Tuesday, March 18, 2008


I am done! Done done dah-done done done! With my major and core and every single required class here. I can finally slack off! Whoop!

Well, I can finally slack off until September. Then the real work begins.

In the mean time, I can do something crazy. Like join the circus. Or write a(nother) novel. Or read some Shakespeare, so I'm not horribly terribly bad at playing tag with Alex. If that ever happens. Or all of the above!

Or, you know, I could work hard in lab. Actually get something done. I guess that's a possibility too.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Only at the U of C, ish.

WARNING: RAMBLY. I might clean it up later, make it more coherent, but probably not.

Every so often, something happens that reminds me of why I went to school at the U of C and not somewhere like MIT. Well, it's fairly often because this quarter it's been every Monday and Wednesday at 3:00 when I have a philosophy of literature class that certainly would not occur at a tech school. But every so often, something (other than Ted Cohen telling a joke) happens that reminds me of why I went to school at the U of C and not somewhere else, like MIT. Often enough, that thing involves Tom Stoppard. Today it was my glee upon finding an article talking about "postmodern science" or, rather, the use of science to explain postmodern life and vice-versa as epitomized by Stoppard's use of Quantum Physics in Hapgood (Quantum Physics + Espionage = fun times!) and Chaos Theory in Arcadia. Although the Arcadia analogy is not nearly so good, in my opinion, because in Hapgood the whole thing is tied up tightly in uncertainty and such (of every sort), whereas in Arcadia chaos theory plays much more of a sub-role, being discussed alongside other subjects, but never really encapsulating the whole thing; really Arcadia to me seems as much about thermodynamics as chaos theory, and as much about Byron as either of them (the link between Byron and thermodynamics is drawn, and beautifully so, by the simple statement "the action of bodies in heat"). I couldn't read the entire article, because Questia is a bastard that way (and the U of C network goodness doesn't give me access). But nothing is lost to the march, and so I can reconstruct it.

Ooh. I should re-read Hapgood now that I know some Quantum. Heh. And I should read Arcadia again after I finish Thermo, just because. I wonder if Stoppard has a Kinetics!Play, but I probably won't be taking 3rd quarter Physical Chemistry, so I suppose it's immaterial.

Also, I should maybe finish my work for class before going on a Stoppard binge. Although in one week I think such a thing will be entirely called for.

OH MAN. I just had a hilarious idea. Absolutely wonderful and hilarious. I'll post more on it later when I have my book next to me and have enough time to think it out more fully. BUT, to give you a sneak peek into how weird it's going to be, well, for a second there I imagined the Doctor philosophically interrogating Tom Stoppard's characters. ("No more it can, for time needs must run backwards" (or something like that) versus "From a non-linear, non-subjective point of view, time is more of a ball of... wibbly-wobbly... timey-wimey... stuff." (or something like that)) I realize, of course, that one is "real" philosophy while one is goofy, but I don't much care about that (have I ever? There's philosophy in Harry Potter, I tell you, just not very complex philosophy!). Anyway, if science fiction is good for anything, it should be good for blowing apart the paradigm and fostering imagination. Pointing out what should perhaps seem odd to us.

And that brings me back to Ted Cohen, and the Stories class, and the order: "Don't take it as a matter of course or an obvious fact that pictures and stories please us." And the burning bush. And that noticing that something is odd, or striking, or interesting (nothing more and nothing less) sometimes says something about you, and teaches you something about yourself and the world. Hah.

That's overwrought philosophy for you!

Monday, March 10, 2008

I may have just finished the second-to-last problem set of my college career. Hooray!

Also, at lunch today my bottle of tea came with a quote from The Doctor: "First things first, but not necessarily in that order. -- Doctor Who" This only makes it easier for me to obsess over Doctor Who until the next season begins.

Now, on to dinner and a lab report (not hooray!).

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

I almost forgot

When I was waiting at the airport for my shuttle to get to Stanford, this was brought to my attention.

Whenever anyone asks, from now on, I'll say that I'm studying the likely genetic underpinnings of Magic in Harry Potter, and point them to this article. Excellent!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


Quick update before I go back to frantically studying thermodynamics:

I still have to hear back from UCSF and Princeton. However! I have been accepted everywhere else! Hooray for me!

My choice, it seems, is coming down to Stanford versus MIT. They are both absolutely stellar programs, they both focus on actively promoting interactions between disciplines, they both seem like great places to live and be (with great cities nearby if not next door). What I consider to be the differences:

1) At MIT, you do not start research until halfway through your first year, whereas at Stanford you dive right in to rotations. At MIT, this allows them to require a "core biology" cirriculum and inundate you with classes your first semester. At Stanford this allows you to get a sense of projects during rotations.

2) At MIT, wackiness seems to be smiled upon, while people at Stanford seem more laid back and traditionally "cool" (if you can actually say that about graduate students). I might be able to find wackiness, or bring wackiness, to Stanford. As a city, San Francisco is much, much cooler (and probably wackier) than Boston. However, MIT is much closer to Boston than Stanford is to San Francisco.

3) MIT seems very post-doc heavy, as in there are tons of amazing post doctoral opportunities there. Stanford seems more focused towards Graduate students, which would be good for graduate students.

4) Stanford has much, much better weather.

5) In neither place would I be able to assistant coach diving. In Boston there would be more high schools with potential openings for me to do that. In San Francisco, there would be circus arts for me to do, but that would be a 30 minute commute.

6) Stanford is about 3.5-4 hours drive from Kevin, but to get home to DC would take the whole day and to get to Chicago would take most of the day. Boston is more generally accessible, but I would probably want to get on an airplane to see any member of my family (or my college friends).

7) Mango might go to MIT, but he might not. He won't go to Stanford. PCBio people are going to Stanford.

8) Stanford's campus is drop-dead gorgeous. MIT's campus is kind of... ugly.

After some research, Yale appears to have a program very much like Stanford's, but it is a brand new umbrella and might therefore not facilitate cross-talk as well during my prospective tenure. Plus it's in a rather ugly town (sorry Easha and Ryan), an uncomfortable distance from airports or family members or large cities, with fewer coaching opportunities and no circus stuff that I know of.

Back to thermodynamics!