Justin's Life... September 1999

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September 1, 1999 - Wednesday


This past Monday, I wrote e-mail to my advisor at USC to explain my situation with regard to the whole French thing. I said I'd follow up with a call or visit on Wednesday if I hadn't heard back.

So this morning I called her number and heard, "This is a voicemail message for all individuals contacting Susan Cornwall. She is leaving the university and as of Friday, September 3rd, will no longer be at this number..." What? I was counting on her to be "on my side" and help me through whatever steps necessary to graduate in December. I could call Adrienne, the advisement superior, who knew of me through the past three years, but she wouldn't have the connection that Susan and I did. I mean, Susan and I weren't best pals or anything, but she knew my name on sight and we did have a rapport.

So I searched thru the USC faculty directory to find the correct spelling of Adrienne's first name... but it wasn't there. I knew her last name was East, so I searched once again; no Adrienne's in the bunch.

Maybe she just got too many random e-mails so she removed herself from the listing. I knew her address was east@usc.edu anyway, so I searched Eudora for her address and found the spelling of her name: A D R I E N N E.

I reintroduced the letter that I wrote to Susan with a new paragraph and sent it off. A response immediately came back... a .vacation generated response, no doubt.

"Surely she couldn't be on vacation NOW!" I thought.

And I was right:

Adrienne East has left USC and moved back east to Rhode Island. If your message was regarding your academic program here at Annenberg or at USC, please resend your message to Zach Gray (zach@usc.edu).

WHAT? Adrienne's gone, too. The both of them leaving at the same time? That means housecleaning. They were "let go" for some reason. Talk about being up the creek without a paddle. My two real contacts within the administrative department at USC were now gone.

So I told Larry and he said to try to get through to Susan. I called the front office and did my best to get through, explaining that I knew that she wasn't taking any new calls (which I'd learned from her voice mail message) but that she was already in progress with mine. I practically insisted that the girl answering the phone put me through. She responded that she could but it would go straight to voicemail just like when I called directly. ARGHH!

So, I wrote yet a new introduction paragraph and a new closing to the e-mail I'd sent twice before.


First off, I have to say that I feel like I've been left dangling off a cliff by Susan and Adrienne. They both knew me over the past three years and we had a rapport. Now, when I'm stuck, they're both gone, and I'm left like a fish out of water. I hate asking for help and to do so from someone I've never met makes it doubly troublesome, but I really need help.


Zach, we've never met, but I would be eternally grateful for your help.
Thanks in advance,

On a more positive note, last night's class was nice. I really felt like Professor Noll wanted me to be there. I wasn't just another face in the crowd (of 12 people). My presence was welcomed... and somehow special... and that made all the difference .

September 7, 1999 - Tuesday


I just wanted to take time out to say thank you for reading my site. You're making an active choice to come here and read what I write, and I appreciate that. It's not the magazine you're stuck with on the plane. It's not the billboard that you pass to get home. It's what you want to read. So, thanks, for reading me.

6:33PM - Transcribed From Paper

While a large part of my thoughts today have been focused on my French situation and with FAXing a letter to the dean, I've also been thinking quite a bit about what to take as my last elective. Last week I went to a class titled "Introduction To Interactive Multimedia" only to find that it was purely theory based. Granted, I've taken a similarly titled class that was hands on (so I wouldn't expect a complete repeat), but being a communications major, I've had enough inter/intra/extra interaction theory to last me a lifetime. The idea of a group therapy style class where we sit around and talk about the interface through metaphor (our first reading assignment) to "the debate about technological determinism" (a topic slated for week four) seems unbearable.

September 8, 1999 - Wednesday


As I was saying before I had to go to class, the thought of sitting through a roundtable discussion of multimedia theory each week sucks. In fact, it sucks so much that immediately after that first class, I headed to the nearest computer to find a replacement class. My choice: Horror.

Actually, it's titled "Film and/or Television Genres" and this semester's focus is Horror, but it's pretty much known as the "horror genre class", or "horror" for short. I missed the first class, so I'll have to play catch up (which I hate), but it sounds interesting. And between the Leonard Maltin class (which lets us watch movies which aren't yet released and speak to people in the industry (Annette Benning was in class last week.)) and this class (which lets us watch scary movies), it should be a nice Wednesday and Thursday night.

Except... the professor of the horror class is notorious for his ego. I took one of his classes my very first semester at USC and swore him off thereafter. He makes God look humble. And the number of books required for the course total more than all my other courses combined. (That's how you can tell the real professors from the wannabes. If they assign more than two books, they're wannabes.)

So the multimedia therapy class and this one are a toss up at the moment. I'm technically registered for both but will decide to drop one after tonight's class. Anyway, that's how that part of school's been going.

In other parts of school, like I briefly mentioned before, I FAXed the dean a letter to say that the recent "restructuring" within the student services department had left me unable to receive advisement regarding my pending graduation. By the time I got home from school last night, his executive assistant had e-mailed a detailed response and cattleprodded Zach, who had also sent e-mail. Zach's e-mail demonstrated his inexperience within the university, so hopes for his help are dim, but at least I seem to be getting somewhere and now have someone's attention.

September 9, 1999 - Thursday

6:04PM - Transcribed From Paper

After trying to bulldoze my way through this whole French thing, I've run into a concrete wall. Today, Zach wrote to say that I could indeed take French III, even though the placement test put me at "just passing" second semester level. Now I feel intimidated and slight bit scared.

One of my fatal character flaws is that I'm afraid to appear stupid, and the idea of me trying to hack my way through French III literally scares me. I'm afraid of failure, and I don't do things were failure is even remotely possible. Failure is MORE than remotely possible in French III at USC.

I only got Zach's letter half an hour ago, but I'm already trying to think how to say "Je voudrais prendre cette class" to the teacher when my unknown face shows up in her class two weeks (7 classes) after it started, standing in front of the room, my coarse vocabulary skills being heard by all. Just give me a "D" for the course, but don't make me look like a moron. Don't make me feel like I don't belong any more than I already feel like I don't belong in the English speaking classes. I really don't know if I could take it. Sure, I could drop the class midway and receive a "W", but that's not the point. The failure itself doesn't scare me. It's the perception as a failure. Sure, others will be struggling with the course, but if the placement tests honestly correlate with the classes, I should be struggling with those in second semester.

And now the question is "Do I take French III here, where it's undoubtedly harder, or do I just hold off and take it somewhere else later and transfer it in?" I know the brave part says "Take it here and now" but the truer, non-affronted part says transfer it in.

I think I will muster the courage to go to that class next week... but it will honestly be a mustering of courage.

September 10, 1999 - Friday


This morning, I was still debating on whether or not to take that French class at USC, and a fair sized part of me still felt like Zach was mistaken. The whole structuring of the guidelines for the placement exam indicated that they were a required measuring stick for which class a student could take. My wanting to take French III did not matter. The placement test, and only the placement test, seemed to dictate which class I could take. And so, I called the French department.

I told the guy on the phone that I needed to get D clearance for French III and he asked if I took the placement test. I told him yes and he looked up my score. He then responded that I could only get D clearance for French II and I responded that my advisor had told me that I could just call him, state that I transferred in French II, and that he'd give me D clearance for French III if I requested it. He told me to hold on while he checked with someone else and then returned to tell me that the ONLY way to get D clearance for a class was to place at that level.

Yes! No French III at USC. No worrying about standing in front of the class and Zach was wrong once again. With each demonstration of Zach not being familiar enough with the university to know how it worked and to help me as an advisor should, my chances of arguing my way out of the French III requirement increased. And so, I sent off an e-mail to Zach and carbon copied it to the Dean's Assistant:


Although what you wrote contradicted what I'd heard and what I'd experienced with the French department, I nevertheless called to request D clearance for a third semester French class. I explained the situation as you suggested, but I was told that the ONLY way to get D clearance for any French class was to take the placement exam and place at that level. Andrew, the person with whom I spoke, checked my placement exam and confirmed with his supervisor that the only French class for which I could receive D clearance would be French II.

I must say again that I think this red tape is amazing. Business and Computer Science majors have no foreign language requirements, yet I cannot graduate with a B+ in second semester French from a highly regarded four year university.

I appreciate your help, but I'm very much feeling that I must meet with the dean directly regarding this matter if I am ever going to graduate from USC.


I'd thrown in other amazing ideas in earlier e-mails, such as, "logic seems to reason that if I received a "B+" in second semester French at Boston University and if I studied throughout the summer to finish material equivalent to two years of college level French, I would be at a level higher than that of someone just finishing the first semester, but we're not working with logic here." but this e-mail had the "I need to talk to the dean" statement again. That statement, more than any others, underlined the fact that I was ready to do what it took to get this situation resolved.

Yet, shortly after sending that e-mail, I got another from Zach which said that he'd talked further with Andrew in the French department and gotten him to agree to give me D clearance. I debated it for a bit, called Andrew, and got D clearance for one of the classes. During our conversation, I asked Andrew what Zach had said to get D clearance for me, and Andrew said that Zach had talked with Dr. so-and-so whose name I didn't catch. Andrew then told me that the professor for the class had office hours immediately before class and he suggested that I see her to explain the situation then. Hooray! I could explain myself in the privacy of her office, in detail, instead of hurriedly in the front of class.

And so, I'm now wondering how it'll go, but I'm thinking that I'll have to do another schedule rearrange to accommodate the French class. In the interim, I did some research and found that if I take the class as Pass/Fail, I need a C- to pass, but if I take it for a grade, a D- will do the job. I really don't want a D-, but I REALLY want to pass, graduate, and never return to school again... and if I have to risk the inclusion of a D- on my transcript in order to increase my odds of passing, so be it. I did the math. My 3.56 GPA will go to a 3.43, but that's still pretty good.

It's amazing, though, how less I'm worried about it now that I know I won't have to speak in front of the class the first day.

In other news, the horror class looked worse than the multimedia therapy one, so I dropped the horror and went to the second multimedia class last night. It was better the second time through... but if the French thing works out, I'll be dropping it anyway.

September 12, 1999 - Sunday


Normally, a trip to the grocery is nothing unusual. You go there, get your groceries, and leave, but today I noticed a few oddities.

As I was standing in the cake mix aisle, I looked from box to box of blueberry muffin fix, trying to figure out which one to purchase. One had twice the blueberries, but it was the last one of that kind. "It had been discontinued, so it's no good," my mind thought. Another required water, eggs, and oil. Another required only an egg and water. Another required nothing but water and it was fat free.

"Now, would the fat free one taste good enough, or should I go with the one with sugar sprinkles on top that required an egg but no oil?" (I'm one of those people that buys the entire ingredient list for whatever I'm making on the chance that it won't be back at the house. Oil as an ingredient meant another purchase.)

The one that required eggs, oil, and water was out for sure as it had nothing special going for it. The one with two cans of blueberries was still in the running, but what if I got it home and it tasted horrible and that's why it was the box of its kind. So it was mostly out, too. The sugar sprinkles, the double blueberries, or the water only fat free.

Fat free? Exactly how much fat is in a regular blueberry muffin? Let's see. Nothing too terrible: 8% of my recommended daily allowance... but that's eating just one. OK, the fat free one... but would it even be worth eating? I played switcheroo with the boxes, looking at the sides, trying to figure out which one was the one... when it hit me: I'd spent five minutes standing in front of the muffins, giving the decision much too much attention, and after I'd decided on the muffins, I was going to head to pick up a package of bacon. Did it really matter which muffin mix I got?

After laughing to myself at my obsessing, I headed to the meat case and found a package of bacon. While I was standing there trying to decide which one (having already forgotten the previously learned lesson of decision time vs. importance of results), I heard a short dark complected lady behind me say "Shit."

I turned around to see what the deal was, and she'd run into another cart. Five seconds or so later, she said, "Damn white people, leaving their stuff in the way." It was not my cart, nor was it anyone's cart. It was the cart used for returned/misshelved items that a clerk pushes around to put things back in their places. I gave her a wide eyed look, but just smiled incredulously at the whole irony of it all. (And for what it's worth, the store is staffed nearly entirely by Latino workers.)

Anyway, that's it. Nothing as drama filled as the French ordeal, but you're probably as tired of reading about that as I'm tired of writing about it.

September 13, 1999 - Monday

11:10AM - Transcribed From Paper

I've been standing outside the French professor's office for the last 15 minutes, nervous, face flushed and hands cold. Her door says that her office hours are indeed now, so I really wish she'd show so that I could explain the situation. It is amazing how cold my hands are right now, even to myself, and how hot my cheeks feel, even without placing my cold fingers on them. Writing this here in my notebook I hoped to pass time more easily, but my body temperatures are not changing and the lump in my throat is still there. I don't know why I'm SO nervous about this. It really makes no sense when I think logically about it. Either I get in the class and do fine or I don't. I bought the books this morning and could understand the gist of the sentences in the first part of the main lesson guide. A "D-" will be mine!

11:16AM - Transcribed From Paper

Now I'm listening to another student explain her situation in Spanish to someone. She's trying to add a class. Hooray, I'm not the only one trying to add a class this late. She's explaining everything. It's not all "as it should be" so I'm not alone. Now I just wish my prof. would show.

11:28AM - Transcribed From Paper

It's nearly half an hour after office hours were supposed to begin and she's still not here... but on a positive note, I looked at another professor's door which still had French III grades posted from last spring. Of the 21 students taking the class:

of Students

The lowest grade for anyone was a "C+"! Sure, 2 withdrew but a "C+" is a long way from a "D-". If my professor's grades were similarly distributed, I'll be fine... but she still isn't here which is aggravating. My body temperatures are slightly more normal than before, but as noon (and the actual class) approaches, they'll get back out of whack soon again.

September 15, 1999 - Wednesday


I'm tired of writing about this French thing, so in short, I went to class, made it through day one and thought that I'd be fine. Day two was a different story and after having spent two hours on yesterday's homework, I decided that I couldn't realistically take French III and do justice to my other classes. Moreover, I did speak to the prof. before class yesterday and when I told her that I'd actually placed into second semester, she was not comforting at all. I chalked it up to a cultural difference (as she's a native Francophone), but it still wasn't comforting.

Fairly offput by the time I'd spent two hours on the day's homework (and still had about another hour to go), I wrote Larry this e-mail:

Subj: Class & You...
Date: 09/14/99


Well, I went to French class again and it wasn't fun. I'm fairly clueless most of the time and although other clueless folk dot the class, the majority comprehend more than I do. My only solace is when I talk to others and they equally have trouble... but I'm still in the bottom third of the class, which really smashes my morale, to put it mildly. The idea that I might not pass is a real one... So in order to get through this and stick in the class, I need your help. I need you to agree that if I finish this semester with French III, that if I fail it, you'll never ask/imply/suggest/think that I go back to school again. The thought of going through this whole semester, every day, feeling like a moron is too much to bare without the assurance that at the very least I will not have to go back to school to please you. We both know I'm going to school to please you, so don't pretend otherwise... just tell me that if I do this, it'll be enough, no matter what the outcome.


Shortly thereafter, I talked on the phone with Larry, and he said that he thought I should just take French III at a community college next semester if I really thought the class was that out of pace with other French III classes. As opposed to the all or nothing mentality that I'd been getting before on this whole issue, he really was concerned about what I thought/wanted. Not that he wasn't concerned before, but he came from a more "I know best" mindset instead of letting me make the decision. Now it was up to me, and I appreciate that more than he knows.

And so, this morning I e-mailed Zach to let him know that I'd be taking French III elsewhere next semester and tranferring it to USC. There may still be issues, but hopefully, this chapter is closed.

September 17, 1999 - Friday


You know those scenes in movies where people use billboards to get across something really important/special. Today, I became one of those billboards.

Today's newsletter read:

--- Friday's Thoughts #65 - September 17th, 1999 ---
---------- A Newsletter By Justin Clouse -----------

Hey Keith... this newsletter's for you.

That's right. YOU!

All 500+ are here reading this, but it's for you.

Keith (AKA HickBoy) Background
Back during the diary's hiatus, I had a little get together in Vegas for anyone who reads the site who wanted to come. Keith couldn't make it to the "convention", but he flew out to LA around the same time and Larry, Katie, he and I hung out for the weekend.

During the weekend, Larry and I came to harass him about his slow spokenness and being a veterinarian. The name "HickBoy" was born. And through that time (and before it), he's been one of the best e-mail friends a guy could ever have. Without fail, he responds to each of these newsletters and he was the only person to write a blurb which I could use on the "Sign Up For Friday's Thoughts" web site page.

So today, I just wanted to thank him myself in a major way and am happy to be the vehicle for the following... from someone even dearer to his heart.

Hi Justin. I'm sure you've probably heard a bit about me; I'm Keith Gilmore's boyfriend. I realize that people were skeptical of our relationship from the start--me being completely inexperienced with the whole thing, and not even completely sure that i knew what i wanted out of life. But I know what I want now. I want Keith to be my husband; for us to become one; to live happily ever after.

Over the past nine months, I have grown to love him more than anything I've ever loved before. We've laughed together, we've smiled together, we've cried together, we've sighed together, we've travelled together, we've talked together, we've walked together... I feel complete when we're together. I want nothing more than for us to be together for no less than forever.

I don't know if I'll ever know love like this again in my life, and quite frankly I don't want to. Keith is my world: I adore him, I envy him, and I admire him. He's everything I hope to become in my life. He's all I've ever really wanted.

There are times in life when you have big crushes on people. And that's usually what they are: crushes. I've certainly been "crushed" my fair share of times. But once in blue moon --very few and far between--a crush comes true. It's an amazing feeling to have the person who you love and care about so much reciprocate. It is an honor and a blessing that Keith and I have such a wonderful relationship. I honestly don't know what I would do without him. Never in all of my life have I felt anything like this... I don't want to miss probably the greatest opportunity of my life.

Do you think you could put my marriage proposal in your newsletter or on your webpage? I realize that it's not necessarily the forum for such a thing, but I also know that Keith is a loyal reader of both, and so I can't imagine any better way of doing it. Here is what I would like it to say:
Will you marry me???
Love Always and Forever,
Sugar Butt."

At least think about it, please. Let me know what you decide. I'd appreciate it very much.

Thank you.


Love to all,

I feel honored that Kristopher wanted to ask Keith to marry him through my site. I knew Keith held me in a high regard, but to actually be the conduit of a marriage proposal. It's amazing, and special, and wonderful.

September 22, 1999 - Wednesday


This past week, I reinstalled Windows 98 from the ground up and moved my data over from the 13 gigabyte hard drive to a new 20 gigabyte drive. I didn't really need the extra space, but as I needed to buy a new drive to avoid the pain of first backing up all the stuff on CD-ROM and then formatting the old drive, the cost difference between a 13 and 20 was negligible (literally $20).

So, anyway, I bought a new hard drive and reinstalled everything. For most of the programs, I decided to keep the old versions, but for Internet Explorer, I figured I might as well go ahead and install version 5.0. I did and soon discovered that dynamic fonts, an integral part of making this journal a pleasant visual experience, were not working.

In short, this site looked like this:

NetscapeInternet Explorer 4.0Internet Explorer 5.0

Needless to say, it looked great in Netscape, looked marginal in Internet Explorer 4.0, and it looked horrible in Internet Explorer 5.0. Without the dynamic font, the text was WAY too large. It was so bad that I felt no one would even bother to read it.

And so, I wracked my brain trying to figure out a way to fix it. Had I downloaded the minimal version of IE 5.0 which didn't support dynamic fonts? Could I specify an alternative font that was on the small side? Would I have to make a page just for Internet Explorer users? Two sets of everything? I went through cookies, javascript, and all sorts of ideas as to how I could explain to the user that the site appeared better in Netscape and then not bother him again if he chose to continue using Internet Explorer.

And then, all of a sudden, I realized that the appostrophe in "Justin's Handwriting" might be the problem. I renamed the font "Justin" and it worked... Somewhere between IE 4.0 and IE 5.0, Microsoft had "fixed" the browser so that it would no longer recognize fonts with apostrophes.

So, hopefully, no matter what browser you're using, the worst you're seeing is the middle box. Netscape is still far and away better on these pages, but if you're going to use Internet Explorer, at least it's still readable.

September 29, 1999 - Wednesday


Ever been so lonely that you called the Time Lady just to hear her voice?

"Good afternoon. At the tone, Pacific Daylight time will be five three and forty seconds."

I know it's crazy... but I also know I'm not the only one who's ever called to hear more than just the current time. But lately, I've been in that sort of space, and haven't been too motivated to write.

Click here to move on to the next set of entries.

© 1999 Justin Clouse


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