Finley and I joined some friends to explore Rocks State Park in northeast Maryland over the long weekend. Mama had to stay home due to her toe, which made us sad, but this hike would have been impossible for her. The first trail we hit was almost straight up, and wound up the side of a mountain (or tall hill, really) until we found the King and Queen Seat, a promontory of rock facing a large valley. Finn and the other kids immediately started exploring, and made their way out to the edge of a 300-foot drop before we reined them back in.
Then we hopped back in the car to visit the other half of the park, which features a natural waterfall and wading pool. The kids were in heaven, and we explored the upper and lower section of the river while other people splashed and played.
We went up to Syracuse to visit my folks last weekend and check out their new house, which is lovely. It’s the first time we’ve seen them since Finn’s christening. They bought in a 20-year-old development, so everything is modern, well-kept, and easily accessible, both in the house and in the town. The house itself isn’t huge but the floorplan makes it larger than it is. The basement is easily twice the size of ours. They are happy and comfortable, and that’s the best thing that could have ever happened to them.
The weather has finally broken from Seattle-like rainfall and temperatures to a balmy mid-80’s heat, and the Mid-Atlantic humidity is creeping in as I write this. I’ve got a list of summer prep chores to get to over the long weekend–A/C units in the windows, humping summer clothes around the house, setting up an attic fan–and pulling the top off the truck, which I’m looking forward to.
I’m about 300+ pages into The City Of Mirrors, the final book in the Passage trilogy, and I’m enjoying it so far. The first two books were engrossing and written much better than the standard post-apocalyptic/vampire novel, and I savored re-reading them slowly last month to prepare for this book. That’s about all I’ll say without getting spoilery.
I’m beginning to write down syllabus ideas for next semester’s class, and basing the structure on a couple of books: Alina Wheeler’s Brand Identity, David Airey’s Logo Design Love, and Debbie Millman’s Brand Bible. I’ve got a couple of old syllabi from previous classes and a handful of notes and ideas I’ve written down during the last year. This semester is going to involve a lot more workshop-style learning and hands-on work, which seemed to be the thing that made the light bulbs go on.
The dumpster in our driveway is gone. We filled it with all of the concrete from the front walkway, all of the remaining hedges, bags of yard debris from the woodpile and behind the garage, the doctor’s desk from the attic, the old porch railings, and all sorts of other crap I can’t remember. We filled it to the edge. I hunted high and low to find more stuff to get rid of, and I’m sure I’ll trip over something in a week’s time that I should have chucked in there. The process of cleansing is a liberating feeling. Now I turn my attention to the piles of stuff I have on my desk, around my office, and on the shelves. It’s time for a cleansing of gear as well.
Now, to the next project: Our landscaper recommended we take the silver maple in the backyard down, as the trunk is being eaten by bugs, before we get started in the front yard. And then he pointed to the maple on the west side property line, which is actually in worse shape than the silver maple. The logic here is that if we spend a summer and a bag of cash fixing the front yard, we won’t be able to get a crane truck out back to deal with the trees after that’s done. The good news is that they can do them both at the same time, our neighbor is willing to let us use his driveway for access, and he’s willing to split the cost. They’re going to take the roots down as far as they will go, and I’ll have them leave the wood for me to split and stack. And all of that sun will help the oak tree next to it spread and grow taller.
So, the trees will come down and our parade party will be curtailed to the bare minimum (and the front yard) this year. Which isn’t so bad, really.
I switched back to the old headline font on the site here, because the other one just didn’t look good. This one (Museo Slab) isn’t my first choice but it’s not as heavy and blocky as Chunk, its replacement.
Jen and I are at the end of our semester, and making plans for the fall term. The final crit went well, and the work everyone showed was strong compared to where we started. We had a good discussion at the end on how to make the syllabus better for the next class, and I got a lot of good general feedback that will help in the future.
The syllabus we developed was very strong, but we’ve found places where we can make it better and add detail. Through the course of the term, we found our students need more background on conceptual thinking and a refresher on how to write. Conceptual thinking is a hard thing to describe and an even harder thing to teach. Knowing what not to say is more important than giving specific directions in order to point a student in the right direction. It came as a surprise to everyone in the classroom that the outline we had them develop was the single most important part of their assignment, and the process of synthesizing and organizing information was met with resistance at first. Jen and I developed a workshop where we split the class into groups and had them develop outlines together, which helped them deconstruct the problem and arrive at solutions together.
I was scheduled to teach the same class again, at the same time, until last week, when they offered to switch it with a senior level branding and identity class. Jen and I talked it over, and I accepted. It’s offered once a week on Wednesdays for four hours, which could be a nice change in schedule from the previous three semesters. The syllabus is very old, apparently, so I’ll be spending time updating it over the summer to include modern requirements and concepts.
Meanwhile, I’ve been focused on launching the first online report for WRI, which has spent a long time gestating and a short time birthing. I’ve been working on the template since last fall and revising the online workflow to complement our print workflow, but actually building something always highlights the flaws. It goes live tomorrow, and I’m pretty confident in the state it’s in.