April 21, 2004


"Expressive and dramatic, no one can tell a story like you can. You have a great imagination and a verbal flair that people seem to remember you by. Many people born on this day have had a lot of success in the sports world. It is actually the challenge and the achievement of goals that really turns you on. Dusk Blue reminds you to stay balanced and to understand that moderation can be a helpful tool, not a boring prescription."


Oh. Okay. What's your birthday color?

April 22, 2004

I'm so vain

I bet I think the web is about me (via Googlism):

collin is my cousin
collin is an md specializing in adult medical care with emphasis on nutritional and alternative medicine
collin is now the first
collin is the author of the bestselling altered state
collin is a senior majoring in mass communications with an emphasis in electronic media
collin is emeritus professor of history at the university of new orleans and the author of the new orleans underground gourmet and theodore roosevelt
collin is a frequent lecturer on the topic of secured transactions in the united states and canada
collin is the 7
collin is most often associated in the public mind
collin is our technician
collin is one of the boys on our waiting list
collin is everyone and everything
collin is strange
collin is a performer in the truest sense
collin is our service manager
collin is forbidden to reconstitute
collin is on a specialized diet due to an intolerance to gluten
collin is now running a low grade temp and is pretty cranky
collin is here
collin is a salesman and entrepreneur who started as an engineering trainee
collin is the best bet for a control the park victory
collin is one of the best at singing ballads that make you laugh
collin is sure to bounce back and have some more hit songs on radio
collin is a bona fide star
collin is a member of the national advisory council for environmental policy and technology
collin is actually quiet for a moment
collin is all about
collin is the bang behind the beat and the motion in the groove
collin is the best musician in the world and he will never be forgotten
collin is now over 17 pounds
collin is in many ways the main catalyst of the story
collin is a freshman catcher who has tremendous potential
collin is back in school in sulphur springs surrounded by his friends and classmates
collin is taken by the beauty and serenity of the town as the well as the charm of its natives
collin is much more of an idiot than he had previously been aware of
collin is not excelled as an agricultural county by any other county in any other state
collin is doing great
collin is a chicago
collin is a good example of double up boards
collin is whole
collin is one of a limited edition of twelve
collin is a very personable performer
collin is an internationally experienced speaker and is a member of the usa based nsa
collin is found dead in his washington
collin is having an exhibition at the stewart gallery in johannesburg at present
collin is still in the icu at edinburgh royal infirmary
collin is the posse x genius
collin is a gracious host and a top quality chef
collin is intrigued with the townspeople
collin is the owner and principal designer of cogneo
collin is passionate about professionalism and is a safe pair of hands for your training and consultancy requirements
collin is from tucson
collin is a freelance columnist and an expert on all aspects
collin is secretary
collin is the president of core consulting services
collin is a dark man dressed in arabic robes
collin is happiest when he's playing in the sea or on the snow
collin is baby 194
collin is the patrolman working this route
collin is the happiest baby
collin is no exception
collin is the author or coauthor of more than 150 technical papers and five books on electromagnetic theory and applications
collin is joining in the fun and getting healthier every day
collin is one of france's top
collin is the first of the townsmen to enlist
collin is involved in this and he swore to her that he had nothing to do with the shooting
collin is doing as well as can be expected
collin is a sophisticated skincare range from paris
collin is due to have a further colonoscopy this year and the programme is running behind due to current capacity constraints
collin is serving his first year on the orchesis board
collin is by no means alone in taking this position; indeed
collin is feeling better i'll introduce him to you

April 27, 2004

Whereupon the author contemplates the various uses for a brick

This will surprise just about no one--my octometric creativity graph:


Now, of course it's a self-assessment. But I don't really have that much stake in being thought of as more creative than the average bear, so it's probably pretty accurate. And it would make sense that abstraction and complexity were my strengths (and boldness my weakness, for that matter). The test is courtesy of a site from a company called Creax, home of Innovation Suite 3.1, "tools to systematize your creativity."

No, I wasn't able to type that last bit with a straight face.

April 29, 2004

A fresh start

Two nights ago, it snowed. (only for a little bit, and it didn't stick)

Last night, it started out cold, and then remembered that it's almost May.

Today, it felt like early summer. And so, today, in honor of what I hope will finally be spring-like weather, I shaved my head. There's something kind of fun about starting a head of hair from scratch. Most summers, I use clippers and take it down as low as possible, but I don't usually shave it--it's really way too much bother to maintain, and the scalp tends to be pretty sensitive and nick-prone.

But today, I felt like changing things up a bit. I'm sure it'll freak a few people out when I show up at school tomorrow, but that's a price I'm willing to pay to feel the breeze on my head for a few weeks...

May 6, 2004


newcar.jpg Monday and Tuesday, I spent a fair chunk of time over at Romano Toyota--the lease on my 2000 Camry "matured" on Tuesday. And despite my thoughts about going with a different car, I decided to re-up with Toyota and re-up on a Camry, the results of which are pictured here. Graduated from 4 cylinders to 6, and have spent the last couple of days getting used to the fact that the new one sits the driver a little higher, comes with different console positions, is a little more sensitive in terms of starting and stopping, etc. I also continue to be struck by the fact that the Camry has moved away from the "used bar of soap" model of car design--it's a little more angular and the body has more in the way of decorative ridges and grooves on it.

May 10, 2004

Climbing the charts

"For Mother’s Day, Jo Anne Barnhart, Commissioner of Social Security, announced the top baby names in the United States for 2003." And where, you ask, does Collin rank?


My single-L variant cracked the top 100 for the first time last year. But more interesting to me is that little stretch in '96-'97, where double-L actually sneaks ahead of single-L. My best guess? That's about the same time when country music star Collin Raye was hitting his peak, give or take 9+ months...

June 23, 2004

fun knee business

"The thirties is the time when the back gives out."

Fortunately, I wasn't stupid enough to post any sort of rejoinder about how my back's doing just fine, and me in my mid-thirties and all. Back in the day, I used to wreck my ankles every couple of weeks playing soccer or tennis (or ultimate frisbee in college), but that was quite a few years (not to mention pounds) ago. Now it's my left knee, and after hoping for two weeks that it would just heal up on its own, I've finally admitted my age to myself, and gone out and gotten a knee brace and a couple of ice pads.

And you know what? My knee feels so damn much better now. I've spent the last day re-learning how to walk without a limp, how to walk up and down stairs leading with alternating legs, etc. And that's after playing softball on it on Monday.

It's almost enough to make me forget my plan to switch over to bionics. Almost.

July 28, 2004

bad habits

a piece of my new homepage

How I know I am a geek: Whenever things start piling up, and I don't seem to have any spare time, somehow, I manage to free up about three hours for the most purposeless activities. Case in point: tonight/this morning, despite having more than enough to do, I decided to blow about three hours redesigning my homepage. And before you ask, no, I don't think I could be any more of a dork.

As you'll notice if you visit, the inspiration is drawn directly from Scott McCloud, whose Understanding Comics, Reinventing Comics, and 24 Hour Comics are all sitting on the shelf beside me. I may not have his talent, but at least I've got decent taste. The self-portraits were all generated at Abi Station, which I'll credit on the page itself soon enough. Also credit-worthy is Blambot, for the fonts that I futzed with in putting the page together.

August 11, 2004

What do you do?

My brother and his family stopped by Syracuse on their way to NYC, so I spent most of last night and part of the day today spending a little time with them. Anyhow, last night, at Pastabilities, I was sitting next to their youngest, Kate, who's six, I think.

Kate: What do you do for a job?
Me: I teach.
Kate: Do you teach big kids or little kids?
Me: Big kids, and sometimes big kids who act like little kids.
Kate: What do you teach little kids?
(brief pause)
Me: I teach little kids to fear me! (I shake my fist in the air here.)
Kate: You do not!
Me: You're right. I was so bad at it that they only let me teach big kids now...
Kate: What do you teach big kids?

and so on. I often feel like all I'm doing is pushing my students to develop their ideas, and sometimes I wonder if development isn't so much something that we learn as it is an ability that we forget as we get older and think we know more than we do. There is always another question, and I'd rather have to teach my students when to stop asking questions than trying to get them to start. There's more, perhaps, to development than simply anticipating possible questions and answering them, but even that can be a tough sell sometimes.

Continue reading "What do you do?" »

November 18, 2004


Growing up, I was pretty care-free, health-wise. There were some allergies that ran in my family, but through dumb luck, I never fell prey. I got the occasional cold, blah blah blah. All that changed when I lived in Ohio for two years--people warned me that they had nicknamed our little corner of the state Sinus Valley for the detrimental effect that it had on people's health. I don't know whether it was acid rain or what, but ever since then, I can count on Quarterly Sinus Reports.

Such as the one that's going on now, in roughly this order:

  1. Clog, where it feels as though a balloon is being inflated inside my head
  2. Drain, where it feels as though my head is being melted and poured down my throat
  3. Rasp, where that meltage cleans off the pesky protective surfacing of my throat, reducing my voice to a pale croak of its normal self
  4. Clog, where it feels as though (a) I've been kicked in the chest, and/or (b) elves are reassembling my head inside of my ribcage

Permeating all 4 stages, of course, is Ache, where it's so difficult for me to sleep that I inevitably locate the worst possible positions for doing so, thereby guaranteeing that my arms, shoulders, and back will punish me for the sin of motion during my waking hours. We're currently settled into stage 3, battling it fiercely with our comrades-in-arms Vitamin C, Ginger Ale, and Orange Sherbet. If we can make it through the night, we have it on good authority that reinforcements are soon to arrive in the form of Chicken Soup and Saltines, completing the 5 Food Groups of Sick.

The funny thing is that, other than the Ache, my body doesn't feel that badly. It's not as though I don't have normal energy--I'm not bed-ridden or anything. But ask me to focus for more than about five minutes? Not bloody likely. Ugh.

December 6, 2004

Anni-Vs. Blog

Now, I promised myself that, no matter what, I would avoid waxing tragic on the occasion of my birthday. Figuring that the easiest way to fulfill my promise was to simply avoid posting, I almost decided not to. Instead, though, I'll confine myself to a couple of observations:

I've been more conscious lately of how, when you're growing up, birthdays are an occasion to gather people together and to make a big production of things. At some point, for me at least, that sort of flipped. My plan today? Go see a movie, maybe get myself a new pair of kicks, and avoid the department faculty meeting. It's like the difference between freedom to and freedom from. Now, birthdays mean I get permission to avoid big productions and indulge my will-to-hermit.

And like BicycleMark, I tend to be very conscious of the old-man/nerisms that I've started to pick up. For whatever reason, I find myself drifting back to a mild Texas-ish accent from time to time (that's "tahm to tahm," for those of you keeping score). I've noticed that my identifications when I watch tv or see a movie have started to skew older--it's now harder for me to identify straight protagonist. I'm increasingly convinced that life is too short to care about every little detail. On occasion, I find that I'm all right with being the villain in someone else's epic, even at the cost of being the hero of mine. I'm still passionately in love with my own symptoms, at the same time that I quietly disparage others for their own irrational attachments. Blah blah blah. I'm not quite ready to roll my trousers and whine about peaches and mermaids, but I feel older today than I think I did last year at this time (tahm).

That is all.

December 12, 2004

Shopping List for the Temporarily Damned

4 cans, Campbell's Chicken N Stars soup
3 2-liter bottles, Canada Dry Ginger Ale
1 box, Original Premium Saltine Crackers
1 bottle, Pepto-Abysmal, Cherry

Repeat as necessary.

The blog eyes me suspiciously, but only for as long as it takes to hear my stomach continue its long stream of alien noises. I know that this is surely a failure of imagination on my part, but right now, it's hard for me to imagine a weekend much worse than one where my sole focus is on rehydration, at least when the dehydration is neither voluntary nor alcohol-related.

That is all.

December 31, 2004

Dear 2004,

I haven't been as attentive here towards the end as I know I probably should have. But then, my years always seem to end with more of a slow fade than any sort of big send-off. Blame it on circumstance--I always wait until after the turn of the year to leave Iowa, and as a result, I've never really celebrated NYE. Yeah, I know there was that one year in New York, but it was so cold we didn't end up seeing the ball drop. Fact is that if I weren't always awake at midnight anyway, I probably wouldn't bother.

At the same time, I feel like I owe you more than a disinterested shrug. I mean, this was going to be a pretty big year, an end-of-the-tunnel year, right? I did finish a draft of the manuscript, and got a start on a second one. That's pretty solid. I took a real vacation, physically and psychologically, for most of the fall. And it was my first full calendar year with this site--granted, momentum's fallen off a bit lately, but you can't complain too much about that. I honestly didn't believe I'd last more than about six months, enough to say I'd done it and that's all.

Subtract all of the run-of-the-mill, and what else did I accomplish? I'd like to think that I've gotten a little more reflective, in specific ways, and that perhaps I've even added some clarity where before I didn't have it. Most days, that feels like a good thing. I don't know that my life's changed as much as I'd hoped it would a year ago, but perhaps that'll give me enough incentive to change it more than I expect over the next year. Then again, who doesn't say that? How many years have I experienced where I've wished for less change?

Still, all things considered, not bad. Not bad at all. So long, thanks, and I'll see you round the corner.


February 14, 2005

There are days

There are days where I wish with all of me that I kept a pseudonymous blog.
There are days where the rules I set for myself, and not just here, keep me from saying what I should.
There are days where it all just seems uphill and getting steeper.

There are days where I don't have a lot of love in my heart.

And days where being dramatic feels better than being wise.

That's all. And here I thought that cranky was last week.

February 16, 2005

In Praise of Sloth

I want to pause for a moment, and express my sincerest thanks to all of those sites whose feeds I've aggregated and who have blogged only lightly in the past week or so.

It used to be that I worked pretty hard to keep my unread feeds in the double digits, which can be challenging when you're subbed to sites in the triple digits. Nevertheless, I managed it. This week, I neglected my Bloglines, and as a result, I'm closing to topping the 1000 mark in unread posts. And unread most of them will remain, I fear, although hopefully not unskimmed. I make no guarantees, however.

Thanks too to all who responded, publicly or privately, to Monday's little slice of toxic. I'm calmer now, although some of the underlying disappointment persists.

That is all.

March 30, 2005


And then there are weeks where the prospect of changing out of sweat pants is almost more than you can bear emotionally. There are all these things to do, and you have no idea where you might begin. There's that hill, and all those boulders, and you can't escape the feeling that every single one of them is rigged to roll just as you crest it.

It passes. It always does. You've been around this track often enough to know that there's an inevitable energy dip right around this time every semester, where the break was just long enough to get you longing for summer, where the distance between here and there is just long enough to encourage everyone into thinking that they can get just one more big project finished up (with your help, of course).

Invariably, April is paralyzing. Don't believe it? Check me out a year ago this Friday:

I must confess to having been more than a little depressed for the past couple of days. Whether that's the cause for my absence from cgbvb or a result of it, I don't know. I suspect a little of both. Work piled up, and I simply wasn't prepared (landing in Syracuse Monday night) to take on a heavy week of classes and meetings. At the end of the semester, it seems like every couple of hours adds yet another thing to the old to-do list, far faster than I can get things crossed off.

Ahhh, the good old days. That is all.

May 5, 2005

sync-o de mayo

Happy birthsday to Derek, Donna, Kenny B, and Karl. If our proposal gets accepted for next year's CCCC, I'll be on a panel with at least two of them.

On a completely unrelated note, I wanted to toss a link towards Matt Welch's latest article for Baseball Analysts, Watching Dave Hansen: Living Vicariously Through the Career of a Pinch-Hitter. More and more, this country has become a football and basketball nation, with baseball occupying this weird place that's part sport, part business, part mythology. Whether I'm watching games or not, and even if I'm focused on other sports at the time, I'm a lifelong baseball fan through-and-through. I know not everyone comes here for baseball updates, but Welch's profile is worth a read anyway. Hansen's the kind of athlete that I wish we heard more about, regardless of the sport.

May 19, 2005


Other than a long day tomorrow, and a handful of 711 projects still outstanding, the semester is done.

And partly in celebration, partly in hibernation, I'm going to be taking a 2-week hiatus from the blog, from my feeds, from my department, and so on. If you need to reach me, email is the most likely way. I'll be back on the SU campus during the last week of May, teaching a summer course, but until then, I'll be pretty scarce, and most likely enforcing a strict window on my online activity.

Happy Mother's Day, and I'll see you in a couple of weeks.

June 6, 2005


I know. It's hard to argue that I'm "back" from hiatus if I'm only posting once a week.

I've got tons of stuff going on right now, though, and much of it isn't especially bloggable, I suppose. One of the background processes that's taking up a lot of spare time is my upcoming pseudo-move. They're going to be working on my building in a month or so, and so my rental company is going to move me to another building for a month and then back (they'll be working on that other building after they're done with mine). And that means that I have to spend the next couple of weeks slowly dis-embedding myself from the space I've occupied for four years now. Ugh. And I don't even have a supernewbiggerbetter place lined up to provide a light at the end of the packing tunnel. I'm going to end up in the same damn place.

I will probably make some decisions, though, about how embedded I want to be upon my return. I've filled up about a dozen boxes so far with books that I'm mentally filing into long-term storage, and I'm doing what I can to be a little more willing to pitch the junk.

As happy as I am about that, it hasn't helped for this to be going on while I'm teaching another grad seminar, working on dissertations, getting CCC Online going, revising my book manuscript, etc. I assumed that my schedule would lighten up after the semester ended, and if anything, it's been even worse.

And the blog, it suffers as a result.

June 22, 2005

"None of us is promised tomorrow."

John wrote that exactly a month ago, in a post on the occasion of the 2-year anniversary of his blog, where he reflected on what he had accomplished over those two years:

In looking back, I think I've pretty well accomplished my central purpose, to document my work as a writing teacher in a large two-year college. I write from the context of 40 years of full-time teaching, with an annual course load of 8 classes, typically loaded this way: 5 first-year comp (150 students), 1 developmental comp (25 students), 2 elective courses, one in literature, one in linguistics (90 students), for an annual total of 265 students. Over that time, I also taught summer session about 80% of the years. What I have tried to do here is describe some of the day-to-day realities of teaching, service and professional development work that fits most of the people who teach college composition full-time, namely my community college colleagues.

I've also tried to address issues of theory and practice as they have been articulated by leaders in our profession through journals and conferences. And, frankly, I count myself as one of those leaders.

That post also made reference to the health problems that claimed his life yesterday, problems that kept him, over the last month or so, from posting at the prolific rate that he had established for himself over the last two years. This should have been a sign, I suppose, but John was also adamant about his blog as "a public place, not one where I will go into personal and private matters," and so I had no idea that his health was so precarious.

I can't say that I really knew John all that well, having only met him face to face in March in San Francisco, but of course I knew him better than that. Anytime I posted something critical of the field (and granted, it's not all that often), I could rely on the fact that he'd leave me a comment, not out of a desire to defend the field so much as to let me know that "the field" was listening. There are some people who do that, who listen so well, that it ceases to matter so much whether or not they agree. A lot of the time, it's enough to know that you're taken seriously.

And it was important to me (to many of us, I suspect) that John, whose experiences were vastly different from my own, took me/us seriously. Maybe that's why, even though I would be hard pressed to demonstrate that he and I were anything more than acquaintances, I feel like I've lost a good friend today. I feel like we've all lost a good friend today.

June 24, 2005

To Dance or to Coma, that is the question

Why aren't I dancing around my office, you might well ask?

Well, do you remember rain sticks? There is a shocking level of correspondence between the sounds that rain sticks make and the creaking coming from my limbs right now, the only difference being that the movement of my limbs is also accompanied by loud groans and moans.

You see, on Wednesday, the people in charge of my building dropped by to check on my progress (which was fairly substantial). I said that I'd be ready on Friday to move, and they told me that there'd be "some guys" coming by to "help me." Already I'm a little suspicious, because my understanding was that "helping me" had originally been defined as "moving my stuff for me, considering the colossal disruption that this process will have already had on my life." Alas. "Some guys" ended up being the property manager. I recruited Derek, and the three of us moved me from one building to the next.

So, anyway, I'm moved, and if I'm lucky, the ache in my body will vanish sometime in the next week. If I'm luckier, I'll find a comparably priced place to move to, since I'm boxed up anyway and less than pleased at the phantom "some guys" that may never have existed in the first place.

Why might I dance around my office, you might ask?

Well, I just picked up Nouvelle Vague, which bills as an album of bossa nova covers of new wave music. Think smoky French lounge covers of the Clash, Joy Division, XTC, Modern English, the Cure, Sisters of Mercy, etc. Très intéressant, si vous me demandez.

Ok. It's not really dance-around-your-office music, but it's kind of fun.

July 29, 2005

Girls don't make passes

The one thing that I wanted to do this summer with the "extra" money I received for teaching was to upgrade the old eyes. It's been 5 or 6 years since my last exam, and the prescription on my sunglasses was even older (and more fishbowl-inducing) than the one on my normal glasses.

So, Wednesday was Lenscrafters Day--my stepmom and I spent roughly 4 hours within the sphere of influence of the Crafters, from eye exam to trying on some of the ugliest things I've ever seen to the few minutes I spent seriously contemplating my options. The result is that I'm bespectacled much more trendily than I was last week, and I won't be getting headaches on the road when I switch over to shades. My eyes thank me.

my old glasses

These are the old ones, and when I say old, I mean it. When the finish starts to wear off, and the lenses start to permanently tint from age, if you're me, that apparently means that you have to wait three years for the next pair.

my new glasses

These will take a little while, even though they have the advantage of making my face look tanner. I'm still not quite used to the spaces where I no longer have lens to look through, and I still smirk a little at the trendiness of them, but I think they'll do all right. I didn't succumb to the temptation of glare resistant lenses, though, partly because I would have had to wait an extra 2-3 weeks, because I would have paid another $40 for the privilege, and mostly because I've heard that you can scratch such lenses just by thinking about them funny.

In other news, this weekend is the local Bix Fest, which includes all the jazz you could ever want to hear, as well as one of the best road races in the country. I've mostly been helping my mom get ready to sell her place--flyers, data sheets, etc.--and trying to do a little writing in those spare moments. I'll be here for another week or so and then it's the road once more.

July 30, 2005

For Sale

I forgot to mention the other day that we did finally get the online ad up for the house where I grew up. I can take credit for neither the pictures nor the text that accompanies them, although I did spend a little time taming some of the prose, and entering the more mundane data.

So...if any of you are contemplating a move to the ol' Quad-Cities, and are looking for a nice family home, act now! I have it on good authority that there will be a discount for regular Collin vs. Blog readers.

August 1, 2005

Happy Joe's

Kate, Matt, & Natalie

Happy Joe's Pizza and Ice Cream Parlor is a Quad-Cities institution. It's a regional pizza chain, and when I was growing up, it was the place to have a birthday party. Anyhow, when I was in junior high and high school, our family used to join one or two others for a weekly Sunday night trip to HJ. Needless to say, as kids started leaving for college, the tradition kind of fell by the wayside.

Last night we had something of a Happy Joe's reunion, even though most of the "kids" are still elsewhere. We took over a corner of the place with about 16 or 17 people, zipped through several large pizzas, and had a lovely time. The pic above (which links to the Flickr set of our evening) is of my sister-in-law's kids (my step-nephew and nieces?) Kate, Matt, and Natalie. Oh, and that's Happy Joe himself who's staring out at you from the menu. And the beverage cups. And the pizza dish. And the napkins. It's hard not to feel that Happy Joe is still watching me as I write this....

October 1, 2005

World enough and teeth

It's been a thin week here, not the least reason for which was the fact that I had my first root canal. Imagine my joy. In fact, it's really been a week or so since I was able to shove aside the excitement of my impending oral surgery in order to get some work done. And blogging has, well, suffered.

Here are the posts that you would have gotten to read this week, had I been able to write them. If you're lucky, and really really nice to me, perhaps I'll crank one or two out this weekend:

  • A much more elaborate read of Weinberger's "The New Is"
  • A TV rundown, wherein Alias, Lost, Prison Break, Invasion, and Threshold are considered
  • A response to the "pink locker room" scandal at the U of Iowa
  • At least one or two linked replies to stuff I've browsed but haven't been able to think about
  • A combination post where I praise LibraryThing, and talk about my upcoming appearance in NY (10:45 am)
  • An exhortation to brush one's teeth more regularly and effectively
  • A fond farewell to the MLB regular season

That's about it for this week. I'm pretty sure, had I not had mouth troubles, that this would have been my best week of blogging ever, so I can only apologize to all of you who have checked back daily expecting to see more than a couple of lame entries. Rest assured, though, that the pain you feel at your loss is a distant second to the pain I'm feeling. Really. Trust me.

That's all.

October 11, 2005


As you might gather from previous entries, it's rare that I offer unqualified praise for sites like the Chronicle. In fact, I'm a little behind in the sense that I haven't yet thanked CHE for publishing something sensible about weblogs (and by someone who actually knows about weblogs).

But leave it to Inside Higher Ed to publish something so brilliant and timely on the topic of technology. In their Views section today is a piece called Mirror, Mirror on the Web, and it's specifically about the relationship between print journals and the websites that mirror them. I don't want to ruin your experience of reading this modern masterpiece for the first time, but here was one of my favorite parts:

Although the quantity and quality of writing that I read online almost certainly differs from the scholarly reading I do, I would argue that the biggest change is that I practice reading differently. And this is a truth that, traditionally, disciplines in the humanities have been slow to accept. We are still prone to thinking of technology as something added to what are already substantial professional duties, instead of conceiving of it as a way of approaching those duties differently.

Oh. My. God. The amazing thing about this is that I was just thinking this very thing not more than a couple of weeks ago. This writer has absolutely nailed it. And in what is perhaps the most impressive part of the piece, he goes on to explain how he's trying to make this insight concrete in the form of the journal website he's editing.

All I can say is Wow. But don't take my word for it. Go read it yourself, and take its insights to heart. This could be the opening gesture for a radical transformation of the academy as we know it.

Really. It's just brilliant. Brrrr-illiant. That is all.

October 26, 2005


The peoples, they sometimes ask me, "Collin, we know that there's no way that we will ever be able to achieve the level of encyclopedic, dictionarious smartitude that you yourself display on a daily basis, but if you were to imagine for a split second that such an impossibilistic transformulation might be achievocated, where would you suggest we begin?"

My answer is a simple one: cryptic crosswords. At the back of Harper's and the Atlantic every month, you'll find cryptic crosswords--they're crossword puzzles on steroids. Each clue is itself a puzzle, and often even placing the answers into the grid requires a little extra as well. Here's an example clue: this month's Harper's puzzle, 5 down: "Put new flavor in substance mess." "Mess" is the synonym for the answer, and the rest requires you to put "new flavor" (N+TANG) into "substance" (ELEMENT), arriving at ENTANGLEMENT. Simple, right? Every clue is like that. Much of the time, I have to let clues sort of sink into my subconscious, where the rules for doing things with language are a lot more fluid. I'm usually better at solving them late at night for that reason.

I'm feeling in a bragging mood today, because I completed this month's puzzle much more quickly than I normally do (and during the day no less), suggesting that perhaps my genius biorhythms are beginning to peak for the month. Usually these puzzles take me upwards of a week, and that's when I manage to finish them, which I do probably only a third of the time.

So that's the "achievement" part of my title. I'm also in a decent mood because today was the final step in the dental cycle that included drilling, scraping, a root canal, and finally, today, a more or less permanent crown. I didn't fully realize, I don't think, how much dread both preceded and accompanied this process, a fact that became clear only as that dread lifted.

So yeah, it's not been a bad day.

November 8, 2005

The opposite of silver lining

I've come to the conclusion that there is only one thing worse than having your dental work take longer because you are bleeding, and that's having your dentist tell you this in an accusatory tone, as though you were bleeding intentionally.

Don't get me wrong. I understand that there are things that I can do over the long term to cut down on gum sensitivity (i.e., abuse them gradually to inure them to the abuse that they might take in the dentist's office), but there's not a whole lot I can do when I'm under the drill.

I'm just sayin.

November 16, 2005

Who's your uncle?

Last night, at around 8:15 I think, my nephew was born at a healthy 9.4 lbs. I won't actually meet young Patrick for another month yet, but if some pictures happen in my direction, I'll be sure to post them here...

Congratulations, Tom & Jen!

November 17, 2005

Small consolation

winter arrives at SU

I hear tell that this is perhaps the latest we've ever gone before our first "hard" frost/snow, but really, that's small consolation when it was in the 60's two days ago, and tonight I had to sweep snow off the car before driving to the store.

Ah well. I do live in the north, and it's not like this is the last snowfall I'm likely to see this year/month/week. I can't really complain, except to note that it always takes me a few days of sub-freezing temps to get used to dressing for it properly and steeling myself sufficiently when I go outside.

No real Lost commentary this week. While I appreciated the backstory for the Tailfolk, it was a lot of time compressed into the episode, and I didn't feel like we got much. There was a different Dharma logo (an arrow instead of a swan), and a hint about the U.S. military. I'm looking forward to next week, when the two groups of castaways finally interact--I hadn't really realized how long it had been since we'd seen some of them...

November 20, 2005

A girl after my own heart

Met up this afternoon with Douglas, Enslow, and Marlo, who were in town over the weekend for a bridal shower. First time I'd met the latter two--Douglas and I were compatriots at the Arlington School back in the day. I tried to see them last month whilst I was in NYC, but my trip coincided with Marlo's birth.

Anyhow, we met up at Starbucks, and spent a nice hour over coffee & tea, and the entire time, despite the yammering of parents and friend, despite the bustle of a campus coffeeshop, and despite the music that's always pitched just a little too loud in the Bucks, Marlo slept like an angel. D & E will look back upon these days with fondness in the months ahead, as I'm sure she won't always sleep like that, but for now, I was pretty impressed.

That's all.

December 5, 2005

Who's feeling old?

I spend roughly one week of any given year contemplating my relationship to time, calendars, and age. For me, it began on Saturday. I woke up a little earlier than normal that morning, and zoned in front of the television, taking in what felt to me like pretty sparse programming. VH1's "Top 40 Videos of 2005" seemed like as good a choice as any.

You might think that I'm about to wax nostalgic about how I used to recognize most of the videos and/or artists on such a show, but in fact, I'm not. I still recognize most of them, and while I don't consider myself particularly attuned to the pop scene, I do still keep an ear open now and again. Instead, I want to talk about the show itself. In most cases, we got maybe 10 seconds of video, and then 2 minutes of random J-list celebrities (including a disproportionate number of unemployed comedians) literally explaining the videos to the audience.

Here's my question, which betrays my age, I fear: on what planet are there people who want to watch random pseudo-celebrities explain music videos to us rather than just watching more of the videos themselves? It's not like videos are a genre given to excessive narrative intricacy in the first place--I certainly don't need someone to explain them to me. It's as though Exposition has been elevated to the level of programming.

Maybe I'm just being curmudgeonly. I'm allowed, given that tomorrow I begin a year-long transition from my mid-30s to my late-30s.

That is all.

December 6, 2005

On this day in history

The Irish Free State is declared (1921)
Kitty O'Neil sets a new women's land speed record (1976)
Comedian Steven Wright is born (1955)
The US gov't standardizes the size of license plates (1955)
Agnes Moorehead (Endora on Bewitched) is born (1900)
A federal judge rules that Ulysses is in fact not obscene (1933)
The Great Halifax Explosion! (1917)
Ira Gershwin is born (1896)
Orange County goes bankrupt (1994)

And for good measure, on my own 25th birthday, Elián González was born in Cuba (1993)

Just so's you know.

December 20, 2005

Five Holiday Treats Appearing on a Gift/Plate this Season

  1. Chocolate Crinkles

  2. Golden Cookies

  3. Holiday M&M Cookies

  4. Homemade Toffee

  5. Peppermint Bark

It's mostly old standbys this year, as arriving in Iowa last Friday night doesn't leave me with loads of time for baking. But baking I've been doing, with more to come.

The house I grew up in is finally sold, and so this is the last holiday that I'll spend in this kitchen. It's been a little bit of a challenge, because most of the kitchen gear is sitting in boxes at the new house, and I've had to make do a little more than usual, including a supply trip for new cooling racks, sifter, spatula, pan, etc. And that trip included the obligatory encounter with someone who was astounded that I do the baking 'round here.

Oh, and I think my wrapping's done for the most part. Not bad at all.

December 31, 2005

Collin 3, Winter 0

I must say that I never realized just how many "Icy Pavement Zones" there are in between Syracuse and Binghamton, and I would have continued in my ignorant bliss but for the fact that it was night, there was a light snow drizzle, and it was about 25 degrees.

Despite the adrenalin rush that this weather prompted, the drive was pretty easy, as I completed the 3rd of my 3 holiday legs without incident. In fact, driving to the store today, I encountered more snow in that brief trip than I had over the 2000 miles (and change) that I drove in the last few weeks.

And now I can begin the year-long process of steeling myself for next year's MLA. Unlike this year, where we had no one on the market from Syracuse, it's possible that we'll have as many as 7 or 8 next year, and so I'll have other duties to attend to, in addition to any potential interviews that I might have (up for tenure = on the market).

All in all, from the perspective both of a potential interviewee and the chair of our program's Placement Committee, it was probably a good thing for me to be there this year as part of an interview team. You never "forget" the experience, but it doesn't hurt to freshen up the memory...

Oh, and a happy new year to all...

January 10, 2006

Best. Gift. Ev0r.

Rather than placing my various gift-givers in competition with each other, I thought I might simply compete amongst myselves, and tell you all what the best gift I gave myself for Christmas was. And yes, I got myself more than one, and yes, the gift I have in mind is the best despite the fact that one of them was a new television (replacing the one I bought me when I got my first job 8 (!!!) years ago).

boetje.gifThis reflection is prompted by the fact that yesterday, I got online, and bought myself a gift box containing a six-pack of 8.5 oz. jars of mustard. Specifically, I bought myself Boetje's Stone Ground Dutch Mustard, and if I do say so, it is the best mustard known to Collin.

Shall I tell you of a quest for the perfect mustard that began some 20 years ago, when I left home for college and left the supply radius of Boetje Foods? Shall I tell you of my disappointment with the Grey Poupons and the stone ground German, Polish, and American mustards? Shall I wax nostalgic for the days when I could spread Boetje's on a sandwich or between a cracker and cheese, and it would evoke just the right combination of mustardy goodness with sinus-clearing, eye-watering spice? Shall I recount for you the number of sandwiches I've eaten in the past week, simply because I brought a jar of Boetje's back from the Quad-Cities with me? Shall I sing you for you the parody of the old Judy Garland song "I'm Just Wild about Harry" that I sing every December, wherein I announce that "I'm just wild about Boetje's"?

Okay, maybe not. But I kid you not when I say that I've tried every mustard I could lay my hands on, and never found one that I like half as much. As dorky as this entry may seem, the fact of the matter is that if I had to name a favorite condiment, this would be it. And while the absence of Boetje's never stopped me from eating a sandwich, its presence will make a condimental difference in my life. Okay, I just wrote that sentence so that I could use the word "condimental."

Maybe it's the nostalgia of putting it on crackers and cheese at my grandparents' house when I was a kid (and figuring out how much I could put on before it would make me cry). I don't know. But as goofy as I felt yesterday ordering jars of mustard online, not to mention talking about it now, believe me when I say that I'll thank myself for it in a few days...

That is all.

January 13, 2006

The City of Lost Nail Clippers

For another change of pace, I thought I might detail Something That I Bought Myself Over the Break That Doesn't Really Qualify as a Gift. Specifically, I purchased what may very well be the first of 20 or 30 nail clippers this year.

You see, while I know my apartment pretty well, having lived here for close on five years now, there remain parts of its geography that are still a mystery to me. One such is the City of Lost Nail Clippers, the place where each nail clipper I purchase retreats after one or two uses. This City, I have come to believe, has passed particularly liberal emigration policies, policies that are irresistible to each subsequent nail clippper I buy and bring home.

Once, I bought a nail clipper on the way to school, and managed to keep it in my office for close to two or three months. Somehow, it got into my bag, though, and soon joined its compatriots in the city.

And sometimes, when I'm feeling particularly stubborn, I like to imagine that someday soon, I'll just let my fingernails grow to epic proportions, give up typing altogether, and refuse to cut them until at least one of my nail clippers returns to my medicine cabinet.

In the meantime, though, I suppose I can't begrudge them their City. Their needs are few, as far as I can tell, and they're not interfering with my life other than the occasional bother of an extra 89 cents at the convenience store.

January 16, 2006

A Time to Freeze, A Time to Cry

I have to keep reminding myself to simply be thankful for the temporary warm snap that pervaded upstate NY last week. If I don't, I fear that I'll find myself more bitter than normal about the single-digit weather that we had last night. In roughly 48 hours, the temperature dropped almost 60 degrees, disproving once and for all the idea that we live in a zone that even remotely resembles temperate.

So it was a good weekend to stay inside, and inside I stayed, only to see the two teams I root for (Colts and Bears) stink it up. I feel a little better about the Bears, because they just hit the wall after having overachieved this season. The Colts, though, looked a lot more human than they were supposed to. The best observation I heard on ESPN was the fact that the Bears actually outscored the Colts, and I can't imagine what the odds on that would have been.

Classes start for us tomorrow, and while that might be cause for sadness for some, I'm not teaching this semester thanks to my various administrative responsibilities. Of course, thanks to those same responsibilities, I've basically been "at school" since last Monday--I had meetings every day but Friday. "Course substitution" doesn't sound as appealing as "course release," but really, it's the former that I've got. And as is sometimes the case with said "releases," it's not unusual to get a semester's release for what is effectively a year round task. Without sounding too much like I'm complaining, I hope, I will simply observe that there is a certain amount of this "release" that was earned last fall, believe me.

So, welcome back everyone. Here's hoping that we all have semesters that are productive and rewarding. That is all.

January 30, 2006


Okay, I don't spend a whole lot of time attending to my telephone, so I don't have a great deal of prior events to compare this to, but this phone message, received at 10 in the morning or so on Sunday, is definitely one of the oddest I've ever gotten. For those of you not inclined to listen to the mp3, here's the transcript:

[breathy voice]
Hey, Collin.
How are you?
We had a great time last night.
If you want, you can still call me back, at XXX-X901.
I know it's exactly the same number as yours.
Coincidence, huh?
Almost the same anyway.
I wanna hear from you soon.
Call me back, baby.

Umm. Okay. One of three things happening: either someone is giving out my name and number, someone's having a little fun with me, or someone's having a little fun with the person whose number is only one digit away from mine.

If this was really a person who knew me, then they'd also know that my Saturday nights are much more likely to be spent working in my office (which is where I was during our "great time together" last weekend) or in my apartment. And since my less-than-great times don't involve me waking up before noon on a Sunday, what makes her think that I'd be available at 10 am after the alleged great time?

Really, I'm almost flattered that someone would bother. Almost.

February 26, 2006

Bitter cold and the snow equals crazy wintricious


Okay, so it's not as bad as all that here today, but it's steady enough and ongoing enough that the roads never quite get clear, and it freezes when it hits the windshield, and when it comes down to it, after my fender bender a couple of years ago, I don't push it if I don't have to.

Worse comes to worst, I can always trudge up the hill to the RiteAid for some Mr. Pibb and some red vines.

March 7, 2006


I'm only mildly tempted by the prospect of listing out all of the things I have left to do before I can leave for my annual combination of spring break and CCCC with a clear conscience. Presumably I'll have to do it eventually, but for the moment, I need a day or two to recalibrate the instruments. It's been a long last several months for me, involving a great deal more coordination and event planning than I'm used to doing, and as a result, I'm feeling pretty drained, along multiple dimensions.

Perhaps some of them will air in this space, as I get a handle on them, but the handling is part of what daunts me. Right now, blogging in any serious fashion appeals to me much like sleep appeals when I'm exhausted beyond the ability to sleep, if that makes sense.

So expect it to be both intermittent and potentially light here for the next couple of weeks. I'll certainly get back to bangin out entries once I roll into Chicago, but in the interim? We'll see.

March 10, 2006

5 signs that spring is coming

1. Puddles on the sidewalks, made conscious for me primarily by the fact that the sole of my right shoe is cracked and thus soaked my right sock for much of the day.

2. Faculty, staff, and students in the Writing Program huddled around the radio in the main office today, living and dying with each shot in today's overtime thriller.

3. The ghost town that the SU campus becomes, two full days before spring break actually begins (one colleague reported 5 of 20 students showing up for a noon-ish class).

4. Sinus headaches that ebb and flow with the earth's tides, signalling a change in local atmospheric pressure (could be worse--I used to get 4-day nosebleeds).

and most relevantly,

5. Difficulty sleeping, as opening the window is no longer sufficient to counteract the unadjustable, 80 degree steam heat that literally toasts me (to the delight of moisturizer manufacturers) every winter.

March 27, 2006

5 Post-CCCC Action Items

CCCC marks a turning point in the semester for me. Now that my travel is done, as well as some of the major programmatic thingamajigs (search committee, graduate admissions) that I worked to complete before I went to Chicago, it's time to turn my attention to weightier matters:

1. Technically, this should be item zero, since I'm going to take advantage of the excellent advice at 43 Folders to reduce my inbox to a smoldering heap of nothingness. The inbox crested over 1000 today, although the 500+ messages sitting in my webmail folder brought it into quadruple digits long ago. So: after a little work this afternoon, we have gone from 1000 messages down to 621. Look for updates as the week progresses.

2. My hair is too long and the weather's warming up. Hello, clippers!

3. Spring cleaning. My apartment may be the single most accurate analogy for my inbox that I can think of--I'm too scared to count, but there are lots of small, stupid organizing, packing, shelving, dusting, and cleaning things I can do to straighten out my living space. 30 minutes a day until I'm satisfied.

4. Get back into an exercise routine. Long overdue. Nuff said.

5. And finally, most importantly, daily forays into the revision process on my book. Until I'm done. April is the month of me. So forgive me ahead of time for light blogging, slow correspondence, other obligations, etc. Everyone and everything else is competing for #2 on my to-do list. Seriously.

That is all.

April 3, 2006

A new CCR student, Class of 2034

If you haven't already, get yourself over to EWM, and wish Derek all the best for his partner's pregnancy, and his progeny's impending birth.

Me? I'm entertaining myself coming up with the most outlandish names I can think of. Not only would Digby Ignatius Mueller have the advantage of acronyming out to DIM, but nickname-wise, I'd have the rare pleasure of calling him Diggy Iggy. That's the best I've got so far.

You got better? Do share...

April 18, 2006

Slow to reply? That's why.

I'm making what I consider to be excellent progress on one front this month, and that's the revisions to my manuscript. I'm still planning on having the whole thing new and improved by the end of the month, and with each passing day, that goal seems more and more realistic. I can't tell you how delightful it is to have a writing goal not only seem realistic but to be such. It ends up carrying its own momentum from day to day, and that's the way writing works best for me now.

The downside of this newfound productivity is that I'm being particularly mercenary about the rest of my life, only surfacing occasionally, and really, being pretty unapologetic for this. I trust that those of you reading this, and expecting something from me, will understand. After months of trying to squeeze my writing into a full-to-bursting schedule, and slowly feeling the clouds of an imminent tenure case approaching, I've simply reprioritized for a spell.

The blog, it understands, if begrudgingly.

More to today's point, I resurfaced briefly to attend the awards ceremony for the Graduate Education Award I received. I'll point to the picture when it's up, but I did want to mention that maybe the single most important thing about these kinds of award ceremonies to me is the fruit spread. Not that I can't go out and buy a bunch of fruit, but I tend to buy it one at a time, given that I live by myself. So canteloupe one week, grapes another, etc. Today, I got to load up my plate with a variety.

There's something vaguely unsettling to me about launching into an encomium on the fruit plate, but I'll leave it there. Let it stand as a reminder to anyone whosoever might think about inviting me to give a talk on their campus. A variety of fresh fruit could very well cover for a multitude of sins.

Just don't invite me to do anything this month. That is all.

April 25, 2006

The dreams are not your friends

I'll forgo any discussion of how wacked out my sleep schedule is--suffice it to say that I'm waking up for the day right now. Yesterday was a long day, a combination of my wonky schedule with some department obligations.

So I slept a little more than normal, and as often happens when I do, I did a little vivid dreaming. Not that this is strictly relevant, but for as long as I can recall, I've dreamt in color, and while I go through phases, I usually can remember dreams pretty well. My dreams also tend to be heavily synthetic, bringing together people, places, and issues from my whole life in odd ways. It's not all that unusual, for example, to find a colleague suddenly married to the junior high school bully, or whatever.

So last night, there were 2 main people besides me in my dream, one whose house I was visiting, and another who I was supposed to meet there and do something with. These two people, in addition to not reading my blog, to my knowledge have never met nor ever lived in the same city, but there you go. Anyhow, Friend 1 lived in a house-ish place, in the middle of a big city (might have been NY) that was the size of a city block, and had an interior park, which is where most of the dream took place. My visit coincided with some sort of office party that my friend was hosting, and so I spent the majority of the time having really awkward conversations with (mostly) people I didn't know (there were a couple of random people from other times in my life who miraculously worked at Friend 1's office, of course). As this was going on, apparently Friend 1 decided to ditch on the party, as I surface from one awkward conversation to find a bunch of the people, including Friend 1, gone.

And in the dream, this isn't a big deal, because Friend 2 is coming in a few minutes, and we're supposed to go out and do stuff. So there's some weird stuff that goes on with multiple showers, rooms within rooms, Escher kind of stuff, but everything goes fine. Then Friend 2 arrives, with 3 other unknown people in tow, and I'm invited to join them as 5th wheel on their double date. I go ballistic, and get into a really nasty shoutdown with Friend 2, and end up basically leaving. I'm not big on the walkout, but I have been known to employ it, and apparently here, I do.

I woke up not long after that, so at least I got some closure, I suppose. But the thing is that I woke up kind of angry at both Friend 1 and 2, and that's what makes me feel a little uneasy. I'm mad at them for stuff that I dreamed. And rationally, I know that there's no justification for how I feel, and it'll fade in a couple of days, easy, but still. I know pretty much what the dream is about, and I have a solid sense of what all is contributing to this kind of dream--I could even work up an educated guess about why Friends 1 & 2 were the ones my unconscious chose to express this stuff.

None of it quite dissolves the unhappiness I feel at 2 of my friends right now, right or wrong.

That is all.

April 27, 2006

Lunchtime wisdom

Over lunch today, Derek and I developed a new mantra. I have many of them, accumulated over the years, and each new one is like the click that I feel when I finish a crossword puzzle. It makes everything fit together just a little bit more. This may be an obvious one, but hey, we were pleased with it:

The opposite of good writing isn't bad writing; it's not writing.

That's all.

May 8, 2006

The Dreams They Have Told Me...

I woke up this morning at about 5 am, with what I can only assume was a caffeine headache. Dream-wise, I explained the pain in my head by imagining that I had gotten into a car accident. My fault, of course. But I also, for some reason, dreamed the first paragraph of a novel or short story, vividly imprinted on my brain, and written down at 5:01 for your personal edification:

Upon hearing of my presumed death, the good people of Laredo, Texas slaughtered several cattle in my honor. As they later explained to me, the thinking was that either the spirits would keep me company on my journey, or the smell of barbecue ribs would bring me round if I was still alive.

I have absolutely no explanation for these sentences. I don't know why I am presumed dead, I've never been to Laredo, and I have no especial fondness for the smell of ribs. All I know is that, at 5 am, this is what I wrote down.

That is all.

June 9, 2006


Sign #whatever of my advanced age is the fact that this year marks the 20th anniversary of my graduation from high school. It's been a couple of years now since I could legitimately say that I'd spent more of my life post rather than pre graduation, but this is one of the first times that I've reflected on such.

I'd thought about this a few times, but it didn't really sink in until I arrived in Iowa that there would be a reunion this summer for my HS graduating class. Fortunately, it won't be until the end of July, and I will be safely away. I say fortunately, mostly because learning this absolved me of any real decision-making process in the matter. I don't really want to go, but I was actually a little pleased not to have to make the decision.

There is a webpage (isn't there always?), and so I'm still debating whether to drop my URL on it. At the risk therefore of alienating or offending a potential visitor from the class of 86 at Central High, let me say that the debate is largely over whether I really want to dredge up old connections from 20 years ago. As old as all this makes me feel, the vast (vast!) majority of those 20 years was spent without any connection whatsoever to any of the people I graduated with. Despite the fairly large graduating class (close to 500, if I remember rightly), only a few of us left the state for college, and once I did, I was pretty much gone. I didn't see anyone from HS at college (which was only slightly larger than my HS), and out of sight, out of mind. You know. My yearbooks are still in a box somewhere in some basement, I guess, and I can admit a little bit of culturally-induced nostalgia--in other words, I know that reunions are Events, even though I'm not really interested.

I'm vaguely curious about perhaps 4-5 people, but I definitely have no interest in the Judgment or the Display that such Events inevitably entail. You know: Oh! What darling kids! Oh! What a wonderful job! Oh! Look at how much weight you've gained/lost/redistributed! Yeah, it's making me tired just typing that. And it's not like I'm not easily located via Google, if any of my 20-years-ago people wanted to find out what I'm up to.

Ah well. Mostly, I'm struck by the artificiality and the arbitrariness of it all. Accidents of geography and multiples of 5. If I knew for sure that Minnie Driver would be there, well, that'd be a different story...

July 31, 2006

Rhythm and Bass

Nobody asks me about how one should go about tackling large writing projects (such as the major revision of a book manuscript), and with good reason. I remember when I first began teaching writing, back in the Middle Ages, and one of the things that I talked with students about was the perfectly acceptable idiosyncracy of each person's writing process. Me? It's generally easier for me to write barefoot, for example. And there are certain types of music that I wouldn't otherwise listen to (really fast, fairly monotonous dance, for example) that seems to help.

Even though I advise people not to fall in love with their quirks, to the point where they are unable to write without fulfilling some arcane combination of steps, I must admit that my own romance with my procedural preferences continues unabated this summer. I've undoubtedly mentioned before that I'm best suited for a planet that rotates slower than our own does--for whatever reasons, I am consistently able to be awake for 18 hours and to sleep for 8. Unfortunately, this does not add up to 24, and so my waking/sleeping times slowly cycle through small issues like it being light or dark when I bed down or wake up. Were I able to simply move 2 time zones to the east each day of my life, I would be on a regular schedule. It takes me a little while to rev up my writing, but once I'm on a 26-hour schedule, and up to speed, I'm capable of really grinding it out--roughly 50 pages or so in less than 2 weeks, for example. Not earth-shattering, but bear in mind that I'm also just working for a pace that I can maintain.

The other thing I wanted to mention is that I've managed the latest version of my annual mix disks. Actually, there's a year missing, 2005, that owes its absence to a long ugly story of monitor crashes and stupidity on my part. I may try to recreate 2005, but probably not. I'll just tell people that there was no music released that year.

As I've mentioned before, I often feel compelled to apologize for the limits of my taste when it comes to music. Increasingly, I'm alternapop, with a little world, electronic, and obscure added in. If anyone's interested in having me burn this for them, drop me a note or leave a comment. Trades are encouraged, but certainly not required.

That is all. Happy Monday.

my 2006 mix

August 2, 2006


If it's good enough for Steve's son Dean, it's good enough for Isabel, too.


August 4, 2006


This is what my day looked like yesterday:

I was at the office overnight, writing, and left at around 5:30 am.
Came home, went to sleep around 6 or 6:30 am.
Woke up at 11:30 am, left the apt by around 12:15 pm.
Met with one of my RAs (I get 2 for CCCO) for the upcoming year at 1 pm.
Met with dissertation group at 2 pm.
Met with placement group at 3:30.
Worked with one student on homepage design at around 4:30.
Had my 6:30 appointment postponed, so
Went over to Derek's, where we waited for Ph to get home and showered after practice
Went for thai food at around 8, got back around 9:30.
Went back to the office and spent about 90 mintues cleaning up inbox, Bloglines, etc.
Got home just before midnight.

I want you to know that I described this day thusly, as I was deciding what to do after dinner: "You know, I think I'm going to take today off." The next time that someone tells you how lucky faculty have it, because they get summers off, I want you to remember this entry. My days are so chock full of workity goodness that a day with 5 appointments, a day where I don't get home until midnight, counts in my mind as "off."

So the next time someone talks about the lives of leisure that we lead, I'd appreciate it if you would wait until they're distracted, and then deliver a vampire-slaying, wrath-of-God headbutt for me. Really. I'd appreciate it.

That is all.

August 5, 2006

A superstitious, cowardly lot

Just ran out to the car to grab a book, only to discover that the recent cool-down has apparently also pleased our resident bat population. There's something more than a little spooky in seeing a bat fly at you and swerve at the last minute. It's kind of like trying to dodge an oncoming skateboard or bike when you forget that the best thing you can do is to stand still.

That, but with images of befanged vampire bats from bad horror movies flashing in your brain.

Criminals aren't the only ones creeped out by the bats. The BATS!!

That is all.

October 30, 2006

"Improved" might be a bit of an exaggeration

It's a bit slow for blogging here in the Brookeosphere. Not that I'm not writing, but most of it is targeted for other things at the moment.

One thing that I did do this weekend was to re-think my "homepage," which is less home nowadays than the blog itself. Some time ago, Spencer ruminated on the need for course websites, and I tend to wonder the same about homepages nowadays. Other than serving as a series of pointers to other content, there's not much that I have to say that a homepage can say for me.

Back in the day, I used to redesign it once a year and during the year, I'd be pretty faithful about upkeep on it. Now, though, I find myself more attuned to the slow and steady accumulation of the weblog, and I resist the all-at-once-ness that a homepage seems to require. Maybe over the next year or so, I'll (a) just install a bump and send people here, and (b) add some navigation for papers, my all-star posts, courses, etc. Because even the minimal upgrade work I did on my "homepage" seems like time better spent elsewhere.

That's all.

November 6, 2006

Pick a season already

Yeah, I know that this amounts to a blog entry about not blogging, but I have little to say tonight. We're currently enduring weather limbo, that stretch where the temperature swings wildly, sometimes as much as 40-50 degrees in the space of a day or two, and the pressure does as well.

What does this do for me? It turns my head into a rampaging ball of sinuses, makes it difficult to breathe, makes it difficult to sleep, and makes it difficult to think, much less write. So that was my day today, most of yesterday, and probably for another a day or two yet, unless the weather levels out a bit. And there's no telling.

In any other month, today would be a day I'd have just let pass by with commemoration. That's all.

November 9, 2006

Quiet reboot

I've been a little under the weather lately, as my sinuses are all but ruled by certain segments of the meteorological. So today, suffering only from a low-ebb headache, I took its edge off, and engaged in a little rebooting. Despite complaining about not having time to read yesterday, I made some time today to make a start on Marisha Pessl's Special Topics in Calamity Physics. And despite having a pile of stuff that needs whittling away, I took a nap in the afternoon.

Whenever I say that, my reflex is to add that afternoon naps help me make better use of the hours between about 10 pm and 3 am, hours which find me working probably 6 days out of every 7. I don't sleep more or work less than anyone else--I just distribute the hours differently from most.

Defensiveness is actually something of a good sign--takes energy for me to feel defensive (as opposed to indifferent). So maybe I'm turning the corner on this sinus stuff that's basically taken over my week.

That's a welcome bit of news.

November 16, 2006

So that's where my sweater was

Like it was yesterday, you remember my pseudo-move? The one where I had to move out of my apartment so that I could move back into it a month later?

Well, as it turns out, I had taken some shirts and sweaters to the cleaners, and not picked them up--no sense picking them up and giving myself even more to pack up, right? I forgot, however, that I did it, and I lost whatever ticket/receipt existed to remind me. Last week, the cleaners called me to let me know that my May 2005 (!?!?!) order was ready for pick-up.

So I got a bunch of shirts and a couple of sweaters yesterday. It was just like going shopping for clothes, except cheaper and except that I had to pay for clothes that were already technically mine. As someone told me, it was like breaking out the winter coat and finding a twenty in the pocket.

Oh, and as I was going back into my archives looking for the pseudo-move entry, I came across my favorite Photoshop job of all time, the Spuriosity. It still makes me laugh. And it occurs to me, if things get slow blog-wise around here that, instead of posting the results of my Google Image Searches, I could go back and nominate some Post-of-the-Month candidates from the archives. That might be kind of fun, in fact.

That is all.

November 23, 2006

Turkeys beware!

I don't have a great deal to add to yesterday's good wishes for the holiday today, although I would note that it's rare for me to be awake in time to see the beginning of the Macy's Parade coverage. I'm pretty sure that this is just a function of my jadedness, but I definitely don't remember the extent to which said coverage was infused with network promotion.

I mean, yeah, the Today show folks always do the NBC version, etc., but geez. Less than 15 minutes into the coverage, and we're meeting cast members from Heroes, and Al Roker demonstrates how difficult it is to remember the 6-word tag line from the show. Ah well. I'm sure that it was the same when I was growing up, only I wasn't cynical enough to notice.

May your own holiday be relatively free of corporate sponsorship. Check ya tomorrow.

November 24, 2006

Blake Friday!!

Shoppers, shoppers, burning bright
In the stores while it's still night,
What immortal want or need
Could spur this desperate show of greed?

Not a lot of clever coming across the television yesterday, with the single exception of the Ebay commercial reminding everyone that today is "National Sleep-In Day."

In other news, I've shut down trackbacks on the site, thanks to the concerted nuisance of our friendly sp4mm3rs, who have been plugging up my site with hung processes. Thanks, fellas, for making blogspace that much less friendly.

Happy Thanksgiven. That's all.

December 1, 2006

MiHiICPie, or, Why I Prefer Dark Sweaters

That's Mile High Ice Cream Pie: a precariously tall ice cream pie with mint chocolate chip ice cream, an oreo crust, placed atop a slick of hot fudge. That was the final course of last night's meal. I only made it partway through, and unbeknownst to me, a drizzle of fudge decided to spend more time with me than I'd planned, by draping itself in a thin line down the front of my sweater.

Normally, not that big a deal. But as it happened, this was a dinner for Kathi Yancey, who's up here for a couple of days consulting for us, and after dinner, I drove her back to her hotel, and we had a nice conversation in the downstairs bar (which was surprisingly quiet for a Thursday night). And I didn't realize that I'd dripped chocolate sauce on myself until I was getting out of the car after I got back home.

Fortunately, I'm pretty sure that wearing a dark sweater hid this fact from Kathi as much as it was hidden from me. And actually, honestly, who really cares? It's not as though we don't spill on ourselves from time to time. So even abnormally, not that big a deal. And how exciting must my December 1 be, if that's what I've got to report?

The whole reason I was even thinking about it today, though, is worth relaying, and that's that it's rare to get an uninterrupted hour for conversation, and one where the stakes are basically non-existent. We "know" each other as colleagues, but sometimes I marvel at how much I simply assume about people based on minimal exposure. We have so little time for plain old sociality, it seems, encounters that aren't governed by the customs of networking at conferences or behaving properly during campus visits or what have you. It's rare that we ever get the chance to just talk.

Even with fudge drizzled down the front of one's sweater. That's all.

December 4, 2006

Early Warning System


I was going to say that the first sign of winter's imminent arrival is the fact that, if you look closely at this picture, you can see the guideposts that have been installed at the various corners of the sidewalks. Because the snow gets deep enough fast enough that the snowplow drivers need help keeping track of the sidewalks on campus. Heh.

But really, the guideposts are the 3rd sign. The first is the gradual disappearance of the sun, and the snow itself is the second. They usually wait until after a couple of dustings to get the posts in place.

Anyhow, we've had some chilly nights over the past week or two, but this is the first day that's genuinely felt winterish. Won't be the last.

That is all.

December 6, 2006

Having come far enough along

Having come far enough along in the writing of this weblog, I find now that I am less interested sometimes in producing new™ and exciting™ content on a given day than I am in reading past entries for the particular day in question.

Case in point. Today, in search of a little birthday inspiration, I went browsing back back back, where I (re)learned what happened on this day in history, reflected on positive and negative freedom, and contemplated the artifice that is the birthday. Busy busy fella. And see, already, just in the process of recounting past birthday blogical triumphs, I'm all ready to rip out a big old birthday essay for your reading pleasure™.

Okay, so maybe not. But I will do more than backlink my birthday posts.

This is my birthday tale for this year. Back back back in the day, like high school back back back, I once knew a girl, a couple of years younger than I was. When you're in high school, though, calendar years are like dog years, and two or three years is like forever. So it would have probably been riding the fine edge of appropriateness at the time, I suppose, to admit that I had a crush on her. Not that it really mattered. Her family moved away, I moved on to college soon enough, and we lost touch.

Flash forward to the present day, where she's sitting at work one day, and decides to throw my name into Google and to see what pops up. This blog, among other things. And she sends me an email, I reply, and before you know it, I'm ringing in my day of birth with a three-hour phone call, where I learn about her marriage (and divorce), three kids, a life that's been even more nomadic than my own, and all sorts of stuff besides. I suspect she'll be reading this entry at work later today.

So the moral of my birthday tale is that, at a time in my life where it's felt like my ties have weakened in general, where I'm prone to pity over the fact that I'm cruising up on the "new thirty," and where I'd planned on "celebrating" by doing nothing in particular, I celebrated instead by renewing a friendship that I lost so long ago that I'd even lost the fact that it was lost. That's not too shabby, as far as gifts go, not too shabby at all.

So enjoy today; it's on me.

December 18, 2006

Wherein I continue to err on the side of the opaque

There are a few things that I might say, but for the moment, I'm going to keep quiet.

Except to note that, last night, my car was egged as it sat in front of my father's place (and we were at dinner). I was more curious than anything. Just one egg. I'd planned on getting the car washed anyway, given the grime of the long-distance roadtrip, so this has accelerated my timetable. Other than that, it's a decidedly minor event.

This is how I know I'm older: the number of activities that have (for me) no redeeming entertainment value grows annually. Thing is, I don't even care about having to clean off my car--it's no big deal. So I can't really muster any outrage over it. It just seems kind of stupid.

Ah well. Egg away, Iowegians.

January 2, 2007


In a month like the last one, which involved copious amounts of travel, last-minute planning, up-to-the-minute preparing, and general preoccupation, I sort of lost track of pop culture. It happens from time to time, the waxing and waning of the distance between me and the mainstream.

So here's what I want to know: at what point exactly did Rachael Ray successfully execute her plans for world media domination? I've got nothing against her in particular, and remember seeing commercials for her Food Network shows when watching other stuff, but now she's on network television, staring out at me from every section of the bookstore, and receives more raw exposure in my grocery store than most major brands. Flipped on the tv today to see Oprah stopping by for a slice of Pizzo (which I imagine is the Oprah-visit version of pizza), and it seemed a lot like O was just trying to keep up.

So tell me true, teh Internets, why is all my culture belong to Ray all of a sudden?

January 4, 2007

A Post-Holiday Recommendation

If you are like me, in that

(1) many of your holiday gifts come in the form of gift cards for certain oligopolistic bookstores; and

(2) you strongly believe that the best way to watch an arc-driven TV show is on DVD without commercial interruption;

then you should hustle yourself over to B&N. They are currently running a promo whereby you can get the 2nd DVD free. Not the 3rd or 4th, but the 2nd. And many shows are already on a 10% discount. That translated tonight to me getting 2 full seasons of 24 for approximately $13, post-giftcard.

And although I'm not in the habit of shilling for the big box book barns, that is not a deal to sneeze at, my friend. So if you need me, I'll be learning first-hand why being Jack Bauer's back-up is perhaps the single worst job in the world.

That is all.

January 20, 2007

Bleched too soon

Other than the first week of classes, and a swift reinsertion into the rhythms of the workplace, not much has been happening here in the past few. I spoke too soon about the incessant snow, though, as the two most chilling words in the Syracuse lexicon have held us in their grip for the past 48 hours or so: lake effect. Yuck.

When the temp drops, and the snow drops, needless to say, my motivations for setting foot outside the apartment drop in direct proportion. There hasn't even been much blogging to keep me company.

So it's early to bed, hopefully somewhat early to rise, and a Bears-Saints score tomorrow that's easy on my eyes.

More soon.

February 2, 2007

The Raw and the Cooked

I've been awake now for about 20 hours today. Had to be up early, with a couple of 2-hour sessions spread somewhat inconveniently across the day, and somehow, I missed my window of opportunity for healthy sleep-when-you're-tired sleep, and now, I'm cruising on the fumes of bleary-eyed, zone-out exhaustion. Rats.

One by-product of today's energy level was that my normally cooked self was a little raw in places, and when that happens, I don't filter my reactions nearly as much as normal. Without getting into specifics, I made a comment today in conversation that was one of those off-hand remarks, putting words together in a slightly different way, that both resonated in a foundational, soul-deep way and was probably borderline clinically depressed.

Yes, lovely. I don't feel any real regret over it--I certainly don't want to take it back--but I'm thinking that it would be easier to get to sleep tonight had I not forced myself to look at things differently today with that stupid crack. I'm not worried what anyone else thinks--in fact, I'm relatively certain that those who heard this remark didn't really notice it for what it was. But like a self-imposed earworm, it's returned to me over and over ever since.

Ah well. Maybe I can read a bit and push it to the side long enough to get some sleep. On the plus side, it's been a fair spell since I endured the full-blown, wheel-spinning insomnia, so maybe tonight will stay an exception.

And no, don't ask. The point isn't what I said so much as the fact that sometimes a thought gets lodged in between me and sleep, and sometimes a good navel-gaze is part of my strategy for dislodging it. That's all.

Good night.

February 12, 2007

Home again, home again

At least for a while, until CCCC in March. Another month, another secret mission, this time to the heart of the midwest. It's no secret, if you read last week's entry on Moretti, that said mission involved the presentation of ideas. A couple of people referenced my blog post in private, but I ended up not leaning on Moretti's work quite as much as I originally expected, so the question would have sounded a little decontextualized.

Ah, but this was Step #3 in my (toast)master plan to wean myself away from scripting my presentations, and it was perhaps my most successful step to date. I had a clock facing me from the back of the room, an hour for my session, and I started ten minutes late, due to some tech snafulery. I think I raced a little bit, but I ended up at 35 minutes, leaving a good 15 for questions, and it went pretty well from my perspective.

This time round, in part due to my own procrastination, I had to be briefer in the notes I was using. There were several spots where I just wrote down stuff like "Anderson - Long Tail - explain," trusting myself to say what I needed to. And what do you know? I think I did. You may think this a small triumph, but bear in mind that I've been doing this for more than ten years, and I have serious stage fright. To be able to tell myself to just explain something, in front of a group of mostly strangers, is a huge step for me.

The other thing that I noticed was that, rather than slipping off into the reading zone (where I start a paper and then don't notice anything until after I'm done), I was able to respond in some ways to facial expressions, so that if I needed an extra sentence to make something clear, I could do that. If no one seemed perplexed, I could move on. I'm definitely not perfect at it, but hey, actually remaining conscious and responsive during the presentation was a step in the right direction, methinks.

I had the chance to chat about the question of reading vs. speaking with someone there who's in a field where speaking is the norm. I tried out a little theory about why I at least have had to work hard at moving away from reading. I can't really speak for others in my discipline nor for other disciplines, but I began my graduate study at a time when there was a lot of emphasis on decentering teacherly authority in the writing classroom. The focus, we were told, should be less on direct instruction and lecture, and more on peer work and discussion. As someone who was pretty introverted already, this was an emphasis I could easily embrace. I don't really prefer to be the center of attention anyway, and so I was more than happy to decenter me. Of course, it's not that simple when there's grading involved, but that form of authority governed individual interactions rather than the classroom.

The point is that this kind of training, while it lent itself to my teaching style just fine, also left me rather underprepared to venture forth to conferences and speak confidently in a room full of colleagues without a script. I'd never argue that we should return to those halcyon days of yellowed lecture notes, but at the same time, I'm convinced that the shift away from "sage on the stage" styles has left us less able to perform well when we are on stages. I really admire those of my colleagues for whom this is not a problem, but I am most definitely not one of them.

Here's what I've done:

  • I track a few sites (Presentation Zen is my fave) that often contain advice for presentations, whether it's tips for engaging audiences, how not to prepare a Powerpoint/Keynote deck, or what have you.
  • I bought the Keyspan remote on PZ's recommendation, and so took some advantage of my gadget fetish to convince myself to try this.
  • I've been composing more in Keynote (and as I've given multiple talks, recycling slides from multiple sources has become easier), which helps split attention between me and screen (which helps me psychologically). Having roughly a slide for every 1-2 minutes also helps me pace myself.
  • I've tried to visualize speaking situations as I compose, which seems to help as well.
  • And maybe most importantly, I've tried to build up what I think of as a repertoire of 5-10 minute, modular talks, out of which I then compose longer presentations. Not only does that make signposting a breeze, but it keeps me from feeling like I'm relying too heavily on a long series of points that are tough to keep in mind as I work towards a conclusion. I start with an overview that explains how it's all going to fit together, and then I work through the pieces.

One compliment I got last week was that, each time a question was raised in this person's mind, the next slide or step in my talk answered it. This made me quite happy, as you might imagine. I don't think of myself as any great speaker, believe me, but I feel like I am improving visibly from one talk to the next. Confidence will do that for you, apparently. And I say all this not in an attempt to shame others in my field to weaning off of the script, but in the hopes that it might be helpful. As much as anyone, I understand the feeling of security that a script brings, not to mention the fact that you can "finish" a script, while I tend to tweak and tweak and tweak right up until the presentation without one. That's my next step, I think, to try and trust myself, keeping the tweaks to a minimum.

We'll see how it goes. In fact, we'll see how it goes come March.

That's all.

February 14, 2007

Snow day? Really?

I've been telling folks that the winter here has been a pretty mild one, when my personal metric, the number of times I have to shovel my car free, is applied. Hasn't happened yet.

That's about to change. We're looking at close to 2 feet today, I've heard, and the winds could get up to 30-40 mph later today. For the first time in 6 years, SU declared a snow day, canceling all events (inc. classes) that begin later than noon or so.

I don't expect to make it through the winter up here without a few such days, and today will not disappoint in that regard. So it'll be a hermitty day round these parts, maybe even a couple of them.

And in other news, happy HWP Day...

That is all. Stay indoors.

February 15, 2007

Fire vs. Ice

This is not exactly a weather entry, and most definitely not another "complain about the blizzard" entry. However, today's entry begins from the premise that it sucks to receive 2 feet of snow, 20-30 mph wind, and temperatures in the single digits.

On the plus side, I live in a building that is steam heated. Which means that I don't pay hundreds of dollars for natural gas every winter.

On the minus side, I have no control over the temperature generated by the giant steam pipe that bisects my apartment along the ceiling. In the winter, when it's particularly cold, the temperature inside can reach into the low 80s.

On the plus side, cozy. Tshirts and shorts.

On the minus side, if you've ever lived with steam heat, you will know that it is not unlike living in an oven. Or underneath a rest room hand drier.

On the plus side, I sleep with a humidifier at one end of the room and often open my window at the other. The window's old, but I have four different items that I wedge in it to let in varying degrees of cold.

On the minus side, I'm a very warm sleeper. Which is fine when the heat goes off at around 4 am, but makes it really hard for me to get to sleep (dry skin, itchy, heat, tossing, turning, insomnia) unless it's decently cool.

On the plus side, I can usually open the window early enough to cool the apartment sufficiently.

On the minus side, my building is next to a big driveway/multi-car garage. Whose owner takes some delight, I've discovered, in trying to bury our building in snow. My apartment extends below ground level, and so my windows are particularly easy to bury.

There is no more plus side. If I open the window enough, as I did last night, I end up with wind, snow, and eventually soaking wet (and cold) carpeting. Also, the books. The books!

All of which is to explain why tonight, when I go to sleep, in the dead of winter, I'm probably going to have to waste money by turning on a fan.

(And that doesn't really help with the whole dry skin thing. Nor with my mood.)

That is all.

February 23, 2007

Chains of love

It's one of those weeks where my waking moments are filled with thoughts best left unblogged, for any number of reasons. But I've been meaning for the past couple of days to link to an entry over at Tim's joint. He's speaking mostly about the whole Edwards campaign kerfuffle, but for a paragraph, he references a conversation over at Laura's about whether or not she planned to continue blogging. It motivates some reflection on the double standard operating in some folks' conceptions of blogging. On the one hand, they want what happens in blogspace to matter in the larger world; on the other, they don't always seem to want to be held accountable by that larger world. But I was especially interested in the finally paragraph (gently pruned for your consumption):

This is not just about blogging: it’s about history. The more you write, the more your writing is both burden and expectation, a second self whose permission is required before you do something new–or whose betrayal is necessary should you wish to be free of your shadow....When I write it–even in a blog–it has, and ought to have, some greater weight. If that weight becomes like Marley’s chains, forged in life, it’s up to me to do the hard and complicated work of unlocking, not to complain that what I wrote was read.

I mentioned in the comments thread at Laura's that she'd articulated something that I've been experiencing lately as well. And I think that it's that notion of what I write here as a second self. When I'm feeling especially transparent, the blog doesn't feel all that separate from what I do. I don't feel like I have to police it for polysemy, worrying about whether or not what I say will be taken up in unintended ways. Which isn't to say that it's weightless--I hope that there is some weight to what I write, at least on occasion. But when it becomes a second or a third self--if my private and public meat/selves are the first two--it takes me that much more energy to tend to it. And that much self-maintenance can wear me out after a while. Right now, I'm feeling that fatigue. Part of it's the weather, part of it's the time of the year, and part of it's just the junk that happens.

What prompted this entry tonight was a conversation with D about last night's ep of Lost, which didn't jazz me quite as much as the week before. I'm worried that the writers of that show have decided not to "do the hard and complicated work of unlocking" their narrative, opting instead for more plot, more characters, and more distractions (assuming that Jack's tattoo was one of the "big mysteries" solved last night), and hoping that those of us who loved the show through the first two seasons will simply let it slide. Lost is no longer the must-see it was for me those first two seasons, and while I'm willing to ride it out a while longer, I'm beginning to feel a bit betrayed by the fact that I've watched regularly, closely, and with interest. I wonder how much the writers are longing to be free of the shadows of those first two seasons.

That's not to compare my humble blog to a show like Lost. But I had a much more concrete sense after that conversation of how even a labor of love can begin to feel like a unshakeable shadow. That's all.

And that's really all I have to say tonight.

March 7, 2007

What's SUp

I haven't exactly kept to my promise to blog my job search this year as openly as I thought I'd be able to. Frankly, the prospect of figuring out with each entry how much I could say and how much I should hold back made me tired just thinking about it. And as a result, I haven't been particularly forthcoming.

But a couple of emails today reminded me that, given that my search this year is over, I can and should probably provide some info. If you're given to reading between the lines, you will have noticed that my "How" piece from a couple of days ago included a link to an Amazon list for a course at Syracuse this fall, implying pretty strongly that I will indeed be at Syracuse this fall. Let me make that implication explicit: without getting into details about who, what, or where of my search, I've decided to stay at Syracuse for the time being. I'm happy to speak privately about the details of that decision, but I'm not of a mind to blog about it, because it involves other people and institutions, obviously.

One thing I thought I might mention, though, is that I was a little surprised this year by the number of folk who were themselves surprised that I was on the market. If I had my way, this is something that every graduate student in the field would be taught. I went up for tenure this year, and while my department has been incredibly supportive, perhaps the single most important fact about tenure, for the candidate at least, is the following:

They can say no.

Having gone through a period of my life where I did not know if I would have a job as soon as six months in the future, I am not anxious to experience that particular abyss again. Tenure is indeed a delightful form of job security, but it is also a referendum on whether or not you will retain your job; it's quite the all-or-nothing proposition. If the institution does indeed say no, you have one year to find another job, your lame duck year, if you will. However, you must spend that year on the market, and more importantly, you must spend it as a junior-cum-senior candidate who was denied tenure by your present institution. Anyone who honestly believes that this fact doesn't color a search committee's impressions of you, please raise your hand. (Now, if your hand is in the air, please smack yourself in the head with it.) Now I know people who have overcome this particular vote of no confidence, and I know places where that vote was less than warranted. Neither of these things changes the fact that you have effectively been fired, and that you will have to explain yourself to everyone who gives you a second glance.

The alternative is going on the market while you are going up for tenure. If you are qualified for tenure, that means that you have spent several years making yourself look as good as possible; furthermore, you have gathered together all the same materials that you would for the job market, your colleagues have written letters on your behalf already, and all of the criteria by which you will be deemed tenurable are the same that other institutions will use to deem you employable.

It takes a great deal of time and energy to search for positions, but much of that same time and energy is expended on things like 3rd year reviews and tenure reviews. So it makes sense to put that work to the dual use of a search during your review. But more importantly perhaps, it makes sense to protect yourself against the possibility that you will not receive tenure.

And maybe even more crucially, it's important to understand that, in the final analysis, you have almost no control or power over your colleagues' review of your record. You are not present when they discuss your case, you don't see your outside letters (at SU, at least), nor do you really have access to the process itself, beyond preparing your materials. From a psychological perspective, testing the job market waters gives you some measure of control over your future, and that's a pretty welcome thing in the face of a tenure review. It makes sense to put yourself in a position to be able to make some of your own decisions about your future, at a time when a bunch of folk that you don't know are also making decisions about it for you.

I suppose that it's fair to ask whether it was worth all the extra hullabaloo, just to end up back in the same place I was when I started, but I think so. I got to spend time with friends, meet a lot of new people, and if nothing else, I gave two job talks and one at MLA without reading from scripts. I was more confident and relaxed about myself professionally than I've ever been. And I couldn't say any of those things if I'd spent the last four months fretting about tenure. Or just fretting about tenure, I should say.

That's all.

March 13, 2007

If Tuesday began with the letters CSH...

Then I could tell you that those letters stand for "crushing seasonal headache." The news round these parts is that the temperature reached into the low 60s today, which has been good for The Melt, but bad for My Head. When seasons change, the corresponding shift in pressure typically renders me unable to focus for 2-3 days at a time, bringing with it dull, throbbing headaches of the sort that quite literally make my eyeballs sore. Needless to say, sleep becomes something of a chore, rivaled only by the effort that goes into being awake. Not the happiest of times.

I've been giving some thought to the presentation I'll be giving at CCCC this year. Inspired in part by last week's snarky little entry, which itself prompted me to add "snark alert" to my categories, I've been dialing back my expectations for what I'll accomplish in this presentation. It's hard, having been working on CCCOA for two-plus years now, to imagine that there aren't folks in our field who remain unfamiliar with it, and yet, my guess is that this is actually a fair description of most folks in our field. The speed of change in the 'sphere--and on the net more generally--outpaces that of the run-of-the-mill discipline, perhaps exponentially. And so, what I think I need to do in my talk is to actually introduce the site and what it contributes.

Right now, I'm thinking of an unofficial subtitle for my talk that would be something like "13 Ways of Looking at a Journal." Mostly it would be an introduction to the site, running from the most basic and obvious features to some of the trickier stuff we've built into it, and finally to a couple of disciplinary questions that a site like this can provide us the evidence to work on.

I've been thinking about this a little harder after seeing Tim Burke's post about what he describes as "search as alchemy." To wit,

But there are other times where I want search to be alchemy, to turn the lead of an inquiry into unexpected gold. I’m hoping that the rush to simplify, speed up, demystify and digitize search doesn’t leave that alchemy behind.

It seems like such an obvious point to me, that academic search functions in much different ways than "regular" search, but what's come clear to us over the past couple of years is that we need to figure out better ways of getting the word out, to make the case that CCCOA is a site for search, yes, but also a site of invention. I think that message is both clear and obvious to many of you, my fair readers, but to the field-at-large, it still needs saying.

So I think that's part of what I'll be saying next week.

April 8, 2007


I need to get a-typing, if I'm going to meet my goal of reaching the 1000-entry plateau this summer. These entries won't write themselves. It's been a light first week, for various reasons. One of the biggies, though, is that I think I'm getting a little touch of arthritis in my right hand, which suggests to me that I need to rethink my current approach to mouse usage. It hurts when I type as well, but I think that my mice are curving my hand in a way that my knuckles aren't pleased with.

Anyhow, enough of the whine. One thing I wanted to note this week was Donna's entry about Jason Jones' interview with Steven Johnson. I'm a big fan of all of SBJ's books, but Ghost Map is one that I keep meaning to review (and in more detail than my discussion of it here). But the funny thing about Donna's entry was that I felt a little exposed. Not in any dramatic fashion or anything. But when she notes

Ah ha! I thought. So now I get the connection among many of the things Collin blogs about: Moretti, Johnson, and Latour, too.

I feel a little like I've had a secret made public. I'm not ashamed of my influences--far from it, in fact--nor of the fact that I have influences. We all do. But it's strange to have them named like that, the texts that recently have resonated with me and with each other. One of the things we do as academics is to assemble our own private bibliographic networks, and inevitably, the texts we value most highly drift towards the center of our network, and become the default frames that we bring with us both to subsequent reading and our own writing.

And interestingly enough, we don't always pay attention to each other's networks. Sure, every couple of years or so, there's a thread on a discussion list about the disciplinary desert island books, but even those threads ask us to represent the discipline. I would guess that most of those books/articles have very little to do with us personally. Moretti, Johnson, Latour, and others affect the way I see the world academically, but none of their works are rooted primarily in my discipline. I wonder from time to time about my colleagues' networks, and about what it would tell us about each other if we could generate and share an honest "cloud" of our influences.

It makes me curious to go back and assemble all of my bibliographies (the way that Derek did with coursework a ways back) and to see if there are patterns that I can detect. Are there thinkers I rely upon unconsciously? Probably. But for the moment, I'm going to pursue the various angles that writers like Moretti, Latour, and Johnson supply me, because I'm not close to done with them yet.

That is all.

April 27, 2007

Back awf

I'm thinking of setting up a separate category for "Why I haven't blogged in 5 days." Unfortunately, that category would be getting the majority of entries lately. I'm not a big one for weather blogging, but in the last two weeks, it has gone from 30s and snow, to 80 degrees a week later, to the low 40s two days later, to almost 80 two more days later. The yo-yo of temperature and pressure is having its way with me a bit, I fear.

More to the point of this week, though, I woke up on Monday practically unable to move, my lower back having decided to warn me about the sub-par seating arrangements in my apartment. 4 days, heating pads, and a bottle of Aleve later, I'm mostly recovered but still very conscious of sitting in the same posture for too long. It's not been the best part of the semester for this, as you might imagine, what with classes ending this coming week.

And really, I don't have much more to say tonight. I need to try and get back here a little more regularly, but it's the wrong time of year for those sorts of resolutions. So we'll see.

May 5, 2007

Cinco de Birthdayo

Derek, Donna, Karl, Kenny, & Soren. Wish them all a happy birthday, won't you?

May 14, 2007

It is my pleasure to be informed...

It gives my provost enormous pleasure to inform me that, with the concurrence of Chancellor Nancy Cantor and the Board of Trustees, I have been granted continuous appointment with tenure at Syracuse University.

That sound you just heard was the pop of about two years worth of tension leaving my shoulders. And/or a cork.

Lots of congratulations to spread around, actually, but I'm thinking I'll wait until tomorrow. That is all.

May 21, 2007

The week in review

Thank you all for the congratulations and good wishes...

As I dipped into my fanmail bag this week, the question that came up over and over was a pretty obvious one: how did you spend your first week as a tenured professor? Well, the first thing I did was to abandon all active research projects. Then, I printed up all of my class notes, and smoked them on cedar blocks, so that I could turn them as brittle and yellowed as possible in preparation for next year, where I will recite them verbatim regardless of what course I'm teaching. Finally, I damaged my hearing irreparably, to the point where I am only capable of hearing the words "raise" and "sabbatical."

Okay. Maybe not.

If I were really on my game, I would have turned each of those into full-length, dryly humored entries, that I would disavow only at the very end. The fact of the matter is that a week with tenure is not all that different from a week without. Last week was Computers and Writing, which is almost always timed really badly (or well, if a body prefers that I not go). I spent Tuesday and Wednesday struggling with my presentation (which I read rather than spoke, I fear), and was only able to come out with something satisfactory on Thursday after our trip.

Derek rode out to Detroit with me (and returned to Syr today by train), and we had a nice, leisurely trip where I managed to pick up a sinus cold (although the stress of struggling with my talk might have planted the seeds) somewhere at Niagara Falls. So tenure has included a throat tickle, sinus drain, stuffy head, and a great deal of kleenex. I blame the Lady of the Mists, personally.

We arrived in Detroit on Thursday night, and went to a bit of the conference on Friday, enough of it to deliver our papers, meet up with various and sundry, etc etc. But my energy was low, truth be told, in part because of the cold, in part because of the timing, and in part because of my franticality.

I'm now in Iowa for a spell, where I plan on minimal net connections, copious sleep, and finishing more than a couple of books.

Oh, and after my C&W paper, I have a new summer plan for the blog. I'll unveil it soon. (It does actually involve posting, and more than once a week.)

That is all.

May 29, 2007

The weekend in review, Langerhans edition

Not much to report. My access has been nonexistent because I left my laptop in Iowa while I ranged down to St. Louis. Went down to catch a game at the new (if I haven't been there, it's new to me) Busch stadium, and saw the Cards drop a game to the Natty Bumpkins of Washington, including but not limited to a grand slam punched out of the park by one Ryan Langerhans. Nice hit that.

The Cards, they are a strugglin, and I must admit that this doesn't exactly make me sad. The Cubs' bullpen woes, on the other hand, is a topic for head-shakings and hand-wringings. But only occasionally, as I'm still on vacation.

The end of the week should see me headed back eastward, so we'll see if more frequent posting accompanies that.

That's all.

July 24, 2007

My friend Mark

Perhaps you've met him, "Mark All as Read." He's the button I push when I don't want to read quadruple-digit RSS entries.

A few people out there know why I haven't been blogging, and why I won't be blogging for a while longer yet. I'm not especially secretive about it as much as disinclined to talk about it in general. And even less to blog right now, either about my current situation or more generally. So. Sorry about that. I'll drop by every once in a while, but I won't be continuing my "cgb by cgb" series until later this summer, maybe once school starts.

And I don't mean this to sound as ominous as it undoubtedly does. The situation in question isn't about me, but it's enough on my mind that it doesn't feel right to spend time here, which is alot about me. That's all.

Check ya.

October 26, 2007

Charles W. Brooke, 1943-2007

As some of you already know, my father passed away last Saturday. We had the visitation on Wednesday and the funeral on Thursday. Needless to say, it's been quite a week.

This marked the end of a seven-or-so year struggle with cancer for my dad, a time that was concurrent with his involvement in local (Davenport) politics, including 4 years as mayor. I'm going to write more extensively about my relationship with my dad in a few days or so, I think. But right now, in addition to the grief and sadness I feel, I must say that it's been a very strange experience. There were things about the cancer that my dad couldn't hide--the physical changes, having to use a cane for a while, etc.--but he wasn't especially public about his pain and exhaustion. So while I was as prepared as I could be for his final days, I wasn't really prepared to read about him in the paper or see stories about him on tv.

While I've been less than thrilled with those who have used the opportunity to talk more about themselves than my father, I don't begrudge the publicness of it all--my father touched a lot of lives, particularly late in his life. For the last few years, it was pretty common for me to visit Iowa and to see, on a daily basis, letters to the editor defending his policies and choices or attacking him. It had subsided a bit with his move from mayor to alderman, but he always spoke his mind, particularly when it came to things that he thought were in the best interests of the city.

But I remain sensitive to the posturing, posing, and performing that has gone on, and I understand it even if I don't approve of it. The publicness of the past week has made it more difficult for me to sort through my own feelings and reactions. Wondering whether this person or that one would dare to come to the visitation, worrying about whether or not tv cameras will try and sneak shots of the family, checking the papers every day to see if and what's being said: all of these things render my own negotiations with death just a little less peaceful and even possible. For a while, until I realized why, I was getting short-tempered and angry. Lack of sleep probably didn't help much, either.

Ah well. As I said, I'll write more about us later. Right now, I just feel like I'm slowly regaining some of the emotional energy that I've been spending over the last week. And I wanted to thank everyone who's passed along condolences and good wishes to my family and me. And I wanted to say goodbye to my dad, even though he claimed he only read my blog when I wrote about sports.

Bye, Dad. I love you. That is All.

November 21, 2007


If there was a silver lining to returning to Iowa for my father's funeral, it was that I got to reconnect with that side of the family. I don't often coincide my trips with "family" events, and I live far enough away from most of them that it had been several years (and many in some cases) since I'd seen many of them.

In this picture, we're all wearing clip-on bow ties in honor of my dad, who often wore the real thing. (I don't think there was enough daylight left for us all to manage real ones, although I never had trouble tying them myself.) It was a gorgeous day, and this is taken on the back steps of the Outing Club in Davenport, where we had the reception and which was across the street from the church where the service was held.

December 2, 2007


When I was a kid, I was fascinated by roman numerals. I was also quite intrigued by the notion that our own number system was arbitrary in the sense that you could have other bases besides 10. (Yes, I know, what with ten fingers and ten toes, it's not exactly arbitrary.) Silly as it may sound, I would figure out what random numbers would be in base-8 or base-12 number systems. This may be one major reason why web design, with its hexadecimal numbering for the colors, appeals to me so much.

But this is an entry about roman numerals, prompted by two things, one which makes sense, and another which doesn't. The one that makes sense is that in class last Monday, someone stumbled a bit relating the roman numeralled page number to which she wanted to make reference. Later in the class, in making reference to a normally numbered page, I converted it to romans just for fun. For whatever reason, it happened to stick in my head. And when things get stuck there, I tend to just roll them around. So instead of remembering straight page numbers, for the books I'm in the middle of, I'll convert them to romans. (I'm on page LXXVI of the book sitting next to me, btw)

I'm also fascinated by the subtractive numerals--IV, IX, XL--the ones where the normally additive numeral system is reversed like we do with time when we say quarter til two instead of 1:45. The number 944 (CMXLIV) is obviously greatly appealing, the number 144 (CXLIV) only slightly less so.

I should note too that 144 is 100 in base-12, which makes it a big round C.

That's how my brain worked when I was a kid.

The mood for this post was inspired by a hilarious LJ entry by webcomicker John Campbell, titled "50 Answers," which of course my brain converted to LAnswers. Campbell invited commenters to ask him questions, to which he draws answers. Fifty of em. Here's one:

from John Campbell's 50 Answers

That is all.

December 4, 2007

The Hammer of the Frost God...

...has descended with unwavering accuracy upon the city of Syracuse.

I don't have much more to say than that. My methods class met for the final time last night, so it's all over but the grading. And the practice job talks. And the practice phone interviews. And the practice f2f interviews.

I do hope it stops snowing one of these days.

That is, to my chagrin, all.

December 6, 2007


As I observed 362 days ago, I'd like to wish everyone a happy St. Pullman's Eve. As I thumbed back through my entry from 365 days ago, I had cause to recall a little birthday hope. Not so much for this year with the hope, I'm afraid. It's been an understandably difficult year, for some reasons that I've shared here previously and others I haven't.

And yet, I'm on the front edge of what I hope will be a long-term uptick in terms of my quality of life--I'll talk about it more when I get there, but I'll just say that one of the things I wasn't ready for (and didn't fully understand) was the black cloud of debt that a career in the humanities entailed. To be fair, much of it was my own stupidity, but given that I've had to be triple smart for years now to make up for it, I feel as though I've paid my dues (and at outrageous interest rates).

So while I entered last year with a sense of hope and expectations for change that didn't really pan out, I enter the last year of my thirties with the means to effect some change, and some choices in front of me about how best to do it. That's not such a bad trade, I suppose.

That is all.

December 16, 2007

A Dismember to Remember?!

So I stopped up at school this weekend, and when I came outside, what did I see? A brand new car!!

my new Saturn Aura

Who says you can't get a new car for Christmas??

(Okay, so I actually picked it up at the dealer the day before, and photoshopped a bow on it from this lovely site.)

My new car and I are slowly making our way westward, so expect little to go on here...

That's all.

January 30, 2008

Hacking the Debtorsphere

This is one of those posts that I've had brewing for a bit. In some ways, I feel like I've hit a milestone that's even more important than receiving tenure (!!) was for me last spring.

As of this month, I am no longer carrying any debt. No loans, no rotating balances on the credit cards. I am debt-free.

To provide a little context, let me repeat something I said the other night at dinner: I have been in debt for longer than I've been in academia. Yep. My entire adult life. And it's one of the things that grieves me mightily when I hear people talk about the cushy lives we lead. In preparation for a life in the professoriate, I spent 5+ years (and I was fast) earning less than 10,000 dollars a year. In Texas, the big perk I got for my TAship? In-state tuition. I made less than 10K, and had to pay for tuition out of that. Lucky me.

(A side-note: When I completed my dissertation, I had already taken my job at Old Dominion. I no longer had a TAship, and was living outside the state, and had to enroll for a mandatory 9 credits to complete my degree--I didn't need the credits, it was just a rule--and so I had to pay out-of-state tuition for them. I ended up having to pay something like $3500 to graduate. And as I told the representative from UTArlington who called me last night looking for donations, until I get a check for $3500 from UTA, UTA will not be seeing a check from me.)

Now, I'm not great with money. I overtip, I prefer to own the books I read and use in my research, and I generally subscribe to a philosophy of dinner karma, where the meals I buy for friends will roughly equal the number of meals they buy for me. I'd taken pretty solid control of my finances in the time I've been at Syracuse, gradually working my debt down (and correspondingly restoring my dismal credit rating) without feeling too put upon in terms of quality of life. I probably could have done it faster, if I'd really cracked down.

Anyhow, cushy lives. I guess I want to challenge the idea that our earning power offsets the financial hardships we have to endure to get to where we are, as is often the case for other professionals (lawyers, doctors, e.g.). It does eventually, but not nearly as quickly. Many of my friends still struggle with massive amounts of debt that for graduate students in the humanities is all but inevitable. We have the same taboos about talking about it that we do for all matters financial, but most of us still go through it, I suspect. And if their lives are anything like mine has been, graduate school debt is a dark cloud that hangs over each of us for a lot longer than it probably should. It's been a source of some personal shame for me, when in fact, it should be a source of shame for our institutions, who are more than content to exploit graduate student labor without even the mitigating factor of a living wage.

I don't have any grand solution to go with my personal celebration, although I wish I did. I can say that I spent part of this afternoon helping someone figure out some funding strategies for next year that don't involve loans, and I felt pretty good about that. I wish that I were in a position to be able to effect more change than I can right now--when I think of all the anxiety and stress that I experienced over my finances, I can't help but wonder how much more I could have done in their absence.

Guess I'm ready to start finding out. That is all.

February 1, 2008

4 generations

four generations of Brooke fellas

The subtitle for this entry could easily be Holiday Loot, Part 3. One of the best gifts I got this holiday was a framed version of the picture above, which features me, resplendent in blue, sitting on my grandfather J.O.'s lap, being poked in the face by my dad, and looking at a photo of my great grandfather Collin, for whom I was named. J.O. passed away while I was still wearing onesies, so I don't really remember him at all. I'm not 100% sure when the picture was taken, although it would have to be either late 1969 or early 1970, which would put my dad at around 26 or 27 in the picture. And I consider this incontrovertible proof that short hair is actually genetic in my family. That, and baby-poking.

Anyhow, today would have been my dad's 65th birthday, so you'll forgive a little nostalgia on my part. That's all.