college life

More Rubbish

Life at college is great. Tons of stuff to do around campus. Just last week, I listened to Jeff Katzenberg, CEO of Dreamworks, talk to us about what’s going on in the world of film and animation production. And past the spectacular events going on, there’s the school work.

But it’s a lot different. In the days of high school, it was something of an endless battle. The worst part of the contests was the crushing guilt. Any moment not spent studying for AD, or UIL, or whatnot, was, in some way, wasted. In that time, someone else was jumping ahead. And just for a contest. Looking back, it was a rat race. It, however, was a rat race I had to complete.

Kind of cool though, with all the stuff to do. I decided to pick up bass trombone last week. I’ve liked jazz for awhile, but I never had the opportunity to play any. I managed to squeeze into an intro to jazz combo class that meets for an hour each week, which doesn’t seem like a big commitment for opening up a whole new world.

I’m picking up the instrument tomorrow, so for the first class last week, I played tuba. And that did nothing to make it easier. It’s probably the first time I’ve had to play without written music in front of me, which went alright. Thanks to having practiced my arpeggios, I got away with coming up with some basic bass lines. Completely new, completely awesome.

If this pans out, it would further my belief that I have no particular dedication in music. Played trumpet for 3 years, switched to tuba after my first high school semester. Played tuba for 4 years, switched to bass trombone during my first college quarter. And I spent my last semester of high school being excited about orchestral tuba. I have commitment problems?

Most bizarre thing happened about an hour ago. I was working on Chinese, and in the recording the teacher made, it sounds like there’s a vacuum going. I laughed, and kept working. Later, when I took a break from Chinese, I was looking for something to do that did not involve my computer in any way. At that point, I determined that the room was a little messy, so I (completely unconscious, I swear) decided to vacuum my room. It’s weird to know that I primed myself right there.

For all Stanford frosh, an “Introduction to Humanities” (IHum) is required for each quarter. They’re a typical lecture/section class with readings and writing assignments. The one I picked was “Humans & Machines,” which explores the relationship between humans and machines. It has its very academic side: we first read Descartes’ (what’s the right way to do possessive on that?) “Treatise of Man.” It treats the human body as a machine, where strings pull at the brain, with an entirely separate soul up in part of the brain. Our midterm essay was analyzing a passage of it.

And there’s the other side. In our first lecture, one of the professors was showing us slides, all of which had pictures of World of Warcraft (WoW) as the backgrounds. Apparently, as a history of science guy, he documents what virtual worlds are like. Even offered to play WoW with us during office hours (may have been joking about that, but he did tell us his name and server). Just for kicks, we watched Leeroy Jenkins before the lecture this past week.

And our extra-credit assignments include watching “Blade Runner”, “Pinocchio”, and “Dr. Strangelove.” Optional extension includes weekly meetings in “Second Life.” What a crazy class.

But I really like it. It bridges the typical college gap, by taking a fuzzy look at techie life. Very cool take, and probably where I belong.

A couple weeks ago, I was talking to a dormmate about an extra-credit writing assignment for IHum. She mentioned, “I’d rather do a problem set than write a paper.” That baffled me. I would much rather write than hack through problems.

I guess that was something of a turning point. I love the techie world. The culture is cool (in that completely loser way), and I love programming. But even that has its limits. I’m taking a CS class right now on “Programming Paradigms,” and much of that deals with pointers and low-level memory management. It’s not bad; I can write code. It isn’t, however, what I want to be doing. It seems so trivial. I do need to know how it works, but it’s not something I want to do forever. I love what programs can do, what can be done at a higher-level, not the muck below on how they do it.

I guess it’s telling that in my 2nd life, I’d be a musician, and in my 3rd, a writer. I think the 1st is going to be pretty fuzzy as well.

3 replies on “More Rubbish”

Gee, Kevin. You should check in with your cousin Adam to compare notes on first year university. (Maybe on facebook).

Adam says that he’s enjoying first year engineering at U. of Toronto, but the workload is pretty heavy. I’ve noticed that he seems to be at his desk studying on Saturdays and Sundays (although he does have a social life on Friday and Saturday nights).

Canadian universities are known to have pretty good academic loads, compared to other universities. It’s good preparation for education in other countries. I’d be interested in how you think your load at Stanford is going.

I’d prefer to not have papers, but I don’t think problem sets are any easier. Either way it sounds unpleasant.

I’m heading out to Washington for the weekend, but give me a call sometime. We can talk in Chinese, although your vocab may be a little small (ni shi stalker ma? hahaha)

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