Archive for April, 2008
Bloodbath Midterm

Let me start by saying that I test very well. I am good enough at taking tests that often I will be able to perform better than I should be able to given my knowledge of the subject being tested. I have, as it were, test skillz.

My Investment Analysis (i.e. “Economics for Engineers”) professor has spent at least a half hour of cumulative class time telling us what a bloodbath the exam is going to be and explaining the reasons why it will be so hard to convince us that he’s not an evil bastard. Ok, actually, I think he describes himself as evil when discussing the exam, but I figure it’s slightly more likely that he’s kidding than not…

Anyway, the midterm is going to be a bloodbath. He assigns grades in the class by class rank, so he needs to be able to tell the top ranking student apart from the second ranking student, etc. This is possible if you don’t have three or four students clustered together with perfect scores on the exam. Therefore, he strives to put the average score at around 50%. The important thing to remember, he says, is that the raw score is only indirectly related to your letter grade. Your class rank is directly related to your letter grade.

And it’s tangent time. Bear with me.

I estimate that while in the Army, I spent about 3 years not dreaming at all. I developed sleep apnea, and I simply wasn’t asleep long enough to enter REM sleep for about three years. It’s been successfully treated, now, with a machine that I strap to my face every night so that I can breathe while I sleep. I dream, these days. However, I don’t remember the dreams very often, and it’s been a long time (before the Army, I believe) since I had a nightmare.

My alarm clock is due to wake me in 10 minutes. However, the nightmare woke me 20 minutes ago. I dreamed that I was taking the exam. Among the many wonderful things I dreamed about the exam were:

  • I had somehow missed hearing the professor tell everyone in the class to get up and move to another classroom. I only realized something was wrong when
  • I realized that instead of working on my exam, I was listening to the audio from a Monty Python sketch. When I rushed to turn off the audio file and pick up where I left off on the exam,
  • I realized that the room was dark and nobody else was there. Finally, in contrast with how most people feel about math problems on exams, I was horrified when I realized that
  • there were almost no math problems on this exam. (What can I say? Math’s what I do.)

I think that the professor has somehow put the fear of exams in me. Or maybe the gods of test-taking finally realized that I’ve been unafraid of tests for over two decades and rebalanced me.

Ah, well. Enough rambling. Time to go turn off my alarm clock and do a little studying for that exam tomorrow.

Phys Ed

Physical Education, how much better you are than your polychallenged cousin Physical Training.

For example, this term, I’m learning to Swing Dance. Try suggesting that for your morning PT, Army folks.

… Extend to the left… march! Ok, first and third ranks, first and third ranks only, about… face! One step forward… march! Ok, partner up, let me start the music…

-hypothetical and highly unlikely PT session

It’s that “partner up” that might cause difficulty, considering the leader-follower ratio of most Army units. Anyway…

I discovered something interesting about my Swing Dance capabilities today. Not something new, mind you; it’s always been there. I was never able to put it into words before, though. Put simply: I have all of the rhythm of a Fremen out for an afternoon stroll, and about 400 times the net sweat output.

Figure One

Many years ago, I ran across an ASCII drawing of a raised middle finger. It was labeled “Figure 1.” The accompanying text directed the reader to “see Figure 1.”

This whole concept so delighted me that since then, I haven’t been able to see the phrase “see Figure 1” without thinking of flipping someone the bird.


In your own time, Langford.

I’ve lived in this apartment for a little over three months, now.

This week I unpacked many (most? maybe.) of my moving boxes.   Not all, mind you, but I have emptied almost all of the cardboard.  I still have some plastic crates, but I’m keeping those, so they don’t really count.

The Trojan Knight

We faced each other across the chessboard.  My side of the clock ticked my time away, second by second.  Despite the dwindling remainder of my half of the hour with which we had started the game, all I could do was sit and stare.

I realized with growing certainty and dismay that I would have to reveal one of my most prized and secret gambits much too early.  It was only the first game of the five we had agreed upon, and already I would lose a trump.

I reached for the knight and paused my hand over it, willing my mind to find another way.  There was none and I knew it.  I touched the piece, grabbed it and moved it.  My hand tapped the clock on the way back to its perch on the arm of my chair, temporarily stopping my own countdown.

My opponent raised an eyebrow; he saw the sacrifice I was making of the knight but not my ultimate goal.  Of course, he wouldn’t — he couldn’t — see the danger until it was too late.

He moved, trapping my knight behind his lines and keeping it from withdrawing.  The next move would allow him to take the piece with no chance of retaliation from me.  Then he started my clock again, not realizing that the clock no longer mattered and that I had won.

I raised my hand from the arm of my chair, but instead of reaching for the board, I curled my fingers and rapped with my knuckles on the table next to it.  Tap… tap-tap-tap… tap… tap-tap.

My opponent glance up at me and I held his gaze, daring him to discern what my knuckles signified.

“Check,” I said.

I saw his eyes flick momentarily down to the board, then back up at me.  They narrowed.  They returned to the board.

“What the hell,” he muttered, “is this?”

“Trojan Horse,” I said, gesturing at the new pieces on the board.  Three tiny rooks, a bishop and five pawns had climbed out of the hollow knight when I knocked on the table.  They had then quickly and silently killed off the wall of pawns keeping the bulk of my forces away from his king.  By the time he realized what had happened, they were already setting fire to one of his rooks.

The End

I was trying to read the assigned pages in my Geometry textbook when the idea of the Trojan Knight came to me.  I almost instantly concocted several scenarios in which I could spring something like this on my unsuspecting friends during a chess match as a joke.  However, shortly thereafter, I realized that this was not going to leave my head easily and I still had quite a bit of reading to do.

Therefore, I resolved to get the idea out of my head by typing it up and inflicting it upon you.  Enjoy.