This and That

Today was an insanely busy day. Lots of Zoom meetings, from 9 to 7:30 (yep, after hours because of a personnel issue emergency). My butt and my chair are more intimate than any two living things have every been.

I got three story rejections today (different stories), and one re-rejection of a story that had already been rejected two days ago. No need to rub it in, guys!

The semester is about 3/4 over. That is not a bad thing.

Fixed a major issue a student was having with a project. The result will be super cool, one of those results that seem obvious in hindsight but somehow hadn’t been done. I love love LOVE this type of work, both elegant and likely to be impactful.

Reviewed a paper for a highfalutin journal, written by a hotshot. I’m the tiebreaker referee. It’s funny how even when the work is really incremental, the referees are almost afraid to offend the hotshot by pointing out where the work has already appeared. The timidity and awe oozing out of the reports is something to behold. Us plebes never get that treatment, and generally get out a$$es handed to us even when the stuff is decidedly more novel. But then again we’re not hotshots.

The semester is about 3/4 over. That is not a bad thing. I am mostly looking forward to a pause in department service. The committees are just…ugh.

My fave comfort show, Hart of Dixie, is leaving Netlix. I am inconsolable. (No, not really. But it sucks that it will be temporarily unavailable to stream.)

I was taken aback the other day with how seamlessly videoconferencing has become part of our lives. Before, we would chat on the phone. Now it’s a quick Zoom call. This is probably here to stay.

I listened to a great talk today, by a “visitor” to the university who gave the presentation online. I do not mind not having to travel to most conferences. I do not miss traveling to panels or program reviews. I would be OK with only virtual panels at the NSF. I would be OK with only virtual grant program reviews. Except for a couple of conferences where I like the people, I would be OK with giving talks virtually. I wouldn’t mind far less travel for work and a bit more travel for fun in the future.

Finally, a thread of dogs on mushrooms.

Migraine Stinks, Have Some Links

https://threader.app/thread/1328405825463873536

(Same as above https://twitter.com/chrtucci/status/1328405825463873536?s=20)

Faculty Governance, My A$$

Those of you who’ve been following this blog awhile are familiar with the ups and downs of my attitude toward work, coupled with midlife-crisis musings.

The thing is, when I look at my posts from even two or three years ago, I can’t believe how invested I was in my work. And, on good days, I still think I have the best job in the world. I love teaching and research; the interactions with my students are the best part of the job. The institution shows me a lot of love, I get raises and accolades. I am well respected in my professional community, even if I am not a superstar.

But every so often I get reminded of what caused me to have to emotionally detach from my job. Being too invested in the institution and the colleagues and the work itself was too hurtful too often, and what’s worse is that I felt helpless to do anything about it. This need to drastically compartmentalize, turn off certain parts of myself in regards to work, is not something that came lightly to me. There was a lot of internal struggle, some still ongoing, some documented here on the blog. Three years ago, I started focusing my energy and aspirations and associated emotions elsewhere, on my writing, and while it can be frustrating (mostly because I am an overachieving pain in the ass), it has also been healing and nurturing and so, so good for me. An endeavor where I can start from nothing, and learn, and grow, and achieve, without having to wait for anyone to catch up, without needing anyone’s permission or agreement. I also met some nice people along the way, who are smart and kind and funny and open-minded. My world became kinder, bigger, brighter.

Last academic year, I was on sabbatical and came back, apparently, with rose-colored glasses (pandemic notwithstanding). I was glad to be back teaching and glad to see my colleagues again.

Then came the committees.

Initiatives that are completely unnecessary. Meetings that could have been emails or those that take an hour to hash out completely obvious stuff.

On the other hand, a complete lack of transparency or discussion regarding some important, very non-obvious stuff.

I ask for clarification about why certain decisions were made or which  specific actions were taken, and I am (as before) invariably stonewalled. Colleagues in admin roles cite HR rules, but, in reality, no one is asking for any HR-sensitive details. I am asking for some sliver of information so these decisions and actions look transparent and fair and equitable, as they should be at a public university, and do not smell of shady backroom dealings and secrecy. Instead, I am met with “We are not allowed to discuss this (and shame on you for asking).” I am not asking for anyone’s medical records or private information. But if things were supposed to happen but didn’t, or if certain concessions were made for certain people but aren’t usually made, we should be given some smidgen of information regarding what had transpired. We are not the CIA. This level of secrecy about the operations is not warranted. And asking questions should not be shameful.

The thing is, these people in the know could share more but choose not to, and it’s convenient to hide behind HR. The thing is, that there is an in-crowd, there has always been an in-crowd, they’ve always had all the information, and their mode of holding on to (a little bit of) power is knowing what they know and deciding if and when and with whom to share, and what/what to withhold. Getting tiny power-trip boners from morsels of administrative secrets.

God, I would gladly double my teaching load if it meant I didn’t have to participate in “faculty governance.” It’s faculty governance in name only.  Decisions are made without us anyway, attempts to find out what is actually decided behind closed doors are shut down, yet we are all supposed to keep pretending we’re one happy faculty-governed institution.

F*ck university politics. F*ck having to play these humiliating games where I need to act like I am an idiot buying the bullshit I’m being sold.

Gimme a roomful of (masked) freshmen any day.

Bleurgh

Bleurgh, indeed.

I worked all weekend and am understandably exhausted now that the new week has started. This is the part of the semester when I get really angry over all the things I have to do, and I am doubly pissed because I swear there is more service now, in the middle of the pandemic, than what is normal. Admins collectively seem to be losing their damn minds, and being the types they are, they seem to try to regain some sense of control by starting more unnecessary, boneheaded initiatives. I will have to complain to the powers that be because it is insane to expect this much extra of people under these conditions, even though I know a vast majority of my colleagues either have grown kids, don’t have kids, or have someone else shouldering the burden at home, so might not be sympathetic to my pleas. But I cannot fucking supervise morning school for my kids, which means I am trying to work, while Smurf does his thing next to me, Middle Boy is in the next room, and I am responsible for food and help/clarifications. Me trying to work means I am getting constantly interrupted while attempting to handle endless emails and papers, grant proposals, editorial duties, reviews of papers and proposals, letters for everyone under the sun, Zoom meetings with students/whole group/collaborators, student defenses, and so, so many committee meetings. Then in the afternoon I go teach in person. By the time I come back home, I am completely fried. But wait! Maybe I still have to post class notes or homework solutions! Or finish up service paperwork! On the weekends, I grade exams, do more editorial work, try to catch up on reviews of stuff, try to get a couple of hours uninterrupted so I can revise and resubmit some papers, and everyone ^&$#E(%&$ wants everything done yesterday.

Are you feeling bleurgh, too, blogosphere?

Trekking Classics

Today was nuts. Many meetings for service and mentoring, family obligations, people just generally needing stuff…

Hubs and I had our wills done; today was the ceremonious signing in front of a witness. (For someone whose job has nothing to do with law, I sure know a lot of lawyers. Met a bunch (a big bunch!) through book club and writing.)

I had grand plans for tonight’s blogging, but the brain is fried. Instead, I give you assorted gems from Swear Trek and Classical Studies Memes for Hellenistic Teens:

AND THE ALL-TIME GREATEST:

Almosts

I unofficially measure how busy and pulled in every direction I am by the daily number of almosts.

Here is an example: I get an email from a student, decide what I will write back, maybe even draft it, then get pulled away by another email, or one of my kids needing something, or having to cook dinner, or having to go teach my class, and the almost email falls off the radar and never gets sent, because it was almost written and almost sent, and the brain almost considers it done.

Or I finally (finally!) set aside a few hours to work on the revision of a paper, and maybe I get to do that for a bit, but then I get called away by a service task/email/children and, before you know it, my block of time is gone, other urgent stuff has flown in, and it may be days or even weeks before I have another large-enough slot where I can finish the activity.

I like being busy, but I’m also big on “touching things only once” and constant distractions during the semester are my kryptonite.

Not sure where I was going with this, because I almost finished it, then fell asleep in my chair, and now…ugh.

Committee Baby

Sometimes I feel like I grownup. Usually when I achieve something on behalf of my kids or my students.

Other times, I feel like such an infant. This involves being in a position of some authority — chair of a committee, for example. I feel like I am a kid wearing Dad’s shoes. Like someone put me in charge my mistake, and everyone is internally rolling their eyes at my blatant incompetence. It doesn’t help that I find everything humorous and need to work very hard not to crack jokes. Or to crack only one out of every ten jokes I want to crack. The older I am, the goofier I am, and everything seems ridiculous and hilarious. (You should see my creative endeavors. 100% of my poetry turns out silly. Way too much of my fiction, especially the kind that was supposed to be terrifying or earnestly moving, ends up funny.) I can’t help it that people are being very serious about things that seem, to me, to be only molehills made into mountains. But maybe that’s because I am really an infant and don’t realize the gravity of the issues. Or maybe I do, and the gravity is nil, and we are all pretending to be more purposeful and important and engaged than we really are.

Or maybe significant administrative load changes a person. One colleague in an admin post seems positively hurt whenever I suggest we cancel a standing committee meeting because we have no pressing business. But there is always minor, trivial business! The meeting must not be cancelled! You’d think the f*cking pandemic would be a good time to not waste breath on stupid busy work. (Also, how come, regardless of my level of seniority, I am always the only one with young kids? And how come I still have young kids? The kind that goes to school all morning? Where are other people’s kids?)

Another faculty member, who has held several serious admin posts at the university level, basically said that, yes, this obscure document was available to all, in one of the (hundreds of frantic) emails sent by (various leadership or leadership-adjacent bodies of) the university. With a straight face (maybe he really is a master of deadpan the likes of whom the world has never seen) he basically implied that , of course, we have all read the attachment in that email. In reality, I have never in my life read any email sent by said body, let alone opened any attachments. As of a few years ago, I’ve been ignoring a vast majority of emails, because the stream is unbearable. Then the pandemic hit, and all the anxious emailers lost their damn minds and tripled their efforts.

Maybe I am just a baby, unappreciative of the important work done on the committees. Or maybe this goddamn meeting could’ve been an email.

How’s it serving, blogosphere?

Blink-a-thon link-a-thon