Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Settling In at FPU

Greetings from Fancy-Pants University!

Yeah, okay, it's been over a month since I've posted. But to be fair, in that month, here's what I've done:
  • Finished up a last frantic week of research in Blerg City
  • Gotten a cut that got infected four days before leaving (shivering in 75-degree rooms? check!)
  • Traveled back to Grit City, and moved in with friend for 10 days
  • Visited doctor for antibiotics for infection, then got sick with some new upper-respiratory thing
  • Spent ten days finishing final good-byes in Grit City; dealt with address changes; mailed 7 boxes across the country
  • Moved self (with two suitcases) across country
  • Settled into new apartment and new office and new... well, new everything
So: busy.  But now, finally, I feel like I'm approaching a rhythm. I observed to someone yesterday that you cna power through 90% of settling into a new home in just a few days, but that final 10% can take weeks. Monday, for example, I had to buy a set of stick-on wall hooks that let me have a place to put away my winter hats and umbrellas. Yesterday, it was the process of getting the detritus of former tenants picked up by a local charity service (I have a severe problem with clutter, and no 1-bedroom apartment needs three tables [not including the desk] and six chairs, not to mention two microwaves) as well as getting automatic deposit set up for my travel reimbursements. Today, I applied for a car-sharing service. Tomorrow, perhaps it will be getting the new phone service set up.

My new office is pretty fancy-pants in its own right.
And, of course, there's the work of organizing the actual work. I was at that yesterday and today, trying to figure out what I had (more than I thought), what I still need to transcribe (again, more than I thought -- depressingly so), and where I'm at with the chapter drafts (not as far as I'd like to be, but a good respectable third of the MS in draft form). I'm hoping to really dive in and start writing on September 1. Every time I try to think beyond that, about how much writing I need to do, or what my daily/weekly pace needs to be to get there, or (gods help me) what the real "so what" of my book is, I start to freak out a little. So I've decided for now to stop doing that. Just put in the work every day, rain or shine. And enjoy the hell out of FPU, which truly is a wonderful, wonderful place.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Put your (camera) phone away

I love taking pictures here in blargistan, but I've got a three-part manifesto on how not to do picture-taking when you're on your vacation-of-a-lifetime:

1. If you're taking pictures in a high-traffic area (and in a place like Paris or Barcelona or Rome or whatever, this is pretty much everywhere in the city), then be courteous of other people who are trying to see something or go somewhere: don't block half of that charming alleyway; don't take so long lining up your shot (it's an iPhone camera, fer chrissakes!) that the nice folks who usually pause to let you get it don't get annoyed because they can't get by you.
This is Blerg City at all times in the summer.

2. I'm starting to feel sorry for selfie-takers. Not because they are all alone. Quite the opposite, actually: most people I've seen taking selfies are with groups of people, or in pairs. So why not ask your friend? Or better yet, a stranger? And for the love of all that is holy, that selfie stick thing? Trust me: some day, you're gonna feel totally embarrassed that you owned one.

3. Going to a place full of gorgeous architecture? Fabulous art? Consider leaving the camera in your bag. A recent study suggests that you remember more about what you've seen when you just interact directly with all that stuff around you.

Of course, this may seem strange coming from someone who posts loads of pictures on her blog (when she posts at all). I love photography. And I love using the blog (and yes, even Facebook) to broadcast my observations on things. The irony of this post is not lost on me. But I'm gonna hold firm anyway: sometimes it's time to put down the camera (just like putting down the smart phone) and experience whatever incredible moment we find ourselves in, rather than obsessively documenting it.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Wide Awake in Blargistan

I. Am. Exhausted.

It's not just the work. Nor is it jetlag -- I managed to duck that this time. No, it's just that Blerg City goes to bed late, and it's taking its toll.

How late? Well, in the summer, in this neighborhood, it appears to be near midnight on weekdays; much later (earlier?) on weekends -- say, 2 in the morning. No kidding: go to any public space on a Saturday night at 9:30 or even later, and you'll see loads of kids out playing. Like, grade-school-aged kids. And maybe you're thinking, "Well, nothing says that you have to be out as late as a nine year-old!" But here's the rub: part of the reason that Blerg City goes to bed so late is that, this time of year, it doesn't get dark until sometime around 10 p.m. And my brain can't force me to sleep when the sun is shining. In fact, full dark is usually the "let's start winding down" trigger for my brain, which means I'm ready to sleep about two hours later. Which is untenable if I want/need to be up at a decent hour. I'm one of those folks who operates best on 8 1/2 hours a night, and while I can run a deficit for a night or two, I can't do so indefinitely.

But I think I may have it beat. Here, two weeks into my umpteenth trip to Blerg City, I realized something wonderful: my room here has blackout curtains. Now, these are meant to keep the heat out. But I also realized that I can impose an artificial sunset an hour or two earlier. So, I'm going to try that tonight and see if I can't push my bedtime back at least to 10:30. 'Cause carrying a 2-hour sleep deficit for every night for two weeks straight makes working in the archives next to impossible.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

"Mop-Up Trip" ha ha ha!

I've been in the archives & libraries pretty much solid for the past couple of weeks. Hell, it's Saturday night in Blerg City and the neighborhood is jumping... and I've been inside for hours reading a book about Carmelite friars.

Yeah. My life is a nonstop party.

But just a quick thought that occurred to me that I wanted to share before I called it quits for the evening (and it's five minutes till midnight here, so I ought to do just that): When I began this research way back in 2009, I had a vague idea of what I'd be doing. And I collected a bunch of documents. I thought I had most everything I needed, and that this would be a quick mop-up trip. But here's the thing about having a clearer idea of where your project is going: you realize that entire collections of documents that you had previously skipped as irrelevant are now revealing themselves to be highly relevant. And, in fact, you could probably spend another year in the archives before you feel like you've got everything you need. And that this book is going to be a much bigger job than you thought it would even just a couple of months ago.

Or, to put it more succinctly:

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Arrived in Blargistan

And I appear to be mostly over my jetlag, though I may be spoiling that by still being on the wifi at 2 a.m. this is why I got rid of my home internet last year: because I can't be trusted with it.

First observations: 1. I like the fact that my dollar buys more Euros now since any time since that currency's inception, and 2. Blerg City, like the rest of Europe, is hot

More words later. Here's an arty photo, taken from my evening perigrinations.