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.