Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Yuletide Update

None too surprisingly, the holiday season has prevented me from writing for a couple of weeks, but I assure you all is well. Here’s what’s been going down:

As predicted in my previous entry, I pulled a B from my Latin class. I’m glad it wasn’t worse, but it does confirm the fact that I must have done terribly on my final exam. Of course, I’ll have the same professor next semester, and I plan on getting the test back and seeing if my final grade makes sense with the score I got. As I said, I have my doubts in that department. As for Greek, I got an A, which is probably undeserved given that I rarely went to class and, supposedly, we were graded on participation. Still, I won’t complain. Also, I took the GRE, which is basically like the ACT to get into graduate school. All of the graduate programs I know of require official GRE scores, so I had to pay the $115 and take a four-hour test, a decent portion of which was mathematical—certainly not my idea of a good time. Regardless, I got decent enough scores that I’m not going to worry about re-taking it, which is nice since I didn’t even prepare for it. And finally in the world of academia, I have settled on a list of about one-dozen graduate programs that I’ll be applying to. Speaking purely statistically, odds are I’ll end up in Indiana. About half the programs I’m applying to are located there (three at Notre Dame alone). On the other hand, I may get rejected by everyone. This could very well be my best bet, since most of the programs I’m interested in only admit a handful of students each year. We’ll see.

As for my first Christmas as a married man, it was great. Most of the day felt like a “normal” Christmas, as my wife and I stayed at her parents’ house on Christmas Eve and then hit my parents’ home later on Christmas Day. That’s been standard for a few years now, so it seemed like good old, once-a-year business-as-usual. But it was a lot of fun to come home to our own Christmas tree, by our own couch, in our own living room, and give our gifts to each other. It was traditional fare—games, clothes, books—but each and every Christmas somehow feels like the best one ever. And so it was.

Well, I have until January 9th before I’m back in school. Melanie is back teaching on the 3rd, so I’ll be lonely for a week. I’m sure I’ll need to take breaks from my grad school applications and write a blog now and again. So, expect a slight pick-up once the new year is here. Until then, I hope everyone is basking in the festivities of the season…

Friday, December 16, 2005

Thus Speaks the Broken Record

It’s only been an hour since taking my Latin final. I should feel a jubilant sense of relief, but because I’ve been so frustrated this semester—and because I know next semester is going to be much the same—the only relief I feel is a cognitive awareness that it is (temporarily) over. There hasn’t really been an emotional release, sadly.

This may be due to the fact that I unequivocally gave the worst test performance of my entire college career. This is not hyperbole. This is not drama. When we were given our exams, I was immediately aware of my troublesome situation. It was four pages of seemingly foreign material (no pun intended). We had to translate four snippets of Catullus (a Latin poet), three of which we had previously done as homework and one “sight passage.” I always do well on the sight passage because we are provided a fair amount of the vocabulary. As for the remaining chunks of poetry, one I had never seen before (due to my lacking diligence in the homework department), one was vaguely familiar, and one I remembered fairly well. Still, I had not actually studied any of these poems in preparation for the test at hand. And it’s not that I didn’t study. It’s just that one person can only study so much, and the enormity of the material precluded me from giving time to everything. (This is my continuous gripe about the teacher I had this semester—and will have again next semester for Greek—so forgive me.) Hence, half of my translations literally made no sense. I ended up with disjointed streams of words that didn’t even make complete sentences. And as for questions dealing with literary devices and themes, I bullcrapped most of them as well. It was a mess.

So all in all, I’m hoping to pull a B from the class, which seems feasible given the grades I’ve gotten on everything else. Still, a B would technically hurt my GPA, and this bugs me when I’ve put infinitely more time into this class than any other (aside from the last class I had from this professor). And, truth be known, I think my teacher docks you for non-participation, even though this isn’t officially required. Last semester, my final grade didn’t seem to reflect the grades I had received on individual assignments. I suspected I was getting punished for skipping out on “voluntary” and “non-graded” assignments and activities, and other people I know from the class felt the same way. This could be a problem for me this semester because a) I skipped many a class session, and b) I didn’t participate in a “non-graded” student-led lecture on a theme of our own choosing. Naturally, I pooh-pooh the whole structure of the class, but this shouldn’t give him the right to pooh-pooh on my grade. But he probably will.

So that’s my whining for the day. I had to get it off my chest. When I left school, the only thing that sounded soothing was to come home and write. Well, first I had to regurgitate my tired complaints to my wife, bless her soul. She’s heard them numerous times, but she’s always willing to lend an ear. Both ears, in fact. Now that’s love. But I best get going. My wife and I have to make gelatin salad for our family Christmas party tonight. Oh the joy…

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Final Countdown

I must admit, I’m proud that I haven’t whined incessantly about school this semester. Not that I’ve been having fun with it, but, unlike last spring, I’ve spared my blog audience all the boring details and complaining. At least for the most part. But now I’m down to the final 60 hours, and it would be wrong to go out without so much as a whimper. So here goes:

All in all, I’ve been very fortunate this semester. My class attendance has been shameful, but I’ve somehow managed to score A’s on all of my assignments thus far. This is especially lucky given the phenomena that, on two of my three Greek exams, we were tested on one of very few sections of material I had never looked at. And now I only have one thing left to do, which is my Latin final this Friday. I was blessed with a schedule that’s allowed me a week and a half to prepare for it, with no other papers or tests standing in the way. Naturally, I’ve completely disregarded this abundance of prep time and indulged in daytime television, personal reading, and old-school video games. But you know what? It’s been absolutely fantastic. Part of me wants to forgo any and all Latin studying and just accept my fate. This is especially true given the absurdity of the test material. As I’ve mentioned before, my teacher tests us on such copious amounts of material, it’s quite literally impossible to be adequately prepared. But I know I’d only regret such foolishness, and so, beginning tomorrow (famous last words), I must hunker down and be diligent.

But come Friday at 10am Mountain Standard Time (12pm Eastern), I will be free of all such academic concerns for the semester. I will giddily attend the three Christmas parties I have scheduled for the weekend and, if all goes well, spend the remainder of December once again immersed in personal recreation. Well, except for the one little problem of figuring out graduate school applications – but that’s a form of denial for another time. As for my readers, I hope you are all having a jolly good time of the season. And if you celebrate Christmas (or at least enjoy Christmas music), keep your eyes peeled for a new In the Key of Orange survey on the matter. It should be up at any moment…

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Tales from the Honeymoon Part 5: Butchart Gardens

On our second day in Victoria, Canada, Melanie and I visited the stunning Butchart Gardens. Located about half an hour outside of town, this botanical masterpiece was easily one of our honeymoon’s greatest highlights. We began our journey at the Fairmont Empress Hotel, the unofficial nucleus of Victoria, where we boarded a Gray Line tour bus, which then wended its way through the city and on to the lush garden.

My wife giddily awaits the Gray Line tour bus in front of the Empress. I originally thought those brontosaurus-looking trees (over her right shoulder) must have been manipulated to look that way, but we ended up seeing them in various places. I guess that means they’re natural, eh? How bizarre!

Because we went as a tour group (although, luckily, there were only about five or six other small groups on the bus), it more than doubled our price of admission. However, having not rented a car, we probably paid a minimum of 33% less than if we had cabbed. All in all, this made the Gray Line tour a brilliant option, and, even if I weren’t keen on the tour guide’s geographical tutelage (which I was), a non-overcrowded bus certainly felt more private and relaxed.

To describe Butchart Gardens, even with the help of photography, is ipso facto not to do it justice. Nevertheless, with no other options before me, I now present a selection of photographs taken at this beautiful locale. Because I know next to nothing about flowers, commentary will be limited. However, I am confident the pictures will speak eloquently enough where I cannot.

I think these are hydrangeas. Hypochondrias? Something like that anyway.

An awesome barrage of purple-toned blossoms dangle at one’s eye-level, as demonstrated here by my lovely spouse.

The entryway to the garden’s topmost attraction, the Sunken Garden. When you round that corner, you are struck by a display of such magnificent splendor that you are likely to gasp aloud. I sincerely did!

See what I mean!

…and moving the camera a little bit to the right.

Ross Fountain. Neat.

Based on the complimentary flower guide that came with the tour, I’m supposing this to be a chrysanthemum. Nothing says “faux artistic” like an extreme close-up!

One of my favorite photos. I believe these are dahlias. If you look closely, you can see crystal droplets of dew on most petals. Very cool.

Chrysanthemums? Dahlias? Both? Regardless, they’re gorgeous!

The pond in the Italian Garden. Bon appetit! (That’s Italian for, “I only know French!”)

Thus ends our excursion into the horticultural phenomenon that is Butchart Gardens. Anyone planning a trip to Victoria (or anywhere nearby) should make this a priority on their “must see” list. Melanie and I are certainly glad we did.

Next stop: Vancouver.

*Confession: the pictures of my wife have been altered. While Melanie was admittedly ecstatic at having become my bride, these images do not convey her true smile. Using sophisticated technology, I have carefully replaced her face with that of another, in order to protect her anonymity. If you look closely, however, you can tell where the "stand-in" face ends and Melanie's real body begins. It's quite fascinating.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Potpourri No. 9

Lots of discoveries lately. In no particular order:
  • Every time I see the name Pierce Brosnan, I think of Bronson Pinchot. Despite the vast difference between them, it takes me a moment to realize my mistake. Though you do have to admit, Pinchot sure would make for an interesting 007. ("I'm Bond. James Bond. Now don't be reedikalus!") Too bad they’ve already found Brosnan’s replacement!
  • Retro Junk is a cool website featuring movie previews, TV commercials, and TV show openings from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Get nostalgic (and nauseated) by seeing just how corny those shows we used to love really were! Kids Incorporated, Small Wonder, Atari commercials, and much, much more!
  • Speaking of 80’s TV shows, have you been losing sleep over the whereabouts of Willie Aimes, formerly known as Charles in Charge’s best friend, Buddy? Well, worry no more. He’s been saved, and now he’s saving the world! May I introduce to you, BibleMan!
  • Find yourself pining over Emma Watson, who plays Harry Potter’s Hermione Granger? Were you born in 1987 or any year prior? If you answered yes to both of these questions, then this is the site for you. (Politely lifted from Best Week Ever)
  • Having been equipped with StatCounter, I can now see what Internet searches are bringing people to my blog. Sadly, I’ve now realized the mistake of having the word “sucking” in my title. Nevertheless, there are some search queries that are both odd and family-friendly and which somehow drop web surfers into my proverbial lap. As inspired by JL Pagano, here is a sampling:
    • Why oranges rotten
    • Funny dirty words
    • Bouncing ball box shadow illusion
    • Price of oranges in 2005
    • Hallow blocks made of garbage (currently, I’m the #15 MSN result for this search!)
    • What kind of oranges go with a pink carpet? (currently, I’m the #1 MSN result for this search!)
    • Pink pig wearing cheesecake factory (currently, I’m the #10 Google result for this search!)
That is all. (Thanks, Jessica.)