Brandon writes: Losing your head!

Midterms papers, exams, written essays, multiple choice, oral exams, homework, books, books, more books, food and sleeeeeeep! Mid semester is when all the fun of classes has melted away because all you can think about is the ominous deadlines that all fall in the same two week period. Two weeks of survival, where you burn the fat reserves in your body and brain and then hibernate for two days to recover.

For me it ended Wednesday evening and I have celebrated the last three nights with toasts of sparkling apple cider (Costco $9 for 4 bottles) and large deep sighs of relief, joined with a lingering awareness of the final exams soon to come.

Having gone from high school to art school and then architecture school, usually making 3D project presentations I am relatively new to writing research papers and half the pressure comes from not knowing how or what I need to do to get the job done.

This all changes quickly when you have a paper deadline, emphasis on “dead”. So allow me to save you from losing your head on the chopping block by letting you in on a few of the library tricks (and treats).

Darken the house, light a candle, and read on…

The original Harvard seal had three books just as it does today but in the original seal one was facing away! Don’t believe me?  Go check the seal on the left side of the stone base beneath the John Harvard Statue. Veritas, some knowledge is concealed. The seal has been changed but there are still moments when you realize knowledge is guarded. For example, during your first classes at the extension school when you go to the library and the dark knight at the security desk says “Halt! Non shall pass without a Harvard ID card.” And this is quite a riddle indeed because the extension school dost not giveth holy ID cards till you are officially knighted and accepted into the program. So do you draw your sword and prepare for a bloody battle, hacking the guard limb from limb and then galloping into the library on you imaginary steed? Hold your horses my exuberant fellow, let me save you some strife. Instead, just be sure to bring your drivers license or some type of formal ID card and—this next part is key—bring also a printed copy of your course registration list. By showing them together the gates shall be unbarred (reference to Dean Shinagel’s new book) and you will be admitted to the sound of regal trumpets and angel song. Level cleared, you are inside the fortress of knowledge!

Level two: Inside you venture deeper and deeper into the lower bowels of the library treading lightly in the dimness amid large leather bound books that contain magic potion recipes and spells for shrinking and expanding heads. Guided by your pure spirit you avoid getting lost forever in the labyrinth of shelves and at once gaze upon the Holy Grail. The grail has taken the earthly form of fifteen books you need to score a perfect A on your research paper.  You seize them and rush back to the desk just before the library closes (be sure to check the library hours schedule next time) and at the checkout counter you tremble with fear as the person behind the big desk looks at you with a deep inner quiet and says, “you shalt not borrow the grail because you are not worthy” which in plain speak means: students who are not yet admitted to the program also do not have library borrowing privileges. Again you think to draw your trusty steel and cut the challenger down to size, but then you realize the solution is much simpler, come back tomorrow and read the books in the library. This clarity comes with a lightness because you do not have to heft the books all the way home and back.

All your research done and just a few strokes of the clock before your paper is due and you turn into a pumpkin. “Oh lord how shalt I complete my vast bibliography in time?!” you cry out in the hollows of your mind.  A tiny bearded man appears at the crossroads of failure and success and says to thee “answer me these questions three and your bibliography shall writee itself. What walks on four feet in the morning? Two in the afternoon? And three in the evening?” You ponder at length and answer, “A college student! Because I have to crawl to get myself out of bed in the morning, Run to get to class on time, and at the end of the day I can barely stand from mental and physical exhaustion and use the subway pole to brace myself on the ride home.” The man instantly vanishes and your eyes are drawn to the computer screen before you open to the Hollis Catalogue. This great reference tool, which has helped you to find all your texts in the library, now offers one more gift. Off to the upper right hand screen corner for any book you called up, you now see two small links. One says “Refworks” and the other “EndNote,” either option and a few more key strokes, guided by the trusty librarian angel on duty, and you can automatically export in minutes the entire works cited section of your paper in perfect MLA format. It’s a miracle! Your paper is done and you submit it to the online drop-box with seconds to spare. As you release the final mouse click sending the paper off into grading never-never land, Mozart’s Serenade for Winds drifts into the air, your mind is light as a feather and floats clear off your shoulders; you are in post-midterm ecstasy.

The candle blows out. Slumber well.

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