Monday, December 28, 2009

Mandatory Week Off

And to think some people complain about a mandated week off with pay. I mean yes, we are forced to save four vacation days for this week. However, we do get a ton of vacation time at LMUU, so it's not that difficult. Also, I have no complaints about not making an excuse to my colleagues, or to myself, for taking off time this week.

So now I have time to write. Insert evil, sinister laugh here.

Oh yeah, I've added a Twitter feed back into this blog. There have been several times when I have a thought about the dissertation that I won't put up on Facebook, but I could certainly add it to my dissertation blog via Twitter.

Off to finish up another interview tag map. Bye.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Two-and-a-half months

Today is the last day of fall-semester finals at LMU. I had planned on being finished by this time. Hell, I had planned on being finished by this time a year ago, but that's another story that I really don't want to discuss.

I had a good discussion with DC today, via e-mail. I informed her of my (lack of) progress. I told her where I am with the writing at this point, and I did mention my struggle to achieve a balance among work, family and the dissertation. Her response (at 1:00 PM) was her usual supportive self:

I know the feeling - work is getting in the way of research! I have 13 more papers to grade before 5:00 today!

I am fortunate to have a realistic chair who is not a pompous ass. I think I need to pin a note on my bulletin board reading, "DC is not a pompous ass," just to keep that in mind on a more regular basis.

She also reminded me to check on the dates for applying for (gulp) graduation. It's March 1, 2010. I suppose there is a chance I could have a good draft of at least the results chapter finished by then. It's two-and-a-half months from now. I may actually feel comfortable submitting said application for graduation if that were the case.

So, I think that's the new deadline. Too bad February is a short month, though. Sigh. Anyhow, I'm glad it's winter. Time to hibernate and get this fucker done.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Coffee Shop

Finally found/made time to get back to TFD here in a coffee shop. Am hoping to crank it out this morning before an afternoon of meetings on campus.

The 20th reunion experience represented a whole bunch of different emotions all at the same time. All in all, a good time was had by all, though it was hardy worth the face value of the tickets (god that was expensive). I did get to catch up with a few friends I had not seen since high school, a few I saw on & off from time to time, and also my very first friend, ever. The first friend and I had completely lost touch earlier in our lives, though we did end up at the same high school after spending elementary school in different locations. Once we were in high school, we had grown apart. Seeing each other there, though, was really cool. We had a good long chat and caught up on each other's lives. Crazy.

OK, focusing on TFD now.

UPDATE at 2:18 PM: the morning TFD work went so well this morning that I almost forgot to go to my actual job at 11:00 AM. Sigh. If only...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

20-Year High School Reunion

I pack a back this evening, as I and the fam prepare to travel tomorrow morning to Large Midwestern Metropolis (LMM) for Thanksgiving. Usually we host the meal here at Chesterley, but this year my high school class decided to hold its 20th reunion on Thanksgiving Friday. I guess they assume we all still consider LMM as "home." That is definitely not the case for this researcher. In fact, I think it's odd that this assumption has been made, especially given that about 97% of my 850-person class went to college upon graduation (and most had to go out of town to do so). But who am I to skew their reality with data?

I am not always that stylish in my choice of clothing, but I do care about how I look. I have a vague idea of what the hell I'm going to wear Friday night. It's pretty vague, though. So I just ran a Web search on the question, "What does a guy wear to his 20th high school reunion?"

Most of the articles that appeared are about women pondering what "little black dress" they will wear. I didn't find much about guys. And it's funny, because the more I read blog posts about people getting nervous about their reunions, the more I realized I'm just not at all nervous about mine. I am looking forward to it, not because I plan on renewing old friendships (why?) or reliving the old HS days (why??), but because I think the experience is going to be fascinating. I plan on studying the crowd, making conclusions, and reporting the results. I am a fearless researcher.

I'm a complete nerd, I realize. And I'm damn proud of it.

Also, I will admit that there are a few people that I'm genuinely looking forward to seeing again. I actually had a good time in high school, probably because the place was so darn big (n=4,000), and this increased the chances finding others who were as odd as I was. I mean am.

I think a sweater, a button-down shirt shirt, and decent pants will suffice for the evening. I even got a haircut today, a pretty amazing feat for a bald guy.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Writing the music in my head

I've had a tune pounding through my head these last couple of weeks. I actually wrote this tune a while ago...I think it was around the time Moose was born. That was a year before I started my doctoral coursework, about eight years ago.

I have no clue why the tune just popped back into my head again. I don't think I've even played this piece in like 4-5 years. I was pleased the tune came back to me again, but it happened during a very busy week where I had no time to sit at the piano.

If I'm right about when I wrote it, it was during a very content, positive time in my life. But I actually had hit a brick wall with this piece, as I couldn't finish out the first phrase. I had a good introduction, but after the first few bars it just sort of fizzled. Even so, I liked this piece a lot, so I guess I just didn't forget it. I certainly had put it on hold for a while, though.

I had yet another crazy day at work today. In the middle of a meeting, the way to resolve the phrase pounded through my head like a drill. I considered driving home immediately to get to the piano and write it down, but that wasn't realistic. I ended up not getting to the piano till after dinner, but I'm glad I remembered the song. It's funny: I first had to re-learn the piece (weird to have to re-learn a piece that I wrote!), and THEN I could play the part that was pounding through my head. I quickly grabbed my pad of blank staff paper (can't BELIEVE I actually still had some in the piano bench!) and wrote it all down.

I honestly don't know how I do it...I don't know how I write music in my head. I can't explain it. Writing music is a strange process for me...I can hardly even write about that process here. It feels like my language skills tonight seem to be all chopped up by the music in my head.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

My Eyes

My mother visits this weekend. Her visits are often marked by going out for Italian food. So we went to a local Italian place up the street that we discovered last weekend. I am pleased that I did not overeat this time. Not the case last weekend, but I digress.

Mom footed the bill, which was very nice. She showed me the check and asked me how much tip she should leave. I pulled out my trusty tip card from my wallet: it's a series of charts that show dollar amounts and their 15% and 20% tip amounts. To my horror, I could hardly read the little card unless I held it about TWO FEET away from my eyes. Wife laughed.

Honestly. Bifocals at age 38?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Where was I?

Time flies when balancing the various components of life sucks the energy right out of one's brain cells. I'm finishing up the re-coding process. The more I do it, the faster I get with it. This is merely an organizational step that must be done in order for me to provide evidence toward the large chunk of the results chapter I've already written. Pain in the ass, but I'm almost there.

I've taken part of this week off from work to get it all done. It's been alright. Not as productive as locking myself away in a hotel was last summer, but certainly more affordable. It is helpful, also, to anticipate going back to work and not being so behind as I was after the summer time off I took. Today I'm in the library again, and it's going well.

Actually, I'm sort of entering a "summer" season at work because I just completed a large annual report. There are a few major tasks here and there, but I'm no longer launching anything new for quite a while. This is good.

Back to it, then.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Halloween 2009

We had a nice Halloween this weekend. Wife's sister was in town. Unfortunately we didn't get any photos of her, probably because she was taking most of the ones you see here. More later.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Slow and Behind

I haven't posted here in a month. Probably because I really haven't worked on TFD in a month. We moved Moose into his new school today, which is GREAT. His school/therapy will finally get back into a routine, which will be good for all of us. [contented sigh]

I'm behind on a couple of projects at work, probably because I am constantly sitting in meetings to which I'm called or invited. Tomorrow I have meetings from 9:00 AM-5:00 PM straight through, save one hour in the middle of the afternoon. Seriously. I mean, I understand why we all need to meet together, but when exactly does one get one's work accomplished?

I am getting through some hurdles, though. Settling the school thing is good and removes some of the stress from my plate. Also, I attended a conference here in LSC and even did a workshop with my boss and a colleague. It went well, and it was important for me to attend this meeting. I made some new connections and revived a few that were dying off, so it was time well spent. Last year I attended this same conference, and it didn't feel like my time was well-spent, so this was a welcome surprise.

Assuming I indeed am able to plow through these next couple of projects and then finish a division-wide report by the end of next week, I will be able to take a week off (11/9-13) to focus on TFD. Finally.

And I thought I'd be defending the dissertation by Thanksgiving. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Honestly at this point I'll be surprised if I ever finish. I know it will probably happen, but I have absolutely no idea when.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Droning

I've created a playlist of songs on my iPod that is basically songs that drone. These are sort of repetitive songs with a steady bass line, easy rhythms, just enough to block out extraneous noise and let me think. Hearing the same songs each time I work seems to help me focus. Guess it's sort of training my brain to focus when I hear these songs. Interesting.

Back to the drone...

Friday, September 25, 2009

Re-Coding

This is the first week in a while where I actually spent more than just one day on the dissertation. I was glad to be back at a cafe I've found nearby on recommendation of a couple of friends.

I've written at a conceptual level on the results chapter for while now, and that's been an extremely helpful process. I now have a good picture of the theory itself as it starts to take form. However, more recently I realized that I was struggling to remember the details of the interviews. Also, I am starting to mix up which participant said what quote. Last March, I took a pretty big shortcut by using NVivo to code only interview summaries (to save me time) and not the interviews themselves. It was a good decision at the time, because it allowed me more time to start writing. However, now I need more detail. I'm now using a concise list of my most relevant codes and am going through the interviews, adding codes where needed. I think it's the only way I can keep all of the details straight in my head. Yes, it's time away from writing, but I'm at a real block now and I need to do this to get through. This morning it took me only an hour to code one of the longer interviews. I'll get better at coding with my short list as I go along, so I figure I can get that one-hour time down to perhaps 30-45 minutes. Hopefully I can fly through the recoding process during the next week and be set to finish up the results chapter in October.

However, as my wife always says, "Want to see God laugh? Tell him your plans!"

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Updates

Oh yes, that's right. I keep a blog.

There has been a ton going on, and none of it is related to the dissertation.

First: we had a stellar moment for our son at our falling-off-the-left-edge-of liberal church last weekend. It was the Sunday for a children's sabbath program. Typically, we have Moose sit out on these things. Frankly, that always makes me and the wife shed a tear or five. Seeing the stupid typical kids up there singing their little hearts out off pitch is pretty hard on the ears when we know Moose can out sing the entire group. That statement is from my unbiased perspective as a musician, and not as a proud parent. OK, this is slightly tongue-in-cheek, but not entirely. Moose is a really good musician, but no one would know this since he cannot share his talents in these typical environments.

While we had no major musical breakthroughs, we did have one cool moment: he was able to participate in the children's processional with the rest of the kiddos for the first time. Many tears were shed, and there was great rejoicing. Maybe he'll be directing the children's choir in a few years. haha.

Second: we are probably pulling Moose out of his school. There is an excessively-long story to go along with this, and the last two weeks have been a bit rough. I won't share it all here, so if you'd like more information, contact me directly. Fortunately it's very likely we'll be able to get the same training for Moose in spite of all of this, but it's been rocky nonetheless. I am SOOO glad we don't live in SCT anymore. There is no way we would have any other options for Moose's education if we had stayed there.

So, I'm back in a cafe continuing to plug away on the dissertation that I easily forgot about the past couple of weeks. I pretty much have no chance of defending the entire piece prior to Thanksgiving as I had hoped. However, I'm going to attempt to pretend that Thanksgiving s my deadline nonetheless. I will be lucky to have a shitty draft by Christmas, but if that actually happens, then at least I'll be finished with TFD by graduation in 2010. It's only four years after I had planned, but fortunately two years prior to the real seven-year drop-dead deadline.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Finally

Wife and child went to a birthday party in SCT today. As much as I would have enjoyed catching up with our old friends, I stayed back here at Chesterley to work on TFD (the fucking dissertation). I do look forward actually to attend weekend trips, parties and the like. Missing out on these things got old two years ago.

Moving on...

The last couple of weeks I've been catching up from what turned out to be a really hellish summer at work. Generally speaking, I've learned I don't acknowledge difficult times till they are over. Reflecting on the summer, while I am grateful for the time away from work I was able to take to make progress on TFD and for vacation, the summer itself was horribly busy, and far busier than I expected. In fact, I'm still catching up on a couple of summer projects, and fall semester classes started over a week ago. The time away probably contributed to the busy summer schedule at work, but it should never be said that life at a university is 'dead' over the summer. Au contraire, mon frere.

Moving on again, to today...

Since I've not made much progress during the work week on TFD due to said busy summer schedule, I felt somewhat justified in my choice to stay home from today's birthday party. And I'm glad I did. I think I actually have the basic structure lined up for My Theory on My Topic, which is, of course, the entire point of conducting a grounded theory study in the first place.

Finally.

Now I just have to get all the pieces lined up, find quotes to support these hair-brained ideas, and finish up this piece. I think I'm almost done. At least, I'm almost done with the draft of the results chapter.

Yeah, no big whoop. The thought of writing this up has only been on my mind for two years.

:-)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Slush

Today I've made only a little bit of progress: only about a page or so. I feel like I'm muddling through slush. I am starting one of the toughest sections of the paper, though, so at least I'm not running away and hiding from the task at hand. But now I have a ton of other work-related projects on my mind, so I need to clear some of those off my plate before I can focus back on the diss. Perhaps I'll write more later tonight. If not, then I'll be back on it tomorrow AM.

Bye.

Thermostat

This is the first time in my thirteen-year career that I've had an office in which I can actually control the heating and cooling, reliably.

I just may never leave.

Monday, August 17, 2009

A new work schema

Last week, I tried an experiment. I purposely attempted to avoid scheduling too many appointments, and I set aside each morning to work on my dissertation. I mentioned last Wednesday I had written six pages. By the end of the week I wrote nine or ten, depending on how you count things.

Needless to say, it was a productive week. I've learned something. While having an entire day off from work to work on the dissertation was very helpful during the data analysis process, the writing process itself is VERY different. It's actually sort of tedious. I enjoy it, but it does not require the big, lofty part of my brain. Instead, it's actually pretty technical, so I just need to set aside time to work on it each day. If I can write about two pages per day, or 8-10 pages per week, I actually have a chance in hell of finishing this puppy before the holidays. Besides, the prospect of writing two pages doesn't seem that difficult.

So I've set aside 8-10 AM four days per week (total of 8 hours) to write write write. Unfortunately my favorite library doesn't open till 9, so I won't be able to frequent it very often, except on the weekends. I post this photo of one of my favorite spots over there. I enjoy the view of downtown, and I'll miss it during the week. However, this switch just made my life a bit more simple. I'll arrive at my on-campus office on time each morning, write a few pages for the first hour or so, and then move on with the rest of the day. Not too shabby.

I even wrote another page this morning, so I think it's working well.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Mid-week Update

I wrote six pages this week. Not too shabby. Sure is better than zero. I'm getting on a roll, of sorts. I'm honestly bored out of my mind, but on a roll nonetheless.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Fattening

I'm blowing off my night to work out at the gym so I can work on my dissertation. Sorry Mom. Yes, I know how fat I am.

I am seriously considering making the rest of the month of August one all-nighter so I make sure I get this chapter done. Do I really need to sleep?

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

No go today

I did not get anything done on my dissertation today. Oh right: I do not write about my job on this blog. I won't say another word.

August: The Big Sunday

A good friend of mine from college now works as a high school music teacher. She used to refer to the month of August as one long Sunday: the day of dread before the work week begins. Of course, these days schools are starting earlier and earlier, so the month-to-day ratio doesn't quite work. Still is a good metaphor, nonetheless.

And I'm feeling the crunch now that August is here. Must get the results chapter completed this month. Even if it sucks. We had a nice vacation last week, but now the summer is basically over and its back to work.

Today I'm working on the screened porch at Chesterley. After being gone last week, I find I miss just hanging out here at home. I don't have my usual need to get the heck out of the house. So, I'm taking advantage of the decent weather, the porch ceiling fan, and an empty house (except for Chester) to get some work done today from home. I still need to do a work project at some point before the end of the day (quelle surprise), but that's all part of the balance. Wish I didn't have that particular balance right now, but I certainly do value having a full-time job these days.

The good news is that prior to the vacation I shared a revised method chapter (ch. 3) and a new participants chapter (ch. 4) with DC. These were things I worked on during the "summer crunch" in June. I received feedback from her just last Monday after she returned from a trip:
Hey – read the two chapters on the plane – they look good. The only suggestion I have for you is to add a paragraph at the end of Chapter 3 that explains that the sample will be described, along with case studies of the participants, in chapter 4 and that chapters 5 and 6 will have in the findings and discussion. That way the reader will understand the format for the remainder of the dissertation.

There were a couple of grammatical things, but I assume you will catch those at some point.

Good job!

Fine by me. My sense is that she and the rest of my committee just want to see a final product. Not a perfect, publishable product, but a final product for this study. It's good to release the drive for perfection!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Here we go

Scenario: you have a month of the semester remaining, and you have a two-and-a-half papers left to write. You pretty much know what you're going to write about for all three of these, but you don't feel like you have had a decent start. You have no idea how it's all going to get done, but somehow you know it will. It must. Or else. What do you do?

Write my flippin' assets off.

That's where I am right about now. The only really scary part is that "spring break" is happening next week (i.e., our vacation), and I cannot bring the laptop with me.

Today I'm in the library with two friends from SCT. We're all cranking out pages. Should be good writing energy together before a fun dinner with our families later on. Not such a bad Saturday, that is, if one must be locked in a library on a weekend.

Bye.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Assurance of Trustworthiness

Today is my dissertation day. I think it's the first Wednesday I've had without any other work-related commitments since May. Today has been very productive.

One method of assuring trustworthiness in my data analysis is to check in with the participants and seek their feedback on a part of the data analysis. In the case of my study, I wanted to make sure my main description of their work and their future aspirations was accurate. This is called a "member check."

I've been dreading this process due to the time it has taken me to analyze the interviews and write up the summaries. It's been just over two years since I conducted the first interview, and I honestly don't know if my contact information for the participants is still accurate or not. Fortunately Facebook has been a big help with this process, so yay for modern communication. I know I've written about this up here in the past.

Well, now that I finished Chapter 4, or the write-up of participants (did I MENTION I finished Chapter 4?), it was high time to get back in touch with the participants. I finally went ahead and contacted them, and I shared with each his or her interview summary. I did not share any of my reactions. Just my overall summary of the interview.

Glad that's over!

One has already responded, so I hope a few others follow suit soon. I don't expect to hear from all of them, but somewhere around half be nice.

Onto write a few more pages of Chapter 5 now. Deep breath. Trying to stay awake in the mid-afternoon is always a challenge for me.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Summer Crunch - Day 6 Report

It's good to be home.

Honestly, I didn't get much done today on the dissertation. I moved home from the hotel, unpacked a few things, and then worked in the garden a bit. I needed that.

The net effect of this time away from work and family is very exciting, in my opinion. I made a TON of progress. I'm now right in the middle of one of the more complex chapters, and I'm comfortable living with the complexity for a while. I'm also very, very motivated to finish up everything. Heck, I may even write up another code or two here before going to bed.

At this point, if I can keep plugging away on things in the evenings, weekends, and my regular day off of work during the week, then it's quite likely these chapters will be written by the end of August. They'll SUCK, but they'll be written!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Summer Crunch - Day 5 Report

I am pleased to report that a good day does indeed follow a bad one. I continued with the "not caring so damn much" philosophy I adopted late last night and just kept going today. Things are finally flowing quite well with this chapter. By the end of the day tomorrow, I hope to come out of this focused time with a solid skeleton for Chapter 5 such that I can spend the next few weeks simply filling in the blanks with quotes and a bit more prose to tie together the various pieces. Then I need to figure out the order of said pieces, but this will come with time and thought. One hopes.

I had to get the heck out of this hotel room today for a bit, so I went over to the nearby large chain coffee establishment and had a decent few hours there. I froze my ass off though. Man it was cold in there. Guess they wanted us to buy more coffee or something. Dang.

Tonight's my last night in the hotel room. In celebration I treated myself to some ice cream. Now I'll settle in for another couple of hours of writing before bedtime.

Bye.

Summer Crunch - Day 4 Report

Today was tough and frustrating. Tougher than I thought. And did I mention it was a bit frustrating? It was unfortunate that I had to attend to something for work in the morning. This didn't please me very much, but it had to be done. Fortunately it didn't take much of my time, and it didn't require that I go into the office.

While writing, I got stuck several times, and after having such a productive few days last week, this was disappointing. I found it tough to know where to start and what to say. I attempted to start this one section over and over, but to no avail. And then my mind would wander too much and I would wonder what Wife and Moose were doing at home...

After refocusing, I ate way too much junk for dinner (my typical stress reaction). Still frustrated, I turned my back on the computer for a while. I opened a beer that I had been saving for when I felt comfortable taking a break. I stood up from the desk, and I spread out my papers across the bed in the hotel room. I looked over the notes and realized that if needed, I could stand in front of a room of people and discuss the various components of the theory. I could even bring in a few of the more memorable quotes off the top of my head. In fact, there were a few times since the spring that I attempted to construct the theory based upon what I was learning along the way, and those musings were among my notes that were spread out on the bed. So, I transported myself into the future, where I visualized myself presenting the results of my study at a professional conference. I spoke out loud, and I started to explain the theory to, well, to the bed. Slowly but surely, I was able to construct complete sentences. Suddenly my speech patterns became more confident, and I knew I was going somewhere.

So I started writing down some of what I had said. I still questioned the order in which things would go, but then I stopped thinking so damn much and started writing. I wrote a two-page brain dump at this point. It's not great, but it gives me a decent outline where to start plugging in quotes and such. It's a start.

Even though today was frustrating, I got more done on the dissertation today than I would have had I not taken the day off from work.

I plan to take the "stop thinking, start writing" approach tomorrow and just keep going. We shall see.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Prelude to Week Two

Well, after a busy two days and one night at home, and I'm now preparing for the second week. Unfortunately it's not an entire week, but it is three full nights (including tonight) and three full days (starting tomorrow). We have holiday plans this coming weekend, starting Thursday, so the work week is cut short. Not that I'm complaining or anything!

After last week's success, working remotely from a hotel (did I mention I finished Chapter 4?), I am determined to keep up with the speed I've gained and continue forward the next few days. I wasn't planning on coming back to a hotel this week, but after Wife suggested it practically unprompted by me, who am I are argue? Perhaps she just wanted me out of the house? Haha. Just kidding. On the contrary, she's definitely by best cheerleader by far.

This is a different hotel than last week, but still nearby. After only a $15/night increase, and suddenly I'm living in the 21st century again. It's certainly not home, and I would still rather be there, but it is nice to be in a spot that doesn't make me feel like I'm on the set of the movie, Office Space. That other hotel was giving me a headache and allergy attack. I started asking around for my stapler (if you've not seen the movie, you won't get the joke). Anyway, big improvement here, including a real desk chair and desk, so these things will certainly help me continue to stay focused.

The plan for this week is to write out as many bits and chunks of chapter 5, the Findings chapter, that I possibly can. I am not going to concern myself with organizing the chapter very much for now. Just need to get the writing of the pieces accomplished.

So, here's to a good second week!

[raises a glass of water, neat, as a toast-like gesture toward no one else in particular].

Oh, did I mention I finished Chapter 4 last week?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Summer Crunch - Day 3 Report

Yesterday was not quite as productive in terms of tangible deliverable items as Days 1 and 2 were. However, progress was made nevertheless on chunking, writing, editing, etc. It wasn't a bad day, but it wasn't as good as Day 2. These things ebb and flow, so it certainly was well-spent time and worth the trip.

I'm off to home now. Busy weekend planned, which will be nice. Then it's back to the dissertation grind Monday.

Bye.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Summer Crunch - Day 2 Report

Oops - forgot the Day 2 Report. Probably because Day 2 ended at 2:00 AM today. With the lack of time commitments yesterday (except for a 2:30 PM meeting at Moose's school yesterday), my schedule has turned sort of upside down. I had a few work-related e-mails I needed to handle (it takes a few days for it to sink in with my colleagues that I really am taking two weeks away to write, and I wasn't kidding) in the morning, and then we had the meeting in the afternoon. Then I got into the writing process, and I moved slowly but surely up till 2 AM (not consistently...I took breaks). By 2 AM, I finished a draft of the "participants" chapter, or Chapter 4. It's not the entire "results" chapter like one might find in a typical five-chapter dissertation. Mine will likely have six chapters total. My actual results chapter is coming up next. I feel good about the progress yesterday, and that I wrote what might be a stand-alone chapter in just a couple of days.

I have never had a TV in any office where I've worked before in my entire life. Obviously there is a TV here in my hotel room, so I've had it on quietly much of the time. It's provided good background noise. Yesterday was the big National Basketball Association selection day, so the Entertainment Sports Programming Network was on much of the time. For any of you who know me, this is shockingly odd behavior for me. I hardly know what ESPN stands for, let alone the NBA, and I usually wouldn't give a rat's ass about the selection. But on further reflection, it became appropriate as to why I'd care about that event. My dissertation addresses issues of transition out of college upon graduation, and most of the guys selected for teams had just graduated, themselves. I thought it was an appropriate connection to be writing about college graduates while watching a whole bunch getting jobs at the same time.

During the breaks, I watched the coverage on Cable News Network regarding the deaths of Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson. It's amazing these notable deaths happened on the same day.

Fawcett was popular in the 70s when I was a little kid and girls were "icky." But she was a hottie in Charlie's Angels, no matter how icky girls were at the time. It's sad that he slow death was a) so slow and painful, and b) now is probably over-shadowed by Michael Jackson. Fawcett was a good performer in her own right, and I hope those who knew hew work (and hottiness) better than I do can say more.

I bought the Thriller album (LP of course!) in the spring of 1984 when I was in seventh grade. I still have it, as does Wife: it's among the few albums we both brought into our combined household when we married. I learned about his earlier music, and about The Jackson 5ive, after Thriller was such a big hit. But I had numerous moments as a teenager like, "Oh, THAT tune is Michael Jackson? Cool." I thought he was a complete weirdo, but I always liked his music. It's tough to disagree he was an amazing performer, and it's certainly a loss to the musical community.

OK, back to reality. Today it's time to dive into the tough chapter - the theory chapter. I've already broken it into smaller chunks, and I've started writing about it already. I just need to keep getting the chunks done, and then later on I'll weave things together into something understandable. We shall see.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

June Plantings



Alright, well now that I've had a good productive day, I feel no guilt about posting a quick house update. Last weekend we finally finished planting the garden in front of the front porch, which is practically the first thing one sees when walking up to our front door. This pretty much matches a plan we had done by a landscape architect about a year ago. The company we used specifically does plans for the do-it-yourself gardener, which was great. They planned it (horticulturists we are not), and we installed it. Love that. It just took us forever. Wonder what else we've been doing?

Next, we'll focus on the garden to the left of this porch that used to have old shrubs obscuring the view out of the living room window. That's at least six feet up off the ground (the ground slopes down over there)! After that, we'll finally plant grass and a few shrubs along the side of the garage. Used to be overgrown trees and shrubs. We ripped those out almost two years ago, but still haven't done a thing with the space, except probably piss off the next-door neighbors.

Do you see why I can't wait for this to be a house blog??

Oh yeah, the two shots of hostas (hostae?) at the end of the slide show are actually in our back yard. Those plants came from my in-laws, who live out of state. We do enjoy adding plants to our garden from family and friends. One of the only things I miss about living in SCT is the garden we planted at the original Chesterley house, as it was a combination of plants from various important people in our lives. It's probably being ignored now. Sigh. That was not easy to leave behind.

Update to Day 1

I ate dinner and kept on moving through for another couple of hours. Then I gave myself the rest of the evening off. Why I'm still awake, I don't know, but it's not like I'm setting an alarm tomorrow morning, or anything. I do plan on finishing up the character descriptions before lunch, though. Based on how quickly things seemed to roll this evening, especially after dinner, that goal is quite possible. Hmm...perhaps I will set an alarm.

Now that I have the time to focus, this writing process is far easier than I thought. Let's hope I'm still singing that tune tomorrow night.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Summer Crunch - Day 1 Report

Thanks to everyone for your good words both here in the blog and to me directly via electronic mail. All words of support are very helpful during this time.

Life here at the hotel is good - it's been a good productive day. I finally cleaned up the early version of the Participants section. There was too much in there related to the deeper analysis and not enough of the surface descriptions of participants. Now I'm on a roll with finishing up the descriptions of each one, briefly but respectfully, knowing I'm going to develop the characters further in the analysis section.

I still need to contact the participants to see if they agree with my characterizations. That's intimidating to me, as it's been about two years since I started the interviews. Two years? Geez. Oh well, I'm just going to have to get over that and move onward. I think I've mentioned I found most of them on Facebook. I won't friend them, but if I can send them a message that way, then I will. Thank God for Facebook.

It sort of feels like I'm writing a play with 14 characters. Few if any of them have ever met, but so much of what they are saying relates to that of their peers in the study. Sort of interesting.

I'm glad I did this hotel thing. Usually I'm closing up my writing shop around 5 or 6 PM on a dissertation day away from work. Today was totally different: I worked at a slow but steady pace, really relaxed. I have ESPN on in the background for noise (I don't even know what sport is on the TV, since it's behind me). I even grabbed a quick nap mid-afternoon. I'm about to take a brief dinner break (frozen pizza, here I come), and then I'll just get back to it. If I get to a certain point this evening where I feel things have gone along really well, then I'll reward myself with a good beer (or two) that I have here in the fridge. Then I repeat tomorrow. I'm glad I'm finally getting through this stuff.

More good news: I was supposed to go into work Friday for a meeting that was scheduled for 3 PM. Who the heck schedules a meeting for 3 PM on a Friday in the summer?? I received a note today indicating it was canceled, so now I don't need to interrupt my work Friday. Yippee!

I do have a parent/teacher meeting at Moose's school tomorrow afternoon, but that'll be fine. For one thing, it's not work: it's parenting, so it's far more important and well worth the time away from the diss. Second, it will be a shorter break than the above meeting since it's located relatively near the hotel. Finally, I'm REALLY missing Wife and Moose right about now! It will be a nice break tomorrow to see them both.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Summer Crunch

I embark upon another Two Weeks. I am feeling the pressure this time, not that I didn't last time, but there's something different, and a bit more desperate, about this one.

Desperate times have called for desperate measures. I write this note from the comfort of a hotel room. No joke. It's one of those places where all the rooms have little kitchens and no maid service. Fine by me, and certainly less expensive than the other places nearby. I checked myself in for the rest of the week and plan to spend the as much time as my brain will allow with cranking out the crap.

A couple of people who have recently asked me about my progress have laughed, no joke - laughed!, when I responded by saying I plan on finishing up this fall. Now, neither of these people actually have a doctorate, so I realize they don't know what the hell they are talking about. But this is the first time I have said out loud what my plans for completion are. So, why do they laugh? Who knows. I try not to let this sort of stuff bother me too much. If I finish even as late as next spring, I'll still be a full two years ahead of my 2012 deadline.

Anyhow, back to this post. At this point I'm writing out a very structured to-do list so I'm not sitting around wondering what the hell I should do next. I will write regular updates this week to note my progress.

I can't wait to turn this into a house renovation blog.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Anxiety Dreams

If I felt good enough about this process the other day to write the No Fear post, then why the hell am I having anxiety dreams lately?

I'll spare the details, but one of them in particular involved being in the same room as my wife and two former girlfriends. Ungood!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

A timeline

Well, I've done it. I now have an official kick-in-the-pants, don't mess this up Rob, holy shit I've gotta produce something decent, time line. A syllabus, if you will.

I just ran my final time line by my entire committee, and they all responded within about four hours with a resounding "yes we're available in November for your dissertation defense," and "yes, keep going with the structure of the remainder of your study as you indicated." Can't believe the fast response from all of them, even during the summer. Wow.

Time lines are good for me. They inspire the all-nighters I'll need to get the results of this puppy complete.

Monday, June 01, 2009

No Fear

In the Nineties I often saw stickers on the back windshields of cars reading, "No Fear." Somehow I think it has something to do with "NIN" stickers (Nine-Inch Nails?), since I usually saw those coupled together. I have absolutely no idea what the hell those stickers meant, other than that Nine-Inch Nails was a rock group. I write this paragraph only to clarify that the title of this post has nothing to do with those stickers.

Man can I spin the bullshit or what? I must be writing a dissertation!

Anyway, this post serves as a reminder to myself that I am officially over any fear whatsoever of finishing this dissertation. I'm not trying to get over confident here. Rather, I'm just being realistic. Completion is now just a matter of finding the time to finish writing, obey the commands of my committee (note my dry humor) to finish it off adequately, and turn the damn thing in.

I am extremely fortunate that I have a chair who a) wants me to finish and b) provides me with constructive, challenging feedback that helps me improve. Her feedback is likely going to kick my ass, and the rest of the process toward finishing up may very well suck. However, the dissertation is going to be completed. There are no more questions. There are no more grades. Just an ending.

Now, the challenge is finding the time...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Lupron as Treatment for Autism?

Seriously?? This is the castration drug given to sex offenders.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/health/chi-autism-lupron-may21,0,242705.story

We know other parents in town who have tried to work with these "doctors." Their kids go through extensive blood tests (checking for what, I'll never know), and the people running the office indicate the tests will be covered by insurance. When the bill for $10,000 arrives, the doctors LAUGH at the parents when they ask about insurance. I'm not making this up.

I hope this article contributes to the demise of the Drs. Geier's careers, but I doubt it will.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Screen Porch!

I'm back on the screen porch again here at Chesterley. LOVE IT. It's been a productive day, in spite of the noises coming from the installation of the new roof and siding on the house next door.

I've finished what turned out to be a longer-than-expected transition of documents from the old Word 2003 version to the newer 2007. I had some chapters in the old form, and these newer ones in the new, so now everything matches. Check.

The next step is a crash-through of the participant descriptions, which will be chapter 4. I hope to have a horribly-awful draft of that done by the end of the week. I've pretty much written it: I just need to get it into a better, more readable format.

After that, it's onto finishing up the theory chapter, or Chapter 5. That'll be the doozie. I have about two pages of that one started.

I'm resisting the temptation to go back through the older chapters in the proposal and a) move the verb tense to the past (currently it's in the future tense, as proposals should be), and b) change the voice to the first person. I wrote the initial proposal in the third person, but as I get into the analysis, the first-person voice is going to be far easier and more appropriate to a qualitative study. An example that combines these two things involves changing this sentence from,
"The researcher will interview sixteen undergraduate seniors..."
to,
"I interviewed sixteen undergraduate seniors..."
It's not difficult, just tedious. And yet, right now it could be an awfully good way to procrastinate from the main writing task I have before me, the synthesis of the results, which WILL be difficult! So, I'm avoiding doing this easier task, even though I actually would really enjoy that sort of mindless-yet-productive work right about now, and will attempt to move onward with producing new text.

When I get to the point where I'd feel comfortable with editing, changing, and reformatting, then I know I'll be close to finishing up this puppy.

Alright, back to it. Glad to be on the porch again!

Monday, May 18, 2009


I have a dilemma. Our cell phone contract is up and it's time for renewal. This is good, as I like having a choice. But knowing the choice has implications for the next two years inspires me to do a little research. I am a researcher, after all.
Ergo: please consider responding to the survey on the right column of this blog. It is completely anonymous and has not been certified through IRB. Deal with it.
Do we stay with Verizon? I have had good luck with this company for about seven years. Also, our entire extended family is on Verizon, so we all can call each other for free. However, they do not have the iPhone, and I'm a Mac, not a PC. Can I really bring myself to get a Blackberry? Also, would I really want to switch away from Verizon? Friends have told us they think the Verizon network is more reliable than the others. What's the use of having a cool phone if the supporting network isn't as strong? But man that phone is cool, and enough people seem to have success with their network...
I presently have a Palm Treo which I love, but it's beginning to die a slow death, and I don't want to get caught in the dark as I did the night before leaving for a meeting in March.
Any thoughts? I'm taking open-ended comments in this post and quantitative-ish data in the poll to the right.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Front Porch Plants

At long last, we finally started planting live shrubs in front of Chesterley instead of only ripping out all the old overgrown stuff. Moose posed in a few of the photos I took last weekend. Thus far we've installed two azaleas, two boxwoods, and, as of yesterday, the yellow daylilies (how do you SPELL that?) that were sitting in the ugly black pot in these shots. We still have a way to go: adding purple coneflowers in the gap between the lilies and the boxwood on the left, and we're considering a border of lariope around the edge. Not sure about that, though. Mulch will be added when it's done. So, it's a work in progress, but we're glad it's in progress.

There were several tortured pine shrubs (tortured by being shaped into odd little shapes) which were sitting in a bunch of old mulch. When we cleared out this bed, we removed the mulch to find trash. I'm not kidding. Garbage. Literally. The original owners must have smoked cigarettes with the plastic cigarette holders and simply dumped them into the shrubs. We also found a gazillion old plastic toy soldiers and cars. A real treasure trove, lemme tellya. In addition, they apparently had low-voltage lighting because we found wire and even a couple of light bulbs. Our next-door neighbors have lived here over 20 years. I asked, "Do you recall there being lights in that flower bed?" and a look of recollection came over their faces: "Yes! Must have been at least 10 years ago!" I showed them the worn out old lights and the frayed wire that was still in the bed, and we all had a good laugh.

Meeting Minutes

Yesterday's meeting with DC went very well. I like her. We went out for lunch and got caught up on our lives. One of the few advantages of taking so darn long to complete the dissertation is that I have built a bit of a friendship with my chair. It's not like we hang out together socially, but she knows my wife and son (she knows all about the problems we had living with autism disorder in SCT), and she's even met my mom. So we spent the lunch just catching up on families, general life transitions and the like. Then, we discussed the dissertation back at her office for over an hour. I'm grateful for the lengthy amount of time we were able to spend on the subject, let alone the helpful, yet challenging, advice she provided. I don't miss living in SCT at all, but I do miss the closer proximity to people like DC.

As an undergraduate, and even as a master's student, I always wondered what in the world the doctoral students would DO when they would have these lengthy discussions with faculty. And now I know. I shared with her the 8 details I mentioned in the previous post. She was pleased that I was very well steeped in the data and could pull out stories or quotes as needed to back up connections I was making. There were a few parts of my reasoning that she wasn't following, and I attributed that to a need for ME to go back and figure out where I was going with certain things. I had a couple of wake-up calls, but they were healthy.

Bottom line, she agrees with me that the analysis is officially complete, and now I just ("just!") need to write it up and finish. I came away with a good way to structure out what I have left to write. I am pleased with the fact that the few pages I wrote very quickly the preceding morning were decent enough for her to understand where I was going with them. All in all, it was a good meeting.

Now I just need to carve out the time to write. I like writing, and I write pretty quickly. Most of what I've written for this degree has been pulled out of my brain, via my ass, during late night, last-minute, coffee-laden, mad-hatter writing sessions. This crazy timing of my writing has served me well. So, I may not sleep very much this summer, but there is a chance I may have the bulk of this puppy written up before Labor Day.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Prepping for Meeting with DC

Hi.

So I'm meeting with DC in about 10 hours. I think things are going to be fine.

Alright, let me clarify this concept called "fine." For every meeting I've ever had with her since the spring of 2005, I walk in feeling like a complete and utter idiot. I struggle through finding the words I need to attempt to express myself, in spite of my sheepish idiocy. I sweat profusely, have rampant bouts of self-doubt, I question how I was ever accepted into this doctoral program in the first place, the whole nine yards. I exaggerate for effect only slightly.

And yet, I always leave these meetings feeling like a scholar. A young, budding scholar, but scholarly nonetheless.

The reason for this is DC's consistent philosophy, which is simply stated like this: "Everyone has a theory." She respects my theory, always. To be clear, she continuously suggests manners in which the theory can be improved. I suspect I will realize the weight of the work I still have ahead of me as a result of this meeting, but I know inherently she will respect the work I have done thus far. Wish I felt that way on the surface as I prepare for this meeting, but deep down, I know it's going to be "fine."

BTW, I have started writing two chapters at once. I have a good number of pages of each. Why in the WORLD I'm writing two chapters at once is beyond me, but it just sorta happened that way.

I'm bringing several documents with me to this meeting: 1) the data analysis process I used [at some point I needed to write this out as a sort of bread crumb path-finding thingamabob so I'd remember what the hell I've been working on since last fall], 2) the big coding grid that snapped together like a deck of cards (I think she's going to like it), 3) my initial concept map with several of the key themes written in to help connect the various points in the study, 4) a very rough outline for the structure of the theory I'm constructing, 5) a rather random, yet important, paragraph I wrote during The Two Weeks that presents what I think is the major catalyst behind the theory, 6) my code writing list, or basically my to-do list for the theory chapter, 7) the beginning of chapter 4 on participants, and 8) the beginning of chapter 5 on the theory (much of which I wrote this morning (alright, technically Tuesday morning).

One may think I'm wasting my time by writing all this out in my blog, but it's actually helping me organize my thoughts for what the hell I'm going to actually discuss with DC tomorrow (today).

Again, I think it's going to be "fine." However, the process of getting there is going to kick my ass.

Bye.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Just Writing

Today is my 'day off' from work to write. It's going well. Got things organized and then wrote about a page this morning. Am planning on another page or two this afternoon.

I use the term 'organized' loosely, today. I'm really not all that organized, but if I keep trying to get organized, I'm not going to get anything done. So I've decided just to write and not think so damn much. At least words will appear on the page instead just swim around my foggy brain.

Good news: I have a meeting next Wednesday with DC down in Small College Town. So, this gives me a hard deadline to have SOMETHING prepared for her by that time. I'm looking forward to some feedback and focus on how to proceed as a result of that meeting.

OK, gotta go 'just write' some more.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Breach of the Fortress

Today I was on our front porch, watering new plants we finally put into the front flower bed. If the azaleas bloom, I'll take a few photos and will post them here. But that's not the focus of this post.

Moose cannot resist being close to sources of water. He's fascinated by them. Whenever I water plants, inside or out, he's always right there with me, and I bet he's analyzing the molecular properties of the water I'm using. Haha. Today was no different, but he was inside the family room when I was outside on the porch watering the new shrubs. He apparently wanted a closer look...

Now, our house is a fortress, otherwise Moose would bolt outside and risk get killed by a car. Not like he can just say "hi "to a neighbor and have a conversation about who he is and where he lives, so we keep the place locked up tight. Even most adults have a tough time figuring out how to exit (dead-bolt locks requiring a key, though the key is hanging near the door). Moose must have been watching how we exit the house, and he must have been really motivated by seeing the water coming out of the hose: As I finished up the watering process, I thought I heard keys jingling and then a key inside the door. I figured Wife was coming out to say hello. A minute later, there was Moose running down the walkway toward the driveway. I did a double-take, looking for Wife to be close behind him, but no such luck. As it turns out, she was in the back yard planting vegetables. Moose figured out how to open the damn front door all on his own.

ACK!

Man that's a smart kid we produced. We'll see how this new placement of the key works to keep the fortress secured.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Waiting

Am now in a holding pattern, circling over a rest stop during this plane trip.

I sent an e-mail to DC a couple of days ago requesting a meeting. Figured having an externally-motivated deadline looming overhead would get me to work faster. I've heard nothing back. Her track record for responding to e-mail timely isn't stellar, so I'll probably have to actually radio down to the control tower (i.e., use the telephone) later today.

Waiting, waiting...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Not sure how to feel on this one

Today was my day to wake up Moose so Wife could exercise this morning. He gave me a big smile when he saw me, and we had our usual morning conversation:
"Good morning, Moose! Now what do you say to me?"
"Say hi Daddy."
"Thank you, Moosey."
And then I realized that he had puked all over the bed. It must have happened hours earlier, since it was dry. Remarkably, he had missed his body, since his PJs were pretty clean. Wife helped me clean up everything while I continued onward with Moose's morning routine.

Moose has learned to stay in bed till we come get him in the morning. Not sure how it happened, but I'm thankful for this, as it's safer to have him staying in one room on the off-chance that Wife and I actually have a chance to sleep in. However, when he's really sick or something's wrong, he doesn't know it's OK to come get us in the middle of the night. I can't have a conversation with him about this, so I'm not sure how to feel. On the one-hand, I feel horrible that he slept in his own Ralph last night. On the other, I'm glad he didn't go roaming around the house in the middle of the night and risk falling down the basement stairs or something awful like that.

But sleeping in your own puke? I mean...look, it's gross. Why didn't he know this? Why wouldn't he get up and at least come into the room and get us?

He has puked two other times today. Obviously he's dealing with a stomach bug of some sort. I'm staying home from work with him. Just now he puked in the family room, and while I was cleaning it up he then proceeded to start eating his peanut butter sandwich. Personally, I can't think of eating anything right after I puke. Wow. So different. And now, of course, he seems to be feeling perfectly fine.

Monday, April 20, 2009

It's Either Hit or Miss

[unfolding portable soap box]

A rant:

I've decided that there are only a select few parents of children with autism disorder that I really like. It is definitely a hit or miss issue. It is a black or white thing (I'm not talking about race, rather it's simply an illustration of opposites). There is no in-between on this.

I see myself as one who typically looks for the bright side of things, probably to a fault (or at least to a point where I piss off the realists around me). I don't tend to dwell in absolutes, either. But with other parents of kids with autism, I have learned that they are either horrible, horrible people, or they are relatively easy-going people who are willing to lend a helping hand to another whenever possible.

We are all going through a long, rocky, foggy road with this disorder. I thought the commonalities would bind us together unconditionally. Instead, there is a constant competition on who has it harder, who has the better idea, who has the better treatment, and who can balance it all and not look like you've been run over by a Mack truck. Guess I had my standards set to high.

Why in the world should there be any competition among parents that share this in common? Why wouldn't we want to learn from each other? I suspect the answer lies within the realm of needing a locus of control. By definition we have less control over our children's progress and well being than parents of typical kids since we often cannot communicate with our children. I suspect many parents over compensate for this loss of control by pulling down their pants and crapping all over other parents, therapists, and others who merely attempt to lend a helping hand.

Well, I'm through with being nice about it. My sympathy has run out. I'm done. My defenses are up and will forever remain that way. I will assume the other parents of autistic kids are horrible people until they prove themselves otherwise. I think the disappointment in their selfishness will be easier to take that way. Then I will hold those other decent parents (yeah, like all two of them) as close as possible, so we can figure out a decent pathway on which to travel this road together. I may have very few friends as a result of this line of thinking, but at least I'll have my integrity and sanity about me.

Rant over.

[folding up portable soap box]

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Ascending

I'd say the plane is making a slow ascent. It's definitely off the ground, though, and I daresay the landing gear is up. Still has the fasten-seat-belt sign turned on till we reach our cruising altitude. Portable electronic devices are not yet permitted for use.

But I hope it all evens out soon. It's unfolding, and today's Dissertation Day went well, but the road before me (or perhaps the flight?) feels rather long at the moment.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Flight Attendants, Please Prepare for Takeoff

I got over a short hill this afternoon - sort of got into the repetitive nature of the writing task I have ahead of me and just plowed through the rest of the first summary. It SUCKS, but it's done. Just thirteen more to go. Ugh. But I think the next ones will be far easier than this.

I've actually written all fourteen summaries, but they're in my own notes, my own thoughts. This process essentially involves just translating all of it into prose. I hate that word; reminds me of one of my music history profs in my undergrad degree. But it is what I need to do: get my notes into prose.

So, the plane has left the gate. There's a chance of turbulence along the way, but that really doesn't matter. We'll still reach the destination. The plane just has to land at the gate, on time, and preferably with no passengers or baggage left behind. We're on our way.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Back at it

After an unintentional hiatus, I attempt to get back into the writing process today. Since the end of The Two Weeks, I had a rather hellish week at work (and that's no surprise after being gone for a while). After that, I left for a conference (see my Tweets to the right). The meeting itself was good, and I'm glad I went. I did a presentation that I thought went very well, and I'm an elected member of a directorate board for a committee whose work I respect a great deal. The committee met the first morning of the conference, so that was time well-spent. I was also able to catch up with friends and my cousin who lives in the area, so all in all it was a good balance of a variety of things, both work-related and social.

And then I came back. Suddenly it's April. How did that happen?

I wasn't able to get anything done on the dissertation while away at the conference, and I forwent (forgo in the past tense) my dissertation day this week to catch up from being gone AGAIN.

So I'm back in the cafe this afternoon (large chain one, not the snooty one), attempting to get something done before we have friends come over to watch the MSU Spartans get flattened and pulverized by UConn.

I will admit that I've lost my dissertation-writing energy. Something about that shitty week back at the office made the reality hit that I really do not have the time to do both my job and the dissertation. Something will have to give, and frankly I suspect it will be the job. The diss simply has to get done. It's sort of depressing. Not debilitatingly-depressing, but depressing nonetheless. Oh well, I'll get through it.

In other news, Moose has successfully completed his second time through the Motor Activity Clinic at LMUU. It was fun to go with him for the last session this morning, which included "closing ceremonies" where each kid received a certificate, t-shirt, and applause. He wasn't even too upset by the clapping, so that was good. He had a GREAT time, generally speaking, and seemed to make great progress learning to kick in the pool and throw a ball. He'll be better than I am in sports, though I suppose that's not saying too much. Anyhow, it's pretty darn cool to see.

Back to the writing, then.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Reality bites...

...but I'm grateful a) to have a job and b) to have a job I like a lot.

Note that I do not love the job. I like it alot. There is a difference.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Day 13 Report

Hi.

I Twittered about this briefly (see sidebar to the right): I actually wrote three pages of new text today, and I think that's pretty darn cool. I also completed Table 1: Participant Demographics. None of this was rocket science, but as I always say: starting the writing process is always the toughest part for me. So glad the start of all of this is over! All in all, that was a good way to end The Two Weeks.

I've determined that I'm going to write two results chapters and then a final implications/discussion chapter. That will be six total, instead of five. It's not going to involve any additional writing beyond what I had originally thought, but this is simply a way to just break it all down into more manageable chunks.

I rewarded myself by setting up both the screened porch (back of the house) and the un-screened porch (front of the house). That involved sweeping off the floors, washing down the furniture (I don't think I did that last spring, so it was sorta gross), hanging up the bamboo sun shades (screen porch only), putting down the outdoor rug (screen porch only), and finally moving the furniture into Their Proper Places. I'm looking forward to our second spring and third summer here at Chesterley. Best of all, I expect I'll spend many a day cranking out pages and pages on that screened porch.

I think I'm going to take tomorrow off. I think I deserve it, and mentally I need a day to just veg out before returning to Work again on Monday.

Bye.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Day 12 Report

I'm writing the report du jour halfway through the 'jour' because it's going very well. Had my first meeting with one of my peer reviewing friends (Peer Reviewer #1, or PR1) just now. I'm glad to finally be able to talk about the theory I'm building without talking out of my ass! This was sort of the culmination of The Two Weeks, and I think I'm now in a very good spot.

PR1 was helpful in that she listened well and attempted to follow how I was building up the theory. As she was learning more about the theory, she asked a few questions and took a guess as to how some of the points were falling together. Hearing her logic and reasoning of these points made me think about building up part of the background of the theory a bit more. All good thoughts. I think I'm off to a decent start.

The other thing PR1 helped with was logistics of writing up all of this stuff. She validated a few things I had already considered (a good thing), and also gave me some helpful tips I had not yet considered. Pretty exciting if you ask me. Bottom line: I think I can officially start writing now.

I'm now at Snooty Local Coffee Shop trying to make sense of these discussions and savor the last few hours of The Two Weeks prior to the weekend. Living in Theory World has been nice these past couple of weeks. Not sure I'm really ready to come back into Reality World come Monday, but we'll see.

OK, am off to finish organizing and start writing. Finally.

Day 11 Report

I didn't have any huge breakthroughs yesterday, but progress was made. I got through much of my to-do list, including a very rough outline of the results chapter (yay) and even a start on the theory part. I have some logistical decisions to make about how I'll present everything, but I think I'm on track. I have lunch with my peer reviewing friend in a few hours, and I don't think I'll have my head entirely up my ass. Only partially.

Certainly far better than it would have been two weeks ago, that's for certain.

More later.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Brain-to-Ass Connection

A thought occurred to me today, as I was re-reading a part of my dissertation proposal. The thought was something like this:
All good writing comes out of your brain by way of your ass.
Being honest: I was surprised at how good my dissertation proposal seemed to flow when re-reading it. But I realize now I don't really remember writing large parts of it. Ergo, I must have just pulled it out of my ass at some point.

Day 10 Report

Wednesday was yet another good day. I was back at the library, this time by myself, and was able to make good headway on shoving things into NVivo. I decided to take a BIG shortcut with all this, however, and not bother with recoding every single interview. I've already written summaries for each interview that will comprise part of the results chapter, so instead of recoding at the interview level itself, I'm coding the summaries. I mean, DUH! So I'm flying through those and expect to finish them up today, during Day 11. I also did something basic: I re-read my initial dissertation proposal. It had been a while, and it's bringing me back to the reasons for why I'm doing this study in the first place. Yet another helpful tool for finishing up the data analysis.

Another thing I realized: I don't want to go back to work next week. I wish I could just take an extended leave and keep plugging away. So that made me start thinking about the job a bit more. I used to think I love my job. At this point, I've reduced that down to Liking It A Lot. And you know, that's probably healthier. I don't need to LOVE it. It's stable, the pay is decent, and I do enjoy the work environment. So, liking it a lot is very helpful, in that it keeps me going back the next day...

I enjoy the dissertation study a great deal, and there are times I can see myself doing just this for a living (i.e. become a professor), but the thought of having to go through the tenure review process and do all this work and then still not know if I'll get there...I don't think it's really worth it for me at this point. Too many question marks. What I've realized from these couple of weeks away, however, is that I will need to find a lower-stress way to replace the sort of braining I'm doing now when (if?) I finish the dissertation. An intellectual outlet will be important, but that does not equate a big change in my career. Bottom line, in addition to making great progress on the study itself, I think I'm also making big progress on defining my relationship with my job and career.

Moving on: I wrote out a to-do list for myself between now and tomorrow. I meet with my first peer reviewer in under 25 hours. Time to kick some more ass and pull this shit together.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Day 9 Report

About halfway through Day 10, I remembered to write up the Day 9 report.

Day 9 was fine. I'm a poet. Should I write this post in verse? Well, it could be worse.

Aw, horseshit.

I was grateful for Lemming's comment in my last post, warning me not to lose my stride. Almost did in the morning, but I got things back together. I had a conference call I had to do for an hour at 11AM, and it distracted my focus more so than it should have, I suspect.

However, I actually ended up having a pretty major breakthrough on how I think I can connect all the theories I've read about into the one I'm creating. Yahoo! It just sort of came out all at once: there was a key code on my screen, practically staring at me, laughing at me. I thought about moving it from its current home under my newer construct with hardly any supporting literature to a different home under a construct with a ton of literature. And then it hit me: this code could fit under EITHER construct. Ah ha! A connection! And it was right in front of my face the entire time (ergo, the reason for why it appeared to be laughing at me, like "Hello? I'm right here you idiot!" And suddenly about four other connections started appearing in the data that all lead toward this one connecting code. It was a cool moment. I was in the middle of Starbucks, too, so I tried to keep from jumping all over the place making a complete ass of myself. I found restraint. I didn't appear as strange as the man at the next table using an adding machine (see my Twitter posts). That was pretty darn funny.

Refocusing: It's really remarkable how these things just leap out at me, as if they have a mind of their own. The only thing I can relate it to is when looking at those designs that your mind can sort of flip over and they suddenly become three-dimensional. Remember those? That's exactly how this process has been for me these past few days. I stare at these codes, and suddenly part of my brain just flips over and this great connection emerges.

That connection emerged when I was organizing quotes from one of the interviews where the participant was highly engaging, highly complex, and highly directed on his future career path. The next interview I will work with today has been my mode of comparison to him throughout this data analysis process, as she is pretty much the polar opposite. She's not very connected, not very engaging, etc., and yet she is VERY important to this study because she brings up an opposing point of view. Should be interesting, the comparisons I can made and where she may end up in the study.

Am back at the library, this time by myself. I would rather be outside on our screened-in porch with today's gorgeous weather, but I've not yet set it up for the spring. It still has all the furniture stacked, the outdoor rug is rolled up, and the sun shades are still in the basement, not to mention the furniture is filthy. That's probably a project for this weekend? Or perhaps I should just keep working on the diss.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Day 8 Report

A BIG thank-you for a good work day goes out to J, K & M who joined me from SCT today at the downtown library. All four of us made terrific progress on the academic endeavors we have before us. Learning is a social process, after all, and we all kept each other on task for just about the entire day. We then enjoyed dinner out together along with Wife & Moose, which was great! I miss living closer to these friends, but I'm glad they're not so far away that we can't get together like this on occasion.

Today went well. And, since it's officially spring break at LMU, I hardly received any work-related e-mail with which to contend. This is good.

Today's goal was to do axial coding for the last half of the interviews. And, at this point, since I had created a decent list of codes, I attempted to code using only my list and NOT generate any new ones. It worked, and in fact, after coding just bits and pieces of two of the seven remaining interviews, I decided to stop this process entirely, believing that my list was comprehensive and representative enough. Analyzing to redundancy is a good way to go.

So now it's time to get organized to write. In order to do this, I will need to remember where quotes lie among 14 different interviews, lasting somewhere between 60 and 100 minutes each. So, I've decided to use qualitative data-analysis software called NVivo. I wasn't sure if I was going to spend time on this or not, so I allowed myself to try it for two hours. I made a pact with myself that I was struggling with it, or if it felt like a plumb waste of time, then I'd just stop and go with what I have in Excel.

The neat thing, though, is that I'm able to make further realizations about the themes in the data by way of yet another chance to revisit the details of each interview. This is very helpful. I am not concerned about coding every single line of every single interview at this point. Rather, I simply go to the spots in each interview that I know are salient to the theory I'm creating, and I code necessary bits using the extensive code grid (the bit in Excel) I created last weekend. The process went alright today, and I hope to pick up speed with it to be finished with this part no later than Wednesday. Then, that'll give me about a day-and-a-half to get things together for my peer reviewers by Noon Friday. The end result of using this software is that I will be able to type a query, like "self-efficacy," for example, and then the system will spit out a report with every quote across all 14 participants where they said something related to the topic. Very powerful. Very slick.

I have been wanting to get to this very point in the process for MONTHS. It's fantastic to finally be here now. I'm just about at the top of the hill at this point, so I can't wait for the downward slope known as the writing process.

I meant what I said about writing being a downward, easier slope. I've never had a problem with the actual writing process. I write pretty quickly. For me the difficulty comes beforehand. I struggle with the anticipation of doing the task itself, and the preparation work beforehand. Anxiety has ruled this process for me for some time, and I'm pleased to say I believe I've overcome most of it.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Day 7 Report

A good Sunday was had. Went to church in the morning, where an incredible college choir sang on their spring break tour. My college choir took a spring break tour, too, during my freshman year. Gulp, that was 20 years ago. Moving on, then.

Came home, did a little bit of organizing and lunching. Then we spent a few hours in the back yard with Wife, Moose & Chester, cleaning up the winter tree crap (sweet gum tree and its damn gumballs...hate those little fuckers). Got caught up with one of our neighbors, too...was good to actually SEE neighbors again instead of us all being trapped in our cold houses for months at a time during the winter. Nice to see spring is about to spring all around.

Then I came into the office/prison and backed up my entire dissertation, again, on my external hard drive. Didn't want to lose all that good work from the last week.

Ate dinner with the fam. Played piano a bit. And now I'm putting Moose to bed. So, sort of a day of rest, of sorts. And that's alright.

Tomorrow, two colleagues from SCT will come up to LSC, and the three of us will work together in the downtown library. All of us are on spring break, working on dissertation and related coursework. Should be a good day. And maybe I'll write in complete sentences tomorrow. No more phrases. Haha.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Day 6 Report

Today rocked. In order to discuss why, I must mention a few details from the work I've been doing lately.

I moved the open codes into one spreadsheet per participant (14 of them). Yesterday I finished the axial coding process for half of them.

An aside: I think I've mentioned before that axial coding is essentially coding the codes. It involves creating a broader code name under which each open code can be grouped. The broader code names relate more closely to the literature that applies to the study. It's a technique used a) to reduce the number of open codes into a shorter, more digestible list, and b) to bring all of the codes themselves closer to the concepts driving the purpose of the study.

Back on topic: I finished axial coding 7 of the 14 interviews, and then I cut/pasted all of those into one very long column in a spreadsheet. After using the 'remove duplicates' command (which deserves great amounts of love and adoration), I found myself starting with a list of 332 codes. Oy.

So I started reducing things. For example, internship and apprenticeship are essentially the same thing, so I chose one over the other (internship). Then I needed to decide if internship could stand alone as a broader code, or if it needed to be part of something bigger. Well, the reason why internships are important to this study is the connection between the student and the mentor that forms as a result of the activity. So, I placed my internship code on the same row as the code for mentoring. Get it? Reduce and group. Reduce and group. That's been my mantra of the day.

Slowly, the code list became shorter and wider. I removed synonyms or other things that just were extraneous to the process. I grouped concepts underneath broader concepts and kept referring to my literature map to make sure these things connected to the literature.

But then something really cool happened: it all snapped together at one moment. I couldn't move things fast enough into groupings. It was like a deck of cards was shuffling itself. A series of dominoes were falling into perfect alignment instead of being spread all over the floor. It was a really weird experience, and I kept saying out loud, "Oh my god, it's coming together by itself!" Wife must think I'm insane, but that's alright.

A task I thought would take two to three days took me a total of about four hours this afternoon. The code list that started at 332 collapsed to 158, then 112, then 68, and now finally it's at 42. 42. OK, I can work with 42. Far easier to handle than 332. That's an 87% reduction in codes. And it all just seemed to click together today.

In the next couple of days, I will use said list of 42 to quickly recode the other 7 interviews. I think I have a shot at getting through those fairly quickly.

In other news: my three peer reviewers have all responded with a resounding 'yes.' The one who is local to LSC is having lunch with me next Friday. I must give her and the other two reviewers the dissertation proposal, data framework, and anything else I can to see if they agree with me on the direction the study is taking. It's a hard deadline, and if this doesn't motivate me to get it done, then nothing will.

At this point, I'm confident it's all going to come together. It's not going to be perfect, but I don't care. Wow. Who the hell knew?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Day 5 Report

Thanks for your comments on yesterday's post. They were helpful. Feel free to keep adding as you'd like.

Gibsyn, when we spoke on the phone a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned something like, "I really could just start writing now and stop all this coding." Well honestly, after a couple of very productive work days, I realize that's not quite the case. The coding I'm doing now is actually very helpful for wrapping up the analysis process, so I am going to stick with it for now. And it's going quite well, and actually quite quickly. I have a good system in place. I'm using some technical tools to help me out and reduce redundancy among the various lists. Go go Gadget "Remove Duplicates" function in MS Excel!

I've used your 10-minutes technique, which operates under the philosophy, "You can do anything for just 10 minutes." Like Root Canal? Torture? Anyhow, I brought a kitchen timer up to my office. I set it for 10 minutes and I start coding. I do not allow myself to do anything else during that time. Low and behold, progress is made during said 10 minutes. When the timer goes off, I reset it again. At the end of the second 10 minutes, I'm so into the coding process that the alarm is ANNOYING and I just turn it off and keep going. An hour or more later, it's time for a break. And that's pretty much how my day went today. Each time after recovering from a break, I use the timer to get back into things till I don't need it anymore. Brilliant.

Finally, to further demonstrate my focus this week: my office/prison is sorta messy, and even dusty, and I don't give a rat's ass. Those of you who have read this blog for a while realize what a monumental step that is.

Bye.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Day 4 Report

As promised, my Day 4 Report. And this time it's actually on Day 4.

I've been taking a day off from work each week to work on the dissertation since I started this job. I would say about 58% of the time I end up doing work-work from home instead of dissertation-work. And other times I've had to forgo the entire dissertation day and come to the office for Important Meetings. None of this surprises me, seeing the slow rate of progress I've made on the dissertation thus far this academic year.

In recent months, I've been taking Wednesdays as this work-from-home-on-the-dissertation day. So, since today was the first day where I've been able to work on the dissertation this week, it has felt like Wednesday. Oh yeah, it's really Thursday. Hoo boy. I must remember my dentist appointment tomorrow at 9:00 AM. I keep thinking that's in two days.

Anyway, the rest of the day was very productive. First, I did a bit more axial coding and made some realizations about one of my participants that was, well...let's just say I have a completely different, and deeper, understanding of this person's identity development. Bottom line, the exercise in axial coding continues to be extremely helpful.

Next, I attempted to reach out to my peer reviewers, whom I recruited last fall. I need to see if they are able to help me this semester, instead of last fall when I had initially asked for their help. I've not yet heard back, but that's no surprise given my e-mails to them were sent toward the end of the afternoon. Would be great to hear from them tomorrow or Saturday.

Finally, I decided upon the materials I will provide to said peer reviewers, assuming they still have the time for me this semester. This final step of deciding on what the hell I'm actually providing to my peer reviewers has allowed me to visualize the schedule for the rest of The Two Weeks. This is a good thing. My plan is to get each of them the set of materials by the end of next week. Deep breath. I can do this.

So Chad, per your comment on my prior post, I daresay I have indeed started kicking ass on this project. Finally.

I have two colleagues from SCT who are taking next week off (Spring Break) to work on dissertation tasks themselves, so we've decided to get together and work as a group in the library at least once or twice during that time. This should help keep the focus, accountability, and general dissertation ass-kicking in line. And then we can all get together for dinner afterward. Food and drink after long library days are good things.

To those of you who comment here: THANK YOU. While I write this blog entirely for myself as a diary, without any particular audience in mind other than me, it is good to know there are people out there who are actually reading. Comments are most welcome.

Off to do a bit more axial coding before bed. Bye.

Day 3 Report

Day 3 involved more catch-up time from worky. I know, not the point of the Two Weeks. So, sue me.

At long last, as of about 10:30 AM today, I finally feel caught up from feeling behind in my work the past couple of months. It's as if a huge weight has been lifted and I can just focus on the dissertation without feeling any of the lovely Italian/Jewish guilt that surges through my blood at all times. Well, at least for the time being, the guilt feelings are numbed by the accomplishments of the day. They will re-appear, rest assured.

Fortunately, this last work-related project involved delving into some of the literature I'm using in my dissertation, so in many ways I have been dissertating since the middle of the afternoon yesterday. And while I was reading this brainy literature on epistemological reflection and inter/intrapersonal development, I kept thinking: Hey, I get this. I can do this. I am finishing this.

I finished said project earlier this morning, and then I had a good work-out. Needed that. Came home and had lunch, waved to Wife who came home from work early, and now I am here at Large Ubiquitous Chain Coffee shop near Chesterley for the rest of the afternoon.

So, now what do I do? I asked Wife this very question. She gave me the old, "How do you eat an elephant?" question. One bite at a time. Yeah, I know. Gee thanks. :-)

Gotta get some structure around my tasks for the next several days. My plan is to update the blog later this evening sharing whether or not I have developed a decent structure for the next week-and-a-half of work ahead of me. And away we go.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Day 2 Report

Hi. Day 2 went really well. It was all work-work, but I got on a roll with getting a lot of this shit done. Maybe I should call this Get the Shit Done week. I have really one more task to do for work-work, and then I can put work-work to bed for a while. Not easy for me to do...I'm pretty committed to work-work. But they'll live. I'll live. It'll be fine.

Allergies are getting a little better, but about two hours prior to the end of my 12-hour decongestant, I need it again. So I have a lousy four hours per day (sparing the cyber world the details), but then I take the damn drugs and it's fine. I am sick of this, though. This never happened to me before moving to SCT, and I'm not pleased they have followed me here to LSC. Need to get back to the doctor. But, it can wait till after the Two Weeks.

Tomorrow I shall finish the one last task. I shall go to the gym. I WILL start on the dissertation work, hopefully by the end of the day tomorrow. Can't. Wait.

Day 1 Report

I finished Day 1 of my two weeks. It went OK yesterday. I got out of the house and worked at a cafe I don't like very much, but at least my buddy Dave was commiserating with me. I was finishing up stuff for work, so I haven't delved into the dissertation yet. I have one more day of work-work to do before I feel my plate has cleared enough to focus on the diss.

In other news, I was feeling like CRAP over the weekend and much of yesterday. I pulled a tendon or somethingorother in my upper back, and my allergies were attacking my head so that my head felt stuffed up and my glands felt a little swollen. I was grumpy. I also had not hit the gym in about a week, for various reasons. That was my first time since the beginning of November not going to the gym at least twice per week (except for a small hiatus during Christmastime). So, I went to the gym last night. And today, I feel better. Yep. Head is draining. Pain in back is gone. Sigh. I guess this exercise stuff really works.

Day 2 involves heading to the library to get through grading papers for the class I was teaching (note that's in the past tense now) and finishing up a report. Perhaps I'll get into analysis work by the end of the day.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

It's getting easier, maybe?

I started this post last weekend, meant to come back and finish up, and then completely forgot.

I will share below [putting my comments from today in the post]:
The coding of the codings is getting far easier. I daresay I may even be able to get back into the actual writing of the results at the end of next week [yeah, didn't happen just yet!]. This will hopefully be a good position to be in at the start of the two-week writing spree [that would have been nice, indeed]. Here's to hoping I can stave off the [and this is where the post ended, abruptly]
That just begs for an ending like, "Here's to hoping I can stave off the urge to procrastinate."

Oy.

Ugh. This is gonna be interesting

And here we go

I embark upon the two weeks I have mentioned in the past. I'm a bit scared. I'm not scared of what I can do, or anything like that. It's just that my track record for planning expansive chunks of unstructured time for my dissertation is not that great. Just my opinion.

I've enlisted three friends as peer reviewers. These are friends whose work I respect a great deal, and fortunately these are people I do not see on a regular basis. Not sure why I find that fortunate just yet, but that's my initial thought. Anyhow, one lives here in town, and the other two are in different states. There's a fourth who is also here in town that I may enlist as well, in case one of the others is too extended in her work to be able to participate. All are women. Not that it makes a stitch of difference in this case, but it's just a noteworthy trend. I didn't realize that till after I had asked them for help.

Anyhow, I hope that these three or four will be my accountability measure for the two weeks. I just need to speak with them and decide upon what I must (MUST) deliver to them no later than Friday, March 20.

Oy. For now, Wife and I have dinner plans, so, bye.