Monday, June 22, 2009

IU Mini University, Day 2

Mini University started bright and early this morning with a welcome session and continental breakfast. At the session, the director recognized a handful of participants who had attended for more than 30 years in a row. Yes, some of these people have been attending Mini University every year since before I was born.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are the freshmen like me (about 50 of the 505 participants). Our name tags are marked with green stars so that everyone knows to make us feel welcome. And we have an incentive to get to know people, too: At the graduation ceremony on Friday, one of us will win the coveted "green beanie" award, recognizing the most enthusiastic new participant.

This is, apparently, a very big deal. Campaigning has already begun, but I'm staying out of it.

After the welcome session, I headed to my first class: "How the Supreme Court Decides Cases ... and Why that Matters," with instructor Beth Cate. She discussed the different schools of thought on constitutional interpretation and walked through some key cases, then touched briefly on the upcoming confirmation hearings.

There were some great questions from the audience, as well: These people take their education vacation very seriously, as they should.

Next up, after lunch, was a session called "Famous and Imaginative Con Games by Spies, Crooks and Authors," with instructor Gene Coyle (who is apparently one of the more popular Mini University presenters). He essentially shared a greatest-hits collection of clever con games, ranging from ancient to modern times.

My favorite: The FBI set up a fake pawn shop and spread the word that the Gambino family was using it as a front to hire new thugs. Criminals came from across the nation to apply for the fake jobs, and they confessed to a wide range of crimes to prove they were tough enough for the jobs. And were promptly arrested, of course.

My final session of the day was "The Importance of Lifelong Learning for Adults," with presenter Frank DiSilvestro. The gist of the presentation: Lifelong learning leads to a healthier, happier, longer life. Well, you and I already knew that, didn't we?

Up tomorrow: sustainability, literary hoaxes and story-telling techniques.

Now, please excuse me while I go eat the fresh-baked cookies that Baked of Bloomington just delivered to my door.

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