Saturday, February 27, 2010

Irritable, waiting

I feel badly about being unwilling to talk to people, tired of being asked when Ben is leaving and how I am doing and probably I'm fine, right, since I have so much to keep me busy? The tricky thing being that these people are going to be my support net when he does leave so I can't be completely detached. But most of my energy is going towards work and living with a chronic condition that flares up with stress, so I am a big ball of itchy ALL THE TIME now. But thank goodness I live in an era where smallpox is not a threat to me, since I wouldn't be allowed to get a vaccine.

But on the bright side, I'm done with another book and am hoping to finish a required reading (aka papermaking text) this weekend before settling into an assigned one (Ben's helping w/email prompts and reading suggestions, which I am trying to speed through while he's here, though I have to be working on three other articles simultaneously). This was my favorite quote from the last book:
There are two words whose meanings reflect our somewhat warped attitudes toward levels of commitment to physical or mental activities. These are the terms amateur and dilettante. Nowadays these labels are slightly derogatory. An amateur or a dilettante is someone not quite up to par, a person not to be taken very seriously, one whose performance falls short of professional standards. But originally, "amateur," from the Latin verb amare, "to love," referred to a person who loved what he was doing. Similarly a "dilettante," from the Latin delectare, "to find delight in," was someone who enjoyed a given activity. The earliest meanings of these words therefore drew attention to experiences rather than accomplishments; they described the subjective rewards individuals gained from doing things, instead of focusing on how well they were achieving. Nothing illustrates as clearly our changing attitudes toward the value of experience as the fate of these two words. There was a time when it was admirable to be an amateur poet or a dilettante scientist, because it meant that the quality of life could be improved by engaging in such activities. But increasingly the emphasis has been to value behavior over subjective states; what is admired is success, achievement, the quality of performance rather than the quality of experience. Consequently it has become embarrassing to be called a dilettante, even though to be a dilettante is to achieve what counts most--the enjoyment one's actions provide.

--Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow
I know there are light and dark sides to everything, including the dangers of rabid amateurs (like dentists who are history buffs who think they are entitled to dictate the content of student textbooks while driven by very clear ulterior motives). But I still remember learning the real meaning of "professional." It's getting paid to so something, but has nothing to do with how you actually behave. After I figured that out, I lost interest in being a professional anything.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Rejuvenated by Canada

We've eaten four so far; two left.

Happy year of the tiger! This was the tiny parade we saw today in Chinatown while walking to find a good Vietnamese place where we stuffed ourselves.

Winterlude! We didn't skate, but we did set foot onto the crowded canal. Ottawa was beautiful and cold and just what we needed to process V Day, the new year, Presidents Day, and Mardi Gras tomorrow.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Mostly odd ends

I had a years-too-late realization that I don't have to work on the weekends. Meaning, it's okay not to touch my email, or other "action items" on my computer. And it's okay not to open the computer. So this weekend I finished reading a book that made me laugh aloud at this point:
Many years ago, when I was writing editorials for the New York Herald Tribune, the editor of the page was a huge and choleric man from Texas named L. L. Engelking. I respected him because he had no pretense and hated undue circling around a subject. Every morning we would all meet to discuss what editorials we would like to write for the next day and what position we would take. Frequently we weren't quite sure, especially the writer who was an expert on Latin America.

"What about that coup in Uruguay?" the editor would ask.

"I could represent progress for the economy," the writer would reply, "or then again it might destabilize the whole political situation. I supposed I could mention the possible benefits and then--"

"Well," the man from Texas would break in, "let's not go peeing down both legs."

It was a plea he made often, and it was the most inelegant advice I ever received. But over a long career of writing reviews and columns and trying to make a point I felt strongly about, it was also probably the best.

--William Zinsser, On Writing Well