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A few forthcoming essays (a not-quite preview)

It’s late. I’m behind on sleep. I’m coming down with something. But I promised I’d write something like an essay each day. Since I haven’t been expressing criticisms well lately, I probably shouldn’t write a critical essay. I probably used up what little humor I had at dinner [1]. So I’m trying an experiment. I’m going to write a few paragraphs about some topics that I plan to write more about over the next few weeks.

Grinnell has been changing its policies regarding Mentored Advanced Projects (MAPs). In the early days of MAPs, two rules were put into place, rules that I call The Bruce Voyles Rule and The Samuel Rebelsky Rule. Both seem to have been done in response to our approaches to the MAP program, and both seem to have been done without paying attention to the success of our approaches. (I also think that both were done for financial reasons, even though no one admitted it.) I plan to write a bit more about the rules and about my reactions to them.

While Michelle is my best friend, Andrew Chalfen [2] is my oldest friend, and Charles Steele [3] is the friend I’ve spent the most time with in recent years, Jon Strymish ranks as one of my most important friends, and deserves a profile. Jon is a brilliantly talented photographer and a wonderful bookseller. I don’t see nearly enough of him, but every time I do I appreciate the time with him and his approach to the world. (Jon’s not a Grinnellian, so he doesn’t belong in those profiles.) Andy probably deserves a profile, too, but I haven’t been in as close contact with him. Charles probably doesn’t want a public profile.

As many of you likely heard [4], the company that makes Pebble watches recently went bankrupt and their assets were claimed (purchased?) by Fitbit. I love my Pebble Steel watch, so this might be something worth writing about. That is, I can explain why I think Pebble had a cool model for smart watches and perhaps even what I think about the transition.

I was recently helping a student handle changes across multiple files, and at some point I wrote a shell expression with a backtick [5].
The student appeared not to know about backticks. It strikes me that they are worthy of an essay, but I’m not sure what I can say other than describe their role in Markdown and their incredible usefulness in the shell. We’ll see.

A few days ago, I was discussing the joy of sample classes with someone. For one of my favorite sample classes, I was asked to teach Heap Sort. I don’t think I’d previously known Heap Sort. But it ended up being one of the best classes I’ve ever taught, and Heap Sort ended up being one of my favorite sorting algorithms. Why? Because it is an algorithm that one would only design for computer; it’s not something that one would do by hand. I think it will be fun and valuable to explain heap sort and what I find beautiful about it.

There have been some recent requests for me to revisit my Posse essay. It’s probably worth extracting the important parts of that essay and placing them in a new form. But that will take some effort and some thought. It will also take more care than I can spare at the moment.

I’ve had some fun followup experiences with my Harry and David order, including vague and incomplete responses, poorly addressed packages, friendly Twitter conversations, appreciative [7] comments from recipients, feelings of shame for not sending more, and so on and so forth. But I should probably wait a few more days until things seem more resolved.

There was a recent article in Chronicle of Higher Education about a faculty member who publicly posted a fairly severe critique of a student at his institution (although not a student he had taught). I still haven’t figured out what I think about that situation, and it will be worth writing an essay about commenting on students in public.

I missed whatever that charitable giving day was a few weeks ago. But there are still a few weeks before the end of the year. It’s probably worth finally writing my essays on Giving to Grinnell, particularly since I’ll be donating a bit more before the end of the year.

Preregistration finished up about a week ago. Preregistration at Grinnell seems to be different than at other schools. I also seem to face prereg with a bit more frustration than most. I think it’s worth describing our process and revealing a few of my frustrations. But we’ll see.

Okay, I think that’s ten topics. That will carry me through more than another week. I hope that I’ll have energy and enthusiasm to write about at least one of these tomorrow (or perhaps about something else).

Oh yeah, one or two more topics came to mind while I was wrapping up this essay [8]. I’ve written an essay about conclusions. This essay is interesting [9] in that there are no real transitions between paragraphs. I don’t always work all that hard on transitions, but I do think they are important. It might be worth writing an essay about the role of transitions, how I write my transitions when I’m writing carefully [10], and similar topics. And since I mentioned conclusions, I should probably revisit the conclusions I write and the models that I should be exploring.

Let’s see … It’s December 8. December has thirty-one days. December 31st will probably be my end-of-month essay. That means I have twenty-two topics to consider in depth, at least if I count correctly. Reflecting on these ten topics [11] looks like it’s a good start.

Note: I do not need suggestions for other topics or feedback on whether or not these are good topics. (I’ll deal with such suggestions if I receive them, but please do not feel obligated to send them.)

[1] Of course you should like mushrooms; after all, you’re a fun guy.

[2] An awesome musician, among other things.

[3] My brother-in-law, and a forensic scientist, among other things.

[4] Well, as many of the techies among you likely heard.

[5] You may also call those back quote or grave [6].

[6] In this case, the a in grave is not pronounced like the Canadian eh, but rather like the dentist’s ah.

[7] And sometimes misunderstood.

[8] Since these topics came to mind later, they may not appear as soon as the other topics.

[9] At least one of my writing teachers told me not to use the adjective interesting because, well, it isn’t.

[10] I’m not sure that I’ve thought carefully about how I write transitions. However, I do try to think about them when I edit papers (my own, and my students’).

[11] Or twelve [12].

[12] If I was more creative and less sick, I would have found a way to make Or twelve be footnote number 12. Oh well, this footnote is the next best thing.

Version 1.0 of 2016-12-08.