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.

Memoria

Memoria, in Latin, is feminine. It declines as follows:

Singular nominative (subject case): memoria                    plural: memoriae

Singular genitive (possessive): memoriae                           plural: memoriarum

Singular dative (indirect object): memoriae                       plural: memoriis

Singular accusative (direct object): memoriam                  plural: memorias

Singular ablative (object of prepositions such as with, by, from): memoriā          plural: memoriis

Thus, in the well-known phrase in memoriam, you need an a, not a u. There is no such word as *memorius in Latin. If you can’t get your genders and cases right, stick to plain English: in memory of, or just in memory if you aren’t going to add a person’s name, is clear and elegant.

In memoriAm.

A week of spring

But how is it already a week since I posted?

Spring is moseying along thinking about whether it really wants to show up or would rather just turn back, go home, and put its fleecy pjs back on for a Netflix binge. There are more birds. They perch on the roof next door and taunt Reina, who chitters at them. There are snowdrops and crocuses in other people’s yards, not mine. Some other bulb flowers have stuck leaves above ground, in my yard, but that’s all. I considered raking up the leaves/mulch from last year, but we’re still supposed to have some below-freezing nights in the next week, so I think I will wait.

One of my classes is still awesome. The other, well. I had them sign up for conferences about their third paper, and lectured them a bit about making the most of the opportunity by doing a little work beforehand, like at least decide which option they want to write on. And check the instructions for the paper, because I am not giving them instructions just to make them jump through hoops, I am telling them how to do well on this paper and exactly what I am looking for if they will just read the instructions.

I mean, I can explain it to you again but I can’t understand it for you.

I once had a massage therapist who told me that in Chinese thinking, spring is the angry season. Works for me. Of course, then I need some excuse for my mood during the other seasons.

Sometimes I look at spring clothing online or in the catalogs that still show up in the mail, and consider this dress or that shirt, and then realize I don’t want to buy anything new, I want it to be warm enough to wear the spring clothing I have.

Lots of the bloggers I read post recipes they have tried or devised, or about meals they have enjoyed. Sometimes I enjoy these vicariously but more often lately I get cranky because I can’t eat that, can’t eat that, can’t eat the other thing either. It seems like some people travel to eat. I travel to look at things, because architecture, paintings, and scenery don’t make me sick.

I am making progress on some of the things I need to work on rather than having feeeelings about (mainly guilt) but now my feeeeeling is omg there is so much of this no wonder I didn’t want to do it because this is going to take so long. That is, I absolutely should have started sooner, but now the only thing to do is keep slogging along because It Is Not Going To Get Any Earlier, and the best I can do now is Don’t Make It Worse.

Usually this is the sort of thing I say to myself in February. Hey, April, are you going to be bringing warm days and a burst of energy? Come on, girl, we could use you over here. Take off the pjs and put on a flowered dress, you’ll have a good time once you get there.

Grumpy and grumpy, with a side order of grumpy

Could I have some with not so much grumpy in it?

I have lost a stripy scarf I’m fond of. There is a great deal of snow on the ground. The house has settled a bit more so there are more cracks in the ceiling (we were hoping to sell it before any more settling happened). Sir John has had an infection that could have been serious (fortunately he is responding to antibiotics and all is well, hence I am merely grumpy about this and not freaking out). We’re a little under-equipped for being snowed in, due to his illness and me not getting the right things at the store, which happened because I was distracted by the first week of classes and having to finish off final edits to the revised introduction to the Big Honking Translation (okay, yay that that’s done). Lady Maud’s father has entered hospice care, which is sad though he has had a good life and people are rallying around because he is a wonderful, loving and beloved man (a great contrast to my father, the old grouch). The son of a friend of Sir John’s has been diagnosed with cancer. This child is still in single digits. I feel guilty feeling grumpy about my scarf (let’s just say I’m displacing my distress) when 2019 is already sucking very hard for a couple of sets of friends.

The nicest thing this week was reading The Dalemark Quartet, which I got for Christmas and finally broke out. But the downside to that is that now there is no more Diana Wynne Jones that I have not read. I put off Dalemark for years, so that there would still be something. I’m trying to persuade myself to do some work rather than getting out Rotherweird, which I got in London, intending it for the plane, but then our over-seat lights didn’t work so I spent the flight working on my laptop (and got quite a bit of useful course prep done as well as saving the book, so ill winds etc).