Dame Eleanor Hull

700: three weeks’ worth of three weeks

This is my seven hundredth post.  After . . . seven and a half years?  Not particularly prolific.  But long-lived!  You have to give me that.

It seems appropriate that this is a numbers post.  I like doing the numbers.  I’m starting a year of sabbatical leave (woot!), and need to think about ways to break up the time and make it meaningful to me, so I don’t waste it.  I’ve written before about the struggle I have to make time seem concrete and real.  It seems like progress to have worked out that I have this problem.  More than a year (since I have next summer and this summer) seems like a lot of time.  Fifteen months is even more time.  Breaking it down into weeks . . . there’s a long string of weeks, more than sixty.

I have found that I can schedule tasks for myself for up to three weeks at a time.  That is, I can be quite specific for one week (400 words on Specific Topic), a little more general in the second week (400 words added to Essay X), and in the third week things get vaguer (at least one hour on whatever Essay X needs then).  By the end of three weeks, I have to recalibrate.  But I can get my mind around three weeks, in a way that doesn’t work so well with longer lumps of time.

So, that long stretch of over 60 weeks?  Actually, it’s sixty-three weeks until I’m on contract for my next teaching semester.  3 x 3 x 7.  Twenty-one times three weeks.  Three weeks is 21 days.  So, three weeks’ worth of three weekses.  I can grasp this, and plan in three-week chunks (though in practice, I’ll need to review at least every second week, since when I start that vague third week, it needs to get some details).  It’s a plan.

K’zoo conversation

DEH: [description of woman, trying to remind Sir John of someone he had met briefly]

SJ: Do you mean that woman who was so excited about the prospect of more free booze?

DEH: That only describes about half the people at this conference.

MMP news

The limb of the Octopus that I lopped off and sent out last winter (that is, the MMP-3) has found a home.  Minor revisions, but hey, what new home doesn’t need a lick of paint and some repairs?

MMP-1 is still being brooded over by a dragon who may or may not admit it to his hoard (ack, mixed metaphor: well, let’s say I gilded the octopus-leg before trying to tempt the dragon with it).

For about a month, the MMP-2 has appeared to be two paragraphs and a round of proofing away from being offered to another dragon.  Once I get the K’zoo paper wrestled into submission, I’ll do that gilding and see if I can find a thief to sneak it into the draconian lair.


Congratulations to Heu Mihi, who needs to change her blog’s subtitle!  And maybe her name, IMHO: at the moment, at least, it’s not “heu” but “vale” or maybe “celebratur.”

K’zoo progress

‘Tis the season when the medievalistbloggers are discussing the amount of text they have or have not written of their papers for Kalamazoo.

Up till yesterday, I was just envious of anyone who had managed to get started.  I was also thinking that they are over-achievers, since the conference is late this year, starting days after my grades are due, so I don’t have the usual DO ALL THE THINGS time-crunch.

(There was a year when I had my paper finished in April, so I’m capable of being an over-achiever.  Sometimes.)

But now I have about 1300 words down, and if I go on this vein, I too will have to cut back.  Or not: I’m scheduled for Sunday morning, so what are the odds that someone else on the panel will oversleep or have to scoot off to the airport?

Old to-do lists

Sometimes I find old lists and am thrilled to find that by now I have done all the things (or else the things don’t matter anymore).

This morning I cleared the top of my desk and found one that is dismaying.  I did cross off some items.  And I’ve done two and a half more items since I made that list.  But all the really important (yet not urgent-enough) items still need to be done.

And they’re not going to happen today, either.

Notions of fun, and other stray thoughts

One of my methods of either making life more pleasant or at least wriggling through, depending on point of view at the moment, is translating (badly) classical Latin poetry, an endeavor I also classify as getting in touch with my inner nineteenth-century schoolboy.  I take part in a Latin reading group at LRU, and it is the highlight of my week: a meeting devoted to intellectual pursuits instead of to the budgetary or administrative train-wreck of the month.  And so, for the last several months, instead of beginning the day with writing (which has gone back to being fitted in where and as I can), I begin by thumping through 5-10 lines of Latin.

It’s very satisfying.  I make steady progress.  Some new vocabulary has even penetrated my ageing brain (oh for those halcyon days of youth when I could read through a vocabulary list once or twice and nail it; why oh why did I not make better use of those years?), and I am quicker to recognize assorted grammatical constructions.  The ablative absolute holds no terrors, though I still balk a bit at indirect questions.

I also observe that I am even more literal-minded in Latin than in English.  Metaphors confuse me.  I am happy when a poet signals a simile with a heavy-handed qualis or sicut, because then I can recognize it’s a comparison, rather than puzzling over where this damned ship came from (look up word, it is a ship, yes?) in the middle of an account of, let us say, deer-hunting.

I wonder if this is how my students feel about English poetry.

While thinking about this use of my time during my long drive yesterday, I thought that this is something that my first boyfriend would get, and grad-school boyfriend would not; and, tracking this thought further, and much to my surprise, I concluded that first boyfriend and I actually were fairly well suited and might have been happy together in the long-term, whereas (and this I did already know), grad-school guy and I were really ill-assorted and, had we married, would surely be divorced now.

This is only strange because I spent so many years cursing first boyfriend; it’s odd to suddenly get this completely different perspective on that relationship.  Our problems were significant, but, I now think, circumstantial: not necessarily that we were too young, but rather that we had terrible models in both sets of parents, and spent far too much time reenacting those relationships and damaging each other in the process.  Had we come from happier families, or met later in life, or even been able consciously to say we wanted to be a refuge for each other and not like our parents, things could have been very different.

I wanted to study in France after college; he wanted not to be a doctor (his mother’s preference) and was obsessed with cycling.  Well, hey: he could have worked as a mechanic for some équipe while I focused on language and literature; he could have done something similar while I went to grad school, or started the coursework that led to the practical master’s degree he has now, which allows him to work in a very portable career.  Although he’s more athletic than I, we both like outdoor activity, and we both enjoy and value hard intellectual challenges.  His version was more along the lines of math or chemistry problems, but he would grasp why I work on dead languages for the fun of it.

Grad-school boyfriend was essentially lazy.  Very bright, and when he had a strong enough reason to do something hard, he could buckle down and do it, but basically his idea of fun was always the easy leisure activity, like watching sports rather than participating.

It’s been twenty years since I last saw first boyfriend, and close to that since I gave up cursing him and tried to think more charitably of us both.  But it is pleasant to be able to imagine a happier outcome, to think of my (admittedly rather dreadful) much younger self as having had some decent instincts about people after all.

This omphaloskepsis brought to you by unbloggable work crap.

The Kafkaesque life

“Time is short, my strength is limited, the office is a horror, the apartment is noisy, and if a pleasant, straightforward life is not possible then one must try to wriggle through by subtle maneuvers.”

The house is not noisy.

Other elements . . . well, I am inspired to wriggle through, although I am not known for being subtle.  Needs must when the devil drives.

An on-campus day

Up a little before six.
Go out and walk about a mile, just to say I had some sort of exercise.
6:30, return to house, make tea.
6:45, translate 7 lines of [dead language] for my weekly [dead language] reading group.
7:15, feed and medicate cats, boil eggs and make toast to take in the car.
7:50, get dressed, gather up books, laptop, breakfast, lunch, and snack.
8:05, leave house.  Drive to nearby college library to check out book I need for discussion with independent study student.
8:25, start the drive to campus.  Think about what we’ll do in class.  Plan conversational gambits in one of my secondary languages for a meeting later with a native speaker of that language.
9:30, decide I’m enough ahead of schedule and tired enough that I’m going to stop for coffee.
9:45, arrive at my office.  Skim essay in book checked out at 8:15.
10:00, teach a class.  Talk briefly with 3-4 students afterward about their research papers.
11:00ish, meet with independent study student.
12:00, talk with colleague about shared graduate students.
12:20, eat lunch while reading and commenting on student work.
1:00, meeting of Very Important Sub-Committee of Important Committee.
2:45, we get out 15 minutes early!  Woooot!  The time goes in watering my plants and using the restroom.
3:00, meet with grad student from another department who needs another committee member.  Strange to say, I am more or less qualified to do this.  Discuss technical matters with Other Department’s grad advisor on the phone.
3:40, breathe deeply, zone out, make tea, eat snack.
4:00, start tackling e-mail to students, library staff, colleagues; ILL assorted books needed mainly for teaching; look up call numbers for books I’m going to need to consult in our library.
5:00, get head above water (or fires put out, depending on your preferred metaphor) and pull up awful scan-from-microfilm of Current Manuscript Obsession.  Finish looking it over.  Return to MMP-3 and start revising its introduction.
6:00, decide to start the packing-up process.  Several last-minute e-mails keep me in the office till about 6:20, at which point I leave and run into a student from a study-abroad program two years ago.
6:40, leave campus.  Stop at a grocery store to pick up items Sir John couldn’t find at our local.  Stop for gas.  Get a sandwich to eat in the car and call dinner.
8:25, arrive at home.  Do a little tidying up, checking personal e-mail, and so on; then take a bath—in which I read an article I assigned to my grad students.
10:30, go to bed.

Day 9

Went for a run outside, not on a treadmill. (It really is spring.)

Ate pancakes.

Wrote and posted detailed instructions for an assignment.

Completed another short batch of grading.

Read for tomorrow.

Created the One List To Rule Them All.

Cooked another dinner that created leftovers.

Drank wine and watched the end of Paris-Nice.


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