Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Summer's End

Technically, summer does not end until the autumnal equinox, which is more than a month away. But for me, as a child and as an adult, the first day of school has always signaled the end of summer. At my university, today was that day. Classes don't start until Tuesday (25 August), but faculty had to be back on campus today, for the first of three "in-service" days.

My professorial colleagues and I, as well as the staff, spent the day listening to a lot of people talk about things that, to me, were not very interesting. The President's "State of the University" talk was informative---and short. It was, in fact, the shortest speech of the day---about 15 minutes. The talk about student retention was also interesting and informative. But does the average professor, or the average maintenance man or groundskeeper, need to listen to an hour-long talk about what the university is doing to market itself? My opinion---and that of one of my colleagues, who was sitting next to me, and of the maintenance men and groundskeepers in the row behind us---was that we did not.

In my opinion, a large chunk of the information presented today was not relevant to a professor. All we care about is that there are students to teach, preferably better, brighter students than in last year's freshman class. (And there will be---the university's enrollment is higher than it has been in 40 years.) Oh, and we'd like to be well-paid for our work.

As a department chair, I'd also like to have a full complement of faculty, instead of starting the year one professor short. But that situation isn't going to change between now and Tuesday, so I just have to grit my teeth and bear it. Two of my colleagues and I will be teaching an extra class.

The bad news of the day was that there was no mention today of the faculty salary increases the president talked about in his address last year. There's money alloted for building dorms and athletic facilities, money for renovations to older buildings, and money for lab equipment, but salaries were not mentioned.

The good news is that I finished another pair of socks, this one for my knitting buddy, Kathy. The pattern is Wendy Johnson's Seaweed Socks; the yarn was from Kathy's stash (which is orders of magnitude larger than mine). Kathy had vowed that 2009 was going to be her "Year of the Sock", and she has yet to knit a pair, so I made these to inspire her. Hopefully, she will knit a least one pair of socks before year's end.

Ever hopeful, I am attempting to knit two pair of socks this month. After several false starts, I gave up on the yarn I'd planned to use because I could not get the correct gauge, even with US2 needles. (I was getting 9 stitches per inch instead of 8.) Instead of a lovely, hand-painted blue-green-purple yarn, I'm using a solid blue. Having used this kind of yarn for the June socks, I know I can get gauge with a US1 needle. So I cast them on tonight. We will see if I can carve out enough time the rest of this week and next to knit a pair of socks.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Chaos Controlled

The chaos of this past week is under control. Barely, perhaps, but it no longer has the upper hand. Professor O is gone (leaving his office full of...stuff and looking like it was struck by a tornado). No white knight has ridden over the horizon, ready to teach Professor O's classes. The teaching schedule has been reshuffled once again---for the third time in less than two months---and all the courses that are supposed to be taught this semester will be taught, except for one graduate class. Of course, to ensure that all those courses are taught, three professors (one of whom is me) will be teaching an extra class, but the students won't suffer due to Professor O's last-minute resignation.

Now, if only peace (and sanity) will prevail.

James Gillray's famous caricature on the Peace of Amiens, entitled "The first Kiss this Ten Years!---or---the meeting of Britannia & Citizen Fran├žois", published 01 January 1803. The French officer's hat and sword lay on the carpet. Britannia's shield and trident rest on the wall behind her chair. Above them are portraits of George III and Napoleon, facing each other. They almost appear to be shaking hands, but with very bad grace.

The French officer says, "Madame, permittez me to pay my profound esteem to your engaging person!---& to seal on your divine Lips my everlasting attachment!!!" Britannia says, "Monsieur, you are truly a well-bred Gentleman!---&, tho' you make me blush, yet, you Kiss so delicately, that I cannot refuse you, tho' I was sure you would Deceive me again!!!"

The Peace of Amiens lasted only a few months after this caricature was published. A few months of peace sounds divine. A few years sounds better.