Monday, August 01, 2005

Happy August

Is anyone happy it is August? I'm feeling pretty anxious about how quickly the summer has gone. (And still feeling ripped off that my summer started about a month after everyone else's because of the stupid quarter system.) It's still steamy hot here in Chicago (after a brief reprieve), so much so that the most physical thing I do is walk out on the back porch twice a day to water my friend's enormous hanging plant he left here two weeks ago when he went on his one week vacation. Not to sound like a total lazy-ass, because we're just talking about watering a plant here, but it's kind of a pain and I wish he'd come back for it!

Because I've spent the last two weeks doing advising for incoming students I feel equally ripped-off, time-wise, though the money is really good and, turns out, so is the atmosphere in the "advising pit." (No one calls it that that I know of, but I like saying it.) It's really one of the cheeriest, most supported things I've done at my generally very-supportive and cheery university. Imagine you and 20 or so colleagues from throughout your college sitting in an air-conditioned room, during the hottest days of summer, walking students through their registration at a rate of one student per hour. These are freshman, meaning they have a heavily prescribed schedule and there's not much you have to do: they sign up for a math class, placement already figured out; they sign up for an English class, placement already figured out; they are already in an intro. to college class. All you have to do is choose an elective *or* support their decision to only take three classes (on the quarter system that's a full schedule). Plus, you are surrounded by colleagues in different disciplines who can help you. Not sure which bio. class a pre-med should take? Ask the bio. prof. sitting across the way. Is there, in fact, a photography minor in the Art dept? Ask the head of media studies who's sitting at the station right next to yours. The student is out of there in 20, 40 minutes tops and you spend the rest of the time cruising the internet, reading your summer novel, or, more likely, gossiping with the other profs. One of the things I most appreciate about my university is the colleagiality within colleges. I love it that my closest friends here are from outside my dept. Someone called this advising gig summer camp for professors the other day. I like that. Only, there are no snacks.

Speaking of summer reading, I started off the summer by hopping through three novels very quickly. This left me stranded in New Hampshire with nothing left to read. So I pulled Dickens' Our Mutual Friend off the shelf and started reading it. I like Dickens; I've read a lot of Dickens; I've written about and even taught a good amount of Dickens. But this one is killing me. I'm 400 pages in, which is a little less than halfway through, and I still don't have a good sense of the plot. I can see all the Dickens' tricks--I know who is bad and who is good, I know who has a secret identity and who is not really dead, etc. But the machinations are moving sooooo slowly that I'm having a hard time staying interested and this is making me feel like a failure as a reader, as an English prof. and as a person who did most of their coursework in Victorian. So do I valiantly push on and keep reading? Or do I cry uncle and pick up the Patricia Cornwell Scarpetta mystery I haven't read yet? Has anyone else been following the Salon Summer School series?


Anonymous Adriana Velez said...

Hi -- it was great to hear from you! E-mail me at and we'll catch up.

My former boss, a PUBLISHER for crying out loud, also used the "alot." Even after we corrected him. Do they know something?

9:19 PM  
Anonymous Bess said...

Yes yes! Isn't student advising fun? I remember enjoying it A LOT at UB. A rare opportunity to see the "big picture" of students' academic lives, and interact (although bureaucratically) with other departments. By the way, a comment on a corollary (?) to "alot": "ahold," as in "I couldn't get ahold of you on the phone..." Argh!

12:01 PM  
Anonymous Diva said...

I loathe August. It always reminds me that the summer is 'almost over'. August seems to be a misplaced month. Hard to enjoy with the lurking fall ahead. June is much more optimistic.

9:29 AM  

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