the grid

the grid

Sunday, 6 September 2020

Last quarter 2020: Week 1

 Hello! DEH here. Like Daisy, I'm missing this space. Last week, I set up a Goals-for-the-week page in my little Moleskine on Monday . . . and apart from the header, it stayed blank till Friday.

To be fair, the week went to hell in part because of insomnia and the resulting fog + scramble to do the most urgent thing, not just because I hadn't set goals. When I'm in that state, goals just sit there and mock me, anyway: who do I think I am, making plans, when the brain and energy just aren't there? OTOH, I like to keep track of the things I'm not doing, because they're mostly going to have to be done at some point, and I'd rather know about them than get mugged by the forgotten tasks.

So let's pick up again not far from where we left off. We're still a few weeks out from the beginning of 2020's last quarter, but I'm happy to jump the gun a bit (2020, don't let the door hit you on your way out). What can we do, what must we keep track of, for the next 15 or 16 weeks? Let's go until mid-December---that is, have our last check-in around Friday, 17 December 2020, as we wrap up the semester and face the holidays, whatever they may involve this year. How many weeks that is depends on whether you count from the beginning of the week or the end (at least it did for me, but see above about brain fog; maybe I'm still out to lunch). 

Start by introducing yourself and your goals if you'd like to join in this session. I'm going to borrow from Daisy's post in May, starting out the summer session:

The text below owes a debt to those who have been good enough to host here previously...

The format will be the same as ever. We will set goals for the whole session and then for each week. It's really easy to get carried away setting goals so I encourage you all to be optimistically realistic without creating a new source of pressure to perform! Goals can be in any aspect of life although the key focus is often writing tasks that are personally (and professionally) important but that never quite tip over into important AND urgent. Urgent things sometimes find their way in here too; that is completely okay. Each week we'll try to have a discussion topic: suggestions for those are very welcome. We’ll remind everyone of their big session goals about midway through the session.
Anyone new or old is welcome to join. And finally, don't worry if you miss a few check-ins. Life happens. Oh, do we know that… And as always, this is a supportive, generous space with no intimidation factor so enjoy it!

So for this week:
1. Tell us a bit about yourself. What's your main focus at the moment? And where are you based? You are welcome to be vague and mysterious in the interest of maintaining anonymity while still introducing yourself to the group.
2. Think and speculate and dream (out loud if you want!) about goals for this session, but sit with them for a week or so and we’ll officially post them next week. Feel free to throw out a whole bunch now and pick from those next week. Maybe warm up with a few small things you want to do this week to get ready for bigger goals, or things you want to clear out of the way to make room for those.
3.  If you need to post goals for the coming week (clearly I do), feel free to do so; but if you're in triage mode and can't get that far, don't worry about it. Just come say hello and then come back next week with more definite session goals. 

Your hosts this session are Dame Eleanor Hull and heu mihi; we'll probably trade off but not too strictly, if one of us is crunched for time. We haven't yet discussed when posts will go up, but Sunday mornings generally work well for me. Let us know if you have strong preferences! And welcome (back) to TLQ.


  1. By now, I've had a couple of decent nights' sleep so I'm less scrambled than I was, but I still have trouble imagining life three months from now. What fresh hell(s) will have been visited upon us by then? I'm reasonably sure of some things to do with the natural world: in the next few months, I'll need to put the garden to bed; leaves will fall; we'll have frosts if not snow. It will get dark early. In fact, by the time this session ends, dark's advances will have slowed significantly and I'll be anticipating the swing back to lengthening days at the winter solstice.

    I'll have finished my first semester teaching fully online. Please don't let it be a disaster. So far, students are being understanding about my goofs, but there's only so long I can trade on their good will. I think I should try to experiment now, even at the cost of errors, so I learn more about the platforms and apps available. It seems likely the spring will also be online, and after that . . . who knows, but again, we may be offering more online classes even when LRU opens up campus again, so I may as well be prepared. I have one completely new grad class to plan for the spring, so I need to put some time into that.

    Research: I need to revise an article and send it to the journal that accepted it with revisions. I'd like to make progress on my book. I have a conference paper to work on (not sure what will happen to the conference, but should probably be prepared, in case). And I have a sort of left-handed project that I work on very intermittently, which recently re-surfaced as something I could face working on when I couldn't mange to tackle anything else.

    I no longer have to prep my house for sale or think about moving---yay! The new house still needs some time and attention: finish putting up bookshelves, get stored boxes hauled here from the storage unit and unpack them, get a new washer and dryer installed, other odds and ends.

    Another thing I'm sure of is the need to look after my health, with regular yoga (am getting back to proper yoga in place of low-key stretching) and cardiovascular exercise, as well as some work with weights. I'm not sure what cardio will look like as it gets colder: bundling up and going out? Taking up snow-shoeing? Getting some sort of indoor stair-stepper? I'll also make the usual efforts to stick to a diet that agrees with my touchy gut, and to keep to a reasonably regular sleep schedule.

    1. I said I needed goals for the week, and then didn't set any. So here goes:

      *Health: daily cardio and stretching, weights x 3, try to eat carefully and sleep enough.
      *Teaching: Assign points to last week's discussions x2 classes, grade first assignments x2 classes.
      *Research: make plan for addressing revisions; some time on both dead and live languages; maybe some other reading.
      *Service: prep for next week's meeting.
      *Fun stuff: watch the Tour de France with Sir John, read more mid-century women's fiction.
      *House/life: weeding; sign & mail tax return; put together more bookcases.

    2. It's good to hear the relief in your tossing the goal of prepping and selling the old house. When one copies a goal like that from semester to semester, it feels so liberating to get out from under it.
      I also want to assure you that my several classes as a student show that the students are very willing to excuse gaffes. In fact, I get the feeling that Zoom is very foreign even to the younger computer scientists who are in some of my classes, since they forget to unmute, raise their hands and so on.
      Finally, please share what mid-century women's fiction you read--I am not alone in my interest, I'm sure!

    3. Most lately, Ursula Orange, whom I discovered via Clothes in Books, whose tastes seem very similar to my own:

    4. Thank you! There's curbside pick up at my local library - - off to search the blog and see what they have.

  2. Thank you for putting this up! I definitely need some goals and structure this week...
    Our online classes start this week, I only found out what I'm teaching a few days ago and have one course that I did not anticipate with almost 100 students in it (long story – sacrificing course caps to keep labs caps was a crap trade-off pushed on us by horrible dean), so I am having a comprehensive, system-wise meltdown. In March I handled everything really well, I was pretty even-keeled throughout the uncertainty and chaos, and I made it through the summer very successfully and even felt ok about the term for a while. That has now all come crashing down - I think I saved all the angst for this week! Which is one way of dealing with it - I think I quite like having all my emotional turmoil compressed and in a short period... This way it is done and over with quickly I guess??? That’s how I’m going to look at it…
    So... For this week I need to:
    1)Get schedules ready for all classes, and record intro videos and created first-week activities.
    2)Have an uncomfortable conversation with my lab instructor. He is fabulous and wonderful and great with students, but also the most disorganized person on the planet. We normally work really well together, but he wants to do some really ambitious things for the online classes and is willing to do most of the heavy lifting for that, but I’m terrified that it will end up being a last-minute rush every week and even if I have my parts all prepared he will spend so much time making things interactive and whatnot that nothing will be done on time. He also works very different hours than I do and has no boundaries with time or students and I need those desperately.
    3)Limit the crying to every morning in the shower to get it over with so I can be functional for the rest of the day.
    4)Set up my schedule and my boundaries and priorities and write down everything so I will not be pushed into doing things in times and ways that will make me lose my mind.
    5)Get more yarn for the rage-knitting project I started last night – apparently I only knit when things are awful. This one will join the “professional drama blanket”, the “grant rejection scarf” and the “grief afghan”…

    Good luck with the first few weeks everyone!

    1. Well, I'm sorry that this week is hitting you so hard and that your institution hasn't handled things better. Still, I'm relieved to know that this part isn't just me: "In March I handled everything really well, I was pretty even-keeled throughout the uncertainty and chaos." I also had a delayed reaction which felt worse because it seemed like people around me had adapted (by doing their falling-apart in spring while I was getting on with things). So, sympathy and solidarity,and I hope that writing everything down as in #4 will help you keep your mind.

    2. Nothing to add, but sympathies. 100 students online? And online labs...
      I'd be crying too.

    3. I will add my sympathy, as well. I would be rage-knitting and crying, too. All the best with the conversation with the lab instructor. I am sending lots of positive energy.

  3. Hi All,
    I am finding teaching online a serious challenge. I think my expectations are too high. Its so difficult to have class discussion not feel stilted and to not have long stretches of quiet. I am going to experiment with more breakout groups etc. but it already feels like it is going to be an infinetely long teaching semester. In truth my spirits are down about it and franky, I am sort of down about everything. Setting some goals might help so here goes:

    Session Goals:
    1. Complete book and submit to press!!!! This will entail final writing/ edits on Ch 8, a bit of data crunching for Ch 7, a final read througth and polish of the entire thing, plus copy edits and figures and the bib. I think its doable.
    2. Maintain a realistic notion of what is doable this semester in terms of teaching. Be gentle with myself.
    3. Exercise 5x a week
    4. Eat healthy
    5. Advise several students on new projects, get bits and pieces of data/writing needed to collaborators for CNH paper, Canoe paper, and Adze paper
    6. Paperwork for aunt to go into state system (I am her POA)
    7. Buy porch furniture to make outdoor space comfy
    8. Do smell retraining therapy each day in the hopes of getting smell and taste back

    Good luck everyone!

    1. These sound like excellent goals, and maybe focusing on the book will help with being realistic about teaching. You make a good point, though, about the challenges of teaching online. Would it work to provide your class with a script to work through? I don't know what your area is, or how large your classes; those things would make a difference. But if they knew there was a regular process of working through the class asking each student to raise a question or problem about the assigned work, and then another round soliciting possible answers, then time to evaluate the answers, and a round of "what did you learn" or something like that, maybe that would help.

      I'm still trying to work out whether one of my classes has to go completely asynchronous because of a time-zone problem, though, so I'm not sure if I'll get to test this!

    2. It is such a different kettle of fish to discuss online--I have always counted on nonverbal cues like staring at one student after another. I like Dame Eleanor's suggestions, and am tucking them away for future use.
      Your goal of being kind with yourself on teaching expectations is something everyone teaching online should adopt.

    3. What frustrating is that I am providing them with a script- I give them a list of questions to take notes on and tell them to come prepared to discuss those issues. And they still flail and are quiet, until Week 4 when they seem to understand what I want. So yes, its been better this week. Its also the week where the students start leading discussion one class a week in pairs. I am always amazed when class starts speaking more, like on command, to support their peers who are leading discussion. It also gives the students an idea of how much prep goes into leading discussion and what its like being in the hot seat!

    4. Well, it's very annoying when they won't follow the script! I'm glad it's better this week. You're right that putting students in the hot seat gives them a lot more insight into class dynamics and their role in them.

    5. Forgot to post goals for this week:
      1. Read/refine Ch 8
      2. Deal with DGS isssues
      3. Get some data together for erosion collaborative paper
      4. Paperwork for aunt going into state system Part 2
      5. Exercise 3x this week
      6. Weed raised bed
      7. Fun x 2

  4. I started writing a post, got distracted, then closed the window. Such a metaphor for life right now! Anyway, I'm Susan, a humanities professor at a wannabe R1 in California. I am a widow who lives with 2 cats (gotta do the stereotype) and I have an elderly mother who lives in assisted living a few miles from my house. I checked in this afternoon because I missed the group, and delighted to see that Dame Eleanor started us off!

    Right now, I'm tired and anxious and think the next two months in the US are going to be awful, or worse. So, goals are minimal and kind, as my teaching is this semester.

    Session goals
    1. Survive the teaching, and maybe figure out how to own it? I'm beginning to figure out how to manage class, and am grateful to the students who will turn on cameras so I get some feedback! Last week I figured out how to pre-assign students to breakout rooms and I wanted to break out the champagne. I have tried to make the assignments for students what they can manage, and to be flexible. It's just hard.

    2. Finish chapter 2 of Famous Author, by working at least 15 minutes every week day.

    3. Keep making progress on getting rid of stuff/ fixing house.

    4. Keep walking or getting exercise. I have just ordered a Very Expensive piece of gym equipment, but everyone I know who has it raves. I hope it gets me through the winter when "It's dark when I wake up and want to go out so I don't go walk". We'll see.

    5. Read for pleasure -- a litte?

    6. Do something enjoyable weekly with friends. (mostly not face to face...)

    That seems do-able. It's just plodding along. As I said earlier, I'm tired and anxious. My students include a significant number of immigrants and DACA students (7 % of undergrads are undocumented) so it's especially anxious for them.

    Also, while we're not in a fire region here, the current big fire is about 70 miles away, and while the prevailing winds are away from us, the air is terrible, and on campus today it smelled of smoke. So there's another source of doom to add to politics and COVID.

    In the massive office re-organization of the summer (mostly complete) I found a pile of notebooks, and last week I took one off the shelf to keep track of to-do things. THere's something about sitting at my desk for 8-10 hours a day that made that seem right.

    Goals for this week:
    1. Start reading ms. for promotion review (720 pp!)
    2. 3 x 1 hour on Famous Author, goal 15 minutes a day
    3. Watch webinar for next week's class
    4. Send invites to potential zoom guests for both classes
    5. read two journals
    6. Keep walking
    7. Go to sleep earlier
    8 Plan something nice for weekend

    1. If there ever was a semester to be kind with oneself and one's students, this is it, for all the reasons you list. I think we all need to have a weekly goal of doing something nice in hopes of staying sane through November. I'm renewing my passport, too.

    2. The fires are awful, and add to the sense of doom afflicting many of us. You're right: it IS hard, and we need to acknowledge that instead of expecting that we can just take things in stride and cope. I mean, I'm usually one to insist on giving the appearance of taking things in stride, and that helps me to cope, but in private . . . yeah, it's hard.

  5. I’m Elizabeth, a librarian at an R1 in the wilds of upstate New York. I was trained as a medievalist, but decided to get an MLIS to support myself during the dissertation. And then, life happened. I started a PhD in Information Science last spring, and question why the hell I am doing it every other 3am, but there it is. I am currently doing research on early modern translations of classical Latin texts, and dabbling in digital humanities as a way to provide better access to rare books. The latter ruminations are based on scanning things for researchers in this pandemic, and reflecting on the gap between experiencing the physical text and the rather pale imitation that is the scan.

    By the end of the semester, I would love to have tacked down something about what the remaining classes might be for my degree, as well as having some notion of a dissertation committee. However, that is not under my control, so. . .

    I want to
    spend my research leave at a nearby archive to do a final check of my critical edition against the exemplars;
    finish the article that grew from a presentation I gave;
    pull together a good literature review of the flavor of digital humanities that interests me;
    walk more, eat better, meditate when I wake up at 3am, and write every day;
    be more positive about life.

    To that end, my goals for this week are:
    Drop the course that is one credit yet takes 15 hours of homework every week so far.
    Email the archive to move my research days, again.
    Finish the lit review for the article.
    Poke around the books on digital humanities, making an outline for that lit review.
    Email my advisor, yet again.
    Walk 2x7; eat real meals 2x7; meditate 1x7; write 2 hours x 5.
    Write something positive in my planner 1x7.

    I will try not to fall into the Slough of Despond this semester. Thank you to Dame Eleanor and heu mihi for hosting this session. I look forward to traveling again with boon companions, familiar and new. Be well, be safe, and float like mist, everyone.

    1. The relationship between the scan and the book... oh, my. What a great question! And now we are thrilled that we can photograph in archives, and sometimes that's a good thing (in some ways it's easier to read really big pieces of parchment on a computer screen than bending over in the archives) but it's not the same. And the books I've had to read on the screen in pandemic time...

    2. I'm thrilled by the photographs and scans, too, Susan--especially given our mutual grousing about EEBO. But I'm quite intrigued by the possibility of enriching that experience, and how that might be done.

    3. I'm teaching intro to bib and research methods this term, and we *have* to focus on the relationship between the scan and the book, because we can't get into our special collections this term (at least, not as a group). Fortunately the students are very interested in this question!

    4. It's good to hear the students are interested in that. We have very limited capacity as well--only 4 researchers at a time. Necessary, but very odd.

  6. I’m humming42, a late/mid-career prof in the humanities at a mid-sized third-tier state school in the US Southwest. Happy to still be here with all of you.

    Looking ahead for the last quarter, I feel so much uncertainty, as I expect is not unique. I wish I had done more course prep for online modules over the summer, but I will bear with the crush since I didn’t plan well. At our zoom faculty meeting today, we were told to prepare for hy-flex and hybrid modalities for Spring, so it makes the workload more tolerable now knowing that I’ll teach the same basic courses in the Spring and will have far less work as a result. The upper division class I’m planning to teach is one I’ve already fully developed online.

    Since this quarter is teaching-task-intensive, my research goals are focused on continuing to develop a writing and research habit. I don’t want to commit to a big research project that I won’t be able to accommodate, resulting in shame and disappointment. I do have an online conference presentation in October and a few small writing projects I’m considering. Weekly goals will reflect specific projects where session goals are very broad, checking those boxes every week.

    Session goals:
    1 write a tiny project piece every week
    2 spend time with a creative piece every week
    3 write weekly blog posts
    4 finish writing that online class
    5 keep up with teaching things

    This week:
    1 write a tiny project piece
    2 work on creative piece--a prompt awaits
    3 write weekly blog post--probably about Dots
    4 finish and submit current book review

    1. You're wise to pick small tasks so you don't get mired in disappointment and shame. I'm struggling with that myself. I want to Do All The Things, since I'm not commuting and should have All The Time, but I can see that that is not realistic.

    2. I have to agree that small steps are smart right now. I feel I am on a crumbling path where I have to watch where I put my feet. And following your thoughts, I plan to break my session goals into baby steps.

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  8. Hello all, I'm sorry to be so slow in getting in here, especially since I'm one of the co-hosts! I don't even feel like I can think about my goals for the term yet. We're almost done with the third week of classes, my son is out of school for another week and then online for at least a month after that, and I feel like I'm just toggling--badly--between teaching and parenting at the moment. In fact, I'm writing this during my Zoom office hours, while the cat tries to cram herself onto my lap and my son reads me random sentences from a new library book. Research goals are very vague and that's driving me nuts, too.

    I *do* know what one of my goals is, though--something that, for some reason, I have longed to do for ages now. On a day when NO ONE ELSE IS HOME (if that ever happens again), I want to sit on the little couch in our now-nicely-fixed-up basement living room area and watch at least a good bit of "Pride and Prejudice." The Colin Firth version. And maybe have milk and cookies while I'm at it.

    And looky here, I forgot to introduce myself (because that's the way it seems to be going right now). I'm heu mihi, a medievalist who is hoping to be up for promotion to full this year (that's another source of stress--my chair, despite verbally supporting me, seems to be balking at actually giving my materials to my external reviewers. I am frankly freaking out about it at this point, and planning to contact my union if he hasn't done so by the end of the week). I have an eight-year-old, a husband who's a part-time minister/rest-of-the-time scholar, and a geriatric cat, and we live in a house with too few doors.

    Since I'm not even posting goals right now but just venting, I will also add that I need a new glasses/contacts prescription, and I'm finding that all the screen time is giving me a lot of mild headaches. The eye doctor is scheduling a month out, though, so I won't get it fixed until October....

    On the bright side, classes are going surprisingly well, and we are now into the Replacing Things That Need Replacing phase of covid cleaning (e.g. shower curtain, cell phones [a dreaded but necessary upgrade that was cheaper and more painless than expected], favorite sandals), which is sort of fun.

    I'm looking forward to seeing you all here every week, and to (hopefully) getting myself organized!

    1. Well, I unilaterally sprang the session start on you, because I missed the group, so don't worry about that side of things! I like your milk and cookies and P&P goal; that sounds like a lovely thing to look forward to. Right now all Hull TV time is devoted to the Tour de France (which contributes to my sense of discombobulation, because the Tour should happen in July, but was delayed two months this year), but before it started, and when it finishes, we're watching BBC productions of Trollope. Delightful!

      I also need to make an appointment for an eye exam, and should probably get on with that in case my place is also scheduling a long way out--thanks for the reminder.

  9. I'm JaneB and I'm drowning. "Welcome Fortnight" starts on Monday.
    The university extended induction this year, because not starting classes for two weeks definitely won't affect student partying and behaviour... <-- sarcasm font. Departments were told the extended period was so the university could do lots of briefing then two weeks later were told that departments each had to produce their own customised briefing and I'm one of the lucky, lucky people who has to do at least one thing every day...). We have to deliver all of these Welcome Activities plus teaching using a specific software which we have had partial access to for a month now. We don't like it. We also can't set up any of the teaching because no students have been added, nothing is set up - we're told it will be done by Monday. We start at 10am on Monday.

    Something went wrong in the marks handling system so all the summer mark processing - a LOT of our students used the "no detriment" COVID policy to extend a few pieces of work into August - had to be redone (by our very reduced centralised admin team - Efficiencies Were Made in Jan and Feb and oh are we feeling it). So the final year students ARE now graduated but students who hope to return into second and third year are not yet able to know if they will be allowed to return. And some of them won't pass and will need to repeat first year therefore are scheduled to be in Welcome sessions on Monday... (the returning years come back end of next week). Oh, and the university has told us that we have to assume new students will arrive up until 4 weeks into teaching (12 weeks teaching period) and that we will need to cover all the welcome material individually and get them up to speed in classes (sigh. Normally we don't take new students after the first week, but...).

    Whine whine whine. I'm a mid-career academic in a UK "squeezed-middle" (regional, most of the income comes from teaching but has research ambitions and expectations well in excess of the hours available) university. I live alone with Fluffball, a dumb but loving middle-aged cat, and I'm "moderate risk" for COVID so I've been pretty much isolating in person since mid-March (age, weight, vulnerability to respiratory viruses - I get every virus and germ going and am often ill for weeks when others are ill for days, I have multiple allergies, and I creak - my body is just not easy to live in. plus anxiety... and living through 2020 in the UK is just so STRESSFUL. On top of the huge amounts of extra work and stress caused by the pestilential pivot). Anyway. I'm coping, but not very well (and I'm extra moody today because I either ate something bad or just got super stressed earlier this week so had an upset stomach which kept me up most of the night and trotting to the bathroom every 40 minutes most of the day (I had Meetings :-(). It seems to have settled down - I didn't have anything other than plain water or bouillon until a couple of hours ago, when I had an egg and some bland boiled vegetables which seem to be staying where they should, so... ugh. I'm SO behind already and we haven't even started. I also tend to be verbose when I'm stressed!

    A good thing - playing D&D with my niece means I HAVE to spend some time being creative in the week to plan each week (I of course am GameMaster - Niece does not do planning. Fortunately I like that bit best!), and spending a few hours on line with Niece (& my Sis and Brother-in-Law always pop in to say hi at some point and the dog bounces through to see what is going on) is good. Hopefully for both of us. It's going to be a bad fit with NaNoWriMo, which I want to do for all my usual reasons... but may not.


    1. My main focus - teaching well enough, and self care enough to be well enough to teach. We're understaffed and struggling even before the pandemic, and none of that is the students' fault. Also the teaching fits in with Community Project (developing a communal resource of teaching materials in my research field).

      Leaving goals until welcome fortnight is over makes sense for me - I hope I'll be in a bit more of a rhythm by then!

      I have a manuscript to read & comment on for a former MSc student and a chapter to read to do an upgrade exam for a grad student and some refereeing, plus teaching prep and community project stuff to do (interns to manage).

      Good to be back, even if I am polluting the air with my venting - there's consolation in knowing we're not alone in our struggles, right?

    2. Yes, there is consolation in having company! And in having the group as a continuing, stable element in the midst of chaos. Six years! That's an achievement.

      But your university---I can't even. I generally believe in not attributing to malice what is probably incompetence, but it's a little hard to believe in such sustained incompetence! I don't even know what to say, except that I'm sorry it's so hard, and would like to offer virtual chocolate and a tasty, non-addictive, no-side-effects sleeping potion, so that at least you can face the days well-rested.