Resolving in 2017

Daughterchild, sonchild 2016 holiday selfie.

So many to choose from, but this is the photo that best captures–hinge-relay–the juncture between the old year and the new, a recent selfie, maybe Christmas Day, back wall echoing in school portraiture their aging, foreground punctuated with their resilience and sturdiness and joy. I don’t know about every parent, but photos of your kids laughing together elicits, elicits, elicits a delightful and lasting effect.

Photo aside, I made a list yesterday, touched it up for five minutes this morning: I am resolving in 2017 more laughter, longer beardgrowth, occasional blog entries, regular running, new tattoo, Grand Canyon, more kimchi, early yoga and earlier meditation, watercolors, heartier alliances, coalition building, political resilience, generosity and kindness, when to habituate and when to digress and when to rest, longer olive branch, mightier dynamite, more olive branch dynamite, cayenne hot chocolate, eclectickler reading, more drawing, bigger optimism, more sunshine, and more laughter.

52 Givers

For Rhetsy, a five2 list of givers whose giving has thinned.

  1. Zenmaster is all out of meditations to give.
  2. Anesthesiologist is all out of sedatives to give.
  3. Basketball referee is all out of whistle blows to give.
  4. Late-season bee is all out of pollinations to give.
  5. Higher ed administrator is all out of tuition hikes to give.
  6. Maple tree is all out of helicopter seeds to give.
  7. Flock of geese on campus sidewalk is all out of bird shits to give.
  8. Pancake maker is all out of spatula turns to give.
  9. Tar pit mastodon is all out of valiant but fruitless struggles to give.
  10. Restauranteur is all out of pickle chips from a big can to give.
  11. Airline pilot is all out of seatbelt sign illuminations to give.
  12. Owner of infant pet monkey is all out of diaper changes to give.
  13. Dry cleaner is all out of wrinkle steamings to give.
  14. Dental hygienist is all out of overzealous flossings to give.
  15. Honorary first-pitch thrower is all out of effortful tosses to give.
  16. Mixologist is all out of Maraschino cherry juice to give.
  17. Once-angry bus driver is all out of resting stern-face horn honks to give.
  18. Dishwasher is all out of soap suds to give.
  19. Local gardener is all out of weed pulls to give.
  20. Hernia repair surgeon is all out of hernia repairs to give.
  21. Bored, lazy rhetor is all out of bawdy tropes to give.
  22. Medical marijuana dispensary desk clerk is all out of open-late snack shop directions to give.
  23. Freshly poured cement vandal is all out of anonymous handprints to give.
  24. Donut chef is all out of old-fashioned glazes to give.
  25. Listmaker is all out of ordered list items to give.

I realize the call invited lists of five; this one, rules tweaked, turned out five-squarish because there are just too many givers giving in the world.

Blank April

  • I’m looking forward to April. Yesterday I was finally able to erase the markerboard above my desk where I list various tasks, responsibilities, and leaden-strum obbligato. Wiped clean, the markerboard.
  • There’s still work to do in April, but it’s a breeze compared to March. Besides the early launch of allergy season, March brought two manuscript deadlines (one a draft, the other a revision), the MASAL Conference, and CCCC in St. Louis, to say nothing of the ongoing teaching of three classes. By some miracle, nothing slipped through the cracks. Or if it did, I apologize and have not noticed.
  • For the first time in I don’t know when, I don’t have any more conferences on the horizon. Blank April, blank May, blank June, blank Indefinite, as far as conferences go.There’s a half-cooked prospect floating around out there for a CCCC 2013 proposal, but I’m ambivalent about conferencing in Las Vegas. The conference falls on D.’s birthday and at a time of year it’s unlikely any of us–D., Is., or me–will be on Spring Break. Plus the call for papers doesn’t exactly light my fire (a common sentiment felt by others, as echoed among at least a few Twitterers).
  • Is. has her swimming lesson extravaganza in a couple of hours, which means families of the lesson-takers all get into the pool for a 40-minute I’ve-not-worn-this-Speedo-in-months splash.
  • Although the conference-coast is clear, another co-authored manuscript is due June 1. It requires shaping and drafting yet. Next week I should probably write it on the markerboard. All of the work–a kind of service-oriented research-in-action–has been done (or is continuing), so its writing is largely a matter of describing and arranging. I should also add the finishing touches on ENGL326 online, a course I will teach in early summer, to the whiteboard, but for now–for a few days–I’m too pleased with having a blank board to so much as lift a marker.
  • I have somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 drafts of things to comment on by the end of the day on Monday (or thereabouts…this might really mean “Wednesday afternoon”). Twenty of them will get 5-7 minute .mp3 files from me, which I record not only to mix things up but also because I enjoy the idea that these audio comments occasionally surface during social events when iTunes is set to shuffle and the audio track hasn’t been deleted. Livens up the party, I’m sure.
  • I’d like to finish three or four books in April: Shipka’s Toward a Composition Made Whole (I’m two chapters in and liking it very much), Mieville’s Embassytown (a treat for meeting March’s many deadlines), Clark’s Supersizing the Mind (thinking about whether/where this fits for ENGL505 in the fall), and Fox’s Aereality (because I anticipate leaning again into mapping and geographies in a couple of projects on the middle-deep horizon). Probably won’t get to all of this, but if I do, oh, if I do. What if I do?
  • Despite the pollen, I will continue running, too. I have a couple of races on the schedule–the Big Bay Relay in Marquette, the Ann Arbor-Dexter 5K. I’m still sorting through what running does, how it is potentially meditative, etc. Lots of layers to this, and the unordered list doesn’t lend itself to much elaboration here and now. I’m also returning to Native Vision (for the final time?), which is held early summer in Tuba City, Ariz.
  • And finally I’ve volunteered (and was sort of asked) to write my grandmother’s obituary this weekend. She died peacefully on March 21, a consequence of cancer(s) whose pathways and concentrations went largely undocumented (i.e., unmedicalized, uncharted). I learned of this on the first morning of CCCC, just minutes after I’d finished a 4-mile run around the arch and also just minutes before a couple of different presenterly/speakerly roles and so felt its intensities extremely privately. But writing an obit is yet another occasion to reflect and remember and maybe I’ll come back to this in a few days to say more about the memories, her influence, about her good great life.

A Non-Scientist Would Say

From Eco’s The Infinity of Lists, a book whose recommendation I poached several months ago from Facebook:

But, from its discovery onwards, eighty years passed before the platypus was defined as a monotreme mammal; in the course of that time it had to be decided how and where to classify it, and until that moment it remained, rather disturbingly, something the size of a mole, with little eyes, front paws with four claws of the kind paws, with a tail, a duck’s bill, paws that it used to swim and to dig its burrow, the capacity to produce eggs and that of feeding its young with milk from its mammary glands.

This is exactly what a non-scientist would say about the animal upon observing it. And it’s worth noting that through this (incomplete) description by list of properties, a person would still be able to tell a platypus from an ox, whereas saying that it is a monotreme mammal would enable to one to recognize it should he come across one. (218)

I say “platypus” far too often to mean something is unfit for well-established schema. The platypus identification crisis Eco explains in this selection is not unlike what happens when, whether or not we have arrived yet at the name “amoeba,” Elkins’ scientist puzzles over how to decide upon words for such unexpected visual patterns. Yet a technical-symbolic complex presses ahead, producing totalizing references, such as “monotreme mammal,” that concentrate, reduce, and mystify a glut of describable features. The move to summary-phrase is efficient in the sense that it reduces word counts and also shrinks audience. This is another way of saying it promotes specialization.

Eco visits upon summaries and lists (thick with tropes in the example above…mole-like, duck’s bill) a historical tension:

On the one hand, it seems that in the Baroque period people strove to find definitions by essence that were less rigid than those of medieval logic, but on the other hand the taste for the marvellous led to the transformation of every taxonomy into lists, every tree into a labyrinth. In reality, however, lists were already being used during the Renaissance to strike the first blows at the world order sanctioned by the great medieval summae. (245)

Summae, not quite in the same sense as “summary,” but not far off, either, in its interest in total coverage. Lists, though, are a different vehicle altogether. What summaries seek to contain, lists allow to breathe, to roam. Now, I’m not ready to say these conditions generalize to all summaries or all lists, but the contain-roam distinction–and much of Eco’s “illustrated essay” for that matter, is useful for thinking about what these abstract forms do differently, etc., and how they complement each other.

Platypus

UL

  • From the National Weather Service: “… WINTER STORM WATCH NOW IN EFFECT FROM TUESDAY EVENING THROUGH WEDNESDAY EVENING…

    THE WINTER STORM WATCH IS NOW IN EFFECT FROM TUESDAY EVENING THROUGH WEDNESDAY EVENING.”
  • All caps, NWS shouting this warning much louder than the entire stampede of snowflakes thundering our way later this week.
  • Who writes weather advisories, anyway?
  • Youngest and oldest and I just wrapped up a Skype call. A Skype or a Skype call?
  • Oldest said his presentation today on Aristotle’s ethics was warmly received. During the call he also sent me links to three poems he’s written for a creative writing class.
  • The best advice I could give him: “You’re listening to Amiri Baraka, right?”
  • Love the line, “You see, we have a degree in degreeing and a PhD in PhDing.”
  • On the call, youngest said, “Snow storms don’t matter to me. I’ll just stay at home.”
  • I said, “For five years in Syracuse we would refer to these IMPENDING SNOW EVENTS as ‘tomorrow.'”
  • Tomorrow: winter storm watch and winter storm shovel watch, Is.’s unbirthday, evening grad class Heideggerring out of the question concerning drifting conditions, and a reset on monthly meeting metering (Jan. was 27).

UL

  • How is the resolution to blog every day in 2011 going? Not too shabby. Not too shabby, at all.
  • Shabby or shabbily? Shab. Shabulous.
  • IHE today reports that distance ed critic David Noble died last week at the age of 65. I read an article or two by Noble in 2004, but I never did get around to picking up his book, Digital Diploma Mills. I should, though. In fact, it undoubtedly connects with work I’m doing lately (and in the semester to come) to shift EMU’s UWC into online consultation. Also, for that matter, stuff like power adjuncting (a topic of fascination for me more than anything else) and, too, the dissoi logoi that for all of our belly-aching about automaticity in higher ed (in the humanities, particularly), there are a whole lot of ways in which we could better adopt and apply automation to some aspects of our work, especially where long-term data-keeping is at issue. Anyway, I live in an Automation Alley county, surely indicative of something.
  • Winter semester begins Wednesday. I am teaching a Tuesday night grad class, ENGL516: Computers and Writing: Theory and Practice (the titular colonpede tempts me to add another segment: 011000010111011101100101011100110110111101101101011001010000110100001010).
  • That we meet on Tuesday the 11th for the first session leaves me no other choice than to assign two articles for the first class. Right? Right! I am mildly concerned the articles will be met with a chorus of “Shabulous!” Besides the grad class, I have a faculty consulting appointment in the UWC (mentioned that earlier) and then a course release carried over from last semester from an internal research grant. My plan is to make this the hardest working semester ever and actually get a couple, maybe three, of these two-thirds finished projects sent off by May.
  • Ph. flies back to Kansas City on Saturday, ending his month-long visit. I guess this can only mean I owe him a day snowboarding at Alpine Valley, probably tomorrow.
  • Will put together a slow-cooker lentil soup so that everybody has something hot and good to come home to. They might be thinking this tastes shabulous, but their mouths will be too full to say it.
  • Last thing: Weird about the fallen birds in Arkansas, right? I mean, 1,000 birds within one square mile? The question I can’t put down is to what extent this is rhetorical–a rhetorical happening, perhaps purely of nature’s precarious course. We don’t know a cause. But then! A school of fish were found belly up in the Arkansas River a few days later, and, according to one report, “Investigators said there is no connection between the dead fish and the dead birds.” No connection? If these are rare events whose cause(s) remain(s) unknown(s) and they are geographically proximate, why assert that they are disconnected? Even if it is too early to identify a causal connection, their coincidence does foist upon them at least a choral connection. Then again, what better than “no connection” and “this happens all the time” to suppress panic. (Reminds me of this entry on dropping paper messenger “birds” during wartime)

    Saw a clever tweet linking this curious event with taking Angy Birds too seriously. I’m inclined to relate it to Twitter, though, more along the lines of subjecting my own Twitter account to “lightning or high-altitude hail.” To be continued.

    More: a turn to labs for answers. Though still no speculation about zombie scarecrows.

Another List

Last time I ended by asking about Elbow’s believing/doubting-game, “Do absurdity and hyperbole gain traction in the predominance of a doubting manner?” I think what I meant was, Do absurdity and hyperbole function most powerfully when we hold a doubting mindset? If believing goes along with things, grants ideas a chance, then absurdity and hyperbole must lose some of their shock effect under those conditions. Believers wouldn’t find them unbelievable; believers would assent (temporarily) in these moments when critique is on hold.

Later in the article, there comes another list even more ramshackle seeming than the basketball-themed chunk I worked through the other day.

There are more personal emotional fears that reinforce the monopoly of the doubting game and which must therefore be explored here. I think we all fear, to a greater or lesser extent, being taken over, infected, or controlled by a bad or wrong idea. The believing game asks us, as it were, to sleep with any idea that comes down the road. To be promiscuous. We will turn into the girl who just can’t say no. A yes-man. A flunky. A slave. Someone who can be made to believe anything. A large opening that anything can be poured into. Force-fed. Raped. (185)

Reading the essay (again, reading to decide its fit in a class I will soon teach), I hovered on this paragraph slightly longer than most because I found it difficult to play the believing game with it. Promiscuity, slavery, rape: here as tropes these are excessively blunt for explaining the risks in preferring one intellectual manner over another.  Because Elbow’s list-work deals out these references in quick succession, I attempted to read it as a dare–a lure configured deliberately to remind readers that our believing has its limitations and that such limitations are often due for direct contemplation (e.g., attending to how hyperbole works on us). The paragraphs that follow confirm Elbow’s concern for believing as an inroads to dangerous ideas–dangerous ideas that the doubting game’s overeager critical impulse would shield from us: “What is needed is practice in learning to immerse the self gradually in the element perceived as dangerous–and it is just such a process that is constituted by the believing game” (186-187).  

Maths of the Everyday

Number of tow truck drivers I kidded with about the snow on Monday morning: 1
Number of blocked shots I hope to tally at this evening’s weekly pick-up game: 8
Number of WC consultations earlier today that had me wishing our table had a
dish ‘o mints on it: 1
Number of students who probably thought it was me who needed a mint: Same
Hour of the day Is. decided everyone in the house should start their Tuesday,
Deepvember 18: <6 a.m.
In epoch
format: 1226988000
Students missing from this morning’s class: 3
Number of meetings I’ve attended this week: 2
Number of those meetings where pizza, sodas, and salad were provided: 1
Number of people on campus who today asked me about being on the job market and
how that’s going: 7
Number of points scored by Team Charmin in the Fantasy Football Week Eleven
match-up: 80
Coincidentally, the number of minutes I strode on the elliptical machine in the
last two days: 80
Of the eleven emails currently in my syr.edu inbox, the number with "writing" in
the subject line: 4
Number of class sessions remaining this semester: 4
Number of two-hour consulting sessions remaining in the semester: 6
# of times I can type "number" in a single entry before I get lazy and resort to
the symbol: 12
# of minutes until I’m supposed to start rustling up some foodstuff for dinner: -5

Grand total: 1,226,988,211

Leafy

Leaf Pile

Weekend To-do-done List:
Raked leaves (more like watched as D. and Ph. raked leaves)
Cleaned garage until it was a car-parkable space again
Repaired vacuum cleaner (belt replacement)
Played two hours of YMCA basketball
Sent off the last batch of preliminary job-app materials
Revised on Chapter Four (one-third of the way through first-pass revisions)
Dropped off and retrieved Ph. from ACT testing
Prepped all teaching and mentoring materials for next week
Fielded one stinker of a Fantasy Football team (now losing, 89-70)
Worked on the Writing Center technology audit
Cleaned up my Google Reader account (dropped 40 feeds to get it down to 80; removed all starred items)

All that’s left is online WC consulting tonight from 9-11 p.m. And maybe one more entry about Team Charmin’s pitiful FF showing. And then it’ll be Monday.