Monday, January 29, 2007

Sounds like gunfire, tastes so good....

Saturday night I prepared one of the best meals I've made in a while. The inspiration for it was a side dish, ratatouille, which comes from the French word touiller, to toss. So, this is just a fancy name for tossed vegetables.

But not just any vegetables. The distinguishing ingredients in ratatouille are eggplant (and/or some type of squash) and tomato. I also included garlic, red onion, red pepper, green pepper, fresh basil and parsley, a couple pinches of salt, and because I had it, a few pinches of fresh dill. Because this is considered a southern dish, I finely chopped the garlic, diced the peppers and onion, and cubed the eggplant and squash.

I also prepared a salad with regular and Italian parsley, romaine hearts, and chopped tomatoes, a spinach fettucini Lipton noodle side dish (from my vast, never-depleted store of hiker food), and salmon fillets cooked with fresh dill and the juice of one lemon with a hollandaise sauce garnish on top.

Breyer's mint chip ice cream for dessert.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Sad baby!

Jon was in a bad mood last night. According to Esther, he has not been sleeping well lately because he is cutting two new teeth (to bring the grand total to 11). And when Jon doesn't get enough sleep, he gets cranky and demanding. Just like his old man!

Despite the occasional fit, Jon is a very easygoing baby who doesn't stay upset for long. He is so much fun these days. He likes to play hide and seek. He walks around the corner, peeks around until he sees Esther or I, hides, peeks again, then runs, laughing, for a hug.

When he walks, he raises his arms up like a referee signalling a field goal.

He is also very musical. If you drum out a rhythm, he will drum with you, and more often than not keeps time, which is amazing. He also sings along with "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" (not the words, of course, but with 'uhs') and is on pitch more often than not. I bought him a toy xylophone for his birthday. He also has a drum. It is not surprising he is so musical because Esther sings to him all the time. I sing and play guitar. Esther and I were both in band and choir in high school and college. The boy was destined to love music and the outdoors.

Jon also loves books and one of our bedtime rituals is to read to him before bedtime. In the last two weeks, he's been able to identify objects in the book and around him. For example, if there's a ball in the book, I say, "Where's the ball?" He points to the ball in the book and then looks around for an actual ball. When he finds it, he says "guh" and points to it. He does the same thing with frogs, da da (me), ma ma, bird, and dog. When he points out a dog, he makes little guttural barking noises. Too cute.

I remember before Jon was born I hoped the pregnancy would go well without complications. Later, I hoped he wouldn't have any cognitive or physical difficulties. I also hoped he wouldn't be too colicky. So far, despite his tearful ways at times, all of my worries are for naught. Of course, my views are biased, but Jon is an awesome, beautiful little boy, and everything I could have hoped for in a son.


I found a gray hooded pullover sweat jacket during my week of junk sifting at the end of July last year. It has this panda on the front and "enjoi" on the back. It is so warm and now smells strongly of wood smoke from my recent trip. It has inspired more random contacts with strangers than any other piece of clothing I've ever worn except my thong Speedos.

The lady at the restaurant said the sweatshirt was a logo for her sister's sorority, the guy at the video store said "enjoi" is a punk/skateboard outfit. The woman in Flagstaff said it was some underground graffiti movement in Los Angeles. Another said it was an alternative advertisement for the Panda Express Asian food chain. I never thought this junk treasure would be such a conversation starter.

It turns out the guy at the video store is right. I did a Google search back in November and nothing turned up. I must have misspelled "enjoi." Something is lost now that the mystery is solved. I feel as wistful as the panda looks.

There's still no explanation, though, for the Speedos!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Books! Huzzah hey, capitan! Books!

Here are the books that are my life this semester:

Bradbury, Ray, 1920- Zen in the art of writing / Ray Bradbury.

Niedecker, Lorine My life by water; collected poems, 1936-1968.

Niedecker, Lorine North Central.
Scroggins, Mark. Louis Zukofsky and the poetry of knowledge

Penberthy, Jenny Lynn, 1953- Niedecker and the correspondence with Zukofsky, 1931-1979 / Jenny Penberthy.

Niedecker, Lorine. Lorine Niedecker collected works / edited by Jenny Penberthy.

Cahalan, James M. Edward Abbey : a life / James M. Cahalan.

Heller, Michael, 1937- Conviction's net of branches : essays on the objectivist poets and poetry / by Michael Heller.

Reznikoff, Charles, 1894-1976. By the waters of Manhattan : selected verse / by Charles Reznikoff ; introd. by C. P. Snow.

Fredman, Stephen, 1948- Menorah for Athena : Charles Reznikoff and the Jewish dilemmas of objectivist poetry / Stephen Fredman.

Christenbury, Leila. Making the journey : being and becoming a teacher of English language arts / Leila Christenbury.

Eliot, George, 1819-1880. Middlemarch : an authoritative text, backgrounds, reviews and criticism / George Eliot ; edited by Bert G. Hornback.

Brontë, Charlotte, 1816-1855. Jane Eyre / Charlotte Brontë ; with an introduction by David Malouf.

Brontë, Emily, 1818-1848. Wuthering Heights / by Emily Brontë ; introduction by Rose Macaulay.

Wilde, Oscar, 1854-1900. Picture of Dorian Gray / edited with an introduction and notes by Isobel Murray.

Gissing, George, 1857-1903. Odd women.

Haggard, H. Rider (Henry Rider), 1856-1925. King Solomon's mines / H. Rider Haggard.

Stevenson, Robert Louis, 1850-1894. Strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and other tales of terror / Robert Louis Stevenson ; edited by Robert Mighall.

Austen, Jane, 1775-1817. Novels of Jane Austen : the text based on collation of the early editions / by R.W. Chapman ; with notes, indexes and illustrations from contemporary sources. v.4

Hardy, Thomas, 1840-1928. Mayor of Casterbridge : an authoritative text, backgrounds and contexts, criticism / Thomas Hardy ; edited by Phillip Mallett.

Morris, William, 1834-1896. News from nowhere; or, An epoch of rest: being some chapters from a utopian romance; edited by James Redmond.

Clarke, Clinton C Pacific crest trailway, compiled by Clinton C. Clarke.

When kids can't read, what teachers can do : a guide for teachers, 6-12 / Kylene Beers.

Literature workshop : teaching texts and their readers / Sheridan D. Blau. c. 1

Classics in the classroom : designing accessible literature lessons / Carol Jago. c. 1

Watsons go to Birmingham--1963 / a novel by Christopher Paul Curtis. c. 1

Unlocking Shakespeare's language : help for the teacher and student / Randal Robinson. c. 1

Sherlock Holmes : the major stories with contemporary critical essays / edited by John A. Hodgson. c. 1

Rhetoric for writing teachers / Erika Lindemann

Reflection in the writing classroom / Kathleen Blake Yancey. c. 1

In case you teach English : an interactive casebook for prospective and practicing teachers / Larry R. Johannessen, Thomas M. McCann. c. 1

Active learning : 101 strategies to teach any subject / Mel Silberman.

Concepts in composition : theory and practice in the teaching of writing / Irene L. Clark ; with contributors, Betty Bamberg ... [et al.]. c. 2

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Revised poem

The writer's workshop is a very helpful, supportive environment. We meet every Monday from 3-5 p.m. in Reavis 211. Participants share writing samples with the group and receive written and verbal feedback. Simple formula.

I changed my poem based on suggestions and my own misgivings about the original. No title yet, though Katherine suggested "Saudade" because I talked about the meaning of the word. I also added a footnote defining "katabatic" (I know. How pretentious. A poem with footnotes.) because no one in the group knew its definition and deleted "micromclimate" and "germ" because more than one person thought the terms too scientific for the mood of the poem. "Katabatic" faced similar criticism, but I like the damn word so it's staying.

This forgotten stone
thrums in its cave
seeks sun
with creeping tendril veins

Strange things gestate
in isolation

Dank, fungal shelves
still air, moist, green
mildew blooming in neglect

Flowers thrive
in *katabatic clime
yellow, with pale green vines
bent to afternoon
fingers of light

In this ravine
a muffled beat,
a shade, a shadow,
a wisp of smoke
like memory
settles in the cool.

* katabatic --
of an air current or wind; moving downward or down a slope because of cooling especially at night [ant: anabatic]

Monday, January 22, 2007

Trying my hand at fiction.....

I've agreed to participate in a writer's workshop every Monday from 3-5 p.m. (teaching instructors get wheedled into all sorts of commitments) and want to use it to work on creative writing. I have a mouldering backlog of short stories and poetry, but why dredge up old work? In addition to all my other duties, I will try and write a short story, batch of poems, or whatever crazy creativity pops extemporaneously off the ends of my fingers.

Soo.... here goes... the rough draft first draft final throwaway hide it in the closet with shame version out there for the e-public to enjoy.


Forgotten places
gestate strange things
in isolation

Germs, fungal shelves
dank, still air, moist, green
mossy boulders, mildew
blooming in neglect

microclimate rare
yellow, with pale green vines
creep to afternoon fingers of light

This forgotten heart
thrives in quiet chest cave
and seeks out the sun
with creeping tendril veins

This remembering mind
needs a vision of quiet spots
to deal with falling katabatic
night time chill


Years later, Osbert imagined, when he looked back on this time in his life from a position of comfort an ease, he would laugh. He tried to laugh as he scrambled down the hillside, red Georgia clay clinging to the seat of his trousers, but it came out as a croak, a gassy displacement.

He could see his car's headlights above him, the beams illuminating a mist so fine Osbert didn't take notice of it until he saw it. And below, down there, at the bottom of the ravine, reality, cold, gone, stone and moss, empty promises, betrayal, and a final trauma he tried to put out of his mind.

Be he had to look. He had to find her, through the dark, the snaring limbs of secondary growth forest. Better to imagine something else than his destination. Picture a recliner and a stone hearth fireplace. Or the Playboy mansion, a paisley red silk robe and a meerschaum pipe, a steaming hot tub in lieu of a fire, and babes, babes galore.

This was better than reality, a mist collecting on the ends of lips, the open eyes welled with moisture as if in tears. As if those eyes could cry. As if they should.

Henry Frank William Osbert............

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Arizona trip pictures

Check out these links to my Facebook page(s) for select pictures from my Arizona Trail trip. Journals will be posted here and at ALL photos from the trip will be posted, but not labeled, later at a separate Photobucket site.

NOTE: For those who may have checked these links before, I have now arranged the photos chronologically.

Arizona Trail news

Check out this link for a nice, short, fact-filled article about the Arizona Trail. I hiked from one of the recommended trailheads (American Flag) near Oracle.

Check out the photo links at the top of the page, including some cool b/w shots at Kentucky Camp and Roosevelt Lake dam.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Kudos to Ken

My brother's work for the Orbitz headquarters in downtown Chicago was the subject of a full-page feature in the Chicago Sun-Times on Friday.

I took a tour of the facilities this summer just before it was finished and was impressed by the "egalitarian" nature of the design, with uninterrupted sightlines along all the main corridors. I also thought it funny that the "exposed metal nuts and bolts" used to hold composite wood panels together are the same type used to hold my rooming house bunk bed together. I found the overall design very futuristic, both in its gleaming idealism and post-industrial clutter.

Bravo, Ken!

Click on this link or read below:

Orbitz design takes off

January 12, 2007

BY KEVIN NANCE Art and Architecture Critic

In the old days (which, come to think of it, weren't so long ago), most urban workplace design was governed by a pair of simple, easy-to-follow principles:
Keep the bosses happy by giving them private offices that hog the natural light and views along the exterior walls. And keep the employees happy, or at least less unhappy, by making the overall environment as swanky and polished as you can afford.
But as Orbitz's new corporate headquarters in downtown's Citigroup Center suggests, there are new ways of thinking about commercial interior architecture that don't rely on hierarchies, that express the more egalitarian ideals of younger generations of workers, and that dispense with restrictive notions of luxury in favor of a stylish but casual simplicity and modernity.
In short, the new home of the online travel agency at 500 W. Madison, smartly designed by Ken Locascio of Chicago's OWP/P Architects, is not your daddy's workplace. Alternately sleek and spare, refined and raw, it's a series of canny juxtapositions of design elements that convey the coolness and techno-savvy of its twenty- and thirtysomething workforce and, at the same time, the company's identity as a grown-up dot-com and travel industry leader.
» Click to enlarge image
Interior of the Orbitz headquaters in the Citigroup Center. (Rich Hein/Sun-Times)
Airport references abound, from the molded-panel observation ports with apertures like giant jet windows to the terminal-lobby benches on the main reception floor (which, by the way, has no reception desk; visitors contact their parties via an automated staff directory in the wall). The long halls on either side of the elevator banks are "runways," and the central command center, from which workers monitor travel conditions across the globe, appears to have been transported intact from NASA.
And instead of the showy finishes that have become cliches of commercial interiors since the 1950s, Locascio uses accents of recycled aluminum (whose nubbly, crumpled surface makes for a grungy sort of Internet-age travertine), composite wood panels held in place with exposed metal nuts and bolts, and polished concrete floors that turn out to be the original structural slab surfaces, ground down and polished but still showing the original cracks. Rarely has shabby been quite this chic.
In the ceilings, likewise, heating and cooling ducts remain in full view, along with electrical fixture hangings, metal conduits, cables and other functional necessities. The obvious analogy is that of a loft, but it's also no real stretch to imagine these spaces as the inside of a computer -- a bit messy and coldly industrial for some, a 21st century vision of transcendent beauty for others. Certainly Le Corbusier, for whom the most perfect thing he could imagine was almost always a machine, would have loved it.
The floor plan's distribution of space is scrupulously democratic and worker-friendly. The rank and file get their fair share of primo acreage along the exterior walls, with their impressive skyline views; when managers -- including Orbitz president Steve Barnhart -- manage to score their own digs, the walls are of floor-to-ceiling glass, so as not to deprive a single underling of the same light and views the boss enjoys.
The hallways are studded with huddle rooms, called "huds," for scheduled and impromptu conferencing, with huge, bulbous lighting fixtures lending both illumination and an eye-catching design focus. Universal wi-fi lets restless employees keep working on the move. Overhead lighting above workstations is hung in a skewed configuration that cuts down on glare. There are child-care facilities, free snacks in the cafeterias, a pull-down projection screen for movie nights, and an all-purpose room mostly used by Muslim employees for prayer.
It's a model modern office setting, at least from the view of the average computer jock from Generation X, Y and beyond. I'm a little older than that, but I could get used to it.

Back in DeKalb

Downtown DeKalb looked the same but different when I saw it again after a month away. This has happened to me at other familiar locations, like my parent's. I remember once during adolescence I took a long nap on when I woke up my bedroom seemed like a different place. At the time, I blamed this change of vision on the early evening light.

But I have a new theory. Displacement and return, whether it be from a month-long trip or a deep sleep, causes the eye to find different points of focus. In familiar surroundings, the eye develops subconscious patterns of seeing. Vision is limited, for concentration or sanity, to this narrow point-of-view. Reality is too much to take on full bore.

But displacement knocks those patterns out of whack. And that's why downtown DeKalb looked so different. And in some larger, cheese-bally sense, that's why travel/displacement is so good for the soul. It cultivates new ways of seeing. It breaks the imagination free from its self-imposed fetters.

Of course, the old patterns re-emerge, and it's as if the fleeting newfound way of seeing was an illusion. I've attempted to return back to the newfound perspective, and can, but not quite, because my seeing is really a hybrid of memories of the new vision laid over the old, natural patterns.

The longer one is displaced, the longer the newfound vision remains. When I toured the hallways of my junior high school after 15 years, the hallway looked different than I remembered, even though the hallways were the same. And now, when I think of junior high school, the vision of the school that comes to mind is the most recent.

Well, she-oot. I didn't come on here to wax on ad nauseum. But I did anyhoo, and that's all right.

Its been a busy return.

I got back to DeKalb at 11:30 p.m. Thursday night. Esther and Jon picked me up at the Elburn station. Jon slept the entire time, so he didn't really see me until the following evening.

Friday was busy all day at NIU in meetings for first-year composition and my ILAS 401 teaching observation class. That night Esther and Jon joined me at Kay Ostwald's for a potluck dinner. I played the Nintendo Wii for the first time, banged my hand on a hanging light and lost the controller when it flew out of my hands behind a bookshelf. Luckily, nothing broken or injured.

Jon even tried his hand at it, but he tried to eat the controller.

At first, Jon acted like he didn't know me. He buried his face in his mother's legs and ventured out a few steps before coming back. Jon is still a social creature, but is warier now in his curiosity.

Saturday I spent at my parent's with Jon and Esther. Aunts and uncles Jim and Margaret, and Burt and Nancy, along with my brother Mike, came down for a big dinner to celebrate Jon's first birthday. Jon loved the cake! It was his first dessert and he tore into it with abandon. He also got a taste of his first sweetened drink (lemonade) and begged for more. He asks for more by going "ooh-ooh" and reaches out with clutching hands.

Jon sat in the same high chair and in the same spot in the kitchen that I sat when my first birthday pictures were taken. I'm not sure if Mom planned it that way.

Sunday laundry, cooking, cleaning the apartment, finally unpacked.

Now I'm in the office (The Bay) at Reavis Hall, listening to Pandora, looking at trip pictures, most seen for the first time on the bigger screen.

I will post my journals here and at

Look for a Top 25 pictures spread here.

I took almost 1,000 photos and don't have the time to post them all.

It was a good trip. I'm refreshed and ready to fight the good fight.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Trail update

Greetings again, this time from Sabino Canyon, just north of Tucson. I wussed out and rented a car to go for day hikes and car camp in the lowlands rather than deal with the cold, snow and difficult route finding. Since I rented the car, I've done a bunch of cool day hikes and tourist-y things, like shop on 4th Avenue in Tucson and go to Biosphere 2.

I just drove a winding mountain road to about 9,000 feet at Summerhaven to pick up a mail drop I sent there. With that and a visit to Trader Joe's, I'm set for food for the rest of the way out. Plans are to hike sections of the Arizona Trail as I head north to the Grand Canyon for a Sunday rendezvous with friend Michael Schramm and his wife, Brittany, whom I've never met. They are having their first baby in April. My tentative plans are to hike a section of the Tonto Trail and then make my way back to Tucson and try to catch a flight home on the 11th.