While M has enjoyed many social and extracurricular aspects of his first year of college, he has been disappointed in regards to the department he’s majoring in, both the classes he’s taken and related opportunities available.

He muttered briefly about wanting to transfer when he was home at Thanksgiving. We couldn’t tell if it was general freshman transitional angst or not. He muttered again briefly at Christmas. Again, hard to tell how serious he was. And then, in late February, a week before most transfer applications were due, he decided to go for it. 

Let me inject some parental irony here. When he applied to colleges as a high school senior, he had copious amounts of help to make sure everything went as smoothly as possible. E and I drove him to countless tours and info sessions and several interviews. We kept a spreadsheet on the fridge to make sure everything got done in a timely fashion. A family friend worked with him to hone his long essay. His guidance counselor made sure transcript and recommendations all went through electronically. And ultimately he got into 3 good colleges, but not either of the Ivies he’d really been hoping for.

This time around, the entire process was on him, and was a lot more complex and problematic. One college misplaced his mailed transcript; another misplaced his mailed midterm report. One professor forgot to write a recommendation for a month. He drove himself to tour and interview at one school.

And the end result? M was accepted at 4 colleges, including 2 of the Ivies he applied to. Wow! That extra year of maturity, and actual college experience, clearly made him much better able to articulate who he is, and what he aspires to, and why a top-tier college should want to help him get there.  

And ultimately it came down to a choice between Columbia and Brown.

We took a whirlwind day trip to NYC since he’d never visited Columbia before, and they had a special visit day for accepted transfer students. He traveled to Brown by himself for a revisit, since he hadn’t seen that campus in almost 3 years. 

And after much thought, he finally made what is probably the toughest choice he’s ever had to make. 

Columbia, here he comes!

Mother’s Day

At 8:00 in the morning we met up with M outside his dorm. (We’d driven out to Rochester the day before.) He took us to breakfast in the college cafeteria, where E and I enjoyed watching a couple of groundhogs sun themselves on the lawn outside the window. M was very patient with the fact he had to be awake at such a ridiculously early hour, never mind listen to parental running commentary on the groundhog activity.

We got back to his dorm and helped him finish packing up his stuff. We had previously asked that M do as much laundry as possible ahead of time, since our washer drain is problematic, and who wants to spend 7 hours in a car full of dirty laundry. Well, he had indeed laundered almost all his clothes, and had already packed them — woohoo! We threw out a few items, including a stained pillow, and a mattress pad that had been used all year evidently without a sheet. We were amused to note a number of other pillows already in the dorm’s trash room. And then we loaded everything else into the car.

He checked out of the dorm and we were on the road by 10:18. He was asleep before we reached the highway.

Freshman year is DONE!

Updated to add: just discovered that he had packed his damp towel in one of the bags of clean clothes. Oh well!

One of the funniest internet sites I’ve seen in a long time is http://lolmythesis.com/ It’s a place where people rephrase their thesis titles in plain English, with the simplified explanation generally showing how ridiculously useless and/or frustrating a lot of research actually is.

For example:

Behavioral Analysis of D. melanogaster larva: Determining if TRPA1 is Necessary and Sufficient for an Avoidance Response from ITC

turned into:

To nobody’s surprise – Fly Larva do not appreciate nor enjoy being tossed face first into a dish of the stuff that makes Wasabi so damn hot


Investigating Populations of Pseudoroegneria spicata in Eastern Washington using a Stochastic Integral Projection Model

turned into:

I was paid to sit on a hillside and count grass and then my research site burned down, so here’s a mathematical model I don’t understand

Although my current work is not (thank goodness) anything I actually need to produce a thesis about, I am in the midst of putting together an abstract for a conference. The title in layman’s terms would have to be:

I can measure tiny amounts of two really small molecules, but the biologists don’t agree on which cells I should be looking in

Another project I’ve spent a lot of time on this week is:

When you put stuff in hot acid, it falls apart

And then there’s a weekly analysis that I run, whose results periodically show:

If you’re trying to kill cells with chemicals made 20 years ago, your data is probably going to be garbage, because most of your chemicals went bad

Combine the following elements:

1) Night-time

2) Cat with cabin fever 

3) Glowing jogger’s armband worn as collar

4) Reflective aluminum canoe 

5) Feline curiosity 

No, the cat isn’t channeling his inner werewolf and howling at the moon. I think that weird circle is the flash reflecting off something, possibly my thumbnail. 


More realistic, but not quite as fun. 

M and his best friend want to go to New York City for a couple days at the end of this week to compete in a college debate competition. Mostly I think they just want a road trip together before M goes back to college on Monday, but at least they really are on the debate teams at their colleges. We told M we wanted to know the following:

1) When it starts and ends

2) Where they plan to park (they’ll be driving friend’s mom’s car)

3) The address where they will stay overnight 

4) His friend’s cell phone number 

5) Whether he needs to bring a sleeping bag

So far the answers we’ve gotten are:

1) Arrive mid-afternoon on the 8th, leave early evening on the 9th

2) No idea

3) The physical address of the host college, and “we’ll be staying in the dorm” – but it’s a community college and has no dorms

4) Phone number was written down on a post-it note that he lost then found again 

5) Yes 

To me, this seems like they’d wind up sleeping in the car in their sleeping bags in some truly skeevy section of the city, and we can all guess how badly that might go. 

Sorry M. I know you’ve just spent 4 months without parental supervision, but that doesn’t mean we’ll let you go to a very large and totally unfamiliar city unless you actually come up with a coherent plan. 

Style is so complicated

M and his friends were heading into the city for lunch, as a last hurrah together before one friend headed back to college.

M: “Is belt color supposed to match shoe color?”

Me, looking at the olive-green Boy Scout belt he had fastened around his waist: “Theoretically. Are all your other belts at college?”

M: “Yeah.”

Me: “It really doesn’t matter. You look fine.”

M: “This is a semi-formal restaurant. I just want to make sure it’s OK.”

Me: “If it’s a semi-formal restaurant, then your blue jeans are going to be more of a problem than the color of your belt.”

Fortunately, there was a pair of khakis hanging in his closet that still fit him.

2 days into his visit home, he wanders away from the kitchen table with your bookmark in his book.

4 days into his visit home, you look at the kitchen table after he’s finished a meal, and realize he’s left your phone holding his book open. (He thought it was his phone).

1 week into his visit home, he’s accumulated enough new library books and dragged out enough old childhood favorites for his bedside table to look like this:



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