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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The end and the beginning

The academic year is winding down for the undergrads with whom I share my residence. Over the past week, everyday I come home to see overprotective parents packing their large vans with all their spoiled brats' precious belongings for the trip home. The Chestnut is starting to feel pretty empty as the whole operation begins to the refitting process to shift from student residence to summer hotel. The mood is undeniably celebratory for both students and staff, who I imagine are looking forward to serving well-mannered travellers instead of loud, rambunctious--and often drunk--students. The change in clientele will likely mean better tips and less late-night vomit cleanups.

For me, this transition is a mixed blessing at best. While I certainly don't mind seeing all the undergrads pack up and leave, I am not looking forward to the impending closure of the cafeteria and all that it entails. For the past week, I've been trying to eat as much salad and fresh fruit as I physically can in the hopes that I can somehow make my body store up some healthy food before I subject it to the horrors of BBQ pork rice, BBQ duck rice, and Kraft dinner for the next 4 months. I know camels do this with water before going into the desert, but I'm not sure I can develop a "vegetable/fruit hump" on my back before the end of the week.

On the academic front, my "academic year" is just beginning. I've started my course, and for the first time in 3 years, I've been doing homework. I feel like an out-of-shape, former runner doing the Pikes Peak Marathon after a 3 year long hiatus working as a taste tester at the Hershey's factory. For the first week of class, I was honestly sucking wind, huffing and weezing my way through the assigned papers.

The way this course is structured, the only real incentive to complete the assigned readings--besides learning, of course...but, that's beside the point--is the fear of what I call the "Academic Russian Roulette". Here's how this terrible game of chicken works: each week two papers are assigned, and at the next class one of 12 students is randomly asked to present on one of these papers. Last week, some poor guy got the bullet and was lying in a pool of his own academic blood after his weak 5 minute presentation showed that he had not, in fact, read the paper. It was like watching a guy take a bullet to the leg from a small sidearm, before being hammered with a M-16. Not pretty. There's a Chinese saying that, when roughly translated, goes something like this: "you can scare the monkeys by showing them how you kill the chickens." At the moment, I am that proverbial monkey, cowering on a tree branch that is dangling precariously close to a box of KFC. I think I will go read my paper now. Good night.

Your Favorite Jerk

If you are on a warm beach in Hawaii, free from the burdens of academia, I shake my angry fist at you :-)

The trip to NYC for the Victoria Day weekend is still in the plans, and may proceed if there is enough interest. So, if anyone's interested, please do drop me a line.


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