IRB’s, paper-writing, and looking for funding

Sometimes, I forget I’m teaching two classes. Seriously. Some days, I get so swept up by my other work that it becomes more real than the 150 students that are currently taking my class (don’t worry! they very quickly remind me of their existence!). I think it’s because at my R1 institution, teaching is only a fraction (I want to say a third? it could be less) of what I’m hired to do. Today is one of those days when my other responsibilities take over my day and I momentarily forget about the 150 kids who are looking to me for their grade. I started writing up my IRB proposal, which feels like an enormous hassle (mostly because it is!). This year, my project won’t get away from “exempt” status, so I am anticipating a slow turnaround and some painful(ly tedious) revisions. It’s a project I’m excited about, though my main collaborator has me a little nervous –one of the vicissitudes of working in other countries is dealing with their own institutional cultures, and a recent election means considerably political upheaval and administrative changes at my field site. It’s a bit nerve-wracking but I’m learning to roll with the punches, otherwise I will drive myself nuts. The nice thing about startup is that if I wind up getting to my field city and doing a whole new project because my current field site becomes unavailable, it’s no biggie. It will suck for the two grants I am about to turn in, but I’m not expecting to get either one so again, no biggie.

Ah, the grant-writing process. Before, when I thought I was going to submit one of those huge grants to NIH or NSF, I was considerably more stressed out. Now that I’ve set my sights on a couple of foundations, I feel a little less overwhelmed. It just feels like if I can get some preliminary results published and give myself a little more time to develop my project, I will be in better shape to apply in the future. It would be nice to get a little bit of extra money, or money to fund my research for the next couple of years, but right now I just want to get some data I can publish. So, one grant application is done and awaiting a letter of support, and I started working on the second one today. Hopefully, I can get both out before they are due.

And then of course there is my conference paper, which I am supposed to submit to the discussants tomorrow. I don’t know if I mentioned this, but the two discussants on my panel are women whose work I deeply admire and whose research is very close to my own. I am thrilled that they are reading my work, and I really, really, want to get as much as I can out of this experience. The manuscript stands at about 18 pages now, but it will need quite a bit of theoretical re-working before I am ready to submit it for publication. Right now, it needs a better articulated discussion, and I need to conclude it somehow. In the next hour and a half. Huh. Guess I’d better get to it, then. For what it’s worth, I’ve decided to write it as an article first, and get it submitted. I can re-write it for the book later. Any thoughts on how book chapters in monographs look different than peer-reviewed articles? I feel like the main difference is structural, because the book chapter is part of a greater whole, but I’d love to hear some thoughts if anyone out there has some.

Oh, yeah! And then there’s my students, dying to find out how they did on their last assignment.

Thank God for TA’s.

find the cost of your paper

Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

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