A great leap forward

I threw my index cards in the recycling bin.

That’s several shoeboxes worth of index cards. They have been stored on the top-most shelves in my study, inches from the ceiling–not exactly prime storage real estate. All the same, they’re not something I’m using or have any intentions to use.

I was the queen of index cards in graduate school, probably copying my dissertation advisor, who had her own shoeboxes full of them. Term papers, exams, dissertation, my first few post-job conference papers and essays, all represented in those boxes. Bibliographies. Quotations. Very little in the way of my own thoughts, outlines, reasons for copying out the quotations. Gradually I moved on to other methods of note-taking and paper-writing. Obviously, assembling bibliographies has become a very different (easier) task since the days when the only MLA bibliography was a print MLA bibliography.

I’m not even sure why I kept them for so long. Souvenirs, maybe. A reminder of how hard things used to be. Some buried wish to be like my dissertation advisor. A feeling that since I had gone to all that work, I should keep them.

But the benefit of the work, I think, is in the process. I had it, and if I needed to consult one of the books I took notes on for another paper, now, I would need to read the book again.

So they’re in the bin, and they’ll be gone tomorrow. At a minimum, I now have a little more storage space in my study. But I’d like to do a little magical thinking: now that the dissertation cards are gone, it will somehow be easier to complete my present book-length project. New book, new world order.

Feline peer pressure

Because one of our cats has had some bladder problems, the vet said he should eat wet food, not kibble, and suggested various specialty foods that would be good for what ailed him.

Of course, he didn’t like any of them and wanted to continue to eat kibble.

The vet then said any wet food would be better than kibble.

This is our most outgoing cat, and the biggest show-off. I noticed that he took some interest in the wet food our tabbies eat, sniffing their bowls and sometimes their mouths after they had eaten. So I started offering Mr. Picky “big cat food,” at the same time as the big tabbies get theirs. It worked—especially after the big cats took an interest in Mr. Picky’s bowl. Popular with other cats? OK, he’ll eat it.

Sir John said he never would have thought of this solution. Of course not. He himself is impervious to peer pressure and “all the other cats do it” arguments. I understand that sometimes you just want to fit in with the group.

I swear being a cat parent is more like being a kid parent all the time. At least the Tiny Girl has stopped wetting the bed.

Because we took her bed away.

Imagine the therapy bills if we had kids.

What to my wandering eyes should appear

At the final reception at the NCS, I was talking with Dr. Virago and some friends of hers I had just met, and found my eyes wandering around the room in the way that so often signals “You’re not important; I’m looking for a Name to talk to.” I kept telling myself, “Stop that. It’s very rude. Focus on the people you’re with,” and then I’d catch myself doing it again.

I’m sorry, fellow-NCS-delegates. Let me explain. First, crowds make me nervous; at least we were at the edge of the room, where there wasn’t anyone behind me, or I would have been even twitchier. Scanning for possible danger is almost instinctive with me, the behavior of a shy animal. What could happen? Oh, I don’t know; that’s not the point. I might be pounced on by either a very large predator or someone trying to get me turn in something I’ve forgotten about (if those aren’t the same thing). It’s just that I feel I need to keep a wary eye on a room full of people.

Second, I confess it: I was hoping to spot someone else. Not a Name, just someone (almost anyone) I’d known for longer than I’d known the people I was talking to. I was at the end of five weeks away from home, in which I had had many conversations with people I had just met, about either purely practical things or completely superficial subjects. I had spent no time at all with old friends or anyone who might be counted among my intimates. I was tired of such a public life. A few minutes with someone I had some history with would have been restorative.

As medievalists, we’re familiar with how in bono and in malo interpretations of the same scene can co-exist. I admit my behavior looked bad. But perhaps, knowing the background, you can find it in you to be charitable, as I prefer to be so long as I can imagine any alternative explanations for behavior I might otherwise object to. This person may have had a forgetful moment; that one may have been jet-lagged; another may have been profoundly nervous at seeing Professor X in the audience.

I’m no saint. Finding charitable explanations is an act of rebellion: my mother, in her own words, is a nasty old cat who can’t imagine how she raised such a mealy-mouthed child. A bland social smile is to my face as full Goth makeup once was to some of my peers.

Still boring

Done: all but two chapters of the dissertation; Zoo abstract drafted; birthday card in envelope and in car waiting to go to the post office (oversized, so it needs official intervention); schedule (more or less); laundry, dishes, gym, cat stuff. The kitten seems to think he’s a puppy or a rabbit, the way he chews on everything, which makes filing papers an urgent task—just less urgent than the dissertation.

I’m thinking about a post on academic hierarchies and conference-going; but getting the tone right is tricky.

Facing the crumhorns

Still having problems with the motivation. I went to campus on Tuesday and got some stuff done . . . and remembered a batch of things I’d failed to put on the list, and I thought, well, that’s fine, you start doing things and that leads to doing other things, and now you have a new list for next week.

Then Wednesday Sir John and I went hiking at a state park—nothing too challenging, but still, we were so tired out at the end of the day that yesterday I kept spinning my wheels. So I’m giving you a boring list-y post of things I have to do:

  1. Read a revised dissertation draft.
  2. Sort out various papers I brought home from campus.
  3. Sort and file various papers in my study.
  4. Mail a very late birthday card to a nephew.
  5. Write an abstract for a Zoo paper.
  6. Set up a real schedule for next week.

There are some more fun or at least more active things to do, as well:

  1. Propose times and venues to get together with a friend.
  2. Put away laundry.
  3. Dishes.
  4. Gym.
  5. Supervise kitten-cat interactions.

I’m not too surprised that the kitten has found a hair scrunchie to play with; there are lots around here. But how did he manage to turn the one scrunchie of a minute ago into two? It’s the miracle of the hair scrunchies! But I’d better take the dissertation to high ground before he turns its pages to papier-mache. The corners of a 2008 Zoo handout I left on my desk are beyond perforated now; in fact, they’re well into mutilated.

I’ll let you know how it goes. And I’d better put “write interesting blog post” on the list.

Monday. Not morning.

Medieval Woman was kind enough to give me a blogging award, though I can’t say I feel I deserve it.
I’m not sure about passing it on to others; for one thing, I don’t like to leave people out. If you’re on the blogroll, and possibly even if you’re not, I probably want to give you an award.
But, sorry, I’m just not up for all the linking today. I seem to have overshot on the recovering-from-jet-lag process, and wound up halfway to Hawaii. At least it’s not Taipei. It’s Monday afternoon, by the clock here, and I have things to do. Besides reading children’s fiction and being beat up by a tiny cat, that is. (I am never getting another kitten. Never. We’ll stick to adult cats after this.)
Report on the weekend: gym everyday, check. Farmers’ Market, check. Phone call to friend whose garden needs plants, sorta check: message left, no response. Craft project: sorta: I have started learning a new crochet pattern, dots-and-diamonds, though just in a practice square. Weeding: not done.
And the bills and banking are not done either, but they have to be the next up. I think the problem is that I don’t want to face the tally for several weeks in England. Nonetheless, Dame, it’s time to face the crumhorns and dance.


I’ve been on vacation since I got home. I haven’t even done anything interesting. I sleep, run errands, cook, eat, read children’s fiction, do crossword puzzles with Sir John, and play with the cats (especially the new baby). But now it’s August, and at the very least I’d better pay bills and get to the bank today.

I do need to start thinking about work. To start with, I should make a list of things I need to do on campus: file travel voucher, which means finding receipts; check out books, which means thinking about what I need; get letterhead and write a couple of letters (and at this point I get tired and think I should spend more time with the cats).

But seriously. I have to write an abstract for next year’s Zoo. That’s a nice small piece of work, something that will stay done when ’tis done. And then not only is there the book to tackle (I had really better break this down into much smaller tasks), I also have 2 months to write an essay for a book collection. This is a project whose proposal sat on some editor’s desk for years, so that I had more or less forgotten about it, or turned it into one of those “someday” things. And then last week I learned that it’s a “go” and I have to start thinking about that essay again.

For today, anyway, and through the weekend, I’m going to continue the vacation—just try to make it a more active one. I’ll go to the gym every day. I’ll hit the Farmers’ Market tomorrow. I’ll do some weeding in the garden. I’ll call a friend about going and having a look at his neglected new-house garden, so I can work out how many of my day lilies and hostas can move there (my garden is tiny, but I can never bear to just throw out healthy plants, even when they’re taking over). If I’m feeling really ambitious, I might start a craft project.

Because I’m actually getting a little tired of being a slug.