The Year That Was 2023

Last year was, in a lot of ways, A LOT. I was originally going to make this just a post about only “life” stuff, but I decided to make some mentions to work stuff/AI stuff too. And it is one of those posts no one other than me is going to probably read, but whatever.

Okay, let’s see:

The AI stuff for me actually began in late 2022 when I was teaching a class where I included an AI assignment and I wrote a blog post called “AI Can Save Writing by Killing ‘The College Essay.'” That post got (what is for me) a lot of hits, over 4,000 since this time last year. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the reason why I keep blogging (at least once in a while) is that when a blog post hits like this, it gets my writing into circulation with an interested audience better than anything I do. Real scholarly publications don’t even come close.  Most of my blog posts remain mostly unread– and most of the scholarly things I’ve published or presented are in the same boat. But every once in a while, one hits like this one.

I didn’t blog at all in January– though I posted a lot of links to stuff I had been reading about AI– and I was busy getting what were three different courses prepped and running. I taught our MA research methods class using Johnny Saldaña’s The Coding Manual for Qualitative Researchers as the main text, in part because at this stage, I was also still trying to figure out how to code and analyze the hundreds of pages of transcripts from faculty interviews about their experiences teaching online during Covid. I think the book was overkill for both my students and my purposes as a researcher, to be honest. I taught a 300-level research writing course that where I decided to use Try This: Research Methods for Writers by Jennifer Clary-Lemon, Derek Mueller, and Kate Pantelidies. It’s an interesting textbook which focuses mostly on primary research (rather than secondary– aka, look stuff up in the library and online). I thought that class was so-so as well, not because of the book (which I would definitely use again, and I hope I get the chance to teach this class again, maybe next year) but because of some of the things I did or didn’t do in the class.

And for my section of first year writing, I did something I haven’t done since I was an MFA student: I actually assigned a book, a real (not a text) book for students to read. I have no objections to the program textbook; I just wanted to try something I haven’t done in a long long time. I had students read Johann Hari’s Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention– and How to Think Deeply Again, and I also assigned parts of my own textbook and a number of essays from Writing Spaces. I wrote a bit about this as a part of this post from last May; basically, students did their research projects about something that Hari talked about in his book. It’s the kind of thing I can get away with after teaching this for most of my life and I don’t need to rely on the textbook, if that makes sense. I did the same thing for my section of first year writing this past fall, and I’m planning on doing it again (times three, and probably for the last time) this coming term. Setting aside the specifics of Hari’s book, I do think there is something to be said for assigning a mainstream non-fiction trade book like this. It sets the theme of the research students will be doing (I never allow students to do research about whatever they want for a ton of different reasons), and it also provides an example of how to use a variety of different kinds of research to make an argument. More on a lot of this later, I’m sure.

Nothing too exciting that I can remember about last January or most of February– just weather, snow and ice respectively. The end of February/beginning of March though was a lot more interesting with our trip to Los Angeles. I think both Annette and I were kind of prepared to not like it much, but I got to say we had a really good time. Yeah, it’s a lot of driving around and WAY too expensive, but I get why people want to live out there. Highlights included the TMZ tour, watching a taping of Jeopardy!, and a couple nights at The Comedy Store (it wasn’t part of the plan, but we stayed at a hotel across the street– lots of fun). Not so much a highlight was an extra day and a half trapped at a hotel by LAX because of bad weather in Detroit.

We had a fun birthday/birthmonth for me dinner at Freya in Detroit in late March, the semester wrapped up, and I had the chance to talk to folks at Hope College about AI stuff in late April. As I blogged about then, that’s a prime example as to why I still blog: someone at Hope read that blog post I wrote back in December 2023, liked it, and invited me to do a talk, which was pretty cool. They would have done it over Zoom, but I actually wanted to make a little trip out of it; Annette came along and we did a little Holland tourism including taking a picture of a windmill.

May brought a good crop of asparagus, and June was the beginning of a fair amount of travel for both of us. We went “up north,” as they say, at a rental on Big Glen Lake. Did some hiking around, ate some fancy food, and saw a good friend rocking out– a pretty typical stay for us up there.  We came home after a week, and a few days later, Annette went out to a conference in Seattle. A couple days after she got back I went to the Computers and Writing Conference at UC Davis– a good conference, I thought. And then, about a week after that, Annette and I went on a Gate 1 tour that went from Dubrovnik, Montenegro, Split, Piltvice Lakes National Park, a bit of Opatija, the Postojna Caves, the super pretty tourist town Bled (which featured some silly dancing on the second night), the capitol of Slovenia, Ljubljana, a brief but nice stop in Trieste, and then Venice: one day with Gate 1 and two more on our own. It was a great trip–though super-busy, and super hot: quite literally, our trip through southern Europe corresponded with the hottest weather ever recorded on Earth– at least up until that point.

Oh yeah, we came home with Covid, too! I am positive we caught it while actually on the tour bus. There was a couple we chatted with a couple times and such who were both feeling like shit– a bad cold, maybe a flu, they thought– but I know I was sick before I got on the plane for back home. I think Annette was too, but it hit her a little later. We were (and are again! just got a booster back in October or so) all vaxxed up, so I like to think that helped it all be not that big of a deal. Actually, I know many MANY more people who had Covid this last year than I did during the worst of the pandemic.

More summer came, we had visits from both my parents and Annette’s, I made a somewhat impromptu road trip to Iowa in late August to get together with “the originals”– that is, just my parents and sisters without all the spouses and kids, and then the school year started up. As I blogged about in September, this is the first time I can remember since entering my PhD program that I did not have some kind of “scholarly project” cooking up in one stage or another. I’m not really working on anything right now (though I did have a couple of different things come out last year, in addition to my talk at CWCON). The break has been good, though I have a feeling I’m going start doing at least a bit more research/scholarship about teaching with AI this coming year.

I got a chance to give another AI and teaching talk (or lead a discussion/workshop, depending on what you want to call it), this time via Zoom and as part of a faculty development event at Washtenaw Community College. I blogged about that too, and my sense from this event was that most faculty have figured out how to deal with AI. Funny what a difference a year makes with this.

Also for the first time ever, EMU had a “Fall Break” in October. A lot of universities have started doing this actually, I think as a result of a lot more attention on college campuses post-covid in helping students with a little “self-care.” So we went to New York, met up with Will, hung around with our old friend Annette Saddik, saw Sweeney Todd, met up with Troy and Lisa, and generally spent way too much money on fun things.

Oh yeah, in October, we put down money on a new house– a brand-new house that’s being built right now in a subdivision in Pittsfield Township sort of between where we are now and Saline. On the one hand, this might look like a surprising turn of events. We had talked about moving before and also about moving into a condo or something for a while.  But a couple years ago, I would have never guessed we would be building a new house that pretty much looks like all the other new houses in new a suburban development (it was a cornfield two years ago) kind of on the outskirts of things. On the other hand, once we started really thinking about it, this started making sense. We like our house and neighborhood A LOT, but there’s a number of things (mostly minor) that need to be fixed or upgraded around here, and there are other things we want (like a bigger kitchen and a more “open concept” living room/dining room area) that we can’t do here. And say what you want about a cookie-cutter house, this place has the layout and the newness we want. Plus the way the housing market is around here nowadays, there just isn’t much on the market. So new house it is. Stay tuned on that one.

Anyway, one of the things we’re really going to miss around here when we move, for sure, including Halloween— not expecting any trick or treaters in the new sub.  Once again, my side of the family did a combined Thanksgiving/Christmas thing (which did include some cookie decorating), and of course a lot of family fun stuff. The semester wrapped, the school year ended, and (more or less), here we are.

Like I said a lot.

One thought on “The Year That Was 2023”

  1. I’ve been following you for a while, and I’m pretty much in your ball park when it comes to using AI in teaching writing: it’s not scary. Follow your travel adventures on FB.
    Killroy was here :-)

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