Sunday, May 31, 2009

Every day a new lesson (or two)

Ai! What a day. Today was my first day in the field and I didn't bring
spare batteries. First lesson. I even knew this already and stupidly
hoped the batteries would last. Hope is as effective in the field as
it is a method of birth control.

This afternoon I spent quite a while trying to figure out how to get
online. I can't wait until there's free wireless internet over the
whole world. It's going to be great. In the meantime, I learned that I
chose incorrectly when I selected my GPRS internet provider- the one I
chose does NOT work at Nyota because they don't have coverage here
(they might next month if they finish building the cell tower they
started). They told me it would, but I even knew that the other
provider has better coverage here. I 'saved' about $15 by going with
the unproven provider. Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhh! This left me with two
frustrating options.

1. Try to get online at field station office. This is a bad option
because I can't connect my own computer. They successfully prevented
me from being able to connect even after doing a bit of sleuthing
around their PC to find the settings I need. So, that sucks because I
write emails on my computer while I'm offline and then wait to send
them until I get online. it makes everything much more difficult if I
have to use a different computer.

2. Try to get online with the GPRS provider that DOES have coverage
here. I use that provider for my mobile, but my sim didn't work in
the modem. I think it's too old and not GSM/GPRS enabled. I did a bit
of reading about it online (when I paid to use the field station
computer). So, I went to look for a shop selling a new sim in hopes
that it would work. I bought a sim, bought credit for it, put it in my
phone to add the credit, put the sim in my modem, then tried
repeatedly to connect with my fingers crossed. After several tries it
worked! I am so happy. However, I'm now really paying by the MB (about
35 cents per MB) because I don't know how to subscribe to a plan with
a better deal. I think it would require that I buy credit in an
obscenely large amount that will be impossible to find out here in the

Now I have purchased 5 different sim cards from all but one of the
major mobile providers in Ukenzagapia. One I didn't need and resold to
the anthropologist. One is in Big City with Jon (great idea, Karina).
Three are with me now.

Actually, today's theme might be "lessons re-learned." I was also
getting seriously down on myself while we were in the field today. I
was thoroughly worried about everything- my field assistant's pay
rate, my hypothesis, my decision to do research in Ukenzagapia at all,
my budget, my ability to get anything useful done this summer...
everything. I was hungry. Things haven't been so bad since lunch,
though I do have a lot to think about. Life is always better when I'm
not hungry.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

No hurry in Africa

Things really do happen slowly here. It took an extra day to get to
Nyota because things just take longer. We arrived at Nyota this
evening after a long, lurching bus ride where the windows threatened
to fall out with their rattling and the undercarriage sounded like it
lost a few pieces along the way. I wonder what Click and Clack would
say. Twice about 3/4 of the passengers had to get off and walk a bit
so the bus could go through a particularly treacherous stretch of
road. I'm just thankful I had a seat and that the bus didn't fall
over, nor did my bags fall off.

Shortly after arriving here I met the guys in charge. I introduced
myself, showed them my papers, and they proceeded to welcome me and
tell me there's "no hurry in Africa." They said I can start work
tomorrow if I want but we'll wait to sort out the official stuff (i.e.
money) on Monday, because they are definitely not working on Sunday.
Then they invited me to have a beer and eat some beef with them. Very
manly. So for the next hour or so I sat there with eight men drinking
beer and eating meat. I tried to follow the conversation but only
caught the gist of it a few times. It didn't seem to go so well when I
tried to participate. Maybe I asked too many questions?

Not only do I have to negotiate another culture and another language
(at least part of the time), I have to do it as a woman in a man's
culture. I hope I don't screw this up.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Moving forward

It's been a hell of a year for me so far, in both good and bad ways. I lost my grandmother and, most tragically, my younger sister, on two awful consecutive days in February. I passed my prelims in March. I got married in April. Now here I am halfway around the world in a country where I don't speak the language very well trying to begin my fieldwork. It certainly hasn't been a boring year!

It is with some trepidation that I approach my first field season. I'm at the end of my second year of grad school but haven't collected a single bit of data yet.

It's not that I haven't been making progress- the nature and location of my project just means I haven't been allowed to collect data yet. I've written a handful of successful grant proposals that have made the field work I'm about to do financially possible. I received two fellowships. I've successfully negotiated enough red tape in Ukenzagapia to keep a herd of elephants under wraps. I'm learning the language and the culture here.

Clearly, the next thing for me to do is collect data, but my nagging fear is What if I actually suck at this part of science? What if nothing I've planned works at all? What if my labors this summer don't result in anything publishable? What if my ideas really weren't very good after all? What if I'm actually terrible at collecting and analyzing data and all I can do is write about ideas for great projects but not actually do them?

I'll have to be clever. I'll have to be flexible. I'll have to be willing to do something different if things don't work out as planned. I'll have to do it all without any on-the-ground guidance from advisors or committee members and limited access to scientific literature. Hopefully I'll encounter the odd scientist or sciencey-tourist at Nyota with whom I can discuss things, but for the most part I'm on my own.

Herb's parting words were, "Have a good time, and be flexible. This is a time to remember it is fun to do fieldwork, not fret. Do what can be done."

So, here I go, moving forward into my next stage of research to do what can be done. Before the week is out I'll meet my field assistants, arrive at my field site, and start putting these plans on paper into action. Or perhaps I'll be scrapping them entirely. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

oh my gosh!

I've got everything I need! And I've had it since 10 am this morning and I didn't know it! The final piece of step 3 was sitting in my inbox where I've redirected all emails with attachments. How silly of me not to check there earlier today! Oh my. This is awfully exciting.

Almost done with paperwork!

After a relatively successful morning yesterday, I was totally wiped
out for the rest of the day. I had a headache, generally didn't feel
well, and wasn't able to get much done. I fell asleep early and had a
dream in the wee hours that my sister was alive again and I had
another chance to be her sister. Sadly, I realized I was dreaming
something impossible and woke up from my dream. Thus I started the day
feeling better physically but worse emotionally. It didn't get much
better when Jon and I chatted about our finances.

I went to breakfast trying to be more optimistic but was disheartened
that I hadn't heard from the man who was supposed to call me yesterday
about completing step 4. I left breakfast resigned to the fact that I
probably wouldn't complete step 4 until the end of the week, but I
returned to my room to find a text message on my phone saying step 4
was ready and I should pick it up before 10 am! So I hopped on a bus
and rushed to the office, made it back here within an hour, and step 4
is DONE.

Now I'm only waiting on step 3, and all I CAN do is wait. As soon as
it is ready I can tell my field assistants to meet me in the city, and
then we can go to Nyota!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Cautious optimism

It's just after 10 am on Monday morning and I'm mostly through steps 3 and 4! I brought all the necessary paperwork to an office this morning and the man I spoke with said step 4 would be completed and ready for me to pick up tomorrow morning! Step 3 organization confirmed by email that they have received all of the necessary paperwork and will let me know when it's ready.

This leaves me cautiously optimistic that I may have all the paperwork I need to begin my research by Tuesday or Wednesday. Then I could leave for Nyota!

This morning at breakfast I met an anthropologist who did her dissertation work in Ukenzagapia. She said she expects to accomplish only one thing each day here, and was impressed at how quickly I was able to complete step 2. It feels good to be making progress.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Money madness

I'm the kind of person who can spend far too long planning something
and still fail to do something really obvious.

Before you leave the country, be sure you KNOW THE PIN FOR THE ATM

A week before I left I spent hours- literally 3 or 4 hours- moving our
money around in our 3 checking accounts and 6 savings accounts,
setting up bill payments and automatic transfers to optimally arrange
our finances so that they require as little maintenance and thought as
possible while I'm in Ukenzagapia. I set it up so that I'd use only
our ING checking account for withdrawals here in Ukenzagapia and our
rent and bills would get paid out of the other accounts. I also
brought $1000 cash with me (easier to change than travelers checks and
gets a better rate).

Well, the last time I used the ING debit card was probably a year ago,
and I *thought* I knew the PIN, but all of my guesses so far have been
rejected. This was especially stupid of me since I'd tried it last
month and couldn't guess it then either. So, I've requested a new PIN,
but it's being sent snail mail to Big City. I've got to wait for it to
arrive and for Jon to tell me what it is.

In the meantime, I do have $700 cash left, but I'd like to use as
little of that as possible and keep it for times when I need cash but
can't access an ATM (like this one, I guess). I can also get some
money out of my other checking account but there isn't much in there
(it's only supposed to pay the utility bills).

What's the worst thing you've forgotten for a trip?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Some progress towards field work

After nine separate visits to the same office on four different days,
I have completed step 2- just in time for the weekend. Next week I
have to do steps 3 and 4. I think the earliest that I can leave for my
field site is Wednesday. Bummer.

I have absolutely no weekend plans that don't involve my computer or a
book. I'm not terribly motivated to go on a day trip by myself and I
really do have a lot to do so unless something more exciting presents
itself I'll be at the hostel or internet cafes all weekend working and

One thing I plan to do this weekend is write for the June Scientiae
carnival. I haven't written for Scientiae in ages, and I think the
last time I did my submission didn't make it into the carnival. June's
theme is Moving Forward. I can definitely write about that.

Speaking of blogs and blogging, another goal this weekend it to catch
up on blogs for the first time in months (like, since before
Christmas). The list of blogs I read while I'm here in Ukenzagapia is
getting cut because I'm exclusively using a feed reader. If it's not
in the feed, I'm not going to use the bandwidth for the rest of it
unless it's really compelling. Pictures also don't work so well
offline, which certainly makes Dr. Isis's blog less enjoyable. Also,
I'm less likely to comment on other blogs. I've hardly done this
anyways the past few months (which is partly why I think there are so
few comments here), but if you've ever commented on my blog there's a
pretty good chance you're in my feed reader.

I've finally abandoned Safari for RSS feeds (it's really sucking for a
lot of things now) and moved to using NetNewsWire. Does anyone out
there have other suggestions for standalone applications for reading
feeds offline? I'm not sold on this program yet but it's what Jon uses.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The runaround

*sigh* I have no idea yet when I'll be able to leave the city, head
for Nyota, and begin field work. The best case scenario is probably
Sunday. I sailed through step 1 without problems but there are 4 more
steps that must happen before I can begin my research. I'm part way
through step 2 and step 3 simultaneously, but 3 can't be done before 2
is finished. There's a slim possibility that step 2 will be finished
tomorrow, but Friday is more likely :-(

If step 2 doesn't finish until Friday, then I'll have to stay at least
until Tuesday or Wednesday because steps 3 and 4 can only happen on a
business day. GAH!

I knew this might happen. Sam mentally prepared for it last year. At
least the hostel where I'm staying it relatively convenient to do all
of this running around.

I've got plenty to do while I wait. Today I started private language
tutoring classes for 1-2 hours every weekday until I leave the city. I
also have lots of reading and writing to do. I STILL haven't submitted
the grant that my prelim proposal was written for. I very much
intended to finish it before I left but everything took longer than I
thought it would. That seems to be a theme for me these days. I
suppose I should start being exceedingly pessimistic in my estimates.

I may have also underestimated my internet needs. Yesterday I got my
3G USB modem working and signed up for 500 MB per month. My plan was
to use it for small things in the city but go to internet cafes for
sending or receiving large attachments. But, connecting my own laptop
at an internet cafe can be far more difficult (or expensive) than you
expect. The transfer rate can also be agonizingly slow. I tried to
send an attachment to Leo tonight and it failed to finish before the
cafe closed so I ended up sending it over 3G anyways. That combined
with checking my bank account online and sending & receiving a few
other emails used 8.5 MB in only 20 minutes. And really, I need to
reserve most of the volume for when I'm at Nyota with few other
internet options. Maybe I should sign up for an unlimited 3G plan with
another provider while I'm in the city and save the remaining 16 MB/
day for Nyota. If I have to be here for another week it may be worth it.

Somewhat unexpectedly, I haven't made any traveling friends yet. This
is probably a record for my longest time traveling alone (I wrote
about traveling alone last year). I haven't yet walked out of this
hostel to go anywhere with anyone else this year. Thankfully, I also
seem to attract fewer guys who want to be my friend and talk my ear
off so walking alone isn't so bad. I did run into some Canadians who I
met when I stayed here last year, but I've only really seen them at
meals at the hostel. It's kind of lonely. It sure was awesome to have
Helen around last year. I could really use someone to talk about my
research with.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

GRF awards are all out and rating sheets are up!

I was notified on April 10 that I received a Graduate Research
Fellowship from NSF. They announced 950 awards and sent out many
rejection letters at that time as well. However, the NSF budget was
uncertain and they were not sure how many additional awards could be
offered. More than 2000 people have been waiting in limbo since that
date, knowing that they would either receive an Honorable Mention, or
an award. I'm sorry for those of you out there who were in this
uncertain situation.

NSF said that rating sheets for all applicants would not be available
until all awards had been made, so I finally received an email this
morning stating that my rating sheets were up. I checked the award
lists for other people I know and to see how many additional awards
were made.

950 first-round awards
286 second-round awards
(1236 total awards)
1785 Honorable Mentions

I have no idea how many people applied. The competition sure is steep.
But, there's good news for those of you who can apply again next year.
According to the American Institute of Biological Sciences:

"The [proposed FY2010] NSF budget would increase funding for graduate
research fellowships from 1200 to 1600, with a goal of awarding 3000
fellowships per year by 2013."

That's a big difference. I suppose it's still just the proposed
budget, but those numbers are encouraging.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Internet strategies

I'm quite proud of what I got accomplished today. First thing after breakfast I went to get my permits and I was back at the hostel by 10 am! Long time readers may recall that I did not get permits when I was here last year. Thankfully I did not run into any complications- yet- this year.

It is great to have my permit. However, there are still three or four more bureaucratic steps (hoops?) that I must go through before I can actually go to my field site and begin research. Today I made significant progress on two of those steps, which involved photographs, printing, photocopying, and faxing. Tomorrow morning I hope to have a better idea of when I'll be able to head for Nyota (my field site).

Last year I made a fast friend, Helen, at the hostel. She and I would go sit in the lobby of a swanky hotel and nurse very expensive sodas in exchange for their free wireless. Well, I guess they decided they had too many backpackers in the lobby bringing down the class average, or too many of us were cheapskates. Either way, they now charge $20 per day. I found a different hotel I can't afford to stay at that only charges $10 per day, so that where I am now trying to make the most of my 24 hours.

Yesterday I wrote several emails (including a few blog posts) and sent them all when I got online today. It's really satisfying to do that.

Soon I need to figure out how to get online with the 3G USB modem I bought. I'll use it to check email when I'm at my field site, but the prices can be quite high so I need to be careful of my usage. Typical plans are in the range of 10 MB to 1 GB per month (uploads and downloads combined). Per MB charges range from about 2 cents to 30 cents, depending on the plan. In preparation for my switch to volume-based internet useage, I downloaded SurplusMeter. Clearly from my usage so far, things like large email attachments and podcast downloads will be out of the question on the USB modem. I'm stocking up on podcasts right now at the hotel while I have this fast and already paid-for internet connection.

That reminds me that I should be searching for literature right now because pdfs start to add up in the MBs as well. Better stop blogging and start working.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

general craziness, and apparently I should keep a blog

On Wednesday night, Jon and I hosted a visiting scientist who my
interdisciplinary cohort asked to help us with our project. He was
already coming in for another event so he came out a day early to meet
with us. I, feeling bad about missing the event this weekend related
to our project, volunteered to host him. It worked out fine and he is
a great person, but it certainly didn't make the week any less

I spent most of Thursday meeting with my interdisciplinary group and
the visiting scientist. Our project is really coming together in an
exciting way and I'm sad to be missing a big chunk of the field work
this summer. There's plenty that I can do from afar, but it will be
harder. I've really got to make time and space for myself to think
about that project in addition to what I'll have going on in

My interdisciplinary cohort is going to have some kind of blog about
our project. I explained how Google Analytics works, mentioning that
Jon and I had a blog while we traveled in RFC, and my cohort was like,
"You should totally keep a blog this summer in Ukenzagapia!" Ummm...
Yeah. I guess I should. I gave a somewhat hesitant non-committal
response. So, should I have a real research blog where I talk for real
and non-anonymously about what I do? In addition to this one which I
have no intention of giving up? What do you think?

home sweet hostel home

Well, here I am now in my hostel room sitting under my mosquito net
with the faint smell of burning plastic bags lingering in the air. My
flight was delayed over an hour, but the Ph.D. student who met me at
the airport was thankfully patient, kind and helpful. First we had to
go drop off my equipment at the university for safekeeping so I have
less to worry about at the hostel. Then he drove me here to the
hostel. I'm so glad that I didn't have to hire a taxi to run me around
at midnight.

I was really stressed out yesterday about this hostel reservation. I
emailed them earlier this week to reserve a single, but I didn't hear
back. Then I tried to call yesterday before I left, but the man I
spoke to said I had to call back on Saturday morning. So I called
right after I landed in Europe during my layover (once I figured out
which phone to use), and I was told to call back after 10 am. Finally
I spoke to a woman and reserved a double room (singles were booked)
and informed her that I'd be coming in late. Whew. Here I am after 24+
hours of travel time.

I think I've only slept about 1-2 hours since Friday morning. I'm
planning to sleep tomorrow until whenever I wake up on my own (or by
the noises outside). Then first thing tomorrow I need to buy a sim
card for my phone and some bottled water.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

one day more

All week I've been kicking myself for choosing my Friday departure. I really wish I had picked Sunday or even Saturday for my departure because of two events that I'm missing. One is an event that the rest of my interdisciplinary cohort is participating in, and the other is a SFC alumni event about Ukenzagapia.

I knew about both of these events well before booking my tickets, but I was concerned about letting these "less important" events delay my field work. In hindsight, two days is not a big deal and I think I'm missing out on some important networking by missing these events. In the case of the first event, my cohort is going to get up to speed on the methods for our project while I'm flying around and sitting in airports.

The SFC event is important for a different reason. In short, the reason I came to grad school was so that I could some day lead foreign study programs as a professor at some other Small Friendly College. I need to make my potential availability as a program assistant for SFC known, and this event would've been the perfect opportunity for that. I thought it would be lame to delay my departure by a day so that I could go to an event about Ukenzagapia, but that was silly.

Really though, there's no use crying over spilt milk and I'm trying hard not to fret about the things that are beyond my control to change (or not worth the $250 change fee). And besides, at the time of writing I'm already halfway there.

30 pounds

Jon helped me pack on Thursday night in record time. I most of my
stuff generally gathered, but not packed at all. We packed it all up
in two bags plus my carry on, only to weigh them and discover that my
"research" bag weighed a whopping 80 pounds-- 30 pounds more than
allowed. Yikes.

I immediately took out 20 pounds of books and eliminated another 10 by
reducing the quantity of things like marking flags (all those metal
flag sticks get heavy!). This means that Jon will be bringing a lot
more stuff that we'd originally planned. I thought he'd only have the
few last-minute purchases but now he'll probably have close to 50
pounds of equipment and books too.

I'm currently waiting to board my flight to Ukenzagapia at a nice
European airport. More posts in the pipeline.

Friday, May 15, 2009

here I go!

I'm just about to leave for the airport. Expect a lot of updates/backposting once I get to Ukenzagapia. Ready or not, here I go!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

gear and packing

Today I received four boxes of last-minute equipment. I'm just waiting on one more shipment to arrive before I leave on Friday. My fingers are crossed that it arrives tomorrow.

It turns out that I was unnecessarily pessimistic yesterday about the equipment I thought I wouldn't be able to get. I called another company that can get it in a month so I placed the order today. Jon will bring that equipment when he comes in June. I'll be able to test it out after all!

The downside of ordering the additional equipment is paying for it. Sam is effectively loaning me grant money which I will repay him with future grant money by purchasing some of the equipment, but the rest is coming out of my budget. Eek. More on budgeting later.

Packing? I still haven't really started. I have a pile of stuff in the corner of our room and I brought home most of the stuff from my office. Jon is going to help me pack tomorrow night. He's much more efficient than I am because I'd sit there for 10 minutes pondering something like how many cases to bring for my contact lenses and which bags to pack them in.

Half of tomorrow is wrapped up in meetings with a visiting scientist who Jon and I are hosting tonight. Maybe more on that later. The rest of tomorrow is running errands, packing, and spending quality time with Jon.

packing, logistics, and insurance

This trip requires a bit more logistical legwork than my scouting trip required last year.

First of all, I'm bringing a lot more stuff. Last year I think I only had 45 pounds total, and I think this year I might have 45 pounds of books and paper alone. I really have no idea yet since I'm still waiting on some of my equipment.

Bringing all of this equipment isn't without risk. I contacted the insurance agent who handles our renters insurance policy and I was able to add everything except my computer. I can't insure my computer under our renters insurance because it technically belongs to UBC. Everything else, as long as it is 'mine' (no matter which grant funds were used to purchase it), are covered.

I also just bought travel health insurance for myself and Jon. My student health insurance would pay to evacuate me but does not cover any out-of-country medical expenses. Better safe than sorry. I used Multinational Underwriters for both of us. Their application process was simple and it was recommended by someone in Chip's lab who had the misfortune to have to use her travel insurance a few years ago.

Thankfully, I'm not going to have to handle all of this equipment alone. Someone from the local university will meet me at the airport so that I can drop off most of the equipment there in a safe place. I'll have to spend at least a few days in the city to get my paperwork sorted, and then my two local field assistants will come meet me in the city to help me get everything out to my field site. It will be such a relief to have them with me while I travel with all the equipment.

Two days until I leave. Tonight Jon and I are hosting a visiting scientist and tomorrow my interdisciplinary cohort is meeting with him all day. I'd better get a move on.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

procrastinator's punishment

Crap. I waited too long. This was really dumb of me. I've been delaying purchases of most of my equipment and supplies while I tried to sort out how to pay for everything. Most of these things will arrive on Wednesday and Thursday this week. I leave on Friday. Eek! Jon will bring with him in June whatever doesn't come by Friday. But for one thing I've really screwed myself over. They need 8 weeks lead time, and I've only got 4 weeks until Jon leaves. Crap. I don't think we can trust this equipment in the mail to Ukenzagapia, so I'm not sure what to do. There's a possibility that someone else may be able to bring it to Ukenzagapia later in the summer but at that point it may not be worth it anymore. Why did I wait so long?

On the bright side, this equipment isn't essential to the first part of my project. This equipment was just going to be used to pilot a newish method to work out the kinks before I really invest in it. I told Sam I wasn't even going to worry about testing this particular aspect this summer but he urged me to go for it so that the Ukenzagapian students would be able to start working with the equipment too. Crap. Now I've got to tell him it's a no-go (or a seriously provisional go), and he intimidates me over email. Blah.

Monday, May 11, 2009

backup plan

I thought I'd share my plan for backing up my computer and important data. This is really critical since I'll be traveling and collecting my first real data this summer.

Right after I started grad school I wrote a post with the same title. My backup plan has become more sophisticated since then. I still have my 1 GB flash drive.

My computer is a 320 GB aluminum MacBook. A few months ago I purchased a 320 GB iomega eGo external USB hard drive. This hard drive has stayed exclusively at school (less likely to burn down). I'll bring this hard drive with me so that I can continue to back up my computer competely while I'm in Ukenzagapia. I need serious backup capabilities because I'll be working with some memory-intensive data.

While in Ukenzagapia, I'll back up my computer each night and store the portable hard drive in a separate place from my computer. Ideally both of these places will be protected by lock and key. When I carry my computer with me to an internet cafe, I will not bring my external drive in case I am robbed.

Just in case a thief strikes and takes everything, I will frequently back up the very most important data on an 8 GB flash drive and carry it with me when I am away from my computer (e.g. when I'm in the field). I'll also bring my 1 GB flash drive for the same purpose.

Jon is coming to visit for a month in the middle. When he leaves, I may send back data all of the data collected so far in multiple formats (CDs, on his computer).

I also purchased a 500 GB desktop hard drive to keep at school since I'm bringing the other to Ukenzagapia. My entire computer will be backed up to this drive before I leave.

Jon purchased an identical hard drive that he will keep at home to back up his computer. I'll back up my computer to that drive as well before I leave.

This way, my data will be able to survive:

-a fire at my office
-a fire at my apartment
-theft or destruction of my computer
-theft or destruction of my portable hard drive
-theft or destruction of my flash drive long as not all of them happen. I think it's a pretty good plan.

Monday, May 4, 2009

in for the night

I'm in for the night. In my office, that is. I'm not going home until I finish this paper, so I'm prepared to spend the night on the comfy couch in my office.

I'm about 2 pages into my 10 page paper. I don't think I've procrastinated this much on a paper this big since college. I'm out of procrastination practice, I guess. I used to write 2 day papers or pull nearly all-nighters all the time in high school and college. I'm glad that I don't do this much anymore. This is my last paper of the semester, grant proposals aside. I just want to be done with it already so that I can finish doing all of the preparations for Ukezagapia.

I can think of a few reasons that I may be procrastinating more on this paper than others I've written in grad school. Let's explore them while I procrastinate writing my paper by writing about not writing my paper.
  1. The expectations and format are vague. The instructions were largely "Write a concise 10-page double-spaced paper about a method new-to-you that can be applied to your research."
  2. I'm outside of my comfort zone. I'm writing about a method with which I have little experience. This is my second time this semester writing a paper like this. The first one was even further outside of my comfort zone, but I planned better for that one and didn't procrastinate as much.
  3. We just finished learning about this method in class on Friday, so I was waiting to start my paper until after that class. Obviously, in hindsight, this was a bad idea.
  4. Compared to writing a grant proposal or finishing the 1000 things I need to do before I go to Ukenzagapia, this paper just is not that important. Time consuming? Yes. Critical to the success of my research? No.
I think this is one of those times when it's important to know what is "good enough." This paper just needs to be good enough for me to get an A in this class, which shouldn't be too difficult. I can't spend hours agonizing over small details or obscure references. I just need to do it so I can get on with everything else that is more important.

Here I go.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

out of practice

Wow, I have hardly blogged at all in the past month! April 2009 was my lightest blogging month practically since I started grad school. I guess I've fallen out of the habit. It hasn't helped that I've had a bunch of personal things (like a wedding) taking up time and energy. There are a few things from March and April that I still want to blog about, but I just haven't been inspired.

I've probably lost all of my new readers. Whoops. Maybe this was a bad month to be MIA in the blog world. My feed reader is back up to 1000+ unread blog posts. I'm hoping to catch up in Ukenzagapia. I'll be working hard, but I also won't have many distractions in the evenings.

Speaking of distractions, I should wrap this up because Jon and I are going to play a game of Agricola so I can procrastinate on all the important things I have to do.*

*I.e. write a 10 page paper due on Tuesday that I haven't started yet. Yay...