If September was full of classes, October was even more full of classes (and, spoiler alert: November was even worse).  I took performance rock climbing just so that I would be forced to do something outside of Olin in the middle of the week.  Plus, I like climbing.  Actually, though, if you bring your meals, you can easily spend twelve hours in Olin between classes, office hours, and writing lab reports.  If your research lab is also in Olin, it’s even easier to step outside at eleven at night and realize that you haven’t seen the sun or breathed fresh air since nine in the morning when you came to Olin.

So I spent a lot of time in Olin last semester.  I had one weekend which I not only didn’t spend in Olin, but I wasn’t in Ithaca at all.  It was fall break weekend, and I started it off with my junior year/summer roommate.  In anticipation of cooler weather and in search of fall colors, we decided to hike the Six Mile Creek area.  What we really wanted to do was hike the Cayuga Trail out and back, but I didn’t have time for a seventeen mile hike.  Six Mile Creek was nice.

Some color, though not a lot.

Some color, though not a lot.


When I returned to my apartment, I had enough time to eat a peanut butter and jam sandwich before I headed out again to the band room.  The band had been asked to play at a wedding, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to (kind of) attend a wedding.  We played after the ceremony, and besides the Alma Mater, we also played the Muppets theme song and a few other selections.  I mean, it’s in our folder, and they requested it, so we played it.  After the wedding, I returned to my apartment, had dinner, did laundry, and packed my bags.

While my classmates went home to see family, or stayed in Ithaca to catch up on work and relax, I was headed off to a conference [Society of Rheology annual meeting, if anyone’s interested] with the research group I had worked in over the summer.  We left early Sunday morning, then I spent the next three and a half days listening to talks about anything and everything involving liquids, suspensions, colloids, polymers, and bread dough.  Yes, really.

Waterfall at Six Mile Creek

Waterfall at Six Mile Creek

Upon my return to Ithaca, I had two days to get together with my lab group and put together a lab report.  We’d been working on our parts separately but we needed to edit and pull the parts together into a semi-coherent report.  We met on Saturday morning at 9 in the morning and worked until 3 in the afternoon.  After that, I ate a peanut butter and jam sandwich (I ate a lot of peanut butter and jam sandwiches last fall, okay?) and went to the red/white hockey game.  The red/white game kicks off the hockey season, and features Cornell against . . . Cornell.  The men’s and women’s teams split up into a red team and a white team, and the band splits as well (freshmen/seniors/grad students/alumni in the white band, sophomores/juniors in the red band).  The band thinks it’s a whole lot of fun, and spends the week leading up to the game, not to mention the game itself, heckling anyone in the opposite band.

And with the next week came another lab, another lab report, and so on and so forth.  Repeat until everyone passes out the semester ends.


With the start of classes came the end of the fun and games.  Mostly.  I still took the time to go to homecoming and went to AAIV’s fall retreat for the first time since freshman year.  And I also had to take the GRE, which was the most fun I’ve had since taking the SAT.  By which I mean, it wasn’t very fun at all (okay, fine, I admit it; the math was kind of fun).

I have to confess that I’ve never seen an entire homecoming game.  Freshman year, I didn’t go to homecoming at all.  Sophomore year, a friend and I sat through half the game while the sky cried at the awful portrayal of football being demonstrated at Schoellkopf.  Actually, we won that year, and we got to witness the start of Cornell’s comeback after going down early.  Junior year, a different friend and I sat through half the game while the sky cried at us and winter decided to start edging out pre-winter.  This year, I sat through half the game with a whole group of friends and then had to leave after halftime to go grocery shopping.  We were hanging in the game, but it turns out we lost on a last minute touchdown, which I didn’t see because I was busy buying broccoli and milk.  I have, however, seen the halftime show all three years.

Homecoming.  People in the stands, because it wasn't raining or freezing.

Homecoming. People in the stands, because it wasn’t raining or freezing.


Right after homecoming, I took the GRE.  I guess I thought I had studied enough in the previous week to go to homecoming?  (I hadn’t.)  I didn’t study a lot, but I did review more than I had for the SAT, which I showed up to take having skimmed through a single practice test the night before*.  What I found useful was doing practice problems from a review book just to get back in the habit of answering multiple choice questions and reading and pick up a couple tips.  Then, I did a couple tests from the GRE test program that you can download from their website.  When you launch the test, it looks exactly like it’ll appear on the computer screen at the testing center.  Anyway, it turned out okay this time.  I didn’t fail, and now my scores are valid for the next five years.

No cameras allowed in the testing center, so here's a picture from the arboretum.

No cameras allowed in the testing center, so here’s a picture from the arboretum.


In terms of classes, our capstone lab class was starting to get intense.  The first full week, we just had to go into lab for a safety orientation, which, while important, only took about twenty minutes.  The next couple weeks, we had quick labs that we only needed to write a 1-2 page memo about.  After that, we moved into a schedule of lab, prelab, lab reports, and sometimes additional memos just for the heck of it for the rest of the semester.  And that’s where my life went for the next two months.

*I had also taken the PLAN test twice by then so I wasn’t completely clueless.


Which one is not like the others?  1) Hiking at Six Mile Creek, 2) Blueberry picking, 3) Biking to the Lab of Ornithology, 4) Hiking at Buttermilk Falls, and 5) Studying for the GRE.

Obviously, the answer is 2) Blueberry picking, for not starting with an –ing word.  But actually, the story behind studying for the GRE at the end of the summer, right before classes, instead of at the beginning of summer, when I had lots of time at home, is that I had finally decided to apply for grad school.  Yeah, that happened.

But when I wasn’t trying to remember how to read and write, I managed to get in some final adventures of the summer.  My last hike with my summer roommate before she went home for a few weeks was at Six Mile Creek.  I’d forgotten, but I’d been there before with my hiking class.  We extended that hike in both directions, having to walk to get to the Mulholland Wildflower Preserve, then going farther than I had in my hiking class.  (Ironically(?) more than a couple of my summer hikes were longer than I’d walked in my class that was supposed to be devoted to hiking.)  Most of the falls at Six Mile Creek are formed by dams, but it’s still nice.

Businessman's Lunch Falls, near the Mulholland Wildflower Preserve

Businessman’s Lunch Falls, near the Mulholland Wildflower Preserve


A couple weeks after that, I was looking for trouble to get into by myself another fun summer activity and decided to bike to and walk around the Lab of Ornithology.  It’s not a bad bike ride, just a lot of uphill, like so much of Ithaca.  I didn’t have a bad walk around either, though I can identify maybe a dozen birds.

Like this one.  Chinstrap penguin.

Like this one. Chinstrap penguin.


The blueberry picking occurred after my roommate for the year moved in and we decided that we should do something before I moved into Olin and she started having ten meetings a day.  The year before, we’d been peach picking with a bunch of other people, but this year we settled on blueberry picking with only one other person.  I discovered the difference between farm grown and wild blueberries, then got to eat lots of blueberries and bake blueberry pie.

What was truly the last adventure of the summer happened one or two days before classes started.  My (summer) roommate and I wanted to take our former suitemate for a hike because she hadn’t hiked at any of the state parks yet.  To remedy this egregious situation, we decided on Buttermilk Falls.  Because you can walk there from Walmart.  During the summer, a bus services the nearest state parks, but it had stopped running by the time classes rolled around.  The nearest bus stop/state park combination is Walmart and Buttermilk.  So that’s what we picked.  Let’s just say that our suitemate had quite the experience hiking with my roommate and me for the first time.

Buttermilk Falls State Park

Buttermilk Falls State Park