1977. The galvanized skirting. Needing a haircut. Windows plastic-sealed; one open. Bib overalls. Mid-Michigan sand-yard, burrs and ant lions. A galloping form-molded plastic horse, wind-ridden, the gaping, ragged hole in its side (BB gun blasted?) blocked from view. And that sweet puppy whose name I don't remember, a short-lived friend too tightly squeezed, only ever half-recalled in faded family lore as having been poisoned off by neighbors who rented the next trailer over. An almost of rural childhood. #tbt
Is. turned five today, and following past years' re-enactments, we decided to attempt a then and now photo.
Birthday highlights included a chocolate-sprinkle donut from Dom Bakeries, a few hours at Rolling Hills, dinner at Red Robin, and white cake with chocolate frosting.
Credit to an unrelenting case of "advanced pharyngitis," the Winter 2011 semester has gotten off to as wobbly a start as any I can remember. Work and teaching are fine, but nothing after two weeks has become routine. What day is it, anyway? For a full week, it has felt like the guest and its phlegm have been doing all of the raspy, nasally talking. Even as it is now making its final stompy parade across my sinuses, that it is exiting with such drama (i.e., force and turbulence) has made it impossible to sleep, and, consequently, almost impossible to dream about what it will be like when it has parted.
An impressively long and heartening string of birthday wishes poured in today over on Facebook. Add to that a couple of phone calls, a couple of cards, lunch with friends, and an improvised cake+ice cream social with Is.'s neighborhood pals, and, well, turning thirty-five hasn't gone too badly. In fact, it has all in all been pleasant.
Whiled away a couple of hours earlier today with D. and Is. at Ph.'s first outdoor track meet of the year (local schools are on Spring Break). NHS can host meets now that they have a shiny new facility. I recorded his events and times on a crumpled sticky note. Thought I'd better post the numbers to blog before I forget how to decipher the original.
Long Jump (1st) - 19-0, 17-6, 18-4
400 Hurdles (2nd) - 63.5s
110 Hurdles (3rd) - 17.5s
Triple Jump (2nd) - 37-9, 38-8
Like I said, first meet of the season. He seemed pleased with the 19-0 long jump, less pleased with the finish in the 400 hurdles. Next meet in another week.
Ph. turns 18 today. Among my many feelings on this day: That was fast.
I've blogged most of his teenage birthdays. You'll see those entries listed over at the right, in the Yesterblog (the On This Day in EWM History feature). And I suppose this entry marks the conclusion of Ph. birthday-blogging, enjoyable though the practice has been. I mean, adult children can blog their own birthdays.
To make this celebratory entry stand tall among the others, I had to dig for a few minutes in the photo album, dredge up a couple of photos that, for me anyway, span (or somehow thematically encapsulate) Ph.'s childhood. Chose two:
1.) Giddy-up: this one is from when Ph. was about four years old, when my mom took him to ride the ponies at some ranch near Raytown, Mo. Apparently they made a fine time of it. Yes, those are leather chaps.
2.) Scorching the Tiffany Springs nets: here, Ph. is drilling a ball past me on one of the many, many extended shoot-arounds we enjoyed at the Tiffany Springs fields just north of Kansas City (bordering on the south edge of MCI airport). I'd guess he was eight or nine in this photo--the days when we'd hang around at the field until long after everyone else had (sensibly) gone home.
Our dog had a birthday yesterday. I'm not accustomed to holding a grand celebratory event for a pet's birthday, but Is. made a convincing case for the baking of cup cakes (with ice cream) in Y.'s honor. She also made a strong pitch for her own part as Y.'s surrogate when it came to extinguishing the candles. So that's how it was.
If you can spare five or ten minutes, Ph. is working on a school project for his Government class. He has been asked to develop an argument concerned with public policy, and he has been thinking about a focus on smoking in public places: specifically about recent changes in smoking bans in public spaces, indoor and out. This afternoon we spent some time together getting his questions set up on Survey Monkey.
Basically, I'm just trying to help him get word out on the survey, which you can complete here. If you can spare five or ten minutes.
Back in the back porch, Is. now rides loops on a loaner tricycle--a "loaner" because we have generous friends whose two kids are margins older and younger than Is. such that they bookend the "age of trikes." The three-wheeler's a Radio Flyer Fold-n-Go; we'll return it just before we leave town next summer, just before their youngest is ready, just about the time Is. levels up to a small bicycle with training wheels. In the meantime, she rolls self-powered over the pile. Plus, one less thing to load with the other hybrids when we Fold-n-Go.
In addition to this newfound locomotion (i.e., something like "motion out of a locale" or "located/emplaced motion"), our conversations have continued to take flight, too: "What sort of bird is Big Bird, anyway?" I suggested "chicken," and Is. insisted "a duck." "A duck? Really?"
With great certainty: "Yes. A duck."
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.
Linguistically, Is. now comes up with delightfully unexpected sequences: phrases (borrowed from cartoon characters, muppets, us, or wherever), nursery rhyme snippets, lullaby lyrics, and personal observations. Conversation with her is increasingly adventurous, experimental, spontaneous, and thoughtful.
For instance, for the past couple of days, she has sung the alphabet song with an alternative ending. You know the one: "A B C D E F G, H I J K LMNOP, Q R S, T U V, W X, Y and Z." Only, at this point, she switches to "Twinkle, Twinkle" with "How I wonder what you are, up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky." The melody follows; it sounds like a continuation of the alphabet song. What I find so appealing about it (other than the fact that there is pure joy in listening to a two-year-old sing) is that it's a hypertextual maneuver (a protologic of new media, no?) and an unexpected comment on the early development of alphabetic literacy . I'm not prepared to get into Chomsky and Pinker (as I think through this), but I like the way the lyrical crossover introduces a layer of accidental meaning, very much the sort of thing underscored in new media composing. The melody carries, but the alphabet is recontexualized in seemingly earnest curiosity, abstraction, and symbology--for me an illuminating glimpse of Is. enjoying anti-gravity in the "galaxy of signifiers."
Back on the ground: Yesterday we were out on an errand, in a store, and, after a someone (dark hair, pointy hat) walked past us, Is. loudly asked, "Was that a witch?" D. and I had a similar response: carry on, then out of earshot explain that, no, in fact it was just some other patron, and that we'd have a longer discussion of Ahmed and interpellation when we got to the car. Of course, I also had to explain to her that if, by chance, it was a witch, shouting out the question in open public put all of us at risk of being turned into toads or worse. This is, after all, the more compelling reason for why not to call explicit attention to any of the specters out and about in late October, yeah?
"What's your problem?"
Last time on STLC.
Before our trip to Pa. early in July, "paint" was the only "daren't mention" in the house. Since then, we've added "swim" to the growing list. From morning (not before dawn if we are lucky; then again, any topic of conversation is possible in the pre-dawn light during those super early wake-ups) until night, all other requested activities are a good distance behind painting and swimming.
I've just returned from the second awards event in the past week. Last week, the athletic banquet (we did not stay to the end); tonight, academic awards. Ph. collected a Certificate of Academic Achievement in, of all things, English. He was one of four who were nominated by a particular teacher. I have many thoughts about all of this, but the main one: Way to go!
Tonight's gathering in the high school auditorium included:
On the subject of Ph., his school year is grinding to a halt (any sort of academic year that, without interruption, reaches into June is unkind). He has a project in Spanish due at the end of the week: translate a recipe, carry it out, bring the foodstuff to class, and read the recipe to the class. Also, the recipe must include an image of the thing. It's not the best food photography ever (no Petunia Woodbridge Food Photography Award for you!); nevertheless, here is the "South American Biscuit Nougat" concoction he decided to share with the class in a couple of days (sugar, coconut, orange juice, cinnamon, more sugar).
And now I must pack my bags for an early morning jetplane ride so I will have proper comforts for the next couple of days, which I will spend here:
Again it's that day of the year when the calendar kicks a certain Fifth-Fifther in the pants and says, "Get your lazy hiney out of bed, birthday boy." On a Monday, no less.
In response to the calendar, I say, "Let 34 be that year when I defend the dissertation and put grad school properly to rest."
And, uh, yes, that is me on the left. First birthday (or perhaps first-ish; might be my brother's fourth b-day). In the background, a vintage Cootie game and B/W kitchen cabinets made to look like windows to the outdoors (with tree branches, etc.).
I learned late yesterday that my Aunt C. passed away Sunday morning, died much like my mom (her sister) did eleven years ago: in her sleep. Aunt C. was 55.
I don't suffer it alone, and it's yet uncertain whether I will hop a flight to KC for the funeral on Wednesday (or jump in a rental and motor across Google Maps). That decision will be settled before today is up. Mostly I am sad for her children--my cousins, especially so because two of them are in high school. This is an aunt who I was very close to when I was young. She was my mother's younger sister by four years, an RN whose uncanny sense of humor ruled our many hours together in the late 1970s. She was the one who dressed up as a witch on one of those first Halloweens so that when we trick-or-treated the rural farm house she rented and she jumped out at us unsuspecting on her back steps, I was so undone that I fell off of the porch.
This aunt, Aunt C., was the one who crushed up the Children's Tylenol and made it magically vanish into mac and cheese because I would gag when faced with half of a pink chewable. Thinking she'd won because I ate the whole bowl of macaroni, she told me about how she'd backdoored the medicine into my system. Of course, I threw up (I cannot say whether it was out of stubbornness or disgust).
A nurse, right? She gave me the board game Operation for my sixth or seventh birthday, but there was no scotch tape around my grandparents' house, so she used Elmer's glue to hold down the wrapping paper. Do you know what happens when you put Elmer's glue on wrapping paper? Next I carried the dye-leaking package on my lap for the duration of the car ride from West Branch to Mt. Pleasant.
I'll likely follow this rushed panegyric with a lull for the duration of a long, blue drive to Missouri to reflect upon and celebrate her life.
Took in another UU service yesterday morning--part of one, I should say. "Part" because Is. and I stepped out the back and headed to the basement nursery just about the time the guest sermon--on the culturally immersed ways of seeing and thinking (visuality, perception, etc.)--got going. In the nursery, Is. and three other tots pulled colors from paper plates, dipping their fingers and hands into the thick gobs of red, yellow, and blue paint.
As of today, I am no longer twice Ph.'s age. This is because he is another year older, and I am not. 17? 17! I count his catching up to me in age as reason enough to have a second cupcake with blue frosting when I get home later on. But for the fact that I am in the WC all day today--and booked solidly with consulting appointments (more on that later?), I would post a photo of Ph. when he was just a tyke. May he have a happy birthday all the same, even if I don't amp up the frivolity with a humiliating childhood photo.
A break from harsh winter temps stirred Ph. to a couple of hours outside yesterday. Is. continues to be intrigued by snowpeople, so he worked patiently to replicate our family. Before this, D. and Is. rolled up a single "Mona", but Yoki, for reasons known only to him, kept jumping up on the defenseless creature such that its top two segments toppled not once, but twice. At the time of the photo, Ph. was crafting the youngest two in the family; in the meantime, we decided to have them represent themselves since there is so little to distinguish the human from the snowmade simulant this time of year (around here). Notice that Ph. seems to have arranged us by height, which would put me at the far right--the faceless one. At least the blank-faced snowman isn't working on a dissertation.
The arrangement of the photos here is reverse chronological. The photo below came earlier in the day, shortly after D. and Is. rebuilt the first figure after its dog attack. I'd guess that Is. had just witnessed Yoki's second assault, an attack that included the unrepentant gnashing of the stick-arms after he stole them from the fallen torso. Seems Is. delights in that sort of thing. Right, and also standing on the kitchen table.
I just realized these are the third and fourth photos I've uploaded to Flickr in 2008. I'm not sure this means a whole lot, but it does confirm that my head has been in a drift for the last eight weeks. Also, at this rate, I'll be lucky to reach thirty uploads this year. Maybe March will spark some photogenic activity.
1. Step onto the ice-glazed front steps. Slip sideways, regain footing (close!) and, in doing so, aggravate the knotted muscle spasms in the right shoulder region of the upper back--lingering pains of an ergonomically compromised dissertating position, no doubt.
2. Back out of the garage, and, because your head won't turn to the side without sharp pain (see no. 1), smash sidelong into the garbage can that was strategically placed in a blind spot last night by Ph. Blame and cussing (an uncontrolled channeling of my father)! More blame and cussing!
3. Watch with a sigh as the garbage scattered onto the driveway and street, both of which are slickovered with the ice from a freezing drizzle that continues to fall steadily.
4. Ph. to me: I don't know why some of that stuff wasn't in a garbage bag. Me to Ph.: Me neither.
5. Bless his heart, he skated inside and grabbed a bag, picked up the refuse, and jumped back in the car, unaffected.
6. On the drive to his school, skid through the stop sign at the first intersection. Not a busy intersection. Nobody was looking, except for Ph., who, had I been able to turn my neck and look at him, probably was smiling a small smile at the driving anti-lesson I'd put on.
Posting this photo now could be judged days late or months early. Happy Whatever-You've-Been-Up-To-In-Recent-Weeks, all the same.
High, gray clouds and 40F: good enough for a short sledding trip on this, the first full day of winter. Is. is too young to say for certain how well she likes the wintertime outdoors. When I was her age, I was the cold-weather innocent of the family; fifteen minutes in the snow was ten minutes too long (minute one: yeah, snow!; minute two: dang, it's cold?!; minute three: ice-cracking shrieks). Bring me some cocoa with marshmallows! Is. was a little bit like that today, although, to her credit, she never got to the shrieking part and we were also bumping up against nap time.
Spent the early evening with friends in Cicero, just a few minutes north of Syracuse. Quiet, uneventful, decent weather. They have a daughter Is.'s age who was dressed as a pink poodle. Is. dressed as a lady bug. And Ph., he put on the E.T. mask and lurked in and around the front yard just to lend some peculiarity to the routine passes up and down the front walk.
Sunday unexpectedly turned into a small-time festival of pumpkin-carving around here. We already had two of them (pumpkins, not festivals), but Ph. lugged another home from work and was intent on carving it.
"You don't see any police, do you?"
Previously on "STLC."
Is. hosted her one-year birthday bash this afternoon--a sunny garden party with swimming, balloons, grilled foods, friends and more friends, sandbox play, and cake with ice cream. Today's celebration was a few days early considering that she remains an infant until Wednesday, her official birthday. At that point she will make the full transformation from infancy to toddlerhood (toddlency?). Of course, you wouldn't know it by asking her how old she is (How old, kid?). Do that and she holds up her index finger like she left the infant stage in the dust weeks ago.
At almost one year old, Is. prefers the swing to all other playground equipment at the park nearest to where we live. Of course, it's no wonder considering her weight is no match for mine on the see-saw, and the other contraptions (ladders, monkey bars, swinging bridges, and slides) demand more mobility.
Over the weekend I returned to the area where I grew up, country squares (one mile by one mile), flat fields of wheat and corn, and long roads, like gigantic yard sticks of asphalt or dirt drawn at precise intervals across the gridded landscape. Roads that neither curve very often nor change pitch to accommodate hills so slight, so gradual as to be almost imperceptible. Western Isabella County appeared especially flat to me on this visit.
We occupied most of the time before and after the anniversary celebration at D.'s brother's house. An idyllic two-story farm house, it stands on a lot at the edge of a corn field, near a barn. The road is gravel. Cell phone signals are intermittent. Only two neighboring houses are visible, and those are at a fair distance, mere specks on the horizon at maybe half-a-mile. My nieces and nephews (the fifteen of them on D.'s side of the family) played in the pool, bounced on a trampoline, and played various yard games--badminton, horseshoes, and bolo toss (ladderball). Here, nephew K., Ph., brother-in-law E. (from Colo.), and father-in-law D. were throwing a couple of games of bolo toss.
Yesterday, for Father's Day, the young ones dragged me to the Rosamond Gifford Zoo here in Syracuse. We stood in front of the moose pen, while D. snapped a photograph.
It's today's entry (the best entry I've ever written on 6/18, by the way): the posed scene, the photo touch-up, the dramatization of pride in the dad with a head so misshapen as to be considered grotesque, a planted aberrance, conspicuous statement. But when I asked D. to check the remade image and suggest the perfect caption just a minute ago, without blinking, she said something like, "What? I don't see what you've changed."
I started to write yesterday---a teaser about today, the ten-year anniversary of the day my mom died, "I was sitting in a cubicle in Bingham Farms, Mich. when I learned about it." Adjusting insurance claims, helping everyday people recoup from the many bad things that can happen to property. Fire, flood, theft, wind, and lesser-expected events (e.g., hundreds of gallons of fuel oil mistakenly pumped into the wrong house, the wrong basement, a basement without a fuel tank while you are away on vacation, taking in Disney Land while the fuel oil seeped into your back yard, under the garage and the in-ground pool, and filled the house with greasy fumes that spread throughout the place, chemically bonding to the surfaces of your walls and things).
Some days the job sucked.
My dad used to tell me (and, as he is inclined to do, re-told me a time or two since) that you can see into a job by looking at the 50-year-olds who have been doing it since they were young. How does a job wear on them? Are they spry, lively, enthusiastic (or, at the very least, expert and well-paid), or might they, on the other hand, pass for the walking dead? Many of the 50-year-olds handling insurance claims, other than the few who gave orders and managed the profitability of the outfit, were taking leave for heart operations. Their arteries were constricted from all of the stress (travel, emergencies, desperate insureds), the unending grind of humans and their property against elements, accidents.
I was sitting in a cubicle....
When that awful call came telling me she hadn't awoken from her sleep on the 10th, I was stupefied--crushed under those waves of confusion, pain, and intense disbelief. This hardly needs repeating. She was 48 years-old. And the cause, as I've written before, was never settled. Perpetually unsettled, you could say. And, at my desk just then, I felt a rush (among rushes) to act--to tell others, to pack, to drive, and so on. But the phone rang again--before I'd done anything--and I picked it up (in a moment when the world was so completely caved in, it couldn't have been about anything else).
Someone called about an insurance claim! Checking on its status. The scenario: a tractor trailer was parked outside a suburban Detroit warehouse. Its contents, something like 880 cases of Smirnoff Vodka. When it arrived at the next destination, the cargo was gone. Something like $150,000 worth of vodka evaporated into thin air. The policy for the warehouse covered mysterious disappearance. As was customary for claims involving property, I visited the warehouse some weeks earlier, verified that in fact that vodka was not there. Most of the warehouse bays were stacked high with pallets of unmounted engines from the Ford Motor Company. The vodka had mysteriously disappeared. This photo of the warehouse from the day I visited proves it.
The vodka's missing. I'm not sure why I hold onto the photo. I gave the insurance biz 30-days notice and split from Detroit for Kansas City, leaving town before this claim was settled. I'm sure there was more to it--interviewing the driver of the rig, tracing the vodka's manufacturing and shipping record before the goods arrived at the warehouse, even calculating the depreciation (is it appreciation?) of the booze. Anyway, I doubt the liquor has been located after all these years.
I stepped onto the front stoop first thing this morning to get a feel for the weather. Figured we'd walk the neighborhood and needed to factor the temperature into our preparations. I wasn't wearing shoes.
Opened the screen door and went to step back inside (with Is. in my arms). And then I let the screen door shut. Just the other day I switched out the glass storm door for its spring weather counterpart, the screen. Gone with the heavier version of the door was its maximum use of the pressure tube that regulates the door's rate of closure. The lighter door closes more quickly, I mean. In an effort to keep it from slamming into my back and, perhaps, messing up the screen material, I kicked back my right foot, thinking my heel would stall the impact of the door long enough for the two of us to pass inside before the door closed. This is a dance step I've executed a thousand times.
Only today the corner of the door's aluminum frame featured a sharp barb--sharp like the sword of Zorro! Here is a picture of it:
We didn't get to go on the walk. The barb did what it looks like it was designed to do, slicing superficially along a couple of inches of my lower leg before jamming all the way into my heel. A puncture wound. I was stabbed in the foot by an aluminum screen door (still angry because I broke one of the cheap clamps that holds the screen in place when I changed it the other day?). We rode to the ER where, after two-and-a-half hours, they put me back together again. This time it was Mike, not Cliff, who did the stitching. And fortunately, in this summery weather, it's pleasant enough to prop up the foot and let the Neosporin and Cephalexin do their work on the wound, which, I've been promised, will be better than new in one week.
For the record, Is.'s crawling in earnest comes during the same week that Ph.'s learner's permit shows up in the mail from the New York Department of Motor Vehicles.
Today's another birthday for Ph., the oldest of our two children. Mile marker 16, if you can believe it. And despite aging logics, I think he's catching up to me because, for the first time (even if only for a few months) he's exactly 1/2 my age. That's old; coming up on hills old.
Birthday party hats, also, for my Grandpa, my cousin M., and Jen.
While I'm on a roll with news about mouths: Baby-do (who also goes by Goo-goo D) has the sharp nub of her first tooth showing. No. 25, central incisor.
No. 25. That's the same tooth, in cahoots with its flesh-shredding partner, No. 24, who incised my lip Tuesday night. Coincidence? And of course, by bottom tooth, I mean low-down, good-for-nothing ('cept chewing), rogue tooth.
Related: My lip is healing nicely (although I think something is tripped up with the nerves running through the lower lip region. From swelling? I don't know. But when I drop something, like I did when I was putting way folded laundry this afternoon, I get an unusual, almost reflexive, twinge of pain in my lip.)
Here's a shot of cuteness to restore equilibrium to the universe following yesterday's report on the lip. Is. is seven months today.
Also of note, I put the final few words on the first draft of my CCCC paper. It needs to be reworked in a couple of places, but what stands is solid enough for tomorrow's colloquium.
Parental Advisory: Gruesome and grotesque.
Seven fine stitches on the outside and one loose, absorbable stitch on the inside; that's how many I took late last night after a 'bow to the bottom lip in the opening minutes of our "Church League" game. I would have preferred to finish the game, considering that we were less than two minutes in and enjoying a lopsided 3-0 lead over the top-ranked and undefeated team in our division: Wisconsin. Problem was, the glancing 'bow pushed my bottom teeth clear through, puncturing the bottom lip-flesh and leaving a nasty gash. No, no, we lost, 68-44.
D. drove up to the gym to pick me up because I'd shared a ride with a teammate, and our reserves (a total of one bench player) were tapped because of my early exit. D. drove me to the prompt care facility near campus and they told me that it'd be a two-hour wait, so I dashed D. and Is. home so they wouldn't have to spend the entire evening sitting contagiously among the infirm.
One thing I miss most about playing organized basketball compared to playing rec. league is the sports medicine staff. The nurse and physician's assistant (Cliff) were good in their own right. Good as generalists, I mean. But they didn't seem to understand that an elbow had smashed my mouth. In fact, the nurse asked me whether I was sure it was my teeth that created the wound. Next, I had a tetanus shot (this is actually an entry meant to serve as a reminder that I had one 2.27.2007). It was close to 10:00 p.m., nearly two hours after the incident, when Cliff explained to me that he wanted to take his time putting in the stitches and so he would need to discharge three other patients (colds, flus, sprained ankles or knees) before going to work on me. Fine. No problem. Although he did say that he had doubts about whether my bottom teeth had gone all the way through the lip. He thought the cut on the outside of the bottom lip was from the top teeth. Not so, I told him. But he remained skeptical until, that is, he got down to business with the stitches. Clean through, he said. But by that point, I'd been lanacaned and I had a mouth full of gauze, so I said nothing. Next there was a sanitary screen-cloth placed over my face, but with ~30% transparency (CSS as equipment for living), I could see the shadows of the hook-shaped needle and stitching thread. I could see Cliff's steady (hey now! are they shaking?) hands. It was like a diorama of ice fishing, the hooks dipping again and again to the hole surrounded by blue, and I was peering up from under the ice, only half able to see what was going on.
I'll heal. It's no biggie, really. Sure, my Hollywood career is down the crapper, but, that might've been the case before I got bumped. And for the next couple of days, I can whistle in chorus with myself. Still, I'll have the stitches pulled before next week's game, so I shouldn't have to sit around feeling lousy for long. I do have a couple of small concerns about an event coming up on Friday, though. We're hosting prospective students for visiting days, and as part of the program, we have a colloquium scheduled for advance screenings of CCCC papers. I'm happy to be on the list (even if my paper is, as of today, three-eighths finished), but I don't know how the talk will go, given that I'm somewhat sloppy with the b, m, p, v, and w phonemes. Plan A: Remove all such sounds from the paper. Plan B: Just get through it.
When I left prompt care last night, it was 11:39 p.m., approaching four hours since the unfortunate event. Cliff sent me home with a prescription for penicillin. His concern? "We're going to treat this like a human bite." I can resume normal activities, as long as they don't involve elbows, and I can eat anything "as long as there aren't any crumbs." Such as? Mostly yogurt and oat meal, I guess.
Is. had her six month check-up on Friday morning, which meant we learned the new set of measurements. This percentile, that percentile. Head circumference: 35th. Weight: 28th. Length: 49th. Percentiles are a relatively uncomplicated normative system for babies: their first (or second, after APGAR) grades. A kind of IRE (Infant Record Exam).
Fortunately, as of Friday, Is. will now have one set of scores. Throughout the first six months, she had two sets, each corresponding to a different age: one actual, one gestational. Against her actual peers: 15th. Against her gestational peers: 53rd. At six months, we're told, her earliness starts to matter much less, and her development is now calibrated against others born in early August. This means she's being scored against full-term babies. Unfair, of course.
All along, I've been intrigued by the scoring, but not because I get worked up about how her head size compares (I'm probably in the 99th percentile both for noggin and nose, so it's reassuring that she's not yet topping out either of those charts yet). The intrigue, in part, involves the way the chart, onto which the measurements are graphed, shows shaded areas--zones of risk related to patterns of measurable development.
I suppose there is a lot more that could be said about this, but I mention it only because I've been giving it some thought since Friday. It's sort of bizarre, on the one hand, and practical on the other. And, as Collin has suggested to me, an expanded array of percentiles could be the conceptual basis for one hilarious comic. But, until I can draw better, I'll just keep it in mind, and look forward to plotting the new evidence of growth when we let the pediatrician tangle her in scales and rulers in another three months.
After a couple of weeks of barley, rice, and oatmeal cereal, today is a day of fruits.
Snowing lately. Another 6-10 inches on the way tonight. Maybe we'll be out angeling the snow and sledding tomorrow if Is. has her way.
Shoot. I almost forgot. I can't let the day get away without mentioning Is.'s .333ieth birthday today. That's right: four months.
The past two days have been especially, er, babyful in that she and I have spent full days together while D. fills in at the school. I made the mistake yesterday of being lured out into the unseasonable tropical winds of late November (balmy 67-degrees; no kidding) with Is.-in-stroller and Y. on the leash for a half hour walk. At the precise moment when we were farthest from the house, Is. let go with a series of raging shrieks so alarming even Y. didn't know whether to cover his head with his paws or run for help (no, I've watched Lassie; Lassie he. is. not.). Pausing for attempts to console her only made matters worse. Sheepishly and at a quickened pace, we pressed on until home again.
And today. To-day! I will spare you the vivid and surprising details. Seriously, you wouldn't believe me. Come to think of it, maybe this one is best presented in a list:
I've been tagged. Here, then, are those five little-knowns:
Once again, The Great NY State Fair has come to a close. Ph. and I did, however, score a pair of free tickets from our kind and generous neighbors. This morning, on the final day of The Great NY State Fair, we drove over to the Shoppingtown Mall's NE parking lot and then hopped a Centro bus to the fairgrounds for nearly three hours of walking around, marveling at the people and at the sights, taking a few photos (before the batteries quit), and gulping cholesterol-rich comfort foods. Regrettably, we somehow missed the Parade of Goats at 10:00 a.m., and so instead wandered through the hall of vendors which was electric with speeches on the life-changing latest in cookware, dust mops, and foot massagers.
Ph. is two days into a Shakespeare Camp at Thornden Park this week. He and about ten others are working up costumes, practicing for a dance gig, and gearing up to perform it at Thursday's 5:30 p.m. opening of The Taming of the Shrew at the amphitheater. They're not shouldering the full play, exactly, just the dance routine on opening night. And then on Friday, in a small showing for families and friends of the actors and campers, campers will perform Act 1, Scene 4: Petruchio's Country House. Ph. is Petruchio, which means 70-some lines, many of which are used up with badgering servants and fawning over Kate. Come out Thursday if you're in Syracuse.
Meanwhile, we're also steaming into soccer season. He had the final full-length summer match last night, a 1-1 draw vs. West Genesee. Tomorrow night is the summer league finale. To cap the season they play a shortened match against the team from the other division ranked in the same position as them. Second? Third? Doesn't matter much. After that, full soccer workouts start August 21. I took Y. over to the high school fields this morning for twenty minutes of tennis ball toss while Ph. timed himself in the mile on the cinder track (must be under six minutes to clear for fall soccer practice). From there we walked over to the tennis courts for game of soccer-tennis (Socnis? Tencer?), which was surprisingly close and entertaining. It's just like tennis, only no hands. No rackets. No tennis balls. But the scoring, rotations and tie-break schemes are all the same. And we play two-bounce on each possession, so you can settle the ball before sending it back. Just like conventional tennis, minus the tennis elbow: you can play as hard as you want to play, rest for a game, and so on. But it's a decent hour of exercise (we played just one set).
Ah, and somebody brought by a dinner spread complete with strawberry-rhubarb pie for Is.'s one-week fiesta (er...siesta). She had a first visit to the pediatrician yesterday, managed to pack on five ounces in three days. Not bad considering an ounce per day is standard for the ones who reach full term.
All babies drop a few ounces. They tell us that's normal--a typical response to the exhausting otherworldliness of post-utero living. But babies shouldn't lose length. Their heights, that is, ought to be stable and then increase gradually. I mistakenly reported Is.'s height to be 19" (or 1-7 if format makes any difference). But her official height, it turns out, is 17.5" or 1-5 1/2. Nothing much to it. Good news: she's not shrinking. Instead, it was a case of whisper game in the delivery room. And maybe it's also a symptom of my few years handling sports information. Even in my own basketball days, while I never topped 6-5, the program listed me as 6-6. Maybe because I dominated like a giant one-inch taller than me would? Maybe not.
Is.'s measurements were rendered official for us yesterday, the 6th, a full five days after she was born. Yesterday, along with birth stats, her "first photos" finally showed up on growingfamily.com. There you'll find four of the photos taken on Wednesday by a staffer for growingfamily.com who, because the hospital farms out baby photography, wheels a camera- and computer-mounted cart around the maternity ward snapping photos and taking down details about newborns. Growingfamily.com handles the production and circulation of non-medical photographs, and pictures of babies are a sure bet. But I can't understand the delay in getting the pictures to the site (unless it has something to do with stabilization). I know that Crouse Hospital was busy; there were 16 babies in the nursery on D. and Is.'s last night there (not to mention the other tots who were in rooms with their mothers). But I can't figure out why Growingfamily.com waited five days to put "first photos" on "baby's first web page," especially given their efforts to sell "baby's first photos." Given that the biggest rush of interest comes just 24-48 hours after delivery and given that inexpensive digital cameras and flickr accounts cut the time-to-web down to mere minutes, it doesn't seem like GF is keeping a contender's pace, vying, that is, for the sales-due-to-excitement during the most intense hours of attention following delivery. Even if timeliness only meant an increase in site traffic (which could then be used to pitch future accounts with other hospitals), it seems to me like they'd do themselves a favor to upload the photos the same day they take them.
Thinking back on Fourths of July. I remember where I was on Fourths better than any other day of the year (for years afterward, that is). Fourths are distinctly eventful. The older I get, the less I like the celebrations though. Anti-patriotic? Nah. Celebratorily ambivalent when it comes to fireworks on the Fourth. Bombs bursting in air, cinders raining down, the dulled out masses of cricked necks turned skyward, a hypnotic oohing and aahing to exploding light. It's not the holiday; it's the cliched fireworks shows. I just can't get into them (beyond wow, that was something). But I probably sound like a crank. I keep going to them, anxiously watching for the bigger blast than last year and the extension of the show just when you thought it was over. Past Fourths: I've starred them all on this quikmap:
Flashes, memories of 4th of July and place:
Late 1970's: My grandparents' drive-way on Drummond Island. Safe-works, all sparklers and snakes. Grand finale: something tank-shaped that spun and popped. The flowing goo of writhing carbon snakes: wow, that was something. I was into the sparklers, too. Two at a time to keep it dangerous.
1984: Independence, Mo. My brother and I were staying in the duplex where my aunt and uncle lived. Only they were gone to Denver, so our grandmother was watching us. The entire complex of apartments was crawling with kids, the grounds ascramble with bottle rocket battles. Only we weren't allowed out past dark. Too risky. Grandma was a worrier. I think I remember that we tried her nerved by staying out past the first edge of evening. And then paid dearly for it. Still, my aunt and uncle brought back giant jawbreakers from their short trip to Colorado.
A year later? Or two. This time with another aunt. We left Lansing, Mich. and traveled through the night toward Kansas City. I was eleven or twelve. I watched out the car window (a Chevette, I think) for all of the fireworks shows between Lansing and Indianapolis. And then I fell asleep. I was supposed to stay awake, help her stay awake (changing radio stations, chattering on about how scenic south-central Illinois was). When I woke up on the Fifth, we were just leaving St. Louis. The I-70 corridor was a fireworks paradise with bright yellow tents parked at every exit for 270 miles.
1996: Saginaw Bay, Mich. I'd just taken my first job after undergrad, moved from KC to Saginaw, and was handling claims for damaged property following a wall of tornados from Frankenmuth to Bay City. A small cooler of beer, a cookout. Good friends who I don't keep in touch with any longer.
With a hand from Ph., I assembled the crib yesterday. I'd take a picture, but we don't have a mattress for it yet. And I wouldn't want the blog to nose-dive even further into the anything-goes depths signaled by an entry with a photo of a mattress-less baby crib.
Here's my favorite line from the instructions. It wins for two reasons: 1.) It's the only RED (bold and all caps) instructional statement in the seven page packet; and 2.) I read it ten, maybe twelve times and it suggested new and different meanings to me each time. You'll see: "Please make sure that the top of the post is at the lowest position to be connected to the top of the rail of the end panel while screwing."
Give up? I did too. And yet, by some miracle of good fortune the crib went solidly together with no unused hardware and no diagram or action step unchecked (besides the cryptograph above).
At birthing class tonight, the teacher emptied her "goodie bag" onto the floor. The "goodie bag" is a tote filled with odds and ends for the big trip to the hospital: socks, loose change, a coach's snack (that's me; I'm the "coach"), music, toothbrushes, and so on. It's a long list of items. Again the teacher emphasized having on hand a focal point representative of the baby. A toy or a photo of something. And then she referred us to our photocopied handbook which provided these imaginative ideas: "picture, vase, etc." Never in my life would I have considered a vase as a focal point (I suppose it's called a vahz in this case, eh?).
Final thing: Should we be concerned that the baby, still seven weeks from being born, kicks like Aquaman when the ice cream truck goes chiming by? Might be an inherited trait.
Thursday evening meant the first of five weekly birthing classes. Two-and-a-half hour sessions filled up with videos, nutritional factoids, and exercises, all curricularized to put minds at ease. Deep breaths, in through the mouth, out through the nose. Phweeeeasy does it.
We were politely asked to fill out and pin on name tags including the attending doctor's name and baby's due date. And then we sat in a classroom for the first hour, running through the series of familiar-making gestures. "Let me tell you a little bit about myself...." Chalked on the board, important notes:
History of OB
1900's - Grantly Dick-Read: "Fear-Pain-Tension Syndrome"
1940's - Fernand Lamaze: "Psycho-prophylaxis"
1950's - Robert Bradley: "Husband-coached Childbirth"
1. Understand your body
2. Physically and mentally prepare
3. Trust your body
4. Make sound, informed decisions
5. Pack a "tool belt"
Nutrient of the Week
We watched a ten-minute movie, the 1989 low-budget video Hello, Baby. Won't find this one in IMDB. I'll skip over some of the obvious critiques about the stuff on the board; that's not the reason I'm t.here. But I will say that I found it a tiny bit unusual that there were two triangles drawn to correspond to Grantly Dick-Read's century-old research. According to the lesson as told on Thursday, Dick-Read came up with a "syndrome" based in the anticipatory buildup toward childbirth, a pre-birth triad of fear-pain-tension and its antithesis, education-control-relaxation. The pair of three-term cycles were drawn to match with a pair of triangles on the board. The unusual part: the triangles were used only because there were three terms to each sequence or cycle and that they were embattled with each other, even if, as drawn, they didn't initially appear to be at odds. I also didn't know (and so learned) Lamaze was influenced by Russian psychology (including Pavlov). Lamaze's "psycho-prophylaxis," again, as explained Thursday, gets at the idea that the intensities of labor are more bearable with mental and physical distractions--focal points, strict breathing patterns, etc. But are there better distractions than regimented breathing and looking at favorite photos?
For the second half of the class we switched into another room with an open space for various exercises. After an hour in there, the session was over.
I drove to campus this evening. Library notice came via email today: Another patron has requested your copy of.... I needed to collect the book from the office. Right here; I've got your Writing Genres right here.
Next, I had a whim to swoop up a brick of ice cream on the way home. Sweltering weather today in CNY. Drove over to the local P&C grocery store, parked the Element, and walked three aisles of the store before zeroing in on it.
And then I came home, thinking I might have a dish of ice cream and dust off
the blog with an entry about the Pistons or about Google Analytics or about Y.,
the dog. Instead, my inbox set me back with an email delivering tragic news: a
friend was killed in a car accident in
D.C. Tampa over the weekend. She was
a regular at the camp I'm heading to this weekend, a friendly PhD student in
sociology, working in urban schools in the New Orleans area until last fall's
hurricane. Simply a really really terrific person; a quiet, good-humored
colleague with whom I'd taught many a basketball lesson over the past few
Added (6/1): I didn't have all of the details right: more.
I'm not sure what the cause is or who is to blame, but I'm finding it distressingly difficult to find a good dog these days. We're generally in agreement that, should we stumble across the right dog, we're ready to take one on. But there are no mutts to be found, and I have a proclivity for mutts, a fondness for cheap, smart dogs. The pet store at the mall has tempted me with a $900 "AKC registered" pug (it was looking straight at me). But I can't justify plunking down that kind of cash on a store-weaned pup. No way.
I've been to petfinder.com and searched through all of the suitable breeds: pugs and cairn terriers top the list (medium-small, quiet and with attitude/personality). Sifted through the Post-Standard classifieds a few times. Haven't found much. Owners/breeders live too far away (Pennsylvania, New Jersey), or they still want a big chunk of cash because their dogs are pure. And then there's a local agency that places animals in "good" homes, but the screening process is so rigorous that I haven't had time. I'm all for pet rescue, but they want to inspect your property. They want a narrative report on all the pets you've owned and what became of them. They want the name and number of our landlord (who has approved this decision, tyvm). They want evidence that you can fill a water bowl and clean an oopsey without swearing. And so on. The entire system seems constrained, bureaucratized. Don't get me wrong. I understand the solid reasons these filters and protections have come to be standard. But it's so much different than I remember it twenty years ago. [In the picture: Tony, one of the best dogs ever. Price: five bucks at the Isabella County pound in 1989.]
I suppose some of those differences result from urban controls versus a rural lack when it comes to being uptight about free-range animals. Few free-roaming domestic animals in the parts of Syracuse we've lived in. A couple of aimless cats stroll about but few unclaimed dogs. I suppose the same was true in rural lower Michigan twenty years ago. There we could always find a dog. The Sunday paper was loaded with ads. Just place a few calls, drive around to a few houses, and come home with a new dog. It was easy. At least I remember it that way.
I'm sure we'll find a dog eventually, and if luck is on our side, it'll be the right one, a good one--healthy, smart, even-tempered, friendly, trainable, loyal. But I'm still feeling uneasy about the outlook for finding a mutt around Syracuse. There just don't seem to be many. If you hear of one or have other ideas, let me know.
Fifteen years, so quickly. ;Felicidades!, kid.
My title is a direct riff on Pepboys, specifically the store on Erie Blvd. where I arrived with the Element yesterday morning at 7:56 a.m., small-nail-in-tire. I joined the three others waiting for the service door to open so could enter. It's a stand-by kind of shop; I planned to wait on the repair, even after I learned that it might take up most of the morning--"should be no more than three hours...had an incident on the 690 on-ramp yesterday...twenty tire repairs ahead of yours." No problem, I thought. There's a Bruegger's Bagels within walking distance (close enough despite the other bad wheel--a jacked up knee), and I brought along four articles from Cybercartography and excerpts for 712 from Susan Langer's Philosophy in a New Key and Mind: An Essay on Human Feeling. At least three hour's worth, given that I also intended to enjoy an everything bagel or two, make a morning of it.
Bruegger's was all I expected it to be. I found a quiet corner table and worked steadily through the four geography articles, which included Michael Peterson's "Elements of Multimedia Cartography," a surprisingly polemical article on the shortcomings of paper maps, and Mark Harrower's "A Look at the History and Future of Animated Maps," a solid overview of motion in "geovisualization." I was assigned to discussion-leading for Peterson's article for class this morning. Harrower's piece covers the brief history of animation as it converges with mapping--first done by Walt Disney artists to present invasion animations in 1940 (35). I finished the bagels and hot tea, wrapped up the readings for geography (more about specifics from them in another entry) and move on, taking up Langer around 11:00 a.m. I was reading
Now, I do not believe that "there is a world which is not physical, or not in space-time," but I do believe that in this physical, space-time world of our experience there are things which do not fit the grammatical scheme of expression. But they are not necessarily blind, inconceivable, mystical affairs; they are simply matters which require to be conceived through some symbolic schema other than discursive language. And to demonstrate the possibility of such a non-discursive pattern one needs only to review the logical requirements for any symbolic structure whatever. Language is by no means our only articulate product. (89)
when the speaker volume was inched up just a bit. It was a slow late-morning hour in Brueggers, prime for GNR's "Paradise City." Only that reading Langer with "Paradise City" all around...I packed up and walked back over to Pepboys where they told me it'd be another hour and a half. I continued with Langer, finishing the excerpt from _Philosophy_ and reading through pieces of the chapter from _Feeling_ on "Prescientific Knowledge," and the Monday edition of the Daily Standard before wandering around the store looking at seat covers and air fresheners.
The tire was never repaired. After looking at it they decided that it was too close to the wall to risk repairing. And they didn't have the replacement tire in stock, but they were kind enough to refer me to the Goodyear location down the street. And so the much-too-long wait ended; I drove toward the grocery store with the same small nail lodged in the same tire, feeling unlucky except that I'd managed a satisfying amount of reading.
Today makes three decaffeinated weeks. Well, besides two Cokes (one in a restaurant, the other on Sunday with lunch). I can't say that I've noticed a remarkable pickup in my productivity, but neither have I melted into a Caffeine Free puddle of lethargic goop, so that's promising. I suppose it helps that I've been exercising, too, steadily aching through Power 90 six days a week and playing ball when I can catch a break around classes and reading. Basketball didn't go well last week (felt like a benchwarmer for the Atlanta Hawks bumbling around out there), but the P-90 program worked miracles when I kept at it for four months back in '02. Now it's are-there-any-muscles-left? overdue. Also, with the exercise, I sleep soundly. At the rate I was going last semester, I would have required vice grips to close my eyelids at night. Rest, intermitzzz. Forget cliches about burning the candle; I was so juiced on caffeine some days that I was burning...I don't know. Something. But I'm back now. If the blog goes dull or altogether blanks out for weeks at a time, I think I've got a danm good excuse.
While waiting in the customer service line at Kmart the other day--New Year's Eve afternoon--I had time to notice the recall posters taped along the top of the divider behind the counter. I suppose it's a formality--some kind of discount retailer requirement forcing them to post about malfunctioning products that've spent time on their shelves. The line was ten people long; I had plenty of time to look around, watch folks tug apart gigantic bins for storing away their holiday decor, listen to a cryptic exchange between two customers using Western Union to wire cash afar, and read over the fax-blob postings about failed products.
Among the recalls was a crock pot we received as a gift a few years ago: a Holmes Slow Cooker. I used it in early December for beef/vegetable improv. Just about anything slow cooked with salt and pepper turns out okay. Consequently, I cook in HSC all the time. I've never returned a product for recall. Never. But now I'll follow the instructions on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission web site, "immediately stop using the product and contact The Holmes Group to receive instructions on receiving a replacement base." It is a crock pot, after all, and when I looked up crock just now, I verified that it refers both to an open, earthen jar and also to a nonsense message. In fact, it associates etymologically with the Norwegian krake, meaning sickly animal, and the Middle Dutch kraecke, or broken-down horse. So I guess this makes the recall seem imminent, as fateful as the contents of a slow cooker being, well, hot, which is among the complaints waged against the device.
Maybe tomorrow I'll get motoring with the blog again. We handed in the lease and deposit in exchange for keys to the new place yesterday mid-day. Instead of rushing home to pack boxes and get on with toting the first tiny loads of stuff, we rode out to Green Lakes State Park for a walk around the deep green water. Later on, Ph., filling in for a friend with a broken arm, played an indoor soccer match. Full and busy, this weekend. Over the next ten days I'm going for the slow-food variety of moving--slow-moving, carting a couple of loads each day, beginning with books.
Besides the move, I don't have any reason not to blog, so I'll be forthcoming with entries on Tingle's Self-Development and College Writing and a few pieces of Hansen's New Philosophy for New Media.
Took in Ph.'s first home soccer match of the fall this evening, and I nabbed this photo (and just a few others) before the batteries gave up. He's been taking most of the corner kicks early this season, fine-tuning the slight, sustained arch--a pass delivered to drop just so. This one turned into an assist, and the ensuing goal made it 4-0. For those of you keeping up with his schedule, the match ended up 9-4, sorta high for futbol.
Chicken wings were my contribution to the potluck this evening following a full day of CCR-programming--panels and discussions thematically linked to "You Are Here: Mapping Disciplines, Selves, Communities." I'd have photographed the dish (lemon pepper wings and usual hots) as well as the celebrants, but I forgot my camera at home. Collin's last two entries say a bit more about the events of the day; as grad director he shouldered much of the coordination of the day's events with support from J. and many other behind-the-scenes contributors, of course. After such an intensely packed day of conversation, I can't help but reflect upon the quality of the program, faculty and students, and my good fortune at having a place here. It's not an easy time of the year (classes start next Monday) for people to block out a day for a kind of program defrag, and yet, that most everyone turns out, engages, interacts amiably and with interest, shares excitement about the semester ahead as well as oncoming projects validates the feeling I have that this is the right program for me. /near end CCR plug/ But seriously, an annual fall community day that works this well tells me something about the program.
Oddly enough, I'm also wandering dreamily (and sleep-deprivedly) through a bit of nostalgia (on the verge of Bette Midler earworms, memory lane tear-ups, etc....I said verge) from the flurry of old-friend emails I've enjoyed in the past few days. In fact, I just sent two rather long emails to friends from half-forgotten undergrad days, one in KC who I've been blogvangelizing (yeah, P., start one up), and another, M., who just moved from Chicago to Durham, N.C. Explains the site traffic from duke.edu at least. And, yet another good friend--from my MA program--just emailed to tell me what she's teaching this fall, how things are going with family, alma mater and the GKCWP. And so, on a day when I'm energized by the SU grad program and colleagues, I'm enjoying a double-lift from being in contact with a couple of really good friends, some of whom I haven't been in contact with for a year or more. Guess this is just a quick note that it's nice, and that the premise of 'you are here' is somehow amplified in a conjunction of friendships.
Added: Keeping count? This is entry no. 400 at EWM. Commence fireworks and fanfare. Or not.
It's our second wedding anniversary today.
Now only if D. were here!
In the gift column, a second anniversary means: Traditional: Cotton. Modern: Paper. Postmodern: Weblog entry. And so I can print this baby out on some dense-woven from Office Max and call it good. Mmm-hm. What?
They'll be home from Kenya tomorrow night, she and Ph. In the meantime, I'm reading and grading end-of-term stuff, dirty-clothes laundering, dish-doing, and mulling over the purchases I just might make on a long overdue trip to the grocery store.
I should, nonetheless, take this happy anniversary entry as an opportunity to mention that D. is really terrific--patient, thoughtful, sweet, and patient (this could be a much longer list to be sure). We've known each other since the seventh grade (something like 1985? what the hell...20 years?), times when note-passing and three-hour phone conversations helped us get to know each other so well.... (Here, pass this note to D., quick while Mrs. H. isn't looking.) Skipping around parts of the long version now, this is just to say that it's unfortunately common for me to underrepresent D.'s remarkably caring presence when I plunk out these weblog entries (heh, or over-represent her absence...gone two whole weeks!?). Oh, and to say it's good to have an anniversary with D.
I feel like I should have some wine now, or cake or something.
In days long-gone--my first summer out of high school--I worked several months for a propane distributor. The business was run by two brothers, entrepreneurial types. They had a warehouse; they dealt in a whole range of petrol products--barrels of axle grease, high-viscosity lubricants, ordinary gasoline, and propane. After just a few weeks, my duties stretched through the warehouse (sweeping, stacking wobbly towers of empty drums on wooden pallets three or four levels high, and hand-loading tractor trailers with grimy barrels) into the east yard where I painted propane pigs with a second coat before the service crew took them into the field for setup. The tanks shipped from the manufacturer to the distributor (where I worked) in bulk, already covered with one skin of light brown paint. In loading and unloading, the nylon straps would smudge the paint leaving unglamorous strap-marks around each end of the tank. So much glamour in yard-sized propane tanks, really: the bosses didn't want marked tanks holding their fuel.
In that small sandy (and weed-filled) lot, I used an old front-loader to lift the tanks, one at a time, into the air for industrial painting. I suppose each tank weighed a few hundred pounds, considerably more than I could lift if one fell on me. None fell, but the front-loader was so old that the crap-draulic compression seeped just enough air that the tank slowly lowered. Gradually. The tanks eased to the ground. I had to rush to get the underside painted before removing the lift-straps and painting the top side. And the paint was the same dull tan color that the tanks had already been painted before shipping. It wasn't painting to fill a color; it was more precise: painting to match wetness--to fill in the dry areas with fresh paint in the pursuit of coverage.
I never painted more than ten in one day. Ten propane pigs in roughly six hours--no matter whether they were 500 or 330 gallon tanks--was the most I could bear. And there were lulls in the shipments and orders, so it wasn't an everyday routine. I would break from painting to lift more pallet-stacked barrels, even if I didn't have a proper license to drive the forklift. Other times, sweeping. One day I painted all of the curbs near the front office Road-sign Yellow. Another day they had me mow the weeds in the side yard where the tanks-awaiting-purge-and-setup were stowed.
Within a few weeks, Owners decided they wanted to send me into the field to refurbish older tanks on site. I drove an old Ford half-ton pickup around the county, following addresses listed on a spreadsheet. Called the homeowners. Let them know I'd be there. Piled up the flat-bed with a weed-eater, a bucket of paint, a belt sander, rollers and sponge brushes. When I say the Ford was old, I mean it was hovering in that hard-to-drive rut between rusted metal and stuff-doesn't-work-properly. It was a stick shift with a maroon-ish cab. No power steering, and never put it in second gear because it took two hands to get it out of second gear. Into the field I lurched, stopping off at country homes and trailer houses, cutting the weeds around the tank, and painting.
When I think about summer jobs, two visits during my stint as a propane tank painter stand out clearly from the others (put fresh coats on maybe fifty tanks in people's yards that summer?). The first one--a 1000-gallon tank--was on a farm east of town near the Chippewa River. It was surrounded by deep weeds, maybe four feet tall. I made two or three trips to this place to finish the job. The old guy who lived there requested the service. He probably tipped my bosses onto the whole idea of in-field tank-painting in the first place. And he was on top of my work the entire time, constantly asking what I was doing, how much longer I would be. Three days. His tank: so pock-marked--a grossly uneven surface--I eventually quit sanding it (enough!) and went ahead with the paint. Memorably bad--hot, dusty, and rough.
Worse: The 330-gallon tank at a mobile home near Farwell. This was near the end of the job for me. It was a reasonably new tank, small (330 gal.), well-raised on cement blocks, easy to access, or so it appeared as I chugged up the dirt driveway in the half-ton flatbed. Only: it was surrounded by chicken wire, in the middle of a make-shift coop. And! Many of the chickens were no longer alive. On the worst day of that job painting propane tanks, then, I rolled a fresh coat on a tank in the side-yard of a Farwell mobile home while trying not to stand or kneel on dead chickens. On the subject of summer jobs, that's all I have to say for now.
Eight years ago today my mother died; nothing predicted it. Although we never learned the deciding cause (off with causality, off with dogma), it was a defining day that I've mostly come to terms with. The day-marker is like an anniversary; it imposes a peculiar singularity of feeling (a lonely annuity): very few remember the deathdays of ordinary people (even D. and Ph. might not have felt the date had I not brought it up, and Ph. was there). This is not to say, by any means, that my mother was merely ordinary; instead, I like to think of life--perhaps all lives--as small-world extraordinary. The day-marker of death, in its singularity, fails to evoke a broad co-memory; it sparks only a local co-memory, reaching as far as the family. And so this is most certainly the echo of a moment felt by my brother and dad, felt by mom's siblings. Perhaps a few, close others.
I don't have a whole lot more to say, and I definitely don't have the impulse to over-intellectualize the almost. Barthes, in Camera Lucida, writes about the almost--the paradoxical nearness/distance that confronts him in a collection of photographs of his deceased mother. I don't have many photos of my mother, especially from the years immediately before she died. But the few I do possess lend an astounding credibility and accuracy to the experience Barthes describes. Without understanding it in his terms, I was sensing the incompleteness of the image, as I still do, over and over.
According to these photographs, sometimes I recognized a region of her face, a certain relation of nose and forehead, the movement of her arms, her hands. I never recognized her except in fragments, which is to say that I missed her being, and that therefore I missed her altogether. It was not she, and yet it was no one else. I would have recognized her among thousands of other women, yet I did not "find" her. I recognized her differently, not essentially. Photography thereby compelled me to perform a painful labor; straining toward the essence of her identity, I was struggling among images partially true, and therefore totally false. To say, confronted with a certain photograph, "That's almost the way she was!" was more distressing than to say, confronted with another, "That's not the way she was at all." The almost: love's dreadful regime, but also the dream's disappointing status--which is why I hate dreams. For I often dream about her (I dream only about her), but it is never quite my mother: sometimes, in the dream, there is something misplaced, something excessive: for example, something playful or casual--which she never was; or again I know it is she, but I do not see her features (but we do see, in dreams, or do we know?): I dream about her, I do not dream her. And confronted with the photograph, as in the dream, it is the same effort, the same Sisyphean labor: to reascend, straining toward the essence, to climb back down without ever having seen it, and to begin all over again. (65-66)
Early this morning, just before leaving for work, D. stepped in and said she had an urgent message (was it a call, an email?) about a dead butterfly. I was still half asleep, resting up from watching the Pistons-Heat clear to the end of game four.
It's the life of an elementary school teacher, turns out, that some days start out this way, D. rushing to intervene in a grave situation, resolve what to do with the fallen corpse, determine whether to leave it or dispose of it before the kids get to the classroom. As one among many year-end projects D.'s got 'em looking at the life cycles of butterflies. First, a whole batch of mail-order larvae showed up; each had to be separated into its own little home--a feeding cup of sorts with dirt and larva-decor. Then the larvae were divided among the kids (something like two or three wigglers for each of the children to allow for the ill-fated, to allow for nature). In each cup went larva food and a label matching the insect with the student-owner. Next, incubation.
Now, after two weeks, several of the larvae have met the group's expectations for them; well on their way to becoming butterflies, former worm-bugs have spun cocoons, hooked them onto the lids of their feeding cups. From there, D. moved each one to a bigger space--a kind of netted drum into which the butterflies will presumably unfold and flit around. And some die, we've learned.
I don't know yet how all of this was resolved today; D.'ll be home shortly from picking Ph. up from his lacrosse finale. And I'm quite sure that no matter what comes of it, nearly everybody will have forgotten by tomorrow, unless, that is, all of the hatchlings flit to premature overnight deaths (over the next few days). Butterfly death: I'm hopeful for a more encouraging series of events to wrap up the school year. Of course, with a small dab of Mod Podge, it'd be easy enough to tack on a preservative dimension, butterfly jewelry or something.
While I was washing the dishes this morning, I was reminded that I'm unusually guarded about the coffee pot. I'll wash the coffee pot; I almost always do. I'm the only coffee drinker in the house. I brew the coffee. I fill the carafe to the six-cup line, shovel the grounds, click the switch. I empty the pot.
In K.C. we had a fancy dishwasher. It did the work of clearing grime from all the kitchen-wares. But in N.Y., we're back to washing by hand. And Ph., at fourteen, is as good as any of us at keeping us with enough clean dishes to eat. No matter how we arrange our turns at the sink, however, I get an itch about others washing the delicate glass pot, especially Ph. In fact, I often ask him to leave it as the final dish, then I'll wash it.
What's so special about the coffee pot? I'm not sure. That's the thing. It just seems fragile to me. But this morning--first leg of a chore-filled Friday--I had a flash of insight, a coffeepiphany of sorts. I'm almost certain somebody broke a coffee pot when I was a kid. I can't remember who or under what circumstances or what even came of it. Did it crack from careless washing? Must've. Least that's what I told myself this morning.
In turn I associated the not-quite-a-memory with the Twilight Zone episode--"Time Enough At Last"-- where the bank worker, after avoiding global catastrophe because he was in the vault when the world ended, finds himself with a bulk of time for reading. Just Henry Bemis and books; time stood still. And he's overjoyed about it, as I remember (a re-run me and J. watched multiple times on late-night TV, early teens), so overjoyed that he manages to step on his glasses. Without them he can't see well enough to read. Bemis was one sorry dude. Woe!
Because I'm the only one who even thinks about coffee (not the only one who thinks differently about the fragility of the pot) in the house, it's a similar sort of despair that I'm trying to intercept, assist others in avoiding. Interventional dish-washing, as I think of it. Was I the one who broke the pot as a kid? Could it have been me? Doesn't even matter. That it's implicated in my action--in my everyday way of living--presents me with an odd quandary, and I'm not sure, even connecting it up with Bemis, that I'm any closer to feeling differently about it.
Henry Bemis, now just a part of a smashed landscape, just a piece of the rubble, just a fragment of what man has deeded to himself.
Ph. had his first lacrosse practice this afternoon. I don't know what to think of it; seems like the past several weeks have left me in such a haze that I can barely keep up. We squeezed in a brief trip to Dick's sporting goods on Saturday to pick up the last few items--mouth piece, padded gloves and so on. And he's fourteen now. Fourteen? He and D. both had birthdays this month. More than a week after returning from San Francisco, I'm finally settling back into normal sleep habits. And, nonetheless, my eyes are constantly fogged from fatigue. Used up most of today staying inside from the non-stop rain, writing a five-page essay on emergence, sociality and cognition for a class I have tomorrow, and finishing up some required reading due later in the week. D. and I were supposed to catch up for a trip to the bank, but she got waylaid at work, intercepted long enough that we decided to hold over until Wednesday. She has a class on Monday nights; just got notice that she's fully admitted in the program for early childhood literacy at SU--a promising turn since switching ed. certifications from Missouri to New York has been nothing short of complicated. And so without the car, Ph. and I walked to Westcott for General Tso's tofu, two egg rolls and a two liter of Faygo Red Pop. I'd cook, but the restaurant is just two blocks away, and so I figure why not? Plus, gotta get out of the house now and then.
And I heard from the folks at Johns Hopkins to confirm my travel schedule to Albuquerque for three days in mid-June. That means I should get back in the gym and test out my stiff-weak ankle, work it back into good enough shape that I won't be embarrassed in ten weeks. And there's a CFP due this week, and an hour and forty-five minute gig in Albany coming up in two weeks. It's the time of year when I could use a new battery pack--a shot of juice to pull through the last five weeks of the semester, the school year. But no, it's nothing much revelatory, nothing I'm alone in feeling (on a rainy Monday in Syracuse, late March), and nothing I can't overcome just by plodding along on momentum.
No, I really don't have time for puttering around with graphing software, so that's exactly what I did for a brief while yesterday, an insignificant gesture of defiance at my own focus and production obsessions. It is spring break after all, a period of regenerative slothfulness. Yet knowing that I have to ease into slothfulness to avoid system shock, I watched a little basketball while reading, trying to get ahead of the post-break reading load to avoid any related trauma on down the line. It all folds together--the slothful regression, the read-ahead and NCAA hoops--this way, in what I'm calling trails of activation. Just a quick graphic generated by software from a randomized list of stuff from Saturday. I'd offer claims toward intelligibility, but that would require effort and, therefore, undermine my attempts to enjoy some overdue rest and relaxation.
As the semester chugs ahead (unbalanced load of wash? no...that's the sound of Semester), I'm finding it harder and harder to manage the demands and commitments. Oh bore, another lament on the challenges of grad school. No mind-blowing revelations in this, fair enough, but it's what's working on me right now as I think about all that I didn't get accomplished today, a Wednesday throughout which I didn't so much as leave the house (hey it was thunder-snowing and I biked 10 miles w/o crossing the room, so it wasn't a total veg-day). And I get the all the old rules about "read as much as you can," "learn to power-skim," and so on and so on. But it's still tough as heck to keep it all moving merrily along. Weinberger, Hayden White, Ong, Barabasi, brief, predictive-reads on Linked (from 205ers), CCCC paper, perl scripts (wtf?), and something or another "publishable quality" on pedagogy, cognition and performance. And a 30-minute phone call with my brother who's temporarily in Boise dismantling and assembling intricately-programmed, adhesive-dispensing robotic arms. Splodge!
I'm only on campus two days a week--Tuesdays and Thursdays (other than practicum meetings on alternating Mondays). Turn over three grad seminars and a section of sophomore-level research writing on those two days. It's fine, efficient. But it leaves me idling low on Wednesdays and Fridays--barely capable of flopping a home-row-frozen set of key-punchers on the laptop to plunk out any few words, much less reading more than forty or fifty pages very carefully (or interestedly). Began the day today by searching with no end in sight (piece by piece) through a file cabinet for an article from last semester. Found it. It was folded. The only one folded. All credit to me, thanks. Then, in a second-wave ransack of the various paper piles, notebooks, folders (paper, plastic, and digital bits) and cabinets, I searched for a couple of pages of notes (white legal pad...I can see them!) I scribbled down last summer--before the move. Didn't find 'em. Gone. But I did find this old photo of the house I grew up in (hey, you want cohesion, my brother's the maestro of industrial glues, not me). So here it is. The place in middle Michigan where I lived for about seven years, from ~10 to ~17. Must have been J.'s turn to cut the lawn.
In the footsteps of
What time did you get up this morning? 6:40 a.m.
Diamonds or pearls? Pass.
What was the last film you saw at the cinema? A Series of Unfortunate Events
What is your favorite TV show? Family Guy
What did you have for breakfast? Two coffees, toast and eggs (would've done PB&J on toast, but we're low on J).
What is your middle name? Norton (after maternal gram's maiden name)
Favorite cuisine? Berbere sauce on injera. Where's my mail order of berbere powder? I placed it nearly two weeks ago!
What foods do you dislike? Eggplant
What is your favorite flavor? Vanilla.
What is your favorite CD at the moment? Velvet Underground and Nico.
What kind of car do you drive? Mostly hoofing it these days. Honda Element when it's available.
Favorite sandwich? French--aguacate, jamon, turkey, tomato, mayo, mustard on wheat. Hmm. Or ruebens. Ruebens are tasty. And bratwurst--if you'd call it "sandwich."
What characteristic do you despise? Bossiness and arrogance are tied.
Favorite item of clothing? Grey sweatshirt.
If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would you go? Ottawa?
What color is your bathroom? Caramel? Something tannish.
Favorite brand of clothing? If it fits, I'm thrilled.
Where would you retire to? Huatulco or Xalapa.
Favorite time of the day? Now.
What was your most memorable birthday? I can't remember.
Where were you born? Michigan. What, are you trying to find out my password?
Favorite sport to watch? Basketball.
What laundry detergent do you buy? Um, is that for washing clothes?
When is your birthday? Fifth of May, '74.
Are you a morning person or a night person? Switches around, depending on obligations.
What is your shoe size? 14
Do you have any pets? None. And it's very disheartening. Next question.
Any new and exciting news you'd like to share with your family & friends? Miss you much, and sorry I haven't called lately.
What did you want to be when you were little? A tomato farmer.
What are you doing today? Reading, tracing themes, contemplating a shower.
If there was one thing you could do right now, $ is no object, what would you do? Open a restaurant and declare myself head chef.
If you only had a few days left on earth, what would you do? Panic. What the hell happened?
Honey is fruit. Honey is too fruit.
I saw it fall.
Mandarin oranges, mandarin oranges.
Record-setting cold today in Syracuse. Awoke this morning to something like -8 F, and now the temps have steadied at -1 for the rest of the day, according to weather.com's trender. The winter weather warning running through late this afternoon involves the cold air more than the snow. D. and Ph. are celebrating cancelled school due to cold temps; the city school district tends to cancel because of the number of walkers.
I know: cold day in Syracuse--big news. (!) It's January. Actually, I wanted
to note the morning's household debate over the threshold beyond which it's
too cold to sled. See, we live just two blocks from Thornden Park, the largest
city park in Syracuse, inside of which is Thornden Hill (yeah, I made up the
name)--the best public sledding/snowboarding hill around. On the weather report
earlier, the meteorologist warned of a wind chill as low as -30 F, which, when
met with exposed skin, he said, renders said skin frostbitten in 15 minutes.
About that debate: Ph., bundled up, sled in hand, seeking family-wide approval
to venture to the hill, doesn't agree with the meteorologist (who I, more or
less, have begun to sound like in my frequently imitative style). Back and forth
for a few minutes before we decided to let the weather prove itself. Makes me
cold just to think of it.
If you haven't already checked out SouthFlorida.com's Scared of Santa gallery, you ought to. I ran across the link at metafilter and again at datacloud. Moved me to search the PC for this pic of my first Christmas. Clearly I had other matters to tend to, but I was keeping a hand check on the red-suited blow-up. And wasn't scared one bit.
So if you had to do a ten minutes or less talk on Foucault and rhetoric as epistemic and it had to push off from The Order of Things, what would you be sure to mention? Just curious.
Newer habit: fashionably tippling water from a Diet Pepsi bottle. Can't believe the ugly habits that emerge from being stacked-up busy. I call it Aqua Pepsi--free refills at the hallway fountain.
Dodged an Eagleton-Williams one-two on C|culture|s in class this evening. RayWill--for good reason--got the hog's share our attention, but I left wondering whether Eagleton, in his coup de gras was joshing around when he says, "It is time, while acknowledging its significance, to put [culture] back in its place." Hedging, I say. Er, or so I said in hunk of my mini analysis paper. Note for later: bask in Williams' chunk on "The Structure of Feeling" just a bit more. A warm feeling in there.
Tomorrow: Office hours teeming with visiting students (What do you want, exactly!?); Resnikoff's NUC-MLC newsletter from 1969, Sondra Perl on "The Composing Processes of the Unskilled College Writer," C. Wright Mills, "Letter to the New Left," Jerry Farber and Louis Kampf, and MaCrorie's Uptaught; and touching up a few teaching details, as in what next.
On "snooty intellectual debate" (scroll to bottom): check out the letter to the ed in today's Post-Standard responding to new chancellor Nancy Cantor's invitation to the community for a visit to campus as part of the "Soul of Syracuse" campaign.
Ended a seven-year career at the U. yesterday. It's been more like twelve years, really, considering I showed up back in '92 with a rusted Chevy station wagon, a few duffels of crap, a pile of books, and a basketball. Time flies.
Now, I'm technically on vacation. I've still got a few course development projects floating around, a house to sell, boxes to pack, a trip to NY next weekend, a mini-vacation at Drummond Island (Gem of Huron!), and hearty hunk of familiarizing and forethought for teaching and studying at SU this fall.
Nothing much has wrapped up smoothly in these last few weeks. We haven't hired my successor at work, which means all of the systems are rather in limbo--trembling toward collapse b/c nobody's at my desk to hold them up. I'd say it's like force and energy to a black hole, but I was relieved the other day to hear that Steven Hawking revisited his theories on the absolute envelopment of black holes into nothing. Turns out it's not nothing, but something. Radiation. Histories. Now we'll need a new metaphor for totalities of loss. In the meantime, to the hole!
And no, I'm not drunk from celebrating the end (beginning!). In fact, despite sipping down a few Corona's last evening at a kind, generous going away party, I left feeling kind of sober about my departure. All along I'd been looking ahead, feeling happy about the switch. But folks started filing in, eating chicken wings, smiling and laughing, and showing their incredibly warm, friendly best. Before long, we shuffled to P.'s basement, where they played a documentary put together by M. and E., a flattering splice-mix made up of interviews of many of the people I've known, music, video of buildings (like Graham Tyler Memorial Chapel, where D. and I got married last summer, like the Breckon Sports Center, where Ph. hasn't missed a basketball camp in four years, like the ill-furnished offices and classrooms in Copley-Thaw Hall where I sat in graffitied desks while sorting out King Lear, Frankenstein, and Go Down, Moses all those years ago). Which way to look, Gloucester?
I'm not so much down as adrift, reminiscent, deeply affected by the scene of tribute, memories, folks saying goodbye like it's permanent and final. Like I'm off to outer space. Tinges of guilt come and go, too, from the everyday reminders that I'm stepping out of a stabilizing role in a place where stability is cherished, where a fair amount of my day to day work has kept things normal-seeming: web upkeep, news releases, photography, statistical compilation and reporting, hiring and policy development, compliance, drug testing, publication design, event coordination (halftime shows and such), work-study supervision, screening warm-up music. On Monday? TBA.
There's not much of a point to this. It's all just to say that I didn't realize the scale of what I was voluntarily leaving behind in KC until everybody started gangpiling me with memories, hugs, sad faces. Why blog it? I want to remember. There'll be time in the next few years when I'll want to recall July 17, the day I keyed notes about the 16th, when I'll want to jog fond memories of all the resilient friends and colleagues along the way. I'll just click, click, and there it'll be. Right where I put it. And the video; I like to think I'll be able to convert it to .mov or .mpg, so it can fill a place here as well.
We're moving to NY in about one month. Summer is scooting by incredibly fast: goodbye get-togethers, constant (hauntingly constant) house-cleaning and perfecting (as in the inhumanity of sweeping the floor for sixty days or leaving behind nary an item of clutter), out the door on a moment's notice for showings, pet adoption woes. I've even been helping the neighbor lady's mother find a cleaning job so she can get financed to buy this place.
If I ever sell a house again, I'll do things differently. 1. List it FSBO. 2. Register the property on the MLS (Multiple Listing Service). 3. Tack on a flat rate selling bonus for a closed transaction by a specific date. 4. Crank out a few full color fliers and a web site. 5. Price it low. 6. Make sure the exterior is flashy. Nobody makes it to the gorgeous interior if the outside is, as ours has been called, "drab." I've never had a good time in sales jobs or the sales side of jobs I've held, and so I won't carry on about the profession of real estate brokering. But I have opinions now--hard-learned.
Where will we live when we pull the last plug in KC and relocate to 13244? Here or there. A cozy apartment is on hold, but we're still holding out hope for a different, roomier option. Might even take a plane ride one more time to firm up choice digs. Optimizing proximity to campus, Ph.'s school of choice, and affordable rents into one: labyrinthine (that said, huge props to the CCR folks for unbelievable support in the process).
Why else is July a jumble? Replacing myself at work keeps hitting snags. Protracted interviews, lunch follow-ups, interrogations of work samples all resulted in a declination. Got a new stack of resumes today; set another interview for the morning. On top of that, I'm pounding through some of the more difficult challenges I've ever faced with the online courses, their maintenance, redevelopment, systemic supports, core outcomes statements, and big stakes (well, okay, relatively small stakes, depending on how you fight fights) wrangling over enrollment caps in all English courses set against per-student salary structures for contingent faculty. Grrr. It's messier than I want to blog. All blogging is messy? No...I mean Mess-ess-y. Unrecognizable.
All of this stuff--as well as I think I'm handling it--has snuck into my neck and lower back, forming knots, funking up my sleeping habits and infiltrating my system despite any hearty attempts to meditate it away, release it to ease. These stressors accumulate into a kind of sub-affect, subliminal intensity of circumstances, and inescapable duress. So the strain isn't a mood-breaker or a pout-maker, but it has rattled the ordinary patterns I knew just six weeks ago. This is as near as I'll get to putting my cause for bumbled blogging (and lots of other things) to words. And to beat the forces back, I've been studying many of the insightful web sites about stress, where I can find soothing advice such as, "Wear comfortable and loose clothing when possible. Take off your shoes when you can." untying...untying...loosening. Shoes are off. (Will they know if I didn't follow the instruction to "print out this document and read it offline"?)
Dear Dream Interpreter,
Sorry for not writing until now and for sometimes saying aloud that dream reading is worth a pinch of sh!t. I hardly ever remember dreams, but the other night I had two vivid visions.
In the first one, I dreamt that this stupid house never sold--never ever sold. The details are fuzzy, but there were a heap of for sale signs in the front yard. Hundreds of for sale signs piled together, bent, rusty. And I felt disappointment. And it was not easy to cut the tall weeds growing up between them.
In the other dream, I was standing in the lunch line, about twenty people back from the ticket-taker at the cafeteria for Beal City Public Schools. Who butts in from the back of the line, cutting, along with three of his friends? Shaquille O'Neal, that's who. WTF?! I couldn't see his head, but the Lakers jersey and No. 34 gave him away. He and his friends pushed by us and into the kitchen. The end.
So what could all this mean, Dream Interpreter?
Thank you for your very thoughtful spam letter. I read it with great interest. I tried hard, but I wasn't able to make sense of the cryptic word list at the end of your message. The part where you said "splutter blank cutworm" is especially perplexing. What did you mean by that? "Boric magnet budd" is unclear to me, too. But I know you use the word "meaningful," so I'll keep working on it.
I saved your note in my spam folder in case I decide one day to call.
Good luck peddling Academic-Qualifications by email,
Marylou's letter in its entirety:
Sun, 09 May 2004 14:03:39 -0500
Academic-Qualifications from NON--ACCR. Universities.
No exams. No classes. No books.
Call to register and get yours in days - 1 203 286 2403
No more ads: email@example.com
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replicate snuggle australite trumbull boric magnet budd
knick avow saffron illustrious roughish eisenhower pneumatic ethanol anomaly upstate sistine andromeda billow desmond acyclic splutter blank cutworm debt teletypewrite spectral cartography singleton meaningful dairymen chauncey client conform nectareous oaken barium roebuck douglas
Since I got home from work at 4:15, I've been on my knees doing two things:
A. replacing the wooden base molding in the kitchen and B. scraping the nasty
glue-carpet residue from the front step.
Altogether, it took me about four hours.
The molding turned out great, but I shouldn't be trusted with power tools.
The things I was doing with the miter saw, well, they're not appropriate for any weblog.
And I was home alone.
Sawing outside while it was sprinkling.
Our realtor is stopping by tomorrow at 3:00 p.m.
He's going to shoot a picture of the front of the house.
An entry is creating a stir over at the weblog for EN106.
The face-to-face semester ended for me this morning; exams will trickle in from the online crew through the weekend.
All that molding stuff and glue scraping: my knees are swollen like seedless grapefruit.
Resorted to some kind of glue-softening gloop for the splotches of resistance on the front step.
The gloop ate through my rubber gloves, probably altered my fingerprints.
Collin's entry from yesterday inspired me to mess around with a sideblog today during lunchtime.
Following Anders Jacobsen's example, I learned that without succumbing to php, I could create a second, stripped-down index file for the second blog, save it as an .shtml file, then script it as an "include" in EWM.
Okay, so this is horribly unintelligible.
It ended up looking like this.
Maybe I'll grow a sideblog (what for?) or an embedded photoblog (yeah!) one day.
Yesterday, it was switch upgrades.
Out with the two-slotters; in with the grounded receptacles.
Technicality: They're grounded through neutral, but it still prevents electrocution for the most part, so says my brother who showed me how to wire the switches.
Main thing is for the appliances and such to come on when they're plugged into the new switches.
And nothing in the house should emit smoke.
The important election-contest was much quieter today than yesterday.
I was pleasantly surprised to find, upon review, that EWM doesn't have any off-topic, meandering posts.
And only one random picture of dinner.
Tonight, sandwiches: near-Elvis sandwiches stacked with whatever we pulled from the fridge and smashed between two slices of potato bread.
Twenties for a moment: tomorrow would be my 30th birthday, except that I ascribe to the notion that there are no birthdays after 29.
Yes: It is a purple wrap on the broken left leg of a stray black cat who now lives in our garage. Unlucky! Yes: He's been at the vet for the last two days because he was sitting on the back porch, suspending his leg in the air, staring at me, waiting...for two weeks. Unlucky! Yes: The vet told us the cat had been in a cat fight (what cats do this time of year, turns out), and that the cat's left leg was broken and dislocated. Unlucky! Yes: A board-certified surgeon would be very happy to operate for 1500 clams. No, thank you. Unlucky! Yes: He's sucking on aspirin and catnip--the feline equivalent of an Elvis cocktail. Unlucky! Yes: He's been hanging around since January; the vet described him as a dog-like cat. Which explains why I like him, just a little bit. And they dropped the eu-word with a $30 price tag, before I asked, "What, won't it eventually heal?" Yep. It'll heal, but he'll be gimpy, slow, stiff and, well, prone to losing fights. "Maybe he'll learn not to fight." D. and Ph. have been calling him Pepe ever since he showed up in January, made his way to our porch after droppers left him behind. When I picked him up from the vet today, his name transformed homophonic to Paypay. Unlucky! Yes: if I start a photoblog one day, I'll take comfort in explaining less, letting the images reveal their abundant, ridiculous truths.
Here goes nothing. I haven't made time to dig up the specific reference to Marx's "reproduction of labour-power," but as I understand it, the phrase applies to periods of regeneration and rest. Using a much more simplistic model than the one you're building here, we talk about this in my intro to humanities class, borrowing from Camus' contention that we must imagine Sisyphus as happy. Going one more, we take apart the notion that the interstice--the break from labor--defines and even classifies
work (if we're given to taxonomic hierarchies).
The idea that our work is reclassified by our regenerative periods, down time, or leisure, dismantles the common economic t-chart of production and service by preferring the antithetical--the doing that's done when we're not producing-serving. Because our occupations with teaching and learning through reading and writing are concerned with text (broad, widely imagined ensembles of texts, in this case), we are never separate from it or otherwise outside it. And the materiality of such text(s) is irregular, I guess.
Following a long-accepted model of continuous exertion (eight-ten hours, say) followed by continuous regeneration (or "reproduction of labour-power"), "text" has a commonplace association with leisure. Reading, writing, noticing (noscere-to get to know?), mediating, and so on are done solely for pleasure, leisure. This is a gross simplification, of course. But in composition, the exertion of labour-power and its reproduction are intertwined, irregular to the extent that separations are not easy to share or to make visible. Our occupation isn't merely those three hours in class or the 8-430 scuttle. I'm feeling vertiginous (can you tell I'm going in circles already?). What I want to suggest is that with texts at the center of our work, we are burdened by the economic pressure to make texts material (publishing is privileged); but, moreover, we're charged with empowering students to those textualisms, opening discreet discourse systems, fostering agency, transgression, compliance, etc., in language.
This leads me to suppose that reading is not always consumptive; in fact, I'd be more inclined to say that it's always productive, always reproductive, always generative, always regenerative. As is writing. I wonder if that's the "opportunity cost" for comp/rhetors--the constancy of language, the challenge of negotiating between leisure and laborious in after-hours (?) textual interludes, and the trouble proving the legitimacy and value of this bind to those who can't see beyond the more traditional, pervasive economic work-structure and the more common relegation of text as rest in it.
Dashing off to class in a few minutes; feel like I'd have more time to compose myself at oneword [via Dr. B's Blog]. Still working on the Point/PowerPoint sequence, so maybe I should prefer this format:
None of these are suited to PowerPoint; the words are hopelessly effluent in the blogspace. Now to drum up some fresh roasted.
Notice: this is a buttered toast entry whose rhetorical purpose is to displace the hallucinations and ramblings slung up by dmueller. Good thing that's not the name of this blog's owner and chief operator. Who hacked my site and posted that picture of Bart Simpson? I want answers!
But I'd settle for comments. See, crowds make me nervous, and, for some reason or another, Earth Wide Moth is getting unprecedented traffic lately. Smart mobs? There's no evidence anyone's reading here; but the visitors are sliding through. Browsers are picking it up, putting it to the screen. So, I concocted a plan to insert this buttered toast entry--a defensive displacer entry meant to float an unseemly entry lower on the page. Maybe we should call it a marshmallow entry or mallow entry for short. I haven't done my homework on whether this kind of entry has been named before, and I don't have time to explore b/c I gotta bury yesterday's entry right away. (You're only as bloggy as your last entry!)
Just a few more lines and this entry will have fully served its purpose by filing yesterday's entry into the obscure #2 slot. That said, I am pleading with you, do not scroll the bar and do not turn the page. Do not read any previous entries in this blog. You've been warned!
Why do they call it March Madness? Well, here's a traditional-historical explanation. For me, 1.) it's March, and 2.) I'm mad because CBS' eye just blinked over to St. Joseph's-Wake Forest, abandoning the better game in Phoenix where the good SU Orange are grappling with Alabama, down 29-24. What? Wake Forest and St. Joseph's are more regionally relevant in Kansas City? C'mon.
Getting very very different reports from C's in San Antonio. I'm still trying to figure out how Collin got the margarita glass to pose for the photo. (Gratitude to all the bloggers opening the conference, capturing its full grandeur).
LitraCon: Luminance and hope for anyone stuck in a windowless, basement office [via join-the-dots]. It's not glass block, exactly; quite a concept though. Should we be worried that walls will be invisible? Moves toward paperless, mobile tech, and invisibility got me trembling about finding my way around. In a few years, I'll be able to drape one of these over my confused and disoriented.
Web search by social-subjective association: Stumbleupon:
We are a community-based, word-of-mouth approach to websurfing--pages you "stumble upon" come from like-minded people who share your interests. Add the Toolbar, choose some topics and click Stumble! You'll meet people who like your favorite sites as you discover the best of the web.
I'll have to give this a try one of these days. Kinda like web searching with a posse. Only that bit about like-minded people. Humdy-dum. And what exactly is the winding green thingy in the logo? A rope? A tentacle? Jill's just beginning to try it out. [via jill/txt]
The vehicle, god, as it turns up on U.S. currency, in public oaths and in the pledge of allegiance faces the tap-tap of the Supreme Court's gavel today. Self-declared atheist Michael Newdow has sued, not for damages, but for removal. Since the tenor of god rings variously in the pledge and elsewhere, summoning associations from The Omnipotent Creator to soul-force to the authority of the democratic state to George Burns at his cigar-dragging finest (did you see that one?), I think the Court could suggest a compromise: prefer the lower case. Without god in the pledge, what else could one nation be under? Mustn't it be under something (other than Canada)? Or is the state now above all else, supreme, global, ever-present?
If the lower case compromise doesn't work, perhaps we could move for a homophone such as gawd or ghad. Yeah, that'd be progress toward the philosophical differentiation. But what would it change? Meaning? God is on the dollar bill in my wallet, but it's not on my ATM card or monthly statement or paycheck receipt--all of which bear authority, currency, faith in shared value. And this is where I'll stop, since I'm not so much trying to play out anything insightful about the god debacle as I am trying to distract myself from not being in San Antonio for C's. *I will not think of C's. I will not think of C's.* Kvetch-blog, therapeutic. In all honesty, I was just trying to use a few interesting and new (for me) terms from Richards' chapter on metaphor: vehicle, tenor and adequated (as in, a metaphor deadened for carrying only one idea, at which moment it ceases to be a metaphor). If not for this blog, I would keep it all to myself.
I've been w|o/a|ndering through a couple of software experiments. Eyes are fogging up from staring at the glow-box too intently. First, I was playing around with Scribe, hot off download. At the basement-bottom price of *free* it beats the heck out of Endnote in cost comparison. I haven't used Scribe for longer than about 30 minutes, but it seems a bit clunky (okay, so it's probably me who's clunky...could be). I've read the rave reviews of Endnote, and I can get a student version for 99 bucks at journeyed.com--except that I'm not formally, officially a student right now. The full version costs a bit more for non-students, and maybe it's worth it. Who knows? Trying to plan ahead, brush up with software built to support regimens of reading, note-taking, writing. I'll download the trial version of Endnote later this week or next, give it a whirl.
Since Mike mentioned it a few days ago, I've been intent on looking into what it means to syndicate a site, to channel its content into a single herd-gate. I've also been playing around with different RSS feed-readers, exploring the difference between synchronized, pooled entries and the method I've been using to date, whereby I jump from site to site by following links. It's too early to tell which approach I prefer, but they strike me as considerably distinct processes. After I messed around with Pluck, a browser-side feed-reader, and Feedster, a server-side feed-reader, I was impressed by the convenience of gathering and sorting entries. Haven't decided whether I'll stick to the feed method. It doesn't accommodate some of the sites I follow with interest, such as John's writing at Jocalo, Dr. B's Blog (which I couldn't get to syndicate), and the new C&C Weblog.
ABC is airing Tom Hanks' flick where the FedEx executive splashes tragically into the South Pacific where he idles away several years with a volleyball as his only friend. It's a somber film--one I like for simple reasons: water dripping from the broken pager, the hullabaloo of corporate-career resuscitation when he returns from the isolated isle, the varied, impractical contents of the FedEx packages. It's easy to watch, easier if there weren't any commercial interruptions. To keep my media noise at a sufficiently entertaining level for a Saturday night working on course stuff (D. on her lesson plans, me on some web things, Ph. in bed at 9:30), I put on Rhythm of the Saints kind of low. It's been a wild party ever since.
On the plane Monday night (yeah, that trip, the one still at the front of my mind), I could see the variously shaped clusters of lights, towns and cities mapped by their luminance--a kind of social electricity, grouped filaments graphing the housing patterns of the northeastern American landscape. I was sitting in 1A, front and left in a row of one (service space for the attendant on my right, compartments for sodas and pretzel sticks in tiny bags); it was a Continental puddle-skipper, a low-flying model, which was nice because I could stare out the window and see more than the topsides of cloudvapor. Staring, I got thinking about the selfishness of my aspirations to take up a rigorous, demanding phd program. Like so much sudden turbulence, I felt a shudder of sadness followed by a wave of dread. I remembered telling Ph. that turbulence is normal when last we jetted as a family: to Detroit last Thanksgiving. And so it is.
To distract myself from a melancholy-mood hiccup, I pulled out the courtesy magazines. Sky Mall. Evacuation card. Oh, and what've we here? Technology Review (note: crap link--all for subscribers--cha-ching.). I started on the article called "10 Emerging Technologies That Will Change the World." Fair enough. I leafed through the profiles. The one that interested me most (no. 6?) was about bio-programming--using computer programming techniques to condition cell behavior. I guess it takes only a few chemical impulses and RNA encoding to get cells to form cell communities able to aid the normal functioning of the human organism. The short profile made all of this sound cyborg-ish, like there are fewer degrees of separation between humans and computers than there've ever been before, especially now that the human genome has been mapped and most cellular behavior can be neatly coded. Soon we'll have comparative genome assessments that will inform us about our predilections toward all kinds of things, and not long after that, we might be able to affect those probabilities (er, certainties?). I don't know a whole lot about how all of this comes together, but I am intrigued by the way cell behavior patterns are discussed like human behavior patterns. In fact, the descriptions of programmed cell communities and, elsewhere, synthetic gene networks (PDF) bear a surprisingly clear reverberation to emerging conversations about weblogs as social network construction (are weblogs programming humans into discrete, selectively knowing/performing/associative groups?). Timeout. I'm just wondering about all of this, watching what's taking shape at Network(ed) Rhetorics, and trying to play through some of it here. No conclusions tonight. Mad TV is on. In case that stinks, SNL is on, too.
Read and respond to project prospectuses from online introduction to humanities. | Lunch meeting over bad news about royalties and CMS contract bids.| Taxes. Taxes. Taxes. | Mini-pizza; ham and pimentoed green olives. | What are you playing with? What is that sound? | Many of the HU211 students are choosing option I: Invitation to document human actuality fueled by R. Coles. | Options II--Crazy Dance and III--Humanities (e)Notebook have been much more popular in past terms. Odd. | Puzzling over blogging standards. Not because I'm a grammar hound but because I want the writing there to be done with care. | Stampede Blue versus Lakers tonight at 7:00 p.m. with you know who as acting coach. [Extra: L, 20-17. Yes, it is basketball. Defense first!] | Dinner's ready. Do you want anything to drink? Ice water, please. Ice water.
Blogging to a trickle this week. Deepdeepfloodload of stuff to do. A bobbing head in an ocean of information. You know?
During a 4.5 hour meeting today, I daydreamed for just a few minutes about this:
One | Phillip has teamed up with a friend for a social studies project: a two-page essay and a model of the Colosseum (then or now?). Due Wednesday. Rome wasn't built in a day. Fine. But can a replica of one bit of Rome (clay, tooth picks, styrofoam!) come together in 1.5 days? Working like
fine modern architects, they've planned, plotted for two weeks, then forced the material
"making" into the final 36 hours. I, for one, feel worn down by school projects. I vowed to take on a lesser role ever since
our salt dough map of Missouri (delivered in a Papa Johns box, greenish-dough-hardened with flags and labels, Ozark Mountains and so on) scored a
Dream-thought Two | Finished reading Winterson's Sexing the Cherry on Saturday. Slow for me to start, but really picked up in the latter half. The notion of grafting in the book got me thinking about metaphors for mixed-mode or hybrid pedagogies, although it's not a book on teaching, per se. It's not explicitly on sexing either, although the beast-woman romps through at least one scene. Intercoursing space and time, perhaps.
Postlude | From STC: "A map can tell me how to find a place I have not seen but have often imagined. When I get there, following the map faithfully, the place is not the place of my imagination. Maps, growing ever more real, are much less true. And now, swarming over the earth with our tiny insect bodies and building houses, it seems that all the journeys are done. Not so. Fold up the maps and put away the globe. If someone else had charted it, let them. Start another drawing with whales at the bottom and cormorants at the top, and in between identify, if you can, the places you have not found yet on those other maps, the connections obvious only to you. Round and flat, only very little has been discovered" (88).
I left the session--a bureaucratic upside down cake--with 3/4 of a page of notes on strategic planning. Lots of talking, so, accordingly, I feel I've used up my allocation of Monday words.
I've been thinking about the blogging and the public sphere this weekend. Didn't find time to post yesterday, was at the gym with the boys in the morning, doing more course prep in the middle of the day before sulking back to work last night--fifth event in seven days. Another one tomorrow.
The idea that blogs enable a publicly-projected self, one controlled through discursive constructions (well, er, everything's rhetoric), intrigues me whilst filling me with caution. The traffic spikes over the last two days are contributing to my wonder. Casual readers are checking out this site; since I haven't neatly defined Earth Wide Moth, typecasting it into a particular blogging genre, I'm having trouble imagining what brings people here, whether it's interesting or disappointing, whether it's too personal to be of any value to somebody else, and so on.
The clogged drain entry provoked an email from my dad. And here the NYT magazine feature last week was concerned with teens and their blog-reading parents. Adult-children who blog have plenty to be concerned with, too, turns out. I had no idea my mishandling of the drainage had the power to shame my dad. He taught me well, and yet I couldn't clear the drain myself!
Here are a few bits of his advice (which was broadcast to other family members who would've had no inkling that this blog was planted here lately):
1. Only use the garbage disposal for small stuff.
2. Periodically use a bio-enzyme at all sink, tub and shower locations (small drain pipes).
3. Participating in family plumbing adventures helps socialize us all into becoming better plumbing people. For example, when children become old enough to clean out drains, allow them the fun and excitement of digging out the hair and gunk. When they grow up, they will thank you for having given them this experience.
There was more. No need to make this into a full blown plumbing guide. But item three brought me back; reminded me of my childhood--those Sunday afternoon plumbing projects that I never really understood, although I clearly remember standing at the sink with my brother, eyes agog at the size of the gunk-wad responsible for the slow seep of water, the lecture about not allowing stray, nonfluidstuff in the sink. We were being humanized.
So maybe the traffic spikes are from a wary and watchful clan dispersed far and wide who are (following my dad's email alert) bracing for unkind or uncareful depictions: about hairpieces and beer bellies, about indiscretions and excess, about you-know-who's bad habits, and so on. Never been much of a town crier. A critic, sure. But most often self-critical, since dad did such a fine job of proving to me that the unflowing blockages, impediments and hardships--in the sink and in life--are largely of our own doing.