What started as an awareness raising and ethnographic styled walk through Sierra Leone, this site now details the encounters of a not so academic academic who spends more time occupying Wall Street and squats than a university...

Monday, December 24, 2012


So this time of year I have noted at other points has become my favorite.  It is the time when I get to look at the future with hope.  Not the future in general, but mine.  It is school application season.  The time of the year that I can at least hope that this time next year I will be in a PhD program, and the time of year that I always get to engage with my own intellectual interests.  I have put in a number of applications now and still have a few more to go.  UC Santa Barbara, UConn, UC Davis, Hawaii, UC Santa Cruz, Boston College, Rutgers, Pitt, and York (Canada) are all in.  BC and York still have materials that need logisticing, but otherwise there are just a few more to go.  I've got three more spots to fill in my limit and four schools, SUNY Stony Brook and Binghamton, Vanderbilt and Northeastern.  I also have a fall back school in the University of Ljubljana should all go array.  But anyway, I'm almost there.  I'll give a full break down of the costs and finagling it took to bring that down once I've got everything in, but for now I am just about making that last decision and promoting myself at each school.

This Tuesday I just started what should be a few school visits that will help me both decide where to apply and hopefully get in.  Despite having some form of the bubonic plague I jumped in my car and headed up to Storrs, Connecticut to visit UConn and their sociology department.  What I thought was going to be a last minute, one half to maybe an hour's worth of time with a professor or two turned into a four hour red carpet tour of the program and school.  I met with pretty much every professor there on campus at that point and the grad students.  I met with two of my top three choices for supervision and was very happy with them.  One works on social movements and such with a focus on Africa and Ghana and the other has won an award for a published article about a new theoretical way of looking at social movements.  Both were really nice and I felt that I had a good intellectual engagement with them.  The graduate director as well, who works on closely related issues - mostly labor issues - was great also.

The campus itself is getting a major overhaul as they are adding building after building and new professors.  Sociology alone will get 5-6 new professors for next year and one of them would benefit me apparently.  There will probably be more as well in the coming years. While the building they are housed in could use a face lift - it is one of the oldest buildings on campus - it is a classic new England school architecture that is nice.  The school is out in the middle of no where though.  And when I say this I do not mean like Morgantown, WV out in the middle of nowhere (a town of 30,000 in the middle of nowhere), I mean, no town at all in the middle of nowhere.  Like an intersection with a couple shops in it is the whole town.  Suffice it to say, moving there from Brooklyn would be tough.  But then again, I've always dreamed of a cabin in the woods!!  hahaha!!

The program itself has received a face-lift in the last 15 or so years as well.  They have consciously made it more structured.  Not the best thing for me, as they now have two classes required in both qualitative and quantitative methods.  I would like to only have to take one quants class at most, but overall its still really good.  They have moved away from exams as well - a good thing for me - and only require one comprehensive exam to move the next levels of the program.

Anyway, as it is, it was a great visit.  I would do well there and with their staff.  The mere fact that they rolled out a little carpet for me makes me think that I am going to be well considered there.  They'd seen the NY Times videos and went out of their way.  I feel good about my chances.  I was told that they would be starting to make their list in the end of January.  They have pushed their Dec 1st deadline back to January 15th - I would assume because they didn't get enough applicants or as good of ones as they'd like.  They are also likely to be a fall back school for a lot of Ivy type candidates.  The impression I got, was that I should be patient and allow the process to take its course.  That I will be on a list, wait list at worst and that I should just let it all play itself out.  They brought in 11 people last year, which is a lot more than a place like Rutgers that had two last year.  Plus with more Sociology programs in the country there is not the squeeze that there is in Anthropology.

I feel good about the visit.  We'll see where the other schools fall.  I'd certainly like to be in more of a city, but all the same might do well with no distractions!  I am going to go to York in Canada during the first week of January and stop at Binghamton on the way back.  I'll try to sneak out to Stony Brook one day here when I have off from work.  I'd love to get to Cali and check at least Davis and Santa Cruz.  I need to sell myself to these people, bring out my strengths for them.  I'm never the strongest on paper, but in person I carry more merit.  So that's the plan, and its moving forward!


So I officially have a job!  I had an interview a little bit back with a large health foods supermarket retailer and am very happy to say I have gotten the job.  I will be doing delivery in and around midtown Manhattan of groceries.  It is not the greatest job in the world - and not lost on me that it is the same job I had in High School - but it is steady work in a good company with room to grow.

I just had orientation this past week, and it was actually quite refreshing.  I spent two days learning about food and environmental justice, GMO's, the importance of buying local, eating good healthy foods, etc.  It was not really anything new to me at all, but there were some new tidbits that helped.  For the most part I was answering all the questions in the class and adding stuff to the teacher's discourse.  But for me it was great to get to the end of the day and say hey, they are not saying anything here that I really disagree with.

Yes, they are still a business and still are trying to make money - I will most certainly have my critiques as it goes - but in terms of overall company principles, they are a massive company pushing to have more people eat better healthier food, with less industrial food production, and less capitalist contamination of the food and environmental systems.  Now obviously, in trying to make money of this there still are going to be issues.  But they're whole principle seems to be, the more people we convince to eat more organic, local, healthy foods, and the more people we get to buy in to our corporate image of 'green' and environmentally and social friendly, the more customers we'll have.

They seem to be using a growth model for their business that will mirror the growth of the health food industry in the US.  They are not trying to take customers from similar competitors, but trying to take customers from industrial chemical laden food chains, and get them eating health food.  It is tough for me to argue with that or the logic of it.  I'm sure things will play out that bother me, but on the whole, I believe in what they are trying to do - even if it is just a ploy to make money - the outcome is a better place than we started in.

I did walk through the store quick after and certainly still have some research to do; for example: while they spout on about local local local, my honey from there is from Brazil and India   They are using recyclable this and that, and biodegradable bags and such which usually are made from corn - which drives up food prices in the global south.  Obviously, there is never going to be a perfect company to work for.  It is after all a company... and this one is of course intertwined within the expropriative capitalist system, but still, it seems like a good step for me.  Income from someone that is at least trying (even though the owners politics are appalling).  And they are at least saying good things in terms of labor and how they treat their employees.  Including that there is a lot of room to move up in the company.  They will be tripling their stores over the next ten years - 340 to 1000.  Lots of opportunity there if I wanted it.  So we'll see, I feel ok with it all.  Work itself starts Wednesday.