e-mail me at billdeg@umich.edu


teaching at AUB

Looks like in the Fall I'll be teaching a graduate course, Issues in Composition, and a section of Advanced Academic English.
Kahlil Gibran, from The Prophet:
The sea that calls all things unto her calls me, and I must embark.

For, to stay, though the hours burn in the night, is to freeze and crystallize and be bound in a mould.


still more randomness

Well, I'm officially on "leave" as of July 1. And I've been working a lot of "half days" during the past two weeks, so I definitely feel like something's different in my work life. A big part of my summer work now that my summer one teaching is done is working with a team of faculty putting together our bid to gain the Carnegie "Community Engaged Campus" Classification. Quite a process--data gathering, narrative writing, etc. Today several members of the team and I attended a workshop in Lansing to get tips on putting the bid together. Useful. I'm also spending a few days here and there grading placement essays. And of course trying to put two writing projects to bed before the departure (early September). So the work goes on.

I've spent a few weekends in Youngstown. Good to spend time with the family since I'll be missing them next year. My mom and dad are on "vacation" from their pizza-making duties at their church and, to their credit, they've got the wanderlust and are making the drive to Michigan more frequently than they've done in years. Good job guys! Only two weeks until their big 50th anniversary camping trip. My siblings and I, our families, and my folks are all going to a cabin in West Virginia, which pretty much is the kind of thing we've NEVER done, which makes the trip all the more exciting. Should be lots of hiking, swimming, and of course (since we're talking about the DeGenaros here) cooking. Can't wait. Right before that, my nephew Tony's coming up to Detroit for a few days of fun, the centerpiece of which is our second annual Dead Weather show.

And of course the bulk of my time and energy seems to be devoted to Lebanon prep. I read a really good history of the country (The Making of Modern Lebanon) and re-read The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, along with a couple tour books about travel in the region. I have a few more books (mostly history, and some stuff about the nation's place in Middle East politics) checked out of the library and hope to continue on my crash course in all things Lebanon. And I'm listening to a little 'Arabic in 60 Minutes' while at the gym too, hoping to avoid completely embarassing myself when I try to ask for a shawarma sandwich. I have a good lead on a rental in a residential Shi'ite neighborhood about 2 kilometers from the University. Cheaper than Hamra (the built up area along the sea, where AUB is), and we're thinking it might be more interesting not to live on top of the hustle and bustle (and Starbucks!) of the college. I'm told you can walk to campus in fifteen minutes or take a "service" car for less than two bucks. Sounds do-able.


red tape

So I'm on the phone with the Lebanese Consulate and we're chatting in English about visas. The person on the other end of the line seems extremely impatient and annoyed as I ask what I think are entirely reasonable questions. The call has an overall grumpy quality until I say "shukran" (thank you) and then the whole tone changes. The woman issues an amused chuckle, a reaction no doubt to my Arabic pronunciation, and becomes friendly.

At several points during Fulbright orientation, presenters suggested that a little bit of Arabic works wonders and that native speakers tend to have a lot of respect for Americas who at least try to speak the language. True enough. Plus, if my non-native pronunciation can provide a little comic relief in a bureaucratic setting, than I'm glad to be of service. Fulbrighters are supposed to be ambassadors, after all. If you think my "thank you" is something, you should hear my "Can I have a falafel sandwich please?*"

*oreedoo falafel, minfudluck



Made pizza dough today. 2 teaspoons of yeast in 1 1/2 cups of warm water until it bubbles, then add about 3 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 cup of cornmeal. Worked the dough for a while, then covered it with about a tablespoon of olive oil and let it rise for a few hours. Sprinkled some cornmeal on an ungreased cookie sheet and pushed out the dough into a circle (more or less). Spooned a bunch of pesto onto the dough, sprinkled with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and baked for twenty minutes. Wow, did it taste good. Must make dough more often.

unwelcome return

Yesterday evening I had the first serious migraine I've had in months. Not as bad as last summer, but bad enough. I popped a couple tramadols and closed my eyes in our guest bedroom (the one with the blinds that totally block the light) for an hour or so. Got up, walked around, headache went away. Sometimes I love western medicine despite its profiteering!

Feeling a migraine coming on is scary. I start to worry that it'll be Summer '09 Part 2. And worrying certainly doesn't help the situation. Luckily a little relaxation, darkness, and pharmaceutical assistance all conspire to stave off a full-blown attack. Thank God.



I really hope to finish things before leaving for Lebanon in September. Seems like an obvious transitional moment, and I'd love to find myself in a scenario where most of my overseas work is new work. Insert your favorite "start a new chapter"-ish cliche here.

Today I'm going over data I gathered in some of my service learning classes with plans to incorporate some of the data into the "affective dimensions of sl" article I've been revising for nearly half a year. The data will help the article move beyond a theoretical piece, and help me create a revision consistent with reviewer suggestions. In what was perhaps an overly ambitious plan, I had figured I'd write the theory piece, than a more data-driven piece. Now, makes more sense to synthesize the two--partly to meet the journal's expectations, partly in the interest in finally getting the ideas out there, partly because I'm going to Lebanon in two months (see paragraph #1), but mostly because I think the article will be more tangible and maybe even more interesting.

Got a pretty positive response to a creative nonfiction piece I wrote about my Grandpa's WW2 letters. Looks like that piece might end up seeing the light of day as well. Another piece I hope to finalize pre-Middle East.

Will be happily handing off the keys to the service learning office very soon. In the meantime, I'm part of a working group this summer applying to have our campus gain a Carnegie, "Civic Engagement" Classification. This will likely be the final thing I do as SL coordinator, which has been rewarding on many levels and yet in some ways reinforced to me that I don't particularly aspire to be an administrator.

And now, the non-sequitur. Did I mention that the ass-kicking Detroit Tigers aren't the only things that are hot right now in the motor city? Hot as in the 90s. Hot as in much humidity. Moments ago the rain began to fall and I'm thanking my stars I won't have to drag out the hose tonight and once again water the garden. The plants are hot, and thirsty too.



Fulbright orientation in D.C. was useful and informative. A representative from the State Department's security team gave a lecture on staying safe in the Middle East--a lot of commonsensical stuff, including tips on avoiding identity theft, not looking like a high roller, varying one's daily routine, etc. Also had a video conference call with staff from the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, who filled the Lebanon contingent (four of us) in on some details regarding visas and travel.

Made time to have some fun in the city. Dinner at Ben's Chili Bowl, made famous by great chili dogs as well as a mention in Kwame Kilpatrick's notorious text messages (and, subsequently, Jon Stewart's R.Kelly-esque parody of the Kilpatrick scandal: "Ben's Chili Bowl, a place for love"). Walked the monuments after dark, rode the Metro, took in several Smithsonians and the surprisingly cool Postal Museum (great place...check it out sometime). Was terribly disappointed by ACKC, a "cocoa bar" and chocolate shop that sounded great. Prices were ridiculous, even by D.C. standards, service was awful, and the goodies tasted mediocre. Avoid.

Stopped in Youngstown on the way down and the way back and got to enjoy a nice 4th of July picnic in the hometown. Fun.