Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Baseline 49

So, with 363 days left until I turn 50, where am I, on various fronts?

Professionally, I feel pretty good.  The promotion meant a lot to me, as you probably know; having gotten it, I've relaxed a bit about productivity in the abstract, although I'm still doing more editing and less writing than I'd like.  Over the coming year I'd like to shift that ratio somewhat, by working on my romance book:  first the Susan Elizabeth Phillips piece, this winter and spring, and then the Mary Bly / Eloisa James one in the summer.  I'd also like to systematize my work on the Popular Romance Project, so that it doesn't feel quite so scattered.  The product, I'm happy with; it's the process that needs work.

One professional goal I do have is to invest a bit more in my teaching.  It's suffered, in the last couple of years, as I've focused on getting my publication record up to snuff.  I'm less connected with my students than I'd like, and also with the courses themselves--often I feel like I'm flailing, unsure of what to teach and why I'm teaching it.  So some reflection on all that seems in order, in the year to come.

The other is to improve my mind through extensive reading.  I feel like I've grown a bit stale, both in terms of the primary texts I know (in romance and even more so in poetry) and in terms of the secondary reading and ideas I work with, day to day.  Going back on Facebook immediately cut into my blog reading, I've noticed, so I'm going to need to push back against that, not least because, where romance is concerned, blogs are often where the scholarly action is, well before it reaches print.  (They're also prime recruiting ground for the Popular Romance Project.) 

Overall, though, the anxieties that beset me, professionally, not long ago seem to be melting away as the reality of the promotion sets in.   As the year ends, it's more like:  "Professional life? Check!

Family life?  Things looking good on this front, too.  Wonderful marriage, wonderful children:  the joys of my life.  Plans for this year?  Just to try and make things a little nicer for my wife by switching offices--hers has been in the basement since we moved into the house, and mine in a spare bedroom--and for my son by helping him repaint and refurnish his room.  He'll be off to college soon, and wants, he says, to "leave the room better than he found it."  Me, I want to enjoy this last year and a half at home with him as much as I can--not sure what that will entail, practically speaking, but I'll keep my eyes open.

Not sure if this counts as "family life," but I'm very excited about starting jazz guitar lessons this January, also.  I've been trying to switch from thinking in terms of acquiring instruments to thinking about acquiring skills on the ones I have:  what are the songs I want to play, really?  What do I want to be able to sit down and do?  One of my biggest successes from the summer was learning the chords to "Summer Samba," which I play with great pleasure all the time; I'm currently working on some changes to various torch songs ("In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning"; "One for my Baby and One More for the Road") and really enjoying the process.  Much more interested in playing such songs or taking on bossa nova than in learning rock riffs or licks, and with five months of lessons lined up, I'm quite hopeful for the coming year.

What else do I want to use as a baseline, so that I can measure how the year plays out?

I'm holding level at about 155 pounds, more or less.  (The home scale isn't terribly accurate, so that might be a pound or two off, but I can use it for comparison's sake.)  I can drop and do 60 push-ups in a single set, no problem. (Just checked:  yup, 60.)  That number has been higher in the recent past--I've hit 100 a couple of summers in a row--but only at the end of steady workout regimes.  Let's call 60 the baseline as the year begins.  I can also do one pull-up, unassisted, and I think those will be my new fitness focus, if I can keep the push-ups going, too.  More metrics:  according to my friends at RescueTime, I'm spending about 3 hours a week on social networking, and anywhere between 30 minutes and...can this be right?  3 hours on "shopping," which is the category that includes all of my instrument browsing on line.

Wow.  So there's something to work on:  paring that down.  I've managed to do so with "News and Opinion," on which I never seem to spend more than an hour, week by week, and usually less.  (Blogs count as "reference and learning." Let's see if we can get that number up, shall we?)

OK--if I were going full-on Bridget Jones here I'd start noting alcohol units and such, but I think this is enough to get me started on the new year.

Off to Home Depot for primer and paint--my son's room awaits!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Update and Baseline (1)

Whew!  What month--well, a good three weeks--it's been.

First there was a book manuscript to review for a press.

Then, really quickly, there was that paid leave grant application to write and turn in.

To do that, I had to think through and write up an overview, chapter by chapter, of my romance fiction monograph.  Which isn't written yet.  Which I've avoided thinking through and writing up, because whenever I do, I see all the holes had problems with it.  But which I had to do, so I did it, and it felt good, looked good, sounded good.  Well, good enough.

Then I had to get a bunch of ducks in a row for PCA, and send a lot of overdue emails and things for JPRS.

Then I had to report for jury duty, which meant that I had to have a day cleared out, to spend at the courthouse, with the rest of the week cleared out, too, just in case I got called to serve.

Then I spent the day at the courthouse, and wasn't called.  Huzzah!  Free for another year, at least, and I got to read some fun P. G. Wodehouse novels on the Kindle while I waited.  Not a bad day.

Which was a good thing, too, because it turned out there was a bunch of work still to do for PCA.

Which I did, and started writing up lyrics for this year's Purim songs.

Which has turned out to be harder than I remembered, but I'm plugging away at it.

(So far, the only one that's come easily is the Paul Simon parody, "(You must read) Fifty Shades to be a  Lover.")

Then there was, what?  Well, the schedule cleared, and I did some holiday shopping, some birthday shopping, some fun.  Put some smooth-wound strings on my guitar, and signed up for jazz guitar lessons at the local cultural center, which will start in January.  Calmed down, and as I did, seemed to get happier and happier, as the days progressed.  Yay!

A lesson there, somewhere.


In the Jewish calendar, there's a 10-day period of soul-searching, etc., between Rosh Hashanah, the new year, and Yom Kippur, the day of atonement.  I don't really celebrate either of those, but I do find that the 10 days between the Winter Solstice and the secular New Year pretty much do the same thing for me.

Psychologically, I find that having the days start to get longer really boosts my mood, even if that's more a fact I know than a turn I perceive on my daily walks, at first.  Also, I tend to set the 21st as the target day for me to finish work and start my holiday, since that's when my kids get off from school.  It feels like a turning point, or rather the start of a slow curve into something new.

Then comes my birthday--49, this year!--more on which in a moment.

Then there's Christmas, which always gets me thinking about time's passage.  (I used to be very uncomfortable with the family celebration, and now I'm not; in fact, I quite enjoy it.  Noticing how much I do, and thinking back to my old aversion, always gets me musing about how things change.)

Then there's the big one:  the 28th, my late father's birthday.  I think about him a lot, at this time of year, partly because I miss him keenly, partly because I think about what he'd say about things that I'm up to, and partly because I always compare who I am now, and what I'm up to, to what I remember of him at my age.  A lot of soul-searching stirred up by all that, and sometimes resolutions, too.

After which--perfectly timed!--comes the new year.  There was a time, 7 or 8 years ago, when I felt so cocky at the end of the year that when someone asked me my New Year's resolution, it was "Keep Up the Good Work!"  Not quite at that point now, but I feel pretty good about where things stand on many fronts.

Next post will be about that, and where I want to go from here.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012


At 6:03 the alarm goes off, every weekday morning.

It's dark these days at 6:03.  Still feels like night, and I'm still sleeping, usually.  Not like summer, when I wake up on my own.

So it goes off, I get up, go downstairs, make coffee, and until that kicks in, generally hate everything and everyone.  I'm a grumpy guy in the morning, but only for 20 minutes or so.

If it lasts longer than that, I'm hungry, even (especially) if I don't feel it.

Almost fifty, moods like a baby!


It took a couple of days, but I changed the strings on my Sweet Pea mandolin--the first time since I got it, back in '07 or '08.  The tailpiece mechanism baffled me for the longest time, and made me nervous about changing them; in the end, it turned out to be quite simple, albeit an oddly intimate process, with lots of peering over the tops of my glasses to get the focus right.  (I'm always a little nervous, as I change mandolin strings, that one will snap and hit me in the eye when it reaches higher tension.  Hasn't happened yet, but ouch!  The thought of that!)

Last night, with the strings settled in, I started working on a chord change I've been wanting to learn:  F, F#dim7, Gm7.  It's the opening sequence to the song "Chicago," and has a fun, jazzy feel.  It'll be quite fun to play, once I get it down.


I buckled own yesterday and worked on the Leave Grant application.  Wrote about 4 pages; 5's the limit.  Finished it this morning, sending it off to my department chair for review.  The rest of the day was mostly taken up with schlepping my son here and there, waiting for him in doctors' waiting rooms, and thinking who to put in my new, streamlined Twitter feed.  Oh!  I also fixed the backyard fence.  That was a highlight, actually.  We had unseasonably warm weather, so I headed out in a t-shirt with my hammer and nails to straighten the sagging posts and reattach things that had blown over in a big windstorm a couple of weeks ago.  Not as good a job as my grandfather the carpenter would have done, but good enough to keep the storms at bay, with winter coming on.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Tiny Steps

Decided to take some tiny steps back into the social networking scene, and see if I can keep the time investment to a reasonable level.  I have a birthday coming up, and don't want to miss all the messages--and frankly, too few of my friends read and respond to these blog posts.  Big thanks to the ones who do, but I'm greedy.


On the morning walk last Friday, I think it was, R suggested that I try spending the morning off Outlook, not responding to emails, and not editing thing, either.  Just reading and writing my own stuff.

I have a book manuscript I'm supposed to read and respond to this week. Does that count as "reading," or as "editing"?


Decided it was "reading," which might have been a mistake.  Spent most of my working hours on that project, and since the manuscript was (is) very problematic, that was distracting, leaving me no mental energy for my own writing project, a new grant proposal for paid leave to write about romance.  On the other hand, it's very important to me that problematic material on romance not get published as-is, and I consider that sort of quality control to be "my own stuff."  Centrally so.

A good day's work, in short.  And Facebook / Twitter didn't seem to distract me much, so far.