Monday, March 21, 2022

Random bullets of "March? Already?"


    First, some writing house inspiration, courtesy of Wendell "I don't need a computer" Berry: "Hidden in the woods on a slope above the Kentucky River, just south of the Ohio border, is a twelve-by-sixteen-foot cabin with a long front porch.. . .The camp has no plumbing or electricity. Half a dozen well-sharpened pencils were lined up on the worktable, alongside small stacks of paper. On top of one stack was a note Berry had made, and crossed out, about Marianne Moore’s poem “What Are Years?” Above a small safe, curling photographs were taped to a wall: Wallace Stegner, Ernest Gaines, Donald Hall and Jane Kenyon, Thomas Merton." My writing house also is 12 x 16, so Wendell and I are obviously destined to be famous authors together. 
  • So much teaching. So much grading. So much time spent on both.  I want to channel Winston Churchill here: "Never in the history of mankind has so much time been spent by one person in the attempt to create a resource appreciated by so few." Written lectures, video lectures, responding to their posts, grading: I thought I had made it up that online teaching takes 2x as much work as in-person, but this year, on an N of 1 (me), I can confirm that it does.
  •  In an extremely ill-advised moment, even after vowing never to do another one, I said I would do a book review last year. The book is good, but very, very, very long. I read it last summer and never wrote it up, with the result that I now have to read it again to write the review. Spouse says I have been dragging it around with me for a year like Marley's chains in "A Christmas Carol," and he's not wrong. 
  • Now that everything's going back to maskless in-person events (even with Omicron 2.0 peeking around the corner), it's back to the irritating calculus of whether to burn an entire day traveling to campus and getting no work done to support a colleague doing a presentation. There were two presentations today I would have happily attended if they were on Zoom. They were in person, and I had a lot of work to do (travel burns the whole day), so I missed both of them. 
  • Gwinne has an interesting post about the amount of work we do. I'd break that down even further into categories:
    • Work that we are paid to do that's interesting but takes far too much time to do it right (teaching). 
    • Work that's invisible and that no one cares about unless it doesn't get done (service, administration).
    • Work that we want to do in terms of research but that gets pushed out by #1 & #2.
    • Work that we at some point agreed to do and that we can't seem get done, like Marley's chains up there. 
    • Work that we are harried into on someone else's schedule because however much lip service they pay to things being collaborative, etc., the only schedule they actually pay attention to is their own. 
  • I'm still wearing a mask to the grocery store & everything, because why not? No one seems to mind.
 And with that I will close for now, leaving you with these words: "“I wear the chain I forged in life  . . . I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”


gwinne said...

Undine, thanks for this breakdown! Yes!

I've been reading the book "Beyond Collaboration Overload" which I found suggested somewhere (maybe comment thread at SHU's?). It's been really clarifying for me in terms of how much EXTRA happens because collaborations, broadly construed, are inefficient or problematic in various ways. (i.e. I have about 1.5 extra hours of zoom meetings this week because undergrads missed conferences, or are having various unanticipated crises; I could say no but really this goes to the core of my job. But that 1.5 hrs comes from somewhere....and in this case it will be not commenting on their peers' work.)

My dep't has largely not dipped back into in person programming, thankfully; there was one event yesterday I needed to skip because it was during the 5-7 time slot that works for no parent ever. Will be interesting to see how this shakes out next year. I can't imagine most meetings will be in person ever again? But maybe...

I'm also still masking in all public spaces. Did attend my first in person party (7 others in attendance) which felt a bit weird but worth it I think (a 50th birthday!)

xykademiqz said...

I end up being completely blocked during the semester. There are so many meetings and both necessary and unnecessary service, that there's no headspace (maybe there's is technically time, but there's no headspace) to do creative stuff, like research.

We have a chair who is effective but very service happy. There are many more meetings and committees than ever before, and so many of them reviewing people but in a toothless way, where it's a ton of work for us but nothing actionable comes out of it.

I would jump on the opportunity to trade service for more teaching. It is meaningful and actually requires the technical content of the PhD (in contrast to most service busywork).

undine said...

gwinne, you're lucky that your department isn't going full tilt back into in-person events. I think ours will back off a bit; at least I hope so.

xykademiqz--same here! Teaching is meaningful, even if it basically ate my school year. But during spring break, I forced myself to do no teaching and actually got some headspace for creative stuff.