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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Level of productivity: moderate

Maybe that should be how I title my posts while I'm on sabbatical, by starting with my evaluation of my productivity for the day. Today went pretty well. Of course, I will always think I "should" have done more, but my father used to say, "Have you been should on today?" I should on myself all the time, and it truly isn't tremendously beneficial.

I've been chipping through the print volumes of criticism that I have, working through in order of library return due date, and along the way, I kept thinking, "Haven't I already done this one?" Fortunately, I haven't reinvented any of those particular wheels, but I discovered that part of my confusion was because the same authors and titles keep showing up in all sorts of places, so I may have located any one particular piece through several databases as well as several print volumes. I just spent a little time making a list of what I have in print (and whether it's in my own personal collection, the campus library, or received through interlibrary loan) and then comparing that against the articles I've downloaded from databases, shifting duplicates into separate folders (because, you know, god forbid I should erase anything). It probably would be profitable to do the same for what I have on the databases, but I think I've caught the duplicates there. It is interesting how I lose track. And I wouldn't be at all surprised if, at some point, I discover that I did, in fact, write up an overview of the same source more than once. I hope not, but it's entirely possible.

So today was another "set the timer for 45 minutes" day, but today, when the timer went off, I'd reset it for 5 minutes and walk around the apartment for that amount of time before resetting for another 45 minutes of work. I've been doing most of my writing standing up, reading sitting down, but even that's not enough to keep my body from getting  completely stiff and kinked up. The walking--even just doing figure eights in my relatively small apartment--helps. And I'm looking forward to a more substantial walk in the great outdoors as soon as I finish this blog post. I continue my attempts to keep my body in good shape even while I'm primarily concerned with mental production, though I confess that there are some days (yesterday among them) when neither mind nor body gets treated very well. Very interesting to live in these rhythms instead of the rhythms I'm used to being on campus.

But speaking of mental rhythms, I had intended to keep on chipping away at the critical material until I have it all done so I can get it out from under my feet (at least in a first draft), but today I began to wonder if I might do better, be able to sustain work periods of longer duration, if I mix it up a bit each day: do some work on critical material and then switch to working on something else. At this point, I've honestly forgotten what I've already done and what I still need to do. (Time to print out the one-page version of the proposal, so I can at least remember what I said I was going to produce.) I haven't done anything yet with the novel itself, for instance, and I do know that I said I'd give students some suggestions for themes to pursue. True, working through the critical material will help with that: I'm being reminded how strong some of the themes are, even though I rarely focus on them with my students: the gender thing tends to eat up all the focus, as it's the big mind-blower; the other themes are more subtle (and in some ways, consequently more subversive,  but that's a hard sell to the students). But there's also the glossary and pronunciation guide, which will require a careful read through each chapter: it's going to be hard to focus on pulling out the words that go in the glossary and not get caught up in simply reading for the love of it.

That reminds me: I was reading Harold Bloom's introduction to a volume of critical views on the novel that he edited and was enjoying his glowing praise of Le Guin as an artist. Then I flipped to a Bloom-edited  volume of critical views of Le Guin's writing more generally, not focused on the one novel--and not only are many of the same articles in both volumes, but his introduction is exactly the same. I suddenly found myself sneering a bit at him: "Oh, you've got the big name now, so you don't have to come up with any new thought. In fact, I bet you didn't even pick what to include in the volumes: some graduate student schlub did it for you and got zero credit. How much of your work is really your own any more, hunh, Harold?" Even "his" database is pretty slip-shod, in my opinion--but maybe I'm just grumpy because he can lounge about being Harold Bloom and I have to work so very hard to be little ole me.

OK, so setting aside my jealousy (in part by recognizing that I would never want to go through what he had to go through to get where he is: the circles he travels in are far to brutally competitive), let me reflect back over the day and see what feels good. The main thing, I suppose, is that I only have another three articles to read (yes, in the Bloom volume that I got from the library) and then I'll be able to return everything to the library before picking up the new books that are waiting for me there. I'm not sure when I'll make that run to campus, or whether it makes more sense to do it at the start of a day, then come home to work, or to work first and then cap the day with a run to campus. That will be something for me to contemplate tomorrow--and looking at the library's hours will have something to do with that decision (as will whether/when/where I'm meeting Paul this coming week). Now, however, before it's completely dark, I'm going out for that leg and lung stretch. More productivity tomorrow, I fervently hope.

Friday, February 27, 2015

If I could get a good night's sleep....

I find I've run out of mental energy after very little work. I'm not happy about this, but I know it's because I've run on a sleep deficit the last two nights, and it's sapping my concentration. I did get at least a few entries done today--and found out that three more books are waiting for me at the campus library (yet another trip to campus, oh goody)--but I have drawn a line as far as research goes, and I hope this time I actually stick to it. I have enough. Possibly way more than enough.

It is interesting, however, to focus my attention on the critical reception for one specific novel and along the way to read various overviews of Le Guin's work: critic after critic points to the same basic themes, albeit often in different ways, and almost everyone at some point mentions Taoism, Jung, cultural anthropology or, frequently, all three, as influences on Le Guin's thinking. Of course this is not at all news to me; it's just interesting to see it over and over again. I'm thinking perhaps I want to restructure how I frame the paper assignment for the novel next time I teach it. And I'm also thinking that I might assign some of the critical stuff as required reading instead of letting students either find it or not, depending on their tenacity and skills at research.

In any event, this will be a very short blog post, as I don't have anything much to note. I simply will sign off on the work today, and hope--again--for a more productive day tomorrow.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Level of annoyance: moderate. Level of frustration: moderate to low

I'm making a leeetle yoke with myself in the title of this post. In the overview of critical material that I've been working on (and complaining about), one piece of each precis is the level of reading difficulty. I realize, I'm considering what would be difficult (or not) for my students--again, the thing about needing to run some of this past former students (the bright ones; that's the only kind I keep in contact with) and colleagues from different sorts of institutions--and as I'm rating levels of difficulty, I find I need all sorts of gradations. Hence, my estimation of today's frustration level as "moderate to low."

The frustration level is moderate largely because of one factor that shouldn't bug me but does. My P&B "mentor" for my promotion application finally--at the nth hour--had the letter of support ready and in my folder. Fortunately, I was already on campus, so I didn't have to dash in just to put initials on those sheets of paper (yes, every single item in the entire folder must be initialed by the candidate: idiocy but it's meant to protect us from having things show up in our applications that we might not want there). Unfortunately, her use of language was (is) unfortunate in one particular area.

Bear in mind, I already had to correct some errors of fact. I also let one error of fact go: I no longer teach theme-based 101 classes, but there is still a segment about environmental issues, so talking about my "ecopedagogy" isn't incorrect. (I'll be presenting about exactly that at this summer's ASLE conference, in fact.) I also knew that P&B would ask her to cut it down--it was ridiculously long and way overboard with the enthusiasm. And I will say that one of the errors of fact was corrected nicely. However, in correcting what she'd said about my current project (which she had stated was already finished), she ended up saying that I was working to help students handle material that is "obtuse," and that I am able to make it "palatable."

Now, Le Guin's writing may be a lot of things, but "obtuse" it ain't, by any stretch of the imagination. And I sure hope I'm doing more than just soothing my students' gag reflex.

I came within a hair's breadth of contacting the letter writer to ask her to use other terms--I even had to check in with another colleague about it (Cathy just happened to be there when I was reading over the letter)--but I let it go. In a previous draft, the letter writer had called me "a phenomena." Setting aside whether I'm "an exceptional, unusual, or abnormal person" (students would probably agree with the last of those), I'm pretty sure there's only one of me.

Honestly, I worry about some of my colleagues. Aren't we supposed to have a grasp of the language?

And to focus more on what was good about the day rather than what annoyed me, I also spent a great half hour or so with a colleague immediately after today's meeting, fixing up a preliminary preference form, and not only was it easy to do, working side by side with him, one of his office mates was also there--and made a point of telling me that they'd been talking about me the other day and agreed that I should be chair of the department when Bruce retires. I was grateful for the vote of confidence and for the admiration, even though I'd never in a gazillion years chair the department. We all talked some about the preference form and various other topics branching out from there--but the experience reminded me how incredibly blessed we are in the department. I may worry about some of my colleagues, but many--even most--are bright as hell and know how to be people at the same time. It's a rare and beautiful privilege to work with them. I haven't had as much time to sit with those two in particular as I'd like. I'm almost ready to start holding little parties just for the folks I like best, so we can hang out and talk shop.

The other thing I can focus on--the reason why my frustration level is trending downward--is that the meeting was actually pretty damned good. I didn't need the heavy ammo, even though I started out by clearly stating that even faculty pairs is a compromise, as far as I'm concerned. But all of us around the table had beneficial points to make, and the dean was pretty ready to be persuaded; her concern was whether she could in turn persuade the administration, the college attorney (who has to agree that what we're proposing fills the requirement as stated in the contract), and the Board of Trustees. For each potential argument she put up, we had the answer: no room for argument. I was proud of us all. We were honest, we were clear, and we were civil. Too bad the same can't be said more widely across campus, but then again, I work in the best department with the most intelligent, articulate, and interesting people. Of course.

So the only point of frustration is that I ended up being on campus longer than I'd anticipated (which I should have anticipated), and by the time I left, I was too tired, hungry, and head-achy to embark on any work. However, now is when I begin to feel the relief of having withdrawn from the psych course: originally, I was going to devote tomorrow to that work, but now I can spend the day doing my own work instead. So much better. Whew.

As is usually the case, writing a blog post helps put the annoyance as well as the frustration in perspective, and I can honestly report that both have dropped so low they barely register. Now I can glide into the evening and rest up for a big burst of productivity tomorrow. Ask Scarlett: it worked for her.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Hard decision

Well, it's official: I've withdrawn from the psych course. As I said on Facebook, I feel more than a little sick right at the moment, having just made it official: not only does it twinge to lose the money I paid (if I'd withdrawn last week, I'd have gotten at least some of it back, dammit), but I'm also simply disappointed that I'm not going to have the whole experience. Still, it does make sense to get out now. I spent today reading for the paper I would have had to write for next Wednesday, and I realized that I would have to put in a lot more time to get the paper actually written--and meanwhile, I was feeling frustrated that I wasn't doing the work on my own project. I know I'll feel relieved eventually; I just have to go through a little phase of feeling some ouch first.

So, I didn't get any sabbatical work done today, and now I won't (sun's over the yardarm), but after I go to the meeting tomorrow morning (ick) and then clean up some other loose ends around campus, I can come back home--or take the laptop to one of the coffee houses--and crank away at it. And it will be a while before other distractions start to get in my way (prepping a brand new course, the MDC130: Science, Culture and Technology, and making adjustments to my syllabi for 101 and Mystery and Detective Fiction, which I'll also be teaching in the fall, hooray).

Another ouch today was that I finally was brave enough to look at a document put together by the head of the Creative Writing Program, spelling out the required qualifications for people to teach creative writing courses. Because we're in the process of getting a discrete degree on the books, it's important to specify qualifications and to make them relatively rigorous. There were two options for qualifications--and both automatically excluded me. I wrote an e-mail to the co-chairs of the Creative Writing Committee (not to the entire membership) saying that I would have to recuse myself from any discussion of the qualifications--and would have to withdraw from the committee. I also told them that it makes me very sad to know I won't be teaching Fiction Writing again, but I completely agree with the qualifications they propose. We have people on our faculty with specific degrees in Creative Writing and with extensive records of publication. The one qualification I had was that I was an active member of the Creative Writing Committee and a supporter of the work of the Creative Writing Project--but that's probably going to be the one thing that people argue about including. (Some of the actual writers on our faculty have nothing to do with either the committee or the project.)

Ah well.

On the other hand, I don't think I mentioned yesterday, but after I'd gotten the snotty e-mail from a colleague about her schedule and had fallen on my sword, taking the blame, the two other members of the committee wrote e-mails to the snot, rallying to my defense: they'd done some research into what her schedule was versus her preference form, and there were other reasons why she got the schedule she did, apart from my working under a faulty understanding of requirements. It was lovely to have them so quick to jump in there; that soothed the little scratchy places where the snot's little poison darts had just barely gotten through my armor.

I plan to go into the morning meeting loaded for bear, as my dad would have said, but I'm aware that the heavy ammunition may not be required. The dean is a milquetoast of the highest order, can't stand up to the administration to save her life (never mind our academic integrity), and I'm hoping she'll realize she has a better shot of getting the administration to back down than she does getting us to let go of what we know is right. It certainly will be interesting.

For this evening, I'm going to simply breathe through the aftermath of the decision about the psych course and then set everything aside until tomorrow. (OK, Scarlett, it's your line.)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Research! Aaaaaaaaa!

I'm finding it easier to keep going on the work now that days are getting longer. I'm packing it in a trifle earlier than I originally intended: I was going to work-work until 6, but I'm going out to meet Paul and wanted to take a little time to frame the day and put a button on it (to mix metaphors), which is what these blog posts do for me.

Today felt pretty productive, but I am being driven mad by the fact that there is apparently an inexhaustible supply of critical essays about The Left Hand of Darkness, and every time I think I've got as much as I need, I stumble across a reference and think, "Well, I have to have that," and I spend inordinate amounts of time tracking the damned thing down. There's one source I can't find at all yet, and this time, the librarian who answered my "ask a librarian" query was not at all helpful: it's become sort of the lit-crit equivalent of Bigfoot; someone sighted it somewhere and there's something that's almost documentation of it, but not quite....

In any event, there are a few more sources I want to track down; I'll be going to campus on Thursday for that damned meeting of the wretched Seminar Hours committee, but I'll make the most of the trip and do another library run. (For one thing, I grabbed a book a little too quickly in the mad dash that was my last trip there--and grabbed the wrong thing, so I need to get my mitts on the source I actually want.) I also have a number of requests still outstanding through the interlibrary loan thingy (which I'm loving; I may have said that before, but it bears repeating: it's great). But once I have those sources, I'm going to stop. I really have to stop.

Jeezus, I feel like an addict. I'm going to stop; I'll stop tomorrow; one more, just one, and then I'll stop. I've already written the caveats to students stating that I haven't found all there is to find and exhorting them to raid other people's works cited lists (which, I explain, I've been doing--as all scholars do). But seriously, if I'm ever going to finish this part of the book--for which I think I allotted one week in my original timeline and which has been going on for, what, a month now?--I have to stop adding to the articles I need to review and annotate.

I freely confess, too, that my living room is starting to look a little like my "study" did when I was working on my dissertation: piles upon piles of books accumulating, each book bristling with sticky-notes. Evidence of a word-person at work.

As I've noted before, however, I've been getting increasingly concerned that this particular word person isn't producing enough work on a daily basis. I've been playing around with various solutions to that problem. One is aided by the lengthening days: I want to put in more hours each day, which I can only do if my brain is running on all cylinders, not if I'm getting draggy because it's getting dark and my body reads that as time to shut down. (Heaven forfend that I should get up earlier to get more hours in. That would mean setting an alarm. Gawd no.) I do have to remind myself periodically that I'm often working on more than one section of the book at once, so I may actually be making more progress than I realize.

But the other thing I'm contemplating is withdrawing from the psych course. When I talked to various members of my support committee over the weekend, I was pretty sure I was going to do it. Since then, however, I've been feeling more like I want to stay in it. In any event, I told myself that I wouldn't decide until after tomorrow's class--and now I'm thinking I may give myself two days, tomorrow and Friday, to work exclusively on the class, and then evaluate where I am. If I can get the paper written and feel prepared for next week's exam in that amount of time, I'll stick it out a while longer--at least long enough to get a taste of the next section of the class, which is intrinsically a lot more interesting to me than this first chunk has been. If I can't get enough done in two days, then I'll withdraw, because I'm only willing to devote two days a week to it, maximum. Even that may begin to seem like more time away from the sabbatical work than I want to take, and I have until mid-April to make up my mind definitively: after that, withdrawal is no longer an option.

The big surprise in all this, the astonishing realization, is that this sabbatical experience is radically different from my last sabbatical. I was sure I'd be fighting off all sorts of demons, but instead I realize I love doing this and want to do it more: I'm resenting anything that interferes. I'd resent the psych course entirely if I weren't fascinated by the material (OK, by some of it: this last set of articles we were to read for tomorrow's class were flat out incomprehensible to me)--and also soaking in the experience of being the student instead of the professor (incredibly helpful to my pedagogy). Still, I'm allowing myself a little more time to see if I can find a balance that allows me to do what I want without resenting any of it.

Speaking of resenting things: it's a good thing I'm finished working for the day, as the downstairs neighbors have cranked up the Hispanic Hip-Hop to top volume. I have complained about the volume at various times, but I can't seem to convey that it is always too loud. But hey, all the more reason to look forward to getting the hell out of here to meet Paul for dinner. It's cold as hell out there, but I'll bundle up in my down parka and feel intrepid. Cain't nothin' keep me down.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Workus interruptus

It's going to be a bumpy week, it seems, in terms of work time. Between doctors' appointments, social engagements (very important for one's sanity), class and a meeting of the Seminar Hours committee, my work time is going to get chopped up and/or truncated--all for excellent reasons, but still.

Today, for instance, I very nearly rescheduled my doctor's appointment, but then I thought, nah, I'll just go and get it over with. However, it was smack in the middle of the afternoon: nice, in that I didn't have to set an alarm (my measure of how difficult any day is going to be), but frustrating in that, by the time I got home, I'd sort of missed my "hour of power": the time of day when I tend to be most productive. I made myself sit (or stand) here and work for a while anyway, but as soon as the sun starts to go down, my entire system starts screaming "I'm done! I'm done! It's time to stop now!" I hate that I can't seem to push through to get just a little more work done, but my concentration just is shot.

I also didn't get quite as many hours of productive work time as I'd hoped for because I spent a good long while this morning drafting an e-mail in response to a "preference form" developed by another member of the Seminar Hours committee. The form itself was fine, but the content caused me some philosophical as well as pragmatic concerns. I imagine that the chair of the committee is getting fiercely annoyed by my continual backing up to get the underpinnings clear, but I truly, firmly believe that the pragmatic stuff will be easier to work out if we know why we're doing what we're doing.

(Side note: after writing that sentence, I thought I'd check my campus e-mail to see if I'd gotten any responses to my message. I had, a very helpful response, but I also got a tremendously snotty e-mail from a colleague asking why her scheduling requests were "ignored." I wanted to write back, "Because I hate you and I want you to suffer," but I didn't: I said I can't really reconstruct what happened at this point but that I'd been operating under an erroneous impression that we had to give faculty 4-day schedules even if they were teaching 2 online courses, which isn't the case--but she'd have been a "victim" of my error. I fell on my sword as graciously as possible because I don't want to get down in the muck with her, but I need a very large hankie to wipe off the snot.)

OK, bitching aside: I am glad that I got any work done today at all, and I should get a good run at it tomorrow. I really want to get the critical overview done, as in done, as in out of my hair, but the monster keeps growing. But tomorrow, I'm just going to sit down and chunk through the essays in order--and try to make myself write a little less about them. (I realize I'm going to have to significantly trim what I've already done, but that can come later. Right now, it's forward, forward, excelsior.)

And now, I'm going to excelsior my little self away from the dang-blanged computer and let my brain start  making white noise....

Friday, February 20, 2015

Occasional signs of intelligence

Every now and then, I make a decision and, after, think, "Hey, that was kinda smart, what I did there." Today's rhythm is case in point. Yesterday, I was concerned that my trip to the library would throw off the work day and that I wouldn't get anything done. Today, I thought, "What if I did some work first, and then, about the time I usually start to hit the wall, went to the library?"

What happened was, it worked. I worked, I should say. I didn't work on the part of the sabbatical project I thought I was going to work on, but that doesn't really matter. What matters is, I worked. And I still got to the library. The librarian at the periodicals desk was a little annoyed and flustered: I could only look at one volume at a time, and I had to have it back in 30 minutes--and she was actually leaving in 15 minutes: they were short staffed today and the library closed earlier than I anticipated, given the e-mail from my helpful colleague: I arrived at 4:15 and the library was closing at 5.

So, here's the long story: I took the first periodical volume, made my photocopies, and was back with that volume and the request slip for the next one in about three minutes. At that point, the cranky colleague lightened up significantly--and I managed to get my hands on everything I needed, make the copies, and get it all back before she left for the day. Plus, I had time to go to the stacks and check out four books that I want to take a look at. As I was leaving the library, I realized my office key wasn't on my lanyard with my ID, where it usually is. I was halfway to Public Safety, where Lost and Found is located, when it dawned on me that the key might be in my bag. It was, so, greatly relieved, I turned around and walked back. I was almost all the way back to my car when I remembered that I had a book in my bag that I'd meant to return to the library--and I still had time to walk back to the library and drop the book in the returns slot.

Hah! So there.

On my way home, I picked up a black ink cartridge so I can print the rest of the articles I want to read for my psych paper. I don't know why that seems like such a triumph of efficiency, but it does.

I confess, I am still unenlightened in terms of why I can't seem to locate material in our collection when the librarians can find them toot sweet, but ah well. No one has treated me with the impatience that is properly displayed to someone who is being dense, so I don't feel I've demonstrated more than the usual stupidity. Again, an odd sense of triumph there.

As for the work itself, I liked the feeling of "talking" to my students as I was writing. I was working on the student introduction (instructors get their own, which is shorter and somewhat more formal, though not a lot). I am aware that at other institutions, the students aren't going to need some of what I'm including--or even most of what I'm including. I honestly don't have a sense of how well prepared undergraduates at other institutions may be--and as I wrote that, I realized that maybe, once I have the thing in pretty good shape, I should contact people I know who teach at other kinds of institutions, ask them to take a look at what I have and let me know how they think it would fly with their students. (Another thought: if those contacts approve of what I've done, that would be a good selling point when I'm looking for a publisher.) For now, though, I'm simply going to write for the students I know. After all, even in our own classes, students run the gamut from functional illiteracy to bright as all get out--so I may also run the material past some of my former students, ask their opinions.

I must say, I do have my shaky moments, when I'm seriously worried about how little I'm producing, about how much work there is yet to do (will I ever reach a point when I can stop finding critical essays??), but when I try for a more objective view, I have to admit that I'm simply loving this, the whole thing. And I'm relieved that I don't have to struggle against an impulse to avoid the work: I really want to do it, every day. I was afraid that I'd get on the computer and waste the day playing dopey "match three" games and nattering on Facebook, but so far that hasn't been the case. Not that I don't do those things; I do them, just after I've hit the work wall.

As I said, I see occasional signs of intelligence in myself. Cool beans.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A bit better...

I could still be unhappy about how little work I got done today, except I started the day unsure that I'd be able to do any work at all: I've had a screaming headache since 5:30 a.m., and although I finally managed to turn the volume down enough that I could bear to look at a computer screen, I still have that feeling that my synapses are not quite connecting that comes with head pain.

Note to self: taking a walk helps. Even when it's pretty danged cold out.

But the other thing that helped was one of those little moments of synchronicity that can happen when one is reading pretty much anything within the expanded radius of the work. As I mentioned, at first I knew I wouldn't be able to sit in front of a computer screen: I was pretty sure I needed to be close to horizontal and fully anticipated reading a little bit and then falling asleep. I wasn't even reading anything that I "need" to read--certainly not the lit crit that I've been gathering and that is apparently endless: I had decided I'd just read whatever stories might provide more of the matrix for the novel, pulled out an anthology, and there in the introduction was the key to the timeline of the Hainish universe that I've been wrestling with. God love Ursula: she's so smart and funny--and willing to poke fun at herself. She says:

"Though I've put a good deal of work into my fictional universe, I don't exactly feel that I invented it. I blundered into it, and have been blundering around in it unsystematically ever sine--dropping a millennium here, forgetting a planet there. Honest and earnest people, calling it the Hainish Universe, have tried to plot its history onto Time Lines. I call it the Ekumen, and I say it's hopeless. its Time Line is like something the kitten pulled out of the knitting basket, and its history consists largely of gaps." (Foreword, Birthday of the World and Other Stories)

And there's my solution right there. I quoted that--and that left me free to simply explain the few constants that students might find helpful, give a bit of an overivew, and leave it at that.

So, after my walk, I got to sit down and play with that chapter, and it's a hell of a lot more fun now that I don't have to try to make sense out of everything. I still  hit the wall pretty quickly--not surprisingly, as although the volume is down on the  headache, it's still very much there--but I'm so relieved that I actually accomplished anything at all, I'm taking that as a win.

Tomorrow my rhythms may be off again: I need to make another trip to the NCC library. I've been using the inter-library loan function ILLIAD, and loving it--but I keep getting e-mails from colleagues at our library, essentially saying, "Ahem, thanks for asking for that, but you know, we have it on our shelves...." So, in addition to four books I want to take a look at, there are a bunch of articles in a journal that our library actually has in print that I'm going to go make copies of. The librarian who told me that we have the journal in our collection also said that, if I'm very sweet and a little bit lucky, I may even be able to persuade the librarian on the desk to let me use their copier in the basement, so I don't have to pay for the copies. I'm happy to pay, if need be--I just consider it a business expense--but of course I won't say no to getting the copies free if I can. That particular librarian is actually working tomorrow, so I'll see if I can get him to help me (always easier than having to use my own brain).

I do wonder why it is, however, that I do the searches and can't find the sources but the librarians turn them up like it's nothing. The guy who found the print journal for me also found four articles I wanted on a database that I'd searched. I feel like an idiot, but this is another one of those "good to share with my students" experiences: the "take away" is, do the research yourself first, but then, if you hit a wall, ask a librarian for help, because apparently they can walk through walls.

So, tomorrow, library and a trip to Staples: I started to print out the articles I think I'm going to use for my psych paper and almost immediately got the message that I'm low on ink. I thought I had spare cartridges, but turns out not. I don't know what else I'll get done. If there's no blog post tomorrow, you'll know that those errands were it. If I get more done, I'll post.

And now, I'm going to lie down again. Man am I ever glad I didn't have to face students today. Man do I wish I could win the lottery so I could just live like this....

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


Pretty discouraging day, as was yesterday. Yesterday, as I thought would be the case, my visit with former student/former cat-sitter took up the hours in which I have greatest productivity, so I managed to do a little reading but nothing more. Today was marginally better: I put the notice that my paper has been accepted for ASLE into the promo folder and re-numbered everything--but I managed to miss Bruce, so didn't get his signature. Well, he can sign the needed pages next week: P&B has to sign off on all the folders in next week's meeting anyway. And a book that I requested through interlibrary loan had come in, so I picked that up.

But then I thought, for a change of pace, I'd go to a completely different town, to a little bakery-cafe place, to sit and work. The food was awful, and I could not make any sense at all of the articles we're supposed to read for next Wednesday's class. It was worse than the electric fish brains stuff: I really had zero clue what was being examined, or how, or why. I read a little but very quickly gave up; I'll try to read the stuff after the lecture and hope that things make more sense to me once the professor has explained what the hell he's working on.

So, that failing, I thought I'd read some of the articles I'd found for my own paper--only to realize that what I'd printed was from an earlier and less useful round of research, which I'm probably not going to use at all. Everything I think I'm likely to use is on the computer--and the computer was at home.

So, I accomplished pretty much bugger all nothing on both my project and my homework. And I'm tired and cranky. I'm about to print out the articles I plan to actually use for my paper, but once I've done that, I think I'll metaphorically hide under the sofa until tomorrow and hope that tomorrow will be a better day. Cain't hardly be no worse.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Four hours

That seems to be about the maximum I can spend on the sabbatical work before my mind starts to grind to a halt. I've been trying the "get up and walk around every 45 minutes" thing today, and whatever it may do for my body, I can't say it's making a hell of a lot of difference to my mental stamina.

Part of the issue may be the actual part of the work I'm doing these days: I'm creating an overview (actually two of them) of the critical material, so the system is read an article, write a precis for students, note the article as read, and repeat. Of course, as I think I mentioned yesterday, I often end up either making note of or tracking down other sources, cited in whatever article I'm reading but something I've not located through my own searches. Today I tried not to do that (keeping too many plates spinning), but now I'm concerned that I may have missed some important references that I really do want to track down, so--even though I'm pretty well done for today--I may have to go back through the articles I worked on and pull out those dratted sources, at least noting them in my little project notebook so I can locate them later.

I'm also aware that I've put the psych course very much on the back burner because we don't have class this week--but I probably shouldn't let it go too long before I head back into those waters, too: not only do I have a class to prepare for next week, but the paper is due in two weeks (that's when the exam will be, too), and I haven't read the articles I found for my paper yet, never mind anything else. I may be reassured about my ability to cope with the material, after having talked with the professor last week, but I still wonder if I've completely lost my mind to try to juggle the course and the sabbatical project at the same time. And I will say that my experience with the class has completely proved my assumption that there is absolutely no way I could take grad courses and teach at the same time. I can only do this because I don't have to teach, grade papers, do committee work, all the stuff that goes with the usual job. I wish to hell I could chip away at a Psy.D. while I'm still gainfully employed, but it just ain't gonna happen. I am already thinking maybe I should take a statistics course (undergrad) over the summer--as that's a requirement for most programs--but the thought of it is just too daunting at the moment.

But that's summer. It's still February. I have time to continue to think about whether I'm really up for it--or if maybe I want to do it some other year. No hurry, after all.

The main thing is that I am enjoying this work--the class, yes, but even more, the sabbatical project. I wish I could keep at it longer, produce more in a day, but it feels wonderful on multiple levels. I have time to think about what students need, how to present things for them in a way they can grasp, but I'm also reading literary criticism, which I hardly ever do any more, so I feel almost like a scholar again. I don't have to do anything very scholarly with what I'm reading, too, which relieves some internal sense of pressure and self-judgment. Nice.

I don't have anything else of note to report out of the work today. I'm not sure how much I'll get done tomorrow (I have a social engagement right about when I'd normally start working, which may bitch up the schedule entirely), but again, that's not a worry for now: that's tomorrow. For now, I'm going to gradually down-shift into evening mode, when all I'm good for is noodling. If there were awards for noodling, I'd be a world champion.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

A little work, a quickie post

After several days of getting absolutely nothing done--for various reasons, mostly having to do with life maintenance--I finally got going for at least a little bit today. As is always the case, the more I look at the articles I've already found, the more references I encounter to other articles that I haven't found--and off I go to try to track them down.

I have to say, I'm rather impressed that the NCC library actually has a number of volumes that I want. It's looking like I'll make a trip to campus next week to get them--but also because I have yet one more thing to add to the promotion folder. Sigh.

I really don't want to go through the pain in the ass factor of renumbering everything, reprinting the pages, blah blah, but the one place where I feel my application is weakest is in scholarship--and I just got notice that the paper I proposed for June's ASLE conference has been accepted, so I really think I ought to include it. It's a "forthcoming" deal, but still: it was accepted. (Funny: I was talking to my mother about it earlier; she asked--naturally--what it was about, and I honestly can't remember. Thank god I have the abstract to refer to.)

I also have skipped the opportunity to send an abstract to another conference. I'd have loved to try it out: the International Association for Environmental Philosophy (they accepted one of my papers millennia ago, but I missed the conference for reasons I can't now recall, and the paper was read in absentia). But I just couldn't come up with a clear enough topic before the submission deadline.

I suppose that's not a surprise: between the sabbatical project and the psych course, I sort of have a lot going on in my brain, and I just couldn't find the time or mental focus to sift out something about environmental ethics in literature--something I didn't say in the last paper for IAEP.

Ah well.

In any event, I'm packing it in for today. I might be able to push on a teeny bit longer, but I am heading out to go dancing--yes, despite the fact that it's effectively below zero out there.

And as I'm typing this, I'm beginning to think that I really am going to have to replace this antiquated laptop, and soon. Another snorting pain in the patoot, but better to get a new laptop before this one completely dies....

I hope to get a good day of work in tomorrow (if I'm not out buying a computer). If I work, I'll blog. That's just the way I roll, baby.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

15-minute post...

Long story, which I won't get into (I know, hard to believe I can pass up the opportunity), but the short version is that I only have about 15 minutes in which to write this blog post. That may actually be more than enough, as I could pretty much simply ditto what I said yesterday. I'm chipping my way through the critical material, alternately working on the Critical Overview chapter (which mostly goes over the vast bulk of the critical material, all on one theme) and on the Annotated Bibliography (which goes over the few critical views that are about something else, or those that skip lightly over the novel and then move on). Occasionally, I add a little material to another chapter here or there, as I happen to run across a point or idea that belongs wherever--but I also am getting to the point where I have to make a decision: do I print out what I have and start organizing? Or do I just keep going and hope I don't do too much repeating of myself?

My inclination is toward the latter--though the thought that I may be reinventing the wheel (or restating the same thing over and over) does tend to cause brief spells of writer's block. But since my main anxiety has been that I'm not producing enough, I want to just keep producing and hope for the best.

I'm also close to finishing my reading of the critical material I happen to have in print here at home; pretty soon I'm going to have to face the bolus of downloaded material--which I just can't quite bring myself to print out. There's so much of it, so many pages, and I think about all the paper and ink that will be only briefly useful then end up in the recycling bin.... I'd rather avoid that, but on the other hand, in order to keep things straight, I may have to take more notes than I have been--maybe even (perish the thought) resort to the old-fashioned index cards thing, so when I think, "Now, where did I read that?" I can find it.

The problem with that system is that I invariably forget to write down the thing that suddenly falls into my head as being important, so I can't find it in my notes.

Scholarship, man, it just ain't pretty.

At the moment, I'm actively looking forward to getting away from the sabbatical project entirely and spending a day on psychology (specifically, formation and extinction of fear memory)--including an earlier-than-usual trip on the train so I can meet with the professor. That will be an interesting meeting, I imagine. I'll try to remember to say something about it in a future post.

But now, my 15 minutes are about up--and I just thought of 45 other things I'd like to do quickly, as long as I'm online (and know I'd better only do one or two of them as otherwise I'll be late), so, off I go into the tame, grey yonder.

Monday, February 9, 2015

It's just slow

I find I'm struggling quite a bit with a frustration about how slow this process is. I like the work rhythm, though today's "brain break" turned into "nope, I hit the wall," truncating the effective work time significantly. But I like that I'm in a rhythm of read a little, write a little--as well as read psych, read about Le Guin--so my brain never feels like it's silting up with too much in any one area. I also like the work at home/work at a coffee house rhythm: I can appreciate both the days I spend not at home and the days when I don't leave the nest--except, as in today, to get some exercise and fresh air.

But it's slow. It's just really slow. I'm telling myself what I was telling Paul last semester: it all counts as work--and I've done a pretty good job so far in terms of keeping myself from ridiculous distractions. OK, I spent longer than I should have a few mornings ago looking for purple wool yarn online, but it didn't get too out of control. And I do have to recognize that when my mental processes start to freeze up (which usually manifests itself in an inability to concentrate on what I'm reading), it's time to either write, if I have something in my head ready to go onto "paper" or,  barring that, to pack it in.

I don't have a whole lot else to report today. I'm finding many references to books that I want to own: books that have been out of print for a long time (a lot of the scholarship I'm interested was written 30 or more years ago). I'm making notes of the specific items I want to find at the New York Public Library (though I realize I haven't fully explored the possibilities of inter-library loan). I finished going through one of the books I already have at home. I started another. I'm saving the second psych article I have to read for Wednesday's class until Wednesday.

I'm tired. I'm hungry. I'm going to take care of the second of those needs first, but that's all I'm thinking about now: taking care of the human animal (the feline animals, too, but the human animal probably will get first dibs.

And tomorrow is another day.

Friday, February 6, 2015

I fought the yawn...

...and the yawn didn't win. I don't know what's going on with my body: no amount of sleep ever seems enough, and when I had finished my morning chores and was ready to start work, I was truly afraid I would be too groggy and exhausted to get anything done. Au contraire.

The smart move was my decision to work on sabbatical stuff, not psych stuff. I truly wasn't sure I'd have it in me to read with any kind of intelligence, but once I started going over some of the critical material I have in hand, I found I was wide awake--and even more so when I wrote the first annotated bibliography entry.

In fact, I had intended to do an overview of the critical reception of the novel separately from the annotated bibliography, but now I think they're really more likely one chapter. However, I'm not going to make up my mind about that just yet: I'll see how the material seems to come together as I proceed with it.

I am still feeling quite a bit of anxiety about how slow my progress is and how little I seem to accomplish in any given day (sound familiar, Paul?), but I'm trying to simply enjoy the fact that I am, in fact, producing something at least most days.

What I particularly liked about today was that, after I took a walk (exercise of some sort, especially outdoors, being an important part of my self-care in this process), I actually had enough mental acumen to tackle some of the psych stuff. I am feeling more than a little panic-stricken as I face these readings. Let me give you a brief example. I'll leave out the bouquets of source citations and just provide the actual sentences:

"Indeed, fear conditioning regulates several proteins importantly involved in the induction and maintenance of synaptic plasticity [so far, I'm understanding this], including AMPA receptors, Pl-3 kinase, and A-kinase anchoring proteins, nexin protease, and mitogen-activated protein kinase among others. [Do the what who now?]"

And now, for an example including all the source citations--which, I must say, make me fervently appreciate the way that MLA documentation systems work to avoid junking up sentences this way:

"Accordingly, inhibiting synaptic plasticity in the LA with a variety of manipulations including NMDA receptor antagonists (Fendt, 2001; Goosens and Maren, 2003; Lee and Kim, 1998; Maren et a., 1996b; Miserendino et al., 1990, protein synthesis inhibitors (Maren et al., 2003; Nader et al., 2000; Schafe and LeDoux, 2000), protein kinase inhibitors (Apergis-Schoute et al., 2005; Goosens et al., 2000; Lamprecht et al., 2002; Lin et al., 2001; Merino and Maren, 2006; Migues et al, 2010), or antisense oligonucleotides for plasticity related genes (Malkani et al., 2004; Ploski et al., 2008) impairs the acquisition of fear memory."

Both sentences are from "Seeking a Spotless Mind: Extinction, Deconsolidation, and Erasure of Fear Memory," by Stephen Maren, published in Neuron 70 (June 9, 2011). And that's just two consecutive sentences out of a much longer paragraph, out of a 10-page article (plus 6-1/2 pages of references). And I have to read that kind of thing for the next four months.

I'm so bewildered by it all, I've asked the professor for this first section of the class for a meeting: I want to find out if I am expected to have a real grasp of all those specific details or if it's enough for me to understand that "inhibiting synaptic plasticity ... impairs the acquisition of fear memory." Because that part I get. And I get that there are a number of neurological mechanisms involved in inhibiting that plasticity. But if I need to know all the various inhibitors and antagonists and genes involved, I'd better say bye-bye to the money, withdraw from the course, and slink off with my tail between my legs. This despite the fact that I just spent much longer than I anticipated pursuing another line of research for that paper that I'm already in a panic about. (I floated the idea--and the articles I've found--past the professor, too, as I asked for a meeting.) I am hoping wildly that the second and third segments of the course are easier for me, but this first bit is scaring the pants off me.

BUT--and this is important for me to hold onto--my experience reading that sort of thing is probably very like what my students experience when they read a passage of even relatively sophisticated literary criticism. I find it completely understandable--but I have a completely different frame of reference than they do, and it's important for me to keep in mind where they are in terms of their exposure to complex writing. I honestly don't think they're incapable of getting it: it's just completely new to them (like all the brain stuff is to me), and they'll need help getting their bearings. Good to remember. Good to feel, viscerally, as a way to remember.

I'm sure I had other stuff I wanted to say about today, but one of my colleagues, who is also a dear friend, has spent today with her husband in surgery, only to find out that, not only does he have cancer, it had spread much further than the doctors originally thought. And another dear friend, a former student, contacted me to ask if she could borrow a "couple thousand" to get her through a crisis. That situation, fortunately, resolved itself before I had to get too deeply involved (she wrote back to say she'd "worked things out"), but my friend whose husband has cancer: that's just an emotional whammy for me, and it's rather knocked everything else out of my head.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Accomplished today: approximately nothing

It isn't dark outside yet, so at least in theory I should still have some work energy left in me, but I don't. It's been a hell of a day, and not one minute of it has been used on either the sabbatical project or the psych class--and I'm having leaping anxiety attacks about that "neglect" of the real reasons why I'm not teaching this term.

For one thing, I realized last night that I have a month in which to do the paper for the psych class, and even though it's a short paper, I haven't found a focus, or sources to help me with the focus--and I'm struggling enough to keep up with the reading. I'm delighted that we're done with fish brains, even more delighted that next week we'll be reading and talking about memory (much more interesting)--but then we switch to the mechanics of vision and again, the challenge is to keep awake while I read the material.

I will, of course, want to share this with my students in the fall. I tell them over and over that one of the most important things I learned in grad school was to panic earlier. The fact that I'm already feeling some panic about a 5-page paper that's due in 4 weeks is evidence of what I've learned; I don't much care for the anxiety, but it is a hell of a spur to get me rolling so I can, as Paul says, panic productively. (I think I won't share with them the lesson about learning what not to read: they're not reading as much as I think they should and bitch about it being too much, so I don't want them to think they should read less. But when I was doing my grad course work, the reading list for one of my classes was something like fourteen full-length nineteenth-century novels--in a twelve week semester. That's a case when something has to give.)

I'll also share with them the strategies I use to get through the reading that tends to put me to sleep. One thing is that I read it when I'm most awake: I don't read it at the end of the day but at the beginning (or I try to: I confess, I read the second fish brain article yesterday on the train to Manhattan--but my focus was decidedly impaired by the brain-fade factor). Another is that I write extensive notes to myself, "translating" what I'm reading into what I think I understand. And yes, I, too, have to go back and re-read some paragraphs multiple times. Students think that means there's something wrong with them--and sometimes they may be right--but really it's just what that particular reader needs to do with that particular bit of text.

So, that's my anxiety about the class (that and the fact that I'm afraid I don't understand any of this as well as I need to so I'll earn crappy grades). My anxiety about the sabbatical project is sort of like the thing many of us feel about the end of June, certainly by July 4, when we have a rush of panic that the summer is "almost over." Here it is February, and my sabbatical is "almost over"--and I'm nowhere near where I wanted to be at this point.

However, there is nothing at all I can do about any of that today. Today started with my attending a meeting of the seminar hours committee--because I was enraged by some push-back we got from the administration (through our dean, who has become their mouthpiece) over the idea of tutoring students in a faculty pairing. I flurried around in a tizz about it from Tuesday night, when I read the dean's response, through this morning in the meeting. The upshot of my attendance at the meeting was a request that, with one of my colleagues, we come up with a one page, bullet-pointed presentation of the argument in favor of faculty pairings--but without ever referring to research or pedagogy because, as the chair of the committee pointed out (to our disgust), the idiots we're dealing with see our use of research to support our case as a weakness, and our references to the actual learning process as immaterial.

Pause while we consider that. Kinda leaves one speechless, doesn't it.

I also said I would send the first page of the form we use to indicate our preferences for scheduling so it could be used as a template for indicating preferences for seminar hours. Realizing I might not have that information on the computer at home, I figured I might as well just head upstairs and do it on the spot. And then I figured, as long as I was doing that, I might as well get the draft of the rationale about faculty pairings done. So I went to campus for a meeting that was scheduled from 10 to 11:30--and I didn't leave campus until almost 2.

Then came life maintenance stuff: there were a bunch of errands I needed to run, all grouped near campus, so I figured I might as well do them while I was in the area anyway.

And by the time I got home from all of that, I realized I'm hungry and my brains have turned to pancake batter and I'm stick-a-fork-in-me done. So, using my usual philosophical stance that tomorrow is, in fact, another day, and I can think about the stuff that really matters tomorrow (you know, when I'm stronger), I plan to now shift gears, figure out what to feed myself and sit down with a perfectly dopey mystery and call it a day.

With luck, tomorrow will feel infinitely more productive--and I'll be able to post about a positive end to the week. Always nice to end the day, or the week, or something, on a positive note.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Experimenting with a different work rhythm

Today I got out of the house to work. Part of that was motivated by the fact that my house-cleaner was coming (this isn't a big enough place for us to stay out of each others' way), but long before the sabbatical started, I was thinking about possible ways to change the routine--and the change is facilitated by the fact that my home town now has not one but two non-Starbucks coffee places where I can sit and work in relative comfort and provided with regular doses of caffeine. Today was a good test of the system, as it was very cold--but it was bright and sunny, too, so a nice day to hike off to the coffee place.

Of course, I was overly ambitious in what I loaded in my pack: not only did I take the articles I need to read for tomorrow's psych class, I took my laptop and several of the critical volumes on Le Guin that I own. I certainly didn't need those: I used the time quite productively without opening even one of them.

I will confess that, reading the first of the psych articles, I found it very hard to stay awake. Even though I can summon up interest in almost anything having to do with the natural world, fourteen pages on the various kinds of electroreceptors and electrotransmitters, whether the electric impulses are wave-like or pulse-like, and what the various voltages are just wasn't quite scintillating enough to keep me perky and alert (especially as I had a bad night's sleep last night). I know I still need to read the second article; I haven't even embarked on it yet. (More about electric fish.) But I also didn't want to nod off in the coffee place, and I was craving sugar--my body's way of asking for something entertaining to keep it alert--so I thought I'd do better to switch gears.

So, I started writing the framing paragraphs for the critical overview chapter, and whaddaya know: as soon as I started writing, I was wide awake and perky and having a blast. I love writing. Who'd a thunk it. (OK, the length of these blog posts might be a clue.)

But I really do love writing. And what I'm writing in this project is just about perfect, because essentially I'm writing the way I talk to my students. I don't have to sound like a scholar or impress the socks off other scholars: I can just talk about what I think matters and why.

I grant you, what I'm playing with now--and it really is more like play than work--is the easy part: I can roll through a first draft with very little back-tracking and reworking. I save all that, the challenge of revision, until later. First drafts, for me, are more of a mind spill: I just pour it all out without worrying where it goes or whether I need it. I babble. I blather. I go on and on and on. And then I get to organize, tighten, clarify, add, subtract, multiply and divide until the mess has some sort of shape.

But as I said: that's all to come later. Right now, it's just about getting the stuff out of my head and onto the "page." When I'm ready to start revising, that page will become literal: in order to revise substantially, I have to print things out. I can do some revision--actually, more editorial work--on the computer screen, but I really can't tell for sure what I have until it's in print.

Now, however, as I'm using the blog post to put a button on the day and close it up, work-wise, I have to be realistic about when I can read that second fish article. Ideally, I'd do it tonight, but I'm afraid I'll just fall asleep again (though if I'm feeling wakeful at bedtime, that might be ideal). But tomorrow isn't going to follow either the at-home work pattern or the coffee-house work pattern: I have to go to campus (now that the roads are at least marginally driveable), put the last bits in my promotion folder, print out some things (including the articles for next week's psych class), go to a doctor's appointment, then head into the City for class. I could take the gamble that I can read the article on the train ride to Manhattan, but I'm not sure how long it will take to read, so I'm a bit concerned about that. Of course, I don't suppose the world will come to an end if I don't read all of the second article before class (I've been known to say that being in graduate school taught me to recognize what not to read), but I'd like to be the good girl for as long as I can. (Speaking of being the good little student: I amused myself earlier when I suddenly thought, "If I don't get an A in this class, I'm going to be seriously pissed off." I'll be pissed at myself, not the professors, but it reminds me that I used to have "nightmares" that I'd gotten a B in a grad class....)

Given the ways that tomorrow won't fit the usual mold, I may not post to the blog, but I do like using these posts to wrap up the work day, so I expect to write more often than not--even on the weekends, on occasion, as I'm more likely to work on the weekends now than I would be if I were teaching. So, as they say, stay tuned.

Monday, February 2, 2015

The dry stuff

I say it to students all the time, and it's interesting to experience it again myself, both in terms of the sabbatical project and in terms of the psych course: research is time consuming, repetitive, circular, and frustrating. Maybe instead of circular I should say it spirals: progress is made (but see above under "time consuming" and "frustrating") but one link or source leads to another, and another, and another.

I have just spend a profitable several hours mining the campus databases--and making a brief list of things to look for at the New York Public Library--whenever I get a chance to sit down there and prowl through their holdings. Probably the most interesting parts of today's research were the moments when I found articles I'd not seen before (or at least don't remember): some very old (so I'd think I'd have come across them in doing my dissertation but apparently not) and a few quite new--including one just published, and I mean just published: it's dated 2015.

And in the process, I suddenly remembered: I have several volumes of collected critical essays on Le Guin here on my shelves. O heavenly day! To be able to read print copies!

Still, most of what I found I've downloaded, so I have it to read, but I'll have to read it on screen: much as I'd love to print it all out, I can't feel right about the use of paper (not to mention the expense of ink), regardless of whether I print at home or from the office. But reading on screen is hard: I even have a quotation in the introduction for students about reading an electronic file versus reading something on paper:

"…evidence from laboratory experiments, polls and consumer reports indicates that modern screens and e-readers fail to adequately recreate certain tactile experiences of reading on paper that many people miss and, more importantly, prevent people from navigating long texts in an intuitive and satisfying way. In turn, such navigational difficulties may subtly inhibit reading comprehension. Compared with paper, screens may also drain more of our mental resources while we are reading and make it a little harder to remember what we read when we are done. A parallel line of research focuses on people's attitudes toward different kinds of media. Whether they realize it or not, many people approach computers and tablets with a state of mind less conducive to learning than the one they bring to paper."

The footnote for the quotation reads as follows: "Ferris Jabr, “The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens” (Scientific American, April 11, 2013. Accessed January 30, 2015. Web.) And yes, I’m aware there is more than a little irony in the fact that I’m using a web source to substantiate a point that reading on a screen is not as beneficial as reading on paper."

Yet that's what I'm going to have to do: face the "navigational difficulties" and "drain more of [my] mental resources" in reading quite a few critical essays to pre-digest them a little for students.


I'm also realizing that the research itself is pretty draining of my mental resources: I got a late start today (shoveling out the first round of snow before too much ice built up on top of it), and it's still early--but I think my brain has had about enough. I hope I can turn my attention to the reading I need to do for Wednesday's class (and yes, I did print that out), but I know I'll need a relatively lengthy brain break first. (And there will be more shoveling to be done. Yippie.)

Speaking of the class, I am enjoying the ways it reminds me what it feels like to be a student. I sent an e-mail to the professor for the first third of the class, asking generally about a paper topic idea. I'm well aware that what I want to look into is more along the lines of a dissertation than a five-page paper (more on that in a second), but I wanted to run the general idea past the professor before I got too consumed in research (see "time consuming," etc., above). I felt a bit silly sending the e-mail--so like my students!--and I recognized the response as very like something I'd say to my students in a similar situation.

But let me just return for a second to that 5-page paper. I grant you, there will also be an exam at the end of this professor's segment of the class--and that each of the other professors will have further requirements in terms of work that will be the basis of our grades--but still, this is a master's level class. Master's level. And all we need to write is five pages? And the exam is open book; if I remember correctly (and I may not), I think it will be a short answer exam, which is certainly a benefit to me. I may struggle with the "short" part, but the actual writing part suits me to the ground. Writing I can do: piece o' cake.

One last note before I sign off today: I've been setting the timer so I don't hunch at my desk for hours at a time, so I do 45 minutes sitting at the desk and 45 minutes standing (I now have a nice computer pad that not only helps keep the computer from overheating but also raises it enough that I can stand at my table and type). I still probably need someone to take a mallet to the muscles between my shoulder blades, to try to pound out some of the knots, but it does feel good to force myself to move around a bit.

All in all, this is going to be an interesting few months. So far, so good, too.