Long overdue

Hello readers; I realize that it’s been almost three weeks since I’ve posted, since exciting things like meteor showers, drastic concentration changes, and creepy conversations online with strangers aren’t things that happen to me. But the rest of the Blandfill has been good to me and hasn’t heckled me for not posting, as I have done to them many times. So here’s my update.

Will Ramsey bit me today at the hockey game. It was refreshing and terrifying. (more…)

Omegle

Connecting to server…
Looking for someone you can chat with. Hang on.
You’re now chatting with a random stranger. Say hi!
Stranger: hey stranger danger.
You: Yo man, want some free candy?
Stranger: yes.
You: Then come into my van where I have lots of free candy!
Stranger: hmmmm….
Stranger: sounds like a trap
You: No I promise it’s just candy!
Stranger: what kind?
You: I have like 30 bags of different candy, that’s why it’s all in the van
Stranger: well that makes sense.
Stranger: any skittles?
You: Yeah I’ve got some skittles in a bottle right here
You: now stand still while I pour them into this rag and put it over your mouth
Stranger: ok
You: they’re a new brand of skittles – “chloroform” flavor
Stranger: they’re going to be so tasty
Stranger: mmmmm
Stranger: hmmm…kind of backed ourselves into a creepy corner here.
You: I couldn’t resist, the “stanger danger” line was hard to counter in a non-creepy way
You: *”stranger”
Stranger: haha
Stranger: its true.
Stranger: so what are you up to today?
You: I’m learning Python!
You: it is a programming language
Stranger: sounds super exciting.
You: how about you
You: besides omegle-ing?
Stranger: writing about student grouping.
Stranger: not so exciting.
Stranger: :p
You: college student?
Stranger: post grad
You: what’s life like as a post grad?
Stranger: kind of awful
Stranger: haha
You: what subject?
You: /field?
Stranger: workwise?
Stranger: i did social work for like 2 min
Stranger: now im studying to be a teacher
You: teaching sounds decent
You: i might do astronomy grad school someday
Stranger: sounds interesting
Stranger: astronaut?
You: more like “hey let’s look at pictures of stars and figure out what they’re made of” and less “get into spaceships to go cool places”
Stranger: well, whichever.
You: hmm, i think i’ll get back to whatever i was doing but this was an enlightening chat
Stranger: yep.
Stranger: have fun luring people into your van
You:  : P

Stars

This one’s for Rachel. Thanks for taking care of our wet music.

As Tom mentioned below, we went, along with a bunch of other people, to see the stars. (Nominally the meteors, but there weren’t very many of them.) I’ve got a little tripod, so I took some long-exposure (15 seconds, so not really that long) shots of the sky.

She is upside down half the time.

Cassiopeia over the horizon.

Orion.

This is the PLEIADES.

This is the PLEIADES.

And now for something completely different.

This is awesome. Someone should do this for a CS50 final project.

‘trospection

Tonight I went out of town with Danny (and around 30 other folks who I didn’t know) to check out the meteor shower. There weren’t many meteors but the sky was real, real nice and I enjoyed trying to figure out the constellations and chatting about space with Danny. It was a really worthwhile experience – sometimes I miss the Milky Way and the vast expanses of land that accompany not-the-city.

Now, I have a CS exam tomorrow, but I went on this five-hour excursion anyways. As it stands, I haven’t done any studying besides attend a review session (and overhear Duncan listening to videotaped lectures online), and Charles tells me that this exam looks a lot harder than the last one. I’ll do my best, but I wouldn’t be surprised if all I get is 65 +- 15 percent.

People here really care about academics – or at least grades. There’s strong peer pressure to get good grades in things, even if you aren’t learning that much. I definitely think it’s a good idea to be an organized person who can study well and manage time well and be disciplined, and I also believe that there’s a lot to be gained, at a personal level, through really understanding lots of interesting and new things. But are grades themselves important? There’s certainly a correlation between getting high marks and getting lots of understanding, but I will always value the latter far more than the former.

So, understanding. Wisdom, perhaps. I have very little. But I think I’m yearning for it. Wisdom enough to know what to do with my life. And it’s nights like tonight that make me pause, gain some perspective, and think.

(more…)

Switching concentrations

Four days ago, I made the decision to switch to computer science.  I was actually very close to declaring econ; I was talking with an adviser to get my plan of study signed when he told me that I would have to add two more classes to replace skipping Ec 10.  This event was the catalyst that set off my decision to consider CS as a viable choice.  The decision to switch had been churning around in the back of my head for a few weeks, but I pushed aside those thoughts with the logic that I was already far enough on the econ track that switching would be detrimental to scheduling and to my future.

I want to go into finance after college, so I originally chose econ because Harvard doesn’t offer a business or finance degree, and I thought that econ was related to those fields.  As it turns out, the relationship is tangential at best.  (I also thought that skipping Ec 10 would give me a comparative advantage, but I have never been more wrong…)

I was already having trouble selecting econ courses to fill up my schedule because, surprisingly, classes like “Moral Perspectives on Economic Growth” and” The Historical Origins of Middle Eastern Development” don’t interest me at all.  The thought of adding two more made me cringe.

With CS, all of the classes that I have to take seem very interesting, and with an econ secondary I only have to take the classes that I want to take, namely Capital Markets and Corporate Finance.  One of my stat electives will also count toward the CS requirements, so everything just works out better.

My adviser told me that if anything, a CS degree can only help with getting a finance job; it can’t hurt my chances.  He also told me a story of a friend of his.  The guy graduated with a CS degree, worked for a startup firm that got bought out by Microsoft, made a decent sum of money, went to Stanford B-school, and is now working for McKinsey.  (Actually, is it sad that this sounds like an ideal life to me?  I’ll have to address this issue someday)

All of this being said, I’m still leaving the option open to switch back to econ in case things really don’t work out.

On an unrelated note, the weight room in our dorm is surprisingly stocked with equipment, and it’s really close and convenient.  I don’t know why I didn’t go earlier.

It’s funny how things work out.

It is Saturday night and I feel really good about the world.

I spent about two hours up at the observatory. I’ve had a star-crush on Orion lately, so I decided to point the ‘scope at Betelgeuse (it’s way orange!) and Rigel (it’s way blue!). I played around with different eyepieces — discovering quickly that the telescope’s not-so-great optics (as well as random things like turbulent air inside the telescope’s tube) make most of the shorter-focus eyepieces pretty much useless. A couple of cool guys came up about half an hour into my solo observing session, and we looked at different stuff in the sky. I think I found the Orion nebula, which was really exciting! I’d never seen it before (or at least seen it and remembered what it was). We then checked out the moon (I whipped out a moon-filter and it helped a lot), and then I realized that the Pleiades were almost directly overhead and absolutely beautiful! (My impression is that light pollution is way low near the zenith.) We pointed the big telescope at it, but we had to wait a little bit for the dome to get out of the way (remember how I said it was directly overhead?). It’s a real nice sight, and I am extremely anxious to go somewhere dark and use my newfound knowledge of constellations to really take in the sky.

And, you know, something about this whole celestial endeavor must be doing something good to me. I feel so much better than I did last night. The optimistic Tom has returned, I hope. I do apologize for yesterday’s post. I figure I’ll feel that way again every now and then, but I suspect I’ve found at least one way to help me feel better about things. And in the end, it’s really just attitude that matters, I think.

I apologize in advance for this less-than-cheerful post.

It is Friday night and I feel awful. This happens more frequently than I’d care to admit.

You might ask me: “You study the cosmos. Doesn’t that make you feel insignificant?”
And I reply, in my probably naive, grasping-for-something-more way: “I feel a drive to be connected with the Universe. By learning about everything knowable, I gain a closeness to the distant, and I become intimate with infinity itself.”
But in truth, when I step back and look at myself, the things that truly make me feel insignificant are the connections I see between people — and how they’re often absent from my life.

Is this loneliness? Is it simple sexual frustration? Is it because I’m afraid to reach out to others? Is it due to a general disillusionment of the motives and mannerisms of my peers? In my hurry to grow up, have I left something within myself unaddressed?

I feel contempt. I feel resentment. Boy, do I feel resentment. Towards a lot of things. I resent having poor, not-well-educated parents, especially when attending a school filled with descendants of wealthy intellectuals. I resent the unstable home life I had to experience throughout my teenage years, and I resent the psychological scarring it leaves with me even once I’m freed of that situation. I resent the sophisticated pre-college educations that my classmates received, when I had to put up with largely mediocre teaching and a brainless mass of “peers”. I resent the fact that I once believed myself to be especially intelligent, only to have that belief crushed out of me last year. Maybe what I resent most of all is the fact that I still feel all this resentment.

Perhaps I don’t deserve the poetic words I said of myself. To “become intimate with infinity itself” — is that really what drives me? I think my greatest fear is that, in truth, I’m only driven by the hope of escaping from my negative emotions.

But… at least there’s hope, isn’t there?

Blogs are wonderful means of procrastination

This has been a pretty fun weekend.  I’m going to tell you about it.  Lucky you!  As an aside, everything I’ve done in the following had the effect of postponing the completion of my CS50 problem set that was due 26 hours ago (as of yet uncompleted).  But I digress.

This turned out to be Freshman Parents’ Weekend, which involved some fun awkward gigs for band, and a great Glee Club concert.  We went to Sanders Theater and played some fight songs.  They had a very strange panel table, and two comfy red chairs enclosed by two coffee tables with water jugs and glasses on them.  Obviously, when it come time to play Ten Thou, Ed and I sat in those chairs.  I had a good time with that.  Then there was a rehearsal from 4-6, which made getting to Sanders in tails at 6:30 a bit of an issue, but an easily resolved one (and resolved it was, by leaving the rehearsal early).

The Glee Club concert went fantastically.  It was great to be on stage in front of an almost full house, although I had forgotten how much I sweat while under those bright lights.

Everything you just read was written about a week ago, mostly because I got tired of blogging and stopped.  Then I felt guilty for not blogging in three weeks, so I’m going to finish this now.  Isn’t that fun?  Since the last time I posted, my cell phone has been acting strange.  I woke up about 6 hours after going to sleep Sunday morning and discovered that my cell phone had a funny colored bar on the left side o the screen.  I was perturbed, but not too worried; I could still use it, right?  Well.  As the day went on, I found that every other row of pixels had turned white, so I could only half see what was on the screen.  Again, not a huge deal, I could see what I was doing, but I was beginning to get a little worried.  By the time I went to sleep that night, my cell phone screen had turned completely white, and as of right now it has a lovely crack across the screen from me banging it to see if that would make it work better.  Turns out it didn’t.  Regardless, my phone still works, but now I just don’t text, and I have to hope that whoever calls me is someone I actually want to talk to.

Oh yes, the HUB 90th reunion was this past weekend, and it was fantastic; I’ll be posting the video of it as soon as it goes online.  It’s worth a watch.  Granted, there are bands that are 300+ without alumni, but something about seeing 40 years worth of crusties and undergrads scramble on a field is very impressive; it’s like Brownian motion, but with a purpose.  Pretty cool, eh?  That in itself makes this post a science post.  I’ll link to the wikipedia article on Brownian Motion as well.  Now this post can be about the Internet as well!  Fantastic!