the grid

the grid

Sunday 21 January 2024

2024 Session One, Week 2


Welcome to the first faculty meeting of the semester at NEWSCOMI.   A few announcements to get us started.   First, I’d like to welcome new and old faculty members, and provide a few reminders. Julie, in Applied Magic will help manage charms, and be helped by Daisy, who not only teaches Applied Magic but also Esoteric Spellwork.  We are very excited to have her helping with Chaos Goblin Control.  But first, we have a student in Temporal Misuse and Dysfunction, but no one to teach it.   I understand the pressure everyone is under with the shortage of faculty, but we need someone to teach that class. 

Otherwise, Associate Dean Fluff is in need of support, so all salmon flavored treats are welcome.  Dean Tabitha would also like some, but she’s more placid.   But it seems to me that we need more Adminicritters to help with Administrivia, so if you have critter colleagues you wish to nominate for any one of our associate dean, assistant associate dean, and assistant associate assistant dean positions, please send your nominations.   It is probably good to have a balance between species in these roles, but we want to avoid too many rabbits: we have as many adminicritters as we need.

Any announcements? 

Back in the real world, adminicritters may make your life difficult, and may help you.   I was rescued a week ago from peak overwhelm by one such person, so have been reminded that they are not all bad.  Anyway, time to catch up on our goals from last week. 


No weekly goals, other than survival and finding keys, phone and kid

Dame Eleanor

(Somewhat tentative, because I feel like I might be coming down with something, and if I do, I may wind up not doing much):
- Devise and turn in Dreaded Annual Review documents
- Prep for Latin group
- 3 hours a day of research (reading, writing, outlining, whatever)
- if well enough, 5 social engagements and at least 4 trips to the gym

heu mihi

1.     1. Write teaching rec for colleague who has been nominated for some awards.
2. 2500 words of chapter 6.
3. Enter revisions to chapter 2.
4. Graduate applicant interviews (parts of two days).
5. Scan readings for seminar.


Finish and post syllabi (no new preps!)
Complete faculty activity report for calendar year 2023 (weird, because don’t normally think of the year as August--->May)
Catch up on uni-related email
Make a comprehensive plan for Squares


(no weekly goals but good to see you!)


1. Seminar prep.
2. Write one new lecture for next week.
3. Read three dissertation drafts.
4. Meet PhD student.
5. Half a day on grant application, ask colleagues to peer review.
6. Organise birthday celebrations for mother and son.
7. Exercise


1. Keep up with the first week of school Administrivia deluge
2. Get emails re Famous Author off to presses
3. Spend time with Tiffany, be willing to let her go.
4. Pay attention to physical wellbeing - sleep, eating, exercise
5. Do something nice - with friend, or who knows!


  1. I'm afraid I have no adminicritters to nominate (may add a feline to my household sometime in the next few years -- it's been a while -- but not ready for that yet, and I've spent recent months evicting/excluding as many unwanted smaller critters as I can). Also, while I have strong positive feelings about my three most immediate supervisors (program administrator, chair, and dean), we've got a new interim slightly further up the food chain who is engaging in the time-honored adminicritter practice of making up rules that contradict what his predecessor said, and that are disadvantageous to the faculty directly affected (which don't include me, but do include some close colleagues). So I'm feeling a bit grumpy about adminicritters right now (and even more grumpy about the governor and the governing board members he has appointed so far, but that's another story).

    Goals for this week (as noted below, I'm trying to err on the side of modest, genuinely TLQ goals this session):

    --Try to figure out why the Omeka install is sending error emails, and resolve (fix the current installation, or, since it’s currently empty, reinstall and see whether that solves the problem).

    -- Engage in some sort of purposeful movement – short or long walks, stretching, weight-lifting, and/or stair-climbing – at least 5 out of every 7 days (while avoiding opportunities to fall on icy pavement)

    1. I'm going to welcome you here, rather than last week! We always need Cassandras to keep us from getting too comfortable.
      My sense is that the lower level critters are generally pretty sane. But above that. . . I'm sorry an interim is doing that.

      Modest goals for the week, but as Daisy found last week the Irrational Tetchy department (generally known as IT, can be difficult.

  2. If the student for Temporal Misuse and Dysfunction is up for an independent study in the topic, I can supervise it, but I'm not willing to do a whole course for just one person.

    My local adminicritters are a mixed bag. Basement Cat likes to sit on my lap after breakfast, but only at the kitchen table, so if I remember to take a suitable book (and pen and sticky notes) to breakfast, he will hold me down while I get quite a lot of reading done. OTOH neither of them is willing to be a lap weight when I am at my desk. Since our post-Xmas trip, Reina sometimes sleeps with us, that is, on my side of the bed, so when I am so honored, I tend to stay in bed later than I might otherwise, in order not to disturb Her Highness.

    How I did:
    I wasn't too sick, but OTOH I didn't feel great, either, plus the weather was beastly, so progress was on the minimal side.
    - Devise and turn in Dreaded Annual Review documents: YES. This may be the only year ever when I get *all* of them in on time.
    - Prep for Latin group: YES.
    - 3 hours a day of research (reading, writing, outlining, whatever). Some of the time? I did a fair bit of reading (see above), and some translating.
    - if well enough, 5 social engagements and at least 4 trips to the gym. NOPE: cancelled all but one engagement (that one was fun, anyway), and never went to the gym at all.
    ADDITIONAL: baked two cakes, shoveled truckloads of snow, am learning to fold origami hearts.

    New goals:
    Exercise: swim x2 or x3, cardio + weights x3, yoga at least x4
    Work: sample syllabuses for 2 course proposals; ~3 hours/day on research (reading, translating, outlining, writing); prep for Latin group
    Social: last week's events, rescheduled; get book for next library book group meeting and read it
    Planning: 2023 review and 2024 planning

    I meant to do that last item while we were on vacation, and I'm not sure where the three weeks since we got home have gone, but I do want to do it before the end of January!

    1. You have *multiple* annual review documents? I'm sorry. But congratulations on getting them in on time!

    2. CV, college what-I-did-last-year (all categories), department research report (multiple years), teaching report (different multiple years), service (last year). It's such a PITA. You'd think the CV, perhaps with some judicious highlighting, would do it.

    3. Baking cakes and origami hearts sound like a good use of time.

    4. If the TMD student wants a study buddy, this is something I'm particularly focused on as I do a slow phased return with restricted work hours - trying to view it as a good opportunity to work on prioritisation, efficient work, and boundaries!

  3. I have no adminicritters to nominate. Our last adminicritters, the adminigoldfish, were very undemanding, but quite often off sick, and have now sadly 'retired'.

    I feel very lucky that mostly our admin staff are great, particularly those in the department. To be honest, without them we would cease to function. Academic staff in admin roles can be another matter. Fortunately, this year only one of these is difficult and meetings that he chairs are limited to two a term.

    Last week:
    1. Seminar prep. - YES
    2. Write one new lecture for next week. - YES
    3. Read three dissertation drafts. - TWO, one nearly finished.
    4. Meet PhD student. - NO (cancelled because other supervisor ill)
    5. Half a day on grant application, ask colleagues to peer review. - YES
    6. Organise birthday celebrations for mother and son. - Mother's birthday done, son's mostly organised.
    7. Exercise - had a cold, and weather was very icy, but 2 x short walks, 1 x pilates, 1 x run (once ice melted)

    This week:
    1. Teaching prep (keep as minimal as possible)
    2. Start writing next new lecture
    3. Finish dissertation draft and organise meeting with student
    4. Read project proposals
    5. Finish preparations for son's birthday on Saturday
    6. Exercise
    7. Organise weekend away with friends.

    1. That sounds like a very good week! I hope you feel better this week and get just as much done! Happy birthday to your mother and son.

    2. Hope the birthday is everything the birthday boy wants it to be without too much stress for you!

  4. In the work context, we have some fabulous professional services staff who work in the admin areas, although multiple major reshuffles moving people between areas of expertise and cutting the number of roles at certain pay grades have winnowed the pool since they often have more ability to leave than academics do. As for the higher administrators, well, the less said the better, Even people who seem really good as peers seem to be stifled or corrupted by the fumes in those higher regions... it feels at times like Northern Uni is on an active self-destruction journey...

    Anyway! Goals:
    This is a quieter week with limited external appointments, so time to look again at making sure I am making space for the basics, particularly intentional movement and keeping on top of the home environment. There is a LOT of grading to do so I'm not putting that here, the goal is to do as much of that as possible once the rest of the work tasks are fitted in... so the week's goals are to
    1a - move intentionally (which is what we are calling exercise for now because exercise sounds tiring just saying the word) three days
    1b - to do seven household tasks (check list in my bullet journal)
    2a - write a letter to a friend
    2b - do some D&D preparation
    2c - spend a chunk of time on some sort of art or craft
    3a - ensure that I get a meeting scheduled with Head of School and soon to be Interim Head of School (SUPPOSED to meet once a week during phased return...)
    3b - do 8 hours, not more than 20% over
    4a - spend at least an hour on the Mixed Volume Paper
    4b - do whatever urgent things have come in in relation to the PhD selection processes

    1. I do often wonder what happens to people who go into higher admin. Usually our chairs are okay, and some seem to develop unexpected skills and insight in the position, and even some associate deans are okay, though the good ones tend to step back down. But deans and up tend to be trouble. We've had some admincritters who I thought were okay as faculty rise into higher ranks and then, as you suggest, the fumes got to them . . . or maybe they were just good at hiding the tails and scales till they got further up.

    2. It seems to be an almost-universal phenomenon. It makes me wonder what they learn (or come to believe) about the institution or faculty or whatever once they get into those ranks that turns them so thoroughly towards what is, to all appearances, the wrong direction.

    3. Absolutely! It feels like there's some kind of brainwashing or Kool Aid drinking that goes on.

    4. And good to have you back, and hoping the return to work is gentle. Take it as slow as you need to.

    5. One theory about the higher adminicritters is that they do learn something about the institution or the system which totally changes their behaviour, but if they DO why do the ones who return to the department never tell anyone? (of course, maybe they do tell people it just never gets as far as me!). And what could it be to cause people to seem to change personality and ideals? Is it just "becoming part of a new gang" syndrome, which is something I don't understand very well, but given that the path to admin roles both within the School and beyond often requires that the person be "likeable" and "visible" and meets some invisible-to-me behaviour criteria that allow them to be recognised as having appropriate potential, on top of actual achievements, so maybe that kind of person is more prone to the assimilate with the group thing? I don't know...

  5. I think that Clovis is absolutely an assistant associate assistant dean. He spends a lot of time rampaging about and changing position and demanding attention, only to get distracted by a fruit fly. James I could see in a more provostial position: calmly and dispassionately surveying all the kerfufflage.

    Last week was relatively quiet. We were interviewing prospective graduate students, which took a bunch of time, but went pretty well; it's likely we'll need to do more next month (the odds of all of our top choices accepting our semi-crappy offer are low), but at least that's over for now!

    1. Write teaching rec for colleague who has been nominated for some awards. - DONE
    2. 2500 words of chapter 6. - DONE; actually did 2900, which means I can write less this week :)
    3. Enter revisions to chapter 2. - DONE, easy task
    4. Graduate applicant interviews (parts of two days). - DONE
    5. Scan readings for seminar. - NO: A snow storm changed my plans and I didn't go to campus. Pushed to this week.

    This week:
    1. Scan readings for seminar; rethink day 1; re-enter teaching headspace just a little bit (my first class isn't until 2/7)
    2. 2100 words of chapter 6: enough to step back from it/start re-reading/rethinking/reworking it in future weeks
    3. 15 minutes of brainstorming for ch. 5
    4. Reread and edit Mourning article (needs quick revisions which are due 3/1)

    1. Yeah, I think you've nailed Clovis's level! Just work around him. ;) I hope you get some good grad students, and congrats on so much DONE!

    2. Wow, so much done! I love the description of the administrator cats!

    3. So glad to have Clovis as Assistant Associate Assistant Dean. He's welcome to get distracted --safer for all involved. James I sounds perfect in the Provosts office.

      Otherwise, I'm impressed by your successes!

  6. Mr. Ginger George is definitely an Associate Provost: he wants to run things, and gets rather nasty if you don't offer due deference when he issues orders. Maybe the hands that are typing this are actually mice that need to be killed!

    Anyway, I made it through the week. Thank you everyone for the kind words about Tiffany. She was a lovely sweet cat, and I'm going to miss her -- especially since she spent the last 2 months mostly on my lap.

    Goals from last week:
    1. Keep up with the first week of school Administrivia deluge YES, MOSTLY
    2. Get emails re Famous Author off to presses YES
    3. Spend time with Tiffany, be willing to let her go. YES (Done this morning)
    4. Pay attention to physical wellbeing - sleep, eating, exercise MOSTLY,
    5. Do something nice - with friend, or who knows! NOT REALLY

    It was a pretty good week -- I even did things that were not on the list. But I prioritized being cozy with Tiffany, so that undermined exercise. (Also, grey gloomy weather.)

    Goals for this week:
    1. Keep up with administrivia
    2. Finish edits to Epilogue of Famous Author
    3. Revise co-editors draft introduction to Big Collaboration
    4. Write two letters of rec for students
    5. Read 3 journals from the huge pile
    6. Set up interviews with students applying to undergrad alma mater
    7. Get back into regular routine of sleep, exercise & healthy eating
    8. 15 minutes de-cluttering
    9. Do something enjoyable/ fun

    1. We have a LOT of cats as admincritters: no wonder the place is so dysfunctional! They're not known for working well together, or indeed for doing much work at all---unless you count dozing in front of a mousehole ready to pounce when there's something to pounce on---which is not good for morale if they're thinking of the faculty as mice.

      I'm glad you were able to prioritize time with Tiffany. Exercise etc will be there to get back to this week. I hope you have a good week!

    2. Yes, in general cats do not play well with others!

    3. So sorry about Tiffany, but I'm glad to hear you had quality time together. The few days I had with Fluffball over Christmas are very treasured - Furball, the previous cat, went from slightly wobbly one evening to unable to stand the next morning to the emergency vets mid-morning, and gone, which was differently hard.

      There is a book on Managing Curriculum Change In Higher Education (it's part of a rather obscure series on teaching practice from about 25 years ago) which has a chapter on dealing with the academics themselves - it begins with "Academics are like cats, prickly in groups but less likely to fight if there is abundant food. We strongly recommend that all curriculum change related meetings involve plentiful donuts or similar academic-soothing refreshments." (I may not have perfectly remembered the quote but the essence of it is correct)....

    4. That is an awesome quote. I try to have food at all meetings I host!

  7. My personal adminicritters are lovely. I think they are basically responsible for the fact that our whole household survived the move last year without homicide or huge crises… They are already the bosses of the world so I don’t think they’d want to take on a deanship (no power but all the responsibility and no money… hmmmm….), but I can ask. They are particularly busy after midnights so maybe there is a night shift position as ping-pong-ball-herders?
    This week’s theme is theme and variations on last week. Papers are coming due, classes are in full swing and it is my loaded term, and there is a conference in two weeks and I’m overrun with thesis students. One step at a time… But I would like to ask a few of my past selves (last-November-me, and especially late-December-me) why in the name of the flying spaghetti monster I did not start these papers when I had time??? They are fun papers, I’ve had a blast working on them, they are actually quite good, and I have no idea why I was so resistant to doing anything useful with them over the break… I wouldn’t have needed to work all through the break, but a few good days would have made everything so much easier… Past me, you really dropped that ball… Future me, write this lesson on a damn post-it and put it somewhere you can see it…

    This week’s goals
    Write section and make figure for small part in local review paper and send back to main author
    Submit giant regional paper
    Submit smaller local paper
    One small internal grant application (good chance to get)
    One small-ish external application (zero chance to get but making a point)

    1. Our past selves were oddly ignorant of what our present selves would want, even when it's entirely predictable. Good luck with everything!

    2. Especially around Christmas - because to December you, the crunch point was all the way into next year, so ages away...