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Why I’ll be ignoring you for the month of May

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.

18 thoughts on “Why I’ll be ignoring you for the month of May”

  1. Good luck with the surgery!
    I’m working on a post about that thing we talked about a couple of weeks ago. I’m going to be traveling overseas until June 10, but I’ll send you something about it when I get back and get it finished.


  2. I’d be happy to read at least the first 15 pages of “Birds of a Feather: Homophily in Social Networks” by McPherson, Smith-Lovin and Cook. Please send me the PDF and I’ll get right on it. :)

  3. good luck Ethan you will be fine. You have survive living and traveling in the dusty road of African.

  4. Milverton Wallace

    Hey Ethan,

    Hope the op goes well. The best of British luck to you, mate.


  5. i just found your blog (through a mention of michael best, who’s a good friend of a good friend) and can’t wait to read more. as it happens, i have paul starr’s creation of the media on my shelf in beirut. started it in 2005-6, only about a 100 pages in, keep saying i’m supposed to get back to it. maybe now’s the time?
    anyway, good luck, and speedy recovery to you.

  6. The eyes are important, especially but not only in Africa. Enjoyed your nice ablog, there aren´t that many like that. Take care.

  7. Well, should have read this one first :-) send along and expect an MP3- I love reading aloud and my children are balking at it now. Thanks, Rachel!

  8. Happy to read – I have a voice recorder that can create an MP3 file – and I have Sat/Sun/Mon to do it very happily. You’ll be sick of the sound of my voice – so do please send me a pdf or two. Best wishes for speediest recovery!

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