Archive for June, 2012

The Productivity of GMT+1

I’m back from the other end of the ocean, but not entirely.

Physically my body is in North America, but my brain is still operating on a European time zone. So after waking up around 5:30 this morning, refreshed and fully awake, I showered, took the dog for an early morning walk, spent four hours looking at my courses for next year, watched some tennis, caught up on all of the news and sports that I missed in the past few weeks, sent out some emails, read some video game reviews, played some video games, spent half an hour on hold with Air Canada trying (successfully) to locate the luggage that Iberia lost, helped workers deliver a new kitchen table, washed dishes, wrapped up an NHL-related game that I organize every year, and typed up this brief blog.

…and it’s only 3:30. Now that’s productivity.

Granted, there’s no way in hell I’ll be able to stay awake past 10:30 tonight, but it still feels good.

The Coming Trial

It’s an interesting room I’m in right now.

There are 21 of us here right now, all in the same boat. We’re preparing for the LSAT -the test that accounts for 50% of whether or not we get into law school.

People are civil here. Respectful, even. But not quite friendly.

The problem is that the LSAT is a different beast from most standardized tests. It’s a competitive test. When I wrote the SAT three years ago, I had a magic number in mind: 2100, the score that would give me at least a shot at Harvard/Yale.

With the LSAT, it doesn’t matter how well you do on it. What matters is how many people you beat. Beat 50% of the people taking the test, and you’ve got at least a shot at being accepted somewhere. Beat 80% and you’ve got a shot at Osgoode Hall or Queen’s. 90% is the magic number for giving you a chance at U of T.

Everyone here has their own goals. Some are aiming for 50%, some for 75%, some for 80%, some for 90%. But the ultimate objective remains the same: Beat as many people as possible.

And you can tell that while everyone is smiling outwardly, there are little daggers hidden behind those smiles. Everyone knows how this works. Everyone knows that everyone else is going to actively, albeit inadvertently, try their best to send their hopes and dreams crashing to the ground in about four months. Everyone knows that they would benefit if every other person in this room bombed. People are sizing each other up, trying to see where they stand in comparison to everyone else. Eyes darting all around to see what other people got on question 8.

It’s difficult not to fall victim to the underlying competitive spirit. On the one hand, I know that I’ll get no benefit from worrying about everyone else, and that I’ll get the best result by shutting out everything and focusing on my own paper. At the same time, I can’t help but think that I need to beat 18 out of these 20 people to get where I want to be.

At least it’s still four months away.

Conflict Of Interests

It’s no secret that my family is very high up on my list of priorities. I love these people, and there’s little I wouldn’t do for them.

Also very high up on my list of priorities is being an honest person. Not only do I not enjoy lying, but I’m terrible at it too. Maybe if I was a better liar I’d enjoy it more, but that’s besides the point.

Very rarely do these two priorities conflict with each other. My family, after all, rarely wants me to lie.

But yesterday they did.

You see, my brother is going through the same high school application process that I went through seven years ago, trying to get into a certain private school. He’s not keen on going, but my parents seem intent on forcing him to. That’s a whole different issue – a more interesting one, in fact. Perhaps I’ll discuss it next time. For now, the important thing to note is that my brother’s application was initially rejected, much to my parents’ outrage.

Rather than give up, my parents decided to pull out all the stops to try and get the admissions committee to reverse its decision. They’ve gotten reference letters from his teachers, sent recent tests and assignments in, and asked a certain alumnus of the school to endorse him.

That almunus was me. And they told me exactly what they wanted me to say. That my brother is a dedicated student who fiercely pursues his academic goals. That he’s committed to going to this school. That my brother would contribute more to the school than I had.

The thing is, my brother doesn’t fiercely pursue his academic goals. He’s a smart kid, but exceptionally lazy. And he’s not committed to going to the school. Not by a longshot. And though I can’t say for certain how much my brother would contribute to the school if he went, my gut instinct is that it wouldn’t be much. To say that I felt his contributions would outweigh mine would be a lie.

So, I told my parents that I wouldn’t write the letter as they asked me to. I told them I would write a letter for him since, but I would write it in a way that I felt comfortable with it. I want my brother to get into this school, but I’m not willing to lie to make it happen.

And so I wrote an alternate letter in which I simply said that I felt my brother was a student who, when motivated, could achieve a lot, and that he would benefit greatly from going to this school. Those are my feelings, and that’s what I wrote down. My parents accepted it just as well.

As a wise man once almost said: I would do anything for family (but I won’t do that).