Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Surprises, my first day of class, and such

Originally posted Thursday, August 30, 2007

Shortly after my last post, my roommate and some of his friends got the crazy idea that we should walk from the UT campus to 6th street to have dinner at a restaurant called Hut’s Hamburgers. For anyone not as familiar with Austin as I now am, that’s about 22 blocks. Down, and back. … Insanity. But, at least the hamburger was good.

Tuesday morning I took my car to a local Best Buy to have the keyless entry system checked. I had it installed in Sherman before I left, since the car didn’t come with it. Not a particularly noteworthy outing by itself, except for the fact that the discussion group I mentioned last post was going on at the same time. I had completely forgotten. I was, obviously, more than a little concerned with this when I realized what I’d done, so I now have my entire schedule on Google’s Calendar app. I get text messages 30 minutes before any event that isn’t a class. It’s not a foolproof way to not forget stuff, but just the act of putting it all in the calendar makes it far less likely that I’ll forget stuff.

Later that day, I got an email from my math professor, directing us to download his first day info sheet. This sheet specified, amongst other things, that we needed Calculus, Edition 5e, by James Stewart. I had Calculus, 6th Edition, by James Stewart. So, I promptly made a trip to the bookstore to return the books I had (the text plus a study guide and answer book that I realize I will probably never need) and get the right ones. First, I learned that I had to go down “The Strip” (UT-ish for the row of college-oriented businesses along Guadalupe street west of campus) three blocks to the bookstore’s ‘outlet’ to return books, and second, I found that the book I needed was sold out. Awesomeness all around. Now I’m waiting for my online order of the book to come in. Hopefully I won’t need the book for a week or so (decent odds on that, actually, so I’m not really too worried).

Our first day of class was Wednesday (or yesterday). I had calculus at 8 (fun?), in which I was mildly surprised to be the only person to pull out a laptop and check the professor’s web pages and online notes. Then I went to physics, where I was a few minutes late because I took too long putting said laptop away in calculus. Both of these classes were mostly general info, though, so I didn’t miss much. We watched a marginally interesting and slightly creepy video about orders of magnitude in physics, which means that a generally dull narrator told us about what we’d see if we could see an area of 1 square meter, 10 square meters, 100 square meters, etc. all the way out to about 100 million million square meters (which encompasses most of the known universe), all with odd, creepy music playing in the background. Next I had a Honors Research Methods class, which sounds like the closest thing I’ll have to a blow-off class this semester. The professors just amused themselves by talking about largely random stuff the whole class (there were two, a chemist and a medieval literature specialist). Our first assignment in that class is to investigate “something interesting” and write about it. I’m thinking about doing a detailed study of the annoying security door on my floor that sets of an alarm sometimes even when one uses their ID card to enter. Last, after lunch, I had my Java class. It’s taught by a slightly goofy former Marine (?. Yes, I agree, I don’t get it either. Maybe it’s an anti-post-traumatic-stress technique or something). Rather ironically, he was the only professor all day to object to laptops. He then proceeded to tell us a whole lot about how “computer programming is not the same as computer science” and automatic traffic control systems. We had homework in every class, but only one assignment each and none of it is due in less than a week, so no worries yet.

Oh, and the annoying surprises weren’t over for the day. I went out to get another miscellaneous list of things around 4, including a shelf for an alcove between my bed and desk where my books and class stuff are currently just sitting on the floor. I thought I had a dorm meeting at 7, so I cut the trip short to rush back and find that the meeting was really today, not yesterday. I then went back out to get my shelves and sunglasses. I got back and put the shelves together (they were really weak and one piece was slightly damaged) only to find that they were about ¾ of an inch too wide. More awesomeness. Then I took them back apart and packed them back in the box. Then I realized I threw the receipt away in Dillards when I stopped at a mall to get sunglasses. The awesomeness just keeps going. So now I have wimpy, non-fitting shelves that I probably can’t return.

So, for everyone that is actually still reading this (yes, I know it’s long), more insights on how I think and the subconscious mind and such. I started really thinking about how I think between my freshman and sophomore years. First, I pondered the problem the way most people do: do I think in pictures, words, or something else? I concluded that I think a lot in words, specifically in imagined conversations. For example, I usually plan blog entries in mental conversations. Of course, I also think about some things primarily in pictures. For example, my thoughts on awesome power sources I might invent or space ships I might build usually involve me picturing the thing I’m thinking about and explaining it to someone. Or maybe I’m operating it or something like that. I quickly figured out, though, that not all of my thoughts happen in words and pictures. Actually, I couldn’t really explain how some of my thoughts were formed. I realized, after some significant pondering, that these were just raw thoughts. Not yet words or pictures, just thoughts. After more pondering, I have come to this current model of how my thoughts work: New ideas are formed in my subconscious mind. Gradually, my conscious mind becomes aware of them. Even more gradually, I associate pictures, words, and eventually conversations with these thoughts. I then continue refining these thoughts with even more mental conversations. This process never really stops.

I think there are a lot of things that most people never realize about their thought process. I know that figuring all of this out has made me a much more complete person. I now know, quite certainly, that no thought is ever really finished, and that I’m always finding new thoughts that I have to process at length to convey to anyone else. “Thinking about how you think” seems weird, but it’s completely worth the time and effort.

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