Compliments Matter (or, Tell Someone You Value Their Work)

In the past two months, I've twice met the same former student in my gym. Each time, we have a wonderful conversation about what he's reading, his newfound love of writing, his dreams for the future, and so on. Each time, he reminds me just how much one of my classes influenced him to be a voracious reader and a deeper thinker. These are the kinds of interactions that truly make a week of exhaustion worth it. And they're a reminder of just how important compliments can be. Read More

I’m a Millennial, and I’m Not Interested in the Lie Anymore

In a recent article on Millennials and their perceived lack of effort in the job market, Brett Cenkus argues that our generation is not so much lazy as disinterested in the way things used to be. Abusive job environments, low pay, low stimulation -- these are all reasons he cites for this change in perspective. It's an interesting article, though I think Cenkus is a bit optimistic about how employers can change this dynamic. Why? Read More

Graduate Studies, Taxes, and the Gift of 2017 (Updated)

2017:  the gift that keeps on giving. Yesterday, the United States House of Representatives voted to approve the Republican budget for 2018 and beyond. There are all manner of terrible things in this bill, and you would do well to read about them and call your Senators in hopes we can shut this thing down before it screws a lot of people over. Today, I'd like to talk about the one feature of this bill that, if it passes the Senate, will end my graduate studies for good:  the proposal to tax tuition waivers as income. Read More

Adventures in Teaching: The Aliens That We Are, or Roleplaying the World

Let's talk aliens, ethics, and mock United Nations debates, shall we? Since 2011, I have run an experimental debate session with my students at least once per year. In this debate, they are asked to roleplay as one of two alien species (or as members of an Intergalactic United Nations security council) who have been in a multi-century conflict reminiscent of the current Israel-Palestine conflict -- albeit, in a reductive and allegorical sense. One group wishes to be recognized as a planet (i.e., member state) in the IUN, while the other does not. A panel of students ultimately decides whether planethood (i.e., becoming a member state) will be granted; this decision is based on the strength of the presented arguments. If you're curious about the scenario, I've provided the full slideshow below: Read More

Mastodon and My Happy “Project”

I just joined Mastodon. I'm also on the wandering.shop "instance," too. Yup, you can follow me in two places. So what the heck is Mastodon? It's sort of like Twitter, but it allows people to create their own "instances" (or sub-communities) with their own guidelines, etc., effectively making it an answer to the hellhole of infinity that is Twitter. From what I can tell, a lot of creative types, especially from marginalized communities, have joined to escape Twitter's endlessly disappointing reaction to rampant abuse and bigotry on its platform. Whether they're leaving permanently or just taking more of their energy elsewhere, the vibe seems pretty clear:  it's kind of a joyful zone. Read More

Thor: Ragnarok (2017), or Thor and the Amazing Technicolor Marvelverse

Earlier today, I had the pleasure of seeing the third installment in Marvel's Thor series. Directed by Taika Waititi of What We Do in the Shadows fame, Thor: Ragnarok has almost everyone head over heels with delight. And they've got good reason to be. Ragnarok is hilarious. From its absurd settings, colorful cast of characters, and heart-wrenching ending, this film is sure to please fans of the MCU and nab a few naysayers along the way. Read More

On Impostor Syndrome

Pretty much every writer I know has had or continues to suffer from the infamous "impostor syndrome." Authors, academics, bloggers, etc. If they do some kind of writing, they've likely had a moment of pure doubt about their abilities, their place in the "field," their right to success, and so on. Part of what makes it such a pernicious "bug" is the way it can crush your ability to produce anything. Some people give up. Others feel like anything they do isn't worthwhile. Still others constantly doubt their abilities at every turn, no matter how minor. I'd guess that a lot of "writer's block" are just forms of impostor syndrome. Read More