Showing posts from October, 2013

Filling in an Empty Quarter (II)

The MedQuarter SSMID folk and their consultants, the Lakota Group of Chicago, revealed more of their plans for invigorating this underused area last night at an open house at St. Luke's Hospital. (The first open house, mainly intending to solicit public opinion, occurred in May; my post on that event is here.) I found last night's event encouraging in a number of ways; though several nagging questions remain unaddressed, I am now confident this will be a positive development for Cedar Rapids.

The plan appears very open, particularly facing downtown. The blue dots in the left diagram below represent "gateways," which would consist of signage announcing the district but which otherwise would blend into what's already there. (The schematic drawing of the one across 1st Av from Coe showed a sign blocking a driver's view of Brewed Awakenings, but they assured me that would not happen in practice.) On the right, the yellow shaded area between the medical operations…

Answer me these questions three

A busy week, culminating in a trip to Skokie, Illinois, for the Midwest Writing Centers Association meeting, kept my mind occupied away from bloggable topics. So, three brief questions that occurred to me while I listened to people talk about college writing centers:

1. How difficult is it to find open spaces in an urban environment? My student Caleb, who is studying off campus in Chicago this semester, said one thing he misses about Cedar Rapids is how easy it is to get out of the city. Chicago has, thanks to its early planners, a run of public space along the lakefront, but that's often crowded, and how accessible it is depends on where you're starting from. I visited the Skokie Public Library for the first time, and noticed that there are very few tables. Plenty of chairs, many of them plush, but few places on which to set papers. I need to compare the new Cedar Rapids library next time I'm there. That night, Caleb and I had dinner at the Heartland Cafe, which has remove…

Shutdowns and Sillypants (and the Statler Brothers)

(The Statler Brothers, from their website)
Last weekend, I was in Washington, D.C., visiting our Washington Term students. On a Saturday afternoon walk along the Capitol Mall, my thoughts turned as they inevitably do to the Statler Brothers. The Statler Brothers were a top country-and-western group with a string of hits in the late 1960s and 1970s. Along with tight harmonies they exuded an old fashioned "aw shucks" attitude which was a powerful counterpoint to a rather cynical time. One of their less-well-remembered songs, but one that always comes up on the jukebox in my head when I'm touring Washington, is "Nothing as Original as You." The singer tours the sites of D.C., and finds it all amazing... but of course not quite as amazing as his lover back home.
Sitting in a hotel room in Washington, D.C. Looking out my window at the miles of history Somewhere in the skyline is the Capitol Dome And the White House that just a few men have called home
The song was relea…

Deliberation and the shutdown

Last Tuesday night I moderated a discussion among first-year students at Coe College on "Getting American Politics Back on Track." It was fortuitously timed, given the shutdown of the federal government that began with the start of the new fiscal year that very day. (The organizers insisted it was mere coincidence.)

The discussion format was based on James Fishkin's book Democracyand Deliberation (Yale University Press, 1993). After the organizers introduced the format, and I said a little about the issue, the students divided into groups of six-to-eight and discussed the options presented on the two-page issue brief. As a student of political theory as well as American politics, I was as interested in their reactions to the process as much as their thoughts on how to overcome polarization-based governmental dysfunction.

Well, they liked the format just fine, or so they said, though some groups were unable to reach a consensus and fell back on majority rule, and some gr…