A Poem for Graduates and Soon-to-be-students

The last few days were a series of graduations on campus, and today were the 148th Commencement Exercises at my alma mater, Vassar College. This time of year always brings to mind a poem by Nancy Willard, from A Visit to William Blake’s Inn: Poems for innocent and Experienced Travelers. It’s a book I particularly associate …

My Oldest Friend

My oldest friend, by which I mean the friend I have known the longest, leaves the country today. She is off on her first posting as an employee of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and over the next twenty or thirty years she will get to live in all sorts of interesting places. …

Historical Hypochondria

I have begun to wonder if historians, or at least history students, don’t suffer from a similar problem to that experienced by medical students. Medical students often start to self-diagnose with various ailments during the course of their studies, especially when confronted with list after list of symptoms. They find themselves ticking off symptoms and …

How do we shuffle our cards?

Over the past few months I’ve had a quote, more of an idea really, rattling around in my head. The artist James C. Christensen wrote about how he thinks about creativity and new ideas using the metaphor of a library’s card catalog. I never knew card catalogs, so in time the cards in the metaphor …

Heard on the radio

As I was running errands today, I had my radio tuned to the local NPR station, listening to This American Life. Today’s program was about the new Alabama immigration laws and how they have, in addition to whatever else, increased the racism experienced by/targeted at the Latino population. An instance mention by the reporter involved …

Quick thought: accessibility and angles

On Sunday I went to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum out at Dulles with my parents, a friend, and the friend’s two sons aged almost-5 and just-6. Due to recent knee problems, my dad opted to use a wheelchair for the day.  As a result, his eye level was roughly equal with the boys’. …