Monday: Alex oniugnip and I work on re-settling into our house after thirteen weeks away; Alex, just having come from Manhattan, marvels at the fact that we have so much house and that it's full of so much stuff. At new-grad-student-orientation events, I meet some interesting people and do some CSGSA evangelism (I'm the president general chairperson this year), but eventually I go hide in the corner for a while to study for the fast-approaching systems qual. In the evening, we buy groceries to fill up our empty fridge, then go out for a nice evening run. We can't believe we get to live together again; we can't keep our hands off each other.
Tuesday: After sleeping late, we have an amazing lunch at Anatolia with Dale and Karen, who are the parents of one of Alex's friends from high school and who happen to be passing through town. They're seasoned world travelers, and they spend lunch regaling us with stories of, like, the actual Anatolia. Afterward, I hole up and study for the systems qual for the rest of the day. I feel pretty good about the questions on the 2006 exam that I've been doing as practice, but start to panic a bit when I look at the questions from the 2005 and 2004 exams, which somehow seem much harder. Alex talks me down from the ledge and orders a pizza from Mother Bear's. I handily polish off half of it in between memorizing the four conditions necessary for deadlock, trying to remember how an inverted page table works, and whimpering.
Wednesday: Systems qual day! It goes okay! Two of the nine questions are exact duplicates of ones on the 2006 exam I had been studying from, and I nail those two; another is pretty close, and I think I nail that one as well. The others are hit or miss, but I manage to find ways to write about things I know on most of the questions, and to my relief, I'm not asked to compare the Internet to NFS. I turn in my exam, head home, finish the pizza, and try out the new vacuum cleaner that Alex just got for us; it delights me by sucking up pretty much a whole cat's worth of cat hair from the living room carpet (a task that our Roomba, though adorable, has never been powerful enough to accomplish; sorry, little guy!). Feeling enamored of vacuuming-like tasks, and drunk with sudden freedom to do things other than studying for the exam, I go outside to clean up the sticks, leaves, and other debris that managed to fill up the yard between May and now. Our oak tree steadily drops acorns around me, reminding me of the futility of my efforts; I pull weeds and think about how gardening isn't for the faint of heart, considering that it's mostly about (a) fighting entropy and (b) killing things. In the evening, Rebecca and Andy and Mark tristmasjedi come over, and we walk to the Chocolate Moose for ice cream.
Thursday: In the morning, I sit on a CSGSA panel of current grad students and answer new students' questions for two hours. It's fun to talk to all of the new people, and the panel goes about a thousand times better than last year; the questions we get consist mostly of "What is Professor So-and-So like?" or "Which course should I take if I'm interested in topic Foo?", rather than "Help! They didn't tell us anything! Where are the bathrooms and how do I get a student ID?" -- a testament to the fact that orientation is being run much better this time. After the panel, my colleague Dave and I sneak off to the Runcible Spoon for brunch and geeky conversation, and in the afternoon, I sign a contract and officially become a paid research assistant for the first time. Woohoo!
Friday: I run around going to Yet More Orientation Events and handling CSGSA business all day. One of the new CS Ph.D. students tells me about trying out for choral ensembles; it's the first time since coming here that I've had to miss choral placement auditions, since preparing for quals meant I had no time to prepare an audition piece, and I'm sad about it and envious of him. I always have to make choices between music and CS, but this time the choice was particularly stark, since the exam coincided with the first day of auditions, and being prepared for the exam was not exactly optional. I resolve to take voice lessons this year -- something I haven't done in over half a decade now -- so that I can be really prepared for auditions next time they happen. In the evening, we host one last CSGSA-sponsored orientation event: sandwiches and Howl's Moving Castle with a group of new and old students. Afterward, Christine lyceum_arabica leads the way to a tiny, cute bar I hadn't previously known about, where they serve ten awesome beers on tap and basically nothing else, and we sit around talking about the bad old days, like you do. Andy asks me if I "feel suckered yet" regarding being in charge of CSGSA, and a confused drunk guy at the next table is all "Yeah! Do you feel suckered yet?" and continues on at length in that vein. I laugh nervously.
Saturday: We sleep wonderfully late, then head out into the world to run errands, including dropping off a lot of the aforementioned so much stuff at Goodwill. It feels good. While at the humane association to donate a giant bag of cat food we don't need, we get distracted by the incredibly adorable bebbeh kittehs and bunnehs, but narrowly escape without bringing one home. Just as we get back, Andy arrives on his bike to drop off a key to the PL office for me. Now I have both an research assistantship and a real office! Can't stop the rock! I go down to the basement to pound on the keyboard for the first time since May; after a while, Alex joins me on the drums and we bang out a furious "For the Win". Thus sated, I vacuum about another half a cat's worth of hair out of the living room furniture, then snuggle with Alex while he plays ストリートファイター. This year is going to be great.