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21July
2018

speed of life

maura @ 11:58 am

I’m on a train, heading north to go to a conference tomorrow, trying not to be too crabby that I drew the short straw in the Sitting Next To People Who Do Not Understand The Quiet Car contest. (Who was I in this contest with? Do the other travelers on this train know about the contest? Also the quiet car in general just seems less…quiet than on trips I’ve taken in the past, which makes me sad.)

I should be working on an article. I’m not working on an article. I’ve done a little thinking on/outlining of the article. I browsed some twitter. I read 2 chapters of one of the 3 books I brought (for a 2.5 day trip, lol, librarians gonna librarian). I ate my lunch.

I’ve done lots of staring out the window. Connecticut and now Rhode Island are both green and watery. There’s always so much to look at on a train trip, starting with NYC in all of its amazing detail though really every place has amazing detail. The tiny wispy cloud behind the electrical lines in a sunwashed blue sky out the window right now. <3

I love to work on trains, but today I’m just not feeling it. Today I’m feeling like looking out the window and listening to music. This is an unusual summer in that we’re not really taking a big trip, our big trip was earlier this year, and it feels less summery in some ways because of that (though we will have some family visiting before the summer ends). I’m taking days off here and there, trying to devote some time to research/writing and some time to errands/chores and some time to true unabashed leisure, lying on the sofa with a cat on my lap reading, or trying to figure out how to do the right combo of jumps and backflips to complete that one shrine giving me trouble in Breath of the Wild. I’m trying not to go into next year carrying over too much annual leave time, trying to decouple my brain from a too-narrow focus on productivity, trying to make space for all of the other things I want to do but can’t always do for a whole range of reasons.

I’m looking out the window on the train, on my 3rd listen to David Bowie’s Low. We are almost there.

Two days later and I’m on the train home, another weirdly crowded quiet car (ask me about my theories of institutional control of seating arrangements that result in lots of folx on the quiet car who don’t actually want to be there!).

My brain is conference-full, so much great stuff to listen to and learn about yesterday, so humbled by and grateful for the work being done by so many rad librarians. Thinking that this trip home will also be a not working on the article trip (sorry, article!). The trees are still green and the sky is full of impossibly puffball clouds and I am taking this time to think and reflect. The article will be waiting for me on Monday.

les tags: , ,
4July
2018

sitting in your favorite chair

maura @ 3:00 pm

I am trying to get back to videogames this summer. It seems weird to have to make a plan to do something I ostensibly enjoy, something that’s very clearly a leisure + fun thing, but here we are. I think I fell out of the habit of playing games kind of gradually over the past decade as my job really turned into my career.* Being on the tenure track for sure makes it easy to work lots and play little, and by the time I had tenure and was all the way promoted I was also library director which is a not un-busy job. The games I tend to like best are often long and rely on accumulated knowledge and skill, which is not necessarily conducive to intermittent play. Also I was listening to my favorite podcast Secret Feminist Agenda not long ago and in the episode on videogames they made the point that in our late capitalist era it seems like even hobbies have to be productive in some way. Like why is knitting held in higher esteem than playing videogames? Does everything we do have to result in a product? Even reading, which I adore, “makes” something in that you’re learning when you read, right?

*Not that that wasn’t always the plan, because it was, but it still has come as a bit of a shock, I think in part because there seem to be fewer and fewer actual careers now (in any occupation) than there were in the past. Plus the whole problem of contingency in higher ed, declines in funding for public institutions, etc. just makes everything feel very precarious.

Anyway, that’s a drag and videogames are fun, phfffft.

Right now I’m playing the latest game in Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda series: Breath of the Wild. It’s the first fully open world Zelda game, and it is also super gorgeous, I have to say. I’ve always liked the Zelda games — they’ve been aesthetically pleasing and have long had a huge expansive landscape feeling even though they weren’t truly open world (meaning that you mostly progressed through the world on a predetermined path, plus diversions [called side quests]). I’m finding gameplay in the open world to be both intoxicating and distracting. At first I didn’t realize that you really can go anywhere — the visibility of the map is activated by visiting a tower in each map section, and I initially thought that I had to follow the overarching game quest to get to each section. Which would work, I assume, but once getting past the initial training level (which requires you to earn a paraglider to get down to the other regions) it’s also fine to just go wherever you want to.

I’m still nearish to the beginning of the game, despite having played on and off for about a month. I’m probably moving more slowly through the game than is absolutely necessary, in part because I’ve been captivated by the cooking mechanic. Instead of cutting the grass or smashing pots to get life hearts, like in other Zelda games, in this game you find plant and animal foods (and can hunt animals as well) as you travel. You can eat any food raw, but you get more hearts and sometimes other special powers (stamina, strength, cold resistence, and others) if you cook the food first. There are cooking pots scattered across the landscape and whenever I come upon one I’m generally unable to resist cooking at least a few things. I’ve also been collecting rocks and weird monster body parts and apparently there’s a crafting mechanic too, but I haven’t done any experimenting yet to see what I can make.

I’ll admit to having some trouble with the inventory process, which I think is also slowing me down a bit, especially when fighting enemies. As is common in many games (though not in prior Zelda games I’ve played), items like weapons and shields last for only a set number of uses before they break. Generally it’s been fairly easy to find weapons around the landscape or in treasure chests, and also when you kill an enemy you can take its weapon. But you can only hold a set number of weapons, and not every weapon is useful for every enemy (and also some things, like the sledgehammer, are needed to smash rocks to get flint and gems, so I’m hesitant to use them as weapons). Mostly the problem for me is that my weapon will inevitably break in the middle of a fight, and I’ll have to jump into the inventory and choose a new weapon quickly. Which is fine — the inventory screen is basically a pause — but I’m not supercoordinated about it and often get flustered and die (sometimes I also forget that I can replenish my hearts by eating food when in the inventory). I also get flustered fairly often with the range of buttons on the controller, though that’s not a new problems for me.

The other thing that’s slowing me down is that it’s Just. So. Pretty. The landscape is mountains and meadows and forests and rivers and lakes and snowcovered peaks and ruined medievalish buildings and broken mosscovered vaguely steampunk robots. There are animals and birds and fish. There’s wind and rain and snow and lightning. The sun rises and sets. The mountaintops and towers have a realistic and genuine feeling of tallness, so much so that as a person who’s afraid of heights I sometimes I feel the tiniest bit woozy when I’m standing on a mountain looking out over the terrain.

With all of this I’ve been meandering through the game, taking my time to explore different places even as the little indicator of the main quest that I’m supposed to be on is blinking at the edge of the map. Producing nothing other than immersive enjoyment for myself, even despite weapon-related frustrations. (And producing nearly a thousand words about my experience, too, apparently.)

les tags: ,
17June
2018

headstrong

maura @ 5:26 pm

It was a busy spring, following a busy fall. Also everything is awful and that doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

I’ve found myself thinking back lots recently to our spring break trip to Hawaii. Some of that is a “wow remember how lovely it was to be there and to relax and see neat stuff and eat good food and relax” kind of thinking. But most of it is a “wow where has the lava gone today?” kind of thinking. In mid-April volcanic activity and earthquakes started happening at Kilauea, and eruptions started in early May. It’s been super intense: fissures popped up in a subdivision east of the volcano and lava fountained up into the air and flowed down the streets and consumed a car and there’ve been ash and boulder explosions regularly out of Halema’uma’u crater and the lava flowed all the way to the ocean.

When the eruption started it was in the news regularly here on the mainland, but it’s dropped off most people’s radar I think. Except that I’m a nerd and fascinated so I check the US Geological Society website every day to see what’s happening. They have a great, active Twitter account too. (Lol, inward slumping of the crater continues. I feel ya, Halema’uma’u.) Hawaii Volcanoes National Park has also been closed in that section for the past month or so (there’s a smaller section on the southern end of the island that’s open), including the lodge where we stayed.

It’s a strange weird feeling to be watching this volcano situation. While dramatic, it’s not super fast moving or sudden, and thankfully no one has died (and I don’t even think many, if any, folx have been hurt?). There has been damage to property — houses consumed by lava in the eastern part of that subdivision as well as a few other neighborhoods — though since that area (the Lower East Rift Zone) is fairly volcanically active there’s not a lot of housing there. On the other hand, houses have been destroyed and people are displaced, which is not good.

Also destroyed were the tidepools at Kapoho, just south of Kapoho Bay, where we* snorkeled on the last day of our vacation. (*Except not me, because it turns out that for me snorkeling feels a bit like drowning. Not my jam.) The ocean entry of the fissure 8 lava flow is enormous and growing. The maps are a trip, on this one you can see the former coastline marked with a dotted line — everything east of that is new land, the earth just belching out a whole bunch of new land. It’s sad to think of the tidepools — they were beautiful (on the map they were just about where the line from the word “active” points to the shoreline). And the small neighborhood of big vacation houses just adjacent to the tidepools has been completely obliterated.

It’s sad but fascinating, such a weird feeling. I keep tuning in every evening, checking on what’s happened in the past day. The earth is amazing.

les tags: ,
19May
2018

cue the violins and violas

maura @ 3:31 pm

We went to the island of Hawaii over Spring Break and I left my hiking boots in Puna as we headed home. Hawaii was amazing. (This is not a post about Hawaii.)

Hiking boots

I left the boots on purpose, it was not an accident. They were on their last legs before the trip so I’d thought I might leave them, but the rainstorm we got trapped in while hiking to the Thurston Lava Tube sealed the deal. They were so, so, so wet that little chunks of the suede even started breaking off. Luckily they lasted a few more days after that, to Lava Tree State Monument and Kapoho tidepools and back to the rental house near Pahoa where I snapped a farewell photo of them on the porch, above the backyard where a family of chickens from next door were free-ranging.

(Maybe just a little bit about Hawaii I guess. It was amazing.)

I’d had those boots since 1993 when my mom bought them for me, unaffordable on my paltry grad school stipend, before a 9 week stint on an archaeological survey in western Ireland. I knew it would be wet there, too, and while the boots were technically waterproof they weren’t completely so. Rubber boots would have been drier, but I wanted something that would give me some decent grip and ankle support as I walked through fields up and down hills and over endless limestone rocks, rain or no rain. And they were field boots after that, too: the following summer in New Jersey and a summer after that back in Ireland and 2-ish summers in Brooklyn, some time later.

They fulfilled their true role as hiking boots in between, on vacations near and far. After the kid was born my feet got bigger and they became more useful as warmish weather boots than cold, as I couldn’t wear very thick socks anymore. And the older they got the less waterproof they became as well. I wore them snowshoeing visiting family up north for years until finally my feet were just too cold and I couldn’t do it. I wore them walking to work in the snow until they just got too leaky for me to cross the gross dirty melting snow puddles that form at each intersection in the city after a storm.

I got some new hiking boots for xmas last year and wore them for snowshoeing earlier this year, and it was lovely to have warm and dry feet. But I knew I’d want to wear actual boots in Hawaii, and it’s hot in Hawaii, and the new boots are kind of heavy. The old boots were perfect, even despite the rain soaking. It felt a little sad to let them go, but they were good boots, they served me well, and no one can ever say that I didn’t get my (mom’s) money’s worth out of them. Thanks, boots.

les tags: ,
21March
2018

all the stars are closer

maura @ 10:13 am

It’s been a late winter of lots of movies (kinda like last year?), which has been a lovely distraction in a somewhat unexpectedly overwhelmingly busy time at work. We saw Black Panther which was amazing — among many other things I loved (Shuri! <3), the Wakanda city scenes were FANTASTIC, I can’t wait to see it at home so I can pause and really look to take in all the details. Next weekend is Pacific Rim #2 which we might not see right away but definitely want to see in the theater, even though it’ll likely make me cry because we saw the first one with a dear friend who’s since died. I miss her very much.

Last weekend we saw Wrinkle in Time. I know the reviews have been up and down, some of which I think is because it truly is a kids movie (which some reviews do acknowledge). But I adored it, flat out.

Wrinkle in Time was One of Those Books for me as a kid — I read and reread it multiple times, still have my childhood copy, etc. I decided to reread it before seeing the movie because it had been a while and I wanted to refresh my memory. Yep, still amazing, still loved it. I can’t remember when I first read it as a child but it definitely spoke to me as a nerdy sort of weird girl kid — I was shy and didn’t always have lots of friends, I was smart and not always interested in traditionally girly things, I was intermittently angry at various (what I now recognize as both actual and perceived) injustices. The book spoke to all of that for me and ended with Meg, the weird smart angry girl, saving everyone and everything. It was a powerful feeling to read that.

Rereading it before the movie I now can see what a very white book it is, not unusual for a children’s book written by a white woman in 1962, and not something that occurred to me as a white kid reading the book in the ’70s + ’80s. I was interested to read the essay about the book and movie by Salamishah Tillet in the NYT which spoke directly to race and the book/movie. Tillet’s terrific essay also points out something I thought when the movie was first announced (and haven’t really seen discussed elsewhere): the lack of any kind of controversy over the casting of Storm Reid as Meg and the Murrys as a multiracial family, as compared to the outcry over the casting of Amandla Stenberg as Rue in the Hunger Games movie even as Rue was clearly written in the book as a Black character. (I may still be angry about that outcry.)

I think my reread also reminded me what a difficult book it is to adapt for the screen. The plot is linear but very internal, with lots of conversation and talking between characters, and there’s lots of exposition that’s tricky to represent visually. You’re plopped in at the beginning with everything already happening and ramped up very quickly, which isn’t as much of a challenge in a book since you can always go back and refer to earlier chapters. There’s tween/family angst but also physics plus supernatural/higher powers. The ending is abrupt (though satisfying). It’s super duper detailed and could easily be a film of much more than 2 hrs.

And I think Ava DuVernay did an incredible job of adapting that difficult source material for the screen. The details she chose to drop — Meg and Charles Wallace’s twin brothers, the lead up to meeting the IT, and some complexity near the end with wresting Charles Wallace from the IT, to name a few — didn’t detract from the film at all (and I love the way she nodded to the Aunt Beast chapter by zipping us through their planet during the search for Meg’s father). The ways she enhanced the source material were also wonderful: their California neighborhood and Mrs. Who’s Outkast quote (to name just two examples) were delightful. And new material was all in service of the main goal: while there was no Meg and Calvin running from an evil forest and tornado in the book, that scene both reminded us that Meg is smart and resourceful and that Calvin was following/helping Meg, not the other way around. Which matters.

It’s been a long time since a kid’s movie has stuck with me the way this has, I keep turning it over in my head, more convinced every day that it not only did the book justice but also made it better, more relevant. Definitely worth seeing again.

les tags: ,
18February
2018

six glasses of water

maura @ 11:58 am

I am a big fan of coffee (n.b. the footer of this very website). I didn’t really start drinking coffee in earnest until I went to college, but since then it’s been a reliable and beloved companion. Cups at the local cafe/restaurant near campus when we were undergraduates, so many that we even have a mug that we “borrowed”” as a souvenir when we graduated. Classic blue and white paper cups from streetcorner carts all over NYC. More recently, the occasional flat white from a fancyish coffee and toast place that sprung up in our ever-fancifying neighborhood (sigh). And the evolving range of home coffee methods, too: regular drip to aeropress to burr grinders to cold brew to our current Dutch coffeemaker with a fun name (Technivorm!) which makes a reliably delicious pot each morning.

Except. In the past couple of years occasionally I’ve noticed that sometimes what had previously been a perfectly fine level of coffee consumption (2 1/2 cups/day, not too much according to the medical establishment!) has the opposite effect. I’m awake, but also kind of jittery and anxious. Or maybe my afternoon cup doesn’t really make me feel more awake, so then I have more (or a few chocolate-covered espresso beans), then it’s the fast track to jittery/anxious.

When I was sick last month I didn’t want coffee at all, and since I already felt so yucky the detox from my standard levels of caffeine (a process that usually produces headaches) wasn’t such a big deal. What happened next was weirder, though — even after my illness subsided, I still wasn’t all that interested in coffee. And it’s been that way for the past few weeks. I have gone back to coffee, one cup in the morning and a second after lunch. But sometimes I forget to drink the second and don’t even want it. I wish I could report that I don’t have any afternoon tiredness anymore, but that’s not the case — I still have the usual post-lunch energy dip most days. But coffee no longer seems like the solution.

I miss it. I miss the ritual of making and drinking a hot beverage, though that’s not super hard to replicate. I’ve been drinking lots of herbal tea, at home and at work. I also miss the clarity and focus that I used to get with a cup of coffee, which now seems elusive even in the mornings. I didn’t drink coffee at all when I was pregnant many years ago, and I still remember that first cup I had after the kid was born as a sort of amazing, magical elixir.

Aging is such a trip, the ways that our bodies and minds just change right out from under us, the things we used to be able to do or eat or think or handle shifting gradually or quickly. Suddenly not really grooving on coffee anymore is hardly the worst thing that could (or will) happen. But wow it’s making me kind of melancholy.

les tags: ,
8January
2018

ringing in the new year right

maura @ 6:31 pm

I am sick, blargh. In general I’m more annoying than some sick folks, but less annoying than others, I think. I’ve spent the day moving from the sofa to the table, blowing my nose, drinking water and tea, and reading. When I’m not sick it always seems like being sick could be sort of okay, restful, even? But of course it’s not. My head hurts, my nose is running, and my body aches. This is a giant drag even despite a good book and the lap-warming efforts of one of our cats. Blargh.

I shouldn’t complain, really. I don’t get sick often, usually only once or twice each year. I’m very lucky to have paid sick days. January is a pretty common time for me to get sick — thinking back, this is the 3rd January in a row that I’ve had a cold bad enough to stay home from work. It makes sense that in the cold weather, worn down after the end of the busy semester and holidays, it’d be easy to pick up some kind of crud, especially with everyone else in the city coughing and sneezing.

January’s a good time to be sick in many ways. Things are slower at work, there are only a few classes and many folks take vacation, so it’s quieter. A good time to get things done before the semester starts, to catch up. So while I’m not missing too much by being home today, I do feel the pull of losing time to being sick, with only 3 weeks left to get some biggish tasks — both with and without hard deadlines — out of the way before the semester begins and everything speeds up again.

I’ve been trying to write more consistently this year as well, jumping into using the hashtag #write2018 with other library and academic folks on twitter. Some are doing 25 minutes/day; I’ve been aiming for just something every day, sometimes more and sometimes less, even on the weekends. It’s going to be a bit less today, I fear. Hoping that I’m feeling and writing better tomorrow.

les tags: ,
1January
2018

2017 reading list

maura @ 11:21 am

Wow, 2017 was a big reading year for me: 43 books total, handily surpassing the past 5 years and up 8 from 2016. Since I was on sabbatical for 6 months of 2017 that’s not too much of a surprise — in some ways I kind of expected to have read more. There was lots of good stuff in there and lots of challenging nonfiction, which was faster to read while on sabbatical (as I blagged about over at Librarian Sabbatical). Having the time and space (physical and mental) to simultaneously read a work-ish book, a fiction book, and a non-work nonfiction book during sabbatical was lovely, a gift. I think the count shows it: 24 fiction and 19 nonfiction. I read no graphic novels this year, though Citizen 13660 is a book written by an illustrator about her family’s experiences in a Japanese internment camp during WWII, and is sort of like a graphic novel though not exactly. That was inspired by a student I interviewed for my sabbatical project, who was assigned to read that plus The Handmaid’s Tale during the semester I spoke with her. Heavy.

As I expect is true for many folks in the U.S. especially, this was kind of a a heavy reading year, though I did read some amazing fiction that was serious but not (too) heavy. The Sun is Also a Star started out the year and was such a gorgeous NYC teenage story. Lunch in Koreatown, sigh. I could not read this fast enough. The Changeling was also super compelling and a fast read, partly because I wanted to finish it before we took a trip but also because it was such an incredible description of new parenthood and so, so, so scary, truly frightening. And The Fifth Season, finally. I feel a bit guilty that it’s taken me so long to read anything by N.K. Jemisin but I am fired up to remedy that, I got the other two books in the trilogy for xmas and am excited to start them. I love the geologically amazing world she’s created, which is aligning well with plans we’re making for a geologically amazing trip this spring.

Super heavy fiction I read and loved though wow heavy included The Underground Railroad, The Hate U Give, The Leavers, and my reread of Octavia Butler’s Parable books (which I reviewed for our newsletter at work). Also American War which was absolutely gripping and terrifying — I gulped it down though it’s left me shaken and thinking back to it at various ridiculous and scary political points during this year.

I maybe should not count Malafrena as a finished book, since I didn’t finish it, but I did finish Orsinian Tales which was included in the Library of America version that I checked out from the public library, and since Orsinian Tales is also a standalone book I counted it. Malafrena just dragged for me, though I love Ursula Le Guin and her work. But this is just not the time for me to read fiction with such a historical, European, white focus.

My nonfiction reads this year were a mix of worky and non-worky, mostly serious but not entirely so. White Rage was so amazing and devastating which is exactly what I said about Between the World and Me (as I wrote in my reading journal). Hunger I read all in one day, sort of luxuriating in the availability of time when on sabbatical, but also I think sort of afraid that if I put it down I might not be able to pick it up again because it was so hard, so heartbreaking. It was beyond terrific. An Indigenous Peoples History of the United States took me many months to read, I renewed it enough times from the (work) library that I had to physically go in to renew it again. Dense and scholarly and necessary. I finished up my nonfiction reading this year with Feminists Among Us just this past week while at home on a few days off, wearing multiple layers and trying to keep warm in this polar vortex we’re having. I have a chapter in this book and the other chapters were so incredible that I’m still sort of pinching myself that my writing is in there, too.

This year I’m not sure I have specific reading goals, though I’m going to try and keep up with my antiracism/social justice reading and keep working on strategies for reading hard stuff during busy times, which I continue to find challenging. I think one goal may be to try and read the stuff I already have, the books piled up on my to read shelf next to my desk, some of the others on other shelves in our house. I have a tendency to add a pile of books to my library holds as I read reviews that sound interesting, then they all come in at times that aren’t always convenient, and my book pile at home doesn’t get any smaller. Going to see if I can remedy that this year, at least somewhat.

Here’s 2017, in reverse-chronological order, starred are ebooks and tilded are books we own.

* Signal to Noise, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
~ Feminists Among Us: Resistance and Advocacy in Library Leadership. edited by Shirley Lew and Baharak Yousefi
* An Excess Male, by Maggie Shen King
The Argonauts, by Maggie Nelson
Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng
An Indigenous Peoples History of the United States, by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
Akata Warrior, by Nnedi Okorafor
~ The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin
* No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need, by Naomi Klein
The Leavers, by Lisa Ko
* The Book of Joan, by Lidia Yuknavitch
~ Information Literacy and Social Justice, edited by Lua Gregory and Shana Higgins
* The Book of Unknown Americans, by Cristina Henriquez
No One Is Coming to Save Us, by Stephanie Powell Watts
~ The Real World of Technology, by Ursula M. Franklin
~ Stories of Your Life and Others, by Ted Chiang
~ The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, by Timothy Snyder
~ All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders
The Changeling, by Victor LaValle
~ Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy, by Tressie McMillan Cottom
Hunger, A Memoir of (My) Body, by Roxane Gay
Citizen 13660 by Miné Okubo
* The Small Backs of Children, by Lidia Yuknavitch
~ Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom, by bell hooks
~ Parable of the Talents, by Octavia Butler
Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement, by Angela Y. Davis
~ You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), by Felicia Day
Waking Up White (And Finding Myself in the Story of Race), by Debby Irving
Malafrena (partially) and Orsinian Tales, by Ursula Le Guin
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander
American War, by Omar El Akkad
~ Parable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler
The Mothers, by Brit Bennett
* ~ Hope in the Dark, by Rebecca Solnit
~ Video Games and Learning: Teaching and Participatory Culture in the Digital Age, by Kurt Squire
* Kabu Kabu, by Nnedi Okorafor
The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
~ Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott
Difficult Women, by Roxane Gay
* The Sun is Also a Star, by Nicola Yoon
White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide, by Carol Anderson
* Everything, Everything, by Nicola Yoon

Prior year end reading roundups (mostly collected here so I can find them easily): 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012

les tags: ,
6December
2017

self-sufficience please

maura @ 9:47 pm

Grumpy. I am grumpy. Grumpy, grumpy, grumpy. Grumpy when I wake up in the morning, grumpy when I go to sleep at night.

I’m grumpy about all the usual things, things that are probably making lots of other folks grumpy too. Time, capitalism, bodies; too little, too much, too fragile. Plus the disturbing political situation. Plus the rolling waves of sexual assault news.* Plus climate change (so hot). Like a slice of toast spread thickly with gray sludge. Grumpy.

* Among the many well-written and heartwrenching pieces, this one by archivist Eira Tansey really resonated with me.

I’ve been trying to talk myself out of it and write myself out of it and think myself out of it, but this grumpy is nothing if not persistent.

Last week I went to a symposium for librarians about higher education, focusing on what might be on the horizon. The speakers were mostly not librarians, they were administrators or folks in library-adjacent fields like scholarly publishing. There was, as is so often the case (cf. Eira’s post linked above), not gender parity among the speakers (though perhaps among attendees), and nowhere even in the remote vicinity of racial/ethnic parity among both. I am grumpy about disparities. I am grumpy when I hear about things happening at better-resourced institutions. I know that my colleagues and I do the best we can with the resources we have available, a great job, in all and genuine honesty, but it’s hard not to be grumpy thinking of what we might be able to do were the resources available.

The symposium was held at a hotel in Manhattan. As I walked into the lobby I experienced the most incredible nostalgia, though it took me a few minutes to place it. A long time ago, when my kid was little, the two of us came to that very hotel to meet his grandmother — my spouse’s mom — for lunch. She was at that time the president of a scholarly association that had its meeting at the hotel. My memory is that she was only in town for a short time and couldn’t make it out to Brooklyn, and my spouse was also busy that day, so we decided that the kid and I would come in and meet her for lunch. I believe we ate at a diner, I have a memory of us sitting on counter stools and spinning around? I could dig a little to figure out the exact date (but I haven’t), it could have been when the kid was 3-ish, though maybe as old as 5-ish. I think the lunch was a bit hectic — it’s a busy part of the city for schlepping a kid, she was busy with her meeting. But he is the only child of her only child so of course we made the trip.

It’s 3 years last month since a good friend of ours died suddenly, 3 years this month since my spouse’s mom died. The sadness and missing them has changed and keeps changing, complicated by external factors: other people, the world, life. Reservations are made and tickets are bought for us to go a Chinese restaurant for lunch and to see the latest Star Wars movie on Christmas as we have for the past 2 years, our now-not-so-new tradition. I am and will be thinking of them both.

And I’m looking forward to a few days off at the end of the month to catch up on sleep and read and play some games and get myself out of the house a bit more. It’s so boring to be this grumpy all the time.

les tags:
4October
2017

crystal ball

maura @ 6:47 am

Wow September, where did you go? Into the manuscript for the edited book that my research partner and I delivered to the publisher last weekend, is the real answer. But wow, everything is so much right now, and September was no different. Work is extra busy, home is extra busy, the world continues to fall apart at what feels like extra busy speed (though I realize that much of this perception of speed is the result of the instantaneous notification that comes from our pocket computers).

It’s still weird to me to finish up a big project. The sort of let-down feeling is less so now than with the last book, I think because this semester is already so much busier than this time last year. But the feeling like I’m out of words is the same. How many words do we get? I wrote or cowrote lots of things on sabbatical, are my words used up? Will they come back?

This time around I acutely felt the slowdown in reading that happened as I got closer to the book’s deadline. This feeling was also exacerbated by sabbatical: during sabbatical I had enough time to do my research work + writing and to read a bunch each day (as I blogged about on one of the sabbatical side projects I worked on with a colleague). But once I was back to work and counting down to our deadline it got harder and harder to allocate the brain space needed to read in addition to doing everything else. I left off in the middle of a couple of nonfiction books that were especially challenging, but even fun light reading before bed usually had me falling asleep over the book.

I’m looking forward to finishing those books and starting new ones. And I’m hoping that reading more will help the words come back for writing, too.

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