Sunday, October 29, 2006

Past the half-way mark for the first semester

So, we just passed the half-way mark for the first semester, things are heating up so far as deadlines and papers go. I'm having to get really focused to get things done. More than once I've recognized that panicked feeling that usually leads to being short-tempered and bitchy. Ah, yes, even something you love can get to you.

That said, it's still absolutely amazing how my separate courses continue t merge into a unified whole. The questions I ask in one class could just as well be asked in the other(s). My paper for one class will cite the same works, some of them, as the other. But integrating at that level is really hard. First of all, it's not required. You don't get anything for it in terms of grade. And it's harder than keeping things separate. But it's so compelling for other reasons. That makes it hard to resist. I suppose that what I'll end up doing is just not dwelling on the connections right now, but noting them (where?) and preparing for the point at where integration will be not only tolerated and encouraged, but required -- when I get ready to choose and write a dissertation topic.

Right now, the paper I was planning to write for KMS seems like it's already been written to some degree by Karen Calhoun in her Report for the Library of Congress on the future of cataloging. Not quite the angle I need to focus on, KMS and its role in the future of libraries, but much of the foundational work that supports the need for change is already there. That just makes the predicate easier to place, and it leaves me more pages to devote to creative thinking about how to reach the new audience. She deals with that to some degree, but seems to be focused more on how to enhance services for the existing customer. My big problem is stopping reading and starting writing. The paper, well, 5 pages of it, is due in about 48 hours and I have yet to put pen to paper. Actually, that's not true. I already have 6 pages of outline, but I need to modify it considerably to be turning in something other than what I have already turned in. How long will that take me? That is actually a more important question for life as a grad student than I could have imagined. It turns out that how long things take is so fundamentally different for this kind of work than for the work I did before that it becomes a central problem -- I get considerably anxious about the fact that I need alot more time to get things done than I am used to taking. I had gotten so efficient at my other work that I could accurately predict pretty much precisely what I needed to get anything done, and do it in less than even I budgeted for it. But not anymore. Everything takes forever...

But I am on the home stretch. Tomorrow is preregistration for next semester. I will take the plunge and keep swimming. I don't expect things to be any easier next semester, but supposedly, the second year is easier than the first. I don't know. At least there is 6 weeks off at Christmas and 3 months off at summer. And spring break. And Thanksgiving. Not to say I live for the off-time. I love this. But it is so demanding of my time and energy. In fact, if I didn't love it, it would kill me.

Back to the paper. Oh, one other thing. I placed out of 16 hours of french in advanced placement and have qualified to take a 3rd year french course. This is a major hurdle in my plan to do some research in France next summer. It means I can take a course to improve speaking in the spring, and be better equipped to handle the language while I am there in the summer. Now to figure out where, with whom, what to do, etc....

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Blog this! doesn't work in Beta and I just switched to beta...

so as best I can tell, blog this! is the tool to use to create a blog here including a post from another blog or website, but unfortunately, it does not work in beta blogger, and I just today switched to beta. just my luck. well, at least I figured it out. it took forever, it seemed. i was doing this instead of reading for Don's class. actually, i was doing both, but not getting as much reading done as i would have preferred. but this is exactly the kind of thing i need to do, so it's just as well.

the article on mylifebits was amazing. written in 2002, so i wonder whether there's anything like this actually on the market today. let's see...

Yes, there's an update on it, 2006. It's even more impressive today, but I wonder if it suffers from objective creep. It's objective will get more lofty as its researchers discover more and more that can be done, so the goal will always be "just a few years away." I also note that the research on MyLifeBits is sponsored by Microsoft, so I wonder if that means that it won't be open source, will be proprietary, and like other MS products such as Outlook, if one uses it, one can never get one's data out of it to switch to another application. I just hate that.

Integrating Turnbull's Blog as PKM

I just read an article by Don Turnbull, PIKII (Personal Information & Knowledge Infrastructure Integrator) which I should be able to link to here, but I can't figure out yet how to post things to this blog like I can post to the KMS Blog from a website... Well, that's the whole point. The blog is capable of being alot more than just a journal of notes and observations about something or lots of things. It has the capability to integrate knowledge residing on the web with knowledge in my head, but I'm just learning about that. I don't quite have it down yet. So, it's starting to make sense though, why Don is teaching this class, why he has a blogging as a requirement, why he urges us to do more than just chat on it. It's starting to come together. I created this blog based on a post I had read where someone else was making nearly the same observation that Don and his co-authors make about a blog's potential, but I have yet to really tap it.

So, to integrate Don's article with the post I saw 6 weeks ago that got me started thinking about this, I know there's an easier way, and I'll figure it out, but here is Don's article the old-fashioned way:, and here's the watershed post that got me thinking: (Rajesh Jain, July 2, 2002) called Google + Blog = Personal Knowledge Management System at So, my next task is to figure out how to better integrate others' information into this process. What are my options?

After that, I can start "thinking" here, researching here, and collecting sources and ideas. We'll see.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Decided to go for the PhD this week

I've been mulling it over for several weeks now, really, for several months, but with registration for spring semester coming up in a few weeks, I decided that I needed to make a decision about whether to stay in the MSIS program, or apply to the PhD program. I talked with many people. I didn't find a single person who discouraged me from getting the PhD. It certainly seems to fit my research goals more generally and it was getting hard for me to imagine how I could achieve what I wanted to in just 2 years. At first 2 years seemed like a long time. Now it seems like a blink of an eye.

So, I am going to apply in December and see what happens. I'll register for classes for spring that work in both programs. I'm still on for going to France to do research in the summer, and I'm taking the advanced placement exam Monday to see whether I can place out of enough French to take a 3rd year course. Upper division courses outside the I School are the only ones that count towards any graduate degree. But the bottom line is that I need to study French before I go, whether I get credit for it or not. Problem is that if I'm not getting credit for it, it just adds either to the time it takes me to complete my degree, or to the work load. Neither is a particularly attractive choice. Well, I'll "jump off that bridge" when I come to it, as Phil said his brother usually says. I like that. It fits right now.

So, other than this, things are going ok. I finally have a scheduling routine that seems to be keeping my head above water, though work things tend to come out of nowhere and freak me out from time to time. They are "real" in a way that even deadlines for projects are not. At least I feel that I can pull attention away from a school project to focus on work with the only consequence being some possible effect on a grade. I can't fail anyone's expectations when it comes to work, however. It's not about a grade there. It's about integrity, trust, confidence, and future work!

Priorities are sorting themselves out. It is still taking all my time, but hey, what else would I like to be doing right now? This is fun.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Ok, so no posting in French

I had decided to post in French, as a way to practice, but it was going to take me so long to post anything, it just acted as a deterrent. So that's out. I have gotten very practical and down-to-earth in the last 5 weeks. Streamlined in every way. I can't imagine how one can keep up with everything that needs to be done without being exceptionally well-organized. I thought I was just that, but I had no idea...

So, 1/3 of the way through the first semester and I am tempting fate here to say that I think I've got it down. Figured out the function of "assignments" view of the things due (rather than calendar of readings and assignments intersperced in there). You have to be able to see exactly what's due when in order to schedule in the time you'll need to get it done amongst all the other things that have to get done over the same time periods.

I just figured out this last week why it's been such a challenge. As an attorney working in an office, I got all my work from either email (about 90%), phone calls, or occasionally, from another attorney in our office. So, all I had to do really was just read my mail and either (1) respond immediately, if the inquiry could be easily taken care of (copyright inquiries), or (2) schedule into my calendar a time to take care of the matter if it needed a block of time that was too long to justify interrupting the other things I had scheduled for the day (from previously acquired work coming in the same way). The really critical difference though is that it was rare than anything that came in would be something that would take me longer than a single short session of time to complete. Average time on task from beginning to end was probably 20 minutes. Some took an hour, some maybe even several hours, but the vast majority were short 10 to 30 minute tasks. This was the result of specializing for 15 years. It made me madly efficient, but it also made me like a machine in a way. I just cranked out stuff.

Now my tasks come from all different directions, from different media, different people, and they all have to be integrated into a coherent schedule. But the critical thing, as described above, is that they can't be done in a few minutes -- not one of them. They all take a long, long time, and in fact, it is hard for me to even know for sure how long they'll take. They almost always take a lot longer than I thought they would, and I am always scrambling to get everything done in the time I have to do it.

So, this is one huge area of learning involved in going back to school.

Then there's the subject matter. Totally cool, wonderful, interesting, exhilirating to be reading such neat things, seeing connections between and among everthing I read and talk with people about. It's like being in wonderland. But it's also way too much to be able to really work with it like I'd like to.

I have two projects. One is a paper and the other is a designing a user interface with 3 other people. Both are giving me perfect opportunities to put everything I'm learning to good use. So far so good. But again, is it supposed to take every minute of every day, 7 days a week?