With nine days left before I go to Dublin, I am pondering how the time can best be spent, and what sort of spurs I might use to ensure that most of it is used productively. At the very least, I should finish the latest tranche of work for Dr. Hurrell, as well as the bits of thesis reading I am in the process of completing already. More ambitiously, it would be nice to finally finish with the eternal fish paper. I need to de-scale and clean it: removing more than 20% of the total words, while rebalancing a few things. Working with it is much like trying to handle a piece of machinery in the dark that was once very familiar to you, but now continuously surprises you a bit with things that are not where you remember them being, sections with purposes that elude your comprehension, and a general loss of intuitive understanding.
As I am sure more seasoned veterans of the grad school experience could have told me in advance, life is rather less productive overall when it isn’t particularly structured. The absence of the need to discuss readings at particular times tends to make them languish on your shelves. Likewise, the absence of any deadline for the completion of research or papers tends to leave the ideas lingering in dusty corners of the hard drive or the brain. This is the basic reason why the protagonist of Good Will Hunting is wrong to chastise people for spending money on graduate education when they could just use the local library for free. The problem isn’t fundamentally one of information access, but rather of human motivation.
Today, I also wrote a batch of messages to people who I have, at one time or another, had substantial contact with, but with whom I now exchange very little information. Such people have at least temporarily become as constellations in my personal firmament. Indeed, I very often find myself imagining their response to a particular project and idea, then altering my own positions and actions on the basis of their simulated contribution. Exchanging a letter with them every month or so is probably an excellent accompaniment for that process; it will, at the very least, keep them from drifting too far off themselves, as I keep writing lines for them to speak.
PPS. While my digital camera is off in dust rehab, I am operating off the stock of photos I have taken previously. Apologies if they are not particularly topical, current, or interesting.