Life & Work

Ten Tips for a New Graduate Student

Outstanding Advice: “Work harder than everyone you know and collaborate with people smarter than you. My experience is that these two things are related. Smart people have better ideas, get more opportunities, and generally have more fun. Part of the reason that they are successful is they have less smart collaborators and colleagues who work really really hard. Work hard and smart people will let you ride their coattails.”

The Archaeology of the Mediterranean World

This evening I’m taking out a couple of my students who have been accepted into graduate school for next year. I threatened (offered?) to give them my list of ten tips to being a successful graduate student (also know as “things that I wish I had done in graduate school or did, but only by accident). I riffled through my harddrive and found a few versions of it and decided to compile them into one list. 

This list is directed at prospective graduate students in my field and it reflect my mistakes and successes more than anything else. 

1. Have fun. Graduate School is fun. Resist the urge to rush through the program toward an uncertain future. Don’t dawdle by any means, but make sure to savor your time in graduate school. Chances are that your graduate school environment will be the most supportive, robust, and dynamic that you experience…

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Um. No.

Screen Shots from Aftenposten
Screen Shots from Aftenposten

I’ve been watching the Scandinavian press chuckle over the History Channel series “Vikings” for awhile. Most recently, Aftenposten pointed out Uppsala’s sudden move to the mountains, courtesy of the series.

In reality, Uppsala looks a bit like Nebraska with water.

So, just in case it needs saying since the show is on the History Channel, the series is pretty much fun, silly fantasy.


Electric Peak

Electric Peak from Summit Webcam
Electric Peak from Summit Webcam

“Mr. Gannet succeeded in attaining the highest point and depositing his instruments, when he discovered that he was in the midst of an electrical cloud, and his feelings not being of the most agreeable sort he retreated.

As he neared us we observed that his hair was standing on end, as though he were on an electrical stool, and we could hear a series of snapping sounds, as though he were receiving the charges of a number of electrical frictional machines. Mr. Brown next tried to go up but received a shock which deterred him.

The cloud now began to settle about us, and we descended some 500 feet, and waited until the storm passed over. About four o’clock in the afternoon we succeeded in reaching the top, and Mr. Gannett found the altitude of the peak to be 10,992 feet above the sea. We named it Electric Peak.”

– Dr. Peale, 1872

Northern Plains

Just Part of the Job

The True Life and Heart of a RancherMarolynn Lesmeister, 14 April 2013
The True Life and Heart of a Rancher
Marolynn Lesmeister, 14 April 2013

Near Halliday, North Dakota, Marolynn Lesmeister snapped this image of Jordah Hausaer rescuing a calf during last weekend’s blizzard. Lesmeister entitled her photograph “The True Life and Heart of a Rancher.”

My cousin is a rancher, and so are a number of my friends. Here on the Northern Plains, we are fortunate to live in a world of cattlemen, cattlewomen, and farmers and ranchers with a variety of specialties. The kind of dramatic work that is Hausauer’s rescue is common to the life, just part of the deal.

Growing up in Montana and South Dakota, I wanted the ranch life. But it’s a helluvalotta work, and I’m not at all sure I would have been up to the task! Instead I admire these folks with a persistent awe.

Dolnstein, Luther, Workshopping a Novel. "The Hundred: A Novel of Young Luther and His World"

Workshopping Chapter 1

Luther's Parents, Hans and Margarethe (called Hannah)
Luther’s Parents, Hans and Margarethe (called Hannah)

The Hundred: A Novel of Young Luther and His World

As noted when I posted the Preface, I am putting provisional chapters of my novel out there as I work toward finishing this book. There are numerous problems I’ll need to overcome with these working drafts. Feedback on drafts of my non-fiction has been useful; I expect similar results from feedback on fiction drafts. Two writers’ groups are workshopping drafts. Through Scribd, the public will also have access to the work as it happens. I appreciate any and all feedback. It probably goes without saying, but please be polite.

Two Notes:

  1. This chapter and Chapter 2 may be switched in order in the final manuscript.
  2. Working covers are only visual aids at this point, but feedback on those is welcome as well.

Purposes of a Public Approach to Drafting a Work of Fiction:

  • To generate feedback on drafts.
  • To allow those with an interest in the book to watch it unfold.
  • To open Luther’s world for the curious.
  • To motivate me to finish a project that has driven my academic research for a number of years.
Northern Plains

Apparently We Have One Season

12 April 2013

My father used to say, “Don’t put the shovel away until Mother’s Day.”

It’s supposed to be a joke, but perhaps we’ve said it long enough now that Mother Nature thinks we’re serious.

It’s snowing. Again. We live about forty minutes from the Canadian border, and for the most part I love the snow. It’s clean, beautiful, and on a night with any moon at all, the snow makes the long winter nights a little less dark.

That said, this has been an exceptionally long winter, and I am ready for spring. Everyone I know is ready. I’m even a teensy bit edgy about the weather now, lovely as the snow is. The next time someone asks how the roads are, I’ll answer, “North Dakotan.”