Unsurprisingly, being back in the classroom after sabbatical has hit me like a ton of bricks. I had a goal of posting once a week, but to my surprise, it’s been two weeks since my last post. I was moved to write this tonight because since WordPress just kindly auto-renewed my domain registration, premium theme, and other unfree goodies, I figure I better use them.
Things are going very well at school. The students in my classes seem really attentive and interested. I’m getting excellent questions, especially in 100 (contemporary moral problems), which most students take to check a gen ed box in their transcript. We got into a fairly non-superficial discussion today of whether Kant would have argued against abortion on the grounds that no one would consent to be aborted.
I also got to make a couple of Justin Bieber digs. Bieber is one of the very few celebrities I actively — and irrationally, since I don’t know him — dislike. But (based on what I realize is probably a skewed media image) his contempt for working people, his failure to show appreciation for any of the blessings he has received — many unfairly–, his lack of respect for his fans, his inflated ego … add up to “I’m so glad he got arrested.” The other side is his young age, the influence of irresponsible adults including his own parents who should know better, the fact that in teen boys impulse control is hard enough without having everything laid out on a silver platter, etc. Anyway, his arrest made for a good case study in a class about ethics.
One of our VPs sent me a section of a college guide that singled me out as a good teacher. I was really flattered for about five seconds. On the sixth second I realized it was a publication from a conservative organization. They were ranking professors solely on whether their “liberal bias” showed and whether they welcomed religious and conservative students. While I’m glad religious and conservative students feel welcome in my courses, I wasn’t pleased with the way this “guide” ranked faculty, and I have to wonder if the VP who sent me a congratulatory note was even aware of the political agenda of this book.
This is my last semester as a rank and file professor. Beginning in July, I’ll be chair of the department. It’s something I’ve put off for a while, but we are such a small group (five full time, and about three adjuncts) that it makes sense to do it now. It looks like my spouse will be chair of his department as well, so we’ll be seeing a bump in both income and stress levels. I warned him that I won’t be sitting next to him at chairs and directors meetings. His response: “Does that mean we can’t make out?” Men.
Sabbatical was, of course, great. I did manage to write and submit that article on Harlequin medicals, and make excellent headway on a second article on integrating clinical ethics into undergraduate bioethics courses. Of course, I don’t know if the journal I submitted the medicals article to will accept it — you never do — but I think *someone* will publish it somewhere, and I’m looking forward to it seeing the light of day, because I think it’s an unusual take on popular romance. I’ll be presenting it in April in Chicago at PCA. I’m really looking forward to that conference, especially to seeing one of my all time favorite romance writers, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, as well as the round table with Janice Radway.
In the last weeks of our sabbatical my spouse and I watched all five seasons of Sons Of Anarchy. Well, actually, I had already watched four seasons. He started from the beginning after much hectoring on my part and I then rewatched the first four seasons with him. I’m not quite ready to start Season Six, for financial and emotional reasons: (1) we’ll have to pay for it it, and (2) Bad Things Happen. I’m sure eventually I’ll be sucked in, though. I’m feeling a bit lost without a TV show to glom. We tried Vikings, and as smoking hot as the lead actor is, alas, that is not enough maintain my interest. I actually have an idea for a paper on SoA, so I may have to buy Season Six as “research.” If you have any ideas for glommable TV, please share (except for Breaking Bad, Vampire Diaries, and Mad Men, all of which I tried and gave up on.).
As you may have guessed, reading has been light. In the past two weeks, I’ve only read one book, Unbound, and have continued listening to a bit of Georgette Heyer’s The Grand Sophy (The Audible version is only $3.99, a steal). On the latter, I knew there was anti-Semitism, but no one I recall had mentioned the problematic takes on other groups, so their appearance surprised me. Spaniards are particularly hard hit:
‘Oh, she is the Marquesa de Villacañas! Did Sir Horace not tell you her name? You will like her – indeed, you must like her! She is quite stupid, and dreadfully indolent, like all Spaniards, but so pretty and good-natured!’
–Heyer, Georgette (2009-07-01). Grand Sophy (Kindle Locations 757-759). Sourcebooks, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
On Unbound: it was good, of course. Did I love it? No. I think when I first started reading romance, I loved the genre so much that I wanted every book I read to be a romance novel. If I was in the mood for historical fiction, I read a Regency. If I was in the mood for a thriller, I read a romantic suspense. If I was in the mood for supernatural stuff, I read a PNR. Now I read a wider range of books, only some of which are romance.
My point, and I do have one is … lately I have been reading romance for the fantasy. So, a more realistic novel like McKenna’s where the hero has these really dark secrets and demons is just a bit too much of a downer. When it’s revealed that he can only get off if the heroine degrades and humiliates him, I lost interest (but kept reading). It turns out this has to do with his unresolved alcoholism and other issues, but it didn’t matter to me whether it was written as a healthy expression of a minority sexuality or as the fixable result of pathology: I don’t like an erotic romance hero like that. I guess I’ve been reading romance in a very subjective and even superficial (pleasure-centered) way lately.
I’ve been reading my favorite romance blogs as per usual. Spending too much money on books I don’t need and will likely never get to reading. I’ve been thinking that when I first started blogging I felt strongly that I was entering an online community. I remember wanting to be recognized by that community, wanting to feel a part of it. I’m not sure I think there exists any longer an online community called Romanceland/ia. But I am not sure how to explain that feeling or what it means. I still enjoy many blogs, though, and Twitter is as addictive as ever.
The fandom I’ve been spending a good bit of time in is the Disney parks fandom, of which I have been a member for twelve years. If you recall the way the Fifty Shades phenomenon rocked the book blogging community two years ago… well that’s what the Disney parks fandom has been like for the past year or so, thanks to the introduction of new technologies like the My Disney Experience App, Magic Bands, and, most distressingly, Fast Pass Plus. There are big changes (well, big to diehard parks fans anyway) that everyone is fighting over and every single post and thread somehow devolves into a fight over these changes. Of course, I can’t stay away. But I’ll be seeing for myself later this year whether the changes mean the End of the Disney Parks or something slightly less tragic.
A final note on productivity tools. I’m using Beeminder.com for two goals, (1) working 5 hours (10 poms) per week on my research project, and (2) inputting old ethics consults into a new system at the hospital. It’s “Quantified Self plus Commitment contracts.” I get an email every morning telling me where I am on my yellow brick road. If I go off the road, I pay them $5. So far it is working well (meaning I’ve kept all my money). Folks have pointed out that they’d rather pledge their money to a charity. There are other websites that do that (StickK.com is the most popular), but I just like the Beeminder interface and the flexibility it offers.
I mentioned this on Twitter and someone said that external rules didn’t work for her at all. Well, it just so happened that I caught an 18 minute video by happiness guru Gretchen Rubin on the four ways people respond to external and internal rules (video here). I’ve never read one of her books, and I’d file the video under “interesting” rather than “life changing,” but I still enjoyed it.
The other tool I have been using for several months with success is Mark Forster’s Final Version. I almost hesitate to mention it because it is so disarmingly simple, it’s hardly even a method. But basically, I capture everything I have to do in a small Moleskin notebook. When I have discretionary time, I put a circle next to the first undone item, and then scroll down the list until I find another few items I feel like doing before that one. Then I work my way back up. It gives me a clear and quick order.
- It’s cold in Maine.
- The kids are alright.
- And so are the pets.
Hope all is well with you in your part of the world.