Saturday, September 17, 2011

I planted another seed

a seed of a new blog. If you're interested to find out the new spot, please email me at earnestenglish@gmail.com. At this point, I'm not thinking I'll close this spot up completely, but I'm not sure I'll update it much either.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

I planted seeds today

I've been thinking about what to do with this blog -- whether I should close up shop or start a new one or let this one morph quite a bit. The truth is that not only do I have less time to focus on academic work, I find I don't really want to spend my free time thinking or writing about work either. I'm still reading y'all's blogs, but I just don't have anything to say about my job. I'm behind on grading, as usual. My to-do list is insane. I have this committee report hanging over my head and walloping me in the eyes. I don't know whether I want to work on the Article Slightly Outside My Field, but I know I sure don't have time for it. Who wants to spend any free time at all talking about all that? After so many years of building a career and carving out a research agenda and living my life around my career, I now want it to be just a job, no longer my whole life. I want to de-colonize my mind. I am more than my job.

Part of this may be temporary, as I was burned out big time by this time last year.

What I do want to talk about is how I recently hacked at and finally uprooted a climbing rose gone to seed (and mounded in a big bush rather than draped on the trellis, which had fallen) from the raised bed, then added three cubic feet of the best organic soil I could find, and then, today, seeded it with 2 kinds of lettuce, spinach, arugula (a lot of it!), leeks, kale, calendula, and nasturtiums. It is totally ridiculous to be starting a fall garden this late, and a winter garden is only possible here in greenhouses of one sort or another. But I don't care. We're all here: the place, the soil, the seeds, and me. So we'll do what we can. I did get very cold tolerant varieties, so much so that the kale should be harvestable in the snow. But it is sort of ridiculous. But it also occurs to me lately that some very good work in the world gets done because some naive person doesn't realize that what they're trying to do is impossible. Impossible Harvest? At Impossible Farm.

Alice laughed. 'There's no use trying,' she said 'one can't believe impossible things.'

'I daresay you haven't had much practice,' said the Queen. 'When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. '

The title of Absurdist Paradise was always meant to describe academia. When I was not part of academia for that half year or so, the blog became more about my life, which also felt absurd. But now I want to spend my time focusing on gardening/farming/homesteading and Big Non Academic Project (BigNAP?). I want a space in my life to focus on those parts of my life that I wish could grow into bigger chunks of my life. But I'm not sure y'all are interested in my little family's long road to homesteading. I'm not sure this blog is the right place to discuss that. But our little family has to do something, because it sure doesn't feel like this so-called "normal life" is sustainable, from a spiritual point of view for us. (I don't mean religious. I mean this life so rubs against the grain -- it just feels wrong and abrasive. Meaningless.)

Even if nothing comes up in Impossible Farm's raised bed, I'll be planting garlic within the next month or two. October-December. That at least shouldn't end a shambles.

You think I should start a new blog?

Over and out.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Funkified Scholarship

So I've taken Tot to daycare (Montessori is closed for two and a half weeks so he's back at his old daycare where they love him and they're much more flexible about hours, but it's rowdy and crazy -- when I feel badly about him going to Montessori when he's obviously so well loved at the daycare, which is not to say that the Montessori teacher is not charmed by him, and doing okay, I think that they may love him, but my duty is to do the best I can for him -- and I literally couldn't do better than a Montessori school, not if I were the perfect stay-at-home mom, which I am so so SO not). I've watered the plants, taken out some trash, unloaded the dishwasher (which makes me feel better because as the family cook I'm constantly waging a war against dirty dishes). Today's Wednesday, and it's my day to not be on campus. And I'm in a funk.

I'm just so disgusted with politics and government and big business. Our regulatory agencies are staffed by those with significant industry ties to those who profit most from keeping consumers in the dark, no matter which president we have in office. And yet they are in charge of protecting consumers and keeping them safe. Furthermore, corporations have unlimited anonymous power to sway candidate elections with their big bucks. (What does this mean for initiatives and referenda? I don't know.) And when I talk about these issues, I'm the one who sounds nuts. I'm engaged in a project right now to address some of these issues the best way I know how, but even though this is the most exciting thing going on in my life, the more I research, the more I know, the more I get depressed. And it's also a big timesuck, as I evidenced by yesterday when I ended up spending time I should've been working on scholarship talking with someone about related issues and researching and working on the project.

There's also a work-related report that I haven't done that's weighing on me. I definitely find that finishing up some projects and getting them out the door lifts my mood. As does working out, which I definitely want to do today. But what I really want to talk about here is a certain piece of scholarship.

(Can I just say that Absurdist Lover is the most wonderful man in the entire history of the known world? He just sent me a text message saying that I should go somewhere and do something for me. I have tons to do work-wise, but this is quite literally the only time I truly get to myself. When I'm at work, I'm at work and yes, I can close the door, but it's not relaxing. I can veg out, but it's not relaxing. I don't even know what I'd do since we have no money. But maybe he's right. Maybe I need to get out of the house.)

Okay, so there's this chapter I'm writing for an edited collection that now has a publisher (that I'm not at all impressed by, but that's not a particularly significant consideration in this case). I worked hard and pumped a draft of me on this thing last summer. (I taught through the entire summer, so that was no small feat.) I knew when I turned it in that it was not good. But it was a beginning. I didn't get comments for a long time and so focused my scholarly energies elsewhere. I finally got my first set of comments back a couple months ago. They were harsh yet non-directive. So I took it to my multidisciplinary writing group which has a number of people situated much more inside the field than I am. While a couple people really didn't like certain parts of it and everyone agreed that it was very very rough, some others saw what I was trying to do and gave me good comments and direction about what the piece really needed to do in order to be useful. Then I got much more directive comments from the editors that emphasized their interest in it (the earlier comments hadn't) but made suggestions about where to go.

While I had a little spurt of energy on the project and ILL'd books like mad, my interest in the project is at an all-time low. Here's what I think is going on, besides just being in a funk about United States, Inc. and the fact that we're all guinea pigs in a country where Big Business is the bottom line:
  1. The Comments A-Swirling in My Head: The comments from my writing group suggested more focus on practice. Okay, that's not easy, but it should be doable. I understand why. This is the most important single aspect to work on to make the piece do what I want it to do. It takes a lot of time to put that stuff together, and I feel I have to rob some of my other work or do a lot of new stuff in order to do it. It's time-consuming and means really starting over, but I can do it, and I agree that it should be done. The comments from the editors concurred with this. But they also wanted more of a specific kind of analysis that I don't like to do very much, which means a lot of new work, and asked me to do one thing that I absolutely will not do because it means a whole lot more research. I completely respect that it's their collection, and they need my piece to fit in with other pieces. But I'm not sure whether it's that the piece doesn't feel like mine anymore -- the comments taking up more of my mental space than the engagement with the work -- or my lack of interest in doing the things they want me to do, which probably brings us back around to the issue that this piece is not in my field.
  2. I haven't gotten a lot of work done on this lately. It needs to be done in 5 weeks (they'd have liked it at the end of this month, but I'm teaching this summer (boo) so I asked for an extension). Not getting work done on it and barely knowing where to start is enough to be in a funk about this.
  3. The Big Picture, aka Tenure Requirements: As of now, I'm halfway to the university's official tenure-able publication requirements. But this piece is not situated in my field. Now it just so happens that at my institution, I have a lot of flexibility in defining my field the way I want to. While the major field of the collection is not my field, the focus of it certainly is, so much so, in fact, that this and related foci are what my university colleagues outside my field remember about my work (especially when it lines up with their interests, so I've gotten people in the social sciences asking me about my work, which is cool beans indeed). What's more, my particular angle on it is also very much a key research interest for me that anyone would see from looking at my work or even my CV. So within my university, this piece probably does count as a sincere full-fledged publication. But when I think of outside reviewers in my field, well, it's not in my field. A nice outside reviewer will easily see what I'm trying to do, but it doesn't help cement, or even contribute, to my work in my field. And because of that, I see this piece not as useless but as counting as a half publication to my tenure requirements. (I have another half publication that is extremely short and not published in a field journal, so it works out. This and that equal one whole publication.) But probably the prospect of needing to do so much additional work and not getting much out of it (and of course they can still reject it entirely) isn't very motivating.
  4. The work I need to do on this piece -- rewriting the whole thing and doing some new research for it -- is keeping me from working on another big project that requires copious research but is very well situated in my field. (Okay, it's putting two fields together: mine and one is that I have a lot of familiarity with, though not enough at this point to write scholarship in. But it's on a topic that I know very well in my field, and my particular focus is on something that no one has done yet. So with the four or five months that I have for it, I feel much better about that one, though the research is daunting. Plus it counts as a complete publication. It also has a well-respected publisher already. And the editor is completely excited about it. Maybe that's more significant than I realize: I know the editor will help me hone it because Zie is a generous rockstar and very much in love with the topic. Not so with this piece where I know I'm already skating on thin ice.)
(I love blogging because it helps me figure myself out. In my journals, I'm too prone to whining, but here I have to explain it all to someone outside my head and not whine. So I actually get somewhere rather than dwelling in the emotion of it all.)

So the whole context around this piece I'm supposed to be working on is negative. With this revision, I have to prove that this piece is worth including, even while my methods are not the field's methods. I'm sure it's occurred to you that I'm thinking of just hanging it up completely. But I hate to do that. It wouldn't exactly hurt me because these people are not in my field, though, yes, the academic world is small. But giving up can be a hard habit to break. (Who am I quoting? I can't remember.) If you have managed to make it this far and have an opinion on this, please please please leave it in comments.

I do think it's difficult to write to a resistant audience. That's what this feels like to me. I need to imagine that I'm writing it to someone who is receptive to the ideas. I know this won't lead me to exquisite argumentation, but right now I need a strategy for getting words down on the page. (I do freewrite on the damn thing, but I've got zero usable pages right now.)

Part of me really wants to not deal with it at all today but take the day off for a little EE time. Though perhaps not working on it will lead me to feeling worse about it later. It's difficult to know. I have no idea what I'd do -- probably work out and. . .oh dear lord, I don't know. Cook? Repot my plants? I should do that report, but that's not relaxing. Take a nap? Get outside? Oy vey. What is it that makes me happy and hopeful again? Organic agriculture, lovely food, farmy stuff, being outside. Good books. (Oh yeah, I'm sad also that I haven't been writing -- not scholarship, but the real stuff. Of course, this is old news. Maybe I'm just in a funk, a physical funk, and looking for mental reasons for it. Maybe I just need to snap out of it, work out, take a shower, and find something lovely to do. Go EE! Get off your lazy butt!)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Seriously?

Warning: snark ahead.

Mostly I try not to write pejorative things about students on this blog for a host of reasons, but I must share with you: WTF?

No, dear freshmen, emailing me even the most apologetic message a whole day after you miss your presentation in class is not going to explain to me why you didn't email me beforehand. You weren't suddenly abducted by aliens at the start of my class and only now came to, or were you? I can imagine a bunch of reasons why someone would not be able to contact me beforehand, but the excuses I've been handed for missing presentations are totally and completely the kind where anyone but a child would realize that they should send an email upfront to save the situation. And therein lies the problem. And I just love having to send the email that says: if this were a job, you'd be fired.

This is not making it easier to get up and get going today. In good news, I managed to freeze my entire bushel of green beans by 9:20 last night. We now have 16 packages of green beans in the freezer. That should make winter much nicer. I love green beans.

I do not love stupid student tricks. But I better get going anyway. For those of you starting today or soon, I envy you the hopeful excited part. I hope it all starts and goes well.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

On Call: A Troubling Start to the Weekend

So this weekend Absurdist Lover is on call at his job. This means that he gets disturbed all the time for problems as lame as printer jams. Ugh. His being on call every six weeks or so is absolutely the worst part of the job for him -- and for the whole family because it means that I have to be prepared for him to have to leave at any point. Double ugh.

So last night, Tot decided he wanted to go to sleep at 7pm. This from the late-night toddler. (Speaking of: he's two months away from three years old! I can't believe it. Surely he deserves a better moniker than Tot, now that most sources seem to call him a "preschooler." Am working on it and thinking about whether he and AL should have monikers that really fit them more than just their relationship to me, but I digress and still don't know what I think about it all.) But I am not one to argue against his sleeping. So he slept. I thought it would be a good time to start freezing the bushel of green beans I ordered from my CSA. A bushel. I had no idea how much a bushel really is. It's a lot. So I took a nap, then got up and made a start around 11pm. AL was gone on his first visit to work at that point. Of course, Tot woke up at 2am and stayed up until 5am, so that nap I took that robbed me of some green bean time ended up being totally inspired. I went to bed at 6:30am. Tot woke up at 9:30am, bright-eyed and shiny-faced. At that point, AL was already gone, having been called in for the second time since he started being on call at 7pm. (The first notice of the first call-in was at 8:30. The darn place can't survive without him for even two hours!)

All this to say: his being on call sucks for the whole family (no going to any of the fairs going on right now because it would suck to waste the entry price); Tot was on some weirdo schedule yesterday, though he's fine today, though I'm quite tired because of it; the upshot of all this is that I managed to freeze about or at least almost half a bushel of green beans in the wee hours last night.

I did take a picture of the now half-full bushel box, which I'll post later. (I haven't downloaded photos to my computer for ever. Though not a big deal, of course, it seems like a big job for some reason. Perhaps everything seems big now.

Oh, gotta go. Tot wants to take a nap. More later.

***A half hour later***

False alarm. He decided he wanted to look at a particular page of The Cat in the Hat, which then meant that we went through all the subsequent pages (not reading, but he likes to flip the page and ask, "What happened?" and then I try to help him figure out what happened based on the pictures). When he got to the last page of the book, the one with just white on it, he did what he did last night: asked about coloring the pages. And I said no, that we don't color our books, only our papers. And then he promptly got up and ran to his desk so he could color pictures of trains. He loves trains and asks daily about going to the train tracks. He also loves cars, buses, and motorcycles. And most recently, probably because his Montessori teacher is an artist herself, painting. Actually his paintings have really nice composition. We hung them up. I like them, even apart from being his mom.

I'm sure I should get started on those green beans, but my energy level has dipped. (I never do well when he teases me that he's going to take a nap and then doesn't.) He's busy with AL talking about "orange" and "red." So cute. I'm going to go and grab what family goodness is available to me this weekend. Talk to you later, most likely about green beans, transplanting container garden vegetables and herbs, and the bounty of local organic food in this region. (Not about work, though I'm up to my navel in summer quarter. I really don't like being so far off the normal academic schedule. It's very alienating. So instead of gearing up for the fall semester, like so many of you with that familiar mix of excitement for it all to start again and dread that summer is over, I'm deep in midterms. Next academic year will be better, I've been promised. I swear I put it on the first draft of my annual report that keeping myself from complaining about my schedule was a part of my departmental service.)

Happy fall semester, everyone! May all your syllabi write themselves and your copying get done!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Grading

Must grade. Am being very virtuous and getting started on it as soon as I can. Have six projects to do that have taken me 30 minutes each in the past, but I'm hopeful I can reduce this time. Wish me luck.

***

11:35am

I've finished three projects. There is no way to fit the work into 20 minutes, and even though I still have three projects to grade before I can consider myself done for the day, I MUST take a break. Most of these projects can only be described by the term "hot mess." Almost all of these students are very early freshman students (as in they graduated from high school about three minutes ago) and are difficult in the usual ways of such young students. I used to really enjoy teaching such young students and being involved in their "transition to the university," but I don't much enjoy teaching this class to these students at this university. Part of it is the focus of the course, which in many ways I support. In other ways, I think the focus does a disservice to colleagues who will have these students down the line. Because of this concern, I may be spearheading a department project on a related topic.

Oh, I wish I were closer to done with grading for the day. Tot is at daycare instead of Montessori, so I can take extra time today if needed. (His Montessori school is closed for a couple weeks before opening for the official fall school year, which I finally managed to get Tot registered for and everything: money has been an important recent concern with moving to a house and everything.)

Oh it's simply been forever since I blogged. Mostly this is because with Tot in Montessori my teaching days are more frequent but shorter, so I really have to use all the time I have. I have far less free time, it seems. (I feel quite behind on work things, especially the chapter I have due.) A big part of this is Tot being more of a handful. Part of this is my recent obsession with Big Project, which I'll tell y'all about some other time. And part of this is my pact with myself that when I'm home with the family, I'm really with the family, cooking and doing home things.

I've been cooking a lot because we're getting beautiful bountiful vegetables from our CSA. Have I mentioned my oodles of containers of plants? (And more coming because I just ordered seeds from Seed Savers Exchange to attempt a fall harvest. There's a raised bed in the backyard that I hope and pray has not been treated with RoundUp and other noxious chemicals that have been linked to birth defects. I haven't yet decided whether to experiment with it yet, though of course I'd build it up by putting in new organic soil.)

My favorite things in my life -- besides my family -- center on food and farming: getting cheese through this ordering system for local farmers I'm experimenting with; going to the New City farmer's market to get organic sweets (last week: blueberry crumble pie -- does it get any better than that? I think not); working on my own garden for a fall harvest; cooking and adding new recipes to my recipe book. I'm considering taking a correspondence course on medicinal herbs in the fall as well. Of course, I'd want to grow some herbs as well.

But for now, I've got three projects to grade. See you on the flip side.

***
2:15

I'm done. And thank goodness because that last one was a complete fail. I did manage to read one today that was pretty much okay. Now I've got to do something else, because jumping right into scholarship? Not gonna happen. I need a break before I can even think of working out. GAH!