Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Update on Several Fronts: Sorry So Random

I finished grading, then had a crazy day yesterday.  So crazy, I cancelled things today and have been taking the day "off," which actually means sending zillions of emails, arranging things according to due dates that are zooming closer, updating my calendar, figuring out where summer conflicts are, yadda yadda yadda.  At least I'm at home.

One of my favorite things lately is to look at the teaching notebook I've kept over Absurdist Child's first homeschooling year and seeing how much he's done.  The most consistent curriculum we've kept has been Life of Fred.  It started at Apples and he's progressed through the B, C, D, E, F books, and now he's on Goldfish.  I love that I can see so much progress.  The vision therapy has really helped his reading.  He reads all the time, but still the print can't be too small, so except for Magic Treehouse, he's still reading bigger-print books. Tonight he insisted on reading Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  Yes, at the end of May.  That's my son all over.  What can I say?

Speaking of eyes.  I'm being tested for glaucoma.  I've had three tests so far and the reports are really inconsistent, like the eye that failed the visual field test has a perfect optic nerve while the eye that passed the visual field test has a thin (bad) optic nerve.  So more tests.  She says it's a very slow disease, in any case.  I am a glaucoma "suspect" at this point.  (I watched an Agatha Christie last night on Acorn, which is the coolest thing ever, by the way, if you like British shows, and an innocent suspect was hanged for murder.  Of course, it turned out he colluded with the killer.  I don't want to be a suspect.  I want to live a long, boring, and happy life.)  Sigh.  I'd been keeping myself busy for the last week, determined to not worry about whether I'm going to go blind and not worry about the headache I woke up with today.  I figure I'm getting wiser in this determination not to waste my energy worrying.  They'll be plenty of time later for getting upset about it if I have it.  Still.  When I called early today, they told me I'd have to wait another week, and I started to lose it, but thank God the doctor called me late in the day and told me what there was to know.   More tests.  Uncomfortable tests.  At night in the dark I wonder if this is what it's going to be like one day, just all dark, and I wonder whether I'll feel as vulnerable as I do in the dark, like I'm short of breath and about to be strangled.  That makes for pleasant dreams.

So that's fun background noise to the last half of the quarter.   And I hope one day to get back to work on Big Project, which has languished this quarter after a big push of writing at the end of last quarter.  (It feels like one suffers for this big pushes, but that's probably just my drama-queen monkey mind; really I've just been too busy on every damned committee to the point that catching up on several service projects and sending the right emails and figuring out the right things feels like a frigging vacation.)  Big Project is in an area that is not terribly appreciated at my institution, nor is it what I was hired for, so when Undine pulled out her conference papers are like ball dresses post out of the archive and talked about what's driving your research plan, I stopped and had to think:  what is my research plan?  I went blank.  Big Project and the zillions of projects I'd like to do that are similar feel almost -- not quite forbidden, but just underground, unwanted, not the kind of thing that people around here will feel proud of, work that won't "count" like primary field scholarship would and help me get to full.  But I don't have a research plan beyond Big Project and the one big scholarly project I really should write one day.  My biggest plan is to not go to conferences so much because I hate being away.  (Earnest, stop thinking about yourself trying to get through an airport with dark glasses and a white cane.)  Sometimes I feel like I'm not really an academic because I don't have that excitement about conferences and research, don't have a zillion projects all planned out at different stages of conference paper, article draft, and revise and resubmit.

Then, there's the garden.  Absurdist Partner is doing an amazing job with the house.  Just amazing.  And I'm doing what gardening I can.  So we have two raised beds of garlic I planted last fall that is doing a great job right now.  Then we have two beds of peas that I started too late, and I think I really have to pull out so I can start the beans (I want to do two Three Sisters beds -- that's beans, corn, and squash all growing together -- awesome!), which won't be a waste because peas are so great at fixing nitrogen and making it more bio-available for other plants.  Then we have two half barrels of potatoes.  Two big round bowls of salad -- one mesclun, one arugula.  The radishes I started have, unfortunately, started going to seed in great numbers. Though they are in pots on a covered porch, it's just been too hot for their kind.  I also started broccoli too recently.  I don't know how they are going to go.  I've got a rosemary and a thyme in that bed too.  I have peppers, an eggplant, and celery all waiting to go into the last bed.  And then there are onions and artichokes waiting for a good place, which I don't have yet.  I also want to plant things that will attract butterflies.  And I want to plant nasturtiums every place, which reminds me I need to do something with them tonight if I want to plant them tomorrow, which is seeming like only a remote possibility anyway, so maybe I'll let that go.

The pond is insanely loud at night with frogs.  I believe it's basically a bunch of cat-calling male frogs out there looking for female frogs with low standards.  (Naw, I'm sure they just go all jiggley at the sound.  It's so loud out there, it's insane.)

Somehow, we're managing without an air conditioner.  There clearly used to be one, but it was taken out before we moved in.  (We don't know whether it was the previous owners or before them.)  I had said to AP that we absolutely had to get one, when he was sort of hemming and hawing, and after a particularly hot day, he got a bid.  It was pretty expensive for a conventional central air unit, and so I did a wee bit of research and they are just terrible for the environment.  So I started looking around and found a solar air conditioner and sent the info to AP.  And he's looking at it, and we're trying to figure it out.  But what's really happening is he bought a bunch of fans and somehow we're just dealing, and I'm just getting used to sweating a lot and either it hasn't been so hot that my brain's melted or my brain is getting more hot-tolerant.  Seriously, I grew up in a place where it got 100 degrees a lot and I spent summers reading with the blinds tightly closed in the nice icy central air.  So the idea that I could survive a summer without an air conditioner of any kind is very new.  (Could this possibly last when I'm getting older, and hot flashes may be right around the corner?  Global warming isn't going to help either.)     

Anyway, I thought an update was in order.  I'm sorry for the randomness of the post. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Little Grader that Could: 2/3 Down, 1/3 to Go

I've been on a grading "retreat" this weekend.  That is, I've graded a serious number of essays, and I've still got a serious number to go tomorrow before I can hold my head up in front of one of my classes. Of course, I'm totally behind in my grading in both classes, but it's most egregious in the one class, so I'm working hard. When this is done, I'll still have plenty to do, alas.  A bit more than one month until I'll be done, including grades. Sigh.

I'm doing something I really believe in on the service end. I was all excited talking with a Senior Colleague, and I could see that he saw I just hadn't yet poured my heart and soul into some service enterprise, hoping to make real change around here, and gotten the report or proposal completely shelved. He has. That's probably my future. But for now I'm still excited and hopeful, though I doubt this group will do things my way. I can hope. Anyway, there's still the off chance I could see one of my ideas bear fruit.

Anyway, obviously I really need summer to get here so I can turn into a person again. I'm not sure being so invested and excited during my off time is a good sign.  At least for the other things I really want to get done.

I've been thinking about the kind of professor I want to be, now that I'm "mid-career."  I think I can't help but try for institutional change agent, because I don't want to go into administration and here getting Full means doing a lot of service as well as research which is just plain impossible unless you're super-efficient, and that's just not going to happen.  In fact, being an institutional change agent is probably the service way to Full, unless you piss people off, probably, as I am likely to do, though pissing people off or not pissing people off, it leaves no time for the research part.  Well, I have plans.

I am announcing to the world that I am working on the Great Project.  If in five years, I am not shopping around the Great Project, I'll frankly be pretty pissed off at myself.  Truly, I'd like to try for a sabbatical and get it done in two years. I haven't shared with you all that I managed to place Little Project. It will come out later in the year. 

It's sad and lonely working on Memorial Day weekend, which is no doubt how my students feel at the moment.  Everyone's out having fun. I'm reading my students' essays, having a different kind of fun.

(I should explain that the reason I'm not calling it grading jail and why I'm not kvetching all about the grading in the most animated terms I can find is I'm trying to regulate my emotions about this.  Part of teaching is grading.  If I have a bad attitude about it, it will come out in the grading, which is not good for essays that I'm going to passing back and having to deal with their reactions to my comments.  I have to take the long slow road here because there's still a lot to the quarter.  I have a feeling in a month my tune will be very different.  Don't worry; the snark can't be held back forever.)

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Awful Part of the Year: Grump, Grump, Grump

It's the awful part of the year for an academic on the quarter system.  All my academic friends and bloggers are doing their countdowns to the summer (it's already started for most and people are talking about reading -- reading, you know, for pleasure - oh I am so jealous I could just spit -- don't get me wrong, academic friends, I love you, but man I don't want to hear it -- Facebook is an exercise in torture!) and posting their ambitious summer plans.  And all I can think of is how much I hate hate hate being on the quarter system, where I have. . .what?. . .six long weeks until it's really over, and I can begin again to have a life.  Maybe.

In good news, sort of, I got tenure, which is lovely, but predictably came with all sorts of increased committee and advising responsibilities.  I'm doing some things I really believe in except I'm finding it difficult to believe in any of it right now.  Grumble grumble grumble.  I haven't even gotten my new title or even seen how much the paybump is, but there's all sorts of stuff to do -- both good and bad -- and it's driving me mad.  This morning I wondered whether for the sake of my family I really should find a different line of work.  The family's been feeling neglected.  Work-life balance is really a matter of choosing who I am going to piss off at any point in time.

But of course I need to get on campus for office hours and this meeting of grumps and that meeting of two earnest leaders.  Then I get to rush home and do a thing with my son to prove that no matter how much I'm gone and how much I have to tell him to go away, I'm busy when I am home, he is the center of my world.  One thing is for certain:  I am not the center of my world, a fact that is both the way it should be and painful.

So all this can be summed up neatly as grump grump grump.  And I feel bad about putting nothing but grumpiness out into the world.  Somewhat.  But not enough to not press Publish, apparently.  I've been thinking that the purpose of this blog is to say things I really can't say to colleagues and shouldn't bother my family with.  So there might be some heavy blogging in the near future because I have a lot to say.