What's in a don's inbox?
Remember those “in-box” tests they used to make people do at job interviews. The candidate was sat down in front of a made-up collection of letters, notes and demands that might be lying in their inbox on their first day in the job and asked to prioritise! The idea was to see if they would rank buying the bosses wife an anniversary present in front of fixing up a meeting with Managing Director. I was never quite sure what the right answer was supposed to be.. or if there was one.
Well I thought you might be interested to see what a real life donnish in-box looked like: the electronic version, I mean. California is a good place for reflecting on one’s email. By the time you get up in the morning most of the European messages for the day are already waiting for you.
So what does the gathered harvest of yesterday look like? It was in fact rather a thin crop. It’s nearly Christmas and well past the end of term – so there were none of the usual apologies/excuses for students (“Sorry – my essay WILL be in your pigeonhole by 5.00, Susie xxxxxxx”) and the usual administrative stuff of the working week. So treble this for the mid-term picture.
First in the box was good news . . .
1) An email from a friend who has just been appointed to be Director of the American Academy in Rome. A nice comment, I reflected, on passing years. I remember when we got all excited because our friends had got scholarships there. Now they’re becoming the bloody Director . . .
2) Domestic note from the husband. Largely concerned with delivering the 90th birthday card to my old teacher.
4) Ditto – plus re the vegetable order.
5) Message from BBC World Service about an interview I’m doing next week on Google Earth’s Ancient Rome, confirming time and place.
6) Message from Oundle Literary Festival wanting attractive donnish photo of self for their programme.
7) Copy of message from husband to colleague in Canada, where we are both going in the spring for a couple of lectures.
8) Message from editor and fellow blogger, to whom I’d sent the draft of a long review that I wasn’t very happy with. He thought it needed more work too. (Damn – you always faintly hope that some else might just think it brilliant, even if you don’t yourself.) In this case the problem is that I’m too close to the subject, so it gets a bit anal. Looking at it again I decided that I needed to start from the anecdote I ended with (isn’t that always the way)… so that’s the job for the airport this afternoon.
9) PS note from fellow blogger re my newly austere healthy lifestyle as announced on blog. The truth is that re-doing that review might well test the resolve.
10) Message from blog reader in Germany with intriguing query about Latin love stories. I’m always happy to get these – so long as they are not the kind of queries that could easily be answered by a quick Google trawl. So I send off a speedy response.
11) Message from friend about last subversive blog post. ‘Causing trouble again’.
12) Query from student at another UK university asking me if I thought that Roman institutions owed a lot to the Etruscans. It was follow up question to something I had written, so I banged off a reply.
13) Confirmation of Canada arrangements
14) Copy of message sent around the Cambridge Leverhulme project I’m involved with. They are going on an outing to the British Museum and cant quite work out whether the 7.45 train from Cambridge will get them there in time (academics….!)
15) Confirmation of confirmation of Canada.
16) More train stuff
17) An email containing a link to a pdf of something I’m meant to be reading for a project meeting in January.
18) Message forwarded from the husband –a weird complaint about his Byzantium show at the Royal Academy
19) Christmas greetings from the European Research Council
20) More train stuff.
21) Message from the National Geographic. I had given them a blog entry about the most important discovery of 2008. They don’t think Obama counts as a discovery, so can I suggest something else? I have a quick search and sent them Augustus’ house on the Palatine.
22) Circular message from Cambridge Faculty administrator, telling us all that our ‘800th Anniversary’ lapel pins are in our pigeonholes. I haven’t a clue what these are, but assume that someone has had the bright corporate idea that all Cambridge staff will celebrate the uni’s birthday by wearing a badge. Not likely.
23) Message from friend to say that we cant meet when I hoped.
24) Message from San Francisco radio station who want to fix up a discussion about Pompeii from Cambridge (yes odd, I know, when am in SF)
25) More train stuff
28) Pdf of wonderful pictures for a piece on Pompeii in the magazine Historically Speaking
29) Query from student in Ireland interested in the Cambridge Classics MPhil. Wrote straight back with some answers.
By this time my hard work at clearing was beginning to be self-defeating. For numbers 30 and 31 were replies from numbers 10 and 12.
If anyone would like to tell me what all this says about modern electronic life, I’d love to know.