I just learned I only have months to live. This is what I want to say. – The Boston Globe

What a storyteller. Boston Globe journalist Jack Thomas, who wrote about his impending death a few months ago, made me laugh out loud several times in this touching essay. Very powerful. He was 83. I’ve had the privilege of having spent more than 60 years working for newspapers. There was not a day when it wasn’t a pleasure to go to work. Any doubts I had about newspapering as a career were dissolved on my paper route one Friday night in March 1953. I picked up my bundle of 45 copies of the Record that were tossed from a truck…

Behind the art: The Westmoreland’s ‘Death of Elaine’ beloved of staff and visitors

I always slow down and spend some time with this painting when I visit my local art museum. This scene from the Arthurian legends has been out of exhibition for a while and will be back with a new frame Oct 16. A scene of mourning at Camelot, the castle of the legendary King Arthur, is depicted in Thomas Hovenden’s 1882 oil painting, “Death of Elaine.” The king and his queen, Guinevere, along with knights, ladies-in-waiting and servants, are gathered around a bed holding the body of the young noblewoman, Elaine. —Shirley McMarlin, Tribune-Review

No, this pie chart does not mean that anyone at CNBC believes the typical 25 year old earns a salary of $100k/y and spends $825/mo on rent

Tell me you didn’t click the link without telling me you didn’t click the link. I don’t watch any TV news and CNBC plays no role in my life, but come on. This post has gotten thousands of likes and generated hundreds of comments, many of them suggesting that CNBC is out of touch for reporting these figures as “typical.” It’s easy to attack the messenger, but it’s really not hard to Google “cnbc budget breakdown of a 25 year old” and click the first link.  This chart, from a profile of a specific person who “brings in $100,000 a…

The Lost Art of Paste-Up

When I started using a word processor as a middle schooler in the early 1980s, I recognized the editing commands “cut” and “paste” as metaphors.  Here’s a short video showing the physical cutting and pasting that was required to arrange paragraphs of text prepare a document for mass production. According to layout rules, you’re not supposed to end a line with just a single word at the end of a paragraph, and you’re not supposed to break up a paragraph so that a single line from that paragraph begins or ends a column.  Note that this editor actually shaves slivers…

Past Tense, Part 2 (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 3, Episode 11) Sisko must channel social unrest on Earth in 2024

Rewatching ST:DS9 After the recap of Part 1, Sisko, in the persona of Gabriel Bell, reminds loose cannon BC (from the “ghost” gang) that they have to keep the hostages safe as their bargaining chips. Just when BC starts showing Sisko some respect, the veteran cop Vin tries to be a hero, and Sisko has to save his life. The “gimme” organizer Webb shows up, and agrees to Sisko’s request that he recruit more people like him — ordinary people who fell on hard times — to help guard the hostages.  BC is thrilled by the attention the newscasts are…

Past Tense, Part 1 (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 3, Episode 10) Plot contrivance particles strand Sisko, Dax & Bashir on Earth in 2024

Rewatching ST:DS9 The Defiant is ferrying Sisko, Dax and Bashir to Earth for a Starfleet symposium.  After a nice bit about how “There’s no place like home, no matter what color the water is,” and some social comedy about tonight’s formal dinner with an admiral, we get a video call from Quark that fills out the teaser but has little to do with the rest of the plot — except perhaps helping to establish the social pecking order — the Federation is calling the shots, Bajoran militia members Kira and Odo are along for the ride, and Quark is back…

Another social media post attacks journalists for doing their jobs — Updated Elijah McClain autopsy

If you’ve been following the sad story of Elijah McClain, a Black man who went into cardiac arrest and died in police custody in a Denver suburb in 2019 (after telling the officers who were arresting them that he was unarmed, that he doesn’t even kill flies, and that he loved them) you might know that Colorado Public Radio and several other news organizations took the local coroner’s office to court in order to gain access to an updated autopsy report that specifies the role played by forceful restraint and the ketamine that was injected into McClain during the incident.…

Let’s Make the Academic Job Market More Humane

It’s been decades since I’ve had the “I’m in school again and I forgot to study for the test” nightmare, but it hasn’t been so long since I’ve had nightmares about the faculty job search. I did have one nightmare campus visit, where I was told I was one of six candidates brought to campus to interview for two positions, and that one of the other candidates was “unbeatable.” For my job talk I chose a topic related to the technical writing / media position I was applying for, and after it was over I saw the crowded room full…

Gen Z Never Learned to Read Cursive

When I used to teach a “Media and Culture” class, I had students do an oral project, a handwriting project, a typewriter/cut-and-paste project, and a digital project, and we spent quite a bit of time reading and talking about how the ways we read and write affect not only what we read and write about, but also how we conceptualize the world and our place in it. I do remember  a time about 16 years ago when I overheard a student in the hallway, during some good-natured teasing banter, saying to a colleague, “Email is for old people.” That was…

Perspective | Could ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ really be done? We found out.

The three of us approach them in our very obvious costumes and ask if I can hop on their float. Not only do they agree, but they tell us they were looking for a Ferris! Everything is going our way — just like in the movie. I jump aboard, and they cue up the Beatles’ “Twist and Shout.” It’s thrilling and a bit unnerving standing on the float (try twisting and shouting on a moving vehicle), but now I’m fully in character. I hear cries of “Save Ferris!” from parade watchers and apartment windows as we glide down Lincoln Avenue.…

Thinking a lot lately about masking and empathy, and my role as educator.

Thinking a lot lately about masking and empathy, and my role as educator. Finding the right balance between making people uncomfortable by avoiding eye contact and making people uncomfortable by staring is one of the many unwritten rules I’ve seen autistic people struggle to master. I still mention “eye contact” in my rubric for student video projects, but it’s now just one of many several different ways to be “engaging,” rather than a stand-alone category, and students don’t have to make videos at all — they could do an audio-only project, or a hypertext. Group work can also be a…

The Enduring Allure of Choose Your Own Adventure Books

I didn’t realize how involved the children of divorced dads Packard and Montgomery were in the creation of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” gamebooks. (The children of divorced dad Will Crowther were one motivation for, and were early playtesters for, Crowther’s original Colossal Cave Adventure; the history of parser text adventure games and branching path gamebooks overlap in time and theme.) You were a girl who wanted to choose your own adventures. Which is to say, you were a girl who never had adventures. You always followed the rules. But, when you ate an entire sleeve of graham crackers and…

Reading fiction early in life is associated with a more complex worldview, study finds

This study relied in part on the repondents’ self-reporting of what they read as children, but it was a complex study that approached the core issue from multiple angles. The researchers note that an “association” is not a “cause” — yet the correlation is still worth reflecting on: Those people who did not read fiction in early life have a fundamentally different worldview than those who did. Research has demonstrated that people who read more fiction tend to have better perspective-taking abilities. Now, new research published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin has found that reading more fiction early in life is…

Bryan A. Louiselle, 1966-2022 (musician, composer, orchestrator, musical director)

I was Mayor Shinn to Bryan’s Harold Hill in the only high school musical we did together. Yes he was an incredible musician and performer, but I was not musical and could barely sing on key, so I really wasn’t equipped, at the time, to realize just how talented he was. Once during a snowstorm when I had nowhere to go between the end of school and call time, he took to me his house. Even though my house was way out of his way, he sometimes drove me home after rehearsals, saying that before he got his license, he…

Checking out of @frontporchtheatricals Grand Hotel. What an experience!

My brother had already planned to visit from Virginia to see Carolyn in the closing of Grand Hotel. We were already driving to the theater when we got word that Aunt Rona is visiting yet another cast member, and the final show is cancelled. So we stopped by Julie’s Bubble Tea and Smoothies for a consolation treat. I’m glad the producers put everyone’s health first. We hadn’t told my brother that Carolyn was scheduled to go on again as Flaemchen. (But his face when she showed him a photo of herself in costume was priceless.)

August Wilson House officially opens in Pittsburgh’s Hill District

The August Wilson House officially opened over the weekend in a tearful and emotional ceremony, bringing over 500 residents, celebrities, officials, and local Black leaders to Pittsburgh’s Hill District. The Bedford Avenue childhood home of Hill District native August Wilson, one of the greatest playwrights in history, was unveiled as a new community arts center, with a goal of connecting Black artists across the city. “I want to thank the community because he is yours and you are his,” said award-winning actor Denzel Washington, who returned to Pittsburgh for the event after taking part in a community ground blessing of…

The Wedding Present

I’m approaching day 900 in my Duolingo adventure in German. (I have no practical reason for this study. It was a routine I could keep up during the COVID-19 lockdown.) Latin is seductive—the consummate logic of its syntactical cases, the mercurial dance of the ablative absolute. It retains muscle in its ruins (Cicero) and tragic beauty in its posthumous throes (Virgil). The subtleties of the Greek middle voice, neither active nor passive, roam through The Iliad and The Odyssey. And Hebrew, an ancient yet living language newly revivified, has the elastic trinity of its three-letter root, which, when prefixes and suffixes are attached,…

State officials: Bushy Run staff must consult with Native groups before staging reenactments

When my kids were younger, trips to Busy Run (and other local historical sites) were often a big part of starting a new year of home-schooling. If historic Bushy Run Battlefield Park intends to host future reenactments or programs portraying Native Americans, park management first will have to consult with appropriate Native groups. That’s the policy of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, which oversees the Penn Township park. The commission says it also must approve of any such activities in writing. Questions about Bushy Run’s reenactments arose when a man who lives in another state and is of Native…