Monday, August 31, 2009

Odds and Ends (with a recipe for hot summer days)

Tomorrow is my first day of classes. I think I'm mostly prepared, and what isn't prepared can be effectively faked. I've posted a bunch of online content for one of my classes, and thought up a nifty new activity for my methodology class that just might work.

My only other activity today was to make this:

Vegetarian Salad Ni├žoise:

  • scrub, halve or quarter, & steam 1lb new potatoes 10-15 minutes, and blanch in cold water;
  • trim, steam (5min) & blanch 2c green beans;
  • fine-chop 1/4c red onion
  • seed & slice 1 cucumber
  • halve 12-16 pitted kalamata olives
  • chop 1/2 c. fresh dill

Toss all of these together, then add dressing:

Mix 1 Tbsp. dijon mustard with 1-2 Tbsp. good olive oil,** then add 1/2 tsp @ salt, and honey or agave syrup, 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice, and pepper to taste.

Toss dressing with salad, and chill 1hr.

If you're not a vegan, then finish w/boiled egg wedges; if you're not vegetarian, add slices of seared ahi, perhaps with a bit more pepper.


**Mixing these two ingredients together first should keep the olive oil from separating from the rest of the dressing.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Nobody ever told me

...about post-tenure/post-book depression. ADM has a great post on why your recently tenured friends might not be turning cartwheels 24 hours a day, but this is a bit different. So, I e-mailed my friend Dr. S., and then went out and took a picture:

Nothing spectacular, but it's a step.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ready or not, I'm ready.

Tomorrow is Convocation. Classes start Monday.

I have two of three syllabi prepared, and none of the copious online content uploaded.

I can't see my desk for the drifts of paper all over it, and the only reason my office-mate will be able to see his desk is that I moved the books I had strewn all over it (he doesn't use it in the summer) to two two-foot-high stacks on the floor.

My apartment is a semi-shambles, and I'm running out of food in the fridge.

I have a two-month backlog of mostly unanswered e-mails, some of which are Very Important.

And yet, I'm certain that somehow I will pull this all together (okay, maybe not the apartment) by Monday, and get up and teach as if I were the most prepared, organized professor in the world.

It will all be a front, but it'll be a good one.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Consummatum est.**

I'm done.

That is all.

**Upon later perusal of these posts chronicling the first book process, I note that this is the second post with this title. How can I have "finished" twice? See this post.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

UPDATE: Girl Scholar Still Not Dead

That's pretty much all I have to say. Except that I know that I will make deadline. The errors and infelicities I'm cating on the readthroughs are getting fewer and further between. The conclusion is looking vaguely okay, though at 1,650 words, it's a bit on the short side. The argument is more consistent than it was even three weeks ago, and though I've recently started seeing a big thread in the argument that I ought to be highlighting more, I'm now perfectly okay with leaving it implicit, rather than explicit.

I'm on my way, folks.

Monday, August 17, 2009

What they should (or maybe shouldn't) tell people who just finished their dissertations

"Congratulations! You've written a book. Now: go write it again."

And again.

And again.

Seriously, I'm getting tired of editing, and finding shit that should have been fixed long ago, passages that are pages away from where they should be, and ridiculously clunky prose. ::sigh:: Friday, and it's done. At least until it comes back to me again.

And again.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Those Evil Part-Time Lecturers

When I first arrived at this job, one of the things I really liked was the fact that lecturers were so well-integrated into the life of the college. Especially in my department, TT faculty and lecturers hung out and drank beer together, worked together on massive research and curricular projects, and ran important committees together. It took me two years to realize that one of my colleagues down the hall was, in fact, a lecturer, and not the full professor I took her to be.

Campus-wide, lecturers are perhaps not as well integrated as in our department, but it's better than at most places. Best of all, lecturers are members of the faculty union, so we all stand or fall together.

Until now, it seems.

Very recently, the union had to vote as to whether to accept a furlough plan. Consequences for a "no" vote were unspecified, but the money would have had to come from somewhere, and lecturers' positions seemed like they'd be on the chopping block.** The vote turned out to be a yes vote. So there will be furloughs.

Nobody likes the idea, not even those of us who voted for it. But here's the issue: some faculty who I have long respected are now all up in arms, blaming the lecturers for their pay cuts (as if the lecturers weren't getting furloughed as well, and from fewer courses than they've had in the past). I even heard one (not from my department, I'm happy to say) insist today that "most of our lecturers are part-timers who have other jobs, and they're making six figures,*** so they're not hurting." The fact that I still haven't kicked this guy in the neck shows what a good person I am.

But it's not just this one guy. Faculty who I've always respected are muttering about splitting the lecturers (the same ones who came to the brink of a strike with us to get a long-overdue contract) off from the union so we didn't have to take their interests into account. Some old friends on campus aren't speaking to each other.

So here's what I'd like to tell my fellow tenured colleagues: unexamined privilege isn't just something we write about; compared to our lecturers (not to mention our students), we live it every day. Yes, it sucks that we're getting paid a lot less this year than we had been promised, but please stop attacking the only people hurt worse than you by all this mess.****

And here's what I'd like to tell TT faculty just starting out: In my department, and perhaps in yours, the lecturers scrambling for ever-scarcer course assignments have Ph.D.s, important committee service, peer-reviewed publications, and university press books, just like you. The main reason we have our TT positions and they don't is DUMB LUCK. Keep that in mind if you're ever tempted to feel like you're more deserving than your contingent colleagues.

And to the lecturers: I don't know what to say, except I'm sorry for the shtstorm you're going to have to deal with this year. And coffee's on me.

**Though even with the yes vote, our department lost over a third of our part-timers.
***Yes, most of our part-time colleagues do have other gigs. But unless the junior college down the road is paying a lot more than I thought it was, this guy is just full of sht. And I don't like him.
****And fertheluvagod, stop bitching about how little we get paid IN FRONT OF OUR WORKING-CLASS STUDENTS!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Making Introductions

One of the best pieces of writing advice I got as an undergraduate was from my first medievalist mentor: "Write your introduction last. You can't write it until you actually know what you're introducing." I still think that's good advice, but with a caveat: you write the first draft of your introduction after the first draft of the work. Then you revise the work, and revise the introduction. And again. And again.

I started the introduction to this book MS almost two years ago, back when I had to give a presentation at Fellowship Institute (see here and here for the tale, and here for my realization that it actually was the introduction that I had been writing). It's gone through some changes: a lot of the gratuitous theory references have been moved to the footnotes, and are only alluded to in the text. I've added more concrete background for the nonspecialist. And since most of the chapters took their final shape only after I had written my presentation, there were a lot of changes.

Still, today I read over my introduction, and I was taken back to about 21 months ago, when these ideas were new, and I was having epiphanies left and right. Some of them turned out to be very important; others, less so. But that ongoing wrestling with the big ideas was just that: ongoing. The thought of the journey from there (and even further back) to here, one week before submission, has got me feeling a bit reflective. So expect a few more navel-gazing posts over the next couple of weeks.

Your humble correspondent, pictured here with a lapful of vintage theory, 21 months ago in Fellowship City office.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

How (not) to write your conclusion

I have, against all odds and expectations, written a book that is over 90,000 words long, including notes and bibliography. For me, that's something, considering that I've yet to have an article crack 20 pages in print. In fact, the bibliography alone for this book project is longer than any paper I ever wrote in grad school. I write short.

But one part of this whole project has been eluding me: the conclusion. I hated writing the conclusion to my dissertation, and it was only there because it had to be. Same thing with the conclusion to the manuscript I submitted to Press back in September: I wrote the conclusion-shaped object at the end in a 36-hour period, desperate to get it out the door 48 hours before my tenure file was due. As one of my readers said: "This is a strong book with a very weak conclusion." Well, yeah.

But now, with my deadline approaching,** I need a conclusion. A real one. I've known that since September. But here's how I managed not to write one:

1. September - April: Tell self that conclusion can't be written until I hear back from readers

2. April - May: I have readers' reports, but now need to write revisions. Once those are done, I'll know what it is I'm concluding about. But I can't begin the revisions until I get through this semester then get back from all my summer travel.

3. June - mid-July: Summer travel.

4. Mid-July - mid-August: Revisions. Chapter conclusions. Rewrites.

About a week ago, I decided that, with the deadline close enough to touch, I really couldn't put it off any longer. Still, "outline conclusion" remained on my "Three things" list for a couple of days. Yesterday, in the final hour before putting myself to bed, I managed to toss of a desultory couple of bullet points.

But this morning was different. This morning, I got up, took my computer to the coffee shop at 7:15, sat down, and asked myself, "What do I know about this project right now?" No peeking at last night's notes, or the manuscript as a whole. What do I know?

And I started to write. And 90 minutes later, I had 700 words. Then I added 700 of the best words from the conclusion-shaped object, and 200 from last night's bullet points. And all of a sudden, unexpectedly, I have a draft. It will need revision, of course, but it's going to be a fine place to start. Ten months of dread, procrastination, and avoidance, all taken care of in under two hours. So here's this blog entry's thesis statement:


**Oh, for those of you who may have been wondering, I did indeed ask my editor for a one-week extension, and he granted it, no problem. So my conclusion and I have a bit of breathing room.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

To the carful of people laughing at me as I rode my bike home today

Anyone who can listen to Aretha Franklin on their iPod and not sing along -- even very, very badly -- is probably dead inside.

Friday, August 7, 2009

On Deadlines

I have one week left to deadline. By that time, I will have finished with my to-do list (see "three things" in the sidebar for daily updates, if you're so inclined). But what I'd really like is another week to let the whole thing sit, then go over it again one more time. So I'm asking all you academic book authors out there: Did you meet your deadline? Did you ask for an extension?

Just how "dead" is that line?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Making a List; Checking it Twice**

Just now, I created a document called "Revisions Checklist," to gather into one place exactly what still needed to be done. It's distressing to note that the list still includes items like "Write New Conclusion" at this late date. On the other hand, I'm encouraged by the fact that the list fits onto a single page, with room to spare.

Still, blogging is likely to be limited to the briefest of posts for the next couple of weeks, unless something truly interesting happens, and responses to e-mail will be on an emergency-only basis.

Oh, yeah: and I'm backing things up twice a day now.

**Actually, I'll probably be lucky if I have time to check it even once, much less twice.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Sometimes, ya' just gotta yell...

..."F**k!" It might even be fun.

Okay, so yesterday we received our calendar of furlough days, and it reminded me of this story (which my friend the Piper Ph.D. will recognize, and correct me on details, if necessary): Grad school friend D. and his wife C. were in their 50s by the time we met in grad school, so they had already had a whole 'nother life by then, one that seemed to involve a lot of partying. When they were in their 30s, they and a group of their friends had the custom of getting together once a year out in the toolies for what they called the "Other Games," a sort of Olympics of bizzare, often antisocial, and likely very inebriated competitions.

One of these was the "Yelling 'F**k!' Competition." The participants would sit around together, and take turns saying "F**k." Each person had to say it louder and/or longer than the last, and the one who did so loudest/longest was, by acclaim, the winner. D. told us that everybody was pretty much hoarse the following day.

Even better than the competition itself is its origin story. Apparently the originator grew up spending a lot of time with his near-deaf granny. He and his brother made a game of sitting at the breakfast table, each saying "g*ddammit", starting off as a whisper, but getting progressively louder. The loser of this two-person competition was the one who said it loudly enough that granny finally heard and smacked him on the head.

Anyway, it occurred to me yesterday that a "Yelling 'F**k!' Competition" might be just the thing for tough budgetary times like these. We could invite faculty, staff, and students, and gather on the quad to vent our frustration. Maybe we could even give the winner an "I [heart] [your dysfunctional school or state here]" t-shirt...