Tuesday, October 14, 2008

School blues

I didn't get a lot of sleep last night because yesterday I had to finish my first paper for my Lit class. I worked on it last weekend, but then got interrupted by having to study for midterms. I did start work on it early, doing work as early as September 14th and 15th, due to an annotated bibliography being due on the 16th. I got the annotated bib back not long after, and then got distracted apparently (probably by reading for Lit class, which I had to do a lot of in late September) since I did not create my OneNote notebook for notes on the paper until September 29th. Sometime between this point and last Monday (October 6) I took book notes. I also had all my reference book photocopies done by then (I did them on September 30th and October 1st), and I highlighted them in four different colors and filed them in file folders on October 1st. My work on the paper was interrupted, as I said, by midterm study, and most of my note-taking and typing up of notes was done this past weekend, thanks to the interruption. I spent time on the bus and during breaks and lunches at work doing this, though I took a break from it on Sunday until I got home, because of something that happened regarding it the day before.

I might as well say what that happening was, since my parents -- the last people I want to tell this humiliating story to -- will probably never read this any time soon (my dad said he wanted to see my blog, and I said it was kind of private, and he asked for me to send some of the not-so-private posts). Anyway, I had photocopies which still needed marking (only the titles were highlighted) and once the manuscripts were marked, I needed to take handwritten notes from them (since I generally do handwritten notes first then type them up, so I don't have to always carry my laptop). And I was desperate to get the note-taking done before Monday (my one day off before the paper's due date) so I could focus on the paper on Monday. Knowing that I would be sampling and that at certain times it was likely to be really slow (at which times I simply sit there doing nothing), I snuck a photocopy out there in my apron pocket and used the pen I was already carrying with me to mark it up. This was on Friday, and it was so slow and managers so few that no one noticed. Plus I was pretty discreet about it, hiding it when need be under a copy of the store's health newsletter which I had also secretly brought over as a boredom-killer (if I were to be caught reading, I could truthfully say I was reading something about store product that was also free, so I wasn't stealing it).

Saturday, I was equally desperate but not as lucky. Fortunately, I got a fair amount of work done on the report that morning, since my dad (who was taking me to work; I can't take the bus anymore on Saturdays cause there's no bus service near me without the FAST bus) had to be somewhere really early and thus dropped me off by work around 7am. Since I did not need to be in till 10, I went to the nearby gas station, where I tried to mark some photocopies and take notes from journal articles on my computer while vainly attempting to ignore the blasting TV in the background of the seating area where I was (the gas station in question has a small steak restaurant in it, with tables to sit at near it, and this is where I was). I left to go up to work around 9 and continued to do some computer work (having finished marking the photocopies) in the quieter breakroom. But there was still much to do with the journal articles, and notes to take from the recently marked photocopies.

At a point I considered safe, I said I needed to go to the bathroom (which I did) and afterwards, I got one of the photocopies and some notebook paper and hid them in my apron pockets. When I got back to the table, I took notes while it was slow. This was not easy to do, and a lot harder than the marking I'd done the previous day. Unfortunately, I was found out by Jose (a manager) and Lucy (a girl who has only in the last few months become a manager and who I don't like much), who discovered my secret when they found it necessary to move my table, exposing my hidden papers on the shelf under the table, which is only visible when one is behind the table. When questioned, I told the truth and said it was homework, saying that half the time I don't get any customers anyway. They chided me, saying I couldn't do homework at the table, and Lucy said I was supposed to "suggest sell," whatever that means (I know what it means when I'm working in the department - "suggestive selling" - but not as a sampler). I complied and at the next opportunity (my break) put the papers away in my locker.

But desperate as I was, I was stupid enough to try my luck further by repeating this action with yet another photocopy. This time, the store was more consistently slower (as it was after my lunch and thus late afternoon) so I got away with it for longer. But I was caught again, this time by one of our newer managers, Jonathan, who usually works nights. This was more a result of being caught unawares and Jonathan just happening to be approaching from the one single angle from which he could've seen me doing what I was doing before I was aware of him doing so. The reason for there being only one single angle was that my table was angled against the corner of the cheese island, which is shaped kind of curvy and weird, like some people's home swimming pools. Therefore, there was very limited space in which to move my chair (there's a chair that goes with the table, and per Joe, our assistant store manager, I am allowed to use it). This put me in the wrong spot at the wrong time. Fortunately, Jonathan is not as loud as Jose or as loud (and, if I may, tactless) as Lucy. He was pretty calm and listened to me be pathetic and say I wouldn't have done it if I wasn't desperate to get things done for my report (pathetic, but true, and all I could think of at the moment). He said he understood the importance of school, but I should still put the papers away because he was expecting a supervisor in, and he would get in trouble if the supervisor caught me doing what I was doing. So I did so, and took them back to my locker when I went on my last break.

However, I may not live this down any time soon, as Lucy and Jose kept chiding me the next day (Sunday) about not doing homework, to which I frustratingly responded "I'm not," meaning it, because I have learned my lesson. Reading the health newsletter (or even the free Coast Times newspaper, as I did once) is one thing, but this was a big risk that I realize now was kind of stupid to take. Mainly, lack of preparation led me to this, as despite having midterms I would've had time the previous week (after getting all the photocopies) to do some notes if I'd thought of it. Not to mention Jose had the audacity to tell Sandra (my department boss) about this, and while she said nothing to me, she used it as the basis of an awful joke about me being arrested for doing my homework there, because I was "stealing time from the company," which I unfortunately took seriously (as usual). This was in response to my curiosity about a pair of sheriffs that were questioning Sergio (another manager) outside the store entrance. (It turned out that they had, of course, nothing to do with me -- I later learned some underage boys had tried to steal beer, and fled before managers could catch them, which is why the police were called).

One good thing is that I took notes for critical reception as well, so that is done. I am saving all my photocopies, except for some pages from the Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance which I skimmed and found not useful, so I can go over them again if necessary for the final paper. We discussed the paper in class today, and I asked a question about how to separate out journal articles between the "major works and themes" section and the "critical reception" section. This was very illuminating. Once I get my paper back and see Professor Cucinella's comments, I am going to work on organizing my notes better, something I didn't have time to do before this paper that I think hurt the organization of my paper and caused it to be the 15 pages (counting a 3-and-a-half page Works Cited with over 20 sources) long that it was, compared to the girl sitting next to me who addressed the same author with four sources and 7 1/2 pages.

I do not think I need any more sources, though I will not know for sure until I organize my notes better. For critical reception, I need to determine who the big names in scholarly reception for my author (Nella Larsen) are. I should be able to do this because Larsen scholars seem to love to write essays disproving another scholar's essay. So far, I have pinpointed two big names: Thadious M. Davis (who is also one of the three major Larsen biographers) and Deborah McDowell, who seems notorious among Larsen scholars for her insistence on lesbian themes in Larsen's novel Passing. They get mentioned a lot in journal articles I've read. Also mentioned more than once are the other two major Larsen biographers, George Hutchinson (author of In Search of Nella Larsen: A Biography of the Color Line, the one biography of her I was able to obtain) and Charles Larson (author of the book Invisible Darkness: Jean Toomer & Nella Larsen). I've had trouble getting Davis's book (Nella Larsen, Novelist of the Harlem Renaissance: A Woman's Life Unveiled) since it always seems to be checked out -- even on the San Diego Circuit -- every time I check it, including this very minute. (Apparently, at this minute, Larson's book is checked out too, even on the Circuit).

Fortunately, with that paper over (as well as midterms), homework will settle down to its usual pace. This week I have reading in Bio, History, and Lit to do. The Bio one I started on the way home; the three chapters we need to read are all rather short and thus I should be able to finish them soon. The reading for Lit is Jean Toomer's Cane, which I think is pretty short. For History, the usual two chapters in a week resulting from me not reading ahead so that I would've read chapter 16 for today's lecture (as if I could've, with my paper to do and a bio exam to study for).

Speaking of history, we got our tests back. The teacher said they were generally bad, but in a class that bombards you with information in lectures from a teacher who lectures really fast and has an accent (he's from somewhere in Africa, Nigeria I think), no wonder. Long story short, I got a C+. In a class with a two-test midterm and final format and only those, two papers, and maybe participation to go by, it might be hard to make up that grade. I knew that my answers weren't great, since even though I studied I went blank in the middle of the test. But I didn't expect to get a C+ -- my first C on a test in a long time -- and so I was pretty bummed.

My lit test wasn't much better, with a total of 23 lost points and thus a B+. Not bad, but I think I could've done better. Looking at the test right now, most of the points lost were on the first part of the test -- identifying passages and writing on them. I didn't study too well for that part. (Coincidentially, this sort of identification is similar to what I had to do with terms for my history test). Therefore, I lost 16 points there, with minus 2 points on the first and last answers, minus 3 on 4 questions, and only one question completely right, I think (one answer has a star by it, which I presume means full points).

The remaining 7 points came from the second part, the part where we were allowed a study guide. Technically, I guess, I lost 12 points on the second part, losing my first 2 points apeice on questions regarding Zoot Suit. I know the basic answers are right, but minus two means they weren't deep enough (I think). Surprisingly, I got all the questions right about So Far From God, which was the one novel whose questions confused me most on the study guide, mainly because my notes from it were few. I think this is because it confused several people, and several of us girls spent time sharing answers from our guides while waiting in the hall for the class before ours to get out.

I also lost two points each on two questions relating to La Maravilla, another novel I didn't easily understand even after class discussion. That's 4 and 4, which is 8, and then I guess I got minus 4 on the second question (one I thought was pretty straightforward, based on my notes, which I admit are often skeletal at best because I simply cannot write as fast as I'd like), which means I was totally "off base." Hmm. The question was "List three characteristics of Chicano literature." Based on my study guide, I realize now that somehow I listed the wrong things by mistake. What I listed were the three parts of the Chicano writer's agenda during the Chicano movement, which is something different. Oops.

Anyway, I was saved à grace de five points extra credit, earned because at the last minute I decided to go ahead and do the extra credit just in case, despite the fact it was on magical realism, which wasn't on our study guide and which I thus had no notes to consult for. I simply wrote three sentences listing the three things I could recall from my notes about magical realism, one of which was a part of a quote from the definition/essay thing she read us on magical realism (that "in the marvelous real, the strange was commonplace and always was commonplace"). I also listed that it was where the unreal occurred alongside real life and that it was associated with Latin American writers. Apparently, this earned me all 5 points, which means this simple explanation was sufficient for full points (which I find hard to believe, since there was a good deal more to it than that, as I recall), or the extra credit was all-or-nothing, where you got 5 points extra if you did it and zero if you didn't. The extra credit in my French class (the workbook) is like this, where you automatically get 4 points if you do it and it's complete, with extra credit points only being docked if it's not complete. (Interestingly, I noticed a lot more workbooks piled up at Professor Anover's desk the day of the second test compared to the day of the first test. Apparently, some people must not have done well on the first test and thus decided the extra credit was worth their while).

I had my first bio exam as well today. The first half was individual and the second half was group (a compromise based on, probably, the fact that our quizzes are group). Professor Hizer kept going on about how easy the test was and we were all like "yeah right" (considering how dang hard her quizzes have been so far). The individual part was 15 questions, multiple-choice (or "multiple guess" as Professor Hizer put I was somewhat relieved because I knew I had studied (I'd looked over my notes right before class, not having time prior to this due to my paper, and reprinting said paper this morning due to mistakes that needed fixing), plus I think I do better with multiple choice. And for this part at least, the test was easy. I went over my answers anyway, changing one where I hadn't been sure of the answer at first (if the correct answer ends up being my first answer, I'm going to be annoyed). I have gotten into this habit since I had a few tests in the past where I missed a lot of questions simply because I finished the test really fast -- by virtue of studying -- and thus didn't spend time reading the questions well enough.

The group part was as ridiculously hard as the quizzes, and exactly the same format. They were like word problems, except for biology. Between the four girls in my group (Meiling, Sandra, me, and this one girl whose name I can't remember -- we have worked together before, like on the last quiz), we still had difficulty. Fortunately, we sort of paired off on questions and then shared our answers with the other pair, which seemed to work rather well. Our main struggle was with a question regarding Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which we couldn't find anything on in our notes (I just searched my OneNote notebook - it's not there either). Our only notes that were close were on myotonic muscular dystrophy, so we used what we had on that. But when I looked up the two conditions in our textbook later, I realized they are not the same thing. Oh dear.

Our chapter in French class right now is on exercise and being fit, and so the subject of the school's on-campus gym came up. I looked into the gym when I came on campus for orientation, but I couldn't get in, and it turns out you have to have a towel (for wiping the machines after you use them, etc) in order to get in. I just called the place (they're open till 10 tonight) and the guy said you could purchase a towel there for $4 or bring your own. I also confirmed that you need your own towel for the showers. I may ask Mum and Papa if they have an extra one of those gym towels I've seen them use, or I may just buy my own, since $4 is not all that much. I don't tend to use gym machines much, but during my P.E. class at Mira Costa I got into the stationary bikes and the treadmill at their mini-gym. I think I also used the Lat machine a lot (which exercises your lats, or your latissimus dorsi, a large muscle across your back). I might not have a lot of time to go there, but maybe I can go for a bit in the morning if I get there early enough. I just need to get off the campus shuttle at Chavez Circle and I can walk from there. Day use of the lockers is free, so I can put my stuff in there to keep it out of the way.

I decided to re-read The Everything Guide to Writing a Novel as my pleasure reading today and it got me thinking about writing again. I haven't written in a while, except synopses. My two major novel ideas are Darkly Bound (Avalon's story, the one I started for Anime Angels) and an unnamed story about the Christian Youth Alliance and Avalon's neice Emily (who takes the spot of Coral Chandler, who originally was going to be in that story before I decided to part with Lightning Girl forevermore). I also had an idea today about a mystery - either a thriller or a cozy, I'm not sure - involving a bus murderer, somebody who murders people on buses. I figured I can use my experience riding the bus in such an idea. The only reason I thought it might be a cozy is because cozy mysteries are known for featuring amateur sleuths, and I like the idea of an amateur sleuth (like Allan Lewis of my short story "The Murder at the Green Snake Inn," and Jessica Blake, the protagonist of my first mystery novel The Chess Master).

I am looking at The Chess Master now and it seems like it could be good with a little more historical research and probably some reworking. I also might make Jean more evil, as he was in the first manuscript of the novel, which I've lost. I was somewhat discouraged from working on The Chess Master when my friend Tammy gave it a read-over and sent the typed novel back to me with many comments, some critical, which I took to heart too easily. I think I could approach it better now. I am actually getting better at responding to criticism and taking constructive criticism in some regards, thanks mainly to having to respond to YouTube comments. Sassyrecombinantpass on YouTube has been particularly constructive about my SeraMyu songdubs. As for my writing, I seem to have gotten to a level where there isn't (so far) peer review of essays, which makes me feel more comfortable. This may change when I get to the Creative Writing workshop. My main weak area in taking criticism still is the workplace, where I fall into extreme paranoia that any minor misstep will result in me being fired (which is why I was so nervous after the incident with doing my homework at the sample table) and my weakness of taking everything seriously (which might be a symptom of my Asperger's) often makes me fall for jokes and look silly. I think I can take criticism from my coworkers, but I am still intimidated by and/or defensive around my superiors.

I would like to work on The Chess Master, since it is set in the 1930's, which was one of my favorite historical periods at the time I wrote it. I think if I really got into the research, I could get into it again.

Aside from all this, in the back of my mind right now I am thinking about websites. I don't think history and mythology are good topics because my interests in the former are generally in subjects about which there is not a lot of information available, and my interest in the latter covers two types of mythology - Greco-Roman and Norse - about which there are a great deal of websites already. I might still do something with the minor goddess list I was compiling till recently. I just don't know what. I wanted to call it "The Goddess Project" but there is already a site by that name dealing with the anime Ah! My Goddess (whose three goddess characters are based off the Norns, a fate-ruling trio of women, in Norse mythology). So I have to think of a different name.

I am debating how much to update Misty's Piscine before putting it online; I don't want to never update it. I suppose I could update the "files" I already have in the Water Pokémon Database to Platinum level and then add Pokémon later. Now that I think about it, I do still want part of the site to be about Misty, but I can't update much on the manga front since I haven't gotten any more Pokémon manga. I can update the anime front for sure, and I was until recently compiling a "ship" list for her. I might be able to update the part about her sisters too. And the little thing on why water-types are so great can be made more of a serious essay, rather than the silly bullet list of uses for each water-type that it is now. Come to think of it, I may also add TCG information to the site as well, since my extensive collection of TCG cards for Pokémon will allow me to do this easily.

Speaking of the TCG, I bought a two-boosters-with-a-promo-card package a little while ago at Wal-Mart. The promo card was Misdreavus, which is great cause back when I used to actually make decks to play with, I often used psychic as a backup for my water-types. Plus, I have a Misdreavus in my Pearl game which is useful because it is pure Ghost, unlike my other Ghost-type, Haunter, and it still knows Mean Look (a move which keeps wild Pokémon from escaping), which I am looking to use to catch the ever elusive Cresselia. Despite having Misdreavus (which I nicknamed "Miz," like "Les Miz" for Les Misérables) in first slot with Mean Look, Cresselia still tends to run away even if I get to pick my move first and pick Mean Look. Then, one of my boosters had a card for Misdreavus's evolved form, Mismagius, which is even better. And even if I choose to go with colorless rather than psychic as a backup (another possibility I've tried), I got a Togekiss (the final evolved form of Togepi) in another pack I got recently that seems pretty powerful. And I have a Togepi (which I traded for) and a Light Togetic. So I'm good.

Well I can't think of anything more to say. I think I got out the anxieties I was feeling earlier. Good night.

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