Blank April

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

And Returns

Ph. and I whistled into the Syracuse train depot yesterday afternoon; we’re
home from the excursion to the conference. Everything is unpacked,
laundered, put away.

I have plans to put the paper to an mp3 and sync it with the slides. I
can do this, of course, because my talk was scripted. It’s endlessly
reproducible as a result. But recording will have to wait until I shake off the
cough-inducing tickle that has been getting the best of me all day today.
Sure, I could delete out any of the hacking and rattling that makes its way into
the mix, but why? I’ll just wait it out.

Continue reading →

Decompress: Minnowbrook

The three-day conference in the Adirondacks ended yesterday; in the
afternoon, several of us caravanned back to campus in the rides provided by the
University. More background: The event convenes each year in the spring.
Put on by the Graduate School staff whose work involves professional development
for graduate students, the conference draws together PhD students and faculty
from a variety of disciplines (journalism, anthropology, geography, and so on)
and institutions (SU, Onondaga CC, and several SUNY schools). Attendees
pop in and out throughout the three days, but altogether there were 40-50 people
present on any given day. Our program sent two faculty members and three
students, all of us involved with the Future Professoriate Program at SU. The
program, as I noted the other day, was a mix of general sessions and concurrent
sessions. On the final day (yesterday), there were a few roundtables, but
with just 30-45 minutes, they felt too brief to get into much substantive
discussion. Still, the conversations across disciplines linger as the most
compelling aspect of the conference. It’s unusual to locate avenues for
cross-disciplinary contact, much less opportunities for the convergence of
multiple disciplinary vantages rather than the perspectival 1:1 of rhet/comp and
geography, let’s say, or rhet/comp and IST. This oversimplifies, of course, glossing that
any individual might be a nomadic collocation–a knot of multiple
influences–unto themselves. But I’m getting at primary affiliations and
recognized roles: the label on a name tag, for instance.

Continue reading →

CCCC Chicago

Vanishing Point

I snuck away from the conference hotel yesterday afternoon to grab a few photos at the lakefront–one of the many positives to attending a conference in downtown Chicago this week. It was sunny and 45F, perfect for a brisk stroll along the lakeshore.

Initial impressions of the conference: 1. Smooth travels, after de-icing in Syracuse. 2. Can’t get a cell phone signal in the hotel. 3. The “high” speed internet connection rung up at $10 per day. nd cld nly gt ntrmttnt cnnctvty ystrdy ftrnn. I think I could count the baud rate on one hand a few times…or deliver the data packets by passenger pigeon faster than they travelled through the wires. By “high speed,” Hilton, do you really mean, “Hi, Speed” (bc you’re so happy to see Speed when it visits)? No, you’re right, I really don’t need to spend much time with the internets in the days ahead. 4. Good food, great company. And that, of course, makes the conference conferentially satisfying.

Enough. The list will grow, as will the photo set. I’m going to grab something to eat, attend the keynote address and gear up for the talk about CCC Online later this afternoon.

Into the Long Tail

Considering that this entry ends my longest blogging drought since early
July, you might have wondered what’s been happening lately.  I’ve gone and
followed up a personal-best thirty-one entries in the month of September with a
three-day lull in blogging.  To be completely honest, I devoted a lot of
time and energy this week to developing and fine-tuning a paper I shared late
this morning at the Contesting Public Memories Conference here in Syracuse. 
The cross-disciplinary conference continues tomorrow, bringing together folks
from a variety of specializations, a variety of places.  In the paper,
"Networked Writing as Micro-Monument: The Long Tail’s Nested Memoria," I was
going for a three-part argument about the persistence of social/shared memories
in the niches of blogspace.  To attempt the triple leap, I discussed John
Lovas’s weblog, micro-monument in relation to Chris Anderson’s articulation of
the long tail, and ways in which memorable personal intensities punctuate the
long tail by applying Barthes’s studium/punctum.  That’s where my mind has
been–stuck in the long tail for three days or so.

Continue reading →


SUNY-Albany: Torch?

Originally uploaded by ewidem.

Just home from the Humanities and Technosciences Conference at SUNY-Albany. I’ll try to say more later on, but until then, these are most of the photos. We pulled an over and back, so it was an early morning, and I’m spent from the anticipatory buildup, the paper-giving rush, and the slow fade of energy that follows. I haven’t decided yet what I’ll post from my talk–notes, text, podcast, slideshow. Yeah.

And I think D., Ph. and I are going to head across the park, take in an evening performance of Caryl Churchill’s Fen in the Schine Underground on campus. Read Fen seven years ago in my first MA seminar; wrote a fine little paper called “Val’s Fifty-Six Pounds: Fashioning a ‘Congenial Environs’ in Fen.” If all goes as planned, I’ll have something to say about that later, too. And if not, it just means that I’m busy writing another paper, piling through the stack of reading for the upcoming week.

Standing By in O’Hare

A mechanical disturbance in the aircraft scheduled to handle my connecting
flight Saturday night derailed my one-hop progress from San Francisco to
Syracuse and instead left me sitting in Chicago’s O’Hare for the better part of
the past twenty-four hours.  Initially, United Airlines delayed my
connection to Syracuse from 8:55 p.m. CST to 9:30 p.m. CST, then re-delayed
until 11:00 p.m., then cancelled altogether.  Impatiently and inexpertly,
the cranky customer service staff strained against their own wishes to cut out
for Saturday night plans (expressed again and again via cell phone calls while
servicing the long line at snail’s pace) to accommodate us one by one with obligatory apologies, $14 worth of food vouchers (not to be used on alcohol, but what difference would it make?) and shuttles to area hotels where folks would lodge for the night. 
I was awarded a pass-card to the Doubletree in nearby Des Plaines, Ill. 
After riding the shuttle from O’Hare to the hotel, freezing the whole way
because it was 35 F and my jacket was stowed away in my luggage (which they said
they had to keep at the airport), the Doubletree checked in another long line of
stranded travelers, heartening everyone, albeit unsuccessfully in my case, with warm chocolate chip cookies.  It was 11:30 p.m.
on a Saturday night. I skipped the cookie and the line; gulped a quick MGD in
the empty hotel bar instead, wishing silently it would induce restfulness. 

The best United Airlines could do last night was to switch me to stand-by
status for the six flights from Chicago to Syracuse today.  I took a 5:00
a.m. wake-up call, hopped back on the shuttle (sans change of clothes,
toothbrush, etc.), and returned to the airport in time to miss the cut on the
6:40 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. flights home.  No seats were available for me; I
was 14th on the waiting list for already-full flights. So I went to the customer
service line, considering whether to invoke a sugar rhetoric or a vitriolic
rhetoric, then waited for a half hour behind an Oswego State student who sobbed
as she pleaded with the agent for some kind of solution to her bind–a bind much
like my own.  All six flights to Syracuse today were oversold; for a
guaranteed seat, the soonest flight would be Monday at 1:25 p.m. The agent
suggested flying into a nearby airport; the same option last night, however, was
qualified with the condition of paying–ourselves–for a rental car to complete
the final leg of the trip.  But today, probably because of a greater force
of frustration exerted by smelly, tired, irritated customers on the airline
staff, the zone manager offered me a 5:55 p.m. flight into Rochester along with
a voucher for a taxi to run me the 79 miles from there to Syracuse’s Hancock
International where I could pick up my bag and complete the trip by calling D.
for a drive home from the airport.  The best of bad options, so I took it. 
And although I’m missing a cake and ice cream social for Ph.’s 14th birthday
(actual b’day is tomorrow), and missing his Sunday afternoon soccer match,
and spending yet another day away on this exhaustion-making trip (due to a mix
of lag and overstimulation, not more than five hours of sleep any night in the
last three tries), a call to my older brother J.–who travels all the
time–reminded me that 24 hours in O’Hare beats the hell out of plummeting
headlong into Lake Michigan in some clunky jet-plane.  And the $14 of food
vouchers–11-plus of which were swiftly spent up on an airport breakfast–is
something. And more than enough time for reading Vygotsky so I can lead a class discussion in
seminar Tuesday morning.  Bright spots?  Not so many.

I liked to think I could fill the day by watching a few basketball games in
one of the airport bars or that I could drop $10 on a day-long wifi session. 
Ten hours with basketball and blogging would have made O’Hare almost tolerable. 
But have you been in O’Hare on a Sunday in mid-March?  Stupid crowded. 
And I’ve asked four different agents about wifi and they’ve pointed me to Laptop
Lane in another concourse–a place I checked out only to find the Lane wants
$.65 per minute for sitting in an Ethernet-connected office-closet.  Wifi? 
No luck.  I might’ve walked three or four miles around O’Hare, tried five
or six different not-so-hot spots, pried the agents for expertise, prayed to the
airline gods whose Wrath of O’Hare I’m enduring, and finally quit.  No
basketball, except a few walk-by glimpses, and no wifi.  Just tired-reading
Vygotsky and wishing for a nap (why can’t I sleep with this un-padded armrest
jamming my ribs?) and listening over and over and over again to CNN Headline
News piping into my site between the "last call for Moline" and "final boarding
call for Philadelphia" who can tell which is interrupting which?

So I have a thick stack of folded sheets with miscellaneous CCCC notes I
thought I’d have the time and concentration to give to coherence today, and I’m
overdue now to respond to emails and reground myself for the return from spring
break.  This is my excuse and my decompression.  It’s the best I could
do under the duress of a few unfortunate conditions.

CNY Conference

Blog’s been nagging me for an entry.  Okay, so it’s Friday
afternoon.  I picked up 37 seven-page essays with invention portfolios this
morning. (Mercy Closeme! Quite a
stack.) And after reading yet another 100 pages in Lakoff’s Moral Politics
this afternoon, I’m worn down tired. Damn near too tired to climb in the Element
and zip south for VV‘s talk in Cortland at the CNY
Conference on Language and Literature
this evening at 7:30 p.m. Key-note.
For illustration’s sake, the photo right shows just how close I am to not going.
But for the open-ness of a still narrow margin.  I’ll try to blog a
few notes about it later, provided I can find Corey Union. 

The theme for the conference is "Haunted by the Future: The Academy’s
Coming Community."  No better way to convene Hallowe’en weekend.