It was 30 years ago today that I was diagnosed with bone cancer. I shared that story with my daughter as I drove her to school this morning, not realizing that I’d never told her before how it happened.
My life completely changed that day, and in the days that followed. On the 21st I was diagnosed, on the 22nd I had biopsy surgery, on the 23rd I learned that I would lose my leg, on the 24th I had my first chemo treatment, and on the 25th I celebrated my 13th birthday by sipping 7Up and puking birthday cake in front of friends and family.
I remain amazed that I am still alive and relatively healthy, three decades later…
The Middle Earth dorms at UCI, where I first lived when I moved to Irvine.
“I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved and where all your yesteryears are buried deep, leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can. Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better hour because it is dead. Passed years seem safe ones, vanquished ones, while the future lives in a cloud, formidable from a distance.”
― Beryl Markham, West with the Night
There is a momentum to everything that’s going on in my life right now, that seems to be spinning faster and faster everyday. Work, home, family, friends, and self are all in the midst of change–most of it too personal or too complicated to explain here.
Probably looming largest above everything is the realization that in a few days I’m leaving the community where I’ve lived for 25 years, where I’ve raised my children, where I’ve found “home” in so many different places–from my first dorm room in Hobbiton to our current family-sized house in University Hills. In addition to moving from Irvine, I’m taking a summer sabbatical from my work Chapman and will be on the move (i.e. homeless) for a few months. And when I return it will be to an “empty-nest” because both of the kiddos will have moved on to college.
It’s a lot of change in a short span of time, and I don’t think that I’ve ever packed my stuff up for moving without knowing where I would be living when I was unpacking.
I’m not afraid of what will happen when I return in the fall, but I am feeling a bit melancholy about the move because I know how unlikely it is that I will find a home that I enjoy as much as the one where I live now. The Markham quote above rings true to my feelings, that the future lives in a cloud, formidable from a distance. It is quite formidable not to know the where and when of what one’s life will be.
But perhaps Markham is also right by saying that it’s good to make big changes quickly and without too much time available for sorrow or worry. To just leap ahead and know that whatever will come will be new and different and probably even better than whatever I imagined it would be. I also know that I have a great job and wonderful OC friends to come “home” to, no matter where or what that actual home ends up being…which brings a great deal of comfort in the midst of such a whirlwind.
I’m not a huge fan of Mother’s Day (too much commercialism and shmaltz), but it was still a joy to spend a few minutes on Sunday looking through the photos taken at my mother’s surprise 70th birthday party last December. The uber-talented D’Arcy Benincosa was out photographer, and she did such a great job of capturing the smiles of my siblings and Mom. Everytime I look at these pictures, I am so happy (note: click on the images to enlarge them).
I also enjoyed a quiet moment considering what my Dad might think of these if he were still alive. Given that one of the last efforts before he became ill was to throw a secret 50th birthday surprise party for my Mom, I feel fairly confident that he, too, would be pleased by knowing that we traveled from the four corners of the US to do that same for her 20 years later:
A long time ago, I encountered this table while staying at the Friends’ House in Beacon Hill (in Boston). Way back then I remarked how much I’d like to have such a table for entertaining someday.
Our current kitchen table isn’t quite that large, but it does handily seat at least eight people once the leaf is inserted. And lately we’ve had a houseful of visitors from overseas, stretching that capacity to the maximum.
As I pondered that this afternoon (while hearing the happy noises of friends coming from downstairs) I realized just how much I enjoy entertaining and how I had imagined this future for myself many times: to break bread with good and generous people, who are at ease and hopeful about their lives. People who know how to laugh and relax…and then wash the dishes together afterwards…
This list of links is for a round table that I’m participating in at the #WAWH conference this afternoon about writing online as a graduate student. So to mix things up a but I thought I’d try a bit of upworthy-style academic clickbait (instead of a PowerPoint)…
1) blog everyday
Confessions of a blogger historian
The blogging life
2) get personal
Writing about disability and religion and divorce and family (and poetry and flowers…)
3) get distracted by side projects
Technological tools for historians
The Making History Podcast
4) tweet at and about academic conferences
Getting Twitterpated at academic conferences
The Past’s Digital Presence Conference twitter feed
5) accept a FT alt-ac position instead of ‘going on the market’
Moving from a virtual space to an academic office space
Ten things I’ve learned from being a university administrator
A few years ago, at THATCamp SoCal, a handful of us generated the idea for a regional Digital Humanities network. Since then, the idea has gained momentum and we now have affiliates from nearly every university campus in Southern California represented our group.
I made the Word Cloud, above, from the notes of our latest gathering at UCSD. As you can see from the Wordle, there are several key topics that emerged: teaching, projects, syllabus, students, data, funding, program. What struck me the most from this are the words “interested” and “sharing” which point to how each attendee came to the meeting seeking a better understanding about how DH is being taught and practiced at other institutions and is interested in sharing what they are doing at their own.
When I prepped my syllabus for the “Introduction to Digital Humanities” class that I taught last year, I included Ted Nelson’s article “Complex information processing: a file structure for the complex, the changing and the indeterminate” because I wanted my students to gain some historical knowledge about how modern-day computer interfaces developed from the ideas of visionary thinkers like Nelson. At the time, I was unaware that Nelson would be a Visiting Fellow on our campus or that I would have the luxury of becoming personally acquainted with him.
Ted Nelson, who coined the term Hypertext.
My students struggled a bit with the Nelson article. Not only was it long, but his ideas didn’t seem to spark much interest. As we discussed his piece together, I pointed out just how revolutionary his thoughts were in 1965, but that seemed to have little impact on their thinking. Moreover, his ideas about hypertext, or links between words and documents seemed so obvious to their minds that it was difficult to underscore their significance. So I took a different tactic and we created a list of all of the characteristics of Nelson’s imagined platform: it would be connected and iterative and creative and collaborative. It would “grow indefinitely, gradually including more and more of the world’s knowledge.”
“Do you know of any platform like that?” I asked.
The response: Wikipedia.
When I shared their reply with Ted a few weeks later, he seemed frustrated. And I could see why. Wikipedia, although a valuable resource and an excellent knowledge repository, is not a creative space. Indeed, it tends towards being rather scripted and formulaic, as well as hierarchical in ways that don’t gel with Nelson’s vision.
My students’ response to my question about Project Xanadu points to the unrealized nature of Nelson’s early vision–we remain locked into ways of digitally writing that replicate paper and although many of us read e-books or use text-based apps of various kinds, they are simply re-presentations of analog modes of creation. But it also points out a far larger problem: that the development of our computer interfaces and software feels like a “given” to most students. They have difficulty imagining that computers could have developed a different way or with an alternate mode of interaction. Which concerns me about how they may imagine their own future–as a series of inevitabilities rather than as dynamic and evolving threads of occurrences on a canvas that they can manipulate and shape to their liking.