Another Nature Piece

As I’ve remarked once or twice before, I live outside of town in the Texas Hill Country, and not terribly far from a creek, so I often get critters of one kind or another in the yard or in the house. I suppose I ought to mention also that, while my yard is fenced all around, the fencing is of uneven quality. Some of it is simple chain-link–with gaps at the base. Some is tall privacy fence–with gaps at the base. Some, in the back corner, is frayed and faltering wire–with gaps at the base and elsewhere.

White-tailed Deer — Texas Parks & Wildlife Department
Not quite this majestic, but moving that way.
Image is Chase A. Fountain’s from TPWD, here, used for commentary;
I am given to understand the image counts as public domain since it’s from a government entity.

Now, it is no strange thing for me to see deer in my yard–or anywhere in the area, really. They abound in this part of the world, some years more than others, but there is a reason my old high school and a few others in the area use them–or parts of them–as mascots. So when I saw a young one, spots still showing on its hndquarters, out along the fence-line a couple of days back (as of this writing; it’ll be a while before this gets where other folks can see it), I didn’t think anything much of it. It was one of those things that was nice to note but nothing to stand out in memory, like a sunrise or sunset that strikes the eye but does not linger in the mind so much.

When I noticed the same deer along the fence-line the next day, though, I began to wonder about it. And when I saw it for a third day in a row, it occurred to me–idly, because I had not had enough coffee for the day yet–that the poor thing was stuck in the yard, that it didn’t know how to get out.

Again, though, deer are common enough around here, and it is widely known that they’re unintelligent. There’s a reason “deer in the headlights” is a common description for inability to answer a question. As such, I didn’t really think much about the deer’s plight–until one morning, I was looking out the window with a cup of coffee in my hand, I saw the deer and pointed it out to my wife, commenting that I’d seen it in the yard across several days. She came to the window, and we watched it for a few minutes, seeing it pace back and forth along the fence-line and try to get through one of the gaps at the back corner of the yard–and fail.

It was when my wife commented on it that something finally clicked inside me, and I went out to open the gates that close off our back yard. I walked around one side of the house, making noise as I did so that the deer would be aware of me and, I hoped, would try to flee, finding the open gate in the process. And that worked, although I saw the deer jump headlong into my fences twice before it sprinted through the gate and out into the road, its hooves clicking on the asphalt as it ran away.

Care to support my ongoing wildlife efforts?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 136: Ship of Magic, Chapter 35

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series soon.

The chapter that follows, “Pirates and Captives,” opens on the deck of the Vivacia, where Kyle rages against Sa’Adar as the Marietta draws near to the liveship. The Vivacia panics as the bodies of her former crew are put overboard and the serpents feast upon them; Wintrow maneuvers to comfort the ship as the pirate crew boards and is welcomed by Sa’Adar and his comrades.
Something like this, perhaps?
Image taken from TV Tropes, used for commentary

Wintrow’s presence is noted, and he dickers for his life and his father’s with Kennit, aided by the angry intercession of the Vivacia, herself. Neither Sorcor nor Etta are entirely pleased by the situation, but Kennit seems pleased with the spine Wintrow shows and agrees to decidedly dangerous terms. Kyle is taken into custody again, and Kennit assumes the captain’s cabin as his own after presenting himself to the speaking figurehead of the ship.

Kennit courts the Vivacia audaciously, provoking strange responses from the ship, from Wintrow, and from Etta. He then assumes the captain’s cabin, surveying and inventorying it as Etta frets and fusses. Meanwhile, Kyle lies sullenly in what had been Gantry’s cabin, Wintrow tending his injuries. And the ship considers the sudden shift in her circumstances, taken but now crewed well again, remembering the sweet words Kennit had spoken to her.

The chapters have shortened as the book has drawn to its close, feeling somewhat rushed as they have come to the penultimate section of the novel. Where there has been a series of actions, the shortening makes sense; it reinforces the jagged, choppy nature of many things happening all at once, the layout of the novel reinforcing the effect of the events within the narrative on the reader.

In the present chapter, however, things feel somewhat rushed; for one thing, Wintrow seems to have grown courage and solidity almost overnight, whereas he had earlier been most frequently taken with analysis paralysis or had talked himself out of effectiveness in the name of righteousness. Having lived through puberty (somehow), I can attest that attitudes and emotional states can and do change wildly from day to day and even hour to hour–but even so, the shift seems extreme.

The rush is something I have noted in Hobb’s work before, and it is something I have found annoying in other properties, as well. I will admit, though, that that may well be a matter of personal taste and practice; when I read for pleasure (which does not happen as much anymore as it used to or ought to), despite reading quickly, I like to feel like the writing takes its time. Reading is a conversation, and I like to have my conversations run on at length. It’s something I know annoys more than a few people, though, so, as I note, it may well just be me. But it remains ever so slightly vexatious…

Care to help keep this month going right?


Are my springs drying out
Their aquifers growing empty from
Too many drilled wells
Going too deep
Pumping each more than its portion?
Am I beset by too bright a sun
Subject to too many cloudless days when
What I need is rain?
But if I know well
Who and what
Has sunk each shaft into me
I am far less certain who has assumed the role of
Named in revulsion
Before whom do I stand
To be burned away?
Who shines so brightly
So harshly
In my life?
Or is my pale skin
So thin
That it quails even under dimmer lights
That the flesh beneath grows brittle
Under a fading lamp?

San Antonio Provides Financing for Source Water Protection | Conservation  Finance Network
Ahhh. Relief.
Image from the Edwards Aquifer Authority’s Flickr, used for commentary.

Help me drill a new well?

In Response to Eric Weiskott

On 5 July 2017, Eric Weiskott’s “Millennial Bashing in Medieval Times” appeared in The Conversation online. In the article, Weiskott situates himself and his students as the Millennials often focused upon by derogatory opinion pieces and contests the commonplace descriptions of Millennials as shiftless and feckless amid noting their major cultural touchstones before arriving at the crux of his piece: complaints about youth are nothing new. He then references a series of examples of medieval English authors’ complaints about the youths of their own times, moving from Chaucer through an anonymous poet to Langland and Malory. The article concludes with the comment that complaints about youth are symptomatic of continual underlying social change–and that they are not likely to end anytime soon.

I’ve been fortunate enough to read Weiskott’s work on occasion, as well as to hear him speak, and I know him for an excellent scholar. (I also confess to being jealous of him, since he got a position for which I had also applied–but that is another matter entirely.) And his scholarly predilection emerges in the article, wherein he makes several mentions of meter; Weiskott identifies as a metricist (among a few others), so it makes sense that comments about meter would attract his attention. Similarly, his focus on later Middle English literature is evident from the dates of his references; most are in the latter 14th century, with Malory the outlier at the “end” of Middle English. (Indeed, one of the things I could wish to see addressed in the piece, had space allowed, is older responses; what do the Anglo-Saxon scops, for example, make of the youths of their time?) Both were comforts, of course; seeing scholarly focus deployed for a broad audience is a hopeful thing, and my own formal studies tend to focus on Malory, so seeing other Malorian work is emboldening (even if I see it relatively late).

I am also gratified that a point I make often with my classes echoes one made by a more powerful scholar than I. Although I’ve not often been in a position to teach medieval English literature as a primary focus (and will likely never be so again), I work to integrate my medievalist tendencies into my teaching (as I discuss at some length in a chapter I have in the upcoming Ballad of the Lone Medievalist–if I may be forgiven for self-promotion). One of the ways in which I do so is to point out the continuity of language change–something Weiskott reports doing in his classes. And one of the ways I point out that continuity is by noting that the writers of the past complain about the youths of their time as certainly as do the writers of today–as Weiskott points out. So I am in good company, which is always a pleasure.

One of the reasons I feel compelled to point out the changes in language and the complaints of the past about the language of the slightly-more-recent past is that many of my students have internalized the idea that their “nonstandard” usage marks them as unintelligent and unworthy. (I’ve noted it at least obliquely before.) Since those I teach now are non-traditional, having been away from formal schooling for some time and, in many cases, underserved academically when they were in schooling before, they tend to be more convinced than traditional undergraduates that there is something wrong with them because they speak and write in particular ways that are not “what was taught in school.” I face more of a challenge to get them to the idea that the “standards” in place now are wholly arbitrary and reflect the soft power deployed by moneyed interests to keep those without as much money (and the access to resources represented by that money) in their place–and convincing people that they are stupid does much to keep them from looking to change things. The words of the past help me to do so, more than just acting as a salve for the wounds the words of many of my elders inflict. I expect that Weiskott’s students–or those who need it, since he works at Boston College, a situation far removed from my own and those of my students–benefit in such a way, as well.

Here’s some more, different self-promotion, if you didn’t like the other.

Class Report: ENGL 216, 7 November 2017

After addressing questions from the previous class meeting, discussion turned to concerns of specific technical writing genres (definition, description, process explanation, and instruction), research, and ethics before addressing upcoming assignments.

Additionally, per Dean Grover McDaniel, the following: VETERAN.

The following assignments are soon coming due:

  • Online Discussions, due before 0059 on 13 November 2017
  • Homework (Assignment 9 fm. pg. 238 in the standard course text), due before 0059 on 13 November 2017 as a Word document
  • Course Project Source Annotations, due before 0059 on 6 November 2017 as a Word document

The class met at 1800 in Rm. 107 of the DeVry San Antonio campus. The class roster listed nine students enrolled, unchanged since the last class meeting. Of them, four attended, verified informally; student participation was reasonably good. No students attended office hours (online, Mondays from approx. 1830 to 2030).

Class Report: ENGL 062, 21 October 2017

Class time was to be given over wholly to the Week 8 Learning Activity prescribed in the course shell, as class was set to meet for the last time. As such, no assignments are forthcoming, although students are reminded of the following:

  • Any work not submitted by the end of the day today will not be accepted, as the session ends at 2359 MDT.
  • Student surveys, if not already done, need to be done. Student feedback is an important tool in personal and institutional assessment.

Although the class roster listed five students enrolled, unchanged since the last class meeting, none attended. Given what class was devoted to, it was not a surprise. No students attended office hours.

Another Letter about Points of Departure

Dear Readers,

I appreciate you following along. I really do, and so I hate to disappoint you. Work’s creeping up on me, though, and I have to get it done–which means I can’t give the story the time it needs at the moment. Please check back on Wednesday, 26 April 2017. I should have the next chapter ready by then.

Of course, if I could get enough donations that I wouldn’t need to work…

A guy can dream, right?



Class Reports: ENGL 1302, Sections 02 and 03–21 April 2017

After treating concerns from the last class meeting and before, discussion asked after thoughts about the ChEss. It then returned to assigned readings, trying to get through more of Malory.

Students are reminded of the following due dates:

  • ChEss RV (online before class begins on 24 April 2017)
  • ChEss FV (online before class begins on 5 May 2017)
  • FinEx (in the regular classroom at 1030 on 8 May 2017 [for Section 03] or 9 May 2017 [for Section 2])

Information about the FinEx remains in development.

Section 02 met as scheduled, at 1000, in Weir 111. The class roster listed 14 students enrolled, unchanged since the last class meeting.  Nine attended, verified informally. Student participation was reasonably good. One student from the class attended office hours since the previous class meeting.

Section 03 met as scheduled, at 1100, in Weir 111. The class roster listed 16 students enrolled, unchanged since the last class meeting. Eleven attended, verified informally. Student participation was good, if somewhat distracted. One student from the class attended office hours since the previous class meeting.

Class Reports: ENGL 1302, Sections 02 and 03–10 April 2017

After treating concerns from the last class meeting and before, discussion asked after progress on the PrEss. It then returned to Sir Thomas Malory and assigned readings.

Students are reminded of the following due dates:

  • PrEss FV (online before class begins on 12 April 2017)
  • ChEss RV (online before class begins on 24 April 2017)
  • ChEss FV (online before class begins on 5 May 2017)

Information about other assignments remains in development.

Section 02 met as scheduled, at 1000, in Weir 111. The class roster listed 14 students enrolled, unchanged since the last class meeting. Eleven attended, verified informally. Student participation was reasonably good. No students from the class attended office hours since the previous class meeting.

Section 03 met as scheduled, at 1100, in Weir 111. The class roster listed 16 students enrolled, unchanged since the last class meeting. Fifteen attended, verified informally. Student participation was somewhat restrained. Two students from the class attended office hours since the previous class meeting.

Pronghorn, Chapter 44: Still Running

Continued from the previous chapter, here.

Asa Pemewan and Manny Davis returned to the restaurant, and Asa put the pizza bag back in place while Manny cashed in the order. Asa picked up an already-bagged order, noting what the ticket inside said and looking at the map to find its location. The delivery would be a bit shorter than the last one, because it was closer, just across from Pronghorn Community College. Asa noted as much to Manny, eliciting a “Damn. ‘Nother no-tipper, probably.”

As they got back into Manny’s car, Asa asked “Why do you say so?”

“Probably a resident college kid. College kids’re broke. Broke folk don’t tip so much. Pain in the ass, really.”

“Ah.” Asa thought back to his own college days, both undergraduate and graduate. Many times, he had ordered pizza, had it sent to his dorm room or the apartments he had shared with people. He could not recall whether or not he had given the delivery people a little more than they asked for for the pizzas and wings and sodas he had bought, and the inability to remember shamed him. I suppose I have it coming, then, if I don’t get any tips. Not that I am today, anyway.

The drive was brief, as Asa had expected. Turning into the apartment complex whence the order had come was a bit more of a challenge, though; cars came just quickly enough in succession that Manny could not safely cross the oncoming lanes. The wealth of profanity that escaped his lips betrayed his ongoing frustration with them–and with the line of traffic that began to stack behind him. “Damned problem with signs. No regularity.”

Horns began to honk behind the car, and Manny saw a gap approach. “Hold on” he said, and he whipped his car across the lane of oncoming traffic. A cacophony of horns followed him, but he brought the car into the parking lot safely, slowing sharply to find the building. “This one’s good. Signs for what apartments’re where’re clear. It ain’t always so. Got another one, other side of town, can’t hardly see the address, let along the apartment numbers. Ah, here,” said Manny, and he stopped the car, turned on the hazard lights, and parked. “We’ll only be a minute, Newbie, so we’ll leave the car here–flashers on, keys in pocket. Don’t want the damned thing stolen.”

Asa nodded and levered himself out of the car, following Manny up a flight of rickety stairs to the assigned apartment. “You do it” said Manny, urging Asa forward.

Asa took a deep breath, glanced at the door to find no doorbell, and knocked.

From within, “Who is it?”

Asa replied “Pizza delivery.”

“Just a second. Need my pants.”

A minute passed, then another, and the door opened. A shirtless man holding up the waist of a pair of pants too big for him looked out at Asa and asked “What was the total?” From behind him came a reek of something burning, smoke and skunk. Asa looked at the ticket and said “$18.77.”

“Cool. Just a second.” The shirtless man turned away, rummaging around on what looked to be a nearby table, and as he did, Asa could see that all he was wearing was the oversized pants. But the man turned back to Asa quickly, a picture of Grant extended. “Yeah, keep it man.”

Asa handed over the pizza, his eyes wide and mouth open. Manny put in “Thank you, sir, and have a nice day!” He also guided Asa away from the door, starting him back to the car.

Once inside it, Manny turned to Asa and asked “The hell was that?”

“He gave me a $50 for a $20 order.”

“Yes? That’s a good thing!”

“But he was stoned, Manny. He didn’t know what he was doing.”

“Ain’t your problem, Newbie. Your job is to get the order out and bring the money back.” The car started and started moving. “Idiots off their nut wanna give you more than they owe, that’s on them. You ain’t their protector.”

“I know, but I feel bad.”

“Then donate the tip to charity. But don’t stand there looking like an idiot until you do. It’s bad for business.”

“Wait, I’m keeping the tip?”

“You made the delivery. Feels nice, doesn’t it, having money all of a sudden. Hell, that’d cover your tab at the bar tonight.”

“I hadn’t planned on going to a bar tonight.”

“Heh.” Manny turned through the roundabout in front of the college. “Not a surprise, somehow.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, Newbie, I don’t know if it’s first-day jitters or what, but you seem like you’ve got a stick wedged up and turned sideways. You need to relax, or you’re gonna give yourself an aneurysm. And if you do it in my car, it’ll piss me off.”

“I’ll try not to have an aneurysm in your car, Manny. And maybe I’m a bit uptight. Even so, I can’t afford to go out tonight. Hell, I don’t know that I can afford to go out anytime in the next month. I’m not on a job because I want to have to work, you know; I’ve got bills and debts and such to last for years.”

“Yeah? So do the rest of us. We still go out.”

“Also, I’ve done bars. I can’t hear a damned thing in them, and if I’m going to sit and drink and not talk to anybody, I’m going to do it where I’ve got a toilet I can trust not to give me crab lice.”

Manny was silent for a moment. “I give you the last bit. Having a good pisser’s good. Which reminds me, there’s a chore-board in the back of the store. We all get one. Newbie usually has to clean the toilets. Just so you know.”

They turned back into the restaurant’s parking lot.

Did you get as much from reading me as you do from your mocha or latte? Could you kick in as much for me as you pay for that so I can keep doing what you like? Click here, then, and thanks!