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Another month of daily musings

Topics/tags: End-of-month musings

It’s the end of September. At the end of each month, I try to make it a point to reflect on what I’ve written [1] the past month and what I’ve learned from doing so. I suppose that I should also try a broader version of that same exercise, reflecting on what I’ve done and learned the past month. For now, the weekly notes to my family will have to suffice for the latter goal [2].

This month represents yet another instance of my increasing comfort with missing musings. When we took Youngest Son off to college [4], I didn’t feel an obligation to rush back to the hotel and muse each night. When I went to a business meeting at the end of that trip, I also didn’t feel like I had to muse. This past weekend, when I got back late from a wedding, I also didn’t muse. I’m not sure whether it’s good or bad that I no longer feel obliged to muse daily [5]. It just is.

Traditionally, these musings are about the only thing that I post to Facebook or Twitter. This past month, I fell victim to the post covers of your favorite books meme. I ended up posting seven non-fiction books, seven children’s books, and a few fiction books. I never got around to finishing the fiction books, nor did I start on my the next series, which I’d planned to either involve cookbooks or comic strip reprints. Perhaps I’ll restart. Perhaps I’ll muse about the books I chose. We shall see. One cool outcome of the posts was that I was friended by one of the children of the author of the first book that I posted.

This past month, I also started posting somewhat daily images from campus. The new signs and new wall-like construction are some of my favorite subjects. I’m still not sure why. I’d like to find the time [6] to make a portable sign that I can use for photos throughout campus. I’m already planning uses: Hammocks, Scofflaws (for those who park in Handicapped parking), New Sign, Old Sign, Poorly Designed Acronym, and more. Maybe tomorrow I’ll remember to bring in a tape measure so that I can get the dimensions correct [7].

What did I muse about this month? Let’s see … I’ll start by just listing the titles. Opening Convocation 2019-20. A day on sabbatical. Writers at Grinnell (and other events at Grinnell). Meal plan pricing (2019 edition). Documenting code with the Six P’s. Compassion and the anti-academic press. The CS Web server. DadR’s weekly report, week 1. Learning new (programming) languages. Closures. Finding my chill pill. Distributed knowledge. Those wacky Rebelskys. Pronouns. New computing policies. A last-minute innovation-fund proposal. Another last-minute innovation-fund proposal.

There were fewer rants than I expected. I think the chill pill musing explains some reasons. But I remain frustrated about the Handbook, about Faculty Review policies, about the new leave the dorm within 24 hours of your last final policies, about our new computing policies, and a few other things that don’t immediately spring to mind [8]. So I’ll probably end up ranting a bit more this month.

It looks like I wrote three somewhat technical musings. Will I write more this month? Technical musings help me work through technical issues, so I should plan to do so. I also wrote a few musings on teaching strategies. I’m not teaching this year, but I still like to think about teaching. I have at least one other teaching musing in mind for the coming month.

What else? It looks like at least three of the musings were about events I attended on campus. I haven’t made it to as many of those events as I’d like, but I am trying to find time to make it to a variety of things. We’ll see how next week goes [9].

It feels like my muse pulled me in a lot of directions this month. I had many days in which I felt like I had to write about something, just to get it out of my head. I didn’t finish all of those musings, but writing something down did help get stuff out of my head. I may edit and finish some of those this coming month.

Did I learn anything about my writing as I attempted to edit my musings? I use the term really too much. Really, I do. Grammarly also reports that I am overly fond of clearly. I’m not sure whether or not I’ll change those habits.

I also continue to learn about readers I did not know I had. I heard from one alum that they wanted to look up information on Dave Robinson and stumbled upon my musings. I heard from a variety of early-career faculty and staff that they read my musings. One who is no longer so early-career said something like Yeah, Have you seen what Sam wrote about …. is often a topic of discussion. When they saw my face, they said Don’t worry, it’s a good thing. Should I be influencing young faculty and staff [10]? I don’t know, but I think my mother would be happy [11]. Middle son also tells me that students read my musings, including a number who don’t know me. I’m not sure why.

While I recently mused about why I don’t trust counts for evaluating Grinnell’s curriculum, I still consider some basic counts useful for reflecting on the state of my musing. From what I can tell, I have twenty-four outstanding short musing topics and twenty-one outstanding long musing topics. Even if I do make it back to daily musing, those topics should carry me through the end of October. And, well, I know that (a) I am unlikely to muse every day and (b) other topics will arise. I’ll find it interesting to see where those numbers stand in a month. Even if I use 30 of the 45 topics, I’ll still have fifteen left to use. After that, I still have a backlog of a few hundred in my old sketchbook.

And that’s where I stand for this month. See you back here next month for another reflection.

[1] mused, ranted, whatever.

[2] We have determined that I write more [3] than my family in those weekly notes. I’m not sure that I convey more information; I just use more words.

[3] Or edit less.

[4] And even took a short vacation afterwards.

[5] Or, more precisely, to post a musing or rant daily.

[6] And skill.

[7] Yes, I plan to scale the sign.

[8] I think it’s a good sign that more topics don’t immediately spring to mind.

[9] I think next week is the Grinnell Prize week.

[10] That assumes, of course, that reading my musings influences my readers.

[11] Mom was faculty president at Boston University when John Silber was president. Among the lessons she shared with me from that time was Many faculty don’t want to speak out until they have the security of tenure. But if you train yourself to be quiet before tenure, you rarely speak out afterwards. So begin early. Of course, she sometimes took speaking out to extremes [12].

[12] I recall when some major news magazine was doing a profile on Silber. They knew that the faculty didn’t like him, but they couldn’t find anyone to do so publicly, other than mom and Howard Zinn. So they had a bunch of Q&A with mom. At one point, the interviewer asked Isn’t he a genius? Mom’s response: Perhaps, but so was Ezra Pound. [14]

[14] I don’t think I could ever achieve so biting a remark with so little thought. I also don’t feel that way about any of the college presidents under whom I’ve worked.

Version 1.0 of 2019-09-30.