Tuesday, December 30, 2008

And I was concerned...HA

It's important for qualitative researchers to run data results by the participants in a study. This is called a member check, and it allows the participants to voice their agreement, or disagreement, with the findings. It's one of several ways the researcher can verify his findings are grounded in data and not being pulled out of his ass.

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

The Night B4 Christmas

Yeah, and all's quiet in the house, not a creature is stirring, and all that other stuff. It's been a great week thus far. Wife's family is here, as per our norm, and we've had a nice day running to the store together (we chose to BUY Christmas cookies this year instead of make them...not an easy decision for Wife), eating a big meal, and attending church. Did I mention we found a church here? We like it; we've joined yet another falling-off-the-left-edge-of-liberal mainline Protestant church that could care less that I had no formal religious background till I was 27. Anyhow, Moose is in bed, so we're watching TV, snacking, sorta each of us just doing our own thing. People are starting to go to bed. I guess Santa is going to clank down the big ole chimney here in about 25 minutes.

I tend to get more reflective on the year during Christmas eve than I do during New Year's eve. I guess it's a much more calm holiday for me, with more time to think.

2008 has been had a good year for me and the family. With a turbulent period between 2002 and 2007, I admit that having a good year is still seems like a rare, wonderful thing. I don't mean for that to sound dramatic. Rather, I guess I try to take the good times as a gift, though I probably don't always behave that way every day.

It's been truly amazing to see my wife's new career unfold during this year. She fits right in and is enjoying learning a new line of work. Special-needs advocacy fits her very well, and she brings with her a natural ability to explain a complex system to just about anyone, combined with an understanding of how best to present information. Both skills are probably a throw-back to her days of performing and teaching, so this job seems like a really good next step. I'm so darn happy for her.

Moose makes really good progress in school and is learning new words and phrases seemingly every day. I'm thankful we're here in a larger city instead of being stuck in the middle of nowhere where the local school administrators have their heads up their collective ass about how to spend money to train teachers and support special-needs children. Brief rant over. Also, Moose grows like a weed. Holy shit the kid is tall. He will certainly surpass both of his parents' height when he is a teenager, I just know it.

My job is fine. Most important, I have one, and I am likely to continue having one even during these weird-ass economic times. The fact is I actually like this job a great deal. It's not perfect, but nothing is. And, I realize now that I don't think I really ever liked my former jobs all that much. Sure, I liked portions of them, and many of my colleagues were just fantastic, but the career never felt entirely right before now. Now it really suits me well, I believe. Even with that said, I'm beginning to wonder what the next step will be. I'm certainly not in a hurry to leave and start something new anytime soon, but I do always like to have a next step in mind. It's just part of my personality, I suppose. So, we'll see what ideas may sprout about in 2009.

I'm confident the doctorate will come to an end sometime in 2009. It probably won't be complete before the actual act of graduation in the spring, but I plan on being very close to finished by then. I plan to walk in the graduation ceremony held by my department in May, even though I won't be completely done. I suspect the ceremony itself will motivate me to finish up whatever product I will have by that time.

My extended family appears to be healthy and well. I'm thankful for this.

We are fortunate to keep in touch with many friends, though mostly from cities where we used to live. I look forward to staying put here in LSC several more years and having more friendships develop here in our present world as a result. But I'm thankful for having many contacts throughout the country and even a few overseas. I consider my friends part of who I am, especially the ones who have lasted in spite of not physically being together for numerous years at a time. To any friends who may be reading this, particularly those of out town: we've not yet done a holiday card this year. It'll probably be a New Year's card instead. :-)

I just heard the thump of Santa's sleigh on the roof, so I should sign off and make sure he finds the cookies and milk. Thanks to any of you who may still continue to read this. It does mean a great deal. G'night.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Sand is Settling

Picture walking into a shallow lake and kicking up sand with your feet when you're under water. The sand moves around and eventually settles back to the ground. 

That's sorta where I am now in the analysis. The sand is just about to settle back down on the bottom of the lake around the place where I just walked. I suppose this is good...it means I'm getting somewhere. It means I'm getting to the point where I don't need to kick up the sand anymore to see what's really at the bottom of the lake. Am trying, desperately, to make a connection between settled sand and a settled data analysis. OK, that probably didn't communicate very well here. haha. 

Anyway, much of today has been really productive. Still, it's sand at the bottom of a lake. It's all seeming to be rather boring today. Ho hum. Oh well...at least this puppy is moving somewhere. Just a few more summaries to go now. If I can get these done today or tomorrow, things will really feel like they're in a good spot. 

I do need to find a way to spice up the presentation of all this data. I think when I finalize the nature of the cross-connective themes, then I'll be better able to make all this a bit more snappy.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Dissertation Week - Days 2 and 3

In the past, I have written about how I get the warm fuzzies as we prepare for the holidays. I've also been in the habit these past six or seven years of cranking out paper after paper as I prepare for the end of the fall term. This year is no different, and I'm glad the warm fuzzy/holy-shit-I've-gotta-get-all-this done-NOW feelings are coming early. 

Yesterday went alright - got more and more of the summaries done, which will likely form the beginning of Chapter 4. Got another one done this morning, and I'll probably head home soon to wait for my mom to arrive for the holiday this afternoon. 

I've been having good luck working in the main public library here in LSC. Also, a friend of mine showed me a neat cafe in LSC's Cool Neighborhood, which is under a 10-minute drive from our house. I'm there this morning, and it's almost as nice as the cafe in SCT. Not quite, but it'll do for now! 

So I'm cranking out a summary or two, listening to holiday music on my computer, and really truly enjoying the data analysis process. What a gift it is to have the time and space to actually get the work done. 

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thanksgiving Dissertation Week - Day 1

Today went far better than expected. I'm definitely on a roll at this point, which I desperately needed. Finally got over a hump I was on with this one rather boring interview summary. Took forever. Finished it up this morning, probably because I was studying with a friend of mine. It took getting out of the house/office and getting back to a more social environment to get anything done. Makes no sense, I realize, but it's true. Am now just going through interview summaries and getting them done, not getting them perfect. It'll all be thrown into the mixer of Chapter 4 anyhow, so why not just fly through these little buggers and finish them up? 

So this afternoon I flew through another summary of an interview that was twice as long as the one that took me forever to complete this morning. I don't ask questions about my progress anymore, I just continue. 

And, I've also opened up my process to my colleagues a bit more (colleagues at work, that is. A group of 12). I'm taking time off from work, after all, so they deserve to know where the hell I am. I asked them to ask me about my progress. This puts the pressure on me to be able to tell them something tangible about my process each time someone asks. Thus far it's working, and I'm also receiving lots of support. There are a few in this group who have finished doctorates, and a couple of others who are mid-stream like myself, so it's a pretty supportive group. 

Time to pack it up here at the library and head home. i wonder which circuitous route I should take home in the Mini today? 

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Still Giggling


It's sorta funny: Ever since yesterday afternoon, I can't stop giggling. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Two Things

THING 1: 
I think I have a structure for the theory I'm creating. OK, that's a sentence I wasn't planning on writing a few years ago. I'm creating a what? And someone's going to actually reward me for thir crap? Anyway, I'm glad to finally be developing a structure. At this point, and fucking structure will do, you know? Only four people in the entire world are actually going to read this thing. OK, five including my mother. 

THING 2: 
I will take delivery of the Mini Friday afternoon. Let's hope I have a fully-functioning VW for just two more trips to and from downtown and then just one trip to Carmax on the way to the Mini dealership. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Starting to Talk About It

We had a reunion of our culinary group last weekend. This was a group of three couples who would get together on a fairly regular basis to try out new or favorite recipes, drink a barrel of wine together, and just be together as very good friends. We all met in SCT and have since moved to other locales. Fortunately one of the the other two couples followed me and Wife here to LSC last spring, so we've enjoyed continuing our regular friendship with them. The other couple came in from out of state last weekend, so we were all together again, celebrating the birth of their daughter. So nice to get together again...Wife and I really miss this group. 

One of the others in this group is a colleague of mine from my academic department in SCT, and she's serving as one of my peer reviewers for my dissertation. Peer reviewing is part of the validation process that researchers use when conducting qualitative research. In a nutshell, she will read my data analysis and we'll have discussions about how I'm coming to the conclusions I'm reaching. If she doesn't see what I'm seeing in the data, then it's up to me either to explain to her where I'm seeing it, or to consider her advice and modify the conclusion I've reached. I've actually asked three of my colleagues to serve in this capacity, and I've been looking forward to getting to the point where I can run things by them. Well, that process started happening last Saturday night. 

Peer Reviewer 1 asked me how things were going at our dinner, and before we left I sat down and tried to give her the overview. This was tough for me, as it was the first time I had verbalized any results of the study to anyone other than Wife. Even when I would speak about it with Wife, my words felt cryptic at best. The other couples listened in (tough not to do that evening, as there were only six of us plus a baby), so I felt like I really had to have my shit together for the first time. 

In some ways I was just a blithering idiot, but in others I think this was a healthy exercise to endure. And, it's high time I'm at this point. I mean geez. This is my seventh year as a doc student.

Even though I felt like a withering plant during this discussion, trying to get enough water to survive a drought, Peer Reviewer 1 and her husband (both professors now) said afterward that they thought the results were really interesting and that I should focus on getting something published from these data when all is said and done. That took my surprise - good surprise. I respect the opinion of this couple a great deal. I felt I really didn't have my words together very well, and yet I guess I was able to convey my thoughts well enough that others could understand what the hell I was trying to say. 

Here's the thing: If they "got it" when my words were at such a primary level, then I think the process of telling the story of my 14 participants may actually, dare I say, turn out to be easy. Easy? I shudder to use that word. I shudder because I guess that I've had it drilled into me that only something rigorous and difficult is worthy of dissertation work. On the other hand, I suppose that if this were seven years ago when I started this doctoral process, I probably would consider this to be difficult. Maybe it's getting easier because I've been doing it for a long time. I guess this is supposed to happen. 

OK, back to Saturday night. When Wife and I were driving home, I shared some of these thoughts with her like:

"It was too easy...I must be doing something wrong," I said. 

BUMP BUMP. That was the sound of Wife hitting her head against the window (figuratively, not literally!), incredulous when listening to these words. 

"I don't know when you're going to realize that none of this appears very easy to me," she said. "You are doing good work. When are you going to realize that? Will you recover from this impostor syndrome sometime soon?" I'm paraphrasing here. Some of these words went unsaid, but so much of the story was told in her facial expression, a combination of exasperation and sympathy that only a wife could have for a her husband (that's a compliment). 

"Sorry. I don't know. I mean, yeah, I think I'll get over it soon," I said, with the world seeming to spin around. 

I suppose this was a really good first experience with finally breaking that barrier of bringing these conclusions out in the open with people who's work I respect to no end. I'm just sorry my wife has to see me go through all this emotion to develop my personality as a researcher, or I dare say as a scholar. But the combination of her holding in frustration (well usually, haha) while still encouraging me along is something that helps me stay focused on moving forward. 

Bottom line: I probably wouldn't have come this far if it were for you, Sweetie. Thank you (smooch).

Sunday, October 19, 2008

No more first name usage in our house

Tonight per our typical bedtime routine, I gave Moose a bath up on our second floor and was getting him ready for bed. This was one of the nights where we give him a shot of a methyl B-12 vitamin. Not a shot like in a shot glass, but a shot via a syringe in his right buttock. Typically I yell downstairs to Wife, using her first name, in order to indicate it's time for her to come upstairs and administer the shot while I hold Moose in place. 

An aside: Moose is helped so much by the B-12 shots that he actually gets excited for them every other night. Since we started these, he's much more focused on the here and now and FAR less spaced out. The pain of the shot must be outweighed by the benefits he feels because, and I'm not exaggerating, he usually leaps up and is all excited to receive his shot. Freaky. 

Now back to my story. Tonight I yelled downstairs to Wife, saying her first name. She didn't hear me at first, so I was saying it over & over again, fairly loudly, till she heard me. 

And what does Moose proceed to do? He repeated my wife's first name, over and over again, non-stop for about five minutes. I will admit, his imitation of me was perfect. Even had the questioning inflection at the end... Wife? Wife? Geez. What have I done?? 

Wife was less than pleased with Husband. Sigh. 

At least he's echoing our language. This is good. But now I know: no more using each other's first names. I don't think he knows what her name means, so hopefully this will pass. Hopefully. Not sure how we'll untrain this if it sticks around. 

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Article on NOT GETTING IT

One of my cousins sent this to me. Glad to see others out there who are just as baffled as I am...

http://www.slate.com/blogs/blogs/xxfactor/archive/2008/10/15/whole-new-ways-to-not-get-it.aspx

Morp Rogress

Am slowly getting through a good summary of each interview. While it's been a bit more complex and time-consuming than I figured, it's proving to be an excellent exercise for a couple of key reasons. First, I'm getting more and more intimate with the details of all fourteen interviews, and this will be extremely helpful for everything from writing the prose of the results chapter to navigating my way through the oral defense. Second, each summary I write is actually writing a bit of the results chapter itself by default. So, while it doesn't feel like I'm writing in proper APA style and perfect prosaic language at this time, I am nevertheless starting to draft out an important part of the results chapter for this study. So, this is good. Slow as molasses, but good. Finally, the more intimate I become with the responses of the participants and the small-level details, the easier it has become to draw out comparisons among various folks. I'm creating categories, continua, and even a few realizations about the implications of the study in general. There's still a good amount of information still floating around there, though. Still a fair amount to do, but it's coming together. 

The first of several e-mails from The Office of Graduate Studies in my school came out on Tuesday, reminding all of the doctoral candidates about the deadlines to apply for graduation. That's a little bit intimidating, though it keeps me focused on the prize. March 1, 2009 is the application deadline for walking in the graduation ceremonies. This means that if I intend to finish anytime between May and August of this year, then I have till March 1 to get my ducks in a row. 

At this point today, even with what I still see I have to do in front of me, that seems like a reasonable deadline. Kind of a nice feeling, for a change. Let's just hope I'm not being too optimistic. 

I want my new car

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Clarification

Dear Senator McCain: 

In this evening's debate, you indicated Sarah Palin knows something about Autism Disorder. From where do you obtain your facts? If you were attempting to make a connection between her alleged knowledge of Autism Disorder and the fact that her youngest child has Down Syndrome, then let me be among the first to inform you that the two disorders are entirely different. I have been a parent of a son with Autism Disorder for seven years, and I will admit freely that my knowledge of Down Syndrome is very limited at best. There is no relationship between these two disorders. 

Another question: How is it, exactly, that Palin could know anything about either disorder, seeing that she's been traveling about the country since her special-needs child was four months old? One needs to be an involved parent of a special-needs child to truly understand the issues. I suspect if you were to ask her directly about her knowledge of these issues, her response may not be as well-informed as you may think. 

Sincerely,
-Rob

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Suicide

I hate days like today. One of our students decided to commit suicide last night. In addition, he was a graduate student in my academic department and therefore had an assistantship in one of the functional areas in my division of the university. This one hit particularly close to home.

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.

Updates

Nothing major to report, other than that I continue to make progress. OK, with my track record, I suppose that is rather major.

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

VW Angst

For the EIGHTH time in ten years, one of the window regulators on the VW broke this evening. This means that the window in question will not roll up. In fact, if I attempt to touch it, there's a good chance it will just fall into the door thus exposing my car to elements and thieves. Man I would love for the thief to steal this piece of shit. But hell, even the insurance money probably wouldn't even help very much with the down payment on the Mini. I will get absolutely no money whatsoever for this pile of bolts. 

The sorry thing is that the car drives just fine. It's 'fun' to drive, and the engine has never let me down, EVER, in a decade. A battery died once, and fortunately I was at home and the car was parked in the garage. Show me car where that DOESN'T happen: that even happened on Toyotas I've driven. The issue here is with the electrical and mechanical systems for dumb, cheap-ass plastic parts that require VW owners to have wallets the size of the grand canyon to maintain these little fuckers. And to think I actually considered buying another VW. The fucks. 

VW, upgrade your fucking mechanical and electrical systems. I doubt you're listening, but you've officially lost a potential customer forever. 

There, I feel better now. Of course the angst will all come back when I pay to get the window fixed this week. It's supposed to rain on Wednesday. 

He Grew

I keep forgetting to write about this here: Moose had a doctor's checkup about a month ago. He goes about every three months, so once per quarter. 

He grew two inches between June and September. Two. Inches. He is 4' 1" tall, or at least he was a month ago. Oh yeah, and he weighs 52 pounds. 

As my father would say, "Seems like only yesterday when I could hold you in the palm of my hand."

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

And the winner is...

Contrary to recent polling results, the winner of the car search was the Mini Cooper. Wife and I await its (his? her? not sure yet) arrival sometime in the next 6-8 weeks. I will post a photo or two.

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

Debate

It will be no surprise to those of you who have read this blog that I'm going to vote for Obama in November. I watched the first debate this evening. I have been ignoring the political scene best I can till tonight, because I no longer care about what others think about all this. I just want to hear the candidates' opinions. 

I kept listening to what Obama had to say and the manner in which he was saying it. And I kept wondering why people would not vote for him. I mean, his words were perfect. I don't get why there is any discussion about it. 

The thought of him actually getting elected is sort of overwhelming. I mean, can you imagine how good everything would be if he actually got elected? Wow. 

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Open Coding Complete

I finished the open coding process for the fourteenth and final interview this afternoon. I'm glad I'll never have to do any open coding for the dissertation ever again. That's certainly worthy of celebration. 

I now know how long forever is. It's the length of time from when I started the open-coding process till today. 

This is the first of numerous steps I will need to complete between now and the end of the data-analysis process, but at least I can check it off the list. Off to celebrate! And also, I absolutely have to get my brain away from this for a few hours...brain hurts...must take break! 

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Automobile 2

Thanks to the handful of people who voted for my choice of car. The winner was the Honda Civic, at five votes. 

Honda Civic? Really? Yawn! Isn't there something more interesting? OK, truth be told, this is the car I think I should buy. Doesn't mean I will. Haha. 

So, I propose a revised poll (version 2.0, if you will). Please see the box to the right. I've done a bit more research and have added a couple of different cars (I removed the Subaru and the VW). Am looking for something relatively inexpensive, high-quality, fuel efficient, fun to drive, and perhaps a bit different from normal. I kept the Civic on the list, but am deciding between the hybrid or the coupe (that coupe looks pretty cool, I must say). 

Oh yeah, the poll is anonymous. I did not seek IRB approval on this study since the results will be used only for assessment purposes. Yawn. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Beautiful

For a while, a long while, I've been nervous about how I would weave together the 14 stories of the participants in my dissertation study. Would I be able to pull out all the nuances successfully? Would I leave out crucial information? What if I totally miss the mark on something?  

But today, as I code the 13th of 14 interviews, I realize something pretty basic, but also is easy to lose sight of during this process: It's all right there in the text. The participants are telling me the story. I don't need to make up this stuff. The information is all in there. I just need to organize it, present the findings, and finish it up. This is BEAUTIFUL. 

In rereading these paragraphs, some of what I've written seems really stupid and basic. But when I think about it, it's not stupid. I've read a gazillion articles and books on data analysis, and I haven't really seen anyone discussing the natural, and admittedly emotional, process that I'm seeing occur as I'm getting deeper and deeper into this analysis. Hell, maybe I just missed it (that's definitely possible!). The connections among the participants are suddenly just leaping off the page and coming together into related containers, like nesting Tupperware (wait, it's not sudden at all: I've been doing this for a YEAR). Researchers talk about using a constructivist epistemology, meaning that we make meaning of the world by creating our learning structures around us and understanding the nature of how we know based on what we're creating. OK, OK, I get it. I guess that's a fancy way of saying, "No shit Sherlock! Now that you're intimate with your data, don't you see that this connection should happen HERE, and that one happens over THERE?" It's natural. This isn't a contrived process, and for some reason I guess I thought it was. I guess I've interpreted the data-analysis articles as building a series of steps that must or should be taken in order for the analysis to be Successful. But it isn't lock-step. Again, it's just natural. 

Funny, I don't recall reading anywhere that the researchers need to lose themselves in the data analysis, be taken away by it, become part of it, and learn from it. But only when that happens can we really understand what's happening in the data. It's all about intimacy. Why is that missing from the data analysis literature??

I see the problem here: how the hell does a researcher TEACH this process in an article? In a textbook? How do you write about becoming intimate with your data in way that researchers will appreciate? I guess I can understand the problem now, but still...seems like a big hole out there to me. And I'm talking about both qualitative and quantitative processes here. I feel like I can only truly know enough to write about data results once I know every inch, nook, and cranny of these interviews. I'd likely say the same thing about a set of numeric survey results, too. OK. Rant over. Guess I know what I'll be writing about in my budding scholarly career. haha. 

In spite of the fact that this post turned into a bit of a rant, I'm in a good place today. I'm feeling like this dissertation is just a big paper due at the end of the semester. And it's only September. Why wouldn't I finish this on time?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Automobile

I am in the market for a new car. I was going to wait till I finished the dissertation. However, as the process has taken longer than I thought, I'm now at the point where I'd rather not spend more money repairing the old VW Jetta.

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

Moving Quickly - Making Connections

When I wasn't ranting about politics today, I was working on my dissertation. The change to dissertating on Wednesdays has really paid off. Am just about completed with the preliminary coding of data, and I've started rounding up peer reviewers to help keep me on track with all this, hopefully sometime early next month. If I can have a skeleton draft of the results chapter, even if it's horrible and not complete, before Thanksgiving, then I will feel like I'm well on my way to finishing up in the early wintertime. 

I'm pretty excited for the connections I've been able to make with these last few participants, and I'm looking forward to going back into the ones I coded a while back and hopefully finding similar connections among those as well. At some point I'll need to throw a bunch of big key concepts onto the floor again, mess them around into one of my office/prison piles (just figuratively), and then pull them back together into something more cohesive. Seems like things are coming together, though, so this is good! 

Wife subscribed to a service that delivers a "word of the day" to her e-mail each morning. Today's word was (are you ready for this?): 
Dissert
Pronunciation: 
(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.
I can hardly believe the timing of this! 

Palin's Unacceptable Decision

I don't like to discuss politics very often because a) it's really not the focus of this blog and b) I'm no political expert. But this is my diary, and when political events collide with one of my areas of expertise, then sometimes I feel compelled to comment. 

Barack Obama said that the candidates' families are off limits to the press. I agree almost completely. I say "almost," however, because I do believe that people who make foolish decisions regarding their home lives are likely to do the same at their place of work.

I think Sarah Palin's decision to run for the VP seat at this time in the life of her family was unacceptable. The Palins have two special-needs children: an infant with Down Syndrome and a pregnant teenage daughter. Neither of these children need or deserve any media attention, and that's where I agree with Obama. However, it is the action of the Palins themselves that is bringing on the media attention in the first place. The children need their parents' full attention at this time, and they also need some privacy from the rest of the world. How could any parent intentionally place their children's special needs into the spotlight of the media? How is that good parenting?

This was a poor, thoughtless decision that appears to be only for political gain. This decision alone trumps any other reason for why I would never consider Sarah Palin to be qualified for the VP role. 

While I'm no political expert, I've been a parent of a special-needs child far longer than the Palins. Reasonable parents, especially those with almost two decades of parenting under their belts (the Palins' oldest child is 19), should at least have a notion that parenting special kids involves entering an entirely different, uncharted world. Therefore, reasonable parents should be able to determine that no other major life-changing decisions are made till things at home become stable. Trust me, the Palins have several years ahead of them till the word 'stable' would be an appropriate descriptor for their home environment. That's just a comment on the situations life has handed to them. It's not even considering the hell they are inflicting upon their children for thrusting them into the media spotlight.

All parents of special kids make sacrifices which change their future plans. I normally don't like to speak in such absolute terms like "all," but based on my experiences and knowing numerous other families in similar situations, I believe I'm simply reporting the facts. All of the special-needs families I know have made major changes in their lives to accommodate their children. Some change their jobs, or they choose not to take a new job in order to keep their children's lives stable. Other families decide not to have additional children, thus severely changing the face of any family's future plans. But I simply don't hear about families ignoring their children's needs, let alone exploiting them, for their own personal gain. Normally the behavior is completely the opposite. 

If the Palins are unable to make these sorts of decisions in a reasonable way at home, then how can Governor Palin be trusted to make reasonable decisions as a VP? 

I'm already hearing supporters of the McCalin/Palin campaign saying that any comment against Palin is a comment against women. Bullshit. My argument has nothing to do with differences between the sexes. It has everything to do with being good parents and making reasonable decisions to support children. Period. 

Again, I'm no political expert, but I am a parent of a special-needs child. And I am also a voter. 

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Moose and Headaches

First things first, Moose is making great improvements lately in several different ways, one of which is pretty major. He's finally beginning to tell us when he needs to use the bathroom. And he's finally beginning to do everything in the actual toilet. That's amazing. He's 7, so that means 7 years of diapers. Wife and I change diapers better than most anyone else I know. What a skill! Now in my opinion, we're a year behind on toilet training due to TFD (the fuckin' diet) that failed for Moose and thus earned its esteemed TFD title. The failure of TFD manifested itself in about a year's worth of diarrhea (I've mentioned this before, and I'm still not joking), which is tough to control and thus makes it almost impossible to teach potty training techniques. So anyhow, I'm glad we're back on track with potty stuff, and I'm hopeful he'll keep making progress in this area this fall. I'm really proud of him! 

I've also written here about allergies in the past. Now I'm just frustrated. In SCT, my allergies were worst in the springtime and I learned I was allergic to molds and dust. Things must be different here in LSC. There isn't any mold in the air this time of year, but they're flaring up again big time. My head feels stuffed, my ears feel clogged and I'm constantly draining crap down the back of my throat all the time. Sorry if that's gross, but it's my blog and I'll do what I want. Fortunately the meds I'm usually on the spring are coming in handy, and I'm pretty much keeping things at bay. At least my face doesn't hurt how it has in the past. None of this is stopping me from living my life, but it's sort of nagging at me nonetheless. 

What? Can't hear you: ears are too clogged. 

I may do some more coding this afternoon before some friends join us for an early-evening cookout. Or I may just take a nap to relieve the pressure on my head...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Library Day 2

Am back in the library today, one week later. Things are going well. I was able to do some more coding over the weekend, and a lot more this morning. Am really on a roll now, and it's about time. 

What's even better is that I'm getting better at analyzing these interviews as time goes by. They're going more quickly, and truly using the "constant comparative" analysis techniques I wrote about in my methods chapter. I guess it's not all bullshit after all! No, I mean I realized it's not bullshit when I wrote about it, but it's nice that the stuff really works after all. 

This morning I completed coding the second of my two most difficult interviews in the study. I wasn't looking forward to those two, though in the end they weren't as bad as I had remembered. After coding several other interviews where I could easily see how the students were learning about their identity development, I was better able to understand why these two problem children, if you will, are just a bit behind their peers. All is not lost for these two, but for various reasons they are off track. I wish them well. I wish them good therapy. MAJOR therapy. One in particular is dealing with a LOT, and is doing remarkably well given her lot in life. She'll eventually be OK. The other... well I haven't heard anything that leads me to believe she's even aware there's a problem. In some ways I worry more for her than the other with the tough lot, and I don't even know what the issue is. 

It's funny how highly-tuned my ability to read seems to be today. Words just seem to leap off the page, and I'm making all sorts of connections left and right. An hour has passed since I'd had lunch and I'm not falling asleep. Yet. Watch me crash with my head on the table in the next minute after I finish this post...ZZZZZZZZ....

Today actually feels like a day where I can say with some confidence that I am going to finish up this beast by next spring. Kind of a nice place to be. Still have a LONG way to go, but there is definitely a light on at the end of the tunnel, I can see it, and it's getting a little brighter today.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Really getting somewhere

This is a nice blog. Perhaps I'll make a comment here...

Oh YEAH, this is MY blog! 

Hi. Remember me? 

June and July were fast-moving months, and then August has been, well, uh, August has been a blur and it feels like it's not a day past August 6. What? It's August 20th? What? Are you fuckin' kidding me? 

Summer...over. Buh bye. My boss suggested I take a lot of time off in June and July because it's "quiet" and I would have no problem setting aside the time. Hmm. We both seemed to have forgotten two divisional retreats, both of which involved the sharing of data. Seeing that I'm Data Boy for the division, I WAS A LITTLE BUSY!!! 

Quiet, my assets.

I still LOOOVVEEEE my job, don't get me wrong, but boy was the summer a reality check. Wow. I basically lost the time between blog posts here, dissertation-wise. I've had a very productive time at work, but the dissertation didn't move very far, till yesterday. 

I decided that Wednesdays will be a better Dissertation Day for me this fall semester. I figure I'll still mentally nimble at that point in the week, and if I have to work from home I have the place to myself all day long. I used to take Fridays, but Moose and Wife are usually home Friday afternoons, so that wasn't working out well. 

Yesterday I camped out in the newly-renovated library downtown (well, it was completed about a year ago). That place rocks. It's a true 21st century library, allowing for pleasant work stations, food options (yes, I said FOOD) allowed to be consumed all over the place, and a great view of the downtown skyline. I could focus on the dissertation and yet still feel like I was a part of 'something'. Can't stand working alone in a box. 

There were all sorts of people, of all sorts of ages, colors, levels of knowledge, etc., since it's located in the middle of downtown. I guess I find that diverse atmosphere comforting and inspiring. I will pretty much plan on camping out each Wednesday of the semester and try to get as much done on those days as I can. 

The outcome was that I'm finally able to start having preliminary conversations about what I'm finding in the data. Yes, most of the conversation at this point are with myself. Haha. However, one of my trusted colleagues from SCT came up to LSC and joined me for the work session in the library. Every once in a while we'd interrupt our focus to bounce ideas off each other. It was a very good collaborative work environment, and both of us were making good connections for our respective dissertations. For me, it was my first time sharing these ideas with someone else, and I think things actually went OK. 

It was the first really good work day for me in quite a while. Perhaps I will actually finish this study... someday.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Comparisons

OK, so I finished coding the interview broken up by my bagel sandwich and am now plowing through another interview which is actually twice as long. Still very engaging. I'll be frank: I've had a couple of rather difficult interviews to get through, so perhaps one of the reasons why my work is going so well today is that I've been working on some of the more positive, upbeat interactions I had during data collection. The next couple of interviews are going to be doozies, though.

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.

FINALLY

Hi. I'm finally feeling like I'm getting somewhere fast with the data analysis. One of the concepts I'm exploring with my participants is that of flow (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990). It's pretty funny to have my own flow experience when I'm looking at the responses related to this concept. A few minutes ago, or at least it felt like it was a few minutes ago, I started coding a 23-page transcript. I said to myself, "OK, get to page 8 so you'll be just over a third of the way finished before lunch." I started getting hungry for lunch at the end of page 11...almost halfway finished. Too funny! Total in-the-moment experience of flow.

Back to it, while eating my bagel sandwich, ignoring the perfect Sunday weather...

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Coding and Memory Bursts: Undoing the Closet

Hi. It's been a while. I've been working like a puppy digging under a fence.

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

Updates/Summer Focus Time

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

To Share or Not To Share?

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

Living and Working in the Moment

So for the greater part of today, I have been organizing transcripts and coding data. The best way for me to explain the process of coding data is to direct you to anyone's set of pictures up at www.flickr.com. Take mine for example, at http://www.flickr.com/photos/chesterley/ (these are old photos...I don't really use Flickr anymore now that I use Picasa, but you get the idea). All of the pictures there have "tags" that describe what's in the shot. A user can add as many tags as he wants to each picture. I do the same thing with adding "labels" to my posts here in this blog. Scroll down to the "labels" area in the right-hand column to see the entire list. Then, if you click on a label, you'll see any post that I tagged with that label.

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

Dissertation Weekend

I'm back on the porch this afternoon. Yay! So glad that spring is here. I've been almost literally watching the back yard turn green today.

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

Congrats to EA!

A quick shout-out to EA, who successfully defended her dissertation yesterday! Congratulations on finding a yourself a happy ending to a good, long journey.

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

Celebrity Sighting

So last week I'm in the Atlanta airport, eating lunch before my flight home. I had just finished and was packing up my book to head over to my gate. A server in the restaurant came over to me and said, tentatively,
"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

New Horizons

Been a while since I've posted here. Hi.

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

Indoor Swing for Moose

Indoor Swing

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

Oy

Spring break is over. I made a ton of progress this week...on my job. Not on my dissertation. Oh well. At least I made progress somewhere.

Sigh.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Spring Break?

I am stunned, flummoxed, mystified and surprised that it is already spring break, mid-semester vacation, and the three-quarter point through my first year of working full-time since starting, commencing, and embarking upon the doctorate, Ph.D. and terminal degree in higher education and the study of college. Being stunned, flummoxed, mystified and surprised often brings on a response of being redundant, repetitive, and monotonous in my communication and expostulation style. Forgive me, and I apologize.

Did I mention it's already spring break here? Great Moses do I have work to do!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Transcriptionist

I met with a new transcriptionist yesterday, the person referred to me during my "good lunchage" last week. It wasn't easy to physically let go of those tapes, but now it's done and hopefully her work will be as "good" and as "fast" as everyone else says it is. I'm confident it will be. Can't wait to see those completed...by someone else!

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

I misssed my 3rd Blogiversary

My 3-year blogiversary was February 11. Completely forgot. It's strange to think it was THREE years ago now that I started this blog when I was preparing for qualifying exams.

*shudder*

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.

Good lunchage today

I had a good lunch today with a colleague who finished up her Ph.D. at LMU last year and now works at LMUU as well. She and I used to spend plenty of time writing together at the cafe in SCT. I'm glad we still find time to get together once in a while in LSC for an occasional lunch.

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

Sleep

Well, didn't get much more done on the office/prison diss prep last night. However, I did do something I've not done well in a long while.

I slept.

And suddenly, the world has so many more possibilities!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Office/Prison Diss Prep

If one were to ask me how much I accomplished on the dissertation this weekend, I would have to say that it's a thing that makes me go hmm... It's hard to measure. You could scroll back through this blog and see fairly easily that I do not like to clean my home office/prison. And yet, when it's messy, it's tough for me to concentrate.

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

Two weeks ain't no hiatus

Hi Blog,

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

Blog Hiatus

I'm taking an indefinite break from keeping this blog. I'm still around, and I'm certainly still working on the dissertation. However, I'm not in a place where I want to share my progress with the outside world.

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

Sludgivity

Yeah, still haven't gotten the sludge off of me from that other post. Don't know what it is. Perhaps it's that Wife, Moose & I have been sharing a virus these past couple of weeks? Whatever it is, I guess I just have the wintery blues and haven't really felt like focusing. Someday I'll get my brain back, but for now I think it's on vacation in a warmer, sunnier climate.

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

Is Chester Aging?


I hate to say it, but I suspect Chester is at the beginning of showing his more advanced, wiser years. During the last few weeks, he has retired to our bedroom after I finish the bedtime routine with Moose, around 8:15 or 8:30 PM. Around 9:30 or so, I'll wonder where he is, only to find him sleeping on our bed. He'll look up at me, almost as if he's asking, "Aren't you coming to bed soon?"

Don't let me misrepresent Chester's state. He's his normal exuberant self in the mornings after I finish breakfast ("Let's play fetch!"), after dinner ("Let's play fetch!"), and whenever friends come to visit ("Thanks for visiting! Let's play fetch!"). It's just these little things in the evenings that seem a bit different.

Sigh.

Such a loyal friend. I can't imagine him aging. Then again, he's going to be nine in just a couple of months. Both Wife and I had dogs in our childhood that lived to be nine, so perhaps I'm a bit oversensitive about seeing a behavior change, even as slight as it may be. I'll keep my eye on him a little more this winter to monitor how he's doing. Am sure he's fine.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Shuffling the deck

I drafted part of this post back on January 4, twenty days ago! Never got around to finishing it, and then I forgot about it. I found it today and felt like resurrecting it, so here goes:

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

Sludge

Dissertation things are moving as slowly as the sludge in my head that I feel sloshing around tonight as a cold-ass arctic front is moving in (please make the front move in faster so my head will stop hurting). Wife was sick most of this week, which means I've had primary care responsibilities for her and Moose, especially the last few days. That's life! She's certainly done that for me when needed, and it's what families do.

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

100 Years

I almost let the entire day slip by before I remembered that today would have been my grandmother's 100th birthday. She died less than two years ago, and I still think about her and her place in the woods quite a bit. Funny: while age 98 certainly seemed "old," especially to HER, it still seemed a long way off from age 100. Not sure why. 100? I mean...wow. Can't imagine that. Age 50 literally meant 'middle age' for her. Guess I'm just a spring chicken at age 36.

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

Moose Droppings

Happy New Year!

If you are uncomfortable discussing human fecal matter, then you won't want to read this post. Another point of view: You probably take a dump excrete solid waste at least once per day, so just get over yourself and read onward!

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.