elizabeth lane lawley's thoughts on technology, academia, family, and tangential topics

Monday, 20 October 2003

recalcitrant re-entry into reality

I’m home. And while I’m really happy to be with my family again, this Monday-morning-going-to-work thing really is not making me feel good about life.

Even the big cup of coffee and Little Feat background music isn’t bringing me out of the funk.

So, in a probably pointless attempt to improve my attitude, here’s a list for myself of reasons to like my job.

  1. sunset.jpgI have a big office with a nice view out my window. (That sunset picture was taken during one of the nights when I was working on my AoIR paper…)
  2. I have some great colleagues, including my best friend.
  3. I finally have a reasonable teaching load.
  4. I have a lot of fun, smart, talented students whose company I enjoy.
  5. I have a 17” powerbook and a 23” cinema monitor in my office.
  6. I have free access to a good gym, which, with the opening of the new fieldhouse in the spring, will be a great gym.
  7. I have excellent benefits, including good health care, good retirement plan, and full tuition for my kids.
  8. I’m tenured, which means that my job is pretty safe (not 100% guaranteed, but very close)

Okay. Writing that down was good. I feel slightly less petulant and cranky now. There are no jobs that are completely free of politics and frustration, there’s no place I could be where I wouldn’t occasionally have to pull out the voodoo doll and give it a new name. (Got that from another favorite colleague, who’s on sabbatical this year, so I seldom see him. :/ )

And yes, I know, I’ve got it so much better than so many people. I really do know that, and I really am grateful. I’m just having a bad day. As my father says (all the time, which used to drive me totally crazy when I was a teen), “this too shall pass.”

Posted at 10:51 AM in: curmudgeonly

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Comment from Francois Lachance on October 20, 2003 11:23 AM (Permalink to Comment)

If it's a pointless attempt, it's well rounded.

Looks like you are superb list maker and certainly excell at making this reader pause and appreciate eight or more good aspects.

Got me thinking:
The doll trick... what if the doll represented the self and you would/could pamper it? You could dress it in overalls one day and a tutu on another or both some day.

The window trick:
What if you could imagine that your window faces east?

Gives an entirely different dimension to the claim that "this too shall pass".

Time flows different from the perspective of the windowless office, F. off to search the WWW for a pic of a doll in a landscape.

Comment from weez on October 20, 2003 11:32 AM (Permalink to Comment)

Glad to be counted among your list of good things. I feel the same way about you, dinghy...if that makes you feel any better.

Comment from KF on October 20, 2003 11:47 AM (Permalink to Comment)

Good list -- it'll be useful for those teeth-gnashing moments. I'd add one more item:

9. The time, resources, and freedom* to pursue the intellectual interests of your choice.

*I understand, of course, from my own situation, that none of these three is ever really ideal -- there is never enough time, there are never enough resources, and one is always constrained in some fashion -- but overall, a life in which you're asked to spend some portion of your day thinking the Big Thoughts cannot be all bad.

Add to this a corollary:

9a. The ability to go to great conferences and meet fabulous new people! ;-)

Comment from lomy on October 20, 2003 5:01 PM (Permalink to Comment)

Dare I say it?
. . . Snap out of it!
I'm just kidding, of course. Welcome you back!

Comment from xian on October 20, 2003 5:55 PM (Permalink to Comment)

Which Little Feat record?

Comment from the other w.w.E.d. on October 20, 2003 7:00 PM (Permalink to Comment)

Can I make a humble offer to round out your list?

10. Work related trips to hang out with the likes of us ilk in Accordion City÷

(with apologies to Bowie)

(Hey man) my schooldays insane
(Hey man) my workĖs drain my brain
(Hey man) well sheĖs a total blog-fan
Joey said he had to squeeze it but he..and then he..

Oh donĖt leave the Bovine, until you really kick it
IĖm back from Accordion City
Go to the Rivoli man
Cause you ain't got time to sing it
You know my Accordion City
Is outta sight÷itĖs all right

Oh donĖt lean on me man, cause you canĖt afford to post it
IĖm back from Accordion City
Oh donĖt lean on me man
Cause you ainĖt got time to read it
You know my Accordion City
Is outta sight÷itĖs all right

Wham Bam More Tequila MaĖam?

Accordion City, Accordion City
Squeeze it right
Accordion City, Accordion City
Too fine
Accordion City, Accordion City

Comment from Liz on October 20, 2003 8:13 PM (Permalink to Comment)

I was trying to come up with things that were specific to *this* job, rather than other academic jobs. The big thoughts and work-related trips would still be true if I weren't at RIT. :) (Of course, I could probably get access to a gym, and have good benefits, at other schools as well...)

xian, it was a bootleg version of a concert at the Montreauz Jazz Festival in the 70s. Followed by Waiting for Columbus, and then Let It Roll, which is my favorite of them all. Gerald is friends with the band, so we have a pretty big collection.

Thanks for the musical interlude, Eldon. :)

Comment from xian on October 20, 2003 9:20 PM (Permalink to Comment)

mmm, bootlegs. if you ever want to trade (i have some rare-ish - but increasingly less so these says - Dylan, Van, and, yes, the Dead).

Comment from Stu Savory on October 21, 2003 7:21 AM (Permalink to Comment)

You know Liz, considering you're into Social SW, the words "I" and "I have" do crop up an awful lot in your blog ;)

Same probably applies to mine of course :(

Guess we all have to start caring more about others less fortunate than ourselves and doing more for them.


Comment from Francois Lachance on October 21, 2003 10:15 AM (Permalink to Comment)

That picture induced me to return to James Elkins's book _How to use your eyes_ (2000) and the chapter on "How to look at sunsets". Elkins writes: "When there are clouds in the air, sunsets can be any color. Occasionally a cloud might even be bright apple-green. But when the sky is cloudless, the colors follw a certain sequence."

What struck me in Liz's entry was the list. It nicely dovetails elements that could be ascribed to physical or psychological categories. It doesn't offer a neat progression from the physical to the mental or vice versa. I took this as a positive attribute since it weaves, for me, many many micronarratives of the interactions between body and mind.

And with all due respect to Stu, speaking from the "I" can generate that sense of complicated plurality of the self and its connections just as much as a turn to the "we" can manage to produce a monological discourse. And there are readers likely to resist any easy identification with a discourse pitched in either mode.

I am still intrigued by the picture of the sunset that Liz chose to use to kickoff the list. It carries the viewer out from the the list and the funk-describing words. If you flip the image so that the main patch of tree silhouettes is on the right and the diagonal of the clouds runs in the opposite way, the composition brings the eye into the accompanying verbiage. I am just impressed at the subtle choice to place the image to the right of the text. And now I'm intrigued: is this a default setting of the software?

For a different but equally aware treatment of verbal and visual text combinations, see Jill Walker and especially Jill's very suggestive formulation "post-catharthic hangover" which echoes some of the wizened tone that Liz offers.

Comment from Liz on October 21, 2003 3:32 PM (Permalink to Comment)

Thanks, Francois.

The effect you describe of the image on the page is exactly what I was trying to create. I wrote the post while gazing over the top of my monitor out at that view (albeit by day), and so it was a defining component of the writing experience. I intentionally right-aligned the image (using float: right and padding-left: 8px in the style attribute) in order to have the reader see it as following the first list item.

The list was, to some extent, a visual tour of my office...from window to other windows to traffic outside my door to thank-you notes on windowsill to piles on desk, etc. I was literally searching for reminders of what was good and happy in my immediate work environment.

By the way, I rather hoped I'd meet you at AoIR, given your Toronto-based URL. But you've retained your virtual role by not appearing in the're a creature of the comments, still. :)

Comment from Francois Lachance on October 22, 2003 9:47 AM (Permalink to Comment)

Ah, so now you express (in comments) the hope that you had hoped. :)

On retaing the virtual: I stay on virtual in the flesh too.

Cuz I understand "virtual" in the sense that "the virtual is the translation between the translated (source) and the translating (target)" (See

It would have been a pleasure to witness (other wise than through your blog entries) your experience the bits of the city would have assembled for your passage. Perhaps there will be other occasions where we can be tease out what it may mean to be hovering on the virtual while face to face.

Liz sipping melange at Cafe Central in Vienna