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Discussion Post: Week 16

Well, that’s a wrap, everyone! It’s been a great semester working with all of you. I enjoyed watching the skills, experience, and confidence that you gained over the course of the semester, and the broad spectrum of ways in which you enhanced your ability to convey even the most complicated of concepts with clarity and precision.

With that said, let’s kick off this last post with the best news headline of the week: Unicorns exist!

…Yeah.

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Discussion Post: Week 14

We’re on the home stretch now! With Presentation IV right around the corner, how is your group doing with its final refinements? Do you have a convincing proposal ready to be delivered? Remember, stellar projects here really ought to be presented to the groups that can actually enact your plan — there’s no reason for this to remain confined to the classroom, after all, especially if you have a proposal that could do some good.

Don’t forget to submit your third and final self-evaluation at the start of Tuesday’s class, and be sure that your group submits its Presentation IV outline via SafeAssign at least 24 hours before your presentation. You’ll also want to bring a paper copy of the outline and rubric on your presentation day, as always.

Anyway, I know it’s tempting to kick off the week with the obvious local Black Friday headlines, but let’s start with a wider gaze, shall we? You probably recall the Arab Spring that began unfolding around two years ago. It’s not clear, however, if the revolution did the region much good.

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Discussion Post: Week 12

The presidential election reached its conclusion late Tuesday night, with incumbent Barack Obama earning a second term in the Oval Office over challenger Mitt Romney. The result thrilled Obama’s supporters, who waited well past midnight to hear their candidate proclaim victory under the night sky in Chicago, reviving the inspirational rhetoric that drove voters in 2008. And it was a night of anguish for the Romney camp, with the team searching for an explanation — after all, if Romney had merely received as many votes as John McCain did in 2008, he would have won the election — and with Republicans astonishingly losing ground in the Senate when they hoped to instead overtake the left-wing majority.

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Discussion Post: Week 11

NOTE: You can follow my election night coverage, updated minute-by-minute throughout the evening, on our sister blog, which I continued from a previous semester of COM 315.

It’s about time for Presentation III! How has your presentation been coming along? What have you learned from Presentation II that you’re planning to apply here? And how do you expect the challenge to be different than what we’ve faced in our first two presentations?

Well, America’s fateful day is almost upon us. On Tuesday, citizens across the nation will cast their ballots for the next president of the United States. Democratic incumbent Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney have been hard at work over the final weekend of campaigning, both sides hoping to swipe as many votes as they can in order to pull out what may be a narrow win in two days.

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Discussion Post: Week 5

It’s about time for us to start working on our web portfolios! How do you feel about the process going into it? Do you have any prior experience working on a website? Or do you already have a portfolio of your own? What are you considering for your approach to this project?

While we’ll be working on the web portfolios throughout the week, don’t forget to submit your Presentation II topics by the start of class on Thursday. Also, remember that we won’t be in our regular classroom this week; check the schedule on Blackboard for our lab locations on Tuesday and Thursday.

The violent protests from last week that killed several U.S. officials, including our ambassador to Libya, only spread and intensified this week, expanding to U.S. embassies and military bases in Afghanistan, Indonesia, and Pakistan, among other countries. Hundreds of angry men clashed with police, setting fire to cars, throwing stones and Molotov cocktails, and chanting “Death to America.”

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Discussion Post: Week 4

Well, we’re through Presentation I! What did you learn from this experience? If you’ve watched your presentation video, did you notice anything about yourself that you didn’t expect? How did it compare to what you expected? What do you think are your strengths as a presenter, and in what areas are you going to strive to improve in the future?

Remember that Self-Evaluation I is due at the start of class on Thursday. Be sure to watch your video before then and write up your assessment of yourself, then bring a printed copy of that analysis to class.

While we’ve been enjoying an array of presentations, it’s been a tumultuous week in the rest of the world. Many of us probably expected the biggest news story on Tuesday to be little more than a reflection about the 11th anniversary of the September 11 attacks (along with, perhaps, a reminder that the new class of middle school children weren’t even born yet when the catastrophe rocked our nation). Or perhaps we would be talking about construction on the new 9/11 museum, which resumed after arguments over the budget were resolved on Monday.

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Discussion Post: Week 3

At last, our first round of presentations is underway! What did you think about the presentations you have seen so far? Was it what you expected? Did you pick up any techniques that you can use in your future presentations (or, for that matter, anything that you want to be sure not to do)? And for those of you who already delivered Presentation I, how was the experience? What would you like your peers to know about your preparation and the presentation itself?

Andy Roddick’s run at the U.S. Open finally ended on Wednesday, as a rain-delayed four-set loss to Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro — 6-7 (1-7), 7-6 (7-4), 6-2, 6-4 — finished his career. As we discussed last week, Roddick announced that this tournament would be his last, so this loss effectively closed the book on his time as a professional tennis player. Roddick was one of the most consistent players in the game, holding a top-ten ranking nine years in a row, and was indubitably the top American man for most of the past decade.

Over the course of his career, Roddick made it to a total of five Grand Slam finals but had the misfortune of losing four of them to Roger Federer, his nemesis and the man currently ranked #1 in the world. In fact, while the shining moment of Roddick’s career was probably the only Grand Slam tournament he won (the 2003 U.S. Open), many say that his best match was the tremendous 2009 Wimbledon final against Federer, where Roddick fell short in a marathon 5-7, 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (7-5), 3-6, 16-14 defeat.

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Discussion Post: Week 2

It’s about time to start Presentation I. How has your preparation been going? If you’re presenting this week, hopefully your outline is close to complete so that you can start your rehearsal. I’ve been eagerly anticipating the array of presentations that are in the works, so I can’t wait to see what you’ve developed. Just as a reminder, don’t forget to submit your presentation outline via SafeAssign at least 24 hours before the class period in which you signed up to present.

So, it’s official. At last week’s Republican National Convention, Mitt Romney accepted the Republican nomination for the presidency, confirming what we’ve known for months: that this November would feature a head-to-head showdown between Romney and Barack Obama to see who will lead our country for the next four years. The Republicans spent their time pushing Romney as a devoutly religious, successful businessman who will generate more jobs for the starved economy. Much like Obama was framed as the anti-Bush candidate during the 2008 election, Romney has portrayed himself as the antidote to Obama for voters disillusioned with his leadership over the last four years.

However, Romney’s focus on attacking Obama led some analysts to question whether he was able to build his trust with voters who still don’t know him very well. As the Obama team argued, even as Romney went on the offensive, he offered very little information about what he would do if he won the election. Furthermore, Romney’s recent moves have taken him further and further away from the moderate voters to whom he’ll have to cater if he hopes to triumph this November. Worse yet was the inconsistent focus among many of the convention speakers, who spoke about themselves and their own families as much as they did about Romney, and contradicted one another in turn about whether Romney was loving, respectful, or like “a nasty doctor.” (Gregory “Romney” House, anyone?) Let alone Clint Eastwood’s chat with a chair, for which “bizarre” is one of the kindest descriptions I’ve seen.

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Discussion Post: Week 1

Once again, welcome to the COM 315 course blog! I’m looking forward to chatting about various subjects with you over the duration of the semester. As I mentioned in class, while I do run another blog with content that may, at times, overlap with this one, my goal here is to tailor this version to your particular interests and the needs of our class. (You’re free to engage the other blog as well, if you’d like, of course.)

How is your preparation for Presentation I going? From the topics I’ve seen thus far, we can expect a unique array of presentations. If you haven’t already done so, please remember to submit your topic no later than the start of class this Thursday. I’m excited to see the rest of them!

We’ll start this week by considering the tumultuous tale of Lance Armstrong, who won an unprecedented seven consecutive Tour de France titles from 1999-2005 after recovering from testicular cancer. As I previously noted, Armstrong’s miraculous feat drew heavy scrutiny from the start, even though he reportedly underwent hundreds of blood and urine tests during his cycling career and never had a single positive test result. This year, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) launched a fresh wave of doping allegations against Armstrong, based largely on testimony from other cyclists — who themselves had positive test results — that they had seen Armstrong use the blood-booster erythropoietin (EPO) as well as steroids, and that he also trafficked and administered the same performance-enhancers to others. The USADA claimed to have over a dozen witnesses ready to testify against Armstrong in arbitration, although the USADA never officially revealed their identities, claiming that Armstrong had previously engaged in witness intimidation.

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