Happy Friday, folks.
I've been lax on this thing, but it's been for a worthier reason than "I didn't feel like it". Not much better, but better. I've been studying for the Graduate Record Exam (or GRE) over the past couple weeks and I made my first attempt at it yesterday afternoon at the Thompson ProMetric Testing center over by Northlake Mall. If I'd done better on it, I probably wouldn't be referring to it as a "first attempt", but because, according to the GRE, I'm exactly as good at taking the math section of the test as I am at taking the Verbal (I got the exact same score in both sections), my plan is to take it again. Because I am not as good at math as I am at "verbal", so my guess is I can get a higher score on the Verbal. I'm not certain I'm going to grad school next year for a few reasons. 1) I don't know where my wife's going to be working, 2) I'm abivalent about whether grad school's even a good idea for me, especially the degree I'm thinking of getting, and 3) well, I'm sure there's a third reason. But if I have a decent GRE score under my belt, I'll have one fewer obstacle in my path if and when I do decide to apply to some damn school. They're good for 5 years after all.
Let me say a little something else about the GRE. The score range in both the Quantitative sections (math) and Verbal sections is scored on a range between 200-800. Before you get to either of those sections, however, you have to spend an hour and fifteen minutes writing two essays, one taking a side on an issue and supporting your argument, and the other taking apart a weak argument. The GRE study guide companies all tell you that this part of the test is the least important. So I did that and then came the Verbal section. The one half-hour section of the test I most wanted to do well on. First question: easy. The way it is with these "Computer Adaptive" tests, is that the first question is one that is of average difficulty. If you get it wrong, you get an easier question for your second question. If you get it right, your next question's harder. The more difficult-rated questions you answer, the higher your score. Third question, an anology question, I was already stumped. I had it narrowed down to two or three choices, but I didn't know with any real certainty which of these was most likely correct. I think I got it wrong because the next questions was SLAKE:THIRST. Not as hard. With these Computer Adapative tests, the first questions are absolutely the most vital to determining your score. Anyway, it went downhill after that. There are 28 questions in the Verbal section. The little timer on my screen told me that I had 2:47 left on this section, and I had about 9 questions left, at least three of which had to do with a longish reading comprehension passage that had just popped up onto my screen. By the time I'd finished reading the passage (and comprehending little to none of it), and then clicked B for all the remaining answers (questions left unanswered count against your score more harshly than incorrect answers, especially at the end), I was ready to just cancel the whole thing and get out of there. As bad as the Verbal had been, though, the math was worse. Of the questions that appeared on my test, I knew how to do precisely 10% of them, despite my hours of preparation. I guessed on most of the questions because the Verbal had so demoralized me that I'd already chalked up the whole thing as a loss. When my scores came back (and I'll save myself the embarassment of posting them up here), I was shocked. I thought I was going to see a combined score of 2, but they were considerably higher than I thought they'd be.
So the good news is that my performance on the test wasn't a complete humiliation. The bad news is that I'm going to have to take that exhausting test again because I ain't going down like that, not when I know I can get a much higher Verbal score. Anyway, that's what I've been up to.
In the world of politics, the already icky Senate race in Virginia between Republican incumbent George "Macaca" Allen and Democratic challenger Jim Webb has just taken a turn for the ickier. "Thanks" mostly go to Matt Drudge, who's splashed the "story" at the top of his site since late last night. You see, in addition to being Secretary of the Navy under Reagan, Jim Webb's also a novelist. With a little less than 2 full weeks before the election, the struggling George Allen campaign has gone through all of Jim Webb's novels and pulled out all the quotes they could find that right-wing talk audiences (hell, even left-wing talk audiences) would find most objectionable if they heard them recited on the radio. I'm not going to cut and paste them here because, taken out of context as they are, they're pretty unsavory. But you can visit our friend Matt Drudge and he'll happily tell you all about them. I was actually taken aback by the most prominent of the quotes, but this morning on talk radio Webb gave what I take as an entirely satisfactory explanation for the passage which, of course, Drudge misrepresented in a headline that linked to this article. It turns out Webb witnessed the act described in the novel in a slum in Bangkok and was recounting it to lend verisimilitude to his story. (You can probably get a sense of sort of "act" in question just from that clue). The Allen/Webb race is one of the closest in the nation -- control of the Senate could depend on who wins it. It seems that each side is working very hard to make the other candidate so unpalatable that only the most die hard Virginia partisans will show up at the polls. If it's not Webb's novels, than it's Webb's widly mysogenistic comments from back in the 80s. One of those "hold your nose and vote" sort of contests.
Anyway. I'm hoping to get over to the bookstore today to pick up Stephen King's latest, "Lisey's Story". It's been getting excellent reviews everywhere so I have a reasonable expectation that it'll be a worthwhile read. And here it is, one more time: have a good weekend, everybody.