161 Things Every Cornellian Should Do, #52

52. See a play in the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts

Normally, when I’m asked why I’m taking a liberal studies class, I reply that I need it to graduate.  Normally, when I’m taking a liberal studies class, I don’t get to use things like saws and sledgehammers.  I just finished taking a class where I worked in the scene shop at the Schwartz Center and could get liberal studies credit for it.  I helped to make the scenery for the plays in the Schwartz, which includes sawing, painting, and drilling, among other things.

Because I’d never seen a play at the Schwartz before and because I worked on the scenery, I decided to go see The Glass Menagerie when it was showing.  I had the usual nineteen (give or take a few) problem sets due the next week, but I’d been grading for seven hours straight, so I gave myself the rest of the night off.  The show had opened a couple nights before and was well-received, and by the time the Saturday night show started, most of the seats in the theater were occupied.

The show was performed in the smaller theater at Schwartz, so there weren’t hundreds of people packed in, but it was nice to be able to see the actors up close and hear them without microphones.  As for the play itself, I really enjoyed it.  The play was a memory play, told by the main character, and besides him, there were only three other parts (the main character’s mother, his sister, and a gentleman caller), so each actor had a lot of lines.  Lighting and sound were effective without being intrusive, and I liked seeing how props and scenery I’d worked on were used in the final production.

I haven’t read The Glass Menagerie, so I wasn’t sure if I would find the play interesting, but within fifteen minutes of the lights dimming, I was drawn into the story.  I’m going to end by commenting that if more lectures were like the play, my watch wouldn’t get so much use.  Just saying.

161 Things Every Cornellian Should Do, #25, #26, #129

25. Bomb a prelim.

26. Ace the next one to save your grade.

129. Console a friend who did poorly on a midterm, only to find out they did better than you did.

So.  Grades.  Everyone’s favorite topic.  Some professors come up with multiple grading schemes so that students get the best grade possible.  Some professors curve the class to a B- because they think this year’s students are particularly dense.  Either way, at the end of the class you get a letter that more or less corresponds to grades you’ve been getting throughout the semester.

I’m not going to say what exactly my grades were, but there have been several cases when performances on second prelims and the final managed to pull my grades out of the gutter where they were languishing.  It is very possible to recover from one bad prelim, and to some extent from two . . . don’t ask how I know that.

At Cornell, most general math and science classes, major-level engineering classes, and a lot of other classes have two prelims during the semester and a final during finals period.  Some classes have three prelims, and some have essays or projects instead of prelims.  The majority of my classes have evening (night) prelims though I have taken a liberal studies class with in-class prelims.  Theoretically, Cornell has an algorithm that minimizes conflicts between prelims and finals, but that doesn’t mean your prelim schedule will be pleasant by any means.  I’ve had prelims scheduled so that I have three prelims in eight days or one prelim every week for eight out of eleven weeks, followed immediately by finals week.  Both aren’t great, the first because you do nothing but study for a straight week and the second because you always feel like you should be studying.

Most classes are curved, meaning that your grade depends on how much better or worse you did than your classmates did.  For example, I heard from a few people that our organic chemistry class averaged somewhere above a 40% on the final.  The only reason most of the class didn’t fail is because that 40% was what you needed to get the average grade (usually between a B- and B+, depending on the professor).  In general, I don’t feel that people in my ChemE classes are horribly competitive though I tend to prefer to study by myself.  Review sessions are nice, but when it comes to the exam, you’re going to have to be the one to pull the answer out of your brain.

I do complete almost all of my problem sets at office hours and/or working with a group.  I’m working on making up a theory called the Theory of Mutual Suffering.  I’m not sure exactly what it says, but it’s about struggling through hours-long algebra problems in groups.

To conclude: You will probably fail an exam at some point.  You might just save your grade with this thing called studying.  Not everyone is a cutthroat jerk who will burn your notes to make you fail.

161 Things Every Cornellian Should Do, #31

31. Spend a summer at Cornell and enjoy Ithaca’s few months of warm weather.

I spent upwards of thirty-five hours a week in Olin for the entire summer, but when I wasn’t working in a windowless basement room, I had the weekends and evenings free to explore Ithaca.  Here’s the summer in pictures and commentary:

On average, I had one peanut butter and jam sandwich a day.  Over the course of the summer, I consumed four and a half pounds of peanut butter, between three and four dozen eggs, three pounds of cheese, and five and a half gallons of milk, among other things.

There was construction everywhere all summer, including a project right in front of Olin Hall that I had to navigate every day to get to work.

I’m on a quest to see how many things I can bake in a muffin tin.  So far I’ve done apple pies (shown above), bread pudding, eggs, brownies, and chocolate cupcakes.  I cooked for myself made sandwiches all summer so I tried out a bread pudding recipe with the end slices.  I also successfully cooked chicken and managed to make dinner every night using only a single pot and frying pan.

I went hiking a couple times when I could find someone to drive me.

There was reading for fun.  [Books shown: Our Town, Thornton Wilder; Lucky Jim, Kingsley Amis; 2061: Odyssey Three, Arthur C. Clarke; Animal Farm, George Orwell.]

And trips to the farmer’s market.

Peach picking.  I haven’t been apple picking in years, and this was my first time picking peaches.

And finally, expeditions to the Plantations.  Besides the pouring rain that deluged us every time we tried to leave Olin, summer was great.  There were no problem sets, which meant that after leaving Olin for the day, I had nothing to do.  Ironically enough, even after being outside for decent portions of the summer, the closest I got to being sunburned was during a field hockey game after classes started.  The sun was out for once and the band was in prime roasting position on the metal bleachers . . .