Monday, December 31, 2012

Special guest blogger Taylor Reffett: A rebuttal

We need to clarify some things. Yes, you and me. Liz doesn't talk to you much, does she? Too busy talking about herself and making fun of me. But let's get one thing straight: I am not the person Liz portrays me as. I am not bossy or pushy or angry. Well, I'm angry when Liz does something stupid, which is more often than you may think. Like when she tried to make cake balls.

Liz and Katherine, another friend from the cross country team, had a breakfast club in their Geosystems class where people brought in food every class. Every. Single. Class. I imagine they got more done in Geosystems than my class did, since I just napped.

Back to cake balls. Don't ask me why they were making cake balls for breakfast. Probably because muffins are just bald cupcakes, so by the transitive property, cake balls are just spherical muffins. Katherine went over to Liz's house after track practice the night before, and I went home, safe from the horrors of baking. How much could go wrong, I figured. Despite Liz's complete and utter incompetence as a baker (and cook in general), surely Katherine would compensate and prevent any egregious mistakes.

Sometimes I assume too much.

These are Liz's favorite cupcakes. They are carrot cake. She hates carrots, so I made them as a joke. Don't ask me why  she loves them.

The phone calls started during dinner. What flavors should we make? Can we use canned frosting? Baking soda and baking powder are different things, right?

Liz lives five minutes from a grocery store. And by five minutes, I mean a five minute walk, max. But, after many hours and too many questions, they refused to go to the store again when it came time to coat the cake balls in chocolate. After talking them through how to melt the chocolate, clearly stating to melt it on low to medium heat, I got another call.

"What now?" I asked.

"Um," Liz began. "I think the chocolate caramelized."

Caramelized? Onions caramelize. Bananas caramelize. Caramelization is a type of non-enzymatic browning, a chemical reaction that happens when sugar molecules are heated extensively. But chocolate? Chocolate does not caramelize, and if it does, it takes either superb skill or impressive stupidity.

"It--what?" I asked.

"Well, it's solid and kind of brown. And it smells kind of bad."

"It's burnt, Liz." Could she really be that naive?

" do I fix that?"

I sighed and told her to give the phone to Katherine. I told her to go buy more chocolate and melt it on low heat. Low.

Somehow the cake balls ended up edible. I think. I don't actually know since they weren't vegan, and TJ students aren't known for being picky. But no one died (or choked, like with her first attempt at vegan cookies in the fall).

The fiend and me. Plus Apples to Apples in the background.

I've been putting up with Liz for four years. For the first year, I never thought I would be friends with her. She was weird and outspoken, embarrassingly so. Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan spoke at our high school my freshman year. After a circuitous speech on how to fix education in America, he opened the floor to questions. Liz immediately stood up and rushed to get in line for the microphone.

Her turn came. "Do you really think that other schools measure up to us?" she pompously asked. The jaws of everyone in the auditorium dropped in unison. How could she have possibly said that? Our high school is the "brain drain" school, where all the nerds go. Yes, we are smart. But we are also (usually) humble about it and don't brag. But Liz said it.

Secretary Duncan scrambled together an answer. But no one remembers the answer, just the question and, more importantly, the asker.

I first met Liz in French class on the first day of high school. To preface, let me just say that Liz is terrible at every language except for English. The random unpronouned letters that characterize French only made things worse.

As expected, our teacher spoke exclusively in French. I was able to pick up most of it and was feeling pretty confident in myself. At one point, Madame made a joke that most people didn't catch but chuckled along anyway, but Liz burst out laughing. Madame asked her to explain the joke. Everyone stared at her as she fumbled for words. She clearly didn't know even know what the joke had been, nonetheless how to explain in French. After an awkward minute, Madame sighed and explained the joke.

That was the not altogether inaccurate view of Liz I held for the rest of the year.

Liz tends to exaggerate me on this blog. But everything I have written about her is completely accurate. When this gets out of hand, I'll be back to set the record straight.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Book Review: Royal Flush, by Scott Bartlett

Ah, comedy. Of all forms of writing, comedy is, most of all, suited for pure amusement. It takes a sick mind to analyze comedy, breaking it down into lightbulbs and knock on doors and constituent chickens. Thankfully, I have that kind of sick mind. This week's review is Royal Flush, by Scott Bartlett. This medieval comedy starts a little slow, but soon finds its stride as a colorful cast of characters vie for love, power, and revenge.
The length to wide ratio of this cover art is non-standard. Also, it's got a toilet.
We meet the King--an unnamed sovereign--and his devoted, intelligent advisor. The advisor wants the King to get married to ensure the stability of the kingdom. The King (who only got his throne because no one else wanted it) doesn't want to. Until he meets the alluring but coldhearted Alice, who becomes the first of many women to take--and break--his heart. Of the four parts of the story, the beginning is the weakest, as the first few pages focus on the interactions between the King and his advisor instead of building up a wacky, diverse cast of characters who can simultaneously sustain running gags and lead the story in interesting new directions.

We get Frederick, the King's fiddler, whose girlfriend Eliza/Alice (not the first Alice, a different one), secretly hits on the King and her therapist. We get Duke Edward, editor of the Kingdom Crier, a tabloid magazine that occasionally prints pictures of the king in drag. We get the King's mother, Gertrude, who's spent several years in her son's dungeon and would like to see him overthrown. And we get the Linguists' Guild, a group of travelling scholars developing a unified theory of language that fits all languages in the world (save one, but the King kindly agrees to exterminate that culture for them).

Even though the real plot doesn't fully come into play until about a quarter of the way through the novel, the gags and pratfalls are funny enough to keep you reading. Bartlett's timestamps are particularly good at adding quick infusions of humor: "an issue of the Kingdom Crier later" and "after 7 hours of amazing sleep" are some particularly good ones. The author's intrusions into the manuscript are self aware and witty, for example, "[The King] was beginning to think perhaps he had finally found happiness. Wouldn't that have made for a boring story!" Royal Flush is anything but boring. When Bartlett hits his stride, nothing can slow him down.

Highs: Wit. The humor in this story primarily relies on one-liners and running gags, with a strong undercurrent of situational comedy. Character development. The King started to grow on me, after a while, and I enjoyed his many errors on the road to finding true love.

Lows: Slow beginning. The introduction could have used a bit more wit, to really convince me that this was humor worth reading.

It may not exposed any dark truths about the nature of humanity, but Royal Flush is a fun, easy read that will keep you reading until the bitter (or not so bitter) end. For a comedy, I give it four out of five stars. For a novel, I give it three and a half.

You can download Royal Flush here

Monday, December 24, 2012

Liz's ideas for last minute Christmas gifts

We've all been there, right? Christmas eve and you still don't have presents for that special someone--like your mom, dad, sister, brother, inlaws, friends, stepfamilly, pets, or all of the above. Thankfully, there's some handy solutions to that problem.
Besides reducing your shopping list by force

First of all, try the local frozen yogurt place. There's about fifty different franchises to choose from: Pinkberry, Sweetfrog, Yogenfruitz, Umlautfruitz, ADHDfrog, Cocaine, Berryyogurt, Yogurtyogurt . . . but most of them sell yogurt priced by the ounce. Don't bother getting the actual yogurt, though. Fill your cup up with whipped cream. It's light and cheap and makes a great present for kids from age 2-8.  Bonus tip: scoop the whipped cream on top of a cup of coffee, give it to a teenage girl, and tell her it's Starbucks. Basically, there's no real difference.

If that doesn't work out, try Your Neighbor's Backyard. There's all kinds of good stuff there and most of it is free. Sticks, rocks, and Your Neighbor's cat might not seem like they work well together, but try tying them all together with string. At best, you've got a living, breathing work of art that's sure to impress your fancy mother-in-law. If not, you've got one more cat to give Crazy Aunt Bertha. Also, any toddler in your family will enjoy sucking on the rock.

What about stocking stuffers? Easy! Almost every restaurant fancy enough to offer 'hors d'ovueres' instead of 'appetizers' has a bowl of mints near the hostess stand. It's a bit tricky to figure out how many you can swipe before they throw you out--trial and error will serve thee well. If the maiter'd (look, I suck at French) grabs your collar and tries to haul you out a window, remind him that it's almost Christmas. Santa is watching. I think they have Santa in France. Santa only works one day a year, too.

There's the mall, but it's expensive and crowded.

Gift cards are the perfect solution for your holiday woe. Just grab a piece of paper, write 'Merry X-mas' (because 'Christmas' takes a long time to write, and you've got a bunch of people to give to), stuff it in an envelope, and give them out Christmas morning. It's a gift! It's a card! It's a (wait for it) gift card! Whoever made this a socially acceptable gift has my eternal gratitude

If you want to get fancy (like, say, a gift for your boss), there's no avoiding it: you'll have to go to the grocery store. Stuff here costs money, but has the advantage of being both delicious and coming in all kinds of cool packages. If you've got cool colored duct tape and a few bags of Doritos, you have all the ingredients you need for an awesome your boss can eat! But why stop at packaged food? A tomato is the perfect gift for that special man/woman/cat in your life. It's round, like eternity (apparently, eternity is really really fat). It's red, like a heart (especially when it's been freshly plucked from a human chest). Put it together and you'll see that a tomato is a symbol of eternal love. Also, if you stick it under your shirt, it's pretty easy to shoplift.

If you've got to get a gift for someone you don't really like, try giving some money to a charity in their name. When they ask you what you got them for Christmas, inform them that curing Kim Kardashian's hangnail is way more important than their crass commercialism. While they're stunned by your impeccable logic, steal their purse.
See? Kim needs you.

If all else fails, don't forget: Christmas is magic! Santa's coming to your house tonight and he's bringing the present you want most--those other presents you forgot to buy for your family and friends. So go to sleep and forget all your worries. Santa will save you. Right? Right!

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Book Review: Domus Inter, by Sarah Carter

            You know, if I ever found myself living in the universe where all YA novels take place, I think I’d start a support group: Parents of Protagonists United. These poor men and women pour their time, energy, and love into their children until they reach age sixteen, at which point they’re killed, kidnapped, and tortured while their child disappears, off on some grand adventure, and comes home with a romance interest who’s dangerous, defiant, and so not the nice doctor or lawyer you hoped your kid would marry. There’s a much more interesting novel in that than in any teen romance ever written.
Hey! I own a necklace that looks just like that!

            This weeks’ review is Domus Inter, the first novel by author Sarah Carter. Ironically, it reminded me very much of my first ever stab at writing—a little monstrosity called The Star, in which a young girl also inherits a mysterious property somewhere in the British Isles. My property was a bit cooler, but Carter’s romantic lead is a great deal sexier, so I’ll call it a tie.

            Domus Inter—which anyone forced to sit through an SAT prep class filled with Latin roots would know means House Between—is a mysterious old mansion in the English countryside. When the last of the Lloyd family, the house’s mysterious owners, dies in a speedboat accident, the family of Harriet Lawson inherits it, despite none of them knowing the Lloyds very well at all. Harriet, who’s always felt like a ‘caged tiger, raised in captivity and taught tricks, but still dreaming an ancestral dream of the jungle’, hopes she won’t be ‘doomed to the normal, stereotypical life of someone of my generation and culture’. Saying that you think a normal life is a kind of ‘doom’ seemed a bit pretentious to me, but it’s also consistent with Harriet’s personality.

            When she arrives at Domus Inter with her parents, older sister Leona, and younger sister Rachel, Harriet becomes caught up with a criminal conspiracy involving the estate solicitor and a young man named Mord, who’s not afraid to get his hands a little dirty to achieve his goals. He needs Harriet to help him cast a magic spell that will transport him to his homeworld of Phaliana. However, when he takes her sisters hostage to force Harriet to cast the spell, Harriet and her two sisters are whisked off to Phaliana with him.

            It’s here that Harriet discovers a mysterious prophecy hidden in Arthurian legend—and the deliciously sexy Jack, whose careless attitude and bossiness is quite attractive. With the help of a magical amulet known as the True Heart, Harriet sets out after an ‘evil’ witch named Morgan—although if one takes a look at all the crimes attributed to her throughout the book (murder, child abandonment, destruction of property), she actually hasn’t done much worse things than anyone else in the land of Phaliana.

            It’s refreshing to see a YA fantasy with morally ambiguous characters. Harriet’s no saint—she has an enormous superiority complex and is capable of being quite ruthless when she thinks the greater good depends on it. She wouldn’t be out of place in the Game of Thrones universe, at least as far as morality is concerned. But she has a strong sense of duty and doesn’t whine, which are always refreshing virtues in a YA protagonist.

            Part of my trouble with Harriet’s character comes from her treatment of her older sister, Leona, who she describes as incredibly fake and shallow. At the same time, we know that Leona also is attending nursing school—an extremely selfless, important profession—and is the only member of the family who actually has a job. The relationship between the two sisters is caustic on both sides, but Harriet’s treatment of her sister feels overly ruthless.
            So maybe Domus Inter isn’t full of sympathetic characters—but they’re sure interesting. First novels are always tricky beasts, and often it’s difficult for the author to distance themselves from the work and look at it with a critical eye. The Last Judges, a book I reviewed a few months ago, is also a first novel (which I was shocked to discover after I’d read it), but I think the author’s collaborative effort helped keep it good.

            Highs: Moral dissonance. It’s good to have a little muddying of the waters sometimes. The love triangle. It isn’t very traditional, which is a good thing.

            Lows: Paragraph structure. Every paragraph was roughly the same length, which can lull the reader into skipping over parts. Names. ‘Phaliana’, the magical land consisting of Avalon and the other country with no real effect on the plot. It just sounds . . . fake. And phallic. Lampshade hanging. Over and over and over, we’re told this is not a fairy tale, that this isn’t the kind of thing you’d read about in books. Except we live in an age where very few books actually tell the traditional fairy tales. You won’t convince anyone your book is different just by saying it is.  

            My rating? As YA fantasy, I’ll give it three and a half stars. As a novel, three.

You can download Domus Inter here

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Return to The Melting Pot

So in celebration of me not being at college anymore, my family and I went out to The Melting Pot. I have a history at that place that goes back a few years, but it's okay, because none of the servers recognized me when I arrived. We got seated and they brought out the first fondue pot. It was full of cheese.

This place again! Minus my nutty friends. Plus my nutty family!

When my family goes out to dinner, things can get pretty interesting pretty fast. Like this time. They brought us fruit, vegetables  bread, and chips. My sister grabbed the chips. My mom grabbed the vegetables  Despite her assurance that the cauliflower was delicious, I was the only one who tried it.

My dad's wearing this sweater that's older than I am. Turns out, it was a Christmas gift for my uncle back in the nineties, but my mom lost it and didn't find it until after Christmas, so it went to my dad. This would explain why it's too big for him. What it doesn't explain is how a garment that's almost twenty years old can be worn out to a formal dinner (although my sister is wearing a sweatshirt, so I guess there's a precedent).

The conversation turns to world affairs, because we're just smart like that. Mom says she'd love to travel more. I mention Scotland, and we both decide we'd love to go there someday.

"Scotland? Why Scotland?" Molly says.

"Because it's a beautiful country," says Mom.

Dad laughs. "I know the real reason they want to go to Scotland. It's because of those stupid--I'm sorry, heartbreakingly beautiful--romance novels."

"The Outlander books are good!" I insist.

"Get this, Molly," he says. "Your mother and sister are reading these books about these Scottish men who wear nothing under their kilts. Diane," he says to my mom, "would you rather I wear a kilt out to dinner?"

"No!" Mom says, thankfully killing the worst mental image ever.

The meat comes. We put it in the boiling broth. You're supposed to leave shrimp in for ninety seconds, red meat for two to three minutes, potatoes for four . . . and it's all really complicated and I don't pay attention. As long as there's no red, it's probably done. Molly, however, is pretty sensitive to getting it right. I hear her over on the other side of the table: ten mississippi, eleven mississippi . . .

"Tell you what," Dad says, when she's gotten to about one hundred twenty seven mississippi. "Why don't I let you borrow my watch?"

So meat is consumed in vast quantities. Looking  back, I'm surprised Taylor put up with that last year. What a good friend!

My mom and dad each stick a broccoli in the pot. Each broccoli falls off its stick. A hunt begins with the search and rescue spoon. The ownership of both broccoli things is contested.

Molly complains about chores. Dad tells her those chores are nothing compared to what he did as a kid (and since he spent a whole summer digging up and leveling his lawn, it isn't). Molly tells him, yes, because he was struggling to survive in the wilds outside of Princeton. To be fair, I know quite a few Princeton people, and it can indeed get pretty wild up there.

"You went to a prep school," Molly says. "What kind of hard work did you have to do there?"

"Schmoozing," I say.

"What's that?"

"Something you practice at douchebag club," I explain. Mom throws her head back with soundless laughter. Dad frowns.

"We're starting a family swear jar," he says. "Every time a kid swears, they put in a dollar. Every time a parent swears, they put in ten dollars."

"Sweet!" I say. "Dad, you owe me money."

He mumbles something about the jar not starting until January, so I guess I'm still allowed to swear.

The sever came and offered us the desert and drink menu. I wondered out loud if they carded. My mom tells me that whenever you're out with your parents, they card. She sounded a bit like she was talking from personal experience. Dad says what I really should do is bribe the waiter.

"Mr. Franklin says I'm twenty one," he says.

Molly winces. "That's a lot of money. What about George Washington? He never told a lie."

I laughed. "George might have been honest, but he's never been that persuasive."

"Try a penny! Honest Abe vouches for me!"

Dad shakes his head. "I think they'd throw you out of the restaurant for that."

Two hours after our arrival, we drag our full stomachs out to the car. It's parked in the same garage we parked in for my eighteenth birthday party, and I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Monday, December 10, 2012

How NOT to find a party

Ahhh, Collegetown. Cornell's capital of cerveza consumption. The landscaping is beautiful, if you're the kind of person who thinks landscaping should be done with a lawn of red Solo cups and a tasteful asortment of crushed beer cans.

Collegetown. It's peaceful about half the time. Peace and quiet in Collegetown are strongly correlated with time of day.

So when you've just finished your first final and have a few days until your next one, Collegetown is the perfect place to go to kick back, relax, and enjoy yourself with your friends, roommates, and that one skinny guy who keeps vomiting in the bushes. So early last Saturday evening, just past midnight, me and my friends decided to go down to Collegetown in hopes of finding a party.

It was, as usual, way more crowded than it ever was during the daytime. People filled the sidewalks, not really caring whether or not you had room to walk past them. Everyone's smoking. Let me tell you, it's not the drinking that's weird, but the smoking. Regular old cigarettes, not weed. At least alcohol gets you drunk, which can be kind of fun. Smoking just makes you smell bad.

Also, I don't know people who party. I know people who know people who party, though, and these are the people I rely upon to help me find said parties. Normally, this involves them texting their friends who party and asking where those friends are. This allows us to gather valuable information, such as 'at the football house' and 'some frat'. Surprisingly, drunk people don't really remember the street address of their locations too well.

So there we were, walking around Collegetown, looking for a party. There were a lot of girls dressed in Santa hats walking around in stiletto heels. One of the unique things about the Cornell Collegetown is the hills. Collegetown is located on a very steep hill, and it is extremely entertaining to watch drunk girls in five inch heels walking up and down the slope. I've yet to see a truly spectacular wipeout, but I have faith that sooner or later I'll witness the awesome spectacle that is maybe four or five sorority girls falling into each other, domino style, and tumbling over into someone's lawn.

My roommate Audrey assures me that's not sadistic at all, as long as I don't actually push them myself.

So we go and stand outside one house that's having a party. Turns out the friend of a friend who was there is now leaving. Onward to text other people! We walk down the hill, then up the hill, then past the shoe store, the pizza place, and the liquor shop. Guess which one is busiest? Actually, it's the pizza place, seeing as how everyone's too drunk to climb up the steps leading to the liquor shop. It's suggested that we try texting a boy someone knows, but that's vetoed after said girl says she hasn't talked to that boy since the time she made out with him while both of them were drunkenly leaning on me.

As we walk past Collegetown bagels, one of those delightful locations open from six thirty in the morning to two in the . . . next morning, we spot a bus heading back to North Campus, where the rest of the frats are.  We hop on. The bus driver's out taking a smoke, so I don't bother swiping my ID card.

The inside of the bus happens to be pink. Because why not?
While we're sitting on the bus, Audrey points out a guy she says she went to high school with. He looks like he's having a good time, so we all go back and talk to him and ask where he was. Apparently, it was a private party for the men's swim team. So we weren't invited.

Sans alcohol, we had no choice but to retire to my dorm room with a bag of Doritos, mozzarella sticks, and an individual pizza with pineapple, mushrooms, and garlic. And that's how NOT to find a party . . . but still manage to have fun.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Book Review: Tycho, by William Woodall

            If you were a seventeen year old boy with a moral obligation to humanity to have sex with your girlfriend, why wouldn’t you? This question was not answered to my satisfaction in Tycho, by William Woodall, but I guess he was trying to write something PG and I didn’t want to read two hundred pages of space sex anyhow. Because when the human race has been brought down to fifty people following a devastating bacterial infection, you’d think a whiz kid who’s an expert in both computers and biology would realize that every year his girlfriend spends un-pregnant is one fewer individual to help repopulate the Earth. Also, if I was a Nobel-winning biologist devising a master plan to repopulate earth, I wouldn’t take an equal number of males and females to a refuge on the moon. I’d take as many teenage girls as possible and tubes of preserved sperm.

You know, I'm not sure the sky on the moon looks quite like that. 

            There. Now that I’ve let my inner biologist have a say, Tycho happens to be a pretty interesting book. Reminiscent of Freedom’s Landing, by Ann McCaffrey, Tycho combines the traditional elements of space-exploration sci-fi with modern apocalyptic fiction. The title character Tycho, who at the age of seventeen can already hack into government databases and work complicated biological equipment (which, apparently, still uses techniques like gel electrophoresis despite it being two hundred years in the future), discovers info on a mysterious plague called the Orion Strain. It spreads faster than a speeding bullet, and kills even more effectively than said speeding bullet. Tycho does the math—apparently, humanity is screwed.

            Why the government doesn’t just nuke India, where the plague originates, off the face of the planet, is a discussion for another time. Why the government doesn’t have sterile underground bunkers prepared for this kind of thing, seeing as how this is an age where biologically engineered superplagues are in vogue, is also a question for another time. What matters is that Tycho gathers up his family and friends and, with the help of his well-connected teachers, steals a spaceship and flies off to the moon. The partially terraformed Luna now has an atmosphere and a few handily deserted research lab, but it’s still a pretty terra-fying place to be exiled for the rest of your days. Woodall creates an environment that’s convincingly inhospitable and foreign. It’s clear the moon was never intended for humans to live on.

            Nevertheless, Tycho and his friends make the best of it. With the help of his ex-drug dealer girlfriend, Danielle, and his reckless cousin Jesse, the survivors set up their own society in an abandoned research station. One of the best parts of this book is reading about their adventures—boating on the stormy lunar oceans and jumping off bluffs hundreds of feet tall. For the last humans in the universe, they seem to be having a pretty good time. But can they survive . . . the ultimate disaster?

            Well, I’m not going to spoil the ending for you. That’s not my job. Tycho as a character didn’t really connect with me in the beginning—he seems a little emotionally detached. You’d expect learning that the whole human race was about to be wiped out would be spiritually crushing, but we never get to see Tycho curled up in a little ball on the bathroom floor sobbing his brains out when he learns that everything he knows will be torn away from him forever. Instead, he’s all about action and filling up his 31-person rocket ship. Is it just me, or it 31 an odd number of seats to have on any vessel designed to travel anywhere? But Tycho isn’t really a story about the apocalypse—it’s a story about space and survival. And when that last plane to the moon takes off, so does the story. For any fans of hard-science fiction, it doesn’t get much better than this.

            Highs: World-building. The author creates a lunar world both familiar and alien. Adventure. The plot can be slow in places, but this story is full of imagination.

            Lows: Scientific inaccuracy. I’m not talking about biology here, but the way that computer technology and everyday life doesn’t seem to have changed much all these years in the future. People still use vending machines, eat Snickers, read paper newspapers? People barely read paper newspapers today! Standard characterization. None of the main characters really made much of a permanent impact on my mind.

Did I like this book? Yes. Would I read it again? Yes. Would I recommend it to people who like sci-fi? Yes. My rating? As sci-fi, I’ll give it four stars out of five. As a novel? Three.

—Liz Ellor, O43

You can download Tycho hereYou can also go here and purchase my book, Iceclaw.

Monday, December 3, 2012

How NOT to study for finals

First of all, just want to say that this is my fiftieth post. Isn't that neat? Second, it's finally December. Which means final exams are coming. Which means I should be studying.

Okay, my parents read this blog, and I don't want them to think I'm wasting my time at the very expensive school they're sending me to. Let me reassure them that I'm trying my very best to study, and . . . is that a lighthouse? Yes, it is!

Darn natural beauty gets me every time! Also, so does listening to music and watching the men unloading the FedEx truck parked just below the window. I've got a nice comfy chair in Uris library, I'll probably go running in a bit . . . is it really worth it to just sit down and study for a few minutes? What do you mean, it's already three o'clock? The day is halfway over and I've accomplished about a paragraph of this twelve page paper.

Two paragraphs now! And someone's stuck an Orange Crush wrapper on the library window! Wow, I'm actually making progress on this paper! If only I could make as much progress on studying for these three gigantic tests.

Audrey says that the pressure leading up to a test makes you study most when it's really important, so procrastination is okay. Ayesha says she'll think up something to say about procrastination later.

Has anyone every procrastinated from procrastination? Procrast-inception? Like, when you decide you'll totally write that essay after you finish watching one more episode of The Vampire Diaries, and then you put off watching that episode by screwing around on the internet?

Speaking of which, you'd be surprised how cozy a notebook full of equations becomes when you've banished yourself to the library and forced yourself to try and study. And how hard it is to maintain interest in the book I brought with me to read if I got bored with studying.

Okay, ten minutes wasted with SNL. Kate Middleton is having a baby? OMG! So much British everywhere!

The best thing about studying in the Cornell libraries are the exhibits. Did you know Morrill Hall is the oldest building on campus and is named after the senator who authored the law that . . .Ayesha found the location of Hogwarts on Google Maps! That's funny!

The FedEx truck is driving away and Ayesha wants to know where Scotland is. I realize we're learning a lot. Unfortunately, none of it will be on our finals.
Yes, I realize I'm supposed to be reviewing American foreign policy as it related to the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis, but all I can think is, Wow, that place was huge.
Three more paragraphs down. Seven more pages to go.

Good luck with finals, everybody!