(Trigger warning: This post contains references to sexual assault, as well as epithets related to the female anatomy.)

So. . . It’s been an interesting summer. Alas, I cannot tell you about most of it because last week I was singled out by an, ahem, Second Amendment enthusiasts’ group, which posted on its Facebook page (with my photo) that I am Michael Bloomberg’s minion because I am a lead volunteer for [Redacted Organization Trying to Reduce Gun Violence By and Against Children] and thus Enemy #1 of [Second Amendment Group That Shall Not Be Named Because I Don’t Want to Give it Attention Here]. A member of [Redacted Second Amendment Group] found my name on a press release on the national [Redacted Organization]’s website.

Of course, the very first comment on the post looked like this:

Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 7.55.41 PM


Sexual assault promoter’s name intentionally not redacted. Please do not engage with anyone related to this incident.

The group’s moderator responded with a “watch your language–there are children watching!”-type comment, but didn’t remove the offensive comment. Neither would Facebook, as even though I and many others reported it, it apparently doesn’t violate Facebook’s Community Standards.

Anyhoo, because the post focused on my status as a Boise State professor and because that wasn’t the only troubling comment (just my favorite!), I called the campus police, who transferred me to a very nice municipal police officer in a patrol car, who immediately offered to start driving by the house. He walked me through how to file a report and said that if necessary, the police would work with social media analytics experts, the Counter-Terrorism Task Force, and the FBI. He called back after I filed the report to emphasize all the resources at my disposal. At some point—it’s a blur now—the officer and/or campus security offered me a special parking space near my office, escorts wherever I went, officers patrolling my building, and even someone posted outside my door. The police officer also called the next day, when he came back on shift, to check on me. Law enforcement took these threats very seriously.

And hey, I learned a few things:

  • You never know which of your colleagues has received death threats and thus has the cell and desk phone numbers for a local FBI agent.
  • If Facebook doesn’t remove an offensive comment, sometimes an ally can leave a comment that prompts the moderator to remove the original comment within minutes:

"The fact that you left that up demonstrates perfectly the unhinged nature of your organization. Thanks. This will be shared with the legislators you seek to persuade."


Be an ally, folks. I <3 James.

Readers, here’s what you should know: I’m fine. I’m safe. I have an amazing community of people from all over the political spectrum looking out for me. Friends offered alternate housing. The police and campus security were amazing, and I have not yet exhausted my security options. One gun-loving, [Redacted]-degree black belt offered to bring her AR and stand guard in front of my house all night. [Redacted] sent a posse my way, in the form of new Facebook friends, to read through my own reporting of the incident on Facebook and consider how best to approach the situation, and he suggested some legal routes I might take, depending on how things develop.

I attended a [Session of Redacted Spiritual Group], reintroduced myself to its community, and they, like good adherents of [Redacted Theology], offered me tea and clucked over me in a most [Redactedly] way.

So, what about the rest of the summer? Here’s some other news I can’t fully report because there have been threats to me:

  • [Redacted] is getting ready to advance to [Redacted Level in Redacted Sport]. We are very proud of [Redacted].
  • The [Redacted Home Security Measures] are working as expected.
  • I’m not teaching this semester, but I’m loving [Redacted Other Things I Do When I’m Not Teaching]–especially the [Redacted People with Whom I Often Work].
  • I’m planning an online course for the spring. It’s a ton of work, but kind of fun.
  • Although I wasn’t planning it, I accomplished [Redacted Thing on Bucket List that I Did Not Realize Was on My Bucket List Until I Did It]. Ends up that, with the threats, [Redacted Thing] was fortuitous. I really wish I could gush about [Redacted Thing’s Details], but now I can’t.
  • [Redacted Large Male Person with Whom I Live] is feeling [Redacted] about the gun kerfuffle, which [Redacted].
  • I went with [Redacted] to visit [Redacted] in [Redacted], and I had the opportunity to chat briefly with [Redacted Relative] shortly before she went on hospice. [Redacted] has lived much longer than expected, and has enjoyed tremendous support from her community at [Redacted]. Her decline came amazingly quickly, and it was hard talking to her because of [Redacted] and [Redacted]. Still, because [Redacted] lives next door to [Redacted], it’s been very hard on [Redacted], who is in the unenviable position of [Redacted]. I wrote a poem—the first in a long while—related to [Redacted], but I can’t share it here because [Redacted].

It’s going to be an interesting academic year. I’ll share as much of it as I can, but I must heed the words on this family crest:

Family crest depicting a white woman holding an anchor in one hand and the decapitated head of a white man in the other

Honestly, we’ve never been gun people.


Tomorrow I turn 40. Forty!

I know many of my readers have already reached or long surpassed that milestone.

However, 40 feels fantastic and momentous to me because I didn’t know if I would make it this far. Those decades of depression sometimes made it seem, moment to moment and in the aggregate, as if 40 was impossible.

What keeps me going? An overdeveloped sense of responsibility to colleagues and a desire not to disappoint family and friends. I get out of bed on even the worst mornings because a stronger voice than the depression tells me I must.

On rare occasions I get to experience real joy. I had a reminder this past weekend that I can still feel the warm glow of happiness and delight.

Fang managed to throw a surprise party without me getting even a whiff of it beforehand. Not only did he craft a small but perfect guest list—he persuaded one of my best friends from high school, someone I hadn’t seen for years, to fly in with his wife for the occasion. And the friend who hosted it pulled off, as usual, a Pinterest-worthy event. And thanks to the boy, even the flavors of the ice cream cake were spot on.

All through the evening, people from different walks of my life commented on what an amazing circle of friends I have.

And it’s true.

I feel blessed. Truly, truly blessed.

Thanks to everyone who showed up to mark the occasion, and to those who were there in spirit.

Here’s to the next 40.

(photos by Fang)

“Idaho Citizens”


Image by Thomas Hawk, and used under a Creative Commons license   When I listen to testimony before Idaho’s state legislative committees, I invariably hear—mostly from conservative speakers, but not exclusively—multiple people mention how many years they have been “citizens of Idaho.” I thought this was an interesting slip of the tongue. After all, those testifying […]

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Little boxes

There’s a green one and a pink one And a blue one and a yellow one, And they’re all made out of ticky tacky And they all look just the same. (Would it be heavy-handed to quote the next verse?) I haven’t blogged for a while because the new job (director of instructional design and […]

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Mass firing in the History department at Boise State

This past week, the History department chair sent out an e-mail with the subject line “Grim News.” In the e-mail, she detailed extensive cuts to the History department’s funding, apparently emerging from the Provost’s office. Among the cuts are: The Public History faculty line I recently vacated 2/3 of the funds we use to support graduate assistants […]

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Two quick updates, perhaps burying the lede

Just a couple of things: I’ve been in the new job a month. I’m loving it. It’s a great blend of intellectual work, collaboration, and practical application of all kinds of things I’m thinking about. (Bonus: We’re no longer living hand-to-mouth. I can pay bills without breaking into a cold sweat. That’s a good feeling.) […]

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In my last post, I quoted Frederick Buechner’s thoughts on calling—that it’s “the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” And then I asked, “At what point do we acknowledge that the world’s deep hunger has met our deep gladness in a way that is unsustainable, that exhausts us?” As I said, I’ve been […]

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I. I inhabit a lot of different social and cultural worlds, and sometimes the adjacency of posts on Facebook is stunning. I can’t share tonight’s example because a lot of people might misunderstand my motivation for highlighting it. I will say this: as someone with a diverse circle of Facebook friends, I have the privilege […]

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Humanities = employability

I found myself in a meeting on Friday with several science faculty, and I had the opportunity to share with them what I’m doing in my Digital History course this semester. When I mentioned in particular that my students were mapping the neighborhood’s irrigation ditches, an engineering professor asked me how they were doing that. […]

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On instructional design

On Wednesday morning, I’m interviewing for a director-level position that bridges academic technology, instructional design, and faculty development. As a result, I’ve been even more reflective than usual about the choices I’ve made regarding teaching and technology. I. This semester, in addition to continuing to build or maintain a slate of existing projects, I’ve tackled […]

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