e-mail me at billdeg@umich.edu


old school movie night

The joys of the drive-in. Poor sound quality; poor picture quality; cars (and an RV!) pulling in and out, in and out, all night; gross bathrooms. Nicole and I joined Anna, Mazin, and the kids, at Dearborn's own Ford/Wyoming drive-in Saturday night. It was great fun. We took the cap off of our truck and filled the back with blankets and pillows and brought loads of food (including the grape leaves leftover from the last day of classes). We saw the "Karate Kid" remake and "Grown Ups" and both were mediocre. But the night itself? Very, very fun.

In other news, off to Youngstown in a few hours, to spend the night, and then tomorrow morning, on to Washington D.C. for Fulbright orientation. I hope to know a whole lot more after orientation. Right now I have so many questions regarding next year. I have a couple fresh legal pads and I'm ready to learn. Also hope to network with the other Mideast Grantees for many reasons, one of which is to make friends and then have places to stay when we visit other cities in the region (Aman, Petra, Damascus, etc.)!

Yesterday I turned in grades for Summer I term. I'll miss the kids (had a great creative writing class) but will be relieved to have a few months out of the classroom before departing for Lebanon. In the next few hours, I want to go to the gym, pack, cut the grass, water the garden, give the house a quick cleaning. Better start ticking things off the list...


more randomness

Too much happening to devote a post to one subject alone. Today the summer one term ends. I'm collecting final portfolios from the creative writers and the comp106-ers. I love these students but I'm glad to say farewell so I can try to wrap up a few writing projects and prepare for Lebanon. I made stuffed grape leaves and pasta salad for the students and many of them are bringing treats, so we'll end in style.

Yesterday in addition to rolling grape leaves, I did the 6.2 mile hike at Stoney Creek. I've really been enjoying outdoor exercise. Something about working out sans the artificial gym air and the smell of other people's sweat feels like, well, summer. I was late putting air in my bike tires this summer, but I've now gone for a couple nice rides as well.

For any family members out there thinking about visiting Beirut next year, get a copy of this book, The Globetrotter Travel Guide: Lebanon. Really thorough and informative. Lots of neat photos too. I found a used copy online that was only a few bucks. But it's worth paying full price.

Alright, I'm off to start reading that student work.


catching up

Haven't blogged in some time due to summer teaching, the garden, Lebanon preparations, and miscellaneous summer activities. I'm in my final week of the summer term and while I love to teach, I can't wait to finish up for the year. Summer I starts almost immediately as winter term is ending, which means no rest for the wicked. I collect final portfolios from all my students on Thursday, then a weekend of reading/grading, and, at last, fin. No more UM-Dearborn students until Fall, 2011.

Parsley's off to a sluggish start, but otherwise herbs are plentiful. I made pesto with my basil, a couple cloves of garlic, a handful of almonds, olive oil, and parmesan. Delicious on chops and boca burgers. Haven't gotten around to picking any mint yet. Wow, did I overdo it on the mint plants! But the mint combines nicely with lemon balm which grows along the side of the house, so I foresee some fruity salads this weekend.

Following leads on housing in Beirut. Expensive, but interesting. For instance, one place that sounds nice comes with the free use of a skooter. Okay, I guess, but maybe not so much with the rental costs higher than our mortgage. A few friends and friends-of-friends are inquiring for us, too, so we'll see what develops. In the meantime, I'm anxious to check out some of the ruins and Maronite sites in Lebanon, which look amazing.

Had a nice weekend in Burlington, Ontario, for the birthday part of Nicole's 95-year-old aunt. Nice get-together, and a fun city as well. Happened to visit during a street fair, so being out and about in the evening was jolly. They have good gelato there, so luckily the hotel had a great pool and gym on site. Been working out almost every day and managed to keep with it while in Canada.


belated concert review

About three weeks ago, I was lucky enough to see the Buzzcocks perform at St. Andrew's Hall in Detroit. Hipsters often spurn reunion shows, dismissing the bands as past-their-prime and greedy. But who ever said punk rockers can't have grey hair and beer bellies? Especially if they can still bring the noise.

And speaking of bringing the noise, I never realized that the Buzzcocks had a Public Enemy aesthetic. Let me explain, Pete Shelley--he with the aforementioned grey locks and paunch--sings most of the songs. You know his trebley voice from "What Do I Get?," "Ever Fallen In Love," et al. Doesn't do stage banter. For a first-wave punk, he's downright stoic. A couple feet to his right, though, is Steve Diggle, the band's hypeman, Flava Flav to Shelley's Chuck D. Diggle does the pogo, taunts the crowd like a middle-aged Sid Vicious, encourages dancing, and sings the band's more anti-authoritarian numbers, like "Autonomy."

The band played its first two albums sequentially. This has become a fad, especially at summer festivals. A band will come out and play its canonical record in its entirety (think: Sonic Youth doing Daydream Nation or the Pixies doing Doolittle). Even Springsteen did this recently, so it's a movement that goes beyond just punk and indie types. Strange move for the Buzzcocks, though, who I always think of as one of thee quintessential "singles" bands. In fact, Singles Going Steady, the band's compilation of its first eight, late-70s A- and B-sides, is its must-own, no filler record, hands down.

But it worked. They flew through those records too. The crowd never stopped dancing on that rainy Detroit night. A lot of 30- and 40-somethings, of course, and a lot of mohawks, but I was happy to see a good number of kids who knew all the words to "I Don't Mind" and "Love You More." They played the two albums with much energy and then left the stage, most of the familiar hits yet unperformed. They encored, and did all the big numbers, and it somehow didn't feel obligatory. Actually, it was a perfect cap to a really good show, a rousing, sing-along of a finish, with their signature "Orgasm Addict" closing the set. You knew this was the band that pretty much invented the notion of pop-punk, and if you were a glass half-empty person, you walked out blaming them for all the shitty bands they inspired. But most of us left smiling, happy for all the two-minute masterpieces the Buzzcocks gave to the world of rock and roll.


random bits

Too distracted to write anything coherent, so I'll give some general updates.
  • Yesterday, came home to discover a bee box on the front porch. A present? A warning? A sign from the heavens? Could it be that someone just left the thing at the wrong house, that the box was meant for a beekeeping neighbor but ended up on our stoop accidentally? No, turns out that some bee person in nearby Royal Oak borrowed it from Anna who gave the person our address so that the Royal Oak person didn't have to drive all the way down to Anna's to return it. Mystery solved. But it would have been quite a coincidence to end up with a random bee box? "Here you go, Mazin, we found a bee box for you on our front stoop."
  • This weekend, my friend Lew is visiting from Youngstown and we are seeing not one but two Tigers games. I definitely anticipate some hiking too. Can't wait.
  • Last night Nicole and saw Rhoda Janzen give a reading at Borders. We picked up her memoir afterward and I look forward to reading it. Janzen, a "worldly" college prof and poet and ex-model, goes home to her Mennonite family after a traumatic year. The memoir narrates her homecoming as well as the traumatic events that led up to the homecoming. Reading was funny.
  • Preparing for the Fulbright is as hectic as it is exciting. While I'm away next year, my Dean's office is going to supplement my "stipend," thank goodness. Good to feel supported. Even better to avoid defaulting on one's mortgage. Still working out details about my work within my host school's English Department, as well as about housing and transportation and such. Details forthcoming. Eventually, I'll probably switch over to a "Year in Lebanon"-type blog and put this one to rest after six years.


this is an example...

of how awesome my sister's blog is. She should get a book deal like Julie from the Julia Child book/movie. Or a reality show.

let me see if I can sound like Andy Rooney or that guy who used to write the "Monday Moanin' Mind" column in the Free Press

The Fulbright folks love paperwork. I had my physical the other day and am hoping the doctor's office has mailed the proper form to Washington. Nicole has her physical next week so I need to print the spouse medical form for her to take to Dr. Sharma. I've filled out my request for an Academic Leave and it's ready to give to my Dean, but not until I get the submittal form (yes, that's what it's called) from my Department. The request form and submittal form must be attached to one another. I'm waiting to receive my housing forms from my host school in Beirut. Just received an email with a registration form for the orientation I must attend in Washington next month. I'd like to drive instead of flying there but first I must submit an approval form to travel by car instead of plane, then afterward download the mileage reimbursement forms. Forthcoming, forms to continue my university benefits during my leave, paperwork telling Fulbright where to deposit my checks, and a couple visa applications. Did I mention Nicole and I need to draw up a lease so we can sublet house?


let's get physical

Today I got a physical. In order to receive officially my Fulbright grant for next year, I must first receive medial clearance. Thus, the physical. Before today, I knew I had a bit of anxiety, migraines (bad last year, now very much under control thanks to meds), and that's about it as far as health problems. The Fulbright people provide a form that asks dozens of questions about family medical history and general wellness, and asks the doctor to conduct a whole battery of tests and such and then sign. I'll be in a major city with hospitals and such (Beirut), whereas some Fulbrighters find themselves in remote locales. So I understand why the form needs to be thorough.

Anyhow, physical went well. Good blood pressure, good EKG results, a strong heart. But as I'm killing time in examination room I happen to look at the BMI chart. Body mass index, which uses height and weight to determine, frankly, how fat a person is. I won't get into numbers, but let's just say my BMI is very bad. That's putting it mildly. I could lose a lot of weight and my BMI would go from very bad to bad. The BMI does nothing to distinguish between fat and muscle. The BMI doesn't take into account how often one exercises (I do cardio at least three times a week--usually more), or what kind of food one eats (I eat too much food, but it's very healthy food) or anything else aside from two numbers, height and weight. That's the sole data the measurement uses.

In the corner of the BMI chart, the logo of a corporate sponsor. The sponsor? A manufacturer of an artificial sweetener. There's a big surprise. A carcinogen-manufacturer telling me I'm unhealthy. Pot, kettle, black.