day-to-day


Well, it’s been quite a while since I’ve gotten to post here. Things have been somewhat hectic with school, life, etc. Plus, I tend to engage more frequently with my professional blog, my professional twitter, etc. It’s hard not to when you’re an academic, after all, academia isn’t really a 9-5 job. And when your brain is always on and reading and absorbing and thinking of ideas, you’re more apt to hit the professional side of things instead.

The past nearly two years since I last posted (it feels like forever, yet it also feels like it’s breezed by)  have been busy. Since that point, I took and passed my comprehensive exams, I went to three conferences in 2011, I went to two more conferences in 2012, and I went to the doctoral consortium in 2012. I also wrote and successfully orally defended my dissertation proposal.

At the moment, I’m working on my dissertation and looking to finish it in February 2013. As well, I’m on the academic job market. That is to say, in a somewhat formal process of seeking a job as assistant professor, I’m playing the waiting game with a bunch of schools. To top it off, my wife is pregnant with our first child and we’re expecting Baby Smalrus to come any day. So you can imagine, it’s been tough to find time to bounce around where I used to post. Twitter, in particular, has made it extremely easy for me to share links, to bounce simple thoughts, to complain about my day… particularly in a non-academic context.

I’ve managed to watch the evolution of this site as I’ve evolved. My digital footprint spans nearly 15 years, to when I first created a web page on my high school’s server back in 1996. In 1997, I adapted the ‘smalrus’ handle. Smalrus was a portmaneau of my name and my favorite Beatles’ song, “I am the Walrus.” It’s a name I registered in every place around the web. From the defunct geocities to the defunct xoom to the defunct nbci.com… aol, rocketmail, yahoo… you name it, smalrus has been there. For me, ‘smalrus’ is a trademark identity that’s an important part of my personal life on the web. These days, I frequently register dually on sites: one using ‘smalrus’, the other using my professional handle. Regardless of the frequency with which I post on smalrus.com, I’m still smalrus. In fact, for nostalgia’s sake, here’re a few smalrus pictures from years’ past:

Claire and Smalrus, circa 2001 Smalrus, circa 1998 The 'Original' Smalrus Picture from July 1997. Smalrus in the Living Room, 2001 Smalrus in Quebec, circa 2003 Smalrus at Cap Jaseux, circa 2003

Smalrus is me.

So, you can imagine how odd I found it when someone–some stranger–randomly in February decided she was going to start some tumblr picture blog using my handle. Not only that, the pictures were of cats… which clearly aren’t what the smalrus pictures from 1997 are. So why does this bother me and why do I heavily consider paying the couple hundred dollars to formally register a trademark with USPTO?

The answer is because it’s my identity. And usurping that usurps the half of my life that’s been using that identity to express myself online. Much like this bit of catharsis in this post, this blog has frequently been used to grapple with issues I’ve had, whether they be the banal gettings over of a high school girlfriend or the realm of politics. It’s been a nickname online and in real life. So it’s hard to think that by attributing anything else to my name, that it’s not me. To me, it’s much like forging my signature and saying it’s me. That’s something that’s hard not to want to protect.

Not quite sure what or when I’m going to do it, but it’s given me serious pause for ontological thought, especially with the impending arrival of Baby Smalrus (as he or she has been affectionately referred to by others). But regardless, I’m still smalrus. Regardless of the frequency I get around to posting over here, I am (and always will be) the smalrus, smoo goo g’joob.

Apparently, I’ve vastly neglected this site over the course of first-year, second semester. Quite a bit has gone on over the past 4 months since my San Francisco update. In the not too distant future, I’ll have to run a quick update on my first year in the program, followed by what’s to come…

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My sister is in the process of applying for a program. In an initial draft of her personal statement, she writes about my convoluted path to happiness. I don’t necessarily think it fits her personal statement, but I’m flattered nonetheless… Dayenu, Elise…

“I have tried to start believing that life has a way of falling into place and that circumstances happen for a reason… bashert. I try to view my older brother as a testimony to this philosophy. Had he not underachieved in college and not been undecided about his future, he would not have ended up back home for 2 years. Had he not ended up back home and not been lonely, he would not have registered on JDate. Had he not registered on JDate and not gone out on a few dates, he would not have met his wife. Had he not been frustrated with living at home and not wanted more for himself, he would not have tried to pursue law school. Had he not pursued law school and not been unsuccessful being accepted into a school, he would not have then pursued an MBA. Had he not pursued an MBA and not interned for an investment firm in Manhattan, he would not have gotten a job offer. Had he not gotten a job offer and not been laid off, he would not have had almost a year to re-evaluate. Had he not had almost a year to re-evaluate and not have realized he wanted a PhD, he would not have pursued the perfect path for his life. Bashert.”

Well coincidentally, today — the mid-semester date — happens to fall on the one year anniversary of my termination at AllianceBernstein. What a ridiculous year it’s been, but simultaneously amazing, at that. The dual milestone seemed a fitting time to write a post on what’s been going on for me in the intervening year.

Let’s see… for starters, I’m married now… Wasn’t that tax status last year. The wedding went well — rather amazing actually, though we haven’t really gotten to experience “true” married life since we haven’t had much time to do so. Besides, we’d been living together for more than a year before the wedding, so cohabitation was a non-issue. There are professional pictures here (http://is.gd/4uB8q) and many of our friends’ snapshots here (http://is.gd/4uBaJ).

Let’s see… The Tuesday following the wedding was the first day of PhD orientation at UMass-Amherst, and everything has been pretty good since then. This semester, I’m taking:

* PSYCH 660 — Advanced Social Psych (which has been real interesting, talking about stereotypes, prejudices, cults, decision biases, heuristics, etc).
* PSYCH 640 — Statistics in Psych (which has been a real doozy, particularly since my prof is very math/proof-based, rather than conceptual-based. First midterm last week did NOT go well.)
* MGMT 805 — Research Methods (which is pretty neat and I have a great prof. There’s a lot of “how do we design a good experiment? How do we make sure the experiment gives us valid results? What are the best experimental designs?” etc.)

Also, everyone in the department goes to the biweekly Friday proseminar — run by our department head — that has our third/fourth-year PhD candidates present their research, as well as brings in some professors from other schools around New England to present. So far the courses haven’t been too bad, with the exception of stats. There’s never nothing to do… which is good, because it keeps me mentally occupied.

I have two years of courses; at the end of this year, I take a core exam and at the end of next year, I take my comprehensive exam. My third year, I’ll be doing research and teaching a course each semester. And in my fourth year, I’ll be writing my dissertation. I’m mostly looking to focus research on consumer behavior, marketing communications, brand management, and corporate social responsibility.

For my assistantship, I’ve been assigned to work with two different professors, and so they’ve already put me to work creating surveys for eventual data collection (from corporate privacy officers), grading exams, mapping social networks, and reading lit/data for an eventual paper they want me to get published/presented at a conference possibly this year. I’m really looking forward to writing this paper since it would be my first journal publication and, though they already collected the data, the process of “how to interpret the data” has already taught me a lot. It’s hard to conceive the learning curve I have ahead of me in 4 years, but even in past 6 weeks, I’m already seeking a marked difference in what I’ve learned.

So… was getting laid off the worst thing that happened to me? Well, it was unexpected, yes. It threw off what I thought were my plans for the future. But I was fortunate enough to hit a lucky bounce along the way and head in the direction I was meant for. At the risk of sounding fatalistic, perhaps for me, it really did all happen for a reason. Right now, I’m in the best place I could be and primed for a future that perhaps I was destined to have.

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