ReaderWriterVille

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Tag: productivity

Weeknote 19

I meant to write a post at the beginning of the week. Hah. It’s already Friday and I’m not sure where the days went.

WORK

It’s he start of school, which means finishing up the syllabi (always at the last minute for me, always), remembering to hit the “publish” button in Canvas if you want the students to have access, and negotiating a waitlist that is almost as long as the size of the seminar. I drove a few students away with the class requirements, but not enough. I’m almost there, though. The annual meetings always disrupt this process because we teach a class or two and then go away for the rest of the week and then come back and have Labor Day off. I wish we started on the Tuesday after, the way sensible east coast universities do. But the midwest schools have a long semester calendar. Thanks, annoying accreditation association.

I don’t always go to the meetings because they’re disruptive, but this year I had to go and I wound up having a good time. Did the work I needed to do and got to spend time with old friends.

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel for my committee’s work, at least for this iteration. We’re not done by any means but we’re winding down for a while. But there are still visits to confirm and plan (so many emails) and memos to write. But I’m not behind. It’s a miracle.

My grad classes are starting out well and the students look interesting and engaged. One of them is half lecture, half seminar, and the other is all seminar. Come to think of it, I’m mostly teaching in seminar format this semester. That’s unusual for me.

READING/WATCHING/LISTENING

Reading, what is that? I did not come anywhere near finishing my 20 Books of Summer challenge, although I enjoyed what I did read and I started a bunch of the books on the list. Barb was so right when she said it was a challenging list. I’m not sure why I read less this summer than last year. Part of it was that our holiday didn’t have much reading time, and I think the other part is that I was working more this summer than I was last year, so there was more academic reading in my schedule. And the Booker reading swallowed a big chunk of time. Still, I enjoyed the challenge and I’ll definitely keep on with the list. I’ll write up a separate post soon.

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#Onebagging a conference

OK, not quite one bag, but the purse could go in the backpack in a pinch.

I haven’t tried this before but after our UK trip I was so taken with traveling light that I decided to try it for a conference. That pack holds two dresses, three tops, one pair of trousers, a sleep shirt, and the relevant undergarments. And a pair of sandals. I’m wearing trousers and a jacket and a pair of walking flats. The sandals went down at the bottom and the clothes into packing cubes, which left plenty of room for toiletries and other travel odds and ends.

I’m not the one presenting our paper so I left my computer at home and will rely on my phone and a small notebook. I could have fit it in but I wanted to try traveling without it again. Most of my work stuff is meetings anyway and there’s an app for the conference so I don’t need to haul the giant program around.

I did bring my ereader though. Of course. Some things are non-negotiable.

I’ll keep you posted on how it works out and tell you more about the clothes, which are all travel-friendly.

Lovely day in DC and we’re on time!

Weeknote 18

It has begun. School, that is. There’s something weird about spending one’s entire life on an academic schedule, but it’s too late to change now. August means ramping up the work, stress, and pace. I do feel refreshed from my semester off, though. Now if I can just keep up my exercise schedule.

WORK

Our road trip back to St. Louis was uneventful and relatively quick (2050 miles in three days). The dogs were very cooperative and so was the weather. The house was in one piece when we got back (always a relief, and once we hacked away the hydrangeas and viburnum from around the a/c, the house cooled down well (don’t worry, the plants are fine, it’s just that all the rain made them grow enormously despite being cut back in the spring).

My committee work is proceeding well. A couple of complexities that had to be dealt with, but they eventually were and we’re moving along. Lots and lots of phone calls and emails and meetings, but then, it’s a committee.

My classes look like they’ll go well, at least the two that have already met look good. The undergrad one has a waitlist as long as the enrollment (it’s a writing in the major seminar on immigration, so it ticks a lot of boxes). But eventually it will resolve with some happy students and some disappointed ones. The usual. I’m happy with the tweaks I made to my syllabi, though. I have to completely revamp the grad one but while it will be a pain to do, it will greatly improve the course. The only blot on the landscape is Canvas, our online teaching “aid.” I thought I hated Blackboard, but Canvas is even worse. It has many ways of doing things I don’t care about and no ways of doing the things I want. I copied a previous course and then had to update everything manually. No bulk changes and the syllabus doesn’t let you upload a syllabus. You have to type everything in manually. Yeah right. Grrr.

READING/WATCHING/LISTENING

I haven’t been reading, as in eyes on page, much the last couple of weeks. I managed to enjoy and finish my TBR Challenge book, but I’m in the middle of one that really should be read in a couple of sittings and I’ve been dragging it out for a week. It’s Kevin Barry’s Booker longlisted novel, and it’s good, but I’m just not in the mood for it right now. I’m feeling kind of—I don’t know what the right word is … frustrated? grumpy? dissatisfied? Some combination of the three—about my reading choices right now. This happens to me on a regular schedule: I started chafing against lists and challenges and reading the new new thing. I want to read all my 20 Books of Summer books, for example, but I don’t necessarily want to read them now. I think next year might be a year for classics and books in the TBR that have been there forever. Just avoid the new new things for a while. On the other hand, I am thinking about reading Anniversaries a chapter per day (it’s written as a chapter a day in 1967-8), so I’m probably incorrigible.

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Weeknote 17

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.

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Weeknote 16

It was an uneventful week, with very little out-and-about-ness. I minimized movement to give my knee time to recover (tendons and inflammation cannot be exercised/powered through) and it’s the dog days work-wise, so I read and did house stuff, mostly.

WORK

My coauthor and I wrapped up the first draft of our conference paper, so yay for us. It’s a very good paper, at least I think it is, and I can say this because I feel as if my coauthor did most of the work. He’s presenting it as a poster at the conference and I don’t have much left to do.

This week I get to nudge my committees and colleagues to the next stage of our tasks. So email! As I write these weekly notes, I realize how much time I spent either writing email, responding to email, or thinking about which emails I have to deal with and in what capacity. I guess it’s just the 21stC equivalent of memos, but somehow it seems more endless.

I should probably start thinking about what I want to change up in my classes this semester. I’m doing an overload this fall (don’t ask) and for scheduling and other reasons I have three, which I’ve only done one other time. It’s doable as long as I’m very organized (hahahaha) but it’s tiring. One of them is on immigration, which went really well last year but with everything going on I probably need to think about how I’m going to approach it.

READING/WATCHING/LISTENING

I finished up Lost Children Archive, my fourth Booker longlist read, and I need to write the review. The first half was a slog and I can’t say I really enjoyed it, although it was interesting and I think I could see what the author was trying to do. The second half was much better and very powerful. The book as a whole made me think a lot about where my limits are to reading autofiction: what kind, what works and what doesn’t, etc. I’m now reading the next two more or less together: Ducks, Newburyport and An Orchestra of Minorities. The latter is from the library and I need to get it read before I have to return it. It’s quite compelling and I’m finding it hard to put down even though the style is more ornate than I usually go for. Ducks is hypnotic, at least I’ve fallen into the rhythm quite easily. I don’t know how it will feel for 1000 pages, but so far I’m enjoying it a lot. It’s really accomplished.

We watched the next Maigret and Foyle’s War episodes, both of which were about attitudes toward immigrants. They hit a bit close to home and I wouldn’t say they were entirely enjoyable, although they were excellently done. I’m just so worn out and my ability to cope with endless, avoidable tragedy is at a low. The Jackson Brodie installment we watched, which was merely about routine corruption and murder, seemed almost mundane in comparison, and how sad is that?

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