Friday Fragments

Confessions of a Community College Dean

Some personal news: this academic year I’m on sabbatical from Brookdale, working with the New Jersey Council of County Colleges. It’s an exciting opportunity to bring the different parts of my background together, fusing campus experience with state policy. My thanks to Aaron Fichtner for giving me the chance to try something new!

Some more acronyms came in over the transom yesterday. Some faves:

Standards of Learning—SOLs. Ouch.

Accelerating Student Success colleges—a legislative proposal from California. I suspect an intern had a good chuckle with this one. Relatedly …

Antonin Scalia School of Law—The George Mason University law school decided to rename itself. By the time anyone noticed, the damage was done.

California Open Educational Resources Council—COERC. Doesn’t really connote openness.

Comprehensive Regional Assistance Centers—CRAC. Sigh …

Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Languages—UISFL (“useful”). This is quietly excellent; those of us steeped in the pragmatist tradition consider “useful” a term of high praise.

Universal Quasi-Chemical Approach—UNIQAC (“uniquack”). You’d think I’d get tired of duck-based acronyms, but no. Something about hearing adult professionals quack brings a smile every single time.

In the policy world, acronyms seemingly mate and multiply.

Keep ’em coming, folks!

Last week, The Girl, The Wife and I took a brief trip to Chicago as our economy version of a summer vacation. It was only a few days, but I came away impressed.

The first couple of days were surface-of-the-sun hot, so we did a lot of indoor stuff: the Shedd aquarium, the Art Institute, the Willis (formerly Sears) tower. I was pleasantly surprised at how engaged TG was at the Art Institute. She has become quite the Oscar Wilde fan, so when she heard that the famous painting based on Dorian Gray was there, she was all in. The painting itself is horrifying, but if you know the story, that’s kind of the point.

TW and I had been there before, several years ago, so some of it was familiar. But it’s a huge place, and exhibits change. I either hadn’t seen or had forgotten seeing American Gothic, which is worth seeing in person. Hopper’s Nighthawks was in the next room; I can’t see it without thinking of Tom Waits’s “Nighthawks at the Diner.” Monet’s haystack series was well represented, which was nice; the Springfield (Mass.) museum had one years ago, but the haystacks make much more sense when they’re next to each other.

One of the transient exhibits featured work by local artists of color. The picture there that stuck out for me was based on the famous underground scene from Ellison’s Invisible Man, with the man in a small, windowless room surrounded by strings of lightbulbs. That gave me an excuse to introduce TG to Invisible Man. Here’s hoping she picks up on it.

We made sure to get some deep-dish pizza, per state law. We rode the El, saw the Bean and even found a relatively uncrowded beach on Lake Michigan. With that, I’ve set foot in three of the Great Lakes. Superior and Huron are a little more out of the way, but now it’s a quest.

The undisputed highlight, though, was a Cubs game at Wrigley. None of us had ever been to Wrigley. If you haven’t been, it’s worth the trip. It’s smaller than most major league stadiums, which probably explains why it keeps referring to itself as “the friendly confines.” Even though it was a Monday night and neither the Cubs nor that night’s opponents, the Pirates, are having a good year, the place was packed. The stadium put in real effort at providing between-inning entertainment, using the video scoreboard to full effect. (We all got a kick out of the manual scoreboard in center field. TG actually laughed when she saw someone’s hands come out to change a number.) I noticed that most of the Cubs jerseys that fans were wearing had Kris Bryant’s name on the back; folks who follow baseball may draw whatever conclusions they want from that.

The best inter-inning bit involved showing various players drawings that young children had done of someone on the team, and asking them to guess who it was. The players were good sports, though mostly at a loss. It turned out to be the manager, David Ross, for whom I was once mistaken by an earnest 10-year-old boy. Ross is about nine years younger than I am, so I’ll take it. Neither of us particularly resembled the drawing, but hey.

The Cubs won, the pizza was good, the flights were uneventful and TG saw her painting. Chalk this one up as a win.

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Thursday, August 4, 2022
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