Well, they're not about teaching any more!

Posted by September Blue Friday, 26 December 2008 1 comments

I had a dream about a job interview in which:

a) one of my friends, it turned out, had an interview for the same position, except his was at eleven in the morning and mine was half-past five and that meant they were interviewing all day and oh my God I'm up against about fifteen other people and the panel will be so fed up by the time they get to me;
b) I had nothing to wear! Specifically, nothing that would go with a skirt which I wouldn't wear to an interview anyway in real life. (I have an interview suit. It might well not fit now.) And it took me from 11 till 5 to find a top to go with the skirt;
c) Just as they were about to call me into the interview room, some strange mutated monsters (think Predators) rose up to threaten people the world over, and humanity was evacuated into space.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

I have been productive!

Posted by September Blue Thursday, 18 December 2008 1 comments

Yes, yes I have. Here's what I've got done so far today:

- One library shift, featuring actual work getting actually done!
- The last last absolute last work I have to do for the first-year essay grades (except for the thing I have to do tomorrow morning, because ARGH)
- Sorted out a list of final Things I Need To Do to an article that's currently leaping its way towards publication like a salmon trying to return to the place of its birth (and there are bears at the top of the waterfalls, oh yes there are)
- A lot of scanning for one of my other jobs. A lot of scanning. The scanners are temperamental, and only one in three attempts to scan a page actually worked, meaning I also did a lot of deleting (also: the OCR program we use for this tells you, when you select 'Delete Current Page', that 'This will delete the current page! Are you sure you want to do this?).

And I was going to do some preliminary investigation work on a postdoc proposal my head of department wants to hear about, but this involved trying to work out how Bizarre Arcane Funding System works so I gave up, because it is now half-past eight and anyway I think understanding that one involves sacrificing a goat and reading things into its entrails, and I do not have a goat.

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Posted by September Blue Tuesday, 16 December 2008 3 comments

I just marked 86 undergraduate essays in six days. Six days, ladies and gentlemen, and six days which included four library shifts, a job application and a Christmas party at that. My department so owes me a puppy.

And with the self-congratulations over my time management abilities out of the way, here's what I actually wanted to say: God, I am terrible at time management. Really really bad at it. I have a lot of experience at doing seventeen things at once (advice: if you are a PhD student, and you already have three jobs, and someone offers you another one working on organising a conference, the answer is 'HELL NO' and not 'Will there be wine?'. Actually, no - the answer is 'Will you help me talk one of my other bosses into taking leave from that job?', because the conference will be better, but you will be so busy. Make sure there's wine, too), so I can mostly get everything done on time, but that's not quite the same as being good at getting everything done on time. And this, I don't think I'm any good at.

I procrastinate, and then I panic. That's it, basically. That's what I do. It got stuff done when I was an undergraduate, and it got me through my PhD, but I'm not a student any more! And if I have to do things like marking 86 essays in six days, I at least want to be able to do so in such a way that I don't feel like I'm ditching all my friends and putting my life on pause in order to Get The Work Done, because earlier on the afternoon when I could have got some of the work done I was watching Battlestar Galactica, and now I'll feel guilty if I spend any of my time doing or thinking about anything other than work.

Yeah, and I haven't even seen the most recent episode of Battlestar Galactica yet. People, I am procrastinating from my procrastination. What the hell.

All right, so here's the problem: I can't tell whether I'm just bad at time management, or whether my belief that I'm bad at time management cripples my ability to manage my time by including anything other than work in it. Effectively, I suppose the two are the same, and one of these days I probably am going to raise my head from a stack of undergraduate essays I'm marking on a library shift to find that two of my other bosses have fired me, my friends have all dropped me and written a tell-all confessional bestseller about the experience ('Reply to your emails RIGHT NOW or I'll assume you are dead in a ditch!': The September Blue Story), and my boyfriend's left me for a voice-activated Dalek, and I still haven't done the dishes. It's probably the second one, to be honest. And that was a great mindset for getting me through a PhD; it's just not helping me now. So, new semester's resolution, I am Working On It.

I gave up guilt for Lent once. Did I mention that? I really did, and that was during the PhD and everything. I can provide a detailed theological justification for it, too But, wow. Difficult.

Actually, you know what I really need to do? I need to sleep.

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One shelf

Posted by September Blue Thursday, 4 December 2008 5 comments

First line(s) from the books on one of my shelves, selected entirely randomly. (This is only counting the books you can see; my bookshelves runneth over.)

1. Perhaps it was merely the book she was reading, but Sarah Petursson felt uneasy.
2. London. Michaelmas Term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting in Lincoln's Inn Hall. Implacable November weather.
3. He was lost. He wasn't used to being lost. He was the kind of man who drew up plans and executed them, but now everything was conspiring against him in ways he decided he couldn't have foreseen.
4. The ice was thin and loosely attached to the rock. I could see water streaming beneath the opaque layer undermining its strength.
5. Behold! I am not one that goes to Lectures or the pow-wow of Professors.
6. It is quite true that I wasn't doing anything that morning except looking at a blank sheet of paper in my typewriter and thinking about writing a letter. It is also quite true that I don't have a great deal to do any morning. But that is no reason why I should have to go out hunting for old Mrs. Penruddock's pearl necklace. I don't happen to be a policeman.
7. 'Resurrection, like politics, makes strange bedfellows', Sam Clemens said. 'I can't say that the sleeping is very restful.'
8. The Animal Tales collected in this group of folk narratives are not animal anecdotes, nor tales of magical animals such as we find in the Fairy Tales.
9. It was on a mild, fragrant evening in late September, several weeks after she had moved to Glenkill, Pennsylvania, to begin teaching at the Glenkill Academy for Boys, that Monica Jensen was introduced to Sheila Trask at a crowded reception in the headmaster's residence.
10. At first, the damage didn't look quite that bad. There was a jagged crack running through the front door's glass, but that could have happened in a hundred innocent ways.
11. When the big man came in, there was a movement in the room like a lot of bird dogs pointing. Piano player quits pounding, the two singing drunks shut up, all the beautiful people with cocktails in their hands stop talking and laughing.
12. Imagine for a moment that, once Spectre had been safely defeated by Sean Connery, they turned the set of You Only Live Twice into a theme park - with a sliding roof over an artificial beach. Imagine they also put in a wave machine and heated the whole thing up to a steady 30 degrees centigrade.
13. Derek Strange got down in a three-point stance. He breathed evenly, as his father had instructed him to do, and took in the pleasant smell of April.
14. I leave these verses as they stand, although they contain innumerable examples of what I now see to be errors of literature, and one or two examples of what I have come to think errors of opinion.
15. It was my liver that was out of order. I knew it was my liver that was out of order, because I had just been reading a patent liver-pill circular, in which were detailed the various symptoms by which a man could tell if his liver was out of order. I had them all.
16. The ideological roots of Socialist feminism lay in the popular democratic tradition of the late eighteenth century, and in particular in the radical egalitarianism of the 1790s.
17. And so let us beginne; and, as the Fabrick takes its Shape in front of you, alwaies keep the Structure intirely in Mind as you inscribe it.
18. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
19. When Sean Devine and Jimmy Marcus were kids, their fathers worked together at the Coleman Candy plant and carried the stench of warm chocolate back home with them.
20. Observe now your own epoch of history as it appears to the Last Men.
21. Light came through the window, trickling morning all over the room. Tatiana Metanova slept the sleep of the innocent, the sleep of restless joy, of warm, white Leningrad nights, of jasmine June.
22. Nothing but stars, scattered across the blackness as though the Creator had smashed the windscreen of his car and hadn't bothered to stop to sweep up the pieces.
23. "We should start back," Gared urged as the woods began to grow dark around them.

More scenes from a library

Posted by September Blue Monday, 1 December 2008 0 comments

One of my former students comes up to the desk with a stack of books. Smart student, lots of books, and we're talking about the courses he's taking when he suddenly points at an old hardback and squeals.

Me: You what?
Him: Look, look, it's Beckett!

And indeed it is: the hardback book on Samuel Beckett he's pointing at has an image of Beckett's face stamped into the cover, the kind you can just see at an angle when the light catches it.

Me: Nifty.
Him: Wow. I didn't even see that! That's amazing!
Me: At least you noticed it now and not at three in the morning when you were writing the Beckett essay.
Him: Or when I came home late drunk. I'd have woken up all my flatmates.
Me: Heh.

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