Sunday night of the first weekend of the new year. We did some things we’d talked about for this weekend. But then, didn’t get to others. So far, 2021 hasn’t been bad. Ha. I’ve been thinking about my approach to this year. This will be my first full year of “retirement.” How am I going to schedule myself? What do I need to do to make sure I’m writing or plotting or reading/researching or working on covers or something productive? For academic research I’ve used the Pomodoro method where you work for 25 minutes at a time, take a couple minute break and then another 25 minutes. Every four “pomodoros” you take a longer break (hour or so). This has worked in the past and I’ve done it a few times with the fiction writing. I think I will make sure I use this method every time I sit down to write.Continue reading “First Weekend”
Stay Sane Inside Insanity
The title of this post comes from a line from Columbia in The Rocky Horror Picture Show and I think it encapsulates how I’ve tried to get through 2020. It is with relief and trepidation that I wave at 2020 in the rearview mirror. Relief that we made it through the year. Trepidation about what awaits. I know the external things (pandemic, lockdowns, general governmental crep) will ease somewhat. I say somewhat because I don’t believe that general governmental crep will ease all that much and in fact, will likely get a lot worse, at least at the federal level. But what will 2021 bring? I’m hoping for the best but (mentally at least) preparing for the worst.Continue reading “Stay Sane Inside Insanity”
Holidays are stressful. In a normal year we’d be traveling to California, and parceling out our visit among essentially three families. My cousins and their families (usually all in one spot for a day or two), and then my in-laws who are now two separate households not counting my husband’s siblings. So, yes, stressful. But this year, the lovely 2020, we are NOT traveling to California…but things are even more stressful than if we were.Continue reading “Stress”
Sarah Hoyt posted a blast from the past “I Feel The Ground Shifting” in her current post. The ground is shifting under our feet, but that does not mean we are losing nor are we lost. I grew up in earthquake country. It’s all in how we navigate those changes and shifts. Go read the rest.
Image by Marcello Migliosi from Pixabay
I always enjoy Halloween in my neighborhood. There are a lot of kids out; a lot of them come in from other neighborhoods across the city. It’s great. The kids are having a blast and the adults are happy knowing their kids can walk around the streets without fear. On top of that, I get to hang out with my neighbors who are very cool people. We sit on their stoop and hand out candy while catching up. The trick-or-treaters love the fact that there are three…THREE..candy bowls that they get to raid. It’s a lot of fun.
It’s been almost a month since I updated this blog. It’s been a busy and somewhat stressful month as well. I should keep writing here on a regular basis since writing helps me work through a number of stressors, problems, provides a means to vent, etc. At work, it seems to be clown cars all the way down. But, I think I’ve worked everything out. I’m taking students to Antwerp, Belgium in January and there is absolutely no process nor structure for dealing with the logistics of a trip abroad with students. It’s ridiculous.
But, I figured out a work around and I’m pretty pleased with it. There are still details to be ironed out, but I think the big hurdles have been jumped. Tomorrow is a “research day” which means I’ll be doing my own writing. Yay! I have started book #2 and I’m feeling very good about it. I’m getting good information from reliable sources about how to deal with Amazaon and it’s Kindle Unlimited structure so I’m very confident that uploading Book #1 will be a piece of cake. it’s out to beta readers right now. In addition to Book #2, I’m outlining Books #1-3 for my next series. It’s exciting to know that I actually do have all these stories lined up inside my head just waiting for an outlet.
There have been many times when I wish that I had figured this author thing out earlier. However. I know that I wouldn’t have figured it out without going through all the experiences I’ve had so far. Those experiences gave me the ideas for Book #1 and I’m very grateful for that. But, yeah. It’s been 20 years in the academic career. Time for a change.
Hubby heads out to meet up with his college friends for a week or so of golf and cards. I will miss him terribly, but I’m also looking forward to the opportunity to get a lot of writing done. Tomorrow is Day 1 of NaNoWriMo and I intend to get in at least a few hundred words each day. Getting a good way into Book #2 will be great. I am very happy with my progress so far and I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.
Enjoy your Halloween and eat all the candy and goodies you want!
Image by Larisa Koshkina from Pixabay
One down, 14 to go
I’ve been neglecting the blog, but I have a reason. The first week of the semester is done. Only 14 more to go. The week before classes start and the first week of the semester are always hectic in the fall. Freshmen trying to figure everything out, colleagues trying to get and stay organized (it’s always optimistic the first week), returning students finding friends and professors, everybody generally running around. There’s lots of laughing and hugs as well.
There have been some changes and some things staying the same (sadly). I have been reminded every day this week that I am indeed making the right decision by leaving academia at the end of this year. As I’ve said many times before, it’s going to be scary, probably difficult, but exciting and fun. I am very much looking forward to the new directions for both of us.
I have vowed to myself that I will find the time to do my own non-research and non-course related writing every day. I have finally (!) finished editing my first book and I’m going to be sending it out to my beta readers this weekend. I’m going to outline the series that popped into my head last week and see where that takes me. I’m also going to write up a couple of short stories that have been floating around in my brain for a while now.
So, we’re off and running. Hopefully things will calm down. It’s bad, but I don’t want to focus on teaching and committees, I want to focus on my own writing. Included in that is keeping up with the blog. I know that I ramble a lot, but writing down those thoughts and ideas helps to clarify things and gives me some idea of what to write about.
In the meantime, it’s a long weekend. Go out and enjoy!
Image by Ken Shelton from Pixabay
Compassion vs. viewpoint
Compassion is not simply vehement expression of a point of view.
I ran across this quote last year (school year) at some point and it struck me as immensely simple and yet it captures something that we as a society often ignore. The loudest voices crying out about conditions of migrants on our southern border (this is the topic that seems to bring it out the most. OK, and homelessness on occasion) have never been to the border nor are they among those donating on a regular basis to organizations working there. It’s not easy to visit the border, and you cannot simply visit a migrant ICE camp/detention center. Many, if not most (please note, I did not say all…) of those making snarky, highly disapproving comments, or posting the latest meme du jour, are doing so only to “prove” that they are compassionate, loving people. However, simply screaming that this is a terrible thing, that these are terrible conditions does not make one compassionate. It makes one loud, and deaf to any possible solutions beyond “Don’t do it that way!”. So, what can be done? I’m not asking for or suggesting that I have solutions to the border crisis (it must be one now since CNN has finally used the word “crisis.”) Rather, I’m asking or talking about how does one deal with the loud, yet inactive, compassion-mongers?
Pointing out that such conditions have existed on our southern border for at least 10 years does no good. The vehement expression folks on both ends of the political spectrum prefer that such conditions be the fault or creation of “those guys”, not “us.” Politicians are too busy using (and essentially maintaining) deplorable conditions for their own benefit. Re-election bids, fundraising, again…pointing out how compassionate they are (while voting down some bills because the other party sponsored it and by God they are not going to “betray” their constituents by voting for something “they” created!)
I argue that this turn towards “vehement expression of a point of view” has resulted in the virtue-signalling culture we see on TV, on social media, and hear from celebrities and politicians. “See? I’ve noticed this and I don’t like it. OK, I’m done.” It’s useless and pointless, except that it keeps Twitter from banning you and YouTube from demonitizing you and your friends, followers and fans from abandoning you as a do-nothing loud-mouth. The same virtue signallers are also the very same people who often and frequently call out those who do not do the same. Or, they jump on some small, insignificant comment, word use, or whatever, to deflect from your actual point and to deflect from the fact that they got nothing in response. My cousin actually did this to me last week. I used “they” to refer to a group that had been under discussion for at least 10 minutes, and he had to jump in with “Now, don’t say “they” it’s not all of that group.” I looked at him and said, “That’s not what I said. It should be clear from the context of this conversation that I am referring to the group under discussion for the last ten minutes.” He just nodded, but at least he quit with the virtue signalling. But then, it’s what he does. Fortunately, he doesn’t do it often. But, I do think I was the first in the family to call him on it.
Another way people do the “vehement expression” thing is to put signs in their windows and bumper stickers on their cars. You know the ones…you see them all over. Not just “Black lives matter”, or “Blue lives matter”, but those “Hate has no home here”. Those signs. Those views are obviously important to those individuals, but why must it be announced to the world? Is it not enough to know that you don’t hate? Or that you don’t support police brutality? Or that you do think the police are not all evil? Why is it so important to be publicly vehement in the expression of your point of view? How have you diminished the problem with your bumper sticker?
I try to deal with or shut down virtue signalling with comments like my response to my cousin or the simple question of “Well, what do you propose?” That forces those doing the calling out to think about solutions rather than scream about the problem without offering any alternatives. Of course, the signaller may simply continue screaming as they actually have no answers or suggestions and do not want to admit that. Coming up with coherent responses involves thought and too many people avoid that as too much work.
Vehement expression/virtue-signalling does not advance the conversation, nor does it create any workable solutions. It’s designed to make the speaker look good in their own eyes (see, I said I don’t like it, that makes me a good person), and in the eyes of those they seek to impress (whether that actually works is up for debate). I try to pay attention to what I say when I express an opinion or a point of view and make sure that I can actually back up my opinions with facts. I also try to make sure my compassionate view can be supported by compassionate work (this is more difficult, but it’s more effective than simply getting louder).
In the end, yes, you can feel compassion about issues you can not immediately affect. However, to be a compassionate person, you need to do more than yell louder or unfriend someone or change your FB profile picture. You need to act with compassion where possible. Respect people and start from the idea that they mean well and are doing their best. Don’t make assumptions about their motivations or otherwise. Let them show it in their actions themselves.
Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay
Opinions and balance
Hanging out with a friend and former student this weekend. He’s been in the Middle East and Europe for a few deployments and just got back from a nice long trip with his mother exploring castles in the UK. I am always amazed at how many students I stay in contact with over the years. It’s been 17 years since this one graduated and we’re still in contact. Pretty cool. He’s definitely more conservative, or I guess charged up about the current president than I am. We have some agreement points and some disagreement points. The funny thing is that when I hear some sort of less-than-accurate comment and call him out on it, the professor-student relationship re-establishes itself. I don’t mean to do it and I don’t think I’m overbearing about it, but it just happens.
My teaching philosophy has always been to give students the tools to think for themselves and think critically. I have never told them what to think (unlike some of my colleagues). Nobody does well with somebody else telling them what to think. Facts and events are subject to interpretation. That’s how we work as humans. We all have our own lenses and we interpret through those lenses. As the meme goes, you are entitled to your own opinion, however you are not entitled to your own facts. I would add that if your interpretation of events leans to the conspiracy side of things you might want to review your lenses. Conspiracies of hundreds or even just tens of people are usually spectacularly unsuccessful.
Confirmation bias is another problem we all have. We engage in confirmation bias when we take those stories that confirm what we know to be true and ignore those facts or other interpretations that contradict our known truths. People who self-identify as liberal/progressive and only read or watch MSNBC are engaging in confirmation bias; same goes for those who self-identify as conservative and watch or read only Fox News. Confirmation bias doesn’t just happen with politics, although that has become more evident recently. We engage in it in many different areas of life. We want our preconceived notions to be supported. It provides a sense of order and stability in a confusing world. Knowing that we are not alone in our opinions also feels supporting. Most humans do not do well psychologically or emotionally in a world of constant confusion and chaos or in a world where we feel we are alone in our opinions.
Identifying and breaking your own confirmation biases is difficult, but not impossible. It means admitting that you have biases first of all. (We all do; anybody who tells you that they are completely bias-free is lying or lacks any level of self-awareness). Once you admit to biases, you have to either own them or work at overcoming them. It’s OK to have biases (I don’t like fried eggs and I will never eat them no matter what. No way, no how. Yes, I’m biased.) Parents are biased in favor of their own kids; we’re human. Humans are flawed, but we are also good (when we want to be) at recognizing our flaws and working to fix them (assuming that fixing them will not lead to some sort of self-destruction).
I’m always working to identify my biases, note when I’m engaging in confirmation bias and figure out why. I’m not always successful, but I keep going. I think that my training as a researcher and experience as a professor has forced me into those considerations.
How about you? What confirmation biases have you noticed? Do you try to change those?
Image by Myriam Zilles from Pixabay
Reaching the finish line
Grading is DONE! Let the whinging begin! Well, I haven’t submitted final grades yet, and I won’t until about 24 hours before they’re due. It cuts down on the whinging. That’s when I also put on the “out of office” auto-reply on my email.
I’ve already had one request for an improved grade with the addition of post-semester extra credit. Really? After the semester is over you’re asking for extra credit? If you’re so worried about your scholarship, perhaps that should have been a consideration…oh, I don’t know…at the beginning of the semester? Maybe? Then I had one question as to whether the grade included the legit extra credit. Then I had one request for permission for late submission of a reflection paper. That one, if I had to guess, is fear of losing the ROTC scholarship. All of that is prior to final grades getting posted. We use Canvas, a so-called “learning management system” for classes. It allows for electronic submission, embedding videos, etc. It also shows grades and it calculates the current grade for students. So, when I posted the results for their last exam, they all figured that what Canvas calculated was their final grade. This, even though they know that is not the final grade. It may be close, but that’s not it.
Oh, well. It’s done. I’ll go back intermittently to do some spring cleaning of my office. I’ve been doing it on an off for the last week or so and finding absolute relics of stuff! 20-year old overheads! Overheads! Grad school papers, and today, draft copies of my dissertation. Oh, joy. It’s all getting recycled. Next week I tackle the filing cabinet! Pray for me!
So, for the rest of the week, I’m writing, editing, and reading. My own stuff, not freshman writing. My stress levels are already considerably lower. The prospect of another beer garden outing on Saturday makes it all even better!
Go do things that make you happy!
Back on track
I have not been writing for a few weeks. Things got a bit out of control at work. Then, it was spring break and we treated ourselves to five days in Punta Cana. A much needed beach break where we did nothing except walk on the beach, sit on the beach, move to the pool, back to the beach, to the swim up bar…you get the idea. I did do some writing and read fiction. Then, once we got back the rest of the semester with its stresses and deadlines moved in. OK. Enough of the excuses.
Today we got back on track with everything that’s hanging over us. Once more we dove into our own version of storage wars. This time we went into our own basement. Damn, we have a bunch of crap down there. We got through about six boxes of stuff and have about five boxes to go to Goodwill. That’s a relief. Now, we can go back into the parental storage unit and hopefully empty it out and close out that chapter. I have to start working on my office next. Oh, yay. But I kept thinking we were doing this “Swedish death cleaning” thing. Clearing out our extraneous junk so that nobody has to deal with it after we’re gone.
While we were on vacation we spent a lot of time talking about where we want to be in our lives and how we’re going to get there. I think this vacation was a big turning point for us. The Swedish death cleaning is a result of that. We now both have systems in place to get us moving towards something new. Right now, I’m not setting goals, I’m trying to create a system for simply doing something different and more fun.
This post is a bit rambling, but I’m still putting things together. Life is changing; I know it will be different and better. I’m not sure how we’re going to get there, but I know we will. Now, I just have to figure out this meditation thing so that I can get my stress levels down! Ha!
Image by analogicus from Pixabay