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Final Four | Sherman Ave Presents: Best Winter Quarter Distros 2014

Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 12.04.59 AM It was never meant to be this way. Four rounds in to this heinous, heinous bracket challenge sponsored by Klondike®!, we’re left with just as much uncertainty as we began with. No one man, woman, or Vice President of Student Affairs could have conceived that we’d be here today, discussing the relative merits of banging your mother after going all Jack Ruby on good old pops Athenian Drama. Be honest, who could have foreseen Psych Stats smashing through the competition like Professor Gorvine on Miley’s wrecking ball? Sometimes it lasts in love, sometimes Food and Society is cut down in its prime, just one of the four #1 seeds dropped like you’ll be dropping Econometrics next quarter.

And yet, here we are, in the Final Four of the Best Winter Quarter Distros 2K14 Challenge, faced with choosing among the champions who emerged from the four most relevant distribution areas Northwestern has to offer. But who will advance to battle for the Best Distro of the Quarter? Sherman Ave’s crack team of analysts provide their fearless predictions for the next round. Voting ends at midnight tomorrow night!

FORMAL STUDIES DIVISION [3] PSYCH 201: Statistical Methods in Psychology

Boosted by the write-in of its current professor, Ben Gorvine, Psychology 201 sprinted into the final four with a thorough smashing of Statistics 202 that was reminiscent of the 1950 “Moonlight massacre” when “Geology 201: Moon Theory” pulled off the only skunk in tournament history against “Psych 099: Spotting a Communist.” It now faces a tough final four matchup against Gender Studies 374: Cyberqueer.

Biggest Reason to doubt: Premature Peaking. The rout that Psych 201 put on in the Elite Eight cannot, statistically speaking, be replicated—will the class flame out in the final four? Assuming Professor Gorvine does not have an arsenal of pants and corresponding puns about which he can write a witty email, there will be no professor write-in to boost voter support against Cyberqueer. To win in the final four, Psych 201 will lean on two untested factors: its solid class time (11-11:50 is prime for sleeping late and getting lunch) and large class size (ideal for skipping/hangovers).

Biggest Reason to believe:  The Bullshit Factor. The two-sentence class description states: students will learn “techniques for describing the real world with numbers” and “how the world works by manipulating these numbers,” along with “a knowledge” of “tests,” and “when and why to execute these tests.”  The vagueness and redundancy of this blurb suggests that, like the writer of the class description, students will be able to get by in this class without providing concrete information or explaining content in detail. As suggested by the class’ CTECs from Winter 2013, the “Fucks Required to Give” factor may be irresistibly close to zero.

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Will it be enough?

-Scurvy Jacobson

LITERATURE & FINE ARTS DIVISION [4] GNDR ST 374: Cyberqueer

Strengths: Winter is coming. If the weather this week wasn’t enough of an indication, you’ll have to hunker down for a cold quarter, and one can only imagine that this class will be, and probably has been, ready for weeks with a fabulous array of scarves, berets, fun hats, fingerless gloves--you name it. These are the allies you need. Only one thing is certain: there will be wool.

Weaknesses: Although the name is totally kosher in reality, it sounds derogatory as hell in most contexts. You’ll have to get into the habit of complaining about Gender, Sexuality, and Digital Technologies, just to avoid talking about your “fuckin Cyberqueer” in most company.

Analysis: In perhaps the realest moment of the last round, Cyberqueer came out with a hard fought win over Introduction to Fiction.  It’s beaten the odds making it this far in the competition, but now it’s time to know, what is Cyberqueer? Answer: Although the name sounds like something recycled from a failed Gossip Girl spinoff, the class gets into the nitty gritty of gender and race on the internet. Media has been all “sexed and raced,” and Cyberqueer will tell you how by analyzing the ways in which these “narratives have been deployed on the internet.”

Am I positive that means dissecting the plot lines of various pornos? No. But will I assume that? Yes, reading between the lines, this class seems to be chock-full of porn. Unless “electronic discussion” and “internet participation” is meant to mean Skype sex, in which case this might be more of a hands-on classroom environment than most people are used to. We’d call this 4 seed making it this far a Cinderella story, but Cinderella is a negative media portrayal of women oppressed by the patriarchy in the media that Gender Studies has asked not to be associated with, so we’ll just fuck off and let them fend for themselves this round.

-Elder Tickles

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NATURAL SCIENCE DIVISION [4] ASTRON 101: Modern Cosmology

Point: IT’S THE STUDY OF THE UNIVERSE. Pretty cool stuff.

Counterpoint: We’re only a teenie-weenie part of it

Point: Professor does not discriminate against lefties

Counterpoint: Professor has an outie

Point: Syllabus not in Comic Sans

Counterpoint: Papers in WingDings are not accepted

Point: Textbook portrays Jupiter unfavorably

Counterpoint: Jupiter is kind of a dick

Point: Googling ‘Big Bang’ may result in porn

Counterpoint: Googling ‘Big Bang’ in class will probably result in some really fucked up bestiality video (btw your volume’s on)

-Toaster Oven

ETHICS & VALUES DIVISION [7] CLASSICS 211: Ancient Athens: Democracy, Drama, and Civilization

In 1979, it was ninth-seeded Pennsylvania..  In 2006, it was eleventh-seeded George Mason.  In 2010, it was Butler.  This year’s Cinderella doesn’t wear a dress, though, it wears a toga.  That’s right, I’m referring to the improbable run of seventh-seeded “Ancient Athens: Democracy, Drama, and Civilization” to the Final Four.

After tournament titan “Food and Society” was upset early on, “Ancient Athens: Democracy, Drama, and Civilization” cruised through a wide-open Ethics & Values Division to claim the E&V crown.  Despite ever-so thrilling CTECs such as “class is very dry” and “exams are straightforward if you do the readings (which are dull),” this class has managed a series of convincing victories, begging the question, “…what?”  There are only a few possible explanations for its success:

  1. A dedicated enclave of Greco-Roman “Ave” readers are paying furious attention to the polls, demanding a respect for their roots, and proving that they mean business.
  2. An absence of toga-themed parties that students envisioned in their college careers have created a yearning for all things Greek.
  3. The Classics department is even more attuned and dedicated to their success in the Distro bracket than Professor Gorvine.
  4. Professor Wallace is an absolute boss.

To further explore explanation four, we examined the course’s CTECs using an advanced set of CTEC statistics and sabermetrics that were invented fifteen minutes ago:

  • PMPR: Professor Mentions Per Review—how many references to the professor are made in the cumulative CTEC reviews, divided by the total number of reviews
  • PQ: Positivity Quotient—how positive are said references about the professor?  Found by assigning a positive/negative value score to each comment (ranging from -2 to 2), and dividing the net score by the total number of comments.
  • PPMPC: Power Point Mentions Per Comment—a professor too dependent on Power Points is never a good thing, especially if that’s all that someone remembers about their instruction, so the PPMPC finds the total number of Power Point references and divides by the number of comments about the professor
  • CPQ: Charming Professor Quotient—quite simply, how many girls make note of how cute and/or charming the professor is, or how many guys make note of attributes such as “swagger” or “coolness” (Professor Edward Gibson is the king of this category).

So let’s see how the Professor Wallace breaks down:

  • PMPR: .5769: 15 out of 26 comments made note of the professor.  This is a generally good PMPR, demonstrating either a very effective or ineffective professor, but memorable and attention-grabbing either way.  To determine whether this was the kind of attention that you give to the hot girl in your freshman seminar, or the kind of attention that you give to the kid who does all of his readings for Political Science, we turn to…
  • PQ: 1.2666: This is an incredible PQ, easily one of the best I’ve come across.  With only 1 out of 15 comments worthy of even a -1 score, and nearly half of the positive comments being overwhelmingly positive enough to denote a +2, it’s clear that this is “hot girl” attention.
  • PPMPC: .0666: Again, a thrilling score, as there was only a single reference to Power Points made in the entire CTEC (by the same kid who gave the sole negative review).
  • CPQ: .1333: Finally, a hiccup.  With just two references made to his humor, or being “amazing,” it is clear that Professor Wallace’s strength lies in the fundamentals, not the intangibles.  Either the reviewers are too shy, or he’s just not making the laughs and moans.  He may fall short here, but it’s clear that this is the kind of nuts-and bolts professor who makes your day anyway.

With some impressive CTEC statistics, it’s obvious that Wallace is what makes this class work.  In the end, you may find the content interesting, but it’s the professor that can make or break a distro.  With a clear contrast between the boring content and the highly-regarded professor, this class’s future failure or success in the tournament depends on an age old question: is it about the class or the professor?  Only time will tell.

-Jameson the Manatee

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