Wednesday, June 15, 2016

the poetry of grading

I'm currently on lunch break of my job grading AP exams. I can't really talk about anything from the 839 exams I've graded so far, though. What I can do is share my three entries in the Question One Haiku Contest.

Due to the fact that
I don't know what I just read
Please send brain meds now

Your handwriting makes
Me cross-eyed and hurts my brain
Maybe pictograms?

"In modern times..." - Gah
Passive verbs will bury me
Arthritic joints throb

Sunday, June 12, 2016

when you are with me

It's my daughter's fifth birthday today. I'm stuck working in Kansas City. I know it's something I have to do; the money's too good, and we're too broke. But still, it's a sacrifice. I'm been dealing with it pretty well. This morning, though, my wife sent a photo of my daughter, sitting on the ground and playing with some new gifts. She's wearing some wrapping paper as a cape. I've looked at it ten times since she sent it. The photo's wonderful...even if her smile does make my heart hurt.


There's a company in this part of the country named Toto. They make toilets and related products. And every time I encounter heir products in the wild, my mind clicks into "I know I must do what's right as sure as Killamanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengetis."

Kudos, most pretentious lyric of all time. Kudos.

Friday, June 10, 2016


I have a few summer jobs this year, but this is the one I was dreading the most. I am in Kansas City to grade AP exams. I'm not a major fan of grading in general, but the rough part of this is being away from my family. It's my daughter's birthday on Sunday. I'm missing it.

On the way in, my wife called. We talked, and then she put my kid on the line. "I miss you, daddy. I wish you didn't have to do this."

I'm still trying to pull myself together.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016


When I was recording my album Skeleton Coast (just buy it already), my producer made cheap drum machine tracks for me to follow when I recorded my basic acoustic guitar, so we would start the recording process with everything in solid timing. One of the songs ("Totally Low Standard Blues") gave him trouble, and he couldn't figure out why. Then we got into a brief argument about timing, because he swore the song was in 4/4. Eventually, I convinced him it was actually in 6/8 time, and we got the track done no problem. He did, however, inform me that I was weird.

Most rock, pop, rap, and a decent amount of country is in 4/4 time (du du DA du, du du DA du). As a result, most musicians who don't have formal training are more or less used to 4/4, and anything else gives them a bit of trouble. If you play country, 3/4 timing slips in the mix (think waltz timing--DUN du du, DUN du du). 6/8, though, is a rarer bird.

Recently, I've had developments in my solo career which have pushed me towards preparing solo rock shows, without a band. I'm going to bring my electric and play with some strange pre-recorded drum/percussion tracks (I test this out tomorrow, so expect a progress report later this week). Of course, this means that I need to pre-record said pre-recorded backing tracks. Last week, I tackled "Totally Low Standard Blues," and even though I wrote the song, the 6/8 time signature still gave me fits. This is one in a long line of hints that I might be a weirdo.

Yesterday, I realized that one of the songs I'm in the middle of writing is also in 6/8 time. Maybe I'll do enough of these that weird time signatures become second nature. Or maybe I just like to make things difficult.

Monday, May 30, 2016


When I still used to think I could somehow become a scholar, I was faced with a quandary: I needed to keep publishing to even have a chance at getting a tenure track job, but since I was in a non-tenured position, the scholarship I did benefited my actual job not at all. In fact, my teaching load was so high, there was no time at all to even think scholarship during the semester.

Summers were the only time I could research and write. And write, I did. I would chain myself to books or to my computer for at least eight hours a day. I did an impressive volume and depth of work during those summers...more (I was told by reliable sources) than some of my tenure-track colleagues. Shame it never actually benefited me, though.

The arrival of my daughter coincided with me realizing I was never going to be a professional scholar, and, in anticipation of my girl coming, I decided I was done spending summers writing articles which never actually yielded tangible benefits. That was in 2011. This summer marks the five year anniversary of no scholarship.

Lest you feel this depressing in some way, I should tell you a little tale. Yesterday, I washed the dishes, made a big batch of burritos for the freezer (bean, mushroom, broccoli, onion, and vegetarian chorizo (the only decent vegetarian sausage)), cleaned the fish tank, and made my weekly batch of oatmeal. At the end of the  day, I felt more of a sense of accomplishment than at the end of one of the writing summers.

Just thought it should be noted. Of course, I did also apply for my third summer job...but you win some, lose some.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

fighting a fit

In spite of everything, today largely centered around a depression fit. Yeah, I know "episode" is the preferred terminology, but let's face it: fit fits better. And it was a doozy, intensity-wise. Hell, my daughter's full-throttled glee at the swimming pool being open (yelling "this is fantastic!" and referring to the pool steps as "the dock") only put a ding in the depression fit.

Ultimately, the most potent weapon in the valiant struggle against depression was (as per usual) music. Getting to go to band practice and blast my guitar through a tube amp did wonders, and I returned home a better person (in spite of my singer telling me, "you are the most obnoxious person I know").

Of course, my mind has been focusing on this marvelous property of music to act as a salve against depression. I even thought about writing a song about it. I started humming a melody, and then the phrase "you gotta see my panacea" came forth.

Luckily, I was wise enough to recognize it for the nonsense it was and switch instead to playing video games.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


I first got online in 1994. Yeah, I was an early adopter, but there was a lot of history before that. And although I knew a lot of it, it's never too late to learn more. Thanks to Forty Years of the Internet, I learned the first internet message was "LO" was supposed to be "LOGIN," but the one of the computers crashed.

Reminds me of one of my early machines.