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Day 21: On Running and Being a Runner, Pt. 2

I just got back from a run outside.  It’s 25 degrees.  I would so much rather run outside, if it’s say, over 20 degrees, than run on a treadmill.  Last winter was the first winter I got serious about running outside and it was awesome-sauce, as the Greeks say.  There’s just something about being outside that spurs me on, while to be honest, it’s easier for me to give up on a treadmill.  And even though I’ve been running 3-7 days a week for about twenty years (which you can read about in Pt. 1 of this series), I still give up sometimes.  Especially on treadmills.  There’s two things I don’t like about treadmills.  The first is associated with one of the greatest fears every runner has: forgive me for being graphic, the treadmill makes my bowels seem looser and the possibility losing control of them more looming than running outside.  I can’t really explain why this is the case, but it does make me feel like that.  I speculate that it’s something about the way the belt gives in, nah, ok, I really don’t know.  But anyway, that happens.  I don’t like it.

The other thing about treadmills is that I don’t feel like I can adapt my pace and my stride to whatever is happening with my body in the moment on a treadmill.  That work of adapting my body and paying attention to my body to make microadjustments as I run became important to me after reading two books, Chris McDougall’s Born to Run and Matt Fitzgerald’s Brain Training for Runners. While McDougall’s book gives the larger anthropological and evolutionary account of why that’s important, Fitzgerald’s gives the specific advice about how to do it well. Read more

Day 20: On Running and Being a Runner, Pt. 1

I have yet to blog about running.  Once I talked about what I saw and thought on a run, but it wasn’t blogging about running.  The next couple days I’m going to make up for that because it turns out I have a lot to say about running.  I am a runner.  In this post, I’m going to tell you my personal running story.

I wasn’t always an athlete.  I remember one day sitting on the bleachers at my older sister’s indoor soccer game and my friend’s mom asked me if I played any sports.  My friend, a guy who was a little older than my sister, said, “She doesn’t play sports.  She flirts.”  I think I was 12.  Maybe 13.  I think I’m still probably running out of rage about that comment. Read more

Day 19: Tenure for Life

I was recently tenured.

A friend of mine told me a story about when he was interviewing and one of the people who interviewed him asked him what he would do differently when he got tenure.  He couldn’t think of an answer.  She said, that’s the right answer.  You shouldn’t do anything differently.

I tried to be a pre-tenure faculty member for whom that could be true not because I was living out of fear of who I was upsetting, but because I was doing what I thought was right in teaching, research and service situations regardless of what people thought.  I think my friend’s interviewer’s comment can sometimes imply that faculty are so beaten down, well-disciplined in the  Foucaultian sense, that they will continue to feel sheepish as they did before they were tenured.

Soon after I learned of my tenure decision, I was back home in Philadelphia visiting my family, and it struck me how freeing it would be if you could address your personal life as if you had tenure–tenure for life, I like to call it.   Read more

Day 18: Grace without Debt

Grace: it’s not about life after death, it’s life after debt.

By some lucky happenstance (grace?) I finished reading David Graeber’s Debt: The First 5,000 Years and Marilynne Robinson’s latest novel Lila in the same week.  In his book, which is discussed at length in this seminar at Crooked Timber, Graeber attempts to establish that human relationships are not reducible to and do not originate in economies of credit and debt.  Graeber argues, as I have long thought, that Nietzsche’s exercise in taking the calculability of all human relations to its logical conclusions in his Second Essay in On the Genealogy of Morals is not meant to defend but to mock such a schema.  Graeber points out that there is something insulting about considering your relationships with others in terms of debt.  To consider a relationship one of debt suggests a calculability to it, a way of measuring what is owed, a way of holding one another responsible because of the IOU between you.  When I was in junior high and high school, my mother did not like us getting rides from our friends’ parents because she felt like that obligated her to give rides to our friends.  She didn’t like giving rides.  Fine.*  I think about Aristotle talking about how friendship is the opportunity to exhibit virtue to others, to have someone to be generous to.  But still, human relationships are always in excess of debt, irreducible to what is owed, made obscene by the sense that it is merely the keeping of obligations and demanding that they be met (this is likely why I’m not a Kantian).**  It is this element of human relationships that Graeber calls communistic. Read more

Day 17: The Weather

I know you’re thinking, wow, Adriel’s run out of things to say in her 31-day blogging challenge and now we’re going to talk about the weather.  Stay with me.  I am going to talk about the weather, but not because I’ve run out of things to say.  It actually turns out that I have become someone for whom weather is an interesting topic of conversation.  You know that famous line from My Fair Lady when Mrs. Higgins tells Henry, “I suggest you stick to two topics, the weather and your health,” because Henry seems to be unable of speaking without offending Eliza.  That’s the thing about talking about the weather, no one could be offended by it.  Talking about the weather really seems to be talking about nothing at all. Read more

Day 16: Midway Through 31 Days of Blogging

I have now blogged everyday for fifteen days in a row!

The most regular blogging I have done up until now was during my trips to Greece.  I blogged about blogging the first trip, and looking back, blogging a trip is not that different from giving yourself a 31-day blogging challenge.  In both cases, I find myself bringing added attention to my experiences because I know I am going to have to blog about something.  One of my biggest obstacles to blogging more regularly before this month is that I’ll have ideas about something I could potentially blog about and I’ll think that it isn’t important or interesting enough or that I’m not the one to say it (sometimes, this is a legit concern and the philosophy blogosphere might be a better place if more white cisgender men asked them whether they should be the ones to say the thought they have). Read more

Day 15: Money, Prostitution and Misogyny

In Debt: The First 5,000 Years, David Graeber writes,

One could see how the metaphor of the porne might seem particularly appropriate. A woman “common to the people”–as the poet Archilochos put it–is available to everyone. In principle, we shouldn’t be attracted to such an undiscriminating creature. In fact, of course, we are. And nothing was both so undiscriminating, and so desirable, as money.

This is in the context of explaining why Greek aristocrats thought money was garish. The conception of woman behind this critique of money is telling.  Women have value because they are inaccessible and restricted.  Men protect and isolate their women to preserve this value, which is based not on the woman’s unique personality, appearance, wit or strength, but on the extent to which she is accessible to other men.  The less accessible the more valuable.  The less accessible, the more desirable.  How one is a woman, either parthenos, virgin or gynê, wife or mother, is determined by whether anyone has access to her or not.  In the case of gynê, your husband and your sons have access to you.  The power of Athena as parthenos is in part her refusal of access to anyone. Read more

Day 14: Calling out Contradiction: Neoliberalism

As I discussed in this post earlier this month, pointing out contradiction in someone’s position as a means to convert them to your view doesn’t work.  Most people recognize that holding contradictory positions is not a good thing, but few seem to think that such a charge demands of them that they change their minds or their ways.  It isn’t even that they defend themselves and try to show that they don’t maintain contradictory views.  They just aren’t moved by the charge.  So pointing out contradictions, as enjoyable as it is, is probably not the best approach for changing people’s minds. Read more

Day 13: State of the Union: Politics of the Impossible

Obama has always been a straight talker.  He still wants to work together on bipartisan priorities.  How can he still think this is possible?  Surely, it is impossible. I want to suggest in this post that we can learn something from Obama: don’t settle for the possible.  Obama said as we look to the future, we should see opportunity not peril.  Here I thought about how the Hillary campaign uses the politics of fear to sustain the politics of supposed electability (a strategy that is losing traction in the face of recent polls).  Obama asks whether we will respond with fear, turning inward and against one another or with confidence and power (the road between Nietzschean ressentiment and will to life). Read more

Day 12: When Course Evaluations Actually Improve Teaching

As I’m getting ready for the new semester, I’m thinking about how to organize the course and discuss expectations on the first day of class to help students learn as best I can.  This process gets me thinking about what worked in previous courses as I blogged yesterday.  Today I thought, I should go look at course evaluations, right?  Riiiight.  I like to think that there was a time when people actually wanted to know what students thought about their courses.  So they polled them with various kinds of instruments, including surveys.  With the neoliberal drive to data in K12 and higher education, and the growing suspicion of the academy, course evaluations turned into evidence of success or lack thereof.  Instead of seeing the surveys as an opportunity for faculty to get genuine feedback about how students perceived what was happening in the course, the surveys became a judgment of the faculty.  As evidence of how ridiculous this is, a colleague of mine pointed to a study that shows that students who give positive evaluations went on to do worse in proceeding courses.  Just yesterday, Inside Higher Ed published yet another study on gender bias in course evaluations.  At my previous institution, course evaluations were closely associated with merit pay, and it wasn’t even the course evaluation as a whole, but question 11, something about rating the professor overall.  I have come to believe that if course evaluations’ purpose is to judge faculty, they will not help faculty learn how to be better teachers.  And I want to be a better teacher.   Read more