20-day Challenge, day 11

Eleven days in, and all’s well: up to line 54 of the IPM, and through 680 lines of translation.

I like this notion of the challenge.  It’s very similar to Jonathan’s “Seinfeld Chain,” but it has a built-in expiration date.  The chain idea may be better for people who like to compete against themselves—“how long can I go this time?” while the challenge may work better for people who aren’t sure of their stamina—“Just for today, I will [or won’t] do X.”  Just for ten days, twenty days, whatever.

You can pick a period of time because it means something (so many weeks or days to a significant date, like an academic break, new year, or birthday).  Or you can take a project and work out how long it will take to complete if you do so much per day, which is what I did this time.  It was serendipity that both the IPM and a standard-sized chunk of translation needed the same number of days.  In some sense, this is two challenges, running simultaneously.

It’s creating a virtuous cycle.  I like doing the work because I like seeing it add up.  The progress is incremental, yet quick enough that I can see results.  The more I do, the more motivation I find to continue, and the more manageable the daily task seems.

Twenty years in

Like so many other schools, LRU is dealing with lower enrollments, budget cuts, and all sorts of bureaucratic nonsense.  Not all of this is bad news, at least when considered in the short term and on the ground: smaller classes?  Boy howdy!  You want to take away one section of my least favorite upper-division class for majors and substitute a lower-division gen-ed class where I can introduce scientists and engineers to some of my favorite stories?  Go ahead—make my day!

And some of it I can face with equanimity.  Overhaul assorted aspects of the grad program?  Sure, fine, whatever; tell me what the new rules are, and I’ll follow them.  Only don’t expect me to help make the new rules.  I am, as I have been saying for years now (when will you listen?) a cynical old bat.  There was a point at which I was all afire for reform.  I tried.  The Law of Unintended Consequences kicked in.  I said phooey; I don’t seem to have the talent for this.  So now, if there are eager young just-tenured folks who want to try again, I’ll say, “Go for it.  You never know, it might work this time, and if not, well, at least we’ll go to hell in a thoughtful and deliberate way instead of accidentally and piecemeal.  I’ll be in my office; call me when the dust settles.”

Excellence without money?  Been there, done that: been doing that for most of my career, it seems.  Look, I’m happy to teach all the gen-ed classes you like, and to fund my own research besides.  I ask only one thing: leave me alone to get on with it.  Jesus H. Christ on a crutch, if you don’t have any money to wave at me, then take your fucking learning-outcomes assessment jargon and shove it pointy-wise where the sun don’t shine.  I am sick and tired of bureaucratic bullshit getting in the way of actual teaching and learning—my own as well as that of my students—and after twenty years of this, I am all out of patience.  All.  Out.  What dregs I can scrape up go to my students, who are (this blessed term) all enthusiastic and interested.  I am truly teaching.  They are truly learning.  Yes, they make mistakes, and they are young and fun, and so they get my meager stock of patience.  They deserve it.  You fucking bureaucrats do not, because you are old enough to know better, but apparently you don’t.  And so, because I am all out of patience, one of my delightful students will miss out on an opportunity that would increase the sum total of knowledge in the world.  The point to research is that you don’t know what you will find.  If I could predict the “learning outcome” for this project, nobody would need to do it.  You’re counting on my affection for my students, aren’t you?  You think that will get me to shovel your assessment manure one more time, don’t you?  But you’re wrong.  I’m done.  I’m going to go plan my super-fun gen-ed class for next year, and get on with my actual real work, and stop playing your goddamn bureaucratic games.  Swyve you all.

Challenge update

Day five, and I have done 15 lines of transcription, 300 of translation.  I’ve done six days’ worth of translation in five, so I am modestly ahead.  If that remains the case, then I’ll be able to start grooming this chunk of translation before the 20 days are up.  The goal remains to do 3 lines of IPM per day, and 50 lines of translation, for the next 15 days.

25% of the challenge successfully completed.

20-day challenge

Most of the little time I’m spending on blogs/blogging these days goes to updates on the writing group.  Sorry, but that’s how it is.  However, now that I have generated a good chunk of the essay I’m calling MMP-1, I’m going to try to get back to some on-going work: translation (large, long-term project, with a team; I’m very much behind my co-laborers, at this point) and transcription (inquisition post mortem, related to MMP-1).

The challenge: 50 lines a day of translation, and three lines of transcription, every day, for 20 days in a row.  At the end of 20 days, I’ll have completed the IPM (in rough version; then I’ll have to make sense of the end-of-word twiddles, filling in the proper case endings) and translated 1000 lines.

I’ve done my second day’s work on both, so I’m 10% through the challenge already.

Writing Group, week 10?

Updated: Jodi has a post up now, here:


Cold-hearted Scientist is posting her achievements at her own blog, and inviting others to chime in, here: https://profacero.wordpress.com/2013/03/08/writing-group-week-10/.

You can find your last week’s goals in the comments here: http://acaderanged.blogspot.com/2013/03/writing-group-week-9.html

The theme remains happiness as a writer; I would say, if that seems too much to ask, then think about comfort or contentment.  Maybe you could make your desk more inviting, or associate writing with something pleasurable, even something as simple as a good cup of coffee or tea in a mug of your favorite color.  Try one small change in the direction of pleasure, and see what happens.

Working out from the middle

I knew I wasn’t John McPhee.

I have no idea what my first sentence is going to be, or the last.  The MMP-1 is taking shape from the middle section outward.  Its shape is an hourglass.

At this point, I’m not sure what I have said about it here and what has been in comments at the spring writing group’s sites, but sometime in January, I believe, I meant to write 3-4 sentences to place-hold an idea for later and wound up with nearly 900 words.  I sat with them for awhile, and decided they were the center section of MMP-1.  Knowing that, I knew what would be in the first part of MMP-1, and what would be in the third part.

Then I took a wild guess at proportions.  The middle section looked like being 3-5 paragraphs, so let’s just say 3 paragraphs each of introduction and conclusion, and 12 paragraphs each of parts I and III.  I listed the topics that seemed to belong in parts I and III, winding up with 10 for one and 11 for the other.  I wrote topic sentences for each topic, a few here, a few there.

So now I have an outline with a well-developed center section, which I gave to a real-life reader yesterday.  It’s possible that some paragraphs will subdivide or combine in the process of writing, but I’m used to that, and I am happy with the frame I have constructed.  I think this will work well.

Anyway, work on this has been one reason I haven’t been posting much lately.  I’ve been very focused on writing, even though most of the work has been thinking and I have little to report in the way of word count.  Writing 3-4 sentences on a good day doesn’t sound like a lot.  But if they’re the right sentences, they get me a long way.

I’d like to know what the intro and conclusion will look like, but since this piece has grown from the middle, I figure the opening and closing will be the last things I write, this time.

As McPhee says, though, every piece is new; there’s no square 2, just square 1 squared and cubed, so maybe someday I will write an essay that starts from its first sentence.

At least that‘s over

March first!  Meteorological spring, although of course astronomical spring is still a good ways off.  But by some standards, we can say winter’s over.

Of course, it’s still snowing.  And I am still snowed under with stuff I have to do that I don’t especially want to work on.  But it is no longer February.