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.


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.


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...