The last week has a been a festival of algebra & geometry action for my dear husband John, who’s been studying up a storm in preparation for the GRE exam. For anyone unfamiliar, the GRE is a ~2.5 hour exam whose successful completion is a requirement for most graduate schools in the US. (This with the exception of biz schools– MBA candidates have their own version of hell that I went through last year known as the GMAT.)
John’s looking to start a master’s degree either next fall or the subsquent spring when we return to the Washington DC area, so he kicked off the application process by signing up to take the GRE here in Mexico City this past Tuesday, Sept 29. I was a strong advocate of the “study for two weeks & see how it goes” approach, which I employed on the GMAT. I recommend this tactic for the following people/reasons:
- Who: you’re pretty good at standardized tests, a skill beaten into you many moons ago
- Who: you used to be good at math, and hopes are high it will come back to you quickly
- Who: you read a lot of drivel online or in (gasp) actual books, which has driven your vocabularly up above average
- Why: even if you plan to study for 3 months in advance, you really won’t do anything prior to 2 weeks before the test anyway
- Why: if you only study for 2 weeks, it gives you a great excuse if you totally shit the bed the day of the test….
- You can just tell all your family/friends “Well, due to the pressures of my [INSERT NAME HERE OF SUPER IMPORTANT JOB THAT WORLD CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT], I was only able to study for two weeks so I simply had insufficient time to fill my brain with absolute drivel that I will never use again after this exam.”
John went with the more-advanced “study for about 9 days” strategy, thinking himself ready to go after having purchased a Princeton Review GRE study guide when we were back in the States earlier this month. Little did he know that the Princeton Review’s primary math review strategy was not so much focused on “learn the math”, but rather the time-honored “Guess and check” approach. Seriously. Here’s a great example from the book:
3[3a + (5a + 7a)] – (5a + 7a) =
Princeton Review recommends you pick a random number, substitute it for a, get a result, and then guess-n-check, plugging that same number into all 5 of the answers until you get a result that matches. Which, P.S., will take WAY longer than just simplifying that equation. The book states “Plugging-in is foolproof. Algebra isn’t.” Thanks, geniuses. (Full disclosure: both my parents are math teachers, so I may be biased against stupid approaches that don’t actually require you to use the algebra that you’re being tested on in the first place.)
After such a helpful math tutorial, you can imagine the tension that mounted after he downloaded some extra math sample tests from the wittily-named 800Score.com website 3 days before the test, which turned out to be “hard as sh*t”. We managed to rationalize that since they are selling tutoring services, it is in their best interest to make you feel dumb as rocks so you buy more crap from them. Not happening, 800Score.com; we see through your lies.
As it turned out, John did a stellar job on the verbal & math sections, now only awaiting word of his score on the 2 essays from the written section. His two scores were both above average for the programs into which he’ll be applying, meaning he has no need to retake this pesky test. Yipee!!
All of this is a round-about way of sharing that I felt he deserved a proper celebratory dinner when he got home Tuesday night. I resurrected a few avocados into a small batch of guacamole, and set out a handful of smoked almonds that I’d whipped up in our stovetop-smoker that morning. Upon his arrival, I plopped him down on the couch with those + a gin and tonic to watch his favorite scene from Flight of the Conchords, which contains best-song-ever, “The Most Beautiful Girl in the Room“. (it merits a watch, people; click on the link)
As I listened to him happily singing along, a bag of fresh green beans emerged from hiding in our crisper and were blanched & dotted generously with butter. I had broken out the smoker again that afternoon to make a Smoked Tomatillo sauce, which turned out to be amazing, so I cooked up some chile-lime-marinated chicken & a few pieces of salmon to serve as vehicles for the salsa. A few slices of tasty green-olive bread from stellar bakery Da Silva, and we were good to go.
EXCEPT FOR… the crowning glory, the piéce de résistance, if you will. I picked up this little number on an afternoon trip w/friend Lesley as part of her effort to identify the top bakery and/or concha roll in Mexico City (see results here). While she was tracking down conchas, I was instantly struck by the beauty of a white dog formed out of coconut-flavored gelatin. A dalmatian, to be specifc. Genius!
As we finished up dinner, I snuck off to the kitchen to retrieve the Perro de Gelatina. Needless to say, John was appropriately impressed with his reward dessert. I felt it truly conveyed the message of “Nice job on your GRE”, as only a dog made out of jello can. In fact, when John made the dog jiggle (v. lifelike) with his fork, you could almost hear it barking “Ronradurations!” (dog for congratulations).
We found the Perro de Gelatina to be a tasty, light dessert. That is, until he tried to run away. Dogs will be dogs.
In interest of marital harmony, here’s a completely unrelated photo where I look like a jackass in front of a tugboat in San Francisco: