Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Dean's First Blog

It all seems so easy -- sign up on blogger.com and start blogging. I'm going to give it a try for a bit to see if I can really find the time to write things with regularity. It will, at least, serve as an alternative to the longish emails I send once in a while telling a story.

A colleague -- Judith Mitchell in English to be precise -- gave me a book just before Lucas (my son) and I went off backpacking this past week. The Academic Community: A Manual for Change by Donald Hall looked to be just what I needed: a book to invigorate me and make sure that the less-than-two-years I have left as Dean are a period in which I can really say I accomplished some things. I quickly read the first chapter and saw that this was going to valuable: the basis of Hall's book is found in Gadamer's ideas on dialogue and hermeneutics, a perspective I find appealing. So, into the backpack it went.

Unfortunately things did not work out quite they way I hoped. The hike in to Circlet Lake in Strathcona Park was easy and pleasant but it got cold and started to rain shortly after we arrived. For the next three days the weather was not such as to encourage sitting around reading (my ability to read lying in my sleeping bag is limited these days, I find, given the difficulties of determining just the right "spot" in my glasses to focus on a book while holding it in front of my nose).

What made it worse was that I took a second book with me and I just happened to start reading that too (always a bad idea): Mieke Bal's Loving Yusuf: Conceptual Travels from Present to Past. This work develops the notions of "cultural memory" as related to the story of Joseph and Potiphar's wife in the Bible, the Qur'an, Rembrandt and Thomas Mann, as well as through the author's autobiographical memories of a Dutch Catholic education. I was enthralled again for the first chapter but made little progress beyond that. Those of you who know Bal's work will realize that while she shares some theoretical perspectives found in Hall's frame of reference, she writes in a more theoretical way and I found that the two works together did not necessarily make good companions -- and that didn't encourage me to endure the cold and read on.

O well. My summer reading adventure won't result in a full report to the Faculty this year as I was hoping (and as I managed last year with Williams' Stoner, read while hiking Nootka Island). But at least I have a picture to share. Here's me on Mt. Frink with Moat Lake and Mt Washington in the background. Gorgeous weather, you'll note: two hours later, it started to rain, hail and snow (lightly).



Lucas McSports said...

Thanks for metioning me dad, but for anyone who is interested, I took that picture.

oceanpax said...

Very cool blog Dean! Looking forward to many more "musings" - perhaps on the subject of an upcoming paddling circumnavigation?

Ted said...

Great picture! My compliments to the photographer.

Courtney said...

I think it's important for you west coasters to see a little snow now and then!