Tuesday, December 30, 2008
This process has been looming over my head because it's taking me a long while to get the results analyzed. The longer it takes, the tougher it will be for me to reach the participants for a member check. It's now been over a year since I conducted my last interview, so one can understand my stress. Most of them gave me their alumni e-mail addresses from the college they attended, which may work. And I do have cell phone information for most, though those numbers may no longer work. And frankly, I'm not all that comfortable just cold-calling people I've only met for one hour of their entire lives.
It occurred to me that many of the participants may be up on Facebook. Fortunately, I've found all of them but two. Not bad! So, there is hope in me actually reaching a good number of them. This is a good thing.
Ah, technology. I love ya, I love ya.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Thursday, October 09, 2008
I had met him only once or twice at larger events like orientation programs earlier this fall. But even then it was easy to tell this was a vibrant, intelligent young man. It's a tragic loss not only for my university and for this student's family, but also for the higher education field as a profession.
I don't understand why people choose to go through with suicide. Look, I'd be lying if I said that I've never considered it myself, but those were some extremely dark, horrible moments for me in the past. I just can't imagine actually following through with it, though. What would drive someone to do that?
For those of us left behind, there's a mix of emotions ranging from sadness for the young man, his partner, his family and friends, to a feeling of anger toward the person who is now dead. And then there are subsequent feelings of feeling horrible for feeling angry, and things just spiral around from there.
Personally I think it's normal to feel some anger in these situations, and certain expressions of anger can be healthy. I just hope and pray that the group of master's-degree students I advise allow themselves to feel however they want to feel in this situation and don't become too restricted by other social norms that may tell them to behave in a certain, specific manner.
Light a candle. Say a prayer. Hug your loved one. Do whatever, but consider just taking a moment and being thankful for what you have.
I'm enjoying the process of watching the theory unfold. That seems a bit passive for someone creating a theory, but considering the theory is based upon the words out of the mouths of my participants, I do think it's safe to say the theory unfolds itself every time I work with the data. It's pretty cool. I love the study, love the participants, and I just wish I could work on nothing else but the study until its completion.
Back to work-work now. Hope to keep plugging away on dissertation-work tonight.
Sunday, October 05, 2008
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
Here's to hoping the VW makes it that long without requiring any other repair work.
Dissertation time now. More later.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
I'd like to hear your opinion on which car I should buy. Please respond to the poll I've posted somewhere in the column to the right.
I'm thinking of something relatively inexpensive yet reliable. Small and fuel-efficient, yet something with a little bit of class. Typically, I am the only person in the car, and I use it mostly to drive about 20 miles per day to and from work. I take an occasional trip by myself to visit relatives, but that's pretty rare. When we travel as a family, we usually take Wife's small SUV.
I'm really leaning toward the Mini Cooper, though I have some concerns about it blowing around too much in the winter when driving at high speeds on the Interstate. Again, it's pretty rare that I drive on the Interstate out of town, but it's a concern nonetheless.
I welcome your thoughts and am open to many ideas.
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
I can hardly believe the timing of this!DissertPronunciation:(di-SUHRT)Meaning:verb intr.: To speak or write at length on a subject.Etymology:From Latin disserere (to arrange in order), from dis- (apart, away) + serere (to join). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ser- (to line up), that is also the source of words such as series, assert, desert (to abandon), desert (a dry sandy region), sort, consort, and sorcerer.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Anyway, now I'm far enough along that I'm able to make decent comparisons among the participants. I can tell who is higher along on certain concepts than others, who I think is going to go far in their careers, others for whom I worry just a bit. It's pretty neat to feel like I know these interviews well enough that I can start organizing them that much better. I'm not as far into the woods as I was, even 24 hours ago. Weird how fast that happened.
I moved out of the office/prison and onto the screen porch. Am still really focused. I have other industrious neighbors who's yards are adjacent to mine, and their work is helping me focus, actually. One couple is going to town on their garden while another neighbor is repairing his boat. Guess we're all hard at work, outside in the back yard on a Sunday. Working in a community of other workers always keeps me focused (see any posts done in the cafe in SCT, and you'll remember why I said this).
Back to it. Just made more coffee. Bye.
Back to it, while eating my bagel sandwich, ignoring the perfect Sunday weather...
Thursday, July 03, 2008
I actually started some of the content for this post way back at the end of April. Not sure why I didn't post it, but here it is. I'm editing it, updating it, and finally posting it.
Today, July 3, is one of the days I'm working on dissertation-work, and on work-work, from home. I'm really glad it's raining and muggy out today: keeps me focused and able to sit in my office/prison without getting distracted by house chores. OK, anyhow: onto the bulk of the post as related to the dissertation:
I've been coding coding coding interview transcripts these last couple of months. Months, yes. Not doing all that much in one sitting, but am making progress. Things are moving along well enough. What I'm finding interesting is the level of detail I remember from the interviews themselves while re-reading the transcripts. In a way, I'm re-living the actual interview experience with each person as I do this. I interviewed 14 undergraduates for this study. Some of the participants have insight that seems beyond their years, at least with regard to the direction of their studies and careers. Others do not, which is actually pretty normal.
Either way, I find it exciting to hear how they conceptualize their future based on the work they've done in college. I typically feel really positive about the world and our society when I'm finished coding an interview, probably because most participants found my topic to be upbeat. I'm asking them to think about themselves, after all, and most people don't mind chatting with someone else who seems to be interested in their experiences. Some are saying that they were glad to have had a chance to participate in the interview because it helped them to reflect on their college experiences, something they do not take the time to do very often. Hey, if they get something positive out of the interview besides just the gift certificate I gave to the participants, then that's all the better!
A week or two ago, a friend asked how the data analysis was coming along. I compared it to when you have a large storage closet that you know you need to clean. There are useful things in there you're not using because the closet is too full and cluttered. At some point, you need to just pull everything out of the closet, lay it on the floor, sort through it, and repack the closet with only the things you'll use. Comparing that to data analysis, I'm at the point now where the crap is out of the closet, spread all over the floor. I'm slowly wading through, throwing things out I no longer need, and sorting through that which is still relevant. I'm now in a good place, especially because for a while I think I was in the, "Holy shit, I have to clean out that damn closet," stage. I'm through the fear and anxiety, and I'm just cleaning house now. Finally.
Well OK, there's still some fear and anxiety. For example, I've no idea what sorts of shelving, storage boxes, hangers, or anything that I'll need for repacking the closet. The thought of organizing everything into something that's understandable is a bit daunting. I do know from experience, however, that the closet's organization will define itself as I move through the cleaning process. It's not a perfect process: I'm probably going to buy some storage boxes I think I need now, but later I'll return and exchange for something different. I'm probably going to start organize things as I'm moving forward, but later on may change the whole order of things. That's alright. Part of the process, I suppose.
OK, gotta get back to digging under the fence.
Monday, June 09, 2008
There is much on which to report since the last time I wrote. Most activities were expected, planned events, though a couple of others were not.
The weekend of May 23 Wife and I went to Chicago for the Autism One conference. We were very fortunate to have Wife's parents ("Grandma-mama and Granpa") stay with Moose here at Chesterley. We learned a great deal and met some other parents in the same boat. There is a certain energy found in being surrounded by 1,800 others who also have a close connection to a person with autism disorder. It's pretty intense. Jenny McCarthy was the keynote speaker…she's really an amazing spokesperson for the cause. And yeah, she's a hottie too. Hey, just being honest!
We came home Sunday the 25th. On Wednesday the 28th we had Moose's official meeting at the local public school to determine if he is still eligible for special education services. Well DUH – of course he is! Haha. Seriously, the meeting went very well. We continue to be pleased with the available services in our local schools, and the general knowledge that all of the staff members have, from the principal to the teacher's aides, that seems to be consistent among everyone we've met this year. They even allowed me to put on my researcher's hat and really question some of the instruments they use to assess his developmental level. The good news is that we all have similar views on how to use these sorts of data sources: no one instrument can tell the entire story. This is a good thing.
Later that day, I went back to Chicago to help a friend prepare for his wedding. I was the best man. Suzanne and Moose joined in later that weekend. We had a GREAT time. The groom was the best man in my wedding to Wife 11 years ago, so we enjoyed having a couple of days to catch up on old times. We've been good friends for 21 years, but we had not spent that much time together in a long while. Thing is: I caught a nasty head cold on Thursday, and then I wasn't really a good steward of my body the rest of the weekend (I was up too late, eating/drinking too much, should have been in bed). I made a darn good feverish best man, lemme tell ya! LOL. But I've had trouble knocking the cold ever since. Almost gone, but I ended up missing last Monday & Tuesday of work, which is throwing off another part of my summer schedule…
Last week was supposed to mark the beginning of a focused dissertation work time for me. I'm taking a significant amount of time off from working at LMUU each week in order to focus on the diss. Unfortunately the first week of that focused time was thrown off by my illness. Silly thing, being sick, isn't it? So this week will really be the first. My goal is to get a big part of the data analysis done before the end of next month. It's definitely possible. Not sure HOW at this point, but it's beginning to feel sort of like the end of a semester. Usually in the last two weeks of a term, I wonder how the hell I'll get it all done. But then when push comes to shove, I always managed to get by. This will likely be the same drill, I suppose.
Some good news: allow me to toot my own horn for a moment (wait a minute, it's my blog, I can toot my horn as much as I damn well please!). Just before the first trip to Chicago, I learned that I won a dissertation award from my department! Basically I'm getting reimbursed for expenses I've already paid related to conducting the study, like gift certificates to participants, purchasing the tape recorder and tapes, getting the tapes transcribed, and driving to & from SCT last fall multiple times. Thing is: they actually gave me a good amount more money than I had requested. Huh? Did that really happen? Honestly, the most humbling part of this whole thing was that this was a decision of a faculty committee in my program. The faculty read my dissertation proposal, and they liked it enough to actually throw some money my way. Wow. That was a good way to wind up the month of May. Woohoo!
Well, I hope to be updating this blog quite a bit more starting this week, especially since I'll have more time devoted directly to the dissertation work. Yay.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
I have a post saved here in the "drafts" folder from a couple of weeks ago that describes some of the things I'm finding when coding the interview transcripts for my dissertation. I go back and forth as to whether or not I should share these things up here, so that's why I've not published that post just yet. On the one hand, the whole point of keeping the blog is to get practice with writing and to do it in a way that it's presentable for an audience. Perhaps writing about my findings would allow me to create a sort of rough draft for my dissertation?
On the other hand, I'm paranoid that someone else will use the findings for their own studies. I fear getting robbed, in a sense, like getting plagiarized. Typically I err on the side of trusting people, so I usually don't mind sharing my dissertation research in person with colleagues I trust (and hopefully I'm not putting them to sleep with these things!). Here in the blog…I dunno. That's another story.
If people have some insights as to whether or not they think I should share these findings up here, please do speak up here. I'm all ears…or eyes, as the case may be. I'm leaning toward telling all.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Coding data in qualitative research is very similar to tagging photos in Flickr or posts here in Blogger. It's a way of categorizing the words of my participants. Later on I'll refine the codes into short phrases that I can use across interviews. For now I'm working on "open coding" which is really a free-form analysis of text. I read and re-read the transcripts, and for each sentence, phrase, or sometimes paragraph, I create a code. Just a way to sort of categorize what the participant is saying. Yep, it's pretty tedious, but I'm finally making good progress today.
About an hour ago, I started freaking out a bit. I have FOURTEEN participants for this study. I've open-coded a few of them thus far, but geez. Each interview transcript ranges from 25-40 pages long (one was even 50, but that was my first interview and it was really really long). The task I have ahead of me is very daunting, and I keep thinking about how much more of my life this is going to take, will I really ever be able to wrap my brain around all the data? Will I ever get my life back? Will I ever get this parasite of a study off my back?
Do all doctoral students talk to themselves like this??
Calm the fuck down, Rob [still talking to myself...where's the bus to the looney bin??]. Finish the transcript you're on so you can make some progress. Take advantage of having the house to yourself this weekend to get this crap done.
Deep breath. OK. I'm drinking a beer now. A very nice Trader Joe's Hefe Weisen, I must add (gotta love city life and easy access to decent beer). I'm now living in the moment, dammit. When push comes to shove, I can get through a shorter transcript in just over an hour if I really focus. OK, it's really not that bad. I could finish most of the open coding this week if I really push it.
Living in the present moment is a good thing. So is drinking a beer during the data analysis process, at least once in a while. Especially a good beer.
Friday, April 18, 2008
I don't think I've written yet that my transcriptionist finished transcribing what she could with my interviews. Yay again! One problem was that yet another tape broke. That makes three during the dissertation. Through a couple of connections, there's a person I know at LMUU who may be able to fix them at least enough for me to get the things transcribed. Keep your fingers crossed.
Moose and Wife are away this weekend, so I'm here holding down the fort with Chester and planning on cranking out multitudinous and prolific codes. No office cleaning allowed.
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
Wife and EA have been friends since high school, and she was in our wedding 11 years ago. It's great to see her go so far. SO happy for you!
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
"Excuse me. Are you...an actor?"
"No," I replied, "but do you think I look like Paul Giamatti?"
"YES! That's exactly what I thought!"
"Yeah, I get that a lot," I said. "But I'm not him."
"For real?" she said? She then turned over my credit card slip to check my name!
"Seriously, I'm not. But you have definitely made my morning!"
So then I went to another part of the airport's food court and ran into two colleagues who were finishing their lunch. It was crowded, so we were sharing a table with someone we didn't know. I told my friends the story. The other person at the table said,
"Yes! You really do look like him!"
It made me laugh. I happen to think he's a talented actor and a decent-looking guy, so that's pretty darn cool that strangers are saying this to me. Perhaps I'll become an impersonator as a second job? hahahaha
Monday, April 07, 2008
Many things have happened during the last few weeks...nothing Earth-shattering, but all good toward making some progress. Mostly intangible progress, but progress nonetheless.
First, we re-arranged furniture at my on-campus office. I switched to a different space WITH A WINDOW!, but it had older furniture not made for someone who does a ton of technical work on the computer. Now, I have my old computer-friendly furniture in my new space. This all may seem minor in the scheme of life, I know, but I finally feel settled in, physically, into my new office at work. It really makes a big difference on a lot of different levels.
Next, I attended my first ACPA conference (American College Personnel Association). I have an elected position with one of the leadership groups within the association, and I have come to learn this was a great way to get involved. I also felt rather "seasoned" (another word for "old," I suppose, but not at all negative!) at this conference. It hit me that I've been in the higher education field for about 14 years (started the master's degree in 1994). I could walk around huge all-conference receptions by myself and invariably run into someone I knew from one or more of the places I've worked. This was a first for me. Also, it was the first conference I've attended in YEARS where I came away feeling energized and had numerous ideas I could bring back to adapt to my work.
Third, Wife and I have finally started making friends here in LSC. We've found a falling-off-the-left-edge-of-liberal church that we like here in town, joined the choir, and even had a nice Easter dinner with Becky and David at Chesterley, along with my mom who came to town for a visit. Wife has a few of her own friends from a support group she's joined. Also, Jason and I got together for lunch last week, and it was good to hang out with someone else who 'gets it' about kids with special needs.
Finally, I completed yet another purge of the home office/prison. I know, I know, my cleaning obsession is getting ridiculous. Readers of this diary know I hate filing, so I avoid it. As a result, things I need to keep pile up, even though I admit I do have plenty of file spaces. In our last house, I had several piles still left un-filed when I was packing to move. On my last night in SCT, good friends Julie and Kim & Michael finally just said, "Rob, we're packing the piles. Find a couple of boxes." So we packed the un-filed piles and moved them to the new place here in LSC. They've been sitting in a closet acting as a burden on my back, just like the dissertation. More piles had formed, and it was about to get to critical mass. I needed to clear off that burden before I could undo the burden of the dissertation. Besides, I sort of need to start "liking" my home office/prison again. And behold: Last weekend I cleaned it all up. It took forever, and I didn't get nearly as much time outside to tend to the yard as I would have liked. It's not perfect, and I still have a way to go. However, it's complete and functional, and it's a good lesson learned.
I need to keep this same attitude and energy toward the dissertation, and, heck, also toward a lot of the research I will conduct in this career. The old mantra carries through to many other things: "A completed dissertation is better than a perfect dissertation." Similarly, a clean, functional office space is better than a perfect Architectural Digest office space. I think I've been avoiding making progress on the office cleaning because I knew it could never be perfect, or even completed, in one weekend. What a crock. And true to form, once I got into it, it wasn't that tough. It was actually sort of enjoyable. And MAN do I know where EVERYTHING is located now.
I may be doing the same avoidance thing with the dissertation, but to a lesser extent because I am definitely making progress. I just need to ramp up the progress and strive more for completion than for perfection. Sort of feels like it's spring for my dissertation season, in addition for the lawn that's greening up as I write this. It's an exciting new horizon on the dissertation front, I think. Yay.
Monday, March 17, 2008
Wife and I attended an autism expo here in LSC over the weekend. How nice not to have to drive 90 minutes from SCT! It was only about 10 minutes from Chesterley. We're still getting used to all this. The place was PACKED with agencies from all over the place, and tons of people. Some even brought their children; thankfully we had our trusty sitter at home with Moose.
Anyhow, we've had our eyes on some sort of indoor swing for some time. The act of swinging is theraputic for him, as it calms him down and keeps him level-headed. If he swings or does some other physical activity, then he can be more focused when going to school or learning other speech-related things. This is part of his "sensory diet," that he needs to feed each day. We have a great play set in the back yard, but he's not been able to go out there since last November due to the weather. The company that manufactures the indoor swing system was at the expo, and everything was literally half price. So we picked one up, and I assembled it Saturday afternoon. He LOVES it. These shots were taken minutes after the assembly was finished. There are a couple of other accessories that will be shipped later in the week, so I'll probably post more pics then.
We had planned on setting this up in the basement, where is actual play area is, but the doorway is two inches too wide. So, we choose the kitchen/dining room doorway instead. The bar can be removed pretty easily when friends come over for dinner (the blue supports remain, but I'll try to get over it). Sunday morning when I was cooking breakfast, he was swinging and watching me. That's different: the "watching me" part. It was almost like we were having a conversation while I made him breakfast, and that was way cool. When I was finished, I said, "OK Moose, come sit down and eat your breakfast." And he did with no protesting, no hesitancy...just following directions. And he was smiling, too. Wow. Anyway, click on the photo above to see a small set of shots of the swing.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Monday, March 10, 2008
Did I mention it's already spring break here? Great Moses do I have work to do!
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
I left two interviews for me to work on alone. One is with a tape that unfortunately broke, and if I can fix it myself or get it fixed, then I'll be able to transcribe most if it on my own. Yes, I'm using microcassettes instead of doing these digitally. I still don't know how one would transcribe something digital...I have to keep rewinding the tape recorder with my foot pedal...were it not for the trust pedal, I think it would take me twice as long as if I had to remove my keys from the keyboard and use the mouse to click the rewind button on for a digital recording. I'm probably missing something re: the technology on this.
Anyhow, the other interview I'll transcribe myself is of a participant about whom I'm really rather worried. The subject matter of our interview was pretty sensitive, and I suspect this person's mental state may not be very stable. I will need to consider whether or not this person's contribution to the study will be skewed by this instability, or if it's part of the analysis in general. Not sure. I'm certainly not a pscyhologist, so I'm probably not qualified to assess this person's mental state. However, it's pretty clear there's something different going on. Anyhow, I didn't think it was appropriate to share this person's interview tape with a transcriptionist I've only just met.
In a future post, I will probably outline the process I'm taking for this analysis. I'm dropping in terms here like "open coding" that may not make a lot of sense if you don't work in this field every day. Besides, the act of writing it out here may help me in the long run with writing up the results chapter(s).
My next tasks for the short term will be to a) finish the transcribing of these two tapes I still have, and b) finish up the initial open coding of the six interviews that have already been transcribed (I've already completed two...or three?). Oh yeah, and I need to c) finish purging the home office/prison.
Am finally getting some focus! I suppose I'm still on a bit of a high from the feedback I've been getting about how close I am to finishing up.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
SO glad those things are over & done! And I'm glad to have this little place on the 'net for my diary. Thanks for reading.
Anyhow, as I said it was a good lunch. She's confident I'm getting really close to finishing up. That was encouraging. I don't really know if I agree, but she seems to think the rest of the process will go quickly. I think I'm going to start believing her now. After all, she's already completed her dissertation, and she was at the point where I am about a year ago. OK, I'll listen to her.
I'm also going to get the name of a good, local, and affordable transcriptionist. This should be good.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Monday, February 25, 2008
Well, my office/prison was a mess before we moved from SCT last June. Don't get me wrong: "mess" is a relative term. A reasonable person would enter my office and see several piles of paper neatly organized on the desk, on the floor, on any flat surface really. I typically know where most things are, but living this way tends to drive me NUTS. My office on campus is a total 180-degree shift from that. It's usually pretty darn organized, I must say. But when I'm at home, that's my space, and mine alone, so neat & clean always it is not.
As I was saying, the office/prison was pretty messy before we moved from SCT last June. The night before the move, when I still hadn't organized all those piles, I finally just said, "fuck it." A couple of trusted friends helped me put all of the un-filed piles into a few boxes. I worked pretty hard not to feel guilt for moving piles of stuff to be chucked or filed, but oh well. Later in the fall, I unpacked the un-filed piles into new piles in my new office/prison. Had to get rid of those damn moving boxes! I have a rather large closet in the new space, so the piles have been shoved in there on a bookshelf or near the file cabinet, both of which fit very nicely in the closet.
True to form, I'm creating new piles that are now in nice organized piles all over the floor, AGAIN, and the un-filed ones were still in the closet. Yesterday I decided to take the bull by the horns and start organizing the entire space. Call it a "clean sweep," like the TLC TV show, I dunno. But I'm getting through a TON of old stuff, and it feels pretty good. I'm also finding several neat, printed, stapled, organized piles of articles that My Committee wants me to incorporate into the literature review of the proposal (oh YEAH, my proposal!), so this is a good thing! For the last several months, the prospect of tackling all of these things like literal skeletons in my closet has been pretty daunting. Now that I'm about halfway done with it, it's not so bad. Pretty soon, every piece of paper in my office will either have a place in a file drawer or in the recycle bin.
Yeah, I know...kinda like the data analysis. The thought of it freaks me out more than doing the task itself. I know, I know...
Anyhow, I do chalk this up to having a greater ability to be productive in my office/prison. While it's not work directly related to the dissertation, it's helping the entire process along.
Monday, February 18, 2008
I've decided to write in you again. I guess I'm in a bit of a better place, just after a two-week break. A couple of things have happened lately to help provide perspective, and this is good.
First, DC invited me to walk in this year's graduation, even though I'm not at all finished. I think this is an expression of her trust in my work. I was really quite surprised by this, and it came at a pretty grumpy moment last week. Wow. However, I declined the offer, since I would feel like an imposter were I to walk before being finished. The fact that she offered in the first place, and then later said, "You are so close...just keep going," helped me get back on track.
Second, I'm helping a colleague here as a peer reviewer on her dissertation study. She has been in the mix much longer than I, and due to working a full-time job, and being quite successful in her field, she's not really needed the dissertation to be completed to get the promotions, brownie points, etc. to keep moving up in her job. However, her seven-year clock expires this spring, so she is really driven to finish up in the next couple of months. I think she'll be fine. Helping her with her data analysis is giving me the energy, and perhaps even the interest, in continuing onward with my own study. So this is all good.
I guess I'd call myself a religious person. However, having a falling-off-the-left-edge of liberal interpretation of faith sometimes has me question whether or not I'm religious. Still, I think I am. I only write this here to explain that I'm using the Lent season as my time to be a bit reclusive and quiet and get the flipping transcriptions and initial data coding accomplished. Lent is sort of a drawn-out version of Yom Kippur (that's my interpretation...I could be wrong, but I suspect it's close), and many people use both of these holidays to reflect on their lives and remember who they are. I guess that's what I'm planning on doing between now and Easter; buckling down on the research, and keeping in mind why the hell I decided to do all this anyhow. And through this I hope to make a lot of the "leave me alone! I'm in a zone!" sort of progress one needs to make during the data analysis process.
Wow, does this mean I may actually finish next fall??
Sunday, February 03, 2008
Things are moving along slowly and steadily, but I need to focus on thinking about the content some more before I'm willing to share it with anyone. Also, when blogging I find I spend more time writing around the subject to keep the subject matter private when I really should be spending time writing on the topic itself. The last thing I'd want is for this blog to stall my process instead of help it along.
If you're curious about my progress, I'd appreciate the support so please feel free to just ask. Otherwise, I probably won't be writing here that much at least for the next couple of months.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Thing is, a while back I couldn't WAIT to be in this stage of the dissertation: the analysis. I've not had the energy to work on my 'second job' in a few weeks. Oh, it'll happen eventually. I mean, I really am excited to be DONE. You'd think that drive for completion would help me find some motivation, but that's not the case of late.
Friday, January 25, 2008
Thursday, January 24, 2008
I don't talk about my job in this blog very often, but this time there's a direct connection to my dissertation.
In early January I had my bi-weekly meeting (wait, does bi-weekly mean 'once every two weeks'? Or is it twice per week? I intend to say 'once every two weeks' here) (you know, I love writing phrases in parentheses because you can add stuff anywhere and easily communicate what's really going on in your head without messing with the grammatical structure of the sentence) (aren't I clever?) with my boss. It went well. I like her for many reasons related to our jobs. Also, not only is she supportive of me finishing my dissertation in a timely manner (and is gently pushing me to do so, which is good), but she happens to be very interested in the topic. She allows me to sort of ramble about it once in a while, and her objective, logical point of view, combined with just plain having more experience working at a college than I do, provides me with a good amount of feedback. And none of it is personal; just entirely objective. Two advantages to these conversations: first, I gain a great deal of good feedback from a trusted colleague. Second, she knows I am indeed making progress on the dissertation, which is a good thing for my supportive supervisor to know.
Through her feedback and that of a few trusted others here and there, I'm beginning to share bits and pieces of data and am finally starting to develop a theory out of all of this. I need to continue onward and keep plowing through the grainy details, but now I'm getting excited about what I'm finding and how I'm able to formulate it into something coherent, something I'll be willing to share with My Committee someday.
So, even though there is a hell of a lot of sludge in my dissertation life right now, as mentioned in my previous post, the more that I carefully share with colleauges, the more confident I'm becoming with what I'm finding in the data. Guess the sludge will melt away, perhaps with the melting away of the snow and cold weather this spring? Hope so.
Must run finish a project. Am drinking decaf tea in that I'm finding it difficult to stay warm today. Makes sense when it's only 6 degrees F!
Friday, January 18, 2008
Of course the time away has gotten me behind on a couple of things at work, which at this point trumps any dissertation progress. I like my job. But I really don't give a shit about the dissertation today. Maybe I'll find some focus and energy to get something done this weekend. And maybe not.
Maybe I just need to go to bed. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
I just felt a need to mark the occasion here. In some ways I can hardly believe she's gone; in other ways it feels like it's been forever....
Saturday, January 05, 2008
If you are uncomfortable discussing human fecal matter, then you won't want to read this post. Another point of view: You probably
Many of you know that Wife and I have had Moose on a couple of experimental dietary interventions designed to help persons with Autism Disorder. First was a gluten-free/casein-free diet (GFCF) that eliminated all wheat and dairy products. Next was a more restrictive diet called SCD, or specific carbohydrate diet; this one eliminated EVERYTHING (I'm not kidding) except meats, some nuts, fruits and vegetables. Wife has written much more about these things in her blog. Also, she did a FANTASTIC job making much of Moose's food from scratch for the past year. God bless her.
Many children with autism also suffer from physical issues affecting the gut, so these kids tend to be irritable, gassy, just a mess. Moose never had those symptoms prior to starting the diets. Instead, he was just sort of spacey. But in December of 2006, we were finally making progress with potty training, and physically he was really doing quite well.
And then we started these diets on January 1, 2007.
Where most of the success stories heard discuss how kids with lots of diarrhea and gas see vast improvements very quickly, our Moose ended up getting diarrhea for the first time. It got to the point where we actually went BACKWARD from having him in training pants to being back in Pull-ups. He couldn't control the defecation, and we couldn't keep up with keeping those pants clean (our water bill literally doubled one month with all the extra laundry we were doing to wash those training pants...again, I am not kidding). It was not fun, especially for Moose. However, we didn't want to leave the dietary stones unturned. We felt it was necessary to stay the course for several months and see if the diet would eventually have an impact on his autism symptoms. Well, ten months later, he still had diarrhea and was still in Pull-ups at age six. He made vast improvements in his speech and general awareness of the world. However, those can be attributed to increases in the Verbal Behavior method of training kids to speak along with periodic injections of Methyl B-12 (yes, we inject our child every three days. No, he no longer cries. In fact, he actually helps us to administer the shot now). According to pre- and post-tests of the yeast and bacteria levels in his blood, the diet has done absolutely NOTHING to help him. In fact, the yeast & bacteria levels were slightly elevated after 9 months on the diet.
Over the past month-and-a-half, we've slowly pulled the plug on the diets and had him eat 'normal people food.' Last week we re-introduced wheat for the first time in about a year. Moose didn't excrete any 'solid' waste (not that diarrhea is solid, but you get my point) all day Thursday AND Friday. Hmm...
Late this morning I was practicing the piano. Wife hardly ever interrupts me when I'm playing piano. But out of the corner of my eye I saw her standing there, holding a full diaper (folded up). And over the rather loud passage I was playing, I heard her yell, "It was NORMAL." I stopped playing, and my jaw hit the keyboard, right on the C# (now I'm kidding). The first time he craps in 48 hours after a week back on wheat products, the kid takes a regular dump.
So, once and for all: the diet is not a silver bullet for all kids. It works for MANY, and I don't deny the good improvements that thousands of autistic persons have gained on this plan. It just doesn't work for our kid.
But saying "the diet doesn't work for Moose" is like saying "hiking a mountain doesn't work for a fish." The fish still swims really well! Well, in the past month, Moose has been interacting with us in ways he's never done before. He cried when his relatives left our house after Christmas. Cried. That means he felt a real emotion! Also, he hugs me now instead of just going limp when I pick him up. I grew accustomed to my child not really giving me much affection in return; I didn't take it all that personally. But now he hugs back. Amazing. That's not something I could teach him. That's something he just does now. And it all started when he started eating food again. People food. We can attribute recent improvements in his behavior to being OFF the diet. Not the reverse. Amazing.
Fine by me! We'll take it.