June 10th, 2007

krazy koati

Always look on the bright side of life

So there were three components of the job interview the other day at the university where one of my mother's college friends used to work. On presenting my research everything went great. On meeting the Dean it couldn't have gone better, even if I didn't actually get to go to the hobby shop in the area that I let him know about.

Naturally, I blew it on the teaching part. I got off to a good start, explaining the background for this sort of course and what I would have covered in previous lectures, and then went into the rather marvellous problem of the Galerkin finite element method for solving differential equations by referring back to linear algebra ideas of finding a projection of a vector, which students in a finite elements course should find extremely comfortable. But at a critical point I froze up, and couldn't remember how to get from what I had established to the impressive result I wanted.

I apologized while looking around my old lecture notes, not finding what I wanted, and my audience suggested I try just explaining something more elementary since they want to know more of how I communicate with students, including, yes, what happens when I've completely lost my place. But being encouraged to ditch what I had -- if inadequately -- prepared and go into something fresh, say something from an introductory course (I haven't taught an introductory course except in C in years) was putting me into a nerve-induced deathspiral of useless stammering. I got started again, just barely, in time for me to be lead off to meeting the dean.

Maybe they'll accept it as the ordinary sort of freeze-up that comes when a nervous person really hasn't got enough time for the preparation and screws up in the middle of the interview. And I've got a follow-up letter that hopefully will paper it over, but, really, it's hard to not get the impression of a job evaporating.

The next day, my mother's college friend called; she'd accidentally abandoned her phone in quiver-only mode in her purse and didn't hear my call, nor did she realize there was a message as her phone had run out of battery power, and she only had just now recharged it. She was embarrassed that she'd coincidentally called my parents a few hours after I'd left her a message, but she didn't know to ask to talk to me. She doubted she knew anything useful anyway.

Trivia: By 1712 Boston apothecaries were selling chocolate. Source: Sweets: A History of Temptation, Tim Richardson.

Currently Reading: Goldwyn: A Biography, A Scott Berg. Curiously, nothing in it explains how the studio got to associate with Laserblast, perhaps because Sam Goldwyn died years before it was made.