Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Dropping out

1. I had the current brief fevery bug last week. This has reminded me how lucky I am to have a job which I like enough to want to go to in the mornings even if I'm still feeling iffy. It's odd that the lurgy comes before the students this year; maybe for once the path of disease will be reversed.

2. I really want to want an ebook reader -- I love the idea of loading things on to it which I would currently buy as cheap paperbacks, and then not worrying about them again, things like War and Peace and Mansfield Park, or Trollopes. But the readers are far too expensive, too invested in proprietary formats, too little is available for them, and what little there is comes at the same price as a proper book despite having far fewer production and distribution costs and no resale value. I should be the ideal market for these devices: I love reading, I love gadgets, and I have recently had the disadvantages of a book collection literally brought home to me heavily -- almost all of the cardboard boxes containing all my possessions seem to be full of books, and lugging them up the stairs to my flat is very tedious. So I am actually quite angry about not wanting one; I feel personally failed by consumerism.

3. Recently some people at lunch were deploring the decline in face-to-face or even telephonic communication resulting from widespread e-mail use. Contrarily I'm all for this, at least when it comes to work-related stuff. The other day someone came up to me at my desk and asked me to chair a session at a conference to which I was probably going anyway. I really don't want to do this because chairing sessions is one of those things that is surprisingly stressful and much harder work than it looks, but she's a nice person who asked nicely and I said yes. I would probably have had to say yes anyway but I feel unfairly resentful of having a yes bounced out of me by a sudden face-to-face request. (Though I'm now hopeful I can get out of going to that conference at all, and I did make my consent conditional on my attendance.) Whereas someone has just e-mailed to ask me to give a paper at another conference and it has been so much easier to write expressing regret but saying no, after a few days to give it proper consideration. Asking people for things is much more civilised by e-mail; if you try face to face maybe they're more likely to say yes at once, but there's also more chance that they will secretly resent you and then find some means of getting out of it anyway.

4. Also I have had this genius idea of putting that second conference in my diary anyway, so that when I get to the point where I would have been frantically patching together a paper I can enjoy the feeling of not. Hurray! I am the laziest person in Cambridge at the moment -- I work 8.30 to 5 and then I veg.

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