Wednesday, September 30, 2015


Today is payday, and so today is pay-my-bills day. I have already done so. Things appear to be in better shape this time than last, however; I think I have more money still unallocated than at this time last month. There are a couple of bills that have yet to come in, to be sure, but I have an idea of how much they will be, and I think I will still be better off. If I can continue to get freelance work in--and I pushed through a job yesterday--then I will be all the more able to do so. So I can hope to get more paying work--in a bit. I would like to get one or two other things cleared before that happens; my scholarship is still waiting for attention, for example. But I am (cautiously) optimistic.

I am sending out charitable contributions today, as well. There are some causes and institutions I support and which have been helpful to me, and I return the favor as I can. I cannot always do so, admittedly, but today, I could. So I did. It feels good--and I have to be wary of that good feeling. Such things are addictive, and I cannot afford to indulge that addiction as well as the many others I maintain. There are costs to the work I do and the hobbies I (seldom, anymore) indulge, and, again, I just paid the month's bills. I know what Sherwood Cottage costs, not just for rent, but for all of the expenses associated with it, and I know the price I am paying now for my youthful extravagances. Did I know then what I know now, I'd like to think I'd have done some few things differently. Many of them have to do with money.

To attend to something else entirely: Some time ago, one of the freelance pieces I wrote was rejected. The client did not like my presentation, and the agency through which I do most of my freelance work agreed with the client's decision (evidently, capricious refusals are overturned). This means that the text was not purchased and that I still retain copyright to it. I wonder if I ought to put it on my more nearly professional website as a writing sample, something that helps me to develop my professional portfolio against the event of moving into a different line of work altogether. Despite the rejection, I think that the writing is good (obviously, else I'd not have sent it in; I have some pride as a professional), and it does decently at showing I have some basic skill in HTML coding (something I need to develop more thoroughly, I know, and to expand to other languages). Then again, it was rejected, and so it may have problems that I do not see--other than simply not suiting the prospective client's ideas of what it ought to be. (The client has since blacklisted me.) Advice and information will, of course, be welcome.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


While I wear a beard and moustache, I do shave parts of my cheeks, as well as my neck. I do so only on days when I expect to be out among people for any length of time--and Tuesdays are not generally among those days. Typically, Tuesdays see me at home with Ms. 8, working on freelance pieces when she naps and when her mother gets home from her job, playing with my daughter or watching some kind of kid's show when she is awake and acting more or less decently. (She approaches two. The time is called terrible for good reason.)

Today, however, I shaved, for today, I will be attending a workshop meant to help me integrate critical thinking skills into the classes I teach. I already work to do such things, of course, as I teach much argumentative prose and effective argumentation requires no small amount of critical thinking. But I know that I can always improve my performance, so sitting for a brief workshop series presents no problems. Too, the series will result in my receipt of a stipend that will be quite helpful for me to have; Sherwood Cottage and its indwellers need money because they need the access to resources it represents, more or less always.

As I shaved this morning, I noticed again that the hair on my neck seems to grow faster than that on my cheeks and chin, and the flesh of my neck remains rougher than that of my cheeks after I have shaved them. Why this is, I am not certain. Perhaps I am fated to be an elder neckbeard, coming in time to be an echo or a vestige, not of the human race when all the laughter dies in sorrow, but of a pattern of nerdiness still seen but fading against the still-ongoing-although-fading pop-culture infatuation with the nerdy (against which I have railed). It might be nice, since such figures do tend to act as centers of gravity for other nerds, but the situations that permit such things are falling away, as many lament. I would be among the last in a world that no longer needs such things, were such events to take place.

I cannot allow myself to be so now, though. For now, I am ready to face my day, waiting to tend to Ms. 8 until such time as the Mrs. makes it back home--neither is yet awake--and I head off to where I will need to be for a couple of hours, after which I will return home and my wife will try to work a bit more money for us. It is the dance we continue to dance, amid the steps of which our work continues (I have to say it daily, after all), and, speeding, we try not to fall over our own feet.

Monday, September 28, 2015


I have been working over the past couple of days to get back into the habit of daily journal-keeping. That it should be daily is embedded in the word itself; that it has not been daily has been noted in this webspace before, I think. So far, things are going well; I want to keep them going more or less well, even amid the many other things I have to do each day. Work continues, after all, as it seemingly ever must, and even now, I have a freelance job in progress for which I need to do some quick reading and even quicker writing.

Part of why I have returned to the dedicated effort of doing so is that I recalled something I learned at Cambridge a few years back. While there, I attended a lecture and demonstration given by a calligrapher; the man's name is recorded in the journal I kept while on the trip, but that journal is not where I can get it at the moment, as I do not want to wake the still-sleeping Mrs. He noted, among others, that part of the calligrapher's art is the way of sitting; another is the way of breathing. An erect posture and deep, even breathing do much to make possible and make better the work of the pen-hand, and mine needs bettering, to be sure. As I have returned to my journal-keeping, I have done so while making an effort not only to take the notes typically associated with journaling, but also to make those notes in a script that, while I doubt it will ever be good, is at least regular and expressive.

For I was reminded that handwriting is an art, both by my academic studies and the chain of association the recalled calligrapher's comments made to link itself to my poor and all-too-inept martial arts studies. Judo and aikido both benefit from considerations of posture and of breath, doing better when the one is upright and stable and the other is deep and even. Both also remind me that too tight a grip is wasteful and distracting. Waza should proceed without effort; if they must be forced to work, they are not being performed properly. Similarly, I have spent long gripping pens tightly, pushing them where I want them to go; I have been working these past few days to adapt a lesson I remember from my time on the mats and open space for the pen to enter into, leading it rather than forcing it.

It is too early for me to tell if my efforts are making things better for the quality of my script. I suspect that they are not; twenty-six years of a poor pen-hand are not elided in an instant. But I do feel better about the endeavor; I feel as if I am doing something that is at least like art, and I have felt the lack of such expression, such humanization, keenly of late. Although work continues, I remain human, and I need to be fully human. My wife and daughter need me to be so. Working with a pen in my hand is a help to that, so that even if my script never gets better, the act of writing is one worth pursuing.

Sunday, September 27, 2015


The application materials demand
Evidence of successful teaching

They mean
Good student evaluations
Notes from pupils that things went well
That Professor So-and-so was nice
Was a help to them
By which
Of course
They mean
Was easy
Was fun
Gave good grades
Did not demand much

They mean
Good reviews from peers
As if peers are the ones
Who watch others' classes
And as if the act of watching
Changes nothing
Of course
Is not the case

They mean
Something that can be sent along
An email attachment

The real evidence of successful teaching
Does not come in a form that packages well
And it is usually not recognized for years
By which time
It is already too late
One way or another

Saturday, September 26, 2015


I am already behind again
Being caught up has come to an end
Work continues, an unfortunate trend
And I am already behind again

I never run out of things to do
Working for money and for the home, too
A hustlingly busy solo pseudo-crew
I never run out of things to do

For much of it, I sit down to write
Reading and finding and bringing to light
What in texts is wrong, what in texts is right
And wishing that I had some more time to write

But I am already behind again
Facing a list of tasks with no end
Is it any wonder I'm not much of a friend
Since I am so damnably behind again?

Friday, September 25, 2015


Last year at about this time, I made some comments about the already-approaching "Christmas" season, comments spurred by the coincidence of the day being three months away (in the not entirely accurate calendar that has nonetheless been used for entirely too long, as well as in other assertions*) and seeing decorations for it already up in such stores as have the space for them. The comments hold true even now; I do not know if I should celebrate the holiday as it is commonly celebrated, even if this year will be a year that sees my wife and I visit family for it (and my mother has suggested extravagance on her part for it, given other circumstances). I do not know that I want to tell her the lies that attend on the "for the children" parts of the holiday--and I am amazed that there are people who tell me that I should lie to my daughter. (The implications are stunning. If it is okay for me to lie to Ms. 8, whom I love, then why would it not be okay for me to lie to others whom I like much less? Yet that is clearly not to the good; why, then, would I treat with more respect and greater care someone whom I like less than my daughter, and whom I love not at all? And why would I be encouraged to lie in any event? Or she to accept lies?)

Now, as then, I am not sure what to do with this idea (although I am surprised to have it pop up in successive years). I am sure, however, that work continues. (I have to say it daily, do I not?). I am in the classroom again today, and the students are set to turn in a second version of their second paper. (Guess what I get to do this weekend.) I also received a freelance order, which may prove somewhat problematic; I am expected to do my usual 5,000-word write-up on a novel a scanty 215 pages in length. I suppose my critical faculties will get something of a workout; I will have to stretch things a bit to make the word-count against what I expect to be a thin volume of little fiber. That is, I think there will not be much in the text for me to write about in the way that I prefer to write about things. But I suppose that is inappropriately elitist of me, inappropriately condemnatory of something that will earn me another hundred dollars or so to enrich my household. The freelance work is a good bit of side-money, and Sherwood Cottage and its indwellers can use all of that they can get. I could wish I had had a bit more time to attend to the research I had hoped to treat yesterday after getting my grading done, though. I will find a way, to be sure; I have, still, no other option than to do so.

*The links provided are accessible, easy-to-find sources. There are others and better, but they are not so easily reached from where I am or where I expect people will be when they are reading what I write in this webspace. Audience and context matter, as I try to teach my students.

Thursday, September 24, 2015


Work continues, as ever it must.

Among today's things to do is taking care of a stack of grading. My students got another quiz yesterday, and not because they were less responsive to discussion than ought to have been the case (although that would have been a good reason to offer one). Each should grade quickly, and there were students absent, so I have fewer to grade than would otherwise have been the case. It will still take a bit of doing to plow through the assignments, however--although I can take heart that perhaps one or two will offer answers useful for my research. The last quiz did, after all, and the same students took that one as took the most recent...

That research needs some attention, as well. I have a book chapter in draft at the moment, but I have not worked on it as diligently as I ought to have done. It is a scholarly project, and so it does not pay--directly (it makes me more likely to get jobs)--and I have had paying work on offer. There is not a freelance piece on my docket at the moment, though, so I may have some time to attend to it. I hope I will, at least; I need to get a draft hammered out so that I can look at it and make it better, much as I try to get my students to do with their own writing and do not see happening so much as should be the case.

More grading will be coming up over the weekend as a result of my policies to encourage such work. I have my students turn in three versions of each paper. The first is peer-reviewed. The second receives my attention. The third receives the final grade, accounting for ten percent or more of the course grade. Tomorrow, the second version of the students' second paper comes in, so this weekend will see me doing a fair bit of grading in a hurry. And that means also that I will need to complete the new assignment sheet for the students, as they will begin to move on to the third paper as the second gets wrapped up. Like the book chapter, I have it in draft, but it needs to be completed.

It should be clear from my posts to this webspace that I remain busy, and that I remain busy with things for work more than for recreation (and by a significant margin). In truth, even those things I do for recreation end up becoming work. The trip to ScotFest (¶4), for example, informed some of the scholarly commentary I write elsewhere. My long affinity for role-playing games has led to research presentations and to academic advancement. Other examples are easy to find. In effect, I am never really "off," and it is for that reason I find myself annoyed--or more--by those who will assert that teaching, particularly at the college level, is easy. It is not. In doing it, work continues, as ever it must--and ever means exactly that.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


Yesterday's Hobbit Day dinner--a small thing for us, with just the three at Sherwood Cottage attending--went well. The Mrs. whipped up a batch of parsnips and mashed potatoes, as well as a lovely mushroom gravy that we had with a few hamburger patties I had grilled over the weekend and a few strips of bacon each. It was a tasty meal and satisfying--enough so that there was no need for a second dinner, although I find myself longing for one or two breakfasts at this point. (The problem with eating much is that it prompts a desire to eat much else later on. This is not something kind to my waistline, and I cannot afford to replace my brass buttons with gold at this point.)

After dinner, I completed the freelance piece I had been working on throughout the day. I was able to crank out some 5,000 words about the most recent JD Robb novel, Devoted in Death. Among them, I was able to place an interestingly pointed comment about the protagonist, Eve Dallas. There is in the novel repeated mention of snowflake-bedecked clothing, something expressed in the novel as something of a tradition in the protagonist's workplace. The repetition tends to signal that the snowflake is a symbol or figure of some attention, and the thought occurs that there is a pun on the reference being associated with Dallas. As the protagonist of a police thriller, she could be expected, per genre convention, to be a pointedly unique character, and the text bears it out; there are several respects in which she stands entirely aside from common social convention. In that sense, then, she is a unique little snowflake. It is not an entirely charitable description, but the character seems to read well for many people (else I'd not be asked to do the write-up)--and that, itself, says something.

I do not have another such order yet, although I expect one to be coming soon. I welcome the opportunity to work on other things, though. Aside from the grading I expect to have to do today (I have a riddle ready to go for my students), I have a book chapter to work on and other papers I should be writing. Job applications continue to beckon, as well, and another blog I maintain needs some attention from me. Nor is there a shortage of reading waiting for me to do it, both scholarly and otherwise. (I say "otherwise" as if the reading I do for recreation or professional purposes does not look to factor into my scholarship.) A day or two away from the freelance work is not unwelcome therefore, although I will likely miss having the money come in. After all, it is only because I have the income that I do that I can enjoy such meals as I ate (too much of) last night, and there are other holidays than Hobbit Day upcoming. There may be some kind of Leif Eriksson Day thing coming up...

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


Today is Hobbit Day, of course, with it being Bilbo's birthday and Frodo's. Praise the Ring-bearers; praise them with great praise! Eat a dinner heavy with mushrooms! Eat supper afterward! May the hair on your toes ever fall out! But even on such a day and amid all laud and honor, work continues, and if the writing I must do does not extend so far as the One Book that no longer rules them all (nor should, as I argue in my contribution to Fantasy and Science Fiction Medievalisms: From Isaac Asimov to A Game of Thrones), it is nonetheless a fair bit to do in a day and while watching over a darling little girl of some nineteen months of age. So I will tend to it soon.

As I work on such work, I find that I find myself somehow adrift. There was a time when I was solidly anchored by my work and a few pop-culture pieces on which I focused extensively. That time has long since passed, and I find that I am pulled in many directions with differing degrees of force. If it is true that we are what we eat, then I am in some measure taffy--I rather like taffy, although toffee is better--but even so, I do not feel at ease being thusly tensioned. There are tears forming already, as I can feel, and there are some few places where the hooks have pulled through, leaving pieces hanging loosely--or the hooks have fallen from the walls and dangle as what enmeshes them attenuates and separates from the rest, diminishing it. Things I have loved are ending; other things are popping up and distracting me from what remains of what I have loved.

Some points of stability remain, of course. I can count upon the love and esteem of several people, which is to my credit, and the opprobrium of others, which is unavoidable, given my work. There is too damned much for me to do today, as is usually the case, and so some of what I would hope to do in the day will not get done today--although it will get done. And if it is to get done, I'd better do it--which is something that tends to be true. It is not to say that much is not done for me, either for pay or from love, but there is much that gets done by no hands other than mine, much that can be done by no hands other than mine, and that is as it has been and should be.

If there are no tasks which can only be done by me, I am not of much use. And while I know that the work I do can be done by others, it cannot be done by others in the context where I find myself; it cannot be done by others for those for whom I do it. There is some comfort in that, that there are places in which I am irreplaceable. Now, if I can expand upon them and ensure that they endure...

Monday, September 21, 2015


To discuss things I have noted:

I was able to get my grading done, although not before the weekend. Indeed, I was still working on it until after nine last night. It was a chore, and this weekend will give me more of the same, as there are papers coming in on Friday and their writers will need them back in time to make them better before the next Friday; I do not get to wait about them. But the papers were better in the version I graded through yesterday than they were in the version I graded in a rush after returning from a trip. The students seem to be improving, and that is good to see. There is some hope that I am doing at least part of the job for which I am paid.

My parents have been up at Sherwood Cottage since Friday. It has been good to have them here, and not only because my father worked on several projects for Ms. 8--she now has a little play-yard with a swing set, a slide, and a play-house all in a nice little fence, as well as a new bed, all thanks to her grandpa. I was not the most attentive host, being taken up with the work that I had to do (and still have to do), but I did make what time I could for them in and around slogging through papers. I take a number of breaks from grading, being able to stare at a screen for only so long at a time anymore; those breaks made for good conversations with my parents.

We also went to a festival yesterday, which is not something I typically do; I am a curmudgeon even when I am not swamped by work. It was a good time, though. The festival celebrated the local incidence of Scottish heritage (which is evidently a thing in northwestern Oklahoma), complete with kilts (and, had I a bit more money, I'd have bought one, along with the rest of the kit for it), meat pies (which were tasty), haggis (which I did not eat, and which I regret not trying), whisky tasting (in which I did not engage, in part because of money and in part because I knew I would have to work afterward), and a fair bit of fine music. If I am still in the area next year at this time, I'll attend again.

To move forward, now:

I have a full week of teaching ahead of me before I get to grading the second of three versions of the paper on which my students are now working, so I have a fair bit of lesson planning to do and some materials to write for my professional blog and site. I also have a freelance piece that needs doing; I am fortunate that the novel I need to read is a short one and in a series for which I have already done some work, so that it is familiar to me and should go quite quickly. The usual gamut of job applications, book chapters, and other papers also needs my attention, now as much as ever if not more. The weekend was a good one, and I enjoyed the time with family, but it is done now, and so, as ever, work continues.

Sunday, September 20, 2015


Lights flicker
Pixels disappear
Minutes pass
Their venue returns
They do not

How much is left
In bits and bytes
Stacked upon one another
Pairs in powers
Demanding power
Or else lost

Trite or banal
Perhaps we are pixels
Shown on a screen
Waiting only for the power to go out

Saturday, September 19, 2015


A friend said something about
Going and coming
And I cannot remember the words

They were good words
Delivered well
They would have made a good poem
Or the start of one

You are stuck with what I have
Which is a few friends
And an idea
I cannot remember

Friday, September 18, 2015


I have been summoned
I know where to go
When to go there
And I know that the summons will have
Little result

What can be done to a person
Already condemned
Except what is in Donaldson's Covenant
Return something taken

I do not expect to be handed anything
Certainly nothing that was taken
For little has been taken
If anything
Although much has been surrendered

I will answer the summons
Of course
I am a good little worker
It is all I know how to be
Though I do not know it well

Thursday, September 17, 2015


Work continues, as it ever must. Among others, I have papers to grade. I would like to get them done before the end of the weekend, which will mean I need to start on them in earnest today. I had meant to do so yesterday, but I had other grading to do first, as its deadline is a bit earlier than that on the paper-grading I have to do. The papers are "worth more," and so it makes sense that I would take more time assessing them than, say, quizzes. But I still need to get to doing them; I have other jobs that need doing, as well, and I have family coming up to Sherwood Cottage this weekend, so that while I may be able to get some of that other work done, I need to be available to them.

One of those other jobs is a freelance piece I need to write. I have already bought the book for it, downloading it to an e-reader my wife bought for me some years back. It is a relatively short novel, so I should not have any trouble plowing through it--once I can begin on it. As I note above, however, I have grading to do in the meantime, so it will be a bit before I can start on the novel and thus on the write-up of it. It is a next volume in a series, though, so some things will carry forward, and that will be to my benefit. Working with familiar materials is always welcome.

The freelancing is not the only work I do with familiar materials; my search for a permanent position continues, and at this point, I am intimately familiar with the application data I send out. I have seen it enough times that I very much should be. The peril in that ties to the old adage about familiarity and contempt. I am no longer sure how to present myself in such a way that I am attractive to others; while I have some idea how to show myself in person in such a way that I read well (although I do not typically do so, usually lapsing in concentration and being too loud), I do not know how to translate that to my application materials. I suppose I could try to talk to a career coach of some sort, but that costs money I do not have--I think. It will take more research, perhaps. It is fortunate, then, that years of academic training, which has more or less ruined me for the "real" job market, has equipped me admirably to collect and process information that appears in print. (To a large extent; I am increasingly aware of what I have missed through my course selections.) If I can but find the time to do it...for work continues, as it ever must.

Medievalist that I still am, I cannot help but think that the line now reads gæð a weorc swa hit sceal.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


In trying to get through the backlog of reading I have let pile up in favor of doing paying work--and I have had another freelance job come in, and I have papers to mark, so that it will be a bit longer before I can get back to that backlog--I turned to the July/August 2015 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. I have subscribed to the magazine since 1999, and I feel I have benefited from reading it across those sixteen years (although I wonder where the new issue is, since I have paid forward for several years of subscriptions, I believe); taking the time to pore over the pulpy pages offers some comfort to me, which I appreciate greatly.

As I read the issue, I came to Richard Chwedyk's story, "Dixon's Road." In it, a terraforming engineer returns to an older project to visit the site of his former lover's home; the vagaries of space travel being what they are, he has aged in the process of doing his work, but his lover has passed on, and the home they had once shared has been turned into a museum in her honor, as she is a poet of some renown. The terraformer, Dixon, speaks at some length with one of the museum staff, Alice, whom he had encountered just as the facility opened; within the frame of that conversation and Alice's musings on events as she knows them, he recounts his experience on the particularly troublesome project that had called him away from his lover. It is a moving story, perhaps because the actions directly depicted are minimal, working through words to create a sense of loss that remains in the mind long after the cover of the magazine is closed.

Among the comments made in the text is one that stands out for me, largely because I have spent as much time teaching the students I have as I have. Alice, narrating, offers the statement that "Engineers are builders, but so are poets. They build with different materials, in different places. The engineer builds in the exterior world; the poet builds in the interior." The concept--that the work of the arts is equal to that of the "more practical" fields--is one with which those in the arts are familiar, and the tension between the writer and engineer evokes the yin/yang dichotomy, in which each partakes of the other despite having its own identity and expertise. Its voicing positions Dixon and his lover, Laura, as equals--although the text does not depict them as such. For while it expresses, through Alice, sympathy for both Laura and Dixon in their parting, noting that it was an expression of their inner beings, it is Laura whose home is the museum, Laura whose poetry pervades the text, Laura who has passed on--and Dixon has not.

Musing on the text suggests that there is more to say about it, more to note about how the work interrogates any number of standards while corresponding to several. But to my present purposes, it will suffice to say that such comments as Alice makes and that stand out to me are the kinds of comments that many budding engineers need to hear. The artist's work is of value no less than the engineer's; it is in some ways the same as the engineer's. It needs to be respected therefore.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


As has happened before, I have returned to playing The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, which my wonderful wife bought me some years ago, now. I justify it to myself as entertaining my daughter; Ms. 8 will sit and watch me swing around a pretend sword for quite a while, enjoying it immensely. Whether she watches the game or laughs about watching her father make a fool of himself (short trip, I know) is unclear, but that she appreciates it is clear, and I am pleased to be able to get her to stay still and at ease for a time. And I do like to play a video game now and again.

Much of what I wrote in late 2012 about the game remains true. The racist and sexist overtones identified in my little essay remain in place, and I have to worry that there are other statements being made in the game that I am missing even now, with more years to develop my faculties and consider what I see in the world around me. But identifying and explicating such things is not what I purpose to do today. Instead, I mean to comment about the essay itself, for I have been busy with it these past years; it is not one of the many things I post in this webspace and then neglect. Instead, I have used it with some success as a teaching tool.

The essay, exclusive of the contextualizing paragraph in which I lay out the absurdity of my writing it when I wrote it but including the footnotes, runs to 1,261 words. Assuming a 350-word page--which, in the formatting I request of my students, is normal--it comes to just over three and a half pages, making it a short piece, indeed. (For comparison, the shortest essay I ask of my students this semester is 1,300 words, and that through an error for which I refuse to punish my students.) Even so, it is of such length that it could be published, did journals such as The Explicator accept such submissions (pop culture topics tend not to play well in it, I think), and it could be expanded easily with recourse to theoretical background or, perhaps, by pointing up the sexist overtones present in the game and hinted at in the footnotes. And its short length lends itself to presenting the essay in the classroom as a text to read on the spot and discuss. It is in such a way that the piece has found itself in my teaching before, used (with a bit of emendation to suit the medium) as an example of the kind of writing I ask my students to do on particular assignments and as a springboard for discussion.

The latter works particularly well. Many students, particularly those in first-year classes, are surprised to see argument turned to pop culture items; the idea that the tools developed through formal study can be applied to the things they encounter rarely occurs to them, and I am glad to be among those who make such introductions. They also find much of interest in the discussion--or did, when the game was more current and more of my students were likely to have played it; the console hosting the game has been supplanted, so the typically novelty-crazed youth are less apt to have played Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. I recall one class in which goggles attracted no small amount of commentary--and laughter.

One of the things that working with a pop culture item allows is openness to feel about what is being treated. For reasons others such as Lawrence Levine (Highbrow/Lowbrow) and Timothy L. Carens ("Serpents in the Garden") explicate, there is a sense of reverence associated with approaching the "literary" or "high culture," and that reverence tends to foreclose discussion and engagement among novice students. Video games do not evoke such reverence, and so they do not close down discussion and freedom to approach the topic. That, I think, is why I have been able to use the essay with as much success as I have in the past--and why I look to write a similar piece about another game in the future.

Monday, September 14, 2015


The freelance piece I noted yesterday got done. The client who ordered it accepted it and paid, both for the work and for the book from which I did the work. Another order has yet to come for me, but I am confident that one will, along with its promise of a payout. Until one does, though, I am free to pursue other work--for although I did a fair bit yesterday, and I am pleased with having been thusly productive, there is more to do. There is always more to do, of course, because the work continues. (I have to get that in there somewhere. It seemed a good enough place to put it.)

While I did not fire up the grill yesterday--the Mrs. made spaghetti, with her from-scratch sauce of excellence, and nothing I do on the grill proper is so good as that--I did get the front yard mowed and trimmed. The back, amply shaded and still recovering from plumbing work the owner of Sherwood Cottage had done, did not need it. Pushing the mower and swinging the trimmer (is that the right verb?) in the cool sunlight and gentle breeze was decent exercise, and the yard looks good, so I am happy with the efforts. Indoorsman though I am, I am happy to know that I can still do a few things under the open sky, and do them well.

As I type now, Ms. 8 is in my lap, watching intently as words form, deform, and reform on the screen (not everything I type remains in place--which is a strange thought, given some of what gets to stick around), pixels forming characters in response to the clicking and pressing of fingers on little plastic buttons. I wonder what it is that she sees in them; I wonder what she thinks, having few words and no letters, so far as I can tell. She nestles against me comfortably, so I am sure she is at ease, and I am gratified that I can put her at ease, but I do wonder what it is my daughter thinks of me. I am sure that every parent does at some point--before the kids say it. What Ms. 8 will say when she finally does tell me what she thinks of me, I am unsure. I worry about it.

I do what I can to make it a good thing. She will not be able to say with honesty that I did not work long and much to provide for her and her mother. (That does not mean she will not say it.) My earlier conceit against letting people see me work has long since fallen away, particularly for those who live with me at Sherwood Cottage or who stay for more than a few hours at a time; I am seen at work more often and for more hours than I am not. That will doubtlessly cause a problem in time to come, but if it does and when, it will do so for people with full stomachs, clothed backs, and a roof above, and if there is to be a problem, it is better to have one in such circumstances than other.

Sunday, September 13, 2015


The familiar refrain returns: Work continues, as it ever must.

I have a freelance piece in progress at the moment; I expect to finish it today, summarizing the remaining thirty-five chapters in some 2,000 to 2,500 words. That I will exceed the word count for which I am paid is certain (in part because the platform though which the writing is submitted counts HTML tags as part of the word count). How much is less so. Still, it will net me a tidy little sum for work that is easy for me to do and more or less enjoyable, so I do not complain. And I think the fact that I give extra value helps me get more orders; my regular client sends me as much work as I can handle at any given time, with the other things I have to do.

Among those other things is a book chapter, which I also have in progress. The text of it is due by the end of October; I anticipate having it completed well before that time. I have been noting its existence in my outgoing job materials (of which I need to produce more, I know; I have been lax over the past few days), and it would not do for me to fail to write it--and to write it well. Progress on it has not been what I would want it to be, in large part because of the other work that has presented itself for me to do (paid work tends to triumph over unpaid, for reasons that should be obvious), but that does not mean it has not been, and I hope to knock out a bit more of it in the next few days.

Aside from those piece, the usual gamut of work to do presents itself. Owing to rain a few days ago, the lawn at Sherwood Cottage needs mowing and trimming; the weather today promises to be conducive to doing so. (I should probably see about firing up my grill again before too long, as well, for although Labor Day has passed and "summer" is over, it is still a good way to cook and something I enjoy doing. I do not do it enough, more's the pity.) There will be a bit to pick up, as well, as the rain was accompanied by winds that knocked a few more things out of trees than had previously fallen. But that should not be a problem.

Other papers and paperwork remain, as well, although I am not so optimistic as to believe that I will be able to attend to them today. There are only so many hours to spend in work each day, and I wasted more of them in sleep than I would have liked today already (there are reasons I like to wake early, and today, I slept late). But that does not mean they do not need to be done, and so, the refrain again: Work continues, as it ever must.

Saturday, September 12, 2015


After shenanigans yesterday, I am back, if a bit belatedly. Sometimes, things get in the way. But I am back, now.

Among the things I did to entertain myself yesterday was to look at online discussions of the Legend of the Five Rings games, with which I have been involved for some time, now, as I have discussed. News came yesterday that the property is changing hands, leaving the company that began it for Fantasy Flight Games. I find myself uncertain how to feel about the shift.

I certainly experience shock about the matter. I had been given to understand that L5R was earning a fair bit of money for its now-former company, particularly through the card game (which I used to play but have long since abandoned). I know it had a smallish but dedicated following as an RPG product--largely since I stand among that following, if as a much lesser member. For the company to sell out came as something of a surprise to me--and to many others, as the online chatter has had it.

At the same time, looking back, I can see hints of it coming. The changes to management--some of which have been quite good, I might add--and some of the comments from the higher echelons of the company seem to hint at big changes, and it is not challenging to read them as a lead-up to a table-flipping "Fuck it; I'm out." Given some of what I saw administering the 2014-2015 Winter Court game, I can understand why; I am given to understand that the player base in that game is more or less representative of the player base as a whole, and there are some holes in it. (I leave it to you, dear reader, to guess what kind of hole I mean--and what can be used to fill it.)

And I have had some experience with the new company's products. What I have seen looks good; I have hope that it will be handled well. I suppose I shall have to wait and see what happens--and make sure I have a full set of the books...

Thursday, September 10, 2015


I spent most of yesterday fighting a headache that I think has not gone away--or if it has, it has been replaced with another one. Aspirin did not help, not even with coffee. Drinking more water did not help. Neither heat nor cool helped. Darkness was some small relief, so I have to believe part of the problem was eye strain, but it was not the whole of it. I think my sinuses may be involved; the headache I feel building even now seems to be situated in one of them. I cannot be sure, however; I am the wrong kind of doctor to know that with certainty, and I have not attended to my body as I ought during my time on the wind-swept plains and in Sherwood Cottage.

I do not write the last to heap blame upon this place. There is blame to be found for it, certainly, but that is true of all places and in all times. I am sure that there have been chances for me to act more appropriately than I have, to do more, and I have not taken them. For that, I can only hold myself to account, saying I will try to do better without a clear idea of what trying actually is, soon forgetting that I have said the thing, or else pushing having said so to the back of my mind so that it lingers and annoys me, but not enough to prompt any changes, not enough for me to take any action amid the many things I already do.

It is not as if I am idle, teaching four classes and doing the attendant grading while juggling freelance work, academic work, the search for more of both and for other work besides, and the welcome obligations of family. While I have not formally tracked my hours, I routinely begin my work around this time each day (although I admit that my personal blogging may not count as "work," I get going on the other stuff as soon as this is done), and I am often still at work at seven, eight, or nine o'clock at night. I move around among the tasks, of course, putting the needs of the Mrs. (when she is not at work) and Ms. 8 above the others, as is right, but I am more or less always on the go.

But it is not enough, somehow. It does not have me where I want to be; I am not certain I am heading in a direction that will take me there. Perhaps that is the source of the headache that will not go away, or a source of it (as I note above, I think there are several contributors to the condition), that I have no way to gauge my progress towards the goals I have set for the middle and long terms. (Short-term goals are not problematic; they amount to "get this one task done." They also multiply more quickly than flies or bacteria, and perhaps with the same effects.) Walls rise high around me, or blinders are firmly affixed; in either case, I do not see the scenery passing by.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015


I do a decent amount of traveling, as has been the case for some years now. It is not as if I make my living on the road, certainly, but I am away from home a few times each year for both personal and professional reasons. When I am away, I am away for several days at a stretch; rarely if ever do I simply overnight at a place that is not my home. As such, I am familiar with the panic of packing to head out--will I have everything I need?--and the panic of packing to return home--did I forget anything?--as well as the excitement of leaving and the tired comfort of return.

They are not the only things with which I am familiar because of traveling, though. One with which I grapple even now is the struggle to return to daily routines. In my present case, having gone away with my family over the long weekend just past, I have had to spend time grading in something of a rush; I dislike the task, but the speed with which I had to treat it did not improve matters. Too, I have had to scramble to get my teaching materials in place for classes today, and while I have enough to go on, I do not have as much as I might otherwise prefer. The same is true of other work; I was already behind myself in treating it, and now I have to catch up to get even to that point, which is hardly thrilling.

Matters are complicated somewhat by another freelance piece awaiting me. The client has been good to me and, because I have been in contact, knows that I was away and have some catching up to do on other things; I have made no secret about having a regular job in the classroom, and until and unless the freelance work will be steady enough for me to take it on as a full-time thing, I have to keep some kind of regular work about me. That said, I do not want to miss out on the extra money. The sun shines, as it were, and my scythe is sharpened; I dare not waste the opportunity they present. But that does not mean I am at my ease, that I am not a bit...concerned about all I have offered to do and that it has been accepted that I do.

All I can do, though, is to do the tasks accorded me, and do them as well as I can. My own ethic allows me no less, and the needs imposed by being a responsible family man admit of no other course of action. I can only cling, somewhat naïvely, to the hope that my continued diligence will admit of some stability, some breakthrough that, after one more large trip, will allow me not to have to run around as much, to not have to scramble so to come back to speed, to not have to maintain such a speed as I now do and know I cannot indefinitely.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015


Well, I'm back.

I'm back to the work of teaching and grading,
Back to the work of drafting plans I know I will not follow,
Back to the work of writing comments I know will not be read,
Back to the work of writing reports,
Back to the work of writing for money,
Back to the work of fretting about it,
Back to the work of looking for work,
Back to the work of fretting about it,
Back to the work of looking for money,
Back to the work of fretting about it,
Back to the work of fretting about fretting
And wondering if I ought not to shift the vowel,
As it is already much the same thing,
And I think I would get more out of it.

I'm back to the work that starts before sunrise,
Back to the work that ends after dark,
Back to the work that lurks in the night,
Waiting for me to wake once again
So that it can wrestle with me.

I'm back to the work of holding my own,
Back to the work of doing just barely

Friday, September 4, 2015


The Mrs., Ms. 8, and I will be heading to one of the next states east this weekend, where we will spend some time with my father-in-law. It is something we have long since arranged, although the specifics changed not long ago when we received word that his heart trouble was acting up again. Thus, instead of being out at a lake, we will be out at his house for a much more sedate time. Whether or not I will be able to post here is unclear to me, but if I do not, it is not because I am dead. Worry not. (And for those who might wish me have not succeeded yet. You really should stop trying.) At the latest, I should be writing again by Tuesday.

My family and I are not the only ones taking a trip over the weekend. I have already received word from several students that they will be out. In itself, there is nothing wrong with that. When the messages come with the "Will I miss anything important?" question, however, I find myself annoyed. (The answer, by the way, is "yes." There have been classes I have taught in which I have given quiz and test answers out on days with low attendance. There have been many more in which I have awarded bonus grades on days with low attendance.) The question necessarily carries with it the idea that what I do is unimportant, and it is not to be expected that I or anyone react well to being told that the tasks done as part of a calling--and scholarship is a calling, whether teaching or researching--and thus the calling itself are unimportant. While I am aware that the students are not aware of the overtone, I remain vexed by it; unintentional injury is still injury. And I do not excuse such absences (or any not incurred by legal obligations such as court appearance or military service).

I cannot say I do not appreciate getting to take the time away, at least in some ways. (I am sure thoughts of "you should be working" will follow me; they always do.) Yesterday saw me push through the write-up I noted. I ran somewhat over word-count (in part because the counter registers HTML tags as separate words for some damned fool reason), but even had I not, nearly 6,000 words is a fair bit to get onto the page in a day--particularly around caring for a child and doing some few things around the house. Yesterday was not the only such day, either; I am usually thusly occupied, even if I cannot ever seem to get done all of what I need to get done. A day or two away may well do me good; I already intend to sleep in tomorrow, so long as Ms. 8 will allow it. (She is better than any alarm clock. I will be returning the favor in the years to come.) It should help.

Thursday, September 3, 2015


The book I read for the freelance project I am currently completing is the new David Lagercrantz novel, The Girl in the Spider's Web (ISBN 9780385354295, $13.99 as a NOOK® Book). It is a continuation of Stieg Larsson's Millennium series, which I recall being wildly popular both before and after it was optioned into movie form. I suppose that I see the appeal, although I do not feel it, myself. (I will reserve a number of criticisms of the text for the write-up I will be completing today in its 5,800 words of glory. Those I treat here will not be those I treat there, although some comments may correspond.) I find it an utterly conventional action-thriller text, almost formulaic in its structure, and I am disappointed to not find something else in it, some novelty that would make for surprise. As it is, I have not read the preceding texts, and I found nothing in the work that I did not expect to see.

The strange thing is that I like getting what I expect, and much the same kind of thing that The Girl in the Spider's Web offers--in other media. I watch movies largely for escapist reasons; I am capable of applying critical faculties to film to some extent, to be sure (I am not trained in film studies per se, but the kinds of conventions that are often deployed in them are similar or identical to those deployed in narrative text, so I can make the same kinds of arguments), but I tend not to do so. I use film to go away from the burden of thought as much as for any other reason, and adherence to convention and the expected does much to that purpose. So I cannot say that I oppose conventionalism in the text simply because it is conventional, not without opening myself to allegations of hypocrisy with which I am not comfortable (as opposed to those with which I am).

But there is still something in reading conventionalism that annoys. Perhaps it is because I am habituated to reading in the ways that I am, ways that make reading an active thing that engages my faculties more powerfully because I must act upon the words rather than only being acted upon by them, that Lagercrantz's text sits oddly. Reading is not passive for me; I do not turn pages--electronic or physical--to have something before my eyes, but to have something with which to occupy my mind. (Or, as it happens, to make money, so I must be temperate in some complaints; it is not as if I am not being compensated for my efforts.) The Girl in the Spider's Web seems to me to be constructed to reward passivity, to work better for readers who read in the same way that I watch movies--and there are more of them than there are of readers who read as I do. (Again, I profit from this, so I must temper my complaints, but I still find it annoying.)

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


It should come as no surprise that I did not get done all of what I wanted to get done yesterday. It is not because I was not busy with things, to be sure; I did get done the grading I had had to bring home (and I hate having to bring grading home), and I did read for my next freelance piece (although there is more of the book that needs reading, and as it is the most recent entry in a series I have not read, there is a bit of a learning curve). I sent out one job application and found I had to discard another couple of postings, as they had either closed or were advertised as something somewhat different than turned out to be requested. (Generalist though I am, I cannot argue effectively that I ought to be professing creative writing.) I also got the (admittedly few) dishes done, but I did not get to laundry; I am fortunate to have had another pair of pants and a shirt waiting for me, although it has been a while since I have worn long sleeves.

Ms. 8 took a bit of a tumble yesterday. She was, I believe, trying to rearrange some of the living room furniture, lost her balance, and clipped her mouth rather sharply on the corner of something. I did not realize just what she had done until after I had spent a few minutes holding her with her head on my shoulder as she cried, not until I went to look at her and talk to her and saw a smear of blood beside her mouth; whatever it was she did bloodied her mouth. No teeth appear to have been damaged, but her lip was split, and it appeared as if she had gouged a fingernail or somesuch into her gum. It hurt me to see it, although far less than for her to endure it, I think. It did not seem to hinder her, though, as she was soon eating and drinking as normal again, making delighted toddler noises most of the way (and throwing a bit of a tantrum when she was not bubbling happily). Even so, I was worried, and I am certain the bruise on her lip will not read well to many who see her.

Today, though, work will continue. I will be in the classroom and in my office today until the Mrs. comes to pick me up so that she can put in a few hours; we need the money. I will see about dealing with some of the laundry that needs doing--which is mostly my work clothes, so I really should be the one to do the work of tending to it. And I will continue to do what I can to keep an eye on Ms. 8 while I see about wrapping up the freelance reading that I need to do so that I can see about doing the writing tomorrow. So, yes, things will be busy.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


Work continues, even when I oversleep. I finished a piece of freelance work yesterday, and another already awaits me. The new order was placed, in fact, before the book which it is supposed to treat released. That happened this morning, so I will be picking up the text shortly, with the write-up to follow before long. I mean to earn such money as is available while it is available; I cannot count on having the freelance work to do, after all. For now, though, it seems that jobs are coming quickly and in abundance, so I am in a position to earn a bit more than would otherwise be the case for me--and that means I am able to pay down debts that would otherwise continue to mount, compound interest being what it is. Eventually, I should be able to get things paid off. I hope.

There is other work than freelancing that will require my attention today. I have some grading to do, as yesterday saw the first set of riddles in my classes. I tend to use them as in-class exercises, offering practice in proofreading and critical thinking in them. Students do not always appreciate the work at first, and some admittedly never do, but most who have received the work have benefited from it. Their writing improves in terms of depth and polish, and since I teach many writing classes, it seems to me that the exercises are successful. Too, presenting the riddles allows me to put across a number of jokes, which is always something I like to have happen in class. Teaching, even at the college level and even in required classes, need not be a dull and dreary thing, after all.

The expected other tasks also need attention today. I am trying to push out one job application each day, and while I have been less successful at doing so than I might like, I have been more successful at getting applications out into the world than I would otherwise be did I not have such a plan. Writing cover letters in fits and starts seems to work against the process, if my current results are to be taken as indicative. Some of the jobs in my docket are growing stale, if they have not already gone fully stale, but others are yet fresh, and more seem to emerge daily. Perhaps one of them will let me do what it is that I want to do, that I have trained to do, and I can then have less worry about taking care of my family--which is why I do much of what I do.

Somehow, in and among my working on such things, Sherwood Cottage itself will get some attention. Daily cleaning tasks happen, particularly with a toddler in the home; Ms. 8 is a wonder, a whirlwind of activity and inquiry, and the path she leaves behind her confirms it. I need to be sure I have pants and shirt in which to teach, since I do try to present myself as at least somewhat professional, and I cannot do so in my skvvies. Cooking, the Mrs. already has planned, so I will make sure the sink is clear and the dishes are clean so that she can enact her most excellent ideas. For the home and for what is outside it, work continues.