On a windy night the neighbors’ nativity scene becomes a procession of Ringwraiths.

Martin Hägglund, This Life:

If we were absolved from suffering—viewing the world from the standpoint of eternity—we could no longer care about whether someone lives or dies, since nothing that happens could count as a loss for us.

And again it’s time to watch Arsenal.

Weeknotes, 18 December 2020

The first week after finals and graduation. Many people at the library, unable to take vacations this summer, have plenty of vacation days on the books and began using them as quickly as they could. I’m no exception, though I worked several days and missed others for medical appointments rather than for pleasure. None of us are starting new projects right now, or trying too hard to close out those in progress; there’s an unspoken agreement there will be time enough in January.

A stormy, snowy morning crossing Lake Champlain.

Ferry on lake

Jonathan Rose, “The Classics in the Slums”:

The Workers’ Educational Association, founded in 1903 (and still a going concern today), brought university-level adult courses in literature, history, science, and economics to the mill towns. The students were intensely dedicated: they had to be, given the realities of their lives. One pottery engineer recorded that, over a 26-week period, he worked an average of 74.5 hours per week, then wrote 14 essays for his WEA course, and also delivered a total of 25 lectures to various other classes.

The WEA offered no grades, no degrees, and no vocational courses. The only motive for study was the disinterested pursuit of learning, and the students vehemently rejected any kind of occupational training. “Knowledge for its own sake is a better principle,” said one. “Adult education is often a way of escape from the tedious monotony of working life. Give as wide a range of subjects as possible and let the student follow his bent.” “We want freedom of mind, power and expression,” wrote another, “and for that reason wish to dissociate work and study.”

We’re looking at the first truly cold night of the winter.

Map of forecast temperatures, New York - Quebec border

Strange to not have snow this late in the year.

Beyond a pond, a stone building.

Recent posts on Outliner Software set me to rereading the early years of Manfred Kuehn’s sadly-defunct Taking Note blog. “Lichtenberg’s Wastebook” (July 2009) and “Why GTD does not Work for those who Write” (August 2009) were the pieces that particularly struck me today.

Gabriel Winant, We Live in a Society:

Organization is the entire question—the building of relationships and trust across the forms of social difference that have thus far prevented the socialist message from resonating as widely as it might.

Going forward, after the election.

Weeknotes, 11 December 2020

Finals week. Usually I’d be at the library, and so would be seemingly our entire student body. But not this year, as I’m working from home, and most of the student population went home before Thanksgiving. Though the library itself is usually very busy during finals, the research help desk is less so, as students use the building mostly to study. Faculty are less likely than in previous decades to assign big research projects. That’s reflected in our online reference and chat statistics for the past few weeks. A bare handful of students are requesting help, and those are mostly citation questions rather than for anything earlier in the research process.

Work goes on as the semester winds down. We’re looking forward now: discussing changes to the student survey for the information literacy course we teach as part of the general education program. And we try not to make UX changes to our website or services during the semester, so it’s time to begin seeing what can be fixed or improved between now and late January.

Today in my favorite sport: West Indies are looking good in the first session against New Zealand, and the Financial Times reviewed Ramachandra Guha’s The Commonwealth of Cricket. Hope I can find a copy in the US. 🏏📚

In the end I went with a compact-sized standing desk, the Jaswig Nomad, and couldn’t be happier.

Jaswig Nomad standing desk and Phive desk lamp

Reviving a Crop and an African-American Culture, Stalk by Stalk:

Fall is cane syrup season in pockets of the Deep South, where people still gather to grind sugar cane and boil its juice into dark, sweet syrup in iron kettles big enough to bathe in.

Worth comparing to Northeast maple sugaring traditions. Artisanal production, derived from a specific place, and thus able to charge a higher price…

U of Vermont faculty members pledge to fight planned cuts to liberal arts

My brother-in-law is quoted extensively; he says the writer talked to him for an hour and did an excellent job with the article. She likely has a good liberal arts education…

The tree is up early this year!

Christmas tree with ornaments and colored lights

A nearby convenience store has begun stocking beers from Mikkeller Brewing. Every one I’ve tried so far has been excellent. My favorite remains the Windy Hill IPA, but tonight’s SoCal Distancing IPA is nearly as good.

Weeknotes, 4 December 2020

Our faculty senate passed, unanimously, an open access policy. I chaired the committee that drafted the policy. It’s a big relief to have it done, and with so much support from across the college. We’ve adopted the consortium soulution, the SUNY Open Access Repository (SOAR), and migrated about three hundred items from an older repository. Next we’re working with the provost’s office to harvest data from faculty’s annual activity reports.

Otherwise, the semester is winding down. Students left the dorms the week before last, as COVID-19 cases were rising but just before we had enough cases to trigger an automatic closure. This was the last week of classes; next week is finals. So it’s the usual round of reference questions, especially citation questions. Volume is down from the pre-pandemic era. I suspect faculty are assigning much less research this semester, or students are doing everything via Google.

Since Kane Williamson looks unlikely to ever get out, tonight I’ve switched to watching today’s World Cup biathlon from Finland. Sports are the best form of slow TV. 🏏⛷

It’s 7 PM on the east coast of the US and I’m watching West Indies and New Zealand play Test cricket eight thousand miles away. Bright sunshine, green grass, crowds in the stands, and no masks. Feels like a fantasy world. 🏏

A good day at faculty senate: my committee’s open-access policy breezed through, and even better a friend’s policy to implement test-optional admissions passed almost unanimously.

It’s nice to be in a daily writing groove. Thanks, Microblogvember, for reinforcing the habit!

I hope someday ESPN will revive the nineteenth-century sport of pedestrianism.

When the #mbnov word of the day was winter, I wrote “For all that I would prefer to not have to wear a mask, it is at least going to keep my face much warmer this winter.” Conveniently, the phrasing covers today’s word and the sentiment is still true!

It seems to me dilemmas are few during the pandemic. The correct decision most often demands a self-denial that promotes the common good. The problem is that this becomes more difficult every day, like working without a weekend or vacation to look forward to.

The Thanksgiving feast at 2 PM means that by 7 you are long past ready for dinner, and yet there is no dinner. It’s a big adjustment.