A Crazed Week

Perhaps no better statement about the craziness of this week can be made than the simple fact that this moment — 11:42pm on Wednesday — is the first chance I’ve had to sit down and take a breath for many days.

Alas, it is only the big gulp of air before the next plunge.

This week, you see, is my annual “Shako Week,” wherein I seem to spend every last waking moment preparing the campus literary magazine for printing. As usual, things are taking longer and longer as we try to get things done — though our publication date (naturally) never changes. The past week or so has been spent trying to get students tracked down and straightened out and working in a timely manner, which sounds simple enough but can feel frightfully akin to herding cats:

We have almost all the raw material collected now. So all I have to do is put it together into a magnificent publication. By Friday.

In the meantime, I’ve been having lots of papers to grade. Finally got my desk cleared today — just in time for a round of papers from my Honors Tolkien class, which are filling my inbox at this very moment (they’re due at midnight; six minutes, people!).

My Third-year Review materials were, until yesterday, an ongoing item on my agenda, too. Got that turned in. Hopefully they’ll keep me around another year. I won’t know for some weeks.

Had a small “fire” to deal with for the Secular Commentary Series involving the abbreviating of Latin titles. Extinguished, but it took a few hours. That was a couple days ago. I think. The days are blurring.

Because I lacked things to keep me busy, I had two out-of-nowhere requests for translations today. The first was from a cadet, who for reasons unknown to me wants to inscribe on his class ring a Latin translation of the first part of the old Jesuit saying “O God, give me the boy and I will give you the man.” Strikes me as a bit on the pedophilian side without the whole, but I’m supposing he’s thinking more about testosterone. Very well: “O Deus, donate me puerum.”

The next translation request was a favor for Mary Robinette Kowal, who has done me enough favors that I couldn’t possibly deny her volunteering me to answer Delia Sherman’s call for someone to translate a spot of Old French (“Ja non! Sire, c’est offence! Mien braz est vostre, et ja ne guerpirai.”) into Middle English. I had a few minutes during the end of my office hour this morning — the 5-10 minutes I ought to have been cracking open Othello for class — and so wrote Mary:

It’s important to keep in mind that “Middle English” covers about 500 years of rapidly shifting language, and that at any given time it is incredibly inconsistent across England (folks spoke and wrote in sometimes radically different ways from one town to another). I’m suspecting, based on the French provided, that we’re talking late 13th century, courtly dialect. So I turned to a London dialect, circa Chaucer. If that’s incorrect, I need to know. Otherwise:

I nevere! Lord, it is blaspheme! Myn armes ben thyne, and I nyl nat straye.

I had some question about translating “arm” — is it meant to be the body part or the armament? I’m not sure the French can handle the double entendre as well as the English, but I thought it might be well to include it if possible; thus, the plural “arms” in my translation. Also, the verb “stray,” as used here, highlights the importance of time. It is adopted into English from Anglo-Norman during Chaucer’s lifetime, and so it would have been a sort of courtly “buzzword” during the timeperiod I’m imagining.

I’m now bummed that I mistyped “late 13th century” for the French; I meant “late 14th century.” Damnit.

Naturally, lots of students from my three classes have been wanting to meet with me for one consultation or another. I suspect that this is because they noticed I was very, very busy.

How busy? I was nonstop yesterday, working to the last minute possible before driving across the peninsula and the river to an afternoon medical check-up (still breathing!), only to turn around, drive back, run into the house, grab two slices of pizza, smile at the Wife and Hobbit (“Daddy home!”), then rush out (“Bye, Daddy!”) and sprint to my office with pizza in hand, eating as I ran. I got back around 11, I think. It’s been a blur.

Ditto today, only with the added fun of teaching, a nagging stiff neck (with accompanying headache), and, as luck would have it, getting a surprise visit from a faculty teaching evaluator. Actually, I mean that last bit literally. It was lucky. While I was unprepared for her presence, I happened to be teaching the start of Othello, which I daresay I can do pretty darn well on a moment’s notice. So I think it went well.

Still, I was distracted.

First, I was distracted by the fact that the Wife is very ill. Her months-long lingering on-and-off cold finally ‘ploded (ex- or im-, you’re choice) yesterday. She’s miserable, and now I’m stressed about leaving her alone so much with the Hobbit — who, as luck would have it (sarcastic this time), is an extra handful since we chose this week as the week to start potty-training.

Second, I was distracted by the fact that I knew that this evening I would be engaged in the formal activities of The Citadel Honor Court. I’ve written before about how torn up I get about Honor Violations. It’s terrible for me, and I have no doubt it’s far worse for the students who stand accused. Most of the time, if cadets know they’re guilty, they just resign — quit school, in other words, before they can get kicked out — but some cadets, either because they’re innocent or because they simply are hoping beyond hope, go through the full extent of a trial, which is a dreadful experience.

Tonight, from 5:30 until I was dismissed around 9:00, was my third time in the Court. It’s too close to me now to explain the experience other than to say that something about it shakes me to my core, and to confess that this long, rambling post was surely a vain attempt to distance myself from it.

I have doubts about sleep as the clocks round to midnight.


  1. Sorry you’ve been having a rough go of it. Those honor violations can be unsettling. Especially with our culture’s current slackadaisical approach to ethics, the old school absolutist approach can seem odd. That said, overall I’m glad that the officers I’ve worked with have been heavily discouraged and screened before they get out in the field and start wrecking things and killing people with their lies, falsified records, etc. It (obviously) ain’t a perfect system, but I suspect it’s better than the alternatives…

  2. Ooof. I’m sorry that I added to your load this week. You can always say “no” you know. Really.

    And the herding cats video is priceless.

  3. Geez Mike. If you could just get all that you’ve done this week smushed down into a 30 second spot you would have one heck of headache meds commercial.

    I hope Sherry starts feeling better and that you get to have a bit of rest sometime very soon.

  4. Thanks, gang. I’m sure the dark clouds will lift soon. It’s the way of things.

    Lon: Aye, the Honor System here is better than most alternatives. Doesn’t change the fact that I’ll be in mourning for some days to come.

    Mary: You know I know I can, but I know that you know I can’t.

    Kate: A headache meds commercial. Interesting. I actually broke down and took some yesterday at one point. Don’t know that it helped.

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