Monday, April 18, 2011


Last Tuesday, which seems very long ago, I gave the talk that I had been dreading to the physicists. Incidentally, (since someone asked) the location of the talk was here, on the campus of the Good Old Dude's University. There was no interesting travel involved in the presentation, except that I walked two buildings south to where the physicists have their hide out. Their building has surprisingly narrow halls, and is quite gloomy -- even compared to my building. Both were built during the 1960s, I believe, in an architectural style which I like to call "cinder block with window slits". Perhaps the builders in the 60s thought that the box bunker buildings could protect them from political protests and/or nuclear proliferation. In any case, at least the ceilings in my building are finished. Physics doesn't even have that going for them.

Anyway, the point of bringing up the talk on Tuesday, is that I returned home with a broad smile on my face, and a huge weight lifted from my shoulders. The talk went well, seemed well received, and several of the listeners were friends from my own department to cheer me on. What a relief to get that out of the way!

Then Wednesday was our last day of official instruction at the Good Old Dude's U. That's right. Finished already. We had no spring break, very little winter break, and have been working nearly non-stop since mid-August. And this week, all that break-less overwork pays off. We may be totally loopy insane from burn out, wandering around in our cinder block buildings, ducking and covering and doing our best under the constant architectural threat of nuclear war, but we are done two to four whole weeks before all of you. And all my colleagues at other universities.

When I tell my colleagues this, they all smile and nod and say "bully for you", and then cover their laughs politely with a napkin. No way would they ever trade the spring break and the winter break to spend the 3rd week of April grading finals rather than the 3rd week of May. And I cry into my elbow, because I'd rather have a spring break, too, than finals in April.

So, you are asking. What are you going to do with all this freedom, now that your Saturday finals are over? Well, I had planned to hide out 60 miles north at my mother-in-law's house on Thursday and Friday, far from student eyes, accomplishing great deeds. But instead I hid out 60 miles north sending email back and forth to TAs and trying to finish writing a final. But at least the mother-in-law's home had large windows, no cinder block walls, and the company was lovely. And this week, well, this week I shall spend most of my Monday grading. And then I shall spend much of Tuesday organizing grades. And if I'm not to the point of stomping out minor brush files by Wednesday, I'll be quite annoyed.

And then starting the next week, I shall accomplish great deeds. Four major projects, a serious grant proposal, and... (gulp)... a tenure file. You see, even though I write blog posts entitled "Relief", and proceed to tell you all about the lovely fact that classes have ended, the only real relief in this post is hiding in the first two paragraphs, where I am relieved that I have finished speaking with the physicists, and I am relieved that my building is nominally more attractive than theirs.

Luckily, I do like my job, and I like my work, and I look forward to accomplishing great things all summer long. And it's fun to switch flavors from student centered work to research centered, and the transition in and of itself is almost like a vacation. Almost. But I do believe I had better throw a couple of non-weekend personal days into the transition. Because it cannot be healthy to spend our days sequestered away inside political-protest-proof buildings. And that's good advice for physicists, too.


Veiltender said...

When I was a student at the Great Old Dude's University, I decided that most of the buildings on that campus were built in the Late Ugly Period. This was not an opinion which was helped by studying in the U.K.

Letterpress said...

Hoorah! Yippee!
I'll be chanting the same chants in about 4 weeks, but I'd much rather get out in early May than have that Spring Break. While it is nice for the proffies, it's havoc on the students. One student, who hasn't turned in anything in over three weeks in my class, confided in me that it's been that way in all his classes--his brain went on vacation and he can't get it to come back.

But then, we have 18 week semesters which IS sheer torture.

I hope you have some laying-around-on-the-porch time in the next few days as well.

Equinox said...

I love it: "cinder block with window slits" to protect from political protests and nuclear proliferation. I now have something fun to think about when I walk by or sit in these buildings, and I won't look at them the same again.