When my children were young and we took them on long road trips, I would pass the time by inventing stories to explain common expressions. We were once in Colorado, outside Vail, when I told them the story of Charles Vail, the highway engineer who routed U.S. Highway 6 through the Vail Valley in 1940, which eventually became Interstate 70. Charles had three sons, Ebenezer, Japheth, and Noah, the youngest. Such being the times, they volunteered to serve in the Army, the Air Force, and the Navy, respectively. Ebenezer served with distinction in Army Intelligence. He was a key player in the capture of the Enigma device. [Hereupon ensues the fantastic and prolonged tale of his derring-do.] And, of course, Japheth’s role in providing air support for the Normandy invasion will never be forgotten. [This too was recounted at length.] Both were decorated for their exploits, and returned home to heros’ welcomes when World War II ended. But I digress. Noah, his youngest son, was assigned to a submarine, the USS Toothfish, in the Pacific. He served with distinction beginning in the Battle of Midway. [More exploits… this was a long car ride.] Unfortunately, the Toothfish was reported missing after the Battle of Roratunga.
Throughout all this, Charles Vail was a very devoted father. Every day when his sons were in away in the service and until they returned home, he would write a letter to each of them. Indeed, for the rest of his life he would write a daily letter to his youngest son. They were never answered, of course.
And that is the origin of the expression: “…writing letters to no avail.”
Sometimes it feels like these blog posts are written for Noah Vail too. Their intent was to elicit discussion among faculty and those who develop them on novel ways of achieving faculty development. But discussion was sparse, leading me to take two years off from writing.
Maybe, as one critic suggested, I am too far ahead of the curve. Diffusion of innovation theory posits that novelty, no matter how justifiable, takes hold only when it is embraced by early adopters, the early majority, the late majority, and so on. And universities and academic health centers are notoriously resistant to change.
For now, it seems like just me and Noah. If you have more than a passing interest in these writings, I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to reach out to me according to my standard contact information, or if you’d prefer via an alternative address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, at least, sign up as an official ‘follower’.