A compilation of random and interesting things, musings, musics, videos, and more. Brought to you by a UChicago student with a penchant for procrastination.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Spring Break 2007 & The Colbert Report

Four days in NYC and a ticket to see the Colbert Report (on Stephen Colbert Day no less). What could be better than this for finals detox?


Yeah, no, seriously - I can't think of anything better.

Though, I suppose I should rewind just a tad bit ...

Basically I got insanely lucky and managed to get tickets for the middle of Spring Break (my tickets for Winter Break fell through). With the savings I had held on to from the summer I snagged a great plane deal and designed a trip around the show date. On the day of, March 20, we got to the studio around 2 in the afternoon. Just walking towards the studio and seeing the "Colbert Report" awning slowly growing larger was a fantastic experience. We had been walking around New York all that morning and event though I was tired and it was rather chilly out, my energy shot through the roof. Willie Nelson (!) who was the guest for that evening, had his massive tour bus parked outside, and staffers were buzzing around the entrance -- this was just too cool!

DSC05167 DSC05165

Left: Willie's bus and a security guard. Right: photographed by a staffer.

The line was tucked away along the side of the building, and though we were fourth in line, there was still much waiting to be had before the doors opened. Two memorable moments occurred when 1) Willie Nelson finally walked into the studio (though I don't have a photo) and 2) when Mark Malkoff, the amazing audience director, came out to prep everyone. I got to talk to him for a bit and let him know how much I loved his work. He really was as positive (and amazingly helpful) as I had read.

The time in line inched by, but finally we were ushered inside. We were assigned seating numbers and left to wait a little while longer in a large-ish room just outside of the main studio. Apparently Stephen was still taping his toss with Jon, so while we waited I got a good look around.


The most striking thing in the room was the Colbert Nation flag, sent in by the Colboarders - a nice tribute to the fandom (plus I'm probably up there).

Finally, after a bit debriefing by the stage manager, another Mark, in which we were told to cheer as loudly as possible and reminded that Stephen fed off of our energy, we were let into the studio. While you couldn't take photos inside, my memory of that moment remains crystal clear. The lights for the set were dimmed and there were only a few people there, but the overwhelming character of the set, coupled with my immense familiarity with it, created an intense sensation. Suddenly this set that I had known so well gained another dimension and I veered as close as I could to the stage itself in order to peer more closely at the bookshelf and the doo-dads place just out of frame. Fourth in line, meant I had a seat almost right in front of the desk and as I sat down I couldn't help but realize my legs were wobbling.

Image via colbertpics.com (RIP wonkyear.com)

Thankfully, all of this excess energy was channeled by the stand up comic who ran out and got us excited for the show. He picked on different people in the audience and generally had us practice screams and bellowing laughs at the slightest notice. He was out for something like 30 minutes, but finally it was time for Stephen to emerge!

He bound into the studio as we were at the height of our cheers, his energy seemingly endless as he ran back and forth between the two tiers audience seats with a gigantic grin plastered onto his face. While I had mused that he might be somewhat less animated in person, if anything, he was more alive and charismatic than I had ever imagined. His intensity, which easily dominated a television screen, engulfed the entire room and the audience was more than willing to throw the energy right back at him.

There was a quick Q&A session once the cheers had died down and I actually got to ask the man a question. I rambled out something on the topic of this video and asked him if he ever got his revenge on Jon Stewart for making fun of the Alphabet All-Starts. Stephen grinned and said that Jon had done a lot of embarrassing work in the past (he sang with Elmo), but then went completely deadpan and mentioned that he had also put a pipe bomb in his car after the toss. Fun times.

The actual show began soon thereafter. Seeing Stephen slip into character so effortlessly was really quite impressive. During the commercial breaks he could put on his producer hat & do some last minute edits, play with his glow pen while jamming to the music playing overhead, or with the prompting of the audience suddenly initiate the Threatdown. Soon enough watching him felt just like watching the regular show ... if of course, one watched the show while on some sort of wonderful drug.

You can check out a full recap of the show at the link below, as well as a video of the interview with "Weedy" Nelson ...

Episode 3038 (3/20/2007) summary c/o No Fact Zone

Despite Willie & Richard Hollbrooke's best efforts to get Stephen to taste the Country Peach Cobbler, it would seem that Stephen would not budge ... right?

Well - I have a shocking revelation.

The interview was pretty drastically edited down for time and unfortunately one of the things that was cut was a really comical exchange between Willie/Hollbrooke and Stephen in the midst of their diplomatic deliberation. Even though the interview above ends with Stephen as victorious, he actually did give in and nibble on the Cobbler Ice Cream Willie was pushing. Hollbrooke was really trying to get Stephen to give in and I don't think Stephen's improv experience could let him say no. Plus it actually would've made for great TV, since Willie crossed himself rather comically right afterwards and Stephen remained ever-defiant (though defeated). What's more Holbrooke looked really happy -- happy enough even to hand me the prop carton of ice cream Stephen had just eaten from. Not too bad.


A delicious end to the night?

Well, I should be wrapping this post up, but from the image at the top I think it's pretty clear that I wound up waiting to meet Stephen. It was pretty cold by that point, so a Dunkin Doughnuts around the corner proved immensely useful.

When Stephen finally came out I almost missed him, and he was actually the one who came up to me and asked if we were waiting for him. I nodded and tried to properly thank him for the amazing show, his amazing body of work, and the fact that he even stopped to say hi. He smiled and took all of this very graciously, before realizing that I was also the been the same person to ask him a question earlier. Awesome! I didn't want to take up too much of his time, so I quickly asked if I could take a quick photo with him and he agreed. Needless to say, I was pretty astounded that all of this had just taken place, and probably sound like a total nerd as I wrap up this post. But it really was amazing! Thanks Stephen.

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Friday, March 9, 2007

Cram Session Sustenance

As a follow up on my How to Survive Finals post and because I have a bunch of procrastination-based photos floating about: here's a recap of what I did as a study break during my intense finals review, complete with tips on what is and ISN'T a good idea for midnight snack-age.

Stopping at the campus convenience store can yield a bounty of foods beneficial to the cause of a late night food break. Mac & cheese, different sandwiches, soups, or pizza type things are generally good as they're light enough to feel like a snack - but not the kind of sugary, highly carb based creations that're going to knock you out in a couple of hours. Thankfully our campus food and coffee shop, Bart Mart - located in Bartlett Hall, is open until 2 AM on the weekdays - making these sustenance and caffeine stops easy.

After picking some seemingly filling looking foods and paying with flex dollars, I walked back over to my dorm and got my snack-on! With a box of cheese-filled garlic bread sticks and a cup of Cambell's Soup-at-hand ... on hand, my hours of watching the Food Network would finally pay off in the crafting of this finals night meal.

Ultimately, the soup sort of made me think of airline food, with that sort of added flavoring that makes even the most uninteresting and otherwise blah foods passable - but for the trade-off of being portable, I think it works. Just make sure to mix it with a spoon (or in my case, chopstick) after it comes out of the microwave - otherwise it forms a sort of soupy skin layer.

And I've gotta admit, the bread sticks were surprisingly good ... although I would mainly attribute that to our semi-functioning house toaster oven. I'm almost sure that if I had tired using the microwave the results would've been somewhat sad and probably soggy.

All in all though, the snack was a good thing to have before delving back into a study of the vestibulo-cochlear systems. Even though I don't look too excited in the photo above - truly - how can anyone be unhappy when reading about the marvels of, um, whatever that marvelous structure in the ear was?

While the snack is important, the thing that's really going to ensure you'll be awake is your choice of energy drink - and for college students normal coffee just doesn't work anymore! Indeed, the heavy stuff if almost mandatory when a real cram session is in order.

If the $7 four-pack of Starbuck's doubleshot wasn't going to do the trick, nothing would!

Of course, I have to admit - I was already in possession of a so called caffeinated beverage back in my dorm room. Found in a Chinatown convenience store, Mr. Brown was the magical beverage I had relied on when faced with a Calculus final exam and an entire night of review during my first semester of college. Marked by a squat little can with an endearing character grinning on it's front, Mr. Brown definitely seemed like the kind of guy who would help you out, without asking too many questions. Yet when matched up against the stoic Starbucks coffee mermaid, could the jovial Mr. Brown stand a chance?

I knew I would feel bad for picking the sleek and confident can design of the doubleshot over the squat yet loveable Mr. Brown iced coffee. Yet the situation called for the hard stuff. While Mr. Brown's $1 pricetag was a welcome sight to a college student on a budget, this fact really only ensured a caffeine kick, the flavor was rather watered down, and not unlike what I would imagine the essence of Brown to taste like.

Ultimately then, I hoped the higher reputation of the doubleshot would ensure energy drink supremacy.

After a couple of sips the potency of the doubleshot became obvious. With an almost thick coffee flavor (
definitely NOT watered down) the doubleshot certainly tasted like a drink of magical caffeinated properties. I hastily gulped down the rest of the stuff and, wanting to see how effective it could really be, I decided to get a quick caffeine nap. Well ... lets just say this stuff works - almost frighteningly well.

After 20 minutes of some highly bizarre dreams, as the caffeine entered my system, I awoke to quite possibly one of the worst, most unbearable coffee-aftertastes I think I've ever experienced! Sure the flavor was great as I took those initial sips, but this was a high price to pay -- so remember kids, brush your teeth before caffeine napping!

Admittedly in the aftermath of this little experiment I was more awake than I had been in something like the past 24 hours, but for a moderate to light coffee drinker such as myself I'll try to limit this behavior to major cram sessions only.
As the time whittled down on my clock, with study progressing at a steady rate, I definitely did not feel tired that entire morning, entering an almost intensely focused state at times (I did sort of miss blinking after a while). The final came and went without any trouble and by the time the stuff finally started wearing off it was already coming up on the evening. I had even managed to see Hans Blix speak at the Harris School of Public Policy after attending a French lector session that day.I couldn't have done it without you caffeine! Thanks!

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How To Survive Finals

Good morning dedicated readers. As you may have noticed, I've been absent from the blog for a while - yet never fear, thankfully Finals are almost over and spring break will finally give me the time I need to clean up my backlog of old drafts and bloggable bits of the web.

So why have I been so preoccupied you might ask? Well ... it's finals week, and staring at a Neuroscience text for 12 hours straight in various small enclosures (cubicles, study rooms, etc) is rather harrowing!

Of course, this might be a rather appropriate time to segway into my involvement with the 'Where Fun Comes To Die' shirt sales at the University of Chicago (see right) ... but I think I think the fact that I still take that statement as a joke implies there is something inherently wrong with regard to the student body here, or else we all love self-deprecating attire. But hey, I'm all for profiting off of misery, so if you do want to buy a shirt or hoodie feel free to contact me. They're a great piece of UChicago tradition, and sold at prices that're way more affordable than any of the official bookstore swag.

Either way, this post is going to be devoted to my tips for surviving finals week - and as a U of C student you'd better believe they're worth something ... (something more than the procrastinative value I got from taking random photos in the midst of studying, that is)

First, check to see where you are in terms of the Agnes Review Inventory:
- read through class resources & the text
- take notes on these (hopefully in class)
- then to review, look through the notes, paring down information into key processes, definitions and diagrams ... yes, essentially taking notes of your notes!

Next, make sure you have these notes, reading materials, class resources (power points, lector notes, etc) in order. Organizing things by date or topic is a good way to go as it allows you to focus in on specific areas of the topic! Even though it takes a bit longer and may makes your desktop look a bit cluttered, this method is really great for moving from a wast swath of knowledge into bit sized ways to review notes that can help you recall the big picture.

* Also, if you take and review notes on your computer, programs like Winroll become indispensable, as you can easily have many, many windows open but have them scaled down into just the title bar (a la Mac) - this makes switching between windows a breeze (and it looks cool, just look at that screen shot!)

And well ... what else can you do to study? I mean that is basically it. It just takes a lot of review and in some cases, a lot of cramming. But refreshing this material in your mind with the aid of notes and a lot of time is really the principal thing to do.

Actually forcing yourself to get into this mode of study is really the main thing you have to grapple with for this method to work. For some people, music helps move the process along - others find depriving themselves of any and all outside stimulus (thanks to libraries, cubicle-like desks, or study rooms) to be key. But this is going to differ for everyone ... I personally wound up sitting in a prison-like study room, but jamming to Royksopp

But regardless of where you study - if you are going for a cram session and know you're not going to be getting any sleep it is really important to have a plan and take periodic breaks. Have an outline of topics for review set up, and in between these topics try to do a little to take your mind off of the studying (make a snack, build up your caffeine levels, play some
Smash, or surf the web for a bit - just don't get distracted from your goal!) This is actually a good habit to get into (as long as it doesn't happen too frequently) as it lets your mind rest for a bit. When you get back to studying this is especially helpful as you can test yourself on how much of what you've just read actually retained (try to think back to the key words, or describe the process you just read about as thoroughly as possible). See, gaged procrastination can be good for you!

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