Saturday, October 21, 2006

"Learn the Secrets to Getting a Grant"

The archive where Shawn and I have been digging around is closed on Fridays, so it was my assumption that I would get to spend at least part of yesterday working at the library.
Somehow that just didn't happen. After a relatively brief breakfast with Jesse, who had come to Prague for the Central Asian music festival (we did see a couple of films, but the program didn't do a good job of explaining where most of the live performances were), I took care of an errand at the bus station and then planted myself at a cafe to continue slaving away at the dreaded pseudo-chapter.
Next thing I knew, it was around 7pm and there was nothing further on the menu that I really wanted to eat. Admittedly, I had vastly improved the pseudo-chapter, which I have created out of one piece of Chapter 2 and the second half or so of Chapter 3. It hangs together pretty well, it just doesn't have all that much about Toyen in it, or much of my Czech research. So... I went home and messed with it and some other things until I couldn't see straight anymore and went to bed.
This morning I had new dreams of getting to the library. First, however, I had to go to the grocery store so that I could put cream in my coffee. Then I felt ambitious enough to begin a pot of soup (which, it must be confessed, did not seem ready to eat until about 3:30). And, fortunately, something inspired me to bring in my laundry (still pretty wet) just as it was starting to rain.
My advisor had said positive things about the draft of the application that is due first, so I thought that it would be wise to finish that off before going to the library. This was, I might point out, an application that I had almost entirely written already and mainly needed to be reread for improvements. It did, however, need a few small administrative items added, like the latest version of my c.v.
While I cannot claim that I worked on this thing steadily all day--I did a few things on the other application, discovered that there were slightly more than twice as many Central/Eastern European applicants for the grant I had last year than received funding for that geographic area (much better odds than for South America), and so forth and so on--next thing I knew it was nearly 5:00.
So much for getting to the library.
On the positive side, I got all the pieces sent off to my advisor in time to be able to help Alex test her new webcam. Though the webcam is a low-end model, it transmitted an identifiable image of Alex's face. We agreed that webcams are nice to have for special purposes (chatting with those we haven't seen in ages, showing off new acquisitions), but not something we would want to use for everyday Skype calls.
When we ended the call, I checked my email and discovered that some sort of spam group had sent me an email entitled "Learn the secrets to getting a grant."
I would hope that this was merely coincidence and not the result of my having just sent my advisor pieces of a grant proposal. After all, while I do assume that Big Brother is watching me, I don't usually think he is watching me all that closely.
Still, one can only wonder... what are the secrets of getting a grant? Since I have gotten grants, does that mean I already know them? Nah, probably not. No matter how good the proposal is, there are always factors out there beyond our guessing. What are the prejudices of this year's committee? Shawn tells me, for instance, that his advisor is obsessed with the idea that one must convey the gist of the proposal in the first paragraph. While this is never a bad idea, some of us like to use the first paragraph to set the scene. What if the committee includes a die-hard believer in First Paragraphism?
Well, you never know. All I know is that it's been another day on the couch fine-tuning a grant application. I hope that it will still be fall next weekend when Jesse and I visit Stepanka and Michael, so that we can all hike around on autumnal trails. Last weekend Julia B. and I did make an attempt at autumnal roller-blading, but her daughter Caroline was strongly opposed, so we mainly enjoyed watching a dressage competition at the stables near Stromovka.


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