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BouckFamilyFB-45(1)Hi there friend, and welcome to my blog. I started writing on the internet more than ten years ago, first anonymously as “pilgrimgirl” and later under my own name.  I began as pilgrimgirl because at the time I was studying journey narratives and had a feeling as though I was starting on a new path with an unknown destination. Since I began writing online I’ve started and finished a PhD program, left the Mormon church and became a Quaker, got divorced, started a history podcast, found full-time work in academia, took up rock climbing and outrigger canoeing, and traveled across the globe (China! Belgium! Italy! Chicago! Montana! Portland! Gettysburg! and oh-so-many points in-between).  For my 38th birthday and 25th anniversary of my bone cancer diagnosis,  we (meaning me and you) bought legs for a young double-amputee from China.

You might have happened upon this blog because you’ve heard of my work in the digital humanities or because you are curious about living with a disability or because you are also in the midst of a faith transition.  Click on any of the links above to find my posts about those particular topics (or use the dropdown links in the nav bar on the blog header).  Or, feel free to read a little bit of anything and everything by using the archive links on the right sidebar.

This blog is eclectic and random–it has poetry and cooking and books.  And cats.  And flowers.  And the ocean (my ocean).  But in that sense it’s a good reflection of me and my wide-ranging, far-reaching, magpie curiosity.

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My Year in IT: Certified

The language, mores, and workflows of IT aren’t all that different from what occurs in other areas of the campus, but it felt important to me that while I was in IT this year that I become adept at IT-speak and processes (just as if I were living in a foreign country and adopting the customs and colloquialisms of that region).

One of the ways that I’ve accomplished the task of learning The Ways of IT, is to seek an ITIL Certification.  In fact, by next month I ought to have two of them under my belt.

I don’t know that getting certified makes me a better IT manager or employee, but it does make me feel like less of an impostor among my colleagues.

 

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My Year in IT: keeping a sense of humor

A post in the series My Year in IT

For me, working in IT has required a healthy sense of humor.

There is the easy, obvious humor that comes from working in an environment that is straight out of an Office episode.  That leads to silly shared memes, bad photoshopping of each other’s headshots, and the occasional inflatable monkey at my desk.  But what it really comes from is that in IT we are working in teams and not solo.

From my years doing historical research in the solitude of an archive, I’d become used to working through problems myself, and developed workflows for my personal productivity that rarely hinged on others.  My first few days at an IT cubicle were a completely different experience.  Paper planes whizzed over walls and news would spread across an entire hall of offices simply by having an audible conversation.  I soon learned how valuable that ‘spread’ of overheard conversations would be, as others in nearby cubes who heard me speak of a problem on the phone might soon pop in and add their two cents to the issue.  And among team members, it became apparent that humor is necessary to diffuse stress and to create strong working bonds with each other (or just to revel in the fact that it is Friday and almost the weekend!)

Humor also comes in handy when one realizes that a problem cannot be fixed.  There is a mantra in IT that “anything is possible with enough resources” and this is usually said in a preface to an explanation of why that desired thing is not possible.  It may be an unplanned system outage, the inability to modify out-of-the-box software, or the impossibility of churning out an immediate web programming change.  Grappling with finite resource limits is maddening, especially when one is aware of the frustration that users feel when something is not working as expected.  Enter, humor.  These moments are not the laugh-out-loud silliness of youtube mishaps, but are times when one has to smile and forge ahead to provide a workaround, or reach out and communicate as clearly as possible what the impact of the problem/outage/malfunction will be.

Perhaps most importantly, I’ve needed to keep a sense of humor about myself.  Despite knowing all that I know about technology there are days that my printer isn’t working, times when I need a password reset, and moments when it feels like every click yields an error message.  It is then that I get most exhausted by the tangle of spaghetti powercords in my bag that seem to include every single one except the one that I need and it’s high time to start laughing instead of cursing.  Technology is frustrating even for those of us who spend all day mired in it (or perhaps even more so).

Last summer I left behind my office with-a-window for an IT cubicle.

My Year in IT: On moving to a cubicle

This is the first post in a series about My Year in IT.

Last year I moved from my central campus office-with-a-window to a cubicle in our IT building.  In preparation for the move my academic books went into storage and I bought a fancy new pair of noise-canceling headphones (which were deemed a necessity for my new digs). The move was a willing change for me, as I had just accepted a one-year position managing the computing service team for our university.

My motivation for this move was driven by the disconnect that I see between academics and operations in HigherEd.  We are a house divided, with few people who navigate the gap. Nowhere is this more obvious to me than in IT, whose technical functions undergird teaching, faculty productivity, and campus communication.  Yet there is near-invisibility of the technicians who sit at their screens all day ensuring that when a professor walks into the classroom they can access the classroom projector, open Blackboard, and log into their storage drive to retrieve their powerpoint slides.

Given that our campuses incorporate cutting-edge digital tools and methods, the impact of IT on HigherEd is ever-expanding. Our libraries house digital repositories, our faculty each have an online presence, and even the campus gym is expected to have wireless.  Added to that are the data needs of campus support services, which are critical for hiring, enrolling, advising, coaching, and so forth.

Serving on the front lines of the campus IT department has given me a window into how all of the campus systems function and interact with each other (and also a view onto how difficult it can be when services don’t function).  I have a growing respect for my highly-skilled colleagues who offer technical support, fix AV, install routers, write programming scripts, manage projects, and implement technology policies.

From where I was sitting a few months ago, to where I sit now, the view could not be more different. Yet it is also very much the same–in both seats I am surrounded by people who work hard and who are passionate about their jobs.  On the academic side my colleagues focus on teaching students and excelling in research.  And in IT, they focus on providing timely and helpful service for clients.  Both are necessary.  Both keep the university humming along everyday.

And I might add that those noise-canceling headphones are now dusty from lack of use.  Instead of tuning out, I’ve been listening and learning constantly, which has reminded me why I got into academia in the first place–to better understand what’s happening around me.  And that is definitely not noise.

Resolutions, 2016

Feeling pensive today as I reflect on the past year and consider my intentions for the future.  So as part of that I spent some time looking through my blogposts from the past year and weighing how they reflected my memories of 2015.

Some of the larger happenings of the past year include:

And I’m writing this list as I’m snuggled up on the living room sofa of our Brussels home (photo below).  Life continues to be interesting as I straddle the cultures of continental Europe and Southern California, and as Stijn and I consider our future together.  It’s hard to predict how that will evolve as we make professional and personal choices, but what is obvious is that it’s wonderful to have many possibilities for the future.  In past years I’ve found my greatest longing was for home, and now I have two of them.  :)
Home, in Brussels

My resolutions for 2016 are pretty simple, so far:

  • invest time and energy into our Orange home, to make it more comfortable–both inside and out
  • be a better friend, by making time to spend with mine one-on-one, and also by hosting more events at our place
  • send monthly care packages to E&C at college
  • practice Dutch and banjo, 3 days/week
  • speak French often
  • grow more food and cook more with our homegrown food
  • have some travel adventures
  • relax
  • laugh often
  • worry less

I’m tempted to also set some writing goals for 2016–I’ve totally slacked in that department in the past few years and I just haven’t felt inspired to write. So, I’ll give that some more thought and see if I feel ready to formalize a plan for writing this year (or not).

the sound of silence…

The laryngitis hit a few days ago and doesn’t seem eager to leave.  So now I must be silent and let my voicebox rest and heal.

In the meantime, I am missing calling Ellycat in from the back porch, giggling with the kiddos on skype, and rehearsing my day with Stijn over dinner.  Not to mention the difficulty that I found in teaching my three-hour seminar and the work meetings that I’ve had to put on hold until I can vocalize.

Of course it’s a temporary thing and I expect to wake up in a day or two and be able to talk comfortably again. But in the meantime it feels awfully lively with all these thoughts knocking around in my head that I can’t share with anyone around me.  But that does seem to be the gift of getting older, that there are so many thoughts and associations and memories and wonderings.  I can easily fill an hour by sitting in the garden enjoying the scent of the basil plants, and rehearsing in my mind my favorite basil recipes and basil foods, as well as the most humble and the most exquisite caprese salads that I’ve ever tasted.  And the pretty soon the sun is setting and the hour is past and now I’ve moved on to the rosemary…

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learning about digital humanities, from the inside

For a long time I’ve been thinking how helpful it would be to have some of the expertise of my colleagues in IS&T, in my Digital Humanities course.  At a conference I’d heard about the benefits of embedding librarians within research courses, and it seemed to me that embedding technicians within a DH course would accomplish a similar aim, and would also reinforce the nature of DH as a collaborative discipline.

So today was my first foray in that vein, as Ryan (a member of our server team) attended my class and gave a demo of the inner guts of a PC and a server machine.

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IMG_7696It was successful enough that I will try it again in future classes, and may also call on other technical expertise from our IT department throughout the semester.  Because while I don’t think the students need to know all of the details of how a computer works, it is important for them to consider the limitations of various devices and platforms as they imagine the possibilities for their future research projects.

for the big ones

I’ve had a few zucchini piled up on the counter that I haven’t been sure what to do with.  They aren’t the young tender ones that taste great in zucchini carpaccio (which, btw, I make sans goat cheese and it is still super-yum) and I’m not in the mood for baking zucchini bread or zucchini cake.

So, this recipe from the gals at 3191 was just what I needed.  I adapted it by using soymilk instead of coconut milk and I put a dollop of rich plain yogurt in the center and swirled it around into the soup.  Also, I wanted to note that I made this with some BIG zucchini (you know, those ones that are lurking under the leaves that you don’t find until they are as big as your arm).  I feared that the big zukes would turn out woody or flavorless, but that was not the case at all.  And I didn’t even clean out the seeds–I just blended it all together in my Vitamix until it was creamy:

Curried Zucchini Soup with Coconut Milk
adapted from Great Food Fast

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 1/2 pounds zucchini (I used 3 medium-sized), sliced thick
1 baking potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
4 cups stock (the original recipe just calls for water)
2/3 cup coconut soy milk

1. Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and curry powder and continue to cook, stirring constantly until fragrant (another minute).

2. Add the zucchini, potato and stock. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until vegetables are tender (15-20 minutes).

3. Add coconut milk. Puree with immersion blender or in batches in blender until very smooth and velvety. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Seasoning depends on stock and potency and freshness of curry powder (my soup needed very little seasoning).