This and that, and out the door!

The rest of the afternoon, frankly, was taken up mostly with more email — with students, with potential collaborators, with faculty. I tried to get some reading done, but by the end of the afternoon I was feeling pretty punchy, and the news that Elsevier has acquired the citation-manager Mendeley sent me in search of a supercut of Tina-from-Bob’s-Burger’s moans. (Which, frankly, I feel like there could be a better supercut.)

When I’m feeling scatterbrained, I tend to skim Twitter for DH-related stuff, for my own information and to share with students and faculty. When I find something that might be of interest to our students, I save it to my Pinboard, gathering these links in a weekly email.

The clock just ticked past 5, which means I’m heading out the door. Pre-baby, I had a bad habit of hanging around the office too late, picking away at this project or that, but I’m no longer willing to do that. (And, frankly, I didn’t get much done in my addled end-of-day state anyway.) So home with me! It’s Andy’s night to cook, so I have an evening of dogwalking and baby-playing ahead. Thanks for following along!

Class prep and event planning

Divided attention!

Divided attention!

After lunch (at my desk, shamefully) I turn my attention to some course prep. I teach one class per quarter, and this spring I’m leading a group of five undergraduates in the DH minor’s capstone course. We’re working with Jacco Dieleman, a professor in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, to build a web-based front-end for a database of ancient magical implements. It’s a really fun project and my students are great, but I’m struggling a bit with the syllabus. It’s a challenge to ensure my students are both learning enough about the subject matter and gaining the technical skill they need to work on the project — not to mention integrating the two halves so that the experience is coherent for them.

I email some guest speakers (thanks, Jennifer Vinopal and Karin Dalziel!), upload some articles for my students to read, discover that my course site’s file manager plugin is broken, try to fix it, give up, and email the articles to my students. I think about how to add a unit on metadata. I’m not happy with the syllabus as it is, but decide to leave it for the time being.

A break in the botanical garden

A break in the botanical garden

I email my friend and colleague Margarita Nafpaktitis about the Global Women’s Wikipedia Write-In, an event designed to increase the representation of women of color in Wikipedia by getting new Wikipedians to contribute entries. Margarita and I are hoping to sponsor a local event at UCLA, and we’ve been corresponding about spaces, publicity, and collaborators.

I also drop a line to a professor at UC Davis to tell her I’ve rounded up some students for a project we’ve been planning for May. This professor and her students have been collaborating with organized labor groups in California to develop an idea for a mobile app to help them in their work. She and her students are traveling down to L.A., where they’ll work with a group of UCLA DH students to design and build the app. I’m really pleased that we’re doing this, since I think the work is important, and I think DH could work more often with organizations like these labor groups. I’m also proud that we’ve given our DH students the training and experience they need to contribute to projects like this one. (It helps, of course, that we have amazing students.)

As the emails flow in and out, I notice my anxiety level inching upward — too many small, nagging tasks to attend to! Like many of us, I have a tendency to obsess about my work, and I’m hard on myself about my own shortcomings, which are legion. Dora’s arrival has impressed upon me the importance of taking better care of myself, physically and mentally, so I call a timeout and take a long walk through UCLA’s botanical garden. As I walk, I keep my anxiety at bay by entering tasks into my Wunderlist to-do app as I think of them, rather than ruminating on them.

Back at my desk, I feel more calm, ready for the last installment of the day.

Coffee, emails, and meetings

My workday begins with some quick email triage: I dash off responses to the most pressing emails, usually from students. I’m the main point of contact for students in UCLA’s DH minor and graduate certificate program, and the quarter just began on April 1. So a lot of our students are anxious about enrolling in the right class, filling out course contracts, and the like.

At 10, I head over to the coffee shop to meet Jonathan Crisman, the director of UCLA’s new Urban Humanities Initiative, a Mellon-funded program that will investigate urban life with an experimental, studio-based approach. I’m excited about the UHI, and I’m really pleased to find that Jonathan and I have similar aspirations for pedagogy. We’re both interested in project-based, experimental learning and in engaging students as collaborators. We have a lot to talk about, and I leave with a notebook page full of ideas and a promise to connect Jonathan with potential collaborators.

Back at my office, I meet with David Kim, a Ph.D. candidate in Information Studies who’s been instrumental in the DH program. In addition to TA’ing DH101 for two years, David helped lead this summer’s Knowledge Design Studio. This quarter, David is working with some of our undergrads to collect some of the instructional material from DH 101 and other DH classes and present it in a web-based platform. It’s an opportunity to contribute to the community, and also to showcase UCLA DH’s ideas about pedagogy (which I feel are important and exciting). David also tells me a little bit about his dissertation, which deals with the intersection of critical race theory and digital humanities, and we compare a few notes about DH epistemology and its relation to postcolonial theory and ethnic studies. It’s important work, and I’m glad David’s doing it.

The rest of my day is unscheduled, but I have a big list of things I’d like to get done. We’ll see how far I get!

Getting out the door

Getting out the door is complicated with a three-and-a-half-month-old.

Getting out the door is complicated with a three-and-a-half-month-old.

This is only my second week back from maternity leave, so things have not entirely reached in an equilibrium in our household. I start the day, as always, by pumping. I’ll spare you the details, but for various boring and complicated reasons, I’m what’s known as an “exclusive pumper,” which means that in the last 30 days, I’ve spent about 53 hours hooked up to my Medela Pump in Style. That’s in addition, of course, to the endless bottle-washing and baby-feeding. I don’t particularly like sharing this detail about myself, but since this labor is usually invisible, I wanted to make a note of it here. I won’t give you a play-by-play, but by 5:00 I’ll have pumped at least two more times.

Getting out the door is a complicated operation, involving coffee, baby stuff, bottle-washing, and lunch-packing. My partner, Andy, is the baby’s primary caregiver while I’m at work, and he helps me to make sure everything is all set so I can get to work on time. I sing Dora a last round of “You Are My Sunshine” and head to the car.

It's not easy to say goodbye to this little face in the morning.

It’s not easy to say goodbye to this little face in the morning.

Until the baby was born, I took the bus to work, but on the (emphatically air-quoted) “Rapid” 12, it takes an hour to travel the four miles to UCLA. With a baby at home, I’m not willing to sacrifice that extra hour a day, so I sucked it up this quarter and bought a parking pass. Driving through Westwood is no picnic, either, but the Waze app helps by dynamically routing me around the worst traffic.

By 9:00 I’m at my desk. This isn’t always the case. One of the things I really like about my job is that it’s pretty flexible. I work from home about one day per week, and I’m relatively free to set my own hours. Nevertheless, it’s important to me — especially having just returned from maternity leave — to be very visible on campus, to help give a face to the DH program at UCLA. And it’s also important to me to maintain some separation between work and home.

Screen Shot 2013-04-08 at 9.25.14 AMSo here I am, in my office in the Center for Digital Humanities, right next door to UCLA’s beautiful sculpture garden. (UCLA’s a gorgeous campus, making it a pleasure for me to get to work in the morning.) On the docket for today: a couple of meetings, a lot of email, some reading, and hopefully some playing around with new software.