I was very exciting when I arrived on campus this morning to see that Carleton is immediately starting to put up a new building, the William H. Sallmon Administrative Building. As President Oden says in the video announcement of the project, the building will be devoted to offices for Carleton’s large and growing administrative staff. In other words, me! Thank god. I need a new office, with room for a sofa and, I hope, a nice view.
Note the heavy machinery in place to start construction right away this morning.
A more legible close up of the sign.
Julia is semi-obsessed with the cafeteria at her elementary school. More than once in the past week, we’ve had to look up the menu on the school website and talk about all the options. And since Julia is Julia, this has led to art: a drawing of kids getting their food. It’s pretty accurate. You can almost smell “Big Daddy’s Pizza.” (Click through for notes.)
One of my favorite things about working on a college campus is the everydayness of the weirdness: the cross-country team screaming out the names of the buildings they’re passing, streakers, “beard auctions,” cryptic chalk messages on the sidewalks, kids playing Quidditch on the soccer fields, oversized plastic letters in the trees out front of my building. You can’t spell “another day of work” without W-T-F.
On Facebook the other day, I read a rather brilliant post by a rather brilliant member of the faculty in which she described trying to choose a “theme” for 2010 – the “theme” being a more general but still effective way to focus one’s energy than the usual set of resolutions. I’d been toying with a short list of resolutions, but honestly they’ve lost their charm. Read more fiction? Do one drawing a day? Be more patient with the girls? All (and suchlike) are less things that merit some sort of firm “resolution” and more like things I ought to do just to be a decent person.
But a theme! This, I could get behind. I mused about her examples (and several examples offered by others who had adopted similar “themes”) and about a possible theme for my own 2010. Then, this afternoon, a lightning bolt leapt from the radio while I was listening to “Car Talk” and struck me in the head: “monotasking” – defined online as “the carrying out of one task at a time; single-tasking.” Inevitably, there are zillions of resources on the web about monotasking, such as “6 Reasons Monotasking Will Help You Get More Done Than Multitasking,” some of which I’ll peruse (one at a time).
This afternoon’s epiphany perfectly complements a line from a novel that I have been repeating in my head since reading it: “Now we’re doing what we’re doing now” (uttered [as it happens] by the cold-blooded criminal Parker, in Richard Stark’s thriller Firebreak). I hope this mantra helps me do a bunch of good things: focusing on the girls when I’m with them (even if they’re each doing and wanting something different), taking up and completing discrete tasks on the job(s), checking Facebook and Twitter and email less frequently, enjoying a meal in its own right rather than a chance to read something and email and eat simultaneously. I might even be able to go several consecutive wakeful hours without using my iPod Touch.
Beyond those rewards, though, I also hope that monotasking will help me feel less pulled-apart and frazzled and frayed and disgruntled and dissatisfied – adjectives that certainly applied to 2009. Now I’m doing what I’m doing now. Next I’ll do something else.
Julia’s kindergarten class had its “winter sing” today. It was wonderful – funny and cute and all that. Julia obviously enjoyed herself. Here, she’s following her teacher’s lead in doing the gestures for one song.
I grinned all day, watching the snow come down and build up. Five to eight more inches overnight, they’re saying (and I’m hoping). That’ll be skiable, whereas today’s accumulation was still bikable.
Those teachers at Sibley Elementary are smuggling all kinds of science into kindergarten. This week, Julia has had three days of science – using various kinds of lenses on Tuesday, experimenting with magnets on Wednesday, and measuring objects today.
Not to say that all of this is having its intended effect or anything, but today at breakfast, Julia told me that when she grows up she wants to become an “outside scientist.” And a famous painter, and the co-owner (with Genevieve) of an ice cream shop, which they’ll brilliantly name the “Tassava Sisters Ice Cream Shop.” That’s a license to print money, which they can then use on their painting and outside science.
Anyhow, the best parts of the science days so far have been the worksheets – or can I call them “lab reports”? On Tuesday, she brought home a list of “observing tools” she’d used:
- magnafid glas
- banokyl [binoculars]
On Wednesday, she brought home a list of things which stuck to the various magnets:
and a list of things that didn’t:
Today, she used special “inch blocks” to measure various objects:
- plain [a toy airplane]
While this preliminary work is, indeed, quite promising, I would recommend that the investigator work closely with a proofreader and assessment expert as she makes plans to extend this pilot project.
Today was the day when the last few students – the ones who couldn’t figure out how to take their exams earlier, mostly – went home for Carleton’s long Winter Recess, which runs all the way until January 2. Most of the students won’t be back until January, which will be okay, next week, when the janitors will have had a few days to clean up and, with any luck, we will have some snow to cover the wet, sticky leaves.
Today, though, it was just depressing to see campus empty out. The gray sky and 99% humidity didn’t help, but it was mostly the people. Many faculty and quite a few staff – like the librarians – looked almost as worn out as the students, who were even more haggard and ill-kempt than usual. Even the noontime buzz at the snack bar was subdued – a downer rather than the usual upper. The thousands of just-returned books at the library’s circulation desk looked like flotsam, and the lone student worker who was trying to check them all back in looked like a man lost at sea, or at least an underpaid factotum. My bike missed all the chums that are usually locked to the rack out front of my building.
Perhaps the most significant sign of the shift from full-on Fall Term madness to hollowed-out Winter Recess sedation was the number of couples whom I saw walking around hand-in-hand. For whatever reason – college culture? generational changes? H1N1? – it’s rare to see two students holding hands, but today I saw quite a few couples walking slowly from place to place, staving off the six weeks of separation with a few more minutes of interlocked fingers.
1. Sitting in the tub waiting to get washed up the other day, she looked at the shampoo bottle and asked, “What does ‘h-y-p-o-a-l-l-e-r-g-e-n-i-c’ spell?” When I told her and tried to explain what the word meant, she nodded calmly. A few minutes later, as she was using the kids’ body wash, she asked, with perfect pronunciation, “So, is this body wash hypoallergenic? It seems like it must be, since it doesn’t bother my skin.” Dermatology: the hot new kindergarten subject.
2. Telling me about an art project at kindergarten, she said that a friend of hers had tried to draw a unicorn. I commented that drawing a unicorn sounded kinda difficult, but Julia said, “Well, she did something funny: she just took her shirt off and put it on our table and drew the unicorn that was on her shirt.” My eyes goggled. “But it was okay because she had another shirt on underneath the unicorn shirt.” Whew.
3. Trying to write a note to her mom, she carefully spelled out several words, then stopped. “How to you spell ‘essay’? Oh, wait, no, don’t tell me! That’s easy! It’s just s-a!” I had to laugh at that one. She was disappointed that the “real word” had so many extra letters in it.
Vivi – no doubt with some, but not much, help from her teachers – made this wonderful little piece of autumn art at preschool last week. What’s not to love? (It reminds me strongly of the Chicago skyline, which makes it all the better.)
Those public schools just won’t stop with the indoctrinatin’. First, they subverted American schoolkids’ liberty by making them watch the president on TV, and now they’re forcing my daughter to learn 19th-century notions of sanitation and hygiene. What next? Math?
On the plus side, I think that this “book” (as Julia calls it) suggests that Julia can look forward to a career in medical illustration. Or horror-movie director. “The GERMS! They’re on my HANDS!”
These days, pretty much everything Julia creates with paper and pencil (or crayon or marker…) makes me smile. Yesterday, Shannon brought home from a conference with Julia’s teacher a packet of materials that included this two-page assignment to try and write the word that goes with each picture. I’d say she did a good job. I especially like her takes on “elephant” and “xylophone.” That poor zebra, though – she thinks he’s a zero!
The girls are churning out some great art at school.
(Click here for the full-sized version or here for a version with annotations.)
(Click here for the full-sized version or here for a version with annotations.)
The Low show last night was great. In an obvious sop to the four people in the crowd who weren’t undergraduates, the band took the stage promptly at 10:30 and rocked out for most of an hour. They played both of my favorite songs – “California” and “When I Go Deaf” – along with a bunch of other stuff, some of which were pretty much just glorious waves of feedback. Alan Sparhawk, the excellently named lead singer (that’s more or less him above), gently teased the crowd, telling them, among other things, that they were probably in kindergarten when Low started out (in 1993 – which makes the math just about right), and that the song “Murderer” was an attempt to provide good advice to the “young ones.”
In between and during the music, pretty much everyone in the crowd talked nonstop. This was annoying when they were obscuring the lyrics (“When I Go Deaf” isn’t just a song, it’s my goddamn life!), but I did overhear some good stuff emerge from some of the best students in American liberal arts colleges (or at least those who hit Thursday-night rock shows):
- Dude in reversed baseball cap, talking to the girl next to him: “Jane Eyre is totally overrated. I haven’t even read it and I know it.”
- One woman, talking to another: “I’d rather, like, have, like, the shittiest job in California than, like, a really good job here.”
- Three guys, all in reversed baseball caps and, tellingly, St. Olaf t-shirts, greeting each other: “‘S’up, bro? ‘S’up, bro? ‘S’up, bro?”
- One girl, taking her leave after two songs (ca. 10:45): “I gotta go. I have the 11 to 1 shift.”