Whining aside, I wanted to share with the readers what I learned this semester, much of which didn't have anything to do with the class I'm taking. Like Mark Twain said, "Don't let school get in the way of your education."
- Every diagram and figure for every paper and presentation should be drawn in the same program and placed in a central directory. When it comes time to write the dissertation, culling diagrams will be easy.
- Third year+ graduate students should not act like students. They should act like junior faculty.
- Don't ask for what you want. Tell THEM what you are going to do and ask for help on how to get it done.
- Talk to everyone, whether it's the head of your department, your group's secretary, or the assistant dean of your college. The more you are known and the more you help, the more favors you can call in later. This is networking.
- Leverage the help of your dissertation committee to make progress on your research. This is also networking.
- Leverage the power of your dissertation committee to help convince your PhD advisor that you are ready to prelim. This is also networking.
I've also got a glimpse of what academic life could be like if I don't quit and work at McDonald's. In recent months, I've started working on a side project having nothing to do with my actual "research." It's been an interesting process of making friends with smart people, and deciding to work on a cool project with these smart people. We've worked on writing outlines, proposing workshops, obtaining funding, getting authorization, and all kinds of other bureacratic fun because we really really believe that this problem is worth solving. It's just too bad that this has only happened once in my four years here.
PS. Here's my New Year's resolution. Stop cussing so much. Last week, I was in the office of the Assistant Dean of the College Engineering, and I'm pretty sure I said "crap" 12 times.