Hitting a groove in training

The first time I saw this music video I thought it was cheesy and it made me laugh, but this is the song I’m groovin’ to this Monday.

This is week two of professional staff training at Texas Tech University. Going into this week I’ve had to remind myself that I have to set limits on when I’m working on tasks – work stays at work, home stays at home, and my thesis needs daily attention.  It can be difficult to keep tasks from encroaching on my time, but it’s necessary for my sanity.  It can be easy to get overwhelmed while juggling a job, graduate school, a thesis, summer conferences, and a personal life.

This year I set up the following goals during training:

  • Working out every other day
  • Working on my thesis for an hour each day
  • Practicing yoga three times a week
  • Allowing myself only one hour daily outside of my office times to work on fall tasks
I’ve contacted my thesis advisor to set up more regular meetings to motivate me to stay on schedule.  I’ve set up gym times with friends and cohort members to stay on task with my yoga and exercise goals.  With some accountability and a little discipline, I’m hoping this fall’s training will be successful and less chaotic!  Now that I’ve had a week to figure out my rhythm I’m feeling better about meeting my goals.
How do you groove through training?

TeauxDeaux to the Rescue!

Allow me to introduce the love of my life when I’m feeling tasky: TeauxDeaux.  Created by swissmiss and Fictive Kin, this clean and simple task app is perfect for those who want to escape the confines of messy Microsoft Outlook tasks or written lists that are lost or have to be constantly rewritten or organized.  I was sold on TeaxDeaux when I realized I needed my graduate school and home tasks to be in a separate place, far away from where it could be lost or abandoned in my work task list software.

(note that going to the pool and a winery are tasks on the weekends)

Things I love about this app:

FREE. ‘Nuff said.

Hello, homepage!  It’s web-based.  I can keep this as my homepage on my browser on my laptop.  Each time I’m tempted to leave my paper writing to open a new window to browse Facebook, up pops TeaxDeaux, gloating over my weakness.

Simple.  Remember the speech class acronym KISS?  Keep it Simple, Speaker (or Stupid, depending on which professor you had).  This app is easy to use, easy to edit, and easy to see what you’ve accomplished.  I can check off, delete, move, or edit existing tasks

Someday, over the rainbow… A “someday” section is at the bottom of the page to keep tasks without due dates.  I can always have “organize recipes” on my list, but never have a due date associated with it. No guilt!

It knows when it’s tomorrow.  Automatic rollover of unchecked tasks at midnight means I don’t have to recreate today’s list from yesterday’s unmet tasks.

I don’t need a smartphone to use it.  However, once I get a smartphone my account will sync with mobile version (iPhone only now; Android and Blackberry in the works).  You can also access multiple accounts with the iPhone app – share lists, separate work and school tasks, or keep a hidden list for world domination.

Check out the videos to see how it works – I hope you love it as much as I deaux!

Google RSS made easy with the “Next” button

RSS feeds are a great tool to skim through condensed information – I’ve used Google Reader for several months and have found that it’s a good way to sweep through a lot of information in a short amount of time, say, while drinking my morning coffee.  This was especially handy when I am required to read through The Chronicle of Higher Education or Higher Ed Live for graduate classes – get the headlines, a few keywords, and know when to dive in deeper into an article.  However, I felt like the reader interface was clumsy when it came to photos in some posts (photoblogs are plain ugly in GR), and reading just the text of an article when I knew the website design was lovely (like at design*sponge) was similar to eating a Twinkie when a designer bakery cupcake was three feet away.

Sometimes a website needs to be viewed in its natural environment – the website the blogger, designer, or editors created for their content.  How frustrating is it to feel like you have to click on a link when everything is supposed to be easy to glimpse over in GR?

No more of this tension, friends.  Simply visit your Google Reader Settings under “goodies” to add some ease back into your life.

Just drag the “Next >>” and “Subscribe…” links to your bookmark bar.  Easy peasy.

The Next Button: click on it and it takes you to the next blog on your GR list. This allows more context during your reading – see the site design, updates, menus, and ways to contact the author(s).

The Subscribe Button: Find a blog or website you want to add to the list? No more copy/go into GR/paste into subscription box. Click it and know it’s there.

These are amazing tools – see if they work for you and your browsing style.  As whoorl mentions in her post about GR, “People, it’s like old school blog-hopping with with a side of modern convenience.” How can you argue with that?

The best part? When you finish reading, you reach the end of the internet as your GR knows it:

Bonus: this video is a little long, but you should really see this Google Reader share how he goes through 600+ posts armed only with the “j” and “k” buttons (and a dose of skill on how to skim and look for tags and keywords).

The Dangers of French Press

(picture courtesy of BODUM

I am a coffee addict; so much so that I will wrap my leaky to-go coffee tumblers in ziploc bags for my bicycle commute across campus.  This ensures that my beverage, regardless of unavoidable leaks from the tumbler, can be poured back into the cup.  A peripheral benefit is that me and my backpack aren’t soaked in precious coffee when I get to work.

My thesis advisor is an addict like me.  She has wisely recommended that I adopt her writing practice: write in the mornings, and once you’ve completed your goal time or word count you can reward yourself with a latte.  Genius!  She was certain this is how she got through her PhD program, so I tried it.  I was successful for about a week.  Writing for my thesis this summer has been difficult; I’ve either had too much on my plate with an accelerated online course and work or I was on vacation and chose not to be diligent in my thesis tasks. I was also sans coffee most of vacation (I made a switch to loose leaf tea), which threw me off my usual routine.

However, while on vacation last week I found a small French Press in the depths of my parents’ kitchen cabinets – a new way to make coffee!  After seeing how much I liked it, my mom graciously offered their press.  This has led to a deeper addiction and motivation for thesis writing, my friends.  Whether you’re into coffee or tea, you need to look into a BODUM press.  If you aren’t into either, make sure you find a way to motivate or reward yourself – shaking up my usual “reward” has been a fun change (and I’m writing more, too).

Music Monday: Phantogram

This morning I’m listening to Phantogram – great running tunes and get-my-day-started music. Enjoy!

Bespectacled

Welcome to graduate school: a land of poor posture where one is consistently perfecting the art of hunching over books, archives, laptops, and hurriedly-eaten meals. It’s an environment in which I thought it was okay to wear my contact lenses for a month straight (hey, the FDA approved my type of lenses for this use, so it can’t be bad, right?).  It’s a setting that resulted in a few sleepless nights, eye strain, and using eye drops to make it through long sessions in front of a computer screen or book.  Add in the typical Lubbock, TX weather (hot and dry with sand-blasty wind) and I got the beginnings of an eye infection (why was I was surprised?).

My eyeballs needed a break, but I still needed to see!  Trying to go anywhere beyond my bed without eyewear would result in Mr. Magoo-like circumstances. I hated wearing my old glasses because of the poor fit and styling, but I was on opthamologist’s orders to stay away from contacts for a while. On top of this, my glasses were unused for so long that I had never bothered to update them from my old prescription. I also needed a solution that would be quick and friendly to my graduate student budget.

Glasses are expensive, and when considering the full impact of the manufacturing and assembly process I decided on a few guidelines I wanted in my glasses purchase:

  • Cost: affordable and durable
  • Considerate of the economic and ecological impact: I did a little informal (aka Google) research on frame assembly. Many optical frames are created and assembled in factories that do not treat workers in a way that I want to support with my purchase. I like to “vote with my dollar.”
  • Style: I was after a retro, bolder style without nose pads.
  • Bonus: I want to be wooed by a company that does good. I want to buy from a company that is honest about what they do and what their values are.

Enter Warby Parker, which I found via a lovely post from Kirsten of Triple Max Tons.

Warby Parker is company that offers vintage-inspired frames (primarily online) for $95, including prescription lenses. With each pair sold, WP makes a donation to VisionSpring to assist low-income women so that they can sell affordable glasses in their communities.  Besides doing good with your purchase, you get free shipping, free anti-reflective lenses, and great customer shipping. Get up to five frames at a time for a free, 5-day try-on period. Add an admissible $30 for thinner lenses for those of you with stronger prescriptions and you’re still getting a great product for a great price.  After getting my Warby Parker glasses (the “Japhy” model) I was certain the company and product fit my guidelines – they weren’t what I was looking for originally but I’m glad I stumbled upon them!

**My opinions are my own and I have not been compensated in any way to publish this review of Warby Parker. I just gotta share the love.**

12 Things I Wish I Had Known About Graduate School

  1. You thought you knew there would be less money, but there really is less money.
  2. You should have bought your own espresso machine sooner.
  3. The APA manual is your friend. Purdue OWL is your BFF.
  4. Listen. Don’t talk so much.
  5. Stop listening. Talk more.
  6. Time management (and the legendary state of balance) is in the eye of the beholder.
  7. Write. Write early. Write often.
  8. Be intentional.
  9. Know when to be disciplined.
  10. Know when not to care.
  11. Remember what’s important. Remember why you’re here.
  12. It will be over soon. Make the most of it.
I’m halfway done with my graduate program and reflecting on the year. What do you wish you had know about graduate school (or a challenge you took on)?

Scholarships for the Majority

Last night, one of my colleagues posted an article on Twitter spotlighting a newly-formed, non-profit group called The Former Majority Association for Equality.  According to their website, the group is starting to accept donations to fund five $500 scholarships for students with a GPA of 3.0 or greater and who are “caucasian, male, demonstrate a commitment to education, and substantiate financial need.”

Understandably, there have been many negative reactions to this group and their scholarship plans, mainly on the basis that the scholarship is aimed at white men – creating opportunity for a group that already benefits from many privileges in our society.  To many, this does not seem fair when the less privileged are already trying to play catch-up.  Some responders to the scholarships have pointed out that the FMAE is showing little understanding of the meaning of minority status or of privilege – that while white men may be a minority in Texas, they certainly aren’t underrepresented.

Here’s the real question, though: who should have an opportunity to go to college?  Our culture isn’t in a place where all scholarships can based on merit, potential, or worth alone (yet).  Plenty of scholarships are awarded to a multitude of students with varying racial and ethnic heritage, financial situations, and interests because there are too many obstacles that can get in the way of any student who is interested in attending an institution of higher education.  Even if we could strip away our students’ GPA, test scores, strengths, and background or give everyone an equal starting point, navigating through financial aid is confusing and complicated. (If you have the time, you should look at this post, written in response to the FMAE from a self-described “college success professional” – it is helpful in understanding what this process can look like.)

It was frustrating to read that one of the FMAE members felt “excluded” when he was applying for colleges; it seemed as if he didn’t realize the privileges he already holds as a white male.  At the same time, I’ve heard this statement from several of my white students in three states over four institutions, which leads me to think this isn’t an uncommon feeling.  As a student affairs professional in Texas, I have interacted with plenty of white male students who agree with this – but does this mean that this individual’s experience is not valid?  If white men are noticing that they are having a hard time getting financial aid, why shouldn’t they form a group that wants to meet this need?

While I am conflicted about these scholarships, I am impressed with the individuals who saw a need, created a means to address it and gained publicity for their efforts.  While these students may not face the same obstacles as non-white, non-males, they had the drive to create opportunity for others, and that is something I must applaud.

 

Covet: The Graduate School Stuff

I’m a picky consumer.  I can’t always describe what aesthetic I’m looking for, but like most folks, I like my stuff to be functional, visually appealing and help me operate better. These are the items that made the cut over the past six months as I began my time in graduate school:

grad school reviews

  • Timbuk2 HAL 17″ laptop backpack – This bag was a replacement for my faithful Jansport backpack from 2002. It was time to move on, and I’ve moved to greener pastures. This fits my laptop, several textbooks, a 3″ binder, Nalgene, wallet, to-go bag from the food court, hat and gloves and my pencil bag while maintaining a slim profile. If this is too big for your taste, try the 15″ model. I have a fairly slender frame so I was careful to pick a bag that wouldn’t make me feel or look top-heavy.
  • Weekly calendar - I love this calendar’s format – a time slot for every fifteen minutes from 7am to 8pm helps me keep meetings and tasks organized by time. If I weren’t switching my calendar to iCal and Google Calendar I would still buy one every year.
  • Sharpie pens – I’ve always been a fan of Sharpie, and these fine-tipped pens are no exception. They don’t bleed through pages (very handy in notebooks and textbooks) and they come in a small range of colors. There is also a newly available medium-point if you like a chunkier script.
  • Lip balm – I can’t get over this lip balm. It smells and tastes like a lemon Starburst, contains sunscreen, and is neither waxy or filmy when applied. The egg shape is easy to find in a bag or purse, and it can easily be opened and applied with gloves or mittens on your hands in winter.
  • Macbook Pro – I have to make sure I back up my data once in a while, because my life is on this computer. Photos, calendar, work and personal email, graduate papers and syllabi all live on this slim laptop. I’ve grown up with Mac computers and have always had PCs at work, but I continue to buy Apple products for home use.
  • Writersblok Notebooks – Slim notebooks in assorted sizes and colors without annoying spiral binding (spiral binding always manages to get bent or caught on something in backpacks); pick from blank, ruled or graphed pages. Writersblok contributes part of their proceeds towards literacy programs in the USA and you can choose to buy regular paper or bamboo pages.
  • Goodbyn Lunch Box – This is on my wish list after seeing it at Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon. A slim profile, sections to keep food from needing plastic baggies to stay separate, and bpa-free recyclable plastic make this a winner. I know it’s for kids, but grown ups need un-squished lunches too!
  • Silicone Keyboard cover – Let’s be honest – almost everyone eats or drinks at the computer nowadays. Protect your keyboard from crumblies with this silicone cover – easy to lift away and clean, and it comes in colors or clear varieties for less than $5.
  • LG EnV2 cell phone – I await the day my husband and I upgrade to smartphones (iPhones all the way!). Until then, the trusty LG EnV2 with Verizon has been working splendidly for two years despite my clumsy fingers (multiple drops), Portland rain, and a well-utilized unlimited texting plan. The battery lasts for almost a week with fairly heavy text and call use, which I will miss the most whenever the smartphone upgrade happens.
  • Tucano Microfiber Laptop sleeve - I said at the beginning of this post that I am picky. It’s true. My husband wanted me to buy a laptop case after my family chipped in and gave me the Macbook Pro so it could be protected. It took me two months to find what I wanted, but this sleeve is a winner! Neoprene sleeves are everywhere on the market, but it smells awful and looks funny when worn from use, so this microfiber sleeve was a great alternative. I love that the computer is protected by an extra “lip” of fabric so the zipper doesn’t scratch the computer. It comes with a cloth that covers the keyboard (to keep finger smudge on the keyboard from transferring to your screen when it is closed) and comes in several colors. This sleeve isn’t going to protect the computer from drops, but it’s great for keeping it clean and cushioned in a laptop compartment of a larger bag.

What items helped you through your time in school? What do you think this type of list will look like in 5, 10, or 15 years?

walk in the park

On New Year’s Day my husband and I were in Springfield, Missouri visiting his parents. While Corbin and his mom went on a lunch date, my father-in-law and I went on a walk with their dog, Chekotah, the Great-Pyrenese/Shepard mix the size of a Shetland pony.

happy dogs chase squirrels and swim in ponds

It was really fun to spend time with my FIL and the dog-in-law.  We walked over two miles, then had lunch at Panera Bread (Chekotah waited impatiently in the truck) and talked over coffee.  My husband comes from a good family and it was good to spend some quality time together.

what's that?!?

oh boy! a squirrel!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

wheeeeeeee!

Living closer to family would be great, but until then I need a dog ASAP.

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