So, I suppose that an update is in order concerning the work that still remains ahead of me to do. Out of three big papers, and two little ones, I have completed one big and will complete at least one small today. Therefore the score looks like this: (3/2 --> 2/1). By next wednesday, I hope to have it all done, except for the final big essay. That essay requires that I spend a lot of time in the library, but I think that I can hand it in that friday (God willing).
Everything I've already written about in previous posts (defeating my personal demons) still applies, Grendel is in the process of being vanquished. Of course, with this new refocusing on my papers, I can't work too much more on Angry Bear Comics for the next week or so. Today, I just posted a new comic that I had already drawn a few days ago, and soon, I will post another that also had already been drawn. I am still committed to making this comic project fly, but I need divert energy to my schoolwork, which is where it is needed most.
29 July 2004
Pretty much since the inception of this blog, I have included a link to PvP and Kevin and Kell, cartoons that at one point in time, could only be found on the Internet. I have spent months faithfully reading them, just as I would faithfully seek out the Sunday comics section every weekend as kid reading the paper. However, this is not some kind of weird obsession, just an easy entertainment that distracts when one needs distraction.
When Blogger has introduced there new blogging improvements and released software for posting picture on the web, I began to think to myself: "Hey, how hard can this comic thing be?" (On one level, I am sure it is as hard as you want to make it.) Wouldn't it be fun to see if I could write and draw comics on my own? Therefore, with a few spare minutes doing some after dinner drawing, and a little more tweaking of HTML while watching Late Night with Conan O'Brien, I have created Angry Bear Comics. Don't expect too much. I have taken the position that this is an experiment that just might lead to an enjoyable hobby that helps me de-stress when I need to. Enjoy, if you are so inclined visit, and be sure to leave a comment when you do.
24 July 2004
Of course, this is not to say that the paper is the best thing I have ever written. Far from it, this paper feels more like Frakenstein than anything else, mostly because it is patched together from several abortive attempts. The Frakenstein analogy is oddly appropriate because I have been thinking of monsters for the last couple of weeks.
One of the methods that was suggested to me recently to help get myself motivated to complete all of this needed work was to imagine myself in mythological or heroic terms. Before anyone mentions how silly this sounds (or worse, laughs), please be aware that I am already aware of the silliness inherent in such an imaginative exercise. But, then I got to thinking about it. What was the purpose of the Odyssey, Beowulf, the Illiad, or all of the various tribal stories told in our world's past if not to model to others how to act or get things done? They were their respective societies model's of courage, heroism, and virtue. All of which were things to be emulated.
Primarily, I am thinking of Beowulf. He was a warrior who left his homeland to sail across the sea and fight a horrible monster barehanded. He eventually had to descend under the sea to completely vanquish the terror that plagued the HalfDanes. And even far below the water, struggling with the monster, his initial attempts did not work. The sword bounced harmlessly off the monster's hide. Yet, with some ingenuity, and a nearby sword that only he can wield, he finally defeated it.
It is not too hard to analogize this plot to everyday problem solving. You need courage to face your demons, and sometimes it may feel like you are drowning under an entire ocean when you are struggling fiercest against your troubles. And even as you attack them with what you have in hand, it may not seem like you are getting anywhere. You have to, somehow, reach deep within yourself and draw on something new to make any progress. You have to be persistent, clever, and hard-working. However, if you can do it, the rewards are worth it.
My fight against this round of academic papers are not over yet, but I think I have at least fought off my own Grendel. There are many more monsters ahead, but I now know that I can do it. All I need to remember is how to muster the courage to keep fighting even when I most want to give up. These next few weeks are the most crucial for me and, perhaps, also the most difficult; they are my place under the ocean. But I am determined not to drown.
23 July 2004
I have made some significant progress on my work, even to the point where I am beginning to feel hope again that I will salvage what has been a rough start to the summer. I think that I have a good argument for my current project, it just needs to be solidified a bit more to engage more of the actual text I'm examining and less of the required theory. Of course, the whole point of the silly paper is to talk about the theory, so, to some extent, there is no avoiding it. I think that the project will at least be something that my professor can appreciate.
And, of course, all of this progress has made me feel like I can start thinking about the design for a writing course that I hope to teach in the fall. The main emphasis for this course, if I can somehow make it through these "dog days," will not be on the writing process, as it was in my own undergraduate studies. Rather, the curriculum here emphasizes the necessity for a logical argument that arises naturally from the course materials and the "questions-at-issue" that evolve from class discussions. Therefore, I will really start having to look for well-written essays that I feel will help me guide students to thought provoking issues, and at the same time, be something that will hold my admittedly fleeting (and technologically leaning) interests. Although I have already indicated on my course materials list that I wanted a specific text, a reader, I haven't had much time to browse through the essays and develop the proper notes for them. Oh well, I am sure that this will all come in due time. Right now, it is back to the essay at hand.
18 July 2004
The Library Again
Aside from my unfinished papers, it has been inordinately hot around here lately. Everyone has been staying up later and later. Tonight, we heard people outside playing with their children at 10:00 p.m. Good Grief! Whatever happened to curfews. Of course, we could also smell their barbeque, which caused a small measure of envy on our part. I suppose that not having BBQ is actually a good thing because, as I have spent the majority of my time behind a desk lately, I haven't gotten much exercise, but as these things goes, my appetite remains at the usual levels. Consequently, my adult male belly has been gently growing outwards with a satisfied reach over my beltline. One of the many goals that I have for the summer is to work out more and to try and get more exercise at the gym. To that generalaim of being more healthy, I have been taking the four flights of stairs up to my office instead of using the elevator in my building. Mind, when I do so, I usually have a twenty pound backpack on and am carrying about ten pounds in the other hand (a laptop and lunch). However, this stair climb may have to stop for the next couple of days. It's hard to concentrate in a hot office when you're a little winded and your shirt is drenched in sweat. Thankfully, as it is summer, none of my officemates have to endure the unique aroma of an out-of-shape coworker.
17 July 2004
Winston Churchill says "Kites rise highest against the wind--not with it." Another person, Jane Smiley, said: "In my experience, there is only one motivation and that is desire. No other reasons or principle contain it or stand against it." Other advice I have found suggests that it is helpful to state your goals and envision both the results of your actions and the process you intend to follow to achieve them.
Therefore, the following are my Goals: I will meet all of the deadlines I have previously delineated in a letter for my professor that has already been delivered to her. The deadlines are July 12th, 17th, 21st, 24th, and August 6th. When I turn in the required assignments, I will email my professor immediately. I will follow up on the results of my work during the week of August 9th. These assignments will be high-level work that has been thoroughly researched, understood, and will also be well communicated, highly polished prose. These papers will exhibit a high degree of critical thinking and will be good examples of academic writing.Finally, what needs to be mentioned is how, while all of these goals center on my life as a student and future instructor, there are numerous goals concerning my relationship that I haven't mentioned here. For example, among these goals, I will devote the necessary time into being a good partner and take responsibility for my actions and behavior. I will protect the needs of my partner and not impinge too harshly on our needs to be together.
The Process: I will devote a significant portion, several hours, of every day before the final, ultimate deadline to writing and researching these papers. I will not begin to revise before I have finished drafting. My first step in the writing process will be developing the main features of the argument, so that I have a rough framework to hang my writing on. For each day's preparation, I will try to do ten minutes of free-writing about my thoughts concerning the assigned topic. I will not become bogged down by the extraneous nuances of the work or the argument, but will focus on the crux of every issue. I will use the checklist I have for writing persuasive papers. I will not spend more than thirty minutes on the Internet checking mail, or looking at news. I will review my goals at the beginning of every work day. I will review the results of my effort at the end of every day.
The Results: In September, I will be an interested, high-achieving student who makes a good impression on his professors because of the high quality of his work and intense dedication as a scholar. I will be an accomplished and well-prepared student instructor who assists his freshman students in achieving their goals as writers, and I will supply them with the necessary writing skills to succeed in their future classes. I can see myself in my graduate courses arguing an important and interesting point about our assigned texts. I will have read every text and have all my assignments completed on time. I will be the most-improved student and will achieve some measure of distinction for being so.
While I may continue to post on my blog from time to time, I will return to these goals and continue to find and develop the necessary motivation to achieve success. Frank Clark says "Everyone is trying to accomplish something big, not realizing that life is made up of little things." Stephen Covey, a guy I normally detest, said "Motivation is a fire from within. If someone else tries to light that fire under you, chances are it will burn briefly." That is something that I can agree with. Overall, the message for me is that I have to find the desire to succeed inside myself; I have to return to that desire often and use it as kindling to spark my individual efforts every day. And, I need to accept the responsibility of my actions so that I am not distracted by what could have been, but focus on what can be, and what will be if I work for it.
09 July 2004
As far as a status report goes, I am nearly finished with the first major paper that needs to be completed. I have chosen a particular short story by Tim O'Brien, and I want to argue that his desire to create a "story-truth"--something that is achieved by the story "feeling" true, rather than actually "seeming" true--is an attempt to control how the reader responds to his text. While this is not necessarily bad, it is reflection of Bakhtin's description of the centripetal and centrifugal forces in the text. On the one hand, O'Brien tries to assert a particular meaning, on the other hand, the text itself tries to spin that meaning beyond what he intends. It is a little convoluted right now, but I think that with a little more work over the weekend, I will have a decent enough paper to turn in be acceptable.
08 July 2004
And that's not all. I have a separate Internet package with the same company, and installing the modem myself has been a pain in the neck. Although I've done everything correctly, the Internet will only work occasionally. You're taking your chances at our place if you really want to be on the Net. Right now, it's more of an Inter-not! So, tomorrow, I will wait for another cable (modem) guy to figure out what the heck is going on. As near as I can figure, the problem is an inordinate amount of FCC type of interference. Why else would the thing work better at night. Coincidentally, there are less wavy lines in the TV programs at night as well. And I'm stumped where the possible interference could be coming from. I've imagined everything from cable theives tapping into our line here at home to some student operating a HAM radio in his apartment trying to conduct conversations with China. Hey, it could happen. We'll see what happens this afternoon.
Update: Well, the hassle continues. The cable guy could not install the outlets for a reason I only half understand. The guy who was here a few minutes ago told me that he could do what I wanted for a whole lot more money. To say that I'm frustrated by the whole cable process is an extreme understatement. I hate feeling like I'm paying for a service that I don't receive. Why do corporations think that they can do this?
07 July 2004
The Burden of Books
This picture is of the books that I have stacked on my desk right now. Soon, I will have to clear them off, as I may be reassigned a new office for the fall. I really shouldn't be spending so much time here, especially on the holiday, but I've been a grouch lately and a real pain to those around me. I'm sure that they need the break. And I really have to get this paper done. Therefore, right now I'm going to turn to another stack of books similar to the one pictured, reopen my word processor program, and like an alaskan sled dog, continue to mush.