Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Cost of Wisdom

I recently received my first paycheck after my 40th birthday. I am thankful a) to have a full-time job and b) to have little perks like supplemental life insurance and long-term disability coverage, each for which I pay a nominal monthly fee.

What surprised me was that my monthly rates for these things both increased by $5 and $12 respectively in this last paycheck. When I checked LMUU's human resources website for any changes to the coverage starting May 1, I soon realized that the only change to my coverage was my advancement to age 40 in the middle of said month. It is now officially more expensive to insure me.

Wisdom comes with a price, I guess.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Dissertation Compression

I am applying for a Dissertation of the Year award through a professional association of which I am a member. It was DC's idea, which in itself was pretty flattering.

It's due June 1, and DC technically needs to submit it on my behalf. That means I need to get it to her this week. "It" is a 15-page abstract of my over-200-page dissertation. Yes folks, that means that over 185 pages of my dissertation was just a bunch of hogwash. It will only take 15 to apply for a prestigious award I probably won't win. Isn't that funny?

I'm not in the least bit stressed about it. OK, let me rephrase that. I'm not in the least bit stressed about whether or not I win the award (I'm just a tad bit stressed about getting the application done on time). If I do, it will be a wonderful, and completely unexpected occurrence. If I don't, no big whoop. I will come out of this process with a condensed version of the dissertation out of which I can hopefully spin off a couple of articles or at least a decent conference presentation. I'll spend the next few days working on it, but no more, and out of it should come something usable.

I'm glad to be back into that academic side of my brain again. This semester at work has pretty much kicked my ass, but it's not been academic ass. It's been administrative ass. Administrative ass is not nearly as fun.

OK, back to getting my academic ass in gear.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Full Moon on my 40th B-day

I am not into astrology, but I did just flip over my wall calendar to the new month and realized that there will be a full moon on my 40th birthday. Is there any significance to this?

A few years ago, Wife and I attended a conference on autism disorder. It was not long after Moose's diagnosis. We were in a session on biomedical interventions, some of which seemed spot-on and some of which seemed a bit mystical. While I do think there are other forces "out there" that influence our lives, our bodies, and the rest of the world, I don't tend to believe in those forces to the extent that I let them guide our lives. I guess it's a balance. Anyhow, back to my point: this was a session run by three nurse practitioners who seemed very well-versed in handling a wide variety of autism symptoms and behaviors. It was a good session, and they clearly knew their stuff. However, toward the end of the session one of the presenters threw in a curve ball when discussing a certain symptom by saying something like, "...but of course all of this can change when there's something else going on, like when there's a full moon." I started laughing, thinking it was a good joke. I think I was the only one laughing in this very full meeting room. So I asked, "Can you please describe the significance of the full moon in this conversation?" All heads turned my way and started talking at once about just how many things go haywire for autistic kiddos when there's a full if I should have known this. Wow, sorry I asked!

Otherwise, I think it's pretty swell to have a 40th birthday on a full moon. We shall see.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Overwhelmed, so staying in the present

I appear to have missed the entire month of March. And now we're almost all the way done with April. Guess my dissertation must be finished? Oh yeah. :-)

However, it's not quite finished...I mean, the research behind it isn't finished, and I do want to get my brain back into the piece again so that I can spin off an article or two. That would be pretty cool.

But the notion of carving out a bit of writing time during the work week has been put on hold since that last post. Work has really taken off during a time of transition between leaders. It's not a bad thing, but I won't say it's all that great either. I don't think I've ever been stretched more thinly in this job in the last almost-four years. I may have lost a bit of my edge in the process...for example I have a ton of e-mail to get through today. A ton. I should probably just delete everything and then send a note out to everyone I work with asking them to get in line and ask me for my assistance one at a time. Hahahaha. I'll keep dreaming about that type of organization.

I'm thankful to have a job, and also to have a career. Those two things have not necessarily been in sync for me in the past. I have been trying to determine my future career moves now that I'm finished with the doctorate, but I think that process has proven fruitless and useless. I'm not a mind reader; I cannot predict the future. No use in spinning my wheels on it anymore. Guess I should just focus on the present for a while. That's not an easy thing for this big-picture thinker, but it'll probably keep me sane the next few months during this work transition.

Email time. Wow. Lots and lots of email.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

I miss writing

I guess it's no surprise to me that I miss having an excuse to write. After all, when spending a long while as a student, and when successfully completing Mission Dissertation, there was a whole lot of satisfaction out of the writing process. As I recall from the few years after I finished my master's degree where I hardly did any decent writing at all, I grew to miss that side of my brain. So at this point when I've not yet lost it (at least I don't think I've lost it just yet!), I probably should do something to continue onward with my writing.

In my present job as a researcher, I'm required to conduct small studies and write up the results, but honestly the writing is minimal and hardly read by anyone. In fact, I am in a position working with busy administrators that if my writing is too verbose or too, um, "good", then I risk that my colleagues won't even read the work I've done. They need results of research mined down to very small, easy-to-digest, bites so they can make decisions. I'm happy to provide them with this, but honestly it doesn't do much for me as a writer or a scholar.

Finally, the only way for a researcher really to gain credit for the work she or he does is to share up formally-written results and get them published. The only problem is that in my present job there isn't a whole lot of room in my schedule to close my door and do some good solid writing without some sort of interruption. Since I am not a faculty member, I'm technically not supposed to go away to a coffee shop and work on my own during the day. That would be nice and all, but it's not really been an option.

So I'm going to try and carve out small bits of time during the work week, perhaps Friday mornings, to be better about writing formal summaries of research I've conducted for my administrative colleagues and see if I can get things published. It won't be an easy balance, but then again neither was the balance of working full-time and completing a dissertation on the side. We'll see how this goes. Earlier I mentioned I may explore a faculty position, but as things seem to be falling out right now, I think I'll continue to cultivate my career for another year or so doing what I do as an administrative researcher. I will teach a class or two on the side, and I'll try to write and publish what I can. The nice thing is, if I don't get something written or published then it really only affects my sanity and not my actual job. That's probably going to be a better fit for the way I see my future career merging with my very busy home life.

Who knows, perhaps I'll keep exercising my writing chops a bit more by writing more in this blog?

Friday, January 28, 2011


My diploma arrived last week! So today I bought a fancy frame, and I have to admit that I can't stop looking at it. I crack me up.

But it's ironic that the external symbol of the completed degree and "commencement" arrived last week because I also had a few serious discussions with others about the future of my career. While I like the job I have currently, I've always known it won't be the job in which I retire. This clearly brings up the question: "NOW WHAT?" I envisioned staying here about five years and then moving to a different administrative position in higher education. However, at this point that feels like a waste of my research skills. While it took me a long while to finish the degree since it was rarely my top priority, I did enjoy the work a great deal. I think I'm a decent writer, too, and I do enjoy living in Theory World for good amounts of time. Fortunately given the administrative career I've had and the theoretical dissertation I wrote, I am starting to build a couple of different research agendas that could allow me to balance a faculty career in between Theory World and Reality World, and I think I might like that balance. If I could build that into a faculty career, well that could be a decent future career.

There's a bit of a risk with the process of earning tenure. And, if that doesn't happen, then there I'll be in my mid-40s without a job. That's kept me from seriously considering this route in the past. But then again, several years ago the thought of writing a dissertation was daunting enough that I suppressed the thought of getting a Ph.D., and here I am. So what's so say pursuing the faculty route would be a bad risk to take? After all, most times we take well-informed risks, it leads to something pretty swell.

We'll see. For now I'm still pondering the possibilities, and I'm fortunate that Wife is encouraging me to continue the thought process as well.