Saturday, May 16, 2009

Dinner Club

We are next up in the Dinner Club rotation. In just over three hours, we will welcome three families, ten guests total into our home for an evening of food and drink. Among them: teachers, environmental engineers, foodies, artists, and their tots. For most of the day, I have been preparing for this event. I am tired, sweating, allergic, etc. And I have been thinking about the rules of Dinner Club, which I will post intermittently throughout the rest of the afternoon and evening (in stolen moments), time permitting.

Rule 1. Sunshine.

Rule 2. Especially when you feel an argument brewing, do not mistake Dinner Club for Fight Club.

Rule 3. If the guests are pizzatarians, honor their special dietary needs as best you can.

Rule 4. No moving of furniture inside of 90 minutes to scheduled arrival.

Rule 5. No unplanned painting projects. Note: This is not only a Dinner Club rule, but a rule for any time guests are on their way.

Rule 6. Wolaver's before, during, and after.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Under Cover of Maymesster

Starting Monday I will be teaching a blended WRT307 course for Syracuse. Blended, in this case, means that the course meets in person, on campus for the second week of Maymester for two hours each evening, Monday through Friday, before shifting to twelve weeks of online interchange and coordination via Blackboard. The course is full. Twenty students are enrolled. Count up the weeks and you get thirteen total (forgive me for flexing those underutilized math skills, but this number is alarmingly relevant, as you will see in a moment).

Syracuse offers this course in other formats: a six-week Summer I course that meets on campus, a six-week Summer 2 course that meets on campus, and a 12-week summer course that meets online. Sections following the six-week on-campus format remain open. They have seats available, that is.

I wondered, "Why on earth would students so clearly prefer the thirteen-week version, which includes a Friday evening session at the end of next week, when these other options are available to them?" I floated this question in the WP offices and heard about how great a preference many students have for actually meeting a person. Might be exactly right. This falls into what I think of as the "metaphysics of presence"-based critique of classes that meet exclusively online: they're too virtual, too dependent upon writing and only writing, too far removed from the material commonplaces of fluorescently lit bodies slumped over in badly designed deskchairs, classroom style. [I can't make up my mind about which emoticon to insert here.]

I accept that some students might be drawn to an online section where they get to meet the instructor for a few face-to-face sessions. When I logged onto MySlice this week to check the class roster, I found another reason that could explain the attraction to this section, a section with a bonus week over and above its 12-week online-only counterpart (other than the "metaphysics of presence" shtick or the named instructor):

The class is listed as meeting only during Maymester. For half of Maymester, actually: one week, instead of two. Ten hours total. I won't be able to confirm this suspicion until next week, but that crucial qualification, Maymester Blended or Maymester +12, does not show up in the online enrollment system. That's...*gulp*. Worrisome, anyway.

So I went ahead and emailed everyone enrolled to explain that most of the heavy lifting will get done in the 12-week online postlude to Maymester. A few days since the email, the class is full. I welcome the full class (capped at twenty, it's a reasonably-sized group), but I can't help but brace just a little bit for Monday evening, for that moment when we take an earnest, collective look at the schedule, when I'll have no choice but to explain the missing asterisk next to Maymester in the registration system.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Here are a few photos from Sunday's commencement at SU.

SU Graduation 2009 - Ceremony

SU Graduation 2009 - Jumbotron Biden

As I mentioned last time, Joe Biden was the speaker. He started with Sinatra's line that "Orange is the happiest color," and suggested that Sinatra must have had SU in mind when he said it. Biden told about his graduation from SU in 1968, contextualizing events occurring around the time of his commencement and gradually establishing a bridge between 1968 and the present moment. Graduating during times of great uncertainty uniquely positions you to shape the world at whatever scale you will (i.e., oftentimes this shaping grows from small, principled deeds, from being one who "was not made to look the other way"). He also expressed his strong sense of loyalty to Syracuse University because Syracuse ties have helped him through some of the greatest challenges he has faced. Interjected within these two aspects of his address were references to his father's advice: when you get knocked down, "get up."

This summary is the best I could do without notes. And I dedicate it to Sleepy Pete, who appears in the photo above not to be paying attention to the VP.

SU Graduation 2009 - Greeted by Nancy Cantor

Other than those awarded honorary degrees, doctoral candidates were the only group introduced by name and called across the stage. D. snapped this photo of the best the jumbotron could to do capture Chancellor Nancy Cantor and me in the same frame.

SU Graduation 2009 - At HBC with Faculty

After the ceremony, I was fortunate to catch up with professors Lois Agnew and Eileen Schell who waited with D. and Ph. outside HBC for this photo--"fortunate" because temperatures dropped sharply into the 40s during the ceremony, so milling around outdoors wasn't as appealing as it might have been on a warmer May afternoon.

This Flickr slideshow has a few more photos from the weekend's events.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mater's Day Weekend

No telling whether you'll be able to see me walking across the platform during tomorrow's graduation ceremony in the Carrier Dome, but I'll be there, walking, in any case (with the qualification "diss. defense imminent"). The web site mentions streaming video, which ought to start around 10 a.m., just about the time the event gets going. Vice President Joe Biden, an SU alumnus, is giving the commencement address. I'm looking forward to it, even if it means additional security screening and an earlier start to the morning.

Also here's a photo from last night's hooding ceremony in Goldstein Auditorium.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A Condition

A letter came home from Ph.'s school beginning, "Dear Nottingham Seniors and Families." In it, a list of reminders, three bulleted items, and the third one is this:

Please beware of "senioritis". Senioritis is a condition that happens to good kids in the spring semester of their senior year. It is contagious and the symptoms are not sometimes obvious at first. Students with senioritis are not focused, demonstrate a sudden lack of interest, and they find it difficult to complete and follow through regarding simple tasks. Senioritis will pass but the consequences may be devastating, i.e. not graduating, not being accepted in your school of choice, etc.

Were I not myself "find[ing] it difficult to complete and follow through regarding simple tasks," the next part of this blog entry was going to be a snarky blow-by-blow analysis noting how the senioritis bullet appears next to clip art of a stethoscope and doctor's bag. It was going to have a witty joke about how nobody is using doctor's bags or medical instruments these days to diagnose the affliction and also something about what a damnable shame it is that the most devastating consequences from this "sudden lack of interest" are centered on the student and only the student insofar as it may keep you from your school of choice, or worse, from graduating altogether.

Anyway, beware of this and other stuff and such.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Older, Wiser

An impressively long and heartening string of birthday wishes poured in today over on Facebook. Add to that a couple of phone calls, a couple of cards, lunch with friends, and an improvised cake+ice cream social with Is.'s neighborhood pals, and, well, turning thirty-five hasn't gone too badly. In fact, it has all in all been pleasant.