It's a Cool, Cool Summer....

Odin's first monthly article, complete with news from his life and thoughts on structures of normalized power!

It's a Cool, Cool Summer....

Happy Jun…wait. Where did that month go?

Well, clearly I’m a little late on my switch to my monthly newsletter. There’s something so nice about the regularity of the weekly letter that switching over to a monthly format doesn’t quite have. Still, I have things to share!

Four drawn women and a child eating fruit at the beach, pen drawing in vintage style. Vintage Ad #1,133: On the Beach, Summer 1925
"Vintage Ad #1,133: On the Beach, Summer 1925" by jbcurio is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

It’s been a chilly summer for California so-far, with weather largely exactly how I like it: cold and gray. Still, it’s strange weather, and a subtle reminder that the global weather patterns are shifting at an unprecedented pace. And yet, life must go on. Climate change isn’t the only change that’s been taking place around me: I’ve also been settling into two new jobs, as well as a research class over the summer, and an alumni workshop with folks from my old MFA program.

A comic strip from the 1930s
From the 1938 comic strip “Crazy Kat”

Thoughts on the nature of work

Work is a funny thing. I’ve been reflecting on the nature of work a lot lately, and this line of thinking has been leading me to some interesting areas.

I think it’s important to realize how mired in really unhealthy ideas about work we all are.

Fobazi Ettarh is a librarian and academic who coined a powerful term to describe a very specific set of circumstances and behavior that she saw taking place in libraries. This terms is “vocational awe.

Vocational awe describes the set of ideas, values, and assumptions librarians have about themselves and the profession that result in notions that libraries as institutions are inherently good, sacred notions, and therefore beyond critique. I argue that the concept of vocational awe directly correlates to problems within librarianship like burnout and low salary. This article aims to describe the phenomenon and its effects on library philosophies and practices so that they may be recognized and deconstructed.

This term is clearly applicable to other areas beyond the library system, and we should be placing intense scrutiny on how school teachers and similar public roles function as well, using the same lens.

I am reminded of Michael Foucault’s work on power dynamics in the world. He described how power, real power, is not the the coercive force we might think of at first. Power, he contended, was the holistic fabric on which the pattern of our social behavior is written. The revolutionary and the State are not opposed entities, but aspects of a single force.

Ultimately, Foucault believed, the most pervasive form of power is that which is normalized. Normalized power is so pervasive, so unquestionable, that it is accepted as the default mode of existence by the vast majority of people.

Ursula K. Le Guin made this same point in a 2014 speech:

We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings.

But, she went on to stress:

Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art, the art of words.

The first step toward changing a system of perfidious, normalized power, is to become aware of the function of that power, and the interplay of that power with all the aspects of life it touches. That’s why art is such a powerful means of counteracting it.

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So, given all my heady thinking about work… what about my two new jobs?

Getting settled in to my role as editor-in-chief for the Student Research Journal at SJSU proved to be a lot of work, but it’s been an incredibly rewarding process already (and we haven’t even started reviewing new articles yet!).

There was a lot of cleaning up to do on the back end, including a full audit and reorganization of the Google Drive, the Canvas Course, the website, and the journal as a whole. Yikes!

It’s interesting to find myself as the only paid employee in a bushel of volunteers. I’m used to fully volunteer positions, which come with a different sort of vibe. I’m also not used to a journal where the recruitment pool is so limited (only members of the iSchool can be admitted as editors). That presents some key barriers, though not insurmountable ones.

Overall, what I like most is the feeling of doing something that has some longevity to it. Nothing is more demoralizing than a job you’re only being paid to perform. In the journal’s case, I’m doing work that will benefit several communities, and will filter through all the subsequent editorial teams that come after me. That’s a really good feeling.

Likewise, my team cares about what we’re doing, and the mentorship from our faculty advisor is both encouraging and uplifting. It’s my show to run, from top to bottom, and that level of responsibility is part of what makes it so exciting—but it’s nice to have a support mechanism built in to tackle the big-picture problems.

My other job has been an interesting one as well - working for a public library is an exciting, sometimes daunting, deeply rewarding, and ultimately unique experience. Part of that uniqueness is my inability to actually talk too freely about the job itself. I’m someone who values deep transparency, so it’s odd to be maintaining such a strict work/life divide. Still, there is incredible value in the experience, and I’m lucky to be working with a top-notch team under one of the best managers in the system.

A cartoon style frog with angel wings is centered on an orange and pink background the text says 

I hope this email does not find you at all. I hope you have managed to escape. I hope you are free. 

Credit on the image is: KatieAbey it has an @ before it so I don't know what platform though.
Found here:


In May, I was chugging along at a steady clip with my novel despite all that back pain I was in. But, finals for the first semester of my MLIS combined with getting two new jobs put the kibosh on that momentum pretty soundly. I’ve been able to polish some earlier sections a little, and right now, I’m working on improving the secondary plots. It’s slow going, with just a few hours a week applied to it, but at least there’s still movement.

I recommend that anyone who is stuck with their writing seek out the work and support of their peers. Seeing what others are doing can be a huge motivator, and I frequently find myself more excited to work on my own writing after I’ve chatted with friends about the craft.

Following my own advice, I’ve signed up for an alumni workshop with some people from my old MFA program. It adds a fair amount of work to the middle of the month, but it also means that I’m more immersed in writing than I’ve been for a while. I’ll be able to read and critique some manuscripts, as well as get eyes on a couple chapters of my novel’s rough draft for the very first time.

I also signed up for the Surrey International Writing Conference in October, which has become my favorite conference over the last few years.

Last year, I went in person to Canada for the SiWC, following two years of volunteering to help run their tech team for the online version of the conference. This year, they asked me if I could volunteer to run the whole tech team, and I was honored by the invitation - but, with my crazy schedule between the MLIS and work, I had to decline. Instead, I’ll be attending virtually this year.

Actually, several members of Round Table Writers will be attending the virtual conference as well this year, so I’m even more excited for the experience!


Katie and I have been able to take some lovely little trips the last month, including an absolutely fabulous Japanese restaurant in Northern California, and the gorgeous cliffs of the CA coastline.

A photo of several square plates and small rounded platters on which a multitude of multicolored Japanese appetizers has been served.
So much YUM

I’ve still been struggling with various health issues. I feel very deeply the meditation I began last year of “meditating on mortality,” which, let’s be frank, is an odd mediation to live with.

At the same time, my health has improved from what it was a couple of months ago, and I’ve started walking again regularly, and have added slight workouts back into my routine. It’s all easier somehow, now that the excruciating nerve pain in my leg has largely relented. Go figure.

Focusing on the surprises of life is a nice perspective shift that I recommend. You can’t control life, but you can learn to react to life in a different way.

One such way is by allowing for the chance that life might surprise you. You don’t have to make a big deal out of it: just remember that it can happen. Then, you might start noticing that surprises happen a lot. Frequently. Every day. Maybe not always in the way that you want, but that’s sort of the point: it’s the fact that they’re surprising that matters.

If we get too caught up in thinking that we know how life should be, we end up missing out on the way things actually are.

 Its strange that tenants have to provide landlords with references from places they've previously rented but landlords don't have to provide references from previous tenants. Almost as if there's a power imbalance due to the inherent nature of class society.
Found this here:


An arranged pile of books on a dark wood background, next to a clear glass teapot. It feels busy yet homey. The books are: Star Wars Dark Force Rising, a collection of Phillip K Dick novels, The Saga of the Volsungs, Built to Move, and Consciousness. by Annaka Harris.
Part of my current reading list.

Most of my non-school reading has been taken up with Timothy Zhan’s superb Thrawn trilogy, a series I had never managed to read before. In my childhood, I read some Dark Horse Star Wars comics and played Knight of the Old Republic, but I didn’t get into the Expanded Universe. I

’ve tried reading some of the modern tie-in novels, but they’re all pretty terrible (either failing on their own merits or simply unable to overcome the huge pile of narrative sludge that is the modern Disney-fied Star Wars experience).

Zhan has some modern tie-in books, I know, but it’s his original series — written just after the last of the original films — that has me turning pages so fast that the friction sets off the smoke alarm.

Otherwise, Annaka Harris’s Consciousness is a nice quick read, with some fun insights into the way our minds work, and the way we’re capable (and not capable) of impressing our will upon the world. I like her tone more than her more famous husband’s.

My father-in-law sent me a collection of Phillip K. Dick novels, and I’ve been having a great time with that. Dick is such a seminal American author, and his work is eerie, prescient, and crisp.

Built to Move is a great book dedicated to exploring how to be healthy. Mostly by doing what our bodies are designed to do naturally (it’s actually not sitting at a right-angle, playing games on your phone, or constantly binge-eating — who knew!).

And Saga of the Volsungs is a work that I’ve been slowly returning to whenever I have time.

Not pictured here are the two audiobooks I’m listening to. Those are Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and The Dawn of Everything.

Dawn of Everything is my all-time favorite new book of sweeping history. If you’re familiar with the concept of “meta-studies" in research papers, you’ll know what I mean when I say that this book is a meta-study of the whole field of history studies. It takes a stab at everything we think we know about history and patiently explains why most of it is hokum. It also prominently features underpinning thought from native intellectuals of the past several hundred years, a rarity in this sort of work.

Well, I think that’s enough of an update and ramble from my neck of the woods. How about you and yours?

Go easy out here. And, if you can’t go easy, then go as easy as you can.


Hi there! I’m Odin Halvorson, an independent scholar, film fanatic, fiction author, and tech enthusiast. If you like my work and want to support me, please consider becoming a monthly subscriber on my Ko-fi page.

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