The trouble with academic writing

…the following seems to hold true for library science texts, but may be applicable to other portions of academia as well.  Either the writer devolves into an overly simplistic metaphor (e.g. “information systems are like grocery stores”) or he flits off into a fit of academic navel-gazing that is as astonishing as it is abstract (e.g. “the user comes to the information exchange experiencing a complex set of variables that he must navigate to interact successfully with the information system”).

Hey, I understand: clear writing is difficult.  It takes time and effort and even the best writers and thinkers can either get caught up in a vortex of abstract principles that are fiendish to place in a concrete context or they can get too captivated by their own pet theories or metaphors to examine whether or not they really illuminate the issue at hand.  But those should be first or second draft problems.  Step up your game, academics.

The surreality of living in DC

I just got off a Metro train that, among the usual scaff and raff of us, contained one tidily-dressed gentleman whose uniform shirt quietly proclaimed him to be a U.S. Marshall Service Bomb Specialist.

Sometimes it is just deeply weird living here.

Milo’s not going to the baseball hall of fame

But we are cautiously optimistic that the lump in his throat is getting better under steroid treatment.

The dog better look out, though.  Milo may kick the stuffing out of him in a fit of ‘roid rage…


It’s hard to focus on the good when illness has struck a tiny tyrant.

Plenty is just fine chez nous, and we have much to be grateful for.  But John found a grape-sized lump on Milo’s larynx on Friday.  At the vet, they found he had a fever of 106 – very, very high.  An expensive battery of tests has told us… well, almost nothing, except he doesn’t have an infection.  He has been out of sorts and punky, spending lots of time in the cool sanctuary of the basement.  He appreciates visits, but hasn’t been seeking us out with his usual insistent regularity.  His meow is a croak, and his purr sounds like a fork dragged across asphalt.

Wee Milo is not well.  And it’s got us well and truly tweaked.

That’s all I got.  How are you?

My body language says “no” and so does my mouth.

I used to feel like I had a neon sign over my head that said, “Wackos and emotional cripples – come talk to this one!!!”  Many years ago, I even managed to attract the same utter nut-job twice over the course of two years, in two radically different zip codes. But it has been a long time since I was catnip to the people whose coat sleeves come with extra inches and buckles.  Maybe it’s one of the side effects of being older, or being married.  Whatever it is, I haven’t missed it.

And then came yesterday’s commute home.

I was sitting by the window, earbuds in my ears, knitting away on my latest sock, sublimely minding my own business, when someone sits down next to me.  I have an impression of weediness, but otherwise I don’t really pay attention (I try not to be completely in my own world: it is wise, after all, to pay some attention to what is going on around when on public transportation – but as long as you don’t smell, don’t fall asleep on me, and don’t intrude unduly on my personal space, I don’t care who you are).  After just a few moments, I get the impression I am being observed.  This isn’t completely uncommon: I have had some delightful conversations with other knitters, interested teenagers, and those just generally curious as a result of knitting on the Metro.  But there is that other feeling of being watched – if you’re female, you know what I mean.  That kind of creepy, weird, can’t-put-your-finger-on-it feeling.  Weedy Guy was giving this impression.

I also get the impression that I may have been spoken to.  I remove an earbud and say, “excuse me?”  Weedy Guy says, “Oh – I said hello.”  Great.  I don’t know about you, but when I’m on public transport I generally maintain the fiction that my fellow passengers are invisible, unless there is some sort of natural opening.  Sitting down next to someone who is wearing earbuds and is obviously engrossed in some sort of project – there’s no natural opening there.  So Weedy Guy also has inappropriate boundary issues.  I put my earbud back in and continue to knit and listen.  I also make sure my left hand is turned to prominently display my engagement and wedding rings.  Back off, Weedy Guy with Inappropriate Boundary Issues.

Oh, but Weedy Guy with Inappropriate Boundary Issues isn’t done.  A few minutes later, I get another impression that I am being spoken to again.  Again, the removal of earbud and, “Excuse me?”

“Is that going to be a sweater?”  Not an uncommon question – the cuff of a sock could easily be the cuff of a sweater sleeve.

“No, a sock,” I respond.  I am about to put the earbud back in when Weedy Guy with Inappropriate Boundary Issues says, “But where is the toe?”

I have about 2 inches of this sock worked at this point, but to me it clearly looks like the top of a sock if you orient your mind away from thoughts of sleeves and towards thoughts of socks.  I don’t know anyone outside of a newborn who might need a 2-inch sock, and the cuff on this sucker isn’t going to fit a newborn.  It is also clear that even on a knitting machine, an entire sock doesn’t just… materialize.  You have to start somewhere.  I gesture a few inches below the cuff and say, “Well, it’s going to be somewhere down here when I get to it.”

“But where is it?”  Oh, great.  He isn’t just Weedy Guy with Inappropriate Boundary Issues, he’s Stupid Weedy Guy with Inappropriate Boundary Issues.  He’s also slightly agitated, which is freaky.  It’s just a sock, dude.  A sock you will never see again, God willing.

“I haven’t knit it yet.  I’m knitting the sock from the top.”

“But how do you knit from the top?”

It is so self-evident to me how you knit from the top that I don’t even know how to answer this.  I mean, it exists – it’s there.  The top of the sock is in my hand.  I say, firmly (possibly rudely – by now, I know I’m deep into neon-sign territory), “YOU JUST DO.”

Earbud firmly jammed back in my ear, I am no longer at home to Stupid Weedy Guy with Inappropriate Boundary Issues.  After all, there are only so many adjectives you can append to a total stranger before things get out of hand.

Oh, sweet bandwidth, how I have missed you

We finally have our home internet service back.  It only took a week, a bunch of phone calls, another useless visit to our home (which told the tech that the problem was, in fact, outside — again), a bunch more calls, and a guy named Erroll with a shovel.

Of course, our cable TV box is now apparently busted, so we’re chained to the house this morning in the hopes that Comcast will fulfill its promise to deliver a new one.  We have 46 minutes left in our appointment window – who cares to wager that they’re actually going to show up?  Anyone?

ETA: Well ho-lee cow.  Not two minutes after I posted this, the guy showed up with the new box.  1 point to Comcast.

I love this

A quick update – my in-laws are in town, and since our internet has been out since Saturday (have I mentioned lately how much I hate Comcast), I am posting this from the library.

The Susan Komen 5k went very well – I did it in just over 40 minutes (which is a good pace for me).  My race number was 1983, which brings us to this super video (it’s pretty much for Marie and me):

Another big “thank you” for all who supported me!

Why Twitter is good/bad (you choose)

Free donut day.  I found out in fewer than 140 characters.

Saturday miscellany

Numbered, for your convenience!

  1. Yes, I am a terrible person, neglectful of the blog and all it stands for.  I am hoping that my readers have RSS feeds.
  2. The reason for the mushy-headed no-thought around here?  Dunno.  But I haven’t been all mushy-headed no-thought!  Over at my pro blog, I have not one but two new posts. If you’re interested in communications issues, you might be interested to poke your nose over there and take a look.
  3. The light posting is likely to continue into the summer – I’m about to start a very challenging class AND have my in-laws to visit for a few days.  Can’t you just feel the synergy?
  4. Having said all this, the incredible demands I am anticipating will be placed on me over the next couple of months will probably drive me to blogging-as-procrastination, so don’t give up on me completely.
  5. What are you up to?

The most wonderful time of the year…

Sorry all, for the earworm.  And no, there are no jolly elves in red suits for this particular non-holiday.  It’s just the first full weekend in May, which means Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival.

The weather looks like it’s going to be …not so great.  Not like last year, anyway.  But that’s okay.  We’re not really going for yarn, just for shearling slippers (mine have given up the ghost after about three or four years of constant use and John, poor man doesn’t have any at all).  There may be a yarn purchase or two.  Maybe.  I’m not ruling it out, but I do have something of a yarn shop in my office/studio/cave of exploded projects, and I really don’t need any more.

Stop snickering, you in the back.  Do I have to turn this car around?

Anyway, time to go jump on John in a very annoying kid-on-Christmas-morning kind of way.