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

Wabi Sobby – Tournament Pick’em Invitation

Time again for the EWM Yahoo! NCAA men’s basketball tournament pick’em – 15th annual. Same as last year, we’re using Fibonacci scoring (2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21), continuing with 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. Take a sip of homebrew kombucha to quell any nerves. There’s no time time for calling your mortgage appraiser, warming the oven to make a pizza, gazing into your half-empty crystal glassware for clues about what tomorrow never wanted to hold.

Sign up! Free, free, FREE, yes, freee to you: join this year’s group on Yahoo!, Wabi Sobby (ID#43578). If you have questions, elbow me with all you’ve got via email at dereknmueller at gmail.com. Invite your friends, frienemies, faux-frenemies, Canadian compadres, Facebook abandoners, wishful critical thinkers, mentors, interim interim interim associate provosts, sentiment analyists, old fashioned pulse takers, motor scooter drivers who have parked illegally in the contact zone, members of Relationshoppers Anonymous, elementary school cohorts, neighbors of Appalachian permaculturists, people who say they do yoga but who haven’t done yoga in a week, distractable sabbaticaleurs, avant-garde tattoo artists, grandparents at the frozen yogurt place, weasel whisperers, assessment specialists, 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: Wabi Sobby (ID# 43578)
“15th annual.”

Firm up your selections any time between the selection show on Sunday evening, March 11, and first tip of the round of 64, whatever time that is EDT on Thursday, March 15.

Join Us in Ypsilanti on March 23

EMU’s First-year Writing Program invites you to join us in Ypsilanti on Friday, March 23, for the 2018 Winter Colloquium. Dr. Melanie Yergeau  will present  at 10:30 a.m., “Black Mirror Meets the Classroom: Neurodiversity and Social Robots.” After lunch, at 1 p.m., she will lead a writing pedagogy workshop, “Disability, Access, and Multimodal Pedagogies.” For more information, contact Derek Mueller, Dir. of the First-year Writing Program,  at dmuelle4@emich.edu, or Rachel Gramer, Associate Dir. of the First-year Writing Program, at rgramer@emich.edu.

Promotional flier for Dr. Melanie Yergeau's presentation and workshop at EMU on March 23, 2018.
Promotional flier for Dr. Melanie Yergeau’s presentation and workshop at Eastern Michigan University’s Pray-Harrold Hall, Room 219, on Friday, March 23, 2018. Free and open to the public. The presentation, titled “Black Mirror Meets the Classroom” is at 10:30 a.m.; the teaching workshop, titled “Disability, Access, and Multimodal Pedagogies,” is set for 1 p.m.

Tempeh 1, Tempeh 2, Starter

First batch of tempeh went surprisingly well, a 50-50 blend of mung beans and hulled soy beans, 1 cup of each when dry, then softened, dried, mixed with 2 tbsp white vinegar and starter envelope.  Thirty-six hours later, a nicely held-together block, nutty and light, suited to a stir fry, enough motivation for a second batch. Second batch was black beans, a one pound bag, soaked overnight, softened by low boil, then drained and dried. White vinegar and another starter envelope. Again, in the folding proofer, positive results in about 36 hours.

With the second batch, I’ve followed instructions here toward sporulating a sliver of tempeh. I cut a candy bar sized chunk from the rhizome-colony, set it back in the proofer, 88F, inside a bowl covered with cellophane. Twenty-four hours later, it’s showing all the new-growth signs of sporulating. Maybe another 24 hours before I’ll remove it from the bowl, set it in the proofing box to dry (for what, maybe 36 hours?), then cube it, blend it to powder, and mix with a tablespoon of rice flour. With this, another new attempt, lentils or chickpeas or a mix of the two.

Tempeh
A gallon-sized ziplock bag inside a proofing box is filled with mung and soy beans that are covered with white mold.

Strong Advice

Car radio piped this one, 107.1 airwaves, return route Ford Road to Prospect from Sunday big box outing,  groceries flying into the cart (fermenteds, quick oats, coffee) and then a four-carts-piled backup at checkout lines, but back to the song: some covers are the friendliest ghosts. A little bit of warming nostalgia, so sick!, Billie Jean, estranged memoriachords, soft glow in the January’s-fine-with-me-since-none-of-it-lasts-long grayscape. Right-timed to go with an equanimity wish, one I almost but then didn’t ask for social media send-up but then nah. Just nah. But back to the grocery shopping: bumped a buggy excuse me and a stranger standing nearby said “That’s how I drive my mini-van.”

Back into the quietude at that hue between the sky’s #EAEAEA and the earth’s #F2F2F2, chicory-peppermint tea with cinnamon stick, teaching preparation and upcoming talk tuning, difficult yoga on the floor in the round.

With Our Fear

Another from Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation, what somewhere has been called series whose figments bear strange shadowforms of H. P. Lovecraft:

“Should we go back?” the surveyor would say, or I would say.

And the other would say, “Just around the next corner. Just a little farther, and then we will go back.” It was a test of fragile trust. It was a test of our curiosity and fascination, which walked side by side with our fear. A test of whether we preferred to be ignorant or unsafe. The feel of our boots as we advanced step by careful step through that viscous discharge, the way in which the stickiness seemed to mire us even when we managed to keep moving, would eventually end in inertia, we knew. If we pushed it too far.

But then the surveyor rounded a corner ahead of me and recoiled into me, shoved me back up the steps, and I let her. (58-59)

Dog-eared, a page and its few lines I at first associated with initiates, treacherous descent, down a squish stairwell, footfalls better lace up your boots. But the shambles memory cast as “I would say” or “the other would say,” a whatever dialogue, both of them knowing forward means down deeper and down deeper means longer back. Or end. End in inertia. And with this it’s not only initiates down a staircase into the unknown below but a tandem pursuit-non-pursuit, a companionable procession whose interruption–please someone shove–they both seemed to be ready for, to welcome when, let’s return, let’s go back up again, it came.

Network Sense

Cover of Network Sense: Methods for Visualizing a Discipline

Network Sense: Methods for Visualizing a Discipline released yesterday. The PDF and ePub versions are online at https://wac.colostate.edu/books/network/. Printed copies should be available by mid-late January or thenabouts, I’m told. A few thousand thoughts, a few thousand feelings in finishing such a project as this and seeing it finally stand on its own.

It took years, first as a dissertation. Later as a proposal and redeveloped manuscript. Smoothings through revisions, edits, design, indexing. And there’s fatigue, gratitude, acute awareness of shortcomings, relief. Whatever else of book-affect, it circulates as it does.

I imagine returning to some of its known limitations, taking those as catalysts for some of what’s next, and to puzzling through the indexing process, what I learned from it, nascent ideas in appending a glossary (toooo many terms under-defined, under-elaborated), maybe-or-not an audio version because open access books can bloom any which way they will.

Expertise

A line from Jeff Vandermeer’s novel, Annihilation:

Perhaps my only real expertise, my only talent, is to endure beyond the endurable. (182)

Said the protagonist, a biologist. More context would spoil it. But the line on its own, that and more from Area X sped time during yesterday afternoon’s eternal AT&T internet repair appointment window, only that the technician showed up to hi and bye with “outside lines are not my thing, I’m sorry to tell you.”

I have one more line (and its paragraph) from the novel to share–about initiation, footing, leading steps. Tomorrow. Or in a few months. At this site’s timescale, could be who knows when.