Friday, June 29, 2007

Insomnia, A Dissertator-in-Love's Best Friend

So I'm all crazy happy and everything, but apparently that doesn't mean anything for insomnia. (We did plan on ten hours of sleep, however, and my body clock is probably off anyway.) So I slept for a good four or five hours, then I was awake and much more clear-headed than I usually am when insomniacal (new word) and -- get this -- I worked! So I'm deep into Chapter 4, the one that really needs a lot of work. And I had gotten work done on the plane.

You know, I had thought that this love thing was going to be all disruptive to work management, but actually I feel so clear-headed and good and like I can do anything that work is actually pretty easy. My father always said that the right person made life easier not harder -- but I'd never experienced until now. I thought he was a crazy romantic. Now I see I was just a cynic. Very odd.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

How Do We Get Things Done?

We blog it!

So tomorrow before the sun comes up, I drive to Nearest Urban City and get on a plane for Urban Home City. I know. You're asking: didn't she just come back from Cool Institute? Wasn't she on a plane, like, the day before yesterday? The answer is yes. My family wanted to see me, and it seemed like these couple weeks before the defense would be the best time. Of course because of much tumult of late, I'm not as far on my diss revisions as I had hoped to be. (I had hoped to be done by now.) But it's been pretty good tumult, the kind that opens up possibilities and makes me see life in a new brighter way. I know I've been cagey about all this, putting posts up and taking them down. Not posting for days at a time. The fact is I'm in love. No one is more surprised than I am. How does one work and be happy at the same time? Also, this love is complicated, and so there have been wild ups and downs. But I'm going to Urban Home City, which means I get to see him. So life is good.

I have tons to do today, and I need focus rather than daydreaming. And that's where the blogoverse comes in. I offer you my to-do list.
  1. Pick up signed defense application and take it to Grad Studies.
  2. Pay rent.
  3. Get some diss work done on Chapter 4?
  4. Do a big pile of service for Professional Organization.
  5. Take big pile of completed service to office.
  6. Call new victim of PO to hand over responsibilities.
  7. Leave check for catsitter.
  8. Return books to Senior Scholar.
  9. Do laundry.
  10. Pack.
  11. Find missing book for Intro.
  12. Cat food?
  13. Shopping for pretty clothes?

See? I'm so disorganized I can't even group things together. Okay, 1, 5, and 8 require going to school. Before I can do 5, I must do 4, which I can do at home. 2, 12, and 13 are basically errands by another name. And then 6 needs to be done before it gets too late. 7, 9, and 10 I can do tonight. 3 is so unlikely it's laughable. So in order this time:

  1. Do big pile of service work.
  2. Go to school: a) deal with paperwork; b) deal with service work; c) return books to SS.
  3. Run errands: a) pay rent; b) buy catfood; c) go shopping for pretty clothes since now I want to be all pretty.
  4. Home stuff: a) do laundry; b) pack; c) leave check for Mr. Tabby's loveslave; d) try to get some work done; e) find missing book for intro (in car???).

Okay, now that's a list. See? I am the most boring blogger ever. But this is really useful to me.

By the way, Maude Lebowski is going great guns on her dissertation! The Boice book really helped her, and she's been pounding the work out! Wooohooo! Thanks again to Dr. Four Eyes, who recommended it.

***Update 5:45pm***

Woo. I'm tired. Which is good, because I have to go to sleep early so I can wake up early. Bah! But at least this time tomorrow I'll be in Urban Home City. . .from which I make no promises to blog.

So I managed everything but finding the book, working, laundry, and packing. That's what the evening is for. But first I'm going to dinner with Similarly Reflective Fabulous Friend. That will be great.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Best Place to Get Diss Revisions Done

The airport. Who knew?

Rather than go ahead and hang out at Cool Institute City, I decided to hang out in Near the Institute Airport for the day. I couldn't get on standby, but I managed to format some pages I have to turn in, line up forms to turn in, and work on the acknowledgments, the intro, and chapter 1. But then I got tired.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Shhhh! I'm Blogging in Secret!

So I'm in the library at Cool Institute University. I'm sure I'm not supposed to be blogging on the librarian's account. (No internet access for those of us who us out-of-towner's.) So most of the institute people have left, but because I got the cheapest ticket available, I'm not leaving until tomorrow afternoon. Sigh. And now that Cool Institute is over and I don't have an impossible amount of pages to feel bad about not reading, I really need to get working on those diss revisions. It occurred to me earlier (right before falling asleep) that I really don't have that much to do and if I could just pull out a can of whoop-ass, I could get shit done so that my trip to Urban Home City won't be totally ruined by making faces at my family and saying things like: dude, I'm trying to write a dissertation here. Get out of my face!

How do I write again? Something about free-writing? Something about sitting in a good chair and getting started? Is that right? Cross your fingers for me folks. I've only got two full days at Grad City and then I jet off to Urban Home City. I'm such a jet-setter. Too bad I'm supposed to be an academic too. Can I just say that I think I've spent more time on the phone here than I have on intellectual work or hob-nobbing combined? But I did notice one really amazing thing: I do actually feel like I know things. I can talk about my dissertation with ease -- and argue points out of it and feel like the expert I'm trying to prove I am. I know things! I really do! I meet grad students who are pre-dissertation, and I see me a couple years ago -- but not me now. It's interesting. I may actually be ready to be a professional instead of a professional apprentice. Wooohoooo!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Back to Blogging

My world is very odd -- an absurdist paradise, with the emphasis, for a change, on paradise. It seems a zillion years since I blogged. Things have changed. My perspective on my future has changed. I mean, I'm still going to Adventure U and everything, but the world seems to have opened up and bloomed. I'm happy. My friends don't recognize me. Will I ever be my old snarky self again? Who will want to read my blog if I'm not Snarky English!

Anyway, enough of that. Obsessed with the blooming of my life and future, I haven't been working much. But I hope all that has changed. Yesterday while sitting on my porch having my third cigarette of five, I had an epiphany about Gnarley Problem. So last night I started freewriting on it, in my usual way. Today, I really should go and pick up a book from the library. I know I'm doing more than I need to for this particular problem, but since I have a sense, I think, of what Reader 2 wants, I really want to take the opportunity to think and write and explore. For a couple hours. Tops. More later, I think.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

I know it's hard to believe

but I am actually in the library office! Yes, the same office where I got so much work done with Hate-Filled Dissertator before she skipped town and left me all by my lonesome. I actually managed to pull myself away from my life of daydreaming on my bed, watching the birds and squirrels with Mr. Tabby, and talking on the phone in order to work for about an hour and a half, before I go to the store and do laundry. It looks like a plan. It seems like a plan. I just hope it gets done.

So I am here. Now what? Just getting here was my goal. Okay, so I need to organize my work. All I can think about is Big Gnarley problem. No wonder I don't want to work. No wonder I've been procrastinating, thinking about anything but this. (Not that I don't have like a thousand pages of stuff to read for Cool Institute.) So, there are four main problems. Reader 1's Problem was in the works, but not really done. So that needs doing. Reader 2's Problem 1 is basically done, though it has yet to be woven in to existing prose, which I thought I would do when I'm editing the whole thing. So then there's R2's Problem 2, which totally sucks, and Problem 3, which is that I need a conclusion. Perhaps I'll freewrite on that because PA and I discussed what kinds of moves to make there that I couldn't imagine before. OY! Do I have to? Apparently yes, and soon. Waaaaaaa.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Oh My God, My Dermot!

Okay, last Wednesday, I included a tribute to the lovely and wonderful Dermot Mulroney that everyone had the good taste to ignore. But on Friday, he filed divorce papers. He and Catherine Keener are getting divorced. Now, it does turn out that they'd been separated for two years -- I didn't know. So I guess he didn't read my blog and think: I've got to get free for that brainy hotty, Earnest English who has loved me since The Thing Called Love.

I think it's actually been before that -- but god I did love him in that film and thought that Miranda was STOOOPID. I mean, River Phoenix, though cute and sort of dangerous in that way that all I-can't-keep-myself-from-the-bad-intense-ones women love, but for me -- it was Dermot all the way.

Dermot. Please find me. Take me away from all of this. I really don't want to do these diss revisions! But I would do them for Dermot. Sigh.

By the way, I found out about this suspiciously fortuitous event because I checked my analytics and someone was looking for the real reason they're getting divorced. Well, my friend, look no further. EE called it! And him!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

An Excursion to Chicago, then Back to Work

This morning, I was in Chicago with Post-Doc, where her alone-ness was more fun than most people's parties. Thing was: I woke up in Grad City. I was in my PJs, sitting at my computer the whole time. Then, of course, it was back to work.

So because I signed up for a professional development class (that I'm contemplating not going back to because I know too much already), I was on Grad City U campus yesterday, where I got much mail and an appointment with PA!

So today I will talk to PA about these comments. Here is a brief outline of Gnarley Problem. In an early draft, I included a discussion of Important Locating Keyterm in the Intro. PA tells me that it doesn't need to be there. So I move it to the opening of Chapter 1. (You know how hard it can be to open up chapters!) PA says: good job. Reader 1, whose comments were basically fix a different thing and be done with it, said: good job. Reader 2 said: I need a discussion of Important Locating Keyterm in the early pages of the Intro. So here's the thing: PA has already had me move it once. Here's what I'm not going to say to PA: I don't wanna move it again. I don't wanna! You tell Reader 2 that you've already made me move it once and you're not going to make me move it again, even if it does totally makes sense. Reader 1 thought it was fine. Waaaaaa. Waaaaaaa. Waaaaaaa! And PA will likely not say: How totally unreasonable! What is Reader 2 thinking? Let me email Reader 2!

So I have to figure out a way of approaching the whole thing so I can not have to move that thing around. Tricky. But I have a feeling I'll come home tonight hacking and chopping at my Intro to make Reader 2 happy. Oy! I know that doing what Reader 2 says would allow me to include a proactive argument as a rebuttal to many comments that Reader 2 and even Reader 1 said. But I don't care. I want it to be done. And I just don't care! I am not Dr. Adjunct Whore or Maude Lebowski, the former who has won a diss award, the latter who has been told by her advisor that her dissertation could become a great diss with a bit more work. I don't care about my diss anymore! It'll make a great book -- LATER! I just want to be done already! Let me pack people!! Please!!! Grrr.

What else? I finally got stuff from Cool Institute. There's a lot of reading. Ooof -- it makes my head hurt. I'll go to campus and print it out. Maybe they are each one page long (I hope).

***Update 4:16pm***

No such luck. This poor printer has been working overtime on all these pages! Sigh. Missed the professional development workshop anyway. Oh well.

Also, Peppy Advisor said it's a good professional habit to get into to try to address and incorporate all your readers' comments. So I'll be working on that Gnarley Problem after all. Luckily, PA and I also talked about it, so. . .(big sigh). . .I hope it won't be as bad as I think it might be. I thought of something to take out and put elsewhere, so. . .(another big sigh). . .well. . .whatever. A month and seven days baby to the defense!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Great New Drama

So my fabulous fellow dissertator came into town and went. There was much chatting, drinking, hanging out. Lovely. I cleaned and so was not totally embarrassed by my Life of Sloth -- though I did not clean everywhere but am now pleased at least with a couple rooms of my house and can be found picking stray things off the ground in those rooms in the hopeless attempt at keeping it clean until I have the new catsitter in my house while I'm gone to Cool Institute and Urban Home City. (Without Mr. Tabby. It just seems inconceivable that I do not take him everywhere.)

So imagine this if you will. It's the late morning of Day Fabulous Dissertator Comes into Town -- and you're running out to go get quarters to shove basically your entire bed into the washing machine before Fabulous Dissertator calls to meet for dinner. You check the mail, a totally reasonable thing to do. And in the mailbox is a letter in an only slightly familiar hand with a totally unfamiliar return address under the name of a former lover you were totally awful to in the dawn of time. Of course you react in the only way possible: What? What? What the fuck? You open the letter, and it's very short -- really just a note saying that Former Lover is looking for you. You know, after fifteen years. Happens all the time, right? Somehow you make it to your car, nearly get in an accident, try to calm your nerves with a venti latte, and make illegal left turns at every opportunity, basically forgetting how to get to places you go every day.

You call Former Lover as soon as you get half the bed into the washing machine. He's married with kids but wants to clear the air. The fact is you're pretty sure you made a dreadful mistake all those years ago not choosing him over the person who became your ex and the reason why you decided post-divorce that you must not be the marrying kind. Though you are dissertating and getting ready to move for a two-year gig, you find you can't help thinking about how weird it is to be contacted after so many years, because you, my dear, happen to be an obsessive moron. As soon as Fabulous Friend leaves, you dig in the Land of Lost Things and the Closet the World Forgot and find Former Lover's beautiful letters which make you wonder if this is the only person who ever really loved you (except SO) and the journals that reveal that actually you were a much bigger shit than you thought you were. What can you do but stay up until 7:30am reliving a past where you were 19 and hopelessly and terribly dumb?

Oh and by the way, Ex has a baby. You realize you are forever totally behind the curve on that one.

So tell me, dear reader, what do you do?


OY! So I indulged the whole obsession last night, blathering to Tolerant Mom and Witty Sardonic Friend all night. Okay, so there was some sobbing. So shoot me. But today, I'm determined to get Back to Business. I have shit to do besides google the Former Lover's name all night and read about the Hopeless and Hapless Adventures of a Much Younger Not-So-Earnest. Do I need this drama right now? No, I do not. I have dumb dissertation revisions and maddening reader comments to deal with. I have an abstract to write. I have Grad City U paperwork to do. I have a whole house to go through and pack and ship. I have a graduation party to plan. I have an institute to go to. I have a computer to pack. I have a new teaching situation to fret over and have terrible teaching dreams about. I have an ailing cat to worry over. For god's sake, I do not have time to moon about and think about how much a shit I was at the Dawn of Time and wonder what might have been (which probably would've been more heartbreak anyway)!!! I have a whole new adventurous life to get ready for.

Of course, I doubt that I will be able to use reason to actually push the damn thing out of my mind, but at least I have to get some shit done. There's some silly service I need to do, then I need to start tackling Problem 2. Amazingly though I woke up and my first thought was Great New Drama, an epiphany of how to start addressing Problem 2 did burn through the stupidity to my brain.

In other news, I found out that a friend reads my blog. Shout out to Dr. Doctor.


I feel so much better. I got the silly service out of the way. People are going to make an easy decision into a whole nest of trouble -- and I'm not having any part of it. (How's that for cryptic blogging?!) Now, I'm going to go ahead and start some work on Problem 2 -- and maybe a 10-minute freewrite on the conclusion. It's nice to have some romantic drama -- to wonder what I could possibly have done that would be so unforgettable that Former Lover wants to talk to me now. (Maybe he just wants to put a pie in my face. As long as it's not banana cream, I'm okay. Do you think it would be okay to request coconut? Or chocolate cream?) But enough already. I've got some dissertation revisions to get out of the way. And I may be able to corner PA tomorrow about the gnarley problem. YAY!!!!

Friday, June 8, 2007

Professional Life Experiment Update: Suckage, or Blogging the Transition Upset

Well, apparently right now four days is my upper limit on professorial and professional adulthood. So what blew it? The day started off so right. Eating and talking with colleague. Very much like a professor and professional in the field -- check. Picked up laptop -- check. Went to work at coffeehouse but it was altogether too loud -- it happens to everyone, check. Picked up trash like a teenager on Saturday-morning detention a responsible community member -- uh okay, check. Then four hour nap, wake up at 7:30 and realize with a panic I got nothing done and determined to finish up something on Problem 1, stay up until 3am. Ah yes, there it is. The trouble of the over-long nap and panic. Tell-tale signs of. . .something bad.

I once had a therapist who told me that I wasn't very adult in the hours I kept. Uh huh, I said, thinking I'm a night owl. Always have been. Don't fence me in with your ideas of normal, man. Therapists suck because even if I totally reject what they say, it sticks with me. They're like adulthood's version of parents. But here's the problem. My friend will be over tomorrow!!! I have not done the bathroom! Do I stay up and work on the bathroom and sleep in until two hours before I'm likely to see said friend, then throw everything into the washing machine? Or do I go to bed now and worry about the bathroom getting done, oversleep and go crazy in the afternoon hours, trying to get bedclothes into the washing machine. As Bridget would say: tricky.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

The Great Recycling Fiasco

This will be the thing that outs me. I just know it. I'm sure I'm already infamous in my town. They've probably taken pictures of my shame and are planning a photo spread in the local paper. If news of my shame is far and wide, I'll be taking down this post -- so get it while you can.

So remember last night I was so happy about cleaning my kitchen? Well, it still is pretty awesome. In fact, if it were a person, it would be a hotty with messed-up hair (I still have to do the sink). But how it got that way was by my finally taking out my recycling. There were tons of bags. It was very windy, so I did my best to tie off the bags and took them out front.

Yes, you guessed it. The empty wine bottles -- they didn't go anywhere. So my reputation as a total boozer is intact. But the bags of cat food cans. Oh.dear.lord. There were cans in the street smashed down flat from passing cars, in the gutter, across the street, in the neighbor's yard, in my neighbor's neighbor's yard -- I even found them almost a block away. I don't even know what happened to the bags of plastics. They probably hitched a ride on that damn wind and are all the way out west by now, looking for work in Hollywood.

I was running late so I picked up about a kitchen bag's worth from all over. Just now, freshly back from trying to work at a coffeehouse with my new and improved laptop (thank you fabulous Computer Store Guy: I love you), I went and picked up more. I think it's now okay out there. But today I'm sure I single-handedly brought down all the real estate prices. I know I should apologize to everyone within a couple blocks. I'm sure people were picking up cans out of their bushes all morning before I got there. Sigh.

The clincher: It wasn't even recycling day.

You knew I was an idiot, right? Well, now the whole town knows.

Professorial Life Insight

I've decided today that having a day when blogging comments on everyone else's blog and then going to a lunch with a colleague and friend is also part and parcel of professorial life. There's no law that says I have to work in the morning, right? Even the best most-exemplary professors have days where they just futz. Right??? I can work in the long afternoon. Well, I better, anyway.

P.S. For a while now, my timestamp has been off. I figured google/blogger just preferred PST or something, since they're in Mountain View, CA. I'm a dork. Why didn't I realize that I would have to change the timestamp to daylight savings time. It's fixed now. And y'all have been thinking that I've been getting up earlier than I am! HA! Not bloody likely.

Gotta Admit

I really do like having this super-clean kitchen. I really like walking in there. It may be my favorite room in the house right now. I almost feel inspired to weed through the hair products, lotions, and half-dead moisturizers to have a similar experience of my bathroom.

With moving and the prospect of having to stick things in boxes again AND starting this new phase of my life (I'm almost an adult again!!! I will one day be able to pay my bills instead of guiltily closing my mailbox when I see them!!! I will deposit money into my IRA instead of take it out!!!), I guess it makes sense I would want to get rid of accumulated junk. And I have so damn much of it. I've been trying to go through papers as I watch my favorite BBC comedies that I have on tape. (I know -- so passe, but still.) Even watching the BBC comedies is actually work toward getting organized because I have a bunch of tapes that aren't labeled. One must watch them to know what's on there, right? But it's been slow going because I couldn't see the progress. But just look at that kitchen. Now that's progress. (Though I didn't go through much in there. Just cleaned.)

Oh god. I can feel myself procrastinating working on Problem 1. Damn it. Free-write, Earnie! Read! Get on with it!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The Scariest Words in the English Language

I think that cleaning should count as working out, especially when cleaning means taking out the recycling and scrubbing both the stove and the floor. I'm sweating. I really am. And let me tell you: I hate cleaning. I really do. Yes, there are those two seconds of pride when I look at the bare white linoleum floor -- right before the cat or I track something on it.

Earnest English's Law of Counterirritants was in effect earlier, making it easy to read research and take notes on Diss Problem 1 when I knew I was procrastinating cleaning. But since the recycling people come on Thursday (I think they still do -- I haven't taken my recycling out in just about forever, which explains the ten bags on my porch waiting for me to take them to the curb), so I couldn't put it off any longer.

Why am I doing this, you might ask. Well, because a dear friend emailed me the scariest words in the English language: "can I stay over at your place?" Now, it's important to say that I love this friend. And I totally want to hang out with her. I also love my house. It's gorgeous and nesty, with antique-looking furniture and wood floors, wood French doors, wood, wood, wood. I love my house. It's the most beautiful apartment I've ever had. I even like having people over at my house. I have way too many chairs for a hermit. But I'm really really messy. Stacks of papers everywhere, videos all around the TV, boxes with flaps akimbo -- serious clutter. Now this level of clutter is sort of embarrassing for an adult person to still be living with. And I expect my dear friend can deal. When SO comes in from out of town, all I do is the dishes. Maybe change the sheets. (I don't feel that bad in front of messy people.) But here's the other thing: I have a high tolerance for dirt. Not like pizza box in the middle of the floor dirt, but like built up disgusto in the kitchen and, to a lesser extent, the bathroom (some things are too gross, even for me). Like little tiny pebbles on the bedroom floor dirt.

Now, I'm pretty sure that this friend would not strike most people as a clean freak, but she has three vacuum cleaners. Three! And she'll probably read this and say that I don't have to clean for her. And maybe I don't. Dissertating and preparing to move is a great excuse. But even though she'd be cool about my mess and even some of the ick (believe me, a really clean person knows a messy-dirty person, can spot the tell-tale grime stuck in the corners), I'd know she knew how disgusting I really am and that whenever she saw me, she'd realize that I was just barely put together against a whole background of disgusto. I just would never be able to live it down in my own mind. So there has to be some cleaning.

The reason why I am cleaning is because the woman who used to clean my house (and did a pretty decent job) has stopped cleaning houses (yes, probably from the prospect of having to face my house again). And a good housecleaner would not only cost money, but would not see the order behind my stacks of papers. So it's left to me.

In other news, day 3 of Professorial Life went fine. I had strange dreams that left me feeling like I'd been hit by a Mack truck, but other than that, I managed to drag myself out of bed and to work in pretty short order (probably just relieved to leave that dream!). I got some, not all, of the reading done -- and a sort of mock-up of how the discussion could progress. (I often find myself writing out the progression of the ideas and then filling in the quotes and such things later.) I'm in good shape, I think. I also went ahead and broke down all the work that I think needs to be done into two very overwhelming to-do lists (on the left). After writing all the details of the diss revision, I wanted to get started right away, but I knew that I was just trying to avoid cleaning. So I made a good start on the kitchen. Even if I just do the dishes now, I won't be totally embarrassed when my friend comes to stay. I plan to sort of clean the bathroom (though probably not scrub the bathtub) and massively straighten up the bedroom, since I think she'll sleep in there, because my antique-y couch is not comfortable, except that I know how to sleep on it from long practice.

Compared to my mad dash of diss drafting, I am still working in total slow motion. Another version of me would have cracked that list by now. Ain't gonna happen, because hell, I've got other things to do. Like watch the director's cut of The Thing Called Love all night and drool over a younger Dermot Mulroney (as opposed to drooling over an older and more suave Dermot Mulroney in my favorite guilty pleasure, The Wedding Date). I think it's very important that I have time to scream and rage and cry that Miranda (Samantha Mathis) chooses a dark and dangerous and emotionally immature James (River Phoenix) over Kyle (Dermot). No, NO, IT CAN'T BE SO! Kyle is totally right for her -- both Yankees in Nashville. Though Kyle loves how direct country music is, how devoid of sarcasm, while Miranda still uses a tough New York facade to distance herself from others as well as her emotions, her father having recently died. But I, dear Kyle, I am emotionally available and would love you and your lovely country songs forever. FOR-EVER.

Dermot Mulroney, if you ever break up with the fabulous Catherine Keener, please PLEASE
give me a call.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Day 2 of Professorial Life Experiment with Eruptions of Tabby-Love

My gorgeous tabby cat is sleeping in a patch of sun coming in from the windows. He's just beautiful. This is a change from his usual post at the window, watching the birds. (I think I shut the blinds, so that might explain his change of location.) He's an old cat. I've had him since I was in my early twenties, when I was in college, before I got married, moved, moved again, divorced, worked a real job that made me feel like I knew something, came to Grad City U to devote myself to professorial life. So he's been with me a lot of years. (Oooops, he's up. And meowing at me. I think he wants me to say mraaaar to y'all. Now he's going to sit on the desk and make it hard for me to type.) He's not well -- he's got high blood pressure and hyperthyroidism and the suggestion of renal problems to come. Since I don't have to go to school -- or go out much -- we've been spending a lot of time together, just the two of us. We watch the birds. We take naps. We curl up. I'm not sure why I felt I had to blog this; perhaps it was reading Post-Doc's pensive posts. Anyway, I'm a cat person, the sort of caricature of a blogger who types in her pajamas and swats her cat's tail away.

At least, I was until the last hour or so. I got up at a luxurious 10am, journaled and read blogs and emailed and generally typed about until about 1, then began to work on that issue/problem I said I would. I ate lunch (amazing for me that I ate before 4) and researched through the proxy server. All in my pajamas. Finally, around 4 or so, accepting that no one article was going to say exactly what I'm saying about this issue (it would be so nice to just do the whole as this brilliant person says. . . on this one) and that I really am going to have to put a couple different threads of conversation on this topic together, I printed a bunch of articles out and finally took a shower, went to Blockbuster since it is New Release day and rented four and bought three DVDs. (I bought Stranger than Fiction, which is one of those must-haves every writer should own, Blood Diamond, which is now a part of my Big Film Theory even though I don't do film except here on the blog, and Casino Royale, which longtime readers will remember I watched every day for like three or four days when I first rented it, being a longtime James Bond fan and totally floored at how much I loved this one.)

But believe it or not, I didn't mean to get all caught up in writing about Mr. Tabby or movies. I wanted to write about this problem/issue. I got to my stance/argument on this issue on the basis of my own thinking and experience and maybe one or two of the articles I'm now figuring I'll reference, plus some general knowledge of a whole thread of conversation in my field. But a piece of scholarly writing shouldn't always be an intellectual history, should it? So I was looking for someone else to speak my critique, because I don't think it's so damn amazing or anything -- and I felt sure someone would say it by now. And damn it, they won't! It's getting to feel like a willful refusal! This is great from the perspective of having another possible article I could write. On the other hand, I'd rather not focus on this now, when I have plenty of arguments going on already in this dissertation. To me, this issue is a big aside. But one of my readers told me I misrepresented the field, which I kind of did because I didn't stipulate exactly which conversation in my field I was critiquing. OY!

Okay, maybe not an article. A conference paper. I really just wouldn't want to write it, though I can see that with all the crap I printed out, I'm kind of already going to be writing it. And one thing hindering my process here is that I now realize that I didn't copy everything I need from my laptop onto my pen drive. I keep a running bibliography of what I read. This way, I can take out quotes and write off them, engaging in a conversation with the text that can later be cut and pasted into other things. I started this when I was working on my comps -- and when a very productive scholar told me that he kept a running bib, I thought, I already have a jump on that. Often (not always), I've been able to write about some particular idea from a particular text without having the text in front of me because of keeping that bib. But I usually read on my bed and then have my laptop and it feels all weird to try to read at my desk (I have a tail swatting me, by the way) and type, especially since Mr. Tabby usually wants my undivided attention at the desk. On the bed, he's got better things to do -- he must supervise what's going on outside. (Now he's in my lap.) So I have to figure out some new process while those computer people monopolize my laptop.

I didn't write a ton, but I think I've got a bunch of different threads of discussion covered -- and I've got some stuff to read and re-read, which is always fun. So tomorrow, I'll read and bib and freewrite. If I could always have Mr. Tabby when I work, I assure you it would all be much more fun. I don't know what I'm going to do when I'm in an office where I can't take a break to eat something, stare at the birds, watch TV, and take a nap. Then get back to work. Compared to writing the diss, I'm going in slow motion. But since my deadline for having the revisions back is two weeks away, I feel like I can take some time. Maybe I shouldn't, maybe I really should be hauling ass, but now I feel productive yet still like a person. (Except that I haven't seen friends in a while. But this weekend will change all that.) I feel like a summering professional rather than a crazed apprentice. (Mr. Tabby's all curled up on my lap. What am I going to do? I don't like to disturb him, but I kinda thought I was going to go watch one of the many movies I rented. Sigh.)

My big goal to add to my experiment with my new professional life schedule is to journal a bit in the evenings. I didn't manage that last night, but tonight, I hope to. (Mr. Tabby's so cute, trying to get comfortable for nice long nap on my lap. I'm going to have to move him because my leg is starting to hurt. Oh how I love this old curmudgeonly cat!)

Monday, June 4, 2007

Donning the Robe and Reflections on Writing

So I have decided that I'm already a faculty member -- and it's making things a whole lot easier. Prevailing wisdom says I should wait for my advisor's decisions about which revisions I should go ahead on and which I shouldn't. While I see the practical use of this strategy, I've decided that this takes too much control out of my hands in a way that makes me feel pretty powerless and then angry and argumentative, none of which is good for my mental state and attitude during this transition from grad student to faculty member. (Gotta get mentally acclimated now. I graduate and leave for my job in the same week!) So I'm going to go ahead and use my own best judgment on the diss revisions. (Don't worry, I'm not stupid. There are things that I will wait on and discuss with PA, because I don't want to waste my time either.)

Last night, I was reading Boice's Advice for New Faculty Members, the section on writing. I remember when I was reading it before, I felt that I had a long way to go to get to be one of those "exemplary" writers/faculty members he was talking about. But reading it this time, I realized that I know my own process pretty well -- and it's pretty much what he talks about in terms of freewriting. I write a lot in the exploratory phase so that the formal writing is kept to a minimum. I do this as a strategy to get me writing, but I also just like it. Exploring concepts and ideas and possibilities is what I enjoy about this work, so this writing is really play. Also, when I get comments, it's important for me not to just try to "fix" things in the formal writing, but to go back to some exploratory writing so I can really engage with and explore the comment. This makes it more fun for me -- inviting me to learn more about what I'm thinking about. It's true that when it shapes up into something, as it often does through lots of writing and then cutting and pasting, finding ways to meld the texts together can be the hardest part. But at least it foregrounds for me what I like best. Imagining spending some amount of time every day exploring and tinkering with ideas in writing for the rest of my life sounds like fun as opposed to thinking I have to work on the dissertation or I've got to crank out this article/conference paper/book. I realize that these are different orientations to the same practical matter of getting down to writing, but as in English we affirm that point of view is important, so it is in Earnest English's old brainbox. Boice really helps me pay attention to how my attitude shapes my experience. His rules that focus on mental self-discipline -- letting go of negative thoughts and moderating extreme emotions -- is very important for me. (Since I'm notoriously snarky and freaked-out, we'll see how well this works. But at least I'm blogging the one moment where this all seems pretty clear. I'll be able to remind myself later with it. Better than sticking it in a journal and never picking it up again.)

I think some of Boice's terms get in the way for me. For example, his first "writing rule" is "Wait, actively." Now, for me, this means do something meditative, waiting for the good stuff to come. But then his second rule is "Begin writing early (before feeling ready)." Those two don't go together for me. So instead of "wait," I'm going to think "pause, breathe, reflect." That's what makes sense to me. I suck at conventional (what some call "emotional") meditation and mindfulness strategies. On the other hand, I'm great at freewriting, which Natalie Goldberg's Zen teacher said counted as a Zen practice, and yoga. I need meditations that get my body into it. I'm already too much mind already.

The "rule" I really don't follow is the one about writing daily. Writing for me is often like exercise -- I just stupidly forget how good it feels. So I decided last night that I would do some exploratory writing on the notes I had made from my readers' comments. So this morning, after some blogbrowsing and the usual warm up, I got down to it. I also must remember that the best way for me to get to work is to let myself write about all the other stuff that is crowding my mind and get that onto the page so I can make some space to focus and explore. If I'm trying to remember half-a-dozen things, I can't focus. Better to just accept that I need to write other stuff because writing is so much how I sort out my own mind, then I can settle down into some exploring.

So after getting that done, I felt pretty good the rest of the day, even from an hour of work. I sent out loads of emails, solved some problems, backed up my laptop, and took it in. It may be gone for a week or more (waaaaa). So I'm stuck with the old desktop I plan to pack up and give to my mother -- as soon as the laptop comes home.

So tomorrow I think instead of writing about all the different reader comments, I'll spend some time on more close-up work. There's one problem that a reader mentioned that I want to explore and reflect on more. I even began doing some reading concerning that issue, but two pages in I figured out what direction I need to explore in order to explain/discover my own thinking. Instead of writing it down, I daydreamed a little, then took a nap. So I'll start there tomorrow. Though it's unlikely I'll forget, I can always just read over those couple pages again, waiting for that same match to spark.

So I feel pretty good. But I'm starting to yawn, and I really wanted to do yoga tonight. Good night all.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Blogging the Transition

Warning: For those of you who know me in RL, you may well find this the most self-indulgent blog post ever, so you may want to skip it.

In the last few days I've been very upset over Mr. Tabby's increasing health problems and have felt overwhelmed, even when making plans, like my upcoming visit to the Fam. But even before that, I've found that I have no patience for waiting for anyone -- if someone important doesn't call or email me within 24 hours about a time-sensitive matter, I'm pretty annoyed. Despite a totally self-indulgent lifestyle in which I wake up basically whenever I want to, it's obvious I'm pretty stressed. Actually writing the last two blog posts and keeping up with the bloguniverse about grad school has actually been wonderful because it's kept me focused about something I felt I know something about.

But I've been staying in my house away from people because there are so few people I would actually want to see that SO had to remind me that of course I am short-tempered and stressed because I am going through two major transitions right now. (SO is totally my biggest fan. Big shout out to SO!) And though I think SO meant writing the dissertation/getting done with grad school and then moving to my new job, I think SO is right on target. Somehow in this summer where I'll graduate weeks before I start teaching as an assistant professor at a totally new school in a totally new environment, I'm supposed to make the transition from grad student frantic about dissertating to assistant professor. And this is a big transformation. Since Adjunct Whore's recent post focused on the transformation out of grad school, I thought the internets would be a particular good place to reflect on that, especially since I know a number of people in my cohort who have not gotten jobs, though usually they have other kinds of resources to fall back on and, like me, went on the job market early.

So, like Horace's call for posts on required reading for grad student survival, I'm calling for posts and resources that discuss the transition to the first job. (I'm going to go through blogfriends' backposts, like Dr. Four Eyes's and Post-Doc's, but please do send me other resources too!)

Here are the thoughts flitting about in my head. Do these people realize that they've hired me? Did they have a dearth of applicants? Like so many other pieces of advice out there, are Boice's suggestions just not for me and I need to find a different way of getting research done? (When it comes to actually getting the good writing done, I do best when I can stop juggling a bunch of balls in the air and really devote myself to one task.) Will I ever be able to keep my big mouth shut, remembering to figure out what's appropriate in this new space before I start gabbing? Will I like this new space? How will I be able to transform my teaching for the aims of these much more structured courses? How do I make the most of working collaboratively with other teachers? How can I get involved in research, service, and outreach opportunities that will really make the most of this cool two-year opportunity? What if I just like totally suck at all of this?

Have I mentioned that I still haven't done anything about my readers' comments on my dissertation? (I know, big surprise.) I'm thinking that after I've wasted another hour or so browsing the blogosphere, I'll go to Caffeine Corporation and get a coffee and look at the ton of comments I have to tackle. Even a half-hour today would be good. Small goals.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

More on Grad School

This is exciting -- we're having a conversation! I just want to affirm that I did not mean to imply that Dr. Crazy said that grad school was academic hazing. That's something that a couple of us started discussing in the comments.

Dr. Crazy today posted a clarification of her views. And I want to speak back to them because I'm all excited about this conversation. (Isn't this what is so exciting about the internet?!!!) I totally agree with Dr. Crazy that the transition from "good student" to independent thinker and scholar is a big and difficult transformation. Like her, I don't really think that it's possible to go through such a transformation without pain and discomfort.

What I do think is a problem is that, at least in my institution, graduate students feel that they get mixed messages. One message is "become an independent thinker." But the other is to submit to processes that are opaque and trust that faculty are making the best decisions for us, often without our voices and behind closed doors. Decisions about graduate student funding are made behind closed doors at my institution, for example. Some choices about which students get special positions are made in seemingly prejudicial ways. (It looks a lot like certain professors playing favorites. If it's not, it would really help grad student morale to know that.) Grad students are mystified by many of the processes that determine our lives. All I would want is some transparency and dialogue. I've known many students over the years who "don't want to make waves, because these are the people who write our recommendations," a view I totally don't agree with. Faculty are not to be blamed here; if grad students do not explain how processes seem opaque, then faculty are just not going to know what the sources of the grad student climate are.

I want to go on record here and say that I don't think that faculty members are trying to make grad students' lives harder. In fact, my department has been blessed with a number of faculty members who are very interested in grad students' opinions, if we will only give ours to them. Many grad students don't take up that agency -- and for that I don't know what to say. Maybe that's a part of that "good student" syndrome. What I fear is that some students, at least, leave my institution still trying to anticipate what will please others; I don't think that this is what becoming a professional is all about.

I will say also that many of my colleagues would tell you that not all faculty members are interested in listening to grad students' concerns. People have said to me that if we "complain," the faculty don't feel they need to address our concerns because they know that sooner or later we will leave. They just wait us out. I don't know that I think this is fair, at least of the faculty I've worked with. But I will say that there have been times that I have definitely gotten mixed messages: be an independent thinker, but don't use your analytical powers on this department. I can understand that it might seem more difficult for faculty members to have a bunch of grad students around who all wanted to make change. But I think learning how to be a productive member of a department is one of the things that the faculty should help us do. If they keep us out of that side of things, then we're missing an important part of our professionalization: service.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Earnest's Soapbox: Grad School and Academic Hazing

Today, Dr. Crazy wrote a post on Becoming an Academic and grad school. As usual, I thought she was right on the money and felt compelled to comment. Some of us got started in the comments on whether academic hazing was necessary. So I began a comment that became really long, so I've decided to write about it here because I really really care about this and I feel bad about hijacking Dr. Crazy's comments in order to get out my soap box. After all, if you can't hold forth on your own blog, where can you?

So let me get out my soap box: I would argue we have to be careful to not perpetuate the idea that graduate school should be a kind of boot camp where identities are broken down in order to be built back up. Graduate school is certainly a kind of identity transformation that is be quite painful. The identity shift and grad school itself exacts a psychological and emotional cost. Many grad students I know have quietly confessed to me that they are on antidepressants. I've heard jokes that my department funds the counseling center. My recent blogreading suggests that this is true in more than just my institution. (In my program, most of the women and some men are prescription medicated, while many men self-medicate.) Now those of us who got through it or are getting through it are understandably proud of our fortitude. I, for one, am proud I'm almost done and that I've made it this far. But this should not blind us to the fact that this system excludes people who may be wonderful scholars and teachers but who are not, for whatever reason, willing or able to pay that emotional and psychological cost. This does not mean that they aren't as smart as we are. (Maybe it means that they are less likely to put up with shit, while many of us have proven that we can put up with shit.)

Of course this is tied to the overwork issue. If the people who make it through grad school and get jobs are the workaholic maniacs and we leave behind all the more balanced people, then what is the academy going to look like? Well, then we have a bunch of workaholic maniacs who expect that other people should also be workaholic maniacs. Who expect their grad students to be workaholic maniacs. And the grad students who make it are the ones who can fit themselves (or be broken down and recast) into the mold that is set out for them -- in this example, workaholic maniacs. And the cycle goes on.

So what I'm worried about here is that if we reflect on our own experiences and find that grad school was boot camp, that doesn't mean that grad school should be academic boot camp. We should at least remember that such a stressful system means that there are going to be certain kinds of people who make it through and people the academy, the ones who are willing to take antidepressants and feel that their inability to cope is a personal failing and hide their shame rather than calling a spade and spade and saying that grad school is just painful and sometimes soul-destroying and shouldn't be.

I'm completely willing to say that grad school is really not about learning, in a lot of ways, that it is about this identity transformation. (Which is not to say I haven't learned in grad school, because I have. I've definitely learned how to teach myself and maybe, if some of my evals can be believed, how to encourage undergrad students to teach themselves.) I completely value this identity transformation, because it allows me to build a life that will let me teach myself and focus on issues with others that I really really care about (including, obviously, this one). I was willing to make compromises, learn the talk, walk the walk, find ways of arguing about issues so other people would respect my ways of thinking and credential me. I'm sure I was remade in this process -- and it was painful. I hope that the compromises don't prove compromising in the kind of longterm way that some of the commentators and Dr. Crazy speak about. But should graduate education really be academic hazing? I would say no. It should be about the love of teaching and scholarship.

For me, thinking about the grad student I knew who I thought of as a star who went home and cried every day and the many students I've talked with who felt belittled by opaque processes they didn't understand (shouldn't people be bringing us in to the process as preparation for professorial life?) makes me wonder how I can help make this place more socially just for those who want to pursue graduate-level scholarship. I don't mean it should be easy. But there's got to be a better way for credentialing professional scholars than breaking people down emotionally and psychologically, seeing how much they can take. You understand, I'm not saying that people deliberately do this -- that is, torture grad students. In fact, the faculty I've worked with have been very supportive and encouraging for the most part as well as generally open to my concerns about grad school. But if hazing is the result, shouldn't we apply our thoughtful and credentialed brains to it? Maybe it is inevitable that grad school is an identity transformation, but can't we do something to support grad student development? Call me an idealist (no one who knows me in RL would), but I think we can do better. What can we do to make things better? How can we apply the lessons of our own experiences to make things better for others and not perpetuate the experiences that make us feel that it was academic hazing?

By the way, this blog post is the closest I got to any kind of work today. I guess I can't consider this revising my dissertation. Maybe I can turn it into an article??? =)

And June Brings Whines

Since it's June, I should watch Junebug, a great quirky movie I bought a while ago but haven't watched.

Other than that, I have nothing good to say. I had to wake up dreadfully early to take Mr. Tabby to the vet. Then I paid my rent. Then I thought that since I really should get back to the dissertation that clearly I deserved a coffee. Then I got gas, and my car started acting weird. Then I came home. Besides writing Peppy Advisor an email about firming up the defense date, I haven't done anything on the dissertation, despite drinking the whole coffee and now feeling like a bag of latte.

Maybe I'm just tired, but basically I hate everything and everyone. I hate the dissertation. Why bother trying to make it better? What good will it do? Yes, it will satisfy my readers and get me the hell out of here. I accept that. But I mean other than that? Unless someone was thinking of nominating it for an award or something (who am I kidding? I'm not the one who gets the awards around here. I'm not even in the preferred field), I'm really tempted to do the rock-bottom minimum and turn my attention to things that will get me something -- like publications. It's not like I can list on my CV "good" dissertation or something. I just have other things to do. For example, I really want to go through my tapes and watch/label them as I go through papers. (Another way of saying this is I want to watch my favorite BBC comedies.)

Let me put all this another way: I don't wanna. I don't wanna read the careful and meticulous comments of my readers who have marked every page with some margin comment. I just want to be done. I just want to be done. Which is what will eventually make me look at that stack of comments. But first, I think I'm such a whiny bitch I better go take a nap. This is the tired crying of a tired baby.

I'm so tired from weird fitful dreams and waking up so early that nothing seems worthwhile. It seems ridiculous to take a nap in the morning, but I think I'd better. Of course, this deep funk may be the result of having to go back into the mire of the dissertation. I don't know. Maybe I'm just exhausted but I hate comments and revision and anything that makes me go back into that 170-page tome the writing of which made me crazy. I mean, come on? Am I really going to be able to diet and revise that bugger at the same time? Maybe I should give up having given up smoking. I won't smell good. But who cares? I never see anyone anyway. Except for errands which have included going to school, I haven't seen anyone since SO left. What I mean is that I haven't gone out of the house to work or to see the few friends I have left in this town. I'm clearly going nuts from surrounding myself with my self. (I'm just crazy enough that this makes sense to me.) This must change; it just isn't healthy. I must call Similarly Self-Reflective Fabulous Friend and see what's up.