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The situation was third and long. Harvard had lost to Brown. I had only gone two-for-four in the Cube Predix. My career record had dipped below .800. I wasn't even elected Class Sheriff, let alone Class Marshall.
Then the telephone rang. "Well, Mike," came the voice at the other end. "Mike, I need some help."
It was none other than Joe "He-who-multiflexes-first-multiflexes-best" Restic. He had done some multiflex soul-searching on Sunday, and decided that he was in need of a friendly ear. Having been told that I occasionally like to multiflex myself, he was now--in a move some would term as desperate--seeking my advice. Our conversation multiflexed something like this:
Savit: Well, Coach, what's the problem?
Restic: Well, Mike, I'll tell you. You see, I'm a little concerned with my grades this term. I'm not taking this season pass/fail, you know, but for a letter grade. Everyone I've spoken to has said that the hourly, which I aced, only counts for a third of the final grade, while the final evaluation counts for two-thirds.
Now as I've said, I received an "A" on the hourly--I did really well on the first two sections and then coasted home--but that was two-and-a-half weeks ago. Since then I've really been sloughing off, and unless I show some marked improvement in the next two weeks, I don't even think I'll get an honors grade. Never mind an "A."
Savit: Well, Coach, I hate to say this, but you're right. The hourly really is meaningless. In fact, it only counts if it helps you. The final evaluation is for all the marbles, and thus far in the second half of the term, you obviously haven't opened a book.
Restic: Mike, what can I say? You're right, I haven't been keeping up with the reading, and it's shown. Why the last weekends I've even failed the quizzes. On the first,I was too cocky because of my performance on the hourly the previous Saturday. On the second--well, to tell you the truth, I just blew it.
I was really doing well, you see, until I realized that time was running out and I still hadn't answered one of the essays. Then I panicked. Instead of keeping cool and answering the question as best I could, my mind just went blank. I didn't play it right, Mike. You might say I passed when I should have run.
Savit: Well, Coach, I see what you're saying, but I really wouldn't worry about it. After all, you still have two weeks to go before the final evaluation, and if you can somehow pull off a pair of successful performances on the Saturday quizzes, you'll still be in there with a good grade. Maybe not an "A," but an "A-" for sure.
Besides, since when are you so grade conscious? You aren't applying to med school, are you?
Restic: No, no, it's nothing like that. It's just that I've been on the dean's list my first six years at Harvard, and now I'm in danger of not making it.
Savit: Well. Coach, I know exactly how you feel. I could tell you some stories about how I pulled grades out of the fire at the last minute. But you know something else. If things really get bad, and you don't think you're going to make it, just keep in mind that next fall you can take the season pass/fail. Nobody ever fails that.
Restic: Nobody, Mike? What about Cornell?
Savit: Oh yeah. Well, have you ever considered an independent project?
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