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My One-Hundredth Essay of the Day

Wow! I’ve been thinking about this essay for more than a week. I can’t believe that I can finally finish it and post it!

However, Youngest son does want to warn you that Mom says that after all the build-up you gave to this essay, it will clearly be a let down [1].

If you read the essays each day, you’ll know that a few days ago, I asked my readers to submit their favorite essays along with a short note about what they liked about those essays. I thought that putting together this essay would provide some broader context to new readers and would give long-term readers a chance to contribute back. I also thought it would make it easier to write this essay, since it consists mostly of quotations.

As I noted in the closing in essay, it’s not clear to me why one-hundred seems like a special number, as it’s just a feature of the numbering system we use [5]. In base 7, this would be essay 202. In base 16, it’s essay 64.

Anyway, this essay (mostly) belongs to my readers. Here’s what those who responded came up with [6].

JR writes So from now on when people ask me why tenure is so amazing I’m showing them this essay.

JLND writes Probably my favorite essay is #85 [7,8] because I can relate all too well.

EL writes My favorite essay is embarrassing teaching moments because I remember laughing for a solid five minutes.

Anonymous writes Friday PSA: It’s probably one of my favorites because it shows how much you care about your students. It’s realistic and concerned, but it’s not saccharine sweet; you know that students DO drink and smoke, but you want to remind us to do it in moderation. [9]

Anonymous writes The Removed Essay on Posse: This was the first concise thing I read about Posse and I thought that it was a great introduction. [10]

Genius or Folly writes I found your PSA adorably awkward [11].

Anonymous writes The Essay on Microaggressions: I’ll admit that when I read the title, my heart skipped a beat and I was slightly nervous that this would go a preachy route. But I really liked reading more about the Science Division, and especially how the CS department is treated. As someone who visits your office at least once a week to protest/suggest a class/debate how CS is treated as a major and discipline in the greater scene of Grinnell, it was interesting to see how the greater Grinnell community treats us.

Bob writes Grinnell Football. I had the same thoughts as you about Grinnell Football and discussed them with Prof. David Lopatto. It turns out Prof. Lopatto, while interim dean, and Joe Bagnoli tried to find a solution to the issues discussed in the essay. Prof. Lopatto admits that they were unsuccessful.

Anonymous writes The Essay on Grinnell’s CS Department: I think this should be read by all prospective students. Period. It makes our department seem like a real group of faculty and students who are passionate about what we are doing, which we are, as opposed to the CS page on the Grinnell web site, which reads more like a straight-up advertisement.

PH says I enjoyed the essay on Alcohol at Grinnell (and the followup on 10/10) as it let me recall interesting conversations at Grinnell, but with a new twist.

PH says I enjoy hearing the little jokes I’ve heard from you ump-teen times for the ump-teen and first time, especially in Dad Jokes and whatever essay has Where’s the library at, *******? in it [12].

JH says I like the ones about the computer science department, because I enjoy getting more insight into how your department runs. You’ve also inspired me to start my own essays.

JR says I hate the essay on the Cubs because it is completely inappropriate to put endnotes in the title [14].

EGJ writes I have been reading most of your essays. It’s interesting to hear about various goings on in the department and the college, and I especially appreciated the one about you being a curmudgeon. Your bookstore essay made me think about how [my institution]’s bookstore serves the university and the town–frankly, as someone who enjoys the bookstore’s community events, I now wonder how the students view it. It made me wonder about the ways in which Grinnell’s could serve the town better/differently, and if there are resources it provides that I simply wasn’t aware of as a student.

CJ writes I like a lot of these essays! I really liked Essay #11 [15], because I liked hearing the ins and outs of your arrival at the current form and format of your essays AND because I’m a huge fan of good footnotes, and this essay was an early indicator of how much I would enjoy yours [16]. I also liked the Grinnell Prize essay, because I like seeing you mull something over and show how your thoughts have changed over time. I liked Thinking the Best of People because I felt like I was learning something interesting about you–and because I liked the way the conversation with your mother’s friend got added to the footnotes. I also felt like I was being reminded of a good life practice. I also like essays like Cyro Baptista and Banquet of Spirits and 10/10 because they comment on things I had just been experiencing or thinking about. So I get to compare my current ideas with yours. I like your essay on your mother, because I have always liked hearing you talk about your mother and because I appreciate moments when work friends get personal. I liked your essay on being a curmudgeon because it was so specific about things like the way you like to be addressed formally. I am looking forward to your Erik Simpson essay, though.

DF writes [#99 is a] totally fine essay, but it will pale before the magnificence of #100. [17]

WBC writes In your #42 essay, you discuss the changing problem of alcohol consumption on Grinnell’s campus. As a recent grad, I had many similar thought processes to this essay, wishing that there was/is a way for students who wanted to consume alcohol like adults, to actually do so.

WBC also writes Essay #90 is a necessary reflection on football at Grinnell. I saw the issue from several angles: I had many friends who played, I worked in admissions and interviewed football players, and I was great friends with two of the football coaches. Unfortunately, football needs a lot of bodies to be played competitively, and Grinnell’s size and academic standards don’t lend itself to fielding 1) a big team or 2) a highly skilled team. I want Grinnell to have a football team, but I think most people familiar with the logistics understand that something needs to change for our program to improve. [18]

WBC generously adds The essay on best practices is hilarious to me, as in the Consulting world, Best Practices is like the staple for, We think we know what to do. Now we’ll give you this deck (PPT), ta-ta, and good luck!! In all seriousness, Best Practices was defined to me early on as combining industry standards with with observations on how the client functions to really build out a recommendation that makes sense in the given context.

TB texts My favorite piece was the one on your mum because it said a lot about you and why you are the way you are.

MSR writes My favorite is the anal retentive essay [19] - it reminds me of when I would do PCHEM with Adena and Chuck in your apartment - I think that might be the first time I heard you speak to the hyphen or not.

Thanks to everyone who responded!

It looks like the essay on 10/10 and my Friday PSA are the more popular. I’ll let you make of that what you will. I hope that new readers have also found some interesting pointers.

What’s my favorite? Essays are a bit like children. It seems inappropriate to claim I have a favorite [25].

Will I do another lists of favorites for essay #200? I’m not sure. Another possibility is an ask the writer essay in which readers submit questions. For example,

JW writes I’m curious when you’re going to start calling this blogging.

That’s an interesting not-quite question. I would never call this blogging, because I always call that action ’blogging, with the apostrophe to take the place of the missing We. Folks do refer to these writings informally as Sam’s ’blog. Nonetheless, I still think this form is more like essays than ’blog posts, not least because I don’t readily welcome public comments on the essays that appear at the same place as the essays. (Facebook comments and Twitter tweets are fine, but less permanent than ’blog comments.)

[1] Since the essay is supposed to be composed primarily of reader comments, any let down is your fault, not mine [2].

[2] That is, more of you could have written, or written better [3].

[3] I appreciate both the people who wrote and the care with which they wrote [4].

[4] No, that’s not intended as sarcasm. I love the comments and don’t think that this essay is a let down.

[5] The first positive, three digit, whole number, to be precise.

[6] Unfortunately, almost none of them included a link, so I’ve had to add them myself.

[7] Sam notes that essay #85 is entitled Nibbled to death by ducks, episode 1.

[8] Sam, not JLND, inserted these endnotes.

[9] In case it’s not clear to the reader, while I know that many Grinnell students drink, I assume that all students who drink alcohol are of legal drinking age.

[10] Sam plans a revised version that is a bit less confrontational.

[11] We have lost the precise wording of this recommendation. I regret to say that this version is a poor substitute. I’m sure there was a followup comment about old people writing to young people about having fun. Or maybe it was just a comment on ways I referred to students having sex.

[12] Amazingly, the essay with that joke in it is entitled Thinking the best of others.

[13] There is still no footnote 13.

[14] I know I asked for favorites. JR insisted that I include this criticism.

[15] Essay #11 was about the form of these essays.

[16] I do worry that this reader seems to be thinking of someone else’s essays.

[17] Thank you, DF, for allowing me to include a recursive link in this essay.

[18] I’m not worried that we lose. I’m worried that the small team leads to more injuries. And I’m my not sure that those injuries are worth the benefits that football brings us.

[19] Wow! That’s a challenge. Should anal retentive essay be hyphenated? The essay itself isn’t anal retentive [20]; rather, the subject of the essay is the term anal retentive. In that case, I’m not sure what one should do. Fortunately, (a) this is a direct quote, so I shouldn’t worry about it [22] and (b) in the end, English grammar should be descriptive rather than prescriptive [23].

[20] Okay, I guess it is pretty anal retentive. But then, so are many of my essays [21].

[21] More accurately, I am somewhat anal retentive in the ways in which I write these essays, or perhaps in the content of those essays, or both.

[22] I suppose I could think about inserting [sic].

[23] No, not proscriptive. Well, I guess if English grammar is descriptive, then either is okay [24].

[24] Wow, that makes me nervous. I think I’ll go back to being a prescriptivist.

[25] Middle son says that I regularly claim to have a favorite, but I doubt that [26]. My sons, on the other hand, all regularly claim to be the favorite [27].

[26] Well, there have been times I’ve reacted to something by threatening to label one of my sons as the least favorite.

[27] Each son also claims to be less smart than the other two sons. I just know is that they are all smarter than I am [28].

[29] Bragging about my three sons seems to be a great way to end essay #100.

Version 1.0.1 of 2016-10-29.