I thought I'd issue an update for anyone still checking in at my blog who isn't in contact with me in any other way. This past year has been the busiest but most productive year I've had in a very long time. I'd done a lot of reading but hadn't written much in the 2009-2010 academic year, and we made some schedule changes that allowed me to get out of the house and spend longer periods of time writing during the summer of 2010 and beyond (which increased even further by November or so). At that point I was revising my first chapter as a result of substantial comments from a philosopher of science who basically led me to tackle a whole new (to me) sub-discipline of philosophy of biology, and my first chapter is much stronger for that, but it took me most of the summer to do it.
I had a good draft of another chapter already, but that needed significant revising in light of a book that I'd read and marked up but just hadn't transferred any of it into my actual dissertation. I had parts of my other three chapters, but it felt like starting over in restructuring and figuring out where to put the parts I'd written. I knew what I was doing in each chapter, except one that needed some careful digesting of another book that I set about reading during this period. The new schedule allowed me to complete those chapters in quick succession, so that I had a good draft of the entire dissertation by something like January or February. I made revisions as I got comments back from my supervisor and other members of my committee. My final chapter was the only one not to get approval once I submitted it, and I needed to revise it again, dragging it into April or May before I could get my next draft of that chapter done.
The delay in receiving comments back slowed down my fast pace considerably, as did a much higher amount of activities for the kids in the afternoon and evening than we've ever had before (depending on the time of year: sensory therapy twice a week, piano, social skills, horseback riding, and extra speech therapy once a week, soccer three times a week, swimming 2-3 times a week). Then Sam's degenerating wrists led to therapy twice a week, eventual surgery, and more household responsibilities for me. During this time, we were also dealing with some severe complications with the medication we were giving our higher-needs autistic son (the lower-needs one has been doing very well). During a several-month period he required much more constant vigilance than the especially high amount of attention we usually have to pay to keep him safe and in the house and our stuff intact.
It's a good thing I was mostly done when all this took place, because there's more. By the end of the spring semester, I just had an introduction to write and some updating for my bibliography, and I had a few edits to make from my other committee members' comments. It was after I'd done a little of that that my hard drive died, and a few days later my two primary backup devices failed within minutes of each other. Then we got a call from school because of heightened behavior on a day with a staff shortage, which led to a hospital visit and a medication change (which turned out to help considerably). Our internet and therefore out home phone, which is voice-over-IP, went down that day, and Sam's cell phone had been missing for a least a week, so we just had one cell phone to keep in touch with each other during it all. One of the elders of our congregation described that day as rather Job-like.
The data loss was annoying and time-consuming but not devastating. I had the drafts I'd sent to my committee, but that didn't include the bibliography, which took a full week of two people devoting almost full-time work to get it updated again, with Sam working on the bibliography while I did the footnotes. Redoing the content that I'd worked on since my emailed drafts (which was the only content lost) took a few days of doing little else, but it was much quicker than trying to recover files from my flashdrive that were misnamed, often older deleted copies, and sometimes even unknown file types. Fortunately, I had a hard drive that had all my data as of last November, and I could run my computer on that drive while waiting for my new computer, because the damage to its hard drive is in the middle of the drive and therefore doesn't affect the booting up of the system. So recovery was mostly possible, and I just lost some lecture notes from the fall semester that I'll have to redo if I ever teach that course again with that book.
After all that, I emailed off my completed dissertation to my committee on July 16, and I've spent the two weeks since then catching up on my summer teaching, which I'd gotten behind on in the previous two weeks. Yesterday was the first day that I felt like getting the next task done wasn't urgent, just important. I'm in relatively good shape for the one class I'm teaching for the rest of the summer, and I'm done with dissertation stuff except for eventually preparing for my defense, which is scheduled for August 16. That's where things stand right now. In seventeen days I'll be defending my dissertation, and my fourteen years as a Ph.D. student will come to an end. I'll be on the job market this fall for academic jobs starting in the fall of 2012, and that's almost a half-time job by itself, but I'm going to be trying to work on some publications in the meantime as much as I can. I don't know how much blogging I'll be doing. The stress level is lower, which means it's now just higher than usual instead of completely crazy, and I don't expect it to get much lower than that very soon. But I hope I'll have moments when I can (a) come up with interesting things to blog about, (b) take the time to write them up, and (c) be able to respond to any comments that come without interfering with writing new posts. Blogging might be more regular if all those occur.