Upon Not Panicking and After

The inventory I wrote nearly three months ago proved perspective-setting at the time, so I’m trying something similar here, trying to recover that feeling of checking back again on what the ever-living high tide has happened this summer, especially with work. The August Workshop runs next week–that’s the Composition Program’s week-long seminar that in focused ways anticipates the start of classes on August 26.

Summer has been work-intensive, but it hasn’t been all work. I’ve biked and swam, made several trips to Pickerel Lake, camped in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., and Ludington, Mich., swam in Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, drove to Blacksburg then Nashville, also to Baltimore, also to Lansing for Computers & Writing. I’ve seen a few movies (Last Black Man in San Francisco, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) and some TV shows (Euphoria, Barry, Chernobyl, When They See Us, Big Little Lies, probably something I’m forgetting). I flew to Albuquerque for Native Vision, but didn’t fly anywhere else. I got one massage. I will go for a tattoo tomorrow. I cooked my daughter’s birthday dinner on August 1. And I held my granddaughter a few times but not nearly enough, never nearly enough. I made several gallons of fermented vegetables. Ate some of them. Results were mixed. I started drinking coffee again. At neighbors’ request, I stood at a condo association board meeting and read a law about non-profit organizations and about how voter lists must be available at meetings where votes are being recorded, and I was shouted at by a lawyer, also called an asshole. So the summer has had range and depth and balance.

My to-do list remains feral more than tame. I complete things, experience a moment of calm, then get surprised by its biting or clawing or sometimes stinging out of the blue. Here are a few of the things that have been on the list in the last three months. I suppose I should keep track of things differently than I do.

  • Around May 20, I learned that we had sixty-one unstaffed sections of first-year writing for fall. And that set in motion a quickened pace search for thirteen new instructors. The search is still unfinished, so I shouldn’t say a whole lot about it. In terms of workload, it has been a steady and as measured as possible ten weeks. We still, as of today, have six unstaffed sections of first-year writing for fall. Fall semester begins in 20 days.
  • Since May 20, I have received 1154 emails and sent 763 emails. Be the email reduction filter you want to see in the world. But, too, 763 sends is more than I’d prefer for the three months between spring and fall. Notably, not all emails are equal. Some are flits and some are more intricately built. What would it look like to operate in an administrative capacity where email was infrequent, discouraged, altogether abandoned? What, instead, might we use? Are there Slack-only writing programs? Are there in 2019 administrators who decline to use email?
  • I received, read, and returned 42 course equivalency requests since May 20. How does this compare? Who knows. But I’m keeping track of it.
  • I wrote, submitted, and approved edits on an encyclopedia-like entry on heuristics.
  • I presented at Computers & Writing in Lansing and also collected a book award for Network Sense.
  • I attended CWPA in Baltimore, going to a handful of sessions and also participating on the executive board for the first time.
  • I gathered into one place something like 6,000 words toward an article I’d like very much to have sent off yet this fall. But hours dedicated to writing feel both spare and distant at the moment. So this one can sit quietly until early September.
  • I drafted a chapter for a collaborative project (7,000 words plus sixteen figures). Sent that off. And am almost done with revisions on another chapter for that same project (6,000 words plus seven figures). One more chapter is due by the end of the fall semester.
  • I made modest revisions to the chapter I’ve contributed to the Radiant Figures collection. Also mocked up two model chapters and, with co-editors, fine-tuned and submitted that collection’s proposal, which we should be hearing back about before the end of August. With any luck.πŸ€
  • I worked with VT colleagues on the finishing steps toward compiling a writing programs self-study report that’s gone off to the CWPA evaluator-consultant service and, as well, to the two C-E visitors we’ll have on campus at the end of September. The self-study is maybe 5000 words, but it includes fourteen appendices and thus expanded to something like a 101-page PDF. Next will be scheduling the visit more precisely. Lots of email involved in that.
  • Registered for FemRhet and have continued to shepherd along a process of registering the 10+ graduate students who will be on a roundtable about intersectionality at that conference in November. Submitted a proposal to RSA in Portland next May. I wrote a proposal for a possible lecture at Bland Correctional Facility, though I still don’t quite know if that will be scheduled for fall. And I’m needing very soon to generate a title and blurb for a talk at U Findlay happening in late October. I think it will be a talk drawn from the shadows of the article draft a few bullets back (though the framing is a tad cynical, dissolutionist, endist, accelerationist, fretting with a very particular precariat).
  • Work on Corridors has centimetered along, too, and I’ve just about finished preparation for the talk I’ll share at that event on September 21. It’s something of a follow-up and extension to the argument for visualizing DFWI, grappling with matters of disability, visible, invisible, and otherwise undisclosed.
  • I was elected (unopposed) Treasurer of the Writing Across Virginia Affiliate, what will soon be proposed as a Virginia-specific WPA affiliate chapter.
  • I have a external tenure review due at month’s end; that’s been a letter written by chipping away. Shouldn’t be any problem at all honoring that deadline.
  • If there is more, I can’t think of it.

I’ll begin teaching a section of ENGL5454: Studies in Theory, what’s a temporary placeholder name for the composition theory and practice class. We have nineteen new GTAs who need to take it, and so we’ve split the section into two, doing what all we can (and should) to honor its functioning more like a graduate seminar than an undergraduate class.

And the week-long August Workshop takes motion next week, though at the moment it has wobbled a bit for miscoordination of dates. Whatever of it, it’s nothing a panic will resolve, so we’re trying other problem-solving tactics. It will all happen, and then it will be fall.

While in Bernalillo

Returned late Saturday from the 23rd annual Native Vision, this year in Bernalillo, NM, June 13-16. Always more sparkle in a year when, after a successful fundraising campaign, we’re able to send basketball campers home with a basketball they can use year-round. What follows is a scattering of notes, takeaways, glimpses, and lasting impressions.

Coaches and players arrived on Wednesday evening, gathering at the N. Albuquerque Marriott Pyramid for a welcome dinner and reception. Before the dinner and reception I swam until I could no longer feel the lowly buzz of air travel in my numbnesses. And before that I talked with longtime friends in the lobby and sipped from the six different infused waters on offer.

On Thursday morning we bussed to Sandia Pueblo for their Feast Day, arriving just after the first of two corn dances had commenced, between two and three hundred dancers, unforgettably ornate. Coaches and players divided into thirds, and so a third of us were invited as guests into the governor’s house where we sat at the long table and ate. Learned before eating of a blessing of plenty: crumb of bread in the left hand, crumb of bread in the right, then touch each portion before placing it into a common clay-fired bowl, the morsel in the left going to the spirit of relations who’ve walked on and in the right to those who are experiencing need or hardship. This before eating.

On Thursday afternoon, Corey and I went with a group of basketball players who’d selected the Team Building/Bullying Prevention workshop. Led by San Felipe’s Project Venture, it consisted of a pair of games or obstacle courses; we spent maybe thirty or so minutes at each–one called Bridge to Freedom that had us using boards and balance to build a route across a shaded area, another whose name I didn’t learn that was something like Giant Shoes, walking in sync in teams of four to retrieve prizes, or, if anyone fell off, to have added a blindfold so as to make the course more challenging. One of the organizers spoke as we concluded about complexity and relationality. To illustrate, he pointed to where our shadows touched the earth and suggested that the earth itself cannot help but transformed in the lesser-lit place where shadows were discernible. A shadow marks; its inscription temporary-seeming, or enduring lastingly. Reminded me again, as did so much this weekend, about Shawn Wilson’s Research Is Ceremony, about the most basic tenets of phenomenology ascribable to an indigenous cosmology. As Wilson explains it, for Western positivism and its empirical biases, seeing is believing, but that’s only half of the story. The rest of the story, Wilson writes, is that believing is seeing. Believing makes seeing possible. Every shadow ever, writ, known and knowable.

Coach D and Coach Kayla talking with Native Vision camp-goers at the Friday morning layup station.

I ate dinner on Thursday evening with two nine year-olds from San Felipe who told me about glitching, about video games they enjoy, about their families, about how they were related, about the trades from their dinner trays they were willing to make, hints of hardship, mostly optimism and hope. Pets, too. I learned all about so many pets. The one told me, too, about how not last year but the year before, South Pole Santa brought him a puppy on Christmas Day. South Pole Santa? There is much to enjoy in the gifts of a white, Western Santa, but beyond the cultural pomp and mythos and costume, it’s of a limited dimension. South Pole Santa is, as it was explained to me, an adaptation, another santa who is communal, local, tribal, whose giving is not cloaked in something so popular but who is more harmonious with Pueblo values, more visible and honest with gift giving from source.

Sharing a few comments at closing ceremony about how 48 hours isn’t a long time, but it is enough time to change, even a little bit.

At Saturday morning’s closing ceremonies, I was listed on the camp itinerary as the representative from the basketball coaches who would share a few words. I went ahead extemporaneous, considering at first a couple of anecdotes from the camp, about the campers whose names I remembered, or about the third group of basketballers who on Friday morning made 22 layups in a row when there were only 18 of them, a remarkable showing for its being unexpected, shared, surprising to all of us. But on Saturday instead I said a few remarks about how 48 hours–the duration of the camp–is enough time to recount 48 instances of exemplary sportsplay, model attitudes, great players making great plays. It’s not a lot of time, but it is enough time to change, even a little bit, and to carry on that transformation, applying what’s learned, practicing and playing year round.

Far, far more impressive than these remarks, however, were the remarks of my friends and peers, the other coaches, LJ leaving me verklempt as he does every year, this time with a few words about Father’s Day. Before us, though, it was a local who told us all about ceremony, about gratitudes to the elements all, about how blowing a conch to each of the four directions is akin to thanking the directions, about how we should turn and face each direction as he pivoted. And so we did. First to the east. One by one, the four directions. After the coaches spoke, together we followed the drum circle’s lead through a friendship dance and then a thank-you dance.

There’s more, always more, but this will do for now. And I may add to it in the next day or two, though I have a mountain of work to do, all of which a few days in the shadow of Sandia has more than prepared me for.

Don’t Panic

Used to blog so hard and so often in my thirties. Hobby of that decade, 2004-2013. Like shooting baskets in my twenties, 1994-2003, fiddling around in my teens, 1987-1993, listening to cassette tapes on any Walkman in my preteens, 1984-1986, eating peanut butter Twix in my aughts, 1979-1983. I don’t think I had any Twix before I turned five to be clear. I sit with uncertainty about whether peanut butter should be Capitalized. Capitalize it Optional (proper noun and/or adjectival), but damn sure capitalize it Delicious, too.

Now it’s the end of the first full year of a new job at a new university in a new state and I was awake in the night the other night whatever day that was because sometimes now that I’m in my middle forties, 2017-present, I experience biphasic sleep and also polyphasic sleep and sometimes during the day I close the Shanks 315 office door and unfurl a nap roll I keep in the bottom drawer of a big black file cabinet with only just a few files in it and where on the floor the thin roll lays flat, that’s where I have a nap. A power nap, which means I keep it to what maybe twenty minutes. Biphasia or polyphasia, I’ve learned not to even be perturbed by these, not even at 3 a.m. or 4.

This was going to be a few lines about the decade that was this year, long-times feeling extra long for constant-inconstant spatiotemporal reorientation. Not even complaining. Just thinking about the difference between a time traveller’s dilemma and a regular traveller’s dilemma, orienting to When Am I?, and seeing that question continuously interrupted as if through a kaleidoscope. Nice to look at-through, though, because it’s constantly colorful and doesn’t ever disappoint like some things if you know what I mean.

Our contracts run from August 10 through May 9 every year. Nine months before the fata morgana of summertime clearings and oases and poolside sun-bathed splash panacea. A few bullets about what I’ve been doing, what I’ve been up to this year, AY 2018-2019.

  • Oh ffs taken to court over a condominium by-laws situation in Ypsilanti and then it was dismissed and then I was sued civilly, and that’s still working itself out very gradually.
  • I became a grandpa on February 23. It’s wonderful and humbling and now I wear rubber overshoes when it is rainy outside on my walk to and from campus and I give far fewer centimeters-height of shrug about what I wear. I like it, too, grandparenthood, as an equanimity refrain. Some ish is going down and I’m gonna just think for a while about this awe-inspiring granddaughter over there in Michigan.
  • In the Composition Program I direct, we revised the outcomes, adopted a new custom textbook, wrote substantially a couple of the chapters for the book, met and met again to negotiate the price to something just exactly right (well, reasonable), put together hokieswrite.com and filled the pages with all variety of in-progress resources, wrote an application for an $18,600 grant that then was awarded so as to assure more formidable uptake of program-wide assessment, funds enough to incentivize really a couple of workshops and to build forms digital and analog as simple collectors for competency ratings, above, below, and middling, an inherited design with several known limitations for writing. And then this afternoon generated 53 letters for disbursing the grant.
  • I’ve not said no! to any committee yet, which puts me on personnel, professional and technical writing ad hoc subcommittee, the rhetoric and writing committee, the composition committee (chair), the department executive committee, also the graduate admissions selection committee for the PhD program and the Carolyn Rude Award committee for graduate student article writing, though these last two met just once.
  • I also said yes! to eight doctoral committees so far, but I’m not chairing any of them. This work will accelerate next fall when six of them take exams and hold exam defenses in October. Last October I had just one exam defense.
  • I met new colleagues for eight social lunches in AY 2018-2019. Two were at a barbecue place whose name I forget but know has to do with under the stairs or downstairs or beneath the stairs, one at Gillie’s, two at The Cellar, one at Blacksburg Tavern, one at Green’s, and one at Blacksburg Taphouse. Twice I went by myself for a waffle lunch at Waffle House. I had Jimmie Johns delivered to my office three times.
  • I participated as a mock interviewer for two mock interviews, attended a book group meeting on Cathy Davidson’s The New Education, completed online IRB certification, gained online teaching certification by taking a class especially banal and platitude-filled, sat and talked for an hour with a delegation from Shadong University one day, and sat and talked for two hours as part of an invited Open Access Week panel focused on open access publishing.
  • I was nominated for the CWPA ExecBoard, accepted a place on the ballot, blurb and photo, and was elected to a post for the next three years.
  • I put on the two assessment workshops, each two hours long (mostly a re-run, the second iteration) and prepped and delivered four program-wide teaching talks. Sometimes 30 people attended and other times 55 people attended. The lunch was provided by the program at these talks and mostly everyone expressed gratitude for its being free and for there being two six foot long Sub Station II sandwiches, several feet as vegetable sub and several more feet as meat sub, plus a large bowl of pickles each time.
  • I put in a request for new office flooring because the low pile industrial grade carpet in my office was so very well trafficked that I thought my nap roll was being introduced to the who knows what it could even be from other people’s shoes having walked through Shanks 315 however long ago that happened. And so it was in April a tall stack of plastic bins from facilities arriving and everything was loaded and moved, glue down imitation wood laminate flooring set in place and everything moved back again, only about a week or so without an office around Easter Weekend and the best parts are that the new flooring makes the space a lot nicer to spend so many hours in and that I finally impressed a semi-dull boredom of order on the books and journals shelved about.
  • β–ˆ β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ β–ˆβ–ˆ β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ β–ˆ β–ˆβ–ˆ β–ˆ β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ. β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ β–ˆ β–ˆβ–ˆ β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ β–ˆβ–ˆ β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ β–ˆ β–ˆβ–ˆ β–ˆ β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ. β–ˆ β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ β–ˆβ–ˆ β–ˆβ–ˆ β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ β–ˆβ–ˆ β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ β–ˆ β–ˆβ–ˆ β–ˆ β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ. β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ β–ˆ β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ β–ˆ β–ˆβ–ˆ β–ˆ β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ!
  • I drove to Michigan and back, approximately 500 miles each way, seven times but never more than once in any month. I also drove to Louisville and Pittsburgh for conferences. This was the first AY year I did not fly for a conference nor for any other trip. In mid-June I’ll fly to Albuquerque for Native Vision.
  • I attended six presentations in the department, besides the department head finalists: S.C., C.G. A.V., Z.S., L.F., and A.K. And I had dinner with C.G., A.V., Z.S., and L.F., as these were guests from afar. Six talks, four meals.
  • Unsuccessful DH search this winter was another three talks, three meals, various meetings, too. Combined with the previous bullet, that adds up to nine talks and seven meals.
  • I lead the Composition Program orientation meeting in August, took lead on coordinating an in-progress CWPA evaluator-consultant visit, self-study, planning, and so on, won a research impact award for Network Sense, signed a textbook contract, taught an online section of technical writing in the three week winter term mostly to learn who takes the class and how it is designed, etc.
  • I hiked eight hikes: Pandapas Pond x5, Cascades x2, and Dragon’s Tooth x1.
  • I had what I would count as thirteen outreach-ish meetings: Pathways/Gen Ed x2, integrity office (about Turnitin.com; didn’t go well), library, bookstore x2, publisher x4, LCI x3.
  • I co-edited and also contributed to a DRC blog carnival in fall, wrote a chapter, “Silhouetto of DFWI,” for the Radiant Figures edited collection, and read and wrote review notes for thirteen chapters in that collection that will be in the hands of contributors by month’s end. I presented at Watson (Louisville, October) and Cs (Pittsburgh, March), will present at Computers & Writing (Lansing, June), and I have proposals sent off for Cs (Milwaukee next March), Corridors (Blacksburg, September), an acceptance to FemRhet (Harrisonburg, November), and a draft proposal for RSA (Portland next May).
  • I will participate in two graduation ceremonies next week: the first in plain clothes as an usher (“disability escort #2”) at the undergraduate commencement and the second in regalia at the English Department commencement. I inherited a robe, bought from Syracuse’s bookstore a hood of my own, bright orange blue-edged.
  • At last count, as of maybe two weeks ago, I sent 2,144 emails and received 4,387 emails at my vt.edu account. Sometimes I send one email that reaches more than 100 people. Sometimes there are flurries of short emails volleyed in succession with one person. I placed five phone calls using my office telephone. I received one real-time phone call in my office and five voice messages. Two of the voice messages were from bots who didn’t even know I hadn’t answered.

I left some stuff out of this quantified self rundown. Nothing much about how much running or yoga or how many times I strained my right calf or how many times I felt straining in my right calf but didn’t completely wreck it. Nothing about Chicken Hill. Or about television. Nothing about fermentations, batches of kombucha, pickled eggs for lunch. Nothing about how many times I stopped for gasoline in West Virginia. Or how many times I used the fireplace. Or how much La Croix I drank. Or how many homemade pizzas I made and then ate. How many sporting events I watched at colleagues’ houses or at VT sporting facilities. Nothing about being more or less strictly off caffeine from November 1 until May 3. There are holes in this account and gaps. Aren’t there always.

Triangles Are Tricky – Tournament Pick’em Invitation

Time againΒ for the EWM Yahoo! NCAA men’s basketball tournament pick’em – 16th annual. Like last year, we’re using Fibonacci scoring (2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21), continuing withΒ the upset bonuses, +2 points for upsets in the first two rounds, +1 for upset picks after that. Everyone is welcome to join this pool, which will include some of the surest, most over-confident pickers of all time. There’s no timeΒ time for consulting with your local hedgehog farmer, warming the oven to make a pizza on a pizza steel much less a pizza stone, staring into the sun (never advisable) while wondering about the rate at which your bracket will melt if you choose that team you kind of love.

Sign up! Free, free, FREE, yes, freee to you: join this year’s group on Yahoo!,Β Triangles Are Tricky (ID#97347). If you have questions, elbow me with all you’ve got via email at dereknmuellerΒ at gmail.com. Invite your friends, frienemies, faux-frenemies, freegans, Canadian compadres, Facebook abandoners, wishful critical thinkers, mentors, interim interim interim associate provosts, sentiment analyists, green kitchen molds, too-long-didn’t-readers, members of Relationshoppers Anonymous, people who can’t find the nutritional yeast at Kroger, neighbors of Appalachian permaculturists, people who say they train on a bike but who haven’t trained on a bike in over a month, flexitarians, Blacksburg tattoo artists, grandchildren at the frozen yogurt place, honey badger whisperers, assessment ninjas, members of the band practicing on the upper quad now that the weather is nicer, etc. The group has space for the next 49 who sign up. Giant stakes: reputations are made (or treated to eternal lessons in impermanence) right here.

Yahoo! Tournament Pick’em
Group: Triangles Are Tricky (ID# 97347)
“16th annual.”

Firm up your selections any time between the selection show on Sunday evening, March 17, and first tip of the round of 64, whatever time that isΒ EDT on Thursday, March 21.

Not Just Any

Family photograph at the holidays, maybe 1984.
Family photograph at the holidays, maybe 1984.

Overnight, planted digitally from the Pacific northwest by my aunt, not just any photo but this one, my dad’s family at Sheboygan, Wisc., holiday, my grandfather, Arvin, notably a WWII veteran, front-right, my parents to the right, brother just behind me, genuine smiles in a moment I can’t quite remember until I see this, but where is memory, anyway?, because then it is there in front of you, kermit frog-eyeing a collapsed cookie monster, an early 1980s Jim Henson haircut, almost but not quite matching shirts, and especially my great-grandmother, Meta, her hand at my back bringing me closer. #relations

Have Some Soup

A friend whose dad died not too long ago just the other day statused about how the loss of a parent ((((stuns)))) you with new base time, increments reset. If it had a sound, it would be the kind of droning low-tonal yawp-hum that would make clockfaces crack, gears melt, springs and innerworkings wrench and bend, digital and analog both, no matter. How long has it been since they died? How many week-months? How many day-years? Nevermind BCE, nevermind Christ’s West.

Apropos for a Monday, today makes twenty-one years since my mom died. It’s nothing to cake about. Seven-thousand-and-some days. 183,960 hours. An e-annotation+8 in seconds. Googling these figures, I learnt too there’s a country song about this duree, “Twenty One Years Is A Mighty Long Time,” but I didn’t listen to it. The Earth flips axes (re-begin your geocoding, GISers!), but you can figure out how to walk it right-side up, footfalls alternating, gravity adequate again. Even if it takes a defiant while. There are mysteries without shits to give about them. Like, I don’t know why I mark deathday this year. Who even cares! Mother’s Day was okay. Some years you really feel it on a birthday or Mother’s Day. Some years, deathday. Probably because of the moon. Wounds long-healing have good days, good hours, bad days, bad hours. For twenty-one years and probably for longer than that.

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Aphorism Aphid Tick

Writing in the abstract also suggests learning the rhetorical device of brevity and the rhetorical power of the aphorism. Teaching the value of exploring something in the abstract, without practical purpose or intention, would return composition pedagogy to its sophistic ethos (we dare not say roots). In other words, finding new touchstones means leaving touchstones behind. It means plumbing the depths of abstraction. It means ob/literating the ground.

at times I need this deep
forgive me
(Haynes, 2016, 106)

Finished reading couple of middle chapters from The Homesick Phone Book yesterday, outdoors on the patio seating at Cultivate, sipping on a peach iced tea, strangers with an excitable dog sitting close enough that when the dog barked I could feel his breath on my leg. His ferocity or was it fear shook the table. Those middle chapters were “Writing Offshore” and “Glitch Rhetoric.” The first is a favorite, a steadfast influence (I can feel it still), an inspiration for the dissertation, a PDF I hand off often to graduate students, though I can’t say I’ve ever assigned it in a class I taught. It’s better adrift.

In “Writing Offshore,” I’ve wanted to pause questioning on water’s alternation to the slower-shifting and stabler-seeming ground of, well, ground. Why not air?, says Gemini with a huff. Earth-water is all. Haynes sets this tension so smartly, completely, convincingly, reason’s earthen stabilizers and uncertainty, wavecrash what’s deposited in tidal pools only to be reclaimed, though to be clear this is just playing at some extensible daydream beyond what Haynes writes, past that edge where the avanc towed the armada in Mieville’s The Scar. Ankle deep wade-in is recalling that I happened to read “Writing Offshore” and The Scar at the same time, when?, maybe twelve years ago. Their syncing up mattered. I don’t think I will ever forget them for being coincident.

I picked up The Homesick Phone Book anticipating a re-charge, intellectual kinship, a sip again of ideas I want to experience again and yet more vividly. We do this with reading, sometimes but maybe not often enough, picking something up again because we do our own most inspired thinking with it, through it, alongside it, from it. For Homesick through me, I am a firelit and alive–younger (transported to twelve years ago when I read so much more…or maybe just so much more excitedly). This time, though, it’s the stuff on addressivity that supplies the sort of trouble I want from scholarship: I am beginning to understand this, I don’t know what to do with this; something must be done with this.

On the note card bookmark I have a scribble about how I want this book to clink boat hull to craggy jut the telephone of the winds, that voice-portal shrine to relatives swept off by the 2011 Fukushima tsunami. The living call the dead (or maybe dead but certainly lost). They chat, catharsis in telephony implying but not quite answering, what if the lost and gone can hear us? I was thinking a homesick phone book would offer directory assistance, some kind of way to understand sublime-extrarational addressivity, or why it’s important to have the right number for a gone. I don’t want to talk to just any dead-departed-lost relative, but this one reasonably stable and identifiable figment. Oh, so telephone of the winds can only connect me to a baggy ephemera mass, mostly memory with touches of other flits and wisps of energy? Is this the only way?

It’s something of a pivot, but whose groundlessness is this inaddressivity? That is, whose un-dialable figment requires foothold? Hmm…what I’m trying to say is, I don’t need anyone else’s dead relative’s number, not so much. There’s trouble in this, the question of locative address for what’s groundless. And some germ of this I hope to carry to Watson in October for the presentation I’ll be attempting there, what I’ve titled for now as “Discipline Going Gone,” on the concept of gones, or dissolution and endings and termini, especiall in disciplinary contexts, unless by disciplinary in October and after manymonths I mean personal. This is not endism, no, but it is precarity-inventory. I hope for it to also outline how gone-noting can aid us in understanding (and perhaps also in continuously articulating) disciplinary fragility. The field’s a mess. Fumblesome af. Something in that willing confusion and its wish, to pick up the slivers of needing this deep and of asking forgiveness (see epigraph), of not finding in a book what’s not there but casting about nonetheless, picking up the phone of the winds, bloop-bleep calling into it, hello?, and asking whether this or that has fallen away, forever lost to waves and sea floor sediment and whale stomachs, whether itΒ (e.g., the still-unbuilt but then almost-built but then washed away hacienda) will be back, asking with addressive precision down to sixteen decimal latitude and longitude when will we see one another again.

N.b. Aphids made it into the title for noticing bug life alongside the barking dog at the coffee place.

Marking the Semester’s Enough

I’ve asked students to write a semester-capping reflection in-class, today marking the end of the Winter 2018 semester at EMU and, with it, the final session of WRTG121: Composition II: Researching the Public Experience. The prompt occasions a letter noting takeaways in terms of attitudes and habits relating to writing, command of language, and grasp of research processes, although it’s a stacked ask insofar as its privileging ground and anchorage qua affirmations of footing, solidity, presumptions of growth that value lodging over dislodging, mooring over unmooring. Another way: might just as well be asking about attitude-habit upheavals, a churn of language, ungrasp of research processes. Whatever of the teaching-learning paradoxes, here are a few of the takeaways for me:

  • Our curriculum moves swiftly from establishing researchable questions and attempting, with the aid of systematic note-keeping, a brief proposal and cursory lit review, next to carrying out a microstudy documented with research memos that adheres to an appropriate research method, and finally to a pair of presentational moves, one in-class (elevator pitch to peers with careful consideration of slidecraft), one at the Celebration of Student Writing. Much of the semester felt to me to be balanced and right-paced, although at the end, two presentational gestures left one (the CSW) lagging secondarily a bit, without enough time to develop it fully.
  • That said, the curriculum remains promising in that there surfaced (for most?) a more obvious and followable connection among an evolving researchable question (or series of questions), sources gathered and annotated in association with the question, the enactment of methods chosen as ways of following rigorously the question out into the world, and the variations on presenterly circulation that care for translation of a nuanced research process into something shareable. Obvious and followable: this, according to students who informally related not having especially much experience with being guided to undertake research writing this way.
  • Our program’s bundle, Understanding Rhetoric and EasyWriter, primes this approach, introducing key ideas and standing readily by as consultatory resources for reminders and support, though at moments this reminding and support isn’t quite enough due to my assumptions about everyone’s remembering these materials as backdrop. I forget to say, use these books in this way (even after reading selections or pitching and modeling usefulnesses at the semester’s outset). Thus, the consultatory function of these books, this semester, seemed to fade, seemed to follow a declining use-trend, when I’d imagined an increase, expansion, uptick.
  • In future semesters, when teaching a class like this one, I may try to do more to poll students before the semester begins, to think together and ahead about thematic orientations. We ventured into environmental justice this semester, but I’m not convinced that the explicit and direct attention we devoted to EJ at the outset sustained as the semester wore on. It felt to me like the most prominent concerns of EJ quieted as our efforts shifted to more tightly tailored research projects; with this is that inevitable tension between the general and the acute, between the frame and the pixel.
  • Early-semester one on one conferences continue to be tone-setting for interpersonal rapport that builds as a semester goes. This practice is reasonably enculturated in the FYWP at EMU, carried out section for section for section, but it’s a practice I’d like to extend with focal intention to other classes I teach, doing more with these scheduled conversations while also thinking about how to keep them student-led and only in minor ways repetitive.

That is it. Enough for forty minutes of in-class writing. Enough to say the semester that was, was. Enough to mark even lightly a few of the details I’ll carry for a while hereforward.

Cabbage, Jicama, Beets

Spiced kraut, jicama sticks, golden over red beets, and cayenne kraut.

Next batches, spice blend kraut (experimental and mysterious, possibly terrible…or great), jicama, gold beets over red, and cayenne kraut. The krauts are half food processor, half crude cut. The jicama sticks are a pay-it-forward to Is.’s schoolmates who after one of her basketball games *ran over to ask, “Can you send more jicamas with Isabel?,” and the beets are a first attempt, ordinary 2% salinity. As for the last round, cayenne kraut was, it brings a briney tear to my eye how good it was now that it’s almost gone. Also did a half gallon of halved brussel sprouts; I’d make them again, tart and crunchy. But I learned that green beans are best with dill and also no, life is pretty fine as it is without fermented asparagus in it. #nextbatch #widemouth