Dean's Blog

Looking into the Future

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I last wrote after being unhappily stranded at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., the victim of a second cancelled flight that week. News reports recently indicated that the weather caused a significantly large number of flights to be cancelled in January, something on the magnitude of four to five times the usual number for the month and around 49,000. I am pleased to report that I experienced four of those flights and was clearly not alone; some 40 million travelers were impacted. I can’t say that it was my bad travel karma alone that was responsible for the disruptions, but the staff continues to stay clear of me when it comes to travel!

I mentioned last time that I originally planned to write about another topic before being side-tracked by my air travel. Now that things have returned to near normal I’ve had a chance to dig out a few items uncovered during a good cleaning of my office over the holiday break. My office is probably not unlike many faculty offices in that I feel more comfortable surrounded by books, reports and works in progress than with a spotless and bare desk. Needless to say it was time from some cleaning and reorganizing; what better time to tackle this than during a break.

In the process of my 15 hours of effort on this project I uncovered a few objects that caught my attention. Of course there are the reports from several years and in some cases more than a decade ago that provide amusing reading and retrospective analysis for accuracy in what was planned or would happen in the future. As I was digging through a drawer filled with old electronics equipment now all but museum pieces, I came across three items that brought back some memories and perhaps a bit of nostalgia for the “good old days.”

First, there was my old calendar and appointment book from a dozen years ago. It was beautifully bound in leather with hand written entries, contacts and the like. In our current age of smart phones, e-mail, and Outlook, it was hard to remember how I survived in such a primitive environment!

The next item in my drawer was my PalmOne Zire31, complete with stylus and rubber screen cover. I don’t seem to remember much about this other than it held contact information and some form of calendar I never really mastered well, which is why I kept the leather covered appointment and contacts book with me at all times! The Palm was a major step forward and little did I know it was the real first step to the world of mobile devices that now seem so normal and essential. It wasn’t long after I hung up the Palm that I moved to my first smart phone, another Palm, I believe, the Trio. Having moved to the iPhone about five years ago I have somehow repressed most memories of those earlier devices, including my flip phone.

The final item I discovered deep in the recesses of the drawer was a real throw back. It was a new Royal manual typewriter ribbon, complete with original box and unopened. My connection to the Royal typewriter is deep and goes back to high school in the 1970s where I learned how to properly type, one of the best skills I ever learned and a launching pad for my keyboard driven life to come. In graduate school I had a Royal manual typewriter that served me well and upon which my master’s theses, lecture notes for the first courses I taught, and numerous graduate papers were written. When I arrived at Norwich some 27 years ago there in my new office to my delight was the same Royal typewriter model I dragged with me from graduate school and now had at home, where my young daughters banged on it with great delight (and jammed crayons into the carriage). Even though it was the computer age I kept that Royal until about eight years ago since it was very handy for typing envelopes (dot matrix printers were not well suited to this), labels, filling in forms, and quick notes. My memory flashed back to the day I bought out the book store stock of three Royal typewriter ribbons that were on clearance sale, presumably because nobody used them anymore. I stocked up and have the last remaining one in original condition, circa 1995, and still have a worn but functional Royal somewhere in the attic at home.

Technology is changing so quickly that I suspect we will look back five years from now and see dramatic changes in how it is integrated into our lives, continues to enhance productivity, and profoundly impacts higher education and your learning experience. In fact, I uncovered an article from 2006 about the top trends affecting higher education and not surprisingly, technology accounted for a significant influence. I’m not sure I’ll have time to go back and read that review, particularly since it is somewhat moot at this point. But, being the good social scientist, I am reluctant to discard the article since I might want to analyze the trends are write about them someday. Maybe when my technology-enhanced productivity has increased yet again and the office has piled up with more such reports!

Maple Syrup, Free to a Good Home

Last month I kicked off the annual Clements Household hockey puck contest, now in its nineteenth year. For those who missed the details, I have included a few this week since there are still some open dates. Act now to preserve your chance at winning a pint of real Vermont maple syrup and official Norwich University hockey puck. Simply send me an e-mail at bclements@norwich.edu or reply to this blog post with the date that you think the puck will “clear the bank” between March 15 and May 15. “Clearing the bank” means the day that I can pick the puck up from the snow and ice at 8 AM. All entries must be received by Friday, February 14, 2014 to be officially entered, lest an unfair advantage be gained by waiting to better estimate the severity of the winter of 2014. I’d like to believe that spring is just around the corner given how quickly my woodpile is shrinking, but the cold weather has its frozen grip on Vermont and our woodchuck friends predicted another six weeks of solid winter. I think I’ll have some real maple syrup on a stack of pancakes and retire to the woodstove ... with my computer and some work to do, of course. I trust you will do the same or your version of a winter retreat!