January recap

by Sunita

The groundhog said six more weeks of winter, and right on schedule an Arctic blast is heading toward us. We had days of rain this week but now snow and sub-zero temperatures are on their way. Good times. In other news, while I can’t say that every day is just like the one before, they are way too similar for my liking. At least Bill Murray was eventually able to modify his behavior to escape Groundhog Day. Meanwhile, here in Missouri, the vaccine has made it to hospital staff (which is very good) but not much past that.


I been teaching my undergraduate class in hybrid format for the last two weeks. This means that some students come to class and the rest log in remotely on Zoom. I’m in a classroom that has a non-pandemic capacity of 84 and a pandemic capacity of 31. So far I’ve had four or five students show up in person out of the 29 total in the class. I may get more, although probably not this week, what with the cold snap. But even having a handful makes it feel a bit more like a normal class. I am not good yet at managing the balance between the two groups, although we’ve had some stretches where people from both sites are talking. I’ll get back on our Teaching & Learning Center’s website and see if they have tips I haven’t thought of yet. It’s a work in progress, and it’s tiring, but it is so nice to be back in the classroom. And the mask isn’t nearly as inhibiting as I thought it would be; I have frequently forgotten I’m wearing it.

We have had several department meetings, none of them particularly enjoyable. We did revive our longest-running seminar as a Zoom meeting this week, and that worked well. It was lovely to see everyone again, and the paper was good, with excellent analysis from the discussant and equally insightful questions from the rest of the participants. Scholarship occurred!

Papers are being revised for resubmission to journals. Grant proposals are being written.


I finished one novel and part of a second in January. That was it. It’s the least I’ve read in years, probably more than a decade. I wanted to read, I wasn’t having reader’s block, I just didn’t have the time. The one book I did complete was excellent: Penelope Fitzgerald’s novel about BBC people during the early years of WWII and the Blitz: Human Voices. It follows the fortunes of a handful of producers, assistants, and voice talent over the course of a few months. It’s very episodic with not much plot to speak of. People come and go, they experience love, career events, and sorrows. She drops the reader into the setting without explanation and you have to navigate any number of acronyms and jargon, but I just went with the flow.

The second book, which I’m about a third of the way through, is Juan Gabriel Vasquez’s novel of 1990s Colombia, The Sound of Things Falling. I loved Vasquez’s most recent book, The Shape of the Ruins, and this one won the Dublin IMPAC award a few years ago and came highly recommended. It’s very good and goes in directions I wasn’t expecting. I am probably going to set it aside for a bit, though, because two books came in from library holds and I want to try and read both of them: James McBride’s Deacon King Kong and Brandon Hobson’s new release, The Removed. Who knows how much of them I will get through given I only managed about 300 pages over 31 days last month, but I’ll try. I’ve been waiting for them for a while and I don’t want to give up before I’ve even started. And I could really use the mental space and rejuvenation reading gives me.

We’ve been watching most of our old standby mystery series in the evenings, but we did watch a movie that was unexpectedly enjoyable: The Parallax View. It’s from the 1970s and stars a young, very handsome and charming Warren Beatty playing, well, Warren Beatty. But here he’s a newspaper reporter investigating the assassination of a presidential candidate. An old girlfriend is convinced the wrong person was named as the assassin and witnesses to the event keep dying. It’s a paranoid conspiracy thriller, directed by Alan J. Pakula, and it’s clearly a product of the post-1960s environment, but it was surprisingly gripping and timely. A more recently produced addition to our mystery lineup is Spiral, from France, which is a police procedural that comprises eight series. It’s good and will keep us occupied for quite a while.

We’ve also been listening to our local jazz club’s concert streams on YouTube, which are terrific and have the benefit of introducing us to local musicians of whom we were completely unaware.


I’ve finished five weeks of Bullet Journaling and it’s been going pretty well. I’ve followed my plan of using the Hobonichi Techo as the Bullet Journal and the Weeks as a work planner. I’ve found the Future Log and Monthly Logs to be quite useful and I fill up the daily pages with tasks and notes. The two monthly spreads are working out OK, with the tasks list in the Monthly Log providing both a reference and a reminder to space out those tasks across the Daily Logs. I keep a work-specific weekly task list in the Weeks, so I do daily logs with tasks, notes, and events in the Techo, following the original Ryder Carroll method pretty closely. I’m not crazy about the Weeks because the particular version I purchased has hard covers and doesn’t lie completely flat. Every other planner and notebook I have does, so it’s kind of annoying to have to prop it open. If it doesn’t flatten out over time as I make my way through more pages, I might abandon it. The cover is beautiful and I like looking at it, but I like my planners to lie flat!

I did a Monthly Inventory at the end of January as well as the Monthly Reflection that Carroll recommends. It was surprisingly helpful to go back and see what I had and hadn’t done from my monthly and daily task lists, how long it took me to do a task after I put it in a daily log, as well as how I spent my time. I migrate my undone tasks every day, which is repetitive and highlights what I’m procrastinating about. It’s not fun to experience, but it does have a purpose, so I’ll keep at it. I’m not absolutely, completely sold on the Techo-Weeks setup. I like doing journal-style notes in the daily log, and sometimes I have a very full page and sometimes a light page. It would be nice to have a notebook without the day-per-page constraints. I journal in a separate notebook as well, but it’s not quite the same. If the Weeks keeps annoying me I might switch around in March or April.


More of the same, but now with Arctic temperatures! The puppy is getting bigger and also more of a dog and less of a puppy. She’s just over four months old now and still takes plenty of work but is plenty rewarding. And she has developed this adorable habit of herding a tennis ball while holding another one in her mouth. So cute. Here she is in a typical Corgi pose.