Junior year

So, Junior year, especially second semester, has lived up to it's reputation as being the hardest of our four years at TAC. And we're all praying the seniors aren't lying to us when they claim that senior year is alot easier. Anyways, I hope to resume normal posting in another 2 weeks, after finals, but for now I'm going to post part of a letter I wrote my grandparents, and hope they don't mind, since it's a decent summary of what I've been doing this semester.

"This semester has been pretty crazy. It's the hardest semester we have here (or so the seniors tell us, because they say that senior year is a lot easier). We've been studying the invention of algebra and calculus by Descartes and Newton in Math class, and the discovery of gravity in Newton's Principia in Lab class.

Math class with Mr. Ferrier, a tutor who is a good friend of mine, is wonderful, and even though it's a late afternoon class, hardly anyone ever misses, because even the non-math oriented people have fun in his class, especially with some of the funny things he says, either intentionally or accidentally, like the time he said, "The problem is getting to first base. But if Mr. Ruedig can't do it, I'm guessing there are a lot more people in the dugout having trouble too." He was describing the approach to a math problem, but about half the class realized it could be taken another way, and tried to stifle our laughter.

Lab class on the other hand, is early in the morning, and generally my section, far from the friendly math atmosphere, is at each other's throats over the interpretation of Newton, and when it gets really messy we drag out the original Latin text and start arguing from that. However, the hardest part about that class is the propositions which we have to be ready to demonstrate at the board two or three times a week. We had to do propositions in math class every day for freshman and sophomore year, but the ones we're doing now make those look like a piece of cake. At least Euclid and Apollonius gave us most of the steps of the argument, but Newton will give us a line, and say it can be proven, and we'll have to spend hours figuring out how he proved it, because we know if we get called to the board there are certain overly conscientious people in our class who will be sure to ask how he did that step. Fortunately, my friend Mary Rose and I found that we study well together, and if one of us can't come up with the argument the other generally can, so we generally spend a couple hours a night studying Newton.

Theology class is another fun class, where Mr. O'Reilly makes learning St. Thomas arguments in the summa quite entertaining. One of the interesting things in that he calls on people to present the objection to St. Thomas' argument at the beginning of class, so we have to try our best to convince the rest of our section that St. Thomas is wrong. Occasionally we'll have some success, but St. Thomas so far has usually managed to destroy all our specious arguments in the main body of his article, or if not that then in the responses to the objections.

Philosophy class this semester has been really fascinating, since we've been examining Aristotle's study of human virtue in the ethics, and how he thinks man possess or lack virtue, what the definitions of virtue and justice are. Now we're moving into his Politics, were he takes his definitions of virtue and justice, and his ideas about how they can best be achieved in a state or city, where people tend towards corruption, by comparing different historical examples of government.

Seminar has been the hardest class this semester, since we've started reading modern philosophers, many of whom have really crazy or strange ideas about how the human mind works in obtaining information. The readings have been really long, and densely packed with obscure information, so generally it takes at least four hours or preparation for each of the two seminars we have per week, and sometimes as many as than ten hours if it's an especially hard reading. We're currently working out way through Kant, the German Philosopher, who is one of the hardest authors we read in the program. Even at a selective school like this, a fair amount of the people never really come to understand what he's saying, because he's an absolute genius, but his ideas are so complicated and abstract that it's hard for them to be expressed in ordinary language, so he invents his own wide-ranging system of definitions, and if you don't understand what they mean, his writings are completely indecipherable. But one nice thing is that since the readings are so long, if makes it worthwhile to go on a hike up to the Painter's shack, where Mary Rose and I have been studying him. It's about a two-mile hike up into the mountains to the promontory on the side of one of the larger hills around campus, and there's a small one room shack that a painter who used to own the land had built, with one side just a bank of plate windows overlooking a beautiful view of the Santa Paula valley. On a clear day it's possible to see more than 15miles, all the way to the ocean. It's a wonderful place to study too, since it's so peaceful, with only the sound of the wind and passing birds to disturb the silence.

Oh, and also the rare airplane, since there's a small airfield in Santa Paula. Which I actually got to use a couple weeks ago, since one of my friends, Tom Dickson, who graduated from TAC about 5 years ago, recently obtained his private pilot's licence, and took me and some of my friends up in a little four-seater Cessna. It was really cool flying in a small plane again, I think the last time I did so was with Uncle Bradley when I was about 12. We flew around over the college, took some pictures of the campus and the chapel construction, and cruised up and down the valleys around Santa Paula for a bit.

Last week the campus actors put on their production of Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew," which was really well done, and had the audience rolling in the aisles at some points of the play. Kate (as played by a girl named….Kate) was really a devil of a woman, yet couldn't stand up to the brutal arrogant onslaught of Petruchio, who finally tamed her in the end. But one of the funnier twists they did on Shakespeare was that Kate's father, a venerable old Italian don, was played as a knock-off of "The Godfather", complete with accent, impersonations, and everything.

Other than classes and those extra-curricular activities, I've been maganing to keep myself busy in other ways too. A couple weekends a month I work off-campus doing landscaping for a retired couple, who live in a beautiful little house on a cliff overlooking Santa Paula (from the other side of the valley as the Painter's shack). I've also been continuing to do generally swing dancing every Wednesday night, and started teaching smaller classes on Thursday nights too, while learning tango and the Lindy Hop on the weekends from "Dancer Dan." At the beginning of the semester I did a lot of fencing too, learning how to kill people with the foil and sabre. I haven't done much recently, because I've had to study math over lunch, which is generally when bouts take place, but I've gotten together with a few of my friends and we're going to start piercing each other at night.

The t-shirt business is going well, we've been printing t-shirts for the school maintenance department, and once we're finished with that run we're going to start printing and sending home shirts for Platinum and Divine Word.

I've started thinking about graduate school, and I'll be studying for and taking the LSAT this summer, the test to get into law school, which I've been thinking seriously of since the beginning of this semester. The other thing I was interested in besides law is a small elite school in Washington D.C. called the Institute of World Politics. Their website is www.iwp.edu and they're a small university with masters degrees in Statecraft, World Politics, National Security Affairs, and Intelligence."

So hopefully I'll survive finals week with my sanity in tact, and be back in Chicago before too long.