Big Read, Big Feed

It’s that magical (so to speak) time of the year again when several hundred writing instructors for the various UC campuses meet in Berkeley to devote a long weekend to scoring writing placement exams for next fall’s entering class. We’ll be reading 19,000+ exams, each of them twice and a good number of them three times (those with divergent or borderline scores all get an extra looking at). It comes out to something like 85 exams per day per reader.

I had a brief fantasy of going with Melissa to see Beowulf: A Thousand Years of Baggage one evening after the read, but I came to my senses before I bought the tickets and remembered that by 5:00 on any given day during the big read I’m pretty much brain dead. (I bring my radio so I can listen to the ballgame in the evenings, but generally don’t even last for all of that.) I am still hoping we will get to a performance before it closes—I am all for combinations of epic story-telling and mockery of academic excesses.

If any aspect of the read is truly magic, it’s the food service—though white magic or black is certainly an open question. Every time one turns around big trays full of croissants, cookies, scones, or brownies are popping up, beckoning one in with their promises of tongue-pleasing yumminess and sugar-fueled energy bursts. Of course these delights are soon followed by a cannonball-in-the-gut leadenness and post-sugar-high coma—but just try remembering that when confronted by trays full of baked goods. (We are all the product of millions of years of evolutionary tinkering during most of which “grab the pastry!” was an excellent survival strategy. Sadly, our genome is hundreds of years behind the times on that score, still urging us to binge at every opportunity like monkeys eking out an existence on a drought-ridden African savannah.) I have been muttering, “I’ll just have a piece of fruit” to myself over and over again all week in preparation.

I have resurrected my second Ruffles and Ridges shawl as my big read knitting project. It’s ideal: lots of long, long rows of mostly K or P, with a gradual decrease in length, so that I have some hopes of feeling that I’m picking up steam right around the time I hit the exam-read “wall” on Saturday afternoon. I have not yet decided what I’ll be bringing as a back-up project—perhaps some of my yummy Stitches West yarn and the Impressionist Cowl pattern from FiddleLee. On the other hand, I could always knit it in—you knew I’d be saying this—malabrigo.