Wearing my grumpy boots

Lately I never seem to take them off.

Unfortunately, in the week since I got back from a trip, I haven’t been able to re-set to this time zone. I’ve gone in the wrong direction and seem to be living (well, sleeping, anyway) in Hawaii. This disrupts all my routines, and probably has a lot to do with the grumpy miasma around here.

Fortunately classes are over and I don’t have to be anywhere at any particular time, these days.

People who don’t accelerate quickly when they get on a highway on-ramp infuriate me. Yesterday I was behind a mini-van moseying along at 30 . . . 35 . . . 40 . . . while I was hollering “There are TWO TRUCKS BEARING DOWN ON US AT 65 MPH!!!! DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHERE TO FIND YOUR ACCELERATOR???

Fortunately the trucks were able to shift left so this all ended happily. The mini-van ended up going much faster than I did. All I want is to get to the speed limit and stay there.

Filling out LRU’s travel-reimbursement forms is a task I dread with approximately the force of tax-filing misery. All the efforts to get the right info in the right spot, to find the correct receipts, to check on exchange rates if I was out of the country, the worry that I’ll do something wrong and the form will come back to me with incomprehensible requests to fix errors that I wouldn’t have made in the first place if I knew what the hell the request meant . . . It’s almost enough to make me decide just to pay for conference travel myself.

Fortunately, Sir John understands this feeling (after years of similar filing for corporate travel). I would be even grumpier if I lived with someone who cared about such minutiae (unless said person were willing to do the forms for me).

Something something grumble grumble

Once again, logged in to post a comment to someone else’s blog, and thought I might as well stop by my own.

I don’t like this new(ish) WordPress new-post page. I know it’s been around for awhile, and I’ve used it, even at one time used it regularly (or more regularly than I have in 2022), but it just doesn’t feel friendly or helpful. I don’t like the marginal clutter or the way it tries to lecture you: “Paragraph: start with the basic building block of all narrative.” Oh piss off. Are you also going to tell me to start with a topic sentence? I especially don’t like the little bar of options (bold, italic, link, etc) that pops up at random intervals.

Now that we mention it, the things I don’t like about WordPress have a lot in common with things I don’t like about Microsoft Word, including the sans-serif font that is the default in the composer. There is a reason that the font you see on the blog has serifs! I hate sans-serif! For me, sans-serif fonts are harder to read, though I have been subjected to Accessibility Training that indicates sans-serif is easier for certain kinds of disabilities. My response to that is fine, download the syllabus as a Word file and change the font to whatever works for you.

Things I’ve done so far today: washed two loads of laundry, prepped for and ran a meeting, fed cats and me (twice all around), answered a student who needed advice on a paper, thought about a technological problem that may make teaching next fall difficult, admired the magnolia blooming outside my window, and worried about which Terribly Urgent task (some of which are also Important) I should spend the afternoon on. The meeting went well but it has sapped my strength.

Or maybe I just wasn’t very strong today to start with. I stayed up much too late re-reading a book I was considering teaching next fall, but which I think has dated in ways I don’t really want to deal with. So now I still have the problem of what to put in its place (I already rejected a lot of other things I’ve done before, because I’m bored with them or they didn’t go well the last time), and my book orders are late already.

More snow

The view from my front door:

Sedums straight ahead. The spiky green not-tropical plant to the left.

Weather for at least the next week is either “snow” or “too cold to snow.” This is proper winter weather where I live, and I’ve been putting up with this for longer than I lived in kinder climates, so you’d think I’d be used to it. I am, I suppose, but I still don’t like it. I like being warm, and going out without a balaclava, and seeing green stuff that isn’t African violets. When I still belonged to a gym, in weather like this I might go swimming, and then spend an hour or two in the steam room and on the pool deck, imagining myself somewhere tropical.

Yesterday I took a long hot shower with the bathroom door closed, fan off, and then just stayed in the bathroom till the steam dissipated.

It’s not the same.

At least we’re halfway through February, and at least we know how to deal with snow where I live (unlike, say, Texas). I need to pull up my socks and get on with things, since work doesn’t go away just because I’m sulking about winter, but I really miss the days when I could take my laptop out on the deck. Grumble grumble February grumble.

An Academic Lady is Picky about Houses

“Features” that are Not:

Vaulted/cathedral ceilings (put stress on walls).
Low water bills due to own well.
Fresh paint in hideous colors.
Hot tub.
Jets in master bath.
Bay windows (usually poorly installed, badly insulated, prone to damage).
Double sinks in bathrooms.
Farmhouse sink in kitchen.
Ceiling fans (I know most people like them but I hate being blown on).
Skylights.
Screened porches.
Close to schools (when this means next door, across street, or backing onto schoolyard).

 

Go away/come here

I could happily spend most of the day e-mailing with my RL friends, or reading updates from my blog-friends, just the little details of people’s lives, families, pets, gardens, reading, watching, cooking, exercise routines, favorite cocktails. Or even answering queries from my students!

But I think I need to unsubscribe from e-mail lists of various Fancy Libraries. I used to enjoy getting a once-a-month newsletter from them, which showed pictures of places and exhibits I haven’t seen in years, updated me about who their new fellows are, reminded me of grants I might apply for, that sort of thing. Now I’m getting way too many e-mails about Digital Collections and Online This And That, and I don’t care. I am not going to do anything with their online whatevers.

Even worse are the e-mails from LRU’s Online Teaching Technology people, or whatever they’re calling themselves. You can do this! Sign up for a workshop! You can consult with someone who has been teaching online for years, either by phone, text chat, or video chat! Here’s a reminder of the web page that we’re constantly updating! Blah, blah, blah!!!!Elebenty-blah!!! I’m not sure that I can unsubscribe from these, but maybe I can filter them straight to junk mail.

You know what I’m doing? Reading actual real books. So are my students. We’re reading, thinking, and writing. It’s going just fine.* I do not need or want support from LRU for fancy bells and whistles, nor do I want to hear from the fancy libraries about digitized documents that would be completely illegible to my undergrads.

But I’d happily hear from my friends every day.

*I teach English. YMMV: in other fields, you may need a lot more tech than I do.

Private medievalist

With the cancellation of the Medieval Congress at Leeds, I’m 0 for 3 on the conferences I hoped to attend this year.

First-world problems, yes. I hope all my posts to do with the virus* remain of this type, I truly do. I’m mainly disappointed that I don’t get to see my friends, or travel in the UK. Sir John was going to come this year. We were going to climb around old castles together, and have a swell time. I’m sure we’ll have a swell time at home, too, but we’d been looking forward to this trip for awhile. I suppose the castles will still be there next year. In the meantime, I’m shut in the house with my favorite person and three cats, so no complaints there, and e-mail, Skype, and the phone still work for getting in touch with people. For me, conferences are about social events and travel. Even in this first-world situation, it’s not as if I’m a junior person who was counting on conferences to help make significant progress on a book. And I’m sure not the hospitality industry losing all their bookings.

Where has the last week gone? Mainly checking CNN’s live updates, blowing my nose, coughing, writing up assignments for my students and sending reassuring e-mails, cleaning, trying to nap, advising Sir John about online shopping: local grocery stores are delivering, but there’s a lot of “we’re out of this, what about X substitute?” that we have to negotiate.

As the introvert’s introvert, I actually am looking forward to settling down to reading and working on my own schedule, without commuting. The only reason I’m not already doing this is that I’m ill with something, and whether it’s just a cold or Something Else, I don’t want to aggravate it. This is not the time to Carry On, and get sicker. So I rest a lot, though sleep is iffy because of symptoms (this is totally normal for me with a cold), and say “oh swyve it” to a lot of things, and figure that the obsessive news-checking is part of trying to take in the scale of the crisis. I keep wondering how I could have been in denial for so long, but I’ve seen posts from doctors admitting they were, too, so it’s not just me.

I worry about my dad in his assisted-living facility, but there is nothing I can do about that. Apply Stoic principles, and accept whatever happens. I can’t bring myself to get in touch with my brothers. My Brother Less Reasonable at least has a grasp of statistics and scientific principles, but he is also a Negative Nicholas and I don’t want to hear his version of how bad everything is going to get, even if he’s right. My Brother More Reasonable** will undoubtedly have some kind of crackpot theory that might be amusing if I could keep sufficiently detached to just say to myself, “Wow, yeah, there he goes again,” but I’m not sure I could do that. So I just don’t. They haven’t called or e-mailed me, either, so we’re even, I guess.

* “the virus” used to be HIV. It seems so weird to have it be something else, and something whose generic (“the coronavirus”) is something I associate with shelter cats. A few weeks ago, I was joking with Sir John that our cats had done their best to ensure that we’d have some antibodies when COVID-19 hit the States: bats, cats, one letter difference. Right? Um.

** The More and Less Reasonable descriptors refer only to how easy I find it to negotiate my father’s care with them, not to their belief systems or ways of interacting with the world.

St Thomas Becket

Time flies; I thought I’d done a Becket day last year, or maybe the year before, but it was 2015. My reasons for liking Becket have not changed.

In this morning’s work (10th consecutive day), I’ve read parts of a book I should have read a decade ago, a brilliant book whose author is now a professor at Oxford. It’s making me want to go in the garden and eat worms.

There should be plenty; it rained overnight.

Comparisons are odious. When I was young, I didn’t have a single-minded focus on medieval studies, nor an educational system that forced me to focus early. I’m not so much a late bloomer as a slow bloomer. Maybe this is because I keep getting distracted by new, shiny projects, some of which get done before the old ones, some of which take their places in the shifting relays of things I work on in sequence. Eventually I finish, and the ideas are (I hope) richer for their long gestation and cross-influences.

Will no one rid me of this turbulent desire to have been different? I can only be who I am. It’s way too late to be anything else.

Sources of inspiration

Grumbles and procrastination clearing; forecast offers a chance of further improvement.

A lot of my grumpiness has to do with facing a very old R&R. I want to be done with it. I wish my past self had just done it right away. But when the reviews came in, my past self was struggling with the MMP, and then the series editors put both feet down about the Huge Honking Translation, and what with one thing and another, including my promotion application last year, years have passed. Not without efforts toward the R&R, but now this is one of the contributing factors: I have layers of notes and outlines to review as I try to figure out what the plan was, and the mass of material is daunting.

Since I finally spent an hour re-reading these, I’m feeling more like tackling the thing and getting it over with.

I’m also looking over my shoulder, suspecting that making the effort will (by Sod’s Law) bring down the Translation Editors or some other type of interference with the work.

Yesterday when I was procrastinating/looking for inspiration, I found a couple of helpful posts. One is from a gardener. The advice sounds a lot like any planning process, but it’s useful to see that people in other areas have the same problems and solutions. Here’s what Jen in Frome says at https://doingtheplan.com/2017/04/21/planning-and-doing-the-plan/

  1. Do Stuff. Take small steps frequently to get more good things thriving . . . . Lots of little things done each day adds up to a lot done over the month.
  2. Review. Note down what was done and when, and keep observing and thinking about what’s working out and what’s what’s not.
  3. Plan. Check what’s done so far against what’s hoped for in future, and set out a few next steps to get a bit closer to your goal.

Another is Kameron Hurley on working through fear and writing fatigue, here: https://www.kameronhurley.com/lets-talk-creativity-fear-losing-magic/ Hurley says, “Much of the time I feel I’m spending “writing” is actually time I spend feeling guilty because I can’t write, or because I feel that what I’m writing is utter shit. That’s not “writing” time. It’s my time with The Fear. So much of my writing time has been taken up talking with The Fear that I couldn’t figure out why shit wasn’t getting done. It certainly felt, emotionally, like I was working REALLY HARD. But arguing with your fear isn’t working. Feeling bad for not working isn’t working. Being angry about not working isn’t working.”

Yes, and no. Arguing, feeling bad, and being angry are certainly a lot of emotional labor. Doing them doesn’t necessarily “work,” as in, make it possible to get back to work. But it doesn’t help to pretend The Fear isn’t happening, either. I wound up negotiating with mine. I put on the music I usually use for grading, spread print-outs all over my desk (so I had to see them), and set a timer for ten minutes. That was all I needed to get into the task. When the timer went off, I was annoyed and immediately re-set it for 25 minutes, and made a lot of progress in that time. I needed the short time to start, though, because 25 seemed like way too much time for demon-fighting.

Am I embarrassed about having this sort of work problem, still, again, at my stage of career? Hell yeah. I also hope that admitting to it, publicly if pseudonymously, may help some other people who might be having the same problem. You can get past it. Sometimes you can go years without The Fear. But it’s also a thing that comes back with the right triggers, the right combination of factors, the wrong encounter with someone who pushes certain buttons. The only way I’ve ever found to deal with it is Virginia Valian’s: make the task smaller. As small as you need to. Ten minutes. Five. And be kind to yourself, because the piece of work is not really the problem. It’s all the emotions that have got tangled up with that piece of work. They might be big things that need therapy, or they might be ghosts of something you cleared up long ago, or they might just be bad habits.

If it’s not a good day, if The Fear is happening to you, if you’re procrastinating, give it five minutes, write down what you did in that time, and come back to the thing tomorrow. That’s all. Five minutes, and a note about what you did in the time.

Mustn’t grumble. Mustn’t . . . oh, hell, why not?

Definitely in the category of First-World problems, I do realize.

All my e-mail programs are now doing two-factor authentication, which I hate. I don’t even have a smartphone, but I still get annoyed when the dumb phone buzzes. I do not want to be messing with the frigging phone when I’m trying to work on my desktop computer.

I shut down my computer over the weekend, including shutting 18 tabs in Firefox (I don’t know, it just happens) and when I hit “restore previous session” I got six back. One-third is not very good restoration, Firefox! I remembered a few that I wanted to have back, such as the drill for principle parts of ancient Greek verbs, and located a few more through my browsing history, which I am very lazy about clearing out. But I’d had some of them hanging around for long enough that I’m not really sure what was there, just that I wanted to be able to click over to look at them for inspiration sometimes.

Inspiration. I not haz. Motivation neither. I slept badly because I woke up both hot and with my wonky hip hurting (and though I know it’s muscular, in the middle of the night I always start wondering if I need a hip replacement already and how that might have happened), and I have a headache because of allergies and not sleeping well, so I’m late to start on anything this morning. And that just strengthens the “why haven’t I done this already it must be because I suck” buzzy-bugge voices.

I will just sit with the grumpiness for awhile. I have jasmine tea, two snoozing cats in my study, and a leafy green view. Eventually those may take effect! I’m not sure I even have the attention span to keep up a good head of Grumble all day long.