Wolraich: Obama at the Gates of... Gates
Dr. C: In Praise of Writing Binges
Maiello: Gatsby Doesn't Grate
When I got my first job, I also got a book of advice for new professors. It gave me some sensible-sounding advice about writing. Avoid binge writing, it said. Write at regularly scheduled hours and keep each session brief. Too many graduate students are used to writing in crazy binges, the authors said, rather than developing steady writing habits. Faculty had to learn to write all the time, and also had to learn to STOP writing even if things were going well. And I tried to take that advice seriously. I have always believed in good writing habits and deplored the way graduate school undermines those habits. I drank the no-binge Kool-Aid with a smile, in an appropriately moderate serving. But that advice is fundamentally wrong. [Read more]
This afternoon, Reuters published an Op-Ed from me about the online investigations into the Boston bomb attack. I am very concerned about the "if you see something, say something culture," and how it has mixed with technology to create something of a society full of amateur detectives and complainers.
Civil libertarians are most concerned about government surveilance power and that, of course, bothers me too. But in a practical sense, a nosy neighbor is probably more of an imposition on my life than the government will ever choose to be. These days, your nosy neighbor could be a stranger living thousands of miles away. [Read more]
Just to let you know I haven't fallen off the face of the earth. We've been living out of suitcases for almost two weeks now as we worked our way north from our winter digs. We're in the U.P finally, on the last leg home. Should get there today and I'm hearing bad news about a snow mound that still needs digging out before we can get to our door. Should be interesting.
Our nephew plowed out our driveway but put his back out before he could shovel the walk. Don't know what we're going to do with him but rest assured he'll be punished for this.
Six years ago today, in the early morning hours of April 5, I hit a patch of highway ice while driving to the airport in an unexpected snowstorm and spun out sideways. My car was totaled, with all of the damage to the driver's side door. I survived unscathed. I did not get whiplash. I did not miss my plane.
My car turned around 180 degrees so that I was looking back at an 18-wheel truck coming toward me out of the snow while I was sliding sideways into its lane. There was nothing I could do in that long moment but watch the headlights coming toward me. Either I would slide in front of those headlights, and that would be the end, or I would slide just slowly enough to miss the truck.
I've been debating about writing about Wal-Mart for a while now for one very good reason: If I write as a knowledgeable shopper, people will know I shop at Wal-Mart. Chicken of me, I know, but some of my best friends, relatives and acquaintances refuse to shop at Wal-Mart, and they don't like to be reminded that I'm not one of them.
On Thursday, the American Association of University Professors, a national faculty union, released its report on last summer's debacle at the University of Virginia, where, if you recall, the Board of Visitors fired the UVa's President, Teresa A. Sullivan, only two years into Sullivan's term, without even holding a meeting about the firing first. [Read more]
A judge has overruled Mayor Bloomberg's soda ban, calling it "arbitrary and capricious." So New York City's ban on large sugary beverages, meaning more than 16 oz. servings, is basically dead. This is a big win for Big Gulp Libertarianism, which derided the government soda ban as Nanny State tyranny, taking away individual's freedom to make their own rational choices. But you know what else is arbitrary, capricious, and erodes individual freedom of choice? Marketing. Every food package you will ever encounter was designed to limit the exercise of your free will. Selling someone else a 64-ounce cola may be a rational individual decision. [Read more]
On clear mornings here at the beach I’m out on the balcony waiting, like every other early riser, for the sun to poke up out of the ocean. This morning I woke earlier than usual, while it was still dark except for a thin strand of pink beginning to stretch across the horizon. I made a quick trip outside, shivering in my summer nightgown, dancing around in my bare feet, leaning over our fourth floor balcony rail to check out where the waves were hitting the beach. [Read more]
Okay, Rand Paul is basically unloved around here.
But I like that he's using the talking filibuster to make his point about Obama's drone policies. That, rather than procedural games, requires some physical, mental and emotional sacrifice. It i in keeping with the spirit of passionate argument and debate, rather than parliamentary trickery.
Also, his demand: that Obama clarify whether or not a weaponized drone can be used against an American and for what purpose, sounds totally reasonable to me. [Read more]
As a citizen of the United States of America and employer of Barack Obama, I must protest that I have not yet once been invited to the White House, not even for a beer in the Rose Garden even though I a) like beer and b) am not allergic to roses.
Clearly, President Obama is afraid that I might ask a tough or unpredictable question or simply level him with some sort of criticism that will leave him wondering, "do I really even want to finish this second term?"
In fact, it seem that I am not the only American with this problem. Oh, sure, the President will stop to make fun of Donald Trump for a second, but he largely hasn't even addressed most of us directly. [Read more]
My high school physics teacher was a fraud. He claimed to have two PhDs, but had no graduate degree of any kind and as I understand it didn't even have a BA in physics. He left in a sudden flurry a couple of months before the end of my senior year.
Just two weeks from today, on the 21th of January, 2013, Barack Obama will be inaugurated for the second time as president of these United States.
Obama, as you may remember, is our first half-black president and the man so loathed by his political archenemies, for four full years jillions of dollars destined for desperately needed domestic growth have been held hostage while those jackals were busy working at destroying his presidency. All so that he would never, ever get a second chance at under-privatizing America.
Qutub Minar, Delhi
Lots of travel pieces claim that places are "studies in contradiction." In fact, I'm certain I've even used the line somewhere along the way. That embarrasses me now because when I read it in a magazine, I'm sure what will follow will be lazy and not very interesting. Of course places are full of contradiction. Places are filled with people and people are happy, sad, hypocritical, violent, peaceful, beautiful, hateful, funny, dumb, brilliant, and, most of all, complicated. Duh.  [Read more]
Wishing you all a merry Christmas season, and all the joys it brings. Happy holidays and peace to all, including those who wanted a war so badly they made one up.
Will it spoil everything if I pass along this gentle reminder? Christmas is a time of joy and good will for everyone; all ages, all regions, all religions. Those scrooges who want to pretend there's a war going on over it, have, sadly, forgotten what it was like to be a child.
It's Saturday, the day after what will forever be known as the Sandy Hook School murders. Yesterday Adam Lanza, a 20-year-old man, broke into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and shot to death six adults and 20 small children.
We're all in shock and looking for answers. We're crying, grieving, mourning, and we want answers. We want gun control that actually controls guns. We want people not to blame the guns but the shooter. We want to know the names of the victims, and, as I write this, all news stations are on alert, awaiting a press conference where those names will finally be announced.
I stopped blogging for a while around Thanksgiving, partly because I was driving instead (I managed to log about 2500 highway miles in a week and a half), and partly because I needed to unplug both from national politics and from the unrelenting dailiness of office politics. (I go to more meetings at work than I used to, and answer a lot more e-mails.) The advent of winter holidays has always been a good time for me to step away from the noisy bustle and think more about what is durable. It's stepping out of the car after miles and miles of highway and looking up at the cold clear stars over New Hampshire.
I had a bout with bronchial pneumonia this week, which left me breathless enough to now be able to cross "ambulance ride" off of my bucket list. I spent two days in the hospital and, while I feel almost human again, a strange thing has happened. When I sit down to write, I'm finding that the last thing I want to write about is the current political situation.
At the easternmost edge of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, where I live, the land is low. In the deep south it would be called the low country. Here it's called the cedar swamp. Where there isn't swamp there is rock, where thin sheaths of earth allow only the shallow-rooted trees to thrive--the quaking aspen, white birch and the Michigan cottonwood known as Balm-of-Gilead. The weed trees.
Last week the annual job list for college literature professors went live, in an annual ritual I've blogged about before. And it looks like the worst list for Shakespeareans in history.
Two years ago, I used this space to explain how the 2008 crash had killed the already far-too-small job market for new PhDs, and how poor the rebound was two years later: [Read more]
So yes, it has happened: I am 75 years old today. Don't worry, I feel fine. I'm still the same person, but one now saddled with the realization that I have lived three quarters of a century. My God. How does a thing like that happen?
I'm planning a big day in which I'll be pondering some burning questions: How the hell could three quarters of a century have sailed by so fast? If I had been paying attention, could I have done something to slow it down? And any chance I'm only half way to the end?