the grid

the grid

Sunday, 25 September 2022

2022 Session Three, week two

Hello everyone - I hope you all had a good week.  So nice to welcome Julie to TLQ, and to welcome some regulars.  If anyone else wants to join in please feel free to do so!  Any typos are definitely to be blamed on my cat, Fluffball (nom de blog), who is having a needy day and is encroaching onto the keyboard very slowly.  It would be cute if I didn't have two sets of slides to make and a ton of emails to deal with today!

Last week Dame Eleanor prompted us to think about spirals, and I wanted to share a couple of spiral images to start off our new week,

A spiral galaxy (photo from NASA)

The kerbstone from Newgrange, Ireland (c. 5000 years old)

The spirals then made me think of Lim Heng Swee, an artist I recently came across, whose work I really enjoy.

This week, let's explore the idea of the journey through the semester a bit more.  In talking about spirals, the idea of spiral movement kept coming up - going through the same piece of writing repeatedly to develop it from plan to draft to full piece, spirals as helices or as cycles around the same thing, but seeing it differently and adding to it each time, or spirals as meditative paths.  The western/northern hemisphere academic cycle, with new year in August/September, a welcome break at Christmas, the long slog of winter into spring, the frenzy of exams and finishings, and then the promise of rest in the heat of summer which never quite comes to fruition, but maybe next year, has been the backdrop of my life since I started school, and sometimes that's a blessing, bringing continual new starts, and sometimes a bane, inexorable and implacable.  How do cycles affect you?  Does your week have a regular cycle, or your day, or each project or class?  Do you find them restrictive, or long for more regularity?  Let's talk about how we can use cycles to enhance our lives rather than getting stuck within them, and how to make space for the exceptional, the unexpected, the original moments that come along.

Last week's goals:


Open big joint effort paper and see if I can start the revisions on my own
Order lab supplies and pay lab bills
Pick one section of grant application and write it

Dame Eleanor Hull

- Add 1000 words to essay
- Finish reading C&C book
- Finish grading undergrad paper set
- Grade grad paper set
- Prep for Dead Language Group
- Work on tidying bookshelves in my study

Elizabeth Anne Mitchell

Create 20,000-foot plan for the session;
Hone some ideas for a couple of articles.
Continue physical therapy and go to doctor’s appointment.
If time allows, free write on a few other possible topics.

Heu mihi

1) Look at Darmstadt MSS
2) On Friday, summarize my notes in a way that will make it easy to remember the important points of what I saw
3) Have fun with friend (and my family) in Freiburg on Saturday


1 catch up on grading (already!)
2 write 1000 words for Food chapter
3 create module structure for online class
4 catch up on emails and organizing online files


1) survive chaotic Welcome Week
2) get ViLE pages set up for next week
3) touch one of the papers
4) do minimum house chores that got lost last weekend.


Prep for various meetings relating to new admin role in the department (a small role, but requires getting to grips with new processes)
Write a draft of an application for a pot of university funding to send to my mentor by Friday.
Read a PhD student's chapter
Work through a set of 18th century accounts I'm using for an article I want to submit by the end of the month.


    1) survive chaotic Welcome Week: ish. I managed to do my various parts until Thursday, when a long day was followed by needing to do computer work to get the slides ready for the next day, and then on Friday I woke up with a migraine (or it woke me up). I'm just not quite back to the long days yet... but it's just about impossible not to do them if I want to try to do my job... gah! Struggling a bit with commuting because I'm unused to driving and have been wearing no shoes a lot at home, and so my hip/knee/lower back/feet all greatly resent the change!

    2) get ViLE pages set up for next week just about - the pages are up but I still need to put some of the slides etc. up there for the students... in theory that will happen this evening...

    3) touch one of the papers nope. But I had a research visitor from Exotic Country come in and take up three hours in a way which might be fruitful eventually in terms of collaboration or might not. I _like_ meeting young scientists and keeping up links, but right now I just want to hibernate!

    4) do minimum house chores that got lost last weekend. lost this weekend too. Sigh!

    1) do two days on campus without guilt at not being there more
    2) prepare for the following week
    3) don't do more than 9 hours a day max. Only do reactive research stuff (I already have a few hours of grad student meetings and know a draft needing urgent attention will appear at some point during the week in my inbox, so that's PLENTY of planned content).
    4) do minimum house chores that keep getting lost. Prepack lunch-type food for the two days on campus.

    1. Nine hours is quite a long day in itself! I hope that you're able to maintain the boundaries around your work days.

    2. Hope campus days were not too stressful this week!

    3. Campus day one went well. Campus day two, my car started juddering and making Very Ominous Noises slightly less than half way to work, so I turned it around, limped it home and taught online!

  2. Nice to be here!

    Last week's goals:
    1. Prep for various meetings relating to new admin role in the department (a small role, but requires getting to grips with new processes) - DONE (it's going to be quite a steep learning curve, as it involves helping colleagues apply for grants/knowing how processes work, but at least I know now who does what and who to ask for help).
    2. Write a draft of a grant application - DONE (it was painful, and will need a lot more work, but at least there's something on paper).
    3. Read PhD student's chapter - DONE, and had a meeting with him and co-supervisor, confirmed he's on top of things and I don't need to worry about him.
    4. Work on 18th century accounts - this was much slower than I hoped, but getting there.
    5. I don't think I specified any house/life admin. I'm going to try for one task a week (on top of all the laundry/meals/ferrying kids around). This week's task was to get a carpenter round to measure up for shelves in what will be my new study and a cupboard on the upstairs landing.

    Goals for next week:
    1. Prep introductory lectures for the two modules I start teaching the week after.
    2. Prep VLE for both modules - update handbooks, add new readings.
    3. Mark an MA dissertation I've had assigned to me as second marker.
    4. Try to keep two days free for research this week and finish up these accounts/work on journal article.
    5. One life admin task
    6. Some self-care - exercise, pack proper lunches, read, journal.

    I like the spiral images. With cycles, I enjoy the cycle of the year, the change of seasons and so on. I think weekly cycles can feel more like a trap e.g. getting to Friday and still having tasks unfinished, knowing that a difficult teaching day is coming up again. I guess one way to try to counteract that is to add in things to the cycle that I can look forward to: exercise sessions, film night with my kids on a Saturday, family reading time on a Sunday evening.

    1. I like your idea of adding fun things into the cycle--it's so easy to forget to do that, and just to focus on the unfun stuff that doesn't get done!

    2. I also like the idea of specifically adding and recognizing fun things during the week and making them regular so they are something one can depend on. Unfortunately fun stuff so often gets bumped for urgent things so being really deliberate about protecting those is definitely necessary...

    3. One plus of the pandemic for me was that my nibling was bored that first summer, and asked me to run a D&D game via video call for them. Then their friends joined in... and now instead of seeing nibling and their family every few months for a couple of days, which is stressful for me & for nibling (nibling is neuroatypical. Nibling is my mini-me - but less introverted. I have started the journey of trying to get an adult screening), I see nibling almost every weekend for a few hours to do a fun thing together (& my sister or brother in law pop in to chat when passing the room). So a typical Sunday now has a fun creative thing mid-afternoon and it definitely helps reduce the Sunday scaries about work!

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  4. (Reposting under my proper TLQ name, not that it matters much at this point!)

    I also like the cycle of the year. It helps me to know what's coming, and to reassure me when (e.g.) I predictably have a mini-breakdown in late October: Oh yeah, it's late October, this happens now. What I find mildly amusing about the cycle of the year is how my first 8 years as a professor, when I taught the Brit Lit I & II sequence, have shaped some part of my consciousness of the passing year. The first days of September and the fading of summer = Beowulf. Cold, damp February = Pride and Prejudice. Anticipation of Spring = Jane Eyre. Thanksgiving = "Rape of the Lock." I feel little urges to read these books at precisely the same times each year. I don't succumb, generally (because I no longer have to, and because I have plenty of other things to read--and do I *really* need to read Jane Eyre for a tenth time? --Well, maybe), but the urge is there.

    Last week:
    1) Look at Darmstadt MSS - Yes, since that was why I was in Darmstadt in the first place, and there really isn't much else to do in Darmstadt.
    2) On Friday, summarize my notes in a way that will make it easy to remember the important points of what I saw - I did this on Thursday and it took all of 30 minutes. Yay! I then took Friday--when I was back home--OFF.
    3) Have fun with friend (and my family) in Freiburg on Saturday -Yes

    This week, I'm going to try to get a good bit done. A college friend is visiting next week. We actually met on a study-abroad semester in this very city 26 years ago, so it should be a fun reunion.
    1) Finish translating my paper into French for my research talk.
    2) Attend opening event for research group at the University.
    3) Make travel plans for Munich and Vienna.
    4) Process new journal submission.
    5) Work on chapter 3: write up narrative notes for two of the bullet points in my brainstorm-outline.
    6) Go to a yoga class (probably online, with my US studio).
    7) Attempt to organize a playdate for my kid.

    1. Hope you have a wonderful time with your friend! Meeting up with old friends scattered all over the place is one of the best parts of travel for me.

    2. I am so impressed that you are able to give a talk in French! Both the skill and the nerve...

      I'm such a depressingly monoglot Brit, I get so awkward trying to make foreign noises that I end up incomprehensible, even though I can read German and Spanish to newspaper or journal article abstract with dictionary level, and my Latin and Ancient Greek used to be a level or two above that, just lacking in practice (you didn't have to speak in those classes - I spent more time learning not worrying!). But saying please & thank you & I am vegetarian, sorry is about my limit otherwise.

  5. The schedules and rhythms of the academic year work well for me, I like that each term is different but have some things that stay constant. The weekly rhythms right now are giving me trouble, there are still too many things that are new and don’t feel like routines yet. It doesn’t help that the house still resembles a giant warehouse with boxes everywhere, but I know that will eventually improve so I’m trying not to pay too much attention to it. I had a really good exercise routine going all of last year, I need to get back to that. And I really need to get better at packing lunches for the office, I’m still really out of the habit and one can only eat so many vending machine snacks… So for the next couple of weeks I will try hard to focus on life routines to make the weeks feel more organized!

    This week’s goals:
    Open big joint effort paper and see if I can start the revisions on my own NOPE
    Order lab supplies and pay lab bills DONE
    Pick one section of grant application and write it DONE
    That was a week… Busy for teaching and other things, and then we had a hurricane over the entire region. My area got off pretty lightly but for many others it was terrible with lots of scary damage. In the “also done” category: hurricane prep/clean-up, lots of teaching extras, left-over conference stuff and a seemingly endless parade of little things that take lots of time somehow…

    This week’s goals:
    Write and submit giant grant report
    Talk to co-authors about revisions on big joint paper, do something for revisions
    Pick another section of grant application and write it
    Pack lunches for 4 campus days
    Exercise at least 3 times

    1. Ah packed lunches... I go through phases of being really great at preparing and packing lunches for the week with healthy snacks and all that, and phases of trying to forage on campus, but what works most often in having two boxes at home, one on the counter and one in the fridge, full of packaged things I can grab (packaged by me if I'm feeling organised and green, a company if not) - crackers, sachets or sauce pots of nut butter, nuts, trail mix, dried fruit, fruit or vegetable pieces, cheese, instant soup or porridge sachets - and keeping mugs and a "family picnic set" of cutlery and plates at work - the family picnic set was bought at the end of the summer for very little money, and it's made of a sturdy slightly shiny plastic with one of those "doesn't leach" standards things - I've found that it's durable AND that if I don't get to wash it up one day, it's MUCH easier to get dried on porridge or similar off the surface with basic supplies later on than with basic stainless steel, PLUS it seems to be pretty unattractive to the local Cutlery Sneaker (possibly because it's very luridly coloured? Or just people don't want to stir their tea with plastic?). Plus because it was so cheap I don't care that much if bits do go missing.

      In my ideal world, the kind of snacks I make lunches out of would be in the vending machine, but it's all chocolate and crisps and sugary deliciousness... ah, to be 20 again and able to lunch on a giant bag of gummy candy without feeling crap later on!

  6. I'm running behind again this week, but I wanted to say how lovely those images are! Thank you!

    1. Yes! The artist is wonderful, thank you for introducing us to them!

    2. I agree--the pictures are just lovely!

  7. I’m sliding in under the wire–I’ve had a crazy week, and spent yesterday watching Hurricane Ian bear down on Florida. I have many colleagues and a couple of relatives there, the latter of which were right in the path of the storm.

    It was interesting to think about cycles in my life, whether weekly or greater lengths of time. Unlike most, if not all, of you, my days are largely already set, with the occasional foray to teach an evening class. This difference is even more true now that I have to split my time between two departments that occupy two different buildings. My hope is that I can use the differences in the new cycles to make me fresh and more productive at each task, rather than feeling overworked and harried.

    I do tend to cycle through projects, as I mentioned last week, but I realize that I like to cycle through a handful of projects at a time, whether it be knitting or writing–I like to wander through the projects, working on them when the spirit moves me..

    Last week’s goals:
    Create 20,000-foot plan for the session; Yes,for the most part.
    Hone some ideas for a couple of articles. Yes.
    Continue physical therapy and go to doctor’s appointment. Yes.
    If time allows, free write on a few other possible topics. Yes,well a bit of a cheat here. I chatted with a writer friend of mine about a NaNo project–does that count?

    Next week’s goals (or the few days left):
    Get flu shot.
    Get son moved into his new apartment.
    Outline very roughly one article.

    Well, I did manage to be present, but not very early, this week, I hope to do better next week.

    Also, for anyone who does not know about it, NaNo has a six-week prep guide which I am finding very useful. The link is here: Float like mist, everyone.

  8. I realise I didn't write about my own prompt! Oh well, here goes. I used to be a strong fan of annual cycles. One of the things I disliked most about moving up in school was how we stopped marking the seasonal changes, and I always loved the rhythm of the year. But last year and this, it's gone. The autumn excitement, the changing energy - I'm worn out and burnt out and it's all a drag. Which is an interesting observation... I would LOVE a year off, to breath and pause and think about things, but between the financial crisis and the insecurity of things, I'm not sure that would be possible without sabbatical funding, and THAT means writing grants, which means having the time and energy to do that, and the lack of that is part of the problem! Another cycle...

    At least it's my favourite season now. I love Autumn!

  9. Before I put up next week's post tomorrow, I'll do a very belated check-in so I don't have to carry over last week's goals!

    How I did:
    - Add 1000 words to essay: NO
    - Finish reading C&C book: YES
    - Finish grading undergrad paper set: YES
    - Grade grad paper set: NO
    - Prep for Dead Language Group: NO
    - Work on tidying bookshelves in my study: NO.

    Goals for the week just finished:
    - Add 1000 words to essay
    - Notes on MET book
    - Grade grad papers
    - Grade new set of undergrad papers
    - plug mouseholes

    Prompt: I've learned to notice the rhythms of the semester, and check previous years' journals to see what I need to be working on that I haven't thought of; also to recognize that the teaching-related depression that sets in around the end of November (aka Have I Been Talking To Myself For MONTHS?) is a hardy perennial that always blooms about then. This week it seemed that the days were suddenly much shorter, but early in October 2021 I was already counting the days to the solstice, so that too is part of the autumn cycle for me. In some ways it's a relief to feel that the same things keep coming around; but it also makes me wonder how many more annual cycles I'll see, and when if ever I might be able to break away from the gloom that starts to gather when we head into winter: will I one day move south, or fulfill my long-standing dream of spending October-March in the southern hemisphere and avoiding winter altogether?