Monday, March 31, 2014

On a Pilgrimage

Today is International Hug a Medievalist Day! It's also Cesar Chavez day in California. But perhaps more important to academics from my institution, it's the first day of spring break.

Whoo Hoo!!!  SPRING BREAK!!!

::ahem:: Sorry. I'm just kind of excited, because I'm almost 100% caught up on my grading for the second time in as many weeks, and I may be able to handle the 8 remaining papers during my extended layover (flight delay) here at Midcontinental Airport, and again on the approximately 2 1/2- hour flight from here.

From here to where, you ask? As loyal readers, you know that I've been known to spend time in several lovely locations in sunny, cosmopolitan Blargistan, go off on semi work-related jaunts to Italy, give papers in Rio, visit friends in Venice. Where should we expect such a jet-setting glamour-puss with a week and no obligations to spend her time?

I am going to Gradville.

Gradville is located in a non-coastal college town about an hour from the nearest international airport. Gradville has one main street and a lot of fiercely independent businesses. Gradville is an island of blue in a red sea. Gradville has Interesting Weather.

Why am I going to Gradville? The first reason is that a major anniversary of one of those Life Milestones happens to coincide with my spring break, so since this particular Milestone happened while I was resident in Gradville, it seems appropriate to commemorate it there.

Second: I haven't been back to see Gradville friends (of both Town and Gown types) in several years, so it seemed like time.

Third: Esteemed Former Advisor still lives in Gradville, but rumor has it that his health may be failing. So I very much want a chance to visit with him. We have a nice lunch planned for tomorrow, and I'm really looking forward to it.

So: perhaps an odd way to spend spring break, but for me, for this year, it seems just right. Pictures to follow.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Please, ma'am: May I have some more?

Today is my last teaching day before spring break. And while most of my classes this week have been replaced by conferences for upcoming papers, I did have one to get through: Western Civilization. A 100-level class, and today we were discussing El Cid. And let me tell you, I was dreading it. This is a really fun story, and I'd been selling it to them for a couple of weeks: Battles! Honor! Valor! Betrayal! Christians and Muslims! But walking into class today, I knew I had several things working against me:
  • These are not history majors. Most of them are taking this class as a General Education requirement, so they're only here because they have to be.
  • A medieval epic may be exciting to a medieval historian, but it's not everybody's cup of tea.
  • It's the last class before spring break.
So, you will appreciate how pleasantly surprised I was that the 60% or so of the class who actually participated did so with some real enthusiasm. But even more than that, there was this conversation after class:

"Yes, Susie? Did you have a question?"
"Well, it's kind of off-topic..."
"I love off-topic questions. Shoot."
"Well... I really liked this book! I read it all in one night. Like, I had to do laundry, and I was really mad because I had to put the book down! And so... I was wondering... Are there other books like this that you can recommend?"

That's right: My undergraduate, non-major, taking-this-required-course student just asked me for more medieval literature. Because it was so awesome.

Friday, March 21, 2014

How I Won the Week


What to say about this week? These days, it feels like a minor triumph just to keep ahead of my normal workload. But I've managed to do all that and take care of some backed-up e-mails and arrangements about upcoming conferences, plus three letters of recommendation, helping plan a shower for a friend, and getting off an application for a campus program that could really work in my favor if I get it. In other words, I'm keeping all of the balls in the air. This is an accomplishment for me. In addition to all that, I've been negotiating some class-three rapids in a way that had potential to embroil me in something I don't want to be embroiled in, and I think I managed to do so with a bit of grace and come out okay. All right, so there's one person who's likely not happy, but I'm secure in knowing that I acted ethically, so things will turn out all right in the end.

Extra bonus: Visit from a good friend and former colleague who moved back to her home country several years ago. She's a real dear, and it's always lovely to spend time with her.

Extra-extra bonus: By noon tomorrow, I should be fully caught up on my grading! I could push that to tonight, but I've decided that I've earned an extra yoga class tonight and an early bedtime.

Life is pretty darned good chez Notorieuse.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Another Surreal Moment

UPDATE to the folks using this post to "advertise" their HVAC services: I am categorizing all such posts as spam and deleting them on sight. Stop wasting your time and mine.

My conversation with the facilities guy today, regarding a problem with the aged heating/cooling unit in my office:

FG: Someone called in a problem with the wall unit?

ME: Yeah. The cooling isn't working. It was working yesterday, but today it's only blowing hot air, even when it's supposed to be cool.

FG: That's what I thought the call down to us said. But I checked with my boss, and he tells me that there isn't actually air conditioning in this building.

ME: Yes, there is. I mean, there isn't any right now. But it was working yesterday.

FG: No -- this building only has pipes for heating, and a fan that circulates the regular air. You just thought it was air conditioning.

ME: I've been in this office 10 years. There's always been cooling. Including yesterday.

FG: My boss and four other guys told me there wasn't.

ME: But look: there's this dial right here that has two settings: one for heating and one for cooling. There are occasional problems with either one, but generally, they both do what they say they do.

FG: Let me get on the phone to my boss. [calls, confirms, puts boss and other Guys In Room on speaker phone, who also insist that there is not now, nor has there ever been, air conditioning of any kind in FO-2]

ME: Hang on here a minute. [walking next door to office] Coleague, is your AC working?

Martha: It was yesterday. Let me check. [turns on AC] Yep.

FG: [sets thermometer to measure temperature from wall unit next door]. Huh. 70 degrees. So there is air conditioning in this building. Let me see if I can fix yours.


To be fair, the guy in my office was very nice and apologetic about it once he realized his error. And I was equally gracious, assuring him that I understood he was only working with the information he had. And my cooling now works. But still.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

You'll be stone dead in a moment!

From an e-mail from the leader of the History Students' Association, regarding an upcoming event that I agreed to give a quick 5-minute talk (on medieval food) for:

Dear Dr. Notorious,
Thank you for presenting tomorrow for the HSA event. Just as a reminder the event is from 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm in the conference room.  The first 30 minutes will be presentations by the students or HSA members, followed by presentations by our extinguished faculty, such as yourself.

There are so many jokes here that I don't know where to start, so I'll just let my witty commentariat supply the punchlines. But first and foremost, there's this:

Thursday, March 13, 2014

On being stood up

Undergraduates, take note:

If we have academic business to discuss -- a paper conference, say -- I will go out of my way and be up on campus for you on a day I'm normally not here. I don't have to be, and I don't expect that other faculty members ought to do the same -- this is my choice, after all. But because I have made that choice, I abjure any right to resent you for taking me up on the offer, or to loudly trumpet the sacrifices I'm making. If I voluntarily make an offer, I should follow through with a cheerful mein.


If you fail to make that appointment, even once, with no notice, just leaving me cooling my heels in my office when I could be elsewhere, you may expect that I will never again go out of my way for you. I will continue to be as helpful to you as you need me to be, but that help will come only during my regular office hours. Period.