Ambitious planning

If there is no urgent department or faculty meeting or degree paper defense, I have a privilege to stay at home on Thursday. I dedicate myself to recreation (tour skiing at this time of the year — see a scene from a tour in the Julian Alps a couple of weeks ago), housekeeping (e. g. selecting trash, paying the bills via e-banking), reading newspapers that have piled up during the week, answering mail, reading books, checking the projects, getting ready for the following day (not necessarily in this order). Unfortunately, I ought to be at my workplace in Ljubljana this Thursday at noon (by train, a 40-minute ride) to discuss current issues with my departmental colleagues. One of them: how to control and sanction the students who try to avoid their assignments. When I come home, I am going to switch among the three major tasks:

1. I have to start writing the recension of the PhD paper that I have been mentoring. Robert Jereb has written a perfect empirical study of the Slovene daily literary criticism of the original novelistic works in the period 1990–1999. He has reflected the available literature on the topics and then used it (mostly the articles in the journal Poetics) for the detailed analysis of 877 texts in 9 newspapers. The use of statistical methods is not a casual matter in the Slovene literary studies, so he asked colleagues from other disciplines for help. As I have never learned more than statistical basics I can only trust that they have done their job well. Some results: A typical literary review consists of 34 % interpretation, 17 % evaluation, 15 % description with interpretation, and 18 % description. The term usage is 4,3 terms per 100 words, the rate of explicit intertextual quoting is 8,5 %.

Slovene literary reviews

Legend: PEZ – poetry reviews, Romani – novel reviews, KP – short story reviews, DZ – other reviews

Three referees got his thesis at the end of January; if we finish our separate expertises till the end of month, Robert could defend his 429 pp. long thesis in May, after our reviews have been accepted by the faculty senate. This is already the third PhD paper I have to assess this year – an unusual density of degree papers.

2. The second great task is reading a couple of novels more for the award kresnik of which selection committee I am presiding. 110 original Slovene novels published in 2009 were registered by the bibliographers and the 5 member committee has to read quickly to finish till June when the award is going to be granted. A significant number of books were selfpublished, and a growing number of books available on the Internet only has been noticed.

3. The third task concerns two Wiki-projects. On Wikipedia the Portal:Literatura has been formed after students have written hundreds of articles as their seminar assignments. Checking their work, adding entries, categorizing entries are my daily duties for the project. — Proofreading the texts on Wikisource involves students who want to earn some money. I’ve applied for a governmental support and I hope to get 10.000 eur to finance putting another 4 mio words of texts on the Internet. On Friday, I am going to conduct a workshop for Slovene grammar schools teachers who participate a lifelong learning seminar at our faculty. The topic will be again the use of Wikipedia and other wikis in school.

Plans : reality

I’ve decided not to attend a departmental meeting today as it would ruin my plans for the work at home. I’ve asked the head of the department for excuse. Half an hour later she responded the meeting was scheduled for next week; I have confused the dates ;-(

Now, the plans for today are much clearer: reading novels for the kresnik-award in the morning, lunch with those members of the family who are coincidentally going to be be at home at around noon, hacking the branches from the orchard I had trimmed the day before. (Cultivating the orchard is one of the strongest metaphors for establishing national culture in the Slovene rural story of the 19th and 20th century.) Such is the life of a humanist living in the country.

In the evening

Another “digital issue” arose. After 5 years of duty it is time for my home computer to retire and to give place a new one. I’ve got an offer from the official supplier of computers for our faculty. This machine is 36 % more expensive as the similarly configured computer righ now on sale by Hofer (i. e. Aldi). I find it bad if the institution is forced to acquire equipment for a higher price only to fulfill the legal demands.  I’ve bought a “supermarket computer” some years ago. I am satisfied with it and no one can convince me that computers sold in specialized shops are better by default.

Back to today’s reading: it struck me how many novelists come from our discipline: two students of Slovene and comparative literature/philosophy, a journalist who writes in first person and presents him as a comparatist … Though we don’t teach fiction writing. Too early for a statistic overview of 110 novels, however: autobiographic narratives, criminal stories, fantasy, romances prevail.

The competing novels

The competing novels

Days after

Let me record some additional “digital thoughts”, in spite of the fact the D-day expired yesterday. Today, Friday, the UPS delivered a package I ordered a couple of days ago via the Internet shop. For the first time I’ve confirmed the reception of the package by endorsing with the electronic pen onto the display of the deliverer’s computer. How far from the traditional way we faculty teachers and researchers are signing documents! E-mail is still not accepted as a dependable form for our expertise on the degree paper and the faculty clerks demand from us to print it and sign it m. p.

Manual signatures prevent documents for the senate meetings to be sent as text files to the senators. Instead, 50 senators get a 2 kg pile of printed matter every month or pdf-images of this stuff, unable to make a text search through it.

I can’t help but commenting on the “ethical concerns” of the DDH-project. As I have already written to Geoffrey and Peter, I find it scarry when our posts are controlled and surveyed by “ethics people”. Such a commission is going to be established also at our faculty and should judge which research topic is ethically inappropriate. As if the humanities itself wouldn’t be a priori responsible for ethical issues! As if ethical concern wouldn’t be self-evident within the humanities! One of the negative results of such a concern is tabooing children and stigmatizing all people around them as potential abusers. I’d rather rhyme ethical comission with ethical inquisition. It seems, along with the “security obsession” and safeguarding personal data according to the privacy law, this is the Achilles’ heel of our civilization.

Faculty senate members according to privacy law