Thursday, February 4, 2016

Thirtieth Days

Still on sabbatical. Thirty days. Work rhythms have been more predictable and disciplined lately. Up early enough, write until noon or so. Out of this, a chapter takes shape--the third chapter. I just sent it off to the editor. Just over 10,000 words. Fourty-eight references. Ten original figures plus the linked-clickable animated index. Something like 44 pages. Embedded notes about "could do more this this" and "could do more with that." Threaded through is a realization that I've been working on this chapter for a few years. And then up next will be a hard revision of the second chapter, hacking away at its extralong bulk, then adding back another 3,500 words. It's basically a concept review: three concepts. And two are done; one remains. 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Thirteenth Days

Sabbatical's rhythms have taken much getting used to. Early-day starts, writing from 6-11 a.m. worked okay for a few days. Then a headcold stuffedcold, a couple of blergy-meh days through which I could justify holding close the couch's cushions. So supportive a couch. And into the most recent week, work obligations, trips to campus almost every day. Snowslop given to rain-washed-snowslop has thrown sideways all outdoor running routines (NNSA: Need new shoes, anyway); the campus pool will have me any time I will have it, and I managed to splash across a half mile or so Thursday evening before Is.'s basketball practice at St. Luke's--the first practice of the season. 

But the writing, even as it's happening, it's the sort of textural consistency of the second half of a bag of whatever brand corn chips, recognizable even if registering as too predictable and familiar and constant a flavor--academic writing wanting ghost pepper salsa (face-melting, January-melting heat to go along with). Sabbaticals have a binge-like quality and I've noticed the sharp shift in a sociality (around writing) that offers solitude and awayness as amenable to productive foci, rhythms, and attentions. Writing group? Yeah, maybe.

Not sure I can say with good-enough accuracy what the accumulative wordcount is right now. A chapter is developing, probably just under 5k words in, with the second half's sections more conceptually clear to me because they accord well with recent conference presentations on turn spotting. And the digital installation--the motion chart--has been in sight for several years now; it wants more data fed into it, but that's doable, amounting to a few more coding sessions. Not that the explanation of its methods and its making, much less the analysis and focal examples require the extra data. The motion chart wants it, is all.

And the week was also punctuated by settling the details for a talk at MTSU in early March, a talk and workshop, both, which I'm looking forward to with the right ideas, the right energy. Disciplinary Discourse Networks 1984/2014, the title a play on Kittler's epochal media archaeology. And not that I will have time to develop the threads to Kittler in any especially explicit ways, it's enough to make the theoretical nod, especially as it gets at methods, modeling, and eras in disciplinary emergence: discourse communities flourished in the 1980s because structuralism (including infra- and post- prefixed -structuralism) was especially upset and churning. Much more to this distinction, more than I'll labor through here (or in the talk, for that matter); suffice it to say that we're readier than we've been in some time to create the simple visual models that accord with insights into disciplinary discourse networks--semantic, bibliographic, affinity-based, choric, career-emplaced, and so on. And particularly for newcomers, I hope growing compulsions toward depth and complexity fetishism (qua ecology fascination-asms) don't entirely occlude these simple visual models and what's especially generative in what they do, the framing they provide, the footings they sponsor, and so on.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Second Days

Second days of sabbaticals. I've known only one second day: today. The fifth. As worklike as day one, with the exception that digressive minutiae are more appealing than before--trimming fingernails, sweeping the floor (not that it needs it but for that one speck of mud maybe, which spotted me spying it as the tea kettle took its sweet time steaming from audible boil to pressure-sent whistler). Trim and sweeeeep. Then back in the chair to do office-chair office chair things. Ever nonmagical, more stylistically cumin than cayenne.

Tried to write with some background music, but that was a Johnny J.R. Cashbust. Too distracting, Cindy. What is truth? No earthly good for getting shit done. For the last sprint, I found some wordless Buddhist harpy strumtracks to cycle through iTunes, and that was enough songburst to get this upticking chapter to--what?--nearly a second section in. Put much finer points on a couple of phrases in the first section (stylistic cayenne!), extending it by 155 words and launched the second section with 906 words (maths: 1061). At daybreak I thought maybe I would blaze all the way through to 1500 and dust the second section off, but no, and it's fine. Dandyfine. I'm also learning to relax about the goals, trust slow and steady and whatever draftmess piles up one day is suited to smoothing the next. 

I regard this now as a banality dispatch, but will post anyway. Oh, okay, so I worked on the book again today. That's what sabbaticals are for. Nonmagical, butt in chair, putting down words that, truth is, range from geez have I been thinking about this for one helluva long time to geez I have no idea on earth what I'm trying to say to geez this is such an old and familiar friend, this idea, to geez is this the best register for warm-accessible reception both by newcomers to the field and by established scholar-colleagues to geez it's happening and its taking shape is not limited to my fingerstrokes/keystrokes only. 

Monday, January 4, 2016

Occam's Sabbatical

Lead-up to a sabbatical, my first sabbatical, has been punctuated by many, many interactions about its beginnings (i.e., when does it officially begin?) and my optimism (i.e., are you excited?) and readiness (i.e., are you ready for this?). To the questions about beginnings, for most of the fall semester, I pinpointed December 16, the day after our department's holiday party and after the last day of meeting for second of the two grad classes I taught. But I was still obliging various administrativa until at least December 20. And I didn't exactly spend much of the break opening the book's workfiles, much less reading or writing in relationship to it. 

Today, finaly, I felt like I started in on the sabbatical. I've set for myself this week the goal of timely rise+shining, up and coffee-pouring by six, in chair by 6:30 a.m., writing for four hours. This morning's work session was a lot of oscillating between shaping and focusing, then generating, then shaping and focusing, then generating. I re-read some old stuff. Re-read the introduction and first chapter. And dived in for the first section of Chapter Three, set down 888 words, though I was only going for a Scrivener-count of 750. It's non-magical writing, clunky and nowhere near as fine-tipped as my thinking, but it is a start on the sabbatical, which is pretty much all I was going for. The rest of the week I am hoping for four-hour morning work sessions in the range of 1000 words per day, aims of having Chapter Three's rekick totally drafted by the end of next week. 

But that's more micro-detail than I meant to put down here. I mostly wanted to note a few of the ideas that were blinking away in the margins, excluded from the writing but influencing at the edges. I've been thinking more about Occam's razor and parsimony--principles of narrow-set scope. This is the razor whose edge sharpens when we invoke relevance, right? Go only with what is necessary; trim the rest. And I was mulling this over in relation to the scope of disciplinary terminology--of seeking just the right circumference for a semantic network, placing a right-sized circle around the web of language. There's something faintly nagging at the foggy juncture between the simplifying economics of parsimony, attention, and noetic vocabularies in any given doman. Not too much, not too little; scales balancing between general and special, broad and narrow. 

I dwelt for far too long on standpoint theory, which I am not using, but which I find difficult to ignore as a means of explaining the vehicular-directional metaphors (partly) invoked with "turns." I prefer to keep turns boiling in valences of tropology and nephology, but these nevertheless contrast sharply with perspectival standpoints, bipedal participant-observers, and careerist-professional anecdotalism rampant in contemporary discipliniography. You can see from that sentence it is just as well that I keep that ish-heap out of this chapter, no? And lastly lastly, I left in a tab the joke about the magician who was driving down the road until he turned into a driveway. I wanted to, but I didn't. And besides, I would've preferred that magician turn into an A&P parking lot--anything whatever more happening than a fucking driveway.