Justin's Blog

Monday, September 24, 2007

Chicago, Part 2

I'm writing from the third floor of John Crerar library.
I'm going to have to go over all of the past week. This is crazy. I'll work backwards.
Yesterday was called "Experience Chicago Day". Basically, there were a bunch of free shuttles to run students all over Chicago. A girl named Kelsey (for those who know Aubrey... picture a blonde Aubrey, plus even a little bit more bitter) and I went to Greektown. Not too much to do in Greektown, besides eat Greek, get Greek pastry, and visit the Hellenic museum, on the 4th floor of some random building. Whatever the case, the food was pretty good, and we had some baklava, which was really good. The shuttles then took us back to the university, only to leave again to take us to the John Hancock center for the "On Top of the World" reception. This was really cool. We rode the elevator to the 94th floor of the building (I wanted to take the stairs, but the employees wouldn't let me) and then relaxed there was we watched the sunset. It was a really cool experience. If any of you come up here, I'll probably take you there specifically to see the sunset, and then to check out the architectural boat tour. That was really cool. I think I talked about it last post... anyway, the boat tour is where I took the picture that's at the top of this post.

Saturday was "Experience Chicago Through Service Day". This was pretty cool... we went to a school on the South Side to play bingo with a bunch of local seniors. They're crazy, those locals. But after that, we went out to eat (just a small group of us) to Leona's (mentioned last post, I think) and then watched some Empire Strikes Back (amazing. Return of the Jedi tonight, maybe).

Friday... it felt like I awoke, had breakfast, walked around a bit, had lunch, walked around some more, and then had dinner. Then, Star Wars: A New Hope. I think I bought books, too. Oh. This might've been Empire Strikes Back night, not Saturday! whatever. One of these nights, 3 of us (Cece, Kelsey, and I) went to Chinatown and got smoothies. Sweet stuff.

Tuesday-Thursday... a series of meetings and registering for classes. Here's my final schedule with brief course descriptions:

Humanities-Philosophical Perspectives on the Humanities-All right... Pretty sure this'll be like the name says. I had to buy 5 books for 1st quarter alone. What's more, they were: "Complete Works-Plato" "Four Plays-Aristophanes" "Homer's Iliad" "Sophocles II" and I think something else by Aristotle. Yeah.... Should be pretty cool, and really intense. Hopefully, I'll learn to be a better writer. That's one thing I'm really stoked on for all these "Core" classes-becoming a better writer and communicator.
Mondays and Wednesdays 3-4.20pm

Social Science-Mind-Supposedly essentially a psychology course. One book-"Eye and Brain" by some dude at Princeton.
Tuesdays and Thursdays 9-10.20am

Mathematics-Honors Calculus-WHAT?!?!?! Isn't this like, 2 steps back? Yes and no. Course title is "Calculus". Really, it's an introduction to how to actually think and reason in mathematics. More like 3 steps forward. I was wanted to take Honors Analysis, but I decided against it when I heard Paul Sally (a completely amazing mathematician, teacher, and person with an eyepatch and two artifical legs. Ask me about him in a phone call... I don't have enough time to explain how cool he is.) talk about the course. 30 hours of homework a week. In addition to class. That course alone. That's so cool. I'm taking it next year. I decided I needed a more firm ground in real theory and proof, so I'm taking this Honors sequence. Also, I couldn't just jump into Honors Analysis this year... the only way (in the vast vast vast majority of cases) is through Honors Calculus. It'd be suicided any other way. I could've taken the regular Analysis course, but I want to take this totally RIDICULOUS course next year. Furthermore Paul Sally is teaching it next year. He can't see past the 3rd row, either. He instructs people to yell "Yo Sally!" when they have a question or comment. So cool. Oh. And the exact class I'm in for the Honors Calculus is something called "Inquiry based learning". Basically, the professor gives us proofs for homework. We're not supposed to look at a book. We're not supposed to help each other. We're supposed to rigor and think (not in that order) it out. Then, we come back, and professor says "YOU! Put this on the board". It's also known as "Public Humiliation Mathematics". It should really teach me to think the way I will need to for my future.
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12-1.20pm

Honors Physics-I just took the first lecture this morning. Here's a clue to this course: I had to buy 6 books. Of course, 1 or 2 are lab manuals, but still! The instructor's really cool and always is laughing about how sloppy physicists are and how most of the math we depend on is even wrong. really cool dude with a really cool course. Here's one more hint: We're doing special relativity right now. The opposite order of most classes, because classical mechanics is wrong... it's a flawed theory. His philosophy is to start with a perfect theory (Einstein's stuff), and then derive the incorrect theories of Newton. Cool.
Lectures are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday 9.30-10.20am, Discussions are Tuesdays 4.30-5.20pm, and Labs are Thursdays from 1.30-5.20pm.
4-hour labs. Awesome.

And that's it. I'll be off to lunch in a minute or two, and I'm really enjoying everything.


Monday, September 17, 2007

The University of Chicago

I'm currently sitting on the second floor of the Regenstein library, the largest of the seven libraries on campus. This library alone holds 4.5 million volumes, and I'm not sure which it is, but either the library system holds 7 million volumes, or this library alone holds 7 million pieces, including the art and artifacts. They're going to start building an ADDITION to this library. A 3.5 million volume addition. 8 million volumes in one place. Totally amazing.

We left for Chicago on Friday morning at probably about 10am, and drove the six hours, ending in a room at the Ramada in Lake Shore. Chicago's still amazing to me. So different from Cleveland, it's a giant city. And clean, too. The lake's to the east instead of the north, and along it runs an 8 lane highway, Lake Shore Drive. This is pretty cool, because if you're driving alone Lake Shore drive, you've got total water and beach to your right, a highway, and then to your left, skyscapers taller than anything you've ever seen. Friday night, we went to a restaurant called Leona's. The food here was inexpensive, yet it was better than probably any Italian I've had. Service was wonderful, and the atmosphere was fairly decent, with old-school music video's on the flat panels in each of the four corners of the dining area. Weird to see Lionel Richie and The Who videos... Back to the hotel, where we relaxed before going to sleep. The hotel was really pretty cool because it was full of Chicago students. I got to catch an early glimpse and some conversations of my future classmates.

Saturday was due to be the beginning of the orientation process, and was likewise the most important day yet. We woke up and had a quick breakfast at the hotel's restaurant (not so great...), and left for my dormitory. Broadview hall, 5540 South Hyde Park Boulevard, is hotel-gone-dormitory with 7 floors and is right across from the Museum of Science and Industry. We went up to my room, which looked terrible at first sight, and spent 3 hours moving in. Now it looks really quite good, and I'm happy to have it as my dorm. We then took the 171 bus (pretty cool, riding on buses..) over to campus, where I received both my Chicago ID and a messenger bag with an ethernet cable and a bunch of other stuff. Following this, it was back to the dormitory to meet Dad, Uncle Ray, and Jason, who drove up Saturday morning. Following this, we cruised back to campus on the bus so I could give a really abbreviated tour, and so that we could attend opening convocation.

Opening convocation was really a lot cooler than many people will tell you... the speakers may have been pretty monotonous, but the content of their speeches was both interesting and inspiring. Many of them focused on the history of the university, and connected it with the university's present, making it feel as if we were continuing the university's legacy of being a sort of altruistic truth-seeker. Really good.

Opening convocation concluded with a processional at the finish of which I went to the class of 2011 photo and the family went to the family reception.

The rest of the night was spent in the house, where we had a meeting and dinner. Dinner was rather cool. As we all sat down, a table formed. The person to my right was from Turkey, my left, Zimbabwe, and straight ahead, Pakistan. After dinner, I played pool with a guy from Ghana.

Yesterday was maddeningly busy. I'll give a time layout bit and make it easy.
6.00-Woke up and walked over to the Point (just east... a park on the lake) to watch the sunrise. This was very good. Got back, and saw mum and Norman, who dropped off some stuff from Target, and then left for home (as far as I know). This was also very good. Somewhere in this timeframe, I ate an apple and a Clif Bar (thanks, Uncle Ray and Aunt Debbie).
7.30ish-8.30ish-Cleaning in room, got Brita pitcher all set up (had to wash it out in my bathroom sink.)
8.30-10.45-Honors Chemistry Placement-went fairly well, I think. Really quite basic concepts, but the questions were presented in a way that you had to think about them. Really more of a logic test than a chemistry test. 1 hour, 36 questions. The last 16 were physics things (basic stuff)!
11.00-11.45-Mass at Calvert House. The priest who presided Sunday is Ph.D. student at the Divinity school. He was pretty cool. Entertaining, interesting, good homily.
12.00-1.30-"Chicago Life meeting 1"-All about safety (Hyde Park, by the numbers, is actually safer than a lot of Chicago), and we got our Chicago Cards (good for Chicago public transportation, and fully reloadable).
1.45-5.00-Calculus placement. Fairly cool. Lots of good things, but some things which I wasn't sure about. Had I just gotten out of the BC Calculus class Mr. Dillon teaches, I would've had no problem... But I spent a year away from Taylor Series and sequences, and I didn't know delta-epsilon proof in the first place. Still... I think I might be able to get into Analysis.
5.30-10.00-House Activities night-Met in dorm, took the number 6 bus to Buca Di Beppo in downtown Chicago. Here's what's amazing. I walked with a girl to the Chemistry test in the morning, so we had been talking on the way to the restaurant. We decided to start our own table, and the most amazing people sat down. All of them were really cool, and we had a great dinner, just talking about nothing in particular-majors, classes we wanted to take, what we liked to do... really great. I could go into detail about all of the conversations, but I'll spare you all. Just trust me-it was really cool. After the dinner, we were all let loose. We didn't want to go with any of the other groups that the house broke into (movies or dormitory return), so we just went out on our own and walked around the streets of downtown Chicago. I was really happy, because everyone really was safety-conscious and watched our for each other. We were all taking mental head counts all the time, and keeping eyes out for people and bad places to be... a really great experience. Eventually we found our way to the right bus stop (thanks to a map picked up from another CTA stop), and felt safe and good and rode back. When we got back, we all exchanged phone numbers.

Today... it looks pretty cloudy and windy outside, which is odd... because the forecast is billing for sunny. I've got a french placement exam after this at 11.00am, and then a group meeting with my adviser and a bunch of other... advisees? Tonight the house is going on an architectural tour of Chicago on a boat... It should be remarkable. I should bring my camera. Maybe I can get a picture of all the people I was telling you all about at the same time.

If anyone has questions or comments or whatever, please just call me up or write me, or email me, or something. I still haven't figured out how to get my mailbox to open, but I'll probably figure it out by the end of the day...

Thursday, September 13, 2007

None of great enough scope.

Hello, everyone.
My past three months have been filled with goodbyes.
Friends, relatives, and my family have all taken their time to wish me luck and prayers and the best as I venture forth from Strongsville to the great University of Chicago.
I can't even begin to describe to you all how excited I am. For it to be that the campus I walked with Rochelle five months ago will soon be given to me... It's unfathomable. All of the architecture, the books, the thought, the coffeehouses... The flights of stairs and floors they lead to, and the power of the unlocked door... Two days from now, it will all be placed upon my shoulders by President Zimmer. So as many before me have realized-the goodbyes lead to hello's.

But I've taken extra special care in my goodbyes.
You see, I've made them all imperfect.

For some reason, be it either movies or music, there's a perception in my mind that a perfect goodbye is final. I usually like to fight these perceptions, but I feel no need to do so, here. There's a sort of quirky irony in an imperfect goodbye-the little bit of dark humor or sarcastic comment inserted at the end of a tearful sentence. It's funny! It also says that "Although I may look like this is the end, I know it isn't. I'll see you again, and I hope to high heaven that you mention that screw-up that just happened when I do."

So kids... Don't be worried if I gave you an off-color goodbye. A nonchalance that reeked of apathy. It wasn't out of apathy, and it wasn't out of spite. It was to leave the book unfinished, and the epilogue still chapters away.

You're all incredible. I'll talk to you from Chicago.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

I bought a refrigerator.

Thought you all might like to know that.
Let's see-last post was on the 28th, and today is September 6th.

I'll sum up the past week in a short bit, so I can get to the stuff for which people read this.
Weekend at Dad's-good, involved guitar playing and going to Milan Melon Festival with Uncle Ray.
Getting sick.
Getting well.
Guitar, mathematics, Hershey's.

And now to the good stuff:
I'm incredibly excited about going in only about a week.
There's a countdown posted on the class of 2011 site of the amount of time left until Orientation Week... to see that there are only 8 and a half days left is remarkable. We've been packing stuff up in the Highlander, and going over lists just to make sure that we have everything together and purchased. I recently purchased towels, went to the Mustard Seed and got some cool organic shampoo, and as previously mentioned, got meself a mini-fridge today from Target. Nice model, really... 1.6 cubic feet, stainless steel door, on sale. How can you go wrong? There's even a little freezer at the top for ice or a box of popsicles.
For probably the first time (regrettably so), I've been flipping through the course catalog. I'm completely amazed at what awaits at Chicago. Incredible courses where, for the first time, I'll be able to take exactly what I want. So many of the high level math and computer science courses beckon, and then even the history and humanities courses look cool. No offense to the history and humanities teachers who read this... It's just that usually, the sciences and maths interest me much more. Sociology has interested me for a few years now, and I'm really interested in some of the courses in that department.
And it sounds like I'm going to be starting a library... On the class bulletin boards, upperclassmen are posting that we will almost definitely amass 20-30 books a year, and some years up to 50 (if the year is humanities-heavy). They're recommending choosing the books one will bring from home very carefully... Dorm rooms get smaller as the year goes on, apparently.

A library, a barrage of stuff I want to learn, and a refrigerator. Good week.