ReaderWriterVille

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Tag: productivity

Weeknote 5

February is moving slightly faster than January did, but that was a very low bar. As TheH says, it’s a bar the Corgis could walk over, no jumping required. It’s still mostly gray and cold and damp, with the occasional sunny and slightly warmer day to taunt us.

WORK

My Privacy class finally clicked. We’re out of the heavy theory section and reading older work on the online world as it used to be, which they find kind of interesting. And one of the examples was about free speech vs. writing violent material that can be accessed by younger teens. It was interesting. 50 Shades even came up, and I startled them by telling them more about it (and my involvement in the 50-related Romancelandia stuff) than they could ever have expected. It was amusing for all of us.

One of my weekly seminars featured a paper by a colleague from anthropology who is working on fashion and sustainability, which is extremely relevant to my interests these days. So that was another unexpected crossing of streams. We had a lively discussion; everyone can relate in some way to fashion, ecological issues, and the omnipresence of consumption capitalism. One person raised the interesting point that even among people who are focused on improving conditions and products at the local level, they opt to become entrepreneurs rather than to join with other like-minded people to improve existing labor and supply-chain conditions. Being a capitalist is still the default choice.

READING/WATCHING/LISTENING

We returned to Maigret, but rather than watching the next episode of the TV series we opted for a 1950s film starring Jean Gabin as Maigret. It was terrific. The print had been remastered and all of the performances were excellent.

I had two library holds come in this week and finished one of them: The Story of a Goat, by the Tamil writer Perumal Murugan. I have his previously translated novel in my TBR. That one earned him death threats from the Hindu nationalists and led him to declare that he would no longer write fiction. Luckily for us he changed his mind, but he made the main character an animal rather than a human. The Story of a Goat is exactly what it says on the tin: we meet Poonachi when she is a very young kid and is handed into the care of an old couple by a mysterious stranger. The story follows Poonachi’s growth to adulthood and all of the events that transpire during her life. The cast includes humans as well as the other goats among whom she lives and whom she encounters along the way. It’s an excellent novel, poignant and yet almost completely unsentimental. It’s not a happy story, but it has upbeat episodes along the way. Murugan is explicit that this is not an allegory, and I think that’s right. Poonachi and the other animals aren’t stand-ins for humans; instead, Murugan is showing us how the life cycles of humans and animals are not only intertwined, but more similar than we would like to believe, especially in terms of the lack of control most humans have over the circumstances of their existence. It reminded me somewhat of the works of Premchand, the great Hindi writer who frequently put animals at the center of his stories. Murugan’s novel is not the easiest read, but it’s one of the best books I’ve read in quite a while, and unusual in the best ways.

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Weeknote 4

I almost forgot to write a weeknote this week. I guess I need to write it down in the ToDo list!

WORK

Classes are settling down. We’re almost out of the theoretical section of the readings, which is worthwhile but quite abstract and demanding, and into the problem/case parts. I’ve gotten a better handle on integrating contemporary examples with the theory in the Privacy class and it’s working better. After four weeks both classes are settling into a rhythm. The Protest class has been easy from the start, but Privacy has had more bumps. But I’m more comfortable now and they are too, I think.

I spent my “free” time reading scholarship files for a program that gives a select group of students a full ride. It’s designed for students who are research focused, and program has undergone some changes over the last few years thanks to the admissions office wanting more control. As administrative tasks go, this one is very rewarding.

READING/WATCHING/LISTENING

I’ve fallen into the Midsomer Murders vortex and can’t get out. Pluto TV, which is essentially like a basic cable package but streaming, has binge channels of all kinds. We’ve become almost completely turned off by TV news, even of the BBC and PBS variety, and sports are mostly not available in the evening (we don’t watch much hockey or basketball until the playoff rounds). I chanced on a Midsomer Murders episode and it was kind of fun to revisit it. The best part for me, aside from the regular cast, are the excellent guest stars. Roger Allam as a no-good speculator. Anna Massey as a dangerously mad old spinster. Jenny Agutter as a still-lovely older woman whom too many many are attracted to. And so on. I think I’m close to burning out, though. There are only so many times I can hear that theme song.

I’m still reading the same books, so not much to report there. I haven’t been able to settle down and just read this week, hence the TV bingeing. I think the political news is finally getting to me. Iowa, WTF? Actually, I don’t have to ask, it’s pretty clear to see what happened. When you have inexperienced people designing complicated methods to operate complicated voting process you have clusterfucks waiting to happen. I think this piece on how the Iowa and Nevada contracts were an example of grift is spot on. This is not the time to be experimenting with untested systems by people whose connections rather than skills got them the contracts. The Democrats could easily lose this election to someone who never should have been elected once, let alone twice, all because they prefer the circular firing squad and drinking from the trough to fixing a badly broken system. There are few good options and they seem to be losing out to the not-good ones so far.

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Weeknote 3

This post is coming in just under the wire.

WORK

Classes are classes. Meetings are meetings. Lots of email. Nothing very interesting to report; I’m getting back into the rhythm of the semester. We figured out next fall’s curriculum for our program in the night school and fixed some summer school scheduling issues. Zzzzzz. (Yes, these tasks are part of the Director of Undergraduate Studies job, presumably because the classes are at the undergraduate level.)

The grad student I work with the most came back from a very successful six weeks of interviews and data collection, so that’s been fun to hear about. We have lots to catch up on and more work to do. But in a good way.

READING/WATCHING/LISTENING

We (re-)watched Guardians of the Galaxy and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 this week. How’s that for popcorn viewing? TheH loves this series and I’ve finally gotten the hang of what’s going on. In further timepass opportunities, it turns out that Pluto TV has a dedicated Midsomer Murders channel , which has provided an alternative when the PBS NewsHour is preempted by wall-to-wall impeachment coverage. And no, we’re not watching. We read about it and listen to the recaps on the news programs. That’s more than enough.

I had a couple of fiction library holds come in and sent them back again because I’m not getting much reading time. I am working my way through the Cercas and it continues to be excellent. I’m also reading a couple of nonfiction books related to my Project 333 endeavour, The Conscious Closet and The Curated Closet. They’re both pretty good, although I’m skimming parts. I plan to write up my experiences with the first month of limiting my wardrobe and I’ll talk a bit more about them there. The books are very good for offering alternatives to (and reasons for avoiding) fast fashion, but since I’m not much of a fast fashion person that isn’t directly useful to me. But there are other aspects that are, and we should all be thinking about ways to limit our textile consumption given its effects on the environment.

Liverpool is 19 points ahead of Manchester City in the Premier League, and Anfield has finally decided it’s OK to sing the We’re Going to Win the League song. Me too. 🙂

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Weeknote 2

School, snow, freezing rain, ice; all the fun stuff.

WORK

Between the intro sessions and the MLK holiday, I’ve only taught 50 percent of my class periods over the last two weeks. One is going very well, the other is only OK, perhaps because I haven’t taught it in three years and I’m still feeling my way to a rhythm. They’re both set up the same way, with theoretical and abstract readings to provide a foundation, but I walk out of them feeling quite differently. Oh well, it’s the beginning and it’s me, not the students. The OK one will improve.

I forgot to mention that I’m the Director of Undergraduate Studies this semester. A colleague and I have split the work for the last two years and this is the last of it. I describe being DUS as comparable to being nibbled to death by ducks: there are rarely big crises, but there’s always something. So. Much. Email.

Nothing else I can really write about, just the usual meetings. My two regular seminars start up again this week and next, so that will provide a rhythm along with class times. I have some letters of recommendation to write and a bunch of research papers to write up comments on.

READING/WATCHING/LISTENING

The Chiefs are going to the Super Bowl! I’m so happy for the team and the fans. They are a blast to watch, and it should be a great game. As a long-time 49ers fan as well I suppose I should be rooting for them, but it’s Chiefs all the way. Time to dig out our magnetic car logos and wear my logo wool varsity jacket.

One of my 2019 holds from the library came in, Javier Cercas’s latest “nonfiction novel” Lord of All the Dead. It’s a companion work to Soldiers of Salamis and so far it’s really good. I love his writing style, which is deceptively informal and feels unselfconscious, but the words and phrases are beautifully chosen. You notice how well it’s written almost after the fact.

I’m also continuing to work my way through The Steep Approach to Garbadale, which is starting to be work. Much as I love Banks, this is not his best novel by any stretch, and the audio format makes the digressions and quirks more apparent to me. I just hit a chapter where the breasts of not one but two women are described in detail and I was grateful to have a reason to stop listening for a while. I’ll keep going because it’s Banks, but I’m bummed he is yet another male author whose characters are obsessed with breasts over other body parts. I hadn’t noticed this is his other books, but then I’ve mostly been reading the M. novels up to now.

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Weeknote 1

I’m starting over numbering the 2020 Weeknotes. Let’s see how many I can manage; I had 21 in 2019, but I didn’t start until partway through the year.

WORK

The spring semester began yesterday. I’m teaching two undergraduate classes, both of which I’ve taught before and which I enjoy a great deal. They also require regular updating because things are constantly happening, but that also means that the students are interested. And I have enough assistants that I don’t have to do all the work myself. It feels like a light semester even though technically it’s not.

I got to throw a drinks party for a visiting professor and his family, whom we’re trying to recruit. The weather was awful but the party was fun. Fingers crossed.

I’m on one (and a half) committees this semester. The one is a college scholarship committee that is always enjoyable. There’s nothing like interviewing whip-smart high school students to make you feel as if maybe the world isn’t so bad after all. The half is the end of the Committee That Ate The Second Half of 2019 and Part of My Sabbatical. It shouldn’t be too much work, maybe a couple of meetings and a memo.

Which means I may actually have time for some writing! Which is good, since the pile of to-be-written is rivalling my pile of to-be-read.

READING/WATCHING/LISTENING

Liverpool, all through the holiday fixtures. I’m almost starting to believe that at 16 points clear of the 2nd place team in the EPL, they can win the title for the first time in 30 years. Almost. I’m not counting ANY chickens.

I’m also watching the NFL playoffs and rooting for the Kansas City Chiefs. We went to all their games for five years in the early 2000s when we had friends on the staff. They been shut out almost as long as Liverpool has, and I’d love to see them make it.

I read a fun, unjustly obscure book when we were away for the weekend right after New Year’s. It’s called The Ascent of Rum Doodle and it’s a satire of the mountain-climbing memoir genre of the 1930s and 1940s. We found it in a store in London and I bought it because the Mt. TBR Challenge has Rum Doodle as its first level. I’d never heard of it before but as I was reading, I was reminded of passages of various serious mountaineering books I’ve read, including the excellent Into the Silence. The satirical tone gets a bit heavy-handed at times (as satires do), but the book is short and sustains itself well.

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