Monday, November 23, 2009

Random Tidbits

  • There is a house in Bar Harbor that already has Christmas lights up. Is this really necessary?
  • A few days ago when driving home past the dumb Christmas lights house I heard a part of a story on NPR about a new CD of Norwegian lute music. The commentator gushingly said that the music was classical, but also sort of jazzy. I changed the station.
  • I've made unusually good progress on grading. I'm basically done with my physics grading, which is good. I have three Calc III problem sets left to grade, but I think this won't take too long, since the class is kinda small.
  • The list of things I need to get done the next few weeks is frighteningly large.
  • Today was remarkably frustrating in some ways. I spent a good chunk of time dealing with really stupid stuff. Hopefully tomorrow will be better. I'm not optimistic.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Fall Term Ends

Today was the end of our fall term. I'm glad it's over, although it's always a little sad to say good bye to a class.. I'm tired and weary. For a number of reasons this term was much more draining than most. A break will be good. In many ways I have more work to do over break than I did during the term. So perhaps it's more of a change of pace than a break. But nevertheless, I'm looking forward to it.

Had a nice, relaxing meal with Doreen at the Side Street Cafe this evening. It was a nice way to end the term. The food was quite good. Now at home and too exhausted to do much of anything. I'm looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Late Afternoon

I went for a run late this afternoon at Little Long Pond. I almost didn't go. It had been a rainy weekend and I hadn't had super productive day. So I thought about staying home and continuing to work on grading. But I decided to go. Definitely the right decision. Little long pond was just incredibly beautiful. It's always a nice spot, but today was different. The late afternoon winter light was great and there was amazing mist hanging still over the pond. The day was warm almost like summertime, but the light was low and wintry. It was incredible.

I had received sad news earlier in the day. Someone I got to know in China a few years ago is terminally ill. He's far too young -- it's hard to make sense of it. It's a really stupid cliche, but thinking of him while running made the day even more precious. It was just starting to get dark as I finished up. A few hundred meters before the end of the run I could suddenly smell the salty ocean. It hit me all at once; the smell was fantastic.

I'm now at home, moving slowly through yet another pile of grading. Listening to Miles and Trane and trying to get ready for the week.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dulce et Decorum Est

For veteran's day, the final stanza of Wilfred Owen's poem Dulce et Decorum Est:

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

The translation of the Latin is: It is sweet and right to die for one's country.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Letters of Recommendation

The season of writing letters of recommendation has begun. I did my first one last week, and already have a bunch more in the queue. There will be a flurry in December and early January, when most graduate school applications are due, and then another flurry in January and February, when undergrad research internship applications are due.

I wrote some stuff about letters of recommendation for students. If there anything I should add, from either the point of view of the recommender or the person being recommended? If so, please leave a comment or drop me an email.

I'm trying to put together some pages with advice and links for students. The letter of recommendation page is just the first step. I'm going to try and write some about undergraduate science internships and research experiences later this week.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Disappointed in Maine

In a close vote, Maine voted to repeal a law granting same-sex couples the right to marriage. It is disappointing and disheartening. The path to justice is not easy. Progress is not inevitable.

I must confess, my friends, the road ahead will not always be smooth. There will be still rocky places of frustration and meandering points of bewilderment. There will be inevitable setbacks here and there. There will be those moments when the buoyancy of hope will be transformed into the fatigue of despair. Our dreams will sometimes be shattered and our ethereal hopes blasted. We may again with tear-drenched eyes have to stand before the bier of some courageous civil rights worker whose life will be snuffed out by the dastardly acts of bloodthirsty mobs. Difficult and painful as it is, we must walk on in the days ahead with an audacious faith in the future. ... When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.
Martin Luther King Jr., "Where Do We Go From Here?" (1967)

I see a tremendous creative force in students and friends here at COA. And although today seems dark, I have faith that their light will continue to shine. As my friend Suzanne often points out, disappointment is powerful. It means you've found something you care about. Disappointment has much to teach us, if we let it.