Monday, September 28, 2015

How to Win at Cheesecakes

So a couple days ago my brother asked me about selling cheesecakes.

In case you are unaware of the importance of this: every fall, my high school music department launches a fundraiser in which all the band and choral kids sell really good slash really overpriced cheesecakes like mad.

The fundraiser also includes pizza and cookie dough and miscellaneous items, like candles and... tupperware? The red velvet cupcakes are great but you only get six, so blah.

I know this might not sound like a big deal, but it's a big deal.

See, fundraisers are typically pretty low-key. Some kid asks you to buy something and you either agree or say you're broke, and that's that.

A typical cheesecake fundraiser would be the same way: one really enthusiastic kid with a catalog amongst tons of willing (but actually, unwilling) buyers.

The thing is, our cheesecake fundraiser isn't just a couple of Girl Scouts. It's the entire music department. So things tend to get a little overwhelming.

People advertise for cheesecakes left and right. Entire Facebook newsfeeds are swallowed by shameless cheesecake soliciting. Friends and enemies and teachers alike wearily agree (after days upon days upon weeks) to dish out a couple of bills just to get people to Stop. Bugging. Them. About. Cheesecakes.

And for the people selling the cheesecakes, selling can be kind of tough. Really tough.

But never fear, my dear high school musician friends! I have decided to share some of my favorite (if not 100% effective) cheesecake-selling strategies.

First of all, you need to be proactive. I get that fundraising can be awkward, but if you want to sell those cheesecakes, you need to be out there waving your catalog with all the other flutes and trumpets and sopranos.

Also, the fact that all choral/band kids are selling cheesecakes means there is a large portion of the school who won't buy your cheesecakes. You have to scout out the unsuspecting non-music kids before the rest of your music friends do.

As for the actual selling of the cheesecakes, you need to be concise. When you're walking down the hallway, there's no time for a "Good afternoon, my name is Russell and I am a wilderness explorer in Tribe 54, Sweat Lodge 12, etc, etc." No, you have to seize the day and shout "BUY A CHEESECAKE!" before you lose your customers in the traffic flow.

And another thing: I normally don't support bullying, but it is a truth universally acknowledged that a timid "Would you like to buy a cheesecake?" is never as effective as a menacing

Lastly, be creative and think of your own ways to sell cheesecakes! My personal favorite is the donation method, in which you create a win-win situation by asking for money...

...and later surprising the target with a tasty treat.

So there you have it: a comprehensive guide (okay, not really, but I tried) on how to beat out all the other cheesecake-selling kids. To my brother and all my other high school friends who currently possess a catalog and a money envelope, welcome to yet another year of the Cheesecake Games. May the odds be ever in your favor.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Discoveries of a Long Week

Just to clarify, a "long week" is a week in which I drown in copious quantities of homework, stay up ridiculously late, and ultimately abandon hope every five minutes before recharging with healthiful things, like Insomnia Cookies.

Here are my (somewhat lengthy) findings from my first long week of the school year:

Discovery #1
Being tired seriously inhibits my ability to come up with creative post titles. Sorry (not sorry).

Discovery #2
There has been a positive correlation between the amount of days since the weekend and the number of cross-armed doodles in my notes.

Figuratively sneaking out of class

Discovery #3
I have discovered the wonderful and life-changing phenomenon that is Late Night.

For those of you who are confused, Late Night is a thing where the dining hall reopens (after dinner) from nine o' clock to midnight. They serve dessert and breakfast food that's better than actual breakfast food (also, there is an omelet station!) and it is glorious. And they take food requests! I will probably rant more about this later.

Discovery #4
I have also discovered that Triv does not work late shifts.

In fact, I'm pretty sure the lack of sleep has seriously tempered with Triv's work ability.

My lack of sleep has driven all my APUSH knowledge to the far depths of my memory (hopefully not into the black hole of forgetfulness), but I'm pretty sure indentured servants don't require that much food. Maybe times are changing.

Discovery #5
My doodles progressively look less and less like me as the week goes on. (I think my head also gets fatter.) This is probably symbolic of how lack of sleep causes loss of identity, or how eating way too many ginormous helpings of late night food and random desserts causes obesity...?

Discovery #6
Running out of time really pushes you to know your limits. For example, I have discovered that I can motor myself out of my dorm and all the way across the street to my fiction/poetry class in under five minutes.

However, going to my programming class, which is not across the street, always takes at least ten. Because stairs.

Discovery #7
Speaking of time: Apparently, you are allowed to leave physics lab once you finish the lab!

This would have been nice to know before I spent way too much effort purposely trying to disconnect Slart from the Internet so I could play the Google Chrome dinosaur game to kill time (as my finished lab report sat in the corner of the screen). Lab is technically three hours long, and nobody wants to spend dinnertime staring at a food-deprived table.

Being able to leave changes everything (as in, not missing dinner, which is important). Apparently, you are also allowed to leave the physics conference section early if you finish, and so I walked out today with thirty minutes to spend. (On more homework, of course.)

Discovery #8
There sometimes occurs an instance in which you realize that you are completely clueless, and it's pretty panic-inducing, like the revelation that the kiddie pool is not the deep end right when you start to sink. It's college, so there are a lot of people, and perhaps you look around and see a bunch of them who are better at all your subjects than you. Heck, there are people who are better at your major than you, even though it's not their major. Or maybe you flip through your Redwood Forest of homework and realize you have no idea where to start. Either way, it can be slightly disheartening.

Discovery #9
But there also comes a time when it's ridiculously late at night and you're sitting at your desk, illuminated by a lamp in the quiet darkness and working on some problem that doesn't one-hundred-percent make sense. The room's gone completely still, like living inside a snapshot of time, and you're sitting there and your gears are turning and-


All of a sudden it clicks.

And you realize that whatever you're working on is now the coolest thing ever because you're solved it, and you realize that you're not here at school to frantically tread water in the deep end or speed-walk to your classes or even take advantage of Late Night. You're here because there are discoveries to be made, and when you find them life is amazing, and everything is wonderful and magical and real.

I kid you not when I say it has been a long week (even though people who have survived more than a month of college are probably like "lol"), and I definitely do not plan do deprive myself of sleep (or stuff my face with any more granola bars) anytime soon. But I've also better figured out how to speed-walk and study and save time, and I've rediscovered that I like learning, which is good. (Also, I am now aware of Late Night, so I win.)

PS: Apologies if none of this makes sense. Blame the long week.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

A Story in Which I Battle a Bug

Believe it or not, I am something of a small celebrity* in my dorm house. Not because I'm the coolest person there, or because I hand out free food, or because I explained Written Problem #2 on the physics homework to all my house-mates (nay, I was one of the kids sitting on the floor trying to understand someone else's explanation), but because I battled a bug and won.

It happened like this: it was a dark and stormy night, and- well, actually, it was a hot and sweaty night, and I woke up at some ungodly hour with a bathroom urge so powerful I didn't even care about the risk of falling in that giant puddle while trying to sleepily sidestep it (but really, vault over it. Because that puddle ain't on a diet).

So I lunged over the puddle, went to the bathroom, walked over to the sink to wash my hands, and


Sitting over the drain was a very large, very plump bug. A cicada, by the looks of it.

Okay, so there's a dead cicada in the sink. Not particularly pleasant, but not that big of a deal, right? I grabbed a bunch of paper towels, intending to transfer the beast to a more appropriate home (aka the garbage bin).

But just as I started to pick the bug up-

It moved.

This wasn't a tiny little twitch. This was an abrupt buzzing sound, a buzzing sound that quickly intensified as the wings started flapping against the paper towels and the oversized body started squirming violently.

I promptly dropped the cicada and leapt back in alarm, narrowly missing a swim in the puddle as I shouted some not-so-nice things at the paper-towel-bug lump.

I then spent about ten seconds recovering from the horror-movie-esque shock and another ten seconds thinking about how no person should have to spend the wee hours of the morning figuring out what to do with a bug, particularly one that excels at playing dead before attacking (sort of) its attacker. But hey, there are a lot of jobs in the world, and sometimes you have to do the not-so-fun ones.

So I took the Caution: Wet Floor sign (which perpetually lives in the bathroom, because puddle), raised it carefully over the paper-towel-covered cicada, and

slayed the beast with an ear-splitting slash of my sword. (Sort of. It was a solid sound, at any rate.)**

For a moment afterwards, I considered delivering the cicada to the guy next door (because he once delivered a cicada to my room as a joke to freak out my roommate. (I hope he's still perturbed by the eventual vengeance that I promised. Because it's coming. Someday.))

But then I looked at the lump on the bathroom counter and thought, Nobody deserves this.

So I swept my spoils of war into the trash bin, washed my hands of the matter, and went back to my room in triumph.

(And in hindsight, I think I made the right choice. Because the same guy next door later explained Written Problem #2 to the rest of us despairing physics warriors, and I'm not sure I would've been included in the crash course if he'd woken up to a cicada on his doorstep.)

At any rate, word got out that I'd defeated the sink cicada and I was lauded, and I received a generous reward (aka someone writing "thank you for killing the bug" on the whiteboard on the front of my door), and now I have this heroic story to tell.

And we all lived happily ever after. Except for the bug.

*This is an overstatement. But still. It's kind of a good story?
**Apologies to all cicada lovers. This story is a work of fiction and any resemblance to actual bugs, living or dead, is completely coincidental...?

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Life Update: Indentured Servitude

I have hired a personal assistant in the form of an alternate personality. Her name is Triv, and she is super efficient and extremely good at organizing things. 

Also, she ties her hair back because she is focused and good at concentrating.

Here is Triv with a purple ribbon in her hair, channeling some Violet Baudelaire as she studies.
Basically, I give her food and shelter and she bosses me around so I don't accidentally-on-purpose forget to do the laundry. Or empty the jar of goldfish in the dining hall.

Or, you know, get distracted while studying.

At any rate, Triv is pretty cool. She works for me during school hours and study sessions so I don't have to work afterwards.

I hope she keeps her job.

The end.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Words of Wisdom?

To all my high school friends (notably the seniors) who spent today sitting through monotonous lectures, zoning out, and doodling pictures of minions:

As I sit in a comfortable chair eating one of many snacks from an all-you-can-eat dining hall ranked #3 in the nation.

Okay, okay, just kidding. I hope your first day back was great and wonderful and fabulous and that none of your teachers picked on you or anything (yet).

But if that's not the case, well, I hope it gets better.

I know some of you are dying to bust out of that place, but, well, hang in there just a little bit longer. Because you deserve a great year. You're seniors, you're some of the awesomest people on the planet, and I hope you own the school and have at least a little bit of fun before you go back to being a lowly freshman again. (Or, if you're me, a lowly freshman frequently mistaken for the younger sibling of a lowly freshman.)

You totally got this. Have a blast.

My Classes > Your Classes, Because Food

So I had a class today called M&Ms and I've decided to shamelessly brag about it. Why? Because M&Ms is a seminar where we talk about computer science and - wait for it - eat M&Ms!

That's right. It doesn't get much cooler than that.

I'm not going to lie - it was pretty darn awesome last week when we showed up to the first class of term and were promptly handed fun-sized packets of M&Ms.

I repeat. Class called M&Ms. Free M&Ms.

Here is me drowning in M&M glory!

For those of you who actually read these awkward blurb post things and are saying,

my reply is,


(Although based on this week, they should probably rename the class "205 Pieces of Assorted Chocolate." Because that's what was passed around today. Class called M&Ms = free M&Ms + more free Halloween candy. Be jealous.)

Sonnets and Stories and Satire, Oh My!

I wasn't able to control my excitement enough to actually sit down and write about this on the day it happened, but now that it's been a week, I have calmed down enough to tell you about a wonderful discovery known as The Book Thing.

The Book Thing is a shop. A bookshop. A bookshop in Baltimore comprised of ridiculously musty, stuffy, and un-air-conditioned rooms of books, to be precise.

But here's the catch.

The books are free.

And they're not malnourished scraps of stories or beat-up books that nobody wants or anything like that. There are hundreds and thousands of classics and plays and sci-fi novels and chemistry textbooks and philosophical readings, everything from Plato's Republic to a huge shiny edition of Lord of the Rings, and a lot of the books (if you're willing to search a bit) are in really good condition!

If you're not a bookworm, then I guess you might not appreciate this. But because I happen to be a huge bookworm, I basically stared in awe for several minutes, ran around frantically grabbing Shakespeare and Austen and Steinbeck and Swift...

... and then ended up reluctantly putting over half of my books back because it seemed obnoxious to take over ten books (also because I'm a college student with approximately 1 square foot of dorm room space). ((Parting is such sweet sorrow!))

Anyhow, The Book Thing is officially one of the coolest places in Baltimore. (There are a lot of coolest places, though ((i.e. everything I've encountered over the past three weeks)) and I'll talk about them some other time, hopefully soon!)

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Inanimate Friends, Physics, & Having Fun

Sometimes I wonder if the conversations I have with people are considered normal.

In case you're confused, Slart is my laptop. He is the first laptop I've ever owned, and he is a brand-new, highly intelligent laptop that can turn on/off in under 20 seconds (our farting dinosaur family laptop takes approximately 20 minutes).
Slart says hi!

Also, Slart doesn't like mint green.

In case you're wondering, there's also Winston the Printer. And my backpack, who's named Samwise because he's trusty and loyal and doesn't mind hiking around with me even when I'm grumpy. And- well, let's just say I have a lot of inanimate friends. But hey, you have to have fun sometimes. Otherwise things (in this case, my dorm room) would be really boring.

Take today's physics lecture, for example. My professor was talking about vectors with hats...

... so I gave them hats.

Actually, speaking of physics class, my professor brought a whole new meaning to in-class demonstrations this morning.

First off, he gave us the classic "if I drop one ball and throw the other to the right, which will hit the ground first?" problem, and he then proceeded to drop one ball and throw another one to the right to prove that they would touch floor at the same time.

Typical physics classroom mini-demo, right?

But no, there's more.

Because the next problem he gave us went something along the lines of, If a monkey is hanging on the branch of a tree and you want to shoot the monkey, but you know he's going to let go of the branch as soon as you fire, where should you aim (above the monkey, at the monkey, or below the monkey)?*

So we all started thinking about this.

And then we noticed that our professor had quit his lecture stance and was bent over the table he'd been standing in front of.

So we were like, What is he doing...?

Those are not cabbages, they're my lecture hall-mates, okay?

And then we were like, Wait a minute.

No way.

Is he actually...

... setting up a monkey and a ladder and...?

Yes. Yes, he is.

So needless to say, physics was pretty interesting even without Slart and Samwise and my vector hats. But still, it's always good to make some inanimate friends and have some fun. Just in case.

*Let it be known that I have nothing against monkeys. Curious George is a monkey! Perhaps the gun was a water gun and the man in the yellow hat's trying to prank George.