Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Little Light Reading

A few years ago (I could tell you exactly what year but I am a charter member of Recovering Perfectionists Anonymous - whoops!) I read a book called Popular Crime: Reflections on the Celebration of Violence by Bill James, which I found on the new book shelf at the library.  Being consumed with stress, worry, and anxiety about teaching, parenting, and applying to grad school, I decided to reread the book as some "light reading."

If reading pages and pages and pages about serial killers doesn't distract you from your current worries, I don't know what will.

Of course then you have new worries.

Anyway, I remembered the book as being very well-written: clever, funny, with analysis of famous crimes in the past and comments on our judicial system, both past and present. However, I couldn't really remember the way the book ended, and I suspect that is why I wanted to reread it.

Now I know.  For some reason, his editor let him endlessly write about serial killers, way beyond anyone's ability to take it anymore. At one point, he even comments that he will meet with his editor and decide which ones to take out later, but I am not convinced that meeting ever happened. What this section is missing is his analysis, and it becomes a little like looking at billboards along a highway from a speeding car. Each new paragraph is a billboard of yet another serial killer I've never heard of with a cursory summary of the crimes committed.  I honestly didn't know there WERE that many! Like I said, new worries.

At the end of the serial killer section, he does give us some analysis on how these kinds of cases are solved, and that is interesting and worthwhile. By then I was feeling a little numb, however.

The best part of the end is the analysis of the JonBenet Ramsey case, which I paid no attention to as it was occurring, so I didn't know any of the details. It seems clear that the Ramseys were not involved and I hope someday they figure out who did it.

On the whole, worthwhile reading if you can stomach it. Oh, and Lizzie Borden? Innocent.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Next Step

Why did I take the GRE? Aside from the reason that anyone pays money and spends good time to be tortured by crazy standardized test go to graduate school. Specifically, in my case, because I want to get a PhD in how people learn languages. In some schools this specialization is in the education department, in others, the linguistics department, and other schools have a special second language studies department. It made figuring out which universities to apply to quite challenging!

Over the summer I narrowed it down to eight, then eliminated two of those, and now it's back up to eight because I added two different schools. The first four deadlines are the middle of December. All of these universities are significantly north of where I currently live - if you know me, you know I've been wanting to move north for quite a while!

I am currently trying to lock down my third recommendation, hopefully my thesis adviser from my MA program, and then I need to order a whole bunch of transcripts and start working on my personal statements. (Well, I already have a generic first draft, but it needs to be personalized for each school.) Yesterday I revised my resume, which I hadn't touched since 2010, so there was a lot to add.

All of this on top of teaching and taking care of six children! Why am I blogging?! I must go do some of this!

Hej då!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Random Thoughts About the GRE

There's an odd symmetry here: I first took the GRE almost exactly twenty years ago.

However, now it's entirely different. In 1993, I took it on paper in a big lecture hall with a bunch of other people on the timer's schedule. In 2013, it's an adaptive, computer-based test that I took at my own pace (I skipped my ten minute break) at a cubicle with about five layers of security watching me. I had to wait about six weeks for my scores way back when, all the while having no idea how I did because it was the oddest standardized test I'd ever taken. Today, I got my scores as soon as I finished.

I was nervous/concerned about the reading comprehension parts, which I'd been having trouble with on the practice tests. But I studied and worked and kept practicing and got better. I was also nervous about the math.  But I could tell myself, "You've always done well on standardized tests. Relax!" and I did, mostly. This made me feel lots of compassion for people who don't test well or have test anxiety. Each negative experience reinforces the anxiety about testing. I really wish high-stakes testing was not part of our culture!

The person who escorted me to my cubicle motioned towards headphones and said they were for noise.  "Noise?" I thought. What noise? Umm, will there be four boys arguing in the background? Will a certain five year old be pitching his daily fit over nothing? Will the phone be ringing every five minutes with a telemarketer? Will Thor suddenly decide to chase Loki across the house, banging into things and knocking things down? Will daughters be interrupting me with urgent questions? Will the TV be blaring Pokémon in the background? No? Well then, there's no noise. Seriously? I think I can deal with hearing someone breathe and someone walk around to check I'm not cheating. Yeah, pretty sure.

In fact, taking the GRE was like taking a mini-vacation. Except my brain wasn't on vacation.  But I could sit there and concentrate and no one would interrupt me unless the building was in flames. NO ONE! I'm sorry but, DO YOU UNDERSTAND HOW NICE THAT IS???? I sat in that chair for 4 hours. It was lovely. Especially when the test adjusted and gave me an easier second math section. It's better when I can actually understand what the question is asking.

I was elated when I figured out that I had scored in the 99th percentile for the verbal section. I had a 45 minute drive home and the first twenty minutes I was all, "Hey! I'm done earlier than I thought! I could stop at Target and buy that stuff for school! I could get a treat! I could...." and then the fatigue hit and I thought, "I stilllll have to drrrrriiiiveee twen.....tyyyyyy more....whatever those things are called....minnnnnnutes....home...."

But when I got home, I had two treats waiting for me: Beowulf (oldest son) was on the phone and...Kriemhildsdotter had made me brownies!!!!

On to the next phase of applying to graduate school!