Category: Friends & Colleagues


I lost count how many times I saw this thumbnail in my Twitter stream yesterday:

sleeper thumb

I and other folks in DTLT have been following the work of Michael Wesch for years now. I have written a few posts about him as well. He is particularly inspiring to me because he is not only a professor of Anthropology, but a filmmaker.

He came to UMW in 2011 for our Faculty Academy and talked about students becoming “Knowledge-Able”

Part 1:

Part 2:

So what were folks tweeting about yesterday? It was Wesch’s new video “The Sleeper“, a brilliant little short that reminds us what students bring to class. It reminds us what the idea of education is – student centered. However, it also reminds faculty to think about who is out there in the vastness of the college (or high school, middle school, elementary school classrooms) lecture halls. It is the next generation of people that we are teaching. Those people have lives outside of class and they all have unique stories – and problems – and obstacles. They are the Why. If we allow students to bring their stories into their schooling, we might will make better connections.

So after briefly bemoaning that he wasn’t making a difference, or not a good teacher because this one student was sleeping or barely paying attention in class, Dr. Wesch did something simple. He asked the student to lunch. He had a conversation with his student. He found out more about someone in the sea of students in his class. I’ll let the video explain the rest, but there’s a particular part in the video, which Wesch animates himself, that reminds me of another great talk that Wesch gave at UC Irvine titled “Why We Need a Why?” . In it he gets up on the desk and “shakes his tailfeather”, in service of demonstrating an anthropological concept, of course.



Here’s “The Sleeper”

Thank you, again, Dr. Wesch!

We’re Published – Let a New Word Ring Out


As I’ve said in the past, Twitter is a hot bed of inspiration and creative thinking for me. It’s also a great collaborative space. One of the latest publishing collaborations was recently with “Doctors” Sawhill, Hauser, and myself on a new word. That’s right, the three of us created a new word. One might call the word a sniglet, or neologism. A word that doesn’t exist in a dictionary, but should. The defacto publishing space for newly created words is, of course, the Urban Dictionary. If you don’t know about the Urban Dictionary, it is essentially a dictionary of slang. So our new word is commingling with some rude or, some might consider, vulgar words. So be it. It is an interesting experiment for me to see if this word can graduate to legitimacy (i.e. Websters, or dare I say Oxford).

So how did this word come about? It came about, like most sniglets by thinking there should be a word that describes something like this – music that is in your head from the moment you wake that almost shouldn’t be there. We all get songs in our head, mostly of the earworm variety. Ones that we would prefer not to have there. Well, I and my colleagues felt there should be a word for a song that is in our head that is generally a good one, but wasn’t placed there by a recent event. In other words there is no good explanation for why it’s there.

So here’s how the short conversation on Twitter went.

After some suggestions like earunicorn and earbutterfly We had this one:


Earring. So let’s get it official. Off to Urban Dictionary to add a new word. A couple days later and it’s been accepted. So that’s the story of how a word came to be, and it’s interesting to be living in a time where we build our language and culture in this collaborative way. Wikipedia is the other great example of this. I look forward to the next great (?!?) collaboration with my distinguished colleagues. So to all of you, go make up some words.

A solitary bird house on the edge of the woods

Bird House

For the last several weeks, I’ve been trying to make a dream, reality. I had been seeing this bird house in my dreams, and as of October 30, 2008, I now have it behind my new home in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. So now that it is over (well, almost – as of this writing we still have a small truckload of stuff to move yet) I can apologize to my DTLT colleagues for being such a basket case the last few weeks. Alright, more of a basket case than usual. I made the classic mistake of falling in love with a house that I wanted to buy. I was also bucking the trend in these poor economic times of going forward with this major purchase. However, along the way I learned more about my determination and more importantly about my friends and family, to make this one of the most valuable processes I’ve ever gone through. This post is to remind me for the future, when I re-read it a year from now, or 5, 10, or 20 years from now, the value we put on things versus the value we put on people.

Now as for a bird, I don’t know how much thought is put into whether a given bird house is in a good neighborhood or not. I don’t know whether the contemporary design will lead to higher resale, or how the previous owners kept the place, but the one pictured above looks like a pretty nice unit. I wonder also if a bird flying in from high in the sky sees this house and wonders whether it’s still on the market. Do they get disappointed if it’s not available? If it is occupied, do they rationalize that “I guess it was not meant to be”?

This was a refrain that I heard from my wife numerous times as we went through the hurdles of buying a “short sale”, which previously I thought meant that the process of buying the house somehow is an abbreviated/quicker version of a regular sale. Boy, was I wrong! A short sale is one that “shorts” the bank who has the mortgage and they agree to sell it instead of foreclosing. The owners of these homes owe a considerable amount of money, so many times these homes are great bargains for the future buyers. We knew the house that existed in front of that bird house was a bargain – but was it meant to be OUR home? When things looked like we weren’t going to get this house, my wife said, “well, maybe it isn’t meant to be.” I said bullshit! (thankfully, I’m able to express myself this way to my wife, and she can be heard to express herself this way to me).

I have the answer to the question for everything as to whether something is meant to be or not. Whatever happens, is what happened. Period. Meant to be? Stop it. There is no plan and the sooner we realize this, the better off we will be. The fact that there is no plan is what’s great about life. If I had listened to my wife about maybe it wasn’t meant to be, then it wouldn’t have been. I would have given up. Now, some amazing things did happen to get this sale done. The title company said that it was the shortest (or at least one of the shortest) amount of time that they ever finished a closing. My real estate agent wanted this to happen as though we were her children. Let me also declare my unpaid endorsement of Virginia Credit Union for all your banking and mortgage needs! People made this happen because lots of hard-working people wanted it to happen. Other things, and people, were merely obstacles to be overcome. Many of the obstacles we encountered had many options for ways to deal with them. We got creative and I/we did our research to maximize our options.

Now, I have to question why I wanted it to happen. It’s a nice house to be sure, but is it better than our old one? There are many memories that we experienced in our old home, not the least of which is that it’s the only house my son has ever known. A few times I got emotional about leaving it. However, something in my wife and me said it was time to go. OK, so I wanted a place to build a new home theater. I wanted a bigger, flatter yard with less trees. I wanted a gas fireplace in the family room and a bigger, more up to date kitchen for my wife (she’s the better cook in the family, just so we’re clear – it’s not because I expect her to be in the kitchen). Of greater importance, though, were things I wanted for my son. A flat place to learn to ride his bike, and more kids his age to play with. I also wanted sidewalks for him and me to walk on, as well as woods (behind the bird house) we could explore together. And maybe, just maybe, there is one more little Rush to come into our family in the near future.

So there. It’s out of my system. I (and others) made it happen. I will invite the many people who were working for us, and cheering us on, over for a big celebration. Time to get to back to work.

The Love You Make


Have I ever told you how fortunate I am (we are) to have a colleague like Gardner Campbell here at Mary Washington? There are many examples of sparks that have fired from my head after listening to a Gardner talk, or speech, or riff, or even watching him in a jam session. However, the one I witnessed tonight will be, I think, THE most memorable. People attending the Great Lives Lecture Series sponsored by the Department of History and American Studies witnessed a happening on April 8, 2008. At least I did. You would never expect Gardner to give an ordinary talk at a Great Lives event, as his lecture on Elvis in 2005 indicates. This was a unique example of “I went to a lecture and a concert broke out!”

He came with his “A” game tonight, as the “Gardner Campbell Dancers” (my name for them) started things off with a short Beatles Medley. Bill Crawley then introduced Gardner with the pride that we all feel in having him on this campus. Gardner, of course, took the stage and immediately showed us his self-effacing humor. He then began his talk. No, that’s such a meek word. He began his sermon, and I mean that in the most agnostic, and yet old tyme gospel hour way. He mocked the Apocalypse by imagining how the world would end, “Beatles Style.” Would it be “Here Comes the Sun”? The brief horn part before the chorus in “Penny Lane”? How about the ending piano chord from “A Day In the Life”? Or, just “THE chord” from the opening of “A Hard Days Night”? Where did that chord come from anyway?

From then on it was a history of the Beatles driven by pure energy. The years 1962- 1970 passed by at a frenetic pace. I think Gardner took a breath in there somewhere. When it was all over, and it was over waaaayyy too soon, he took questions. He answered them like an excited kid who had all this information bottled up inside. It was apparent that each answer could go on as long as the original talk, but he exercised great restraint. I had no doubt going in that I would learn something new. The birth of the “drop T” Beatles logo was my little nugget. The audience that was in attendance seemed to be quite knowledgeable as well, but they were there as much to re-affirm their vows to this great band, more than 40 years on. After the final question was asked, “Are the Beatles still relevant?”, Gardner and crew gave us our answer. Gardner’s trippy, psychedelic shirt was donned for a rendition of “Hey Jude”, and soon the auditorium was filled to the gold UMW crest on the ceiling with choruses of “Na, na na na na na na, na na na na, Hey Jude!” Still relevant? I would say amen, and Amen!

All Right Now

UPDATE: The video of Gardo’s talk is finally up! The “Hey Jude” song is cut off because of what I believe would be a “sync licensing” issue.

Who Is Jon Udell and Why Is He Following Me?


This is actually pretty funny. I am now presented with yet another chance to have fun at Jon Udell’s expense. First, some background. Many of you know, we were honored to have Jon talk at our Faculty Academy ’06 edition. We were quadruplely (???) honored when he had very kind words regarding the Teaching and Learning crew here at UMW. We continue to keep Jon in the "minds that inspire us" category. So imagine how tickled I was to see how persistent Jon was in trying to follow me on Twitter, as demonstrated by my Hotmail account (my Twitter email address of record). Sure looks like Jon is spamming me something awful. Well, truth be told, it’s actually Twitter not working right (how’s that possible 😉 ).

The other fact is that I recently discovered Jon was on Twitter more regularly. There was even this recent cryptic message from Jon that actually turned out to be a basis for a blog post. Jon being on Twitter is to me a good sign that it is an appropriate tool to be using in my work. I want to know what Jon is working on and Twitter gives me access to his and other great minds, including my colleagues here at UMW.

I direct messaged Jon on Twitter telling him that I would un-follow and then re-follow him to see it that fixed things. We’ll see, but Jon you should know, it’s an honor to be spammed by you!

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