17 November 2002

Sunday morning. I've read through the paper already, and it looks like the Fred Phelps people are gone, which is a relief. They were here protesting the play at a local high school and holding up signs that said things like "God hates America" and "Eddie in Hell" (referring to a recently murdered transgendered teen in the area). I'm sure that many people looked at those signs and thought, "Gosh, you're right. I was thinking that God was about love, but your well-reasoned argument has changed my mind!" Or better yet, "I didn't believe in God before, but you make Him so appealing that I'm going to convert right here on the sidewalk!" I mean, seriously, what on earth were they hoping to accomplish with these protests? Who could possibly have been swayed by them, except swayed to have a strong dislike of Fred Phelps and his entire family? And what kind of moron thinks that the way to get through to people is to literally damn a local kid who was brutally murdered recently?

That kind of moron, evidently. It's nice that they make themselves known so unequivocally, I guess, so the rest of us can steer clear.

Mark won't be applying for professorships in that region of Kansas any time soon. (Or any other region of Kansas, actually. In case you were wondering. I have indeed been there, and in fact also have done that, and we don't need to go back so that anyone else can have the experience.)

Mark did spend much of yesterday looking at who's hiring CS faculty in the Midwest and Lake States. He made his list, and I believe he checked it twice, but that's where the similarities end, because now he's got his c.v. ready so that they can deem him either naughty or nice. He also worked on his statement of research goals or else his statement of teaching philosophy, or maybe both, I'm not sure. There's nothing much I can do at this point except proofread stuff for him when he asks and periodically say, "Yay! Go, you!" But in a way that doesn't put too much pressure on him. Yeah. That'll be easy. He's got a good list, though, and I started thinking about living in several of the places. It was okay. I actually got kind of melancholy, because it was pretty appealing, and I have to be patient. Soooooo patient. I'm just not so good at patient. But there's nothing I can do to speed the process and very little Mark can do (he basically has to get in his applications and let them take their sweet time with it), so here we are. Waiting. Trying desperately not to count down.

I feel cluttered lately. I feel physically, mentally, and emotionally cluttered. The physical clutter I can mostly take care of -- I can order the Christmas present from the catalog sitting on the dresser and throw it away, I can recycle the plastic bags under the counter, I can get the necessary pages photocopied from the Chinese immigration research books and get them returned to their libraries. But what I really want is a real office, and I'm not going to be able to get that in this apartment. Mentally -- well, a certain amount of that I can also take care of, just focusing and letting myself work well and trying not to worry about it when I'm not. But there's a lot of big stuff beyond my control right now, and a lot of things I'd love to do for/with people I love, but I can't because of geography. So. Clutter clutter. The lists help, but not enough.

The office thing is also a problem I'm trying to figure out when it comes to working on the book. I've been doing a bunch of longhand work, as I've said this week, and it's better for my back and sometimes just mentally better, to work in ink on paper. The journal Sarah gave me is a bit small (that is, I'll be finishing it much sooner than most of my journals), but the binding is great: the pages lie very flat, and the paper is quite smooth and doesn't get fibers in my Waterman.

The down side is that once I have the stuff written, I have to transcribe it to the computer, and with my current work setup, there's nowhere to do that. My desk is barely a desk. Mostly it's just a computer stand on which I can also keep a glass of water and, if I keep them back towards the narrower parts of the monitor, my Finnish Berlitz and my Lonely Planet Finland guide. The keyboard is on a keyboard tray that slides out and back, and the mousepad barely fits on the other side of the desk from the water glass. So. If I'm transcribing something from my journal, the journal has to lie in my lap while I type it. This is ergonomically suboptimal at best. I've been thinking I should get a tray table and set it next to the desk, but the problem there is that I would block off Mark and Timprov's access to the kitchen completely. And I'm not sure how much better it would be in terms of ergonomics.

The thing is, when I was transcribing yesterday, it gave me back knots. Not just any back knots, either: the sneaky kind. The kind that don't feel like back knots until someone puts his finger on the knot -- until then they just feel like I am a wretched excuse for a human being. I think that's tricky and unfair. I think emotional stuff should feel like emotional stuff and physical stuff should feel like physical stuff.

Not going to happen any time soon. So in the meantime I'm just trying to figure out how to optimize the writing and the ergonomics at the same time.

And how to get Woody Guthrie tunes out of my head. I've been wandering around singing to myself, "You'd better go back to beautiful Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Georgia, Tennessee. California is a garden of Eden, it's a paradise to live in or to see. But believe it or not, you won't find it so hot if you ain't got the do-re-mi." And I put on a recording of Arlo singing it, and that was good, but it's one of the concerts he and Pete Seeger did together, and now I'm in that old folkie mindset. Don't have anything to work on that seems like it's particularly Old Folkie (except for "Leadbelly Live," and Timprov and I agreed that he'd do the draft of that first). Hmm. We'll see where I can go with that. Maybe a freewrite.

Or maybe that'd just add to the mental clutter. Hmm. Well, we'll see.

I really like Charles de Lint's column in the latest issue of F&SF. Good stuff.

I think that's all.

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