26 out of 410 Days: Academic Nesting

man_in_a_bird_s_nest

Yesterday felt dreadfully chaotic.  My mind was pulled in 1,000 directions.  I kept chasing ideas and evidence down rabbit holes.  Some wanted to go into the talk for next Tuesday, some into a few different chapters of the book.  That should have felt like progress, like productivity.  Instead, each competed with each other I couldn’t get my notes organized or the idea slotted in.  Some new kernel of a thought kept pulling me away and demanding my attention.  My body was tired.  My mind was tired, but curious and driven, just completely unfocused.  Even yesterday’s blog post felt half baked.  AND, I felt guilty because Day 24 had a coin, but not a coin for the BOOK.  I woke up at 4 am thinking about all of this.

I deduced two problems.

1) SDA asked me last weekend if what I had created in the back bedroom AKA my home office was an academic nest.  Stakes of books on stakes of books.  Random cups and mugs.  Sticky notes and iDevices and wires, wires everywhere.   Why, yes, that’s what precisely it is.  Just like my office at work.  SO, this morning before writing this I put my toys away like a good little girl.  Sometimes the chaos is inspiring, but the chaos also creates some of the noise in my head.

2) I didn’t define a specific goal off the mirror. Playing with Roman republican coins and reading scholarship felt like goofing off because I didn’t know what the specific goal was, even though I still made progress towards things on the board.  So, I decided today, no coins until I and Polybius have spent some quality time together.  My failure to pick a goal was because I had the unreasonable expectation the editor to whom I returned proofs the day before might get back to me  and I might need to respond.  I left myself in limbo.  [As I said some 20 days ago, being an academic often feels way too much like being on the dating scene.]  And, I left myself in a position that I didn’t feel productive, even when making progress.

24 out of 410 Days: Proofing Problems

The worst thing that can happen when reviewing proofs is to find a mistake made not by the publishing house — those you can demand they fix — but instead by you, especially if that error is substantial and thus might change page layout or numbers.  Then again, one can’t very well leave historical inaccuracies and logical inconsistencies right there on the page.  Maybe it is a good thing for the publishing process to take a while, as it lets one read one’s own work as if it was the work of a stranger.  So my challenge today was to cut the offending statement and replace them with something accurate while using the exact correct number of characters including spaces.   I chopped 1,203 characters and replaced them with 1,198 characters.  Five characters under seemed a reasonable margin.  Hopefully my editor thinks so! 

The point I’d failed to articulate was how the testimony of Livy and Strabo relates to the change in coin types at Heraclea Lucania.  The type of above borrows its obverse from Thurium and its reverse from Tarentum, the two cities that jointly founded Heraclea.  Livy and Strabo tell us that Alexander the Molossian who originally came across the Adriatic to aid the Tarantines turned on them and seized Heraclea and tried to move a large festival with a general assembly of the Greeks living Italy from Heraclea to Thurian territory.  The coins show first the Heracleans letting go the Tarentine design:

And then letting go the Thurian obverse as well:

The general subject matter (Athena/Heracles) stays the same but the direct iconographic parallels are removed.  Anyway, the literary testimony seems rather important to explain why Heraclea might have been distancing itself from each of its mother-cities in turn. I’m glad I caught my lapse.  I just wish I’d caught it earlier.

Oh the frustrations!

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I am so angry.  All the nitty gritty of edits are done on the chapter and I just need a clear head to address the “not-so-anonymous” peer-reviewer’s open ended comments on my conclusions where he wants more argumentation some in a direction I want to go, some I will not address.   So I go looking for some new bibliography on an online journal that tells you what articles are forthcoming, pre-release.  One is on exactly the same subject as the first major case-study of my  current chapter.  A case study I wrote up  and submitted for publication in January 2012.   Now, because I had to wait 15 months for feedback and there will be further delays down the road this other guys article will be out and about and easily accessible for the whole world to see long before mine.  If mine had come out in a timely fashion he’d be citing me instead of visa versa.   And my conspiracy theory mind is just sure he must have been at conference and stolen my ideas!  Because no two academic ever can come up with the same topic independently. [Insert sarcmark here.]  And yet I vaguely remember someone writing me asking for a copy of the piece.  I don’t share unpublished work so I may have just ignored the query.  It might have been him doing due diligence.  Anyway.  He’s a junior scholar.  I should be gracious and benevolent in my feelings towards his growing engagment in the field and publication success.  Instead I only feel shame at my own disengagement from the culture of publishing in academic journals with reasonable publication timetables.

Time to go find a coin or three to cheer me up.

5 out of 410 days: Digital Glass Ceiling

Yesterday it was obscure print publications with poor library deposition, today it is completely find-able entries in research databases behind the pay wall.  One well known publisher in our field has taken to publishing digitally new editions of old reference works that used to be printed in book form.  This is a huge advantage for searching and cross-referencing and updating.  It’s a huge disadvantage if your institution doesn’t subscribe and in good conscience I can’t ask my library to pay $9,540.00 for the database.  That’s more than the operating budget of my department his past year.  ILL can easily secure me a copy of just about any page in any book in any library in the country, but that pay wall creates a huge research gap between poorly funded state institutions and large privates.  It puts the individual researcher in the position of having to spend hours travelling and getting permission slips to access the resources at another institution OR begging for a little favor from a scholar with a better job to make a copy and send it along OR pay for a day pass from the publisher out of one’s own pocket. The edits continue.

Deadlines, Schmedlines

irritating

So this is why I’m none too confident about getting the edits done for the chapter by the end of the week. I’ve got three friends working on the problem of sourcing a copy of the chapter and there is always the fall back option of as one friend suggests  of asking the  “editor to ask this anonymous peer reviewer for a copy of the chapter.”  Or I can just bite the bullet and email the author directly and beg a copy, an option I’d be more comfortable with if I could find an friend in common.

Other People’s Opinions

A senior colleague had sent me an email urging me to consider a particular junior scholar for a job.  What a relief to write back that I have no part in the appointment of anyone for quite sometime.  He asked what I was working on and I owned up to the BOOK project and especially my difficulties finding an appropriate authorial voice.  He owned up that he was one of the presses anonymous readers for the series and that he was looking forward to my volume.  He went on to suggest so useful templates–writers he admires, some of his own writing he thought successful.  A warm fuzzy exchange.

After paying as little attention to the rest of my email as I felt possible (still took an hour), I found the editors’ and peer reviewer’s [=PR] comments for the PREVIOUS CHAPTER.  I tried to read them straight through lying on my back but got too nervous and defensive.  [“How dare they judge me?!”]  Giving up on that holistic approach to accepting feedback, I decided to start at the beginning of the chapter and treat each comment like an item on a to do list.  So far so good.  Discovered I hated my own abstract, so restructured that and then got paranoid about my survey of the literature so did a couple sweeps through the online journals for missed content.  Found one ‘gem’ which resulted in an expanded footnote.

Now I’m into the meat of the feedback.  The PR is telling me that I’ve given too much credence to the assertions of another scholar who is claiming to have identified a major change whereas the phenomenon observed may only be an increase in the previous trend.   Now we’re stuck in an irritating framework of continuity/change. Worst of all the PR (who I almost gendered as ‘he’, but then resisted) used my own words later in the same piece to convince me I don’t agree with the other scholar as much as I seem to suggest.

But what do I think?  The other scholar’s work seemed useful.  I didn’t find it very bright I’ll admit, but it seemed nice and easy to mention it up front and then move along to my own work.   It was like saying I’m not walking this line of reasoning myself others have been here.

Part of me is tempted to adjust the nuance of my presentation just to make the editors happy that I took on board the PR’s comments.  I can then ‘produce’ the chapter faster.  Get it done.  I feel strangely like I don’t really care if its continuity or change.  The question doesn’t really interest me.  I think I’ll adopt the ‘continuity’ line because the PR suggests that would give my work greater internal coherence. I do wish to be coherent.

In other news, emails produced proofs for a book review not on the list from the previous post.  So I corrected them.  In that instance, I was generator of Other People’s Opinions [OPO].  And, I discovered I missed a major local conference at which a number of my grad school colleagues were present this past weekend.  And, I received a reminded that the September deadline for the paper is firm.

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It’s now after 5 pm and I’m getting a little punchy working through the suggested edits.  I’ve decided I like my PR.  The best OPO of the day is certainly:  ” ‘for fear of being accused of Quellenforschung.’: this sounds as if Quellenforschung is a dirty word. Is that really the case? I know we’re all critical of old-school Quellenforschung these days, but I wouldn’t say that you could ‘accuse someone of Quellenforschung’. Perhaps you can accuse them of ‘uncritical Quellenforschung’, though?”  Nope.  Quellenforschung definitely sounds like a dirty word and is going to remain one in my vocabulary, EVEN when I indulge in it myself.