It’s another 3am problem set, and the vacuum cleaner in Lev D-hall is making a wonderfully warm breeze rush through the room. It’s incredible and awesome and makes me excited for spring (or, more generally, for not living on the frigid East Coast for that much longer).

Anyway, I’m gonna spend most of the rest of the night (morning?) writing some code before I go to sleep. I’ll hopefully wake up to a nice completed book of plots, send it off to my boss, and sleep in physics.

Charles got a job offer! With some mid-westy folks! That’s exciting, and he won’t even have his soul removed by the evil New York banking oligarchy. woo.

This is the first time I’ve used QuickPress, that’s kinda win.

I think we’re giving up. I’m gonna go back to my room and listen to Give Up by the Postal Service!

Ramble on ramble on ramble on.

Pardon the extroverted introspection.

I have recently realized that a good deal of my friends are college seniors. It’s not like I hadn’t realized until now that they were all a year ahead of me, but it becomes hard to ignore when all of them begin complaining about their theses, worry loudly what they’re going to do next year, and say they would choose a different concentration if they could do it all again. It’s this last one that really got me thinking about my past and my concentration. Would I be a biologist or historian if I had another four years to graduate? I truly think here that the answer is no, but that isn’t to say I wouldn’t do things differently. In fact, I have a whole list of things that I would do differently in my freshman year.

First, I would take easier classes. I came into Harvard a little confused about my academic talents, and I believe these miscalculations still affect my daily life. The first real test I took at Harvard (at least that I cared about) was the physics placement test. The idea was to help you decide if you should take Physics 15a or Physics 16; both cover the same basic material, but 16 covered it with mathematical rigor, and was notoriously much more difficult. I took the test just because I suppose, maybe to prove to myself that I was just as smart as everyone else in my class, or maybe I had this idea that I would actually use the grade to make my decision. I remember not spending too much time on it; it was an AP Physics style test, and was graded in the same way, so I would just look at the questions and answer them. I felt great about it, so when I saw Danny get up and turn it in after about half an hour, I decided, “Why not?” and turned mine in less than ten minutes later. It was only when we got our grades back that I realized my expectations were far off; Danny had received a 5, and I got a 2. Take note, my first failing grade at Harvard. Somehow I chalked the grade up to not preparing enough and being careless, but I wouldn’t make that mistake again! Next time I would be slow and steady and not be caught off guard.

So I enroll in Physics 16, and the night before the first problem set is due, I hole myself up in Lamont library and start shedding some wood. Lo and behold, I am absolutely stumped, and I go back to my room at 4am a man with much lower self esteem than before. Never again would I try to do a problem set all by myself. I started doing the homework assignments in a large group and having people explain to me the method rather than figuring it out by myself. It turns out that in physics, that is half the point, and I may have completely missed it.

So if I had taken 15a, everything would have been perfect? Well, no, but I at least would have been exposed to a gentler learning curve that may have propelled me to doing the occasional problem set with no outside assistance. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to do that, and I think I’m only just managing to go at it alone in Physics 181.

Second, I would not have taken Math 25. The professor was awful, there was too much work, and it turns out I don’t really like pure math. Occasionally I see something in physics that is relevant to the class and am glad I took it, but those moments are far outweighed by how miserable I was while doing those problem sets freshman year (although in the spring, it could have been the fact that I was taking five classes; also a mistake, but there was no way out at that point; I needed and/or am glad that I took those classes).

And I think that’s really it in terms of regrets. I think sometimes I could have worked harder and slept less, and that will always be true. Some people might say I spent too much time in the band or in the glee club, but I know that those two experiences have made my college career bearable. Glee Club gave me so much musical direction when I thought I had finished with serious music, and I met some of my best friends in that group. Band has clearly become a bigger and bigger part of my life, and sometime in the fall I will feel a huge crunch because of it, but I wouldn’t trade that for anything; the Band gave me the first close-knit group of friends I’ve had at school (excluding the blandfill) that didn’t turn out to be a bunch of douchebags, and I would gladly trade a couple points of the GPA or a top grad school for that.

This was pretty heavy, so have a video.

Ian McKellan Narrating the Ducktales theme song

ownership and motivation: a blurb

I think I hate problem sets.

I don’t typically exhibit such strong emotions towards my schoolwork, but problem sets and me are not getting along. I look forward to the point in my life when I am free to never do a problem set again.

On the flip side, I really enjoy working on research projects when I feel like I have some emotional stake in the outcome. I think I do better work all around when I know that I’m working toward more than just a grade.
Case in point: I’m having incredible difficulty getting very far on this astronomy problem set, but feel really stimulated putting any work into my project proposal.

I’ll observe this trend going forward.


Hey guys –

a mostly unplanned, spontaneous post here. I stumbled across one LM’s blog and felt inspired and introspective for a moment, and remembered: my best thoughts come from channeling procrastination into self-reflection.

So: Life is, on the whole, pretty good. Being a junior is awesome; I’ve got this romantic relationship which I’m pretty much a fan of; I feel like I’m heading in a direction, and I am very, very happy that it’s a cool direction. And I feel like I’m making my own future regardless of what my past consisted of — my trajectory can forget its initial conditions.