Sitting Still to Let the Ivy Grow

A year or so ago I was working out of the back of a van, travelling to a different and new place every day. These days I’m forced to let the moss grow, so that my mind and credentials may grow as well.

Time to put my feet up for a minute. Or at least keep them in one place.


Growing is good. Now I am forced to grow while appearing stagnant but doing my best not to really stagnate. I’ve decided to look around me a bit and notice the little things.

Wynn Commons


Staying in place, at a place like this, is nice in that while buildings and things have stayed in place, some for a very long time, but the people have not. People, some great, some not, some soon to be, have all sat in those chairs, walked those paths, ignored those same details.

the ghosts of Locust Walk


So for the rest of the school year I’ll do my best to pay attention, both in class and out. I’ll look at things different every day and try to help us all do the same.

Wynn Commons


Or at least I will continue to play with my iPhone.

Extracarriculars at Penn, A Toast to My Cohort.

I’m not sure if my cohort of graduate students were motivated by school spirit or free tickets. No matter the motivation we all went to see Penn vs. Yale football.


I suppose it could have been school spirit, after all, we are more-or-less getting degrees in college. As in, “what are you studying?” answer, “college.” These are the people who went to college and liked it so uch they all decided to go to college for a living.

Good folks... why does the little one look so serious?

I admit I was happy that among these social people, the ones I was happily socializing with, my “plus one” was actually interested in the game. I’m bringing them up right.

Now the Ivies may not be the SEC but we have our own traditions. Of course these traditions don’t include national titles in the past half century, but let’s not go there.

A march down Locust walk on the way to the stadium

At Penn we not only dress in appropriate Ivy style, but we come prepared with our own ladders. My little one covered here ears as the noisy people played DMX’s Ruff Riders anthem, which amused me, then as the parade passed we joined a group of Kazakh officials on a campus tour.  The guy leading the tour had our tickets.

If you look closely, you will see edible projectiles.

At the gate of the stadium is a large bin of toasted slices of white bread and all are encouraged to grab a stack. Legend holds that in the good ‘ol days when when we were were gentlemen, and drunkards (because we’ve changed now), the student body would raise a toast to dear old Penn at the beginning of the fourth quarter. We still do, but today the toast consists of throwing toasted bread out toward the field. I’m sure it inspires the team.

I’m sure of this because after the toast we all left.

Our departure must have been great motivation as the mighty Quakers scored 27 fourth quarter points for the come from behind victory.

I did not tell anyone, but I was doing my reading for Professor Harper’s class on my iPhone in between plays. why? Because I am a nerd. Why else? Because bringing a three year old to a football game surprisingly distracts her long enough for me to sneak some studying.

Because these college kids are team players. A toast to you higher Ed cohort! And to you dear old Penn.

They have horsey rides at Penn games.
Hey Melinda... I stole this pic from your Facebook page! (that's how I cite sources here)

Prep at Penn, or more modern Ivy.

There has been much complaint of the lack of “Ivy style” at today’s Ivy schools. I am in no way expert on style, Ivy or otherwise, nor am I an expert on the goings on on at other institutions. I am not even an expert on what is happening at my own school.

But I am here and I a have a camera. Well, my phone has a camera and I have no shame. Exhibits A through whatever…

I'm pretty sure I have seen the experts display madras GTH pants
Nantucket Reds? I'm sure I have read of them.
That my friends is an undergrad in a bowtie.
And this is another kind of tie... and a Mom.
Perhaps style is not the issue but the apparent conflicting weather reports displayed here.
Anger aside, I'm pretty sure I have seen this look in a catalog.
Again, not an expert here but I think this guy is doing alright.



Now this is just textbook (that's a pun).



And finally; I'm sure all of these folks will soon be this guy.

 Here is evidence, carry on with your discussions.

Windows at Penn

Windows serve a purpose.

College Hall

Windows are openings into somewhere else. They let bits in, be it sun or air, without letting everything in, like rain or people.

Arch Building

I walk around campus and look at windows; creepy I know. In windows we can look at what is going on and still feel separate.

Class in session... not my class

I could watch this class through the window and understand what is on the screen, and see who is attending, but I still won’t really know what is happening. That’s the problem with windows.

Inside the Arch Building

Things that pass through windows are distorted. They inform, but not completely.

For example…

College Hall

That window, that one way up top. The circle with three joined circles within; what goes on behind there? It sits up top on a majestic building. A building that has housed historians and scholars for over 100 years, what is behind that window?You see? That’s the problem with windows. They screen and separate. They let a little in but don’t allow full access.

Some times its better that way.

On Campus, Penn

Fall break has ended. I say ended but my program didn’t get a fall break so what I really mean is everyone else finally came back to class.

Locust Walk

My studies consist of reading, then reading, some writing, some talking, but then more reading, and to do so I need a chair. I want it to be comfortable and in hopes of finding one, I wander.

Great location but already taken

My quest has taken me to many unexplored corners of campus that apparently are only unexplored to me. Some give up the search and just take what they find.

I think it was appropriately Ben Franklin who said, "A man who wears two watches never knows the time."

I have at times found the perfect chair, then found it wasted on the unappreciative (the young), set in the wrong location, and while empty… still unavailable.

Explain the mattress to me. Where is John Belushi?

I think its the case with all of us who wander, that there is somewhere inside, or even somewhere quite literal, where we are supposed to be. We are simply searching for it, or more likely, avoiding it.

My assigned chair looks a lot like the one I used to complain about back before school. Sigh

Penn GSE, One Month In

I’ve been a full time grad student for a month now; its time to check in.

What I have read so far.

The picture above is a bit misleading in that I read 2 books on my Kindle and I usually print the online excerpts 4 to a page. Just over 2,500 pages in 30 days. I’ve only had to write a total of 20 pages, but I have talked much more than that. I talk a lot.

I do not suggest reading books for class on a Kindle. While perfect for those to and fro subway commutes, not so much for in class critique and holistic deconstruction of writing style and concept presentation compared to the historiographic predecessor. I have no idea what that last sentence means, but I would if I had read the text in a real book as opposed to on my Kindle.

Reading in the Wynn Commons

While reading on the Subway is necessary, I have open to me other options as well. While the tables just outside Houston Hall are nice, the weather is not always as accommodating.

Van Pelt Library

The Van Pelt Library has nice views and comfortable seating, and about 2 million undergrads. they are nice people for sure, but they take up a lot of comfortable seating.

Graduate Student Center

The Graduate Student Center has no undergrads, free coffee and tea (nice if you drink such things), but sadly no hard wood or leather. How appalling!

The home office

There is of course always the home office, but it is often overrun by a three year old, a seven year old, and a honey-do list. Not to mention distractions of my own making, like blogs and whatnot.

Locust Walk

There are plenty of places on campus. I suppose it does not matter as long as the work gets done. At the root of all this, that is the struggle, getting it all done.

I had my first bout of anxiety and a heart to heart with the person most important to me. My mental check list was insufficient, my planner was condemning me, and I had to make some adjustments.

Thank heavens for a supportive cast, one as invested in my success as I am, because unfortunately when looking at my schedule they are the only ones who have room to move. I have no doubt they will fare just fine with less of my help, they did so just fine before, but it isn’t them I am really worried about, its me.

There is an inner Puritan in me that riddles me with guilt due to the fact that I so deeply enjoy what I am studying. To be successful I must see less of my family, a sacrifice indeed. But what I’m doing while I’m away feels like fun, dealing with a three year old who has skipped her nap-time does not.

I feel like some sort of bandit and surprisingly enough my conscience is not used to it.

The spot where I do most of my studying. I'm not telling you where it is.