Archive for the ‘Moving and shaking’ Category

So today, as with every Tuesday, I was back on campus less than 12 hours after I left it, because I have The Most Awful Schedule Ever for the Third Semester in a Row.  That’s not news.  And yes, most Tuesdays I end with me feeling depleted.

But I’m especially exhausted today because it was the Big Deadline for an internal grant for which I applied.  I also had a couple of other things to apply for internally – one by the end of the week and one by next Monday, so I bit the bullet and completed all three applications (which all required just slightly different information and formats, so it was a total pain in the ass) today.  Depleted doesn’t begin to cover it.

The Big Grant application I’ve been working on for a couple of weeks.  And I’m in no way certain of getting it, even though I was very diligent in formulating the application and making sure I hit all of the items on the rubric that they use to evaluate it.  (Side note: it is SO MUCH BETTER, if more time intensive, now that The Committee that Decides on Internal Grants actually explains what the application requires, what projects can be funded through this grant, and what criteria are used in evaluation.  When I first arrived 10 years ago, there was little to no concrete guidance about what the applications should include, which was… problematic.)  But anyway, even with that diligence and investment of time, why am I unsure about my prospects?  Well, first off, people in The Humanities rarely get this particular award.  I’m not sure if it’s because people don’t apply or if it’s because they don’t understand how to write grant applications or if it’s because there is a gigantic bias against research in the humanities because my colleagues across campus don’t understand it or value it.  Probably some combination of the three.

But I had an idea for the Big Grant (by big I’m just referring to the application in relation to the other stuff I applied for – it will give me personally no actual money, but if I get it then it will pay for some software/work that will buy me time, which would be grand) that I thought I could sell to people outside the humanities, which they would understand as research and not “clerical work” (which let’s note constitutes a lot of what “research” in the humanities involves but no level of explanation seems to penetrate the brains of my colleagues outside of my discipline or the brains of my administration, who value research involving labs and co-authors much more highly than they value the kind of stuff that people in single-author fields do). So I feel like I’ve got a 50/50 shot.  But if I get it, then I will totally write about it here and tell every single colleague who cares in the humanities in my institution about it, because I might have discovered the One True Way to get access to this money.  Maybe.  But it definitely ain’t a sure thing.

And then I submitted another application for professional development money from my College, which I think has a pretty good shot, depending.  Depending on what?  Depending on how many people apply.  Because I got this money last year, and I can imagine them denying me if there were first time applicants in the pool if there were more applicants than there was money.

And then I submitted an application for a course release, which I’m about 99 percent sure I will not receive, mainly because the only reason I was “allowed” to submit the request was because a colleague of mine was told by the provost to submit one, and my chair (kudos to my new chair!) wanted to be equitable and open up the opportunity to others who had expressed interest.  See, my dean has basically said to the chairs (“basically” meaning that all of this has happened not as a policy matter that is in writing but rather as an ad hoc thing he has “told” them and they’ve gone along with since 2010) that course releases for anything other than administrative purposes won’t be considered.  Because, you know, he can’t be bothered to read and to reject applications for release time for other things, I guess.  On the one hand, this is about the budget, and I get it.  On the other hand, how are you going to fight for more money in the budget if you have no clue what faculty are doing and you have no evidence that more resources are needed?  (Note: course releases are available for research in other colleges at my institution).  My dean is “stepping up” to faculty after this academic year (don’t you love that euphemism?).  I’ll let you infer how I feel about that.

So basically I invested about 20 hours of time in composing applications for institutional support for my research, support that would ultimately benefit my institution in a host of ways – student success, getting a woman in my department fully promoted, institutional reputation – and I might end up with nothing for those efforts.  But hey, you can’t get support if you don’t ask for it.  And you can’t bitch legitimately if you don’t get denied the support that you need.

All this work isn’t for nothing, even if none of it works out.  It’s prepared me for external grant applications for next year, and it’s got me started thinking in a systematic way about my THIRD book project (even though I’m not done with the second one).  This is all good.  And it’s also good to do these things because it makes me recognize the quality of my ideas and the high esteem in which my work is regarded outside of my institution, mainly because such applications require you to self-promote.

That said?  I am exceptionally pleased that I don’t need to write anything for a while that waxes poetic about how important I am.  I hate this fucking genre, though apparently I’ve gotten a hell of a lot better at doing it in the 10 years I’ve been on the tenure-track.  And I’m feeling satisfied, because even if I don’t get diddly from all of this effort, at least I know that I’ve communicated what I am doing and the value of what I am doing without apology.  I’d rather dare them to say no than anticipate rejection and fail to try.

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So it’s week 6 of my semester, and this means that the first major assignments are coming in (2 courses had papers come in last week, 2 courses had major assignments come in this week) and so the GRADING has arrived.

Also re: teaching, I’m really “in” my courses now, which is requiring more prep, which isn’t bad, but it is work.

And then there’s the grant shit, though I made the decision over the weekend not to apply for the Very Competitive National Thing for I know I won’t get it at this point in the project (because of the Very Competitive part of it) but thinking that I would apply for it forced me to do the work that I needed to do, so by week’s end I’ll be submitting two internal grant (or “award”) applications, and I’ll submit my abstract for Awesome International Conference in Italy to which I’ve been strongly encouraged to submit an abstract.

In addition, the service part of things is ramping up – for the committee that I’m chairing (for yes, I am spearheading getting an actual viable program-level assessment plan in place, because I’m a masochist), for curriculum (because it turns out that now that I’m no longer actually serving on curriculum-related things I’m just taking the initiative to make broad sweeping proposals for the department to consider), and for university-wide stuff (like going to a meeting with our president and provost to talk about the future direction of the college).

In other words, it’s Tuesday and I am feeling tired.

Tired is not necessarily bad.  However, tired is made terrible by the casual sexism of my department, which I had the pleasure of witnessing first-hand because of the very thin walls that divide our offices.  I’m not comfortable saying more than that in this forum, but dude, the casual sexism really makes me less inclined to do all of the work that I do.  And it also makes me wish that I hadn’t overheard what I overheard because it filled me with inarticulate rage, and inarticulate rage really makes me disinclined to grade, or to do committee work, or to complete lengthy applications for money that frankly I think faculty should just be able to expect as support for their work.

On a positive note, my favorite part of the fall semester is finding out how much money I’ll be granted for conference travel in the academic year, partly because, yay, money, but also because that support means so much to me being able to do work not only on research but also that is so important to energizing my teaching.

On another positive note, I really adore the accessibility of our “new” president, and the fact that he really appears to want to listen to faculty.  His detractors say that’s all a show.  Personally? Even if it’s fake (though I don’t think that it is) I prefer fake deference to lack of access or outright hostility.  Further, I prefer that this guy sets up equal opportunity situations for all faculty to have access to him as opposed to limiting access to him to “those faculty who go to basketball games.”  I like him as a leader, and I like the direction in which he seems to be steering us.  And I like that he knows who I am and that I’ve had more contact with him in one year than I had with our previous president in 9 years.  I also fantasize about having a little doll of him sitting on my office shelf to motivate me, much like “Elf on a Shelf” motivates children to be good for Santa.  Which, sure, is weird, but I feel like it would be awesome.  I may need to take a picture of him and cut out the head and put it on Ken doll or similar.  (Again, I know I’m super-weird.  But this would make me happy and remind me of the bigger picture when I hear my department colleagues saying things that make me all stabby.)

As an aside, I think good administrators are crucial to the work of a university.  I actually am not one of those faculty members who is all “down with administration!”  Dude: I long for administration and staff to take care of all of the shit that takes me away from the work that I think faculty members really should do (teaching, research, faculty governance, service to the profession).  I mean, sure, back in the time when that was more the case I wouldn’t have been able to be in the professoriate because of my sex and because of my class origins.  But let’s just ignore that reality for a minute.  Administrators who make my job easier?  Staff to take care of the administrativia of the work of professing? Yep, that’s what I would really enjoy.  I recognize that this isn’t going to happen exactly, but even a little of this as an alternative to the downsourcing of those jobs to faculty would go a long way toward improving my morale and thus the work that I do for students as a teacher and for my discipline as a scholar.

On that note, I’m gonna go knit and watch television until a bedtime that won’t make me wake up at 3 AM.

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So I’m sitting here this morning, trying to organize my to-do list, and in the next couple of weeks I have three applications for funding to complete (and by “complete” I mean “compose from scratch”, though it is true that once I do one then the others will be modifications of that “master” application) and one conference abstract to submit (which is connected to the funding applications).  On the one hand, this is energizing work.  On the other hand, it is also the case that this week GRADING begins in earnest in my courses, plus I have regular course prep to do, plus I have Major Department Committee Activities that I need to switch into high gear.

And none of this connects to finishing my book manuscript, which has been stalled at the 65%-75% “done” place for about 4 months (and which, annoyingly, people keep asking me about my progress toward finishing).

I suppose all of this is to say that I’m feeling a little bit overwhelmed, and I’m feeling a lot like I need to set some priorities.  The thing that I’m thinking about, though, is the way that external deadlines both help and hinder that priority-setting.

On the one hand, external deadlines are really necessary to my productivity.  I’m a very deadline-oriented person, and I find that the pressure of external deadlines is (mostly) a positive influence on me getting stuff done.  On the other, external deadlines also interfere with my ability to prioritize what is really most important to me, work-wise, and it stresses me out when external stuff takes precedence over my own idea of what is most important.

Now, you might ask, do you really “have” to do all of these applications?  A Potential Beau asked me a version of that question Friday, in the way that non-academics ask such questions, which usually translates into “Do you get paid for all of this stuff you’re doing?  Is it part of your job, or is it just you pursuing what you’re interested in?”  I always find myself at somewhat of a loss when people ask that sort of question, because the answer is both yes and no.  On the one hand, I could choose not to do any of this stuff, and if I made that choice, I would still have a job.  On the other, if I did that I would not really be “doing” my profession completely (at least as I conceive of what that “doing” means.)

So I guess the answer simply is that I’m doing this to myself – I’ve got all of these projects that are in various states of Not Being Finished, and what I really need to do is to proceed step by step and to finish each one methodically before I take on anything else new.  Kind of like how every now and then you need to refuse to go to the grocery store and force yourself to eat what is already in the house to empty out the cabinets and fridge.  Or kind of like how you have to forbid yourself from buying new yarn until you’ve exhausted (or at least made a dent in) the yarn you already have in your stash.

And I know from experience that I have the power deliberately to move through my list of projects and deadlines and to cross them off the list.  Indeed, just because of the external deadlines, 4 of these things will be done by Oct. 7.  So I just need to stop feeling overwhelmed and push myself to do each of the things in order.

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can….

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Hooray!  Huzzah!  Yippee!

But what this post is really about is all the things I accomplished:

  1. I taught all my classes – all four of them and all different preps, at every single level of the curriculum (freshmen through seniors, plus a grad class).  My students seem, overall, bright and engaged and like happy campers.  I love this part of the semester when I have the highest of high hopes for each and every one of them!  Though I will say that my English majors are weirdly silent and don’t appear to want to know each other… AND THIS WILL NOT DO!  THEY WILL INTERACT WITH ONE ANOTHER IF IT KILLS ME!
  2. I managed BOTH to indicate a reading assignment by noting the sex scenes that they should have read for next class (I’d forgotten my book so couldn’t give them a page number… but this is one of the joys of teaching a notorious pornographic novel from the 18th century) AND to use the word “motherfucker” in a discussion about word choice with my tiny fresh-peeps IN ONLY OUR SECOND CLASS (they were horrified … and then, after the horror, much more animated).  Tenure has its privileges.
  3. I invented a literature review assignment sequence (which is like 7 pages long), no small feat when I never was taught how to do a lit review myself.  Thank you internet.  Also, thank you people in disciplines NOT LITERARY STUDIES.
  4. I wrote up and submitted a reader’s report for a journal for which I serve as a peer reviewer.
  5. I completed revisions on an article and submitted those.
  6. I’ve faced my fear of double-point needles and have embarked on learning how to knit socks.  (I tried to do socks on circular needles like a year ago and hated it.  So far, I prefer DPNs.  Because apparently I’m a weirdo.  My plan is to do sock knitting in department meetings this year.  The advantage of DPNs is that I have many pointy implements to scare and intimidate my colleagues.  Also, SOCKS!!!!)
  7. I had a very dumb conversation with The Dude, initiated by him, surprisingly.  But I took it to the next level, and I suspect he now very much regrets initiating that dumb conversation, if his silence is any indication.  What. Ever.
  8. I began communicating with two new suitors, and a date is forthcoming with one, who seems quite cool, so far.
  9. I advised a colleague about a Sticky Dramatic Situation with a senior colleague (and felt so lucky that my professional life appears to be drama-free right now!).
  10. I did some researchy stuff for my upcoming MLA paper (because I’m freaked out about it because it’s a highlighted convention-theme panel).

And all of this is not to mention the various collegial conversations and catching up on email and whatnot of the start of the semester.  Oh, and I renewed the registration on my car, and I did some house-related stuff, and went to the grocery store….

I think it’s safe to say that I did more in this one week than I did all summer long.  I am so happy that school is back in session!  (Please remind me of these feelings when I start complaining in three weeks.  Thanks.)

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I appear to have a date tomorrow.

I know, right?

As far as I can tell, I have just about nothing in common with him.  Indeed, this appears to be the sort of date two people go on just on the basis of physical appearance and flirtation. Well, and from my side of it, on the basis of attentiveness as well, because I do like it when they pay attention to me, and he has been exceptionally attentive.

So I don’t think that this guy is going to turn out to be my next great love or something (though, of course, one never does know, but really, I’m not a betting woman and I’d bet money that this particular date is not heading to serious relationship territory), but I do think it’s possible that we will have some casual fun and good times.  And it’s keeping my mind off of The Dude (with whom of course I am still in love) and all of the other things that are stressing me out.

And let’s note that this date would never have come into being had my mother not left early.  So perhaps the universe is actually working in my favor right now, but its ways are mysterious and confusing 🙂


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So, as Chair of the Committee of My Life, I have made the executive decision to table two agenda items until 2014.  I do recognize that according to Robert’s Rules Of Order there should be a vote in order to ratify such a decision, but the Committee of My Life does not adhere to Robert’s Rules Of Order.

1.  Moving in with The Dude

This has lingered as a Discussion Item for weeks, and interminable discussions are, at the end of the day, unproductive.  Would certain things be easier if we just decided and did it?  Certainly.  Just as certain decisions about General Education made life easier, even though they made no one, least of all me, the “spokesmodel of the New Gen Ed,” happy.  But, at the end of the day, The Dude put this item on the agenda, and he has pursued it, at turns with enthusiasm and at turns pointing out all the ways in which The Plan Will Not Work (much in the way of Crazy Colleagues during the Gen Ed Revision Process), and then somehow I get put in the position of being the one who introduced the item (which I didn’t) and of being the one who is “pushing” the process (which I’m not).  Having been put in a similar position in my work with my university’s curriculum, as Chair of the Committee of My Life, I Just Say No.  We will revisit this idea in the new year.  In the meantime, I will happily work on my book and stop giving this any additional mental energy for the time being.  As far as I can tell, all is well with The Dude in the present tense.  He is great, I love him, he loves me, blah blah blah.  But for whatever reason, he is totally irrational on this topic.  So you know what? Let’s not have it be a topic.  Because he is driving me crazy.  (Example: just as soon as I told him we were done talking about it until the new year on penalty of breaking up, and he celebrated that pronouncement, he then brought up something about getting married.  SERIOUSLY? What am I supposed to DO with him?  He makes NO SENSE.  And let’s note, all of this conversation happened while I was at his parents’ house with him.  GOD.)

2. Applying for Promotion to Full Professor

In some ways, I do think that I should apply.  But I have some reasons for not doing it this fall.  1) Our Faculty Senate just voted on new guidelines, which stipulate a “recommended” time in Associate Rank, which I’ve not yet met, before going up for full, and I’m pretty sure that certain of my colleagues will use that as the “reason” for not recommending my promotion, you know, just to make sure I know my place; 2) Our dean (who holds a grudge against me for writing an impassioned email objecting to his claim that “some people just work more than others” when I had asked for support for a terrible service responsibility that became more terrible because of a mandate from the State – indeed, my request for support was “unprofessional” and my explanation that I couldn’t do this job plus teach four courses and do research without support was an “ultimatum,” because, you know, good girls just take more and more shit and like it) has announced that this year will be his last, and I think my application will fare better without him evaluating it; 3) I am confident that the book manuscript will be out and circulating by the Spring, which I think it should be before I apply, plus I’ll have a couple of articles and some other stuff that will enhance my application by then, if all goes as it should.  In other words, yes, I’m chomping at the bit to apply, but the best use of my time right now is not in compiling that application.  And a bonus is that by not applying I should be eligible for some associate professor development money that I wouldn’t be eligible for if I applied for promotion.  So.  As with the Moving in with The Dude, it makes more sense to bide my time than to rush into an inauspicious arrangement, just in the service of having an arrangement, if that makes sense.

Now.  With those two items pulled from the agenda.  I can focus on my book.  Which I really want to focus on, because it is awesome, and also I can bask in the fact that as a thinker people are apparently recognizing me, for whatever reason.  As a result of my recent conference I’ve gotten some emails – one especially awesome, from an especially awesome person, reiterating that she thinks that what I wrote in my book about Underappreciated Author is amongst the best stuff she’s read in the past five years about him, and another from a grad student who took up my invitation to correspond because what he is thinking about will be usefully influenced by stuff I’ve done.  Look, I don’t think I’m anything fancy at all: but it is nice to be thought to be fancy by others, and it’s nice to think that my ideas have an impact on other people’s ideas.

In addition, now that I don’t have to think about those two items above, I can just do my thing.  I will go see HS BFF at the end of July, I will go to A’s wedding in October, I will go to MLA just after the new year and present at an actual special session for the first time (as opposed to presenting at a guaranteed allied panel), I will go celebrate Naomi’s 40th bday with a vacation in January, I will go to a slew of conferences after, all in awesome locales.  I have a plan for the next 12 months or so, and that plan is awesome.  And nothing in that plan is about cleaning out closets for The Dude, and nothing in that plan has to do with postponing ideas in order to apply for promotion.  And you know what?  That is AWESOME.

You know what?  I hate nothing more than being cast in the role of being somebody’s “old lady” who is a “nag” and who is “pressuring” them to do something that they don’t want to do.  Unless we are talking about me being cast in the role of the “bad girl” who is “spoiled” and who doesn’t “do her time” to “prove” that she is “worthy.”  You know what?  I’m nobody’s old lady, and I’m nobody’s bad girl.  I am a person.  And I am a capable and reasonable person.  And I’d rather just tell everybody to fuck themselves than to try to fit into their rubrics for who I’m supposed to be, personally or professionally.

So yeah, with an attitude like that, I might die alone.  And, with an attitude like that, I might not have a job if I didn’t already have tenure.  But you know what?  SCREW that.  I am a person.  And I have my own fucking agenda.


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I have returned from my conference, which was wonderful and enriching and inspiring and so productive. I have found the introduction to my book, as well as the path forward to completing a draft of the manuscript, I have been inspired by the work that my colleagues around the world are doing, and I am fuzzily contemplating a next book after this one is all done.  All in all, I really, really needed what this last long weekend gave me.  But it was also a weird weekend in many, many ways.

Why weird?  Well, for the first time it was clear to me that I am officially well beyond “junior.”  And that was a really bizarre feeling, but I realize that probably I have been that for a while, and yet I hadn’t realized it.  My saying this might seem disingenuous, but I promise, I’m not being falsely modest here.  Yes, I know that I’ve been an officer and president of an allied organization of the MLA, but I was pretty crappy at that, and it was a small organization.  And yes, I published a book, but it was not with a fancy press at all.  And yes, I have a good few essays published, but they are, for the most part, in non-fancy venues.  I teach a 4-4 load, and my record reflects that. Seriously: I’m nobody special.  I’m just a person who says yes to things and who tries, in what limited way she can, to contribute.

But anyway, this feeling that I’m this non-entity, this babe in the woods, stretches back a long ways. See, my whole life, I have always been on the “young” end of things.  I started kindergarten as one of the youngest kids in my class (August birthday right before the kindergarten cut-off), and progressed in P-12 accordingly, as one of the youngest ones. That meant getting a job later and driving later than other people.  And then I finished college in just 4 years, so the gap widened… by the time I graduated from college at my regional state university, I was running with a cohort that was 2-3 years older than I was (if not more – given the non-traditional student-friends I’d made).  I didn’t take any time off between undergrad and grad school, and I went straight through to the PhD, so at that point the gap widened again, and my “peers” were typically 5-8 years older than I was, if not older, and I also went to my first conference when i was just 21 years old, and I was a TOTAL baby in that context, both to the advanced graddies there and to the proffie people whom I met.  And then the gap became a giant chasm when I got my tenure-track job ABD, making the vast majority of my colleagues and people with whom I socialize a good 10 years older than I was at minimum.  (Seriously: some of my colleagues, including the person who was my official pre-tenure “mentor,” have been at my institution longer than I’ve been alive.)  In spite of the fact that we’ve done a lot of hiring in the past decade (for, in truth, I started this job a full decade ago this fall), I have just one colleague – who was only hired three years ago – who is younger than I am, and only by months.  My point here is that I basically view myself as a little sister who is doing marginally important things, if they are important at all.

Combine with this the fact that I typically see myself as sort of an invisible scholarly entity, partly by virtue of the institution at which I work (which is fine, but it certainly is a Very Directional State type place that doesn’t have much, if any, of a reputation for scholarship, and which does virtually nothing to support scholarship in the humanities) and partly because I just don’t typically think much about myself as being super important in terms of the scholarly conversation in my discipline.  Yes, I do scholarship, and I care a lot about it for my own reasons, but really, who else does?

It turns out, a fair few people care about it.  And so that was my first weird thing of this conference. I would introduce myself to a new person, and that person would be like, “Oh, you’re DR. CRAZY.”  And then they would either pause in awe (in a way that I vividly remember doing when I would meet people whom I’d cited in my own work as a graduate student – in a way that I still do when I meet people whose work is especially fancy in my brain) or, if they were less star-struck, they would start talking to me about one or the other of my publications, or, if they were VERY FANCY, they would just say they couldn’t believe they hadn’t met me yet, as they know my name, blah blah blah.

Now, I’m still pretty sure that some of this – especially the “I know your name” stuff – was politeness.  But to be fair, there was no reason why anybody needed to pretend they knew my name if they didn’t, so maybe I should be a little more impressed by that? I don’t know.  The point is, for the first time in my career, I’m apparently a Person of Note, which is super freaking weird.  The most dramatic of these moments was at the conference’s opening reception, when I was chatting with a friend who, in the context of this conference, is infinitely more important than I am.  A woman came up to us, and I didn’t know the woman.  I just assumed she was coming to talk to Important Friend (as I suppose she shall now be named).  But no!  The woman interrupted to introduce herself to me!  And she wanted to tell me that she thought that what I wrote in my book about Infamously Sexy Author (ISA) was the best thing she’d read about him, and she wanted to tell me that I must come to ITALY next summer to participate in a symposium about ISA!  And then when I figured out who this stranger was, I realized she was a person whose work I admire greatly!  And then later that night, while still hanging with IF, another person was all, “Oh, you are you!  I am so glad to meet you! I am from Italy and I have cited you!”  (Obviously I’m paraphrasing).  The point is, apparently, I am a PERSON.  What. The. Fuck.

And so this leads to the second weird thing.  I have officially reached the point where I am “old” and “mid-career” to graduate students.  This is profoundly weird to me, as I don’t think I’m far enough along to be that, though apparently I am.  Now, part of my confusion about my status has to do with the way that I interact with my own students and former students.  Yes, I kick my students’ asses, but I never see myself as very different from them, particularly once they have graduated.  And I’ve befriended a fair few of my former students, so I don’t feel too far removed from them.  But I am now officially the person at a conference who “gives advice” to the graddies, as opposed to socializing without hierarchy with them.  WHAT?

You know what’s strange? The fact that other people think I’m important when I so decidedly don’t think that I am.  What’s also weird is that I don’t see myself as an authority when the little graddies surely do.  I think that this is what it means to age in this profession, especially when you’re not some Fancy Person at some Fancy Institution.

I have a lot to say, actually, about the aging of the profession and the casualization of academic labor, and the impact of that on scholarship, particularly feminist scholarship, things I’ve thought about because of my experiences this weekend.  But now is not the time for that as I’m jet-lagged and I don’t have the energy for a big treatise on anything that isn’t totally self-absorbed.  But seriously: can I finagle Italy next summer?  Preceded (ideally) by The Netherlands, and preceded by that by Chicago?  Indeed, that’s my goal.  Even though all of that plus MLA (I was accepted for a special session), which is super expensive?  Even though I’m at a regional institution that doesn’t support research even as it expects it?  The good news is that I am done with my car payment next month, so I can save that money, but dude – who does three conferences in a month?  (I really, really want to.)

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