Paul Sherwen

I’m late to the, uh . . . to the wake.

But I only found out today.

For something like two decades, I’ve spent several hours a day, in the height of summer, with Paul and Phil talking to me about cycling during the Tour de France; I’ve heard them commentate on various other shorter races around the year, together or with Bob Roll or, occasionally, someone else. As Sir John said to me when my voice broke, “There are probably people you count as close personal friends whom you’ve spent less time listening to.” It’s true: I never met Paul, but his face and voice spent a lot of time in my living room.

I guess I always hoped I would meet him, that some year, we’d make it to France for the Tour or one of the smaller races, and somehow we’d be at the right place at the right time and bump into him and Phil, share a laugh, maybe even a glass of wine. We’d be just another random contact with fans, to them, but it would have made my year.

I liked this tribute.

Happy things

I feel well, the sun is shining, flowers are flowering, birds are twittering, I’ve done a whole lot of stuff today including some things I really didn’t want to and also some things I enjoyed, I found that I forgot to record a substantial deposit some time ago and that’s why the bank thinks we have more money than I thought we should (so no more waiting for something to clear or worrying about mistakes), and there’s still time in the day to get some more useful and enjoyable things done. I’m reading a delightful book, a memoir by L. M. Boston called Perverse and Foolish, which is broken into little chunks that can be enjoyed either in a few minutes between other things or at longer stretches.

It looks as if the summer teaching abroad program has enough students to run, and though I have batches of grading to get through they are smaller batches than at the beginning of the term because I “forgot” to point out to students until after spring break that whereas there are five (say) assignments of Type X on the syllabus they only have to do four of them, so now lots of them are breathing sighs of relief and ceasing to turn in work, except for those who want extra credit, and those are usually the better students anyway.

We finally got around to watching the Paris-Roubaix bike race and I think it was the most boring Paris-Roubaix I have ever watched but at least it wasn’t heart-breaking; no one was seriously injured. Paris-Roubaix is called “the Hell of the North” and runs over 25-29 cobblestoned sectors that are brutal; when it’s raining or has rained recently it’s incredibly muddy, slippery, and awful, and when it’s dry it’s incredibly dusty, slippery, and awful. When it’s windy the winds can blow the race apart even without the cobblestones. I still remember vividly watching Frank Schleck crash and break his collarbone in three places. Anyway, this year it wasn’t muddy or windy and was only a little dusty and it seemed like everything went very well, and I’m glad no one got badly hurt.

Reina is snoozing on a chair and Glendower is dozing in a cat carrier with his head poking out just a little so I can see his tufty ears. It’s nice to have their company. Research . . . well, I should do some. I gave a talk this week that went well but it has just dawned on me that I’m supposed to contribute to my writing group this week so I can’t rest on my laurels. It’s a good thing there’s still some time today!

Spring break, day 3

I spoke too soon about being done with the boxes of moldy stuff. I found two more yesterday, and dealt with them. Both were drier on the top layers than previous ones, so I was able to salvage more items.

One that cannot be salvaged, but which inspired a bit of mental time-traveling, is a bound copy of the 1961 dissertation of the professor who directed the dissertation of Sir John’s witness at our wedding. I took a class with that man (not the witness, his diss director) when I was an undergrad. I can still picture the classroom, the prof with his distinctive hair and mannerisms, the chalkboard, a few of my classmates; can still remember some of my thoughts and feelings as I took notes: trying to focus without thinking about my recently-ex-boyfriend, wondering why topics seemed so clear in the classroom and so difficult when I tried to do homework, fascination with some of the aspects of the class mixed with distaste for the professor. If I could somehow have known that one day I would marry the friend of one of the prof’s graduate students, I expect I would have tried to get to know his students (it wouldn’t have been hard; I was friends with a couple of my TAs) and figure out who their friends were. But Sir John hadn’t yet met the man who witnessed our wedding, so that wouldn’t have helped me fast-forward my life.

I also picked up some items that didn’t make it onto the weekend grocery list, and discovered that my library card has expired. I couldn’t renew it, because I have been using the card from the town where I used to live. It is recognized by a consortium of local libraries, which is why I hadn’t bothered to get a new one. Or, more accurately, that is why I didn’t need to get a new one when we moved. The real reason I didn’t get a new one is that by the time I got around to dealing with that sort of paperwork, I was sulking about having to move from a house I did like, with wonderful neighbors, in a town with very friendly Town Hall staff, into a house that has been an albatross around our necks, with neighbors ranging from nasty to indifferent, in a larger town with more reserved and perfunctory official staff. Using my old library card consoled me, a tiny bit. Or let me keep a tiny corner of denial, I suppose.

It would take about ten minutes to get a new library card for this town. But I think I’m not going to get one. I’m taking the expiration as encouragement to get out of this house. I’ll get a library card after we move.

Or, I suppose, if the house doesn’t sell and we have to stay here another year, after that becomes clear.

I did spend awhile in the library looking at recent issues in Cherryh’s Foreigner series and realized I’m several behind. In fact, in April I’ll be a whole trilogy behind. I wasn’t sure about one book, which seemed somewhat but not wholly familiar; back at home, I found that I own it. Brain, do try and keep up. I’ll re-read that one, and maybe at the end of term I’ll have a binge on the most recent three.

I watched the last stage of Paris-Nice, which was very exciting thanks to Alberto Contador (but I’m glad Henao kept the yellow jersey), and took another long bath.

Day 2

A thoroughly idle day.  The usual Sunday activities, including cooking and eating meals.  With Sir John, a walk and some outdoor tidying.  Another fun book down (didn’t enjoy this one so much; the hero was obnoxious), and a third started (much better).  More red wine, another bath, this time without bubbles because I’m out of bath foam.  And the Prologue of Paris-Nice.

Did Bob just say that?

We caught up on the DVR’d last stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné tonight, a long hard pull uphill in the rain and fog.  About the winner of the eighth stage, Alessandro de Marchi, Bob Roll said, “It wasn’t so much a victory march as a cold and broken hallelujah.”

Awe. Some.

Two great tastes that taste great together: cycling and Leonard Cohen.  Hallelujah!

Spring 2012 Writing Group, Week 8: Motivation

I was going to have a different topic this week.  But the redbud and hawthorn are out, the lilacs are just coming into bloom, and I have recently returned from a conference; therefore it must be mid-May.

What do you MEAN there are still five weeks of classes to go?  Where did that grading come from?  Who are all these people who expect me to discuss changes to the catalog?  Who are all these other people who still expect me to instruct them?

Time to dig deep into the suitcase of courage, feel the world of hurt, and fight to survive . . . only I think that suitcase got lost by the airlines, or mixed in with the ones marked “Not Wanted On Voyage.”  The conference reminded me that in addition to the MMP, I once had plans to publish other work on the text in question (two previous conference papers got set aside when my parents were so ill; now that I look at them again, I think they have a lot of potential).  What most needs attention are teaching and taxes, but I know I’m supposed to write every day and set a good example to the group.  And what I really want to do is work on the garden for hours and then park my bones in a hot bath with a glass of wine and a mystery.  If I have to work, I’d rather just write, but I can’t settle to that because I’m tweaked out about the grading and getting caught up with the class spreadsheets, but it seems like there’s such a lot to do that I feel overwhelmed.

I know the answer, or at least, what the answer should be.  Schedule time to work, do short increments if that’s what it takes, set a timer, give myself rewards.  I keep dishing it out to my fellow writers.  But at the moment, I can’t take it.

So, what are your ideas about how to re-motivate when the end is not in sight, when there are two more cat 1’s to climb before the finish, when bonk is setting in?

Amstr: 1) tidy up intro based on writing partner’s comments, 2) revise Chapter 1 revision outline, 3) draft at least half of Chapter 3 (two-thirds would be even better).
ComradePhysioProf: no goal posted.
Contingent Cassandra: have a 15-minute conference paper ready to present on Friday afternoon. Use the conference to get a better idea of the historical/historiographical context for my project, perhaps do a bit of networking.
DEH: reverse-outline current draft, to figure out where a paragraph that doesn’t fit should go instead.  Start grooming the rest of the document.
EAM: Weigh the three articles; figure out whether to flit amongst them, or whether one has more traction right now than the others.
FeMOMhist: just keep going forward with “real writing” and cleaning up as I go. Hopefully 500 more words.
thefrogprincess: MIA.
GEW: Read two chapters of philosophical primary text. Read three book reviews. Write two pages.
Ink: Write 1000 words before next Friday.
JaneB: a) Reorganise my desk area at the office; b) as part of that, make a proper list of all the writing things I currently have on the go and where they are at, and check the folders are all up to date in my dropbox; c) do the analysis on another paper’s worth of data.
JLiedl: Revise grant application after getting some feedback. Write 500 words on chapter for another collection.
kiwimedievalist: Reading about saints and communities, for interest.
Luo Lin: checked in, but no goal posted.
Matilda: Start to read materials, construct my arguments, write something at least 15 minutes.
Nancy Warren: continue to write the chapter from which the conference paper was taken. I’d like to get 5 pages.
profgrrrl: Finish off the manuscript I’ve been working on (it’s so close) and the book proposal.
Rented Life: Read 2 chapters from previously mentioned book. Write one page or edit one section.
Sapience: I need to do keep working on Chapter 5, but I may need to re-prioritize mid week after my meeting with my advisor about Chapter 4. So… make progress of some sort on something?

What did Bob Roll just say?

We’re watching yesterday’s Paris-Nice stage (yes, we’re running behind, what a blessing the DVR is), and Bob Roll just said, “Boonen, built like a truck, diamond star halo returned to the firmament of his noggin, having a great season.”

OK, the “diamond star halo” is from the T. Rex song (which has “built like a car,” though).  But “the firmament of his noggin”?

As Sir John said, “I’d love to hear Paul Sherwen say ‘What the hell are you talking about, Bob?'”

Tour de Chat

Since the big guys are taking the day off, I bring you this pre-recorded commentary on the highlights of last night’s stage in the on-going Tour de Chat:

Basement Cat hit a fast pace right out of the starting zone, going straight up the Col de l’Escalier, followed by two laps around the bedrooms, including the Cat Four climbs of the Col du Lit Matrimoniale and Col du Futon. A daring descent of the Col de l’Escalier almost ended in disaster when he took the last corner a little too fast and came frighteningly close to the wall at the foot of the stairs, but he recovered and turned the corner into the last short descent before making up time in a rapid dash across the living room, completely ignoring the feed zone. He kept his cadence high in his ascent of the Hors Catégorie Col de l’Arbre du Chat and detoured onto the Boite de Carton before negotiating the highly technical descent of the Col de l’Arbre du Chat. He kept up the pace through the second climb of the Col de l’Escalier, descending rapidly and gracefully, and collapsed at the finish line in front of the rocking chair.

Unfortunately, the time-keepers were laughing too hard to record what was undoubtedly a personal best for the individual time trial on this course.

The Shakespearean Heroine abandoned after the first climb of the Col de l’Escalier.

The Grammarian says he’ll attempt the time trial when he gets good and ready, although he prefers multiple laps of the Col de l’Arbre du Chat: “The Col de l’Escalier just isn’t my style. I need a steeper course to make an impact.”

Basement Cat said, “I was feeling really strong, really good, my legs were strong and I was on good form, so I just went for it.”

Spring Break Scorecard

The not-so-good:
Severe insomnia.
I didn’t go anywhere, not even to one of the day-excursions Sir John and I have discussed.
Unusually painful root canal (I’ve had several; they aren’t usually this bad).
Newspapers full of distressing but compelling news (no doubt contributing to insomnia).

The better:
Not having to teach while insomniac.
Having time to watch the DVR’d Paris-Nice race.
I went to the gym every day, and got my swimming up to 5/6 of a mile in one session; I only skipped doing yoga twice.
I also got a massage.
There were four sunny days.
I had lunch with a friend.
I read three pieces of brain candy (Freda Warrington is doing good Faerie stuff).

And that list of things to do during spring break? I have just barely scraped a C (70.2% of the items are crossed off).

Funny how I managed to put off the thing that looks like grading. I guess I know what I’m doing tomorrow morning.

Summer plans and a couple of whines

So, like Heu Mihi, I’ve made summer plans. Only I’m trying to ramp up gradually. The most important element is keeping office hours: 9-1, every day. The afternoons are then free for the gym, tending to household chores and projects (of which there are any number), fun reading, gardening, or (if I’m on a roll) more work. This week, for instance, I’ve had a couple of afternoon dates with my writing buddy: one was extra, and one was partially extra because I got a slow start yesterday. I’ve been keeping track of what I get done, in how much time, so that instead of making ambitious plans at the outset, I can make realistic plans a week or two into this regimen.

The first four days went really well. But I woke in the middle of the night with a painfully stiff neck and was awake for a long time; after icing the sore spots and taking lots of ibuprofen, I finally got back to sleep, and woke right about 9:00, when the phone rang, followed immediately by a chorus of cat calls (because cat breakfast is my job).

(I was glad to wake up, actually. I was dreaming that I was conducting a review session for a math class, when I had no idea what was supposed to be on the exam and had forgotten to make up a review sheet. I had to ask the students to tell me what they wanted help with. It was a very low-level class, so my problem was purely lack of preparation, not lack of knowledge. I had a vague notion that I should explain quadratic equations, but all their questions involved very basic things like figuring out rates of speed. And my dancer friend was in the class and gave me a really hard time when I used a whiteboard marker on a chalkboard.)

So I’m still really groggy and slow, and not getting anything done though I am dutifully sitting at my desk. I think I may have to go to something really low-level, like coordinating the various folders on my laptop and those on my flash drive (I try to be good about backing up, but sometimes I need to go through and copy from one to the other). Or I could, figuratively, call in sick and take the day off.

I am also distracted by news from the cycling world. Four years ago, though I certainly had doubts, I was prepared to believe that mix-ups at the testing lab (accidental or deliberate) could have led to Floyd Landis’s test results. Now the man has proven he’s a liar. And that just makes me mad.

Actually, I think drugs and doping should be allowed, as long as everybody declares exactly what they’re doing. Then it could be part of the commentary: Team X is relying on EPO, Team Y prefers blood doping, Team Z has some very interesting results from gene therapies.

Just, you know, don’t lie about it.