Monday, August 20, 2018

What we learned: 2018 edition, part 2

Freshman year of college, Part 2

Quick, before we drop Younger Daughter off for her sophomore year of college, here’s what she learned during spring semester of her freshman year.


- - - - - Rhetoric with Bitzer and Burke, Oh my! - - - - -

YD: On to second semester.  I had my Rhetoric class!  In which I learned about Bitzer and Burke and the awesomeness of my T.A.  He was so epic. He was amazingly epic.

Me:  (to my Husband) “He was so epic.” That’s what we have to say about people now.

Husband:   Did you fill out a student evaluation?

YD:   I did.  He was also unfortunately the one who recommended that I go to that speaking competition.

Me:  You should go to the speaking competition.

Husband:  No, you shouldn’t.

YD:  Thank you, Dad.  Thank you for being on my side.

Me:  But you speak for the Lorax! 

YD:   Do I?

Me:  Yes!  Don’t you remember when you got the Lorax Award at Girl Scout Camp?!

Husband:  The trees have got to learn to stand up for themselves.

YD:  They should grow some roots and a spine!

Me: (pulling us back from the brink of punanity) So, Rhetoric.  What else?

YD:  We learned this whole cool thing about behavioral interactions. It was this idea that humans can change their opinions based on who is talking to them and not just based on the facts at hand, and it’s a really cool thing. 

Me:  Humans are totally unreasonable.  Totally susceptible to influence.

YD:  It’s so cool to learn about influence and how to use it.

Husband:  (defiantly):  Not me! You can’t influence me!

YD:  It’s actually been proven that that makes you easier to influence. 

- - - - - O-Chem, the overflowing unloved class - - - - -

YD: We had the second half of the Phages class, in which I learned that it is physically impossible to make teaching annotation interesting.

O-Chem was a bit of a different thing.  I learned that my brother is the most fantastic amazing older brother in the universe, even though I knew that already. 

[Her brother, while searching for a job as a chemical engineer, is doing a bang-up job as a tutor in many subjects, science and math.  He provided O-Chem tutoring to his sister gratis.]

The O-Chem professor was so passionate, and so into it!  You know, the chemistry department has one of the smallest group of graduating majors but O-Chem takes up these huge classrooms because everyone needs it for their bio majors, and none of us want to be there.  That guy was so sweet.  I feel bad for him. ….

- - - - - We Heart Genetics - - - - -

Then we had the Literature of the Americas class, in which I learned it is relatively easy to sweet-talk your professor if you are actually interested in what they are saying. 

Me: (to my Husband) Do you concur, Professor?

Husband:  No.  I am not subject to influence.

YD:  I learned that you really should stop talking whenever you really didn’t like a book and your professor really liked a book. 

At Bell Choir I found that you can have friends and they can be great people, and then they will graduate.  And then you will have more friends. 

Genetics!  Genetics is so cool!  I won’t go on a rant like I did last year. (Nevertheless, YD’s speech pace speeds up and tone goes up with excitement.) It was just like, like, I love genetics!  I love everything to do with the genome!   

[There followed a massive, excited speech about genetics.]

…. And we learned about telomeres and all this cool amazing stuff.  It was SOO cool.  And I got an A.  Which I was very happy with because I was convinced I was going to get a B. 

Me: Okay.

YD:   I went on a rant again.  I’m sorry.  (happy sigh)
And I continued with my lab work in the second semester.  In which I learned that it is okay to move on. 

Me: What do you mean?

YD: I mean, even if you spent a lot of time and effort getting to where you are, it is okay to move on from it.

- - - - -

And so, Dear Reader, in three days we move on to sophomore year!

That bell choir played some pretty complicated music.
(You can read about First Semester here.)

What we learned: 2018 edition, part 1

A wise owl would not be sitting out in the snow like that.

Freshman year of college: Part 1

Younger Daughter:  You never asked me what I learned this past school year.

Me:  I guess I’ve been too busy.  (Looking at Husband) I need to ask you what you learned this school year.

Husband:  I learned I should have been born eight years earlier.  Then I could retire this year and I wouldn’t have to move my office.  [The current building is being renovated.  Most of the staff have had to move to another location, for the next two years.  Moving was a harrowing process.]

            * * * * * * *


- - - - - Chemistry, Poetry, and Phages, Oh my! - - - - -

Me (formally asking YD my annual question):  What did you learn in school this year?

YD:  What class should we begin with?  What classes did I even take?

Husband:  (asking his annual question) Did you take Eastern Philosophy?

YD:  No. … Let’s begin with first semester.  That would be a logical place to start.  First semester I had Chem 2.

Husband:    This cake is really good.

YD:  I learned that chemistry is no easier even when you learn it the third time. 
In Poetry class, I learned that I am (sigh), according to my teacher, too thoughtful of a writer.  Like I’m too wrapped up in my own ideas.

Husband:    Well, duh.  I could have told you that.

YD: (voice rises with excitement) Oh, I had my Phages class!  I got to dig around in the dirt which is really, really fun!  We learned about the biology of phagi!  And we learned about how to extrapolate them from the soil.  We did a bake ’n’ shake.  That was my conduit to getting my first lab job.

- - - - - Great Books and Jam - - - - -

YD: (returning to a less animated tone of voice) I had my first college essay class, the Great Books class, in which I learned I am not as great an essay writer as I thought I was.  … But the books were really, really good.  I finally got to read all the way through Homer –  it was so interesting.  He’s such a good writer.  He’s The Jam.

Husband:    The Jam? 

YD:  The Jam.

Husband:  As in, the jam on your peanut butter sandwich?  I’ve never heard that expression.

YD:  You’ve never heard of something being someone’s jam?  You need to be hip with the kids.

- - - - - Holocaust class and the Judenrat exercise - - - - -

Me: Did you have a Holocaust class?

YD:  Yes! That was an amazing class.  I don’t even know where to begin.  (She takes a moment to think.)  I learned that human beings can disappoint you in more ways than one.  (Deep sigh.) Not even just in the stories we were being told.  Some of my classmates’ behavior was not acceptable to me.

Husband:  The Holocaust doesn’t affect people who are not Jewish in the same way.

YD: Yeah, and I don’t know why.  It could have happened to anybody.

Husband:  It didn’t happen to just anybody.

Me:  What was the unacceptable behavior on the part of your classmates?

YD: They did not treat the stuff we were learning with respect, I felt. There was a situation in our class where we were given an exercise to pick and choose people who would go to their death.

Husband:    Wow!

YD:  We were role-playing as the Judenrat, figuring out who would stay and who would go.   The people I was doing it with – it didn’t even seem to resonate with them that this actually happened and that we …

Me: They were joking around?

YD:   They did it flippantly, like, oh, we’ll send the 7-year-old girl, oh, we’ll send the rabbi.  It doesn't matter what we decide. 

Me: It was probably too awful a thing to have to think about.  And they had to act that way as a defense mechanism.

YD:  Maybe.  It just irked me.

Husband:  It’s hard to imagine it being real. It’s like a fantasy.

YD: Yeah. And then, the ultimate irony was that they spent the rest of the class time talking about why they were failing the class. And their main complaint seemed to be that the teacher was being unfair to them.

Up next - Second Semester of freshman year

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

First lines: May-June 2018 edition

During May we went on vacation.  Jet lag afforded me the chance to do more reading than usual.  

I’ve included June here because I only read two books both of which I had started reading in May.  I was not able to read more in June because I was too busy objecting to the abuse and kidnapping of children by Trump and his Administration, and taking to task my spineless GOP legislators who are too wimpy to stand up for basic human rights.  Should I post details on the actions I took?

Book 1
Rannoch House
Belgrave Square
London W.1.
Monday, June 6, 1932
The alarm clock woke me this morning at the ungodly hour of eight.  One of my nanny’s favorite sayings was “early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”  My father did both and look what happened to him.  He died, penniless, at forty-nine.

Book 2
Imagine a morning in late November. A coming of winter morning more than twenty years ago. Consider the kitchen of a spreading old house in a country town. A great black stove is its main feature; but there is also a big round table and a fireplace with two rocking chairs placed in front of it. Just today the fireplace commenced its seasonal roar.

Book 3
Daniel Mercier went up the stairs at Gare Saint-Lazare as the crowd surged down. Men and women hurried distractedly past him, most clutching briefcases but some with suitcases. In the crush, they could easily have knocked into him but they didn’t. On the contrary, it seemed as though they parted to let him through.

Book 4
This is what you should look for on this 90-degree June morning: The broadcast news interns pairing running shoes with their summer business casual, hovering by the Supreme Court’s public information office.

Book 5
What Possessed Me?
If I hadn’t been naïve and recklessly trusting, would I ever have purchased number 10 Turpentine Lane, a chronic headache masquerading as a charming bungalow?

Book 6
When Farmer Oak smiled, the corners of his mouth spread till they were within an unimportant distance of his ears, his eyes were reduced to chinks, and diverging wrinkles appeared round them, extending upon his countenance like the rays in a rudimentary sketch of the rising sun.

Book 7
What made Isabel Dalhousie think about chance? It was one of those curious coincidences—an inconsequential one—as when we turn the corner and find ourselves face-to-face with the person we’ve just been thinking about.

* * * * * *

Titles and authors revealed:

Book 1
A Royal Pain, by Rhys Bowen, (#2 in the “Royal Spyness” series).  © 2008 by Janet Quin-Harkin.  Starring an impoverished royal who is often surrounded by murder.  Not as enjoyable as the first one.

Book 2
A Christmas Memory, by Truman Capote. © 1956. Actually three short memoirs.  Excellent writing.  

Book 3
The President’s Hat, by Antoine Laurain.  © 2013. Read for book club.  Quite enjoyable and thought-provoking, even for this second reading. 

Book 4
Notorious RBG, by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik. © 2015.  it was encouraging to read about this courageous woman.

Book 5
On Turpentine Lane, by Elinor Lipman.  © 2017. A great vacation read. Funny.

Book 6
Far from the Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy.  1874. This was my second read, but my first read was about 30 years ago, so I didn’t remember at all what happens.  The opening line is one of my favorites of all opening lines.

Book 7
The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday, by Alexander McCall Smith (Isabel Dalhousie #5) © 2008.   
Ah, the comfort of well-known characters.  And Scotland.

* * * * * * *

Dear Reader, what have you been reading?  Any comforting books?  Challenging ones?  Books with great writing?