Tuesday, 30 August 2011

One ordinary day

Yesterday was a bank holiday, and today I realised that summer is over because work-related emails have started arriving: meetings, inductions, requests to join committees and other exciting business. Note that we are still five weeks before classes start, but these reminders bring me back to earth from my ivory tower.

I stated in the beginning of this month that I had just about embarked on my so-called research period that unitiated people call summer holidays. Although I have done some of my own work, today is a very good example of what a very ordinary day during your holiday/research period may be like. I was fully determined to work on my own stuff this morning, and - what a blessing! - there was an interruption in our internet connection, meaning that I did start working on my own stuff and probably wrote a page or two before the connection was back, and then it all began. There was an urgent thing to do on that edited volume (on which I spent the whole day yesterday, bank holiday or not, and no more comment), and I was on the phone with my co-editor for half an hour, then fixed the bibliography, and by the time I made myself a cup of coffee I knew that my inspiration was gone.

That's the big problem - my big problem, but I know I share it with other people. I used to be able to work an hour here and an hour there, especially when the kids were small; I used to be able to work late. I cannot do it anymore, and if I am distracted mid-morning, the day is lost. So I didn't even try. Instead, I went first through my list of urgent things to do and then through my emails looking for - well, urgent things to do. One email was about a copy-edited text for an article, not due until mid-September, but just as well to get rid of it. That took the rest of the morning. It was quite pleasant because I wrote this article some time ago and still like it. In fact, like it very much. So much I wish I had written it, if you see what I mean.

The list of urgent matters reminded me of another deadline that I had completely forgotten because it was so far away once, but not anymore. This article was more or less finished, but as soon as I consulted the stylesheet I realised that it would take some hours to fix all the commas and fullstops. Frankly, it is ridiculous - although I would deny it if a student pointed it out to me - to have full bibliographic information when you can these days easily search the web for anything. And the three miliion different formats for references that journals use is elaborate power exercise. (And don't tell me you can use Endnotes; there isn't such a journal that couldn't invent a format Endnotes hasn't conceived of).

Anyway, that took care of most of my afternoon, and then I submitted it to the journal which these days is also a weird experience, with passwords and double-blind copies. I knew I had a password for this particular journal, but it took me several attempts before I gave up and used the "Forgot password" button. Then the system asked for this and that, and I was just hoping that there wouldn't be any internet interruption. Or maybe I hoped there would.

Meanwhile I replied to scores of emails, checked the schedule of the conference where I am giving a paper next week and checked that I actually had finished the paper - sometimes I think I have and discover I haven't which is awkward. While I was at it, I checked whether I had finsihed the slide show for another conference paper that I am giving later in September, and guess what? I haven't.

Five minutes ago I got an email asking me to review a paper submitted to a journal. I should have said no. But I can resist anything but temptation.

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