When I was an undergrad in 1967, my academic advisor gave me one of the worst pieces of advice I ever received. “Take Russian,” he said. “You’ll need it to read important scientific literature.” I never needed to read anything in Russian during my academic career, and it’s probably good given how poorly I learned the language. The Russian classes were at 8 AM, and I had a bad habit of playing pool until dawn. The little Russian I did know helped me understand some words in A Clockwork Orange, though.
Class attendance at most classes at Rice in those days was optional. Do well on the exams and other work, and whether you were in class or not was unimportant. However, my Russian instructor was very nice guy who was interested in our performance, dearly wanted us to learn Russian, and thought it was crucial that we came to class and participate (in Russian, of course), so he was concerned if someone was frequently absent. On one of my rare days of attendance I answered a discussion question in Spanish in my semi-comatose pool-all-night induced state. That got quite a response.
Anyway, I had a friend in the class who took pride in his ability to skip classes and still ace the exams. He did this very well, and the 8 AM meeting time combined with his habits pretty much ruled out his attendance. My Russian instructor was a native of Russia and spoke English with a heavy accent. The instructor noticed my friend’s absence, and would ask the class “Has eeenybody seeen Meeester (name withheld to protect the guilty, but it started with “S” and ended with “k”, and was full of long vowel sounds in the middle.)
Enter Silver Streak, the cat you see in the picture. He’s one of the many ferals that live on our property and enjoy our hospitality. As you can see, he’s all black, but in his youth he had a silver whisker that earned him the name. This was shortened to Streak for convenience, but to me he’s always “Meeester Streeeak.” I doubt that a nostalgic cat name was the benefit my academic advisor intended when he told me to take Russian, but you never know how education might enrich your life. Life is full of surprises.
(Photo by Loretta Prokop)