UT Honors Colloquium

I kinda hate doing these “here’s what happened in my life” entries, but it’s kinda necessary.
So Thursday morning, I pop into the Band Hall so I can pick my locker and instrument, make sure Chris has things in order, etc. All goes well. My mom comes to pick me up, and her, my cousin Cheryl, Willie, and I go up to Austin. We promptly arrive as Jester, where we are assigned to our room. Now, Jester is apparently known for not being the highest quality dorm. Fortunately, I had planned ahead of time: the trick to satisfaction is low expectations. The rooms were pretty spartan (since it’s pretty much up to the students to make it otherwise), there was a perpetual odor, the walls didn’t really block sound, and the bathes weren’t much either. Not bad.
Bobby met Willie and me to wander around campus, since we had 1-2 hrs until our first event. We went into the McCombs School of Business, almost got into the texas history museum, and almost got into the stadium, but avoided all trouble. We got around to the PAC for our first event, which ended up being a bust. Bobby went back to the dorm to play pokemon, while Willie and I checked out another local museum, which had a giant skeleton of a flying dinosaur hanging in the lobby. We looked at some of the other fossils around, then went back just in time for the speaker at the PAC. Some accounting professor, he gave an interesting speech where he recounted some experiments. It was actually fairly interesting, at least for me, since it kind of tied over into a bit of psychology and game theory, two of my academic interests, and he managed to present it in an entertaining manner. In the end, he tied it back to the college experience in a really bad way, but I guess that was part of the deal with getting the opportunity to speak.
After that, we had a “cohort meeting”, an event to dread, followed by lunch at the dining hall in Jester, which managed to be pretty terrible. It was a buffet, but I can’t see why someone would want more than one serving of that food. College food is definitely going to be interesting. I can live on ramen, but I can’t live on that crap. I guess I have my solution.
Later that evening, we were supposed to go to the honors quad for games and such, but it sounded really boring so Bobby, Willie, and I wandered around campus some more, dropping into the tower, the ee building, among other places. Willie got some pictures that night, and if you want to see them, he has them on his facebook. After staying up late playing Pig and Spoons with some of the other taylor kids, I took a shower, which wasn’t that bad. Apparently no one else on my floor thought much of hygiene, since neither willie nor I saw ‘neone else taking a shower during the time we did. Regardless, it wasn’t bad, except that the water was never warm, alternating between scalding and cold every 10 s or so. That was irritating, though I don’t think the idea of a communal toilet and shower bothered me as much as I thought it would.
I woke up severely sleep deprived to another jester meal. Wonderful way to start the day, eh? I went to my first class, which was something to do with classics and philosophy. Chatted with Erica for a bit, who happened to be in the same room. The class itself was less than thrilling. We analyzed a scene from Sophocles’ “Antigone”, where Haemon challenges the rule of Creon. Very interesting topic, but he really didn’t get into much depth with it, which I found very disappointing. I’ll arrogantly say he didn’t say ‘nething that I couldn’t have figured out. Well, in truth, he provided the information that led me to my conclusions (such as, “In greek culture, the only beings that could see the future were the gods.”), but that I can get from a book.
The second class was a panel discussion, where various professors spoke of the future of science. The first person talked about global warming (surprise, surprise), and didn’t say a whole lot of ‘nething. The second was a physicist who talked about something that, at the moment, was interesting, but I have since forgotten. The third was involved in something about biochemistry or something, and his talk was of vague interest, with seemingly optimistic ideas. The fourth was an engineer, who was much more entertaining than ‘ne other, but with about the same amount of content. After that, they did a panel discussion, which wasn’t so exciting either, making the entire class pretty worthless.
I went to the engineering lunch at the Texas Union, which was easily the best meal I had all trip, since it was an actual catered event and not some trash at a dining hall. And I now am resolved not to do engineering. After talking to the staff advisor at our table (“our” being me, max, royce, and some random ppl), I figured I really didn’t care a whole lot about what they do. The food was still good, though.
My third class was one in algorithm analysis, which managed to be the greatest disappointment. The class was taught assuming we knew nothing about CS, which meant we only managed to analyze up till about mergesort. She went extremely slowly, and it just wasn’t a lot of fun. On the upside, at least I know that CS is the type of stuff I want to be doing.
The fourth class was pretty incredible. It was called “Artificial Intelligence in Physics”, and he explained how he used LISP in AI. It was pretty brilliant stuff, and apparently is currently working on making programs capable of doing well on AP tests (a program already got a 3 on Chem). He even has the physics solver online at http://www.cs.utexas.edu/users/novak/ , so that should help a lot in Physics 2. It accepts plain english questions (though I would assume that the language and structure is somewhat limited), and another one allows you to graphically connect various elements into a giant solver. Wondeful stuff, very interesting.
That evening, I got another fill of Jester crap, then, instead of doing whatever we were supposed to in Gregory gym, played ultimate with about 20 ppl in the street. Although my knees hurt like heck afterwards (and still do now, a little), it was a lot of fun. After that, Willie and I wandered a bit more to snap a few more pics, then went back to the dorm and talked to erica, max, mariel, and michelle before our evening cohort meeting, after which we conked out.
On the final day, we got to take small group tours, and being on top of things, I signed up early and got a shot to go to the nuclear reactor at UT. I thought it was pretty nifty, though honestly, there were probably ppl who could’ve appreciated it more than me. They have a lot of really nifty research going on there, and it was capped off with a “blue flash” at the end, which was the result of them pulling a control rod out really fast, allowing a bunch of radiation out or something. Either that, or they bs-ed us and had a bright light hidden at the bottom of the reactor.
And after that, we had lunch and went home. Good trip, learned a lot about the college experience. Right now, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to go to UT, though I know that if I did, I would make the most of it and come to appreciate it. I figure that the size of the college really won’t bother me. UT is humongous, but honestly, after walking around with willie and bobby, it isn’t as big as the map makes it look. It’s about a 10-15 min walk across campus, and I’d find my niche within it. A lot of small colleges are really cool too, since those are usually picturesque, green pretty colleges. College life will be nice, even if the food might suck. And I know I don’t want to do engineering, and I really want to do computer science. Perhaps more of my realizations will come later, but I’m done with this entry.

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