Check this out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BskJRTWZRJY
Sometimes you just have to brag, and this is one of those times. The non-Olympic fencer in this commercial is RC, one of ‘my girls’. To top it off, I just happened to be in LA the day they filmed for the commercial, so I was sitting on the bleachers watching as they filmed. Good memories.
Last Friday I jumped through the final hoop to get my degree. In theory, this means that I am done. I have a new title to my name and am making the last corrections for my book (aka my dissertation). I have tickets out of here and a great vacation planned. Yet my day to day has not changedâ€”I am still working long hours to get all of the ends tied up so that I can finish well. Beyond that, there are papers that I will be working on for months. So, while I am technically done, I feel far from it right now.
Today I spent what I hope was my last day in the clean lab. While it is not something I am sad to say goodbye to, it is the one place I am guaranteed to feel like a scientist. In contrast to my field work, research in the clean lab is exact.
Before entering the room, which is pressurized to prevent any air from entering the lab, little white booties are put on over my shoes. Then I stand on sticky mat to clean off the bottom of the booties. Upon entering the room, which of course requires the correct code to unlock the door, a white lab coat is put over my clothes. Then I am surrounded by the soft hum of the air filters and the fume hood with the black and white checker floor beneath my booted feet. While in the clean lab, I work with dangerous acids and use disposable equipment, all while wearing safety goggles and special gloves. I work in concentrations of parts per million and parts per billion.
If you were to walk into the lab today, there would be no question in your mind about what you sawâ€”everything points to a scientist hard at work. It makes me smile. And then I laugh because I prefer to be the scientist jerry rigging equipment in the field covered with mud from head to toe. But if anyone ever asks, I can say that I was once the perfect image of a scientist.
Where have I been?
Writing and editing my dissertation.
in the lab
Empty gas tanks
an inch of water
No black tea
Forgotten steamed milk
Empty half and half
the dayâ€™s end
hours of Deciphering
finds Bizarre data
a New day
The light at the end of the tunnel is in sight. After more than four years here, I have a date for the defense of my dissertation. If all goes well, the last major hurdle to being done will be completed the afternoon of December 7.
As I left my office this morning to relocate for a few hours of work elsewhere (ok…where the coffee is plentiful and the large windows look onto a lawn rather than the law school), I made a poor choice: I left during the change of classes. You would think that as I am in year five here, I would have learned better. My excuse is that it is Monday morning and it was “pre-coffee”.
The main classroom building is on one side of my building and most of the dorms are located on the other side of my building; the change of classes finds a steady stream of people in either direction. Attempting to cross this stream of people requires careful examination of the situation as you have to make sure that the timing will be right to make it all the way across not just part way; attempting to get students to stop or make way for you is like trying to dam a raging river with a pebble. Honest. Every time this happens I think of Frogger, that beautifully simplistic game from the early 80’s. If you need a break today, you should play a game of Frogger and use your imagination to replace the various obstacles with ND students carrying books, flirting with their neighbors, and talking on cell phones.
A drum circle is any group of people playing (usually) hand-drums and percussion in a circle. Other instruments and dance can also be incorporated into the drum circle. They are distinct from a drumming group or troupe in that the drum circle is an end in itself rather than preparation for a performance. They can range in size from a handful of players to circles with thousands of participants.
In order to work to complete my ND football experience, one of my girls invited me to the pre-game Friday midnight drum circle. I imagined some of the drummers from the band sitting on one of the quads (think big green lawn) letting the rhythms build into the cool night air. My conscious mind knew that this was wishful thinking, but my subconscious dreamed of an African drum circle building energy through the night.
What actually happened?
SR arrived at the steps of the main building at 11:15pm to save us a â€˜seat.â€™ RH and I arrived by 11:35pm to find that SR was, literally, standing on the outside part of the steps of the main buildingâ€”a cement ledge about a foot wide. People behind her and in front of her, but true to her word, there was space for all three of us to stand after being helped up by a rather large man. By the time that the entire drum line of the ND marching band showed up at midnight, there were probably more than 2,000 people gathered on the steps and the lawn, and ND security had to work to clear a circle for them. What followed was 30 minutes of ND cheers mixed in with drum circle improve. The drum line was a circle; it was a swarming, dancing group of percussionist. The crowd sang, clapped, and made all the motions of the traditional songs; they cheered the drum circle and soloists. Through it all, the energy built, and I could not help but be swept up in the moment with the crowd.
African drum circle? No.
A cultural experience? Yes.
Would I recommend it? Definitely.
On Wednesday I saw â€œLoveâ€™s Laborâ€™s Lostâ€, a Shakespeare comedy that was new to me. Although there were a few more sonnets than necessary, it was fantastic. To top it off, the audience was excellent. An audience will either make or break a live production, and this was an audience that loved and understood Shakespeare.
Let me take a moment to say that I love live productions; sitting in an audience watching people perform can be a magical experience. There is an ability to engage with art that is missing from television, movies, and recorded music. This week began what will be my fifth and final theatre season at Notre Dame, and it was a glorious commencement. Given my general tendency towards sarcasm when it comes to the Notre Dame institution, I feel it is important to mention that I love our performing arts center. All six venues in the center are small and well designed; each has a separate foundation so there are no sound issues regardless of the number of simultaneous productions at a given point in time (check it out at http://performingarts.nd.edu/). To top it off, as a student, tickets are inexpensive, and access is all of a five minute walk from my office or a five minute drive from home. When I move, this is one of the things I will miss.
Next week the campus here at Notre Dame will be flooded with students with the start of a new academic year. This means that my students (a.k.a. â€˜My Girlsâ€™) will be back. Along with the joy of them come 8,000 other undergrads. It also signals the start of another football season. Some of the changes about to take place on campus include:
- Parking lots being filled. The new challenge: beating all the off campus students showing up for 8:30 class.
- Gym being filled beyond capacity at my favorite times. Time to reorganize my scheduleâ€¦but who wants to get sweaty in the middle of the day?
- All facilities (okâ€¦specifically gym, pool, and restaurants) will be open longer hours. The next time I have to be in the lab at midnight and get hungry, I will have options beyond the vending machine.
- The many perfectly manicured lawns on campus will be filled with sunbathing girls and football playing boys. May the flirtation beginâ€¦better than TV.
- A higher energy level will begin to pulse through the air on campus in large part thanks to the combination of overly excited freshman. It is amazing how long freshmen look.
- I will refrain from all football commentary until a later date. Just know that we have not 5 or 6 home games this year, but 7.
- The finishing touches are being put on the lawns. Fresh mulch put down, grass fertilized, and flowers in full bloom. My guess is that there is a multi-million dollar endowment for the lawns. Here are a few pictures taken yesterday morning outside of my building.