Monday, June 30, 2008

A new beginning...

Over the weekend: 3 hours writing, 4 hours processing data, page count = 261

Today: 2 hours processing data, page count = 261

Thanks to everyone who's followed this blog, whether from the beginning or in recent months. Your support has gotten me so far, and I couldn't have done it without you. As I've hinted in the last few days, I have exciting news on the career front: I started a new job today!

Effective June 30, my new title is Consultant, Philanthropy Practice at the TCC Group, a private consulting firm that provides evaluation, strategic planning, and program development to foundations, corporations, and nonprofits. My work will focus on foundations, and some of my first assignments include grantee coaching and convening, program management, and strategic planning. The people are great, the firm is growing, the work is engaging: I couldn't ask for anything more!

As I ramp up in the first six weeks on the job, I will wind down my dissertation. Over the weekend, I processed the biggest remaining chunk of data, considerably bolstering the crucial fifth of six Antioquia episodes in Chapter 4. Tonight I worked on the additional data for the sixth episode, and over the next couple of evenings, I'll finish up that episode, make a final polish of that chapter, and send it out for review. Then over the long weekend, I'll finish making changes to Chapter 5 and the conclusion and send that out for review as well. My goal is to get comments back and incorporate them by Sunday, July 20, when I'll send a full revised draft to my advisors. I then have until August 15 to discuss final changes, get signatures, and file. The timing actually works fine with my job, as it takes a little while to get written into new projects, and the summer is a bit slower in general. I'll work on the dissertation evenings and weekends to get this last push done.

I'll continue to update the blog as I make progress over the next six weeks, but consider this the last post from my thirteen months as a full-time dissertation writer. It's been fun and productive, and the end is very near. A big part of my success has been due to the comfortable and calm environment at my writing space in Tribeca, The Village Quill. Thanks Harry! See, it really has taken a village to write this dissertation....

Thanks again for your support!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Four out of six ain't bad

1.5 hours processing data, 3 hours writing, page count = 256

Took a couple of days off this week in anticipation of some exciting new developments next week. Got a chance to see the semifinals of the European soccer championships. My heart broke for the brave and valiant Turks. I had the good fortune to stumble across a restaurant full of Turkish fans for the dramatic final minutes of their semifinal, and I was impressed by their passion and sportsmanship. Hats off! Now, Spain, it's up to you to kick Germany's ass on Sunday.

Continued going through Chapter 4 today, tightening up and adding in some targeted new information. I'm feeling good about everything but the last two episodes out of the six, which need better presentation and a bit more data. Luckily, I have a lot on which to draw already gathered.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Out with the new, in with the old

4 hours writing, 1 hour researching, page count = 255

Made good progress today, addressing all of the new changes in the Preface, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, and Chapter 4. I also followed up on a pending change in Chapter 4 that required a quick trip to the library for some specific additional data. I'm very close to having a revised draft of Chapter 4. Onward!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Pass the ether

2.5 hours phone call, 2 hours writing, page count = 252

Had a great conversation with one of my advisors this afternoon. We walked through the logic of the entire dissertation via the table of contents, which has quite a lot of detail (it's a good page and a half), and I got great feedback about order of presentation and how to structure the argument most effectively. All the pieces seem to be in place, it's a question of honing the argument to its sharpest point and presenting it most effectively. I'm very encouraged. I gained more changes to make to my list, which had been growing quite short, but many of them are relatively precise, almost surgical, in nature. I began going through and making them after our call. Keep getting closer....

Friday, June 20, 2008

Jump around

5 hours writing, page count = 250

This includes time spent earlier in the week. Lots of stuff going on the past several days, more soon from the Department of Mysteries.

In the meantime, I'm going back through Chapter 4, having completed a second pass at all six episodes, editing, tightening, and making consistent. I also jumped forward to Chapter 5 and the Conclusion, adding in some materials, smoothing a few other things out. I maintain a file called "Cut from Dissertation Manuscript Worth Keeping." Intriguingly - or depressingly - it's 174 pages at this point. A couple of different times, I've strip-mined entire sections out of chapters to get at the veins of pure ore lying beneath them. Now that I've located those, I can go back to the strip-mined materials and use them to strengthen the mineshaft through which the pure ore flows. That said, a lot of the strip-mined materials is just useless rocks that don't fit together or don't grind down into fine enough powder to use as building materials. All part of the process.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Chapter 4

2 hours writing, 0.5 hours phone call, page count = 249

Made it through a first pass of the sixth of the six episodes in the Antioquia chapter. I have a good bit of fleshing out to do in that, and in the fifth episode, as well as a lot of overall tightening up, but that chapter is starting to come into much clearer focus. It'll sure feel good to have a revised draft of that done soon!

I spoke with a classmate who filed recently to get some advice on guiding the manuscript through the final stages of the approval process. It was a very helpful conversation.

Some interesting developments on the job front, I'll have more to say on that soon. I continue to be very active with my giving circle, which is a great learning experience. I'm lucky to be working with some very talented people on that, it's a real pleasure.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Barreling round the final turn

2.5 hours writing, 0.5 hours emailing, page count = 245

I finished with the fifth episode in the Antioquia chapter, and started in on the sixth and final one. It's slow going, but I'm making good progress.

I also have someone to read a couple of chapters prior to my advisors' return from vacation, so that'll help make the draft I present to them ultimately stronger.

Next week, I head into the homestretch. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

What's good for the gander

3 hours writing, 0.5 hours emailing, page count = 240

Got most of the way through the fifth episode out of six in the Antioquia chapter, and made some changes to the Preface. On the fifth episode, it's been more structure work, as well as introducing additional analysis of data that I already had on hand. The goose is fattening up nicely.

I also have been corresponding with my advisors about the timing for getting them a revised full draft, and when they'll be able to review it given summer travel/vacation schedules. Currently, it looks like I'll have something ready to distribute by the end of next week, but it'll be a few weeks before I can get feedback from my advisors, given travel schedules. So I'm reaching out to a few other folks about potentially getting feedback from them in the meantime. Anyway, it's feeling good to be close to a revised full draft.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Doscientos (ahora si de verdad)

2 hours writing, 3 hours processing data, page count = 237

The big 2-0-0! Very exciting. This is my two-hundredth post on this blog. I'm glad to be nearing the end, but I have to say, the journey has been quite something.

Today I finished revising the fourth of six episodes on the Antioquia chapter. I also laid some good groundwork for the fifth episode, which I'll take up tomorrow. I talked yesterday about jumping around a lot and that being productive, but today I seemed to want to focus on just the one thing, and move that forward. Onward tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Doscientos (menos uno)

1.5 hours writing, 4.5 hours researching, page count = 235

[Edited 6/11: Whoops! I originally thought this was my two-hundredth post, but that was one off. Have to hold off that celebration for tomorrow!]

The past couple of days I've been focused on Chapter 5 and the Conclusion. A lot of that work has been about structure. William Goldman, the guy who wrote Butch Cassidy and Marathon Man, has a couple of books on screenwriting. In the second one, he talks about dialogue: it's practically the least important part of the screenwriter's job. The most important part is structure: what happens when and why. I feel like a screenwriter lately, taking a bunch of disparate set-pieces and finding a structure that works for them and tells a coherent story. Yesterday, I think I found one for the Conclusion, and today, I took a decent stab at finding one for Chapter 5. In both structures, there are pieces that need fleshing out, but I see the directions in which I need to go.

My writing space was closed again today, so I went to the library and consulted Mexico sources for Chapter 5. It's such a rich comparison to Colombia given the similarly centrifugal political geography and Liberal-Conservative politics of the 19th century. My aim was to flesh out the vignette I already had in place, and I got some good material for that.

Tomorrow I'll work more on structure, more on Mexico, and go back to Chapter 4 and pick up on the fourth of six Antioquia episodes. I'm finding it productive to be working on several fronts at once. It feels like tying a pair of sneakers, where you have to pull on pairs of overlapping laces at different points along the instep to get the whole thing nice and tight.

Monday, June 9, 2008

End-to-end effort is rewarded

2.5 hours writing, 3.5 hours researching, page count = 233

I'm almost finished now with the U.S. comparison. I have the outline of the whole section, now I just need to go back in, tighten it up, and fill out some additional material. My writing space is closed again tomorrow, so I'll go to the library and check out some additional sources for the Mexico section in the comparative-perspective chapter.

Cathy's new job started off well. Her commute is a lot less, so we don't have to get up quite so early in the morning. That's clearly going to make a big difference in quality of life.

The Euro 2008 soccer championship started this past weekend, and although it's not as exciting as the World Cup or the South American championship, I'll still follow along. You won't see a cooler goal than this all year. The clip doesn't capture the whole play, which started when a Dutch defender saved the ball on his own goal line, ran two-thirds the length of the field flat-out, picked up a pass on the fast break, and lined up a perfect cross. The more I think about it, this may be one of my top-5 favorite goals of all time - definitely in the team-effort category. As one of the Dutch banners read, Hup Nederlands!

Friday, June 6, 2008

A whole new level of Zen

It's been a little more than a year since I started this blog. At the same time as I began posting, I started a daily ritual of spending 30 seconds at the end of each day standing at the landing in front of our building and looking out over the park and the river. Just emptying my mind of the day and appreciating the beautiful environment in which I live.

Over the weeks and months, I observed how the little patch of land directly before me would change incrementally with the seasons: foliage blooming, falling, laying dormant for months and then suddenly, rapidly reviving at the end of March; the migratory patterns
of geese and ducks who liked to congregate on the park lawn, even as it was covered over for the winter; the changing flows of foot, bicycle, and boat traffic; the many breeds of apartment dogs popular in our neighborhood.

It's been a wonderful experience, and I'm glad I did it, but lately, I've grown restless. Everything is in bloom, and the park is always full, but it all feels the same, or too much.

So the other day, I decided to ascend to a whole new level of Zen. I started going up to the roof deck for my nightly ritual. It's a 40-story building. I should have enough in my visual field to keep me occupied for quite some time! But I go up there knowing what I know about my one patch of land, right out the front door of our building.

Cathy and I are upstate for a couple of days before she starts her new job on Monday. The event for my giving circle on Wednesday went really well, thanks to a great team effort, and I had a good job interview earlier that same day. Next week holds many things, as I make a big final push on the diss, Cathy starts a new job, and I hear back about two job prospects.

See you next week!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


1.5 hours writing, 4 hours researching, page count = 230

Toggled today between reading secondary sources for the U.S. comparison in the conclusion, on which I made more writing progress, and fleshing out the third of six Antioquia episode in Chapter 4. I think I have a decent draft in place of that third episode, and can move on to the fourth one, even as I continue working on the U.S. comparison.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Mataron a Gaitan

1 hour writing, 4 hours processing data, page count = 227

Worked on the third of the six episodes in the Antioquia chapter today. This is the one about the aftermath of the April 9, 1948 assassination of populist Liberal leader Jorge Eliecer Gaitan. Antioquia was generally pretty quiet compared to other states, so I've needed to bring in episodes from those to flesh out the Antioquia story, but there are actually a couple of interesting stories that go on in Antioquia itself. I find myself returning to the rich sources that I mined at the state archives in Medellin last fall. It seems so long ago now, but the detail I was able to gather is the gift that keeps on giving.

Tomorrow I'll finish up episode 3 and go back to the library to work on the U.S. and Mexico comparisons.