the grid

the grid

Friday, 20 February 2015


A number of people mentioned conferences last week--as a way to gain coherence and in their goals. What do you enjoy about conferences? What do you dread? Do you have any conference-attending strategies? What purpose do conferences serve in your career? in your work life?

Partly, I'm curious about how answers will differ, and partly, I'm trying to figure out my own relationship with conferences. I'm attending my first non-academic writing conference next month, and I have never felt like I've been able to make conferences work for me in my academic life.

Check in:
Last week's goals
This week's goals

Here's the roster:

Allan Wilson: (no check in this week; back in week 7)
Exercise every day, and complete the analysis with a goal of having the paper tidied up as well.

relax with family, and do some stuff outdoors.

Contingent Cassandra:
1) continued attention to self-care: sleep; exercise (lift weights and either walk or do something else -- perhaps some stair-climbing -- if it's too cold); cook (prob. soup); eat more salads; take at least one full day off.
2) Make substantial progress on DH assignments, handouts, examples, etc.; plan 1st round of grading.
3) Begin tackling/planning financial tasks in a more systematic way; do travel request.

Daisy: (goals from week 3)
1) Send paper A (easy goal for positive reinforcement)
2) Draft B

Earnest English: (goals from week 4)
-keep up the great Get Serious work with daily writing and weekly typing!
-grade a little each day (papers coming in Tuesday!)
-1 hour on scholarship: soon I'll have to do 2 or 3 hours to catch up
-get travel for upcoming conference all scheduled and done
-make food
-Artist Date on Wednesday???
-try to get out of the house each day unless it's actively snowing
-unpack boxes
-meditate/do yoga

Elizabeth Ann Mitchell:
1) outline the presentation I have to give in March.
2) Write 100 words a day.
3) Sleep.

Good Enough Woman:
1) Complete draft of Summer Institute application
2) Organize my work bag and desk areas to help get routines back in order
3) review my timeline for the next 5 weeks to see if it still works

Finish and submit past due article
Finish and send proposal to friend for feedback
Write at least three days

1) keep up the 5 minutes of exercise, house stuff and email blitzing. 2) Put in an abstract for a conference at the end of my study leave . . . 3) On both of Tuesday and Thursday, I will do at least half an hour on Crunchier, even if it is just working on tables.

Kjhaxton: (from last week)
(1) Pin, press and hem the cut fabric.
(2) do something about the untranscribed paper
(3) writing daily

Matilda: (from last week)
1) Week 3-3 of Belcher's book.
2) Review the important book.
3) Write the introductory part of the review article.
4) Exercise for 5 minutes everyday. 2 sessions, if possible.
5) Have snacks, but not too much. You can do it!

1. Review article for journal - I will have to silence the evil email prompts!
2. Keep plugging along on chapter --
3. File expenses for research trip
4. Keep going on garden cleanup
5. Continue with exercise -- maybe figure out how to integrate yoga at home.


  1. I don't go to many conferences (in the 'large multiday' sense) but prefer single day meetings. There is one conference I'll go to each year which is 2 days long and usually will try to present. That's a good way to finish and polish a presentation (they aren't the types of conference where you write papers). Usually conferences are for getting ideas and seeing what other folk are doing. Generally I have to pay for conferences myself so that limits what I'll go to. I was contemplating applying for a grant to go to a big multiday international conference but I'm not sure I can manage/face it this year. Something to work towards next year.

    Two weeks ago goals:
    1) Pin, press and hem the cut fabric. - well apparently you can't iron fabric with paper sequins stuck to it. 28 bags done (hemmed and sewn up). 12 to go.
    (2) do something about the untranscribed paper
    (3) writing daily - done a bit of this, nothing about the untranscribed paper. Every semester has some tight weeks and I was hoping the past two have been mine. I think I may be wrong.

    This week:
    1) finish the bags - 12 to do.
    2) Tidy office, file things, make space for new projects
    3) survive.

    1. Sending survival wishes your way. Congrats on bag progress! And on getting some writing done despite the busy-ness.

    2. 28 bags done, 12 to go? Great work!

    3. And of course, you survive!

  2. Thoughts on the topic: The majority of the conferences I attend are tied to my librarian duties. Because of that, they are contaminated, to use a term from a few weeks ago. Nonetheless, I do plan lunch or dinner with former colleagues, which provides some coherence, as I mentioned last week.

    The other conferences I try to attend, but end up doing so less often, are the medieval studies conferences. There I find the intellectual spark that kindles research closer to my heart. Although I do not see any of my graduate school cohort at these conferences, (as we were solidly in the time of the lost generation of scholars, and with one or two exceptions, absent from academia entirely) and therefore miss the personal coherence, I do come home with a renewed energy and interest in the field.

    Last week’s goals:
    1) outline the presentation I have to give in March. Yes, brief but concrete.

    2) Write 100 words a day. Actually, I wrote nothing until Friday, but Friday I wrote 1330 words. Woo-hoo!!!

    3) Sleep. Not much sleep until Saturday, but I slept for 7 straight hours yesterday, through lunch and various not-very-quiet house activities. Exhaustion will do that for one, I think.

    Next week’s goals:
    1) Write 100 words a day.

    2) Space planning for home office. The current arrangement is not working.

    3) Personal time. I do not protect down time for myself either at work or at home.

    1. Your goals for next week sound like a set of goals I should adopt too! And there's a pattern that resonates with me: if I would clean and organize my home office, I would have a place to go to make possible my personal time, in which I could write 100 words a day. And breathe.

    2. Congratulations on your big word count and sleep!

      The space we work in is so key, isn't it? My office finally started working for me when I put in a comfy rocker where I can do non-computer work. I hope the reorg goes well.

    3. Productive (and sleep) in bulk! I love to fantasize about having full control of a home office that I can organize at will. Virginia Woolf was certainly on to something! Enjoy the space planning and personal time.

  3. I was sure that I was one of the people who mentioned conferences last week, since it was definitely something I immediately thought about. Grad school friends are touchstones especially at conferences. There are some conferences that I go to because they are good opportunities to explore and develop my research interests, but others that I am drawn to primarily because I can see old friends. I try to have one of each conference every year.

    When I attend a conference where I don’t know anyone or very few people, I try to the use it as an opportunity for retreat: buy a bunch of snacks, pick up some take-out, and prop up the hotel bed pillows for writing. As a huge introvert, knowing that I have retreat plans makes the social aspects of conference far more tolerable.

    Last week’s goals:
    1) Finish and submit past due article: no
    2) Finish and send proposal to friend for feedback: no
    3) Write at least three days: no

    It’s just one or two paragraphs to finish the past due article. Recommitting to that. I didn’t finish the proposal--I was invited to submit a totally different book proposal and thinking about that became a significant distraction from other TLQ. I wrote twice, which is better than not at all. So, this week’s goals are a refresh of last week’s goals, with high hopes I get from doing to done.

    1. The conference/retreat plan is the way I usually go too. I'm a moderate introvert, but meeting new people is a challenge for me. I hoping to break out a little bit at this next conference I attend so I can make connections (related to the coherence idea) in the non-academic writing world.

      And as for your goals--you can do it! Start with the easy pickings--those 1-2 paragraphs--and you'll be on a roll. (Imagine a few more cheerleading moves from those of us over here at TLQ.)

    2. Exactly the same for me at conferences! Conferences can provide a great balance for me, what with the hotel retreat aspect. As for the invitation for the book proposal, that sounds exciting (even if a bit distracting).

  4. Checking in quickly; maybe I'll have some thoughts about the topic later.

    Last week's goals:
    1) continued attention to self-care: sleep; exercise (lift weights and either walk or do something else -- perhaps some stair-climbing -- if it's too cold); cook (prob. soup); eat more salads; take at least one full day off.
    2) Make substantial progress on DH assignments, handouts, examples, etc.; plan 1st round of grading.
    3) Begin tackling/planning financial tasks in a more systematic way; do travel request.

    Accomplished: a bit of cooking and reasonable sleep on non-teaching nights; near-all-nighters both teaching nights (with the possibility that this will be another). I did, in the course of those nights (and other times), make reasonable progress on the DH stuff, but am still scrambling. Exercise hasn't really occurred; neither has any but the most basic financial stuff.

    Analysis: there have been some work-related distractions, mostly good news in the long run, but definitely time-consuming in the short run: my immediate supervisor's position is open; contingent faculty have been allowed to participate in and comment on campus visits by finalists, this is a good thing since there has been a wide disparity in the suitability of the candidates; it's also, however, making it clear why it's a good thing that service, including participation in searches, isn't usually part of our workload. Since it (or at least our part of it) will all be over in another week, and since it's important to participate not only because the new hire will be working directly with us, but also because we need to take the chance, since it's been offered, to be more involved in departmental affairs that affect us, this counts as time well spent, I'm pretty sure. At the moment, however, adding these meetings (and the need to confer about said meetings, and figure out how to make sure that our voices really are heard re: one truly unacceptable candidate), plus the class that requires more attention than usual, has left me pretty thoroughly overwhelmed/exhausted.

    So, goals for this coming week are very modest:

    1) try to get a full night's sleep when possible; eat the nutritious food that I have in the fridge/freezer; regroup toward the end of the week re: exercise, possible day off.

    2) keep making progress on DH class materials (and, now, feedback for that class).

    1. That sounds like a tough week! I'm glad you have some say in the hiring, even though it's time consuming. Wishing you much sleep, well-prepared students, and good health.

  5. Last week's goals: relax with family, and do some stuff outdoors.

    Success! Boy, did I relax! We had great fun in the snow, with sledding and snowshoeing and snow-cave building. I got to read an entire YA trilogy, and I even got some fun writing time in. I'm definitely in favor of ski week.

    This week is feeling more TRQ than normal--I have a big assignment due for an online class, and one of my work days will be taken up with a field trip to a California mission. So my goals will be middling and mostly health related.

    Goals for the week:
    1) exercise 4x
    2) eat well (according to "plan" I've established)
    3) reasonable bedtimes
    4) four 90-minute writing sessions

    1. Glad you had fun in the snow. I find that it takes me three or four days to wind down enough to read, and then I read a lot. Good luck with your busy week. I like that so many of us are figuring out how to be generous with ourselves when we have them.

    2. Reading YA can feel like such a great escape, can't it? Same goes for snow. :) And why don't we get ski week? I want ski week. Oh, and we visited a mission last weekend. There are armies of CA fourth graders swarming the missions right now!

      Good luck getting back into to the swing of things. I hope you are better at re-entry than I am.

    3. Good YA is the best kind of fiction!

  6. Hmmm, conferences. Earlier in my career, I saw conferences as a way to get myself known. Now I'm known, so I use conferences as much as anything to see friends and get out of my small town. I like to hear about new research, and sometimes present something myself, but I get a buzz from the intellectual and social energy. I've been trying to be better about planning my social life at conferences in advance, but that's touch and go, and I've certainly used some evenings as quiet evenings in my hotel room catching up on life. I have the conferences I've gone to for years, but I've also recently discovered a new one, that is in many ways more sympatico to me, so I now go to that as well.

    Last week's goals:
    1. Review article for journal - I will have to silence the evil email prompts! DONE!
    2. Keep plugging along on chapter -- yes, but less than I wished
    3. File expenses for research trip- DONE
    4. Keep going on garden cleanup - A little, but not as much as I should have done
    5. Continue with exercise -- maybe figure out how to integrate yoga at home: Blech. I almost never got out, and just claimed short walks as exercise. No yoga.
    Analysis: partly coming back from being away 8 days meant that there was lots of catching up; and every day had some interruption, often for half the day or more. And the weather got cold and cloudy, discouraging outdoor work. The good news is that I've walked the last two days, and I'll probably plant some stuff in the garden today. And yesterday I spent the afternoon preparing my taxes. Fortunately, this week I have few interruptions (just one afternoon) so I should be able to really get moving.

    Goals for next week:
    - Get close to finishing chapter. (The goal was to finish it by the end of February, but other obligations got in the way, so I'll give myself an extra week.)
    - Work on panel for fall conference (my new favorite conference)
    - Write abstract for invited workshop in April
    - Keep walking
    - Keep making progress on the garden. (This goes on forever, because weeds keep growing.)

    1. Congrats on getting the review article done! It sounds like you made some good progress all around despite the interruptions. I hope this week is a productive one for you.

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  8. goals: 1) keep up the 5 minutes of exercise, house stuff and email blitzing. 2) Put in an abstract for a conference at the end of my study leave . . . 3) On both of Tuesday and Thursday, I will do at least half an hour on Crunchier, even if it is just working on tables.
    achieved: 1) my best chain was 4 on exercise, 3 on house stuff and 3 on e-purging. But at least I did some of each! 2) done. 3) yes, and more - I made some substantial (if annoying) progress - annoying because it was re-re-re-re-re-doing some analyses, but hopefully for the LAST TIME.
    analysis: the first part of the week went well, but then towards the end of the week there were some stressful people interactions and everything was as the students would say GIANT PANTS. And today (Monday) wasn't that great either - despite being the first official day of my study leave I spent it on administrivia, talking to project students (which is teaching but at least the more research-y kind) and finding out that despite agreement at the last teaching-y meeting, and me carefully assembling documentation, it 'has been decided' that the Tsar will not have 'advisory' conversations with a couple of colleagues who have been falling short in some aspects of their teaching because "it would be awkward and they might take it personally". Which - well HELL why do we track quality, do evaluations, etc. if they're not going to be used to identify and support those who have issues? In at least one case, their response to all the 'process' things has been almost willfully blind to the actual data - my fave is where all the student numbers said the assessment instructions were very unclear (compared with the rest of the modules in the year), the exams person said they needed editing, the person who checked the marking said that they liked the range of titles offered, so the person apparently read only the last comment and sent the assessment instructions to me along with their response to those comments so that I could "share them with everyone else as an example of good practice". That, to me, is a person who needs a bit of mentoring... or possibly a remedial reading course. I just... what's the point in doing stuff well, in trying hard, in going the extra mile in my admin role to be really careful about documenting things as objectively as I can, to come up with a fair way of identifying issues (which has been praised by Faculty), if the next person up is going to ignore it because it's "awkward"? SIGH

    goals for this week: 1) five minuteses 2) survive three days in the office doing various things with people 3) do at least one hour on Crunchier on each of the days I'm NOT in the office 4) take the weekend completely off work work (and maybe do some housework).

    Conferences: would love 'em unreservedly if a) I didn't have to pay for most of 'em myself and b) didn't have to travel to get there. Invent a teleporter, that would be good, then I'd like them more. They vary. We are 'required' to go to 2 a year, 1 of which is "international in character" but funded enough to go to one local one a year maybe. "Get grants" we are told. Although these days grants rarely fund PI travel to conferences anyway, only post-docs and grad studnets, because our universities are meant to fund us.

    /end rant. Sorry. Not been a good few days!

    1. Oh, dear. Sorry that your study leave begins with people deciding that they will not (to use the lingo in our place) close the loop on assessment.

      Good luck with the week ahead! I hope then you can really enjoy your study leave.

    2. I hope you do, indeed, survive the three days of doing things with people so that you can enjoy a relaxing weekend, which will be a great kickoff for your study leave.

      And please teach us how to use the expression GIANT PANTS.

    3. 'pants' means something which is not going well/disappointing/poor quality, and apparently GIANT PANTS means really, seriously pants!

      Typical usage among students is in comments like "this graph is pants, it doesn't show anything" or "my drawing is pants, looks like a 6 year old did it" or "don't go to Bar X, it was pants, expensive and the music was terrible". It has an appealing school-yard level of rudeness to it to me, the same sort of emotional vibe as little boys saying "BUM!" or "YOU'RE A POOPYHEAD" and laughing in shocked amazement at their own daring... and has the monosyllabic, consonent-bracketed, one consonent-percussive, one hissy (not sure what the word for that is!) characteristics of many good swear-words. And it's both relieving to say and immediately putting-into-perspective the scale of the problem - I am trying to adopt such words as an alternative to the usual limited and unpleasing offerings since I notice I am swearing more than I used to and I don't like it...

    4. I did not know the usage of 'pants', or giant pants. Sounds so young to me.

    5. My daughter's says "nards" instead of darn or shoot. I forget where she got it from, but I like it.

      But I love "pants." I wonder if I can introduce its usage into the California vernacular?

    6. GEW, I'll work with you on the California vernacular, but I suspect that with children, you have a better way of doing it!

  9. Conferences: As I mentioned last week, I enjoy conferences because I live far, far away from my PhD uni (a continent and an ocean are between us), so I do most of my work in isolation. I am fairly introverted and socially nervous at conferences, but I enjoy the mental stimulation that I get from the panels. And everyone once in a while, I make a social connection. I don't really need to network, so I don't have to mingle if I don't feel like it. Therefore, I do a lot of what humming42 describes: I consider the hotel time to be a retreat. Since I have a hubby and two kids, I really enjoy the intellectual and personal space that a conference provides. Like others, I have to pay for these conferences myself, but I look at is as my hobby and my vacation. Is that sad?

    1) Complete draft of Summer Institute application: YES. I even completed the final draft and sent it off.
    2) Organize my work bag and desk areas to help get routines back in order: WELL, I tidied my desk a little bit, but I haven't gotten back into the routines. I caught a cold and have been muddling along.
    3) review my timeline for the next 5 weeks to see if it still works: SORT OF. I looked over it, decided I was somewhat on track, but it's too soon to tell for sure.

    Next week's goals:
    1) Write 500 words for special section of Chapter 2.
    2) Read 75 pages of primary text.
    3) Exercise 5x, tracking water and spending

    1. It's not sad if it's enjoyable and fulfilling! Congrats on getting the application all the way done.

      Hope your cold doesn't hold you back this week.

    2. Nothing you enjoy and get benefits from is sad, at least not among us academic nerds...

      Some conferences I can frame that way to myself - not as having to pay to fulfil my job requirements (which is very annoying) but as getting to learn fun new things with people I like with a bit of travel, eating out and the pleasures of a solitary hotel room - and it's good - but it's getting harder (partly due to some issues with some of the people on the same conference circuit as me - amazing how one rotten apple can mess up a barrel - and partly the departmental pressures to go to MORE, BETTERER places and conferences. I really have to learn how to get the competitive aspects of my job sealed away in carbonite or the mental equivalent...). Conference timing is also a problem because it tends to be set to suit the elite's academic calendar and in the UK at least less elite universities tend to have longer semesters/administrative periods (plus people there teach more so have more juggling to do to be away in term time) so it's just disruptive.

      Framing is SO important, though, and I really need to work on that... or to maybe take NOT being able to frame an event in a positive way which I fiend believable as a sign that it's not the best use of my time and limited energies/resources!

    3. Your comment makes me realize that part of what makes conferences relaxing for me is that, at the conferences I've been attending lately, no one knows me. I am a PhD student from a far away place, and a tenured faculty member at a community college, which, being a two-year college, is totally off the radar. One time my supervisor was at a conference, but, thankfully, she didn't feel the need to introduce me around. Actually, I never even considered having her introduce me to the big names, and I'm not sure she did either. The fact that I already have a good job takes the pressure off, I suppose, and I think she must realize that, too. I got to enjoy her company from time to time (she's fantastic), and then I happily retreated to my room when she was partying with the famous people.

  10. Hello. I am checking-in very late. I thought I would skip this week, but I am here.

    Every time I go to a conference, I feel I know nothing, being so stupid, a third-rate researcher, nobody knows me! Besides, I am not good at socialising, so I usually say hello only to my old friends. However, I try to attend a conference as much as possible, because I want to know what other people are now interested in, and in order to get information on the current research trend, conferences are the best way, I think. Maybe I need to find some fun on conferences.

    Last goals:
    1) Week 5-1 of Belcher's book. - Partly done. Maybe one-third?
    2) Review the important book. I cannot put it off any more!!! - Just started, but still re-reading and reviewing.
    3) Finish the introductory part of the review article. - Not yet.
    4) Exercise for 7 minutes everyday. - 3 days.
    5) Be tolerant of snacks, but try to have healthy one. - 3 no-snack-days. Ok.

    Next goals:
    1) Week 5-2 of Belcher's book.
    2) Continue to read the important book.
    3) Finish the introductory part of the review article.
    4) Exercise for 7 minutes everyday. Do a short exercise in the morning.
    5) Be tolerant of snacks, but try to have healthier one.

    Have a happy week, everyone!

    1. I also feel that I know nothing and am merely a wannabe researcher who might never actually get her PhD. That's why I tend to try to present at regional conferences and merely attend the national ones where I feel especially ignorant. :)

    2. Matilda, glad you could stop in! Maybe, in some ways, it would be good if we all felt ignorant at conferences, as if there is so much to learn! Which there is - though we often all go to our own familiar sessions instead of stretching.