Monday, May 16, 2005


As I write this, the ol' Bravenet Counter waaay down on the lower-right-hand side of this page reads that I've had 3000 "unique hits" since I installed said counter on July 16, 2004. Since returning visitors are included in "unique hits," some few of you are responsible for many of those visits. So, again, I want to thank those faithful returnees.
#3000 has a nice, round, auspicious kind of shape to it, and so that sense, combined with the fact that I'm finished with grading for the semester, give me a chance to comment on a few things.
*Ever since I posted this silly little nothing about recommendation letters, I've gotten a surprising (to me) number of Google hits on it from people looking for legitimate help on writing said letters. What surprises me is not that it's turning up in those searches but, rather, the fact that, by my informal count, about 2 dozen people have seen fit to search out information on writing them on the 'Net. My surprise is rooted in two sources. First, it's a measure of how my research sensibilities are still tied to libraries and not to the Web: I'd go looking for one of those books like 1,000 Form Letters for Businesses or something like that sooner than I'd think to Google such a thing. But my other source of surprise is that people are looking at all for information on how to write them. Here again, my profession and experience no doubt distort my sense of How the World Is for Others, but: I've written and had written on my behalf dozens of these letters, and so I assume that the same is true of most people--or even "many" people. Apparently not.
Anyway: I want to extend my apologies to those who have visited that post in hopes of finding real help . . . though I think I CAN safely say that, if you just do the opposite of most of the things I suggest in that post, you should come out all right.
But while we're on the subject, I'd like to relate one of the funnier lett-of-rec stories I've heard: A fellow student in my Rice days told me about a prof of his who was asked by a student for a letter of recommendation for a job. That student didn't know it, but the prof happened to despise him (I don't know why, sorry). So, the prof wrote (or was tempted to write), "Not being a proctologist, I'm not able to assess the abilities of this candidate."
*I'm pleased on the whole with my students--particularly with the desire of many of them to take me up on the option of an interpretive research paper on a painter. I got very nice work on Andrew Wyeth, Degas, Vermeer and Brueghel; Kahlo and Dali were, hands down, the most popular choices, but the students who chose them ended up saying the usual this-painting-has-to-do-with-an-event-in-his/her-life stuff. Well, yes. So tell us what WE see in these very personal images that keep us looking. But even so: many more students than I had anticipated tried this sort of writing that, I thought, would be very difficult and certainly unfamiliar to them. I'm glad they took the plunge.
*Posting will be lighter than usual for two weeks beginning this weekend: On Friday, I'll be leaving to go see my children, stay there for about a week, then bring them back here for a fun-filled week here in Wichita before returning them to their mom and then coming back here to begin summer school. But between now and this weekend, I should get in a post or two.

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