Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Spring is Here

Spring arrived yesterday. There are blossoming trees, soft green grass and chartreuse buds everywhere creating a kind of green haze in the air. Or maybe that's just the pollen.

Spring Break was deliciously relaxing and fun, full of cooking, hiking in the nearby foothills, and watching Lubitsch, Godard, and Murnau. Although we learned that rabbit shouldn't be roasted, and that quick rising yeast is not the same as Fleischmann's instant, I still enjoyed the best Italian meatballs and tomato sauce made from scratch I've ever tasted, pulled off a pretty decent creme caramel, and our morning crepes outdid any crepe I've had in Montreal.

No matter how hard we looked, we couldn't find a "comfort station" of any kind near the parking lot on our second mountain hike/clamber unless you count the poorly stocked bathrooms and the 65 cent soda machine from 1981. We did, however, find some pretty amazing barbecue in a local joint furnished with an excellent jukebox playing the Orioles, and decorated throughout with vintage tin advertising signs including one very old and rusty sign for the emerging "Goody" aspirin brand that read: GOODY: "They are good."

After bidding farewell to my dear visitor - who didn't believe we had a "Billy Graham Parkway" until we were actually driving down it - I took off for the exhausting and disorienting (disorientating, for you brits) conference. I don't think there is anything that leaves one feeling quite so uprooted and repotted than taking off for a weekend of intense and heavy conferencing and returning to teach three classes and hold office hours Monday morning. I felt as if I'd stepped in to understudy an actor in an unfamiliar play at the last moment and had somehow lost the script.

Thankfully, the library book sale redeemed me at the end of the day. I purchased an old 50-volume set of seemingly randomly labeled literary "classics" that don't seem to be quite so canonical anymore for $10. What made the editors decide to follow Smith's "The Wealth of Nations" in with Vergil's Aeneid, and Vergil with Cervantes? For $5 I also got a possibly complete (lacking only "The Two Noble Kinsmen") Yale Shakespeare, adorable tiny faded blue clothbound editions of the plays and poems edited in the 30s. It's fun to see what earlier editors have done without explanation, but of course more fun to fill my mammoth floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. Now my students will think I'm smart and educated.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

RSA Annual Venting

This was quite possibly the poorest organized RSA conference I have ever attended. I was stuck out in the boonies near the Miami airport in one of two "overflow" hotels that somehow cost more than the rooms in the conference hotel, despite being farther away and very close to a major highway not to mention low flying planes. I may have depleted my cash supply in my current checking account simply to pay for the cab rides back and forth to the conference, and this even includes cab rides split between two and three people.

Then there was the difficulty of getting to the beach, the ash-strewn South Beach (or so I heard-- I never actually managed to see it) populated by loud, hormonally challenged undergraduates.

Yes, there was good food to be had in South Beach. There were also beautiful Art Deco hotels. And $12 mojitos, which were good, but not $12 good. It was also ridiculously noisy. Maybe I'm just getting too old for that sort of thing, but half the time I could barely hear what my friends were saying.

Most of my gripes have already been stated with more panache by my colleagues (collblogs?) over at Blogging the Renaissance, so I won't prolong the vent.

But I will say this: We Renaissance scholars are not generally a bunch of complainers. We usually neither cant nor rant. Ok, we do a lot of both, but when we go to conferences, we like to forget about all we have to cant and rant about. We like to stimulate our minds, share our work, and enjoy good food, good company, and good wine.

Most of us, when provided with some basic comforts, find this relatively easy to do. This year it was much more difficult. Because of this, I would like to propose that some changes be made for the safety of future RSA conferences:

1. Don't name panels silly things like "Perspectives on English Literature IV" and "New Technologies and Renaissance Studies I, II, III, IV and V: Exploring the online Archive"

2. Don't stick Stephen Greenblatt's panel in a tiny side room that seats 10.

3. Don't make us pay $3 for crappy Starbucks coffee and $1 for a teaspoon-sized muffin.

4. Don't make it impossible for us to print out our papers without paying $5 to use your crappy computers in the business center. Don't cut off my internet connection every three minutes, crappy airport hotel! I'm trying to write!

Needless to say, I doubt I'll be at RSA next year in Chicago and I'm sure SAA in San Diego can only be loads more fun. Or at least loads more comfortable. At least I think it may be so in Denmark . . .

Despite the monumentally crappy organization of this conference it was still nice to see my dearest scholarly friends and to make new ones. And I met those I'd wanted to meet, who turned out to be generous and kind and silly and fun. And I may have solved a little mystery I wondered about.

So it really wasn't so terrible. But 50% of the time, I really rather would have been at home with my cat.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Spring Break Woo-Hoo

It's "Spring Break Woo-Hoo!" The campus has entirely emptied out, and I've got plans for a much needed drink with three of my gal pals this evening.

So why am I still here, you might ask.

Well, my friends, I am still here because I have thirty Shakespeare midterms to grade and another thirty revised first papers to mark from my writing seminar. Those I don't have to return immediately after spring break, but I don't want them hanging over my head.

Yes, I am that good. I will stay in my office until all of the midterms are graded and most of the papers are re-marked. Then I will go out with my friends. Then I will go home and sleep, getting ready for The Big House Clean. I am soooooo good. Then I will have a visitor from the Great White North for a whole week when it will finally be "Spring Break Woo-Hoo." We plan to sample off-the-beaten-path barbecue, wander around the artsy-fartsy, hippie-dippie mountain town, and partake of that oh-so-forgotten-American-diversion, the drive-in.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Once More unto the Thirties

31 today. Officially into the Thirties. And a prime number. That has to be worth something.

It's been a good birthday. I don't know if it's because 1) I'm an only child with parents who miraculously are still together, 2) I'm just ridiculously optimistic sometimes against all odds, or 3) I'm self-centered and spoiled (refer back to 1) but in 31 years I've never had a bad birthday. Kinne hurra.

Today has been no exception. The wind and the rain raged last night, turning off the power and causing some trees to fall. But I awoke this morning to a cloudless blue sky and the sun glinting off tree branches laden with buds almost ready to open.

It is also Saffron's birthday today- she's 5. We celebrated at breakfast: I had a cupcake; she had salmon flavored hairball remedy.

In addition to Saffron, two of my closest friends share my birthday and one of them is my evil twin. We were born half an hour and 1500 miles apart on the 2nd of March, 1976. Both friends are brits and oxonians. Happy Birthday, you two! Maybe some day we'll spend our birthday drinking one another under the table in a pub in Jericho. I'll lose.

When I got to work and turned on my computer today I received another unexpected birthday gift: a letter from the university president. And no, I am not being sarcastic, which I normally would be. There is to be a salary increase. Remarkably, it will affect me, and may indeed be more than 10%:

"With regard to faculty increases, we must consider carefully those in the assistant professor ranks, where the greatest salary disparity exists between us and a group of peer institutions. I have encouraged the Dean to give special consideration to those departments whose salaries lag furthest from their peers at other institutions."

Yay, yay, YAY!