Thursday, August 1, 2013


The adventure begins!

Last night I didn't sleep very well -- partially because I NEVER sleep well, partially because of the humidity, and mostly because I can't wait to get on the road and start my research. I had wanted a sound sleep because I knew I'd be driving over a hundred miles to and from Pottsville today. But my eyes popped open at 1:00 a.m., again at 3:15 a.m., and again around 4:30 a.m.. So I gave up and rolled out of bed.

At least I used my "found time" productively. I made a decent breakfast -- scrambled Egg Beaters with chopped green peppers and onions, with a not-so-healthy palmful of shredded Colby Jack mixed in. An English muffin with peach preserves, too. I also paid all my bills for the month.

Then I got the bright idea to create a packing list of all the things I'll need when I go on day-trips. I dumped out the stray pen caps, old lip balms, broken pedometer, lint, and other junk in the bottom of my gym bag and added much-needed items to it. I thought back to all the snafus I'd faced in the past, especially when visiting rural sites with poor cell phone reception, few stores, and minimal conveniences for researchers. Road atlas, AAA card, $50 in cash, and a roll of quarters (for parking, pay phones, photocopies). Stuff that I am likely to forget at the crack of dawn but better bring with me or I'm screwed: keys, driver's license, health insurance card, cell phone, wallet. And in case things get really bad: Advil and a book of American Indian poetry.

My travel bag and packing list

While packing, one thing I discovered about myself is how "analog" I am, in terms of how I collect data. It's odd, because as a librarian, I use computers all the time. In the course of my daily work and living, I regularly use all kinds of apps on my iPhone -- CardStar (organizes store loyalty cards), Duolingo and Google Translate (learning and understanding foreign languages), Pandora (music), White Pages (address/phone directory), and more than 50 newspaper apps. And yes, Candy Crush Saga and Facebook too. And I snap a lot of photos with my iPhone. But oddly, when it comes to taking notes, I prefer index cards and pens. I always have. Sometimes, I have no choice, because the small archives I tend to use often don't offer wireless interact access or convenient power outlets. Yet I also confess I tend to remember information better when I handwrite it -- as if the words become absorbed through my ink-stained fingers, flow through my bloodstream, and seep into my brain and heart. I feel antediluvian when I see other researchers my age with laptops, and I know that they are able to retrieve odd bits of data more readily than I can. But is it encoded in their bodies as it is in mine? Does it churn inside them when they try to sleep, as it does in me? Does it pour forth when an opportunity to tell a good story arises, as it does from me? I'm not sure.

One thing I would like to do while on sabbatical is explore how technology can enhance my scholarship. I am already doing this in one way, by blogging about my experience. But giving up handwriting? -- I am not ready yet!

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