I Think I Can . . . I think I can . . . I think

Starbucks TS

Good morning,

So I had about four paragraphs written and I did something on my new tablet and lost the entire post. Even though it told me it had saved a draft, no such thing was true. Dammit!! I actually began this post last night when I was doing student conferences. I got all of a sentence or two written and then decided to call it a night and actually head home around 9:00 p.m., which was the earliest I have left campus this week. So I continued to write this morning and “poof” it all disappeared. I have done this a couple times with this new tablet and the touch pad mouse. I need to figure some things out. It is not only frustrating, it is not efficient. I am in Starbucks; the picture here is of me in a Starbucks in NYC.

In my last post, I noted that I am hanging on . . . at this point, I think that has changed. I think I am in free-fall (It just did it again and lost a couple more paragraphs!!). I am not sure where the fall will end or how far I will drop. I was speaking with a colleague the other day and lamented some of this. I pondered whether or not it was I was just giving too much work, expecting too much, or merely doing too much. The response was a simple “perhaps”. I have thought about that as I seem to be moving backwards rather than forward. I understand part of it is merely being in an English Department. There is no quick way to grade writing. In addition, with the difficulties I see in student writing, I am inclined to do conferences. While it takes time, the result of those conferences for the students makes those conferences invaluable. I also believe they are necessary because of the deficiencies that are so apparent in many students’ writing. From poor organization and development to failing to move beyond the first thing that comes to mind (i.e. no critical or analytical thinking); from lacking a process to being too lazy to employ the process; from a general lack of grammar or syntax knowledge to believing that such a knowledge is unnecessary, the needs of the students are “legion” to employ a biblical term. The use of that term might be appropriate in more ways than one.

Unfortunately, two weeks of struggling to overcome a sinus infection has had serious consequences. I am so far behind in my grading that I need to postpone some things. Out of fairness to my students, I cannot ask them to hand in more work when I have not provided adequate feedback on what they have already written. That being said, the next few days are going to be spent in front of the computer. I need about 96 hours of straight grading. It is my hope that I will be caught up by the end of next week. I have been asked if I have made my own personal trek to the Bloomsburg Fair, the yearly event where 100s of thousands people make a pilgrimage to eat bad food and ride on contraptions that might be scarier than the carni operating them. As you can see, I have a rather dubious view of the grand Bloomsburg gathering. I have gone at least once every year I have been here (with the exception of two years ago when it was flooded out), but I think that streak might go by the wayside this year.

All in all, let me end on a positive note. As a general statement, I am pleased with my fall students. Many of them seem engaged and sincere about their work. As I have been doing student conferences this week, I have read some nice work. There are some who need to work much harder, but for the most part, I think the vast majority are headed in a good direction. Well, before I lose this again, I am going to stop.

Thanks for reading.


In the Middle of a Whirlwind


Good morning from Starbucks,

While I do not normally have office hours this morning, I need to, if for no other reason than trying to catch up myself. While I had some idea that the fall would be rather full (my euphemism for totally crazy), I think I underestimated. I feel things slipping away and I am not sure how to get them back. Part of it might be the sinus infection that has plagued me (and I am serious about the plague-like quality of this particular iteration) for the better part of two weeks. I have hated my sinus tracks, my nose, my eyes, my head, my throat, my lungs, back, legs and even feet. Does that pretty much cover my entire body? All of it has hurt at some point.

We are into the fourth week of school and things are in full-swing. I am trying to just keep my nose (which does not allow me to breath anyway) above the surface. I am very happy with the students in my courses thus far. They are engaged and thinking. I am not a “memorization-regurgitation” type of person. That is not learning; that is not education. I am a “soak-it-up” and realize later that you learned a lot. This morning I was sitting in Starbucks and speaking with the manager. She gave me in a general way how much in revenue that Starbucks generates in a week. I was actually stunned. That is a boat-load of caffeine and banana bread. Holy Buckets!! I must admit, I contribute my fair share to that figure.

This week I am working on proofing a couple of grants and also trying to just get caught up. Over the next couple days I will be in Harrisburg for some meetings and by tomorrow night I will be in Ogden, UT. I will have the opportunity to see the Deckers. Only for a day, but it is worth it so Grace and I can celebrate the birthday we shared this past week. I have been at the AT&T store for Grace again this week. She and phones have a regular battle for superiority, and she regularly loses that battle.

The other thing I am trying to accomplish is get some long-term tasks at least organized and on the radar. That will be perhaps one of the most important things I can achieve. It will make the next few months both manageable and successful. That success has some important consequences. Sometimes I wonder if I am the only person who feels like the tail-is-wagging-the-dog, but I know that there are others for whom life is similar. Is it because I am not content to merely sit and have things pass me by? Is it my father’s words (Anyone can be average, that is why it is) ringing in my ears? I am currently not content to be average. There is so much more that one can do, can learn, can achieve, can experience.

Beginning this weekend, the Bloomsburg Fair opens. It is the largest fair in the state. Quite an accomplishment for a town of 12,000. Every imaginable thing you can eat to create a coronary is available. Last year, I think I went three times. That is not typical for me. I am not a fair person. I do not do rides and for the most part I do not eat most of the “stuff” that is available. I would much rather go to a Renaissance Fair. In fact, I think I need to see if there is one in the area. That might be my autumn get-away.

Well, I need to get back to blogs, discussion boards, resumes, cover letters, intros, conferences, meetings. . . . I think you have the idea. Thanks as always for reading.

Dr. Martin

FIfty-four Days until Halloween


Good morning from Starbucks in the Commons,

This semester I have all my office hours in coffee shops. While I have done part of my life that way (both in an out of school), it is not because of the coffee or other forms of caffiene that I spend what might seem to be an inordinate amount of time here, it is because I get a lot accomplished. They seem to be productive spaces for me. Back in Wisconsin (and surrounding area) there is a chain called #Caribou. I appreciate them for their commitment to the communities in which they live and their work toward using #fairtrade coffees. I did hear this past summer they were bought out and I need to check that out. I am always concerned when start-up companies get bought out. Sometimes their commitment to what got them started goes by the wayside.

While I seem to get a better response from students coming to see me, I am also able to get reading and work done. I sometimes put in earbuds (like now as I listen to Celtic Music), but even without them, I am able to block out most of the sound around me and just get work done. It has been that way since I was in graduate school. There is a whole string of coffee shops from #Motherlode (circa 1994) to my first stint in Starbucks when I left and went to the Detroit area, where I also had my introduction to Panera Bread (1999). There was the #Wide-Awake Coffee Bar (and #Uncle John’s Record Shop, which I first frequented in high school and I am not going to provide a date for that) in my hometown of Sioux City, IA. I went to Starbucks when I lived in Texas and then got back to the Upper Peninsula, where I finished my graduate work. There was a new coffee shop called the Cyberia Cafe (2000-2003). Moving to Menomonie in 2003 (amazing that it was 10 years ago this fall) I found a local coffee place directly across the street from Harvey Hall, but it closed. It was that October that Caribou came to Menomonie. I wrote the majority of my dissertation there. Now, as many here know, if you want to find me, hang out in the coffee shops and sooner or later, I will appear. Most likely, sooner.

I spend almost my entire weekend working on school things, and while I made a significant dent, what is coming seems overwhelming at the moment. I think the idea of full-time school is certainly understated at this point. However, I merely need to keep plugging away. I have been doing the reading I assigned my #Writing for the #Internet class and the eccosee text is really interesting to me because it forces me to rethink the idea of #rhetorical #analysis once again. I think thereason most students are less effective than they hope with their #writing or #designing or #communicating is because they fail to adequately analysis the rhetorical situation in which they are operating. I think my students probably get tired of hearing “audience” or “purpose” coming out of my mouth, but it is fundamental to good communication. Dobrin and Morey write that “the imagery of language is not a visual image” (eccosee 5). What an interesting statement. One, I think needs some unpacking. Yet we almost always seem to accompany words with images and I am not sure we separate them very carefully or intentionally. In fact, it seems that we are more dependent on that connection than ever before. As we have moved toward more and more electronic forms of communicating and with our ability to attach images to almost everything, we seldom see one without the other. I can attach photos to my texts (and often do) or my tweets, or now with Instagram, I take the picture first and add my description or my #s. Things for me to ponder in my classes and in my work.

Over the weekend, driving down Lightstreet, I saw the first really clear sign of fall. The sumac bushes along the road were bright red, orange, and yellow. It was beautiful, but it also reminded me of just how quickly the summer passed. Maybe I found myself in that place of #”brown study”, or at least perhaps I wish I was. I would have gotten more of my own writing done. It is amazing to me how already it seems like it is necessary to accomplish just what is on the list next to keep my nose above the waterline.

Finally, I guess I should comment on my title, one of my favorite holidays is Halloween and I need to start planning my work for the fall. I did get a number of things done last fall, but I want to take it to another level this Halloween. I did see a Halloween store had opened in the area. It might have to be a destination point soon. In the meanwhile, I think I will work on my classes, my other work, and have my Pumpkin muffin (yah!! Halloween rocks!).

Thanks for reading,

Michael (aka: Dr. Martin)