I learned a valuable lesson this week.  Sometimes people aren’t going to agree with my opinion.  And I have to learn to be comfortable with that. 

This may seem like an odd statement to write as a sociologist.  There is always the chance someone might not agree with what I have to say when I write a blog entry, submit a paper to a professor, or deliver a conference presentation.  Interestingly, the potential for disagreement within this forum does not make me uneasy.  Rather, it is part of my habitus or academic disposition.  Disagreement is part of the academic game I play.  Difference in theoretical and methodological orientations within the discipline of sociology exists, but fortunately my academic disposition anticipates what a particular line of thought might have to say in response to my argument.  I expect conflict because theoretical positions are diametrically opposed; conflict is part of the game.  And despite disagreement we at least share some common ground; we are all sociologists and working with some form of a “sociological imagination.”

I am the Graduate Rep for the Department of Sociology and attend monthly meetings with the Graduate Student’s Association (GSA) at the University of Calgary.   As much as I may be able to tolerate diversity within the sociological game, situated outside of this setting – and inserted in a small room with graduate students from a wide assortment of academic departments with different points of view – is a different ball of wax.  I’m transformed into an intolerant, raging, narrow-minded machine.  My blood pressure rockets and the muscles in my face tire from attempts to hide disgruntlement.  And, most scarily, I yearn for a water-gun to silence the vocal, narrow-minded, naysayers within the group.

This week I was asked to raise a motion at the Graduate Representative Council (GRC) meeting for the GSA.  The motion concerned increasing the honorarium that current and future Executive members receive monthly for services they deliver.  Their monthly bonus (and I refrain from the word “salary” because technically an Executive position is not a job in the traditional sense) is a great deal less than what a Teaching Assistant makes per month but their workload exceeds that of a TA.  The president receives approximately $800 per month and other executive members receive approximately $500 per month, while a monthly salary for working as a TA is $1600. 

In my opinion, the current compensation structure was incommensurate with the amount of time the GSA Executive devotes to the obligations outlined in their portfolios.  No more need be said.  So, together with the help of others, I presented a proposal in the form of a motion to the GRC, a voting body composed of Graduate Reps.  Not surprisingly (in the sense I knew from previous experience with these meetings that my ethic was not the same as my fellow graduate students), the issue was deemed contentious.  For 40 minutes I responded, along with my co-presenter, patiently and carefully to the questions and concerns raised.  We articulated to the best of our ability the case in attempt to win their vote.  But there is only so much discussion of an issue you can do.  At one point – we both threw up our hands in frustration – and said in response to one particularly vocal rep, “Fair enough.”  I mean – what else could we say, we just weren’t going to agree.  And there was no point in continuing to try. 

Yes, I am closed-minded about being open-minded.  Difference of opinion, BAH!

Thankfully, our motion passed: 22 in favour; 2 against; 1 abstention.  Phew!  Justice has been served.


Mad Scientist?


The last 10 days, 2 weeks have been fruitful.  I now have a completed a draft of my dissertation prospectus.  The empirical terrain has been mapped.  A potential dissertation title written.  Who’d have thunk it?  I am one step closer to getting this thing done.  I’m simultaneously excited and petrified.  The mystique of the “phd” is somewhat punctured by this accomplishment.

The front stage: Dissertation prospectus.

The back stage: One hell of a mess, and a neglected anorexic Lowchen.

When I entered my office this morning all I could was laugh.  The current physical disarray throughout my apartment, and particularly my office, has got me thinking.  What are your writing routines?  Here’s a cursory list of mine. 

1)      Hibernation.  Solitary confinement.  MSN contact only to assure me that there is an outside world.  Blog reading and writing as a ‘break’ to challenge further my writing and analytical skills.

2)      An assortment of diet coke, herbal and caffeinated teas, and coffee both of which I brew myself and purchase at Starbucks and Tim Horton’s.

3)      Anything that is microwavable.  Trail mix and cereal bars.  Yogurt.  Peanut butter and toast.  When in season, mandarin oranges, and when not, a melon fruit medley from Safeway.  Food is a distraction.  I eat only to keep going.

4)      Country105, this has been a staple even since my Vicky days.  An itunes playlist of the best in Canadian Country music.  Familiarity and repetition are comforting.  New music must be skillfully introduced so that it does not distract.  A newly dropped album may be introduced, but only early in the process of getting me into the zone, as a motivation factor to work.  If this tactic is used, I often listen to said album a multiple number of times (you know, in the double-digit range) throughout the push to deadline.

5)      Attire consists of lululemon pants and a T-shirt of some kind.  PJ bottoms are also useful.  Colour coordination is unnecessary.  I now wear orange and pink, for instance. 

6)      Late, LATE nights are my friend.  I retire anywhere between 2am and 5am.  4am was particularly common during this most recent push.  Naps are allowed, but only one, and usually inserted after the first work shift, and before the second and third.  Breaks = surfing the net, MSN conversation, a walk with the dog, a phone conversation to my parents or grandparents to assure them that I’m alive.  Maybe even a trip to get my Timmy’s fix, or a 30 minute to 1 hour TV viewing session.  Nothing fancy.

7)      And then there is the slob factor.  I am unable to clean up after myself.  Doing so takes me into the scary terrain called distraction. 

And yes, that picture if of my office!  In case you were wondering, I spy on my desk: 4 extra-large cups of Timmy’s, 1 Starbucks container, 5 coffee to-go mugs, 3 cans of DC, 4 coffee mugs (one says go Flames go), 3 empty glasses, and lastly, one-pickle jar.  Sometime throughout the past week it was suggested to me that I should drink some water.  Mad scientist or genius?  I’ll leave that for you to decide.  And yes, that is a Popple you see.  It’s Frankie’s favourite toy, she arrived with it into my office one night to visit.