23 June 2010

Be A Duckie

No, not from Pretty in Pink. He's cooler than me, and more popular.

I'm halfway through a third chapter of the dissertation. I started in the middle with my case study analysis chapters, since I have a rough 20 pages of methods/methodologies/lit review and a rough page and a half (hey, it's a start) of implications. I'm right at 90 pages in. I've done that in about three weeks, and I feel pretty good about the pace. It's challenging without being overly ambitious or demanding. I still have plenty of me time for reading, puttering, exercising, and, these past two weeks, feeling like crap while on these antibiotics.

Which leads me to my second point: an equation for exhaustion

(1,000 mg of Biaxin and 2,000 mg of Amoxicillin a day for the H. Pylori + 100 degree heat index) trying to run high-intensity intervals 2 days/week + trying to run one distance run 1 day/week + trying to bike 2 days/week + strength training 2 days/week + stretching or yoga 2 days/week = a very run-down and generally poor feeling me.

I'm taking the rest of the week off from working out. I feel less than zero.

So then I started to panic yesterday when I felt like I wasn't getting enough done. I had to dialogue with myself about the true benefit of worry and panic (there isn't any) and about how if I panic at every little setback, it's going to be a long, slow, torturous process.

This week: I gotta be a duckie. Let it all roll off my back.

Quack, y'all.

20 June 2010

AciPhex, Five-Hour Energy, and a Cautionary Tale

Two years ago, I had a stomachache. It never went away. I cut out coffee and Diet Coke and stopped drinking those massive 24-ounce energy drinks (with war planes on the side, no less). I popped acid reducers and proton pump inhibitors, and it got better.

Last summer, I used too much Five-Hour Energy. I know it goes without saying that any pseudo-drug purchased from a basket beside a gas station cash register can't be good for you. I was tired, though, working too much, and needed the burst of "clean energy." Turns out Niacin--the cause of that nice flush it gives you--eats away at your insides. Doctors nationwide are up in arms about its use.

So the little stomachache turned out to be a big stomachache, and some nasty things went on inside me. I cut out the caffeine, tomatoes, onions, and chocolate, and again I invested in Famitodine and Omeprazole. The discomfort was notable but controlled. I've always had a higher than average tolerance for physical discomfort, though. That's why I let things go.

Fast forward to this summer. More aches in the stomach. Still not drinking coffee or soda. No Ibuprofen. No tomatoes or onions. Some chocolate. I mean, I'm human. But then I slipped and took a Motrin.

And it hit HARD.

I tested positive for H. Pylori, a bacteria that can withstand stomach acid. Essentially, I may have had an infection in my stomach for the last two years. I started on AciPhex, 20 mg twice a day.

Most people don't have side effects, but I did: insomnia, shortness of breath, dizziness, fuzzy-headedness, numbness through my hands and feet, confusion. Luckily, I ran out of AciPhex and started back on the Omeprazole yesterday. Within a day, the side effects have stopped. I feel better than I have felt in a week. I think I was allergic to the medicine.

This post is a cautionary tale: Five-Hour Energy will erode your stomach lining and cause the overproduction of acid, necessitating an acid reducer. AciPhex, an acid reducer, will make it so you can't breathe.

The point: Be good to your body. Treat it well. Nourish it with good food, water, good sleep, and laughter. Don't take gas station uppers to stay awake. Don't drink pots of coffee to feel better. Preachy, preachy, yes, I know. But the last two years of my stupid stomach issue may have been prevented, or lessened, if I hadn't used such harsh products. I'd rather do less work stuff and more family stuff and be a relaxed person and not be sick all the time or artificially wired. (I do want to say that I love the taste and smell of coffee, so not being able to drink a cup a day is really hard for me. I'm mourning that little ritual.)

****Disclaimer: No one knows what causes H. Pylori. I may have ended up with the infection anyway, even without the caffeine, but two thirds of Americans have the bacteria in their stomachs with no symptoms. The heavy use of Niacin and too much caffeine--up to 24 ounces of coffee A DAY--definitely created an environment where bad things could happen.***

18 June 2010

My Letter to Race Day

**without a few errors I caught AFTER sending. I hate that**

Dear Martin:

I know Jay Nevans forwarded you my complaint regarding Kevin Mahan. I wanted to follow up to give that complaint a little context. My complaints about Kevin's work didn't begin last Sunday. The lack of notification about the Ijams date change is a logistical mistake that could have been made by anyone organizing such an event. That mistake in isolation is forgivable and forgettable. However, his involvement in the trail running events in our area is, I believe, one of the major reasons these races continue to be so poorly attended.

I first met Kevin at the Panther Creek Xterra Tri last August. He was late arriving with the timing chips. As athletes warmed up, organized their gear, and hit the restrooms, he asked everyone to get in numerical order so he could distribute the chips quickly. He was more than rude. It was obvious that this emergency was created by his lateness and those people paying to attend had to accommodate it. We waited in line, and many many people complained about the lack of organization and professionalism.

My second encounter with Kevin was by email. A race had been canceled, I can't recall which one, and I had emailed to ask about it. His response was something along the lines of, "Only 40 people signed up, and it's not worth our time to set up." This response gave me a very bad impression of the attitudes held by RaceDay Events.

My third encounter with Kevin was at the Concord 4.5 mile trail run this year. It was my first real "race," so I was excited. After I finished, I stood by the line to cheer on the other racers. As the last finisher came down the incline and toward the arch, he started announcing, through the PA system: "Here's our last runner and our oldest runner! Way to go, [whatever her name was]. After our last runner finishes, we'll get on to the prizes. Here comes our last runner, and she's also the oldest." I was mortified for that woman, as were a number of racers around me. We talked about how tasteless it was for Kevin to draw so much attention to a racer who was obviously struggling to finish, but who should be proud of it nonetheless. I hoped to never finish last at a Montrail Race so that Kevin wouldn't humiliate me.

At my fourth encounter with Kevin, I was that dead-last racer. It was the Montrail 10K at Panther Creek. I have severe asthma, so I struggle to finish some races. My husband, who finished 7 minutes ahead of me, jogged backwards on the trail to see me to the finish (with the rescue inhaler). As we rounded the last turn and came towards the arch, Kevin started in with the announcing over the PA: Here's our last racer! Just run towards the arch so we can get on with giving out prizes! As proud as I am of that finish--it was a PR for me--all I can remember is one other racer apologizing to me for Kevin's behavior. No one was particularly impressed with his attitude.

So you can see that this last problem with the lack of notification is really quite small compared to the other issues I've had with Kevin Mahan. Besides the consistently incorrect dates (between the KTC site and RaceDay, it seems like there's always a contradiction, and the KTC people I've spoken with always point to RaceDay as the cause), there are logistical problems like access to bathrooms. I'm also involved in a lot of event planning through my job, so I understand that it's tough to line up venues and restrooms (which he does NOT do a good job of doing). I'm also not so thin-skinned that a few embarrassing moments would ruin my entire season. However, I've raced in other places, with other organizations, and the attitudes of the race directors are totally different. They're professional, prompt, informative, and supportive. With a sport that could attract beginners as well as experts, Kevin might be best served sticking to the script and talking only when it's necessary. Laura at RiverSports does a fantastic job of working these races, so my inclination would be to give her all the speaking parts.

I do plan to race the Hastie Park race since the park is literally a mile from my house. I'm concerned that Kevin hasn't properly vetted this location, since there's parking for maybe 10 cars, if you squeeze, and it's plopped in the middle of a neighborhood. There isn't overflow parking. There are no facilities. There's a picnic table and a gravel lot. There is one poorly maintained porta-potty that the neighborhood kids take turns vandalizing. The road in and out is a single lane, rutted out in places. I was shocked that there's an organized event there, since when I go to train, even four or five cars fill up the parking lot. I sense that this race is doomed to fail on a number of levels.

Thanks for listening. I did want to touch base in case the forward from Jay seemed overly sensitive or outrageous. Maybe now you can see why I have such an issue with the way these Montrail races are conducted. Kevin's last two emails regarding the Ijams race, and the pro forma "apology" sent out earlier this week, is a clear case of too little, too late.

Feel free to contact me by phone at 865-207-XXXX or by email, casie@utk.edu.

Thanks very much,

Casie Fedukovich

Graduate Teaching Associate
Department of English
Division of Rhetoric, Writing, and Linguistics
310 McClung Tower

17 June 2010

Working the Dissertation

First, I owe the idea for that title from a recent CE article by Bruce Horner and Min-Zhan Lu, "Working Rhetoric and Composition."

It seems like I've always worked. When I was 12, 13 I started babysitting fairly regularly. (A shock, I know, to those of you who know my facility with younger humans.) On my 15th birthday, I went to the courthouse and applied for a work permit, a document that certifies to companies that they can hire you even though you're under the age of 16, the minimum age for corporatized employment. My first job was at Dairy Queen, and it was awful. I lasted two weeks, not because of the job but because of the manager, a nasty old woman (named Lorene, I'll never forget it) who would pinch the fat on the back of my arm and twist it HARD when I made a mistake.

I thought this was how all work was done. My dad would get up at 4 a.m. every morning to work on bulldozers. He'd come home after dark, greasy from climbing into the engine compartments of earthmovers, bathe, eat dinner, watch a little TV (if it wasn't too late), and get up the next morning to do it over again. I thought this was how all work was done. It took a lot of time, a lot of effort, and you had to be tired at the end of the day.

I stuck out my next job for close to four years. All of the urban myths about McDonalds are true. It's as dirty as you think. That job sustained me through high school, though looking back, the pace was brutal: I'd get to school by 7:30 a.m., leave around 3:30, work from 4 to close, around midnight, do the closing procedures (lots of cleaning, emptying of trash), and get home around 1:30 or 2:00. I did that most of the week and every weekend. I can see now why I was obese, exhausted, and sick most of the time. I ate the food at McDs most every night for dinner, and on weekends, it made up my daily meals. Saturdays meant biscuits and birthday parties. I'd open at 4:30 a.m., work until 11:00, and do McDonaldland parties until 4 or 5. When I got home, my legs were so tired that I couldn't sleep. Lots of twitching, but that may have been from too many games of Stack the Mac Boxes. Again, as much fun as it sounds. Sundays were buffet day. At that time, McDs offered a breakfast buffet, all you can eat for $3 or something like that. And my store was located off of I-77, so Sundays meant NasCAR traffic. You can guess how busy that was.

Other jobs came along, and I was able to quit the McDs grind. In college I tutored and worked in radio. Sketchy remotes felt almost like a vacation next to making fries all day and dealing with customers like one guy who, no kidding, pulled a gun on me because I gave him his ketchup packs in a disrespectful manner. I worked full time through college, piecing together 40 hours or so a week between 2 or 3 jobs at a time. It never occurred to me that people didn't take 20 hours of classes and work full time. It never occurred to me that it was odd to be so. damned. tired.

Some retail here. Some more radio there. And I moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where I had my first real 9-to-5. I loved it. I could get to the office at a reasonable time. I could leave at a reasonable time. I SLEPT A FULL 8 HOURS FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER. It was amazing.

Now there's graduate school, which is a busy job, sure. But it's not hauling boxes of fries to the front of the store or ending up at some Woodchuck Festival in Nowhere, West Virginia, to do a radio remote. There are no grease burns. There are no abusive managers. It's just me and my time and my work. MY work. I think that's the difference.

I wanted this blog to start to parse out the iterations of labor I'm sensing throughout this process. The diss is about work. I'm working on the diss. My work now is different from other kinds of work I've done, but I still can't get away from that notion that 40 hours a week is what it takes to claim that I'm honest-to-God working. I guess what I'm getting at is that I am so, so, so grateful to have only this project to work on. My evenings I spend working out (a different kind of work, I guess) and straightening up and generally being a human being.

15 June 2010

Plan Your Work. Work Your Plan.

I'm a sometimes-planner. I like planning ahead when it takes a few minutes, requires minimal interaction, and few tools. However, when the planning drags on--like pricing hotel rooms or flights or researching things to do--I get impatient, frustrated, worn out. I'm over it before it even begins.

My theme for this diss is elegance. I'm working to streamline my plan so that I can focus on the writing, not the execution of writing. I've found that a few things work for me:

1. Planning something not-very-involved-yet-astonishingly-fun every single Saturday and/or Sunday. I work harder when I have a goal. This weekend, that goal is tent camping.
2. Having a day-to-day tasklist and holding to it. Some days, the tasks are lighter. Others, I work 5-8 hours in order to crank out 10 measly pages. It evens out.
3. Take breaks. I can't say enough about how important a 10-minute Kashi-bar-and-stretch-break has been to my plan.
4. Do other things that I can feel accomplished doing. Like helping plan a conference for June 30th and reconditioning our house. It helps me to have lots of things going on but still maintain big chunks of time.
5. Keep up with my working out, my eating plan, and my time OFF. Time relaxing is time invested.

Here's my weekly plan. I take liberties with it here and there:
Monday: Data coding. Move chunks of data into domains using either in-vivo codes or sociologically constructed codes (SCCs). My themes are articulations of class, connection to the land, being of use, and pedagogies. It's working so far. I'm a slow starter after the weekend, and this step lets me go slow and work without frenzy.
Tuesday: Begin writing by starting with an ethnopoem. This step gets me back into the spirit and overarching feel of the participant's transcript and narrative. Start writing the chapter into those four domains. Work towards 10 pages.
Wednesday: Write in the domains. Work towards 10 pages.
Thursday: Write in the domains. Work towards 10 pages.
Friday: Finish chapter (rough! It's very rough at this point) and flow the next case study transcripts--three of them--into one file, number the lines, prep for Monday's block-and-file coding.

It's a reasonable plan that puts me at finishing by the end of August.

What's your writing plan? Any suggestions?
That's it. I use Saturday and Sunday to reload, recharge, and work on other things.

11 June 2010

I have a sneaking suspicion

that none of what I'm writing makes sense.

One chapter done. 9 to go. It's a big diss.

10 June 2010

Without hobbies, I'd go crazy

My hobbies are driving me crazy.

What's been interesting for me to watch--and experience for myself--is how doctoral candidates in the diss phase tend to take up hobbies as a distraction from/alternative to spending time on the dissertation. I've had friends take up gourmet cooking, pastry chefing, yoga instructing, oil painting, knitting, gardening, belly dancing, and about a gazillion other productive time-investment sorts of activities.

I like having a few hobbies to help distract me in productive ways from the overly aggressive timeline I have to keep to finish the diss by August/September. While I grew up fat and sedentary (okay, obese and comatose is maybe a better way to describe it), I've found an adult-onset athlete inside in the last few years. I love to run in the woods--very, very slowly--but I get so much satisfaction from an hour out there. It's both a mental and physical break from the time I spend slumped over a keyboard worrying if I'm thinking smart or original or--God help me--marketable thoughts. I also like riding my bikes, off and on road (mostly off, since traffic scares me). I like shopping for new bike stuff. I like saving up for running gadgets and browsing clearance racks for tights or tanks or whatever. And I know that the time I spend in my hobby isn't time burned, but time invested, since this time gives me a healthy reprieve from writing. (I cannot unwind by watching a movie or TV. I just don't have the attention span for it. And games bore me.) The individual act of running or biking forces me to be in the present, forces me to compete only with myself, like Sharon Olds writes, for my own best time. Considering how much time we spend thinking about projects that could potentially spool into years, it's nice to have a task that can be completed in an hour, one that I can touch and experience fully without fear of evaluation.

Oh, but evaluation: I've started entering local races. And I've come in last. While that fact alone wouldn't bother me, it does because of the kinds of people who enter these races. The races are not, in the case of the Montrail Series I've been doing, particularly beginner friendly. At the last Montrail race I entered--a 10K at Panther Creek State Park--40 people ran. I would consider 20 of them elite, 15 very good, 3 or 4 intermediate, and then me and one other woman who entered on a whim and finished a minute ahead of me. So it's not even like I made everyone wait 20 minutes while I poked to the finish, but still, most the crowd was NOT friendly about it. The idiot race director, who I'll call K., started announcing, on my last quarter mile, "Oh look, it's our last racer. Just run through the arch, sweetheart, right HERE." (This is where he pointed to the 20-foot-tall inflatable arch maybe 200 yards in front of me. Yes, K., I see it. Thanks.) "Come on, last runner! Okay everyone, wait just a few more moments while our LAST runner crosses. Then we can get to the prizes! Don't forget to run through the arch so we can get your time!"

You get it. K's an idiot. I felt like an idiot.

So, I love the act, I hate most of the people involved. It's the same 20 people entering these races every time, and with the way [a now unnamed race director] mismanages the races, they're sure to stay small and very local and not-beginner-friendly. But this navigation of shame and fear and self-doubt is no doubt preparing me for my future, but in the present, it rankles me in the worst way.

What about you guys? Any diss-distraction hobbies? What successes or failures?

09 June 2010

Outta Sight

But not in a good way.

I haven't blogged since November. Two things have happened: 1) my initial idea failed, which was sad but good practice, and I'd like to revisit it later on a less aggressive timeline; and 2) I had to rewind, rebreathe, repropose.

Back. On. Track. But with a shorter timeline.

I thought keeping a reflective journal would help with my dissertation process, but there are all kinds of limitations on confidentiality, personal privacy, and analytic process. Because of all that, I'm changing the focus of this blog a little. I'll still write about my diss process, if only to absolve myself of guilt on those days where I'm less productive and also to (**fingers crossed**) keep myself on track. But I'll also sway into territories as yet untouched. You know, non-diss life. Some things that are going on now, for all of the two people in the world who read this thing:
1. I am in the intital stages of writing my dissertation. It's qualitative, so it takes a long time, since I not only had to generate the primary data, but then I had to (have to) code it and then work into interpretation. Now it's a series of biographical case studies. Goodbye, narrative. Maybe we'll meet again soon.
2. I'm running and biking a lot. I'm competing more, not to win, but because it scares me. I'm on a quest to ID fear and overcome it. Which leads me to
3. I'm on the job market in January. I'm excited. I should buy a black suit, I guess.