Wednesday, 28 March 2007


I love the pyschosomatic theory of the origin of disease.

I couldn’t figure out whether I had a head cold or was having an attack of hay fever. Tonight I realized that I have both.

I logged between 4 and 5 hours a sleep each a night for four nights. I ate hotel conference food and chain restaurant transfats. Two mornings, I walked a mile each way to get coffee and a pastry. Starbucks has established around the Piccadilly Inn side of CSU Fresno a network of stores, each node spaced one mile apart.

Tom, Lana, Trula, and I made dinner for us, Matt, Ellen, Jason, Monica, and Hadil.

I miss California enough to contemplate living in Fresno. I did not have any authentic Mexican. You aren’t serious about using the word “authentic,” are you?

Kathleen is fun to hang out with. Sunday, she took me to the airport.

To spend time with her, I cut out on Tom, Matt, and Ellen on Saturday night. I was sorry to miss his brother, Michael, but the upshot of that was a much-needed talk with Tom.

I miss him dearly.

small numbskull
Friday, 16 March 2007

Slag Twitter

I’m out of my mind right now with grading. This winter term I had a flexible and effective schedule that balanced research and teaching (with service trailing a distant third). I stayed on top of my teaching and pushed out an article that is not unreadable. It has a few jokes.

And now on this last Friday of final exams I have one lower-division essay, ten upper-division essays, and a stack of lower-division final exams and I plain tired. My noodle is cooked!

As psychic defense, I surfed over to daringfireball and clicked through to an article disparaging Twitter. Daringfireball, a week or so ago, was close to jumping the shark, with Gruber seemingly letting his unconscious sexism rear its head. The form it took (paraphrased) was “women do not present at web conferences because they’re not interested.” This may be true, but what such a outloook ignores is the fact that there is gender imbalance in the world of web developers, an imbalance that is not the effect of biology. If women are not interested in conferences for web developers (which I just don’t think is the case) and there is nothing gender-biased about web development, then there is something deterring those women from participating. Ergo, sexism.

But Gruber decided not to mount the ramp, the fireball boat looping around for another approach. Now Gruber predicts Twitter will have increased its traffic a year from now while Mat Balez predicts Twitter keels over before year’s end.

I used to love daringfireball. Now, it is mostly a distraction. I’ve been using Apple-branded OSes since 1992. Post Intel, Apple is bigger than it’s ever been and for that reason annoying. Parts of the Apple machine are little more than advertising. I’m the kind of guy that would get excited if WordPerfect for Mac came back, but everything else is just sort of on hold and I don’t program for a living. So, a blog for “Mac nerdery” is not the center of my life and I’m glad Gruber is around to alert me to interesting developments. Detente.

Still, the whole Twitter thing seemed stupid to me five months ago and it seems stupid to me now, not that stupid translates into failure since some days stupid seems to be a requirement for Internet-era “success.” What gets my panties wadded is that the people who gush over Twitter also seem to think Merlin Mann is cool. If Merlin Mann is anything, cool is not one of them.

Maybe I could whip up a PERL one-liner to do my grading for me.small numbskull

Sunday, 10 December 2006


I’m going to admit that the standard of writing (such as it may be) I’ve unsystematically imposed by writing each entry of with the care and attention I have prevents me from blogging as often as I’d like. The uncharacterized but felt “quality” of the writing there demands more of the same. When days go by and I haven’t posted something there, I feel neglectful, inattentive, slovenly.

So, it’s pretty important I don’t hold that standard across all domains in which I write, though, even my journal maintains a comparable standard. Where do I write when I just want to write? Does everything I write have to worth writing?

For the past couple months (since the start of Fall quarter, really), I’ve turned my digital attention to facilitating my research and scholarship. I articulated a precise, extensible, and comprehensive (do the second and third terms cancel each other?) directory structure for all the scholarship I was compiling and built EndNote databases to keep track of the entire library, uses of each item in my own research projects (right now, one), and suggestions for future areas of research. Between meals, in the shower, and walking on the way home from dinner out, I had the idea that the databases I produce in EndNote can be supplemented with POSIX paths so that HTML exporting will link directly to the PDFs. Even as I think about doing such I get excited, gleeful, and this is my weakness and my strength.

Starting at the end of May, I began logging all my appointments using iCal. For my purposes and budget, iCal works, especially when supplemented with my own WebDAV server.

OK, iTunes: The Scorpions’ “Still Loving You” is a perfect pop expression of eternal desire, its addressee forever identified by the song’s title as present absence.

This site still has no feed.

For the past month, and especially the last week, I’ve been trying to wedge wider the green (research) portion of my schedule. Even an additional hour or two is difficult to achieve. Yesterday, I significantly increased that wedge. Today, I’m obligated to add another sliver.

My half hour is up. small numbskull

Thursday, 05 October 2006


I ripped the article up today. Actually, I shredded the dissertation chapter that is going to be an article. I’m lucky that I never experience pain during this process. Cutting stuff and building bridges is easy and comforting.

The part of scholarly writing that causes the most anxiety for me is remembering. I read lots of stuff and encounter hundreds of ideas in a week. Many of them are not only intriguing but also well-expressed. Others not so much. When generating new prose or revising many of these ideas come flooding back into my brain but they are unanchored. They’re not available to me in quotable form. I often can’t remember where the idea came from.

I believed Tinderbox would alleviate the difficulty and ameliorate the arduousness of that process, but after shredding my article and interleaving it with notes about what needs to be generated and what needs to be researched, I’m concerned that Tinderbox will be of little use. I dread poring over material I’ve already read looking for those several sentences I know are somewhere (I mean, I saw them just a minute ago!) mostly because the search is rarely easy and it often fails.

But I will find out tomorrow when I open the file and begin searching the articles I’ve Tinderboxed in the last part of the summer.

My stomach feels like it’s made of cotton balls. small numbskull

Monday, 02 October 2006

I remember I can’t explain

At the end of last week, near around Friday, I decided to take the matter of a niggling error message lefty’s installation of postfix was sending: warning: connect to transport procmail: Connection refused. Signing up to was worse than useless. I’m sure part of it was my own ignorance (maybe all of it), but I was pretty explicit that there were no references to procmail as a transport in my file and no one was able to tell me (or hear me) how postfix might specify a transports outside of Ultimately, my problems began when I followed a MacOSX Hints article explaining how to use procmail as a filter for outgoing mail. After borking my mailserver, I tried changing things Back to the Way They Were™. Not until 1 pm EST on 29 September did I notice postfix was complaining once a minute every minute about procmail.

So I tried and tried.

On Sunday I was fed up with my inability to understand the postfix-user gurus and/or the postfix-user gurus deafness to the specifics of my unusual case and decided to roll lefty back to 25 July 2006. I was especially anxious and determined because two attempts to use CCC (as a roll-forward) failed. The bulk of the rollback took six hours (9 am to 3 pm, which I actually predicted in my email to the lone user of lefty’s services). There was a scary moment when I’d realized that I’d lost the changes to lefty’s MySQL tables, but I yanked the data from the incomplete backup and overwrote the older MySQL data. Result: lefty good to go and postfix stopped complaining. I have no idea what caused the problem in the first place.

I was unhappy I had to spend so much of my weekend dealing with yet another problem. I suppose I could have let the whole issue go because postfix was only issuing a warning and the only downside I could see was the addition of 40,000 lines to /var/log/mail.log. Still. Rolling back and successfully interpellating the crucial changes I’d made to my own user folder, to /Library/System/StartupItems (a firewall), to the system crontab, to Apache, and to my DNS server was reassuring and confidence-building.

But what about my research? What about my class? What about this beautiful fall weather?

Lately, I’m starting to recognize that my research is in tension with my personal writing which is why I turned to writing when I was a teenager living in my mother’s house. Reading and writing saved my life and carried me through a tumultuous early college experience. Journaling has been with me through everything and I want to give more, not less, energy to it. After sleeping, eating, teaching, exercising, and personal writing, research occupies too low a space on my hierarchy of needs because, really, my desire to return to research burns like fire. small numbskull

Wednesday, 27 September 2006

Posthuman Me

Here comes tomorrow looking as beautiful as she did that morning we went for a walk through the snow. I am by myself now, but I remember thinking that we were like snowbirds and we were so happy to be with each other. All things will change.

I’ve been going through massive adjustments with regard to the way and the how of my work, my teaching, my loves. It's impossible to know where to begin, all of it is so much better than it was even a few years ago.

Yesterday four other faculty, the Dean of the Honors Tutorial College, and I had a conversation about a horrifying book by Andrew Scull entitled Madhouse. I had finished reading the book well ahead of schedule (last Thursday, the 21st) after having devoted a week to reading it in 40-page increments. I procrastinated indexing my ideas and forty-five minutes before needing to leave for the discussion began compiling that index from my marginalia. I definitely wouldn't be able to put everything inside Tinderbox.

I printed the plain-text index (from BBEdit) and made note of a couple of passages I wanted to consider. The conversation between James, Janet, Bob, Ann, and me was good. While I did feel that one of us slightly intruded personal (as opposed to professional) experience into the conversation, pulling our attention at times too far away from the book, important ideas from the book were broached, the book's weaknesses were discussed, and students became engaged enough to offer their own opinions about the matters at hand. Afterward, two students approached me to ask what classes I would be teaching next term.

Not to lean too closely to Cotton’s megalomaniacal stream, my comfort with the material and my ability to range over the text effectively (thrice bringing our attention to the text though not slavishly devoted to the source) was due to my recent engagements with knowledge representation software which has exercised and strengthened my ability to organize the concepts and structure of a text. The plain-text index method was more rough-and-ready than I would have preferred but things worked out very well. The other important part of the equation, of course, was having managed the time it would take to actually read the text. That, too, was facilitated by means of software.

Get my shit together.

So, I can't help but think back to the Fall of 1997, standing on the West side of McCormick Avenue in Charlottesville, Virginia, having a conversation with Michele Ierardi Ferrari in which everything she said to me and I said to her I instantly forgot. I relied on the phenomenological structure of the conversation to guide my verbal and nonverbal responses. I was in that much anguish. That deep sense of insecurity and panic was nowhere near me last night. I know one day circumstances may again deprive me of the ability to understand speech and formulate coherent sentences, to panic at the idea of her seeing me after she had judged me uncompanionable. Where did those feelings come from and how did they disrupt my ability to produce language for the better part of a decade?

When will those feelings return?small numbskull

Sunday, 24 September 2006

Panic destruct

Starting Thursday (21 September) when Matthew and I watched Joe Dante’s 2006 Homecoming (as of this writing there is no IMDB entry), I have been out on the town socializing. I went out three nights and, with different companions every time, was treated to engaging and satisfying conversation. Except for not being motivated to run, my carousing left me none worse for the wear. I think I’m taking a break from my beloved isolation. These things, however, are cause neither for panic nor destruction.

I brought lefty home on Friday, 11 March 2005, a snow-stormy night which nearly witnessed me hydroplaning into a police blockade around a jackknifed U-Haul. With the exception of a few dozen hours at most, lefty has been up since the Saturday that followed. The last ten days of December 2005 were an exception I hope I never see repeated.

At 1:30 this afternoon I lay down to nap and awoke to lefty’s fans spun what must have been practically all the way up. Flicking the power to his displays did zero and there was No address associated with nodename for lefty. I shut down lefty hard and preceded to get everything working properly. The thing that tripped me up the most was that postgrey wasn’t responding to postfix’s transport calls. My guess is that when lefty crashed, postgrey had not released all its locks and couldn’t reinitialize them even during reboot. I deleted them directly and all seemed OK, except Safari kept occasionally crashing, as did Activity Monitor, and Photoshop, and I got very unusual messages from the Finder.

My first clue was trying to mount a backup .dmg file of lefty and the Finder notifying me The following disk images failed to mount because of a code overrun. Then lefty’s GUI started artifacting like so:

A couple more reboot cycles revealed that the cut-rate DIMMS I purchased from had crapped out. In the time it took me to diagnose the problem, I saw the next two weeks fall prey to a server I could neither afford to replace nor repair and my tenure bid briefly flashed before my eyes.

::wipes sweat off brow:: small numbskull

Wednesday, 20 September 2006


When I called to beg off on Project Runway tonight, Jeremy told me that this week there wouldn’t be a new episode. I explained that I was going to spend some quality time with myself before asking for Paul. I griped to Paul about the self-absorbed and pedagogically disinclined attitude of one of our colleagues. He told me about a lunch meeting on Friday near my home. I told him to email me.

Catherine and I spent an hour together this afternoon. We did a quick catch-each-other-up. I never would have thought this possible before today but we were fucking efficient! No joke. I told her about how happy I am that for the first time in four years I found myself in my perfect space: relationally unattached, intellectually engaged, and emotionally stable. I’m not smarting over a lost relationship, not mourning the death of a loved one’s loved one, certain that the career I’ve chosen to pursue nearly a decade ago can further the person I am becoming, that I’ve been all along.

The weather turned beautiful the day before yesterday, and I can’t stop running.

My teaching is undergoing a massive shift in process, mainly because I am representing my primary and secondary texts by new means (yes, Tinderbox). Yesterday, Tuesday, I worked entirely from pipsqueak and my class could see on the projection screen everything I could: the structure I’d built as a framework for the ideas I had about Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye; the incidental and extended notations I make while soliciting their comments and interpretations; the video clip of Shirley Temple and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson in Irving Cummings’ 1938 Just Around the Corner. Even though I’d gotten only four hours of sleep becoming, once again, Thomas Jefferson (except that day I did come home and nap).

At some point during my reading today (Andrew Scull’s 2005 Madhouse), I thought about the convention I’d recently discovered: TK. I’ve used different means of noting in my unfinished manuscripts places that needed a specific piece of information I did not have readily available (Google goes a long way to obviating such usage) or which required a passage I was not prepared to write (which usually meant I hadn’t researched my subject thoroughly enough). So compact: TK. They are also the initials of the person, a figure really, that I fell in love with at the age of thirteen.

Since then (most notably the summer of 2004 when I finished the second half of my dissertation at 1501 Oxford Road), the fact that my feelings did not center around an actual person as much as around the concept of “the loved one” became more than intuitional deduction. When Phil explained to me that the person around whom I’d built that fantasy of connection and loss characterized me as obsessed, well, I understood that she understood nothing about what brings writing into being.

Writing for a muse is not writing to a person or even about a person, even if the muse figure is connected to that person. The real-world relationships affected by the writing are themselves distortions of a purer ideational moment, domain, sequence. Even the real-world writer, me, is not coincident with the speaker of the writing. That being, depending on how one views such things, is either a purer or reduced instance of the real-world person usually identified as a work’s “author.” I am not the entity spoken in the writing, though I am the most proximate embodied instance of that purer ideational form. There is a split in the subject where writing begins. Flesh-and-bone exist in the realm of degree one of authorial embodiment; the entity inhabiting the space of the writing itself exists in the real of degree zero. Nothing precedes it.

Writing does not originate in the specificity of first love, romantic disillusion, emotional loss, except as these things are themselves pure ideas. First degree phenomena insinuate into the zero degree space of writing but without causality. Writing is prior to the stupid fact of belief and feeling. I write as the proximal effect (nearest descendant) of something that is not me.

You are not the reason this writing exists.

Monday, 18 September 2006

Intangible, persistent

I spent yesterday’s shift into today tracing an anomaly in my pattern of entries. I’d started “the Tasting” within the last couple of days and recalled, vividly, closing it without saving changes believing I’d accidentally dismounted eggplant which contained the original file. I didn’t worry because I hadn’t made any changes to the entry since having left it.

When I opened the Tinderbox file for this blog, the entry was gone and I had no idea where to. While bothersome, I decided to go through my screen capture files and reconstruct the entry from scratch. I’d already tried all of the backup files it could have gotten to in the last couple of days.

Thus ensued an aggravating back-and-forth across my personal calendar and several repositories for screen captures on two machines with no results. I decided to try the last backup source it could have been written to and there was the original file. Tracing the relevant screen captures by consulting the file’s modification time stamp as well as the creation time stamp of the entry helped me reconstruct what had happened: I hadn’t had eggplant mounted at all. Instead, I had opened the secondary backup file for noggin and started my new entry there. That was at 10:45 pm on Friday, 15 September.

At 5:30 am on Saturday, 16 September, that secondary backup was written to maneki (tertiary backup) and was then overwritten by a primary backup on squeye, which contained an older version that did not contain the new entry. All twelve words (not including the two-word title) would have been more thoroughly lost (I still could have discovered the image file at some future date though my initial attempts were fruitless) if I had waited eight hours or so. In the last year or so, I’ve had a few such demonstrations of the robustness of my backup system and, so far, there has been little data I’ve completely lost to the digital ether.

Still, I worry.

Last night I went into Ellis and tested the laptop screen projection capability in Ellis 116. I was ready to settle for mediocre visual quality: what mattered was that my students be able to get a general idea of the major headings I would be covering. The quality of the projection was phenomenal. Even the PDF of the novel I was using showed up legibly with very few noticeable artifacts. Suddenly, everything shifted.

I no longer need students to bring their books to class to follow along! I will not have to urge them to sit next to someone with a book if they have forgotten their own copies. I will not have to spend time locating students with variant editions how far from the end of the chapter the passage is and how it begins. The fun just starts there.

My students will now be able to see my complete set of notes and I will be able to more directly query them about passages they would like covered and concepts they haven't quite grasped. Another benefit is with material already covered. Presuming I have all of my notes and PDFs of the term available to me, I can revisit passages from previous texts and have students follow along. It’s astounding to think it’s taken fifteen years of digital revolution (dating the advent of the availability of the web with Mosaic in 1991) for textual accessibility to affect my teaching in real time.

This also reveals the structure of my notes to the students, allowing them to at least see topics which cannot be covered in detail. Students who have difficulty structuring their notes may benefit from seeing the structure of my notes. Students who do not take notes may also benefit, though the easy accessibility cuts both ways and may encourage the less industrious and thoughtful not to take notes at all.

Anyhow, I am very excited about this next phase in my pedagogy and will certainly work up a short presentation for my PDF this year.

I’m also thrilled about how my research process has been facilitated. small numbskull

Monday, 11 September 2006

Molecurality and the Machinic Organism

Today I was productive in the way I wish I could be every day. I became part of my own self-regulating system, to some degree an autopoietic system able whose self-regulation was both the means of functioning as well as its rhythmic breakdown. Malfunction is renewal.

I completed the final major portion of the research for my article. It was the first major research I’ve done since adopting my new Tinderbox workflow. I am a little concerned because I like Tinderbox so much that the idea of using anything else to compose my research seems inconvenient at best, unpleasant as a norm.

This morning I considered that adding comments to this blog would most easily be achieved with a separate program, say a PERL script I could (write and) implement. After nearly a year of running my own servers, it was a religious instant to recognize that the modification of any file could be automated, that I could manufacture—using symbols—machines that generated language in bursts. When I thought back to Sunday and the development which eclipsed my lawn, my pedagogy, I realized further that (my) machinic nature depends on segmenting the idealized passage of points along a circumference, that radians had to be quantized, that breaks must to be inserted inside the flows, the floze, in flōz.

I gave up trying to get it right.

Part of knowing which tool for the job is understanding how a tool joints its output. Segmentation and granularity (and the automaticity of the granulating mechanisms) are in some ways the defining characteristics of disjunctive synthesis.

Instead I got it working. small numbskull