major changes

October 18, 2006

Here we go again. I have decided to stop pursuing my Communications major in Mass Media Studies. Last semester I signed up for a double major in Math, and this coming semester will be my second without communications classes.

When I started school at FSU I was sure that I wanted to be a Computer Science major. I already had a couple years experience with Java programming and had spent plenty of hours doing less scientific things with computers such as hacking Diablo 2 and playing other games. After a few semesters of programming classes I decided that the CS curriculum was not for me. I was finding that the things I wanted to learn were much easier to pursue on Google and I was gaining real experience at work. I already knew my motivation was something besides working on computers, I wanted to do something with them. So I looked to a communications degree.

I took two semesters of Communications before I felt something missing.  The two legality classes were interesting, since I am very interested in the law related to technology and freedom of speech. They gave me a general overview of the history of communications law, but they did not give me a much more indepth picture than I had already formed by reading wikipedia, eff and the blogs of several prominant bloggers. In one class I was provoked into thinking deeper about the concept of wikis and in particular wikipedia. The format of the class annoyed me at first, but I ended up liking the discussions. What I felt was missing was the puzzle. I have a hunger for puzzles, and I knew that Math would satiate that hunger. I think it has something to do with the consistancy and the absolute truths math provides. I have always loved math, and I have never truely applied myself to it.  Finally I decided to do something about that and I signed up for a double major.

Studying communications isn’t about solving puzzles, it seemed to be more about identifying relationships between information and people, and how to measure those relationships. While I still find that to be an interesting subject, like Computer Science, I don’t want my schooling to get in the way of my education. I want more time to focus on math classes. I feel like math is a study where guidance helps me a lot. I believe the incremental style of accumulating knowledge in math, and how interrelated everything is lends itself well to academic study. While learning most everything requires practice, I think math lends itself better to being taught becasue relationships between concepts can be explained.

In Computer Science and Communications, I think the most useful concepts are acquired by real life experience. Furthermore, if one can express a concept in mathematical terms, implementing it on a computer is fairly mechanical. In my experience the hard part of programming (besides getting your platform to not frustrate you to no end) is conceptualizing the problem in terms that you can program. Since this conceptualization can and is usually mathematical in nature, math is then the hard part of programing. The implementation is just a google search away. In Communications most of the concepts I have run into are up for debate, supported or criticized by academic studies and hardly ever have a solid foundation in absolute truth. I should just say that Communications is an emperical field, that sounds less negative. While I find those concepts interesting, I found that I had already taken part in the debates, and I had plenty of resources to continue those debates on my own. It also really grinds my nerves to study empirical subjects for some reason (which is why I am able to loathe physics yet love math)

One subject I also enjoy studying immensely is Chinese. Language has increasingly become an interest of mine, and learning such a different language as Chinese has been a great challenge and lots of fun. I didn’t have a real reason to start studying it, except to be able to speak a little when I went on vacation with Jimmy to Taiwan. What started as a little intro has grown into a new major! Either this spring or the coming fall FSU is set to launch a Chinese major. Having completed over 20 hours of the language courses, and several hours of cultural courses, obtaining the major should not take too many more hours.

So now my two majors will be Mathematics and Chinese. People have mockingly called me a Renaissance man,  but I don’t see it that way. As I said in the begining of this post: I don’t want to build computers, I want to use them. This interest has not changed since I started programming in middle school. Now it is embodied in my studies through math which lets me understand the best ways to solve problems, and chinese which gives me the very interesting problem of translation. While my emphasis on what I apply computers to tends to shift as I learn more, it invariably involves computers, math, and language (communication if you will).

Living life is funny. One second you are giving advice, and the next you realize you are the one that should be listening. It’s funny how it seems like the same advice keeps coming up, in slightly different words and applied to different situations. One of the best embodiements of this advice in writing is a piece of the serenity prayer:

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;

the courage to change the things I can;

and the wisdom to know the difference.

-Reinhold Niebuhr

The rest is quite beautiful too, if not a little too focused on God.  Like many religious principles, removing  God distills the advice to its useful core.

It is hard to live in the moment. There are so many ways to get distracted. Emotions, goals, dreams, expectations and addictions all can work to move focus away from the moment. At the same time being blind to the future can be destructive, or at the least can hinder one’s ability to enjoy future moments.

It seems like there needs to be a constant balance between the present and future. I think that is where the serenity prayer becomes so powerful. If one enjoys the moment they are in by being at peace with the things they cannot control, has the courage to change the future that they have control over and the wisdom to differentiate between the two, balance should come as a result.

It’s unfortunate that serenity, courage and wisdom are hard to come by in large amounts, I suppose if they were easy that prayer would not be needed. I’m not quite sure how to work towards serenity, but the best idea I have is interaction with other people. Random interaction, friendly interaction, any kind of interaction helps me remember that I’m not the only one living life.

Courage is also a funny thing, most of time the only thing stopping a change from happening is a lack of courage. I learned a lot about courage from skateboarding. Most of the time in skateboarding the balance and physical control can be mastered through practice, but the hard tricks take courage. When attempting these tricks the only obstacle is confidence, but when you’re rolling fast and about to jump off a flight of stairs suddenly just the thought that you CAN jump is not comforting enough. You have to believe in yourself, in the cheesiest of ways you just have to KNOW that you can do it. It feels so fucking good to land, the rush of acting upon courage can be worth so much more than the product of the action (in this case jumping stairs).

As for the last independent variable in the equation, wisdom, I don’t feel like I have enough experience to speak on it. I believe wisdom mostly comes from experience, sometimes it can be studied, but even then it isn’t incorporated into myself until it is applied to a situation.

I think these ideas at the heart of the principle of progressive longevity and I think I’m making a little bit of progress.


October 1, 2006

This is a more mundane blog than my other one at enja. It will be more frequently updated. I think blogs have a quality to time relationship, where quality is the dependent variable and time is the independent variable. I normally don’t update my other blog often because it takes too long to write posts that I feel are of some level of quality, or at least depth. Think of this as a quicky.

I’ll start it by defining illathonian. It’s a silly word my friend in high school made up. Its just the philosophy of all things “ill”. I also like the sound of it, and its got my name as well. I am a disciple of the illathonian principle. Doesn’t it have a ring to it?

I started smoking again. Duh. Can’t quite everything at the same time I say, and seeing as I have to quit a girl, well I don’t need something like a nicotene fit to distract me. It’s all just excuse, I wonder when I will quit for real. It gets better each time, but there is something more deep rooted. Its not illathonian, well, because its not ill. It makes me ill.