Sum-Sum-Sum

Figure 1. Bitumen observing “Bitumen on the Run Swing.”

So signals the end of summer “fata morgana” break, 2023, an occasion I mark today with a low grade fever, scratchy throat, and raw-rusted cough crossed between smashberried larynx and tetanus positive muffler. However, I did manage both to get the Virginia vehicle inspection tended to this morning AND double back to the DMV for round two of Virginia driver’s license (round one ending with DMV employee chorus singing “systems are down”), so, yeah, not an entirely unproductive day in the category of administering a life, even if I did lie on the couch for a couple of hours watching old Barker-era Price Is Right episodes, while sipping Vernors and thinking I don’t know how to feel about the fact that many of the people on this program (studio audience, contestants, etc.) have by now ferried across the Styx.

Among the goings-on this summer have been

  1. Emptying the Ypsi condo of its last and not least things, carting them to Virginia—notably 500 miles with a tiny Uhaul trailer on the Fourth of July—and then listing the condo for sale. If all continues to go as planned, it’ll close next week.
  2. With Virginia neighbors, organizing and responding to a proposed rubble landfill that, had it gone through, would have sent thousands of loaded dump trucks rumbling down our too-narrow gravel road over a decade.
  3. Hosting several friends and family for meals and get-togethers, which, while altogether enjoyable, has gradually become more of a chicken de-feces-ing ritual, given that the mixed flock frequents the porch and that each of the six defecates on average (like all chickens) 50 times per day.
  4. Sorting out the critter seal-off in the attic of the upper shed, declaring it hardware clothed at the seams and squirrel free by mid-late July, then moving shelves from the lower shop to the back shed, demo-ing gnarly bird-nested insulation in the lower shop, replacing the insulation and fitting replacement wallboard. Good as new? Hard to say. New was 1987, Sheena Easton. But it’s on track for becoming good as well-used, becoming usable and, eventually, useful again. I also confirmed that the electrical overload issues in the lower shop were from the heat lamps for the chicks in April, which likely overloaded the circuit breaker. Wall plugs are on just a 15 amp breaker, and it breaks irregularly, likely needing to be replaced. But in terms of electrical wiring, the rest of it is all fine bzzt and good zzp.
  5. Adding a 9th tattoo, Bitumen on the Run Swing. Thanks to Janet Nelson, on August 1, I had set in ink the moment when Bitumen was spotted out the window taking a first (and only?) turn on the decorative swing in the chicken run, fiercely leaned in but balanced, pumping her wings for max height, a gathering of that rare intense glee of 1980s recesses when swinging highest was a felt accomplishment and highlight of a school day.
  6. iPad Procreate drawing not as much as I hoped to, but something like seven drawings with a few mock-ups in progress.
  7. Ending a ten year turn as Writing Program Administrator, between EMU and VT. From June 30 through July 20 or so, I put up an out of office response, but then I learned that it probably wasn’t necessary, since I was getting so few emails and anyone reaching out to me by that point likely knew I was WPA emeritus. And this is probably as big of a deal as anything else that happened this summer, though Bitumen’s swinging for outer space is far more tattoo-worthy. It’s a very different feeling not to be sitting in an administrative appointment, and especially not to be suffering the swells of unpredictable and unregulated email influxes. I don’t miss that one bit. The next horizon, though, remains somewhat unclear, but for right now I am working on not leaping too quickly or conclusively into a next-nuther big project nor reaching any grand conclusions about hard-set paths.
  8. Attending a couple of webinars on AI and academic freedom, reading around on AI well enough to form an approach I will be morally satisfied with in my teaching throughout the year ahead, and pacing on review tasks for article manuscripts and P&T letters, though I am possibly overcommitted on these and wishing—again!—that I hadn’t taken on as much. Slow to learn risks becoming “he never learned that lesson.”
  9. And more, always more, forever more: a copperhead the chickens alerted us to the other day but that got away before I could reach it, switching from HughestNet to Starlink so we finally have sufficient internet speeds at home, a few UCW meetings related to elections and expanding the message about how unions chance ensuring that a workplace is good for everyone, mowing, trail cams showing bears and deer and more, grand flushes of chanterelles on turkey slope, two wind-toppled trees chainsaw-chunked and stacked, a mushroom propagation workshop with Gnomestead Hollow, and frequent swims and aquajogs at the aquatic center, especially throughout July.

Goodfine sum, fast sum, blinked twice, blur sum.

Fresh Nectarade ?

A small, black hummingbird perches on a red nectar feeder.
Figure 1. A small, black hummingbird perches on a red nectar feeder.

Spotted last evening, April 12, 7:35 p.m. EDT, first of the hummingbirds returns to SE Christiansburg, Va., draws down the free sugar drinks we set out for such guests. Small, dark-throated, likely to have traversed at low altitude many miles. In 2022, the first arrived on April 10. More settled in unsettled, until they were dancing and diving as an all-summer-long electron field, altering Earth House’s surrounding airspace. #picaflores #hummingbirds #flightpaths #wonderhollow

A Lap at Pickerel Lake

Pickerel Lake, Gregory, Mich.

Go to Pickerel Lake when you can. Let it be summer, if you can. Preferably mid-morning or evening but not peak midday because the tiny eyelet cove will be crowded with like 10 Ann Arbourgeoisie and noisy with chatting and water play. Sounds carry across the lake. Only accessory you need is a New Wave swim buoy, just an innocuous $30 inflatable guardian against sinking, low drag, bright and sturdy on the water’s surface. Clip it around your waist. Wade in with the slow-steadiness of a Taurus plodding motion unbroken. And then make do with a modified freestyle path around the perimeter. You’re not much of a swimmer. Left first or right first makes no difference. The shoreline is all cattails and lily pads in alternating segments. A breathing flotilla meditation and reunion with tree friends at a distance, hi again. They’re not trees you’ve climbed or otherwise dwelt with, quiet there in the surrounds, except when the wind picks up, hi to you. Stick to the perimeter but not too close. Ten yards out. The northeast bend is where lily shoots reach from beneath at irregular spacing. Careful they will surprise you. Tentacled-seeming, those stems know how to tickle or wrap a limb. The swim basic sublime, danger! plant-matter touches land lightly ganglia shock like chimes faintly stunningly dinned and sound-waving from ancestors ninety or more generations ago so lovingly decomposing, dispersed, and rooting for you. After an hour, complete the loop, regain footfalls in sand, primate again lazy towel-off, swig of water, find car to unlock and drive on the dusty way.

Ticker

This was the first summer to have gone this way: plague, medium incline boulder roll, grandfoolish grand-societal re-opening, redoubled plague, steeper incline boulder roll. Who even has the time or energy to imagine Sisyphus as anything at all?

Hey Siri, calendar check please. Since late May–the 26th. I picked a date just to size things up, snapshot tally, to figure summertime with whatever it’s been now that I’m in a week dialed intentionally to pausing–a rest before the tidals of August wash our way.

Since late May–the 26th.

  • 1,415 vt.edu emails received
  • 911 vt.edu emails sent
    • That’s a 35.6% reduction, or interruption rate. I wish it was more like 50%.
  • 3 tenure and/or promotion cases to review. One done; two to go.
  • 2 article manuscripts reviewed
  • 1 promotion narrative and dossier sent in (my own)
  • 67 syllabi reviewed for equivalency requests
  • 106 hours in the ENGL1105 Canvas blueprint–I almost wrote blurprint. Blurprint, indeed.
  • 36 hours in the ENGL1106 Canvas blueprint
  • With much help, the 2020 Corridors program built
  • 2 lake swims; hopeful about adding to that number later this week
  • 5088 words into The Big DATO Guide
  • An OWI session for the CWPA virtual discussion conference
  • Collaborating on the CWPA and CCCC Joint Statement in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic
  • Co-faculty-lead for the VT Community of Practice for Writing Intensive Courses, which has included weekly coordinating Zooms and bi-weekly community of practice Zooms
  • Feedback (accepted with revisions) and next steps on the Radiant Figures collection
  • 1 runner-up (or second runner-up) status for the CID faculty principalship
  • 1 service rotation on Computers and Composition Book Award Committee
  • 10 or so additions to the bestiary

That’s the list. I can see in it some things I’d like to change, some things I’d like never to do again, some things that signal follow-through and commitment, and some things that flag for skewing too too far into the faculty-administrative depths of a WPA position that still feels very new to me. Onward is August’s knowing, mumbling hum, and with August, here’s to hoping sky-high hopeshot, there will be space+time for achieving a healthier balance, like amoebas searching for more podia than pseudopodia.

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.?
  • 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.

Small Stacks

A couple of reading lists, nine titles ordered and delivered to Halle Library on behalf of the First-year Writing Program, and then another pile, an odd-stack, maybe I’ll get to these this summer and maybe I won’t, read bottom to top and top to bottom, shuffled and reshuffled depending on where I leave a copy, depending on what time I have, depending on mood and disposition and weather and gut bacteria, depending on nothing much at all sometimes.

For Halle Library, nine titles.

I am reminded upon posting just the one photo (above) that reading habits run a fickle, snaking course–meandering and irregular, never especially disciplined-seeming except perhaps in their continuing, on-going. Anti-library, nomad-habit, ambivalence, juxtaposition, re-reading, crumb trails, low on fucks or high, intention and purpose or their lacunae, and then add to it finishing up with writing one’s own books, with others or solo, mid-careering, wondering only but so effortfully what’s next and why would this be next but not that. Not the most strenuous May-June ever, litotes.

The Little Mushroom the Englightened Yogi Secretly Stayed With, Untroubled

Implicitly (until now) there is some kind of faint jostling between these stacks, different microlibraries, hints of interest and curiosity washed back by life and distraction, laziness and Netflix, accidental and well-intentioned anti-library, I meant to read you. I really did. I was going to. I was going to read everything.

There’s much missing here, too, another gift, Murakami’s The Strange Library, a couple of books from Ypsilanti Public Library due last night by 11:59 p.m. whose deadline I beat by an hour to renew–a miracle–even though they’re all read, finished, complete, ready for the return slot. Read with greater urgency the books that go back, temporary visitors, ones who would if they could but who cannot stay.

Too Far Flung

Is. practiced hopscotch in the late-day shadows Sunday afternoon. Here the stone skips off the court. No problem. My entire weekend has amounted to a stone skipped off the court, three days of nonchalantly trailing after of the last wisps of summertime: happy hour with new EMU faculty, an NFL fantasy draft meeting Saturday afternoon, the EMU-Army football game, a stroll in the park, a pot of potato-leek soup, a brief errand into the Canton Target earlier today. Minimal exercise. Minimal television. Fall classes commence Wednesday, so there have been a few minutes of reading, revising class documents, imagining as possible the perfect first class session. But mostly, breathing, recharging, and easing summer properly to its conclusion.

Comfort Inventory 7

  • Signed off on an MA thesis today, the first I’ve helped with at EMU. I was involved as a second reader; second readings I did provide. The project suggests that understanding professor rating sites as rhetorical ecologies (i.e., more than Bitzereal situations) might aid institutions in recognizing (and adapting to better allow for) the complex rhetoricity of in-house course evaluations. And the candidate–Good luck!–will be taking up a doctoral program at Tennessee this fall.
  • Summer cold. Phlegm follows different viscosity rules in July than in January: rollicking, splashy, underwater swim rules. My lungs report that the rules are strange, unfamiliar.
  • Two meetings tomorrow, another Wednesday.  In between, assuming a couple of bona fide work days are in store, I intend to massage my temples with one hand and register keystrokes with the other until I have the third section of this article drafted. Third of five. I might have more to say about one of the meetings if there’s time enough.
  • Our streak of six years sharing the Honda Element as our only vehicle ended today. I am almost as proud of this streak (2,190 days) as I assume Cal Ripken Jr. must be of his consecutive games record (2,632 games). I don’t count the 18 months in Syracuse we picked up a free 1986 Grand Am for Ph. to rattle and lurch stylishly between home and school and work.  If you’d seen that car–even better, if you’d ridden in it, you would forgive me this doctoring of the official motor vehicle ledger.  We never once drive it someplace as a family. We got it for the cost of repairs to get it rolling down the road and turned it around on Craigstlist for a few hundred bucks last summer. And anyway, we have been sharing one car for a heckuva long time. But not now. We might’ve gone another route if public transportation around here was viable, but for now, our enlarged carbon footprint will toddle toward cataclysm right along with all the rest of the 1:1 auto:motorists.
  • Is. starts a five-week summer preschool tomorrow. Requires packed lunches. We stood many minutes in the lunch pail aisle at Target last evening undeciding between Dora, Disney Princesses, Hello Kitty, and Toy Story.  And then out of the blue, Mystery Machine. Declared she liked the Scooby Doo box better than the others. Oh, and important about that Twitter link is that it’s from last summer when, after we’d paid and as she and I stood in line for the Times Square Toys-R-Us ferris wheel, she told me in no uncertain terms we wouldn’t be riding in the car with E.T. mounted to it.
  • The Spain-Netherlands match yesterday wasn’t the most enthralling of the tournament, but this year’s World Cup delivered many spectacular moments. I watched more than I should have. And while I’m overall pleased with my second place finish in the Skitchy Pitch FC pool, I have to hand it to WC-OuijaBoard who climbed ranks down the stretch by selecting not only match winners but exact scores, too.