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Monday, March 2, 2015


Not a great day, but not a bad one. I woke up earlier than I have been (yay), but used the extra time to shovel (boo)--and even though it meant a later start than I might ideally have wanted, I walked to one of the coffee houses to work: it was a gorgeous, sunny day today, and yesterday's mild cabin fever was progressing from mild to moderate, so I figured it would do me good to be somewhere else.

And it did. It felt good walking (didn't even mind the little bit my feet slipped and I went sideways into a snow bank: didn't hurt anything and reminded me that, at "freeze up" time, it's hard to tell wet from ice), and I didn't mind the occasional cacophony in the coffee place: I could screen it out pretty well--and I'd far rather work to people's conversations than to thumping Hispanic hip-hop.

It's kind of fun to become something of a regular there, too. One does tend to see the same faces in the cafe itself, never mind behind the counter. Lately, I've been overhearing conversation between two young women, early 20s I'd guess. When they speak English, they sound as American as I do, but in conversation between just the two of them, they're speaking either Dutch or a Scandinavian language: I can pick up the occasional Germanic cognates, but that would be true in either case. One of these days I may just ask, but I rather like just hearing them chat in whatever it is. (Oh, and speaking of German--but apropos of absolutely nothing else in terms of the subject of this blog--I watched The Third Man last night, hadn't seen it before, and was pleased to note that I could pick up little bits of even the rapid-fire German dialog. Every now and then, that collegiate language requirement pays off.)

As far as the work goes, I fulfilled my main objective, which was to finish off the last articles in a book I have checked out from the library. I still have two volumes in my personal library to dig through, but today I also got through a few of the downloads from the databases--including two that my students turn up all the time, both of which are potentially problematic. It was nice to feel I had a chance to steer students away before they'd even get there--or at least let them know what they're in for if they find the articles.

I think I noted already that one of the ways going through the critical material is helping me is that it reminds me of ways to approach various thematic threads in the novel. I started a teeny pre-outline for the "Themes" chapter, just for something to do before I packed up and left the cafe. (I stayed until they were starting to clean up to close down.) I realize that I'll be going through the novel itself at least twice: once to work through themes and once for the glossary--but that's a delight to look forward to.

Shifting gears, I can't remember exactly when, but recently I had one of those "wake up in the wee hours with the mind on the hamster wheel" nights, and I realized that the hamster wheel wasn't the wheel of the sabbatical project but the wheel of fall semester prep. I'm starting to think that it might not be a bad idea for me to occasionally use semester prep as a kind of brain break from the sabbatical project--especially thinking through what I want to do with the MDC130 (Science, Culture and Technology) class. I have a whole lot of vague ideas about it, and heaven knows there are about a million directions I could go with it, but I have to come up with some kind of organizational structure for it, and then find readings--and figure out assignments. I expect I'll arrange the material thematically, but what exactly I'll select as themes is going to be interesting to figure out. So are assignments: since it isn't an English class, I can't expect much in the way of papers from the students, so I'll probably give a few take home exams and maybe do a few smaller ones in class.

I want to rethink the assignments for Mystery and Detective Fiction, too. Last time I taught it, I thought I'd simplified and reduced my demands significantly--and students were still telling me it was the hardest class they'd ever taken. I don't especially want it to be easy (me? seriously?), but I would be happy if the students felt more comfortable with the challenges.

Nothing else of note today, at least not that I can think of at the moment. I'll be curious to see how next weekend's shift to Daylight Savings Time affects the length of my work day (if it does). And I am starting to wonder if it's almost time to print out some of what I've already written so I can read it on the page instead of the screen, get a better sense of what I actually have. But not today. Today is over. Everything gets pushed off to another day, you know, the one that happens tomorrow.

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