Friday, May 27, 2011

The Cosmos

I dropped a class, for the first time ever.  I registered for Astronomy, figuring (erroneously) that it would be a good science for a non-science major.  I've found that the study of Astronomy requires a level of math proficiency that I do not possess.   So starting on Tuesday, I'll be studying Human Biology.  I have received multiple assurances that this class is ideally suited to the scientific abilities of the English major.  We'll just see about that.  Meanwhile, as always, I have no problems that summer cannot solve.  Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Discernment

I'm reading Middlemarch right now. I mean right now, as I type this post. So don't expect much. (PS--did you know that book titles are now italicized, rather than underlined, according to MLA guidelines?) I don't remember what led me to Middlemarch...I think it was referenced in an essay or mentioned in another book? Anyway, I saw a gap in my reading, having never read George Eliot (I'm sure I was supposed to read Silas Marner at some point, but either I don't remember it or I just flat out didn't read it) and decided to fix it posthaste. I'm 120 or so pages in and I'm all agog.

If you've been all agog at each of my infrequent blog posts, then you'll remember that I spent a good deal of the spring with Mr. Evelyn Waugh. According to George Weigel, Helena, published in 1950, was Waugh’s own favorite among all of his books. Helena is a novel based on the life of St. Helena, mother of the emperor Constantine. Weigel explains that Waugh found Helena particularly interesting because he considered her a person who “discovered what it was God has chosen for her to do and did it”. As Waugh himself said, “God wants a different thing for each of us, laborious or easy, conspicuous or quite private, but something which only we can do and for which we were each created".

What has this to do with that, you might ask, assuming you're still reading this bilge. Middlemarch heroine Dorothea Brooke is looking for the one thing which only she can do and for which she was created. And so, as it turns out, am I. What I'm doing now, while pleasant, isn't it. And I haven't read ahead, but Dorothea is about to enter into what is sure to be a boneheaded marriage, so her prospects don't look so good either. How did Helena figure it out?

Meanwhile, filed directly under the heading of "doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different outcome each time", I have chosen a class based on my nearly certain to be mistaken impression that it will be the easiest of the particular options available. That approach has worked out very well for me, very well indeed. Stay tuned for the inevitable "what have I done?!?!?!" post 3 or 4 weeks hence.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Slingshots and Arrows

A bird flew into my office window today.  We’re five stories up.  The bird smacked the window, and then fell/flew away.  Its fate remains unknown.  Perhaps it thought that I was harboring egg-stealing green pigs in my credenza. 
If you don’t get that joke, then just count yourself lucky.
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We’re at swim practice now, after a very pleasant homework-doing time.  9yo (yes, he’s 9 now.  10 next month) brought home his Scholastic book order form yesterday, and he wants me to order a rather expensive book for him.  I do normally buy a book or two for him, but of the $2.95 paperback variety, not the $30 slipcase-enclosed hardcover type. My normal policy re purchase of unnecessary stuff is “put it on your birthday/Christmas list”, and this was exactly the approach I took regarding this book.  9yo badly wants this book, though, and he spent a good part of the afternoon and evening trying to persuade me to buy it for him now rather than next month when he turns 10. 
Yesterday, we had an absolutely dreadful time with homework.  9yo, who is the sweetest of children, is given to drama and fits of anxiety (yes, I know ALL ABOUT fallen apples and their proximity to their trees of origin), and he extended himself yesterday over long division.  His disposition ruined by the homework debacle, he also complained about dinner, clarinet practice, Lego cleanup, brushing and flossing (he has braces now, so flossing is required) and bedtime.  I was so exasperated by 9 pm that I couldn’t even summon the good humor to play a tune on the world’s smallest violin, which is my usual response to children’s complaints.  Well, that, and the evergreen “life isn’t fair”.  Suddenly inspired, I pulled out the kitchen calendar. 
“See this?” I said. “Tomorrow is May 3.  Your book order is due on May 13.  If you can go for ten days without complaining, sighing, groaning, stomping, or in any way indicating your displeasure with the many injustices of your daily life, I will buy you that book”. 
“I can do that!” he said enthusiastically.
“Not so fast”, I said.   “No complaining means NOOOOOO complaining.  Not when it’s time to wake up and not when it’s time to go to bed.  Not when it’s time to practice, read, do homework, make your bed, take out trash, or write thank-you notes.  Not about what we’re eating, and not about what you’re not allowed to eat.  Not when it’s time to come inside, or to turn off the TV, or to clean up your toys.  I’m talking about absolutely zero complaining for ten solid days”.
“You got it!” he said.
“We’ll see”, I said.
SO.  Day 1 is going very well, very well indeed.  Motivated by the prospect of getting this book which he so wants, 9yo has, since this morning, made his bed, hung up his pajamas AND his brother’s, practiced clarinet, taken out trash, and put away his clean folded laundry.  When it was time to leave the house to come to the pool, he put on his shoes and grabbed his bag without so much as a sigh.  If the rest of today and the following 9 days go as well as this, then I will consider this $30 very well spent.