Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Post 5: Love/Hate Relationship with Time (Management)

So there are days, and then there are days.

In the last post that I wrote I mentioned being strict with my time, and setting boundaries around how I use and conceive of the time I have, as a means of getting me to a productive work space. Well, sometimes that works, but sometimes that doesn't.

Disconnecting myself from the internet is a great way to set up myself up against distraction. Can't click if it's not there, kind of thing. It's incredibly easy to self-distract when you're your main boss. A number of colleagues have talked about thinking of their graduate work like this (usually very fun, stimulating, exciting, liberating, luxurious) time is your day-job, albeit minus the structure, and treating it as a 9-5 is one of the best ways to make sure that you continue to get work done.

Sometimes I find it difficult to prioritize my thesis work, when I feel like there are any number of experience-building and enriching activities at my fingertips -- and it feels strange to see those things as separate from my work as a whole, which includes shaping the person I am. Part of this includes TA-ing, and learning how to teach students, which, as I've gained skills to help manage my nerves and panic around public speaking, I've found to be very rewarding. Some of this might also include extracurriculars like sitting on committees, as I did in the fall, where I helped select recipients of the university-wide faculty and sessional teaching awards (a task that took many more hours and was way more fun than I could have imagined). My department hosts bi-weekly seminars, and making the time for those can be very fun and engaging—a great time to see briefly the people and colleagues that help make this process less isolating. This afternoon we also have visits beginning with candidates being considered for the Dean of Social Sciences.

                           Super cool -- a kind of moss, I think? (I'm not that familiar with a lot of
                           ground growing things, but can certainly appreciate their beauty! :)

As an undergraduate student, you can get involved in clubs, have a lively, thriving social scene on and strongly linked to campus, and you can by and large focus solely on your school work. My impression of graduate school, however, has shifted to include all sorts of aspects of the administration and functioning of the university that you just don't get to see (or at least I did not) as an undergrad. What's the difference between a tenured faculty, an assistant professor, an associated or adjunct professor, and a sessional instructor? None of these things mattered to me in undergrad; they are certainly beginning to matter to me as a graduate student. What's a TA for? What are their roles and how are their responsibilities negotiated? What are their working conditions and how are they valued? How much do they get paid, and what goes into union negotiating?

As an undergrad, I went to class, I went to the library, I wrote my papers and short stories and that was it. Now, there is a whole world of academic politics, policies, and functioning that opens up, and it's hard to keep my fingers out of these activities when I care about the people I work with and the conditions under which we work, and being a contributing, meaningful member of this community...

...and then balancing that out with the rest of my work week.

So. Choosing one or two or three things per semester to put some energy into is a good idea. There's also a big difference between one-off events (like meeting candidates for the Dean of Social Sciences), and ongoing events, so make sure to prioritize!

As for me, I'll be attending a number of the bi-weekly seminars, selectively choosing the one-off events, TA-ing, and aside from the significant commitment of conference organizing for CONFORWest 2014, I will leave my plate open for prioritizing my work, and focusing on structuring those times where I can just burn through an hour of one of my audio files. I AM ALMOST DONE TRANSCRIBING!! (And keep setting small goals like this to keep going.)

Monday, 24 February 2014

Post 4: Attitude and Competitiveness in Grad School

In many ways I think this is a timely post.
It's hard to admit, especially when in the middle of a spell of self-reflection, worrying, and crippling self-criticism that you're doing that, and that is is 200% unproductive. I probably spend more time concerned with the future and projections that very likely won't come true, and losing sleep over those worries, than productive time during the day. In that sense, this master's program has become a trial in self management, on top of all the other wonderful lessons that have come along the way. But -- I'm told, and from conversations with colleagues, understand that this is very much the experience of many, if not the majority of graduate students.

One of the observations that I made about myself and my colleagues is that there is a certain kind of self selection process that seems to occur for the people that choose to go on to grad school. For one thing, most people are introverted (in my guesstimates; at least for my cohort year, and a few for outside of my starting group that I have the pleasure of knowing). For another, many perfectionists, which means that they are highly critical of their work and set the bar high. I know this to be especially true for myself -- and it's because that bar is set so high that my worries can become a barrier to getting things done. Oddly enough, this is closely linked to procrastination and the feeling that a certain amount of pressure (even if self-imposed) leads to productive working time. And third, most are very competitive, to the point where an evening of Hearts (the card game) can become a rally of emotions when one is on the losing streak.

Just for fun: some of our local stonewort. :) So pretty! 

The emotional state of most grad students is a world of ups and downs. At least for myself, I have moments in days where I feel on top of the world, and like I'm the scout flying the fastest, hardest, ahead of all the others. Then, moments later, that all deflates when I think about the work that's left to do, or how I struggle to keep my entire project in my head.

There's a lot to be said about seeking out something like a Thesis Completion Group that Counselling Services runs on campus at UVic, or some other kind of peer help. One of my colleagues has organized one of those groups, and I'm looking forward to attending.

So, one of my strategies to deal with these work barriers is to be very strict about my use of time. This is actually something that came up at my lab meeting last week on Tuesday morning, and it essentially boils down to time management. I block out an hour of my day at a time. Yes, I'm aware that the rest of the day is there, but if I say to myself that, okay, for the next hour I will transcribe, and focus solely on that (and not check my email or go onto the internet), that seems to work relatively well. Putting my cell phone away and to the side and not looking at it is also good. My supervisor mentioned today that research on attention has shown that it takes people on average 8 minutes to get back into the work flow they were interrupted or distracted from. 8 whole minutes! That's a lot of lost time if you distract yourself or get distracted by visitors, phone calls, emails,  (and since participating in the bird count this weekend, the birds at the feeders of my office window!), and more, during the course of a day.

Small blocks of time. And breaking up the activities, too. So, some blocks of transcribing in the morning, some blocks of reading or researching in the afternoon, and then another few blocks of transcribing in the late afternoon -- a push to get lots done before leaving work.

Undoubtedly, being organized and knowing what you have to do when, and where, and what you'll need to do it is key, too. Forgetting your foot pedal at home (ahem), on a day when you had transcribing planned, isn't super productive. But -- I'll use the trip to zip home and pick that up as a reason to drop by the bird store to pick up more seed for my fine feathered friends, seeing as they were closed yesterday, too.

On that note! The 6 species that I was fortunate enough to see during the count, and these only from my office window, were:

Anna's hummingbird
potentially a Rufous hummingbird
a good number of chestnut-backed chickadees
several dark-eyed juncos
one western gull
and a lovely pair of house finches

I'd emailed a former colleague about the bird count and he'd advised to keep a look out for Bewick's and Pacific wrens and golden-crowned kinglets, and while I didn't see any yesterday, on my walk into the office today, I spotted some kind of wren low in the bushes along the road! So adorable, the way they bob and hop from branch to branch!

Friday, 14 February 2014

Post 3: Ergonomics, Leopold's "A Sand County Almanac", and Bird Counts!!!

It seems like this blog is going to be characterized by a number of longer posts right at the beginning, mostly because there's so much to cover!

So, this weekend, starting today, Valentine's 2014, to Feb. 17th, is the Great Backyard Bird Count. This is my first bird count, but I'm particularly thrilled to participate in citizen science! The minimum participation is one 15 minute slot to gaze outside and keep track of the feathered friends visiting your yard or the small space you can see. It's great, of course, if you can recognize bird calls (I am poor at this), but not a requirement. For my first count, I saw 8 chestnut-backed chickadees, 1 female dark-eyed junco, and one female Rufous hummingbird (I think)! And now I keep looking out the window seeing who else has come by. Some of the nuthatches visited, as well as a female Anna's hummingbird. So awesome!!!

                                  The above-mentioned hummingbird! Very cute! (Pardon the photo
                                  quality - phone photo!)

In my field (Environmental Studies), it would be almost impossible to avoid bumping into the name Aldo Leopold, (1887-1948). He is associated with the emergence of ecological restoration in North America, was a writer, an ecologist, and left a big legacy behind in Madison, Wisconsin. He was, as one can say, a 'man who punched above his weight.'

I had the immense good fortune of being able to go to Madison last year in October for the Society for Ecological Restoration's World Conference, where myself, my supervisor, and some of my colleagues got to meet the people that are really making the science and ideas happen in ecological restoration today. Some of these people (especially ones that I was really excited to meet) included Richard Hobbs,  Lauren Hallet, Katharine Suding, James Harris, Michael Perring, and Stephen Murphy (again - he's visited UVic before).

A field trip to the Arboretum was also spectacular - and all of this, even reminiscing, made me want to read Leopold's "A Sand County Almanac," which is a collection of his best-known writings and essays.

I've stumbled across one of his best known sayings, already, and will include the short paragraph in whole, here:
           "The outstanding scientific discovery of the twentieth century is not television,
             or radio, but rather the complexity of the land organism. Only those who know
            the most about it can appreciate how little is known about it. The last word in
            ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant: "What good is it?" If the
            land mechanism as a whole is good, then every part is good, whether we
            understand it or not. If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something
            we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly
            useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent
            tinkering" (pps. 176-177).
In other words, let us not destroy any part of nature, purposely or out of carelessness, simply because we do not yet understand its value or purpose in an ecosystem.

And further into the book, this paragraph, which speaks to a lot of the pain and frustration I felt especially sharply during my undergrad:
          "One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world
            of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to the laymen.
           An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences
           of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks
           of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told
           otherwise" (183).
Today, I would change that only slightly to read "An ecologist must either harden his or her shell and make believe that the consequences of business-as-usual/capitalism are none of his business, or that he or she must be the doctor....."
To look around and see the inherent contradictions of global capitalism that makes material richness appear in the death throes of biodiversity and ecosystems, and to understand that global climate change is the result of a business-as-usual setting on the global economic scale is depressing at best. Divesting from fossil fuels and investing in social and ecological capital -- more than enough people are calling for some of these changes. It's a small comfort to find someone else feeling this way already 60+ years ago. And, I suppose, humour is always, good, too, like this cartoon.

So, I said I'd write a few words about ergonomics, too! Ergonomics is the kind of thing that isn't a problem, until you have some injury you're dealing with. Late into my undergrad years, I developed some sort of strange shoulder pain. Undoubtedly poor posture, and spending hours sedentary in front of my laptop contributed significantly to this. I went to massage therapy for a little while, and things got better.

Going into year 2 of this master's program, I started to have problems again. The same pain, but this time it was accompanied by pins and needles, and a very deep ache that discouraged me from spending time on my laptop, which essentially meant there were pockets of time where I was unable to work. After a few visits to the massage therapist, I decided to do something to more directly tackle the problem. I joined in on an ergonomics session offered at UVic by the Occupational Health, Safety and Environment staff. They offer regular sessions. I picked up a number of pointers, such as how to set up your chair, where your keyboard should sit, how to use your mouse (there is a wrong way!), how far away your monitor should be, what level to keep your head at, etc. So much!

My laptop is my only computer. At work I have a second large monitor that I was occasionally using. I have since made that my main monitor, which enables me to look straight ahead instead of downwards as I had been doing. I also purchased an external keyboard so I didn't need to bunch my shoulders when my laptop was on my desk. Incidentally, I got a new desk at work with a slide-out keyboard tray, which is nice. I also started to use a mouse - I didn't have one for my laptop before.

Related, according to Cathy, who led the ergonomics session, the most recent research on combatting sedentary lifestyles has also mentioned that you should be standing once every 15 minutes [and yes, that's just standing up once every 15 minutes](I think to help circulation and blood movement through the body, primarily), and you should stand for 2 minutes per hour. In order to remember to do this, I have my laptop set to announce the time every 15 minutes. I also try to get up and walk around the room, do 10 squats, walk up and down the stairs twice, or something similar once an hour. Or, taking a snack break and eating standing is also good.

Next, there are a number of stretches and exercises you can do. I got a sheet full of them from the Ergonomics workshop, and have selected the bunch that most apply to me.

Ergonomics is something that you need to be proactive about. It's too late when you're already noticing pain or aches in certain places. Good prevention is key, and for that you need to know what you can do. I'm sure this shoulder thing cost me at least 2 months time when I was transcribing my interviews mind-numbingly slow. I just couldn't spend that much time on my laptop.

Finally, I had Cathy come for a short visit to my workstation to look things over thrice. We ended up taking the arms off my chair because they were encouraging poor posture. I would be reading and would lean to one side... not good.

Now, my day is much more intentionally active. While I occasionally go to the gym, and cycle up to work, I'm also regularly standing up, walking over to look out the window briefly, doing targeted stretches, and overall feeling pretty good about. My shoulder problem isn't completely healed yet, and I think it's the kind of injury that won't be difficult to re-sustain. Unlike a big bone break, this one was a quiet sneaky injury that I wouldn't wish on anyone.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Post 2: CONFORWest, Posters, and Conference Organizing

This is a little bit of a longer post, as there's much to share from this weekend when I was away for a conference. Instead of a post about ergonomics (that will be the next one!), this post will be a reflection and recap from the conference these past few days, poster presentations, and my experience of helping organize CONFORWest 2014.

Probably one of the best things about being a grad student is the vastness of the possibilities that suddenly open for you, regarding extracurricular activities in grad school. Not that these aren't available to you as an undergrad student, but as a grad student you are actively encouraged to seek out conferences in your study area, network with other grad students, get involved in reviewing articles, giving presentations, and get involved in some of the organizational aspects of those projects (although, depending on your supervisor, perhaps less for the the organizing part, as it would take you away from getting your work done!!!). I fully support taking a break from one's own work in a productive way --- and for me, helping out with this project is one of those things.

I consider myself to be a very community oriented person, and work with a flexible concept of community: my department, my neighbourhood, my city, my discipline, my municipality, province, country... all depends on what's involved, but I generally like people, and I certainly am attracted to working with people who care to contribute meaningfully for the experiences of others. CONFORWest is one such project. A conference is one of those awesome places to meet like-minded and interested people, network professionally, practice presentation skills, and of course, to learn a little bit more about how the world works, including academia.

So, waaaay back in September now, I signed on to help out with CONFORWest, a graduate student planned conference for graduate students in environmental sciences/studies and related disciplines. True to the advertisement of the conference, CONFOR is meant to be a very friendly, open experience for grad students of all stripes - PhD students, and first, second, and upper year grad students. It's an awesome place to meet people, learn about their projects and the research they're undertaking, and have some really wonderful conversations and experiences together.

Let's talk briefly about the academic experience of the conference. There were three presentation types we offered to participants: 15 minute oral presentation, 5 minute oral Ignite (15 slides, each 20 seconds automatically timed) presentations, or a poster presentation. This was only my second ever conference. The first I went to was a fairly significant 1300 person conference in October of last year: the Society for Ecological Restoration's World Conference. There, I presented a poster that was designed to showcase where my research was at, the background/context, a bit about methods, and some preliminary findings. Mere months later, this poster was still relevant for this conference. I can't actually say too much about preparing for a conference presentation (having not yet given one), but from my experience of the students over the weekend, presenting at a grad-student conference would be awesome. You will have an engaged, caring, and understanding audience, generally interested in what you're doing, and certainly supportive of it.

The poster presentation was awesome, too, though, and I think the experience is different from an oral presentation. For posters, you need to do a lot of the work before the conference. Posters can take a while to design, layout, and they typically need to be printed with several days leeway before leaving for a conference. Poster costs can range from $40-100, depending on who you print with, and size specifications. On campus at UVic, we have two places to print posters: UVic Printing Services (where I had mine done), and ZAP! Printing Services, in the Student Union Building. You can also get your poster printed at Staples downtown.
       So, posters take time, and certainly it's recommended that you practice presenting your posters. Anticipate that people who stop by want a quick run-down of what's on it. Alternately, if it's a bit busy and you're already engaged in conversation with someone, passersby may want to stand back and read it from a few feet away, so your poster will need to be legible from a short distance. (There are a number of awesome resources online for poster help). It's often a good idea to acknowledge everyone who stops by. I struggle with this a little bit, perhaps because I'm a bit of an introvert, or perhaps because it's challenging not to seem rude to break off one awesome conversation to start another. Crowd management... I certainly can practise those skills a bit more.
      By the time the conference happens, and you hang your poster, you should anticipate some of the basic questions the people might have. There's also a balance to be struck with the content of your poster, and the key things that didn't fit that you will mention in more in-depth conversations that arise with those viewing your poster. An easy way to think of a poster is as a visual abstract: short, sweet, but making you want to know more -- the more being the conversation with the researcher.
I'm a big fan of the poster presentation, and was very happy with the poster session at this conference. It was really fun to field questions and have people interested in my work.

So, aside from a few hiccups on the organizing end of the conference (more on this shortly), the rundown of the conference was fantastic. The Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre was a fantastic venue for the conference, and very-well suited for our 46 person group. Rooms with two bunk beds housed 4 people at a time, the food was AMAZING -- the chef a real stand-up fellow -- and the location was phenomenal. The beauty and quiet and simply stunning West Coast of Vancouver Island was very much the right place to have this conference.

                             The 'clamshell' the main conference facility at Bamfield. Very cool space.

My biggest treat, however, was getting to meet naturalist Andy MacKinnon. Many will recognize his last name from the covers of the Lone Pine fieldguides for Plants of Coastal BC, the alpine, the interior of the province, too. What fellow! He lead a nature walk before dinner and his keynote presentation on Friday, and the next morning I shyly asked him to sign my field guide, and he very generously did so. Full of heart, good humour, and endowed with a passion for teaching and sharing his knowledge, it was so wonderful to meet him!

Nature Walk with Andy MacKinnon, deep in the West Coast forest!

So, the hiccups... as the Logistics person, I will admit to three things that at times had me concerned. First, I chartered a bus on behalf of CONFOR to pick up people from the Victoria Airport, downtown Victoria, and in Nanaimo on our way up to Bamfield (a 5 hour drive from Victoria). The night before the conference, I stayed up late to sort out how many people we needed to pick up at each spot. I also realized late in the day that the location for the downtown pick-up was a bit vague: the Legislature Buildings. I wondered, where was the bus-parking there? Turns out, there is none. I found this out the morning we were supposed to leave. Fortunately, the bus could park one street corner over at the Royal BC Museum where there is bus pick-up and drop-off. I made signs, and headed down with my conference billet who'd arrived the night before.

I met with a few other committee members who were coming in from the airport pick-up. I'd already rounded together a couple people and sent them the street over to the bus. Eventually I gave up my signs and that duty to go count heads on the bus. We had everyone together in what seemed like record time! After a final head count, and realizing that we had one more person than expected, we set off for Nanaimo. It took me a bit to figure out why there was one extra person, and basically, they had changed their pick-up location from Nanaimo to downtown, and that worked.

About 45 minutes later, one of the committee members came back on the bus, chatting on her cell phone. She was intensely in conversation, but it was clear to me it had something to do with me, too, and she shortly said, "I'll pass you to our logistics coordinator." I held the phone to one side and asked who it was. "A person we left behind in Victoria," she said. I'm pretty sure my eyes bugged, as they have a tendency to do when I'm really surprised. I spoke with the person, and sure enough, we'd left them behind!! I'm still not sure how we missed them, but I also didn't know what to suggest! Good thing for me, they already had a plan and were standing at a bus rental company. She was essentially calling to make sure that it would be okay for the conference to cover the cost of the rental. I check with two other committee members, and said Yes! (How else we'd have met up with her, I had no idea...) So, they finalized that, and drove to Nanaimo to meet us with the bus there. Timing-wise, it was perfect for the situation. We'd finished loading-up in Nanaimo, and stopped at the car rental company on our way out. The participant had just arrived there a few minutes earlier and was ready for us. They were greeted by applause and jubilation on the bus. Phew. I could relax a bit after that.

Second, that night, we arrived in Bamfield early, as the logging road leading to this little town was in fantastic shape. Extremely dusty at times, but otherwise, very good. We passed our fair share of loaded trucks and "crummies" at they're known locally -- the Fords and other loggers' trucks that whizz along the roads, sometimes a little recklessly, out of familiarity. Registration sent us to our assigned rooms, and dinner was planned for shortly after. About 20 minutes after arrival, someone comes up to me to ask about blankets -- were there going to be any? I crinkled my forehead. While Bamfield had provided a top and bottom sheet and towels, there were no blankets on the beds, and I did not know why. When I'd been planning with Bamfield's conference organizer, I thought I'd discussed that we wanted Bamfield to set us up with bedding materials so we didn't need to tell our participants to bring sleeping bags. But at this point that conversation was from months ago, and I could stare at 46 bunk beds that were blanket-less. This is in February, on the wet West Coast. Temperatures were around 3-5 degrees, but felt much much colder, and while there were thermostats in each of the rooms, this was extremely worrisome. Later that evening we had a safety talk planned with one of the Bamfield staff, and myself and another committee member would ask that person what was going on.

                                   Our view across the waters to the other half of Bamfield!

Long story short, they had blankets, but those hadn't been put out. We weren't really given an explanation for why, but I will follow-up on this with Bamfield in a few days or so. We weren't sure exactly how many we needed (was one blanket enough, or were 2 needed?), so we put out a whole bunch and guessed. Everyone got at least one blanket, and the next day we sorted out who needed a second one because one wasn't quite enough on the first night. All in all, it worked out, but it was a bit scary at first.

Lastly, I woke Sunday morning to a nightmare about the bag lunches for our departure day. I should have checked on Saturday with the chef, including to ask where people could pick them up, and when. When I headed to breakfast just before 8AM, I checked-in with the chef, and as soon as I asked my question, I could see from his wide eyes that our request for lunches hadn't gone through. I don't know why that happened, either, but I panicked for a minute. He said to give him 20 minutes so he could see if he could do it. What he had planned I did not know. I mentioned this to another committee member, very worried, although we could have stopped at a Tim Hortons in Nanaimo or something like that, but it would have been around 2PM. The drive from Bamfield to Nanaimo is about 4 hours, and we weren't leaving until 10. However, he came to me minutes later and said he could figure something out, and that they'd be ready just before 10. Turns out that he and his staff made a sandwich making station out of the cafeteria space, and it couldn't have worked more perfectly. Brown paper bags were ready with juice boxes, cookies, and a stick of fruit leather, and then bread was set out, all sorts of options for innards, and mayo, several kinds of mustard, and other goodies. It was fantastic, and no one was the wiser. I am so grateful for the chef and his fast-on-his-feet attitude. He'd spent a minute reassuring me that it was going to be great after he'd made his plan, and it really was.

So, it's good to double and triple check the details. Everything worked out, and the Bamfield staff was great to work with. That I only had these few things that came up was fantastic.

So, that concludes Bamfield and my organizing experience. I'm still startled by how quickly the weekend went, but I feel very warm-hearted towards the students I got to meet, some from as far away as the University of Saskatchewan, and the Evergreen State University in Washington. Thank you to everyone, and especially the hardworking committee members, too. Thank you for sharing your ideas, your passions, your research. It was a pleasure.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Post 1: The Good Stuff

I just concluded one of the final committee meetings of CONFORWest 2014. As the Logistics Coordinator responsible for everything from special event insurance to venue and transportation booking, I feel like for the first time in weeks I can almost relax. My to-do list is shorter than three fingers put together, and the mental weight of organizing is lifting. I feel a guilty sense of pleasure at looking forward to the conference and feeling like there's not a whole lot left for me to do; I know it's not quite the same for some of my compatriots.

So, now it's time to dive back into Interview Transcribing!

Interview transcription is part of the process that sets me up to analyze the data I collected (the answers to the questions I asked for my research). These are my three research questions:

1. How have the mountain pine beetle and the rapid ecological and environmental changes seen in BC’s most recent MPB outbreak shaped scientific practice?
2. In what ways do scientists understand the relationship between their scientific practices and the formation of policy and action, and do they see this role changing (in light of the MPB outbreak)?
3. If scientists are aware of concepts or terms related to novel ecosystems or ecological novelty, what do these terms or concepts offer them? (Conceptually? Practically?)

As copied and pasted from my thesis proposal... way back in September. 

Over the summer I was travelling to Edmonton, Prince George, and around in Victoria, and setting up Skype telephone calls with researchers in Vancouver to complete my interviews. I had 18 questions I asked interviewees, and the qualitative, empirical (read, exploratory) data I got from those interviews is what I'm finishing writing up from the audio recordings. I will theme and code the data, so that I can strive for validity -- this means that I will be able to say with (at least some) certainty: These are the themes/ideas/observations from my data.

                       Me with my visitor's pass at the Pacific Forestry Centre, where Natural Resources
                       Canada displays a huge model of Dendroctonus ponderosae. 

This is to help me avoid making loosey-goosey interpretations that have no foundation. The structure is there for an important reason. Validity is extremely important for qualitative data. It's what helps you from lapsing into pseudo-science, as well as simply shoddy research whose findings aren't supported by the data they're based on. Now, of course there's still the possibility that you will over- or mis-state some of your findings; at your master's, that's what you're learning to do, still, and that's why there's a whole lot of revision and feedback from your supervisor and committee. And the first time of diving into a big project in depth like this will be the hardest, G— reminded me, during a post-meeting discussion started with two colleagues after the conclusion of the meeting. Doing a master's is meant to feel difficult, and there's supposed to be a lot of room for making mistakes and learning; otherwise, you'd already be a professional, an expert, a published author, right? Those mistakes and errors get edited out as you complete your thesis, though. That revision process is also a big part of the learning.

My colleagues and I talked a little bit more about working on thesis, too. M— and I agreed that we came to places where we felt like we had no idea what we were doing. How easy it is to forget, or to get lost, or to just feel like you don't have a carpet to stand on. My partner has been really good at reminding me that every grad student goes through this process, of feeling the uncertainty and insecurity, and it just is damn tough! M— recommended two books for me to read, one being Joan Bolker's "Writing Your Dissertation in 15 Minutes A Day". Some parts of it are supposedly a bit outdated (there's a section on deciding whether or not to use a computer), but otherwise, it's supposed to be really helpful for working through some of the difficulties with tackling your thesis, and understanding/contextualizing that other part: your supervisor and where they're coming from, and how to understand their comments/feedback/advice on your work. I look forward to borrowing the book from the library. M—'s also recommended another book that she owns, and will lend it to me soon.

So, to transcribing, the whole happy go of it!
My next post will be about ergonomics and the latest research on that that I'm still trying to incorporate into my healthy work lifestyle.