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Jim's blog

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Location: Osterville, Massachusetts, United States

I am a professor at Cape Cod Community College and and a member of a Buddhist order. After a 30-year career as a newspaper reporter and editor I became a full-time professor in 2001. I am the author of the textbooks "The Elements of News Writing" and "The Elements of Academic Writing." I enjoy running, hiking and camping. I have two grown sons and two grandchildren.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Back to school

Tuesday I returned to my regular teaching routine. The last few weeks of school are always the toughest. School went well, but it was hard work. I stipped off for my routine blood tests on the way home. Then I graded papers in the evening.


Sunday, November 27, 2005

On the road again!

After five weeks of rest I started running again today. It felt wonderful. I ran the Playhouse Loop, a three-and-a-half-mile run that goes through the scenic grounds of the Cape Playhouse. It felt wonderful. I was moving at a slow jog -- probably an 11-minute pace -- but I still managed to work up a good sweat. I was able to clear my head and get some clarity again, after several weeks of feeling rather muddled. The neighborhood is so beautiful with autumn leaves all over. It was a pleasant day, too. The temperature was 46 degrees, and it was cloudy, but not unpleasant. (That's an old picture of me finishingthe Falmouth Road Race a couple of years ago.) My doctor said I should wait for six weeks after being diagnosed with bronchitis, and that would have been next Tuesday, I think cheating by three days is OK. I feel much better about myself.

I also feel good about my writing. I have been chugging away at the haiku I am writing for Mark's photographs. I do one or two per day now. I had been writing for a big chunk of time when I could write a lot. This worked out much better.

"I write a little every day without hope and without despair"
-- Isak Denison.

Running: 3.5 miles

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Andrea Holden Race

I went to the annual Andrea Holden Race this morning, but only as a spectator. I usually run it, but today I just watched. It was fun to see my friends run. My buddy Joe Navas won the race in 15:58, which is an excellent time. That's Joe's picture on the left. He was my student and editor of the school newspaper last year. Joe is not only a great runner, but a talented journalist and a talented artist and musician too. He was nearly a minute ahead of the second runner. I also saw Alison, Jack, Scott, Gene, Joanne and lots of other friends. I rode my motorcycle over to Corporation Beach, where it begins and ends. It was mighty cold on the bike.

I spent the mid-day just being lazy. I've got to start grading again soon.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Leftover Day

It all started out with leftover apple pie, followed by a little pumpkin pie, and it was all downhill after that, with nothing nutritious to speak of all day. Well, I did have a banana and some Kashi cereal, which is good for me. And I even tasted some of Barbara's homemade turkey soup, which is nutritious, I am sure. I generally eat vegetarian, but I made an exception for chicken soup on my doctor's advice, when I was recovering from bronchitis. I figured this is one more exception worth making. I plan to get back on track tomorrow. Down in Asheville Ben, Wolf and Brandon had a duck instead of a turkey, so they made -- of course -- duck soup. But every time someone mentioned it, we all giggled. It guess it is the Marx Brothers movie that makes that phrase sound so funny.

This evening I did spent two hours grading papers. I have a stack of five-page research papers, and they take a long time to grade. I'll be at it all weekend.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.
I am very thankful for my family and friends. I am thankful for my spiritual practice, which gives me great joy. I am thankful for my wonderful job, which gives me fulfillment and helps others. I am thankful for my home and the lovely town and area where I live. And I am thankful to live in the United States of America, a great and compassionate nation that has temporarily lost it way. I am confident we will get back on course soon.

I am thankful for the seven members of our family who have gathered at our house today. I am a little sad that some very important members of the family are not with us today, but I am glad they are having their own Thanksgiving dinner together in North Carolina. Brandon, Ben, Wolf and Nathaniel are together, and I know they can feel our love down there. We will all be together for Christmas.

I am also thankful that another important member of the family, our pet box turtle Tom, is awake and looking forward to Thanksgiving turkey. He usually begins hibernation in late November, and I was afraid he wouldn't be able to stay awake for turkey dinner. But he was wide awake this morning, so I think we will be able to share our meal after all.

Blessings to all.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Thanksgiving Eve

My blood sugar remains too high -- even before the pumpkin pie! I think it is the lack of running. I will resume running as soon as we have a mild day. Unfortunately, they are predicting snow tomorrow.

On the way into work I stopped to pick up shirts at the laundry. The printer at the clerk's computer wouldn't work, holding up the whole production. I suggested she turn it off and on again, which surprised her. But to her astonishment, it fixed the problem and we all went on her way. That made me feel good.

This afternoon I confronted two of the three students involved in the possible cheating. I think it went well. This evening my brother-in-law Steve and his family of four are coming down for the Thanksgiving holiday. That will be fun.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Even harder Tuesday

Sometime around 5 I guess I fell asleep, and then I overslept until 9! I dashed into work without a shower or a decent breakfast, and that threw off my whole day.
Classes went well, but I had to rush to get prepared. There was a lot of office politics making the atmosphere unhappy at work.

I did have a good talk with two of my mentors about how to handle the cheating problem. Basically they endorsed my plan.
Then, in the afternoon, I got a wonderful phone call A professor from St Bonaventure University called to thank me for writing my textbook. He said it was exactly the kind of book he has been looking for. I was overjoyed. He really made my day. It was great to hear from him.

(I never would have everslept if I had this nifty John Deere alarm clock) ;-)

Monday, November 21, 2005

Hard Monday

Monday was a hard day. I had a lot of work to do at the office, but I couldn't seem to get ahead of it. I did have a terrific talk with my friend Anne and another terrific talk with my friend Dan. After dinner I graded a whole stack of tests from one of my classes. Unfortunately I discovered unmistakable evidence of cheating. It felt like a personal affront. It really bothered me. I could not sleep Monday night. I was still wide awake at 4 a.m.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Super Sangha

Wow! Sunday was quite a day, spiritually speaking. Sundays are Days of Mindfulness for me. I try to be mindful and spiritual all day. This time I succeeded. I was a little nervous about the plan. Three sangha members have expressed an interest in becoming members of the Order of Interbeing, like me. I am a co-mentor for them, along with my own mentor, Joanne Friday. I suggested we have a discussion group to discuss the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings of the Order of Interbeing. I also invited anyone else who might be interested, but I assumed this would be of interest only to the three aspirants and maybe one or two others. I prepared by reading over some materials and reminding myself that is not about me. I am merely a vehicle for the teachings. I had a wonderful talk with Joanne yesterday, and that helped me. At 3 p.m. it was time to begin. To my astonishment, eighteen people showed up for the discussion. That is more than we have had at a sangha sitting in years. It turns out there is a real hunger in the community for these teachings. I conducted a comparatively formal ceremony with formal rituals (lighting the candle, lighting the incense, invoking the names of the bodhisattva and bowing) to begin the session, and that went very well. It seemed to set the tone just right. The discussion was slow, mindful and meaningful. Many people expressed gratitude that Thich Nhat Hanh is available to us now, and that his teachings include such openness. The First Mindfulness Training, on which we focused tonight, stresses being open to other teachings and doctrines and not being attached to any one doctrine. Several people contrasted this attitude with the restrictive nature of some other religions. There were several references to John Lennon, including "nothing to kill or die for," from his song "Imagine," and the Beatles song "Let It Be."

After 90 minutes we paused for a break and then went into the regular Sangha session, and almost everyone stayed for that. A few others came at that time too. It went very well too. I read a chapter from "Peace is Every Step" about a tangerine meditation, and then we did our own tangerine meditation. It was delightful. Afterwards many, many people thanked me and said it was a transformative, spiritual experience. I felt overwhelmed with gratitude. I felt gratitude for my teachers, my family and my sangha. The sangha spirit was stronger than I had ever felt it before. Occasionally I receive confirmation that I am on the right path. This was one of those times.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Press-run party

Saturday was the annual (sort of) press run party. I invited all the students from three classes, so there is the potential of 40 students. I expect about a dozen.

My blood sugar was high this morning. Ii need to remember to check it every day. I want to start running soon.

In the afternoon I went shopping and picked up a large assortment of sodas and juices for the party. I also got mixed nuts and a fruit salad. We will order pizza when everyone arrives.

Later I had a wonderful talk with Joanne Friday, who is my mentor in the Order of Interbeing. We talked about the three aspirants that she and I plan to mentor together. It is not about reading books or things like that; it is about the practice.
I am filled with gratitude now.

The evening was wonderful. We had about 10 students over to out house for pizza and a movie ("The Paper") I think everyone had a good time. At 10:30 we headed for the Cape Cod Times, and four more students met us there. We watched them put together the paper and put it to bed. Then at 11:30 we went to the press, which is located about two miles away. IN all the previous visits, we used to follow a courier who carried negatives from one office to the other. But now it is all done electronically, and a computer connection sends the page directly to a plate-making machine. That is a big time-saver. Then we waited through some technical delays and finally got to see the huge Goss Metro offset press roar into action. The students were suitably impressed. I got home about 1 a.m. and slept until nearly noon Sunday.


Friday, November 18, 2005

Dance performance

Friday was busy.
We discussed the Internet in Mass Communications class, and I showed them this blog. Each student mentioned how she or he uses the Internet. In the afternoon I graded every on-line paper I had to grade. That was a great relief. In the evening I went to the college dance performance, and enjoyed it very much.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Thursday, hard but good

Thursdays are always hard, but this was a particularly good one. I had an appointment with Dr. Adams in the early morning, and got to work by 9:30. There were student advising appointments and a great English class. I just asked if they had any questions about the research paper, and they peppered me with excellent questions. Then there was a MainSheet meeting and journalism class, which also went well. After that, a student, Christen Moynahan interviewed me for an oral history project. She is fascinated with the 1960s, and I have a lot of stories about them. I enjoy talking about it, and she seems to be enjoying the stories. It should make a good paper for her. In the evening I had my media ethics class, and it was great. Since I let them go home early lat week, I filled the class with lots of activities this time. We discussed the second book, we discussed the Judith Miller Case, I had them each write a question for me, and I answered them, and then I called on each student in turn to tell about eh scholarly journal article he or she brought in. It was a very productive and educational experience all around.
The only problem is that I was so excited by the great class that I had a lot of trouble falling asleep Thursday night.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Weary Wednesday

I didn't get much sleep Tuesday night, so I was tired Wednesday. Classes went well, but my students could sense that I wasn't in top form. I hope I sleep well tonight. Bill Breisky called tonight and invited me to a Big Brothers/Big Sisters fundraising breakfast. I went last year too. It was nice to hear from him. He is the former editor of the Cape Cod Times and a wonderful mentor to me.
I'm going to take a hot bath and sleep well tonight.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Productive Tuesday

Tuesday was busy all day. I had a lot of preparation to do before my 11 a.m. English class and before my 2 p.m. journalism class. Meanwhile several students came in for advising. I kept working but couldn't seem to get caught up. My online class suffered, since I couldn't get it all set up by noon, as I had promised. I got that fixed between 4 and 5 p.m. It's 7:15 now, and I plan to do some work on the haiku book so I have something to report to Steve.

Yes! I worked from 7:30 to 8:30 and wrote five haiku. Good for me!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Interfaith Coalition dinner meeting

Monday was most notable for a fantastic evening meeting at the home of Rabbi David Freelund. Four of us joined David and his family for a wonderful dinner followed by a meeting to discuss a proposed organizational structure for the coalition. The coalition bylaws subcommittee meeting was FANTASTIC! It was very productive, spiritual, friendly and fulfilling. I am so glad I went. Steve Carty Cordry from the Unity Church facilitated the discussion with a big flip chart and a perfect sense of organization. David provided delicious food, witty good humor and a clear head. Judith Partelow of the Bahai congregation offered wonderful suggestions about spiritually based meetings. Larry Brown, who is a Hindu, provided inspirational comments and a closing prayer. By the time we left we all knew each other much better, and we had arrived at a clear vision and plan for getting the group well organized. Actually the coalition has been putting on public events for four or five years, but we have been doing it without any formal organizational structure. This was the time and place to get it going. We will bring our plan to the larger core group in December. I am proud to have been a part of the birth -- or rebirth -- of the Cape Cod Interfaith Coalition.

Earlier in the day I had lunch with Steve Cardy Cordry and we had a productive time there too. We agreed to help each other with our writing projects by checking in every evening at 9:30 to report on our writing progress.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Sangha Sunday

On Sunday I had intended to go to church, but overslept. After a long breakfast, Barbara and I had a long talk, after which I went for a motorcycle ride. It was a b beautiful day. Then I got ready for the sangha, which went well. We had 14 people and we did some chanting. In the evening I graded the journalism papers.

Fun Saturday

Saturday morning I went into the office and did some work. Then I had lunch with a friend in Wareham. When I got home, Barbara had arranged to meet our friend Glenda in Hyannis to return to her a jacket her husband had accidentally left behind the night before. After chatting with her, we did some shopping at Ocean State Job Lot and Trader Joes and then we went out to dinner at Panara. It was a fun day all around.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Veterans Day

I am a veteran myself, although I am not really proud of it. I was vehemently opposed to the Vietnam War, but when I got drafter I was not willing to leave the country. So I enlisted in the Navy and spent four miserable years indirectly supporting he war I hated so much. They were the worse four years of my life, but I was never in any real danger, since the ships on which I was stationed never left the Atlantic Ocean.
Veterans Day was uneventful. Barbara and I just hung around the house. We spent some time fixing my computer. She suggested -- correctly -- that I should restore it to the settings of a week earlier, before I started acting funny. That took a long time, but it works fine now.
In the evening, our friends Ned and Glenda came over, and we talked, ate some homemade apple pie Barbara baked and played a card game Glenda taught us, called Shanghai Rummy.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Long, hard Thursday

As always, Thursday was hard. I got up early and got into work around 8:30. I stopped by Dunkin Donuts and used the gift certificate I won in a raffle to buy a dozen doughnuts for the department. IN English we watched a DVD of Schoolhouse Rock, and the a.v. equipment really worked this time. Then I had several student appointments, and missed the MainSheet meeting. Soon it was time for journalism, and we did a free-writing game. I had more student appointments after that. Then I had to get ready for media ethics class. A few minutes before that class started, several of the students in that class who are also taking a math class just before it came to complain about a terrible math test. They called it "the math test from hell." They were all really burned out form it. I decided to give them a break by cutting short my media ethics class. So we all got to go home early. I watched "Everwood" and enjoyed it.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

I laughed; I cried

Wednesday was a good day. I was overtired, though, because I didn't sleep well Tuesday night. I gave a test in mass communication and did a lot of advising. I graded papers and some of the online stuff too. Janet sent me more information about her friends the Friedmans who are going through such a trying time. It made me cry. Then, in the evening, I watched a tribute to Steve Martin on PBS. They showed lots of clips form his funniest shows and films. It made me laugh out loud.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Busy Tuesday

I was busy all day. I stopped on my way into work to pick up shirts at the laundry and had a nice talk with the woman there about Veterans Day, Friday. She will be closed, as will the college. Her husband is a veteran, as am I. I got all prepared for the English class, where the dean was observing me. It went well, and he gave me an excellent evaluation. Journalism class proved very interesting too, especially when we got into a discussion of shock jock Howard Stern. To my surprise, several women in the class defended his show. I didn't get home until nearly 6 p.m.


Monday, Monday

Once again Monday proved to be a very busy day, even though I don't have any classes to teach. I had meetings, conferences and all sorts or work, including planning the Tuesday classes. IN the evening I graded papers from 7 to 10 p.m.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Wonderful Sunday

Sundays are my days of mindfulness. I try to spend all day doing things mindfully. I spent part of the day taking care of business, paying bills and working on our budget. Although it does not sound like spiritual activity, I did attempt to do it in a mindful way.
The sangha was a true wonder. I had expected a substantial turnout because several newcomers contacted me, so I asked Gayle and Jeff to put out 12 chairs. Jeff was a little skeptical, since we have been getting six or eight more typically. But in the end 17 people joined us for a wonderful sangha. I began with a guided meditation, then walking meditation, reading the Five Mindfulness Trainings, and then Jeff discussed an article in The Mindfulness Bell by Thich Nhat Hanh. Then we had a closing silent meditation. It was a very peaceful, serene time, and I think everyone appreciated it.
Sunday night was the live episode of West Wing, with a pesidential debate between the two characters played by Jimmy Smits and Alan Alda. I wish our real candidates were that good.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Still tired

For some reason I was still tired on Saturday. I slept until 9 and had a big breakfast. We made a list of things to do including: send out the sangha message, answer Rob's e-mail, finish my landscaping trench, transfer my address book to the new computer, and grade papers. I guess I did pretty well, since I did do all those things except grade papers. I also set up the printer for my new computer. I had to trade printers with Barbara, since mine only has a USB port, not a parallel port, and my old printer couldn't handle that.

I sent my old friend Rob a nice picture of our grandson, Nathaniel, that Barbara took on Halloween. Nathanial was born June 3, so he is five months old. He is wearing his Halloween costume:

Photo By Benjamin J. Kershner

Friday, November 04, 2005

Beautiful Friday

Friday was warm and sunny, although it was very windy. I took Jessi into school and then spent the morning preparing for classes. In mass comm we listened to "American Pie" while I talked about the history of rock 'n' roll. After class I met with some students and helped an advisee select classes for next semester. Then I corrected some online papers. I returned home and had a nice dinner with Barbara and Mom. I was very, very tired and ended up sleeping 12 hours Friday night, from 9 to 9.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Another long Thursday

I got up and had a good breakfast this morning. I was glad I did the grading and reading for my media ethics class last night. It is crisp and clear today.

English class was a disaster because I had planned to show a DVD of "Schoolhouse Rock" with great songs like "Conjunction Junction, What's Your Function?" Unfortunately we had equipment problems, so I was unable to show the recording at all. Oh well.

In journalism we did the Playing with Leads game, and everybody enjoyed it very much. Then I went to a meeting of the Cape cod Interfaith Coalition, and we made good progress toward getting organized. The evening class went well, too. We had a guest speaker, Scott Lajoie of Cape cod Magazine.

When I got home Barbara was home, back form her week-long trip to North Carolina. She brought some spectacularly beautiful pictures of Nathaniel.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Wednesday work

Wednesday was a good day. I did a lot of work at the office and at home. I got a call from Barbara who is on her way home. She should arrive Thursday afternoon. The mass communication class went well. I went home in the afternoon and graded papers and did a lot of reading for the media ethics class. Janet's sister Marcia decided to stay a second night, and she made some delicious eggplant parm for dinner.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Happy birthday to me!

Today is my 57th birthday. Early in the morning I took a brisk walk with Janet. Then I came into work and taught two classes. On the way to work I stopped by the bank to make a deposit. When I was supposed to write the date on the deposit envelope I wrote "11/01/48," because I am so used to writing my date of birth. After "11/01... " I just automatically wrote, "48." At lunchtime my colleagues in the department sang "Happy Birthday" and brought out a tray of cheese with a birthday candle. That was so nice! In the evening, Janet, Marcia and Mom took me out to dinner at my favorite place, the Marshside, and I had salmon. At home they brought out a fantastic birthday cake. It was a Black Forest whipped cream cake from Creative Baking. It was amazing! They gave me some lovely presents and cards. My son Ben called me from Asheville. It was great hearing form him. We were all very tired. We watched "Commander in Chief" and went to bed right after that.