Updating Social Media

This morning, I worked on updating my social media information. Yes, yes, I know I should be deleting my Facebook account because of all the crud going on with political groups, companies, and nations accessing my personal data, but I am not going to. A social media presence is too important.

There is another approach I am going to take: I’m going to start tweaking my social media information to better reflect who I am in the most accurate way possible. None of my friends or family members are nuts or espouse crazy political beliefs. A couple are pro-gun and a couple are anti-gun. A couple are libertarians and a couple are leftists. Most of them are pretty middle of the road like I am and most talk about their families and careers like I do.

Today, I updated all the places I’ve lived since 1977 on Facebook. I don’t remember all the dates before then. I was pretty young in the 70s. Next I’ll be updating my employment history information. Once I have that down, I’ll start doing the same on LinkedIn.

I started on Facebook way early and while I did loads of the silly stuff that was there like the surveys and top ten lists, I noticed that there started to be a lot of things on Facebook that other people were putting there that could be dangerous. I started being cautious. I don’t post everything that’s going on in my life over there. In fact I stayed away from it for quite a while, especially when I lost quite a lot of friends when I congratulated President Obama for winning and trumpeted my intent to vote third party when Trump and Hillary were running.

The way I am going to treat it now is as if it (social media) were my professional presence and I will keep all my personal beliefs to my self.

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Maybe 10 Minutes of Blogging Will Do

Today is one of those days I wish I could just sit and write. It’s raining outside. I love rain and treasure it. We’re gonna get rain here in Utah for only another month or so and then we’ll get nothing until September.

The rain we’re getting smells just so good, but all my homework and study needs keeps me from sitting next to a window and writing. I just spent three hours catching up on my French homework (no deadline on this work). I did some financial aid. I did some research for a paper I need to finish outlining by the end of this weekend (I should be okay). I also did some exercise so I can reverse my getting fatter habits.

But I have written anything important all week. I’ve written an essay a day all through spring break, except last night when I got to fight with a backed up toilet for three hours. Essays are nice, but the essays part of my GRE prep regime.

I need to write a poem or outline a short story or brainstorm a novella. Something. Nope. I got reading to do for the rest of the night. I’ve got academics who’ve been dead for decades calling for attention and demanding grey-matter.

I guess I’ll have to put it off some more. I read about some of the complaints people have for MFA student about how they are forced to write. I love the idea. I can’t wait. Before I started school in the fall, I was writing a hiaku or a tanka a day and posting them to twitter. I haven’t done that since August, but in August I had a poetry class to write for. Not this semester. I have a lit class, a rhetoric class, a philosophy class, and two French classes. Nothing that demands creative attention.

I’d love to have an MFA workshop whip snapping behind me. I’d love to sit next to the window and write for me, the cosmos, my grand-kids, God, and maybe no one.

MFA Search: Week One

For the last week, I’ve been looking twenty universities that I am interested in applying to. After examining the schools for one week, here are the top twelve schools:

  1. University of Wyoming
  2. Vanderbilt University
  3. Oregon State University
  4. Syracuse University
  5. Portland State University
  6. University of Florida
  7. Virginia Tech
  8. University of Virginia
  9. University of Oregon, Eugene
  10. Florida State University
  11. Virginia Commonwealth University
  12. University of South Florida

These are ranked by ease of application & application requirements and what living near campus will be like. I looked at cost of living, funding levels, how much it will cost for me to move there, rent, distances to shopping & the VA, and convenience of social activities I’m interested in (comic book shops and used book shops).

To be honest, this is all easy stuff to look at. I now have to look carefully at the programs, classes offered, faculty publications, campus publications, faculty reputations, alumni publications, and urban data dealing with crime targeting students. This is going to take some time and is honestly the most important aspects of my MFA program search.

Where to Study

I can’t study at home. It’s impossible really and stupid. The reason is simple, I’m a grandpa and when I’m at home, I’m in charge of the grandkids. A blessing to be sure, but a curse as well. A three year old and a five year old make studying rough and since it’s spring break right now, my normal schedule is all topsy-turvy.

To solve this, I’ve tried to study in a few different places.

Orem City Library. I went to the local library to study, thinking that would be a great place to go. Unfortunately, Orem City is using the library this week to showcase the city’s plan for the next twenty years. A couple hundred people showed up and none of them were quiet. It got so bad, I decided to relocate to the McDonald’s across the road. When I was walking out, I came across a group of protesters that oppose some new, high-density, student housing going up near campus. I love protest, but these protesters were using false information and scare tactics to gather signatures to first stop work on the development and put the issue to a referendum. To say the least, I argued with them. I also complained to the library about the protesters blocking people’s access to the library. Eventually the protesters were moved.

McDonald’s. McDonald’s is not that bad a place to study. I got some food and a fountain drink and then started to work. The problem was the manager was not too happy I was there taking up table space and made her displeasure known by cleaning my table every ten to twenty minutes. I got nothing done.

UVU Food Court. Even though it is spring break, campus is still open (except the library, they’ve truncated their hours making it impossible for me to study), so I am sitting under the tv screen writing this. The problem is the custodians don’t want me here. They tried to boot me, but I told them to blow: the food court is closed because all the students are gone because of spring break. They complained to their supervisor and she came over to talk to me. I promised to be gone by midnight and to clear my own table (easy enough, I brought a PB&J in a paper bag and a 2 liter of Coke Zero). Five minutes later, the volume on the TVs got jacked up. I’m listening to MSNBC, Fox, and CNN all at once.

I’m not giving up. I’m going to fight through. I just wish the grandkids hadn’t killed my headphones.

More GRE Practice and the Beginning of a Study Plan

I just wrote another practice essay. This one was about how to make the “Central Plaza” safe from skateboarders and better for shoppers (answer: the problem isn’t skateboarders). I had my biggest word total: 693 words in thirty minutes. I’m pretty happy about that, but I have a lot more to do of course.

Right now, all I’m going to do is practice the essays since that is pretty easy, but once finals are over this semester, I am going to start work on the rest of the test. I don’t think any one requires poets and cartoonists to do all that well on the quantitative section, but they do on the verbal section. One school I’ve seen requires a 161 on the verbal section and a 4.5 on the combined essay section. I’m pretty sure they feel poets are lucky to count up to five using both hands. The problem is I used to be a physics major and I’ve worked as a manager before. I think I can to well on the quantitative section as well.

So, starting during the second week of May, I am going to start a 100 day count down to the GRE. I’m going to buy one of those books from B&N and start cranking it out.

The biggest motivator I think to success is the fact that many schools offering partial funding or teaching assistant-ships base their decisions in part on the applicants GRE score. I’ve got to be funded when I go to school. I don’t want any more debt and I don’t want to starve (too much, I could deal with a little weight loss). My GRE score needs to be pretty good.

Grad School: MFA in Comic Studies

This weekend, after doing home work, I spent some time looking further into the different MFA programs I am interested in to determine which ones to apply to. Only a few nationwide are in schools that have comic studies classes available. Even then, those programs are only for undergrads. The Center for Comics Study does have a comics MFA, but it isn’t funded at any level, so it’s not a program I am interested in.

The school that looks the most promising is Virginia Commonwealth University, but its connection to comic studies seems pretty vague. I’m going to spend some time and check it out further, but right now it seems pretty weak sauce.

Google tells me the Universities of Florida and Oregon have some sort of connection to comic studies, but the MFA programs do not seem to be connected to their comic studies programs at all. This is a problem.

Comics and Graphic Novels are an important part of American literature in particular and a part of the literature of many other nations as well, but for some reason, no one is taking it very seriously. In the US anyway. There are a few programs in England, but I can’t attend those because I am quite poor and I do not want to go into any more debt than I have to. Starving during my masters and probable PhD will be alright since the schools I want to go to are funded, meaning I won’t accrue more debt unless I take out a loan. If I go to the University of Dundee for comic studies, I’d pile up debt in a hurry.

Blah. I’m going to work it really hard and see if I can come with a connection. If I can’t, I’ll pursue the MFA anyway and then work on comic studies once I’ve graduated.

GRE Essay Questions

I’ve noticed a pattern in how I am answering the argument questions compared to the issue questions. I can start writing about the issues right from the start, but I have to spend quite a bit of time dissecting the language of the argument questions. I am spending a too much time thinking through the arguments instead of writing.

My longest argument essay is five hundred words and my shortest is four hundred and twenty five words. All of my issue essays are over five hundred and fifty words. The next part of the pattern is that I have only ever finished my conclusion in the argument essay once out of three attempts, but I have always finished my issue essays and have had time to review my writing for obvious mistakes.

This blows and logic sucks.

It is a really good thing I have started practicing this stuff now instead of later or even worse: right before the test.

Spring Break: Whatever

Spring break started yesterday right after I left my French conversation class. Yeah right. My spring break has nothing to do with doing the fun stuff normally associated with “spring break.” First of all, I’m too old for that crap. I’m 49. It would be way creepy for me to show up to a beach some place and party with all the young-uns running around doing stupid stuff even if I probably would rock a wet t-shirt contest.

Nope. None of that. I’ve got way too much homework.

  • I have an outline for a philosophy term paper to create (I already turned in the abstract and annotated bibliography, so I’ve already done a bunch of the leg work).
  • I have an outline for a rhetoric term paper to create (this one is based on three smaller papers I already wrote for this class, so not hard either).
  • I have a paper to write for my French class that has to be in French.
  • I have to write a movie review of a French movie to write for my French conversation class that also has to be in French.
  • I have to write a presentation for my French class and memorize it, because the presentation must be in French with no notes.
  • I have to write a paper about a religious studies conference I attended last month for the philosophy class.
  • I have to write a paper about the eight novels we covered in my English Genres class.
  • I have to write a small reading response about Chaim Perelman for my Rhetoric class (due tonight).
  • I have to read Toni Morrison’s Beloved for English Genres.
  • I have to do a bunch of online French homework so it won’t interfere with the rest of the semester.
  • I have to write a French journal entry for every day of spring break which will be pretty repetitive since I’m not going any where.

Oh yeah, I’m gonna have a great spring break. Maybe I’ll eat some cake to celebrate spring break. Maybe a candy bar or something.

Grad School Prep: The Groundwork

After walking a mile after French Conversation 115R class ended, I went to the professional development stacks here in the library and picked up a copy of the GRE prep book by ETS (the dweebs who make the test). 

In the previous sentence, you can see four things that have to do with preparing for grad school: walking, French, professional development, and the GRE. The other things I’m doing is researching the professors who teach at my prospective schools, researching the campus experience at each school for grad students, and also researching the community surrounding the campus I’ll be renting an apartment in.

Walking. I am walking right now as exercise. So far today, I’ve walked 2.2 miles and yesterday, I walked 4.1 miles. I’m averaging 2.8 miles so far this week. I’m trying to get back in shape without killing myself. I have started a small calisthenics program and I walk a bunch, but it isn’t much. Again, I want to get into shape without killing myself. I am slowly improving how much I walk and how much I exercise.

I will be going to grad school for English and while there, I’ll be teaching. Most students are resentful they have to take two sections of beginning English classes after they took all those English classes in high-school (yes, English 101 & 201 are beginning classes, don’t fool yourself). I get it, but I don’t want students to hate English just because I am a fatty. There are loads of other reasons to hate intro English.

French. This one is easy. Many grad schools have a language requirement. I lived in South Korea for eight years, so I can speak a smattering of Korean, but English departments want French, Spanish, or German. It doesn’t matter if I’m fluent in Korean, I still need to study French.

Professional Development. I have worked for two fortune five hundred companies as a manager and know the professional standards those companies require, but do those standards apply to English as an industry? I don’t think so. What are the dress standards? What are the work hours? What types of meetings do grad students go to? How many and what types of committee meetings are there? Other than teaching, is there more management time I will need to spend? There are loads of these kinds of questions.

GRE. Right next to me are three GRE test prep books. I’m going to be flipping through them to get an idea of what the test is like. I already have been preparing for the two essays, but I also need to do well on the rest of the test.

Research. This area is really broad. I set up an excel spreadsheet to track all of the information I’m gathering about the different schools I applying to, the professors who work there, and the communities the schools are in.

GRE Prep: Essay Practice

Yesterday, I started doing timed essay practice for the GRE. ETS, the monkeys who write and administer the GRE, has a bunch of sample issue and argument essay questions on their website. Yesterday, I did an argument essay and today I did an issue essay. I practiced writing the essays in notepad so I would not have the spell check or grammar check options running just like what happens on the GRE.

I actually love writing in notepad. I do most of my first drafts in notepad so I don’t get hung up on formatting or hung up when word starts judging me. The reason to go this way is simple: the GRE makes most of the test takers type out their essays in a neutered program that tries to take away as many word-processing functions as possible because it would not otherwise be fair to the other test takers who have to hand write out their essays. Personally? I say screw ’em, but that’s only because I am the worst speller I know.

In high-school, I was the kid failing English because every other word on a test, paper, story, poem, or journal entry was misspelled. Sure, I’ve gotten better, but even in this blog entry, I’ve spelled a number of things wrong and I am going to have to go through and correct my punctuation. The only English class I passed in high school was with a teacher who actually read what I was writing and didn’t get pissed off at my spelling handicap. I got a ‘B.’ He said I was the best writer in class and that if I went into writing for a living, an editor would help clean up all my horrible screw ups.

So, yeah. When I went back and pasted my essays in word, I noticed I only spelled a few words incorrectly and that each essay was a little over 600 words. I’m not going to get too worked up over the spelling. The words I am misspelling are still recognizable. What I am going to work on is writing faster. I want to be able to submit a 750 word essay.

The other thing I need to work on is writing in a less personable style. I know in English as an industry, we don’t mind first person personal in academic writing, but I am not completely convinced other academic fields feel the same way (boy, what would they think of first person unreliable?). My philosophy teachers complain about it and also are constantly complaining that humor in a philosophy paper is inappropriate, but then they keep giving me ‘As.’ Maybe knowing they are wasting their breath on me, since I’m an English major, they’ve given up as a collective. I am just not sure about the essay test graders.

I have a friend who was one for a long time. Maybe he still is. We never talk about work, just basketball. He has pretty severe OCDs and I bet he would be pretty unforgiving. I don’t even think he uses first person in conversation. I’ll let you know what he says.