Notes from Day Two

The schedule as it stands this evening:

Cognitive Sciences/Linguistics: “The Mind and Language.” Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11 a.m.

History: “Modern Ireland” (“modern means from 1600 till now). Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 11 a.m.

Letters & Science/International Studies: “Global Transformation and Cultural Change: NGO’s, AIDs and Sub-Saharan Africa.” Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 9 a.m.

Subject to change, perhaps. I actually was signed up for a fourth class, but because of some work commitments, I’ve had to try to pack as much of my class time into the mornings as possible. What doesn’t show here is that each class includes at least one hour of discussion outside the lectures per week — that’s something new since I was last making out checks to the Regents of the University of California. I talked to my advisor in the history department today, and she said if she were in my shoes she’d take just two classes. We’ll see.


Without doing the Rip van Winkle thing too much, some impressions after waking up from my decades of academic slumber:

–My dog doesn’t know me anymore. The son of the man who used to run the CIA is now president of the United States.

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First Day of School

First day, first day back in class since 1980: Cognitive Science 101, “Language and Mind.” Despite Thom’s assurances that I might see at least one other gray head in the classroom, everyone else here seems to be honest-to-goodness first go-round undergrads. But since I can sit here and blog, I am not self-conscious (hey, you couldn’t do that the last time I was on campus). [Later: On mature reflection, and to set the record straight, what Thom was telling me when I shared my pre-first-day butterflies with him yesterday was that many of his classes at the University of Oregon have included one person my age or older; he didn’t imply that I’d have any other fogies as company, just that my appearance among students born just before or during the first Bush administration wouldn’t be as freakish as I assumed.]

This first class — it’s 11:08 11:13 11:18 and still no instructor — is something of a crapshoot. I’m waitlisted for it. The classroom is a good-sized one in Cory Hall, in the ever-expanding electrical engineering/computer science quadrant of the campus. The hall seats maybe 200 people. It’s packed. A quarter-hour in and people are still arriving.

(At the same time, I have another potential class happening, a Property and Law lecture, about a five-minute walk away. Right now, Cognitive Science 101 is becoming an exercise in waiting–how long till people just start to bail and go to whatever else they might have to do. Right now, I’d call my first day back an anti-climax.).

[Update: Instructor showed at 11:22, saying that unbeknownst to her, her room assignment had been changed. My education has begun!]


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Class of ‘0-Something

Back from Chicago last night. This afternoon, I walked up to campus — here, that automatically means UC Berkeley — for an appointment with an undergraduate advisor in the College of Letters and Science. Mission: to see what I need to do to finish my bachelor’s degree.

Yes, we have no B.A. I went to school back between 1974 and 1980, but never finished. That never seemed to affect my life or work prospects because I was lucky enough to get real experience right out of high school in a field, daily journalism, that hardly asked what college you went to or what you did there as long as you had the fire and the talent for the work. And for a long time, that was enough. When I left daily print journalism in the mid-90s, my resume was my degree, and for a while, that was enough. But at this point — having bounced around online journalism, TV news, magazine editing and writing, and some marketing stuff, among other things; and having watched that daily print news world I came from wither — I’m thinking of other things I might do (I’m told I’d make a great history teacher if I can avoid scuffling with the students), and that resume is no longer enough. And beside all that, I admit it’s always bothered me a little to have that uncompleted task out there.

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The Boalt Bagel


The end of another week in my illustrious law school career — well, in my career as a law school staff member — and time for another Boalt oddment. I noticed when I walked into the building for a job interview in May that the "C" in one of the "school of law" signs looked improvised; in fact, it looked like it was improvised with a quartered bagel. And so it was, and is.

The mystery here is how long this particular bagel has been doing sign duty; a while, I guess, because another staff member talked about it as one of Boalt Hall’s well-known quirks. I wonder if it ever needs to be replaced. Or whether Boalt’s archivist will ever claim the bagel piece for his collection.

Law School Gig, Week 2


Times I’ve locked myself out of my office: 1. Boalt Hall has one, and only one, "key lady," someone named Wendy, who made the long trek up to my little room to let me back in.

New term:
"Chart strings" (University of California talk for "account numbers" when you need to bill expenses, like those for business cards or stationery.

Sight I can’t account for (above):
A stone bearing the legend "Knowles" that sure looks like a grave marker. It’s in an out of the way place in the angle between stairways at Boalt’s northwest corner. I haven’t been able to find a record of anyone named Knowles who ever went to the law school, or who has figured prominently in the university’s history. An architect named Knowles did design a nearby house for a professor, but that wouldn’t explain the marker.

Odd experience:
Talking to reporters who are looking for sources for stories. Hey, until not too long ago, I was on that side of the fence.

Brilliant idea that went nowhere, for now:
To have Barack Obama come out and do some event for the law school. It’s too long a story for tonight. But for one thing, I hear that about 400 people have the same brainstorm every week.