International Wonders

Hello on a Friday evening,

I had the opportunity to see the punk musical American Idiot this evening on campus. It was quite astounding. The music and the vocals were outstanding, but the choreography was simply stunning to me. The energy and the set were infectious and the Mitrani Center was sold out I believe. It was a great production and the prices are so reasonable for the quality of what is being offered. I need to do more to support it than I have. Before hand, I had dinner at a newer restaurant in town called “Seasons”. This is the second time I have been there. The menu is quite nice and the preparation is among the best in the area. Prices are a bit pricey for Bloomsburg, but reasonable for what you are receiving. Tonight I went there before the musical. It was a very nice dinner. Because it is a BYOB, I took the only bottle of Miraflores Petit Sirah (2004) I have in my cellar. It was a triple gold medal wine at the Orange Country Fair. I think it is the only triple goal Miraflores has had there. They have had many medal winning wines, but I think that was their first big one. The wine was decanted and it opened up very nicely. Had a very silky, but full-bodied texture. The taste was subtle with some notes of almost a black cherry. It had a great finish. I do not think it would have lasted much longer, however. The decanting was certainly the right decision. 

It was a busy, but productive week this week. The program revision is in. I have to work on the revision to Bible as Literature a bit more because of the General Education requirements and grading and writing has been much of the rule of the day. Monday and Tuesday I am doing student conferences for my Foundations students again. I am hoping this will help them. I have actually been quite pleased generally with their work. Some of the peer reviews are the best I think I have seen in my 5 years here at Bloom. Likewise, while there are some issues with citation, which I do not find surprising, the papers in general, once again, are strong. I want to have all the grades in by Monday. This past week I was actually in my office until after 1:00 a.m. twice, but it was productive.

This past week I have been fortunate to have conversations about ones’ perceptions of Americans. This has been enlightening to me. The last time I really thought about this was when I was in the service. It was when I was in the Marines that I felt a bit embarrassed to be an American, and before you accuse me of not being patriotic, hear me out. When I was in other countries that had another language, there was little attempt by those of us in the service to use their language even though we were in their country. I remember being uncomfortable with that. More than the language issue was the arrogance of some of my fellow Marines. There was a condescension that made local people unhappy and, appropriately so, because it was disrespectful. It was then and the meeting of a family back in my hometown that had spent the year in Germany that made me want to learn another language. Now I want to learn at least two more. I want to become fluent in Spanish. I have a former student who lives in Spain for whom, to this day, I have the greatest admiration. Then there is Fernando out in Placerville and many of the workers out there. It would also be fun to speak Spanish with Marco. Then there are the students here that are bilingual and bring such an amazing understanding of this culture we call the United States. 

I have been fortunate to listen to their perspective of Americans. I have also listened to a student from China this semester. We take our lifestyle for granted and much like English is the lingua franca of much of the world (which is an entirely different blog entry) we think much the same of our culture. Again, while I am profoundly patriotic because of my time in the United States Marines, I am also open minded enough to realize that many other places have a much longer historical presence than we do. For instance, my Chinese student spoke about a culture of 2,500 years. That is amazing. It is also impressive. I was researching some of the Carribean this evening and their history goes back to the 7th century with Indian people. We all too often disregard the various indigent people that were here long before the “white” people were. Again, we can learn so much from merely listening and observing other cultures. The importance of attempting to learn their language cannot be underestimated. Language is one of the most importance elements of one’s culture, of their identity. It is my goal to be at least competent in Spanish by the fall. 

This past week I have done a lot of thinking about how much more amazing so many students are than I was at that age. I was pretty clueless as I look back at things. I thought I had it pretty well figured out. Honestly, that is certainly not that case. I do think I began to figure it out when I started my time at Dana, but I still wandered and struggled. My junior year at University of Iowa was important, but I still struggled. Most of it was because of my own insecurities and believing that I still could do better than I was. I think I got a 4.0 at Iowa, but I still felt that there were so many around me who were much more together than I was. I have been forced (more accurately prompted) to reflect on my existence again. I think that is a good thing, but it can be both a blessing and a curse. Because of my predisposition to think I can always do better, I have a propensity for seeing things in a more negative light than I probably should. Even though I can write this,  demonstrating a forward-thinking and and introspective side to me ( I do think it is a sort of rebellion if you will), I find it hard to overcome. 

While I do believe my time here has been the best five years of my life (both personally and professionally), I am reminded of what I wrote in a paper once “I have this sense of melancholy that can serve to undermine my progress” (A River Runs Through It -an unpublished paper). Sin embargo, los dos mencionados en blog más temprano han proporcionado un sentido de alegría. Jordan me hace sonreír y reírse, y aún considerar y considerar que elegante él es… y que bueno él realmente es. Melissa me hace mirarme francamente e introspectivamente, y mientras puede ser desconcertante, por último, es probablemente provechoso. La capacidad intuitiva profunda y asombrosa que ella posee es ciertamente atípica. Juntos ellos han proporcionado un sentido de objetivo por el cual estoy agradecido.They have also pulled me out of what is generally a later winter sadness, a sort of seasonal affect issue. 

Well, it is midnight and I am still writing, but I want to be up early as there is a lot on my plate. I am performing a wedding tomorrow for a former student. The two of them so love each other and while they will struggle with managing like most newlyweds, they too are amazingly capable for being the age they are. I might be one of those weddings that I will look back and say, I am glad I was there on that day. Otherwise the weekend will consist of grading, managing documents, and trying to get my next set of ducks in a row. Discipline and working steadily.

Gracias por lectura.

Dr. Martin

On Pink Paper, Please

z_wine_spillGood afternoon from my office,

Just when I thought the workload might decrease, we are back to the drawing board on a task here in the department. So, Tuesday we will regroup and see what the next options are. I am glad I have such amazing committee members. The reference to “pink paper” will be understood by those for whom the title is meant. . . . it is actually two days later and I have been working on other things simply managing the daily things that are necessary. I am actually sitting in my office, where it seems I have getting more and more accomplished. That is good thing. This last couple weeks I got a book review accepted and later today (and maybe yet tonight depending on my stamina and the weather) I hope to have the majority of an article written, and certainly to have it done by Tuesday evening. This semester, I have a very long Monday. Actually it is so packed I get little done outside of merely running from one thing to the next.

The thing that I believe is dragging all down is the weather. I am one of those few, who, perhaps, might even go as far as to say I enjoy the winter. However, I am tired of it also. I had to smile because the other day I wrote a letter to “winter” asking it to go away (note, I did not use a gender specific pronoun here and that was intentional). I am not sure my letter was valued as we are supposed to get yet another wintery mix of &%*!~(^ yet this afternoon and evening. One of my geo-sciences colleagues has been keeping the latest models updated on his facebook. I can only hope that whatever comes is short-lived and a hint of Spring might soon be here.

During the past few weeks, I have been provided with a sense of hope for this world around us. While there are so many things that might cause a person to lament, become disillusioned, cease caring, or adopt a living-style that includes Hermitage (hmmmm – that might be an idea and I actually have some I think), there have been some phenomenal gifts I have been fortunate enough to witness. All too often, when I am merely observing the goings-on around me or listening to comments from a variety of people about those others from whom they should care, or reading even papers or blogs or other postings, the vitriolic comnments, disapproving looks, and disenchanted attitudes seem to spew, laser-beam, or create an affect that generates much more hate than care. In the midst of this, I have had the chance to see something quite the contrary. I have been fortunate enough to be allowed into the lives of a brother and sister from whom we could learn a great deal. They have, perhaps, the most amusing, loving, and respectful relationship I think I have ever observed. They are profoundly different and yet alarmingly the same. They can read each others’ minds. They speak without speaking, and that is not only when they are in the same space, it is while they are on the planet together. Little as far as chronology, but larger in physicality, the brother is smart, witty and a prankster. The sister, with the opposite pre-noted attributes, has a more serious demeanor, but is wise well beyond the time she has spent here. Together, they are formidable, but still accessible. I am reminded of the biblical text about “many will try, but few will [find them]”.

Watching them has prompted me, pushed me, required me, to consider my own existence in ways I have not for a while. The persons I have known to be most like this would be my grandmother, Louise (I have mentioned her before), and her elder sister, Helen. While I am not sure I ever really thought about their relationship in this way until I began to work on this blog, I know that their individual homes were the two places I felt safe and loved when I was a child. While I did not know it as a small child, my grandmother had some issues that created chaos in her life (she did get those issues managed), but during that chaos, it was her older sister (who was quite tiny), and my Great-aunt Helen, who took care of her in a number of ways. What I know looking back is her care was given unconditionally, it was given lovingly, it was given unabashedly. They lived 70 miles away from each other, but I am going to assume that they spoke regularly. It would be interesting to see what they might have been like in today’s world with technology. After thinking about them, I did some searching and found out when my Aunt Helen and Uncle Melvin were married. I know it was a second marriage for him. She was married in the chapel of a college in Kentucky. Wow!! My Great-uncle, Clement was a pastor. I did know that. Amazing what I have dug up in a few minutes. This is something I can use in my classes too.

More importantly, what this is really about is asking a simple question: how does one exhibit the love that demonstrates a honest sense of valuing that other person, not merely being infatuated or selfish in what one gives (supposedly gives)? Can we be altruistic in our care and love? I think I am beginning to believe it is possible, but mostly because I can reflect on an example in my own family and then see it in two amazing people I have been blessed to have come into my own life at this point . . . gracias por su ejemplo asombroso y vivificante.

Thank you for reading.

Dr. Martin (aka: an older student as I am always learning)

Music, Images, Work, and . . .

101Hello from my office on a Sunday evening,

The past week felt like I was hanging on by a thread and the single strand will be stretched and possibly frayed before the end of the coming week. I thought the fall was the busiest of the semesters I have had here at Bloom, but it seems like this semester has already outpaced that one. I have not really added a single thing to my list, and, in fact, I have lost some things in the process, but that will be for a different time and posting. I am wondering if some of it has to do with the fact that this winter is certainly a winter of one’s discontent . . .  and it has decided to stay for an extended period. Saturday it was a day with actual sunshine and reasonable temperatures. More importantly, it was understandable to me (as I know myself) that I felt energized, but it also caused me to realize how depressed I was by the continuous winter. I do not dislike the snow; in fact, I find it quite beautiful, but as I look at my house and the green of the yard, I am realizing the early summer is more appreciated by me than I might have given it credit.

My Foundations students are working on their Visual Argument papers and I am pleased by the seriousness that many of them are working to find primary source material. They are required to work on contacting a number of people who have some specific roles in the creation of the video. I am continually astonished by the ever-increasing integration of sound, image, and language. It is nothing new and I understand that, but our realization and subsequent development of it as a important art form is really interesting to me. 

This past week I got a copy of a new book, which I cannot find at the moment (the moment is past, and I have found it. It was right in front of me). It is titled Writer/Designer and is authored by three of my graduate colleagues. I need to dig through it because I think I am going to employ it, but I have to figure out to get it digested in a day or two. I think there are some things that can be really interactive and might work to help both students and me accomplish what I have laid out in my Writing for Multiple Media class. I am continually caught a bit off guard at how quickly things seem to add up. I hear my students say it, but it is not really any different on this side. I think part of that is because I am never satisfied with how things are going. I always want them to be better. Yet, I must note, and I am quite pleased, I might add, that the great majority of my Foundations students have seemed to have turned a corner. Their memoir packets come in tomorrow and that will give me a lot of work over the next couple weeks. I cannot even get to their papers until Wednesday to start. I have other things I have to manage for the program, for my department, and for the committees I am on. There is something wrong with that statement because we are here first for the students, but I have that much on my plate at the moment.

That being said, I did get some significant things done over the past three weeks, so I am in better shape on some things. However, I need to keep the little nose to the grindstone as they say. I am afraid at the rate I am going I will not have much of a nose left. Maybe I should put some of my more extensive flabby parts to that grindstone. Of course, that is an entirely different issue that I need to get back to managing more effectively. Perhaps I need another significant bout with my “Crohn’s Diet” as I call those times. My weight is not where it was, but I feel as out of shape as I ever have. It is depressing. However, I know too well that bemoaning it, will not change it; it requires something more substantial.

That being said, I need to sit at my desk a while longer and get more done here first. So . . .  I am listening to music, reading about music, considering image in a number of different genres, and working away. At the same time, not far from my thoughts is Lydia, whose picture graces this entry.

Thanks for reading as always,

Dr. Martin (aka: Miguelito)

Beginning a Morning at Fog and Flame

Martin's Acre and a winter barn
Martin’s Acre and a winter barn
Good morning from the @Fog_and_Flame,

I came in early this morning to get my ducks-in-a-row and try to get ahead of the game a bit. As we are already a third of the way through the semester this week, I am realizing how quickly some things are coming. It is a bit disconcerting at best, and down-right scary at worst . . .  or maybe there is something even worse, but I do not want to know. Today we were supposed to get another 2-4, 3-5, 4-6 (you pick) inches of snow, but it ended up being a dusting. This place is not used to that amount of snow and I think people are pretty shellshocked. What I do know is the area retailers had (and have) no clue. Over the weekend, I went to get salt, ice melt, or some product that will help me manage the ice that has built up on my sidewalks. I know that there has been a run on such items, but there was none to be had. No big deal, but it is only the middle of February and there is a good 2 feet of snow on the ground. Both Lowe’s and Home Depot told me they do not plan to get anymore. Really?? So I resorted to ingenuity. I used a large container of Sea Salt from my kitchen and I seasoned my sidewalk. Holy Buckets! More importantly, it worked. 

During the past few days as I have worked with my Foundations students on their memoir papers, either through conferences or by questions in class, and not surprisingly, much of their reflection on the world is related to technology. What I have realized as I look at effect of technology in a more analytic way, is that it has (or more accurately we have with it) created a world of paradox. I think I might have mentioned this in my last blog, but my memory fails me yet again. I am quite sure that if Lydia were here, we would be fighting over her medication soon. 😦 However, I digress . . .  The point is to consider what I think about the phenomenon of paradox. I believe paradox, in theological terms, is quite an accurate systematic schema of who we are as human beings most of the time. I think we are most always struggling with those seeming opposite options or polarizing choices. All too often we are not sure why we are confronted with such a dilemma. Even as I write this, I try to imagine what it is that causes this seeming sense of struggle . . .  maybe it is just me and my overactive synapses. I am reminded of a line in the movie On Golden Pond. It occurred when Norman was having a discussion about whether or not Bill and Chelsea could sleep together. At some point, Bill asks, what the bottom line is regarding the “illicit sex” question. Norman responds in his cantankerous way, “So you are a bottom line person?” What is the bottom line? I often approach things that way. I like knowing what I can expect. Even if I do not like the answer, I would much rather know than be surprised.

Well, today is a day of meetings and managing. I have a meeting with a local radio person at 1:00 and then we have a departmental meeting at 3:30. It will be an important meeting. In the meanwhile, I will keep working on things that need to be accomplished. I do have to go to my office at some point because I have left things there that I need to get home. I also want to get a couple more things off my plate. If I can get more things off my list versus things added to the list, it will be a successful day.

Thanks for reading, as always.

Dr. Martin (aka: Michael)

Pleasant Surprises

Image

Hello from the study in my house,

It was a busy, but productive, week as I noted in both my Facebook and Twitter accounts. Today I had the opportunity to serve as a judge of the Pennsylvania Forensics Association competition that was held here at Bloom. I judged both debate and poetry. I was so astounded by some of the presentations. Those students give me hope. They are traveling on a tough-weather weekend to demonstrate the hard work they have put into their different events. It was stunning to see how polished and dedicated they were. One of the students was in my University Seminar class some years back (it cannot be that many as I am only in my fifth here), but his poetry was quite exemplary. It was really pleasant as I note in my title to be involved today. 

I did get much of what I hoped to accomplish this week, but there is still more. I did not get that much of my own work today, so the remainder of the weekend needs to be extremely focused. Of course, then there has been our weather. I have shoveled more this week than I think I have in four years here in Pennsylvania. I bought an ice chopper last weekend. I tried to use it today and it snapped in half. I guess I will back at Lowe’s with it tomorrow to see if it has some sort of “7 day” warranty. Really?? What the heck!! Fortunately, it was not that cold out today and there was no wind, so show by itself is very manageable. I will be working on BOLT work and grading for the remainder of the weekend. I might have to spend some time in the @FogandFlame tomorrow. I am realizing that all that work I did to get ahead before the semester began has been used up. I need about three days of solid work to get through break. 

It is hard to believe, especially considering the inches (feet) of snow outside that Spring Break will actually be occurring a month from today. My break will be spent doing tenure things. I have a couple things to do for that this week. We will decide on a candidate this week also. My committee members have been emailing things today and I am still pondering. I dislike all of these sort of things because I realize all too keenly that we are deciding people’s lives. That is very serious to me. I remember having to rank people my first year here and I left that meeting sick to my stomach. The only other time I was that ill from what had occurred was the day I was ordained as a pastor. My family had a reception for me and I went to bed because I was so overwhelmed with the ordination vows I had taken. I am reminded of the story of Martin Luther the first time he presided over the Eucharist. He was overwhelmed too. 

This past week was a week that Charles Dickens would appreciate and one that he specifically might have used his famous words from the Tale of Two Cities. I had students not show up for conferences or for class most of the week. I also had students come to meet with me on a snow day to conference about their papers. I am so grateful for their hard work and commitment to trying to improve. It is for those people that I teach. However, it is also for the people who struggle or wonder why they are there or wonder if they can do it. I have been reminded this week again of those different learning styles. I wish I could manage them all well. Sometimes I just don’t; I fall on my face. I wish there was something I could do to prepare when I get caught in those moments of wondering “now what”? 

Last summer, I was blessed to have a student in class who was insightful, enjoyable, intelligent, a strong writer, and a character. He has provided me a moniker of “the evil gnome”. I am not sure I like the adjective, but I can manage the gnome part. I have been fortunate to catch up with him again this semester. Within that realm of my existence, there has been the pleasant surprise of getting to know more of his background and life outside of the classroom. He is fortunate enough to have people close to him around, both to help him be employed on campus as well as keep him “somewhat” in line. Everyone once in a while, we find that someone who comes into our life and has the ability to stun us. It is not often that a person catches me off guard by their ability to think, analyze, and ask insightful questions. That has happened this week. What a most wonderful surprise. It is even more interesting when he or she is still an undergraduate. I think it is not so much because of their age, but because of the ability to see both the university and the world from an outsider perspective. I can understand how that can make a person more critical or analytical, but when their critique is so balanced and intelligent it makes me want to hear more about what he or she wants to say. 

I have this saying about God having given us brains to do more than hold our ears apart. The brain in this one is quite astounding. It brightens my day when I can have a conversation of substance, a conversation of consequence, a conversation that gives me hope for this world. To the next conversation . . . 

Thanks for reading as always. 

Dr. Martin (aka: Miguelito)

Snow, Classes, Choices

Good late Sunday evening,

I have been working on school work most of the weekend, but returned from the Legislative Assembly of the Faculty Union on Saturday. I am alway amazed by what I learn at these assemblies. I am amazed by the hard work and tremendous scholars that is conducted and are present at the other universities in the system, but I am also reminded of how fortunate I am to be at Bloomsburg. I believe it is one of the stronger schools in the system. Serving on a state-wide committee is also a honor and something that has already taught be a great deal. 

I am rather mind-boggled by some of the proposals and the decisions made at the state level of the system. While I am not naive, I do believe there is still more idealism to me that is perhaps helpful at times. I am not sure why I would like to believe most people can be reasonable if given the complete picture. I guess there is an assumption that people want good things to happen, particularly when it comes to education. I guess when I am forced to look at the complete picture, there is certainly something askew with our priorities. While as you know I am a huge Green Bay Packer fan, the fact that Aaron Rogers is paid 49,000,000.00, and as such is the 6th highest paid professional athlete is ridiculous to me. The amount of money paid to athletes, and I am well aware of all the attempts to justify because of their short career life, says a lot about what we deem as valuable. When most who teach at any level are making less than 6 figures, but an athlete can make 11, there is an issue.

Most of yesterday and today, I have graded or worked on my classes. I am a bit stumped by some of my freshmen students. We are beginning the fourth week of class and some have done minimal to no work. A significant number of others have done some really substandard work. This is a bit disconcerting to me because the clock is moving much more rapidly than they think. When about 1/3 of them have earned a below average or failing grade at this point, there is about to be a reckoning. I am reminded of the line in the movie Tombstone, when Doc Holiday says this about the members of the Cowboys and Wyatt Earp. I do not want to scare students, but I do want them to do their work. Writing is fundamental to who we are and to not be able to do it in an acceptable scholarly way will not work, either in the classroom or someday on the job. There is a choice. The middle of last week we had a snow day, and it snowed even more today. I worked in my office all day. I had sign up sheet for conferences that begin tomorrow up on my wall and they had been there since the day before. As of this evening, there was still about 10 of 47 students who had not signed up. I do not understand this, particularly when I have sent out emails and put announcements in the course delivery tool. I am boggled, as I noted earlier. 

This coming week, there is a lot for me to do, and there are a number of deadlines on the horizon. It is a matter of creating a list and making the correct choices so it all gets done. Life is all about choices . . . we are confronted with these options daily and throughout the day. While some are minimal and have small or infinitesimal consequences, others are just the opposite. Sometimes those consequences are not known for some time. All I know is this is one of those weeks I need to get a lot of things off my plate. We are also interviewing another person this week. This is such an interesting thing being on the committee.

Well, regardless the outcome of the week, it will pass quickly. I have more on my plate than seems manageable at the moment, but it is a matter of discipline and priorities. I will check in again something during the week and share how things are going. 

Thanks for reading as always. 

Dr. Martin

Organized Randomness

IMG_1645

Good afternoon from the Fog and Flame,

I think I need a vacation. Many might say you just had one, but what I think I need is a working vacation, one where I can focus, in an uninterrupted manner. What might I do with such a “respite” of sorts? The first thing I would do is spend two or three days bringing my tech skills back up to date. I need a seminar where I can work with someone who understands things like Camtasia, Media Stream, Vision Thread, or Diigo really well and then work with them creating one artifact after another so it becomes second nature for me. I want to do some much more with the idea of a flipped class and having the various pieces that I can put into the course delivery tool will help my students. Then I would try to merely write. I need to write for a number of reasons. I have noted this in my blog posting before this, but the hammer is down and there are no excuses.

Today, as I have been in the Fog and Flame, I have run into current students, former students, graduated students, graduate students and colleagues. That has been interesting to see the cross-germination that is in that little space. Then there is the issue of paying for your drinks. I have turned to using Square Wallet. Amazing how many things I can do from my phone. As I sit here I have my Mac updating, which is taking significant time because I am on WiFi and I had not updated things for about 6 weeks. Amazing how many things that get out of day and quickly. I have been downloading OS X Mavericks for about three hours, or more.

What I started to write about earlier is my writing. I am working on a book review and it will be done by the end of the weekend. Then I need to do some additional reading about the “rhetoric of place” article that I am working on. My colleague has given me some things to manage and then I have to come up with an outline. I did some work on that article this summer and then it sat the entire fall semester. The third article is a programmatic review article and that should not be that difficult. What I need to do is manage the free time I have and then use that for writing and not random time wasting. It is the very think I tell my students all the time. Now I need to employ it too.

What I have learned more and more about myself is I get overwhelmed and then I shut down. Very little gets accomplished. I think I had too much on my plate and that is still an issue, but I am trying to make changes. Yet some of those changes have been painful and sad. Then there is the fact that I have not even managed all of that as well as I should or must. That will be part of the next week or two. I wish there was an easier way to manage my life. Then again, I should not be surprised because this time of year is difficult for me. While I have never been technically diagnosed with SAD, I am quite sure I am a person who is affected by it.

One of the things I have been really good at, at least thus far into the semester, and I am well aware that we are only two weeks into the process, is to stay ahead of the game a bit more in my classes. I have spent some long evenings in my office, but I think it is beginning to pay off. Organization is a difficult thing, particularly when it is hard to see how it all fits together, but perhaps that is the impetus for my title. Can we actually organize our randomness? Or are they merely oxymoronic and therefore, it is an exercise in futility? I think it is better to be more optimistic and work under the guise that it is possible. In fact, most everything has such a possibility, if one only take the time and puts in the effort.

Tomorrow is the Super Bowl and I had the chance to get a ticket. That would have been quite an experience, but when the Packers are not playing, it is hard for me to be excited. If the Packers were playing . . . it is a no-brainer, I would be there. It will be interesting that it is outside. It is also interesting because two Bloomsburg students (one is actually an alum) have a central role in the PR and management of the PR for the game. That is very cool.

Well, it is time to get back to another task. So, as always, thank you for reading. I hope your life is more than organized chaos. Have a great rest of the weekend.

Dr. Martin

Writing, Organizing or Procrastinating

Hello from the Fog and Flame,

I am in the Fog and Flame working on getting organized for the coming week. It is always a hope that I have my ducks-in-a-row, but to be honest, as my students will surely confirm, there are times I am more on top of things than other moments. While my intent is always good (or at least, I think it is), those best intentions are not always realized. This past week I met with three of my four sections of this semester (I still have my capstone course of sorts) that will meet tomorrow evening. First, I must commend the #FogandFlame for the great work they do every time I come in here. If you have not been here yet, you are missing a real gem here in Bloomsburg. They are working hard to make their little stop on Main Street a premier meeting place. I have my office hours here on Thursday afternoons and evenings from 3:00-7:00 p.m.. In the meanwhile, check this out (www.fogandflame.com or @FogandFlame).

Today as noted, I am merely trying to get things organized for the time up to Spring break. If I can have all my work into BOLT for my students up through the third week of March by the end of the week, I feel I can focus on other things. I am working on the “flipped” concept of teaching for my Technical Writing course this semester. While I have been aware of the concept up until now, I have not taken the time to really implement it. Because my Technical Writing course is a smaller course, I think it could be the ideal venue in which to implement this pedagogy. It reminds me that I should try to catch up with a curriculum coordinator for whom I have a great deal of respect. It has been too long. She and I have spoken about flipped classes on a few occasions.

If I accomplish what I hope to accomplish, then it will be on to reading and writing and trying to finish up a book review by tomorrow evening or Tuesday morning at the latest. The issue of writing, ironically, in spite of all I do that involves writing, has become more of a difficulty for me. I am not sure if it is I feel incapable or frightened. It is a bit weird to me, but for whatever reason, much like my students, I am struggling to get started. So I have found all sorts of ways to work with it and about it without doing it. That is a problem for a number of reasons. Some of them obvious and some not so obvious. The main issue is that I have to publish. I have so much actually written, but I am petrified to send it out. Rejection happens, but R and R is not a bad thing. I also am fortunate to have some people work with me, so I merely need to do it. I need to listen to Nike I guess.

Actually, I am very excited about all of the classes this semester. I think the changes I have made in texts for my Foundations classes will work with the memoir paper more effectively. I am going to try to do some different things with The Cider House Rules this semester. I think the question about Prochoice versus Prolife is such a complex societal issue and many are not willing to look at the complexity of this issue. I am always reminded of a person, one who was both a friend and a floormate when I first went to college. He borrowed money twice to “take care of an issue” with his girlfriend. The first time I did not think much about it; the second time, I remember asking pointedly, “wouldn’t a condom be cheaper?” I realized I was not comfortable nor was I supportive of those who used abortion as a form of birth control. As I have worked with Irving’s book now, off-and-on, for 10 years, I have been continually amazed how he lays out this controversial topic in very different ways in the book and the movie (he wrote the screen play for which he received an Academy Award). In addition, I am doing some more technological things for their learning outcomes. It will be interesting to see how this happens as I am still formulating that assignment.

In my Writing for Multiple Media class, I am fortunate to have some returning students from the fall Writing for the Internet class. That was one of my best group three classes (part of the Professional Writing minor) and I am hoping to build on that this semester. Because I have two client groups that are the same as well as a template for the other three groups from something a group did last semester, I am hoping that this can be one of my best semesters at Bloom. While it will involve some work, I am hoping that it will be certainly worth the time and effort.

Well, while this has been part of what I need to do, it has also been a way to do the very thing I noted in my title. Back to writing and organizing.

Thanks to all who have read.

Dr. Martin (aka: Michael)

Wisconsin Weather in Pennsylvania

optimism

Good Morning from my office,

I am still working on housekeeping details for the new semester and this little corner of the world, known as 119B Bakeless, has seen more of me than any other place. For the last 13 days, it seems I have spent more time at my desk and worked on more things than one might imagine. At this point, I have met with three of my four sections of class (only my Writing for Multiple Media class has yet to meet) and it was pleasant to see so many emails as students tried to work on the first of some of the technological items they have to manage for the first week of class.

In the first six years that I have been blogging, I have watched the importance and the variety of blogs become quite an interesting thing, I initially blogged as a sort of journal. I was working in the Miraflores winery that summer, which is located outside of Placerville, California. I had the pleasure and great fortune of meeting Marco Cappelli, one of the most truly Renaissance persons, I have ever gotten to know. He is amazing. Here are a couple of links you might so you might have an opportunity to meet him also (http://www.winesandvines.com/template.cfm?content=57321&section=features) (http://www.sacmag.com/Sacramento-Magazine/May-2009/On-Wine-Putting-the-Foothills-on-the-Map/). The summer I spent out in the Sierra Nevada Mountains changed my life.

When I came back to Wisconsin, I continued to blog and my blog at that point took a sort of cultural/philosophical personality. I wrote about things I noticed everyday and things that caused me to step back and wonder. In someways those blogs were both cathartic and freeing. I had a space to say things that I believed somehow needed to be said, while I did not ask for a following, I imagine some people did read because I got comments. I should also note that it is not that I believe I am that wise or profound that people need to listen to, or read texts about, things I believe need to be said. Yet, I do believe that I am willing to see a bigger picture often. During the time I have been here at Bloomsburg, I have not been as disciplined about the writing. That is sad because I think it has affected my writing. I find it harder to write, more difficult to get started, and infinitely more frightened about whether or not I have something worth saying. I should note that this seems to be the same across all of my writing.

So, while I have written a bit more regularly in this WordPress blog, I plan to be even more disciplined. I will write at least three times a week. In those posts, I will try to cover three things: things I am observing in my class will provide some of the text that I want to consider in my writing. I want to reflect on what is happening in my classes as well as do some scholarly work with that reflection. Second, I am going to be doing some other needed writing and I want to use this as a sort of sounding board (for my own mind, if you will) for that writing as well as a sort of discipline to say this is what I am accomplishing. Third, in being as I have always been, to be somewhat reflective on what is happening in and around my life.

At this point, I am headed off to a meeting with various constituencies and the dean about the certificate, the minor, and the proposed major track in professional writing. I hope you have a good day and can stay warm.

Dr. Martin (aka: Michael)

Commencement

IMG_1090

Good snowy morning (it is after midnight as I write this) from Pennsylvania,

Earlier today I participated in the winter commencement event for the College of Education and the College of Liberal Arts here at Bloomsburg University, where I serve students as a professor in the English Department and as the director of a professional writing program. All too often we are provided platitudes about how this is a beginning, yes, a commencement, but today I listened to one of my colleagues provide one of the most inspirational addresses I think I have ever been blessed to hear. She asked them what they were going to do with what they had, the foundation they have been provided. She used a great blend of her own story and some thoughts about Sherlock Holmes. It was one of the few times in my life that I believe I heard something worth taking away from the event. Thank you, #Dr. #Marion #Mason. After the service, as is often the case, I had an opportunity to meet some parents, to see some former students and  to think about what they have accomplished, and to imagine what their lives might become. That was part of Dr. Mason’s message . . .  what will the adjectives you use someday be?? She encouraged them to see themselves as more an merely one of the graduates.

This week I have been required to think about that again: where will our lives go? How will we become the person we do? What are the things that will influence our paths and help us understand who we are? What I know is what we often think about ourselves and what others think about us might be quite different. I have had the amazing gift of having a friend in my life since I was four years old. His mother and my mother were close friends; his father and my father were church men together and throughout my childhood, the three kids in their family and the three in my family (of which I was one) did most everything together. I cannot imagine what my childhood might have been without them in it.

Peter, my life-long, and best, friend, and I had the most difficult conversation this week. He has been diagnosed with ALS and it seems quite aggressive. What a terrible thing to hear. He is such an amazing man. He accomplished things that I have only dreamed of. He married his high school sweetheart and they have raised two phenomenally amazing children. I so respect what they have done together. When we talked on the phone this past week, we both cried. As I write this I cannot help again that the tears begin to flow. While I have struggled most of my adult life with Crohn’s and I have had some difficult periods, never have I been given such a terrible diagnosis. I wish I could take this from him. I feel so helpless and incapable at this point. I can only pray that whatever path he is on that he is allowed dignity and a minimum amount of pain. I cannot imagine what he faces, but I wish him comfort and some sense of how amazing he is. I had actually sent him a letter about a year and a quarter ago. I am so glad that I shared how important his friendship was to me.

As I try to finish my grading, I am also preparing a winter term class which actually begins in merely hours. There is so much to do and so little time, but that seems how my life is. The last few days I have found myself turning inward again. All too often I find that I am wanting to be around others and be involved in things, but then I find these times where I would be much happier alone. I am reminded that Lydia would get frustrated with me at times where I was always going or had things going on. She would say, in her Austrian accent, “My-chal! Is their anyone you don’t know?? It’s disgusting!!” Those of you who know her can hear her. I think I want to merely disappear for a while. While I do not think it can happen this week with 19 hours with the Skype interviews and other things at school, and then the holidays, maybe that will be my New Year’s resolution to become a hermit.

Well  . . .  with every ending there is a beginning and that is how the morning started. Thanks for reading.

Michael