Thursday, June 28, 2007


Land Mammal tagged everyone reading her blog to reveal eight things about themselves. My list appears below. Many somewhat more private things about me appear in my blog if you can get past the photographs and my attempts to make my blog less revealing or impersonal.

1) I was born in what was then called French Morocco, which technically makes me African-American. This foreign birth would prevent me from becoming president, assuming, of course, that I had the money to run for office. The idea of the average person becoming president is a myth.

2) I didn’t get my first driving license until I was 37. Before that point, I relied on public transportation and my own feet to get to where I wanted to go. Although I had driven my roommate’s car in the Air Force, I didn’t start driving again until I met my wife, fifteen years later.

3) I don’t usually eat meat for any meal except dinner. Bacon frying in the morning smells awful. I prefer my portion of grease later in the day; my wife, however, dislikes having bacon and eggs for dinner.

4) I have been stopped by the police for my driving on five occasions, three times for speeding, once for not stopping at a stop sign, and, most recently, for turning left on a green light when an oncoming car was approaching. The Lansing, Kansas policeman who stopped me said that I needed to wait for the green arrow and only gave me a warning because of my “spotless record.” I was driving my wife’s car at the time; it’s adorned with blue flashing lights attached to the tires’ valve stems, so the policeman probably thought that I was a kid or something. These five stops have only resulted in two tickets and a written warning.

5) I’ve never spent a night in jail. I was once mistaken for a trustee returning from funeral leave when I taught at the United States Disciplinary Barracks, the only maximum security prison for military prisoners. This case of mistaken identity only lasted for a few moments.

6) With the exception of socks, boxer shorts, and t-shirts, I tend to leave new clothes and shoes unworn for six months or a year before I dig them out of my closet. I’m trying to break this habit although I still have shoes I haven’t worn as of yet.

7) My chapbook of poems The Lights of Carrickfergus has been rejected twenty-six times. I’ve had positive feedback a couple of times and was once offered a contract as a runner-up if I could sell one hundred and fifty copies prior to the first printing. The twenty-seventh and twenty-eighth reactions to my chapbook have not yet been received.

8) I haven’t written a new poem in about two years. The majority of the poems I’ve written since earning my PhD have been left unfinished. I don’t know when I’ll write another poem. It was my poetry that got me through all three degrees. The voices of my teachers have long left my head, and I’m still not writing. I don’t know what it will take to get me writing poems again. The woman who read my tarot cards at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival said I need to take a writing class.

Those of you able to get through this list should consider yourself tagged.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Adjunct Teaching

My life of late has been spent working. Even though I thought that teaching three sections of English this summer instead of four sections would be less hectic, that assumption hasn't been the case. I am still as busy as I was before.

Most recently, I finished grading resumes and letters of application. I submitted my own letter of application earlier in June for a full-time teaching job. My wife and I are hoping that I get an interview at this particular institution this time. My previous applications came to naught. At one other time, as I discovered from an inside source, my application was rejected because of my age. The faculty on the hiring committee wanted someone young.

Sometimes I wish I had followed my intention to earn secondary certification after I had earned my MA in English. It would have required taking additional courses, including Advanced Composition and Educational Psychology. Instead, I got sucked into adjunct teaching at the University of Kansas. It has occurred to me that colleges and universities learned long before other industries what advantages come with hiring only part-time employees to fill an immediate need. Barbara Ehrenreich makes an excellent point in one of her posts about the plight of adjunct faculty. It should be a warning to anyone thinking of entering the academy after earning a graduate degree.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Fort Wallace

Since the end of May, I have been adding pictures from the four days I spent traveling across Kansas. Wallace (population 64), almost at the edge of Kansas, was the farthest I traveled. In reading about Fort Wallace and in having researched some of the soldiers who died outside of Fort Wallace and whose bodies are now interred at Fort Leavenworth, I have wanted to see the remnants of Fort Wallace and the general area for myself so that I have a frame of reference when reading about the Cheyenne and Frederick Wyllyams, for example.

The remnants of the fort itself are on private property and not visible to passersby. Only the former fort cemetery is open to visitors. Quite a good museum, with friendly volunteers, is located in the city of Wallace.

In the picture included here, the site of Fort Wallace is located on the other side of the trees. If the Smoky Hill River were flowing in that part of Kansas, still, it would have run next to the remnants of Fort Wallace; it was the source of water for the fort.

The clouds cast shadows on the hills in these pictures. A front moving in from Colorado was sending cumulous clouds out over the land.

Monday, June 11, 2007

One-Room Schoolhouse

What characterizes some of the photo albums of jwwalter, a photographer who makes her(?) work available online, are the pictures of deserted farmsteads in North Dakota. See the album titled North Dakota: Where the West Begins, for example.

During a recent jaunt across Kansas, I discovered the deserted one-room schoolhouse pictured here. The building itself is surrounded by a wheat field. Some of the local people, teens presumably, have hauled hay bales inside the building and have been using the building as a place to drink. They had made a path through the wheat to the building.

If there were time enough, I would welcome the opportunity to take many more leisurely car trips through Kansas in search of deserted buildings like this school house. I can't think of a better way to spend a few days away from the worry that accompanies everyday life. All of my trips would be of short duration, however, because of my problems sleeping in hotel rooms. For some reason, I cannot relax enough to sleep in a hotel room, unless I'm alone and able to leave the TV on and turned to the Weather Channel, without the volume turned up, even though I don't normally sleep with the TV on at home. I ended up having to sit upright in the bed and imagine that I was asleep in the passenger seat of the car the last time I spent a night in a hotel room with my family. It's rough being me sometimes.

I have often considered converting an old school building, not a one-room schoolhouse but a neighborhood elementary school or middle school, into a place to live. Although the amount of energy heating and cooling the building would dramatically increase my carbon footprint, the idea is appealing at times because of how the space could be put to use. Perhaps if I were in possession of the construction and architectural skills and had the money to invest, it would be possible to convert a school into condominiums or offices.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

There Be Dragons Here!

If one leaves the Interstate to explore some of the other roads in Kansas, it is possible to see any number of strange sights. Outside of Beverly on K-18, I discovered the dragon pictured here. We all have much to learn from visual artists because they bring their personal vision forward for others to enjoy and appreciate and because they often use what they find locally to convey that quirkiness about a place, even when it is the middle of Kansas.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Rock City, Kansas

Before spending the last weekend preparing my online classes for the summer session, during which I rapidly taught myself how to use Angel, a web-based course delivery system much like Blackboard CE, which I also use regularly, I got away from my desk and spent a few days exploring part of Kansas.

Years ago, I often saw the signs on US 81 for Rock City when riding the bus from Salina to Concordia. Not until last week did I finally make the trip to Rock City, the site of about forty to fifty concretions that vary in size. Very few scholars, it seems, have given Rock City much attention; among those few scholars who have studied these rocks, disagreement exists regarding how these concretions were formed. I’m not going to go into detail because of my limited knowledge of geology. Observing these rocks up close, nonetheless, is a pleasant experience and worth the trip, particularly when one has young kids, who love to climb through, around, and on top of the rocks.