I just bought the books I'll need for my second year of Chinese class, which starts in a little less than a month. There's something so exciting about buying new school books. They are all shiny and crisp and have that new book smell. At the beginning of the semester, you are full of optimism about how interesting your classes will be. You have earnest plans to stay ahead on your homework and do extra credit work. Your textbooks are yet unscathed by the weeks of being toted around with everything else in your backpack and still unmarked by the food and beverages you will consume as you slog through your assignments. You are blissfully unaware of how boring they may turn out to be, how many missed social opportunities they will come to represent, how much you will hate the sight of them in just a couple of months. Right now, they are inspiring. You can hold them in your hands and measure the weight of the knowledge they contain, the knowledge that will be yours by mid-December. Theoretically, that is.