at home

Today is one of those wonderful days, too rare indeed, when I can stay home to work rather than go in to the office wearing my Administrator's hat. So I've been catching up on the 50 million small tasks that have been piling up: ordering books for next term, posting stuff to the department's website, writing up various memos, grading, writing some new assignments, etc etc. And given that I am constitutionally only able to work for maybe 50 minutes at a stretch, I've had a few breaks as well.

I much prefer homestyle unproductivity to what I'd typically be doing at the office. It's not like every minute there is productive: there's the socially required (and politically useful) chit chat with staff and colleagues, the trips down the hall to the facilities, the endless distractions of email, and of course, my irritating office neighbor. Here, at home, there's email -- but also the ability to get up and walk away from the computer altogether, which is much better. There are three dogs who are more than happy to distract me with tennis balls and rope toys and disarming cuteness. A whole kitchenful of possibilities: tea, coffee, fruit, nuts, and even dishes and laundry to wash if I get too anxious.

Best of all: the feeling that I'm playing hooky, even though I've actually been crossing stuff off my list. I'm not wearing mascara or shoes, so I must be having fun. . .


if only we had a fall break

Sometime this morning I actually had a minute to think, "I wonder what's been going on in the blogworld." And then it was six hours later before I got to poke around a little bit and just check that my team of usual suspects are still all there. The past week was Midterm Extreme, with no spare minutes. Made more so of course because I was playing catchup (on work, on teaching, on sleep) since I'd been away at Big Conference. But really, a week without any free time online? that's freakin' ridiculous.

This was also the week that almost half of my students decided would be a great time to skip class -- a different group each day, but still the empty seats yawned contagiously on sunny afternoons. Those kind of days when I want to tell the absent students, "I wanted to skip, too. But I came to class anyway. Dammit."

And then I read on other people's blogs of this thing called Fall Break. Ah, I remember that from my undergraduate days of yore. That would be really awesome right about now. Going to the conference charged up my professional and intellectual batteries -- but it's not exactly the same thing as a break. It's the weird anti-break that masquerades as a vacation. Because you're performing, and networking, and having bouts of anxiety in the airport when you see all the conference people. But also seeing old friends, and learning new things, and meeting some great new people. Simultaneously very energizing and kinda stressful, but not really a break.

In my fantasy version of fall break, I'd get my house entirely clean, we'd see a zillion fantastic movies, I'd cook large quantities of Italian food, and do hours and hours of yoga. I don't need a tropical beach vacation, just some pasta and family time. This weekend is full of work for both of us, but maybe next weekend we can make a date with the colander and the DVD player...


conference happiness

Since I'm basically a very shy person, it's really quite strange that I enjoy going to academic conferences. Not every conference, to be sure, but over the years I've figured out which ones are more useful for me, both in terms of networking and for actual intellectual content. Right now I'm at my favorite conference, where I get to hang out with conference buddies and talk to the 3 or 4 people in the world who actually read my published work. And hear some smart interesting papers -- as well as a few that are not so smart, and although tedious are thus somehow comforting. One doesn't want to be totally impressed all the time, and therefore feel that one's own approach is not up to par.

Biochemically, however, the conference experience is an odd one -- I'm suffering a time zone alteration which has me wide awake in the wee predawn hours, and coffee is more accessible than water. So I come back to my hotel room and chug down glass after glass. But it's the socializing that for an introvert is like speed: throughout my dreams and especially in the half-lucid pre- and post- sleep stage I find myself simply repeating the conversations I had during the day. I'm hyper on the inside of my head, if not in my outer appearance. I've had more social interaction in the past two days than in the past six months or something. I'm loving it, but I know there will be a nasty come-down sometime early next week. Pity the students whose papers I'll be grading then . . . (since I'm certainly not grading them now, even though I could/should be.)


mysteries of my process

  1. Why is it that, faced with an upcoming trip to Big Conference for which I should probably expand or revise my paper, I have spent the last two days thinking about and looking for new shoes?
  2. Why is it that although I space out the small writing assignments so as to distribute the grading effort throughout the week and month, I still wind up with a huge pile to mark all at once?
  3. Why is it that after two months of faithfully adhering to my new Early Morning Riser anti-depression schedule, I'm suddenly staying up til 2 or 3 a.m., which makes the dawn thing kind of tough/impossible?
  4. Why is it that even though I have planned to skip out on certain useless meetings this semester for very good reasons, I still feel a tug of dutiful responsibility?

Thankfully, I'm still getting by despite this ridiculous behavior. I think my paper is fine, I found some new shoes, the assignments are mostly graded, and a couple of emails will absolve me of my committee crap. Now, how I'm going to get to sleep and then wake up all in the next four hours, I don't know. That's still really a mystery.