Sunday, April 29, 2007

Celebrating the lowered head

It's April! Actually, it's almost May! But April is National Poetry Month, and I haven't posted one single poem to commemorate it. But in honor of a couple of fellow Taureans' birthdays this past week, I am now moved to share this one. Happy National Poetry Month. You have one more day to celebrate it.

Brooding Likeness

I was born in the month of the bull,
the month of heaviness,
or of the lowered, the destructive head,
or of purposeful blindness. So I know, beyond the shadowed
patch of grass, the stubborn one, the one who doesn't look up,
still senses the rejected world. It is
a stadium, a well of dust. And you who watch him
looking down in the face of death, what do you know
of commitment? If the bull lives
one controlled act of revenge, be satisfied
that in the sky, like you, he is always moving,
not of his own accord but through the black field
like grit caught on a wheel, like shining freight.

--Louise Glück, from The Triumph of Achilles (1985)

Friday, April 27, 2007

Friday cat food blogging

Readers of this blog might wonder how I'm feeling in light of the ongoing pet food recalls. (Right? You've been wondering, haven't you? Because you remember, of course, that I'm obsessed with cat food.)

Yes, well. Every day seems to bring the recall of a new product, and I've had a few close calls (recall of a product I used to feed Casey, the allergy-prone cat, and recall of a product I feed Simon, the picky eater, but that I chose to stop feeding him when I saw the connection between the recall and an ingredient in that product).

Bitch PhD offers some excellent links for updated information, and also a recipe for making your own cat food.

I just can't bring myself to make cat food. I mean, it's a rare day that I make my own dinner from scratch. But these recalls are freaking me out. I'm trying to avoid feeding anything that has any of the ingredients that have come up contaminated (wheat gluten, rice protein concentrate, and, in South Africa, corn gluten). Trouble is, even some high quality foods have those ingredients. For example, since I've stopped feeding Casey the Venison & Green Pea that's been recalled, I've switched him to Prescription Diet Z/D. He's been thriving on it, I have to say, despite my initial aversion to feeding anything with something called "hydrolyzed chicken," "that eliminates animal intact proteins." (It also contains Ethoxyquin, a preservative that may be a carcinogen, although the FDA says it isn't.) But Rice Protein Concentrate is the first listed ingredient. Aargh! I do realize that they may have purchased it from a different manufacturer, but, still, I'm suspicious now of anything that anyone might want to spike with melamine, which apparently raises the protein levels but which brings on kidney failure.

So there's this Duck & Oatmeal food, but it also has chicken in it, which may be an allergan. It also has fruit, which a lot of the organic or "holistic" brands contain, but that may cause intestinal problems. So while it may not cause kidney failure (which is high on my list to be avoided), it may cause other problems for poor, sensitive Casey.

What's an obsessed person like me to do?

Don't know.

And why, dear reader, am I burdening you with this question? It's on my mind, that's all. And it's Friday. It seemed like something to do.

But--coming soon to this humble blog: posts on the bullishness of National Poetry Month and on the excellence of Daniel Anderson's talk & workshop last week. .

Monday, April 23, 2007


I've used PBwiki ("Make a PBwiki as easily as a peanut butter sandwich!") to create class sites for a couple of my courses, and I like it pretty well. It's easy to use (they've recently changed to point and click editing, which is supposed to make it easier, but I actually haven't updated any of my wikis recently, so I don't know), even if I would prefer to use good old html instead of some nonce code.

It looks nice. And now, they're making all educational wikis ad-free, which will make it even nicer. And--I can't lie to you--they're offering me more space on my wiki if I tell you about them. So I am.

Here's a wiki from my Women's Lit class last summer. I'm also using a wiki in 8010, the class for our MA students who will be teaching for the first time in the fall. But that latter wiki is very much still in process. (Hmm. I guess wikis are sort of meant to stay in process, aren't they?)

At any rate, I'm sure the purists among you will tell me I should download wiki software onto my own server, and probably I should. Probably I should download some blogging software, too. But right now, PBwiki works for me. (As does Blogger.)

I mean, hey. At least I don't use Blackboard.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

To do

Lord. It's getting to be the end of the semester, and things are needing to get done. Here's a list. Not that you want to know. But I need to remember. And writing in more than one place, while not part of the GTD plan, seems helpful at the moment.

(And the list isn't in order of priority. Pretty much everything is at the same level.)

1. Get that 100 word CCCC proposal to the other members of my panel. (Hi, Panel. Sorry to be slow on this.)

2. Get the upcoming visitor's ground transportation and hotel information to him. (Hello, upcoming visitor. Don't worry--it's a-coming.)

3. Write a 300 word abstract of my book for the Writers' Bloc meeting tomorrow.

4. Go to the gym. Please. Tonight. Tomorrow. Thursday.

5. Read a certain someone's revised thesis.

6. Do some other things that I've promised to do but won't blog about.

7. Go to the dentist in the morning for the follow up on that appointment during Spring Break. Remember to take my own kind of music. [Forgot the music, but did take thesis mentioned in item 5.]

8. Reply to some emails that are sitting in my inbox just waiting.

9. Revise my narrative for 3rd year review.

10. Buy my sister a birthday card, even though it will be late (seeing as how tomorrow is her birthday and she lives in Texas).

Update 4/18: Look at all those strikethroughs! Just a few items left. Of course, they're mostly things that require a little more thought than the others.

Update 4/23: So everything is done except item 8. Still have many emails left to reply to. Maybe this summer I can work on what seems to be the impossible goal of the empty inbox.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Looking west

Jeff writes about points of connection with Burroughs--one being St. Louis.

The thing about Columbia is it's almost exactly halfway between St. Louis and Kansas City. So looking west, what connections can *I* find?

A random Google search the other day: "secretaries." I'm interested in secretaries because of their role as actants in the circulation of communication and the circulation of affect in companies. I've been interested in thinking about secretaries, about the ways that their jobs resonate with writing instructors (common assumptions about their jobs dealing with routine, repetitive kinds of composing), for years. Since my first year as a doctoral student.

And so a few days ago I Google, and one of the first items listed is the website for the International Association of Administrative Professionals, headquartered in Kansas City (pictured below the fold).

Founded in 1942 as the National Secretaries Association.

1942? Hmmm. Seven years later, the Conference on College Composition and Communication would hold its first meeting. Like composition teachers, secretaries had been around in great numbers since the turn of the century. But it wasn't until the 1940s and the heyday of management that a professional organization makes its debut.

A professional organization that is quick to point out:
IAAP is not a union organization – we work in partnership with employers to promote excellence and lifelong learning

A professional organization that publishes a journal (Office Pro), with a regular column on "Style." The topic this month? Verbs.

I became interested in secretaries because of the correspondence, the connection between their work and my work. But there's more. My mother went to "business school." Do you know about these? They were training schools for secretaries. When my mother was growing up (in the 1940s), representative of the schools went door to door in the rural areas of Texas, looking for young women who might be inticed to move to the city, become a secretary.

And so my mother went. She was trained. And she interviewed for jobs, where she was asked, she tells me, "When are you going to get married?" Because the assumption was that what young women really wanted was marriage, and, once they got that, they would leave their careers behind.

Do you know when I interviewed at my alma mater, I was asked if I was married. If I had children. I was asked, because I was "family."

Language. Affect. Bound together. Secretaries circulate both.

And just down the road, their professional headquarters. I need to check it out.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Welcome mat? Check!

Now that they've admitted it themselves, I'm happy to announce here that, yes, my department is getting TWO new rhet/comp folks next year. And not just any two, but the rhet/comp blogosphere's own Jenny and Jeff. Can you believe it?

So look Mizzou's way, will you, when you're thinking about where you might advise your up and coming grad students to apply. We're going to be cooking up an extra-cool program. Keep an eye out.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

These are the days of miracles and wonder

Awhile back I was talking about how growing up in Texas made it easy to believe we're living the End Times, what with all the weird insects, winds, and all.

And now it's happened again. Did you hear? Snow in Texas. Snow, the day before Easter. Snow in April. Snow covering the sure-sign-of-spring bluebonnets.
"It's not crazy, it's Texas," said one resident.

But no snow here in central Missouri. No, just sunny skies, chilly air.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Opening up the world

Jason B. Jones (who attended UWM for awhile when I was doing the PhD thang there and who blogs at The Salt Box--and since he links to things with his name on them, I'm assuming I'm not revealing anything here that I'm not supposed to) has a cool interview with Steven Johnson at Pop Matters.

It's interesting to learn (maybe you already knew?) that Johnson went to grad school to study theory (Foucault was among his favorites when he was 20), and that Franco Moretti opened up a new way of seeing for him:

Moretti has this essay on literary evolution, I think it’s called “On Literary Evolution” in Signs Taken for Wonders, and I remember having this amazing experience of reading it and seeing him walking down Broadway in Morningside Heights, and saying, “But Franco, I think you’re talking about science here in kind of a straight way; you’re saying, “science has these ideas about the world that may be true, so let’s see if we can apply some of those ideas to the study of literature, and you don’t seem to be deconstructing science at all” and he said, “Right.” “Interesting approach,” I thought. It just opened up this whole world—“oh, I could just borrow some of these ideas and not actually be battling those folks, I could actually ask them for help.” That was the beginning of a whole avenue that took a long time to explore.

Ah ha! I thought. So now I get the connection among many of the things Collin blogs about: Moretti, Johnson, and Latour, too. We've been reading Latour in my grad seminar, and Latour, as you may know, is also a great one for saying, hey, how about we try to understand how things like science work instead of trying to show how they are mystifications. It might make one suspicious at first, if one has been raised up to be suspicious. If one has been trained to always look for the meanness behind everything. But what if the world isn't always about meanness? What if we don't begin from that starting place? If there's meanness, it's sure to show up. It just doesn't have to be inevitable.

It's freeing, that is. It allows for a more curious, a more expansive relationship to the world, to knowledge. It's working for me, these days.

Monday, April 02, 2007

I [heart] Latour

Derek quoted the wonderful pumpkin-stroking passage awhile back. Here's another reason to love Latour:

And then there is the question of your inner feelings. Have they not been given to you? Doesn't reading novels help you to know how to love? How would you know which group you pertain to without ceaselessly downloading some of the cultural clichés that all the others are bombarding you with? Without the avid reading of countless fashion magazines, would you know how to bake a cake?

And without the avid reading of countless blogs, would I know how to love Latour?

Thanks, all you ANTS. I'm learning how to mix up a social.

Spreading the news: CSU faculty ready to strike

Four years ago this February, I was the acting WPA at SIUC, and I was a member of a faculty union that was poised to go on strike. It was a pretty intense time.

So I'm standing in full solidarity here with the California State University faculty, who, with an amazing "81% voter turnout on the 23 CSU campuses" voted to authorize a strike, should the California Faculty Association and the CSU administration fail to reach an agreement.

The CSU faculty are protesting against the local affects of a wide-spread trend: budgets for instruction have decreased as budgets for administration and research (read: big grant-grabbing research) have increased. From the California Chronicle article linked to above:

John Travis, President of the California Faculty Association, said, “Today, the faculty has spoken loud and clear . . . they want a return to a true focus on the mission of the university — the instruction of students. . . We need to make real progress toward paying the CSU faculty at the same level as our peers around the country. We know this administration has the financial flexibility to make it happen, but they choose not to. If they don’t find the will to reorder their priorities, we don’t want to strike but we will.”

(A little aside: I'm especially interested in the "financial flexibility" piece of this statement. I've been thinking for a long time that the best way for faculty to gain real economic power at universities is to really trace the economies of their institutions. Rather than depend solely on abstractions (as has been the tendency, alas, in much of the literature on the corporatization of the university), faculty would be in position to make much better arguments for reallocation of funds if they can actually see how the money circulates and the different levels (university, legislatures, alumni, etc.) at which information needs to be disseminated.)

Shehun asks that we keep the news circulating. And so I am.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

I'm thinking

It's been quite the weekend for awards. First, I won Collin's comment contest, and now, thanks toWriting Maternity, I've been tagged with a Thinking Blogger award.

That latter award is especially nice in conjunction with the former. To win Collin's contest, all I did was write this tantalizing remark:
By the way, hasn't anyone made comment #2000 yet?

On the face of it, that might not seem like a comment that required a lot of thinking. But, if you trace the associations, Latour style, you'll see that it required a number of actors and movements (my blogroll, something [the trace of which is now lost] triggering my memory, etc.). Many associations had to come together in just the right way to make it possible.

And isn't that thinking? The bringing together of associations? I would say so.

At any rate, accepting the "Thinking Blogger" meme requires that I list five blogs that make me think. Well, friends, that's a tall order, since so many blogs in fact make me think. It's not like I'm filling up my blogroll with dross. So, I've decided to concentrate on a subset of bloggers, those who *currently* find themselves pursuing a graduate degree. I'm ever grateful for the opportunity to be in on cutting edge thinking, which (if we believe Kuhn, and I kinda do) happens more often among new members of a field than among long timers. And I'm also focusing on blogs that I've been reading for awhile--cause, you know, they've had more time to get me thinking. So, here's my list:

Earth Wide Moth
Machina Memorialis
Schizzes and Flows

And, ok, I might be biased, but they make me think, in all kinds of ways:

m2h blogging
Wind Farm