Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Days 605 and 606 -- Berkeley

How could I resist this one? Regular readers know that I like to stop in at institutions of higher education, both big and little. And I like to stop in at libraries. So, when I found, as part of this Librophiliac Love Letter, the North Reading Room at the UC Berkeley Library, I just had to stop. I urge and entreat you to click through. Those are some of the most beautiful libraries I've ever seen. I was sitting here with the first Little Jogger, just browsing them, and saying, "Wow!" repeatedly.

Where to start on the last two days? How about at the beginning. I ran an easy (read: "REEEEEAAAAAL SLOW") 3.8 miles yesterday morning. Then I hustled off to school for my first lesson in Mandarin Chinese. Our university is opening a "Confucius Institute." These are a series of centers all over the world financed by the Chinese government to teach Chinese language and culture. It's a really big deal, because most of the Confucius Institutes are at bigger schools (and we specifically beat out Madison to get ours!)

The lesson itself was truly horrendous. We spent an hour on pronunciation. And we didn't even get very far. We covered a total of maybe eight syllables. I'm reminded of the person who learned to play the piano one note at a time. On Monday, he practiced playing middle C. On Tuesday, he practiced B-flat. On Wednesday, B natural. After he had practiced all 88 keys, he could play anything. He just needed to put them together in the right order. So, I'm all for learning pronunciation, but I hope that we will get some, you know, words to pronounce. We literally didn't even learn to say, "Hello," and "Goodbye." (So maybe it would have been better if Madison had gotten the Confucius Institute after all.)

The rest of the day went by in a blur. This is the last week of classes, and so I can't put anything off. I need to prepare the last of the new material, grade every paper and get it back immediately, write the review sheets and the exams (and try to make them similar but not identical), etc. We also had our Senior Seminar talks, where our math majors present in-depth projects that they have worked on for a semester. Many of the majors are inexperienced presenters, and some don't really master the material that well, so these can be painful. The one today (one of my advisees) was particularly awful.

In the evening, I took all the Little Joggers to the end-of-the-year potluck for the Cub Scouts. Mrs. Jogger went off to a meeting of her artsy-fartsy society. Fortunately, she sent some brownies and a nice vegetarian pasta salad. The salad was almost the only non-dessert that I could eat. The littlest Little Jogger's Cub Scout troop meets at the Catholic school, and apparently there are no Catholic vegetarians. Anyway, I got home from that about the kids bedtime, and stayed up typing another review sheet, so never got a chance to blog yesterday's run.

I started out this morning in the rain. I had gone a little way when it occurred to me that I could go down to the gym and run in the warm and dry. Just about then, the rain let up. Who am I to argue? I ran a healthy (read: "Only sorta slow") 6.2 miles, outside.

Today, more classes, more grading, more review sheets, and, as I say, another Senior Seminar talk. And now I'm finally home and relaxing a little. But only a little.