(Un)Comfortable Reading Positions or “Norton Neck-Cramps”

There’s a common problem plaguing english grad students — in fact, it may have spread to all students generally. It is a problem oft dismissed as irrelevant; never talked about; never addressed, and students suffer alone when confronting it. I of course refer to this:

The 3,000 page neck-aching Norton Anthologies: textbooks that work your mind as well as your forearms. Pictured here is my Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Just look at it! It laughs at your futile attempts to read it comfortably. The first 500 pages or so are by far the worst of the experience — the book constantly shutting from the stress on its binding. Sometimes I look forward to mid-semester only because the book balances better on a table. Word of caution: do not attempt to read this book in bed, unless you have two spotters (very few people do). If you read it in a chair with your lap (which sounds reasonable) you will find your eyes cannot make out the micro-print typeface. The book must be 10-12 inches from the eyes, and the only way to accomplish this is on a flat table, with your neck precariously hinged, taking frequent breaks to relieve the stressors on said neck.



Fortunately, that has all changed. I’ve finally discovered a more comfortable way to read this book! I never thought I’d see this day, but alas: Behold, the book holder!

This ingenious device props books upright allowing it to be read easily at eye-level, relieving neck stress, minimizing head movements, and overall providing a more comfortable and healthy reading posture for uber-large textbooks.

In my mind, this is a revolutionary find (though, apparently a hushed secret among law students who have known about it for years: damn lawyers and their secret clubs!). I bought mine from Amazon for about 8$ and love it. It has already dramatically improved my reading experience, and as result, no doubt will seep into better grades. Simply search for “book holder” on Amazon and always remember who showed you the way 😉

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Statement of Purpose Writing Tips

Statement of Purpose essays are incredibly difficult to write. This past April, I began the application process anew for my PhD. Of course among the items required was a statement of purpose. Worse, I read it’s often considered the most important component of the application. The doctoral degree emphasizes specialization, focus and (gulp) “purpose.” Add to that, if you’re applying to a program where “writing” is central to success (English for instance) a Statement of Purpose holds evermore weight.

But after tips from friends, professors, and after studying several samples, I discovered advice to help craft a decent Statement of Purpose.

The following are 10 tips for anyone needing to write a Statement of Purpose for graduate school.

  1. Be humble. Don’t be a know-it-all who writes-out advice in lists of ten simple and fairly obvious statements.
  2. Leave the lofty goals and ambitions to Miss America pageants: Be real and be yourself. The world will not be a better place if you’re accepted to graduate school. True, you are special and unique; however, there are billions of people who are also special and unique. So, act accordingly after weighing in that proportion. A “real” person is much more refreshing and interesting then someone effusively optimistic/naive.
  3. Your opening sentence and/or opening paragraph are the most important parts. Spend time with them. Don’t make them generic and don’t take over-the-top risks to stand out; like opening with a haiku or some unnecessarily provocative statement.
  4. Stand out with specificity.
  5. Avoid all and every sort of cliche.
  6. Demonstrate focus and drive indirectly through illustration. Don’t explicitly say something about yourself that cannot be corroborated.
  7. Keep a common thread running through the essay.
  8. While you may not know exactly what you want to focus on in graduate school, it helps to highlight a focus area. There must be at least one thing you’re interested in. Find out what that is and talk about it. Allow your own natural interest to color your enthusiasm (don’t feign excitement when it’s not there).
  9. Have different people read your essay to offer their feedback. Think about using custom assignment help.
  10. Re-read the first paragraph of your essay and honestly ask yourself “If I were a random stranger, would I want to read on?” If not, don’t feel afraid to scrap that entire paragraph. It’s not about length, it’s about quality of content. Sentences should be painfully crafted, revisited, rewritten — polished to death as it were. If your statement of purpose doesn’t take you over a week to write, or if it doesn’t look drastically different than the first rough draft, it’s probably not ready for submission.

Explore yourself through the essay. You may come to discover that you have a clearer idea of yourself and your own purpose for pursuing graduate work by the very act of writing about it. In some respect, it can be an exercise for yourself.

Okay now, here’s a test: look at the paragraph you just read right before this. If any part of your essay reads like that, delete it! While it contains a modicum of truth, it’s wrapped in corny, lofty, non-specific, language that reads a bit like pablum — which has no place in your essay!

A Sample Statement of Purpose Essay

Melodie Professional Edition

Melodie ProOnce upon a time, churches used overhead projectors to display song lyrics on screen for people to follow. This was not bad for its time, but it did require a lot of work on the operator. It was tedious (and stressful) to search for songs fast under pressure; one needed nimble fingers to jump to different stanzas quickly, and strange cardboard-contraptions to obscure certain lines. And apart from rolling back the projector and re-focusing, adjusting the size and resolution or the background was difficult if not impossible. But thankfully, in this era such contraptions are a thing of the past.

After many long months of programming, I’m happy to introduce our latest software creation: Melodie. With Melodie, you can store your entire library of songs on a computer, and then quickly retrieve them, and have lyrics scroll down at a certain pace, and/or quickly queue up the next song or stanza at the direction of a song leader. The idea is distraction-free worship.

But if you need to add a little color or make a more dynamic song/bible presentation (for a youth choir, or Sunday School graduation for example) you can still do that with Melodie!

With the new Professional Edition of Melodie you can set dynamic backgrounds (picture clouds moving) via videos. The text, fonts, margins etc. are all customizable. In fact, Melodie Professional has a whole suite of neat features, such as:

  • Dual-Screen Output
  • Direct X-based text scrolling for enhanced smoothness and control
  • Jump quickly to individual song lines as well as stanzas
  • Supports wide screen output aspect ratios
  • Easy to use (cliché-sounding, but it really is easy)
  • Bulk import your song data from a spreadsheet
  • Songs can be “tagged” by keywords to aid in searching.
  • Video loop and gradient background options
  • Advanced full-text song searching algorithm
  • Quick Bible passage look-ups (comes with the KJV and ASV bible)
  • Shortcut / Function keys make operation a cinch
  • Melodie keeps itself up-to-date automatically

Check out The Melodie Professional Edition website to download and learn more!