Twitter hiatus, productivity tools, what I'm reading

1. I decided to take a break from Twitter, so I deactivated my account. I believe I’ve got a month to reactivate it, but I don’t mind starting over if need be. I love Twitter, but it’s too much of a time suck right now. How do I know this for sure? Well, I signed up for Rescue Time, a free program that tracks what you are doing on the web. Suffice to say I did not like the results over the past few weeks. The thing about Twitter is that it always feels like a really short break. But adding up those many short breaks a day is a terrifying thing.

I’ve been trying out some other productivity tools. Freedom is a good (free) program, for Mac users, that turns off the web for a set amount of time. It’s great when I need to write a draft of an ethics consult or a syllabus (For PC users, Self-control does the same thing).

When I’m writing a paper or presentation, though, I need the internet. So, I downloaded Anti-Social, another Mac program, by the same people who brought us Freedom. Anti-Social, which costs $15, blocks a predetermined set of known time wasters (the usual suspects, including Twitter and Facebook), and then any other sites you enter in, for a set amount of time. The nice thing about Anti-Social (as opposed to browser specific programs like Leechblock, which only works when you are in Firefox) is that you can’t get around it by opening another browser.

I do have Leechblock, and one nice thing about it is that you can set it to give you a certain amount of time on a specific site. You see the timer counting down in the right hand corner of the browser bar. After that, you can’t get into the site until the next day. Or… you just open Safari. (You can see why I needed Anti-Social)

This article from The 99 percent lists a few other productivity tools.

Anyway, I did not expect my break from Twitter to alarm so many people (who then emailed me). I’m sorry I didn’t tweet about it first!

2. Classes ended Friday, and now it’s just two final exams and the usual end of semester chores. This academic year has been marked with greater than usual involvement in theses. I directed an honors thesis of a biology student in bioethics. It was the first time a bio student was allowed to write an ethics thesis at my uni, and everyone was pleased with the results. He’s heading to medical school, and I feel so proud of him for having made ethics a central part of his undergraduate education. I believe it will make him a better physician.

I also sat on a master’s committee in rhetoric. That student wrote on the history of sex reassignment surgery from its inception in the 1930s to about the 1970s. She focused on the way medical discourses helped to create the “transgender person.” Fascinating stuff.

Third, I’m directing a PhD in feminist bioethics. She’s working on the intersection of law, politics, and medical discourses in abortion “counseling.” This student was named our college’s outstanding T.A this year and I’m so proud of her.

And finally, a master’s student in English showed up on my office doorstep asking to do an independent study on feminist perspectives on urban fantasy. It’s like manna from heaven! We’re going to set up a reading list and try to get a lot of it done this summer. I hope to blog about it.

Whenever I complain about my current job, I have to remember that if I were at a larger university with loads of faculty specializing in these areas, I would never get to be involved in so many wonderful projects.

3. Reading, etc. 

I’m reading a bunch of books at one time:

The classic Fabio cover

Savage Thunder, Johanna Lindsey, romance ($3.99 on Kindle)

The Sheik, E. M. Hull, romance (free for Kindle, also available free all over the web)

These Days Are ours, Michelle Hamioff, general fiction (sent to me by the author)

Virginia Lovers, Michael Parker, general fiction (sent to me by the publisher)

I’ve also been watching Mad Men. I am about six episodes into season 1, and am enjoying it quite a bit. Great for long cycles at the gym.

Finally, we saw Pirates! yesterday and LOVED it. So funny. I’m still chuckling over one pirate named “The Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate” (he’s a woman) and another called “The Pirate who Likes Kittens and Sunsets.” The film is based on a series of books by Gideon Defoe.

Have a great week!



18 responses

  1. You will be missed on Twitter! You’re right that it can impede productivity — but it can be useful, too, as well as fun. Or may be I kid myself… It does sound like you have plenty of other demands on your time, including a lot of interesting ones. Happy marking, and supervising, and reading!


  2. I’ll miss seeing you around on twitter, but I totally understand your choice. It’s so hard not to stop and comment on absolutely every single tweet. It’s fun and I’ve met so many wonderful people — including you! — but I have cut back in the last month. It really eats into my productivity.


  3. Oh lordy, The Sheik! I remember reading that (way back when dinosaurs roamed the earth) and being alternately amused(of the eye-rolling sort) and disgusted. But I sure did understand why it was a best seller in its day. I am not sure I could bring myself to re-read it.
    Please let us know what you think about it.


  4. It is interesting to hear about the thesis work you’ve been involved in. My Feminist Theory class spent some time this semester dealing with the problems of assigning/constructing the sex of infants who are determined to not be fe/male “enough” with Fausto-Sterling’s “Sexing the Body.” It was extremely interesting and opened whole new lines of inquiry for a number of us in the course. I’m glad to hear that some of the students you have been able to work with are considering the ethics of these problems. The discourses informing abortion counseling sound particularly interesting. Knowing that people are questioning the subtle ways that dominant cultural values shape our society makes me feel less isolated.

    Thanks for sharing.


  5. I’ll miss you so on Twitter during your hiatus (and I sympathize totally with the hiatus itself – a sympathy that may explain the weeks of e-disappearance here and there that I am steathily guilty of). Meanwhile, I’m filled with envy about all the great projects you are overseeing! I did an amazing directed reading this term, and it reminded me of how great those kind of projects are (I don’t encounter them often, since my uni doesn’t have grad students in my field)….


  6. The library at our university decided to have certain computers that blocked social websites for students who wanted to concentrate on their work. They were going to try it out for a semester and see how it worked out. I haven’t heard any results from their experiment so far, but concentrating on one task can definitely be an issue on the computer. I have to use Write Or Die when I’m writing, or I’ll spend hours researching and double-checking facts instead of writing.


  7. What fascinating projects you are engaged with Jessica. All the best for your productivity post-twitter and hope to see you back one of these days


  8. @Rohan: Thanks! I love Twitter. My problem is that I love it too much.

    @Julia Broadbooks: Yeah, I’m trying cold turkey right now, but then, later I may try moderation.

    @Barb in Maryland: I will!

    @Emily R.: Hi Emily! Yes, there are a lot of people on campus doing good work in feminist theory and gender and queer theory. You just have to find them. ;)

    @heidenkind: Wow, I would be interested to hear how that worked out. My tendency when I am writing is to NOT work through the tough moments, but instead to open a new tab and surf. Since I hope to get a lot of writing done this summer, I’m looking for ways to stymie myself.
    And, yeah, the tendency to research/think/plan too much is strong. I have to remind myself that “writing is thinking.”

    @Merrian: Aw, thanks Merrian. I plan to keep blogging, but I’ll miss the daily check ins with all of you guys.


  9. Whoa, thanks for the programs! I didn’t even know about those! I’m sure they’ll be useful!

    Btw, I thought you had already decided to blog about uf. Was that someone else? Hmm…


  10. I read way too many Johanna Lindsay’s in college when I should have been studying! :o I understand about the whole Twitter thing. I just spent a week off the grid and it was wonderful not being plugged in to some kind of mobile device.


  11. Oh my, reading ‘The Sheik’ and ‘Savage Thunder’ at the same time! You are a glutton for punishment, Jessica. ;-) I’d be tearing my hair out before either book came to a close.

    Actually, I’m currently reading something a bit “old school” in feel (although I believe it was published in 1988): Amazon Lily by Theresa Weir I’m about halfway through and have very mixed feelings about it. I like the characters and love the setting (although Weir gets some points of Amazonian linguistics laughably wrong) but the sexy scenes turn me off. Every one of them so far has a coercive, rapey undertone/subtext that reminds me strongly of precisely why I don’t willingly read much non-trad-Regency romance from the late ’70s and ’80s.

    The gender and feminist themed projects you’re involved in sound truly intriguing. And you make a very good point about smaller universities sometimes offering scholars greater scope and the opportunity for more multi-disciplinary activity (excessive specialization is the scourge of American universities). I should remind a few grad students I know of that fact.


  12. @new_user: No it was me. I’m just repeating things to see who is paying attention.

    @Jan: I’m going to stay off until I lose the urge to tweet things. That’s my measure of recovery.

    @Marie-Thérèse: I did not plan to read two such similar classic romances at the same time, but yeah, it’s quite the experience. I am finding both of them pretty compelling, just in a plot and story kind of way.

    I had never heard of that Weir book. I see I can borrow it for free as an Amazon Prime member, and I may just do that. If I do, I may just email you for details on the linguistics errors. Fascinating!


  13. Wow! Talk about intervention! There are programs for that?! Don’t tell my husband.. ;)

    Every time you mention the things you are doing for your job, it makes me want to be one of your students! Great things happening in your circles, Jessica.


  14. Jessica, so far the one major linguistics error in ‘Amazon Lily’ is more implicit than explicit but it’s one that linguists and anthropologists encounter so often among laypeople describing “primitive” languages that it really stuck out for me and made me Picard myself.

    During an episode where the hero, Asher Adams, first introduces the heroine, Corey McKinney, to the Amazonian tribe he’s friendly with, the tribe she hopes to help, he displays a mastery of their language that impresses her. Asher explains this away by claiming that the language has a limited vocabulary:

    Corey looked closer at the cup in her hand, noting its primitive, simplistic beauty. “What a lovely belief. How is it you know their language so well?” He shrugged. “Barari helped me. It wasn’t too tough. They don’t have a very big vocabulary.”

    This just…agh! *Picards self again*

    While most Amazonian languages have relatively limited numeral systems (along the lines of 1, 2, a few and many), they generally all have extremely rich vocabularies for the natural world, everyday objects, kinship, the state of a thing in time, mode or observation, etc. Not to mention the fact that they are grammatically complex, sometimes mindbogglingly so (some languages have over 100 noun classes and hundreds of ways (usually through a suffix) to verbally mark evidentiality). No one, not even romance hero, can master a language through vocabulary alone, especially not a language with verbal, structural and classificatory concepts so alien to most Western languages (especially modern English).


  15. Awww, that explains why you’ve been so quiet! (I’m not very observant, but I noticed!) I will miss you, but I totally get it. :p


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