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Today was the first day of business-back-to-(almost)-usual here at Virginia Tech, and I think it went okay.  I was in our building for about 5 hours, and it was subdued.  We had volunteers - grad students and faculty - sitting at a card table in the lobby wearing ribbon armbands and name tags asking "May I Help?" I did not have an official shift, but spent about two hours sitting at that table, talking to Greg-the-Great and participating in occasional student interactions. 

An obviously stressed person asked us about counseling resources, and got a handout.  One of my students from last year stopped in to talk - she lost a dear friend and is very sad, but trying to navigate the rest of the semester wisely. I was glad to see her, and hug her.  Another student wanted to talk about feeling guilty that students are being encouraged to take their grades-as-of-Monday as semester grades, rather than completing the rest of the semester.  She feels horrible about personally benefiting from this great tragedy, and I can see her point.

Students have been offered the option to base their semester grade on work completed before April 15, on that same work plus some chosen assignments that are left, or on the semester as originally planned.  Very few are planning to complete the originally planned work, and many instructors are not even asking for those assignments.  This makes sense. After all, our students are anxious and sad, grieving, and unsettled.  They are not performing at an optimal level, and we dont want academic pressure to create additional stress.  However, I dont think letting their semesters be done as of the tragedy is the way to go either. In my totally bullshit opinion, it is healthier for most people to continue coming to class (i.e. Being In Community) and have official academic outlets for the energy they may be attempting to manage.  I worry about students who are going home now, with no plan to return this semester. After all, it is only going to get harder to come back as we get further and further from the incident and it gets bigger and bigger in their heads.

I have no better solution to offer - some people have nothing left to give right now and should obviously be excused from the rest of the semester.  Since I am very, very uncomfortable with trying to develop  an objective rating scale for other people's pain (to determine who deserves that consideration), it must be offered to everybody.  I guess my ideal solution would involve no one dying last Monday, but in the absence of that best-possible-alternative, we just have to figure out what flawed, screwed-up compromises work best.
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I have just been told that I am "the best little person to sit at [this] desk ever."  Is there a compliment in there somewhere or am I justified in my desire to bombard her with pads of sticky notes? (I am sitting at the department's front office working on my laptop, she is a first year graduate student in another division).
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I am starting to wonder if taking the Ph.D. qualifying exams this spring is a wise choice. I have tried to talk it through with a couple of people, since I am interested in other perspectives, but it is hard for my audience to keep straight when presented verbally.

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Be warned: this is tirade-ish.

I have this naive little illusion that life should be fair.  It isn't.  I know it isn't. I know it wont be.  And I am working on my outrage over that.  In approximately 17 million years, it may even stop pissing me off.

In between now and the next geologic age, I am getting awfully tired of being less important than everyone I meet in my professional life. I mean, I know they invented research, pioneered teaching, and developed the idea of the university system, but why does that make it okay for them to speak rudely, miss obligations, behave in ways they would never tolerate from others, and deal with other people the way I deal with cat yak?

I dont need to be more important than anybody, but I am tired of being so much less valuable a human being than everyone I meet.  This has only gotten worse since I am assigned to sit in the office and cater to the needs of others. Today another graduate student came in needing copies made.  She wanted them in less than an hour and couldn't just ask me to deal with it right away, as a favor to her. Instead she hinted around and acted shocked and amazed that her one hour timeline was not congruent with the policies and procedures of the department. I wasn't going to be too much of a stickler, but it would have been nice of her to say something along the lines of, "gee, you are right - 1 hour is less than 24 hours" or "Thank you for making an exception to help me."  Instead she was rude and managed to imply that nothing I was doing could possibly be as important as making her copies.

That makes me cross.

Even if I ever get to be Very Important in the professional sense (my roommate made the point that I am already important to her, in an effort to derail this rant), I hope I remember this.  After all, aggravating the administrative and maintenence staff is a poor use of energy, as well as a dangerous habit.
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It is Thursday night.  I have spent two pretty much full days staring at the shiny box, working on my thesis.

I finished polishing the methods section and wrote up the results.  I figured out the two holes in the literature review (organizational justice and leader prototypicality).  I have a to-do list: "write org. justice section / rewrite prototypicality section / incorporate new articles / draft discussion / draft conclusions / fix up citations").  I have made myself a table of contents and polished up the tables, figures, and appendices. 

What I need to do is start reading and type.  This synthesis is the hardest piece for me - I can do it, but struggle to aim myself in the right direction.  What I need to remember is that the written (typed) word is powerful.  If I just start putting words on the page - snippets from articles, sources to cite, bits of connection, soon I will have a draft.  And once I have a draft, I can revise.  Revising is fun and shiny, its just getting the words down in the first place that hurts.  I need to remember Anne Lamott's advice and embrace my shitty first drafts and silence station KFKD (K-fucked) as it loops endlessly in my brain.

I really want to start messing with citations, since that means I am done. I am good at that kind of cross-referencing detail work, but it doesn't make sense to do that until all the words are on the page.  So, I need to write.  I want to knock at least the justice section and either the new articles or prototypicality off the list before I go to bed tonight.... That leaves me one hard piece and the discussion and conclusion sections for tomorrow (oh, and the citations, but citations are fun).  It's manageable, if I do it.  So, time to focus.


Spending this time thinking about school has also brought to my attention that I still dont know what I am doing 20 hours a week next semester, for my assistantship.  I am beginning to wonder if they pulled my funding and forgot to tell me.  On one hand, that would be disastrous - I would have to come up with enough money to live on while I defended the thesis, swing into the job search, and move, all with very limited resources.  But, I would also be free.  And tonight, free sounds good.... (Fortunately my landlord is unlikely to throw me into the street and my visa has a high credit limit, so I can speculate without too much fear.....).
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I rillyrilly hate literature reviews.  I mean, the good ones are a joy to read, but creating them is Not My Favorite.  Everything I need to include has already been said more gracefully by someone else, whose ideas I must now be careful not to plagiarize. 

I have made it through the first 12 pages of my Introduction and Literature review, and I think they are good(ish) as is. I deleted out some stuff which is no longer relevant and threw in a few additional linkages, but they seem sufficient, well-organized, and complete.

The next eight pages - which probably will grow to twenty or so pages - is less fun, since only three of the five constructs discussed in the original proposal remain, and another one has been added.  Lots of linkages to be pruned and recreated using new variables. 

And then, for fun, I get to go back in and add all the stuff that has been published since I wrote the damn thing (March 2005, so 21 months worth of publications).


And then, for even more fun, I get to  go write a discussion, based on the literature review, and make some conclusions. 

But, once I do that and update the reference section, I will have a complete draft to submit to my advisor.  I just need to quit with the squirreling around and focus.  Easier said than done, of course, but I am encouraged by the feedback from a friend in my program (she said I am doing a good job! She also has a huge list of changes to be made, but I am doing a good job!). 

Unfortunately whining about what remains to be completed is not getting anything done.  Must focus...
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Okay, I am now about where I wanted to be on the thesis last night. I dont know if this means that I set ridiculous goals, or am inherently slow and procrastinatish.  Either way, I have a complete draft of the methods and results and wrote out the limitations of my study (that was a LONG paragraph. Stoopid project).  I shipped the Methods and Results off to a couple people who might be kind enough to read over them for me (yes, hi, I do mean you.  Have I mentioned how marvelous you are lately?).

My brain is about done for the day, but I think I will spend ten minutes bringing the pieces together, into one document before I take my headcold and go to bed. 

I printed the 19 pages left of my Intro./Lit. Review (after cutting out all the stuff that was removed from my original model), so tomorrow's first project is to outline it, with a one sentence summary per paragraph.  That "map" will enable me to see what is missing / needs to be expanded on and make sure I have a cogent, complete literature review and introduction.  Those are my least favorite parts of the project to work on (especially since I have a bunch of recently published articles which need to be integrated), but I need to finish that before I can write the discussion and conclusions....

Two more days to get it done, which means a) I need to work like the wind, and b) in two days I get ungrounded.  If only I survive that long...

PS - I am sorta sickly today, so went to Fred Meyers to buy groceries and stock up on cold medicine. I think I managed to trip their methamphetamine warning system, and they me choose between these two boxes or that one instead (I went for Advil cold medicine - in two forms - rather than the Claritan.  Allergies be damned, I guess). They took my ID and disappeared into the back for awhile before making me sign my life away in exchange for cold medicine.  I wonder if that means the DEA will be calling?  I would be glad to cough on them if they feel like coming by. If I am feeling nice, I'll then share my cold medicine , but they will have to bring their own allergy meds. Oh well, at least the cold means I have a valid reason to slug down a shot of Nyquil en route to bed.
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GS with UE seeks E to lock her in a dismal basement somewhere with no internet, interesting people to talk to, or floors to mop. 
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I had a professor (why yes, that one) tell us that our exam next week will be closed book, no resources in hand, etc.  Then he announced that we will receive it via email at 1 pm with instructions to submit it at or around 2:30 pm.  We are supposed to be on our honor but - and this is a direct quote that I wrote down word for word- "it is up to [us] if [we] want to play it straight or not. . . it's not about grades at this level."

Is that an invitation to cheat?

I have an opinion and a sense of how I will take the exam, which I will share with you later.  First, what do you think?
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You know you are having A Day when you discover - as dark falls - that you are locked in at the dump (excuse me, solid waste disposal facility), and your next thought is, oh, shit, these pants are WAY too tight for jumping six foot chainlink fences.

I manged to go over the fence without ripping the seat out of my too-tight jeans on the wire 'x's at the top (I have a lot more upper body strength than I would have thought this morning - I climbed up, then sort of held myself out from the barbs and lowered far enough to feel safe jumping), and the gate was chained in a way that the two of us pulling it apart were able to yank the dogs through the gap.  Good thing Kiska is so svelte.

Other than that, it was A Day. 

This whole giving up diet soda and refined sugar thing is not very much fun during the first three days - I get terrible cravings, have constant low-level headaches, and my stomach churns and churns.  

I spent the morning working on my measurement model in preparation for seeing my advisor.  The meeting itself was short and fine - any meeting where she doesn't take me out behind the psychology building and shoot me is a good meeting.  Then I met with a student to help him figure out the statistics for a study he is doing.  (When exactly did I get to be a stats expert?)  After that I escaped home for an hour, before dragging myself out for a dog walk with the border collies of doom, where we got locked in at the dump (the trail we were on ended there and it was too dark to go back into the woods and stumble around until we found another exit).  What a glamorous life I lead.
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Anybody want to do my SAS homework?

No?  Me neither.
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I am SO cool. So very cool that . . .

. . .I now have my very own university library locker.  It's on the third floor near the Hs.

. . . I am planning to spend Friday night knitting in front of the TV, which may or may not be turned on.  I am ready to turn the heel on my first grown-up sized sock, so need to sit and be awhile.

. . . I am promising myself Monday afternoon off, if I work all weekend.

Careful - the glamour may just blind you if you look too close.
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Today I managed something special.  I slept an extra hour, and woke up feeling sickly.  It was not a running day, so I had a gentle morning with two cups of tea, fed the dog, played online, had a shower, packed my bag, and headed off to my first meeting.  Anyone notice what I didn't do in there?

Yeah, consume calories.  And it took me until I started feeling ravenous - mid-meeting - to figure it out.  Around my world, that is called Too Stupid To Eat.  And, yeah. It's not usually a problem for me.

Now, a three hour class and one lunch later, things are mostly fine. I haven't dropped any fragile glass Christmas tree ornament type tasks, and am surviving.  But I have a killer headache.  And somthing icky taking up space in my psyche.  I need to get it on (virtual) paper and out my brain, so more later.  At the moment I need to get out of my office, feed the dog, and try to get into good space by bellydance time - it makes me too sad to not enjoy my class.
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I did not succumb to my soda cravings.

But I should have - I gave up and came home around midnight, in despair, to get some sleep before my long day.  I was in bed by 12:30, but tossed and turned until about 3 ay-em.  This isn't all that new, but I haven't had this sort of stressed insomnia in a while.

And I don't like it.

I still have the homework to do and a full day to face.  And now I will be doing all that without the benefit of a good - or even adequate - night's sleep. Frack.
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The pup just woke me up out of a long and repetative dream about building a regression model for something.

It has begun - statistics is hard for me, so when I am working on something statistical, I tend to find the project echoed in my dreams.

As a first year graduate student, I would study stats until my head hurt then go to bed and watch the equations and examples scroll by in my dreams.

Fun. Or something.
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I taught the more difficult group today, and it was great.

I ended up leaving off the very last part of the lecture, since interest was flagging and it was information that they already had or would have to find to complete the homework, but no one fell asleep. I didn't use powerpoint.  And we all connected as a class - I feel really good about it.  Rather than showing the stiff, nervous me, I was able to be warm and funny.  This meant they responded better to me, and I actually like them now. 

Teaching can be so much fun.
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In high school I was a general butterfly of geekness, fluttering from crowd to crowd.  But I was most comfortable, most at home feeling when I was doing theatre stuff - particularly tech theatre stuff.

I thrived on the chaos, the oh-no-it-will-never-work, the mag lights with red lighting gels held on by duct tape, the safety pins, and the tenuous underpinnings of what we managed to make look real.  I think my calm in crisis and delight in trouble-shooting the impossible stems from that period of fun and chaos.

I would still love the duct tape, baling wire, safety pins chaos In That Context.  One of my lifetime goals is still to run a follow spot (what? you didn't aspire to that as a wee tot?) But I am getting really tired of its trouser-seatness in my real life.

Today's professional,teachy outfit is only decent thanks to four safety pins.  I have had to start keeping a box of bandaids in my car, since I was bleeding all over everything often enough that it became necessary.  And my whole existence feels weirdly tentative and likely to (Warning: mixed metaphors!!) throw a rod through the engine at any moment.

This makes me cosmically tired.
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When I get neurotic, I seem to cope in a variety of ways.

I post lots of manic LJ entries.

I run useless errands and do all the piled up dishes.

I read obsessively (to the point of reading while showering) to avoid spending time with my own brain.

I sleep so little that my mind gets all fuzzy.

And I spends lots and lots of money at Amazon**

I love Amazon and like to delude myself that Amazon loves me back.

Tonight I am throwing money in two directions: a waterproof case for my Ipod so I can listen to music and/or podcasts while wrestling fish and guides to SPSS.  Four guides to SPSS, to be precise.  Two basic ones - one known for its accesibility and the other known for its accuracy - and two that provide more detailed information on Syntax manipulation and practical applications of the program.  I am excited.  Now if I can just, you know, read them when they get here, all will be well.

I am justifying them by reminding myself that I am expected to teach this material in the fall, so between that and my thesis is it very necessary.

**(well, it feels like lots and lots of money to me, but tonight's $240 tab is the largest on record. And that isnt bad when you realize I am buying textbooks).
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I just realized my summer is one third over.

I left Virginia on the 14th of May.  It is now the 15th of June.  One month down.

I go back on the 14th of August.  Two months to go.

And I havent gotten healthy or worked on my thesis at all. If i want to defend in October I need to have a complete draft by the middle of August, which means lots of rewriting, data analysis, and writing between now and then.

Time for someone to lock me in the tower, like Rapunzel, so I can focus.


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