Friday, May 29, 2009


I spent Memorial day weekend watching masochists. Someone noticed that there were two towns about fifty miles apart with a rather large mountain between them - a rather large mountain that, at the topish bit, was nearly 11,000 feet higher than the ocean. And that someone also noticed that a very clever person had built a) a road and b) a train-track between the towns and said to itself, gosh! Wouldn't it be absolutely great fun to ride a road bike from one town to the other and at the same time try to do it faster than the train can? Apparently around 2500 people agree with this. I, however, drove and thus beat the whole lot of them AND the train. Still, it was a very lovely drive and there were many opportunities at either end to purchase t-shirts and wooden train whistles.

When I finished watching the masochists I discovered that Child 3 and a friend had constructed a potato gun. This is apparently a perfectly natural thing to do because when they went to the Ginormous DIY Store to purchase various bits of plastic plumbing items (and the sparker thing off a gas grill) the employee helping them out said, 'oh! You're building a potato gun! Well, here's what you really want to get...'

They then spent a happy day launching not only potatoes but an entire green-grocers worth of fruit and veg all over the semi-abandoned mall down the street. By the way, if you have plans of creating your own potato gun, Child 3 recommends you try shooting Spam. Apparently it doesn't splatter - it bounces.

A few days later we had completely run out of potatoes, lemons, limes, Spam and anything else that would, with some effort, fit down a 1 1/2" PVC pipe. Child 3 and friend began roaming the house with speculative looks in their eyes which, naturally, I found deeply disturbing. After a bit of conversation it emerged that really what they wanted was something that would fly satisfactorily and hopefully do something amusing when it landed - preferably wet and amusing. Desperate to protect the living-room nick-knacks I suggested one of Child 3's socks.

There was a brief but passionate discussion about whether or not this would constitute both a chemical and biological weapon but it was agreed that soaking the socks first would be a good idea as otherwise the socks might ignite in the barrel.

At which point I had a flash of brilliance.

'Know what it would be if they did catch fire?'

Wary pause on part of family.

'A Molotov SOCKtail!'

Yup, and then I repeated it for the lucky few who had managed to miss it the first time.

And now there's a damp, grey sock in the hedge in my front yard.

Monday, May 11, 2009


It's finals week which means:

Little lost lambs are once more roaming the halls, trapping themselves down the very last corridor (mine) and bleating anxiously until rescued. My favorites are the ones who end up at my office and say hopefully, "Dean so-and-so? I just need this form signing..." Um... no.

Three little freshmen were sobbing bitterly at the bus stop when I ran by this morning simply because life had been cruel enough to curse them with a 7:30 AM exam in basic algebra. I might have suppressed my giggles slightly more successfully if two of them had not had "princess" and "slut" printed in sparkly script across their rather large bottoms.

The fac totum at the front desk is channeling her inner dragon to convince several hundred optimists that NO they cannot turn in their grubby collection of papers anonymously at the front desk and YES their instructor was telling the truth about the need for personal interaction at the end of the semester. Also, stop rolling your eyes at me young man and wait outside your prof's door just like everyone else.

The convocation program which was begun a week and a half ago and meant to be emailed to the printer last Friday will now not be completed until tomorrow afternoon. Again. Just like last year. Next year I'm sending it out as is, with notes all over saying "WHO is presenting the damn awards??" and "WHY DOES NO ONE KNOW IF WE'RE HAVING A SPEAKER??"

One delightful faculty member has already asked three times if we can cancel finals this week. I voted yes.

Another four have opined that a single, mild case of swine flu would be a really, really good thing for the campus in general. I've suggested speculative coughing in the main admin building couldn't hurt anything.

Those who successfully defended dissertations over the last two weeks have now lost their gloss of well earned smug self-congratulation and are sadly facing up to the stacks and stacks of Expository Writing assignments that somehow came home to roost in the mean time. Their peers are faking sympathy. Their mentors are ordering enough pizza to last out a siege. It will not be enough.

Child 1 has taken one final already, whizzing through it in record time and having its instructor grade it in front of the entire (still final taking) class. He only found one error.

Child 1 was not lynched.

Finals week does produce a few minor miracles still.

Friday, May 08, 2009


It was Spring, at least I think it was - just a week ago or something. And then something went snap (or maybe Sproing!) and it's summer and the mercury is creeping past 90 already.

I can't tell what happened because I'm pretty sure April lasted at least eight weeks, possibly ten or so, but I'm not sure how we suddenly ended up in May already.

Without any warning at all (okay, except for the flashing lights. Also the sirens. And the loud honking noises) it's suddenly semester end and finals are looming for those so afflicted (of the faculty variety as well as students. Haunted young things are lurking in the halls clutching grubby print outs of essays and practicing the particular voice-hiccup that will express just how heartfelt is their sorrow over missing seven lectures and a mid-term. One by one PhD candidates have come in, white faced and shaking, to stare down a sympathetic (yet no less terrifying) set of faculty and explain just why they thought the world needed one more in-depth look at Romantic Poetry. Instructors of various ilk have the weary set to their shoulders seen only in those who must read 60 earnest 10 page papers stating the totally obvious as though it were entirely fresh and new.

One more week, and summer is officially here.

Friday, May 01, 2009


1 man-made duck pond, verdantly green with algae

3 dozen ducks

47-eleven goldfish of varying sizes

X-thousand undergraduates in assorted states of un-dress and/or washedness

2 handfuls toddlers with grubby handfuls of breadcrumbs

1 school outing (aged approx 6) half-heartedly chasing down an escapee who had slipped the hand-holding-chain

Why on earth did someone feel it was essential to post a sign saying, "Warning! Do not drink pond water!"