Wednesday, February 07, 2007

College Admissions Marathon

Dear Friends,

This morning our computer systems were being upgraded, so we decided to compete in another heroic athletic competition which we would document in photographs and bring to you via this blog. Today, due to an abundance of warm weather and an imminent invasion by the Persians under Darius I, we decided that a marathon would be uniquely appropriate. For various reasons, several of our usual competitors could not participate (due to injuries, meetings, and other obligations) so the marathon today involved only Libby and Austin. Nevertheless, it was filled with peril and adventure, which we will recount for you below. This week we decided to visit most (though not all) of the most important campus coffee shops and three of the main libraries. As always, all participants were gold medalists, because there are no losers in the College Admissions Game (and this includes the College Admissions Marathon).

We started, as usual, in Rosenwald Hall. Leaving our offices for the first time in a few days (we have been very busy reading), we note that it is cold and has snowed recently. We immediately regret not bringing our skis, because on this day a real biathlon would have been possible. There was nothing to be done, however, so we laced up our sandals (remember - this is a Greek marathon) and got under way.

Our first stop was Swift Hall, which is the home of the Divinity School. The Divinity School Coffee Shop is located in the basement.

Having noticed a series of (very strange) requests for views of the insides of bathrooms from our loyal blog readers, we paused briefly at this sign. Libby was in favor of taking pictures of the bathroom, I was in favor of continuing on to the coffee shop, so Pheidippides cast the deciding vote, which was with me, so we headed left to the coffee shop. Libby wants to reassure all of our readers that our bathrooms are very nice, though we are very unlikely to feature them in any future blog post:

Inside the Divinity School Coffee Shop, we found reasonably priced mochas, lattes, coffees and hot chocolates. We might normally have been amazed, but we visit the Div School (as it is known around here) almost every day before (or during) work. I had a medium hot chocolate. Anyone who has ever run on a track or cross-country team will tell you that there is nothing like hot chocolate to keep you going during a marathon:

Libby had some coffee.

The Divinity School Coffee Shop is known as "the place where God drinks coffee," probably because they sell these shirts. We don't know if they mean that this is the place where God does drink his coffee, or where God would drink his coffee, if he went to the Divinity School (or the University of Chicago). Anyway, these are great shirts. You get discounts on coffee at the Div School if you wear your shirt:

Emerging from the subterranean warren which is the Div School Coffee Shop, we headed for Cobb Hall. If you are admitted and decide to enroll, you will become intimately familiar with Cobb Hall, because it is one of our main classroom buildings. Cobb Hall is named for Silas B. Cobb, who invented the cobweb. You can clearly see several elements of the building which reflect the design of cobwebs. We promise:

Here I am in the basement of Cobb, admiring a sign on the entrance to Cobb Coffee Shop:

What does the sign say? We have taken a picture of it, which we reproduce below. Now we know what it says, though we still don't know what it means. You might be asking yourself what a 'neo-synthetic culture space' is supposed to be. If you are, you are asking the same question which we asked ourselves upon entering the shop. Fortunately, we quickly discovered the truth:

This is a neo-synthetic culture space in all its glory! Behold! Neo-synthetic culture! Wherever you see scenes like this one, you are seeing a neo-synthetic culture space. Note that Cobb Coffee Shop was not crowded, because we visited at about 9:30 in the morning:

The baristas at Cobb frequently play movies at lunch on this TV set, and records on the turntable which is below and to the right. Last week they were playing The Empire Strikes Back, today it was Clerks.

If you are a regular at Cobb Coffee Shop, you can hang your mug on the wall. We know there are more regulars at Cobb than this would indicate, but there are a limited number of hooks for mugs. Therefore, new regulars are appointed only when old regulars die, retire or graduate (in a process very much like the process of appointing new Supreme Court Justices) or when a current regular is challenged to gladiatorial combat by a hopeful (potential) 'regular'. What we are really saying is that we have no idea how one would get to hang one's mug on one of these hooks. What we do know is that those who are so lucky get bottomless cups of coffee for only one dollar per day:

Leaving Cobb Coffee Shop, we turned left and headed to the Classics Quad to find the Classics Coffee Shop, which is in the Classics Building:

And here we are, on the second floor of the building:

The Classics Coffee Shop is a well-known hangout for classicists, philosophy professors, and other Greeks and Romans. The three busts over the counter are of famous former University of Chicago professors - Voltaire, Hegel and Ted Cohen. (Please note that two of these men died before the University of Chicago was founded and never worked here, but one of them still teaches here and, we might add, is very popular - we leave it to you to decide who is who.) Of the three coffee shops we have visited so far, the Classics Cafe has the best ambience and is best suited to studying, philosophizing, and thinking:

Here is the other half of the Classics Coffee Shop:

We left Classics and headed to Harper Memorial Library. We will note that we did not need to go outside at all during this leg of our journey. Some of you have asked whether there is a system of tunnels under our campus. The answer is no, but it is possible to cover a lot of ground inside. We will also note that we could have walked from Cobb to Classics without setting foot outside, but we enjoy the snow and the cold. Harper Library is one of the most beautiful spaces on campus:

If you have been following along on a map, you will notice that we have gone a total of three and a half blocks by this point in our marathon. We have a long way to go. Upon leaving Harper, we headed for the Social Sciences Quad, and towards the Reynolds Club:

Arriving at the Reynolds Club, we warmed our tired hands and feet at this fireplace:

From there, we attempted to take some pictures of the Second Floor Coffee Shop. The name of this establishment changes regularly. We think that it is called "Hallowed Grounds" this year. Last year it was "Uncle Joes." When we arrived, we found that it was not going to open for another 10 minutes. We decided that since our goal was to break the world record time of 2:04:55, we could not spare ten minutes. We continued to the C-Shop, which is on the first floor of the Reynolds Club:

After the C-Shop, which is most notable for $1-Shake Wednesdays (yes, a whole milkshake for $1, or n whole milkshakes for $n) we stopped briefly at Hutchinson Commons, which is a beautiful space (and a cafeteria too):


Upon leaving the Reynolds Club, Pheidippides dropped out of the race from exhaustion, and Libby and I continued on through the snow alone, sorely regretting our decision to leave our skis at home. Our next stop was the Regenstein, the main library on our campus. This view is from the other side. The sculpture in the center commemorates the spot where Enrico Fermi and his colleagues initiated the first (artificial) self-sustaining nuclear reaction on December 2, 1942:

Inside the Reg, we stopped on the third floor to take this picture of the study spaces on the second and third floors:

To give you some idea of the size of the Reg, Libby stood at one end of this section of the stacks and took pictures while I walked to the other. This is the first picture in a series of three:


Third. You might not be able to see me, but I am there. We meant to count the number of shelves I passed, but unfortunately forgot:

From the third floor, we headed to the A Level (which is the first level underground) to Ex Libris, which is the Reg's Coffee Shop. It is pictured here. Remember, it's pretty early in the morning, so the shop is not as crowded as it otherwise would be:

One of the employees of the shop has a cat, which is pictured here. When the cat turned thirteen-and-one-day old, its owner held a bar mitzvah. The staff at Ex Libris assured us that there was a Torah reading. The cat's name, for those of you who are curious, is Mr. Gingersnaps:

We also came upon this drawing on a blackboard in Ex Libris. The two combatants pictured here are 'Aristotron' and 'Platobot'. Platobot is shooting forms at Aristotron. Aristotron is responding with a blast from his praxis cannon. (Please note - the Admissions Office is not necessarily endorsing the assignment of Aristotron to the Decepticons and Platobot to the Autobots.)

From the Reg, we headed north to the Smart Museum, wherein we found the Smart Museum Cafe. The smart kids around here all know that most standard coffee shop fare is a bit cheaper at the Smart Museum Cafe, because it is off the beaten path for most students. Lines tend to be shorter too, as they were when we visited:

What's that? That's a T-1000. Just another wonderful thing invented at the University of Chicago, this time in our famous School of Engineering. (As you probably know, we do not have an engineering school. What you may not know is that this bit of metal is real art from the Smart Museum.)

On the final leg of our journey, we headed to Crerar, which is our science library:

In the entry way there is an exhibit about the 'Super Croc' (= Sarchosuchus Imperator), the most complete specimen of which was discovered recently by the University's own Paul Sereno:

On the second floor of Crerar, I stayed put while Libby walked to the end of the bookstacks. This is the first in a series of three photographs:



Finally, Libby stopped to sit in the chair where I read most of my applications, which is on the second floor of Crerar, near the Journal of Microscopy and the Journal of Biological Chemistry:

At this point, exhausted but triumphant, we headed down the last mile from Crerar to Rosenwald, past the cheering throngs, and returned to our offices to begin reading more applications. We also want to let you know that there are several other libraries (the D'Angelo Law Library, the Eckhart Math Library, etc) and several coffee shops (the Second Floor Coffee Shop, the Stuart Coffee Shop, the New Graduate School of Business Coffee Shop, etc.) which we were not able to visit, but they are there. You will have to see them for yourselves should you visit the campus in April.

Thank you, as usual, for reading our blog.


Austin and Libby

PS. Next week the assistants who were on the disabled list this week (Jon, Jeff, Isabel, Kate, and more!) promise that they will be healthy and ready to go with us. If there are things you would like us to photograph, please make suggestions here!