Another five-minute post

I’m home again, which means exchanging a view of blue salt water for a sea of green grass and green trees. This should not be anything to complain about, but I do miss salt water here in the middle of the country. If classes move online again, I may just go to my brother’s and teach from there (this does not seem fair to Sir John, so I might not be able to pull it off).

I absolutely must work on syllabuses and class plans. I feel very very disinclined to do this, although in response to a query from a colleague I looked at a syllabus & course site from last spring and experienced warm feelings toward those students, which helps a bit. I wish I could be sure we’d be in the classroom for the whole semester! It’s partly the uncertainty that is off-putting: I want to plan the course once, not work out a whole lot of contingency plans.

I have always worked at home a great deal. When I was a student, I found it difficult to concentrate in the library (other people, so many books), and the shared TA office was used mainly for office hours, and sometimes for computer work, but we had to schedule time on the computer. Later I got my own computer. In my final year of grad school, I was on fellowship and could work at home every day if I wanted to, but I usually went to campus at least to swim and/or spend time in the library, because I got cabin fever spending all day every day in my studio apartment. Once I had a job, I was delighted to have an office of my own. I still did research at home, mostly, but loved having an office in which to do class prep. Over the years, I wound up doing more and more “real work” at home on non-campus days, because having a long commute meant that campus days filled up with teaching, meetings, library trips, all the things that required a physical presence on campus. But after last year, I’m really tired of living in the office, and want to go back to campus, so that working at home in my study feels, again, like a privilege rather than a requirement.

Eight minutes. Publishing now.

5-minute stock-take

Combining the stocktake format observed here and the 5-minute format followed by Undine (following Gwinne and xykademiq), here’s what I’ve been up to:

Cooking: clafoutis, with strawberries rather than cherries.

Eating: duh, see above.

Reading: for work, Illegitimacy in Medieval Scotland; for fun, Yestermorrow, which mysteriously appeared on my bookshelves though I have no idea where it came from and never heard of it before (I suspect that I acquired it on some trip, possibly at the Other Change of Hobbit when they still had a physical store, then promptly packed it up because we were trying to sell the house, and forgot about it because we didn’t sell the house for three years. . .); for self-improvement, The End of Procrastination, which I got to via somebody’s blog but not the one I thought so who knows and I won’t link, and also The Writing Workshop which I found via The Fora (where the Chron Fora went).

Making plans to watch: The Green Knight, because a former student got in touch and I know students this fall will ask me what I thought, and I can’t have thoughts if I haven’t seen it (except that I watched the trailer and was quite taken by the talking fox).

Buying (recently or soon): green and white tea, pearl-grey fabric dye, services in the form of haircut and pedicure.

Meeting: with my RL writing group (Zoom), grad students (office!!! live!!!).

And that’s already 15 minutes, partly because of finding links and going to look at the title of the fun book that I finished Saturday and stashed back on the shelves with its two sequels, undoubtedly from the same trip.

Hail the new!

My intention for the year: roll with the punches. I’m sure there will be some.

That doesn’t stop me planning. I’ve re-booked a trip I had hoped to take last year, mainly (TBH) because the voucher I was holding was about to expire. The airline wanted me to use it within twelve months of when I first booked the trip. Well, ha very ha, sorry, but that’s not happening. It took quite awhile, but I did manage to get the trip pushed out to May, so we’ll see if that’s time enough to get vaccinated and for the library I want to visit to re-open. Considering that the alternative was just giving up and losing the money entirely, I’m willing to gamble.

Today I did two things I’ve been putting off for months: potted or re-potted some house plants (two African violet plantlets had been rooting in water since August), and hung pictures. The plants took under two hours, including setting up and cleaning up afterwards, and did not spawn any off-shoot projects. I certainly have had spare chunks of two hours in the last four months, but not the bandwidth to deal with getting out the new pots and soil, shutting up Basement Cat, clearing the kitchen table, actually dealing with the plants, putting everything back, and cleaning up. I spent my spare time reading fluff or going for walks, rather than embarking on multi-step projects, although I did at some point buy new pots, also drywall screws for the pictures.

Hanging the pictures took a little longer. There, the steps were find toolbox, get out drill, dig around for drill bits, discover that the little doohickey that tightens down the bit holder is missing, take everything out of the tool box to look for it, find that it is entirely missing, test various Allen wrenches and screwdriver heads to find something that will sorta-kinda replace it (and make note to get a real replacement on a day that is not a national holiday), measure various walls, make holes in walls, screw in the drywall screws, hang pictures, put everything away. I managed to lose the hammer at one point, but found it in the bag with the drill. The hammer was part of an off-shoot project; one picture frame was loose and needed to be tacked down again. Fortunately I recently turned up a little packet of the right sort of tacks.

It’s the propensity for off-shoot projects that keeps me from tackling tasks like this. So often, the steps go Find Object A, Discover that Part B is Missing, Spend C Amount of Time Looking for Part B, Spend D Amount of Time Going to E Stores for Replacement Part B, return home to discover that Cat F has Damaged Object A, Say “oh fuck it” and Pour Wine or Eat Chocolate.

I have also started setting up calendar stuff for January and beyond, which I’ve been putting off for a week, I think in rebellion against the entire idea of calendars and task lists.

Today’s productivity may or may not be a good sign for the rest of the year. Nonetheless, if I do nothing else but worky-work for the rest of the month, at least I’ve done these two things that will Stay Done (for awhile, anyway; eventually the plants will need more attention), so I’m claiming that I have Won January.

Another look back

Jon Jarrett just posted his report on K’zoo 2017, as part of an on-going effort to catch up on posts about research-related events in his life, and so I thought to look back at my experiences at the same conference. Any research-oriented notes on papers are in the conference program (yes, the paper version, you’re surely not surprised that I’m old-school), which is of course packed away somewhere, so the following extracts are from my personal journal, in which I was thinking about scheduling and how I was feeling, physically (generally, tired: I don’t sleep well in strange places).

I got to K’zoo about 7:00, collected my registration packet without seeing anyone I knew, and checked into the hotel. This morning I e-mailed presenters in the sessions I’m chairing to ask if they have any recent accomplishments they’d like me to mention. I’ve picked out sessions for today; there’s a —– Society Board meeting; I’ll have some time in which to come back to the hotel, eat, shower, change into fancier clothing for the Wheeler reception.

Thursday night’s reception was, as usual, loud. Val Garver received the Wheeler Award, and Lorraine Stock was giving money to the fund in honor of Alice Colby-Hall, who was there to be honored.

[Another morning] I chaired a session that went very well, though AV problems meant we started a few minutes late. The afternoon session also went well; my grad student got no questions on her paper, but I told her I’m the same way: we put together tightly constructed, well-argued and thoroughly documented papers, and no one can see what they might add, so they focus on the papers with more loose ends. At least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I also had the —–Society general meeting and reception, followed closely by a Frenches of Fordham reception, and later in the evening, the Early Book Society meeting.

I think I would enjoy receptions more if I could drink like other academics. It’s odd being stone-cold sober when everyone else is getting tipsy and loud. It’s not that I feel I need to drink to have a good time; rather, alcohol takes the edge off discomfort at being in loud, crowded spaces, and makes it easier to deal with other people at the end of a long day. But it makes me feel too ill.

Last night I slept for 3–4 hours, tossed around for awhile, finally got up at 5:30 and ate something, then went back to bed for another couple of hours. I skipped today’s morning session; there were several things I could have gone to, nothing that I felt was a can’t-miss, I was awake for 2–3 hours in the middle of the night, and I wanted to visit the book exhibit. But a book I was considering got away. Oh well. I guess I didn’t want it enough.

As Jon said, “I was there and I learnt things,” though I think he had more fun than I did. I did have some meals with friends, and it was nice to catch up with people, but 2017 wasn’t one of my really energizing Zoo trips.

Appearing organized

If you want to acquire a reputation for being organized, here are my two top tips:

1. Answer e-mail promptly.*

2. Do not perform stress.**

That’s it! Go forth and appear in control.

 

 

* Answers can be “Yes, thank you for thinking of me,” “Maybe, please tell me more,” “No, I can’t do that now, but I can get to it at X time,” “No, I can’t do that, but here’s someone you could ask.” The key is to be prompt, even if you’re saying no, rather than to hide out hoping people think you’re doing something more important than checking your e-mail.

**You can be a total stress monkey in your head as long as your outward demeanor is “Everything’s fine.” I started acting like everything was fine a long time ago, when I realized that I got very stressed being around people whose outward narrative is “OMG there’s so much to do I have deadlines no time to exercise or eat properly the world is going to hell in a handbasket and I am so important only I can do this stuff OMG.” Things get done, eventually. Only once have I reached the end of the semester without all the grading being accomplished, and even then, it was okay.*** Nobody else really needs to know the number of times I have done things at the last minute, or dropped a ball or several, or faked my way through a meeting or a class (I read fast, and there’s always think-pair-share exercises plus “That’s an interesting observation, do tell us more”). I’m more effective when I exercise, eat good food, try to get a reasonable amount of rest, and don’t try to run on caffeine and sugar.

***That was the semester when I had to spend two weeks with my parents when my father had emergency surgery and my mother was suffering from Parkinson’s-related dementia. I kept everybody informed, filled out manual change-of-grade forms, and the world kept turning. Sir John and some trusted friends got an earful, but nobody at work needed to know the details of how completely awful those weeks were.

Of course there’s bougainvillea

There is also beach glass:

And beach rocks:

Feral chickens, of which here an example:

Red hibiscus:

Here’s our rent-a-dog:

And white hibiscus:One jigsaw was too easy, and the other was too hard. It’s coming home with me. Maybe Sir John and I will be able to work it when we have more than a week.

Syllabus status: written. Article: still coming along. It now stands at 3360 words, and when I’m back to my stacks of books at home I expect I can finish it off reasonably briskly (knock on wood, with the help of the Lord and a long-handled spoon, all that). There’s a book coming ILL, and another I’ll need to get from LRU’s library. Why can’t I ever . . . but I think I asked that recently, and answer came there none.

The rent-a-dog was very sweet, but I am eager to resume my regular duties of worshiping and attending on my feline overlords.

Wait till next year

It is not really the end of a decade. Start counting at 1, not at zero. You knew I’d be pedantic like that.

Day 12 of steady research/writing, still working on the long-overdue R&R, but I now have 1600 words in the new and improved version, so I’m at least 1/4 of the way there. I gave up on the document that has all-caps notes to myself saying things like “ADD PARAGRAPH ON ANGLO NORMAN SOURCE HERE” and just started over, although of course I can transfer large hunks of material from that document into the new one. It’s easier to think on a blank page, and faster to just do it my way than try to argue myself into doing it some other way.

I hope to keep the chain going. However, Queen Joan and I are off tomorrow on one of our royal progresses to warmer climes, so we’ll see. I also have class plans to work on. I hear vacations are lovely, but I’m fine with working in a more exotic setting. It is a great pleasure to noodle around with something interesting on my laptop while looking out at blue seas and tropical birds, rather than staring out at snow and bare branches. So I look forward to putting in an hour or two every morning before we go out sight-seeing, then come back to work on a jigsaw puzzle.

We know how to have fun! Tonight we’ll be turning in around 8:00 because of an 0-dark-thirty departure tomorrow morning. Woot! So Happy New Year now! Enjoy the Eve, and happy writing (and other pursuits) in 2020: finish off the decade with a bang!

The mirror crack’d

The strange thing about my recent trip to my home state was that it didn’t feel like home.

It was beautiful, it was comfortable, if things shake out such that I live there again, that would be fine, but I did not feel the fierce pull of longing that has afflicted me for most of my adult life. I feel like now I can make a rational choice about where I want to live, rather than feeling like I need to get back there.

For years, I felt that I was living in exile (see here, here, and here, for example; I guess now I really mean what I said here). The place I live (where my job is, where Sir John is from) was too flat, too bland, too cold (in winter), too hot and humid (in summer), and too lacking in the kind of flora that I like best. But on this trip back, many of the roads were too narrow and alarmingly twisty, so it seems I’ve adjusted to flat, although the climate and flora were lovely. Some of the people I saw said they could never live with the kind of winter weather I grumble about, and I felt a certain pride that despite my grumbling, I can and do live with it.

Have I spent too long away, and so snapped the thread that stretched back there? Have I finally hardened off to the midwestern climate? I feel free, but this is very strange.

Still summer

At least, by the calendar.

August has always been the month that feels most transitional to me, the month in which I am aware of the planet turning, the stars shifting toward the winter layout of constellations, the trees displaying the deeper green that presages autumnal colors. Even when the weather is still hot and humid, I can feel the year sliding toward the equinox and shorter days. The light shifts; though the days are still long, dawn comes later, sunset earlier. I have one more quick trip to make before classes start. Then, in some sense, summer really will be over, although often weather in the first few weeks of school is so hot that it feels like summer is in extra innings.

I have not been so present on the blog, this summer, as I intended to be. I thought I’d do a lot more Six on Saturday posts, to mark the time I’ve spent on the garden, and more writing inspiration posts, to cheer myself on with various projects. The list of other things I’d hoped to do this summer likewise still has various items unchecked. The house has not sold; we will not be moving yet. A new course I will teach next spring remains only very sketchily planned, whereas I had hoped to get it more fully developed. A revise-and-resubmit continues to hang on my computer like an albatross.

On the other hand, I have finished final edits on the Huge Honking Translation, written a conference paper, planned fall classes fairly thoroughly, done a lot of gardening, watched the all of the Tour de France as well as the Tour of California, read all of a scholarly book I’ve wanted to read for a couple of years, read quite a lot of light fiction, and drunk a respectable amount of wine. I’ve visited family, traveled to a place new to me, and am about to spend a few nights in my native soil (like one of nicoleandmaggie’s partners, I need that every so often to keep from withering away). By objective standards, it’s been a good summer. I may manage to hack off that albatross soon, and I can keep chipping away at the new-course planning. The house, well, maybe it’s time to bury St Joseph in the front yard.

As for the year’s turning and growing darker, this is probably the moment to plan a trip next December or January, while I’m aware that I will need it, but before I start feeling that I just want to hibernate and it’s too much like work to organize travel.