Observations on not blogging for a week:
Partly, I’ve been busy. There was my one-day trip to London last week, and I had another staff person’s teaching to cover, plus the usual beginning-of-year meetings and bureaucratica. Partly, now that Margaret and I are together, in one place, and not with anyone else around (our home), I’m quite happy to concentrate on communicating, watching movies, going out to the pub for drinks, and various other pastimes with her. “We have so much in common, we both love soup and snow peas, we love the outdoors, and talking and not talking. We could not talk or talk forever and still find things to not talk about.”
Part of that effect comes from being able, right away, to talk with her about things that come to my attention. When we were apart, or when we were preoccupied with divergent sets of responsibilities, it was simplest for me to just blog an idea or a perspective. That way, I didn’t lose it, and I didn’t have to try to remember it till we met again and had time to talk.
Having been blogging for nigh on to nine years, I’m reluctant to just stop — but the changes in the Blogarian ethos (the transition to microblogging formats such as Facebook and Twitter), the changes in my own online patterns of reading and participating, and my home life all occasion some reconsideration of what I do, digitally, and how I do it.
Anyway, I’m still here. I’m healthy and happy, very busy, and taking care of my new-immigrant beloved. It is, as they say, all good.
The advantage to leaving for work before 7:00 in the morning: you can cross Byres Road whenever you feel like it, regardless of the direction that the light favours.
The disadvantage: I just said, “before 7:00 in the morning.”
The advantage to lecturing on a topic outside your area of expertise because a colleague has flown off to a conference: you can catch up on a fascinating subject much controverted in the scholarly literature.
The disadvantage: Not much time for mastering, or even noticing, the nuances of the controverted subject.
The advantage to walking three-quarters of a mile to work in a Glasgow downpour: Nope, no advantages to this one.
The past two days have been very full, with classes starting (classes less thoroughly planned than I like), a variety of meetings and obligations and negotiations. Today I had two two-hour sessions scheduled, plus another hour that overlapped with one of my morning hours. Although it took me a while to get going, it all turned out OK, I think.
My current workload is not comparable to cotton picking or coal mining, so let’s not make too much of it. It’s not even comparable to that of plenty of other academic labourers. It’s good to get to the end of a complicated day, though, and to sense that the classes went well.
Today’s festivities in honour of my intellectual hero John Henry Newman provide not only an occasion to reflect on the nature of the university, the development of doctrine, biblical inspiration interpretation, friendship, and the authority of the papacy, but also to hunt for journalistic typos — one of the most common mistakes in reporting on ecclesiastical topics. Sure enough, the Collective Review reports that “ The main event of the Pope’s visit will be the Beautification of Cardinal John Henry Newman, a Victorian Catholic theologian revered by Anglicans and Catholics alike” (these links are ephemeral, since once these typos come to editorial attention, they’re often cleaned up). The Isle of Man issued a special stamp for the papal visit, and the Isle of Man Newsroom reports that “The commemorative cover marks the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Britain and the beautification of Cardinal John Henry Newman” (whoops, that one has already been fixed). FHR Travel Services say that “The Pope is due to visit the city on September 19th to beautify Cardinal John Henry Newman who died in the city in 1890.” On the whole, though, the major media outlets have handled their spelling responsibilities admirably.
The Theology/Religious Studies
Department subject area rejiggered its curriculum last year, including a whole new Bachelor of Divinity curriculum and new first- and second-year offerings in biblical studies and theology. Since I teach in both the BD and the regular Arts curricula, and since our new colleague won’t arrive till January to organise and teach in the second-year church history course (so that I’m covering early church history again, yay), this means I’m involved in four courses that have been put together new for this semester, most of them “new” as in “just thought up in the last week, or maybe not even yet.” Two of the courses in which I’m teaching conflict with each other. Monday is the first day of classes.
Oh, and I’m preaching Saturday in London. So on top of preparing for the four classes (I think) that I’ll meet this week, I should be writing a sermon. Heck, I should even be packing right about now, the way this coming week could shape up.
Margaret and I watched and listened to the Papal Mass yesterday — thank heaven, the weather treated Benedict XVI kindly — and I was pleased that he sent a blessing to those of us observing the service via teletransmission.
Margaret noted that he drew a big crowd to Bellahouston Park, but I noted that Celtic v Rangers draws more. Which led me to the guaranteed Papal Event to end all Papal Events: A Vatican v Church of Scotland football match, featuring only the highest-ranking ecclesiastical hierarchs. Would the Pope be a striker or goalkeeper? What if the Moderator of the Church of Scotland challenged him and he broke his leg? Neither side could afford to be seen to lose.
And then, after the match, the good peace-loving Christian football supporters could have an ecumenical riot to celebrate our unity in Christ.
In one of those delightful moments, a student who had come by this morning to talk about writing a dissertation (UK = “senior thesis” US). After we had spent the better part of an hour clarifying the point of the exercise, exploring the idea of having a clear rhetorical structure, distinguishing evidence from exposition, banishing padding from the prolegomena, and so on, my advisee emphatically observed, “That was more helpful than I expected it to be!”
Not every day you can assure yourself that you exceeded expectations. +1, me.
The BBC television report concerning George Michael’s conviction on the charge of operating a vehicle under the influence of cannabis (George, not the vehicle) includes a clip from the Wham! video for “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go.”
I felt a cold chill as that pernicious earworm crawled from my long-buried memories and assaulted my consciousness (only slightly alleviated by Margaret’s reminding me to think of the Hugh Grant parody, “Pop! Goes My Heart”). And the sight of those Wham! outfits — the horror, the horror!
Friday was a lovely day: it was my birthday, and Margaret was here with me; a startling number of people wished me Happy Birthday on Facebook and here; I had a delightful talk about pedagogy in the University with Margaret’s and my friend Vicky (and with a colleague I hadn’t known before, Lorna); and at the end of the day, I got the news that I’ve been named the Academic Development Fellow for the College of Arts (not just my home School of Critical Studies, but also the Schools of Humanities, Culture & Creative Arts, and Modern Languages & Cultures).
I will be seconded one day a week to the Learning and Teaching Centre with my three colleagues from the other Colleges, to work together toward building up a culture of strengthened and renewed pedagogy (no financial bonus, but it’s a different and exciting aspect of my role here). So that’s a delightful Friday, isn’t it?
Margaret and I exercised a little this morning. Probably, nothing will come of it; but it did happen, and since there were no witnesses (so far as we know), it seemed worth noting here.
It’s no secret that pretty much everyone thinks Apple’s Ping feature in iTunes 10 would take significant improvement in order to qualify as a “disappointment,” and I doubt that any of what I suggest below hasn’t been anticipated (better) by more prominent Mac-bloggers — but I won’t let that stop me! So here goes my capsule account of what it would take for Ping to be worth anyone’s trouble.
First and foremost, Ping must recognise that people can buy media files from sources other than Apple. It needn’t direct you to other sources, but it has to at least recognise the existence of media from other sources. Incredibly, if I play something on iTunes that I got from eMusic, Ping looks the other direction and pretends not to notice; it only perks up and pays attention if I play one of the relatively few files I bought directly from iTunes. I know, I know, Apple wants to encourage you to think of the iTunes Music Store as the only place to buy digital media, but they stand to benefit much more if their recommendation engines and their buzz-generating network are source-blind. If I download the new Arcade Fire album from eMusic and I love it, play it constantly, and want to urge my friends to buy it — but Ping ignores all these facts — Apple is not going to sell one more copy of that album. If on the other hand they permit and encourage me to rave about th album even though I downloaded it from eMusic, they stand to harvest some of the buying that my vast influence swings.
Second, they have to make Ping’s networking capacities more encouraging. It’s awfully hard to browse for friends (or artists) on Ping; the muscle of a network such as Ping increases markedly if it encourages you to link to friends, but for the time being Ping says “You can link to friends if you can find them, and if you really want to.” Meh; no thanks.
After those two, my recommendations get less far-reaching. The interface looks minimally interesting. The “Music I Like” box should rotate selections through based on your own ratings, already featured into your iTunes database. They should take advantage of what they already know about you (iTunes database, Genius recommendations) to present you and your links with a very much richer environment for users’ media-preference identity. (Again, this is data to which they already have access.) They could cross-compare “biggest fans,” or “most recent person to play ‘Free Bird’” or ““highest proportion of five-star ratings” or “lowest proportion of one-star ratings” or other such data samples. Getting interesting figures and correlations out in the open is a big fat win for Apple, but it depends (again) on letting Ping recognise other-sourced media files.
It’s no secret that I’m a long-term, consistent, expansive Apple enthusiast, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t distinguish good, nutritious, juicy apples from worm-infested rotten ones. Ping suggests urgent need for a team of horticulturalists.
This is what my last few days have been like:
Sunday: preach at St Aidan’s Clarkston, then pick Margaret up at the airport. Rapture! (As in “Oh, rapture!”, not as in Left Behind.)
Monday: take Margaret to St Andrews, where we attended a conference and caught up with long-time friend. Mostly offline.
Tuesday: St Andrews still, torrential windblown downpours and conference. Mostly offline.
Wednesday: End of conference and back to Glasgow, flop down on couch and begin decompressing. Mostly offline.
Thursday: First work day back in Glasgow, caught up on work-related email and striving valiantly to regain ground on personal email. Still working on adjustment to new circumstances in Glasgow.
There, now we’re both caught up and I shan’t worry about whether I’ve missed anything in the last few days.