My friend Andrew travels more than I do – which is a dubious sort of achievement – and with at least as much joy in his peregrinations. He tells me that one of his favorite moments is that instant where the boarding door closes, where you have to shut your laptop and power down your cellphone, and you’re irrevocably cut off from the world. For a day, a week, a month, your vacation message reads, “I’m sorry, but I’m in Timbuktu and won’t be able to get back to you in a timely fashion. Please harass my assistant/business partner/underpaid intern instead.” You are, in other words, off the hook.
I share Andrew’s joy in that moment where the phone goes silent and the wifi fades away – I suspect everyone who’s overwhelmed by demands on their time does. (And I suspect almost everyone is overwhelmed by demands on their time.) However, the signature joy of that moment, for me at least, is that I get to read everything that I’ve been saving up for the days or weeks between flights. And that’s not an option for this particular downtime.
Tomorrow morning, I’m having “23-gauge pars plana vitrectomy” on my right eye. In my past experience with less intrusive, laser-based procedures, I’ve recovered distance vision very quickly, but had a very tough time getting my eye to the point where I can read. I’ve heard varying prognoses on recovery from vitrectomy, from two weeks through six. A lot depends on what the doctor finds inside the eye, whether scar tissue on my retina has caused a tear, which would make recovery longer and much less comfortable.
My plan is to take a week off from driving and at least three off from reading. For those attending Berkman@10 – and you should, as it’s going to be a great event – I have high hopes of seeing you there (with one or two eyes) but offer no guarantees. I’m also planing on ignoring the blog and email for the duration. My wife and other friends have promised to help me keep up with incoming missives, but I offer no guarantees on my ability to respond.
Several friends have offered the wonderful suggestion that I ask blog readers to read to me during the weeks I can’t read to myself. I love the idea conceptually, but am a bit worried about asking friends to help me finish reading Paul Starr’s “The Creation of the Media”, for fear that nasty, toothy lawyers from Basic Books will come chasing after me. That said, I wonder whether asking if people are interested in reading academic papers would somewhat reduce the risk. I’d really love to read “Birds of a Feather: Homophily in Social Networks” by McPherson, Smith-Lovin and Cook (30 pages) and “Self-Segregation or Deliberation” by Farrell, Lawrence and Sides (26 pages) in the net couple of weeks. If you’re interested in getting together with a friend or two and recording a podcast of either paper, let me know and I’ll have Rachel send you the PDF (use the comments to leave your email address and your willingness to read…) (And for any of the paper authors – if this isn’t okay, let me know and I won’t circulate the papers.)
Thanks for all the kind words and good wishes I’ve received thus far and for any that are to come. Have a wonderful May, and hope to see/read you in three weeks or so.