Saturday, June 13, 2009


The 13th annual Native Vision camp concluded earlier today in Whiteriver, Ariz. I had a great time, all in all: a lot of fun working with the campers and catching up with the coaches and pros. I'd like to think I will have more to say about the camp in the next couple of days, but I have a busy week ahead, so we'll see. Anyway, here's a photograph of the basketball crew. Notice that there's a hint of photobomb going on here in that the basketball campers are on the court in defensive position while we are posing for a group photo (this was possible because Coach Frost was leading the campers in the a.m. warm-up).

Native Vision 2009 - Basketball

Monday, June 8, 2009

Singing the Search

For several weeks after I'd happily accepted EMU's offer of a faculty position, the dmueller-edition Q&A recordings continued churning through my portable MP3 player every so often. By then I found them somewhat silly-sounding, an off-key sequence of quirky, wandering think-alouds, something like little pacts between me, my iPod Shuffle, and Kathryn Hume, whose Surviving Your Academic Job Hunt was never out of reach from September through late February. I finally removed the tracks after CCCC, more than a month after I no longer needed to listen to those droning loops of me rehearsing 120-second answers.

Early on, I decided that I didn't want to memorize answers, didn't want my responses to interview questions to be too inflexible, robotic. I casually plotted with a couple of other market-goers from my program about organizing a jam session in which we would quiz each other and bounce ideas around, but that never came together. It wasn't that I felt on my own with the process, exactly, but I did want practice. That is, I did feel on my own with the task of familiarizing with the genre of the interview answer. It's an important genre, it turns out, and it took me a little while to get used to how much I could say (well, completely) in under two minutes, 2:30 tops. My program provided mock in-person and phone interviews, but I still thought I needed more practice.

Sometime in late Octomber last year (ED: More like early Dissember, actually.), I plugged in a USB microphone, opened Audacity, sketched a list of about eight likely questions, cleared my voice, and asked, then answered each question, recording one after the other until I had something like the dullest, geekiest album of all time: eight home-studio tracks of me asking typical job interview questions followed by me answering the question in under two minutes. (Of note: I categorized the tracks as 'jazz' just to add pep). Rather than polish them, re-record, or fret about the quality of the performances, I imported the raw, uncut tracks in iTunes and slid them onto the shuffle, right along with the more or less stable collection I was at the time carrying to the YMCA with me each day.

Now, I don't have any idea whether other job seekers did the same thing. No clue. But I was pleased with what this approach allowed me to do. I did not so much treat these questions and answers as focal and specific, which is to say binding, but I preferred instead to have them wash over me, deliberate, ambient noise very close to thinking, only slightly more measured. I'd be at the Y, humming along on the elliptical machine, and one of the tracks would come on. The questions would spring up, as if out of nowhere, and surprise me. The exact answer mattered, but it didn't matter as much as getting the genre (that is the generality of the utterance) down, getting to know approximately what was possible in such a time-bounded exchange.

Who can say whether it worked? Or how well it worked? Well, I am attesting to its convenience, for one thing. It was comfortable at MLA to prop up my feet in the evening, mute some televised sporting event, and listen to those forty minutes worth of questions and answers. And in public, it felt a lot more hip than sitting, as others did, with scripted note cards clenched in their trembling hands minutes before the elevator ride to destiny. Being on the market is tough (not scary, exactly, just intensive, demanding). May as well do as much of it as you can with headphones in. All the better if the headphones are tied to a playlist as likely to land on something speedbeat funky as on a self-recorded practice question: Please, tell us about your dissertation. Eventually the two start to blend together, the answers begin to have a faint cadence, something on the verge of musicality: academikocoapopfunkfusionbliss. And then you know it's time to press pause, stow the ear buds away, and knock on the hotel room door (or answer the perfectly timed phone call, as the case may be).

By the way, had I to do it over without a microphone, I would simply open a Voice account and use my cell phone to call in a couple of MP3 audio messages, download, import, etc. In fact, what brought this entry on is that just a few minutes ago I was chatting on the phone with a friend who will be on the market in the year ahead. Only, no mike. I suggested the Voice workaround. Also, about the questions, they were a mix: about the dissertation, about future plans for research and writing, two about classes I'd taught, two more about classes I want to create, something on administrative experience, philosophy, and style, another about framing TA training and mentorship, and then something definitional about new media and digital writing practices (their value, etc.). There are hundreds if not thousands of possible questions, but there's not much value, I'd argue, in overdoing it. Diminishing returns, if you overdo it. I guessed that these few would get a lot of play, and, while some came up more than others, all of them came up at least once during the interviewing process.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Fell Off Bike

One second I was on my bike. The next second I was off my bike.

I had no choice but to ditch it. Only, upon ditching it, I also turned my ankle.

It went like this: Riding along on the grass as we exited the Barry Park playground last evening, D. and Is. (in the tot-seat) ahead of me, I came upon a dip--a three-foot rise from the park lawn to the road. Crept slowly, approaching the dip. Rode up the dip. I had the strange feeling that the front tire was lifting too much, like I was pulling a wheelie. But it touched down again, and when it did, the front wheel lurched just enough to create a momentary loss of balance. I was moving too slowly! So I tried unsuccessfully to eject: I put down my right foot, rolled my ankle, and belly flopped onto the bicycle and then onto the ground where I came to rest part on the pavement and part on the gravel. A bona fide, aww inspiring wipeout.

When the dust settled, Is. was explaining to D. that I just tipped right over. When I could breathe again, I got back on and finished the ride. The damages weren't all that bad. Wind knocked out of me (and today very sore ribs) from where the bike seat broke phase one of The Fall, a badly bruised left palm, a scrape on my right forearm, and mildly skinned knees. I'd say there were about the same number of witnesses as when I took a spill on the treadmill at the YMCA back in March. No other falls to speak of in 2009, but there was a close call on a campus visit. By "close," I mean that with coffee in one hand and a loaded computer bag over the other shoulder I did a hard Charleston-style step on the ice (similar to what you'll see when the playhead is at 0:29)

spilled coffee into the air, and then caught the coffee back in the cup without any loss, regained my balance, and carried on with the short walk. It wasn't a fall, but it did have all of the excitement of a fall, none of the pain or humiliation.

I've written about bike crashes here before, but I intend to make this the last entry on the subject.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Most Polluted?

<snark>Every so often I go looking for examples of astonishingly astonishing web design. With that said, I'm no standards-waving design puritan, and I admit I am attracted to departures from conventionality (unusual CSS tricks, and so on). This morning an email arrived with a link for PTA listserv subscribers to the Syracuse City School District web site, a site so overstocked with informative tidbits that it can only be described as belonging to the "dump it in, anywhere" school of design, a school matching with the old industrial mindset that caused Lake Onondaga to be so choked with mercury and other debris that it for many years won acclaim as the U.S.'s most polluted. I get it that the school district is complex, oh my. Just try to find anything here (e.g., the media release form).</snark>

To be fair, I have done little in this entry other than pot-shot on the site (and remember a link for future returns). And, to be even fairer, I don't even need anything from it today. But this craggy little hike through the cluttered SCSD corner of the web got me thinking that it might be interesting in a class to look around for the most polluted school district web site in the U.S. (or in a given state) and then to work on improving its usability.

Monday, June 1, 2009

I Cut the Lawn and the Lawn Won

The latest round of seasonal allergies aren't exactly killing me, but they are causing me enough discomfort that I just about scratched out my eyes out earlier this evening. No willful, deliberate, or careful scratching in this. No, this is a vile alternative, a reflexive (even precognitive) knuckling of the lids so frenzied my eyeballs should be grateful I saved them. Interrupted that fit with a couple of itch-halting eye drops and another dose of generic loratadine. Not the sort of thing I'd say most days, but today: Thank goodness for pharmaceutical drugs. So what if sparing my eyes from the acid pollen drifting across Central New York means I wake up every morning for two weeks with a metallic taste in my mouth and an overworked internal organs. Small price.

I did cut the lawn. On Saturday. Slow blog-reaction time these days. Approaching slow to the point of stopped.

I'd explain the two week lull, but there is no juicy story in the explanation. Did I mention my allergies? Oh. The rest, all teaching prep, teaching, and road time. I'll spare you gory details about the workload I'm hefting this summer. On a lighter and more delightful note, the late May lull included a lap around Michigan for a nephew's graduation, a welcome to EMU barbecue, and house hunting. I'm pretty sure we have a place to live come August, but we haven't signed the lease yet.

I have a lot more to say and, at the same time, nada. Warming up lately to a tolerable degree of blog ambivalence, actually, which means I might blog every day in June or continue the hiatus until sometime after that.