Friday, September 29, 2006

Perils of car ownership

(Or, really, I suppose this is about the perils of being a moron, and the additionally idiotic things that can happen to said moron when she owns a car.)

I have to admit that I'm loving--really loving--having a car. With the exception of the road trip that Babe and I took last weekend to Magnificent Landmark, I haven't driven any further than 30 miles from home, and I'll often go three or four days without driving at all . . . but when I do drive, it sure is fun to have a zippy car in which I can turn my tunes way up and shout along without worrying about the neighbors. I also love my three-day-a-week commute: it's open countryside most of the way, with lots of sky, fields of wildflowers, and the odd body of water now and again. Having a car has also been helpful in hauling stuff to my office and bringing home the occasional antique, and I confess to being girlishly gratified when the undergrads on campus have given me the "ohhh, NICE!" response when they see my ride.

But, there are inconveniences. Since I refuse to arrive on campus at 8.30 a.m., I've given up trying to get a spot in one of the lots closest to my building; instead, I now head immediately to a lot that's a brisk seven minute walk away. This is a pain on the days that I teach until 9.30 p.m. (I usually move my car on those days, since the lot is on the periphery of campus and the walk there isn't very well lit), but otherwise it's no big deal.

Until yesterday.

It was a rainy, miserable day, and I parked in my usual lot, hustled to my office, threw back a cup of mediocre departmental coffee, and went to my first class. Twenty minutes into the period, there was a knock on the door. I looked over, and through the tiny window I could see the purple hair of the English department's bursary student.

A bit miffed at being interrupted, I went over and opened the door. She motioned me outside until the door closed behind me. "Parking Services called," she said. "You're parked illegally in a reserved spot. They're going to tow you if you don't move immediately."

I had no idea what she was talking about--a reserved spot? I'd never seen a reserved spot in that lot! And it was the middle of the class period! But that whole "towing immediately" part got my attention, so I quickly made up an assignment for my students to occupy the next 15 minutes, told them it was "an emergency," grabbed my bag, and ran out of the building and into the rain at top speed.

And sure enough: there are 65-70 spots in that lot. Exactly one of them is reserved. And I'd parked in it.*

*In my defense: from the road approaching the lot, and then from the lot entrance, the angle is such that the spot itself is visible but not the reserved sign in front of it. I have no explanation for how I missed seeing the sign through my windshield once I was actually in the spot, however.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

So maybe I'm vain, but. . .

I was delighted to find that I already have one review on in my new institutional incarnation, and not only did my reviewer give me extremely high numerical scores (except for easiness, and one doesn't want high marks for easiness), but I got a chili pepper, too!

I'm sure I'll have plenty of bitchy comments and low scores soon enough (in my Big Urban incarnation I still managed to wind up with good averages, but there were some really nasty evaluations mixed in there and the comments leaned toward the critical)--but it feels good to start off well.

Now, if only I could say that my students were doing the same with their papers. . .

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Does my advice matter?

Sometimes I'm not sure whether the actual advice that I give to students matters so much as the fact that I'm giving them some advice--or, more to the point, that I'm taking the time to take them seriously, listen to them, and encourage them in whatever vague way I can.

Or at least I hope that's the case, since I was confronted this week by a student I'm not sure I can help in any immediate way.

She's a transfer student from a community college, entering as a junior English major, and she's in both my Brit Lit and my Shax classes. And, not to put too fine a point on it, she's been doing abysmally. As in, getting scores of 1 or 2 out of 10 on my (largely fact- and plot-based) quizzes, often producing answers so odd that I wasn't sure whether she was actually doing the reading, even though she seemed extremely conscientious. I always have a handful of students who bomb my classes, of course, but they tend to be 40-year-old single mothers who work full time and miss class rather often, or kids who just clearly aren't doing the work and couldn't care less about the material (and, honestly, even those students usually average quiz scores in the 40-50% range).

So I asked her to come talk to me so that we could work on getting those scores up.

She came to my office and told me that she didn't know what she was doing, didn't understand a word of Shakespeare, and just couldn't figure out why--she'd gotten all "A"s in her English classes at the community college.

I assumed that she just wasn't reading very closely, and I was prepared with my usual advice about going slow, taking notes, working through a single scene at a time--but then she described her study methods, and she's doing all that. Moreover, after she reads the original, she goes to SparkNotes, and then after THAT she rereads the original. . . but even after having read a plot summary in the interim, she claims that she still has no idea what's happening in the play.

She seemed so sweet and so overwhelmed, and I was myself so stumped, that I had nothing really to offer her. I gave her the contact information for the university's "learning center," which provides drop-in tutoring and study skills services, and I recommended that she try renting the movie versions of as many of the plays that we're reading as possible, since seeing the plays would likely help her to get the gist better. But what else could I say, really? Most of my students in that class are performing at a reasonably high level--and given that, and given that we're reading a play a week, it's just not feasible to reorient the class to make sure every single student understands what's happening in every single scene.

I sent her off with some vaguely encouraging words to the effect that it would get easier over time, and thanking her for coming to see me--but I kept thinking about her, so two days later I sent her a follow-up email with more information about the learning center and some encouragement to go there (it's her tuition dollars, after all!); offering to meet with her weekly if she wanted to practice working through just a page or two of text one-on-one; but more importantly, I hope, assuring her that this was difficult material and that I knew she was feeling discouraged, but also promising her that it just took practice and diligence and that it would get easier if she stuck with it.

I hope I'm right about that. But more importantly, I hope that, even if she winds up failing one or both of my classes (both of which are requirements), she's not permanently discouraged. As a transfer student and a commuter, with no friends or established connections at the university, her likelihood of being sucked down by the undertow seems rather high--and if I've made her believe that someone here is interested in her success, maybe she'll be willing to stick it out just a little while longer.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Friday poetry blogging: that dirty Catullus

I recently purchased a nice bilingual edition of Catullus's poems from my favorite used bookstore here in New City and I've been cracking up reading them. So much sex, so many pederasts and whoremongers, and I'm loving the translator's very 1966 slang and innuendos. (Oddly, while it's all pricks and cocks and buggery, all the time, the female genitalia are continually rendered formally, as pudendum.)

So here are two poems, translated by Peter Whigham--one an old favorite and the other one that was entirely new to me:


Curious to learn
how many kiss-
es of your lips
might satisfy
my lust for you,
Lesbia, know
as many as
are grains of sand
between the oracle
of sweltering Jove
at Ammon &
the tomb of old
Battiades the First,
in Libya
where the silphium grows;
as many as
the sky has stars
at night shining
in quiet upon
the furtive loves
of mortal men,
as many kiss-
es of your lips
as these might slake
your own obsessed
Catullus, dear,
so many that
no prying eye
can keep the count
nor spiteful tongue fix
their total in
a fatal formula.


Do not wonder when the wench declines
your thigh her thigh to place beneath.
You cannot buy them with the costliest clothes
or with extravagance of clearest stones.
There's an ugly rumour abroad,
             b.o. under the armpits--
and nobody likes that!
             So do not wonder if
a nice girl declines the goat-pit.
Either reach for the deoderant,
or cease to wonder that she so declines.

(Hasn't that last one been used in an Axe commercial, already?)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

In which I play fashion cop

It was a glorious weekend yielding up a bumper crop of goodness: a haircut, a pedicure, a new winter hat, a pair of super-skinny Theory jeans, and all kinds of quality time with friends.

The wedding itself was gorgeous and the bride and groom the most relaxed bridal couple I've ever seen. Both were cheerily drunk throughout the reception, making charming and extravagant toasts over the speaker system, leading the guests in unusual group dances of their own creation, and looking thoroughly delighted and thoroughly in love at every moment.

However, the wedding gave me the opportunity to make the following observation:

Both academics and writers tend to dress badly. However, while the unstylishness of academics seems born of inattention, a lack of know-how, or a simple lack of caring, many of the young poets, novelists, critics, etc., in attendence were aggressively bad dressers.

What do I mean by this? Let me give you two examples (bear in mind that this was an evening wedding at a beautiful and breathtakingly expensive venue):
A woman in a strapless pink silk cocktail dress. Which she'd paired with casual, clunky, black suede boots that came up to her knees.

A man in a black suit, white shirt, and red tie. Which he'd paired with the grungiest, most beat up, disgustingly greyed sneakers you've ever seen--laces flapping all over the place.
People, that's not hip and it's not ironic. It's also not appropriate for the occasion. It looks as though your only thought was, "hey, I'm going to show that I don't buy into this whole oppressive 'dressing up' thing--I'm gonna do something REALLY different!"

No. Take a page from the groom: he was wearing a skinny vintage suit in brown velvet with an orange tie. Different? Yes. But that suit was beautifully tailored, and it and the shirt and tie all complemented each other and flattered the wearer. If you're going to dress to stand out, you must take more care--and know even more what you're doing--than if you're dressing to fit in.

(Interestingly, the one Truly Famous Novelist in attendance broke my rule by dressing more like an academic than like a writer: he paired a very nice suit and very nice shoes with a shirt in an unfortunate muddy green and a tie in an even more unfortunate abstract floral pattern, the like of which hasn't been seen since someone's 6th grade math teacher sent it to Goodwill in 1988. But then, TFN does teach, so. . . perhaps that explains it.)

Still, I wish I had thought to take pictures: Go Fug Yourself, Intelligentsia Edition. It's like shooting fish in a barrel, but even more fun.

Friday, September 15, 2006

No sleep till Brooklyn

I'm now comfortably ensconced in Bert's West Village apartment after a hellacious afternoon and evening of travel yesterday--wherein I had first one flight and then another cancelled out from under me and a third flight delayed, and wherein I got very good at saying, "I'm sorry, but a flight tomorrow morning is NOT ACCEPTABLE"--in preparation for a fabulous wedding tomorrow in Brooklyn.

Here's what I've been promised: academics, novelists, journalists, famous feminist scholars, Chilean émigrés, midwestern Irish Catholics, and a few Marine Corps and Navy officers, to boot. Yes, that's right: it's Dr. Fun's wedding, and whether it rains or whether it doesn't, I can't imagine a more combustible or more enjoyable combination of guests.

George Washington Boyfriend arrives in a few hours and tonight we'll transfer our lodgings to Lulu and Mr. Lulu's enormous financial district spread. But in the meanwhile, I have a haircut, some shopping, and some serious catching up to do. Back in a few days.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The job market, from both sides now

(Or should that be, from several sides now?)

As my faithful readers know, I was on the job market each of the last two years, and it's a game that I think I got to know pretty well. This year, however, I'll be undergoing a role reversal: no longer will I be playing the part of the hopeful candidate, but rather the somewhat confusing dual roles of:
a) the supportive consort of the job candidate, and
b) the hiring committee member
Yes. Not only is George Washington Boyfriend going back out on the job market, looking for an advanced assistant position (he's up for tenure this year, but his current institution has an early tenure review and somewhat lower requirements than the kind of place he'd like to end up), but I've recently learned that I'm on the hiring committee for one of the new positions that Regional U is looking to fill.

Since both GWB and the position we're hiring for are in fields radically different from my own, I guess I'll also have a third role this year: that of looker-on in the Renaissance market. I've taken a gander at the first crop of MLA listings in my field, and I have to admit I did have a moment (well, several moments) where I thought, "Goddamn! That's open? I know the fucking chair of that department, and she loves my work!" or, "Boy, there sure are a lot of jobs in appealing eastern cities this year...!" Aside from those reflex reactions, however, there's nothing out there that fills me with any serious regret; I don't know if I could have stood a third year on the market in a row, for one thing, and I'm genuinely happy with where I've landed and whom I've landed among.

Still, I can't not look; I have a fantasy-baseball-league-like interest in what's out there, who the players are this year, and in making idle predictions about who will end up where. Maybe it's a sign of how new I am to the profession, or perhaps of what an intensely nosy and gossipy person I am, but I like to have a scorecard. I've looked up most of the positions that I cared about that were in play last year to see who wound up where, and it was oddly gratifying to realize how many of the people who took those positions I knew or knew of (see, Mom? I know people! Which must mean that I myself am known). It's also interesting, to me, to speculate about the departments themselves--there are some places that have been listing the same position for three years running, or who listed it the first year, cancelled the search, didn't list it last year, and are listing it again this year. Was it a funding problem? An internally-riven or even dysfunctional department? Hard to say, of course. . . but ever so much fun to speculate about.

So I'm looking forward to this particular job season. I'm excited to be on a search committee and to get to see behind the scenes, and I'm hopeful that there will be something good out there for GWB (something that, ideally, will also bring him closer to me).

And as for all the other hopefuls out there? Knock 'em dead, kids. Maybe I'll even see some of you from the other side of a hotel suite.


To all job candidates in languages and literatures: as of 1 p.m. Eastern, the MLA Job Information List has gone live.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Remember, Remember: November 5, 1605

Remember remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Ever should be forgot.
I know I'm not the first person to draw this parallel, but whenever I come across contemporary references to the Fifth of November--Guy Fawkes Day, the Gunpowder Plot, the Powder Treason, or the Popish Plot, as you prefer--I'm always struck by how similar the official rhetoric used to describe that particular terrorist event is to that used by our own officials to describe September 11th. Indeed, although the popular Early Modern analogue for George W. Bush is Charles I, I think that in some ways James VI and I makes a more instructive comparison.

In the first speech that King James gave before Parliament after the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot, he takes full (and unjustified) credit for uncovering and stopping the plot:

For as I ever did hold Suspition to be the sicknes of a Tyrant, so was I so farre upon the other extremity, as I rather contemed all advertisements, or apprehensions of practices. And yet now at this time was I so farre contrary to my selfe, as when the Letter was shewed to me by my Secretary, wherein a generall obscure advertisement was given of some dangerous blow at this time, I did upon the instant interpret and apprehend some darke phrases therein, contrary to the ordinary Grammer construction of them, (and in an other sort then I am sure any Divine or Lawyer in any Universitie would have taken them) to be meant by this horrible forme of blowing us up all by Powder; And thereupon ordered that search to be made, whereby the matter was discovered, and the man apprehended: whereas if I had apprehended or interpreted it to any other sort of danger, no worldly provision or prevention could have made us escape our utter destruction. (Nov. 9, 1605; Political Writings, ed. Sommerville, p. 150)

He's a great reader and puzzle-solver, is James, and if he hadn't understood the "obscure" meaning of that letter, then King, Parliament, and all would have been blown sky-high.

More typical is this passage from the second edition of Triplici Nodo (1609), James's defense of the oath of allegiance that was to be administered to Catholics suspected of being disloyal:
The never ynough wondered at and abhorred POWDER-TREASON . . . being not onely intended against me and my Posteritie, but even against the whole house of Parliament, plotted onely by Papists, and they only led thereto by a preposterous zeale for the advanceme[n]t of their Religion. . . . And soone after, it being discovered, that a great number of my Popish Subjects of all rankes and sexes . . . had a confused notion and an obscure knowledge, that some great thing was to bee done in that Parliament for the weale of the Church; although, for secrecies cause, they were not acquainted with the particulars. . . . Some of the principall Jesuites likewise being found guilty of the foreknowledge of the Treason it selfe . . . . If this treason now, clad with these circumstances, did not minister a just occasion to that Parliament-house, whom they thought to have destroyed, courageously and zealously at their next sitting downe, to use all meanes of triall, whether any more of that mind were yet left in the Countrey; I leave it to you to judge . . . .This Oath of Allegiance, so unjustly impugned, was then devised and enacted. And in case any sharper Lawes were then made against the Papists, that were not obedient to the former Lawes of the Countrey; if yee will consider the Time, Place, and Persons, it will bee thought no wonder, seeing that occasion did so justly exasperate them to make severer Lawes then otherwise they would have done. The Time, I say, being the very next setting downe of the Parliament, after the discovery of that abominable Treason: the Place being the same, where they should all have beene blowen up, and so bringing it freshly to their memorie againe: the Persons being the very Parliament men whom they thought to have destroyed. And yet so farre hath both my heart and government beene from any bitternes, as almost never one of those sharpe affitions to the former Lawes have ever yet beene put into execution. (STC 14401)
The way that James keeps reminding his audience of their personal peril--right here! In this place! all of us! an abominable treason!--to excuse the laws that were made (and which were not, anyway, as repressive as they might have been, given the circumstances), well. . . it all sounds rather familiar, doesn't it?

It doesn't stop in 1609, either: James refers to the Gunpowder Plot in later speeches, always reminding his auditors and readers of the danger they were in; how providential their deliverance was; and how they don't seem to appreciate that he's just looking after the safety and the best interests of the nation.

November 5th is also a popular subject in sermons. Even in 1622, 17 long years later, the subject is still topical enough (albeit for somewhat different reasons, including the proposed match between Prince Charles and the Spanish Infanta) that John Donne delivers a sermon of commemoration which he begins with a prayer that the entire country may always have before its eyes the memory of that day, and never let Catholicism retake England. Although the sermon is laced with the usual anti-Catholic rhetoric, its real aim isn't to whip up prejudices (or at least no more than is useful), but rather to condemn those who, for whatever reason, would so much as speak ill of their king, much less think of rebelling against him. It's a brilliant move, actually--one that manages to play to religious bigotry while simultaneously forestalling any rebellion that might result from that bigotry--but it's hardly Donne's most attractive moment. (Sermons, ed. Potter & Simpson, vol. 4, sermon 9.)

I'm sure that 11/5 isn't the only historical event with parallels to 9/11, but it's the one I know best.

Remember, remember: September 11, 2001

In September of 2001 I was just starting my third year of graduate school. My oral exams were scheduled for Friday the 7th, and after three months of almost nonstop studying, I was looking forward to cutting loose afterwards. My original plan had been to get the hell out of town right after my exams and spend a long weekend celebrating in NYC, but in the end I was just too exhausted. I decided to delay it until the following weekend.

On the morning of the 11th I woke up later than usual, and since Morning Edition went off the air in Grad School City at 9 a.m., I didn't turn on the radio immediately. About 9.50 I turned it on, in anticipation of the news summary at the top of the hour, and was surprised to hear what seemed to be a live broadcast. I didn't have a t.v., and the radio reports were confused and hard to understand. The second tower came down and I woke my folks up on the West Coast.

It had been supposed to be my first day back at my job at the university press, so eventually I got myself ready to leave. I didn't imagine they actually wanted me there now, but I couldn't think what else to do. At the same time, I didn't want to leave my radio. Instead, I took it with me.

Five minutes after I'd left my apartment, purple plastic radio in hand, I ran into a friend who'd also lived in Manhattan for several years. We stopped and stared at each other. She pointed to my radio and laughed, sort of, saying, "So you've heard. . . ? Of course you've heard." We stood there a while longer, making nonsensical conversation. She was on her way to teach her second or third class of the semester, and she kept saying, "How can I talk about the fucking sonnet today?"

"Yeah, really." I said.

"Except, I mean. . . isn't that what the terrorists want? For no one to teach Shakespeare again? Fuck them! I WILL teach the motherfucking sonnet!"

Eventually we parted and I got to work, where everyone was there but hardly anyone was speaking above a whisper. One of my favorite editors said it was the Taliban, it was Afghanistan, and he was the first person I heard mention Osama bin Laden. I had no idea what he was talking about.

I went to New York three days later, as I'd planned, staying with Bert, who lives below 14th street (which until that morning had been blocked to non-residents). That acrid smell was everywhere, and whenever we left his apartment there were posters of missing loved ones taped to every vertical surface all up and down the avenues. The photos were all from parties and weddings and family reunions, the dead wearing fancy clothes, holding children and petting dogs, smiling broad, broad smiles.

We didn't actually do anything that weekend. We just sat on Bert's couch and drank ourselves into stupefaction.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Signs of the apocalypse?

I'll give you the facts, and then let you reach your own conclusions.

Last week I had a third date with my maybe-sorta new friend: she came over for a light meal, at which I cracked open one of the bottles of wine that Bert had sent me from Sonoma; afterwards, we went to see a movie. It was great fun, except for this: after she'd finished her first (quite small) glass of wine, I refilled it; we were still eating and talking, and the bottle was right there on the table. However! When we got up to leave, fifteen or so minutes later, I noticed that she hadn't touched that second glass.

And then at a party this week I discovered that my favorite new faculty member doesn't drink.

What is this world coming to, when academics don't drink?

And more importantly, who am *I* going to drink with?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Teaching Reading

No, I'm not planning on making a sudden switch to teaching grade-schoolers; I'm trying to figure out how to get (some of) my college students to read better.

Because the thing is, most of my students just aren't very careful readers. This isn't to say that they aren't experienced readers--most are English majors because they genuinely love reading, and they can read closely enough to remember a wealth of plot details, the names of major and minor characters, and that kind of thing. But when I ask them to look closely at a single passage in a reading response, or when they go to write papers, it often seems as if they're incapable of taking a chunk of text and analyzing it carefully; at best, they summarize, but more typically they talk about something else entirely--the work's Timeless Themes and Universal Ideas being popular options.

BUT! When I work with my students in class, and we pause to look at a passage or short poem, they can do amazing things. With only a little prompting, they'll start talking about interesting word choices and rhyme schemes and image patterns and all that good stuff. Afterwards, I'll often even break down exactly what we did and tell them how this should translate into the analysis that they do alone in their rooms. . . but it just doesn't seem to sink in with very many of them.

So, short of assigning a million response papers or full-on essays in order to give my students ample practice (and, sorry, with 80 students that ain't happening), what else could I be doing?

So far, these are my strategies:
  • Tell my students, repeatedly, that they need to be reading slowly, looking up words they don't understand, and taking approximately a page of notes every night.
  • Give reading quizzes that not only cover content, but that also contain a passage or two that I ask them to identify, paraphrase, and then answer a question or two about (this is intended to cut down on the SparkNotes problem--students who are reading study guides or "modern English" translations instead of the original).
  • Spend time every class modeling exactly what I expect my students to be able to do in their papers, and setting up in-class group work to that same end.
  • Assign reading responses approximately every two weeks, in which I give them feedback on the nature and quality of their analyses.
I know that the lack of careful-reading skills is a greater problem at the kind of institution that I'm at now--but I saw versions of the same thing at Big Urban, as well as among the English majors at Instant Name Recognition U. Textual analysis just isn't an innate skill, and I'm sure that most teachers have encountered this problem.

So, help me out, teachers. How do you think students learn how to read more carefully? (I'm not even talking about formal close-reading, by the way--just getting kids to be more sensitive and responsive to nuances in a text.) How did you learn? And how do you teach it?

I'm beginning to feel that my best hope is to catch as many students as possible when they're freshmen, work them over big time, and hope that maybe, by the time they're juniors and seniors, they're up to snuff.

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Monday, September 04, 2006

A herald of the season, like unto the first robin of spring

Today's Labor Day, but if I had any doubts that the semester was already well underway, those doubts have now been dispelled.

I have a plagiarist.

Yes, ALREADY: one of my students turned in a reading response that she'd lifted almost entirely from SparkNotes (it's all paraphrase, but it's a very close paraphrase).

And so it begins again.

Friday, September 01, 2006

The first week, in review

While it's true that I'm only teaching three classes this semester (rather than the four that I taught in the spring), and that they're all classes I've taught in some form before--and while it is true, further, that I only teach two days a week--I just can't believe how tired I am now that the week is over!

I think I wasn't fully aware of the additional energy that a tenure-track position demands: so many emails to answer about this committee and that program; so many policies and technological advances to keep abreast of; and frankly, just so many daily interactions with so many people--whether social, administrative, or otherwise. As a lecturer at Big Urban, I came in, taught my classes, hung out for office hours, and left. I did speak regularly to the DUS, the secretaries, and the department chair, but fundamentally, I had no reason to know or really care how the department as a whole functioned. I didn't like feeling disconnected from the department in that way, but it did free up some significant mental space.

But onto the specifics:

My classes are going well so far. The biggest surprise was my 3-hour evening class on Big Willie. Since it was the first class, and since reviewing course policies and doing introductions only takes so long, I had my students do . . . scansion. For a solid 2.5 hours. And they didn't mutiny! In fact, they seemed very prepared to believe that the form of the verse contributes in important ways to its content, and they gamely attempted a number of passages and even got into serious arguments with each other about why the stress ought to be here and not there. (It probably didn't hurt that for some of the time I showed an RSC workshop video in which a 1970s-a-licious Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart did much the same thing, from the actor's perspective. There's nothing like seeing Gandalf in tight pants to perk up a classroom.)

Brit Lit I was a bit shaky on Day One, but after putting the fear of God into my students (telling them exactly what taking the course would demand of them, reviewing my Very Serious list of policies, and giving them a written assignment for the next class meeting), I did scare off a few people and Day Two went very well indeed.

As for my students themselves: they seem great, and not noticeably different from my students at Big Urban. Regional U isn't a research institution, but it attracts roughly the same mix of students: smart suburban kids who want to stay local and for whom the public-school tuition (and/or a big scholarship) is very attractive; first-generation college students; transfers from local community colleges; a small but noticeable number of non-traditional or returning students. Their ability levels differ, no doubt, but by and large they seem like good kids, adequately prepared, and who are fully capable of doing the work if they're given the right tools.

(And lemme tell you: after having taught remedial comp at Big Urban, it was such a treat to read the diagnostic essays of my regular-comp students here. Imagine! Virtually every student began his or her essay with some version of: "In [article title], [author's full name], a professor of [subject] at [institution], argues that [reasonable summary of the magazine article]." I almost fell over. Someone actually taught these kids something in high school!)

I was also very happy to see that several of my new colleagues also believe in wearing a suit on the first day or week of classes. This is more true of the women, but I did see one man wearing a full-on suit (sans tie) and another wearing a very nice jacket and trousers combo (also sans tie). I do love my suits, and it was nice to take a couple of them out of the mothballs.

The only negative, other than exhaustion? The seasons already seem to be turning, and I'm actually rather cold--at night it's in the low 50s. Since when do people wear long sleeves in late August?