All Nighter

10 May 2007

Well, I’m pulling my annual pale imitation of Keith Richards, having been awake for 38 hours.  I didn’t sleep a wink last night (literally, not in the “man, I didn’t sleep well” sense), and only about 3 hours the night before, so this is a new record for me.  I had about 60 papers to grade, and I’d only knocked about 15 off before last night.

It’s a weird kind of buzz to stay up and see the sun rise while I try to focus on the papers and tests, and it creates a weird kind of loopiness the next day.  I’m a procrastinator by nature, and this is a tough time for us.  But in a way I like the single-mindedness of the grading crunch.  This is a new one for me though.

Update on the raccoon (speaking of nocturnal):  My neighbor Kenneth said yesterday that he had found a dead young raccoon in his yard, so that explains one of the other thuds we heard Monday night (sort of).  We looked for the source of the third thud, to no avail.  Does anyone know why they would have fallen?  It seems uncanny for them to have fallen from the tree at the same time, but I don’t know why their mother would have chased them out.  The falls seem to have been far enough apart not to be the result of a broken branch (I’d feel awful if our failure to trim the tree was responsible–we’re planning to spend about $2k getting it fixed up this summer).  I’d love some insight on raccoon behavior to let me know what happened.

In other perspectives, one of the perks of my job is seeing students move on to grad school success.  Anyone who’s been to grad school knows that it’s not for everyone, and even though I’ve never been a model student, I take some pride in having plugged through.

Well, last year I had two of the finest students I’ve ever encountered, and now I’m learning that they’ve had very lean offerings for grad school.  I don’t know what the hell’s going on, but it bums me out to an inordinate degree.  I know it’s not my responsibility, but I feel like I’ve missed something when they don’t make it where they want (and, frankly, deserve to be).  I would support my students (and here I’m talking about students I know well and have collaborated with extensively) wherever they wanted to go, but these are two of very few students I’d encourage to apply to even the most selective programs.  And yet, they’re not getting the offers for many of the fallback programs, and I’m irrationally pissed about it.  I’m hoping to get some insight into the reasons.  We all know that fit is huge, but at a time when I usually have some reservations about my students, these guys have it all, and yet they’re not sure where they’ll be.  I guess part of my reaction is guilt over the realization that they’re 5X the student I was, but I got in and they didn’t.  Pretty discouraging.

Well, I hope I’ll be able to post about JazzFest once I get some rest.  G’night.


7 May 2007

Haven’t blogged in a while.  Hope it’s not depression creeping back (one of the signs is losing interest in things you used to enjoy, but everyone reading this probably knows that); I think it’s just the insanely busy month I’ve had.  Lots of late nights, but it’s hard to complain when I still find time to make it to every day of JazzFest, as I’ve done for years.  Not the greatest JF, IMHO, but more on that later.

dsc_0016-medium.jpgNow I’m motivated to post just to get a little sadness out there.  We found out recently that McGuire has the Cancer.   This will be our 3rd pet lost within a year, when we only started with 4.  Slim died last June, and WhoopyCat in January.  McGuire will be the toughest for E.  She had him and WC before we met (in fact, my allergies to them stalled our relationship a bit–she would have been my roommate right when I started grad school if she didn’t have them or if I wasn’t allergic), but Whoopy was never the lap cat McGuire is.  E can’t be in the house for 5 min before Mc is on her lap.  It’s only gotten more that way since he went blind shortly after our return from Katrina.

We thought he’d die about 4 years ago when, after a lifetime of being a big old cat, he started losing weight fast.  We decided against invasive treatment and went with steroids, which did the trick, obviously.  But then a few weeks ago, we noticed his leg was swelling, and we took him in for a general update.  Dr. Matt found a tumor in his leg that disrupted the circulation, and they diagnosed him with plasmacytosis, basically leukemia.  He’s still fairly comfortable and can get around ok, but we’re watching for the signal.  It’ll be a bad day when that comes.  E’ll be a wreck, but she’s kept a good perspective on these last 4 years being lagniappe.

Then last night after we got home from JF, another sad event.  We heard a thud on the back of the house.  I heard a whiny sound and climbed the ladder to the roof over the back of the house where the sound was coming from.  In the dim light, I saw a young raccoon, who apparently had fallen from the huge pecan tree that goes over the roof.  I can’t take the sound of suffering animals, and I’ve broken a few necks when I’ve found something I couldn’t help or get help to.  In this case, E and I decided to leave the young coon alone to see if its mother could do something.  We later heard a couple more thuds and at one point saw the mother (I assume it’s the mother, but at least a large adult) come to the fork in the tree and call out (again, I’m assuming it was calling, but it at least made a noise directed toward the house) and come snoop around the ground.  We’ve never seen these raccoons anywhere but in the tree.  I don’t know if she could have figured out how to get to the roof safely, but we decided not to intervene, for fear that we would really doom the youngster by scaring the mom.  Well, this morning I went out and found the young one dead on the roof.  In retrospect, I wish I’d killed it right then so that it didn’t suffer as long as it did.  I told it I was sorry and then bagged it up and threw it away (I don’t have a drive to be ceremonious about the dead, including myself).

This really made me sad, for the dead one but also for the mother.  I haven’t read the whole thing, but the book “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers” notes that the reason is that although other animals have a flight-fight response to danger, they don’t anticipate it and dread it, as humans do.  Regardless of the instinct involved, this raccoon’s mother sure seemed to be searching and trying to help, and I can’t help but think that she at least temporarily has some sadness, even if it’s just an innate drive to protect her young.  I don’t think I could’ve helped, but this is the kind of thing that I cry about.