Going to see Faust at the Met; post-semester rest

An excellent experience!

COMPLETELY shifting gears from the previous post showcasing work and toil at YDS, this post is about a fantastic and relaxing end to my 2011 spent in New Haven – going to see the opera Faust at the New York Metropolitan Opera House with my friend from DC, Mark.  He is an aficionado of opera, and has been working and participating in that field for a bunch of years, so I was rather excited at the opportunity to go see a story I find fascinating with some expert advice on the performance itself.  The performance was Gounod‘s Faust, as slightly reimagined and produced for a more modern, post-atomic age audience.  As one can imagine, it made for an excellent evening filled with music and relaxation – though that said, there was actually a big accident when part of the set broke, causing one of the leads to fall a full 8 feet down, making the production pause for 30 minutes while  they assessed her health and the state of the set.  As the photos show, I got a lightning quick tour of Times Square on the way over towards Lincoln Center.  Mark and I ate at a little Mexican restaurant called Jalapeño, which was delicious (albeit a very cramped space).  We got to the Met and enjoyed the exterior and interior decorations, and then made our way up to our box, near the front and top of the performance hall.  They were less expensive tickets (by my request, as a starving graduate student), but honestly, the height of our seats gave us a view of only ~2/3 of the stage, in return for surprisingly fantastic acoustics of the performance while also removing us from the majority of audience members, many of whom apparently decided they had come to the opera house in order to cough all night long.  The performance has been stuck in my head since I saw it, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

As a brief mention, I have to compliment Metro North (the commuter rail system out of NYC) for being so completely on-time.  That said, the show got out late because of the extra 30 minute intermission due to the injury, and so I was absolutely frantic to try and get a cab: running outside at 12:35am, with a 1:12am train departure makes for a stressed Mike.  I don’t know what the non-taxi rides for hire in NYC are called, nor do I actually know if they are a safe (or even completely legal/legitimate) method of transportation, but they were the only people stopping to offer to drive people, as the cabs kept on zooming past.  I took one of those back to Grand Central station and asked him to make it a speedy get-away: unfortunately for my peace of mind, Saturday night in New York City so close to Christmas makes for a traffic-filled environ,  Even so, my daring driver denied the doleful drivers doing their darnedest to defeat my disembarkation details of 1:12am – he got me to Grand Central at 1:05 and 45 seconds or so.  I sprinted inside, asked an employee which platform was to New Haven (as a New Yorker, he didn’t disappoint: he looked mad that I asked him to do his job, then was clearly mad in his gruff response.  You stay classy, New York City.), was pointed in the proper direction, and did a little more sprinting.  I boarded the train at maybe 1:10, and that train closed its doors and shot out of the station no more than 1.75 minutes later.  A photo finish, but I eventually got home to my bed in New Haven, thoroughly pleased with my end-of-semester operatic experience.

Closing shop at the New Haven house

As a brief close to this post, I wanted to quickly sum up the last handful of days I spent in New Haven.  First, as many of you may have heard directly or indirectly from my housemate Ryan and I: our house is very old, leaks air like a leaky sieve, and heating costs are high anyways, so we usually run life without the heat on.  Even accepting that it is not that cold of a winter thus far, I can honestly say that when the thermostat in the living room reads 40 degrees, you can reasonably expect to freeze before the first marker.  An unexpected potential side effect of this: when I finally got around to doing a VERY-overdue cleaning and water change for my saltwater reef, I didn’t realize until it was too late that the 8 gallons of distilled water I had just poured into the tank were a frigid 40 degrees F (whereas the tank runs at a constant 79 degrees) – I am really hoping I don’t return in January to a watery necropolis lazily demonstrating that my lack of focus when it comes to thermodynamics simply isn’t going to cut it.  Completely unrelated to the reef, I finally got the chance to sit down and chat with Professor Carolyn Sharp on topics ranging from academics vs faith vs experience, to the problem of whether her Labrador retriever or my saltwater reef is a more relaxing, less work-intensive way of reducing stress (we agreed to disagree, in the end).  Finally, after doing a bunch of work around the house to shut it down and prepare it for the future, one other house-related update.  Our housemate Shannon, who works as a cosmetologist for Sephora, got promoted earlier this fall and thus moved to a different store for her daily job.  All told, it turns out to be much cheaper for her to commute from elsewhere in CT, so she decided to move out of the house at the end of December in order to save herself a whole bunch of money; exciting that she is moving up the ladder at that job, and I definitely wish her the best of luck!  Our landlord Whitney in the interim found us a new third housemate: a guy named Shawn, who is doing a Master of Music at Yale for violin performance.  I got the chance to meet him while he moved stuff in, and he seems like a really cool guy: perhaps best of all, he saw my shelf full of board games and a Star Wars t-shirt on a chair in my room, got a huge grin, and our friendship was thus instantly forged.  The spring should be excellent 😀

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Advent season at YDS

Christmas < Advent

As my second of two sequential entries written and posted after the fact, I wanted to quickly write about my experiences at the Div School around Advent, as they were enjoyable and noticeably different than much of the rest of this semester.  First and foremost, I would like to again offer my thanks to the good people of my DC congregation, St Paul’s Lutheran DC, for the delightful care package I received on/for Saint Nicholas’ Day (put simply, the European celebration of Santa’s practice run) – the cards I received from some of the kids were especially thoughtful and are featured in the photos section.

On another note, Advent at YDS was a rather interesting season: liturgies and homilies all made HEAVY use of the notion of Advent as the 4 weeks of uncertainty waiting for something good to come as opposed to the 1 day of Christmas.  For finals- and stress-laden students, this message of surviving interminable waiting and struggle resonated well.  Check out the photos section for a look at the Common Room all decked out (halls included) for the Advent Party, the other big event of the fall when most of the believers at the school all go to church after the last class ends on a Tuesday in December, and then all go to get very, very drunk (but in a catered, classy way) afterwards prior to finals.  Similarly, my office at Yale’s Office of Sustainability was also decorated and quite enjoyable – check out the photos!

Finals Season – a truly eschatological, End Times experience

Speaking of finals, I wanted to end by summing up the entire semester and specifically focusing on how finals went; a sort of look at how my whole semester went!  The schedule at the end was insane, as it ended up stacked (and yes, here in writing, I fully admit that I voluntarily took on too much, as I am wont to do).  For me, my final papers were due up until the Monday that was the second-last day of class; a photo finish on the last one, finishing a 6pm deadline at 5:58pm.  Classes ended that next day, Tuesday – the aforementioned Advent party was that night but I had to skip it in favor of preparation for the following.  The biggest meeting of the semester, with my job coordinating paper reduction for the Office of Sustainability, was scheduled for that Wednesday afternoon – the meeting itself was a slam dunk and was great, but preparing for it and not knowing how it would go was fairly nerve-wracking up until it.  Then, due to being an idiot, I had schedule the GMAT for that Thursday morning, which went fairly well for no sleep, high stress, and only cursorily glancing at study materials (it turns out that after 7 years of no use, my immediate handle on the rules for exponents wasn’t at high capacity).  Though I am going to retake the GMAT in the future, that initial experience was actually rather valuable: first, as a benchmark for how I did taking the test cold and thus how much I would need to study in the future; second, and perhaps far more importantly for the strength of my application: it was enough, when combined with the extremely positive outcome of that work meeting (and its implications for my participation in paper reduction and thus cost-savings for Yale over months of implementation) to convince me to delay my application to the School of Management until next fall, so it will be as strong as possible.

On to the Crucible they call “finals” themselves – all told, it wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t managed to strategically overschedule myself to an absurd degree (on the other hand, everyone is good at something; I am just sticking to what I know!).  Armed with the knowledge, though, that I was busy until Thursday afternoon (and realistically, I was completely sleep-deprived and utterly mentally-destroyed after the GMAT in the morning, so Thursday night was a mental health night of some 1978 Battlestar Galactica 😀 ).  Therefore, I had all of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to prepare for a triplet of 3 hour-long finals: 9am Monday Old Testament exam; 9am Tuesday Systematic Theology; and 2pm Tuesday Transitional Moments exam.  All told, my study friends (it is a long story, but one nickname for us is “Team Rhetorical Violence”) and I all spent a great deal of time sequestered away in a lovely little room at Yale’s Hall of Graduate Studies (which, we all agreed after examining, is the poster child for what Hollywood makes us expect Yale to look like).  Our Old Testament study guide was upwards of 40 single spaced pages; the Systematics final was on a full 12 theologians (both identifying quotes from all the readings and their author; and also extended essays on 2 thinkers) and so preparation was limited to talking out summaries of the ideas and then trying to skim passages which might be helpful; and finally the Transitional Moments final was a whole bunch of term preparation (we thankfully had the entire list of terms we needed to know, so that only left the short answer and essays as unknowns).

Though as of Christmas Day 2011 I have not seen my grades yet, I am hopeful that I did well this initial semester at Yale Divinity School.  In the aggregate, I am extremely pleased with my choice to attend YDS, have made friends with a great bunch of peers and professors, and am looking forward to several more years of experiences which I hope to share the highlights from here!

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A long overdue update: pre-, concurrent with-, and post-Thanksgiving life

A brief update!

As I originally started to write this post, I was standing in front of my computer with a slew of books open; dozens of hundreds of thousands of Firefox tabs, documents, and PDF files arrayed on my desktop; and stress levels high enough to destroy a zeppelin.

Understandably, then, I had to delay composing and posting this until today, but fear not: there are still some interesting stories and photos to enjoy!

While midterms back in October were one particular brand of stress (not knowing the real expectations at play, first exams at Yale, a large breadth of material being covered), they were actually less concerning than the issue of pre-Thanksgiving paper deadlines.  All told, I had a paper or similar assignment due in each of my four main courses, and in one case (Old Testament Interpretation), it was the only paper for the entire course, so these all had to be very carefully thought-out and composed.  Along these lines, you’ll find in the photo section a white flag with a pine tree, saying “AN APPEAL TO HEAVEN” – usually called the pine tree flag, this is George Washington’s flag for the original American Fleet he personally funded, with the pine tree representing the unity of North and South, and the words a reference to Locke, hoping for divine assistance in achieving justice when all else fails.  I figured it was a message I can stand behind, and I needed something to balance the pair of Israeli and Palestinian flags, so up it went.

Thanksgiving break, then, was the usual, just hyper-charged: it was both a VERY necessary break, and a VERY rude shock to my system upon returning to the grind with a LOT more deadlines and stress. The good news is that I went home early (though I missed the Yale-Harvard football game, it turns out I didn’t miss much), so I got a full week and change off for my break; the bad news is that I apparently forgot how unpleasant Greyhound is 1) for someone of my height and 2) around Thanksgiving.  That said, getting home was great – a bunch of photos from my trip, which involved getting to Syracuse and staying at my sister’s place (her sorority house) until we departed for home in the morning.  Also, some photos of playing a fantastic board game called Silverton, with my friends Jason, Andrew, and Alicia.  Got a photo of my sister Christa and I with our brother Steven in his hockey gear, at the annual Turkey Bowl alumni game they do on Thanksgiving morning.  Finally, some great shots of the Thanksgiving feast and festivities at my house, and a poster showing my native Geauga (‘gee-awww-guh’) county and its neighboring counties in northeastern Ohio.

Enjoy, and a few more backlogged blog posts are soon getting posted; keep your eyes out!

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