Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Natural Disasters

Just about three years ago, the family and I planned a road trip to visit my in-laws five hours away from here. About an hour before we were to leave, a tornado came through the town north of us and went right up along the only major road out of our county. It caused major damage to many homes and businesses, and if memory serves one or two people died in the storm. We did not know the effects of the storm until we attempted to leave town. Had we truly understood the force of such things like tornadoes, I don't think we WOULD have attempted to leave town.

Houses we knew on the drive out of town were entirely gone. There was an field filled with what I could only describe as rubble; I honestly don't remember what had been there. Entire stands of trees were mangled, and you could literally trace the path of the tornado just by looking out into the fields. We drove through this part of the state about one hour after it had been practically ripped in half; it was very scary. It took us three hours to drive to the outskirts of our state's capital from here when it normally takes about 50 minutes. And what we saw along the way was horrible.

This week I keep hearing people say, "I can't imagine what being in Louisiana and Mississippi is like right now." Now, clearly what I saw here three years ago is only a minor, tiny, fraction of the devastation we're seeing on TV reports from the south. But the weird thing is that I feel I CAN imagine what it must be like. I hate it; it's almost like an old wound is coming back, and the tornado here really didn't even directly impact my life. It affected my mind, I suppose, because the images still stick with me. Some of the tornado damage is still visible today. I can imagine what it would be like to be in New Orleans or Mississippi right now. What I cannot imagine is actually being a true victim of either of these natural disasters. As much as I make fun of how poorly built our house is, at least we only sustained a minor leak in our kitchen ceiling as a result of yesterday's rain. The roofer was able to fix it today, less than 24 hours later. How different from New Orleans can THAT be?

Certainly puts any dissertation stress into a different perspective, that's for sure.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Il pleut

It rains. The forecast for the Small College Town area today actually says "tons of rain." I've never seen it quite written that way.

It's nice to have the cafe practically to myself this morning, partially due to the rain, I'd bet. And with the rain has come a great deal of ideas for the dissertation, in terms of the population I may work with and the reasons why they are important to study. I think it's time to feed all this rain into a directed gutter and get some of it written down.

Is that ironic that I'm comparing my notion of focus and commitment to a gutter? Doesn't a gutter connote waste water and something one discards? Nice analogy. I need to get back to reading now.

Sunday, August 28, 2005


I've not posted in over a week. I'm not one to complain, but oy I've never had such allergies in the late summer. Ever. I'll spare you the deails, but suffice it to say my head has been swimming in a fog for almost a week. I can't type any exclamation points in this post because that would indicate excitement or a loud voice. No such thing here: quiet voices, dim lights, calm attitude, and plenty of medicine to keep the head at bay. Ick.

I suppose I could understand this happening during my first year living in a different state, but this is my fourth August in this town, so I'm a bit confused here. And nothing, I tell you nothing, can beat the pine pollen in a Southeastern spring. That SUCKS when the windshield turns bright yellow-green from the stuff. This is nothing compared to that... why is my head feeling like a helium balloon??

Saturday, August 20, 2005

A Musing on Reading

I have started reading dissertations of those who have completed the doctoral program here at Large Midwest University. This is a helpful exercise for me in that it's helping me to focus and narrow. The notion of getting more narrow is not one I come to very quickly (this last sentence probably made my colleagues who may read this laugh out loud!). However, reading these dissertations have given me some tidbits that provide perspective:
  1. One will most likely not change the world with one's dissertation!
  2. A dissertation that may appear to have a simple research design is not remotely a simple piece of research. One must truly enjoy one's topic in order to spend the amount of time completing a detailed analysis of literature and data.
  3. The dissertation is a completed work of research which has been read and critiqued by numerous others. There is no way that my proposal is going to be nearly as polished, nor should it be.
  4. Read read read literature of interest, find a gap where data don't quite match up or where more research needs to be constructed, and create a study exploring that gap.
It's interesting to find patterns in these things. I'm reading articles and these studies much more quickly than I read articles for my coursework. I look for the patterns in the different sections. For example:
  • Where's the gap noted in the review of literature?
  • What type of study is it, and how was the sample selected?
  • What are the implications of this study?
  • How did the researcher get from the initial formation of research questions to the end results of the study?
Frankly, there are sections of articles I merely skim, especially if I'm reading just to learn more about the construction of the study or about the manner in which a particular type of research is written. With other articles, especially the primary sources, I take my time absorbing the work, understanding the concepts, and reflecting on what I read in order to make connections to other things. It's truly a fascinating process that comes just from reading reading reading.

If you were to ask me HOW I am conducting my study or WHAT the implications are, I couldn't quite tell you just yet. I'm still reading, still learning where the literary gaps are. I finally see an initial gap (praise Moses!), but I need to read some more to see if the gap truly exists or if I'm just missing something. It's an interesting spot in the process for me. It's like I'm on the right road and I know what the destination is, yet I can't quite make out the roads I need to take to get there.

Hopefully the map will soon appear, or at least I'll acquire some cartographic skills pretty darn quick.

Hyundai Sonata dethrones Camry and Accord - Autoblog - _

Speaking of cars:

When the residents of Chesterley traveled East over the Independence Day Holiday, we rented car mentioned in the article (click this post's title to read). Now, we didn't request a Hyundai; rather it just was the car they gave us. We were a little hesitant at first: it was a two-hour drive to my grandmother's place. "A Hyundai?" I said. "Are we gonna make it?" I was only half-joking.

I've gotta tell ya, we were impressed. The car was fantastic! Easy to drive, fantastic pick-up, V6 engine, and even a sunroof. And this was an inexpensive rental! Not that I'm in the market to buy a car for at least the next year or so, but I just may look at this one. I'll have to see how it holds up over time, but if the repair record is good, then I may change my opinion of Hyundais.

Friday, August 19, 2005

What's your summer ride?

Your Summer Ride is a Beetle Convertible

Fun, funky, and a little bit euro.
You love your summers to be full of style and sun!

What makes me laugh about this is that I really do drive a VW, though not a Beetle. I've had to sink so much money into my almost-seven-year-old Jetta to keep it running that one would actually think I EARN money as a graduate student! Ha. Anyhow, I thought this was a fun little quiz as we near the summer's end.

Monday, August 15, 2005

The Wheels on the Bus...

Son is going to start his second year of preschool a week from this Wednesday. In the past couple of days, we've had some representations of developmental progress. First, he started wearing his little backpack today, which is something he wouldn't tolerate one bit last year.

Second, over the weekend we converted his crib from a "crib" to a toddler bed by installing the toddler rail. He can get in and out of bed on his own. The first night (Sunday) and tonight (so far) were just fine. He went right to sleep. Last night was hilarious: we put him to bed, and a few minutes later we saw him standing in the second-floor hallway, blinking, and looking at me as if to say, "How the hell did I get out here?" We gently took him back to his room, and he eventually fell asleep. All was well. Hearing the pitter-patter of little feet in the morning will take some adjustment, but it's nice to see Son exhibiting behavior that is more fitting of a four-year-old, for a change!

He will travel to school on the bus this year. A little bus, with harnesses and the whole nine yards. This will allow him yet another socialization experience, and it will prevent Wife (and sometimes me) from having to take him to and from school 180 times!!! Some of the other parents say their kids' bus-ride is the highlight of their day, so we hope some of that energy will travel over our way as well.

One thing is for sure: glad I'm not the one starting classes in the fall! Writing a book is plenty enough for this 22nd-grader.


And now, it's time for a post about water.

We had to purchase a new refrigerator about a month ago. How the hell we could afford this on my stunningly small graduate assistantship stipend, I'll never know. Thankfully, Sears had this sale of not paying anything for a year, so perhaps between now and then we'll win the lottery. Or at least a job. So we figured what the f-ck, let's get an icemaker. We can't afford the fridge anyway, so let's spend a little more and get something we'd like.

This is the first time in my entire life when I have an ice maker in my own home. Pretty darn exciting. Even more exciting is the water dispenser that's inside the refrigerator door (if it were on the outside, then Son would sit there constantly and dispense water all over the floor. This would be bad).

I drink more water now. Lots of it. Can't get enough. And there's always plenty of ice. Gotta like ice. Yay water!

I think I lost my brain halfway between the water dispenser and this stack of articles I'm trying to read...

Friday, August 12, 2005

Time well spent

As it turns out, my time back at the Cafe on Tuesday served me well. Had a great meeting with Colleague, and that evening I found a whole stack of articles that are putting me in what I think is a really interesting direction with this Beast. This is good.

Since then, I've sort of embraced the fact that I've had a slow summer, and that's OK. No, I didn't accomplish as much as I thought I would on my schedule, but I'm allowing myself to be happy that I've had a "good," relaxing summer. Perhaps acknowledging the fact that I've had a break will help me get my @ss in gear later on? Let's hope so. I started losing sleep the other night over all the things on my list, so perhaps I'm coming out of my unconscious need to relax. Am probably overpsychoanalyzing all of this. Or perhaps I'm justifying being a slacker?

I must say I've been more affected by Peter Jennings's death than I thought I would be. I truly don't know where I'll get TV news that I trust ever again. Part of the cycle of life, I suppose, but it's still bothering me a bit. I hope someone else is out there who won't dumb down or sensationalize the news, but frankly I doubt that person exists.

Alright, off to work and then onward through yon articles.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Back at the Cafe

Well, at least it's been a nice summer. I've done plenty of "summer" things like going to the beach, going to a baseball game, spending a day at a water park, playing in the sprinkler with Son, etc. I've not had a "fun" summer like this in a long time.

Dissertation? What dissertation?

The fam and I had a nice long-weekend trip to Wife's parents' home in Neighboring State to the North. Son enjoyed himself thoroughly, and his grandparents were glad to have us all crowding up their house.

Dissertation? Huh?

Other colleauges went through the qualifying exam process these past two weekends. I wish them all well, and I'm glad it wasn't me!

Oh yeah, and then there's this dissertation thing.

You know, it's been a while since I've cleaned out the gutters. Yeah, and there's always the mailbox post that needs to be painted. And there's also the...

Oh yeah, the dissertation.

Like I've said, it's been a nice summer. Perhaps I'll start finding motivation to turn into my fall work mood. So far, I'm not there. Perhaps today's cafe work-day will change that? Don't hold your breath. The funny thing is that some of the literature I brought with me today is on MOTIVATION!!!