Both behind and ahead

June is almost over. Houston is getting hot. And I am at least a month behind in writing, but I did finish my new spring semester article and get it out, and my long-suffering prose rhythm article finally found a good home. So I am both behind and ahead in the game.

I had a rough trip to the dentist this month – the first in quite awhile given my former non-insured status for nearly a decade. I convinced myself to stop drinking sodas of all kinds, even the diet stuff that I’d switched to. My diet could still use improving, but I do feel better. I’ve swore off caffeine before, but kept drinking tea; I dropped even tea this time, drinking only water, most of it filtered. Two weeks so far. At least three times a day I desperately, desperately want one. I have never smoked cigarettes, so I wonder if nicotine works the same way. Ultimately, I am sure I will give in to this minor vice, perhaps as early as tomorrow morning, but I don’t think I will ever view it as anything but an occasional treat, because something has changed; I’m getting older.

And it is very curious, getting older. Most everything works fine – in some ways I am in better shape than I was ten years ago – but some things have changed. I can’t seem to drop weight very quickly anymore – it takes more effort. Part of this is a minor struggle to lose the survival instincts that kept me from starving in my undergraduate years – eating few and cheap meals in huge portions and taking maximum advantage of any free food. Part of it, too, is the struggle to maintain a non-sedentary lifestyle when my most productive and valuable time is spent sitting in front of a computer screen or reading a book. There is heart disease on one side of the family, which I fully anticipate suffering at some point. I do have a chance, though, in that the other side is robust; fifty-fifty, I suppose, maybe better as I don’t smoke and my body index is fine.

Oh, yes, another thing about getting older – there’s an increasing amount of morbid thoughts.

a slow way to the asylum

There’s a billboard on the way home from work that drives me crazy every time I see it – it’s been there for at least a year or more, an advertisement for some sort of online job search, and consists of the following:

What is the better decision?

  • Having the job you want
  • Desiring a job

This astounding display of semantic nonsense works its voodoo on me like I was a 1970’s supercomputer gone sentient; my mental reel-to-reel machines start spinning uncontrollably, tape and punchcards eject randomly, and then there is a minor explosion, followed by smoke and metallic wheezing.

Having the job you want is not a decision. It is a state. I could decide to get a job, surely; I could even decide that I want a job, even. But I cannot decide to be having a job. I could diagram such a sentence – it’s not ungrammatical – but it would be laughable. There is something very off-putting about having an infinitive as a direct object that in turn has a participle as its object, surely, but it is even more off-putting to claim that possession of a job is a mere decision to be made by the job-seeker.

Likewise, desiring a job is not a decision. I can desire a job; I can, also, desire to have a job. But I can’t decide to desire a job. Either I desire a job or I don’t. It’s like asking someone to decide to be breathing.

Even rearranged – “Having the job you want is the better decision” – provokes a mental BSOD. Cannot compute! It’s the English language counterpart to nails on a blackboard.

Some perspective on BP and Obama

Question: What powers does the President of the United States have in regards to stopping oil leaks over a mile deep in the Gulf of Mexico?

Answer: None. Believe it or not, the President is not Superman. I am inclined to mention Superman as he is probably the only individual that could stop a mile-deep gusher with a failed blowout preventer like the Deepwater Horizon leak.

There is this strange assumption out there that the President could, I don’t know, FIX THIS, or DO SOMETHING, or RESPOND, as if he could use his charisma to persuade the well into submission, or if his words could calm our fluttering little hearts and tell us that it’s all going to be ok. Some of this criticism is just cheap political nonsense; the rest, though, seems to be rooted in a genuine ignorance of how the crushing water pressure below 5,000 feet in the Gulf of Mexico is not conductive to such generic whining. There is nothing Obama can do about this leak except protect the shoreline as much as humanly possible, provide technical advisers and funds as necessary, and hope for the best. And that’s what he’s done. A Republican president – a Tea Party President, even – would be just as powerless.

I don’t believe I’m saying this, but I actually kind of trust that the recovery arm of BP is doing everything it can to cap the well – namely, because it is not in BP’s best interest, either profit-wise or survival-wise, to turn the Gulf of Mexico into a oil slick. Like all corporations of a certain size with tentacles in so many areas, BP can be trusted to act in a somewhat schizoid manner; parts of it will be risky and reprehensible and parts of it will be cautious and responsible. I would wager, though, that BP survives this incident,  though it will suffer significant political and legal penalties.

Oil drilling is an inherently risky business, even on land. If America wants oil, especially domestic oil, it will have to accept occasional incidents like this one, and their environmental effects.

RSA ends, Summer I begins

I’m back from RSA. As usual, it was an excellent conference that reinvigorated my interest in all things rhetorical and gave me some ideas for a paper. No panels were duds. Not one. I even managed to be social enough to meet a fair amount of interesting people, some working on similar projects. RSA really should happen every year instead of every two years.

I wish I hadn’t been sick with a sinus infection the entire time, but that’s how the cookie crumbles when I travel. I’ve flown nine times in the last year and a half and I always manage to stumble on and off the plane with some sort of malady. If I were in a Stephen King novel, I’d be the guy who dies of the plague in Chapter 1, whose body is partially eaten by wild animals in Chapter 10, and whose bones are used as weapons, ritualistic ornaments, and/or musical instruments by the heroes by Chapter 20.

After some airport hijinks, H is also back in town, and we’re both teaching this summer. I have a hybrid PW service course (ENG 3302) and a ENG 1300 teaching basic writers – both end July 1. My graduate course didn’t make, alas.

The plan is to have a highly productive summer. There are articles and a manuscript to be submitted and revised, but there is also biking, swimming, Astros games, guitar-playing (some erstwhile and currently nameless professors and I have endeavored to start a band), and other such summer activities fast approaching.