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.

Here’s what I think grades mean; what do you think?

I’m preparing syllabi for the fall term (we don’t start until after Labor Day, happily), and I’m mulling over including the section after the break, “What do grades mean?” This isn’t coming from any specific exigence– not even my less than great course evaluations– so much as it is coming from what I guess I feel like an increasing need on my part to be as transparent as possible to my students about various things.

Most of this text is based on stuff I have sometimes included on syllabi for first year writing, the place where I’ve seen the greatest discrepancy between what does and doesn’t constitute a certain grade. I think a lot of this text is plagiarised borrowed from several other places. And I should point out that I’m not convinced that including this language will make a whole lot of difference in terms of students complaining (or not) about their grades. But it’s a try.

Continue reading “Here’s what I think grades mean; what do you think?”

A Delicious Kale Salad Recipe

Yes, you read that right: I’m posting a recipe for a very delicious/vegan/low-fat kale recipe.  Why? Because I’ve made this a couple of times for different events (including a graduation party we went to last night) and people tend to ask for the recipe. That and I’m waiting for a YouTube movie to upload in the background, a video for a class I’m teaching right now.

So if you only come here for MOOC stuff, comp/rhet stuff, or my witty academic job market banter, move along. If you want to try a kick-ass kale salad recipe, read on.

Continue reading “A Delicious Kale Salad Recipe”

A little gardening update

A break from all the MOOC posting (though I have a brief another one of those in me I might get to yet today) to share a Flickr set and an update on the gardening for 2013. Part of what prompted me to post this  is this article I came across via the book of face, “Reclaiming the front yard with edible estates” from the public radio show The Splendid Table.   Basically, it’s a little story about a gardening/art project for turning front yards into food gardens. There are even plans for one garden that features an earthen bread/pizza oven. Hmm, maybe next year….

Anyway, a couple of quick observations:

First, it all continues to be a huge hit with neighbors. When I’m out there doing stuff, people walking by routinely stop to chat, to say how much they like what we’ve done, etc. A few other people in the neighborhood have even given the front yard veggie garden a go for themselves. So it’s all very very good.

Second, it grows quick.  Here’s a picture of the flower/perennial part from last year:


Things were just getting established. Here’s the same view from almost exactly a year later:


Pretty jungle-like now.

Third, it seems we’ve had a fair amount of “wildlife” this year. I tried to plant some beets and cauliflower as a “second crop” in part of the veggies but I think the rabbits got to it, unfortunately. But we have more pleasant critters too, like big fat bees and this particular butterfly, which I seem to see out there all the time:

Oddly, it could be a little warmer and drier this August, but it looks like we have a lot of tomatoes coming at us in a couple weeks.

Three MOOC readings and the (almost) end of English Composition I

The end of English Composition I from Coursera/Duke is near, and I’ll be sure to write something up about that in the next week or so– probably after the Computers and Writing Conference coming up this weekend. The short version for now is it has been a struggle for me to keep up at the end, both in terms of the way in which the class has been paced/the work has piled up, but also just in terms of basic motivations of the “why am I here in the first place” variety, feelings that surly fuel the dropout rate of these kinds of classes. More on that below when I talk about the Koller et al essay.

But in the meantime and while I get ready to leave town, I thought I’d start a post about three MOOC readings amongst the many that have been piling up around me. As is usually the case, this is mostly useful to me so I can come back later, but some of this might be useful to others too.

But before I even get to that, I am pleased and proud to point to my June 2013 College Composition and Communication piece “MOOC Response about ‘Listening to World Music,'” which is part of a special “symposium” section of the journal. (That link is behind a firewall just for NCTE members, though I might put a version out on this web site sooner than later for everyone to read.) I think it turned out well, though I would have preferred a more interesting title and I’m surprised that this is just two pieces, mine and one by Jeff Rice (his essay is at the same link as mine). What I also think works well is that both Jeff and I are both writing about the “Listening to World Music” MOOC, and I think our commentaries overlap and diverge in interesting ways.

Okay, on to three MOOC readings after the break.

Continue reading “Three MOOC readings and the (almost) end of English Composition I”

Halfway through #edcmooc, whatever it is

A couple of Fridays ago (I originally started writing this post about a week and a half ago), I went to the reading group that my colleague Derek Mueller is sponsoring/hosting right now. It’s been a good bit of outreach with small but enthusiastic groups of grad students and faculty, often faculty from other programs in my department. This last time, we talked about Derrida’s “Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences.”  I can’t pretend to say that I completely grasp what Derrida was talking about in this essay, but in the nutshell, it’s one of the essays in the early Derrida that signals the beginning of poststructualism.  Among many other things, Derrida is talking about the paradox of “the center” being both within the structure and outside of it, the problem of finding language to describe this condition, and that all thinkers are borrowers (“bricoleurs”) in how we put ideas together.  It’s early writing/thinking that speaks in part to deconstruction.

These reading group gatherings have been interesting discussions in part because faculty from other programs often don’t quite get why people in composition and rhetoric would be interested in things like poststructualist theory or object-oriented ontology or what-have-you. Part of what we talked about during this talk was essentially how poststructualism has influenced things like post-process theory, writing as an “assembly” process, etc., etc. But one of the things that occur to me as I think about all this in relation to the E-Learning and Digital Cultures MOOC.  Because it seems to me that part of the problem here is these folks are trying to disrupt educational structure while being within it, we’re at a loss to find language that describes what this is (a “course?” a “meeting?” a chance to interact?), and both of these in turn raises problems and questions about just what it is we’re doing here. Other than clearly composing an elaborate bricolage.

Week 2 built off of the dystopia of week 1 with the them of “looking to the future,” only the future is still looking kind of dystopian to me. As someone pointed out (I think one of the instructors), dystopia makes for much better stories than utopia, and that certainly is true in the videos. For example, both “A Day Made of Glass” and “Productivity Future Vision” might as well be called “cool stuff rich people will get with new technology.” Then there are the other readings, which for me are an example of the problem of the multiple levels of audience/purpose of the course.  On the other end of the complexity spectrum, week 2 included Rebecca Johnston’s “Salvation or destruction: Metaphors of the Internet,” which again plays off of this reductive binary between dystopia and utopia (but does so by a discursive analysis of newspaper editorials),  and the difficult (but interesting) paper by Julian Bleecker, “Why Things Matter: A Manifesto for Networked Objects– Cohabiting with Pigeons, Arphids, and Aibos in the Internet of Things.”

One of the few texts that was specifically about education/pedagogy issues was Gardner Campbell’s “Ecologies of Yearning,” which was the keynote address at Open Ed ’12. I think Alex Reid has a good blog post about this here, so I’ll just point to that. Though I’ll return to Reid’s reading of that talk in a moment.

I guess these selections are okay, but given that this is supposed to be an “introductory” course and one (at least in part) about “E-learning,” I’m again disappointed in what’s here.  As I mentioned, the videos are the kind of thing I might show in a first year writing class because of their simplicity and “red herring”-esque dichotomy.  In other words, this “dystopia v. utopia” thing is an obvious false choice. Interestingly, in the Google Hangout discussion forum with the instructors a couple of weeks ago, one of them said that they were trying to generate exactly that kind of conversation: that is, they knew they were presenting a false dichotomy and wanted to play off of the conversation generated by that false comparison. The problem is that’s an approach that works with 25 (or 50 or maybe even 200) students but not with 40,000.  Along with these too simple encounters, we’ve also got texts (like Bleecker’s and Campbell’s) that are far beyond an introductory level course. Bleecker is giving my MA students a lot of fits, frankly.  I suppose the goal of these various different levels of reading is to encourage different levels of interaction, but to me the effect is just to confuse the focus of the course.

And there is still very little presence from the instructors/professors/organizers.  Clearly, this has been a conscious and careful choice: they are trying to disrupt the teacher-centered, “sage on the stage” model of a lecturing talking head delivering knowledge via a video. Instead, what we have here is a collection of readings, some basic framing guidelines for discussion, a final assignment (more on that will be coming in the next week or so), and a space for the discussion forums, which are of course quite a mixed bag. The instruction team has done a couple of Google Hangout live forums where they talk about things having to do with the previous week, but other than that, they are not really “there” a lot.

Interestingly enough, one of the better discussion threads is in the general discussion area and it’s called “Where are the professors?” (I presume the only way to see that is to actually be in the class, but if you’re curious, there’s nothing wrong with registering for free and then going to have a look). The topic of the role of the professor in a MOOC is being debated and a couple of the instructors– Christine Sinclair and Sian Bayne– are pretty clear in responding that they are attempting to avoid the “guru professor” mode and are purposefully trying to present themselves as being more of a “connective MOOC” rather than the so-called “xMOOC” which is the commercial model of Coursera.

An admirable experiment. But from my point of view, there are at least two problems here.

First, the connective/knowledge generating MOOC strikes me as an awkward fit within the Coursera framework, especially since I am certain most people who signed up for this class were expecting something with a bit more leadership and focus. I know that’s what I was expecting/assuming when I built participating in this MOOC into my graduate course.  If I knew this was just going to be as decentered (and atypical of Coursera MOOCs) as it is, I might have picked a different one for our class to follow.  Second, because of a lack of a “center” here with no professor (or professors) keeping the group on task with some kind of lecture or regular interaction and because of the size of the group, this all seems a lot more like a “learning opportunity” akin to a conference, an emailing list or messaging board, or a call-in radio show. Which is again an example as to why I don’t think teaching scales.

I think this all begs the question: just what is this MOOC, anyway?

Let me quote at length Reid about his reading of Campbell’s talk:

The central double-bind for digital literacy education–whether it is FTF, traditionally online, or open and online–is between the demand to reinvent/be creative and the expectation of meeting traditional standards. Gardner relates a story of one academic who responds to the idea of open online education by saying “it may be learning, but it’s not academics.” If that is true, it’s because academics is tied to certification, and certification is tied to reaching specific, predetermined goals. I don’t think anyone wants to do away with the practice of certification, especially for certain professions. In fact, the badges movement looks to expand the micro-certifications of academics (e.g. the course credit) into extra-institutional learning experiences. My inclination would be that we need to move in the opposite direction, distancing learning from certifying. But I don’t see us doing that, in part because higher education is a research and certifying machine far more that it is a teaching and learning one.

“Listening to World Music” and “Introduction to Genetics and Evolution” and every other Coursera MOOC I had looked at prior to this were designed primarily to fulfill the certification goal. The potential with these certificate/testing-oriented classes is they can provide reliable certification in the sense that students take quantifiable tests that produce predictable and measurable results. The problem with these classes is they don’t seem to be very valid in the sense of being a credible demonstration of knowledge. I am a certified graduate of “Listening to World Music;” so what? Duke University’s “Introduction to Genetics and Evolution” might be good enough for “ACE CREDIT,” but it’s not good enough to be considered valid credit at Duke.

On the other hand, there is something very valid (or at least “authentic-feeling”) about the learning experience possible in a course like E-Learning and Digital Cultures or the various “cMOOCs” that were the open learning/”edupunk”  experiments that predate Coursera et al by several years. I know I have had tremendous learning experiences from similar experiences– conferences, mailing lists, cooking shows, books, and all kinds of other things that are not formally “educational.” Almost everything (beyond the basics) I learned about writing has little to do with a teacher/student relationship and almost everything to do with the experience of writing and being around other writers and readers.  The problem is though there’s no reliable way to measure what someone has or hasn’t learned from these learning opportunities.  As Gardner put it, it might be learning but it isn’t academic.

For me, this is the difference between learning and education.  MOOCs might be great for learning, but not so great for education.

On Frontyard Gardening

It’s been months since I’ve posted anything here that relates to “life,” so in the spirit of taking a day off from school (mostly), I thought I’d write a bit about the story of our front yard garden.

Annette and Will and I live in the Ypsilanti neighborhood of Normal Park, which is mostly older homes (ours was built in the late 1940s) with lots and lots of trees. Like lots of people in this neighborhood, we do a fair amount of gardening. I wouldn’t describe us as passionate or knowledgeable (I always admire people who know the names of all of their plants, especially when they know them in Latin), and I don’t think we’re going to win any prizes or be on a garden tour any time soon.  But we do pretty good, I think.  When it comes to flowers and the like, we tend toward hard to kill perennials, pretty standard annuals, a lot of hostas, and hanging baskets that always dry up and die by early August. Herbs grow like weeds, so almost all of them work. We’re not trying to live off the land or anything, so for the most part, food-wise we like the kinds of vegetables that are always best super-fresh, things like lettuce and especially tomatoes. We stick things in the ground, try to remember to water them, hope for the best.

Square foot gardenA couple years ago, I heard about and then bought a book by Mel Bartholomew and his “square foot gardening” methods.  My first efforts were back in 2009 along the side of our house in a narrow strip of yard that got a surprising amount of sun.  That worked out well (here are a few more pictures of that).

Huge Square Foot Garden (sitting area)So in 2010, I decided to tear up an even larger space for I referred to as “the huge square-foot garden” because it was four 4X8 foot raised beds of mostly perennials and herbs. I had pretty good luck with things in 2010 and 2011, though not as much this year– more on that in a second. But this way in the backyard garden has its limitations because it is largely shaded by the giant trees around there– you can see some of them in the background of the photo to the right.

But in 2011, we had a pretty bad year with the side of the house square foot garden, partly because of weather and partly because my neighbor’s tree really shot up and put this once sunny all day long spot into a lot of shade. We missed the tomatoes.

Anyway, that’s what started this year’s front yard garden.

Front Yard Veggie Box Garden

We started with a box built from three twelve-foot long 2X12s, one cut into four three-foot lengths (I had them cut at Home Depot).  Will and I nailed those things together, laid it on top of some gardening fabric, and filled it mostly with “Mel’s Mix” (1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 compost), though I also added a lot of garden store variety top soil and compost to fill this thing up. The 2X12 box is unnecessarily large and takes a lot of dirt; on the other hand, my smaller boxes are starting to warp a bit, and this thing seems pretty indestructible.

Then I tore up much of the rest of that part of the front yard and ordered several yards/a half-truck full of compost/topsoil.  As the video suggests, there was no going back after this.

It started off looking pretty pathetic back in April:


But we’ve seen pretty steady progress over the summer, and by early September, things were looking pretty good:

The perennials in the front yard, September

We didn’t do this as a political statement about urban farming or our rights as homeowners to plant vegetables in our front yard. We just wanted a sunny spot to grow tomatoes and things. But I remember mentioning these plans to my mother and she thought it might be “tacky,” and there have been some cases (including in a northern Detroit suburb) where it is against code or neighborhood agreements and such.  If you do a search for “front yard gardening,” you’ll come across as many “is this illegal?” web sites as you will pages with tips.

I didn’t think it would be a problem in our neighborhood because there are lots of gardeners around here, but I have to say I’ve been kind of surprised by the enthusiastic and nothing but positive response we’ve heard from people. Whenever Annette or I are out there weeding or picking things, people walking down the street stop and inevitably say something nice about it all. I think it’s fair to say I’ve talked to more of my neighbors in the last five or so months than I did in the previous 10 years.

And we’ve gotten a shitload of tomatoes.

A few tips and/or thoughts for next year:

  • One of the reasons why this has worked out so well is because I bought a cheap timer for the sprinkler, which I ran for 30 minutes a day, especially when it was super-hot and dry around here. The simple success of that was a real eye-opener for me, and I’m planning on doing more of that with some of the other garden spaces around here next year.
  • The tomatoes did great, though I am thinking that next year, I’ll try planting heirlooms and more unusual tomatoes instead of the more “garden variety” (pun intended) varieties. Carrots were a real surprise— we never had this kind of success with them before– so there will be more of those, and since the basil did crappy in the the backyard this year, I’ll try some more fo that up front next summer.
  • I’d like to rehabilitate the side yard garden again, maybe with some combination of perennials and veggies that don’t require quite as much sun. We’ll see.
  • And growing isn’t over yet, I don’t think. I need to figure out how late I can still plant stuff like spinach out there.

Going back to school, MOOC-style: starting “World Music”

Here’s another in what is becoming quite a series of MOOC-oriented posts:  after my first quasi-MOOC experience earlier this spring, I’ve once again enrolled in another massive online open class, Coursera’s “Listening to World Music.”  Let me preface this with two points:

  • When I was an undergraduate a long long time ago, I ended up taking a gen-ed “music appreciation” class in my last semester as an undergraduate because I needed credits– any credits– in order to graduate.  For whatever reason, it was a class that covered the Baroque era (more or less Bach(s) and such) and then it skipped ahead to the late 19th/early 20th century.  It was a ton of fun and I was exposed to a lot of really interesting music that has stuck with me all this time.  So when I saw this “Listening to World Music” class on Coursera’s web site, I thought “sure, let’s give that a whirl.”
  • A blog reader– I think it’s someone who more regularly reads, actually– sent me this link from, “How Duke University Deals With Disruption.”  Here’s the first paragraph:  “Unless I had a top brand, I would hate to run a college today. Colleges and universities are about to meet their disruptive hour. Websites such as Khan Academy and Udacity now offer free courses that blow away 99% of courses available in traditional colleges.”  Oh, please.  I think there’s a lot to like about this Coursera/World Music thing.  But I want in on whatever drug or delusion or group hallucination these business people are on if they really think that MOOCs are “the answer” to higher education woes and who think that they’re substitute for what’s going on in the real world on college campuses.  I bet they can hear colors too.

More after the break.

Continue reading “Going back to school, MOOC-style: starting “World Music””

Obligatory 9/11 anniversary post

In no particular order:

  • I remember that on the morning of 9/11/01, I had mowed the lawn and had some kind of cold or allergies or something.  Then I came in and turned on the TV just by chance and saw what was going on.  My son remembers nothing.  Of course, he would have been 4 at the time.
  • Media-wise, I don’t think I ever watched as much TV as I did then, and that’s saying something since I watch a lot of TV.
  • I think the attacks were both a senseless act of violence against innocent and decent people and the result of long festering and ugly policies the U.S. has had against other people in the world, notably the middle east.  Thus the “why do they hate us” articles and essays that have followed.
  • I heard a commentator on the radio talking about an article he has (or will have?) in The New Yorker in which he argues that the things that have changed since 9/11 are fairly small– getting on a plane, getting through security at some buildings, etc.– and it didn’t do anything to change the sense of decline in America.  The widening of the rich-poor gap that began in the 70s-80s is getting wider; the extreme partisanship that really started to ramp up in the 90s is still with us; etc.
  • I often wonder what would have been different had Gore won.  Maybe nothing, who knows?
  • Will and I went to a Tigers baseball game today and when baseball combines with 9/11 memorializing, what you get is patriotism on steroids.  Many MANY police, fire fighters, military, and other general first responders on the field and much standing and applauding.  And again, I embrace the contradiction of finding it all a bit much and I’m proud of my country.  And I don’t think the political right has a lock on “being a good American,” either.
  • The people who are really getting the short end of the stick here are the first responders who have been dealing with all this all these years.