Category Archives: Professional Stuff

A welcome if temporary return to laziness

I’m not going to tax myself this weekend, as the week was profitable. The Lasallian camp is done (great kids, I’ll miss them), my CE revision is sent, and the English department website is all but finished. Next week I have to apply a final coat to the website, and tackle my back-burnered article on Gospel metaphor, but those are tasks to worry about on Monday.

There is a dearth of good PC games available at the moment. I’ve been playing Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter, but it only works on two levels – admiring the graphics (the draw distance is just gigantic), and watching my squadmates get lost. Concerning the latter, I thought the pathfinding in the first Baldur’s Gate back in ‘99 was bad. I’ve seen these supposedly crack infantrymen go the direct OPPOSITE direction I pointed them in so often that I have been sorely tempted to shoot them in the back of the head.

Ok, maybe not so much tempted as guilty. “Sir! I’m on your side! Agrrh!” Well, then act like it. I’ve had enough of your “Yes, sir! Moving! Moving to the destination!” while simultaneously pulling a Sir Robin and bravely turning tail. The funny thing is that they wouldn’t get shot in the back (by the enemy or moi) if they’d actually listen. I’m actively trying to get through the missions without any of them being killed. Half the time I just have them tag along a hundred yards back to mop up stragglers, as they’re too dense to do much else.

H, of course, just laughs. She hadn’t had this much fun watching me play since the merchants in Oblivion, whose establishments, just from the greeting sound files, all doubled as bordellos. “Would you like to take a look at my wares?” “I have the best prices in all of Tamriel!”

Perhaps I should go easier on Ghost Recon. The pace of the game is excellent. There is a good balance between realism (death is quick and sudden, ammo besides rifle magazines is quite limited, it’s tough to deal with suppressive fire) and fun (the squadmates really have to be nailed to be killed outright, the save points are not too far apart). And the squad is not completely hopeless. They use cover fairly well and the sniper can be really useful. I just wish there was a way to have the entire squad perform basic maneuvers, like “Everyone take cover!” or “Flush out that guy on the roof!” or “Leapfrog up the street.”

Privacy

I think the most interesting thing about posting online, blogs, etc, is the privacy aspect. What do you share? What do you withhold? Every blogger alive tries to present themselves as intelligent, well-adjusted, sane, knowledgeable, etc. If they indeed have weaknesses, vices, or foibles, such characteristics are only hinted at in a kind of universally understood mock-humility, i.e. “I am immensely clever but also human, therefore I am supposedly better and more trustworthy than someone who is just immensely clever and uber-human.”

Is there an honest way to toe the line between giving way too much personal info and complete, obvious santization or psuedo-glorification? I don’t know. There is a array of possible techniques, from the confessional blogger that relates their sex life in lurid detail to the airbrushed political candidate that neglects past sins. Everyone tiptoes through the minefield – or dashes forward – in their own unique way. The “second persona,” the author’s presentation of himself or herself, is pushed to the brink by the web. Identity dissipiates in a fashion a mere book or speech could only dream of.

I certainly withhold a lot. I don’t talk about my personal life much, save mild allusions. I don’t talk about my professional life beyond what I would reveal in a casual conversation with another educator. The dangers are myriad and need no elaboration. This removes a great deal of juicy material, of course, and creates what I like to call an “iceberg effect” where additional depth to any given utterance can be assumed. But the most interesting and most revealing things are still stripped away, much like a telephone signal is clipped at the top and the bottom, leaving only a bland middle. The rest is left to the imagination, or the careful assembly of a skilled close reader.

Eh. Another one of those classic rhetorical problems that has no solution, but bears awareness, discussion, and attention well.

I am eat all food, destroyer of worlds

Sometimes at the ESL summer camp that I’m working at this year, the kids can write unintentionally rich sentences. Their homework the other day was to write what they would do if they had all the food in the world. One eager lad immediately wrote down “I am eat all food,” which made me think of Oppenheimer and his Bhagavad Gita quote, “Now, I am become death, destroyer of worlds.”

Working there has reminded me that my Southern use of irregular verbs is probably going to have to stop or at least to be curtailed if I’m going to keep professing for a living. I try to be good, but it’s hard to break a lifetime of habit, especially when day-to-day it doesn’t matter much and everyone else ’round these parts is not much better. “I’ve eaten” escapes my lips as often as “I’ve ate,” “I would like” is not nearly as frequent as “I like to ‘of,” and my personal favorite, “I like to ‘ve would ‘of, but I ain’t gonna” appears at least biweekly, not to mention “I done that” and the misuse of drove and wrote. I also contantly mix up read and write to the point of Spoonerism.

I am an ardent supporter of y’all, however.

Yay.

Earlier today I lamented that I had nothing good to post about. I came home late after pizza with H, though, checked my email, and learned that my first academic article, “Whatever Became of the Paragraph?” is getting published early next year in College English. A small impromptu dance resulted. No animals were harmed, although Kota (my cat) looked alarmed.

Revision is needed, but after looking over the comments, which were very positive on the whole, it doesn’t look like I’ll have to gut it like a fish. That is good. I felt pretty strongly about most of it, and I think the reviewers deftly caught the parts where I was more uncertain or tentative.

I am greatly cheered.

Catching up

Perhaps I should take a moment to clue in everybody about where the hell I’ve been.

The PhD grind continues. The spring 2006 semester was easily the hardest I’d had since becoming a graduate student. I escaped with a A- in one class, a scar that will surely haunt me to the end of my days. That’s my second, which keeps me at the frustrating 3.99 mark.

One more 12-hour semester in the fall, though, and the coursework is done.

I guess I did ok. I sent off my first academic paper, on paragraph theory, to a journal; I went to my first conference – CCCC in Chicago – and presented for the first time; and I won an award for being the outstanding graduate student in the English department.

I’m supposed to be revamping the English webpage this summer, but this task (when I actually get the server access to start it) will not quite pay the summer bills. However, I think a small teaching gig has appeared that will make up most of the difference.

In the meantime. I am not entirely idle. I have started teaching myself the Koine Greek of the New Testament, with the goal of getting through the Gospel of John by August. Why? Well, I have become more or less enamored with rhetorical criticism of the NT; I aim to send off a mostly-finished paper on NT agricultural metaphor by July. And I think I will try to write a history of prose rhythm teaching in the fall.

There are plenty of irons in the fire, I think, not counting at least two collaborations going on. If I am extraordinarily lucky, by Xmas I will have sent out five papers in 2006.

That would be a good thing, as when my comprehensive exams approach (spring 2007) I will not have much time to try my hand at publishing. I might get a paper out that summer as sort of a prelim to the dissertation, but I’m not counting on it. I’d like to leave the UoM in spring 2008 with 3 or so publications, and at least 1 of them being a good one in a good journal. Ideally one would be in comp, another in rhetoric, and another in NT criticism or tech writing, to show versitility.

That’s the plan. What actually happens between now and May 2008 is not predictable. But I am on schedule, one year into a planned three-year PhD, and I think it will come off mostly according to plan.