Thursday, February 11, 2010

Should I change my location?

So winter is now fully upon us, complete with record snowfall at O'Hare (as NPR instructs me). Mostly this is annoying in that the stairs to the laundry room are icy and parking is dicey (ooh a rhyme!) and makes me happy to own a 4-wheel drive vehicle. And I suppose in that I don't own any good snow shoes, despite having been here for 10 years now (a scary thought). Maybe I should title this post (okay, re-title) "parentheticals" or something instead.

So it's a new semester, a new year, and according to a lot of people, a new decade. And I have a new location. I am now mostly Chicago, nearly not Urbana. Yes indeed. In the fourth year of grad school (and marriage) and the fifth year of higher education during which time all I ever had regularly was the summer, I have finally switched things around and made Urbana my temporary home in practice in addition to name. And in a desperate attempt to relive my recent youth, I am in fact once again a registered student at Chicago, playing on an IM broomball team and wondering why the Classics building is so far in the corner of the main quad as I scurry almost late to class in the lovely dark-wood paneled room with too much heat. It is still a strange half-life of belonging nowhere but being everywhere. But it's a better version of it, finally.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Well, that was depressing

I went to my first Unit on Critical Theory event and my first MillerCom lecture tonight (one and the same event) due to my sudden ability this semester to actually do things I feel like doing every now and then, instead of things I have to do all the time instead. It keeps you pretty busy still, and there are plenty of things that need doing, but overall it's nice. Anyway. I'm struck by the disconnect between the humanities and everyone else, or at least the one that gets expressed at these sorts of things: tonight a talk centered around the book "The Corporate University and the Fate of the Humanities" or something like that. The audience seemed, to my unaccustomed eye, to be full of sympathetic humanists, most in the English department, providing a true choir to preach to. The system is broken, they proclaim - we must fight it, we must rationalize our value within it, we must prove that the system is the wrong system and change it, we must stand up for what we believe! Except that the grad students are too lowly, the non-tenured too small for their powerlessness, the tenured to comfortable or too small even in their power. And there was only a tiny push to take things to the other fields in the university - to the sciences, the professional schools, the schools that I think of as professional but don't categorize themselves that way (engineering, I'm looking at you; also ACES...) As long as the other departments who right now are doing fine continue to be complacently happy (and really, who can blame them? they fit into the capitalist/corporate system just fine) the humanities are doomed to be a tiny voice that is too easily ignored. If we can't even convince other academics of our value or of the problems inherent in the tenure and promotion system (among other things) we will be even more screwed with the administration and the public. The advice of "wait 10 or 15 years" until there are enough adjuncts to really gunk up the works with a strike or something does nothing at all for the present situation. But I wonder about the wisdom of fighting a model that, however wrong, is apparently sticking because the people in charge think it is the only model that works, and are probably too afraid to branch out and try something different. There's a problem of price fixing or collusion or something, it seems, even if unintentional or subconscious between universities and each other, and universities and the private sector. The fear that we must compete monetarily with corporate America over hires or we'll only attract subpar talent seems wrong to me. Should we not want those qualified individuals who are concerned with the chance to teach and research and mentor and be happy to exclude those whose primary concern is playing at the country club for the next 40 years (at $15000 a year)? I know the humanities are in no shortage for applicants right now, and as far as I can tell there are plenty of eager and willing folks in other fields too. But who will be brave enough to challenge perceptions, and risk losing "all" the qualified candidates to higher paying institutions? Who determines what that quality consists of?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Things seem always the same

Deleted beginnings are never a good way to start writing. Although I suppose that's a misleading statement, since they can't start writing at all once they've been deleted. At least not the part of it you read. Semantics II has made me very aware of these sorts of things, much more so than Semantics I which was kind of like a fun thought experiment about language using very basic things I learned a long time about in Algebra (I wonder where motorcycle riding, police calling Jeff Brock is these days... I wonder at all the things I have forgotten about rings and fields and sets). Semantics II is nothing like that: full of things from formal logic and philosophy. We interpret things like "John believes that Mary eats cheese" to be true in the set of all possible worlds that are compatible with John's beliefs in the actual world and in which Mary eats cheese in the possible world. Sets of worlds and individuals and all sorts of relations. Or something like that. An hour of class three days a week and I'm mentally done for the day. (This is not good for my other studies, I should mention, since class ends at 11am). But it is sort of fun to sort out the possible worlds where Sherlock Holmes has an even number of hairs on his head, from those in which the number is odd. Linguists at least manage to come up with nice example sentences, often funny. I would write one of them out here, but of course I can't think of any at the moment. Must be the lingering H1N1. In any case, I wish John and Mary well - and anyone else who wondered if I would ever write again in this space (aside from myself) - I think of it often, but laziness gets the best of me.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

First day of March

I am driving south as the cast of the sun sinks lower and the color intensifies - the one spot of warmth, of spectral glowing over the barren fields, bleak stands of trees, disheveled farm buildings, Chebanse at 304, the endless dashes of white paint. It is lovely as it falls, however much the windshield glares and my right eye waters, but then in an instant it is split by a cloud and falls below the horizon - into the nothingness of orbit - and the sky darkens, the land is obscured, and all I can do is follow the white dashes, leading onwards - inevitable and endless.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The face of our times

Ethan is shaving again and I can't recognize him. It's like those moments in TV or the movies when the sound gets slightly off from the picture and you can't bear to look at the actor when things don't quite match up. It's too jarring for your impression of the world. This is what his face is like to me right now. I either stare in disturbed fascination or keep my gaze away, especially when he talks. It's not the right face for the voice. I realize how silly this is as a problem but despite that I can't just "get over it" (although I'm trying to stare more and get used to it). In the fall it was the presence of the beard which, having seen it before, I could manage even if it took a few days to get used to it and a couple of weeks to like it. And then one day it was gone, down to a very giant goatee for a day (which I have also seen before on a smaller scale). And then the next day it was a little mustache (which I've never seen before) that frightens me with its earnestness. I think it will be gone soon and if it isn't I'm sure I'll adapt. It changes his profile so much that the only time I see my Ethan under it is when there's some exaggerated expression afoot that shows me the same bone structure and muscle patterns and whatnot. Silliness, I know. But real.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

whence the clouds

The corn watches me as I pass it, early and late, whispering with the breezes that smell of cows or horses or nothing, depending on the direction. Some days I am singing and others are more grim, trying to set a record or at least keep all the time for myself I can. These days it is colder and more lonesome but I don't feel sick in the elements with my pedals the way I do snug on a bus. And yet every day I watch the color drain out of the world a little more. The sky is gray in the mornings, the roads pale under dim light, the trees dull without the sun to gild them, the dry empty stadiums gape from entrance tunnels, the parking lots around barren. The corn was green then brown then, one day, gone and all that is left are tiny stumps in the dry earth. It is all waiting, I suppose, for the breath of spring which is so far off and yet still surely coming. I do not know how long I can wait.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

But where are the grandchildren?

It's dark these days when I wake up. In the rhythm of the semester, I seem to have found my equilibrium - early to bed, early to rise. I don't get much done at night (never) have and I've tried to listen more and more to my internal clock, my internal warnings. I do that during exercise, for eating, for drinking, why should I fight it any more for sleeping? But I watch askance as the minutes drift slowly backward - will it stop? First it was 7:30, 7:15, 6:30 - the sun in the windows on clear days was too bright, too warm, too inviting. I seemed pretty set around 6:30 for a couple of months but suddenly, inexplicably now in the darkening morning gloom of autumn, I am waking up earlier and earlier. And, as a result, going to bed earlier too. Today wins because today, for the first time, I accepted it and didn't force myself to go back to sleep or wait until "a decent hour". Today was 5:27. I am officially an old person.