Names withheld to protect both the innocent and the guilty

A recent exchange between a friend of mine and an academic publisher:

Dear Dr. R:

In an effort to speed up the publication schedule and work through our backlog, we are attempting to collect any remaining permissions from authors who are moving up in line for publication. Our records indicate that we still require permissions for the image(s) contained in your article, “(redacted).”

Please return these permissions as quickly as possible or update us as to the status of your attempts to obtain these permissions. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us.

Thank you for your interest in The Journal of SomethingOrOther, and congratulations again on the acceptance of your essay for publication.

Best regards,

Editorial Assistant
The Journal SomethingOrOther

My friend’s response:

Dear Editorial Assistant,

Thank you so much for your note. I was very grateful when you accepted my article for publication in your journal seven (7) years ago. Since that time, approximately five (5) years ago, you forgot that you had accepted the article and re-sent it through your review process, after which you sent me a rejection letter based on the insane rants of an inflamed tea-partier (anachronistic, I know, but it gives you an idea of what I mean). After I brought this imbalanced review to your attention, you rescinded your rejection and re-accepted the article for publication. A year later you sent me a letter similar to the one above. Since I had several years before supplied all the permissions, I grew tired of our little back and forth, stimulating though it had become, and rescinded my acceptance of your re-proferred acceptance. Soon after, I also lost the article in a devastating hard drive crash, and subsequently quit my academic career. Since I no longer had a stake in feverishly publishing my feeble pensées in poorly-run academic journals, I thought no more of the matter, until today.

Best wishes to you and the entire Journal of SomethingOrOther family,


Note to self: choose topics that don’t require permissions wherever possible.  (This being only one of many lessons that could be drawn from the exchange above.)

The trouble with academic writing

…the following seems to hold true for library science texts, but may be applicable to other portions of academia as well.  Either the writer devolves into an overly simplistic metaphor (e.g. “information systems are like grocery stores”) or he flits off into a fit of academic navel-gazing that is as astonishing as it is abstract (e.g. “the user comes to the information exchange experiencing a complex set of variables that he must navigate to interact successfully with the information system”).

Hey, I understand: clear writing is difficult.  It takes time and effort and even the best writers and thinkers can either get caught up in a vortex of abstract principles that are fiendish to place in a concrete context or they can get too captivated by their own pet theories or metaphors to examine whether or not they really illuminate the issue at hand.  But those should be first or second draft problems.  Step up your game, academics.

5K – take two

Do I need to apologize for light posting?  I suppose I do.  A combination of work-crisis and middle of semester has my thoughts otherwhere these days.  So, very sorry if you are expecting great — or even not-so-great, but just regular, thankyouverymuch — thoughts from this space.

So, what to do when one is rather stretched for time?  Add another commitment, that’s what!  In this case, it’s the Komen 5K Race for the Cure, which I will be doing on June 6.  If you care to sponsor me, the link is here — no dance o’ Paypal needed this time, since they use a service to help their runners and walkers collect funds (though the service could use some help on the back end – is it so hard to make the runner or walkers’ links easy to find for said runner or walker?  Apparently, yes.  Or someone just needs some help with their UI).

ANYway, I need to go off and get in a run while today is sunny so I’m actually in training for this!

And a very big “Happy Easter” for all of my readers who celebrate the holiday.

Truly interactive memery

The general run of question-answering memes are pretty much only interesting to the people writing them, I believe.  However, when Harriet posted this one, it seemed more interesting to me because it was more personalized.  The rules follow the question-and-answer session.

1.  Your house is on fire.  All the people and pets are already out and safe.  You can take only one thing with you.  What will it be and why?

My artsy-fartsy ego would like me to say I would grab a painting, but knowing myself the way I do, I’m afraid I would probably grab my laptop.  We only do local backup, y’see, and my MacBook has all of my schoolwork, finances, photography, personal writing – a lot of the stuff I value.

2. A benefactor has agreed to fund you for a year. There are no strings attached – you can do whatever you’d like for 12 months, practical or frivolous, and have it all paid for by this person. What will you do?

This is a really hard one, I have to say.  At this point, I can only think about it in pieces, and those pieces seem to be: Europe, art, knitting, eating.

I guess I would fund a pan-European trip involving learning language(s), lots of train travel (knitting time), museums, and cuisine.  Not very inventive, and certainly not practical, but it sounds lovely.  If I could manage to wangle a tour with Rick Steves along the way, that would be fun.

3.  Tell me about your favorite place (you can take this any way you like it — a cozy chair, an interesting continent).  Why is it your favorite?  When did you first go there?  When did you last go there?  What is your favorite memory there? Is there someone you would especially like to take there?

Wow – I don’t really do absolute “favorite” because so many things appeal for very different reasons.  But one of my favorite places is actually our den at home.  It’s cozy in a slightly cluttered way, it has a fireplace, and it has a tendency to contain my favorite people and animals.  Some of our favorite art is also on the walls there.

4.  Of all the things that you have made or done in your life so far, what are you most proud of?  Why does the thing you picked mean the most to you?

I think I’m proudest of being smart enough to seek John out after a breakup and absence of over six years (see #1 and #2 here for a brief explanation).  I was pretty sure he was The One, but our initial timing wasn’t right for a bunch of reasons (we first dated when I was in law school and John didn’t really know what he wanted to do with his life).  It was scary to try to find him again (I feared he would be happily married with 2.7 children, a Volvo, and a golden retriever), but it was definitely a gamble that paid off.

5.  What made you decide to go back to school?  Was it a gradual realization of wanting to change directions or more of an epiphany?  Was there someone who inspired you?

It was sort of a gradually sudden epiphany.  At first, I think I subconsciously ignored the idea because it seemed like I was “copying” John instead of paving my own way.  But when I consciously confronted that notion, it seemed absurd.  There’s plenty of room in library science, and me taking this degree enables us to contemplate a lot more geographical possibilities down the road.  John inspired me, as did Marie – I envied the fact that they liked what they did and it seemed like something I would like also.  Actually making the decision to go to school now was one of those spooky instances of a bunch of things independently clicking into place: my job got outsourced, Maryland started a program at the campus closest to me, and they also waived the application deadline.  I don’t go in for the phrase “it was meant to be,” but if I did, this would be an instance of it.

Thanks, Harriet – that was fun!

If you want to play along, leave a comment and ask to be interviewed and I’ll think of 5 questions to ask you. After I email you your questions, post your answers on your blog, then link back to this post.

I’m not even sure of my own name at this point

H’lo all.

So, I’m still in school, and I’ve started a new job – this has been my first week.  Lots of things to coordinate, lots to remember, lots to learn.  So far, so good.  I’ve kept all the balls in the air for these first few days, proving it can be done (this is important – when things settle into a groove and the commute and job aren’t new and I start freaking out, I can point to this period and say, "Hey – you can do this.  You did this when you didn’t know what you were doing, so you can surely do it now").

That being said, I’m tired.  And going to bed.


Spreading the word

My friend Kathy posted this video of Sir Ken Robinson on Education at the TED conference a while ago on her blog, and I’m reposting it on mine (she asked me today if I had seen it yet – I admitted I hadn’t – and was so glad she reminded me to actually watch it).  In her intro, Kathy said that Sir Ken is funnier than most comedians – I would concur, except that the way his brain works reminds me very much of an un-profane version of Eddie Izzard (frex, imagining Shakespeare as a kid in someone’s English class):

What he has to say is more than mind-bendingly, gobsmackingly true – as I watched it, I realized that many of the things he has to say relate to the reasons I decided to take my career on a 90-degree bend into libraries.  One of the interesting things about the field (and if you are one of my friends already in the field, please excuse my foray into novice, goggle-eyed optimism and enthusiasm) is that it is well aware of the fact that it needs to change and adapt in order to remain relevant.  Creative solutions are recognized as being necessary, and are being talked about and adopted.  This energizes me to absolutely no end, and it is so wonderful to be able to get excited about what I am doing.

ETA, pulled from the comments, a two-part interview with Sir Ken about his work and new book:

Thanks to Lianne , who alerted me to these!

Taking my readers to school

This probably won’t ever become a library blog, but I know a bunch of my readers share my gung-ho-osity* for institutions of literacy.  Therefore, I’m passing along this article from The Economist about libraries in cowboy country that one of my classmates found. Aside from what it says about the reading habits of my own local area in comparison to other areas, it’s very heartening.

* It is so a word.  Okay, so it isn’t.  But loopy neologisms are my thing.

Online classes and the commentaholic

Classes have started, the Trapper Keeper is shiny, the pencils are still sharp.  And I am here to report that online classes are as fascinating as a good comment thread – which for me is very fascinating.

I can tell already that I’m going to have to schedule my online class time rigorously.  Otherwise, I’ll go down another online rabbit hole, my husband will never see me again, and I will get to a stage of weapons-grade insufferability.

Seriously, though – this is a good exercise for me in thinking twice before I open a comment window and express an opinion, and I intend to take it seriously as a tool for personal growth.

The Chart of Dorian Gray

Marie called last night to catch up and see if my pencils are sharpened and my Trapper Keeper is shiny. I reported positively on the one school event I have yet attended (orientation), and then we covered the Health Report.  Marie, for reasons unknown (and surprisingly not traceable to her husband or two children – I kid, people, I kid) has a mysterious pain in her… bottom.

Me?  On top of unwisely playing soccer last night and feeling a dreaded "pop" and then pain in my calf (if I were a racehorse, I would have been shot long ago) I visited the doctor last week.  The University of Maryland has deemed that any potential disease vectors – um, students – need to produce their childhood vaccination records.  Since I am well beyond my teen years and the doctor who kept his hand loosely on the tiller of my youthful health retired about a decade ago, neither my mother nor I had any notion as to whether or not these documents even exist any more. I was instructed by the Health Center at UMD to visit my doc.

I like my doctor.  Dr. Y is very no-nonsense with a droll sense of humor: my kind of medical professional.  She is vaguely tut-tuttish that I don’t have the documents necessary, but tells me that there is no problem – I just need an MMR vaccine booster, then she’s free to sign the paperwork.  And since we’re at it, when was the last time you had a painful tetanus booster, anyway?  Um.

Then she squints at my electronic chart and notes that I’m going to be 40 next year and it’s been a while since I’ve had a blood panel done.  Tippity-tap, she orders that up on her computer screen like a waiter at a chain restaurant.

Result: I get an MMR booster and a cholestorol check.  Will someone tell me whether I’m entering kindergarten or early middle age, please?

Do I lie like a lounge room lizard?

No, I do not lie.  I sing like a bird released.  It’s 65 degrees in the DC suburbs on August 12.  It’s been cool and dry for almost a week.  This is unprecedented.  Glorious, gorgeous, and completely unprecedented.

The hate I have for heat and humidity is well documented, so we needn’t go over that again.  But the thing that is really making me dance all sorts of happy dances about this weather is the reprieve from having to use the air conditioning.  Last month’s power bill was… not fun, even though the heat index values didn’t get above 100 too often.

This fall-like weather also has me thinking in a somewhat premature way about new pencils and "school clothes."  But for the first time in 12 years, that’s coming my way too. Nice.