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I am posting this as a benchmark, not because I think I'm playing very well yet.  The idea would be post a video every month for a ye...

Sunday, June 30, 2019

What is your superpower?

It could be the ability to write very well. It could be intellectual brilliance or erudition. It could be an endless stream of energy and motivation, or the ability to focus strongly. It could be consistency of effort, the ability to work for months at a time. The ability to focus on intrinsic motivation and forget about external rewards for scholarship.

You probably won't have all of these things at once. For example, I am not particularly erudite and have a serious lazy streak. I am able to come up with interesting ideas and have a high internal standard for what I want to produce. I can sometimes write very quickly, even though I know that slowness is actually preferable. I think my writing is very good, verging on excellent at times.

So you want to develop two or three things at are your scholarly superpowers. Are you able to organize your research materials super well at all times? Then you have an advantage over me in that respect. It would be easy to be more self-disciplined than I am, or have a better grasp of theory. Maybe you have developed a very strong ability to construct perfectly organized 6,000 word articles with everything in place.

Everything you read is going to have strengths and weaknesses. I do about two tenure or promotion to full evaluation a year; I read articles for journals, and I read book manuscripts for presses. I see work of a wide range of quality. Intellectual brilliance is probably what I see the least of, in terms of these superpowers. I am rarely blown away by someone super smart, though that happens too. A recent book I read was very good, checked all the boxes in terms of erudition, novelty in the field, writing, and organization. I was left strangely dissatisfied, though, because the whole didn't add up to anything exciting to me. I feel that this is almost too much to ask at the point. The book does what it's supposed to do and that should be enough.

Harvest the Wind

There was a musical show called "Harvest the Wind." There was only one song, with the same title, and every time anyone had a problem they just listened to this song again. My attitude toward it was ambivalent: everyone else seemed to love it and expect me to as well. There is no actual music that I can remember after waking up, just the idea of a song called "Harvest the Wind" that in the musical was supposed to be a panacea.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Dream of German Studies

Somehow I had signed up for a study group in German and Central-European Studies. We were in some huge tent with about 50 people. I felt somewhat the impostor, as we moved into a large lecture hall. I was trying to figure out what I was doing there, and it occurred to me that perhaps I would become a Kafka scholar. I found a book on the seat I was to occupy; it was about the coup against Allende in Chile. The woman in the seat next to me asked my why I was lucky enough to find a book on my seat. We were both wearing jeans and it was not clear which leg was whose, as she scratched her leg but on what looked like my jeans. I began reading the book; it explained that the propaganda against Allende's government in the lead-up to the coup was all false, etc... I began to think skeptically about it: maybe Allende was in ineffective leader, bringing economic ruin on Chile? I would have to do further research.


Interpretation:  A dream about impostor syndrome. I was clearly reaching for something beyond my competence. Yet the book I was reading was about something in the Spanish-speaking world. The dream reflects my political positioning: I am against right-wing coups, but I also want to verify things for myself without simply accepting the left-wing line blindly. Logically, a right wing talking point can be factually correct. The facts themselves are not always convenient for one's own position.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Where did the day go? (iv)

8: Got up, did few crosswords and the like, wrote for an hour. Did some meditation and played piano.

Went to lunch at 11.

Read part of a book I need to read for a tenure review.  It was pretty good.

14:40-5: Gym / shower. Had some coffee.

5-- More reading.

Observation: since late afternoon tends to be dead time, I should go to gym then.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Dream of Memorization

I dreamed a few nights ago that I was explaining to someone my super power: being able memorize large numbers of lines of verse. I explained that I had developed this power through practice and that it was one of the keys to my success. My interlocutor was a little incredulous. This dream is true: I can memorize, and I must think of it as significant.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Where did the day go? (iii)

7-8:  Weighed myself: I am 165.6!  Blogged about my dream of Stephen King. Had coffee.  Did kenken puzzle from the NYT. Started the "Spelling Bee" and found about 20 words.

8-9: Wrote 500 words!

9-9:45: Breakfast / ran a load of dishes / meditation.

9:45-10:45:  Piano.

10:45-1: Gym / shower and shave...

13-14:  Lunch. Cleaning. Blogging.  Made a grocery list.

14:45-15:35 Physical therapy.

15:30-16:30: Shopping for food.

16:30-17 Made lentil soup and put it in crock pot. Cleaning.

17-18:  Went to help someone move a mattress.

18-19:  Cooking, cleaning.  Another shower!

19: Dinner.


Yesterday I made the mistake of skipping lunch. Hunger is not good when you trying to lose weight. There needs to be a balance: increasing exercise by so much, and reducing certain categories of food. I already don't consume sodas, desserts other than my daily scone, and most processed foods.

I am in a good rhythm with writing, meditation, piano, and exercise.  Not so much with cleaning, which I do in bursts.

Dream of Stephen King

I do not especially care about King. I am not a fan (particularly) or a detractor. I have seen movies and television series, but I haven't read his books. One day I heard an NPR interview with him and, without knowing his identity at first, I assumed he was a highbrow writer of a different type. In this night of particularly fertile dreams, though, Stephen King and I were having a conversation. I was with a friend who knew King, in a workshop where my friend was doing an arts and crafts project. King was not there, but was being Skyped in. I had to lie on my back to see him, projected on a screen above my face.

He challenged me to tell a story about my life in two sessions, like we had done before. I said I wasn't a good storyteller, that I didn't have the kind of experiences that leant themselves to being tied up in narrative bundles like that. He scoffed at me a bit, though not in an unfriendly way. Throughout the whole conversation he was a skeptical but benevolent figure. I also told him I was a schmuck, that I didn't do things well, and so that the story would end up being about my various failures. He said something to the effect that we are all schmucks. I didn't want to ask him how he came up with the ideas for his stories, but I said that I mostly wrote poetry, and that occasionally a plot for an entire novel would pop into my head, fully formed.

He said something that implied that that was the easy part. You had to have the self-discipline to write the book. The first example I gave him was of a man who gradually wasted away. He said that had been done already too many times. The second one was of a science fiction novel in which the aliens were taking over the world, but that the reader didn't know it. In other words, the transformation of reality was so subtle that it could be attributed to other causes. This is an idea I have actually had in waking life. Stephen King didn't quite get understand my plot, though it seemed as though gradually we were getting to some meeting of the minds.