Saturday, March 16, 2013

#ROW80 1ST QTR POST 23 – SCHOOL DAZE


I’m not sure why, but sometimes the damnedest memories apropos of nothing pop into my head. I know this happens to everyone. Some are funny, or sad, or blah and then there are the special ones, the ones that just defy classification. You may think you know who you were at the time this one certain event occurred.

You may have labored under the illusion that you did indeed have all your shit together. You also may have been stone-cold sober and actually operating at peak efficiency and rockin’ it in the house, pulling straight A’s in college. You may also have been cruising through English Lit, Western Civ, Calculus, Statistics and maybe this was part of the problem.


Another thing; I hardly ever opened a computer text book, seriously.

The fact is, when I majored in Music Performance, I got to skip all that boring 101 stuff. No such luck when I went back for Computer Science, so I got stuck with all this horrendous nonsense. I sucked so bad in Mathematics, I was supposed to take pre-Algebra. But I CLEPped out of that, thank God.

So, I went back to school because my idiot husband of the moment, who was a violist and who I had met on a gig, was shocked when the Zither or Flute fairy didn’t show up and turn me into something other than a violist. Dumbass. So, I went back to school and picked Comp Sci, ‘cause I thought I was picking something completely different than music. My mistake. Dumbass.

Anyway, off to school. My first comp sci 101 class was taught by a retired Army Colonel who had been head of the IT group in Europe for NATO. He and his family defected from Cuba and he was a riot. He would tell us all what NOT to do with those old 5 ½ “ floppy disks and then he’d demonstrate by folding the disk and dunking it in his coffee cup.

He told us all about bits and bytes, and how 8 bits equals 1 byte. Some girl in my class pops up and says, “and that’s how we have 3 bits equals a group of data.” Dead silence as the class comes to a screeching halt. This has never been said or thought of by anyone before or since and this was 20 years ago. I’m still waiting for that “group of data.” So is Colonel Defector.

Meanwhile, over in Western Civ, we’re talking about the brothers Gracchi. With all of their land reform and granting rights to the plebeians, they’re sounding an awful lot like the brothers JFK and Bobby Kennedy, Jr. They sound like them even more when they both get assassinated. There’s a dude in my class who sits in the back and is one of these cats who doesn’t say much, but he chimes in with this:

“Did the Gracchi Brothers have another brother named Theodorus who drove his chariot into the Tiber river while he was drunk?” I howled. The Prof was like, “What?” Dude says, “never mind.” Everyone else in the class was too young to make the connection and they sit there like rocks.


 Theodorius Kennedy?

Those were early days, however. By year two, I was deep into calculus with a Professor of Mathematics I had pretty much hand-picked for me on recommendation of the Dean of the Math department. The Dean had been my first college Algebra teacher and she was wonderful, but she wasn’t teaching the 2nd semester. So, she sent me to Professor Gingrich, who was hard on everyone. I had him for Algebra II and just stuck with him, because I liked him so much. He apparently thought I was okay too, for a computer sci major. He had worked as a cryptographer during the Korean conflict for the Navy.

They all sat offshore on some boat out of range of the gun batteries and decoded all of the morse code, or whatever was coming through over the airwaves. He described it to us and we made simple codexes and decrypted them, so we could feel like real spies, I guess, in my concrete math class I took with him after calculus. I was a real glutton for punishment. We also made simplex matrices for airplanes. I think my planes all ran into each other and everyone died.

But in calculus we started really tearing into imaginary numbers and Fibonacci sequences. This is about the time I started seeing God. First, I remember asking Dr. Gingrich, “so, these pretend numbers actually exist?” After he picked his jaw up off the floor, he said, “why yes, they do. They use them in HVAC.” I didn’t want to know what that was. Then we had to go through the whole 32 + 42 = 52, or 9 + 16 = 25. Perfect. Pythagoras and all that. So, I freak and start babbling about supernatural, or voodoo or the face of God, or what the fuck? Dr. Gingrich just laughs it off. Tells me to calm down, it’ll be okay. Just then, some girl in the class screams and there’s a tiny snake in the hall. Dr. Gingrich and I go and rescue it and put it in the grass; no one else would help him. I told him I wasn't afraid of snakes, but I sure was still kinda iffy on those number doodads. I did well in his class, in spite of my shenanigans.



Sorry, these bastards still creep me the hell out. Perfection.

I pledged Phi Theta Kappa on invite, but didn’t get to the ceremony. I had a concert that night. Thank God; I hear those things are boring beyond belief. I was also paying my way by playing in the school orchestra, as well as keeping my symphony gig. Anyway, still burning the candle at both ends, staying up all kinds of weird hours, mostly doing math over and over and over again.

English Lit was awesome. I’ve always loved it. Now, I not only got to read it, I got to do lots and lots of writing and was winning awards for my rhetorical writing. I had a great professor, who was no pushover and it was hard to get good grades from her. I wrote papers on D.H. Lawrence, who I was fascinated with at the time. We read the required amount of Shakespeare and then we turned to poetry.

Poetry was never one of my stronger suits. I’m pretty linear and logical and when people start throwing allegory and symbology at me, I tend to come back with some pretty stupid shit. We were all supposed to pick a poem and read it in class. At least we didn't have to talk about what It All Meant, thank God. For some reason, I picked “Dover Beach” by Matthew Arnold. Here’s where the WTF? comes in. When it was my turn to recite this poem, I channeled a cross between Michael Buffer (Let’s Get Ready To Rumble! In a boxing match) and Heap Big Running Bear. I shouted my way through this entire poem, but part of me was aghast. Just “AAAAHHH, what the fuck are you doing?” To this day, I have never been able to come up with a coherent answer. It’s just one of those things. The class didn’t even seem to notice. Maybe they were afraid to say anything.


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