Thursday, November 26


ah, Thanksgiving. this calm little pod of a holiday to interrupt the gathering stress-storms of a soon-to-be-over semester.

I should be reading right now. How Forests Think, by Eduardo Kohn. 200 pages more to go til I'm ready to discuss the book's theories in posthumanism class on Monday.

this afternoon, there was the traditional Thanksgiving dinner-time "go around the table and announce what you are thankful for" ritual. friend Liz's dear family and friends gathered inbetween the turkey-eating and the pie-eating to make a collaborative gratitude-flavored list. it was so kind of them all to include me. I was glad to be there with such good people and such lovely hosts.

on one hand, to list all the million luxuries and privileges I am grateful for seems selfishly performative. boastful might be the best word, really. oh, look at all my abundance here. look look. it's too obvious that not everyone has so much.
so I don't want to go on and on. but I have been thinking about all the things I have learned and the people I have learned them from. family and roommates and colleagues and mentors--so many people who have shared their own skills and experience, whether in reading or baking or sewing or shopping or crafting or budgeting or art... writing... cleaning... saving... riding a bike... thinking... questioning...
those are the things I rambled about at the dinner table today as Liz's mother served me pie.

less important than all that awesome stuff is the chocolate, nice weather, blank paper, warm blankets, and washing machines. so many things. most of it shareable--especially the skills and experiences. and that is very worth being thankful for, too.

Wednesday, November 18

taste testing

from time to time I run out of podcasts that I feel eager to listen to, and let the ones I'm not so eager to listen to pile up in the little podcast app on my phone. I save those for times when I need a voice to fall asleep to. the Longform podcast guys have become falling-asleep podcasts, at this point. should I feel guilty about that? just a few years ago they were inspiring the journalistic fraction of my brain. hmm. ah well.

when I feel I have run out of all my staying-awake-and-actually-listening podcasts, I'll sometimes switch to music, but that's usually less interesting. so instead, I'll search for new podcasts. there are a ton. surely a few are worth filling my wakeful hours with. at least for an episode or two, right? to see what they're all about. give them a chance to grab me.

the other day I searched for rhetoric-related podcasts. for the sake of cramming even more relevant-to-my-degree stuff into my daily leisure time, of course. I found this one, was intrigued a bit by the way its title mirrors the well-known and longstanding NPR radio show in a rather ambitious sort of way, and tasted a few episodes. I unfortunately wasn't very into it. not sure why not. does it deserve a second chance?

more recently, this one showed up in my search results, and so far it seems more useful. shorter episodes usually = more likely to immediately entice, so that's cool. the bite-size overviews of one rhetoric-related thing at a time make it very straightforward. I've listened to three or four of these Mere Rhetoric episodes, and I think I'll keep at it. they're a good way to review stuff I learned in fundamental core classes in years gone by.

as I poked around collecting links for this post, I came across first the twitter account of Mere Rhetoric, and then via that, this article about even more rhetoric/composition podcasts. perhaps I will dip into those other two on Jen Michaels's list. I bet they are worth a try.

yet another rhetoric-focused podcast flew in with my email this week: Masters of Text. the show's most recent episode includes a segment that I myself am part of-- extra exciting! the organizers of this year's Feminisms and Rhetorics conference forwarded a message about the show from Ames Hawkins, its co-host. Ames included a bunch of us fem/rhet attendees in a piece about the conference and about making. go listen to the episode--"Vox Fabri, Vox Dea"--and see if you recognize my voice gushing about the carpentry demonstration I'd just attended.

the theme of the whole conference was making, and indeed much making of many kinds was showcased and discussed and accomplished over those four days. that carpentry demo, for instance, which was run by Maria Klemperer-Johnson, a contractor and entrepreneur from Hammerstone School: Carpentry for Women and Barbara George of Kent State University. we learned about measuring tapes and building conventions and how to drill holes in blocks of wood. power drills, at an academic conference! pretty awesome.

I don't know what I will do with this little double-knobbed board, but I made it. I'll let you know when I find a way to make it useful for hanging things on.

Maria came to my yoga panel, too-- she in her contractor's uniform and colleague/friend Jackie and I in our yoga outfits. we presented an interactive yoga-discussion, which went really well. some of the attendees were familiar with yoga, some were not, but we all talked a bit about crow pose and self-talk and the representativeness (or lack thereof) of #yogagirl, and the embodied, meditative, empowering aspects of writing and moving.

friend Jackie is working on a yoga-running-writing dissertation. it sounds like really great and interesting work. I'm really glad I got to work with her on the panel we put together. where she goes next with it will be way cool to watch.

I am not a runner. and I like yoga plenty but do not feel so very comfortable talking about it as one would probably want to be before writing a massive dissertation about it.

what I keep circling back to is food. food seems so central, so communal and yet so dividing at times. so universal and so personal all at once. maybe I should start looking into good podcasts about food. friend Patti and I have a ongoing messy google doc conversation about food and cooking going on at the moment, which despite its messy randomness is providing some really useful momentum for me. so thank you for that, Patti. I think it will be cool to watch where and how all my food-related thoughts go from here.

Monday, November 9


the woman next to me was reading The Martian. she remarked to the man beside her that it was a good book. ebook, that is.

outside the window (I always like to sit by a window on the airplane—always) the clouds looked like ice. tundra and snow crags. so solid. I know in my head that clouds are the furthest thing from solid, but it still looked like if the plane wanted to stop for a minute, we could have all gone out and danced on top of the sky.
of course we didn't. we couldn't have.

instead we flew, we landed, we waited around in a Dallas airport for a while. we eventually got on another plane and we continued on our way to Phoenix.

during the flight I alternately...
1. read from Tim Ingold's Being Alive,
2. worked on winding a few loopy hanks of handspun yarn into significantly-less-likely-to-tangle balls,
3. read from Felicia Day's memoir You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost),
and 4. looked out the window.

the southwest looks very brown and dry, and veined with dusty little crevices, most of it.
but there are pretty blue ridges off in the distance, casting shadows and halos.
finally the cracked, weathered wilderness gives way to artificial green bits. propped up human civilizations in the middle of a desert expanse. as we approached our landing, I noticed all the bright blue orbs of back-yard swimming pools and thought about all the infrastructure that makes so many separate household oases possible.

Ingold's book = everyday everything dipped in anthropology, and one of his observances involves the difference between transport and wayfinding. technologies like cars and trains and flying machines allow us to skip the patient, careful wayfinding part of travel and be transported from there to here, no fuss, no footprints, no in-between. I thought about this a lot on my flight to Phoenix and my flight home again. does calling the plane where I'm sitting an in-between of its own change the equation at all? does it put kinks in Ingold's dichotomy?

I don't know. probably not. I don't have to think about where the plane is going. I don't decide much about its journey. my decisions only concern what beverage the stewardess brings me and which ebook to let my eyes wander over. the school stuff I should be focused on? or the funny memoir of an actress geek?

reading used to be such a brilliant escape for me. writing, too. those worlds out there where things can be different and stories have shapes... pages where plot lines coalesce into solid art...

all my academic reading is not like that. academic writing is not like that either. what threads of escape there are in it—into new ideascapes or grand what-ifs or theoretical castles in the distance—come second to the confrontation of the scholarship. it's asking you to evaluate it, to take notes on it, to judge and weigh and respond to it. academic stuff wants to be used for something. it wants to work. it wants to accumulate citations.

I liked Ingold's book. his other book, Lines, was great too. unlike Lines, this one seemed long. but it has a whole chapter (chapter 3) about the uniqueness and value of being barefoot, and again, how technologies (shoes, in this case) have interrupted our connection to the earth in an unignorable way.

being in an airplane is perhaps the most spatially disconnected I have ever been from the planet. thinking about that may or may not get me anywhere.

the clouds melted, eventually, into cornsilk and cotton, less solid-seeming, more easily dissipated. not for dancing on. my yarn, eventually, ended up in neat spheroids, and my books, eventually, brought me to their closing pages.

I, eventually, hope to walk around barefoot more often. but spring time is still far, far away from here.

Tuesday, October 20

a string of well-spent days

some things are beautiful. and some things aren't. which is which really depends on where and how and when one looks at them. and who the one is.

friend Sherri today mentioned the existence of wooden bow ties. for the most part, I find them pretty ridiculous-looking. but maybe--somewhere in all the surprisingly extensive mass of so much crafted hipster neckwear--there are a few that look kind of lovely. like maybe this one.

depending on when and where and who you are, you may have seen the state of Maine. maybe through smudgy car windows. maybe from the slopes of mountains or ocean shores or city intersections.

I went there last week for the first time and saw it from all these points.
it is more than kind of lovely this time of year. I dare you to disagree.
friend Sam and I hiked a bunch. first, three (and a half ish?) trails in Acadia National Park. the Great Head Trail out around one of the park's peninsulas, then the way-too-crowded Beehive Trail, some of the Bowl Trail to skirt around a shiny inland lake, and most of the Gorham Mountain Trail. it was the most gorgeous October day. why did we have to quit hiking?
well, that afternoon we had to meet Eric in Bar Harbor. he spent the day climbing a bunch of ocean cliffs. and right after that we had to find Stephen King's house and eat lobster and drive north.
but I want to go back someday. let's pause fall-time, and life, for longer than a two-day break. I could spend way more time breathing in the ocean and blue and green and moss and forest.

after Acadia, we went up to Baxter State Park. we camped outside a town called Millinocket. where the highways are haunted.  
we hiked some more. clambering over rocks, trying to avoid the mud.
another gorgeous October day of course, drifting clouds, gentle sun.
it was nothing less than magical. the wind was wild. the world was wrapped up in colors, streaked with brilliance.
my shoes got muddy, my arms and legs collected some scratches, and all my muscles are still a tiny bit sore.

all this awesome hiking in Maine was sandwiched with nigh-insufferable amounts of driving and driving and driving. along our way, we stopped to visit genius brother John and his family. we took a moment to see Walden Pond in Massachussetts, where I stole a few acorns. nearer to home we veered off to see Kirtland, Ohio.

many miles covered, beauties appreciated, and memories made. 

Thursday, October 8

still somewhere

{ a corner of the University of Wisconsin campus in Madison, Wisconsin. late summer 2015 }

heart in my throat.

that's a cliche figure of speech, not one I've used in description before. choking on your own life, your own inner core. very cliche, but it feels new to me. and maybe all the idiom dictionaries say it means extreme nervousness or fear. for me though, that part of the cliche doesn't apply. this feeling is not connected to the mild terror I feel about having to decide--actually decide for my very own self in some very focused and purposeful way--what to write a dissertation about and then figure out which faculty members will best be able to help me write it. this heart-in-my-throat-ness is rather a feeling with no meaning. not nerves, not fear, not sympathy, not sadness.

surely it's connected to something, but I cannot tell what.

this, starting this fall, is year three.

it's been a long summer, a long year. a long way since January and home and crafts. I have not stayed in one place like this since... oh goodness-- even this long in one place? in one town? it was early 2002. high school. I was eighteen. three years isn't so long. three years isn't hard to look back across. but since my long-ago high school life it's been snippets of much less time:

one year in Logan, Utah
one year in Exmouth, Devon
two years in Logan, Utah
three quarters of a year in Kidder, Missouri
half a year in Seattle, Washington
eighteen months in Alberta, Canada
half a year in Seattle again
two years in West Jordan, Utah
two years in Lubbock, Texas

and now...

now it's year three of my phd. three years in this cozy Lafayette, Indiana place. three straight years with only small breaks for visiting parents and siblings, for wandering in new cities and new woods, and a bit of going to conferences.

plenty of the things they told us about year three have proven true enough. I am in a daze and not sure where to work, what to focus on. I do feel very daunted. shaky about the future, even the future of three weeks away. I am sick of coursework on a level I did not think would ever be possible. even posthumanism class in some moments seems to slap me across the face with impossible drudgery.

I left the book in my office or I'd take a photo of this, but you'll have to trust me that on its last page, at the end of what Katherine Hayles has to say about How We Became Posthuman, I penciled in an awe-struck "will I ever write a book like this?"

and underneath that: "how?"

our next book for posthumanism class is Karen Barad's Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning.

I have read the preface and am already asking, again, "will I ever write a book like this? could I?"

a phd is supposed to be daunting, I guess. they don't want to hand them out to just anyone. you have to climb a good number of very tall staircases. wondering. climbing. uncertain. climbing. reading. climbing. writing. wondering.
“There are no solutions; there is only the ongoing practice of being open and alive to each meeting, each intra-action, so that we might use our ability to respond, our responsibility, to help awaken, to breathe life into ever new possibilities for living justly.”
   — Karen Barad. Meeting the Universe Halfway (x)

Tuesday, September 22

hapax legomena

I watched this latest vsauce video last week. it's full of numbers and words, fractions and graphs and corpuses of text. vsauce videos are always interesting, but this one was particularly full of things that made me think of other cool things.

it is neat to see that Jonathan Harris's wordcount still exists. not much from nine whole years ago looks the same in this internet place. nine years is a long time. but "plaid subdue glinted zoology" is still what shows up when you search for plaid. I thought for a minute that "zoology" would surely have been a hapax legomenon on this blog here, at least until today. but it actually shows up here, too.

what the hapax legomena of this blog are, I don't know. are there any? there must be. or do I talk too much about all the same stuff?

with this video, Michael from vsauce has ruined forever the hapax legomenon-ality of the quirky little adverb "quizzaciously." there is a whole sub-reddit about it. and is a website now.


people do some pretty fun things with this internet stuff. I wonder what the chances of getting a grammatical sentence out of twenty random common English words is. has given me none so far. but maybe if you add some punctuation to them, it would help.

"an by look on, get even; some have--about no... at could--than when an what a say have." maybe?

someday it could be neat to ask students to write an essay using only some number of the most common words in English. I once pondered teaching a writing class using Mark Dunn's Ella Minnow Pea. I'll plan for it next year, perhaps, when I get back to English 106. I've never taught using fiction before, but I think I'd like to. it'd be different. and different is fun. Ella Minnow Pea is an adorable example of not only how ideologies have huge consequences on how decisions get made, but also of how limits are always possibilities.

just look at that Randall Munroe guy. he's writing a book to explain stuff. it's one of the first thoughts I had upon watching the latest vsauce. words and numbers and complexity and commonness. Munroe wrote a blog post introducing the project here. I wonder how the translators will handle this project. will they be bound to using the ten hundred most common words in whatever language they're translating into? I would assume so. how tricky.

Sunday, September 6

weighted, waiting

Wednesday, September 2


I keep seeing this particular redheaded kid walking around campus. I know nothing about him, but I notice and recognize him without any effort at all.


usually it's the intersection of Grant Street and State, the edge of campus.

I'm not over there that often... am I? bookstore, business school... not my usual scene.

but actually I do find myself hiking over there weekly or so now. I'm research-assisting for professors over in Young Hall this year. 

anyway. redheads.

one day I noticed this particular redhead, recognized him, and wondered what the chances of my seeing him almost every time I walk over that way actually were. is that calculable? hmm. that time we both walked north, up to the curb, to wait for the traffic to give us space to cross.

as we stood there, I imagined myself quoting lyrics from the Dr. Horrible song.

"love your hair," perhaps I would say, with a silly inside-joke-ish smile.

but I didn't. I didn't even mumble.

I wonder what the chances are that this random kid would get the reference, anyway. even if I sing my compliment... he might not.

talking to strangers--even strangers you cross paths with multiple times per week--seems so weird to do most of the time. the reason for it has to be either unquestionably pressing or innocuously shallow. it's either hey you really ought to watch out before you gets hit by a bus or hmm, nice day for all this awful construction they're doing, isn't it? two very different extremes.

speaking of strangers, I must tell you all about my favourite new podcast of the same name. it lives over here on this website called Story Central. Lea Thau, the host, is the loveliest. the work she does is a marvel and a half. I want a job like hers.

if I ever actually do find an appropriate path-crossing moment in which to comment on how cool and red the hair of this fellow-Purdue student stranger is, I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, August 25

fall semester, 2015

is it only Tuesday?

the rhythms of rushing about from class to class to meeting to office feel all huge and different still. I'll get used to them. in a few weeks this will be all-encompassing and almost as unthinking as skin.

you'd think by this point I'd have fewer and fewer classes to list. I got through prelims, so coursework should be almost over too. it is. almost. one more linguistics requirement next semester, I think, and I'll be all done. then what rhythms will carve themselves into my brain when next fall arrives?

let's not worry about that. here are this year's brain-stretching periods: Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. two seminars and a practicum. (there's also a research gig and an hourly assistant position, but those don't quite fit my pattern of semesterly documentation so well.)

Posthumanism, with Dr. Thomas Rickert
I don't need this class for anything really. but I couldn't not take it. critiquing all the definitions of "human"? yeah. decentering our models of the universe and thinking beyond all the lines between this and that, body and mind, organic and technological, wildness and artifice? yeah. I'm going to love this crazy class.

Computers in Language and Rhetoric with Dr. Samantha Blackmon
not sure what to think about this one yet. it's tying together pedagogy and technology and writing... our first readings are going to be interesting old articles (from 1986!) about the first word processing programs ever. should be fun.

Professional Writing Practicum, with Dr. Michael Salvo
my undergraduate professional writing classes changed my life, I think it's safe to say. learning how to teach those sorts of things--learning how to push students to create specific, relevant, rock-solid ideas-in-action writing--is going to be great. it's about time I took up this opportunity.

English 420, Business Writing, with... me.
new subject to teach! new students who are not freshmen! our first day went pretty well. it's an early morning class, and even so only one kid came in a tiny bit late.

Wednesday, August 19

and back

almost a week ago, prelims were suddenly over. finished. behind me.

it's a weird feeling. for so much of the year, prelims loomed like this thing beyond which nothing at all could exist. like death, almost. but I'm on the other side now and there is all this open space and crazy playground equipment.
okay, I don't mean playground equipment. I mean more phd-land. a prospectus proposal and a dissertation plan and all that. (sometimes it's like a playground. other times it's like a hamster wheel.)

but at least prelims are finished.

on the unfinished side of things are... well, almost everything else. 

these coloring pages, for example.
dear friends Trinity and Patti separately sent coloring accoutrements in their pre-prelim care packages. Patti even sent shimmery crayons.
theses tools were marvelous for giving the back burner of my brain time to simmer away with whatever problem/question/hurdle I was stuck on.

I didn't finish any of the coloring, but that's okay. there will be more stressful days when I'll want to do something semi-mindless, creative, and calming. there are plenty of pages left, and the crayons will surely last a while too.
so thanks to everyone who cheered me on and/or left me alone throughout the prelim madness. I'm glad I have you. don't go away, okay? the whole dissertation thing is not going to be a coloring book, I'm pretty sure.