September 2007


Today I went shopping all by myself. I usually take a fashion-conscious girl with me to ensure I don’t buy anything absurdly nerdy, but I was just planning on getting underwear and socks so it didn’t seem necessary. Maybe a big mistake.

I got to the store (JC Penny’s…yeah, I’m aware of my nerdiness) and pants were on sale. I was going to buy some jeans but they all looked too cool for me, so I ended up getting some Docker’s instead. I threw in some cheap, plain-color tee shirts so I wouldn’t have to do laundry for a few more days, and then I bought a lightweight gray hoodie. All in all, I think I avoided any serious blunders. I’m pretty proud.

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1) Social Diversity: I feel like I spent the last couple years in a sort of social bubble. Between MA and debate I had a fairly close-knit group of friends, but I also didn’t have a lot of intersection with other social circles. This term most of that core group is studying abroad, and as a result I’ve met a ton of new people. The number of people I feel comfortable saying hi to on campus is way up. Not that I don’t miss my friends–I do–but it’s fun to have breathing room.

2)  My Schedule: Alright, 8AM classes every day of the week isn’t something I actually love, but I do get a sense of accomplishment every time I make it to one. Last year I wondered how I was ever going to hold down a job, because I seemed to have absolutely no control over my sleeping habits. This semester I’ve proven that theory at least partly wrong. I think I can get up reliably enough to hold down a job for at least 6 months, provided I have a relaxed boss.  So 8AM gives me confidence and a feeling of accomplishment, but it also makes me feel uber-productive. It’s amazing how long days last when you start them at 7:30.

3) Debate: Yeah, MA’s out for the fall, but I’m still enjoying myself. Debating with BD really is making me stronger, if more controlling,  and it’s really fun to pick over topic areas and plot impossible cases. I can do it during the summer, but the season feels much more intense.

The other day I remembered the word “zugzwang” and looked it up on wikipedia. Turns out, it’s not just a chess term. Game theorists use it to a refer to a situation in which a rational player would rather pass than move. So I started clicking links and reading up on game theory, which is a really fun topic, and that reminded me of this:

There are 100 plastic Easter eggs hidden in an area. Suppose that 99 of the eggs contain $10,000, but  one egg contains a lethal poisonous gas that will kill you if you open it. Assuming there’s no way to tell which egg is poisonous without opening it, and that there’s no way to open the poisonous egg without killing yourself, how many eggs do you open?

If you’re answer is zero, how much money has to be in each egg before you open one?

How’s that for a ridiculous hypothetical, Hillary Clinton?

The debate season officially kicked off this weekend, and Willamette started things with a bang. PJ Crizzle and partner EL won the tournament, topping out a field of 40 or so teams. One of our freshman teams cleared the preliminary rounds and won in double octos, too.

BD and I had some success, too. We were 4-2 in prelims and earned a buy through the elimination round, but dropped in octos to a team from Puget Sound. I won the top speaker award, which has always been a goal for me. Unfortunately it’s a hollow victory when you lose in the round of 16. BD did pretty well, very well for his first open tournament. I couldn’t help feeling frustrated, though, as all three of our losses came at the hands of teams MA and I beat handily last year.

Adding to the frustrations, NPTE rankings come out next tomorrow evening. I’m sure Crizzle and Elo will be in the top 30 by virtue of their performance. I’m sure MA and I would have been up their with them. Instead, I’ll be watching dozens of names of debaters I’ve beaten climb higher and higher in the rankings. So it goes.

Next up in the debate world is Lewis and Clark. Topic areas are out, but they’re impossibly broad. I’ll probably just go back to my summer research strategy of pulling case ideas from the op/ed pages of the New York Times and waiting for disads to float by in the news.

The kitchen of my apartment is at it’s worst on Sunday. On Friday nights we generally don’t clean because we’re getting ready to party, which means we start the weekend with one day’s worth of mess. Then, dozens of people descend on our apartment with all manner of refreshments and by 2:00AM Saturday the sink is full of plastic solo cups and reeks of stale beer.

On Saturday, one or more of us will make a half-hearted effort at clean up, but we usually get sidetracked by the Xbox. Sometimes the hard work of starting the clean up process makes us hungry–we eat frozen burritos on paper plates and add them to the mess.

So the same thing happens on Saturday night, except now the kitchen is so full that the mess spills into the living room. Right now there are rotting Ramen noodles in our sink (note: contrary to popular belief, we do NOT have a disposal), four wounded soldiers on the coffee table, and some ungodly stickiness on the kitchen counter.

If it sounds like I’m bitching, it’s not really my intent. If I really wanted it clean I’d go clean it myself. But it’s not worth it to me to do it myself yet, so I’m not sure why I should expect my roomies to do it.  Living with three roommates creates a lot of game-theory type scenarios, though.

My apartment is party central. The other guys I live with are extremely social, friendly, well-connected guys. One the one hand, this is great for me. I am never lacking for people to hang out with or a party to go to.

On the other hand, I’m never lacking for people to hang out with. Living in a single last year I got used to my privacy. I came to expect my bedroom to be a little sphere of privacy totally sealed from the outside world unless I chose to open it. Living in an apartment is different. I still have a private bedroom, but it borders the living room so sound drifts in. It’s also across the hall from the bathroom, so when twenty people are playing beer pong I’m acutely aware of their presence.

It’s not that I mind having people over. I actually think it’s great, most of the time. The problem is I don’t feel like I have ability to be alone. I’m just constantly surrounded by people to the point that it’s hard to find time to think. That’s one reason the idea of turning my bed into a little tent is so appealing.

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