Chapter Five of el dissertation is drafted and emailed to my committee!  So are are Chapters 2, 3, and 4.  That leaves Chapter 1 (the introduction) and Chapter 6 (the conclusion).  Maybe I’ll finish this sucker one of these days.

Even though there’s a ton left to do, I’m trying to celebrate the milestones.  Maybe I’ll celebrate by applying for some jobs…

Dissertation Boot Camp

Well, here we are heading into the third round of snow in 17 days. This one is supposed to be small. I saw my brother this weekend in Connecticut, where we stayed with his girlfriend’s family (she came, too!).

This morning started week 2 of “dissertation boot camp”, where the Graduate School helps put you on a committed work schedule for writing. It runs from 9am to 1pm daily for two weeks. I had to put down a deposit at the beginning that I’ll get back if I attend every day.
It really does help me structure my time, knowing that there are 15 other people who are going to be there, too. One of them called it ‘being alone together’ in reference to how isolated you can feel when you’re immersed in the work. In other words, even though we sit there in silence (and angst), we know we aren’t alone. And at 1pm every day we debrief with 4 other people, let by a mediator: what worked, what didn’t, and what we’re going to try tomorrow. It’s part constructive, part therapeutic.


I just finished a book about the Nigeria/Biafra civil war. It’s called “Half of a Yellow Sun“, by Adichie, and I highly recommend it.

I also just finished reading an old National Geographic dedicated to Africa. I was struck by an essay written by Alexandra Fuller, who wrote a well-known memoir of her childhood in Zambia, called “Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight.” I attach a link to the article, as well as a passage that captures something I have felt in Laikipia (in the 3rd paragraph below) but never seen in writing before.

Alexandra Fuller writes:

“The Cost of Walking for Days Through the Middle of Nowhere
The women at the Chifungwe scout camp, seeing me emerge from the bush, sent a child in search of a mirror. Like characters in an 18th-century novel, they deemed it prudent to show me the full horror of myself. Then they fetched me a bucket of hot water, tea, and a comb.

“Rolf met me here, having driven down off the escarpment on axle-breaking roads. That night I fell asleep listening to the village breathing. In the morning there was the domestic chatter of women to wake me, as they walked down to the river to fetch water. There was such an explosion of birds I couldn’t untangle their song. It was the mopani-leaf turpentine that I smelled and wood smoke and game droppings and the pungent swirl of the river. And the world rocked with life.

“On this page I can’t smell the burnt-honey scent of bee sting, or feel the smallness of who I really am under the ponderous annoyance of an elephant, or understand that animals share my fright—a leopard is chased by an angry baboon troop. But I have understood that I am only the sum of my biology. And what this grants me is the undeserved gift of connection, usually granted men and women of transcendent and disciplined lives.

“Long Words on a Hot Afternoon
I do penance by pretending to read the exhaustive A History of Wildlife Conservation and Management in the Mid-Luangwa Valley, Zambia, by W. L. Astle, published by the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum, Bristol, August 1999. From the preface: “It is an account of recorded events . . . from the start of European penetration at the end of the 18th century to the early 1970s, the time of the start of a ferocious onslaught by commercial poachers.” “