Tag: incredibly-patient-mother

Open Access Tenure: Sondheim Summer

I’m having a bit of a Sondheim Summer–echoes of Follies’ I’m Still Here playing in the background. Carol Burnett really sells it.  (See 2:30 for the start of it in concert).

ALA wasn’t too heavily scheduled for me, though the focus was on meetings.  I’m still wrangling with the changes that are coming with next summer’s conference and that involved several long conversations to attempt to figure out messages, anticipate challenges, and wrap collective heads around things.  The phrase I found myself repeating was “This will be a really good thing for the conference; change is hard.”  It’s not a bad place to start, though certainly one frought with interesting moments. Getting to have some focused conversations with other people who are further up in the organizational chain helped and we’re continuing those discussions via email and Skype.

The Incredibly Patient Mother taught me how to run events well from a young age and I’m used to be being in a behind the scenes/directing-traffic/cutting-cake role.  Last year I was the last minute stage manager for a wedding, with responsibilities including crouching on the floor of a church entryway holding the bride’s train so that a door didn’t crush it.  One of the challenges of something like a national conference is that to a large degree you have absolutely no control. I couldn’t guarantee that my presenters would show up, that wireless would cooperate, a lot of other things, and with 30+ programs (I owe the Joint Chairs a final count), I couldn’t BE at all of them, even if I’d wanted to do so.

That being said, my committee was solid and showed up to introduce people, answered last minute emails, got up at 8 a.m. to meet with me, and the tech staff at the Anaheim Convention Center were responsive.  I didn’t hear of any particularly major meltdowns and the tweets I saw coming out were generally positive. Right now we’re trying to get things coordinated so people have all of the information they need to propose programs for next summer.  I’ve GOT to, got to, got to get that stuff out soon.

Coming home, I plunged back into three days of work, finishing a book chapter, and a lot of packing. May I recommend that for your own sanity you try to not ever move within a week after a major conference?  The moving-truck portion of my move took place on Monday, 7/2, which was a comedy of errors that has evolved into an epic story (epic in that it requires verbal cues, repeated scenes, etc, and is best told by both the Philosopher and I together to get all of the crazy). I’m hoping to get the last car load out of my old apartment tomorrow evening and then turn over the keys to my landlord very soon.

I would like to note for the public record that the Philosopher did a lot of packing for me on Saturday while I finished my book chapter manuscript.  He also staged all of my stuff in my living room, which the movers greatly appreciated.  He’s a good man to have during a move.

Following the holiday it was back to work for a couple of days and then off to a wedding in another state. Did I mention I was still living out the suitcase I took to Anaheim? Thank heavens I’d overpacked for that trip. Philosopher and I drove back from Pittsburgh on Sunday. Again, I don’t suggest combining an epic-story move and your first 8 hour road trip with someone in the same week but we managed it.  Sunday night I did laundry and dishes at the same time and also unpacked other things.  On location laundry and a dishwasher made me feel like the most efficient person ever.

And now it’s a new week.  I’m boggled that it’s been nearly a month since last I blogged. I kept thinking guiltily about the blog, wanting to sit down and write, and either being too exhausted or, a number of days, too irritated. Being spread extremely thin does not lend itself to a particular tolerance for policies and practices that strike one as ineffective measures of success or ability.

I’ve got a new formal mentor at work to assist with tenure, due to a requirement that campus has handed down. Fortunately, I was able to pair with someone that I already had a more informal relationship with and for whom I have a  lot of respect. Madame Mentor has just finished the tenure process and so knows the depths of paperwork quite well. She’s given me the forms that I’ll have to turn in early next year so I can start duplicating them and filling them out now.

Why I didn’t already have a copy of these forms is a question that I don’t have a good answer for at the moment, but I’m going to turn them into a GDoc and start working on them now so that next fall I’m not having to reinvent the wheel. I’ll share the blank doc with you when I’m done so you can see what I’m filling out.  I also need to write up my quarterly report for myself (Madame Department Chair now no longer being here to remind me to do it).

Back to the overflowing inboxes….




In My Teacup, I Will Read

There are few things more constant in my life than my morning cup of tea. I wake up, roll out of bed, stumble out to feed Gypsy, and turn on the tea kettle.* Twinings Lady Grey, Teavana’s Jasmine Pearls, and Celestial Seasoning’s Imperial White Peach are my top three choices, though I have strong feelings for a number of other flavors.  Rooibos nauseates me, which is unfortunate because a lot of smaller tea blenders that I’ve discovered have a strong fondness for it.

I trace my own tea history to early childhood, where giving up chocolate for Lent included giving up hot chocolate. While I liked the smell of percolated coffee on the stove, I wasn’t interested in drinking it.  Hot sweet tea on the other hand, that was appealing.  These days I’ve mostly eliminated sugar from my tea cup, reserving it for an occasional lump when I’m really tired or I realize I’ve forgotten dinner again.  I do keep lumps of sugar on hand though, they’re much easier to handle and to control how much sugar I’m adding.

Of late I’ve noticed that my reading has been trending towards my teacup:

It started when I got How Sugar Changed the World (Aronson/Budhos) and For All the Tea in China (Rose) in as holds at the same time.  The former is a children’s non-fiction book that got a lot of press last year; the latter is a narrative nonfiction that I can’t remember where I encountered. To my surprise and amusement I found myself approaching my favorite drink from two different sides of the globe.

How Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom and Science (Aronson/Budhos) takes a harsh look at the history of the sweet stuff that surrounds us. While giving a little bit of the extended history, most of the book focuses on the cultivation of sugar through a particularly brutal form of slavery.  It’s intended for a middle school/high school audience but that shouldn’t deter adult readers. One of the best/fastest ways to get up to speed on a topic or at least give yourself a good starting place is a children’s non fiction book and this is an excellent example of that.  The research behind this is dense and the images are provoking.

For All the Tea in China:How England Stole the World’s Favorite Drink and Changed History (Rose) gives the history of Robert Fortune, a man who would steal into China, exploring the horticulture and learning the secrets behind China’s most valuable export at the time. She points out the involvement of the East India Company, whose goal was primarily to make money off of tea, and demonstrates what would today seem to be a shocking amount of patience (several years of funded travel, albeit not that highly paid) for Fortune to commit international horticulture espionage. You get some English and Chinese and Indian history all rolled into the book and while I would have really liked to see her full bibliography, I found the book very readable. So much so that I’ve suggested it to M and the Incredibly-Patient-Mother, both of whom read and enjoyed it.

What slammed these two books together was the Industrial Revolution.  Both books talked about the need for workers in English factories to be focused and able to work long hours. Factory owners/managers realized they could give the workers sweetened tea, combining the tea plants that Robert Fortune was stealing from China, and the sugar that was being imported from slave labor in the Americas, in substitute for meal breaks.  Sweet tea (not the good Southern kind, but close I imagine) was found to be a substitute for ale, one that promoted health and kept the workers focused, rather than perhaps just a bit tipsy from the midday drink.

The health benefits of tea for English workers really surprised me. Of course, I know tea has lots of antioxidants and there are studies coming out all the time about why we should all be drinking tea. A quick PubMed search shows 45 new articles in 2011 alone that have tea as a Subject Heading, many of which are focused on the health benefits. And while when they mentioned water quality, I knew it wasn’t up to our current water treatment standards, I hadn’t really thought about the fact that switching one’s beverage intake to one where you were primarily consuming recently boiled water would so greatly lengthen life expectancy, lessen any number of gastrointestinal issues, decrease child mortality, etc etc etc.

And there’s apparently more to it. I’ve just started reading, at the Philosopher’s recommendation, The Ghost Map (Johnson), which is about a deadly outbreak of cholera in London. While I haven’t gotten to the specific mentions of tea yet, I’m told they are there and I’ll be looking for them (tea only gets two mentions in the index).

Finally, Gail Carriger’s fourth book in the Parasol Protectorate just came out. My copies of the first three books have been lent around a circle and while I’m pretty sure I know who has them, I enjoyed the books enough to grab a second set of copies which will hopefully hang around a little longer. I was rereading Book 1, Souless, to get back in the mood for Heartless and was enjoying her writing of tea, Battenburg, ordering tea from a butler, and immersing myself in a society that believed in the afternoon pause for a hot cup and a biscuit.

What’s in your teacup?

*Yes, the cat really does get fed before anything else in my day happens. Life is much easier this way and so  long as she only occasionally tries for a 5 a.m. breakfast, I’m okay with it.

Moment of Frivolity and Elephants

I love elephants.

I really enjoyed the giant trampoline the Incredibly Patient Mother bought when I was in junior high.

Elephants on Trampolines? Even better….

(Thanks to ICanHazCheeseburger for the gif and Sibling-the-Elder for finding the full video)

Obligatory First Day of the Year Post

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a snuggly purring feline in one’s lap inhibits standing.  So apparently I need to sit, pet Gypsy, work on some blog posts that don’t require standing and fetching pictures, and such.

Of course, every time she changes position or tries to make the laptop keyboard a spot on which to sprawl does create a few challenges.

But my cat isn’t spoiled.

It was a quiet New Year’s–by choice.  Honestly it seemed muted most of the way around. I know a few people who went to some smaller parties, Restaurant Man was working, AudioGirl got off at the last minute, but there wasn’t the frantic rush or partying I’ve seen before.  And after six weeks of new introductions followed by family holidays, I have retreated to Chez Hedgehog.  Gypsy and I had cheese and crackers and I had some bubbly at midnight in NY. We watched Dick Clark, were amused at Ryan Seacrest’s automatic reaction to anything happening to be to turn and applaud (and look really startled when he realizes there’s not an audience to clap with him), debated if I wanted to go to the NKOTB-BSB tour (just for a second), and acknowledged that at least those guys can all carry tunes while Ke$ha…not so much.  Gypsy, still worn out from chasing Sibling-the-Elder’s cat around the Incredibly-Patient-Mother’s house for five days and suffering the indignity of 2 car rides where she got Arby’s Roast Beef to snack on, curled up on the futon and snoozed.

So now we quietly (with respect for those who are hung over) usher in the new year.  For the first month we’ll be assaulted with the knowledge that we all ate too much over the holidays and must want to exercise.  We’ll be slammed with cleaning out, shaping up, eating right, and making huge changes that are anticipated to be abandoned by the third week of the month so we can be sold an excess of Valentine’s Day chocolate.  For how else beyond excessive caloric intake could we possibly celebrate a holiday? Well…okay, fine, there’s also the roses and jewelry thing but aside from that.

Similarly to the start of the new school year, which is a major restart affecting us each September whether we’re in school or not, New Years is a nice–if arbitrary-time to make plans.  It’s accepted that change will come after December 31.

Last year for me was a year of Up.  And things went pretty well with that, though I can’t say I kept those ideas in the front of my mind at all times.

This year I find myself a little less planned.

General goals for the year:

  • Write more. I love writing. I am healthiest and happiest when I am writing a lot.
  • Self-organize. A lot of this is moving residual but I’m a rather cluttered disaster right now.  So I need to continue to use up, clean out, be realistic, and allow myself to get rid of things.
  • Spend time with people I care about. I’m back in a major city with two airports.  I’m centrally located which means it’s a couple of hours to get to just about everyone.  Plane ticket prices aren’t going down, the TSA will always be weird*, and the Blonde’s baby is only going to get bigger.  (And friends and family who are reading this? Those airplanes fly both ways.)
  • Do more than make the to-do list.

Over on Hedgehog Knitting I made a very specific and slightly rash goal. Last year I knit 13 km of yarn, or slightly more than 8 miles.  That’s what I tracked. It’s not all that I knit but it’s 90% of it.  So this year I set the bar at 20K–or around 12 miles.  And I want most of that to be the yarn I have stashed around Chez Hedgehog.  If I’m successful, and there’s no reason I shouldn’t be, it would make a huge dent in how many things you open around here and find yarn.  It might mean a few more people get knitted gifts next Christmas even….who knows?

But as for now I will begin as I mean to go on. I’m going to go write out a quick–short–to do list and get all of those things done.
Happy 2011.

*I’ve traveled internationally since I was 15. I’ve been full body searched in several European airports. More than anything, I just feel for the poor women having to do it.  Am I looking forward to full body search/back scatter? No. Do I think it really seems to help? No.  Am I going to stop flying? No.

Units of Time….

If you’re dropping by from Madame Storyteller’s Blog, please check out my post about the La Crosse job and feel free to contact me with questions.

I need an egg timer, I announced to M the other day.  She inquired as to the necessity of that, when we have clocks and such.  Mostly, I said, because I am oblivious and wander off while doing things like baking.  I also do well in the “do x for 15 minutes and then you can reward yourself with y” type of housekeeping. Finally, the new microwave has a timer but the “I’m done” beep is so quiet and subtle that if I’m not in the kitchen actively listening for it, I won’t hear it. This is not good when I set a timer to tell me when I need to get ready to leave.

My favorite unit of time is how long it takes the tea kettle to whistle. As I have a new and rather aggressive stove (seriously, it’s a show off) and a new tea kettle (purple even! a bday gift from the Incredibly Patient Mother, who has heard me for some time lament a non-purple teapot)–this is still an unknown quantity at the new apartment.  But in La Crosse it was about ten minutes.  I could get loads of things done while waiting for the tea kettle.

A new unit of time for me is my actual train ride in the morning and evening.  My total commute is about 50 minutes, give or take a train. Once you take off the walk to the train, waiting for the train, various interruptions from  and walking from the train, it’s about 25 minutes of reading time.  It took four trips to get through an issue of the Smithsonian. Next week I’ll be timing an issue of National Geographic.

It’s research, right?