So I'm back from the NJCL convention, on account of which my LiveJournal was deleted for several weeks (though undeleted immediately before for a morning-after pill debate on cette_vie's journal), and on the whole, I think it was a valuable experience.
For those of you not in the know, I spent the first week of August down in Columbia, Missouri (or, It's In The Middle of Nowhere By Flyover State Standards) to "do my Latin thing" with cette_vie, eala, meretricula, lhaw_en_edhel and the rest of the BLS crew. It was long, it was fun, it was challenging, it was all that jazz. A topical approach might be better here:
Academically: Middling to lousy. My lack of legitimate high-level knowledge last year was offset by my elite test-taking skills, but this year I did nothing but lose ground. Seven seconds became seven thirds, I couldn't even finish the Advanced Poetry reading comprehension test because idiots revised the testing schedules, and I lost my first-place academic ranking. I won't lie - I didn't study hard enough, and my standings suffered for it seriously. So be it.
Medically: A mixed bag. On the whole, I ate fairly regularly and didn't devolve into terribly unnatural dining habits, but on the other hand, by Thursday I had made myself so nervous about Certamen that I was vomiting up blood. Also, same vomit ruined my purple T-shirt on Wednesday, although eala's emergency replacement turned out to be far superior.
Hygenically: Tip-top. With the exception of the unavoidable greasy feeling I get when traveling long distances, I felt fantastically clean the entire convention, due in a large part to the fact that I succeeded in taking 13 showers in only seven days. Since the heat index at high noon in Columbia approached 110 on no fewer than three separate occasions, it was (almost) justified.
Politically: Also superb. prezakia succeeded in knocking the stuffing out of his inept South Carolinean rival for parliamentarian, Sarah Catoe; our former state president (and dear, sweet girl) Rachel Singh administered a surprising smackdown on Allison Vergotz of Pennsylvania; and best of all, evanbro beat Anson Stewart of California in his bid for Technical Coordinator. I'm happiest for evanbro because his rival was pure asshole, varnished very thinly with psuedo-attractive, faux-friendly political unction. I wasn't honestly sure if the voters would make the right choice.
Also, as someone who doesn't have a terribly substantial amount of faith in democracy (I was a Blue-Stater in 2004, for chrissake), I was heartened by our state's voting fellowship. (Non-JCLers: Our state gathers for a special election meeting in order to discuss candidates for next year's officer board as a group and choose our picks.) Although there wasn't much reason to have faith in our rather skanky state parliamentarian, the quality of the debate was absolutely superb, and, moreover, the majority didn't take the vocal minority as the highest authority. The voting was like something out of the French Revolution: Rachel Singh's and my partisans (mostly from BLS) on the left, Ryan Manning's on the right, and the undecided masses in the middle. It was my greatest pleasure to watch Ryan's whole "I'm a national officer so I know more than you" bid for five of his candidates go down in flames. Furthermore, our state actually rejected the hideous amendments being made to the constitution after 30 minutes of debate.
For fifty people, democracy can be a beautiful thing.
Certamenically: Above-average for me, TREMENDOUS for mine. eala, meretricula, Rachel Singh, and I got much better pittings than we had in past years, pitting us against easy states in the first round, formidible Virginia in the second, and California in the third. It was the first time in five years of Certamen that I had been on a team that won all three rounds - and, except for the first, they certainly weren't easy. Predictably, though, we were seeded 4th and had to face beeeeeep, thegrubbie05, Steve Tensmeyer, and Fred Hall, the fabulous Ohio four, in semifinals with California. We lost in one of the ugliest rounds I can ever remember, which consisted mostly of (a) erroneous challenges, (b) beeeeeep and I killing each other in matter/antimatter-like buzzing reactions, and (c) California playing carrion feeder on the aforementioned questions. But...
MASSACHUSETTS WON NOVICE CERTAMEN!
My brother Jacob, Chris, Xingbo, and Enid - but especially Jacob - played beautifully in the final round. Unfortunately, I couldn't bring myself to watch the first half of the round, because with the miasma of five years of losing, I was worried about contaminating them. But I watched the second half, saw how wonderfully they anticipated the questions, and at question 17 - when it became mathematically impossible for them to lose - it was all I could do to prevent from screaming bloody blue murder.
When the score was announced at question 19 and the hopelessness of Florida and Texas became apparent, I got up and I screamed. I have never screamed like that in eighteen years of life on this earth, and I felt what I felt only once before in my life. It was like getting into Harvard again. Tears came to my eyes, and when a sore loser of a Florida sponsor yelled at me to sit down, I wheeled around and barked at him: "Hell no! My team just won for the first time EVER!"
They did what I could not, and for that I was proud of them. Also, beeeeeep and company defeated Andrew Rist of Texas, the guy who beat me on virtually everything (including the Decathlon) by five points on the final question. It was like winning myself.
Socially: Categorically the best convention I can ever remember. Surprisingly, I managed to ride out the entire event on a fairly even mental keel, and the people around me were happier as a result. cette_vie's many friends (in particular Cain and Evan), selonmiller's Michael Pomeranz, and a whole host of other people made me feel far more welcome than I ever had previously felt at such an event. It was a truly refreshing thing, actually, to sit down to eat and know that I enjoyed the company of every single one of my fellow diners. Even within the MassJCL delegation I was treated to a much higher level of friendliness and camaraderie than I was used to - even among the guys. It was a blessing.
In sum, the amount of personal glory I won was miniscule, but it was better to see that the people I'm leaving for college next year are more than capable of handling themselves.
But now I'm back in the real world, and am only now in the process of working myself out of a personal slump. Although I described myself liberally as an "antisocial ball of stress" to all and sundry who noticed my pre-convention funk, the convention actually had precious little to do with it. I'm not sure what it was (by which I mean to say I know exactly what it was and don't want to discuss it), but I've felt ridiculously unmotivated and generally far less of a person than I was a year ago. I'm definitely looking forward to getting my proverbial shit together and hauling ass over to Cambridge in three weeks or so.
On the Harvard front: the only thing left to do before Cambridge is a go is get the fricking termbill correct, and my roommate assignment may theoretically arrive today. But then again, FDO lost not one, but two of my previous housing applications, so there's no guarantee I'll know anything before Friday.
This week is basically work combined with a battery of doctor's appointments. Off to see the general practicioner on Tuesday, my optometrist on Wednesday, and the dentist on Thursday. On Friday I'll be leaving at 12 AM with my dad to drive down to Washington, DC to get my UK passport, now that his birth certificate has arrived from England. And I've almost finished settling the rest of my big-people obligations in preparation for a trip to somewhere - I'm not sure where - next week.
People in Boston: it would be nice to see you at some point if you're not overly busy.