Thursday, March 31, 2016


Yesterday, the student newspaper at the university where I currently teach published articles detailing the effects looming state budget cuts will have on staffing; the article appears here. I have noted that my visit to the institution is soon to end, so the effects will not apply to me, but a number of people whom I value will remain in place, or they will seek to do so, and they are likely to be affected by the coming changes; they remain of interest to me therefore. And I, perhaps overly affectively, read myself in the words the student paper has printed, given some of the specific statements made.

The paper notes that, for the English department (wherein I currently teach), a "two percent reduction plan could save at least $40,000 by cutting one temporary faculty position." I occupy such a position, making such a salary, and I have been told that mine will no longer be available to me. While other factors were cited to me as informing the decision to end my visit, I cannot escape the sensation that I am the first in a series of sacrifices, my blood the first spilled upon an altar where others will be offered up to sate the hunger of a lustful god. I have to wonder who will be pressed down into the red stain I will leave behind, since more cuts loom; the paper notes that "A five or eight percent cut [both of which have been proposed, given circumstances] could result in the loss of three or five temporary faculty positions respectively, which would save the department between $120 - $200 thousand [sic]." I will not be the only one to go, I think, and I know that many of my colleagues depend upon their positions, as I do but will not be able to do for long, to pay back the debts incurred in pursuing their educations and trying to make themselves good and useful members of society, as well as to feed and clothe their children. I know that many of them are at least as qualified to do their work as I am to do mine, holding terminal degrees and producing research and creative work of high quality while teaching in one term as many students as some higher-ranking faculty do in a year. And the classes that we teach are those most common to the college experience--indeed, some of the defining aspects of the college experience, underpinning the work students do later and perhaps being among the parts of their formal education upon which they look with joy and appreciation in the years to come.

There is, of course, a plan to address the staffing issues that such cuts would cause. The paper quotes the department's head as saying that some classes would see their sizes increase, while others would be consolidated into fewer sections (having much the same effect). Yet others would begin to be staffed by teaching assistants, which introduces some concerns. (I say this having taught as a teaching assistant--but I did so having already had teaching experience, which many of those who become teaching assistants do not when they begin their work. They are intelligent people, to be sure, but they are in large part less experienced than they might be and than they really ought to be to be assigned classes of their own.) The classes that they would be able to teach, by convention and by accreditation requirements, are those directed towards the least-experienced and least-prepared students, those who need the most oversight and attention of their own. Comments from other departments than English comment on the increased demands that would be placed upon assistants moved to the fronts of classrooms while taking full loads of their own. Even in mathematics, where there is often a definitive right answer and appropriate algorithm to apply, the assessment and instructional burden becomes onerous quickly, to the detriment of instruction; it will be far worse in the humanities, including English, where matters are much more provisional and much more fluid, and in which the explication of interpretation and understanding is the thing that must be reviewed. It already takes longer to assess a paper than a proof; it already takes far more effort. Demanding yet more of those who, less prepared to handle the burden, are asked to shoulder it will not work to the benefit of those most in need. The students, then, will be added to the sacrifices demanded by the lustful god; they will be left living, to be sure, but what kind of life they will be able to have is an open question.

I note that there has been no report of talk about reducing administrative bloat. There has been no talk of trimming athletics personnel. Hell, the school recently hired another coach (one whose previous-position salary, per USA Today (here), was more than $350,000--which would pay for, oh, close to nine of my positions--and I doubt that he has taken much of a pay cut, if any, to relocate). There has been no report of talk that anything other than instruction is to be cut. It should be clear, then, where the institution's focus lies--and it is not on ensuring that the classroom, the beating heart of the school, remains healthy. Instead, it is cut deeply and left to stain the altars of knowledge, consecrating them to the lustful god that is the root of all evil--and it is ultimately the children of this place that will suffer for it.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


I may have mentioned that the Mrs. and I are packing in anticipation of departing from Sherwood Cottage. As was the case some three years ago, my employment status is changing, but I do not expect the kind of reversal I had at that point to happen to me again here; I am not nearly so well protected in the workplace as I was, among others. I do, however, find myself once again in mind of what home means; I reflected on it to some extent in the lead-up to moving out of The City, and it seems to matter again as I make ready to move with my family once again--and although we know where we are going, at least in the short term after my visit here ends, the longer term is far less clear. (The ultimate end, of course, is certain, but leading off the day with the reaffirmation that we're all going to die seems a bit dark, even for my often dour persona.)

In earlier reflections on home, I noted the idea that home is, for me, a place where my interiority begins to be externalized. That is, the home reflects the inner selves of those who dwell in it. The more such indwellers there are, of course, the more mixture of reflections that occurs in the home--but living together tends to result in people influencing one another's inner selves to no small degree. The examples my wife, my daughter, and I provide attest thereto, if only anecdotally. I was changed greatly by the love the Mrs. and I share, and I continue to be changed by it; I believe she was and is, as well. Ms. 8 emerges from that love and from the common experience of her parents, as well as our genetic legacies (both the overt and the cultural, since there seems to be some indication of inherited memories, after a fashion). Both my wife and I continue to adjust to the ways in which Ms. 8 grows and develops, and she grows and develops at least partly in response to the circumstances the Mrs. and I create for her. Each of us alters who the others are, and Sherwood Cottage has reflected that reciprocal influence, as has emerged during the process of packing things up.

Just how much it had done so becomes clearer with every box packed and stacked and made ready to load for a long drive away. Each one limits my ability to do things at the house; in a way, each packed box limits my ability to express and enact who and what I am, effectively limiting who and what I am. That it does so suggests how much of myself I have allowed to seep out of me and into the place--and I had not meant to allow it to happen. I had thought that the visit soon to end would not have lasted as long as it has, that I would find some more stable situation in short order and move on with my family years before now. I was wrong, of course, and I still do not have a stable situation set up (despite my work to that end). I have grown into this place, and leaving it as I will is far from a comfortable process because of it.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


There is always more to do and little time to do it,
So it's tempting to go through bellowing, "Oh, screw it!"
Crying out against the work never does much good;
It makes the crier look the jerk, avoiding that which should
Be done to better serve the world, to lift the lot of others,
Yelling, if not lying curled abed, as is the druthers
Of many. Who can blame them, though, who seek to stay in dream?
In sleep is comfort found, we know, and in the sleep we seem
To leave the world confronting us and other worlds to find.
But still the work-need faces us and to our tasks us binds.

Monday, March 28, 2016


I have stood at the Center of the Universe
A cloud of carbon steel degrading overlooking
As my voice reverberated

I have seen the attempt to reconcile
Where a green wood was burned down
And many died from the flames
Not only of that burning

I walked a healing way
And I am not sure it did me any good
But I still worry
That to walk it backwards
Would have a deleterious effect
Particularly if it is efficacious
Moving forward

I listened
As I was able
To a story being told
And I would like to read the memoir
If it is ever written

Sunday, March 27, 2016


File not found.

This is not the text you're looking for.
You can go about your business.
Move along.

As one textbook puts it:
Perhaps I should be alone now.
Get the fuck outta here.

The book so says.
It makes more sense in context.
Everything does.

Saturday, March 26, 2016


Work continues, of course. As noted yesterday, my father-in-law and stepmother-in-law are here at Sherwood Cottage to help with the preparations for the Mrs. and I to end our sojourn on the wind-swept plains. They managed to get quite a bit done while I was not looking, which I suppose comes off as some kind of example of unearned privilege but which I am certain was offered simply as an expression of familial love. Once I got home from the regular job, I did my part, tending further to the books that we had had secreted away. Many of them will be donated off; they will do somebody some good somewhere and somewhen, but we will not be carrying them with us anymore. We have enough other things to take with us when we leave, and if I have not even thought about books read idly years ago, I do not need to have them in hand. Perhaps in that theoretical day far off when I have a library, I shall return to such things, but this is not that time.

Packing away box after box after box after box of books reminds me of arguments in favor of electronic texts. To be sure, I make use of such things; the freelance work of writing up treatments of novels (currently in abeyance, which is not wholly to my pleasure, but there is little I can do to pull in orders when they are not being offered) has relied largely upon electronic books, and I do keep a few volumes wholly for my own interest on an e-reader my wife got for me as a present some years back. Packing boxes of books to move once again confirms for me the convenience of the e-book, that I can more easily carry it about and read it at my leisure, and that I can adjust many paratextual features easily so that I have an easier time of the reading. (I tend to prefer a darker background and lighter text on a screen. I suppose I show my age in that; "computing" still reads as something that "should" be colored text on black, and in a simpler font, to boot.)

I am not opposed to e-books in principle. I do not find them as amenable to my purposes as printed texts, however. There is the aesthetic component, of course; there is something pleasant about having walls lined with books, and there is a certain impression created by having them. I also still page through printed books more quickly than I do electronic documents, turning faster than I can scroll. It is easier for me to scan for things when I do not recall my search terms exactly--which happens more commonly than I care to have. And marginalia show up better in penciled or inked comments in the namesake margins and between lines than in highlights that hide and demand precise pressures blunt and insensate fingers cannot always provide. Thinking on such things reminds me of why I get to pack and move boxes as work continues. If nothing else, though, I can use the exercise, and we have enough weight to move around in print...

Friday, March 25, 2016


I ask again, "Where were you when the Dark Tower fell and the Ring-Bearers were praised with great praise?" Where were you when the world changed and a new Age began?

Wherever I was then, I find myself now in Sherwood Cottage, where my father-in-law and stepmother-in-law (it's complicated) have come to help us with a few things. My (extended) visit to this place where cowboys stand as the wind comes sweeping down the plain is soon to end, and while the Mrs. and I have been packing for the return trip--although whither we shall "return" is not entirely certain--there are some other things that will not be packed. In wind and water, the weather has made of some of our sundry supplies a mess, and that mess must be cleaned. Doing so takes equipment that I do not have--but my father-in-law does, hence the trip over. That, and Ms. 8, who is the focus of more visits...

Indeed, when my father-in-law and stepmother-in-law arrived yesterday evening, Ms. 8 ran to greet them, exclaiming her names for them in her clear toddler voice, a smile stretching her face. It was good to see, not only for them. (I would be jealous, save that I know she calls after me when I leave the house while she is awake--she is often still asleep when I head off to work--and she is as delighted to see me return, running to me and exclaiming her name for me with a smile stretching her face and her arms stretching to embrace me, although they do not reach as far around as they someday will.) It did take a while to get her to go to sleep, given the excitement of the arrival, but she was smiling and happy, youthfully ebullient, and so longer hours are well worth giving to her; we benefit from the happiness dynamo that is my daughter. (I do still wonder where it comes from with her; she certainly did not inherit it from her father.)

Although family is here, and it is here to help, work continues. Three of the four classes I teach meet today; they have one assignment due and another to distribute. The latter is one of the odd quirks of my classroom practice, something I tend to use to pilot new ideas for later deployment; this semester, it is instead being put to the service of institutional research and my personal development. But the question students will answer for it is one suggested by one of their peers and voted on by the classes; a plurality of students chose the prompt I will be putting to them. It should be an easy and entertaining thing for them, although I imagine that there will be complaints. There always are, even when I do the thing they have explicitly asked that I do. (Being contingent faculty, I have been motivated to...accommodate them. It has not worked as well as could be hoped, and in ways other than I rail against.) Handling the frustration that results therefrom is made easier by family, but I could stand to be praised with great praise now and again...

Thursday, March 24, 2016


They ask
To be told
What is expected of them

I tell them
I lay out
In detail
What they are supposed to have

They complain
Too many words
Too-hard words
Too-hard tasks
And boring

What I want to say:
Get out.
I gave what you asked
And you complain of it
Get out.
There is nothing for you here.
This is a place of learning
And you
Get out.
I have other students
Students who
Want to learn
And they deserve the attention
You do not care to have
But seem to want to keep from others

And those of you
Who act thus
While professing
A desire to teach
Are part of the fucking problem
It is people like you
Who make easy the arguments
Against teachers
I want to know where you
So that I never send my daughter there

What I say:
You asked to be told.
I told you.
It takes many words
And if you do not understand them
Why do you not ask
Or look them up?
And if the task is hard
That is all the more opportunity for you
To get better
If there is no challenge
There is no reason to improve
And do you really think
You do as well
As you need to
You can get better
We all need to
And it is not always easy
Or entertaining
And whoever told you it would be

Practice is boring
But what practice permits
Is not

Now, your assignment is this...

Wednesday, March 23, 2016


Work continues, as ever it must. Although freelance work seems to have dried up for the time being--I have gotten no new write-up orders, and my tutee, citing ongoing research dilemmas, has suspended lessons indefinitely--I remain occupied with a great many things. I continue to develop materials for my classes, which are approaching their final exercises; there are only a few things left to ask the students to do. Additionally, I have a fair bit of grading coming in today; three of my four classes have an update to an older assignment due, while the fourth has a review version of an upcoming assignment due. The latter will be assessed before the former, as it is more urgent. And there is a larger assignment coming in on Friday. As such, I will be quite busy over the next few days; it is likely to my benefit in the short term that I have not got freelance work waiting for me to do at the moment. I will still miss the money, however.

As work continues, so does my ongoing battle against nostalgia. I find myself looking back on things and inserting iterations of l'espirit d'escalier into my memory, making myself seem better in recollection than I was in real life. It is a dangerous thing, partly because any emendation to the recollection of events moves (further) away from the truth (and I write "further" because what we remember is not the same thing as what actually happened, given the limits of our perceptive and mnemonic abilities as well as the biases that inform and proceed from both), and partly because the (inadvertent?) misrepresentation, I come to prize more highly--and inaccurately--things that were not of use at the time. (This is not the same as realizing later that something annoying was actually helpful. The problem is that I think it happy when it was not, which is wholly separate from whether or not it was good for me.) It does much to make me long for a time that never was, and while I indulge readily in escapism, I do not think it helps me to escape to imagine what was a prison as something other than one; retreating to an earlier cell is still retreating to a cell, rather than being freedom or release.

That I am stretching a metaphor, I know. I often do. Sometimes, as I have noted, I do so to amuse myself. Sometimes, I do it to force a different kind of consideration than I might otherwise permit. The latter is more the case than the former above. I do well to recall the past, that I might learn therefrom; as a medievalist even yet, I have much to do with what has gone before. But there is a difference between learning from the past and returning to it. My personal past is not the kind of thing I want to have happen again; I am in some senses lucky to have gotten out of it as well as I did. The work to keep myself out of it, no less than the work that pays the bills, continues.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


It was a good enough day

I went back to work
And no
I did not want to
On the way to the office
I found twenty dollars
Lying on the side of the road
Not in front of someone's house

I took it as a good sign
And because I need the money

The rest of it went as expected
So there is not much about which to comment
But finding that twenty dollars made some difference
Not to the overall situation
Which will take
To fix
But to the day's approach

It was a far better attitude adjustment
Than others I could name

Monday, March 21, 2016


There is something difficult about returning to the work of teaching, as I must today. A week off is a fairly long while; coming back up to speed, redeveloping the momentum that I had had before the break will be a challenge. Ideally, it should be eased because I am rested, but although I slept in abundantly on my days off, I do not feel as though I am well rested; I think I am still at a deficit. I shall endure, plodding through the day as I am set to do, but I rather think it will not be as easy as I have the sense it is "supposed" to be. It is another myth of the working world, I suppose, that so short a vacation (not that I was fully on vacation, of course; I was working, albeit more slowly and on other things than my classroom) is enough. Then again, I do teach for a living, and we all know why people teach; it should come as no surprise, then, that I remain wearied. I am, after all, one of "those who can't."

Whether I can or not, however, I must, and today will have me back in the classroom with all four sets of my students. It has been two weeks since I saw one of them; I teach them only on Mondays and Wednesdays, and the last Wednesday that classes were scheduled happened while the plumbing was malfunctioning. I have some catching-up to do with that set of students, particularly since they have an assignment due on Wednesday, as well as several chapters of reading assigned and not yet discussed. How many of them will have worked over the break is unclear to me; I expect few, but I also know that the students in question are not of the traditional sort, and returning students tend towards greater diligence in my experience than do the more traditional. That some have, I know; I have seen the reports from my more professional online endeavors that the materials I provide have been accessed from school websites. It is some comfort to know that there are people paying attention to the work I do for my pupils.

So it is that work continues once again. Some six weeks or so of classes remain, and several assignments are coming in during the remaining period. They are of increasing heft and weight, which is sensible enough; students should be capable of more later in the term than they are early on. Too, there are fewer students in my classes now than when the term started, so the burden on me that the assignments impose is lessened somewhat. But there is still a damned lot for me to do in the classroom and for the classroom, of which less will be recognized and validated than might be hoped. And I now have to fight my way forward from what was almost a dead stop; inertia works upon the person and the mind as much as it does upon the dumb and thoughtless objects of Newtonian physics. I shall have to apply no mean force to return to the work of teaching today, as I must do.

Sunday, March 20, 2016


Spring would seem to have sprung, at least in terms of the motions of the earth through the celestial ether. Around Sherwood Cottage, the weather is less springlike today than it was last week; temperatures were in the freezing range this morning, and they are expected only to get up into the mid-50s F (13 C, if I remember my conversions correctly). For contrast, last week was in the 70s (F) and up. But I have not packed away my sweaters or my jackets, and Sherwood Cottage retains the window films the Mrs. and I put up each year to try to keep out at least some of the chill; we are well here, and in a position from which we can look out upon the cool day and appreciate not having to be out in it so much. So that part of things is good.

As spring springs, Spring Break at the schools where I teach is coming to its end. At this point, I have 5/6 of what I meant to get done during the break accomplished. There were three things I meant to do, noted here: grade papers, write a piece for the Tales after Tolkien Society blog, and write a paper for the International Congress on Medieval Studies. The first was done on Wednesday, the second then, too. On the third, I am halfway done, hence the fraction I report. I expect to be able to wrap up that particular piece of writing today; I have been working on other things as they have come to me, enjoying the relatively relaxed time of the break to do so. It has been nice, and I have enjoyed it. Tomorrow, however, begins a headlong rush towards the end of the term, and it will not be until it is over that I will have a break again.

So work is about to continue again. I do not know that I am ready for it to do so; I have been too much indolent on this break, sleeping later than I am accustomed to doing in response to the lack of structured activity, and feeling somewhat disoriented for doing so. (I likely have needed the rest, however.) Whether I am ready for it or not, however, I know that it must be done. It always does, whatever the season and whatever changes to the seasons may occur, however clearly or raggedly they may. I suppose, then, that I ought to get to it.

Saturday, March 19, 2016


In my personal journal yesterday, I tried something borrowed in halting fashion from some of the medieval literature I have read. It appears again in this post: the highlighting of paragraph beginnings and notable points in red. In my personal journals, I have decided not to continue the practice; it is more difficult to carry out consistently than it needs to be, and I find myself running towards an overuse of the red ink as I move through composing the text. In the venue of a blog, however, as with any kind of electronic composition, it may work better than in manuscript for me. I have the advantage in electronic composition of being able to write the text fully before going back and altering what needs to be altered. It allows for more deliberate and reflective paratextual compositional choices, which seems to me to be a good thing--as well as a commendation of my medieval forebears, who had to plan things out more effectively ahead of time (although there is no shortage of scribal error to be found among the peers of Chaucer's Clerk of Oxenforde). If I could but figure out how to do drop-caps in this webspace...

It is a commonplace that current compositional--and working, more generally--circumstances are more tolerant of "error" than are older forms. Conventional "wisdom" is that those who went before, having less, had to be more careful with its use; moderns, having much, are prodigal, and in being so lose the attention to detail that marks the masterworks of days gone by. It is a myopic view, however, and one that reflects a limited conception of how things used to be. There was a lot of crap produced in earlier times, as high a percentage of "error" then as now, and just as eagerly consumed. (Indeed, is it not also a commonplace that those who went before had bad ideas about how things worked?) And even in the "masterworks," there are errors and inconsistencies, oddities that require substantial explanation that still does not suffice, matters excused or ignored but still present and no more "right" than the things condemned today as the marks of modern laziness and inattention. It is possible that plenty corrupts, but penury does not itself for purity make. Even Homer nods, after all, and how much of what was no longer is, so that its errors are hidden?

That there are things to celebrate in older forms I do not contest. I am, by training, a medievalist; how could I be so and do so? But that same study, spurred initially by the love of the thing, has shown me that the thing is not perfect. What we study of the old--and of the new--is the work of human hands and human interpretations of things that are not such works. Being of humanity, they are flawed, subject to review and revision. This is not to say that they are bad. It is to say, however, that we neglect the whole person when we do not note the flaws and errors; they are as much a part of the person as the successes, and they have value. Setting them aside blinds us to that value, and we already see too little.

Friday, March 18, 2016


Things keep growing later
Until they all grow late.
There is an ending coming,
Although we know not the date.
Fretting at its certainty
Leaves me in quite a state,
But I cannot leave them aside:
Thoughts of unyielding fate.

There is a sense of panic
Besetting me today.
Its source is all uncertain;
So also is the way
That I can put it all aside
And work, or maybe play
Instead of feeling my heart pound
For reasons I can't say.

Thursday, March 17, 2016


Today is St. Patrick's Day, on which a great many people will celebrate "Irishness" with any number of stereotypes, as well as heavy drinking. I am minded of the "celebrations" in New York City, which does have a history of Irish immigration, and I cannot help but be glad that I am away from it at the moment. I have had more than enough of crowds of drunks vomiting into the streets, having seen it and the New Orleans Mardi Gras both. So while I am making my nod to the "festivities" in my attire, I am not doing much else for the day. I have work to do, after all. (And where this bit is that St. Gertrude, whose feast day it also is, is the patron saint of cats comes from, I am unsure; it seems a recent thing not substantiated by the sources that actually confer sainthood for those who believe in such things. Also, since cats are evil--which I note with two yet in the home--it makes little sense that they would have a heavenly intercessor.)

As noted, work continues. I am still puttering along on my paper for the 2016 International Congress on Medieval Studies, applying a relatively recent critical article to one of the major texts of medieval England to explicate one character's words and deeds more fully. The article is not directed at the medieval text (I'd not have room for a paper were it so), but it seems to apply to the character well enough; I expect the analysis to work reasonably easily once I get really moving on it. My other goals for the break, detailed here, have been met, so I am able to work on the conference paper freely, as well as to push forward on other matters while I am taking a break from the one project (something I do to help myself remain fresh). I also have a bit of tutoring to do this evening, which I welcome as a means to bring in a bit more money; I have received word that other freelance work is slowing for a while, at least, and so other avenues of income are decidedly welcome.

The family is well. The Mrs. was able to successfully pursue her affairs in the state's second city yesterday, and Ms. 8 got to run around and play a fair bit in some new places. Her parents learned a few things from another mother who was at one of those places, and although not all of what was said there is actionable here, it was clear to me that we were in the presence of wisdom; I was glad to be able to hear it and to be included in it. There were many mothers where we were; I was one of only two fathers present, and I was reminded therein that I am in a rare and fortunate position to be able to be as much a part of my daughter's life now as I am. I still worry that I am not handling matters appropriately, of course, but I think that I would worry more if I were not in a position to handle them at all. That work is one I would have continue, and for a long time to come...

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


Work continues, of course. I have one more class's papers to grade, and going through them ought to be a quick enough job; there are only ten submissions from a class that still has fifteen students enrolled. I have already been getting complaints about the papers I have graded for other classes, as well; honestly, I am surprised that I have not gotten more such yet this term, although I am perhaps a bit surprised to have heard from a student during the break. I am not likely to change my assessment as a result, however; I publish detailed assignment sheets (such that students complain about them being too long, as if tl;dr is ever an acceptable excuse for me--or should be for anyone) and somewhat simplistic rubrics that make my grading an issue of "Did the paper do it well enough?" (Some discussion of my grading can be found here; assignment sheets abound elsewhere on the hosting website.) Arguing against the assessment will be...challenging, and I do not think the student in question is up to that particular challenge. Perhaps I will be surprised.

Yesterday was busy enough. I did get a piece posted to Travels in Genre and Medievalism, here, after grading another class's work, so I met one of my goals for the week with plenty of time to spare. It was a pleasure to do so, and it was useful exercise for my ongoing intellectual efforts. I will need the skills that I practice in such pieces for my still-developing paper for the International Congress on Medieval Studies, which I have stubbed out and need to fill in. (I forgot to collect an article I want to use for the project when I was at my office for yesterday's tutorial--I gave one yesterday evening--which is an annoyance but one easily enough remedied. I have the keys that will allow me into the office at need.) Additionally, yesterday saw me get a fair bit of personal writing done, as well, stuff that I do for my own reasons and which only occasionally filters through the layers of mediation between the hand-inked page and public dissemination. I can hope, though, that more of certain ideas will make it out into the wider world; I do use my journals to foster ideas for later treatment.

The Mrs., Ms. 8, and I will be running around a bit today, too, or we plan to do so. The state's second city beckons to us, partly because the Mrs. has some business there early this afternoon. Our thought has been to make a day of it, but we are all off to something of a late start for that end. I slept in, likely tapping "dismiss" when I meant to tap "snooze," and I am the only one awake as yet. If I am, though, it is because I am the only one in Sherwood Cottage at the moment for whom work continues...

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


The break continues. So does the work I must do while it does. I have two more classes' papers to grade, one of which will get done today, and I will be giving a tutorial this evening. As I do, I will be doing a bit of printing work, and I will be pulling my annotated copy of an article I mean to use in my paper for the International Congress on Medieval Studies; I have started the paper and am perhaps a quarter done with it. I am still hoping a freelance order will come in for me, as I have noticed some series whose members I have already treated are generating new volumes, and I can use the money in addition to the relatively easy work. Until and unless such an order comes for me, though, I will be working on the things I have already noted. They offer a fair bit to do, in any event, and if I do get them done, then I have other projects that need my attention. The Tales after Tolkien blog piece still needs writing, after all...

I have been enjoying getting to work at an easy pace. I am not normally able to do so, with the demands of classroom work being as they are. This week of only working on, oh, one and a half jobs instead of the usual three is a welcome respite. I have been able to devote more time to my family as a result of the lightened workload, playing with Ms. 8 more than usual and talking with the Mrs., since she and I were both home for much of the day yesterday. Today, she works, but I do not have to plow through multiple stacks of papers; one will be enough. That means I can give more attention to Ms. 8 than I can on Tuesdays during instructional time. I do not know if she will appreciate the additional oversight, but I know I appreciate getting to spend more time with my little girl. Again, it is a thing I know is denied to most fathers, and if I am still struggling to make sense of my situation, it is at least one that has clear benefits. I am grateful for them.

I am grateful also that I am surrounded by people who remind me of the glories of the past. It is the Ides of March. The Bard writes of this day, writing to which I was first introduced in sixth grade, when my social studies teacher had his classes give a rendition of Julius Caear. I played Brutus, and while I remember my newly pubescent voice cracking on some of the characters' lines, I also remember it as being one of the first times I played a villain. (Brutus's villainy is debatable, of course. Dante has him chewed upon by one of the mouths of Satan, his head hanging out from the infernal jaws and looking out over the gelid waste of Judecca--clearly an indictment. But he acts "Not that [he] loved Caesar less, but that [he] loved / Rome more" [Caesar 3.2], working from a love of country and familial history in a manner that becomes tragic because it is a "good" end gone wrong.) It has become something of a pattern in my life, something that is like my work in that it continues...

Monday, March 14, 2016


I sit
On the wind-swept plains
As the sun has risen
And the rain of the day before
Remains in beads and puddles
And the small stream still flowing down the road
To some culvert nearby

I will not long do so

There is little for me here
And that will not be here much later
A couple cycles of light and dark in the night
A couple missed chances to be a father again
And it will be gone

So will I

But I know where I will go
And how I will get there
Even if what I will do once there
Is yet unclear

Some direction is better than none
And I have some
At least

Sunday, March 13, 2016


In most of the United States, today is Daylight Savings Day. A dreaded annual occurrence, it marks the occasion of setting clocks forward one hour for some reason few if any accurately remember, one which probably no longer applies to life as the prevailing images the US holds about itself is. I have to wonder if it is some kind of conspiracy to facilitate dismissals for cause, since many people who have to work today will be discombobulated by the time-shift, and others will still be adjusting to it tomorrow. I have also to note that I am aware that part of what we get for the adjustment now is a similar adjustment back one hour in around half a year. It is not worth it. We are being cheated, for while we may get the "time" back, we suffer a degradation to quality of life that is not amended later on. I join many therefore in thinking that the practice should be discontinued; it does no good and some harm, so there is no sense in maintaining it.

Even amid the time-shift, however, work continues. No new freelance order has yet come in, but it is the weekend, so I am not surprised. Motion towards grading is slow but observable; I have pulled down the files I need to assess, and I am already aware that a number of students are going to be losing points for not following directions. I cut a pretty detailed set of them, here (not bad for something done while the plumbing was malfunctioning spectacularly), and I emailed the students to advise them about said directions. There is little excuse for non-compliance. Other things are moving less obviously, but they are moving, and I am pleased by this. I should be able to get done all of what I need to get done on the week, and I will be happy to be able to move forward therefore. Maybe I can get far enough ahead that I need not worry about drafting certain documents for the rest of the term, which will ease no small number of burdens that are mine to carry.

I worry about such things, of course. I have no way not to do so. The Mrs. to a large extent, and Ms. 8 almost wholly, rely upon my efforts for their financial support, and I care greatly about their health and well-being. Consequently, I am motivated towards extravagance in my efforts to ensure their support, and I feel as if those efforts are only minimally effective. I am working three jobs and doing barely so well as I see people who have been in and out of jail and who have not "done the good things" receive for one job of work. That I question a number of my life choices therefore is not to be wondered at; I have clearly done something wrong, but I am unable to see what it is. I therefore do not know when it will next assail me and mine--but I know it is going to do so. Knowing that an attack (metaphorical, certainly, but it seems apt) will come but having no idea whence it will originate is enough to make most anybody worry, I think. Working harder or popping forward an hour will not allay it.

Saturday, March 12, 2016


The plumbing remains fixed at present, for which I am grateful. There are no signs as yet that it will be breaking down or clogging up again at any near point, but I remain vigilant against the possibility. I would be a fool not to do so, and I try to avoid folly. I commit enough of it even with the attempt to avoid it, after all; foolishness needs no encouragement.

Work continues, although my teaching is currently on hiatus: both of the schools where I work are on break. One of them is wholly shut down for the event, with offices closed in addition to classes suspended. The other has only suspended classes, although some offices are operating on limited hours. I supposed part of the difference is in the populations served. The one works with lower-division undergraduates only; the other serves up through the doctoral level. For such students, work continues even as it does for me. Having the tools with which to do the work is therefore vital. And I do not think I am the only member of the faculty who will be writing a paper over the break.

My goals for the time away are unambitious. I have some grading to attend to, and I have the luxury of approaching it with some ease; the students have been told to expect replies early in the break, but not necessarily over the weekend. I have a paper to write, my contribution to the International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan, for which I am registered. And I mean to write a piece for Travels in Genre and Medievalism, for which I have an idea. Ms. 8 is going to help me with it--meaning that there is some material in some of the shows she watches that may be usefully examined for the purposes of the Tales after Tolkien Society. Freelance work might pop up, as well, and I will be glad to see it if it does so. Even without it, I have things to keep me busy during the week, and I have some time in which to attend to them; both are decidedly welcome.

The Mrs. and I are both looking ahead past the end of this term. Changes are coming, and they should prove interesting. More details will follow as they become available. For now, though, I mean to enjoy a bit of my break. It will not last long, and I have things to do in it; I shall take the chance to rest a bit while I may.

Friday, March 11, 2016


I seem to have the plumbing fixed
The flow is regular this morning
And in the direction it ought to go
I remain vigilant
But I am hopeful I shall not need
Professional help

At least
For now

Thursday, March 10, 2016


I had thought the plumbing problem fixed
I had thought the flow normalized
Water and certain solids going one way only
As they ought
But it seems the pipes backed up
And the system discharged itself

I am trying again
But if it does not work this time
I shall have to seek professional help

Wednesday, March 9, 2016


Fountains gushing out
Cast a multicolored spray
But the one is supposed to be intake
And oriented away from porcelain fixtures
While the other is rated
Most for slower flow

Getting the plumbing sorted out
Demands attention
So I am attending to it

Tuesday, March 8, 2016


Work continues, of course. I have begun my freelance write-up and will be plugging away at it throughout the day today. I will also be sitting for a call, taking one of a sort I have had many times before; I can hope that the results will be favorable. This evening, I will have a tutorial session, as well. So things are more or less in line with what I expect in that regard.

The Mrs. will have much to do today, as well. Her normal workday--and today would normally have her at work for the full workday--will be amended somewhat, as she will come home to look after Ms. 8 while I sit for the aforementioned call. It is not a thing that we necessarily enjoy doing; there is something that sits ill with me about having my wife subordinate her work to my pursuit of more work. But it is a thing we have discussed and agreed upon, and if things do go well on the call, it will be worth the trouble. If they do not, of course, it will not, and we will have to search out other options for our futures. (Some of them are already in progress. Contingencies are helpful to have.)

Ms. 8 continues to thrive. She is experiencing some of the effects of the "terrible twos," throwing screaming tantrums upon being rebuked and going limp as a means of protest at various points. She is also starting to get slappy and prone to kicking. I find myself compelled to play the role of oppressor, physically removing her from situations and locations, whether to protect things that her mother and I need to keep around or to protect her from such dangers as the hot oven. I am used to being the bad guy, of course, as I have attested in this webspace on no few occasions. (A commentary offered on Zawacki encapsulates the attestation nicely, I think.) There is something...less pleasant about being the bad guy to my daughter, though, and something nags at me with the notion that I am doing the job of father wrong. I mislike doing any job badly; I mislike more that the most important seems to be getting done least well.

To turn: I note that a year ago saw me in similar circumstances to those I face at present, although the day was different and the shift in time that is yet coming had already occurred. (Hooray, cyclical chronology!) Then, as now, I had work to do and a family for whom to do it. Then, as now, I was not able to attend to any of what I ought to do as well as I think I ought to do. Then, as now, I had freelance work and teaching work to do, as well as the search for more to conduct. And I am still here, still plugging away as my work continues. If nothing else, I have reason to hope that I will be able to endure.

Monday, March 7, 2016


The weekend seems to have passed by in a blur; I know it happened, but I have trouble recalling how and when it happened. I have perhaps been too much immersed in my work, that such a fogging of memory has taken place; it is not an issue of too much strong drink, since I am on an antibiotic (to my annoyance; the drug is causing nausea and...interesting effects after my food is eaten) and, because I try to be a good patient, am therefore not drinking. (Complain though I do, the treatment is having the desired effect; my eye is much less swollen--a little remains as yet--and I do not think I will be suffering an eye infection at any point in the near future. Hell, I do not think I'll be suffering any infection for a while.) I admittedly do not have a good sense of time; I never have had one, and I wore a watch for many years to help account for it. My cell phone has taken the watch's place in large part, as I think it has for many; I still check the time frequently, and perhaps my current sense of dislocation stems from not having done so as much over the weekend as I normally do.

But the weekend is done now, and so work continues. Three of the classes I teach today are going to be doing peer review of one another's work, ideally getting commentary that they will use to improve their performance in advance of the version of the paper I will review going into the upcoming break. The fourth, since it is moving into an annotated bibliography, will get the citation lesson; I have a good one prepared, since I had had to have one to hand for job interviews, and it might be good to deploy it once again. One class's papers still need my attention, too, but there are not many of them to negotiate, and there is time enough to attend to them. Further, I am amid reading for my freelance work; the client knows that I am in a heavy teaching semester, and the work was not flagged as being terribly urgent. It will get done, and relatively soon. All of it will, in fact; there is no other way for me to go about the business of doing the work, not if I want to continue to be paid for my efforts.

And I do want to be paid for the work I do. Some of what I do, I would do recreationally. I have always enjoyed reading, for example, and quite a bit of the reading I have done outside of school and work has been bad. After going to school, and graduate school, I do find enjoyment in puzzling out ideas and drafting papers that lay them out for others to follow along. (If I do end up outside academe, I will likely still do such things.) But if I am going to work on a schedule set by others, if I am going to do tasks assigned me by others, I expect to be compensated therefore. There are other ends towards which I could direct my time and effort, after all, even if doing so does tend to make time pass by in a strange blur.

Sunday, March 6, 2016


It should be
A day of rest
The grading is done
For the most part
And what remains will go quickly
Another day

No appointments press upon me
No meetings require attendance
No play-dates are scheduled

I slept in
But that is as much rest as can be allowed

Work continues
Work remains
Work needs doing

Livestock in a ditch
Need removing
And what I raise
Is prolific and heavy

Saturday, March 5, 2016


My eye continues to be an issue. There was some difficulty with the optometrist's appointment I had; my eye doctor had had a death in the family, so my regular eye exam is being rescheduled, but I was able to get in with another. He told me that it looks as if one or more of the glands that secrete lubricating fluid on the inner eyelid are plugged. Warm compresses are the prescribed treatment, as well as a course of antibiotics meant to ensure that the incipient infection he noticed does not spread. The compresses have already helped; what the antibiotics will do is not yet clear to me, but I will take the prescribed and paid-for medication as directed. Perhaps it marks me as overly credulous that I would do so, but I do not think suffering an eye infection is a good idea.

That my eye is undergoing repairs is an inconvenience, of course, since work continues. I need to clear out a few more stacks of grading, which is something that requires the use of my eyes and hands; I cannot spend all my time on pressing a compress to one side of my face and still get done what needs doing in that regard. Too, the reading I need to do for my freelance work demands that I have my glasses on--I do not wear them for show, but because I cannot see without them. The compress and the glasses do not work well together at all. And I likely ought to be doing something or other towards finding permanent work, as well as on the many other projects that present themselves to me as needing attention. None of this works well with me tending to my eye, but all of it relies on my eye working as it ought to do, and that is simply not the case right now.

What will probably happen is that I will work more slowly than I would like to do, pushing through for a while and then breaking to take care of the eye for a while. It is something I have done any number of times with other concerns, attending to one task and then breaking to attend to another before breaking again to attend to the first, and on in a cycle. I do not necessarily like to work so slowly as stopping to compress my eye will demand, but I am aware that failing to do so will have deleterious consequences later, and I can afford them even less than I can afford the work slowdown. It is an issue of how badly and in what way I will screw myself, which is not the kind of situation I appreciate having even if it is one that seems endemic; I have noted before the need to get through the short term to even consider the long term, and that need is of much the same type in that it piles up negative future consequences in the hopes of having a future in which to deal with them. It is the way things are, and not only for me; I know many in such a situation, and I imagine that there are many more whom I do not know. But I will only be able to imagine them if I cannot see, so I need to attend to my eye as I attend as well to the work there is for me to do.

Friday, March 4, 2016


My eye continues to bother me. The eyelid remains swollen, the area around it sore, and the eye itself is itching and watering. I have an appointment with my optometrist today, for which I am grateful; I will be happy to know what I can actually do about it, if anything. (If it is simply an issue of having gotten smacked in the face, as it might be--Ms. 8 does not know how to check her backswing--then there is nothing to be done save to endure.) At the very least, I will have some idea of what the cause is; knowing will help, as I have noted.

Today, too, it is once again the band-nerdiest of days: Sousa Day. My comments about the matter from the past three years suffice for now, but the reminder is a good one to have.

Work continues, even with the pseudo-observance. I have three classes to attend to today, and grading their work is in progress; I completed one section yesterday, and I am to wade through one a day until I am done. I do still need to attend to a freelance order, but I anticipate that going quickly; the book I need to write up is short, and my few quick glances at its contents already suggest a useful parallel text, one that I will note the novel I'm writing up evokes. (Which one, I will not discuss at this point. Buy the write-ups; help my client make money so that I can make money.) So things are more or less normal in my part of the world in that regard.

The family is well. The Mrs. has been plugging away at her work; she is also looking into other programs, and I am helping her do so, applying my good eye to her application materials. I can hope that it will work for her. Ms. 8 has been growing and playing; age two seems to be treating her well so far, and while she is increasingly emphatic in her opinions ("No, no, NO!"), she seems generally to be of a happy and pleasant disposition, inclined towards being affectionate and forward. Her mother and I are working against princessification, and we are having some success with it, but we are beginning to encounter problems in that regard; the encroachments of prevailing cultural norms, wrong-headed as many of them are, are insidious and therefore difficult to combat. The ways in which options are circumscribed, particularly in the part of the world where we live, make a number of things challenging; I want my daughter to have the ability to choose, and her freedom to do so is likely to be constrained. That I cannot see as many things coming as I ought does not help, either...

Thursday, March 3, 2016


I noted yesterday feeling that I had been struck in the face, just outside the eye. My body has responded to the feeling; one of my eyelids is markedly swollen, and some bruising is obvious to my eye (or it was after I got out of the shower this morning). I still do not know when I was hit, but I am increasingly convinced that I was hit. The lack of knowledge is perhaps the most disturbing thing; I would be okay with what is happening if I knew when I got smacked in the face. I would accept it as natural and appropriate; again, I have some experience being hit in the face, so the sequence of events involved is familiar to me. But I do not think I was hit hard enough to have blacked out or lost the memory; there is not enough bruising for that level of trauma, only enough to show up to me or to the Mrs., since we both know my face pretty well...I am slightly hindered in what I do because of the way the eyelid drags. It annoys me. It needs to stop.

Despite such problems, work continues. A freelance order came in yesterday, so I will get to do some reading and a 5,000 word write-up shortly thereafter. Teaching proceeds; I have been developing more course materials recently, including a sample of an annotated bibliography so that my community college students have a model to follow and can see what I want to see from them. More such materials will be needed soon enough, but I am caught up on matters at the moment. I am not caught up on grading, however, and since I have four stacks of papers awaiting my attention at this point, I need to get to work on assessing students' performance. Additionally, I registered yesterday for the International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I mean to draft the paper I will be presenting at the event during the next couple of weeks; Spring Break is coming, and I mean to put the time to my own use, as I have tried to do for many years. Other paperwork is also accompanying the event; I have it fairly begun.

On another note entirely...I missed Texas Independence Day. Looking back over the blogroll tells me that I have done so more than once before. Indeed, I have failed to note it in this webspace more often than I have successfully done so; 2011 appears to be the only time I did so. I can perhaps be forgiven for how events fell out last year; I was otherwise occupied. But 2014 offers no such reason, and other years, in which I made no comment in this place on this day, are even less to be valued. I suppose my time away has had a deleterious effect on me, one accentuating my overall...unease with celebrations. Because work continues as it does, many of the things I had once valued have slipped away; they continue to do so. I can hope, however, that my efforts will help to position Ms. 8 such that she does not have to do as I have done.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016


I feel as if I have been struck in the face--a feeling with which I am familiar, having been struck in the face many times both intentionally and inadvertently. (Years of martial arts, as well as years of being a nerd in a place and time that allowed for bullying...) If I was smacked, it was just outside and below my left eye; there is a feeling of swelling and lingering soreness there, and I think some kind of bruise or something is forming. (The lighting in the bathroom at Sherwood Cottage--and there is only the one; it is a cottage--is not always the best to use to investigate such things, and I hesitate to wake the Mrs. to have her take a look at it.) The only problem is that I do not remember being struck; if I did, I would know what is going on, and I could take appropriate measures. (I have been hit in the face many times, recall; I have some useful ideas about how to respond to the event in both the short and longer terms.) But I do not, so I cannot; treatment is of sharply limited efficacy when the cause of symptoms is unknown.

Despite the feeling, however, work continues. I will be back in the classroom for all four of my classes today; three will continue to discuss concerns supporting the infographic I wrote of yesterday and managed to compile. (The result is here.) I also compiled my report of student surveys (here), which I will be using in some ways to adjust my classroom practices a bit more. One class will be turning in a paper, which means I will have four classes' materials to assess--but I have only myself to blame for the pile-up. I have had three of the stacks of grading to do since last Friday, and I have not seen to them. I supposed I shall need to attend to that particular task--and, given the relative brevity of the assignments facing me, as well as the fact that one class is quite small and another has a low assignment submission rate, I know the grading will go reasonably quickly. The task still reads to me as perhaps the least pleasant I face in my line of work. I still do it, however, if perhaps differently than others, as I note elsewhere. (That I have been busy with writing in other places should be obvious.)

Other matters also command my attention, as they always do. I shall see to them in some way or another; I have no other real choice, especially if I want to continue to at least try to provide a good and useful model of behavior to Ms. 8--who remains happy and energetic, learning more words daily and growing ever more emphatically herself; she has always had a decided personality, and it is becoming more pronounced by the day if not by the waking hour. It seems a good personality, though (for the most part; we all have less pleasant parts of our personae), and I am glad to see it emerge in abundance; it will serve her well in years to come, so long as she has decent models of conduct to follow.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016


I am aware that it is later than I usually write in this webspace. Part of it is that I overslept; I missed when I went to push the snooze button and turned off my alarm altogether, and I evidently need more rest than I have gotten. Part, though, is that I just got back to Sherwood Cottage from my polling place; I voted, and if you have not, you should, too. (How I voted is none of your damned business.) There was a bit of a snag as I did so, admittedly; the polling workers had forgotten some changes to the voting rules in Oklahoma. I think I was the first one to come to them under those rules; it was an honest flub, easily addressed, and no harm done. So I have my sticker, and one of the things that I had meant to do today is removed from the list of things that I need to do.

There are others, of course, since work continues. I am in the midst of preparing a sample infographic portfolio for my students, addressing an assignment new to the regular sequence expected for the classes I am teaching in my primary position. It is not a thing I have done before, so I am having a bit of a struggle with it, but I am moving through it well enough. Whether my students will fare similarly is unclear to me; they are purportedly digital natives, but I have seen that many of them are...less adept in a number of computing principles and techniques than even I, a humanities scholar taught on the trailing edge of "traditional" schooling, am. But it is a useful exercise, one that helps me to anticipate problems the students will have as well as to develop and demonstrate my own proficiency in producing documents of various sorts.

In addition, I should probably see about drafting a sample annotated bibliography for my students in another class, although that exercise will go more easily for me, given how familiar I am with the task. No freelance order is as yet waiting for me (although I would not be surprised to see one come in today; such things happen, and I am glad that they do, since I make a fair bit of money on it), so I have some time to attend to other things, and I have some other writing that needs catching up on. I am looking forward to getting things done, and maybe there will be some helpful election returns to see later on in the day.