My brother Jason graduated from high school yesterday, leading to the looking-back-now-I-can-laugh-at-it picture of me in an unkempt academic robe, hood sliding off one shoulder, (parents wanted a picture of both of us in grad gear), mortarboard in one hand and typing with the other fielding phone calls and chats for the Game Jam while intermittently dashing away to take family pictures.

The speeches were interesting, if somewhat predictable. The alumna speaker talked about how much more fortunate we were than the students in Africa that she works with, which was nice - but I grinned when she told the students they could be anything they wanted to be, like "a doctor, or a lawyer..." We live in an upper-class suburb indeed.

The other thing that struck me was how much the ceremony was like an assembly line. A huge, government-funded, 12-year, 700-kid assembly line.

Step 1: Reader calls the kid's name with the Graduation Intonation (TM) - first-name? middle-name? last-NAME. Since this is Glenview, home to the upper-class which includes plenty of Asians, we had a steady stream of "dah-dah? dah-dah? CHANG.", "dah-dah? dah-dah! LEE." and "dah-dah? dah-dah? PARK."s in the lineup. I thought we would never run out of Parks. (I wonder if any are going to school in Boston so we can tell them "Pahk, your cah's in Hahvahd yahd.")

Step 2: Kid stands next to the podium in dark blue gown and mortarboard and smiles for the camera. Acceptable variants include mortarboard upright on head or pinned back nearly perpendicular to the ground; honors sash or Glenbrook-scholar hood (visual distinctions based on GPA - I don't agree with this practice, but there it is), and sheepish/proud/I-know-you're-taking-my-picture smile.

Optional: For a few kids, family members or friends will whoop and cheer in the background as step 2 occurs (despite the request to refrain until all students have received their diplomas) followed by a muttered grumble of annoyance rippling through the audience

Step 3-7: Kid rotates 90 degrees clockwise, walks across the stage, shakes hand, gets diploma, shakes another hand, takes picture, joins long line of marching blue-robed students shuffling back to seat. Basically, step up, here? is? your? NAME. rotate, walk, shake, take, shake, picture, shuffle, shuffle, sit. Like boxes being packed and processed (with the Glorious Rewards of KNOLLIDJ, no less).

It was a long ceremony. They looped Pomp and Circumstance more times than I'd care to remember. "Some people need ceremony," my dad said on the way to the theatre. "I don't." "So why are we going?" I asked him. "Because we have to." Afterwards we went to dinner with one of my mom's old classmates and her husband, and then Jason went off to some graduation party which he came back from at 5am, proceeding then to sleep for 12 hours (he called from his cell phone upstairs to complain that I was playing piano at 3pm. "Why didn't you walk downstairs and tell me?" I asked. "I'm lazy," he said.")

Happy graduation, dorkboy. Wake up already so I can play piano.