Not Enough Hours In A Day

I’m now about half way through my term as Dept. Chair, a post that has come with a relatively steep learning curve. Suffice it to say a PhD in Art History does little to prepare one for the realities of University administration. However, there are many good people around me that have been patient and helpful, something for which I am very grateful.

I think the most difficult thing about this post is that it is incredibly difficult to carve out sustained writing and research time. I’ll have an afternoon here or there, but the amount of time between these sessions means that I spend most of this precious found writing/research time trying to figure out where I left off. I need to get better and finding a way to implement regular, sustained writing/research sessions, even if they are shorter. As I learned while on sabbatical, it is the frequency of these sessions more than the length that really makes the difference.

Last summer I took two weeks vacation time (something I’ve only done once before since finishing the PhD, probably not a good idea) to have a mini writing retreat. I had a colleague take over as “Acting Chair” (see point above about helpful, good people around me) so that I could just focus on the book manuscript I have been working on. 2 glorious weeks of just thinking, writing, reading was just what I needed and felt more restorative than if I’d taken those two weeks to travel. Don’t get me wrong, I love travelling, but I was aching for some focused, quiet time with my research. In December I took at trip over to London to spend some time at the British Library for the same reason. This time another wonderful colleague stepped up and was “Acting Chair” in my absence, allowing me to make the trip.  I found a great flat walking distance to the library and quickly fell in to a routine that included hours in the reading rooms and then evenings filled with quiet reflection and free writing. Pure bliss!

These two writing/research “retreats” were amazing, but it is so difficult it is to get this kind of sustained time to really focus. I need to work harder at building this in to my daily schedule. When I was working on my PhD, Joan Bolker’s advice to “write first” and “write every day” really helped me to stay focused and finish quickly. It is time to go back to those basics!

Be Kind

I was honoured to be asked to curate an online exhibit on the subject of “Humane Education” for the National Museum of Animals & Society (NMAS) this year. After several months of research and preparation, the exhibit is now live. I enjoyed working on this project, thrilled to have had the opportunity to bring this story to a broader audience. So many people helped make this exhibit a reality, and I’m so grateful for all of their kindness, hard work, and generosity.

The NMAS is a wonderful museum dedicated to preserving the history of human-animal relationships, a history that has until very recently been woefully neglected by curators, historians, and academics. This is an important history, and the work that the NMAS is doing is so valuable. If you have any artefacts relating to the history of human-animal relationships or advocacy campaigns from previous eras that you would like to donate to the museum, they would love to hear from you!

Research and the iPad 2

I recently got an iPad 2 and am still discovering all of the ways that I can make use of it. In addition to being a “bigger iPhone without the phone” (how I initially conceived of it), I’m discovering just how useful it can be for research.

I have been playing with a number of different note-taking and “productivity” apps, but so far my favourites are Evernote and Penultimate. Evernote is kind of tricky to describe because it is just so darn robust. Think of it as an updated, improved and digital version of that big notebook/day timer/coupon holder/place to shove a photo of your cat that many of us lugged around in the 1990s. In the few short weeks since I signed up for my Evernote account (which is free, although you can upgrade to premium for more features – something I did pretty quickly once I figured out just how fabulous this software is!) I’ve used it for taking notes, for “clipping” sections of webpages I need to refer to later, and for storing photographs and documents. I’m sure there are all kinds of other uses for this software that I haven’t yet discovered. Penultimate may be easier to describe, but it is no less awesome. Basically it allows you to handwrite notes on the iPad. You can use your finger, but I like the stylus that I picked up for $15. You can scribble, doodle and erase to your heart’s content on pages that look like an old-school notebook. Why not just use a notebook? Well, this way all your scribbles and doodles are all in one place and not as likely to get misplaced. You can share your scribbles and doodles via email or save them as photos.

I just discovered today that these photos of your notebook pages can, in turn, be inserted in to your Evernote notes. These two applications work amazingly well together and I can see them really changing how I approach research. Today, for instance, I was trying to summarize a Sherlock Holmes story, so I whipped out my handy-dandy stylus, opened up Penultimate and scribbled down a few thoughts. I then saved it as a photo and popped it in to a larger Evernote note that I had started on the broader project I’m working on. Seamless. Easy. No more scraps of paper to lose. Yay!

I’m looking forward to seeing how the built-in camera in the iPad 2 works for taking photographs of documents in archives. I’ve got a few research trips planned this summer so will be trying it out soon!

Call for Papers (“Animals in Human Societies”)

The Brock Review
Call for Papers: “Animals in Human Societies”

The Brock Review is seeking scholarly essays and creative pieces for an upcoming issue on the theme of “Animals in Human Societies.” This issue will focus on changing ideas about the use and treatment of animals in contemporary societies and the ethical, economic and political significance of animal rights. This issue will be co-edited by Dr. John Sorenson (Department of Sociology, Brock University), author of About Canada: Animal Rights and Ape.

Possible topics might include:

-Animal/human bonds and mutual aid
-Representations of animals
-Animal rights and social justice
-Veganism, abolitionism and the rise of “happy meat”
-Normalization of speciesism
-Animal rights and anarchism

The Brock Review is a peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary journal published by the Humanities Research Institute at Brock University. Scholarly essays submitted to The Brock Review should not exceed 25 double-spaced pages in length. Essays should adhere to the latest edition of the Chicago Manual of Style and include endnotes (where necessary) and a bibliography.

Manuscripts should be original works and should not be published (or under consideration for publication) in another format. Manuscripts should be submitted via the journal website by the 16th of July, 2010. Each submission must be accompanied by a 100 word abstract, and a brief biography of the author. It is the sole responsibility of the author to obtain any necessary copyright permissions for images accompanying an essay. If your essay is accepted for publication, you must provide copies of these permissions before your essay can be published.

Creative work (i.e.: paintings, photographs, poetry, short fiction or other types of work suitable to the online format of the journal) will also be considered for publication and should be submitted in an electronic format by the 16th of July, 2010. In the event that your submission is too large of a file to send submit online, CDs or DVDs can be sent to the address below. Creative work must be accompanied by a statement indicating the creator(s) of the piece have given consent to have it included in The Brock Review.

Dr. Keri Cronin
Editor, The Brock Review
c/o Department of Visual Arts
Brock University
500 Glenridge Ave.
St. Catharines, ON L2N 4C2
CANADA
keri.cronin@brocku.ca

Sabbatical Diaries — Day #10

Well, sabbatical hasn’t started off as I’d hoped. I got walloped by a nasty cold/flu thing this past week and spent 4 full days in bed. *blech* Much TLC, hot tea, and the occasional Chocolate MoMint biscuit have helped me beat it, so I’m back to work today.

Instead of spending any more time going down the rabbit hole of image permissions and copyright, I’m going to finish up the text portion of my manuscript and send it off. I’d like to finish it today. Then I can get back to dealing with the images. I love, love, love studying visual culture. I couldn’t imagine working in any other field. And yet, the frustration and stress around securing image copies and permissions, etc. is enough to make me lose my mind. I wish there were a straightforward checklist that one could use for this kind of activity, but it seems that every image I want to use (and those that my friends and colleagues seem to use too) is anything but “straightforward.” Ah well, it will be a learning experience I suppose.

In other news, I was delighted to see this article in the local paper today — I’d love it if St. Catharines became a hub for the GO train! Oh, and on the car-free front, I am not at all regretting my decision to “retire my ride.” I was a little worried about the hassle of cancelling my insurance — the last time I had to do that it was a royal pain in the neck and I got dinged several hundred dollars for “early cancellation.” It seems that this time I need not have worried. The good folks over at CAA have been super-duper helpful and, in fact, I received a refund cheque in the mail today. The only hitch is that I’m still waiting for my $300 from the “retire your ride” folks — it has been nearly 2 months since they picked up my car. I’m going to have to call and see what’s up.

Ok, time to get on with these final manuscript edits!

CFP: Communicative Lands, Community Landscapes

CALL FOR PAPERS

The Brock Review is seeking scholarly essays and creative pieces for an upcoming issue on the theme of “Communicative Lands, Community Landscapes.” This issue will focus on the perception, representation and phenomenology of landscapes as communicative devices and as centres of community. Submissions may focus on any historical era and/or geographical region. This issue will be co-edited by Dr. Katharine T. von Stackelberg (Department of Classics, Brock University).

Possible topics might include:

• political landscapes

• subjugated landscapes

• landscapes of subversion

• landscape and change

• storied landscapes

The Brock Review is a peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary journal published by the Humanities Research Institute at Brock University. Scholarly essays submitted to The Brock Review should not exceed 25 double-spaced pages in length. Essays should adhere to the latest edition of the Chicago Manual of Style and include endnotes (where necessary) and a bibliography. Manuscripts should be original works and should not be published (or under consideration for publication) in another format. Manuscripts should be submitted via the journal website (www.brocku.ca/brockreview) by the 14th of May, 2010. Each submission must be accompanied by a 100 word abstract, and a brief biography of the author.

It is the sole responsibility of the author to obtain any necessary copyright permissions for images accompanying an essay. If your essay is accepted for publication, you must provide copies of these permissions before your essay can be published.

Creative work (i.e.: paintings, photographs, poetry, short fiction or other types of work suitable to the online format of the journal) will also be subject to peer-review and should be submitted in an electronic format by the 14th of May, 2010. In the event that your submission is too large of a file to send submit online, CDs or DVDs can be sent to the address below. Creative work must be accompanied by a statement indicating the creator(s) of the piece have given consent to have it included in The Brock Review.

Dr. Keri Cronin
Editor, The Brock Review
c/o Department of Visual Arts
Brock University
500 Glenridge Ave.
St. Catharines, ON L2N 4C2
CANADA