Friday, August 31, 2012

College: Week Two

Since I'm quite busy, adjusting to the whole "uprooting more or less my entire life" thing, the blog may take a turn toward the more journal-ly, regardless of whether I actually have any interesting stories to tell or not.

Classes have been good. I've been staying on top of my work and getting into good study habits. I've been finding good study spots, focusing on my work, and learning the material. In high school, I barely had to study, a little more in the last year but still not really, so I'm working on developing good habits. I find a nice table, and I read the corresponding textbook chapter before the lecture, and I try to learn the material well-enough. Then after lecture, I've been doing the textbook questions for comprehension. So far, I've only done them for stats, but now that my evolution textbook has taken the turn for material I haven't covered before, I think I'll be attempting the comprehension questions for that as well, so I can be sure I know what I'm doing. The tough thing about college is that there aren't many ways to really test if you're learning everything. You pay attention in lecture, and there are activities for my discussion classes, but homework is sparse, and there are only a few tests, two to three prelims and then a final.
So far, classes aren't too hard. There are some days that are worse than others, but I've been putting in time and being sure I read the textbook and do the questions, and generally once I do, I have a good handle on the information.
There's a picture that everyone loves to throw about. It's the "pick two" diagram of college life. You can either have good grades, enough sleep, or a social life. And this was bugging me for a while - "There's got to be a way to have three!" - until I realized is that my idea of a social life is eating dinner with friends and taking Saturday off to do something. I get the impression that this is significantly less than most people's idea of a social life, so actually, I should be good.

One thing that bothers me about college is the fact that I'm stuck on a huge plot of land with a bunch of late adolescents and young adults. There are no family units, few adults, and very few children (there are live-in faculty members, but that's it.) We're in a little isolated world, and I don't like it. I like adults, for the most part. At least, I don't dislike them, and it's nice to have adults around a little more because they generally know what they're doing. People like us, just college kids, have pretty much no idea what we're doing and so it would be nice to not be so immersed in an environment composed of people who don't know what they're doing.
I've also realized that I only live 45 minutes away from home, and can visit fairly frequently, and, indeed, chose this college for partly that reason, so it would be silly not to. Also, I do miss home, and my friends, and I want to stay in the family. If I balance having a life here - doing my work, making friends, learning - I can still have a life at home, and see my family frequently, and see my friends that are close by, and visit home. I don't have to be cut off. They're still my friends and family, and in many cases, both.

In other news, my friend Ashley and I are also keeping in touch by old-fashioned, snail mail letters, which we've just been writing on loose leaf and doodling in the margins of. In the future, I'd like to send her little artifacts, but I don't know what yet so right now I'm sticking to stickers and pictures of dinosaurs.

This is all I have right now. We'll see how things go.

Saturday, August 25, 2012


College is an interesting amalgamation of things. I've met some pretty interesting people but also some very dull people. I've been excited by classes and I've been absolutely terrified by classes. I've felt really happy, and really, really sad.
Right now, I am feeling okay about the whole shebang. I like to think I'm getting the hang of it, and it's getting a little better, but it fluctuates. I feel the worst when I think about things I'm missing back home, but I try not to think of that. Instead I think about how well I'm doing, and the interesting friends I'll make, and how neat this whole thing really is.
At times it's really overwhelming. But I feel as though I am getting the hang of it, too. It fluctuates, as I said. Some days, or even hours, are better than others.
Skype is beautiful.
Here, I'll tell you about what I've been doing so far:

I've had three days of classes so far. I'm taking stats, intro to evolutionary biology, intro to ecological biology, and a freshman writing seminar on dark humor. My stats professor is Russian, but understandable, and the course mostly makes sense. My professors for evolutionary biology all seem amazing and hilarious and brilliant, and I am very excited for lecture, and to meet them. There's a biology open house on Wednesday, so hopefully I'll get to talk to some of them then. For ecology, the professors seem okay. I have only had one lecture with them, so I will have to see. I will also have to get there early to get a good seat, because last time I was way in the back and I do not like this at all. Lastly, for my writing seminar, I am very excited as the professor seems cool and the class seems hilarious. We watched the song "Always Look On the Bright Side of Life" in our class as an example of dark humor. It should be highly entertaining.
All in all, my classes should be good. I am going to join study groups for the harder three if it's not too much time, as I think it would be beneficial academically and socially. Also, I have a lot of free time, and it's more productive than studying by myself.

Today, Saturday, I went and explored the bus system with my friends Sam and Alex. We took the bus from North campus to Wegmans, where we walked around that mall and went to Barnes and Noble (where I splurged on some books, and they're making me happy) and Panera Bread. Then we went back to North campus briefly, and then we went to Target at the mall, and wandered around. I also found a poster store, to which I should definitely return because my walls in my room are very bare currently.

Tonight there was a concert, but I'm trying to write an essay, so I came back. I ate dinner by myself (which was actually quite nice). I then played the piano for a bit in the bigger community center, and I actually had someone come up and listen for a bit, which was cool. Then I read my happy book outside for a bit. Now I'm doing a little bit of work, and also writing on my blog.

It hasn't been so bad. It's fluctuated. I've been crying sporadically, but then a few hours later I'm ready to take on the world. It doesn't really make any sense. I will think I'm getting better, and then I'll feel crappy again. Now I'm feeling pretty good, though, so I hope it lasts. I am doing something pretty fun tomorrow - I'm having brunch with my advisers and advising group, and then we're going on a gorge hike or something. Afterward, we'll be going to Clubfest, where I'll sign up for a bunch of things. I'm thinking ultimate frisbee and outdoors club, and a few other things that catch my eye. I can always whittle them down later.

Tonight I'll work on an essay and see if I can finish it, or get close to finishing it. Tomorrow I'll do a little bit of work before I leave, and then in the afternoon is a barbecue.
I should be okay.
I'm okay right now.
We'll see how long it lasts, but right now, I'm okay.

One more thing: the dusk here is beautiful. Dusk everywhere is beautiful, of course, but I especially appreciate it here, because I feel so far away and disjointed from everything I've known. Dusk reminds me that some things are constant.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Thoughts on Destruction

I'm adjusting to college right now, so here's just some random thoughts on things you probably haven't read.

There's a character in Sandman (Neil Gaiman) called Destruction. He's one of the Endless, and is thus an idea or property metaphysically embodied in a conscious entity. The thing about Destruction, though (and all the Endless) is that they mean more than just their name. For instance, Destruction loves art, which seems odd for a, well, destroyer, until your realize that in order to create anything, you have to destroy, and by destroying, you create. If you carve a sculpture, you destroy the stone and also the state of the stone prior to carving. To create a universe, you must destroy the nothingness. To build a city, you destroy the night and stars with all  your lights.
Creation and destruction are inseparable, and so, in his purest form, Destruction is really more accurately called something else: change.
It's interesting how people associate "creation" with goodness and "destruction" with badness, because the atomic bomb was created and slavery was destroyed. First and foremost, words are tools, but people mistake words for ideas.

Friday, August 17, 2012


One positive thing: I no longer feel like screaming incoherently. I still sort of feel like hiding under the furniture, but that's okay. Now that everything is all packed up in plastic tubs and ready to go, I'm feeling better. Maybe because there are fewer corporeal things holding me here. Maybe because I have one foot out the door.
Macrocosmically, moving is so insignificant, but I'm not macrocosmic.
I think I'm still in denial. I can't believe I'm going.
I have always resented the phrase "think about things too much", but in this case it's applicable. Most people just keep living. I always feel the need to stop and take a moment to really examine what is happening here, and what I should do about it. Generally thinking about things is great and more people should do it, but when you can't do anything about it but worry, and indeed, don't want to, there's not much point.
The place looks so empty, now.
I always longed for adventure as a child, never really examining how reluctant I would be to set foot out of the door for who knows how long. Now that it's here, I hesitate. Maybe I would hesitate less if I knew there would be magic involved. My childhood adventures always involved magic. Bah.
I should go to sleep, but I don't want today to end. I have so little time as it is, I have no time for days to end.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Time and the Lack of It

Lately time has been moving at an increasingly rapid rate. By "lately", I mean within the past two or three years, because, as I mentioned, time has been moving increasingly fast. It used to be, two or three years was such a long time. In two or three years, the whole world would change. Now, on some level, I feel as though two or three years is forever ago, and yet, it's not. It feels close. It feels as if no time has gone by at all. If we extrapolate time's current acceleration, old age will seem like a blink of the eye. Though it might be nice for my years as a decrepit, senescent being to pass quickly, I still think I'll want my last days to be long enough to enjoy.

I wonder if the reason days seem shorter when you're older is because you are familiar with most things you encounter, and thus your brain filters out most of your day automatically, like how one no longer notices their own car air freshener, or fails to see the dust that coats their lampshades and curios. So, perhaps the old adage "stop and smell the roses" has more importance than we typically give to over-quoted cliches. By appreciating the little things in life, we stop and take notice of them, and remember them, and give our days more substance. By allowing our brains to filter less, we are giving ourselves time. We should brand this remarkable new therapy as a wholly natural, pain-free alternative that will, from your view point, increase your life span.

They say bad times go by slower than good times because when you're happy you don't watch the clock, but when you're miserable or upset, you hang on every minute. However, there is something lacking in this hypothesis because when you are dreading something, you also count the minutes, but they slip through your fingers like teflon-coated sand, and when you're eagerly anticipating something, you count the days and they drag on. And on. The more you dread, the faster time moves, and the more you expect, the slower it crawls.
I think the conclusion we can draw from this phenomenon is that time is a fickle bastard and a sadistic misanthropist. For example, another instance of its cruel influence on the world is how it gives you plenty of time when you're young and can't appreciate it, and takes it all away when you're old and desperately need it.

I didn't realize it was such a universal phenomena, how time speeds up as you gain years, but talking to the adults I know, they all remember the long summers of childhood, and now they never have enough time to do all that needs to be done. No one tells you about this as a kid, how time speeds up inexorably. They'll tell you about the homework and taxes and love but they never tell you about time, not until you figure it out yourself. Granted, though, I'm not certain that losing time is one of the things that kids understand. It's very hard to imagine winter nights when you're stuck in the heat of summer.

Everyone loves to pretend that time is some grand, immutable thing, consistently plodding along, second by second. It's not, though. It changes. We all know that even clocks can't measure it accurately, like how they slow to a standstill during the last five minutes of class. In truth, it's silly of us to think they would be able to measure time, because, after all, clocks move through time, too. They can't measure it because they're part of it. It's not like they're impartial. Clocks are perfidious bastards like that, like a bribed judge and jury together. They make you think they're unbiased, but really, time has been handing them money out in back all along.

Really, time has been conspiring against us. We should impeach it. And smash all the clocks.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Benjamin, Part II

I wrote a piano part for the song! I'm rather proud of it, mostly because I didn't know I could write songs on the piano and yet somehow did. It makes me very happy inside, and I should probably try to start composing/improvising in keys other than C, but hey, it's a start, right?
I love being able to do things.

I think probably the most impressive part of this video, though, is the part where I managed to balance the camera on a brass reading lamp.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


I found this article intensely interesting. It concerns the context of Machiavelli's The Prince. Turns out, Machiavelli wasn't nearly as, well, Machiavellian as we all attribute to him! His main love was Florence, his city, and in the turbulent politics of the time, manipulation and alliances were the only way to save the small city from encroaching belligerent nations and city-states trying to conquer it! His politik evolved purely out of his patriotism and love for Florence. Interesting, right? Here, read this. It's very interesting.