Summer Vertigo is the counterpart to Winter Regret, the Christmastime feeling that produces lists of Books I Did Not Read This Year. At the beginning of the Summer break, teaching is done and it seems like there’s a bunch of free time open for you to tackle, oh, well just about any number of projects. Projects fall into three categories:
- Stuff you should be finished with already.
- Stuff that’s been on the back-burner for a while, but is doable now you have some time.
- Fantasy projects that share many of the characteristics of black holes.
Category (1) stuff is the most irritating, because it feels like a continuation of what you’ve been doing all year. This breeds resentment, which inhibits productivity. Category (2) stuff is the most promising, as the groundwork has already been laid some other time, and really it would just take a decent push to generate something tangible, like a couple of new papers. However, things in this category are never as attractive as things in Category (3). These are really easy to come up with, and are guaranteed to fail over the time you have available. Examples include: Learn French. Learn Bayesian statistics properly. (Presupposes learning matrix algebra properly.) Read Piero Sraffa’s early papers. (Implies reading lots of classical economics.) Reread (and this time write notes about) Identity and Control and Markets from Networks. Read a lot of Bourdieu.
And that’s just a small sample of those Category 3 items that are related to my work. There’s also things like reading West-Eberhard’s Developmental Plasticity and Evolution or any number of other books. Let alone any fiction. That’s when I begin to think that what I really need is a way to upload substantial parts of the brain of, say, Cosma Shalizi into my own. None of this even broaches subjects like getting my Ellsworth Truth put back together and out on the trail. I feel ill.