Sunday, April 19, 2015

How to Survive in Graduate School: Summer Funding

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm starting a series of posts based on the survival skills that I've learned in graduate school so far. Today I'm going to introduce one secret about graduate school that I wish I had learned: even if you think you have summer funding, you always need to be looking for more summer funding.

For background, last year, I wasn't eligible for summer teaching because I was on a fellowship during the year. So, I received a fellowship during the summer from my department, and I applied for a fellowship from an external source which I was fortunate enough to receive. As such, I was able to travel to Greece for the first time and it was an absolutely amazing summer.

This year, I have been TAing. I planned to stay here at my apartment for the summer so I would have access to the university library while Egnatius and I were studying for our various comprehensive exams. I was told that there was usually enough summer teaching to go around. Unfortunately, it does not look like that is going to be the case this year (although it is difficult to tell). As such, I'm kind of stuck. I applied for two other fellowships as a backup plan-- one was denied because I was not ABD (a stipulation I did not notice on the website) and the other was denied because it was the external fellowship I received last year and they rarely grant the fellowship multiple years in a row in order to spread out the funding. While waiting around to hear about those fellowships, I lingered hoping that one of them or TAing would come through. Afterward, a lot of grants and fellowships I found subsequently had deadlines that had already passed. At the moment I'm stuck with applying for two highly prestigious research fellowships that I'm unlikely to get due to the extremely stiff competition (especially of people who are further along in their PhD programs) and office jobs on campus, which are definitely not my first choice.

An even less appealing option would be to sublet my apartment and move home. Moving home might actually be nice-- I would at least have family, kitties, a dishwasher, and air conditioning (none of which are part of my apartment in grad school). Subletting, however, is a massive nightmare. I sublet last year and it was this horrible game of trying to hook someone who was going to stay for long enough in the apartment to cover my rent while I was gone. We're not allowed to rent our apartments for any more than we're paying for them, which makes it difficult, especially because the rent increases at the beginning of every July so you have to work out some detailed math to explain to the person renting. Moreover, the renter is responsible for any damage that the person subletting might inflict and the people who run campus housing won't help with disputes but they do insist on approving the person subletting and forcing everyone to go through a massive paperwork process.

So here is my advice: the second the summer is over, start looking for funding for the following summer. Some of the more prestigious and desirable fellowships have deadlines in October or November, so it's important to hunt those down. Even more importantly, keep continually searching for alternative possibilities. Bizarre things are constantly popping up all over the place, you just have to find them.

Good luck!

For those of you who are, like me, in the humanities, here are some possible summer funding links (all of these have passed as I post this, but they will be around next year):

Saturday, April 18, 2015

How to Survive in Graduate School: Starting with a Joke

I have now spent two long but great years in graduate school. I have learned a ton of information in my classes. But I've also learned a lot about how to survive the process of graduate school itself. I'm going to write a series of blog posts as I go through graduate school with the hope of helping anyone out there survive the process.

I thought, however, instead of starting with advice, I would start this series with a joke. Two friends of mine (also graduate students) showed me the FAQ: The Snake Fight Portion of Your Thesis Defense. Seriously, this is a great parody. Since I'm going to have to convene an orals board for my masters thesis defense this summer, I thought that this was the perfect thing to post.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Revise and Resubmit

I have not yet even sent anything in for publication. I do, however, hope to do so by the end of this year. One of the professors I became friends with this summer told me to read this: I highly recommend it. I'm hoping it will help when I get excoriated after I send in my piece on Homer (because I know it's coming).

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Homemade Vegitable Stock

Vegetable Refuse (top left), Vegetable Stock (bottom left), Chicken Marsala (right)
You can see that I took this picture myself (without help from the wonderful Servia who has a much better eye and camera than I do).

This post could also be entitled Graduate School Soup or How Not To Waste Your Vegetables.

Not wasting food is something that is generally important to me. But I'm just one person and there are a lot of things that I have to buy in greater bulk than I can eat it (especially because, one of the nice things about graduate school, is that most events have lots of food). So, how does one solve this problem? I find that vegetables are especially tricky because they go bad so fast.

I found my inspiration for making this vegetable broth from Oh My Veggie and Poor Girl Eats Well.

Freezer Bag Vegetable Stock
  • In the weeks before you make the soup, keep a large plastic ziplock in your freezer. When you have vegetable scraps put them in there.  
  • Please note: you want your vegetables scraps to be edible (i.e. not rotting and washed), and to not include things in the cabbage family which will make your broth very bitter.  You can put in things like herbs, but they will change the flavor of your broth, so keep that in mind. I suggest things like green onion ends, carrots that have dried out, etc.
  • You want to make your stock when  you have about 12 cups of vegetables in the freezer.
  • On the day you make your soup, put two tablespoons of olive oil into a broth pot and heat on medium heat.
  • Chop about half a sweet onion, and sautee it in the bottom of the broth pot.
  • When the onion is aromatic and soft, add the 12 cups of vegetables and 12 cups of water.
  • I then simmered the broth for about 3 hours until it became medium brown and stock-like.
  • If you want to make broth, you can season your stock now with salt, pepper, and whatever other herbs you like. However, you don't need to season it if you want stock.
  • When the stock is done, strain it into a bowl. 
  • Ta da! You have your very own stock.
I made a wonderful mushroom risotto with my stock. According to Egnatius, it was the best risotto I've ever made (although part of that may have been that we were gifted some wonderful shitake mushrooms). We ate it so fast that I didn't even take a picture.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Random and Fascinating Things on the Internet

As I'm sure everyone knows by now, I am a devotee of audio books, and especially of Audible. As I was browsing through Audible today looking for my monthly book (I picked Peter Brown's Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD because I'm studying for my Roman History comprehensive and one of the writers is a Late Antique scholar). However, while I was there, I found some other interesting things.

I don't know if I've mentioned Charleton Griffen before; he is one of the narrators that reads a lot of the classics including the Iliad and the Odyssey as well as Livy, Tacitus, and many others. While his readings are conveniently unabridged and great for studying for my history of literature exam, unfortunately I am not the biggest fan of his voice. He read slowly and has an accent I'm not keen on. However, I noticed when I was there that Charleton Griffen also did the reading of the 9-11 Commission. Interestingly, when I looked at that, I realized that not the commission itself, but the audio recordings of the transcripts of the interviews are actually free for all Audible members, which I think is pretty cool.

On a totally separate side note, I have recently become addicted to the History of Philosophy without Any Gaps.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Notes from My First Year as a PhD

The year isn't over yet, but I'm closing in on the finish line. It's been a long but I have really enjoyed (at least parts of) it. I've learned more than I thought possible. Most of it is academic, but I thought that I would share the nonacademic bits.

My first installment will be on recipes-- I've learned a lot about how  to preserve veggies before they go bad.  It should be debuting when I get back from this conference.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Superbowl Fail

I went home for the weekend to visit my parents. Today I made some bread and we had a picnic while watching the Superbowl game. There were a couple of issues.

  • First, it took ages and ages to grind the Kamut flour to make this bread.
  • Then, the gluten structure on the bread didn't develop, so I ended up with a huge bunch of useless dough that it had taken hours to prepare.
  • Finally, Time Warner Cable totally messed up at Fox stopped working. During the Superbowl. Seriously lame. 

However, things ended up improving.
  • I whipped up a heavily modified version of this bread.
  • We watched the Superbowl on Fox Deportes, the Spanish Fox Sports channel. None of us know Spanish, so it was pretty funny. And the commercials were way better when you have no idea what is going on.
  • The picnic was delicious.

Have a happy Superbowl Sunday, everyone. Except you, Time Warner Cable. Go boil your head.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Simple Things: Multigrain Scones

I really have been enjoying graduate school so far. The one thing that I miss is cooking for people. And the fact that I don't have people for whom I can cook means that I need to make things either (1) in small enough portions that they only feed me or (2) make things that can be easily saved for another time.

As such, I have really become fascinated by the simpler foods: things that can be made simply, but still taste delicious. So, here is my first post on the simple things that make me smile.

I loosely adapted these multigrain scones from my favorite white-flour scone recipe. I actually cannot find where the scone recipe originated-- but it might have been something like My First Baking Book. I didn't have any currants, and, in my view, white flour scones without currents are really boring. American scones-- those wedge-shaped frosted things you find in coffee shops-- tend to have all sorts of flavors added to them to combat this problem. I, however, wanted something simple, so I rummaged through my cupboard and tried something out. It worked and I really like them.

The following recipe has many different possible variations. Play around with it! I will put the variations in endnotes so the recipe is easier to follow.

Multigrain Scones (can make between 8 and 16 scones, depending upon the size)

  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour [1]
  • 1/4 cup red whole wheat flour [2]
  • 1/4 cup grains (I used Bob's Red Mill 10 Grain Hot Cereal) [3]
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons (or 1 tablespoon) baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar [4]
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, cold (1/2 of a stick, 4 tablespoons)
  • 3/4 cup milk [5]
  • 1/3 cup currants [6]
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Mix together the flours, grains, salt, baking powder, and sugar in a bowl.
Dry Ingredients
  • Cut the butter into pieces and add it to the mixture. Use a large fork to mix the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is the consistency of bread crumbs.
  • Then add the milk (and optional currants).
  • Mix until a sticky dough forms. If it is not sticky, add more milk. Only mix until the dough forms and all the dry spots are gone. Do not overmix.
Sticky Dough
  •  Drop them onto a pan in chunks between the size of chestnuts (produces about 16) and the size of half a tennis ball (produces about 8). I do not tend to shape my scones. However, you can shape your scones like wedges, like Southern biscuits, or in various other ways.
  • Bake for 15 minutes at 375 degrees F or until they are brown around the edges.
  • Eat within 24 hours. 
  • They can also be frozen to preserve freshness. Wait until they cool completely and then put sets in airtight containers and put in the freezer. You can warm them in a toaster oven directly from frozen (bake at around 325 until hot all the way through and brown on top-- usually 3-4 minutes in my toaster oven). Otherwise, you can thaw them for a few hours and eat them at room temperature.
I really love these scones. They are faster to make than bread and I can freeze a bunch of them and toast them fresh each day.

  1. By this, as per usual, I mean whole wheat flour from white wheat (as opposed to red wheat). You can use either hard or soft wheat for these scones. The harder the wheat, the more dense the texture will be. I tend to use hard wheat because it's what is available to me (as I am restricted to the grocery stores within walking distance). However, soft wheat is generally more flavorful. Beware though, if you use soft wheat, you must reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe. 
  2. If you like the richer nuttier flavor, switch amounts for the red wheat and the white wheat in the recipe, or just make the entire thing red wheat. If you do this, you will have to add a little bit more liquid. If you want lighter/whiter scones, replace this with white flour. 
  3. You can use any multigrain mix which appeals to you (or obviously mix your own). The important thing is the courseness of the grind. You need the pieces of grain to be about the size of an amaranth grain). If you've never seen amaranth, I highly recommend adding it to breads that you plan on toasting, but another reference might be about 1/2 the size of a piece of toasted wheat germ. If it's too big, it will be crunchy. 
  4. If you like sweeter scones, you can add more sugar either into the mix or on top. I sprinkled about half a teaspoon of cinnamon-sugar on the top of each of my apple scones when I made them (replacing the currants with chopped apple). You can also glaze them, if you so desire. Sue has some creative ideas about glazing in her various scone recipes.
  5. I use nonfat milk because I like my scones lighter (and also because it has less calories). However, you can also use any other kind of milk. I made the most recent set (the ones pictured with the currants) with lowfat buttermilk because Servia had some left over from Christmas. They were a little heavier and more tender than the ones that I make at school. If you like heavier scones, try with buttermilk or cream.
  6. Currants are optional. You can also substitute raisins, fresh chopped apple, chopped nuts, dried fruit (cranberries, etc), fresh blueberries, etc. I tried them with chopped apple once and I quite liked them. However, if you want a distinctly apple flavor, you may want to try adding more apple than 1/3 cup or substituting a small portion of the milk with apple juice or apple cider.