productivity; or, in which my neuroses spill onto the page as individual paragraphs

My Saturday morning has been a satisfying, sloth-like laze, enriched by a cup of coffee, blueberry pancakes, and a couch to myself while I listen to weekend NPR shows on the radio. Pleasant but not productive, the contrast to the rest of my week.

It isn’t so much that other things I’ve been doing have really felt that substantial — they could more accurately be described as lying on the blurred fringes between neurosis and busyness, but this all seems fine. I’ve cleaned out the lab that was the staging area for kids’ science activities and other workshops, and simultaneously have been getting ready for back-to-school and turning the crank in the new office. Office #2 is still rather organized and respectable, in contrast to Office #1 that resembles a refugee camp for journal articles, stacked and scattered on my floor. I move, organize, and clean in bits and spurts, but it’s still an embarrassing disorganization, though a pretty good metaphor for my psyche this summer.

Either office and their occupation of files and books, papers and trinkets, offers a contrast to the recent images of my insides. These are now a few weeks old, but I just recently pulled them out of my notebook and onto the glass plate of the scanner in Office #2.


The insides of my stomach are void of anything that shouldn’t be there, and even the wrinkles throughout my upper gastrointestinal area seem to have an organization. Funny how some things just work without any deliberate action or thought on my part.

Yet, I have been deliberating about very (not-so) important matters, like blogspace. Recently I’ve been toying around with a completely new place to host this, and have now decided that it’s all going to move to There are lots of little reasons for this, including the fact that my writing software could so easily upload the above image, something it wouldn’t do as easily with blogspot. Most of these aren’t really substantial, but they each added up. I think that the biggest reason to move could simply be for the sake of change itself. I’m not sure if that’s really progressive as much as it’s neurotic.

[I’ll post exclusively to wordpress starting in September-ish, I think. For now I’ll just continue to mirror this on both hosts.]

Other productivity happens serendipitously. This week, over Indian food, what started out as a joke got re-worked in the period of about 10 minutes until it became a pedagogical innovation for the senior seminar class I’m teaching this semester. The final outcome: Have a physics seminar given that would be a contest between five faculty members. Each participant creates a 10 minute talk and prepares the slides for the talk, but then puts the sequence of slides into a virtual hat. Then, at each 10 minute interval during the seminar, a name is drawn from another hat, followed by the drawing of a set of slides. The faculty member whose name is drawn then has to use the slides given to create the talk on the fly. Students in the class will rate the talk and the slides — a chance for the to think hard about what makes a good presentation, and a chance for the rest of us to entertain and embarrass ourselves in public.

Later in the week, in the midst of lots of other things (meetings, interviewing for a secretary, hosting two workshops, preparing for classes, etc.) I learned from the liaison between the committee I’m now in charge of and the faculty senate that she didn’t have time to create a draft list of charges to bring to the “executive committee” in time for them to prepare a final list of charges to me. So I offered to draft the charges myself, one more thing to do, but an opportunity. How often does one get to write the assignments that his “superiors” are going to assign him? I got to craft things exactly as I wanted them. And what did they do with this draft? Approved them exactly as-is, with the exception of adding a timeline to one of the charges.

This weekend there are a couple of syllabi to finish writing, some classes to plan, some papers to review, and some of my own writing to get done. And then next week it’s “back to school,” a time that seems to have its own order and tradition. In spite of all that needs to be done, I think that the regularity of the academic year is going to be a good way to structure both my thinking and my time. I’m hopeful that the natural order of things will be a good mechanism to organize my time and projects. If only I can get Office #1 as clean an organized as my stomach. Or, maybe it’s simply not possible, since my office, like my stomach, always seems to be digesting so many things all at once.

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