Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Best friend reunions in the Mac Lab:

Girl 1: Omigod! It's soooo good to see you! I missed you sooo much! How was Africa?
Girl 2: I was in Paris.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

An open letter to the art history department

Dear art history department,

Throughout my four years at this illustrious institution, I have rarely encountered difficulties getting into classes that I wanted. The bidding system has usually accomodated my needs, and on the rare occasion that it failed, a brief personal communication with the professor would secure my spot in the course. I could always take what interested me when it interested me. I have always been very proud of the U of C for having such flexible course registration because, art history department, you should see what suffering my friends at bigger schools must endure. They can't get anything they want until senior year, if that. And everything has five million pre-requisites and you have to be majoring in that field to get the course and probably even then, you will get stuck in Native American History. For serious; you can ask my friend Anus at U of I, who will tell you awesome stories about Native American History.

So I am glad that I go to a school with minimal prerequisites, restrictions, and bureaucratic meddling in our "lives of the mind." That is, I was glad, art history department, until I met you. You, hardass art history department, have denied my efforts to take art every quarter this year. Now granted, the first two quarters, I didn't pre-register. My fault, I admit. However, did you have to kick me out immediately on the grounds that, since I had put it off this long, I obviously didn't really need it? How does that make any sense, art history department? Perhaps in art, you think in circles, but to me it seems that precisely because I have put it off, my need is greater and more urgent.

This quarter, I did pre-register. I even ranked your classes first. And did I get them? Nooo. And then when I emailed two of your faculty the first day of add/drop last quarter, did I get sympathy? Nooo. And when I showed up to class and said I needed the classes to graduate, did anyone even care? What do you think, evil art history department who is out to get me? No, art history department, no they did not. No one offered me a spot. They told me to keep coming back and they would decide next week. Do you really expect me to do the work for three art history classes on top of the work for my three other classes on top of my BA?

Heinous art history department whose subject I don't even like, what is your problem? Why can't you just be a little accomodating, a little flexible, a little sympathetic? I am a good student, I will do at least 80% of the reading unless it's really unbearably boring, I will attend regularly and participate at least once a class, and sleep minimally. Why do you systematically oppress me this way? Am I the Other, whose humanity and unique human predicament can be easily effaced in the name of bureaucratic regulations? Are you people totalitarians? And it's not just one or two professors; so far, it's been four of you, all hard-hearted sticklers for the "College's class cap on core courses." Do you think that's a coincidence, art history department, or do you think maybe there is something evil inherent in art history that guides its practicioners into such depths of inhumanity?

Just something to think about next time you're preparing your interminable slide presentations and ignoring the pleas of the students outside your office door.


Miss Self-Important

PS: I came across a lucky opening on Cmore this afternoon and added myself to one of your classes. So the logistical problem may be resolved and I'll graduate on time, no thanks to you. But don't think I like you.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Being nice, reconsidered

Last quarter, when my roommates embarked on their Annual Secular Renunciation of Things They Like That Just Happens to Coincide with Lent and I resolved to be nicer while they gave up cheese and Diet Coke, I went about the whole project in entirely the wrong way. I floundered around for a couple days trying to come up with concrete ways of being nicer, wrote one ridiculous open letter to my high school bio teacher, and then gave up for lack of direction. What kind of student of Benjamin Franklin am I?! How did I not think to address my lack of method to the most methodical and practical ethicist ever? How could I have forgotten the "arduous project of arriving at moral perfection"? The 13 pedestrian bourgeouis virtues? The chart to keep track of daily transgressions? The whole second section of my BA? Truly, I have failed you, B. Franky.

And pretty soon, I will also fail my BA. So I guess you will be avenged, Mr. Practical Pants.

But maybe after that happens, I really will try arriving at moral perfection with a virtue chart. I can add that to my to-do list along with reading more poetry and wearing more black.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

What is sad

That nothing I have said or will ever say about Benjamin Franklin can possibly be original, even though I thought of it myself. Also sad is the fact that so many people have written massive books about Franklin, and I can't even cobble together ten pages.

David gets worried when I don't post regularly, so here is a picture of Nigel the Cat in his honor:

Also, I forgot to mention earlier that the Winter '07 issue of the Midway Review is online now.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The end of res publica

I handed in my Rome paper, and now the class and my finals are done. It was a good class with way too much reading such that, in doing 75-85% of the reading, I still read all of Livy, Polybius, most of Appian, most of Plutarch, and some of Sallust. And pretty much none of the secondary sources, but I have my priorities, ok? My point is, assign too little reading, and the class won't finish it anyway. Assign too much and the class will read at least a lot. In any case, Rome is over--class and republic both, and now I am on "spring break," meaning more accurately that I am "spending the week in the library writing my BA." I will also be crying, crying, crying about my spring quarter course fiasco.

So, back to Rome. The class conclusion seemed to be that the republic was doomed from the start, and so also is the argument of my very mediocre paper, but I think now that this is not a useful conclusion. Does it follow then that Rome should never have existed? Even Polybius says that all regimes will eventually collapse, if not from internal problems or external conquest, then from hurricanes and earthquakes (he does say that; you can check). But we still have to live in cities in the meantime, and the cities have to be ordered somehow, so even if the city is not ordered for eternity, it can nonetheless be ordered well for the duration of its existence. And a long existence is probably a major criterion for judging a good city, but Rome, however doomed from the beginning it may have been, certainly lasted an extraordinarily long time.

In the end, I think Polybius wins. And when Polybius wins, the Greeks win. Rome was a really good facilitator for the spread of Hellenism. So even though I was probably the only partisan of the Greeks in our class and so was vastly outnumbered (except maybe for that one guy who was obsessed with finding signs of 21st century American progressivism in second century Rome--he might have supported Athenian democracy given the option), I maintain that I still won. As proof, a poem:

C.P. Cavafy

Make sure the engraving is done skillfully.
The expression serious, majestic.
The diadem preferably somewhat narrow:
I don't like that broad kind the Parthians wear.
The inscription, as usual, in Greek:
nothing excessive, nothing pompous--
we don't want the proconsul to take it the wrong way:
he's always nosing things out and reporting back to Rome--
but of course giving me due honor.
Something very special on the other side:
some discus-thrower, young, good-looking.
Above all I urge you to see to it
(Sithaspis, for God’s sake don’t let them forget)
that after "King" and "Savior,"
they engrave "Philhellene" in elegant characters.
Now don't try to be clever
with your "where are the Greeks?" and "what things Greek
here behind Zagros, out beyond Phraata?"
Since so many others more barbarian than ourselves
choose to inscribe it, we will inscribe it too.
And besides, don't forget that sometimes
sophists do come to us from Syria,
and versifiers, and other triflers of that kind.
So we are not, I think, un-Greek.

I'll stop posting Cavafy poems soon, I promise.

Overheard at work

Editor 1: See, if we had taken the diagonal, we'd be there by now.
Editor 2: The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. A diagonal is not a straight line!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Finals Updates

From the Chronicle of Higher Education:
Hemlock Available in the Faculty Lounge

Teaching evaluations have become a permanent fixture in the academic environment. These instruments, through which students express their true feelings about classes and profes-sors, can make or break an instructor. What would students say if they had Socrates as a professor?

This class on philosophy was really good, Professor Socrates is sooooo smart, I want to be just like him when I graduate (except not so short). I was amazed at how he could take just about any argument and prove it wrong.

I would advise him, though, that he doesn't know everything, and one time he even said in class that the wise man is someone who knows that he knows little (Prof. Socrates, how about that sexist language!?). I don't think he even realizes at times that he contradicts himself. But I see that he is just eager to share his vast knowledge with us, so I really think it is more a sin of enthusiasm than anything else.

I liked most of the meetings, except when Thrasymachus came. He was completely arrogant, and I really resented his male rage and his point of view. I guess I kind of liked him, though, because he stood up to Prof. Socrates, but I think he is against peace and justice and has no place in the modern university.

Also, the course could use more women (hint: Prof. Socrates, maybe next time you could have your wife Xanthippe come in and we can ask questions about your home life! Does she resent the fact that you spend so much time with your students?). All in all, though, I highly recommend both the course and the instructor.

Socrates is a real drag, I don't know how in hell he ever got tenure. He makes students feel bad by criticizing them all the time. He pretends like he's teaching them, but he's really ramming his ideas down student's throtes. He's always taking over the conversation and hardly lets anyone get a word in.

He's sooo arrogant. One time in class this guy comes in with some real good perspectives and Socrates just kept shooting him down. Anything the guy said Socrates just thought he was better than him.

He always keeps talking about these figures in a cave, like they really have anything to do with the real world. Give me a break! I spend serious money for my education and I need something I can use in the real world, not some b.s. about shadows and imaginary trolls who live in caves.

He also talks a lot about things we haven't read for class and expects us to read all the readings on the syllabus even if we don't discuss them in class and that really bugs me. Students' only have so much time and I didn't pay him to torture me with all that extra crap.

If you want to get anxious and depressed, take his course. Otherwise, steer clear of him! (Oh yeah, his grading is really subjective, he doesn't give any formal exams or papers so its hard to know where you stand in the class and when you try to talk to him about grades he just gets all agitated and changes the topic.)

For someone who is always challenging conventional wisdom (if I heard that term one more time I was going to die), Professor Socrates' ideal republic is pretty darn static. I mean there is absolutely no room to move there in terms of intellectual development and social change.

Also, I was taking this course on queer theory and one of the central concepts was "phallocentricism" and I was actually glad to have taken Socrates because he is a living, breathing phallocentrist!

Also, I believe this Republic that Prof. Socrates wants to design — as if anyone really wants to let this dreadful little man design an entire city — is nothing but a plan for a hegemonic, masculinist empire that will dominate all of Greece and enforce its own values and beliefs on the diverse communities of our multicultural society.

I was warned about this man by my adviser in women's studies. I don't see that anything other than white male patriarchy can explain his omnipresence in the agora and it certainly is evident that he contributes nothing to a multicultural learning environment. In fact, his whole search for the Truth is evidence of his denial of the virtual infinitude of epistemic realities (that term wasn't from queer theory, but from French lit, but it was amazing to see how applicable it was to queer theory).

One thing in his defense is that he was much more positive toward gay and lesbian people. Actually, there was this one guy in class, Phaedroh or something like that, who Socrates was always looking at and one day they both didn't come to class and they disappeared for the whole day. I'm quite sure that something is going on there and that the professor is abusing his power over this student.

I learned a lot in this class
, a lot of things I never knew before. From what I heard from other students, Professor Socrates is kind of weird, and at first I agreed with them, but then I figured out what he was up to. He showed us that the answers to some really important questions already are in our minds.

I really like how he says that he is not so much a teacher, but a facilitator. That works for me because I really dislike the way most professors just read their lectures and have us write them all down and just regurgitate them back on tests and papers. We need more professors like Professor Socrates who are willing to challenge students by presenting materials in new and exciting ways.

I actually came out of this class with more questions than answers, which bothered me and made me uncomfortable in the beginning, but Professor Socrates made me realize that that's what learning is all about. I think it is the only class I ever took which made me feel like a different person afterward. I would highly recommend this class to students who want to try a different way of learning.

I don't know why all the people are so pissed at Professor Socrates! They say he's corrupting us, but it's really them that are corrupt. I know some people resent his aggressive style, but that's part of the dialectic. Kudos to you, Professor Socrates, you've really changed my way of thinking! Socs rocks!!

My first thought about this class was: this guy is really ugly. Then I thought, well, he's just a little hard on the eyes. Finally, I came to see that he was kind of cute. Before I used to judge everyone based on first impressions, but I learned that their outward appearances can be seen in different ways through different lenses.

I learned a lot in this class, especially about justice. I always thought that justice was just punishing people for doing things against the law and stuff. I was really blown away by the idea that justice means doing people no harm (and thanks to Prof. Socrates, I now know that the people you think are your enemies might be your friends and vice versa, I applied that to the people in my dorm and he was absolutely right).

An excellent class over all. One thing I could suggest is that he take a little more care about his personal appearance, because as we all know, first impressions are lasting impressions.

Socrates is bias and prejudice and a racist and a sexist and a homophobe. He stole his ideas from the African people and won't even talk to them now. Someone said that maybe he was part African, but there is noooooo way.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Writing the I Don't Know Paper

I am writing an I Don't Know Paper for the Rome final. The problem is that I have given my topic a lot of thought, and I still don't know the answer. This is probably ok though, since knowing the answer would mean that I understood why the Roman republic collapsed, and if I understood that, I would be a genius. Which I am not.

After taking five bazillion classes with my hum professor though, I have learned to embrace the I Don't Know Paper as a legitimate undertaking in itself. My hum professor recommends writing papers that explore questions which they fail to answer. Make no mistake however, the I Don't Know Paper is not about not saying anything; it's just about saying many small things and hoping that the professor gets so wrapped up in the the rapid-fire drawing of minor conclusions that he forgets to look for the earth-shattering revelation at the end. Unfortunately, I've only tested this on my hum professor, who seems to prefer such tactics. And moreover, this type of paper typically suffers from a lack of clear organization as a result of its lack of conclusiveness. But alas. My options here are limited. On the bright side, these papers are generally humbler and written in better prose.

So what is the status of aristocratic Roman family and why does it decline? I have no idea. Instead, I can talk about Roman names and their relation to places, the fact that Rome was founded WITHOUT ANY WOMEN, Lucius Brutus' execution of his son, the failed attempt of the Fabii to replace the Roman army, and why Marius and Cicero are both wrong about meritocracy. And then the republic is over and my obligation ends.

Why am I spending so much time this quarter defending aristocracy?

Also, it's 60 degrees outside. Why am I even in the Reg?

Friday, March 09, 2007

An open letter to the course registration program at the U of C

Dear course registration program at the U of C,

Hello! No, hello! Yoo-hoo, HELLO! Yes, do you remember me? I'm the senior who bid on an art class for spring quarter, which I ranked first (first!), in order to graduate on time. Oh, you don't remember me? Is that why you didn't give me that art class so now all the art classes are full and I am not in any of them? Do you think this is funny, course registration program at the U of C? Because I can tell you that I am not amused, course registration program at the U of C.

Let me explain something to you, course registration program at the U of C. I need to take one art course to graduate, and ok, maybe it wasn't the best idea to put off that course until the last possible quarter, but there's no law about when you have to take the one art course. No law, is that clear? I am well within my rights, course registration program at the U of C.

Now, course registration program, I am going to have to email professors and beg them to let me in to their classes so I can graduate on time. Do you see what you have reduced me to? You and your absurd "restructuring" that conveniently begins to favor first- and second-years for core classes only when I am a fourth year. And if the emailing doesn't work? What then, course registration bastard? Hm? What then?

Let's not think about that.

No love,

Miss Self-Important

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

In which classes end

Today, on the last day of our Edmund Burke class, the professor admitted that this was probably the least successful course he's ever taught. I came to a parallel conclusion that he is probably the only professor whom I've ever liked despite hating his course. I would totally take another course with him, although preferably about something Greek next time. Of course, I'm not going to, because I'm going to graduate instead, but hypothetically.

Anyway, he has said throughout the course (during our numerous periods of painful silence and non-participation by the class) that it's possible that the reason that we all stare blankly at him each week is that we are no longer capable of accepting the idea of inherited privilege. We can make some academic arguments on its behalf, but fundamentally, none of us is willing to defend it. This is probably true, even of the guy in the class who believes that the South was right to secede. Will is troubled by the suggestion that he lives on a wholly different plane of existence from Edmund Burke. I think it's interesting given that Burke is significantly younger than my Greeks, and we still purport to understand them.

But then there is the story of Cycladic figures (see, I totally learned things in Athens!) to suggest that, actually, we don't understand a thing about the Greeks and we just use them as a background against which to put up all the alternatives to modernity that we can imagine.

Monday, March 05, 2007

It's true what they say about second children

that they take up considerably less space in the family photo album than first children. I notice that, while we have about 80 billion pictures of Beatrice Kitty in every conceivable pose of overwhelming fuzzy cuteness, we have almost no pictures of Nigel Kitty, even though Nigel is arguably just as cute as Beatrice.

Why am I posting so often, you ask? Maybe because I am in the Reg all day every day these days. You might say, "Don't worry, Miss Self-Important. It will all be over soon. Reading period, finals week, then spring break!" But no. No, you would be wrong. THERE IS NO SPRING BREAK for Miss Self-Important because, during spring break, while the roommates are in Miami and everyone else is at least at home, Miss Self-Important will be in the Reg finishing her BA.

Also, I am doing a totally creepy thing right now by reading the blog of the girl sitting in the cubicle in front of mine, whom I've never actually met but often recognize around campus as the girl whose blog I read. Or a girl whose blog I read because, let's be honest, I read a lot of U of C blogs. Is it normal that when people sit down in front of me, instead of meeting them, my first impulse is to read their blogs to see what's going on with them? Is technology eroding my sanity?

Nonetheless, I just finished my Edmund Burke paper. This means that it's nap time, followed by Rome reading, Rome paper, BA writing, and other miscellaneous tasks that promise me no reprieve until graduation.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

A story about geography and second-guessing and other unrelated things before finals week

Whenever I took standardized tests, beginning probably in third or fourth grade, I got a preparatory lecture from whomever was proctoring the exam that unfailingly urged me to go with my gut on all uncertain questions. No consideration. No time-consuming weighing of alternatives. Just fill in the one you immediately think is right. Don't think, just do it, your future is at stake, dragons will eat you if you fail. That kind of thing. It was more the school's future at stake than mine in those (pre-NCLB) days, and in the end, nothing much was at stake really. I never paid much attention one way or the other to these instructions. Standardized tests always came with pages of self-evident instructions that teachers were forced to read in the interest of unifomity. Go to the bathroom before the test, read all the options carefully, make sure to have an extra pencil in case yours breaks. Well, DUH, who wouldn't bring extra pencils? I thought, organizing the 15 pencils on my own desk into geometric patterns. Obviously, the people who relied on these pre-test instructions were just not 99th percentile material.

Then, when I was in sixth grade, I qualified for the annual middle school Geography Bee. This was not a big surprise; I had been memorizing capitals religiously since the second grade. State capitals, national capitals, capitals even of Canada's provinces and the African nations whose very existences fluctuated on a daily basis. Somewhere between Asian national capitals and the Canadian provinces, I began also to memorize maps of Europe and the locations of all the countries whose capitals I was already quite fluent in. None of it ever had any meaning or purpose; I didn't particularly want to travel to any of these places, nor was I even clearly aware of their actual presence on the planet. They had no political context; they were just names and I liked to memorize them.

I played GeoSafari on Microsoft Bob, a program that came with my Windows 95 and had no discernible purpose except that you could pet the animal in the corner and add 15 extraneous couches to the virtual living room. GeoSafari consisted of individual maps of nations and continents, requiring the player to identify either capitals or the countries themselves. Once you completed a map, it was checked off. I aimed to complete all the maps so as to win the inevitably huge prize that would come to anyone who was that brilliant and memorized for weeks to claim the honor. When I finally finished the last map, I expect to see fireworks on the screen, my name in lights, the little elephant who led you through the program to do a dance! Instead, the game reset and erased all my check marks.

Prior to this, I had watched Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? and loathed those undeserving snots who managed to get on television, to get a chance to actually catch the cunning Carmen Sandiego, only to miss an easy question like the capital of Malaysia. How could you not know the capital of Malaysia? If only I were allowed on the show, I thought. I know the capital of Malaysia, and Finland, and Tanzania too! When Carmen was cancelled before I was old enough to qualify, I grieved knowing that my best chance for geographical fame and glory was snuffed.

But then it turned out that my middle school held geography bees, and there was hope again. The qualifying exam was administered to all the social studies classes, and most students blew it off. But not me. I was already a maniacal striver, and these were my precious capitals! I qualified for the Bee, which was limited to ten contestants and, assured of my obvious superiority to all my less brilliant, less Carmen Sandiego-obsessed classmates, I didn't study a thing. I already knew all the capitals, all the countries, all the world's major rivers and tallest mountains and biggest deserts. What else could I possibly need?

At the geography bee, I breezed through the oral question round, laughing at my neighbors who missed such obvious questions as the capital of Israel or the location of the Grand Canyon. Illiterates. Not like me in my supreme confidence, which some unsympathetic observers occasionally mistook for arrogance. (How they could have arrived at such a blatantly inaccurate conclusion, I do not know.)

Once only three of us remained, the written questions began. They would ask all of us a question, and we all had to secretly write the answer on a piece of paper and deliver our answers simultaneously. Immediately the reconsidering and crossing out began. It was all well and good to blurt out answers, but writing them was an entirely different question. They had time to look wrong. I survived the first couple questions despite my crippling self-doubt, but then came the killer, "What is the only independent nation located completely within the boundaries of Italy?" The Vatican! Wait, no. What are other small nations in that area? Monaco? Andorra? San Marino? San Marino sounds Italian. What if San Marino IS Italian? Is San Marino even a country? Is the Vatican? Why is it THE Vatican? Are there other Vaticans? What is a Vatican anyway? Vatican or San Marino? VATICAN or SAN MARINO?!

I wrote down San Marino. I was wrong. Third place. The next year, I qualified again, and again made it to the written round and again lost on ambivalence. The capital of Belgium? Brussels, of course, but what about Antwerp? Antwerp is also a big city in Belgium. Maybe Antwerp... Eighth grade--another third place. I don't even remember the question I missed, although I do remember that the winning question was about an obscure lake in Florida, and I was at least somewhat comforted to know that I never would've known that even if I didn't suffer from fatal last minute self-doubt.

Several years later, when I was a junior and beginning to hope that I wouldn't have to go to UIC for college, I was encouraged to take the PSAT. I did, and though some parts were unusually difficult relative to my previous experience of state tests, I was certain that I'd done amazingly, because, well, I was amazing. I second-guessed a lot, but that was probably for the better since I realized previous errors. Who would ever say that reflecting on one's answers was a bad idea? When the results came, I was called into my high school advisor's office and shown my amazing accomplishment. I had gotten a 55 on the math section, which was equal to a 550 on the SAT, which in turn was equal to UIC. The lower end of UIC, probably.

My advisor's main assignment was LD kids, but he was given a handful of honors-tracked students each year to relieve the bleak monotony of discussing the futures of nth-year seniors who tried to set the trash cans outside the building on fire again. For a man who had originally been a gym teacher, he was surprisingly decent person, and although he was not very experienced with the non-community college end of higher education, even he was disappointed with my scores. "Well, the writing score is good," he said hopefully. "Unfortunately, writing isn't on the SAT. But, there's always next year, right? You can study for the real thing."

Studying for the SAT turned out to require a degree of financial outlay that I was too cheap to make. Plus, SATs coincided with my AP exams, and since AP courses came complete with nagging teacher oversight whereas your SAT score didn't reflect on any individual employee of the district, the AP exams seemed like a more pressing concern. So I studied for those instead, and the day before the SATs were to be administered, I swiped one of my friend's SAT prep books and flipped through it. The first piece of advice was to go with your first instinct and never second-guess. Otherwise dragons would eat you you would end up at UIC. It still seemed like a stupid idea, but then I remembered San Marino. Freakin' San Marino. What was I thinking? No, the real question was, why was I thinking?

The next day, I took the entire SAT without looking back at all to check my answers. And I'm not at UIC now. Might one extrapolate from this fact that I got into college by not thinking? Or should we just make the moral of this story that you should never second-guess yourself, even if that sounds like an absurd proposition?

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Organic junk food: a survey

I've been spending a lot of time in the Reg this quarter, which also means that I've been spending a lot of time consuming vast quantities of junk food (and tea) to stay awake and on task. About two-thirds of the way through the quarter, it began to dawn on me that this was probably going to have deleterious effects on my health and waistline pretty soon. My roommates suggested I give up snacking for their Secular Self-Denial of Tasty Things Period that happens to coincide with Christian Lent. This, however, requires more willpower than I reasonably want to exert and might possibly prevent me from getting through the mountain of work I have due in the next two weeks. Still, the prospect of not being able to wear my pants was troubling enough to compel me to look into alternatives to Sour Patch Kids and Chex Mix. Over the past week or so, I have worked my way through the organic junk food options at BartMart and Ex Libris, trying to find the perfect library snack food--not too loud, not too unhealthy, not too quickly consumable, not too disgusting. Here is the result, for your future reference, should you every find yourself needing healthy junk food to eat in the library:

Carrots: Cheap, tasty, but way too crunchy for a library. Plus, require a dip to eat in large quantities.

Kettle chips: Cheap in Ex Libris, but about $3 a bag at BartMart. Excellent taste, but crunch is rather loud for the library environment. Also not particularly healthier than oven-baked Lays.

Pirates' Booty: More reasonably priced. Tastes kind of like fluffy popcorn. Melts instantly in mouth, which minimizes crunching noise. Cheesy. Not too healthy, but less bad than a similarly sized bag of Lays.

Veggie Booty: Same price as Pirates' Booty. Tastes like fluffy fishtank algae. Melts in mouth but retains algae taste. Has some ingredient called "kale," which sounds like a kind of rock formation. Purports to be very nutritious, but algae taste is prohibitive.

Soy crisps: Only sold in BartMart and expensive at $3 a bag. Look like mini rice-cakes and taste like tree bark. However, investigation into flavored soy crisps shows that product can be made to taste at least like the bark of a sour cream and onion tree, which is a major improvement over plain tree bark. Shockingly low caloric content (380 per bag!) and 30% DV of calcium and iron.

The winner: Soy crisps.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

From an article about suburban Chicagoans enlisting in the Army:
Igor Makarov, a 27-year-old Skokie resident, found himself "stuck in a rut" before he joined the Marines. In the years after graduating Niles West High School, he got a job as an electrician but never moved out of his parents' house. He spent a lot of his free time playing PlayStation video games.

"I had a good job, enough money to smoke weed, do whatever I wanted," he says. "But I realized, next thing I know I'll be 30, still sitting in my parents' basement."

Becoming a Marine was a transformational process for Makarov, who after infantry school will train in aviation logistics. Basic training, he says, "is 80 percent mental."

"You learn how to say, 'no' to yourself," he says.
Nancy Reagan would be proud.