What do O-Chem, LOLCats and bad grades have in common?

Last night I got an e-mail from Daniel Choi, class of ’10, who got a copy of the book at Powell’s and recognized three pieces of graffiti he’d written– pieces I never would’ve thought were connected. The stories behind the graffiti, particularly the O-Chem one, are so heartwarmingly UChicago, and with his permission I’m happy to share them with you, in his own words:

Organic Chemistry is Voodoo Witchcraft

The story behind this is actually the story of how I became a physics major. As a first year, I worked under a particularly demanding chemistry professor with whom I had a rather unhealthy relationship. Over the summer before my second year, my friends were convinced that I was suffering battered wife syndrome as no matter how much abuse he threw at me, I could not but find him and his Russian accent extremely attractive. However, push came to shove (although our relationship did not have the opportunity to develop to that point, if you know what I mean) and I subsequently quit the lab early in the summer. Yet, come Autumn Quarter of second year, I learned to my dismay that he was my professor for organic chemistry, which took us through more of the awkward staring contests. Suffering enough abuse from both him and the damned course itself (I was never meant to be solving synthesis reactions), I withdrew from organic chemistry on the day of the final and became a physics major instead. Winter quarter came and I came across a Science article that explored how a canonical chemical reaction does not actually behave the way organic chemists described and this work was described by a physicist. I was so giddy for the next couple of days, but then I ran into my ex-boss/professor/something-unspecified in the elevator up the GCIS. It was a tense moment of silence. I broke it with, “So… did you read the new Science article about the SN2 reaction?” He stared stonily at me and said, “What of it?” “Well… it’s funny how my discipline pretty much just disproved your discipline.” The doors then opened and I walked out. That night, I celebrated by writing out my feelings in the bowels of the Reg.


The story behind this one is not as long, but it’s just as entertaining. A friend of mine and I were extremely sleep-deprived in the Reg and she had a linguistics presentation the next day. Her project was on lolcats and lolspeak, and being a big fan of Aristotle’s theory of function and rhetoric, we aptly named the PowerPoint Presentation. What started out as a serious outline quickly devolved into a free-for-all for the whiteboard. We then resorted to inside jokes. The “I’m a bottom” comment… I don’t think you’d like to know.

Bad grades

As to what inspired that witty aphorism, I haven’t the foggiest idea.

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