Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Out of Grading Jail and Yay! Sun!

I just submitted my final grades for the semester, and am hereby liberated (temporarily) from Grading Jail (I have an approximately 3-week pass).

Happy lunar eclipse of a full moon on the winter solstice, all (yep, I'm totally setting my alarm). The ride to the darkest night of the year has been, well, dark. I am looking forward to welcoming back the sun.

Click here for some Ear Candy

Monday, December 13, 2010

New Email Discussion List: H-DEATH

From the folks at HNet (Humanities and Social Sciences Online), a new moderated email discussion list:

H-Death is a scholarly discussion group that explores the multitude of historical issues surrounding the process and experience of dying and death. The H-Death discussion group will allow scholars to compare and contrast the processes and experiences of dying and death across time and space, including American, European and non-Western contexts.

I'm impressed by the breadth of experience that subscribers are bringing to the list (at least, those who have opted to introduce themselves). There are archaeologists, historians, theologians, literature profs, avocational researchers, hospice workers, artists, philosophers, and more.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Acasocial Networking Update

Back in August of 2009, I posted the results of a little experiment I conducted. Specifically, I posted some papers to several Acasocial portals to see what happened. I was particularly interested in Time-to-Google-Scholar, in an attempt to make my stuff more available for others to cite. Part of academia is, after all, getting cited. Nothing wrong with a little self-promotion; while making my work more easily accessible won't guarantee citations, if no one can find it it sure as hell won't get cited!

You can read my previous post for The Way Things Were; after assessing the features of each, I determined that "The real winner here is SelectedWorks. I can see people are accessing and downloading my stuff. It is totally easy to update my site. And, time to Google Scholar for everything (book, journal articles, conference papers) = 1 month."

In the year and a bit since I posted my results, a lot has happened. Here's an update:

Mendeley.com I am still using Mendeley as a reference management tool. In fact, I abandoned EndNote in favor of Mendeley for this purpose. Mendeley lets me access and manage my bibliography from any computer with internet access and to grab .pdfs from my personal library. From any computer with the Mendeley desktop installed, I can access, upload, read, and make comments in .pdf files. I've put Mendeley Desktop on my home computer, my laptop, and my computer at work. The ready access to my research library has been invaluable. Mendeley's incorporation of DOI has made adding journal articles to my database fast and painless.

But there is more to Mendeley. One advantage to the bibliography software is that you can group papers by whatever topics you like. Mendeley gives you the opportunity to make those groups public so you can easily share your bibliography with others, and (depending on how public you make it) can collaborate with others. I made several of my groups public, and have had several people join them. I haven't yet taken advantage of the collaboration/discussion abilities. A new improvement that I quite like is the ability to find publications related to ones I have in my bibliography; to do so, I just click the button from within the Desktop and a window opens in my browser showing how many others have that article in their databases, and a list of similar publications. I can add these other publications to my database with a quick click.

Mendeley has a free option (1GB storage space); they also have very reasonably-priced paid options (up to 15GB storage space). Their support folks are very, very responsive and helpful.

CiteULike: Although I reviewed this back in August 2009, I quit using it. Too clunky, and I much preferred Mendeley. I have no update for you.

Academia.edu: Still Facebook for academics. People are finding me and my publications via Academia (and I can see how often and when my stuff is accessed), but this isn't the real strength of the site. For me, there are three main strengths at Academia: 1) being able to follow specific journals; 2) being able to follow specific topics; 3) an environment conducive to contacting researchers.

1. Being able to follow specific journals. This is a relatively new feature, but may actually be the best part. I have pretty wide-ranging interests (I am, after all, a fox), but can't afford the money or time to follow printed journals. With Academia.edu, I can "Follow" particular journals; when they come out with new issues (or pre-publish stuff to the 'net), I see the table of contents in my feed. If a particular article interests me, I click on the feed, grab the citation, and pop over to my Friendly Neighborhood Inter-Library Loan Request Form (a total, total perk to my adjunctivity) and within a couple of days, have a .pdf version in my email. I can also see which journals others are following; I've found several of interest this way. I've found some really great stuff this way, in journals that I'd normally never read.

2. Being able to follow specific topics. Following particular researchers is great (though there are several people whose work I'd love to follow who haven't signed up to Academia yet); being able to follow particular areas of research is super-great. I've found publications and researchers using this feature that I'd not previously been aware of.

3. An environment conducive to communication. It is very easy to send a short note to others via Academia. I've had some very good exchanges with others, generally prompted by reading a paper they'd (or I'd) just posted. The setup, whereby you can read someone's paper and send them a note from the same page, that makes this sort of communication easy. Though people without an account on Academia can see my basic profile, they cannot see my updates nor send me notes without signing up. So far, I've not been on the receiving end of any weird/abusive notes.

One more note about Academia: their technical support is super-easy to access (there's a field at the bottom left of every page) and super-responsive.

SelectedWorks: No real changes here since last August. But still my favorite place to get my stuff "out there" -- fast to Google Scholar, monthly updates with statistics of downloads, and emailed notifications for whatever search criteria you give them. Not as "networky" as Academia, but I've still found papers this way (especially conference proceedings and gray literature) that haven't surfaced elsewhere. As best I can tell, more people are finding my work via SelectedWorks than all the others combined.

To my surprise, I ran experiments on four sites and ended up using three of them on a regular basis. I was expecting to find one place to dump my stuff to make it easily accessible online. What I ended up with was a suite of Acasocial Networking tools that have made my research and organization more efficient; exposed me to new research; allowed me to easily collaborate; and make my stuff more easily accessible.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

To Do

Arrived home yesterday following my dad's death and funeral. Through his illness and passing, I've been away from home about two and a half weeks. I have a ton to do; to wit (and in no particular order of priority or preference):

  1. Submit three grad school applications (two require additional essays, on top of the personal statements that I need to tweak). One due Jan 1; two due Jan 15
  2. Apply for outside funding. Main one due early Feb.
  3. Grade students' assignments (how is it that I have 2 weeks to go, while other schools are wrapping up/wrapped up for the semester???). Not due for another full week, but if I don't get cracking I'm screwed.
  4. Prep for this week's class (heavy on the review). Due soonish.
  5. Find a financial planner that I can trust. By early Jan.
  6. Laundry. Today.
  7. Ignore work gremlins until Monday, at which time they will have to be tamed. Although I feel vindicated, being correct in this case = wrench in the works.
  8. Write OMGSuperCoolSite. Today would be good.
  9. Return a book I never ordered. Coordinate by Monday.
  10. Apparently my brakes need to be checked because the person driving my car today said they made a funny noise. Under advisement.
  11. Take my vitamins. Preferably today.
  12. Go for a walk/to the gym. Maybe today, probably tomorrow?
  13. Do some work on the book. Hopefully tomorrow morning; maybe today if I can get motivated.
  14. Call SnowboundHistoricalSociety regarding cost of photocopies, since they apparently don't answer their email. Monday.
  15. Call FederalCurator regarding image permissions, since they are apparently ignoring my email. Monday.
  16. Breathe. Ongoing.
  17. Formulate ConferencePaper into JouralArticle (ha, I saved a version all full of citations; this, at least, should go quickly!). Due mid-Jan, I think.
  18. Outline paper for upcoming journal and make arrangements for research visit; coordinate research visit with visit home to see family while avoiding the worst of the Jaws of Winter, even if this means missing visit with portions of family. By mid-Jan.
  19. Blog post following up on an earlier post re: getting your work out on the 'net. Sometime this weekend?
  20. Holiday shopping. I don't feel in the spirit. I'm putting this off until I decide how much holiday cheer I can take.
  21. Two more articles to get out. Research is done, just need to massage into papers. By April.
  22. I'm sure there is more; there is always more.

All that, after I take a long, hot bath.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Community and Precious Snowflakes

More Reverb10

December 7 – Community.

Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011?

I have discovered community in 2010, yes. It's a nice thing. But very new; needs more time to coalesce.

December 8 – Beautifully Different.

Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different – you’ll find they’re what make you beautiful.

Seriously, I'm glad I hadn't eaten before I read this. For realz?

Instead I will briefly address Clio's Alternate Prompt "what pisses you off." At the top of my list right now are Precious Snowflakes. Especially when their Precious Snowflakeness is SO much more important than that of all the other Precious Snowflakes.

Monday, December 6, 2010


Another Reverb10 Entry.

December 6 – Make.

What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?

(Author: Gretchen Rubin)

Hmmm. I have to think about this. I create things for work -- reports, graphics, stories... I mean narrative descriptions, budgets. I cook dinners, which is making things. I make lesson plans, syllabi, and hopefully a learning environment for my students. I am writing a book, which is sort of an abstract making of a thing.

The first thing that popped into my head when I read this, though, was making in the sense of creative hobby. And the things I immediately thought of were baking and cross-stitch. I haven't baked in years because, quite frankly, my oven sucks and has no temperature control. I haven't done cross-stitch in years because I haven't had the time. I should pick it up again; I have an assortment of unfinished projects, many of which I think are ugly now and have no desire to finish. There are a couple of them, though, that I still really like. I did a lot of work a few years ago when I was sitting in hospital every week during a friend's treatment.

This prompt makes me feel like I should make some time to work on my needlework. That makes me feel overwhelmed; I need to feel less overwhelmed. I need to make some time for me; and that making needs to include letting go of a bunch of shoulds. My needlework will be there when I'm ready to do it again.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Passages, Wonder, and Letting Go

My dad passed away yesterday morning. I was there, as were several of my siblings and his wife. I am so glad that I got to be there, and I'm sorry that not all of us could be. Dad always was happiest when all his kids were around. Though it was the first time I've been present when a person passed, I've been there for several pets. Being there when someone/something I love dies is, in my experience, not nearly as traumatic and horrible as I always imagine it will be.

Reverb10 entries for yesterday and today. Theme: minimalism:

December 4 – Wonder.

How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?

(Author: Jeffrey Davis)

The tagline of my blog sums it up... out of my head and into the world. The world is actually a pretty amazing place, if you care to pay attention. Things that have made me feel wonder this year: nature; art; genuine friends; research.

December 5 – Let Go.

What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?

(Author: Alice Bradley)

The easy answer is that I got rid of mountains of stuff. The stuff, though, isn't really important (the fact that I was hoarding it and that I got rid of it is important; the actual physical stuff not so much). It has felt wonderful to un-burden myself of stuff I've been lugging around with me for literally decades. There's been only one thing that I wished I hadn't gotten rid of, and that wish was very fleeting.

The more complicated answer: the process of letting go emotionally for me this year has been more about transformation than about erasure. Not about forgetting about someone or a relationship, but changing my perceptions of it. Of dis-investing myself of a particular outcome or reality and accepting what is. Certainly not a fait accompli on my part, but I'm getting there.

Friday, December 3, 2010


More Reverb10.

December 3 – Moment.

Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).

(Author: Ali Edwards)

My first response to this question was to skip it. My dad is dying, and I didn't feel like writing something happy. Then I started to consider what "feeling alive" means. Some moments from the past year that I've felt alive include being shit-faced drunk on red wine with good friends (and a place to crash out, and huevos rancheros for breakfast the next morning); dancing with great dancers to a great band and caller; sitting in the woods listening to the birds and the breeze in the trees; the rush of adrenaline and amazement from discovering that I'm physically stronger than I thought I was.

The common theme to these for me is being connected -- to friends, to nature, to a community of dancers, to myself. And that means that grieving is also feeling alive.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

One Word

I stumbled on Reverb10 via Clio Bluestocking's faboo blog, and thought that it might be just the thing I need. It's been a hell of a year, and it isn't over yet. I'm hoping this exercise will help me with some perspective. Hopefully, I won't lose points for handing in my December 1 entry a day late!

December 1 One Word.
Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?
(Author: Gwen Bell)

My word for 2010 is upheaval -- in the sense of big changes, not necessarily in the sense of bad things (though there are bad things). The biggies this year: break-up of a long relationship and subsequent pending divorce (and negotiations over property and cats); grad school applications and good noises about having an academic home next year; a couple of publications; the sudden decline and pending death of my father; deaths of a friend, a colleague, a grandmother, and a pet of two decades; new and surprising hobbies that I love; some great new friends and renewed connections with old friends; finding myself and being myself a little more; active pursuit of my mental health, with good results; and in the last few months, actually feeling happy.

The word I would like for 2011 is resolution.

December 2 Writing.
What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?
(Author: Leo Babauta)

I do a lot of things every day that don't contribute to my writing (and I define my writing as writing for me, as opposed to the writing I do for work). Working takes up a lot of time as does sleeping; but both of them do contribute to my writing in terms of paying bills and staying functional. I watch tv, but not a lot; not contributory to writing, but usually occurs when I'm too fried to do anything else. I spend a lot of time surfing the Internets instead of firing up my writing. It's easier to skim emails and read Facebook than to open Word and do something.

Thing is, not writing just makes me feel worse about not having written. Which makes me more unlikely to write. It is a vicious cycle of inertia. Can I eliminate it? I can work at it. I'll try leaving my writing open on my computer; if I don't have to work to find and open the files, perhaps I can get something done.