Thursday, May 13, 2010


The students, myself among them, were given a cheap edition of a book. The book was printed on poor quality paper, and had both instructions for the exam and the coded text, which was in normal English yet seemed like normal course material. It was not. In the text were placed occasional plastic three-dimensional pieces affixed to the pages, with inscrutable colored stripes and squares on each piece, which were of various sizes akin to the "houses" and "hotels" one sees in the board game Monopoly. I was reminded of the color codes of electronics components such as resistors, capacitors, etc., a code I have never learned.

Several blocks of text were repeated in a different font. This was part of the code, too. The book instructed that the final analysis should contain sufficient footnotes. It contained numerous footnotes itself, all inscrutable.

Included was a list of various flavors of ice cream the students were instructed to buy and taste. This too was part of the coded clues to decipher. The code seemed monstrously complicated and difficult.

There was a long line to get the ice cream, and I fretted that I had wasted time waiting. While in line, I reviewed some general University policies, and saw in a footnote: "¹ Students should be aware that some courses are not required for graduation despite being listed as required courses." I thought some government policy had forced them to reveal this. After I acquired my ice cream samples, I saw I could have saved much time by simply walking around to the back of the purchasing area, a mere extra block by sidewalk.

I fretted about all the footnotes required on the final exam to a friend, who chided me that professionals are expected to use footnotes and that students are expected to become professionals. I ate the ice cream and identified the flavors without enjoyment. I had no idea how to decipher the code but had to hope that I could make some progress later.

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