Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Cover that up

I recently mentioned that I ordered two new swimsuits for all of the lounging by the pool and beach that I plan to do this summer with my newfound free time. One of the suits arrived right away and I've already worn it swimming once and sunbathing a couple of times. With the second suit, I received the bottom half pretty quickly, but I soon learned that the top was on back order until the end of May. I arrived home from work today, happy to see a package from Victoria's Secret. I assumed that it was my long lost bikini top, and I eagerly ripped into the package. Instead of the berry and khaki halter top that I anticipated, I found a tent-like, khaki swim skirt, suitable for someone at least 50 or older. (Really? From Victoria's Secret?) The weird thing is that the swim skirt somewhat matches the bikini that I ordered.

So this is my question: is this an honest shipping mistake or is Victoria trying to send me a not-so-subtle message?

Monday, May 26, 2008

She was no hypocrite in a pouffy white dress

This past weekend Brad and I attended our first of five weddings this year and the 2008 nuptial season for us, at least, began with a new twist. The bride wore fuchsia. And she looked stunning.

I learned months ago that my friend planned to buck the tradition of wearing white (or a version of it) and I couldn't help but think of this book. Hypocrite in a pouffy white dress she was not and we loved her all the more for it. While most of those in attendance knew about the fuchsia wedding dress in advance, not everyone did. So it was a little humorous to see looks of shock wash across a few faces when she began to walk down the aisle. She was a beautiful bride and the bright hue of her dress truly reflected her radiance and joy. It was a perfect choice for them.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


The students are gone! Today marks my first day of peace at work... until August and it all begins again.

Maybe I'll have more time to blog now... or catch up on my celebrity gossip sites to get my Brangelina and Britney fix. I'm desperately behind on Hollywood news.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Oops, it happened again...

I recently received a beautiful, expensive, professionally printed invitation to a graduation party and guess what? The person who authored the invitation was confused about proper apostrophe usage. Or she failed to proofread. I've written about apostrophe confusion before, but let me share the most recent infraction with you, dear readers, so you can avoid making this same mistake.

A family of four is hosting a party for a recent graduate. The invitation listed, among other details, the following information:
Location - The Smith's

What is the problem here? There are four Smith family members who live in the house. Therefore, I believe the location should be listed as the following:
The Smiths'
The Smiths' House (Apartment, Mansion, insert proper descriptor here)

Plural possessive instead of singular possessive... am I correct here?

I read a student's paper recently and to my horror, I saw the following:

"We plan to administer survey's to approximately 100 student's. We ask that all participant's have at least two year's of experience working with young children...."

My eyes nearly popped out of my head. Every sentence was like that and I am not even joking. I almost pulled my hair out, one long blond strand at a time. I went ballistic with my red pen. How can a 19-year-old aerospace engineering major make such mistakes? This kid is also an honors student and he scored a 1400 on the SAT! Even engineers need to write well, but they must not enforce proper grammar usage in science courses. Unbelievable!

My advice? Carefully scrutinize every apostrophe to make sure you are using it correctly. Those little suckers will get you every time.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Gardening in the City

I've mentioned before that I'm slightly obsessed with plants and gardening. Someday I will fill my own yard with hydrangea, lilac, and peony bushes as well as a host of other plants and flowers. In the meantime though, I make do during the warm months with my flower pots on our deck. Here is a picture of my handiwork thus far:

Our rooftop deck gets so hot in the summer that most types of flowers require daily care. Every morning before work, I water the plants and pluck the dead blossoms. I love spending a few minutes on the deck every morning; it's so beautiful and the moments of peace and quiet usually get my day off to a good start. Experience has taught me that petunias can survive hot weather and direct sun pretty well, so they are my featured flower this year. We'll see how long they last!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Free? Sign us up!

Now that Brad is no longer a Capitol Hill staffer, he's legally allowed to accept free dinners, tickets, golf, etc. from some of his lobbyist connections. He has taken full advantage of this new perk over the last six weeks in that he's enjoyed a number of meals and golf last Friday for FREE. Today, he was offered tickets to this black-tie event on Saturday night. And we're going! For FREE! And it's so close to where we live that we may even walk there! We've wanted to attend this event for a number of years, but the tickets are pricey so we've always decided not to go. But not only are we attending this event for free, I'm also thrilled to death that because I'm done with school, we have the freedom to be spontaneous and make last minute plans. This would not have happened one year ago. But now I have free time. And I need to find a dress, pronto!

Propose this!

Today marks the one-year anniversary of my dissertation proposal defense. One year ago today at this time, I was sweating it out, alone in a small conference room with my five ruthless committee members, trying desperately to explain the rationale behind every little decision I (and my advisor, mind you) had made at that point about my research when I really just felt like screaming, "I REALLY DON'T CARE! JUST TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT AND I'LL DO IT. I'LL DO ANYTHING TO GRADUATE. JUST LET ME OUT OF HERE!!!!"

After they finished grilling me for just over an hour (which isn't bad... some defenses last the entire two hours), I felt relieved to be dismissed to the hallway while the committee debated my future behind closed doors. I had to overcome the humiliation of waiting in the hallway by myself (proposals are private, meaning that you're alone with your committee and while you wait for their decision; final defenses are public, so I had the company of others to distract me, thank goodness!). I tried to appear nonchalant as students and other faculty passed me in the hallway, gawking at my dressed-up appearance and obviously wondering what I was doing just standing there. I only waited about five or ten minutes, which isn't long at all, but it felt like years to me.

Such are the trials of doctoral students.

But I made it. I survived the nitpicking at the proposal defense and the hazing comments about certain committee members feeling "dismayed" or "disappointed" when they realized that I made a different choice than they would have. I survived the awkward waiting period in the hallway. My advisor had prepped me to be "open to suggestions and willing to make changes", but when I was too accommodating to their requests, they chided me for not treating this time together as a true defense and for not standing up for myself and my decisions. They wanted me to argue with them more. Sometimes you just can't win.

But I did win because I am D-O-N-E and I am truly enjoying celebrating the anniversary of every single milestone. May 14, 2007 was a beautiful day; it was sunny and warm and I passed my proposal defense. But May 14, 2008 is an even better day because I know that I will never have to do it again!

Monday, May 5, 2008

A Day on the Job with Dr. Blondie

Being attracted to myriad careers that usually end up sounding MUCH more glamorous than they really are, I often wonder what people in different professions actually do all day. While I understand basically what their fields entail, I often question how people fill their 8+ hour work days. Just in case you've ever wondered what an Assistant Director of an undergraduate honors research program does all day, here's a snapshot of how my week began:
  • I co-teach a one-credit research topic formation course for freshmen and we have only one (!!!) class left this semester. I supervise a staff of 12 undergraduate student Section Leaders (similar to undergraduate teaching assistants), who help me manage the 140+ students in the course. I spent some time this morning preparing for our last staff meeting of the year (which is tomorrow morning at 8:15 a.m.). I sent e-mail reminders to various folks for things that they need to bring to/prepare for the meeting. I also reminded two students to bring breakfast in the morning (my rule is that Section Leaders who slack off on the job bring breakfast for the staff at the next meeting... I think that I've been served breakfast at approximately half of the meetings this semester!).
  • The freshmen in the class that I co-teach just formed into 12 research teams, which I will advise for the next three years. I spent the rest of my morning establishing files and records for these new teams (contact info rosters, potential meeting times, potential faculty mentors, liaison information, etc.), which involved entirely too much busy work, but are tasks that are crucial to getting me organized and "up and running" with the new teams.
  • I also updated my database with the names of students who are interested in applying to be Section Leaders next year for the spring course that I teach so that I can stalk them when I begin the hiring process for next year. (more busy work)
  • My boss and I took four of our faculty mentors to lunch to discuss the progress of their undergraduate research teams (bonus = free lunch at the restaurant on campus). I received updates about the four teams that are: trying to pinpoint the everyday impediments to using solar panels (they've designed an experimental study and they've mounted solar panels on top of the engineering building on campus); attempting to develop a type of driveway/pavement sealant that will melt snow; studying the effects of yoga on attention; exploring the relationship between mainstream and specialized universities and work readiness and communication skills among deaf students. As you can see just from these four examples alone, our research teams explore a wide range of topics. It's fun for me in that I learn a little about a lot of random things! This year, I've worked with 37 research teams (11 senior, 14 junior, and 12 sophomore), so you can imagine that it's a bit crazy trying to keep up with all of them (especially because all three cohorts are at different points in the research process)!
  • The sophomore teams have their web sites due to me very soon, so I spent almost 90 minutes reviewing and critiquing web sites for two teams. And let me tell you, I had to rewrite almost every sentence on one of the web sites because of the webmaster's extremely poor grammar. Although he's an aerospace engineering major with most likely a 1450+ on the SAT, apostrophe usage really baffled him. Don't underestimate the plural versus possessive dilemma (more about this later).
  • Some sophomore teams are also preparing their Institutional Review Board (IRB) applications because they are conducting research with human subjects. As the program's liaison to the IRB, I review and critique all applications before signing them and sending them off for approval. I critiqued one application today, which basically means that I look for holes in the team's research study, nitpick the study's logistical plans, and try to make sure that team is protecting the confidentiality of all participants as best as possible.
  • I spent some time with my boss bemoaning the sorry state of a couple of our junior teams that are way behind where they should be right now. He crafted (and I proofed) some strongly-worded e-mails to the teams' faculty mentors to communicate our concern and to motivate them to do something about it.
  • I prepared a few projects for our student office workers (copying, filing, etc.) to complete when they come in tomorrow.

Today was an odd day in that I didn't have any meetings with students. During the semester at least, I usually meet with students daily regarding questions or problems that they're having with their team or their team's progress. This frequent student contact can be both good and bad... good if I feel that I'm helping and the student is sweet about whatever his or her issue is and bad if a student just wants to scream at me. Luckily the tantrums are few, but I do experience them every now and then. Who knew that 18-22 year olds could still throw a killer tantrum?

And there you have it... a day in the life of a college honors program administrator. Now if I could write this blog or read fiction all day for a living, THAT would be a glamorous career.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Magnificent May

Gentle Readers:

Just a quick note to point out that today is the first day of one of my two favorite months of the year. I do love May and June more than I can ever possibly explain. The school year is coming to a close, I see beauty outside every place I look, and the weather is mild and growing warmer by the day. Summer is right around the corner. My heart is happy. I hope that yours is too!

Dr. Blondie