So Year 17 of my Mondoville career began this week, with a little more attendant scrambling than usual. Still, I have the urge to write, so here we are.
I have a weirdly unbalanced schedule this term. In the past, I would teach two classes on MWF and two on TTh, typically during the first two class sections of each day. This meant that typically, with office hours and such, I’d have my afternoons free for study and class prep. Normally the FroshComp sessions met on MWF, with the TTh’s reserved for my upper level courses.
But things have changed, accidentally in one way, deliberately in another. In several moments of absentmindedness, my chair assigned my upper-level class (History of the English Language, or “HotEL”) to the same MWF schedule that I use for Comp. I missed that myself, and by the time I realized what had happened, it was too late to fix it. This leaves me with three classes on MWF, and one freshpeep-level, interdisciplinary course (in my case on our old friends the Seven Deadly Sins) on TTh.
But it gets more complicated. In an effort to ease the transition of students from high school to college, our administration is employing a concept called the “Freshman Block” in scheduling classes. What it boils down to is that, while classes can be scheduled pretty much to start anytime between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m., classes dominated by frosh are restricted into a tighter window. In my case, that means that the 8 and 9 a.m. slots I typically used for Froshcomp are now verboten, Upper-level classes are still kosher at that time, and in fact, my HotEL class wound up in an 8 a.m. slot (although on MWF, instead of TTh, which means that I had to repace the syllabus.) Then when we add in the fact that classes are closed at 10 a.m. on Wednesdays for Chapel (attendance is not mandatory, but we make sure it’s the only game in town for that hour), that blows up the slot for normal MWF classes. Some 1- or 2-hr. courses (e.g., Phys Ed) meet at 10 on Mondays and/or Fridays, but that’s really the only thing that can be done with that timeslot.
Compounding matters, in the past, each professor typically used a particular classroom for all of his or her classes each term. But because now there are multiple sections of Froshcomp or Inquiry going on at the same time — Freshman block, again — folks have to move around. My four classes this term take place in three different rooms.
So this term, I have MWF classes at 8 (HotEL), 11, and 1 (both Froshcomp.) On TTh, I have a single class, meeting at 9:25 (Seven Deadlies, Frosh-level edition.) I’m also taking a new approach with a new textbook in the Froshcomp classes, so that’s a new experience as well. I realize this doesn’t qualify me for a sequel to Cool Hand Luke (“Shaking the syllabus, Boss!”), and for that matter, it beats selling tires and batteries, but having followed a more-or-less constant schedule for 16 years, it’s been a challenge getting my rhythm during this first week of classes. And on days like yesterday, when I had a 2:30-4:30 committee meeting, or Monday, when the monthly faculty meeting begins at 4, it makes for a long day. Again, it’s not grueling by anyone’s definition, but it’s going to take some adjustment.
Meanwhile, Lawrence and Lynne Block seem to have settled in next door without too much difficulty, although we’re still working on getting their cable hooked up, and he’s becoming a familiar presence on campus, whether in his office, in the campus fitness center, or in the cafeteria at lunchtime. It may have helped that on the first day in the fitness center, he challenged one of our offensive linemen to a knife fight, because that’s how one gets respect on the yard. (The preceding sentence may be entirely fictional.)
He was good enough to share the reading list for his upper-level class on “The Pleasures of Crime Fiction” in his newsletter, so if you want to follow along, you can find it here. Tonight a number of us from the college will be visiting a local BBQ joint (because a BBQ joint is always better than a BBQ restaurant), and the Blocks will be among us. So if you’re planning on visiting Wise’s Barbecue this evening, maybe you should bring a book to get it signed.
A little more realistically, I’m happy to remind you that I’ll be serving as interlocutor for “An Evening with Lawrence Block” at the lovely Newberry Opera House on 7 November, and that LB will be reading (along with a number of other folks, including Your Genial Host) at Newberry’s inaugural Noir at the Bar on Thursday, 10 October, at downtown Newberry’s resplendent Bar Figaro.
But wait, as they say — there’s more! Author and friend of the college (and the Prof) Danny Gardner will be making his own appearance at the Opera House on 24 October. He brought down the house last time he was in town, so you’ll want to see him this time as well.
And speaking of the writing life, I was pleased last night to finish booking my trip to Dallas for this year’s Bouchercon. I’ll let you know about my activities as soon as I’m entirely filled in on them, but as ever, I’m happy to see and talk to my brethren (and cistern) in crimefic. It’s always a wonderful time, and I hope to see you there.
In other news, the Spawn had her orientation to the grad school at UMD this past Monday, and her classes begin the day after tomorrow. She continues to enjoy her new environment, and we’re looking forward to her new adventure nearly as much as she is.
I’ll close with the traditional bit of music. Garage revival maven Ty Segall‘s side project Fuzz moves the calendar up a few pages, from 1966 to about 1969 or ’70, with a heavy psych, sludgy groove that will make you wonder if you accidentally got the brown acid. Definitely music to watch the walls melt by. From their 2015 album Fuzz II, this is “Let it Live.”
See you soon!