Ph.D. Adventures!

Enjoying Academic Life (Ph.D. Year 2, Spring Update 5)


Half way through the semester and, to date, this has been my most enjoyable academic semester ever! I love being Professor Blackburn and have been getting plenty of positive feedback from my class. I am really enjoying my research (both Project CODE and my SDG theory). I finished sub-reviewing for FDG 2021 and learned a bunch. So glad I volunteered (though two weeks ago I felt a little overwhelmed!). As the adage goes: all’s well that ends well. 

Weekly Update Breakdown

Accomplishments Since My Last Update

  • Writing (SDG theory)
    • Went over notes from Dr. Rogelio last night. Have been holding off on major changes until I received the notes. 
    • We discussed yet another change to the paper, but this time it is a reframing rather than a pivot altogether.
  • Service to Profession
    • Completed my first official paper reviews as a sub-reviewer under Dr. Cardona-Rivera for FDG 2021. Added to CV.
  • Research (Project CODE Switch)
    • Have led seven meetings now, two as design lead with Rogelio present. 
      • In the game design meetings with Rogelio present, we used the SDG theory I’m writing to guide the design of our game. Out of that Rogelio pitched his first legit game pitch. (Which he was super stoked about and told me in a later meeting that it validated the work we have been doing).
        • Our game is an awareness learning game about ethics
        • It’s Boss Monster meets Dating Sim
          • Incidentally, I am really excited to play our game. It just sounds fun!
      • The others were game design/code design/team meetings without Rogelio present. 
    • Completed IRB revisions. Back in Rogelio’s court.
    • Code Design/Dev Doc:
      • Designed an MVC model for our vertical slice prototype with Sarah (team’s engineer)
      • Split up tasks with Sarah based on the MVC model we created.
      • Got GameMaker installed and git set up locally.
      • Instituted a simpler version of “GitFlow” for our branching strategy.
  • Teaching
    • Updated my CV with “Instructor of Record” for “The Psychology of Games.”
    • I learned so much about the student code. Read through it for the first time in my life and for the first time, truly appreciated it. 
    • In one week got to talk with students about infractions with student code, and, following the advice of my advisor Dr. Rogelio E. Cardona-Rivera, managed to resolve all issues informally (which the University of Utah highly encourages).
      • For the first issue, Dr. Cardona-Rivera stood up for me. It was so nice to have someone have my back like that! It was beautiful! (Big grin!). I also haven’t had a problem with the student since, though I won’t refer to me by any name now. It’s just “Hi,” or “Hello.” Aww, academic life.
      • For the other issue, I updated my syllabus to introduce a “regrets clause” and this was key to the informal resolution! At the end of the discussion with my students, they were thanking me. (Thanks again Dr. Cardona-Rivera for all the advice on resolving these issues!)
    • Managed to not only stay on top of my quiz creation but got a week ahead.
    • 45% of my students currently have an A. Now they’re glad I don’t grade on a curve. 😛
  • Self-care dailies
    • Been sticking to these and it has really helped me stay centered and enjoy my life more. Otherwise, I think I would allow the above writing, research, teaching, to just consume my life, because I enjoy them, but there are other things I enjoy too, and I would burn out if I didn’t take the time to take care of myself.
  • Executive
    • Started going through the NCFDD’s core curriculum. I went through the semester plan webinar for 2021 yesterday and I really liked the simplified flow for the strategic semester planning which they presented.
    • Sunday meetings have saved my keister! The one week I didn’t do since reintroducing it to my life was a very, very bad week!

Next Week’s Tasks

  • Writing (SDG Theory)
    • Finish updating based on Rogelio’s notes
    • Re-frame paper based on design rationale
  • Research (Project CODE)
    • Help finish the vertical slice
      • Basic Sim model
      • Hero Pool
  • Teaching
    • Create quizzes 9 & 10

Speed Bumps & Obstacles

  • Executive
    • Balancing all of my various tasks and responsibilities with some me-time and fun!
  • Research
    • Still don’t have copies of Boss Monster.
    • IRB has not been resubmitted. In Dr. Cardona-Rivera’s court (or inbox) right now.
    • Have to learn a new game engine & scripting language. Should be used to it by now. But I’m a little wary of jumping among all the different game engines all the time. I wish I could just stick to one and get really, really good at it instead of always jumping on different bandwagons. I’m not saying we made a bad choice, but I would rather stick with the one I know the best and improved my skills in it.

Personal Note

We finally (after six months) got our coach! We also got me a new desk and chair (ones I actually wanted, and love!), and dining room chairs and a bench. Our house is really starting to feel like home. And yes, that pillow is “family” backwards. My mom bought it when we were out shopping a few months before she died. She thought it was hilarious!

Lady dog likes to be in the room with me during my class and meetings, and frequently sleeps… and sometimes snores.

The weather was nice enough last weekend that we went on a five-mile bike ride as a family (including my brother who lives with us) and Lady loved the first two sprints around the block (but then we left her at home).

We also spent the majority of Sunday at my dad’s and Momma D’s to help them put up a goat fence so that Lady can’t escape and we can let her enjoy the outdoors. We played soccer, ate pizza, and watched Aladdin.

Ph.D. Adventures!

Back to Dailies (Ph.D. Year 2, Spring Update 4)


Missed the CHIPlay deadline, but have a second chance with a deadline this summer. Finished the IRB draft which Rogelio completed and submitted. I’m excited to move away from the crunch I have felt I have been under. So even though I have a lot on my plate, it feels so much more relaxed. Had a bit of a break from teaching, but some students have asked some great questions on their module 1 writeups and I love their engagement. Got a bit of a holiday with my sister’s family, and happy to be back home.

Weekly Update Breakdown

Accomplishments Since Last Update

  • Research Writing (SDG theory)
    • Missing the CHIPlay deadline was very disappointing, but I am a trained writer (journalism style) so even though technical writing is a new style to me, I could tell the piece wasn’t ready. I expected Rogelio’s “bad” news, but the good news is that we can still aim for CHIPlay this year (PHEW!) by aiming for their Rapid Communications call for papers which isn’t due until July 16th.
    • I am really enjoying writing this paper. I think it is going to be really great.
  • Research (Project CODE Switch)
    • I got to lead two game design meetings using my SDG theory I’ve been working on with Rogelio (see paper above) and out of the meetings came my favorite game pitch that got me really excited for the project and it came from Rogelio. Dr. Rogelio told me afterward that he felt that was his first real game pitch. It was super satisfying to see how the theory we’ve been working on could so positively affect not only our case study project but a fellow game maker as well. It felt really good.
  • Teaching
    • Bit of a break from class because of the holiday.
    • Just answering some great questions from students for their first module wrap-up write-up which showed how well, at least some of them, are engaging with the material. It was very satisfying as well.
    • Got ahead on some of the material so we will be two quiz weeks ahead moving forward, even with the ginormous reading assignment (it is long!) that will be the following week’s quiz.
    • It’s not all roses, but Rogelio has been a great support and I got to learn more about the university’s student code which I have never truly appreciated before.
  • Dailies
    • Self-Care
      • I was purposefully slack with my centering and other self-care dailies last week because of the CHIPlay deadline and the President’s Day holiday. Want to get back on track with it this week.
      • I also want to add more mindfulness to my day. Just experiencing life without judgment. So I am taking time to enjoy the fragrance of my herbal tea and food (as much as I can remember to) to enjoy the eating process more and just be more mindful. Again, without any judgment.
  • Executive
    • I didn’t do my Sunday Meeting last week and I really feel it today because I didn’t appropriately plan all my tasks. Should be okay, but made for a bit of a doozy for my end of the week to-do lists!

Next Week’s Tasks

  • Writing (SDG Theory)
    • Back-planning so we hit July 16th CHIPlay due date
    • Go over feedback (once received)
    • Revise, get feedback, repeat.
  • Research (Project CODE Switch)
    • Create 1-2 game pitches for Project CODE Switch
    • Leading Project CODE Switch meeting again this week — going over game pitch ideas and next steps
  • Teaching
    • Create/Publish Quiz 5 & 6
    • Grade Game Design Snacks
  • Dailies
    • Self-Care
      • Was slack last week with Centering dailies because of CHIPlay deadline, want to get back to my centering dailies. They really help my mood and emotional management. Still haven’t figured out what to do in the morning with kiddos to help me achieve that…
    • Achievement
      • Do my Sunday Meeting with planned daily tasks for each achievement focus area (Forgot to do it last week and I really felt it now that it is the end of the week when my tasks weren’t all complete because I hadn’t scheduled appropriately)

Speed Bumps & Obstacles

  • Writing (SGD theory)
    • Waiting on feedback before proceeding
  • Research
    • I think I need to schedule another supplemental design meeting next week (like we did this week), so we can meet as a team to decide on our game idea moving forward
  • Teaching
    • One student is making class a little difficult. I am hoping the informal interventions will resolve the issue because no one really wants it escalated (I hope!). I do know my next steps, now that I am more familiar with the student code, so even if it doesn’t resolve, I know my next steps, but it has caused me some anxiety and has eaten up much of my time.
  • Executive
    • gotta remember to do my Sunday meetings. It’s not a habit, so maybe I need an alarm or something?
Ph.D. Adventures!

Puppy Dogs Are Distracting (Ph.D. Year 2, Spring Update 2)


First student presentation class went well, my TA is killing it (he’s been very great), I feel mostly on top of things, and I really like being Professor Blackburn. Missed the FDG deadline for my first SGD , so retargated to CHIPlay. Doggies are good for emotional wellbeing therapy. Etc. (Read below.)

Weekly Update Breakdown

Accomplishments Since Last Update

  • Research Writing (SDG theory)
    • Completed writing the paper from start to end! Phew! I’m so tired! Lots of refining left to do. We’re aiming for CHIPlay. If we miss we’ll find another venue. It’s a lot of work!
    • I have another paper, a lit review, I’ve already started writing and I am targeting IEEE tog. The good thing about that one is that I can submit anytime the paper is ready. It’s good to have a deadline, but it’s nice to have a paper that I don’t have stress about deadlines for too.
  • Research (Project CODE)
    • I got to lead the meeting last time! That was fun. We went over “How to Read a Paper,” MDA+GFI and FBS frameworks, and discussed gameplay.
  • Teaching
    • First student team presentation went really well.
    • My TA, Joseph Conrad, is killing it. So grateful I got a B.S. English TA. He’s great and keeps up with the class very well.
    • Wrote up Game Design Snacks end of module assignment instructions
    • Feel like I might be on top of things. I maybe spend too much time on the course, but it is fun for me.
  • Dailies
    • Self-Care
      • It’s good to have the get the top two done + 1 more and call it good because that was pretty much every day last week.
      • I didn’t stick to my fitness goals as much as I would have liked, but I still did something most days.
    • Achievement
      • I realized that I wasn’t working on my more focus areas (anything other than my top priorities) because I had no set tasks planned for the for the day like I do for the top ones So I finally wrote down tasks to complete
  • Executive
    • I remembered about Sunday Meetings! I can’t remember exactly how to do them, but I did sit down and write out my Achievement areas, the top goal(s) I want to accomplish in them, and then the tasks I need to do this week. I already have accomplished more this week on my more goals because of this.

Next Week’s Tasks

  • Writing (SDG Theory)
    • Finalize the paper for CHIPlay submission
    • When that is complete, IEEE tog lit review paper 🙂
  • Research (Project CODE)
    • Use the SDG theory to start design of our artifact (we need to get cracking!)
  • Teaching
    • Create/Publish Quiz 4
    • Post Game Design Snacks Instructions
  • Dailies
    • Self-Care
      • Get up at my alarm time and start on self-care right away. (Maybe have the kiddos send me text messages if I’m in my office when they are ready/leaving).
    • Achievement
      • Do my Sunday Meeting and week review with planned daily tasks for each achievement focus area

Speed Bumps & Obstacles

  • Research Writing (SGD theory)
    • I don’t know the deadline for CHIPlay.
    • If we miss CHIPlay, what’s next?
  • Teaching
    • I think I might be spending a little too much time on teaching tasks, but it is really fun for me. I am enjoying it.
  • Executive
    • I don’t recall exactly how to do Sunday Meetings, and Dr. Rogelio mentioned doing a task review, but I don’t remember when/how that is supposed to happen.
  • Puppy Dogs
    • Yesterday I spent more time playing with my dog when I needed to be doing other tasks. She’s just so cute and I wanted to make her happy. Then this morning I spent a good two hours shopping for dog food storage, customizable collars, and other doggie items. Was supposed to be doing teaching tasks… That said, when I was really despondent on Tuesday (after missing the FDG deadline) she was a great emotional support to me. Maybe that’s why I’ve been so distracted??

Ludology, Ph.D. Adventures!

Being Called Professor Blackburn Is Fun (Ph.D. Year 2, Spring Update 1)


Taught my first class. Have the first round of student feedback about the quiz (So the questions were hard enough, but I struggle to know how lenient I want to be, whether to award some points back or not…). I feel like I finally have a whole paper idea for my serious game design (SDG) theory paper, now I just need to finish it by Monday for the FDG deadline. My semester schedule and self-care and achievement dailies are keeping me on track and centered. Struggling with my sleep schedule which has made sticking to my designed schedule a bit of a struggle. 

Weekly Update Breakdown

Accomplishments Since Last Update

  • Teaching
    • Taught my first class and it went really well
    • Made my first two quizzes in Canvas (and made a couple mistakes)
  • Writing (SDG theory)
    • Made not one, but TWO pivots in my theory paper this past week! Both called for starting over from scratch! LOL. I feel like I’m never going to get published, so I am just reminding myself that, especially for design theory science, I am actually write (ha ha!) on track! However, this is the first time I feel like I have a complete paper idea!
  • Research (Project CODE)
    • Had our first meeting and met the rest of the team. They are really great and I feel honored to be the student lead on the project.
    • Learned how to do reflexive journaling. I imagine it will improve as I do it more frequently. It was actually really fun and insightful.
  • Self care dailies
    • I’ve accomplished this every day and I always feel so much more centered and healthy because of it. I also have more energy, both physically and mentally, to get through the important tasks on my list.
  • Executive
    • Set a semester schedule and bought a notepad for tracking weekly/daily tasks
    • Started (but have not quite completed) my semester plan
    • Rogelio told me at the end of last semester some tips for managing my time this semester. It is essentially a dress rehearsal for what it will be like when I am faculty — You know what, so far I am really enjoying it! One of the things he suggested was to make my class day a full teaching day. Great advice! I essentially split my week evenly into teaching and researching. The other really great advice he gave me was to keep up my dailies. I’m so glad he said that because as soon as the semester started I felt overwhelmed, but I am sticking with my dailies and they help me 1) stay centered and calmer, and 2) ensure I’m spending a little time every day on essential goal-oriented tasks.
    • I also wanted to keep my updates shorter. I did include some good news and a write-up on my dailies though, so I put my reasoning for that below. (This update is under 700 words not counting the good news and dailies)

Next Week’s Tasks

  • Writing (SDG Theory)
    • Have Monday deadline (got extended) for FDG. Going to aim for it, but okay if I miss. Will submit to CHIPLAY if I miss.
  • Teaching
    • Create quizzes 3 and 4
    • Respond to questions on quizzes 1 and 2
  • Research (Project CODE)
    • I want to have the SDG theory paper complete so that we can use the theory for designing our Project CODE artifact.

Speed Bumps & Obstacles

  • Teaching
    • I’m not sure how lenient I want to be specifically for the quiz answers. There were three questions on the first quiz that students struggled with. The first one I am sticking to my guns, they should have been paying attention in class and to the readings. But the other two… ??? 
  • Executive
    • I’m having a hard time with my sleep schedule. My day started anywhere from 4am (not on purpose) to 9am, and ended anywhere from 5:30pm to 10:30pm for work and fell asleep anywhere from 11pm-2am. I haven’t been falling asleep/staying asleep. I don’t usually struggle with my sleep schedules so much all in one week, but it’s been very erratic. It’s making it difficult to stick to specific timelines and accomplish everything on my achievement dailies and sometimes just my needed daily tasks.

Good News!

We got our Lady (that’s her name) dog back! I call her Lady Bug. She’s the sweetest, easy-going dog I’ve ever known and she’s so cute. I just adore her. This is my first time being the owner, so I’m learning all sorts of things, but Lady is such a good dog that she makes a lot of it very easy.

More on Dailies

I share this for a couple reasons:

  1. I think it’s a good system for me and so it could be helpful to others
  2. Writing is thinking. I am still refining my dailies process and it has improved loads! I know that many of the important changes I have made have come from my sharing my ideas about it on the blog. 
  3. To help keep me on track with what’s important. By writing down what is important I have actually reevaluated what my most important activities are which continues to help me move in the direction I desire.
  4. To help me keep my goals (and not just work priorities) front and center. In writing this “More on Dailies” section I realized that when I wrote my weekly tasks these past several weeks I have forgotten to check them against my goals! 

Since last semester I have been developing a system of dailies. I am still working on them, experimenting with the time I spend on them and what days, whether I do one day a week for one goal, or a little every day. 

This is where I’m at this semester:

Research and Teaching Schedule

I am essentially a full-time employee of the University this semester so having a set schedule is crucial. I specifically chose to alternate what I start with each day (teaching or researching), with my biggest priority being research, so that I am appropriately spending my time on needed activities each day throughout the week.

  • M: Teach
  • T: Research
  • W: Research/Teach
  • Th: Teach/Research
  • F: Research/Teach

My goal is to start my day at 6:30am with self-care dailies, then move on to achievement dailies, and around 9-10am start my M-F above schedule. I want to end my day by 6pm each day, with a hard line at 8pm.

Self-Care Dailies

I do my self-care dailies (updated name) first thing in the morning. There are four items on the list. As long as I accomplish the first two I’ve accomplished my self-care.

  1. Centering
  2. Joyful Movement (i.e. exercise, walk, yoga, etc.)
  3. Games
  4. Enjoy

Centering: The Centering activities are a similar list to last semester but I have updated the items and their order. I still try to keep it to 30 minutes, but to complete everything on the list takes about 45 minutes. I make sure to always do the top two every day. Then, select the ones I want to do the most until my time is up, setting a timer for 2:45 for each item. On really busy days do the top 2 and then 1-2 more and call it accomplished. These are my centering activities:

  • Prayer (Who doesn’t need a little divine guidance and support, especially in research!)
  • Scripture Study
  • Journal
  • Affirmations
  • Meditation/Deep Breathing (sometimes involves an inverted yoga pose)
  • Vision Board
  • Gratitude+ (Adventures, Victories, DoGoods, etc.)
  • Uplifting Book (Helps me enjoy life more)

Joyful Movement. I revived my workout habits last fall, but didn’t include them under my self-care dailies. Joyful Movement is all about enjoying how my body can move in space. I usually do this with some exercise, walking, stretching, and/or yoga. Since starting this back in September I am almost flat again in my side splits, and have lost 8.5 inches. Wahoo! It only takes 25-60 minutes but is broken up throughout the day.

Games. I log in to 4-5 mobile games to complete quick puzzles or a single round of Really Bad Chess. It only takes 10-15 minutes.

Enjoy. This is taking time for myself to do an activity I truly enjoy such as a hot bubble bath, running around in the snow with the dog, or listening to a good book while I walk.

Achievement Dailies

My achievement dailies (previously goal dailies) have been refined as well. I realized that I had too many things on my list and scheduled one of them for several years in the future, and the other I do 1-2 every couple weeks, but not on a daily basis. 

The idea is to 30 minutes each of the achievement dailies. However, it’s not quite working. I have been doing teaching and researching every day (probably because of my semester schedule), but I’m still struggling with accomplishing the others. So I am going to try something a little differently this week. I’ll do the top three every day at 30 minutes each day, and then spend 15 minutes or less on the remaining three. If it is a particularly busy day, then as long as I accomplished the top priorities I have accomplished my achievement dailies. 🙂

  • Top Achievement Priorities (30 minutes each)
    • Write (this is research paper or funding writing)
    • Teach (teaching tasks)
    • Research (Any needed research tasks, including more writing)
  • Get-It-In (15 minutes or less)
    • Indie Dev
    • Online Course to support LLB, NG, and possibly even NDG
    • Service (NDG, Service Roles, etc.)

So, I’m going to try that and see how it goes!