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WInter Workout: Tasks

Some things you might do over winter break

To Do Description



Watch this video clip: Ode to Joy Flash Mob.
Read this short article by William Zinsser: A Joyful Noise.
Watch this video clip: Death Crawl.
Watch this video clip: Our Deepest Fear.
Watch this video clip: Immortal Beloved.

#2 Go to your local community library. If you do not already possess one, obtain a library card. While you are there, identify any quiet study room in your library and make use of it for 1 hour by reading the first portion of Animal Farm by George Orwell. Your community library is one of the two greatest places in your hometown. Might I suggest to you that you are a Student-Scholar. Might the library be your gymnasium. Make the library a home.  Go get a quiet, reflective workout. Make it a habit. 3
#3 Watch the black and white version of Twelve Angry Men starring Henry Fonda as Juror #8. I think the DVD can be located in most every community library. Lee J. Cobb. Edward G. Robinson. Crazy as a Fox, Martin Balsam. Quincy.
#4 Obtain a copy of The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. Read E.B. White's Introduction Section. There can be no doubt - must have been wonderful to be in Prof. Strunk's class. 1
#5 Finish reading Animal Farm by George Orwell. Would be nice if you went back to the library. Practice studying with minimal distractions around you. 2

Memorize the first stanza to Casey at the Bat and recite it to somebody at home. Here it is:

The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mudville nine that day.
The score stood four to two with but one inning left to play.
When Cooney died at first and Barrows did the same,
a sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

#7 Unload the dishwashing machine in your home. 1
#8 Take a good look at your resume. Do you have one? Spend 1 hour on either creating or improving it. Even better, if possible, have a professional in UMass Lowell's Career Services Office review it and give you criticism and feeback. Set up an appointment and meet the expert. 1
#9 Identify a course you will be enrolled in next semester. Get the syllabus. Acquire the textbook. Spend 1 hour reading through material for the course. Take notes. Ideally, this would be done in a quiet study room at your local library. 1
#10 Acquire a copy of William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and read it. If necessary, read it while watching the DVD. Explain the story to a friend and/or family member. 4
#11 Read the unabridged version of Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. After all, this is the greatest novel ever written in the history of the world. Not the play. Not the movie. This book. Read the book. You need to find time in your life when you commit to its reading and stay with. Might this be over winter break? 60 
#12 Watch the entire movie, It's a Wonderful Life, in one sitting. No distractions around you.  2
#13 Read Gulliver's 4th Travel - A Voyage to the Houyhnhnms. 3
#14 Read Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. 16
#15 Write a computer program in the C programming language that solves The Partition Problem. 4
#16 Prove that the square root of 2 is an irrational number. 1
#17 Write a computer program in the C programming language that fills an n by n Fourier Matrix of structs. 2
#18 Read Lysistrata by Aristophanes. 2
#19 Watch Season 1, Episode 1 of Mr. Ed. 1
#20 Read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks 9

Complete this bundle:

Read The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
Read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Read Animal Farm by George Orwell
Watch the Godfather Part 1 in its entirety with no distractions. Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.

#22 Complete this bundle:

The Libation Bearers
The Eumenides
Watch the movie - The Sting - in its entirety
#23 Listen to Beethoven's 5th Symphony in its entirety. 2
#24 Listen to Suite City Song by Cashman and West. 1

Memorize and recite the 2nd stanza of Casey at the Bat. Recite it to a family member.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
they thought, if only Casey could get but a whack at that –
they'd put up even money, now, with Casey at the bat.

#26 I suspect that some of you have gotten to this point in life without reading The Illiad by Homer. Might you consider rectifying this matter. Fill in that hole. Read this story in its entirety.Why was Achilles ticked off at Agamemnon? 10
#27 Want some easy reading? How about knocking off Robert Parker's first Spenser novel? It is called the Godwulf Manuscript. Careful though,  you might begin a habit you cannot break.  4
#28 Replicate Michael Faraday's famous experiment - the one in which he invents the electric motor.  You can do this on the kitchen table if you have the right household goods -- plus a few magnets. Look it up. You can do this. Make the wire go 'round and 'round.  4
#29 Listen to the following three Johnny Mathis records twice each: Twelfth of Never, Wonderful Wonderful, and Chances Are. You can find them on you tube if you do not have a copy of them lying about. What are the chances?  "Awfully Good". "Until the poets run out of rhyme."  2
#30 You were suppose to read this book in 9th grade, but it slipped past you somehow. Now is the time to read Silas Marner by George Eliot. Not too long. Get past the first chapter or two. Get the characters straight in your head. And put this book into your inventory. Nice 5
#31 Much Ado About Nothing is one of Shakespeare's 17 comedies. Do you have this one in you inventory? Can't go about town and not be able to explain what takes place. Go to the library, obtain the book and the DVD and read the play while watching the DVD. You should emerge being able to explain the story. Now is a great time for you to fill this hole. 4
#32 Ron Paul wrote the book called, End the Fed. Have your ever read this book?  7
#33 Volunteer to do a load of laundry -- even just a load of towels. Wash, dry, fold, and put away. 2

It all starts with your (re)reading of Sarah, Plain and Tall. Yes, yes, I know we are the Honors College, but this little gem by Patricia MacLachlan should put you on a life-long journey reading the Newbery Medal and the Newbery honor  books. They won first place or runner up prizes for a reason. One winner per year since 1922. Why not make your life list and start checking them off. I am 2/3rds of the way through myself.  Easy. Simple. Short. You could do worse with an hour of your time. Just sayin'.


Time for third stanza. Practice saying all three stanzas out loud and in public.

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake.
The former was a puddin' and the latter was a cake.
So upon the stricken multitude, grim melancholy sat
for there seemed but little chance of Casey's getting to the bat.

#36 Say it ain't so. That somehow you have never read Anne of Green Gables. This young adult book was written during a much simpler time by Patricia MacLachlan. We all have a bit of Anne Shirley in our bones.  4

So here is a dangerous link:

It will bring you to the most famous text adventure game in history.  Well before Pac Man. Before Asteroids. Before Missile Command. Before Pong. Yes -- well before Starcraft II with its Zergs, Protosses, and Terrans.  Call of Duty was not even a thought yet. It is Zork. The first Zork.

For this task, I ask that you play for 1 hour and see how many points you can score. Once upon a time, I mapped out this territory and filled the case with all sorts of fantastic jewels, drained the reservoir, killed the troll, and put the coal into the washing machine.  Release yourself from Madden Football. This is fun to play with a friend too. Remember to save your state frequently. Do not run out of light. It all starts with your opening the mailbox. Open Mailbox. Do not get lost in the maze of twisty little passages. Similar to when you read, you should have blank paper and pencils nearby as you need to doodle a meaningful map.

The link is dangerous since you can get sucked into the void of time. I would rather you spend your time reading Les Miserables -- but it is the freedom to choose that makes life worth it.  Freedom is good.

Did you know that there is a streaming StarCraft II Grandmaster who lives within driving distance of UMass Lowell? 



Read the Gettysburg address out loud as if you were Abraham Lincoln. You must do this in the presence of somebody. Preferably more that one person.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

#39 So you're going to school in Lowell. Have you yet read Lyddie by Catherine Paterson? Lyddie has a lot to teach you. A young adult book. Easy reading. If you add reading to your life - you will be empowered and enriched. Might you consider adding Lyddie to your inventory?  6
#40 There is a non-fiction book out there written by Richard Pipes. Dr. Pipes is an historian. Taught at Harvard. It would take an average reader about 7 hours to make their way through his book entitled, Communism, A History. Maybe a bit longer if you are reading with a pencil in your hand and with a blank white paper nearby. 7
#41 There is another non-fiction book out there written by Upton Sinclair, called The Jungle. Chronicles abuses that took place in the meat packing industry in Chicago in the early 1900s or so. Reading both Communism, A History and The Jungle -- side by side - may give you food for thought. 7
#42 Read Oedipus Rex by Sophocles. You probably read this in high school? Read it again.  3
#43 The Western Canon starts with the Illiad and The Odyssey - both by Homer. I think you should bring them into focus. Can you tell the story to another person?  In this task, I want you to read the Odyssey. You read The Illiad in Task 26. Now is a good time to complete your base. 7

Listen to this other Cashman and West song:  Songman.


Justin says that I should add "Reading Beowulf" to the list. So here it is. Go squirrel yourself away somewhere and knock this off of your life-list. If it takes you two or three sessions, so what. Now is your time.

Of course, the best place to go is your community library. Sitting in a chair with a straight back. Feet on the floor. No clutter about. Keep the technology away from you. The only technology you need is a piece of paper and three sharp pencils. It might be good to have a paper dictionary at the ready too.


Fourth Stanza. Recite in public. Ideally from memory.

But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
and Blake, the much despised, tore the cover off the ball;
and when the dust had lifted, and the men saw what had occurred,
there was Blake safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third

#47 In 1962, Anne Bancroft won the Academy Award for Best Actress. Patty Duke won for Best Supporting Actress. I know you have all heard about the story, but I bet -- dollars to donuts -- you have not watched The Miracle Worker starring these two actresses. Yes, it will run a little long. But, if not now, when? Go to the library. Find the DVD and take it out. So important for you to see this film. When you watch it -- there should be no distractions. All in one sitting. You - glued to the screen. No moaning that it is in black and white. I am giving this 10 points since I want to encourage all of you to visit with this film. Have a good visit. No rushing. 10

It is time. Do not dog me on this one. Go find some place and watch this program that began an historic TV run. Set aside 1 hour of your life -- and get to know this first episode of one of the most famous TV series of all time. When TV was TV. Watch until the very end. 

Season 1, Episode 1: The Foundling

#49 So, you are looking for something a bit more substantial to read? How about The Count of Monte Cristo. One thing to get lost in. Unabridged 50
#50 Vacuum the living room and sweep the kitchen floor. 3
#51 Acquire John Locke's The Second Treatise of Civil Government. It contains 243 very short sections spread across 19 chapters over 126 pages.Read one section per day for 23 straight days. This would put you at the end of Chapter 4. This is a total of 12 pages. A good beginning. I wish to get this book onto your radar. From there, you can choose to continue reading a section per day (or more) if you wish. While reading in such small increments might be a bit choppy, it would allow for slow digestion and longer-term reflection. Read as you wish - but please do read the first four chapters of John Locke's 2nd Treatise. 6