Saturday, February 25, 2006

One-man Band

I've been listening a lot to one of my Diana Krall CDs lately, and her music has really helped me focus. I've CRANKED these past couple of days, actually. And uh yeah, I've sorta kept the CD on "repeat" as a result.

I'm starting to equate my writing process to that of being a one-man band. The band practices until all the instruments are tightly-knit, the venue is such that the music sounds good, and the resources are all in line in order for the performance to happen. Writing, then, becomes a performance of sorts. This is not to say that each writing session must be a perfect, critically-acclaimed performance. However, I'm calling it "a performance" in that the outgrowth of a good rehearsal involves all of the pieces functioning together well enough to "perform." The performance itself doesn't need to be stellar every time, but in order for the show to go on the pieces at least need to be able to work together.

A jazz group would have a difficult time performing without its drummer, or its bassist, or its vocalist, and so forth. All of the components must at least "be there" in order for the performance to happen. Again, the performance may not be stellar, but the show must go on.

This is to suggest that if (er...OK, when) I'm having a bad writing day, it's not that I'm inherently a bad writer or a poor scholar. It's just that the vocalist in my band has a cold, or the drummer has an ear infection, or the bassist is just having a bad day and should really be playing the blues. One or more components is probably missing that day, so that day's performance may not win any awards. But I need to keep in mind that the show must go on. I need to at least complete the show and 'get it out there,' so I can then take the feedback from the local newspaper critic, learn from it, and work toward a better performance in the future. Without performance, others don't know you're doing much of anything. You can practice all you want in your own living room, but what's the point of making music unless you share it and let others hear it?

OK, it's time to kick my drummer's ass and get some more writing done today. Am determined to finish up this @#$% lingering pilot study before I see DC on Tuesday.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Cheeseburger, Fries & a Couple of Beers

Fuck the diet, I needed a break this evening.

I spent a good chunk of the day on a regression assignment for my multivariate stats class. I think I ran the data just fine, and I have till Thursday to write up the results. Took a while, though. While I can follow every word the professor says in class, and I understand the concepts, the act of actually applying the knowledge to something "real" and trying to remember all the details made my ass tired. Guess I'm more qualitative at heart. Nevertheless, I managed to figure it out. However, the part of the regression model I was most excited about ended up having absolutely no impact on the dependent variable at all. AUGH! If I weren't already bald, I would have pulled out my hair! That's life in quantitative research, I guess. Now I need to spend the next couple of days writing about how the data disproved my own theory. Nice. :|

Just before 6PM, I went downstairs and said, "OK, we need to go out and do something fun. I am not letting a bunch of numbers get me depressed on a Saturday evening!" So Wife, Moose and I went to a local establishment known for its burgers and cheap beers, located right on the county courthouse square. Even though it's so blasted cold (8 degrees right now), we enjoyed the time out. Had a chance to walk around the square a bit and even hit a local bookstore. I think Moose had fun as well; he actually kept his hood and mittens on for a change.

I enjoy cranking out a bunch of work on a Saturday afternoon if I can later celebrate with a meal and a couple of beers out in town somewhere. I think that's what got me through the last two college degrees, and it seems to be working for this third one too.

Weightwatchers? Huh?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

A Bout with Academic Paralysis

If I were afraid of nothing, imagine how much more productive I would be. For me, fear is almost a paralyzing force, and it's one that I deal with in particular around academics. I think it's been that way ever since I was in high school. Sometimes I'm fearful even when I need to write about things I'm "good" at doing. I don't get it. Is it a fear of making an error? I doubt it - even as a pianist I was never too worried about being technically "perfect" all the time.

Fortunately, Academic Paralysis (AP) (hey, I just made up that construct!) has always been a temporary thing for me. One of the reasons I started this blog was to attempt to overcome this fear. I think it's worked to a point. When I finally start writing a paper (and I usually start later than I "should"), nine times out of ten it goes rather swiftly and ends with a decent-to-good result. An older and wiser colleague has said to me: Shooting for the stars is admirable, but you don't always need to hit the target to still be "good." It's excellent advice, and I should listen to her more.

I guess I fear the start of the dissertation proposal. I fear being alone without guidance, and I fear I'll drift too far down the wrong path and will never be able to swim back upstream. I realize these are probably not irrational fears: I imagine many other doc students go through a similar experience. It's just that this has been the longest case of AP that I've experienced do date.

I bet that many of these feelings of AP stem from the fact that my most trusted writing advisor and editor -- my father -- died unexpectedly about two years ago, during my second year in this doctoral program. The way he went was generous to him and horribly unfair to the rest of us still left. Basically, his heart just stopped one afternoon. On the one hand: write me that ticket! No major long-term illness traveling down a narrow road of disease or discomfort. On the other hand: his death left lots of un-finished business which he wouldn't care for very much. During the first year-and-a-half in this program I pictured the dissertation-writing process looking somewhat like: 1) write a draft of a dissertation chapter, 2) pass it onto Dad, 3) wait for him to rip me a new one with his feedback (as usual), and 4) off I'd go to write another draft with the end product being of thorough detail and succinct grammar. I'm feeling a little lost without that built-in structure in place. Dad operated with a nice blend of logic, organization, and philosophy in his work (I'll never know why he worked in sales and not academia), and I do miss his presence in my life.

I guess I need to keep the present day in mind. First, "life happens" and there isn't much I can do to control these events. The show must go on. Next, DC is turning out to be a fantastic sounding board for research ideas, and I know I'm very fortunate for that good relationship. Wife is always supportive and wonderful, and she's also a good editor too. Pink and a couple of other colleagues are trustworthy types who aren't afraid to argue with me about concepts and ideas. Argumentation was the way I would negotiate discussions with Dad, so finding this spirit in a couple of colleagues is good for me (and is probably not nearly as annoying as it was at times with Dad!). Hopefully things will start clicking again very soon.

Saturday, February 11, 2006


Today is Chesterley's first birthday. Just one year ago I was in the depths of studying for qualifying exams. Seems like a very long time ago! Thanks to those of you who have been checking in either regularly or even just once in a while.

I'm a bit amazed that I've managed to keep up this informal writing habit on a regular basis throughout the year. I do think it's helped my writing process in general. Also, it's been a fantastic outlet for a wide variety of thoughts on the dissertation, the career, raising a child with special needs, being a husband, and many others. Being accountable to others with this public-and-yet-all-about-me sort of writing helps me organize my thoughts and even gain perspective when I'm going into a downward mental tailspin. So, thanks to anyone reading for being around and helping me stay focused.

I'm off to be a researcher for a few hours now before an actual date with my wife this evening. I can get used to this.

Cheers to another good year!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Kermit THEE Frog here!

Wow, I thought I was gonna be Rolf! My comments appear [in bold brackets].

You Are Kermit

Hi, ho! Lovable and friendly [aw shucks], you get along well with everyone you know. [well, not quite everyone]
You're a big thinker, and sometimes you over think life's problems. [yep]
Don't worry - everyone knows it's not easy being green. [well, not quite everyone]
Just remember, time's fun when you're having flies! [yum!]

Agenda: Research!

It's been a relatively productive week, though still not much progress on the dissertation. I've submitted a paper for publication (COMPLETELY different paper than the one I've discussed here before), ran a staff meeting in the place of my boss, helped meet a major deadline at my office, edited a paper for a colleague, interviewed two clients at our office on a new project we're starting, and I even submitted our tax documentation to our accountant (I've never done this so early!). Also, I'm breaking ground in some important areas for me, like learning more about research methodologies. On my to-do list for the weekend are:
  1. act as a peer debriefer for a colleague as he decodes his dissertation data (qualitative)
  2. "play" with a data set I've obtained for my multivariate statistics course (quantitative)
  3. write a short paper for my stats class
  4. plan a master's-level class I'm teaching next Tuesday evening
  5. have dinner and a movie with Wife tomorrow night (wait, a DATE? What??)

It's interesting that I'm working on both qualitative and quantitative projects this weekend. I'm glad to be developing familiarity with both, though I think I'll always feel more at home in the qualitative world. It was cool, though: a colleague of mine cut this data set (no. 2, above) from a larger survey administered through our office. I was able to watch, and UNDERSTAND, how she pulled the data and even help make decisions on how to define things. It's just for a class assignment on multiple regression analysis, but this colleague and I hope this analysis could be the start of a larger project we'll work on together in our office this spring and summer. Much fun! And very geeky, which I sorta like. :-)

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Greetings fellow bloggers and friends. I'm still here. It's been a long while since I posted last. We went to Chicago to see an opera last weekend and had a great time. Then, I've been swamped under a rock with work stuff. Things are going well, though, and I'm not feeling much stress. It's good to be busy again. I think my theory of having a few more things on my plate to kick my ass is actually working well, because I'm being productive. Somewhat. OK, not on my dissertation, but on the class I'm taking, the class I'm teaching, and the article I'm finishing up, all's going relatively well. I'm not sleeping much, though.

Starting this weekend I'm officially setting aside my Saturday for getting studying done. Of course I lost an entire weekend and a couple of days here & there with the trip to Chicago and a very busy time at work. Still, it's good to know I have that extra time carved out and scheduled in the calendar for working. Let's hope I can pull it all together sometime soon.