Monday, September 26, 2005

Things Fall Apart

In Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe details the life of a tribal leader in Nigeria whose existence is slowly – though painfully – destroyed. It's less about colonialism (although the arrival of missionaries thoroughly wipes out any hope we might have for the protagonist's return to power) than it is about pride, erosion of tradition, and change.

At least, I think that's what it's about. It's been exactly 11 years since I read it.

One of the major stressors in my life lately has been my application to grad school. I found out today that I shouldn't apply to grad school until I actually plan on attending grad school.

Silly me. Somehow I'd thought that because I'm taking some grad-level classes this semester I was also required to apply to UW's graduate school in order to receive graduate credit for those classes.

See, I plan on eventually getting an MA in Curriculum and Instruction, and I'm taking a graduate-level class this semester that will count towards that MA, but I won't complete the coursework until a few years after I've taught in public schools. I could hang around and get the MA, but the program is tailored for experienced teachers and besides, the courses are only offered at night and during the summer.

So basically, because I've been freaked out and generally overwhelmed with assignments, I also missed an important detail regarding my college career, and I feel just goddamn stupid. Couple that with a shitty time at water polo last night, and a deep sense of frustration at the RA gig, and yours truly feels a wee frayed at the edges.

In other news, I've decided to try going the entire month of October without wearing a t-shirt to any class. So I may be losing my mind, but at least I'll look good doing it.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Water Polo

The UW club water polo team practices on Sunday and Tuesday nights. I started going about two weeks ago after being convinced by a fellow student in my post-bac program to try it out. I've always enjoyed water; I consider myself a decent swimmer; I've been trying to swim for exercise for several weeks now, but this is without a doubt the hardest workout I've ever had, wet or dry.

Coed water polo is a game played by web-toed demons and gilled Amazon warrior princesses. When your opponents are not punching you in the nose or kicking you in the tenders, they are actively trying to drown you. When you're not treading water, you're swimming as fast as you can. When you're not dying, you're wishing you were dead.

The game is brilliantly conceived: it's played only in deep water, so all players tread and/or swim the entire time; all players except goalies may only touch the ball with one hand at one time; when defending another player, you may not swim over the top of them in pursuit of the ball. When the offense suddenly becomes the defense, everyone swims as quickly as possible the other direction like extremely motivated salmon.

Now, while the purest notions of grace, agility, and athleticism are displayed above water, well over half the game is actually played underwater, where things are often ungentlemanly if not outright hostile. Your opponents will as often as not yank at your swimsuit or gently grab your ankle as you're trying to swim.

Generally, practice consists of the veterans performing feats of aquatic agility on one end of the pool while the newbies gasp our way through drills on the other. At this point I should make it clear that I'm the worst swimmer on the team, by a very long way, period. So at the last practice I desperately wanted to make up for that by at least making a good effort on the drills and hopefully demonstrating a powerful shot on goal from twenty feet out.

Except that my shots on goal went about five feet. When you throw a volleyball one-handed on dry ground, you can generate a little power by swiveling the hips and bending your elbow, almost like throwing a baseball but with a much larger ball and subsequently an adjusted grip. Trying that same technique in water, however, results in your torso sinking as you swivel, so that your elbow catches the surface, bends prematurely, and you release the ball at a ridiculously low angle. Remember too that the ball is wet and slippery. Water polo can make you look very uncoordinated very quickly, and I looked like a yutz out there.

But it's fun, especially when we actually scrimmage like at last Tuesday's practice. Because the veterans/best players are at a tournament tonight, last week the coach decided to get them some practice by playing some real shifts instead of doing drills. I played wing on one shift and point on another and got my sorry ass handed to me both times. On the wing I dropped a pass, recovered, and then threw a desperation pass back to the middle which fell short of my teammate but directly into the hands of an opponent. I saw nothing but elbows churning whitewater as the A team swam away from the B team thanks to my pass. Goal.

During the next shift I had point, which is similar to a point guard in basketball, and had some aqua-thoroughbred guarding me. Right after I caught the ball he swam up and tried to murder me. I managed to keep my left elbow up and squarely planted in his solar plexus for a few redeeming seconds, but he soon swam over me anyway. I swallowed pool on my way under and he got called for a foul, so I guess it was worth it.

Best workout ever, folks.

And yes, Dennis, we do get to wear the silly hats. Our ears would get bitten off if we didn't.

Bleh.

Well, folks, it's Sunday afternoon and I'm bummed. Not significantly or even unusually bummed, but bummed nonetheless.

Mostly this has to do with being sick of school and the RA gig and the whole thing. I just want to get into the classroom and start teaching. Yes, yes, I'm learning some really important stuff – especially in my Teaching of English Methods classes – but overall I'm sick of sitting next to 19 year olds and having to explain concepts of social justice and having to write papers and having RA drama and RA meetings and living in a shoebox and having to walk down the hall to use the bathroom and not being able to cook for myself and, of course, worrying about money. Mostly, this has to do with all of those things.

But it also has to do with K, who left a few hours ago after visiting for the weekend. It's not that I can't be happy without her, life's just a hell of a lot more fun and interesting when she's around. So I'm sitting here putting off homework that can technically wait until tomorrow anyway, with a football game on in the background, dreading and yet also looking forward to water polo practice tonight.

More on that in a minute.

Monday, September 19, 2005

My Weekend

Spent the weekend at K's place in Denver, or more accurately, K's older sister's and brother-in-law's place in Highlands Ranch. Sunday was J's birthday, and K's other, younger sister A and I drove down on Friday after class, negotiating some really obnoxious front-range traffic. A handled it great, though, even after I encouraged her to cut off a rather large dump truck. Hey, we needed into the lane, asshole.

We spent Friday evening eating, drinking, and playing Mario Kart. I used to whup ass at that game on Nintendo 64, but we were playing the gamecube version and I got worked. By girls. Drunk girls.

Saturday morning K and I tracked down hot caffeine and we all eventually piled into the car and headed for the light rail station on Santa Fe Ave. Light rail is definitely the way to travel in Denver, especially when you're headed towards football, hockey, or Elitch's.

Something odd has happened to me and I'm not sure when it occurred. I can't do the big nasty rides anymore. The G sisters and brother-in-law all happily got in line for the Mind Eraser, while yours truly held the sunglasses and purse in the shade. This was after going on the ferris wheel and clutching at the bars, dizzy, and silently praying to please, God who may or may not exist, make it stop soon. He did, but not soon enough to make me believe.

After watching the gang get pummeled on the Mind Eraser, I thought I'd stop acting like my wee hurt and go on a ride. I noticed they had a tilt-a-whirl, or at least an Elitch's version of the tilt-a-whirl, and convinced A and P (the brother-in-law) to go on it. For some reason I associate tilt-a-whirls with my sister, and I've always loved that damn ride.

From there the afternoon flew by. K and I found a photo booth and took four of the best pictures ever. Towards the end of the day I got up enough nerve to try "the flying ride," which basically locks you into a prone position and then sends you spinning, dipping, and barrel rolling around a course, quickly. Good stuff, but not enough to get me on the Mind Eraser. K and P went on one of the nastiest rides in the place while the other two sisters and I ate pretzels and rehydrated; for the last ride of the day A, P, and I went on a water ride whose sole purpose is to get its occupants very wet.

Saturday night we ate well and drank port shakes and gave J her birthday cake.

Sunday morning we headed back to central Denver (City Park, I think – near a very big and very cool looking high school) for J and P's ultimate frisbee league. They weren't sure they had enough women to play that day, so K and A dressed for it just in case – A wound up not just playing but being almost solely responsible for an awesome offensive shift that resulted in a goal. Meanwhile, I sat on the sideline with my girlfriend cracking wise about hypercompetitive front-range yuppies, but secretly wishing I was out there playing.

(By the way Willie, I think this was in your old neck of the woods – I'm pretty sure I saw the place where I got bagels that morning during your wedding week.)

After frisbee K and I went shopping, and while Denver's traffic makes me nervous, there is something to be said for the shopping possibilities in larger communities.

A note here about clothes. Throughout my life I've been a chronic under-dresser, mostly because I have kind of a weird body and clothes have never felt like they fit well, especially nice clothes that are supposed to fit well. So, I tend to stick to loose-fitting and comfy clothes – or at least, I have until now. Now I'm about to be a teacher. And thanks to my dress habits, I have very few professional teachery clothes.

To her unending credit, K not only understood my plight but volunteered to cart my sorry, oddly sized ass around suburban Denver in search of hip teachery clothes. First to Target, which actually had some pretty awesome stuff – I picked up a cool button down shirt and sportcoat combination. On to J Crew, where I dropped a good bit on a single pair of cords. Expensive cords. But very nice, and they fit. Then we walked around the high end strip mall on Santa Fe Ave., window shopping and talking about how not having money makes you appreciate things all the more. Which is good, because we'll likely never have a lot of money.

And walking around with her, shopping for nice clothes, I felt, well, domesticated in a tranquil way. The fact that we have the exact same taste in clothes helped (classic, not trendy; think the Kennedy family circa 1961), as does the fact that we've been friends for over a year – but yeah, part of it is the newness of any relationship.

However, this one is different in some very important ways. I won't get into any further details, other than to say that maybe part of the reason this feels so great is that I've changed a whole lot over the past three years.

And that, my friends, is fodder for another post.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Tuesday

Tuesday, 12 midnight to 12:20am. Perform final hall round. Overhear a young woman say "I'll switch you shirts" in a rather loud voice behind a closed door in Crane. Hear other voices as well. Knock on door. Politely ask them to shut up.

Tuesday, 12:20am to 12:45am. Finish reading articles and try to declutterize room. Notice that a pile of papers sitting on my desk are mostly outdated flyers I was supposed to put up as part of my RA responsibilities. Feel slightly guilty. For about a second.

Tuesday, 12:45am. Go to bed. Vaguely remember lying down, but not much after that.



Tuesday, 7:00am. Am woken up by alarm, not fully rested, from the middle of a dream about trying to tee off on a golf ball which gets plugged in the soggy ground. The more I swing the more it plugs, and it eventually morphs from golf ball to shopping cart. Wake up slightly frustrated at trying to use a three wood to dig a plugged shopping cart out of muck, knowing that every time I poke or jab at the buried shopping cart it's costing me a stroke.

Tuesday, 7:30am. Breakfast at Washakie. Decide to try Honey Nut Cheerios today. They are plain Cheerios. Decide to get a cup of coffee. There are no coffee cups. Say the following silent prayer: "Dear God Who may or may not exist, if You really wanted to prove Your greatness to me, You might consider smiting the holy hell out of Washakie. Also, please don't let my kids grow up to be CSU fans. Amen."

Tuesday, 8:00am. Arrive at most boring class ever, dedicated to issues in special education. An important subject, to be sure, but taught in a most particularly agonizing way. Discuss with other post-bac students what assignments we have or have not done, and which assignments we did or did not know about.

Tuesday, 9:35am. Arrive at Methods of Teaching English I class. While the class discusses Piaget's model of constructivism in education, my mind wanders. Find myself thinking about a capitalist society's need for well-disciplined yes-men/women who inquire only when it's in their best monetary interest, not in the interest of the greater good. Ponder my complicity in this system. Refrain from bringing the subject up for fear of looking like a pretentious goombah.

Tuesday, 11:00am. Am mildly disappointed to see that not only is Washakie still architecturally sound, but is open and serving lunch. Wonder if this proves anything one way or the other about the existence of God. Eat beef ravioli for lunch.

Tuesday, 11:30am. Return to room and write double-entry journal for the Probst article.

Tuesday, 1:00pm. Go to Methods of Teaching English II class. Have a difficult time concentrating. Turn in double entry journal, along with a paragraph of intent outlining what work I'll be doing in this class that justifies me getting graduate credit.

Tuesday, 2:50pm. Return to room. Blog. Sleep.

Monday

Monday, 7:00am. Wake up fully rested by alarm for the first time this semester. Feel refreshed. This feeling lasts approximately five minutes, when it occurs to me in the shower that I have a metric ton of homework and reading due on Tuesday.

Monday, 8:00am. Breakfast at Washakie. Avoid Honey Nut Cheerios because the last time I tried them they were plain Cheerios because the Washakie staff can't read labels. Eat a bowl of Life instead.

Monday, 9am to 11am. Read (and reread) Benjamin Franklin's autobiography to page 53. Interesting guy. Even more interesting when he talks about gettin' it on with whores.

Monday, 11am to 11:50am. EDST 1500. Listen to a speaker from the College of Education talk about the Phase program, which begins during one's sophomore year and continues through student teaching. I have many thoughts on the Phase program, one of which is, "God I hate the Phase program."

Monday, 12pm to 12:50pm. ENGL 2430. Take a quick field trip across campus to the statue of Benjamin Franklin as part of a quiz. Return to class and discuss his autobiography. Avoid mentioning that the most interesting part is when he talks about gettin' it on with whores.

Monday, 1pm. Lunch at Washakie. Find all prepared options to be repulsive. Fix a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Monday, 2pm. My room. Send a quick email to K.

Monday, 2:05pm to 2:30pm. My room. Take a nap and wake up panicked because I think I've overslept for my afternoon class. I have no late afternoon class on Mondays.

Monday, 2:30pm to 3:00pm. Shower for the random hell of it, but also because I want to shave before my meeting with my mentor teacher.

Monday, 3:00pm to 3:10pm. Read K's response to my email. My curiosity is slightly piqued by her ominous reference to an email from her exbf. Call and leave a message on her voicemail. Mentally prepare to have a music performance major ambush me at any time. Realize I am yet again making up shit to worry about.

Monday, 3:10pm to 3:30pm. Walk to the Union and try to catch up on some reading that's not even due until next week, in lieu of reading that's due the next day. Not sure why.

Monday, 3:30pm to 4:10pm. Meet and talk with mentor teacher. Try to get a feel for how many classes I'll be involved with next semester and what my expectations are. Feel eager and slightly nauseous, as if I'm about to jump off a rather high cliff. Feel as though my mentor teacher is about to give me a rather hard push off said high cliff.

Monday 4:10pm to 5pm. Return to my room. Check email, CNN.com, and Warfish. Work on draft of memo going to all male residents, the gist of which is, "Please shut the fuck up."

Monday, 5pm to 6pm. Dine with A (fellow RA and K's sister) and other RAs from a different hall. Eat an unimpressive salad. Drink caffeine and eat dessert because I'm on HR tonight.

Monday, 6pm to 6:45pm. Remember why I thought about not returning as an RA during RA in-service. Ask A if she happened to bring a handgun.

Monday, 6:45pm to 7pm. Kill time in preparation for our staff meeting at 7pm.

Monday, 7pm. Instead of a staff meeting, our boss has us meet at my favorite coffeehouse so we can just chill out and talk. My boss is a cool guy.

Monday, 8pm to 8:30pm. Return to hall. Track down RA partner and do first round. Mostly quiet, with the exception of the entirety of Hill Hall. All fire extinguishers are charged.

Monday, 8:30pm (I think). Call K, who assures me there is no threat of physical danger of any kind to either of us. Laugh about kookiness of, well, everything.

Monday 8:45ish to 10:00pm. Type up a few small assignments for Tuesday's classes. Read a few pages of Probst, a journal response for which is due Tuesday afternoon.

Monday, 10:00pm to 10:30pm. Perform second hall round of the evening. Unprop a few fire doors; ask a few people to shut their doors. Am mocked.

Monday, 10:35pm. Am asked by fellow Crane RA if I'd like to join a competition to see who can have the most offspring in 15 years. Agree to competition. Have yet to ask K her thoughts.

Monday, 10:35pm to 10:50pm. Walk toward Crane lobby desk with intention of going straight to my room. Lobby desk is surrounded by at least seven people who are giggling and looking at me. I ask what's so funny. They tell me there's a noise complaint. See previous post.

Monday, 10:50pm to 11pm. Rewrite, print, and distribute memo to men's wing regarding noise complaints.

Monday, 11pm to 12 midnight. Read Probst and print out another article from course reserves. Course reserve article discusses constructivism as conceived by Piaget. Have an immensely difficult time giving a shit.

The Answer is: Creaky-creaky-creaky-creaky. . . knock knock knock. . . creaky-creaky-creaky-creaky. . . KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK. . . "Shit!"

"What is, 'Paul had to bust people during his HR shift for noise complaints because they were so loud while they were gettin' it on?'"

Alex: That's correct!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Something (Finally) Goes Right

This blog has mostly refrained from getting way too personal about stuff. Sure, sure, I've crossed that line a few times, but generally the extremely personal details of my life are pretty much none of your damn business.

Still, some things are worth sharing.

I'm dating someone. K and I have known each other for over a year now, and a relationship that started as friendship has evolved into something way better. I could go on and on and on from here, but out of respect for her I'll refrain. Suffice it to say that I'm a very happy man.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Need to Give Your Abs a Good Workout?

Go see The Forty Year Old Virgin. I haven't laughed that hard so consistently in years. A group of us went Sunday night, and maybe it was the people I was with, maybe it was because the four male characters were as cleverly and accurately written as any males in recent cinema, or maybe it was because the middle aged woman next to me was laughing so hard she was crying, but I'm sitting here laughing just thinking about the experience. My stomach muscles actually hurt yesterday from laughing so hard the previous night. You should go see it.

Unless you are my mother. In that case you should absolutely not go see it.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Better, Thanks

I spent yesterday watching college football - lots and lots of college football - instead of freaking out about homework. Yes, yes, I have roughly 100 pages to read and a five pager to rewrite this weekend, not to mention some tricky assignments to crank out in my Methods class, but I woke up yesterday morning and thought I could use a day off.

Wyoming lost but so did Colorado State, and when it comes to Colorado State, I rejoice in others' heartbreak. My beloved Fighting Illini came back from behind and won a football game. Ron Zook may have been a questionable hire after three quarters, but when Pierre Thomas punched it in during OT, Zook looked like the real thing. The Illini have many things to work on this year, but getting a win is not one of them anymore.

Today I'm working the Crane lobby from 10-2, during which I'll get some reading done. Other than that, not a whole lot going on this afternoon.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Week of Bad Sleep

Folks, I'm not sleeping well and I have no idea why. Last night I went to bed at 11, woke up at 2, and never went back to sleep. Yesterday I woke up at 4. The morning before that was the adventure with HR (which has since blown over).

And during the day I'm an idiot. In class I can't concentrate for shit. I've already dropped the ball on two assignments out of sheer inattention.

The good news is that I've started swimming at night with a fellow RA and the sister of a staffer from last year. I'm not swimming particularly well, mind you - I can barely breaststroke or crawl 25 meters before needing a break - but I am getting some desperately needed exercise.

Tonight I'm at the lobby desk from 4-8. Tomorrow I have two classes which should be fairly easy. This weekend a friend is coming up from Denver, and other than that, I'll be doing TONS of reading and also, hopefully, sleeping.

Wish me luck.