Friday, September 26, 2008


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


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


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?): 

verb intr.: To speak or write at length on a subject. 

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.