Monday, July 30, 2007

Small World

Today was my first day back in the office after my recent trip. As usual, there were piles of mail to be read and answered and all the usual detris that happens after being away. However, what was a little more interesting was some changes that have occurred during my absence.

The first change is that we have a new temporary secretary in our main office. It seems that our usual person has opted to take some time off, for medical reasons. I also discovered that during my absence, a colony of ants seem to have moved into my office. These are not welcome guests. I learned from the janitorial staff that ants are very common in our building. They were surprised that I had not been infested before. Thus, I was able to, as their first task, ask our temporary secretary lady to try and get someone in with dangerous chemicals to get rid of these critters.

A little later, I wandered across the hall, as I wanted to have a chat with the chair of the other academic unit that shares our floor. He was not around, but to my surprise it appears that this unit too has a new secretary. Perhaps a little more interesting is the fact that this is someone I know, who recently changed job. It is nice to have familiar faces around the place.

While I was chatting and catching up with this individual, I was surprised to see some other people I knew, who I had not seen in a while. This is a young and bright academic couple who were with us for a while, but then disappeared off, to do post-docs. I had rather assumed that they would not bother coming back, but it seems that they have. This is good news. They are proper academics, who publish, unlike many of the ersatz faculty that haunt my institution.

We naturally got chatting, mostly catching up and swapping gossip. Then, to my surprise, they mentioned that where they had been for their post-docs, there was somebody who knew me. This puzzled me a little, not least because for the life of me, I could not remember where they had been, other than the fact that it was a much fancier place than our institution. I do know quite a few people around the place, but it is not too common for me to know people outside my own area of study. So, this was a bit of a puzzle.

Initially, they could not recall exactly who it was who knew me. Oh well, I thought, another of life's little mysteries. Perhaps this was someone I got into a scrap with at some interdisciplinary conference that I go to from time to time. However, on the face of it, this did not seem too plausible, due to the field of study concerned. Then, they remembered!

It turns out these folks had been sharing a working environment with one of my favorite bloggers, the venerable Tenured Radical! This was just too weird. They talked very highly of the Tenured Radical, in her real life persona. Somehow, I am not really surprised. However, upon making this discovery, I immediately thought of the title of the academic novel Small World, by David Lodge. This is indeed one.

The CP


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