Tag Archives: Undergraduate

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Okay, I lied.

It seems like I do have something important to say today.

I’m just stopping by for a quick shout out to my dad, my namesake and the big dude who taught me everything he knows — but not everything I know — about how to be a dad. Sometimes he did it by setting an example, and sometimes he did it by showing me what not to do.

Either way, I learned more from that man than I could have from a library full of books.

He taught me that if it was important to his son that he coach in sports, then he took the time off his job to be there for his son and coach whatever sport was in season. Dad coached me in tackle football, baseball, basketball, just about everything I ever wanted to play. When I made the school track team in shot put and discus and the mile relay, it was my dad who took me aside and showed me how to do it all.

He taught me that you didn’t have to go along with the herd, even if you wanted to achieve the same goal as it did. He’s a doctor, but he didn’t undergraduate major in anything science-y. He majored in English because he enjoyed it.

He’s also the man who showed me the value and the warmth of a real Hawaiian shirt with the wooden buttons. My wife, known to me as She Who Must Not Be Allowed Near My Closet With Anything Remotely Sharp, might not like them, but I love my Hawaiian shirt collection.

He’s also the man who brought home the first science fiction/fantasy book I remember reading. It was the middle book in a trilogy, but I was hooked for life. He set me on a path toward some exceedingly strange places, that I’m so very glad I found. He nurtured my love of reading and words and creating with them and I can’t thank him enough.

He’s also the man who helped shape my sense of humor. So, yeah, he’s the one you can blame.

Thanks, Dad, for being such a great mentor, teacher, coach and cheerleader all rolled up into one dad-sized package that kept pushing, prodding and questioning, all the while letting me know I was loved no matter what I did, as long as what I did made me happy.

Happy birthday!

Before I go, though, answer me one question: Who’s on first.

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Freaky Friday: You Write, I Know You

by Richard

The way you write says a lot about who you are and with whom you’re communicating. I know that seems a bit obvious to most of you dudes, but it’s actually really fascinating.

According to a recent article in the Scientific American, you can tell the relative dominance positions of two people just from reading their e-mail.

Basically, we discovered that in any interaction, the person with the higher status uses I-words less (yes, less) than people who are low in status. The effects were quite robust and, naturally, I wanted to test this on myself. I always assumed that I was a warm, egalitarian kind of guy who treated people pretty much the same.

I was the same as everyone else. When undergraduates wrote me, their emails were littered with I, me, and my. My response, although quite friendly, was remarkably detached — hardly an I-word graced the page. And then I analyzed my emails to the dean of my college. My emails looked like an I-word salad; his emails back to me were practically I-word free.

This from psychologist James Pennebaker, who’s been researching how the use of pronouns like “I,” “we,” or “she,” for instance, can reveal a lot about our psychology. He’s even written a book about it called, “The Secret Life of Pronouns.”

In the 1980s, my students and I discovered that if people were asked to write about emotional upheavals, their physical health improved. Apparently, putting emotional experiences into language changed the ways people thought about their upheavals. In an attempt to better understand the power of writing, we developed a computerized text analysis program to determine how language use might predict later health improvements. In other words, I wanted to find if there was a healthy way to write.

Much to my surprise, I soon discovered that the ways people used pronouns in their essays predicted whose health would improve the most. Specifically, those people who benefited the most from writing changed in their pronoun use from one essay to another. Pronouns were reflecting people’’s abilities to change perspective.

Pennebaker said he found that pronoun use correlated with just about anything he and his intern-dudes studied. Whether this is a case of seeing the forest, but not the trees, I don’t know, but it does suggest some interesting relationships. And also that we need to start looking at the slightly more formal writings of our young dudes. I don’t think even Pennebaker could make much from the misspelled, deliberately gibberished text of txts.

It’s really interesting stuff that I think you should go over and give a read to. Even though it forced me to end a sentence with a preposition. It’s still good stuff. Go read.

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by Richard


Yeah, dude. Cougars. You know you gotta like dat! Yeah, we– Wha-? What do you mean not that kind of cougar? A mascot, you say? Not a, you know, cougar, but a cougar-cougar? Oh, yeah. Right.

Sorry. Got a little carried away there. So, yeah. Zippy the Monkey Boy and I made it to Charleston, SC, after a nice, relaxing five-hour drive. Loads of good times. In fact, I even forced Zippy to do a little driving on the way. And, yes, that was forced. He wasn’t happy, but he did a pretty good job merging onto the freeway and driving (sometimes through rain) for about an hour or so. But boy was he tense.

Anyway, at the end of the trip, we spent the night in a nice hotel in downtown Charleston and then headed out to visit the College of Charleston, mascot, the cougar.

CofC is a bit of an odd duck for a university. It’s situated right in the middle of downtown Charleston and the main campus is, really, quite small. The actual instructional buildings, however, are spread out within the city and are not all concentrated on the main campus. The student dorms, the cafeterias, the new science building and a number of other facilities, all are on city streets. It makes for an interesting setting.

Oddly, CofC is actually a state school, something of which I was unaware until we hit the actual information session. Only about 10,000 undergraduates attend the school (along with approximately 2k graduate students), leading to an optimistic average of between 23-25 students per class. Speaking of averages and ratios, this is another school with a great female to male ratio for Zippy the Monkey Boy. Approximately 60 percent of the student population is female, while the rest are males. Not a bad ratio of you’re a male, yeah?

College of Charleston has one of the better-regarded marine science programs on the east coast and even has a special learning center outside the city devoted to the subject, all of which Zippy loved. He also couldn’t stop talking about how much he loved all the Spanish moss hanging from the huge oak trees dotted across campus and the city. Said it reminded him of St. Augustine in Florida, one of his favorite places.

The tour itself wasn’t so great, but that’s probably because I’m old. Our young tour guide said either um or uh probably every fourth word and fully half of her sentences ended in a rising inflection, indicating a question, rather than a statement. I realize that’s something only an old person would get irritated by, but, well, it did irritate me.

Still, it’s a nice college, situated in a great city. This one is definitely on his apply-to list.

Now we’re off to Conway, SC, and Coastal Carolina University, a setting that makes Greenville, NC, look like Metropolis and Gotham combined.

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