Weeknote 10

by Sunita

Summer has officially started around here. It’s supposed to be in the high 80s this weekend and the tomato plants have teeny tiny fruit coming. The basil and mint have been purchased and potted. The coriander gets to live out in the yard. The kale is growing like crazy. And I’m reading. Our city and county are opening up, but I doubt we’ll change much of what we’re doing, at least not until we see how people behave.


Our department recognition ceremony went off pretty well, as well as we could have hoped for. We had about 150 logins (we had 135 graduating majors, second majors, and minors) and except for an inevitable sound glitch which I eventually corrected, everything worked. It was exhausting and stressful but it’s done.

I also had a dissertation defense on Zoom, my first but probably not my last. I did a Skype defense last summer which I don’t remember being particularly draining, but 90 minutes of a Zoom defense is pretty close to 90 minutes of a Zoom class. For whatever reason, an all-video Zoom teaching/exam session is harder than any other format I’ve used. You get all the energy drain with much less of the adrenaline rush to offset it.

We are still waiting to hear what the fall is going to look like, but we are preparing for at best hybrid courses and at worst fully online courses. The administration is sending out individual and department surveys to find out what instructors need and what their competencies are. They promise to provide more comprehensive hardware, software, and instructional support than they did this spring, which is good. I’m just hoping that they can integrate Office 365 into Canvas, which they still haven’t done. And our lecture-capture software is not good. There are better options out there but I doubt we’ll get them unless we buy them ourselves.

One of my remaining administrative tasks is to coordinate the writing up of a memo for the incoming Director of Undergraduate Studies. My fellow acting-DUS and our undergraduate administrator have both been keeping notes on policies that need to be updated, improved, or changed, and now of course we have all the Corona-related stuff to think about. It shouldn’t be too bad and it will be useful, but I am seriously burned out on writing reports, answering surveys, and soliciting information to pass on to the higher-ups. I had yet another memo and spreadsheet to deal with this week, which necessitated lots of email exchanges. I feel as if I’ve spent the last year writing memos, which I guess I have. Five weeks to go.

One of our papers that had been under review since the winter was rejected this week. Reading between the lines, it sounds as if it wasn’t “big” enough for a flagship journal, which I can live with. On the upside, the reviews didn’t say it wasn’t sociology, which happened to another paper with a different coauthor, so we can at least send it to another sociology journal (for Reasons, we’ve given up on poli sci journals for this one). The revisions shouldn’t be too bad; there was no stereotypical Reviewer 2 criticism and the comments point to ways of making the paper better. The next attempt will be our fourth with this paper, which is not that unusual. As I tell my coauthor, a good friend who is at a top-ranked department AND in the National Academy of Sciences had a paper with an equally illustrious coauthor that was published on their eighth submission. We still have four rejections to go! I like this paper, it’s morphed from a note into a real article, and it deserves to be published. We’re not drawering it until we run out of options.


We have been rewatching Detectorists on Hoopla. It’s such a warm, sweet, funny show, it’s like a hug in these times. But it turns out that while Hoopla has all three seasons, it doesn’t have every episode of every season. So we broke down and re-subscribed to Amazon Prime. After having had Prime since its introduction, we stopped it last fall and we haven’t really missed it until now. But when you’re stuck at home, watching evening TV becomes more frequent. There’s just not as much to talk about and catch up on when you spend all day together and don’t see much of other people or the world, especially when we’re not teaching. And especially when you’re trying not to rehash the news.

We also revisited an old movie that we remembered as a pleasant timepass: America’s Sweethearts with Julia Roberts, Catherine Zeta-Jones, John Cusack, and Billy Crystal. I’m not sure what we were smoking when we watched it in the past, but man, it did not hold up. The fat-shaming. The ethnic slurs (Alan Arkin as a fake Indian yogi and Hank Azaria doing another version of his Birdcage character). Unfunny penis-size, masturbation and dog-sniffing-crotch jokes. The plethora of unpleasant people whom the narrative mocks but also embraces. It was weird.

On a happier note, I read all the Murderbot novellas over the course of about ten days. They were most enjoyable. They are total popcorn but I can see revisiting them, just like Murderbot revisits The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon (I so want that to be a real show, with hundreds of episodes). I’ll write up a proper review post soon, and in the meantime, it’s on to the novel.


After the recognition ceremony was done, I spent the next few days making lists and taking stock of what I had to and wanted to get done in the next three months. Usually we’re cleaning up the house and getting ready to drive to California right now (this time last year we were already there). Without the cleaning and packing, driving days, and unpacking and setting up, we gain nearly three weeks on our schedule. I counted up the weeks and we have 14 weeks between Convocation and the beginning of the fall semester. 14 weeks! It feels unimaginably long, especially when we don’t move house. Of course, by mid-August I’ll be asking where all the time went, but right now I’m just gazing into the distance.

I’ve gone back to writing something like Morning Pages, but not necessarily every day and not necessarily in the mornings. I’ve been using my 750words account and trying to remember to write in it most days. One day it was feedback on a paper, another day it was lists and thoughts about planning the summer, and on another day it was pure venting. I like having the usage be varied, because one of the reasons I stopped with Morning Pages (aside from not always having morning time) was that I got tired of only emptying my brain in one way. I’m sure there are other ways, I just found myself going down the same mental roads over and over and didn’t really know how to break out. I think that it’s also the case that morning isn’t necessarily when I need to empty my mind. Sometimes it’s before or after lunch or after I’ve just done a bunch of work email and memos. Anyway, I’m going to try and keep this up.

I’m still writing longhand for notes and ideas too, though, which meant I got to clean out a couple of fountain pens and put them back into the rotation.


I’ll try and finish up everything I can on the departmental admin and student front and get the week planned out with some work of my own. I have two papers to work on with a coauthor and I need to figure out work to give an undergraduate who’ll be working with me on my own stuff this summer. And exercise. I have to force myself out of the house, which I haven’t been very good at for the last few weeks.