Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Today was supposed to be several things.

It was supposed to be Ms. 8's day of delivery, the day my daughter was supposed to enter the world. I was going to take my wife to the hospital and sit supportively with her as she labored to bring Ms. 8 into the waking world. But other things happened--and I am glad, actually, since I have gotten to begin to know my daughter more than a month ahead of time. I do worry, though, that this sets a precedent; how often will she frustrate the plans others have made?

Today was also supposed to be a normal day. I do not have to report anywhere but the office and my classes. I am going to talk about the Bard with one class and about picking pieces apart with the other two--all things I am good at. I have grading and commenting to do, of course, but that is not unexpected; even in "normal" weeks, I have them to do in the middle of the week. I was rather looking forward to it, to having a regular, uneventful day.

The cats, though, decided to make things more complicated this morning. One of them, a neutered male snowshoe, took the chance to slip out into the back yard of Sherwood Cottage when my father-in-law slipped out to take care of something that needed doing. He managed to get the cat trapped in the garage and got me just as I was getting done getting dressed for the day. I made my way out to try to corral the cat; it took some doing, but I finally laid hold of the animal and got him back into the house. Ultimately, no harm was done, but it was not a good beginning to the day; I worry that it bodes ill.

That I am so concerned is a recognition of the primacy effect upon me, the idea that what happens first colors all that comes after. (The cliché about first impressions applies. I still do not like seeing it in the writing I read.) When I discuss it with my students, I make the comparison to a fight; a solid blow early on makes whatever follows it seem more powerful to the one being struck. There are days that open with something akin to a kick in the teeth; today was not one of them, perhaps, but a kick to the shin is hardly a pleasant experience. (Take it from one who knows.) No damage has been done, but I cannot afford to limp through the day, and I worry that my wife will be concerned by the bruising and swelling.

(I know that carrying a metaphor for some distance leads to trouble. It is actually part of the fun, seeing how far it can go before it breaks down and the comparison is no longer valid. And that strikes me as an entertaining exercise for students to pursue. I can envision the prompt: "Extend one of the metaphors listed below until the comparison it makes is no longer valid. Identify the point at which the metaphor breaks down and explain why it fails at that point and not before.")

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