A break. For driving exactly 500 miles. For resuming a paused yoga practice. For making and sharing tacos on the smallest of corn shells. For studying the curls rising from French pressed coffee, French press being the only available in this Michigan spring breaking place. 42°16′4″ N 83°35′39″ W. 61F and a wind advisory because the troposphere is delivering late morning a wall of stiff winter air. A break for punch-listing several work to-dos. For review tasks needing caught up. For reading. For writing.
Nearly thirty years have gone by, but I can not forget that first job after high school, working for Coyne Oil & Propane. Didn’t have any description to pair with it, and I was 17, so didn’t pause to care for long about how the job was defined, what amounted to a do-anything unskilled generalist, some days refilling the windshield washer tubs mounted near the fuel terminal or sweeping the engine-leaks-absorbing clay pellets scattered on the concrete where fleet vehicles parked while fueling. Other days painting lines on parking spaces, emptying garbage, or loading grime-covered empty barrels by hand into the back of a semi trailer, one by one by one. When the weather cooperated, most days involved painting propane tanks. I wrote about it once before, several years ago (“Propane“), keying on some of the flashbacks to that job and how it was set up, the Ford half-ton flatbed I drove when the tanks were in the field and the rickety front loader whose hydraulics were so breezy, to hoist a tank initiated game show-like countdown, racing to paint the tank’s underside before it lowered to the ground.
It was an iffy first job. Minimum wage was, what?, maybe $4.25 an hour in 1991. The beige paint came in five gallon buckets with exclamatory warning labels about its toxicity and how you should avoid contact with your skin, but day in and day out for months my hands were covered with the stuff.
Iffy, too, were some of the situations that presented with the off-site, in-the-field painting. Some of the tanks were a mess–surfaces pocked and rusted and impossible to refinish with the limited tools I had available; many of the sites were heinous, too–tanks converged upon by tall weeds or branches, swallowed up by their surrounds, much of which the homeowners preferred to have left undisturbed. But there weren’t many rules, otherwise, and the only lines of communication were when one of the Coyne brothers who owned the company would receive a phone call of request or complaint.
The drawing up top returns again to the unforgettable excursion to a remote, wooded lot north of Farwell, Mich. A trailer in the trees with an ad hoc perimeter of chicken wire around, lazy-tacked stakes leaning, and inside that perimeter, the 330-gallon propane tank sat stably on blocks. I knocked on the door to alert them to my being there; but the adults inside were gravely ambivalent, vaguely gesturing “go on” without getting up from where they sat watching television. And in the side-yard, in that coop, all around the tank, dead, decaying chickens were strewn about right where the universe had left them–unfed to the point of starving, maybe, or subjected to a weasel’s spree. Who knows. Not the finest hour of my work life, tending to the job, stepping across the piles of putrid feathers abuzz with flies, getting out my painting supplies, pouring a roller pan full of beige paint, and rolling until the tank glistened, there in the shade. Naked or half-dressed, little kids ate cherry popsicles and watched from the window, onlookers almost like at one of those live sidewalk art performances in Chicago or New York, only humbler.
The memory comes up. This time, I drew about it, then wrote a few lines. Grand lessons, I don’t know, probably not. I do wonder if anyone has had to paint that tank since. How those kids are doing. Whether the residents got right with raising chickens and had a better go of it. Coop is of those memories that raises up any time I have a bad day at work. I suppose that’s why this was such a good first job after high school to have, painting propane tanks this way. At least it’s not that July 1991 excursion again. At least there aren’t dead and decaying chickens scattered about the place.
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.
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.
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.
- █ █████ ███ ████████ ██ ███ █████ ███████ █ ██ █ ███. ██████ █ ██ █████ ███ ██ ████████ ███ ████ █ ██ █ ███. █ █████ ███ ██ ██ ████ █████ ███ ████████ ██ ███ █████ ███████ █ ██ █ ███. ██████ ████████████ █ ███ █████ ███████ █ ██ █ ███!
- 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.
Indeed, this is the feeling of Spring Break ending. ‘Twas productive, though not as productive as I told myself it would be.
I am enjoying a few minutes of light computing in the Student Center at Eastern Michigan University right now: coffee, sunlight, email, Google Reader, Fantasy Football results. I try to spend an hour in the Student Center every Tuesday. The weekly, non-essential outing contributes to my New Faculty Continuing Orientation Plan. Basically, the NFCOP goes like this: leave your office every so often, develop a feel for the place. Frequently I run into students or colleagues as I make my way across campus, and we talk. Also, I walk alternative routes, get to know the landscape, the distances. These semi-strategic excursions are refreshingly ordinary, far less in the vein of anthropological scrutiny (a la Marc Augé) than in slow, deep, you-are-here mapping (a la William Least Heat-Moon). Walks less motivated by ground-truthing this "rhetorical country" than in walking, being here.
Reigstad, Thomas J. and Donald A. McAndrew. Tutoring Writing: A Practical
Guide for Conferences. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook, 2001. 1-30.
Saturday morning I was lounging around the living room, looking after Is.,
and flipping channels on the television for a few minutes, when I stopped on
C-SPAN2’s Book TV. They were running a three-hour
interview with Nell Irvin Painter, the historian who wrote, among other
things, Standing At Armageddon, a book I read a few years ago during
I don’t watch much Book TV, it turns out, so I don’t know whether it is
typical for them to break from the interviews to give quick little documentary
segments on the processual nuances for the featured writer. But they did
so for Painter, and it happened to come at the very moment when I was checking
out the program. The up-close look at the way Painter works comes between
1:01:18 and 1:15:16 if you are inclined to check it out via the Real Media file
provided by CSPAN.
Painter talks about the way her meandering process picks up late in the day.
She talks about how she creates, names, and saves her computer files (a new one
for each day, recently), how kayaking "helps" as part of her methodology, how
she writes in books she owns, and how she senses that her home in the
Adirondacks affords greater concentration. There is more: on her
dissertation, on cut and paste, on her use of a thesaurus, on working with
editors through revisions, on Row ("Roe"?), the friendly cat who crashes the
interview, and on how she keeps her library. It is a fifteen-minute
segment with a long list of writerly insights; Painter begins by saying, "I
would not recommend my way of working to others." Who would?
I was also interested in the moment when she talks about how she reads books,
how she develops personal indexes on a separate sheet of paper.
Productive, indexical thinking is something I have tried to make more tangible for
students in recent semesters. I like to hear people talk about it, and, in
fact, even though Painter’s way of working seems like what you would expect of a
historian academic (i.e., there is nothing shocking here), I wish we had more
documentary segments like this. Fifteen minutes on how I work (most of the
time): I’d love to see these for a long list of people. Maybe I am alone in this
Whether or not I am, it suggests to me an alternative the longer,
multi-voiced documentaries of composition we have seen recently in Take 20
(emph. pedagogy) and Remembering Composition (emph. digitality). And I
understand the slim chance of seeing documentary film (or video) shorts become a
more regular feature of any journal (whether online or distributed as DVD with
the paper copy)–low odds because its dissymmetry with ten(ur)able scholarship
at many institutions. Without loosening the lid on that argument, this is
just to say that I’d like to see more of it–more writerly documentaries, that
Friedrich. Discourse Networks, 1800/1900. Trans. Michael Metteer.
Palo Alto, CA: Stanford UP, 1990.