How I Work: The Setup

Blogpost title and interview prompts are “courtesy of” and and are remixed by yours truly.

Who are you, and what do you do?

Location: Blacksburg, VA (well, I live in Christiansburg, but spend most of my waking hours on Virginia Tech Campus).

Current gig(s): Let’s see, PhD student in Rhetoric and Writing, GTA for Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) / Engineering Science and Mechanics (ESM) Engineering Communications Program (ECP; is that enough acronyms for ya?), Assistant editor for Review of Middle East Studies (RoMES; there’s one more for good measure). Belly dancer.

One word that best describes how you work: Conversation.

For a class, “The Digital Self,” we drew out our workflow for research (our personal¬† “memex“–thanks, Quinn Warnick, for the PDF of Vannevar Bush’s 1945 Atlantic article, “As We May Think”). Mine included a number of stick figures conversing–in a classroom, in a lecture, in front of the TV, over a beer–that’s me and a variety of people who hash things out with me, and whose brains now (hopefully) contain bookmarks to some of my better ideas. Conversation leads to everything else I do, I think.

What hardware do you use?

Current mobile device: Samsung Galaxy S. Nothing special, but a smart phone that I use for internet searches, email, checking facebook messages, and a few apps.

Current computer: An older MacBook with OS 10.6.8 update, which I love. I didn’t have my own computer at all until a few years ago, and this one was a gift from my spouse, Andy. I need to fix the DVD drive, though. Andy’s home office/studio houses his Mac Pro (outfitted with dual 27″ screens, mixing board, and a variety of other sound recording hardware and software, much of which I can’t name) is where we edit and remix much of the music I dance to. Because of Quinn’s class, I’m a proud, if temporary, owner of an iPad updated to iOS 6.1. Similarly, I also have an HP laptop for my GTA position (I absolutely hate using it, but it’s convenient to leave it in that office) and an HP desktop in the journal office, which I like a bit better, primarily for its huge screen and the fact that I keep a decent set of speakers hooked up to it.

Besides your phone and your computer, what gadget can’t you live without? I have such a non-techy life compared to many. I need my DVD player and TV for my yoga videos, and some source of decent sound for listening (and dancing) to music.¬†

And what software?

What apps/software/tools you can’t live without? Sadly, I’m pretty dependent on Office 2011 for Mac for my teaching, writing, and other work. The journal operates a clunky old Access database that I’m looking for the funding to work full time this summer and learn to completely overhaul; I compose teaching handouts, my own papers and some journal correspondence in Word; I use PowerPoint for organizing a variety of media for classroom teaching. I love Google’s products, including my phone’s android platform, and have been one of the few people, apparently, to be thrilled when my previous and current university switched from awful old Lotus to Gmail. Andy and I use Logic Pro 9 to edit music, but I really need a lot of help from him to be at the wheel rather than just navigating. For The Digital Self, I’ve been using Twitter and WordPress, along with a few other applications, for the past couple of weeks. Yesterday, the Kindle app for the iPad saved my tuchas when I forgot my paperback copy Foucault’s Discipline and Punish for a class, although I also own both that and the Kindle version now, and who needs that?

Do phone apps count? College Football Scoreboard, MyFitnessPal, and DailyHoroscope are favorites, along with Shazam and Pandora.

What’s your workplace setup look like? Which one? My workplace setup is almost entirely nomadic. I spent most of a summer working on my MA thesis at the picnic table in my backyard, surrounded by huge stacks of articles and interview transcriptions, transitioning from coffee to iced tea or lemonade to beer. I usually have a desktop or laptop in front of me and beverage(s), snacks, notebooks, books, etc. spread around me. I like a view, but not necessarily one I’ve created.

What’s your best time-saving shortcut/life hack? I worked in the service industry for many years, and I had a hotel banquet manager who’d always say “never go anywhere empty-handed.” I carry that maxim with me and try to run several errands at once, carry something downstairs if I need to grab something, etc. It can backfire sometimes.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager? Pen and paper or some similar technology, for sure. I use Stickies on my desktop sometimes.

What would be your dream setup?

My dream setup would be fluid, spacious, even invisible. I really want a gigantic whiteboard. Also, I would already know how to use the hard- and software in my dream setup without getting frustrated to the point of near-tears. Audio and video recording and editing software would be high on the list of items I’d want.

What do you listen to while you work?

Most of the time, nothing. Music is a huge distraction for me, so I’ll listen while I walk from one place on campus to another, stop between tasks to throw on my headphones and dance around for a few minutes if the office is empty, etc. When I’m working on the journal after campus sort of shuts down around 5 p.m., I’ll put on Pandora and listen to one of my own stations (a sampling of past starting points: Fleet Foxes, “Electric Feel,” Avicii, Guided by Voices, The Last Waltz, Hossam Ramzy, or one of several hip hop stations for different moods–from Atmosphere to Dr. Dre to Jay-Z).

What’s your sleep routine like? Not great. Typically 12:30 to 8:30 or so. I am working (Still!) on going to bed and waking up earlier. With Virginia Tech being such a 9-5 campus, it’s pretty necessary.

What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? I am a really good cook.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert? Mostly, an extrovert. I like to feel out unfamiliar situations before sticking a toe in the water, though, especially around really “cool” and/or really smart people.

Is there anyone you’d kill to see answer these same questions? The wording of this question makes it sound like I’m going to torture someone to get their answers. Actually, I’m acquaintances with another PhD student (geology at Purdue, if I remember correctly) and really talented, unique, belly dancer and costume designer, Bastet. I’d like to see how she manages things. Joss Whedon or Kevin Smith would be really cool.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received was just yesterday, from my advisor. It goes something like, “Don’t let other people serve you their shit.” My best friend brought a different version back from a leadership conference once: “That monkey on your back? That’s not my monkey.”

Is there anything you’d like to add that might be of interest to others? I’m not sure that what I have written would be of interest to others, so, no.