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Wednesday, June 17, 2015


Back from Buenos Aires, I made a chimichurri sauce out of red wine vinegar, garlic, Italian parsley, cilantro, and oregano. I used a little salt and red pepper flakes too.

I marinated some boneless, skinless chicken breasts in this and cooked them on my gas grill, with a baked potato. I served it (to myself) with some of the reserved sauce and a salad made of arugula and grated romano cheese, with a dressing of olive oil, lime juice, and balsamic vinegar. With Stormchaser Summer IPA from Free State.

Plenitude and Privacy

[This post is by Thomas Basbøll]

It seemed like a good idea at the beginning but I've decided to abandon my summer writing project. I don't, normally, recommend dropping a plan like this. (And even reasserted this philosophy when I began to feel doubt.) For one thing, it makes you less resolute in your future planning every time you show yourself that a plan is not really binding. That's why the most important plan is the little plan you make from day to day. That's the one you really must keep.

But planning to write for 9 hours (18 paragraphs) over two weeks, or 20 hours (a whole journal article) over, say, forty days, is also "realistic" enough that, once the plan is made, you should try to follow through even if it feels like a waste of time. It can feel that way because your goals change or because you adjust your assessment of how much you know. Always remember that the primary purpose of each writing session is to become a better writer. In that sense, the time is never really wasted.

Sometimes, however, you may feel that what are you doing when writing is actually wearing you down. Sticking mechanically to the plan becomes like running the last half of Haruki Murakami's 100 km marathon. You may live to regret going through with it. This shouldn't happen, of course, if you are writing only 27 minutes a day in a frame of mind that says you're only writing a first draft or only writing for practice. But if you see each writing session as a public "performance" of your ability to write, one that you are essentially committed to publishing on completion, then you will experience the writing session very differently. This will put a strain on your prose that may not be sustainable.

And that's why my plan was not really exemplary. I had committed myself to making each paragraph public immediately after I had written it. In a sense, this is a familiar experience for me—most of my blog posts are written in about 30 minutes in the morning and posted at a pre-specified time. But these are "just" blog posts. What I was doing here was committing myself to composing a coherent paragraph about something I know, intended for an academic audience, and knowing that it is one fourtieth of the final result.

Moreover, I would also have to try to be "exemplary" in my writing. The pressure to perform in public was originally exhilarating, but quickly produced a profound weariness. The only thing worse would have been to put my writing under video surveillance, i.e., committing myself to posting not just the paragraph but a screen recording of the 27 minutes that produced it. I was not so much writing as speaking. But with a (self-imposed) obligation to a level of clarity that we never ask of speech.

I sometimes compare writing to "bullet time" as imagined in the Matrix films. Writing does not happen in "real time". A paragraph that takes a minute to read will have taken any amount of 27-minute writing sessions to produce. The words are arranged in a careful manner that speech could never achieve. The reader then just lets each word pass through their minds, exactly as you have planned it. Every time you write you are in principle "merely drafting" because you can always go back and change it before communicating the text to anyone else. That possibility, and writing with an awareness of it, just is the experience of writing. It is "the privacy of your own mind".

It is the basis of Barthes' "freedom" and King's "telepathy". The first isn't absolute and the second is only metaphorical but the experience is convincing because of the enormously disproportionate distribution of resources. The reader will take one minute to read something that the writer had at least an hour but actually an indefinite amount of time write. I was giving myself only 27 minutes to pull off something that needed much more time. I was trying to do it without that sense of an indefinite (if not finally infinite) amount of resources. A very important aspect of the writing experience was getting lost. It is the sense that there is plenty of time.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015


[This post is by Thomas Basbøll]

This week I'm working on the background section of my summer writing project, and I'm already starting to notice something that I will have to fix in the rewrite. I'm going to stick to my plan, anyway, for reasons that I think will become clear, and because there's a principle here: make a plan and then follow it through. Only afterwards should you evaluate how it worked as a whole. Don't just "realize" that the plan is wrong at some point and then start over. That's a sure way of never getting done.

Here's the thing I've noticed: The background section is supposed to be "informative". Even if some readers already know what you are telling them, it should be written as though the reader needs to be told these things. But my background section is actually more like what Wittgenstein called a "synopsis of trivialities". We can, perhaps, say it serves as what Orwell called a "restatement of the obvious", which he said was the duty of intelligent people to provide in particularly bad times. The problem with this rhetorical strategy is that it constructs a reader that needs almost "remedial" assistance, who needs to be reminded of elementary truths. It's not the best way to win their favor.

The alternative is to tell the story of how these obvious truths have been forgotten by "most people". This basically means telling the story of the how the mission of the university changed since the second world war, and, more dramatically, since 1968. Readers will be happy to be given some detailed information about this history, even if they understand the general point.

This reframing will also have an effect on the theory section that has been introduced in the second paragraph of the paper. The epistemology I outline here is too closely aligned with the one I want to present in my analysis, making it unclear what my proposal adds, or rather, what it challenges. I'm focusing too much on the parts of the received view (the current consensus) that I agree with, rather than those that really worry me.

The result is a paper that is too "flat". It merely moves from one truth to another as though they're all on the same rhetorical level. What I want to do is pull a set of erroneous abstractions down to the concrete particulars on which they must founder. I don't just want to build my proposal on the foundation of a set of indisputable truths. I'll respectfully assume that the reader's foundations are largely in order, and leave them otherwise implicit.

So I have to emphasize the way the uptake of "post-structuralism", however right its founding insight may have been, has led to a misunderstanding of the nature of specifically "academic" knowledge. Interestingly, the new and, in an important sense dominant, view has been described as a "textual epistemology", i.e., as a conception of knowledge that emerges from seeing the importance of writing to contemporary research practices. My writing-centered epistemology is nonetheless a corrective to this view. It meets the orthodoxy on its own turf.

Finally, a quick note on process. Next week I'm going to see if I can increase the pace to two paragraphs a day, and the week after to three. That way I should be able to have the draft done by the end of the month.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Google alert fail

Scholar Alert: [ Federico García Lorca ]

Ontology-Based Music Recommender System
…, R Valencia-García, AA Lopez-Lorca… - Distributed Computing and …, 2015
... In: WWW 2012 Companion, pp. 865–866. ACM, New York (2012) 25. Beydoun, G., Lopez-Lorca,
A., García-Sánchez, F., Martínez-Béjar, R.: How do we meas- ure and improve the quality of
a hierarchical ontology? J. Syst. Software 84(12), 2363–2373 (2011)

Teaching for EcoJustice: Curriculum and Lessons for Secondary and College Classrooms
RJ Turner - 2015

Functionalization of mesoporous silica nanoparticles with a cell-penetrating peptide to target mammalian sperm in vitro
N Barkalina, C Jones, H Townley, K Coward - Nanomedicine, 2015
Welcome Guest user | Login via Athens or your home institution. ...

[PDF] Multiplicity results for sign changing bound state solutions of a semilinear equation
C Cortázar, M García-Huidobro, P Herreros - arXiv preprint arXiv:1505.07132, 2015

[PDF] What you love might kill you. Epidemiology, time trends and risk factors for sexually transmitted infections among men who have sex with men in Norway, 1992-2013.
I Jakopanec - 2015
... Irena later became my boss, enabled my first lecturing opportunities in the field and passionately
encouraged my career in epidemiology. When I discussed Guibert's book with my friend Amelia
Kraigher, she told me about Lorca's death. I never quite got over that. ...

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