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After the head shave (#1043)

Topics/tags: Autobiographical, Long

On April 1, one week ago today. I shaved my head. As I suggested at the time, I thought making a big change to my appearance might motivate me to make other changes.

Before I get to that goal, I should probably comment on my appearance. One of my family concluded that I look a lot like Uncle Fester. I’d have to agree. That suggests that the decision may not have been the best. Oh well, at least my beard has started to grow back.

I also didn’t do a very good job the first time. Michelle says that I also nicked my head way too much. Michelle and Jonathan noted that I missed spots by the ears. But as I re-shave the top of my head, it’s getting better. And I like the way it feels when it’s smooth.

It appears that the head shave has affected my personality. When I took some random personality quiz that finds someone from popular culture with a similar personality, it selected Craig Pelton from Community, who also has a shaved head. Not having watched the show, I’m not sure how many of his other characteristics I share, other than an astounding love of his institution.

Now, back to the goal. In order to see whether I was meeting the goal, I decided to record a journal of each day, of sorts, followed by some comments. Here goes.

Day zero (the day I cut my hair): Vacuumed and washed all the furniture in the family room. Started working on a report that I had been putting off.

Seems like a good start.

Day one (Thursday): Got up. Prepped for class. Attended class. Worked on the draft of my manuscript for class. Made lunch. Made tollhouse bars. Worked on the draft manuscript some more. Spent a few minutes on Plans. Fixed some problems at the rental. Took a walk. Dealt with my email for the day while watching Jon Richardson. Worked on my home office for over an hour. Straightened up my workspace in the dining room (that is, removed all my stuff from the workspace in the dining room; I hope that I can move it to my home office by Monday). Replaced feet on one kitchen chair. Fixed and re-glued a dining room chair. Mused. That’s about thirteen hours. Didn’t take a nap. Fell asleep watching TV.

I achieved most of my primary goals but I didn’t have time to read. (maybe I didn’t pick something from my create and consume list (which doesn’t really exist). But the three-or-so hours I spent drafting the manuscript probably counts. As creativity. I did straighten my workspace. Not so bad. But it was a long day.

Day two (Friday): Slept in. Felt like I needed to. Doesn’t help that I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t sleep. Started dealing with email. A few major declarations. A letter of recommendation. Watched Emma Schaefer while composing the letter. Worked on home office (even worse than my lab). Looked at some computer stuff for Michelle. Read a bit (thinking about Wayne Booth’s Harper & Row Reader for Tutorial). More email. Cleaned out dishwasher. Back to the home office. Suddenly realized that it was already 4pm. Realized that I’d missed the Faculty Friday on Shared Governance. Damn. Started to muse while watching Jon Richardson. Ended up doing a bunch of other paperwork. Made dinner. Ate dinner with family and talked. Cleaned up from dinner. (The tripartite dinner sequence took about two hours.) Mused for a bit. Hung out with the family, playing pinball, repairing the pachinko machine, and watching the 3D printers make masks. Returned to the living room to finish musing while my kids played Super Smash Bros Brawl. Watched TV with the family until midnight or so; didn’t do much while watching TV.

It was a day in which it was hard to get myself to do stuff. In the past, I would have gone back to bed. But I’ve made a commitment to move forward on lots of tasks. So I’m trying. Didn’t read as much as I would like to. Didn’t write as much as I’d like to. Worked on the home office. In the end, I’ll call this a more successful day than I would have expected.

Day three (Saturday): Slept until 9am. Worried about writing the rest of the manuscript for English 207. Considered scrapping the whole thing and starting again on a new topic (remote learning). Lay in bed considering options. Decided to stick with original topic, which meant that I needed to get up and keep working. Read email. Worked on my manuscript for a few hours (also talked about various things with Michelle along the way). Spent some time working on the home office. It looks like I had not cleaned out the center drawer of my desk since mom died. Worked more on the manuscript. At 1pm, took a break to watch a concert online, to muse a bit, to send declaration reminders to my undeclared advisees, and to catch up on other email. After the show, I returned to my manuscript for another hour and then went for a walk with a friend. I spent an hour walking, but my damn watch only gave me credit for twenty minutes. Back at home, I had a gin-and-tonic with Michelle (one of the best outcomes of our trip to Portland: Michelle learned to like gin-and-tonics), dealt with some email, and returned to my manuscript. I think I’ve spent more than a full day (eight hours) on it by now, and I haven’t even gotten to editing yet. At 5:30, I went off to pick up dinner. (We’re trying to order out once a week to help support local businesses.) After dinner, read a bit of a book related to the work for ENG 207, then finished the initial draft and started cutting. Once it was down to six-or-so pages, discussed the manuscript with Youngest Son. Finished at 9pm or so. Realized that I had missed two streaming concerts I had intended to watch. The manuscript is now half a page too long. Took a personality quiz, mused about it, and socialized on plans for a few minutes, all while watching TV. Continued watching TV with my family until 11:00pm or so.

Exercise. Check. Do homework. Check. Perhaps double check. Work on creativity. We’ll count the homework. Muse. Check. Work on office. Check. A successful day, although a long one.

Day four (Sunday). Woke up at seven a.m., worrying about the manuscript. Worked on it until nearly 8:30 a.m. Rechecked my list of goals. Worried that in editing, I had removed most of the parenthetical remarks. (Parenthetical remarks had been one of my writing goals.) Realized that there were still many parenthetical remarks in the footnotes. (Footnotes were also a writing goal.) Decided to put the essay aside for a bit. Read some email. Found myself amused that I got a USPS Informed Delivery Daily Digest which informed me that I am getting neither mail nor packages today. Composed an email to the Dean about summer MAPs. Set it aside to send later. Wasted time on social media (and filled out a Stanford Survey about effects of the pandemic). Went back to bed at about 9:15 a.m. Didn’t wake up again until 12:15 p.m. Stayed in bed for about 30 minutes, reflecting on work and tasks. Started on dinner prep. Straightened kitchen. Made brunch for family. Cleaned up. Did some more dinner prep. Suddenly, it was 2:30 p.m. Dealt with some email, including the outstanding letter to the Dean. Converted my assignment sheet to a musing. I had expected that editing the converted version would lead to some changes, but it did not. Submitted my manuscript. Went for a walk with Michelle (masked, of course). Put the roast on. Sat on the porch to read for a bit. Did some writing. Watched the Stanford Sunday Evening Mass with my family. Had dinner with my family. Cleaned up from dinner. Posted my musing. Read Plans while watching TV. Off to bed around 10:30 or 11:00.

I accomplished most of my daily goals today. I did something creative, although it was tied to my class. I read. I exercised. I mused. I did some other work (although not enough). I didn’t work on my home office, but I think I deserve one day off from that.

Day five (Monday). Up around 9am. Worked on a report for an hour. Went grocery shopping and ran some necessary errands (pharmacy, accountant, post office). Did two hours of meetings in my car. Forgot to turn off headlights even though I turned off the car. That had the expected effect. Got a jump from Michelle. Put away groceries. Made myself a late lunch. Dealt with some email. Worked more on the report. Attended the first (but not last) online/distributed faculty meeting. Felt thankful for all of the folks in leadership. More email, particularly having to do with major declarations. Ah, what fun! Reviewed peer’s manuscript for tomorrow’s Craft of Creative Nonfiction. Realize it’s now 8:30pm. That’s enough for one day. Figure out how to post my manuscript as today’s musing. Decide to write about it as well as post it as a PDF. Now it’s 9:30 p.m. Heading off to bed. Couldn’t fall asleep until some time after midnight.

I didn’t read, except for my peer’s work. I did little creative, except work on my report. I did not attempt to improve the chaotic situation in my home office. I didn’t exercise, other than walking during errands or in the grocery store. But I didn’t stop and say I’m not going to work. So I suppose I should feel good about the day.

Day Six (Tuesday). Up at about 7:00 a.m. to get ready for class. Fold laundry while trying to figure out when I can get a nap. (Class 8:00-10:00. Walk at 10. Meeting at 12:00. Concert at 1:00. Meeting at 3:00. Need to prep for both meetings during those gaps. Piano bar at 4:00. 5:00 p.m. seems to be a bit late to nap. And I probably need to make dinner, too.) Curse. Check email. Deal with some more declaration issues. Review my comments on a peer’s manuscript. Continue to worry that I am too critical. Review other issues related to class. I’ve read the Kuusisto, but I’ve also read beyond what was assigned and need to recall the details of the parts I read. Class. Ralph comments that I look better with a bit of stubble on the top of my head. In class, I have the joy of being critiqued. I’ll write about that experience separately. Grab mask and head off for exercise. Spend a bit more time outside than I had intended; I really need to time how long it takes to get to the track (or back). A bit more email and other communication. Prep for noon meeting. Participate in online meeting. Make lunch. Realize that I seem to have pulled something near my groin. Ouch. Prep for afternoon meeting while watching livestreamed concert. Realize that when I’m not trying to be creative, I can write a page of clear and grammatically correct text in under thirty minutes. Online meeting to discuss report. Home to prepare dinner while watching Jon Richardson’s Piano bar. Shower after making dinner. Re-shave my head. Take a fifteen-minute break to read email and try to parse the new software policy. Consider composing a parody of it based on art history. Finish making dinner. Eat dinner. Help clean up from dinner. Fill out software requisitions for Slack and Trello. Compose email to the Deputy Chief Information Officer to verify that basic Linux software is acceptable. Deal with more email, including another four-year plan. Spend some time checking prereqs and considering requirements for another major. Now it’s 8:15 p.m. Muse while watching TV with Michelle. Try to decide whether to write about my essay again or my new office. Choose the latter.

My days feel too long. I exercised. Yay! I’ll accept accepting critiques as my creative activity of the day. I did not work on my home office, but with the pain, I wasn’t up to it. It also appears that I didn’t have time. I mused. Another good day.

Day seven (Wednesday). Had difficulty sleeping last night. I don’t know whether it’s the muscle strain or my frustrations at the new software policy or a growing headache or what. Get up a little after 6:00 a.m. because it’s clear that I won’t sleep. Fold laundry. Feel like I should write. Debate what I should muse about. That new policy, which it strikes me I should rephrase in terms of art history (We have decided that Thomas Kincaid, painter of light, is the only permissible art for students)? My hearing aids, which I’ve realized let me hear birds? What I learned from the workshopping of my piece? Realize that this musing is what I will likely post today. Recall yesterday’s discussion of Steven Kuusisto’s journal entries and how they reveal his poet’s voice. What voice do these jam-packed entries, filled with short sentences, reveal? Make the bad decision to work on email. Advise a student or two. Advise a colleague or two. Decide that musing about the new software policy is good for my mental state, even if I may not ever post that musing [1]. Decide to express it as a parody. Read over my instructor’s comments on my latest assignment. Try to figure out how to explain that I don’t believe in American typographical conventions for quotation marks [2]. Decide that a footnote would be the best approach [3]. Conduct an experiment with nested footnotes in LaTeX. (I’m easily distractible.) It appears to generate the footnote number, but not the footnote itself. There’s probably a way to address the issue. Ah, there’s the bigfoot bundle. I’ll look more into it later. Oh, it’s almost 9:00 a.m. I finally got permission to gather some items from my lab. It’s time to do so.

Off to the lab. Security lets me in. Yay! Find filament for the 3D printer so that Michelle can make face shields. Find lamination pouches for the face shields. Find transparencies for the face shields. Find chenille stems to use with cloth masks; they keep the mask tighter around the nose. Decide to grab one of the embroidery machines. Decide to grab some empty boxes to help with sorting the home office. Decide to grab a few books to read. Grab some glue sticks for the 3D printer. Grab a few things for my Secret Santa gift. Fail to find Middle Son’s stuff that might be somewhere in my lab. Finish in my allotted time. Head to post office to send Secret Santa gift. As long as I’m out, head to grocery store to pick up a few more things we need. For some reason, I’m feeling a need to make lokshen kugel of some sort or other. (I won’t make it for a few days.) Come home. Put away groceries. Bring in stuff from work. Decide to put screens back in outside windows, or at least the ones I can reach. Take a shower to clean off anything that had accumulated from all of those outside visits. Realize that it’s about 1:00 p.m.

Youngest Son is in his online class. Head outside to avoid him. Bring a book. Read a bit. Accept mail from postal employee. Watch as sun disappears and it gets windy. Decide to come in. Update this musing. Deal with some email. Son finishes class. Make lunch for myself-leftover rice, leftover lentils, and leftover tomato cabbage soup, all mixed together. YS makes lunch for himself. Read some more email while eating lunch. Spend too much time thinking about the email regarding the new software policies. Appreciate how helpful ITS is being. (Seriously!) Deal with more declaration issues. Is today the deadline? I think so.

Realize that I’m exhausted. Part of the basic baldness bargain was that I would not take work breaks during the day, but I’ve had two nights in a row in which I did not sleep well. Off to take a nap. Wake up from nap for 4:15pm meeting. I think I got about 45 minutes of sleep. Let’s hope that it was enough.

Meet online for 30+ minutes. Discover that I sound like an administrator. Deal with more email. I think I’ve now covered all of the declarations. Start in on the questions from my students about preregistration for next semester. Deal with some other email. Clean up the kitchen. Make dinner (leftovers). Eat dinner with Michelle. Clean up a bit more. Start trying to figure out Microsoft Teams, which ITS has asked me to try for some of my software needs. Find myself frustrated that I cannot create my own team. Realize that I am hogging bandwidth that Youngest Son needs. Go offline. Do the readings for class tomorrow. Find that they seem to be spiraling down into negativity [4]. Somewhere in the midst of that all, I realize that I can deal with the nested footnote problem in MS Word [5] by ignoring the footnoting system altogether. I can, instead, use superscripts and manually place the footnotes. That will allow me, say, to put the footnotes in the middle of the page, or even the head of the page. Or maybe I should explore some other format, such as two columns, one with the main text and one with the notes. The possibilities are not endless, but they do seem vast. Maybe I should copy that note into my musing about what to do with the piece. We’ll see. Now it’s nearly 9 p.m. When Youngest Son is done with his class, I hope to watch a bit of TV with the family and head off to bed.

I think I wrote too much for today. My exercise mostly consisted of dealing with the obstacle course that is my lab, although I also put up screens, which is an exercise of sorts. I did not clean out my home office, but many of the pains in my body remain, so I wasn’t quite up to it. And I’m going to count the lab visit toward that general goal. I wrote a creative piece satirizing our software policy. I read. I finished this musing. All in all, a good day.

What have I concluded from all this? I deal with too much email. My days are too long. Shaving my mead seems to have given me the push I needed to make sure that most of my days are spent on productive activities; I’m definitely not slacking off as much as I had been. But correlation is not causation. It may be that I made the mental shift before shaving my head, and shaving my head was just one of the impacts. Or it may be that this informal way of logging my life helped. Who knows?

I did manage to muse every day! I worked on my office four or five days out of seven. Not great, but it’s still progress. I read, although not as much as I’d like. I exercised, or at least I walked, which is my primary exercise these days. I need to exercise more. I enjoyed sitting in the sun on my porch [6]. I’m pretty sure that I could not have been more productive.

All in all, it was a good week, at least in terms of the issues I wanted to address. Now I need to see if I can do the same things, but with a little bit more down. Let’s hope that happens in the second week.

Postscript: It seems that this musing is longer than my latest manuscript for The Craft of Creative Nonfiction, but took me significantly less time to write. I wonder what that suggests.

Postscript: Gramamrly Free [7] identified 96 alearts in this musing. I assume many have to do with the narrative form of the journal entries. [Time passes as Sam goes through them.] Ypu. Lots of times it wants to do things like change Worked to I worked or add articles. It also doesn’t like times expressed in forms like 9am. I don’t care. But it did catch a few typos (under ten, I think).

[1] I had excellent experiences with ITS related to this policy, and I think everyone needs to chill a bit, so I am not posting that musing. However, it was good to let off steam and Michelle laughed when I read it to her.

[2] Traditionally, American typographers put punctuation inside the quotation marks, even if the punctuation is not part of what is being quoted. For example, after hearing John say, I enjoy use videoconferencing tools, particularly when I am participating in online learning activities. I might summarize that as John said that he liked videoconferencing and online learning.

Europeans (I think) and overly-precise computer folks would not include the period in the quotation marks because there was not a period in that part of John’s statement. They (or I) would write John said that he liked videoconferencing and online learning.

It’s a subtle difference, but it’s an important one. I see that my instructor went back and fixed all of my uses. I believe I had a footnote about that choice, but it was cut in my attempts to get the essay to fit into six pages.

[3] Or endnotes.

[4] Well, not the Kuusisto book. But Hersey on Hiroshima and Ehrenrich on poverty are not the most positive of pieces.

[5] Does anyone else see MS Word and think either Mississippi Word or Miz Word?

[6] That wasn’t one of my goals, but it’s a good thing.

[7] Or whatever they call the non-premium version of Gramamrly.

Version 1.0 of 2020-04-08.