Friday, September 24, 2010

Blood and Espionage

I had intended to hit the hay early tonight, but was unsuccessful at doing so. This is probably due to the fact that I have been just a tad over-caffeinated for most of the day. So being stuck awake, a decided to write a more normal (but hopefully at least somewhat entertaining) blog post.

Speaking of being over-caffeinated, I had an interesting question today while sitting in Psychology of Communication drinking an Americano: if I gave someone a blood transfusion right now and they were relatively sensitive to caffeine, would they get a buzz from it? Well, someone is going to find out, because as soon as I finished that Americano, I went down to the "Blood-Mobile" which was on campus for the day and donated a pint.

It was actually the first time I had ever donated blood, and I kind of just wanted to know what it was like. It turned out to be uneventful. In fact, I was almost a little disappointed that I didn't pass out, or at least get dizzy or something like that. But alas, I felt no different after than I did before. The only adverse affect was that I was unable to use my right arm much until just this last hour, and still can't quite extend it all the way... but that's okay.

I had three tests to take this week. Two are done, one is tomorrow. As far as the time spent in class and doing homework is concerned, this is by far my busiest semester ever. At the same time, it doesn't seem quite as stressful (yet at least!) as my past two. Instead of lot's of papers and Godzilla research projects that hang over my head and make me wonder if you are doing enough or not, most of my work this semester comes and goes at a steady pace that makes managing my time easier.

So I've been spending a lot of time doing homework and studying. In addition, I've been playing Travian again. It's a German massively multiplayer browser based game that could be compared in some ways to Settlers of Catan, but with a more developed military aspect. I have been playing for a number of years on and off. This current account is by far my most successful ever. I started playing on Server com2 not long after it opened this summer with Gauls as my civilization. I had, for the first time in several attempts, the luck of getting into a good alliance, something that is critical in the game. You want team mates who will pressure you to expand, but do so in such a way that they don't become a bigger threat than your enemies are. I now have five villages on the server and have the strongest army in my personal history. So that's cool.
I guess I just decided to blog about it because it's something that is easy to forget after you are done doing it, even if it occupied a noteworthy part of your mental world for weeks or even months before you stopped. When I was at SBI for instance, I was also in the process of building what was until now my most successful empire ever, but when I think back on that time, I hardly remember playing it at all. I guess part of the reason is that unlike most other games that demand that you sit down and play for hours, travian just demands a minute here, a minute there, and so on... I can even maintain my villages from my blackberry or iPod if I want to... although I usually try to avoid doing that.

Something that I've learned from playing into it this far though is that it is in many ways a game of disinformation. You can't possibly attack your enemy everywhere at once, but you can sometimes get them to think they are being attacked everywhere at once. I read a book this summer, A Mosque in Munich: Nazis, the CIA, and the Rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in the West in which Ian Johnson said something to the effect of "The basis of all effective espionage is disinformation." So in the end, could travian, which I always thought of as a strategy game really be a game of espionage?  

So anyhow, if I get destroyed, or the server ends, then I will probably do some kind of memorial post or something, but I just thought I would mention it now to give it some kind of context.

So, good night all... I shall try to actually sleep now.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Is Time Limping or Flying?

Does time seem different when you are at school? It does to me.

It seems like the days are longer... or maybe more like they are further apart. When I look back on events that happened yesterday morning they seem like they were much longer ago than that. Yet at the same time, it seems like time on a longer scale is moving faster. A week flies by and I think "Wow, Friday again already." It's kind of crazy.

When I was in high school people told me my college years would go by fast, and I have friends who have talked about semesters flying by. I have yet to experience that. I dare say the first couple semesters at least seemed like they went by slowly, and even now, when I think about all the craziness and how different my life and world are now than they were three years ago, let's just say it really does feel like it has been three years.

I realize part of that could be because I've changed things so much, what with going to Mansfield, then running away to Italy (my semester at SBI could be a whole other post; just based on memories and relationships I really feel like I was there for years, when it was really slightly under three months) then back to Mansfield for another, rather personally discombobulating semester, then to Bryan College at the last minute, and now another semester here.

So time in general doesn't seem to have sped up too much, but on the day to day and week to week level it feels very different.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Worst Poet Ever - Officially

This evening I won a poetry contest sponsored by the college literature society, The Broadside. This sounds rather impressive, until someone tells you that it was a bad poetry contest, in which the person who could write the worst poem won. It was actually a lot of fun though. I hadn't written anything funny in a long time, and this was definitely a good opportunity. I was told at the beginning that the prizes were intended to "match the quality of the poetry", so I wasn't really sure what to expect. I ended up taking home these to adorable mugs though, so it was all worth it....

I have decided against posting the winning poem here for several reasons, however, if you real must read it, I think it may be available on The Broadside's facebook fan page at some point.

This week I did a lot of reading. For my Psychology of Comm class I had to write a response to Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. This of course meant that I had to read it, and this detail was complicated by the fact that I didn't actually get the book from Amazon until last Saturday. I finished the book at around one Thursday morning, and finished the response sometime around two. It was well worth it though. I had intended to post my entire response on here, but realized that it was a bit long-winded, and might give away a few things that someone wanting to read the book might not really want to know. So to summarize, Blink is about making decisions based on subconscious intuition, as opposed to analytical thought process. Gladwell, among other things, points out a number of situations and case studies in which having too much information hinders peoples ability to react correctly, and instinct wins the day. After presenting lot's of cases that challenge everything we thought we knew about how our minds work, the book is a bit vague in it's conclusions. Still, I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in psychology or communication, or who just appreciates good writing. Also, I would recommend you get a copy that has the "New Afterword by the Author", as it provides some conclusion and closure that the book itself lacks (the one I have pictured here has the afterword, but those of some people in class didn't, and I think it showed in the conclusions they came to about the book).

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The 3rd Week

Yesterday I finished my second full week of classes and my third week in TN this semester. It was long. I also came down with a pretty bad cold part way through. Since Wednesday I've been feeling slightly better, but far from well. By last night I was feeling in just barely good enough shape to go to Chattanooga where we watched some live indie performance by a chick band who's name I never actually caught. Afterwords we went to Rembrandt's, a coffee shop in the city's art district. It was about 11 by then, and I just wanted to order something that didn't have caffeine and wouldn't be too expensive. I ended up getting ginseng-peppermint tea and a coconut macaroon, which were both very good.

This morning I slept in really late and then spent most of the afternoon reading doing Spanish homework.

Thursday night, when I was feeling sickest, I went to a meeting for the Acts Project, a missions/internship program that Bryan is involved with. It wasn't really something that I was interested in at all before this semester, but after having a conversation with Kait about a week ago, I started thinking about it. She spent this past summer in Beirut with doing a communications journalism internship through the program. Lebanon is somewhere that has always fascinated me, and the description of the position sounds like something that I would really enjoy doing. On top of that, they say they are actually "desperate" for people in that region, and if I have to spend next summer helping someone for free, I would just-as-soon that it be someone who actually needs help.

So, if, and I say, if, this ends up being what I do for my internship, then I'll be even sorrier that I'm taking Spanish with Pascucci than I am already. In Lebanon, they speak French. I would have rather taken French than Spanish, but I somehow felt like it was "unpractical" and I would never use it and decided to take Spanish, even though I knew the professor would be harder and I wouldn't enjoy it. I guess Spanish is still something I should be learning regardless of what I end up doing next summer, just with the way the world is going and all, but I really don't like it.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Trials & Tribulations

I spent a good while yesterday practicing for the challenge test to hopefully get out of taking intermediate algebra this semester. In fact, I had spent several hours a week since I got here practicing for it, not to mention going through some video tutorials that I have on my computer over summer vacation. It was all to no avail though. I worked through the first few problems on the test, and couldn't do the fourth, and realized that I really had no idea how to even go about solving the rest of them. So it looks like I'll be stuck with 19 credits all semester, not to mention having to buy the book, which wasn't cheap either. To add insult to injury, I've already taken this course before at Mansfield, and got an A in it. Unfortunately, my retention span for math is literally hours after I've studied it, so that doesn't do me any good.

I took algebra three times in high school. The first time I didn't understand anything, and the second and third time I did, but it wasn't enough to improve how I did on the SAT, or my entrance exams to Mansfield. Thus, Mansfield required me to take Elementary Algebra in addition to my other courses. I did, and passed it with an A, although I spent more time working on it than all of my other courses (which I also got a's in) combined. Then last semester I transferred to Bryan. They accepted everything on my transcript from Mansfield except the elementary algebra course, because it is an 090 (remedial) level course. What they did unfortunately accept were my abysmal SAT math scores, which according to Bryan's policies required me to take not one but TWO remedial math courses. I spent the first week of  last semester when I should have been adjusting to the new school and getting to know people feverishly studying to test out of the first course, which I did.

This summer, knowing that I would have to take the second one, I started studying in early August, reviewing some tutorials that I kept from the text when I took the course at Mansfield. When I arrived on campus, I was forced to drop one of my upper level Comm courses because a clerical error on the school's end last semester had scheduled me to be taking it and Intermediate Algebra at the exact same time. When I finally got to the class and found out when I would have a chance to test out, I started studying again. All this leading up to today with me  staring uncomprehendingly at the pages of paper in front of me for fifteen minutes before getting up and dropping them on the professors desk and telling her not to worry about even grading it.

So I will be taking this class, and then, when I'm done with it, I'm still not done, because I have to take regular college algebra.

So to the few people who read this blog, if math comes easily to you, and you were able to go into a math based major for which you got lots of government and academic scholarships and will lead to easily obtaining a high-paid and respected job afterwords, be thankful.

And those of you who hate math as much as most people but were able to understand it enough in high school to be done with it and only have to ever take ONE math course in college, be thankful.

As for me, by the time I'm done with college, I will essentially have been forced take basic algebra SIX times, and it will have done nothing for me, accept possibly cause me to graduate late.