Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Public speaking is not my worst fear...

I always thought that public speaking was supposed to be everyone's worst fear. It never really bothers me, but I've heard that it bothers most people.

I didn't know what my worst fear was, but I discovered it this morning: claustrophobia. It is number 5 on the top 10 list.

I went to have an MRI done and even though I was praying and doing lamaze breathing, I just couldn't get through it.

They suggested valium next time. I think I'll take them up on it.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Carrot Cake

On the anniversary of Dr. Stevenson's birthday, I made his Carrot Cake recipe for the J-School. When I got to UNC, Dr. Stevenson remarked at one research colloquium that it was his custom to bring in carrot cake on his own birthday. I figured that the least I could do would be to bring him one so that he would not have to bring his own.

The first year, I bought one at a local favorite grocer, Weaver Street. They have amazing desserts, including carrot cake. Dr. Stevenson was grateful, but the next day, he brought me his recipe for carrot cake, encouraging me to give it a try.

My second year in the PhD program, I was taking Dr. Stevenson's stats class during his birthday, so I made his carrot cake recipe and brought it to class. He ate a piece without a frown, so I think I made it successfully.

This year, I thought it only fitting to remember a professor who gave of himself to others, in large ways and small, with carrot cakes for the students and faculty and staff. One of our newest faculty members asked for the recipe, so here it is.

Bob Stevenson's Carrot Cake
3 c. sifted cake flour
2 c. sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 can (8 oz) crushed pineapple
2 c. raw carrots, grated and loosely packed
3 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 c. salad oil
2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 c. finally chopped nuts (this is Dr. Stevenson's notation!)

Grease and lightly flour pan. Mix together cake flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Drain pineapple, saving syrup. Add pineapple syrup to dry mixture; add eggs, oil and vanilla. Beat for three minutes. Stir in pineapple, carrots, and nuts. Bake at 325F for about 1 1/2 hours (I found that after 1 hour, you need to watch the cake and test it with a toothpick). Cool 10 minutes in pan before frosting. Frost with currant-nut icing.

Currant-Nut Icing
4 1/2 c. confectioners sugar
1 package (8 oz) soft cream cheese
1/4 c. butter
1 Tbsp. milk
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1/4 c. chopped walnuts
1/4 c. currants

Plump currants by soaking in 1/4 cup of hot water for 5 minutes. Drain well.

Beat sugar, cream cheese, butter, milk and vanilla together until smooth. Fold in walnuts and currants. Spread over cooled cake.

Sick day...

Both of my kids are home sick today. I hate missing school myself, but my kids are miserable with a cough, cold, headache type of virus that is going around. I don't do much but pass out medicine and hugs, but it seems like the thing moms do when kids are sick.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Dr. Stevenson

The J-School had a nice memorial service for Dr. Stevenson last Saturday. We got to hear from a couple of professors at UNC, two of the doctoral students he had mentored, as well as his neice and nephew. You always wonder if you really know the person behind the professor that you know at school, and after hearing everyone speak, I realized that Dr. Stevenson, for all of his curmudgeonly tendancies, was quite transparent. He was who he was. He did not hide the fact that he had low regard for both qualitative research and public relations research (two areas I am interested in), yet he didn't disregard me. He kept at me, teaching me statistics, broadening my view of the world. Those are both great qualities in a professor: transparent and enlightening. I hope I can do both in my new job.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Does Crotchetiness matter?

An article today at Inside Higher Ed describes a discussion of historians, wondering if it is helpful for prospective PhD students to know the "crotchetiness" factor of their faculty.

I decided to look up the definition of "crotchetiness" to make sure I understood where the discussion was headed. According to, "crotchetiness" means:

crotch·et·i·ness, noun
—Synonyms 1. fussy, eccentric, grouchy. Unabridged (v 1.1)Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.

Of all the things I want to know about a PhD program, this is interesting, but not critical. I've had crotchety professors--I've learned a great deal from some of them. I've had pleasant professors, and have learned little or nothing from them. I've lived around academics long enough to know that they are all fussy or eccentric or grouchy. There are no perfect personalities in any work environment--the more important measure for a PhD program is whether or not you will get the knowledge and tools you need to be successful in your chosen career.

I think what is most important is having
  • clear expectations for performance
  • clear timelines for completion
  • support to achieve those performance and completion goals

We are adults by the time we've reached a doctoral program. We don't need you to be as sweet as our kindergarten teacher nor do we need you to hold our hand each step of the way--we just need you to be honest about what you expect from us, and to make sure we are able to meet those expectations without putting up too many barriers in our way.

Monday, January 08, 2007

How do schools find older students?

As I enter my final semester (I hope), I'm wondering how graduate schools find a way to talk to older students? It is pretty easy to advertise to college seniors who are considering grad school, but how do schools find those elusive older students who have decided to return to school for more education?

When I started this program, I felt old and alone. Once I got to UNC, I realized why all of my friends thought I was crazy for going back to school--it is not common for older folks to quit what they are doing and start all over. But, in just a few short years, I've seen more and more older students or older prospective students who want to go back, but are not sure where to find that "perfect program." When you are older, you don't want to waste your time and money on a degree that is neither useful nor interesting--you are much more focused on finding the perfect program that helps advance your career.

I just did a quick google search of grad school programs and found places like and petersons. I'll have to explore them more to know how useful they are.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

I'll live forever

A recent study found a link between the amount of education a person has and their life-span. There could be other factors, such as wealth, that could determine a person's longevity, but a Princeton researcher has found that more education adds years to a person's life.

If I don't get out of school soon, I'll live forever.