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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.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

New Year's Eve

Once again I got up at 6, which is a good start for my new leaf.
I didn't run, but I did make up a nice schedule to follow in the new year. It calls for me to run at 7:30 every morning.
(NOAA Photo)
This afternoon we get a visit form Barbara's brother Steve and his two daughters, Ellen and Laura. They will stay overnight and go see the sunrise tomorrow morning. I sure hope there is a sunrise. Weather.com calls for a 50% chance of snow at dawn tomorrow.
Ever since I gave up drinking in 1990, I have been going to see the sunrise on New Year's Day. It is a far better celebration of the new year than getting drunk the night before, in my view.

In the afternoon I met with Gretta Cuyler, who was an intern at the Cape Cod Times back in 1994. She wanted advice about getting back into journalism after a career in banking. I think I helped her a lot. It was nice seeing her again. Later I took a brisk walk around the block with Steve and Ellen. That was fun.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Getting back on track

Photo by Barbara J. Kershner
I am still filled with joy from visiting my family in North Carolina --my sons Brandon and Ben, plus Ben's wife Wolf, and their son Nathaniel. Above is a photo of me with Nathaniel and Ben on Christmas Day.

I got back to my routine this morning. At least I got up at 6 and meditated. That was wonderful. I need to do that every day. I didn't run immediately because it was dark, cold and rainy, but I did run at 3 in the afternoon, when the sun came out. I just did two miles -- up to the park and back -- but that was enough for a start. It is so good to be running again.
I also spent some time clearing off my desk. That helps me feel better too. Life is good.
(Running: 2 miles)

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Home again

It sure was nice to wake up in my own bed again. I slept until 9; I guess the long drive was tiring. Thursday was mostly a day of unpacking and puttering around the house, straightening things out.

I spoke with a former intern, who had a brief summer internship at the Cape Cod Times way back in 1994, when I was Sunday editor there. I remember her partly because her parents live on Whig Street, and I run past their house whenever I do the Playhouse Loop. I always wondered what happened to her. She called for advice about jobs in the newspaper business. We are going to meet at Bucky's at 2 p.m. Saturday.


Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Carlisle to Cape Cod

6 a.m.: I guess that ice cream sundae was not a good idea last night because my blood sugar level was back up again after four days of decline. But it was only 202, which is not critical. I wish I could keep it between 100 and 150. I will keep trying. I think regular exercise and weight loss will help. When I get back tonight I can start a new routine with lots of exercise. I am eager to start running again.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Asheville to Carlisle

9 p.m.: This morning we got up at 6 and packed up the van. We checked out of the hotel and picked up Brandon from his apartment at Turtle Creek. Then we returned to the Waffle House near the hotel for breakfast. (It was only about a 10-minute drive each way) We expected to meet Ben there, but it turned out Nathaniel was awake, so he and his mother came too. So it was all seven of us for breakfast at the Waffle House. We took over two booths at the end of the restaurant and had a terrific breakfast. I enjoyed two waffles, and Nathaniel enjoyed chewing on an empty plastic bowl. After a while we had to take turns carrying him around, but that was OK.

After breakfast we returned Brandon to his apartment and headed homeward. We left town about 9 a.m. and got to Carlisle about 6:30. The sunset was spectacular over the Shenandoah Valley. We had dinner at Pizza Hut and ice cream sundaes for dessert at Friendly's. My blood sugar has been steadily improving, so I had a sugar-free ice cream with sugar-free fudge sauce. It wasn't too bad.

One more day, and we'll be home. I am really looking forward to it.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Boxing Day

There was a beautiful sunrise this morning. From our hotel window we could see a deep crimson sky over the mountains. After a nice breakfast at the hotel, we went to Ben ANd Wolf's and babysat so they could go to lunch without their baby.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas

6 p.m.: Yes, it was a merry Christmas for our family. We woke up about 8 at the motel, and then drove over to Ben and Wolf's. Brandon has spent the night there. Nathaniel woke up soon after we arrived. We opened the Christmas stockings first and then paused for a light breakfast, which is always cinnamon rolls, by our family tradition. We used to make the boys frost them, but this time they made us frost them. After that we opened far too many presents. I most enjoyed giving Nathaniel gifts. I gave him two books. One, "The Little House," is much too old for him, but I will be able to read it to him in a couple years. The other was a plastic book with tabs that was designed for newborns. He absolutely loved chewing on the tabs, so it was a great success. We took a short break in the motel and then returned there for a mid-afternoon dinner of pot roast and vegetable they made in a crock pot. I just ate the veggies, but it was plenty. There were also home baked rolls and almond butter that was delicious. Ben and Wolf gave us two beautiful carved turtles and Brandon gave us an album of bluegrass music that included a version of "I Will" by Alison Krause. It is beautiful.
Around 5 we drove Brandon home so he could get ready for work. We are taking another short motel break, and then will return to Ben and Wolf's later this evening.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Eve in Asheville

We spent the day with our whole extended family. In the afternoon we went to a Japanese Steak House, and I loved seeing little Nathaniel with his mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. His father, uncle and grandfather (me) were there too. Asheville is so beautiful. There are mountain views wherever you look.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Carlisle to Asheville

Today we drove the 500 miles form Carlisle, Pa., to Asheville, N.C.
We has a nice breakfast at the motel and then made a "quick stop" at the Super WallMart that ended up taking much longer than we planned. So we got out of town around 10 a.m., and didn't get to Asheville until 7:30 p.m. But the long drive was well worth it to see My sons Ben and Brandon, my daughter-in-law Wolf, and especially my grandson Nathaniel.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Cape to Carlisle

6 p.m.: Today we drove halfway to Asheville. My plan was "up at 5 out by 6. Well, it was more like up by 5, out by 7. It took me a while to pack the car. The drive went smoothly, except that the "check engine" light went on an hour from home. It happened right after a fillup, so I assumed it was the problem that happens when the fuel cap is not attached correctly. But I fixed that and the light persisted. I check the oil and everything I could think of, but the van runs just fine. So we decided to keep on going, and we made it the 500 miles to Carlisle without incident. We got to our favorite Days Inn by 5:30.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Packing Day

7 a.m.: Since we are leaving for North Carolina tomorrow morning, today we need to finish up everything else. That includes handing in all my students' grades and packing my stuff for the trip. It ought to be interesting!
5 p.m.: Yippee! I finished all my grading and got the grades handed into the Registrar by 4 p.m. That's a relief! Now I just have to get packed up for the trip south.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Gift-wrapping Tuesday

7 a.m.: I plan to wrap a lot of gifts today, as well as warping up a lot of grading.
I did even more thinking about compassion yesterday. I hope I can make it a better part of my life. I have done my morning meditation for a week now, and it sure feels wonderful.

9 a.m.: Uh oh, my blood sugar was too high this morning (245). I guess that may be because I ate some malted milk balls last night while grading. It was only three or four, but it probably did me in. I have to get control of that impulse. I just cannot eat sweets.

9:30 p.m.: Well I did wrap a lot of presents early in the morning. I did a lot of grading at work too. I also got the oil changed in the van and came home and finished up all the grading, except the mass communication class, which has its final tomorrow.


Monday, December 19, 2005

Busy Monday

6:45 a.m.: I have a lot of work to do today. I must get some grading done. I also have a haircut appointment at 9:15, an appointment with a student at 10, and lunch with Steve at 11:30. After that I should be able to finish sending in my Suffolk grades and calculate all my English grades. I also want to pick up a few Christmas gifts. In the evening I have a dinner at Rabbi David Freelund's house with the Interfaith Coalition.

Life is so busy that I don't seem to have the time to sit and think about what I want to do with my life. I have the definite impression that I am entering a new phase of my life, and I am not sure exactly what it is. I know it has to do with more public service, peacemaking and conciliation, but I am not sure what that all means. In the last few days, compassion has emerged as the area of practice that is most important for me. I need to apply compassion to all aspects of my life. John mentioned compassion at dinner Saturday night. Then in our sangha discussion Sunday afternoon I came to the conclusion that the training we were discussing was all about compassion. Perhaps that is what I need to focus on most is compassion.

Thich Nhat Hanh gave me the names "Peacemaker Calling of he Heart" and "True Peaceful Reconciliation." Perhaps those should be my guides as figure out my next steps.


Sunday, December 18, 2005

Mindful Sunday

8 a.m.: I woke up at 6 and did my morning meditation. I called Steve at 7 and then did some writing.
8 p.m.: It was, indeed, a mindful day. After Breakfast I attended Steve's Unity Church service. The Unity Church of the Light has a nice new Web site. http://www.yeahgod.org/ I enjoyed the meditation there, and Steve offered a beautiful sermon on love, drawing upon Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet. Somehow my glasses fell apart during the service, but a nice woman found some scotch tape to hold them together until I got home.
After lunch I got ready for our discussion group and then the regular sangha sitting. There were fewer people than last time (only eight) but the discussion was wonderful. It was a spiritual experience for all of us, I am sure.


Saturday, December 17, 2005

Grading all day

6 p.m.: I did not get up at 6. I got up at 7 in time to call Steve, but then I went back to bed and slept until 10. I thought that would take care of my headache, but it persisted most of the day. After a late breakfast at 10 I graded papers all day, with 45 minutes on and 15 minutes off. I guess I did that six or seven times. This evening I am going out to dinner with my buddy John McDonough. He and I are going to surprise out waiter, Joe Navas, who we both had in class. He is a talented writer, but a good waiter too. In fact I already mentioned Joe and posted his photo in this blog on Nov. 26 as the winner of the Andrea Holden Road Race. He works at an excellent restaurant named Abba. http://www.abbarestaurant.com/ Should be fun.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Final Fling!

The Language and Literature Department throws a party in the hallway right after the English final every semester. It should be fun. Last night I over-ate and it sent both my blood sugar and weight up. I should behave better dietarially.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Last day of classes

7 a.m.: I slept well last night and got up at 6 for my morning meditation. That feels so good. Now if I can just get running again, my life will be back in place. Today is the last day of classes. I am just checking journals in English and collecting portfolios in journalism. I had better get a lot of grading done. I hope to get my Suffolk grades turned in.

8 p.m.: I did get a lot of work done, but I couldn't get my Suffolk grades turned in because one student in the class was not on the final grade sheet. I need to straighten that out. I had a wonderful last class in both English and journalism. The journalism students, especially, seemed very appreciative and grateful. Their portfolios are excellent. I got a thrilling thank-you letter from one student who said I turned her life around. That is so gratifying.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Cold Wednesday

7 a.m.: December on Cape Cod can be very cold. It was 18 degrees this morning. I got up at 6 and set my watch alarm for a 20-minute morning meditation. But I must not have heard it. By the time I looked at my watch, 35 minutes had gone by. I am surprised I didn't know when 20 minutes was up.
I have a busy day today, including a meeting with Ruth, one of the aspirants in my order.

5 p.m.: The meeting with Ruth went very well. I think we both got a lot out of it.

Then, in the afternoon, I went to the first meeting of the five-person team our college put together for the National Coalition Building Institute, a national group trying to facilitate reconciliation understanding and peace between various groups. I am very exited to be a part of such a wonderful group. http://www.ncbi.org/


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Good morning routine

I am finally back on track with a good morning routine, thanks to my friend Steve. I got up at 6 (well, a little after 6), and I had an excellent morning meditation. I still have to work out a plan for exercise and writing, but it will all fall into place. The key is getting up at 6.
I had some good classes, and in the evening went to the annual college Christmas party. It was as awkward as every office Christmas party always is, although I did reconnect with some good friends.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Monday, Monday

I didn't get much accomplished Sunday, so I hope I can grade tons of papers on Monday and get all caught up.

Well, as it turned out, I got some papers graded, but not as many as I had hoped. I updated the online class for the last week, and graded several on-line classes. At home I graded the rest of the essays my English students wrote, so I can return them tomorrow.

I had a delightful lunch with my good friend Steve.


Sunday, December 11, 2005

Day of Mindfulness

The Cape Cod Times printed an obituary of Former Senator Eugene McCarthy with the other obituaries on Page F8 of Sunday's paper. Recognizing that his passing was more newsworthy than the others, an editor chose to make a reference to it on Page A1. Unfortunately the Front Page reference described him as "sardonic" and "acid-tongued." Those adjectives do not belong anywhere near a story about Eugene McCarthy. As the obituary from the Associated Press accurately noted, he had a witty, erudite speaking style. I agree with his son that the good senator was "thoughtful, he was principled, he was compassionate and he had a good sense of humor." He was a poet and an author and he spent a year in a monastery. As a former "clean-for-Gene" volunteer, I am saddened that the Times would make such a terrible mistake on one of its last references to a great, and kind, American statesman.


Saturday, December 10, 2005

Saturday digging out

Well, we don't have to literally dig out because the snow is only an inch or so, and there are plenty of bare spots. It's more like a psychologically digging out. We definitely have to reset all the digital clocks all over the house. Why are there so many?

Gene McCarthy died today. How sad to see the passing of a great man. In 1968 he knew the Vietnam War was wrong, and only he had the courage to stand up against President Lyndon B. Johnson and run for president on a peace platform. I was among millions of young people who joined the "Clean for Gene" campaign to try to end the war. Then, of course, Robert F. Kennedy decided to run too, and was assassinated. That was followed by the disastrous Democratic Convention of 1968 in Chicago where anti-war protesters were clubbed in the streets amid chants of 'The whole world is watching!" Hubert Humphrey won the nomination, Richard Nixon won the election, and the war dragged on for seven more deadly years. Former Senator Eugene McCarthy always spoke the truth and tried to do the right thing. There have no been many politicians like that.

John F. Kennedy, far left, speaking to group at a Minnesota airport during his 1960 presidential campaign. Prominent Minnesota Democrats were there with him, including Orville Freeman, to the right of Kennedy, Hubert Humphrey, and McCarthy, far right.

I am on my favorite day of treating my diabetes with Byella, and I am experieincing no serious side effects from injecting the "lizard spit." I wonder if I will start looking like a gila monster?


Friday, December 09, 2005

Quick, fierce blizzard

Friday had amazing weather. The morning was mostly rain and wind, with very little snow.
I stopped by the VNA and got instructions for injecting my new diabetes medicine it is very simple and easy. School went well. The student with the incomplete finished up her work on time -- albeit just barely. Around 2:20 it was clear and sunny. I went to a doctor's appointment. When I got out at 3:45, there were blizzard conditions. The snow was coming sideways in winds that gusted at 60 mph. I stopped to buy gas at a station that lost power just as I got there. Fortunately I found a second station that still had power. But then the power went out all over Cape Cod. There were trees and power lines out all over. There were three detours on the way home, so the 20-minute drive took more than an hour and a half. This Cape Cod Times photo by Steve Heaslip hints at the whiteout conditions on Cape Cod. I arrived home to a dark house. Barbara had candles and oil lamps set out. Out gas stove worked, so we had hot soup for dinner. We all went to bed early, bundled under lots and lots of blankets, since our gas furnace needs electricity to run. The power finally came back on about 3:30 a.m.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Long day Thursday

I spent part of Thursday on the phone with the Visiting Nurses Association scheduling a little training session so I could learn how to inject my new diabetes medication. This is all new to me. It is not insulin, but Byetta, a new drug that holds great promise. I start tomorrow. Byetta is derived from teh saliva of the gila monster, a poisonous lizard of the Southwest U.S. and northern Mexico. So the big question is can lizard spit successfully treat my diabetes?

Classes went well, especially journalism, where I did not have a plan in advance. I just winged it, and it was one of the best classes of the year.

After media ethics tonight we head for Sam Diego's for drinks. (Mine will be non-alcoholic.)


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Weary Wednesday

Wednesday was another tough day because I wasn't feeling well. But somehow I managed to correct all the papers and prepare for both my classes. Unfortunately I got into a shouting match with one student today, but we both calmed down and had pleasant interactions later I the day. This is a tough day. I know I need to resume running and meditating every morning. I will try to start tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Tough Tuesday

Even though I got new medicine from the doctor, my sinus infection still had me feeling achy all day. That affected my mood, but I still tried to do a good job teaching. In the evening I took a hot bath, and that felt good.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Back to the doctor

I went back to my doctor today, and she concluded that I have a raging sinus infection. She prescribed for me a boatload of medications, so I should be feeling better soon.
She also decided to move me to a new type of diabetes medication, which was just approved by the FDA in April. I am looking forward to that.
At work I updated the online English class and filled out a request to teach a class this summer. It will be Great Works of Journalism, which I am really looking forward to.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Day of Mindfulness

Sunday is a day of mindfulness for me. I slept late and then spent some time preparing for the discussion group on the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings. I typed out the opening ceremony, so others could help me with it.

The discussion group and the regular sangha after it went very well. We had 14 people. Unfortunately my head cold is still bothering me, and I lost my voice near the end of the sangha.

It's early to bed tonight.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Writing contest judging

I volunteered to be a judge for the annual writing contest sponsored by Prime Time Magazine and he Academy for Lifelong Learning. Friday night I finished making my selections, and then Saturday morning, we all met at the Cape Cod Times and compared notes. We agreed to a surprising extent. We had little difficulty agreeing on three top winners and three honorable mentions.
Saturday afternoon I nursed my sinusitis by resting most of the day.

Friday, December 02, 2005


Thursday night and Friday were marred by a bad sinus headache. I spent a long time judging entries for a local writing contest. I hope my headache doesn't affect my judgment.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Busy Thursday

Thursday was non-stop rushing from arrival at school at 9 a.m. until departure at 8:30 p.m. My computer was working again, but I had a lot of catching up to do. The afternoon class was disrupted by a false rumor that the college was evacuated by a gas leak. Many students left unnecessarily. We had a meeting of the Cape Cod Interfaith Council, but we failed to reach agreement on our proposed bylaws. All the student's were supposed to be prepared to give oral presentations in the evening class, but only four were prepared. That was disappointing.

Weary Wednesday

I was very tired most of Wednesday. I started out with a charity breakfast for Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Cape Cod. It was wonderful to see my old friend, editor and mentor Bill Breisky. I gave him a copy of my book. But back at work, everything was falling apart. My computer at work did not work. Everything took twice as long as it should have. I didn't have the papers corrected to return to my journalism 2 class. It just kept going downhill.


Monday afternoon I went up to Roxbury Community College for another lunch meeting of SNACCIM -- Student Newspaper Advisers at Community Colleges in Massachusetts. It was a lot of fun and very productive too. I volunteered to draft a mission statement for the group.
(I want this dated the 28th, but the date control is missing today -- how strange!)
I graded papers in the evening. I need to find time for another run sometime.