October 27, 2010

Waking up early, meeting famous people, interviewing

"Did you know that in the morning they have food, TV, almost everything!" -- Tracy Jordan

Now that I'm not teaching, I'm free to set my own schedule. It's great! But it's also terrible, because my body wants to stay up until 3 a.m. and sleep until noon. So there have been many, many days where my cat finally pesters me into getting up around lunch time and I don't even start working until like 2 p.m. Then I make up for it by working late at night, and it starts all over again.

But this week, I had dissertation interviews scheduled for Tuesday morning, Wednesday morning, and Thursday morning. My interview subjects suggested those times, and of course I said "that would be great!" even though I was thinking "dear god that's the middle of the night."

After months of fellowship it's weird, but sort of energizing, to get up early and drink coffee and catch the train with normal people. For the past two days I have run into politicians at the train station -- Rahm Emmanuel on Tuesday, and Congresswoman Schakowsky today. Apparently they shake hands during rush hour to promote their campaigns... so morning people have the most access to power.

Rahm said to me, "Have a good day at work!" and I felt proud that he mistook me for an employed person.

My interviews are going very well. This week I am interviewing people who have been involved in advocacy, and my interview subjects are passionate and proud of their accomplishments. I think they enjoy telling their stories to someone who is genuinely interested in their work, and I'm getting a lot out of the interviews.

I thought I had a strong handle on my cases from my background reading, but there are important things that I definitely would have missed without speaking to people directly. I think social scientists don't do this often enough. I read a lot of research that tries to determine why something happened, or why people behaved a certain way, and I often think, "Why don't you call them and ask?" Obviously we have to be skeptical of what people say, but it doesn't hurt to listen. And people are more accessible than you think.

I have one more interview tomorrow, then I'm done for the week. Friday will be spent transcribing... but it's okay if I don't start that until the afternoon.


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