Sickness has played a fairly major role in this semester. My own bout of bronchitis caused me to lose the thread of my online tech/soc/ethics/whateverthehellthisis class (more about this in future, I suspect), and just as it ended my history prof went down with a suspiciously similar illness and missed nearly two weeks of lectures. Fortunately, what we need to know for the final in that class will be pretty well-documented, and I should be able to catch up.
Then my physics instructor experienced a sinus/ear infection that at one point caused him to cough so violently that, though recovered from the actual illness now, he has lost his voice. This is particularly a problem for him, as his usual approach is to teach the lecture as if it’s a late-night TV commercial for that exciting new retail product, introductory college physics. Seriously, it’s like spending three hours in a room with Science Billy Mays. He even kind of looks like the late Mr. Mays.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that losing his voice is a particularly troublesome kind of disaster for this particular teacher. When we arrived two Thursdays ago for lab, which was a demonstration of gas pressure phenomena (the balloon in the bell jar, siphon principles, etc.), he had to show us a video of a previous year’s version that someone had shot with a Flip camera. Which is fine, except that the student he had doing the recording didn’t know that Flip cameras will not record indefinitely, so we didn’t actually have the part of the lab involving siphons.
This was smooth sailing compared to the following Tuesday (the day before Thanksgiving break began), when I arrived in the classroom (after, I just want to point out, a 75-mile drive from my house to where it is) to be handed a pair of DVDs by an unspeaking instructor and waved back out the door. On the plus side, that makes reviewing bits of the lectures on temperature, thermal expansion, and the general gas law easier. On the minus side, that was a lot of gas burned to pick up a couple of DVDs. If I had known, I could have done it Monday, when I was already down there anyway.
Yesterday I got in and discovered that his voice still hasn’t returned, but he doesn’t have movies of the ideal gas law and calorimetry lectures, so… well, let’s just say it was painful to listen to.
On the other hand, it was the last of the lectures for my division of the class; our last test is next week, and then we have the option of coming back the following week (finals week) at the usual time to retake any or all of the four tests we have time for.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must be off and write an essay about my preferred world future. This should be interesting, particularly as it largely involves a wish that humanity will finally outgrow superstition.
A few weeks ago I went out to get the mail, and there was an official-looking envelope from the University. As I was just in the process of trying to sort out what classes to take this fall, I figured it probably had something to do with that, so I opened it up… and found, instead, a letter from the math department that read in part,
Congratulations! Based on your interest and success in mathematics here at the University of Maine, you have been nominated for membership in Pi Mu Epsilon. You are cordially invited to join the mathematics honor society and become a lifetime member.
I found this… surprising, since my "interest and success in mathematics here at the University of Maine," to date, has consisted of an A in Precalculus. I do have credit for (and pretty good grades in) Calculus I and II, but they’re from WPI in the early ’90s. I mean, I’m not innumerate, but I wouldn’t have thought of myself as national-mathematics-honor-society material. In fact, I was so puzzled I assumed it had to be some sort of mistake and took the letter to the math department office to say so. I figured it was probably meant for some other Benjamin Hutchins (weirdly, there appear to be three in the University’s computer right now), and he’d be sad if he didn’t get it. Then, satisfied with my good deed for the day, I went on my way.
The next week, the math department office staff called me up to say, "Nope, we checked, it’s really for you. Are you in?"
So, hey, not for me to argue. I went and picked up my certificate today before the engine tests, and it does indeed have my name on it:
Here’s hoping I don’t crash and burn spectacularly in diffy q’s next semester! I wonder if it’s like a gang initiation and they beat you out if that happens.