Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Sci-fi mania

Greetings to one and all! Yeah... so that thing about being back. Turns out that breaks are great times to start up on pet projects. It's something I highly recommend; though I warn that having multiple projects can be quite hazardous to actually getting one of them achieved. A few that I'm still sustaining are:
  • Some JDBC familiarity. Over the summer, I had some lessons in interacting with a MySQL database through Python using the MySQLdb library. However, I didn't get to get a taste through interacting with Java, which has a much more mature and standardized interface through the JDBC API. So here's the plan: food shopping is an awfully complex endeavor, especially when you haven't quite figured out which stores tend to be cheaper for what types of food. If you're like me, and can't remember what the price of a head of lettuce is from week to week, and what an expected sale price is, keeping records might help us sift through all of that information. While keeping receipts and drawing up tables might help get a general idea of what stores are better deals, a computerized approach would be more thorough (though I have to admit, likely overkill). However, if you have a need, and a means to reach it, why not get some practice programming while you're at it! So here was the plan: set up a relational database (PostgreSQL. MySQL is too closely associated with the red insignia of... killing Sun. Plus, variety is always a virtue), and write a client that provides an interface for inputting all of the price/location info automatically into the database. Java would be the language of choice this time because... Python was done already, and I don't think I'd know enough math for database interaction in Haskell; the concepts behind Hello World were hard enough (Look here for some taste of Haskell thinking). Right now, the database has been built (automatically through a script), and the client interface is being worked on. I'll try to give updates as they come in.
  • Keeping up with the newspaper. Current events are always a source of entertainment and conversation fodder (if you can remember them). Of course, when it's school time, there's no time at all to thumb through the newspaper (not to mention having to buy the paper yourself). Yesterday featured an article vocalizing farmers' opposition to the California High-Speed Rail Project taking a route through their farmland, with cityfolk complaining about noise, and farmers complaining that the rail will butcher their land plots. The way the issue lies now, the city dwellers have a very vague sense of "noisy" that they're basing their complaints on. The farmers, I empathize with; having a state-owned rail cutting through your farmland would make watering and harvesting much more difficult. I think we'll just have to see the environmental report to get confirmation of whether the "noise" for the cities will really be that unbearable.
  • The title hobby of reading up on some science fiction classics. Of course, others may debate as to whether these are "classics" or not, but they're pulled from the list of 10 best sci-fi novels to be banned from io9 (Stumbleupon leads to something actually productive, for once). The ones that I both haven't read yet and were at my local library were Shade's Children (Garth Nix), Stranger from a Strange Land (Robert Heinlein), Slaughterhouse-five (Kurt Vonnegut), and Brave New World (Aldous Huxley). I was planning on talking about Shade's Children in this post cause I pretty much devoured it entirely the very day I checked it out. Stranger from a Strange Land is currently on my nightstand. It's very long, but also very good; and the last two I hope to get to in the next week.
Unfortunately, there are a bunch of other projects I meant to get on over the winter that are pretty much on hold. One is finding something to do over the summer (I should get on that soon). Hopefully either something to do with exoplanets or transient phenomena (read supernovae), but work on that will probably get started when the academic atmosphere (and adrenaline) is back. Another unfortunate consequence of the mere 24-hour day is some maemo development. While C/C++ (Languages too practical to learn) dominate the League of Maemo development, Python is still on the field as a minor player. While you may argue about the sustainability of Maemo, since Nokia is the only manufacturer that uses it, and even supports it for only a fraction of its devices, it might be useful to know how to program for a portable device. It's fun to try new things, don't you agree? And stuff that had to do with getting in touch with my roots/heritage/language all went completely down the toilet. Those will have to find another opportunity to be reviewed *sigh*.

Anyway, on to Shade's Children. I'm gonna try not to give away spoilers, but I can't guarantee anything. I highly recommend the book, so if you're looking for a good sci-fi thriller, you might want to stop reading right now and pick up Shade's Children. Otherwise, feel free to read on.

First of all, I would have to admit that one of the statements I made above was a lie. It turns out that I had read Shade's Children a few years ago; I just forgot that I had read it when seeing the Sci-fi list. However, once I read the first few pages, it was like, "This seems really familiar... Oh! I read this before *smirk*. But I have to say, the book means quite a bit more when it's read as an older person, and a lot of foreshadowing became apparent. So yeah, I reiterate that I highly recommend this book cause it's gripping even on a second read. Anyway, for those who still haven't read it after all I've said, the basic setup of the book is that aliens arrive from God-knows-where and make everyone over the age of 14 vanish by God-knows-what (Aliens can do ANYTHING, right?). However, despite managing to exterminate the entire population, they decide to carry out all of their operations in a 30 square mile area. This involves harvesting up all of the remaining children, raising them, and breeding them. When they finally turn 14, the aliens use their body parts to make hideous creatures which patrol the area looking for escapees (and also have other purposes, which will become clear upon reading the book). So the children are raised in dormitories where they dread their fourteenth birthday since those that turn fourteen are taken away and never seen again. However, some lucky children manage to escape the dormitories before then, but most are found and are killed off by the patrolling creatures. The more fortunate ones who manage to evade these creatures for long enough usually end up under the wing of Shade, an entity who assembles escapees to fight to overthrow the alien overlords. Now, Shade is not a person; it's no secret that he is in fact, an artificial intelligence programmed with the personality of his creator.

Now Shade is my favorite character (if he can be called that); despite being a program, he has the most interesting conflict out of all of the characters. It also raises a few ideas about safeguards in future AIs. While Shade has a seemingly human and outgoing personality, deep down he is presented as this cold, calculating being, with no qualms about sending children to die for the opportunity for a greater good (usually for more knowledge about the aliens). He's also very badass in that he learns very quickly how to outsmart the aliens (being a computer and all helps with that). However, his logic leads him into a position where he feels he must betray the children and hand them over to the aliens. He does this unsympathetically, but soon afterwards an interesting thing happens. What the novels calls a "personality conflict" occurs, where a new, one could argue more "human" personality of the creator emerges. This personality has sympathy, has emotion, and most importantly, has morals. This personality argues with Shade that the ends do not justify the means, and that the children should be saved. Thus begins an internal conflict, whose instability is linked to that of software.

Now, the question that this situation seems to explore is: Where did the "human" personality come from? On one hand, it might have been a safeguard programmed in by the creator to act in case of severe ethical quandaries. This seems unlikely, since it would seem like adding emotions to Shade would have been a good idea since the very beginning. That would avoid the whole selling out children situation in the first place. There is also the possibility that Shade worked out how to program emotions, and he himself set it as a safeguard in case of a moral dilemma. Shade was a very smart being, and was troubled by the fact that he had no emotion (as odd as that may seem, it's true). This might have been a mechanism concocted by himself to protect the children from... himself. Likely, the biggest obstacle to this reading would be that while Shade knew what it meant to be sad or happy or angry, he didn't feel any of it. This is elucidated by his explanation that he has all of his creators memories, so he remembers being sad and frustrated and all of the emotions, but feeling them again is something he cannot do. Now, since Shade didn't understand emotions, it would be highly unlikely that he would be able to program them, despite knowing about what they are. And if he did, it'd probably be so swamped with bugs and imperfections that it would be mainly useless. No, the new personality was not handicapped at all in its emotions.

Probably the most uncomfortable origin for the new personality, but the most supported by the text, is that it was simply a bug, an unwanted, unexpected behavior resulting from imperfections in the software. That's kind of a dark message: that all that we call the pinnacle of humanity and venerate as our exclusive gift above all life on earth, so complex that no man can even replicate it, arose from a mere corner case in an artificial being. However, this explains the sudden appearance of the personality, and its severe clashes with Shade himself. In fact, to further develop the idea of unwantedness, the conflict even leads to software failure so severe that Shade must boot himself up again to recover from it.

Another possible scenario, which kinda works, but I think comes from way left field is that the new personality was not a program at all; rather it was the creator's soul. Now, Garth Nix pretty much avoids the discussion of religion entirely (as far as I can tell) in the book, so bringing in the soul seems highly out of place. However, it would explain quite a lot. First of all, the personality to conflict with Shade identified itself as the programmer himself. Not as some moral angel to sit on Shades shoulder, but as Robert Ingman. This contrasts with Shade because Shade presented himself as an independent being from Robert; he had Robert's memories and personality, but fundamentally was not Robert. This identity issue is why Shade has a distinct name. Since the new personality identified itself most strongly as Robert, it would seem to be safe to assume that it actually WAS Robert, despite the fact that Robert had been long dead. Another soul reading was just that Robert's personality was so human. It sympathized like a human, it calculated like a human, and even swore like a human. The human match is just too perfect to come from a bug. The personality may have seemed human because it was, in fact, human. Probably the third manifestation of the soul was that when Shade died (yes, his hardware was destroyed), Robert lived on in the computers of the aliens. Now, how Robert got into the alien computers was just some digital hocus-pocus, but the meaning seems clear. Since this Robert personality was human, it was eternal, and not to be phased by the mere destruction of its silicon body. Through the alien communication network, this Robert left to save the children and help them lead the alien downfall. Now, as I said, this reading seems entirely out of place, and I probably won't buy it unless there's some deeper religious allegory hidden within the novel of which the soul is but one manifestation of. But this is the reading I personally would prefer, and I think would fit most nicely with the ending. However, that's literature, it's difficult to resolve something for sure.

Anyway, thanks for staying with me this long. Writing this post was a wild ride, and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. I'll try to post more regularly, but I learned that I can't make any promises. But hopefully, something more interesting will pop up!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Guess who's back

Hello internet, my old friend. I've come to speak to you again. Yeah, I've been away from blogging for... two years now. There were a number of reasons behind this (only a small one being general laziness). The other reasons why are what I'm going to talk about in this post (a ginormous update will likely be broken up into several subsequent posts). So yeah, giant rant coming through, make way!

I would say the main cause of the initial drought of blogging was high school senioritis. There were a lot of college applications and forms and stuff. Once those ended, laziness kept the posting pause going on throughout senior year. Okay, that's totally my fault; the last part of senior year was a lot of fun and I don't regret it. Turns out being a second-semester senior is busy in an entirely different sort of way. You've got all kinds of projects and things that you have to do with other people as a group. It's not just solitary studying. And plus, I was feeling lazy.

It's also difficult to describe how discouraging it is when the number of unread posts in your blogroll ends up in the thousands. By then you know you're not going to catch up, and there are probably a ton of inside jokes you've missed. So you end up just giving up. Ok, this is just complaining, I don't know why I'm bothering with this. Let's get on to the more meaty reasons why blogging may not be a constructive way to spend time.

First of all, let me say that the greatest argument against blogging, vlogging, or any other sort of mass internet communication is embodied on the sensationally satiric site Encyclopedia Dramatica. ED exists to document cases of lulz on the internet, which essentially boils down to the drama which unfolds (and in some cases, is incited) in any community. Those accustomed to reading Wikipedia articles might be initially shocked, or even offended by the highly inflammatory manner in which these articles are written. This is part of the style, as much of these articles cover the deepest, darkest crevices of the internet which are often buried on LiveJournal pages or obscure forums out of view of the majority of web surfers. These parts house people such as diaper fetishists, racist homophobic comic-drawing stalkers, and of course, /b/'s shenanigans. Most of these people have their soapboxes on Youtube or Livejournal and address their supposed "fanbases" with recycled Family Guy politics, or opinions they parrot from other youtube videos or blogs they read. I find that there are very few original ideas on the internet (in fact, my own opinions were pretty much a reflection of the blogs I read). It's kinda disturbing that these that these incestuous communities are able to fester out of the light of public opinion. If you try to offer any kind of dissenting opinion to them, it's an instant ban. But I guess that's one consequence of the information revolution that probably can't be avoided. This could probably be summed in one quote on ED (that I can't find anymore) which was basically "The internet: Where everybody gets 15 minutes of fame, but most don't deserve it" Who am I to deserve it?

Another thing that was somewhat off-putting is kinda the personal nature of weblogs, but that's something I now think is acceptable. Even for GOOD blogs, which are good at conveying complex ideas to the public, a good portion of their content is still personal things that really don't matter very much to anyone. Sure it's nice that your daughter is starting college, but do I really have to know that? Well, the answer to that is: sure. The decision of what to put in a weblog is up to the author and the author only. Readers really don't matter and have to power to choose what they want to read. In fact, it's a balance; I plan to make this blog a little more personal and less artificial in the coming days/weeks/months/years/whatever. But with less parroting and more actual thought.

One last thing I want to get to is books. One really fundamental issue I find with blogs is that they're shallow. Brevity is part of the design of blogging. You have access to a lot of information, but not really a lot of understanding. Just a bunch of qualitative descriptions and handwavy explanations. This was probably my biggest fright of the world of blogs: losing the ability to read deeply and critically. In a book, it's usually not enough to just read a passage, strip the context, and remember the essence of the message. It all has to be read as part of a whole work. And this work may take hours, days, or weeks to read; you still have to try and keep everything in mind and be on alert. (I'm kind of talking more about literature than popular works mainly because much of their message is not explicit, but is hidden inside the language constructs. Therefore, you need to be aware of words/phrases/voices throughout the book. It's hard to condense these down in a blog post [unless it's poetry of course]). This goes for science too, though. I have rarely seen an equation on a blog even though equations usually deliver the greatest insights into physical phenomena. (However, I'm not saying this is not a problem for books too. In my Introduction to Geology class, we didn't have a textbook cause the professor couldn't find a quantitative introductory geology book that described geologic processes as mathematical ones. I don't believe this is because of books as a medium though. The brevity of blogs does not allow them to adequately explain the mathematics behind these process, and any blog that tries ends up losing in the pageview race).

So why am I back? What changed? Very little actually. One problem with exercising thought and thinking is that if you don't have a good memory, the idea that you spent a while pondering is gone. So one way to keep your ideas is to write them down, and that is basically the function of this blog now. No more parroting, just ideas inspired by articles. Onwards!

Oh, and as always, this blog will be ad-free. Even I know my ideas aren't worth that much.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Lecture archives

So, I just found out that several of the lecture series I attend are also archived on the web. Now, I knew about the Von Karman lectures at JPL. They've recently started archiving their lectures and putting them on the web. But I just today found out that Caltech is doing it also! I've been able to spot some for their Watson series lectures, but I'm not sure about the other series. However, if you can't make some of these lectures, you can watch 'em online.

However, I don't think I'm gonna start doing that. Seeing it in person is an entirely different experience for me. Sure it might take time to get there, but I find that in front of my computer, I'll get really distracted and it generally won't be pretty. However, these are definitely good things to know, just in case I might have to miss one.

Monday, January 05, 2009

DOS Games

So, before I get to talking about more social issues that might get me attention, I decided to share the joy of DOS games. After discovering the numerous uses for DOSBox, it wasn't that long until I figured it was time for DOS games!

Now, I have some CDs from WAY back in the day. Some games I would play when I was six on my Windows 95 machine. In fact, just recently I discovered them and thought, "Would I be able to play these on linux?" I recently had success with a really old SEGA Genesis emulator I had, and playing the ROMS using dgen in Ubuntu.

Since I've been sick the past couple days, I haven't really been in the mood to do winter schoolwork, so I got started on this project. For this post, we'll do a REALLY popular and addictive game, Jazz Jackrabbit. Usually, if you have, or can find, the install files for a DOS game, DOSBox'll have you set. But for Jazz Jackrabbit, it's a little bit tricky. It's most commonly distributed in its shareware form, however PCLinuxOS has a package for DOSBox which includes the full Jazz Jackrabbit game, so we'll use that. If you could find the full game online, well... now you'll know how to install it! First, we wanna make a directory for our DOS games, with Jazz being our first, so do that either graphically or with
mkdir ~/dosgames
Now, fetch the PCLinuxOS package. You can do this either with your favorite browser, or with
wget http://spout.ussg.indiana.edu/linux/pclinuxos/pclinuxos/apt/pclinuxos/2007/RPMS.extra/dosbox-jazz-0-1pclos2007.noarch.rpm
When I initially tried this, I installed it via alien (which is possible. Though, I wouldn' t recommend installing packages through alien if they're actually programs instead of DOS games). However, this created permissions problems that didn't let me save any settings, so we're gonna install it so that you, the user, has the permissions! However, if you want every account on the computer to be able to play, you can do that, but you'll have to tweak the permissions a bit. We'll skip that in this guide.

So now you'll want to extract the files, you can do that via the GUI (right-clicking and pressing "Extract Here", which I recommend) or using this command (fulfilled dependencies not guaranteed):
rpm2cpio mypackage.rpm | cpio -vid
In either case, you should have a folder named "usr" now. Go ahead and descend into the directory: usr->share->dosbox. Now you should run into a folder called "jazz". It is this folder you want to move to your ~/dosbox folder. So you can either copy/paste it there, or use
cp -r ~/usr/share/dosbox/jazz ~/dosbox
Now you've got your files all set up, all you have to do is run 'em! But don't delete the usr/ folder just yet, it still has one more trick up its sleeve. But now, all you have to do is type in
dosbox ~/dosgames/jazz/JAZZ.EXE
But let's say you don't WANNA put that in, you want a menu option. Well, that's what we saved the usr/ for! If you go to usr/share/applications/, you should see a file called pclinuxos-dosbox-jazz.desktop. As the path suggests, you'll want to eventually put this file into /usr/share/applications, but we have to make a small correction. So use
gedit ~/usr/share/applications/pclinuxos-dosgames-jazz.desktop
to open gedit (using nautilus is tricky for this). And change line 5 so that it says
Exec=/usr/bin/dosbox /home/YOURUSER/dosgames//jazz/JAZZ.EXE -exit -fullscreen
Where YOURUSER is your username. Now, if you want, you can rename the file, so that you don't have something that says PCLinuxOS in your Ubuntu system (But make sure it ends with ".desktop". And lastly, move it to where it belongs with
sudo mv ~/usr/share/applications/pclinuxos-dosbox-jazz.desktop /usr/share/applications/
Now, you should have a nice menu icon in Applications>Games>Jazz Jackrabbit. And that should... be it! I hope you enjoy your new Jazz Jackrabbit game, and if you're feeling daring enough, try it with Jazz Jackrabbit 2. This method should generally apply to all distros, including OS X and Windows. DOSBox works for all of those, the main thing you need to do is get those Jazz data files. However, the technical stuff isn't done yet, I might have another guide I'll put up for you guys. But cheers for now, and I managed to make another post, YES!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Admitted, but still the same

Ok, so. I haven't blogged in the longest time. I don't know why. Once I get back into the loop, it'll probably be easier. So, we left off at me submitting my Caltech application. Though the title may be a spoiler, let me divulge the rest of the month or so to you.

So after the application was due, some fun stuff happened. There were a couple of lectures, and then an event at Caltech about the Siemen's Competition. It was the semifinals, so the top 6 individuals and the top 6 teams were there. One of my classmates were in the top 6 teams, so I was invited as a special guest since I was the one craziest about science at my school. And I have to tell you, going to Caltech for that event was possibly one of the biggest blows to my ego I could possibly ever afford. There were people like Eric Larson, who I will reference continuously and was just imaginably smarter than anyone I knew. But the thing that united all of these people was that they did good research, and contributed to scientific knowledge. My friend, Abhi, worked on studying the effects of carbon monoxide on pregnant rats. But there were many others, from studies on Alzheimers to new types of imaging, to Eric Larson's "Classification of Certain Fusion Categories". So, to move chronologically now, the first day consisted of poster presentations. Here, I got the general feel for the type of research that was being done, and got to meet some familiar Caltech faces. By familiar, I'm mainly referring to Denice Nelson Nash, the Director of Public Relations and the one responsible for putting together the public lecture series(es?). It was awesome meeting someone who I see every month introducing speakers. But more than that, I met...... Eric Larson, who ended up spending most of the session trying to explain isomorphic dual vector spaces to me. After that was a dinner which was very very good (and fancy). However, luckily I was a VIP and was included (yay!). And I met my group's Caltech guide, he was pretty cool and sat with us, while the other guides joined our table to talk with him. After that, it was over and time to drive back home.

On the second day, it was the oral presentations. This was fairly nervewracking for the contestants, and was just incomprehensible for me, as a layman. The presentations were incredibly technical and didn't have any sort of introduction, just delved into the details. Of course, except for Eric Larson, who had an introduction, but it was still incomprehensible. I still have no idea what a fusion category is. But anyways, after the presentations, I had to make myself scarce for about four hours because space was extremely limited for the tour of the new Biological Imaging Lab. I decided to spend some of that time practicing piano since I wouldn't be home, and my piano teacher lived like, 5 minutes away. However, I wouldn't be able to practice until an hour and a half later, so I just got myself a cheap hot chocolate (cheap for price, not quality) and read some of the Caltech magazines that people recycle for some reason. Once things got resumed, we had the awards ceremony. However, beforehand I got to meet the other contestants up close and personal, and turns out they're all just normal (normal according to my definition, which probably does not match the generally accepted one). We had a great time talking now that the competition was over. Eventually, they got us into the hall where the awards ceremony would be held. Of course, we had to eat first, which was an interesting experience altogether. The steak I got was so rare, I think it was still bleeding. However, I ate it anyways cause... we kinda complain about the service out loud. And speaking of saying things out loud, I noticed on the program that the president of Caltech was going to speak and I remember hearing the president give an introduction to Vicente Fox when he spoke. The one thing I remember about it was his amazingly thick French accent. Of course, when discussing it, I said out loud, "He has such a French accent, he's totally awesome!" I love it!" Only after he gave his speech and proceeded to his seat, that I realized that it was at the seat across from me at the table right behind me. So he probably overheard everything I said. While nothing I said was an insult, it definitely must have sounded weird. And I felt very awkward knowing that now. However, the results were in, and Abhi and his group didn't win, it was the group on Alzheimers, which is appropriate, their research is highly practical. And for the singles competition, well..... there was no competition. Eric Larson took the prize! He was going to New York for the finals! The nice thing about science is that everyone wins, and actually, the Caltech staff and everyone hammered that in pretty hard. Any of these guys who applied would pretty much be guaranteed admission; it was kinda depressing to see Caltech actively recruiting these guys, when I had submitted my application just the week before. Seeing this really made me cynical that I would get in.

The next few weeks were not much better. I basically collapsed to the notion that I was nothing compared to these guys, and at best I'd be deferred to regular decision. These weeks were.... interesting... I went from hating Caltech because of how they bent over backwards for these guys (even though it's not their fault. They want the best of the best; it's their job), and then to apathy. I came to a realization that I'll be happy enough not going to Caltech and to University of Arizona anyway. It went on like this until the afternoon of December 10th.

December 10th was special because it was the first day when I decided to tutor someone. Now, I know that I hate the idea of tutoring. I still think it's much preferable to do study groups or just ask help from the teacher. At my school, they'd be more than happy to provide it. However, the student was referred to me by a teacher, so I'm like.... OK. It was pretty fun; I would totally do this for free, just for the sake of reviewing trig. But, it would suck for the others in my class who need the money. Anyway, after that, I drove home, and things didn't seem out of the ordinary. My mom gave me my mail, which were just college solicitations that I'm really not that interested in and that went immediately into the recycling pile. I got into my routine until a couple minutes after, my mom said, "Oh, I forgot about this one!" It was a large orange-and-gray envelope which had the Caltech logo. Immediately I thought, "They must be crazy". And sure enough, the letter invited me to join Caltech's class of 2013. Figures, just what I was least expecting.

After that, I made the mistake of putting it as my Facebook status, and at school the next day, the news spread like a wildfire in California during the Santa Ana winds. And even worse, since Caltech is actually fast, and I live like, 45 minutes away from it, the news reached me the very next day. So, I had a decision before anyone else; therefore, ALL the attention was directed at me. I wouldn't say I hated it, but it got kinda repetitive after a while. So the point I'm trying to make is...

I get to be one of those special people who brings down the average SAT score for incoming freshmen. Since my highest scores were only 750 in math and 720 in critical reading, which is extremely low comparitively speaking. However, despite this, I still hate the College Board. They make things much more complicated and inefficient as they should be. You may have to play their game, but never ever capitulate; your college will definitely know what to REALLY look at.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Essays written

Ok, so. I've got my Caltech essays all sorted out. I've put a freeze on the revisions. No more dramatic ones. So, the products I've got over here, and if you could help proofread them, I'd be REALLY thankful. And I'll be sure to keep this link updated. The application is due.... Monday. So, I've gone about as far as I can with editing on my own, so I'm gonna leave off the essay editing and look over the rest of my app. But if you can read these essays and offer suggestions, that'll be extremely wonderful. And if I get into Caltech, I'll be very grateful! So, the first Common App prompt, I've got my essay here:

And for the supplement:
Thanks a lot and, any suggestions would be appreciated. Just leave a comment, send me an IM, or send me an e-m

Friday, October 24, 2008


Sorry for the HUUUUUGGGEEE amount of inactivity. In the last month, college has hit me like a ton of bricks. I (foolishly) decided to apply to Caltech Early Action, so with the deadline looming at November 3, I'm kinda busy right now. The whole beginning of the month was dedicated to writing brag sheets for teacher recommendations. I swear, the school should give out the recommendation packets earlier so we have more time to write them! After writing about myself so many times, I HATE myself!

Now, I'm working on really improving my essays. The first prompt is the personal statement prompt for the Common App which is the incredibly vague:

I just realized that I had to answer that, in addition to the question on the supplement, which is more interesting:
Interest in math, science, or engineering manifests itself in many forms. Caltech professor and Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman(1918-1988) explained, ''I'd make a motor, I'd make a gadget that would go off when something passed a photocell, I'd play around with selenium''; he was exploring his interest in science, as he put it, by ''piddling around all the time.'' In a page, more or less, tell the Admissions Committee how you express your interest, curiosity, or excitement about math, science or engineering.
Of course, one reason I'm really kicking myself is that I never got myself involved in an actual lab. I never actually did science at CENS, and I got rejected from some of the science programs I applied to. So... that's a gaping hole in my application. However, I'm hoping that the recommendations will come to save me and also that I can convince them that lectures are good!

The two colleges I'm really considering are Caltech and University of Arizona; both of which have alumni teaching at my school, apparently. To me, Caltech is the ideal place to be. I love how Caltech students interact because they're all interested in the same things: science. And they're all really really smart. So, really cool stuff happens when they get together. And the living arrangements at Caltech foster that. You have the house system (which they tell me is like Harry Potter, except without a sorting hat). And in the houses, you have students of all years living together, and working together. One of the things I kinda really long for is to be able to easily work with others. In high school, this is immensely difficult since everyone lives with their parents (or legal guardians). However, with everyone else in the same dorm, or on the same campus, it'll be easy! So I REALLY REALLY hope I can be a part of that. I'm sure I can make a lot of good friends.

Of course, University of Arizona isn't that bad. It's a school that I don't think will be too difficult to get into, but I'd still like to go. While it's not as prestigious as Caltech, it has an excellent astronomy program. If you read Space.com articles for a week, you're bound to see it mentioned. They're the ones operating the Phoenix lander at the moment. And plus, since its public, it won't be as expensive as Caltech would be. And according to the teacher that graduated from there, it's a great school. So, while I still will be disappointed if I don't get into Caltech, I won't be crushed. However, two schools isn't enough for the college counselor at my school to feel good about, so I'll probably apply to about four other schools JUST to be safe, though I can't imagine what would be safer that UA, to be honest.

Anyway, this was just to give you an update on what's happening in my life right now. Right now, I don't really want to disclose the essay itself, but if you send me an e-mail, I could probably let you proofread it on Google Docs. So, keep-it-on, and I'll probably be busy at least until the 3rd.