26 September 2007

Behold a complaint from Piers Plowman:

Gramer, the grounde of al, bigyleth now children
For is none of this newe clerkes, whoso nymeth hede,
That can versifye faire ne formalich enditen,
Ne nought on amonge an hundreth that an auctour can construe,
Ne rede a lettre in any langage but in Latyn or in Englissh. (B Text; XV.372-76)

Grammar, the foundation of everything, now confuses children: for none of these new clerks, if you observe, can versify fairly or formally compose; not one of a hundred can understand an author or read a letter in any language except Latin or English.

This sounds familiar. I wonder where I’ve heard it before?

Feel free to read the whole profile, but this bit on writing struck me, especially since I’ve got (at least) 16 people to teach about writing:

Sometimes the draft is pretty short,” Stevens told me, “but at least I write enough so that I’ve had a chance to think it through.” Stevens said writing a first draft was “terribly important” because “you often don’t understand a case until you’ve tried to write it out.”

20 September 2007

Diamond Peak

On Monday, Erica and I climbed Diamond Peak with Kirstin; her boyfriend, Ryan; my uncles Steve & Mason; and my aunts Linda & Lorraine. Zora had a grand time with Grandma Vivian in Eugene. It was cold & misty, and Kirstin, Ryan, and I accidentally started from the wrong trailhead—so the hike ended up being three miles longer for everyone—but we eventually made it to the summit, only an hour behind schedule. The hike was worth it!

From the summit of Diamond Peak, Oregon

12 September 2007

United’s automated booking agent thinks I don’t know how to pronounce my own name.

11 September 2007


One of my students asked whether the significance of the date influenced the reading that I had assigned for today. The short answer was (and is) “No.” I also made a crack that Rudy Giuliani’s campaign referenced September 11, 2001, more than enough for all of us.

I tend to avoid topical lesson plans, at least ones that are so tied to dates, unless the connection between the day and the class is (at least somewhat) obvious. With writing classes, I have taught “Letter from Birmingham Jail” on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and poetry about World War I on Veteran’s Day. With “Nature in Literature,” connections to September 11 seem strained, at best. (That’s not to say that Frost’s “Brook in the City” or Blake’s “Tyger” can’t be read in that context, though, which is probably how my student’s suspicions arose.)

On the train ride home yesterday I started thinking a little more seriously about the connection between “nature” and September 11. Perhaps the way to teach for the day in this kind of class would be to begin with questions about our sense of place, how we value our environment, and so on. We could look at root causes, such as how Osama bin Laden was largely motivated to attack the United States because of our military presence in Saudi Arabia—what he views as our “occupation” (and by extension, desecration) of holy land.

More obvious, though, would be to talk about the rhetoric still swirling around the misinformation from the EPA, which has led to all kinds of serious health problems for the survivors of the World Trade Center collapse. You can read some about that fiasco—a tragedy within a tragedy, even—on Wikipedia’s page for Christine Todd Whitman.

Is there any literature that relates to these issues in a way that would fit in a “Nature in Literature” class? (I wish I had time to figure out how best to implement comments on this site!)

10 September 2007

4:42 p.m.: Zora just took her first step! Update: Another!

8 September 2007

It’s countdown day (again, but now 9-8-7). Enjoy!

6 September 2007

Oh, technology!

Usually when one complains about technology failures, it has to do with computers or other “advanced” devices that are supposed to make our lives easier (I had an experience like this about a year ago). Today, though, it’s “low” technology whose failure is making me appreciate it when it works.

My bus to school this morning was late, which made me late for the train I take from Geneva. I was late to my Nature in Literature class. (Not because of that train, though—once I get into Chicago, I get to ride the El; both of those trains decided to wait for several minutes and were slower than redacted for “sensitive” readers.) Thanks again to all my students, who were kind/eager/bored enough to wait for me!

The real technology glitch is the lock on the door to my office. My key—any key—for the lock doesn’t work. It worked last week but not any more. After 30 minutes’ work, the people at Loyola were able to open it, and a locksmith should be around sometime soon. You don’t appreciate working locks until they stop working.

4 September 2007

I hope printed materials won’t die anytime soon.

1 September 2007

It’s still too early to tell, but it seems that Zora has taken to calling me the “dude.”

This is the archive for commonplace book entries that I published in September 2007.