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Day 491, July 21, 2021

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Ode to Sweet Corn Today's soundtrack: The Bill Frisell Trio, 7/3/21 The pandemic has traversed a full cycle and it is sweet corn season again. I walked down to the farm stand at the end of my street and picked up a half dozen ears and threw some on the grill tonight with our turkey burgers, zucchini, and red peppers.  Sweet corn is like the first kiss of summer, that late night coming together in high school over the front bench seat of a Buick. It is the stirring of emotions and feelings in your body that you didn't know existed before then. It is like the time you flung yourself off a rope swing dangling over a rock ledge that dropped into a river. How on first glance there was doubt and uncertainty, but upon release, that brief glorious moment of flailing, perhaps something akin to what millionaires feel when they fly for a moment into space on a rocket ship. Sweet corn is like after dancing in a crowded sweaty bar or concert hall, when it is all over and the lights come up

Day 489, July 19, 2021

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 How Things Used to Be The water is high.  It has been raining for days, weeks it seems. I remember summer rain differently. The smell of wet asphalt. A t-shirt slicked tight like a second skin. Bodies pressed together for warmth. The musty spruce of the inside of a tent. I don't remember rain swallowing cars and rendering streets down to stone and sand. It probably happened, but I didn't pay attention because I was too preoccupied by the smells and bodies and the promise of nakedness, or near nakedness and how it would feel to be dry and warm and forgetful. The swollen river.

Day 484, July 14, 2021

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The Art of Listening Tonight's soundtrack: Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Opp. 53, 54, & 101, Alfred Brendel It is wonderful to have engaged students. Tonight I had an open office hour and seven students showed up. It was wonderful, almost like having a mini seminar class. While I left Tuesday's class feeling a little deflated and worried if students were following my logic in constructing the class, today's students showed up for office hour all moving forward with great ideas and had early drafts to share and questions to ask. It was a great relief. I suppose it is a bit like performing as a musician or an actor on stage. Because we know how good things can be, when we fall short, like when you start class by talking for five minutes before someone pipes up and says, "Professor, we can't see your screen, we only see jagged lines." Oops, so much for that little mini lecture on the Montague Sand Plains. For tomorrow, I think I'll start with a little video of

Day 483, July 13, 2021

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Reading the Room Tonight's soundtrack: Murray Perahia, Beethoven: String Quartet, Op. 127 & Piano Sonata, Op. 101 Today's class was harder. I've been busy with many different things, and while I thought I had the class planned out, it wasn't quite water tight. Students are so perceptive, they ask the right questions to make you think deeper. How could I have made that question clearer? How could I have set up the assignment better? Am I losing some students? The broader general topic is student success, but how are students defining success? As one student wrote, she hates the idea of there being one form of student success, because in her mind there are countless ways students can be successful that are not reflected in grades and graduation and other metrics. I applauded her, because she is not only right, but I think maybe that might be the key to helping students. How do the students define success, rather than how is success defined for them. I think if student

Day 478, July 8, 2021

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More Personality Tonight's soundtrack: A Night at the Vanguard, Kenny Burrell (1959) My wife talks about my teaching persona as Leo... with more personality. After class tonight I realized my cheeks were sore from making exaggerated expressions into my laptop screen and my throat was a little dry from talking so excitedly. Apparently, Leo with more personality is louder and more expressive. A bear I saw in Middlebury over the weekend. I'm not sure if this is a conscious thing that I have nurtured in my teaching persona, but I always try hard to maintain a high energy level in the class with the idea that if I have high energy, hopefully the students will also respond with high energy. Part of transmitting energy is working to connect with every student on an individual basis, while simultaneously keeping the class engaged. When we are in a classroom it is fun to actively walk around the classroom and be emotive with my body when I am excited or impressed with something someone

Day 476, July 6, 2021

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Back in the Saddle Again Tonight's soundtrack: Tedeschi Trucks Band, Layla Songs  (I was forwarded this article about the Tedeschi Trucks Band covering the whole Layla album , which was a college staple for me and it made me curious to check it out.) For the first time in many years, I find myself in the classroom again. Teaching is such an odd endeavor, equal parts performance, choreography, cheerleading, and organization. And on Zoom, it also feels like you are also an events coordinator. All while trying to facilitate learning. I felt a little jittery today, in part because I am still recovering from a restless couple nights of sleep after traveling for the holiday, and in part compensating for that with a little extra caffeine. Surprisingly, I actually kept to my projected times, but I also jumped around a little more than seemed logical, like a person who is too excited. The first class or two is always so important. It is that initial meeting where students feel out the expec

Day 471, July 1, 2021

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Camp Stories  Tonight's soundtrack: Khatia Buniatishvilli, Beethoven Piano Concerto #1, Martin Alsop, Orchestre de Paris, 2020 Before leaving for college, I wanted to have an experience with my younger brother. I hoped it would be a time for me to pass on my worldly wisdom before leaving home. I don't remember what started me believing I was a backpacker, but I had an external frame pack, the kind where you lashed sleeping bags and tents to it like the roof of a Pinto and I was determined to take my brother camping. Starting in Lee we were going to get on the Appalachian Trail for a couple day hike and see how far we could go. This was, of course, before the time of cellphones and Google Maps. And I, of course, had an over inflated sense of direction and way finding. We set off with only the vaguest sense of how we would meet up with the AT, but surprisingly, after meeting up with the highway, I was able to navigate our way to the trail. Unfortunately, the misdirection cost us