e-mail me at billdeg@umich.edu


head full of ideas

Sometimes I wish nothing sat on the nightstand but a remote control and a coca-cola. Of course I can't have caffeine and I'm trying to get back down to my "low weight" (i.e., what I weighed after I dropped a hundred pounds in 2004-2005) so the latter is out altogether. Instead, books books books. I'm not complaining; they bring joy. But the term's off to a hectic start and, well, my head's bouncing with ideas and choices and to-do lists.

I'm in the middle of 'Half the Sky' by Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, a text I love. Kristof and WuDunn combine reportage, creative non-fiction, and thoroughly researched analyses of the status of women around the world. It's ultimately a book about how women represent the single greatest potential investment in a more just world. Any interest in foreign aid, gender, or justice issues? Read this book immediately. I'm teaching it so I've been re-reading some early chapters and taking notes for much of this afternoon in anticipation of tomorrow's class. Don't disappoint me, freshmen.

Also in the middle of 'Under the Dome' by Stephen King. This is strictly for fun. I don't read huge amounts of fiction during the term, but I couldn't finish this nearly 1200 page behemoth last week, so I'm finishing up the last couple hundred pages this week. This is easily the most fun I've had reading a King book since I was in high school and adored each of his novels. A town in rural Maine becomes shut off from the rest of the world due to the sudden appearance of an invisible dome around the hamlet. Part 'Lord of the Flies,' part allegory about post 9/11 foriegn policy, part epic good/evil battle a la King's 'The Stand.' Loving it.

For an article I'm revising (thanks to that revise and resubmit letter a few weeks back), I'm reading around in 'Ordinary Affects' (Kathleen Stewart), 'Vision, Rhetoric and Social Action in the Composition Classroom' (Kristie Fleckenstein) and 'The Affective Turn' (Patricia Clough and Jean Halley). Oh yeah, and I'm supposed to be writing a book review of Kelly Ritter's 'Before Shaughnessy.' How about a re-do on Christmas break and this time I don't veg out? I have a love-hate relationship with the clanging of words and ideas that everybody in this line of work must feel. So much to read. So many ideas to use, consider, assess.


this time of year

First, it's freezing cold. When will temps climb above freezing? Not sure. Doesn't feel like anytime soon. Smokey doesn't mind chilly walks in the a.m., but I do. I've been going to the gym most every day (no excuses when classes haven't even started), but can't seem to stick with the plan to eat super healthy stuff and that's it. I'm trying. Dividing time between my home office and campus office, I'm clicking things off the to-do list, which feels great.

Anxious to start teaching next week. I've got a section of English 327: Advanced Exposition, one of my fave classes to teach. Small class size, mostly language arts education people with some English majors in the mix. The opportunity to do some interesting writing projects. Also have a section of first-year comp and I'm in the process of totally reworking ways I've taught the second-term class in the past. I'm structuring some research-writing assignments around a reading of Half the Sky and have absolutely no idea how students are going to respond. The book is a powerful read and I think it cries out for response, including written response.

I'm happy not to be teaching any service learning courses this term. Although I love working with community agencies and getting my students out there, it can be exhausting. And directing our Civic Engagement Project gives me loads and loads of opportunities to get my outreach fix. In fact, just yesterday I had lunch with a great young community organizer who is eager to partner with our campus in future semesters. And a positive email from the Provost just in the last few hours gives me hope that we might be more firmly institutionalized next year.

Did I mention I read the AV Club's great Inventory book last week? More like consumed the book. Even found a piece by Patton Oswalt ("Six Quiet Film Revolutions") that was fairly profound, albeit irreverent. Plan to use that piece in 327 this semester. I'm in the middle of Stephen King's "Under the Dome" now. Got it as a Christmas present and I must say it's up there with his 70s work. It's got an epic feel (think "The Stand," aka his masterpiece) despite literally taking place in an enclosed, tiny space. Okay time to get to the gym and then get back to that (shortening) to-do list. Might make some vegetable soup this afternoon too.