Archive for December, 2012


A Muted Christmas

Since time immemorial, there have always been three grand annual occasions at the Danese household at which the entire family gathers for a full day of food, drinks, and merriment. The first of these is Easter, and the second is Thanksgiving. But the biggest and most important event of the year is Christmas. It’s an occasion so grand that it can’t be contained in a single day. Instead, both sides of the family are involved in a three meal, thirty hour extravaganza. It is, without a doubt, my favourite time of year.

But this year… this year is different.

Due to illnesses on both sides of the family, only one of my grandparents came over, and none of my cousins. As such, the typical gathering of 15-18 people was only a party of 9 this year. That’s unfortunate, but it’s not the end of the world.

But then just as we were about to start eating, the phone rang. I picked it up, and the second I heard who it was I wanted to hang up. I wanted to hang up because I knew that the person on the other end wanted to speak to my grandmother, and was going to tell her that her only remaining brother had died. But of course I didn’t hang up. I passed  the phone to my grandmother, and she started crying. I hugged her. What else could I do? She then left to go see her sister.

The meal continued, a little quieter than before. And then again, the phone rang. Again I picked it up. It was my other grandmother, and she wanted to speak to my dad. She delivered my news that she had called an ambulance for my grandfather, who had been having some trouble breathing.

So that about just about killed whatever remaining mood this party had. We’re trying to make the best of it, but it’s hard.  The conversation keeps turning back to the subject of illness and death – not the usual banter that occurs at these occasions. And, for the first time in 20 years, my father will not be making his annual appearance as Santa.

As for the traditional continuation of this party on Christmas Day, that’s very much up in the air. It’s doubtful that we’ll do anything at all.

Doesn’t really feel like Christmas.

The UK law schools that I’m applying to want to see my high school grades, and so yesterday I  trudged through thousands of old files in an attempt to locate my high school transcript. 

When I found it, I was overcome by a strange feeling. 

On this single sheet of paper there were thirty-one lines. Each line contained the name of a class, a course code, and a final mark. 

It occurred to me then that my entire high school career had been boiled down to these thirty-one lines. 

And what of Smash Bros during period two spare? What of the school musicals, and the hockey games, and all of those hoickety choicks? Those tragically awkward school dances, the cross country team, and the film club? The trips to Knoxville, Chicago, Haliburton, and Waterloo? 

What about my endless pursuit to be something?

Well, according to those thirty-one lines, none of that ever happened. 

That, to me, is exceptionally depressing. 

As I scrolled down the page, a thousand memories flooded into my head. I could remember the name and face of every teacher in every class. But what I remembered most of all is what happened between classes. Those were the moments that led me to where I am now – not the information contained in those thirty-one lines. 

Sayoonara

Dammit. I think my foray into Japanese is going to have to come to an end.

It was difficult to begin with. I had a tough time learning all of the characters, and as a consequence it took me longer to grasp some of the basics. But once I’d gotten the characters down, everything became much easier. And for a while, I was riding high.

And then the essays hit. The last month of my life has been consumed by them. Everything else has gone by the wayside.

The thing is, you can’t push a language off to the wayside. If you try, you will fall behind very quickly. So for a while, I tried to keep up.

But the Japanese professor has steadily ramped up the amount of work we’re supposed to hand in each week. It started at two pages. Then it became four. Then five. And now this week, seven. Plus there’s a quiz to study for every Monday and new vocabulary to memorize each week. It’s just too much. And so over the past two weeks, I’ve fallen behind. Today in lecture it was so bad that half the time I didn’t even understand what the professor was saying.

On the one hand, this isn’t a big deal. Japanese doesn’t count towards my average, so theoretically I could just half-ass my way through the class, score a 60, and be done with it. But I can’t.

I’m bad at half-assing anything, but I’m really bad at half-assing school, and even worse at half-assing language classes. If I’m going to learn a language, I need to be able to dive in. Practice it a little every day. Do all the assignments, and do them well. But I haven’t been able to do that lately.

The result is that Japanese class hasn’t been fun. Because even if a course doesn’t count towards your average, it’s not fun to get shitty marks. And it’s not fun to sit there like a lemon while the rest of the class is blitzing through the material. And it’s not fun to stress over mastering Te-forms when you’ve got essays that you need to prepare for submission.

And next term will be even worse, because I’m going to have even more essays to do.

The whole point of taking Japanese this year was to have fun with it. But right now I’m only continuing on with it because I like to finish what I start. And while perhaps that’s honourable, it also means that I’m causing myself undue stress.  Right from the beginning I knew that I was taking a risk by adding an extra course that I didn’t need. But until now I’ve stubbornly resisted admitting that it’s too much work. But it is.

I want to continue Japanese, I really do. The language itself is awesome. But the way things are, my choice is between half-assing my way through this course, or withdrawing and returning to the language at a later point in life. I’m going to mull it over for a day or two, but I think I know what I need to do for my own good.

LSAT The Second

No less than five people have asked me “How did it go?” today. It’s a fair question to ask someone who has just written The Mother of All Entrance Exams.

Truth be told, I don’t know how I did. And part of me doesn’t want to talk about it. But another part of me knows that I have to, just a little bit, if only to vent. Theoretically I’ve signed a waiver declaring that I won’t discuss questions on the exam until the results are published, but somehow I suspect that the Powers That Be won’t be searching an obscure blog on the edge of the Internet for violations.

…But since the LSAT overlords have proven to be exceptionally thorough thus far, I’ll hedge my bets by just talking in generalities.

Anyhoo. Wrote this thing at Humber College this time around. Humber is an interesting beast in that most of the campus’ buildings are connected via a system of tunnels. At first I thought “That’s a little lame – you’d just be inside all the time.” And then I remembered that the windchill was -12, and I realized what a great idea this was.

As for the test itself, it started out well. The first section was Logic Games – traditionally my weakest section. Generally if I can just make it through 3/4 of this section without running out of time, I’ve done well. And in the end, I managed to get to all but three of the 25 or so questions before I ran out of time and had to make uneducated guesses on the rest. So, not bad there.

Then came Analytical Reasoning – traditionally my strongest section. But this was also the section that I fucked up on the first LSAT, so my usual confidence was knocked down a peg going in. And I didn’t feel overly good about it in the end.

The third section was Reading Comprehension. And although I felt good about this section after I finished it, I have good reason to suspect that this was the Mindfuck Section – i.e. the section that the cruel Powers That Be put on this test just to screw with you. Your mark for this section isn’t recorded. Section 4 was also a Reading Comprehension section, and since only one Reading Comprehension section is ever marked, one of these two had to be the Mindfuck. I suspect it was #3 just because the Mindfuck Section is almost always one of the first three sections, based on LSAT history.

It’s a shame, because I didn’t feel as confident about section 4 as I had about section 3. I didn’t quite get to the end of it either, and had to guess a few.

The final section was more Analytical Reasoning. And again, I didn’t feel as dominant here as I usually do. The last five or so questions were exceptionally difficult, and I ended up being forced to make wild guesses on three of them due to time constraints.

Looking at the math, I needed to make 20 errors or less in order to improve my score. I randomly guessed about 10 questions on this test. Statistically, I had a 1/5 chance of getting each of these right, so let’s assume I got two right. That leaves 8 errors right there, giving me only 12 to spare for the rest of the test.

So, I don’t know. It’s possible, I suppose, but I wouldn’t bank on it. Either way, I’m not going to worry about it now. I won’t get my marks until January 4th, and between now and then I’ll have plenty of other things to keep my mind occupied.

Christmas in 24 days!