Saturday, September 30, 2006

So little time, so much to write about. I guess I'll start with the item above, which I found in the grass not far from my car yesterday morning. I couldn't quite understand why someone would leave their rear-view mirror on the front yard. It was going to be a big day--I was dressed up for the symphony, which I'd be attending with Joe, who so kindly had put a ticket on reserve for me. I also had to figure out where West Lafayette's city hall was, so I could contest a parking ticket I got that asserted--falsely--that my license plate was expired. I'm carrying a laundry basket, trying not to get lint on my suitcoat. And this rearview mirror that I almost trip over. Though I wasn't really processing things well at that time--I was also thinking of the appointment I was going to and what I was going to be saying to my student regarding his paper and why he didn't get a good grade--I still immediately recognized the mirror as belonging to a Ford Taurus or a Mercury Sable. I pulled out my keys so as to put laundry in the trunk when I noticed something very, very wrong:

Well, shit. Some ass sideswipes my car overnight and doesn't bother leaving a note or anything. Other damage wasn't immediately apparent as I call my insurance guy to see what needs to happen. He mentioned that if it was only my rearview mirror that I'd do just as well to fix it myself, since I had a $500 deductible. By the time I found the atrocious architectural abomination that housed West Lafayette City Hall, the dew had evaporated off of my car, I found I had matching red paint stripes almost the entire way down the side of my car, including the front wheel. Subsequent phone call with insurance company. The agent recommended that I file a report with the police, especially since I had one of the battered appendages of the offending vehicle. This I dutifully did, as I certainly would love to see this person get in some trouble. That done, I had to call around for arrangements to get estimates done, etc. I just got through that found I had just enough time to dash to campus for my appointment, which didn't go all that well, in that the student in question was having difficulty with understanding the fact that "what is intended" and "what actually appears on the paper" are two different things. My feeling on the matter didn't improve much considering that he was over a half hour late for the appointment. From there, I called for directions to an auto dealership in town to look at my car. Due to my schedule, the work will have to be done up in Lafayette, rather than my usual place. Once the damage was looked over the total came up to [deep sigh] $2,400. I guess I'll be making arrangements to park in some driveway or other from here on out. Once the estimate and appointment to bring the car in were all squared away, I had just enough time to get to my class. This was the second installment of individual conferences with half of my students to discuss their papers and my comments on them. Some were not even remotely pleased with their grades. One even had nerve to be indignant regarding the grade I came to. I mentioned that I had told the class specifically what I was going to be looking at in order to grade the papers and, after my repeated conversations with them on the matter, if those things were not included in the paper, a lowered grade should not come as a surprise. So, after an hour of systematically removing myself from various Christmas-card lists, I walked off to my wounded car and beat feet to Indianapolis, where I met up with Joe and Royce, who were already halfway through their warming martinis.

During the conversation, it dawned on me that I hadn't even asked what was on the program. It turned out to be the Rachmaninov 3rd piano concerto in the first half and Richard Strauss' Ein Heldenleben in the second. Perhaps it was the second martini, or, more likely, the fact that it was my first live music experience in months, but I was quite on the edge of my seat during the entire concerto. At the same time I noticed that the soloist underplayed various things in the left hand or overplayed and banged other sections but that didn't matter. The music was there and there was no room for hit-and-run drivers, indignant freshmen, or insurance policies. The music was there and there was no other place to be.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


Campus, for those of you who'd been there in years past, hasn't really changed all that much. The main thing that took some getting used to was the fact that Steven Beering already has a hall named after him, the spectacularly ugly liberal arts building that stands on the former site of Education Hall, which was itself the site of a rather singular drunken breaking-and-entering event during my freshman year. Perhaps more on that later.

I couldn't bring myself to take a picture of Beering Hall on its own, seeing how ugly and poorly designed it is, so instead I thought I'd snap a pic of a prettier building on campus that is directly in front of it; the Recitation Building (Or RECITATION BVILDING, as its plinths read) is the place where all must live somehow through math classes. Beering Hall is the ugly pile of bricks behind.

Directly across the mall from it is this lovely flipboard display, which went up during my undergrad years. It seemed like the most impractical thing to stick right in the middle of campus, but some graduating class or other thought it would be a wonderful thing to offer the university an Amber Alert style sign that was sure to cost lots of money to maintain. In cold weather the glass would frost up, making it unreadable, or the blacklight would go out, or some such thing. As you can see the flipboard has been removed, and as an afterthought, it has been turned into an oddly-placed "Welcome to Purdue" sign, plonked right in the middle of campus. Money well spent. To the left is Wetherill Hall of Chemistry, which still smells like, um, chemicals, as does the whiff that comes up from the manhole covers in the sidewalks surrounding it. Further back and behind the sign is Heavilon Hall, the place where I spend all of my time these days:

This is the home of the English department and all of its smaller factions, such as Literature, Linguistics, the Writing Lab, the offices of the Sycamore Review (Purdue's literary journal, which I now help select poetry for), and Creative Writing. Audiology and Speech Pathology have been thrown in for good measure, and languish in the basement. This building shows up in students' schedules rather unflatteringly as HEAV.

As far as my lovely office space, I happen to have a photograph of that as well:

The room is a former classroom (evidenced by the blackboard behind the bookcases) and of the three desks, which one is occupied by our hero? Yep--the messy one. The room is jam-packed with 10 desks, half of which are occupado and generally the place is very quiet, much unlike the other grad offices, where a good deal of conversation happens, as well as the odd football toss or two. One possible reason it is so quiet might be because the air conditioning in this room is set to "Stun and Immobilize" mode. Nothing quite so brisk as stepping into this room after getting all sweaty from pedalling ones guts out on Chauncey Hill. Invigorating isn't quite the word. Another of the great perks of my office is that it is right in the middle of the front of the building, which affords a rather pleasant view of the Union and the older part of Stewart Center which used to be the library up to the 50s:
The Engineers have redesigned the area here, which I think looks nice. The centers of the circular areas are echo points--if one stands precisely in the center of them and claps loudly, one can hear echoes off the neighboring buildings. The whole area has them and, in the first week of classes, was mobbed with people clapping as if in some sort of ritual. Some people think its kinda neat. My more cynical view is that it is one of the more elaborate schemes to quickly identify and smirk at incoming freshmen. Still, though, the result here is far better than the asphalt parking lot that was on the spot when I was an undergrad. The little grassy knolls were intended to be "outdoor classrooms" and have steps leading to the grass. An insect which I've seen nowhere but in Lafayette, the Cicada Killer, seem to rather like the grassy areas to make their underground nests in. Those not prepared for the Cicada Killer will--without fail--freak right on out in front of anyone passing by. Put simply, this bug is just like a wasp, only about 4 times larger and a bit territorial. You can see what they look like here. Comparing the wasp to the size of the cicada it's killing gives you an idea just how Gi-normous the things are. While walking to lunch I've seen multiple incidents of people going into full-out Daffy Duck mode, scattering folders and papers behind them as they try to avoid impending doom. One thing I've learned though is that, territorial though they be, they won't sting you unless you grab 'em. And who would want to do that?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Instruction and recreation

Here is the long-awaited post with the photographic evidence of the fabled grad-pad. But first, we have my Monday classroom, where I torture my freshmen with talking of academic writing, theses, supporting arguments, and proper use of quotation marks. To some I have attained magical superpowers of clairvoyance, such as the first day I was in this underground room (by the way, I really am impressed that they made the extra effort to add fake windows to give the illusion that one isn't 10 feet underground), where I talked about my rules and regulations. I asked them to look at my syllabus online, where I had added it with a bright poison green background. The reason for this was hardly premeditated. I simply had to have the website up and running with my syllabus. As I was talking about the class layout from the front of the room, I noticed that the students all had unearthly-green faces from the light of the monitors. My do-and-don't conversation continued and suddenly I noticed that certain people's faces started flashing white rather than green, and that mouse-clickings were heard. I stopped talking, took a big breath and said (with some extra gravitas) "And let me make one thing perfectly clear. Any random web-surfing or IM conversations during class while we are in this room is very bad form. Does everyone understand me?" In a flash, all faces were poison green again, with the added expression of "Shit, how did he know?"

Which brings me to the apartment. It is the upstairs bedroom of what once was a rather pretty house on historic 9th street hill. I push my way past the very wide front door into the narrow foyer and up the stairs to my one bedroom and original upstairs bathroom. Oh, and closet. I have a closet, which also contains the refrigerator. The poor thing appears to be low on refrigerant, as it never has once shut off in the time I've been there.

This pic is from the front door. Just out of the view to the left is the the fab table Holly let me use ( the chair for it is visible), but also the fab bookcase which was already in the apartment, as well as the spacious closet which would be even more spacious if it didn't have an avocado-green refrigerator in it.

Here we have a pan over from the earlier pic. As you can see,
we have a typical landlord big-house-hack-job. The former bedroom now has a counter and range. The sink is convenient, though a bit, um, in the middle of the floor. Behind the jutting-out of the sink, I have my fantastic "cardboard boxes stacked up to serve as dresser" system set up. The bike tends to obstruct easy access, but that's the only place for it, unfortunately. The gas range, though a nice thought, really isn't something I'm planning on using much, save as drying rack, or to heat soup. Beef Wellington is not on the "to do" list.

Here is the view of the sleeping wing. Trust that I am taking these pics with my back to the wall, so as to give you the best possible epic sweep of the living area. Directly in front of the cabinet and range is the inflatable mattress, as seen here. As often as the thing squeaks whenever I move, it's a wonder I don't dream constantly of scuba gear. Also note the splendid nightstands, one being a folding chair and the other being a laundry basket. High class digs.

Speaking of scuba gear, I should probably find something else to do other than editing HTML. More later.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Worth a thousand words?

I had promised my peeps some pix, but bluntbrained Davo drove home without his camera, bookbag, cellphone and various other things he was planning on using over the course of the long holiday weekend. In rooting through old pictures, I found this, taken while I was at Purdue as an undergrad. The site is currently a big mess--the buildings in the background (temporary barracks built during WWII and until several years ago the best Purdue thought the Fine Arts worthy of being housed in) have been demolished and an enormous building is being constructed that dwarfs all around it. I still have that American flag t-shirt in some dresser drawer or other. Wasn't I hot? I'll ignore the fact that the pic was taken 16 years ago. Something of actual substance forthcoming once I actually get pix from my forsaken camera.