About Those 2016 Goals....And the Year in General

At the end of each year, I take some time to look at and consider what are some of the goals I sought out for the year and what have I actually accomplished.  I did this with 2015 and set my goals for 2016.  My goals for 2016 were a mixed bag but my achievements for 2016 went well beyond what I set out in writing.  

Let's first look at what I set out to do:

Giving Thanks

Yes!  I totally nailed this one with a daily practice of giving thanks to different aspects of my life.  I will be writing a longer post on this but I definitely hit this one between the daily practice of acknowledging things to be grateful for and then also writing a letter once a week to thank someone in my life.  

Word cloud of this blog post in the shape of a thumbs up.

Finish the Book

Well this was flubbed and is part of 2017's goals.  It just didn't happen and I should have prioritized it a bit more than I did.  Here's hoping 2017 isn't a repeat of 2016 in this regard.

Running Goals

So I didn't cross the 1500 threshold as I had an IT band issue that plagued me for months until I had to give up my Vibrams (still sad about that).  However, my two other running goals were totally accomplished.  I not only ran a 1:52 half-marathon in June (followed by a 24:30 5K two weeks later), but I also broke the 40-minute mark on my 5-miles, coming in at 39:59 on the annual Wild Turkey Run on Thanksgiving.  That win was particularly amazing after not running for a few months because of my injuries.  

Write more

I have gotten about half-way into a short story but have not done as much writing as I had wanted to--though given how much writing I'm doing for my PhD, that isn't entirely surprising and might be a bit of a pipe dream until I complete the dissertation.

Perform more

This didn't happen and like the writing, may not happen in the next few years for the same reasons.

Other Accomplishments

So the following are accomplishments that I didn't set out to do at the beginning of 2016 but picked up along the way.  

50 push ups

After creating a daily reminder towards the end of 2016 to do 10 push ups a day, I slowly increased it by 5 every couple weeks and now can (almost) effortlessly do 50 push ups.  Not a huge goal, but that I have never been able to do this before, it's something I certainly appreciate.  

Swimming

In taking a new job at a school that has a pool, I've taken to swimming and have been able to build up to swimming freestyle for 1/2 hour which I've never been able to do before as well.

15 pounds lighter

Ok, we'll have to reassess this one after the holidays for sure--hahaha.  But I started Weight Watchers in April and it has been quite useful.  I got down about 20-25 pounds and came back up to the 15-20 during the fall semester and winter break and will resume to a normal routine once life is back to a normal routine.  But it has been a great adaptation that has been quite helpful throughout the last 8 months.  

Most of my accomplishments this year were of a physical nature, which is not entirely surprising in that, it's the one with the most flexibility.  My intellectual goals are largely focused on the PhD program.  However, I am glad that I did manage some emotion goals with regards to learning to be more thankful and appreciative of the things in my life.  My achievements for next year will hopefully be a bit more balanced!  Regardless, I am glad that I was able to accomplish the things that I did and see those that I didn't as just something I need to reconsider and reconfigure to determine why these goals didn't happen this year and can I make it happen for next year.

What about you?  What were some of your goals and achievements for the year?  What are you setting up for 2017?



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Review: The 13 Best Horror Stories of All Time

The 13 Best Horror Stories of All Time The 13 Best Horror Stories of All Time by Leslie Pockell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Overall, this is a solid representation of some great and classic horror authors. They have Lovecraft, Machen, Stevenson, Stoker, Poe, Le Fanu, Blackwood, and others. Classics like The Call of Cthulhu, The Great God Pan, and The Willows are perfectly chosen for this collection but then they throw away opportunities for great stories from other authors by offered in up The Bottle Imp by Stevenson which seems much less interesting in terms of horror than The Body Snatcher among others. Green Tea by Le Fanu was also much less enthralling than Camilla. However, if you want a solid introduction to some of the great horror writers in the 19th and early 20th century, this is a great place to start.

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Review: Understanding College and University Organization, Volume I: Theories for Effective Policy and Practice: The State of the System

Understanding College and University Organization, Volume I: Theories for Effective Policy and Practice: The State of the System Understanding College and University Organization, Volume I: Theories for Effective Policy and Practice: The State of the System by James L. Bess
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ok, this is definitely not a sexy book by any means judging by the title, right? It was assigned by my instructor in my PhD program (and also, the author, Dee). However, it is actually a really solid breakdown of understanding higher education organizations (or disorganizations, no?). As textbooks go, it is accessible with its language, provides useful tools and resources for further consideration, and provides clear connections as it moves through each topic. One is never lost or feeling like the discussion is off the mark. It provides great examples and guiding questions that help readers better apply what they are learning. I highly recommend it to anyone trying to wrap their head around higher education and how it works (or doesn't).

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The Daily StickMan Adventures - December 24, 2016 at 05:01PM


They are truly persecuted... #DailyCat #DailyStickMan #Xmas WarOnChristmas ##Christmas
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The Daily StickMan Adventures - December 23, 2016 at 06:36PM


Make America a wasteland...again? #DailyStickMan #DailyCat #TrumpCat #TrumpsAmerica #TwitterDiplomacy
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Review: Social Media 101: Tactics and Tips to Develop Your Business Online

Social Media 101: Tactics and Tips to Develop Your Business Online Social Media 101: Tactics and Tips to Develop Your Business Online by Chris Brogan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Brogan's look at social media is a rather useful book for those first coming to social media as well as those who are intermediate users to pick up some tips. He provides a lot of different ideas on how to grow your social media once you have determined what use(s) you have of social media. The book itself is adapted from numerous blog posts from his blog. Therefore, you can get various bits of his advice for free. He claims to clean it up for the book, but his interpretation of cleaning it up is pretty loose as he repeats many different concepts, sources, anecdotes and sites throughout the book. In fact, a conscious reduction of these repeated points could have shrunken the book by 1/3. That being said, there is handy content in the book worth reading.

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The Daily StickMan Adventures - December 21, 2016 at 08:40PM


Definitely a sack of something... #DailyStickMan #DailyCat #TrumpCat #TrumpsAmerica #Xmas
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Review: The Graphic Syllabus and the Outcomes Map: Communicating Your Course

The Graphic Syllabus and the Outcomes Map: Communicating Your Course The Graphic Syllabus and the Outcomes Map: Communicating Your Course by Linda B. Nilson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Within the first chapter of this book, I already had a clearer picture of just what I should be aiming to do with a graphic syllabus that I was missing before. Nilson’s premise is clear and easy to understand (albeit, challenging to fully execute). Given that many people absorb much information visually and contextually, it doesn’t make entire sense to have a syllabus that is segmented into its different silos of: objectives, goals, assignments/assessments/readings. Her goal is to help the reader consider the ways in which one can depict how all these parts of the course fit together in the syllabus.

This is useful for two reasons. The first is that it helps the faculty member have a clearer sense of what he/she is assigning in terms of work and make sure it explicitly connects to objective and goals. This grants a clearer vision of what the instructor is doing. The other reason is that it gives students a stronger context of how it all fits together. Beyond just the “why do I have to take this course” questions, a graphic syllabus can instantly connect the student with context that clarifies questions of why as well as better understanding how information fits together for their growth within the course.

Nilson delves into a variety of issues and concerns about how to go about it and illustrates that there is good variation about how to do it. She provides readers with thoughts about how and why one might do it, but shows there are many ways to go about it. In particular, she provides dozens of graphic syllabi from previous courses (her own and others) in various disciplines to help stimulate ideas across departments. To help readers better envision their own syllabus in a new light, she regularly compares what a text syllabus looks like in contrast to the (same) graphically-enhanced syllabus.

Within the first two chapters, she already had me hooked and thinking differently about my own courses. I’m imagining a comic-book syllabus for my comic book course that would be “teaching” as one progresses through the different elements of the syllabus. But immediately, it helped me to reconsider that American Literature course I had created my first visual syllabus for. I’ve found that I like doing American Literature 1 by addressing different types of writing and moving through the significant pieces in chronological order. This works in many ways but is limiting because students will lack context (or forget) of how the different types of writings fit with one another. By thinking about Nilson’s ideas, it allowed me to craft something more meaningful for the students as you can see from the impromptu outline below.

And that’s probably the other element that I like about Nilson. She emphasizes that one does not need to be an artist to creating a graphic syllabus—nor does one need numerous programs and equipment. I did the image below in Excel. Both MS Word and Powerpoint have outline/mapping tools that you can utilize and master very quickly. You can go high-end (and she shows examples of such), but you can still be graphically rich and simplistic in the types of visual you use (Good thing too—I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler!).

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The Daily StickMan Adventures - December 20, 2016 at 07:15PM


He sure does... #DailyStickMan #DailyCat #TrumpCat #TrumpsAmerica #catstagram #cats #catsofinstagram
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The Daily StickMan Adventures - December 20, 2016 at 08:59AM


That's right, the semester is over, #StartingNow. #DailyStickMan #EndOfSemester #PhDLife #PhDStudent #BrainHurts
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The Daily StickMan Adventures - December 18, 2016 at 08:29PM


And we do mean EVERYTHING! #DailyStickMan #DailyCat #Cats #catstagram #catsofinstagram #TrumpCat #TrumpsAmerica #unpresidented
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The PhD Chronicles: Completing the Second Semester

Papers are passed in and my brain is a sludgy mess.  But that's ok, because that's what I wanted, right?  I said that I wanted a program that was going to push me and make me feel like my brain has been sent through a blender--sooooo, mission accomplished?!?!?

It is accomplished and there is no real need for the question mark.  The course work challenged me and pushed me to think and learn a lot.  It became intense at times as I juggled working, the program, running, writing, running a session of Changing Lives Through Literature, presenting at conferences and other activities into the semester.  It was a lot and probably more than I should do, but it is hard to say no to things that you enjoy so much.  
#braindead #brended (ok, bren ded is when I don't properly pronounce the #diphthong in brain dead - the tongue is not comprehend) and yes I did say DIPHTHONG. Save me @iamfiz @jadesimian
Right now--despite my brain in a gooey state, I am content with the semester.  I'm happy with what I did for my final projects and particularly for my Access and Equity course, I feel it will give me some good material to work with as I move forward and look to understand the impact of the digital divide on the open educational resources movement.  I've found some interesting resources and it gives me a good starting place for my potential future dissertation.  My History of Higher Education project may not be entirely related to my future work, but I also feel I had fun with it, found it interesting to explore the different themes in the Wellesley News during 1918-1920, and it certainly fits in with some of my work in general around media and popular culture studies.  

In total, I felt that the semester pushed me, taught me, and encouraged me, despite the challenges I faced along the way.  I believe I accomplished a lot in terms of developing as a practitioner-scholar while also growing in other ways outside of the program.  So here's to the end of one semester, a break, and the start of another!

Want to catch up on my previous reflections about being in a PhD program?  Check them out:
  1. Acceptance
  2. Orientation
  3. Day 1
  4. Week 1
  5. First 2 Courses Completed
  6. First 2 Courses Finished
  7. Semester 2, Here We Go
  8. The Existential Crisis of the Week
  9. The Balancing Act
  10. Negotiating Privilege in Higher Education
  11. Zeroing in on Research


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November's Gratitude

It's the second to last month of gratitude.  So I've been doing this for 11 months now and it's become a clear part of my life that I am indeed...grateful for.  When I look back at the year, I'm am happy to see how taking the time to be thankful in my day-to-day life has contributed to pursuing other projects and actions that pushed me to share that gratitude beyond myself.  In this manner, being grateful appears to be the gift that keeps me giving.


Word cloud of this month's gratitude notes.

This month was a good month to focus on daily gratitude.  Never mind that it is filled with Thanksgiving--the problematic US holiday for giving thanks (made more problematic than usual this year with events at Standing Rock occurring) but this month of the 2016 election and the bigotry and hate crimes that followed, keeping a focus on those things to be grateful for was essential for me.  It would be extremely easy to slip into a deep sadness at the President Elect stocks his cabinet with white supremacists, climate-change deniers, and people who wish to take public institutions and hand them over to private interests.  The future feels bleak on many levels but the daily practice of taking time for the many things that I can appreciate each day has helped to center me and move forward to fighting against the harm to come.  

I also started writing thank you notes to authors and I have found that to be a great experience.  I've realized how much I appreciate the people's whose work I enjoy so much but I never realized that just sending out a thank you letter to acknowledge their efforts helped me to better realize the efforts and impact o my life.  So many authors that I write thank you notes to include specific ways in which I can say their words have impacted me and this helps me think or at least connect the dots more clearly about their work and my life...and we all know I like to reflect and connect dots! 

Finally, there is this great article that I came across about practicing gratitude.  It caught my attention because it did give me pause to wonder about how the thank you notes that I write are impacting people.  I assume that they are received positively and I hope the act may inspire others to call upon people they are grateful to be thankful for, but ultimately, for me, it is just about saying thank you to people in my life for being the people who they are.  

Well, that's all for now.  One more month before I've completed my first year of the gratitude project.  I wonder how I might tweak this for next year.

Check out the past entries on gratitude:


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The Daily StickMan Adventures - December 15, 2016 at 05:06PM


I'm not quite sure that's how that works... #DailyStickMan #DailyCat #TrumpCat #TrumpsAmerica #cats #catstagram #winning
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Review: Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism

Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism by Benedict Anderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Anderson's Imagined Communities is one of those books many people refer to for lots of reasons. It's an important book for consideration for history, cultural studies, sociology, anthropology, and even technology that facilitates social relationships. I've known the premise of it for a while but it was interesting to actually read it and see if chockful of various populations and historical moments that I hadn't even thought of being included in the concept of imagined communities. Equally interesting was Arnold's discussing of the publishing history of the book and how different publications in different cultures and languages rendered different meanings and relevance to those cultures. I can understand why so many find it a useful text to draw upon, particularly in the age of digital media wherein we identify with and act as parts of imagined digital communities and find numerous ways of connecting with people we both know and don't "know" because of it.

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The Daily StickMan Adventures - December 14, 2016 at 05:14PM


Trust me, I've got this... #DailyStickMan #DailyCat #TrumpCat #FromRussiaWithLove #WhoNeedsIntelligenceWhenYouHaveRussia ##CATS #catstagram

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Review: Specifications Grading: Restoring Rigor, Motivating Students, and Saving Faculty Time

Specifications Grading: Restoring Rigor, Motivating Students, and Saving Faculty Time Specifications Grading: Restoring Rigor, Motivating Students, and Saving Faculty Time by Linda Nilson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Nilson lays out a different approach to grading than what I have been doing most of my teaching career. She explains to readers the benefits and methods of developing specifications grading. Instead of grading along a continuum that doesn't necessarily capture or clarify what the student is able to do at the end of the course, she shows different ways in which you can create assessments that are clearly specified and graded on a complete/did not complete basis. It is--as most things--more difficult than it sounds and it will take time to create the specifications upon which to grade as they need to be clear and easy to follow, but I know what I will be doing for my next course. I generally provide strong guidelines for my assignments, but Nilson highlights the ways I can articulate through given assignments or assignment bundles, the means of accomplishing what it is that I'm looking for. Even if one doesn't switch to specs grading, Nilson gives a lot of food for thought about how you do assignments in general.

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The Daily StickMan Adventures - December 13, 2016 at 02:57PM


Here's hoping they think I'm (un)qualified enough! #DailyStickMan #DailyCat #Cats #TrumpCat #TrumpsAmerica #FromRussiaWithLove

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The Daily StickMan Adventures - December 12, 2016 at 08:32PM


It does tend to make one sick... #DailyStickMan #DailyCat #Cats #catstagram #catsofinstagram #TrumpCat #TrumpsAmerica

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The Daily StickMan Adventures - December 11, 2016 at 05:05PM


Nothing to see here folks! #DailyCat #DailyStickMan #TrumpCat ##cats #catstagram #catsofinstagram #ManchurianCandidate

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The Daily StickMan Adventures - December 10, 2016 at 05:26PM


Honestly, what's more important? #DailyCat #DailyStickMan #Cats #catstagram #catsofinstagram #SNL #TrumpCat

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Review: Suspicion Nation: The Inside Story of the Trayvon Martin Injustice and Why We Continue to Repeat It

Suspicion Nation: The Inside Story of the Trayvon Martin Injustice and Why We Continue to Repeat It Suspicion Nation: The Inside Story of the Trayvon Martin Injustice and Why We Continue to Repeat It by Lisa Bloom
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bloom provides a very strong analysis and discussion of the Trayvon Martin Case that would be essential reading for anyone looking to make sense of the various legal and cultural issues surrounding the case. She goes further to highlight how Martin's case is representative of the experiences of minorities--particularly African Americans--in our culture due to historical and cultural dynamics that perpetuate institutional racism. She notes that while there has been clear progress, there are also places where we have stagnated or neglected the complexities of race relations. Lisa Bloom's approach is sometimes a little over the top (such as when she creates courtroom dialogue to show how it should have gone), but overall, her argument is spot on.

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Review: Perchance to Dream: Selected Stories

Perchance to Dream: Selected Stories Perchance to Dream: Selected Stories by Charles Beaumont
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Beaumont is a fantastic teller of tales and many may already be familiar with him. A good chunk of his short stories eventually ended up as episodes on The Twilight Zone. This collection is filled with a great mixture of stories, many of which invoke the strange and quirkiness of the show. It's a well-chosen collection with something for everyone and many stories carrying a level of timelessness that makes them perfect. His focus is to entertain, not to be literary, yet an occasional tale achieves both. In many ways, this collection feels reminiscent of a contemporary of his, Richard Matheson. If you want a solid anthology to provoke your imagination, you can't go wrong with this one. Also, if you have the chance, opt for the audiobook; it's a rock-solid production.

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My Most Recent Reads - November 2016

Despite it being a busy month with classes and work, I impressed myself with reading two physical books this month, on top of the usual audiobooks and graphic novels.  I won't ramble too much about my reading since my time is short and I'd rather talk about some of the great books this month.    

Advice from a Wild Deuce: The Best of Ask Tiggy by Tiggy Upland

Advice from a Wild Deuce Book Coveropenly admit that I am biased in reviewing this book because I am close with the actual author (spoiler alert—Tiggy Upland is a pseudonym!).  Regardless, I found this book to be a fantastic dialogue on the subject of understanding bisexuality (my own, and others).  Upland pulls together the best questions from her advice column to provide a panoramic view of what it means to be a bisexual in the United States in the 21st century.  She’s great at taking on personal questions and drawing out the nuance issues present and parsing out specific advice to the person while also connecting the question to the larger tapestry of navigating bisexuality in a culture that still doesn’t appreciate or provide much room for it.  What’s more is that Upland’s tone is bemusing, sagely, and engaging.  She’s capable of calling out self-deceit in a way that doesn’t turn the reader away but rather endears them to her and to the letter-writer. Beyond the question and answer format that permeates much of the book, Upland includes various asides, resources, and even photo-comics that add more nuggets of wisdom.  For those looking to understand the complexity of bisexuality for personal or professional reasons, this book is a great resource. 



American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good by Colin Woodard

Woodard provides a fascinating framework for understanding the differences in the United States between those who lean towards more collectivist approaches to society and those that believe in more individualistic approaches.  Building off his previous work, rather than provide a simple divide of socialist vs. libertarians, he articulates the presence of eleven "nations" within the United States that represent different historical-cultural origins and occupy different geographical spaces in the country.  From there, he delves into the history of the country and illustrates how different alignments of the nations resulted in the swaying of the country between its more collectivist and individualistic modes of governmental involvement.  It's a fascinating book that highlights the often-complex ways in which different people align and dissent from the different political groups in the country (and why so many people identify as "independent").  It will be interesting to see how much this work is used to better understand and address current politics.   

Monthly reads for 2016 (and you can always look at all of my books that I've read on GoodReads)



BOOKS

  • Advice from a Wild Deuce: The Best of Ask Tiggy by Tiggy Upland
  • Behold the Man by Michael Moorcock


AUDIOBOOKS

  • The Lion in the Living Room: How House Cats Tamed Us and Took Over the World by Abigail Tucker
  • Daredevil: The Man Without Fear Prose Novel by Paul Crilley
  • A Life in Parts by Bryan Cranston
  • Light Falls: Space, Time, and an Obsession of Einstein by Brian Greene
  • American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good by Colin Woodard
  • Filthy Rich by James Patterson
  • The Secret History of Twin Peaks by Mark Frost
  • The Mindful Brain: Reflection and Attunement in the Cultivation of Well-Being by Daniel Siegel  


GRAPHIC NOVELS

  • Angel Catbird, Volume 1 by Margaret Atwood
  • Baba Yaga's Assistant by Marika McCoola
  • Deep Dark Fears by Fran Krause
  • Rackham's Color Illustrations for Wagner's "Ring" by Arthur Rackham
  • The Arthur Rackham Treasury: 86 Full-Color Illustrations by Arthur Rackham


What about you reader?  What book recommendations do you have for me?


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Review: Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him

Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him by David Henry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Furious Cool was a fascinating look into the life of Richard Pryor. I was somewhat familiar with his comedy and more familiar with him as an actor in a handful of movies I watched when growing up (e.g. See No Evil, Hear No Evil). However, the Henry brothers provide a rich history around Richard Pryor that marks him as one the best comics along with George Carlin. What I found most fascinating is how they are able to contextualize Pryor's work within the broader range of African American entertainment of the 1960s and 1970s and also mainstream culture while also being able to speak to the effects of his personal life around love and drugs that also filtered into his performances. The book is powerful enough that it is leading me to go back and watch some of the older Richard Pryor performances to see exactly what they were referring. What made the book equally chilling and fascinating was that I listened to it. It was narrated by Dion Graham who did some great impersonations of Pryor while also (as always) provided a strong narrative voice to keep me engaged.

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