As you may have noticed from the lack of posting here, June has been busy.

*Woodberry's graduation went off without a hitch from my point of view, but we did have several students dismissed on the night before the ceremony, which put something of a damper on the festive nature of the day. Still, I was able to send my four-year advisee, Brett, off to Columbia U. with high expectations and a new crescent wrench--something all good theater techs need to own.

*One of my favorite online hangouts is the blog of Ta-Nehisi Coates, who writes for The Atlantic Magazine and recently contributed a thought-provoking column on the new X-Men movie to the New York Times. He's also a memoirist--I would definitely recommend The Beautiful Struggle, his tale of growing up nerdy in a "conscious" black household in Baltimore in the 1980s. What makes Coates such an appealing blogger is is his active participation in discussion with his readers; he posts on a wide variety of topics, ranging from Civil War history to comics to race relations to fantasy gaming to music to politics, and he's always interested in further examining those topics when his readers comment on them. He also has two wonderful traditions: the occasional post where he asks for information (a/k/a TTMLIS--see below) and the OTAN, or "Open Thread at Noon," when he opens the floor to readers to post, ask, joke, criticize, complain, or otherwise chat on any subject they want. Thanks to the free-flowing discussion, which has offered me an enormous amount of information about subjects of great diversity and obscurity, the blog was recently recognized by TIME Magazine as one of the twenty-five best on the web.

What makes Coates' place such a pleasure to visit is not merely the subject matter or the various threads, but the way TNC himself runs them. He's openly demanding re: civility. If you jump in and start slinging insults, you will be corrected at the least and banned at the worst. (I myself have had one Rick Santorum-related comment deleted after the fact, and though I thought it was both funny and appropriate, I can't blame my host for considering it over the line.) Speaking as someone who has seen one favorite forum burn to the ground due largely to unmoderated commenting, I think this approach is a wise one, and one that will, in the long run, yield more value to everyone participating in the discussion.

The other thing I love about Coates as a blogger can be summed up in the header for his occasional information-requesting threads: "Talk To Me Like I'm Stupid." I love that tone. On the one hand, it's an open admission of ignorance, and I always admire a man who's willing to state plainly that he doesn't know everything; it takes a certain kind of courage to admit one's vulnerability. At the same time, there's a key point in that sentence: he's not stupid. He's not SAYING he's stupid. He's saying he wants information laid out as plainly and openly as possible, as though he WERE stupid, but the very use of the simile points out that a highly intelligent person is going to be considering that information.

Anyway, come visit sometime. You may well see me in the Comments, along with other regulars, known variously as the Lost Battalion of Platonic Conversationalists, Team Commie, the Black Republicans, or the Golden Horde. I doubt you'll have that much trouble figuring out my secret identity.

*I finally got the West Virginia monkey off my back with a trip to Canaan Valley NWR on Thursday. I had visited Canaan (pronounced "ka NAYN") Valley before, but it was in August when bird activity was limited and plumages were already fading to the obscure. (I didn't even realize I was seeing Bobolinks until I got home and looked at the field guide.) This time Karen Bond and I were able to hit the Freeland Trail boardwalk early in the morning when birds were still actively singing and showing off. We saw (and heard) male Bobolinks in full breeding plumage, Common Yellowthroats burrowing through the reeds, and lots of Empidonax flycatchers who might have been troublesome if not for the fact that they were calling; thanks to the clear "fitzBEW" sounds, we could tell they were Willow Flycatchers, and I finally had a life bird in West By God. On the Beall Trail, we also spotted some of the most active and unretiring Ovenbirds I've ever encountered--I've heard probably forty or fifty birds for every one I've seen over the years. On Thursday, two were hopping around the low branches, issuing "tsuk" calls every so often, rather than their usual "teacher TEAcher TEACHER!" songs, raising their orange crests and showing off their field marks plainly. Karen and I theorized that they were trying to lure us away from a nest. So: twenty-nine states down, twenty-one to go.

*And finally, the big news: we're done with high school. Well, yeah, I still teach there, but as of yesterday, we're a four-diploma household. Dixon has marched across the stage and snagged graduate status (along with honors recognition for having a GPA of over 3.5) from his principal. Thankfully, the assistant superintendent who spent a good twenty minutes of Ian's graduation reciting the lyrics to a Bob Dylan song (including the choruses: "Forever young... forever young... forever young... may you stay forever young...") was not present on the stage, and we got through the speeches, awards, songs, and presentation of diplomas to 300+ candidates for graduation in roughly 90 minutes. The weather was warm but not unbearable, and after a variety of photo ops and congratulations to other graduates, we returned home for a big feed with the grandparents, various cousins, aunts, uncles, friends, and neighbors. And once that was done, Kelly and I fell into bed and collapsed for a couple of hours because we felt old.

But we're awake again now, and feeling a little more energized. And we're very, very proud of our boy, who took an unusual and challenging path through high school, gathering the things he needs for a spectacular college career. A posse ad esse, Thing Two.

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on June 12, 2011 10:31 AM.

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