Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Autumn in Honolulu

I know that the season formally started almost two months ago, but I'm finally starting to detect a little bit of change in the weather. At long last, it's fall (autumn) in Hawaii. Today's high was a mere 82 F (28 C), and right now at the low it's a brisk and lightly breezy 72 F (22 C). And I must admit, in my sleeveless short knit dress, it feels a bit chilly. Could it be? Am I becoming a softy, a disgrace to my New England upbringing? No, I'm enjoying the relative coolness. Really, I'm very much looking forward to a day when I can wear a long skirt to school without being to hot. I miss my long skirts. I also miss my long sweater-coat thing (not sure what the technical term is), but I've given up hope on that one.

No fall leaves, of course. However, last week there was this large tree on campus--a comose fig, it is labeled--that had bright orange fruits about the size of small grapes which fell to the ground, all within the span of maybe three days. The fruits covered the ground under the tree with a blanket of orange. Honolulu's version of fall! My great regret is that I never brought my camera on my walk to school to take a picture of it. If I'd had a photo to show, this might have been an actually worthwhile post.

Today was Veterans Day--the first day off from classes that we've had since Labor Day (the first Monday in September). The semester has seemed so long. At my undergrad institution, our semesters had only 12 weeks of classes, and the fall semester as well as spring semester had one whole week off in the middle, after midterms week. OK, maybe we were slackers at my alma mater, but here at UH there are 16 weeks of classes, all right in a row (though I did, uh, have that one week in Berlin). It's intense. These little holidays are all we've got.

Fortunately, I've managed to make good use of my holiday today. Making some progress in Dragon Age: Origins. It's been a good day.

Since I am in a relatively autumny mood, I thought I'd share my favorite autumny poem.

Spring and Fall: To a Young Child
Gerard Manley Hopkins

MÁRGARÉT, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves, líke the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Áh! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

Oh right, the Blight. Time to get back to DAO...


Sebastian said...


I always thought university was going to be hard...

But in the end it was three semesters of 10 weeks. There was a reading week in the first two, so 2*9.

Then final semester was exams -- which usually occupied the first 4-5 weeks, and the other 5 weeks were just a bonus holiday.

So we had 18 weeks of lectures a year.

That means we could've almost got all 3 years into 1 year of intensive study...

Eleni said...

Wow. I knew it was 3 years, but I never realized those 3 years were so short. How many classes did you generally take at a time? How many hours of class a week? Because I'm thinking...

18 weeks of classes per year * 3 years / 32 weeks of UH classes per year = 1.7 years at UH.
That is, you had enough weeks of class to get almost halfway through UH--still an underclassman.

Sebastian said...

It varied from course to course. I think we had about 20 hours a week, but maybe... 12-14 hours of lectures. The rest were lab time or other odd bits and pieces.

I think our system is kind of hanging on to the olden days when our universities were 'pro'. Not quite sure why it's still so easy-going here.

Eleni said...

Well, maybe that's slightly more than would be typical here. As an undergrad I had a semester with 20 hours a week, but that was viewed as pretty insane and only happened because I was taking 5 courses (4 was typical) and had labs. 12 hours total was a perfectly acceptable amount of class time to have.

Of course, as a grad student I only have 9 hours/week this semester (technically 7.5 if you take into account that I round 50 min up to 1 hr and 75 min up to 1.5 hrs...).

Anyway, I imagine it's tough to bring significant changes to institutions as old as Cambridge or Oxford. They make Harvard seem juvenile.

Sebastian said...

For sure -- though they can't really pick and choose nowadays, so the quality of student is lower... so they can only really churn out a certain quality of graduate.

Not saying that some graduates aren't excellent... but not like the olden days.

Our humanities students do something like 2-4 hours of lectures a week (and lots of reading). Some courses did 20-24 I think. We were kind of middling.

We do have certain 'point' scores to achieve tho'. Usually 8 courses a year, 15 credits per course. (Lines up with the European system I think.)

Eleni said...

Well, it all seems to be working fine. Just makes those in the American system jealous. Maybe all our extra coursework turns out to be just "for fun".