Monday, November 30, 2015


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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 29, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

It is time to get back to work.

Saturday, November 28, 2015


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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


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

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

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

I want nothing to do with it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


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

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

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

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

Monday, November 23, 2015


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

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

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

Sunday, November 22, 2015


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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 21, 2015


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

Friday, November 20, 2015


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

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

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

I need all the help I can get.

Thursday, November 19, 2015


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

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

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

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

There are many yet.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


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

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

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


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

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

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

Monday, November 16, 2015


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

Sunday, November 15, 2015


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

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

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

Saturday, November 14, 2015


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

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

Friday, November 13, 2015


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

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

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

Thursday, November 12, 2015


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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


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

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

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

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

Monday, November 9, 2015


Work continues, of course. I am a quarter of the way through the write-up I currently have in progress, and I am pleased at that amount of work, since it happened after grading a stack of papers and reading the novel to be written up. I may well be able to get the piece done today (depending on how Ms. 8 acts and if or when she takes a nap), which will be helpful. More grading is coming in, and the litany of other things I need to do remains more or less as it is. (I am contemplating a creative piece on the subject, in fact.) If I can get the job done, then, I will be the better off--and not only because of the money my work will bring in.

As I was working on the part of the piece I got done yesterday, I realized that I have something of a formula for writing book reviews (which I do as part of the freelance work, as well as occasionally in this webspace, as noted here). I did not arrive at the pattern through reading a number of reviews--I tend to avoid them, in fact, whether they are of the academic variety encountered in journals or of the literary, such as appear in the pages of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction--so I have no idea how representative those I write are. But they continue to attract favorable attention, so the pattern on which I write reviews suggests itself as being a decent one.

I normally open with an identification of the work, minimally noting the author, title, ISBN, and cost in the format of reading; for the write-ups, I include the year of publication, as well. A summary follows, outlining the major plot thread or threads in loosely sketched-out terms. The next paragraph identifies problems with the text, ranging from typographical anomalies (such as in this example) to proofreading failures (as in this one, albeit not positioned where I normally have it, but the example is early in my writing) to complaints about alignment within milieu (see here) and to breaches of credulity (as in this example). The following paragraph, usually the concluding, moves back to what works well in the text--and for the freelance write-ups, I make sure that the favorable receives more attention (demonstrated by words spent on the matter) than the unfavorable, as I have been cautioned to do, since the works I write up sell well and the write-ups are directed at those likely to find the works to their liking. (Audience awareness matters.)

Generally, the exercise takes between 300 and 500 words; the write-ups favor the shorter reviews, while my work in this webspace favors the longer (insofar as 500 words can really be called "long"). Paragraphs are reasonably evenly distributed, as adjusted for concerns noted above. And they tend to work well for what I need them to do, either communicating my overall impressions of a work so that I can go back later and treat it in a more rigorously scholarly fashion or setting me up to earn an extra few dollars for my household and family. Both serve me well.

Sunday, November 8, 2015


The weather around Sherwood Cottage is cooling. There was a frost warning this morning, in fact, and I understand why; the window of the house are dewed with condensate as the warmer air inside makes contact with the outside-chilled glass. We will soon be putting film over the windows again, hoping to stem some of the draftiness of the house and create pockets of dead air that should help keep the place snug. I will have a running battle with the cats to keep the film intact, so I should probably invest in another roll of clear packing tape before long; how Ms. 8, more mobile this year than last, will influence the battle is unclear to me. At some point, she will be an ally, but at present, she is a force of chaos in the home. Learning is a messy business, after all.

The Mrs., Ms. 8, and I took a little jaunt away from Sherwood Cottage yesterday afternoon, heading down to the City of the Vacant Seal to do a bit of business. It was a nice excursion; it was good to do some trading that our hometown does not facilitate, and I needed to get out of the house for a bit. Ms. 8 seemed to enjoy herself, as well, getting a new dress that she has already enjoyed wearing, as well as squealing with delight at the odd treat of some fast food. (It was not the only shrieking she did, to be sure, but happy shrieks are better to hear than sad or upset ones, and I have had to hear enough of each to know the difference well.) There was some annoyance at various spills, and not just on the parts of the Mrs. and me, but the drive down was nice, and the drive back, looking over the wind-swept plains at the sunset, was scenic; I am glad we made the time to go and return.

Dinner was a noodle soup, using the college-standard ramen noodles to ballast a miso broth flavored with two types of mushrooms, cilantro, basil, and green onions and served with fish. I added seaweed paper, sesame oil, and liquid aminos to mine; the Mrs. had chili paste in hers. Ms. 8 ate the otherwise-unadorned base. Each of us seemed to enjoy it, and there is a helping of soup left over; it should make a decent enough lunch for one or another of us. (The thought occurs to me that I have not written about food in a while. I have been eating, to be sure, but I have not been doing as I really ought to do and cooked outside to ease the burden of cooking inside. Now that the weather is cooling, perhaps I ought to see about setting up to smoke some more meat. And maybe this will be the year I try to smoke cheese, as well.)

Work continues, of course. One more stack of papers demands my attention, and a freelance piece beckons. Job applications still call out for completion, and any number of other projects look at me reproachfully as they sit, undone, in queue. It would behoove me, then, to attend to them.

Saturday, November 7, 2015


I wrote a short poem at about this time last year, a little snippet of a thing meant as much to fulfill a felt (and not well discharged) obligation to try to post something to this webspace every day as to express my confusion at the state of the world. As students in the current term have passed the date at which they may drop classes without penalty to their grade point averages--and several students of mine have availed themselves of that option, although I have to think more ought to have done so--I find myself reflecting on the scrap of verse I wrote a year ago, wondering what new ironies and what continuations of ironies already identified I will encounter in their work. And I stumble into thoughts that irony--the juxtaposition of disjunct expectations and presentations--may not be what applies anymore; expectations shift, and much of what would be thought surreal becomes quotidian.

Some examples:
  • A media and strategic communications student who cannot stay on message
  • A graphic design student who misses alignment and placement of textual elements time and time again, doing so inconsistently
  • A fashion design student who shows up to class wearing nondescript sweatpants
  • An English major who protests being so far right that Reagan seemed a lefty
  • A student complaining about the lack of faith-based campus organizations while walking across sidewalks bestrewn with chalked ads for fifteen
  • A student who complains about being assessed too harshly in an email that is barely intelligible
  • A student who demands evidence after being rebuked for not providing any
The temptation to decry "kids these days" is present. Not all of the examples, however, are from my teaching work; some derive from my years as a student. I know better than to think that things are wholly different now, although more students attend college than in the past, and a broader cross-section attends than once did. People who would have gone into trades before now attend college--and that is a good thing for those who will treat it seriously and seek to learn above seeking a credential. (The latter gives rise in large part to the for-profit college, I think; supply will always emerge in response to demand, even if it does not necessarily meet it.) But the proportion of people who do seek learning seems to be the same; so does the proportion of those who do not.

I have never understood the undesire to learn. I have never understood not wanting to know more. That there are many people who do not, who are content to know what they know and seek no further, I know, but I do not fathom the acceptance of limited knowledge and understanding. I do not fathom the lack of drive I see as concomitant with that acceptance, although, again, I know that it is as it is. I do not fathom acceptance of mediocrity in what is avowedly (and demonstrably, by time and resource expenditure) a primary occupation.

It seems that the last line of the earlier poem remains true.

Friday, November 6, 2015


I am participating in neither No-Shave November nor NaNoWriMo this year. I did No-Shave November my first year living at Sherwood Cottage--relevant discussions are here, here, here, and elsewhere--and, while it did attract some attention, much of that attention ended up being of a form I do not appreciate. I have spent quite enough time being laughed at already; I do not need to add to it, and so I will not be doing it again for some time, if ever. NaNoWriMo takes up more time than I have to offer it; work continues, after all, and it has me working 80 or more hours most weeks. Trying to fit in time for another 50,000 words atop the many thousands I already write in a month does not seem like it will work well. (And, yes, I already write thousands in a month. I try for 500 a day in this webspace, I generate an average of 225 words of commentary on each of seventy-something student papers when I grade them, and my freelance jobs range from 5,000 words upwards--with me writing one to two a week during the semester and three to four a week when I am not teaching. Add those numbers to my research writing, and they become substantial. If I could get paid by the word more often...)

That I am not participating does not mean I condemn participation. I do not. Were matters different, I would participate in such endeavors. Were I thinner and of slighter build--and the two are not the same--I might do No-Shave November again. It seems to me to be a hipsterish thing to do, and hipsterism rewards the narrow across the shoulders and shallow of chest (as well as the flat of belly); I am none of those things, nor am I quiet enough, nor yet esoteric enough in my musical tastes. Were not so much of my time taken up with work, I would happily take the challenge of NaNoWriMo; I might well take such a challenge every month. But I have a household and a family to support, and so what time I might "make" for such endeavors is taken up with doing work for pay. Maslovian self-actualization demands that the lower tiers of the hierarchy be met, after all, and addressing them takes nearly as much time and energy as I have to offer. Admittedly, I could spend the twenty or so minutes I devote to this exercise on other enterprises, and it might do some good, but it would not be enough to address larger projects such as the November novel--not even with me typing at full speed, which I could not do in such a case.

I am not complaining about how things stand. If nothing else, I have ways to avoid boredom for years to come, and I appreciate that. (I may have shared the story of my last complaint about boredom. If I have not, I may yet share it.) But thinking back on things I have done and have wanted to do prompts assessment of what I am doing, and I think that a good thing.

Thursday, November 5, 2015


I have three times previously written in this webspace on this date: 2010, 2013, and 2014. Today, as then, it is one of my cousin's birthdays; it is also a colleague's. Today, as then, problems I speak to--albeit quietly and with little impact--remain. The 2010 issue, that the minimal demands for humanities coursework among non-humanities majors, remains. (And I know some will say that non-humanities majors take more humanities courses than humanities majors take non-humanities. Assuming that it is true--and I have not seen surveys of course catalogs and major plans that support such assertions--it is a problem, as well, but it is not the one I mean to address.) The 2013 comments associating intelligence with the inhuman still seem to be in force, as recent electoral shenanigans suggest. The 2014 comments about increasing stratification and tension seem to have been borne out (although I admit that most if not all times have lamented themselves). What I would add to such a litany eludes me, therefore; I would seem to be saying again only what I have already said, slipping into a middle-aged over-valuation of my earlier adulthood and an advanced-aged failure to recollect the words that have come out of my mouth's online analog.

I might make the case that there is value in reflection. If nothing else, an assessment of whether what was said continues to have value is in order (although I admit to a conflict of interest in the matter, as my field of study focuses on the recapitulation of what has already been said; I would necessarily see value in such an endeavor). Too, there is some use in seeing how things have changed--if they have changed (which seems not to be the case so much with what I have written on this day before)--and I might argue at some length for such a thing. But I do not think I would be convincing in either case; those who believe such things already believe them, and those who do not are not willing to alter their thoughts (obviously; were they, they already would have done so). How to proceed eludes me.

That it does matters little. Work continues; I have grading to which I should attend, and there is no shortage of other tasks for me to perform. Perhaps, since I find myself somewhat stymied here, I ought to turn to them.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


I returned yesterday from an excursion to Nashville and the surrounding area, where the Mrs. and I visited an old friend and I presided over a session at the South Central Modern Language Association conference. The visit was good, and the session went well. I would appear to be excused from serving as staff for the relevant session for the next two years, which is good, as it will allow me to present papers (possibly) and get a bit more of the kind of work under my belt that I need to get done. And plans for the next year are already underway; I have already made the note in several places, but I want it to spread far, so do please note that the Tales after Tolkien Society is sponsoring a session for the 2016 South Central Modern Language Association conference, for which details can be found at both the Society blog, here, and the Society webpage, here. Please consider submitting--or at least let others know whom you think might want to submit. Graduate students and independent scholars are welcome.

For now, however, work continues. I do not have a freelance piece lined up; I told my client that I would be away and would return to availability tomorrow. The classroom still calls me, however; students had an exercise to do while I was away, but there are things to discuss about their fourth paper, assigned before I left and due in its first version come Monday next. Too, that exercise needs grading, as does the paper that came in at the end of last month. Consequently, I expect to be quite busy over the next few days. The Mrs. may well be working this afternoon, though, and Ms. 8 tends to sleep for much of that time, so I should have some few working hours to spend on the tasks, and I am not scheduled to teach tomorrow, in any event. The search for a permanent position continues, as well, and any number of other projects and writing tasks continue to call out to me, as they ever do; of all the things I suffer and have suffered, a lack of things to attend to is not one.

If I am to do many things, though, I am happy to do them from Sherwood Cottage, having slept in my own bed and not having to cross states and back and forth across the breadth of the Father of Waters. (Is it cultural appropriation to make such a reference or to intone the phrase of paean I do every time I cross the Mississippi River? For I do such things, but I do them reverently, at the least.) I am glad to have seen the people I saw on my trip away, but the comfort of home and of sleeping in my own bed again is not to be undervalued. The next few days will see a return to what passes for normal here, as the effects of the trip wear away, and I will be glad to be back to that normal--for a while, at least, as I will be happy to go out and see a few people again.