Monthly Archives: June 2013

The Cost of Graduating

I have not been posting as much lately. That’s because I have been having some “life stress” with regards to defending my dissertation and graduating.

In a shameless rip-off of mastercard ads, I will share how much it cost me to graduate “on time,” otherwise known as, before my funding package ended (5 years of grad support), which is many years before the average completion time of a PhD (7 -9 years is the average across disciplines in Canada).

In my “above average” speed of completion, I incurred many costs. Innumerable hours spent watching TV came at a cost to a social life, travel to Mexico came at a cost to my social life, writing my dissertation came at a cost to my social life, etc. etc. etc. In addition to the costs to my social life with “I have to work on my thesis/go to a conference/go to Mexico,” there were real financial costs to graduating that no one ever told me about.

1. Library and archives of Canada fee. 28$

2. Gown rental: 46$

3. Thesis printing: somewhere around 60 or 70$.

This brings me to the optional costs:

1. Photos for friends and family. It seemed like the right thing to do. Cost: around 100$ for a small package of prints. I should have gotten these done at my grad, but no one tells you these things in advance.

2. Dinner after graduation and food and drink after defence: unsure of cost, thanks, parents.

3. Gown purchase. Anytime you put the word “PhD” in front of something it becomes more expensive.

Getting part of my tuition back because I graduated early? Priceless.



How I Learned to Love Paper Towels

I did not grow up in a home that valued paper towels, television or brand names. In spite of the merits of my upbringing, there were some drawbacks. I never learned how to clean quickly. Only well. In fact, I have been known to get down on my hands and knees to clean the floor (the only way it should be cleaned) and eschew the toilet brush (because that’s gross. Let’s be honest here.) And never, in a million years, would I touch the paper towel.

an unholy trinity: paper towels, saran wrap and ziplocs

Paper Towels

When I moved into my present abode, I just noticed them there on the counter. When a roll was done, it just got replaced. When the whole package was finished, a new one was purchased. How did this take place? (Hint: Shopper’s Drug Mart sells everything now). Initially, I was fearful. Would the paper towel convert me to its wasteful ways? In spite of my fear, I reached out to its warm embrace. I tentatively began using them for big jobs, like washing lettuce. After all, paper towels are composted by the city – even the private company they contracted manages to do this somehow. Even though they pick up garbage at highly irregular times and leave mess behind. Tea towels, my default for such a job, must be washed by me, and I wasn’t about to buy a salad spinner. So, that was an easy contest. Then I began using paper towels for other things. Like mopping up spills when the dishcloth got too gross (see previous comment for further information about my hatred of laundry). Then, this morning, I reached out to the paper towel and began cleaning with it. Even though I knew that real cleaning that should be done with a rag, in this moment, I realized that my conversion was complete.

Excuse me while I practice my newfound faith. I have a ziploc bag to throw out.

Toronto Summer List

I have this bad habit called routine. I rarely, if ever, take advantage of what Toronto has to offer. I go to the same restaurants, bars and coffee shops that I always do. I go to the same parks near my house. I have never been to a Harbourfront festival, and the last parade I went to was Pride last year. It is my understanding that Toronto is a city that has more than this to offer. What would you recommend?

Money and Donations

Last Sunday, I was listening to NPR. One of my favourite shows is Planet Money, because it explains a range of issues related to money in a way I understand, and, for the most part, agree with. Since I’ve stopped running in the past couple of weeks, I am behind on my podcasts. I listened to two shows, one about US government transfer payments and other assorted welfare-related programs, the other, about people trying to “do good” and donate money to a specific project in Haiti.

Planet money learned two things: 1, that transfer payments are actually very effective, regardless of how the recipients spend money and 2, that donations are difficult to manage.  NGOs have learned this lesson, but are obviously not sharing this in an effective way.

Why do people feel the need to know exactly where their money goes? Why do people feel so possessive about their money and so respond positively do these direct-donation opportunities? What is the role of generosity here? What void do child-sponsorship programs, simulacra of relationships between two people, fill? Why do organizations that recruit donations in a traditional way seem to be suffering at the expense of indiegogo and kickstarter?