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A month of Grinnellians

As you have no doubt seen, I’ve written on a wide variety of topics. (Well, maybe a limited variety: Grinnell college, computer science, the joy of code, online teaching, a few people, lots of self-indulgent stuff about myself or my life.) This month, I’m going to try something a little bit different. Instead of allowing my muse completely free rein [1], I will restrict myself to one general topic. No, don’t worry, I’m not planning to try NaNoWriMo [9]; I’m not enough of a stylist to take that on [10]. I’m doing something else.

In particular, I plan to try to write about a different Grinnellian each day. I’ve planned essays on some alums, some faculty (present and former), some staff (present and former), and maybe even some students.

I think this will be an opportunity to challenge myself as a writer. Profiles are not something I regularly write. The few I’ve written were harder than I expected. I will also likely have fewer opportunities for I’m too tired to writing anything long essays. But we’ll see.

My writing schedule may also be a little bit off this month, since I do consider it appropriate to check in with a subject [14] before posting what I’ve written about him, her, zir, or them. Of course, I think that applies primarily to living, non-public figures. I can probably write anything non-libelous about public figures. And, in all but one or two cases, I’m pretty sure that the non-living Grinnellians I might write about are public figures [15].

I have a much longer list of Grinnellians I want to write about than I can write about in a month. And there are others not yet on my list. I really do believe that my muse needs some choice! Anyway, because my muse is guiding me [17] and because I’m only doing this for a month, I won’t get to everyone. I apologize to those of you who I won’t get to at this time. Unless I discover that I really suck at these profiles, or my readers revolt [18], I’ll probably do this again another month [19]. If you’d like me to write about you, or to write about another Grinnellian, feel free to let me know and I’ll add you or them to the list [20].

In the end, I hope that, like my Tigger suit, this month of essays provides a net positive for myself and my community. Introducing folks to important Grinnellians may provide some useful connections. The few people I’ve written about seem to really appreciate it. And reminding myself of how many awesome people I know and work with (or previously worked with) is good for my soul.

Note: I do have one or two planned essays for the month that won’t be about Grinnellians. As you saw yesterday, some days of the year just call for particular essays. And, as you saw yesterday, I may do those as bonus essays, rather than as replacement essays. We’ll see how things go.

[1] I’m pretty sure it’s free rein and not free reign [2,7] or free rain.

[2] Yay for the Silent G! If Tom Lehrer [3] were still alive [4], maybe we could get him to write a song about it.

[3] Tom Lehrer is a famous humorous pianist who is also a mathematician, or vice versa. His songs even appeared in Mad magazine and on the legendary news program That Was the Week That Was. He also wrote some music for the PBS show called The Electric Company, including a song called Silent E. I love Tom Lehrer songs [5].

[4] Yes, I know that Tom Lehrer is still alive. I guess I could have written If Tom Lehrer were still writing music, but that doesn’t seem to have the same impact.

[5] Michelle is probably not happy that I have Tom Lehrer’s first album in at least three forms: 10" record, 12" record, and CD [6].

[6] Or maybe four forms; I think it appears as part of one CD on the Tom Lehrer boxed set.

[7] Well, while the metaphor is traditionally free rein, with the metaphor of allowing your horse to guide, I can see free reign applying to my muse, in that I am (or am not) allowing her [8] to rule over the decision as to what I write about.

[8] My muse does not appear to have corporal (or visual, or auditory) form, so it’s not clear what pronoun is appropriate. However, I believe the muses are traditionally considered female, so I use a female pronoun.

[9] NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, which was on my agenda to write about for these past few days. However, it got co-opted by my dual essays on software for reporting sexual assault and Doug Cutchins’ essay.

[10] Although, now that I think about it, a novel in the form of a series of essays by a curmudgeonly faculty might be an interesting idea. But wasn’t there something like that already? Certainly, Dear Committee Members comes close, although that’s a novel as a series of letters, recommendation and otherwise.

[11] Alternately, I could try to write a novel as a set of interlinked footnotes. However, that may also have been done, and it strikes me that it would eventually become insanely annoying [12].

[12] Just like these essays.

[13] Endnote number 13 is once again missing.

[14] victim?

[15] I could try what some music sharing sites do: If the subject of this essay objects to it, send me a registered letter and I will remove it [16].

[16] I love the it at the end of that sentence. It is a nice, vague, pronoun. I could, for example, remove the registered letter.

[17] And my muse sometimes feels a bit fickle; see the changing guidance on writing about NaNoWriMo described in footnote 9.

[18] It feels like there’s a Groucho Marx joke somewhere there.

[19] And another, and another, and …

[20] If you don’t want me to write about you, and you see signs that I’m thinking about it, let me know that, too [21].

[21] Please consider supplementing that request with a hundred-dollar bill.

Version 1.0 of 2016-11-01.