Sunday, March 29

daffodils for now

Friday, February 21

decades and novelty

there were exactly ten other blogposts on this blog with the word decade in them, before I wrote this one. is that serendipitous and random, or what?

once it is published, this newest post will ruin the nice resonance, but ah well.

just before the year switched from 19 to 20 last month, friend Chris and I swapped book lists in honor of a new decade. ten books published any time at all, but that we'd encountered and loved at some point within the last ten years.

here are mine, with links to any previous mentions/reviews:
A Room of One's Own, Virginia Woolf (2017)
Americanah, Chimamada Adichie (2018)
Pastoralia, George Saunders
the Prospero Lost series, L. Jagi Lamplighter
Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn (2013)
Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel (2015)
The Likeness, Tana French
After Method, John Law (2016)
Lines: A Brief History, Tim Ingold (2015)
Syllabus, Lynda Barry (2015)

and I may as well list a few close-ish runners-up too:
The Shape of Design, Frank Chimero (2015)
Spinster: Making a Life of Own's Own, Kate Bolick (2016)
Bats of the Republic, Zachary Thomas Dodson (2016)

all these books stand out against so many other books for usually a similar reason: novelty. 

sometimes, especially with the non-fiction, the novelty comes from an incredibly unique, expansive, and new-to-me set of ideas. more often it's channeled with a vibrant, undeniably rich and present voice--like with the Adichie and Saunders and French. with the Dodson book, it was quirky art and formatting.

if you are in need of good books to read, all these are awesome. (though the Law and Ingold are terribly academic. fair warning.)

sometime soon perhaps I'll blog about my current reading. bell hooks. Sarah Bakewell. the Tournament of Books is coming up soon, too...

in the meantime: may the decades ahead keep us all stocked up on delicious, expansive novelty, with just enough sameness underneath for us to stand on.

{ in the mountains somewhere near Denver; I love how the sky almost looks like a pathway }

Saturday, January 18

affection, safety, and a puppy

I learned just today that the German word halten can mean in English to hold or to stop.

this seems profound for some reason. the sentence in my Duolingo German lesson was "die Eltern halten ihr Babies (the parents are holding their babies)" and when my first instinct was to translate that verb as are stopping, I figured I should check the app's hints for it first. they did show both options, but the context seemed to call for are holding instead. depending on the age of one's baby, there aren't that many things you need to or can stop one from doing, really.

if I stop to think for a moment about the same range of meanings in all the history and senses of to hold in English, does that make the whole thing less profound?

the word's etymology is a long one. some snippets that resonate this afternoon:
"to contain; to grasp; to retain"
"to possess, control, rule; to detain, lock up"
"to foster, cherish, keep watch over"
"to keep back from action"

all this potent potential meaning curled up in to hold. and then there are all these phrasal verbs, too: hold back, hold up, hold out, hold off, hold against, beholden to...

to be held as a parent holds a young baby is to be safe. comfortable. cared for. right?

to be held is also to be restrained. controlled. and to be restrained isn't usually considered comfortable, though... right?

or is it?

maybe it is.


in a "limits are possibilities" sort of way.

I don't remember when exactly this photo is from. September 2016 when we went to the National Zoo? probably. it's been sitting on hold in a blogpost draft for at least three years or so.

to hold also has a sense of continuation. to hold a note. to hold your position. to uphold a ruling. to have and to hold.

sometimes all of that isn't comfortable either. but sometimes it is.

I've been doing this year's 30 days of yoga. it's wonderful even when I don't think I have the time or energy for it-- alternating movement and holding, centering body and mind and breath so all is balanced. not always easy. but it is enough.

I am enough. now is enough. I hope.

in other news-- last week we added to our household a new puppy.

his name is Hamilton.

or, if you're feeling extra fancy, Hamilton Chidi Chewbacca Chesley Alonzo. he's already learned to come when called and to sit on command. Wesley's still warming up to his rambunctious, half-tamed puppy energy, but they're getting along pretty well so far.

what good pugs.

Friday, December 20

commence contentment

it feels like I used to have so much to say. I was just ambitious enough to be confident enough to recognize all my self-doubt and still ignore it.

is ambition something you grow out of? it does seem easier to have when you're young--when you haven't yet heard so much of what other people have said or thought or done, the world feels so much more ripe and open for everything your little human brain could possibly imagine into it.

and then you grow up, and get tired, and everyone around you and before you is doing so much already. how can you keep up?

I know it's a bit silly to worry about keeping up. I'm in my own lane and it isn't a race anyway. 

today I attended fall commencement at NSU. gymnasium full of chairs, lots of bright purple, congratulatory speeches, cheering, decorated mortarboards, lines and lines of accomplished humans, etc. the music was gorgeous, too--a string quartet and a vocal quartet performed excellently during the processional, the anthem, and the alma mater. I came away from it all thinking about the value of letting yourself appreciate things as fully as possible. that might become my mantra for 2020: appreciation.

I never attended my own college or grad school commencements. I probably didn't miss much, really. it just now so happens to be part of my job to go and sit with the other faculty and applaud on cue. it's nice to feel like a part of something and to pay attention to all these students' achievement.

the speaker this year was Denise Lewis Patrick--prolific writer, Natchitoches local, and 1977 alumna (she has a blog too, such as it is). I appreciated her talk for its down-to-earth encouragement and its brevity. she spoke about all the post-college things she'd learned--about people, organizations, and changing technologies. she promised today's graduates that they would similarly need to learn many new things, no matter how prepared they might feel for their futures.

feeling prepared might be a little overrated, anyway. how much ambition does a person really need in their life, after all? I might be just fine with a little contentment now and then and a decent supply of curiosity.

Saturday, November 30

Thanksgiving retrospective

this week, we are baking and eating and family-ing in Chicagoland. Chicago itself, over to the east of here, has a famously wonderful city flag. the state of Illinois... not so much. its flag is okay, I suppose. it could definitely be uglier.

last Thanksgiving, we stayed down south in our current Louisiana home. its state flag is pretty distinctive, so it would probably win a flag contest against Illinois any day.

how would Louisiana's fare against Indiana? or Texas? (I never did look up Rhode Island's state flag when I spent Thanksgiving there in 2013. it's actually quite well-designed. possibly more beautiful even than the Texas flag.)


family-ing in Chicagoland over the last six days has involved late nights playing Rocket League, grocery shopping with grandma, tons of reading (I finished The Subversive Copy Editor and In Watermelon Sugar in the last two days), and endless football games on the television. right this moment, it's the college variety: University of Utah Utes v. the University of Colorado something-or-others. (Buffaloes, the internet tells me.) 

I am more or less ignoring the football and poking at bits of work. budgeting work. emails. edits. to-do lists. the husband is napping on the couch next to me, murmuring nonsense in his sleep. the dogs are lounging (except when they're fussing mildly at each other). we'll eventually have one last dinner of leftovers, re-pack the suitcases, and get ready to drive home tomorrow.

there are two more weeks of the semester. so much to be thankful for. 

I am especially glad for time to rest, for the hospitality and coziness of family, for memories and togetherness, and for all the places (remembered and imagined and inbetween). 

this decade has had a lot of big, wondrous stuff in it. how much I've seen and learned and changed since ten years ago. you too, probably.

now how much more learning and growing and living can we fit into December?

Friday, November 1

time collage duet

these are photos from the past. same season, more or less, but last year.

at least close enough.

autumn. such as autumn in Louisiana exists.

today it was 32° at 7:00 am.

in the eastern half of the backyard sky, way back behind the slatted chainlink and the neighbor's trees and their neighbors' neighbors' trees too, there was a luminous deep pink glow. I know it was there because some of it leaked through the curtains onto the wall across from the bed. such a warm orange-pink color--cotton-candy pink, but not so wispy as cotton candy--imagine if pink cotton candy was as thick and felted as the warmest wool blanket. it almost looked out of place on such a cold morning.

although I'm not used to it anymore, I do kind of relish all this chill in the air. it feels right. it feels energizing.

will the still-green cherry tomatoes out on their vines find it energizing? possibly not. I might need to bring those plants inside for the rest of the year.

or I might not. it may warm back up to 70° over the weekend. we'll see. 

these here are photos from several summers ago.

Michigan beaches. blue sky, blue lake, all layered like animated elemental paint swatches.

sun, sand, mist. campfires. ice cream.

this isn't a real collage. you'll have to pretend. clip a few images from now, from last year, from three years ago... see what they look like up next to each other. does the cold of today make those sunny June beaches look less warm than they were? or can the memory of the beach insulate this first day of November against all the risk of frost?

Tuesday, September 17

back and forth-ness

I pulled my high school journal out of its place on the shelf last week, to look back at what I wrote on September 11, 2001.

it's a half page of earnest printed penmanship, phrases like "live in infamy" and "dumb terrorists" smushed together in an account of an event I didn't understand.

I opened this old blogpost draft today, in the mood to blog, not sure exactly what about. perhaps it will be a sequence of thoughts, some from the past and some from the now, juxtaposed as if on shuffle mode. that's often how my brain seems to work anyway: non-linear, constellatory, like a small racquetball inside a hollow dodecahedron or something.

I've noticed lately that my vocabulary, at least when I'm standing in front of a classroom full of students in Louisiana, has opened its arms to "y'all." the southern, folksy "y'all" hasn't displaced "you guys" entirely as my collective second-person greeting, but it's obviously gaining ground. I can't decide if I like it or not, but at least it feels fairly normal.

I need to read some more Joanna Russ.

these two podcasts turned out to be in conversation the other day (and by 'the other day' I apparently mean about a year ago). according to my notes, I listened to this one, "The Oddest Thing in the Universe" by Reasonably Sound, first, and then, from the BBC's Infinite Monkey Cage, "The Human Voice." why language? how? apparently we human beings had all the physical capabilities for speech long before we used them to communicate in spoken words. spoken language is a strange, purposeful biproduct. maybe I should re-listen and see if the two episodes mean any more now that I'm almost finished reading Gretchen McCulloch's Because Internet.

I've taken to putting all my old collection of mp3 music files on shuffle every so often, just to see what comes up. here's a list of what did:
Jack Johnson - Posters
Good Charlotte - The River
Blumfeld - Heiss die Segel
Peter Fox - Schwarz zu Blau
Ben Kweller - Run
Eve 6 - Girl Eyes
Andrew Bird - Hole in the Ocean Floor
when did I acquire Andrew Bird music? I don't remember. I do remember that the German stuff is from friend Yvonne, the rest from miscellaneous acquaintances in college.

in April 2016, I went to a musical about music (Once) all by myself. just before the second song--which sounded so familiar to me somehow--there were a few lines of dialogue I had to write down. I wrote them on an empty edge of the program. I wrote them down again in a sketch book. and I wrote them down here, too. the moment in these lines is so strangely memorable:
- are you breathing?

- yeah, I am.

-you won't die if you play this song with me.
and then she plays. they sing. he lets himself pick up the guitar again. his life is changed.

I've joined the community/campus choir that just started up last week. the director keeps talking about a particular rendition of one of the songs in our repertoire. was my youngest brother a part of that choir in 2014, or not yet?

   { the pinboard on the wall of my office }

Wednesday, August 28

fall semester, 2019

ten days into fall semester. it's been a bit of a rough transition from lovely summer travels to four new sets of students and curricula and work routines and everything.

for the official blog record, here's everything I get to teach this fall--

English 1020: Composition & Rhetoric II
an entirely new course for me, more or less. last time I taught anything like this was spring 2013 at Texas Tech University. I'm a much different instructor at a much different institution this time. but I think this class will be fun-- one of our projects involves writing about some of the opinions/controversies on the Change My View subreddit. each student is also choosing a theme to research and write about over the semester. should keep things exciting for us all.

English 3230: Technical Composition
this is my seventh section of this course. oddly, I've only got the one Monday-Wednesday-Friday section for this semester. 15 students, 15 weeks left. I've switched up a lot of things for this time around (including our textbook), so it's been more work to prep for this time around. ah well. we're doing our team project first, then instructions, then resumes, etc. hopefully plenty of useful learning happens.

English 3610: Intro to Digital Cultures
this is the undergraduate version of my graduate course, Engl 6560, last spring. different readings, a lot more hands-on things in our face-to-face classroom. yesterday I had students compare/contrast working in Google Docs vs. Word Online vs. Graphite. in future weeks I want to have us play around with wikis, twine, glitch, twitter threads, terms of service, interface design, maps, social media, and maybe some of these activities too. 
English 5220: Technical Writing
this year, I'm teaching this graduate course to 9 students instead of just 2. it's my one online class this semester, and it should be great. we're using Solving Problems in Technical Communication as our main textbook, and we also get to read (or listen to) all this great stuff:
most of these are the same readings as last year, but I added that final one after discovering it this summer, and several of the podcasts are new additions also.

ten days done, most of four whole months left to go... 

Friday, August 9


earlier this week we drove in my little blue car through several mountained places, between majestic canyon walls, into valleys and out of them again, up and down, back and forth, out across the plains, down and down and down. toward home. inexorably away from vacation-time, back to regular life (whatever that means).

the elevation here in Louisiana is 118 feet above sea level. that's not even 40 yards. not even half a football field above sea level. no wonder our backyard becomes a giant puddle every time it rains.

last week, miles and miles west of here, I was no less than 4,000 feet above sea level at all times, and sometimes almost as high as 8,000. we hiked. we picnicked. we chased nieces and nephews around and took family photos. 

and then we had to leave.

I imagine I felt every foot of the descent as we drove, this time. every mile of it.

by the time we crossed into Texas on Tuesday, I was starting to feel as flat as the stretching llano estacado plains. one part of me was eager to be home again, ready to work and finalize preparations for fall semester... but most of me was already really missing the mountains and family.

it might be another full year before I see my family again. that span of time didn't used to seem so long. being several thousand feet below and almost fifteen hundred miles away didn't used to seem that far really, either. but now it does. 

I'm trying let gratitude keep me lifted up, even though it feels pretty depressing to have left all the relatives and mountains behind us. I'm really lucky and glad we were able to travel so many miles and make so many good memories this summer. so lucky.

I guess now it's time to anticipate the next family gathering. and in the meantime, work, write, teach, and try to do some bits of good in the world.

as a postscript, I've got a few decently good things to show off about lately:

a reworked version of one of my dissertation chapters is now officially an online article in a special issue of Digital Humanities Quarterly. you can read it here if you like.

a collaborative article I've been working on with some Purdue Polytechnic colleagues has also just been accepted for publication in the Journal of Technology Studies. not sure when it will come out, but that's another exciting thing to anticipate.

I got to be a part of a twitter conference last month. it was pretty different, but also fun, to share my scholarship for a new audience on such a platform. I hope people liked it. the thing still exists in its original twitter thread and here in a "twitter moment." it's always cool to talk about LibriVox, I say.

and speaking of LibriVox, my most recent LV contributions have been to an early twentieth-century feminist novel called With Her in Ourland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. it's incredibly interesting stuff, and some of it seems relevant now, a whole century later.

next on my list of things to record for LV: City of Din by Dan McKenzie. I've got the 100-page text split up into suitable sections and now I just need to start recording them. soon, hopefully...

Thursday, June 27

images, tendencies, and commandments

the local public library is doing free Monday night yoga this summer, led by one of the proprietors of this local yoga place that I haven't yet visited.

I've been to Monday night library yoga twice so far. it's nice. last week, I lay there and breathed and thought a bit about about my ideal self.

{ image borrowed from this kind soul on Flickr

past versions of my ideal self have taken various shapes and sizes and attitudes. but one thing seems to always happen when I think about this future maybe-barely-realistically-attainable person. I think about what she looks like. 

draped over an armchair. surrounded by books and children in a sepia-looking library. wearing comfy (but very stylish) grey loungewear. surrounded by plants, accompanied by a fluffy orange cat and a cup of tea. dressed in homemade and perfectly-tailored dresses. slender but not too tall of course. curly (not frizzy) hair in a perfect messy bun. the perfect pair of glasses on a thoughtful face with a flawless complexion.

why is most of what I think about when I think about her centered on what she looks like? dresses like? what her body is shaped like and how her hair is styled? I picture her in short bursts of vivid-- with this kind of dress. that kind of toned abdomen. a certain kind of skin.

why don't I think half so much about what she does? how she spends her time and energy?
I do think about that too. but it's less easy to fixate on. visuals are easier. for some reason actions don't print themselves so firmly on my thoughts. they don't fit into the short bursts.

why not?

{ favourite oatmeal-chocolate-chip muffins } 

I’ve read so many blogs that have praised Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project. Smacksy is the one that comes to mind most readily at the moment but I'm 76% sure I've seen the book mentioned by at least twelve other bloggers, too. 

maybe I'll read it someday. (probably not really though)

for now, I'm skim-reading Rubin's blog. which I came across not long ago, as one does, via another blog entirely, when a fellow-academic on twitter linked to this handy blog about building robust academic writing habits, in that post, under habit #6, there was a link.

this link: The Four Tendencies Quiz.

academic writing habit blogger, Dr. Katelyn Knox, advises that knowing what your tendencies are when it comes to meeting expectations (whether your own or other people's) is helpful for knowing how to nurture good habits.

so I took the quiz, and at the end I was supremely interested (though not really surprised) to learn that I am a Questioner.

of course I am. I would have to be, eh? (I suspect that most of my family members are also questioners-- we like to understand the reasons for doing a thing before we're gonna set out and do it.)

now, I know very well from skim-reading the rest of Gretchen Rubin's blog and website that she is using this quiz and her blog and her online presence generally to sell books and to book speaking gigs and such. and books with titles like "The Happiness Project" pretty much always sound hokey to me. it seems sales-pitchy, snake-oil-y, just a little bit. "buy my book! be happier!" yeah, okay.
but I'm also not unconvinced that there is value in these ideas. the knowledge that I tend to Question before I commit to any course of action or acquiesce to any expectations about how I should do things is kind of eye-opening, however much it also confirms what I already know about myself. it seems like there’s something to it. something insightful, something that feels mind-expanding and practical. it’s not The Answer or The Solution to anything-- no silver bullet-- but it is a starting point, perhaps.

elswhere on Rubin's blog there is a post about writing custom personal commandments for your life, as aspirational guideposts or whatnot. maybe this is hokey and maybe it's helpful. it can be both at once.

the first custom amelia commandment that came to mind was "always whip your own cream," which is an easy one, but also a synecdoche for my general preference for homemade and handmade stuff. if there is ever a plastic tub of cool whip in my kitchen, it will not be because I wanted it there.

it's kind of fun to try thinking of personalized commandments. I could probably articulate a few unconscious ones I follow already, about word usage and getting enough sleep and such.

maybe "take photographs of your old beat-up shoes" is another one I could formally adopt?

{ black flats from Goodwill }

{ polka-dot flip-flips from a Ross in Hawaii }

last week while I was laying in savasana at the end of yoga practice at the library, letting my thoughts drift, I thought of one more custom commandment: refuse the numbness. I guess this one is also shorthand. it's about a deep hope that I'll always be able to be surprised by things, to be affected by things instead of jaded and uninterested. that I'll always be able to listen to the universe sending me messages about itself, about me, about everything. it's easy to let default mode take over, but I don't want that. I want to always be looking for connections, finding things to care about, practicing sensitivity to the world and what I can do in it.