Tagged: Unabomber

While I was in grad school I built a cabin. Or, to be more accurate, I built a shack in the architectural style of the Unabomber. The Long-Earred Hummingraven Rod and Social Club, as I’ve dubbed it, is in the mountains of Northern New Mexico, and without electricity, plumbing, or heat. The cabin is at 8,500 feet of elevation (cold!), and gets about 200 inches of snow annually (though never that much accumulated on the ground at one time, so far as I know). The weight of accumulated snow really taxes roofs, and I worry that my own cabin’s roof is under-engineered (even with an approximately 4:12 slope, which is steep). So, I constantly worry about returning to my cabin in the summer to find that it collapses under a snow load during the winter.

I use NOAA’s Interactive Snow Information site to monitor the snow depth and water depth equivalent of snow at the cabin. NOAA uses observed data to interpolate computer predictions of ground conditions around the country (public funds well spent). It’s a great site. But all it allows me to do is worry. I can’t take any action short of driving out to New Mexico if I see worrisome accumulations.

After dismissing many electric (unavailable) and mechanical (too Wylie Coyote) solutions to my snow accumulation problem, and after reading a great paper (pdf) on Ice Engineering by the US Army Corps of Engineers (more government dollars well spent, seriously), I’ve decided that the best insurance is to apply an icephobic, ultra-modern coating that should help my metal roof to slough off frozen accumulations more easily than otherwise, primarily by reducing the ice’s ability to body to the roof and effectively reducing the snow’s angle of repose on the roof. The long and short–these coatings make the snow slide off of the roof easier and thus reduce the weight the roof has to bear.

I have decided that Wearlon Super F-1 is the best coating to go with to prevent hazardous snow accumulations. It’s expensive stuff (approximately $190/gallon), but appears to work. I’ll put it on this summer, unless my roof caves in before then, and report back about effectiveness (both actual and psychological).

 Shoveling my roof during early stages of construction

I haven’t posted as much as I had hoped lately.  Something about finishing my dissertation and utterly complete energy drain.  It’s done.  Since defending I’ve attended two weddings and traveled to my refuge (picture below).  I’ve now re-emerged to hastily pull together two papers for the biennial Rhetoric Society of America Conference, which will take place in Minneapolis this year.

My re-emergence from the cabin and my paper title, “Style: An Anti-Curriculum Based Upon Richard Lanham’s Anti-Textbook,” bring to mind Catherine Prendergast‘s recent and enviably smart article on Style, Strunk and White, and the Unabomber, titled “Fighting Style: Reading the Unabomber’s Strunk and White.”  My second paper, also in a state of incompletion as I write this, is titled “Realism, Plain Style, and Arguments from Authority in the US Intelligence Community” and draws more directly on my dissertation work.

Clearly this site is still in a stage of some as-yet-determined development.  I’ve been trying to figure out how to document the experience of transitioning from the life of a graduate student at a huge R-1 institution (UT Austin) to a rookie faculty member at a regional university (WCU).  I figured that one important thing for a new faculty member to do would be to read some of the work of my new colleagues.  One, Ron Rash, is a novelist, and novels seemed like a nice place to start.  In one of Ron’s novels, The World Made Straight, a character reads a Civil War era doctor’s log.  A typical entry from the log, which I excerpt from the third page of Ron’s book, reads:

Lansford Hawkins, age 48.

Complaint: Fevered, headache.

Diagnosis: Corizia. Consulted Wood’s Theory and Practice of Medicine.

Treatment: Dover’s Powder. At patient’s insistence cupped sixteen ounces of blood from left arm to remove morfibic matter.  Rest in bed two days.

Fee: Fifty cents, paid in cash.

After reading the fictional doc’s entry, I thought maybe such spartan entries might occasionally be useful on this blog.  One of the difficulties of this transition will be balancing all the new roles — teacher, researcher, community member, citizen of new home, aficionado of the hops, etc, etc.  So, I’ll make some posts along those lines, bare-bones tabulations of how I’m spending my time, and hopefully getting done everything that needs to get done.

24 May 2010

Tasks: Unpack from New Mexican misanthropic jaunt (not completed); write RSA paper (not completed); pack personal possessions for transport to North Carolina (not completed); ride bike (not even attempted).

Personal Reward: Two beers and a movie.

And that, folks, is how not to get things done.  See folks in Minneapolis, at which point my papers will definitely be complete.

Also, anyone reading this should check out my colleague Dale Smith‘s blog, Rhetoric and Publics.  Add it to your RSS reader.  Dale is good people, doing very cool work, and I look forward to his posts.

Nate's cabin