31 December 2009

New Year's Resolution.

First draft of this appeared on Slate's Fray comments section.  I've decided to flesh this out a bit and publish it here.

WHEREAS, I find myself newly single as a result of a rather sudden divorce, and;

WHEREAS, the best year of my life was a direct result of adopting the adventurer/bachelor/free spirit elements of my personality front and center, and;

WHEREAS, 2009 represented a sort of regression to late adolescence and "do-over" for my early twenties anyway thanks to going back to college;

Then so let it be RESOLVED that;

- My life shall come to resemble a Will Ferrell movie, and;

- It shall spawn catchphrases, inside jokes, shameless flirtations with young women way out of my league because what works for Seth Rogen in Judd Apatow flicks may as well work for me, and;

- My comparative older age in this endeavor shall serve as proof, now and for all time, that just because youth is wasted on the young does not mean old dogs can't have a bit of fun as well.

RESOLVED by unanimous 3-0 vote of the Resolution Committee comprised of me and two stuffed animal mascots on my desk this first day of January in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Ten.

And while I'm on the subject, some more New Year's Resolutions:

WHEREAS, I am taking the concept of "poor college student" to new and unexplored lows, and;

WHEREAS, asceticism is a fine virtue but it ain't much fun and it sure as hell doesn't attract women, and;

WHEREAS, last semester I took five classes, scored five A's, and still managed two or three days a week to fit in a nap in the afternoon, clearly demonstrating life is too easy;

Then so let it be RESOLVED that;

- Immediately following the conclusion of a winter break designed and built to ensure full mental and emotional recovery from the events of the past year and particularly the past month, I shall spend every available moment not spent pursuing the effects of the above resolution in an effort to add any available responsibility and work that may present itself in the course of the year, and;

- That all available proceeds from the above be used to stash an asset pile in order to get a head start paying off student loans when the time comes;

- Excepting monies allocated toward the goals of the second clause of the foregoing and the main goals of the previous resolution.  Those shall be spent in the shameless pursuit of the sort of pleasures that will not present themselves again after this second attempt at college has drawn to a successful conclusion.

RESOLVED by 2-1 vote of the Resolution Committee comprised of me and two stuffed animal mascots on my desk this first day of January in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Ten.  Let the record show that one of the stuffed beavers dissented on the grounds that free time should be spent playing video games.

24 December 2009

Do the math. Or maybe don't do the math.

Choosing a self-directed learning path when I am absolutely terrible at self-directed learning paths is proving interesting as I try to wrap my brain around the advanced algebraic and trigonometric concepts required in order to successfully gain the seven points on the assessment test needed to test into calculus.  Either I'm an idiot or I just REALLY don't do well when left to my own devices---or maybe I'm just a little too stressed out and shouldn't be beating myself up over it.

In other news, stresses aside, I'd forgotten just how much I enjoy my time alone, and in the time since the unfortunate demise of my marriage it is as though the clock has been turned back to 2004---otherwise known as "the best gods-damned year of my life".  Sure, I don't have the world on a string like I did back then, but 2010 hasn't even started yet.  Toss me a part-time job and some summer work, let me save aggressively, and maybe throw a not-too-serious girlfriend into the mix to keep the ol' social-interaction meter filled and that's all the makings of age 33 turning into a very good place to be in life.  And did I mention the $2500 scholarship for my grades?  All made possible by a series of bizarre quirks of fate and emotion beyond my control.  Any further questions why I'm religious?  Praise the gods.

Coherence isn't in the cards today---my sleep cycle's buggered like a Catholic altar boy in a room full of priests, so you get the unfiltered version like a Lucky Strike to the lungs.

16 December 2009

A moment of self-congratulation.

For those wondering:

Straight A's this semester in all five classes, keeping my cumulative GPA in 24 credits taken so far at a nice, crisp 4.00.  Too bad this isn't The Sims where $1,200 magically appears in the bank account for getting an A.

Got my hands on the book for Math 126 (Pre-Calculus); trying to pass a test so I won't have to take it next semester.  I have to improve on my pre-enrollment test score by seven points (out of 120; I got a 77 on my first attempt and need an 84) in order to be able to take Calculus (Math 176) in the spring.  Since Calculus is a required course for me to transfer with full upper-classman status at UNR (Nevada-Reno, home of the Wolf Pack) next fall, I've got a dog in that fight and it will be the prime focus of my winter break.  The testing center a block from my house is open Dec. 28-31; I hope to get in there on New Year's Eve (two weeks from tomorrow) and pass that test!  If I blow it, well, back to the drawing board as I'll have to take 126 in the spring and hope they offer 176 in the summer (they did last year, but not a lot of students want to try to take a full calculus course in five weeks and I can't say I blame 'em.)

On top of all of the above, I'm probably going to end up taking a part-time job at minimum wage or barely above, since the difference between my financial aid and my living expenses works out to about $400-500 a month, which means I'll be out of money and dead broke in June or July at the rate I'm going...and school doesn't start up again for the fall until August.  In theory I could probably try to get welfare or something, but that would be a dick move on the taxpayer and goes against everything I believe in personally and politically...but if the alternative is ending up homeless...

All things in due consideration, however, I am rocking the lights out around here and truth be told I am quite satisfied with my personal life (even given recent events).  Things will get a lot brighter two or three years down the line---I've just got to continue to survive as I do what I should've done ten years ago and really get my life together in preparation for the bright future I spent ten years wasting and putting off.

13 December 2009

73 men sailed out from the San Francisco Bay...

Followers of my Facebook (what?  You're not following Fox Doucette?  What's wrong with you?) are doubtless puzzling over a reference I made in a recent post: "The Mystery Ship sails again Dec. 23."  Allow me to elaborate because I'm in the mood to tell a few stories.

The original Mystery Ship was an apartment I had in Haverhill, Massachusetts, back in my early twenties.  It was a two-bedroom in a truly dreadful neighborhood that I'd moved into after my first engagement broke off and served as a base for operations for my young twentysomething self to spend about two and a half years on what basically amounted to a vision quest trying to get laid.

With all that space (and with me spending 99% of it in about an eight-foot radius when not entertaining guests---my computer and PlayStation were, then as now, the center of my personal entertainment universe), it lent itself well to taking in roommates, stragglers, and friends who had fallen on hard times.  Any girl who wanted to get away for awhile usually crashed with me, and since I figured that "no sense in lying to anyone", this made for some very interesting social dynamics---what happens when all your paramours know each other and all go bowling together with you?  Maybe Tiger ought to give something like that a try.

The Mystery Ship (and me as captain) was a metaphor for my freedom-loving, commitment-phobic ways.  Said my stepfather, in 2003 after my then-girlfriend left me: "You're probably better off as just a self-contained unit rather than trying to get mixed up with other people."  If I'd heeded his advice, I probably wouldn't have spent the last five years trying to make a marriage work with a girl with whom ultimately I had nothing in common except a ravenous sex drive and an appreciation of watching shit blow up on Mythbusters.

My goal for 2010 and beyond (at least until I meet a girl who will be the mother of my children someday and settle down anew in order to devote myself to the task---let nobody here suggest that I'm looking to be some kind of perpetual-childhood type) is to get out there...meet some people...fuck some women...and remind myself that charm, charisma, and a knack for a good time are virtues that are actually worth something.  I'm sailin' off to history...and I'll figure out where to put into port later.

Ahoy, mateys!  Raise the anchor, it's time to sail.  Soon as the ex-wife gets on that plane to Canada in ten days, it's fair winds and calm seas!

09 December 2009

Dateline: New Year's Day, 2015.

(the following is an exercise in "what if?")

Hard to believe I've been writing this for over five years now.  Back when I started, I was a 31-year-old wannabe know-it-all in an ill-advised marriage and with a life going nowhere so fast you'd have thought "Nowhere" was a stop on the Shinkansen.  Five years of college and a passed CPA exam later, I'm making more money in one year than I used to make in three, I'm back in Boston where I belong, and in a couple months' time I'll be a first-time father at 37 (we've already decided on a name---he'll be David Roger Doucette.  Funny, because my brother gave his firstborn our dad's name for a middle name as well, and I decided I'd do that almost 15 years ago!  Great minds think alike!)  I'll let the wife name kid #2 a couple years from now---she is awesome for honoring my desire to honor the two men who made sure I lived to adulthood---Dave is my stepfather's name.  I love you always, honey.

The crazy thing about all of this is that it is remarkably in lockstep with what I'd have told you five years ago if you'd asked me "where do you see yourself in five years?"  As 2010 dawned I had just divorced (or, more accurately, been divorced by---the decision was hers) my first wife, and although I will always have a place in my heart for her, I have to thank her for forcing me once and for all time to really take a long look at who I was as a person.  I mean, I'd already done so during our marriage (one of the main reasons it broke up---we drifted apart, and the drift accelerated like it had the Starship Enterprise's warp drive on it once I went to college), but it really crystallized for me when I got that finalized divorce decree from the state of Nevada in the mail.

I remember the spring of 2010.  "Poor college student", indeed.  One reason I only weigh 170 today even as I'm pushing forty (besides all the energy expended chasing subway trains) is because I lost so much weight back then.  Not since I was 19 had I really been required to make every cent stretch to its limit---and considering that nasty recession we had during the Obama years (thank you President Romney for putting the brakes on that deficit spending!  Gods bless America!), it wasn't like I had much of a choice in the matter.  I still remember my old buddy Jasper from TMCC saying "dude, you look like you haven't eaten in weeks!  Here, come to this campus event, there's free food!"  The invite's still on the table for you (and everyone else from TMCC and UNR) to come up to "Nouveau Versailles"---the wife's lasagna is out of this world (and my poor mother is still jealous that everyone in the family likes hers at Christmas dinner instead of the one I grew up eating in December...)  Not to get all retro-Seinfeldian (showing my age on that one), but "you have got to see the BAY-BEE!"

Speaking of old friends, my 20th high school reunion's coming up---and just to be different I'll actually think about gracing the old class of '95 with my presence this year.  I mean, the cat's been out of the bag for years that I'm not in fact dead like I told the reunion committee 16 years ago.  I swore I wouldn't come back to New England unless I could return as a conquering hero.  It may have taken a bit longer than I expected, but oddly enough, at 37 my future finally looks as bright as it should have when I was much younger.  Better late than never.

04 December 2009

Burn in hell, Nancy Pelosi.


Go ahead. Click that. But if you're a conservative, a libertarian, or just someone younger than about 45 and thus in line to have your taxes raised to 90% when the bill comes due from China, I'd recommend going and getting lunch first because you're not going to want to eat anything after you read that. (then again, tossing one's cookies is no way to go through life, so...umm...yeah.)

I mean, seriously. TARP money for make-work expand-the-government jobs?! Wasn't the entire promise of the bank bailout last year that it would ward off a Great Depression by keeping the banking system solvent...and oh, by the way, wasn't it just what the doctor ordered as nothing bugs a capitalist more than government regulation and therefore the banks are tripping over themselves to pay it back as quickly as possible, leading to a massive restructuring of the entire financial sector and a move toward "by the grace of the gods, let us NEVER have to do this shit again"?

And you want to use it for a glorified welfare program full of low-paying make-work jobs to make that little number next to the percent sign look prettier?

Look, I'm already voting Republican next year. The Who said it best: "I won't get fooled again", and to be quite honest I'm strongly considering learning to speak German so I can go live over there, where my tax dollars would buy me health care that doesn't suck, the food's better, and people actually value an honest day's work. Better place to raise kids, too...European schools actually teach kids to read, write, and do basic math, which is more than American schools can say for themselves because they're too busy pushing social agendas on the kids, either Christian-extremist in the red states or whatever Commie twaddle they stuff the kids with in blue states.

But seriously. Only San Francisco could consistently send a worthless bag of feces masquerading as a woman like Nancy Pelosi to Congress, and only in America could Stalin with tits become the voice of an entire fucking political party. That's over half of America's political clout right there. Speaking of reasons to move to Germany; plurality in elections! No two-headed dictatorships...Merkel doesn't have the luxury of sycophantic party apparatchiks---she actually has to act the part of building consensus or she'll find herself on the wrong end of a special election. Even Canada understands this, and if there's one thing Americans love, it's belittling Canada (never mind that except for the balls-freezing weather and the lack of good sports other than hockey Canada is in every way superior to the US as a place to live, work, and raise children.)

It's not my vote Nancy Pelosi (or Harry Reid, who actually represents me in the Senate as a fellow Nevadan) is worried about. They both know I'm voting Republican and for all they care I might as well be Glenn Beck---never mind that I voted for Obama last year (even though that was mostly about Sarah Palin, otherwise I'd have voted for McCain). It's the center they have to worry about. It's everybody younger than 45 with even a smidge of foresight.

But man...if ever there were concrete proof that the government should never, EVER be trusted with money, this latest story is it. Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke are, somewhat unsurprisingly since they're Republicans, coming out smelling like roses. Who'd-a thunk?

03 December 2009

Blockin' out the scenery, breakin' my mind.

It's Thursday. I'm in a hallway makin' with the written word. This will be the last time I can say that for another six weeks (at least---depending on if I get the job I've applied for, which will likely have me on a bus after class instead of sitting around like an overgrown teenage slacker!)

Of course, this sort of ending always inspires a bit of reflection, so if I may be indulged, I'll write a bit on Things I've Learned This Semester, but Not In Class:

I've learned that I'm more resourceful and more well-rounded than I ever thought possible. Hitting a home run in an ancient-history class this summer could be seen as a fluke. Hitting another home run in music appreciation could be seen as a coincidence. Hitting the bell on the intellectual strength tester three times? That's a trend.

I've learned that I'm still well able to dig holes for myself...and similarly well able to climb out of them. Failing to take my computer class seriously enough had me worried about my grade, but busting my ass and bringing that grade back from the dead---it's not that I learned all about computers. It's that I learned that adversity brings out the best in me.

I've learned that I picked the right major. This augurs well for future considerations. Supposedly there's a sorting-algorithm class next year that will separate the legitimate CPA candidates from the folks who ought to just go major in marketing. I have been loaded with confidence that I'll be the biggest fish in that particular tank when the time comes.

I've learned that I am more socially adept than I ever previously thought about myself. My capacity in Entrepreneurship Club has developed my networking skills and given me the realization that my charisma is not illusory. Attracting the attention of powerful people in the who's who of the local business community and somehow managing not to totally screw up the contacts is more than I would've expected of myself. The fourth and final of these social misadventures (check the archive for the previous three) is next Thursday, and your humble correspondent will have an angst-filled worry-fest in advance of same.

I've learned that nothing brings out productivity like an intelligent environment. Writing among the study groups and professorial banter of this college hallway has been an incalculable boon and has also brought me the realization that I feed off the energy around me. Sure, it sounds loony New Age in its execution, but feeding off the energy of others is very real and it's ultimately just applied gestalt psychology applied in non-traditional ways. Point of the matter is that I wish I could find a way to bottle this that didn't involve risking a heart attack by moving my writing operations to Starbucks (curse you, caffeine sensitivity!)

And finally, I've learned that all of the above is all well and good, but so help me gods I look forward to my day alone in the house on Friday! Sometimes a guy just has to disconnect his brain and lose himself in a video game.

Finals are next week. Updates during winter break will likely be intermittent.

29 November 2009

The Mozart Process begins anew.

I have a four-page paper due in Core Humanities on Tuesday. I haven't put a word to print or screen regarding it thus far. I have no intention of so doing until I'm sitting in "my office" on campus tomorrow afternoon after accounting class, which for those keeping score at home would be about 21 hours before the paper is due. I have no doubt in my mind I'll get an A.

See, I may not have put pen to page or keyboard to word processor, but the paper is completely written in my head. It is a take on Candide that casts Dr. Pangloss as a modern motivational speaker, the Tony Robbins or Dr. Phil of his time. You probably don't need me to tell you what the assignment says based on that little blurb, but here it is:

"Take any piece of literature post-1700 that we have covered in class. What is its historical context? What relevance does it have to the modern reader? And how did you personally interpret the author's message as a 21st-century student?"

We've already had an assignment like this. The first paper way back in September was this assignment, but the subject material was any piece from the 16th and 17th centuries. I wrote on Castiglione's The Book of the Courtier, shamelessly cribbed from last semester's piece I wrote on Aristotle, and lamented the vulgarization of 21st-century culture by crap like Internet memes (ed: I iz soree SpaceCadet cat!), Oprah, and radical individualism...and cruised to an A. Lather, rinse, repeat.

In other news, my Nutrition teacher gave us 5 points of extra credit for showing up on the day before Thanksgiving. In her words, "I know most of you had your other classes canceled today and it would've been easy for you to just say 'I'm not coming to class at 9:30 in the morning.' For you, I give a reward." What was it Chris Rock said about wanting a reward for doing something you're supposed to do? Eh...not that I'm complaining. It means that I need at least a 3 (out of 120) on the final exam to get an A in the class. I don't know how one would go about doing worse than that. I'd probably get three points just trying to fail the true-false section of the test since on average I lose about five points trying to get them right!

Between tonight's homework (I have assignments in all five of my classes), Wednesday's job interview, and Thursday's first final exam...this week will be stressful but satisfying. Still got to finish strong---I'm like the '07 Patriots at this point, don't want to lose the Super Bowl.

25 November 2009

I am very obviously insane.

Got an email yesterday from the dean of business (via the Entrepreneurship Club president, her assistant) about a job offer as an auditor in a local casino. $10.50 an hour to start, hours flexible with my school schedule, a great way to pick up a few extra bucks to defray the costs of my education and give me something to do besides take naps in the afternoon. I interview next Wednesday and truth be told I think I have an excellent chance to land the job since it lines up with my major and the guy is looking to hire a college student (plus, I've ample experience in the casino industry, albeit on the wiseguy/pro gambler side of the tables. Point is I know the industry inside and out.)

For those keeping score at home, that means I'll be combining a job with an 18-credit courseload...while still trying to maintain a 3.75 cumulative GPA so I can get a transfer scholarship when I go to UNR next fall---they offer $2500 to students carrying the abovementioned A-minus or better average.

Resumé fodder? Oh yes. Interview-story fodder as well. I've either suddenly, powerfully grown more mature over the last six months...or I'm clinically, certifiably insane. Your call which it is.

22 November 2009


I'm in an interesting position as far as my writing goes right now. Namely, my life is going too well to have anything to write about!

People don't necessarily want to hear "another day, nothing much happened, life is good" over and over again. School has reached its denouement and Thursday's post is probably more than anyone reasonably cares about, this isn't a gaming blog so I'm not going to prattle about playing Port Royale 2 all day, and it's not a sports blog so the World Cup isn't going to get much play here.

I do have an interesting Accounting final coming up on December 9th. Interesting to me, that is. Not necessarily to anyone else, unless you really want to know all about my efforts to come to grips with the Statement of Cash Flows...

'Tis said that "no news is good news." In that vein, boy, do I have good news!

19 November 2009

Where the wild grades are.

It has become evident that as I have aged, I have become quite a fair bit sharper in mind than I ever was even five years ago. I got two major items back, one in Core Humanities, one in IS101 (the latter of which I've colloquially called "the bane of my existence"), and I got perfect scores on both.

For Core Humanities, this all but clinches an A in the class, as on my last paper I'd need to get no worse than 79 points out of a hundred (in other words, at least a B-minus), and I've gone A-, A, A on the first three. Mind you, the last paper will probably be 15 pages like the midterm was, but the paper writes itself.

For IS101, on the other hand, the 60 points (out of 60) I just picked up means that of the 28 points I can afford to give away, I've still got every last one of them left for the stretch drive---the remaining assignments (including some extra credit work, which thank the gods is there or I'd be dead in the water already) count for 60, 70, and 40 respectively. 142 out of 170 is 83.5%. I'd been worried earlier in the semester that I might be closer to a B than an A; it is only over the last month that I've really knuckled down and pushed full-bore after a dreadful start that was about entirely due to me grossly underestimating the level of effort that would be required in that computer class---who knew they taught networking, database management, and basic programming at the 101 level? In 1998 when I took the equivalent of this class, it was basically "if you can turn the computer on without asking the instructor how, you get an A." Dear gods---I'm becoming an old fart who needs instruction on "new technology"---that, or someone realized that if you're going to teach someone computer skills you might as well go whole hog so the resumé isn't a total joke. Next semester I'm not going to give away points early on by screwing around.

In other news, I've already clinched an A in Statistics---I don't even need to do the third homework assignment, never mind the final exam. I'm so far ahead thanks to some extra credit that a zero on both still puts me seven points above the minimum level required for an A. Not bad for a guy who had to get a waiver from the Economics department to even be allowed to take the class (my math test scores were too low---more on this in a bit.)

Nutrition, my science requirement, has been similarly good to me---I need 58 points out of a possible 150 (and when I say "possible 150", it's closer to 180 because of extra credit points on offer) on the last lab and the final combined. What this basically means is that I could get an F and a D and between the two items I'd still have enough points for an A. For what it's worth my current average in that class is 111%, the class high.

Accounting will by its nature be a "down to the wire" situation only because the final is 30% of the grade and it is therefore not mathematically possible to clinch anything better than a C-minus going into the last day on December 9th, but considering I've pulled a solid 97% on everything else, this means I only need an 87 or better on the final to average an A for the semester. Let's just say I'm really not worried about it.

As for those math test scores, in order to get into the University of Nevada's school of Business as a full-status junior in the fall of 2010, I'll need to take Math 176 (Calculus I) at TMCC. Trouble is, my test scores only pass me into Math 126 (Pre-Calculus, or "math I took in 11th grade in high school"---old age has not been kind to my math skills!) Still, I was only seven points (out of 120) short, and the college will allow me to re-test once and see if I can pass it the second time around. I'm going to put a flyer up on the campus bulletin board and say "Anyone taking Math 126, I will buy the book from you and beat the bookstore's price" (still cheaper than me trying to buy the book new). Then I will spend winter break basically self-teaching myself trigonometry from that book. Before spring semester starts, I will use my newly regained knowledge to pass out of Math 126 and keep myself on track to graduate on time without having to take a summer course or waste a semester trying to pass into the school of Business so I can set about dual-majoring in accounting and finance, crash through the coursework with style and aplomb, and keep on track to become (as this blog's title so nicely reminds me) a CPA by 40.

And to think---some people will spend winter break snowboarding and opening Christmas presents. Ahh, ambition...

15 November 2009

Weasel Nation.

I hate marketing people. This much you already knew about me. I've been trying to encapsulate just how I feel about the profession and how dirty it is, and I finally hit on it in a Twitter post this morning: "Marketing is like being raped in your sleep. By the time you realize you've been fucked, it's too late to get rid of unwanted product."

As a business major I've met more than my share of future marketing guys. I even, as a requirement for my degree, took a marketing class this summer (sift through the May/June archive if you want my take). The earnest do-gooder attitude, like marketing makes the world a place worth living in or something, is the core conceit of those particular students. They are like religious evangelists, preaching the gospel of shallow, materialistic conspicuous consumerism and acting like High Avatars for the Economy (there's something very South Park about that mental image). In their world, the poor, unfortunate folks who don't have all their useless crap are like hollow, impoverished Third World urchins.

It does, however, invite the interesting question: If not for conspicuous consumerism, would the economy collapse completely? If everybody bought only what they needed and lived within their means, finding small luxuries once in a while and not allowing their purchases to define them (very Fight Club, no?), then how far would the GDP drop? Would automakers go completely out of business if it weren't for relentless advertising of "get this year's new model" to people who already have perfectly serviceable cars, many of which don't even have fifty thousand never mind 100,000 or more miles on them? Would the housing market completely and utterly collapse to the point where we'd have McGhostTowns worthy of the mining-bust tourist attraction areas of the Old West?

I fear that the only thing keeping the whole nation afloat is that when the marketing people come around to forcibly impregnate us with stupid ideas and ultimately unsatisfying wants, we've got to do our patriotic metaphorical duty and spread our legs and try to like it. Something tells me a good 1930s redux Great Depression of the sort the government beggared our future to try and avoid this time is about the only thing left that will save us from ourselves. That, or mass exodus so the entire United States looks like East Berlin before they put the Wall up.

Shakespeare had the right idea but the wrong target. First thing we do, let's kill all the marketing weasels. "Weasels", rhymes with "measles", so immunize yourself and realize that mass marketing is a disease on the landscape.

08 November 2009

Remember, remember, the ninth of November.

To hell with Guy Fawkes and to hell with V for Vendetta masks---the real meritorious date to remember in November comes up tomorrow. Specifically, we won. The Berlin Wall came down and East Germans flooded into West Germany to do with their lives what the brutal, repressive, soul-hating Communist regime wouldn't let them do---namely, make a living and be happy. They'd been doing so for 15 years between the end of World War II and when the Soviets put up the Berlin Wall, an act that was utterly preventable but for the fact that the Western Allies and especially the Americans sat on their thumbs and let it happen---declassified post-Soviet documents released ten years ago on the tenth anniversary established that.

Twenty years ago, I was part of the last generation to truly understand the implications of the Cold War. Born in 1977, I grew up through my early childhood with "Will Mr. Reagan keep the Russians from dropping a nuclear bomb on us, Mommy?" kind of questions and will never forget as long as I live the joke told on "You Can't Do That On Television" by a mother reassuring her frightened child: "As long as we have more and bigger bombs than the Russians, there will never be a nuclear war."

Such thinking has (sometimes over the objections of my own intellect, proving the power of the visceral) guided my thinking as an adult, and the example of the aforementioned declassified documents is very instructive as to how right-minded people can prevent injustice and tyranny both upon ourselves and in others; in the words of Kenny Rogers in "Coward of the County", "sometimes you gotta fight to be a man." Had we machine-gunned a couple of laborers in 1961, we might not have doomed millions of hardworking, honest people to a life of hopelessness and misery.

This goes for ordinary, non-totalitarian, non-Communist life as well. I'm not saying we have to drop a nuclear weapon on San Francisco while Nancy Pelosi is visiting her constituents (good gods, could any other jurisdiction elect someone as antithetical to laissez-faire as Pelosi?) I am saying that the rest of America can elect Republicans in 2010 so Pelosi doesn't get to be Speaker of the House anymore so she can't force through pork-laden insurance company-written health care bills that serve only to aggrandize bureaucracy while ordinary people are priced into the poorhouse just so they won't end up homeless or with their credit ruined when, as happened to me in January of 2008, their heart decides "no mas" and they have to be rushed to the emergency room so their atrial fibrillation condition doesn't turn into full-on myocardial infarction. I ended up paying $1,000 out of pocket, and even then I think I got a pretty good bargain insofar as my health insurance premiums only ate up about $2500 that year, well within the difference of what all that emergency treatment would've cost me (at least five grand by my best estimate) had I been uninsured---or worse, had I been unable or unwilling to even attempt to save my own life lest what the fallout would do to my wife.

Ahem. What was I saying (besides right-wing yapping that the leftists out there can safely avoid)? Right. I'm pretty sure my point was that when ordinary people stand idly by while others try to impinge upon our freedoms, whether it's building walls around cities and shooting people with the temerity to want to live somewhere else, whether it's religious extremists trying to force a theocracy on their countries (and I don't mean Ahmadinejad), whether it's paper Messiahs claiming to act in the "public interest" and destroying the middle class, we need, as an interested populace, to put a stop to it in no uncertain terms.

Whether that means going to the ballot box and finding viable third-party candidates (think Ross Perot minus the crazy) to break the stranglehold of the two-headed dictatorship we call a "two-party representative democracy" (Democracy, my ass!), whether that means taking up arms and fighting a new revolution, or whether that just means instituting a brain drain and emigrating to the far-off reaches of the world, leaving the empty shell of a barbaric non-entity on the world stage calling itself "America", the point is that action needs to be taken. I'm willing to tolerate socialism when the government and the people adhere to the social contract. I've read Rousseau and I totally see his point. I am not willing to tolerate American-style tax-and-spend socialism where the people get higher taxes but they get nothing of value in return for those taxes. That's called grand theft where I come from. Mr. Obama, tear down that (metaphorical) wall!

Note the interesting dichotomy in the politics here---in America I'm a frothing Glenn Beck Republican (at least when the Democrats run things---I turn into Keith Olbermann when folks like Bush, Cheney, and DeLay are in charge), but abroad? I'd be more than happy to settle into a Canadian or European mindset seeing as how those economic systems work so well when there's no de facto dictatorship in place. I invite my readers to try and sort this out for themselves.

06 November 2009

The College Majors' Hierarchy

I have to this point resisted the urge to shamelessly categorize my fellow students and students in general but recent events have taught me that not only am I completely unsurprisingly the dumbest guy in most rooms, but when that fact brings me down there are plenty of bigger idiots on campus to make me feel better about myself. There are some truly brilliant people at my school and if there were any justice in this world they'd make enough money to buy and sell me a thousand times over rather than the other way around. Now then, from smartest to dumbest:

Natural Sciences Majors.
I once had a chemistry teacher who says "any science that ends in -ology isn't a real science. All sciences are ultimately derived from mathematics, and the only pure sciences are physics and chemistry." I don't know that I believe that. I do know that pre-med students and nursing students hold study groups in hallways, and their ability to toss around the sort of science that leaves my accounting-major brain tied completely in knots trying to follow their conversations proves beyond a reasonable doubt that I am nowhere near smart enough to do what they do, and neither, I suspect, is anyone else in my section of school. The physicists and chemists and doctors and nurses and such will be jerked around by a system that parcels out research grants like Scrooge parceled out time off to Bob Cratchit and by a government that seems hell bent on making their lives miserable. It sucks. They're the smartest people in the room.

Classical Liberal Arts/Humanities Majors.
Not garbage pseudoscience bullshit like psychology and sociology---I'll get to them later. I'm talking the Seven Liberal Arts along with the Renaissance additions to the classical curriculum. These folks aren't quite as sharp as the hard science majors, and I'd question the intelligence of incurring tens of thousands of dollars in debts when your education will get you a job at Starbucks in a rewarding, intellectually challenging, "your friends from high school will still envy your intellect like they did as teenagers" (thanks Nora) after you graduate, but they create beauty in the written word, music, and the visual arts that contributes far more to society than some paper-pushing, money-grubbing pirate in a necktie who majors in business. There should be a way for these folks to make a good living because civilization wouldn't be what it is without them. Then again, maybe there is---a good many of these folks end up in law school, and having a humanities major who got his juris doctor on my side when one of my customers decides to sue me will be a nice perk. I love my core humanities class largely because it's mostly populated by people who are far smarter than I am.

Business Majors.
It says more about the low quality of the majors below this point in the hierarchy than it does about business that the business majors rank this high. At least business folks get credit for understanding that having an education serve a purpose is a good way to live well, even if so many business majors go on to empty-headed, vapid lives in McMansions. 'Tis said (and I forget by whom) that "growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell." I remain amazed and a little bit disgusted by the sheer volume of money I'll make as a dual-major in accounting and finance once I pass the CPA exam and get my securities license from the SEC. If everything goes the way I'm hoping, I'll be in that elite 5% of Americans who get to thoroughly screw the other 95% out of their money. To paraphrase Clausewitz, "Finance is the continuation of mathematics by other means."

Even within the business department there's a hierarchy as well, though: Econ guys are smarter than accounting guys are smarter than finance guys are smarter than management guys are smarter than the drooling morons who major in marketing. A monkey could major in marketing and come up with a way to sell thrown poo and monkey spooge to consumers as a beauty aid. Forgive me if I don't exactly clamor to their intellectual defense.

Computer Science Majors.
"Computer Science" is an insult to the natural world. Furthermore, just because someone is nerdy does not make them intelligent. It may make proof that they've a raging case of Asperger's Syndrome, but intelligent? Nay. Besides choosing a major that will prepare them for the exciting world of having their jobs outsourced to Bangalore, I've never met a computer science major who could talk with any degree of intelligence or wit about anything that isn't a computer program or a Japanese cartoon. They're the most thoroughly awful conversationalists I've ever met, dull and uninteresting in befitting their "awkward nerd" stereotype. They put the "idiot" in "idiot savant."

Gender- and Ethnic-Studies Majors, And Other Bullshit They Made Up So Morons Could Go To College.
You know the types. Earnest, idealistic, more philosophy than sense. Entire academic disciplines have been made up so that drooling retards who nonetheless had mommy and daddy tell them to go to college can be kept away from the people with brains like some sort of zombie quarantine (just without the inevitable "containment has failed! Run for your lives!" sort of George Romero plot twist and without Simon Pegg swinging a cricket bat.) Women's studies, ethnic studies, psychology, sociology, anthropology, "general studies", underwater basket weaving, playing on the football team...these are the people who the liberal arts majors get to boss around at that Starbucks after graduation. I can't condone anyone who borrows tens of thousands of dollars and gets absolutely no useful skills at all, not even the sorts of classical skills that can at the very least send a liberal arts major to law school. Can we just create some way to make these people go directly to mopping the floor at McDonald's?

OK, so I've made massive, broad generalizations here and I'm about guaranteed to have insulted and horribly offended someone in the process, particularly anyone who couldn't find themselves by the third item. But still, I feel a certain obligation as chronicler of my college education to set this stuff to print.

03 November 2009

Social Misadventures III

I've gotten some new readers around here recently, so allow me some background. Those reading since at least September or so will find the first part quite familiar.

Here at school, I have generally made an effort to keep to myself and try not to ruffle too many feathers. My natural introversion borders on the autism spectrum; the company of other people is something that (except for my loving wife, and even she knows I have my limits) I try to avoid as much as possible. I'm right at home poring over a set of financial statements, fiddling around with Excel, putting pencil to paper for my Statistics class work (60/60 on the latest test---that's right, I rock. If I get at least a 7 out of 40 on the next homework---that's not a misprint---I'll get an A in the class without having to take the final exam.) I prefer the company of animals to people, and to be quite honest the animals need not even be the live kind---the company of stuffed animals is preferable to the company of humans far more often than not.

One of my favorite quotes from a video game comes from Ganredhel, an Elven woman in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, who says "Dogs are loyal and stupid. People are devious and smart. I'll stick with dogs." I think I have pretty well incontrovertibly established just how much I dislike human contact...so why is it that I'm Treasurer of the Entrepreneurship Club and a reliable go-to guy for networking events?

Well, it started as a favor to a faculty member. I took a class in marketing during summer session and the teacher took a shine to me as I was actively engaged and hardworking in her class (even though the material did nothing to tamp down my extremely strong dislike of the "science" of marketing and its weasel practitioners. I wrote about this in June.) I ran into her at the campus orientation fair on the third day of school and stopped by to say hello and pass a little small talk about "how was your summer" and similar banalities. She gave me a brochure and told me I should "come join the E club" (which to me, as a late-stage Generation Xer, sounds like a club dedicated to doing crappy party drugs from the late nineties.)

I went to the first meeting as a courtesy with the intention of being able to say to myself "OK, I didn't totally give an Eff You to the teacher, now I've got work to do." What I didn't expect was that I'd caught the attention of the Associate Dean of Business here at the college, a woman who acted from zero hour like she'd known me for years (well, given my horrendous past, probably not "years", or she'd have run away in terror or told me to get lost. Months, anyway.) She nominated me for the vacant treasurer position in the club, and flattery will get you everywhere with me so I accepted. Well, there went any hope I had of "go to class, go home, ballgame"! And with it went a sizeable chunk of my free time.

Fast forward to now. I've been to two club events and I'm sitting in "my office" now passing the three hours between my Statistics class and when the networking portion of tonight's event begins at five (or is it 5:30? Eh...not like it matters. I'm here either way.) I will be gladhanding, telling stories and jokes, and generally acting like someone who isn't a borderline-autistic introvert with a major aversion to social contact. And somehow, through the actions of the gods via instruments I am thoroughly unfamiliar with, my presence will be welcomed, my wit will spark the desired level of amusement in my audience, and I'll generally be treated like a valued member of the community.

I remain absolutely astounded by all of the above...and even more astounded that there may be a scholarship in it for me since through the dean I have begun to attract some attention from Reno's business community, some members of which would be more than happy to provide a scholarship for an ambitious non-traditional student with a goal that could pay dividends to those same business people down the road. And here I thought I was just trying to get a piece of paper to my name.

I've also got to wonder if mine isn't the most extraordinary spread between one's talents and one's personality out there. I'm looking at a career in the fast paced world of business and finance, tossing around numbers by day and bons mots by night if I'm to get ahead and make the money I'll need to be able to retire in comfort before my family history of dropping dead at a startlingly young age gets to me first. It's a career track that favors the extrovert, the natural-born salesman, the gregarious grandmaster of ceremony and delight. It is, quite simply, the sort of track in life that one would naturally tend to believe would lead me to spend meaningful time on a psychiatrist's couch...but it's also what I have a natural gift for and about the only thing I can do correctly that happens to have marketable value.

If I had my way I'd be a freelance columnist, maybe a sportswriter, maybe churning out anecdotal puff pieces (like this one) for publication somewhere. Maybe I'd be a travel and food writer, sort of an Anthony Bourdain but minus the penchant for thinking Third World travel is enjoyable---I'd rather write reviews of pizza places in Napoli or New York. Sadly, my chances of getting a college degree in the liberal arts, humanities, or journalism is near nil---I nearly flunked out of high school because I was so bad at the literature requirements in English class.

So I'm an accounting major. And a treasurer. And an all-around hell of a guy...but my gods, I'm going to be glad when I get this coming Friday to myself and I spend all day while my wife's at work playing video games alone in the house. The Monday through Thursday grind is driving me bananas.

02 November 2009

In Which Our Hero Shamelessly Compares Himself to Mozart.

Sitting in "my office", a little third-floor table near a wall outlet under some lovely track lighting here on campus, I am about to write my third paper for Core Humanities, hoping all the while that my professor will look as kindly upon it as he has on my previous two papers for the class. However, when I say "about to write", it would be more accurate for me simply to say "about to commit to paper four pages' worth of stuff I've already written, edited, scrapped, re-written, and composed in my head." Almost no actual writing will take place over the next hour; it is merely a typist's challenge from here out combined with some on-the-fly copy editing as things that looked better in my head get cleaned up on the page.

Students of the life of one Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart may recognize the writing process here. Mozart composed his symphonies in his head long before he put hand to piano or note to staff on the written page. Entire movements would write and edit themselves in his mind, always in a technical style that was his own and that listeners long after the man's death in 1791 can recognize. It was as though Mozart were divinely inspired.

Meanwhile, I make no illusions as to the long-lasting nature of any scrawl I dare call literature, nor do I think for a second that anyone will praise my name two centuries or more after I'm dead. But the thought process is exactly the same. I compose papers, essays, blog posts, and what-have-you in my head and the richness of the orchestra plays itself out in my mind (who would read the audiobook of CPA By Forty, anyway? Thurl Ravenscroft is dead, otherwise he'd be my first choice...Patrick Stewart? James Earl Jones?). Once it's composed it's a simple matter of firing up the computer and getting the thing set to print. I only hope that for the reader it's more Mozart than, say, Insane Clown Posse or Miley Cyrus. I'd have to run myself through with a wakizashi if my writing were as insubstantial as pop music.

30 October 2009

All point, no power.

Thankfully the last of the MS Office projects are due in IS101 next week, as I have done an absolutely miserable job on them throughout the course, possibly in the process playing myself right out of a chance at an A in the class (and making myself scramble to even earn an A-minus.) By the gods, there's 40 points of extra credit available (out of 810 total points in the class, a score of 753 is required to get an A, and 40 points can make an A out of a B+). I hope I can do well on the extra credit projects and salvage my shot at a 4.0 for the semester.

Some folks may wonder why I've suddenly shifted from "just happy to be here" to "crazy Lisa Simpson overachiever" and the reason is simple. Besides the obvious "it's in striking distance, might as well go for it" factor, there's another reason. I haven't pulled straight As since 1987, in fourth grade, which also happens to be right after my father died and I threw myself into my schoolwork to try and keep my mind off of losing my dad.

For me to, at 32, reach the very level of success I hit before my life went completely to hell on me in the summer of '87 (combination of no more healthy distractions + mom dating a vile lout of a man)? I can't help but wonder if my old man's looking at me from the afterlife and thinking "You done good, son."

27 October 2009

In Which Our Hero Emerges Triumphant.

I quote my Core Humanities professor, in his evaluation of my midterm (all 4,000 words of it): "Great work, Fox. Thoughtful, thorough, and well-written. 100% A."

I worked my ass off on that paper. I put my heart and soul into it. I (to judge by the tone from about page nine onward) got a little sick of my own seriousness and decided that if the professor were as bored reading as I'd become writing, a laugh would be in order (making references in the fifth mini-essay to Ronseal Quick Drying Woodstain ads and the Dennis the Peasant scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail). To quote from a passage later in that essay (on absolute monarchy):

"Consider the issue of modern health care reform. In the United States, the Congress must deliberate the needs of the public, the insurance companies, doctors, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin's grandmother, left-wing alternative medicine practitioners, the cast of The Office, and every other brain-dead mook who has an opinion. In a monarchy? King Barack would need only say the word and for better or worse the health care industry would have to bow to his will...

"The Forrest Gump principle applies here: "Absolute monarchs are like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." Still, when you've got a Louis XIV-caliber guy in charge, your nation can run circles around the democracies."

It is very satisfying to put hours of effort into a piece and have it favorably judged. To get the best possible score? That is sweet.

26 October 2009

My brain is overloading; it has a chocolate coating.

Sometimes foresight is 20/20. This is usually unintentional.

Way back in April when I registered for fall classes, I took a look at my required classes and the times I'd need to set aside in order to get into all of them. It just so happened that Accounting is my last class on Mondays and Wednesdays and Statistics is my last class on Tuesdays and Thursdays. These are also the most mind-intensive, difficult classes on my schedule. And by 2:00 every afternoon, my brain is thoroughly fried from trying to internalize all that information; if I had a 2:00 class to worry about I'd probably be operating at half capacity at best. Instead, I blog; what this does to the quality of my writing I leave to the reader to decide.

What's interesting about all of the above is that Accounting and Statistics are the classes I'm also doing the best in gradewise (my 113% average in Nutrition is purely the result of extra credit points; in terms of total points earned relative to total points available, the rank drops to third.) I can wrap up an A in Statistics as early as next week if I totally nail the test down, which is roughly akin to a football team clinching a playoff spot in Week 11 (something that was last done by the 2007 Patriots if I'm not mistaken.) I can do similar in Nutrition (once again, thanks to extra credit points) and come damn close to doing so in Accounting. That leaves Core Humanities (which will depend on my grades on the midterm and on this week's paper) and IS101 (which I'll need either perfect scores or some extra credit to do---this will likely come down to the sort of time point you'd expect from the Minnesota Twins.)

The overall point to this? I can honestly say I haven't a clue. If my gradebook is anything to go by, it would seem that the more taxing on my brain the task is, the better I do at it. The main reason I've got myself in such an awful fix in IS101 is because I mistakenly assumed it would be an idiot simple class, and by the time circumstances proved otherwise I'd put myself behind the eight ball. I was under no such illusion in the math-and-science based classes that are the Rock of Gibraltar to my grade-point average this semester.

Still, it would seem my worst-case scenario will give me a 3.92 grade-point average for this semester and 3.94 overall, so it's not like I'm struggling by any stretch of the imagination. If you want to dismiss this as a nerd whining, I'm not going to tell you any different. After all, it would seem (more news as it breaks---I don't want to jinx anything) that I've attracted some attention from people in higher places by bursting onto the stage with a breakthrough performance.

19 October 2009

What a to-do to die today at a minute or two to two.

...well, OK, I didn't die. I ate lunch at a minute or two to two. But that would get in the way of a good title now, wouldn't it?

Every once in awhile I get it in my head that I've got life pretty easy, seeing as how I go to school, go to classes, and come home, all in far less time than it'd take me under most normal circumstances if I'd just worked a full-time job.

Then there's this past week.

In the last week, I've written a seven-page lab report, written a 4,000-word midterm paper, done three hours' worth of work on an accounting midterm, scored 126 out of a possible 100 on a Nutrition midterm (no, that's not a misprint---I got all the regular points and all the extra-credit points available), compiled a treasurer's report for the campus Entrepreneurship club, written a featured 1,000-word blog post on ESPN.com, done my Statistics midterm, and still found time to work on next week's Microsoft Access project for Information Systems 101 (95% complete, pending email from the prof.)

The kicker? Not counting time spent on the bus, all of the above took me my standard 12.5 hours of in-class time, 2 hours for the lab, 3 for the accounting midterm, 3.5 for the 4,000-word paper (I write like Mozart composed, in one big stream of consciousness), maybe half an hour for that blog post, an hour for the E-club stuff, three for the Statistics midterm, and no outside-class time on that IS101 project. Add up all of the above and that means I've spent 21.5 hours actually doing work.

Twenty-one and a half. And I've been more productive than I'd have been at a sixty hour a week job in some mind-numbing corporate drone office.

I am often accused of being lazy, work-shy, and ill-motivated. Bull. I just hate mindless busywork with the passion of a thousand burning suns, and that means I bust my ass when it comes time to actually do something important precisely because I'd much rather people not waste my time just because I'm somehow expected to put in a certain number of hours to validate myself.

If I ever have my own firm I'm going to be rolling in money because my ability to crank out work at seemingly superhuman speeds with no loss of accuracy means I'll be able to keep a larger client list than my competitors, which means more revenue in less time. Or, if I'm salaried for some corporation, nobody needs to know I'm playing Mount and Blade in my office on a non-company laptop just to give the impression that I'm a hard worker when in reality I'm just holding onto stuff until deadline so people don't get it in their heads that I don't have enough to do.

I've got great work-life balance, I just wish the "work" side would quit sticking artificial elephants on their end of the seesaw.

14 October 2009

Midterms? Beaten like a redheaded stepchild.

I've got to take a minute to toot my own horn here. Pardon my arrogance, but I think I've earned it this time.

In Nutrition class, we had a midterm exam on Monday, and the grades came out today. I scored 126 on a scale of 100. Not only did I get all the regular questions right, I also got all the extra-credit points available. Thanks in large part to extra-credit points, my grade is now +34.5 for the semester. That is to say, I could get a 65.5 out of 100 (as in a D grade) on the next test and I'd still have a 100% average---I'm so far out in front that I could get no points at all on the next one and still carry an A in the class! Not that I'm going to do this...I rather like the prospect of being able to clinch an A in the first week of November, which I can do with a similar performance on the next exam.

Other midterms haven't been graded yet, and I'm not out of the woods yet as far as classes I still have some work left to do in (I have to be just about dead on the stick perfect in IS101, for example---if the semester ended today I'd get a B+ thanks to a total, catastrophic screwup on an earlier assignment), but a dean's list (3.5 or better) semester GPA is all but a mortal lock. Three A grades are statistical locks (nutrition, accounting, statistics), an A- is a very likely final result in IS101 (an A if I can find some extra-credit points or get the rest of my grades dead solid perfect on remaining assignments), which gives me 15.7 grade-points on the first 12 credits (15.7/16 overall possible). A 3.5 GPA requires 17.5 grade points out of twenty, which means I need at least a C in Core Humanities. I think I can get that right since I got an A in the prerequisite this past summer. I've even caught the attention of the associate dean of business---I'm starting to make a name for myself around here.

So yeah. I think I've earned the right to pat myself on the back. It might all change tomorrow. But for now? I'm like an NFL team on Monday after a big Sunday win. The players go back to practice on Tuesday, but a day of celebration is well warranted. Same rules apply here. Now then---accounting class starts in an hour, and it'll be right back to work for me.

11 October 2009

My head a splode.

I'm going to be dropping out of the Business Plan Competition my school's currently holding. Besides the fact that my business (an accounting firm serving small business owners with reasonably-priced full-service financial advising and accounting) isn't the breakthrough innovation that the competition committee's looking for and thus stands little to no chance of earning me any prizes, there's also the fact that if I have any more weeks like this one where I'm so overextended that I'm going to have to put in 25-30 hours of work just to get everything done (in addition to class time), there's no way I can put my best foot forward, especially when I have other requirements on my time.

This past summer, when I took three classes in five-week sessions, I told anyone who would listen that I was doing it so I'd have no illusions that school would be easy when fall came around. What I didn't count on was that those summer classes would be a cakewalk compared to what I've got in the pipeline this semester! So much for looking like an iron man. If the semester ended today I'd have a 3.8 GPA for fall (and 3.88 overall), but if I heap anything else onto my plate, who knows how things will turn out---probably badly. This is proving to be more challenging (and ultimately more rewarding) than I ever could've envisioned going in.

06 October 2009

The social misadventure continues.

If I find a better means of passing the time between my last class and the evening workshops I've been attending, it will be a red-letter day for me. Sitting in a lonesome hallway, listening to Strauss when there aren't other students around, and just generally killing time because it's too far to go home and come back is a bit too lonesome and woebegone even for me. I've got to find a game or something to play since it's clearly going to be quite a few of these sorts of days in the months to come.

Once again I remain somewhere between baffled and utterly stunned that someone as introverted and generally disinterested in extracurricular human contact as myself (no, not the Letterman kind) somehow finds himself at the second-rank infantry of a group of dedicated schmoozers and extroverts. May Lord Mercury watch over me and keep me from missteps.

30 September 2009

Happy Found Objects Day!

This recent cold snap on the West Coast has led to one of my favorite times of year (and not just because October's on the horizon and October is my favorite month anyway). For the first time since March, I've hauled my winter coat out of the closet (it was 34 degrees when I left the house at 8:00 this morning!) Reaching into the pocket, I found a pen...and it writes! Since I'm chronically short of writing implements, finding one is a nice pleasant surprise for the morning.

In previous years, I've found stuff like bus tickets with rides left on them, pens, pencils, a Game Boy game, and even a $20 bill. I think that in any seasonal climate there should be a Found Objects Day where we can exchange stuff we found in our pockets with friends (or, if you find money, buy your friends something nice.) It's a great excuse to do something nice for someone, and the world needs more of those. It's not like you missed the found object, right? If you did, you replaced it in the spring. So pay it forward.

24 September 2009

L'etat, c'est moi.

This is simultaneously scary and satisfying.

I have arrived in the conference room wherein the entrepreneurship club's weekly meetings are held, and I have arrived ahead of the entirety of the group. This is due to having some sudden free time on my hands as a result of completing an 85-minute statistics exam in 23 minutes. The fact that I found it so easy is a bit frightening to me...whenever I'm the first one done, and whenever I didn't have even the slightest bit of difficulty in the execution I wonder "did I screw up? Shouldn't there be more here?"

Rather than causing arrogance, the ease with which I can complete seemingly complicated tasks leads to overpowering horror. I'll be on pins and needles for the better part of a week until those exams come back graded because until I see that "yes, it was that easy", I'm going to be convinced that I've royally screwed it up. At least when I had a very time-consuming homework assignment, at the end of the time I felt like my performance was rock-solid and indeed I scored 97.5% (39/40) on it. I just hope that the homework success translates to quiz success.

On the bright side, I get to listen to Strauss while I wait for everyone else to show up for the 2:00 meeting ten minutes hence.

23 September 2009

On Proprietary Formats and Open Sources

Working on some stuff in Microsoft Word this week, I've found my utter loathing of Microsoft's Office 2007 suite reinforced. Office used to be great stuff, but the interface, the bells and whistles, and the execution in 2007 were and are so thoroughly awful that I have embraced OpenOffice 3 with open arms and made my switch to the open-source model complete.

For starters, MS use of XML is enough to make me kick someone in the head. By bringing out a proprietary format, Microsoft gets to force out Open Document because people who don't know any better do all their saving in .docx (or .xlsx, .pptx, etc.) format, which OpenOffice can read but not write. When someone sends me a document in that format, I open it in OpenOffice, convert it to Open Document format, and send it back to them with an admonition saying "Not everyone uses Microsoft Office, save in an open format, please!"

On top of this, Microsoft's text-formatting methods are exactly the sort of things that idiots just love for making documents ugly and "cute" (in the worst sense of the term). Font effects, "WordArt™", and other flourishes make ugly documents and you just know some former sorority girl who's now in the secretarial pool just loves to put that crap into her correspondence (lest anyone wonder why this once-popular girl now exists primarily for the executive with the frigid wife to have someone to play hide the salami with.)

I make here an impassioned plea that more people go to http://www.openoffice.org, download the OpenOffice suite, and start using it. European governments (and some state governments in the US) are making the switch wholesale, and nothing is going to grab Microsoft by the nuts and squeeze like making a real dent in Office's sales. The wholesale revolt against Vista brought PC sales to a halt, did wonders for Apple and for the Linux community, and led to the absolutely sublimely wonderful Windows 7 (on which I am writing this entry, and which is the massive improvement over XP that Vista was supposed to be before it failed on a Microsoft Bob scale.) A similar revolt against MS Office might just lead to a revival of Microsoft's productivity suite before a combination of Google Docs and OpenOffice gives MS shareholders (me among them) an unpleasant surprise.

That's right...I own stock (42 shares, but I'm still a stockholder) in Microsoft. This is not some Linux geek's anarchist rant. This is a shareholder's "hey, wake up!" to the company. If I hate Office 2007 with a passion, I can't be the only one, and this is a bad sign not just for MS in general but for my bottom line. On the bright side, I got in at the right time on the stock as it's up 10% since I bought in early August during the pullback. I just want to see continued positive performance during the long recovery.

So download and use OpenOffice. The money you save may be mine.

16 September 2009

When easy is simple and vice versa.

I had a George Costanza moment this morning.

Remember that Seinfeld episode arc where George decided that since his instincts always steered him wrong, he'd do the opposite of what he thought was the right thing to do, and in the process he revolutionized his life for the better? While I'm not quite ready to always choose my second guess, I was reminded of this classic piece of pop culture as I took a look over my current classes and grades therein.

I have done exceptionally well (as in "an A if the semester ended today") in Financial Accounting, Principles of Statistics, and Core Humanities 202 (though in that last one I've yet to have to turn in a paper, thereby leaving what my professor will think of my writing style as an open question.) I am doing mediocre at best in Intro to Information Systems and Nutrition 121, pulling a B average in both classes thus far. This is exactly the opposite of how I expected the semester to go, as I figured to have to mash my brain into whipped potatoes to wrap my head around the complex stuff central to my major (and the humanities, historically my weakest subject in education days past) while treating a simple science and an even simpler computer class as an exercise in simplicity.

As it turned out, after eleven years away from the subject I have taken to mathematics like a duck to water and I am finding accounting and statistics, while viciously punishing in the application and diligence in work habits, to be even stronger subjects than I could ever have thought possible. I have a 99.89% average in accounting (having missed only one answer on a homework problem out of almost a thousand thus far) and am so far pitching a perfect game in statistics (itself statistically unlikely!) I am overjoyed at my success (due in no small part to the fact that success in these courses is a reflection of my likely grade-point average once my core requirements are done).

As for the other courses, the "simple" courses where I'm underperforming by my own standards? Discovering that fine-grained technical detail in non-mathematical subjects is not my strong suit shouldn't have come to me with as much of a surprise as it did. While I am hardly resigned to the 3.6 GPA I find myself with at present, it is a bit disheartening if only as a blow to my ego.

The irony? When I took nine credits in a single summer session, I did so explicitly with a mind toward making myself think "this is going to be difficult." The relative ease with which I pulled my 4.0 in that summer session coupled with two months to rest on my laurels as a summer break seems to have had the opposite effect on my psyche, but nothing has restored the original intent of my June workload quite like my earlygame results here! December 10th (the last day of fall semester) is still a long way off, and it's going to take every bit of my intellect, skill, and mental discipline to even draw suitably close to my summer success.

Mind you, I'm still coming into this with a mind toward setting a minimum standard for myself of a B+ (3.3) overall grade-point average, but if trying my best involves setting my standard higher and accepting the grade come what may, I can't just think "OK, I'm on a 3.6, that's good enough." With that in mind, I've got a LOT of work to do tonight and tomorrow!

10 September 2009

Social networking made uneasy.

Fifteen minutes away from an "entrepreneurship mixer" here on campus, and I've had awhile to consider just how unlikely my presence at such an event would be under any normal, non-bizarre-planetary-alignment circumstances and I've calculated the probability as "of interest largely to Zaphod Beeblebrox's ship propulsion systems", that is to say, zero when rounded to any number of decimal places lower than about a hundred thousand.

Yet, by a bizarre series of events possibly orchestrated by the god of trade Himself (and thus reinforcing my recently-acquired religious convictions), I am treasurer of a campus club, having been named such at the very first meeting I attended (where my intent was to show up for "informational purposes" as a bit of a friendly courtesy to a previous semester's professor then quietly slink away to my usual position among the ninjas in the shadows) and as such having gained responsibilities associated with a campus club officer.

Mind you, I'm not complaining (my Fridays are still free and still dedicated to an equal measure of household tasks and SimCity 4), merely pointing out just how utterly amusing it is to me that I'm sitting in a little corner of campus listening to Strauss and punching up a blog entry while if you'd given me odds three weeks ago as to what I'd be doing on the evening of September 10th, I'd have given you about ninety-eight and a half million raised to a power equal to the US national debt in dollars to one against the very scenario which unfolds before me tonight.

Needless to say, I am still a socially awkward introvert at heart, and tomorrow my Friday soda will taste sweeter and my video game-fueled solitude will be an order of magnitude more delightful. I've earned it.

08 September 2009

Eat the rich. The poor taste funny and smell terrible.

I got a great dose of the Great Unwashed this morning. An old co-worker of mine once said that the bus is great because every day it's like getting a free freakshow, and rare indeed has been the day where that has been more on display than it was this morning.

The bus that takes me to school each day has a Wal-Mart about halfway up its route. For the first half of the ride, then, every welfare collector, Methuselan senior citizen, and junkie in Reno packs onto that bus where they proceed to make a very obvious exercise in contrast between themselves and the college students who are left behind (often looking dazed) after the bus vomits the detritus of society out onto the sidewalk in front of Sam Walton's Prole Supply Emporium. Not only that, but they stink. They don't call 'em Great Unwashed for nothing, and when the bus's air conditioning isn't working quite right (like it wasn't this morning), the stench hangs in the air like a milder version of Bangladesh.

All of the above was fresh on my mind when I walked into Core Humanities 202 this morning and when the classroom discussion turned to Machiavelli's The Prince and specifically that tome's expression that a prince should not be concerned with the common people but with the extension of the state toward those who support it (read: the nobility), I couldn't help but think of all the 21st-century versions of 16th-century peasantry clogging up my morning commute. I probably came off somewhere to the right of Hermann Göring in my anti-populist ranting but I don't care---when the rubber meets the road I am very much into Machiavellian/Nietzschean social Darwinism, since that's what I'm working so hard to grant myself---a return to my burgher-class upbringing and social standards. I'll be damned if I'm to be beggared by some impoverished moron clawing at my wallet through the apparatus of the state. I'd sooner they starved.

02 September 2009

Actual accounting-related item! What's that doing here?

Sitting on campus working on my accounting homework, because if I did it at home I'd get distracted by rodents or games, and I can't have that. Plus, missing the 2:10 bus means no sardine cans on the way home, and sardine cans rattle my nerves and put me in a foul mood for the rest of the afternoon (damn my hermit tendencies!) Anyway...

I got a chance to ask a question of my accounting teacher today: "Are accounting standards in the US radically different from accounting standards in Canada or Europe?" The answer was yes---the standards used by FASB (Financial Accounting Standards Board, the US agency that sets the rules here) and IASB (International Accounting Standards Board, which the rest of the civilized world uses) are quite different, mostly because US-based corporations have had their hands in the cookie jar of American regulatory agencies since...well, since 1935 when the board was formed in the first place as part of FDR's New Deal, and especially under Reagan and the two Bushes, the standards got tilted to make all manner of merry hell possible in America that's illegal in Canada, Europe, Australia, and probably Timbuktu.

This could prove to be a bit of a monkey wrench in my internationalist aspirations, but fortunately thanks to globalization, learning IASB standards is part of the training to become a CPA in the States; I'll just have to wait until at least my junior year of college (where Intermediate Accounting classes are part of the deal) to learn more. Most American CPAs these days (even the ones who weren't initially trained in IASB standards) say that the writing's on the wall and all it'll take will be a couple more Enron/Arthur Andersen accounting scandals and subprime mortgage flim-flams before Congress decides (possibly in an election year) to disband FASB and adopt IASB standards across the United States.

Just one man's opinion, but IASB standards might be the only thing that could save this wretched hive of scum and villainy under the Stars and Stripes. The short version for my wife: Canada remains an option, I'll just have to keep an internationalist focus in my education.

Sleep is for the weak.

I've no real insight here, just pointing out that insomnia and getting up at 7:30 in the morning to catch the bus for a 9:30 class don't mix.

Also, to the girl on the bus today who uses the same shampoo my wife does? Thank you, from a complete stranger, for brightening my afternoon and setting my mind to wandering around.

As a final note, speaking of my wife, it was six years ago today that we first met and I've loved her more and more every one of the over two thousand days since. Happy anniversary, love.

27 August 2009

A little too Web 2.0 for my own good.

It occurs to me that in the course of stumbling around my creative outer fringes I've accumulated a fair number of places to post/publish my work. A blog's great for long-form stuff, but too many short posts and it comes off looking like I've got nothing to say.

You can see where this is going, so I'll just spare you the gory details and point you at twitter.com/monsterdog5 and tell you to go follow it. I may decide Twitter's not worth the time and effort, but I've seen some really good ones (and a LOT of really bad ones...) and seen that no site epitomizes "brevity is the soul of wit" quite like Twitter, so if you're looking for the tl;dr version of my thoughts, you'll find them there.

26 August 2009

Schedule Creep BEGONE!

Regular readers of this item (all one of you) will notice that I'd more or less abandoned this during August---there is a simple reason for this. Playing Oblivion and Hearts of Iron 3 does not lend itself well to a blog about an aspiring accountant---I had a Gamespot blog once upon a time and probably should set about updating that.

Interestingly, one of the requirements for IS101 (Information Systems, or "Computers for Complete Fracking Idiots") is a "Web 2.0 Assignment". The assignment involves keeping and posting either a Facebook, a Myspace, or a blog. It will be a cold day in Hell before I'm on Facebook or Myspace, so that's as good a motive as any to get this damn thing up and running again.

It's not that I have anything inherently against technology (quite the opposite), it's that I wish I could just test out of a class that's about as challenging as a maze on a Happy Meal box to a guy who's been using PCs at home and in the workplace since 1993 and knows them inside and out.

Fortunately, the class rule is "do the assignments and whenever you're done, you're done with the class." Jeez, twist my arm! My goal is to have a celebratory rack of ribs at the Sparks Rib Cookoff come Labor Day Weekend (that's next week) to celebrate my first A of fall semester. Ballsy, ain't I?

Truly, however, with me updating this once a day during college weeks it's more likely going to take me three weeks to complete assignment four. I hope my IS101 professor likes musings about economics, accounting, and statistics, because I'm going to do a LOT of thinking out loud about those subjects. Still, this IS101 will be the easiest A I ever get in education at any level anywhere (and that includes the class I took in summer that basically amounted to "listen to classical music for two hours every day.")

Just a thought, but these 75 minutes can't go by fast enough.

05 August 2009

Economic collapse, American style

Sometimes I wonder about this country. It seems that once our national debt bill comes due---and it will, sooner rather than later---taxes will have to go up while government services go down just to keep the Chinese from invading to take a pound of flesh for all of our bad debt (worth about as much as General Motors corporate bonds at this point) that they've bought over the years as a sort of land claim policy. Meanwhile, I'm getting ever closer to affluence in the form of the high-paying jobs my college education will land me by the time I'm forty.

My wife brought up an interesting idea---using Canada as a springboard to EU citizenship (via the UK). I'm not keen on living in Britain, but the broader subject of emigration so I'll at least get something worthwhile for my tax dollars (er, tax euros) looks more and more like an attractive option. If the Obama administration keeps it up, they'll add more to the national debt in four years than George W. Bush added in eight and we'll start to see either a massive shift toward income inequality (more so than our worse-than-the-world-average inequality we've got now) or an exodus as the wealthy hightail it out of the country and run their American corporate businesses from tax havens like Monaco or the Cayman Islands.

Not that I'm ever going to be that rich, but life in the Netherlands or Germany (or the Czech Republic or even Hungary, two of the wealthier former Soviet-bloc countries) looks more and more attractive the more I realize that it's my generation that's going to get killed by the last nine years of American political profligacy.

29 July 2009

You call this a recovery?

Some interesting news floating around the Web lately---apparently the economy has started to grow again. Slowly, but it's growth, which means that technically speaking the recession is over. Trouble is, unemployment continues to rise, the value of labor continues to fall, and all this growth means is that the stock market is back over nine thousand (keep your Internet memes to yourself), my portfolio is no longer in free fall, and the sorts of people who measure their monetary worth in capital growth rather than wages deposited in bank accounts will begin again to grow rich. Much like the fallout from the 1991-92 recession (largely caused by defense contraction after the Cold War) and the 2001-02 recession (courtesy of the dot-com bust and 9/11), this fallout will be a case of the further concentration of wealth in the hands of two major classes. The very rich, who own the businesses and control the capital, will profit as they have since the nineteenth century; the highly educated professional classes, those who have skills that cannot be outsourced because nobody in the Third World has the training or the infrastructure to do it, will make out like bandits, especially if they diligently invest their money rather than spend it on mindless consumer baubles and keeping up with the Joneses.

The above may read like a bit of a socialist rant, as I point out the widening gap in income inequality, but the truth of the matter is that I don't think the poor have much of a base to complain from. Horatio Alger's been dead for over a hundred years, but his story is still very much alive. Work hard, live within your means, don't produce more children than you can afford to raise, instill in those kids an ethic of thrift and prudence, stick to your guns, invest your money wisely, and lo and behold it's still well within the realm of possibility that you could die rich, leaving your heirs in position (especially with an education) to elevate themselves to the moneyed classes and leaving you a pretty good legacy and an in to your religion's favored afterlife (or, if you're a complete atheist, at least letting you die in peace).

I know what some of you are thinking. "But there are so many obstacles in my way! You don't understand!" Don't I? I have a heart condition, real nasty one, probably gonna kill me someday. Spent some time in the hospital for it, even. Could've been bankrupted by it. Thankfully my wife had the good sense to talk me into making sure I had health insurance. Still cost me over a thousand bucks to pay all the deductibles and all the weasel costs the HMO wouldn't cover (for those wondering, I'm with the Blue Dog Democrats on health-care reform---no government "public option" but the system does need to be fixed.) After I coughed up the thousand, though, I'd only wiped out one month's household profit ("profit" defined as household income minus expenses, same as any business). How'd a guy with a combined household income under fifty grand (at its height, before my return to college in anticipation of greater returns later) manage to sock away that much every month? Easy. I don't own a television, I block ads on my Internet connection, therefore it's absolutely amazing how few things I think I need in order to have the basic "necessities" in life.

Next month the wife and I are moving into a much smaller apartment, a little one-bedroom about fifty yards distant from the large (too large) two-bedroom we're in now. Net monthly cost savings: $320 every single month. We're on one income and we're still going to manage to turn a profit, mostly because our monthly fixed expenses (rent, power, and Internet access) will amount to an average of about $725. We'll have the whole kit and caboodle just about paid off with one paycheck, leaving the other one to cover food, visits to the vet for the pets, and anything else under the sun you'd care to name. I've said this time and time again in other fora, but if I can figure this out, and I'm not that smart, anyone should be able to.

The real problem with how I live my life? If everybody did it, the economy would REALLY collapse! Imagine slashed consumer spending in today's America. So maybe I should be hoping that this blog never picks up any readers!

22 July 2009

The Fine Art of Conquering a Month

School starts back up on August 24. I've got my financial aid in order, my classes chosen and registered for, 15 credits just waiting for me to show up and roll, and...not a damn thing else to do for a month but play video games and sleep weird hours. Some things never change. In ten years I've gone from a 22-year-old college student with hardly a care in the world to...a 32-year-old college student with hardly a care in the world. Except now I can't power my life with Mountain Dew and cheap sex, I've got more hair on my chin and less on my head, and I'm in Reno rather than Boston. Also, if my GPA is anything to go by, I'm a better student (4.0 this time around, 3.82 from 1998-2000 at my old school.)

I should also point out that even though I'm relying on student loans and my wife's income to power me through the next three years, I am richer, live in a nicer place, and have a lot more prospects than I did when I lived alone in an absolute slum of an apartment building in a horrible neighborhood with no clue what I wanted to do with myself. If it weren't for the hair loss and the change of scenery, one could be forgiven for thinking I'd hopped in a time machine.

All I can say beyond this is "see you next Wednesday."

15 July 2009

I turn 32 tomorrow. Eight years left.

When I set about to become a "CPA by forty", I figured that's far enough off in the future that I could decently get away with taking my time about it while still focusing on my goal and making a point to do everything I need to do in order to achieve it. With tomorrow marking birthday number 32, I've got eight years before the big four-oh hits and I say I either succeeded or failed.

Happily, stage one of a journey that is to the brain and psyche what the Tour de France is to Lance Armstrong's legs has concluded with me in possession of the yellow jersey, metaphorically speaking. I pulled a 4.0 for nine credits in summer session while taking classes that are incidental to my actual goal. My first accounting class starts this fall and I'm not entirely sure I still know a debit from a credit from when I took Basic Bookkeeping in the summer of 1998. Eleven years have gone by since I've studied the subject that will, gods willing, become my career because I was a management major (a more ill-suited major to my personality I can't rightly fathom) my first time through school.

If the relative ease with which I was able to get through the first semester of this new effort is anything to go by, I'd say that a decade of age, experience, wisdom, and lost adolescence has done me some good. I'm still a year, maybe two, away from having to think about internships, career networking, and the like. I'm a full-time student first and foremost. I'm well aware that the single greatest potential obstacle to success, my introverted nature, is still looming like the wall on a military obstacle course, but for now I'm going to celebrate my birthday, offer a prayer to the gods for continued physical and mental health, and spend most of this summer playing way too many video games because there will be a point sooner than I realize where leisure will be as precious to me as water to someone stranded in the desert.

08 July 2009

Big cuts in spending ahead.

Interesting to see what living on one income and a bunch of student loans has done for the house's expectations of what constitutes an acceptable standard of living; right now we're paying almost $900 for a spacious two-bedroom apartment, which is really more than we need, but when our household income was close to fifty grand, we could afford to splurge a little.

Now that the household income's been cut in half by my going back to college (even if after I graduate I'll earn more in one year than I used to earn in three), we're looking at little one-bedroom places that could be best described as "cozy" and rent for as little as $550 (thanks largely to Reno's complete economic collapse---recessions aren't ALL bad...) If we play it right we'll have our monthly fixed expenses (rent, Internet, and power) down as low as $700, which means we can even turn a nice profit while I'm in school, making it easier down the road for me to pay what's looking like it's going to be about thirty grand in student loan debt down. Posting a $100+ profit rather than bleeding off $250 a month from our now-depleted savings will help tremendously.

01 July 2009

Idle time Re-Perspectived

Until August 24 I am effectively like a schoolkid on summer vacation. What's interesting about this is the sense of urgency (seriously) that it gives to what is otherwise an idle pastime, namely sitting around playing video games all day. I've galvanized myself behind actually doing something with my gaming time, which is interesting to say the least. That's not to say I don't have responsibilities (most of them concerned with making sure everything's in order for when I return to school) but rather than just being an out-of-work bum, I'm a gamer with the gods' gift of seven weeks of free time. I'm going to make some interesting use of it. (of course, since I'll have very little on my mind, I'm cutting the blogging back to weekly in the meantime. Tune in Wednesdays for my summertime thoughts.)

29 June 2009

On Recessions and Silver Linings

I've covered some of this territory before, but with two months of completely idle time to fill before I have more class stuff to talk about (fall classes start August 24), I might as well lay out my theories on the financial/housing market collapse and gigantic oil price spikes.

This view won't win me any friends among the soccer-mom crowd but I firmly believe that this catastrophic recession (unemployment as high as 14.5% in Michigan and pushing 9% nationwide counts as "catastrophic") will finally be the swift kick in the ass America needs to wean itself off of devil-may-care consumerism and living beyond our means. We can't all be that stupid, can we? People are losing their houses, losing their jobs, having their marriages fall apart because those marriages were built on shallow materialism rather than mutual respect (q.v. the latter: my wife supporting my poor broke ass through college and my having supported her through the immigration headache)...a lot of people are left with nothing, their job prospects shattered, their previous sense of self-worth totally shot to hell.

I have been saying for years that the only way we're ever going to get anything better is to have the pre-existing system fail so completely and decisively that even a fool can see we need something else. Mind you, I don't have that much faith in people (especially Americans) and I wouldn't be surprised if as soon as the economy took a turn for the better we were all guzzling gas and maxing out the credit cards at the mall, but some of us---maybe not all, but a fair few---will be more responsible, more likely to live within our means and strive to better ourselves, and will form a larger political bloc to express outrage at bailouts and handouts the next time the government tries to play Marx with our tax dollars to bail out the feckless and the foolish. With any luck we'll have enough votes to demand our politicians devote our resources to intelligence and responsibility because we're close enough to a majority to do so.

Now if you'll excuse me, this nice man in the white coat wants a word with me...something about "delusional crazy talk".

25 June 2009

Last Dance Gone

It took me about 70 minutes (just long enough to miss the 5:10 bus and ensure another half-hour on campus before going home for the next two months), but I've finished writing my Marketing final. It kicked my ass up and down the field of battle, but thankfully I've accumulated so many points in the previous set of assignments that it may not matter; the worst I can do in that class is an A-minus and that's if I completely and utterly and spectacularly failed the final (and I don't think I did THAT badly---I at least covered the basic requirements). Even then, class participation is an add-factor in grading that can add up to a full letter grade, leaving me confident that the professor will look upon my strong participation in the class as the difference between "minus" and "full A". If I'm right, I think I've done enough for the 4.0. It is in the hands of my professors (all three of whom will be grading my final papers in their respective classes that I turned in today) and the gods. My prayers for my own well-being go up to the relevant deities.

As an aside, I've gained 75 (of 75) points thus far in Core Humanities, meaning I need 18/25 (or at least a C-minus) on my final paper for an A in the class.

I've gained 62 (out of 60, and that's not a typo---I got a couple of points of extra credit on one of the tests) in Music Appreciation, meaning I need at least 31 out of 40 (a C-plus or better) on that final paper for the A.

Marketing's a bit more nebulous because of the weird grading scheme, but assuming that papers not yet graded from last week reflect my existing score on all the other stuff (97.5%), that gives me 1413 out of a possible 1450 with 250 points left at stake (for a total of 1700 possible points.) 93% of 1700 is 1581, meaning I'd need 168 out of the remaining 250, or 67%...at least a D. 150 of that 250 is the paper I just wrote, and I'd be stunned if I didn't get at least 120 of those points (80%). That means that on the takehome exam (which I submit online tomorrow) I need at least 48%...in other words, don't get a gigantic, colossal F on the test and the A is mine for the whole class (again, not counting the up to 170 points the teacher can use as fudge-factor simply for showing up and participating).

So yeah. I feel pretty damn accomplished for the effort I've put in over the last five weeks and truthfully I'm impatiently looking forward to August 24, when fall semester starts and I get to have another go at some subject material. It's hard not to feel like king of the world after such a decisive victory.

An interesting insight from a professor.

I turned in my fourth and final paper today for my core humanities/anthropology/history class this morning. I also turned in an extra-credit piece that is to my writing what the clear-plastic box is to Penn and Teller's magic show---the reveal that blows the doors off the audience's expectations of other practitioners of the craft. Because the class today was little more than "turn in the paper and let's wrap this production", I got a chance afterward to chat with the professor about my Tex Avery-like views on academia, including me flat-out saying "That second paper that you enjoyed was a direct result of me realizing that if I played the subject straight it would be too obvious that I hadn't a clue what I was talking about." The paper in question was about Greek tragedy and I cribbed as much from tvtropes.org as I could decently get away with (and in the process probably became the first student of history to use it as a cite in a serious academic paper). Boiling the title character from Euripides' Alcestis down to her essentially being a MacGuffin was, in the professor's view, incredibly original, which is why I scored an A for my efforts.

What the professor said to me as a final thought was tremendously telling and is the single most educational thing I've learned thus far in my new college endeavor: "Not to disparage anyone else in the class, but on a lot of the papers I thought, 'I've read this paper a thousand times before'. With your papers I sat up and thought, 'I'm going to see my class materials in a whole new original way.' Thank you for that."

About a month ago someone on an Internet forum said to me, "You're either the most clever ironist I've ever seen or you're just an asshole, and you're clever enough that I'll never divine it from your writing." Said I: "Half my writing is played straight. Half my writing is me playing with the subject. I leave it to the reader's own prejudices to decide which is which."