Weeknote 17

by Sunita

This is our last week before we hit the road and start the school ratrace again next week. And it starts up as soon as we get back. I’m just hoping for decent weather and no big thunderstorms in the plains.

WORK

I managed to get some more work done this week! Amazing. My coauthor and I have found some interesting things going on with a survey we fielded via mTurk, which may be worth a research note in the end. It’s not completely surprising that mTurk workers are not always who they say they are and that has consequences for research, and many of us have been suspicious of the platform for years, but the way this survey was skewed was intriguing.

My committee is humming along nicely. Everyone is doing their bit and we disagree without being disagreeable. Is there higher praise? I think not.

I have one more almost-finished paper draft to get off my desk and then I will breathe a sigh of relief. And start packing up.

READING/WATCHING/LISTENING

I finished An Orchestra of Minorities this week. It is an unusual novel, mixing Igbo cosmology with a plot and characters which owe a great deal to classical Western literature from Homer to Milton to Shakespeare. The main character suffers so many tragedies in his life, and in the final section he becomes consumed by a desire for vengeance. The story took some turns I wasn’t expecting, which was enjoyable, and I found the main character Chinonso’s journey sad but believable and important. I agree with reviewers who say the women characters weren’t well developed, but given everyone felt like an archetype I could live with it. I also appreciated the way the trajectory Ndali, the main female character played out, neither vilified nor idealized. The ending is tragic but given the storyline, it was always going to go there somehow.

I also finished Ironopolis, one of my 20 Books of Summer picks, which I had been picking up and putting down for the last month. It’s very good, but it’s a hard read. Set in Middlesborough from the mid-1980s through the present, it tells the story of a sink estate through the voices of half a dozen characters who are connected to each other in various ways. It negotiates the difficult line between sentimentalizing and condescending, but there’s no way around the fact that the lives of people in these positions mostly became worse over this period, as jobs went away, housing fell into disrepair, and drugs and alcohol became plentiful and/or cheap. Of the various books I’ve read with spirits and rural-English mythical beings, I thought this one handled it as well as any. I’ll write up a full review of this and the Obioma soonish.

No TV or movies this week, because we had a friend visiting who helped TheH with necessary household work. We now have a new floor in the guest bathroom and various other improvements. Go them. We ate well, though; lots of fresh fish from the boats at Half Moon Bay.

I also got to visit with Robin and Carolyn up in Petaluma and catch up with what they are up to. We went to a great new restaurant with a menu featuring a combination of Middle Easter and Scandinavian specialties. In St. Louis that would be odd, but in NorCal it’s just a new restaurant.

PRODUCTIVITY

Back to lists. I spent a couple of hours filling in the Fall appointments I know I have, and I still have to put in all my class times. But at least I got down the semester’s start and end dates, holidays, and seminars and meetings for which I have the schedules. And trips. And, and, well, you get the idea.

I’m back to exercising, too. I managed two walk/hikes in the canyon next to our house and a couple of flat walks on the trail by the bay; the knee brace did its job and I have no aftereffects. In fact, my knee is back to normal enough that I forgot to wear the brace when I went to the Bay Trail and it was fine. Two weeks for recovery from a minor sprain/tear, right on schedule.

THIS WEEK

Finishing household chores, finishing the paper, cleaning the house, packing the car, and getting on the road. That should keep us occupied. The local schools are back in session, so I know it’s time to leave.