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May 18, 2007
The liberal arts have been in crisis in American colleges and universities in one way or another throughout my academic life. Whether challenged by Sputnik, assaulted by the rise of vocationally oriented education, or rejected by the fine arts as irrelevant to performance, we in the liberal arts have found ourselves playing defense for a long time.
May 16, 2007
This morning I had to climb up on the roof to release a squirrel caught in our trap.
May 14, 2007
Oh sure, Sir Isaac Newton wrote the Principia and Opticks and all, and he too was Lucasian Chair of Mathematics at Cambridge, but he probably never did this:Professor Stephen Hawking rides the Vomit Comet and sings Led Zeppelin
May 11, 2007
Friday, May 11, 2007ACE, the American Council on Education, is a remarkable organization. Their mission, to speak for and about the entire range of higher education institutions, is admirable for its impossibility. Even so, ACE is almost always there when we need someone saying the right things about significant national issues related to higher education. Indeed, David Ward's reign, which is sadly nearing its end, has been a model of effective representation, and we are sorry to lose his charm, insight, and forthright courage in speaking on our behalf.
May 11, 2007
That’s what a grad student next to me said when he saw the most recent publisher book fair in progress in our department.
May 9, 2007
The end is near: It’s time to grade the stacks of final papers, estimate student participation grades, tabulate everything and record the sums. Yesterday it was also time for my ritual end-of-semester shearing. I dislike getting haircuts intensely, but I couldn’t stand being trapped in this house any longer—not another gottverdammt minute in this lovely old house—and set off to get some sun on my hairy white shins, on the walk of shame.
May 8, 2007
I was telling Crazy Larry about being an undergrad at North Hinterland State University at Tundra, when out of my mouth came the words, “And then I was expelled.”
May 8, 2007
Although much that comes across the academic administrative desk shines with the bright light of pride and promotion -- expensively produced with high quality paper and commercial production values, creative layout and design, and magnetically attractive photography -- a few items arrive with impressive calm, quietly. In this case, it's a small book that looks like a scholarly journal in an obscure area of the humanities. The paper is soft, the cover appears faded; there are no pictures, no dramatic announcements, no claims of cosmic significance.
May 4, 2007
My mother and I were sitting in a booth in a J.C. Penney’s lunchroom, sometime in the late ‘60s or early ‘70s, when the store manager made an announcement on the intercom, and suddenly my mind began to work in a new way. I can still hear the tenor of the man’s voice and the slight echo from speakers at various depths in the store, but his words are gone.
May 1, 2007
My mother-in-law and I were discussing small-town life. She’s originally from Inverness, Scotland, which used to be smaller than it is now, and I grew up in Buckhorn, a town of 10,000 in Southern Illinois. We agreed it’s a common misconception that everyone knows everyone else in a small town, but we also agreed there are certain characters that everyone does know, who help forge the common identity of place. In Inverness, it was street-dweller Forty Pockets, named for the layers of clothing he wore, no matter the weather.

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