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Lately I have been having blogger’s block. Things have been in great flux in my RL so I have had little energy to post here.

I started this blog to explore the idea of writing for pleasure and to join the interesting conversations happening in the blogosphere. Unlike many serious bloggers, I didn’t think much about my audience or try to limit my posts. I really enjoy this video blog post from Nancy White that describes her thoughts on blogging. Speaking of blogs in terms of candles or mirrors really works for me. This blog has been a mirror that I have used to explore my own thoughts and interests. I have sometimes been surprised by what topics get me jazzed.

It’s also a great place to complain about things that are bothering me. I tend to get wrapped up in my work and the difficulties of day to day life and grad school can be isolating and stressful. (Big news!) When I started writing I figured most of my posts would have to do with academia and the frustrations involved, but I’m finding that I have less and less interest in posting on university life (other than the occasion post complaining about having to grade papers.)

The main thing I would like to post about is the recent progress I have been making on my thesis. I’m very excited because I have been able finally identify a topic with a limited, do-able scope and identified a location and found a group already working in the community. Unfortunately, the type of work involved is distinctive enough I don’t think I’ll be able to write much about it here and still remain anonymous. Besides, since it will have elements of an urban ethnography, I would probably be violating some ethical rules.

Recent posts on The Clutter Museum have brought to my mind the split between anonymous academic bloggers and those who blog under their own names. I have resisted focusing my blog because, frankly, I barely have enough energy to maintain one blog. My interests are so diverse that if I sent up blogs for all of them I would be spread WAY too thin. At the same time, I would like to have a “salon” of colleagues whose work and interests are similar to mine. I certainly don’t have that through my graduate program. But in order to do that I would have to jettison my anonymity and be much more cautious in what I chose to blog about.

So for the moment, I’m going to focus more on my non-work interests. This summer has been quite stressful monetarily for our household and so all my hobbies have been on hold. The other day someone asked me what I do for fun and I had trouble answering her. I have a special talent for turning any interest into “work.” I want to turn that around and start developing the ability to do “work” and have it turn into “fun.” So my new focus for this blog is FUN, FUN, FUN!

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Here’s a fun blog I found a while back, Captain Picard’s Journal. I wonder if there are many more fan-fiction blogs out there. Anyone know?

Trillwing tagged me, so here it goes…

1. One book that changed your life?
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Milan Kundera

2. One book you have read more than once?
The Naria Series
C.S. Lewis
I can’t count how many times I read those as a kid.

3. One book you would want on a desert island?
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
I love magical realism. That book is complex enough to read over and over. I considered some 19th century British novels, but frankly I find them depressing.

4. One book that made you laugh?
Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon
Spider Robinson

5. One book that made you cry?
The Culture of Make Believe
Derrick Jensen
This book is not about fairytales or fantasy, it’s about hate and racism (very difficult to read.)

6. One book you wish had been written?
Is this question really, “What book are you planning to write?” How am I supposed to know what hasn’t been written? There are all sorts of books I wish adults had given me to read as a kid, but I’m not sure what hasn’t been written. I wish there were more coming of age novels for girls. Maybe there are but I haven’t read many.

7. One book you wish had never had been written?
This is a difficult question…There are tons of books out there that are just insipid, but I usually don’t read them. The book I remember hating the most because I was force to read it was
The Old Man and the Sea
Ernest Hemingway
As a teenager I was horrified by the type of masculinity it glorified.

8. One book you are currently reading?
The Death and Life of Great American Cities
Jane Jacobs

9. One book you have been meaning to read?
Foucault’s Pendulum
Umberto Eco

10. Now tag five people –
Who hasn’t been tagged? I want to hear from some feminist sci-fi folks. If you are out there, consider yourself tagged.

After my dismal week doing field science I have had some time to reflect on the nature of scientific work. As an undergrad I worked for a time in a lab that manufactured scientific instruments. Six months of lab work convinced me that I was not meant to work in a lab. Lab work is repetitive and lonely. Field work, of course, has the advantage of a more interesting setting, but is largely the same. What makes this work worthwhile is a passion for the subject. Yes, I said it, an emotional attachment to your subject. All the current adversity involved in my current job would feel less menial and more worthwhile if my co-workers expressed some passion and excitement for the project and it’s importance. I have met many scientists and the successful ones all expressed excitement and passion for their subjects.

To make up for my frustration:

Tonight’s drink: Pineapple, cranberry, lime, with vodka

Tonight’s dinner: Indonisian fried rice with fried tofu (ala Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone)

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I love this post over at Academic Secret, “the Big Secret.” It’s true that everyone in academia complains all the time about how busy they are. I’m not sure that this is a big problem though. To me it seems to be the only way to manage the insane number of people who want you to be involved in their pet project (whether that is teaching, research, or service.) The only way to politely get out of getting involved with everything that people would like to guilt trip you into is to say, “Wow, I would love to help with XYZ, but I’m just SO busy right now.”

That being said, my summer has suddenly turned busy. I spent July underemployed, i.e. working only 10 hours a week for actual money. Of course the whole time I was so concerned about money that I got little of the grant writing and household organization that I had planned done. Now a friend of mine got me hired to help her with the ecological field work that she is supposed to be doing. The project is part of a long term ecological monitoring program for local creeks. It involves surveying 20m plots of vegetation along the creeks, which wouldn’t be to horrible except that is 100 degrees around here and the vegetation includes huge patches of blackberry and arundo which has to be hacked through. If you have never heard of arundo take a look at these pictures from the Nature Conservancy. We can’t avoid these nasty plants because the vegetation has to be accurately recorded. Frequently, the center of the plot is right in the middle of a huge patch of blackberries or arundo.

Other dangers include tripping and breaking my leg climbing down steep banks/over huge piles of woody debris and ticks. I picked three ticks off myself yesterday. Actually, each time I screamed and brushed them off in a panicked manner, only to have to locate them on the floor so that I could kill them. Yuck! I’m usually fairly difficult to gross out, but ticks are just creepy. While I’m only out in the field 6-7 hours a day, but the end of that I’m completely wiped out, so I haven’t been getting any of my other work done. I’m basically getting heat exhaustion every day.

I haven’t done any gardening since we moved to our new place, but look what volunteered!