Before we returned to the US in January after my fall sabbatical, my wife and I were able to "slip in" a trip to Rome with some friends. We'd stayed in Europe through the holidays because Dawn's birthday is in January, and she wanted to spend it in Europe. It was easy to do—spring semester didn't start until later in January. It also allowed me a little denial about "coming back"—I wasn't really wanting to think about it. Yet reality hit when we ran into the president of my university outside the Coliseum in Rome.
Well, another Lilly Conference in Traverse City is "in the books." I've written in past blogs that this conference is a highlight of my year. I enjoy the conference's top-notch organization, the opportunities to spend time with colleagues, participating in the sessions—all of it. This year Matt and I had a presentation on the program: "Let's Get Physical: Students as Visual Aids." Unfortunately, I had to watch it on video, since I was a few thousand miles away. Matt kindly made sure to record it. At the end of the session, he looked into the camera and said off-handedly, "you missed it"—he had no idea how right he was.
In ancient Syracuse, or so the story goes, the Greek philosopher Archimedes had been charged with figuring out how to ascertain whether a gold crown was indeed made entirely of gold, and not mixed with another, less precious, metal. (Melting it down was not an option.) He was pondering the problem one day as he was settling into a bathtub. Inspiration suddenly struck; he noted that the water rose in accord with his getting in. He surmised that he could use a container of water to compare the crown’s displacement with that of pure gold. This was the basis of “Archimedes Principle.” Excited by his discovery, he immediately ran into the streets of Syracuse, naked, yelling “Eureka!” I recently had a “Eureka!” moment at a teaching conference. While I did not end up running naked through the halls shouting the word, I had a similar sense of inspiration and discovery.
I haven't been quite as regular with these updates as I had intended. Oddly enough, the work of actually preparing for an online course can get in the way of blogging about it. In my last post I gave a very general explanation of the new specifications grading system that I'm adopting, but I left out two important things: how I feel about it and how I'm actually going to use it. In this post I'll tackle the first of those.
When I was a graduate student at the University of Georgia in the late 1990s, a Hollywood movie, Road Trip, was filmed in part on campus. It caused a lot of buzz, not least for the fact that there was a call for “extras.” I passed on this opportunity—perhaps it might have been my big break, but considering the movie, I somehow doubt that. It was of the comedy adventure/disaster genre akin to The Hangover, only without the tiger in the bathroom.