February 2018: Worst workout month in 2 years

February 2018 has got to be the worst workout month since I started keeping track of my workouts sometime end-2015. Only 2 proper workouts and one “cheating” workout. Lately, I realised that I have been down with minor cough and cold quite often. This month alone I was sick twice and over several days each time. It’s not really the out-of-commission type of illness, but minor colds. I used to think that I don’t get sick often and if I do, I would recover quickly. I’m not so sure anymore…

February 2018 Fitness Tracker
*7 Feb 9:50pm 29:00 FB stretching, pilates, yoga workout blend — First workout for February, and a “cheating” one at that. Too much work and fell sick during the weekend and have not recovered from too much work yet…so sad…

*11 Feb 4:54pm 46:00 *320cal Ave123 Max151 FB FB Burn2 Day 17 Total body strength – general lethargy, just want to sit and around and do nothing

*28 Feb 9:31pm 34:00 *238cal Ave123 Max145 FB strong lean toned arms chest and shoulders workout – even doing warm-up jumping jacks was tiring


“Celebrating” my birthday in an eclectic manner. Now I’m journeying along the North-South highway from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore. Earlier I attended Ann’s wedding and met up with several uni friends of more than 20 years.

Baskin Robbins at Pagoh highway stop

The last time I had a traveling birthday, I think, was in 2010 when I flew back to Bethlehem from Dallas after my job interview at Texas A&M-Commerce. The flight was supposed to be on the 24th but was canceled due to bad weather and I ended up spending part of my birthday at Holiday Inn Express DFW.

Inter-observer Agreement

After 2 weeks of training the temporary RA, the two RAs were still not able to hit the minimal gold standard of 80% inter-observer agreement (IOA). IOA is when two observers observe one or more students simultaneously, and at the end of the session, their coding of the student’s behaviors are compared. If the IOA is above 80%, then this is an indicator that the data were collected reliably.

Since official data collection has started, I had no choice but to step foot into the classrooms and be the IOA data collector. That means my coding of the students’ behaviors must match that of my RA for at least 80% of the 10-second intervals over 30 minutes, across three classes. Eighty percent of the 540 intervals!!

Prior to this, I’ve worked with my RA over the past 2 weeks on clearly defining active engagement, passive engagement, and non-engagement for 3rd to 5th grade students. My RA has thrown at me all sorts of random description of classroom behavior, and we have tried very hard to set our guidelines on how to code those behaviors. However, it’s one thing to have on paper what are active engagement behaviors, but to see the active engagement in action is a different ball game.

Knowing what I was getting myself into, I didn’t sleep too well last night…

It’s one of those funny-when-you-look-back-at-it moments, the teacher announced, “I will give you 20-minutes to work on a concept map in your small groups,” and BOOM! the class explodes into a series of “undefined” behaviors. Eyes were roaming everywhere, not quite at the teacher nor the assigned materials. Quiet raised hand is like a waving hand while answering aloud. Thankfully we survived this classroom, barely scraping through with an inter-observer agreement of 80.9%.

Journal articles make research studies look so neat and tidy. Research in real life is messy.

Anyway, I think I can sleep well tonight.

January 2018 Fitness Tracker

*1 Jan 5:33pm 1:34:00 *773cal Ave134 Max162 — FB 1000 Calorie workout — Great start to a new year!
*6 Jan 9:05pm 1:09:00 *527cal Ave129 Max159 — FB Strong & Lean Challenge Day 1 lower body
*8 Jan 9:30pm 43:00 *302cal Ave123 Max153 — FB Burn2 Day2 Upper body + Core
*9 Jan 9:35pm 46:00 *271cal Ave113 Max150 — FB Burn2 Day3 Lower body strength + Pilates — didn’t push myself to increase dumbbell weights to my limit
*10 Jan 9:16pm 46:00 *226cal Ave103 Max124 — FB Burn2 Day4 Dynamic upper body strength — Not many calories burned but arms are super tired
*14 Jan 8:13pm 31:00 FB Burn2 Day7 Fluid full body stretches — Still don’t feel so good, since last Thursday. Or it might be the cold lazy weather.
*15 Jan 9:28pm 49:43 *389cal Ave131 Max163 — FB Burn2 Day8 HIIT + Lower body strength — This one is difficult: with dumbbells, squat, L lunge, squat, R lunge (10x), so that’s like 20 squats, 20 lunges, and then a 2nd round 🙁
*17 Jan 9:17pm 37:30 *218cal Ave112 Max141 FB Burn2 Day9 Dynamic upper body strength

What happened to 18-27 Jan??!

*28 Jan 6:48pm 43:00 *206cal Ave103 Max131 FB Burn2 Day11 Upper body supersets — I think for chest press I can try 7.5kg per hand next time.
*30 Jan 9:44pm 40:00 *335cal Ave136 Max160 FB Burn2 Day12 Lower body strength + HIIT — Got my heart pumping pumping!

Ten workouts in a month with an 11-day break in the middle of the month. I guess this is a below average workout achievement. I wanted to add one last workout today but the super blue blood moon zapped all my energy today.

Queen of Perseverance or just a Bad Academic Writer

I started my academic career on a high – so much potential, so high hopes. I immediately started working on a systematic literature review on a type of behavioral intervention for students with autism. Here is my long trek in the valley of despondence.

October 2013: Submitted manuscript to Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders
March 2014: Decision – revise and resubmit, but reviewers wanted statistical analyses which we were not willing to attempt, so decided not to resubmit

March 2014: Submitted to Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities (ETADD)
June 2014: Feedback came – manuscript too long, need to shorten. Took them three months to tell us that!

July 2014: Submitted shortened version to ETADD
October 2014: Decision – rejected

January 2015: Submitted to Autism: The International Journal of Research and Practice
April 2015: Decision – rejected

July 2015: Submitted to Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs
September 2015: Withdrew manuscript from the journal. Editorial board was going through editor change and the manuscript was just sitting there.

January 2016: Submitted to International Journal of Disability, Development and Education (IJDDE)
May 2016: Decision – revise and resubmit

September 2016: Resubmitted to IJDDE
December 2016: Decision – rejected

January 2017: Submitted to International Journal of Special Education
October 2017: Decision – accepted. I found out by accident that the paper was published in IJSE. The journal did not inform me of their decision.

Each submission to a new journal took more work. Some journals do not follow the APA format, and I had to reformat the whole document. Some journals use British spelling, and I had to recheck the document. Furthermore, since it was a literature review, it was also nearing its expiry date before I had to add newer articles.

I’m a little heartbroken that the manuscript that I worked so hard on went to an unranked journal. But my perseverance was running out.

Perhaps I should write about my slog in the swamp of despair next? I have yet to see the light at the end of that swampy tunnel yet.

On Writing

I have to write so much in my work. Emails and reports, grants and papers. Spent the past few days revising a manuscript for the third time.

I also have to give feedback to students’ papers and often times the feedback comments are writing related.

I tried to read those writing books and brush up on my grammar. Even with all that, I wish I could be confident to know when to use “behaviours” and not “behaviour”. The plural and singular stuff always trips me up. Commas are also tricky. Can I blame my lack of grammar usage confidence on the does-it-sound-right strategy that I grew up with?

Maybe I should go for a professional development course on grammar usage. Or maybe I should just reread those grammar books again.

Work-life balance

I was reading some online posts about tips for work-life balance. On one site that lists multiple tips, one of the tips is to work from home on some days, but the following tip is to leave the work in the office, don’t take it home. Seems contradictory, right?

For me, some tasks, especially writing tasks, are tied to a major chunk of procrastination. When I plan to do writing at home, I am so prone to procrastination and will often end the day feeling really bad because I “wasted” the whole day. If I do this on a weekend, I would totally burn my weekend — no work done, no true rest.

This year, I would like to rid my home of I-should-be-working guilt. It’s Saturday 12:13pm, and I’m in my AC-less office, revising a manuscript.

Wintery wetland

I don’t remember it ever been so cold for so long in Singapore – below 22C for several days now. It’s nice, I like it.

One of my new year goals was to — Not do any office work during the weekend, and not feel guilty about it. Unfortunately, this weekend I had planned to do some work but ended not doing it anyway, and felt a lot of guilt because of that. Pretty much spoiled my weekend…blah 🙁

Contemplations on being someone’s boss

I went through many years as a student, graduate student, and then working in universities under department heads. Never really had someone work for me, or directly under me, until I hired two research assistants (RAs) for my research grants. I’ve learned a lot about being someone’s “boss” in the close to 2 years since I had my RAs.

I’ve learned that I am accountable for their errors. I had to apologize to a school principal for one of those errors.

I’ve learned that I have to correct them when they make errors. Sometimes this involves having difficult conversations with them. One time a young RA brought up an issue in front of a group of teachers, who were our research participants, but that issue should only be discussed among the research team and not with the teachers. So it was awkward to have to answer her question in front of the teachers. I was annoyed, so was my colleague, by this awkward situation. I was thinking of letting this indiscretion go, but my colleague insisted that I must address this matter. I’m a non-confrontational type of person and dreaded having this talk with the RA. But I did it, had the talk, pointed out her error, and she was surprisingly receptive to the mild reprimand/constructive feedback.

I’ve learned that I need to put people first, and not my research grant first. At the end of 2016 when my first RA’s mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, my RA was devastated and had to support her mom and family during that time. She missed several weeks of work. It wasn’t an intense time yet for the research project but I was quite worried that she would not be able to do the work, and whether I would need to let her go and find another RA. Research projects have tight deadlines and there isn’t much room for delay. But when I met with her and listened to her stories I empathized with her. So I pushed back all my grant worries, removed the “principal investigator” hat, put on my “friend” hat, and tried my best to support her then. Eventually things stabilized and she was able to get back to work.

I’ve learned to trust them and not micro-manage. Let them do their work, not check on their progress so often, and be ok if they are not in their office all the time. Both of them are dependable and do good work, so this is easy.

I will miss working with them when the research grants end this year.