My Brain… Hurts!

If you’re like me and lead a fairly sedentary life despite the best of intentions, you know what it’s like after you get some unaccustomed exercise. A day or two later and your muscles are complaining because of the hike up (and, even more so, down) the mountain, raking leaves, or what have you. After another day or two of sitting at a desk, in front of a TV, or behind the wheel, it’s back to normal – until the next time.

"Shh! I'm studying"My brain’s been feeling this way a little bit lately. For some time I have been reading about and going to the occasional conference session on performance measurement and performance management. Pardon me a.) for being late to the game, b.) stating the obvious, and/or c.) boring you to tears, but the application of various kinds of performance measurement and performance management has become more and more important in local government (and, consequently, in what I do) over the last twenty or thirty years. Not long ago I received an email from the Collins Center for Public Management at UMass Boston about an online course and I thought it was time to take a more serious, organized approach to learning more.

Unaccustomed exercise? Oh, yeah.

Ouch.

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College Tour III: The Final Countdown

College information sessions and tours? By now I might qualify as something of a minor expert. Having visited seven schools in five days with our eldest in April 2008 and another six between October 2009 and April 2010 I have some idea what to expect when I find myself sitting in another auditorium, gymnasium, or conference room at a college or university. Academics, student life, admissions, and financial aid. Variations on a theme.

Johns Hopkins University Homewood Campus - Wyman QuadLast weekend we had the opportunity to visit Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. The Charles Village neighborhood of Baltimore has, from what I have been able to determine, gone through quite a renaissance in the last twenty years or so, and the JHU Homewood Campus seems to be right at, well, home there. Our eldest and I visited Hopkins two and a half years ago, our first ever college visit. Not knowing, really, what to expect at the time, JHU ended up setting the tone for the rest of our visits to the University of Mary Washington, George Washington, Georgetown, Seton Hall, Princeton, and Columbia.

The information session I heard last weekend didn’t sound all that different from what I heard two and a half years ago. Not surprising, but I haven’t gone back and checked my notes, either. One of the things that set JHU apart (from what, I have to ask, since we hadn’t gone on any other visits back in early 2008) was its lack of a “core curriculum”, instead using “distribution requirements.” Distribution requirements allow students to select from a range of courses to satisfy requirements in broad subject areas, rather than requiring all students in a given school to take specific “core” courses. I can see advantages and disadvantages to both, but it gave us something by which to compare all of the schools we were about to (or now, are about to) visit.

Our youngest came away from our visit to Johns Hopkins with a positive impression, so positive that she wanted to go to the bookstore and buy a t-shirt. Doesn’t sound like that much of a big deal but, at this point, a t-shirt you’re going to wear around your high school classmates is practically like going steady (do people even use that term anymore?).

Sunday, after a pretty full day in Washington, DC we took a little time to walk around the Georgetown University campus without the benefit of an official tour or information session. On our way home Monday we took a little side trip to visit the University of Pennsylvania. From Baltimore, on our way back to Maine, Philadelphia really is pretty much on the way. We found our way to College Hall easily enough, and the information session in Irvine Auditorium. The information session was more or less what I have come to expect, though I think they used the term “beautiful urban campus” thirty-seven times if they used it once to describe the school’s setting in West Philadelphia. And it was very nice though, by that time, I think we were all a little road-weary and ready to be home, so we were perhaps not quite as impressed as we might have been.

I’m not sure where our college search will lead from here, though we’ve been using the National Center for Education Statistics’ College Navigator as one tool to sort things out. We’ll keep you posted.

Memorials

This past Columbus Day weekend was glorious, by all accounts, both here at home and in the mid-Atlantic where we were visiting our middle daughter and visiting a couple of colleges with our youngest.

We drove to Maryland from Maine on Friday, getting to Goucher College by mid-afternoon. The drive, while long, has become familiar, though I still look forward least to I-287 from White Plains to the Garden State Parkway. I know when to plan gas and pee stops on the Mass Pike, GSP, and New Jersey Turnpike. And I have gotten to be a big fan of highway-speed EZ-Pass toll plazas.

Aside from the drive Friday morning, mid-day, and afternoon, the coming weekend and spending time with two of our three daughters, college visits, and a side trip to Washington, DC for the day, I had other things on my mind.

Wednesday night I had gotten another one of those calls we all dread. Our niece (by adoption – more about that in a moment) Marie called as we were about to go to sleep. Never mind that it was only about 9:30, but I didn’t recognize her voice at first. She said, “Dad’s gone.” You can imagine the conversation from there. Or maybe you can’t, but it’s still all too familiar to me.

Marie is now 26, but I was (as far as I know) the first to babysit her and her older brother Andrew together when she was but a week old. Her parents, David and Claire Lint, had come to be good friends while I was in college at the University of Maine. They seemed to have this habit of adopting college students as family members, some temporarily, some – as I would come to learn – permanently. David and I had worked together at the University of Maine Police Department, he as a full-time patrol officer, me as a part-time student police officer. We became friends fairly quickly, both having offbeat senses of humor, both being kind of big, goofy guys.

In the years since I graduated our lives moved on. I married and had three girls, the eldest of whom became Dave and Claire’s goddaughter. They had two more children, and I became godfather to their son Mathew. We vacationed together for a few years, traveled to their tiny home in Orono nearly every Christmas for the best party you can imagine (I always knew I could find the real spirit of the holiday there), and were generally parts of each others lives for the last thirty years. David became, in every meaningful sense, my adopted older brother.

Leaving for Maryland Friday morning, as we had planned for weeks (months?) meant that we would miss David’s wake and funeral, that we would not be with the rest of his family to mourn his death and celebrate his life, to be part of the Mass celebrating our sure and certain hope in his, and our, eventual resurrection.

We had a great time last weekend, at least I know I did. Getting to visit our middle daughter at school, having our youngest get a chance to see it for herself, visiting Johns Hopkins again on Saturday, spending the day in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, driving to DC Sunday to walk around Eastern Market and a few memorials, and driving home Monday with a side trip to Penn, all of it was worthwhile. And while all of this is what I needed to do, I couldn’t help feeling torn, knowing I couldn’t be in two places at once. We visited the Jefferson Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, but part of my mind was hundreds of miles away.

David, or “Duke”, as he was called, taught me about sailing, got me to try brewing my own beer, shared his family and faith with me, explored our shared journey to possible vocations as deacons in the Church, and more than anything else shared himself, his family, and his love, with me and my family for the last thirty years. It was a gift I can never truly repay but by keeping his memory and his family part of my life as long as it lasts.

Home Again, Home Again

I’ve been back home from Milwaukee for a week and a half. So why am I posting now? Well, truth be told, it’s partly in response to my mother saying, “So I’ve been waiting to see more about your trip to Milwaukee on your blog.” Really? Well, then, I guess I’d better get to it.

Problem is, I tend to have ideas for blog posts and sometimes write them down along with a couple of thoughts in the moment. Those are the ones I feel guilty about when I don’t end up writing full posts. I come back to them later and… wait, wait… nope, nothing happening. The post ideas that vanish before they are even half-formed in my head are just casualties of the fleeting thought process. The ones I later delete because they are no longer timely or what I thought I had to say no longer has any energy behind it are the ones that make me feel bad.

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