Saturday, November 23, 2013


Lest you are starting to think I'm a total asshole (starting?), here's a pic of my good deed for the day.

I have mentioned before that I'm volunteering at a wildlife rehab center. I got an email last night from one of the volunteers in charge of supplies, stating that they needed more hay, and could anyone come up with some?

I happen to live behind a farm and ranch supply and was in fact planning to drop by there this morning to get a package of cedar shavings (to cover some muddy spots in the yard). One of the best rules for life: asking is free. So I walked in, said I was a volunteer at Chintimini, and that the facility needed hay or straw to use for bedding for some of the outdoor rehab enclosures, and did they have any moldy, wet, or unsellable bales that they would be willing to donate? We only needed two. It took the manager all of 30 seconds to say, well, no, he didn't have any unsellable bales but he'd be happy to give me two bales of straw. Woohoo!

I buy my dog food there (I've switched over to Taste of the Wild lamb and sweet potato recipe) so they may have also recognized me as a regular customer. Either way, it was still nice of the guy.

I had them loaded into the mighty Honda Fit (the guy who loaded them expressed some doubt that the two bales would fit, but I told him, this is a Honda--it holds way more than you think it does!) and promptly drove them out to the facility. The morning shift leader and I woman-handled the bales out of my car and onto wheeled carts and duly installed them in a storage shed.

Good thing one of the other items on my list today was a visit to the local car wash. It took three cycles of the vacuum to clean all the hay out, and I had even planned ahead, in expectation of success, and covered the interior with a tarp!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Get Off My Lawn!

I'm surrounded by young people whose habits confuse and surprise me.

The campus uniform is a hoodie worn with shorts, tights, or jeans (which apparently must be low-rise for both sexes and skin-tight for the females). A hoodie is an impractical item of clothing in nearly every situation you can dream up. Heavy, bulky, and totally unsuited for a wet climate. Is the hoodie a statement of rejection of common sense? A signifier that the wearer refuses to accept reality in preference for his/her/its own construct thereof?

Water bottles have been required gear for self-proclaimed greenies for many years. But the latest craze here, mainly among girls, is glass water bottles. Huge Ball-brand jars with screw-top lids with holes lined with O-rings through which a straw is inserted. These items are inexplicably made for this purpose. The glass water bottle fits right in with the hoodie: heavy and impractical. What happens when you drop it, and you will most certainly drop it.

Unwashed hair also seems to be required. I am talking about hair that hasn't seen water or soap in days. Greasy, dull hair plastered to skulls, necks, and cheeks. It's gross and I can't help wondering if the rest of their bodies have seen soap or water either. Some of my classmates apparently wash their hair no more than once a week. You might think it was a public statement, a rejection of the bloated personal care product industry, which IMO is a perfectly fine industry to reject, but many of the women put on makeup every day (on a face surrounded by greasy, lanky hair) and most of the men shave every day. They are clearly not rejecting the superficial trappings of cleanliness, and personal care, just the actual cleanliness itself.

Admittedly the sample population is pretty biased. OSU seems to contain a student population who for the most part has never left Oregon, much less traveled outside the US. In French class today, I had a conversation with two new partners. One guy had visited Paris with his high school class for three days (I thought, at last I can chat with someone who has done some traveling--most of the class has not left the US). I asked him about the restaurants he visited--because Paris, and France in general, is of course known for its varied and interesting cuisines. The only restaurant he could recall was McDonalds. In Paris. FFS.

Yes, yes, I was just as annoying when I was 20. I went through a punk phase, shaved my head or let my hair grow a bit and shaved patterns in it, wore clothing unsuited to the setting and weather. I lived in a radical vegetarian, clothing-optional coop for nearly two years as an undergrad. But wearing hoodies in the rain and carrying fucking glass jars around all day long are not experimenting with social norms or boundaries. They just seem silly.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Jesus Action Figure

My brain is totally fried with French and biochem--big exam in the latter on Friday. But I wanted to get this post up while it was fresh in my mind.

I'm volunteering at the large animal hospital here at the university. It's only a four-week gig, and only for 5 hours a week. The opportunities are reserved for members of the pre-vet club, and even then the slots are assigned via lottery. I got lucky and got in this semester.

On one of the info sheets was an explicit request for us to not post anything on social media about specific clients in the hospital. So this post will be light on details in order to respect that.

A very sick animal was brought in on Monday. She was so sick that it wasn't clear if she would survive the time it took for the initial evaluation, the development of a treatment plan, the suggestion of the same to the owners, their approval/amendment of the plan, then implementation of the plan. While all of that necessary administrative wrangling was going on, this animal was visibly sinking before our eyes.

I spent nearly all of my two hours on Monday with the doctor and students working on this animal. I watched them get her set up in a pen; by the time I left, both she and the enclosure were bristling with tubes and bags of fluids.

When I got there on Tuesday, I went straight to her pen.

And sitting on the treatment table was a Jesus Action Figure, still in its original plastic packaging. The package was scratched and grubby, and had clearly been tied and taped to more than one cage.

The implication was clear. If supernatural intervention were at all real, this animal would be a good test case.

I later found out that the vet hospital (the large and small animal parts are all in the same building) has three Jesus and one Buddha action figures, all reserved for those ICU patients who are not expected to make it. When a patient is particularly critical, it might get two Jesuses or a Jesus and a Buddha.

I don't think that a plastic doll has magical powers, and I am an atheist so I don't think Jesus has magical powers, but I think that I understand the sentiments at work here. The doctors and students always walk a line between patient care and demands or restrictions of the owner, between curing and only being able to reduce pain. They are making decisions based on science and technology but they are moral and emotional beings. It can be exhausting, walking this tightrope. Jesus Action Figure represents comic relief, albeit a bit on the dark side. The doll is symbolic of the subtext that the care that they give, the tests they can run, the drugs they can administer, will make a difference.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Achieving Satori

Skills that your dog learns in one context can often be useful in another, often in unexpected ways.

In Dhahran, me and P and M regularly walked our dogs together in the evenings. I've written before about our efforts to find empty houses with good yards so we could let the dogs run around and be crazy. The best houses were the ones with the water still turned on. Even better were the ones with a hose attached to the spigot. It was nasty, reclaimed water but the dogs were most appreciative of a chance to get a drink.

Over the course of a hot summer, P taught Azza how to drink from a hose. This was a rather laborious process starting with convincing Azza not to be afraid of the hose. By the time we left Dhahran, P could pick up a hose and Azza would stand in line for her turn.

My first satori moment occurred this weekend when I was hosing Mimi and Azza off after they had gleefully played in the leaves for half an hour. They were covered head to toe in mud. The path of least resistance for dealing with that is to hose them off outside then towel them off inside on the mat by the back door. I realized as I was rinsing mud off Azza's neck and legs that not only was she willing to let me do this, she even came when I called, standing there with a running hose in my hand. I don't think that even P could have predicted this back when she decided that Azza needed to learn how to drink from a hose.

My friend DSL came to visit me here in Oregon in September. She was goofing around with Azza and, noting that Azza uses her paws to request attention, starting casually playing a "give me your paw" game. She switched around her hands and asked for one or the other paw. Nothing formal with a clicker but DSL played this several times with Azza during her visit. Azza really took to this game. I decided to make it a little more formal so we now have the "give me your paw-give me your other paw" game. The satori moment? When we play this game, it can completely deflect one of Azza's meltdowns. The moment she gets worried about something, I call her over to play a few rounds of this. It takes a lot of concentration on her part because she has to completely shift her center of balance to give me alternate paws in quick succession. By the time we are done, she's forgotten all about whatever it was that set her off. Another unpredicted outcome of the original game.

Dogs are amazing learners. Azza isn't special--lots of dogs can apply a skill learned in one context to another. What's neat about this is that sometimes we get to learn new things too.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Catching My Breath and Navel-Gazing

This has been a particularly challenging week. I started a new volunteer gig, the second one I have going at the moment, and I had two tough exams ("second midterms" which is a bizarre nomenclature but it seems to be the way it's done here).

I've been surviving this week on pretty minimal rations--you might call it a form of comfort food. I won't starve, but it's not very pretty. Basically, I cut up a chicken thigh or two (I can get a package of 10 or 12 for just a few dollars at the local store), boil that with some pasta, toss in some fresh veg like broccoli or snow peas, and when it's done, mix it with a can of stewed tomatoes. Of course I add things like salt and pepper and perhaps a dash of olive oil, but that's the basic idea. I can make this dish in less than 20 minutes, eat it in less than 5 minutes, wash up and get right back to studying. The second variant of my quick comfort food is to make a bit of rice or pasta, usually steaming some spinach or other greens with the rice, and add that to a package of "salmon". It comes in a foil pouch and looks like tuna. We aren't talking salmon steak, of course, but the taste is decent. I douse that mess with homemade garlic-dill-ginger-balsamic vinaigrette. Same process: make it all in 20 minutes, scarf it down in five. I either eat standing over the sink or I sit at the table and study. Either way, I'm under the watchful eye of CircusK9 because no matter how plain or hurried, food is food is potential treats falling on their heads.

I've distilled my exam prep into a fixed process. I recap the lecture slides, notes taken during lecture, and the text info (one of my classes has no textbook) into handwritten summaries made on plain white paper in pencil. These take quite a bit of time to prepare--for my genetics exam on Thursday, I had to process a huge amount of material and ended up with fifteen pages of handwritten notes. I then read these notes over several times, at least half a dozen times before an exam, over a period of at least a day, and I often repeat them orally while pacing around the house, to the great distress of the dogs--they don't like the pacing or the orating.

This might seem to be an odd way to study but it takes advantage of two aspects of my personal learning modes. First, the very process of summarizing all those sources forces me to think more deeply about the important points and themes. I write the major ideas out using my own words and notations, making them more "comfortable." And second, this process creates succinct fodder for my eidetic memory. I don't have a perfect photographic memory, but it's pretty darned close. I've had this ability since I was quite young but didn't learn how to explicitly use it until I was in grad school. I can recall images of things but my recall tends to be more reliable with text, or rather, an image of text. (If I don't explicitly manage the eidetic capture, it tends to be a bit random, which leads to clutter.) My mental "photograph" of each page combined with the effort I spent in writing everything out helps fix all of the important bits into my brain.

I'm sitting here now full of organic carrots from the Department of Crop and Soil Science worker bees, part of a meal which for once involved no boiling of carbs. The students from that department grow all sorts of vegetables and put them out every Friday morning in a self-serve "market" in one of the buildings on campus. I shared the leftovers with the dogs, who all love carrots.

I've got a lot of homework to finish over the weekend, as well as starting the prep for my big biochem exam next Friday, the house is a mess, and I have a metric ton of leaves that need to be raked up. Tonight's my best opportunity to
basically do nothing. I'd better get back to it.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Old Man Harry

Harry had some teeth pulled and the rest cleaned and polished Wednesday. It took him a full 24 hours to fully recover from the anesthesia. He was in a lot of pain so I got some tramadol for him yesterday afternoon. He's feeling much better now--better living through chemistry.

He's had a recurring soft tissue injury on the inside of his front left shoulder, and some perplexing GI issues. He's been on antibiotics for the last week for the latter, and will remain on them for another two weeks following the dental surgery. That should take care of any lingering GI problems. And his two days of rimadyl and tramadol, plus two weeks of NO TUGGING will sort out his shoulder, at least for a while.

No tugging for two weeks--for a dog that lives to play, that's going to be tough going. As I type this, he's pulled his favorite toy from the basket and is standing in front of me squeaking it repeatedly while looking at me coyly. He's such an irrepressible little bugger!

The cool part of this is that the doc that did his dental surgery was one of the vets that I shadowed with. She let me watch, even help a little bit, during his entire procedure, which fortuitously took place after I finished class for the day. She took the time to show me all the xrays and to discuss the various tools that she was using. It was extremely exciting.

You'd think it would be much more distressing to see my little guy stretched out belly up on the table, intubated, a wad of gauze in his throat to keep the rinse water and blood from going down. One of his molars had to come out--it was a very large tooth with a reasonably healthy root but that wouldn't have been the case for long--the xray showed a cavity between the tooth and bone. She had to cut that enormous tooth into three pieces to get it out. He also lost all of the little teeth in his lower jaw between his canines.

During the surgery, the entire field of view telescoped down to his mouth--it becomes a mouth and the teeth become a dental problem to be solved. I was of course aware that it was Harry but for most of the gory affair, I wasn't thinking, oh, this is Harry.

For sure, I turned right back into the worried owner when I called yesterday and said, he needs stronger pain meds. But for those couple of hours, old man Harry was a fairly routine dental surgery.

Oh, and Harry most emphatically does not like dog kibble gruel (I ran some through the food processor). I have to soak the kibble to make it soft (for two weeks! he's got some gaping holes in his mouth) but it still has to look and feel more or less like kibble. For some reason, I expected him to be less discriminating.

Party With the Merlins

I'm volunteering once a week at a wildlife rescue center located north of Corvallis--diversity of animal experience and all that, you know. I don't have much interest in working with "exotics" as a vet. Still, it gives me a chance to learn more about wildlife management issues as well as see how a large, successful, animal-focused non-profit is organized (tons of volunteers, for starters).

For various reasons, the center mainly handles birds, and among those, birds of prey are very common (eagles, owls, vultures, hawks, etc.). Winter is the slow season but there is a continual trickle of birds arriving each week, many with cat- or car-inflicted injuries. Spring and summer are when the cute mammal babies show up. Still, the center currently has some non-avian species in rehab: five squirrels and a frog. The principal goal is to release the animals back into the wild as soon as possible. Injuries are repaired and special diets are fed to get the animals back up to a normal weight. Animals are weighed and monitored at least twice daily (all by volunteers). Birds with wing injuries are allowed to heal in small cages, then moved into larger flight cages to ensure they can fly normally. Some animals have to be euthanized but at least it's done humanely. Contact with the animals is supposed to be minimal to make sure they don't get used to humans.

This week I got introduced to the procedures for taking care of the animals outside in the larger enclosures. The most memorable part was going into the merlin falcon cage to clean it up.

There were two of them in the enclosure. I avoided making eye contact with them and focused instead on the mess they had made. Birds of prey like falcons are fed chicks; the owls get mice. The chicks are frozen. We thaw them, clip the skin on their inner thighs and insert a bit of raw chicken cut from a commercial cut (to make them more enticing), sprinkle them with some supplement, and lay the chicks out on a stump for the birds' dining pleasure. The two merlins are fed five chicks a day.

There were two chicks left on the stump that they didn't eat. Those had to be collected and put in a "scrap bucket" in the fridge to be fed to the turkey vultures.

Then there was the rest of the cage--the remains of the party were everywhere. Chick feet sticking up from the gravel. Chick heads and wings scattered around. Chick guts hanging off one of the platforms, even stuck in the wire mesh. I had to pick all of that up (mental note: when assigned the outback cages in the future, bring gloves!). I had to hose off the party platform and some other favorite perches (birds shit everywhere). And I had to do this with two rather unsettled merlins in the cage with me.

It was an interesting way to begin the morning.

Another of the tasks of the morning volunteer crew is to check the 12 live mouse traps placed in the main building. They are baited with cat food, rodent pellets, sunflower seeds, and other mouse-tastic treats. Even though the center maintains a caged mouse colony in one of barns (for the owls), wild mice are returned to the wild. And that particular morning, there was a tiny brown mouse in one of the traps. So I carefully carried the cage out to the back of the property and let the little guy disappear in the weeds. He'll probably be back.

There is an interesting contrast at work here. The moral issues surrounding animal care are complicated.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Hey! Let Me Give a Public Demonstration of My Scientific Illiteracy!

I like to walk the dogs up and around a modest hill near my own neighborhood. It's the high rent district with McMansions going for around half a million each. They are clustered cheek to jowl on top of this hill. The kindest thing I can say is that most have nice landscaping which Harry likes to pee on. There is very little traffic and it's a safe, quiet, and scenic place to make our walks--the views across the valley are really nice.

I live in the Willamette Valley which contains several large river systems that ultimately drain more or less northwards into the Columbia River. The valley is filled with various types of volcanic sediment that have been reworked by these rivers for the past 30 million years or so. Grape vines like volcanic soil which is why there are so many vineyards in the Willamette Valley. Turns out trees and seed crops like it too. No active volcanoes are present in the Willamette Valley, but the topographic highs dotted around mark the former location of older volcanoes; some are still fairly substantial. The active volcanoes are to the west in the Cascade Range (volcanoes align in chains because they form on top of subduction zones and they tend to move landwards as the subducting plate advances with geologic time). So the hill that I walk the dogs up and around is one of these former volcanoes, long past its glory days.

Back in the summer, one of the homeowners on the north side of the hill started this major excavation project in his front yard between the house and the road. He was doing the work himself and was renting equipment like the backhoe so it took a really long time for it to get done. Our walking routes didn't take us past his house every day but over time I watched this enormous pit form in front of his house. It was roughly the size of a regulation swimming pool, squarish, and about 10 feet deep, with a level bottom. The pit sat for a few weeks until a bunch of flexible tubing, perhaps half an inch inner diameter, began to appear on the bottom. The tubing was laid out in a back and forth pattern. That sat for a few more weeks. Then the hole was filled, extra topsoil was laid down, and the only thing left now is a muddy brown expanse in front of the house. I was always curious as to the purpose of this effort and expense and mess and disruption. Possible theories: a swimming pool or a new form of septic drainage system. But the real purpose of the project never would have occurred to me in 30 million years because, well, I know a little bit about science. And physics. And basic mathematics.

For the very first time this morning, I saw the guy who lives in that house. He looked to be in his mid-twenties. Had a toddler with him. I asked him what the project in his yard was for, and he said, "oh, I put in a geothermal heat pump."

Wow. Just, wow. Where do you even start? Because it is physically impossible for whatever he built to function as planned. Where do you start?

1. Geothermal heat pumps require convection of hot water in the subsurface to exchange heat with water in tubes or pipes that you put in the ground. The most common systems are vertical since the pipes of the exchange system need to be positioned within the water table where the hot water is circulating.

2. The average geothermal gradient of the Willamette Valley is around 30 deg C per kilometer (I found this via Google; didn't need access to a fancy technical library). His 10-foot deep hole? At best, the temperature difference between the top to the bottom of the pit will be around 0.08 deg C (again, I don't even need to know any conversion factors except that 10 feet is around 2.5 meters). It is probably much less since that average geothermal gradient is based on data taken in the valley proper where the sediments are thickest, and this guy lives on a crystalline-rock-cored hill with a thin veneer of sediments.

3. Further, a little bit of research turned up the interesting fact that heat flow in the Willamette Valley is regionally conductive, not convective. In other words, the reworked volcanic sediments have a lot of clay, which reduces the ability of fluids to move around in those sediments. There isn't even any warm water circulating beneath the Willamette Valley that a geothermal heat pump could tap into. Sure, understanding the difference between conduction and convection in the context of regional heat flow requires some technical understanding--but that's my very point. If this clown was going to spend all that time and money, you'd think he would take half an hour to understand the basic physics of the matter.

4. A heat pump requires a temperature difference between the cold water entering and the warm water exiting and in most places on earth, this requires a vertical orientation as I mentioned above. However, this guy laid all his pipes on the same horizontal plane. The temperature differential of his "system" will be zero. Cold water will go in....and cold water will come out.

5. But let's say that perhaps we are in a magical corner of the Willamette Valley and there is a warm body of water circulating in this area. Hate to break this to him, but there are no water wells on the small hill, nor at its base, nor in the farms in the immediate area (the location of water wells is publicly available information). Even if the magical warm, circulating water was there, it's pretty damned deep. This guy would never be able to reach it from the hill. Ten feet? Laughable.

And in fact, I did laugh at him. He paused and said, "you don't think it will work?" I looked at him for a second, most of the above whirling around in my head, and I said, "I know it won't work." The dogs and I continued on our walk.

I'm so worked up I had to make a new tag for this post: science. Maybe I should change it "the lack of knowledge of science" but that sort of contradicts the point of a tag.

The failures of the American public school system are coming home to roost. Can't teach four years of math and physics in high school--it's too hard. Can't have the precious children read full texts anymore--takes too long. Can't give tests that evaluate critical thinking because those can't be scored by a computer. We are doomed.

**Update: I'd be remiss if I didn't add this. As two of you have pointed out, my neighbor was almost certainly installing a closed-loop ground-source heat pump (also see here). He won't be eligible for a tax exemption because he didn't use a state-approved contractor but he no doubt saved a lot of money by doing the installation himself. As TW noted, the pipes need to be below frost level. Temp data from around that depth from reasonably nearby water wells vary considerably so while we might reasonably infer that 10 feet is below the freezing depth (it doesn't get that cold here), the temp at that depth may not be high enough for the system to work effectively. From the videos and diagrams I could find from local contractors, I don't believe that the density of his pipe system is sufficient; it looked to be about half of what is normally installed. This is not an "off the grid" solution. It is renewable in the sense that the heat exchange part is "free" but it still requires a fairly extensive arrangement of pumps (which run off electricity) attached to the grid (to move the fluid) and in the house (to move the air). There is further some questions about whether heat pumps are economical for residential applications (see this very interesting article). The heat-pump or heat-exchange technology is fairly advanced and appears to be most successful in larger, industrial applications. For example, I found that OSU installed heat exchangers in the mechanical rooms of some buildings to heat the water used in the bathrooms in those buildings. These are air-coupled, not ground-coupled and the temperature differentials they are dealing with are much larger than those available to my neighbor.

Finally, I didn't talk about this much in my rant but my neighbor dug a 100-foot long, 10-foot deep hole downslope from his home. The upper edge of the pit was about 8 feet from the foundation of the house. The long axis of the pit paralleled the long axis of his house. He filled the pit with the very disturbed dirt that he removed from it. When the earthquake comes, his home could very well be damaged because that disturbed soil will behave very differently to the gravitational acceleration than the undisturbed soil around it.

As my friend DW said, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions."

Friday, November 01, 2013

Outrunning the Bear

I've now gotten back all four of the exams that I took these past few days...and I slam-dunked them all. No perfect scores because I am a rather imperfect being, although I got pretty close.

So that animal genetics exam that I thought I did poorly on? I felt very time-pressured while taking it and was sure that caused me to make errors. But I shouldn't make such pronouncements without any data. I made the highest score in the class! The instructor told me that he expected no less of me (he and I have talked several times in his office about vet careers and such so he knows about my past; good grief, I'm a woman with a past), which was nice of him, I suppose, but way to put the pressure on. Because too many people failed to get any points on three questions, the instructor is curving every score up 8 points--I happened to get full or partial credit on those three questions so my final curved score will be more than 100%. Go figure.

The biochem exam was by far the most difficult of the four but as I was taking it, I felt that I was managing my time well and that I at least addressed the main components of every question. The instructor of this very large course curves every exam individually, so to excel you only need to do better than the mean of the scores for that particular exam (put another way, to escape a bear, you only need to run faster than your friend, not necessarily faster than the bear). I made 90% which put me firmly into A territory with the curve. Now 90% is technically a weak A if the scores are graded on traditional bins but the cutoff for an A on this exam was around 83 so a 90 is respectable; I ran quite a bit faster than most of the rest of the class. One guy made 102 (there was an extra credit question); he ran faster than the bear for sure but that doesn't matter when there's a curve.

I nailed my French exam. I still make stupid mistakes like forget to add "s" to plural adjectives or use the 3rd person plural for a verb when I meant to use the 3rd person singular; my most common mistake is to use de when it is not needed and omit it when it is required. Fucking de. What a sneaky little article. But Madame Denis is a generous grader and seems pleased with my creative writing attempts (we had four short creative writing questions on the exam along with the usual fill-in-the-blank and dictation). She liked my "love with dry bread" story, putting smiley faces in my notebook along with some comments (why does that make me feel like a six-year-old who just got two gold stars for coloring nicely?).

I had a bit of a tiff with my animal nutrition instructor about the wording of one question and the answer I chose versus the answer she marked as correct in the exam key. She is not a very good instructor although I think she knows the material very well. I won't get into the pedantic details of why she sucks in the classroom, but let's say that my years of experience with such matters gives me a bit of a platform from which to offer an opinion. Anyway, perhaps my snit-o-gram made her rethink that particular problem because she announced in class today that she would give credit to anyone who selected the other answer, the one I argued was in fact correct given the parameters she laid out in the question. I had already earned a very good score so those additional few points were hardly going to change my grade, but you gotta pick your battles and I felt that one was worth picking.

The effort I put into studying for the exams was tremendous and it was well rewarded. But there is no rest for the wicked. Well, okay, I am taking tonight off. The wicked will have one study-free night. I'll be doing my monthly accounts and budget instead. I've already started drinking some very fine local craft beer. Tasty!

My Saturday will start early with my second skype call to the two French students I'm assigned to talk with (I get a twofer because Thomas, a friend of Guillaume who was assigned as my partner, ended up without a partner and he really wanted to be involved). Then I have homework assignments and extra credit reports and the next round of exams to get ready for. And dogs to walk and play with. The usual quotidian drama.

I'm still fairly bemused by this whole student thing. I'm enjoying it, certainly. I'm learning tons of new and challenging concepts. I'm very slowly starting to get to know a few people here and there. I can see that there is a reasonable number of very smart young people in all of my classes, but sadly not much has changed in 30 years--most of the young people filling up the seats in the classrooms seem far more interested in parties, football games, and drinking. In the end, I suppose that's good for both me and the bear.