Thursday, December 31, 2015


Today is again the day of looking back, one prompted by the wholly arbitrary calendar in force across much of the world--a calendar inaccurate in its underpinnings, since Dionysius Exiguus was in error, and one not consonant with observable phenomena at this point. I have addressed reflection several times before in this webspace--here, here, here, and here--and so I do not feel a need to do as I did last year and give summaries of my earlier posts. Revisiting some of the ideas broached in them, especially the latter two, might be good, but now is not the time for it; doing so would require more time and materials than I have ready to hand, the more so since work continues.

2015 has been a busy year for me. I have done much work, both in my regular job and as a freelancer, and doing so has been of material benefit to my family. My web presence has received some modification, and I think it is better for the changes on display here. A book chapter came out, and another is under review, while several papers meant for print and presentation are in various stages of composition. (None of them are as far along as I would like.) I have also written no small number of job applications, and I continue to hold out some hope that at least one of them will resolve in my favor. All of this is in addition to the work I do to keep the household running while the Mrs. does her work, as well as to the happy job of taking care of Ms. 8.

From what I can see so far, 2016 looks similarly poised to be busy. I have a freelance job in progress at the moment; I may be able to finish it today, but it may well extend into tomorrow. Another awaits attention; it is due two weeks into the year. I am sure that others are coming, and I still have to machine up syllabi--the more so since course requirements for three of the four classes I have have shifted. Too, there are still job applications to write, and there will be until I manage to secure something resembling steady employment; my current position remains temporary, and matters approach that strongly suggest an end to it is coming. (Freelancing helps, but I cannot depend upon it. Not yet, anyway.)

The temptation to reflect is often a temptation to dwell on error. Even now, I am distracted by thoughts of what I did poorly and what I did decently but could have done well. Sadistic and masochistic as I evidently am, those distractions are alluring; I have said that I am far from immune to the attractions of nostalgia, after all. But even on this day of the backward look, there are better things to do and more than to sigh with longing after another twelve months gone. It is time that I got to doing some of them.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015


The Mrs., Ms. 8, and I are back at Sherwood Cottage from a longish trip through the Texas Hill Country and points northeast. It was good to see family, and it was better to see how Ms. 8 reacted to events with the benefit of an additional year on her. Her smiles and squeals of delight, as well as her bubbling laughter that, to my delight, occasionally suddenly swerves towards supervillain cackling, did much to make all gathered around happy; her laughter excited our own. And I admit that matters soon distracted me from what I normally do, more than what this webspace makes obvious.

Now that I am back, there is much to do; work continues. A freelance piece awaits my attention, as does a wholly different bit of freelancing that seems to be short-term work but appears as if it will be amply remunerative during its term. I need to construct the syllabi for the two versions of a single course I am teaching in the upcoming term (about which more can be found here and here), and there are any number of other projects waiting for my attention. The time away from Sherwood Cottage, where I can do the work, was not helpful in that regard, even if it was helpful in several others.

On the trip, I almost got caught up on sleep. I woke later than I normally like most every day, contributing to not getting work done. I have said before that I work better earlier than later, so losing the earlier is not at all helpful for me. (And, yes, I rose later than I would have liked today, although not so much as was the case on the trip, and I attended to a few other things before sitting down to start writing this blog entry.) But I have almost made it back to my regular self, in large part because I rested as I did. So some good came of that particular aspect of travel to where I grew up and where my wife's families live. I'll not complain overmuch.

For now, I will be back at work, reading the assigned text and writing items for another job, maybe penning some more words into my personal journal (which I hope to complete with the year), and, most importantly, tending to Ms. 8 while her mother is at work. The Mrs. also struggles to ensure that Sherwood Cottage and its residents have what they need, and so I do what I can to support her while I engage in a similar struggle--and benefit from time with my daughter, which I know not many fathers get as much as they might otherwise like. I am mindful of this, and I work to ensure that Ms. 8 gets from me what she needs from me and that her mother gets the same. Fortunately, some of what we brought back to Sherwood Cottage from our time away will help with that, for which I am grateful.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


My grandmother arrived in central Texas yesterday evening; Ms. 8 and I joined my parents in picking her up at the airport. Plans for various activities are being discussed. I know little about them; I am little involved in their development, given my predilections. And I am too little involved at this point with those things to which my predilections incline me, as should be obvious. But there is little to do for it. I will return to them soon enough.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015


Another brief note:

I have been sleeping in what was once my bedroom. It is a strange experience, one that simultaneously tries to evoke nostalgia and points out the impossibility not returning to how things once might have been but probably were not. As I type on my tablet, which I do not do nearly so well as I work on an actual keyboard, I find myself once again musing.

My brother and I went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens yesterday. The movie is worth watching, between Episodes VI and V in quality. Surprises near the end, subtle homage to the original trilogy, and selected invocations of the now-lapsed EU make for nerd-pleasing amid a solid story. Ms. 8 will hopefully be well-behaved enough for the next one to see it with her father.

Monday, December 21, 2015


I find myself in the Texas Hill Country today, visiting family and ensuring that Ms. 8 gets to see her people. Things go well so far for the most part; Ms. 8 seems to be losing her contest with the allergens prevalent in the Hill Country at this time of year, most notably the dread mountain cedar. We are treating her as we can, addressing symptoms since treating the source of the problem is not something that can be done safely at this point, if our physician and pharmacist are to be believed. (I do tend to trust them. They have usually been right.)

While my daughter makes herself the center of her grandparents' lives and her uncle's, I look on happily. It is a welcome rest, even as everything is discombobulated for the time...

Sunday, December 20, 2015


I would seem to have done better today than yesterday at rising when I ought to. I was still abed later than I would prefer, but half past five is better than hours later. It is an improvement on which I hope to capitalize; perhaps I will be able to get back to my accustomed timing before too long. I hope so, as I tend to feel I get more done in a day if my day starts early than if my day does not. Perhaps it is a feeling grounded in nothing, but it is still my feeling, and I harm none by following it, so there should be no problem in my doing it--except that there is one in actually doing it, as I have been complaining over the past week.

I got my hair cut and my beard trimmed yesterday. It was time for both to happen, to be sure, and even though things are somewhat cooler, I am glad to be freed of some of the weight. I am somewhat less glad at having seen so much white and silver on the black barber's sheet (is there a word for the thing that practitioners of the tonsorial arts drape over those upon whom they work?). Grey hairs have appeared on me intermittently since I was twelve (seriously), and they have been spreading across my scalp and cheeks and chin. I had not realized, though, how many of them there are upon me; the stark contrast yesterday was certainly informative.

Work continues. My freelance client is looking to expand the offerings his company makes and paid me for a consultation to that end. I am glad of both the money offered for my doing so and the regard for my skills and knowledge the request for a consultation implies. There are not many places in the "professional" world willing to express in more than a cursory fashion appreciation for the kinds of work to which my studies have trained me, at least not that I have encountered as yet. The validation, even if it remains essentially exploitative, is welcome--particularly since it comes accompanied by that most precious of things to business: money. I am looking forward to being advised of what the initial effort for expansion will be; I think I will be the first to do one of the new write-ups.

It is good that work does continue. Yesterday, the Mrs. and I went to have some of the shuttlepod's fluids examined, as people who own vehicles often do. As we did, we were told that the vehicle had grown misaligned and that its tires needed attention. Since we do a fair bit of driving, this was a concern for us, and we had the needed work done. It was not inexpensive for someone on the salary of contingent faculty. There is money coming in, but it not do so for some days yet. I hope that nothing goes wrong , particularly between now and when the money hits and I am able to do more work to bring in more of it.

Saturday, December 19, 2015


A certain flower lives indoors and out, blooming at odd times upon command.
It may have petals of diverse shapes and colors, upturned or down, hard or soft or not at all.
When it is in bloom, it strikes the eye strongly, mimicking the sun.
Its stem is of uncertain shape, standing tall and thin or short and thin and bending.
Sometimes its stem is short and fat, or it is of another shape entirely.
It is a comfort amid darkness and a blinding vision.
Let the one who knows say what it is.

Friday, December 18, 2015


It should be obvious that I slept in again. I am annoyed by the repeated occurrence (it turns out that one of the days was a result of my having silenced my phone--which I use as an alarm clock, among others--despite having set the alarm), although obviously not enough to actually do anything about it. I begin to wonder if fighting the tendency to do so is futile, if I ought simply to allow myself to have the sleep and benefit from it. But I also know that I continue to have things to do, and I have not often been smart enough to cut my losses; I doubt I will cease to inveigh against my oversleeping, whether or not I do anything in the near term to prevent myself from doing so (and I know that I likely will not do so). Complaining about things is an eminently popular occupation, after all, while fixing them is decidedly not; I think I will be in good company.

Irrespective of my sleeping habits, the weather around Sherwood Cottage has offered up a taste of winter (and talking about the weather seems another popular way to pass time). Yesterday saw snowfall. None accumulated, although the ground was wet by it (and I have an idea for a riddle: From an old father to an old mother, white came down, moistening; from what is left, life can emerge in the months to come). Temperatures dropped to suit, although forecasts indicated that they will rise again in coming days. It is not winter yet, to be sure, but it is clear that the Stark words in Martin's books hold true: Winter is coming. But I doubt the winter we will face is that against which the Wall stands, and that seems to me to be a good thing. I have no Valyrian steel or obsidian ready to hand, and my fire-making is not as good as it ought perhaps to be. I am an indoorsman, after all.

That I am a nerd should be obvious, not only from the paragraph above. I have not tried to hide it in a long, long time, if I ever actually made the attempt. If I did, I know it was not successful. Spending as much time reading as I have in my life, and reading the things I read (aside from ongoing freelance work, which treats mainstream materials that may be read without concern for nerdiness in most cases) mark me clearly as such a person, and I have suffered for it at times. (I am sensitive about the issue, as I think I have shown on at least two occasions.) I suffer for it less now than in the past, to be sure, but I have to wonder how much I continue to be hindered by my particular brand of nerdiness, and I wonder how I might work to keep Ms. 8 from making the same mistakes her father did and continues to do.

Thursday, December 17, 2015


I did not sleep in as much today as in the past few days, but I was still abed longer than I feel I ought to have been. Work continues, of course, and as ever, time in which to do that work is precious. Spending it asleep is not the best thing to do, at least not for me. The Mrs. and Ms. 8 are, of course, still slumbering--and since the latter has only the work of growing and learning to do at this point, she perhaps does well to stay sleeping for the moment. The Mrs. will be heading to the pharmacy later, admittedly, and putting in a full day there; I ought not to be annoyed that she takes the chance to sleep that she does. And I am supposed to be working in such a way that those in my household need not work so hard. Am I not, since I am able to do such work (when I can haul my ass out of bed at a decent time, anyway)?

The work continues in the form of an ongoing freelance piece. I read the novel yesterday and started the write-up, getting a quarter of the way through the word count by putting together the peripheral materials: book review, analyses of various items, discussions of symbols and the like. Today will see me go through the text and summarize the chapters, condensing some six hundred pages into a few thousand words. The work is easy enough, although it does tend to drag a bit, and I find myself too easily distracted by other concerns. It also has to be woven in among my care for Ms. 8; doing the work well requires a level of focus I cannot offer while my daughter needs attention (hence part of my annoyance at not waking early enough to take better advantage of her still being asleep). But it will get done, almost certainly today; I tend to be able to do such things.

I write "almost certainly" because I do have to go run an errand today. Thanks to some contacts I made in an earlier endeavor, I have been tapped to pick up some extra teaching work at another local institution. I will have to go fill out the hiring paperwork later on today. While the extra teaching does increase my "regular" workload, it also brings in some extra money, which I appreciate greatly. It might help me leverage into full-time work, as well (if only minimally through the direct effects of adding to my CV and resume). From what I have been told, I will also be able to use the teaching to help increase my demonstration of commitment to diversity in the classroom, which should also be a help in hiring later on. And I was able to make a similar teaching load work during the fall term recently ended; I should be able to press on similarly in the spring.

That is, of course, provided I can wake up when I need to do so.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


Today was another day of having slept in, much to my ongoing annoyance. I suppose I have needed the rest, but I also need to work, since there is more work to do. I have a freelance piece waiting for my attention, and while I have started the reading for it, I have only started the reading, plowing through maybe a quarter of the text thus far. I should be able to get the work done reasonably easily, but it will only happen if I sit down to do it--and I can only do that if I am awake. Sleeping in works against me, therefore, even if I am on something resembling a break, and even if I am still seeming to recover, a cough yet lingering with me.

Yesterday evening saw a bit of a date night for the Mrs. and me. We left Ms. 8 with a babysitter for a few hours; she seemed to have enjoyed herself, getting to play with a puppy, among others. Her mother and I went out for a nicer meal than we usually get--Ms. 8 does not always do well at restaurants, whether because of her...enthusiasm for the food or her agitation at sitting still for as long as she has to at a restaurant. We then went for a couple's facial. I had never had such a treatment before, and I was curious about doing so after an earlier instance of the Mrs. getting one. I was glad to indulge that curiosity yesterday evening.

The weather around Sherwood Cottage continues to show up as autumnal despite the approaching winter solstice (in the Northern Hemisphere, of course; I know the Southern operates inversely). Temperatures have ranged just into the range of freezing and up to the upper 50s and lower 60s F (around 15C). The sky has been largely clear, letting the sunlight down--although the sunlight is pale and wan, what with the angle of incidence. Sunset comes early, and if it is pretty to watch, it is also somewhat disconcerting to have full dark by half past six. I find that I long for fireplaces and mugs of cider, even if I am not truly so chilled as to receive their full benefit.

However matters may be in the air around Sherwood Cottage, within it, work continues. Freelancing still needs doing, as I have noted, since expenses continue in any event--and the bills must be paid. The Mrs. still has her things to do, offering tutorials and putting time in at the pharmacy. Ms. 8 continues to laugh and play and grow and throw tantrums when she is told "No"--which happens often, both because she tries to do things she should not and because she asks questions to which the negative answer is the correct one. And I, having slept overly long, have missed out on some of the time in which I could attend to any of them. It is not something that pleases me; I must do better.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


Today is my brother's birthday, an occasion I have tended to mark (witness here, here, here, and here). I have yet to call him to wish him a happy birthday, but I think he is not yet awake; being the accomplished musician he is, his evenings and nights are often spent at gigs, and because he works later than I do, he sleeps later than I usually do (although I did sleep in again this morning, to my annoyance). At some more appropriate time today, I will call him; I did send a card, which I think might arrive in a timely fashion. If it does will arrive soon. I sent it on time, at least.

Ms. 8 is sitting on my lap, watching me write. She is braced against one of my arms, which does not necessarily help my typing. Having her with me does much to make me feel better, however; there is a great comfort in being seen as a source of comfort, and I know no other way to read an enacted desire to climb into my lap and snuggle against my too-flabby chest and belly than as a confirmation that I am a source of comfort for my little girl. So I can put up with not typing as well as I otherwise might. The hindrance is a wholly acceptable price to pay for knowing that my little girl loves me.

The Mrs. is making ready to head to work, to put in a full day working at a pharmacy counter. I am not certain how to regard the job she has had almost since joining me at Sherwood Cottage. It does give her work to do and a means of contributing financially to the household, both of which she has noted to me are desirable for her. It also represents an oddity; she is a trained scholar, holding multiple advanced degrees--none of which are in pharmaceutical work. There is something...uncomfortable about her being...relegated to such a position, and even if the money her work brings in is decidedly welcome, the...discomfort rankles.

Meanwhile, I finished a freelance piece yesterday, cranking out 7,500 words around doing the other things that needed doing. I played with Ms. 8, taking her outside for a bit and engaging her with blocks during the day. (I also absorbed a ferocious headbutt from her, one that stunned her; I hope she will not be quick to repeat the experience.) I also did some other writing off and on throughout the day, not while Ms. 8 needed my direct attention but where I could keep an eye on her as she played her little toddler games. The combination made for quite a good day, one I would not mind having repeated often. I like being able to get a lot of things done, and presumably done well; I expect that the freelance piece will be accepted, and Ms. 8 seems to have enjoyed most of the day.

Monday, December 14, 2015


It is the first working day after the semester has ended, and I am already finding maintaining my discipline difficult. I had meant to wake up an hour before I ended up doing so; the snooze button and I had a battle again, and if I struck it far more than it struck me, I have lost the battle by engaging in it at all. There is work I need to do, and since I will be home with Ms. 8 and the Mrs. will be running errands and going to her job, there is only so much time available to me to do that work. Ms. 8 needs attention, after all, and more than I can usually give while doing the kind of work that I do. I have some cushion, perhaps, because I can allow her to watch a select few shows, but I know that I would not do well to park her in front of the television while I do what I need to do--at least not for long. So I need to work early and while she naps--and the former would have been helped by my rising earlier than I seem to have done today.

There is a way in which I can combine some of the writing I need to do with keeping an eye on Ms. 8. A number of children's programs make use of the medieval to support their stories, continuing a tradition that extends in print back before the beginning of the twentieth century and which has been argued by Joyce Coleman and others to go back even into the medieval itself (she asserts that reading aloud served as entertainment for work at home, and that the reader selected was often one deemed to be in need of instruction). How the medieval is presented in such programs is something I have thought I would examine, allowing me both to look at what my daughter will see as or before she sees it and to gather information in support of the writing I do (with insufficient regularity, admittedly) on the Tales after Tolkien Society blog. I may see about doing some of that today, in fact, although I am not yet sure of it.

Such potentials are good to contemplate. I often enjoy spending time with my daughter; I know it is something many fathers do not get to do as much as I do, and I am not unmindful of the privilege I enjoy in being able to do so. (It is not always easy to keep in mind when Ms. 8 throws a tantrum, as toddlers are wont to do.) Admittedly, I do continue to feel some tension among my calling to work the work I work--and it is a calling, as those who do the work know--my obligation to support my family--because I am raised as I am raised, and because I do have higher earning potential and ability at this point--and the domestic and familial. But Ms. 8 sleeps well and deeply, I do need to take breaks from the work, and when the Mrs. works, she earns; I am not given license to be blithe about getting things done, but things do get done, somehow, and in some strange way--provided I am diligent. So I need to regain my discipline.

Sunday, December 13, 2015


It is a small thing
I hold it close, even so
It is dear to me
Often used for several purposes
Handled several times most days
Not seldom put into a particular slot
Admittedly with some difficulty at times
There are times I put my hand into my pocket
To seek it
Feeling in my pants to be sure it remains
Where I want it to be
For from its end does much proceed
And I am invested in that proceeding

Who can say what the thing is
Let that person say it
But think carefully on what is said
For what it is may not be what it seems

Saturday, December 12, 2015


The Fall 2015 instructional term is done! Exams have been given and graded, grades and paperwork have been turned in, and I have even managed to compile my end-of-term report already. I am done, at least for now and at least with the work of teaching. Now, I get to turn my attention to other things, many of which I listed in yesterday's post to this webspace. I find myself excited at the opportunities presented, which is unusual and desirable.

One thing I know I will have to deal with, however, that I am not looking forward to treating is student complaints. I am aware of one that has already come in, one criticizing my ability to do simple math. I *do* err from time to time, and when I do, I *do* work to correct those errors; because I know I occasionally make mistakes, I looked back over the grades in question. My math was correct, which was the complaint made. Had there been a comment about my entering a grade incorrectly, perhaps matters might have been otherwise--but there was not, and so they were not. But I know that the one is only the first in what is likely to be a series. How many will come to me and how many will go to my superiors and demand an accounting is unclear; I can at least hope to avoid being called into meetings again. It does occasionally happen...

Aside from that, though, things look like they will be more or less good. Weather around Sherwood Cottage looks like it will be conducive to reading today; the sky is currently overcast, and rain is expected. The sound of water falling from a gray sky usually helps me take words from the page through my eyes and into my mind, which will make the freelancing easier. That is good, in turn, since I have been told that another order will be waiting for my attention soon--and since I will be available to do more such work, I am happy to have it coming in. (I remain a counterpoint to those who argue professorial indolence; I work as much during breaks as I do during the term, if not more. I am far from the only one who does so.)

Something else occurs to me as something to which I might look forward. I try each year to return to the touchstones of my reading life and of genres in which I do much work, re-reading Asimov's Foundation corpus (the Robot, Empire, and Foundation novels) and Tolkien's Middle-earth works (The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings). I know that many would think it strange that I look to those works as cornerstones of my reading life, particularly since my academic attentions run to fundamental works of English literature. And it is certainly not the case that I devalue the trinity of Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Milton, or the greater canon that includes Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Malory, Spenser, Donne, and others. The Good Doctor and the Prince of Fantasists, though, ground my personal canon, if such a thing can be said to be. I read them early, and I read them often--and I think it shows. Getting back to my basics seems a thing worth doing from time to time, and I hope to have some time to do it.

Friday, December 11, 2015


Today will see the end of my exam-giving for the term. It will be the last time I see my students from the current term--save for a brave or foolhardy few whose names have appeared in the rosters for my classes in the term yet to come. If I am lucky and diligent, it will see the end of my grading work for the term, as well, save perhaps the few minutes I will need to spend to send my grades and materials along to where they need to go. That, though, is simply doing paperwork, which is not the same thing; it is not unlike my posting reports and the like to the blog and website I currently maintain for my teaching and other work.

That "other work" continues to increase. I have a new freelance piece in progress; I received the order for it not long after posting yesterday's blog. I am not far into the supporting reading at this point, as I felt I should take care of a few other things before turning to the new project, but what I have read, I like so far. It is making the work that I will need to do easier to do. Not all of the books I get to read for the freelance work do so; some of them have the opposite effect, whether because they are badly written (but still somehow attract attention and money; I have to figure out how so that I can do it) or because they are simply not concerned with such things (not that I really expect them to be). Having a piece that reads easily and facilitates writing up is therefore certainly welcome. I could stand to have more such pieces, indeed.

The "other work" also includes more research activity, not only in the conference paper I am expected to present at Kalamazoo and so must draft sometime between now and early May or the article I have begun to compile and hope to see published in a leading journal, but also my ongoing work on the Robin Hobb annotated bibliography I maintain on my website. A piece has arrived through interlibrary loan; I need to pick it up so that I can read it and offer a useful summary of it in my Fedwren Project. (I probably also ought to look at drafting a short essay explicating the title and the appropriateness thereof for the project.) How I will integrate that into the other work I have scheduled in the next few days is unclear to me, but it is clear that I will get the work done. There is no other way for matters to proceed.

So I shall press on through this day, seeing how much I can get done to clear me of the lingering duties of the term so that I can attend to the many other things that are mine to do. As ever, I look forward to a productive break. Perhaps this will be the time my hopes are realized.

Thursday, December 10, 2015


I slept in a bit this morning after having gone to bed early last night. For the first time in a long time, I feel refreshed. I know that the sensation will not last long; I am going to have to get back to work soon enough, to be sure, and there are things happening in the next few weeks that will also disrupt my ability to remain rested. But for now, as the weather around Sherwood Cottage rebounds from a touch of winter into a healthy, comfortable autumn--and it is still autumn--I will enjoy the feeling of being at ease and ready to face what confronts me, little as does at the moment.

Part of why I say "little as does" is that my cough is much better this morning than yesterday morning. I am coughing far less, and when I do cough, it is more productive, leaving my lungs and nose and throat clearer each time. The cough does still remain, though, and I can still feel the pressure in my sinuses (which spikes uncomfortably when I do cough, to my annoyance), so I am not fully recovered, but things are still far, far better now than they were even at this time yesterday, let alone at this time last week. The improvement is decidedly welcome.

I am continuing to seek permanent positions, sending out letters to that end in plenty and in haste. I really should go through and count how many I have posted since the beginning of this calendar year--all while maintaining a research agenda, teaching my classes and grading the associated papers (as well as doing the online work I do in support of my teaching mission, currently here), carrying out freelance work (although there have been gaps in the ordering, such as one happening at the moment), and attending to the care of my family. I have the sense that I am at several hundred, and it is useful to be reminded that I do a damned lot of work, most of which does not end up paying even if it is done in the search for paying work.

The thought could be voiced that my working so hard not for money bespeaks my folly, and I concede that I have often felt the fool for doing what I do in the way I do it. At the same time, I do, at least at this point, have a goal in mind, an agenda I mean to pursue, and I have the hope that doing so will lead me to a place where I can be satisfied. I am not there yet; I am insufficiently secure for that to be the case, for me to say that it is enough. Satis means enough, remember, and so satisfaction, "enough-making," cannot be achieved without enough--and I dare not call it enough that does not allow me to take care of my family. I can do so now only with significant effort, the expenditure of which does tend to vitiate against my being there for my Mrs. and Ms. 8; it is not enough.

Someday, it might be.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015


Some smaller notes appear below. I never claimed I would always be coherent.

Exam-giving continues today. I am administering but one test, so things should go both easily and smoothly. I was able to get the Monday exams graded in a relatively short time, so I am confident I will be able to do the same with those I have today. That I know the text well and read quickly help, I think.

There are two tests for me to give on Friday. I have managed to draw Friday exams every term I have been at my current institution. It is something of an annoyance, although it is less so this term than it has been in others. My travel plans are not such that reward my being done earlier in the week. It is a small thing, but a useful one.

I have received official notice of my teaching schedule for the upcoming term. I have three sections of second-semester composition, at least at this point. My schedule is subject to change, of course, even up to the week before classes begin--if not up to the beginning of classes, itself. Such fluidity is one of the perks of life on the contingent faculty; if I could get non-academic employers to recognize the skills involved in successfully negotiating the dynamic environment and rapidly-shifting constraints of contingent academia, I think I could land private-sector jobs more easily. Perhaps I ought to think about how to explain it more effectively.

I got a freelance job done yesterday. Another has yet to come in. The job gave me a chance to read some Philip K. Dick, with whose work I was passingly familiar but which I had not previously read. I understand some of why he is as highly valued as he is. It is a welcome revelation, and it reminds me that I need to go through and read or re-read some of the other luminaries of the genre. Time will soon perhaps permit me to do so.

Time will also soon perhaps permit me to attend to other writing entirely. I have several projects in progress, of course, including at least one conference paper; I have perhaps noted that I was accepted (late) to present a piece on the Malorian Kay at the 2016 International Congress on Medieval Studies. Other papers are also waiting for me to do more work on them. It is difficult to do so while teaching and grading and freelancing so as to support the Mrs. and Ms. 8--as well as tending to the last while her mother is at work. The upcoming break and the lower teaching load of the spring should help with that.

I continue to cough. That matter seems to be improving; I have been good about following the prescribed course of treatment, and it seems to be helping. I am sure there is more I could do, though, even if I am not sure what that "more" is. It is a thing I can look into while I am overseeing today's test, perhaps.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015


The first of the four exams I was assigned to administer this term is done. I have graded it and calculated my students' scores; they are more or less what I expected. There is a fair spread of grades among the class, ranging from an A to a couple of Ds; students tend to fail my classes only because of excessive absence or non-submission of work, and the one class suffered neither of those. How the other three classes will fall out remains to be seen. There are students in them who have failed out from absences alone; there are students in them who have not turned in the papers they are supposed to submit. They are not in all cases the same students. I imagine the complaints will be numerous and loud; they always are. But I can at least attest that I have done what I am supposed to do; they will not stand.

As exams draw on, so does my freelance work. I am in progress on a job, having read the assigned text and stubbed out the write-up I will be doing of it. I should be able to knock it out today, depending on how Ms. 8 acts. She has been acting out lately, screaming and stomping her feet loudly, shrieking for what seems like hours but really ranges only to one. I know that she is at the age where such is to be expected, but that does not make it any easier to endure--and there is little solution other than to endure. Disciplining her would be counterproductive at promoting quiet, after all, and I am not sure that it would teach her the lesson I want her to learn. The fact that I am not sure what that lesson is does not help me, either. The joys of parenthood are many and varied, it seems, and I find more and more of them.

I continue to wrestle with my cough. Things seem to be easing in that line, which I appreciate. I will be taking some important phone calls in the next few days, and it would be better for me not to hack my way through them. Also, coughing is exhausting and painful; having not often had lingering coughs, I had not remembered or realized that the act of coughing engages so much of the body and so sharply as it does. I live a sedentary life, anymore; the exercise is unusual and, in form, not entirely welcome. I need to get exercise, to be sure, but some that I control rather than that which breaks upon me without warning and wracks me sharply. And I imagine that I am not alone in making the assertion about needing exercise; it is getting to be the appropriate time of year for resolutions about new beginnings. I try not to make them, but I do need to get into some shape other than pear- or round.

That will have to happen after exams are done.

Monday, December 7, 2015


There are only a few more waves
Then you'll be at the shore
Dripping, maybe
But there
The swim done
You can do it
You can

Letting go is tempting
The swim has been exhausting
And cold
And you are not buoyant anyway
I know
But you need to not
You need to push on
Just a little longer

You'll make it to shore
There'll be a fire
You can come and get warm
There may be cocoa for you
Or tea or coffee
Warm blankets...
You can make it

Sunday, December 6, 2015


This is the last weekend of the term. The next few days will see me preside over and grade final exams in which my students, spread across four sections of first-semester composition, will proofread the (translated and altered) text of an Anglo-Saxon riddle, assert an answer to the riddle, and explain how the text justifies their answer. It is a thing I have discussed previously in this webspace to some extent (here), and it is a thing that I have discussed with my colleagues. Admittedly, not all feel the exercise to be an appropriate one; they have not said much with words, but even I can see the disapproval on faces from time to time. But many like what they hear about how I go about using such materials, and I take comfort from that.

The discussion of the exercise with my colleagues prompted the note that there is some argument against the perception of fragile-mindedness among the students in how they respond to the assignment. As I note in the earlier discussion of how my students answered Riddle 44 in class, few averred the "dirty" interpretation of the text--and even when the "dirty" interpretation was voiced, it was argued against, and successfully. More, the students enjoyed the work. Perhaps it was an artifact of a smallish class whose students had had the chance to learn one another (an earlier paper asked them to profile one another, building group cohesion), and perhaps (if I may flatter myself) I have succeeded in fostering an atmosphere of open inquiry and safety, but it seems that the students in the classes showed no signs of traumatization in approaching the text, no signs of recoiling in horror from an uncomfortable idea, no signs of being ready to run off and call the "PC police." It is a thing on which one of my colleagues, in particular, remarked, suggesting that I might work up a case study about the thing. I probably will not do so, admittedly; I am somewhat pressed for time, although I acknowledge that my colleague's idea is an excellent one. I think it offers a nucleus for a useful counterpoint to the refrain complaining about "kids these days."

Perhaps the students do complain more than they used to do. Perhaps things are thought of or acknowledged as problematic now that were not then. Many things are, depending on the then. As in an earlier note, I wonder at what then the people who complain about how things have changed think things ought to have stopped. At what point were things perfect? Why were they better? How were they better, and for whom? Hell, what does better even mean in such a context?

I note no answers are coming. Perhaps I am not owed them. But I have to wonder what is wrong that those who will trumpet so loudly about going back to a better time cannot name that time. And more people should wonder such wonderings.

Saturday, December 5, 2015


Work continues. I intend to spend much of the day today at work with grading. When I manage to get the grading cleared, I will tend to the next freelance project that faces me--which ought to be fun, actually. The new project is one of the back-fill type I get every so often, looking at older materials that have been brought to new prominence. Working on such projects allows me to catch up on some of the reading I have long thought I ought to do but have not done due to the press of other reading that work demands I do. So that much is to the good.

I finally broke down and went to a clinic about the cough and cold I have been fighting for a long while now. The Mrs. persuaded me into it--not that it took much argument on her part, and not that I was actively resistant to doing so. (That I had not done so earlier is a measure more of my being lazy, tired, or otherwise taken up more than anything else.) I came away from the clinic with a couple of prescriptions--both filled--and a strong suggestion for an over-the-counter drug, and I have begun the course of treatment laid out for me. How much it will help is not yet clear to me, although I have to think that it will. I am tired of being sick. (I am also tired of being tired, but with exams coming next week, a little bit of rest is in view--after which I will be working again.)

One of the things I do in support of my teaching is maintain membership in the National Council of Teachers of English. As part of that membership, I receive a daily digest of online discussions among the membership. Recently, news has broken about the Washington Post allowing the use of singular they (here*), something about which I have commented on occasion (examples are here and here). With that news has come another onslaught of expressed vexation about the purported degradation of language from those who see themselves as bastions of good taste, "logic," and "linguistic principles." Never mind that the linguists I know--and I know a fair number--look at language as an evolving thing, not a static one; for them, change is change is change. Never mind that even in languages that track grammatical gender more rigorously than modern English there is not a necessary association of physical gender and grammatical gender. (I have noted before a case in German, here.) Never mind that taste--even good taste--changes, as should be evident from simply observing the world.

That there is so much resistance to such changes among those who teach in the liberal arts--even at the university level, I might note--and that the changes are coming from the private sector and from the expressed will of the people--that theoretical thing that is supposed to determine how the affairs of any just society are to be conducted, at least in the lip-service paid by many--seems to me to be at odds with much of the bilge pumped out from the mouths and keyboards of pundits I have heard and read and seen. But that will, of course, not matter; facts too seldom do.

*The piece also comments about the use by the New York Times of the gender-neutral courtesy title "Mx." I like this one, actually; it is simple, and it is accordant enough with existing forms that it does not strike the eye as too strange to use. I can see that it might produce confusion in such situations as my discussions of my family--while "the Mx." and "Mx. 8" might be fine, trying to differentiate among references to the many people in the family who would be "Mx. Name" would be a challenge. (Since I have a doctorate, I stand aside from the problem--I do not generally respond to "Mr. Name" anymore. I worked hard to be "Dr. Name" and am lucky to be able to claim "Prof. Name" at present.) Even "Mr. Name" while I lived with my parents and there were three people at the same address who could and should answer to that phrase was...interesting. So I suppose that the potential confusion is not enough of a reason not to move in such a way.

Friday, December 4, 2015


Only one day remains
One more cycle of classes
Before the tests

How many will attend?
How many care anymore?
Is there anything that can be done
In a day
In an hour
Maybe a touch more
That has not been done?

Is there any hope
That those who have
Not been reached
Will be reached
When they have not any other day?

Thursday, December 3, 2015


Things went well with my classes yesterday. I had known that, in preparation for the upcoming exam, I would offer my students a sort of walk-through, a guided practice. When I talked with them on Monday, discussing doing so, they suggested that they might like to have one of the "funnier" riddles to play with. After verifying the choice ("Really? Are you sure you can handle it?" "Yeah!"), I acceded to the request, and the guided practice yesterday treated the key riddle from the Exeter Book (usually numbered 44). Aaron K. Hostetter of Rutgers University translates it as follows:*

Something amazing hangs by
a man’s thigh —
under its lord’s nap
a hole at its head
It is stiff and hard—
it keeps its place well.
When the servant
heaves over his knee
his own garment,
wishes to greet
the usual hole
with his dangling head
that he has before
often filled up
equally long.

Hilarity ensued. After walking through the proofreading portion of the exercise--when I give riddles to my students, I embed usage errors into them, offering practice in finding and correcting such things that I continue to hope will transfer to the students' own writing--the students had a fine time offering answers and explaining how they correspond to the text. Several tumbled (pardon the pun) to the "correct" answer, calling it a key and explaining why they did so. One or two offered the ideas of swords and sheathes, which work decently enough.

Only a couple actually said "what everyone's thinking," asserting that the answer is, in fact, "penis," and arguing how the text upholds the interpretation. In one case, another student in the class offered up a counterargument, arguing halfheartedly against the "something amazing"--the counterargument student presents as male--and more emphatically against the "stiff and hard." A comment about the peril of persistence of penile erection was offered, and the student who argued that the answer is "penis" acknowledged the problem. That is, a student offered a considered opinion, another offered a considered refutation, and the first student accepted the refutation as valid. Exactly the kind of thing that is supposed to happen in the world happened in my classroom, and it did so because of a joke more than a thousand years old.

I am understandably pleased by this.

*I am using his translation because I do not want to dig mine out or do another one at the moment.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


Work still continues. I was able to get the one freelance piece done yesterday, submitting a lengthier write-up than normal--particularly for a Patterson novel. But I was able to get some extra pay out of it, so I am not vexed at the longer text. (Oddly, though, the novel was not longer than Patterson usually writes. There was more going on in it than in most of his books, which is what prompted the longer treatment. Not all of it is to the good, though--but for those comments, I have to suggest that the reading guide I wrote be bought. The more who buy them, the more I get to write, and the more I get paid as a result. It works to my advantage.) I also got the quizzes graded that I needed to grade. The papers, however, remain, and I still need to translate the text I will be using for the students' exam. Consequently, I remain busy.

I also remain less than my best. I am still fighting a cold, and it is still making its way into my chest. This morning was particularly annoying. I took a cough suppressant so that I could get some sleep, and it worked insofar as it said it would. I stopped coughing once it took effect, and I slept more or less straight through the night. (The Mrs. woke me up once inadvertently.) When I woke, however, there were clots of phlegm in my throat, and clearing them was wholly unpleasant. Seeing globules of brown and green sputum that were only moments before inside me was not at all comforting, and having them come out in a staggered, splattering sequence was not comfortable. I am still coughing, still bringing stuff up, and it still annoys me. It interrupts what I want to do, and it hurts my chest to cough so much. I find that I have greater sympathy for some of the older members of my family; what I have been experiencing as a short-term, temporary thing was an enduring and more intense thing for them. So there is that.

This morning has tempted me to stay home from work, to do what I can to do try to recover. Crawling back into bed for as long as the Mrs. and Ms. 8 will let me sounds like a good idea. I dare not, however. I have already been away from work for illness this term, and I am not sure I have any leave time left. Too, it is the run-up to exams, and I already draw enough complaints from students as it is; I do not want one of them to be dereliction. And I am minded of something I am told a great-grandfather said, which I paraphrase because I do not remember the quote well enough: It is not as if I'll feel better lying in bed than I'll feel while working, and I can at least get something done.

I am an academic, after all.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015


Work continues, of course. I am still trudging along on a freelance piece, slowed by a lingering cough as the cold I have had tries to homestead my chest. The real estate had already been claimed, but the landlord seems to be absent, and squatters are hard to fight off, indeed. Too, there is grading and more grading to do, since the stacks of papers remain in place and my students had a bit of a quiz yesterday. I am perhaps half through the latter, and grades have been good, overall, but two classes of work still remains on that assignment, and there are others I must handle.

Among them is the final exam my students will face. They elected to have an extended riddle, one they must proofread, solve, and explain their answers to. I am using the riddle as an opportunity to remain in practice in my field, as I argue in a piece I have under review at the moment; I am translating a riddle from the Exeter Book and adapting it for the purpose of the exam. It has been longer than I care to admit since I have done any kind of substantial translative work, and while I remain confident in my abilities and my access to resources, it is another task to which I must attend. There are many such, as I think I have made clear.

Another is the continuing pursuit of a permanent position. Applications for such things are coming due--they have been due, and I have been keeping up with them in large part. But, again, I have many tasks before me. Some serve to help with the applications--my work with riddles in the classroom has factored well into discussions of praxis and into interviews I have had from time to time, for example, and any research that I get done makes me look like a better candidate for professorship. Even the freelance work occasionally comes to bear; having professional writing experience makes me look more like I know what I am doing when I go up for jobs that teach writing or that require writing--which is most of the work I seek. (I know what my skills are.) It also occasionally helps when I apply for jobs that treat popular culture; I read many emergent bestsellers, and I am a nerd even yet, so I have some insight into what popular culture is telling itself that it likes. But I have to get word about such things into the right ears and before the right eyes. Finding such ears and eyes is a trick, and I am not sure I have mastered it. Getting the words right is one with which I have greater facility, but it still takes some doing.

That it does is part of why I continue to practice here, raving and occasionally posting something that is more or less lucid. (I do occasionally come back to my title. Unifying the writing helps.) The more I do, the more I become able to do--to a point. And I have to wonder when I will find that point...

Monday, November 30, 2015


It is payday again, so it is pay-the-bills day again. I have managed to do most of the paying-out; there are still some bills yet to come in, so I have not paid them, but all of those that had yet arrived have been handled. Sherwood Cottage is mine for another month, as is the little shuttlepod that launches from it. With the recent drops in the temperatures surrounding the place, though, I imagine that the next bill to come in--which is usually one of the utility bills, and which may well come today in a weak corollary of Murphy's Law--will be larger than I would like it to be. Most bills are, though, so I will not be surprised to see it happen. And I might get lucky; gas prices are down, after all, and so it may be the case that my utility costs are lower as a result. But I am not getting my hopes up.

Work continues, in part to help with paying bills. I have tried to negotiate a larger order with my regular freelance client; as I write this, I have heard back reasonably favorably, but I have not seen confirmation that the order has been expanded. When it is, I shall seize upon it quickly, but until it is, I will not worry about it overly much. The order will be done, and it will be done in a timely fashion; I have only the tedium to plow through, and that can get done in a day--maybe less, depending on how willing Ms. 8 is to let such things happen. If she takes her nap at a useful time, I can get quite a bit done; there are times when I work better than others, and her naps often coincide with them--but not always. I can hope that today is such a day.

There is other work to do, too. My classes are in the lead-up to final exams; this is the final week of instruction before the exam periods, proper. They will be getting some practice for their exam over this week; I already have an exercise laid out for today. I shall have to assess the exercise, of course, and I do still have stacks of papers to grade. (If I hear complaints about my having taken time off after having fielded complaints about how often I don't, I will be annoyed. It won't matter, but I will be annoyed.) There is still some time to do the grading, though, and the exercise should assess easily enough, so I am not worried on that account. It is simply a matter of getting the work done, of sitting down to do it and clearing it out so that other projects yet can come forward and take its place.

It should be obvious that I am looking forward to my teaching term being done. It is not that I do not enjoy the classroom work--I do, for the most part--but I would like to get some of my projects completed and out of the way at last. What I have to do in the classroom tends to get in the way of that, which is not the most helpful thing.

Sunday, November 29, 2015


Break time is a bad time when it goes too long.

I sleep too much
Eat too much
Do too much not to do the things I ought to do
And none of it is good.

A day or two suffice,
Maybe a three-day or four-day weekend,
But I have been away
A week
And my discipline is fading
As should be obvious.

There are things to do
Despite it having been a holiday
(Problematic as the holiday is)
And I am not getting them done
Well enough.

I never do,
But I usually do better
Do more
Than I have been doing.

It is time to get back to work.

Saturday, November 28, 2015


The Mrs., Ms. 8, and I are back at Sherwood Cottage after a Thanksgiving spent with my father-in-law and a branch of a blended family. It was good to see my step-niece and -nephews, as well as a two-step niece. (It is a thoroughly blended family, indeed.) It was good to eat my fill--and not to go too much past it, in the event. I had the opportunity to deploy some of my older skills and to find them still in place, which pleased me greatly; I like to know things, and I like to still know things. That they were actually useful things to know was an added bonus; it is not something that happens often, what with my line of work being what it is.

I am back at that work now, though; another freelance order came in while I was away, and I am attending to it. Too, there is grading to do; my students had a paper due the Monday before the holiday, and I have not worked on reviewing their submissions yet. There is a fair bit of time left for me to attend to them, though; they are not due back until the Monday of exam week. That is fast approaching, though, and so I have to write the exams my students will be taking. I am lucky that I only have to compile one such thing, to be sure, and I already know the general form that the exercise will take. It remains only to provide the specific details of the exam--and that should prove reasonably easily accomplished.

I say so because of how I have set up the exam this term. I offered the students in my classes the opportunity to vote on the type of exam they would have. Their choices were a letter, written from the perspective of an expert in their field of endeavor, advising me about how to improve the class (and with the note that the class is required, so "don't teach it" is not a viable option); a multiple-choice exam, with the understanding that I write my multiple-choice exams such that the difference between the best answer and others is the tense of the verb, or whether a period or comma appears at a given point in an MLA-style Works Cited entry; and a riddle, the text of which must be proofread and the answer to which must be explained from the clues given in the text. They voted in favor of the third option; I have but to select a riddle, render it in appropriate modern English, and embed proofreading errors into it for the students to find and correct. Easy.

Thus, while work continues after the holiday is done, it continues in a way that seems as if it can be handled easily and well. I look forward to getting a bit more of it done, and in fairly short order. I have to clear the way for more of it to come--and more of it is coming, indeed.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


It's only a month until the day
That many bow their heads and pray
To Mammon since they cannot say
They celebrate the holiday

They claim to honor buying things,
Toys and food and fancy rings
Got on sale as coinage sings
And the cash register dings.

There is a war, as many claim,
Because folks will not say the name
Of the day given much fame,
One a stealing all the same.

I want nothing to do with it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


I would seem to have overslept somewhat. I am not pleased with having done so, although I recognize that if I did, I likely needed to do so. I am not on a set schedule today in any event, so it matters only insofar as I have missed out on some of the quiet morning time I would have spent working. There will be other time to work. Ms. 8 will sleep, and I can work then. The Mrs. will get home from work, and I can work then. And I can get to work soon after I am done writing this; I will want to eat a bit before I do, which I think a good thing. So I should be fine; I should be able to get done much of what I want to get done.

I had meant to do more of it yesterday. It was, as I noted, an easy day for me; I should have been in good shape when I got home from work. I was not, though; I was inexplicably tired, and so I did not do the work that I ought to have done. Yes, I read the novel I needed to read, and it read easily and well, but I did not do as much of the writing as I ought to have done. Nor did I do the writing on another couple of projects that I should have done. Neither event pleases me. But things have fallen out as they have; I cannot adjust what happened now, only what will happen going forward, and that only to a limited extent. I should direct my energies thither.

I am informed suddenly--by which I mean that I received notice by email while composing this entry on my blogroll--that I will be presenting a paper at the next International Congress on Medieval Studies, in addition to presiding over a regular session and a special session, as well as a dinner. It will be a busy May, to be sure, and I will have a bit of a busy time leading up to it; I get to write the paper now, as well as making a few adjustments to some of my professional profiles. It is welcome work, and I look forward to getting it done--although, given the paper, there are some worries...I should be fine, of course, one way or another, but there are things for which I will need to watch that might otherwise not have been the case.

If I am worried about voicing such ideas, though, perhaps I ought not to do so. If I am worried, it is either because I think the idea insufficiently good or I think myself insufficiently convinced of it to be able to voice it and, perhaps, defend it against attacks. In neither case do I well acquit myself as a scholar, and I have struggled long to stand as one. All I need do is write an excellent paper, something I ought to be doing anyway. Even if the idea is somewhat unconventional, if the paper works well, it works well. And if it is attacked, it is attacked; if the paper is good, it will endure the assault, and I and those who hear the paper will be better off for the work.

Monday, November 23, 2015


This should be an easy week of work; I only have to report in for one day, today, and that day will be largely occupied by my students writing their course evaluations. Flawed as such instruments are, and poorly as I tend to do with them, they remain an institutional obligation, and so I do what I can to make them work in my favor. Since I must have them done, and I must meet with my classes today, and several of the students have already headed off for the Thanksgiving holiday to come this week, it seems fitting that today would be the day I give to the activity. Those who miss it will not miss too much, and those who attend have the opportunity to sound off at me--again, since I already allowed them a chance via an anonymous survey earlier in the term. (And I may need to have another one for them, actually; I did an entry survey to canvass for demographic data, and an exit survey to track changes to that data might be in order.)

Amid the few demands of my classrooms this week, I have a freelance piece to handle. There will likely only be the one; the Mrs., Ms. 8, and I also celebrate Thanksgiving, after all, and such celebrations tend to prevent work. (The same is not true of all holidays, to be sure, but I actually like Thanksgiving--which is not true of all holidays.) I am perhaps a third of the way through the book I am assigned to treat, and I expect to finish the reading today. The write-up should go easily; I am already making notes about what to treat in my front- and back-matter, and chapter summaries present no difficulties for me. It will be good to have the money coming in, even if the holiday will complicate delivery thereof. (Banks close for it, and my money goes through banks. Some will assert that I therefore prop up conspiracies to govern the world through manipulation of money. I would ask when those who have control of resources--which is what money represents, in the abstract--have not overdetermined things. That is, when has such a conspiracy--if there, in fact, is one--not run things?) It is good that work continues, for that reason if for no others.

On another topic entirely: I have noticed that my paragraphs seem to have ballooned somewhat. I recall that it has not been terribly long since I was averaging 125 words per paragraph. That number seems to have increased a fair bit recently. I am not certain why. Perhaps I am doing more with explicitly parenthetical insertions. Perhaps I am treating more complicated concepts. I do not know for certain. I am also not worried. It is simply a thing I have noticed recently, and I try to pay attention to my own writing. More people could stand to do it than do, as I have ample reason to attest.

Sunday, November 22, 2015


I finished reading my copy of the November/December 2015 issue of the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction last night. As I did, I looked for a piece useful for my work on the Tales after Tolkien Society blog; fantasy literature does tend to lend itself to medievalism such as the Society studies and interrogates, after all, but I was not fortunate enough to be able to pull a piece from the issue for that purpose. That does not mean I did not enjoy the reading greatly; I did, and I do, and so I continue to subscribe to the magazine these many years later. (I remember that the first issue I received, September 1999, featured prominently a story that revolved around shit. Scatological humor continues to amuse me, as should be evident.)

One piece in the issue continues to attract my attention: Carter Scholz's novella, "Gypsy." In it, a small group of people flees an increasingly unequal and self-destructive Earth for a nearby star system, hoping to be able to re-found civilization in a purer, more noble state. It is something of a hard sf piece, not relying on much technology that lies outside current envisioning; it relies on no currently-unknown physical principles to make it work, no imagined substance with a silly name. (Such phlebotinum as it deploys is something that exists even now.) It is also far from uplifting; the mission ultimately fails, with all those sent on the trip dying either from fungal infection, loss into space, or old age itself. Yet there is an image of hope embedded into the text; near the end, the eponymous outbound mission receives word that things have improved on Earth, but it serves only to heighten the sadness of the Gypsy's mission, that it fails after having never needed to have occurred.

Amid such sadness, though, is an interesting point, particularly so in the context of a science fiction story. The character who receives both first and last narrative focus, Sophie, is a poet-turned-librarian--an artist and humanistic scholar in a genre and amid a world that prizes the detached, hard scientist and engineer above all others. The emphasis accorded Sophie--who occupies the rhetorically-privileged positions of both beginning and ending--is therefore unusual and, for a humanistic scholar and long-time science fiction reader, welcome even if the implications of her character are The name connotes wisdom, and the name belonging to a poet and librarian links wisdom to humanistic study--which I am happy to see, since it conduces to my own ends. Sophie's wisdom is borne out: she insists on handwritten mission logs as a backup, and the backup becomes necessary as systems fail on the Gypsy. But that wisdom itself is ultimately useless and directed towards a thwarted end; the mission fails, after all, even if undertaken for good cause and supplemented by excellent ideas. The humanities are therefore figured as being of no account against physical realities--and that does not bode well for me.

I have to wonder how the Earth from which the Gypsy flees resolves its problems. I have to hope that it is such wisdom as does not do well on the run that makes things better. I have to hope that I have hope in my field.

Saturday, November 21, 2015


I did not realize
The New York Times is so drafty
Blowhards and hot air are expected
From The City
And its newspaper
The nation's newspaper
The world's, perhaps
But I spent some time poring over its pages
And I was blown away by the drafts
I have a way to use that wind, though
Even if I have to search among many currents
To find what I need

Friday, November 20, 2015


The weather around Sherwood Cottage continues to cool. I believe it might have gotten down to freezing last night or this morning, the first time since last winter ended. Soon, therefore, the Mrs. and I will be putting up the window film that we use to try to stifle some of the drafts in the place. There are many more that we cannot attend to in such a way, but each thing that we can do is a help to us. Maybe, maybe I will not have to fight the cats about it so much this year; maybe Ms. 8 will leave it more or less alone. It is doubtful, of course, cats being as they are and my daughter being as she is--a toddler. Still, I hope for many things that are not likely to come to pass--and Ms. 8 will eventually grow out of it. I think.

Work continues. I was able to post a short piece to the Tales after Tolkien Society blog, which is good, and I am reading the current issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction; there is, perhaps, another such piece waiting for me in its pages. I also continue to compile teaching materials, notably a revision to my teaching philosophy. I have a brief version already in place, and I have been using it to inform job applications I have been sending out. (It seems to help; I have received some favorable responses already. It is a good thing.) It needs fuller fleshing-out if I am going to post it to my more professional website, though, and I mean to put it there. It will help me to have it freely available, so that others can look at it as they research me. There are other ways it will help, as well, and possibly a number I cannot foresee. My studies are the past, not the future, after all.

In addition, there are a few projects I need to work on. One of them is the Robin Hobb annotated bibliography I maintain; I have a piece to read and summarize for it. I think I need to do a short explicatory piece to inform one of the choices I made regarding it, as well. I know I need to attend to my contributions to another annotated bibliography, but I recall that not taking long last year, so I am not as worried about it; it needs doing, and it will be done. I know, too, that a paper idea--one of many--I have had rolling about in my head for a while could use some attention. It is not leaving me; it is not subsiding in my mind. It would be well if I could at least get started on enacting it. I do not think I will be able to get it done in a day, not with the other things that need doing, but I can get started on it, and that will help.

I need all the help I can get.

Thursday, November 19, 2015


This is the one thousandth post to this webspace. It has only taken, what, five and a half years to reach it, starting from the first post or the first substantial post. (I do keep returning to the latter; Edmundson looms large with me, as I have noted on several occasions elsewhere and no few times here.) Some retrospection would seem to be in order, given that my post count has now crossed into numbers that take commas in their writing.

When I look back in this webspace, I typically do so first by reviewing earlier years' posts from the same date. Doing so now offers me work from 2010, 2013, and 2014. The first looks at a scholarly article published at a time when I was abreast of my scholarly reading (as I am not now), noting the implications that those of us in the academic humanities must speak out even as we know our voices will not be appreciated and remarking that the droning din of shouted ignorance is the ostinato over which the themes of public understanding and perception are figured. I do not think matters have changed so much in five years, although I am glad to have the reminder that things were not better in the before.

The second and third both treat the Gettysburg Address--one on its sesquicentennial, the other, a year later. 2013 lauds the piece and emulates it (admittedly ineptly; my anaphora is not as telling or pithy as Lincoln's). 2014 muses upon the piece in verse, also less aptly than the piece itself. The latter is another reminder that matters remain as they have been.

There is other retrospection to do, though, than to simply look back at previous iterations of this date. I have done much to change the kind of writing I do in this webspace since I began to write in it, moving from irregular entries (such as I tend to do with another blog for which I write) or from the weekly entries I had tried to make in this webspace's now-vanished predecessor to daily entries that run to some 500 words each. That I am not always successful in that plan, either in writing daily or in writing enough daily, annoys me somewhat, to be sure, but I do try to do it even so. I have benefited from the exercise, I think. I am more in the habit of writing than I was before, and writing for a general public--for the site is open to all readers, even if few avail themselves of it--helps me to write in such a way that others can read it. Academic writing operates under an onus of perceived inscrutability, even from its own creators (GA Cohen comes to mind, as do arguments about Judith Butler and others). I hope that I have worked in this webspace to improve my writing in terms of readability, and as I look forward to another thousand posts, I hope that I will continue to get better in all the ways I need to do so as a writer.

There are many yet.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


Work continues now. I expect to be going to work soon; I had meant to do so on Monday before being stopped by my body just before I would have walked out from Sherwood Cottage to go to the office. I do not know that I look forward to the day, though, as I know students are lining up to complain about the scores received on their most recently graded assignments. The scores were not good, and they were not good in most cases because of a failure to attend to simple, explicit directions. I asked for a word-count range that many of them flatly did not meet--and word counts are not merely academic shenanigans; my freelance work imposes them, as well, such that the platform through which I do much of it refuses to accept submissions that do not meet the required minimum length. If college is supposed to be professional preparation (which I do not think it is, but I know many do), then its practices should reflect professional practices, and adherence to word counts is an expected professional practice. So is addressing the topic and thesis assigned, which no few failed to do. (Seriously, I framed the assignment such that only two options were available for their thesis statements--and I explicitly said as much to them. Many did not comply.)

Did I think it would do any good, I would rage at them for their perfidy. But I know it will not; I know that many of my students have been conditioned to react in specific ways to writing tasks and to the classroom environment. Their conditioning has taken place across more than a decade; nothing I can do in a single term will overturn it for those not willing to have it overturned, and few are. They are, for the most part, teenagers, and I know that I was intractable at that age--and I was a good student, valuing learning for the sake of learning. (I still do.) I know also that that valuation is not something that plays well in the outside world; many of my students do not share that value orientation. It is sad, to be sure, but it is certain, and while I try to show my students the joy and happiness that comes from the ongoing uncover and mastery of knowledge, I know many of them think it more chimerical than it is, and I know many others see it as a delusion utterly--at least at this point in their lives. Things may change for them later, but I doubt I will learn of it when they do. And, truly, my opening up the vessel full of hate that I have long nurtured inside myself, the wizened and bitter kernel steeped in vitriol for decades, and assailing them with it will not help. It will only prompt (more) comments about how much an asshole I am.

They would have to give a damn what I think (other than the grades) for my anger or annoyance to matter at all. And, in the main, they do not.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


I did not feel well over the last few days (I am better now, thanks, although not quite up to full), so much so that I took a sick day yesterday. Those who know me know that I do not often do such things; I have long disliked having to get caught back up on things. (That I recently had a bout of having to get caught back up on things reminds me of why.) Those who have known me for a while know that I tend to work even on sick days, albeit less well than I normally do; true to form, I pressed ahead with grading as much as I could stand to do yesterday. Two classes are done; two more remain. Students already complain about their scores, but that is to be expected; the scores are my complaints about the reading I was obliged to do for them. Why I should be expected to reward students who have not addressed the assignments given them--particularly when they have been given models to follow, explicit instruction as to what theses to present and how to structure the arguments supporting them, and time in class to get answers to questions (which they then decry as "wasted" because "we just say the same things over and over again")--eludes me.

For those students who do pay attention to things and at least try to write the essays assigned, I am grateful. Even when they do badly in the attempt, they show that I am not spending my time in front of the classroom to no good end--and I often feel that I am.

To turn to other things: The Mrs. and Ms. 8 seem to have avoided whatever it was that took me for a ride this weekend, which is good. As has ever been the case, the Mrs. has been remarkably solicitous of me, doing much to ensure my comfort and helping to make sure that I do not lapse into failing to care for myself (something of a tendency of mine, unfortunately, although how much is innate and how much is social conditioning is unclear; I get tired, but there are things I power through despite fatigue--which may account for some of the problems of the weekend...). I remembered not to complain about the soup this time, which is not so much to my credit as it is not to my detriment. (I remain apologetic for the early lapse, my love.) Ms. 8 continues to bustle about, making mischief as she learns what is and is not fit for doing about Sherwood Cottage. How she has such energy, I do not know; I envy her it. Her life burns brightly yet, her lamp not sooted over as mine has too much been; I can only guess what she sees in its light, but I think it must be glorious when I see the joy that is so often on her face and hear it bubble up in her laughter.

Monday, November 16, 2015


Lines trace the profiles of mighty crags
Summits attained
And I did not realize I was climbing
Until I was already at the bottom again

Sunday, November 15, 2015


I have noted before that I do not often recall my dreams. This morning, however, I remember at least one, a dream I had while dozing between shrieks of my alarm, taking advantage of the snooze button. For some reason, I had visited a clothier, and I was getting a full suit of clothes--including a hat. As ever, my hatband size showed up as large, and I quipped about having a big head (which is true; I take a large hat size, for my head is far from small). Finding one that looked good on me proved a challenge, however, and at several points, when I looked in a mirror to find out that the hats looked funny, I found that I looked funny. The effect was not unlike a funhouse, elongating my neck or expanding my belly more than it already swells. Yet none of the background was distorted; only I was changed as I looked on and the hats I tried on did not fit.

What I might read into such a dream is uncertain. The big-headedness could imply arrogance, as quips about cranial size tend to do--even though it is demonstrable that I have a large head, physically. (Note that I do not argue much about the hubris; I do, however, have a large head.) The details I recall of how my body was distorted in the mirror call to mind older personifications of the Seven Deadly Sins, particularly Gluttony. (An easily accessed example is here.) I have been a glutton, to be sure, as those who recall seeing me at table in my youth can attest; I am trying to be better about things now, not least because my body has taken to punishing me for excess, but if I embody Deadly Sins, they are Pride, Envy, and Lust, rather than Gluttony. (Why I make such assertions, I will not discuss now. Perhaps another time.)

I am tempted to let it be simply a dream, tempted to let the matter rest examined no further. Work continues, after all, and I am facing a deadline. Perhaps I ought to attend to it; I do not know that I can get any more from what I recall of my mind doing while I straddled the line between wakefulness and sleep.

Saturday, November 14, 2015


Waking repeatedly
To void the gut
And forward
Does not
A restful night make

I do not recommend it
Even when work does not continue
And work continues

Friday, November 13, 2015


Work continues, as ever it must. I am still working on grading, as should be no surprise; the end of the semester is coming, which means assignments are coming due and coming in, and each of them must be assessed. The process thereof is often unfortunately slow; reasons for the dragging on vary from simple fatigue to undesirability of the activity itself to attending to needs of family (for Ms. 8 still has her cold, and so she still needs the attention to get over it, which includes much snuggling on the dad-lap; it is evidently warm and cozy). It is in progress, though, which is to the good, and I did get several things done yesterday. Some job applications went out, which helps, and I did update the Fedwren Project a bit. (I also have interlibrary loan requests out for more materials to add to the work.) How much more I can get done today, I am unsure, but I will be working on things to try to push forward; there is still much, much to do. (I did not get the Tales after Tolkien Society piece done--or even well begun--and there remains the freelance writing to do.)

As the work continues, it does so amid increasingly cool weather. Temperatures around Sherwood Cottage continue to demonstrate that it is, in fact, autumn; there has been frost on windows, although it has not frozen here yet, and the highs do not reach "regular" room temperature. (The kind of normative assumptions that go into asserting what temperature a regular room ought to be had not occurred to me until just now, but there is a certain set of assumptions about comfort and propriety that seem to inform "room temperature," isn't there? Why 72 degrees Fahrenheit? Do I and others find it comfortable because it is or because we have been taught that it is? And for those who think it can only be the former: How much time do you spend naked, despite your natural state being in the nude? Unless your mother had a clothing store inside her uterus--which would make for a number of entirely impolitic jokes...) It is good weather for working; it does not distract so much with promises of outdoor splendor, particularly for such an indoorsman as I am.

The Mrs. and I have yet to turn on the furnace for the season, although we are using electric space heaters in our room and in Ms. 8's. We have yet to seal the windows (as much as the cats and Ms. 8's questing hands allow); the afternoons are cool, but opening the house to them is still worth doing. There will be months in which we cannot do such a thing, when we cannot freshen the air inside Sherwood Cottage, and so we are doing what we can to do so while we have it to do. That, too, is good for working, and since there is still so much of it to do, any aid in the doing suggests itself as welcome.

Thursday, November 12, 2015


I noted yesterday that the weather around Sherwood Cottage was changing. The change appears to have gone through, with cooler air blowing in along the high winds yesterday; it is in the 30s Fahrenheit now (low to mid single digits for my Celsius friends) and promises only to get to the upper 50s or lower 60s. I am not aware that precipitation is forecast, but that means relatively little; that I do not know does not mean it is not there (maugre some old pronouncements of friends of mine--and, yes, I do have and have had friends). I am aware, however, that the winds yesterday knocked some parts out of trees on the Sherwood Cottage lot; I had to drag a sizeable chunk back behind the garage yesterday when I got home. I hope there has been no damage to the roof; the owner is not likely to be happy at another roof replacement.

Work continues, of course. There is grading to do again; I had my students work through one of my riddle exercises yet again (not this one), and so I have to assess the work they did on it. There is another exercise that I have allowed to languish and need to redeem from its sojourn amid my papers, as well. Too, I stumbled across a piece to treat in my Fedwren Project, an annotated bibliography I am compiling for reasons I explain on the relevant page (here); I ought to attend to it. Further, I have a budding idea for a bit of writing to do to contribute to the Tales after Tolkien Society blog, here; others' contributions remain welcome. And freelance work and job applications both continue to await me. So I am able to remain as busy as I could ever want to be for as long as I could ever want to be. There is somehow comfort in that.

Amid this, Ms. 8 continues to suffer the effects of her cold. It is trying to move into her chest yet; the Mrs. and I are working to hinder it, keeping our daughter hydrated and comfortable as much as we can. The girl seemed to be in a good mood yesterday and last night, if annoyed and distracted by fits of coughing. (If only the glazed donut impression annoyed her so much.) She is beginning to be more willful, however, which does not always work as well as she might hope; neither of her parents are as tractable as she might like them to be. Her father, for example, resents her attempts to eat his shoes (true story) or wrap herself around his feet while he is at his desk. She will grow out of such behaviors, I am sure. I can hope she will do so soon--although I hope for her to get over the cold sooner than that.

As I have noted, there is much for me to do. I suppose I ought to be about it; I suppose I shall have more to say tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


The United States commemorates today as Veterans Day, something about which I have written before in this webspace (namely here, here, here, and here). I have nothing to add about it at this point, really; my opinions on it have not changed more than they already had. Given my own work, I doubt I will be able to observe the two-minute silence at the appropriate time, which is unfortunate, but work continues, holiday or no. My responsibilities do not change because a partial public observance occurs; they do not change for full observances, in fact. But that does not mean I do not recognize the occasion.

Even as I do, however, there are other things to which I must attend. Ms. 8, as it happens, has a bit of a cold that sounds like it is trying to get into her chest. She is doing largely well, to be sure, and she is generally in a good mood, but it is obvious to me that she is not at her best. Coughing jags annoy her and worry her parents, and her refining imitation of a glazed donut continues annoyingly for all involved. We are treating symptoms as best as we can, but the cold is as it is, and it must run its course. At least it isn't pneumonia or something worse this time...

The weather around Sherwood Cottage is peculiar. Yesterday started off quite brisk and ended up being quite warm, with temperatures in the 80s F. (International friends, I forget the Celsius equivalents. Upper 20s, maybe?) Today promises to cap out in the low 70s, and the winds are sweeping across the plains, indeed. Whether they will make getting to work easier or more challenging, I do not yet know. I will find out, however, as I will be walking. It is not raining, after all, and I can stand a bit of a breeze. I blow enough hot air to be able to take some wind back in my face; it's only fair.

The semester is in its final stages at this point. Students are at work on their fourth paper (of four), and they are voting on the form their final exam (which I give because the institution says I have to, not because it is actually appropriate to the class) will take. So far, they seem to want to have a riddle exercise, one in which I give them the text of a riddle to proofread (because I embed usage errors into it), solve, and explain the solution thereof based on the text provided. It is an exercise I have given before to the current classes, earlier terms at the current institution, and at my previous institution; it seems to work well enough for what I want to do with it, although it seems also to strike a number of students oddly. Then again, so does losing points for doing assignments badly, so I am not quite so concerned about that.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


It is my father's birthday once again, something I have been reasonably good about noting in this webspace (see here, here, and here). It is a bit early, so I have not yet placed a call to him, but I will, and a card and a gift have been en route to him. What I noted last year remains true; I am lucky to have had such a father. Ms. 8 is lucky to have such a grandfather, and I look forward to her coming to learn that more fully. (She already knows to some extent. We have pictures. They are remarkably cute--and I do not use that term often.)

Even so, work continues. I have more to do on the freelance project; Ms. 8 did not take as long a nap yesterday as she usually does, and I was somewhat out of sorts, so not as much writing got done as should have. There is more grading for me to do, as well, and I will be attending the second in a series of workshops this afternoon (the Mrs. has arranged to be off from work so that I can go; I receive a stipend for my attendance). A couple of job applications need attention, as well, since I am still trying to find continuing employment; my visit in the area of Sherwood Cottage has been going on for a while, now, and I need to see about finding my way to a home yet to be determined. I try, of course, but the decision is not wholly--or even largely, in the event--up to me.

I had had ideas for where I would go with this, but I seem to have lost them. It is a thing that has happened before, a thing about which I am certain I have written before in this webspace, and it remains annoying. Fleeting thoughts that suggest themselves in whispers and vanish away before they can be fully seen and gathered together, given some semblance of substance and put where others might see them. I understand their reluctance, though; to be fixed in a medium is to be made unchanging and in effect ended, and that something would seek not to find its own end is sensible enough. I do not look forward to my own infixing, after all; I can hardly blame another who does not. But I perhaps do poorly to wax poetic in such a way, anthropomorphizing something that is already human in origin (and wondering, suddenly, about the gendering of even such a term, continuing to use the "anthro" as a gender-neutral term when 1) it is not and 2) somehow, the thoughts suggest themselves in women's voices, clear and quiet altos--and even that runs possibly into trouble as I ponder it further...).

But, yes, it is my father's birthday, and I hope he has a good time of it. I will call him later to harangue him about being yet more old, of course, but I am glad he is around for me to do it to him--and I hope for him to be so long.