Wednesday, April 17, 2013

interviewing an Identified Psychopath at a Federal Penitentiary: Does That Sound Like a Trip to the World Series to You?

I have two more nights of relative freedom and leisure until I start what I've begun to call "The Big Push."  I've been doing this since high school. Each semester or quarter (my university is on the quarter system) I give myself a few weeks to become familiar with the curriculum of each class and with the point of view of each professor, which is what he or she wants to hear parroted bck to him or her in every paper, essay, or essay exam.

I suppose I've reached the point by now that nothing is really stopping me from getting a jump-start on this workload, but, OCD-type that I am, I'm a creature of habit.  "The Big Push," by tradition, begins on a Friday night. It's Wednesday  night right now.  I'm not sure exactly what I think might happen were I to begin "The Big Push" two days early, but I do not possibly see how it could be a good thing.  One might think it's something hanging over my head, and the dread of it is worse than it would be to just get started and get it over with.

The truth is that I'm not lying in bed at night worrying about the intense workload I'm going to dump on myself in a couple of days. I'm savoring m last few days of a normal life before the onset of "The Big Push."  I have a battle plan for most of my courses.

Interactions in Biomolecular Complexes is largely a lab class where we each design our own project, which is pretty much growing one mold, introducing something equally disgusting, such as a fungus, and then trying to kill 'em both, ideally with a single agent. Fascinating, huh? 

Fracture mechanics is a biophysics course. It's not heavy on papers and projects.  It's a matter of learning the material, then regurgitating it for tests. It's heavy on quizzes in addition to the announced tests.  it is interesting to know why, in addition to size and density,  some bones fracure more easily than others.

My strings course is a peformance.mastery course. I have to develop a designated level of mastery of violin, viola, cello, and string bass. Because I play violin, what I know transfers to the other instruments to the degree that I could pass the course (it's pass/fail) tomorrow, but I'd actually like to master each of these instruments to some degree, particularly the cello, which I consider, when well-played, the instrument that produces the second most beautiful sound in music, with French horn being the first.

I've already got a great jump on my Appalachian music project; I'm using the overall pentatonic tonality of southern Appalachian ballads to demonstrate their roots to Scottish and Irish music. I'll have fun with that one. 

In Psychopathology, each of us  has to interview  a different assigned inmate from Lompoc Federal prison six times,  (it's not terribly far away), and write a paper about our conclusions concerning his state of psychopathology, onset, etiology, prognosis, etc. I've met with my inmate three times already. He's not someone I'd necessarily choose to go trick-or-treating or to Disneyland with, but with the glass between us and the close supervision that is provided,  I'm not overly traumatized by the situation. I'll share more details about it later.

In Sports Sociology, my project will probably feature the onset of agents as primary contract negotiators in professional sports. (Back in the day, the players were expected to do their own negotiating with their teams' general managers, and were regularly screwed over.) It wasn't easy for the players to institute the change, and many paid heavy prices for being pioneers in this arena.  I'm also considering focusing upon the transition of tennis from an amateur sport, where players were secretly and unofficially handed money in envelopes for participating in tournaments, but got nothing for winning or making it to the finals or semi-finals -- the bigger name the player, the more he or she got simply for showing up regardless of the player's performance in the tournament.  It took the courage of several players who stood to lose a great deal  who blew the world of high-level tennis wide open and exposed it for what it was.

In Religion and Film, in each course session we watch a movie that has some at least vaguely religious  connection. We submit a 2-page essay by computer before midnight of the day the movie was shown.  There will be midterm and final essay tests. The ovearll focus of the course's movies is Christianity, with a little Judaism thrown in to lend the false impression of multi-culturalism. Our research papers need to focus upon the religious overtones of a particular film besides one of the ones we've seen or will see in class. God, how I wish we could use a TV series, as I'd grab Seventh Heaven in a minute, but I'd probably have to arm-wrestle half the class for it.   I'll probably use either Gabriel's Oboe or Gran Torino, though I'm open to suggestions.

Asian American Queer Studies is a bit baffling. I'm not getting much from the course, but then, getting something from the course isn't really the point of taking  the course. I've known that for a long time, as in since roughly kindergarten.. I think I'm just going to profile actor-director B. D. Wong  and his experiences as a gay Asian-American in the film industry.  I've been told he sometimes answers questions when tweeted, and might consent to a lengthier Internet onterview.

This semester's workload is far less cumbersome than was that of past quarters. I'm knocking on my ebony baby grand as I type this. Not everything is as simple as it seems, and things have been known to go awry.



  1. The biology project is the stuff of nightmares for me. I hate fungus of all kinds. The inmate interview sounds very interesting, though. I would probably enjoy that to some extent.

  2. Knotty, my mom is sure I'm going to contract a mysterious and incurable illness from my Biomolecular Complexes project. My dad keeps telling her that she's taken enough lab courses herself that she should know how foolish she's being.