Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Shifting from manual to automatic transmission and back

In Basel, our old VW Golf has a manual transmission, but while in the US last month, I drove my sister's not-quite-so-old Toyota Camry and my brother-in-law's even newer BMW, which both have automatic transmissions. As usual, I didn't find it hard to drive automatic, except in a few moments in the Camry when quick decisions triggered my reflex to down-shift. (It took only a second to recover.) Back in Basel now, the month of driving automatic has left one trace: stopped at traffic lights, I often forget to down-shift, so I find myself starting in a high gear when the light changes. (Again, it only takes a second to recover.) (Andrew Shields, #111words, 16 August 2022)

Monday, August 15, 2022

Unfamiliar maps on flights across the Atlantic

When I flew to the United States last month for a four-week vacation (hence the silence of my daily prose), I was struck by an unfamiliar feature on the flight-path maps: the images often displayed our city of departure (Frankfurt on the way to the US; Boston on the way back) at the bottom center of the map, with the city of arrival at the top center. On the trip to the US, this put Central America at the top, with Cuba often appearing vertical rather than horizontal, as standard maps present it, while on the way back, the East coast of Greenland ran horizontally across the globe, rather than vertically. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 15 August 2022)

Monday, July 11, 2022

On grades in an academic-writing course in Basel

At the end of the past semester, I discussed the issue of grades with the students in my two sections of the University of Basel English Department's "Academic Writing in English II" course. As it's a pass-fail course, I wondered if they found the grades I gave their essays useful. Several of the students said that they did find them useful, but they added that they wondered if that was just because they were used to having grades. With the pass-fail course, I could stop using grades, but higher-level seminar papers in the department are still officially graded, so I'm pondering whether it's useful to continue grading in the course anyway. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 11 July 2022)

Sunday, July 10, 2022

A red card in a football match – but the team was allowed to replace the player

About twenty minutes into the friendly between FC Basel and Neuchâtel Xamax this afternoon, a Xamax player received a red card for a serious foul. After the players calmed down (and a Basel player received a yellow card, too), the referee and the head coaches had a discussion for several minutes. As everyone got ready to start play again, I noticed there were still eleven Xamax players on the field. The player who received the red card had been sent off, but Xamax had been allowed to replace him. I concluded that Basel did not want to play their friendly against a ten-man team and had thus arranged this unusual solution. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 10 July 2022)

Saturday, July 09, 2022

The poems and texts that are no longer on the Pont de l'Europe between Strasbourg and Kehl

In 1999, I translated a short poem by Durs Grünbein (whose title I can't remember and haven't found in my old files) that was part of a project honoring the 50th anniversary of the Council of Europe: forty European writers, including not only Grünbein but also Seamus Heaney and Czesław Miłosz, were asked to contribute a text for a permanent installation on the Pont de l'Europe between Strasbourg and Kehl. My translation was included in a book published to mark the occasion. Today, I went to the Pont de l'Europe to see the installation, but unfortunately, although the forty small display pillars are still there, the texts are no longer displayed. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 9 July 2022)

Friday, July 08, 2022

Grateful Dead songs from the band's and the audience's perspective: "Playing in the Band" and "The Music Never Stopped"

"Playing in the Band", a 1971 Grateful Dead song with lyrics by Robert Hunter and music by Bob Weir and Mickey Hart, describes a concert scene from the perspective of one of the musicians on stage and ends in the early morning: "Daybreak, while I'm playing in the band." In 1975, for "The Music Never Stopped" on the band's "Blues for Allah" album, John Perry Barlow wrote lyrics for Weir's music that took the audience's perspective and also ended in the early morning: "Keep on dancing through to daylight. Greet the morning air with song. No one's noticed but the band's all packed and gone. Was it ever here at all?" (Andrew Shields, #111words, 8 July 2022)

Thursday, July 07, 2022

A sluggish day after a coronavirus vaccination shot

After my booster shot of the coronavirus vaccine yesterday morning (my fourth in all), I was fine through the afternoon and evening, so I thought I might get through this one without any effects. But at night, I slept very poorly, with vivid, disjointed dreams that immediately vanished from memory whenever I woke up enough to know I was awake. The fatigue I have felt all day could be from lack of sleep or from the shot. And an experience I had forgotten from the earlier shots has come back: a stiffness in my upper arm that only becomes pain when I raise the arm above my shoulder for any reason. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 7 July 2022)