Shared Joy is Twice the Joy, Shared Pain is Half the Pain

Latest

AS, MS, BS

It is almost 2:00am, I am sitting in the second library of the night (the first one closed, technically this one is closed too, but there are loopholes…), and I’m working diligently (well, minus this break to write this post) on a 15 page paper due tomorrow. Due today. Due in ten hours.

Technically, its just a rough draft. So it doesn’t have to be grammatically correct, it doesn’t need to be fully formed, it doesn’t even need to be a full 15 pages.

Thus far, I’ve written two of my three case studies, and haven’t even started my introduction or conclusion. I’ll probably leave my conclusion for the final draft, but if I don’t write an introduction, then I’ll need to write a literature review for the rough draft.

So I’ve basically got half the paper I intend to turn in tomorrow written. (Since yesterday, I might add.)

I’ve written 15 pages.

Technically, I’m done. Technically, I should be cutting what I’ve written thus far down, to make space for the aforementioned and as-yet unwritten intro/conclusion. Technically, my professor said 15 pages minimum.

When I was in middle school, we didn’t get normal grades. Instead of an A,B,C,D,F scale, we had AS, MS, BS: Above Standards, Meeting Standards, and Below Standards. Now, the teachers may or may not have explicitly mentioned this, but the standards were individual standards. Different students were held to different standards in different subjects; if you were strong in one subject but struggled in another, the school wanted to reward effort, not just knowledge.

It seems a bit intense, and certainly took a bit to get used to, but it truly was (and is) a great system. As a student, you learn to push yourself. You learn what truly great work looks like for you. You learn to have high expectations for yourself. You learn to meet, and even exceed them. After all, what is “Above Standards” other than doing better than anyone thought you could do?

15 pages. I’m not that proud of them. I can tell I wrote them in a day. I know that my writing is more cohesive than many of my classmates, that my thoughts are more nuanced, that my citations more thorough. But I’m not impressed. And, most importantly, I know that my professor has standards. Like anyone.

Teachers theoretically grade us all to the same standard, but we all know that isn’t *actually* true. Students joke that being a teacher’s pet makes life easier – he already likes you, so you don’t have to try as hard and he’ll likely grade you highly. But sometimes, a professor has a sliding scale of standards. Sometimes, she sees what you’re capable of, and pushes you to reach that edge. Combine that with the internalized desire to be better than I can be, (yes I realize the impossibility inherent in that statement) and all of a sudden it is 2:03 in the morning and you’re halfway through a rough draft of a paper that has already met the length expectation. Ooops.

See you tomorrow. Or is it today?

One Week’s Words

I’ve been taking the time to write down words this week that I either don’t know or can’t define. Yes, these are different. To not know a word is to need to look it up; context isn’t enough. For example, “novation” was in my readings this week. It means “the substitution of a new contract in place of an old one,” by the way. Words I can’t define are much more common, and much more frustrating. These are words I hear with some frequency, or words I know I’ve looked up before, or even words I sometimes use – only in the same context I’ve heard them, of course. And yet, somehow, I don’t know them. This week, this category included “exogenous” (external), “atavism” (recurrence, reversion), and “concomitant” (naturally associated).

I find it interesting to note that the decision to record novel vocabulary has been associated with an increased level of complexity in my daily speech, as evidenced by this sentence. It’s like the big words come out of a spigot – I can turn them up or down depending on context. For example, I used “magnanimous” in conversation with my professor (yes, that professor) and “ostensibly” while speaking to a good friend in Poli Sci. But I don’t talk like that at home, and I clearly don’t write like that here. (Do I?)

Sometimes I wonder if writing down all these words (and looking them up, and attempting to incorporate them into my vocabulary) is worth it? I’ve had conversations with a friend about the fact that she gets constantly called out by her housemates for using words that are too large; we sometimes wonder where the “egotistical line” is. But there were a few words in the 59 I wrote down this week that were worth it:

  • Obsequies: (not the same as obsequious) Plural of obsequy: funeral rite; usually used in plural. [Side note: I have NO IDEA why this was on my list – it came out of a political science/sociology reading, but I didn’t write down the page number, so I have been unable to find the original sentence. Regardless, the fact that funeral rites were mentioned in my reading is humorous to me.]
  • Exult: rejoice [intransitive]. Not to be confused with “exalt.” (to glorify something [transitive])
  • Sedulous: assiduous, diligent. Assiduous: sedulous, diligent. I’m serious. (Okay, I was judicious in paring down the definitions for these to make a point…) These words were on the same page in one of my readings; I don’t think I ever knew they were different words until that page.  The connotations, however, are different. Sedulous implies constant and unwavering commitment, persistence, while assiduous can be temporary, but no less intense.
  • Convolve: entwine. Not only a math term, although I did read it in a physics reading, so it probably hasn’t escaped the sciences. Yet.
  • Puerile: trivial, childish. I think that someone, somewhere in my past should be despised for having described me as puerile…

In case it wasn’t already clear, I like words. I like derivations. (The linguistic ones, and the computational ones to a lesser extent.) I listen to a podcast – A Way with Words – every so often that answers questions about the history of words and phrases, which is wonderful. I discuss etymology over breakfast, psychology over dinner, and nuclear physics over lunch. I’m a weird one.

[By the way, if you or someone you know is taking the SAT sometime soon, (baby brother, I’m looking at you!) or even the LSAT, they should probably read this post. Words in bold and words in italics are probably all on those crazy-long word lists kids are supposed to memorize in order to prove they’re “smart”.]

I am X, Therefore I say Y

I had an interesting conversation with one of my professors last night, who described some of her academic colleagues in a half-joking manner as “I am ‘X’, therefore I say ‘Y’.” The implication here, of course, is that some academics take a position early on in their careers and stick to it throughout. Interestingly, this is a conclusion I came to early in my Political Science education; while studying for my very first test, I realized that I didn’t actually need to know what a specific author said on each issue – if I knew how he approached any issue, I could work out for myself his probable stance on whatever issue(s) came up during the test. (This has served me well, both in grades and in sleep…) For some academics, the position they take is a new and unique one that eventually gets accepted by the wider community, and they become the famous academics we read in our introductory courses. The vast majority, however, don’t. They pick tangential positions that are neither new enough or bold enough to be interesting, which means they are both safe from significant push back and unlikely to be ground-breaking.

Of course, the politically cynical among us see the “I am ‘X’, therefore I say ‘Y'” idea as particularly prominent in political discourse. The particularly interesting thing about this is that academics and the most highly educated members of society not only engage in the same cognitive patterns that cause them to ignore countervailing information or narratives, but they actually engage in these patterns to a greater extent than the average American; highly educated people (like those that both teach the next generation and rule over it) are actually more likely to actively avoid information they don’t like – and thus remain ignorant of opposing arguments – than the public.

I asked my professor, “If you are ‘X,’ what is your ‘Y’?” She said she doesn’t have one, that she splits her time among many subjects and that she is actively seeking counter-narratives. In spite of the obvious self-serving nature of this comment, (She literally said “I’m the exception that proves the rule,” and though she said it with a smile, she wasn’t joking.) I’m inclined to believe her. Her research is fundamentally around the reality that factual information is biased, that history is just that – a story, and that literally every piece of information we collect in our lives is biased, either in the way it is presented or in the way it is interpreted. Considering that, I think it is likely she questions everything she reads, hears, and believes. Probably every day, all day.

I want to do that. I want to be the exception that proves the rule. I want to constantly question the information given to me, and I want to do that in an intelligent and non-threatening manner. If I go into academia, I don’t want to  have a “Y.” If I work for the government, or even in the private sector, I want to be the person who is constantly questioning assumptions and constantly pushing back, because even if that means I don’t fall nicely into a undergrad’s summary box, it means I’m likely to be making intelligent, accurate, and well-informed decisions.

Spring Break

It’s Sunday, which means that the weekend is quickly coming to a close and, more significantly, spring break is coming to a close. Spring break, what a term. It implies sunlight, warmth, parks, and maybe hints of summer just around the corner. Boston, needless to say, is none of these things. Okay, it is sunny today, but sunny in a deceptive, wind-rushing-at-your-face-and-pulling-scarves-away-from-your-neck-so-it-can-bite-into-your-still-pale-cheeks kind of way. But that’s okay! Because I didn’t do a normal spring break trip (once again…) and opted to go skiing instead.

My dad and I went to Vail, Colorado for four days of spring skiing, which basically just means temperatures the same as they are in Boston and about as much snow. (Have you heard? Boston is having a crazy winter and we broke the snow record! Oh, you already knew that? It’s been the trending news story across the nation for months? Oh.) Anyway, pictures:

Panorama #1 of Many

Panorama #2

We had an amazing time, skied an average of 17 runs and 20,000+ vertical feet everyday, and experienced all the snow types: ice in the mornings, slush in the afternoons, perfection somewhere in between, dust on crust one afternoon, three inches of powder the next morning…

We also ate amazing food, drank some great wine, met some really fun people on and off the slopes, and generally had a pretty fabulous winter break experience. (spring break. SPRING break. Sorry.)

Stayed silly, too.

Spring Skiing Selfie!

I officially have headaches.

I *finally* had my appointment with the headache specialist this morning, and on the one hand, it was nice to have someone in the medical profession listen to me talk about my headaches. On the other, she didn’t really tell me anything new.

I officially have Chronic (Daily) Tension Type Headaches, compounded with Anticipatory Anxiety. I also have Rare Occurrence Migraines, which are (apparently/as of now) unrelated.

I didn’t really need a doctor to tell me that … I’ve known I fulfilled the definition of “chronic headaches” for months, and anyone I know can tell you that my headaches are tension-type. But I did learn some things. For one, my headaches are typical of “rebound headaches,” which commonly occur when people with migraines are taken off their medications. Which is interesting, since I make a point to not take medication. (I’ve taken meds exactly twice in the last year – April of 2014 and last week, both for migraines (not headaches)) Additionally, all the time I spent trying to isolate sources of my headaches over the years (reducing consumption of caffeine, gluten, alcohol, etc, etc) was pointless, since chances are high that none of my headaches have these type of triggers. Finally, my doctor didn’t find it surprising that I experience fewer/less intense headaches when I’m in new or exceptionally stimulating situations; to at least some extent my headaches are a result of focusing on them. When I have something else to focus on, my headaches tend to fade. (On the other hand, when I have really bad headaches that can’t be ignored, they take more cognitive resources to hide, so it makes sense that I have a harder time preventing them from affecting me when I’m involved in something mentally taxing and my headache is already at some high baseline.) Again, most of this was just validation of conclusions I’ve already come to.

All in all, it was nice to have professional medical reassurances that the conclusions I’ve come to over the past few years are accurate. She also gave me two prescriptions: one that should hopefully help with both the low-level headaches and the accompanying anxiety that I’ll take for two weeks and then check in, and a second to be taken when a migraine starts that will probably last me for years.

She also recommended I start a biofeedback program, which seems to me like a lot of psycho-baloney. But then, I’ve recently taken to meditating when my headaches are particularly bad because, though it doesn’t change anything after the fact, my headache intensity for at least those five minutes is significantly decreased. Perhaps biofeedback is then a way to bring the techniques of meditation into my daily life and decrease the intensity of my headaches on a daily basis. For now, though, I’ve added some psychology readings about biofeedback to my list, which is currently dominated by nuclear engineering and science medialization research…

Winter Means Icicles Galore

I have mixed feelings about icicles. On the one hand, they are beautiful. On the other hand, they often indicate ice dams which, I have learned this winter, can be a real concern and destructive. I know this, because our window is leaking, and will be until the spring comes, the snow melts, the moisture dries, and the leak can be found and caulked.

But – icicles! My personal favorite was this, which I spotted while walking home the other day. Icicles formed on the wires immediately below the corner of a roof.

DSC_0029

With the snow and rain of this weekend, I knew the icicles were going to slowly (or not-so-slowly) disappear. So I went out on a short “icicle walk” to find cool specimens and take some pictures. Fortunately, no icicles fell on me whilst taking these photos; let’s hope that remains the case for the duration of the semester…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Blanket!!

I’m sitting at the kitchen table, once again. I’ve got a cup of tea by my side, once again. I’m watching snowflakes falling outside my window, once again. The weatherman says this time, the snowfall will be about 4″, which will bring us to about half a foot shy of the all-time snowfall record of Boston with a month of winter left.

But this time, something is just a tiny bit different. Namely, I’m sitting with my tea and my computer and my snow and my blanket! Yes, my blanket. Not because I own it, but because I made it.

IMG_1606The blanket was dreamt up a bit due to the freezing temperatures outside, a bit from a desire to get back into knitting, a bit from the harsh reality that senior year is stressful and knitting is, as my friend Jackie puts it, “cheaper than therapy.” But now that it’s done, I have to say, it is perfect.

Amelia loves it because it’s “squishy.” Claire calls it luxurious. Dorie likes how heavy it is when you put it on your lap. Needless to say, I love it for all these reasons and more. I love that it is small enough to be a perfect lap blanket but also big enough to tuck under your toes. I love that it transitions from cream to blue to blue to gray and that you can’t tell that I used two different types of yarn. I love that the big needles I used (size 35mm!) means that it went from 10 balls of yarn to a beautiful blanket in just over two weeks. I love that I made it and that I can brag about it.

I’m going back to my job applications now, since I’m warm and cozy and the snow is still falling.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 139 other followers