Monday, August 31, 2015


With the end of the month comes the expected payday, which I am glad to see. With payday comes paying the bills, which I am perhaps less glad to see but which I still appreciate insofar as my doing so allows me to maintain a particular standard of living for myself and for my family. While pointing out the circularity and farce of my working to be able to do the work that I do is certainly appropriate--Ellen Goodman's comment about normalcy comes to mind--my working to support those for whom I care is not something about which to laugh, and I work primarily to support them. (Had I not them, I would likely work as a means of having something to do that conduces to my benefit. Many of the things that others regard as "fun" hold no interest for me. Swimming is an example; I have approximately the same buoyancy as a rock of equal mass to mine.)

This week also marks the third of the current term; fourteen weeks follow, including exam week. Matters go well enough so far; my students are pleasant, overall, and largely engaged with the materials. Their first version (and I am avoiding calling things "drafts" this term on the advice of a colleague encountered at a conference) of their first paper came in on Friday and was peer-reviewed. I glanced over the writing, and I found it to be better quality than in similar events of past terms. This Friday will see the second version of the paper come in, and that one will be graded (although as homework rather than as a major paper); I will have the opportunity then to find out if my initial impressions are correct. I hope they are. Seventy-four good papers is a bit of a stretch to read, even for me; seventy-four that are less good can quickly become a pain, and I do not need to feel such a thing.

Freelance work continues. I got most of another write-up done yesterday; I expect to complete the job today. As ever, I need the money. Even with today having been payday from my regular job, and many of the standing bills for the month having been met, there are other expenses to consider, both those expected (food, things for Ms. 8, fuel for the shuttlepod, utilities for which the bills have not yet arrived at Sherwood Cottage) and those not. The job hunt, which is also ongoing, costs money, too, as not all positions want an email with attachments. (Goodman's comment comes to mind again.) As I have said, however, the freelance work is enjoyable, and the pay is a welcome addition to household finances; I do not complain of it...often. I do, occasionally, have to read something quite bad for the work (vampire pseudo-porn comes to mind, not least because I agree with some of Rich Burlew's comments, and the piece of crap I had to read works against several of them in the first few pages of text). In the main, though, it is good work to do, and, again, the added payday is welcome.

Sunday, August 30, 2015


It is supposed to be
A day of rest
And so I should not feel guilty
That I have rested
But I do
For there is work to do
And I was not doing it when I should
And I am trying to get into a headspace
Allowing work to be done
Because the work I do
Is the kind of work
That takes focus
And attention
And I cannot seem to muster either
When I must muster both
I am having trouble
Finding the place in which I can write
That will make sense
As should be obvious now

Saturday, August 29, 2015


I am a casualty

A shot misfired in a battle I often fight left me unable to rise
Too long
A friendly-fire mishap

I stagger about now
The lingering effect of the wound incurred hinders me
And there are other battles to face

They are solo missions
I can count on no support in completing them
But I know I can count on it when they are done
If they are ever done such that
I need not fight another

Friday, August 28, 2015


A year ago, I offered a report of what I had been doing, commenting on having had something of a head cold, among others. This morning, I felt my nose begin to run again, and I noted that Ms. 8 is having a bit of trouble in that line. I have to wonder if I am getting sick again--but if I am, it is at least at the end of the working week, so that if I can but make it through the day and back again to Sherwood Cottage, I will be able to take some time to rest and perhaps to recover. Even so, I rather hope that I am not about to be ill; it is never a good experience, and there is still much that I need to do.

I intend to have a relatively easy afternoon, Ms. 8 permitting. I completed a freelance order yesterday, going through a document someone else had written and making corrections and adjustments to it. Once that was done, I picked up the book I need to do the next order on my docket. If circumstances permit, I will read it today and begin the write-up this evening. I expect to be pad for 5,500 words, and I expect to end up writing a few hundred more than that (in part because formatting cues and headings show up as words to be counted, which generally annoys). If things go as I would like them to go, I will be able to complete the job tomorrow, making it three on the week that I will have submitted. The money that comes in as a result will be decidedly welcome.

Other work still awaits me. There is a post to the Tales after Tolkien Society blog that I have in draft, and I probably ought to get it completed. (I probably ought to get other contributors, too, so if you or someone you know has ideas about how the medieval gets portrayed in the post-medieval, let me see them. I cannot do the job alone.) Too, I really need to put together an abstract for the International Congress on Medieval Studies; I have not had so many ideas in that line as I should like, but I need to get at least one of them out and on "paper" so that I can justify attending the conference (aside from the service line or lines I am likely to get, since I will offer to preside over a session and may get asked to cover another, depending on what abstract I write and whether or not it gets accepted). And I have the book chapter that needs writing, as well; although it will not pay so well as my freelance writing, it will still serve to highlight my status in the academic world, and it may help me land a job. I am certainly talking about it in my job letters--and I need to send another one of those out today...

Thursday, August 27, 2015


Ms. 8 has been suffering from a runny nose lately. It has made her somewhat irritable, as could be expected. (It has also made changing her diapers even more "delightful" than normal.) The Mrs. and I are doing what we can to help her, but when trying to wipe her nose sends her into screaming fits and trying to aspirate her sends her into worse, there is not much that can be done. (We have found that my handkerchiefs work better for her than tissues, and a particular wipe does well, too.) Her nose is still runny this morning; I have already gotten to tend to her today, so I have seen the glaze on her upper lip, and I imagine that I will have a fun time of it while my wife is at work. Such is life as a parent, and I still account myself fortunate that I am able to be with Ms. 8 at this point in her life; I understand that not as many fathers in the United States as want to get to.

Even amid caring for Ms. 8, work continues. I really need to attend to a freelance piece that has been sitting in my docket; I had been waiting for some clarification from the client to proceed, but I think I will not be getting further direction at this time. I also need to follow up on the job hunt; I sent off an application to a school several states to the east of where I am, and I have another that I need to do today. I'll try to do one a day until my docket is clear--if my docket is ever clear. That some of the announcements are growing stale will help with docket-clearing, although not with my professional advancement, and it is to my shame that I have allowed them to grow so. I am supposed to be better than to do such a thing; I am supposed to be able to read and write quickly and for long, and that seems not to have been as true for my job search as I would want it to be.

If I have not been as diligent about some parts of my work as I might be, I have been exceedingly diligent in others. My classroom work is going well; yesterday was an excellent teaching day, with good discussions from all four of my classes. Tomorrow will be a writing workshop, with students practicing poring over papers on one another's work, hopefully making for better reading when the papers get to me. They seem also to benefit from the work I do for them on my more professional website. I am returning to some of my older teaching practices; they seemed to work better than more recent ones, or at least to provoke less complaint and controversy. One or two that I have continued  will also be informing a publication on which I really ought to be working, so brushing up on them will be good for me to do. And I guess that means I ought to get back to work now.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


Insert the usual refrain here
And think
For a moment
On the accumulation of work
The need to understand one thing
To understand another
To understand another yet

We are all of us aggregate
Formed by little chunks of things
Stuck together
Each small bit necessary to the whole

Which is prized?
The chunks collected?
To matrix in which they reside?
Which adds more?
Which is needed most?
Which is real
The kind of real that recognizes real?

Another refrain:
I don't know.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


Something the Mrs. and I do from time to time is revisit movies from a few decades back, movies we remember from our youth (whether seen in initial release by her or seen on television or in school by me). We watched The Neverending Story a while back, finding that it has not held up well; we watched The Dark Crystal more recently, finding that it has. So have Labyrinth and Willow. So also has the one we most recently watched, using streaming video to bring it to us as we sat and Ms. 8 played on the floor of the living room: Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. It had shown up on the streaming service not long before, and I queued it up so that we would be able to watch it. I am glad we did; watching it was enjoyable, and I found a few things in it that I had not noticed before. (How could I be expected to? I think the last time I saw it was when I was in high school--if it was that recently. I flatter myself that I know more now than I did then.)

Among the things I noticed is the oddity of Bill's usage. His speech is supposed to be a caricature of Valley talk, voiced by a character of limited intelligence and understanding. The polysyllabic words he deploys, however, are used "correctly." That is, they are used in a manner consistent with their denotations--and of their connotations, as it happens, since time travel in a budget TARDIS provided by a George Carlin character is the kind of extreme situation that calls for elevated language, being rare, wondrous, and, in its connection to a series of prominent historical figures (albeit in caricature), of singular importance. The idea of "flattening," that using elevated terms for the mundane strips the terms of their import, does not apply. It is a small thing to note, to be sure, but entertaining, adding to the enjoyment of a simple, open, innocent movie.

And the movie is largely innocent. Sure, there is some vandalism in it, and there is some interpersonal violence, but most of it is comic and leaves no lasting harm (that the film depicts; it does not do well with following up on the implications of its own events, although time travel need not necessarily do so...and the complications of time-travel plots emerge suddenly). Bill and Ted are, in effect, harmless, stumbling through life and entertaining those around them while themselves remaining good-natured (despite comments deemed appropriate at the time the film was made that no longer obtain). They are fundamentally happy people, and if they are perhaps a bit foolish and decidedly naïve, and if their core message is trite, they are still worth an occasional viewing decades later. They offer a good way for a family to pass an evening now and again, and if that is ultimately a small thing, it is no less to be treasured.

Monday, August 24, 2015


I did manage to push through my freelance piece yesterday, drafting it and seeing it accepted by the client. It was good to do, not least because it opens me up for other work--of which I have more than enough to do. Among others, I am now reading a recent novel because another person's write-up of it needs fixing; I will be doing the fixing, but I cannot do it without knowing what the errors are, and that means I need to read the book to find out what happens in it. And there is another order to come, likely tomorrow when new novels emerge; I have been told to expect the work, and that the work will be somewhat urgent. It is a good thing, as it means more money to support my household, and I will happily take all of that I can get.

The semester continues today, entering its second week. My class rosters should be more or less stable at this point, so I will finally be able to build my gradebooks and attendance sheets; I resist doing so before rosters are firm, as I dislike having to add new students to my records. Office hours today will therefore be a bit busy, as I will need to transfer the information from the physical, ad hoc attendance sheets I had previously compiled to my more formal records, and that takes a little bit of time even for me. Some grades need entering, as well, and others may well be incoming, as I am not sure whether my students believe I have quizzes ready for them against their non-reading and non-participation. I also need to set up the usual materials yet; events of the weekend have kept me from getting ahead on my teaching materials as I normally do, although I am not behind as I know will soon come to pass. I can only juggle so much at a time, after all, and only for so long before I begin to drop balls.

My father-in-law is in the hospital with heart trouble. I'll not go into specifics, but there was a scare; he seems to be more or less okay at this point, but my Mrs. is worried--appropriately--and is trying to keep herself busy so that she can avoid focusing on that worry. Ms. 8 seems happy to oblige her desire to remain occupied; she has been acting out more than usual lately, which has not been pleasing to either her mother or me. I know it is wholly natural that she should do so; it is a thing that toddlers do, and at eighteen months, Ms. 8 is very much a toddler. She knows there are words and she tries to form them, but they do not always work well, and I can understand the frustration therein. I can also understand the frustration at being thwarted by those against whom resistance is futile. (Ms. 8 has long since been assimilated.) That I understand things does not mean I take joy in them, though; it is hard to be happy with a child who screams with anger for more than an hour, relenting only long enough to draw breath and begin again...

Sunday, August 23, 2015


Yesterday was not the best day.

I had meant to spend the day at work on my writing, taking the time to push through a freelance piece and then to move on to other bits of work that need doing. It was going to be a good day to do it; the Mrs. was going to work her short shift (since the place she works is only open half-days on Saturdays), and around the time she got home, Ms. 8 would go down for her nap. I would be able to work then and afterwards, completing the freelance order and therefore getting more money; I would afterwards be able to do other writing entirely, possibly getting ahead on things for a change. All three of us at Sherwood Cottage would be happy with how things fell out.

Such was not to be, however. We had a storm roll through between Friday and Saturday, and in the morning, after I had written here and had begun work on the freelance piece (as Ms. 8 was still asleep, or seemed to be), high winds and substantial rainfall conspired to drop branches and limbs from trees. They also ended up bringing several trees down altogether, including one that fell onto the power lines that supply Sherwood Cottage with electricity. Power was out here for more than twelve hours. Consequently, I could not work, not and still take care of the things that needed caring for--for Ms. 8 was wholly discommoded by the disruption to her routine, and our eating went wacky, since neither our refrigerator nor our cookery could be deployed. (I have a grill, yes, but it does not start so well in the rain. Electric stoves are problematic, too.)

Matters did eventually get corrected. The city utility folks were hard at work all day; ours was not the only power outage in the area, and there was a *lot* of tree to remove from the supply lines leading to us. (The break occurred between other lots than ours.) I find no fault with their work; indeed, when there have been utility problems, the workforce in the area has been good about attending to them. Still, it was annoying to have lost a day--and a hot, humid one, at that.

I recognize, however, that it was *only* an annoyance. Our water still flowed, and we were able to ensure that our food did not spoil. (I am pretty sure we did...) And the power came back on relatively soon, particularly given the circumstances. I am not unmindful of the larger perspective. That does not mean, however, that I am pleased to be playing catch-up yet again today--as I always seem to be, anyway. Several thousand words of freelance work remain to me, and other jobs are in the offering. Preparations for the next week of teaching need making; I should write as I ask my students to write. And there is other work to do, besides. As ever.

Saturday, August 22, 2015


Something is rumbling
From heaven or earth is uncertain

It could be a truck rolling by
There are enough of them about
And they seem adjusted to be louder than they need to be

It could be the ground settling
Or unsettling
That happens often enough
On the wind-swept plains

But a flash of light tells me
It is none of those
And more rumbling follows

Friday, August 21, 2015


I worry that I am growing ossified, that I am losing my mental flexibility. (I do not worry about the physical. Why worry about what is gone?) I do not want to be a person who seeks the new because it is new, but I do not want to be a person who rejects the new because it is new, either. (I want to reject it for better reasons.) I know that there is good stuff coming out, but I find it hard to find it, and I have to force myself to remain open to things that might be good but are not the same as what I have had before. It exhausts me, and I do not appreciate the implications of that exhaustion, namely that I am obsolete. (I know that I have written of imminent obsolescence, but that is not the same thing that I mean here.)

In some senses, I am used to living in the past. As a scholar of the medieval, I necessarily engage with what has gone before at length and systematically. But that is not the kind of thing about which I worry; I engage with the past to make new knowledge about the present, even if I know that that knowledge will be superseded at some point (and likely not far into the future). I mean something more like being caught up in nostalgia, in prizing the days of my youth as an ideal time and not venturing beyond the "safe" confines of the popular culture of the later 1980s through 2000, maybe 2005. (I am the age I am, and I remember the later 1980s onward. I only earned my baccalaureate in 2005, at the "traditional" age.) Even within that, my scope is all too limited; I try to recapture something that I really never had.

I rail against nostalgia in large part because I feel myself swallowed by it more often than is good for me. I get lost in recollections of the past, usually of past shames and disgraces, all too many of which are utterly petty, and nearly all of which are recalled by few if not by me alone. It distracts me from what I am doing now, and it does not even do so with the benefit of being a "remember the good times" experience; it is chewing over bones long cracked to splinters, piercing my lips and gums and tongue, and I am masochist enough that I relish the pain and take the jagged mass more deeply into myself. It tastes bad, to be sure, but it is a familiar badness, one to which I am accustomed.

Eating something else every so often would be good. I have been making some efforts that way, although fewer than I likely ought to do and only after arguing myself into doing so. And it is simple things that most people accept as good and fun and decent, things like going to the park of an evening or attending a free event in walking distance from Sherwood Cottage; I have to encourage myself to go to them against the rhythm of "It's gonna suck because it always sucks, or near enough as doesn't matter" playing over and over again in my mind. That, or "You should be working," which is more or less always true--and it is true now.

Thursday, August 20, 2015


Today ought to be an interesting day. I intend to take Ms. 8 around to one or two places in town to let her play, theoretically with other children. (I do not know if any will be present, although I rather expect that they will.) I also have an eye appointment this afternoon, since the optometrists here actually follow up on their concerns that I might be developing glaucoma and I have insurance that will allow me to meet with them to do the follow-up visits. (Today is supposed to be a check-up visit, making sure things are not worse than they were. I show up with high intraocular pressure--go figure--and one or two of the structures at the back of my eyes seem to be oddly formed. The former occasions questions about whether or not I am getting glaucoma. The latter monkeys around with the usual next test to see if I actually am.) So that should be fun.

I also need to get to work on some freelancing. There are two orders waiting for me, both of which promise to pay decently, and I need the money. Academic work never stops; indeed, I just saw a call for papers that seems in line with what I do, and I have another paper that needs writing. Job applications continue to await my attention, as well, and I fear some of them are getting somewhat stale. Laundry needs to be done, too, as I need to have more pants than I currently have available. (I am trying to dress a bit more professionally this term than I did last.) And there are many other chores to which to attend, as well, the daily work of keeping a house decent despite its age and the infirmities that attend on age after less-than-assiduous maintenance. (I am aware that it is a warning for me. I am taking small steps. Playing more actively with Ms. 8 is among them; the little girl can move quickly, and she likes to move toward things that are not entirely good for her. Interdiction becomes useful exercise.)

There are also other things to consider, to contemplate. In class yesterday, I had a student break into tears. It was not the first time that such a thing has happened to me, but it was the first for the new term, and it was not occasioned by any of my directed comments. (In the past, when a student has started crying, it has usually been as a result of reading my critiques of the work submitted. Yesterday's incidence was not a case of this.) It came as something of a shock, as I had done nothing to prompt such a response; yesterday was an in-class-writing day, and the prompt was carefully neutral. A bit of talk got the student calmed down, but I remained--and remain--somewhat shaken. What kind of environment is at work that such things happen? How am I to deal with it, especially when I find myself stymied by what I must do in a day?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


Today, I am following up on something I did just over a year ago, for yesterday, I read Robin Hobb's most recent novel, Fool's Quest (ISBN 978-0-553-39292-0, US$28 in hardcover). I did so a week after its release, admittedly, so others will have already written and published reviews, but that does not mean I will not add my own, noting that the book is the second in the Fitz and the Fool Trilogy and so a furtherance of the narrative arc begun in 1996 with Assassin's Apprentice. In the text, Fitz experiences the consequences of his failures, not only of the guise of Holder Tom Badgerlock, but also of his older failures from earlier series (the Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies); his daughter, Bee, has been taken, and he is not able to recover her, although he does retrieve others who had been assigned to his care. Oddly, however, his secret identity is revealed and he is exalted to the full royal dignity that had long been denied him due to his bastard birth--the "Fitz" with which his name begins is an accurate descriptor--and so removed from his earlier quiet work as a royal assassin. It does not remove him, however, from his desire for vengeance upon those who have wronged him and his, and the book concludes with Fitz en route to those who sent ruin upon him--and with his daughter, alive despite the beliefs and efforts of many, fleeing in an uncertain direction.

I have long expressed my appreciation for Hobb's work, both directly and tacitly in the form of several papers and my master's thesis focusing on her corpus. I will doubtlessly do so again. That does not mean there are not places where I find fault with the novel. The revelation of FitzChivalry Farseer as still alive (despite prevailing belief that he is decades dead) seems out of place, and while it is pushed through by a character whose mental deterioration becomes clear later in the text, it still reads as somehow inauthentic and sudden, out of place with the rest of the narrative. Consequences of that revelation seem somehow subdued; they occur, certainly, but not with the vigor that would be expected (and that the subject of the revelation, to his credit and his author's, does expect).

Even so, I find much to laud in the text. As ever, Fitz's narrative voice is strong and reads well. Bee's narrative voice, which emerges at points in the text, is also handled well, and is far more distinct from Fitz's than is the narrative voice of the Soldier Son trilogy. The welcome introduction of chapters with "outside" materials, present in earlier volumes of the work, continues, helping to orient the reader in broader understanding of the milieu. And the work does explore some of the implications of its milieu's features, as fantasy and science fiction do not do often enough. The growth and spread of dragons has consequences, and those consequences are made far more visible in Fool's Quest than in many other works. Too, the presence of an organized, generational group of prophets has terrible overtones, and those are explored, at least to some degree, in the novel. The line of reasoning Hobb explicates through The Fool is one that makes sense, corresponding with likely actions in the readers' world if there were to be such a thing as Clerres in it, making the impending confrontation in the third volume of the work--still yet to come--all the more ominous. Hopefully, Hobb will continue her practice of relatively rapid writing, not leaving her readers in the situation of Martin's; the third volume of Fitz and the Fool promises to be quite the read.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


The first day of teaching went well enough. There were some hang-ups, of course, but I expected to see them. Sometimes, students take a while to get into things, and classes that are quiet to begin grow more engaged, if not boisterous, as the term goes on. Tomorrow will be another easy day (yesterday passed out and reviewed the syllabus and course calendar; tomorrow will be an in-class writing day), helping me to get situated and the new students to grow more accustomed to how the collegiate writing classroom works. Perhaps I will take some time to return to one of my older policies and try to draft an essay of the kind I expect from my students; I shall have close to four hours in the classroom tomorrow, much of it occupied only with looking out over the student body unless I find some other use for the time. Either assessing submissions as they come in or working to model behavior for my students suggests itself as a good use of that time.

Today should also be a relatively easy day; I have decided that it will be a reading day more than anything else. A thick novel sits on my desk, waiting for me to page through it. Journal articles call out to me, as well. I may do some writing other than in this webspace and in my personal journal, but if I do, it will be during the breaks I take from reading that are not occupied by my duties at home. The Mrs. works today, and I do not, so I will be watching over Ms. 8. It is the way of things for us at Sherwood Cottage, that one of us works and the other attends to the home, and since our schedules are as they are, we both have the opportunity to do both. There are rewards to the setup, certainly, although I am aware that even my contingent status affords me privilege in the matter; how many other fathers have work that allows them to spend time with their children as I do with my child? But, as I have noted, it makes getting work done a bit more difficult.

I can read, however, more easily than I can write, in part because I have much more practice in doing so. My writing, after all, is informed by reading, and there are many pages I turn without producing pages of my own. It will be nice to take a bit of time and read something that I need not write up for freelance work (although I expect I shall have more freelance work before long, if there is not already an order waiting for my attention), something that I am not reading for a specific paper to write and present or publish (although I expect I shall need to do some of that soon, as well). My daughter already mimics the act of reading--or perhaps more; seeing her develop new skills seemingly suddenly is uncanny, and I would not be surprised if she is getting some meaning from the funny marks on the paperboard pages she turns while she giggles. Perhaps we two can read together, a bonding experience I would be happy to have again and again.

Monday, August 17, 2015


I did a bit better today than I did yesterday with rising early, although not so well as I should have liked. I was out of bed at five this morning, which is good in that it afforded me a half-hour this morning I'd not otherwise have had. I had set my alarm for half past four, however, and I fought it with my snooze button this morning, so I did not meet my intended goal. Such is life.

Today, I begin teaching again. I have four sections of first-semester composition, the first of which begins in a scant two hours, and I am looking forward to having but one class prep to handle. I am less looking forward to the grading that will need doing throughout the term, though. The composition program requires four papers in multiple drafts reviewed by the instructor. I guess I am meant to earn my full-time status once again; I suppose I ought to be assiduous about tracking the time spent on the classroom work I do. Whether or not I would report that here or on the more "professional" site I maintain in support of my teaching and other work is unclear to me; perhaps I ought only to keep a time-sheet for my own purposes.

I was able to complete the freelance piece yesterday, which clears me to attend to other things today. Some of those things will be related to my teaching, of course; once the semester starts, there is always such work to do. I do have a job application on my desk that ought to go out today, so I will take care of that, certainly. Too, I am looking forward to reading the new Robin Hobb novel, which still sits in its shipping box on my desk, waiting for my attention. It has been a year since I read such a work, and I am eager to resume my long engagement with Hobb's corpus. Too, I feel as if I can get a fair bit of writing out of the work, not only in a blog post like last year's review, but also in my academic work. My master's thesis treated Hobb, after all, and I am not averse to revisiting the project, whether as a series of articles or as a shorter monograph. I certainly need the publication credits.

It is not only thence that I am poised to take them. I have, for instance, an accepted proposal waiting for my attention, and while I know the kinds of things I want to write in developing the paper from it (the piece is already structured; anticipatory abstracts are useful), I need to attend to actually writing the work. (Whether that happens before or after reading some other things, I am not yet sure.) I also maintain a list of ideas to treat, projects to complete, on my desktop. Some of them are recurring tasks, such as writing in this webspace. Others are long-term projects on which I work but slowly (oh, so slowly). Yet others are shorter papers, things to do as conference work or as short articles for minor publication. Each demands attention; somehow, I will ensure that each receives it, although it may take me a long time to do.

Sunday, August 16, 2015


It should be obvious that I was not as successful in my sleep-schedule adjustment this time as last time. I know I set an alarm; I remember it waking me up. But I also remember having a running battle with it via the snooze button, as I ought not to do. (Such battles have received comment before, with examples here, here, and here.) I am not sure if I feel myself better rested as a result or not; I am sure that I feel myself to be behind my intended schedule for the day--and for larger matters, as well. For I did not complete the freelance piece as I had meant to do; it is a quarter done, and all of that written in the morning quiet. After, though, I had to attend to Ms. 8, which is necessarily of higher priority than the freelancing, and after the Mrs. came home from work and Ms. 8 fell asleep for a nap, I found myself taking a nap, as well. Once I woke from that, it was time to run errands, and after that, it was time to eat--and then time for bed again against the thwarted hope of early waking. So I continue to set a bad example for my little girl, it seems.

Tomorrow will start the new semester at the institution where I teach, and I will be in the classroom at half past eight to greet the first of four sets of new students. A glance back at comments made at this time last year shows a number of concerns that I still feel. I am still caught by the common concern of conflicting obligations: a full-time job (teaching), a part-time job (freelancing), the equivalent of another (The Work), another equivalent of a part-time job (the job hunt, which costs money in addition to the time spent in drafting materials and filling out forms), domestic chores, presence and emotional support of the Mrs., and the care that needs to be afforded to Ms. 8--not that there is anything wrong with her, but toddlers demand much attention and much more affection and love. (I hope that the little one, when she is less little, might look at some of this and see that her father tries to make things right, and that she may well forgive him for acting as if under stress, since he damned well is.)

I try to negotiate the lot, and I know that I need to do more. The list above makes no mention of health, after all, of carrying out the exercise that I should be doing and have not been since coming to the wind-swept plains and Sherwood Cottage from The City and its many, many stairs, and its particular center of study for which I was insufficiently grateful while I attended it. I know the histories of my families; I know what has laid low many with whom I share blood and name, and I know that it waits for me--happily, since I am not armed against it anymore. But who has the time?

Saturday, August 15, 2015


I am doing better today with the early-rising than was true yesterday; I was up at a quarter to five. (Part of why is that the Mrs. kneed me firmly in the ass as she shifted in her sleep. I know it was unintentional, as was the poke in the face I received when I shifted in response, but that does not mean either event was comfortable--and discomfort vitiates against sleep.) I have already done a fair bit of reading on the day, taking in my usual media, and I will soon be settling in to take care of some of the freelance writing I know I need to do. (I write "some" because I know that Ms. 8 will rise before I can get it done, and the Mrs. will head off to her half-day of Saturday work, and I cannot attend to my professional tasks while attending to my paternal; the latter demand too much attention for me to continue the former while they are in progress.) So that much is to the good.

Also to the good is what I have been teaching myself as I have been working on my revised professional website. In addition to using it for its explicitly stated purposes, I have been using it as a way to teach myself more HTML coding. Freelance work has obliged me to learn basic tags; the new site does not demand I learn more, but it prompts me to it, and I feel I have benefited from the experience. I am not sufficiently proficient in the language to list it among my professional skill-set (at least, not without qualifiers), but I am learning, and I am positioned to learn more, and that pleases me greatly. Maybe, maybe I can parlay it into some kind of job opportunity later on, particularly if things align such that I can take more formal instruction. (That I am a believer in more formal instruction should be obvious.)

As far as that parlaying goes, though...I need to be sure that my job-hunt materials are current, and as I have looked over a few of them, it occurs to me that I need to update them. It would be a good thing to do while the first cup of coffee leaches into my system; it is easy enough work to do, and it is productive in the way that weekend work needs to be. For while I know that some will say I need to rest a bit, to relax against the threat of burnout, I know that 1) I have not got much of that luxury, for reasons noted above, and 2) I am more at ease working than not. I begrudge myself my idle time; I do not feel it a good model to present to Ms. 8 that I "lean and loaf at my ease," as one poet puts it. But I acknowledge burnout; my solution is to work at "easy" upkeep work, such as updating my various online professional profiles. I may not have the content on each of them that I should like--I ever and always need to write more--but that does not mean I cannot ensure that each bit of what I do have online is as it needs to be. Doing so is strangely restful.

Friday, August 14, 2015


I am trying to train myself to wake earlier so that I can get more done in the quiet morning. So far, I have met with only limited success; I woke at five today instead of the half-past that had been the case. There were a couple of days with the summer bridge program that I was up at four or four-thirty, and I feel I got quite a bit of work done; I enjoyed the feeling and am trying to recapture it. For although I love my people as I do, I find it difficult to work when they are up and about; the Mrs. and Ms. 8 deserve my attention and engagement, without doubt, and I enjoy their company (when Ms. 8 is not throwing a tantrum, which happens more often now than previously--but that is to be expected). There is tension among providing that engagement and doing the paid work that supports Sherwood Cottage and The Work to which I am called, though; I will not lie by saying that it is not there or that negotiating it is not difficult--although I imagine that others face far more difficulty in their struggles of similar kind.

I imagine also that there will be aspersive comments about my noting the tension. "If it's such a pain in the ass," they might go, "why don't you quit?" If I were to do so, though, I imagine that the same voices would upbraid me for laziness or for breaking with "traditional" family norms. And I doubt that those voices would call for a plumber or electrician to quit the job because of such tension--or a clergyperson of whatever variety, and it is to the cleric that the academic, at least in the prevailing conception of traditional Western higher education, is most nearly akin. The Work is a calling, and the school is an outgrowth of the seminary at its root--for what little good the association does for either side of it.

I imagine more of the aspersion would take a form like "Yeah, it's tough. Always has been. Suck it up like we did." That "sucking it up" is a relatively recent thing, though; many of the older documents available to us complain of many demands upon a person, and release from labor has long been sought by many. And what good has come of "sucking it up," really? Does not noting that a problem exists prevent the problem from existing? Does it feel better to restrain and repress free and open expression? Were things actually better in the amorphous then than now? (The answer to each is "no," of course, although whether it is because things are better or because things are bad in different ways but to the same extent is debatable.)

That I do take the time to vent, perhaps more often than I ought to do, does not mean that I do not do what I need to do. I work at my paid work, and I work on The Work, doing more of the former than of the latter, to be sure, but still doing both. Yesterday, I wrote several thousand words for my jobs; today, I will doubtlessly write several thousand more. (Neither includes this webspace.) I continue to try to move more of them to the morning, when I can write distracted only, perhaps, by the honking geese flying over Sherwood Cottage.

Thursday, August 13, 2015


I have to report to the office today for a series of meetings and workshops. The new semester begins on Monday, and I will be in the classroom at half past eight to greet it; I am not the only one, and the need to get things coordinated and consolidated is breaking upon us who will help a new set of college students transition into the kind of coursework they can expect for the next few years. (I am aware that many will complain that it lacks the rigor it ought to have. I am also aware that many would not do well with the kinds of work and the workloads many of the students now face. It is not as if a summer job pays a year's college expenses in most cases, or as if many degrees do not require more coursework than the 120 credit-hours traditionally associated with the baccalaureate--plus prerequisites for those courses that are nonnegotiable but do not count towards the degree. Not at all.)

It is not the only task that faces me today. Yesterday evening, a freelance order came in; I suddenly know what I will be doing with the free time available to me. The book is already bought and the write-up begun. (I follow a standardized template I have developed; the client approves of it, if the repeated acceptance of my submissions based upon it and repeated assignment of orders to me are any indication. Filling in the first few blanks is done quickly, supported by a glance at the table of contents and the copyright page.) I had meant to start reading it, but fatigue set in before I could do so; today will suffice for the reading, I think. The write-up will go through tomorrow and into the weekend, but I had not had other plans in any concrete sense (although I had hoped to do some other reading, and there is other writing that needs my attention yet), so I am not terribly worried about the matter.

Yesterday evening, I also received a package for which I have been waiting for some time. The new Robin Hobb novel is out, and my copy of it reached me at last. It is still in the box, waiting for my attention; I have other things that I must do before I may read it in good conscience. Too, if I know myself, I will likely read the thing in a night, staying awake far later than I ought to do so, and writing a review and commentary on it the next day in this webspace. (I have done something similar a few times before: here, here, here, and here.) I look forward to doing it, as well as to plumbing the text and the greater narrative arc of which it is part for more information from which to conduct part of my part of The Work. For the fact of teaching does not diminish that I am still called as I am to scholarship and the development of new knowledge and understanding, even if it does combine with other paid work to complicate my ability to get such things done.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015


Work continues, the refrain to my song coming perhaps more rapidly than the structure of the tune ought to allow. At least this time is a variation on it, one not heard in some months, for the work I have been doing and am doing is the work of preparation for teaching. I spent much of yesterday drafting teaching documents, mostly a final report on my summer bridge work and a combined syllabus and course calendar for my upcoming assignment to four sections of first-semester composition. The former was more difficult than the latter, to be sure; I had to compile the data for the report, but the syllabus works largely from materials I have used before and required statements from my program. As such, much of the work of syllabus-building is already done; I need only plug in the information and massage it in with appropriate, if informal citation. I do need to model appropriate behavior, after all.

I did spend some time on other work-like activities. For one, in the evening, I sat for a Skype interview with a professor researching the conditions in which technical and professional writing are taught; I have taught the former many times across some five years, now, so it was easy to contribute somewhat to the researcher's work. I believe in collegiality, after all. For another, I pored over the call for papers for the next International Congress on Medieval Studies, trying to plot out the panel to which I ought to send an abstract. I need to get onto that piece of work, since submissions are due by 15 September; I have a little more than a month, but I have to think that some of the sessions are already full. The next step in that project will be generating an idea; given other concerns I have had of late, I have not had my usual glut of ideas for medieval/ist papers (although I have been having others). And thinking on it reminds me that I need to transact some business with the South Central Modern Language Association about its conference.

Thinking on that reminds me that I need to start to look at the Modern Language Association site, as well. I am still on the job hunt (and I will try to attend to some job applications today, since I seem to have time to do so), and the organization's job list is the focal one in my discipline. I do not know if it is yet online; there is a dead period on it each year. Still, it bears checking, as do several other job sites for the academy and outside of it--at least until I have a continuing contract of some sort in hand, or a "regular" job that will actually allow me to keep paying my bills. (I already need more money; taking a job that pays less seems a foolish idea.) I have already pumped out several hundred job applications this year; I can send out more, to be sure. Hopefully, something will get caught in the shotgun blast that I can use to my benefit, something struck by the machine-gun spray that seems to be keeping heads down...

As I said, work continues.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015


The Mrs., Ms. 8, and I returned to Sherwood Cottage from the C-Bar yesterday, arriving in the afternoon and spending the rest of the day recovering from the drive and ride. It went well enough, and I may end up writing about some of the reflecting I had opportunity to do while driving with my wife and daughter asleep in our little shuttlepod of a car and while looking out over hills of granite clad in oak and cedar. Today, however, I have some comments on events from Sunday, events which put me in mind of my

As is commonly the case when we visit my wife's family at the C-Bar, we attended a church service at the Fredericksburg United Methodist Church. It is the church where the Mrs. and I got married, although the pastoral staff has changed over since then, following the Methodist tradition of reassigning preachers at intervals. During the service, the associate pastor gave a sermon that began with an extended anecdote about an episode with his grandmother. In it, she baked prune kolaches, dressing them up with a bit of molasses and sugar to make them more palatable to young tastes--and to those, such as the pastor in his youth, who find them distasteful. The pastor used the anecdote as analogy to help explain the reading for the day, coming from John 6 (35-51, as I recall), explaining that Jesus was to many contemporaries as prunes to the pastor's young self--not initially palatable, but ultimately relied-upon as a panacea.

There are other implications for the metaphor through which the pastor worked in the sermon. If we are to read Jesus as prunes (which is the root metaphor at work), we can read the prune kolaches, sweetened as they were, as parallel to the bowdlerization of Scripture often presented to children--after all, how often do we point out to children what was going on with Lot, for example, or the fact that children in Scripture are often made to suffer for their parents' misdeeds? How many conveniently forget Noah's drunkenness as they complain of films of his Scriptural story? But I was not at the time put in mind of that connection; instead, after one of the pastor's comments, I found myself recalling Edward Taylor--whose work I have referenced before, and for much the same reason. (I might note also that the piece in question is a musing on the same part of Scripture that informed the day's sermon.) For one of the things for which prunes are good, and for which they are often associated with those of more advanced years, is in the regulation of the bowels. The pastor hinted around that particular use, and the many elderly in the congregation responded in such a way as suggests their own familiarity with that use; I am certain the scatological humor was meant. Whether the quiet reference to Taylor was, as well, I am less certain--but whether it was meant to be included or not matters not to the fact that it was there.

I find it odd that I am sometimes rebuked for temerity in finding toilet humor in things--and even in my own home, on occasion, or in a piece of explication--when preachers can do so from the very pulpit to acclaim.

Saturday, August 8, 2015


I find myself at a ranch, the C-Bar, in the middle of the Texas Hill Country this morning, where my wife and I are visiting her mother and grandmother. As it happens, my wife's nephews are here, as well. It makes for a bit tighter a situation than I tend to prefer; I am not used to having many people in a house with me. It is not so bad, though. If nothing else, it makes for a nice change--although having news on is a distraction.

I have long found it difficult to write when a television is on near where Imam trying to write. There is something about the glow-box that does not so much demand attention as it absorbs it. Sorcery is at work, sorcery to which I have grown unaccustomed. I note that I have gotten much more done since leaving television service, and when I am around it, I can do but little. Perhaps I ought not to try to while I am away.

That I am composing on so small a keyboard does not help. I am not at my desk, but am instead on a tablet--which works, but not well...

Friday, August 7, 2015


The early morning quiet
Soon gives way

It yields
To the whir of tires
The hum of an engine
The rushing by of traffic
Music, perhaps
And the sounds of people
Traveling together

Thursday, August 6, 2015


The summer bridge program wraps up today, which means this afternoon will be filled with frantic grading so that I can get paperwork put together and submitted to the program administration. Students are not receiving grades, as such, but whether or not they receive scholarship money will depend on their evaluated performance, and I believe higher-scoring and more diligent students are eligible for other awards, as well. I am not sure about that. I am sure, however, that working with the students in it has been a good experience, and I could wish to see some of them in my classes in the upcoming term. Such is not to be, unfortunately, but it would have been good to have them again.

The program is a good thing, I think. Having the additional grounding in basic curricula that it offers seems like it will be helpful for students. Having the advance notice of things will, as well, and I cannot help but believe that coming in three weeks ahead will help the students in the program break the post-high-school inertia I see among many incoming students in the first weeks of the term. Hell, even I have to struggle to come back up to speed, and I'm good at the college thing--and it's not as if I took the summer off. But working on my own schedule (or, rather, a combination of mine and Ms. 8's, since when I can work depends on when she will let me) is a different thing than meeting with regularly scheduled classes, and answering to a department and administration is far different than answering to a single, usually happy client. In any event, if even I suffer some strain at starting up again, surely the less-trained incoming students will suffer far more of it--but the bridge program at least mitigates that strain. For that alone, if for no other reason, I should thank it.

I have noted that the program relies on outside funding, problematic as it may be. In that same note, I assert that expanding the program would be good; I maintain the truth of it. It is not only students in engineering, architecture, and technology who benefit from having crash-courses in fundamental subjects and what amount to plenary lectures discussing various majors in their college. I could have stood to have such a thing--although I admit I would not have benefited as much as could be, given the particular way I was a stubborn ass at the time. (I did not go to college to make friends, although it happened to some extent. I am largely out of contact with the people I met there, though, to my regret. Now, more than ten years out, I feel it too late to try to reconnect.) Others in the humanities could, as well. Having a sense of where things fit together in the spectra of human knowledge is beneficial, and those in the humanities would benefit from some grounding in STEM disciplines no less than those in STEM disciplines benefit from grounding in the humanities, as my summer bridge teaching suggests. How such a thing could come to be, however, I am unsure.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015


As noted yesterday, work continues. I was able to read through the novel I will be writing up for the most recent freelance order. There are problems with it--many problems. Trouble is, I cannot dwell on them overly much in the write-up. "The book sells well, so people must be okay with it," I would be told if I did, "and so the reading guide won't sell well if you land on the book so hard." I have been told such things before, because I do have a tendency to find fault. But that I am certain I would be told such a thing with the current book, despite its problems, has worse implications at this point than at previous times. For the problems in the book are those of stereotypes, and for the book to sell as well as it presumably is (given the name on the front cover, I expect it is or is soon to be on the best-seller lists) reinforces the impression that the main current of popular culture in the United States is still at ease with stereotyping people, lumping them together into groups based on perceived associations that may well not be in place and discarding or denigrating whole populations based on such groupings.

I cannot address that particular point in the write-up, of course, and doubt I am in position to address it in a more formal paper; I am already far behind in my paper-writing, and I am not like to catch up anytime soon. Freelancing intrudes; it is not difficult, but it is time-consuming, and I can only remain awake and effective for so many hours at a time. Too, grading intrudes, and I have a stack of it to attend to today, what with it being the penultimate day of the summer bridge program (and, damn, but it has moved quickly). Again, the work is not difficult, but it takes time, and there is only so much time allotted to me each day. More, I cannot work, whether on grading or on The Work, while attending to Ms. 8; I am glad that she naps, because it is the only time I really have to get things done between coming home and the Mrs. coming home from work. So my time is curtailed yet further.

Still, I will get done what needs to get done. I have no other options, really; I cannot leave the work, and I certainly cannot neglect my daughter or the myriad domestic chores that seem always to need doing. I do get a bit tired, however, of feeling myself to always be in a rush, to always have to be at a dead run to even keep within seeing distance to the back of where I need to be. I am not exactly built for running, with heavy legs and a flabby belly; I am meant to stand in place and anchor others. It would be good to sometime reach a place where I can plant my feet firmly.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015


Work continues.

I was not able to get to work on the freelance piece in any serious way yesterday, as grading took longer than expected. In this last week of the summer bridge program, several assignments fall in sequence, constraining me a bit more than I would prefer. I believe I am clear today, however, and so I should be able to make some headway on the side-job. I can only do so at the cost of taking from other projects I likely ought to do, however, and there is still a stack of job announcements on my desk that needs my attention. There is also still a stack of journals on my desk that needs reading, which shames me to say even more than the jobs note. I am not doing as good a job of being a scholar as I should be, particularly if I hope to transition into a more stable scholarly career than I currently have.

So much for being happy at having work to do.

As the summer bridge program winds down, I am beginning to gear up for the fall term at my "regular" teaching job. I'll be teaching four sections of first-semester composition, and though I have taught the class before at my current institution, there is a new program director overseeing it. From what I have seen so far, more paperwork appears as if it will be involved, and I do not know how I feel about that. I suppose it reflects a prevailing tendency towards more oversight and regulation concomitant with the still-growing assessment culture. Perhaps, though, it is part of a research program, one being used to study composition instructors in the hopes of promulgating best practices in the profession rather than in the interests of the administration, in which case I would feel better about things. I believe in being collegial, after all.

I will likely never find out.

As I read over what I wrote at this time last year, the thought occurs to me that I have not benefited in all ways from my freelance work. Because I sell it, or sell my rights to it (I am not entirely certain of the legal distinctions involved), my freelance work goes out under names other than mine if under names at all. I cannot claim specific instances of it, therefore, and that makes more difficult my provision of writing samples for some of the job applications I submit. (Those asking for scholarly work go easily enough, although I need to do far more in that line than I have of late.) I wonder if I could link to how some of my materials are used as a way to point out some of what I have done in the hopes of making me a more attractive candidate for employment...Advice on that score would be welcome.

So would many other things.

Monday, August 3, 2015


Another freelance order has found its way to me. I am happy at the prospect once again; I really do enjoy the work of freelancing that I do, reading novels and distilling them down to bare-bones summaries and explications of setting, character, symbol, motif, and theme. It is work to which I am suited well by training and inclination, and it has the benefits of helping me better understand what is current in contemporary popular culture and of offering me practice in different styles of writing. (I mean the latter not only in terms of addressing different audiences via different genres, but also of adherence to different style manuals. I tend to write in MLA, owing to my training and "dominant" professional identity. The freelance work obliges me to AP standards, which are different in what may seem like minor points, but which are jarring to one accustomed through more than a decade and two or three editions of MLA to it, instead.) Both are helpful, or at least potentially so. The former helps connect me to people--something I have been advised I need more of--while the latter enhances my writing qualifications against my looking for writing-intensive jobs.

The order comes at a decent time. There is still money left over from my most recent payday, to be sure, but there are also one or two other bills that have yet to arrive for me to pay them, so having more money coming in will be decidedly welcome. Too, as the summer bridge program draws to a close, the "regular" fall semester begins to gear up. Next week is the orientation for it, and while it seems I will not have much to attend in that line since I am teaching four sections of the same course and so only need attend sessions for that course (and not all of those, as it happens), I still have work to do for it. My syllabus needs filling, for one thing, and I am told that there are changes to the program coming down, so I will need to attend to them, as well. Having the freelance order come in now helps me bridge the gaps between paychecks and paying work, to be sure; it also allows me to get the work done while I have an opportunity to do so instead of forcing me to negotiate it amid the chaos of beginning-of-term work. (I would not be surprised, however, to have a job come in during orientation week. And I would not complain; I need the money, and I like the work.)

I have other tasks than those of the classroom and the freelancing, to be sure. I continue to look for a non-visiting, non-temporary job, of course, and I try to fit in other writing that I need to do amid the work of drafting and polishing application materials, classroom work, and freelance pieces. Sherwood Cottage and its people must be attended to, as well. I begrudge none of it; instead, I find purpose in the work and some validation in doing it.

Sunday, August 2, 2015


The house is full
But not to bursting
Just comfortably
A meal sized well
Or one eaten while I am wearing
Elastic-waist pants

I will sit
And slowly digest
And enjoy it immensely

Saturday, August 1, 2015


I admit
I had somewhat to drink
Last night

But my head isn't

It's swimming
Or bobbing
On a sea of air
Tethered lightly to the anchor of my body

Maybe I can pull it back down
Tie it more firmly where I need it to be

I hope so

There is more work to do
And I am not the only one

A lofty vantage point
Is useful

But I must see the details
And for that
I must be closer
More grounded
Not floating on fevered currents of air