Skimming Part 2

March 10, 2011

Warning: Do not try this at home. The following skill is only for advanced skimmers.

Recently, I was faced with a difficult dilemma (not dilemna) when I realized I had to somehow find time to watch a three hour film outside of regular class time.

That particular week I was on a tight schedule as it was, so I decided to experiment with some advanced-level skimming. I proceeded to the library, checked out the two VHS tapes and popped part one in the VCR player. Making sure the subtitles were on, I hit the fast-forward button and began.

As the subtitles zipped by I found I was able to absorb the majority of the dialog. The great thing about subtitles  is that they are usually simplified and nicely spaced, and thus easy to read as they flash across the screen. If you try this, I feel I should let you know that on occasion, it may be necessary to rewind and watch a particularly complex dialog in real time, but overall this does not hinder one’s progress.

Another benefit of watching in fast-forward is that it skips the unnecessary “artistic” scenes. You know the kind: sweeping panoramic scenery or back and forth scenes contrasting  upper class luxury with the lower class rabble. Yeah, yeah, I get the symbolic gesture, and… moving on.

Anyway, it was a highly successful experiment because, voila, all of a sudden my three hour film was only an hour and a half long. And movie viewing: check!

-60 days


Alternatively …

March 9, 2011

Alternatively you will find students during midterms engaged in the following activities:

  1. Cleaning. Because, “I just can’t focus when my room is so messy.” Strangely, this phenomenon only seems to occur when there is an important assignment due. Otherwise, most dorm rooms remain in that state that prompts mothers to ask ,”Were you born in a barn?” (Side-note: how do you answer that question anyway?? I mean, shouldn’t your Mom know where you were born? You certainly don’t remember the day.)
  2. Uploading pictures to Facebook. Pictures accumulate for weeks and this just seems like the best time to post them.
  3. Griping about professors/paper topics/study guides/ the University in general. You’d be surprised how effective this can be in getting through midterms. Somehow complaining about it really makes that essay prompt so much more clear.
  4. Going for jogs. Fresh air will certainly clear the mind. And while you’re out of your room, why not also run important errands for a few hours?
  5. Catching up on  TV episodes on Hulu. Again, what better time than this?
  6. Bringing all correspondence up-to-date. It would be really rude to let it go another night.

Yes, studying for midterms indeed.

-61 days.

Crunch Time

March 9, 2011

Yup, it’s that time of the semester.

Every inch of the library is taken and all the good study spots are gone.

All over campus you will find students  hunched over laptops typing papers, or in their rooms flipping through flash cards, or with a study group cramming for midterms.

Years from now we will be having nightmares about showing up for our midterms and blanking on a key concept, or turning in a paper but forgetting something important like the bibliography. But for now we live it.

Ah yes, joyous college days.

-62 days



Brain Strike

March 6, 2011

One of the most frustrating things about trying to write consistently is the days when there seems to be nothing there.

Perhaps “nothing there” is not a good description. Rather,  my mind is full of thoughts revolving around 19th Century opera, the language acquisition of children, and Kipling’s poetry on Imperialism. Also pecking at my brain are thoughts of recommendation letters and residence hall procedures, vacuuming and phone calls, rugby schedules and groceries, and above all, a desire for sleep.

All that to say: lots of activity but nothing to write about. I therefore conjecture that the writer in my mind must be on strike.

-64 days.


March 4, 2011

“He has only half learned the art of reading who has not added to it the more refined art of skipping and skimming.” -Arthur Balfour

Yes indeed!

-66 days.

The Day Dickens Made me Laugh

March 3, 2011

It has come to my attention that there are some things in life that require you to be old enough to truly appreciate them. Like tomatoes. And afternoon naps. And 20/20 vision.

One other item that falls into this category is great literature.

I don’t remember how old I was when I was first exposed to Charles Dickens, but my first exposure  left a bad taste in my mouth.  I found A Christmas Carol frightening, Oliver Twist disturbing, and Great Expectations just plain boring. A Tale of Two Cities seemed alright, with the exotic thrill of the French Revolution, but I wondered if it was really necessary to spend so many pages describing the Defarge’s staircase.

Then a wonderful thing happened. Around 10th grade, I was idly browsing the special books section when I picked up A Christmas Carol, turned to the first page and found this:

“Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail. Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.”

As I read that paragraph a strange feeling began to grow inside of me and the thought occurred to me: “This guy actually has a sense of humour!” So I checked out the book and read it through and by the end I knew I would never be the same. I liked Charles Dickens.

The pleasure I find in reading Dickens has increased over the years and I am currently into two favorites: Our Mutual Friend and Little Dorrit.

Here is a delicious passage from Little Dorrit in which Dickens describes the tangled knots of bureaucracy in the imagined Circumlocution Office:

“No public business of any kind could possibly be done at any time without the acquiescence of the Circumlocution Office. Its finger was in the largest public pie, and in the smallest public tart. It was equally impossible to do the plainest right and to undo the plainest wrong without the express authority of the Circumlocution Office. If another Gunpowder Plot had been discovered half an hour before the lighting of the match, nobody would have been justified in saving the parliament until there had been half a score of boards, half a bushel of minutes, several sacks of official memoranda, and a family-vault full of ungrammatical correspondence, on the part of the Circumlocution Office.”

Just typing that up makes me glad I’ve finally reached the age where I can appreciate tomatoes and afternoon naps and Mr Dickens.

-67 days

Peace and Quiet

March 3, 2011

I just finished my 1 am round of the building, and for once (probably due to midterms) I find a Wednesday evening that is gloriously quiet.

Even in the laundry room the whirring of the  washing machines is stilled.

I  breathe a sigh of relief because now I can go to bed!

It makes me wonder: is this how parents feel after all their children are in bed?

-68 days