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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

dribs and drabs

I got a little work done yesterday before I took off for my riding lesson (glorious!). I've gotten a little work done today, despite ferocious resistance from whatever part of my psyche it is that would infinitely prefer to lie about on the sofa, reading (relatively) crappy novels and eating bon-bons (Russel Stover "Nut, Chewy and Crisp Centers" by preference).

I had to send off another slew of minor questions to Le Guin today, and I realized both how much of the novel I've never bothered to figure out with any specificity--because it doesn't matter to understanding the real meat of the novel at all--and how much fun it is to figure it out with great specificity (or to get Ursula to explain to me what I can't figure out). I'm getting to this level of specificity for the benefit of students, of course: my analogy is that they're rather like horses, who will spook at anything unfamiliar until they understand it (which, with horses, means they have to walk around it and look at it from every angle and sniff at it, bump it around with hoof and nose, investigate it as thoroughly as a horse can). Students who "spook" at unfamiliar words and terms also, sadly, lack the intellectual ability to sniff and bump and investigate, figuring things out from context--but they also can't just let it drift past. "What's that?!? No, what is it?!? I'm not going anywhere until I know what it is!!" My job is to lead the student gently up to it, explain it: "Look: it's just this. See? This is what it means, how it works, why it's there"--and then the student can keep reading, although frequently with that little bit of white, rolling eye that a horse will use around something that still seems potentially threatening.

(Side anecdote: the worst unintentional dismount of the literal kind that I've experienced to date was because the horse I was riding could not, absolutely could not, handle the fact that there was a squirrel running around a tree next to the ring. Horse: "There's something over there. It's making me very nervous." Me: "Look, it's just a squirrel." Horse: "OK, I guess. WAIT!! WHAT'S THAT??" Me: "It's still just a squirrel, same squirrel. Let's just ride right past it." Horse: "OK, I ... YIKES!! WE'RE COMING AT IT FROM ANOTHER DIRECTION AND I STILL SEE IT!! IT'S OUT TO GET ME!!!" Me (lying on the ground): "Ow.")

But even though I'm doing this for the students' benefit, I'm loving it. Geek alert: I love that I know how the political divisions of an invented nation work, and how titles and honorifics are handled, and all those minute details. I'm just a teeny bit like the SF nerds who can cite chapter and verse of every episode of the original Star Trek and all it's later spin-offs, along with the movies.

I haven't, however, found the proper moment yet to listen to the first half of the BBC's radio adaptation of the novel. I'm not good at just sitting still and listening--and it's hard to listen and pay attention when I'm doing other things. Still, it seems important to be able to comment intelligently on the adaptation--and I wish to hell I'd seen the stage version. (Maybe someone in NY will decide to bring it Off-Broadway: that would be a grand opportunity.)

In addition to the little bit of work I did today, I also did a little bit of campus-related stuff, specifically preparing the course preference forms for spring 2016. I'll meet with the members of the scheduling committee right after spring classes end in May, and we'll create the schedules--which Bruce will then adjust as people decide to retire (or not). I'm trying to stay as clear of campus, and especially of campus politics, as I can: even though I know it would probably be a good thing for me to attend tonight's Board of Trustees meeting, it seems better--for me as a human being--to stay away. I'll get sucked into the whole political mess soon enough, and I'm still trying to protect my precious sabbatical--even on the days when I don't want to work. I'm not on campus; I don't have to attend meetings or work with students. That's precious, so even if I squander some time on the books-and-bon-bons routine, I still consider that a beneficial aspect of the sabbatical process.

And so that's it for today. I'm not sure what I'll do with the balance of my evening, but I'm glad that I'm heading into that part of the day, when I get to figure out what I want to do next. The rest? Tomorrow. There's always tomorrow. Ain't life grand.

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