Tag Archives: Research

The Grueling Crawl to the Finish

I’ve had a workable draft of my PhD thesis finished since this past summer.  All the basic ideas were in place.  I had to cut down some words, clean up some errors, and make some of the language more consistent.  But the essence of the argument was in place.

I found the process of formulating the argument to be an exciting, fun experience.  I was grappling with new ideas, thinking things through to their logical conclusion, and trying to draw connections between ideas.  That’s the fun part of working on original research.

The less fun part comes at the final stages of the PhD.  Since this summer, I have worked through my thesis over and over and over.  That’s probably not enough ‘overs’.  Each time I’m making things a little more precise, trying to remove every element that reflects fuzzy thinking.  Then I take what I have to my supervisor, and he points out a few more places where I can make things just a little bit better.

Realistically, all of these revisions are the difference between low def and hi def, DVD vs BLURAY.  The story is going to be the same, but hopefully everything is just a little more clear.  At least that’s what I hope.  Sometimes it feels like I have been buried in this work for so long that it has become impossible to tell how it would come across to someone picking it up for the first time.

I’m incredibly grateful for Dr Gathercole’s dedication and attentiveness to my work, and all of his feedback is definitely helping me take my work to a new level.  It’s sort of like working with a personal trainer.  He’s pushing me to a level of critical writing that I probably would not push myself.

At the same time, this work is not especially exhilarating.  It’s the grueling process of figuring out how to state each and every little idea in the clearest way possible.  For the first time in the course of my PhD, I just want this book to be over and done with.  I have other things I’d like to think about; there are new ideas I’d like to explore and develop.

When is a book ever really done?  You could work on revisions forever.    At some point, though, the revisions have to stop.

I think that the end of the PhD process is about refining your critical thinking and writing, on the one hand, and learning to make peace with the provisional nature of all human reflection, on the other.  I know that in 5 years there will be things about this thesis that I would definitely state differently.  Still, I’m going to be happy with what I produce whenever I submit this thesis in April, and it will stand as a record of this stage in my growth as a writer and theologian.  That has its own value, and I’ll leave it to someone else to carry on the discussion after me.

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Managing Information – How to Keep Track of What you Read

In my previous post about research, I rambled in general terms about the nature of the research process.  In this post I’d like to shift the discussion to the nuts and bolts of the research process.  How do I actually do research?  How do I keep track of resources?  How do I organize information?  Those sorts of questions.  If you don’t find a consistent way to keep track of your research, things can quickly get out of control.  It’s always frustrating when you can’t find where you got a quote or when you can’t remember what it was you wanted to say about something.  A good note management system can save you a ton of time and sorrow. 

Having said that, it’s also the case that everyone has their own way of managing information.  I learned this lesson my junior year of college.  I came home one day from class, and something inside me snapped whenever I looked at my room and realized that my roommate Ryan’s half of the room was in total disarray, just as it had been for the past several weeks.  Piles of clothes were everywhere.  There were assorted stacks of paper and books laying all over the place.  There was the usual stack of 24 packs of Diet Dr Pepper, the lone bastion of organization in an otherwise chaotic wasteland.  I decided I’d tidy things up for us, so I just consolidated some of the stacks of papers and piles of clothes.  I thought I was doing Ryan a favor.  I went to dinner, then I came back later at night.  To my surprise, I was greeted by an irate roommate.  Ryan was fuming.  He couldn’t find anything.  What had I done to his meticulously organized heaps of madness?  I had to apologize for cleaning up after Ryan.  That’s when I realized that even seemingly disorganized people have some principle of structure to their lives.  So, here’s how I do it.  My way may not be the best way, but it works for me.  Be sure to click the links to screenshots where I mention them, otherwise I’m not sure that this post will make much sense.

When I think about the challenges of managing information, there are really a few big things I’m concerned about.  First, I want some way of keeping track of all the resources that I’ve read and the notes that I’ve taken on my reading.  Second, I want to be able to access all of my notes at once, but I don’t want all my notes to be on one page.  In other words, I don’t want to have to open ten different Word documents to look at the notes I’ve taken from articles on a given topic, nor do I want to look up and down a super long document to find my notes on a particular article.  Third, I really can’t bear the idea of inputing every footnote on a paper manually, so I’ve got to have some software that will do that for me.  Fourth, I want a system that is searchable, so that I can access my notes and thoughts weeks, months, and years after I’ve read a book or article.  Those are the things I really try to accomplish through my information management system.

There are two programs that I use to keep track of my research:  Microsoft OneNote , which is a part of Microsoft Office, and EndNote.  EndNote is a bibliographic reference management system, and I use it for precisely that.  Endnote allows me to download bibliographic information for resources through online databases (e.g., ATLA, New Testament Abstracts, WorldCat) or library catalogues.  Then, it cooperates with Microsoft Word to produce properly formatted footnote entries and bibliographies according to the bibliographic style of my choice.  Now, I could also call Endnote my daily disappointment, because I am continually running into limitations in the software.  However, for a reliable bibliographic management tool, it does what I need it to do. 

Perhaps the best way for me to describe my research process would be to follow the process for a single set of resources from beginning to end.  Suppose I need to research an issue related to my thesis topic.  I already know of a few resources I need, so my research would start by downloading the bibliographic information for the resources I know I need to read into Endnote.  Then, I would place those resources that I haven’t read into a folder in Endnote so that I know where they are and I don’t have to search through all of my Endnote references to find them.  If I had access to PDF’s of the full text of any of the articles, I would attach them to the EndNote entries.  Here’s a snapshot of my EndNote setup.

Once I’ve got my list of resources in my Endnote folder, I would open up Microsoft OneNote.  OneNote is where I manage every aspect of my academic work.  In OneNote, you create Notebooks, which you can then divide with tabs, which you can then fill with pages.  It’s all searchable, and it’s essentially like having a three ring binder with limitless tabs and pages for your research.  I have a PhD Notebook, a Reading Notebook, and a Personal Notebook.  All of these are simultaneously accessible.  In my PhD Notebook, I have the following tabs:  ‘Meetings’, ‘Training Workshops’, ‘Lectures’, ‘Seminars’, ‘Progress Log’, ‘Book Reviews’, ‘Thesis Project’, ‘Ideas’, and ‘Planning and Progress’.  Whenever I go to a new meeting or workshop or seminar, I simply add a new page under the appropriate tab and take my notes on that page.  Here’s an example of a page in my OneNote notebook. 

My Reading Notebook is where I keep all of my notes for my reading organized.  Whenever I have a new topic, I create a new tab.  Then, I create a new page for each new work I read.  If I’m reading a book, I create a new page of notes for each chapter, and I keep all of the note pages within a tab organized by alphabet on the right side of the page.  Here’s a screenshot of that. 

So, I go to my Endnote folder, select a resource to read, then create a note page in my OneNote Reading Notebook.  As I read, I take notes, using OneNote’s highlighting tools and tags to make whatever notations I would like on my note page.  When I’m done, I try to make myself write my own evaluation of the article at the bottom of my note page.  Then, I go over to the ‘Thesis Project’ tab of my PhD Notebook and put down any ideas I have about my writing as a result of my reading, and I make sure to put a link back to my reading note page.  This way, as I read multiple resources, I am gradually putting my thoughts together and organizing them in an easily accessible format.  Here’s an example of what one of those pages looks like for me.  It’s basically the place where I put down all the ideas that I want to make it into my writing on a given topic.  When the time comes to write, I use the ideas and links I’ve compiled in my ‘Thesis Project’ tab to quickly and easily find the quotes and citations I need as I write.

Anyway, once I’ve read a resource and done all the note-taking and linking that I want to do with it, I remove that resource from my reading list folders, so that it just hangs around in the unclassified section of Endnote.  This way I know that if something is in a reading list folder, I haven’t read it yet.  I don’t need Endnote to have any additional organization, because I’ve got all of my reading and information organized in OneNote. 

If a resource is a journal article or book chapter in an edited volume, I almost always scan the article and save it as a PDF attachment to its EndNote entry.  This way I can access it later on.  Because of copyright laws, you can’t just scan a whole book.  But, if there’s one chapter of a book that I feel is really important or interesting, I’ll scan that and attach it to my EndNote library.  I use Fox It Reader to read and take notes on PDF’s.  It’s free and allows you to highlight, add comments, and search OCR-scanned PDF’s.  Speaking of OCR (Optical Character Recognition), if you use an OCR reader to save PDF’s, you can search the text of the PDF or cut and paste from the text of the PDF.  I do this with ABBYY FineReader 6.0 Sprint

Finally, there are also programs you can use to search your computer for a quote or keyword or phrase if you really don’t know where you stored something.  I use Agent Ransack.

So that’s my process of doing research and keeping it organized.  I highly recommend Microsoft OneNote.  It’s search function is incredibly useful, and it’s note-taking and organizational tools are intuitive and quite easy to use.  Way, way better than trying to keep track of things with Word documents.  Also better than my previous system, which was Zotero on Mozilla Firefox.  If anything that I said above didn’t make sense, or if you have any questions about any part of the process I just described, feel free to ask questions in the comments section.  Also, if you have any ideas that have worked well for you, please do share – I could use the help!

Below I’ve described my switch from Zotero to Endnote and Onenote for those who are interested, since Zotero is an all-in-one alternative to the system I just described.

When I was in seminary, I started using a program called zotero.  Zotero is a free program that works as an add-in within Mozilla Firefox (a web browser).  Through Zotero, you can download bibliographic information to books, book chapters, journal articles, dissertations, etc.  In fact, to download information from a database or library catalogue, all you have to do is click a little icon on your web browser whenever you come across something you want to add to your zotero library.  You can also create folders to organize your references, and you can attach notes, pdf’s, documents, and whatever else you like to each reference.  Zotero is a great resource.  It’s easy to use.  It can help you stay organized, and it can save you a ton of time with references.   Also, your zotero library gets backed up on zotero’s server, and you can load it easily onto another computer or access it from anywhere. 

During my ThM thesis, I really liked almost everything about Zotero.  However, there were a couple limitations to Zotero that became increasingly annoying over the course of my research project.  First, the note-taking interface for Zotero references is relatively rudimentary.  You can’t do a whole lot in your notes on resources.  So, while it is convenient to have all your references in one place with notes attached to each reference, zotero kind of forces you to be a lousy note-taker.  Still, I liked that I didn’t have to save and open a separate word document with my notes for each resource that I read, or else place all my notes in a single mega-document that would have been a nightmare to navigate.  Zotero made my notes manageable but plain.  An upgrade over Microsoft Word all by itself, but still not optimal. 

My second frustration with Zotero was its footnote output limitations.  The bibliographic information that Zotero downloaded was nice, but it also needed quite a bit of cleaning up.  Also, Zotero’s integration with Microsoft Word for things like footnotes and bibliographies just wasn’t very convenient.  If you wanted to add anything in between two references in a single footnote, you were basically out of luck.  I got pretty frustrated with trying to get my footnotes to look right and stay as I wanted them with Zotero.

So, searching for better Word integration and a more flexible note-taking apparatus, I thought about switching away from Zotero after my ThM thesis.  Then, this summer my friend Aaron, who is working on a PhD in education at Ediburgh, showed me how he keeps track of his PhD work through Microsoft OneNote.  Since I already had OneNote on my computer, I decided to play around with it a little bit, and I really liked what it could do.  That took care of the note-taking problems with Zotero.  Then, I decided that I would get EndNote to take care of my bibliographic references.  That’s how I went from Zotero for everything to OneNote and EndNote.  The end.


How to Research

The votes for our most recent poll are in, and the school-related topic that our readers want me to write about the most is the research and writing process.  We also received some votes for the workshops and reading list, and there was one write-in vote for ‘Playing W.O.W. with Gathercole’…Mom, you’re such a jokester.  It would make my day to see Dr Gathercole dressed up as a warlock, and some of the lecturers here do like to walk around in robes a lot, but Dr Gathercole hasn’t invited me to play World of Warcraft with him yet 😦  Incidentally, if you’d like a fascinating look inside the world of role playing games (RPG’s), I recommend watching ‘Dungeon Masters’.

Anyway, the research and writing process.  Despite the title of this post, I’m not really going to give a ‘how to guide’ for doing research.  Everybody has a research style that works for them, and I’m not really qualified to tell anyone how they ought to work.  I’m just going to describe what I do, and maybe that will be helpful or interesting to some of our readers.  In this post I’ll describe the process of finding resources, and in another post I’ll talk about how I organize and manage information.  Then, I’ll do a post about writing.

Before we came to England, Rachael was really excited to shop at the charity shops.  All her friends had told her about how great these shops were.  ‘They’re like American Goodwill’s or Salvation Army’s, but way better!  All kinds of great stuff, super cheap!’  Well, when we got here, Rachael went to a few charity shops, and it wasn’t long before she was frustrated.  Just like America, the charity shops have racks and racks of clothes, and you’ve got to be willing to search to find something worth picking up.  Rachael didn’t know what to look for.  She didn’t know where to look.  And since she didn’t know any of the brands, she had no frame of reference for the difference between good brands and bad brands, bargains and rip-offs.  The charity shops were just a waste of time.  Rachael should have known, because she can’t stand stores like Goodwill, Salvation Army, Ross, or TJ Maxx in the US.  She needs displays and structure, not racks and racks of chaos.

Why the long and revealing story about Rachael’s taste in shopping venues?  Well, the same things that make a good shopper at a charity shop make an efficient and effective researcher.  Most information doesn’t come nicely packaged and put on a shelf; you’ve got to be willing to do some looking.  The ‘search’ part of re-search implies that research involves looking for something, and I think that being an effective researcher is all about knowing what to look for, knowing where to find it, and having a frame of reference for recognizing the difference between junk and treasure.  Also, patience, plenty of patience.

Knowing what to Look for

The first step of research is figuring out what to look for.  If you search for nothing, you’re likely to find it.  A lot of times this first stage of the research process is described as ‘formulating a research question’.    When I was younger, I used to just pick up books for school and read them without any specific goal in mind other than to get done with the reading.  I wasn’t really looking for anything, just hoping that by some mysterious process of osmosis the information on the page would seep into my brain.  This sort of reading is inefficient, because we all forget far more than we remember.  Without a filter to sift out irrelevant or extraneous material, I used to get bogged down.  

Now, when I set aside some time for reading or researching, I like to have a specific target in mind.  If I pick up a book, I have a reason for reading the book, a question that I’m hoping the book will address in some way.  If I set out to do some research, I try to have an idea of what I’m looking for.  For example, if I want to research something that I know very little about, my initial goal would be to gain a basic orientation to the issue/discipline/problem.  I’d look at introductory texts, dictionary and encyclopedia articles, histories of research in technical monographs – maybe even wikipedia if I really had no idea where to begin.  I’d be trying to orient myself to the topic, and I’d be compiling a list of works to look into if I wanted to dig deeper.  What are the sources multiple authors cite?  What are the core issues that keep coming up in all of the sources?  What are the questions that still need to be answered?  As I orient myself to the topic, some aspects of the topic may seem interesting, and some may seem irrelevant, so my interests would naturally be narrowing as I read. 

The mistake that I have made before at this stage is trying to research something specific within a topic when I don’t have a basic frame of reference for understanding and evaluating what I am researching.  If you go too narrow too fast, you’re probably going to miss something important.  For myself, I like to make sure that I’ve perused at least a couple broad introductions to a topic before I jump into more specialized books and articles.  It helps me make sense of everything else I’ll be reading.  Having done some grading of papers, I’d say that ‘jumping into the deep end without your floaties’ is one of the common traps that students fall into. 

By the way, when I say ‘introductory’ or ‘general’ as opposed to ‘specialized’ or ‘technical’, it’s all relative.  A general introduction to calculus would be way too technical for me at this stage in my mathmatic education.  I’d need some basics first – algebra, geometry, other stuff?!?  On the other hand, an aspiring mathmatician interested in some facet of advanced calculus might consult a chapter from a general introductory textbook as a starting point for research into a more technical aspect of math, or a chapter in a general introductory textbook might even be too general for the mathmatician.  My point is that whether a resource is introductory or technical to you will depend upon the prior knowledge that you bring to the material.  Things I consider general now would have seemed pretty technical to me a year or two ago, and so on and so forth.

Knowing Where to Look

Here’s a weekly scenario in our house: 

Rachael:  ‘Can you grab my Bible for me?’ 

Ben:  ‘Okay…where is it?’

Rachael:  ‘……………Taylor Swift sing-a-long……………’

Ben:  ‘…grunting…sighs of desparation…Still can’t find it…’

Rachael:  ‘Found it…it was in my purse.’

 Once you know what you’re looking for, you need to know where to find it.  Once you’ve got a question, you need to know how to find the answer.  Otherwise you’ll just get frustrated.  Sometimes you can search and search and never find what you’re looking for – that’s a clue that you need to adapt your research question.  Most of the time, however, the answer is out there somewhere.

The process of finding relevant information is different for every area of study, but there are some principles that probably apply across the disciplines.  For one thing, I never read whole articles or book chapters, let alone books, unless I’m reasonably confident that what I am reading is going to contribute to an answer to my research question.  How do I know that?  Well, it’s a special psychic ability I picked up as an underling of Raz Azul in Tibet…Actually, I scan and cheat before I jump into an article or book.  I pay attention to the title.  I look at the table of contents.  I read the introduction.  I read the conclusion.  I scan through the section headings.  About a third of the time, that’s all I need to decide that I don’t need to read the article, at least not at this point in time.  Another third of the time, that process of scanning lets me know I only need to focus on part of the work – maybe I’ll skim through the rest, but my close reading only needs to be concentrated on a small section.  Another third of the time, that process  lets me know I’ve found exactly what I’m looking for, and then I’m happy to read the whole thing.

Another thing I do to find what I’m looking for is use bibliographies from introductions and short articles.  I mentioned this above, so I won’t say to much about it.  Rather than playing a guessing game with search terms in a library catalogue or online database, I compile a list of resources from the footnotes and bibliographies of the sources I already have. 

What else?  Well, if I happen to know somebody who might already have what I’m looking for or who might at least know where to find it, I talk to that person.  This is one thing that makes too much sense, so I only do it occasionally.  Maybe I’m afraid the ‘expert’ will go into a rage at my request…Anyway, if something is interesting enough for you to look into, then you can bet that somebody, somewhere has probably already looked into it as well.  So, why not find that person and get what you’re looking for from them?  With this in mind, I’m trying to get in the habit of asking the following questions whenever I start thinking through a topic or issue:  Who knows the answer to my question(s)?  How can I get in touch with them? 

All of these ideas in this section are about efficiency.  I don’t like to waste time looking in the wrong places for what I need.

Comparison Shopping:  Getting a Frame of Reference for What you’re Finding

When Rachael and I lived in California, we found a diamond while we were playing basketball at the park behind our apartment.  Let me rephrase that:  We thought we might have found a diamond.  We couldn’t really know for sure.  It looked like a diamond to us.  It was small, shiny, sharp.  This could have been our lucky break!  So, I looked online and found all kinds of ways to authenticate a real diamond.  I tried to read the newspaper through the center.  I tried to see if it would cut glass, but I didn’t want to harm the jewel, so I was gentle.  After a series of experiments, my results were inconclusive.  I had no frame of reference to know whether I was holding a real diamond or just a chipped off piece of a cracker-jack ring. 

So, Rachael and I took the diamond to our friend Tim the Jeweler.  Tim’s an expert.  He handles diamonds all the time, so as soon as he held our stone, he could tell the weight wasn’t right.  He put it on some newspaper, and he could see that the light wasn’t passing through it like it would on a real diamond.  He used his official tools just to make sure, but he knew pretty much right off the bat that it was a fake.  Oh well. 

That’s what having a frame of reference is all about.  We rely on a frame of reference all the time when money is on the line, but for some reason when it comes to research there’s a tendency to throw caution to the wind and go with the first thing you find.  I say this because I read plenty of books and articles in which the authors are overly reliant on a certain source or school of thought, and it’s clear that they haven’t really interacted with the relevant literature on their topic.  Above I mentioned the importance of having a basic orientation to a topic before you jump too deep into the fray of research.  Along with that, I’d just add that it’s important to withhold judgment for a sufficient time to weigh evidence.

We all probably fall into this trap from time to time.  I know it’s hard for me to maintain a posture of objectivity long enough to weigh all the evidence when I’m looking at an issue.  Still, I try to do some comparison shopping whenever I do research.  I try to look at opposing viewpoints.  I try not to make up my mind until I’ve looked into enough to feel confident that I’m not missing anything. 

Patience, Plenty of Patience

If I were single, 75% of my meals would be microwaved, and the other 25% would be fast food.  We live in a society of instant gratification.  Things like email, online shopping, the commodification of everything under the sun, and amazingly fast means of transportation all support the illusion that we can have whatever we want whenever we want it.  Good research, on the other hand, usually takes time.  This is why our news outlets are increasingly little more than unfiltered lenses into the lives of the rich and famous (unfiltered by the news outlets; heavily filtered by people obsessed with their image).  Very few people are willing to spend the kind of time necessary to produce good research.

Good research takes patience.  Good research takes hard work.  Good research builds character.  This is one of the reasons why a seminary or Christian university ought to demand a standard of academic excellence from its students.  For Christians, the process of research, like everything else in life, should not be disconnected from the walk of faith.  From this perspective, the task of research is seen as another one of the means by which the Spirit forms the character of Christ in us. 

Next academic post will be on managing information.


The Typical Day of a NT PhD Student

Several months ago I said that I would write about what it’s like to be a PhD student in the UK.  I did a couple posts on the Cambridge system and classrooms in the UK, but I never really got around to describing anything more.  I basically said that I don’t get grades,  don’t have classes, only go to a seminar every other week, and only have one assignment for the next 3 years.  How do I pass the time?

How do I structure my days?  This was actually the biggest adjustment that I faced whenever I started my PhD studies.  Here’s why:  Time management is about prioritizing goals and objectives, and sometimes there can be a certain degree of tension between equally important goals. 

For instance, some goals are long term projects, and others can be accomplished relatively quickly.  Language development, for example, is a long term project that is important for NT studies.  You’ve got to know Greek well.  You probably need to be comfortable with Hebrew.  You’ve got to read German, and you can certainly use French.  Depending on your area of interest, you may also need one or more additional languages (Latin, Aramaic, Coptic).  Developing your language skills takes years.

On the other hand, another good goal for me as a PhD student is to meet frequently with my supervisor.  The more I get in to see my supervisor, the more he can help me write my thesis, which of course is the one assignment I absolutely have to complete while I’m here.  To meet with my supervisor, I need to write something for us to discuss.  This is a short term goal – something I can do in a matter of weeks.

So, here’s the dilemma:  Learning languages takes a lot of time, and so does researching and writing.  While developing my language skills will improve the quality of my work in the long run, it’s also the case that I can write and meet more frequently with my supervisor without spending much time on Greek, German, and Hebrew.  So, do I prioritize the short term writing assignments over the long term language development?  Obviously, the writing is more of an urgent goal, but it is no more important than the language development.  What’s the right balance between urgent and not so urgent but equally important objectives?  That was the big question for me.

It took me a few weeks at the beginning, but I’ve settled into a comfortable balance between short term assignments and long term goals.  I begin each day by reading the Greek New Testament (Luke-Acts is where I’m focusing).  Then, I do about 45 minutes to an hour of German work, translating a book I need to read.  Then, I jump into my research and writing.  If I have any classes, seminars, or workshops I’d like to attend, I sacrifice the research and writing time rather than the language development.  In the last hour of my work day, I break away from the research and spend about 20-30 minutes reviewing language  and scripture memory flashcards (right now I’m memorizing Galatians), and 20-30 minutes reading a bit from the Hebrew Old Testament (right now Deuteronomy).  This helps me wind down.  Sometimes I exercise at the end of the day, but my consistency in that has dropped off since we came back from our month long Christmas vacation.

On Fridays, I stop working a little bit earlier and do a weekly review.  I think back over what I’ve done and set new goals for the coming week.  This helps me to feel a sense of progress, and it helps me to make sure I’m staying on track with my work.  It’s also a good time to reflect on what I’ve been learning, how God is training me, those sorts of things.

As far as the setting of my work goes, sometimes I go across the street to a cozy library at my college.  It’s a very nice study space, but it doesn’t have many resources for my particular area of interest.  Other days I go to Tyndale House, a biblical studies library that has virtually every resource I could ever need.  I rent a desk there, but since it is far away from where I live, and since the workspace is somewhat uncomfortable, I only typically go over there when I intend to make use of the resources.  The other nice part about Tyndale is that it provides the opportunity for some social interaction.  Lately I’ve been working quite a bit from home, which is convenient.  The only downside with this for me is that by the end of the day I feel really cramped.

So, that’s a description of my daily routine throughout the week.  I try to treat my work like an actual job.  Of course, I don’t get paid, I don’t have a boss, and there’s no timeclock.  Still, I try to get up at the same time Rachael gets up for work, and I am always done with work whenever she comes home.  This way our nights and weekends are open.  I try to maintain pretty clear boundaries on my work-life.  Otherwise it could become the sort of thing that is always on my mind. 

Next time I write about school, I could write about a few different things.  Let’s do a poll.  If what you’d like me to write about isn’t listed, feel free to make suggestions: