A mighty smiley hi and hello to you, February. I successfully defended my
comprehensive exams this morning, gathering around with my committee for an
hour-and-a-half as we wound our way through the exam answers and associated
quandaries. About those associated quandaries: holy smokes. I started to
wonder if the climate controls for the much-trafficked Gilyard Seminar Room
(where it all happens) were accidentally bumped to 80-degrees, because,
for more than a few minutes, phew. Can I simply explain it that way? Phew.
To stay focused and to humor myself regarding focus, I brought in one of those
pinkish kiwi-something A-lutein Vitamin Waters, the kind with "focus" on its
label. But during one stretch I must’ve forgotten to take a sip because I
might have approached a record for the longest answer-avoiding utterance (I’m
still talking?) in the history of oral defenses.

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X-timing Parataxis

I first thought I would call this entry "Two-timing Parataxis" so I could get
at the different relationships parataxis enjoys–simultaneously!–with
, on the one hand (cheek?), and hypotaxis, on the other.
But as I try to get a better handle on parataxis in anticipation of Thursday’s
defense, I’m starting to think parataxis is more than two-timing. Patsy Cline: "Your
cheating heart will make you weep." Heh, weep. Only I’m the one in
a fix because of parataxis’s scandal and infidelity.

Thus far, I’m finding a couple of more or less common distinctions, one
grammatical, in which parataxis is positioned as a dance partner with
, and one rhetorical, in which parataxis is paired with
. The tabloids will be all over this.

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Cloudifying Exams

Because I have a hearing/defense coming up Thursday morning for my qualifying exams, I figured why not run the answers for the most frequent nouns and noun phrases? And then I figured, why not post each answer as a tagcloud?

I’ve re-read my exam answers to prepare for each of the meetings with members of my committee over the past few days. Re-connecting with the answers has been unsurprising; I mean that the answers were what I remembered them to be. Their arguments, for better and worse, are still fresh with me. Still, the tagcloud gives me another perspective. A different bi-product.

I don’t have a whole lot more to say about the questions I anticipate or the steps I’m taking to defend myself my answers. Just saying that because I have the CSS built to handle it, I’m enamored of posting more vaporous gatherings, beginning with these.

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That Question

So-so: that’s how it’s gone preparing for writing an answer Thursday morning
to the exam question I’ve had since this past Thursday. Just so-so.
Throughout most of the day on Saturday, I was thinking about matching select
chapters from Heskett’s Toothpicks & Logos (which is built into the
question) with a few of the ecology pieces on my reading list. I’d match
the chapter on communications with Cooper’s "Ecology of Writing" and the chapter
on systems with Spinuzzi’s stuff on tracing genres and the evolution of ALAS.
But what about the chapter on objects?


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Sentence-coaster Rides, Screaming Prose


Flickr photo ReneS.

I jogged out the major qualifying exam yesterday, writing one answer in a
three-hour morning session and a second answer in a three-hour afternoon
session. I’m still a little bit groggy-headed about the whole of the
performance. I’m fairly sure that I did a better job of answering the first
question than the second. By the afternoon stint what was a heap of kicky
ideas in the A.M. was reduced to a wash of once-kicky ideas wanting for a nap.
I’m encouraged, still: I’m not embarrassed about the answers I wrote (okay, so
maybe I’d take back a couple of sentences, if I could), and I feel fairly
confident that I can defend my choices, explain why I did what I did, and
convince my calmmittee that I executed the two major exams well enough that I
deserve, more or less, to move on to what’s next. I was thinking about
including a note here about how much I wrote, about word and page counts,
since I’ve been prone to a fascination with such trivia throughout the duress
of preparation. But no, for now I will withhold those factoids. Today I’m
leaving out those details in protest (a protest of relief, to be sure) of word
and page counts. Let’s just say I wrote all that I possibly could in three
hours, twice.

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I went ahead and tried the exam-writing sprints Krista

. The questions I’ll be answering on Thursday, during a pair of
three-hour sittings, are only approximations. The exist in partially
remembered shreds from recent conversations rather than definitely, I mean,
in writing
. I’ve selected and assembled and condensed notes
accordingly, committing to probable answers and probable
organizations while figuring that I can bend the questions just enough to match
with the answers I’m best prepared to write.

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Again with the Exams

Again, I’m engrossed in exam preparations. The latest phase consists of
revolving shifts, a rotary of confidence and dread: waves of self-assured
anticipation (I’ll answer this way…), shudders of doubt (What if I
, have a lousy day, etc.). I’m not quite all frazzled and manic with
the process, but because it matters to me that I do well, because I want to
write answers that my committee judges intelligible and even interesting, it’s
not as simple as just shrugging off the anxiety. And while I can’t say
that I’ve been here before, been toe to toe with PhD qualifying exams, that is,
it does help to compare the stress of preparation to a certain nervousness I
felt before basketball games many years ago. When I played poorly during
those early years (as a freshman and sophomore), when I underachieved, Coach E.
said I was "pressing": giving in to the compulsion to do too much and therefore
perform all of it at a low level. The basketball solution boiled down to a
simple principle (whose alternative–fitness!–was running sprints until
collapse): do just three things well: box out, defend, go to the glass
(different days, different trios: no turnovers, make FTs, bruise the post scorer
without fouling). Keeping to just three simpler focal-metrics, the extras fell
into place, usually just accumulating in stride, without deliberate
effort. For qualifying exams, the correlation to pressing is jamming, working
into an unproductive (st)illness (er…stylessness). Yet, of course,
understanding that whatever induces anxiety (whether pressing or jamming) can
best be resolved by shifting methods (have a plan/outline, keep it simple, the
clock is an ally) certainly helps. Less than two weeks out, this is where I’m at
as I try to forge a work-path between making too much of exams and making too
little of them.

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I think I’ve
before that the exam-prep process has inspired in me fits of
number crunching in addition to the necessary obsessions with lists. For several
weeks, I’ve been checking off each item read, adding up the remainders,
subtracting them against the days left until. Qualifying exams, whatever
else can be said about them, encourage managed obsessiveness. It is a phase of
productively channeled bibliomania. They’re designed (at least in my
program) to get you do prepare more intensely than you’ve ever prepared for
anything else. Ever. The exam fever, however, has, for me at least, had a
side effect of hyper-numeracy. Where’s my calculator? Where’s my
spreadsheet? What day is it?

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