Monday, December 31, 2012

Exploiting Perfectionism

Positive impact is often defined by the large community projects and emotional stories on television shows that only celebrities can pull off, but my college education will prepare me to impact the nation in a positive way that may go undetected. I am a student of Computational Media at Georgia Institute of Technology. While GT is most well known for its engineers, GT offers several (ironically) overlooked majors in fields that overlook nothing, one being Computational Media (CM). While CM majors may not join the Peace Corps, they are capable of improving everyday lives in ways nearly unperceivable to the masses.
After graduating with my CM degree I will be unleashing my perfectionism on the advertisements, applications, games, websites, and movies that are integral parts of modern American society. A large part of my job will be to pay attention the particulars of these to make them pleasing to each of the five senses it is to effect. While perfection may seem to be overkill, the average person subconsciously expects it, or at least appreciates it. Companies like BMW take a similar care in the sounds of the various “dings” in their luxury cars. A sound technician may spend hours, on a sound designed specifically to remind you to put on your seat belt just so they ensure the customer won’t get irritated on the 9,532nd ding. The luxury comes from honed subtleties that other car companies overlook.
In my research about Computational Media I found a student created game called Vision by Proxy (mentioned and linked to in my previous post: Definition of Dilemma.) Players play as a one eyed alien that can use different “eyes” to look at the world differently and utilize the different perspectives. To complete the game, players must use all their eyes to overcome obstacles. Impact and change on anything require a different take on the world, through different eyes. Mine is one that focuses on detail. 
A little alien we could all learn from.
Through my job I hope to transform the everyday, unavoidable blur of ads, websites, and movies into something enjoyable and pleasing. I could make those snippets of text on a page a bit more inspirational, or turn billboards into a positive, interesting experience. Without those minor irritations, the bigger ones will be easier to handle. Maybe the lack of external clutter will create minds that foster new ideas, and inventions! Perhaps the change won’t be that extreme, but what little bit it does improve will give a new view that will, at the very least, make the drive down the highway more enjoyable. (Or reduce road rage?)
What I intend to do will create a change that few will know what to attribute to, but I believe in the quote, “Life is in the details.” So, if I improve the details, I will have improved life.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Looking Forward

My mother, half-brother, and I.

My first semester at Tech has transformed me from high school graduate to college freshman. Just like everyone said I would, I finally understand what it’s like to go away to college, but there was no way I could have known before this year. The biggest change came from being thrown into a world where there is everything I need to survive and thrive, but I have to find it myself. This didn't just help my independence, but it helped me realize what my true desires and passions are. The things I spend money, time, and effort on are the ones that I value. Because no one else here has enough weight on my decisions to change them completely, it’s my opinion that makes my decisions. I've learned that my opinions matter and it’s actually good to voice them. Everyone else’s opinions matter too and I respect that and discuss it, so that my opinion becomes more thorough and open-minded.

I realized that my passions and opinions align best with a Computational Media major, so I changed it (see previous post about hard decisions). In a major I enjoy, I’ll be more willing to work hard and study. While I am capable of focusing when I have deadlines, my general studying is with other people in my classes. I think it helps me focus and feel accountable for getting the work done at that moment instead of procrastinating.

So I've changed and learned, but my standards for myself, despite the difficulty of Tech, remain high. (Maybe not quite as high as high school, but high.) Next semester I want to do better in math next semester than I am currently. Hopefully with some good grades, I can successfully find an internship or co-op. Through that I can work on exploring my major, and make sure I actually will enjoy it. On the less academic side, I want to get involved as an instructor for climbing with ORGT (Outdoor Recreation at GT). Hopefully through that, or otherwise, I will find a way to get into a regular exercise routine (see freshman 15 post). That’s a lot for next semester, but I have (at least) 4 years at Tech. Over those years I hope I will have been involved in a study abroad that relates to my major, and have interned at a company I wouldn't mind working for. I know it will be a lot of work, but I’d like to graduate with a GPA around 3.5. That doesn't afford me much room for slacking, so that starts now. I want to be involved and have opportunities for leadership, so if they present themselves, great, but I will go looking if they don’t.

The goals I have put a lot of pressure on me both achievement wise and time wise, but I think I actually have better focus and drive when I’m under a little stress. If that’s true, I should do well here if I learn to manage it.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

How to Fry My Brain Slowly and Effectively

While I have fun at Tech, this semester is easily the hardest I’ve worked in my entire life. Knowing everyone is going through the same thing is my biggest comfort, so I press on through about 25 hours a week of homework (at least) and a bunch of studying before tests. Thus far, that pre-test-studying has been mostly the night/day before, but so far it’s working out okay (and I’m trying my hardest to work studying in earlier).

This was very productive.
I usually study around other people even if we’re not really studying together. It seems that emotional support is extremely beneficial to my focus and alertness on those REALLY late nights because every night is late, it seems. My multitudes of online homework I often work on with friends because they are usually practice problems and it’s nice to compare answers or opinions. I’ve found good study buddies! Hannah (the roommate) for English, Sara for Calculus II and Chemistry, Will for Lab Reports, Andree for online Calculus homework. Half of the people I study with are in my dorm, (a benefit of honors program housing) so it’s really convenient. While I usually study in my room, I’ve been on a few CULCing (Clough Undergraduate Learning Center…ing) marathons and have picked out my favorite corners and outlets (it IS Tech after all). These quiet places accompanied by the “Do Not Disturb” mode on my cell phone have been conducive to some fairly focused study sessions. While I sometimes get a little distracted, it’s usually because I need a mental break anyway and I’ve been pretty on top of things.

I have tried to make use of a couple of the tutoring/study sessions from my classes, but a lot of time that is harder to fit into my schedule than some work with other students which has shown to be very beneficial just on it’s own. The best ways to study for me are to rewrite concepts and organize them in my own way. Then, do practice problems. This is perfect for Chemistry where we have homework problems and then make crib sheets (info we can take to the test that must fit on the paper), but even in Calculus where I don’t have that luxury, I still make a crib sheet as review of formulas (and I stick it in my pocket to help me memorize).

I have a few books.
Finals are a looming fear. I will probably hull up with food in my room most of dead week. I know breaks are necessary though, so I’m working on finding a controlled way to relieve stress between study sessions. I find I’m most productive when I switch between subjects relatively frequently, so I’m not bored of the material and also so I can practice remembering what I just studied an hour or so back.
I suppose I should start all this soon…

Step 1: Get all the other work out of the way.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

What's the Freshman 15?

When I got to Tech I was highly confused on what people were talking about with this whole "freshman 15" thing. Once I realized it was an extra 15 pounds of body weight gained through junk food and stress, my worry over it decreased significantly. I grew up with pretty healthy habits. Of course there are exceptions to that (like my adoration of sugary things) but I'm fairly reasonable when it comes to food and decently active. While Tech is pretty tough, I think I’ve been doing pretty well as far as staying healthy. I know I don’t drink quite enough water, and there are those nights where I put homework before sleep, but I'm not dehydrated, I haven’t fallen asleep in class, and the alarm-failure scare has forced me to make it impossible for me to not get to class in the morning. I’ve been eating regularly, and most meals I strive (though with slight difficulty due to the dining options) to eat a balanced meal. Every once in a while we must eat "an aesthetically pleasing amount of pizza rolls" -Hannah Ackermann. I have found people to climb with and that helps me exercise everything but my cardio. However, I have quite a few friends who jog regularly and do other exercise, so that’s an incentive for me to start...eventually. 

My super amazing roommate, Hannah, studying by osmosis.
(Yes, we know it's not really osmosis, but it sounds cooler.)
I’ve found a church I like and I go with my PL on most Sundays, so it’s both convenient and helpful to have those supports. I have been trying to balance fun and studies, and if I took an average it would probably come out about right, but I know there are weekends where I spent more time with friends and less time studying than would be optimal, so I’m working on that. Sometimes studying can actually be kind of fun (the slightly less productive version of studying). My goal is to not have to stay up super late cramming on Sunday nights. My fun things can actually lead to useful connections though because I spend a decent amount of time with upperclassman that can give good advice. I’d like to have more open Saturdays next semester for climbing, relaxing, and seeing things in Atlanta. Overall, though, life is pretty good, a little stressful, but that’s just Tech right?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Definition of Dilemma

Initially it is a fantastic thing to have multiple talents and interests, but when deciding a major, it creates a dilemma. 
Dilemma: A decision between two or more things all equally awesome and attractive to one’s brain (source: Alana’s cranial dictionary).
I chose Georgia Tech partly because it had every major I had ever seriously considered pursuing, so if I really wanted to I could try out every single one. Ideally, I would have a major in chemical engineering with a minor in material science and engineering, a major in architecture with a minor in industrial design, and a major in computational media (CM) with a minor in something useful and interesting. All of these with some business classes, internships, co-ops or other productive things. Now, that’s not a very practical path and I would undoubtedly raise the average graduation time at Georgia Tech.

Kyle (closest) at T Night.
So, I talked to a lot of people; mainly my section leader in marching band, Kyle. Kyle is a 5th year CS major here, but has more psychology credits than a psych minor and is therefore pretty beneficial to talk to (and also a cool guy). I told him I liked design and math. I told him I wanted my major to get me a job that would get me a stable income, so I could live a comfortable, stable life and pay off all the college loans that I, like him, will be burdened with in exchange for my invaluable Georgia Tech education. I, at this point, hadn’t been thinking about CM or CS because I had written those fields off as ones that videogame-obsessed boys went into (a mistake). Kyle, however, thought CM would be just perfect for me, and told me to look into it.

When the time rolled around for my career research project I decided to choose computational media. Why not? I might as well get graded for researching it instead of finding free time. I asked Kyle if he knew any CM majors, and of course he did, so he set me up with Evelyn. She just told me what CM was like, what she liked and didn’t like, and random things she knew about CM.
I fell in love. (With CM, not Evelyn, although she is pretty awesome.) The skills I will learn or learn more of are ones I would want to learn on the side of anything else I knew anyway. They’re all useful in and out of work and they all make money. It seems shallow to value money so much, but there are so many applications for money that it definitely holds importance. Computational Media Majors get jobs at all the companies I’ve always thought I’d love to work for (i.e. Google, Apple, Pixar), and are the source of many things that make me excited (i.e. games, graphic design, iPad apps). I’ve never really felt “passionate” about a major before, and I don’t know to what extent most people experience that, but I am definitely excited to learn about CM and all that comes with it.

Extras! (AKA not really part of the GT1000 blog post but relevant and exciting to me)
A Georgia Tech CM student (now working for apple) created a way to edit text more easily on and iPad and turned it into an app called SlideWriter (it doesn’t integrate into all applications, sadly, but it might be fun to try). Here’s an article/video:
He also created a free iPad/iPhone game called Percepto. It’s neat, simple, and free, so try it out!
Also, on the Georgia Tech CM website there’s a featured project that I fell in love with. It’s a one level game made as a project. Here’s the link:
Evelyn also told me about this cool research being done at Georgia Tech on creating artificial intelligence in games, so that you can replay a game in the same world and get more than just a repeated programmed response. (I just thought that was cool.)

Credit for Kyle's picture goes to Liz again.

Monday, September 24, 2012

What I'm really paying for in College

No amount of love for learning can make endless days of studying desirable. This has made me appreciate my choice of a large university even more. There are clubs and organizations for just about everything, and though it was at first very overwhelming, I've managed to fall into a routine that incorporates a good variety of extracurriculars.

Marching Pre-game show.*
Music has been a part of my life since I started piano lessons in grade school and marching band has fulfilled that desire here at Georgia Tech. It takes up a good bit of time with band camp, practices, and many games and performances, but what I gain from that time commitment is worth it. It has been an instant network of people that I have for homework help, social activities, and sympathy after hard tests. The band is the center for all things school spirit and we have a blast being involved. I've learned to love football, and scream at all the right times. I also know the school cheers and traditions that make Tech the way it is.

Climbing wall in the CRC.*
Another activity I'm continuing from high school is climbing. The CRC has a small climbing wall that I've started going to 3 times a week for exercise and to make friends that climb. It has been working quite well and I'm planning to join the climbing club. The climbing club is a lot like my high school climbing team. I'm considering competing in the triple crown competition; the triple crown is three different competitions in different places. They make trips on the weekends to climb and do competitions in the spring. The climbing season is the opposite of the busy band season, so the two compliment each other nicely. The club also offeres opportunities for leadership in the future (secretary, etc.)

Not all of my activities are pure fun and games. I have joined the Society of Women Engineers (SWE for short) which meets once a week. Though I haven't become very involved yet, it seems like it will be good for networking and job finding much like the Student Alumni Association that I plan on joining.

Quite the opposite of SWE and SAA, HvZ (Humans versus Zombies) is PURE fun and games. It is a week long game of tag that occurs once a semester. I stunned zombies with balled up socks and made it until thursday evening as a human. I met a bunch of fun people (all designated with the required yellow bandana) and learned my way around campus. Despite having to check over my shoulder all week, it was also a huge stress reliever because it was just for fun.

The college life has a lot to offer and it's nice to know that I can get more out of my college tuition than just knowledge in class. I'm feeling a lot more confident now because I am doing both familiar things and new things. Extracurriculars, not reclusive studying at all hours, is how people like me make it through college.

*Band photo taken from Liz Sidlov and Climbing photo from GT Climbing Club via Facebook. Credit goes to them.