e-mail me at billdeg@umich.edu

3/05/2014

gay marriage trial in Michigan

Sadly, a coalition of Christian ministers continues to lobby against gay marriage in Michigan, appealing to the African-American community by framing the matter as a voter suppression issue. In 2004 voters struck down a marriage equality constitutional amendment. Now a lesbian couple's lawsuit against the state has finally come to trial in federal court in Detroit; they're suing for the right to adopt each other's kids in a case whose decision could affect the state's public policy regarding both adoption rights and gay marriage rights.

One of the interesting pieces of the puzzle has been the state's defense of its discriminatory policy. Here is a link to a brief the state's attorney general filed explaining that it's in the state's best interest to continue defining marriage as being between a man and a woman because the state has an interest in protecting procreation and the state has a prerogative to regulate sexual relations. Please keep in mind that the attorney general campaigned for office with support of the tea party based on "small government" ideology. And he thinks the state should be in the business of regulating sexual relationships. More alarming, perhaps, is the odd claim that the state benefits more from marriages that involve procreation.

My marriage has produced no children. My wife and I own a home, pay lots of taxes (happily) that support one of the best school districts in the state of Michigan, and don't have any kids that use the aforementioned resources. Isn't the state making out pretty good on the deal? I would make the argument that the state benefits quite a bit from my marriage--especially from that monetary perspective. This is just anecdotal, but if it weren't for my marriage, I probably wouldn't own a home--and definitely wouldn't own the home that I *do* own.


2/28/2014

Re-Entry

Settling back into any kind of routine after international travel is tough. Yesterday I cleaned my office which is a sure sign I didn't want to grade those papers. I mean it was the first time I cleaned my office since I became director of the writing program two years ago. Went through a good portion of a bottle of Fantastic. Recycled a lot of paper. Washed some coffee mugs that had gotten gross. The place is looking good if I do say so. Also got various projects organized, submitted a bunch of paperwork, started getting organized for 4Cs coming up in a few weeks, caught up on emails and facebook, and generally pulled my head out of Paris mode into Writing Program mode. Today: get those papers graded. Thank God it's Spring Break. Knock wood, my migraine meds have been doing their thing very, very effectively. I can imagine sanity and a routine in my near future. Let's see.

Paris!

I look around my office on this frigid Michigan morning and see visual reminders of lovely Lebanon--the maps, paintings, and posters that cover my walls, the little tea set, the handbill from a lecture I gave at AUB. And two days back from France it's Lebanon at the heart of my memories of Paris too. At the Writing Research Across Borders (WRAB) Conference, our Beirut-Dearborn research team gave a symposium on the collaborative work our students have done--interviewing each other via skype and writing one another's literacy narratives--and we had a good time reconnecting in person: making plans for an article and our next teaching link-up next Fall, but also going out for paella in Paris and just spending time laughing. There's nothing like forgetting everything else for just a moment (or for just a week) and being thankful that people on the other side of the world came into my life.

It took forty years to get to Paris. I'm jealous of the easy and cheap metro and the comfortable "Winter" weather there. Sunday Mass at St. Sulpice with its enormous pipe organ, followed by a quiet espresso outside of church at a little cafe, was a highlight. So were the catacombs (Nicole wasn't a fan...so I guess thanks to my family for letting me watch inappropriate horror films as a little kid, thereby numbing me to how creepy a vast underground necropolis is!), the coffee, and the macaroons. French food? The baked goods are amazing but the "plates"...pretty good, but not as good as Thai, Indian, Middle-Eastern, and the like. I tried snails, that was a first, and a really frothy French omelette was also interesting. Paella (Spanish food in Paris--why not?) with the Beirut crew was the tastiest non-sweet food. Nicole and I walked and metroed like crazy and saw much of the city but we saved the Louvre for next time so that we have a good reason for there to be a next time.

2/10/2014

Gina Patterson visited our Writing Center consultants on Friday to give a great workshop on LGBTQ issues and concerns and there's so much to say about the insights she shared. Let me, for now, just share two useful pics that have been on my mind. Thanks for sharing these Gina.


And another:


2/04/2014

Catching up on Honors 220

A few weeks back I mentioned I had a section of honors rhetoric and writing 2, my first time teaching in our honors sequence. Technically proficient and accustomed to high performance at school, the students produce largely error-free prose (though a few need attention when it comes to the conventions of working with print sources). Semester-long student projects focus on the rhetorical analysis of any current debate happening in the public sphere and what students are struggling with is the difference between writing about what rhetors argue and writing about how rhetors argue. Our course text--the funny and engaging Words Like Loaded Pistols--is helping quite a bit and we're in the process of walking through various schemas and heuristics for critiquing an argument. It's fun, and we've managed to use the Richard Sherman "thug" conversation and an exchange in feminist zines about the ethos of selfies as examples we keep returning to as new tropes and terms become part of our collective repertoire. But we're also in that phase of the term where I've complicated things significantly but the complication hasn't yet benefitted student thinking and writing. I've found that there's a period where students adjust to new ways of thinking and writing, when concepts are still clicking, when they're still figuring out how to make this process their own...when the writing looks clunky. Luckily, I think I'm at the point where the students more or less trust me. And I just know that in a few weeks, as they become even more conversant about their respective areas of inquiry, as they become even more comfortable with course concepts (what is a commonplace and how does it circulate?), their writing will be at a higher level. Which is to say: I trust them too.

2/03/2014

Kickin' the bucket

Last week the Metro Times published a fun list of 100 Things All Detroiters Should Do Before They Die. Some items were a bit predictable, like watching the Tigers at Comerica Park, but a few reminded me of places I've somehow never gone: Baker's Lounge (the famous, old lounge right down Livernois from my church), the Motown Museum, and a pizza place called Loui's in Hazel Park. What? A pizza place I've never visisted despite having lived here from 1992-1996 and 2005-2014?! Shock and shame.

Loui's, I quickly learned, was started by a French guy who worked at Buddy's for many years before going solo. It shows. The Buddy's part, not the French part. Like Buddy's, Loui's boasts deep-dish, square pies with a unique blend of tangy cheeses. Upon hearing about Loui's, Nicole agreed to pick up a large mushroom and green pepper on her way home from her office--she works on the east side so it was sorta kinda on her way--and I'd meet her at home after work. Predictably, I didn't get home from campus as early as I'd hoped and the pie was already cooling by the time I got home. That's on me.

It was very good anyway, almost indistinguishable from Buddy's (and I'm a big Buddy's fan). If anything, the sauce was sweeter, a better compliment to that unique mix of cheese that up until now I thought only Buddy's used. Nicole had sampled a slice while the pie was still hot--I would have been disappointed if she didn't--and she insists it's definitely got a leg up on Buddy's. She also reports that the 70s decor in the place is pretty terrific. So we're totally dining in next time (soon). Thanks, Metro Times. Next up: Baker's and the Motown Museum.

1/27/2014

back on migraine meds

In 2009-2010, I was on generic depacote to treat severe migraines. The meds knocked out the migraines, for the most part, but also resulted in some substantial weight gain and my neurologist slowly weaned me off. I spent a few years with sporadic migraines. My time in Sharjah and even moreso Lebanon was largely migraine-free. I had a prescription painkiller that I took when one came on that was particularly severe but until a few months ago, it was nothing like the summer of 2009, a most miserable period of time, when I clearly recall wishing to bang my head against the sidewalk to take my mind off the incessant throbbing and pulsing in my temples and forehead.

A few months ago, the migraines grew more frequent and changed a bit, coming on more often in the middle of the night, strong enough to wake me up, strong enough that Nicole made an appointment at the neurologist and got the necessary referral from our family doc. I don't experience many other symptoms, like the light and noise sensitivity and nausea that many migraine-sufferers feel. I get occasional dizziness which seems largely disconnected from the headaches and continue to experience partial atrophy of my palate, which the doctors maintain has a neurological basis--likely the same anomaly causing the migraines--but not one they can pin down (no tumor, thank goodness).

Anyway, the neurologist decided the severity and frequency warrant a return to meds, this time generic topamax instead, which doesn't have the weight gain side effect. It's going to take about a month to ease up to full dosage but in the five days since I started I've had two migraines (about on par) though the more recent one was of much less severity. Probably too soon to be connected to the meds but I'll take it. I'm not crazy about the idea of being on drugs at my tender age, but the prospect of sleeping all night without a migraine, night after night, couldn't be more appealing.

1/24/2014

typical me

Hey, running a writing program ain't all bad. You get to influence classroom practice, have loads of conversations about teaching, and use the noxious abbreviation "ad-min."

Today, a day with a budget meeting in the dean's office on my schedule, just happens to be the day I wear two different socks. I mean, who notices socks? Not a big deal. But I knew. The meeting went pretty well, nobody to my knowledge realized my error, but STILL. I'm such a wannbe perfectionist, it just never quite works out that way.