Archive | December, 2011

Feminist Win of the Week: “Binge Drinking, Straw Man Arguments, and Rape Prevention”

22 Dec

Check out this great piece by Feministing’s Zerlina on victim-blaming and her own experiences with rape: http://feministing.com/2011/12/22/binge-drinking-straw-man-arguments-and-rape-prevention/.

Zerlina does an especially nice job of addressing the problems inherent to the concept of “rape prevention.” Definitely worth a read.

Exercise is Depressingly Awesome

20 Dec

I hate exercising for the sake of exercise. I wouldn’t be able to pass my high school’s Presidential Fitness Test today – I mean, I barely passed it back then, and I only passed because our gym teacher let us all cheat at pull-ups – and the idea of “running for fun” is mystifying and unsettling. The only forms of exercise that truly appeal to me involve large, expensive animals that I cannot currently afford (horseback riding, doing stuff with my future giant dog), swimming leisurely, dancing, or actively accomplishing things (i.e., gardening). I also like the playground game Four Square, but it’s really hard to get a group together to play now that I’ve graduated from middle school, and these days everyone wants to do the online kind of Four Squaring anyway.

So when I finally caught up with my backlog of APA Monitors this week, I was pleased to read this month’s Questionnaire section, in which Dr. Howard Friedman was interviewed about his longevity research. As a person who is always searching for justification to avoid the gym, I especially liked the following quote:

“…our studies suggest that it is a society with more conscientious and goal-oriented citizens, well-integrated into their communities, that is likely to be important to health and long life. These changes involve slow, step-by-step alterations that unfold across many years. But so does health. For example, connecting with and helping others is more important than obsessing over a rigorous exercise program.”

Excellent, I thought, chortling to myself. The Presidential Fitness Test can suck it. But a few pages later, I ran into Kirsten Weir’s “The Exercise Effect,” which briefly and convincingly summarizes some recent research supporting the effectiveness of exercise as an intervention for major depression and anxiety disorders. Weir’s article is the latest in a stream of exercise-related literature that has made its way into my hands in the last couple months, and while the notion that exercise can be helpful for depression and anxiety isn’t new, it seems that interest in the focused use of exercise as a behavioral intervention has been on the rise lately. So much for my plans to connect with and help others solely from a sitting position.

This isn’t to say that I neglect discussion of exercise’s benefits when working with clients who are depressed or anxious. It always shows up somewhere in the  “Here-are-some-things-that-we-know-can-be-effective” speech, and sometimes I help clients develop brief behavioral plans to get them moving. But if clients express little interest in exercising, I focus on other interventions and don’t push the issue – because after all, who am I to push someone else to exercise? Yet the research I’ve been exposed to lately suggests that maybe I should be pushing… and not just pushing clients. Weir quotes Dr. Michael Otto, who claims that “failing to exercise when you feel bad is like explicitly not taking an aspirin when your head hurts.” A physician who refuses to use aspirin because it’s “too hard” or “not interesting” would be ridiculed. Should the same level of ridicule be directed at a psychologist who explicitly refuses to exercise?

I’m admittedly biased, but I don’t think Otto’s analogy is a fair comparison. A physical workout is usually a  sweaty, gaspy, time-consuming set of behaviors that requires organizing on the part of the individual and produces effects that aren’t always immediately apparent. (I have never, ever experienced a runner’s high, and there have been times when I have tried to make exercise a serious part of my life.) Taking an aspirin is a three-second endeavor… maybe six seconds, if you have a hard time with the child-proof cap. We’re not talking about similar behavioral investments. There’s also still a lot we don’t know. Should we all be running six miles a day, or will a brisk 20-minute walk a few times a week do the trick? Does it matter if we exercise alone or with others? Weir notes that “researchers don’t yet have a handle on which types of exercise are most effective, how much is necessary, or even whether exercise works best in conjunction with other therapies.”

Despite the questions that remain, the research I’ve been reading lately has encouraged me to make more of an effort to engage my clients in exercise, and to get myself more engaged too. But if my own hate-hate relationship with exercise has taught me anything, it’s that for most of us, exercise must be rewarding in the moment for it to be truly sustainable. If you legitimately enjoy going to the gym or training for 10Ks, then that’s awesome, and I really wish I had a share of your crazy exercise-loving genes. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with making exercise a secondary component to some other goal, whether that goal is doing something fun with your dog or doing yardwork or getting to the grocery. For me and the clients who despise the gym as much as I do, it may be worthwhile to create behavioral plans that focus on adding exercise to already-enjoyed or necessary activities rather than instituting a “traditional” exercise plan from scratch. Some examples of what I mean:

  • Primary goal: hang out with friends, family, or your partner. Exercise addition: hang out while swimming, walking, window-shopping, dancing or hiking. Or take a movement-based class with friends through a university or community center.
  • Primary goal: have a phone conversation with a family member. Exercise addition: stretch or walk around building during conversation.
  • Primary goal: make a difference in the community. Exercise addition: choose a volunteer activity that requires movement (e.g., cleaning cages at the humane society, participating in fun runs/walks for charity, helping with a Habitat build, etc.)
  • Primary goal: have a romantic evening with your partner. Exercise addition: sex, duh.
  • Primary goal: make apartment/house more attractive. Exercise addition: incorporate active DIY projects, like painting, landscaping, thorough cleaning, etc.
  • Primary goal: cook dinner. Exercise addition: turn on music that makes you want to dance and bust a move while cooking. Ke$ha and LMFAO, though not exactly highbrow, produce some pretty irresistible dance music.
  • Primary goal: play video games. Exercise addition: play games on a console that requires movement (like the Wii or Playstation Move)
  • Primary goal: keep dog from getting bored and chewing up all your stuff. Exercise addition: go on interesting walks or hikes, play frisbee at the dog park, take an agility training class.
  • Primary goal: make extra money during grad school. Exercise addition: babysit an active child or children.

Exercise doesn’t have to involve weights or running shorts to count as exercise, and even small “doses” of exercise seem to produce measurable mental health benefits (see Weir’s article). And if we conceptualize exercise in a simple, essence-based way – as sustained, purposeful movement, separate from the very specific types of movement promoted by Fitness Magazine spreads and Nike commercials  – then maybe I don’t hate exercise at all. It’s the word itself that’s the problem for me, and its connotations of in-the-moment pointlessness and endless striving toward weight- or muscle-based goals that my genes never meant for me to achieve. But dancing while cooking dinner? I can do that. I can like that. And I think some of my clients could too.

Does anyone else have ideas for making exercise a natural addition to primary goals?

The Grad Student’s Week-Before-Christmas Guide to Cheap, Awesome Gifts

16 Dec

You meant to do your shopping early this year, you really did. But grad school reared its ugly head, the ol’ bank account isn’t looking too hot, and they say that Christmas is happening next week. Not that you would know – your perpetual presence in your windowless basement office prevents you from accurately judging the passage of time.

Options:

1. Panic! Panic hard!

2. Check out the ideas on the following list.

2011 CHEAP QUICKIE GIFT GUIDE

Modified board game. I’ve been on both the giving and receiving end for this one, and it makes a pretty hilarious present. Here’s what you do: Go to a thrift store, buy an old board game, and use craft supplies to modify it in a way that makes it specifically pertinent to the recipient. A couple years ago Ted and I replaced all of the faces on the tiles of a Guess Who board with small, glued-on pictures of our friends’ faces, and voila – a version of Guess Who that was instantly way more fun and special than the original. We are also the proud owners of a fabulous version of Apples to Apples that some  friends made for us, modified to include words that remind us of inside jokes and experiences we’ve had together.

Magazine subscription. Many magazine subscriptions can be had for as little as $10, and there are magazines out there for just about every interest imaginable. (Case in point: Sheep! Magazine)

Cupcake making set. A cute gift idea for the budding baker in your life. Pick up a cupcake-related book from the bargain section of Barnes & Noble (there’s always at least one, usually for $6 or so), and then go to a craft store like Michael’s or Hobby Lobby to buy a set of cute cupcake liners, an icing tip or two, an icing bag, and if the price is right, a cupcake pan. The whole thing can be done for $15 or less.

A lovely handcrafted item, Dollar Store Style. If you’re the crafty type, check out the craft ideas at Dollar Store Crafts. While some of the projects on the site look… well, like they were made from stuff from the Dollar Store, there are also some surprisingly clever ideas. I especially like this Deluxe Superhero Fort Kit.

Striped umbrella. What I Wore has a cool tutorial for an easy DIY striped umbrella.

Book of Ph.D. comics. A no-fail gift for any fellow grad student. If you can’t find a book at your local bookstore, use your Amazon Prime student account to get one shipped to you in 2 days.

Pretty sugar cookies. If you’ve always wanted to try making those beautiful sugar cookies you see every year on the covers of magazines like Martha Stewart Living, I totally recommend going to your local library and checking out Cookie Craft by Janice Fryer and Valerie Peterson. This book is packed with simple step-by-step directions and gorgeous pictures, and it’ll have you making pretty gift-worthy cookies in no time.

Chocolate mustache pops. The last time I was in Hobby Lobby, I noticed a super cute chocolate mustache mold that could be used to churn out funny, tasty gifts. All you’d need is the mold, lollipop sticks, and a couple bags of candy melts, all of which can be purchased at Hobby Lobby or Michael’s. Better move fast on this one, though. I think the ironic hipster mustache’s days are limited. Next year it’s going to be all about the sideburns.

The gift of your skillz. Got a relative who might like to learn to use Facebook, use Skype, or start a blog? Can you cook a gourmet meal? Do you know a secret hiking spot? Do you have the brawn and experience needed to do a home improvement task your grandmother can’t manage? Are you good at babysitting or pet-sitting? If yes to any of the above or you have other valuable skills that were not mentioned, then for goodness’ sake, you’re golden. Go write up a voucher right now.

DIY coasters. Two Girls Being Thrifty have a great tutorial for beautiful, easy coasters made from tile and scrapbook paper.

Local beer. If you go to school in a city blessed with a lot of microbreweries and have a beer-loving friend or family member back home, find a liquor store that does build-your-own-six-packs and bring them a variety of your favorite brews.

Donation to a charity your recipient cares about. Giving this one is like double-giving, and most organizations will let you donate as little or as much as you can afford.

Fancy bulletin board. Tea Rose Home has a great suggestion for sharp-looking DIY message boards that will dress up any office. All you need is a thrift store frame, some spray paint, and corkboard. Anyone else have ideas for quick, inexpensive presents?

On Breaking the Interview Seal

15 Dec

My first internship interview is over, and I think it went pretty well. I didn’t say anything stupid, had answers ready for everything I was asked, joked with the training director about lawn care, and didn’t subject myself to a wardrobe malfunction by failing to hook the back of my skirt closed over the zipper… although that was only because my friend Laurie caught me before I got in the car and hooked it for me.

I didn’t even get asked anything out of the ordinary. My friends had drilled me with a series of creative questions the night before the interview to prepare me for anything the the interviewers might throw at me. “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?” “What would you do if your interviewer turned into a snake?” “OK, let’s say you’re being chased by a giant poisonous snake and you have two options: You can run, or you can chop off its head with a hoe. If you run, turn to page 46. If you chop off its head with a hoe, turn to page 47.” “Oh, you ran. Sorry, you fell into a pit and died.”

So, given the extensive level of my preparation, I was a little bummed out when they didn’t even ask me to name the movie that has influenced my life the most. (Which is obviously Cool Runnings. Either that or Weekend at Bernie’s 2.)

Here are the questions I was asked, for anyone out there looking to prepare for their own upcoming interviews. This was an hour-and-a-half interview with three individuals at an integrated care facility with child and adult rotations.

  • What are some of the things that attracted you to this program?
  • Tell me about your assessment experience.
  • Tell me about the clinical experiences you’ve had in your program.
  • What are your career goals?
  • Tell me about the client you’ve worked with the longest.
  • Tell me about the work you did with a typical client recently. By typical, I mean someone with depression, anxiety, panic disorder, something like that.
  • What’s the status of your dissertation?
  • Are you familiar with [this city]?
  • Which rotations are you most interested in?
  • What kind of exposure have you had to projective testing?

Only about half of my time was devoted to me answering questions – my interviewers seemed more interested me asking questions of them than vice versa. Here’s what I asked:

  • What kinds of characteristics does an intern need to be successful here?
  • I’m really interested in [these 2 rotations], and they seem to focus on fairly similar populations. Could you tell me a little more about the differences between these two settings?
  • How does your program balance support and autonomy for interns?
  • A former intern here told me she enjoyed her supervision experiences at your site and felt really well-prepared for her career after internship. Is her feedback pretty representative of what interns say?
  • How would you describe your supervision philosophy?
  • You have so many clinical and didactic opportunities available here, and I’m wondering how they fit together in a typical week.
  • I loved this area the last time I visited, but I was only able to spend a couple days here. What would you say is unmissable in [this city]?

One down, lots to go – although I think the others will be a little easier now that I’ve gotten the first one out of the way. At this point I’ve got two interviews left in Texas, two in North Carolina, two in Georgia, and two in Virginia. Still waiting to hear back from one, but I think the waiting game should be over by next Tuesday, and I’ll be free to focus on more important things, like making Christmas cookies and watching Cool Runnings. Next interview isn’t until the first week of January.

First interview is… tomorrow!

13 Dec

Got the plane tickets. Got the suit. Got the fancy haircut. Got the shoes. Got the $7.50 boring black Wal Mart purse to temporarily replace my rainbow-colored one, which looks sort of like something a kindergartner would tote dolls around in. Can’t say I’ve got confidence exactly, but I can hide lack of confidence better than a rainbow-colored purse. Full rundown and other updates coming soon.

The Freaky and Wonderful Hippocampus

8 Dec

OK, I’m about to dork out on you big time.

I’ve been writing a paper this week about neurogenesis in the hippocampus and how it relates to depression. It’s possible that I lost you right about at the point where I said “neurogenesis in the hippocampus.” Stick with me – this is cool stuff.

Image from Wikipedia

The hippocampus, a small temporal-limbic structure generally associated with memory consolidation and retrieval , is unusual in its ability to continually support neurogenesis (the production of new neurons) in the adult brain. Very briefly, here’s how the process goes down: precursor cells form in the subgranular zone of the dentate gyrus, a flexed, layered region that is located near the center of the hippocampus. The precursor cells then migrate into another layer of the dentate gyrus known as the granule cell layer to mature. It’s assumed that the hippocampus must continually generate these new neurons in order to form distinctive episodic memories without interference from older neurons.

Neurogenesis in the hippocampus seems to be highly sensitive to a lot of factors. For example, neurogenesis declines in response to advancing age and stress, and it increases in response to estrogen levels, learning, and physical activity. Major depression appears to be related to reductions in hippocampal neurogenesis, while sustained use of antidepressants is associated with increased neurogenesis – correlations that have been highly interesting  to depression researchers, clinicians, and even tired graduate students.

We know that severe or chronic stress often precedes major depression in people who are genetically prone to the disorder. Given the particularly potent effects of stress on hippocampal neurogenesis, which have been demonstrated in a lot of animal studies, it seems likely that stress plays a key role in initiating the neurogenesis inhibition associated with depression. More disturbingly, chronic or severe stress – and the depressed behavior associated with it – has also been linked to problems with neuron survival in animal hippocampi. While current technology doesn’t allow us to safely study neurogenesis in living people , human studies do show that hippocampal volumes (and presumably hippocampal neurogenesis and neuron survival) are negatively affected by prolonged major depression. Atrophy in the hippocampus can persist for decades after remission, and the magnitude of volume loss may be as high as 20%.

If the hippocampus is implicated in depression, we’re faced with a chicken-or-the-egg question: do problems with hippocampal neurogenesis and neuron survival make people vulnerable to depression? Or does depression inhibit neurogenesis and neuron survival in the hippocampus? Most evidence seems to support the latter. A study by MacQueen and colleagues (2003) found that patients who had experienced only one major depressive episode didn’t differ from matched controls in hippocampal volume, while patients who had experienced multiple episodes demonstrated significantly smaller hippocampal volumes than controls. These changes weren’t accounted for by increasing age, providing support for the idea that reductions in hippocampal volume don’t precede depression. In a study by Santarelli and colleagues (2003), focused radiation was applied to the hippocampi of mice to end neurogenesis, a procedure that should have resulted in observably depressed behavior if inhibited hippocampal neurogenesis initiated depression. However, the behavior of mice that had undergone the procedure didn’t differ from the behavior of mice in the control condition. Interestingly, the procedure did appear to block the ability of the antidepressant fluoxetine (Prozac) to produce its usual behavioral effects. If the functional aspects of recovery from depression depended solely on changes in the neurotransmitter mechanisms that antidepressants target, halting hippocampal neurogenesis shouldn’t have impacted the effectiveness of the Prozac. This finding suggests that while hippocampal neurogenesis may not contribute significantly to the development of depression, it may be crucial to recovery from depression. Almost all antidepressants have been shown to stimulate hippocampal neurogenesis and/or improve neuron survival, and it’s probably not a coincidence that the typical delay in antidepressant effectiveness (about 6 weeks) is about the same length of time as the maturation time of new neurons in the hippocampus. Frodl and colleagues (2008) found that people who took antidepressants regularly over the course of a three-year period demonstrated increased hippocampal volume, while subjects who did not take antidepressants consistently didn’t demonstrate these gains, regardless of whether or not their depression was in remission.

It’s important to note that the role that the hippocampus plays in depression is still a matter of some debate, and it’s widely acknowledged that there are undoubtedly other factors that play a crucial role in the regulation of neurogenesis in the adult hippocampus that have yet to be identified or understood. We also have to remember that most studies of hippocampal neurogenesis during depression are animal studies, and depression among animals – usually measured via tests involving response to food – may not be a perfect counterpart to the complex condition that is human depression. The conclusions drawn from animal studies must be applied to humans with caution.

Limitations aside, the research literature does offer an interesting perspective on depression and has potentially exciting implications for treatment. Given the convincing body of evidence suggesting that hippocampal neurogenesis must be present for antidepressants to produce at least some of their desired effects, new types of medication may be worth exploring. Most existing antidepressants target reuptake of the neurotransmitters serotonin or norepinephrine; hippocampal neurogenesis is just a nice side effect. There are, however, several promising new compounds that have been shown to stimulate hippocampal neurogenesis and that may eventually be capable of producing antidepressant effects without the negative side effects (drowsiness, decreased libido, etc.) that so often accompany traditional antidepressants. At any rate, the superior effects of long-term antidepressant treatment suggest that clinicians should continue to strongly encourage clients who have begun antidepressant regimens to stay on their meds for at least the requisite six weeks. It’s possible that clients might be more willing to persist in taking meds despite crappy initial side effects if they’re aware of the (theoretical) role of the hippocampus in the efficacy of antidepressants and the amount of time required for successful neurogenesis to take place.

The research on this subject also offers possible new directions for our understandings of other treatments that have been shown to be effective for depression, including exercise, stress reduction and mindfulness techniques, and even electroconvulsive therapy, all of which have been associated with improvements in neurogenesis. Could hippocampal neurogenesis stimulation be the common thread underlying all of these treatments? Of course, this line of thought raises many more questions. If hippocampal neurogenesis is the mechanism underlying successful treatment, could treatments have additive effects on the hippocampus? For example, do clients who take Prozac and exercise regularly experience faster neurogenesis or better neuron survival than clients who use only one treatment? What are the limits of hippocampal neurogenesis, and what implications do these limits have for long-term use of antidepressants? Can a hippocampus generate too many new neurons? What happens if it does? And if reductions in hippocampal volume are associated with memory problems common to depression, could long-term use of antidepressants result in improvements in memory?

Ted says that he thinks science is like throwing rocks at a thing in the dark and trying to guess the shape of it by listening to the sounds the rocks make. While we still don’t know the exact shape of the relationship between the hippocampus and depression, “rocks” are being thrown with great enthusiasm – a search for “hippocampal neurogenesis” on a handful of research databases brings up a list of 1128 research articles published after 2000, many of which directly address mood and motivation – and the field has already produced findings that promise to have important ramifications for the way depression is understood and treated in the future.

_______________________________________________________

If you’re as interested in this stuff as I am and have loads of free time to read research articles (lol!), here are some articles that I found especially interesting:

Balu, D. T., & Lucki, I. (2009). Adult hippocampal neurogenesis: Regulation, functional implications, and contribution to pathology. Neuroscience and Behavioral Reviews, 33, 232-252.

Becker, S., & Wojtowicz, J. M. (2007). A model of hippocampal neurogenesis in memory and mood disorders. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 11(2), 70-76.

Frodl, T., Jager, M., Smajstrlova, I., Born, C., Bottlender, R., Palladino, T., Reiser, M., Moller, H., Meisenzahl, E. M. (2008). Effect of hippocampal and amygdala volumes on clinical outcomes in major depression: a 3-year prospective magnetic resonance imaging study. Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, 33(5), 423-430.

Hanson, N., Owens, M., & Nemeroff, C. (2011). Depression, antidepressants, and neurogenesis: A critical reappraisal. Neuropsychopharmacology, 36(13), 2589-2602.

MacQueen, G. M., Campbell, S. , McEwen, B. S., Macdonald, K., Amano, S., Joffe, R. T., Nahmias, C., & Young, L. T. (2003). PNAS, 100(3), 1387-1392.

Marcussen, A. B., Flagstad, P. P., Kristiansen, P. G., Johansen, F. F., & Englund, U. U. (2008). Increase in neurogenesis and behavioural benefit after chronic fluoxetine treatment in Wistar rats. Acta Neurologica Scandiniavica, 117(2), 94-100.

Santarelli, L., Saxe, M., Gross, C., Surget, A., Battagila, F., Dulawa, S., Weisstaub, N., Lee, J., Duman, R., Arancio, O., Belzung, C., Hen, R. (2003). Requirement of hippocampal neurogenesis for the behavioral effects of antidepressants. Science, 301(5634), 805-809.

Sapolski, R. M. (2001). Depression, antidepressants, and the shrinking hippocampus.  PNAS, 98(22), 12320-12322.

Van Bokhoven, P. P., Oomen, C. A., Hoogendik, W. G., Smit, A. B., Lucassen, P. J., & Spijker, S. S. (2011). Reduction in hippocampal neurogenesis after social defeat is long-lasting and responsive to late antidepressant treatment. European Journal of Neuroscience, 33(10), 1833-1840.

Yan, H. C., Cao, X., Gao, T. M., & Zhu, X. H. (2011). Promoting adult hippocampal neurogenesis: A novel strategy for antidepressant drug screening. Current Medicinal Chemistry, 18, 4359-4567.

Worth Checking Out: World Pulse

7 Dec

I was recently introduced to World Pulse (www.worldpulse.com) by a friend who has been working through the organization to improve women’s access to education and healthcare in her hometown in rural Uganda. People, World Pulse is cool. It’s a self-described worldwide media and connection network devoted to helping women find a global voice. WP offers training and resources to grassroots women journalists and provides online and printed forums for their stories. Women from over 185 countries use PulseWire, an interactive community resource, to connect with other women, find jobs and resources, and start new programs and businesses. The World Pulse Action Center (http://worldpulse.com/action), described as a “global bulletin board,” lists requests for volunteers, mentors, tutors, investments, and donated items or services. If you’d like a way to generate significant positive change for women all over the world  but don’t have the funds to make significant donations, the Action Center provides plenty of meaningful opportunities to share your talents or time without making financial commitments (although those are welcome too). I’m inspired by World Pulse and the women who make their voices heard on its forums, and if you take the time to check it out, I bet you’ll be inspired too.

The Editor Pant, and Other Clothing I Reluctantly Purchased This Weekend

6 Dec

Interview suit has officially been purchased, courtesy of Express and two friends who were willing to walk my woeful self through the shopping process and tell me what looked good and what didn’t. Here’s what I got:

The Studio Stretch One-Button Jacket in Medium Charcoal: “Sophisticated style and shape is a wear-to-work must-have. Midweight stretch fabric hugs your curves for a flattering fit. Pair with our Editor Pant for a chic office look.” And pair it with the Editor Pant I did, albeit reluctantly, since of course the pants are the wrong length and I’ll have to get them tailored. (Note to self: learn to hem pants.) I also got the Studio Stretch High-Waisted Pencil Skirt, described as a “stylish update to your workday repertoire.” Since my “workday repertoire” currently consists of long sleeve tees that I try to disguise as work-appropriate shirts by wearing them with silk scarves, thrift store pants, and the same two pairs of shoes in endless rotation, I guess just about anything would constitute a stylish update. I also got a couple shirts in Red Lacquer and Bright Salmon, one long-sleeved and one short-sleeved. The short-sleeved one has squeezy sleeves, definitely on my list of Things That Drive Me Crazy, but Bright Salmon apparently brings out the undertones in my skin (says one of my friends, who knows about such things), and I am grudgingly willing to make a sacrifice in the name of successful interviews. I gulped when the sales associate told me the price – let’s just say I could have bought a lot of long-sleeved tees and accessorizing scarves with that kind of money – but it was a good deal for the quality and quantity of what I got. Next up: shoes and jewelry. One week until my first interview. 


Proposed!

4 Dec

Knocked out another graduate milestone this Thursday and proposed my dissertation!

Here’s how proposals work in my program. You write up a lit review and research plan in the ballpark of 40-50 pages, get your adviser’s thumbs-up, distribute copies to your four-person committee, attempt to schedule a 1.5-hour block that works for all four committee members, weep because they have no 1.5-hour block in common in the next month and how will you ever herd these people into a room together?, and find a 1.5-hour block that everyone has in common. Then you treat your committee to a 10-minute PowerPoint presentation, desperately try to mask your limited understanding of bias-corrected bootstrap methods, fail to do so, and sheepishly write down your committee’s advice. That’s it. You don’t have to bring doughnuts. It’s basically impossible not to get your committee’s approval. But there are ample opportunities to sound stupid, which is what makes proposals so scary.

I celebrated the survival of mine with a How I Met Your Mother marathon. Aaaaand am still celebrating, thanks to the celebration-extending properties of Netflix. Also, I ate a cupcake for breakfast on Friday. I’m the kind of girl who knows how to party.

I guess now I actually have to write the dissertation.

In Pursuit of a Suit

2 Dec

Be here in 15 minutes... and suit up! (image from sodahead.com)

My first internship interview is happening in a little less than 2 weeks, and I’m going to be expected to wear a suit. The suit I owned in college is a flimsy one that suffers from Problematic Gap Syndrome (PGS) in the chest area. I got it from the JC Penny junior section for $25, so I guess I shouldn’t have expected anything better. No, it’s time I owned an Adult Suit, one that will carry me through internship interviews and job interviews and dazzle all who lay eyes upon it.

Unfortunately, shopping for work clothes is really challenging for me. I don’t have a great handle on what’s fashionable, I have almost zilch tolerance for discomfort or inconvenience in the name of fashion, and my list of shopping rule-outs borders on unreasonable. (No clothes that need ironing.  No leather. No clothes that need dry cleaning. No clothes that need hand-washing. No squeezy sleeves. No see-through shirts that always have to be layered with other shirts. No shirts that aren’t long enough to cover pants pockets. No pants without back pockets. No skinny jeans. No clothes that are tight in the wrong places. No clothes that are loose in the wrong places. No sweater dresses. And so on.) Suit shopping has all the challenges of shopping for regular work clothes, with the added pressure of the knowledge that people are going to carefully scrutinize you when you’re wearing this suit. Also, you will probably have to spend a lot of money. Also, you are unlikely to find a suit that is machine-washable and never has to be ironed.

Thankfully, some of my more fashion-adept friends have agreed to go suit shopping with me this weekend and steer me in the right direction. I’m hoping to find a gray suit, since I think a gray one will be formal but less severe than a black suit. It makes me a little sad that suits in nontraditional colors are off the table – I saw a fire-engine red one at Macy’s that I liked a lot – but I don’t think they’d make the impression I want to make. Better to be seen as unique for your accomplishments than for your outrageous attire.

Is anyone else in the process of hunting for a suit?

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