Autoblography Part 30: Summer School

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Oct 19, 2011

Filed under: Personal 125 comments


I’ve maintained my habit of minimizing work in boring subjects, skateboarding along the rim of the failure chasm. This has always worked out for me in the past, but I was sick several times this year. On top of that, I was away several times due to the various competitions. I’ve missed a lot of school, and so managed fail a couple of classes. One of them was a harmless elective. Unfortunately, the other was not, and so I’m going to be one credit short.

I don’t attend the cap & gown ceremony. When the school year ends, I still have a couple more months of schooling to complete.

Summer school is something of a joke. It’s a safety net for kids who end just a credit or two shy of the graduation requirements. It wouldn’t make sense to have all of these kids repeat an entire year of school for just a couple of classes, so they’re all dumped into a classroom and given another shot at it. Summer school is designed to meet the letter of the law with regards to content and class time, while flagrantly disregarding the spirit of the law by teaching the easiest possible material for the shortest possible time and evaluated using the easiest possible tests. Usually the test is given at the end of the lecture, meaning you could suffer from amnesia every night without ever harming your grade.

School is strange in the summer. It’s mid-July now. It’s hot, and quiet here. The hallways are empty. The bulletin boards are bare. The PA system never speaks. The classrooms are all dark, except for our room of misfits, dunces, and slackers. Mom drives me here every morning (I still don’t have my license) and I’m here until about lunchtime. I actually like this class. It’s run by Mr. Iron, who is a great lecturer. I had him for science back in eighth grade, and I remember his class fondly. Plus, his name is cool.

The pacing of the class is fairly aggressive compared to the standard fast-moving day of 40-minute classes. Here we have an hour of lecture, then a ten minute break, then another lecture. One day of this class counts as three days of a standard class. The material is easy, but it’s hard to sit still for that long. I’m always glad when the break interval comes around.

I step away from the bank of urinals and turn to the row of sinks to wash my hands. I stop because C, the second-biggest guy in the school and a stereotypical football player, is pissing in one of the sinks. There’s no established protocol for using a sink when someone else is pissing in a different sink, but it feels like a breach of manners to sidle up next to him.

“What are you doing?” asks J, the largest guy in the school and also a member of the football team.

C shrugs, “Pissing in the sink.”

J nods. “I’m never using that sink again.”

I wonder what will become of these guys once we graduate. They’re gods now, towering men with big muscles and early facial hair. I’d never really considered what would happen to them when we reached the ultimate end. Assuming they don’t end up playing pro football, what will they do? There isn’t a huge demand for guys who are tall, aggressive, and… not particularly scholarly.

The summer semester ends, and I graduate without ceremony. It’s an inglorious end to an inglorious school career. It’s been a long and ridiculous road, but I’m done.

People are telling me I need a degree to get a job in “computers”. Teachers. Parents. Basically every adult I know is asking me where I plan to go to college. I have no idea. Having finally escaped this school, do I really need to seek out another? And pay for it? For four more years?

A few weeks before graduation I was judged to be too immature to make decisions about whether or not I should be allowed to leave school on account of a mind-destroying headache. I needed a pass to be allowed to walk down the hall to the bathroom. Now I’m being asked to make decisions that will cost tens of thousands of dollars and impact the rest of my life. Isn’t there some sort of transition between these two extremes?

Everyone else seems to know where they want to go to school, even the kids who have no idea what they want to do for a living. They pick out a school and a degree, and will work out the details later. I know exactly what I want to do, and I would begin doing it right now if I could. I don’t know how compare colleges, I don’t know how to apply to colleges, and I don’t know how to pay for college.

I need to figure this out soon.


From The Archives:

125 thoughts on “Autoblography Part 30: Summer School

  1. Rick says:

    Thank you again for sharing this story with us. It’s very enlightening.

  2. Svick says:

    I don’t understand. You apply to a college only after graduation in the US?

    The way it works in my country (and I was assuming in most other countries too) is that you apply for college during the last year of high school. Then you usually have to pass admission exams for the college. Then you graduate from high school.

    1. Rick says:

      That’s what we do in New Zealand too, though some people take a “gap year” to work or travel first.

      I’d never thought about that sudden and dramatic shift in responsibility, but you’re right. Even if you applied to colleges during senior year that shift would as you left school each day, not just at year’s end.

      1. Mari says:

        You brought back happy memories of the lovely Kiwi who had taken that gap year to travel the US and stopped off at my college campus for a few months my first year at university. I learned a lot from him, most notably the difference between a Kiwi and an Oz accent ;-) He discoursed upon that topic at some length.

    2. LadyTL says:

      That’s how it works here. You pick colleges in your last year of school, apply for them all summer and sometimes you even find out (if you are lucky) were you are going before August. There isn’t really any tests though to get into a specific college. We just take the SATs amd ACTs to rank us and make us look better.

    3. Primogenitor says:

      In the UK, its a strange hybrid of “conditional offers”. You apply to several places before exams and they say what grades you require in each subject. Then you do the exams, and go to the highest one up the list that you meet your requirements for. Or the highest one you can persuade to take you anyway.

      1. Blake says:

        Same here in VIC/AUS, except our grades are made into an aggregate score which is used to figure out what percent of the state you’re in, so in my case my ENTER score was 91.6, which means 8.4% of students scored higher than me.

        Some courses of course have prerequisites also.

    4. Shamus says:

      A lot of kids do apply during their senior year. Particularly the ones focused and eager for college.

      1. Andrew says:

        Or some people – wait for nearly 20 years before going to college….

        1. Methermeneus says:

          Or some people do this, drop college, do odd jobs for a couple years, then go back with an entirely different major. Sometimes multiple times, though I’ve only gone through that once so far. Still, going back for computer architecture or electrical engineering sounds fun. (Yes, I’m an odd person.)

          Oddly enough, I follow several people on the Internet who are programmers, and none of them went to college for it. (Dan Repperger did go to college, but iirc, he got an English degree.) I also have a friend in the degree program that programmers take at my school, but there’s several versions, and the one he’s in is more about low-level programming, writing kernels and machine code and such. I don’t think I’ve ever been in communication with someone who was a programmer, as in a writer of programs, who went to college for it.

          1. bassdrum says:

            …and now you have! Well, kind of. I’m still just starting off with it all, but in four years or so, I’ll have graduated from college for programming.

            Also, it’s been particularly interesting to take an intro level computer science course while Shamus has been writing these entries. His comments about programming classes (such as the rapidly growing divide between students and programmers, and what will make that divide most obvious) have all been spot-on, and it’s been kind of fun to watch–less than a week after he commented that it’ll be harder for non-programmers to follow the value of a variable as a program executes, we had a quiz in which we were asked to do just that. That quiz ended up having a 27 point scale to get the class average up to an 80.

            So, Shamus, thanks for writing this series. It’s been incredibly interesting and informative to read, and it’s also helped me figure out how to help my CSE classmates who don’t really get it, now that I know what it is that they don’t get. Keep up the good work.

            1. Methermeneus says:

              It’s worth noting that college programming education has, on average, improved significantly in the past couple of decades, so you should have the competitive edge college is supposed to give you. Also, as the post below shows, not all programming courses in the 80s/90s were pointless. Just a larger percentage than now.

              It’s nice to see that the anecdotal evidence of people I’ve met or whose work I read/listen to regularly is not universal, and possibly not even the norm. Makes me feel like we’re not all wasting our time and more like I just happen to be drawn to individuals special enough to do it with less outside help.

            2. burningdragoon says:

              I too am one of those college-taught programmers. Though, I have to say my college computer science department was far from being terrible. It was actually my favorite part of my entire educational life and I wish my high school had offered anything even a fraction as awesome.

              Sadly, my current job doesn’t have me doing a whole lot of programming… been trying to ‘fix’ that.

          2. Unbeliever says:

            I graduated from college with a BS in Computer Science in 1992, and have been a programmer for one major university or another ever since.

            In 30 minutes, I will in a room with others from my team, interviewing someone who is applying for a job identical to my own, who has a BS in Chemistry, and has founded and/or directed several highly profitable software companies in the meantime.

            I think the economy is worse than I thought…

            1. Methermeneus says:

              Or maybe he just wants a change of pace. Still, it’s nice to have more direct contact with a successful programmer who studied programming in college than reading a book they wrote. Nice to meetcha!

          3. Blake says:

            I studied it for 3 years, been coding console games ever since.

    5. Drew says:

      You can start whenever you want. I started applying my second-to-last year but I know some people who didn’t bother until right at the end. It has changed over time too I think.

    6. Friend of Dragons says:

      A lot of schools have their application deadlines in mid-January, so that’s generally about when kids in senior year put their applications in. (However, a lot of colleges also do an early-acceptance thing for the kids who are sure they want to go there, which is what I did in early November of senior year. And I got in :D)

      1. Meredith says:

        Me too! I knew before Thanksgiving of senior year that I’d been accepted to my school. It was a huge relief not having to worry about it later, but kind of boring when half our school assignments were suddenly geared toward admissions essays in January.

    7. Ruthie says:

      That is also the way that it works here. Most students apply in the fall of their senior year. Some earlier to be considered for early admission.

    8. lazlo says:

      I don’t know what criteria they used, but colleges decided they liked me around 11th grade and started aggressively spamming me, so that’s probably about the time I started the application process with some.

      I’m kind of wistful about my college selection process. I’m pretty happy with my life and the college I went to, but I sometimes think that if at any point in my high school career someone had mentioned to me that there exist colleges that give out degrees in blowing crap up ( as an example), I think my life would be very very different today.

      1. Audacity says:

        I wonder if it’s too late to change my major…

        1. Keeshhound says:

          I feel very despondent now.

      2. Bryan says:

        Wait, *what*?

        Gah! Twelve years wasted!

        (Well, maybe not quite “wasted”. Got a CS degree, worked for a couple different companies, liked most of it. But … dang! Explosives degrees? Now I want a do-over of the last decade, plus a bit. :-/ )

    9. That’s the way it normally works here in the USA too, but the exams (SATs) are often taken earlier, so you can retake them if needed.

      I went to a private college prep school where everyone went onto college however, so things may be different in public school.

    10. Mari says:

      It depends, here. I was an eager beaver. I had my colleges narrowed down to three by my next-to-last year (called your “junior” year here) and had already sat my ACT and SAT tests. I had conditionally been admitted to all three (the condition being that I had to graduate high school in the top 25% of my class which was almost impossible not to do since I was top 5% going into the last year) before I even started my last year of high school. Then it was just a matter of letting them compete with one another to see who could offer me the best financial aid package to entice me in during my senior year. I did have to repeat my auditions again senior year for the sake of scholarship money.

    11. It’s sort of like that. In America, most people begin to apply to college very late in their junior year or during their senior year. Early admissions, for example, can be either. I put things off a little and started applying around November my senior year, and was accepted around January. This is one of the causes of “senioritis”: Most colleges will accept anything but outright failure in the last semester/quarters (even when an all-A students becomes a B and C student) and most high schools won’t (and maybe can’t) force someone over 18 to stay, so seniors stop working very hard and the high school will do what they can to make sure they keep good grades.

  3. LadyTL says:

    I hated the end of high school for exactly this reason. I was already starting to do what I wanted to do without college. I like to teach. I get people interested in what I usually end up educating them about without ever getting a degree. I always knew more than my teachers in the subjects I want to teach because I like to learn about it outside of class. When I found out about college I found out that you don’t even get to do anything related to what you actually want to do for 3 yo 4 years. Why should I spends tens of thousands of dollars to not learn anything related to what I want to do followed by hundreds of thousands of dollars for the stuff I do want to learn for what I want to do?

    Oddly enough I do more teaching at work some days than I think if I had gone the college route right now because I still would be in college and only just now starting on the good stuff.

    Why can’t the US bring back vocational schools? Cheap schools with the explicit intention of teaching for a job. Not everything has to be taught on as part of a degree program.

    1. 4th Dimension says:

      Because people want degrees, and think they look nice on CVs

    2. Klay F. says:

      Because people don’t want to hire you unless you have a slip of paper confirming that you did indeed spend tens of thousands of dollars.

      1. Hitch says:

        They want you deeply in debt so you can’t afford to take the risk of looking for a better job. Never mind that they’ll “downsize” you in a heartbeat.

    3. Drew says:

      There are some technical schools out there that only take two years. Not many people seem to know about them and they’re more specialized. My mother taught at a nursing tech school and I know you can become a medical technician or EMT or go into the trades (plumbing, electrician, etc.) by attending a tech school.

      1. Antwon says:

        Yup. They don’t have the social cachet of going to a big ol’ liberal arts university and all that rot, but there are a goodly number of technical schools which can help one establish oneself in any number of careers (auto mechanic, welder, plumber, etc.) If you’re set on a learning a certain skill-set and are happy to embrace (or ignore) less directly-applicable knowledge on your own time in venues elsewhere, it’s a very solid approach to take.

        (Though I’ll grant that degree programs offer more “proof of flexibility”, if you will – that whole “yes, I had to endure some prerequisites that sucked, but I had enough wits about me to power through rather than give up in mid-stream” sort of proof-of-concept. It’s kind of a broad and imprecise filter to apply, though I can understand why various organizations employ it.)

  4. I remember getting an email a couple years after I graduated from the tech college I went to. It was from a student who was now living in my old dorm room. He informed me that I had left my High School Diploma there. I emailed back saying I’d be by the following weekend to pick it up and then promptly forgot about it.

    I could not have cared less about my high school diploma. Even if I hadn’t graduated from a poorly funded hick county high school, it still wouldn’t have meant anything.

    1. Knight of Fools says:

      I remember wishing that I could have skipped graduation all together, but it was required to get your high-school diploma. That made me all sorts of angry. Sit around, listen to some kid mumble about success or something, watch the other 400-something students get their degrees when you finally get yours somewhere in the middle.

      I never realized how much I loathed High School until now. College is almost taunting you for how much better it is, and what you could have been learning when you were younger. Alas.

      1. Rosseloh says:

        And then you actually get to college and realize the computer science department not only doesn’t care about properly teaching, but all of the teachers are the classic “oh, but this is the only class you have so here have a several-hour-a-night project due tomorrow”.

        Or at least, I did.

        Damn it all, hindsight and all that, but I’d have 15 grand less debt if I had gone to the tech school before wasting 2 years at the state college. I learned more in that 2 years at the tech school than I think I would have in all 4 at the college.

        1. krellen says:

          My college experience was that was every class, not just Computer Science.

          1. Knight of Fools says:

            That’s strange, I’m getting a completely different experience. The work load my teachers give me is either pathetic in its simplicity or simply frustrating, but I haven’t had to spend more than an hour or two a day working on homework for all my classes, if that.

            Granted, I’m studying at a community college. There may be some wide differences between a community college compared to a full blown university, but I get the feeling it depends on the teacher more than anything. I never take a class without referencing Rate My Professor first.

            Despite gambling with the work load, college appeals to me because you can choose what you want to study in college. Even if you’re not interested in working towards a degree, if there’s a job out there that you’re moderately interested in, there’s probably a degree for it.

            1. TSED says:

              I don’t trust Rate My Prof at all.

              All of my favourite professors (with one exception) have abysmal scores. I’m talking like, 2.3-2.7 range (out of 5, for some reason – at least make it out of 4?). The results are skewed by stupid, whiny freshmen that were thrown into the college experience and didn’t like it.

              One guy in particular. He’s not an easy prof by any means, but he makes sure you LEARN your stuff. Most of the “rate my prof” marks for him are a flat 1 on everything.

        2. Someone says:

          Try studying marketing, economics and philosophy for the first 2 years.

        3. Lintman says:

          For me, college was easily 1000 times better than high school. I was treated like an adult for the first time, the pace of the learning was much quicker, and the teachers were much more knowledgeable. Sure, there was the occasional lousy teacher or class, etc, but overall it was an invaluable learning experience that I would never have been able to get just by studying on my own.

          1. My experience EXACTLY. The list of salient differences are immense:

            1) In the vast majority of classes, you have no obligation to come, EVER. In some classes, attendance to some things is required. This means that some classes where I knew the material already and was just going through for a formality involved showing up for the midterms and finals and turning in one to four papers. I spent most of my college in my dorm or apartments.
            2) You get exactly out what you put in. If you go talk to professors during office hours, you can learn a ton, build networks and start working on things you want to do. (I wish someone had told me this).
            3) The classes are objectively far more interesting.
            4) There’s no (or far fewer) forces compelling a curriculum to be X way because of some right-wing-left-wing political clash and no “I just want you to answer the prompt to show you can do it” crap. Write a good paper, get a good paper.

            I really think regular school could easily be like this.

  5. SyrusRayne says:

    The last couple lines strike a real chord, with me. That’s been my thoughts for basically anything I’ve wanted to do for the past few years. I don’t know how to do /shit/. Oh, wait, I can do some math. That helps, right?

  6. Naota says:

    Sweet sentient bacon Shamus, what indescribable horrors have been wrought upon the hair of all of those female classmates of yours?

    Was this bedraggled group the unfortunate victims of a serial hairspray attack, or did they all just have a particularly bad case of existing in the 80’s?

    1. Shamus says:

      I sometimes forget how odd that hair looks to younger people. I see it as incredibly impractical, but it seems normal to me because I looked at it for a decade.

      1. Jeremiah says:

        If you weren’t using a couple cans of Aquanet a week then your hair wasn’t worthy.

        1. Deoxy says:

          If you weren't using a couple cans of Aquanet a week DAY then your hair wasn't worthy.

          Fixed it for you. Of course, that was at the worst point, and really, every decade or fad grouping gets silly at its apex. (Bell-bottoms, anyone?)

      2. Robyrt says:

        Sadly, it also looks normal to me, because I grew up reading ’80s X-Men comic books. :-P

      3. I graduated 3 years after Shamus from a nearby hick school, so yeah, I remember vividly girls literally going through a can of hairspray plus mousse and gel a day. Also learned a few years back that they no longer make the same sort of hairspray (you know, stuff that will hold hair like a rock) when I tried to help my sister-in-law get ready for an “80’s” party. That stuff literally flaked off your hair and usually we just left it in for several days because it was easier to keep it in than scrub it out every night (and no, my hair was NEVER that tall because my mom wouldn’t let me buy the extra strength hairspray.)

        When they show it on movies it looks like a caricature yet it is no where NEAR as tall as we wore it (I think the one in my class who wore it tallest had her bangs about 9 inches above her forehead.)

        1. TSED says:

          Ehh, I think the girls look better than the guys.

          The guys all look like tools there (sorry Shamus), but the chicks just look like 80s chicks to me. I guess that’s what you get for having men’s fashion as relatively stagnant – or at least appearing that way to the uninitiated.

          I’ve got a friend who works at a men’s clothing store, and he tells me a lot about men’s fashion. It all goes completely over my head. Band shirts and dress pants forever.

      4. Ruthie says:

        poor Deanna. I’m afraid her picture is the most tragic. barrel bangs, massive hair, and super harsh makeup. My senior picture is the opposite kind of tragedy. Almost invisible makeup, straight boring dirty blond hair, and a boyish retro striped tshirt. boooorring. I hope your blography doesn’t require your sis’ senior pic.

        1. Ruth, you may have noticed that all of my photos post 10th grade are completely devoid of both makeup and hairspray. Too much is enough.

    2. Slothful says:

      I wasn’t around in the 80s, but I kinda like how some of them look.

      Except for the one directly above Shamus, she looks crazy.

      1. Patrick the Harbinger of Moderate Inconvenience says:

        She was crazy. I’m not even joking. I’m not saying this for emphasis, she actually wound up Batshit crazy taking enough Zanax a day to sedate a football team.

    3. Hal says:

      Came here to say this. 80s hair . . . yeesh.

      Although, I was born in 82, so most of my exposure to 80s culture and fashion was through TV and movies. While some of it did survive into the early 90s, to a degree, there wasn’t exactly a lot of influence from it when I was in grade school.

      1. Lintman says:

        That yearbook page could have come right out of my high school yearbook. Now I’m getting flashbacks of big hair, cargo pants, and thin leather ties. Ack!

      2. Eärlindor says:

        Same here. 80s hair… the horror… the horror

        1. Bryan says:

          What’s really interesting is that when I went to college in the ’80s (yes, I’m that old) I was unpopular because I didn’t care for the “’80s hair.” Now most people don’t care for “’80s hair.” Exept that one woman at work, who always wears her hair like Meg from “married with children.”

          1. Mari says:

            Peg. Not Meg, Peg. Short for Peggy. *shakes head* Now I’m old.

    4. rayen020 says:

      I’m wondering what up with the chick just above shamus. does she have an eye patch on? I’m not trying to be mean but what was that photographer on?

      1. Mari says:

        The trick back then was to heat your eyeliner pencil with a lighter before smearing it on. It made a really nice, thick goo for the painting of the raccoon mask.

        1. Oh really? I always ran mine under hot water at the sink to get that effect (though I only did that for about a year). :)

          1. Mari says:

            LOL Probably because you hung out with the healthier crowd that didn’t carry their own Bic at age 13. :-p

  7. Fede says:

    Am I the only one that read “It's run by Mr. Iron, who is a great lecturer” and immediately thought “Wow, I didn’t know that a master of the Bazaar was also a high school teacher!”?

    1. Jarenth says:

      Well, I’m thinking it now.

      This makes it entirely possible Shamus’ Terror Nurse was Mr. Eaten in disguise.

      1. Methermeneus says:

        That’s what happened to the girl above Shamus! She must’ve looked in the well!

  8. CTrees says:

    In re: the jocks, after high school. The military is actually a good choice for “guys who are tall, aggressive, and… not particularly scholarly.” Plus, any force except the national guard would probably teach them not to piss in sinks, so, bonus!

    1. Mari says:

      As is the police force. Or the feed store. Or a used car dealership.

      1. Which immediately made me think of Gross Point Blank.

  9. Jarenth says:

    That picture is perfect. It’s the face of a man who can’t wait until he’s done with all this nonsense. Also, both Deanna Young and Michelle Young have amusingly unconventional haircuts.

    I’ll admit, I do wonder where you went after this.

    1. Deoxy says:

      Also, both Deanna Young and Michelle Young have amusingly unconventional haircuts.

      They weren’t unconventional at the time. Seriously. 80s hair was scary.

      1. Um…my hair looked almost EXACTLY like Lori’s– and most of the girls’ in homeroom wore theirs like Deanna and Michelle. I was just thinking how much everyone there looks just like older versions of those in my yearbook. It is amazing how much of the 80’s was defined by hair and how everyone looked so similar because there were only a few hairstyles that people wore.

    2. Methermeneus says:

      Actually, this brings up something I was wondering about when I first looked at that yearbook excerpt at the top… that’s a lot of people named Young! Didn’t Shamus mention that he didn’t have a lot of relatives at school with him? Just how common a name is that in western PA?

      1. Exceptionally common. There are at least 2 Heather Youngs with the same middle name in our area (I know because of mixed up doctors appts.)

      2. Patrick the Dull and Irritable says:

        There is a Patrick Young who runs a plumbing buisness around here, I got alot of calls for that when people still used phone books. His middle initial was E too. Ourr father was Jim young. There were no less than 2 dozen of those in butler county alone

  10. Patrick the Harbinger of Moderate Inconvenience says:

    First, you forgot to tell the tales of what the exploits of a library aide are.

    Second, you really should have photoshopped out some of those people’s name from the yearbook. Not that Mike Yost doesn’t deserve a nasty comment on his FB page, but I would think its some sort of…blog-o-sphere protocol.

    Third, I am insulted and angered that Jason pissing in a sink somehow rates high enough to make your autobiography but the thousand or so hours we spent playing LSL, King’s Quest, Star Flight and Nethack don’t even get a mention.

    For those of you wondering however, C has been in and out of jail. I don’t know where his now. J ( who was the same guy who knocked Shamus out a few stories back coincidentally) wound up working odd jobs, mostly temp work, due mostly to the fact he had permanently lost his liscence after his umpteenth DUI. I was his boss for about 2 weeks.

    I suppose thats what you get for defiling the Sacred Sink of Righteousness.

    1. Chris B Chikin says:

      There should be a “like” button for comments like this

    2. Shamus says:

      Pfft. Library aide. Man, I can’t remember DOING a single thing, ever. It was just a “hang out in the library” study hall. I think we were supposed to be putting books away, but I don’t remember doing that. Maybe I did, and I’ve forgotten? Or maybe the books were all put away, since that was the last period of the day.

      Eh. I think those names are all available on, or, or any of those other ridiculous sites that stopped being relevant the moment Facebook showed up and took their lunch money.

      It’s true, we spent a lot of time on those games. I’ve talked about Starflight now and again here on the site. That was an incredible game. For the record: We played Starflight over the summer between my junior and senior year, on the computer that Mr. C loaned to me from Vo-Tech. We didn’t play any of those games again until after I graduated, because my IBM clone was a graduation gift from grandma. (Remember that it was built by Uncle Bruce.) I bought Starflight 2 at that point. So most of our game-playing took place during YOUR senior year, not mine. (So we’re not quite there in the story yet.) We played those games between the time I graduated and the time you went off to the navy. Man, it seems like a long expanse of time, but… it couldn’t have been much more than a year, could it?

      1. Patrick the Apocalyptic Copy Editor says:

        LSL, Starflight and Nethack seemed to span yeeeears. Seriously if you had asked me when we started playing those games I would have said when I was 14/15….
        Especially Nethack. That’s the first game I remeber staying up ALL night while you were asleep pounding away trying to get through the damn Dwarvish mines. First time I stayed up till 6 am and then feigned illness to get out of school.

    3. Caffiene says:

      For the record, calling him “J” when describing his adult career probably isnt a lot of good when you named him in the previous paragraph :P

      1. Shamus says:

        Don’t worry. He got the name wrong. (I just checked. :))

      2. Patrick the Apocalyptic Copy Editor says:

        See, menial details like that are the reason that I am much better to critcize from afar than create interesting anecdotes. In another life I was a renowned art critic.

        Before that I was a monkey that sat on the highest branch and had deadly accuracy in the “poo-flinging” skill. My Perception was like 15 and I had 18/34 dexterity.

        1. Syal says:

          Poo-flinging contests got a lot easier when I discovered you could cast Flesh to Stone beforehand. Much better accuracy.

          1. Entropy says:

            You poo flesh?

            1. Syal says:

              I’ve discovered that “flesh” has a very loose interpretation.

              As in, eat meat.

    4. Lalaland says:

      I’ve always thought that there was an element of exploitation to high school sports (primarily rugby & GAA in Ireland). It seems that the alumni and staff get far more out of these programs than the kids involved. It seems that for the vast majority who don’t get sports scholarships the sudden jarring swing between high social status and being just another high school graduate must be jarring.

      I wonder if this has any long term impact, it would be fascinating to see a comparative study between high school athletes and the rest of the student body over time. Do the self esteem and confidence that sports can give a person grant an advantage or do the higher time commitments associated with these hurt students?

      From my own experience the rugby team got a lot more latitude than those on other sports meaning that they got a false impression about how they were performing in subjects. I don’t think this is an across the board thing with sports but it seems strongest with the ‘key’ sport for a school. Our school won a championship in badminton and it was barely mentioned but the entire school got days off to support the rugby team losing first round matches in the Leinster schools cup. Hell they couldn’t shut up about the fact that the school had won the thing 15-20 years previously despite our abject performances every year since.

      1. Meredith says:

        Treating teenage athletes like gods is definitely detrimental to their social growth as adults. The same applies for kids who are told all their life what a genius they are. Once you leave your small-ish high school community, there are going to be loads of people equally as good or better and no one cares any more that you won the 3rd grade spelling bee or scored x goals. Some people can adjust, others spend their whole life trying to get back to that ‘top dog’ status. There’s a reason Americans have the stereotype of the washed up high school football star who never made anything of his life.

        1. Deoxy says:

          Once you leave your small-ish high school community, there are going to be loads of people equally as good or better…

          I can say from experience that even for those who didn’t care all that much about it to begin with, got a fairly moderate dose of “you’re a genius”, still actually WERE a genius (even in that larger pool of people after leaving high school), and successfully “adjust”, it’s still detrimental later in life. It’s just not good to do to people – it’s sets them up to never live up to their perceived potential, among other things.

          1. Antwon says:

            I was the alpha-dork of my high school. At the ten-year reunion, folks seemed mildly disappointed that I wasn’t a billionaire inventor senator yet. I mean, that’s flattering and all, I guess… but I can’t imagine that that was especially healthy or productive for either party there.

      2. Methermeneus says:

        Wow, this reminds me so strongly of my college’s stance on football. (American definition of both “college” and “football,” so not too far of from the fact that rugby was the issue at your school.) After years of being horrible, they had two winning seasons (my freshman year, they were the only team in the state without a single win), the first of which was good enough to get them to a bowl game (albeit a minor one). Suddenly, the coach is getting raise after raise (he is currently my state’s highest-paid state employee), and people are donating left and right specifically for improvements to the football stadium, and of course those donations aren’t large enough to pay for the stadium improvements on their own, but the university can’t turn down such big donations, even if they have the caveat “You cannot use this money for anything except football” attached.

        Result: The university is now semi-stalled in trying to finish the stadium renovation of whose expense it had to pay about three quarters out of pocket. This in the middle of an economic background that caused the largest tuition hike in history, forced the university to slash department funding left and right (including having to let go of my favorite professor, in spite of the fact that he had a major published work that should have made him prime material coming out the next year (he couldn’t really move to another university because his wife was still a grad student and couldn’t move if he applied elsewhere)), and other successful and cheap sports programs, like the rowing team (which consistently competed with and beat Ivy League teams), got cut down to club sports (which means they can’t go to league championships anymore, among other things).

        Meanwhile, while the football team hasn’t been doing quite as badly as my freshman year, they haven’t had a winning season since the couple of really good players who led them to that bowl game graduated and got seeded in the NFL.

        The reasoning is always that football gets the university attention, which gets the university money, but that thinking is obviously both short-term and faulty, else increase in football success wouldn’t be so thoroughly correlated with the university being in the red. (Yes, there are other factors, such as reduction in state funding that happened to coincide with this debacle. However, as this is a state-run school, the financial records are legally required to be open, and I and others have crunched the numbers out of morbid curiosity. Football is losing money hand over fist.)

        1. 4th Dimension says:

          I never really got this American (or maybe western) fixation with school sport teams, and how from the outside it seams an educational institution’s main job and focus is sports?!? Sports which by the way share no connection with the stuff the school teaches?!?

          Though I guess it’s i point of pride/tradition/politics, because all other schools have sport teams and if you don’t have one you are suddenly lesser school, or if somebody tried to cut sport spending the popular/sport kids would try to whip the public into frenzy, and as far as politics goes, if an administrator tried to cut spending his opponent would would use before mentioned frenzy to boot him out, and then he’s stuck with increasing sports funding.

          1. Patrick the Apocalyptic Copy Editor says:

            Americans are competitive with EVERYTHING, even high school sports. Most people outside the US don’t really grasp that. In all honesty from my experience our competitive nature is what makes us so different from most other cultures, it’s the root cause of so many of the things that make everyone else look at us and scratch their heads.

            Most of the world, and this is a gross generalization only for comparison, doesn’t have an overdeveloped competitive nature, except for Football (that which we call Soccer), and then they are ready to kill, maim and riot. While our nature is perhaps less extreme ( not by much), it is much more common and manages to effect almost everything we do.

            Ping-Pong (table tennis) would be a televised sport if it was made a contact sport. I’ve read articles about fist fights resulting in hospitalization and incarceration over a game of horseshoes. Shamus will confirm that his office/game room has been host to some of the world’s most aggressive Starcraft LAN games ever. We’re American’s we compete. It’s what we do.

            1. Tizzy says:

              As a non-American who’s lived in the US for many years, allow me to respectfully disagree. People in the US do not strike me as more competitive than anywhere else; it manifests itself differently, but the same way that the Chinese and Germans would not have the same competitive outlook.

              I know of many cultures where the academic competition would be considered downright barbaric and cutthroat when seen through American eyes. Competition is competition, and I’ve found it everywhere; cultures just choose their battles.

              On the other hand, the way Americans choose sports teams to support is definitely unique, or at least rare, and it’s really mysterious when seen from the outside; it has a lot to do with the size of the country, the frequent migration patterns, and the sheer logistics of it all. I mean, there are college teams, teams based in cities but which are really franchises liable to move from one place to the next, puzzling rivalries… How could an outsider have any chance to make sense of this tangled mess?

        2. Mari says:

          Welcome to West Texas high school football where there’s no money to hire an arts teacher but every school has a coaching staff of at least five. This is even schools that only field a football team of SIX. There aren’t enough cafeteria tables for all the students but by golly we’ve got a great new football stadium. A school library where the newest book was on the best seller list 17 years ago and the football team has a brand new FOG TUNNEL to run onto the field through except a couple of the team members are asthmatic so they only every used it once. Parents have to pay for the entry, supplies, and transportation to academic competitions but the football players and cheerleaders get new uniforms on the school’s tab every year. All this for a team that has won 6 games in 9 years.

    5. burningdragoon says:

      “I suppose thats what you get for defiling the Sacred Sink of Righteousness.”

      And to think, if he had only used the sink one over, his life may have turned out all right.

  11. Chris B Chikin says:

    Purely out of interest, Shamus, did you ever have a crush on Karri Zellerino?

    Cos I think I would have! :P

    1. Shamus says:

      No. Although I thought she was attractive. (Same goes for Lori and Michelle. Those two were good friends. I never saw them apart.) I think our entire end-of-the-alphabet homeroom was actually beating the averages in that regard.

      But I never interacted with any of them in any meaningful way. I guess that’s true of most kids. I had perhaps five friends in the entire school of 1500+ students, so most people were strangers to me.

      1. SolkaTruesilver says:


        Young Lori is Ivanova!!!!

        1. 4th Dimension says:

          Ivanova from Babylon? Yeah, now that you mention it, there is a resemblance (once you get past all that hair).

        2. Neil D says:

          Not really seeing the Ivanova, but Deanna bears a strong resemblance to Liza Minnelli.

  12. Slothful says:

    In my opinion, college is either for people who know where they’re going and need a degree to get there or people who have no idea where they’re going and need to buy themselves some time before exiting the schooling system, but who still have a love of learning.

    If you know what you want to do, and a degree is not required to do it, you’d only be wasting your time at college.

    1. Hal says:

      That may have been true at one time, but it’s definitely not the case anymore. That may change back in a few years, but it’ll be a rocky ride if it does.

      The problem is that there are so many people with college degrees, many of them practically meaningless, that there are a lot of unemployed people out there whose only meaningful qualification is said degree. Thus, for a lot of employers looking to fill a position, one of the easiest filters they can apply is whether the person has a degree, but it indicates, to some degree or another, that this person is capable of serious work. (As more people have gone to college, that last statement has started to have a lot of qualifications. YMMV.)

      These days, college degrees are most useful, and necessary, for teachers or people in the sciences.

    2. Tizzy says:

      What I find sad, though, is that the gripes that Shamus has about high-school are things that college life is mercifully free of, for the most part. So young Shamus’s dread of more of the same for a bigger price tag was unfounded, I think.

  13. Vlad says:

    Shamus, I don’t know if it’s just me, but literally every guy in the picture except you looks, erm, how do I put it? “Herp derp” would be a good way to describe it. It’s as if they suffer from a bad case of Terrible Photoshopping.

    1. Deoxy says:

      It's as if they suffer from a bad case of Terrible Photoshopping.

      To quote Naota, earlier in the thread, they suffer from a bad case of existing in the 80s.

        1. Deoxy says:

          How many times did you reply with that in this one thread? I’m actually laughing about it – it’s turned from scary to humorous.

      1. Vlad says:

        It’s not just that, I think… It’s like they understand the concept of smiling, but are unsure about the mechanics involved.

  14. Randy Johnson says:

    I have been stuck in the exact limbo proposed at the end of this article for about 4 years now (can’t believe it is almost five)

  15. MG says:

    Why did you photoshop in that color picture? Was there something embarrassing about your original yearbook photo?

    1. Shamus says:

      No. The original pic and the pic I added were almost exactly the same. They were taken in the same session. I added the color pic to draw attention to myself in the image. I thought the effect was rather striking.

  16. Terran says:

    I’m curious about how you rated a color photo. Unless you colored it and my lack of Photoshop-savvy is showing.

    Also; I can’t get over how much this looks like a page from my own (in California) Senior Yearbook. Honestly, for a split-second, my brain assumed this was a page from my own, with your photo “pasted” onto it. I swear I “recognize” some of these people…

    1. Methermeneus says:

      I believe the page was originally in color and he applied a black-and-white filter to all but his own picture. That would be far easier than adding color himself.

      It’s also possible that, as was the case for me, the take-home photo was color, but the year book photo was black and white, and he simply pasted a scan of his take-home photo over the scan of the yearbook.

      Neither of these processes would be particularly difficult in PhotoShop, but the first one would probably be slightly easier and also only require one scan instead of two.

  17. Scourge says:

    Now that story takes me back to my graduation. I basically just wanted to get my diploma and then vanish.

    My Mother (MM from now on): But there will be dancing and you need some good clothes for it!
    Me: Well, I got a pair of good pants.
    MM: No! You can’t wear your jeans! You need a pair of good new black pants! And a suit!
    Me: No way. I won’t wear a suit and why should I buy some pants that I will only wear that single time?
    MM: Oh, I am sure that you will wear those pants more often later on.

    (Fun Fact, I don’t. They are lying around somewhere and getting dusty, plus they are to small by now.)

    The graduation party itself was.. meh. I’d have prefered to just get my diploma and then go home. But nooooooo. It had to be a party, there had to be dancing, there had to be socializing (I never want to have anything to do with 95% of my classmates ever again and so far that has kept true) and what not. End result. I -had- to stay there for 3 hours to just get my diploma and then I had to stay some more because everyone congratulated me for my marks. (Hints. Its not a challenge if people ask you in the English course ‘Oi! Can you tell me what ‘jemanden schlagen’ in english means?’ (The joke here is that you can use ‘schlagen’ in a lot of words in German, either as to beat, defeat, smack, hit, punch, etc) And you basically know almost all of the words and can crank out a 1k word essay with each test that barely has more than 0.4% grammar mistakes).


    I hated my school, I hated 90 % of the people I went there with, 90% of the teachers were incompetent and I much rather would have prefered to just get my diploma and save the money on the pants I never ever will wear again. (even though my parents paid for them)

    1. David W says:

      I’m of the opinion that most of the ‘life-event parties’ aren’t really for the person they’re about, which is why they’re usually more fun for everyone but the star of the show. Graduation parties are a way for parents and family friends to change their mental picture of you, and along the way reconnect to each other. Same with weddings, baby showers, housewarmings, etc.

      In all of the above, you know full well that the actual excuse is just making a much longer process formal, which is why it’s not special for the star; it’s just another step in (growing up, falling in love and finding commitment, starting a family). But for everyone else, it’s the symbol of the whole process that they’ve only seen from the outside, in glimpses.

  18. Daktylo says:

    “Assuming they don't end up playing pro football, what will they do? There isn't a huge demand for guys who are tall, aggressive, and… not particularly scholarly.”
    When I was in the Army, most of these guys were limited in the choices of career paths they could take. Then again, most didn’t care. A lot were the “I will be an Airborne Ranger, Green Beret, etc.” and some were very adept at advancing in the infantry fields. However, most had to go all the way to 20 years (retirement) as they didn’t really have marketable skills at the end of their enlistment. I remember there were quite a few that had a hard time just passing the ASVAB required for acceptance.
    However, the smarter people amongst the recruits (who scored higher on the ASVAB) went into more marketable paths. I decided to pursue telecommunications repair and was surrounded by fellow geeks who played roleplaying games all the time.

  19. Mari says:

    I almost skipped my graduation ceremony. The only friend I had in high school had trouble passing the standardized test required for graduation. She took the test one last time in April but the school said her results might not come in in time to go through the ceremony with her class. I refused to do the stupid ceremony if she couldn’t. Unfortunately the day before her results came in and we both had to take part. It was an insane ceremony. The administration was determined to crack down on “high spirits” and “pranks” so we all had to go through a police pat down before entering the arena for graduation to keep us from smuggling in a beach ball or a “commencement speech bingo” card. We were given blank diplomas when we crossed the stage and told we wouldn’t get the real deal in the mail if we threw our caps at the end of the ceremony. It was all ridiculous and I kind of wish she hadn’t gotten the test results and we could’ve both just skipped it.

    1. Jarenth says:

      Wait, why would that be a thing? Did you school have a history of inciting post-graduation riots or something?

      1. Mari says:

        No, just a bunch of old poops who decided that any exhibition of high-spirits was too much. I have no doubt that they would have loved to create a “no smiling” rule but it was unnecessary as that was the cumulative effect of all their other rules anyway. Basically the silliness that created the rules was a few incidents from previous years including: batting around a smuggled in beach ball during the adult’s long speeches, switching which leg was crossed when key words were said during the valedictorian’s speech, and that classical horror, throwing the mortar boards into the air at the end of the ceremony.

    2. Ours tried to crack down as well. I wanted nothing to do with it either and was seriously pissed off that I was forced to go (as can be seen in our video of the event– I was NOT HAPPY.)

  20. MaxEd says:

    In Russia, graduation day usually consists from formal ceremony with diplomas and traditional “School Waltz” dancing, and the second part is “banquet” and dancing (now, to modern pop). It is forbidden to bring any spirits there, but some wine (not nearly enough to get anyone drunk). Of course, nearly any such event ends in parents dragging home drunk idiots who managed to smuggle a bottle of vodka or something.

    Anyway, I hate formal ceremonices, I can’t dance and I don’t drink, so I would have liked to skip the damn thing altogather. But it wasn’t possible: you got to get your diploma, or you won’t get into university.

    Everything was predictable horrible: I hated my suit, things took too long, I bungled through damned waltz with a girl who hit me on the head with a textbook nearly ten years ago whom I had completely no interest in. The the banques and disco began. There was little to do, unless you planned to get drunk or loved modern Russian pop music, performed live by a two-man restuarunt band at too high a volume. And I tell you, you got no right to complain about Britney Spears or Black Eyed Peas until you heard Russian pop. It’s probably THE worst music on the whole planet.

    Fortunately, I had an out to escape early (well, it was already 1AM). We were going on a touristic voyage to Scandinavia the next evening, so I excused my self and went home as soon as was possible.

    But I was somewhat “lucky”: I knew what I was going to do after school. First thing, I had to escape conscription, and that meant going to university. ANY university, because it’s better to learn about building tractors for 5 years, than to endure 2 years of army.

    Anyway, our school had a relationship with a certain university. That means one very nice thing: some of our exams were counted as entry exams for the university. I only had to pass oral Math exam (but I took and passed my written math in school). I had my eyes set on Applied Math speciality, because I was already going to be a programmer, and I felt I didn’t knew enough and needed more education on the topic, and there is no Computer Science specialization in Russian universities (or there wasn’t then, anyway).

  21. A few weeks before graduation I was judged to be too immature to make decisions about whether or not I should be allowed to leave school on account of a mind-destroying headache. I needed a pass to be allowed to walk down the hall to the bathroom. Now I'm being asked to make decisions that will cost tens of thousands of dollars and impact the rest of my life. Isn't there some sort of transition between these two extremes?

    Best summation of high school transition ever!

    1. Leah says:

      I do love my old school.

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