Conquering comps

Man at desk

Yesterday I wrote my final comprehensive exam, which essentially marks the midpoint of my pursuit of my PhD in Media Studies. Next week I will defend my answers; my department requires four exams, so there will be questions from my comps committee regarding all four. Assuming that everything goes well, that will advance me to candidacy, and my focus will shift to getting my dissertation proposal approved and writing the actual dissertation.

I wanted to take an opportunity to offer some suggestions to other PhD students who might be facing their exams in the near future. While every discipline and every school varies slightly in terms of what comprehensive exams consist of, they are a universal in terms of earning a doctorate in the United States. Here are the strategies that I used to get ready. Continue reading “Conquering comps”

Struggling with sentences

Fountain pen

Now that I’m more than a year and a half into my doctoral program and have wrestled with dozens of papers, short and long, I believe I’ve finally put my finger on an ineffable experience that I seem to encounter with some frequency, particularly when working with later drafts of something that I’ve written and rewritten a half-dozen times already.

As I just noted, this is something ineffable, but I’ll attempt to describe the experience anyway. Say I’m staring at a paragraph that just isn’t quite right–perhaps I need to add an additional source, or introduce a contrasting idea, or both. I will find myself staring at the screen, silently (or sometimes not) screaming at the computer, almost paralyzed–it is unbelievably difficult to put my hand on the mouse, maneuver the cursor, click, and start typing.

I know what you’re thinking. “Why?” (Or, more likely, “Who cares?”)

Continue reading “Struggling with sentences”

“Best” restaurants and social media


I’m mulling over a study idea related to the “best” restaurants in the world and how that may (or may not) correlate to social media (e.g., Twitter, Facebook) use. I’m¬†wondering if there’s any possibility that Michelin stars indicate “stuffiness” (based on critiques like this one) and whether this has any bearing on a restaurant’s use of social media. I’m also thinking about comparing the full list of Michelin-starred restaurants worldwide to several other “world’s best” lists and seeing what I come up with. Any thoughts, foodies? Where do you get your restaurant recommendations if you want a “destination” meal?

The history of the restaurant

Old books

This past term I was excited to be able to take a course entitled “Food Matters,” which was the first instance that the keystone course for the Food Studies graduate specialization was offered at the University of Oregon.

We had a number of options available as final projects; one of them was a book review that would encompass at least two book-length texts. I used the opportunity to write an abbreviated history of the restaurant; this was based on the books The Invention of the Restaurant by Rebecca Spang and Smart Casual by Alison Pearlman. The former focuses on the first restaurants that emerged in Paris in the 18th century; the latter looks at the changes that have occurred in American restaurants since the mid-1970s.

Continue reading “The history of the restaurant”

Pan-Seared Chicken Breasts in Caper Cream Sauce

Chicken with capers

I wanted a hearty dinner but didn’t want to spend a lot of money or a lot of time on it. This recipe, which I found via AllRecipes, is really excellent and will be a regular addition to my rotation.