Sunday, November 28, 2010

Little annoyances, but an end in sight

First, I must whine about a few minor, but highly annoying annoyances.

1) Water.  The plumbing in our apartment has chosen to simply quit this year, there is a new leak nearly every day, and the plumber has visited so often that the Scaredycat occasionally remains in the same room as him.  There are also local water problems due to construction, the upshot of which is that we have no hot water.  I am not expert on the physics of this, but the combined problems lead to low water pressure, and a certain amount of water pressure is required for flames to go on in the water heater.  To make matters worse, the weather has finally turned cool in baladelba7th, such that cold showers=icy unpleasantness.  Note also that I have waist length hair.

2) Internet.  The internet has also quit in our apartment, but works just enough that you think a page will load, and then it won't.  The internet was also crappy at my field site today, similar problems, and I had seven hours to kill between meetings.  Admittedly, I mostly use the internet for procrastination, but sporadic and short periods of use (ie quick email responses) are essential to my research.  Hence the annoyance.

3) My achilles tendon.  My folk dancing puts major stress on this tendon, and mine has been injured for going on two years.  It was really bad last summer, but through a combination of eccentric exercises and ice I've managed to make it better.  Better, but not healed.  It still hurts, although not badly enough to prevent me from dancing.  But enough to make me paranoid about snapping it, another common injury in my folk dance, that would be an absolute disaster in baladelba7th.

However, a major positive is that I am finally close enough to the end of a particular stage of my research (let's call it stage three) that I can actually envision it being completed (biznillah).  While there is still a good amount of researching to go before I complete it, I think it may actually work out.  Since I expect this is the worst stage (it drove me to start this blog) this will be a happy, happy day.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Just when I thought it couldn't get worse

The day started out promising, decent train ride, good field notes, and the promise of a tasty American Thanksgiving dinner at the end.  Then, as I got out of the cab to head to the dinner, I realized I didn't have my wallet.  It was nowhere in my bag.  It was in my bag on the the public transportation I was on.  Yes, I was pickpocketed on the public transportation system in medinat el-ba7r.  This sucks under any circumstances, but it is particularly crappy when:

  1. You are overseas and can't just get replacement cards mailed right away or go replace your ID cards

  2. You never carry around large amounts of money, but today you had just gone to the ATM and taken out $350

  3. Your wallet contains your train ticket home

  4. Your wallet contains your flash drive

  5. Your wallet contains other tickets and receipts you're supposed to submit for your grant

  6. Your wallet contains unused bus and metro tickets

  7. Your wallet contains your keys

  8. Your wallet contains your gym combination lock

  9. You can't enjoy the tasty dinner you've been looking forward to all week because you are upset about all of the above


So probably I carry too much stuff in my wallet.  Also, it could have been worse (ie stealing my Ipod with those precious field notes, bodily injury, etc.).  But what a way to ruin my week!

Update: In writing this I forgot to mention that the reason I was susceptible to pickpocketing was that I had my bag open because I was constantly pulling out my Ipod for the good field notes . . . oh the perils of research!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

One of those weeks

Despite two cups of cardamom-cinnamon-clove coffee topped off with gamoosa milk I was still feeling pretty groggy as I tried to squeeze in some data processing before leaving for fieldwork.  My cats were tearing around like little terrors, neglecting to take into account the fact that my apartment is not big enough for such activities.  It is big enough for a cat to reach full acceleration, but at this point the cat will be dangerously close to running into the wall. Legend has it that cats are smart creatures, who do not do stupid things like running headfirst into a wall.  My experience suggests otherwise.  It is also very difficult to do anything productive in the presence of wall-bouncing cats.  They settled down only as I was about to leave, and the lapcat went into lap mode just as I wanted to get up from my computer, pack my lunch and head out the door.  I poked him, prodded him, he sunk deeper into my lap and started to purr.  It occurred to me that life would be much more pleasant if I had chosen to do my fieldwork on snuggling with cats.

I realized I was late, and dumped lapcat unceremoniously into my chair.  My foggy brain tried to recall what exactly it was that I needed to take with me.  Ah yes, lunch.  I headed to the freezer to get some bread for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Instead, I pulled out the ice tray and had dumped three ice cubes into my standard drink glass before I realized what I was doing.

I think it is shaping up to be one of those weeks.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Grrr!

So today I made it all the way to medinat el-ba7r just to have everything fall through and turn around and come home again, after a fight with the station master to get me off the 10:00 train and onto another one.  I've switched tickets before for a fine, so I'm not sure what the problem was this time, but I had to insist and insist, and I was getting quite frustrated.  Which is another problem, because when I get frustrated, I cry, a highly embarrassing reaction that I am much too old for.  So I'm insisting to the station manager and his cronies that I have changed my ticket for a fine the day off before, and then I burst out crying, in the middle of the train station.  Which of course draws even more attention than before.  Bleh.  To make a long story short, I did get the ticket changed, without a fine (a positive benefit of the embarrassing crying reaction).  And thus I spent ten straight hours on transportation, between metro, train, and taxi with no research benefit whatsoever.  Even worse, I finished the short story collection I was reading with two hours to spare.  Luckily a stiff drink and leftover Indian food was waiting at home.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Guilty Reading

The week before last, I made three separate train trips to medinat el-ba7r, and it looks like I'll be doing the same again this week, including a trip on my favorite late night train. Depending on how many stops the particular train makes, it's a 2.5-3 hour ride, not bad, and the trains are nice.  But three trips in a week is tiresome, particularly as I often take the train early in the morning or late at night, and am tired.  Unfortunately, sleeping on the train is pretty uncomfortable, and always ends up making me feel worse than if I hadn't slept at all.  So mostly, I read fiction.

Reading fiction has been my hands-down favorite activity since I was about five years old, so in some ways, having an extra twelve or so hours to read a week is fantastic.  In fact, writing this down, I'm thinking wow, how can I continue this trend in my future life? However, I always feel somewhat guilty that I am not doing academic work, or at least reading in loghatelba7th.  I would actually quite like to read in loghatelba7th on the train, particularly as I am reading a good book right now.  Unfortunately this latter activity invariably ends up with my (male) seat mate wanting to talk to me the whole train ride and asking for my phone number as we arrive at the station, which makes me less thrilled.  So, loghatelba7th books are not an option.  I could work on my computer, but it's just so much easier to read a book.

Realistically, I know I shouldn't feel that bad for reading fiction, as this isn't even my dissertation writing year (that's next year).  But when my entire academic life is centered around one project, and this project is my first real project in the area I'm most interested in, it's hard to not feel guilty when I know I'm not putting in all of the hours that I could.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

On Friendships

On the train to medinat el-ba7r today, a young girl stole the seat next to me while its occupant was up, and attempted to strike up a conversation with me.  I replied halfheartedly, partially because I was into the book I was reading and wanted to continue reading, and partially because I didn't really feel like answering the same tired questions of where I'm from, and what I do, and who I live with, and why I'm on the train.  After a bit, my seat mate came back to claim his seat, and I was left alone with my thoughts, which centered on why I didn't pursue this conversation.  After all, she was speaking to me in loghatelba7th, which I appreciate, and I feel sure that in previous baladelba7th experiences I would have been delighted for the opportunity.  Granted, she was in high school, and I am rather older than that, but still.

This led me to thinking about friendships, cultural differences, East-West, own kinds, hometowns.

Friday, November 19, 2010

More dance, less stress

Vacation ends tomorrow, and fieldwork starts again, although only tomorrow is scheduled.  I am trying to remain calm, and not be annoyed and frustrated.  For once (it's rare, I know) I am actually succeeding, mostly because I ended up attending a folk dance workshop today (not my folk dance, but another type of folk dance in which I've been taking lessons here in baladelba7th, although it's actually from bilaad to the East).  I thought I was going to be helping my instructor sell CDs, but in fact I was the assistant instructor as well.  It was long and exhausting, but quite the thing for taming the stressball.  It also opened my eyes to a whole world that I never knew existed in baladelba7th--there were participants from all over the world in this workshop series, which apparently occurs multiple times a year, and for the most part focuses on dancing which is, well, sexier than the type I prefer to do.  There were also lots of wild costumes the likes of which I've never seen before and I never realized there was such an industry for that here either.

In any case, the point of this post is to remind myself that I simply must keep dancing, because it's not just a fun hobby, it's crucial to my mental health.  I tend to think, no I don't really have time, I should be concentrating on my research, not on my dancing, the hours I spend dancing should be spent reading articles/processing data instead.  But really, I'm in a much better mood to do the latter when I've done the former, and I'm also much more likely to concentrate on it instead of  unproductively stressing out.

So my goal for the next month, which will be especially stressful in terms of fieldwork? More folk dance!

 

 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Discovery!

It just now occurred to me that academic journals would have RSS feeds--and of course they do! GoogleReader, I can now use you for work, and not just play.  Now, onto the tricker business of feeds for saved searches in online databases . . .

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Worrying

Right now I'm waiting to hear from someone about doing something.  If I don't hear from this person, I will take it personally, even thought I probably shouldn't, as there are larger forces than me at work here.  It will also be a slight relief, as part of me doesn't want to do this thing, but it would be hard to say no.  This relief would, however, be outweighed by feelings of personal hurt.  This is vague, but it's about all I can say on this blog.

The larger point being that when I'm in situations like this, waiting to hear from someone about something important to me (including, for example, participant scheduling, which I do talk about), I get so obsessed with waiting to hear from a particular person or persons that I can't concentrate on anything else.  I refresh my email constantly, make sure my phone is on its loudest setting and next to me, and worry, waiting for the contact.

This is absolutely counterproductive, and just causes me to stress out more when, say, the email still hasn't appeared after the third refresh in two minutes, or it's say, 7am and I'm not getting phone calls.  I know this, and yet I can't do anything else.  Ikhs!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Caramel Brownies

I grew up in what at the time was a fairly rural area (now it is apparently what's called an "exurb").  As a result, there was not much to do on weekends.  I think the cool kids drank and hung out in the grocery store parking lot, but not being cool, my friends and I baked lots of sweet treats and then read books or watched a movie.  I thought this was fairly normal, until I went to my elite preppy undergrad and discovered that my ability to make baked goods from scratch made me rather eccentric (in addition to many other things, but that's another post). While I quickly learned not to respond to the question of what do you like to do on weekends with "reading and baking cookies," I continued to actually enjoy baking, and my friends enjoyed the results.

During my Masters program, I met a friend who enjoyed baking as much as I do (and could even quilt while I was knitting, bonus!).  She gave me an awesome recipe for chocolaty, fudgy brownies with a layer of creamy caramel in the middle.  This has become one of my most-requested baked goods, to the point that whenever I have friends visiting me in baladelba7th, I request that they bring me ingredients that are hard to find here (specifically unsweetened baking chocolate.  There is cooking chocolate here, but it is foul beyond all imagination.  Think condensed oil laced with the faintest bit of chocolate flavoring).  I made these last week for some of my participants, and am currently making them for a holiday party.  The kitchen smells delightful.  A particular bonus of these brownies is that between the caramel and gooey chocolate, they are a bit messy, which means lots of snacking on the breaking off/sticking on the knife parts as you cut them up. Yummy.

Now, I realize that having described all this yumminess, I should post the recipe.  I'm sure my friend originally got it from some cookbook, but I don't know which one, so my apologies, cookbook writer.

Caramel Brownies

  • 6 squares unsweetened baking chocolate

  • 1 1/8 cups butter or margarine

  • 3 cups granulated sugar

  • 6 eggs

  • 1.5 cups flour

  • 1 (14 ounce) package caramels, unwrapped (the unwrapping part is painful.  Highly useful to employ a husband and/or friends eagerly awaiting the final project)

  • 1/3 cup heavy cream

  • 2 cups pecans or walnut halves, divided (I am a no nuts in my brownies type of baker.  But if you like nuts in brownies, this is probably tasty.)

  • 1 (12 ounce) package semi-sweet chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a foil-lined 13 x 9-inch baking pan.   Microwave chocolate squares and butter on high 2 minutes or until butter is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Stir sugar into chocolate until well blended. Mix in eggs. Stir in flour. Spread 1/2 of batter in prepared pan. Bake 25 minutes, or until batter is firm to the touch.   Meanwhile, microwave caramels and cream on high 3 minutes or until caramels begin to melt. Whisk until smooth. Stir in 1 cup of nuts. Gently spread caramel mixture over brownie batter in pan. Sprinkle with chocolate chips. Pour remaining unbaked brownie batter evenly over caramel mixture; sprinkle with remaining nuts. (Some caramel mixture may peek through.) Bake additional 30 minutes.  Enjoy!

Note: I make the brownie batter in two batches, as if you make it all at once, by the time you have to spread it on again, it's congealed, and difficult to spread.

Caramel Brownies!

I grew up in what at the time was a fairly rural area (now it is apparently what's called an "exurb").  As a result, there was not much to do on weekends.  I think the cool kids drank and hung out in the grocery store parking lot, but not being cool, my friends and I baked lots of sweet treats and then read books or watched a movie.  I thought this was fairly normal, until I went to my elite preppy undergrad and discovered that my ability to make baked goods from scratch made me rather eccentric (in addition to many other things, but that's another post).

While I quickly learned not to respond to the introductory question of what do you like to do on weekends with "reading and baking cookies," I continued to actually enjoy baking, and my friends enjoyed the results.

In grad school, I met a friend who enjoyed baking as much as I do (and could even quilt while I was knitting, bonus!).  She gave me an awesome recipe for chocolaty, fudgy brownies with a layer of creamy caramel in the middle.  This has become one of my most-requested baked goods, to the point that whenever I have friends visiting me in baladelba7th, I request that they bring me ingredients that are hard to find here (specifically unsweetened baking chocolate.  There is cooking chocolate here, but it is foul beyond all imagination.  Think condensed oil laced with the faintest bit of chocolate flavoring).  I made these last week for some of my participants, and am currently making them for a holiday party.  The kitchen smells delightful.  A particular bonus of these brownies is that between the caramel and gooey chocolate, they are a bit messy, which means lots of snacking on the crumbs as you cut them up.  Yummy.

Now, I realize that having described all this yumminess, I should post the recipe.  I'm sure my friend originally got it from some cookbook, but I don't know which one, so my apologies, cookbook writer.

Caramel Brownies

6 squares Baker's Unsweetened Baking Chocolate

1 1/8 cups butter or margarine

3 cups granulated sugar

6 eggs

1.5 cups flour

1 (14 ounce) package caramels, unwrapped (the unwrapping part is painful.  Highly useful to employ a husband and/or friends eagerly awaiting the final project)

1/3 cup heavy cream

2 cups pecans or walnut halves, divided (I am a no nuts in my brownies type of baker.  But if you like nuts in brownies, this is probably tasty.

1 (12 ounce) package Baker's Real Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a foil-lined 13 x 9-inch baking pan.

 

Microwave chocolate squares and butter in microwave-safe bowl on HIGH 2 minutes or until butter is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Stir sugar into chocolate until well blended. Mix in eggs. Stir in flour. Spread 1/2 of batter in prepared pan. Bake 25 minutes, or until batter is firm to the touch.

 

Meanwhile, microwave caramels and cream in microwave-safe bowl on HIGH 3 minutes or until caramels begin to melt. Whisk until smooth. Stir in 1 cup of nuts. Gently spread caramel mixture over brownie batter in pan. Sprinkle with chocolate chips, if desired. Pour remaining unbaked brownie batter evenly over caramel mixture; sprinkle with remaining nuts. (Some caramel mixture may peek through.) Bake additional 30 minutes.

 

Cool in pan. Run knife around edge of pan to loosen brownies from sides. Lift from pan using foil as handles.

 

Cut into 24 fudgy brownies.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Akheeran!

There is a museum I visited in baladelba7th in 2001, the very first time I came here.  I have been back to baladelba7th nearly every year since then, for visiting/study/research purposes, but this museum has been closed.  It's promised to open for the last few years, but never did. In September, the rumors were that it would open any day.  About two weeks ago, it finally did.  Today, I actually made it to the museum--it felt like quite the accomplishment!

The renovations are definitely an improvement over my fading memories of dark, dusty rooms and a worker following me around to turn on the lights in each room as I entered. As is the case with most museums in baladelba7th, the contents remain magnificent.

However, what I noticed the most, particularly in light of my last post, was the signage. There are large signs giving a general overview, which are trilingual (English, loghatelba7th and a once widespread European language of waning international use). Then there are the signs for the individual items, which are in English and loghatelba7th. Some items have an additional paragraph of explanation, which is only in loghatelba7th.

As is also generally the case in baladelba7th, museum labels are of little use in understanding the wonder you're looking at, so I at first turned to these explanations for assistance.  While I thought it was odd that they were only in loghatelba7th, I was also pleased, as why shouldn't it be?  After reading a few, I wasn't so sure.  They were not explanations that were useful to me (or to any non-specialist), but mostly lists of references to names and places I didn't know, but I suspect a specialist or someone more generally knowledgeable about the contents of this museum and their history would. These people would necessarily know loghatelba7th (or they really, really, should), so maybe these explanations are just giving more context for them, and not translated because they are not useful for laypeople.  I didn't read all of them, so I don't know for sure.

But, my overly analytic mind suggests there are other things may be at work here.  The contents of this museum share a particular association with loghatelba7th.  I've noticed a disturbing trend to associate loghatelba7th, and in particular this form of it, with this association, and particularly with strong forms of it.  This in itself is fine.  What bothers me is what I see as the increasing exclusivity of this association, as if this part of loghatelba7th is only for this part of society, and indexes it, while English increasingly indexes the "opposing" part.  Usually, there are good/bad judgements that also come into play here.  Language use is a highly relevant identity indexer, but one that is not critically examined by the majority of users, particularly in terms of the implications of this indexing beyond I am a member of such and such a group, which is the cool one.  It is not the only indexer of this split by any means, but it is an important one.

Because I have lots of unscheduled time, I think about such matters obsessively.  And try to free myself of them by writing about them on this blog because really, they are not that relevant to my research or my life.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Fieldwork Fail

This week was truly dreadful for fieldwork. I should have had six appointments. I completed one. Three were postponed, two never even got scheduled. It's now vacation time, and these five will have to be compressed into the post-vacation week. It will be a nightmare to schedule with participants on vacation, which likely means more postponing. All of this is super stressful for me, and means I will likely be unable to enjoy the vacation despite my efforts to just hope for the best. Why did I ever sign up for this? Why did anyone tell me it was a good idea? Why wasn't I warned how stressful it would be? Or is it all my fault for trying to do something different?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Phone Phobia

I have an irrational fear of making phone calls.  Basically, this means that if I need to call anyone other than my mother or my husband it will take me one to fifteen minutes to psych myself up to make the call, and I will do my best to weasel out of it by making someone else (usually my husband) do the calling or by doing it online.  Part of this can no doubt be explained by my fear of rejection, but this does little to explain why I am also afraid of calling restaurants, businesses, and any number of other places that would be happy to take my call as I will be giving them money.

Sometimes, I must admit, this is a great inconvenience.  I have been worried all week because one of my participants, who is normally very responsive via email, has not responded to me even after a reminder email.  I know that it is a busy time for this participant, but since I also have an overactive imagination, I am stressing out over one of the following scenarios:

a) Participant has decided they hate me, and hate my research, and is maliciously ignoring me

b) Participant is lying deathly ill/injured in a deserted ditch

Since even my insecure self realizes that Participant is far too nice a person to be capable of a, I am increasing worried about the occurrence of b, even though there are no deserted ditches (or deserted anything) in elmedina elkabeera, and if Participant was ill, they would likely be in a nice hospital.  Rationally, the fact that I know Participant is busy is a much better explanation.

I confess these various possibilities to my husband when he comes home, and he says "why don't you call them?"  I think, eek, no way, no phone calls for me.  But I do muster up the courage to send a text (much less scarier than calling, but still scarier than email).  Participant replies immediately, apologizes for being so busy and not paying attention to their email, and promises to call or email me tomorrow to figure things out.

So I've been exercising the stress ball in my stomach all week for a problem that was solved in a two-minute text exchange.  Because I'm scared of the phone.  Now, off to google cures for phone phobia!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Cats on the copier

In the end, the train wasn't that bad.  Mostly because I ended up sitting next to a wedding party, and therefore several women.  My fieldwork in medinatelba7r went well, even with some bonuses.

Today, I did a minimal amount of data processing (but some, yay!) and practiced my folk dancing.  Now my legs hurt.  Another problem with fieldwork in two cities is that I can usually only practice folk dancing when I'm in elmedina elkabeera.  Thus, I often end up practicing a lot one week, and none the next, which is not so good for conditioning.  Not that I'm actually training for anything, but as I am getting a bit old to be constantly doing this type of dance, I don't want to injure myself or exacerbate the injuries I already have.  One injury in particular, if exacerbated, could end my fieldwork and send me home, so I want to avoid this at all costs.

On a lighter note, my cats figured out how to work the copier, and have been copying blank pages all afternoon.  One copies, and the other one attacks the sheet of paper as it comes out.  I wish I could take advantage of this skill when I actually have to copy and/or destroy something, but alas, I think this will not be the case.

 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Kawaabeeees

I've written earlier about the stress of my last-minute schedule.  Belief it or not, things have gotten worse, as my one week in medinatelba7r, one week in elmedina elkabeera has fallen by the wayside due to a rescheduling flurry.  This results in me spending lots of time on the train, which has its difficulties.  I missed an interview today in elmedina elkabeera because after I finally figured out my schedule yesterday for medinatelba7r all the train tickets back to elmedina elkabeera were sold out.  And then I had to buy tickets for a day trip tomorrow to medinatelba7r, because I have something the day after in elmadina elkabeera (although now it might be canceled).  But my appointments are late, so I needed the lastest train back.  But that's at 10:00 pm, and no respectable woman in baladelba7th would take that train alone.  So the ticket seller wouldn't sell it to me until I insisted that I knew there was a 10:00 train, and the 7:00 one was not acceptable.  And then I got a look.  And I will get many more of them on that train tomorrow, as I know from taking it once before (I try hard to avoid it).  I'm really quite dreading it.  Perhaps if my appointment for the next day doesn't work out, I will just buy another ticket for the morning train.  Luckily I have friends to stay with in medina el-ba7r if necessary.  Hanshuf.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Yom Taweel

Every description of fieldwork I've ever read has noted that it's exhausting. For me, it is particularly tiring as it often involves interacting with lots of people, and since I am naturally shy and introverted, this requires a lot of energy.   While drinking my pre-fieldwork cappuccino today, and feeling myself get nervous, I thought Self, why on earth did you pick a research method that you knew would be so difficult for you? It's not like there weren't other options . . .

As the caffeine kicked in, it occurred to me that many of the academics I've met who engage in my sort of work are also shy, introverted and somewhat socially awkward (although not all of them, by any means, so don't take this the wrong way).

Which led me to think--do we study people and society because we're not sure how to navigate them ourselves, and this is why they are interesting to research? Do we hope subconsciously that our research understanding will aid our personal understanding? More importantly, does it?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Release

Because I miss my folk dancing very much in baladelba7th, this year I joined a gym, primarily because they have a swanky aerobics room complete with mirrors and wooden floors and I thought it would be a nice place to dance.  When signing up for the gym membership, I asked if I could use the aerobics room to practice dance in if there were no classes going on.  I was told, sure no problem as long as you don't use the stereo system.  No problem, I have an Ipod.

Unfortunately, this has not turned out to be as easy as I originally thought, as there are classes that are not on the schedule, and the membership person made a special exception for me apparently, without telling anyone else, so for the first two months I had to argue with people every time I wanted to use the room.  Now, it's mostly not a problem since one of the managers is on my side, but still, sometimes I have to argue, which sort of takes the fun out of dancing and sometimes makes me less than enthusiastic about going to the gym (I don't ever really do much else there, other than dance).

Nevertheless, when I do go, I realize how much I love this dance, and why I'm still doing it, even though there are no competitions in baladelba7th, and most people who do compete quit at a much younger age than I am (like 18-20).  While a folk dance, it is quite technical, and a better work out than anything else I've ever done.  Executing the steps requires a great deal of strength and stamina, and yet you have to make it look effortless (or that is the goal anyways, I'm not quite there yet).

When I finish practicing, I'm exhausted.  By the time I'm walking home, I'm invigorated.  My breaths are deeper.  The stress ball is gone.  I'm isolated from my dance community, but at least I still have the release of dancing.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

ta3zeeb

Today I have no research appointments, and so I have been trying to process my data.  This can involve a number of different activities: transcribing audio or video, coding transcriptions or field notes or other documents, entering quantitative data into SPSS, etc.  This is the step between data collection and analysis.  And it is torture.  I hate it.  It's boring.  It's tedious.  So I procrastinate.

Then I collect more data, and I have even more to process.  I open my computer, look at the sheer number of unprocessed files facing me, and go play with my cats or look at the latest folk dance competition results.

I love data collection (well except for the scheduling bit) and I like the analysis, the ideas, and even the final writing.  Those are exciting, and interesting, and engage my brain.  But I always get stuck in this middle processing bit.

How can I make this interesting? Or at least less torturous?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Field Notes Processed

Following my new system, I caught up on all my field notes from this year.  Yay! Even better, one of my appointments was moved earlier in the day, so I had most of the afternoon free.

And yet, the stress ball continues to thrive in my stomach, despite my attempt to satisfy it with a Snickers bar, and then with amaretto hot chocolate.  Things are going well, there are no catastrophes.  So why am I so worried?

My guess is that it's because I have a lot personally invested in this project, in addition to it being my dissertation (and thus my job ticket).  It focuses on a issue that is the entire reason I went to grad school, and one that I would like to spend my life improving.  Thus, I care deeply on many levels about making it the best it can be, and am constantly focusing on what could be better, rather than what I'm doing.

So, to be more positive, I need to realize that because I am deeply invested in this area, I will be working in it in the future.  I will do many more projects in this area, so if my dissertation needs improvement, it's okay.  I am learning a lot, not only about my topic, but also about how to do research in it, and I can apply all of this to future projects.  In fact, even if I don't get a job when I graduate, there are still ways to work in this area outside/ish of academia.

I know all of this, so why is it so hard to convince myself of it?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Processing Fieldnotes

The 3asal is that I got in a lot of interviews today, the baSal is that an observation was canceled for the second day in a row, and it's 8pm and I don't know my schedule for tomorrow.

So, I decided to would take advantage of my unscheduled time by figuring out how to best process my field notes.  This probably shouldn't be that complicated, but I'm a systems type of person.  Also, I want a good system set up now, so I can process as I go, rather than returning from baladelba7th with hundreds of text files and scribblings that are completely incomprehensible a year from now.  I have a huge backlog of data from last year, and the thought of processing it all into analyzable form (transcribing, writing up coherent notes, etc.) is enough to make me start googling things like "how to become a professional cat trainer."

This year, I'm determined to do better.    I've decided to process this year's data first and then deal with the backlog of last year, and so far, I'm not too behind.  The field notes think had me confused for a while, but this is the system I have worked out for now.

1) Take fieldnotes (I primarily do this using Simplenote on my Ipod Touch, once I figured out how to turn off the autocorrect that was turning my loghatelba7th scribbles into gibberish).

2) Download notes to computer via syncing with Notational Velocity.

3) Export scribblings to "Raw Notes" Folder.

4) Copy scribblings to new text file, and write up coherent notes for the day.

5) Save this file with the date as name in "Written Up Notes" Folder.

6) Export this file to MAXQDA (my chosen qualitative data analysis software) and code.

7) Delete original notes in Simplenote.

I'm not sure how relevant steps 2,3, and 7 are.  Two is preferred over copying and pasting from simplenote online because notational velocity keeps the date and time.  Also, I don't always have internet.  Three is because I want a copy of my raw data on my computer just in case, although I'll probably never look at it again.  Three and seven together let me use my notes in notational velocity as a queue, rather than having to worry about which ones I've processed and which ones I haven't.  None of them take very long, so I don't feel like I'm wasting my time.