I have recently invented a new word which I think should become commonly used in the English language. The word is quasycle, (rhymes with popsicle) and it is a noun referring to a small object which can be used to store a disproportionally large amount of something. For example, digital storage devices, such as flash drives and CD-ROMs, are quasycles, and a book is a quasycle.  Mary Poppin’s purse and The Doctor’s TARDIS are both quasycles. It is worth noting that quasycle is worth 22 points in Scrabble, not counting the points from bonus squares and not counting the 50 point bonus for using all seven tiles. (In order to play the word quasycle,one would have to use a letter that is already on the board. Also, such a move could only occur in a game where the players had mutually agreed that quasycle is a real word, which is unfortunately not very likely.)



Why I (kind of) love finals

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Today was my last day of classes as a Junior in college. Now I just have a week of finals, and then I’ll be completely done with the school year. Even though I’m obviously really looking forward to next Wednesday at about noon when I’ll be finishing my last exam, today is the day that I’ve been counting down to for the last several weeks. In part, that’s because I believe in counting down to the soonest available landmark because, when you’re counting down to something, little numbers are much more motivating than big numbers. (I’m graduating in 374 days, but somehow, that doesn’t seem like such a big deal at the moment.) Anyway, besides that, I actually do tend to enjoy finals week. It’s not that I like final exams or final papers, it’s just that life in general is better during finals week. For example:

1. Study breaks. When you have classes all day and have to cram all of your homework and studying into just a few hours every evening, you can’t really afford to stop for a while to play some computer games or to watch some science fiction or to wander around aimlessly in circles, pondering the great questions of life, human existence, and what caused that discolored spot on the carpeting. Having the ability to take occasional breaks and to use your brain for something besides school is good for you not only because it’s more fun, but also because it’s a stress reliever and it’s good for your mind. You just want to make sure you’re doing something productive with your study breaks and not wasting your time. In the grand scheme of things, I think it’s more important for me to be good at Scrabble than to solve the mysteries of my dorm room carpeting.

2. Sleeping and eating. Once upon a time, I was a small child and had enough time and a flexible enough schedule that I could count on eating three meals a day and sleeping every single night. This is no longer the case. During finals week, though, I have plenty of time for eating and sleeping. The sleeping part actually isn’t such a big deal to me; I never actually grew out of the stage where I hated going to bed, and even now, I’d much prefer to watch science fiction all night than to sleep all night. But the eating thing is a big deal. Food is awesome stuff.

3. It’s an excuse to do things that count as stress relievers. Last night, for example, I had to stay up all night long, so I got a multi-serving bag of M&Ms and ate them at regular intervals throughout the night. It wouldn’t be a good idea to do that every single night, but last night, I was working on several final projects and the M&Ms were totally necessary. Tonight, I think I’m going to stop studying for a while so that I can watch an episode of Dr. Who. I shouldn’t really take out the time for that, but science fiction is an ideal stress reliever, so it will actually make me do better on my exams. Right?

4. We’re all in this together. I’m not really a very social person, and I definitely prefer to study alone, so I tend to really isolate myself during finals, but at the same time, there’s something reassuring about the knowledge that every single student on campus is experiencing the same things I’m experiencing. While I’m worrying about a difficult exam or a paper that just isn’t getting done very quickly, other people all around me are having the same problems, and when I’ve finished all my exams and turned in all my papers, everyone else around me will be finishing their exams and papers and will share that sense of relief and accomplishment.

5. When it’s all over, it’s all over. It’s not like midterms, when you just get a couple days or a week off (depending upon whether it’s the fall semester or the spring semester) and then have to get right back to work before you’ve even had time to recover from the stress of the beginning of the semester. Once finals are over, you’re completely done with all of those classes. Forever. They’re called finals for a reason.

May the 4th be with you!

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In this blog, I intend to write a post for every major holiday. Today, as I hope everyone knows, is an extremely important holiday. Sadly, since I’m currently in the crazy part of the semester right before finals, I don’t actually have time to watch Star Wars today, which is not cool. I might try to make time to watch the first hour or so of A New Hope tonight, but I’m not counting on being able to do that. Anyway, in celebration of this occasion, I will now list my criteria for awesomeness in a movie, thereby demonstrating that the Star Wars movies are the ultimate awesome movies.

1. Plot

In my opinion, the plot isn’t as important to the overall awesomeness of a movie as it is for a book, mainly because the fourth and fifth elements on this list don’t apply at all to books. Still, for a movie to be really great, the plot has to be interesting. Since the definition of interesting is relative, I’m not going to try to define it in specific terms, but I think that it’s pretty safe to assert that Star Wars is interesting.

2. Characters

Ideally, the viewer should like, dislike, or be somewhat afraid of most of the major characters. Even if you can’t stand Jar-Jar Binks, you have to admit that he’s a very memorable and distinctive character, as are Yoda, Chewbacca, C3PO, R2D2, Jabba the Hut, and pretty much everyone in all six movies. And Darth Vader, of course, is the ultimate movie antagonist. It just isn’t possible to find an awesomer bad guy than Darth Vader.

3. Quotable lines

Really good movies always have at least a few really good quotes. Sometimes they’re funny (“Why you stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking Nerf herder!”), sometimes they’re dramatic (“If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine”), sometimes they’re somewhat inspirational (“Do or do not do, there is no try”), and sometimes they just make really good catchphrases (“May the force be with you”).

4. A really cool soundtrack

While it isn’t necessarily the first thing that I think of when I think about a movie, the soundtrack is definitely important. If anyone actually thinks that Star Wars doesn’t have an excellent soundtrack, they need to have either their head or their ears examined.

5. Special effects

Seriously, Star Wars pretty much invented modern special effects. Yes, I am aware that the special effects in the original trilogy aren’t so impressive by our jaded 21st century standards. Real life also isn’t so impressive by our jaded 21st century standards. I don’t think we actually need to be judging movies by contemporary standards. Exploding spaceships are pretty awesome, even if they don’t look quite like what an exploding spaceship ought to look like.

Actually, all of that pretty much goes without saying. Everyone who’s cool already knows how awesome Star Wars is. Have a happy Star Wars day!

The ongoing tale of homework and coffee

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Time-10:30 PM

Cups of coffee-0

Upon returning to my dorm room at 10:00, I discovered that my to-do list for the rest of the night was still too long for me to accomplish everything on it. After pondering the best course of action, I came to the conclusion that the most flexible of the tasks on said list was ‘sleep’. Unfortunately, it would have also been the easiest one to accomplish. Oh, well. There will always be time for that tomorrow.

Incidentally, I am greatly enjoying the sound coming from my coffee maker. That machine and I are good friends.

Time-12:00 AM

Cups of coffee-2

The cool thing about being awake in the middle of the night on the last day of the month is that I get to turn the calendar page at exactly midnight. It’s kind of like New Year’s Day, except that it isn’t a New Year.

On an unrelated note, I think I made my coffee too strong. The first indication of that was the fact that when I drank it, it tasted really strong. The second indication was the fact that, when I spilled some on the very edge of my desk, instead of dripping the way liquids generally do, it slowly oozed. In my experience, coffee is supposed to drip, not ooze.

Time-2:00 AM

Cups of coffee-3 ½

On a positive note, I am finally making significant progress on my final paper for my Chaucer class. Since it is due in about thirty-one hours, I’d be in trouble if I wasn’t getting a lot done tonight, but it’s still exciting to realize that someday, I actually will be done with this paper. On a less positive note, no matter how frequently I refresh the screen, nobody else has made a move in any of my ongoing internet chess games. If other people were making moves, that would provide me with the ideal way to take a break. It only takes a minute to make a chess move, but it requires just the right amount of mental energy to help me refocus my brain, enabling me to better continue my homework. Plus, if I win, it increases morale and motivation levels. But since none of my current opponents are cool enough to be available to play middle-of-the-night internet correspondence chess with me, I must rely on coffee for my morale and motivation, even though it is starting to give me a stomachache and my brain is being weird. Fortunately, it is accomplishing its purpose in that I am not even slightly tired, despite the fact that I was exhausted five hours ago.

Time-3:30 AM

Cups of coffee-4 ½

Okay, now I’m tired, and I’m also almost out of coffee. At this point, though, it’s a little too late to go to bed because I have to get up pretty soon anyway. I really don’t feel like doing any more homework, though. I’m getting tired of words. Maybe I should use my calculus homework to take a break from writing papers.

Time- 4:30 AM

Cups of coffee-5 ½

My life would be so much easier right now if I knew what the Taylor series for e^t cos(t) is, but unfortunately, I have no idea. I do, however, know what the Taylor series for ln(1-2y) is, which I think is a pretty significant accomplishment.

Incidentally, fun fact: In Chicago in the 1880s, the people of German ancestry didn’t get along with the people of English ancestry because Germans like to drink beer and English like to drink whiskey, and the Germans thought that was an unforgivable cultural difference.

Time-5:00 AM

Cups of coffee-6

I am now out of coffee, and after having consumed nearly a week’s worth of coffee in less than seven hours, I don’t think I want any more anyway. Now, I guess I’ll take a shower and get ready to go to class. I have to get up early so that I can finish the homework that I didn’t finish during the night because the night just isn’t long enough.  Life is tough this time of the semester.

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