Wednesday, January 2, 2008

New Year's Musings ... and an obsession

We are now at Day 2 of 2008. I'll have to admit to not having done much besides putter around the house ... and read some Harry Potter Fanfiction. I know, there are other things I really should be doing, like practising as I have a service to play at Chapel of the Cross this Sunday ... completing my Blackboard course through Campbell University (I still have yet to complete my Final Assessment) ... finish up preparations for the Chemistry course I'm to start teaching next week (if enough students enroll for the course that is - the RTP campus has a minimum enrollment number, and as of last Friday, that number has not yet been reached) ... do some major practising on the organ literature that I'm supposed to be working on ... visit the Music Library at UNC to check out the Bellotti text for more insight on Dietrich Buxtehude's keyboard works ...

Back to the fanfiction obsession I'm currently having: I've never really been much for fanfiction before, although when I was in junior high school, I wrote copiously on what might be termed as fanfiction today, mainly on stories based on a futuristic M*A*S*H and Battlestar Galactica (as those in the early 80s remember that show by).

Of late, my obsession has landed with a couple of very-well written stories, found on Admittedly, I never really identified with any one specific character from the Harry Potter series, the only thing I really noticed was my "placement" in Ravenclaw House when I took these silly little Sorting Surveys found rampantly on either MySpace or Facebook. However, for some strange reason, the two stories with which I'm currently obsessed focus on Severus Snape.

Why the Potions Master? Frankly speaking, I'm not sure. Sure, he's the evil teacher that every kid dreads having, is the sort of teacher who would cause kids to become chemophobes (my opinion only), but J. K. Rowling wrote his character to be so morally ambiguous that it sparked major debate among Harry Potter fans up until the release of Deathly Hallows. I will admit though - after having read the last book in the HP series, I have a new appreciation for the Snape character. And, one will have to admit that Alan Rickman understands how to portray Snape completely as reflected in his characterisation of the Potions Master in the Harry Potter films.

The stories I'm currently fascinated by were penned by Coral Grace and zee grindylows.

Coral Grace's story centers on a young Ravenclaw student named Armilla, who makes the startling discovery that the Potions Master is actually her brother. She does a wonderful job of keeping Snape in character, as well as keeping JKR's universe true to form, while exploring a more tender, caring side to Snape as the brother and sister get to know each other better. Coral Grace is currently working on a sequel to her original story, which may be found here.

zee grindylows' story, Where Your Treasure Is, is her take on the events of Deathly Hallows in the aftermath of The Battle for Hogwarts. It starts right after Nagini the snake administers the fatal bite to Snape in the aftermath of Voldemort's mistaken conclusion that killing Snape would enable him to be the master of the Elder Wand at last. I will admit to being completely enchanted by this story. Grindy does an excellent job of keeping all the major players in character, but also allows them to grow and expand in her universe as well. She claims the story will be Epilogue-compliant (as a reference to that IMHO less-than-satisfying epilogue as found in Deathly Hallows) with a couple of major exceptions. Her story is actually a Severus Snape/Hermione Granger ship, which in general I don't find very appealing at all, but the way she wrote this, and the way she sets up the story keeps you hooked. I will admit to not being able to stop reading this. She is up to Chapter 57 and is nearing completion of the story. It's riveting, extremely moving, and it makes you want to find out what happens next.

In the meantime ... I've had communications with the folks at St. Joseph's Episcopal Church, and we're already making some plans. I am hoping to meet with the choir for supper on Wednesday 9th to get a feel for who they are, and give them a chance to meet me. I would like to reassure them that I will be there to work with them, and hope that we will be able to learn and grow together. The more communications I have with the Vicar, Rev. Rhonda Lee, and the choir coordinator, Fred Hawkins, the more excited I'm getting about starting at St. Joseph's. It will be a new challenge for me, that's for sure.

Even teaching Intro Chem will be a new challenge for me as well this year. In the past, my teaching experience was limited to TA'ing lab courses, mainly Organic Chemistry, or one-on-one tutoring sessions. This will be my first lecture course. Yes, I did team-teach Forensic Science 101 last term with five other people, but it's not the same as leading your own course. I only hope I can do justice to that, as it really is all for the students' benefit. The main challenge comes in teaching this course as a "Blended Course," where 50% of the instruction occurs on-line. My in-class time occurs Tuesday nights, which will be taken up by hands-on lab experiments (no, I won't be asking them to bottle fame, brew glory, or put a stopper in death), while Thursday nights will be spent, tethered to a computer, ready to field whatever questions may come my way by inquisitive students. There won't be any formal lectures in this course; for me, that's what makes this scary and challenging. Chemistry is not an easy discipline to learn, and I think asking the students to do it essentially on their own will be challenging. I just hope they are up to the challenge.

So we'll see what the future days will hold in store for me. At least I have a few things to look forward to: my friends, Lee Thomas and Robert Wright will have their 20+ year relationship blessed on the 12th January (and I am oh so happy for them! Pity we're not in MA ...); Roberta Van Ness and Gerald Whittington will be married in April, and of course, the choir will be singing at both events; and my former labmate, Iris Obispo and her husband, Jared Peak will be renewing their vows in Hawaii in May, and they've asked me to play the piano in the church where Iris grew up.

Beyond all that ... we'll see what unfolds. Certainly, 2008 has promise to be a much better year for me already.

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