Drifting, v.
1. (Acad. Interdis.) The slow process through
which academic workers become figuratively
covered in work, making it difficult to
get out from under it all.

Like most people in my department, I've been thinking a lot about Dale Bauer lately. Dale is one of Those Amazing Colleagues you're sometimes fortunate enough to work with, the kind of person you can't quite believe you're talking with around the copier. When I first got to campus, I bumped into Dale in the hallway, asked her what she was up to, and remember her saying "Oh, you know, heading off to write one of the 48 letters of recommendation I have to finish this semester."

As a new assistant professor, and this was like week one on the job, I was struck by this. How could it happen that one could go from writing the two or three letters I was used to writing, to 48? At that point, a few months out of grad school, my job seemed pretty set and contained: teach, write, and go to a few meetings. Over the years, little things have been added to little things. Drifting has occurred.

Last night I walked into campus with Chooch!, locked myself in my office, and read undergraduate honors essays. I had two to read, each about thirty pages, and after reading each one I wrote the required letter of response. Now, don't get me wrong: this was a real treat. It was welllll over a decade ago that I submitted my own honors thesis at the University of Colorado, so reading these final projects was both a kind of nostalgia trip and a chance to see what students here at UIUC can put together. At 9:00 pm, with Chooch! asleep in the chair and two honors essays read and responded to (plus an annotated bibliography), it was time to walk home.

The response to being drifted over with work is characteristically different from being caught in an avalanche. In an avalanche, one panics, digs, thrashes, tries to form an air pocket, and wants nothing more than to get free. But the drift forms bit-by-bit, slowly accumulating and growing and spreading. The letters of recommendation. The special projects. The meetings. The committees. And with promotion, when and if it comes, more duties in terms of reviews.

Now, this is not to say that people like Dale flounder under these drifts of work. Quite the contrary, drifters seem to thrive on the action, prioritize, work efficiently, and get things done. The drift is slow enough to allow for responsive strategies. A senior colleague I work with mentioned the other night (as part of a very funny joke) that he more-or-less has a law-school template for letters of rec down to a science.

Out West we know that drifts respond well to snow fences, and successful drifters must erect them all over the place.

And the thing is, walking home last night after reading those honors essays, I had a lot to think about. The essays were engaging, interesting, challenging, and fun. But it's the additive nature of the drift that threatens to subsume. Mantras like "you've gotta learn to say no" perhaps help successful drifters, as well as templates and plenty of practice. Snow fence. No. Efficient. The drift.


Found Acrostic

During the walk in today,
Under some leaves and such,
M and I came across this rather
Banal acrostic poem.

"Always doing what I'm told,/ Even if I disagree"???


Quad Cam

Some students in my Writing Technologies class pointed out our on-site Quad Cam, a camera that allows for zooming and panning. Quite different from other static campus cams, this one allows you to sit in the turret.


YouTubed Teachers ... Again

Strange how the topic of YouTubed teachers keeps coming up as "new." (I just found my original post on the topic from 9.2006)

Russell Shaw @ znet.com has this piece on teachers being YouTubed by their students.

And apparently, the American Federation of Teachers has come out against this form of student-based pedagogical documentation ... but haven't been able to find an official statement online.

Blog Reading Level

cash advance

Via hangingtogether.org, my sister's work-group blog.


Found Friday @ the Gym

There is a new machine at the gym, very vibrational, and it recommends postures of this kind.


First! a Five-Paragraph Essay

A former student sends along this link to a five-paragraph essay published online and written by Ron Guenther, our Director of Athletics here at the University of Illinois.

The essay's kind of interesting: "First, a large crowd on Saturday will help us beat Northwestern. ... Second, the bowl selection committees will be watching our game on Saturday. ... Third, our seniors have played such a significant role in turning this program around." Go team!

One of the strange things about the five-paragraph essay is how its structure sometimes travels into genres other than the essay; in this example, a letter becomes an occasion for five-paragraph-style persuasion. (It also becomes an occasion for topic sentences highlighted in orange, but that's a whole nother story.)


Found Friday Goes Urban

Found in New York by a highly paid member of grant #2339.598.fnd. Thanks DF!


Found Cockroach

Found outside my office two days ago; I should have seen it as a harbinger of things to come. I believe it's an American Cockroach (Periplaneta americana), though I'm not 100% sure.

A C T U A L   S I Z E

UPDATE: I couldn't help myself and ended up using this image in today's lesson on moveable images.


U of I Wiki and the Joy of Former Students

As I work through websites created by the html gurus in my Writing Technologies class (this time around it's a batch of "Invent Your Own Typeface" sites, many of which are stunning), I'm reminded of Rich Cornish's U of I Wiki.

Rich is a veteran of the Writing Technologies class, and while I can't say I taught him everything he knows, he did start the wiki up while taking the class. At the U of I Wiki, there are about 150 pages/articles, including a funny one about about the "Chef" (inside joke) and, in about 2 seconds, the Undergrounduate Library.


Lost Luggage Field Guide

While I'm generally up for checking out new field guides, the Lost Luggage Field Guide, which I had to use at the airport tonight, is kind of disappointing. I mean, it classifies un-wheeled and wheeled duffels (number 25) together. What's up with that?

If a Purple-sided Duffel happens to fall out of the sky near where you live, give me a holler.

My Office Today



Portland Found Friday

Found in Portland, ME this week. Portland is nice and sunny and has hills.