Reflections on the GRE and Neil Diamond

A Haiku in Fifty-Seven Parts.

Just kidding.

Reflections on the GRE:

It was much more high security than I thought it would be.  The ACT, I remember, was most of my high school senior class packed onto tables in the cafeteria.  We were allowed several breaks, during which we could stretch and chat and wander freely.  The GRE was me in a cubical with a computer and some scratch paper.  No interacting whatsoever was allowed, and entering/exiting the testing site meant a security scan and “turn out your pockets.”

The test itself wasn’t so bad.  I’m glad I took those practice tests, because I generally knew what to expect, how to use the provided calculator, etc.  Right off the bat was the Analytical Writing bit, which I, admittedly, had been dreading even more than the math.  Writing I have no problem with.  Writing under pressure, however, having to make coherent, organized, snappy arguments in a short amount of time, is not always my strong suit.  It went really, really well though.  I had a lot to say, but I had sufficient time to say it, and even to read it over a few times for good measure.  That made me feel confident heading into the rest of the test, and I have to say that if my Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning scores aren’t up to snuff, I’ll be crushed to have to retake the test and lose those beautiful (if you’ll allow me the presumption) Analytical Writing scores.

Reflections on What Happened Afterward:

Immediately following the GRE, after I breathed a few long sighs of relief on the sidewalk, where the sun was beating down like nothing had happened, Mom picked me up and shuttled me downtown to the St. Paul Grill.

Now, when my Aunt, who is the only other person in the family who was excited at the prospect of seeing Neil Diamond, said that we’d have dinner at the St. Paul Grill, I thought of outdoor seating, sandwiches and salads, paper placemats that we could doodle on if our meal took an hour to arrive.  What I didn’t think of was this:

Possibly the best restaurant in the Twin Cities, stationed inside the St. Paul hotel, which was built in 1910 and features the likes of crystal chandeliers, roses, tuxedoed men, and darkly-papered rooms lined with rich wood.

People like Gene Autry, Lawrence Welk, James J. Hill, and Charles Lindbergh have stayed at the hotel.

That pales, however, in comparison to the person whose picture was hanging unassumingly on the wall of the Grill.

I know you’ve guessed it.

This guy ate at the St. Paul Grill back when the mirrored bar wasn’t lined with gem-like bottles of alcohol:

And so, of course, my night was made even before we got to the concert.

Neil was wonderful, though, as I suspected he would be.  Not only does he still sound (for the most part) the way he did in the 1970s, but that man knows how to work a crowd.  He would stop in between songs to tell stories, or to say something gracious about the audience, or to voice a ridiculous notion like his mission to ‘earn our loyalty’ through his performance.  You’ve already got it, Mr. Diamond.

Several of the people we ran into, for example, mentioned that they had been coming to see Neil since he first played the Twin Cities over forty years ago. “Some of the old folks have died off since he was last here,” quipped the twinkly man in front of me.

Another thing I’ll say for Neil is that he didn’t skimp on the classics.  “Sweet Caroline” (BUH BUH BUH), “Cracklin’ Rosie,” “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Shores” (my favorite), “Forever in Blue Jeans,” “Cherry, Cherry,” “I Am…I Said,” and of course…

I couldn’t resist making an illegal recording.  Neil Diamond was singing my song, for heavens’ sakes.

My Room is a Pigsty: An Analysis

My room usually acts as a gauge for the pace of my life.  When I’m relaxed, with little on my plate, my room is clean, save the never-shrinking pile of books on my nightstand.  When I’m busy however, with no time to pick up after myself, my room looks the way it does presently:

Nightstand littered not only with books, but with knickknacks: a miniature fan from last week’s heat wave, two empty plastic cups that once held water, a plastic jewel I saved from Cherry’s mouth and then took home in my pocket by mistake, lotion that doesn’t seem to work on mosquito bites, a compass from physics class, duct tape I accidentally stole from the theatre (I’m noticing a trend here), half a dozen bobby pins, and a watch that still sports the crusty remains of Ponyboy’s “Mud Monster” afternoon.

Clothes on floor, movies on floor, empty oatmeal canisters on floor (who am I kidding?  I will never use them for a craft project), several shoes on floor, sheaf of pages from my Word of the Day calendar on floor.

As I sit on the bed, typing to you in the semi-darkness (so I can’t see the pigsty that is my room, of course), I am surrounded by physics notebook, folder, and textbook, three of my research books, Anna Karenina (current ‘for fun’ read), plus camera, iPod, brush, and (goodness knows why) checkbook.

I’m ignoring everything, however, until after the GRE.  That happens Wednesday.  I took a practice test today, and found out that while I score in the 95th percentile for Verbal Reasoning, my Quantitative Reasoning is dismal.  The thing about the GRE is that if you get an answer wrong, they give you an easier question next (and if you get one right, they give you a harder question next).  Knowing this, the entire time I tested I was distracted trying to decide whether a question was harder or easier than the last.  I probably shouldn’t let myself think about that on Wednesday.

No matter how it goes, however, I’ll have a phenomenal evening in store.  My aunt and I are going to see this beautiful man:

Please tell me you appreciate the classic feel-good sound that is Neil Diamond.  And please don’t ask me if I’m actually a 65 year-old woman in disguise.  I get that enough from my mom and my sister.

Sounds of Summer (Failed Attempt)

This post was supposed to be a carefully-selected smorgasboard (oxymoron?  Maybe?) of videos.  The videos were supposed to represent songs that remind me of summer, and my commentary following every video was supposed to be wittily reminiscent of a late night infomercial.

Unfortunately, as often happens when I become too ambitious with my technological dealings, the videos didn’t show up.

So I’m giving up, and will, for this post at least, quit being lazy and actually write something.

I spent the better part of the afternoon in the Social Science office moving file cabinets around, and then digging through hundreds of keys so that said file cabinets might be unlocked.  No luck, but as I wrote the lock numbers on my hand in permanent marker, I will be forced to check every key I come across for the rest of my life.

Not much else to report.  More reading, more GRE studying, more bike riding, more working.  And lots of walks at night, which should surely be required in the summer, as I can’t think of anything lovelier.

Verbal Reasoning

I’ve spent the better part of today poring over the Verbal Reasoning chapter of my GRE study book.

I wasn’t exactly worried about verbal reasoning initially.  I’m a reader and a writer; I like to think that words are my strong suit.  But then they started throwing around crazy words like “ameliorated” and “iconoclasm.”  That’s when I decided I might need to make some vocabulary flashcards after all.

Something else I noticed is that when it comes to questions taken from a passage, I score exponentially higher when I’m interested in the passage subject material.  Got 100% on the Wuthering Heights passage questions.  Got 0% on the Soviet Union agriculture passage questions.  Not good.

In other news, it’s the Strawberry Full Moon tonight.  Go outside and enjoy it.


Grad School

After a few days of sore throat, I woke up this morning with a fever, and a desire to never leave bed again.

I called in sick for work, and then I slept for five more hours.

Then I felt better.

Better enough, in fact, to pick a GRE testing site, register for a date and time, and continue my grad school research.

It’s frightening, this search for a grad school.  More so than my undergraduate search was.     Probably because the programs are tougher, they’re specific, they require huge personal statements and the submission of huge academic essays, and the one I choose will likely be my home for the next several years, assuming I chug straight through both the masters and Ph.D programs in one go.

Luckily, I seem to become surer every day that this is what I want to do with my life.  I’ve always loved school, and since I entered college, I’ve become fascinated with the academic world.  The prospect of spending my life researching, writing books and papers, and discussing literature and writing, is glorious to me.

But first-there is more cat sitting to be done.

Out of Commission

Dear Friends,

I’ve done something to my back.  It’s been sore for weeks now, and this evening I reached down to retrieve my GRE study book from a chair, and something along my lower spinal cord twinged.  It felt as I imagine electrocution would feel.  And since then, about three hours now, I’ve been largely unable to walk.  Bending over is impossible.  It hurts so badly that I had to psych myself up for about five minutes before I got up off my bed to fetch my computer to write this post.

Sorry to complain, but I don’t know what else to talk about, I guess.  The weather was lovely today.  I learned, while working the Social Science Office job, that our psychology department actually has quite extensive research facilities, including an entirely soundproof room for sleep studies.  I believe I’ve found the location for my next nap.  I watched Thor while icing my back.  Pretty good.  Pretty darn good.  I mean, I’m aware that I probably just like it because it’s based in Norse mythology, and because I took a class on Icelandic Sagas freshman year, and because I liked that class.  I’ve been on a bit of a superhero kick lately, between Spiderman and The Avengers and Thor.  And while I still stand by my previous post on the matter, it is interesting to watch the movies, and to develop (as many others, I am sure, have done) a formula of sorts for the genre.

Anyway, I’m going for the ibuprofen again.

Talk to you tomorrow,