e-mail me at billdeg@umich.edu


on missing the memo

Anybody see the episode of "Ugly Betty" a few weeks back in which Betty prepares for a dinner party with her rich boyfriend's mother by boning up on subjects to chit chat about? As always, the plot involved Betty (fish) out of working-class Queens (water) and the foibles that follow. She's marked by difference at the party, flounders, eventually triumphs. The familiar Betty arc, one of the things that make the show great.

Betty struggles to read social cues. That's her flaw. I can identify. Two weeks ago, somewhat anxious about my first foray into a system-wide (i.e., across all three U-M campuses) program, I head off to Ann Arbor for the first orientation session for the fellowship program I'm doing this summer. I get somewhat gussied up (for me), donning dress pants, a freshly ironed dress shirt, dark socks, the whole thing. I get there and most faculty are casual. "Cool," I think to myself, "a laid-back group of folks. Definitely my speed."

Last night, the second orientation event, this time with dinner. Because a meal's involved, I keep with my dress pants and nice shirt motiff. Get there. Suits, all over the place. Total "Betty" moment. How do I miss these memos?


i'm beginning to see the light

The light of Spring, that is. The academic year ends in five weeks. Summer brings gardening, biking to Coffee Beanery to spend entire days writing, and a conspicuous lack of meetings. I'm teaching two sections of first-year writing during the first summer session in hopes of socking away some money for the 2010 Italy trip.

I'm also happy to be part of the U-Michigan Roads Scholars program this summer. Clever pun, right? The scholars program is a "five-day traveling seminar on the state of Michigan." About thirty faculty from across the curriculum visit the state legislature, a slew of social service agencies, businesses, and schools to learn about economy, politics, geography, and culture in the state. I can't wait.

This year's itinerary hasn't been finalized, but I learned at last night's orientation session that we're going to dairy and wind farms in the U.P., several assembly plants, the State Capital, the Sault Tribe, Focus:HOPE, Belle Isle, Mackinaw Island, a prison, a semi-conductor plant, and many other sites. Apparently, each site provides a chance to meet folks and go behind the proverbial scenes. A lot of the faculty who've been chosen are doing community-based or place-based research of various types. Part of the goal is to provide a venue for doing outreach and networking. Most of all, it's a week or intense learning.

The program is a big part of why the end of the year looks so bright.



Has the listserv run its course as a means of communication? I dunno, but I need a break. I don't get anything from professional listservs that I don't get from 1) reading blogs, 2) facebooking, 3) emailing and even, gasp, talking to people, and 4) looking shit up independently. The WPA list has been rehashing the same conversations for years now but staying on the list was a way to get calls-for-papers, follow gossip, and absorb info about the job market (which is just another way of saying "follow gossip"). I have plenty of folks I keep in touch with (mostly through facebook) from my graduate program and my first teaching job, not to mention friends I've met over the years at 4Cs and elsewhere. I've unsubscribed. Felt good.

Mostly disconnected from the listserv break, I'm generally trying to decrease negativity in my life. I'm pretty good at working out 3-4 times a week. I do a decent job eating healthy foods (though I still struggle with binge moments). I think I balance diverse pursuits and activities--writing, doing the community-based work that means a lot to me, staying involved at church, working with students, taking my Italian class, taking time just to read and enjoy a warm beverage at the cafe, consuming pop culture (ok, I do too much of that...). But I need to get more pro-active about getting rid of sources of negativity. I'm trying.



Back from San Francisco and lacking the time to write a proper report. Scattered thoughts? Why not.

Lew and I stayed at our favorite hole-in-the-wall, the Astoria, next to Chinatown's entrance. Tiny rooms, single beds, free bagels in the a.m., and an easy fifteen-minute walk to the Hilton. One day, two Chinese businessmen got in a fistfight in the lobby. It's like a Warren Zevon song at that place. In other words, WAY more personality than the Hilton. Plus free wi-fi. Eat it, corporate hotel.

Cheesy school pride? Heck yeah. Arizona put on a good party for good friends. Days later, Arizona makes the tourney. Good week to be a Wildcat.

A big huge publisher, who shall remain nameless, spent obscene amounts of dough in the hopes we'd all go home and make all our students by their books. I liked the huge projection of the corporate logo onto the wall. Their bartenders made nice 7&7s. The food was pretty bad though.

Browsing at City Lights was a highlight of the trip. Wish I could have rented a room there. Lew and I took a bus out to Haight-Ashbury, ate pizza, and listened to a drum circle in Golden Gate Park.

Dude checking IDs at the SF airport looked at my license and said, "Is Berkley, Michigan, like Berkeley, California?" I responded in the negative.

Okay, one point about the business of the trip. Our panel on empathy was good fun. Decent-sized audience for an 8 a.m. slot...and they asked way smart questions. Folks from another panel on empathy attended our session and we were glad to reciprocate later that day. Plans to collaborate began to be hatched. Cool.