Thursday, February 27, 2014

A Dissertation Girl Official Announcement!

Yesterday I drove the two hours to Carbondale to see my fabulous, fabulous adviser Dr M in order to talk about my most recent revisions of chapters 4 (Results) and 5 (Analysis).  For those of you who don't know, I have been working at SIUC as a PhD student for about 12 years, but working hard on my dissertation (post coursework and comps) since 2008 (so about 5 years).  I did an ethnographic study that was difficult to complete in terms of problems in early 2010 and then I was diagnosed with cancer just after completing the first part of that study (the actual fieldwork component).  It probably took me a year to get back to my research and I was lucky enough to get selected in 2012 to attend the Dartmouth College Summer Seminar for Composition Research that served as the pivotal component to get me back to working on writing up and analyzing my study.

And so here we are today  -- almost done.

I applied for graduation before (last year) and it didn't work out so I am little hesitant to report that I have, indeed, applied for graduation again.  As in "May 10" of this year.  I figured that writing about this situation in this very public forum might make me more accountable -- and many of you know that I work best under peer pressure and deadlines.  It is just the way I work.

So here is the deal -- I can graduate in May if -- and only if -- I manage to pull the entire study together by next week.  And that is -- in theory -- quite do-able.  As you can see below, Dr M and I worked yesterday for a few hours in going through these chapters and detailing every little thing that needs to be added/ deleted/ further explored.  Since I have chapters 1-3 already done (though there are a few minor revisions to be made), I can work on these two chapters this weekend, as well as finishing up the reshaping of the last chapter draft (the conclusion).  By next week,  I need to sent the entire package to Dr M as one document (about 250 pages, I think).


If she believes that I am ready for the Defense after reading the entire document (and you do not want to go into one of these NOT prepared!), then she will work with my committee to schedule the Defense -- right now this looks like it could happen the last week of March.  I will then have a deadline for Format Check through the graduate office on April 4 and then the Final Submission deadline on April 11.  If I meet all of those deadlines, I graduate in May.  If I don't, I graduate in December.

So I suppose the good news is that I will graduate in 2014.  I would like the month to be May so I just have to work my ass off this next week.  And I can do that.  And I will.  Thankfully, there are no huge sporting events for me this weekend (I am going to practice my swimming on Sunday morning, though, so I know that I will have a break over the weekend).  I know what I need to do and I just need to sit down and do it.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Stitch Fix #5 Review and Plea for Help!

I love coming home and seeing this next to my front mat!

By door
(PS:  I know Zora the cat has been gone for a year now but I can't seem to get rid of the mat that reminds me of her every time I come home!)

Yep, that is a Stitch Fix box, a subscription box that I have been trying for the last few months.  If you don't know, basically you pay a $20 styling fee and then your stylist sends you five items that he/ she things would work for you (I have a Pinterest board to give the stylist an idea of what I like).  If you like the items, you keep them (with a 20% discount if you keep all five items).  Anything you don't like gets sent back in the included bag (that already has postage!).  You have three days to decide.  It's good to choose at least one item because the folks at Stitch Fix take the $20 from your styling fee as the credit for the box (and it doesn't roll over so you have to use it!).  The whole point is to be introduced to new styles that can blend with your current wardrobe.  Since I am becoming grumpy when I head out to the mall, this is a great alternative where I can try stuff on at home and see how the item works with my wardrobe! As you may have noticed from some of my prior reviews, you can tell your stylist a price point but that doesn't mean that is what you get.  I think many of the items are on the expensive side but I will say that I have noticed some great quality in the items that have been sent to me.

So I need your help, dear readers!  Here are the five items I received and I am still not sure what I will keep (in terms of item #4 and item #5)!

Item #1:  Yumi Clay Owl Print Button-Up Cotton Cardigan ($28)

Sorry for the selfies throughout this review.  Jim, the photographer, was actually at work (perhaps making money for the clothes I always want to buy!).  Anyway -- I literally giggled when I saw the Yumi brand at the top of the box when I first opened it -- and with owls on it!  WTF?!  I love Laura, my stylist!  My favorite designer and one of my favorite types of prints!  Winner!  And was I looking at the invoice wrong?  Does that say $28??  Yeah, that is so staying in my closet!
And look!  Patches at the elbows!  How cool is that?!
The back of the cardigan had this at the top -- that is when I noticed that the eyes on the owls were little beads.  Total giggle-fest.  Dianna is in love!  (Please don't judge me!)

VERDICT:  Need I say it?  KEEPER!

Item #2: 41Hawthorn Harriet Aztec Print Fit and Flare Dress ($64)

I have discovered that the brand "41Hawthorn" is the house brand for Stitch Fix so it is common to get something by this brand in your box (I already have two shirts that I love that came in previous boxes).  Usually, I am a "Fit and Flare" kind of a gal.  But not this dress.  The waist was a little high (I didn't think my torso was too long but the waist hits me in a weird place).  As the picture shows, the top didn't quite fit me either.
Dress two
Some of my skin was popping out from the underarms.  Not a pretty picture at all.  But I kept the dress on to check out item #3!


Item #3:  41Hawthorn Benson 3/4 Ruched Sleeve Blazer ($78)
Dress cardi

I added my own belt to try and rescue the waist of the dress but the belt wasn't working.  I loved the idea of the blazer before I put it on -- pretty "heavy," though, which might not work as (1) we head toward spring and (2) Dianna still suffers from the sweat of menopause!  I do love the pop of color but, in the end, the shoulders were a little tight (I must have the shoulders of a linebacker!) and for $78 I would need to LOVE this item to keep it!


But the last two pieces?  Help! Read on!

Item #4:  Pomelo Lombard Printed Mixed Material Blouse ($88)

Why do I always fall in love with the most expensive item in the box?!  I love this blouse -- it is comfy but professional and has some cool details (the mix of cotton and something synthetic, the cute buttons on the sleeves) but ... $88?  Really?  So not fair.  (I checked online and can't find it anywhere else at any price)

Item #5:  Sold Design Lab Giovanna Skinny Ponte Pant ($110)

And, of course, I am being indecisive with the other super expensive item in the box -- these ponte pants (here there are with the shirt above!)
Unfortunately, since the pants are black, it is super hard to see them here.  I tried to get an up close picture and this is the best I could do:
This is not a super flattering picture either.  Basically, these are sort of like leggings but "nicer."  The material is a little heavy and feels top notch.  I know that Jim hates it when I wear leggings, so I had left a note for the stylist to consider something "like" leggings but "not" leggings.  But $110?  Why do they have to be so comfortable?  Why?  Why?

So there is my dilemma.  The owl cardigan is never leaving my closet.  Ever.  The dress and the blazer are going back for sure.  That leaves the shirt and the pants.  What should I do?  Any thoughts?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Brief Dissertation Break!

And ... the dissertation rewrites continue.  I am in the midst of redoing the conclusion (chapter 6) and I will hopefully hear back about the revisions to the previous two chapters soon.  Honestly, right now I am super nervous about whether or not I will be able to graduate in May which is keeping me up at night, constantly thinking about my research (How in the world you you turn "worrying" off?!).  But there is a positive to being up in the wee hours of the night -- I have been reading like a man woman!  And, luckily, there are a stack of books sitting right next to my bed.

So I have a goal with this blog entry -- not only will I "write," something I need to be doing all the time but I also have two books to recommend that were sent to me via the fabulous Indiespensable Subscription program through Powells Books (one of the best independent book stores EVER over in fabulous Portland, OR).  Basically how this program works is like this:  About every 6 weeks, the good folks at Powells pick a newly published book usually from an independent press.  The book often comes in a slip box and is signed by the author.  Along with the book, Powells packages your read with some other goodies that have some connection with the book (even if that connection is not super clear to the reader).  For example, the last book I got -- Orfeo by Richard Powers -- came with some super cool "Hot Chocolate on a Stick" and some yummy popcorn.  The character in the book, Peter, eats a few times so maybe that is the connection?  No fears, though -- both of these treats were delicious (and long gone).

The first of the two books that I want to mention came a few months back and I just finished it recently (it spent its first few months in my house living on my bed side table since I was already reading a few other books).  But wow!  What a book!  The book I am talking is The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (and she signed the front page o f my copy in purple ink!).  

You may have heard of this book before -- I think it has won a ton of prizes.  Here is what Powells has to say about it:

This story about a boy named Theo Decker, who loses his mother in an explosion at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, does so many things well, it's hard to know where to begin. Its sprawling Dickensian plot? Its extraordinary cast of characters? Tartt's sublime sentences? Or complex, compelling, heartbreaking Theo at the center of it all? As Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times put it, The Goldfinch is "a novel that pulls together all [Tartt's] remarkable storytelling talents into a rapturous, symphonic whole and reminds the reader of the immersive, stay-up-all-night pleasures of reading."   Tartt's fans old and new will devour it.

I don't want to say too much more about the plot -- so I don't give anything away -- but I was mesmerized by the characters right away.  And once I hit the last 80 pages or so I literally could not put the book down.  It isn't the type of read that I usually get into but it was amazing.  Simply breathtaking and amazing.   I haven't read Tartt's other critically acclaimed books -- The Secret History or The Little Friend -- but I am putting this on my "To DO" list!

We had yesterday off from SWIC (Lincoln's Birthday!) so instead of jumping into revising that chapter I needed to be working on, I slept in (something I don't usually do) and then took a long, leisurely bath in which I finished the book I had been reading until about 2 AM earlier that day -- Orfeo, the book I mentioned at the very beginning of this blog entry.  

This was a book that -- at first -- I had a hard time getting into since the plot has much to do with musical compositions.  But then it hit me -- Powers' main character, Peters Els, is a composer of music much in the same way that I am composing language.   Like I did above, here is the short summary from Powells:

Peter Els, a classical composer who dabbles in microbiology, gets fingered as a bioterrorist and, after a national manhunt is launched, spends the rest of the novel on the lam. He revisits the seminal people and music from his past and contemplates the decisions that shaped his life's work. A gorgeously written, masterfully plotted, deeply moving story of one man's quest to create something genuinely new, Orfeo is both a thrilling read and a deeply satisfying novel of ideas. 

Anyone who is into classical music -- or composing -- is going to latch on to this book right away.  It took me a little longer to connect to the whole thing but the idea is amazing -- Peter Els is using chemistry as a way of composing music.  As someone who is deeply interested in how people "compose," I am so disappointed with myself that it took me a hundred pages or so for me to recognize that what Els is trying to do with chemisty and classical music is what I am trying to do, in some small way, with my dissertation (so does that mean reading this novel equals dissertation work?).  How we compose -- heck, even what we compose -- is a brilliant place to think and write.  

So the lesson here?  Powells is doing a great thing with their Indiespensable project -- I don't think that I would have ever read either of these books on my own.  Sigh ... back to Chapter 6 now!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Dissertation Update

Yikes!  Can it really be a month since my last update?  How in the heck did that happen?  I know that I "dissertate" better when I am blogging and writing here (as opposed to just writing when I am responding to student papers).  So I need to promise myself to make it back "here" more than just once a month!

Well, a lot of folks have been asking me how my best friend -- Ms. Dissertation -- is doing.  For a few months she was doing what she does best -- sitting on my desk doin' nothin'.  But, she is being dragged back to the light kicking and screaming!

About a week ago, I met with my wonderful adviser who always has these fabulous, thoughtful ways of helping me see where my weaknesses are.  Right now we are looking at Chapter 4 (Results) and Chapter 5 (Analysis), the two chapters that (like in any dissertation) are the "meat" of your whole discussion.  We agreed on a deadline of a week to get both chapters done and then we would meet in person again and see where we would go from there.  My greatest hope is to graduate in May so I have to figure out if that is going to happen by the end of this week (Feb 7 is the deadline for applying for graduation).  I should know more this week, hopefully.

I was able to re-tune the Results chapter fairly quickly and have already sent that back.  But ... the big "but" .... is that the Analysis chapter is a harder cookie to chew.  Everything my brilliant adviser said was right on the money -- I have most of the actual analysis there but the order doesn't "work."  As some of you know, I created 8 coding categories, representing 8 levels of cognitive abilities in terms of how student write about racial issues (in other words, I tried to define at least eight ways that students might unconsciously and consciously consider the complicated concept of race).  I don't know what I was thinking the first time that I put this all together but how I laid out the discussion makes no sense at all.  Now I am using the categories themselves as the organizing principle of the whole analysis (which makes way more sense) -- starting from my lowest level of cignitive ability and working myself up to the highest level.

So a few days ago I opened up a whole new Microsoft Word page and started re-plugging in what I had originally written.  And then it hit me!  Holes!  Big ones!

Today -- the first day I have felt a little human since being sick with Bronchitis -- I am now plugging those holes with explanatin that I had overlooked the first time I put this chapter together.  I know that this new version will be better but I am just getting tired of this whole project I guess.

I have the introduction and two of the categories done so far!  But the rest of Sunday afternoon is before me so I am sure that I can get the rest of it completed by tonight so I can send it back to my fabulous adviser so we can see if I am heading in the right direction!