A full deck


Usually when Fang‘s birthday rolls around, we’re ready to duck and cover, as April 19 and 20 are two of those days when crazy people are wont to do and say stupid and dangerous things.

Strangely, though, this year Fang is doing the opposite of ducking and covering—he’s been doing amazing work, running around Boise and its environs with a camera and an assortment of lenses. His work keeps getting better, and as his confidence in his work grows, it’s reflected elsewhere in his life as well.

It’s no secret that our time in Idaho has been rough on each member of my family in different ways, but it’s been especially tough on Fang, as he’s been working from home and is disinclined to use my network to find friends. This year, however, he’s been connecting with people in a really meaningful way, and it’s a joy to see him with and hear him talk about his friends.  (Deep gratitude to those folks. You know who you are.)

Fang also does more than his share of parenting and serves as an amazing role model for the boy. Fang and Lucas are wired so similarly that they understand each other in ways I’ll never fully comprehend.  For Fang’s work in forging that connection, I’m so thankful.

Thank you, Sweetie, for all you do, and for being who you are (I know it’s neither easy nor simple). Here’s to another interesting and love-filled year. Happy birthday!

Things I’m thinking about these days

As, of course, a random bulleted list:

  • My fellowship research on how Idahoans have understood health and wellness, as represented by (sometimes very weird) artifacts in a museum’s collection. Found thus far: various fraudulent “cures” for gynecological ills, countless jars containing Chinese apothecary treatments (including shriveled animal testicles, starfish, sea horses, and paper wasps’ nests), Sudafed from the 1960s, cigarettes that claim to ease asthma, a humidifier for the bronchially compromised that appears to have burned a smoky coal tar, and all kinds of fun quack “medical” devices.
  • Idahoans can now legally carry concealed weapons almost anywhere on campus, including the classroom, despite overwhelming opposition to the bill that made such a situation come to pass.
  • Boise State is going through program prioritization, which means ranking every program on campus.  It’s interesting to see how particular characteristics and practices of the History department are perceived by others, for good or ill.
  • Related to above: My history department doesn’t have issues with quality or substance, but it does have a few marketing problems.  I’m trying to puzzle through these challenges and identify solutions by writing about them, and I hope to publish a blog post about it soon. As part of that effort, I revisited my notes from this past summer’s internship with Seth Godin and basked in the warmth of my memories of the great group of people I met last year.
  • I’m reflecting on Seth’s new ebooklet on the placebo effect. Lots of food for thought there with regards to teaching.
  • Also related to program prioritization: I find myself returning frequently to Bryan Alexander’s thoughtful and terrifying posts about the queen sacrifice.
  • Lucas is going to be eligible for his black belt in Taekwondo in September. Time flies!
  • I’m eligible to apply for tenure in the fall.  Time flies!
  • I recently returned from a conference in Monterey and visiting family in Long Beach and Palm Springs. The weather is far better in California right now than here in Boise. I’m craving sunshine and warmth.
  • Thanks to a lively Facebook group, I’ve reconnected with lots of Grinnell alumni who graduated circa 1980-2000, and their humor and thoughtfulness reminds me I ended up in the right collegiate community for me. I was fortunate to spend most of my undergraduate career there, and I’m very lucky to have this online community. The group reinforces for me the importance of undergraduate community, and I’m wondering how to strengthen it among students at my regional, mostly commuter university.
  • Fang is beginning to gain traction in his reinvention of himself as a portrait and event photographer.  This makes me very happy for all kinds of reasons.
  • I’m grateful for really sharp local friends who linger over lunches with me and who play laptop battleship during epic writing sessions.

What’s on your mind these days?

Concealed carry culture is antithetical to higher education’s mission

(written in response to Idaho Senate Bill 1254, which would allow concealed weapons on campus) Idaho has long nurtured what some have termed “a gun culture.”  Hunters and ranchers reasonably see rifles as necessary tools. Families pass treasured rifles from grandparent to parent to child and educate the youngest members of the family about gun […]

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DIY College Metrics

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The headline at the NPR site says it all: “Idaho Universities Must Decide Which Programs Matter Most.”  Not surprisingly, then, at this year’s welcome address, Boise State President Bob Kustra emphasized the role of analytics in the process of program prioritization. My college’s dean also emphasized metrics and analytics in the college-wide meeting that week. […]

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Idaho is waiting. . .

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The Boise Convention and Visitors’ Bureau recently commissioned a video about Boise: When I first saw it posted by a friend on Facebook, I commented, “This has not been my experience of Boise.”  The response was basically, “You should get out more.” Ah, I would. . . if only I could afford skiing, snowboarding, horseback […]

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Still too many guppies

During the holiday season last year, two things were proving particularly worrisome: pneumonia, which was also in my lungs, and guppies, of which there were far too many in the tank. Once again, I start the new year with too many guppies and crud in my lungs (but hey, not yet pneumonia). I need to […]

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On Calling, again

As I wrote earlier this year, I’m participating in Marci Glass’s STARward project, in which participants reflect on a word given to them by Marci (who not only writes a thoughtful blog, but also happens to be the pastor of a church a few blocks from where I live). I drew the word calling. It’s been […]

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Catching up


Long time, no post. I’ve been processing a lot of mostly unbloggable stuff about the boy. For now, I’ll share our little Halloween triumph: The boy wanted to be Calvin.  We painted stripes on a t-shirt and sprayed his hair yellow.  But of course he also needed a Hobbes, and you can’t just buy a Hobbes […]

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Theodosia Burr Shepherd

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For Ada Lovelace Day It’s been ten years since I first visited an archive and flipped through the papers of a woman who practiced science, and since then I’ve had the pleasure of “meeting” many women who inhabited the margins of professional scientific practice, including some who expanded the boundaries of their fields.  One such […]

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Some serious Dorothy Wordsworth shit

I. To make it clear that Lucas is not their cause, Fang and I try to explain our occasional bouts of depression to him as “bad brain chemicals.” It’s been a week of bad brain chemicals for me, with the situation becoming critical on Friday, Saturday, and today. I alternated rest with long walks, conversation […]

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