Monday, December 19, 2005

On the Road Again


I write this from the living room of a friend in Scranton, Pennsylvania. What a weird city this is. It is an old steel town, very blue-collar, but making a very interesting economic transition in recent years, with a combination of white collar jobs (especially insurance) moving into the region, and increasing residential development as inexpensive central Pennsylvania becomes attractive to lower-middle-class folks who work in New York City.

The family I am staying with is gigantic--the mother was one of twelve children, and she had nine herself, the youngest of whom is my friend. Scranton is still an insular little city for the most part, and therefore everyone, and I mean everyone, is related to one another, or went to school with one another, or spent a night in jail with one another, and so on.

Mary and I traveling around the eastern seaboard courtesy of Zipcar, a cute little service that lets its members rent cars by the hour, or the day, very inexpensively. Not only that, but our car for this trip is a Mini Cooper convertible, brightly painted gold with Zipcar logos all over it. We make quite a scene on the road.

Tomorrow to Philadelphia!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Here We Come a-Wassailing

Saturday night was one of our department's lovely traditions: a caroling party. There were christmas lights, a tree, heavily-fortified mulled wine, and a solid three hours of singing. All of which goes a long way towards making life seem, briefly, a little more like Christmas. Not a small task in Los Angeles, and in grad school.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Houston, We Have a Problem

Somehow we seem to be missing five midterms. As in, the students took them, hand them in, and now we can't find them. Not good. Not good at all.

What do we do? Make them re-take? That's not a good solution. Do we not count that as part of their grade? That makes the final weigh a lot more than is really fair. So do we give them a little extra credit bonus? Argh!

In moments like these, I'm glad to not be the overall authority figure in a classroom yet.

Update: Found them!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Calm Before the Storm

Things have seemed rather busy this quarter. But as I start to pencil in things for next quarter, I am now realizing that it is going to be a doozy.

Late January: Special Fields exam, and defense.
February 16: Fly to Nashville, present paper.
March 3: Present paper here in Los Angeles.
March 15: Fly to Chicago, present paper.
Throughout: Research and write a disseration proposal!

Probably should have gotten more work done this quarter while I had the chance.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Heavy Harpsichords

As if to provide a immediate rejoinder to my previous post, I went to a harpsichord recital last night, given by a friend in the department. It was lovely. The standard warhorses of the harpsichord were brought out--Scarlatti, Couperin, Bach--plus a Haydn sonata. I usually think of the Haydn keyboard sonatas as being for the piano, but it actually worked quite well. Especially when he used the lute stop for the minuet, a nifty little trick you definitely can't do on the piano! The concluding Scarlatti sonatas were especially amazing. Luckily I was sitting with a good view of the keyboard, because some of the leaps he was making were astounding. I'm so impressed that my friend has been able to keep up his playing, despite the time constraints of being a graduate student, and despite the fact that his teacher moved to Canada just as he entered our program. He takes lessons here and there with other faculty, but for the past few years he's mostly been working on his own.

Before and after, however, I helped move the two harpsichords--one a double manual French, the other a pretty little Italian--from the music building over to the central rotunda of the main library, where the concert was being given. Man, those are some heavy suckers.