") that are really preferable to have face-to-face. Sigh.

Fortunately, I have a new season to keep things interesting. I tend to parse life by vacations, so in a way it is kind of nice to be solidly cemented in the "post-spring-break" portion of my semester, where I expect several things to be dominating my time and energy:

1) Talks. I am actually giving several talks in a few months: Big Scary Talk (at a meeting), Fun Interesting Talk (for people who could be helpful with what I have come to call Teh Tehsis - see #2), and Mandatory Talk (standard-issue student presentation for the department). The one thing they all have in common is that they are unusually long - 15 minutes to 45 minutes (who schedules 45-minute talks anyway?) Individually they're nothing to panic about, but...that's a lot of Powerpoint slides.

2) Teh Tehsis. In addition to Dr. Awesome, I have two advisers here, Dr. SuperWoman and Dr. Talks-A-Lot. Dr. SuperWoman is totally amazing and constantly encouraging me to think about Teh Tehsis, people who might be able to help me, fellowships that could come in handy, field work that sounds interesting, conferences or meetings I should go to, etc. It'd be nice to see this take shape a little more over the next semester.

3) My college dorm had something called "Room Draw" every year, where we picked new dorm rooms, and it was ridiculously overdone - a person's graduating class, their current room size, how many semesters they had been in the dorm, and their relationship with their past and future roommates and neighbors were all factors (we were also all geeks so there was always an attempt to stick all of this into a mathematical formula. Yeah, that worked great.) I assumed this was one of the more ridiculously-elaborate student-designed systems.

Then I heard about the upcoming Office Space Follies, the grad-student-governed process by which we all choose new workspaces. Oh my fucking god.

They count years you've been here. They count your officemates. They count your windows (yes! Some of the students here have windows! We realize how lucky we are). They count your square footage. They count the SUM AREA OF DESKTOP SPACE. They consider whether you're at masters or Ph.D. level. If you want to move into an office, you need to charm everyone in that office to make sure it's okay - and since they're moving too, you pretty much have to sweet-talk every grad student who could possibly be sharing a space with you. Some people want to be near their adviser's office or their relevant workshops/labs/equipment/whatsits. Some people want to be as far away from those as possible. Perhaps most ridiculously, the TEMPERATURE of the office is a major factor - some people make their offices insular little cubes of heat, while others use the A/C to cryogenically freeze their officemates, so everyone gets a "Hot/Cold" tag and attempts are made to pair likes with likes.

Yes - it is nice that the grad students are in control of these decisions and the department basically lets us go where we want among the designated grad spaces. Yes, it is nice that we all appear to care so much about each others needs. But for the love of god, this is so elabroate that it is discussed months in advance and all research grinds to a halt during the actual process. And most people wind up dissatisfied and grummbling about it for months to follow ANYway. I propose we all line up at the front steps, fire a starter's gun, and sprint pell-mell through the halls: whoever gets to a space first claims it.

So, expect developments in the next few months. And I promise I won't disappear again!

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