Archive for the ‘found’ Category
Yeah, I know it’s been a while, but I’m back. I think I’ve finally emerged from the existential black hole of the last couple of months (knock on wood), and despite a couple of start-of-the-semester road bumps in the last week, I’m feeling pretty good about my prospects for my last semester of college.
So I thought I’d kick off another period of productive blogging by saying that I had a pretty good day today, all told. This has been something of a rarity of late, since the specter of the most momentous transition of my young life has been looming quite large over just about everything I’ve done since coming back from India.
I think one of the only exceptions has been my newest hobby of bicycles. Notice that I do not say “my newest hobby of riding bicycles”, since I am not, in fact, riding bicycles very much, but instead running up large credit card balances ordering parts from my LBS (that stands for Local Bike Shop, which, I’m told, is a good thing that I should support) that have not arrived after a full month of waiting, and pouring over my copy of The Bicycle Wheel, by mechanical engineer Jobst Brandt. Yes it is as awesome as you think. As soon as I possibly can I will kick off my grand fixie project by actually lacing up the electric red Deep-Vs (which I received as a christmas gift) to a set of black Formula track hubs (which are somewhere between a warehouse in Florida and my anxious hands), which I will lovingly fasten onto my (apparently rather rare?) vintage French road frame, rebuild the bottom bracket and possibly the headset, slap on a no-name stem and some flopped-and-chopped bullhorns (or maybe some track drops mmmm) and probably fall a lot as I try to learn how to ride with one gear, no coasting, and no brakes.
But I digress.
I also lie. I did not have a pretty good day. Now that I think about it, I had a great day, an awesome day. I went to my field botany lecture, had the first meeting for my Great Debates in Cognition tutorial, and spent nearly five hours geeking out hardcore and setting up a subversion server on one of the lab machines to finally put an end to the infuriating drudgery of having to manually sync experiment code between five computers and collect data files from the same computers. Thanks to the miracle of SVNServe and TortoiseSVN all that (and more!) can be accomplished by a click of the mouse. Then, to the coffee shop to drink pretentious coffee, have pretentious conversations with my senior friends about our theses (rhymes with feces), enthusiastically solve math problems and talk about nigh-incomprehensibly pretentious things with my Math-Philosophy double major former tutorial partner.
Bottom line is, while I’ve still got a lot to do before I graduate, it no longer feels overwhelming. I’m pretty sure I’m on top of all the really important stuff, and it feels like things are moving along. Most notably I am no longer bitter about getting dropped from beer brewing and drawing II. No, really, I swear! I think in the near future I will have a real life update, complete with tentative plans to make plans for next year.
Street art by the British artist Banksy. Lots lots more at his website, drawings and graffiti both.
So in preparation for actually writing my Tibetan paper I’m taking a deep breath of sorts and reading through all my notes and (finally!) transcribed interviews and papers from the semester, and I’ve come to the somewhat distressing conclusion that the first half of what I write for a long paper is utter crap. Maybe not utter crap, but awkwardly composed and rather more rambling and less coherent than I would like. The equally distressing corollary of this result is that I will either a) have to settle for a less-than-stellar first half of my paper, b) finish a few days early so I have time to heavily revise, or c) suck it up and make sure I do a good fifteen pages of brain-farting before I start writing for real.
Or I could try to tame my raging perfectionism and realize that’s it’s probably okay if my paper isn’t dissertation-quality.
A more heartening realization that I’ve come to this morning is that I am capable of pumping out massive amounts of writing under the kind of time pressure I’m facing now. It’s very bizarre to look back on last semester and realize that, not only was I in India when I was doing all this reading and writing and thinking and interviewing, but I very well might still be over there right now, sitting in Moonpeak or First Cup or Ten Yang practicing my Tibetan (now extremely rusty) instead of listening to Belle & Sebastian at Starbucks. I’m really glad that I came home when I did, especially after my exciting soirée with dysentery, but I can’t help but wonder where I might be right now if I hadn’t. To be honest, I’d probably be miserable, hearing what all my Williams friends are up to this summer and reading all of the “zomfg america is the best it has hot showers and hamburgers and potable water!!” emails from the program folks. But I would also probably be much worldlier and maybe a little bit wiser, if less prepared for an academic career in cognitive science. So, like I said, I don’t really regret my choices regarding this summer, and I think I’ve grown just as much being here in Bloomington as I would have if I were somewhere in Asia, but I do have to wonder.
(Photo above of the Klein bottle wrench, seen on the Toolmonger blog, which I came across when googling “kleinbag”. I must have one of these.)
For those of you that haven’t already heard my sob story, I finally succumbed to the disease-ridden food and water of India and came down with a nasty digestive ailment a few days ago. After a day of sleeping, pooping, and occasionally vomiting, I dragged myself down to Delek Tibetan Hospital (the local Western-style hospital in McLeod Ganj) and, after sitting around for the better part of five hours, found out that I have amoebic dysentery. Yay!
Anyway, I’m doing much better these days, what with all the napping and broad-spectrum amoebicide in my life. As much as getting sick sucks, I think it would have been a shame in the grand, dramatic scheme of the universe if I had been in India for this long and not gotten sick. And hey, at least I got something cool!
The other down side is that I now have a great excuse to avoid starting the work in earnest on my research, which I’m pretty uncomfortable about doing in the first place. “What? I have to go out and actually talk to people?” I haven’t been a completely inert blob though; I’ve whiled away the hours reading Imagined Communities and obsessive-compulsively stitching together panoramas.
What’s absolutely terrifying is that in exactly (I think) three weeks from today I’ll be back in Bangor, ME, and this terrifying, eye-opening, wonderful time will be over. I have always been extremely uncomfortable with endings of things, but this one affords the opportunity to really see how strong and pervasive our predisposition to see things as permanently, inherently existent is—hooray, emptiness! Thanks, Buddhism! Here’s hoping for a good, productive three weeks.
(Image ganked from Visibly Worn)
I’m learning LISP for my artificial intelligence class, and it is certainly something of a headache. It’s somewhat slow going, but very interesting and quite a bit different from “normal” programming languages like C or Java. Perhaps the coolest thing is how you can redefine any function you please. This means that, since the vast majority of primitive features of the language are implemented as functions, you can quite easily redefine something like addition to, say, print some silly message about how the computer knows it’s supposed to be adding but it just doesn’t feel like it.
In other news, I’m beginning to realize how much I’m going to miss having a reading/writing class this semester, and I think that writing in this thing will likely be more important than ever for my mental health. My classes are all absolutely wonderful, and even though I sort of miss having lots of reading to do, I am very much in my comfort zone of doing problem sets and writing programs etc. I’ve also taken up the clarinet again on a fairly limited basis and successfully made it through a loonnng week of a capella auditions. AND I got my computer fixed today, which went without a hitch (except for the hour and half it took to convince the Apple people that I was not in possession of a pirated computer, as the discrepancy between certain serial numbers apparently suggested…).
Perhaps most importantly, I’m nicely settled into my room, which now has two new plants and an awesome old recliner, formerly of the short ‘n suite. That’s enough of my ramblings for one night, even though I know I promised before that I would write something interesting soon.
Oh and yes I do realize that this is the second picture of a random guy I’ve posted in a row, thank you very much.
What would late-night blogging be without a random photo plumbed from the depths of flickr? This photographer’s photostream is quite nice, with lots of expansive, lonely landscapes and shots of lighting and buildings at night.
Speaking of flickr, I’ve uploaded a handful of new photos, so give ‘em a look-see.
(Link to top photo’s page)
This was taken at night (allegedly). I am such a sucker for night shots.
(Link to photo’s page)
Still very much in the throes of the semester, I present here for you a brief diversion: super-magnified pictures of bugs that have met their ends on the windshields of the world’s many automobiles.
Oh! Apparently our first batch of bread (delivered this past tuesday) sold fairly well, which is really exciting! And we will be able to use the kitchen we were hoping to, which is also awesome.