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Monday, August 20, 2012


This is opening day of classes for the University of Hawaii at Manoa.  It was to the day exactly 40 years ago that I started teaching here:

The first college course I taught was FORTRAN, a computer language. I was given the text the day before my first class, had not ever taken it and I barely knew anything about the subject. Let’s see, should I confess to  my students that I would be learning with them, or wing it. As I walked up to the podium I chose the latter. Questions came up that I did not understand, but I deftly side-stepped them with the response, “we will take up that subject later in the semester. I don’t want to confuse the group.”

There were a hundred or so in that first class, from freshmen to graduate students. After the course was over, streams of students, including those in graduate school, came by to tell me how much they enjoyed the semester. This never happened again in such numbers in my 28 years in academia, although I only taught for a few years. The lesson learned was that if you don’t know what you are teaching, but must, you actually make the course easier to understand. This state of semi-panic evokes humility. From then, in all my courses, my problem was not to visibly laugh at the elementary nature of student questions. This kind of arrogance hurts teaching. I became an administrator not long after that first experience, but now realize that I really should go back and teach teachers to teach. There is an important educational clue here I should be developing. However, as this is about all I’ll ever do, I hope some educational professor or influential higher education administrator is reading this.

This is not quite my "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" moment (and, by the way, Robert Donat won an Oscar for his 1939 performance, opposite Greer Garson--his first day of teaching and the goodbye), but as I fondly reminisce, gazing at my walls in my campus office this morning, to the right (above) I re-live various photos and awards of my career, while to the left (below) my "stuff," including a poster of the Old Course at St. Andrews (it was not all work, you know).  Yes, those are wine/scotch/sake glasses, for that brown box is a refrigerator.  They are all just decorative, of course, because there are rules on campus about these things.

About my life, though, maybe it is time for me to move on.  Perhaps I can accomplish one more thing for Planet Earth and Humanity.

There are now seven ocean storms:

Typhoon Tembin, presently at 120 MPH, will soon attain Category 4 status, and is now predicted to head straight for Taiwan, with landfall on Thursday:


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