Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Unnecessary Trepidation

Life, happiness, pain, and suffering have ever been relative. As you may imagine, this translates quite naturally to the world of writing as well, with often humorous results. Topics relative to one person often end up meaningless to another, and points of elaboration cannot be trivially chosen. If you intend to take care in your writing, you may wish to analyze the positioning of your imagery, your drama, and your humor. For my narrative today, I give two perspectives of a classroom incident: one of simplicity, and another of high-quality verbose elaboration, which in my opinion can be considered a waste in time, energy, and semi-decent writing that could've been focused elsewhere. In other words, I think it's bs. And dangerous bs. A lot of masters created beautiful works on meaningless drivel this way, but many were also able to salvage it for more appropriate use.

True, it was an amazingly fun writing exercise in melodrama, and I heartily recommend it to you all,
so long as you clearly declare its purpose.

But overall, it is a warning: choose the emotional focal points of your scenes wisely.

#1: I got an 'A' on my Math 445 midterm!!!.

The summary below details a topic whose workload assisted me in nearly destroying my grades in other classes last year and this year.

      Today, in Cryptography, Professor Klaus Lux handed out our midterm results.

      Last year, in the same class (different teacher), this evil midterm mocked me with topics I could not comprehend, and cunningly convinced me to switch to audit while it taunted me, and told me to retreat while I had the chance.
      Now, one year later, I thank my lucky stars that I did retreat. But in that agonizingly long year, I was not idle; I eagerly plotted my triumphant revenge upon that midterm, and awaited the chance to carry out this deed of daring!

      This year, I stuck with the class, knowing I would be unable to change status by the time the midterm (the first test!) came around. It would be all or nothing! I knew my other classes would be in danger, but I felt ready for the challenge. I suffered through the classwork. I worked hard. My other classes faded to insignificance under the growing mountain of torcherous, mazelike terrain defined by the course material (Except the physics 182 lab course. GOD I LOVE that class! All jokes aside, I really do.) After armoring myself with abstract algebra and the foundation axioms of mathematics, I called Fermat, Euler, and Gauss to my right side, and countless mathmematicians from Ancient China who passed on the secret of the Chinese Remainder Theorem to my left! That fateful day, one week ago to the day, we waged war upon that midterm! Pencil versus paper, tooth and nail, graphite and erasor, I gave my all. In the end, there was no clear victor: the battle was over, but the waiting had just begun.

      For an agonizing week I did my best to bide time and relax. I gathered my energies, prayed, and caught up with all my other homework for the first time. (Thanks to an appreciated absence of math homework due this week. As a result, I'm about to finish all my extra physics textbook work for the rest of the semester!) I was approaching full circle and waited to cross the threshold past the landmark of my humiliating retreat last year.

      Before ending class today, Professor Lux took out the box of graded tests, searching through them as if checking each little monster was safely-restrained. - I easily identified mine on top due to the colored paper (This is why I use yellow legal pads to write my homework: it's easy to identify in a stack). To my horror, he then mentioned something about geography and briefly muttered my name under his breath. With a flourish, he tucked my midterm neatly away, imprisoned underneath his arm. He began calling out for students to pick up their tests.

      Name, after agonizing name, each student was called to claim an exam. And they did. They returned to their desks, packed their bags, and left.
One student remained uncalled.

      My test, I silently screamed. What about my test?!

      I knew I left out the final step in the fourth problem: across the battlefield, Fermat shouted ample warning to me, but I didn't understand until it was too late.

      I knew I was in over my head at the fifth problem: Euler had abandoned me far earlier, believing his services were required elsewhere.

      I began to worry if I had missed something even more dangerous; some final trick that the midterm had deviously crafted just for this occaision.

      Instantly, I recalled the incident at the testing center - it flooded my thoughts with volumetric depth and taunting clarity: I exceeded my time limit, and was compelled by policy (and the helpful staff members at the testing center) to sign suspiciously 'legalese'-styled paperwork explaining my predicament. Sure, they attempted to sooth my fears. Sure, they told me that this tradegy occurs often - so often they couldn't even count... they sympathized, they explained that only the hardest of hardass teachers would attack the grade resultant of a student's extended testing time.

      As it turned out, I was ... inconsolable. (Blatant "Kill Bill Volume #2" reference. Watch Kill Bill ! Great pair of movies right there!)

      I wondered if the score was zero. I wondered whether my score was simply so bad he didn't want anyone to see it, and would talk to me about it after class. Maybe it was just an accident, he forgot to hand it to me... And maybe not.

      After most of the other students left, save my fellow kinsmen of the classroom, I walked up to the teacher and asked about my test.
      He looked up at me, startled. "Oh, right! Sorry, you were at the far side of the room, and I had thought to hand it to you after calling someone closer ..." He began shuffling through the much smaller stack of papers.
      With a smile and a quick exhalation that bordered upon hyperventilating, I huffed, "No worries."
      He pulled my test out of the small pile of bloodthirsty, papercutting beasts, and handed it to me, folded so the score wouldn't be visible to others, and resumed packing his lecture materials.

      I accepted the paper thankfully, and found it inanimate in my hand - no papercut, no surface marks save the scars of grey and black where my pencil had struck. I unfolded it to reveal a mysterious set of symbols: the capital greek letter Sigma (summation symbol) followed by '103P' in fine red ink.

      Spontaneously, Professor Lux pointed to the extra-credit problem on the bottom of the first page, where he had encased some of my text in red parentheses and chuckled, "Well I had to give you some credit for this one, eh?"

      I hesitated. "Um, this ... what ... this can't ... does this mean," I rambled, as I usually do if I lose focus on my thoughts. Intuitively, I felt I knew what the symbols meant, but the still-skeptical symbol-reader in me needed full clarification before any emotions could safely dance across my face.
      He turned to me in contemplation, maybe with a raised eyebrow or maybe just a grimace, as though I were a grossly-incorrect math statement. Then he smiled at me. Grinning, he read the digits back to me, "Well, this is a one, this is a zero, and this is a three!"

      My score: one hundred and three. Out of one hundred.

Houston, we are "go" for launch.

[/end hilarious writing exercise]

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