Saturday, November 26, 2011

Post-Hotel Report

As one would imagine, I did not get as much work done at the hotel as I'd hoped. But I did focus on work most of the time (except for 1.5 episodes of House Hunters International because, hey, I'm only human), and all in all it was a productive mini-retreat.

I had hoped to get a lot of reading and writing done, and I'm sure you are not surprised to learn that while I got through quite a bit of reading, I didn't even turn on my computer.

But still. The reading was so helpful and relevant, and it helped me shape and frame my ideas and questions, and now I think that the ideas I've been working on are actually two chapters rather than one, which is probably okay. And I also sketched a loose outline of those chapters, which is great since now, when I try to remember all of the good ideas I had while in the hotel, I can't. They have been wiped away by turkey, pie, and the craft-a-palooza that occurred at my house. Good thing I took some notes.

So tonight, post Thanksgiving madness, as I'm coming down from the fun-filled days of family and the ensuing kid frenzy, I'm sitting down to bash out some writing for an hour or so. It seemed like a good idea since Hubby crashed out after dinner before the kids even had story time.

But I'm not sure how successful I'll be since I've got Notting Hill on in the background.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Work Night--The Good Kind

Tonight, Hubby is taking care of the kids. Me? I have checked into a hotel so that I can spend this evening and tomorrow morning doing uninterrupted work on the dissertation. After my last visit to my PhD institution (last January), I decided that I should try to do a hotel night once about every 4-6 weeks. Well, that was in January, and this is my second time doing it--which puts me at six months instead of six weeks.

I've been here for about an hour, and I already miss the family. I think the fact that it gets dark early makes it harder to focus on work. Instead, I want to snuggle with the kids, put them to bed, and then watch a couple episodes of Bones with Hubby. Nevertheless, tonight seemed like a good night to pound out some work, so here I am.

I checked into my room, then hit the lounge with my books. I'm half way through a G & T that is unfortunately strong (considering the amount of work I want to do), but I'm going to chase it with a gourmet burger, so I'm hoping the dinner will revive me. I've almost made it through one article, and I have a bag full of readings to take on. Then, I hope to get 10-15 pages of writing done.

Do you know how much will power it takes to do the work instead of trolling the cable channels? I don't have cable at home so it's VERY tempting.

Ah! My burger has arrived. I hope I can eat and annotate at the same time.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

It's Just a Suggestion

I teach at a community college, and many of my students want to transfer. Some of them even want to be English majors, God bless 'em. Every spring, I teach British Literature, and in that class I have students who end up transferring to all kinds of places--local CSUs, small colleges, Berkeley, UCLA, Dartmouth--all kinds of places.

A couple of months ago, one of my students said that she wanted to transfer to a school somewhere back East that had a good English program as well as a good program in another specific interest area. Well, as I'm sure you realize, that's quite a broad request. At first, I told her that there were lots of strong English programs and that I didn't know about the other. I mean, really, it reminded me of when I worked at a used bookstore, and people would ask me to recommend a book. Where to begin?!

But then I happened to think of a school that I went to for one of my graduate programs. And I realized that I could totally see this student at that school. It's not a top tier school, but it's very good, and, historically, they have had a very strong English program. I did some research and found out that they have a rather extensive program in her other special interest area. So I told her about the school (which she'd probably never heard of) and gave her some links to check out.

The result? Over the past four weeks or so, she has applied, been accepted, and plans to begin in January. As far as I know, she's never even been to that part of the country. She is very excited, and I'm really excited for her, and I think it will be a good fit. But I'm also a little freaked out about how much my suggestion has just changed the course of her life. What if she hates it or if things turn out badly?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Dreaded Seminal Text

Early in my PhD research, I learned about a major text by a famous scholar. So I ordered a copy, and I tried to read it. It is both long and highly theoretical, and I didn't understand any of it. So I set it aside, and it became the "dreaded" text about which my supervisor and I would joke.

About a year into my research, I tried to read it again. Still, it was like wading through maple syrup. It felt sticky and unpleasant, and I made very slow progress.

This morning, I got up early with the kids and their sleepover guests in order to prep some food and set up a morning movie. Then, they banished me so that they could feel more grown up without me. So I went to the study, figuring I'd do a little leisure reading in between the summonses (it was still only 6:30am and there were four kids in my house, so I didn't expect to be productive). But, instead of picking up a novel, I picked up the "dreaded" text and started flipping through it, eventually settling into the introduction.

Lo and behold, I understood it. Not every sentence mind you, but I understood the author's argument and his central purpose. I was amazed, not in small measure because of the fact that not only was I understanding the text, but I was understanding it even while getting up every six minutes to fulfill a kid request (another scone, more smoothie, better straw, wet paper towel, please).

When I was about halfway through the intro, the movie ended, and the kids got crazy. Right at that point, the reading got harder. I was just about to set it aside, but I decided to flip through it a bit more, check the index, etc. As I did, I came upon a chapter subheading that seemed relevant to my work. Oh, Boy, was it ever! In fact, it's directly relevant to a chapter draft I wrote a little over a year ago--a chapter draft that is in dire need of more scholarly support.

Huzzah! What a discovery. Now, instead of this being the "dreaded" text, it is the text that I'm eager to tackle because of how useful it could be. It will not be easy; it's a dense 450+ page book with about 180 pages of notes. But at least, now, I feel like I've got a shot at it.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Bit of Work Today

So, today, I was hoping to work on research and writing for at least 5-6 hours. But there is a big swell (in the surf) that is short-lived and is only here TODAY, so my work time has been truncated. Hubby surfed this morning, and if things hold up, will surf again this afternoon. Instead of OBE (Overwhelmed by Events), I am OBGS (Overcome by Good Surf).

But I've sneaked away for a couple of hours of work.

I'm working on a chapter draft, and it's really interesting work, but it's slow going. I'm reading new primary texts and trying to find helpful secondary sources. I'm enjoyed the former but not having much luck with the latter. I guess I'll just keep looking! The upshot is that maybe I'm heading into new-ish territory. The downshot (is that a word?) is that I'm a little lost. I'm not sure how to think about the issues, I'm not sure which questions are most important, and I'm not sure exactly how to approach an argument. But that's all part of the process, right?

Fortunately, Hubby has promised me more work time throughout the weekend. I hope the research and writing won't be OBG (Overtaken by Grading).

Hope you are all having a good day even as we take time to remember the service of our veterans.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Just so you know, in case you were curious, here are this year's Halloween costumes:

The Girl went as a vampire. I'm not sure why. She doesn't really know what a vampire is (and when I started to tell her, she got kind of freaked out), but she went as one none-the-less. At the last minute, she amended her description to say that she was a "vampire pop-star."

The Boy deviated from his recent pattern of professional scientist costumes (e.g., last year's geologist costume and the naturalist costume from the year before that), and went with "vampire sea monkey." He made his sea monkey costume himself out of poster board and string, and he was quite disappointed that no one asked what he was. (I think they thought the sea monkey elements were skeletal elements.)

But fun was had by all.