Sunday, July 31, 2005

Spaces between Sentences: One or Two?

I have an old (old? Hey, I'm not old!) habit of typing two spaces between each sentence. I was taught this when I first learned how to type. I started using a word processor in the 1980s during high school, as my father had an office at our home. Even on the word processor, I typed the two spaces between sentences, like the good rule follower I am.

In Microsoft Word, I have my spelling/grammar check set on making sure I have those two spaces between sentences in order to maintain consistency in my writing. The fact that there is an option to watch for these two spaces says to me that this is an accepted writing convention.

In the School of Education at Large Midwestern University (LMU), we use the writing style as determined by the American Psychological Association (APA). Apparently they instruct that one is to put only one space between sentences. I'm trying to do that in this paragraph, and it's driving me nuts. Everything runs together, and one cannot tell the difference between a sentence and an abbreviation. Somebody stop me!

Ah, back to two spaces again. Two colleagues and I have friendly arguments on this point. One believes that Word automatically enters in an extra space between sentences, so there is no need. Not true, says I. The other tells me the LMU won't accept my dissertation with two spaces between sentences; he thinks I should break my "bad habit." Bad habit? Excrement, says I! I've come this far, successfully! APA is not the only style LMU uses for dissertations; surely there are others that require the two spaces. I know of some LMU graduates who submitted dissertations with two spaces between sentences, and they now successfully wear "Ph.D." after their last names.

Any thoughts on this silly little issue, O Fellow Bloggers who employ proper grammar and punctuation?

Social Process of Dissertating

At age 34, I thought creating my own structure to work on writing a book would be relatively easy. I mean, I was a successful director of a small student affairs department at Large Urban Research University-Southeast, if I may toot my own horn. I know how to focus, get work done, and then share the results with necessary constituents. However, finding the structure to work on a topic that itself does not yet have a lot of structure is proving to be more difficult than I imagined. My advisor suggested I get together with another extravert on a regular basis to discuss progress, topics, etc. She knows full well about my need to think out loud.

Her suggestion was a helpful one. I've started regular meetings with Colleague, a fellow fourth-year doctoral student with the same advisor. Of course the meetings take place at Favorite Internet Cafe (FIC?) in SCT. Food intake is an essential part of these meetings (of course), along with endless cups o' java.

My goal for Tuesday is to show Colleague the reading list I've completed and another list I aim to read soon, all organized around topical themes. Hopefully these themes will grow into a structure for the literature review chapter. Her goal is to show me a draft of a survey she's creating as part of her dissertation. She'll collect data this fall, while I'll collect (Lord willing) in the spring.

I'm glad to have finally found a direction in my work and a colleague with a similar way of thinking (all entirely out loud!). Everyone says the dissertation stage is an individual process. I'm not sure I entirely agree with this. While the physical act of writing is individual, the process of getting to the writing stage can be very social, indeed!

Cal me a relieved extravert in this realization.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Focus, my @ss!

The act of finding focus was not my strong point this past week. I'm not too broken up about it, however, though I'm mildly annoyed that I've not yet found my groove for balancing my 20-hour-per-week job with 20 unstructured hours of time when I could be reading & writing the Diss. I feel like I'm missing out on an opportunity, in some ways, by not finding the time. On the other hand, I'm taking a much-needed break and am finding time to collect back the other parts of my life that frankly I had started to let slide while in the throws of exams and remaining coursework last semester (i.e. not eating like a fool and taking time to relax with the family).


Let's hope this week works out a bit better. I'll try to post more to keep myself accountable to Blogland, for a change.

BTW, Son's 4th birthday party was great fun yesterday, as we celebrated with a handful of his friends and my Chicago-based family. I'll post a picture or two when I have them ready.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Needing to FOCUS!

Man I need to focus this week. I'm cracking the shell on the office cleanup, which is a good thing. Perhaps I'll post a picture of the place this week.

Next weekend is Son's 4th birthday, and my Chicago-based family will be joining us here in SCT this weekend. That means I need to get a bunch of stuff done this week. Where to start? I have much more reading to do, that's for sure. I wish I could read as fast as Lemming! But I also have a ton of interview transcriptions to finish up, and that takes much longer than I anticipated. I think I'm going to organize myself this way:

Day# Hours for StudyTask
Monday2Finish review of Chickering & Reisser (1993) & choose readings for the week
Tuesday8Transcribe like mad in the AM; read articles in the PM
Wednesday2Read articles

Yeah, OK Rob. Sure. Let's hope we can stay so focused this week. I do have this new Harry Potter book staring at me on my dresser, right underneath the newest Grisham novel I'm finishing up...hmm.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Yeah, I guess that's sorta accurate

Take the What High School
Stereotype Are You?

I'm interested in how Hugh would score, being that we attended the same school.

Gearing up for a whole lot of nuthin'

Oy. It's Friday afternoon, and I've probably put in a total of about 5 or 6 hours on my dissertation, limited to my day off from work on Tuesday. I've got to figure out a better way to focus. I guess I've been enjoying my lack of coursework this summer a bit too much, however I do think I deserve some relaxation.

Last night I reviewed my self-imposed schedule, and I realized, in disbelief, that my first deadline is coming up three weeks from today! THREE WEEKS?? Great Scott! Fortunately, knowing myself as well as I do, I padded that deadline a bit. That paper is supposed to be done at the end of the summer, which of course is not for another six weeks.

Ooh...I shouldn't have said that about the remaining six weeks of summer. Am trying to live in the present and ENJOY the summer! OK, I'll stop now.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Gearing up

I've been sluggish with my dissertation work this past week. It's probably a combination of getting back from a nice week away coupled with a general feeling of "what am I about to walk into?" with this new lifestyle post-coursework and pre-dissertation-proposal approval. Basically, I need to spend the rest of the summer reading, and I have not read a thing related to The Diss all week.

Today I'm finally feeling the focus and drive to (drum roll, please) CLEAN MY OFFICE. Yup. Gotta do that again. I do it at the end of each semester. I've even purchased a real live recycle bin ($3.99 at Local Office Supply Chain) so I can feel like I'm doing my part to be environmental. I'm determined to have a workable space by the end of the weekend. Next week I start my "normal" work schedule of 20 hours at my assistantship and 20 hours on The Diss. Let's hope I can stay focused with all of this unstructured time to myself. It'll be an interesting transition.

We're also gearing up for Son's fourth birthday, two weeks from today. My Chicago-based family will be in town, and I suspect we'll invite just a few of Thomas's classmates from preschool and their parents. Should be fun: a Baby Einstein theme.

Stay cool this weekend. The Midwest is scorching this time of year.


It is DRY in Small College Town this summer. I say this because my idiot neighbors in the more-upscale neighborhood behind my own (!!!) were setting off HUGE illegal fireworks, leaping over their house and landing on the dry tree line that separates my yard from theirs. Any fireworks that leap into the air are illegal in this part of the world. Note the time now: this started just before Midnight. Wife was awakened, and I had been snoozing as well.

So, like a good citizen I called the county sheriff. No, I don't have the exact address: it's dark out and I live on a different street. Why the neighbors up on that street didn't call, I'll never know. (These neighbors have disturbed the neighborhood before: blasting a note on a trumpet at 1AM, setting off fireworks the past two summers. At 8:30 PM tonight, a chain-saw noise was coming from this house when Son was going to bed. Who in the world ARE these people?)

The fireworks continue when I'm on the phone with the dispatcher. After hanging up, I get into my car and drive over there myself, curious if I'd actually see anything. My blood is mildly percolating.

I find a kid at the foot of his driveway, not more than 11 or 12 years old, with a HUGE firework in hand. I informed him the fireworks had awakened my family, was creating a fire hazard, and I had called the sheriff. My tone of voice wasn't as pleasant as that last sentence reads, nor was the language as eloquent. He said, "Sorry," like he didn't mean it very much, and then shouted to someone I couldn't see in the garage to say the police were coming. An "adult" male voice in the garage said "OK we'll stop."

Across the street, a car is parked in another neighbors driveway that says "County Fire Department." Nice. Why in the world THAT person didn't do something about this, I'll never know. I'd be surprised if they didn't hear the noise.

You know, when I was 11 or 12, I was asleep at midnight unless I had a group of friends staying over and we'd be up watching movies or bad late-night TV. This situation tonight was depressing. I shudder to think about home life for that kid.

And why was I the one who made the call when this was happening practically in the middle of another street where a fire-fighter apparently lives??

I guess it's a sad comment on citizenry and society today. Why my neighbors cannot respect each other, and also watch out for each other, I'll never know. It could be a phenomenon in this neighborhood, but I wonder if it's a change in our society in general? When I was a kid, the neighbors were our friends. We watched out for each other. We played together. We didn't do things to each other that was disruptive in the middle of the night: that was left to a group of obnoxious kids or the rare criminal. But the homeowners themselves and their families? Dogs don't defecate in their own spaces, so why would a resident mess up his own neighborhood?

Perhaps Chester could teach my neighbors, and even our society, a lesson or two.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Back Home Again

We had a good time with my Grandmother of Great Age (GoGA), and Son did quite well on the trip. I think GoGA was pleased to see her great-grandson, even though there were times that she probably thought he'd make her house fall down during his "explorations" in the bathrooms, the laundry machines, and so forth. When we ventured out into town, Son enjoyed exploring the various beaches. This picture was taken at the beach across the road from GoGA's house at low tide, a personal favorite spot of mine. When I was Son's age, I learned the differences among oysters, scallops, and clam shells at this beach. In addition, my sister and I used to shout, "Eewww...seaweed!" when we'd step in something slimy. It was a neat experience to show Son these things last week.

Watching an elderly relative age is an interesting phenomenon, and it was with a mixed emotions that we completed this visit. On the one hand, we're thankful for her long life and ability to stay in her own house. On the other hand, we're torn between helping her navigate her old age and allowing her to make her own decisions. Not an easy time, but it was well worth the time spent.

And now it's back to reality and society, but I'm excited to get back on track with the dissertation proposal. Did I MENTION I finished classes? Ha ha. I'm finally at the point I've looked forward to for so long: twenty hours of work per week are my only scheduled time blocks now. The rest of the time is all mine for working on The Book. That scares me just a bit. Perhaps it's just like stepping in icky seaweed: you never know what you're stepping in till your foot is all the way under.