Sunday, September 30, 2012

What Would You Read on a Three-Month Hike?

I have just started listening to Cheryl Strayed's book Wild on CD in my car as I drive to and from work. At one point, she talks about what books she has in her pack. She's got a book on the Pacific Coast Trail, she's got As I Lay Dying, and she has a collection of poetry by Adrienne Rich. As much as I love Faulkner, and as much as I love poems by Rich (esp. "Phantasia for Elvira Shatayev" and "Diving into the Wreck"), these are not the books I would take with me on such a trip. But then I started thinking, what would I take? I'm really not sure, and I'd need to think about it some more, but I think I'd use the time to read things that I'd never had a chance to read, maybe some classics that also have good plot. I'll list a few, but I reserve the right to revise my list when I see other people's choices:

  1. War and Peace (I've never read it)
  2. Middlemarch (I've read the first quarter of it)
  3. Little Dorrit (or something else by Dickens)
  4. Jane Austen (yes, there are one or two that I haven't read)
  5. ??? -- I need to think about this. Something fat and fun.
This list might be too old school and classical for me, but that all have strong plot I think, which would be important after a long day of hiking. Maybe I'd have to do a re-read like Lonesome Dove or something. I read that one while backpacking in Europe and loved it.

So now you:  If you were heading out on a three-month hike in the wilderness, what reading would you take? I'm sure you could mail yourself new things at various PO stops along the way, so feel free to list up to five things.

Ready, go!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Nagging Observation

Over the past year, I have worked on many a bureaucratic document, and I have sent many an email about bureaucratic issues. These documents and emails often require that I mention "instructional programs, adminstrative service programs, and student service programs."

What I've noticed is that, no matter how I try, I just can't find a good way to abbreviate "student services." Right? See what I mean? I can write "instruction" or "admin," but "student services" just can't be shortened.

Surely others have noticed this, too, but I've never heard any one  mention it. I've been thinking about it for nearly 10 months now. Just needed to get it out.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

28 Minutes

It was late tonight after Hubby and I watched an episode of Once Upon a Time. And can I just real quick say how amazing Robert Carlyle is? His acting leaves me feeling stunned and slack jawed. So, anyway, we had just finished watching a great episode written by Jane Espenson, who is also just so amazing, and Hubby was off to bed. I stayed up so that I could do my 15 minutes of dissertation work. I wrote the whole time, and it turned into 28 minutes, and I got quite a few words on the page (not sure how many because I forgot to get a "before" count).

I feel very smug.

And also tired.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Small Increments

In the previous post, I wrote about how, for lack of the time for anything else, I have resigned myself to getting in shape by taking short runs (although, after being resigned, I learned that I sort of like it!). Along similar lines, I have realized that, during busy times (like almost always), it's nearly impossible to find a large chunk of time for working on my dissertation. And oh do I love large chunks of time. So much. But I don't have them, and yet I must keep making progress on the work.

Like some others of you, I have been participated in online writing groups. Over the summer, we checked in at Amstr's place, and now Dame Eleanor is hosting.* Of late, I have not been accomplishing my weekly goals. So I decided to borrow from my running plan book, which is based on short bursts, here and there, throughout the week. In other words, my new plan for making dissertation progress is to work on it at least 15 minutes a day, six days a week, for a total of 1.5 hours.

It's only been a week and a half, but so far it's working. I've found that the 15 minutes feels most productive when I've been writing rather than reading (it's hard to make much reading progress in 15 minutes), so I've been writing much more than usual. I did read one night when it was late, and I was tired, so I just picked up Roy Porter's English Society in the Eighteenth Century before crawling into bed--it's interesting, useful, not too heady, and I still got in my 15 minutes just under the wire. I'm not exactly sure how I'll work in the difficult reading--the long theoretical articles, the dreaded seminal texts--but I'll cross that bridge when I trip over its first plank.

*Don't ask to join. It's too late!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

On the Run

Because of the ongoing college crisis (one that is an immediate threat to its very existence), I didn't exercise much at all last year. The previous year, I went on occasional uphill hikes with the dog, so there was some activity. Hiking was great exercise, but with the dog it took a long time. Not only did the hike itself take 1.5 hours, but then I would have to bathe the dog afterwards in case he'd gotten into poison oak.

This year, as I faced another school year focused on the college crisis, I finally accepted the fact that I would not have time for long hikes or yoga classes (these are what I pine for when I wish that had more time). But I also accepted the fact that I'm at a "use or lose it" age when it comes to bone density and muscle mass. So, I asked myself: How I can fit in exercise in less time? How can I get in shape in 15 minutes per day?

The answer, of course, was running.

There was just no way around it. Please note, I have never been a runner. Once, about a decade ago, I tried to become a runner. It lasted two months, and my knees were killing me. But now there really is no other way. I don't have time to spend an hour at the gym, and, also, I don't like gyms. I think they are stinky and claustrophobic. I do like yoga classes, but I don't have time to attend them. So . . . I'm left with running.

And it turns out that running is kind of awesome. Here are some reasons:

It's cheap.
I don't have to get in the car.
Even if I can only do 15 minutes, it makes a differences.
If I'm only gone 15-30 minutes, the kids hardly notice my absence.
I can take the dog (although sometimes he drives me crazy).
After seven weeks, I'm already stronger.
It's outside, so I get fresh air.

This last point is amplified by the fact that I live in an absolutely beautiful place. It almost never gets too hot or too cold, and I live close to a body of water. This means that taking a quick run down to the bay is a great way to start a morning, and instead of dreaded it, I actually kind of like it.

So I'm running three time a week:Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday. Four times would be better, but as in all things, the perfect (or the ideal) can be the enemy of the good (or good enough). So three days a week it is. When I don't feel like going, I tell myself, "You only have to do 15 minutes. You can walk if you want to." And usually, I end up going for 30 minutes, running most of the time. And since I'm not overdoing it (and since I'm not running on concrete), my knees feel fine.

So there it is. Running. And I think it might be sustainable. Who knew? Sometimes solutions really are fairly simple.