Oct 13, 2011

Conference in Cairns

Yesterday was a CRAZY day...CRAZY I tell you!

I arrived at the conference to find the company director I was supposed to be traveling with already there. I checked in and got my boarding pass, then went over to sit with him and discuss the situation. Although he honestly believed he would be able to get an exemption on his Australian visa problems, it was just not to be. After an hour of efforts by officials on his behalf, he was told he would not be allowed into Australia.

So...he turned to me and said, "that's okay...you can deliver my presentation."

What!? Me? A presentation on the development of mining interests in Papua New Guinea?

I mean, I know that I re-wrote his paper for him, polishing it up a bit and providing some supporting evidence. But "mining"? That is just not my thing. I know very little about it beyond what I have read in his paper! Still, I boarded the plane, my mind scrambling to figure out a solution to the problem.

Everything seemed to be going fine as we headed down the runway, but as soon as the wheels left the ground, the pilot rather unceremoniously put us right back down and brought us to a screeching halt. An hour later we found ourselves back in the departure lounge waiting for another plane so we could try the whole process again. After a 2.5 hour delay, we finely got airborne and headed to Cairns.

This all would not have been quite so bad had it not been for the [serious] cough and [serious] sniffles that I've been dealing with for the past couple of days. Even today I'm rolling up wads of toilet paper to shove in my bilum [purse] and take to the conference with me as my nose running problem has not even slightly slowed down. Still, I arrived on a beautiful, albeit quite hot, day in Cairns, checked into the hotel that I am splurging on, out of my own pocket, and believe that I'm going to have a nice break.

Well...if I can find someone to make that presentation, that is. Registration for the conference starts in about 45 minutes, and I'll break the news about the Director's no-show then. Hopefully, we'll find a replacement speaker that can deliver the message and presentation I have prepared sometime after that. I am pretty darn sure, however, that the presentation is NOT going to be delivered by me.

Oct 10, 2011

Back on the Blog Wagon?

Yeah, I don't think I'm going to make any promises. Still, it's been a long time since I made regular postings, and I am feeling a bit disconnected from parts of the world, so I've decided to give a shot at posting little snippets from my life...again.

Today is another typical, crazy-busy day. I'm getting ready to leave the country for a conference in Cairns (Australia), so I have to finish up the week's work in just 2 days. And there is a TON of work! Tonight, our company is meeting with the IFC (local branch of the World Bank) to talk about moving forward together in a new project initiative. Tonight is the fun part, the celebration, and we will be dining out at the local Japanese (tepen-yaki) restaurant. Tomorrow the work starts, with more in-depth discussions, review of financial needs, and a couple of hours of elbow grease. I think it is actually going to be fun, and I can't wait to get started. This afternoon, however, I have to create a PowerPoint presentation (wish I could talk him into Prezi instead!) for one of the company directors who is making a presentation at the Mining and Logistics Conference in Cairns. I am actually looking forward to that event as well, as much for the break as for the business opportunities it affords us.

Well, now that I've finished my Big Rooster lunch, and checked out a couple of social networking sites, I guess it's time to get back to that LONG to-do list. Apinun!

Jul 19, 2011

Out My Window 365-010

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Deloitte at Night

I took some really long exposure night shots tonight, and had some fun with that. I was getting a little bored, however, so I dressed this one up even further in Photoshop. The Deloitte building is one of the highly recognised ones in Town.

Jul 18, 2011

Out My Window 365-009

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Town in Tilt-Shift

I occasionally like to play with an effect called "tilt-shift" to see what I can come up with. This is not one of my best examples, but in order to meet my deadline, I'm posting it anyway. This is a picture of the people at the PMV (Public Motor Vehicle) stop in the middle of Town.

Jul 17, 2011

Out My Window 365-008

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Although my apartment is a real "dud", it's all I can afford. I do have plans for fixing it up, but am waiting on the landlord to review my proposal. The one thing I do have going for me is the view. With an 11th floor vantage point, I get a good look at the port activities every day. Although that wouldn't be interesting to most, I find it all quite interesting. I suppose the view is something I will never tire of.

Jul 16, 2011

Out My Window 365-007

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Panoramic Night Shot

It's loud and wild on the street below tonight, but instead of trying to take a picture of some of that crazy people action, I decided to try some night shots of the port. I took three shots with the camera set up for 15 second exposures. Then, I went to Photoshop and stitched them all together for one, long panorama of the typical night-time view out my window. I had a fun time with it all, although I still have a LOT to learn. When I realised it was already well after midnight, I thought of posting it here since it is, technically, tomorrow.

Jul 15, 2011

Out My Window 365-006

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Although my rules for "the game" are that I have to be on one side of the window and shoot items on the other, I'm going to argue that this one counts as the city is quite visible behind me.

First, I took the photo as I am not often in photos these days. This is my "proof" of existence, I guess.

  • The building on the left behind me is the newest of the downtown hotels, scheduled to be completed later this year and slated to be a really big deal here.
  • The tall building on the right behind me is Deloitte Towers. I've visited the IFC offices there on a number of occasions and have to say they are really impressive and quite beautifully done.
  • The street visible behind me is two city blocks long, starting at my building and ending just up the hill from Credit Corp, where I work.
  • My driving path to work is up on the right-hand side of the median (the left-hand side is for PMV's, the local buses) entering the round-about and exiting on the left-side of the median to continue up the hill. When I reach the top of that street (just one "block") I hang a right and head down the hill to the back of my building where I drive into the car park ("parking garage" for you Texans).
  • The brown item on the right is my beautiful carved mask. It is hung in the corner by the window as that is the only place in my flat that I can hang it, at the moment. Later, I hope to move it to a more prominent position in the room.

Jul 14, 2011

Out My Window 365-005

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Evening Shimmer

I went for a night shot this time and caught it right after the sun had set across the harbour. Evenings provide some of my favourite views here, but they are always more difficult to capture on film.

Jul 13, 2011

Out My Window 365-004

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Betelnut Vendor

Betelnut is big business in PNG; well, perhaps I should say it is a typical business as there is not really much money to be made in it. This guy sits across the street from my apartment. It is his corner, and no one else is allowed there. His name is Floyd, I think, and he is one of the constants in my life here. I used to greet him on a daily basis, but now that I drive to work every day, I don't have an opportunity to. Still, I see him every day that I am at home.

Betelnut, also called "buai" (boo-eye), is a habit-forming stimulant that is available throughout the Pacific. However, I understand there are differences in the way it is chewed in different places. Here, the routine for everyone is much the same.

First, you peel off the outer husk of the nut (with your teeth), pop it in your mouth, and begin to chew it, to soften it up. Next, moisten one of the short, green sticks they call mustard, or "daka", and dip it into the communal container of lime powder. Take this and stick it into the chewy mass in your mouth. Bite it off and begin to work the entire concoction as your chew. As you chew, you will have to spit out the bright red residue that is formed. Typically, the locals spit this anywhere and everywhere.

You can also see three packs of cigarettes laying on the table. Most betelnut vendors sell these as well, one by one, for a few toea each. Although I can't see them from my window, I know from my walks/drives along this short street there are a number of betelnut vendors to be found there. Like it or not, betelnut is definitely a big part of PNG culture.

Jul 12, 2011

Out My Window 365-003

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Expat Living

The apartment I live in in large and comfortable, but also run-down and lacking some amenities. These apartments on the other side of Town are typical expat digs. I've spent several nights parked out on the deck tucked in behind the lower-right building and to the left of the glass-enclosed exercise room. We typically share a meal, drinks, and laughter on breezy evening by the pool, enjoying the view of POM from this perch. How sad that this kind of living cannot be shared by all in POM. My guess is that these apartments run between 8,000 and 12,000 kina per week, which equates to $3,500-$5,000 US, PER WEEK! Glad I know someone with deep pockets (ExxonMobil friends) and twice as glad not to have to spend this kind of money for my own living arrangements.

Jul 11, 2011

Out My Window 365-002

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Lihir Express

The port is a busy place, around the clock, every day. On this day, however, it seemed like the single dock worker (lower left-hand corner) and I were the only two to stop and watch as the Lihir Express backed out of its slip and prepared to leave the harbour.

Jul 10, 2011

Out My Window 365-001

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Flowers for Sunday Service

I caught a glimpse of these three out my window today. It had to be the brightly coloured flowers that caught my eye. From the nicely pressed shirts they were wearing, my guess is that they were headed to church. On the way, the boys stopped and pulled out some string, or perhaps a vine, from the rubbish across the street. They then used this to tie up their bunches of flowers.

Other notes:

  • the footwear is definitely typical for the streets of Moresby
  • the bilum carried by the young man on the right is typical of men here
  • the bright red splotches on the street are where people chewing betel nut have spit
  • the not-so-bright splotches are old spittings
  • the husks you see on the ground are from the betel nuts

May 16, 2011

Texas Tech

I left home a little after midnight last night to make my trip to Lubbock. The weather was beautiful, the roads were so very nice, and I listened to a VERY good book on the way (Lost in Shangri-La, by Michael Zuchoff). The only worry I had on the trip was the fact that there were so many animals out on/near the road. I would have to estimate that I passed 100 deer within the beams of my headlights. I came really close to hitting only one, and passed one large doe that had been hit by another car in front of me. I also saw rabbits, possums, a skunk, and a couple of raccoons. It was quite the wildlife adventure.

I arrived on campus a little early, so made a side trip to Walmart to stock up on some items. After settling in, I took a nice, hot shower and then a short (1.5 hours) nap. By early afternoon my dorm mates arrived and we spent the rest of the day getting caught up on each other's news, on friends and acquaintances in common, and on some laughter that we've been missing out on for so long now.

I have a tough two weeks ahead, but believe that it will also be a good time in a lot of ways. First, it's good in that I'm getting some much needed "grounding" from the other program participants and instructors. Second, I really enjoyed seeing so much of the state on my journey in, and expect to see even more of it on my journey home. Third, I will be getting some really good feedback on my research topics. And fourth, I fully expect to finalise my committee selection while I am here.

May Seminar is going to be a lot of fun this year!

Feb 28, 2011

FB is Making Me a Poor Blogger

Yes, it's true. I used to be a better blogger, but that was before FaceBook came along. Now that it's there, it is just so much easier to interact with a larger number of people than blogging allows. The trouble is, I know that a lot of the people who read my blog don't "do" fb. So, there is really no solution in sight.

The truth is, I actually prefer blogs. They allow for so much more control over information, and so much less information overload (at least in a little personal blog like mine). FB is one that is all about the most recent happenings. While the "flow" of this blog is starts and stops, like stopping by and looking through a window on occasion, fb is more like a rapidly flowing river; readers just stand on the banks and watch little bits of debris as they float by, taking away some news, some entertainment, some glimpses of friends' lives. So you can see that for someone who posts information, tossing something into the river on occasion only takes a few minutes and requires very little effort. It's just such an easy thing to do. Still, I will continue to strive to make occasional postings here and keep in touch with my friends of a different nature.

The photo on the left is from a glimpse into my weekend in Port Moresby posted on, you guessed it, FaceBook. I'm posting a link to the photo album, in case you want to see the others. And no, you don't have to be a member of FaceBook to view them. Link to FB Album.

Feb 8, 2011

Life at Moro

Leo and I both really like it here in Moro, though we would be hard pressed to explain why. Although it's nice for us to get to see each other every day, it's not like we get a chance to do anything more than eat meals together and chit chat a bit. We live in different dorms and are not allowed to cross that line. And other than the mess hall, there are really no places to "hang out" together. But, it is a surprisingly comfortable place for the both of us to work.

Because I am only a visitor here, I have to set up and work from wherever I can. This room is typically buzzing with business, but the guy that works the job called in sick (malaria) so some of the others are having to double-up. The Internet connection here is a bit slow, and the Oil Search company network even slower, but it is still possible to make progress. So, I continue to chip away at things.

I also have 2 classes to attend from here this week. One was this morning, and I lost my connection a couple of times, but was able to stay in for most of the session. The other will be on Thursday morning for me, although it happens on Wednesday night back in Texas. So, I push my hardhat aside, fire up my laptop, and hope for good weather (key to maintaining a connection here) when it's time for class.

I was finally able to get a pair of safety boots and a long-sleeved shirt and Leo and I took a walk to take some photos of some problem areas he is trying to get fixed up. I get the idea that the guys find our situation, the fact that we are married, humorous. Leo often introduces me as "his boss" which is definitely not true, although I hold a position that his slightly higher than his. The guys really get tickled at this, and actually don't know what to make of it all. Still, they can see that we work relatively well together, that we are intent on making some changes here to improve the safety of the workplace as well as make it easier on the guys in whatever ways we can. So, they like us and we like them. Yes, it's a good week here in Moro and we are making forward progress. We'll be headed back to Moresby on Saturday where we'll spend one-half of a day together. On Sunday morning I'll leave town again.

Yup. What a life!

Feb 5, 2011

Back to Moro

I leave in 2 hours to go back up to Moro for the week. Leo (my hubby) and Andrew (the acting manager there) have motivated the guys to make some solid on-site improvements, so it is a great time for me to show up and lend a hand. My focus this week will be on Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), a database for tracking truck and cargo movements, and some TWL safety culture improvements. Yes, that's a big slate for a short period.

The signing of the MOU went well, we had some nice publicity out of it, and have already begun work in earnest on follow-up items. The first few steps involve me and a big way as I will be hunting down and collecting data, organising the information, and sharing it with the folks back in Alaska/Washington. Yes, fun times ahead, but also a LOT of work. Still, that's what I hired on for, right?

I'll do my best to post some photos from Moro here soon.

Feb 3, 2011

Another Change of Plans

Of course, things here change so frequently, I can't imagine why I think the title of this post has any real meaning. There are no real plans here...only thoughts about having them. :-)

Today we sign a BIG MOU (memorandum of agreement) to join forces with an Alaskan trucking/logistics firm in developing some new opportunities here in PNG. Saturday I hop a plane back to Moro, where I will stay for a week. When I leave on the following Saturday, Leo will come home with me. Sunday, I leave for Lae, and he leaves for Brisbane, Australia. Tuesday, he picks our daughter, Rebecca, up in Brisbane and brings her back here to Port Moresby. Wednesday, they fly to Lae together and spend 3 days with me there.

Sound confusing? Yeah, I think so too. Can't wait to find out of this "plan" gets executed anywhere near the way I have outlined it above. :-)

Jan 23, 2011

Camp Life

My current situation is that I am in PNG, my laptop computer (which has my LIFE on it) has a fried power cord, and I'm sweating trying to survive the week, with all of the work on my plate, if I cannot find a replacement. In other words, I'm in deep trouble.

So, my answer to the problem? At the moment...ignore it!

I am in Moro right now at the Oil Search Limited (OSL) camp. For those of you who have never experienced this business of working in the oil and gas industry, in the field, I can tell you (and so can Leo!) that it is quite interesting, occasionally fun, rewarding work, but never ever glamorous. For example, Leo and I are sitting across the desk from each other, sharing a field office, a very dusty and dirty field office. We occasionally have to yell at each other because the Vertol and Chinook helicopters, located just outside our building, can be deafening. Three times a day, starting at 6am, there are Dash-8 planes landing just out front. Occasionally there are Hueys (helicopters), Twin Otters (planes), and even the monstrous and amazingly loud Hercules C-130 on occasion.

At meal times, we slog over (this is the rainy season) to the mess hall, along with the rest of the camp inhabitants, to eat. Note: The meals are typically delicious affairs with plenty of choices! After our work is complete, at the end of the day, another slog gets us back to our rooms for a much-needed shower and much-anticipated sleep.

Married couples are not often housed here and are certainly not planned for. So, Leo is in the G barracks while I am in B. The rooms are tiny affairs with a bed, desk, wardrobe, and corner sink. Oh, there is also an aircon, which is needed in the daytime, as well as blankets, which are needed at night. The rooms are old, dingy, plain, and ugly, but also comfortable, cleaned daily, and meet our requirements. Bathrooms are typically shared between two rooms, although some of the quarters only have access to a shared bathroom down the hall. They consist of a shower, with hot water (my favourite!) and a toilet.

The rooms are lined up side-by-side and across from another bank of rooms with an open, but covered, walkway between them. Each room has an aircon, a window to the outside (with curtains that, inevitably don't actually reach all the way across the window), a door to the shower area, and a door to the walkway. The walkway door typically has a screened section that you can open in order to get some flow-through ventilation.

My work schedule has me up at 4:15 in order to get to breakfast by 5:00. This allows me to get to the office and get ready for the daily Safety/Communication meeting at 6:00. This meeting is almost always conducted in pidgin, except for my part, and Leo's part, which must be translated. The meeting always starts with a prayer, something typical at meetings among nationals in this country. It's actually quite a cool tradition.

After the meeting, every day is different; always different. Finishing up at the end of the day usually occurs around 7pm for Leo, but I'm a bit of a night owl, so I typically go later (although that means I sometimes have to sleep in and skip breakfast). Last night, for example, I finished up at 11:30pm. The good thing is that the walk from the office to the mess hall or the barracks takes about 5 minutes. The bad thing is that it was pouring down when I headed 'home' last night so the 5 minute walk left me drenched. (Yes, I had an umbrella.)

Jan 15, 2011

Research Musings

Note: This is a copy of my posting for one of my classes, Research Methods.

When preparing my previous posting I thought of something else I wanted to share but decided it was a bit off-topic. So, I'm sharing it here.

I have discovered something over the past couple of semesters that continues to surprise me on so many levels. Feeling a bit out-of-place in the program considering my work background and future goals, starting back in my first May Seminar I started to embrace, rather than struggle against, the other activities in the program. That's when I discovered it...that surprising thing that continues to amaze me. I discovered that I can find commonalities in the most unusual places.

For example, I was paired with Rhonda Stanton in our "speed dating" exercise where we shared out backgrounds and research interests with small groups of people over and over again. The more I heard her talk about her interests in generational differences in the workplace, the more I realised that our interests have a lot in common...a lot more than I would have guessed. She is seeking definitions of the different groups that are useful in preparing them to work together, effectively, in the workplace. I am seeking definitions of a workforce with diversities of another kind, but still looking for things useful in preparing them to work together, effectively, in the workplace. The more I heard her talk about her concerns, questions, and ideas the more I realised that some of those were so very similar to mine. Could it really be that Rhonda and I are sharing thoughts and ideas from such diverse projects that could help us both in our own pursuits? I could go on and on with this one example, but won't.

I have tried the same technique in my readings as well. (Note: I have always been somewhat aware of what I am calling here a "technique" but have only recently begun to pursue it more formally, more consistently, more contientiously.) Before I begin a reading, I think about what things I am pursing in my own work and what questions I need to be answering. As I begin to read, I try to frame what I am reading in two ways. And yes, this is a challenging technique in that I am constantly pursing two trains of thought as I read...that which was intended by the author, and that which is reframed to my own situation. For example, when I began reading Johnson's "User-Centered Technology", from the very beginning I thought about this user-centeredness in my own work. As I tried to understand Johnson's views about allowing the user to be a part of the design and implementation of effective instruction and training for computer manuals, I tried to reframe the ideas as if he were talking about creating standard operating procedures (SOPs) for truckers in PNG. As I read, I find myself embracing and discarding arguments presented framed in this new context, but better than that, I found myself actually considering them thoughtfully. Is it really possible to design SOPs that are focused on the training needs of the organisation rather than established to prove to outsiders (ExxonMobil, OSL, etc.) that we are capable and organised? Is it really possible to allow the users to determine what is useful, adequate, proper, correct, etc? Can I really convince the rest of the organisation that writing top-down procedures is counter-productive and that writing them from the inside-out, not only from a users' perspective (something I adopt when I try to "put myself in their place") but rather from the actual users themselves is where we really need to be going? When I reframed the reading in this new context, I found I could not put the book down! (I am almost finished with it now and getting ready to start again from the beginning.)

I guess I am saying that you should not be surprised if I ask to team up with some of you on different projects when it seems our interests lie so far afield from each other. I guess I am engaged in a larger "experiment" here because I am beginning to find linkages and commonalities in the most unusual places, and I like it!

Research Ideas

Note: This is a copy of my posting for one of my classes, Research Methods.

Interested for more than 20 years in the idea of tacit knowledge transfer in industrial fields, namely oil, gas, and petrochemical, no matter what sideline studies I pursue, I find myself coming back to this topic again and again. Although I am not yet sure how to organise this semester's study, I am thinking of focusing on a project that I am currently directing in my company. (Note: in a small company like ours, "directing" means heading up as well as conducting, following-up on, and reporting. :-) I will start by explaining this current project, as opposed to explaining the research project, in the hopes that I will be able to focus my research in an area that supports and aids in what I am pursuing "in real life".

Our company is owned by a group of landowners in the Southern Highlands Province (SHP) of Papua New Guinea (PNG). This group of people, these Southern Highlanders, have a reputation, even here in PNG, for being aggressive and often warlike. In my dealings with them over the past year, I tend to view them, instead, as being a highly passionate people. I am currently pursuing a project of helping convert the workforce (currently 175 people) into a cohesive company that is guided by processes and procedures. This is in an attempt to garner some of the unique business opportunities that have developed here in PNG dealing with such companies as ExxonMobil, Oil Search Limited, Santos, and the like. My current project is in establishing some Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for use by a workforce composed of an extremely diverse population. Many of the workers do not speak English, and a number of them are illiterate. Most of them also grew up in the villages where everything from shoes to computers were of little use.

[Remember, I am describing my work project here as I have not yet developed the research project idea fully.] I would like to start with a survey of company personnel to establish an overall view of the literacy capabilities. I have already written five SOPs, my pilot group of artefacts, and have had them converted to Tok Pisin, the local pidgin English that is spoken, as a second language, by most of the national population. Next week, I will be sending these documents back to the field to be "tested" by the workforce. Not only am I looking for accuracy and correctness, but I am trying to answer a number of other questions.

  1. Do these procedures really add any value?
  2. Should the two translations be presented side-by-side or as separate documents?
  3. Is there real value in having the two translations?
  4. What processes can we use to ensure the illiterate members of the workforce receive and retain the necessary information?
  5. What direction should this project take me next?

I hope to be able to develop a research project out of this larger, more complex field project sometime over the next week. But I am VERY interested in the input any of you would like to provide!

Jan 3, 2011

Happy New Year

The rollover into the new year was largely uneventful for me as Leo is in Kutubu and I was here alone. Still, I'm not really worried that the quiet entrance of 2011 is any indication about the rest of the year. There is no way that this is going to be just another year on my calendar...2011 is going to involve a LOT of rock and roll!

It's Monday morning now, and although I worked most of the weekend as well, today is the first day of the work week in the new year. It is also the first day of my job in my new role. I am on the management team of Trans Wonderland Limited (TWL) and my job title is Projects and Systems Development Manager. Basically, I have two main paths of pursuits. On the "systems" side, I am continuing a project I started as a consultant of helping establish an organised base of processes, procedures, and tools (electronic and otherwise) that will enable TWL to become a global company rather than just another lanco (landowner company). On the "projects" side, I am responsible for vetting a number of new projects for the company. I have 4 of these on my plate already, all of them exciting ventures with great potential for us.

On the personal side, I'm enjoying having my hubby (Leo) here with me in PNG. He's working for the company as well, although he is only planning on a one-year commitment before he retires and moves back home. Still, that gives us a whole year together, and I'm looking forward to it being a great deal of fun for us.

I miss my family back home, there is no doubt about that. I worry about grandchildren and nieces growing up without knowing who I am, but I'm planning on making it up to them when I am finished here. I also try to drop in on them occasionally, using Skype, Facebook, email, etc. so they will at least have heard of me. :-)

And I'm getting ready for another semester at school, although I haven't actually finished the last one. I had some serious technical problems right at the end of the semester that kept me from finishing two major projects in one of my classes. I offered to re-take the class, but the instructor decided to give me an "Incomplete" for the course and give me another deadline for completing the two assignments. I am working feverishly to get them done now. I will be taking two classes this semester. One is called "Personal Agency" and is taught by Dr. Kemp. The other is "Field Methods of Research" and is being taught by Dr. Cargile-Cook. Although I have had the pleasure of meeting both professors, this is my first class under each of them. And although I am looking forward to the semester and the content of these classes, I am more than a little worried about being able to keep up, what with the technical restrictions/problems that frequently plague me. I am definitely going to give it my best shot, though.

The time has come for me to get to work, but I did want to pop in for a moment and post something here. I can't wait to see what kinds of exciting things 2011 has in store for me!