Monthly Archives: December 2011

If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough. Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

This quote should be required indoctrination for all academics, professors and researchers. It is often the subject of much debate. I have been accused of “reductionism” for trying to state my theoretical and methodological approaches succinctly and in a way that even the layperson could understand (and would want to understand, too). This is going to be my mantra for the next few months: “How do I say it simply?”


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Talking about the sabbatical

Check out my new video: Sabbatical & Blogging

For more about sabbaticals see:

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The BIG Plan

Today I am meeting with one of my star graduate students to plow through a couple of things. We need to get her thesis and directions for her work in order first, then we need to think about the external reviewers’ comments on a paper we submitted to the flagship journal in our field. I feel this is a real chance to be published in this journal, and am happy that this graduate student can be part of the project. That’s the good stuff about this job, which I will miss during my sabbatical.

I have one more week basically of a few more meetings on campus related to committees and administrative responsibilities, but then I am done for the next 8 months with those meetings and teaching. Just focusing on scholarship (reading, writing, research, grant proposals).

One problem has already arisen, which is the problem I expected. My home office is not established as a place in my mind where a lot of work is usually done – at least not consistently. The home office is a place where I respond to deadlines or crank out work in between goofing off. Maybe that is a good thing, but it also means that I am going to have to be extra diligent about setting things up in there. It may sound funny, but I think I may paint the walls right after the holiday so that it is more conducive to work. The current yellow walls (leftover from when this room was the previous owner’s little girl’s bedroom) just doesn’t cut it for me anymore. I also am funny about keeping my desk and work area neat. I tend to be much more productive when it is clean and things aren’t spread around, which is the opposite of what it looks like now. That needs to be changed. Then I need to set aside specific hours when I will work and will not interact with social media. This may be the biggest challenge, but we’ll see how it goes. I’ve never been great at *not* getting distracted, so this may be fighting a losing battle. Finally, I think I need to get an ionizer air purifier so that I can smoke my pipe in the office throughout the day and not make the whole house smoky. That will be strategically important too since my wife works from home as well and is not always the biggest fan of the non-aromatic tobaccos I sometimes smoke in my pipe.

Some other ideas for the sabbatical that need to make the list are: (1) collect the things I want or need to read during the spring – either new stuff articles or older and classic books; (2) see what I already have in the pipeline and could get out for review fairly quickly for a fast track start, and then look at what my longer term projects are that will take development and time over a longer period; (3) get in the habit of journal writing, which is part of the reason for this blog and twitter account; (4) I also have some ideas for mobile phone apps for pipe smoking and for health education that I’d like to get off the ground.

Finally, a lot of this blog is going to be me thinking out loud about what I should be doing and what I am doing during my sabbatical. The classes have ended and now I am just finishing up this semester with some grading. No big deal. The real question is what to focus on for the next sabbatical semester, which runs from January to May (technically), but from January through August (in we include summer). That’s 8 months to concentrate on the life of the mind. But, that’s part of the question, too, because I’m thinking about concentrating on the life of the body and soul as well during these 8 months. I’d like to use this like a whole gift of time to renew and rejuvenate my life. Seems kind of appropriate given the nature of this time of year as well because it goes along with some of the new year’s resolutions-type thinking that is typical.

So, here’s what I’d also like to do:

1) Devote 1 hour per day (or 5 hours per week) learning Arabic and improving my German.

2) Exercise. Specifically, I’d like to take a walk in the morning and a walk in the afternoon or evening. 30 minutes at a pop for an hour’s worth of walking each day.

3) Write a draft novel. I might do it a la the style of the November writing challenge idea. 50,000 words in one month. The question is to decide which month?

4) Write a draft of my Saudi/Gulf education policy and reform book.

5) Submit for publication 5+ journal articles.

In addition, I will be continuing the series editorship of the volume series I work on. And, I will be preparing for and presenting at the major conference in my field. That will take a lot of effort. I will also potentially be going to Germany and Saudi Arabia at some point during those 8 months, but am not sure exactly when.

As I think of more things, or refine what I’ve already thought of, I will record it all here.


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Where this is headed

The next order of events is to finish the final grading for my classes and to make the first big step into organizing my potential projects. The most pressing project right now is something I have promised to a German colleague and will be part of a special journal issue to come out in 2012. I am apprehensive about it because it is in part a response and in part a justification of the theoretical and methodological perspectives that I have grounded the last 10 years of my work on. So, how to organize myself in a way that makes sense and how to get the ball rolling on this article? I may return to the old school style of using my paper notebook list and combine it with to put things into categories and assign deadlines. As far as getting the writing started, I simply just need to start. I need to set aside 4-5 hours of time to plow out as much of a draft or sections for the draft as I can. Then I will move forward. That is the plan; let’s see how it works.

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