Monday Mornin’

Monday Morning comes at you hard some weeks. I’ve noticed that for some of us, immersed in the digital age, the lines between the work week and the weekend have a tendency to blur quite a bit. I wanted to share a slice of motivation, in the form a brief TED talk. Kick Monday motivation square in the pants.

For those who are constantly online and working even on the weekends, stress is an all too common a feeling. But to feel so at the start of a fresh week is not likely to do much for your productivity. However, Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist, in this talk, shares her findings on how we can (and need to) re-calibrate our minds to view stress contrarily, different than our current notion/belief of it is as a life-threatening disease of sorts. Kelly talks about perspective changes, how one can try to see stress as a sign of action-readiness. About how we can view our stress responses as helpful and not harmful. Her suggestions on how we can befriend-stress are simple and worth giving a try.

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What do you think? Any methods you might recommend? Leave some love.

An Open Letter to the Interim President, Provost, and Board of Trustees of Michigan State University

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From the MSU Faculty, As found here https://msufic.wordpress.com/  (Follow the link to add your name to the list)

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE INTERIM PRESIDENT, PROVOST, AND BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY

 

Our Observations Concerning Michigan State University’s Climate

We the undersigned Faculty are horrified by Nassar’s crimes and compelled by the growing sense that Michigan State University (MSU) officials have remained silent in the face of sexual violence against women on campus. Our hearts go out to the survivors, those courageous young women who have stood up in court, given statements and exposed, not only Nassar, but also the failures of the University to respond to their reports of abuse.

There are certainly many more survivors of abuse on campus whose voices, however, have not been heard or whose reports have been disregarded.  The Nassar scandal has revealed that MSU administrative practices have tolerated and even been complicit with multiple forms of abuse, all the while claiming to put student interests first.

It is long past time to address the breadth and depth of our institutional dysfunction. Merely removing the abusers and replacing those who are ultimately responsible for institutional failures is not a satisfactory response. The entire culture of the university must be fundamentally reordered and remade. In this spirit, we present this list of demands that will help begin the process of addressing the past crimes and administrative failures and moving MSU towards a future in which sexual violence will not be tolerated on campus.

Regarding Sexual Abuse

  1. All new Board of Trustees members must have demonstrable deep familiarity with issues surrounding sexual assault and rape culture and other forms of abuse that are common inside a large institution.
  2. The next MSU president must have demonstrable deep familiarity with issues surrounding sexual assault and rape culture and other forms of abuse that are common inside a large institution.
  3. There must be transparency about steps taken to address sexual assault on the MSU campus.
  4. There must be transparency about steps taken to make the MSU administration accountable for failure to respond adequately to sexual assault.
  5. All people directly involved in covering up these sexual assaults must be immediately suspended.
  6. We must create a dedicated Sexual Assault Center with counselors and budget for advocacy and activities, and increase the number of sexual assault counselors after a series of exit interviews with those counselors who have left in protest.

Regarding Providing a Forum for Discussion of this Crisis and Reestablishing Trust between Members of the MSU Community

  1. We should cancel all classes and dedicate an entire day to campus discussion.
  2. All coaches must face the MSU faculty and answer questions in an open meeting.
  3. There must be a Town Hall meeting for students with the interim President, his advisors, the Provost and the entire Board of Trustees.
  4. There must be a Town Hall meeting for faculty with the interim President, his advisors, the Provost and the entire Board of Trustees.

Regarding Governance and Reorganization

  1. After the current Board of Trustees meets with the students and faculty, we expect they will resign or be impeached.
  2. MSU’s Faculty Governance structure is an aberration. Our Faculty Governance must mirror the autonomy given to faculty elsewhere throughout this nation.  For some background and suggestions, we refer you to the Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on Faculty Voice dated April 22, 2005 which was never seriously implemented.
  3. We wish to know the criteria used by the Board of Trustees to select Acting and Interim Presidents.
  4. We wish to have a list of those in academic HR who knew about the Nassar and other sexual assaults and when they became aware of these incidents.
  5. The new Board of Trustees must include in its list of primary responsibilities regaining the trust of the Faculty.
  6. New members of the Board of Trustees must have demonstrated interest in the academic mission of the university, not athletics, and must be appointed for a limited transition period until elections can be held.
  7. The process of selecting a new President must be totally transparent. We remind everyone that Lou Anna Simon was chosen without a national search and hired as the result of a closed door Board of Trustees meeting.
  8. We wish to know the names of the law firms and insurance firms that have been retained.

Regarding Other forms of Institutionalized Abuse

  1. We must examine the structures of abuse which have been normalized throughout this University and employ only those who are both willing to and capable of resisting the furtherance of such abuse. The mantra which appears in so many of MSU’s official documents regarding racism, sexism, classism, ableism, normative gender roles, etc. must not be a meaningless chant.
  2. We must study the enormous body of scholarly work which enlightens us to how abuse has been institutionalized here.

Regarding Financial and Other Costs to the University

  1. We must be given a written commitment that the faculty will not incur the cost of administrative failure (possibly over 1 billion dollars) in the Nassar case.
  2. We remind everyone that as the majority of students are residents of Michigan, any increase in their tuition is a tax on Michigan residents.

Writing tips from Nomadic Matt

If  you ever venture through the world of travel writing, you will run across Nomadic Matt.  I dig his stuff.  I wanted to share a recent post on writing tips that I found super  helpful Find the site here

His site is a kind of institution, and deservedly so. He’s been in the game for quite a while, and is typically ranked as one of the busiest travel blogs on the web. I found this guide a great primer, and wanted to share with the community here.

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This post is a little inside baseball about travel writing. It’s a follow-up to my semi-ongoing series on travel blogging that started with this post, continued with this one, and will now (probably) end with this post here. To me, the crux of all online endeavors is good writing. With so many blogs out there, if you can’t write engaging stories, you’ll never get anywhere! So today, I want to introduce one of my favorite travel writers, David Farley, who is going to share 11 writing tips for fellow bloggers and writers out there! Here’s David:

I always thought that once I started writing for glossy travel magazines, I could relax a bit because I’d “made it.” Nope! Then I thought that once I began penning pieces for the New York Times, I could say I was successful. Not. At. All. OK, maybe when I had a book out, published by a major publishing house, things would get a bit easier for me. I wish!

Writers, in some way, are a sorry lot. Rarely do they ever look at something and say “perfect!” Maybe for a moment — but give a writer a day and he or she will come back to that same article and find dozens of mistakes. Writing is a craft you never perfect.

We’re always striving to be better. Creatives tend to be perfectionists. Writing requires you to keep learning and improving.

But that’s good, because that drive makes writers improve their work. And only through practice and effort do we end up with the Hemingways, Brysons, Gilberts, and Kings of the world. (Matt says: I once heard that until the day he died, Frost never loved “The Road Not Taken.” He was constantly reworking it!)

If you’re a travel blogger, you probably started off not as a writer with a journalism background but as a traveler looking to share your experience. You probably didn’t have any formal training or someone to peer over your shoulder and give you advice.

So today I wanted to share 11 tips that will help you improve your travel writing or blogging. Because the world always needs good writers — and good writing helps get your story heard more! These tips, if followed, will better your writing and make a huge difference in the reach of your writing!

11 Ways to Improve Your Travel Writing/Blogging

an ope notebook on a desk, photo by @waferboard (flickr)
1. Read. This is number one. because whenever a budding writer asks me how they can improve, it’s my first piece of advice. Read good writing. Absorb it. Let it sink into your soul. Don’t think it’s possible? When I was first starting out, I was sick one weekend, so I spent three days lying in bed reading every page of that year’s Best American Travel Writing anthology. After I finished, I opened up my laptop and started writing for the first time in days. What came out surprised me: it was the highest-quality writing I’d done to date. And it was all because I was absorbed in good writing and it filtered through me back onto the page in my own writing.

(Matt says: Here’s a list of my favorite travel books.)

2. Do it for love. Maya Angelou wrote, “You can only become truly accomplished at something you love.” Don’t get into travel writing for the money — after all, that would be totally unrealistic. And please don’t gravitate to the genre because you want free trips and hotel rooms. “Instead,” Ms. Angelou added, “do [it] so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.” Or, in other words, strive to become such a good writer that the editors of all the publications you have been dreaming to write for can’t ignore you anymore.

3. Don’t be attached to linear writing. You need not compose a piece from beginning to middle to end. Sometimes that’s not the ideal structure of the story. Sure, maybe you’ve already figured that out. But if not, it’s OK to just get a few scenes and paragraphs of exposition down “on paper.” Then you can step back and take a look at the bigger picture and rearrange what you have, figuring out the best way to tell the story.

4. Tap into your own sense of motivation and drive. The students of mine at New York University who have been most successful were not always the most talented in the class. But they were the most driven. They’d read enough quality writing and thought about it — understanding what made it so wonderful — that there was just something about writing that they got. They weren’t born with that understanding, but ambition drove them to seek out better writing and then to think about it, to analyze what made it good (or not so good). Drive also inspires future successful writers to go out on a limb, to render themselves vulnerable, by reaching out to more accomplished writers to ask for advice, or by introducing themselves to editors at events or conferences. Don’t be shy! Standing in the corner quietly won’t get you as far as putting your hand out to introduce yourself will.

5. Try to figure out what gets your mind and writing flowing. Let me explain: I can sit down at my laptop and stare at a blank Word document for hours, not sure how to start a story or what to write about. Then I’ll respond to an email from a friend who wants to know about the trip I’m trying to write about. I’ll write a long email with cool and interesting anecdotes about my experience and include some analysis about the place and culture. And then I’ll realize: I can just cut and paste this right into the empty Word doc I’ve been staring at for the last three hours! Several of my published articles have blocks of texts that were originally written as parts of emails to friends. The “email trick” might not work for everyone, but there is inevitably some trick for the rest of you — be it talking to a friend or free-associating in your journal.

6. Understand all aspects of storytelling. There are two types of travel writing: commercial and personal essay (or memoir). In commercial travel writing, you should make the various parts of the story an intrinsic aspect of your knowledge: from ways to write a lede to the nut graph, scenes, exposition, and conclusions. For memoir and personal essays, know what narrative arc means like the back of your typing hands. It helps to get an intuitive understanding of these things by paying attention to writing — to reading like a writer — as you read nonfiction (and travel) articles.

7. Don’t stress if your first draft is shit. Ernest Hemingway said, “The first draft of anything is shit.” And he wasn’t kidding. I find this true when I’m writing a personal essay or travel memoir. I write and I write and I write, and I’m not exactly sure what I’m putting down on paper. What’s the point of this? I ask myself. Why am I even doing this? But here is where patience comes in: eventually, the clouds part, the proverbial sunbeam from the heavens shines down on our computer monitors, and we see the point of it all: we finally figure out what it is we’re writing and how to best tell that story. It just happens like magic sometimes. And not all at once: sometimes it’s bit by bit, like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. But as I mentioned, patience is key, because we never know when that divine magic is going to be activated. But sit around long enough and it will happen, I promise you. (Just be cautious when taking Hemingway’s other writing advice: “Write drunk, edit sober.”)

8. Write what you know. “Start telling the stories that only you can tell,” said writer Neil Gaiman, “because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that — but you are the only you.”

9. When you’re finished with a draft, read it out loud. Preferably, print it out and read it out loud. This will allow you to better hear how the piece sounds, and unacceptable segues and clunky sentences or turns of phrases will jump out at you in a more obvious way.

10. Always get another set of eyes on your writing. While all writers make mistakes, it’s harder to spot them without an editor. Editors are very important, but they don’t necessarily have to be someone with formal training. While hiring a copyeditor is always great, if you can just get a friend to read your blog or story, that might be good enough.

It’s even better if you have someone who doesn’t know about travel. I have a friend who doesn’t travel much; she reads all my blog posts because she helps me make sure I include the important details I might have skipped. See, when you’re an expert on something, you often fill in the blanks in your mind. You go from A to C automatically; step B becomes subconscious. And when you write, you skip step B because it seems so obvious. Getting someone who doesn’t know the steps will help ensure you include explain everything in your post and don’t leave your readers going, “Huh?”

11. Finally, learn to self-edit. This is where many people go wrong. They write, they read it over, they post. And then feel embarrassed as they say, “Oh, man, I can’t believe I missed that typo.” You don’t need to be master editor, but if you follow a few principles, it will go a long way: First, write something and let it sit for a few days before editing. After your first round of edits, repeat the process. Get another set of eyes on it. Print out a checklist of grammar rules to go through as you edit. (Note: Matt created one here for you.) As you review your work, say to yourself, “Did I do this? Did I do that?” If you follow the cheat sheet, you’ll catch most of your mistakes and end up with a much better final product!

Writing is an art form. It takes a lot of practice. When you’re a blogger out on your own, it can be harder to improve your work, because you don’t have an experienced voice giving you tips and advice and pushing you to be better. If you don’t take it upon yourself to be better, you never will be. However, even if you aren’t blessed to work under an editor, these 11 tips can help you improve your writing today and become a much better blogger, writing stories people want to read!

David Farley has been writing about travel, food, and culture for over twenty years. His work has appeared in AFAR magazine, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Condé Nast Traveler, and World Hum, among other publications. In 2006 and 2013, he won the Lowell Thomas Award from the Society of American Travel Writers for magazine articles he wrote. He has lived in Prague, Paris, and Rome and now New York City. He is the author of An Irreverent Curiosity and was a host for National Geographic. He teaches writing at Columbia University and New York University.

 

How the Academic Elite Reproduces Itself

Another great piece by Chad Wellmon. What about the questions of higher education and the digital age…The university is a technology.

This essay, written with Andrew Piperfirst appeared on October 8, 2017 in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Ten years ago, the Higher Education Funding Council for England decided to “assess” the quality of research in universities across Britain by putting in place a new system, the Research Excellence Framework. In 2014, the Council and its institutional partners released a report that included evaluations of almost 200,000 “research outputs” ­— including journal articles, books, and conference proceedings. Since then academics on both sides of the Atlantic have ridiculed the REF, as the framework is known, as a bureaucratic boondoggle that values quantity over quality.

Despite the derision, analytic exercises such as the REF or the use of commercial databases, such as Academic Analytics, by universities in the United States have come to stand for a basic truth about the contemporary research university: Publications are the most fundamental…

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