Six on Saturday: mystery solved

Oh, look, it’s still Saturday in my time zone! Let’s do this before it gets any later. For my first shot, here’s the current state of the vegetable garden. The sweet peas stubbornly refuse to bloom, but the chard I cut back before visiting my family in August has come back strongly, and there are still tomatoes trying to ripen.

#2 is the sedums and marigold again, with a splash of coreopsis:

For #3, we have asters in two shades of purple:

Yesterday I decided to pull up some of the unidentified plants from the new bed in the front yard. When they came up, I thought they might be cosmos, as I had tossed some seeds around the plot while I was planting the flowers I’d dug up from elsewhere in the yard, but they never did bloom, besides becoming very large and woody. (But maybe they’re like the sweet peas??)

While I was pulling out these big things, a smaller plant nearby came up, too. I was okay with that; its flowers were pretty but didn’t last. This is a similar one, for #5.

And then I learned that this was actually a potato plant! I am excited about this. One potato is not much of a harvest, but I wasn’t trying to grow potatoes, so this is pure lagniappe. The soil I used in the new flower bed came from my compost heap, so I guess some potato peelings survived and thrived. #6 was taken indoors, with a teacup for scale.

That’s my six for this week. I think there are two more potato plants in various spots in the garden (one actually in the vegetable patch), so I’ll let them alone for a bit longer before I try to harvest more potatoes. Volunteer tomato plants in the front bed are also doing very well. I need more tomato cages or stakes, though, and this is not a good time of year to buy them. I’ve been trying to prop up the plants with small fallen branches, since it’s too dry to be safe to burn them.

Six on Saturday is hosted by The Propagator. We share asters, this week.

Spreadsheets for Humanities research

For awhile now, I’ve intended to blog on this topic, since Undine expressed interest. I have a few tabs open with related posts, and I want to close them, and I’m feeling a Friday-afternoon slump, so let’s do this.

I originally started working with spreadsheets because the tables I’d created in WordPerfect were so long and complicated that they had become unstable. I mentioned that here. From what I said in that post about a concordance and Topic A in Author Z, I think this was an earlier stage of research on what is now my book-in-progress. This project began as a conference paper. A journal editor who attended my session asked me to expand and submit the paper to their journal. When I started expanding, the danged thing grew, and grew, and grew some more. It’s still growing. I am still adding to the spreadsheet, as I realize that more and more words have connections to Topic A.

Profacero asked, around the same time, about using spreadsheets and calculators and bibliography managers. I don’t need spreadsheets for numbers. For me, they’re a useful way of tabulating information in a way I can get at easily.

I had another spreadsheet for part of the MMP, the Macedonian Marginalia Project. It had a long list of the marginalia, including columns for manuscript folio, edition page, text by which the marginalia appeared, and I forget what else, but there was more.

Another book-related spreadsheet tracks family relationships for multiple generations. I could get specialized family-tree software, but that’s not exactly what I want. I need to comment on what people were doing, and marriages they thought about negotiating but didn’t go through with, and similar matters. I like having different columns in which I can put this kind of information. Excel appears to be a very robust program. I can fill up cells with text, not numbers, and it just chugs along, keeping things organized.

I have a spreadsheet that I’m trying to use to organize the book itself, section by section, including primary and secondary quotations, historical analogues, and various other things that I want to use to support my main points. That isn’t going as well, TBH, because I do a lot of my thinking by writing, and then I have to take the time to move points from a written document into the spreadsheet, and it all seems stupidly fiddly: until the moment when I’m struggling with what goes where and I wish that I had moved things into the spreadsheet so that I could see things spread out clearly instead of having to pull them out of a long wall of text.

Then there’s the spreadsheet with all my scholarly books in it, which I wrote about here.

There might be some others, but those are the main ones that occur to me. Questions welcome!

Six on Sss…sunday

Late again! I took my photographs yesterday. Then I put away a load of laundry, did some weeding and watered the potted tomatoes, took an eBay return to the post office and did some other errands, went for a walk, ate dinner, and watched a stage of the Vuelta. I suppose I could have done a blog post during the TV-watching, if I had remembered, but I didn’t.

It seems to be the time of year for white flowers, again: here’s #1, Honorine Jobert, in bud.

And again like last year, the garlic:

For #3, the autumn clematis, now in bloom:

#4, the hydrangeas (Annabelle, I believe), not yet white, but they will be:

The sedums are pink, but some of the little flowerlets are still whitish:

#6, on the other side of the clump of sedums, is the one dwarf marigold I have this year. I do not know what happened to the marigolds. Last year they bloomed like mad, both in front and in the veg patch. I figured at least some would come up from seed on their own, but I also saved seeds and tried to start some in little pots, and threw some around the veg patch again. Not one of the dozen that I carefully planted came up, and neither did any of the others, till this one. I am glad to see it:

In non-gardening news, I met my writing goals for the week, and graded two sets of short assignments, one from each class. I hardly recognize this efficient self . . . except that I haven’t done most of the other things on the week’s list, so I guess it’s still me. At least I’ve done the most important things!

Six on Saturday, which is supposed to happen on Saturday, is hosted by The Propagator. He also has Honorine and Annabelle this week.

Where the day went

Before I started work, I fed the cats, did yoga, ate breakfast, watered and fertilized the tomatoes, watered the African violets, brushed the cats’ teeth.

Checked e-mail and answered a couple of messages. Declined an “opportunity” that would interfere with time I want to use either to do research or to prep my grad class, though technically I’m “free” at that time.

Wrote 567 words.

Commented on all the undergrads’ discussion board posts. Assigned points to both classes’ posts. Discovered that I have loaded to Blackboard all but one assignment for each class (I thought I was missing more than that for one class, so this made me happy). Made notes toward the two assignments I still have to write up in detail.

Attended a committee meeting online. Volunteered for a subcommittee.

When the meeting ended early, I used the “found time” to swing by the grocery store (half an hour) and move some boxes around in the garage, then started unpacking one box of books (another half hour). ILL’d a book I need, only to have the request cancelled because the book is already checked out of one of the libraries that has it; another is a non-circulating library; the third claims to have it but in fact hasn’t ordered it yet. Thppppbtt.

Dead language group meeting, online.

Talked to Sir John while completing the unpacking of that box of books. Sorted out a stack of books to give away. I’m pretty sure that box of books never got unpacked in the last house, so it was easy to distinguish between the books I was glad to see again and those that made me wonder where and why I got them in the first place.

Checked in online with my dissertating students.

Ate dinner. Went for a walk. Unpacked a new batch of masks from Etsy that arrived in today’s mail.

While watching the Vuelta, answered more e-mail and started reviewing an article I’m teaching tomorrow.

Quick Sunday round-up

I’m not going to say “five minutes” because even five minutes to write turns into 15 to post and fill in categories. And it won’t be ten things I did today because it’s not yet noon here.

Gardening update: the groundhog broke through the newly patched fence by Thursday (when I discovered the damage). I’ve piled heavy pavers in front of the hole, and bought some new metal fence posts that I plan to use to hold the chicken wire in place, and also just to block access. Honorine Joubert is coming into bud. Most of the late-starting volunteer tomato plants have fruit on them, so maybe I will have tomatoes for Halloween.

Reading: though it should be all for teaching and research, this is me we’re talking about, so I’ve read Katherine Heiny’s novels and short story collection because Moira’s posts made her sound like fun. I liked the short stories best. Standard Deviation seemed very familiar, never quite so familiar that I said “Oh, that book, I don’t need to re-read it,” but always with the sense that I knew [whatever event] was going to happen once it did. I’m not sure if Moira did such a good job reporting on it that I expected everything, or if I really did read it a few years ago and forget. I’m also not sure if I was slightly bored because of that sense of familiarity, or because nothing much happens, or because I’m tired of books about privileged New Yorkers. I definitely found Early Morning Riser dull, in part because the setting is so very familiar (small midwestern town). It had some funny lines, but I thought we were in Anne Tyler territory (not literally, since AT writes about Baltimore and its environs; in terms of how random events and long-standing loyalties shape lives), and that Tyler does it better. It made me wonder if Moira and her British commenters like Heiny so much because for them the familiar aspects of her work are slightly exotic, the way I only read British chick lit because I prefer the tone and settings to American chick lit, which usually feels a little cloying and/or claustrophobic to me.

Also reading: Elly Griffiths’ series about Edgar Stephens. I do not like it nearly as well as the Ruth Galloway series. I thought the villain of the first book was completely unbelievable. But at least it’s Elly Griffiths, so they’re readable, and as picky as I am about my fun reading, sometimes readable is good enough.

Researching: I’ve managed a couple thousand words on my book in the past couple of weeks. Yay!

Teaching: I more-or-less finished the most troublesome syllabus a couple of hours before that class started. I still have to write a bunch of assignments. Why is it just as hard to turn an online class into in-person as the other way around? I thought it would be easier going this direction.

Washing and drying: I am enjoying having the new washer and dryer, which were delivered while I was in Familyland, but the washer does have a tendency to twist clothes into ropes. However, both machines have the settings I want to have, and are not so fancy that they want to communicate with the smart phone I don’t have, or decide for themselves how to wash or dry the clothes. I want to be the one who bosses the machines, not the other way around!

Exercising: not enough. It is much too hot out most of the time to go for walks, and I’m not getting up early enough to go out at sunrise when it’s bearable, because we’re staying up late . . .

Watching: the Vuelta à España.

Some things I did today

The redoubtable Ganching generally manages to do ten things of a Sunday, but I doubt I’ll be able to equal her. Let’s see:

  1. Bought a dress on e-bay.
  2. Cooked brunch when Sir John got up.
  3. Patched that hole in the fence of the vegetable patch, which required
  4. digging below the level of the current fence,
  5. cutting a piece of chicken wire,
  6. attaching the chicken wire to the original fence, but lower and further along the shed,
  7. and filling in the trench afterward.
  8. Gave myself a haircut (and sent a picture of it to a friend).
  9. Went for a walk.
  10. Refrained from doing any job-related work except for sending an e-mail in response to one that will help me finish that pesky syllabus.

OK, if you count all the steps involved in the patching plus the parenthetical picture-taking, that’s eleven! And the digging was hard work, so I definitely want to count it separately.

Six on Saturday: Vandalism in the Veg Patch

A few days ago, three large tomatoes were ripening on the freebie plant. Then there were two, and I wondered if I’d hallucinated the third. Then there were none, and I found this:

I am not amused. I suspect the groundhog that has been hanging around, but I’m sure rabbits will find the hole soon enough. I need to go close the barn door, so to speak, but first I have to finish a syllabus for a class that starts in just a few days.

Further evidence of the damage:

The beast has been nipping off stems of many tomato plants. I have a lot of late-starting volunteers from the compost patch, which may fruit for Halloween if we’re lucky, so I wish s/he’d stick to them.

A view of the sweet peas, the two remaining plants; I started a dozen back in late April or May, seven sprouted and were moved to the fencing around the veg patch, and I think these are the only two that remain:

Let us move on from this scene. I’m glad I have two pots of tomatoes on the deck. Well, at the moment they’re on the path, because I need to paint the deck, but we keep having thunderstorms predicted so I don’t paint, and I’m going to have to re-prep when I get there, but anyway, tomatoes. The Romas aren’t doing so well, as some bug keeps laying eggs in the tips of the tomatoes, so I had to throw away the first half-dozen to ripen. Fingers crossed that the current batch may be okay:

Looking up, here’s a late-summer view of the magnolia, last seen in bloom:

We’re up to six now, yes? Here’s the autumn-blooming clematis, in bud, twining around the grape vine and the deck railing:

Six on Saturday is hosted by The Propagator, who has lovely bright colo(u)rs this week!

Stay tuned for posts on The Green Knight and my research spreadsheets.

Another five-minute post

I’m home again, which means exchanging a view of blue salt water for a sea of green grass and green trees. This should not be anything to complain about, but I do miss salt water here in the middle of the country. If classes move online again, I may just go to my brother’s and teach from there (this does not seem fair to Sir John, so I might not be able to pull it off).

I absolutely must work on syllabuses and class plans. I feel very very disinclined to do this, although in response to a query from a colleague I looked at a syllabus & course site from last spring and experienced warm feelings toward those students, which helps a bit. I wish I could be sure we’d be in the classroom for the whole semester! It’s partly the uncertainty that is off-putting: I want to plan the course once, not work out a whole lot of contingency plans.

I have always worked at home a great deal. When I was a student, I found it difficult to concentrate in the library (other people, so many books), and the shared TA office was used mainly for office hours, and sometimes for computer work, but we had to schedule time on the computer. Later I got my own computer. In my final year of grad school, I was on fellowship and could work at home every day if I wanted to, but I usually went to campus at least to swim and/or spend time in the library, because I got cabin fever spending all day every day in my studio apartment. Once I had a job, I was delighted to have an office of my own. I still did research at home, mostly, but loved having an office in which to do class prep. Over the years, I wound up doing more and more “real work” at home on non-campus days, because having a long commute meant that campus days filled up with teaching, meetings, library trips, all the things that required a physical presence on campus. But after last year, I’m really tired of living in the office, and want to go back to campus, so that working at home in my study feels, again, like a privilege rather than a requirement.

Eight minutes. Publishing now.


Over at TLQ, some participants have expressed interest in my goal-setting, list-making, calendar-tracking habits, and rather than hog the comments there, I’ll write it out here.

Everything I said here is still true: I’m temporally challenged, rebellious, dislike alarms, need paper, in fact need multiple paper calendars because the more I write down an event, commitment, or task, the more I believe it will actually come to pass and that I’ll have to do something about it. Otherwise, it’s more like, “Oh, that was a real thing? Not fiction? Are you sure? I only wrote it in one place, so it can’t be that important.”

If I were up for a two-page-per-day calendar plus goals set-up, this is what I’d prefer.

Sir John has set up a shared electronic calendar for us to track events like his meetings, my meetings, dryer-delivery, vet appointments, and so on. I remember to check it . . . about every three days. I gather his side of it is a whole lot more detailed, but I don’t have to go there. He’s one of those people who likes to schedule everything, with little alarm bells, and will actually shift from one activity to another when the bell rings.

I’m the sort who resists (mightily) getting started on anything, and then once I’m into it, don’t want to shift my attention to something else when the alarm goes.*

For the last few years, my usual format in my Moleskine is to have a weekly “goals” page, followed by daily or half-daily pages. The goals page notes at the top which week of the semester or break it is, out of how many. In recent months, I’ve added a “habits” page facing the goals, where I check off things that I want to do, if not daily, multiple times per week: stretch, go for a walk, change the cat water, hydrate the houseplants, take out the compost. Goals are generally divided into the categories Health, Teaching, Research, Admin/Service, and Life Stuff. Goals may be either discrete (Write Thing) or process-oriented (spend 30 minutes/day on Project). This summer, I’ve been unusually resistant (even for me) to using the calendar at all. Normally I’m happy to play around with the notebook and set up weekly and daily goals, even if I wind up doing other things I didn’t plan to do. But there are a LOT of things I need to be working on, and another LOT that I want to do because they are fun, and a discouraging LOT of house/life-related things that feel too much like work. It’s all a bit overwhelming, and I wind up wasting time instead of either doing something productive or deliberately doing something fun.

So I made a list of All The Things. It revealed to me** that most of the worky things I need to work on (plan classes, write book) are big, on-going projects that I should be doing little bits of every day, while the fun and house/life things are more likely to be one-offs (or at least composed of no more than five steps). Little-bit-every-day things can go on the habits page! In fact, the habits page can also get a line for Thing That Will Stay Done.

For the time being, therefore, I’m mainly using the habits page, and trying to check things off some reasonable amount per week, rather than writing out goals that haven’t been changing much for the past month or two. Oh, hey, maybe I’ve been resistant because I’m bored! I can believe that. It would definitely be nice to have some new goals. No doubt they will come when classes start. I expect then I’ll go back to needing a page per day to keep track of commitments and make notes about things that happened.

*I am frequently astonished that I have achieved as much as I have in my life, with this attitude, not just to switching tasks but in general. Proof that there are many roads to productivity! And also that reading fast and retaining the knowledge temporarily is one of my superpowers.***

**This is obvious to anyone who is good at time management. I’m slow, okay? Or no, the PC term I used above is “temporally challenged.” Let’s stick with that.

***I don’t retain anything I read fast, especially if it’s a work-related Policies and Procedures document. That sort of thing gets purged from working memory within hours. OTOH, I retain the most astonishing bits of trivia, including verbatim quotations from books I read when I was 15. My mind is a dim, dusty, outrageously cluttered attic with generations’ worth of trunks and boxes and piles of junk. In my teens and in college, I was much like xykademiqz, preferring boom/bust work cycles. When I was dissertating, I planned to a fare-thee-well and more-or-less stuck to that schedule. For awhile, anyway. Also like xyk, I always used to plan classes the morning-of, though while driving rather than in the shower. Not commuting last year, plus being online, meant a lot of really different planning for teaching. I think I like systems but I like the systems to change. OK, now I want to go read more at these links, and their links, etc. Maybe reading about other people’s systems will inspire me.