More random musings about classes and other stuff

Tuesday, 2001-10-30; 08:32:00

Musings about classes, some more recent events, as well as some free advertising for Apple.

Wow, it's been about 3 weeks since I put up the first bit of news, and a lot's happened since then. And suprise of suprises, I actually took the time to learn a little HTML and add frames to my website, as well as making all of the links open in an external window instead of in the existing window. Nifty, eh? Note that this site looks best in OmniWeb 4.0, so if you have MacOS X, you can download OmniWeb here. And if you don't have MacOS X, you can buy it here. Oh, right... if you don't have a Mac, you can buy one here. ;) (I might be able to pull some educational discounts if you really are serious about it -- but I doubt anyone is going to be :P ). OmniWeb is available for a couple other platforms, but those platforms aren't specifically endorsed by me.

Back on topic: I've been doing a whole lot in my classes. In IHUM, we've finished talking about Aristotle (thankfully, since the book written by him was so dang hard to read/understand with out going over each passage a couple of times), and we've finished going over Darwin as well. The Voyage of the Beagle was an interesting account of Darwin's trip around the world, especially in his detailed descriptions of all the wildlife, plants, and even the peoples that he met. We're now dealing with Marsh (although we're set to finish him up next week), who talks about all the effects that Man has on nature, specifically about what cutting down a forest does to the surrounding climate. Pretty interesting... seems like he's one of the first "environmentalists", although he doesn't advocate sacrificing human progress solely for the sake of the environment. But enough of that: I got my first paper back today -- the one I wrote on Aristotle's book -- the topic was to write about how Aristotle would approach the ethics of embryonic research. And I got an A! Woohoo! Not an A-/B+, or even just an A-.... I got a solid A. That made me SOOO happy. I have a take-home midterm (read: essay) to do in a day starting at 6 PM on Thursday. Hopefully I do just as well.

In Italian we've been having a quiz on the material every Friday, but they've been pretty simple stuff. It's kind of weird being back in the first quarter of the first year of a language -- no long compositions or oral presentations or any of that like in French class at high school. It's kinda frustrating to be back in a lower stage, but kind of nice in that there's not much work to do. :) We're starting to learn useful verbs and all about adjectives and interrogative words, so I can start to piece together sentences now, instead of just using the pre-made ones from the book. My Italian background has been really, really helpful though. We've also gone through our first two pieces of Italian pop music -- they're actually not too bad, considering what I've heard before. I don't think Italian rap I could stand, though (it DOES exist :P ).

Math has gone pretty well... it's still pretty hard, but I don't mind that. I'm actually getting challenged by my math class (wow, whodathunkit?). It's very humbling to be in a class where everybody is at about the same level of interest and ability, and there are actually people who are even better than me at math, now. It's very nice, but really weird. That kind of goes for all of my classes -- outstanding achievement is the norm here, and it's hard to get used to at first. Anyway, we're still doing vectors in math, but vectors are actually harder than they look. And we're not just dealing with 3-component vectors that you can easily visualize in space, or 2-component vectors that you can visualize on a plane -- we're dealing with vectors with any numbers of components, and using them to compute the areas of triangles in 4-space (vectors with 4 components) and we're also doing general proofs about the properties of vectors in n-space. And now we're getting into actually computing derivatives of vectors -- partial derivatives, directional derivatives, total derivatives -- much harder than what you have in high school. :) Here's the website of our class... there's plenty of PDF files that have additional homework problems if you (for some crazy reason) want to see what kind of things we're doing. It's much easier to see exactly what we're doing instead of me telling you. I got my midterm back today too, though, and that also made me happy.. I got a 39/50 (median score of the class was 40), so curved I got a B+ on the midterm. Not bad for such a hard class. I'm trying my hardest not to worry if I'm getting an A or a B, since all in all, a B is not a bad grade.. worrying just makes it worse.

I saved the best class for last -- my Early Life on Earth seminar. It's been really interesting in the past few weeks. The major "attraction" was that 2 weeks ago we actually got to look at thin slices of meteorite samples that have been collected and are now in the Stanford collection. The different kinds of meteorites were all shown under about 9 microscopes.. and there were lengthy explanations about the different compositions of the meteorites -- it was interesting to see the different appearances of the meteorites -- we've learned a lot about how meteorite composition can tell a lot about it's origin, and if it's old enough, it can tell us about the composition of the early universe. We've gone over the origin and the future of the universe, the sun, the Earth, and the moon. Did you know that the moon is actually slowly moving away from the Earth? I never knew that. :) It's also humbling to know that the universe, according to the latest calculations, is headed to a big chill -- the universe is just expanding forever, and since matter is not created, all matter will just become more and more sparse making the universe a really cold place -- of course in our lifetime that won't happen. We just had our midterm on Friday (waiting anxiously to get it back), and now we're on to student presentations. I have mine in about 3 weeks, so I have to start getting on top of things and getting some articles and doing some research to prepare for my presentation -- I'm doing it on archaebacteria. If you don't know what archaebacteria are, you'll just have to come to my presentation, won't you? Nah, I'll tell you all about them once I actually start on my research.

So classes have gone well. But there's been so much else going on. I didn't mention this in my previous posting, but I'm dorm freshman president. That actually isn't saying much, since I got elected by default :P . All of the officers in dorm government got elected by default -- so I guess you can say we didn't really get elected. Basically my duties are to facilitate house meeting every Wednesday at 10 PM (damn, I miss the first half of Voyager :( ). I do a couple of announcements that the RAs (resident assistants) need me to, but overall it's not a big job. And I don't get paid either. ;) Oh well. People can come and talk to me if they want about some issues they have around the dorm, but so far no one has taken that initiative.... I guess I'll see what happens.

There have also been some other events going around in the dorm... one was the Halloween party on Saturday that I unfortunately missed because I was at home playing with my cat (It's so entertaining! Seriously, you don't know Baby Kitty. Yes, that's his name). Oh, yeah, and I was playing with my mom's new 600 MHz combo drive iBook with 100 MHz bus (damn good computer, even with OS X!) :). Can't pass up that opportunity. Supposedly there were some pretty good costumes... too bad I didn't get to see them. Speaking of costumes, I've got to think of one by tomorrow. Maybe I should go as a computer geek (that would be pretty easy ;) ), and it would be pretty simple to dress up as. Funny, though, because I don't think people here associate me as a computer freak (yet), or as genius -- nice to shed your "personality", at least for the time being. Hopefully I keep going to all of the social events, which shouldn't be hard, as they're all so fun. :) Oh, yeah, tomorrow there's a Halloween theme dinner -- should be interesting... the Nuevo Latino theme dinner was pretty good, and the other time we had chocolate fondu (Yum!).

Anyway, I've gone home for the past two weekends for a day (mainly to do laundry, of course ;) ) and I had a better-than-dorm-food lunch/dinner both days, as well as getting to see my cats, and talk with my parents. They've converted my room into a storage room (you can still walk through it and sleep in it though) and my brother's empty room is now their office with all their laptops. They've even repainted my brother's room and are in the process of repainting the bathroom. How things change once you leave the house!

There have also been some other things that I've been doing, like going to advising lunches/dinners with my PAA (peer academic advisor) and AA (academic advisor). For dinner a couple weeks ago we went to Chef Chu's (pretty good food compared to what we eat in the dorm, not to bash dorm food -- dorm food is good, but you get bored of it easily). Today we had lunch at the Faculty Club... damn good desserts and food! I'm looking forward to the next lunch/dinner with my advisor... oh, yeah, and talking with him. ;)

The only other Sunday Flick I've gone to was Legally Blonde, which was really funny. I suggest seeing it. (It's obvious they've overdone the valley-girl personality on purpose, which is why it's funny). I didn't go last Sunday because the distributor messed up and they couldn't show The Rocky Horror Picture Show (still wondering exactly what it is), and they showed Scream and The Exorcist instead, which I wasn't too keen on seeing.

Oh, I have to end with an Apple-related thing: the iPod. Dang cool! If you can afford the steep $400 price (it's well worth it), I suggest getting it if you're looking for an portable MP3 player -- it's truly portable and has so much to offer. You can stop by the Apple store in Palo Alto to check it out -- they should have one that you can look at. It is shipping sometime in early November, though, so you might have to wait.

Ack! I'm late for Voyager! 'Til next time!

-- Simone

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