Reflective Comments about the Sixth Year

It has been six years since the first post to this webspace went up, six years that I have been working on Elliott RWI. As I write this, I have published 1,057 posts to the blogroll (this will be post 1,058), and I have revised individual pages, collecting 40,752 views from 15,872 visitors as of this writing. In the last year, therefore, I have made 155 posts and collected 14,822 views from 5,361 visitors (based on “Reflective Comments about the Fifth Year”). Performance is markedly up from last year (see the figures below), which I ascribe to the influence of the novel coronavirus and my own continued shameless self-promotion.

Figure 1 is posts per year by year of blogging.

Figure 6.1

Figure 2 is views per year by year of blogging.

Figure 6.2

Figure 3 is visitors per year by year of blogging.

Figure 6.3

I am pleased to be able to continue doing this kind of work, and I look forward not only to another year of it, but many other years of it. I hope I can count on your help to do that work; I’d appreciate you sending a little bit my way here.

A Birthday Rumination

Thirty-eight years ago today, I was pulled screaming into the world. I am told–and I have to rely on what I have been told, since memory does not serve me quite so well at that remove–that I was a forceps delivery, and the image of sterile salad tongs cupping my head and yanking me out into light and cold seems apt enough. I wonder if I am the tomato or the carrot in such a salad, or if I am the olive or the cucumber or what.

Chamberlen forceps (Malden found 1813) in K. DAS after Kilian.jpg
Found on Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chamberlen_forceps_(Malden_found_1813)_in_K._DAS_after_Kilian.jpg. Presumably public domain.
Something like one of these, perhaps?
Image from Wikimedia Commons; I am told it’s public domain.

Whatever salad-fixin’ I might have been or might still be, though, marking another circuit of Sol is something that often prompts reflection and consideration. There’s been enough to consider, certainly, and not all of it has been a comfort. Occupying the position of privilege that I do, I know I am insulated from the direct effects of much of the unpleasantness and outright evil that has been at work in the world, and I am neither unappreciative of that ease nor unmindful of those who do not have it. I work with no few of the latter, and I do sometimes pay attention at work.

I am more or less comfortable at this point, as I sit and type out this post (well ahead of time, I have to admit; I mean to be at work on the NaNoWriMo project when this goes live). And that is a dangerous thing. It breeds complacency, laziness. I already do not do enough. But I also grow more and more accustomed to comfort, easing into it and succumbing to the inertia of my own indolence. I’d imagine I can get more than a few more years out of myself in such circumstances, but whether or not that’s advisable…

As it is, I have more writing to do and different. I also have a new year of me starting, and I had probably ought to see if I can’t enjoy some of it.

It’s my birthday, precious. Give us a gift?

Reflective Comments about the Fifth Year

It has been just over five years since the first post to this webspace went up, five years that I have been working on Elliott RWI. As I write this, I have published 902 posts to the blogroll (this will be post 903), and I have posted many individual pages, collecting 25,930 views from 10,511 visitors as of this writing. In the last year, therefore, I have made 155 posts and collected 4,881 views from 2,398 visitors (based on “Reflective Comments about the Fourth Year”). Performance seems to be slightly up from last year and continues the general upward trend in my blog’s performance (see the figures below), which I ascribe to continued regular posting and integrating images into most of my online writing. I do note, however, that I had fewer unique visitors–but they seem to be looking at more things when they come by.

Figure 1 is posts per year by year of blogging.

Posts per Year of Blogging, Year 5

Figure 2 is views per year by year of blogging.

Views per Year of Blogging, Year 5

Figure 3 is visitors per year by year of blogging.

Visitors per Year of Blogging, Year 5

I am pleased to be able to continue doing this kind of work, and I look forward not only to another year of it, but many other years of it. I hope I can count on your help to do that work; I’d appreciate you sending a little bit my way here.

Reflective Comments about the Fourth Year

It has been four years since the first post to this webspace went up, four years that I have been working on Elliott RWI. As I write this, I have made 747 posts to the blogroll (this will be post 748), and I have posted many individual pages, collecting 21049 views from 8113 visitors. In the last year, therefore, I have made 151 posts and collected 3638 views from 2560 visitors (based on “Reflective Comments about the Third Year”). Performance seems to be up from last year (see the figures below), which I ascribe to more regular posting and work to integrate images into more of my online writing.

Figure 1 is posts per year by year of blogging.

Fig1

Figure 2 is views per year by year of blogging.

Fig2

Figure 3 is visitors per year by year of blogging.

Fig3

I am pleased to be able to continue doing this kind of work, and I look forward not only to another year of it, but many other years of it. I hope I can count on your help to do that work; I’d appreciate you sending a little bit my way here.

Reflective Comments about the Third Year

It has been three years since the first post to this webspace went up, three years that I have been working on Elliott RWI. As I write this, I have made 596 posts to the blogroll (this will be post 597), and I have posted many individual pages, collecting 17,411 views from 5,463 visitors. In the last year, therefore, I have made 121 posts and collected 1,774 views from 1,065 visitors (based on “Reflective Comments about the Second Year”). Performance seems to be down from last year (see the figures below), which I ascribe to teaching less; I have the sense that most of my viewership was students needing homework help, and I don’t have nearly so many of those at this point as I once did. I feel better about the quality of my work, though, so that much is to the good.

Posts per Year 2018
Figure 1: Posts per Year

Views per Year 2018
Figure 2: Views per Year

Visitors per Year 2018
Figure 3: Visitors per Year

My employment situation seems to have stabilized. I still work as contingent faculty, teaching classes at DeVry University in San Antonio as they are offered to me. Most of my working time is spent at the Hill Country Council on Alcohol & Drug Abuse, Inc., however, where I am a member of the full-time staff. It is a decent enough job, and one I am fortunate to have; I certainly had to struggle through enough to land it.

I also continue to work on my writing, as this webspace and others attest. Work on the Tales after Tolkien Society blog still presses on, and I get the occasional more formal piece put out where others can see it.

Contributions remain welcome and may be made here.

On Staying Late

In a recent post, I write my lament about a game coming to an end. What I did not note in that post is that I lingered in that game long after my action in it was done, not just to distill out major notes from it (because I mean to play again, and in that same game-world if not with that very character), but to hold onto the magic of it just a little bit longer. And I was able to do that in some ways; there was a lovely question-and-answer exchange as the game wound down, and I appreciate the comments those left who told me that my part in the game made their play better. I have been more accustomed to receiving negative comment than positive (and I acknowledge that I have had many negative remarks coming), so to have learned that I have helped people enjoy themselves is a rare treat, and one I treasure. (Obviously, since I talk about it when it happens.)

I often do such things, hanging onto events as long as I can. When I have gone to conferences in the past, for example, I have usually been among the last to leave, staying on-site after the event has concluded, my footsteps echoing hollowly in the conference site. (This has been particularly true for me in my attendance at the International Congress on Medieval Studies; the event runs Thursday through Sunday, and I have typically not flown out until Monday morning. I’ve gotten to see a fair number of movies as a result, but still…) And attending the conferences themselves represent something of a hanging-on for me, since I know that I am not going to be a full-time member of academe at any point. Hell, I remember staying on the campus of my high school after my last bit of contest there and walking across the quiet golf course under the light of a full moon on a cloudless night–alone, the last to leave at nearly the last time I had to leave.

That I do so is a result of my fear of missing out on things. I am usually among the first to be on site for events, if not the first, and I know that I am prone to tiring before things are complete–but the ends of things are among the most fun parts, or so I am told. All of the interesting things happen as last call approaches, and I rarely make it so far into the night. But what usually happens is that I am left with an unsatisfying denouement; the climax happens, the action falls, and the resolution is that I am alone or nearly so as things end not with a bang but with a dwindling to nothing. I become witness to the attenuated ends of things, ends otherwise unmarked and whose comings, though heralded and known, are not valued.

It becomes hard not to be depressed by such things, especially since I can rarely if ever make the easy answer–leave earlier–happen for myself. But I am trying to do better. This year, for example, I’ll only be staying at the Congress for a couple of days, rather than the most-of-a-week I’ve done in the past. I can hope that it will help me to go out on a high note, Holst’s “Mars” rather than “Uranus.”

On a Game Recently Ended

I have mentioned that I have been a fan of things at many points in my life, but far less so now than in the past. One of the things of which I have been a fan, and perhaps the closest I come to still being one, is the tabletop role-playing game, particularly Legend of the Five Rings (L5R) in its earlier incarnations. The game is one about which I have written before (notably here), and it is one with which I have been involved since the beginning of my undergraduate years–so for quite some time, now. I have a lot of good memories bound up in playing that game; I had a lot of good times at its tables, and I have made no few excellent friends from them (even if I am not nearly so good at keeping up with them as I ought to be–but that is wholly on me).

When a couple of those friends flagged to my attention a play-by-post L5R game using the older rules-set with which I am familiar, I jumped at the opportunity. It had been quite some time since I was able to take part in such a game, and longer since I was able to do so as a player, responsible only for my one character and her part of interacting with the world rather than for the whole rest of the world (because I have run many games, singly and as part of a team). And I think I did well enough at it; my character found her way into a slow-moving romance that worked out well, as well as distinguishing herself in interesting ways throughout the game, and I, as player, am told that I made the gaming experience better for the people with whom I played. I have to consider it a successful endeavor.

There is a problem, of course–the game ended.

Oh, it needed to do so. It was time. The story that the game was set to tell was told, and the side-stories that the players brought into the game and developed through it concluded–most of them well. There are seeds of more stories to come, of course, and the game itself is but one part of a sprawling narrative into which all of us who took part are, at least in theory, invited. (That I know the person who runs the overall project–and had him playing at my own table for quite a while–helps my chances, I think.) But, as with a good book or a good movie, the fact that the game has ended is something of a sadness. I grew to love the characters even as my character grew to love her peers–some more than others, and one in particular–and I will miss them and the people whose words gave them life on my computer screen and in my mind.

Having read many, many books, though, and seen no few movies, I think I am in position to say that the sense of loss is greater with the game than with those media. For, much as I love any one novel or poem, or as immersed as I get into any movie, or as thoroughly as I have explored the expanded intellectual properties that have emerged from no few of them, or as far into scholarship and study of any of them as I have gone, with none of them have I been as immersed in the narrative as I nearly always am in the RPG–L5R, in particular. As I’ve noted elsewhere, Daniel Mackay writes eloquently and at length about the phenomenon, as does Gary Alan Fine; I think they both have good points to make about the peculiarly interactive story-making of gaming communities and the bonds that form thereby.

Those bonds, more than anything else, I will miss. I can only hope that I can maintain some of them and forge yet more in the times to come.

In Response to Coleen Flaherty

On 18 December 2017, Coleen Flaherty’s “Where the Grass Is Greener” appeared in the online Inside Higher Ed. The article reports results from a Cornell working paper that suggest those who earned doctorates in humanities and social sciences and who left academia for non-academic non-profit work are more satisfied with their work than those who remain in academia–and, it seems, those who work in for-profit jobs. The study also seems to suggest that women in academia do not suffer from choosing to have children to so great a degree as has often been supposed. Flaherty presents opinions of several involved with and concerned with the Cornell study, as well, illuminating the work further and, ultimately, presenting an interesting read.

What Flaherty presents also corresponds with my own experience of such things. While I am not now and have never been a tenured or tenure-track faculty member–and have, indeed, given up on the idea of being so–I did complete a doctorate, and I did (and do) work in academe, but I do most of my work for a non-profit substance abuse treatment facility in the Texas Hill Country (as I have noted, I think). And I am in contact with no few of my former classmates and coworkers, many of whom are tenured or on the tenure track–and what they tend to share more or less publicly suggests that the life of the mind is far from the idyllic, indolent life many outside it believe it to be. At the same time, although I do face some problems in my current primary line of work, I find myself generally satisfied with my lot in life.

Why would I not be? I am paid by the hour, so that if I work more, I earn more. The job is inside work with no heavy lifting. I get paid holidays and leave time, and I am clearly on the side of good. My job helps people help people, and that has not always been the case with what I have done in the classroom. My skill-set is respected and appreciated, and I am able to deploy more of it than I was in the classroom or the research carrel–as well as deploying my specialized training in interesting ways. And, unlike the humanistic research I have done, I never have to wonder about whether or not my current work matters in people’s lives; I know that what I do and what I help make happen makes people’s lives better.

Yes, I know that my experience is idiosyncratic and anecdotal. Yes, I know that it cannot be taken as representative on its own. But I also know that enough such testimonies can be, and that adding mine to them, adding my small confirmation to the study Flaherty reports, helps enough such testimonies emerge that something might be done with them. And I know that I, at least, am better off working where I work than I might well be otherwise, and I am content with it.

Reflective Comments about the Second Year

It has been two years since the first post to this webspace went up, two years that I have been working on Elliott RWI. As I write this, I have made 475 posts to the blogroll (this will be post 476), and I have posted many individual pages, collecting 15637 views from 4398 visitors. In the last year, therefore, I have made 311 posts and collected 3043 views from 1315 visitors (based on “Reflective Comments about the First Year“).

My employment situation continues to be odd. While I still teach, I do much less of it in the classroom now than I have done, and I am working mostly outside academia for reasons I have discussed previously. I do still remain engaged in some scholarship, though, having recently sent off an article for review and pressing on, albeit only haltingly and with difficulty, with the Tales after Tolkien Society.

I have also tried my hand at creative writing, notably in the Points of Departure and Pronghorn Project lines. They seem to have been decently received, but my employment situation has kept me from doing more with them for a while. Whether I’ll return to them or go on to other subjects entirely, I am not sure. Still, the experience has been good; I am glad to have had it.

Donations remain welcome and may be made here.

About Erratic Updates

Dear Readers,

I’ve been away from my usual routine, and I’m about to be away again (I head out to a conference next week). As such, I’ve not been able to keep up as I might like. But I am working to get things back on track, I assure you. I should have things back together soon.

Until then, thank you for your patience!

Geoffrey B. Elliott