That’s my boy

My son, Major Conlann A. Myers, has been published in Army Communicator, with a short history and current status of the 51st Expeditionary Signal Battalion-Enhanced (ESB-E) (his unit) on page 35, if you’re interested. I know I am. This is the best we get, though – vague statements about the broad general area of deployment, next to nothing about timing.

The 51st ESB-E is postured to deploy to the United States Central Command area of operations (AoR) in 2024 as the first full ESB-E, taking over a mission that has previously been filled from ESBs and providing new capabilities to the area of responsibility. The mission will provide the Army the opportunity to improve the tactical network supporting U.S. forces in the AoR with the newest equipment and prove out the ability of the ESB-E concept to fully replace existing ESBs.

We know it’s soon and it’s the Middle East, and we’ll be worrying the whole time.

It’s a shingrix kind of day

Yesterday, I got my second shot of the shingles vaccine. “Shingrix” is the right adjective to use for my late night and day — I have all of the symptoms, every one of them, struck with sledgehammer blows.

The worst was the muscle weakness. I tried to get out of bed four times, and every time I realized that the spaghetti noodles my legs had turned into couldn’t to the job, so I just flopped over and went back to my fitful sleep. If anyone is dreaming of beating me up, this would be a great day to do it.


For Christmas, my wife and I got a new dishwasher, and I also scanned in a lot of old photos for her. Here’s my mother- and father-in-law in the 1940s.

He was a Marine. Fought in the Pacific. Won a few medals for it, too.

For meritorious service in connection with operations against the enemy while serving with a marine infantry battalion on Iwo Jima, Volcano islands Feb.27, 1945. The light machinegun section of which Cpl. Gjerness was section leader was attached to a rifle platoon assaulting a vital ridge commanding the approaches to Hill 362. The platoon was repulsed by a superior enemy fire. The platoon again assault the ridge, this time suffering heavy casualties, among them the platoon leader. The platoon became disorganized. Cpl. Gjerness, realizing the severity of the situation, and with complete disregard for his own personal safety, took charge of the platoon and through his courageous leadership the platoon was orderly withdrawn and the wounded were evacuated with the highest traditions of the U.S. naval service.

Whoa, I don’t care for that “disregard for his own personal safety” bit. He had an obligation to get home and father my wife 12 years later.

Trouble brewing

Last weekend, we visited the beloved plague rat granddaughter, who was all sniffly and coughing with something she picked up at preschool. She was fine, the problem was clearing up even as we got ready to come home, so it was mainly slimy and snotty for a short while before abating.

Unfortunately, now I’m experiencing some of the same symptoms. I swear, we could all be 100% healthier if we just quarantined all the children together until they grew up and developed strong immune systems. I just gave a lecture, wearing a mask, and could feel the phlegm accumulating and getting the urge to hack it all out onto the floor. I resisted. It’s going to be rough going into the home stretch for fall semester.

Now I get to go home and get the lectures for the rest of the week done, and tomorrow I get to participate in phone interviews for chemistry candidates. I’m going to have to get something to suppress all the coughing building up in here.

She’s made of iron

I played hooky this morning to escort my wife to and from the hospital, where she had a colonoscopy done. Apparently she’s perfect inside as well as outside, and got a clean bill of health. So clean that the doctor said she doesn’t have to come back for ten years.

I guess I’m as ugly on the inside as I am outside, because last time I had this done I was told I should come back every three years. Mary is going to outlast me, that’s for sure.

Skating perilously close to burnout

And the semester hasn’t even begun! I think it’s clear that I’m in a fragile mental state.

Here’s the deal: I’ve been building up some enthusiasm and momentum for my genetics course. The last couple of weeks, I’ve made significant progress, using the experience of the last few years to build it up more flexibly and better able to cope with the awkwardness of teaching during a pandemic, but also looking back long-term on what works and what doesn’t. The last couple of days, in particular, I was rather happily rewriting the first couple of weeks of lecture, tweaking lab exercises, building up a library of problem sets to assign, etc., and looking forward to trying new ideas in the classroom. I was streamlining all the stuff students have had no problem with in the past, and expanding bits where I’ve found conceptual roadblocks before. It was productive work.

And then, I get an email telling me that my syllabus must incorporate PSLOs and CSLOs, and I’m sent a handy-dandy link to guide me step-by-step through adding these statements, if you already know all the PSLO/CSLO jargon. These are statements used by assessors in evaluating what general skills students learn in my course, they’re important for accreditation and assessment, and some of my colleagues worked very hard on them in committees around campus. I understand why they’re important and appreciate all the work other faculty have put into formulating them.

I hate them. It’s bureaucratic noise. I know very specifically what my objectives are in genetics, but now I have to reformulate them in the broadest, most general context to satisfy administrators, in a way that isn’t going to be at all useful to my students, and package them up in boilerplate bloat to tack onto my syllabus, which is just yet more verbiage the students will find irrelevant and won’t read.

OK, though, it’s part of the job. It’s drudgery, but I’ll derail what I was doing and switch to this task today and get it done. I admit I spent a good twenty minutes yesterday tearing at my hair and cussing furiously at my computer screen, but I’m a big boy, I’ll buckle down and get it done.

This morning, I drag myself to the computer and calmly and unproductively stared at the screen for a few hours. I am unable to proceed. I get nothing done. I pulled up the university’s list of these biology PSLO/CSLO thingies and let them suck all the inspiration and enthusiasm out of my brain. I can’t even warm up to actual genetics, and there I even have a little to-do list of specifics to get done before classes start. I have all these back-up plans in case we go into lockdown, for the inevitable result of having to cope with students requiring prolonged absences, for doing labs online (the worst possible thing that could happen), but I was totally unprepared for the university to reach in and crush all the joy out of my heart with these chains of bureaucracy.

That’s partly me, I know. It’s why I say I’m so close to burnout — in a normal year, I’d just roll my eyes and get on with it. I just don’t feel like I can do it right now.

You know, this university has done as little as possible to adapt to the terrible circumstances the faculty find themselves in, I would have thought they could at least stop pestering us about our TPS reports.

I think what I need to do is just say fuck it, and go spend a few hours in the lab doing worthwhile things, like washing glassware and feeding animals and scrubbing spider poop off the floor of containers and setting up a few more bottles of flies, and then maybe go for a winter walk. Maybe by this evening my brain will manage to regenerate some of the enthusiasm that has been recently vaporized. It would probably be for the best if I just ignore all official university email for a while.

Clearly, I must assert my claim to the throne

I stumbled across this old photo on the web, and at first I wondered why a random website would have a photo of my great-grandfather…and what’s with the uniform? He was a dairy farmer!

Then I discovered that it was actually King Haakon VII of Norway.

H.M. King Haakon of Norway’, 1942. From ‘Calling All Nations’, by T. O. Beachcroft. [The British Broadcasting Corporation, Wembley, The Sun Engraving Co., Ltd., London and Watford, 1942]. Artist Unknown. (Photo by Print Collector/Getty Images)

I think the passing resemblance is sufficient cause to claim a link. More evidence: Norway already has a king, King Harald V, and he doesn’t look much like his grandfather. I, too, don’t look much like my great-grandfather, providing further proof. I guess I’ll be nice and not usurp the throne, as he seems to be doing a fine job, but you know, if ever you’re looking for another heir, Norway, I’ll be available.

The environment defines my plans for the day

After my successful foray into the world of walking yesterday, I’m thinking today might be a good day to cower in my office: it’s -18°C out there, the snow is coming down, and we’ve got blizzard conditions. The spiders are warm, my lab still has no running water, and I’ve got to prep the first couple of weeks of lectures for genetics. It’s also snug and warm in my home office, and these fuzzy slippers are kind of cozy, and I’ve got a big cup of coffee. What more could I ask for?

Easing back into the flow

You know, I’ve been crippled up with tendinitis for a while, but I got the pain managed fairly quickly, and have since been in heal and repair mode, avoiding putting stress and strain on my ankle. I have not been happy about this, as you might guess. Today I took the bold step — actually, a whole bunch of steps — bundled up, put on a pair of loose fitting boots, and walked a couple of kilometers in -20°C weather.

I made it! I’m in even worse shape than I was before, so I’m a bit worn out, but I didn’t break anything, no tendons ruptured, I’m feeling no pain. I’m on the road to recovery! I just have to keep walking regularly, and next thing you know…the spring field season! Spiders re-emerge! I’ll be out in the weeds again, finding spiders while the ticks find me. It’ll be fun! As long as I don’t break anything again.