Competitive Bids

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I’m on the Select Board in our town of 740 people, which means that I get to take care of a bunch of unpredictable things as they arise. For instance, there was a house fire last month next to the town’s library, and the heat from the fire broke a few… Read more »

Women’s Work

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I tend to be kind of an observant person, a good character trait for an ethnographer. But I don’t always know how to turn it off, and my wife occasionally says that I’m sounding like Andy Rooney, which is a gentle way of saying that I should be quiet for… Read more »

Bookshelf—The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work

It’s been a month or so since I recommended a book. This edition of Bookshelf features The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, by Alain de Botton (2009, Pantheon). For those of you who haven’t read de Botton’s other work—and he is prolific—you can think of him as a British version… Read more »

Intellectual Genres

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I was at a writers’ conference a few years ago, in a session led by an acquisition editor from Penguin. (Don’t you just love the idea that the publisher is called Penguin, by the way?) Anyway, she was telling us about the shelving codes used by publishers to help booksellers departmentalize… Read more »

The space between

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The world of the student is filled with mechanisms for identifying and rewarding talent. Talent on certain terms, of course, but talent nonetheless. We pack thirty kids into a room and we ask them all to do the same thing. Some will do it better than others. We repeat that… Read more »

Happy Mother’s Day

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I am not, myself, a mother. Nor am I a father. So I have no personal grounds to make any comments about the nature of parenthood within an academic structure. No endearing little stories, no heartwarming tales of family life. In fact, I almost posted the book’s entry on children… Read more »

Cycles of the Day

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I’m old enough to remember (I start a lot of sentences that way now…) when computers were something of a novelty, when the bowling alley I worked in started installing arcade games like Asteroids and Missile Command and Centipede. But there were low-tech versions as well, and one of them… Read more »

Spotted in the wild…

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I have my copies of the book here at home in Vermont, but empirically, they’re the only ones I know actually exist. I’ve heard a rumor that there’s one in England, but I haven’t had visual corroboration. Until yesterday. There’s been a confirmed sighting in the Great Lakes region… And… Read more »

Words When You Can’t Sleep

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You know that wonderful, lingering state just before you fall fully asleep, when you’re just roaming back and forth between awareness and bliss, and the dreams are showing you their previews? I had that last night. And sometimes when I have that, it emerges in sounds and words. The word… Read more »

The Anonymous Professor

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Her son was murdered, and she began to study sociology as a way to understand the world her son had travelled in. She now teaches at a small college, a 5/5 load, trying to bring other students to understand of the duties of friends. He grew up in wheat country,… Read more »