Thursday, October 25, 2007

My Summer as a College Schedule

I wrote this back in July and was quite pleased with how it came out. There's something formulaic about the language of a curriculum that just screams to have it applied to other aspects of our daily lives.

Nonprofit Lake Association Watershed Internship

Perfect for the individual who hates being stuck behind a desk all day; students accepted for this position will engage in a variety of different tasks. In addition to competently managing the Lake Host and Weed Watchers programs, students will assist with monthly water quality testing and snorkeling for invasive milfoil as they learn how to manage environmental issues on a small scale. Additional duties include invasive and native plant identification, driving the pontoon boat around Lake Sunapee, writing articles on current lake issues, running errands, pulling up the dreaded purple loosestrife, repairing the boat wash, scuba diving, traipsing through underbrush, and redesigning the fish poster that last year’s intern shamelessly plagiarized from

Prerequisites: Basic handyman skills required; scuba certification recommended for maximum enjoyment.
Credits: 12

A Rogue Bookseller: Entrepreneurship I

Ever looked at all those books that Bennington students throw into dirty free piles at the end of a hectic term? Ever considered that those books might be worth big money? The first week of this course will consist of a thorough search of the Bennington campus, as students snatch up any books that could be worth a dime before their classmates beat them to the punch. They will then list their findings online, where demand for textbooks is always high, and establish an inventory of books for their own storefront. Advanced students may wish to search for Free Piles left after local yard sales around the Kearsarge area, or bargain for cheap flea market books to increase business. Be warned that demand for Brian Jacques novels isn’t as high as one might be lead to believe.

Prerequisites: None. Students will need to provide their own packing materials, preferably at a minimal cost.
Credits: 2

Fix My Ride: A Crash Course in Intermediate Auto Repair

Students selecting this course will slowly delve into the multitude of tasks required for the upkeep and maintenance of an older car that, while it may still have plenty of miles left in it, requires a vigilant eye to keep it from slipping into disrepair and desolation. We will begin with elementary fluid and tire pressure checks, move on to bulb and air filter replacement, then on to Bondo repair and the elimination of unsightly rust spots, as well as exhaust checks and instrument panel repair. Advanced topics may include fixing a steering fluid leak, and solving the mystery of why the car’s tapedeck makes an annoying clicking noise when first turned on.

Prerequisites: Some familiarity with autos, including the ability to change one’s own oil.
Credits: 2

Advanced Independent Study in Literature

How does one stay involved in the wide world of literature without college teachers to design a syllabus for us? This course tackles the dilemma faced by many an avid reader determined to keep up with the literary world after college. Students will individually delve into the backlog of books they’ve accumulated over the past year, attempting to catch up as best they can, and develop their thought processes on these novels without the strain of paper-writing or class discussion. Selections may include works by Vonnegut, Faulkner, Davis-Goff, Haddon, Baroness Orczy, Millhauser, Kafka, Lee, Roth, Christie, Gogol, Sinclair, Mandella, Hiassen and John F. Kennedy. Students should come fully prepared not to have anyone to talk with about anything they read throughout the semester.

Prerequisites: The ability to select a varied and interesting reading list; self-discipline.
Credits: 2

Staying in Touch With Friends II: The Post-College Abyss

College is over, and with it ends the relative ease of keeping in touch with friends and acquaintances on a small rural campus, just as the ease of seeing people every day throughout high school also disappeared so long ago. Suddenly, the very real possibility of losing dozens of fulfilling relationships with a wide range of people looms over us, as the uncertain future threatens to destroy everything we’ve always taken for granted. To make matters worse, social networks at home have altered in such a way as to render them almost unrecognizable from the way they were four years ago, causing confusion to the unprepared. This course is about facing these challenges head-on amidst an onslaught of other post-graduation activities; we’ll cover such topics as Facebook communication and what it can and can’t do; writing e-mails that friends will actually respond to; what to do when you simply seem to know too many people; how to plan events when so many of your closest friends have already gone; and how to survive in this brave new world without a cell phone.

Prerequisites: Successful completion of “Staying in Touch With Friends I: The Long Goodbye” or permission of the instructor.
Credits: 4, though students have found considerably more success taking this course in its 8 credit incarnation.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Girl at the Post Office

I took a trip through the rain to the Post Office the other day to mail a book that I had sold and parked next to a green SUV with a Saint Michael’s College decal displayed across the rear windshield. A girl I vaguely recognized got out and walked ahead of me to the counter where she asked about the Now Hiring sign hung by the side of the road. “We need a substitute rural carrier,” the clerk replied. The girl said thank you as she turned away to leave, and I watched her tread quickly out of the lobby and back to her car.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Fort

Dan couldn’t believe that I had never been to The Fort and insisted that we take a trip to see it. It had been built by larpers, he said, and I didn’t expect anything more from his vague descriptions than a ramshackle old barn with the roof caved in and patches of moss forming on its rotten walls. Our adventuring party that day consisted of Dan (Level 14 Explorer), myself (Level 6 Watershed Steward), Andrea (Level 9 Architect’s Assistant), Nate  (Unknown Character Class), Jesse  (Level 8 Ski Resort Technician), and Cosmo (Level 2 Dog) for the mile and a half hike into the Springfield state forest. I only vaguely remembered Jesse—were I to guess, I would have said that his last name was Owens. Before we departed, Nate (who has traded his waistcoats and fedoras for long hair and large jackets) grabbed a hunk of hamburger meat from his freezer and struggled vehemently with a dull kitchen knife to chop off a hunk for the five of us so that we would have something to eat. Aside from bringing buns and a package of Kraft singles, we were laughably unprepared for cooking, and I was barely prepared for a hike; all I had was my fleece jacket, my knife, the flashlight from my car, and my trusty sneakers.

The sun had gone down before we even left Cricenti’s (now Hannaford’s, though the name sticks), and we made our way down the dark well-maintained trail that wound up a series of hills and into a small camping area. Luckily we encountered nothing more dangerous along the way than a Level 3 Mudhole. A blind trek through the woods followed, as each of the others navigated up the final hill by instinct. What I saw next was a solid wall of branches and sticks that kept going in both directions with a sturdy doorway in front of me. The larpers had surrounded the entire top of the hill with a wall about eight feet high and forty feet in diameter, and inside lay an inner sanctum with a fire pit and several rock thrones with carefully contoured backs and armrests. Outside was a jail, another smaller room that Nate had mostly dismantled for firewood, and a bathroom that was really just a pit with a long railing to lean against. I couldn’t stop laughing at the array of wooden shields spray-painted with different fantasy logos that hung along the walls—symbols for the imagined nationality of someone’s Level 24 Fighter or Level 18 Elf. The shields lent the fort a feeling of great care that we took advantage of by telling jokes:

“Do you think this place is filled with the blood of sacrificed virgins?”
“The only virgins who have been here are the ones who built the place.”
(Drum fill)

I couldn’t believe that there were larpers in Springfield serious enough to build such an elaborate fort, which aside from Dan and his crew now seemed to be frequented mostly by high school kids who came there to drink Bud Light. We used the fire pit to thaw the massive hunk of meat enough to chop it into pieces with an ax and grill hamburgers on a rusty shovel. Mine were crunchy from being burned (or from being dropped on the ground), but meals grilled in the woods still taste better. The whole experience made me want to disappear into the forest to see what kind of adventures I could find, or even just to spend time with nature, which I don’t do nearly enough of anymore. (Dan said that he and a friend used to spend days in the woods living by their wits. They caught rabbits for food by finding places where they crossed, then narrowing off their path and setting crude snares to strangle them.) I’d do more exploring if I knew where there were more forts to be found.