(Site Updated: November 7 2023)
A few people have noted that I have been surprisingly tardy with my monthly update, so now that I have a hot minute, I can remedy that. We are in the late phase of autumn as the trees drop their colours to take on the spindly appearance for winter. Less daylight and cooler temperatures makes the outdoors a bit less pleasant, and work has prevented me from enjoying the fall colours as much as I would have liked. All four of my courses submitted their research proposals, so those needed to be read and graded with feedback to ensure they can deliver on the final paper due at the end of this month. I also got our Reading Week dates wrong, thinking they began on November 6, but a student informed me, no, it started on October 30! I had thought there was enough time to organize one last fossil trip in the field, but instead found myself scrambling with just a day and a half to book trains and motels. It was one of the least productive trips for a variety of reasons, involving about 32 hours of travel total, mostly by rail. As usual, I traveled with my trusty military field pack and duffle bag. The adventure saw me digging in Hastings County, and then a last-minute trip to see my fossil comrade outside of Quebec City where there was snow to wait on before we could get one half day of not so great collecting. An expensive adventure with not much to show for it beyond a few pieces, and the great company of my fossil comrade who hosted me at his farmhouse with warm meals and cold beer.
There is always the chance to get back out into the field on the odd weekend before the season fully turns, but any such adventures would have to be local; otherwise, it may be "down tools" for the 2023 season, and nigh time to do the annual season-end roundup and reflection on the fossil blog. Of course, any even short local trips will be dependent on time (which is running out) and weather (which at this time of year gets dicier by the day). There is also the massive mountain of marking awaiting me at month's end, after which the semester will be tied up in a ribbon and I will be making haste to somewhere hot to bother some tropical fish and sea turtles. At the moment, it is the last mile of the marathon. So here we go...
Time flies in these crispier months. Just about half the semester is behind me as the days shorten. Not much to report this month so far -- mostly chipping away as usual, but I did get out on a fairly good fossil trip over the Thanksgiving weekend.
Summer Ends, School bell rings
It's just about over. The black-eyed susans and Queen Anne's lace are dominating the fields, the yellowjacket wasps have been kicked out to fend for themselves and annoy us, crickets sing their phaser-chorus, and some leaves are eager to start turning for the autumn display. I am just nine days from presiding over my full slate of undergraduate courses to kick off the 2023/24 teaching season. August has been an eventful month. I went on a two week fossil dig to a place I can't talk about, but it was a life-altering experience. I get to see out these soft days in having hosted two US fossil friends (pictured above) for some local digging, and we had a great time. But it's just about time to put away summer things and get cracking with work. As usual, summer went by in a blur. A few exciting developments on my horizon that I can disclose gradually, but for now I am going to enjoy what remains of my time off.
I know it is not officially August as I type this, but the crickets are chirping, the nights are filled with fireflies, the Queen Anne's lace and Black-Eyed Susans are blooming, just as one would expect for the shift from midsummer to early autumn. You may be asking where did it all go? Well, there is still some life in the summer bones. July was a quiet month of consolidation for me, as it usually is. A bit of a breather before one last adventure and then I'm back at work. If anything, I learned this month that I absolutely adore cottage cheese. Starting August 5th, I will be away for two weeks on an exciting fossil dig I cannot speak about. I am speaking of a very expensive fossil trip to a very remote place where I won't even have a cell signal. I will be offline entirely. I'll be living in the bush. I am about to embark on a trip of a lifetime, living under the stars and entirely by my wits. It will be some time before I have any contact with civilization. I will be home around August 20th or so. If you are a student creeping me because I did not answer your email, be advised that I have no power over registration issues; class caps are class caps, and I can't do anything about them. The syllabi will come when they come. There are no books to buy in any of my courses. The OWL sites and everything else will be in place well before we meet.
And so do please allow me this time for what I live for: time in the field looking for trilobites. I will be back near the back end of August to manage emails and things.
Once more into the breach before summer concludes! If you are my mother reading this, I will be safe (I take no silly chances, and I'm smart and strong enough to come back home safely -- my wife would not let me go otherwise!). Until September!I just know I will come back from this adventure a bit different, and hopefully better.
Blink, and half the year is over -- or that is how it seems. June has been a fairly busy month, with some travel mixed in. Sometimes it feels I spend more time on the rails and the road than I do at home. Earlier this month, I was honoured to facilitate a prioritization session for City of Brampton Council as they take the next logical step in their strategic plan -- a very rewarding experience, and one that may hopefully serve the interests of the city's 600,000+ residents as they face the future on their own terms (and with the dissolution of the Region of Peel by January 1, 2025, strategic planning becomes all the more essential). I also plunked down to purchase three air scribes to get back into fossil prep, currently in shipping transit (the scribes, not the prep!). Deb and I took the backroads through lovely Grey County to visit her aunt, which also allowed me to spend a few hours at a special Ordovician road cut. On the way back, we stopped off to hike Eugenia Falls, which is just stunning (but do not forget bug spray!). I saw out the month with a quick rail ride to a Devonian spot in Oxford County, and now step into the long weekend.
Looking ahead to July, there is planning to do for a very exciting fossil trip in August, one that will take a great deal of careful logistical planning and significant costs. I'm also on the hook to deliver a municipal workshop at the end of the month, and look forward to reading the final papers from a cluster of grad students I am supervising. Before I know it, I will be doing course revisions for the coming school year. With any luck, I might be able to sneak in a weekend fossil trip adventure somewhere along the way.
I can scarcely believe that we are almost halfway through the year. I'm back from a two week dig. Cat's out of the bag that I haunted Ottawa and Quebec City area. I still owe a big trip report (with the usual circumspection, naturally), but the image above is just one of many trilobites I found after all this time of living out of a field pack and duffel bag. I was able to come home -- scruffy and tired -- into the welcoming arms of my wife who I missed so very much (being on the road that long is a challenge in itself, but being away from your partner this long is like an eternity). I hit the ground running, though, with a municipal consulting gig coming up, articles to write, a municipal workshop I ran this week, and even an invitation to write another academic book. Suffice it to say, I've been writing a lot after what feels like an interminable hiatus. I have some minor fossil trips scheduled, and an enormous one in August I can't talk about, but I may be a ghost for three weeks before I'm riding the lectern again in September. So far, it has been a pretty good year and I cap it all off with a much anticipated trip to Curacao in December.
And a warm welcome to May. Spring is in full bloom around these parts, with flowers and trees rushing to take advantage of longer, warmer days. It has been a bit on the rainy side this past month, which put some limits on my collecting, but as we coast into warmer, drier times, I should be out and about again. I'll also be teaching a grad course in a few weeks. I was a guest on my first podcast for Municipal World to coincide with an article I'll have published there (and I have a few more in the hopper). I actually have been writing again after a long hiatus, so that is positive. I have some reading to get on to for a few favours, and possibly some old friends to visit once teaching is done.
Hello April. I'm relatively free now that the undergrad semester is coming to its end.I have a grad course and some workshops to run. I thought to post a selfie here since I don't usually take or post those, yet I hear they are all the rage on the social medias. Despite being diagnosed as type 2 diabetic, I don't seem to resemble one. No, no one needs to see my chiseled abs or vasculature (I run a humble site, peeps). I have completed the grading for winter semester and now I'm relatively free to indulge my fossil passions. I also turned 46, if that matters. Time to enjoy life! I'll be out busting rocks and getting my trilobite on.
Back from a relaxing and much needed week in Great Exuma, Bahamas. This was our first out of country post-pandemic trip. I didn't load up the underwater TG-5 camera so much on this trip, but a future trip to one of the "ABC" islands in December will more than make up for it. Some photos in slideshow format via the "travel" tab above. I return to the revenge of winter -- a huge contrast from sunny days, bone white sands, and shockingly turquoise seas.
Of course, now is the crunch time as there will be two massive paper grading sessions this month to bring the winter semester to its finale -- from languid pace to hectic sprint to the finish. . Looking ahead, it will be fossil season. I may even be involved in a bona fide paleo research project... not involving trilobites. I'll also be teaching my one week course in May and have some municipal workshops to run.
Spring can't come soon enough!
No, I'm not growing a stylish winter beard. I did, however, treat myself to a silver dollar in very good condition. This one is from 1935, the first year Canada started issuing silver dollars. It has been a long delayed bucket list item for me.
Winter finally came to visit in the last week of January with a wallop snow followed up by a lobe of frigid polar vortex. Prior to winter's late arrival, it has been rainy and snow-free. Nothing fossil-related has been in my goings-on this year yet as much of my time is taken up teaching courses, developing workshops, and my usual gruelling physical regimen. On that front, I now have a heavy bag installed here for more at-home training. I still need to swap out the old home gym for a newer model, but we'll see what Mr. Market thinks of that. Looking ahead, there is a sunny trip to look forward to this month, some big expenditures to make, and before long it will be tax season. Just a matter of weeks before we might see signs of spring and the end of semester. I have yet to even plan for the spring and summer months as I'm just focused on the short term goals and obligations. Well, it's 2023. Let's see what it brings.
It's just about over, thankfully. It's been a challenging year with a lot of loss and disappointment. One of the few bright points in this year has been continuing dedication to physical training. I foresee choppy waters ahead personally and globally, and all one can do is try to brace for that one constant in the universe: change.
The Fall semester is winding down, and as that tide washes out it leaves a mountain of grading to do just as the snows start laying down its wintry foundations. I am very excited to say that, by midwinter, after two years we will be returning to much warmer climes for vacation where I can spend the days bothering tropical fish. As this year closes out, it has been fairly challenging -- everything from dental-related stuff, the loss of loved ones (Panda and Wolf), a very lacklustre fossil season, plumbing issues, and a whole lot of curve balls. Throughout it all, I kept at my goals and added new ones, particularly in the domain of training. I can say that last week's 1000 pushups in 5 days was a success, and this week's 1000 squats + 500 pushups in 5 days is just one more day to completion. Between daily lifts and cardio nights, strength and fighting performance keeps improving, so I guess I start more resembling Sagat from SF II, minus the eye patch and chest scar. :D All that remains is to keep pushing, lifting, punching, kicking my way through what remains of 2022 before consigning it forever to the dustbin of history. I will have some updates on the fossil blog in the next while, and particularly now that I'll have much of the month free until I ride the lectern again in January.
November 2022 - Bebert's Birthday!
The world's greatest cat, Bebert, turned 12 on Halloween. Still as much of a (murderous) kitten as always, he continues to bring much joy... and plenty of fresh kills of the sort none of us in this house eat.
October is one of my favourite months, it being the zenith of autumn. I did manage to get up north on a fossil dig for a weekend halfway through the month, did some fossil prep, found a few more fossil goodies, and kept up with the old teaching job. It is the perfect month (for fossils!) so I need to update the blog while it is still Reading Break.
On one of my more local excursions, I encountered a small snapping turtle (pictured above). I also went for my first body composition test via the process of an air displacement plethysmograph, and the results were very good -- I'm happily at "athlete" level, which is not too much of a surprise given my rigorous training, flawless diet, and increasing visible vascularity. On that note, I have taken up the art of Muay Thai to complement my existing training in kickboxing and kung fu. Over the years, I find that I prefer being a striker, and Muay Thai offers that with the added bonus of using more lethal methods of elbows, knees, and clinches. I really like the vibe of the place, and thrill to the intensity of the grinders we do. I may be 45, but my body wants to stay in the 20s.
November is pretty much the wrap-up month for courses and grading, with only that one orphaned first week of December remaining. For this and next week, it will be unseasonably warm, so I hope to enjoy as much of it as I can. When November is done, a month of getting the winter courses prepped, and fossils prepped as well.
As it is autumn, it is appropriate to show some leaves. I acquired this recently. The leaf, photographed recto-verso, is from a 1493 print of Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologiae. When this was printed, the printing press was scarcely in its 40s.
So it is October. A quarter of the semester is finished with not too much to look forward to. But at least I have my focus on having doubled down on physical training, and eating monkishly well. In a world that is truly topsy-turvy, it is the little anchors that matter. I foresee much change coming, and it is good to be rooted and clear-eyed.
The school bell is calling me back to work, putting an end to summer days of sitting on the patio in flip-flops and tank tops. To be honest, I've had much better summers, but at least I got in a lot of physical training. My courses are ready to roll, so I'll be lectern riding and paper grading my way through autumn. This must be the first summer in living memory I did not once go more than 25 km away from home. Oh well, hi ho, off to work I go.
Summer's almost gone and in just a few weeks the school bell rings. I can't say I've had a great summer, feeling a bit like a pinata. Perhaps the highlight was in getting to supervise some great MPA/GDPA students (just one more left to complete). I did a lot of physical training, but on the whole it was a quiet summer. Sadly, we also lost our good friend Wolf (1946-2022) this month. Apart from being a huge WWII history buff, enamoured with trains and dinky toys, he had a dynamite sense of humour, and was a great euchre partner. Rest in power, Wolf.
Hard for me to believe it is already July. June had its events, but it whizzed right by. I am sad to say I didn't get out much for fossil collecting, and I am not all that optimistic about my prospects for going somewhere fantastic in these last two free months before classes resume. Instead, I've taken up this time doing prep, which is something I generally do during the winter months. With rampant inflation and possible recession on the horizon, it seems that 2022 is a hobbled year. I'm hoping to turn things around and get things back on track for what remains of the summer.
Sell in May and go away, the bear market is here to stay. Welcome to June. The previous month saw me teach a course and end with a solo dig trip out on the east side of the province. Beyond that, no big shakes. All of nature is cresting to the year maximum as we step ever closer to the longest day of the year, and then the days shorten again. Boooo! No big fossil trips planned just as yet, but I do hope to get something going. For now, a reflective pause in a not so active season. As usual, opportunities are scarce as sites are much harder to source. During this pause, I am turning my attention to some trilobite preps, which I will likely showcase in the blog when they are done.
And recently helping a good friend out at his farm. We were planting mulberry, chestnut, and hickory. While that was happening, a new lamb emerged in the barn. Great to see pigs, sheep, chickens, turkeys, ducks, and even peacocks. Here I am giving a cuddle to "Mounty" (I named him that after his playful attempts to mount his sibling). The mother has rejected one of the two lambs, so in order to feed the rejected one, the mother has to be "jugged," and also trapped by a stanchion during feeding so that the rejected lamb can feed. Mounty above is the favoured of the two, and I was holding him near the mother so she could smell him and continue eating. And he is cute and soft for holding, too, of course!
The buds are on the trees, and the spring flowers have pushed up strong to kick off the start of May. April was the rollercoaster of ups and downs I expected it to be, and I anticipate (and hope) for a bit less of the wobbly action for May. I teach a week-long grad course on strategic planning this month, but have no other major events scheduled yet. I got back from a weeklong fossil dig out east, and it reminds me that I've been pretty lazy about updating the fossil blog, which is something I plan to rectify soon, as I do have some neat stuff from the field and from a field friend. I have yet to plot out the logistics of another trip, but I am recovering from the previous one first. My hope is to spend at least one week a month on a multi-day adventure until September comes along. So, here's to hoping May is a pleasant and profitable one for everyone.
As I type this (April 5), it is my birthday as I turn 45. It is also springtime, and the semester is pretty much over. The last 6-7 months have made me a bit of a piñata, and my usual stoic resolve sees me rolling with it all. There will be some unpleasantness to come, but such is the nature of things. I can say that I am at the healthiest, most energetic, and strongest in my entire life -- a fairly ascetic lifestyle and disciplined high volume anaerobic and aerobic training has seen to breaking a lot of personal records, and feeling better than I did even in my 20s. The body is pretty much primed to athletic mode, with no aches and pains, not much body fat to speak of, and certainly not a trace of smoking or drinking since August... That's something to crow about, and occasionally I feel compelled to break out into a sprint. That said, I didn't get here without a few permanent dings along the way. Oh, and after two years of faithful avoidance, Covid finally found me. A 3-4 day sinus cold and I suppose super-immunity in its wake.
Fossil season has been in a bit of a holding pattern. I've been out a number of times already to local spots -- some new, some picked over -- and have not really found anything worthy of taking home. I don't have a definitive date on when the first major trip of the season will be, and is largely contingent on plotting logistics with field comrades, and how the weather decides to shape up as the tug of war between the seasons is ongoing.
On April 9, our family was down one as Panda (aka Jackson) passed away peacefully at the Komoka animal clinic after a short, but progressive terminal disease. A vocal companion who loved the outdoors, treats, brushings, and giving kisses, we'll miss him dearly. I'll always remember the way he would gallop when called, or how I could hold him like a teddy bear and rub his belly. He is predeceased by his other feline family members Coco and Portia, and is survived by Bebert.
Just as the world winds down from one major crisis, another winds up. With Covid fading, the drums of war begin to beat, and this year looks a bit like a dice-throw. That said, it is March and the snows begin to recede in my part of the world, and this signals the beginning of the fossil season as the winter semester begins winding down. I fully expect the usual tug of war between the seasons for dominance, but despite any setbacks the clear winner is not in dispute. I have already been out busting a few rocks to get the tools moving again. By my count from here on March 6, there are 31 more days of the semester before I can dedicate myself fully to the fossil passion for at least one month before I have to take a week to teach a course, and then right back at it again until September (assuming we are not all vapourized or shambling about for busted tin goods in some Mad Max style post-apocalyptic nightmare). Speaking of (fossils, not nuclear destruction), a warm day is beginning to unfold and it is time to set aside paper grading temporarily to take my hammers into the world.
Welcome to the midwinter mush. We are under suitably wintry conditions for this time of year, and a happy Lunar New Year to all those who observe the occasion (Year of the Tiger). I can't say everything is back to normal yet, and it will be a busy month for all its brevity. Pictured above is our new eye on the cosmos.
"[I]t may just turn out to be one of those steady, low-key years for all I know." -- Me, one year ago.
Last year at this time there was about three feet of the white stuff on the ground, or three more than we have now. I'm fairly certain this cannot last. 2021 is officially over, and it has been an interesting ride with its highs and lows. I have no new year resolutions whatsoever as I'm already living them (for instance, there is absolutely nothing more I can do to improve my diet and physical training, so it will simply be maintaining and enjoying the increase in strength, aerobic capacity, and skill). In a retread of last year, classes will be online again, but likely only until the end of January. It is also a time for planning fossil season 2022, and getting on with the fossil stuff that happens indoors, like research, drawing, and prep. Hopefully a happy and prosperous 2022, and Year of the Tiger (Feb 1st), to all.
The only thing I felt was a gust of wind as November went whizzing past. And before I knew it, the leaves were gone and there were a few inches of snow on the ground. Winter is here, and there is not much left in the 2021 tank. The semester is pretty much done, with only a colossal mountain of grading to do, and then it is some quality time -- hopefully doing some fossil prep and illustration. It's been one heck of a year filled with ups, downs, and unexpected plot twists.
Before I know it, it will be time to finalize preparation for the winter semester, which starts on January 3.
I think the above picture more than signals that the fossil season is also over, if only because I'm a big lazy wimp who won't dig in the snow in subzero temperatures, heh. So that means I'll need to post a wrap-up of the season, but may hold off a bit longer on that in case I get something back that I sent out for prep. But I should have a few more blog posts in me before I put up the end of season wrap-up.
Since I failed to produce a suitable autumn shot last month, I'm making up for it by posting two this month. November generally gets a bad rap for being cold, on the verge of snowy, with barren branches and that awful song by Guns 'n Roses. Not so far into this year's version of November. Although not as balmy as back in '20, we've been fortunate up to this point (the 11th), but a return to the seasonal slide into cold and dreary is imminent. This past while's watchword for me has been adjustment. A few new realities to contend with that see rapid oscillation between brazen confidence and lingering despair, and so averaging out those extremes means that things are manageable, with a forecast for positive outcomes. Apart from teaching out the semester, there is nothing of major note on the horizon. It may perhaps be a quieter end of the year with a soft tread into the new one. I say that now, and likely jinx myself!
It's October (and obviously I have yet to snap a suitably October-esque photo, which explains this lovely placeholder). It is coming close to the middle of the fall semester. There have been some abrupt changes in life and outlook as of late, mostly due to a surprising medical diagnosis. The upshot has been sweeping, constructive lifestyle changes that are resulting in health and athletic levels unseen since adolescence. Let us just say that the days of taking chances with health are behind me with the rest of youth's litter and detritus. When others can veer off the road on occasion and safely be in a field before getting back on the road, I have bad ditches, rails, and walls on either side, so best to keep a steady hand on the wheel and drive straight.
And with that being said, I'm back. Yes, the end of September marked the glorious return to kickboxing and kung fu after over a year hiatus. With a steady improvement of health from scary in late August to sensational in late September, in many ways it is like I not only missed a beat, but have improved on some of the basics of aerobic capacity, speed, and striking power.
No, I don't make a habit of taking photos of my food, but I was logging plate composition as part of the lifestyle overhaul (including the recording of base metrics like weight, blood pressure, resting heart rate), on top of exercise output (usually 2-4 hours per day in various forms). It does mean a higher price tag to eat unprocessed, fresh food with no salt, sugar, or saturated fat added (as well as minimum carbohydrates, with no refined flours), but the proof is in the proverbial pudding (which I don't eat anyway). In just over a month, I managed to shift the winter timber to drop 15 pounds (mostly water weight), so looking much leaner; blood pressure dialled down by 30 points on both values, resting heart rate at "athlete" level. Aerobic capacity is also vastly improved, and the usual physical conditioning continues.
Perhaps a fossil trip in the near future, but for the most part the season is continuing to wind down.
And so summer draws to a close, as does the 18 months away from campus. It will be a bit uncanny to be back teaching in person in less than a week. It also seemed my fossil season predeceased the end of summer by a wide margin, my having been out on a very casual visit to a well-tapped site back in mid-August. I suppose I shouldn't complain -- I had much more opportunity since the pandemic began than I would have had on a "normal" year. There have been a number of notable changes as of late, not all of them great, but my response to them is fundamentally courageous and committed. Of course, change is the only constant, and what better reminder of that as I spy the gradual creep of leaves turning, nights becoming cooler, and a return to the workplace after so long away. With humility, grace, reflection, and courage -- onward and hopefully upward.
So long, the soft times and dulcet tones of summer, and welcome the crisp, bright hues of the autumn to come.
Into the dog days of summer we go. I'm fresh from a trip to the north of Ontario (Sudbury/Manitoulin areas). I still have a fossil trip to write up, grad students to tend, and some neglected prep work for the upcoming semester. I am more than cognizant that only about 5 short weeks remain before it is "business as usual" after nearly 18 months of working remotely. The week-long fossil trips are likely behind me now, and although this season has had its amazing highlights, I can't say it compares to 2020. September will likely see a return to the routines of 2019, be it teaching in person or back to the kickboxing/k-fu club. I'm not sure what this month will bring, but I can at least say I have nothing scheduled as such beyond the usual obligations. Here's hoping that August is a bit less soggy than July has been!
Although summer is barely a few weeks old, for me it feels as though time is running short. That is likely the usual situation for me when the bulk of teaching ends in April, leaving me with around four months of potential field time. So, July marks a bit beyond the halfway point for when I return to daily teaching duties. The month of June had a slow start, but once the provincial border reopened, I was off to Quebec for some much needed fossil time where adventures were had, and great fossils collected (more about that in the fossil blog). Also, wrapped up two summer courses. What's in store for July is hopefully another trip or two, and then once more in August before it is time to return to campus. With the days already getting shorter, it's time to prioritize and plan what remains of these summer days.
As spring draws to a close, summer's (re)opening is on our horizon in more ways than one as we proceed to move beyond the pandemic. Trees are in full bloom and fruit, the air choked by their heavy perfume interspersed with a ponderous humidity.
The month of May saw one trip in the field in a far-off place, and a few failed local trips since. Of course, limitations were present with work-related stuff and our pandemic lockdown. There will be a trip this month somewhere far off once again, but location will depend on public health orders. In essence, May was the month of where time and opportunity never seemed to truly converge often enough to declare it a grand fossil month.
On my horizon, as I manage the last of the two courses I've been teaching, is preparation for the new school year. One might say it will be a restore to factory settings affair, or back to default programming as the plan is to teach in-person again. This will present some interesting challenges to reintegrate to campus life after 1.5 years running pre-recorded or live Zoom sessions from home. It would not be fair to underestimate what that transition will mean for so many in a similar situation. In a way, I liken it to donning the clothes we once wore twenty years ago -- things won't fit quite right for a bit, with the proverbial fabric a bit tighter around the midsection or pant legs not quite reaching the ankles. It is a signal of a return to normal, whatever new normal that will be.
So onward through June and its longest days; for after, the days shorten and time for digging narrows with the return to campus in a literal sense. There are some aspects of the Zoom epoch I will indeed miss. More than half the fossil season is over, and now is the time to make up for lost time!
An early surge of heat has meant trees and flowers went into early bloom. This is turning into a year of dramatic personal change, and plenty of work. I will be running two courses this spring, in addition to supervising a few students, revising and delivering municipal workshops, and working with municipal clients to deliver on key services. Fossils are never far from my mind, and there will be opportunities to get out in the field, as well as some work in the lab. Even book-writing has ticked up a bit with two in the hopper (one on strategic planning, and the other on trilobites). I can't promise either of those will be complete this year, but I'll be certain to get a few steps ahead in that somewhat slow build process. As the vaccine roll-out is picking up in pace, there are signs of a return to normal... although it will likely be a new normal. Through the ups and downs of this pandemic, it has been a significant learning situation for so many of us, and the operative thing will be if we can leverage those changes in productive and beneficial ways as we create the conditions of the new normal that awaits us as the other end of this pandemic, from being better prepared, appreciating our social ties better, to the very nature of work itself. Priorities are going to shift. But it is back to work for me as I gear up for those courses and welcome the arrival of late spring.
There's no doubt about it now: winter is finished, and spring reigns supreme. April is certainly my month, no least of which because it hosts my birthday! Flowers are popping up, bugs are waking, grass is greening, and temperatures are balmy. I am now navigating the very last days of the semester, and have had an opportunity to go out fossil collecting about 10 times so far (mostly local spots). The more exciting adventures are soon to come. Spring and summer will not be without some additional work, but it will be delightful to get out farther and enjoy all this shoulder season has to offer.
Winter, I quit you, but you won't quit me.
So here we are at the beginning of March. In two days would mark one year ago that my fossil season began (March 7th), and although the temperatures are pushing up, there is still a lot of snow to burn off. But the season is imminent anyway, as is the end of the winter semester. I am eager to end the latter to truly indulge in the former. There are a number of work obligations throughout the spring, but on the whole I hope to be on the road. March 13th will also mark a year since I stepped foot on campus. It's a hectic time, but there are lights on the horizon! I certainly prepared a lot of trilobites this winter, but didn't get as much illustration work in.
Welcome to the winter wallop. January was relatively smooth sailing, if not busy on account of a full teaching load this semester and other duties. I am already eyeing plans for spring and the 2021 fossil season. Fossil-wise, it has been fairly active with a few illustrations, plenty of prep, and a thorough reorganization of the collection. The upshot has been my ability to work from home, thus sparing myself the messy commute or much direct engagement with the winter. February looks to be a busy month of paper grading, but hopefully some trilobite-related leisure as well.
2020 comes to an end, although there is some "mission creep" ongoing with the pandemic. But a fresh new year begins regardless. Winter semester officially begins a bit later this year (January 11), which means it will end a bit later, too (April 12). For me, it will be entirely online just as it was in autumn semester. I am very much looking forward to both a gradual return to normalcy, but more immediately on the fossil trips to come in spring. I don't really have any major plans or exciting news to share for 2021; it may just turn out to be one of those steady, low-key years for all I know. Well, we'll see!
Many people are ready to give the ol' heave-ho to 2020. And what a year it has been, from a global pandemic (still ongoing) to the circus of the US election (still apparently ongoing). On balance, it has been an interesting but also good year in parts. Of course, in any normal year I'd be packing my flip-flops and snorkel for a few weeks in Jamaica, but not so much this year. I managed to teach 10 courses this year, went on lots of fossil trips (season wrap-up here), ran about four workshops, but sadly only spent five months this year in the ring due to lockdowns and safety. Bebert turned 10, and I've not set foot on campus since mid-March as I teach everything online. Inasmuch as there is plenty of opportunity in the last few weeks for something else to go horribly wrong in this year of 2020, ditto can be said about good things, too. Wherever and whoever you are, stay safe, healthy, and happy.
So it's November. The US election has gone into overtime, and Covid cases are spiking all over, breaking records initially set during the first wave. There are still winter courses to prepare, and a huge tranche of papers waiting for me at the end of the month. November saw an unseasonably warm spell, and I was able to get out in the field a bit. But the fossil season -- and the warm weather -- is winding down, which means I'm spending more time in the lab. Pictured above was a sweet present from Deb: a face mask with one of my trilobite drawings printed on it. Two of my field comrades were also recipients, but with different trilos I drew. There are now only three people on the planet who wear trilobites on their faces! But this is hunker down and work time for me, which coincides well with my general hunkering down and avoiding exposure to the virus. I may or may not get out into the field again this season, but it is contingent upon finding a place to go that is relatively nearby, and weather that will cooperate as we slip ever more into inevitable winter. Still, I have plenty of winter projects to keep me busy, from prep to illustration, writing and of course my teaching.
We are now on the cusp of a second wave, or the continuation of the first wave. We are heading into the colder months with the rise of cold and flu season. It is also a season where Covid may thrive, and cases will increase.
I want to tell you to be vigilant. Wear the masks. Social distance. Wash your hands. Listen to the scientists and not all the conspiracy noise from people who are not scientists. Please limit your time out, and decline going to big parties or any other major social event.
To my students. I get that you feel isolated, alone. But you are not alone. So many of us are here missing out on seeing friends and family, or doing the collective stuff we love. I can't even go to boxing! This is not something we planned or hoped for. We have to be resilient and make the best of what we have.
There is no vaccine yet. Keeping safe is not just about you, but everyone around you. It is about the elderly and those with immunocompromised conditions. This is a time when we need to think of everyone, not just ourselves.
We are fortunate in a way to live when we do, in a digital age where we can order what we need online, and even talk to one another digitally as well. A hundred years ago, with the Spanish Flu, those were not options. A time of sending letters and the few who had telephones. We are much better equipped to communicate and traffic essential goods.
Please, be safe. Don't take unnecessary risks. Also, don't despair. Yes, the death tolls will climb. The risk did not change since the virus arrived. The risk remained the same, but the probability increased with more spread. Hunker down (if you can). Observe all health officials' recommendations and mandates. We will eventually have a vaccine, but even then that might take a while logistically. It may not be until 2022 when we have a return to normalcy. Prepare for that.
This is a challenging, but defining moment. Let's all do our part. This is very real. But with diligence and vigilance, we will consign Covid-19 to the usual annual flu shot.
Have hope, and know you are not alone.
The full flush of the season is here, and a fiery crescendo rises in the trees as we turn hard into autumn. Half of this beautiful month is now behind us. It also marks the midway point in the academic fall semester. So far, despite the ideal temperatures and opportunity to go out on fossil adventures, I have managed two very small local visits. it has been raining a bit, and I'm still waiting on a few sites to be ready for access. This month also has not been without its challenges, but this is set appropriately in a broader context of the global Covid-19 situation that has disrupted many of our routines. But it is the pumpkin month, and I hope to sail smoothly through it and possibly get in a bit more digging along the way while tooling up for the imminent winter semester.
It's been over a month since I updated the old site. So, here we are at the tail end of summer and knee deep into September, but with a Covid-related twist: all my courses are online, and I play the disembodied voice behind prerecorded Zoom lectures. August was a memorable month, no less because me and two fossil comrades spent almost a week up in Manitoulin and area where we made lots of fantastic finds. I was able to add a lot of new trilobite species to my collection, and the very rare edrioasteroid pictured above (Thresherodiscus ramosus) from the Bobcaygeon Formation won fossil of the month over at the Fossil Forum. Beyond that, boxing continues as well as facilitating the occasional municipal management workshop. There's more of the fossil season behind me than in front of me, but autumn is the best time to get out there due to less bugs and heat, so I'm already planning another big dig -- this time out east, mucking around in the Ordovician in search of more trilobites. As there will be no Caribbean vacation this year (thanks, Covid!), I may as well scratch the travel itch with a few in-country trips. I'll also be returning to a few spots that were gainful this year. So if I'm not grading papers, I'll be punching a heavy bag or busting rock. I can't say I'm unhappy about that!
I have been much more like the ant than the grasshopper in the last month. With 108 classes to teach for the upcoming school year, and with remote learning being the norm, it has meant prerecording lectures in nattering to my laptop. I am currently completed the Fall semester and about ankle-deep into Winter. Some new potential work has come my way, I have books to write/complete, a symposium to attend where I speak on the history of the reconstruction of the trilobite Terataspis, a virtual workshop to facilitate (with several more in the coming nine months), and many other odds and ends. We entered into stage 3 of reopening, which means the last few weeks has been a welcome return to the rigours of training just about every night at our martial arts club. I wrapped up the end of the month with some dental work, and am looking forward to getting back out into the field to do some fossil prospecting. In some ways, the surreal conditions of the pandemic lend a kind of unreality to the world around me with respect to the shifting of the season.
...Already. Pictured above is a tree in my complex, Catalpa speciosa, or Northern Catalpa. Right around the summer solstice, it goes into spectacular bloom for about a week before dropping its flowers. It attracts many bumblebees. Not much to show for this month, which started strong with a 5-day fossil trip, but quiet afterward. Half the year is already over!
Sadly, since just before the official start of summer, I have not had any opportunity to get out and fossil collect. Of course, it is also unbearably hot these days, but many of my newly prospected sites are tapped out or no longer accessible. Although there are some trips on the horizon for late summer, it is also time to begin wave two of the prospecting adventure. Many of my days are currently spent pre-recording lectures for the nine courses I am slated to teach this academic year... from home. It is my hope to put a hard shoulder into getting most if not all of them done now. Although I will miss the experience of teaching in-class, having no long daily commute or scheduled classes should free up time I can spend on a long list of projects, as well as capitalizing on the ideal fossil collecting conditions of autumn in all its splendour.
Welcome to the midpoint of 2020. When I said back in January that this year would be one of historical and geopolitical significance that would set the tone of the decade, it seems my hunch was correct in ways that I don't think many of us could have anticipated. COVID-19 and its significant effects continues, and a lot of my cognitive bandwidth is taken up with the horrifying, maddening, frustrating, and deeply sad situation down south as African-Americans continue to bear the brunt of centuries of inequality, abuse, misery, and death. I'm hopeful that this is an inflection point for real change, and not just lip service by elected officials followed by a return to the status quo. It is likely only regime change will bring about the true justice so overdue to African-Americans. As I generally avoid overtly political statements here, I'll leave it at that.
Things have been quiet on the fossil front mostly due to opportunities drying up, but there is a big multi-day trip imminently on the horizon. I will be continuing my deep dive into Ontario trilobites, particularly in the Silurian and Ordovician. I was also able to facilitate a workshop on performance management over Zoom that I think went fairly well despite the more preferable situation of conducting that in person. It is also looking like I'll be teaching courses this autumn from home which, given the commute, I can't say I'm disappointed, although nothing quite compares to performing and engaging students in person. It is more looking like I won't be setting foot on campus until January at the earliest. Also, given so much uncertainty, it is highly unlikely that I will be going to the Caribbean this December, marking my first absence in six years, and I will mourn the missed opportunity to recharge my batteries and be among the truly great, kind, and wise Jamaican people whose outlook on life and way of life I find nothing less than inspiring. With the world seemingly upended, it is a feeling perhaps many of us carry within us. But some things remain constant; namely, the photo above of Panda lounging in his own personal garden jungle. In some ways 2020 is the year we hold our collective breath; for those like George Floyd who was so brutally murdered, it is more the case of "I can't breathe." Rest in power, George. It should not take a death to change our ways, and it is now the acutely important to confront racism, unconscious bias, and all those unjust social ills that we should have long ago addressed and resolved.
Despite the ongoing lockdown, lots of activity as of late, from applying to certain things, research, and having been able to spend 20 days in the field since the beginning of March, exploring new sites. May will likely be no less busy and interesting. I am teaching the grad course on strategic planning (via Zoom), supervising a good number of truly excellent Master's projects, at least one (so far) workshop facilitation on staff performance management (again, via Zoom), and likely other stuff in the mix as well. Of course, I will be sneaking out as much as I can to get into the field and prospect new sites. Flowers are up, trees are budding, days are longer and warmer -- It is the heart of springtime.
Hello there. Things are surreal at the moment the world over, and although it is springtime, it feels like the world is in a strange hibernating / holding pattern. Of course, this once in a generation (or longer!) situation presents some great potential opportunities. I mean, we could roll out a complete FDR-esque mass infrastructure program that would fix each road, replace each culvert, lay digital fibre to every rural community, provide top of the line water/sewage facilities for our First Nations communities. The things we could do now that all conventional wisdom and normal operating is on its head!
Today (April 11) also marks 100 days of being a non-smoker. That also includes not vaping. I also turned 43 on the fifth, so I'm a prime number again.
Pictured above is my cheeky protective gear. I've not been near people in close to 30 days. I will be teaching a grad course in May, and indulging in all things trilobite during the free hours. More drawings, hunts, etc. Stay safe, healthy, and happy.
It's spring, and it came early for us this year after the last two years saw the winter in a long holding pattern. As I type this on March 10, the snow is all gone save for the piles in parking lots. A lot of stuff happening, between getting back into more drawing, winding down the heavy semester (5 courses!), lining up several workshops that will see me all over Ontario from April to June, joining a new Complex Adaptive Systems lab as I tinker with prescriptive algorithms, some career news, but most importantly of all: the fossil season of 2020 is now officially open!
UPDATE March 16, 2020: Things are moving very quickly out there, what with border closures across the globe, a collapsing economy, panic and fear. My main place of work, Western University, has canceled all classes on campus. We will be migrating our content online. I will be taking this opportunity to practice social distancing, taking many forays into nature. I will still have email access if anyone needs to get a hold of me. Stay safe, healthy, and calm.
A bit on the late side for a February update given that there is barely a week of it left. Things have been busy with a heavy teaching load, broken up only at the midway point by a much-needed week-long retreat to St Lucia. No significant work on fossils (prep, drawing, research) has occurred, and does not look like it will anytime soon as heavy grading cometh. Pictured above is a Lionfish I photographed. All the photos have been uploaded on the Travel page.
Welcome to 2020. And, yes, the above is an uncanny likeness of yours truly minus the purple skin tone and the flashy glove.
The year is only a few weeks old, but it already (for me) has the feeling of being one that will be of some geopolitical and historical significance. This is not anything remotely close to some sort of prophecy or spooky soothsaying, but more that it does seem significant events this year will certainly help put a kind of character stamp on this new decade.
Currently in the first stages of the semester as everyone gets their feet under the desk. An oddity for being the midway point in January, but the ground is snow-free. That is likely to change quickly in the coming days and weeks. Physical training, as is usual in winter, experiences a decidedly higher uptick. Fitness and performance outputs are off the charts for someone in their 40s, so all the lifting and martial arts is doing me well.
More updates to come as events warrant and the calendar flips over. For now, it's a mix of getting my head in the teaching game, and watching to see how this new decade roars.
The pages of the calendar have run out on 2019. It is the first day of the last month, with less than a week until I find myself in Jamaica for much needed R&R. As I look out my window, the world is caked in ice from freezing rain. There are not that many papers to grade left from this heavy semester, and just a number of loose ends to tie up. I'm already plotting and planning the coming year, which from the perspective of hope and enthusiasm that marks so many beginnings looks to be even more active than this last year. There are so many new opportunities emerging from teaching, research (municipal and paleontological), writing, partnerships, fossil trips, and travel. I foresee a very productive and busy 2020, punctuated with adventure and exciting new challenges.
It all begins in winter. Five courses next semester and getting very involved with research and even illustration work. I don't have a lot of fossil ,material to prepare, but I likely wouldn't have time anyway. Any fossil time will be devoted to two related book projects (and there is a third book project also on my plate not related to fossils), and planning reconnaissance trips to new fossil locations. I'm also supervising a few Master's students whose projects are quite exciting. I likely will have municipal workshops to facilitate when I'm not riding the lectern at both Western University and Huron University College. There will likely be a one week grad course for me to teach in May, and choices to be made about teaching for the coming year as there are more options than one person can take on. There may also be a summer conference paper to deliver. In February, I'll likely be spending a week in St Lucia. There may be papers to co-author. And throughout it all, dedication to martial arts and physical training will likely continue.
There's looking to be a lot of promise for 2020, and this is just based on what I currently know; invariably, each year offers up new and unexpected opportunities. Onward!
UPDATE: Back from Jamaica. Full slideshow of all the neat creatures courtesy of the underwater camera can be viewed here.
It's "down tools" for the 2019 fossil season, and today we are seeing the first blasts of winter. I'm fresh from two days of facilitating workshops in Brantford for the AMCTO, and there is just one last grading wave coming near the end of the month for all four of my courses at Western. After that, I'm on a plane for a dozen days in Jamaica before returning to the academic grind of five courses. I also have two new Masters students to supervise, and some tricky schedule juggling to do for the coming academic year as I seem to be pulled in a lot of directions at once. Better to have too many work options than too few, of course. Lot of other irons in the fire and feathers in the cap to relate as they happen. But first, one last hard shoulder into what remains of this semester.
Autumn is on full display. It also means waves of paper grading. Not much to report this month. Although a major quarry dig trip was scuppered by car trouble, I did make the best of more local spots as there are only a few weeks left of the 2019 fossil season before the cold and snow returns. The upcoming reading week break in early November should see me running two AMCTO workshops in Brantford, and then the countdown begins to the end of semester.
As I type this it is officially the first day of autumn. Of course, summery weather continues even if the days continue to shorten. The grasshoppers and mantises, the wasps and bees, fuzzy caterpillars and fully grown frogs abound. It is also the one time of the year when there is the triad of me being in the club, the classroom, and in the field. The four courses seem to be running tickety-boo, with the first round of grading imminent next week. Fantastic field finds have really picked up in the last month, and I can hopefully look forward to some trips into the Ordovician in the next while before the snows fly and I have to down tools for the season. But for now, it is still shorts weather, and time to capitalize on what is left of 2019's abundant warmth and sunshine.
Second Half of August
This month has proven far busier than anticipated as I seem to be compressing activity before my school duties resume in September. In the last half of August, I was able to get out for a three day trip to Penn Dixie with my fossil comrade Malcolm, locate a whole new fossil spot near my home (with some sensational finds), a trip to Arkona, finalizing my teaching contracts (with me being newly added to Huron University College's Management and Organizational Studies program), and with two AMCTO workshops in the hopper. I also supervised a Master's project, and acted as Second Reader for another Master's project. I'll also soon see a new piece of mine in Municipal World. I'm currently working on another drawing, and manage to do a bit of fossil prep. This on top of my nearly daily strength training, kickboxing, and kung-fu.
This semester I'll be teaching four courses for the Faculty of Information and Media Studies, ending that off with a 12 day R&R at Ochi in Jamaica. I plan to attend the biannual Bowmanville St Marys quarry dig, and try to squeeze what little free time I have outside of professorial duties to get out and collect in that most lovely of seasons, autumn.
First Half of August
It's that time of the season when I realize just how imminent the new school year is, and that I'll be trading tank tops, shorts, and flip flops for pants and shoes, riding the lectern rather than working blissfully under the sun on my patio. It also reminds me of those lofty plans I made in winter as to what projects I would tackle and complete when summer came, and that instead not much of those items were crossed off, while unanticipated other projects intruded.
I would characterize this summer as being productive with plenty of exercise and certainly a lot of illustration work that has now earned me two commissioned projects. I was even able to get almost all my courses ready to launch for the coming year, with just some stragglers in winter I need to build or revise. With nine courses this fall and winter, it was imperative to dig deep into preparation for the teaching and marking madness awaiting me. No distant travels this summer, but attended some lovely social events, found some new fossil spots, and am now trying to stuff the last few weeks of summer with as many trips as possible. I managed to publish a short piece in The Conversation, wrote a fair bit on a wide range of projects, and even had the honour of having some of my trilobite illustrations featured in the latest issue of The Trilobite Papers. But onward to the last half of August; first up, a multi-day dig in western NY!
It's Already July
I cannot believe how quickly we've got here. Not much to report here at the beginning of July, but I facilitated two fantastic workshops for the AMCTO, spent time with visiting fossil folk, wrote and submitted some articles (news to come), reconfigured my 9(!) courses for the fall/winter semester, worked out, drew pictures, and did prep. I was able to get out three times for fossils in June (once to Bowmanville, twice to Arkona), and even prospected some new spots. A little holiday beach time, and now it's back to getting the courses revised for next year, as well as a lot of workshops.
Still, hello summer. :)
* A new short piece of mine about Instagram removing its like counter, albeit temporarily and in select regions. Read it in The Conversation.
A soggier than normal spring leans into summer. Much of my time has been spent in three main areas: extensive training (kung fu, kickboxing, weightlifting), drawing, and fossil preparation. Now with the grad course behind me, and a heavy teaching semester coming for the Fall/Winter terms, this is my little temporal respite to engage my passions. June is looking like a fossil trip to Bowmanville, possibly some workshop facilitation once I get confirmation, and more of doing what I enjoy. For the fossil lovers, there are a number of new posts in the fossil blog.
April was an eventful month: new camera, new fossil prep tools, finalizing Winter semester's grading, and a three day trip to New York state. May is still in its infancy, but I'll be teaching a grad course, maybe helping out with some tree planting, a dig in Bowmanville, and the rest is pretty much up in the air. This also marks this site's 10th year anniversary.
The winter semester is behind me, and I'm back in the field... and back at the desk, and in the gym, and the martial arts club. No rest for me as the new fossil collecting season is wide open, I've a webinar to facilitate, and my grad course on strategic planning in May. By month's end I plan to be in western and central New York state on a weekend-long group dig at at least two sites. I've plenty planned on the fossil, writing, workout, and even drawing front. At present, it is glorious to see the spring flowers begin to bloom and temperatures become milder, leaving the long winter little more than a bad dream!
Spring is here, finally! Although not as terribly a long and brutal winter, it did feel long and brutal in parts. As the semester winds and grinds down, my fossil hammers are starting to vibrate in anticipation of the collecting season ahead.
During the winter, I taught three courses, and facilitated one workshop on staff performance measurement in Newmarket, Ontario. I also hit physical training hard by maintaining the iron game and going as often as six times a week to kickboxing and kung-fu. On that front, plenty of welcome improvement in several registers from speed, power, technique, and agility. I also am veering close to my weight goal of 250 lbs (currently just a few pounds shy). Of course, more aches and pains -- but they are all tied to a mix of more intense activity and the usual suspect of getting older.
Once this semester is done in just a few short weeks, it's time to get back out in the field more, but also some upcoming work obligations. I'll be hosting a webinar on common sense social media usage for municipalities, and facilitating two workshops in June (staff performance, and strategic planning). In addition, I might also get my strategic planning course for the one week in May, and possibly an actual strategic planning gig.
Plans to go to Germany this summer are not on the table, but other more local trips are. Near the end of April I'll be in western and central New York for some fossil digs, and of course the end of May Bowmanville quarry dig. I foresee plenty of trips to Arkona and beyond as well.
But it's spring! I couldn't be happier.
A Few Steps Into 2019
Just waist deep into the semester teaching three courses. We were virtually snow-free until January 10, and then winter brought down its ice hammer, which then led to a big bout of the polar vortex. It is generally a quiet time of year on this site as most activities are taking place in the warmth of the indoors. But, it isn't idle... Preliminary planning begins for a new fossil collecting season, some fossil prep, and (as seen above) drawing some of my trilobites. No big news to report, but more of the same: ramped up the physical training, tinkering with small projects, and just trying to stay ahead of my grading load as I eagerly await spring.
2018 Winds Down
The final grains fall through the hourglass of what has been a good year. Pictured above is a GIF of the seasons as taken from my living room window.
Since the last update in November, I've added a few more fossil blog posts, and pics from our trip to Ocho Rios, Jamaica (under the "travel" tab). It has been a busy year, with 9 courses, seeing the release of my book (Social Capital Online), a well-received post on The Conversation, hosting a workshop and a webinar, and numerous fossil trips. Although travel was more local this year, 2019 may see a trip to Germany and many more fossil adventures. I'm also hoping for more municipal consulting projects, and likely a number of courses to teach.
Other highlights of the year include Deb and me earning our blue sash in kung fu, improving on fossil preparation, and having a relaxing summer. A number of opportunities to pursue in the new year, so wishing all my site's visitors a healthy and prosperous 2019.
New Fossil Blog posts for December (linked):
Marine Fossils From Jamaica
Postal Formation Part 1
Postal Formation Part 2
Preparation of a Chuck-Pile Illaenus sinuatus
Last Post of 2018 - Odds and Ends
November: Down Tools / Final Push
And with snow on the ground, the fossil collecting season of 2018 is over. Retrospective and some highlights on a new blog post here. But it is just past the midway point of November, with only three more weeks left of Fall semester classes to teach and a lot of final papers for me to grade before I board a plane and spend a few weeks in Jamaica.
Deb and I have earned our blue sash in kung fu, but getting dinged with a nasty, persistent, coughing flu has meant not being able to get out to the club for a bit. Hopefully we'll be in better shape in the week to come.
Beyond that, nothing all that new: just plugging along to get this semester finalized and ready to spend some much-needed and deserved R&R. I actually look forward to maybe even spending some lazy, sunny days doing some pleasure writing.
Wading into the Leaf Piles of October
(Pictured above: fossilized leaves from the Eocene of the Chuckanut Formation, Washington - one of a few great gifts from fossil friend, Kris Howe of Texas).
The leaves they are a-turnin'. Although here in the first act of autumn there aren't thick leaf piles to wade through, a tidal wave of student essays engulfed me, and has since ebbed. Now into Reading Break, a week away from campus means an opportunity to get back out into the field for the fossil hunt. Two trips in the hopper, but also a webinar to deliver on social media for economic development. I hope by mid-October to update the fossil blog with new finds, and once again closer to the end of the month after the biannual trip to Bowmanville. I've been saving up the finds rather than posting them, but hopefully patience may be rewarded.
Oh, and these lovely dried chilis, another great gift from Kris of Texas who is also a big fan of the super-hot pepper. My capsaicin comrade supplied me with three varieties (Trinidad moruga scorpion, chiltapin, and tabasco chilli). At present, I make do with ghost pepper (bhut jolokia), which stands a little over a million Scoville Heat Units (SHUs). I tend to tolerate, and enjoy, pepper heat and wanted something a bit hotter. The moruga scorpion is 2 million SHU, or about 200x hotter than a Jalapeno, making it the second hottest strain of pepper just behind the Carolina Reaper (2.2 million SHUs). I'll be taking some time to reconstitute these and make sauces, while saving a few of the moruga seeds to plant a crop of my own.
Summer's Almost Gone
Posting this entry from the tail end of August as yellow surges in a few trees, and teaching resumes again in nine days. Although I am not ready to say goodbye to summer, I am prepared for this coming school year (teaching four this semester, three the next, plus other stuff). Overall, a good, relaxing summer. Not much by way of exotic travels (mostly more local road trips), and perhaps not as many fossil hunts due to site closures and sweltering heat, but not terrible. Lots of good time spent with good people, swimming, walking, going to kung-fu and kickboxing almost every day, preparing fossils with new lab equipment. This summer will be remembered by me as a lower key, relaxing one before next year's will be more travel, adventure, and milestones.
After the release of my book in June, I was tasked by the publisher to produce some associated material for more online snack-sized consumption. So I did. The first is a blog post on the publisher's website, and the second is a piece in the popular The Conversation. I am also on the hook to give a related talk at my home Faculty this coming February. I was just on the radio (1310 Ottawa) discussing a few points on this, and The Conversation article was republished in the National Post, and picked up by the Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC). Or, if you prefer, the piece has been picked up by Salon.com, The Big Smoke, and The Asian Correspondent as well as a zillion news aggregator sites.
How about just one more fossil trip, to squeeze what is left of summer before I ride the lectern again? Working on it! But also tinkering with a piece on social media algorithms, arguing that their outputs may not be terribly meaningful or useful, and might actually follow a "spaghetti principle."
(Pictured above: our kung fu class. I'm holding the yanyuedao (偃月刀) against the crossed swords)
In the hot and sticky thick of July already with a new teaching year around the corner as I milk every moment of summer that remains. The bad news is that my other Huron class was cancelled, and I haven't really got out to fossil hunt since late June - a situation I'll be remedying shortly. So instead it has been about taking long hikes in the woods, finalizing some workshop materials, light writing, and doubling down on both kung fu and kickboxing training.
Just some quick footage caught of me doing some slow roundhouse kicks (after a one hour cardio boxing grinder). When I'm fresh and going at speed, these look pretty cool!
Anyway, nothing much to report as this month winds down. Apart from boosting my training activity, I have a visit to the ROM to look forward to where I'll be donating some Devonian fish material for study. I've decided to spend the rest of my summer being as active as possible. At my age, it really makes a significant difference!
Spring is in full bloom, finally! So much has happened in the last month, and a lot of stuff is ongoing. Time for a roundup:
* If you've been following my fossil blog, the multi-day fossil trip was a success. Although one site was cancelled, it was fantastic to collect with Fossil Forum friends old and new, at two sites over four days. I prepped some real beauties, too!
* I taught the weeklong compressed course on strategic planning for the local gov't program at Western. I couldn't have asked for a better cohort of students whose skills, knowledge, diligence and work was absolutely top shelf!
* I got word that I'll be teaching 7(!) courses this coming Fall/Winter for the Faculty of Information and Media Studies. There may be other courses, too, at other locations and I'm waiting to hear back.
* I conducted my first AMCTO workshop at their offices in Mississauga on Public Engagement. A great group!
* I will be preparing a webinar component in addition to an in-class workshop for the AMCTO on Organizational Behaviour, Leadership, and Change Management to be conducted in September. I will also likely have two other workshops coming in November.
* My course on Org Behaviour for Huron was cancelled due to low enrolment. Bummer. We'll see if the other course in the summer will still run.
* I won a contract faculty development fund grant from the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association in support of my upcoming book. Thanks UWOFA!
* My book, Social Capital Online: Alienation and Accumulation is due to drop in June. Just at the copyediting phase now.
* I may be volunteering some time to assist a local candidate in the provincial election.
* I'm increasing my time spent in kung fu with Saturday sessions and kickboxing.
* I'm geared up for the biannual quarry visit to Bowmanville near the end of the month.
* I am considering running for office. No, not for Council, but something else! More on that later. ;)
And that pretty much sums up my goings-on. There will also likely be some small fossil trips in the mix, too. No plans to jump the continent this summer, so trips will be a bit more local. I've also found some time to tinker with a few novels as well, so it's all good!
It's April! I turned 41 and just completed teaching for the winter semester. But no rest for the wicked... I have a lot going on in the next while:
* A big three-four day dig at the end of the month in western NY state with one very exciting surprise visit
* I'll be teaching Strategic Planning for the Local Gov't Program again this May, and am really looking forward to it!
* Huron University College has hired me to teach two courses in its Management and Organizational Studies program for spring and summer: Organizational Human Relations, and HR for non-HR Professionals.
* I am preparing a 2-day workshop on organizational change management and planning for the Association of Municipal Managers, Clerks, and Treasurers of Ontario. I may also be tapped to run a few other workshops.
* I have been assigned as a grad supervisor for another student in the Local Gov't Program dealing with a topic that is very interesting!
* There may be a consulting gig or two coming up, but nothing in stone yet.
* My book, Social Capital Online: Accumulation and Alienation (WUP) is set for June launch.
Now all that is needed is for the weather to start cooperating and being more spring-like! We've been taken hostage in this holding pattern that more resembles mid March than April, with occasional blasts of... snow? Come on, spring! Bring on the warmth and the flowers! I am just dying to get back out into the field again, to feel the weight of the hammer in my hand and the satisfying split of shales to uncover more of earth's treasures!
In Marches Spring?
Phew. What a semester it has been, and it is still not over! It has been one heck of a wild ride of a winter as well, as there have been episodes of heavy snow interspersed with periods of thaw. Mid-February not only saw temperatures soar to 15 C, but also came with record-breaking rain falling on still-frozen ground not able to absorb it. There was a great deal of flooding throughout southwestern Ontario.
I've gone on four fossil "mini-trips" this winter during those thaw periods, two of them skunked, one of them ok, and another aborted just as it was about to begin. So, instead, I take solace in hunting the postal formation - check out the fossil blog for several new entries, from new trilobites, equipment, to preparation. The trilobite gallery has also been renovated, and they are now organized by taxonomic Order. As of this writing, I have 56 distinct species.
And it looks like I may be teaching in the spring and summer, up to three courses. There will still be time for plenty of fossil digging. And, in fact, mid to late April may see a very exciting hunt in an exclusive area rarely accessible to anyone, containing highly coveted species of trilobites.
For now, it is back to the endgame of the semester. Here is a lovely Asaphus punctatus I got for my collection:
Happy New Year!
We've been in the grips of a major cold snap courtesy of the breakaway polar vortex, and continue to buried under snow. The Farmer's Almanac predicts an early spring - I hope so!
A new school semester begins shortly with four courses on my docket. I did get my new trinocular microscope and other added fossil prep tools, so at least I can get a little bit of my fossil fix while relegated to the indoors. The picture above is one of my trilobites under powerful magnification.
Waving Goodbye to 2017
And the votes are in: Best. Year. Ever.
It really was. The year I turned 40 saw a great deal of adventure, milestones, new opportunities, deepening relations with a lot of great people, travel, and so much to look forward to in 2018.
January-February: Moved into our new building on campus with very good lecture rooms, and a much better office on the 4th floor with a nice window view of the wooded area by the river. Work was also underway to get the Township of Clearview strategic plan revision up and running, with some fantastic meetings with council and staff - a very rewarding experience with very forward-thinking folks!
March-April: Tooled up for the new fossil season with some new tools that would prove indispensable in the field. Purchased a coin and banknote collection with some very nice pieces. First fossil hunt of the season was at my "honey hole" on March 26, and that kicked off a year of incredible finds. And then I turned 40 in April, and it would be a week later that we would return to Penn Dixie to meet new friends, and get in touch with old ones while hauling out quite literally hundreds of trilobites - a real coup! I was also named Member of the Month on the Fossil Forum.
May-June: Taught my first graduate course for the Local Government Program on strategic planning which coincided with the publication of my article "Why Plans Fail" in Municipal World. Shortly after, my consulting partner and I signed a contract to co-author a book on planning that is still in the works. June saw my first trip to a quarry in Brechin, Ontario where no shortage of great new fossil specimens joined my expanding collection. I was also appointed Moderator on the Fossil Forum.
July-August: July came in with an incredible trip to Portugal. Fossil hunting trips increased in frequency, and August saw me definitively quit cigarettes. My bro-in-law Dave turned 60, so we had a great party/roasting session for him - and he also recently became a grandpa (we welcome Izzy to the clan). And why not slip in one last summer road trip: this time closer to home via Grey Highlands, Collingwood, and ending up at the quarry in Brechin again?
September-October: A return to riding the lectern with three courses to teach. Deb and I earned our orange belts in kung-fu, and we got our own tonfas. I purchased my first air eraser and compressor to prep fossils, spent a part of the new Reading Break in mid-October back at Penn Dixie, and ended off October with a grand three-day / three-quarry trip (Arkona, Brechin, and my first time at Bowmanville). Another highlight was being able to supervise my first grad students. The one downside was some pricey computer replacements due to failure. We also completed our work for Township of Clearview and gained at least three new clients in the hopper for 2018/19.
November-December: A slog of a month with the grading grind, trying to get all the loose ends tied up before setting off for a return to Jamaica. i also got my genetic test back (I passed! Lol). I still have to post travel pics of Jamaica (hopefully in the near future). The first few days were a bit rainy and windy, but the glorious weather returned. Doing my financials for the year, investments did well. Health-wise, some really great improvements, too.
Looking ahead to 2018, oh boy... a busy one! I'll be teaching not three, but four courses this winter due to an emergency. It means building a course from scratch while also managing some heavy book revisions. There may also be some additional teaching opportunities this spring and summer, so at least there will be some good revenue coming in. I am hoping to squeeze in some travel if there is time. Maybe Germany? Too soon to say.
Wishing all the visitors here a happy holiday, and a joyful and prosperous 2018!
For now, just a slide show of some of those 2017 highlights:
And so December arrives, and there is no snow on the ground (yet). There are only 6 days left of classes for this semester, but close to 240 pieces for me to grade. My reward for these long labours? Next weekend will see me return Jamaica for 10 days of much-needed R&R.
So a few months back I spat in a tube and had my genes sequenced using the 23andme service. Fairly detailed analysis with no fewer than 84 reports on ancestry, haplogroups, neanderthal variants (of which I was surprised to learn I had only a few at only 277), disease markers, physical traits, etc. Most of them were spot on. No surprises ethnically speaking: 99.7% European, which breaks out into 59% Northwestern European (34.8% French/German, 14% British/Irish, 10.2% broadly northwestern European), 32.9% Southern European (13.8% Italian, 4.7% Iberian, 1% Balkan, and the rest general southern European), 1% Eastern European, with the rest being broadly European. My First Nations ancestry only works out to be 0.2%, so just one full-blooded ancestor who lived between 1700 and 1810. In other words, I am a white, male Canadian mutt. My maternal haplogroup, U5a1, is one of the oldest of the Europeans that can trace its lineage back to a woman from the ice age 17,000 years ago. My paternal haplogroup, I-M253, is among the first Homo Sapiens to spread across Europe between 30,000 and 45,000 years ago and become the Gravettian people. 45% of European males are descended from this lineage. So, pretty neat stuff, as science usually is.
But work beckons. Just one last big push and it will be vacation time!
It won't be long before we get a first taste of winter. Of course, the first snows rarely ever stick around for more than a day, but it is a clear sign that we'll be trading rakes for shovels soon enough.
This is a monster of a month, no less because it just so happens that a lot of student papers come due at this time, which means a lot of hustle on my part of "wading through grading." In other teaching news, it looks like some additional opportunities are coming up, as well as some municipal workshops to run in the coming year.
* On the consulting end, there are at least three clients on the list for 2018-2019, so business is good.
* On the writing side of life (when there's time to spare), work continues on a co-authored book on strategic planning, the book on social capital is moving closer to end production phase, and I may be on the hook to prepare more than one textbook in the coming few years. I would certainly love an opportunity to get back into a few literary projects I have on the go (especially as November is novel-writing month!), but that may have to wait a while longer.
* On the fossil end, the season is coming to a close shortly, but I hope to get one or more local trips in. But as the collecting season ends, not only do I have some great stuff coming in the mail to keep me happy, but with the imminent arrival of the air scribe it will be preparation season. Do check out a few new posts on my fossil blog (in the nav bar above), and I suspect I will continue updating it this year throughout the winter with all the prep I might be able to do (so perhaps no long blog hiatus this time).
* And nothing is better for recharging the old batteries after a hectic semester than a little travel. I'm in the countdown to a return to Jamaica.
More October 2017!
Just a quick update as the month slides into November. My three days at three quarries trip is now at an end, and what a time it was! Click on the thumbnails below to go to the blog posts for each day:
I love October. The leaves are slowly coming into full colour display, the air is cool and crisp, and it is ideal fossil hunting weather. Speaking of which, Deb and I spent a few days in Hamburg, NY at the Penn Dixie site (new blog posts for day 1, day 2, and day 3). As I type this, it is coming to the end of Fall Reading Break while I work diligently on book revisions. It also means a little over a third of the semester is done. I'm looking forward to possibly three quarry visits next weekend for some serious hammer time. Work on Clearview's strategic plan is complete, and there are a number of new and repeat clients to keep my firm occupied throughout next year and 2019. I'm also looking at ever more teaching opportunities in the next while, and I continue to act as a grad supervisor for the local government program at Western. It's been an expensive few weeks: paid off the balance for the December trip to Jamaica, had to replace a laptop and iPad due to hardware failure, bought an air abrader and air scribe as well as an air compressor, etc.
The school year begins with a bang, not a whimper. I'll be teaching three courses this semester (Propaganda, digital labour, and social networks), supervising two students, revising a book close to publication, co-authoring a book and a policy paper, engaging in some in the weeds curriculum revision with the AMCTO in the run-up to a launch of workshops/seminars for municipal professionals, and doing some program evaluation for a municipal client. And, as always, working towards the next belt in kung fu. There will be some time for going on some fossil expeditions this autumn.
Pictured above is a new and neat acquisition: a hammered Elizabethan sixpence from 1562. This one was struck near to the beginning of Elizabeth's reign during a time when some of the higher value coinage was being recalled and debased.
A new fossil blog post is now available, as well as the beginning stages of the trilobite gallery (a work in progress)
Summer 2017 Winds Down
My 40th summer on earth has been one to remember. My only complaint would be that it never seems long enough. I was able to get out and fossil collect a good number of times in a good number of places. I was able to get some great travel in, and manage various work obligations.
I'll be back to teaching on September 7th. This fall sees me teaching my propaganda course, social networking, and digital labour. In addition, I will be supervising my first graduate student. A lot of irons in the fire on the writing, consulting, and teaching front that I'll be sure to disclose in the near future.
For now, in honour of the summer, my last big fossil trip here.
UPDATE: I am now happily supervising two graduate students, and my firm just landed a nice contract with a previous employer. Things are busy, but good! And a little reflection on being 28 days smoke-free.
I'll leave off with some recent snaps of Deb, me, and our Master Chau. Kung fu is a major part of our life, so some shots from the club:
Back From Portugal
Spent a great week in Portugal. A video slideshow is available here. Also managed to find a few fossils while overseas (new blog post here). In other news, finished the second (and hopefully final) draft of my book, and I'll be tearing into a co-authored book project shortly amidst some consulting gigs and course prep for the upcoming academic year. Hearing the cicadas in the trees today means that summer is sadly almost half over.
Fossil Hunt Up Near Lake Simcoe
A group of us were in the JD Quarry in Brechin over the weekend. My trip report here (and some other blog posts I didn't signal in this feed are also available).
Spring has sprung, and it is a busy one.
Just completed teaching a week-long course on strategic planning for a great group of students. Sadly, my other slated course on HR was cancelled, which may be a blessing in disguise as I also received my reader reports for that book on Social Capitalism I'm writing for Westminster Uni Press, so revisions, revisions, revisions.
In fossil news, I've been able to get out for a few local hunts, but am looking forward to a major dig at a quarry near Lake Simcoe. I've also been pressed into service as a Moderator at the Fossil Forum. New blog post on recent finds here.
My article on "Why Plans Fail" also came out this month in Municipal World. Also, in the consulting column are some pretty interesting upcoming gigs - more about those when they are finalized and the ink dries.
And in the YOLO travel column, I'm going back to Lisbon, Portugal in July for some deep cultural R&R. Deb and I will be going for an 8-day adventure involving some mini-trips to Sintra and Evora. Very exciting.
The BIG DIG!
What could be a better vacation for someone like me now that the semester's grading is done? A four day trip to Buffalo's Penn Dixie site to haul rock with friends! Read about it here.
FIGHTING FIT & FORTY
So, that happened.
actually made it to 40, which qualifies me as middle-aged! Pictured above is the cake Deb had made for my lovely party (and my thanks to everyone who came and made it a fantastic time).
Quite a chunk of newsy bits to share as this is my first post of 2017 after an unusual winter. I may as well sort them by type:
For many of us, it will be good to put 2016 behind us. Events that would have beggared belief a year ago, like Brexit and Trump, have happened. We lost giants like Prince and David Bowie. Anyhow, pictured above is a Flexicalymene trilobite from Morocco. (new post on the fossil blog to run out the clock on the year)
The missus and myself have returned from a lovely ten day stay in Jamaica only to return to the cold clutches of winter. This year has seen its share of ups and downs, and a heck of a lot of work. I taught around five courses in 2016, one webinar, and completed the strategic plan revision for the Town of St Marys. My firm is contracted to revise the plan for the Township of Clearview, and the preliminary session occurred a few days before boarding a plane to Jamaica. Deb and I traveled to Ottawa in May, went fossil hunting quite extensively this year with some very great finds from many different places. I semi-emerged out of writing retirement to have a few pieces published in a few places, and released my book B0T.
Looking ahead, I'll be turning 40 in April, I have a book under contract I need to complete, another book to co-edit on strategic planning, a few irons in the consulting fire, a trilogy I need to start sketching out, and three courses to teach this winter. I'll have anywhere between 3-5 consulting projects already in the hopper, and I really need to update this site a bit more to cut down on the clutter. In a word, despite world events and a few disappointments, I'd class 2016 as "good." See you in the new year.
OCTOBER IS LOVELy
Autumn trees are in full-spectrum foliage. Pictured to the left is a noble looking praying mantis I encountered on the sidewalk on the way to the dojo. Courses are in full swing, and that always comes with a lot of grading. Deb and I got back down to Penn Dixie during the Thanksgiving weekend for a lot of rock breaking and hauling, but we were able to bring back quite a few hundred pounds of material to keep us occupied in the winter. Plenty of trilobites were found, and it was fantastic collecting with some members of the Fossil Forum.
Deb and I have also taken the plunge in indulging a new passion for learning kung fu and ju-jitsu. But, boy is it an intense workout! You think you're physically fit until the sifu puts you through the grinder with cardio drills. But we are learning and loving it.
A lot of goings-on as of late. I recently gave a webinar for the AMCTO on social media in the municipality, there was another trip to Hungry Hollow (possibly the last trip of the season before snows fly), and my consulting company was awarded a contract for providing strategic plan revision services.
There's still some fossils I have to clean up and photograph, but when I do it will go up on the fossil blog. Until then, get out there and see the trees and enjoy the crisp air!
School begins. I'll be trading in the hammer and the strata for the lectern. As one last blast of summer, go here to read about our Penn Dixie weekend, and see me begin the gentle art of fossil preparation here.
End of Summer, What a Bummer :(
Well, it's just about done. School starts imminently, and we have just one more travel adventure before it begins to Penn Dixie in Blasdell, NY. Check out the fossil blog to keep tabs on the rock-breaking adventures. Pictured above is a new acquisition. This coin is a "billon" from the reign of Constantine I (307-337), issued from the mint at Siscia in either 319 or 320 AD. The reverse includes the legend, VICTORIAE LAETAE PRINC PERP (well deserved victory to the eternal prince) with two Victories holding a shield with the inscription VOT P R, which is short for VOTA POPVLI ROMANI (the vows of the people of Rome).At the bottom we can see the ASIS denoting the location of the mint (Siscia). This location is significant because Constantine had secured victory over Licinius to gain this eastern territory. Given the "troubles" with the barbarians in the north, the coin was issued with Constantine with his battle helmet, a nice touch of military propaganda. (If students of my propaganda class are creeping my site, I'll bring this to class for show and tell).
This billon is between 4-25% silver with the remainder being copper.
Much of summer is sadly behind us now. And what an interesting summer it has been, albeit feeling so brief. And it is also silly season with the clickbait Trump, which affords us no end of stupidity, humour, and possibly fright. But as summer draws to its inevitable close, it also means the beginning of autumn and the new school year (I'll be teaching propaganda, and net-work: labour and profit this semester). But I should reflect on this lovely summer. It has been adventurous, with plenty of day trips and fossil hunts. In July we made it out to Lucan's annual Baconfest. There were trips to Port Stanley, Arkona, Port Bruce, and Grand Bend - mostly fairly typical summer jaunts.
On the work front, things have been mostly quiet or just "behind the scenes." We finished the revision for St Marys' strategic plan, I continue work on two academic projects: a smaller one for an entry on Bebert for a proposed Dictionnaire Celine being produced in France (on the left is a picture of my own Bebert climbing a chain-link fence!), and a larger one involving a contract to write a book on social capital and alienation for the Uni of Westminster Press in the UK. Ever more feathers in the cap, I guess. I've also applied to several jobs, and bid on several opportunities (some of which I'm waiting to hear back on), while I've also been headhunted for a few bidding opportunities in the domain of strategic planning. In the meantime, just scroll down here is an for one of the featured AMCTO webinars I'll be giving this fall, this one on social media in the municipal workplace..
I suppose the greatest achievement this summer has been my definitive and conclusive quitting of cigarettes. Been nearly a month now and I simply do not miss them. But I am absolutely thrilled with the rapid improvement in health - and I'm already the most fit almost-40 year-old you might know! And with all the money I'm saving not pointing a cigarette-shaped gun at my heart and lungs, why not buy a few tools for fossil hunting? Check out my new mini-sledge, hatchet, and pry bar to join the family of the Estwing rock pick and hand-guard cold chisels.
So, what's next? I will be teaching at least two courses at the Faculty of Information and Media Studies with another elsewhere still in discussion. The known courses I'll be teaching include Net-Work: Labour and Profit, and Propaganda. Perhaps just as exciting will be the fact that I will be putting on my first webinar for the Association of Municipal Managers, Clerks, and Treasurers of Ontario. The webinar will focus on tactics for best practices in integrating social media in municipalities. So, yes, I am now an AMCTO trainer.
Looking ahead in the next few months, I anticipate a mad whirlwind of activity, particularly if my firm gets the nod for a number of consulting projects. That, plus the teaching rigours, might make it tough for me to get out and do some fossil hunting in the more colourful and cooler autumn, but you know I will try! And although I have given up one nasty habit (smoking) I continue with another one (writing). I have a few small pieces accepted in various places, but I'm pleased to announce this one in Danse Macabre's 100th issue. Yes. 100th. It is a fantastic literary magazine and I urge you to plunder its archives! Here is my contribution. And finally, below is a frog who visited my patio.
My newest novel is out, available here. It's intentionally quite choppy, involves a speculative history, and is a follow-up to my previous novel, B1T. Follow the link for a detailed synopsis.
I am even more thrilled by the arrival of my new Estwing 22 oz. rock pick. This is the Cadillac of rock hammers, and in a preliminary trial of its function, it was able to split some very hard Hungry Hollow limestone. I will be taking it out into the field this weekend for its real trial run, but already I am absolutely impressed with it. Others who own Estwings swear by them, and have used the same one for 30 or 40 years(!). A single piece drop-forged steel with excellent weight distribution - ok, I'm geeking out over a tool, but just glad I get to retire my old claw hammer so it can resume its duties driving nails instead of cleaving rocks.
And two more book reviews at Western News with one on historical female piety and the other a novel on confronting the taboo subject of VD after the Great War.
Watch this space: I might be updating the fossil blog with new finds after tomorrow. UPDATED: new post from Hungry Hollow here.
A mix of new and old news marks the end of spring:
* The third and final instalment of a series on strategic planning has been published in the June issue of Municipal World.
* Deb and I have been away for a week in Ottawa. Pics here.
* Fossil hunting has involved one hill and two rivers. Updated blog entry here.
* I am now under publishing contract with the University of Westminster Press' Social and Critical Digital Studies series to write a book on social capital and alienation.
* My novel, B0T, is slated for summer release.
* I have been solicited to provide an entry, or entries, to a planned Dictionnaire Celine.
* I have completed all the units for the AMCTO's municipal administration program, earning very high grades, and merely await the official notice of certification.
* Work continues on the strategic plan revision for the Town of St Marys
*I appear as a guest on Public Radio International's The World in Words, speaking about the Codex Seraphinianus. Listen here.
Lots of things going on, but a lot of those things are in process and have yet to materialize. No sense playing my own jinx.
What I can report is that I'm bringing Deb on a roots tour to my native Ottawa next week. Pictures to come after the experiences are had. Also have a few book reviews at Western News, and posted my first entry on my fossil blog to retire the old fossil webpage format. And my speculative Soviet computopia novel "B0T" is inching ever so close to completion and release. For all my 16 vigintillion fans who are just dying to get updates from me, it will just have to wait. So much more to say, but the weather is just too nice for any of us to dawdle around here.
SPRING UPDATE - April 5
It's my birthday, and the above picture is a gift to myself: a silver denarius from the reign of Septimius Severus (193-211 AD). Perhaps it was subconscious of me to purchase something far older than myself to not feel as old as I am, now that I've turned 39. For those who are keen on Roman history, Severus outmaneuvered the other candidates for the imperial throne after the murder of Pertinax and the Praetorian Guard pretty much auctioning it off to the highest bidder. Severus himself preferred living in Syria than in the palace in Rome. Although the reverse of this coin is "FVNDATOR PACIS" ("founder of the peace"), this refers to his lacklustre campaign against the Parthians. Severus was succeeded by his two sons, Caracalla and Geta, with the former having his brother murdered. Caracalla was a piece of work, for sure, and very taxation crazy.
So, I have two new articles to share:
1) The first of a three-part series on strategic planning appearing in Municipal World (April, May, and June issues) with my co-author Bill Irwin. I'd give the link, but the content is only available for those who subscribe to the magazine (which is quite affordable, and is absolutely the benchmark for municipal affairs).
2) An article on the Codex Seraphinianus appearing in the monsters dossier over at the Semiotic Review
My consulting firm has an insane amount of bids out there, with others in the works (including some consortium work), and it is far too early at this point to share any news. I do anticipate that this summer will see a lot of interesting and engaging consultation work throughout the province, as well as the potential of me finishing up a novel and getting cracking on a university press monograph on social capital and alienation. I still have to doll up the sample chapter. Also applied to some fairly high level municipal jobs, so we shall see what happens.
Will there be fossils this year? You bet. We had an unwelcome blast of winter, but in the next few weeks I anticipate getting back out into the field in search of ever more trilobites.
Physically doing very well and continuing on my diet of no added sugar, salt, or fat. Apart from an irritating bout of tendonosis in the distal biceps which requires a bit of at-home physio, I'm fighting fit!
Finally, I plan on bringing Deb with me for a nostalgic return trip to my hometown of Ottawa this May, and then off to Montreal.
[Pictured above is the view from the plane between Jamaica and Cuba, minutes before sunset]
This past year has been an interesting and experiential one. I went as far north as Iceland, and as far south as Jamaica for a second stay at the lovely Sandals Montego Bay. This year has also seen a lot of provincial travel, whether it be for consulting work or going on many fossil hunts with Deb (who has now moved in with me). I taught several courses this past year, and managed to work on various municipal consulting projects, including for the Town of Goderich, a strategic plan for the Municipality of Bluewater, and ongoing work for the Town of St Marys. By year’s end I was able to formally register a general partnership consulting firm. I wrote book reviews, had a few articles published, have some co-authoring of articles on strategic planning in the works, and even managed to publish a novel. Health-wise, I have kept to my diet and exercise regimen, seeing good gains and improved overall function. I also went back to school and am now registered in AMCTO’s diploma program for municipal administration. On that front, I am proud to say that I scored very well on the first two courses.
Although I initially was aiming to change career tack, it seems that I’ve simply added another few mini-careers to the mix. I have no idea what this next year will bring. All I know is that there are some consulting projects to complete, a few courses to teach, and a few courses to complete toward the diploma. I plan on writing one academic book and the followup novel to B1T, amidst other projects. In terms of travel, I have no idea where I might end up visiting. In terms of health, I will be making more good modifications to the current regimen to fine tune toward my goals. Will there be fossil adventures? Definitely. If you haven't seen my newest finds this year, go here.
CfP Announcement - Nov 17, 2015
Vegetal Ontologies: a Stroll through the World of Plants and People
A Call for Papers for a special issue of Semiotic Review on Phytosemiotics
With the recent animal and multispecies turns in critical theory and philosophy, everything from cats and dogs to microbes and mycorrhizal fungi have become vital allies against anthropocentrism, yet plants have been largely ignored. This is a call for papers that consider the importance of plants as contributing thinkers and actors within multispecies interactions, landscapes, and worlds. We begin with the path breaking insight of Martin Krampen (1928-2015): that the study of plant life cannot be reduced simply to mechanical descriptions of efficient cause, but must account for phytosemiotics, or sign use and interpretation by plants. Like other life forms, plants are autonomous subjects with their own, meaning- laden life worlds, from which those of human and nonhuman animals emerge. The role of plant cultivation in human civilization, from the rise of the state to the green revolution, is well known. But recent botanical research shows that plants also respond to and communicate about their surroundings, not only by exchanging chemical signals through the air, but also by sharing and stealing nutrients via symbiotic networks underground. In climate change policy and practice, furthermore, plants are leading indicators of, and countermeasures deployed against, the dawning Anthropocene.
Plants lack nervous systems that mediate between life worlds and experience, which means that they are characterized by a degree of immersion in their habitats that other creatures depend upon, and may come to dread or desire for ourselves.1
The activities of “individual” plants give rise to multi-species collectives, including forests, swamps and jungles, of which animal subjects are living thoughts.2 For Krampen, the fact that all animal bodies and behaviors must establish correspondence with the “vegetative rules of endosemiotics” (1981: 208), places an ethical demand on us to know and care for plants lest we asphyxiate ourselves and destroy the planet we share with them.
We seek contributions from various disciplinary perspectives that will consider:
1 Marder, Michael. 2013. Plant Thinking. Columbia University Press, Press, p. 12.↩
2 Kohn, Eduardo. 2013. How Forests Think. University of California Press.↩
October 28, 2015 - Fall Roundup
It has been a while since I've updated the page - but mostly on account of being fairly busy with consulting work, teaching, and being a student. There have been several outings this summer, be it to attend local festivals, hiking, fossil hunting, etc. I was recently honoured to win the Dean's Award for Excellence in Part-Time Teaching this year. I am also very excited to be working with the Municipality of Bluewater as we approach the final phase of developing their strategic plan; with St Marys as we revise their existing strategic plan and develop an implementation schedule. And, academically, a colleague and I eked out something on pedagogy/invisibility as a chapter appearing in the International Handbook of Semiotics (Springer). You can read the abstract here.
I did manage to get out to collect fossils, which you can view here. I have snapped a few pictures throughout the year that have no other home than some miscellany page, but if you like nature, go here to see how I captured the changing of the seasons.
And finally, pictured below is a new and treasured acquisition of mine: a leaf from the Strassburg Bible printed in 1485 by Johann Reinhard Gruninger. This is the tenth of the pre-Lutheran bibles printed in German (I believe it is based on the Mentelin Bible of c.1466). Keep in mind that the Catholic Church did not authorize translations, and that this leaf is incunabula (that is, in the first 50 years of the printing press). About 100 or so copies of the Strassburg Bible exist, of which maybe 80 are complete.
New Novel & Other News - July 4, 2015
My new novel, B1t (that's letter B, number 1, and letter T) is now available, and I know your credit card is burning a hole in your pocket to buy it NOW. Okay, so that will prove my only effort at a hard sell for a soft launch! It's a rather (intentionally) disjointed with little to no resolution, which just sets itself up for the sequel. B0T (b, number 0, t) is already in development, along with several other writing projects that I'm tinkering with.
In other news, I forgot to make mention of a small interview I conducted with Mark Rayner at Western News. Definitely check out Mark's site for satirical hard proof of his biting hilarity.
On the education front, I am absolutely thrilled to report that I am now officially registered in the AMCTO's Municipal Administration Program, and am looking to apply to Western's Diploma in Public Administration for the condensed May-June 2016 semester. I'm still undecided as to whether to also go for the MPA, but I already know what sort of project I'd like to focus on as part of my area of specialization. You can take a peek at my municipal musings to get a sense of my thought process. The title of that blog leaves something to be desired, but in terms of content I plan to spruce up a few posts on citizen engagement, collaborative partnerships (intermunicipal, private-public, service clubs, etc), and an important piece on economic development that focuses on diversification on a sector by sector approach.
Solstice Update - June 19, 2015
The tail end of spring has been anything but idle. Not long after I returned from Iceland, there were reports to write and file, strategic planning consultations to be scheduled, and a novel to finish up drafting. On the last item, I am pleased (and exhausted) to announce that the first draft of B1T is complete and now in the hands of a trusted reader. That only leaves the sequel, B0T, to write and sundry other writing projects.
It hasn’t all been desk-riding. Deb and I have continued taking advantage of the fine weather and a desire to get out and about. A day trip to Stratford was lovely, and we had a fabulous time at Hensall Fair as I mixed a bit of social fun with official duties.
In just a few weeks, I’ll be registering for my first course provided by the Association of Municipal Clerks and Treasurers of Ontario (AMCTO) as part of their Municipal Administration Program. Ultimately, my goal is to complete all units of the MAPP to obtain official designation as a CMO. In other words, I’m going back to school, and indulging my passion for municipalities. I’m kicking off a blog on municipal musings here.
Happy solstice to everyone.
Just so that I can share something more visual, here are some mocks I've worked up for the novels B1T and B0T:
In Bloom, Updates for Spring, 2015
Spring cleaning comes to my website. The last six months has seen so many changes that it is challenging to record them all. I am less than 24 hours from boarding a plane with Deb for a week-long hike in Iceland, and my little prodigious cuddly companion Bebert (pictured above) thought to give me a bon voyage gift by dragging in a rabbit.
It has been busy as I negotiate a shift in career trajectory to cultivate a nascent love for all things municipal. Yes, I am fascinated by municipal government in all its core functions, across its broad range of provided services such as water, policing, curbside collection, fire protection; the concerns of more remote and rural communities such as the ongoing adjustment to amalgamation, economic development, stemming out-migration, etc.; building and sustaining diverse communities, ecological initiatives, drive-through tourism, mixed-use housing development, and meeting the needs and challenges of a changing demographic. Municipal governments ARE the future - direct, local, and an impact on our daily life. If there is going to be change in our country, our provinces, it begins at the local level. My passion for municipal government will find expression as I am returning to school to complete a program as a prerequisite to earning a designation as a Certified Municipal Officer, and I hope to apply next year in a position to add my skills, energy, and leadership to assist rural municipalities in Ontario not only survive, but to thrive.
In a similar vein, I was recently invited to facilitate a visioning session with Goderich Town Council to identify strategic priorities, which was an enormously positive exercise. Work continues with my consulting partner Bill Irwin as we engage stakeholder groups in the Bluewater strategic planning process. Communities such as these are the essence of community spirit, and it is immensely gratifying to work with, and listen to, communities to achieve their goals.
Fossil hunting is still ongoing, and I've been doing a bit of writing on the side when time allows. I'm currently reading a textbook on the history of municipal governance in Ontario, Oil by Upton Sinclair, various field guides on edible plants, insects, mammals of Ontario, wetland plants of Ontario, and eastern North American trees. I eat well, and exercise all the time and just enjoying as much sun and fresh air as possible.
Until my return from Iceland!
From Winter to Spring, 2015
It has been a fairly busy and surprising winter semester. I had a few more book reviews published, but mostly I've been teaching four courses and preparing for the spring and summer. Most of my work has been "in-house", and it involved a rather drastic reassessment of personal and professional priorities, including a new direction I'll detail later. I'm happy, extremely healthy, and ready for the challenges ahead. Yeah, I'll be writing books, too, but I also expect to keep up my active lifestyle. Less desk time, more getting out there on the trails, throwing around the ball, and travel. Deb and I will be off to Iceland in May. Plenty of updates, but they can wait!
[Photo by Deb - we hit up Hungry Hollow for fossils to kickstart the first episode of 2015]
Dec 20-28: The Semester IS OVER! - Pass The Tanning Butter.
It has been a very long, challenging semester: four courses across two universities, 270 students, and over 750,000 words of grading (just shy of the word count for the entire bible, both old and new testaments combined). And it has been challenging for other reasons, too, not least of which having to manage grieving, paperwork, and the last leg of labour negotiations (we reached an agreement that has now been ratified).
The image above depicts exactly where me and the kids are going: Montego Bay, Jamaica. And we certainly deserve it. I'm even willing to relax my usual Marxist anti-colonialist stance to indulge in the simulacrum-paradise of an all-inclusive resort walled off from the grim sociopolitical realities of those who live there. This has been by far the most trying semester in all my years teaching, and I am just relieved that I can take a breather from 90-hour weeks. That means, for the week, I am not answering work emails. In fact, I am abdicating all responsibilities for the duration to be a beach bum.
2015 promises to be a very active and exciting year, but I'm going to allow the last sand grains run out on the hourglass of 2014 in the spirit of full R&R. See you all in January! [Update: some pics here]
OCT 18 - MEDIA ROUNDUP
On October 6, I appeared on TVO's The Agenda with Steve Paikin on the topic of precarious labour. In an age when 40% of Ontarians are precariously (under)employed, cobbling together a large number of poor paying, insecure jobs with possibly no benefits or pension while major companies continue to net record profits (using said profits for share buybacks or dividend payments instead of job creation), this issue is one of the most pressing for labour health today. Tied in with insecure employment are issues of gender, ethnicity, childcare, and dignity. As a "full time part time" contract faculty member, I am also a member of the precariat. Click on the image above to view the video on the TVO website. I would like to thank my friends and colleagues of the Ontario Confederation of Faculty Associations (OCUFA), and especially Andrea Calver, for helping to arrange this. It was an absolute thrill to work with the producer, Hilary Clark, and have an opportunity to meet Steve Paikin in person.
I also was quoted in a recent Salon.com article, "Professors on Food Stamps" which appeared on September 21. You can read the article here. In addition, I was quoted in a Western Gazette article entitled "The Precarious Path to Professorship" written by Amy O'Kruk, featuring our most excellent President of UWOFA, Alison Hearn. The article references a YouTube video created by Travis Welowszky of the Faculty of Information and Media Studies Undergraduate Students' Council. You can read the Gazette article here, and view Travis' contribution to academic labour woes by clicking on the image below.
I also saw my most recent academic article on precarious labour published by Confero: Essays on Education, Philosophy and Politics. You can read Alienation and Precarious Contract Academic Staff in the Age of Neoliberalism here.
I have also recently joined the Coalition of Contingent Academic Labour (COCAL) as a member of its International Advisory Board, was elected to be OCUFA Director of UWOFA, and continue serving proudly in many capacities on my faculty association during this time of negotiations.
In other publishing news, you can read my most recent entry in my regular column of Contractually Bound at University Affairs entitled "Tips on Surviving Chronic Adjunctivitis." In addition, I had three book reviews published with Western News on September 25.
And finally, my friend, colleague, and fellow pen-rustler Mark Rayner wrote a kind and glowing review of my novel, Professor Montgomery Cristo. You can read his musings here, and do feel free to read his other posts, fiction, and other monkey-pirate-y goodness.
OUR JULIE. November 14, 1963 - September 10, 2014
It has taken me a long time to take this step, and it is likely that it will take me much longer to ever process this. My wife's tribute page will forever be under construction. Please excuse the mess, but it mirrors my state.
AUGUST 27: Summer roundup
Despite a bit of silence on the research front, summer of 2014 was an active one in other areas as I have extended my involvement in issues pertaining to precarious academic labour. The jewel in the proverbial crown regarding such efforts was my attending the biennial Coalition of Contingent Academic Labour (COCAL) conference hosted at John Jay College (CUNY) in New York City on August 4-6 (you can read a small debrief of the event by Sydni Dunn here). Over 200 attendees from Canada, the US, Mexico, and even Argentina converged to discuss strategies and tactics for improving the working conditions of exploited sessional/adjunct labour, and this through a series of intensive interest or working groups, each tasked with a particular issue. I participated in the "Building National Agendas" working group where I suggested the creation of a democracy index to function as a means of re-balancing much of the arguably lost power among faculty of all ranks with respect to budgetary, socioeconomic, intellectual, and other related issues. I will be hard at work with my colleagues in COCAL to develop this metric, which we hope will restore the proper place of higher education whereby it is the faculty - not the money managers - that represent the true university. I am also working with partners at CAUT and OCUFA on the issue of adjunct labour, with some exciting and bold initiatives to be disclosed at the appropriate time.
This upcoming academic year will also see me teaching up a storm as I occupy that position of being a full-time part-timer with no fewer than 8 courses, and an average of about 300 students per semester. My usual courses are being offered at FIMS (Propaganda in Print and Visual Culture, two sections of Social Networking) in addition to one new course (Net-Work: Labour and Profit) and one first-year course to revise (Information and its Contexts). In addition, I will be teaching two sections of an online course (Sociology of Law) and one course for Laurier's Society, Environment, and Culture program (Social and Digital Media).
While all that is going on, I continue preparing column entries for University Affairs, my usual swathe of editorial responsibilities at various academic journals, and continue to serve proudly in many capacities on my faculty association during this very crucial time of collective bargaining. There are a host of other projects and initiatives on my plate for this upcoming year that I may as well not mention until they firm up. My personal writing and research time will most likely have to be put aside as I manage a heavy teaching load, committee work, and throw a hard shoulder into research concerning precarious academic labour.
In other news, I was interviewed by a host of media outlets, including a CBC radio documentary on sessional employment, among other engagements. And so the new academic year begins...
July 1: New Article
My article on digital astroturfing now appears in the Journal of Intelligence, Propaganda, and Security Studies courtesy of the Austrian Centre for Intelligence, Propaganda and Security Studies
JUNE 19: ANOTHER FOSSIL SEASON BEGINS
I'll be back on the fossil hunt. Catch up with what you missed in 2013 here and read the season opener here.
June 6: The Big Summer Update
What am I doing this summer? Click here to read more about my ongoing research, literary, and labour organizing activities.
May 24: A New novel
Accused of an act of plagiarism he did not commit... Condemned to teach as an underpaid adjunct for 14 years... Resolved to right the scales of academic justice...
Adapted from the masterful epic by Dumas, a retelling of the story of Monte Cristo in the shadow of the ivory tower.
Dantes had it all. Close to defending his dissertation, the praise of his mentors, an insider tip about an upcoming tenure-track hire in his department, and a shot at the prestigious Mercedes Chair - all of it lost when he was accused of plagiarizing his recently deceased supervisor, Dantes' career prospects tumble into precipitous ruin as he must suffer in the purgatory of precarious adjunct teaching at another university. But in the decrepit D'If wing where the adjuncts hold their office hours, Dantes meets a long-time adjunct by the name of Faria who tutors him on how to survive as an adjunct, and is told of a scholarly treasure: a hitherto unknown manuscript by Nietzsche buried in Sils Maria.
Dantes comes to discover who was behind the plot to sabotage him, and how it was done. Under an alias and with the treasure in hand, Dantes rebuilds his academic career from scratch - all to achieve his one ultimate goal: revenge.
Now available in print and on Kindle
May 1: a new friend
Our daughter Paige recently adopted Zooey (who we are cat-sitting as the "grandparents"). She was born with only three legs, but that doesn't seem to present any trouble as she has adapted incredibly well, leaping and scampering about with as much ease as any other kitten.
On March 4th, our beloved cat, Coco, went on his last adventure. He is survived by his feline friends Portia, Jackson, and Bebert. The undisputed alpha of the cat clan, he acted as sage and guardian to several kittens. A noble, intelligent, and loving friend, we will miss him dearly. He first arrived 15 years ago, on the doorstep in the rain. Extremely sickly, Coco was nursed back to health and enjoyed a wonderful life with us where all his needs were met.
In his younger years, he prowled the neighbourhood as a small but mighty scrapper who could hold his own. As he grew older, he kept closer to home but could be seen climbing up his favourite tree, teaching younger cats how to bathe, enjoying long summer days on the patio, and rarely more than a few feet away from any of us. He provided a great deal of love and affection to our family.
As he grew even older, he was afflicted with numerous health problems. At a certain point we had to make one of the hardest decisions. But to look into his eyes, it was as if he was telling us it was the right decision, that he was ready.
Those who have lived with cats for any length of time know that they each have their own unique personality. Coco was certainly one of those very distinct creatures with a bold, adventurous, and wise spirit.
Feb 15: Conference talk, interrogating access conference, feb 14-16, 2014
Tweaking the Crowdfunding Model: Supplementing Research Funding
In the Canadian context, it is no secret that available funding resources are both “drying up” due to top-down government-based austerity measures, and an increase in government intervention as to what constitutes valid research as indexed on the ideological context of commercialization of scholarly activity.
The crowdfunding phenomenon differs in both content and intention from its closely resembling cousin, crowdsourcing, in that it makes specific use of online tools for the acquisition of funds from a broad spectrum of disintermediated sources. Heralded by some as an entrepreneurial instrument (Schwienbacher and Larralde, 2010) that mobilizes audiences (“crowds” in some of the literature, “communities” or “customers” in others) for the purposes of either ex ante or ex post facto initiatives (Kappel 2009), it has been popularized as a means by which successful financing for projects can be brought to term.
This paper will explore an alternative funding source specifically for the Arts and Humanities based on the crowdfunding model, but modified in such a way that said initiatives may result in improved funder-fundee matching and evaluation using a phase-based approach. As the current crowdfunding model generally favours entrepreneurial start-ups and content that is more populist or topical in nature, a series of modifications would be required to optimize the potential success of such initiatives. The benefits and limits of such crowdfunding initiatives will be of a piece in this discussion, while ultimately such a model may be repurposed as a supplement to more traditional funding sources, open to a global audience, and of some utility for facilitating research at particularly critical phases.
Kappel, Tim. (2009) Ex Ante Crowdfunding and the Recording Industry: A Model for the US? Loyola.
Schwienbacher, Armin and Benjamin Larralde. (2010). Crowdfunding of Small Entrepreneurial Ventures. Handbook of Entrepreneurial Finance. Oxford University Press.
Feb 13: new article
tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique: Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society 12.1 has just published an article of mine on Veblen and social capital.
Veblen 2.0: Neoliberal Games of Social Capital and the Attention Economy as Conspicuous Consumption
Abstract: The purpose of this article will be in reading acts of prosumer behaviour in social networking environments through a Veblenian lens, supported in part by the post-Marxist insights of Guy Debord, especially with respect to the issue of celebrity emulation, conspicuous leisure as constructed by the labour of profile management and promiscuous online interactivity, and acts of status enhancement or aggrandizement. Such a discussion must be set in the current context of the normative frame of neoliberal ideology which champions the values of the entrepreneurial self, devolved competitiveness as a form of - in this case social rather than strictly economic - neo-Darwinism, and the touted virtues of speed and connectivity. Ultimately, it is our hope to link these conspicuous online practices to the ideological framework to demonstrate how prosumption plays an integral role in the quantification of the social economy as expressed as “social capital.” In order to achieve these objectives, strict and operational definitions of prosumption, conspicuity in the Veblenian literature, and neoliberalism will be required. The line between social and economic capital is not a definitive one, and that the behaviours and motives associated with increasing social capital may be weighted more to the individual and influenced by neoliberal values that recode the social as derivative of the economic.
Feb 5: new monthly column at University affairs
Introducing the first in a series of entries for my new column at University Affairs on the plight of contract academic staff - and developing working solutions.
jan 21: foreword to new book
Honoured to be given the opportunity to write the foreword to Robert Lort's newest book, Eat the Word, a Deleuzian-inspired series of literary vignettes. The book is due to be released in 5-7 days.
Jan 21: quoted on selfies; jan 22: quoted on digital narcissism
Quoted on "selfies" in a Western Gazette article written by Jacqueline Baker, and on digital narcissism in an article written by Roberto Nanni.
Jan 12: New article / ed intro -
Happy new year.
My editorial introduction to the themed section on digital narcissisms is now out, as well as my article on modular capitalism and geomorphia. Both are now available in the recent issue of Reconstruction.
The editorial intro on digital narcissism: "Triumph of the Id"
The article: Geomorphia: Did the Earth Move for You? Mobile Capital as Geomorphic Agent
Dec 21: New article
The Journal of Documentation Studies just published an article of mine. The full article, as an "early cite" since the issue has not yet been printed, is available for those with institutional access to the Emerald Journal Group.
"An Information Meta-State Approach to Documentation"
Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to bring both Simondonian and Deleuzian insights to bear upon the nature of documents and documentation by viewing them as non-representationalist, and as products of transduction and reticulation that render documents assemblages that are in constant negotiation with an environment as instances of a perpetually renewing problematic.
Design/methodology/approach - Simondon’s work on metastability and transduction can offer particular insights into how we view documents in terms of their materiality, signification, and possibly to move beyond the phenomenological bias in the treatment of documents.
Findings - In understanding or describing the process of documentation as a reticulation or unfolding, we also come to view the document as an assemblage in perpetual negotiation. This paper adapts Deleuze and Guattari’s articulation framework of expression-signification and provides a bit of groundwork toward two registers of information (first and second order) according to the preindividual process of that allows for the individuation of documents.
Originality/value - This paper makes an original contribution to understanding the process of documentation and the product of documents in a more fluid, interdynamic context by shifting or displacing the traditional view of information.
a few old books
Feeling rather bummed out today, but a small bit of solace comes by way of some old books I purchased from Attic Books yesterday. You can read about them here.
Every once in a while it is nice to set my geeky work aside and do something... geeky and non-work related.
In this short piece, posted on this site, I take very sharp things and a lot of obsessive patience to the inside cover of a book from 1787 to reveal secret pages hiding beneath!
Join me as I peel back the pastedown to reveal the historical secret inside.
nov 13: usc teaching honour roll
Just learned that I made the teaching honour roll again, along with ten other of my colleagues at the Faculty of Information and Media Studies. Official news copy from the FIMS website:
"Congratulations go to 11 FIMS faculty members who were recently named to the 2013-2013 edition of the USC Teaching Honour Roll.
Included are: Andrea Benoit, Tim Blackmore, Jacquie Burkell, Chris Clark, Norma Coates, Sally Colwell, Kane Faucher, Amanda Grzyb, Selma Purac, John Reed and Sharon Sliwinski.
The University Students' Council each year names to the Teaching Honour Roll those instructors who receive an accumulated average of 6.3 or higher out of 7 on the first 14 questions of the UWO Senate-mandated course and teacher evaluations."
OCT 31: western news book reviews
Book reviews of four worthwhile books by Rachel M. Heydon, Bernd Steinbock, Don Gutteridge, and various authors under the fine editorship of Linda M. Morra and Jessica Schagerl. The books under review takes us from intergenerational learning, what it really means to be an Athenian, archival practices with respect to women scholars and artists, to a fable on what makes Gavin so great. Check out my reviews in the Read All Over section here.
oct 23: new edition of codex seraphinianus
Rizzoli is issuing a new edition of the Codex Seraphinianus on Oct 29 with new plates supplied by Serafini. This exciting news for Codex nerds like me may precipitate some further work on the Codex, if not also plans to create an homage edition of my own. Those interested can peruse the incomplete analysis and initial attempts to construct some Serafini-esque work here.
This digitized Serafini "majuscule" above was constructed by me, using a mixture of hand-drawn elements that were scanned for processing in font-making software. My own incomplete Serafini alphabet has been converted to true-type font (.ttf) and can be used on most word processors.
OCT 20: presented at apps & affect conference
image streamed from blog.teamtreehouse.com
Hosted at Museum London on October 18-20. This conference will bring together a diverse group of scholars from a variety of disciplines to present work on the significance of apps, be them openly creative points of access and invention, or a form of regulatory control.
My own contribution to the discussion by way of the abstract:
App as Non-Apparition: The Counter-Alethic Function [white walls and black holes]
Apps already grid the subject and its conditions of possibility through a regime of signs, aligned in part by a technocratic restructuring of the myth of progress where the app is positioned as the essential filter through which problems can find their immediate or ready-to-hand solutions. However, despite the optimism of the technocratic solutions-as-tools, like the algorithm the app effectively regulates subjectivity by distributing uniform diversity rather than acknowledge the already-different. In Deleuze and Guattari's sense, it may qualify as simply another, albeit etherealized or computationally embedded, molarity that captures, regulates, and distributes the flows of difference by also shaping the Weltanschaaung through the precise pre-programmed aperture of the app itself. For example, the app of Google Maps alters the way we view and engage space, distance, and point-concentrated relevance. If there is no "app" for that particular "that," it may be implied as part of the computational logic that it is of no value or significance, thus appealing to valuation by omission. The emergence of affect generally must follow an intensive feature where the virtual is made immanent to the process of individuation. The app, however, might conceal the intensive affects and function to cancel out the real differences required for a truly expressive means of creating something other out of the tracing of the subject-user and the object-app, both of which enter into a dialectical relationship. The question upon which this turns would be in determining whether the app provides a mechanism for feedback or feedforward. By an appeal to the works of Heidegger, Simondon, and Deleuze, this talk will trace the logic of the app as possibly being less conducive in recognizing affect or the fold that exists between subjectivity and technology, still subordinating the affect of sense as a secondary quality.
oct 8: Book release
The word “information” carries a number of connotations depending on context, and can be said to be one of the most problematic words to define despite many efforts by statistical theorists, mathematicians, physicists, cyberneticians, communication theorists, computer scientists, and philosophers. Is information physical or non-physical? Is the universe digital, analog, or a “chaosmic” mixture of the two?
This book explores a Deleuzian way of understanding information by retracing Deleuze’s ontology of difference back to Gilbert Simondon’s concepts of transduction, metastability, and perpetual individuation as a source for Deleuze’s concept of the virtual. Although Deleuze did not address information specifically in his oeuvre, this book attempts to construct what a Deleuzian theory of information might look like as a consequence of his philosophical insights.
The reader is presented with a brief survey of information theories, capsule explanations of the philosophy of Gilbert Simondon and Gilles Deleuze, and a discussion on the roles of metastasis and metastability as a means of addressing the problematic known as information outside of computing regimes, and as a critique of cybernetics, informatics, and memetics. Can information be reconfigured as affirmative difference, transformed into a “nomad science,” or must it remain consigned to the realm of probabilism?
sept 26: teaching award
Dean's Award for Excellence in Teaching recipients announced: 9/26/2013 4:14:33 PM
Susan Knabe, Anabel Quan-Haase, Mark Kearney and Kane Faucher have all received the award for 2013.
The awards were announced at a reception on Wednesday, September 26, held in University College. Acting Dean Nick Dyer-Witheford presented each recipient with a certificate marking the achievement.
sept 7: WNDER's new website
The Western Network for Digital Education and Research website has now been launched. Read about WNDER's ambitious mandate here.
general update - august 22, 2013
Image streamed from Christrains.com
1. An article accepted with revisions; 2. Proofs for my upcoming book with Sense Publishers; 3. Work on the book, Datapolitik in full swing; 4. Course revisions complete for this coming year (Propaganda, Social Networking, Media & Audiences); 5. Nominated for Dean's Teaching Award; 6. Work on "crowdfunding" article with collaborator continues; 7. Co-editorial work on Deleuze and Guattari on Capitalism/Economy continues; 8. A smattering of other articles in various stages; 9. Revving up for a negotiation year at Western; 10. New member of the Western Network for Digital Education and Research (WNDER)
july 15: Back from lisbon
A weeklong stay in Lisbon as part of the Deleuze conference. For those who like pictures, I snapped a few here.
july 8-10: Deleuze conference presentation
On July 8-10: I presented Seed De/Re-Territorialization: Monsanto and Genetic Drift as Deleuzo-Guattarian Capital (6th International Deleuze Conference, Faculty of Science, Lisbon, Portugal).
The abstract is as follows:
Recent legal disputes involving Monsanto's genetically modified organisms highlight issues of enviro-genetic territory with respect to the effects of gene drift from GM crops to non-GM crops. Although Monsanto prides itself on a Baroque-inspired philosophical outlook where human purpose is to "perfect" nature, and in thus controlling and correcting nature in ways reminiscent of cybernetics, gene drift reterritorializes environmental space in ways that cannot be properly contained, and may suggest a purposive plan on the part of Monsanto to recode the environment according to its own genetic capture and hyper-capitalist flows as united with bioinformatics. This paper will apply Deleuze's and Guattari's insights on the war machine and the apparatus of capture to better position Monsanto's relationship to environmental and genetic territory. This paper will argue that despite any superficial resemblance to rhizomatic spread, Monsanto is engaging in a covert arborescent strategy which attempts to overdetermine environmental and genetic space according to a despotic "corrective" regime under the guise of benevolent utility.
Not only will this prove exciting in rubbing shoulders with D&G giants, but I will also have an opportunity to spend time in a city that is older than London (the one in the UK, not here). As someone who is an advocate for farmers' autonomy, organic food, and biodiversity, my hope is that this will be the first in a series of papers and possible articles critiquing the practices of major GM seed developers from a Deleuzian standpoint.
june 14: ulises mejias' new book
UMinn Press has just released the long-awaited (at least by me and a handful of other geeks) "Off the Network: Disrupting the Digital World" by Ulises Mejias, a scholar and researcher at SUNY Oswego. One of the central questions Mejias asks (and one that my Debordian 2.0 self asks with respect to the tyranny of the social web algorithm) is how can we unthink networks? What are the hegemonic traits of current largely corporate networks that divide and rule over its "nodes" (are we more than just nodes in a network?), and how has this marginalized others, alienating users from what they can do? - there may be a Nietzschean question in there! Anyhow, while the glut of zombie novellas and Victorian romances continue being extruded by the publishing apparatus, Mejias' book has been bumped up on my beach read list. I hope to pen a review once I have finished it.
June 14: book review
I wrote a review of "From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin" by Henry Whittlesey (ed.) on their interesting and procedural method of "transposition" at Sein und Werden. Read about it here.
June 7: consultancy position
I have recently been taken on as an associate consultant for the Toronto consultancy firm, Eco-Ethonomics, which focuses on providing strategic planning, sustainability, organizational development, and social enterprise. Read about what they do here.
JUNE 1: Some advocacy stuff
I recently sent a letter to leaders of all the federal parties outlining my concerns with the proposed changes to the Seeds Act. I received a good reply from the NDP. You can read my letter and their response here. (.doc)
Also, I would urge anyone visiting this site to sign the online petition to save Windsor's Centre for Studies in Social Justice, slated to be shuttered this July. This program not only boasts an amazing pool of talented researchers, but also produces students with the ability to advocate on issues of social justice and labour. You can sign the petition here.
June 1: the Infinite grey released
The final book in my trilogy is now available on Amazon. You can read about it on the infinity page. The publisher, Civil Coping Mechanisms, is currently building the landing page with an excerpt.
This is a "soft release," which means I have no plans on any book tours, signings, interviews, or any other PR mechanism beyond what my publisher arranges. Marketing the third in a trilogy is a distinct challenge since it favours those who have already been following the first two volumes.
The cover image appears courtesy of Dale Dunning (the sculptor and photographer of the image). Check out his other work at his page, and read about my raves on him and the other excellent artists who have supplied images for the trilogy here.
may 12 - goodreads blogpost: black market books
Image streamed from Ceciliatan.com
Free books... at the expense of indie authors and publishers. Read my post on the matter here.
may 5 - goodreads blogpost: The infinite grey... soon!
What a long, strange textual trip it's been. Read some of my reflections on the long lead-up to the final book in my hefty tome-like trilogy here.
april 23 - goodreads blogpost: the art of cover art
image streamed from bazaardesigns.com
Instead of discussing what is between the covers, I give plaudits to the fine practicing artists who supplied the images that appear on the covers themselves. Read about them here.
April 18: noise matters
I was invited by L.-F. Celine scholar Greg Hainge to give my meandering reflections on his newest book, Noise Matters at 333sound. Why not join in?
Greg has a solid grasp of Deleuze and Guattari in addition to L.F. Celine. For those keeping track, he and I co-authored a short paper back in 2010 on Celine and ventriloquism for Etudes Celiniennes.
april 12 - goodreads post: on the trilogy
Violating my own personal rule that authors should not speak about their own work, I do so anyway - but with a bit of cheek, and then veer off into issue-based rambling. Read it here.
april 5 - goodreads post: ranking practices
Today I got to rank myself 36 / 36 on number of years I have been post-womb. But what do book rankings mean? What can we learn from them, and what can we not? I weigh in on the popularity metrics and algorithmic nature of book rankings. Read it here.
april 4; two book reviews at western news
Two reviews at Western News: Bipasha Baurah and Terence M. Green.
April 3: western annual author reception
Along with several of my Western colleagues, the Western Bookstore put on a little fete for us. Vice Provost Janice Deakin did the honours of presenting us with awards; esteemed shutterbug Lotte Huxley snapped the occasion; President Amit Chakma dropped by; and I had some very lovely conversations with some very talented Western writers.
march 29 - goodreads post: goodreads + amazon = ?
image streamed from forbes.com
If Amazon cannot buy out its competition, it can surely edge them out. The recent news of Amazon's desire to purchase the reader network Goodreads may change the very nature of the site. Read about some of my best guesses of what those changes might be here.
march 27: thumbstruck: the semiotics of liking via the phaticon
I had an academic article published in the newly refurbished, online-only, open-source journal, Semiotic Review (formerly The Semiotic Review of Books). What's it about? Digital thumbs, of course! (This piece should not be confused with a more gen-audience piece I wrote many years ago on the "thumbstruck generation").
This article will be an early attempt to ground the ubiquitous icon of the “thumb” present on several SNSs and online comment fora in both semiotic and semantic registers. The digital convention of making use of the thumb must first be clarified in terms of its status as either icon, index, or symbol, and furthermore what role it plays in human-computer interaction (HCI), gamification of SNSs, digital gesturality, and the inherent mechanisms of arithmomania that guide approbation in the command and control environments of computer-mediated communication (CMC) that rely on prompting to guide online behaviour. In addition, we might ask if the thumb functions as part of the currency in online social capital accumulation and social transactionalism.
Read it here.
march 25: western research day
march 8: symposium presentation
On March 8, I presented Creative Engagement and Reflective Practice: Two Approaches to Teaching Social Media (Technology in Education Symposium, J.G. Althouse Bldg, Faculty of Education, Western University). It was a lively panel including other faculty members addressing issues of a digitally interactive (if not ergodic) syllabus, the use of YouTube for instructional delivery, vodcasting lectures for distance studies courses, and other uses of the digital milieu for exploration, teaching and learning.
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