So that was 2021

What a tough year. And I had it easy! All I had to do was not catch the virus. I succeeded on that front. But like lots of others, I was also tired a lot of the time and sometimes stressed out, and didn’t get to spend time with people I wanted to spent time with.

My new book “came out” if by “come out” you mean “have a publication date in” but its actual release has been delayed by the global paper shortage. Perfect for a book on impairments!

Diminished Faculties, Available January 2022!
Diminished Faculties, Now Available January 2022!

For some unexplained reason, I exploded with writing in May after the end of classes. I have a forthcoming piece with Mehak Sawhney on AI, voice, and the will to datify, and a few others things came out of that as well. I made my first “real” video. 2022 will see at least one, maybe more, essay(s) on sound and AI, again coauthored. I might also make some progress on my book with Mara.

I spent the better part of fall quite sick from my medication, and dealing with some related dental adventures. My TAs had to quietly bail me out a couple times with things around the big class. At the same time, teaching was mostly great, graded on a Zoom curve. I was lucky to be able to teach online, so at least I didn’t have to risk my life to do my job. I lost too many work days to illness or pain in fall term, but I did ok enough. I also managed to present my work in remote corners of the world via Zoom, which was not as fun as going places, but good enough for now. I attended a few Zoom talks but really all the Zooming for teaching and meetings was too much and my desire to attend talks waned, though I made sure to show up to a few events at conferences where I was speaking, to have at least a vague feel of participating.

I work with a lot of grad students and postdocs right now, and it has been loads of fun. I learned a lot this year from them in an incredible range of areas and read–and heard–some really wonderful work that should be coming your way in a few years.

The combination of the pandemic and disability motivated me to do some activist work around Covid and disability, and there’s more to be done for sure, but it was very worthwhile. I also joined a group of Jewish faculty who are against definitions of anti-Semitism that preclude criticism of the Israeli state (how convoluted is that?). At my own university I did what I could to educate administrators about McGill’s shameful attitudes toward disabled faculty and those faculty who are around people with disabilities. I did a lot of other service as well, some of it quite meaningful, like serving on the federal SSHRC committee in my area, and working on two hiring committees.

After vaccination and the loosening of some restrictions, I was actually able to see some people from time to time and to play music with bands that included people other than Carrie. Up until then, I’d been playing with Carrie in a 2-piece we invented with her on drums and vocals and me on touch guitar. We now have a name, Ex-Minnesotan, and a nearly-finished EP (some more vocals need to be tracked). There are also two Hard Red Spring EPs waiting in the wings. I got better at touch guitar, taking lessons every couple weeks–give or take–and even tried my hand at reading music in treble clef. Markus, my teacher, said I would be able to move around the 12-24 frets more intuitively by the end of the year, and he was right.

The loosening of restrictions was hard, though. People really got lax with masks, which made going out in public potentially more dangerous for me. I walked into stores–more than once–where people were not wearing masks.

Like most of the rest of bourgeois Montreal, we discovered the joys of vacationing in rural Quebec.

I learned to cook a bunch of vegan stuff, include vegan pizzas that are not based around vegan cheese. I have a standard sambar recipe now as well. Carrie now requests a couple of them on a regular basis. We upped our vegan Sichuan game (I know that’s not a real thing but whatever).

I’m not good with year-end lists, but I read a bunch of books and articles I liked, I listened to a bunch of good music, and I used a lot of fun music technology. I also had a lot of good conversations with people, online, and off.

Finally, in the sea of death, I want to note two cherished colleagues who passed–Trevor Pinch, who has an entry below this one, and Lauren Berlant, whom I discussed on Facebook:

Like so many others in my feed, I’m gutted by the passing of Lauren Berlant. It’s a huge loss to a whole constellation of interleaving scholarly communities. We had many great conversations over the years. Here is a story: the second time I met Lauren Berlant, I was a grad student at the University of Illinois, in the mid 1990s. They had come to give a talk a year or two before and we had a brief conversation. The second time we met, they remembered who I was and what I said. And I was just a nobody grad student. Although I can be terrible with names and faces, I have tried to emulate those two qualities: treating people as people rather than holders of status (still too rare in the university system), and really listening to what people had to say. In recent years, we had an on and off conversation going about cancer from nuts and bolts stuff like food and gloves to much more profound talk about how to think about academic aspirations and limits while living with uncertainty. The last two times we met were both spontaneous: me joining at a dinner after a talk with Katie Stewart at Concordia (I wasn’t planning to go because I was so fatigued, but Carrie talked me into it and it was worth a moment of “self-overcoming” to use a Lauren phrase), and then later the same year running into them at a restaurant in Minneapolis. What’s important about my stories is that they are utterly ordinary–I wasn’t special, just another person in their orbit: Lauren touched so many people’s lives in so many different ways.

28 June 2021

The cats, meanwhile, have had a very good year. Lots of attention.

A picture of Tako, our blind dilute calico, sitting on our amplifier, with a fake fire going on the screen behind her
Cat Heater and Simulacrum
Galaxie,  our fluffy white cat, laying on her side, looking seductive, in closeup.
Oh look, a present!