Tuesday, September 30, 2008

It's a Hard Knock Life!

So, today has been interesting.

First off, I began my morning by dreaming happily of walking up to Effie, looking her dead in her empty eyes, and saying, "You are the most pathetic, incompetent, prejudiced, sorry excuse for a dodo bird it has ever been been my displeasure to meet. That's saying a lot, considering the sheer number of dolts that have crossed my path over the years." I'd smile sweetly and continue, "You should be very proud of yourself--it's quite a distinction to be such a categorical nincompoop that I'm quite certain I'll be telling stories about you for years, if not decades, to come."

Ah, dreams. They keep our sanity alive, when nothing else does.

In any case, the past three classes in Effie's World has been comprised of her splitting us up into groups, and then going over the homework questions together, then giving our answers to her yet again. I don't see how this helps us gain a clear idea of world civilizations, unless it is to offer us the perfect example of a despot. This exercise certainly doesn't do me any good, because I usually end up giving the answers for the entire group anyway.

I have gotten to know some of my classmates better, which has been nice. It's slowly even changing some of my views on jocks, despite the fact that they will probably always annoy me to a small degree. Still, I can understand their worldviews sightly better now that we're getting to know one another. Whenever we talk, though, I can tell that they view me as some sort of interesting specimen that would probably be better off in the cage of some zoo, providing the rest of the world with something interesting to study. "And here, ladies and gentlemen, is the very rare geekus nerdidium. This particular beauty is a female, meaning that she is either desperate for a date or hiding in the corner in fear. If we're very quiet, she might even favor us with a recitation of Longfellow. The male end of the species, please note, tend to prefer to give an exposition on the differences between computer companies." This theory of mine was exacerbated by the fact that I had to explain the concept of "blogging" to two softball girls today.


But back to the absurd group projects. So far as I can tell, Effie has us do this in order to waste time and give her a chance to grade papers. Everyone is running out patience with it--some of the softball girls even tried to walk out today when we realized that Effie intended us to do the same thing YET again. They were caught, though, by Effie's magical Lasso of Lassitude. I couldn't help but agree with the jocks. After all, we were being PUNISHED because we'd done our homework! Everyone that hadn't done their homework got to leave. Where is the justice? Rachel promptly declared that she was never doing her homework again after this. If I weren't such a chicken, I'd be tempted to join her.

When Effie divided us up into groups, though, Rachel and I were separated again. This, as you can imagine, did not please us. Dalton, however, was actually quite sweet to us both. Dalton's reputation precedes him on this blog--he was the one I, rather unkindly, verbally smashed on our first day when I got annoyed with him proclaiming to the entire class that his chest was swollen. Yes, that's him. Dalton offered to switch places with Rachel, so that we could stay together. He wasn't trying to hide from me and my acerbic mouth--he was really being a doll. Rachel and I thanked him gratefully, and then my group got started.

We were halfway through the assignment when Effie, sniffing the air suspiciously like a rat terrier, or just a regular old bubonic rat, came by our table. She pointed her bony finger accusingly at Rachel and said, "Weren't you supposed to be in another group?" Rachel said yes, but pointed out Dalton's kindness in switching places with her. Did we get extra cookies for being good little students and sharing? I beg to differ. Effie instead swelled up like a puffer fish, and said that that was unacceptable, and that Rachel should switch places with Dalton immediately. I barely, barely resisted the urge to salute and shout "Sieg Heil, Miss Brodie!"

I'll tell you this much--that table has probably never in all its life been given such an evil face as the one I gave it. I could have sworn that I saw some steam rising.

After class, Rachel, Jackie and I went to lunch and had a splendid time. I then came home, did all the laundry, straightened up the downstairs, and got some reading done before teaching two piano lessons. This meant, though, that by the time I was done teaching, I really had nothing left to do. It being such a beautiful day, I went outside and got on my bike. I've been slowly re-teaching myself (please don't quote that insipid little quote at me...I know very well that you can technically never forget, but my balance would sure be surprised to hear that) to ride my bike, but I haven't had time in the past few weeks to do any practicing. My turning skills were surpassing themselves today, though, so I boldly opened the gate and went down to the street, where, on sheer impulse, I pedaled my way around the block. Boy, I didn't know how tall some of those hills were! I was feeling inordinately proud of myself as I neared the driveway. After all, I told myself smugly, I'd gotten exercise and hadn't even fallen once!

I thought too soon. Let's just say that the driveway and I had a rather unlucky encounter, in which the driveway was the victor. I succeeded in saving myself from smashing flat on my face, but I did manage to skin my elbow and hand and twist my left wrist and ankle a bit. I looked around quickly, hoping that no one had witnessed this shameful failure of equilibrium on my part. Thankfully, there was only an old lady in her car just then turning on the street, so she probably missed most of my pratfall performance. I picked myself off the concrete, and walked the bike nonchalantly up the driveway...only to be met by Shelby, who said she'd seen two feet go flying up in the air as she'd passed by a window. She said--after she stopped laughing, of course--that she'd been concerned for my bodily condition, and so she came out to meet me.


One forgets how difficult band-aids are to maneuver when one has not scraped an appendage in, oh, a decade....

Later, I was on the phone with mom when I looked out my bedroom window and saw Iris traipsing happily down the street, obviously having opened the gate with one of her impressive karate kid/sumo slams into the fence. I proceeded to rush down the stairs (as fast as I could, anyway. Bike riding had turned my legs into jelly) and then open the door, screaming down the street, "Iris, get your fat butt back here now!"

Why, oh, why did a very kind-looking, elderly gentleman have to be walking down the road that exact moment?

Whoever marries me (if/when) is going to have to have a sense of humor the size of Texas. Make that a sense of humor the size of Texas that is encased in titanium, it being more than likely that I'll either spill something on it or trip and drop it. Possibly off the side of the Grand Canyon.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Such a lonely, lonely word.
Am I strong enough?
Am I brave enough?
Can I bear up under that number?
All my life, it’s been
It’s been three against the world.
Us against Them.
What happens when the time is up?
What happens when the three
Become two
And two
And one?
It’s scary…and lonely…
I know I can do it
I know that I can be one
And make it through.
But I don’t want to.
I’m happy for the two and two
I rejoice with them
But I just don’t want to be
Such a lonely, lonely word.
It’s just the beginning…
The three will be parted forever.
This is just the beginning.
What will the years hold?
Oh, God, don’t let me be the only one!
Am I brave enough?
Am I strong enough?
But I still don’t want to be

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Oh, Spite! Oh, Hell!

In the Harry Potter series, there are some characters called dementors. These characters are Black Rider-esque, in that they travel around cloaked and you never see their faces. However, these dementors have some rather cool/icky tricks up their voluminous sleeves: a dementor can suck all of the joy and happiness out of a person, leaving them feeling cold and despairing. They make you remember your worst memories, and there is no escape from the inevitable depression.

I got to see one in action today.

Let me begin by saying that my Shakespeare class has been my favorite class all semester. We've gotten to read three plays so far, and I've enjoyed it so much. I feel like my cognitive faculties have FINALLY caught up to what Dr. Callis is saying, and it's absolutely fascinating to be in his classes now. We've had some incredible discussions, and it's been 90% perfect. The 10% that has not been perfect, however, is slowly starting to encroach on my enjoyment.

The class is pretty diverse in its members; there are the English majors (Shelby, Aubrey, Jacqueline, get the idea.) Then there are the athletes (they're actually doing a really good job, I have to admit) and then there's Alex. Alex is a fascinating person to me--he has Asberger's, which is a relative to autism. The kid is astounding. He's interested in a narrow field of things, but he knows absolutely everything there is to know about those subjects. If you ask him what happened on the fourth episode of the second season of "The Mupphet Show," he can give you a verbatim transcript of what each individual character has said. He's extremely well-read, definitely better read than I am.

However, Alex tends to see the world in black and white, with absolutely no gray at all. There are no layers to anything in his world. If he doesn't like something, he will NEVER like it, and it's impossible to try and reason with him. He also doesn't tend to handle disagreement very well--he seems to feel that acceding to someone else's point of view is an affront to his personal morality. As you can imagine, studying The Taming of the Shrew was rather interesting with him around. He loathes Petruchio, while I find Petruchio rather funny. Watching Petruchio and Kate play a very absurd, exaggerated kind of game with one another is fascinating. Alex felt that Petruchio was a chauvinist pig. I love that he's more feminist than I am.

Anyway, we've been on The Merchant of Venice lately. I've never read this play before, so it's been lots of fun. The legal system that Shakespeare portrays is interesting to study in an ethical sort of way. This play also contains the controversial character of Shylock, a Jewish usurer who has loaned money to Antonio which Antonio must repay, or have a pound of his own flesh removed. Grisly, but true. Alex feels that Shylock is grossly misunderstood (which he is, to a certain degree), and that he should be portrayed as a tragic hero. I think Shylock has been wronged horrendously by Antonio and the Christian system, but I tend to lose sympathy for him when he expects grace from the courts of Venice after refusing any semblance of grace to Antonio. Rather hypocritical in my humble, yet accurate, opinion.

Alex was getting more and more upset by the fact that the rest of the class didn't hold much sympathy for Shylock. You've got to understand that by the time class started, we'd already spent an hour in chapel with a man that believed shouting was the greatest avenue to effective communication (he lost me when he started claiming that Dr. Lloyd was the source of all greatness to Crichton. It made me long for the experience of a public schooler for a moment--I'm sure that the ability to correctly aim and fire a spitball would have come in handy). Consequently, we'd all arrived at class hoping for some quiet discussion, due to the residual ringing in our ears. But it was not to be. About three quarters of the way through our class time, things had degenerated to a shouting match. I eventually said rather loudly, "Can we please not turn this into a free-for-all? Everybody just lower the volume a bit. You're giving me a headache." This request went noticed only for about six seconds before the bellowing started again.

Then I noticed that Dr. Callis, one of the dearest, kindest people in the world(I've often compared him to Winnie-the-Pooh), had finally had enough. He'd been very quiet throughout the class, and I guess I understand why now. He looked at Alex and said something to the effect of, "Alex, you've got to let other people learn. Your views are very simplistic. I'm going to ask you to come to class on Friday prepared to let the other students talk, because they're here to learn, too."

Alex made his fatal mistake then. He said, "Well, I just find it really hard to be quiet when I disagree with what other people are saying. But...all right, I guess I'll let the rest of you talk."

A dementor materialized in the room them, I'm positive of it. I distinctly felt the temperature drop at least four degrees. Winnie-the-Pooh turned into a basilisk. Dr. Callis said, very quietly, "You'll let the rest of us talk on Friday?"

All of the other students became extremely absorbed in their hands in their laps, as if marveling at the fact that there really were five fingers on each hand! We'd always thought that that was just an elaborate myth!

"Yeah, I'll let the rest of you talk," said Alex.

Have you all seen that commercial where the little Boston Terrier walks into a room while his family is watching a scary movie? A monster pops up on the screen and the pooch turns his head away with a whine of terror, at the same time losing control of his urinal abilities. He gets up and walks away, looking quite embarrassed at having been so rude as to make a puddle on the floor. My point is, if Dr. Callis had looked at me like that, I have no shame in admitting that I would have tinkled.

Then getting up like an outraged majesty, Dr. Callis collected his books (five minutes early) and swept from the room, the door hitting the wall from where he'd opened it. Students looked in amazement at each other--and then Alex very unwisely decided that it would be expedient to follow Dr. Callis out of the room.

The rest of us knew better. We beat it very hastily out of there. There's no shame in running in certain situations.

Provoke not a professor to wrath, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Little Prayer....

Dear God,

I realize that You really do have a rather ironic sense of humor. I love the fact that You do...I would never be able to reconcile my personality with Your commands if I didn't know that You saw the humor in things, too....hey, you CREATED humor, after all!

But God...please, if it be Thy will....PLEASE do not use Your sense of humor in the way that everyone keeps hinting at me You will, namely, that I'm going to fall in love with a jock one day. More than one person has said it, and it's freaking me out.

We're told to boldly approach the throne of God....

*clears throat*

PLEASE DON'T INFLICT THAT HORROR ON ME! I'll gladly pull out the sackcloth and ashes, if You'd like me to. I'm not above begging. I remember thinking when I was a kid that if I said "please" enough, You would eventually get sick of me and give me what I wanted. I won't stoop to that in this instance. Yet.

Your most faithful (and most snivelling) of handmaidens,

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Homicide! Homicide!

It is entirely possible that I have not given the jocks their due amount of merit. If I haven't, I do beg their forgiveness. I was actually quite impressed by some jocks today (albeit they were female, which could explain it, but they were jocks none the less) and as they gave me a good laugh, I feel like I have to give credit where credit is due. As Marilyn Monroe said, "I'm a slave to anyone that makes me laugh." No slavery from my end, of course, but you get the gist.

First off all, I had my second test today in Effie's World. Let me tell you all that I have been to every single, mindnumbing chaotic experience that excuses itself for a class. I have taken no less than a dozen pages of handwritten notes through speedwriting (I'm considering taking a course in shorthand), not counting the four pages of answers I did for the study sheet that Effie gave us. This morning I got up an extra hour early, during which time I went over the study sheet three times, my class notes twice, and then spent some time in prayer. I came to school feeling prepared and confident.

Ah, but God loves it when we feel that way.

Rachel and Lyndsey, my comrades-in-arms, were reviewing their notes too, seeing that Effie hadn't arrived yet. As we started checking our answers together, we discovered a few problems, namely, that the questions on the study guide had NO grammatical structure whatsoever. For example, there was this gem: "What was the most impressive civilization in South America--coast or mountain?"

Okay, Houston, we've got a problem. When I was studying, I thought she wanted a specific civilization, so I put down Teotihuan. I know that it's not South America, but it was listed as the most impressive settlement, and it's certainly not beyond the realm of possibility for Effie to put down the wrong thing. Rachel and Lyndsey, however, thought that she wanted the answer of the Andes Mountains, because it was in the Andes where there was the most urban growth. After careful examination of the question, I finally realized that Effie just wanted the vague area--namely, mountain or coast. If that was what she wanted, the question could have been better formatted as: "Was urban growth in South America greater in the mountains or on the coast?" Simple, effective, logical. Done. Why is this difficult?

But I digress. The minutes ticked by, and finally Lisa Settle (who I positively adore) walked into the class and informed us that Effie was running late and instructed us not to leave. Notwithstanding the universally recognized rule of professor tardiness (If the teacher holds a bachelor's degree, you can leave after five minutes. It's ten for a master's, and fifteen for a doctorate. Believe you me, college students are INFINITELY aware of this, even though we cut the professors that we like a break.) TWENTY-TWO minutes after class was due to begin, Effie waltzed in. Grrr.

But before she could begin her sanctimonious prayer time, one of the softball players raised her hand. Forgive me if I don't recount this verbatim--I was slightly occupied with my unholy laughter.

Effie: Yes?
Softball player: Okay, on the study sheet, you asked us to name the city-states of Sumer that were mentioned in class. But how are we supposed to know the city-states if you flip so fast through the slides that we don't have time to write them down?
Katie: *shakes with laughter....snorts emitting despite horrendous, perhaps even legendary, efforts to prevent this from happening*
Effie: Well, you're kinda supposed to just listen in class. I talk about it in my lectures. The slides are just there as emphasis. You need to pay attention to what I say, and I'll kinda let you know what you're supposed to know. *smiles angelically*
(Yes, like we're going to remember names like Nippur, Lagash, Kish, Ur, Uruk, and Umma when you say them in a soft, monotone voice for two seconds in a boredom-ridden class. Absolutely.)
Softball player: *mumbles murderously*
Lyndsey: *to me* Try to contain yourself. You're snorting.
Katie: *to herself* Okay, no laughing....drowning puppies....dying flowers....think on these things....

You know it's bad when the jocks start raging against the machine.

Anyway, Effie had just called on a boy to pray when a lovely song started to wend it's way through the air....I recognized the tune, actually, it was music from "Howl's Moving Castle," my favorite film....and...


I then proceed to dive quite elegantly (note my sarcasm), rummage through my phone, and hang up on Alyce. The class is all laughing, and Lyndsey and Rachel are both grinning. Lyndsey said, "Now my whole day is better! I don't even care about the test anymore! I have heard Howl." Glad to help you out there, love.

We pray, Effie hands out the tests, and we begin. The class was still noisy for a minute is they get themselves settled, during which time the three of us spot the first question--and it is one of the ambiguous ones. There is a collective curse. Then we start.

All in all, the test wasn't bad. I was prepared. There were a few of those pesky questions that I didn't know which answer to give, but I gave the best one, hoped for the best, and geared myself up for an argument if I get a bad grade. This would take a lot from me--it is NOT in my nature to question a professor about a grade, no matter what I think of their...value. However, I will argue this one if it becomes necessary.

For a world made by an intelligent designer, it is clearly apparent that there are some people that make one question the meaning of the universe.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Legitimating Credentials

I think I shall have to write a book character using Effie as my template. I'm truly amazed that such individuals exist, although it does serve to disprove evolution. If the order of the universe was truly survival of the fittest, then this chick would have been eaten by a stegosaurus LONG ago.

We had a fight actually break out in class the other day. Yes, I said a fight. There's an older guy in class that I'm rather fond of in in a patronizing sort of way. He's come back to school and he's busting his butt to finish his education. I admire that, and I support all adults who do such a thing. He's not horrendously old or anything--I'd guess late thirties. But the fact remains that he's one of the older members of the class. It takes a lot of courage to walk into a class filled to the brim with snotty eighteen-year-olds.

Our story begins with Effie flipping through her slides at a Kryptonian speed. (Yeah, there's another story. In my last test, I was trying to decide whether she wanted her answer, the book answer, or the correct answer. You see the dilemma there. I figured out that she wanted her answer, which is highly irritating because her answer ISN'T usually the correct one. However, it's next to impossible to give her her answer, because she flips through the slides so fast that I don't have to time to hear what her answer is. So basically, we're all screwed. I love how I'm making A's in my upper level classes and I'm having trouble in a rinky dink world civ class. Oh, the irony.) Whenever we ask her to slow down, she laughs delightedly and says that she really would prefer her students just paying attention. Not that we can pay attention to what she's saying because she won't make all the darn jocks shut up enough for me to hear what she's saying in the first place. She doesn't take into consideration, of course, the people that are visual learners. I'm not going to remember a thing from her lecture unless I write it down in my notebook.

Anyway, one of the girls in the second row leaned forward and asked this older guy what the last slide had said since she hadn't had time to finish writing what it said. However, the way she asked was, "Hey, dude, what'd that last slide say?" I admit here, this older guy did WAY overreact. He got all bristly and said that he wasn't a dude, and that she should respect him more. The girl took great offense at this, and started screeching that he was old and didn't belong there in the first place. Effie finally notices that there's a brawl occurring right under her nose, and asks them to respect one another. They do not begin respecting, though, probably because they are slightly busy bellowing at one another. Finally Effie gets their attention, and asks them to see her after class. Like we're back in kindergarten or something. I wonder if she put them in separate corners after class until they were ready to behave like big kids.

Of course, I spent the whole time this was happening shaking in laughter--not out of hilarity, mind, but out of complete disbelief that this was really happening in a COLLEGE classroom. I'd never been exposed to that kind of behavior since my mom started homeschooling me.

Two more gems: on one of Effie's slides, she had the words "excavation cites" up there for all the world to see. *facepalm*

She also said that the Mayans used their gods to "legitimate" their rule.

Oh, for graduate school....

Monday, September 1, 2008

Effie's Paleolithic Brain Capacity

Dear friends, who remembers the saga of Dr. Wiggles? Raise your hands, that I might make a tally of your numbers. I remember those days vividly, if not fondly.

I come to you now with a whole new union of stupidity and a college professorship.

The fun continues in World Civilization I. We'd gotten as far last week as the guy saying that he'd taken both American and U.S. history, correct? Well, folks, I have all new gems for you in this installment of Effie's World! Don't touch that dial, we've got a real treat for you tonight.

Our story begins with three friends sitting at the back table of the classroom. They are Rachel, Lyndsey and myself. We begin as the picture of perfect students, surely an example to all. Our pens are at the ready in our eager hands, our textbooks are opened, and we are attentively, perhaps even enthusiastically, awaiting the lecture of our teacher, who is known affectionately (*shifty eyes*) throughout the school as Effie.

One of her earliest questions was on the nature of myths. Dear friends, for those of you who do not know, I, Katie, love mythology. I've actually been researching graduate programs for Mythology and Folklore. I am by no means omniscient in this realm, but I do know a tad about the subject. My mother was wonderful in this area, teaching my siblings and I about mythology very early in our lives. The information has been invaluable, for it applies to everything from history to Shakespeare.

But I digress. The point is that mythology and I are very good friends. Effie asked the class for a definition of what myths are. The more brilliant answers she received were along the lines of , "Uhh....aren't they stories?" "They're stories, that, uh, have, like, a lesson."

Ahem. Thank you, Mr. Verbose and Ms. Grandiloquence.

I finally got irritated and raised my hand. I was called upon and I stated simply that myths are an answer to a question. Myths exist for the simple purpose of giving an object or phenomenon that appears to be incomprehensible some meaning. My friends, I brag not when I say that I got applause. Everybody was going, ohhh, so THAT'S what a myth is! What a great explanation!

Effie looked irritated. I won't attempt to expound on the reasons for her unlikely wrath.

However, things went downhill from there. Ms. Jones is probably proficient enough in her own subject in certain situations, but I, um, question her teaching skills. The class is very disorganized. She bounced from place to place without either a discernible grammar structure or lesson plan. Worse still, if such things can be ranked, was the noise level. People were talking back and forth, jocks were networking, and there was no attempt at order or respect at all. Nobody could follow what was going on in the class, and it was very difficult to concentrate. However, the questions continued to be of the most kindergarten sort. Lyndsey was eventually joking that the three of us should get Jeopardy buzzers and shout out the answers to the question as fast as we could. Needless to say, I am now greatly improved in my Connect Four playing abilities. At one point, Rachel was requesting that I teach a class on mythology. She eventually pulled out her Hemingway book and started reading under the table. I started reading my textbook. It proved to be more informative than the class.

However, one aspect of the class was truly disturbing in a slightly hilarious sort of way. One boy raised his hand. I offer this transcript of the conversation that followed.

Boy: Ms. Jones, I have a stupid question.
Effie: There is no stupid question.
Class: *nods wisely*
Boy: Were the cavemen before or after Jesus?
Lyndsey and me: *under our breaths* There are stupid questions.

I seriously put my head down on the table and almost started to cry. My first reaction was self pity for having to endure this class in the first place. The deeper emotion, though, was pity for that poor, poor boy. Imagine going through life with such ignorance! The Jewish culture at the time of Jesus was multifaceted, and not at all primitive in the caveman-dragging-woman-by-the-hair sense. At the time of Jesus, there were mathematics, an extremely complicated law structure, empires, military science, philosophy, and music. How could you be so backward to even lump Jesus and "cavemen" in one question? I'm truly, honestly sorry that such a question made it to the college classroom. I'm sorry for anyone that has such a small thirst for knowledge that they did not know this or have the logic to work it out on their own.

But I am glad that the boy asked the question. It proved that he was curious, and honestly wanted to know the answer. I'm more sorry for the ones that sat quietly and let him sacrifice himself when they didn't know the answer, either.

Stay tuned. There's another class tomorrow which involves a test. Oh, goody. I'm sure to come home with more juicy tidbits for you all to enjoy! When you pray tonight, be sure to ask God if Jesus clubbed Mary Magdalene over the head before or after her conversion.