Wednesday, January 16, 2013


TigerBlog's biggest memory from chemistry is this: pv=nrt.

It's the ideal gas law. And that's all that TB remembers. He has no idea what it means. He has no idea in what context it's used.

He just knows that pv=nrt.

His college roommate Charlie used to say "pv=nrt" anytime anyone else ever mentioned that there was a chemistry exam/lab/quiz/class on the near horizon. He'd say it with such confidence that he came across as a Nobel Prize-winning chemist, as if understanding that equation unlocked the key to the entire universe of chemistry.

In fact, TB can't remember if he learned the equation in his chemistry class as a high school sophomore or from hearing Charlie say it so many times.

TB definitely liked biology better than chemistry, even though biology was sort of gross. He liked physics way more than either of those, largely because he could actually visualize what was going on, like inclined planes and all that stuff that he barely remembers.


TB's biggest memory is another friend who had to dissect a cat during biology and named her cat "Pieces." That and Mr. Perka, the wrestling coach at his high school who was also the bio teacher and who would end all experiments with the most definitive "clean it up, wipe it dry," followed by the admonition to put away microscopes with "low, low power, barrel down."

It's amazing what someone might remember about high school all these years later.

As for chemistry, TB never got past the idea that three moles of this plus two moles of that could equal three moles of something else. Or, for that matter, what moles were.

TB thought back to high school science yesterday as TigerBlog Jr. was studying for his chemistry midterm.

There are exams at his school this week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and Tuesday and Thursday are reading days. That means he was home all day yesterday, and he said he was studying hard for his only test of today, chemistry, since his other exam was in a writing class and they had a written assignment that was already due.

Of course, when TB showed up, he found TBJ and his friends Matthew and Jared, who attend a different high school and who just happened to stop by after school, since they do not have exams this week.

Matthew and Jared lost all credibility when they mentioned that they were there to help him study, but hey, that's okay. A study break every now and then isn't the worst idea.

Eventually, TBJ had to get back to work and Matthew and Jared had to leave. TB gave TBJ a subtle reminder of what he had to do with two simple words: "yo, moles."

Midterms at TBJ's high school coincide with final exams here at Princeton.

As a result, there are no athletic events this week or next. In fact, there are no structured practices, only the opportunity for athletes to come down when they have a few minutes to get away from studying and get a workout in.

This could mean one person from an entire team or more than half. It's a real rarity when everyone from a team can get together; in fact, TB cannot remember ever seeing that in all the time he's been watching Princeton teams.

It's a fascinating time of year here.

You can't turn on the television without seeing every other college basketball team in the heat of their conference seasons. All winter sports are competing. Spring sports in most cases are starting practices.

Here, it's exam time.

It's actually something that works to Princeton's favor, TB thinks, with a built-in refresher right in the middle of the longest seasons. When the end of exams rolls around, winter athletes are physically rested and mentally ready for the spring to the end.

Yes, it may take a little effort to get back into game shape, and any momentum from the pre-exam period is gone.

But having that physical rest is a plus. Winter practices started in October, and teams hope to be playing their best in March. That's a long time.

Of course, the next games seem pretty far off right now. Exams here have just started, and they run for another 10 days.

As a result, it's sort of slow around here right now.

Inert, one might say.


Anonymous said...

It's fascinating that you believe the exam break is an advantage for Princeton winter athletes. I've always assumed that it's a disadvantage because sports success depends upon practice and repetition, which is interrupted. On the other hand, football teams always say that they look forward to bye week. I guess it hinges on the break being long enough to provide physical rest but short enough to stay sharp. I would be interested if you've ever asked any of the athletes their opinion.

George Clark said...

For longer than I care to remember big time college sports has been more about the "sports" than about "college." The Ivy League and my personal representative in it make it possible for a 65 year old guy to know that "we do it the right way..." is not just a worn out cliché. It's a timeless value. Fortunately, whether its a disadvantage is not part of the equation. Let me add: Sofia Vergara is a talented actress!