Since I’ve been absent for the past month while my computer was in the shop and my working routine changed, here’s the latest news from the South Coast:
The struggles with my old computer were finally resolved after a long November of calls and trips to the computer repair folks. The service I received at the local electronic retailer was quite good, if unnervingly slow. Ultimately my precious iMac needed to be replaced, which took more time as I had to custom order it from Apple. Now I’m back at work with my new desktop, which while metallic and shiny in all sorts of good ways also manages to catch every single reflection from my work area. When the sun shines in the afternoon I have to close the curtains and tilt the screen to avoid the glare. It’s not the computer’s fault that my desk overlooks a South-facing window, nor is it to blame that all of the fabulous California sunlight is reflected in mysterious ways by my bookshelves. I suppose I should re-arrange, but tilting the screen and drawing the curtains are the quick fix for the moment.
Quarters go by swiftly, so my computer arrived just in time for the end of the term. I honestly don’t know that I would have like the Quarter system as an undergraduate, and I know it has clear disadvantages for humanities courses when compared with a 16 week semester. I’m also generally confused about calling anything a quarter when it is clearly a trimester, but that’s a peeve for another day. The difference between 10 and 16 weeks for what can be accomplished in the classroom is significant, and here in Southern California you lose your students for the week of Thanksgiving and half a week surrounding Halloween. I hesitate to say that we really deal in 8 weeks of content, but it can sure feel that way if you’ve got a 200 person lecture filled with a measly 40 students or so just before Turkey day. With my computer’s troubles affecting most of three weeks worth of the quarter, I’m not exactly anxious for the term to expire at the end of this week. I welcome, as most anyone would, the impending holiday break, but I feel more pressure than usual about what has been left undone or could have been done with less hassle and fuss had I not had a major interruption.
I’m still preparing for my trip to Vietnam, but I believe I’ll get to do quite a bit less religious tourism than I had hoped. I suppose in the long run it is best to temper my enthusiasm for temples and churches and shrines in order to refrain from driving my traveling companions crazy. In preparation for the trip I’ve purchased a new camera. When I finally get a breath to add whatever photos I take abroad to a page for this website, then you’ll really appreciate what I mean when I say I’m generally trigger-happy with my photography. I prefer buildings and architectural features and landscapes and still-life shots to portraits, but I imagine there will be more than a few smiling adventurers in the albums. Vietnam has a mix of Asian, French Colonial and indigenous architecture styles that make the cities vibrant and eye-catching. The natural scenes will be fantastic (Halong Bay), as will the markets selling fruit and craft items. Unlike the SLR that I’ve had for the past few years, the camera I’ll be bringing has a swiveling viewfinder (or articulated composition screen as the description says). This feature allows me to shoot, quite literally, from the hip, capturing interesting angles and being less obvious about photographing the scenes around me. Unlike through-the-lens viewfinders, I don’t have to bring the camera up to my face, nor do I have to hold it directly in front of my face. I had an older model of this same camera and I found it took fantastic pictures, so I’m excited to get the latest model with all the bells and whistles of the last 8 or so years of advanced digital technology.
Finally, while my computer was in the shop I stopped reading my RSS feeds because it was too difficult to read so many on a netbook. There’s probably a hundred or so blogs I regularly follow, although a great many I skim rather quickly when the topic seems out of my wheelhouse. I am a bit afraid to see how many posts have accumulated. The last time I went a month without reading my subscriptions, I decided that rather than read them all I’d skip them. Inevitably I read the ones that were continuing to find their way into links and conversations, but I find I rather like the authorship process and feel of the authors of the blogs I read something of the affection of my favorite newspaper columnists. I like to see what they have to say each week. This is true of the best of what I read regularly, but when the pile of unread posts numbers in the several thousand (as these surely will), I have to make much harder choices about catching up. I usually prune the list to about 100 or so things I want to read more carefully, and then proceed through them as I get back into the reading habit. Unfortunately, I’m about to go offline for another month, so I don’t really want to come back in January and mark 5,000 posts as read when they aren’t. I’m open to suggestions, but as far as I can tell I’ll probably start to make my way through the pile, mark a dozen or so as imperative to re-visit and snub the rest. It feels rather like I’m betraying the effort they’ve all gone through to do their part to the blog community, but you can only do so much, right? I imagine the best of the bunch will make their way into a link compilation here on this blog. That is something to schedule to be published while I’m away. Nice to think ahead, right?