Archive for March, 2005


Thursday, March 24th, 2005 at about 1:54 am

Today was Darmouth. Driving north into the hills of New Hampshire, I had high hopes for the views from campus – the area is gorgeous. The hills are still partly covered in snow this time of year, and always with trees. In the autumn it must be astounding. And indeed, the campus is quite nice. You can’t really see the surrounding terrain as well as I would have liked from the main campus, overall it’s not quite as nice as Amherst in that respect, but it’s still quite nice. One of Darmouth’s pulls is that it’s so outdoors-oriented. The freshman are taken on these trips during orientation, to go hiking or rocking climbing or whatever. It’s often where you meet friends you’ll keep for the next four years. The college owns a mountain nearby that you can go skiing on, and acres and acres of land and cabins all over New Hampshire.

Of course, the downside is that it’s in the middle of nowhere. Hanover is a tiny little town hours from anything. But Dartmouth itself is of a large enough size so hopefully that isn’t an issue – 5,500 students should be enough to keep one occupied for a while. And when campus feels too small, you can always take a term abroad somewhere more populated – up to three times. They’re on the quarter system, which allows for flexibility in going various places and getting away if you feel you need to.

I talked to a couple masters students who had stuck around over spring break (there were almost no undergrads there), both of whom had gone to Darmouth for undergraduate work and were now staying to do further study. It seems like it’s a much more relaxed environment than some other schools I’ve looked at (Reed come to mind). Dartmouth was on the list of the schools with the happiest students in the Princeton Review book, and what these students said seemed to confirm this.

I also had a chance to speak to Miles Blencowe, who’s in the physics department. He told me about his research, which was fascinating, and a little bit about what attracted him to Dartmouth. The friendly people and a certain intangible something seemed to do it for him. All the abovementioned things and excellent academics are enough for me. The only thing that I am somewhat wary of is the housing situation, since they don’t actually have enough beds for students and while usually everyone who wants to live on campus gets the chance to, there are no guarantees. I didn’t get to actually see any dorms, but I was told they varied quite a bit. While I’m sure they’re all fine, I find myself increasingly concerned about the quality of housing at places I’m looking at; I suppose one has to discriminate on something, and that seems like as good a thing as any to base your opinion on. After all, this is where you’ll be living…

So the problem once again becomes one of getting in. I haven’t managed to eliminate any of the four colleges we visited on this trip from the list of prospective schools. That’s fine, especially since I probably won’t get into all of them. I suppose the thing to do is apply to them all and see what happens. But if this keeps up with every school we visit in the future, it might not even be feasible to apply to everywhere.

Posted in General
by j. android

Wesleyan and Amherst

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2005 at about 1:59 pm

They say the weather and your tour guide most influence you when looking colleges. If that’s true, and I suspect it might be, Brown had a lot going for it yesterday. 60 degrees and sunny is hard to not like.

Today wasn’t so nice; 40’s and cloudy, it started snowing as we headed to the hotel. But despite this, Wesleyan and Amherst, today’s explorations, were both highly appealing as well. Amherst was probably more appealing than Wesleyan, although mainly for superficial reasons. The view from Amherst is gorgeous, it’s on top of a hill that you can actually see off of (unlike Brown, which is on top of a hill but you wouldn’t necessarily know it). The buildings are very, very nice on the inside – I got to go into a couple of the many newly renovated dorms and they were all great. Or, at least, they were nicer than the U of I’s, which might not be saying much but is still certainly a benefit.

I attended a class at Wesleyan, Introductory Physics II. It was a class for the non-majors, without calculus, and it was lecture based, and it was in the morning. So the students were understandably not totally into it, although there was a decent level of animation when the professor cracked a joke (which he did do, which I do appreciate). But Wesleyan doesn’t have a core curriculum, so the students had all chosen to be there, so you’d think they’d be a little more excited. But maybe I’m expecting too much enthusiasm, or at least too much overt enthusiasm. The students did seem to like it well enough.

Most of my trouble now comes from the fact that I can’t seem to eliminate anything. Brown looked good, Amherst looked good, Wesleyan looked good although realistically not quite as good as the other two. I’d still probably be quite happy there, though. I find myself vacillating on a number of issues. Part of me wants somewhere with a big name, Ivy League, no-holds-barred. Another part of me realizes that a name is nothing but a name, and I’d get just as good an academic experience and have just as much fun elsewhere. And it’s not as if it’s a cakewalk to get into any of these places, either. So while it’s difficult to be discriminatory, at least some of those decisions will be made for me a year from now. Until then, I might as well be aiming high.

Posted in General
by j. android


Tuesday, March 22nd, 2005 at about 2:42 pm

Spending the week in Boston looking at colleges, it’s hard not to feel a rush of old East Coast-nostalgia. Today I went to Brown, took the tour, did all the usual. It sits on a hill (a rare sight in the flatlands of the Midwest) overlooking Providence. And there are trees, here, not fields, and no cement roads, only asphalt, and everything is older, and different, somehow.

Perhaps nostalgia is not the right word. I actually find myself increasingly attached to trusty old C-U, with its big skies and empty fields and gridded streets. In many ways these things are comforting. And the people here are not necessarily as friendly.

I suppose it does not do as well to make such generalizations on my feelings for a place as to reflect on what I see. Brown has a lot going for it. Its academics are strong, and open. The lack of core curriculum is nice, because it means one can study what one wishes… and avoid the massive lectures one might encounter at certain large state universities which shall remain unnamed. Of course, successfully navigating such an open learning environment takes some independence, motivation, and self-discipline, but I think I could manage it. And while certainly some people find it troubling, overall the sense I got was that people really enjoyed this freedom, and really enjoyed the work they were doing. I didn’t get the same sense of academic blowout that I got at Reed, which is a relief. The ability to take a class pass/no record can certainly relieve some of the stress. Overall the goal is to encourage academic risk and growth while mediating potential negative consequences, which I definitely appreciate.

The student population seems like it might be a good match as well. Just walking around I admit that superficially I really liked what people looked like. In some ways the student body feels more mature than that of said unnamed state institutions. They might not be, but their manner of dress and apparent attitudes really don’t seem so reckless and…. well, I want to say plebian but that’s just because I like the word. Again, perhaps I’m reading into things too much.

That said, the campus’s social scene is not dominated by fraternities and sororities, which is certainly a plus. And because of this you don’t get the frat boy archetypes wandering around campus, which is also a plus. Overall I imagine (and this really is just imagining, because save a discussion with Ariel Zodhiates I don’t really have much insight into the true nature of Brown) that I would fit in well here.

And so the problem becomes, of course, getting in. A 15% acceptance rate leaves much to be desired, even if one is within the SAT/ACT ranges and has a 4.0 and blah blah blah. The numbers are in no one’s favor. But what can be lost in trying, and what can be gained unless one tries? I used to have this poster that said “Shoot for the moon - even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” Sounds good, but if I end up at certain unnamed state school I might be disgruntled.

Posted in General
by j. android

last tries

Saturday, March 19th, 2005 at about 3:45 am

My registration is going to run out on the 27th. I’m thinking about changing domains. Three words is too long anyway, and its sort of a silly name. Not that I’m not attached to it; I had from the time I moved here on, and eventually got my own domain. It hasn’t exactly been a focus in my life, but it’s been a relative constant in this chapter of my life. But adaptation is a necessary part of life. There’s no particular reason to change now as opposed to any other time, right now there isn’t some large shift going on, but sometimes you’ve just got to go.

It’s too late to just switch, because my old email address is spread out all over the place. So I’d have to transition. But that’s all right.

Something to think about. The biggest thing holding me back is that I’d have to think of a new name. Kind of emo, and I think I stole that from somewhere. Then again, anotherwastedday was stolen from a Less than Jake song. Suggestions?

background noise: “Look What Happened” Less than Jake

Posted in General
by j. android

armageddon and the great dream of heaven

Monday, March 14th, 2005 at about 11:54 am

I had a dream I died last night. I had been thinking about this idea for a play that takes place at the end of the world, Armageddon-by-meteor style. I started dreaming about the same thing. The sky was rent by a red light that got bigger and bigger, finality blossoming into destruction. I stood, looking at the sky, watching this thing come. And then it did, and I died. The sensation was that of nothingness coupled with a warm tingling, like I was made of dust, and more than anything else a feeling of great anticipation. After a few moments of this void the dream left me, and I woke up or moved on. But it was beautiful while it lasted.

background noise: “Armageddon” Alkaline Trio

Posted in General
by j. android

wyser than it seems pt. II

Thursday, March 10th, 2005 at about 11:38 am

Sectionals for WYSE were today. While we did have another unfortunate loss to Centennial, it was only be a narrow margin. We beat Danville handily, and took top spots in a few categories. Among the winners was a lucky CS victory. Now I feel vindicated, having cleansed myself of my previous loss. We’ll see what happens at state next month.

Posted in General
by j. android

southern heat

Saturday, March 5th, 2005 at about 6:51 am

In Mississippi I spent one morning working in a local soup kitchen. It was satisfying, nothing too surprising or difficult. The hardest part actually had nothing to do with interacting with people we were serving or preparing the food, as I might have expected, but instead with having to deal with the woman who gave the devotion before the meal. Mississippi is saturated with Christianity.

As we were preparing to serve the food, this kid, who was maybe 19, came in and started fiddling with the piano. “Oh, you’re in for a treat,” says a blunt, somewhat overweight older white woman who was helping us. “He can’t carry a tune, but boy does he try.” She was right. The kid had a karaoke machine (his piano talents weren’t particularly impressive) that played this awful instrumental synth music, over which he sang equally awful (and totally off-key) contemporary Christian songs. It was absolutely terrible, almost laughable, but it would have been rude to laugh. He got up without a word, sang for a few minutes, and then sat back down, again without saying anything. Except for his singing, I didn’t hear him say a single thing the entire time.

The music was almost completely overshadowed, however, by his mother, who gave the devotion before we ate. This woman was white, in her mid-60’s, and so thoroughly imbued with the self-righteous love of God it made her look insane. After her son finished she got up and preached for ten minutes, spewing a fervent apocalyptic message. Hell is in the middle of the Earth and on the rise, and for evidence of this we need look only to the recent string of bad weather (earthquakes, tsunamis, etc.) The world is ending soon, and this woman was excited about it. It was a little hard to swallow. But we didn’t want to appear indignant or offend anyway, as we were guests and it was not our place to do so, so Hugh, Kinzie and I just sat there and listened. Kinzie and I went outside to get some air afterwards, wide-eyed and a little shocked by the vehemence of what we had just experienced.

People have a different sense of religion in the South. It is much more communal, especially in the black churches, and much more emotional. Coming from East Coast churches steeped in quiet, deferential tradition, this is still somewhat alien to me, although not unwelcome. I cannot help but be taken somewhat aback, however, at the zeal expressed at times. One thing that continually strikes me is the way in which a respected speaker is received. In decorous upper-middle class circles if you agree with an orator’s presentation you show it by keeping quiet and politely listening to what they have to say. You do not make loud exclamations of agreement, shouting Hallelujahs and Amens or even the occasional emphatic “mm-hmmm” when you feel the speaker made a particularly good point. It throws me every time, but I suppose that’s part of the point – it’s different, and strange, and I’m getting used to it.

Posted in General
by j. android