Wednesday, November 22

times of year, times in general

I love this time of year so much. I love waking up to the cold, late dawn and breathing in the brisk, frosty air. I love the short afternoons that seem so extra golden.

it feels a bit like my love of this time of year is oozing into everything else:
I love the prospect of revising the messy drafted prose of my dissertation.
I love figuring out what to make for dinner.
... taking my car to the carwash for possibly only the third time since it became my car.
... sifting through the cluttery piles on my desk, trying to make room for work to happen.
... chasing Wesley around the dining room when he's in a crazy playful mood.
... cleaning out the refrigerator and washing all the dishes before we leave town this evening.
... putting on podcasts and making pie crust.

this will probably be my last Thanksgiving as a resident of Indiana.

Indiana has a nice flag, too, though it's very different in tone from that of my last residence.

what will happen next? will the next place I end up living have a nicely-designed state flag, or not?

I haven't kept track of exactly how many of the 63 jobs I've applied for (so far) I've heard back from (so far). a handful. let it be said that preparing for video-call job interviews is seventeen thousand times more stressful than preparing printed job application materials ever will be, for me.

aside from job interviews and possibilities, there are plenty of other things to worry about. then again, what some people call worrying is what I just like to call thinking-lots-about. I'm not sure where the line between those might be, or if it matters.

I have been wanting to blog for some weeks now about a noticed resonance among podcast episodes and other news, on resentment, on republicans, on ethics, on who is encouraged to think which thoughts about which topics. this episode of Theory of Everything left a few very vivid thoughts in my head. concrete sculptures. politics. prejudices. the episode cites a book called The Politics of Resentment by Katherine Cramer. it's not a book I'm likely to go read any time soon, but it sounds at least mildly fascinating--an exploration of why rural parts of America feel they way they do and take up the politics they do. 

resentment came up in this episode of On the Media, too. that wasn't the part of the episode that grabbed, me though. this, from a discussion on internet/tech companies, was: 
PAUL FORD: They have to pretend that they're not media. They can. But the thing is, is you don't have the definition around tech ethics in the same way you do around media.
PAUL FORD: Aside from a few thinkers, there isn’t like some giant academic discipline that they can just go to and say, hey, what should we do? Media ethics, I can go read two books and then I kind of know how I need to behave as a journalist. There's nothing like this.
I gaped at this wild-seeming assertion. no academic discipline that engages with the ethics of technology, hm? none at all? even if, as Mr. Ford implies, there aren't two central, more or less comprehensive, conveniently at hand textbooks on the subject of technology and ethics, it's quite crazy to claim nobody in academia is thinking about it. that's what the humanities are about. half of all the tech comm courses I've ever taken touch on ethics and human-centered design.

perhaps the problem is that the 'wrong' people are thinking about ethics? I noted this twitter thread shortly after listening to Ford and Gladstone wring their hands about the absence of any definitive ethical rules for technology companies. and maybe it's a stereotype, but maybe it's not untrue either, that those in technology fields tend to want definitive answers, definitive processes, black and white, yes or no. but that isn't always the best way to think about things.

everyone on twitter also got up in arms about this opinion piece. oh, academia has been ignoring all these technological developments has it? nobody is taking the time to critique big tech companies? there are disciplines and subdisciplines all over the place that do just that. yes. really.

if the mathematics scholar who wrote that opinion piece has little enough idea of all those disciplines and subdisciplines that she can claim "no distinct field of academic study" "takes seriously the responsibility of understanding and critiquing the role of technology..." then whose fault is that? is it the humanities people's problem, for not making their work visible enough? is it the STEM people's problem, for not paying attention? is it a problem of definition, where what counts as "serious" for one side doesn't for the other, and vice versa?

my optimistic hope is that more interdisciplinary scholars will help figure it out. I'm sure that will come with its own challenges, of course. but what else can we do? we need to talk to each other. communication makes everything better, eventually. right?

Tuesday, October 24

autumn timewarp collage

this week has brought the first cold rains of the season. half of October stayed quite warm and muggy, but autumn is properly settling in now. the time of hats and sweaters has arrived.

yesterday it seemed to rain and rain all day long. I spent the morning grading, the afternoon putting together job applications and writing bits of dissertation chapters. the pug spent most of his day snoozing, as usual, but we also went for a glorious long walk in the pre-evening. having a dog is such a great excuse for going on walks every day. I never thought I was a dog person, but walking a little pug around the neighborhood has become an unfading pleasure for me. I like being outside. it's amusing to watch him sniff at everything.

it's also amusing to watch him in general, whether he is curled up in a puddle of wrinkly fur or whether he is stretching up to look out the windows and grumble at bicyclists. 

my time this semester has an interesting grounded uncertainty about it. I'm teaching an online course, so my teaching efforts fit into whatever slots and nooks they need to. and so does everything else. morning walks, housework, reading and writing and research, cooking, spending time with dear husband, writing and reading and research, notebooks, evening walks, and making lists of more job applications that need filling out. 

the mountain photo there is from two weeks ago when my youngest brother was about to get married. the Chagall above is from a trip to the Art Institute of Chicago several years ago now--I'm not exactly sure when. maybe it was during an October.

last October had art in it, too. Washington DC art. and also Hamilton.

there are ten Octobers chronicled in this blog. ten sets of intermittent records of my thoughts during the tenth month of ten different years. much has changed since the October of my senior year of undergraduate work, when I was neck-deep in building websites and waxing exuberant about the first USB drive I ever owned. so much has changed.

and many things have not changed. autumns are still the best. academia is still a great cozy, challenging cocoon of crazy curiosity. I am still writing.  

Thursday, September 21

must be seen as

I have been wanting to write something about this newsworthy mess that unfolded in Virginia ever since it happened over a month ago. but what to write? and why? and why now?

my thoughts have needed time to percolate. I still don't know if they are done percolating. is there an ideal thought-percolation time? is there a point at which you have thought enough about something? I kind of don't think so. but probably it depends on what your thinking-goals actually happen to be. are we thinking to do something, or solve something, or...? usually I am thinking for the sake of it, and in that case there is never enough. but I usually have to stop at some point, because only so many things can fit into the whole percolation.

more and more thinking about Charlottesville would also need more and more data about Charlottesville. and while I've been able to get some, there is no way to get it all. I wasn't there. what I have to think with are observations and thoughts that other people have written down on twitter and facebook and other internet spots. such places become the avenues by which I find my news and my sense of newsworthiness. there is so much room in the world for so much news these days. so many stories and voice. this twitter-essay is less directly related to the Charlottesville mess, but it's a story and a message I keep thinking about.

to supply my brain with more informed view, I could, I suppose, listen to more newsy podcasts. or watch some more newsy videos. the podcasts I tend to put on while I wash the dishes are more ponderous, less newsiness. although, in the way of timeliness, 99% Invisible did recently re-run this Memory Palace episode about a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest.

I don't know if there are any confederate monuments in Indiana anywhere. there is this place, though, just up the road a bit. though it fits the theme of memorials to dead white guys who participated in the general ruination of many, many non-white guys, I don't think anyone is likely to get all enraged about it. I'm not sure though.

it's difficult to think about the complexities of causality and blame. I wonder quite often, what good does blame do? what use is it to spend so much time investigating the precise sources of evils and ills and wrongs and badness, even if we are able to figure it out? does investigating it all make us think we will have any control over the wrong?

maybe just knowing is control enough, in some way. however complex and impossible, we have to try to make things less bad, if we can, right?

sometimes it's hard to see how. sometimes it's easier. sometimes listening is enough. and sometimes listening isn't even that easy.

I've been listening to a few new podcasts lately. Malcolm Gladwell's pet research-and-thinking-aloud project Revisionist History has been a mix of interesting and meh. this very first of the episodes struck me--it's about art and snobbery, patriarchy and sexism, and the concept of "moral licensing." go listen. learning about moral licensing was worth it despite Gladwell's rambling self-important tone.

moral licensing. a justification for keeping all our old and toxic ways of thinking because we spent a little time poking a hole or two in their edges.

so much to think about. I've also been reading a little from a book called Intersectionality. the chapter on how educational institutions play various roles in perpetuating injustice has been thought-provoking for me, now, as I consider my future as a small piece within larger systems of educational institutions. my favourite part of Intersectionality was a quote from Audre Lorde.
"Difference must be not merely tolerated, but seen as a fund of necessary polarities between which our creativity can spark like a dialectic. Only then does the necessity for interdependence become unthreatening." (qtd in Collins & Bilge, p. 169)
necessary polarities. necessary and productive difference. no consensus, no flattened-out unity. difference. to see difference differently changes it. is that what Lorde means? that what might be threatening to us if we resist will transform into a beautiful, wonderful thing is we'd just learn to see it that way?

or is it actually that the threat was all in our heads to begin with?

I'm not sure who the we is. hypothetical we. everyone we.

or me and you. maybe. partly.

and then there is the whole paradox of tolerance to grapple with. what belongs in this world we are creating, and what doesn't? what things are okay, and what things are so bad we shouldn't even look at them? think about them?

Monday, August 21

fall semester, 2017

if all goes as it supposedly should, this will technically be my very last fall semester as a student. I am not sure how I feel about that yet.

I think I feel less optimistic than I was feeling last fall. this year is so different, so pressure-filled. so seemingly monumental in all its changes and changing. a final year. slipping away already. counting itself down from 11 months and a half to only 11 months and a quarter, just like every year but also in an extra-bewildering way now. the idea I can't help but swirl around in my head over and over again is: there will never be enough time.

and maybe that idea is right. but also... maybe... I'll deal with my finite amount of time just fine.

I will have to. we'll all have to, and so it goes.

today's writing music: Solar Fields
today's re-reading: Kathleen Fitzpatrick
and today's prooflistening: poetry

Monday, July 31


as of two weeks and three days ago, this is our new place.

it is a very nice place, freshly painted with all the windows and light my plants and I could ask for. and it is where we are finding places to keep our things. old things and new things. some things that once were mine and some that were once his (and a few that were once other people's, too), most of the things don't really need those separate pronouns anymore.

the dog is ours. the furniture is ours. the dishes in the sink are ours. I have hung clocks on at least one wall in every room, and there are piles of books and notebooks on at least three different tables.

we still don't know where (or if?) to keep our bikes, there are shelves that don't have anything on them yet. but most of our things have settled in with us now. and we get to share this balcony and a bench swing here, for one more year of phd-ing.

Friday, July 7

word quartets

in downtown Lafayette, there is this new sculpture-statue-thing. it's tall and shiny. two metal figures on tip-toes are holding an interesting metal version of the city flag.

you can't see it very well in this photo, but their stylized metal thighs have word-shaped cut-outs on them. I will list them for you here and ask you to pay attention to how the list makes you feel.


if I could format them all vertically, I would. you'll just have to imagine how they look going up and down these metal thighs in all capital letters.

we could put them in this order instead:


do you have any preference? did you or didn't you cringe a little bit at the lack of parallelism? does it feel different to treat "believe" as the misfit verb in a list of nouns, or "kindness" as the misfit noun in a list of verbs?

now that I've done a smidge of googling research, I have learned that the artist behind this piece is named Robert L. Barnum. the words were chosen by children involved with the Hanna Community Center and they are also the ones who named it "We Rise Above," which is how it is listed here on this list of other local public art.

as much as the inconsistency niggles and pokes at my hyper-educated writerly brain, I of course can't fault children for choosing this particular quartet of words without thinking about which parts of speech they all function within. most people do not automatically think about such things. even if part of my hyper-educated writerly brain things they probably should.

but the more I think about this sculpture and is misfit verb and its misfit noun, the more strangely grateful I get about how mismatched the words are. had they all four been straight-up non-ambiguous verbs or nouns, with no funky Venn-diagram of just noun, noun-or-verb, just verb going on, then I wouldn't have stopped to pay that much attention. if you just gave me a list of sappy-sounding nouns like


then that's all it would be and my allergies to sappiness would have kicked in and dismissed the whole thing.

instead, the funky Venn-diagram that these words presented got me pondering. how interesting it is that love and trust, simple little words, are both noun words and verb words. commandments and descriptors, both. but the other two, they aren't. they have to be one or the other. and it's simple enough to flip the verb believe into a similar one-word noun. not so simple with the noun kindness, though. why is that? probably there are linguistical, etymological word history reasons for which overlapping functions and orthographic representations match up or don't. I haven't looked into that yet.

I walk past this tall, shiny sculpture fairly often. someday it may lose its thought-provokingness for me. but until then the hodgepodge of words stir up lots of lovely questions. is this art speaking imperatively, or narratively? is it reflecting something the artist and his consultants see in the world, or is it praying for something they would like to see? are these virtues the sculpture asks us to admire in the world? to nurture in ourselves? are they efforts and actions we are supposed to take up, or are they knick-knacks and baubles we should collect where we can? or both?

of course it's both, probably. if they'd all been cut out in noun form, that wouldn't mean love and trust would lose their imperative vibes altogether. if they'd all been in verb form, with kindness split into its English infinitive, be kind, that wouldn't stop us from noticing the moments where those verbs swirl and collect around us into warm fuzzies to hold on to. and maybe our parts of speech are only one limited and insufficient way of chopping up language for storage. these four cut-out words have no context, after all. there is no frame for the list that they seem to make up. there is no sentence for them to live in. nothing outside this sculpture of words dictates how one is supposed to read the thing. that makes the hybrid noun-verbiness of half of them even more exciting, almost. you can interpret these words in multiple ways! and the unwritten noun and verb forms of the other half can perhaps haunt this tall, shiny art, hovering in the gaps for anyone who wants to notice them.

Thursday, June 15

re-reading and un-liking stuff on twitter and elsewhere

yesterday I did some re-reading. first, I re-read six months or so of things I've liked on twitter. a confession: sometimes as I skim through things I once liked on twitter, I end up un-liking things I once liked in the past. liking never has to be permanent, does it? nothing is permanent. some twitter things are not things I feel like my likes need to stay on-record for. is that okay?

second, I re-read three months or so of my file of semi-daily meta-scholarly writing. it was good to remember some of the fun, inspired conference notes and see little inches of progress on projects. that file is 370 pages long now. messy, and not truly daily, but still an accomplishment.

I'm sure most of the stuff in that file is sixteen thousand times more boring to the world than most of the stuff I've liked and not yet un-liked on twitter. if we could quantify boringness, anyway.

the twitterings that I like on twitter seem to fall into pretty clear categories:

1. there are links to things that exist and that just seem wonderful--

2. there are lovely impressive and/or brave pieces of micro-blogged inspiration--

or do some of these count as lessons? instructions, perhaps?

3. there are cool, amusing blips of nothing all that important--

4. there are attitudes and ideas that I find myself agreeing with, resonating with--
that is a valid life goal, right there. don't leave blank pages at the end of your documents, people. it's all part of that "paying attention to the world" thing.

and 5. there are links to longform stuff that I imagine I'll go back to read later--

sometimes I do go back and read them. sometimes I change my mind when later arrives. sometimes I forget entirely. I can't read everything. and twitter is not really meant to be a bookmarking service. but I'll use twitter however I want, okay?

Tuesday, May 30

briefly, for now

apparently Rosa Parks wrote recipes on the backs of envelopes too. really, is there anything else as useful to do with the back of an envelope? maybe doodling.

just the other week, right before our roadtrip to Utah and back, I wrote this brownie recipe down on the back of a small, greenish envelope. the brownies were baked, and then proceeded to get lost in our box of roadtrip snacks for almost the whole trip. but we found them again, and I ate several alongside the bananas.

speaking of recipes, I've been very much wanting to make this marvelous pie again, but there has hardly been any time inbetween celebrations and driving and driving and more celebrations and more driving. making pie crust is the hold-up today. if only I had pie crust in the freezer, I would be set.

all I have in my freezer by way of crust-esque stuff is phyllo dough at the moment. so I have been prompted to go searching for a phyllo tomato and corn pie recipe. and I found one. my hastily-thrown-together version of it is in the oven now.

unrelatedly, I am recently fascinated by Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own. my sister had a copy of it sitting around when I was at her (very cute, new) house in March, and while she hemmed a huge fat white ballgown for me, I read to her from it. we only got to chapter 3 or something, but ever since I have been thinking about it and wanting to keep reading. not long ago, on my little non-LibriVox LibriVox app, I found a free audiobook copy, read by the lovely Cori Samuels, whom I feel like I sort of know from listening to practically every single episode of the LibriVox Community Podcast.

I have a section and a half still to go, I think. I'll finish it soon and then see where my thinking takes me next. I'm especially intrigued by Woolf's section about women writers in the centuries preceding hers. there are so many she cites that I want to go look up and investigate a bit more: Anne Finch, the Countess of Winchilsea. Aphra Behn. George Eliot.

Mary Carmichael is fictional, it turns out, or I would want to look her up too.

but ah well. I do have enough reading to do anyway, without adding fictional novels to my list.

and oh, guess what-- my first audiobook solo has been catalogued! I may work up a whole post for it one of these days, in which I'll have space to outline the tricky process of translating a text into a series of audio files, and comment on the intertwining layers of authorial and narratorial presences. we'll see.

and oh, one more thing-- it did rain, but not too much. I loved it all.

Wednesday, May 24

unread and half-remembered

everyone is talking about commencement speeches, it seems, and that got me curious about who the speaker must have been at Utah State University's spring 2006 commencement. in my searching I found this handy archive of the past 12 years of commencements, but there's no speaker listed for my year. I wonder why not.

I wonder many things. including what is this blogpost is going to be about, ultimately. there are various notes here in front of me now. links to this and that, references I half-remember adding when I opened this draft. now I'm sitting down on this mid-week evening to connect them all up with words. or at least try to. what may end up happening is that I replace all the things I thought I might blog about with completely new things, now that I'm here. such is my impetuous yet meandering writing-process.

I have not yet read any Neil Postman, but his name has been coming to my attention over and over and over again in recent days. he wrote a book called Amusing Ourselves to Death. Brooke Gladstone of NPR wrote a book of her own using Postman's work as a springboard. the Richard Lanham book I finally finished the other day quoted Postman, too. Gladstone and Lanham take very different approaches, using their very different lenses (pop journalism and literary philosophy, respectively). from these two second-hand servings of Postman's book, I see a theme of worrying about too much silliness + worrying about not enough silliness. nervous hand-wringing that our culture will stagnate into everything bland and flat and human-less. more nervous hand-wringing that our culture will dissolve into nothing at all meaningful or deep or serious.

probably, a little bit of both will happen. it'll all get mixed together and nobody will really know where to draw the lines between what's stagnant, cold, heartless and artless and what's only buzzy, frothy, sugary air bubbles and useless. it most likely depends too much on who you are.

Mr. Postman's title reminds me of another book's title: Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace. I started reading a copy half-borrowed from friend Tony. I say "half-borrowed" because I don't think I ever took it out of Tony's house--just read it while I was there dog-sitting the pugs several summers ago. according to my goodreads archive, where Infinite Jest is (perhaps fittingly?) still listed under "currently reading," I first opened the book on August 3, 2014.

someday I'll get back to it. I did finish that Lanham treatise after starting it even longer ago.

I'm sure Amusing Ourselves to Death and Infinite Jest would resonate rather grandly, were I to read them together. have any of you read them both? what were they like? do they talk to each other interestingly?

so many books I haven't read. did I mention yet this Ben Terrett fellow is posting reviews of books he's never read and never will read? with pictures? it seems a cool thing to do.

so many books I'm in the middle of reading. and non-books, too. this, for example, seems intriguing, at least from the twitter commentary and the first three sentences: "What It's Like to Use an Original Macintosh in 2017."

and a bunch of articles like this one over here.

well, I guess this blogpost is about mostly books and about the immortality of cultural crises. with a little dash of possible subtext about change writ large, and how we bolster each other for such changes in moments marked by speeches and such.

and only two or three of my original inspirational jottings for this post have been clipped out, to be saved for something else later on. there.

Friday, April 28

why not mark this morning

this morning, early. the forecast for today is cloudy, with a 40% chance of rain at 4pm.

but maybe it won't rain.

I have been collecting things to blog about. have been meaning all month to blog about them. since the month is almost over, and since after today I shall be 79% in wedding traveling honeymoon traveling not-paying-attention-to-anything-else mode, I'd better finally blog about a few of the collected things. here they are--

a new (to me) podcast: On the Media, which I was finally persuaded to subscribe to because RadioLab did a crossover special with excerpts from their series on poverty myths. I like it for it's meta-awareness of itself and its media-ness. it's interesting criticism, but I can't say it will become my favourite podcast or anything. I find it too mired in political drama (I know politics matter a lot, but they are not the only thing media is for, surely?) and at times a little too navel-gazey. but still, informative. and twice-weekly, which is more often than most podcast shows produce stuff.
but it is interesting

an old (to me) podcast: Israel Story is back! subscription feeds are so great, just for that feeling of seeing new content appear in a long-empty slot in the list of podcasts on your phone. 

speaking of podcasts and audio and criticism, I somehow came across this article the other day: "Towards a Poetics of Audio." I'll read it again and take better notes later. so many neat thoughts about sound and orality and art and disciplines and legitimacy.

and lastly, an old (but new to me) semi-silly poem, with wonderfully deep thoughts and anlysis from Hugh McGuire himself about said poem, all posted on the LibriVox forums way back in June, 2006. I can find nothing else of this poem anywhere else in internet-land. has anyone else heard of it? 

I hope it doesn't rain too much at 4pm, if it does.

I hope all the photographs will look nice even if it stays so cloudy.