Monday, July 25, 2005

Days 6-7: Regress, Progress, Spinning, and Running

Today is "shadow reader" comment day! Let me know you're out there... (And yes, I do sound a bit too eager for company. Anyone else out there staring at a computer screen??)

Today is also spinning-my-wheels day. My husband worked from home a bit this morning, which totally threw me off my normal morning routine. And maybe being out of town this weekend threw my brain out of gear, but ugh, it's hard to work today for some reason. Too many internet searches have occurred. (does Marshall Fields have good shoes on sale? what do people think of the Daily Show's new set?, how can I get rid of moths without those horrible mothballs, etc.) I might have to turn off the internet crack at this laptop. I'm hoping it's just a Monday kind of day.

But... I finally buckled down to solve at least one vexing paragraph problem, which does represent progress. But after taking Sunday off (thus: regress), I feel like I'm standing somewhat still. I realized that writing "regular" chapters entails a more varied pace of work -- some notetaking, some thinking, some writing, more notetaking, etc. But this introduction seems to be all big-picture thinking and writing. Ack. So today I did not meet my ostensible goal, but instead I took some notes from articles and have set myself up to write a few more paragraphs tomorrow. Taking the pressure off myself to Think Big Thoughts, and instead, just type in some notes, oddly freed up my brain to brainstorm how all these things might come together. A better product will emerge, but it is slow going for now.

Most depressing edit: some of the text of this introduction is stuff I cut out of a chapter, and I believe it may even have originated in a seminar paper from grad school. In this portion of the intro, I comment on changes in the field and I had to change "during the past four decades" to "during the past five decades" because so much time had elapsed since first I first wrote those words! Oy.

Most obvious realization: Diet Mountain Dew Code Red has to be the least natural substance on the planet. But oddly enjoyable... And yes, it is sitting in the fridge next to my locally produced-organic-free-range-grass-fed-cows milk.

Now, about running. Many of you might remember that when I turned the big 3-o a few (many?) years back, I decided it was time for some changes -- namely, to get off my ass and start exercising! Many pounds and years later, it was the best change I could have made to help me survive the insanity of teaching and writing. I have a healthy addiction to endorphins and am quite content to be churning away on the elliptical machine at the gym while reading a mystery novel. But no running. Perhaps once a year I would think to myself, "This many people can't be wrong!" and decide that maybe I, too, should run. I'd go for a 3 mile run, hate every step, nurse sore muscles for the next week, and swear off running for the next year.

Until last summer. Last summer was the first time I had an uninterrupted spurt of dissertation writing. And I had my annual burst of temporary-running-desire, except this time I didn't think it was so bad. So I ran again. And again. And now it is a regular part of my routine. Strange days indeed. Don't picture anyone fleet of foot, or (shudder) anyone training for a marathon... on most days I shuffle along for about 40 minutes and call it quits. I've even done a few 5K races. As long as the temp is above 35, I'm out there. My explanation? One of two things. 1) Sitting all day and writing a dissertation wasn't masochistic enough, so I had to find something that I would hate more! or, more likely: 2) Sitting in one place and writing all day made the idea of sitting in a car to drive to the gym to churn in one place on a machine less appealing. So perhaps running symbolizes progress on my dissertation. And when I'm running along, I do think about the idea of One Step At A Time. And I also think about a story that Stewgad once told me, and the moral of the story is something that applies to both running and writing: Don't Quit On a Hill. So now I actually sprint up the one small hill on my running route. I don't relish the idea of sprinting to the finish line of my dissertation, but I do know that slow and steady wins the race eventually.

And one more item for my show trial someday: recently I've felt like I'm running on clods of concrete. I thought I was out of shape until, duh!, I realized that my running shoes were pretty old. I got a 50% off deal on great pair of shoes made by political prisoners somewhere, and all I had to do was swallow my pride and accept that the shoes are white and gray with pale pink accents.

Tonight is yoga and CSI and then back to the goals tomorrow. Stay tuned...


At 8:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keep it up!

At 1:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been accused of being a shadow reader, but this is my 2nd comment. So there. (what's the emoticon for giving a raspberry?) :p ?

And while I certainly had to plug away at some daily writing goals myself, a science disseration seems a much different beast - and I certainly didn't own a house, live with a partner or hold down a full-time job at the same time. So what can I add?

I'm cheering for you. Keep up the momentum. Even small momentum is momentum - and I know a few things about momentum: p = mv = dF/dt.

At 1:48 PM, Blogger HistGrad said...

Yay for encouraging comments! You're keeping me in my chair today when I'd rather be doing just about anything else... and thanks for an actual way to measure momentum. :)

At 6:07 PM, Blogger KJ said...

In another chapter in the Chronicles of 'At Least This Didn't Happen to You Today': Your Monday was not as bad as least some dude with a crappy 1977 Pontiac Firebird for a 'hobby car' didn't forget to fully engage the parking brake in the parking garage, causing a gentle, arc-shaped roll down the incline of the ramp and coming to rest on the bumper of your crappy 1999 Civic, causing a nice big crack that means the whole bumper has to be replaced. Upshot: he's insured.
I'd love to have the mathematical/physics ability to calculate the speed at which he rolled down the ramp into my bumper (given the weight of the car and the degree of the incline of the parking garage, which I also don't have.)

At 12:29 PM, Anonymous Bad Physicist said...

About that measuring momentum thing....
Use p = mv.

Or p = Ft.

dF/dt is actually proportional to something called - get this - jerk.

oooops. Gotta stop hanging around you history types.

At 12:37 PM, Anonymous Bad Physicist said...

To kj: speaking of jerk, we could mathematically prove there was a lot of it when the Firebird hit the innocent Civic.

Conservation of energy:
mgh = 0.5 mv^2
The mass of the car doesn't even matter. If the ramp was even just 1 meter vertical height, the Firebird was traveling 4 to 5 m/s or about 10 mph. (ignoring friction, of course)


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