24 February 2011


The long-overdue "revise and resubmit" has been completed, reviewed by a non-specialist reader, corrected for clarity, and sent to the long-suffering and exceptionally patient editor.

And for my reward I get to spend the afternoon at the dentist. Something is very wrong with this picture. But I had a very nice lunch as bribe/pre-dentist treat, since after the dentist I will be shot up with novocain and not feel like treats.

23 February 2011

Our New Zealand Correspondants

Has anyone heard from Styley Geek or Bavardess since the quake?

18 February 2011

Basement Cat and the Scot, or why you should keep up with laundry

Or, maybe, why you should have more than two sets of bedding if felines outnumber humans in your household.

This is most definitely a TMI post. If you are squeamish, stop now. Click away from the blog. Delete this post from your reader.

Have I mentioned that I believe it is the human condition to have to talk about poop? If you have kids, you know about those conversations. But if you think you will avoid them by not having children, the universe will laugh at you, and give you cats. Or dogs. Or aged and incontinent parents. Or any combination of the above.

If you are a childless, petless orphan, the universe will visit poop problems on you, yourself. It's just how, you know, shit happens.

OK, don't say I didn't warn you. I even gave you time to get away. Even now, I'll start with Basement Cat; you can stop before I get to the poop.

So the Scot's eye problem was a big old scratch across the eyeball, undoubtedly caused by Basement Cat. That delinquent can't leave well enough alone. The Scot is the only cat around here who doesn't hate his guts; so what does he do? Walks up to the mellow, tolerant Scot and hits him in the face. This mostly happens before meals, not without remonstrations from us and the squirt bottle, so we can probably keep it from happening in future by feeding Basement Cat in his own room.

Of course the vet trip was traumatic for the Scot, who is very shy. Even more traumatizing was the Elizabethan collar he was issued, which he tried to back out of, and then to remove by getting stuck between the bathroom door and the under-sink vanity. He tried lying down and looking pitiful, and then he ran into things with it, and finally I took pity on him and removed it, because I'm sure he's not rubbing his own face. Basement Cat is the culprit here, and Basement Cat is grounded for the rest of his life. Or the rest of the Scot's, anyway.

At least the laying-on-of-hands aspect of the vet trip inspired the Scot to eat more readily than he has been doing lately. (The vet also took blood for the vampire cats CBC, since he's been off-color for nearly two weeks now, long after he should have recovered from the last chemo dose.)

Are you still here? You can leave now.

The Scot spent most of the afternoon on our bed. He got room service for dinner, and since Basement Cat was allowed out for dinner, I shut the bedroom door for a little while, after spending an hour or so in with the Scot.

I came back ten minutes later to find a pile of poop in the middle of the bed.

Naturally, I just felt sorry for the Scot. He's sick, he gets shut in, he feels too bad to kick up a fuss, maybe he's taken short. He's a cat; he doesn't want to poop where he eats and sleeps. I remove the top layer of bedding, do some clean-up, pop it in the washer, spray some Simple Solution on the next layer (a wool blanket), and decide I'll wash the blanket in the morning.

Only I really hate the smell of Simple Solution, because though it's all right by itself, I associate it with much more noxious odors. So when I'm on the verge of going to bed, I remove the wool blanket. Oops. There's a big wet patch on a far corner of it, and sure enough, the wet has soaked through to the next blanket, and the sheets. And the bed pad. And the cover that goes over the memory foam pad under the bed pad.

And the other set of sheets, and other bed pad, are still in the dirty laundry heap basket (we have baskets. Really).

I'm still sorry for the Scot, but now I'm sorry for me and Sir John, too.

So, check out the time stamp. I'm still up, waiting for the first load of laundry to get dry. And then there will be another. It might be quicker to make a WallMarche run.

This is why I read the mommy bloggers' blogs. Even though my kits don't drive me crazy asking "why," and they do let me sleep in the middle of the day when I need a nap, and they are rarely loud enough to give me a headache, I like knowing that there are other people who wake up to middle-of-the-night barf, and who run out of sheets because somebody's wet or soiled the bed, and who understand that talking about poop is the human condition.

Oh, and the Shakespearean Heroine is still constipated, which is like waiting for the other shoe to drop.

(I will remind you that I actually had a request for more cat blogging. I bet Nicole and Maggie are sorry now.)

17 February 2011

Still lame, in more ways than one

I've never been one of those multiple-posts-a-day bloggers, or even (except for short stretches), a once-a-day blogger, but really, what has happened to my blog-brain? I seem to be living IRL instead of online. That can't be right.

I feel like I'm just starting my day at sundown, not my usual schedule at all. The beginning of the week was intense, with my on-campus days running 11 hours each (plus the commute on either end). Because I was so tired, I stayed up too late last night (you know, just couldn't get myself to go to bed, too tired to make sensible decisions about how to use my time), slept late this morning, got up for breakfast and cat-wrangling, and then went back to bed for several hours. I feel vastly better for the sleep, but so much for all the things that were supposed to get done during daylight hours. I will still write tonight, though; and even if I don't put in a planned two hours on grading, I'm at least going to sort the papers into piles based on which topic their writers chose.

This is how I wind up working on weekends. If I had to show up at an office, obviously I'd have dragged myself through today; but since I spent the day asleep, the time will have to get made up somehow, and Saturday/Sunday are the obvious times to do that. Actually, I've started feeling a sense of relief when the weekend rolls around, because I can finally get my work done without interruption, sort of like wanting to get to the office early or stay late so you can do your job without people wanting things from you all the time, whether via e-mail, phone calls, or popping in "for just a minute."

I could just declare that my "weekend" is some non-standard set of days, like Thursday and Friday, and take Saturday and Sunday as working days. But of course e-mail still comes around from people on campus during the week; and Sir John works a more "normal" schedule; and the New York Times Sunday edition only comes out on Sunday. And people tend to schedule social events for Friday and Saturday nights, or Sunday afternoons. So some weekend stuff is still going to happen on the regular weekend.

But really, I like the non-standard, flexible, work-whenever schedule that academia makes possible. Sometimes it's good to have a day or two totally free of work, but a lot of what I do goes better if I do it every day. Writing, for instance. Grading, too, is better done either in large chunks or in very steady regular sessions, so that I can be reasonably sure I'm applying the same criteria to all the papers. Reading. Recently I tried reading fiction a chapter or so a day (well, okay, maybe 1/4 of a book per day, let's be honest: less than that is only possible if I really hate the book). I found that I forgot key plot elements and spent a lot of time paging around trying to find where they were. Binge-reading is much more satisfying. I don't read for a half-hour's enjoyment; I read to plunge totally into the world of the book. I don't want to come up for air. I follow the story better, notice more details, if I'm completely submerged.

So while I'm happy with the write-every-day habit (it's sticking; I really do feel twitchy till I get it done, and better afterward), I'm going to keep some of my other "bad" habits, like working on weekends and binge-reading when I discover a book or author I like.

As for the "more ways than one" part, remember my ankle problems? I would have sworn I had the damn thing totally rehabbed. I was on the cross-trainer for an hour at a time, even running a little bit (a mile or two at a time, on a treadmill). All was fine. And then a couple of weeks ago, I stood up to walk across the kitchen floor and suddenly the ankle hurt and felt weak. So I'm back to bracing it and trying to do just-enough exercise in the pool and on the exercise bike, until it's better again. I am annoyed. I have much more energy when I can exercise for longer periods.

Cat update: the Scot seems to have trouble with an eye again, so we'll be going to the vet tomorrow, second vet-trip in a week (different cats). He's been off-color since his last chemo dose, too. The Shakespearean Heroine is struggling with constipation again. TMI? She's an old lady, with old-lady problems. The other cats are well, knock on wood and all that.

11 February 2011

While I was out . . .

What I've been doing while not blogging enough:

Interviewing job candidates. Taking them to meals, attending their presentations, sitting round the table with the rest of the hiring committee and asking them questions.

And then gossiping soliciting my colleagues' opinions of them.

Then sitting in the hiring committee's meeting during which we try to rank our preferences. This always reminds me of the Scotsman's remark about breakfast: "It's a good thing we don't all like the same things, or think what a shortage of oatmeal there would be."

The person who studies Underwater Theory, not unnaturally, prefers the candidate who applies Underwater Theories to Basketweaving. Those of us (we few, we happy few!) who actually study Reed Production are fascinated by the candidate who compares Tropical and Cold Water Reeds, while the Underwater Theorists had trouble staying awake during that presentation.

Nonetheless, we eventually manage to order breakfast rank the candidates.

Then we get back to our regularly scheduled spring work, the annual reviews of each other and the rest of our colleagues. For this, I have to read everyone's reports on service, on research, on teaching, and read other people's teaching evaluations, which is no more pleasant than reading my own.

Then there's my other big committee, at the college level, where I helped to rank applications for summer research funds. Next week, I am happy to say, this one will not meet, which means I have more time to read teaching evaluations. Be still, my heart.

Nonetheless, thanks at least in part to having had only a quiz to grade so far (this happy state of affairs will soon come to an end), writing has continued. I think I am done with that R&R. I'm leaving it in the sidebar until I actually send it to the editor. At the moment, it is in the hands of a friend who is reading it to see if it makes sense, if its organization is acceptable, and if I have left out any crucial information.

I have been writing (or at least moving projects forward) every day for awhile now. I decided that writing has to be like tooth-brushing or exercise, something that happens every day, no matter what. Of course, I have certain "advantages" when it comes to teeth and exercise: my teeth are terrible, so I have been brushing and flossing at least once a day for as long as I can remember, in hopes of keeping my own teeth as long as possible. Similarly, I have a chronic condition that I can control pretty well with exercise, so long as I do some stretching and some aerobic exercise every day, no exceptions.

I feel it almost immediately if I skip these sessions. Sadly, all these meetings in the past week mean I have been skimping if not skipping. Nonetheless, the comparison is instructive. Just as there are over-scheduled days when I spend 10 minutes stretching and then take the stairs instead of the elevator and make extra trips to the library just so I'll do some moving around, as a sad little replacement for my usual 20-30 minutes of yoga and hour or two (counting changing and showering and so on) at the gym, so there are days when, at 10:00 at night, I open a document, stare at what I wrote yesterday, and tinker with a sentence before calling it a night and falling into bed. But that's still writing. And I think (I hope) I have now got to the point where I feel twitchy and unhappy if I don't do it, the way I feel achy and uncomfortable if I don't exercise and can't relax and fall asleep unless my teeth are clean.

I ordered a set of writing books from Amazon, who conveniently package Silvia's How to Write A Lot, the most common Boice book (which I've read before, and I prefer the more expensive How Writers Journey to Comfort And Fluency), and the one on writing your journal article in 12 weeks. This was more in the nature of a reward (I love books about writing, as I'm sure I've said before) than as an effort to organize myself, because, somehow, I already got myself organized to write every day. The advance scheduling that at least two out of three of these books recommend doesn't work so well for me. I like to write first thing; but sometimes I wind up staying up too late, or sleeping badly, and so I get up late and can't write early in the day. Then I'm looking for time later. But the beauty of saying "it has to happen every day" means that I do the writing sooner or later. I try to pick out times the night before: in the morning if I wake up early enough, or if this meeting ends early I'll write then, or in office hours if no one shows up, and if office hours do fill up, then when they are over I will close my door and write for twenty minutes before I go home. Then I know what the options are, and I'm ready to take advantage of whichever one is easiest to pounce on.

I'm not sure how this happened. Something just shifted in me, making it easier to put the writing first, to stop worrying about what I haven't done or have put off, to put aside all the anxieties that so often accompany writing, so that I'm just doing it. For one thing, it felt really good to send off the corrections for the accepted piece. I really didn't want to work on the R&R, but I did terribly want it to be done, so I worked on it in regular bits till I could say I was done, and now I am vastly pleased at having finished it (how I hope my friend doesn't think it needs a major overhaul) and really happy to move on to the next thing on the list. It's snowballing.

And, of course, I have been looking after the cats (not spending nearly enough time with them, poor pathetic neglected little animals whom nobody loves); Nicole and Maggie want more cat blogging, so I will try to oblige!

04 February 2011

Must . . . blog . . . more

Well, it's February, so maybe that's already sucking less? I mean, we're that much closer to spring. And spring break. And warm temperatures.

I am pining for the land of oleander and lantana, hedges of geraniums and rosemary, golden hills and gentle weather. I'm in the part of the country that got somewhere close to two feet of snow this past week. The storm kept me on campus for two nights. The good news was that Sir John had done all the necessary shoveling by the time I got home, and though I enter the house between 4-foot piles of snow, entrance is possible. Mail delivery has resumed. No pipes have frozen. Power stayed on the whole time. I have nothing to complain about, except that this is my 24th winter and I have had enough. How long till I can retire? And should I start teaching summer school so I can afford to retire in the land of lantana? Such calculations take up far too much of my brain, which I should be applying to research, service, and teaching tasks.

I've finished corrections on an accepted Thing and sent it off. I am back to working on the now very overdue R&R, and I have two acceptable opening pages and a lot of material that can be worked in when I figure out where it goes. I have written the quiz I was to have given on what turned into a snow day this week, and it will be ready to administer when my class meets again. I have to figure out how to juggle the syllabus a little to accommodate the snow day in other ways, and prepare for the possibility of another lost day, just in case. But I can't seem to work up any posts with actual content, as opposed to whinges about weather and so on.