Saturday, January 31, 2015


A month in
And the New Year no longer feels new

Tempus fugit
Of course
But it seems to have flown through rain and snow and storm
For the wings once gleaming are tarnished
The windows scarred by hail
And the buffeting winds have rocked it badly

I shift in the seat provided
The back less broad than my shoulders
My gut spilling over the sides
And next to me a nasal voice

Can you keep your arm in your space
It's really annoying me

And my reply

Your face annoys me
I guess we're even

And while the nasal voice has no more to say
The seat remains uncomfortable
As I am bucked about
While the rain and hail fall outside
Passing by to some end far below
Wetting ground that I will never see

Friday, January 30, 2015


It is once again payday, which means also that it is once again bill-pay day. I think I am coming out slightly ahead this time, though, which is helpful. I could still stand to have more on the income side than the outlay, but that is more or less always true; I ought to be used to that sensation by now.

When my alarm clock woke me this morning, it was from an odd dream. I was sitting somewhere and discussing medieval scholarship with a flautist with whom I went to high school. (No, not that one, those of you who know about such things. And not the other one, either.) It took me a while to remember the name, annoyingly enough, and I remember little else of the dream, as usual. And, also as usual, I am sure that there is some meaning to be taken from the dream, although I do not know that I want to explicate it myself or to do so here.

That I would suggest doing such a thing with incomplete information will doubtlessly strike some as odd. How, after all, can meaning be ascertained from only a partial report? And while there is some sense to that, the simple truth is that none of us ever have access to the full set of information. It is, in effect, infinite, and finite beings cannot take in that infinitude. More locally, more concretely, though, we often work with incomplete data. Those who investigate crimes move forward from partial information, expanding and refining it (admittedly often with biases in place that lead to some evidence being ignored and other evidence that should be suspect being taken as true). Those who will study written works do not always or necessarily often have access to early drafts of the works they treat, limiting understanding of the compositional process. Those who study older written works routinely have to negotiate the decay of the physical objects on which the text appears; the "original" Beowulf, Cotton Vitellius a.xv, notably suffers from fire damage. And even when such is not the case, as with, say, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, the texts studied may not be "finished" as we understand the term.

The Work concerning such texts continues even so, just as the work of day to day life continues. We do what we can to develop our understandings of our surroundings even though we do not know the fullness even of the smallest things we encounter; there are levels of reality that surpass our ability to perceive them, aided or unaided, and few of us turn our full and undivided attention to any of the many tasks we undertake in a day. Not really. We are distracted by one thing or another, we remain attuned to the outside world. Yet we still function (some of us, anyway). We still make meaning and sense (some of us, anyway). And it is enough--or it is for some of us, anyway.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


In a little more than an hour, I will have a phone interview for a job. I confess to being somewhat nervous about it, despite having interviewed remotely several times before; there is always a bit of apprehension about being examined. Problems of technology happen, after all, and I may not be so good at this as I think I am. What I can do to calm myself and keep myself at ease, I do, and I am doing, but there is only so much that can be done--more's the pity.

Still, I do know what I am doing. I have done this before, after all, and more than once. Sometimes, I have even done so successfully; I do have a job, after all, even if I am looking for one that is more permanent (or more likely to be so; the tenure track is not quite so certain as all that). I am up on current best practices, both in my field and in hiring at large, and I am able through long practice to wax eloquent on a number of subjects likely to come up in both job interviews at large and with academics in particular. I ought to be fine.

This has been a good pep talk. Thanks.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


Against the news of the snowstorms in the Northeast, an account of an earlier such storm--one that lived up to its promise--suggests itself. I have made such comments before, and on this day, in fact...

The one that comes to mind for me is the Boxing Day Blizzard of 2010, about which I made some comments. The details of how much snow fell on The City and in how much time, and how long it took to remove enough of the snow that the outer boroughs of The City could function (because Manhattan gets cleaned quickly), are on record elsewhere; I need not repeat them here. But although I made a scant few notes about my own experience with the snow, there is more to say on that topic.

That year, that very week, was the first Christmas my wife and I had as marrieds. My most excellent wife had decided that, to mark the occasion, she would make a large Christmas dinner. I initially spoke against it, curmudgeonly ingrate that I am, saying that there was no need to go to the trouble, since it would only be the two of us eating it. She pressed on, anyway, and I was soon glad she did so. For one thing, she is an excellent cook, so that the meal was quite good. For another, we had much in the way of leftovers from it, which served us in good stead over the next few days.

Admittedly, holiday leftovers are a long-standing tradition with me. (I am, in fact, still eating candy from the Christmas just past.) The Mrs. and I would doubtlessly have been working through them for days afterward even had the weather been of the sort I have seen more than once for Christmas in the Texas Hill Country: 90F and sunny. (That is not a joke, by the way; I remember seeing my dad grill Christmas dinner in shirtsleeves.) But with the roads in the Best of the Boroughs shut down for the snow such that ambulances could not get through to rescue those whose medical needs would admit of no delay, the grocery store near Bedfordside Garden was not open, and we could scarcely have gotten there even with it being only a half a block away. (Crossing streets in the winter in the part of Brooklyn where we lived is somewhat challenging. Ice lurks oddly at the curbsides.) Having the leftovers in place, and in such a manner as would need little work to heat them (even had the power gone out, our stove was gas, and at worst, I could have used *my* grill, although I'd not have been in shirtsleeves), was therefore quite the blessing.

We ate the leftovers for several days as the snow melted and was cleared away at last. I recall that we spent quite a lot of time in our pajamas, as well, feeling no need to dress to leave the house when we knew we would not be doing so. (I do not often lounge about in such a way for so long. Even today, when I am relatively sure I will be inside at home for the whole day, I dressed, although not as if to go to work.) From what I have seen from my friends in The City and near it, such seems to be the standard practice; I wish them joy of it today and hope that things clear up soon.

Monday, January 26, 2015


It promises to be a busy time at Sherwood Cottage. It will be my first full week of teaching for the term, as last week's Monday was taken up by the holiday and the previous Monday saw my flying back from Vancouver; the abbreviated weeks have had me tired (although they have admittedly followed weekends of travel, as this week does not), so I am not sure how well I will handle this workweek and its successors. It is also the day I regard my class rosters as stable--two weeks into a fifteen- or sixteen-week term is enough time to let things ride, I think. My lovely wife gets to engage an expanded work schedule, now, as well, since my teaching schedule lets her pick up extra hours--and thus extra money we can use. She will also be attending a meeting tonight, getting together with others in her field of study for erudite discussions and less erudite talk afterwards; I will have the care of Ms. 8, then, and I will still have paperwork to do, for a certainty. So, yes, there will be things to do today, and I hope to be equal to all of the tasks before me.

One that is sadly not, at least as I write this, is freelance work. Pickings seem to be thin in that line, which is something of a problem; my paycheck from teaching meets such bills as rent, insurance, and utilities, but it does not do enough to cover my debt service. Pay for freelance work has been directed to that end, and its lack is therefore somewhat worrisome. Perhaps there is simply a lull in financing from my usual client; it has happened before, as I recall, and then business picked up appreciably. And the lack of freelance work *does* open time for me to work on other projects, such as the papers I need to be writing for my own continued professional efforts or the job applications I hope to have succeed. (Two of those went out last night, as a matter of fact, and one or two others should happen today. Or so I hope.) So there is a positive spin to the lack of additional paid work at the moment.

And, yes, I know that I just admitted to hope and a positive viewpoint on something. I know that it is discordant with my usual means of approaching life, far more so than those who read what I write can know. (Not every word in my head makes it to the page, after all, which is likely a good thing. I get in quite enough trouble as it is with what *does* make it to others' eyes. [The link is NSFW. You have been warned.]) I feel relatively good this morning, perhaps because of the oddity of my sleep, and I felt relatively good over the weekend, waking in my own bed after having been fully caffeinated again for the first time in a long while. If it continues to color my perceptions for the moment, it is hardly an unexpected thing.

Sunday, January 25, 2015


I think my oil needs changing
But I am far away from a service station
And my AAA membership has long since expired

Perhaps my system needs to be flushed
But I think I have already tried that
And it prompted the problem
The car responding sluggishly as I pulled out from the shop
And not much improving since

To make it worse, the test drive is over
The warranty expired
And I am facing a long drive through rough terrain

Whether the motor will last
Whether the belts and rotors will continue to do what they do
I do not know
And I think my tires might be a bit bald, too

Saturday, January 24, 2015


I was part of this last night.

Normally, I am not a celebratory person. Rather the opposite is true; I have been a curmudgeon from early on, and the passing years have not seen my curmudgeonliness pass. Those who know me can attest to it, and I believe enough of it has been embedded in my blogging that those who read it but do not know me otherwise can see the truth of the assertion. I do not do well at parties, for example, and in most cases would rather be home and/or working than otherwise.

That said, the soup exchange was excellent. I look forward to eating what my wife and I brought home, and I appreciate having had the chance to get out for a bit and enjoy myself as a person with other people. (I also appreciate the beer. It was tasty.)

Friday, January 23, 2015


The bells just tolled
Not only for me
But for all in the town
And there is probably something to be said
The bells are from the school
And not the church

One has to wonder
If the college is a mausoleum
And we who work in it
Tenders of graves
Or shades ourselves
Dead among the dead

What, then, to make of the students
Who come to us seeking a piece of paper
Who come to us seeking
What is interred in stacks and rows
Exhumed in labs and buried again
Who only think to party?

What, then, to make of the city
That depends upon the school
Devotees of a charnel house?

Thursday, January 22, 2015


Late starts prompt hurry
Rush to get everything together
The baby fed
The cats fed
Dressed and on the way to work
Even if that work is at home

The coffee pot is not empty
But it is too close to being so
And whether another can be brewed
Is an open question

How to split
Time and attention
Among all the things that need both
Still eludes

Now to get to it
Balancing badly, perhaps
But moving forward, nonetheless

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


As I continue to struggle back to some degree of normalcy, I look forward today to bringing my wife and daughter back home from their visit to family in the Texas Hill Country. I got a fair bit done in the day without them yesterday, although not so much as I would have wanted--as ever seems to be the case--but I miss them terribly and I am ready to have them with me again. (Why I keep going away from them, I am not certain. Perhaps because I *do* need to get work done so that I can continue to support them...I suppose I ought to get past my selfishness and think about what is best for them. And I have to get through the short term to have any access to the long...)

I am ready also for the work of teaching today, as among those things I did get done was lesson preparation for the day. There are two things I mean to do: discuss audience and distribute the first major assignment sheet. Both ought to go well enough; I have done this a few times before, as I recall, and not seldom at the place where I find myself now. This does not mean I will be operating on autopilot, certainly. Every class is different, and those differences demand attention. Too, I will need to see about incorporating some aspects of diversity (considered in terms of socially constructed and determined groups) into the course sequence--largely so that I can meet the demands of a workshop in which I am participating (and thus earn more money for my family). The way audience is discussed would seem to be an easy entrance into the idea.

Freelance work continues, as well. I have an order from one client waiting for me to do an easy bit of reading, and I pushed through another short piece because I had some thirty minutes to do a bit of work and the job was available. I do not know that I can do enough freelance work through the channels currently available that I could afford to leave off the day job I have at present, but freelancing continues to offer a useful auxiliary source of income. It also offers some "applied" experience for deployment in job applications for non-teaching jobs (and even for some teaching jobs); I remain in search of continuing employment, whether in or out of academia, and the latter too often refuses to view teaching a thing as experience with that thing. Freelancing helps address that, and I've been at it steadily for more than a year, now.

I have a busy day ahead of me, it seems. It is hardly unusual that I would, though, and I am not complaining of it. The simple notation is not a complaint. It is instead an acknowledgement of living in a flawed and fallen world and an exhortation to do better than I have been doing--something I think many could use.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


I am back at Sherwood Cottage after a short trip to the Texas Hill Country where I was raised, under the kindly hot sun and in the thin and stony soil of which I grew amid oak and cedar and the occasional brilliant bloom. My wife and Ms. 8 remain there, visiting other family as I do what I need to do to be ready to face the week ahead of me and the weeks that will come. For there is much I would have done over the past days, had I remained where I now am, and which I could not get done because I did not have with me what I would need to do them. But I do now, or I am close to it, and so I can do such things as set up a quiz against my students having not heeded my warnings and prepare some kind of lecture for them whether or not they did. And I can write again, which I have (obviously) been neglecting over the last few days.

There are rewards to visiting family. Environments conducive to writing--at least not for my writing--are not among them. And in some sense, they ought not to be. The point of the trip is to visit, to see people and talk with them, to do things with them such as take trips to nearby cities and visit craft shows. When I write, whether in the early morning when I really should or at such times as this, I tend to do so in solitude and, if not silence, quiet. I need a place to do it, too, and a van traveling the Texan highways is not a good one for the work. Nor yet is the shuttlepod as it flies from Sherwood Cottage to where the river makes a smile--particularly when, as yesterday, I pilot it (and am amazed, as ever, at how gas-stingy the thing is, with one tank taking me from the Hill Country into Oklahoma and perhaps half of another getting me the rest of the way home).

But that visit is done, now, and it will be some time before I have another--my schedule and that of the Mrs. will not permit it for some months. Now, it is for me to return to the daily life to which my choices have led me, the work of teaching and preparing for it, the work of The Work in which I try to tease out of the current corpus of human knowledge something new and capture some part of it in such a way that others can use it to tease out just a little more of their own in what one hopes is an unending cycle that leads ineluctably towards The Truth. Now, it is time for me to make Sherwood Cottage ready once again for those who live in it and who will return tomorrow--and now is the time to take advantage of their not being here yet to do so.

Friday, January 16, 2015


Things pile together
The demands of body
The demands of other bodies
The demands of work
To ensure that those bodies
Are supported as they ought to be

The pile will be sorted
Each put in its place
And some sense made of them
Just in time for another pile to drop

Thursday, January 15, 2015


I am no Hercules
To face the hydra
Even with help
I cannot apply quickly enough
The brand I bear
To sear the stumps of heads
Growing in place of those I remove
Bits of work done well

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


I had meant to go to the gym this morning, but I slept later than I ought to have done, and I forgot to run an errand yesterday that I needed to. The simple logistics thwart me for the moment. I mean to go this evening, after my lovely wife gets back from work. (My teaching schedule this term allows her to pick up a few ore hours at her job, which means more money for us. It is a good thing.) Workouts work better for me after work, anyway, or they used to when I did them regularly. And it will be good not to have so much of a time crush.

For had I gone to the gym today, I would have had to go from there to my teaching work, which begins today for me. (It would have been Monday had I not been returning from Vancouver at that time.) I am easing myself into it; my students will be writing today, giving me some initial impression of how they work and who they are as writers. This is necessary for me to know how to push them so that they can 1) demonstrate the skill-set program directives require of them and 2) demonstrate the skill-set and habits of mind that I believe will help them to be informed, engaged people (and the two do not always accord as neatly as one would hope). It begins to habituate the students to writing (and since I am teaching technical writing this term, it makes sense that I would want to do so), and it offers me a gentle entry into things. (Seriously, my throat is sore, and several hours of speaking after I have had a month off from teaching is not something I feel I ought to drop into.)

Things will improve, of course. I will re-habituate myself to the work of the classroom, and I will re-habituate myself to the work of self-improvement. (It was not until Saturday that my arms actually felt good again after my early enthusiasm for the workout. I do not think the airplanes helped.) In both instances, I think I will be working to return to the kind of sleep cycle I like to have, one that lets me wake early without difficulty and work in the still quiet of the morning. I appreciate maintaining such a cycle greatly, and I have not been sufficiently diligent about doing so (with consequences to my work, I am certain). And maybe, just maybe, I can do something to secure a good and useful future for myself and my family--particularly Ms. 8, who deserves much but has a father who can provide but little as yet. Being able to do more for her would be a great relief for me, certainly, although I am just as certain that I am not alone among fathers in feeling thusly. And I do not think I am alone in feeling the need to work more to make that doing more possible.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


So, I am back from MLA, and it is good to be back. I am glad to have slept in my own bed next to my wife, rather than in a hotel bed and alone. I am glad to have seen Ms. 8's smiling face again. I am glad to have sat upon my own toilet, showered in my own shower, and shaved at my own sink. I am glad to be back where I can work--for I have much work to do. I am still not caught up on transcribing my conference notes so that I can use them (I think I am 40% of the way through Friday--and I went to sessions on Saturday and Sunday). Freelance work has come up once again (which is good, for I need the money). Teaching should have resumed yesterday, but I was in transit, so I was obliged to arrange for coverage (easy on the first day, as handing out syllabi and course calendars is not so difficult); I have catching up to do on that score.

I have catching up to do on others, as well. While I walked all about downtown Vancouver (and my feet feel it), I have not done the more formal exercise I had begun before leaving; I will return to it tomorrow. I have not resigned from helping with the online L5R Winter Court, after all, even if I did arrange to be away while I was away. As I am no longer away, I probably ought to look into it again. Too, there remain job applications to treat and papers to write; I am still looking for a permanent position (I do not have one, as I believe I have noted more than once), and MLA is not the only conference I will attend this year. (There are two others: the International Congress on Medieval Studies and SCMLA. For the former, I am already obliged to deliver a talk. For the latter, I have an idea I want to run by people; I can hope it will get accepted.) And I do still need to send things out in the hopes of getting them published, as doing so will help me (possibly) get one of those permanent positions I seek.

It is good, then, that I am home today. I am in my chair and at my desk again, where I know who I am and what I can do. Coffee is brewed to help me with it, and I will soon have a bit to eat to help me move along a bit more swiftly and powerfully. In and around taking care of Ms. 8, then, I should be able to get a fair bit done--or so I hope. If not, it is going to be quite the long week for me, even if it has started perhaps later than it ought to have done. But that would not be unusual; it is part of the profession in which I currently find myself, and I ought not to complain overmuch about it.

Sunday, January 11, 2015


I continue to be in attendance at the MLA convention in Vancouver, BC. It has proven to be an interesting experience, and not only because it is only my second trip out of the United States. (Although that is not so bad. The exchange rate is in my favor, if nothing else.) I have gotten to hear a number of good presentations (and I will be listening to a few more today). It has pointed out some places where my knowledge is lacking; it helps to know where remediation is needed when seeking to enact it.

The peril of such revelations, of course, is in their implications. Those who have terminal degrees operate under some expectation of *knowing* things, so that to have gaps in knowledge, natural and inherent to bounded mortal life as it is, registers as a failure in some ways. I have to think that those in the academic humanities have it somehow worse. The nature of our research admits of little room to falter, somehow, perhaps because so little "real" work is involved in its conduct and production.

Too, the excellent work that some are doing prompts or threatens to prompt a round of self-rebuke. "Why am I not writing such papers?" I ask myself. "Why can I not come up withgood ideas and develop them? Is that not the work I have trained to do? Is it not the work I love? Why, then, do I not do it, or do more of it (since I *do* write and deliver conference papers--but I need to make articles or books of them)?" As a source I cannot presently cite (for which I apologize, but the limitations of facility and equipment I currently face are as they are) notes, I should be writing.

And I will be writing. The conference wraps up early this afternoon, and I will see about finishing the transcription of my notes into my journal afterwards (it is where I keep the conference notes I use in later papers). Some adjustments of how I present myself online and in the classroom will follow. And once I am back with my books and notes, I will get right back to work on the projects that have too long needed my attention, as well as one or two others that have come to my attention as needing my work on them *now.*

Friday, January 9, 2015


Today, my wife and I have been married for five years. That I am away, I regret. That I have a place to return to, and a loving wife there, I do not regret at all.

I love you, dear wife, very much. I should be home soon.

Thursday, January 8, 2015


I am sitting in a pub attached to my hotel in Vancouver, having just eaten my breakfast there. It is a pleasant experience, one that calls to mind my years-ago trip to the UK. I appteciate it greatly.

I will be spending time at the MLA Convention today, attending some talks and hoping to run into someone who can offer me a job. There are some hours yet before I can do so, though, so I have some time to relax a bit and explore the city a bit more. I have time also to fight with typing on a tablet with my blunt and insensitive fingers. Trying to two-hand it is not working well for me, and one-handed work is slow.

The experience here is one that has been suggested to me as useful practicefor next year, when I intend to once again attend this conference. It will be easier, then, as MLA will meet in Austin, and I have access to support, substantial support, there. I am from the Hill Country, after all, and Austin is at the edge of it. I have family there, and possibly a few friends.

While I am here, though, I will do what I can to improve upon myself. The talks should prove illuminating, and I can get a feeling for what the conference likes; perhaps I can present at it next time. And it might happen that I find someone looking to hire, although I ackmowledge it is not the most likely occurrence. Hope springs eternal, though.

If nothing else, there is a bit of time to rest before the new term begins. I somehow have the idea that I'll need it...

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


I find myself in sunny Vancouver, BC, as I write this, where I have arrived to attend the MLA Convention. I had hoped to have a job interview here, but I do not. Instead, I will do what I can to make yet more useful connections and perhaps parlay them into job offers later on. And while I am here, in an interesting part of the city, I will see about experiencing some of what is on offer.

I think I will exclude the several medical marijuana dispensaries within two blocks of my hotel from my list of places to visit.

One thing that has already struck me as I have settled into my hotel is how quickly I slip back into the kinds of things I did while I lived in The City. I walk faster without trouble, and I begin again to navigate public transit as a first recourse. How different it is from the semi-rural life I lead where the wind comes sweeping down the plain!

I am certain that I have more to say. I am equally certain that I need to say it another day. So I will save it for then...

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


I did go to the gym yesterday, as planned. There, I did some thirty minutes of strength-training exercises (probably incorrectly), focusing on my upper body. It was a good experience, and I felt good for most of the rest of the day. I have every intention of resuming once I am back from my trip, and I may actually avail myself of workout facilities in the hotel where I'll be staying. (It has not been a thing I have tended to do in the past.) Again, I want to set a good example for Ms. 8, and I want to continue to do so for a long time.

I will not be doing so today, however; I will not be back at the gym quite yet. Part of why is that my wife works today, and so I have to be home to make sure that Ms. 8 has what she needs. Another part is that I do have a bit of freelance writing to do, as well as work on my course materials to push through and job applications to complete. My current position is still a contingent one, after all. But most of it is because I am stiff and sore in ways I had forgotten I would be. I will see about getting in some aerobic work today, but I will not be handling weights.

As I noted, it has been some time since I last exercised regularly (and one day, no matter how solidly other days are intended to follow, does not make for regularity). When I did, though, I did so for quite some time. I was in judo for years as a graduate student, practicing regularly and intensely during that time (eight or more hours weekly in the last few terms). I was also enrolled at the New York Aikikai for years in New York City. The last months I was in The City, I was at the dojo five days a week (sometimes six), two hours a day. I was accustomed to the exertion (and to the strain put on joints purposefully), and while I would have a dull ache in my muscles as I went back to the dorm or to Bedfordside Garden, it was dull, and it was pleasantly warm.

That is not currently the case. My deltoids hurt; lifting my arms, either to the sides or in front of me, is substantially uncomfortable (which made this morning's shower interesting). I believe I may have overexerted myself at the gym yesterday, my enthusiasm at feeling myself strong again, if only for a moment, and working as I had worked before when I was in some kind of condition, overrode what little sense I have of such things (and, again, I probably did the exercises incorrectly, as I am not the right kind of doctor to know how to do them well). Today, therefore, I will let them rest as I can, and I will let them heal if they need healing (I think they do), and I will be a bit more...moderate in my attempts at working out when I do it again--soon.

Monday, January 5, 2015


I know that it is cliché of me to do it, but I am going to head to the gym at work. The facilities are open again, and I really need to start taking better care of myself.

There is a factor of intimidation in my doing so, though. I am not exactly in the best of shapes, either generally or of my life in particular. I am aware of having lost much since I was in training for competitive judo or in aikido in New York City. I can tell where I have grown flabbier and smaller. I can point at where I am less strong and less flexible. It is no mystery where I am less enduring. Knowing all this, and then going into rooms where the young and virile pump and flex swelling hard muscles...and without a separate locker room for is not the most inspiring thing I could do.

Too, there is the matter of simple laziness to overcome. I had meant to wake up earlier and go earlier, but I did not, preferring instead to stay abed and doze (for some damn fool reason). It is cold outside, and it would be easy to stay home and in the relative warmth rather than gird up and hike to the gym (I do not have parking privileges, as I have not paid for them). It would be easy to simply curl up again and sleep, as if all the fatigue incurred from times past can be washed away by taking a day and sleeping. It would be easy to simply give up and let things go away.

In neither case would it be to my benefit. If I have lost, then it is because I have stopped, and only by starting again will I regain. Allowing myself to be lazy will not aid the working of my body--and it needs aiding. Ms. 8 needs to have a father who can do things with her once she is old enough to do them (and she approaches walking, having decided that she can occasionally stand unaided). She needs to have a father in her life, and I know that my familial history makes me prone to dying earlier than ought to be the case. She needs to have models of conduct that are worth following, and my taking better care of myself will conduce to that end.

Thus, soon after I finish this little piece, I will make my way through the cold (fortunately without snow, although uphill for some of the way) to the gym, where I will get in at least a bit of exercise before beginning the many other errands that have already opted to fill my day. Depending on how it goes, I may even try to do it again tomorrow, and then to begin to do it again after I return from my upcoming expedition to the Pacific Northwest. It should prove interesting, although how I will cram yet one more thing into my life...I will have to do so.

Sunday, January 4, 2015


Emily St. John Mandel quotes
Star Trek: Voyager
Saying survival alone is not enough
Her characters deriding the source
But acknowledging the wisdom

A long-ago splatbook quotes
A fictional text
Saying there are three options
We may deride the source
But the wisdom is there

I do not know if anyone quotes
What I write
Saying anything at all
I wonder if I am derided
I hope wisdom is here

Saturday, January 3, 2015


I would seem to have missed the commemoration of Asimov's birthday (although I might not have missed the day, as it was not completely recorded...), and I find myself somewhat conflicted. On one hand, the work that the Good Doctor did is the important thing about him--the words he wrote are what remain and what have inspired many. I am not part of his family, after all. But on the other hand, I have long been a reader of his, and I am a nerd, and it is part of that that I ought to attend to the minutiae--which I have not done. There is a sense of diminishment, somehow, a sense that I have not done as I ought to have done, that I am somehow less because of it.

That such a feeling would befall me makes some sense. I have mentioned, here and elsewhere, that I am very much a nerd. Enthusiasm, as I note in earlier comments, is typical of nerdiness, and enthusiasm often manifests as attention to small details, a passion for getting things exactly right. As such, failing to get things exactly right becomes an indication of lessened enthusiasm, thus of lessened nerdiness--and when a label has been applied consistently and pervasively, it becomes a component of identity. Threats to identity do not sit well. (I am aware that there is substantial peril in reducing identity to labels. That I still do is a part of the social conditioning imposed upon me, tacitly and explicitly, throughout my life, and there is little I know how to do and can do to overturn it. There are...other things bound up in it.)

At the same time, the utility of the "nerd" label (assuming, of course that labels retain any usefulness in general) is diminished. A article about which I comment in another venue usefully dismantles the definition--and while I am aware that there is some trouble in using a post to a comedy website to support an argument, I find the basic point put across to be largely valid. Nerdiness is not what it used to be (if it ever was, admittedly). For me to be at odds with what a nerd is "supposed" to be is not necessarily a failing, both because the supposition is bad and because not being a nerd remains desirable.

I am left without a clear direction in the matter. Some part of me suggests that I ought to let it pass by as something of no importance; again, I am not part of the Good Doctor's family, so the dates of his birth and death should not be what matter to me. I certainly have enough other things to which to pay attention. I know myself well enough to know that the matter will stay on my mind, receding perhaps into the distance, but still marring the landscape of it in some way I cannot yet foresee, altering the scenery and the view for the worse.

Friday, January 2, 2015


Thanks to a most excellent friend, John Jarzemsky's 19 December 2014 LitReactor piece, "A Generation of People Shunned Standards in Writing and Journalism...You Won't BELIEVE What Happened Next!" crossed my news feed this morning. In the piece, Jarzemsky argues that online journalism is currently experiencing a period analogous to yellow journalism in the United States, one that prizes sensationalism over attempts at accurate reporting and that has become a means to demonstrate that a given person is "right." The article seeks to demonstrate that current online writing often fails to meet definitions of rhetoric (provided but not cited, weakening the rhetorical force of the piece) and offers a series of actions that can help to undercut the immediate reactions Jarzemsky notes with sadness as part of a hopefully passing phase that will soon resolve itself. While there are some points at which the article falters (the aforementioned lack of citation, raggedness of some of the transitions among paragraphs), the basic ideas are sound and well worth consideration.

Some things in the article are notable. One of them is the relatively balanced framing of the issue Jarzemsky discusses. He situates current internet journalism in journalistic history, allowing him to comment about purported inaccuracies without running into the problem, common to commentators on current constructions, that writers now just can't write. It does privilege present presentations of offline journalism, admittedly, tacitly asserting that there are unbiased, objective reports (which is not true and never has been) and that they are lacking among online journalistic pieces but not among more traditional media; it is a problem. But it is a great deal better than the more typical comments that are nothing more than to say "people are stupid now." It may be true that they are, but if it is, it is also true that they have been.

Another is the closing statement: "writing, reporting, communicating, and learning, is seldom, if ever, about me." The article as it appears online recognizes the importance of the statement, highlighting it in a text-box for easy attention. And it is an important comment, one likely to rile those whose focus is on the aggrandizement of the self (although such people are not likely to be those reading LitReactor) and one that serves as a corrective to the narcissistic tendencies enabled and abetted by the diversity of the online publication environment. (It is to be noted that Jarzemsky cites the ease of offering multiple viewpoints as a benefit of online journalism. It is a point with which I agree.) There are times and places for opining, certainly. They are not all times and places. Too often, it is forgotten. Too often also, the needs of the readers are forgotten--or needs of diverse readers are, the peril of the echo chamber.

Finally, Jarzemsky's four-point call to action, although familiar in large part from other places and (annoyingly) reading much like a series of resolutions, is a useful beginning point. It is incomplete, certainly; any provisional measure is, and any measure which has not been deployed can only be provisional. But, joined with the closing comment, it is something to keep in mind.

Thursday, January 1, 2015


It is a new year by the calendar I and many others use
An arbitrary measure, to be sure
Adhered to by fiat as it corresponds in no meaningful way with
Heavenly motion

Many are rising from chemical torpor
Or have yet to rise from it
And they are doing or will do so
To quieter celebrations
And protestations of things resolves
As if the world is different today
From yesterday

Perhaps it is
But if it is
It is no more different than yesterday was
Than the day before

The weather is not much changed
The problems that were in place
Are still in place
Wishing them away will not make it so
Else they would have been gone long ago
And so would I

Resolutions as given
As night becomes morning in some arbitrary measure
Are words
And as one writer writes
Words are wind

They are broken often
Beans or not
And usually to less laughter