Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. I hope it is full of warmth, good food and happy chatter.
We are so thankful that you visit and write to us.
It has been pretty quiet around here, mostly just moving in and setting up my house. I am so relieved to be home. I still think it is pretty every time I walk in the door. I love being able to play loud music again. I can't wait to have people over again. My cat and I are at ease again; she has escaped overamorous two-year-old worshippers.
I am very slowly unpacking. I had high ambitions for this return to my house. I will choose every single thing that remains in my house when I'm done. Nothing will be left over from a previous life, a default or compromise, an unwanted gift or clutter. I like it a lot or it goes. I threw out a lot of stuff when I moved out and I'll throw out even more now. I emptied the attic, brought everything I've stored up there for ten years down to the first back porch. Every day I empty a box or three.
Still, it is hard. Last night a small box had all my tkd gear, a bridesmaid dress and a chador. Throw out my tkd gear? I’ll never use it again. But I earned those belts and not everyone was allowed to wear the uniforms with the Cal insignia. The bridesmaid's dress? Well, it is too big now, but it might be great for a guy friend in drag or Burning Man or as yards and yards of pink satiny fabric. The chador? Well, when we had the Iranian stepfather we did get visas to travel there. I still want to. Why buy another chador when I have a perfectly fine one? One luxury of having a house is that you can conveniently hold on to stuff. I kept that box. But it was close.
Anyway, the key to this slow settling in and choosing is that I don't have internets at home. I knew full well that if I came home and checked my email, I'd go to bed hours later without having cracked open some dusty box. Instead I empty a box, go to workout, cook dinner and am usually too tired to face the stack of boxes again. I read something trashy and go to sleep at 9:30. The internet costs me chore productivity for sure, but I am entirely certain that the overwhelming trade-off of home internet is sleep. At least in the winter, when it is so dark for so long, having home internet costs me about two and a half hours of sleep a night. You know what feels really great? Reading trashy fiction every night and getting nine hours of sleep.
I have one little project and one big concern for moving back home. My project is to cook a batch of beans every week*. A little bit because I need protein for my stupendous muscles and lots because beans are so tasty and useful. If you have cooked beans in a yummy sauce, you can eat them with rice or you can put a spoonful over scrambled eggs or you can wrap them into a burrito or add them into a soup or serve them with greens or on toast. They make a lot of meals better. It feels all Depression-thrifty and winter-comfort-like. So that's my little project.
My big concern is that it is too easy for me to be alone in my house in my routine. I ride home in the dark and enter my dark house and I don’t turn on the heat if it is just me. I cook for me and read in the quiet and go to bed. I'm not complaining; I do this because I like it. But I know I'd be happier if sometimes the lights were on when I got home. And if I were talking about my day with someone and if someone were eating my food. I was thinking I'd wait until my house was unpacked and perfect before I got a roommate, but perhaps that is the wrong order of things. Perhaps I should get a roommate sooner.
You in Sacramento have glorious produce all the time, busting out in your backyard and dropping from the trees and piled up high at your farmers markets.
But do you have these for sale? In Maine you can buy gloves just about everywhere -- in gas stations and at hair salons right beside all the fancy shampoos. I found these shooting gloves at the grocery store, so I bought two pair, not because I thought they'd be particularly good but because I need some fingerless gloves for winter sailing, and I hadn't gotten around to looking for them. These are even crappier than I expected: ill fitting, with cheap velcro dots that keep the spare fingers from flopping around but catch on your fingers instead, itchy and poor protection against a biting wind, with gripless slippery palms.
On the one hand, my mind is all swirly and I think in lots of different directions and get caught up in abstractions. On the other hand, I really do consistently and constantly look at plants. If you had to guess what I was noticing at any moment, your money should be on some close by plant.
Winter garden is coming up strong, on this side. The other side has lots of bare patches that I will not show you. This is the season where one struggles to eat enough arugula. We try to face our burdens stoically.
In my old blog, I figured that no one was really interested in my plants. I figured people were interested in the posts where I synthesize and add information. That may still be true! But you say you want to see what I see in my daily life. And in my daily life, I look at plants again and again.
The trees are nice right now, too.
People are all, wah wah wah East Coast trees and fall color. I'm sure you are right and I don't know what I'm missing. But I'm pretty impressed with the colors we get in Sacramento.
Chinese pistachios. They don't fruit. But they are pretty.
A ginko next to a liquid amber. I don't love the liquid ambers, because they drop seed balls that I roll my ankles on. But I forgive them in the fall.
A ginko. You wouldn't think the monochrome would give you the fall effect, but I like that they know what they stand for. They stand for yellow.
Also, the people at the cafe make me pretty lattes. I am spoiled.
You are right, of course. We are going to have to learn how to make people listen to us. You've been telling me this, and I've been thinking about it in other ways too. Chris and I talk about this a lot. My state is doing a lot of good work on climate change and I don't meet a lot of deniers. But I sometimes think that officials don't have quite enough strangled panic in their voices when they talk about taking action. And there are some fundamental concepts that they don't address at all. Chris and I talk about bringing those into the open, and then we talk about message delivery and then I realize that I will have to do that in person. My person and charm and appearance will matter, might even become useful tools.
I do not like this. This is not how I want it to be. It isn't even that I think I will be bad at it. I like public speaking. I know how to translate information. I'm conventionally pretty. I can modulate my voice and demeanor. So I have the potential. It is just that I am stupidly purist. I don't want to use it. You know what I want? I want the value of my ideas to shine forth from an unadorned presentation, so self-evidently right that they do the converting on first exposure. That would be great!*
Of course that isn't how it works, despite my explicitly stated preference. If I believe in a crisis and that I have stuff to offer, then I have a duty to use what's available to me to advocate. Frick. Fortunately, I can put that all off by researching it first, learning how. Diffusion of Innovations is on its way to me. Naturally, I read this guy's dissertation on how technical information gets into policy making. I'm looking at stuff on climate change communication. You were right on that too. It always comes back to storytelling. Fine. Whatever. I can tell stories. There's more, of course. I bet marketers and evangelicals have put a lot of thought into how to convey messages. I should see if I can find any of that, except that it sounds so skeezy and will probably lower my impression of people.
All of that sounds like a good and useful approach to take, and certainly should be exhaustively researched before I do anything boring like cultivate a professional appearance, calibrated to give off the perfect vibe of knowledgable and adult and powerful and just mildly sexy and approachable. One cannot track all the research back to original studies and evaluate their methods in a suit. That's just ridiculous.
*It would also be... a lot like a blog. A policy/thought-driven blog! Where you write things down and only occasionally put up vanity pictures. People find and link you mostly on the merits and a little on the authority of tastemakers. Keep the content coming and people who like content start to gather. Perfect! All information transfer should be like this!
We got some good emails from you guys about professors.
Maybe scientist-professors are more chill, although I suspect they are also more subject to the attitude that Truth only resides in peer-reviewed articles. Also, it occurs to me that none of us are experiencing the professors as staff, like Sherry is. Maybe professors treat staff and students differently.
I'll say this every single time. If grad school feels like hazing and you simply cannot understand what dynamic you've been sucked into and you can't seem to make headway even though you've been a good student before, you should read the book Disciplined Minds, by Jeff Schmidt. Grad school has an overt agenda, to teach you material, and a covert agenda, which is to channel your thought. If you are failing the covert agenda, grad school will be a miserable vicious experience and you will not know why.
Sherry answered him:
I think you're on to something, with mental work and its
unpredictability, leading to a different view of the things that can be
controlled. I'll be mulling it over a bit more, but I think it's
pretty seriously right.
In law, where again, the product of mental effort is similarly elusive, you charge clients by the hour, even if it's an hour spent running down a blind alley. That's not distinct from a breakthrough idea or a really great negotiation. It's a bizarre and stressful business model -- the incentive is to bill more hours, good or bad, but the practitioners know the difference between a valuable hour and an hour of futility. I think jobs with that characteristic have a peculiar and specific sort of stress. And of course, you can't be smart on demand, or think faster under pressure.
You know what I think it is? I think I hate being condescended to, and so do you. And I hate the idea of people who aren't any smarter or more well-meaning than me, and might possibly be less smart or less well-meaning than me, deciding they don't need my input to make decisions that impact people I care about helping. This is the essence of the current chip on my shoulder, and the way it has snuck from big firm law partners (about whom I now feel a gentle pity, for their silly ways only hurt themselves) over to those who control and run academia, where I now work. Those folks I am scrutinizing very carefully, and where I perceive a disinterest in collaborating with me (me! well-intentioned, friendly, reasonably articulate me!), I get all grouchy and critical and defensive.
It reminds me of your flare of anger against the scarf-lady. I've been mulling that one over, your pissed off attitude about people who dismiss you because you're not dressed up. I dress up every day now, because as a career advisor part of our job is to look a little bit like the business world, to model the firm handshakes and appropriate office attire that students don't necessarily see elsewhere on campus. It's just how it is, people make judgments about you based on what you look like, and you can prep them to think of you as a professional expert by dressing the way they expect a professional expert to look. I'm learning to do this, and I'm having a little bit of fun with it, although I'm still not particularly good at conveying all the stuff I'm hoping to through my clothes: professional, yes, but playful and approachable, too, not all stuffy and preppy and uptight.
Anyway, I've heard you mention trusting or not-trusting people because of what they wear before, and then you got all mad at the scarf lady for not listening to you. My response was similar to what you said about the professors: silly scarf lady, she's only hurting herself, hasn't she learned yet that smart people wear all kinds of things? But of course it turns into something worthy of anger if she's standing in your way, and it's worthy of righteous indignation if she's also obstructing the progress of the people of California's water- and climate- management plans by being a clothing snob.
So, my prescription for us both is to figure out how to make sure people who might not be inclined to listen to us do so. I am going to need to figure out how to charm professors, even those who may be all the bad things I imagined in my previous post, so that I can have the voice I wish to have in the life of the college. (And I have learned much from your response, and the emails from readers.) You are going to need to figure out how to get your good ideas heard by people in the state governance food chain, even the ones who turn up their nose at your comfy and practical jeans. You said you *like* when people underrate you, and I like to think I do, too, but I think the truth is we only like that when we get the gratification of watching people realize we are smarter than they first believed us to be. Neither of us like to be ignored or condescended to, even though both of us like to be outsiders. That's what I think.
You thought I might use a soothing voice? Me, the one who writes off whole classes of people based on three bad encounters? You do see only the best in me.
Back when I wrote those posts, I'd always get comments (and emails) telling me that broad generalizations about whole classes of people make the baby Jesus cry and there is always a counterexample and besides their feelings are hurt. I never understood those comments. Dude, I don't come to these generalizations easily and I work pretty hard to mean what I write. If you don't agree, don't go trying to change my mind. Revise your opinion of me down and MOVE ALONG. Move along without a Big Drama Announcement. My blog will be fine without you, TV reporter. So I don't object on those grounds of tarring the good and bad alike. Whatever. I write in the qualifications I mean and I believe in judicious application of condemnation. I also believe that you're accurately reporting what you've seen and that you give people some initial benefit of the doubt. So I don't doubt that you're describing real professor behavior.
On my own, I don't think I'd have picked a fight with professors, who are some substantial subsection of our readers and write interesting popular blogs and are some of my good friends and, um, my mom*. But if you're in a fight, I'm in a fight! If I'm in a fight, I can't say I approve of this backing away from an initial strong assertion with detail but not enough cursing, and qualifying things so that people know whether you are talking about them, and requests for enlightenment and appreciation for other points of view. When I'm in a fight, I like to scorch the earth in front of me and burn the bridges behind me! So let's do this thing! Back to your original question: are professors really small-minded, mean, pigfucking assholes?
Friend, I urge you to ready your soothingest voice, because I think I will end up ranting. This has been a week for me to speak more vehemently than might be appropriate. I chewed out my book group yesterday, because they began what I thought was an insipid and self-congratulatory discussion about politics, full of "them" and "us" language. I should bite my tongue more, but one of the many things I like about my book group is that there are a lot of women who don't, so we are okay with vigorous disagreement. But usually I sit back and enjoy the vigorous disagreement while it crackles from other quarters, and this time I was the one calling someone out. It felt good while I was speaking, and then I felt like a bulldozer, and sat quietly, and then I apologized.
Anyway, today in the carpool I started ranting. So I figured it was a good time to settle in and admit my shameful secret: I am an anti-intellectual. I think this is probably bad for me, so I'm accepting suggestions for improvement. Today I invited a professor to lunch; I think I will begin a pretty vigorous campaign of professor-befriending, so I can overcome this prejudice I have. I think ill of professors as a group, and I am ready to have this mindset changed. But below the fold, all of my biases will be revealed. I recognize in myself the dangerous habit of gathering evidence that supports my view while neither looking for nor crediting evidence that refutes it.
Aw man. My overwhelming ambition for the day is to make sure the ibuprofen never wears off. I played in our fall league Ultimate tournament yesterday. I wasn't even convinced I wanted to play in league. I told our captain that I'm not an Ultimate player anymore. I'm a powerlifter. She said all the cool kids were doing it. I said, hon, I never run any more. She batted her eyes. I said, look. I only ever exert myself for six or seven seconds at a time. She said, we have tons of women on the team, just come out, talk trash in the huddle, swig emergen-C and play the occasional point. I caved, but that wasn't how it turned out.
We had the first-round bye, so we played four games straight through. We did not have tons of women. We had not-enough women and sadly, I was one of the less injured of them. We kept winning, so we kept having to play more.
At first it was fun. It was gorgeous and warm and the trees here are turning colors. My teammates are always great. I'd heard, as a rule of thumb, that very intense lifting can get your cardio to about 80% of very intense cardio training. I don't know how precise that is, but I was very gratified that after doing no running for a year, it really did feel about the same as a regular mid-season. I was not huffing and puffing; my recovery was pretty quick; I could sprint when I needed. I guess there is something to this weightlifting business (besides immense strength, of course).
By the third game, though, I could feel my hip flexors with every step. Weight training must miss those somehow. By the fourth game, all the muscles that support hip flexors were aching. Today I can barely walk. I'm icing them and taking ibuprofen and swearing a lot.
You've talked before about social fitness, about being in good enough shape that if someone mentions a 5K or a hike, you can say yes without considering it. I like that whole idea. But for me, the corollary is that I have to stop being so macho. Once it hurts like that, I have to stop, even if the team is still having fun. I'm fit enough to get myself into these situations, but not fit enough to do them comfortably. This is going to require body-awareness and foresight and self-discipline. BOOOO! Those are hard!
(The other reason for the ibuprofen? Fell off my bike this morning while carrying my groceries and talking on the phone. Got some scrapes and got jabbed by the handlebars. I think I'm fine from that, but it seconds the need for
ordinary common sense I-candy.)