Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Cafe Commentary

One of the things I like about working in the cafe is the variety of people I see here. It keeps me feeling in touch with reality during a time where I need to spend time alone (something I don't particularly enjoy very much). I've said it before, but I just love this place.

From where I sit, I see businesspeople having power lunches, students like me studying alone, good friends meeting for a drink, and even a painter painting what appears to be the inside of the cafe itself (based on how she's looking around the room). I wonder if I appear in the painting?

OK, time to focus, or else my Cousin Dave will come after me with his hatchet.

Administrivia

With numerous components of the doctoral student experience hanging over his head, Rob didn't sleep very much Sunday night. He suddenly realized that he may have missed something with his program of study: the long series of forms required to prove he took the appropriate courses at the appropriate times. He was up half the night looking for forms and syllabi from his Master's degree, trying to find answers to a dozen or more questions that popped into his head.

Around the department, there are many different opinions on how these procedures work. Rob decided to schedule a time with the official Person Who Knows This Stuff (PWKTS, or perhaps PaW KiTS? oh, sorry), from the Graduate Studies office. She has been very helpful to him in the past. He will meet with her tomorrow afternoon, most likely.

Rob can handle working with a great amount of detail in his work. However there are times when Rob can't figure it all out on his own and needs to ask for help. He writes this in the third person, thus removing his emotion and and is attempting to remain calm and objective. He hopes he doesn't need to take yet another class to compensate for a problem he didn't know he was having in the first place.

Stay tuned as the dramatic (ha) story unfolds.

And if you're a doctoral student, stay on top of all this paperwork during your first year, regardless of the advice may you receive from others.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

A Date

No, not a date for defending my dissertation proposal or anything quite that productive, professionally. Wife and I had a date Friday night.

Much fun, very much needed. We went with a few friends to Large City to the North (LCN) to eat at a new seafood restaurant where the wood interior was built by the stepfather of one of my colleagues. I'm usually skeptical of getting seafood this far away from a sea, but everything was really very good. Wife knew the original restaurant in this chain from when she lived briefly on the west coast. It was good to get into a 'real' city for a change, and we hope this is the start of a weekly, or bi-weekly, date night for the two of us. Yeah, we don't really have the money for it, but I'll just count my pennies. What's the use in working hard on the degree if you risk losing touch with your own spouse?

So, a good time was had by all.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Early Morning Writing

Ah, it finally worked. I went to bed early last night (induced by a swimmy infected head) and got up before the rest of the family. I got up at 6AM, and by 6:30 I had started writing. A little over an hour later I had written three pages/907 words on my Results section for this pilot study. Yahoo! This is the type of schedule that I had planned on having this semester. Perhaps it's my morning work out?

Granted, I would never share what I wrote this morning with ANYONE! It still needs a lot of tweaking. But at least the start of the creative part is over. Now, hopefully, the rest should just flow naturally. At least for a little while, that is.

To further qualify this, my Results section is really my own interpretation of what the participants in my study said. I find this sort of writing relatively easy. When I get into the thick of my dissertation's literature review next month, that is going to be VERY slow going. So, we'll see if i can keep up the pace then. I sort of doubt it, but it's worth a try.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Progress - at last!

With the medicine kicking in, today was the first day I was able to see straight. I finally finished a first major step with analyzing the data from my pilot study, which I now realize I started last APRIL. Wow. As I've said before, it was a nice summer! Not very productive, but nice!

I've completed a preliminary analysis of the interviews I conducted, and I cut/pasted quotes and other notes into an Access database. Then I could organize the snippets by theme. Glad that's done. Now I can start writing the results section, one theme at a time.

In a previous post I said I had not been very productive this past weekend; however, some progress was better than none. My Princess Colleague seemed to like the progress I had made, even though I intended to give her a draft of this paper. Hopefully, next Tuesday will be my day to get the draft to her, and then I can hopefully turn things into my professor Friday to finally get rid of the Incomplete in her class. A long road, but I think well-worth it. After all, this is all fodder for the dissertation proposal, so I have to keep in mind that finishing this task is also helping me write the dissertation, too. Scary thought!

Monday, September 19, 2005

Two Feet on the Ground

When I was sharing my allergy woes with a friend this morning, she proceeded to tell me and Wife about a particularly rough time she's been having lately, far worse than my allergies. I tried to encourage her by saying, "Hang in there!" Her response has stuck with me all day:
Hanging in there gives me a mental picture of hanging onto a branch extended out over a cliff. I don't think I like that. I prefer to keep two feet on the ground. That way, I can keep moving forward.
Great advice. May we all keep moving forward.

Allergeez 2

MAN I have been sacked by a new allergy this fall. Fortunately, the Health Center here at LMU is fantastic. I've really clicked with one of the nurse practitioners there, and she's helped me figure out what in the world is going on.

Allergies can hit at any age, and the southern Midwest is apparently particularly bad this year with ragweed and goldenrod. It all makes sense now: Chester and I were on a walk recently and I went right past a tall frondy brush that sprayed me with yellow stuff...hi Goldenrod, how are you? At least I think that's what it was. My entire left side of my shirt turned yellow. And guess what side of my head/ear/neck gland hurts the most?

I've been on an antibiotic for about five hours, and I'm already feeling a little better. Head still swims around a bit, but better.

Sorry if this is too much information, but I'm keeping a log of my productive times and my not-so-productive ones. This was a not-so-productive weekend, unfortunately, but it's probably because it felt like my head was wrapped around a tree.

Nice.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Disturbing

I'm having one of those days where I'm about to throw myself into my work because I'm finding what's going on in the news about both the "war" and the hurricane so disturbing. It's very rare for me when work is my escape from things; usually, I need an escape from work. But there are times that working in educational research and running away into Theory World can provide an escape mode, I suppose. While higher education is indeed very connected to the rest of the world's happenings, the particular study I'm working on right now will allow me to escape...at least for a couple of hours.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Broke the "bad" habit

I no longer type with two spaces between sentences. In fact, I was just modifying a document I wrote about a year ago, and I was actually bothered by the two spaces I had typed in between sentences at the time.

Where have I heard it takes 21 days to form a new habit? Well, this took a little longer, but at least the Graduate School will accept my dissertation now.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Organization for the week/Cafe Haze

I'm at the cafe today; I've been here since about 9AM. Good meeting with Colleague today (who actually prefers I call her Pink Princess on this blog) (I'm not making this up! hahaha), and we had a good old fashioned discussion/argument about some constructs I'm working on developing for this study. I love a good argument among friends. She's plugging along on her outline for Chapter 1, while working a full time job that has her teaching two master's courses. I don't know how she holds it together.

I've eaten a healthy lunch, and now I'm getting the Cafe Haze. This is bad. I'll spend a little time web-surfing, then I'll get more coffee and find some focus.

Scholarly goals for the week:
  • Finish my data analysis for the pilot study (I have no idea how long this will take)
  • Finish a draft of the final paper to share with the Pink Princess by next Tuesday
  • Write a short paperon My Teaching Philosophy that will get rid of an incomplete grade I wasn't expecting (ah, the hoops through which we must jump)
Personal goals:
  • Exercise regularly (had a nice walk with Chester & Wife yesterday morning)
  • Lose two pounds (translation: stop eating like a garbage disposal...ew)

Presentation Proposal

Earlier this afternoon, I submitted my very first SOLO presentation proposal, based on a research study I conducted last semester. I've always wanted to do this! I've been fortunate to have given several presentations at professional conferences during the past seven years, but I've never been the leading speaker. Let's hope the session gets accepted by the reviewing committee. I hope to turn this into a publishable paper, and the first step involves presenting it at a conference and getting feedback from others in that setting. The conference is in March, and I'll attend regardless of whether this session is accepted, but boy would it be cool to be able to present on my own research study.

I must admit, I'm feeling rather "scholarly" today. Pardon me while I go straighten my mortar board.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Permission Granted!

The reason behind the post immediately under this one came from a very good meeting with my dissertation chair (may good health and happiness follow her: Lemming paraphrase) this morning. She gave me the go-ahead to start writing. Yay! on the one-hand; SCARY on the other. It seems that she has more confidence in the research I've done thus far than I do. I suppose this is a good thing. Time to buckle down and actually dump some of the thoughts I have on my topic into something coherent and readable.

One of the things that continues to amaze me about this doctoral process is the realization that experts, themselves, are still learning. Hearing one's advisor discuss areas of comfort, and discomfort, in the writing process humanizes the whole thing.

I suspect I'll be more prolific with blog posts in the upcoming months as I reflect on this process more & more. Should be an interesting ride.

"You just need to write, Rob!"

A trusted colleague said this to me the night before a major paper was due for my "Higher Education in the United States" course during my second year. We were together in our respective offices on campus (hers is across the hall from mine) and we were keeping each other going through the writing process at the last minute. Of course. I often get extensive outlines and notes on my sources together, etc., but the writing process itself for some reason makes me nervous. So I find ways to stall, procrastinate, etc., until I find myself in a situation where if I don't do the writing, then I simply will run out of time. Invariably, that's what has worked during this degree. Lack of time and urgency of need make me get the work done.

What's funny is that I've consistently received good feedback on my writing throughout my academic career. And my lack of starting early makes me write very quickly. Why do I fear starting the writing process, then? I do enjoy it a great deal, but I think it's almost a fear of commitment: committing the written word to paper. This is silly, I know; word processing changed the permanence of writing. I can just delete, move around, share with others to gain feedback, etc. Why not just write on a regular basis and get over this fear?

I think having this blog has helped me with this process. This is a much more public presentation of my thoughts in written form than most papers will ever be. I need to focus and JUST WRITE!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

In the LIBRARY??

Brace yourself. I'm attempting to work in the library. No coffee or "atmosphere" here. Just me, my wireless laptop, and the cube in which I sit. I'm hoping to find focus & structure in here. So far it's looking pretty empty, but I'll let you know if I run across the little buggers later on.

I have a meeting with my advisor tomorrow morning. I realize more than ever that I am only as productive as my deadlines are near. I'm looking forward to the advice and the proverbial kick in the tuchas.

If I can get my thoughts down on paper between now and tomorrow AM, it'll be a miracle. Has anyone seen Miracle Max lately? I need to have a chat with him.

Health

For anyone reading this who is starting a doctorate or is already in one, I provide one bit of advice: TAKE CARE OF YOUR BODY. You're (most likely) far too smart to do otherwise. I share this after an annual physical (annual? OK, it's been 5 years) where I learned I have elevated blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It's nothing out of this world, but geez I'm only 34. And since my father dropped dead from a heart attack less than two years ago, I should probably change my ways.

So don't be an idiot like I've been; stop sitting around, OK?