Friday, December 07, 2007


Billie tagged me, and I'm happy to participate in this meme, which honors the important teachers in my life.

Here's the meme:

Who are the thirteen teachers who have most personally influenced you and how?

Would you share your baker’s dozen of mentors with the world?

And here's my list, in chronological order:

1. Mrs. Williamson, my first grade teacher. I adored her. I thought she was soooo nice (as I would say back then, she never gets mad, except when a boy ate glue!). And she was the first person to tell me that I was smart.

2. Mrs. Skidmore, my high school English teacher.

3. Ms. Campbell, my high school psychology teacher. She was the first feminist I ever met. She showed us women-positive films while keeping the class discourse extremely casual and fun. I was very conservative in my youth, and she encouraged me to speak my opinions, even though I was pretty sure she didn't agree with them. She was the first person who showed me that teaching was about respecting those you're teaching.

4. Dr. Goode, a Byron scholar, and the director of my honors thesis before he had a heart attack and sat out a semester or two. He taught me close reading, a skill I'm grateful to have even as I moved far, far away from the New Criticism.

5. Ann Miller, who introduced me to Mary Oliver's poetry and who became my honors thesis director. Her amazing passion for literature and for the world in general continue to ripple after her passing.

6. Linda Walker, whose delight in Thoreau was contagious.

(And now as I get to people who I still have some contact with, I feel shy about making them Googleable. So I'll use first name, last initial.)

6. Roger M., who said, "You're a good poet," and introduced me to Language Poetry. If I had finished the PhD at IU, he would have been my director.

7. Cary W., who intimidated me, but introduced me to theoretical readings I'm still indebted to.

8. Susan G., who also intimidated me, but introduced me to feminist criticism.

9. Yusef K., who actually gave us assignments in workshop, and so forced me to stretch myself as a writer.

10. Laura S., who taught me yoga and mentored me as a beginning teacher of yoga.

11. Alice G., who modeled and included me in a collaborative approach to administration.

12. Lynn W., who introduced me to Foucault and myriad other theorists, who gave me renewed belief in myself as a scholar, who directed my thesis.

13. Ginny M., who teaches me to be mindful.

And even this list seems inadequate. How can I not also mention David W., who directed my MFA thesis; Kathryn F., who introduced me to CCCC and has been such a supportive reader of my work; Sienna, whose classes inspire me and have reignited my commitment to yoga practice... Not to mention all the friends, students, colleagues, who have taught me.

So much to be grateful for.

Friday, November 30, 2007


It's November 30, which means my failed NaBloPoMo is over. And it's Friday! Together, the two things call out for something special, don't you think?

And what could be better than a photo of Gabe and Simon, sleeping like angels?

Gabe and Simon sleep

Nothing. Nothing could be better.

Happy December!

Thursday, November 29, 2007 this about me or about them?

A few weeks ago, Spencer posted a link to this site that will measure the reading level of your blog.

Like Spencer's blog, this blog you're reading right was rated at the elementary reading level.

Hmmph! I thought. What does it take to get a higher reading level?

So I put in the url for my graduate class's blog.

That blog has a high school reading level.

So I guess if I posted almost exclusively about academic articles, I might boost my blog's reading level. Or if I imagined an authority figure was always reading.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

TV, 1970s style

Dan, taking a cue from Jeff, talks about memories from the 1970s, including a television show. I'm thinking I watched a lot of TV in the
1970s. Maybe more than I've ever watched since then, even. What was I
watching? A sample below.

Ah, yes. Little House on the Prairie. I remember being pretty excited when it started up. And even though I was irritated when it was less than faithful to the books (Pa should have a beard! Mary never got married!), I still watched it faithfully. Or did I? Seems like maybe I was less than faithful at one point. Then the Laura/Almanzo romance got me hooked again.

The Cyborg. That was the name of the novel on which The Six Million Dollar Man was based. Who knew many years later I would be reading "The Cyborg Manifesto" in graduate school? I was totally into the bionic man and woman. I even had, yes, action figures. With arms that made a noise mimicking the distinctive sound of the bionics-in-action on TV. I've not watched the recent incarnation. Not planning to, either.

I actually thought Fonzie *was* cool. But only with the leather jacket. The blue canvas jacket in the very early episodes is pretty funny. (And it's set in Milwaukee! Where I would later live. As was Laverne and Shirley, the spin-off.)

Yep. That's right. Donny and Marie. Donny Osmond (along with Jack Wild) was the object of my earliest crushes. I felt that I would marry him one day. After he switched from being Mormon to being Baptist. I mean, I knew he would do it. For me. We practically had the same name. Come on.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Another composing process of the body

Chris has written on more than one occasion about his bodily composing process. He tends to write about it as an active, conscious process, something he works on through lifting weights and such.

But there's an unconscious bodily composing process, too, one that speaks to the importance of such things as yoga and bodywork.

For example, last week I shared the 12-hour drive to my ancestral home in Texas with C. I was pretty impressed that at the end of the 12-hours (both going and coming back) I felt ok. Usually, by upper body feels pretty crunched up. I've rarely been able to drive for more than two hours at a time: within two hours, my neck and shoulders are usually sending me pretty intense messages. But since I've been doing more yoga and have discovered the wonder of myofascial release, I don't get the messages so much anymore. It's made me complacent. It's made me think all is well with my body, that I don't need to treat it so gently. It's open! It's not all tied up in balls!

Then I went for a massage today. (I hesitate in calling it a "massage," since it's so much more than what I used to think of when I would think of massage. It's bodywork. It works the body: it, dare I say, affects the body's composing process.

And, yes, I went in with some issues: that cold has collected itself in my sinuses, so I knew I had pressure there and tension down the side of my neck and shoulder.

But, wow. There was so much tension I hadn't sensed into, because, yes, some of the more familiar tensions were gone. I was pretty crunched up, but my body had (intelligently?) found new ways of crunching up, of getting tense, since I have in fact changed my body in certain ways. Certain parts of my body don't get tense in the way they used to. So other parts are kicking in. Getting tense instead.

So how about that? The bodily composing process, like the writerly one, is fraught with unconscious holdings, parts we just can't "see" as yet. It's a humbling realization.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A list! Give us a list!

Please, stop clamoring! Here's your list, a basic set of whatever:

1. I have a cold. My second in less than a month. It seems unfair. But, then, who is being unfair? The cold genie?

2. I had enchiladas for dinner. At a nabor's house!

3. I've found a new way to spend all my extra time on the internet: www.freerice.comIt's a vocabulary game that rewards you with rice that gets donated to the United Nations. I worked hard and donated a whole cup today.

4. I made an apple crisp! With gluten-free flour on the top.

5. I watched the second half of the big Missouri-Kansas game Saturday night. I think it might have been the first time I voluntarily watched college football in, oh, 20 years or so. (There's a story there, but I'll spare you.)

6. I don't want a failed (but extremely rich) businessman to be the president of my institution.

7. Nor do I want the Ministry of Magic to infiltrate the universities, for real.

8. How long does this need to go on? I think I've done enough.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

My always-viewable writing planner

Twenty days ago, Krista requested that I provide pictures to illustrate my entry called "How to write a lot." I promised to do so, but since it's taken so long and the entry has now entered the archives, I'm putting the picture here, in its own post.

Writing planner

Writing down project goals, according to Paul Silvia, should be the second step of the planning process. (The first step, he says, should be realizing that "goal setting is part of the process of writing"--seems like maybe we've left that out in academic writing instruction, having set the goals for the students.) I like what he says about the project goal-setting process:

What do you want to write? When reformed binge writers first set writing goals, one`project always leaps out--usually the dreaded project they had been avoiding for the past 3 months. Certainly write that goal down, but don't stop there. What else would you like to write during the next few months? Is there a grant proposal deadline on the horizon? Does your file cabinet have any unpublished experiments that deserve a good peer-reviewed home? Is there a review article you always meant to write? Put down this book, get some paper, and make a sprawling, discursive list of your project goals.

After you settle on a list of project goals--and it might be a long list--you need to write these goals down. It's a waste of your writing time to rehash the planning process. Get a whiteboard or a bulletin board, put in near your writing space, and proudly display your list of goals. A binge writer would feel anxious when confronted with this long list of projects, but you have a schedule. Binge writers ask, "Will I get all this done?"; disciplined writers idly wonder how many weeks it will take to write everything on the list. It's gratifying to cross a project goal off the list. (How to Write a Lot 30-31)

Since I didn't have a whiteboard or bulletin board handy but still wanted to get that second step under way, I used the oversized post-it notes that I picked up on sale a few months back and stuck them to the closet doors in my office. On the far left, I have projects that have a deadline more than three months in the future or are iffy. In the middle are projects with upcoming deadlines or on which I am actively working. On the far right are completed projects (completed since I began this). And, yes, it does feel nice to have something over there.

It also feels nice to see that I have multiple things in play. The third step in the planning process is to use these project goals to set concrete daily goals. For this week, my concrete goal is to write 10 revised pages on my second book chapter. That's just something in my head. Silvia recommends spread sheets and such for tracking daily progress. I haven't set one of those up, but perhaps I will. I do have a couple of writing groups I'm accountable to on a daily and a bi-weekly basis, and those are helpful. There's also the book blog, which I haven't been very faithful to, alas. But, still, I have been writing. Not binging. Writing. It's a good thing.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving week

So, yeah, I've pretty much failed on the blog every day of November thing. But, really, I didn't have internet access most of this past week. It was an eventful week. In some wonderful ways and some not so wonderful. I'll tell you about it below the fold. With pictures!

First, we drove to Texas. Every year around the holidays, since we moved to Columbia, we drive through Oklahoma on the way to visit my family. Near Ardmore, OK, there's an elaborate display of lights. I tried to capture it, but you can't tell much. Still, I'm going to force it upon you.

Holiday Lights in Oklahoma

That's a reindeer? I think?

But down home, things were a little iffy. My newest great nephew was being born as we drove, but my father had been in the hospital since Saturday. Dizziness. Shortness of breath. He was being kept for tests, tests, and observation. Despite all that, and despite a deteriorating memory (when asked which holiday was approaching, he guessed July 4th), he remembered that my niece's baby was coming. And he wanted to see him.

Happily, my dad was able to leave the hospital Tuesday night. So we packed up my parents and headed to my sisters' places for Thanksgiving. But we made a stop, just in time to see a homecoming:

Baby Jay coming home

My first glimpse of him was something like this. The next day, he got all bundled up to enjoy his first Thanksgiving at his other great aunt's house:

El osito chiquito

And then it snowed! On Thanksgiving! In Texas! I've never seen such. It mostly melted, but I caught a little lingering the next morning above the bedroom window of my youth.

Thanksgiving snow Wford 07

Then we left Friday morning, for the 12-hour drive back. But we made one more stop, at a Starbucks in Fort Worth, for a very cool blogger meet up!

When bloggers meet

And, that, dear readers, was my week. Mostly wonderful, I should say.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Forgot to blog yesterday. Am very unlikely to blog tomorrow. So 28 out of 30 days is still something. Just not blogging every day for a month.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Thursday, November 15, 2007


It isn't April.

But C. found a website that has poets reading their works (specifically, poets in response to Emily Dickinson). And he is currently playing a reading by Mary Oliver, who used to be my favorite poet in the whole world and whose poetry in fact was the subject of my undergraduate honor's thesis. At the time, no one else had done a critical study of her work. I was the first!

I didn't know then that such things as summer writing workshops existed. But one of my professors told me Mary Oliver would be at one in Washington, and I determined to go. How amazing, I thought, to be able to go where a poet is. What an amazing, unbelievable idea.

Turns out the Honors Program had money for travel and research expenses. Who knew! I think I was the first person to ever use it. I got on a plane for the first time ever in my life (I was 21) and flew to Seattle, sat in a bus station for several hours, took a bus (which got on a ferry) to Port Townsend, up in the Olympic Peninsula. It was one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen. Fog hung low every morning. It was July, but every night I got cold as I tried to sleep in the dorms. Finally, a nice woman loaned me her sweats to wear.

One afternoon, I walked by a field where Mary Oliver was flying a kite.

It was all magical. Completely magical.

And when Mary Oliver read her poetry one evening, I snuck in a recorder. On the tape, when she says she's going to read "Blossom," you can hear me gasp. It was my favorite poem. And she just read it now on the recording C. is playing, and when she said she was going to read it, I gasped again.

It's more of a memory of loving it now. If you're curious, you can read it below the fold. (Blogger, however, takes away the indentation. It's in quatrains, with each line in the quatrain indented from the margin of the previous line.)


In April
the ponds
like black blossoms,
the moon
swims in every one;
there's fire
everywhere: frogs shouting
their desire,
their satisfaction. What
we know: that time
chops at us all like an iron
hoe, that death
is a state of paralysis. What
we long for: joy
before death, nights
in the swale-everything else
can wait but not
this thrust
from the root
of the body. What
we know: we are more
than blood-we are more
than our hunger and yet
we belong
to the moon and when the ponds
open, when the burning
begins the most
thoughtful among us dreams
of hurrying down
into the black petals,
into the fire,
into the night where time lies shattered,
into the body of another.

Mary Oliver

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Face to face with academic capitalism

OK, so, maybe this is a fiction.

Maybe someone wrote an application for an externally funded fellowship. It's a modest grant, about 1-10% of the numbers she's heard bandied about for things like NSF grants. It's to develop a course to teach at her university.

And then she realizes, oh! This is supposed to go through the campus grant-machinery. And she learns that she has to ask for a kickback: some funds (almost 50% of her budget) to go to the college. You know, to pay for all the wear and tear she's going to put on the university just by her presence. (Of course, she would be present even without the grant.)

And then she says a little offering of gratitude. Because now she's really seen it. The machinery of academic capitalism. And she understands, better than ever, why the sciences get so much attention. Cause their grant kickbacks are way more than 4 figures.


Just saying.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


You all have heard, I suppose, about the recent Robert Plant/Allison Kraus collaboration. They were on NPR a few weeks back. I mean, what a hoot, huh? Mr. Heavy Metal Man meets Ms. Bluegrass. I'm a total sucker for odd combinations, so I've been thinking from the minute I heard about it (even before the NPR interview) that I would probably want to get it.

So the other day I was talking to C. about it, and I found myself "treating" him to my version of "In the Mood" from Plant's Principle of Moments (circa nineteen-eighty something or other). C. claims he's never heard this song. And he isn't much impressed with my rendition of it, either.

So I went online to listen to it, thinking I might play it for C. Then I thought, why not order it? It's cheap! And I'll order Raising Sand, too. And, heck, I've always had a soft spot for "Stairway to Heaven." (Cause I used to be a geeky lover of Renaissance and Medieval music, and it reminded me of that. OK. Maybe I'm still geeky. Whatever.) So I ordered Led Zeppelin IV, too. (It's even cheaper than Principle of Moments!)

C. said we could listen to them on the way to Texas next week. But! I ordered them via "Super Saver Shipping." And they haven't shipped yet! So they probably won't arrive on time!

It makes me sad.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Revolved, not shaken

Some time ago, my local yoga teacher asked the class to name their favorite pose, the one pose we would do if we could do only one yoga pose.

Many people named Downward Facing Dog as the one.

It’s a great pose, so I can understand. The shoulders open. The spine lengthens. The head and neck point down, bringing some of the same benefits as an inversion like headstand.

It’s certainly on my top ten list. Maybe even my top five.

But my “one pose,” the one I couldn’t do without, is Parivrtta Trikonasana: Revolved Triangle Pose.

I love twists. This is a twist. They lengthen and massage the spine. I love that. But it’s also a standing twist, and so requires some attention to balance. Standing poses are foundational, creating a sense of stability. Twists do their lovely work of opening and massaging. Stability and opening. Attention and concentration. That’s what I can’t do without.

Plus I kind of like the sound of it. Parivrtta. Trikonasana. Especially the "vrtta" part.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Breads, pies, etc.

OK, so, I didn't actually bake any bread on Saturday. Things came up (including a whole house of cats--not mine--needing some care). I did go over to R's place, and she had made some bread. I got to sample it. Freshly baked bread. Nothing like it.

At any rate, I have no bread making pictures to share. Instead, I will tell you about a trip C. and I took a few weeks back to Rolla, MO.

Rolla is mostly known as the home of Missouri's tech university. But that isn't what drew us to Rolla. Instead, we went for the sake of going (we had heard the road was lovely), and we went to get a piece of pie.

While entertaining a visiting rhetorician a few weeks back, colleague A. revealed his love of pie and his own trip a few years ago to Rolla, solely for the sake of pie. Since C. and I were already planning to drive down to Rolla when we thought the leaves would be at peak color (turns out, they were ok, but not really at their peak), we decided a piece of pie would be a nice way to mark the end of the road.

A Slice of Pie, as it's called, has what may be the best pie I've ever tasted. We got two slices, one apple and one pumpkin. The apple was unbelievably delicious. We had it a la mode, and it's always served with a cinnamon sauce. The pumpkin was also wonderful--not the nasty watered down stuff that passes for pumpkin pie at some establishments. Hearty, spicy, delicous.

So, yeah, highly recommended. Worth the 2 hour drive down a lovely, hilly road.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Reluctant rhetor

I love the story of the Buddha’s reluctance to teach after his enlightenment. (It’s recorded in the sutta called “The Noble Search.”)

He recognized that his experience was subtle, and would be hard to understand, especially among people “delighting in attachment,” and that teaching it to others, consequently, would be difficult:
if I were to teach the Dhamma and others would not understand me, that would be tiresome for me, troublesome for me

So he leaned toward avoiding the trouble that sharing his teaching might bring to him:
my mind inclined to dwelling at ease, not to teaching the Dhamma

Then, the story goes, a heavenly being came down to him and told him the world would be lost if he didn’t teach. He appealed to the Buddha’s sense of compassion, and he assured him that “There are beings with little dust in their eyes” who would be able to understand the Dhamma.

So the Buddha was persuaded, through what we might (if we move west to ancient Greece, which would, in the following century or so, produce Aristotle) call pathos.

There’s also what we might call propriety or even kairos. Sure, the heavenly being said, it might be that everyone won’t understand. But some will. There are those with little dust in their eyes.

Something like kairos became important to the Buddha’s teachings on right speech. One should speak only that which is “factual, true, beneficial, and endearing.” And even then, one must have “a sense of the proper time for saying them.”

Why is that? Because the Tathagata has sympathy for living beings. (MN 58)

There’s something dynamic about pathos and kairos, compassion and timing in the suttas. Speech isn’t a contest; it isn’t about winning. So the attention to timing isn’t strategic so much as it’s simply thoughtful.

But what I love, really love, is the humanity of the Buddha. That initial reluctance. The inclination to avoid the difficulty of addressing an audience that just isn’t ready for you. Then the change of mind, the realization of the benefit that could come from giving words to what he knows, to teaching.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Friday cat litter blogging

I have more than one cat. More than one litter box. And so accumulate in a given day a goodly amount of used litter.

Now there's a use for it. Flushing expired drugs down the toilet is bad for the environment. Instead put them in, yes, a "yucky bag" that mixes them up with soiled litter.

And I was wondering what to do this weekend.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

O wad some Power the giftie gie us

OK, all you new and relatively new parents out there. I need your input.

Like I said, I've got a new great nephew coming in a matter of days. I have yet to buy a gift for this new nephew. Why? Call it gift anxiety.

My niece (the mother of said great nephew) has had FOUR (count 'em, 4! 4! 4! 4!) baby showers. So she's received a lot already. I want to get her something that she'll like AND that will be distinctive.

So...any suggestions? Maybe something you didn't register for but that you're really glad you got? Or something you registered for but no one gave you? Or just something?

(I was thinking at one point of something like this hoodie swaddling blanket, but someone out there suggested the hood might pose a breathing hazard. So I'm thinking maybe not.)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


Saturday, I'm going to learn to make bread. Maybe I'll take pictures!

I tried making bread long, long ago when I first took to cooking on my own (when I first started grad school). I was all about whole grains, so that's what I tried first. It came out like a brick. I'm thinking that might have been my mistake: trying whole grains. In fact, if I remember correctly, I think I might have made some successful white loaves. But that wasn't good enough for me, so I gave up. I decided I couldn't make bread.

So Saturday I'm getting with colleague R, and she will help me. However, it will be white (French) bread.

And the complicating factor now is that C was recently diagnosed as being highly allergic to all gluten-containing grains. We don't really know what that means (he doesn't break out, have breathing problems, or any of the usual things associated with allergies.) Still, he avoids them on the whole. (A few weeks ago, he started the day with pancakes and continued to eat wheat-based foods throughout the day. He didn't sleep so well that night, but his allergist thinks wheat was not likely to be the cause.)

So what I really need to learn is how to make rice bread. Or tapioca bread. Or something on that order.

And I have a feeling that if whole grains were hard, gluten-free grains are another thing entirely.


No! Onward! Face the challenge! Develop those skills.

All righty, then.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Being great-aunted

As reported earlier on this humble blog, I became a great aunt this year.

And, well, it's turned out to be quite the year for great nephews, because another arrived last month and still another is coming in two more weeks. Yes, I know the date. My niece has an appointment. Conveniently, it's during Thanksgiving Break. So I'll get to go down to Texas and visit him when he's just a day or two old.

In the meantime, let me share with you this amazing photo of my second great nephew, grandson to my brother. (Yes, my siblings are grandparents. How bizarre is that? Remember, if you will, that I'm the youngest by an average of 10 years.) This little guy came forth with a whole head of hair. You can see him below the fold.

Monday, November 05, 2007

How to write a lot

That's the name of a book I ordered a few weeks back. It came up as a recommended title for me on Amazon, and I decided to order it, thinking I might use it in a class I'm cooking up for next year.

I probably won't use it in my class (its target audience being psychology scholars, though it's pretty applicable to any academic audience). But it did have some useful hints.

Hint #1?
Write every day. I knew that one already, having picked it up from my new hero/guru Robert Boice. (I really want to use his book, How Writers Journey to Comfort in Fluency, in my class, but look at that price tag! 100 bucks! How can one book cost so much?) Boice recommends writing in what he calls "Brief Daily Sessions" of 15-60 minutes a day. Good advice. I used to believe I couldn't get anything of quality done in 15 minutes a day, but, in fact, it helps a lot to keep a writing project in mind by spending at least that much time on it daily. (Silvia, the author of How to Write a Lot, prefers about 2 hours a day.)

At any rate, the major hint I took from Silvia is to write out all your projects in a visible space. I think that's in part what Chris was doing here, back in July. Silvia recommends a white board. Not having a white board and not feeling like going right out and buying one, I opted to use oversized post-it notes, which I do have. (The white board would probably be more environmentally sound in the long run, so I'll switch to that eventually.)

It's nice to have all the projects (even the potential ones) up where they can be seen, rearranged according to priority, marked off. I never have to wonder what to do.

Update: Picture forthcoming, per Krista's request. :)

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Begin the week with a list o' randomness

(1) The Bee Movie gets mixed reviews. I really wanted it to be good. It's Seinfeld! I love Seinfeld!

(2) I finally picked up a copy of An End to Suffering: The Buddha in the World this weekend, after having seen a review of it in the NY Times a few years back. It's a good read: part travel narrative, part intellectual history of India, part reception of Buddhism in the West, part meditation on poverty and suffering in the contemporary world.

(3)C. says Mizzou Football has become too much this year. I'm not sure what he means.

(4) I wrote something in August and it's already in print. I've held it in my hands! What wonders.

(5) After almost a year, my newest cat, Hansel, still lives segregated from the other cats. He seems to be capable of only dysfunctional relationships: he's either hiding under the bed from Gabe or scaring Casey with his over-zealous romping.

(6) Two words: Myofascial release. It's good.

(7) November? Already?

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Bodies of information

Over at Post-December, KR writes about the effects of the information economy on bodies. On graduate student bodies, at any rate.

She notes that the time to complete a PhD in her field seems to increase by a half year or so every year, just because of the increase in knowledge. More past knowledge, more time sitting and stuffing it into the brain cells. She wonders about the physical effects of all this consumption:
The immediate consequence of having to go over the sheer volume of material, is the exponential increase in time you spend sitting, reading, straining your eyes, and writing your fingers to the nubbins. I have succumbed to the pains of being serially sedentary, sacrificing for the knowhow. I have gained physical mass, as well as intellectual mass. It seems that the two can be connected all too easily.

So what comes next: the physical limit--in which our body mechanically fails to deal with this job? Or the time limit, where we literally won't have enough time to learn it all? Or the limit of thought?

Her question about the physical limit of the job reminds me of those studies done of college composition teachers back around the turn of the last century. The famous (well, in some circles) Harvard Report of 1892 estimated that 38,000 separate writing exercises were handed in to the composition faculty each semester. This work, according to the Report, overextends the limits of body and mind:
Few persons not intimately connected . . . with the existing Department of Rhetoric and English Composition . . . have any conception of either the amount or nature of the work now done by the instructors in that department. In quantity this work is calculated to excite dismay; while the performance of it involves not only unremitted industry, but mental drudgery of the most exhausting nature (qtd. in Brereton 75).

The information society is often connected to the virtual, to things we can't see. But the load of information is exhausting. The load of teaching students to work with information (which is what composition classes do, I would say) tests the physical limits of teachers, not to mention students.

Of course, there's the idea of "pathways, not things," that what we need to teach (and learn) is how to store, categorize, and work with information. And so that might lead to a more problem-based curriculum, as is used often in medical schools.

Does that work for all disciplines? And what about KR, who is educating herself to be a scientist (as if she isn't one already)? Is it possible to use pathways to avoid the physical breakdown? Or does the physical necessarily strain with information, no matter the path?

Friday, November 02, 2007

I like pumpkins

A colleague at a reception this late afternoon told me he doesn't like pumpkins. He doesn't like pumpkin pie. He doesn't like pumpkin anything.

Now, I don't understand this. I like pumpkins. I write this every year at about this time. I love fall. I love the increasing availability of all things pumpkin.

Which is why, you see, I've been bidding all week on an Alsatian feast.

Every year the graduate student organization here at MU hold a fund-raising online auction. Last year I got the most delicious cookies ever. This year, I set my sights on a feast promising pumpkin custard as dessert.

We were encouraged to take pseudonyms. Mine is the perhaps all too obvious: Aspasia. My nemesis in the bid for the pumpkin-finaled feast? Oracle. Pretty funny, huh?

I think I may have won. Rhetoric over prophesy.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

It's a great badge, after all

Clancy reminds me that it's National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo)!

It worked last year. I blogged daily! For a month! And some of you out there did it, too!

Not only that, but this year, there's a cat.

Let's do it! Post! And post some more!
And, hey, look at this other version of the badge:

It's got a good badge. If that's not persuasive, well, I'm throwing in the towel on that rhetoric thing.

Monday, October 29, 2007

I LUV these!

Meeting tokens. One good for 15 minutes. One to announce that the meeting is over.

Luv. Them.

Via Jason at The Salt Box, who asks:
Can anyone in higher ed imagine deploying one of these nifty tokens at a meeting of any standing committee ? Or, for example, at the faculty senate?

Really, though, tokens for meetings seem like a good idea. Apparently, some feminist consciousness raising groups back in the day used tokens to keep everyone's contributions equal. Everyone got, say, three tokens at the beginning of a meeting. Had to use them up. Had to stop talking when they were gone. I've sometimes thought of using a system like that in my classes.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Teaching Web 2.0

Next semester I'm teaching a course I'm calling "Writing Web 2.0." I've been asked to please hurry up and submit my course description since registration starts next week. Here's what I've got. Would you take it?

Web 2.0 or the “Read/Write Web” refers to the many social networking and collaborative applications that characterize the second-generation World Wide Web. In this course, we’ll experiment with a variety of applications, including blogs, wikis, real simple syndication, and social networking sites. We’ll also read some practical and theoretical explorations of Web 2.0 and social networks. The major project for the course will be student-designed and will make use of at least one Web 2.0 application. Because the Read/Write web also has many educational applications, this course will be especially useful for both writers and future teachers.

Monday, October 15, 2007


Bonnie's comment sent me (where else?) to Google. According to Wikipedia, the Jesus Movement
was the major Christian element within the hippie counterculture, or, conversely, the major hippie element within the Christian Church. Members of the movement are called Jesus people, or Jesus freaks.

Wow. I had forgotten all about "Jesus freaks." It was the melding of being "born again" with being a hippie.

I also found this pretty cool website on the Jesus Movement. According to the "History" section of that website,
Though the Jesus People Movement remains relatively neglected by mainstream and religious historians, its influence throughout the church had a profound affect upon shaping many facets of the contemporary evangelical movement.

So, Bonnie, you aren't the only person who hasn't heard of the Jesus Movement! But, thanks to my older sister, it was part of the culture of my childhood. In Texas. Among evangelicals.

And thanks to the One Way website (as well as its Jesus Music site), I'm able to add these images to my on-again, off-again exploration of mystory. I haven't thought about these things in a long, long time:

Don't you love that last one? The appropriation of popular culture was a big part of the Jesus Movement. I remember another poster that riffed off Coke: Jesus, He's the Real Thing.

But "one way," as you can see in the posters above, was the big slogan.

One way. It sounds dogmatic. Only one way. But that first image, from Agape's LP Gospel Hard Rock, was popular exactly because it wasn't clear cut. What is it? Mountains in snow? No: it's Jesus. Yeah. It's Jesus. Yeah. (A snippit of some more lyrics I remember from my sister's record-playing.)

I remember (as a fuzzy emotion, not a definite thought) the Jesus Movement as risky. Not clear cut. My mother didn't like my sister's records. It didn't seem right to mix church with rock and roll. And look at those Jesus freaks in Dallas! One of them is shirtless! That's not my grandmother's worship service!

Another link to explore another time.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Something good is going to happen to you

When I was a little girl, the television would be on Sunday mornings. I'm not sure why. We would eat breakfast, then get ready for church. Why did the TV need to be on? Because what was on, you know, was mostly yet more church.

Like Oral Roberts' program, from the campus of Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The opening song:

Something good is going to happen to you
Happen to you
This very day

It's the earworm that just came to me, that song. And so I share it with you. Though if you've never heard it, if your Sunday mornings weren't like mine, then I guess you are innoculated.

But now that I have that song in mind, I'm thinking of other songs, songs from the Jesus Movement, songs that pre-dated the Christian Contemporary music of today. My sister played them on her stereo:

Maranatha Maranatha
The Lord is coming back
Let all of us rejoice
To truly me-e, e-et him.

Songs that weren't exactly pop songs, but that still would be part of Mystory,so part of the PopCycle. Yeah?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

I made a box

I asked my 8010 (Theory and Practice of Composition) grad students to try out Geoffrey Sirc's initial assignment from Writing New Media. Make a basic box: find an image, find some text, then add your own text. Voila! A basic box.

I asked them to take writing and/or teaching as their topic.

So I made one, too, and it's visible below the fold. (Click on it for a larger view.)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Yogic bodies

Chris says,
i want bodies to be more visible in academia. physical bodies *should be* more visible in academia. not (half)naked bodies, but bodies made present. bodies looked *at* as opposed to through. as doing and not simply done to. as creating and not just containing i.e. not "embodying" knowledge, but itself knowing.

But, no, I'm not offering any close-ups of my biceps or anything below. In fact, my "body composing process" takes a different direction from Chris's. But that's part of the point, no? How do bodies know? Surely in more than one way. And maybe in ways that aren't always visible by looking.

For example, last week I did a 2 1/2 hour yoga workshop with Doug Swenson, author of, yes, Power Yoga for Dummies and Mastering the Secrets of Yoga Flow. Power Yoga (ie, hot and sweaty yoga) is not my usual choice of yoga, though I have tried it out. After all, according to a quiz at, I'm a "Balanced Yogi," one who isn't dogmatic or snobbish about yoga. I'm interested in everything yogic, even if I do have predilections in favor of certain styles over others. (Iyengar is my foundation, if you want to know, but some teachers in that style are a little too inflexible for my taste. Pun intended.)

At the workshop, Doug demonstrated some pretty amazing postures that he moved in and out of with the most beautiful grace and fluidity. Here he is in an arm balance, for example (though not from the workshop, which was held indoors):

I can look at the photo and I can see what his body knows. I could watch him move at the workshop and see what his body knows, what it can do.

Usually, I take yoga classes with S., mostly her "Deep Stretch" class on Saturday mornings. She calls it "Yin Style" yoga. When I'm doing deep stretch, I can feel changes happening deep inside my body. What does it look like from outside? Probably not much. Certainly not like an impressive arm balance on a cliff. But my body is learning. My body is doing. My body is revising itself, learning to be in new ways.

So I was reading about "yin yoga" online, and found the website of yin guru Paul Grilley. Yin yoga focuses on holding poses for long periods of time (as in 5-10 minutes, not hours or anything) in order to affect the connective tissues. Because of his interest in bodily connections (hmmm...I often talk to grad students about working on the "connective tissue" in their writing), he also gives workshops on joints. He also brings attention to bones, how the shape of bones affects how muscles can move. Here's a link to a slide show on bones. Just look at the differences in those clavicals! Look at the different angles in the two femurs. Grilley says:
The bend at the neck of the femur of these two specimens vary by 40 degrees. This could mean 40 degrees wider splits.

Forty degrees difference! And here I've been thinking that when a yoga teacher says "every body is different" she meant that every body has a different level of fitness. No. In fact, every body is different. Differently composed. And so differently able.

But those things are hard to see. They're under the skin. Under the muscle. Hidden away.

How do we make visible the composing processes of bodies like those? Exceptional bodies, bodies with spines that wind like a river, hip sockets oriented inward rather than outward? How to make visible the subtle changes that happen when a body relaxes, as in restorative yoga?

The body is supported. It relaxes. The mind relaxes. Muscles decontract. It's hard to see. But it's there, all the same.

Friday, August 31, 2007

This is Donna Strickland, and I'm here to talk about....

Just had a meeting with A, an MA student in rhet/comp. We were talking about his comp class as well as about his thesis, when this idea blossomed: "The making of this paper or project," modeled on the "Making-of" feature on DVDs. Students would narrate the process of creating their papers or media projects for class. I like to do reflective writing in classes, in which students reflect on the choices they've made as they were writing their papers and the potential effects of those choices. The "Making-of" would be a "multimodal" version of the reflective paper, maybe a podcast, maybe a movie.

Has anyone already tried something like that?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

On the record

I got an email yesterday, during my day-long writing marathon, asking my opinion about some new plagiarism detection software. And so now I'm online, saying, yeah, I wouldn't use it, but I guess other people would.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I'm speechless

Got your interest? Here's the video. Available (for a few hundred dollars) from your local Big Box pet store.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Eight things for the eighth month

Sometimes, you know, you just put things off for too long. Last month, for instance, I was tagged. In fact, it was exactly one month ago yesterday that Shehun stopped at this humble blog and announced, "You're it."

In the month that has passed, I've composed some parts of my eight random things list. I was especially inspired by Dan's contribution to the meme. So, although I have no video to accompany it, I shall begin my list with a tribute to Dan's.

1. My senior year in high school, our local chapter of the National Honor Society put on a talent show. Don't ask me why. I can't even remember quite what I did. I think I was in a skit. But I do remember the finale, in which we all paraded out on stage to the tune of "If They Could See Me Now." We were all told to dress as we thought we would look in ten years. So there were doctors, teachers, that sort of thing. I wore a gold lame shirt and plastic pants. I was, I imagined, a punk rocker. My costume was quite the hit. I'm not kidding.

2. Taking up the example of my nabor Jenny, I now have a book blog. (And thanks to my other nabor for making the blog possible. He is not, however, responsible for its horrifically bland look.)

3. My book blog is called "What it all might mean." That was a line from a poem I wrote during my MFA days. I wanted that to be the title of my MFA thesis, but my thesis director wouldn't have it. So now it's the title of my book blog.

4. Now that I'm doing the book blog, I have three support systems for finishing the book. One is a writing group of a few colleagues and the other is an online writing group of folks at various universities. The former is devoted mainly to product, the latter mainly to process. I'm trying to cover all bases, you see.

5. After the success of my "punk rock" costume in high school, I began to slowly accumulate accessories that belonged to an alter ego I called "Blue." I no longer have these accessories, however.

6. Between Thursday and Saturday, I experienced a 40-degree drop in temperature. (Atmospheric temperature, I mean.)

7. There seems to be the beginnings of a rhet/comp network on FaceBook. Do more folks FaceBook than blog?

8. Speaking of the field, aren't we way overdue for another Rhet/Comp reading carnival?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Hit and miss

I have an old wiki up from a class I taught in 2006 on the literature of working women. That semester marked my first stab at using a wiki in class, and I found it only somewhat successful. (I think I've made better use of wikis since that time.) What it features now, basically, are pages about authors or specific works we read. You know, sort of like something maybe wikipedia-ish.

At any rate, now and again I'll get an email from the wiki service, indicating that someone has invited me to join their wiki space. I find it odd, since these aren't requests from folks I know. So tonight a request shows up in my inbox, only it's a request to join my wikispace. And I'm thinking, this has to be spam or something. Because who would want to join an inactive course wiki?

But no. It was a request from one of the authors featured on the wiki. She was curious about the class.

So that was cool. I emailed her.

And I noticed one day that over at the Tree of Rhetoric, there's a link to my blogging course, because I had a link over to something on that site on my syllabus. And I got a number of emails while teaching the blogging course from folks whose blog articles I linked to.

Ah, Web 2.0. Connectivity. Just a little Google search, and you can find out who's talking about you.

I'm not knocking it. I like to know who's talking about me, too. But it does still surprise me, I guess. Suddenly, a sighting. From something awhile ago, something almost forgotten. Brought back into the present. Because the web, it is the eternal present. It's always now.

Which could be scary. Connectivity is a little scary in Shaviro's Connected, or What It Means to Live in the Network Society. (And, by the way, don't you prefer the "or" to the colon? Jameson uses it for Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. I always loved that.) The borg--with their "singular goal, namely the consumption of technology" and "hive mind"--are scary on Star Trek.

But it's a strange fear, isn't it? This fear that connectivity leads to the extinction of individuality. We're nodes, sure. I don't have a problem with that. But all nodes exist at unique points of convergence.

I'm just going with the flow, folks. You know, writing for the sake of writing. And I think that's enough of that for tonight.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Slow reader

I was just reading Jeff's blog about changes after the baby, and change #1 is reading. Before the baby, he says, he read a book every couple of days.

Can I pretend I've spent my life having babies? Cause I've pretty much never read a book every couple of days. I can read a novel in a couple of days if I really want to. But I rarely do. And I'm pretty sure that I've never read anything like theory in a couple of days.

I've never been a fast reader, and that has sometimes bothered me. As an English major, I sometimes wondered why my peers talked about reading voraciously as the mark of someone who loves to read. I love to read. But I don't read fast.

But, you know, you can find a quote to make you feel good about almost anything. I remember watching a movie in which a writer extols the virtue of reading slowly, saying that he wishes he could read even more slowly. I remember loving that line. Yes, I thought. Reading slowly is good. Writers read slowly. I read slowly. I read the right way.

I can't remember the title of the movie. I think it came out in the late 80s. But I remember the writer was also plagued by bad teeth and had some other not so admirable tendencies. So one wonders if he really was such a great role model.

Ah well. I can't help it. I still read slowly, even without a baby.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Out of silence

One week ago, I opened my email box and learned that a former student of mine had died the previous day.

That was sobering. But, in truth, I didn't know him well. I wasn't close to him.

And so I told myself I couldn't blog about his death. It wouldn't be right.

But he wasn't just my former student. He was the husband of a former thesis advisee, a person I hold dear.

His death has been on my mind all week, and not writing about it has plunged me into silence.

And so I write, with the wish that he may rest in peace. That J and all those who loved him may find peace.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Meet Elleron

Makes sense that my Dæmon would be some kind of cat, don't you think?

Scroll over the image to get an explanation of Dæmons and to find out how to meet yours.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

List o' stuff

(1) Before leaving for Texas on July 3, I breakfasted once again at Cafe Berlin. This time I tried the Turkish eggs and quite enjoyed them. Tomatoes, peppers, onion. Feta cheese. Nice. Thanks, Cafe Berlin.

(2) It's true: I read Harry Potter. I go to the movie versions, too. So last night C. and I saw the fifth installment, The Order of the Phoenix. C., who hasn't read the books, enjoyed it. But it's hard to feel really satisfied with a two hour movie based on a book of over 800 pages. What--no Howler for Aunt Petunia? It's one of my favorite moments in the early part of the book. So mysterious: Remember my last, Petunia. I actually got goose bumps the first time I read it.

(3) So, yeah, Book 7 is pre-ordered. Guess I know what I'll be doing come Saturday.

(4) I hear I'm getting some new nabors tomorrow.

(5) I teach in the mornings. Every day.

(6) My students just made collages. I've been impressed with their willingness and even often excitement to do this assignment. And the results are so fun to browse through.

(7) Early to rise? Must mean early to bed. Signing out.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Summer school

My summer class started this morning. As I noted last year, I almost always really love teaching summer school. I like the intensity of the short session (4 weeks, in this case), of meeting daily.

In fact, as I was saying to C. this morning, I would say my all-around favorite teaching ever were the three summers at Indiana University when I taught Introduction to Composition in the Groups Program. The summer program was (the website has no mention of it that I can find, so I'm assuming it's been discontinued) a bridge program, designed to give the primarily first-generation college students who are admitted to the program a summer of college-level work before classes began in the fall.

These were students who really wanted a college education and who were, for the most part, highly motivated. And, being a first-generation college student myself, I in many ways identified with them.

In fact, teaching in that program was one of the experiences that motivated me to leave a PhD program in American literature for one in rhet/comp. I realized that--hey! wonders of wonders!--students and teachers really *can* talk about writing in the classroom and practice taking on different rhetorical strategies. Somehow teaching comp during the year hadn't provided me with that insight in a very strong way. But the summer experience did.

So, yeah, teaching summer school always feels pretty good to me.

But I don't want to jinx myself. So: knock on wood.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Mi familia

Thursday, as my sister and niece shredded up some beef for barbeque sandwiches, I expressed my wish to eat Mexican food before leaving Texas. I don't eat beef, anyway, so my sister suggested I order takeout from Mi Familia, a restaurant just a couple of blocks away from her house, to substitute for the barbeque sandwiches. And so I did (although finding an entree without any carne was a bit of a challenge in itself).

Mi familia. I spent a lot of time Wednesday and Thursday with the newest member of mine.

Aiden quiet time

And, taking up a suggestion from Z, (and product advice from Dan), I spent a couple of hours my last evening in Texas, getting down a few short interviews with my parents on my new Olympus digital recorder.

I talked to my father about joining the navy in the last year of World War II.

My father, circa 1945

Why the navy? He didn't want to sleep in fox holes. Pearl Harbor? It's a nice place. Worst moment? Being followed by three Japanese submarines, staying at his gun station on deck from 1 am until 9 or 10. Smoke filling his lungs, his nose, giving him a headache.

And I talked to my mother about going to business college. Her classes included one devoted entirely to spelling. She went to business college because a recruiter came to her house her senior year in high school and her father signed her up. Afterwards, she worked not as a secretary but as a switchboard operator. That is, until she married my father. Here they are, just a little while before that:

My mother & father, circa 1950

My father liked talking into the recorder. My mother, not so much. Is that on? she would ask. I was just going to tell you. I didn't want you to record it.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Taking the plunge

Tomorrow I'm heading to Texas, where most all of my immediate family lives. After many summers of drought, this summer, as you may have heard, is bringing flooding.

(Photo from

Including flooding in the county where my parents live.

My parents live a good ways away from the Brazos River, so they're fine. But I have to admit to some trepidation, nonetheless. I'll be driving through Kansas, Oklahoma, and north Texas--all areas with flooding and with rain predicted for the rest of the week.

But, on the bright side, I haven't heard of any interstates being flooded.

It's been unbelievable, though, to hear these reports of evacuation orders in north central Texas. More believable would be the fires that ravaged the area a couple of years ago. Grass dies in Texas in the summer. My memories are full of brown grass.

But this year, floods. It's enough to fuel those fires I've talked of before: the brimstone-laden belief in the End Times.

Wish me luck.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Good things

In the tradition of a recurring feature at Parts-n-Pieces, I offer a list of recent good things.

1. S. and K., two former grad students from SIU, visited me yesterday and today. I hadn't seen either of them since leaving Carbondale, and so it was awfully nice to spend a day or so with them.

2. We walked down 9th St. this morning, stopping in at all the cool stores along the way.

3. All three of us bought these wonderful little sun-catchers, composed of pieces of old lace encased in glass. They're made by a woman in Kansas City. Local art.

4. I bought a pair of "Moroccan pants" for my new great nephew. I'll see him for the first time this week.

5. I got some good publication news yesterday.

6. Tonight, C. and I are driving to Jazz at the Bistro in St. Louis to hear jazz bassist Ben Allison, whose 2002 release Peace Pipe is one of my recent favorites.

7. I'm going to make French toast in the morning for R. and Z. (Well, and C., too.)

8. Also today, while out with K. and S., I bought some bamboo flip flops. I've admired my yoga teacher's bamboo flip flops for awhile. Now I have some of my own. So does K.

9. I'm going to a Bead for Life party this afternoon.

10. I had cinnamon ice cream last night at Sparky's. But it was hard not to choose the lavender honey instead.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Pranamaya kosha

At alleyCat Yoga, Columbia's downtown yoga studio, a prospective yogi/ni must purchase a pass that includes a certain number of credits that must be used up by a certain expiration date (depending on the pass you choose). I typically get the 8 classes/8 week pass. And I typically go to yoga class on Saturday mornings.

But over the past six weeks or so, I've been out of town or otherwise unavailable for yoga at least three of those Saturdays. And my pass expires next Friday. And I'm going to be out of town most of next week.

So last week some time it occurred to me that I had to start using up that pass. I've thus been to yoga four out of the past five days. And, let me tell you, friends: if you think going to yoga one day out of the week is good, yoga just about everyday is transcendent.

You heard me. Transcendent.

The most transcendent moment of all came toward the end of yesterday's yoga class. We practiced ujjayi pranayama--"victorious" or "ocean sounding" breath. Sienna, yogini extraordinaire, calls it the Darth Vader breath. For five minutes, we all sat still, breathing loudly. After five minutes, Sienna asked us to sit, to notice how effortless sitting upright now felt. That, she said, is pranamaya kosha, the energy body.

And it was true.

And transcendent.

(Just a little caveat to those who might try this at home: I tried it at home this morning, and while I felt a bit of that good pranayama kosha energy, it was less intense than yesterday. I chalk that up to not doing an hour of pretty active yoga asana practice beforehand.)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Visual rhetoric in the old west

Last Tuesday was C's birthday, and, at his request, we spent part of the afternoon visiting the George Caleb Bingham exhibit at the Museum of Art and Archaelogy on campus. Bingham was a nineteenth-century Missouri artist (and, for the last couple of years of his life, the University of Missouri's first professor of art), and C. studies the nineteenth century (including literature of the "old southwest," which included Missouri), so it was a natural fit.

The exhibit was small, but C. was particularly interested in a piece called "Martial Law, or Order No. 11."

The Missouri (slave state)-Kansas (free state) border was a major site of battles during the Civil War. Missouri also harbored a number of guerrila groups (think Jesse James), and, after a massacre at Lawrence, Kansas, the Union suspected that rural Missouri towns along the border were harboring these groups. These towns were ordered to be evacuated, and that was Order No. 11.

Although he was a Unionist, Bingham vehemently opposed this order and the havoc in wreaked on people's lives. This painting, then, was meant to protest the order. He sent it to have it copied onto a steel plate and reproduced. Unfortunately for his purposes, the copiest took a couple of years to finish the job, at which point the exigency for the protest had passed.

I was intrigued, however, by this idea, something I hadn't really thought about before: the use of reproductions of paintings as distributed rhetoric. I wonder (in a light, curious sort of way) how prevalent that was. I think of "art" as maybe epideictic rhetoric (think: monuments), but I hadn't really thought of its use as part of a deliberative process or a distributed network.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Who's afraid?

I've been reading Virginia Woolf lately. I have to admit to not having a very good background in Virginia Woolf, and I also feel somewhat strange and guilty about that since I sometimes teach classes in women's lit, and Virginia Woolf seems to often come up in discussions of women's lit (because, well, she wrote A Room of One's Own, didn't she?). I mostly teach American women's lit rather than British, but, still, there's the guilt.

Not only the guilt, but I've always thought I should enjoy Woolf's writing. The problem is that for years I've done most of my fiction reading right before going to bed. Often, I'm sleepy at this time. Often, I need a really clear and overt narrative to hold on to. In my experience, reading Virginia Woolf isn't mostly about getting the plot. (I suppose one might say that about a lot of fiction, huh?) So I would read, and I would get frustrated. Or I would read, and I would have trouble retaining. All very unpleasant.

So when,shortly before boarding the airport shuttle, I happened upon this nice little bookstore in Pittsburgh earlier this month and found a copy of Mrs. Dalloway there, I thought, This is it! This is my chance to really read Virginia Woolf! I have a couple of hours to kill at the airport (little did I know, it would be more than a couple!), and that will give me the perfect chance to really get into the experience of Woolf's writing.

So it worked, and now I want to continue reading more Woolf. I'm finding that as long as I sit upright while reading at night, I can retain and enjoy the experience.

What can I say. I'm a slow learner.

Still and all, I think Virginia Woolf is maybe better at--ahem--"this time of my life." Not that I'm the same age as Clarissa Dalloway or Mrs. Ramsey, but I think maybe I'm picking up the feel of the books better than I did when I first encountered Woolf at 22 or so.

And that--yes, that--is all.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Eagle Bluffs

C. and I took a little car trip to Eagle Bluffs earlier today. It was indeed a little trip, since Eagle Bluffs is in Boone County, which is the county Columbia is in. But we had heard it's a good birding area, and since we like birds (but aren't devoted enough to call ourselves birders), we wanted to check it out.

Sadly, we took neither binoculars nor camera (like I said, not devoted enough--also out of practice). So I can't show you the wetlands, the herons, the egrets. But there's a nice gallery of photos taken at Eagle Bluffs here, so you can get an idea of what we saw. Without binoculars, though, we didn't get any up close views of eagles. We did see what we think were eagles coasting high above us. We did see, close-up, an indigo bunting, which was stunning--an almost luminous blue.

Back in the day, C. and I spent a lot of time taking walks, looking at plants, trees, birds. It was easy to do when we lived in Bloomington, what with woods right on campus and all. I remember one evening walking onto campus at dusk and seeing a whole set of small owls in a tree. They turned their heads, looking at us. We kept going back, around dusk, hoping to see them again. We never did.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The posthuman: science and suttas

From "The Mystery of Consciousness" by Steven Pinker, in the January 19, 2007 issue of Time:

ANOTHER STARTLING CONCLUSION FROM the science of consciousness is that the intuitive feeling we have that there's an executive "I" that sits in a control room of our brain, scanning the screens of the senses and pushing the buttons of the muscles, is an illusion. Consciousness turns out to consist of a maelstrom of events distributed across the brain. These events compete for attention, and as one process outshouts the others, the brain rationalizes the outcome after the fact and concocts the impression that a single self was in charge all along.

And from The Great Causes Discourse (Digha Nikaya 15 of the Sutta Pitaka, one of the three "baskets" of the Pali Canon):
Now, Ananda, in as far as a monk does not assume feeling to be the self, nor the self as oblivious, nor that 'My self feels, in that my self is subject to feeling,' then, not assuming in this way, he is not sustained by anything (does not cling to anything) in the world. Unsustained, he is not agitated. Unagitated, he is totally unbound right within. He discerns that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done.'

Friday, June 22, 2007

Back to blogging practice

It's never inspiring, for the writer or reader, to encounter a blog entry that apologizes, or rationalizes, or otherwise makes reference to the dearth of blogging.

And yet, my readers, here is such a beginning.

I'm writing today to renew my dedication to the practice of blogging. Blogging as practice.

Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones and a number of other Zen-inspired books on writing, talks about "writing practice," about making writing a daily practice in the way that meditation is a daily practice. You do it because you do it.

Says Goldberg in a Sun Magazine interview:

But interest in Bones crossed every cultural line. Vice-presidents of insurance companies in Florida bought it, and so did quarry workers in Missouri. It was as though people were starving to write, but they didn’t know how, because the way writing was taught didn’t work for them. I think the idea of writing as a practice freed them up. It meant that they could trust their minds, that they were allowed to fail.

I love the reference to quarry workers in my current home state of Missouri. My father worked in a quarry most of my life. He never finished high school, but he was a manager of a quarry before he retired. I can't exactly imagine my father doing writing practice, but now that I think of it, he is an awfully good example of the kind of steady patience that practice cultivates.

The less one blogs, the more one feels obligated to say something "deep." (Not that I'm trying that now.) It's important just to practice. To allow oneself to fail. And not to fail.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Here and there kind of summer

Derek's entry today reminds me that I, too, have had a lot of small things going on this summer. C&W in Detroit last month, a visit to Pittsburgh this month, a retreat starting this evening and lasting until Sunday. A visit from my good buddy I. and her husband last night. Need to fit in a visit to the family in Texas--got to meet that new great (or is it grand) nephew

before second summer session starts in July. And then, yeah, teaching a class (Intro to Women's Lit, like last summer). And in August, believe it or not, my in-laws, like Derek's, will also be celebrating their 50th anniversary. So we'll be heading up to northern Illinois for that.

Lots going on. Not to mention a book and a couple of articles to write.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Favoring curry

I'm back from Pittsburgh and happy to report that, as advised by Debbie and Mike, I had a delicious meal at the Spice Island Tea House. Wonderful little samosas as an appetizer, spicy Vegetarian Curry Trio for my entree. And, Mike--they seem to have a liquor license now! Because there was wine for our table.

And, since I'm speaking of meals, I'll mention that I also enjoyed a wonderful tofu curry at Soba, in Shadyside. Also some amazing blue cheese ravioli for an appetizer. It was a curry kind of trip for me.

I walked around the Pitt campus a good bit, looked around in the Cathedral of Learning, and found a nice used bookstore close to Carnegie Mellon. But that's about it for siteseeing--though I hoped to make it to the museums, I didn't.

But the people! K was an absolutely splendid host (as was J), B a wonderful new doctor of composition, and the other K a fabulous person who I was delighted to meet and talk with. And I got to talk to even more cool people, too.

Lots of spice to this trip. It was a good one. Many, many thanks to K for making it possible.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


Tomorrow I continue my tour (begun last month with a visit to Detroit) of cities made great by industry. This month it's Pittsburgh.

I've never been there before. So if anyone would like to suggest things to do or see (ideally, in the vicinity of the Oakland neighborhood), I'm all ears.

Monday, June 04, 2007

To dream, perchance to blog

Last night, I dreamed it snowed.

I was walking down the street, my feet sinking into the snow.

It's June! I thought to myself in my dream. It snowed in June! I can't believe it!

And then I thought, still dreaming: I'm going to blog about this.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Random things, including vampires!

Lanette tagged me last week with the "Seven Random Things" meme. And since I seem to have taken a week off from blogging, I'll use the meme as a jump start. Here you go, seven things, all random:

(1) The Lost season finale was great--intriguing to move off island, in the apparent future. Just please, don't turn it into a narrative about Jack's redemption or some such.

2. I'm going out of town for part of next week.

3. It's raining today. Lots of rain this spring.

4. The Missouri Supreme Court just ruled that public employees have the right to collective bargaining. Good news for all teachers and university employees.

5. I'm reading Dracula. I'm sorry to say I've never read it before. I tend to avoid vampires and such, having been traumatized by them as a small child. My sisters watched Dark Shadows, and I feared Barnabas Collins.

6. What's prompting me to read Dracula? It's full of characters using shorthand and typewriting. Who knew?

7. Yesterday was Wednesday, and there was no Lost. No Lost until next winter. Ah well. I have other things to occupy me, don't I?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

But wait, there's more

The most fun I've ever had in thinking about copyright law and fair use:

via Krista

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

This blog needs some pictures

But I didn't take my camera to Detroit. No reason. I just didn't manage to pack it.

It's just that I was thinking about how students in 8010 said they thought the blog looked better once they started posting their visual arguments in April. And how they wished they had realized before they could incorporate images into the blog. Images make the blog more appealing, they said.

And they do, of course.

So here you go. An image.

From our visit, last December, to Kansas City. A lamppost in the Plaza.

And a couple more from that trip:

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Taking leave

In the Detroit airport, on my way home. My first Computers & Writing Conference was a good time--just the shot of intellectual/collegial interaction/energy I needed after a fairly exhausting semester.

So, thanks to Collin for putting the panel together. Thanks to my fellow panelists. Thanks to the audience, who asked questions that got us talking with each other.

Some other highlights:
* A frenetically energizing keynote by the inimitable Geoff Sirc
* An introduction to Bio Mapping from Scot
* An Ong panel put together by John
* A presentation by Jackie and Jonathan, that included images of lampshade-headed people and Laurie Anderson!
* Excellent conversations, including a most useful one with P
* Breakfast at Toast with D and H
* A visit to the Institute of the Arts, featuring the amazing Diego Rivera mural

A good time, even if a couple of important folks were otherwise occupied outside of Detroit.

[I'll add links later. Gotta board.]
[Update: Links added.]

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

So sleepy

It makes no sense to be as sleepy as I am today. I turned in grades Monday. Sure, I've been working on my paper for Computers & Writing, but I haven't been staying up to do it.

And yet, this afternoon, on the extremely short drive to campus, I fell asleep. (Don't worry: I wasn't driving.) Bizarre.

It doesn't bode well. I leave my house before dawn tomorrow morning for the flight to Detroit. I never get enough sleep when conferencing. So if you see me there and don't seem to have much going on in the synapse department, you'll know why.

That is, you'll know that I'm sleep-deprived. Even though it isn't clear to me why I should be so sleep deprived before the conference even begins.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Five things I could do, in a parallel universe

Grades are due tomorrow. I've never liked grading, though I have to say this semester it isn't that hard and is even pleasurable. I taught two grad classes, so I'm reviewing teaching portfolios for one class and seminar papers on "the social" in rhet/comp for another. It's more enlightening than difficult.

Even so, last week I was prompted by someone to think about what I might do if I wasn't doing what I'm doing (as in, for work). So this is a list of five things I've thought of doing in my life, and still think about sometimes. Of course, most of these things would require further schooling. And some aren't particularly practical. They're just things that come to mind now and again.

1. Mediator
2. Yoga teacher
3. Psychologist
4. Educational union organizer
5. Physical therapist