You come home from winter break to your house of nine grad students to find everyone abuzz about the Iowa caucuses. You all take a break from watching the cable news channels, because it’s too early to determine who the victor will be, and you head over as a group to the local indie movie theater to see the latest indie movie (Juno — excellent film, by the way). Because you’re there early, one member of your group whips out his iPhone to check in on the caucus returns and announces that Huckabee and Obama have won. After the movie, you all sit around the living room watching more cable news channels and make plans to carpool to the grocery store tomorrow and bring tote bags to help save the planet. Then you mock Wolf Blitzer and Rush Limbaugh, debate whether or not the country and the planet are really going to pot, and decide that having a house colloquium in which you all teach each other about your respective research is a really good idea.
And then you go to bed, thinking that your housemates are awesome and Ann Arbor is not so terrible after all.
We had a big blizzard this weekend — 8+ inches of snow fell on Sunday. One of my housemates is from Florida and has never seen snow before this year. On Sunday morning, he announced that the neighbors seemed to have a “lawn mower that eats snow.”
“Uh, that’s actually a snow blower,” we informed him.
A little bit later, when the discussion turned to shoveling the walk, he jumped at the chance to volunteer… I think he thought it would be fun or something. I checked on him after about five minutes. “It’s a lot heavier than it looks,” he remarked. He then decided that no, he didn’t want help this time because he said he’d do it. However, in the future, he’s probably not going to be so quick to offer his services.
Also potentially coming soon… photographs of our big fat snowman (who drinks instead of smoking a pipe).
This has the potential to be quite the comedy of a football season. As Michigan once again choked big time… well, actually, choke implies that at one point they were in a position to win. Let me start over… while Michigan lost its fourth game in a row to a fowl team (they’re the ducks, get it?), I heard a student proclaim loudly that he was paying good tuition money to go a good football school and he was getting ripped off. I related the story to a friend who had been in the bathroom at the time while we were walking out of the stadium. He insisted that I must have made that up because no one smart enough to get into Michigan would be stupid enough to say something like that. As he was protesting, we passed a mother and a son having the following exchange:
Mother: Now, you are here for academics and to get a degree.
Son: But, Mom —
Mother: No. What is important is that in four years you will have a diploma that says University of Michigan on it and that will help you get a good job.
Son: *whining* But, Mom, why can’t they just win once while I’m here?
Michigan fans are funny, and they don’t even know it. My friend conceded that I was not making it up.
This is the motto of today: Appalachian State is hot, hot, hot.
Today I walked into the Big House for the first football game of the season and told the people I was sitting with that I had decided to root for the opponent, a 1-AA team whose school I had only previously heard of because of an Internet viral video craze. My friends thought I was crazy, but I’m a sucker for the underdog and, unlike many in Ann Arbor, I definitely do not live and die by the Wolverines. Even so, when I made that statement, I never expected that I was going to be rooting for a winner.
Turns out, this was the first time a 1-AA team has beat a ranked D1 team ever.
I laughed a lot during the game at the tragedy of it all, and couldn’t help but feel a little glad for the Mountaineers as they stormed the field after the blocked field goal that ended the game (and almost resulted in another ASU touchdown). This is the sort of thing they make sports movies about… it’s just that I was sitting in the student section of the bigger, stronger, faster, and yet losing team. No one around me thought it was as amusing as I did.
I’ve never before seen a crowd leave a stadium in the shock that this one did. A freshman (I think) sitting near loudly declared that the remainder of his season tickets were for sale to anyone who would buy them. Another undergrad lamented that he should have sold his Ohio State ticket yesterday because now the going rate would surely plummet. Many, many people were heard on cell phones mourning with their loved ones about how “we” couldn’t ever get the 2-point conversion and how “we” couldn’t kick a field goal. Secretly, I was laughing then too, but I was a little afraid that someone would hurt me so I kept it to myself.
There is a carillon tower a few blocks from my window that usually chimes on the hour and plays music at random other times. During the school year, it’s pretty standard stuff — mostly bell-ringing etudes that I don’t recognize. But just now, I heard the strains of “Stairway to Heaven” coming out of the bells. It took me a minute to figure out that that’s what it was, because I’ve never heard a carillon version of the song before, but it was definitely Zeppelin. They played the whole song too, from the slower first section right through the faster second section.
I know there’s a one credit course to learn how to play the carillon… maybe I should take it, now that I know that I can potentially play rock anthems over the campus.
I passed my prelims!
This makes me officially a PhD candidate. And now I’m going to the Tigers/Indians game to celebrate.
Last weekend, amongst the hustle and bustle of my parents being here and seeing three baseball games in three days, I also graduated. I am officially a Master of Science now… of course, that means very little to me right now since my prelim paper is due tomorrow and I really shouldn’t be wasting time writing this. But I wanted to post a link to the commencement address, given by former President Clinton. The speech exceeded even my high expectations, even as planes flew over the stadium with banners proclaiming anti-Hillary/anti-abortion rhetoric. (He didn’t mention Hillary once, for whatever that’s worth.) It was infinitely better than the speech given by the head of the NIH, who spoke at MIT in 2004. Plus, at Michigan they don’t call all the graduates by name and have them walk on stage — they have separate graduations by college for that, which I happily skipped. All in all, it was a nice way to spend a morning before heading off to Toledo for a ballgame.
So without further ado: the speech.
Edit: Bill Clinton just got a lot more awesome in my book.