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Monday, January 29, 2007

Normativity

I hate the word normative and wish people would stop using it in class discussions. I have nothing against the idea it conveys, but can't we use some less jargon-y word to convey it? "Opinion"? "Belief"? Normative is just one of those words whose meaning I always know academically and never remember in human conversation. Is it the one that means fact, or value? I have to re-focus on the mental image of the page of my AP Psych textbook which sets the two words--normative and positive--off in a gray box indicating, "Learn this for the exam!" It's very taxing. So, the Romans will no longer make normative claims. Instead, Livy will be making arguments. That is all.

And can we definitely never, ever say, "normative values." I am tired of normative values. They are redundant.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The ongoing fratification of the U of C, Act III: Time to hate on the President

From yesterday's Maroon:
In his improvement strategy, Zimmer mentioned serious concerns about academic programs and student life in the College.

"The U of C certainly has a unique academic program, but the life of a student in the College is not so excellent," he said.

He reinforced his earlier decision to implement the Common Application, citing the potential for greater diversity and higher applicant numbers. He also expressed the concern that the current Uncommon Application establishes the College as a work-intensive environment.

"The environment is not set up for students to want to come here," Zimmer said.
It's not entirely clear how Zimmer knows that student life is "not so excellent," having been here for less than six months, and having spent none of them as a student. Nonetheless, he clearly knows that working hard is, like, so totally not fun. When students say things like this, it is easy to decipher the underlying message that they are lazy. But when the President endorses laziness as a quality in undergraduates worth cultivating, what are we to do?
Asserting that the academic environment inversely affects application numbers, he asked, "Is it okay that we have half the number of applicants as some of our east coast competitors?"
So, work: not fun. You know what's fun though? Kicking Harvard's ass! Hell yeah! Woo, go U of C! Ok, woah, that was really taxing. I think I should get back on the couch and rip open another bag of chips and a six-pack before I overstrain my intellect here.
"We have the opportunity to remain a major research university," he said, "but we must ask ourselves whether we want to be a significant player or a boutique institution."

He said the University might consider adding engineering programs or improving synergy between graduate programs in the humanities and social sciences to generate cutting-edge research.
Yeah, hmm, engineering is cool. How about Division I football too? That would be excellent! Or, we could buy the currently nomadic frats and sororities some kick-ass houses near campus and jump-start Greek life. Also, what the hell is up with getting Bob Saget to perform; how lame is that? I, for one, think we should consider shelling out for Beyonce! Yeah, Beyonce!

So yeah, as long as school's not *shudder* work-intensive. Anything but work-intensive.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

In which I express conflicting intentions: television and studying

I'm slowly realizing that this quarter is going to be a slow-motion train wreck unless I get moving on my BA. Not only do I have a completed draft due during finals, I also have a 15-page paper for the Roman Republic class, and presumably a 10-page paper for Edmund Burke, all due on the same day. Like I said: train wreck. But, since I have relatively little due before this day from hell, I have been attempting to re-discover my obsessive and effective work ethic of previous years in order to get stuff done early. First, Julia and I arranged a weekly BA party in which we agreed to read and discuss five new pages of each other's BAs. Second, I rented a locker at the Reg and moved my laptop into it, hoping that this would serve to draw me towards the Reg at every free minute. This produced some progress (I finished the intro), but not as much as I would like. As a result, I am taking a third drastic step by cutting back on my fun intake. No more Wing Nights, no more work on Tuesdays (not that this was exactly fun), no more impromptu going out three times a week. This will leave only Wednesday Pub nights at 9 pm and one night a week of going out. From now on, I will be in the Reg from at least 5 pm - 10 pm each night except Fridays, and except the time I spend at the gym. I will even move my gym clothes into my Reg locker for enhanced efficiency. If you need me, we can meet for coffee in between studying. That is all.

But, as if to purposely undermine all my efforts at academic diligence, our first round of Netflix DVDs arrived lats week, and, despite all the gushing recommendations on behalf of 24, it was voted down in the 5402 by a vote of 2 to 1. Julia liked it (as did David and Seb, but they're not 5402 residents and Netflix fee payers, so they don't count), but Alex and I thought it was egregiously violent and not smart enough for us. Because we are snobs. Yes, it was suspenseful, but I'm not sure that keeping viewers on the edge of their seats by killing or maiming a character every time the plot gets slow is really an artistic achievement worthy of our continued patronage. We did, however, enjoy Undeclared for its bad but hilarious portrayal of college, and opted for more of that. We also ordered the first season of Six Feet Under, so we'll see how that goes.

Addendum of the next morning: To the person who stole my wallet last night: DIE MOTHERFUCKER. (I know I agreed to stop swearing, but I feel that this situation deserves my utmost contempt.)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Christmas Story moment and a history of delinquency

Do you recall the scene in A Christmas Story when the Little Orphan Annie super secret decoder ring that Ralphie sent away for finally arrives? He's been checking the mail religiously for weeks, and when it finally comes, he rushes into the bathroom to decode Annie's secret message, leaving his poor brother to cry outside about his desperate need to pee while Ralphie is all concentration--sticking his tongue out, writing out each letter, sounding out the words. Then his mother joins his brother in demanding that he get out of the bathroom, and he's dying to just finish the message, and when he finally does, all it says is, "Don't forget to drink your ovaltine." A crummy commercial.

I totally feel for Ralphie. A couple weeks ago, while I was cleaning out my old school files, I came across a letter attached to my high school diploma informing me that the school would hold my temporary record for five years after graduation, and I had a right to get copies before they chucked it. I wasn't sure what a temporary record was, but it sounded like it could be full of exciting revelations about my academic life and testimonies to my youthful greatness that I had never before seen, so I requested a copy and anticipated its exciting arrival.

It came today, and it was, like, so totally lame. It included IQ scores indicating that my intelligence--which was never very high--had diminished between second and sixth grade, and that moreover, that my "non-verbal" IQ was far superior to my verbal IQ, indicating that I would be awesome at math. This has clearly been demonstrated throughout my life. It also included a record of my absences and tardies between first and fourth grade (30 absences, 22 tardies in the first grade alone--my parents were not pro-education, it seems). And finally, there was a record of all my exciting disciplinary infractions, including:
"I struggled to get Rita to participate through out[sic] our soccer unit. We are now starting C.P.R. Hope fully[sic] her grade will improve. Grade: C"
"Too many absences. Needs to make up absences. Grade: C"
"Rita needs to better prepare for daily pop quizzes. Grade: C"

And finally, the website scandal, part 1 (somehow more exciting than part 2):
"Rita's Chemistry teacher was made aware that a web site was created and it centered around her. Statements she has made in class and a class photo of her from the 1983 yearbook were included on the web site. Action taken by Dean: Student conference, Removal from WISE team, Required Saturday Study Assignment, Possible police intervention (!!!)"

For the record, I do not recall the police intervention. That would've made it really exciting.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Academic apathy, part 514

Today I went to an English class I bid on in an effort to learn only what I already know this quarter, thereby minimizing my non-BA workload. The class made no sense. The professor kept insisting that the purpose of his course was to look at the multilingual nature of Jewish literature, but then clarified that we'd be reading all the books in English, and no knowledge of Yiddish or Hebrew was necessary. Then we had a puffy, apathetic discussion--one of those introductory, "what does this topic mean to you" things which no one but the first-years bother to take notes on--in which one response to the question, "What is Jewish literature?" that was deemed board-worthy was "pertains to Judaism." This was followed by the distribution of several poems on which I very nearly commented, but stopped when I realized that I knew nothing about literature and was most probably totally wrong. It was probably for the better that I kept my mouth shut, because the actual discussion that ensued went something like this:
Professor: Well?
Student: Well, she wants a purity.
Professor: Yes, and a hybridity.
Student: Well, the longing and the Holocaust...
Professor: Yes, the wandering in the desert, strangers.
Student: Dante.
Professor: Yes, and God, which is Hebrew.

In any case, the class requires a 12-15 page term paper. Kind of excessive given the 15-20 paper in my other class, and, of course, the plague that is my BA. So, I think I need a different class. How was Edmund Burke?

Portents

I had a dream so epic last night that, in another day and age, it would likely have warranted a trip to Delphi to decipher. In my dream, I gave birth to a duck. I mean, the dream was not about the process of giving birth or anything, but I had a baby and it was a duck and it was undoubtedly mine. For most of the dream, the duck looked like a human infant, but somehow it was clear to all that he was a duck. I then proceeded to mostly neglect the duck and let my mother raise him. Occasionally, I would feel guilty and check on the duck. In the end, my friends from high school, the duck, and I went swimming.

Given the record of Apollo's oracle, we may speculate that they would predict that that I will bear a son who will be taken from me and raised by someone else only to become a great naval commander. However, lacking inspired priestesses to analyze these things for me, I am forced to conclude that this dream is a manifestation of my guilt at not spending enough time with my cat.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

New Year's Resolutions

1. Write a decent BA
2. Get a decent job
3. Find a decent place to live
4. Be not unhappy a year from now

I hope I am not overreaching.