Yea, I say unto you that remedial courses are the tools of the Devil. And by these signs shall ye know him: By the number "95," as in "English 95." By the number "3," as in "Math 3." And by the letter "F," as in "failing grade." Indeed, I say, the time for repentance is at hand!
Friday, January 29, 1999
Sabbath Scheduling, and Sizable Sarcasm

Weekends are going to make it tough for me to maintain my journal-writing streak.

See, for religious reasons, I can't do a whole lot of things from sundown Friday until nightfall Saturday. Including using a computer. Which means that any particular set time for writing this thing would have to go by the wayside then. The only way I can keep writing entries every day without cheating outrageously would be by writing Friday's entry in the morning, and Saturday's entry at night. And with sundown being early these days, the former is going to be a bit of a challenge.

As it happens, I'm writing this entry not very long after I finished Thursday's entry. I figure I'll zip through it, go to sleep, glance over it again in the morning, and then upload it, before catching the bus to Far Rockaway, where, it seems, pretty much the entire family is going to be.

As it happens, this time around, I have stuff to catch up on, so this is fine. Whether I'll keep doing this in the future, or whether I'll switch to just having one entry covering Friday and Saturday in the future, remains to be seen. There's what to be said for that approach.

Anyway, after art class, I went back for another slice of pizza...

See, here's the thing. I'd had a feeling that I was spending less money over winter break, but I wasn't certain. There's no question now, though. I'd forgotten how much I spend on food in college. A couple slices of pizza, a can or two of Coca-Cola... these things add up.

(I've heard tell that Coke machines are reasonably priced in other parts of the country. At my college, we're talking 90 cents for a 12-ounce can.)

The Thermos of tea is a good start, I think, but it's not enough. I'm going to have to start bringing in sandwiches, I think. Especially now that the kosher pizza on campus has gone back to being little more than edible.

...after which I went to the computer lab and checked my e-mail (of course), followed by a return trek to the college paper.

I proceeded to lay out my section. The column mentioned in yesterday's entry was just over a quarter page. The staff box took up half of that page, and I wrote a little letter from the editor to fill in the last bit.

Page two of my section had a quarter-page letter to the editor. Leaving me with 75% of a page to fill. After a minor skirmish over the possibility of getting a quarter-page ad to fill some of that, I decided to just write a really long column this week.

My column usually runs somewhere between a quarter-page and a half-page, in 10-point type, on a standard tabloid-size newspaper page. My longest ever was a full-page rant, which I doubt too many people read. Too daunting. This one would be my second-longest.

As of 6 PM, I still wasn't sure exactly what I was going to write about.

By 8:45, I'd finished the thing, using all of the available space. (I threw in two pull-quotes, partially to take up space, but mostly to give the page a bit more visual interest.) It rambles a bit, especially towards the end, where I explicitly grant that I'm just trying to fill the last bit of space, and my tone was a tad inconsistent... but it's not bad, otherwise.

Learning from my mistakes on my last really long column, this one is broken into six smaller chunks, five of which make up a larger whole, and the last of which was explicitly tacked on to fill the rest of the space. The sections are separated by horizontal rules -- I'm learning something from writing this journal -- and, on the whole, it looks easier to read than the intimidating wall of text I wrote that other time.

The text itself is more fun, also. I went in for extreme sarcasm, starting by railing against a "parasite" who dared to come to the college needed remedial work in mathematics... who then went on to get a Marshall Scholarship, with which he's going to be doing his graduate work in math. How long, I asked, are we going to allow people like that to run rampant through the system? Clearly, the mayor is right, and remedial courses need to be eliminated.

It got loopier from there. The governor now wants to limit state financial aid to those taking at least 15 credits a semester. Now, I'm in a commuter school -- there are no dorms -- in which most students have to work at least some of the time. I've never taken 15 credits, myself. But what I wrote was: "It's high time. You are also no doubt aware of the scandalously low four-year graduation rate among CUNY students. Why, some students have the unmitigated gall to try to hold down jobs while they attend college. Don't they realize that education is more important than such lesser concerns as rent and food? ...and tuition, but let's not get technical about that. The point is that it's impossible to get a proper education if one takes less than 15 credits a semester, and it's about time our policies reflected that."

I cut the facetiousness towards the end, pointing out that I was obviously being sarcastic, and poking a few more holes in the various arguments made by the forces currently arrayed against open admissions at the City University of New York.

On the down side, I've found two errors in the column since pasting the page up and going home, but one is a really minor typo (I wrote "why" instead of "while," but the intended meaning is pretty obvious), and I'll correct the other in next week's column.

On the whole, I am happy.

Especially since one of the other staffers lent me The Rolling Stone Women in Rock Collection, which he thought I'd be interested in. He was right on the mark. This is a 3-CD set, featuring one track from each of 48 different artists, from Big Mama Thornton to Shawn Colvin. I was reading through the track listing, and just grinning broadly. I'm listening to it as I type this, in fact; "Feed the Tree" by Belly is on right now. Good collection. Too bad I already have a mile-long list of CDs I want to get when I win the lottery. (It might help if I played the lottery, but why get technical?)

This entry was started really late Thursday night, and edited and expanded late Friday morning. See you again late Saturday night, most likely.