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.