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It is a weird thing, feeling things wrapping up, after this has taken up so much of my mind over the last four months, and particularly since September.

After it started taking up so much of my time, from the 2nd week of September, without any end seeming in sight, I decided to do NaNoWriMo as a way to get the damn thing done. 50,000 words in a month: that should be more than enough. I aimed to go into November with 50,000; 100,000 words seemed about right.

In the end, I started November with about 55,000. Interestingly, my original belief that this was a 100,000 word story proved increasingly right; last week, I figured out how things would end, and wrote the final scenes, and then started writing both backwards and forwards so that I would eventually meet in the middle.

Up through last week, I banked as many spare words as I could, because Gwen and I went to Amsterdam yesterday and Sunday, and I knew I wouldn't be able to get much done then; turns out, I was wrong, as Saturday night I crossed 45,000 words, and...realized that I was actually basically done. Sunday I filled in a few bits and pieces in the chapters, but this morning rolled around, with 4440 words left to go to "win" at NaNoWriMo. Now, what was more important: Writing the right story, or winning?

Well, winning of course. I struggled to find a way that I could insert another 4500 words into what I had, but it quickly became clear that that was stupid.

So instead, tonight, I sat down and did what I do best: I stopped writing fiction and started writing academia. Sort of. I added a chapter at the end, which is currently titled "This isn't really a chapter." It's a place where I started writing up all the bits and pieces in the book which are in fact true, or at least based in actual fact/research, along with citations.

20 minutes later, I had 950 words. My usual average, when hand-writing, has been about 500 words per hour. This evening, at home, it took me another hour to write another 1200 words. The big number sure is nice, sure does feel different. This is such a different way of exercising my mind and my words.

This "chapter" probably won't even make it into the book, proper, but I'm glad I'm writing it ,and will probably use the rest of my words (2532 to be precise) adding to it. I am afraid that if I don't write this down, I will forget where my impetus for certain parts came from, and why I made the decisions I did. So it's part research paper and part memoir.

But the story itself: There is nothing more to build. There is a huge amount to add to the beginning, and a huge amount to be changed during the editing process. (I suspect that many of the last 25 chapters or so need to be rearrange substantially.) But I will be surprised if any new chapters are added. It is a strange feeling, to have gone from "I have no idea how this will end" to "I see how this can end" to "I now know what the end is like" to "I have ended it", in four weeks flat.

As for now? For the first night in a month, or more, I won't spend 8pm-11pm on the couch writing. Instead, it's 9:30pm and I'm going to go take my beer and a new book I just bought upstairs to the bathtub.


Nov. 22nd, 2016 08:08 pm
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Yesterday I passed 250 handwritten pages (actually, way more because I haven't numbered wholly sequentially. But I actually wrote '250' in the upper right hand corner.)

Yesterday I wrote 2000+ words, surpassing 34,000 for the month of November, and 90,000 in total.

It's nearly done.

I've spent rather more academic/work time on this than I had originally planned (heck, I hadn't planned any of this, to be honest).

But weekend before last, I received an invitation which made all this time and work justified. I have been invited to be one of the keynote speakers at the British Society of Aesthetics Workshop: Fiction Writing for Philosophers in June. It's a two day thing; on the first day, the invited speakers will give semi-autobiographical/personal talks on a topic at the intersection of writing fiction and philosophy. On the second day, we speakers will meet individually with the participants of the workshop to discuss a piece of work that they will have submitted to us in advance.

One little invitation, and all the time and work I've spent when I "should" have been doing "real" work is justified.

I am doing exactly what I should be doing.
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Like many people, I grew up in the suburbs in a neighborhood with plenty of other children my age nearby, relative freedom as to where and with whom I went, and given that my mom did home day-care for a number of years, our house was general the place where the kids hung out anyway.

One thing I'd always vaguely worried about having kids and NOT living in the suburbs AND not having a car was whether that ubiquity of play would even be possible, or if I'd forever find myself scheduling play dates weeks in advance and giving up all or part of a day to ferry my child across town by bus, etc.

And, yeah, that still happens. We make a point of ensuring that there are fixed days when friends come over or when she goes to friend's -- even if it means that we spend an hour on public transport to get there and another hour to get back. (We didn't realize H. lived so far away when we invited her to come over and play; it wasn't a problem for her parents, since they have a car, but then when they reciprocated the invitation, it was a bit of a trek for Joel to get her out there.) And with D. living across the street we can make plans somewhat more flexibly -- we can knock on her door en route to the forest, for example, or I can text her parents on Friday to make plans for Sunday. But this morning Gwen asked if D. could come over or if she could go over to D.'s in the afternoon, way less notice than we usually have and with the ubiquity of birthday parties I knew the chance was high she might not be available but I texted Lauren anyway to see if she would be free after Gwen and I got back from the new house (I'd promised her we'd go over there so she could play at the park there for awhile. Especially as it was turning out to be one of those gloriously sunny fall days!). No answer, but I had told Gwen not to get her hopes up, so we were okay with this -- and she was still excited about going to the playground.

And then whom did we meet coming across Framwellgate Bridge? D. and her parents and little brother! They were on their way home after a family morning out, and Gwen was begging for D. to come to the playground with her. Within two minutes I'd relieved Lauren and Oliver of one of their children for the rest of the afternoon and the girls were skipping off hand in hand. Gwen got to show D. her new bedroom, they played at the park for 45 min., and then we came back to the old house where they had hot chocolate and spent at least half an hour upstairs pretending to take naps, and then colored until Oliver came by around 4:30 to bring her home for supper.

I very much like that things like this can happen WITHOUT buckets full of advanced planning. I love living in a small enough city where you can run into a friend downtown, head off in one direction to a park, then walk back the other direction home, and still have plenty of time to play at both places.
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Joel is over at the new house, and a phone rings. It's not mine; it's right next to me. It's not the landline, so, unless he's forgotten his mobile, which is unlikely but not impossible, it's his work mobile. But it's 9:30pm; that would be unusual. It rings a long time, so I text Joel to let him know his phone rang.

Maybe 10-15 min. later it rang again, but not as long.

He texts back and asks me to check if it's a UK number. I say I will, after Neff gets up from my lap.

About 20 min. later, I see that one of his colleagues from the US has posted on his FB wall: Urgent work-related issue needs to be dealt with ASAP. I'm pretty sure I know who was calling.

Call Joel to tell him this; he doesn't answer before it goes to voicemail, so I don't bother to leave a message but just text him instead: Check your FB, I think Jon is trying to reach you. I reply to Jon's FB post letting him know Joel is over at the new house right now, and that I've tried calling/texting.

Joel texts back; he'll pack up his things and be home in 20 min. His connection is flaky, so can I let Jon know? So I post this info on FB.

What a weirdly bizarre and yet typically 21st C communication event just happened.
aryanhwy: (Default)
...and it's amazing.

Yesterday morning, a schoolfriend's mom picked Gwen up and took her and N. to T.'s house, where both Gwen and N. had been invited to spend the night. Gwen has been asking to go on or to have someone come over for a sleep over for six months or so, so she was SO EXCITED. Monday night involved packing an overnight bag (I got to decide whether I should send her to the sleepover with a "Computability in Europe" bag from the Azores or a "Indian Conference on Logic and Applications" bag from Delhi. We opted for the former; it was a better size.)

Mid afternoon yesterday T.'s mom texted us a few pictures of the girls playing outside (an amazingly sunny day whereas it's been mostly rainy for the last week or so), and it was so weird when 5pm rolled around and I didn't have to rush off to get her from wherever. Instead, I hung out at my office until Joel was done working, and then he met me there and we went out for supper. There's a pub/hotel on North Road that has been recommended to us for its food, so we decided to try it. We split a partridge and pear starter, and then I had venison with gin-soaked blackberries and girolles, and he had a sort of "exploded fish pie" (as he described it) -- all very good. We didn't stay for dessert because they needed our table for a reservation, so instead we went over to the Elm Tree because we know they have good sticky toffee pudding. I was too full for dessert, so I just had a G&T instead. We had a lovely time lingering over it, and then walked home.

We were home before 9pm. We are such losers. :)

Joel then showed me a whole bunch of websites selling skirting boards, and finished up his taxes. As he commented "we are old and boring". But as I replied, "we are old and boring TOGETHER." I would rather be old and boring with him than young and exciting on my own.

This morning, I didn't have to set my alarm. I slept until nearly 9am and was still out at the office by 9:20.

Late in the afternoon T.'s mom texted that the girls were covered in mud and picking conkers, and that she'd feed them and then bring them home. When it's just me, if I leave the office at 16:55, I'm home by 17:05. It's amazing.

I could get used to this.
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The worst part about school? School holidays...which OF COURSE do not match up with academic holidays. When Gwen was at nursery, nursery was open every day that the university was open, with the exception of the first May bank holiday (I never understood why, of the two May bank holidays, academic staff, including nursery staff, got both of them, off, but faculty ONLY GOT ONE OF THEM. Plz explain to me how is fair?), so we didn't have to worry about whether it was term time or out of term time.

School, however, has this dreaded week called half-term. Or in the case of the Choristers, a dreaded week and a half.

I failed at adulting when it came to advanced plans, and about two weeks in advance of it found me texting the rest of the moms in Gwen's class going "so....what exactly do you guys do for child care during half term?" Of course, most of them either have at least one stay-at-home parent or don't live in Durham so their options don't apply. But one of them is AMAZING, and said "I could take Gwen Tuesday or Wednesday for the day, if you want. Or, I could do both days and she could spend the night." And then invited the third girl in the class over, so for about two weeks now Gwen has been SO EXCITED about the prospect of having a "girl's night out" with T. and N. It'll be her first sleep-over, despite the fact she's been asking for one for six months or so now.

But that still left five days.

Gwen's passport expires in December, which means we need to get it renewed before we go to the US for Christmas, which means a trip to London, which means taking her out of school for a day -- unless we could do it during half-term. But given MY teaching schedule, we couldn't find any day that I was free from teaching or could reliably be sure I'd be back in time for an afternoon class. So in the end, Joel picked Gwen up when school let out on Wednesday, and the two of them went down that evening for a Thursday morning appointment. That took up all day, and also meant I didn't have to figure out how to get her from school at 15:15 when it was the day of the first Board of Studies meeting of term, which generally lasts from 14:00-17:00.

Another mother texted me that St. Oswald's (another school in town) runs a holiday club that her two children go to, one in Gwen's class and one in an older class whom Gwen has made friends with. I sent them an email, with no response, and finally called them about a week in advance. They could take her Monday, Thursday, and Friday.

So that left today, when I had Latin reading group in the morning, a tutorial in the afternoon, and then a meeting with a student. Normally, for one tutorial, I'd bite the bullet and bring her with, but this one was the first of term, which has a somewhat different dynamic. So I sent out an email to three of my colleagues -- one who is a mother, one who shares the office next to mine, and one who is the aunt of one of Gwen's best friends whom I happened to be scheduled to babysit Wednesday night... -- and thankfully "Auntie Liz" said Gwen could spend the hour in her office.

So today, Gwen played in my office for about an hour, and then watched CBeebies with the headphones on for 1.5 hours while I skyped into reading group; then we had lunch at the pub together (chips and beans, mushy peas, and blackcurrant cordial); then I settled her in Liz's office chair with headphones and my laptop and 101 Dalmations on youtube. Apparently she was good company, and she then happily colored on my whiteboard for another hour until my student came, at which time I set her up with the remainder of the movie.

By the time my student left, it was about 15:30 and the most appropriate thing to do was go and meet Thomas and Gemma at the pub. Because if there is one thing I have won at in terms of parenting, it is having trained my child to entertain herself while I drink beer. She adores Thomas, and loves seeing Gemma when she can, and while I had a pint and a half she drank another glass of blackcurrant (with a bendy straw!) and didn't even tease for more when she was done with it. Instead, she sat nicely with us for awhile, and then ended up taking my phone over to another table and sat by herself, quietly, playing games. When she grew bored with that, she took her stuffed animals to a couch and lay down to "rest", and for a moment I almost thought she'd actually fallen asleep. (And indeed she was tired enough that I promised to carry her part of the way home.)

You do what you gotta do...
aryanhwy: (widget)
...revising a paper from something that was not very good but adequate and something I didn't mind too much having my name attached to into something that I am embarrassed to claim but which hopefully jumps the requisite hoops, so when I received an email whose subject line indicated it had the decision on a piece of fiction I'd submitted to an anthology back in August, my thought as I opened it was "Eh, they didn't want it. That's okay. I knew it was a long shot, it isn't really exactly on the chosen topic."

So I was shocked and delighted to read:
Thank you for submitting a story for the forthcoming Nothing anthology. We really enjoyed reading your submission, and would like to accept your story 'The Sum of Our Memories' for inclusion in the collection.

Suddenly, having devoted much of the last three months to working on a novel doesn't seem as silly a way to spend my time. This is my first piece of fiction to be published, has it really been since the essay competition I entered when I was 10? I won a 10-speed bike and got my short story published in the hosting society's newsletter. I've had some poems along the way, but this might actually be my first "real" piece of published fiction.


And on the topic of "all writing counts", yesterday I received an inquiry from the Surnames Society of Australia asking if they could reprint one of my DMNES blog posts in their newsletter. It's an informal, non-profit thing, so they were apologetic that they couldn't pay me -- but honestly, I put it up on the web for free, if they want to reprint it for their readers, I'm happy to! So I briefly rewrote it a bit, to make it less blog posty, and send it off to them this morning.

Guess I need to update my "projects" spreadsheet.
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Today was a pretty good day.

I slept solidly and deeply until my alarm went off, and then Gwen and I collected conkers on the way to school.

I had an hour in the morning to work, and then skyped in to Latin reading group in St. Andrews, during which I still had a cookie leftover from Tuesday. Yay for cookies during reading group.

We were all enjoying ourselves so much we ran over by 15 minutes, and then I went over to the new house to help Joel hang the last cupboard and then we went to the Elm Tree for lunch together.

He then went back to the house to meet the electrician, but I didn't really have any desire to walk all the way back to the office and then have to walk half way back again to get Gwen from school not much later, so I drank my beer leisurely and worked in the pub for awhile.

After that, I headed to the castle, where I was delighted upon walking into the SCR to hear the Toreador song on the radio. I haven't heard that since I was a child. I had another cup of tea and worked for about half an hour before heading to school to pick Gwen up early.

We swung by the market to get some things for something I want to make on Sunday, and then when we got home, we made oatmeal cookies.

She was in bed by 7pm, and I spent an hour on the couch catching up in Strictly, at the end of which I nearly feel asleep. After another half an hour of snuggling Neff before I could finally stand to boot her off, I put on "Life of Brian" and took a long bath.

I will probably go to bed early, and sleep late tomorrow.
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I present you with this, which was in Gwen's school bag when I rifled through it last night.


I would bet good money that this came about because she was asked to write her name.


There is a lovely story about Joel when he was in grade school, regarding the week's spelling words. They were asked to write sentences containing all of the spelling words. He asked if it were acceptable to have more than one word in the same sentence, and the teacher said Yes.

His sentence? "These are our spelling words for this week: [list]."

His teacher was not amused.
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Today I wrote a chapter where I had the skeleton but not the words. "still need more words here", my PDF says in read, and a few paragraphs later "more words here", and 1/3 of a page later, "words", and in the next line "words".

I know what happens, but I could no longer face the fact that I don't entirely know WHY.

So tonight, I sat down, and instead of writing more story, I started making a list of all the true things that I know about the world that I either haven't said yet or where I have gestured to them but where I know I haven't said enough that anyone else would get them.

This has been incredibly helpful.

It is remarkably like writing a research paper and writing down true things until you figure out what your argument is. Because what is plot if not an argument? These are the bits and pieces that you need to know here, the ones you need to know there, the ones you need now, the ones you need then, and then BAM you get your main theorem, or your major crisis/denoument, and then it's just a matter of the conclusion, of wrapping up loose ends, and maybe saying something about future work.

Plot was always the bit I had the hardest part with, before. I didn't know how to make things happen, or how to build more structure than just "and then they did this and then they did this, and then they did this." If I had known how useful this last decade of not-writing (fiction) would be to my writing (fiction) I would've been a lot less disconsolate when I felt that I had given up on something that had been so central to my identity before.

Because, hey, folks, I've figured out how to write plot! And it's just like writing a research paper, except I can make up the facts.
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Friday is the end of September. The new academic year always starts the first of October, mentally if not actually. Wednesday is matriculation. Thursday I run a study skills workshop and meet my advisees. The following Monday is my first lecture. Sometime before then I want to meet with my tutors for my intro class. At that meeting, they will expect me to have a clue about what I am planning to do. I do, but I'm not sure that clue extends beyond the first lecture, which is unfair to both them and to the students. I need to map out at least the first term's worth of topics, start sketching homework topics even if not homework assignments.

I have been amazingly lucky to have been able to spend the last three weeks basically dropping everything else in order to write. I wake up in the morning, wake Gwen, we get dressed, we eat, we walk to school. I may spend an hour or so reading emails, etc.; I learned long ago that I cannot simply turn up to my office and work, I have to fritter away at least 30 minutes, usually closer to an hour. I became a lot more productive when I realized this and gave myself permission to do so, years ago while still in grad school.

But then I settle in my rocking chair, pull up another chair next to me to balance the computer, another in front to serve as my footstool, and then I write. I write until lunch time, or through lunch time when I forget, I write until my tea is gone and I need to make more, and then I write more, until my alarm goes off at 16:45 so that I can be up to get Gwen before 5:00pm and we don't have to pay the extra 5GBP for after school care. On the walk up to the bailey, I think and reflect and plot and plan. On the walk home, I am still distracted. We make supper, eat it, clean up afterwards. Gwen does her homework, watches a video with me. We have snuggle time and then I read her a story and sing her a song, a song from the music that I have been listening to on repeat in my office, loudly and in gratitude to the fact that no one else is in my stairwell to be bothered by it. Then she is in bed, and despite my best intentions, there is always about an hour of TV on the couch before anything else happens. But 8 o'clock roll around, and then the music comes back on, and the paper comes out, and I write, I write until it is late enough that Joel is home and he expresses surprise that I am still awake, that I have often still been awake when he comes home.

It's something like 10 hours a day, my primary purpose has been to write. Even when we went to the Netherlands for Borefts this last weekend, I wrote on the ferry, I wrote on the bus, I wrote -- legibly and sensibly! -- while drinking beer. My pagination of handwritten pages is up to page 88; the PDF is 166 pages long. wc -w tells me I have 32792 words, though some of them are commented out; roughly all but 8000 of those have been written in the last three weeks. My three alpha readers have been so encouraging (I expect it from my mom. She has loved every word I have ever written. She is the very best of alpha readers. It has been wholly unexpected from others, to have them enjoy what I am writing so much, to hear from them that reading it has kept them from other work they should be doing).

But I cannot keep this up. I feel like I'm writing against a deadline, when the end of Friday comes (or maybe Saturday; Saturday morning I get 1.5 glorious hours uninterrupted at the public library while Gwen is at her drama lessons) and I will have to face up to the fact that I actually am employed to do something other than write a novel. So I will write all that I can before then, and then? I don't know how I'll arrange things then, but I'll arrange something. Because I now cannot imagine not finishing this, and soon.

And when it is done, I'll know how to write a book. I never felt like I learned that, while writing the dissertation, and since then, the idea of writing a book has frankly terrified me: A book is just so big. I have been very lucky that even though in my field, a book is expected, in my niche field, they are not, so I have been able to get away without writing on yet. But somehow, I feel like once I have completed this, the shear dint of having done so will make doing it a second time infinitely easier.

And this is why I have given myself permission to basically ignore everything else, these last three weeks, and simply to write. Because I am teaching myself an important skill that I need to have, and will make use of again in the near future.

This, folks, is why you give academics tenure.
aryanhwy: (Default)
Thomas and Gemma took us to the humane society when we were kitty hunting a year and a half ago. They had a cat. They didn't need a cat -- but Thomas saw Figaro and knew he needed Figaro. Figaro was a gorgeous black beastie of a kitten, destined for a life of greatness.

Thomas is currently in the US on business, and Figaro got sick. He spent the night at the vet, and this morning they determined it was his kidneys. It was serious. Thomas just IMed me. They're putting him to sleep. And he's not there to say good-bye.

I am in my office crying too hard to see what I'm writing, because no one should ever, ever have to leave putting a pet to sleep in the hands of someone else. It's been just over two years since Slinky was put to sleep and I wasn't there with her, and it still kills me. I can't stand watching this happen again, to a friend. And to such a young, beautiful cat.

It's not fair.

It was awful when we put Widget to sleep, but we were there, all of us were there and we loved him and he knew that. He was in the arms of his favorite person in the whole world.

It's just not fair.


Sep. 22nd, 2016 09:23 am
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Back in spring I joined an "Academic Mamas" group on FB, and it's been quite interesting. One thing that has recently come to the fore, in many different threads, is what students should call their teachers. There are a lot of people in the group who are very exercised by ensuring that their students call them "Prof. X" or "Dr. X" and not "hey [given name]" or "M(r)s. X".

I can understand stressing the importance of using Prof. or Dr. rather than a gendered title reflecting marital status, since the latter has no place in the classroom; I still remember my first course at UW-Marshfield/Wood County, and the first thing the teacher said was "You can call me Julie or Dr. Tharp, but Mrs. Tharp is my mother-in-law, and I will not answer to that." But what I find interesting is the number of people who take umbrage at the idea of their students calling them by their first name, and the reason many of them give is that it undermines their authority in the classroom, and they insist on the use of their formal title as a sign of authority and respect.

I find this baffling.

Maybe it's because, even 7+ years, "Dr. Uckelman" just isn't who I am. Dr. Uckelman is a person who writes snooty, irritated complaint letters, or who opens a bank account, or who has only recently gotten used to being "Mrs. Uckelman" on account of having a child. (This is an interesting side topic: I got used to being "Sara Uckelman" pretty quickly after getting married. But being "Mrs. Uckelman" remained a very weird concept, in part because growing up, my mom was "Mrs. Friedemann" mostly in contexts that involved her being my mother, not her being my dad's wife. So it was weird to be a Mrs. without kids. Since I've had Gwen, I've found it easier to be Mrs. Uckelman -- though since I had Gwen after the PhD, I often feel torn and that I should be Dr. Uckelman to these people.) Maybe it's because I started teaching back when I was still "Miss Friedemann" and like heck was I going to let ANYONE know this; in a sense, I established my authority in my first teaching experience by being Sara, rather than by being [title] [surname], and that is what I have become comfortable with. I respect that some students may be more comfortable with calling me Dr. Uckelman than calling me Sara; but that's their prerogative. I find it off-putting, especially when it's amongst students I work closely with or who are my supervisees; I worry that they do it because they feel that they must keep me at a distance, and I don't want them to feel that way. But I am not going to insist that they call me something that they are not comfortable calling me with. I'll just keep signing my emails "Sara", and eventually they'll come around.

Because with one exception, I don't recall any case where I felt like my authority in the classroom was compromised. The exception was when I was TAing intro logic with Antonio Rauti, so this had to have been my 2nd year in grad school, so I was 21, possibly (if it was second semester) soon to be 22. I had a student, a graduating senior (i.e., he had to be a year older than me) double majoring in math and computer science and already accepted to grad programs at Harvard and Stanford. He was taking Phil 211 because he needed humanities credits to graduate, and it made it clear during the first tutorial that he was unimpressed with the idea of a young woman teaching him logic.

The last day of class, he came up, shook my hand, and said basically that he thought I'd done a good job and he took back his comments (not in so many words, but that was clearly the intent).

Which makes me wonder: What is it about me or my teaching style that I am not encountering the sorts of disrespect and lack of authority that these other women, who insist that their students keep them at arm's length? While I'd like to say that I'm just a natural in the classroom someone who can command respect regardless of age or gender, I think a much more likely explanation is the same one as for why I feel like I've made it as far as I have in academia without experiencing the overt sexism that many other women have had: I'm simply oblivious to it. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. If I don't feel like I am not maintaining my authority in the class room, does it matter then if I am or not? (In this case, authority is very different from sexism: If I am oblivious to the sexism, it's still happening. But if I am oblivious to my authority being undermined, is it being undermined?)

As I said in one of the twitter conversations this spawned, I like teaching 18+ people because they have the potential to be my peers. In terms of being fellow adults responsible for themselves, they already are my peers. Maybe in terms of the academy, they aren't my peers when they arrive fresh faced first term first year. But part of my job is to get them to the point where they can be them by the end of their 3rd years, by the time they're doing actual real research underneath me, by the time we're covering advanced topics in their classes. I want to be able to send these students drafts of my papers, to show them what the research process looks like. I want to encourage them to write papers with me. I want them to feel a part of a research group. This will never happen if they are always [given name] and I am always Dr. X. Why not establish things as I mean to go on? I don't want to spend the first year or two teaching them to call me Dr. Uckelman only to then try my best to get them to say "Sara" in their final year: This doesn't make sense.

Finally, I also asked a bunch of the women: If you insist that they call you "Dr. X" as a sign of respect, do you in return call them "Mr./Ms./Mx. X"? For the most part, the answer was no, and the reason given was that "Dr." is an earned title but "Mr./Ms./Mx." is not. I'm not sure I understand this as an explanation. Partly because, while "Dr." is an earned title, most of us cannot say that we earned our position at university, teaching these people, or that we deserve to be there (this isn't to say that our being there isn't merited); academia is such a crap shoot, that I feel it is more pure luck rather than any just desserts on my part that has put me in front of my students.


Sep. 20th, 2016 01:01 pm
aryanhwy: (Default)
Over on my more academic/public-facing blog I recently wrote about writing fiction vs. writing nonfiction. I've been ruminating on an interesting difference lately.

One of the things I struggle with in my academic prose is to simply say what I want to say, and not try to dress it up fancy or make it complex. JUST SAY WHAT YOU'RE TRYING TO SAY! Sometimes it takes two or three or four parings down of extraneous words until I get rid of all the fluff, and just make a simple statement.

On the other hand, when writing fiction, what I've been finding lately is that I have to stop myself from simply saying what I want the reader to know -- it's the whole "show, don't tell" advice (advice which has been in the forefront of my mind for the last year or so because I am consistently telling Gwen "tell me, don't show me", in an attempt to get her to describe things to me rather than make me look up from what I'd doing to see yet another X). I will write what I want the reader to know, and then delete the final clause, the explanatory clause, and see if what is left, just the action, is enough to get the point across.

It's an interesting divergence.
aryanhwy: (Default)
This novel started the 2nd to the last day of conferencing in Melbourne, when during one of the keynote talks I sketched a face and started writing, and I haven't really stopped since then, though it's gotten worse in the last few weeks -- I hit my New Year's Resolution goal on the 5th, and since then my brain has been like "whoo! go academic Sara, go you, you did it! Now: Do this instead!" So here I am, writing a novel instead of any of the papers I should be writing; but I learned long ago that I will be may more productive if I follow this out rather than try to ignore it.

I've been paginating sequentially, but "p47" doesn't mean I've written 47, it means I've written closer to 50-55, because some of the pages have branched to, e.g. "36a", "36b", "36c", before I realize that I'm not coming back, yet, to where I branched and I start over with the next number.

47+ handwritten pages.

18200+ words.

Formatted so it looks like a paperback book, because I need to be able to see the physical shape of the story to know if the tempo is right, 103 pages (including table of contents, list of citations, and bibliography).

18 chapters in full draft, covering 8 days of story. Another 5 chapters have snippets in them.

I have, for the most part, been writing sequentially: I started at the beginning, and went forward. Except there was one scene that I knew I needed, even though it was in the future, and I wrote that; and then I wrote sequentially from the beginning and from that scene. Late last night, I joined the two lines up, and am now working forward from a single point. At first I worried I had too little to say; now, I am 100 pages in and I feel like the whole of the story is still before me. I am happy with how things are going, and for the first of any fiction writing project I've ever done, I can see how to get it to being finished.

Don't worry, mom, you'll get a copy of it soon enough. :)
aryanhwy: (Default)
So not only do I write differently writing long-hand vs. typing -- LaTeX has infected me so badly that when I write long-hand, I include mark-up in it. Why write . . . when instead you can write \dots?
aryanhwy: (widget)
So, Gwen's been at school a week, and I'm still happy with our choice. She races off every morning, and almost every evening I've been met with a tantrum about going home (part of it is she doesn't want to leave; part of it is that school is a lot more tiring than nursery and she is often SO tired by the time I get her. So there are tears.) Monday night we had our first parent-teacher (group) meeting, and we got to hear a bit more about what school is like there. That day, the reception class (kindergarten; Gwen's) and the pre-school (nursery) class had picked apples from the school apple tries; they counted them, and compared numbers and amounts, and combined buckets and counted again, and cut them open, and baked with them, and generally had what seems to be a very awesome and very hands on learning experience. Yesterday they had French class. (Or maybe they didn't: It was on the schedule, but when I asked her about it, the story I got involved the teacher not being able to teach because he didn't know anyone's names? I'm not sure...) This morning on our walk over, we saw ahead of us a matching uniform and it turned out to be one of her classmates; she yelled his name and ran to catch up with him so we could walk the rest of the way together.

I get a detailed recitation of what was offered for lunch, as well as who ate what, every day. She often has received a sticker for some good behavior or other -- and for Gwen, there is no higher praise than a sticker on her shirt. (I know I've either done a good job or am clearly in need of something to perk me up when she gives me a sticker "for working hard"). Tuesday, she was sent home with a book, and before we could even leave school, she insisted on sitting down and reading it to me. I have no idea if it was memory or reading or a combination, but this is the first time she's ever done that -- and she point to each word as she said it and read every single thing perfectly.

They get homework every day -- phonics two days a week, reading two days a week, and math one day. Most of the time, she's already done the work during after care; for example, coming up with rhyming pairs, or a letter sheet with a specific letter that she should copy (and usually a picture of something starting with that letter, which I encourage her to color, because, hey, who doesn't like coloring!)

I can already tell that my biggest issue with homework is learning to treat it as a means to an end rather than an end in itself. See, I never had homework as a kid -- or rather, EVERYTHING I had was homework. The idea of getting assignments that you then worked on in your own time, outside of class, was SUCH a novelty to me when I went off to university; I felt exactly like Gwen did when she told me last Wednesday "I have homework! I've never had homework before!" It's easy to treat homework as an end: To ask her what she got, and to ensure she has it done before bed, so that it can be taken dutifully back the next day.

Except then we get a "pick and mix" math homework, with six different activities that we are encouraged to do with our child, and I find myself stymied. On the one hand, I feel a strong desire to work through them systematically and ensure that some evidence of our doing so gets back to the teacher. On the other hand, I look at the types of things they're asking, and realize either we're already doing them or we've done them in the past, but awhile ago and she's moved beyond that or we're doing much more interesting things already. For example, we've been doing a lot of addition lately: First, it was different combinations of two numbers that equal the same number. Next it was addition of zero -- which was a hoot because at first she simply didn't believe me when I told her you could add zero to eight and get eight. For awhile she refused to believe that you could add zero to anything; then she thought that adding zero to anything made it eight; and THEN it clicked and she realized that n+0=n for any n (up to and including omega). After she figured that out, I started asking about 0+n, and when she immediately gave me back n, we started doing m+n and n+m, until she was satisfied that addition is commutative. During waffle making Sunday morning, I heard Joel going over fractions with her, and on our way home today, she picked four blackberries and correctly divined that split evenly between the two of us, we'd each get two, so we talked a little bit about division and its relations to fractions.

So, I look at some of the activities and I have to remind myself that these are a means, not an end. The end is what counts, and if we achieve that end by our own devices, that's ok.

(I also have to say: For a nursery that does not consider itself a preschool at all -- unlike the chorister school's nursery which they've this year started calling preschool instead -- even though they do sort of follow the early years curriculum, the university nursery did a FANTASTIC job of providing the kids with an educational foundation. Gwen's numeracy and literacy seem to be way above where they're starting out at here.)
aryanhwy: (Default)
I wrote this on FB on Thursday, and thought I'd like to have it here as well, for easier searchability.

Star Trek was the only TV that I watched for the majority of my childhood (we watched the Olympics one year; and the occasional American Funniest Home Videos; and once "The Princess Bride" when it played on TV; that was it until I was 10, and then we moved and there were no decent channels, so we simply unplugged the TV and put it in the basement). Pizza and Star Trek, whether "Old Trek" or "New Trek", and one glass of coca-cola was the weekend routine, every weekend, since time immemorial, and is the root of Joel's and my tradition of pizza and sci fi on Saturday nights. I remember being horrified when Tasha Yar died, because I thought the actress playing her had actually died, and they need to quick make a story to cover up the fact. I remember my mom's long-standing crush on both Picard and Q -- and how one of the best parts of getting to see the Stewart/Tennant "Hamlet" in Stratford was the thrill of being so close to one of my mom's favorites :). (The other best part was of course the thrill of being so close to one of my favorites, though Tennant was SO GOOD, I didn't recognize him until he spoke). I remember my own crush on Wesley Crusher, and the year I nearly forfeited my birthday party due to my inability to admit to a lie, and an episode involving him and lying that helped me finally recant. I remember the day my sister and I were memorizing the Declaration of Independence, and someone, with handwriting suspiciously like my dad's, had erased "happiness" and replaced it with "Star Trek and pizza". I've always thought that "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Star Trek and Pizza" are pretty good principles to stand for.

The theme song still makes me incredibly nostalgic. I hadn't watched it in years when, some years back, the BBC ran a bunch of the early episodes, including a pre-Shatner pilot. The reaction I had when the theme song came up with so visceral, it was like I was flung back twenty years. It makes me happy to be present to mark an anniversary such as this.
aryanhwy: (Default)
...and the other parent will understand.

Gwen has been in school for a week and already received two birthday party invitations (leading me to post an anguished screed on FB about WHY OH WHY DO PEOPLE PUT PHONE NUMBERS INSTEAD OF EMAILS FOR RSVP SO THAT I AM FORCED TO CALL STRANGERS ON THE PHONE JUST SO MY DAUGHTER CAN GO TO A PARTY and then found out that most people put their phone numbers down expecting people to text them. Huh. When did this become the convention? How was I supposed to know this convention?), so today we went out party shopping. One invitation was a dinosaur and the other Star Wars, so that gave us a pretty good guide. Gwen found a squishable rubber triceratops which roars when you press a button, which seems cruel to give to the child of someone I don't know, but she thinks it's the perfect choice. We then found a "Star Patroller" kit, with a mask and a few other things, which seemed suitably Star Wars ish.

In the afternoon, D. came over to play, and Gwen showed her the gifts (and allowed her to press the button on the dinosaur once, and then told her rather snottily that they shouldn't press it any more as it had "batt'ries" and we didn't want to wear them out). I was in the kitchen painting when Gwen ran in with a handle of chips and asked "what are these for?" I had never seen them before, so I asked where they came from, and that's when it transpired that she had opened up the package, cut all the plastic ties, and gotten the toys out. She did get a bit of a horrified scolding at that, but I'm sure I can find a way to put the pieces back in, maybe tie them down with yarn, and I'm sure the other kid won't mind and his mom will understand...
aryanhwy: (Default)
The process of experiencing primary school is fascinating, especially when I've never done it myself first-hand. You can expect a lot of chronicles of it...

Today, I learned that Gwen's favoritest part of the day was...P.E. Wait. WHOSE kid is she? She was desolate to find out she needs to wait until Monday to have P.E. again. (This is good. The shoes I ordered are too large. This will give me time to order her a new pair before she needs them again!)

Also, she had homework. "I've never had homework before. I LOVE homework". (Long may that last). One nice part about the in-school after-care is that usually she will do her homework there. Today, she had to think of words that rhymed with "cat" and "bat", and "fish" and "dish". She got six for the first and four for the second before we came home but insisted on sitting with me to do more. She also volunteered the rhyming pair "cake" and "bake", so she wrote them on the sheet too.

School still seems to be the bestest thing ever. Long may that be true.


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