Blogging the lost

A sheaf of guidebooks to English castles, from three summers ago, which should be on the shelves of my school office with all my other similar guides, and which I do not remember seeing anywhere in my home office during a recent re-shuffling of books; if they were hidden in my school office then I ought to have found them during last year’s clean-up efforts; I know I brought them back from England (that was a very heavy suitcase), and they are not the sort of thing that I de-accession.

So WHERE ARE THEY?

Update: I found them in a box in the guest room, cleared out of my study at some point, housed in an opaque plastic box/folder, such that it was not clear from the outside what was in it. NB, try to use clear box/folder thingies in future.

Anyway, yay! Now I can turn a class loose on “castle study hall,” where each student gets a guidebook to some castle, and after reading by themselves for a bit, they get together to talk about features that castles have in common, and how their builders accommodated landscape features on particular sites, and what historians and archaeologists still puzzle over. A field trip would be better, and if I taught in the UK might be easily organized. From here, however, it’s not going to happen.

I never did get to that Ozark Castle, and it’s too far from me for a class field trip.

Cats who encourage tidiness

I complained about Glendower awhile back. Now Reina has developed the chewing-on-paper tendency. She used only to chew post-its left sticking out of books that had been re-shelved. She loves to hide on bookshelves, behind the books; we have open-frame shelves that make it easy for the cats to tunnel behind the books, since if we push books to the wall, (a) they fall down since the walls aren’t necessarily plumb, and (b) enormous amounts of clutter accumulate on the space in front of books. I didn’t so much mind the post-its getting chewed. I do mind having to clear my desk every time I leave the room, because now she’ll attack a whole stack of paper and chew all the corners off and fling confetti around the room. I need more drawers or cupboards, closed storage.

She is curled in her bed looking like butter wouldn’t melt, but I need to go do other things, so the current batch of print-outs must be hidden lest they be shredded before my return.

Where I put that stack . . .

A few weeks ago I cleared my desk (and other surfaces) by creating stacks of paper in the guest room, with the plan that I would sort them out when I was procrastinating on grading. Well, this weekend we have an unexpected but delightful house guest. I shoveled the stacks into the drawers of an empty file cabinet. This post is to remind me where they are, when in a few weeks or months I am cursing my inability to find this or that important bit of paper that has gone missing.

Footnotes proceed. I am up to number 70 on this my first pass through the document, though I will still need to go back for some that require more searching through files and shelves.

It’s August! Panic stations!

A few years ago, I wrote about oh-shit-it’s-August-syndrome, when the summer hits the fan, as it were, and it’s hard to decide what most urgently needs attention because it all does, but time is limited and yet it’s still so hot that it’s hard to believe that anything really is urgent.

I thought I’d revisit that post to see how much of it can be recycled without updates.

OK, so there’s what I really have to do, and there’s what I really want to do, and there are all those things that I thought I’d like to get done but need to let go of. And then there’s the question of whether some elements of the last group don’t actually belong there.

Check, check, check. That paragraph works.

It’s August. Classes start in two weeks, with faculty meetings beforehand. Besides writing and class prep and having some last bits of summer fun, I have a couple of medical appointments I’m taking care of before classes start, and possibly one or more dentist appointments depending on whether a sensitive spot calms down or gets worse. (If it’s going to get worse, I wish it would just come on and do it already, instead of waiting for the first or second day of classes.) I’m pretty clear on the have-to (syllabi etc, and at least one House Thing) and the most definite want-to (a little more fun reading and a sewing project).

Classes don’t start for three whole weeks! I’m starting early on the panic. Only not so early, because I’ll be away during the faculty-meeting week. So actually I only have about ten days. Wheeeee! Down the panic slide we go! Never mind last bits of summer fun. I’d be thrilled to get the writing and class prep done in the time. The medical stuff happened in July (excellent, pat self on back) and I have only one more dentist appointment to go, which should be a quick and easy one. There are no house have-to’s, though there are a batch of house things for which I need to organize people to come and give estimates. Still, those could happen any time over the next eight weeks or so. Sooner is no doubt better than later, but I’m not going to put those on the must-do-now list. No sewing projects (well, unless visiting a tailor counts, and again, not urgent). There’s no fun reading I’ve been putting off.

But then there are writing-related but not-writing activities, which are desirable but not really essential, like tidying up my home office. . . . There is a heap of paper stuff that needs to get filed.

The home office is fine. I can even see wood on my desk. I tidied it a few weeks ago. It’s true that means there are heaps of paper in the guest room that I need to sort out, but out of sight is out of mind, and at the moment that is A-O.K. I can use sorting them as a procrastination activity when I start getting things to grade! Isn’t that great planning?

Since I got back (not counting writing done on the plane), I’ve produced . . . let’s see . . . Basement Cat, get off my research journal . . . about 2000 words. These are what I might call “focused pre-writing,” rather than true rough-draft writing, because the section presently under construction didn’t get as much pre-writing as the first chunk I wrote. But that’s fine. This stage of writing has to happen sometime, and I might as well do it now, while I’m on a roll.

Since I got back, I’ve produced roughly 3000 new words. Very roughly. It’s hard to be sure. There has also been a lot of editing in which words get tinkered with, cut, re-written, and so on. The current version of the MMP-1 is just shy of 10K words, but I think I’m done with it, except for sorting out its footnotes properly in the style required by the journal to which I plan to send it. I really want to send it and have it be Someone Else’s Problem for awhile. There are plenty of other things to work on.

Nobody sits on my research journal these days. Sometimes Reina sits behind my monitor, but I am in her bad graces at the moment because of unlawful confiscation of licensed weapons cutting her claws. It’s true, when the children grow up you miss the things that used to drive you crazy.

So [should I focus on] writing syllabi . . . and hacking back the horribly overgrown and weedy garden? Actually, I am terribly tempted to abandon the garden until frost kills off some stuff—this seasonal nonsense is good for something!—though I do rather fear What The Neighbors Will Think. . . . I could give up on the sewing and garden instead . . . if we ever get a cool enough day that I want to be outside.

Write syllabi, work on revisions, and hack back the garden. Not that I care what the neighbors think. The front looks all right and the back is nobody’s business. But I’m making progress with the bellflower and I’d like to keep on rather than letting it grow back. The weather is certainly a consideration. We had a pleasant weekend, so I did some more digging.

So, it looks like I’m doing rather well compared to four years ago. That’s a very pleasant discovery. Now to pull a conference paper out of . . . wherever this one comes from.

Writing desks and inspiration

http://www.emkennedy.net/blog/2013/11/pernicious-egomania.html

That looks like a real person’s desk. I especially like the pots and pans on the shelves in the corner, and the plate of eggs. If you’re spending your time on actually living and working, then you have less time for cleaning up. You stack up the books you’re using, the presents you need to wrap, the bills that want paying, and you try to keep All The Things in the front of your mind. Or the back. Whatever. If the space where there’s room for a desk is in the kitchen, then you share your space with Le Creuset. If you’re me, then you share with the latest feline invader, the mending heap, and the stuff that really truly definitely this week is going to get shipped off to the youngest relatives (unlike the last 20 weeks, when thing after other thing kept coming up).

I need this writing inspiration because tomorrow I am going to get back to work. I didn’t get a thing done on Thursday or Friday (interruptions to routine, distractions, antsiness) and then I decided to take the weekend off because clearly I needed a break. Unfortunately, breaks allow me a chance to worry about the Dire State of Higher Education in general and the state (dire, of course, though less dire than some) of Large Regional U in particular. These thoughts are not good for my mental health. Unless someone with more clarity than I can muster tells me it’s time to go to career Plan B, I need to stop worrying and go back to The Book. And Sir John says Book, and he’ll tell me if he thinks it’s time for Plan B.

(Actually I think it may be time to tackle some revisions and let the Book sit for a week, but the principle is the same: focus on what I am supposed to be doing now, rather than worrying about what may never happen.)

 

Signs of the times

So it’s lovely to hear from Notorious, and to enjoy, vicariously, the notion of a big mostly-empty office in which to work on a new(ish) project. My home study is pretty big, actually, but it’s also the site of many old projects, some of which are still pending (revisions . . . ), plus household files, and pickle dishes or their equivalent that I’m sorting out, and usually a cat or two, plus it’s my dressing room. Thus, even though I am better equipped for space than many academics, I still enjoy the fantasy of a fresh start.

What really hit me in this picture (click to enlarge), though, is the telephone.

At LRU, we’re losing our office phones. And cutting the library budget drastically. There is no travel money, though some may be pulled from some dark place for the untenured. And we are to expect further mid-year cuts, since the fall semester had to be scheduled before we knew what the budget would look like (besides dire).

It’s not that I use the phone so much. I can live without it, and I’d rather give up the phone than the monographs budget (not that that’s a choice: they’re both happening). But it’s a sign of faculty status, even tenured faculty at tolerably respectable universities. I frequently run into people in my area who went to LRU, or whose kid or nephew or cousin’s daughter goes there, and they think highly of the school and they think I have a good job. (Mostly I agree with them.) I think these people, whether they work in sales, accounting, law, nursing, programming, or office support in any of these or various other types of work, would be surprised that I no longer have an office phone. And I’m pretty sure that that’s not what they think they voted for.

Big changes or small ones?

Time for another Monday check-in and goal-setting. I’m not going to call roll; we’ll take care of attendance via in-class writing. If you’re here, leave a comment.

The usual advice about making changes in one’s life is to start small and be specific. Rather than saying “get healthy” or “lose 50 pounds,” you’re supposed to to say “I will walk for 10 minutes a day” or “when I want a cookie, I will eat a piece of fruit first.” Small changes add up, and little shifts like more exercise and more fruit can lead to larger lifestyle differences. Some of you are thinking along these lines, like Z’s resolve to work 25 minutes a day for three days.

I have myself found that these small changes can be helpful and long-lasting. That said, sometimes it’s more helpful to make one single big decision rather than trying to work out a lot of small stuff. For instance, if you’re capable of quitting something cold turkey, well, that’s a decision made that you never have to revisit. You’ll never again smoke a cigarette, have a drink, eat meat, whatever. When you’re tempted, you say you’ve made that decision, it’s not negotiable, you’re not revisiting it.

This does not work for everyone, or in all circumstances.

Possibly it’s not going to work for me this time, either, but I’m going to give it a shot this week. This is my big change: I’m going to work from 9-1, Monday to Friday. Everything else has to get done before or after that. Exercise, cat wrangling, phone calls, blogs, paying bills, novel reading, sorting closets, meals, shopping, cooking, if it’s not work, it has to happen before 9:00 a.m. or after 1:00 p.m. What’s more, I’m not going to do work outside of those four hours, either (that’s the part that really freaks me out, actually). Afternoons and evenings will go to fun stuff or at least life-maintenance stuff.

I’m tired of trying to work out the optimum schedule, of trying to figure out whether, when I get up, I should first write, go for a walk, do yoga, feed cats, or hit the gym. Since fall classes ended, what happens first generally depends on what time I wake up and whether or not it’s sunny. Clearly I’m capable of sticking to a schedule when I have to, because I always show up on time for my classes. I have written before about enjoying the flexibility of academic life, but I think I should give inflexibility a chance, for once. Nine-to-one, some translation, the MMP, some class planning, some other academic work, and then I’m done. We’ll see how it goes for a week.

So what are you going to do this week? Make a small change? Try a bigger one? Keep doing something that has been working? Sometimes it’s good to stick to what works, and sometimes it’s good just to change things up so you don’t get stale.

Mirabile dictu

So the August thrash has paid off, possibly literally! Because I was stiff from sitting at my desk for a long time, I got up for a physical task: pulling from my shelves library books that I am going to return (yep, decided that would be worthwhile). Among them is a book that went missing nine months ago. It is from another library. I have already paid a fine for it, because I hoped that if I did, the online check-out system would stop showing this book as overdue and with a fine owing (that did not work, though the check cleared months ago). So now, if I return the book, and start sending letters and making phone calls, maybe I can get the fine refunded. Honestly, I’m not 100% sure it’s worth the trouble, but I might be able to convince myself to do it if I get to spend the money (if I get it back) on either shoes or books.

I would still like to know what happened to the other book from the same library that went missing at the same time. I did not find it on my shelves. The found one has a spine title that is really the series title: no wonder I couldn’t find it when I looked for its individual title.

So the other good news is that now I have space on my shelves that I can use for piles that are presently on my desk. Not that the desk is cleared yet; one thing at a time. It’s August. I’m thrashing. I’m writing two blog posts in the space of a few hours instead of continuing to create a new spreadsheet for a conference paper for next spring, or working on syllabi, or going to the gym, or phoning my dentist.

The bad news is that I have piles of books on the floor, because before returning them I want to be certain that books I think I will need again when I return to the Old Current Project (jeebus: I hereby re-christen that thing the Macedonian Marginalia Project, MMP for short) or to the previous Putative Book project (MaryAnn Ginger! the Big Volume on a Manuscript, or BVM, how’s that?), anyway, I say, I want to be sure those books are noted in the appropriate notes, bibliography, or “dump file,” especially those that are somehow obscure, or came to me via ILL, so I can get them back easily. And no, I will not re-write that sentence. Also I want to be certain that I have sorted out the ILL books from the home library books, so I get receipts for the ILL ones. Would someone please check back with me in a week’s time, to see if I have in fact taken the minimal notes and returned the books? Just leave a comment. If you want to be sure to get my attention, leave a comment on a post more than 2 weeks old, and then I’ll have to moderate it.

August syndrome

Over at ADM’s new blog some charming people enjoyed my reference to “oh-shit-it’s-August syndrome,” and two weeks ago Notorious wrote about not panicking, so now I’m going to do my own post about the syndrome, and panic, and lists . . . (wait a minute while I freak out, which is what the syndrome is all about).

OK, so there’s what I really have to do, and there’s what I really want to do, and there are all those things that I thought I’d like to get done but need to let go of. And then there’s the question of whether some elements of the last group don’t actually belong there.

It’s August. Classes start in two weeks, with faculty meetings beforehand. Besides writing and class prep and having some last bits of summer fun, I have a couple of medical appointments I’m taking care of before classes start, and possibly one or more dentist appointments depending on whether a sensitive spot calms down or gets worse. (If it’s going to get worse, I wish it would just come on and do it already, instead of waiting for the first or second day of classes.) I’m pretty clear on the have-to (syllabi etc, and at least one House Thing) and the most definite want-to (a little more fun reading and a sewing project).

But then there are writing-related but not-writing activities, which are desirable but not really essential, like tidying up my home office. It’s workable right now. It’s not fabulous. There are heaps of books on my desk. There are more library books on the shelves than I really need right now, especially if I’m mainly focusing on the article that wants to be a monograph. There is a heap of paper stuff that needs to get filed. But all of these are fairly normal procedure, really, and I am working. Since I got back (not counting writing done on the plane), I’ve produced . . . let’s see . . . Basement Cat, get off my research journal . . . about 2000 words. These are what I might call “focused pre-writing,” rather than true rough-draft writing, because the section presently under construction didn’t get as much pre-writing as the first chunk I wrote. But that’s fine. This stage of writing has to happen sometime, and I might as well do it now, while I’m on a roll.

Anyway. Clearly I am managing to work. OTOH, the desk where I worked at the Wilde Wommene’s Colony for Enditers was truly spare. I thought it was actually a little intimidating: no friendly heaps of books, no way to look things up! But I sure got a lot done while I was there. That might just be because of the lack of distractions in the way of cats and household stuff, and because “chapter one” had received more pre-writing, so I had a lot to work with. Nonetheless, you know how writers are magical thinkers, and have to have their Special Writing Clothing, or Special Pen, or Special Coffee Mug? Right. I am wondering if I would do better to have my Specially Cleared Desk.

Certainly I could return some books that are meant for last year’s Current Project (which really needs a better name). The only reason I don’t is that it’s a bit of a hassle to get the interlibrary loan ones back again. But that doesn’t sound like such a good reason, really. If I sent some books to their natural habitats, I could get the heaps off my desk, and maybe be a bit more organized with the current current projects, including class plans.

So is working on my only-manageably-cluttered study a good use of my time that will pay off in greater efficiency down the road, or is it a piece of magical thinking that I should let go of in favor of writing syllabi, working on my sewing project, and hacking back the horribly overgrown and weedy garden? Actually, I am terribly tempted to abandon the garden until frost kills off some stuff—this seasonal nonsense is good for something!—though I do rather fear What The Neighbors Will Think. And, come to think about it, for optimal sewing enjoyment the study-clearing would also be a good thing, because there might then be room to set up the machine in here and not clutter the living room with it. I could give up on the sewing and garden instead . . . if we ever get a cool enough day that I want to be outside.

Thrashing. It’s what oh-shit-it’s-August syndrome is all about.

Not-quite-random: books and writing update

My missing book revealed itself. It was not, after all, at school. Once I got back from campus, I found it hiding among the books about medieval reading, on a shelf below one of its more plausible homes. I don’t think there’s any book-list application that will reveal where I’ve absent-mindedly put a book when it isn’t where it ought to be. This is why I want space for a proper LC-ordered library (and time enough to get all the books labeled and organized), so I’ll put books back where they belong in the system, rather than stuffing them where there’s room on a subject-related shelf. Or, in this case, near a subject-related shelf.

I really would put them back. I’m a little obsessive about proper shelving, once books are visibly coded.

My RL writing group thinks well of my outlines for mini-essays in my summer project. This is encouraging.

They also think one of the mini-essays should be a full-size essay of its own. This is, at the moment, discouraging. I’m hoping to feel better about it soon. After all, I’ve already done a lot of research and some organizing for such an essay. It’s not as if I’d be writing from scratch.

But I already have another spin-off from this summer’s project. It’s not so closely related, but it’s more exciting. And I’m trying to clear the decks so I can write the Putative Book that has been haunting me for years now.

While I’m wishing for a bigger study, view of trees, etc., I wish the Writing Elves would stop by now and then. I know it’s no good hoping. They’re undoubtedly terrified of Basement Cat.

Dame Eleanor Hull to the Lordly Elves of Scrivening sends greeting! I would let you know that Basement Cat is shut in his own room at night, and my study is available to you. It is true that the Grammarian sometimes sleeps there, but he’s much more gentle than BC, and really I’d be willing to shut all the cats out of my study if you’d come and help with all my projects. Or even one of them. Please let me know what I should leave for you in exchange: milk as for brownies’ household help? Whisky? Coffee and cookies? Quill pens made from doves’ feathers? Genuine linen paper? Silken cushions upon which to rest between sessions? Your wishes are my commands. I remain your most humble and well-wishing servant.