"I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess." -Martin Luther

Saturday, February 24, 2007

A Night in the Computer Lab: An Adventure of Benjamin Dobbs

Dear Reader,
It has come to my attention that interesting things happen to me. These events are so interesting, in fact, that, with only a small amount of exaggeration and re-arrangement, they can be turned into stories, better yet, adventures. Within them you find me...but not playing myself, no, that is left to Benjamin Dobbs. You will find me as the author.
And now that I have finished it I must warn you it is long and bland.

The day had gone by quickly, thank goodness. It hadn't been a bad day at all. In fact, if it had not gone by so quickly Benjamin should not, probably would not have minded. But there were several reasons that he had been peaceless for a good portion of the day. Waking up at seven in the morning after going to bed past twelve-thirty had not helped. He did not blame himself too much for his lack of sleep, though. He had stayed up to catch up on history reading so he could do well on the quiz this morning. He had just finished the three chapters -- some seventy or so pages of text -- but had not yet taken the online quizzes which most of the in-class quiz material was drawn from. So he bumbled about, not even awake enough to fall into things, and climbed back into bed, setting his watch for seven-thirty "just in case" he fell asleep while praying. There had not been a morning that week that he had not, except for the previous Sunday, when he had not taken a time to pray in the morning at all. He would stay alert anywhere from five to thirty seconds, and then he would be resting a still head on his hands, eyes closed. Another five to thirty seconds, and he would sit back up again, forcing his eyes back open, and try to remember what he had been praying about.

But this morning Benjamin did not have this problem for very long. He fell fast asleep again, waking up one minute till his alarm was due to sound.

He had been fairly alert taking the online quizzes, and in history he got an eighty. It was better than he had been doing, but he wished he had known the meager bit more needed to get him a hundred and actually help his eighty-three. After history he went straight to Mills, the science building, and entered the computer lab. Here he checked his email, Facebook, and blogs, for the second time that day. The first had been in the few moments the computer took to warm up before he took the quizzes. There was nothing important new, so he turned his attention to his assassin. His previous pursuer, an upperclassman femme-fatale, had been killed by watergun the day before. He had been happy about not having to play mouse to her cat any more -- she had at least four confirmed kills, and two sisters to help her track down targets. Her replacement was a freshman who Benjamin thought he vaguely recognized from her Great Scots photo. After working on his Physics lab writeup, due that day, he checked his three computerized social networks and headed upstairs to physics. He entered at one end of the building, having climbed the two floors on the outside stairwell from the computer labs on the bottom floor. Just before the hall reached the center of the building and turned stood two students. One was in his Physics class, and belonged there at nine-fifty-five, because she was in front of the lab that served as classroom, and class started at ten. The other did not belong there, because she was talking to the other girl as if they were friends, was not in Physics, and looked suspiciously like his new assassin. Not yet realizing the moment of the occasion, Benjamin decided to play it cool, and leaned against the wall, not approaching. The suspected killer, short and blonde with glasses that had not been present in the Great Scots photo, hugged the other and moved his way. Playing it cool dictated he walk nonchalantly back outside and leg it down the stairs and back to the computer lab to safety.

But Benjamin was a man of habit, and so he did not consider leaving his heavy bookbag, jacket, and certainly not the zip-open murse containing his sidearm behind him to give him more speed. Nor did he rush past Dr. Petcher on the stairs without calling hello. At this point, the adrenaline had kicked in, and Benjamin, instead of heading down another flight, the quickest way to the lab, decided he needed to use up as much time as possible -- if he could get into the classroom after ten-o-clock, he was safe. No assassinations could occur in class after the official starting time. So, with one glance over his shoulder to satisfy himself that his pursuer was only halfway down the stairs, he jogged along the front of the building towards the main entrance in the center. Two rather large obstacles blocked his path. Both were students, and it took an "excuse me" and a bit of suggestive shoving to get them out of the way. The moments lost without thought to his pursuer were his worst and final mistake. He heard hard footsteps behind him, began to accelerate on past the main entrance towards Carter, still carrying his heavy load, and was shot down in a hail of di-hydrogen monoxide before he hit his full speed. As he came to a halt he calmly considered and rejected the possibility that the shots had hit his bookbag and not his body -- it took a direct hit for a kill. But he had felt water on his neck and shoulders, so he turned (dropping his bags now that it was no use) and, jovially extending his hand, introduced himself to his assassin, calling her by name.

They began to pull out their contracts. Killing people was so complicated. "We need a pen," noted Benjamin. "Here," he jogged over to his abandoned pack. "I have only pencils. Will they do?"
"Oh, sure. How did you know I had you?" she asked as they both pulled out their contracts.
"Oh," said Benjamin, and paused, partly to catch his breath, partly to try to think of something effective to say, "we have our ways," he finished, and signed in a surprisingly shaky hand, glad she was saying something to a passing friend rather than watching.

Then it was back to Physics to confess to his friend, hallmate, and the un-proclaimed heart of the Sutherland Alliance, that he had failed, died, endangered the next man in the chain, and was generally reprobate and a sad sight to see. Benjamin's friend was merciful, so Benjamin turned to the friend of his assassin and frowned. After a few poor attempts at teasing her for helping what turned out to be her teammate in soccer with a kill, he turned to the front and class began. He could hardly pay attention, and realized the experience of being assassinated, while it had felt unimportant at the time, had filled him with nervous energy. He thought of at least four ways he could have dramatically escaped, disarmed, and/or killed his pursuer.

After that he skipped chapel to study a little and go to lunch early. He had skipped two chapel's already that week. Normally there were only three in all, but this week there had been extra, because the college was having a conference on marriage and sex. Benjamin felt that today's, a Q and A separated along gender lines, would probably be the least beneficial and most likely to get a bit seedy. So, he checked his email, Facebook, and blogs on his roommate's computer, paced the room, reloaded his backpack with new books, and headed to the Mills computer lab again, where he worked on his physics writeup for about ten minutes before going to lunch. There he read some physics and watched previewers on tour as he waited for the Great Hall to open.

Driven to prayer by happening upon two people in conflict, he began his rather large meal. Within a few minutes the Great Hall was filled with girls. Apparently their chapel had let out earlier than the boy's. Benjamin joked with the girls who sat at his table that the previewers must be amazed that there really were a lot more girls than guys at Covenant. Eventually the boys did arrive, the wise directed the conversation away from the discussion in chapel, and Benjamin returned to his room to study.

After traveling through a misty period of room and hall events, including escorting a hallmate to class with drawn sidearm, he returned to the Mills computer lab to work on his Physics writeup. A friend from Physics was there. "You aren't in a good mood," he commented after Benjamin picked up a calculator when it slipped from its pertch on his desk. Benjamin helped him a little, worked on his own writeup a lot, and then left to go find something else to do. Another friend, an education major and frequenter of 508 greeted him in the hallway. "Are you having a bad day?" he asked. Benjamin supposed he might be.

Thankfully, he was back in the lab within a minute, driven by guilt, to look up the ESVbible-online and read a few chapters. He was quite distraught about his spiritual state, lacking fervor, and prayed fervently but not very long about it. Then he went next door to the computer science commons, across from his Calculus classroom, and fell asleep. He slept for about fifteen minutes, and then went into Calculus. The Flying Dutchman, as they called the good Doctor of Mathematics, was retiring at the end of the semester, and Benjamin, for one, liked him. He was quite a comedian when he wished to be. During class he made one bald comment, one joke about his old age, and told several stories about the Dutch, one of which involved singing an old Dutch song. The teaching portion of the class was not nearly so entertaining, but Benjamin paid moderately good attention, took lots of notes as usual, and then headed upstairs for science seminar in the physics commons. He got a coke from the fridge, a little bag of chewy fruit snacks with 100% daily value of vitamin C, smiled at all the upperclassmen and few freshmen in the room, and took his place on the floor with his back leaning against a table just as the week's speaker, one of the two Physics professors, prepared to begin.

It was agreed that the Physics department had been quite in touch to discuss dating the same week as the marriage seminar, and an hour of half-lifes, neutron bombardment, and six-day vs. six- "day " creation debate later, Benjamin went to finish his lab writeup. Unfortunately, there were still some problems with the graphs, so he emailed his partner and good friend, and went to work out before dinner. After a good shower, two email checks and a phone call to try to contact his partner, he went and ate, mostly just listening to the interesting discussion of Agatha Christy novels, which he enjoyed profusely. By the end of the meal, however, he had turned the conversation to Alfred Hitchcock, a subject he was more familiar with. It was chilly outside, so he soon returned to the room. There he checked his email, and, having no word, went upstairs to visit his lab partner. After some conversation, looking at pictures, and listening to music, they discussed the problem with the graphs, and Benjamin went back to finish his writeup. He copied some music from his roommate's computer to his thumb drive, put his headphones in their case, packed the books his would need for a night of studying, and headed out, taking the back way behind Founders, and ascending the steep hill to Mills. He used the auxiliary computer lab, beside the first, this time, because it was completely empty, and began to set up his things.

It soon became apparent that he had not brought his headphones, and it was a shame to have an evening of studying without headphones, so he ran hard back to Mac, got them off the dresser where he had left them, and ran back again, completely out of breath by the time he was done.

He emailed one of his dinner-fellows pictures of what she had done to the gun Benjamin's roommate had shot her with (she had crushed it with one hand, quite to pieces) and more pictures recounting how Benjamin's other roommate had glued it back together, black paint, white Sutherland S and all. It even fired, though it leaked like crazy.

Once he prepared the music -- a combination of Enya, the Village soundtrack, and music from the old computer game Crusader -- he set to work on the lab. The problem, as usual, was disorganized recording of data on his part. It took about two hours to figure it out and fix it. For breaks, he looked up cool pictures of spaceships, checked his email a dozen times, and completed his weekly PE writeup:

I was under minor stress this week. Dearth of sleep was the main one...
...My sleep schedule was difficult to maintain this week...

The best part was putting mild humor and inside jokes into the text.
Nutrition was probably my best area this week. I ate less food in the Great Hall than usual, as I was avoiding it because of assassins. I ate multiple meals, most of them lunches, in my room, and Friday night I ate Chinese off the mountain.
His other roommate's mother had been in town and they had invited him to dinner with them. He still had a good meal's worth leftover in the hall refridgerator -- or at least it had better still be there.

...I only ran for ten minutes Friday, outdoors across campus, including heavy inclines and stairs. (There wasn't any reason to let that sprint go to waste, and, counting running up the hill from the gym, back down it to return the pink towel he had accidentally walked out with, and back up the hill again the Mac, he had run ten minutes).

Finally, at about eleven, Benjamin finished the writeup, none the worse for wear, and commanded it to print. There was a dearth of printing, so he went to the printer and eyed it imperiously. It was complaining about an unexpected paper size, so he hit the large green button titled "go" and waited. After thinking for a while, it decided to go into a rest cycle, so he hit "go" again, and it went.

First it printed out an essay on physical education. Then it printed out a psychology outline. It continued with the entire schedule of Fall 2007 classes offered at Covenant. A paper on Bartok was next, followed by the definitions of words like Borazine and Thiacyanines. Finally, the crisp graphics of a Physics department lab writeup emerged facedown. But alas, it was a friend's. The next was Benjamin's however, and he snatched it up eagerly.
read the title.
Dr. Petcher
Box 625
That was going to be a problem. Benjamin was no Dr. Petcher (though his mailbox number was 625). It seemed he had forgotten to replace his Physics professor's humorous placeholder with his own name. It took only a moment to correct the error, but a check of the pages of the new printoff showed that, despite working all afternoon to fix it, he had still left two glaring errors on his graph. Congratulating himself on acquiring so much scratch paper, he printed off a third version, and took it upstairs to the Physics commons where it was to be turned in. The commons was locked for the weekend, of course, but that was all right because the date printed automatically on the paper -- he could prove he had completed it on time.

Returning to the lab, Benjamin crossed the third floor bridge, which looked down on the stairs and the first floor, and out of great panes of glass through the front and back of the building, off both sides of the mountain. To the front the blunt, broad, brick face of the chapel, shot through the center with a streak of stained glass, blocked most of the view of Chattanooga. To the back trees gave way to trees, to the quiet valley and lights, range upon range of mountains, and the dimming horizon where the sun had just gone down. Quite pleased with himself, Benjamin returned to the lab, deciding he ought to write about his exploits.

And so he did.