Posts Tagged school


A lot of my life I have done “on the job training” – I didn’t really do a bunch of programming until I needed to do it for a physics laboratory job, so I learned. I didn’t really do any games programming until I needed to do it for a games job, so I learned. And so on. However, I do enjoy learning in a school environment – and I often feel very motivated to work on something other than work, you know?

So I’ve been considering looking into what sort of short-ish courses I could take, either online or on nights/weekends, to enrich myself, which has naturally led to an introspective question: what is something I don’t know much about that I would like to? The first things that come to mind are:

  • Philosophy (I think a fair bit about it, even though I’ve admittedly only read casually about the subject.)
  • Engineering proper, perhaps electrical! (I enjoy the idea of making things and can come up with fantastical theoretical ideas, but I have no experience or training in actually making things work.)
  • Writing (I have done a fair bit of writing – TONS of on-the-job training – but I’m not really educated in how to write, and it might be interesting to become so.)

It’s something I’ll be considering as the year progresses – never a dull moment on the route to self-improvement!

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#23: Talk the Talk

One of the things I really enjoyed doing last year (that is, 2009) was taking some classes with Bill to learn Italian prior to traveling to Rome.  Granted, I didn’t put a ton into it – I enjoy learning, and did it relatively well, but I was/am far from fluent and I was barely able to hold conversations with folk in Rome about food.  It did teach me something valuable, though (well, more than Italian itself), which is that I am much more motivated to learn when there’s a goal for the use of the newly-gained knowledge in sight.  That goal was the trip to Italy Bill and I took in December, and when I set travel plans for next year, I could get a similar learn-test track going with a different language (or even Italian again).

So, I’d like to learn a language.  But more important than learning the language is being comfortable speaking it.  I made it all the through the Spanish series in high school, even passing the Spanish AP exam, but I could never really speak it (just read, write and understand).  It’s really important to me to be able to hold my own in a conversation with a native, so that’s my target.  I haven’t decided what language yet (that will probably be influenced by my travel plans), but I’ve got a good feeling about shooting to learn one next year.

23. I resolve to learn a language to the point where I could hold a reasonable conversation with a native speaker, and then apply my skills on a trip to a destination where that language is primary.

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#14: Get Smart

I feel like I used to know a ton more than I do now.  Well, not in terms of information (but some of that too) but in terms of expert knowledge, specifically in Physics.  I’ve tackled this problem before, and mused back and forth on whether I might return to school one day to finish a PhD.  I think now, upon reflection, that I am unlikely to do so in the near future, or maybe ever.  There’s a different place to start, however, in the manner of getting my groove back.  My Physics groove.

I think it’d be a good idea to sign up for a course or two, either online or at a “local” college (many in the area, up to and including the big UW), to re-familiarize myself with science and thinking scientifically about specific problems.  There was a post a ways back where I talked about relativity and Sam rightly pointed out I never even took general relativity – so maybe in addition to teaching myself old tricks again, I can learn some new ones.  I think dipping my toes back into Physics might be a good jump-start for further education, too, and I am just annoyed at myself for forgetting so much I learned.

14. I resolve to take one or two extension-type courses in Physics from a local college or university.

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Nadia Drake

Nadia and I went to high school together, and above and beyond being a very intelligent, kinda snarky, lovely lady, she and I were pretty good friends. I recall having lots of fun with her, through numerous shared classes, study groups, movie outings, school dances (I took her to our Senior Winter Ball, which was by far my most fun high school dance experience) and all of the rest of high school stuff. Nadia’s just a great complement to any group, because she has such a great sense of humor and isn’t afraid to speak her mind, but she’s also great one-on-one because of her keen intellect and insight. Add to that her talent as a dancer and a smartypants in general and you’ve got a totally awesome friend.

Nadia also has a wonderful relationship with her family, something I strive to have as well with my family. She and her sister are literally the funniest together, and I recall her home being a warm place for everyone. I love my family, but sometimes I am not really patient or understanding enough with them, and Nadia’s (apparent) easy report with hers is inspiring.

Although we basically lost touch after high school, when I went to New York City for grad school we reconnected a bit and she almost made it over to join me for a sweet concert. Tragically, life and work got in the way and it didn’t work out, but one day maybe we’ll reunite and share more laughs and good times!

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Todd Schuman

Todd and I got to know each other during my freshman year of college, since we both lived in Blacker and frosh are pretty tightly-knit at Tech. I remember him saying he was awesome at Starcraft, and I challenged him, and I tried to cheese him with cannons (which, for those who don’t know Starcraft, is kind of like trying to sneak up behind someone and scare them hard enough they wet themselves). It didn’t work, of course, but I laughed my head off, and everyone had a good time. Todd and I went on to be class officers together, play various strategy games, enjoy yearly Vegas trips, get back into Magic (he is the one who got me back into it via Magic Online), even start an online business and eventually have regular game and TV nights.

Todd is one of my closest friends, and it’s no surprise why: he cares deeply about his friends, is both jovial and social, enjoys gaming immensely. We think alike, chat a ton, and try to visit each other (along with our associated nearby friends) frequently. Todd even asked me to be one of his groomsmen for his wedding, which was totally awesome, and his wife Tory is one of my closest friends in her own right – the two of them are amazing and it’s wonderful they are together.

Todd’s also an inspiration to me because although we share a lot of the same thought pathways (he and I would get into philosophical/political/etc. discussions over game night in Los Angeles quite a bit along with our other friends attending), he is much more responsible and dedicated to self-improvement in ways I wish I could be. He runs marathons (something I could never do but which I greatly admire!), plans many many trips to visit friends and learns valuable life skills in his free time. Basically, I’m super happy we’re friends because he is so awesome, and it barely matters than I am so thoroughly upstaged. 😉

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Sam Lindsay-Levine

Sam and I were college buddies, but I admit I regret not getting to know him better while I was at ‘Tech. For various (dumb) reasons, I didn’t spend much time with Sam, and then I moved away for grad school. Hilariously, it was at that point I found out (1) Sam was an awesome guy, (2) he was also into Physics, (3) he was also into Magic, and (4) he and my other good friend Nate were willing to take on a roommate for when I moved out to L.A. Thus began our excellent times at the Death Star, where Sam and I often got into philosophical debates and debates over how good various Magic cards were. His cat FORSTSABER and I also did quite a few drafts together (two drops two drops!) on Main Screen, our projector, in the living room. Sam and I even made the Un- set Unsnidd with help from our other Magical ‘Tech friend Dan.

Sam is exactly the kind of person I enjoy conversing with: highly logical, possessed of a reasonable emotional side, and intelligent. He understands quite a bit about the universe, and is willing to argue out a contentious point until both parties are satisfied, something I also enjoy doing. Although he would probably prefer to stay in much of the time, I was quite happy when I or friends were able to convince him to come out with us, because he is a great addition to any group outing. He and his wife Kirsten, also a Caltech friend, were gracious enough to check on me when I visited fair Minneapolis for U.S. Nationals recently, and even invited me and (another) Nate over to game! Truly, Sam is my friend who is most interested in organizing game parties, and I am super grateful because I love game parties!

I know that whatever globular thing Sam sets his mind to, he’ll accomplish, and I am proud to call him friend. (And if you couldn’t tell, we have a number of shared inside jokes, included here for posterity and hilarity.)

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Paige Coulam

Paige and I go waaaay back to roughly junior high. She and I shared classes, studied together, cursed our inept Physics teacher, hung out, and basically were very good friends. She’s one of the few friends from high school I kept in contact with after college life took over, and later, when I moved back to L.A. and she was at UCLA, we re-upped our friendship.

Paige is as easy to hang out with and just relax as she is to have long conversations with. She’s fun, passionate about life (she’s over touring Europe right now, in fact!), and generally a joy to be around.

It is possible that my enjoyment of coffee today is in part to sitting and sipping with Paige in coffeeshops. If so, I regret nothing! :)

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Tom Borchert

It’s strange how some friends remind me of their qualities, and others of the moments I spent with them. Tom is of the latter kind – we were dormmates in college, and shared more than one adventure. He’s got a great sense of humor, is super nice, and obviously intelligent – and is also one of the friends on which I know I can rely when I need help.

Tom and I got a little punch-drunk one evening as sophomores, and for some reason found the Nutty Bars (chocolate peanut butter wafers) available in the room hilarious. We raced to see who could eat one the fastest, since that person would clearly be the King of the Nutty Bars! You may not remember that this treat comes packaged in twos, leading Tom to rightfully remark, “In the land of the Nutty Bars, the man with half a Nutty Bar is king!” There are few times in my life I have laughed harder than I did that night.

Tom and I also worked together on our Senior Ditch Day stack, along with Todd and Garrett. Fun times, and despite my complete exhaustion at the end of our last-minute preparations for it, I still recall Tom getting stuff done (like the insane oversized Labyrinth puzzle he and Garrett made) and laughing like it weren’t no thing.

It’s a little sad that he and Katharina are so far away in Britainnia now, but luckily he’s a ‘Softie and makes it out here to Seattle from time to time!

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Mark Gottlieb

Mark and I work together, but I’m not sure we’ve ever been on the same team for a project.  He and I have talked quite a bit, though, and worked on various tasks apart from our project stuff.  Although we often get snippy with each other and debate a bit heatedly, I think it’s because we are *too* similar, not that we have too many differences.  My theory was borne out a bit when we roomed together recently in Amsterdam and it was totally fine.  Mark is very very smart (even though he wrongly believes his alma mater MIT is better than Caltech – pffft!), has an analytic mind, doesn’t ignore and often is prey to his emotions, and is a genuinely good person.  Remind you of anyone? :)

Mark has an excellent capacity for fun – he’s one of the people who work on Magic who enjoys playing it for its own sake, something I very much appreciate.  Mark doesn’t seem to appreciate stupidity, but has no problem educating others and helping them to understand.  Like me, even when he feels certain about something, he’s willing to listen and maybe even change his mind.  I have laughed quite a bit with Mark, even when stressed about work and what-not, and I really appreciate that.  He likes LOST (like me) and he likes crazy theories (also like me).  He and I, along with Greg, also had great times doing 1v1 Winston Cube in the past, which is in essence a fun design/gameplay experience with Magic.

I think he’s still off gallivanting around Europe (which is uncharacteristically slackerish of him!) but I am looking forward to working and laughing with him in the future!

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Leigh Elion

I met Leigh because she is Chris’s sister, and Chris and I were friends and dormmates at Caltech.  Chris was kind enough to invite me to stay with his family in RI once when I was living on the East Coast, and I got to meet his family – all of whom are badass, and Leigh near the top of the list.  Leigh eventually ended up in Boston while I was there, and invited me to a party, which may not seem like much, but it’s often the small things that define the merit of a person – in this case, kindness to friends, even not-particularly-close friends.

Leigh and I have spent some time chatting online, since we are all connected in that way socially these days, and since I moved away from Boston I haven’t found the time to visit as many friends as I’d like.  She’s got a great sense of humor – probably the wittiest/most sarcastic I know? or at least tied with Alexis! – and has no problem chatting about random stuff like music and job envy and so on.  I should have found time to look her up in Madison, WI when I visited but did not 😛 so I will be planning another trip there sooner rather than later!

It’s always awesome when you find an excellent friend, and through them other excellent friends.  It’s like the system is working properly!

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