Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Mark it Zero

So, as I've mentioned before, I tended to avoid blogging about teaching (because I think it's boring to write/read about, and also because there was some vague chance that my students could have looked me up on Facebook, and seen the link to the blog there, and then found themselves reading about my own reflections about teaching, which, while I appreciate the notion of transparency in ones methods, at the same time I don't want to be that transparent). That being said, I did wind up with one teacherly thing left at the very end of my semester that seems interesting enough to blog about.

I had one student who earned a 'D' for the class. She missed nearly 40% of the class and earned 'C's on all four of her major essays - that combination led to the 'D' final grade (though the very high number of absences qualified her for an automatic 'F' as well). I met with her one final time after classes had ended to return her final portfolio to her (an option that she and only 2 other students took me up on). Of course, she was dismayed at finding out that she had done so poorly, and proceeded to appeal to me to please give her a passing grade. Without getting into the details, she basically explained to me that my failing her (anything C- or lower is a failing grade for the class I taught) would ruin her life. I was flabbergasted, and after telling her that I was not going to make any decision right there and then, proceeded to embark upon discussions of her case with several trusted friends and family members.

The student initially thought I was blowing her off - accused me of telling her that I would think about it only in order to not think about it. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, several of the discussions I had with my friends turned out to be really interesting in their own rights (hence the point of the blog, coming up now). Conversations diverged into more general discussions of the difference between ethics and morals (which got intense enough as to fall into another of my no-blog-zone categories: "just because Pete thinks theory is interesting doesn't mean that any readers of the blog do"), another about the overall legitimacy of treating grading schemas as concrete and translatable across venues, and a couple of practical solutions as well. In one conversation, with my good friend Brett, an amazing analogy was spun (and a reminder here that I come from a social background wherein references to The Big Lebowski are essential and always a great thing (I have gotten calls from other friends before just reporting to me some amazing utilization of an obscure Lebowski reference)):

There's a scene early on in The Big Lebowski, during the only league game that we see The Dude, Walter, and Donny participating in, where Walter, arriving late to the game (due to having to take care of his ex-wife's Pomeranian (it has fucking papers)), and embarking upon a conversation with the Dude about the recent injustice wrought upon the Dude's carpet, notices that one of their opponents, Smokey, steps over the line on one of his throws ("OVER THE LINE!"). Smokey appeals to The Dude that he wasn't over and that The Dude should mark his score as 8. Walter, a Vietnam veteran, is outraged, for a league game, in fact, is not Vietnam; there are rules [in league bowling games], and strongly encourages Dude to "mark it zero." The Dude wants to forgive Smoky - "so his toe slipped over a little, it's just a game." Walter reminds Dude that it's a league game, and when he still finds his argument falling on deaf ears, pulls out a gun, cocks it, and puts it to Smokey's head, forcing Smokey to mark it zero.

So, in my situation, my student is Smokey. She has, as it were, let her toe slip over the line by missing so many classes and bombing her homework and participation grades. I am in the role of the other two, caught between being both the Walter that believes in the rules that were established in my class, and a believer in the import of following those rules (an ethicist, as it were), and also The Dude, who (and this is important), although he also admits that Smokey's toe slipped over the line (there is never any question that my student did not initially earn her failing grade), feels that Smokey can be forgiven (The Dude, in this case, is a moralist). So when I hear my student's appeals to give her a passing grade (Smokey saying "Yeah, but I wasn't over."), do I go ahead and mark it 8, or pull my piece out on the lane (sending my student into the "world of pain" of failing ENC 1101)?

Of course the analogy, as perfect and apt as it is, fails to provide insight into a practical solution, but it is a tour de force (if I do say so myself) of Lebowski referencing. In the end, once my thinking stopped being so uptight about the situation (and with practical advice from other sources), I offered my student a chance to rewrite her final paper for a better grade, thus demonstrating to me that she learned what she needed to, which she accepted. (She just sent me her re-written paper, which is actually quite strong, so I'm very comfortable giving her a passing grade now).

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Just Wasn't Happening

On another note, one of the perks of being in the eastern hemisphere is that it's a little easier not to pay any attention to how the Pirates are doing, though Mike would check scores and we'd chat bitterly about it now and then. There's not much to say, really. It's a good thing the Pirates only have to play baseball; if they had to do something like run a water treatment facility, say, some people would really be screwed.

But look, you get home again and suddenly there's news: the Matt Morris era has ended. I guess if you're going to spend $10 million on Matt Morris, you may as well give yourself the pleasure of kicking Matt Morris off the team. It sounds like a sensible move to me. A quick economic analysis would immediately write off the Matt Morris situation as a clear case of a sunk cost. (A fuller economic analysis would require the application of quite a bit of complexly graphic profanity.)

It's really too bad I'm not interested in pro hockey instead, considering how the Penguins are playing. Steelers-wise, meanwhile, I'm happy to leave it to the front office whether they actually need to draft any offensive linemen, as long as they pick up some players who aren't in the habit of beating up on their girlfriends in the off-season.

Back from Beijing

View from front window of apartment, 4/27/08
Greetings from scenic New Haven, Connecticut, where the air is cool and unpolluted and spring has been arriving in my absence. I had a pretty great time in Beijing (and, last weekend, in Shanghai) with Mike. I'll write more about it down the line.

I think my advance expectation about the city was that it'd be like Canal Street in New York, only huge, so I was relieved that it wasn't as overwhelming as I expected. You can fake your way through most of your solitary-tourist agenda without speaking Mandarin: there's a fair amount of ambient English (street signs, subway stop announcements, menus) and it's never hard to find public toilets or places to buy bottled water. Usually I was on my own from morning till late afternoon, and then I'd meet up with Mike for the evening.

I may be ruined for editing, although I guess I'll find out tomorrow. For two weeks I've been gratefully gobbling up scraps of much-needed English without worrying about how well articulated it is. I think ultimately this is a healthier existence.

The plan for Sunday: (1) Have an iced coffee and a scone in a coffee shop while picking through the two issues of the New Yorker that arrived while I was gone (done); (2) Laundry (partly done); (3) Take it easy and idly wonder at what point today my brain waves inevitably go totally out of whack.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Wall Wandering

So I'm hanging out in Mike's room at his homestay just now, and he did a double-take when I plugged in our blog address and it opened up on his computer. Apparently Blogger is working in China now, as is the BBC website and Wikipedia. Cool beans! The obvious explanation for this is that my traveling here has produced a sunrise of expressive freedom.

I'll write more when I get back. Mostly I'm proving to Mike that Blogger is actually working I did walk along the Great Wall today, which gives you a neat "Hey, how about this" feeling. Still haven't had my Peking opera or duck, but I've got three whole days left.

* * * * *

Updated with picture 4/27. I got another tourist to take a couple of these for me. This is at the Mutianyu section of the wall (there are several different restored sections) about 90 kilometers north of Beijing. That blue sky in the background represents remarkably good weather for the area, by the way, literally about as good as it gets there.

I did get my Peking opera and duck before I left, on Wednesday and Friday night, respectively.

Bloggoversary Deux!

It hasn't arrived here in Pacific Time yet, but let me be the first to congratulate us on the second anniversary of this our blog. Two years already! Time flies when you're frittering away the best years of your youth on modest professional efforts and wan, quasi-intellectual pursuits.

Anyway, that's enough Internet for one day for me.

Further Notable Shostakwotables

More remarks by Shostakovich excerpted by Laurel Fay that have stuck with me since I read her fine biography of the composer. These come from some pre-performance words about the dark tone of his Fourteenth Symphony, which sets a number of disparate poems on the subject of death:
It is not because I am rather old and not because -- as an artilleryman would put it -- shells are bursting all around me and I am losing my friends and relatives. I should like to recall the words of that remarkable Soviet writer Ostrovsky, who said that life is given to us only once, so we should live it honestly and handsomely in all respects and never commit base acts. In part, I am trying to polemicize with the great classics who touched upon the theme of death in their work. Remember the death of Boris Godunov. When Boris Godunov has died, a kind of brightening sets in. Remember Verdi's Otello. When the whole tragedy ends and Desdemona and Otello die, we also experience a beauteous serenity. Remember Aida. When the tragic demise of the hero and heroine occurs, it is assuaged by radiant music. I think that even among our contemporaries ... take for instance the outstanding English composer, Benjamin Britten. I would also fault him in his War Requiem....

It seems to me that all this stems from various kinds of religious teachings that have suggested that as bad as life might be, when you die everything will be fine; what awaits you there is absolute peace. So it seems to me that perhaps, in part, I am following in the footsteps of the great Russian composer Musorgsky. His cycle Songs and Dances of Death -- maybe not all of it, but at least "The Field Marshal" -- is a great protest against death and a reminder to live one's life honestly, nobly, decently, never committing base acts.... [Death] awaits all of us. I don't see anything good about such an end to our lives and this is what I am trying to convey in this work.
Some of the fanboyish gleam has come off of my Shostakovich boosterism since my teenage years but I can still say without qualification that D.D.S. is my favorite atheist composer. Much of why I've been able to maintain a deep interest in his music -- and become increasingly partial to his later vocal and chamber music -- is that his ideas mortality maps closely onto what turned out to be my own thoughts on the subject, at least through my twenties: Great value in the works of one's life, not so much in death.

Monday, April 21, 2008

State o' the Nate

Kyle and Nate at Council Crest, originally uploaded by nateborr.

This picture of Kyle and me was taken two weekends ago by a kindly passerby at the park atop Council Crest, overlooking Portland. At least four mountains (Hood, Adams, St. Helens, Rainier) were visible from there but none made it into the background of this snapshot, even as the tiny white blobs that mountains show up as in such photos. Kyle and I hiked up there since it was the first outright gorgeous day of the year, sunny and warm. Since then it's been mostly cold and rainy with a fair amount of hail mixed in.

Despite blog silence my life has been humming interestingly (if mildly) along, weekdays at work interlaced with sitting in the audience at a couple of concerts or lectures, cooking large batches of reheatable food, and other activities that hanging out with the girlfriend is conducive to. I've also been tearing through a lot of short, smooth-readin' fiction (H.P. Lovecraft, Willa Cather, Kurt Vonnegut) that's easy to process on a bus. Other literary activities include attempting to work out the contents of a box of books that the parents tried to ship from Pittsburgh to here, but which apparently only exists as a fragment of label and/or postage somewhere within the bowels of the Postal Service. Nothing of sentimental value there, though, unless you count the Bible that Mike was issued in Sunday school (I don't).

Details on all this eventually, perhaps. At the moment I'm more-or-less freshly home from work and I should probably feed myself. Up until today at my job I got to singly occupy an executive-like office due to an overall lack of space; as of this morning, though, I've been relocated to a "war room" (read: "conference room no longer usable for conferences, since there's programmers in it") in part because there's an actual executive on the premises that needs an office now. The bus ride home was awfully slow, too, since the Morrison Bridge was closed for reasons I haven't attempted to learn yet. I could have hopped off downtown and walked home in less time, but I figured it's cold outside and I should just read Slaughterhouse-Five for an extra thirty or forty minutes. So it goes.

Friday, April 18, 2008

There Must Be a Horse in Here Somewhere

As mentioned yesterday, I collected my students' final portfolios this morning. Once my roster settled at the beginning of the semester I had 16 students. After the final add/drop date (mid-March) I was down to 10. Of those 10, 3 stopped attending class, opting to fail despite having missed the chance to drop. So I only have 7 papers to grade, which isn't so bad. And I like the students that I had left at the end of the semester. They all liked me too, and seem to think that I was a good teacher (based on a survey my department conducted that I got to read some of the answers too). Of my 7 students, unless their final papers are wildly against my expectations, 1 will get an F, 2 will get Cs, 3 will get Bs, and 1 will get an A.

At some point in my pedagogy class back in the Fall semester, we were warned against grading on a bell curve, since "with small sample sizes such as [my class], bell curves will be neither natural nor expected." Oops.

Part of their final portfolio project was to write me a letter which reflected on their experience their semester. Some of them took this letter as an opportunity to compliment me, presumably to give their final grades some last minute bolstering. Here are some highlights of the praise which was heaped upon me:

"I thought my grade in [that essay] was going to be higher so I was a little disappointed but I know your grading is fair, that's why I never complain about it."

"It's nice to see people that adore their careers as much as you do because it makes me appreciate more my career."

"I want to thank you for all the effort and dedication that you gave me during the semester. That shows a lot the kind of person and professor [sic] you are."

So there it is. Small student-to-teacher ratios are good, if for nothing else then for the ego of the teacher.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Shuffling Around with a Stunned Look on My Face

With my cold mostly abated (having run down into a lingering (though persistent) cough) and the semester just that much more finished (the program had its final reading tonight), there's a definite feeling of completion now. Pretty amazing that I've already been in grad school for a whole year. I collect the papers from my students tomorrow morning, and once I have those graded I'll be completely done. I've avoided blogging too much about actually teaching, but I may post something once I'm totally finished reflecting on that whole thing.

Until then, refusing to be an Atlas-that-shrugs, here I am again, shouldering the burden of Of Mild Interest. In other mildly interesting news, I just broke my two-month abstinence from coffee this week. I hadn't had any coffee since Feburary 17th until this past Monday (what with the cold and it being the end of the semester, I just had to drink it). I gotta say - coffee is delicious and wonderful. And it's great to be back in a state where coffee does what it should (that is, keep me awake all morning (I had been drinking way too much of it initially during the semester, having to teach at 8 AM three days a week)).

I was recently watching the DVD compilation of some short films by David Lynch (which is interesting-but-not-that-interesting (though I did manage to watch "The Frenchman and The Cowboy" the whole way through this time through the DVD, which was a first (if there was a website where you could paint a virtual wall and then watch it dry I would hyperlink to it with the title of the film))), and was rather surprised to see that on the Eraserhead (filmic home of the best haircut of all time) precursor "The Grandmother" the famous poet C.K. Williams (who I saw read in Palm Beach back in January) was an "assitant script consultant." Especially weird since there isn't any talking as such in the film - the parents just bark like dogs the whole time. If I was a better blogger I would, like, do some research on the topic, but I'm not. I guess it could also be some other random dude who was also named C.K. Williams. I am curious, though, as to what relationship Lynch and Williams had, since they're both important figures in contemporary American art.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

His Science is Too Tight!

I've been waiting for a couple weeks now to post about this to make sure it's legitimate, but I think it's safe to blogify it now: Science, once again, has defeated Superstition. As you may recall, I had a spate of bad luck earlier this year with my bicycle that was directly tied to my blogging about (or rather, thinking about blogging about) my lack of bicycle troubles. My jinx, I had hoped, though, wore itself out after multiple catastrophic bicycle failures and one pulled-but-never-fired firearm. My resolutions after the incidents in question were two: 1) To never, ever, go back to the bike shop again (not so much for the potential gun violence but the fact that they at some point got into the habit of shamelessly fleecing me on repair charges) and 2) To never, ever, blog about, or even think about blogging about me and my bicycles.

"But Pete!" you might charge, "You're blogging about bicycles right now! Surely, then, you also thought about blogging about it too! Isn't that dangerous?"

Well, you're right, I am blogging about bicycles right now. Why would I once again so brazenly tempt the rear-wheel-destroying fates? A couple of weeks ago, I bought one of those new-fangled self-sealing inner tubes for my oft-popped front tire (this is on the hybrid), and it seems to be the real thing! I haven't had to so much as refill it with air, let alone replace it entirely (which was happening on a bi-weekly basis for the time since the initial front-tire jinxing had occurred). Thus my newly regained comfort in blogging about bicycling. Hurrah!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

One Man Show

So with (Prester) Jack off in the mystical Orient and Nate continuing his mystical Blog-silence, it seems to have fallen to me to keep Of Mild Interest going until Jack gets back and/or Nate gets over himself long enough to post something. But I have a cold; officially, I think, the first time I've been sick since moving to Miami. It sucks having a cold in Miami. The weather is beautiful. It's also the last week of the semester, which complicates things further. My portfolio is due at 5 PM this evening. I just turned in a 15 page paper on "Accidents of Consciousness: The Separation of Poet from Poem [ in modern American poetry]" yesterday. So blogging, a bit of a lower priority.

But stay tuned! I am committed to keeping things mildly interesting here!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

West to the East

This is going to be a kind of perfunctory post, but: yeah, I'm flying to Beijing on Saturday afternoon, to visit Mike for two weeks. (I arrive on Sunday afternoon, of course, due to the international date hotline.) Pictures and anecdotes will be forthcoming, although I'm not sure whether that'll be during or after the trip.

I'm looking forward to seeing Mike, and to take advantage of his local Chinese knowhow. Like I understand he knows this really great wall in the neighborhood.

Nate, I'll totally send you your birthday present when I'm back. It's been bumped down my to-do list, below "pack" and "no, seriously, pack now."

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Dept. of Self-Improvement, Part III

Seeing both of my older brothers writing about self-improvement reminds me of one of the most common stories I tell about being my older brothers' younger brother. This is back when I was 4-going-on-5 and they were 7 (somewhere in the early summer months after their birthday but before mine). My older brothers, being who they were (and are), had decided to ship off to Math Camp for a week, leaving me with a pretty major responsibility: cutting out the week's worth of Garfield comic strips and placing them in the Garfield scrapbook that the two had been maintaining for some time by then. They had initially asked our mother to cut out the comics for them, but she very quickly delegated the task to me. Nate and Jack, in addition to being precocious solar-powered calculator wranglers, were also preternatural experts in the ways of cutting things out in incredibly straight lines. I, sadly, was not, and Nate & Jack returned home after the week of nerds-in-the-woods-ing to a week's worth of badly mangled Garfield cartoon strips.

In the blog's current spirit of self-improvement, I would like to announce that, now that I am 25-going-on-26, I think were I to have to cut out a week's worth of Garfield strips for the twins now, I would do a damn good job. Although my lack of improvement re: handwriting has been well documented here, I would like to proclaim that my scissor skills are comfortably at an adult level. I bet I could even make the ends of the ribbon on a gift-wrapped package curlicue.

Additionally, it has also been noticed on this blog before, that the internet (which unanimously agrees that Garfield is not only terrible but evil), provides delightful ways to improve Garfield. The site Garfield minus Garfield, as well, does a bang-up job (simply by removing Garfield from the strips entirely) of self-improving Garfield on Jon Davis's behalf.

Strip from Garfield minus Garfield.

Dept. of Self-Improvement, Cont'd.

While we're talking about self-improvement and authorship I won't stop myself from sharing part of an unsent letter by Shostakovich -- excerpted in Laurel Fay's fine and deeply sensible biography of the composer, which I just finally got around to reading -- in which he defends the poetry of Yevgeny Yevtushenko (apparently against charges of being too moralizing) and, as Fay notes, says something about the motivations behind his 13th Symphony as well:

You don't like it that he collared you and preaches what you know: "Don't steal honey," "Don't lie," etc. I also know that one shouldn't behave that way. And I try not to. However, it doesn't bore me to hear it over and over again. Perhaps Christ said it better, probably even best of all. But that doesn't deprive Pushkin, Lev Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Chekhov, J.S. Bach, Mahler, Musorgsky, and many others of the right to speak about it. Moreover, I believe they have an obligation to speak about it, as does Yevtushenko....

Every morning, instead of morning prayers, I reread – well, recite from memory – two poems by Yevtushenko, "Boots" and "A Career." "Boots" is conscience. "A Career" is morality. One should not be deprived of conscience. To lose conscience is to lose everything.

"A Career" is the text Shostakovich sets in the final movement of the 13th, which is more expressive on the subject of compromise in art and in life than anything else I'm aware of.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Dept. of Self-Improvement

I like this quote from Junot Diaz, the writer who won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for fiction:
Mr. Diaz said he kicked around the idea for his first novel for about four years and then spent seven years writing it. β€œIn some ways I think that this book waited for me to become a better person before it wrote itself,” he said.
This line of thinking holds hope for us all, after our own modest fashions. For example, in some ways I think that my kitchen has been waiting for me to become a better person before it cleans itself. Unfortunately I don't think there's a Pulitzer waiting for me after that, unless they come up with a Pulitzer Prize for There Not Being Crud on the Stove.

Meanwhile, the music Pulitzer went to David Lang for an extended vocal quartet after Hans Christian Andersen, "The Little Match Girl Passion"; as Justin Davidson notes you can listen to it online via Carnegie Hall, which commissioned the piece.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Miami Livin': Baseball Edition

Capping off a generally slow and uneventful week (the only other thing it occurred to me to post was another mini-anecdote about the grocery store (which seems entirely inappropriate (I guess it took me a long time to get over quitting French horn, I suppose it will also take a long time (proportionally) to get over quitting grocery clerking))), I went to the Pirates/Marlins game last night at Dolphin Stadium with my friend Dave. Dave had initially balked at my suggestion of going to the game (a native Chicagoan (Sox fan), he was not thrilled to make his first game of the year one between a bad, but young team with lots of promise (Marlins) and a terrible team with only a sliver of hope of maybe showing some promise in 3 or 4 years (Pirates), but he acquiesced once the usual North Miami boredom set in for the weekend.

Going to a Marlins game is definitely a unique experience. Dolphin Stadium is out in the middle of nowhere (actually pretty close to where I live), a few miles west of Hollywood (the first municipality north of Miami-Dade county). I can't recall ever being to a stadium before (outside of minor league baseball games) where the stadium was so far removed from an urban setting. Parking was only 10 bucks though, so it could have been worse. It actually looks like it'd be an excellent place to watch a football game. For baseball, though, it makes the field a bit distance, and with the small crowd (very small) that was there, it made the stadium feel cavernous and empty. Apparently, not even the promise of a post-game concert by Bret Michaels of Poison was enough to draw in any extra thousands.

Especially with so many empty seats, Dolphin Stadium is rather unpleasant to look at - the color scheme of the seats is primarily all tangerine orange with a band of teal seats running through the middle, definitely a step or two too bright. There's plenty of people watching to be done, perhaps most noticeably the 30-something dumpy white men pulling around their heavily plastic-surgered women around the stadium by the hand (and one incident of the same kind of dude leading around a terrifyingly anorexic woman with no body mass and fake boobs (it really should be illegal - the relationship between the two was unclear, but the man should have had to wear a t-shirt that said something like "I am actively working to make this woman's life better." or something)).

As for the game itself, if there was any question lingering in the minds of the readers of this blog that maintain even a passing (mild) interest in the Pittsburgh Pirates as to how they're going to be this year, let it be known: they are fucking terrible. Like, uncomfortable to watch bad. Granted, both Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez were sitting due to injuries, so our team was that much worse than normal (only the Pirates would miss a shortstop like Jack Wilson), but still, it's hard to believe they're a Major League team. Adam LaRoche, continuing his April doldrums (he had two hits in the opener on March 31st and has had none since) looked like a lost child at the plate and also had a fielding error. Maholm didn't look terrible on the mound - he struck out a bunch of batters, but he gave up a first inning home-run to Hanley Ramirez, and then a few innings later decided to plunk Ramirez (an incredibly obvious hit-by-pitch) to load the bases and then promptly gave up a Grand Slam, which got him pulled from the game before the 5th inning was complete (and for the record, that means that no Pirates starter, in the first go-round of the rotation, got past the fifth inning (said our manager after Morris' outing on Friday, (something like) "He managed to keep us in the game for five innings, and that's all we can expect of him.")) Gah.

Dave and I went ahead and stuck around after the game for the Bret Michaels concert, which was worth it for the novelty of it alone. Apparently, Michaels has a TV-show on VH-1 where various women compete for his "love." He thanked the crowd for "making his show the highest rated program in VH-1 history," which I suppose is quite a feat? We left after the 4th song or so, just after a rather amusingly terrible cover of "Sweet Home Alabama," where Bret Michaels, did, in fact, switch the words towards the end to "Sweet Home South Florida," which really meant a lot to me, as a South Florida resident, and just before the song which was being "sent out to all our men and all our women overseas fighting for our freedom." Between every song Bret Michaels of Poison thanked everyone for coming out and let us know that the whole evening was about partying and having a celebration. A celebration it was, both during the game and after; a celebration of trying really hard but not quite getting to mediocre.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


I'm too busy to actually write much of anything this week, but I wanted to make sure you had the opportunity to amuse yourself with the university carillonneurs' guild's online carillon. It's not nearly as entertaining as the real thing, but, whatever, that's a tall order.

I'm going to be in Boston this weekend, ending a ridiculous 11-month stretch of not having bothered to go up there. Amtrak had better get me there on time, since I went through the trouble of planning a Friday night out with some college friends. Also on the agenda is hitting a climbing wall with Al, on Saturday morning.

Let's hear it for trying to cram more activity into early April than it will accommodate. I keep losing track of what week it is, and now and then it occurs to me that I should probably remember to do my taxes.

Oh, also, I've got a Skype account now, but this probably isn't incredibly useful information to anyone because I still hate talking on the phone and thus will basically avoid it whenever possible.