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The first thing that comes to mind is this: it's not easy.

Now, there are the obvious reasons. The course work is incredibly difficult, and sometimes incredibly hard to conceptualize. As one delves further and further into physics, the physics itself gets farther and farther from your daily observations. Sure, we've all seen the effects of a car crash, and so we can all conceptualize how that translates into the physics of collisions. We've all seen a baseball pop up into the air in that perfect parabola, and once we learn those first few concepts, we can see how the equations describe reality.

But how many people have seen the Aharomov-Bohm effect, a strange quality of adding an internal magnetic field to the double-slit quantum experiment? Not many, and therefore, it's a lot harder to grasp at first.

The material of physics itself requires a certain mindset that has to be acquired through constant study and inquiry in daily life. You can't set physics aside and pick it up later like you can a book of poems or philosophy.

This also means that a lot of liberal arts majors don't know physics (and aren't required to practice it). However, at Oberlin College, we have a series of breadth requirements called the 9-9-9 requirements. This means that, in order to graduate, all students must take at least 9 credits each in each "department of learning." These departments are natural sciences, humanities, and social studies.

This means that any given liberal arts major is only required to take half as many computational classes as any given science major is required to take liberal arts classes.

Also, take a moment to think about the skill sets used in these departments. For both the social studies and the humanities, the majority of coursework will be based off of reading and analysis, which will then be calculated based off of testing and class participation. All of this is subjective to the mindset and preferences of the professor.

How about in the sciences? In the natural sciences (which includes everything from computer science to mathematics to psychology), the students are given a set of topics which they must know and understand, are given assignments that show objectively what the student knows and understands (as there is a defined right and wrong answer) and are graded accordingly. The students are given tests that also test this knowledge, and are given some credit for their participation in class, though it is minimal. Grading is based off of demonstrated understanding, which is objective, and cannot be changed because the professor doesn't like the way you wrote the equation.

Another observation: the classes in these departments are biased towards the liberal arts majors. When skimming through the catalogue, there are a variety of 100-500 level courses in all of the 9-9-9 departments, but natural science is the only department that offers 000-099 level courses. Oberlin College specifically allows liberal arts students to get by doing less intellectually difficult work so that they can graduate. They are placed in classes designed to be easier for them, whereas the science majors are expected to analyze poetry and write essays on the same subjective grading curve with the liberal arts majors, who are (hypothetically) getting a career in analyzing this poetry and writing these essays.

However, this administrational bias towards liberal arts, and the naturally more computationally difficult course work, are not the main focus of my rant. The main focus of my rant is the actual sociological bias of the students themselves against science majors.

There's a tendency in science-type majors to be socially awkward. I believe this is because we find the work that we do so consuming and fascinating, we forget how to interact with people. That processing center of the brain gets partially redirected towards thinking about research and each individual's main interest. Personally, I almost never have difficulty communicating with other science majors. We empathize with each other's social awkwardness, and our general understanding of science enables us to be interested in what they're saying. This is why I love talking to physics majors: not only do we think in similar ways, we also are interested in topics that require a lot of the same background training. It makes it very easy to share enthusiasm.

I don't know why liberal arts majors don't appear to have this problem. Maybe their topics are broad enough that they can empathize with the enthusiasms of a wider variety of people. Or maybe they don't find French and Cinema Studies as instinctively intimidating as science-type majors. I don't know. And, honestly, I can't judge a person for being better equipped than me in social interactions.

What I am judging them for is taking the first hit. Honestly, scientists have the stereotype of being socially awkward for a reason: a lot of us are. We kind of can't help coming off strong. We don't know how to talk to people.

So it really doesn't help when a science-type person tries to reach out and have some real social interaction, and gets shot down based on some preconceived bias that these liberal arts majors have against science and math. It doesn't help that there are a great deal more liberal arts majors than science majors as well. Not only are these science-majors having trouble in individual encounters, but these incidents aren't isolated. Many times over, I have had the experience of watching people become disinterested in me after hearing my major. And it hurts.

I refuse to be dishonest. I am an astrophysics and electrical engineering major. I will not tell someone a lie in order to reel them into a longer conversation and the possibility of a friendship. I value the truth too much, and this value stemmed from my deep passion for science. But after repeatedly watching people's eyes gloss over at the mention of math, it begins to get disheartening. I may be socially awkward, but that doesn't mean I want to be alone.

So here's my call to bridge the gap. Have some empathy. We might not be the best at initially forming contact with people, and we might be a bit rude on occasion, and we might have a slight obsession with objectivity and truth, but we're really nice people for the most part. We have individual interests and personalities that aren't dependent on our research or field. Yes, a lot of us love math, but have you ever stopped to consider why?

Have the open mind you claim to have.

aliceheist

[Of course, I'm not saying that all scientists are socially awkward, and I'm not saying that all liberal arts majors avoid being friends with science majors. I'm just reporting my personal findings.]
It seems illogical, doesn't it? Life in a dorm is famous (infamous?) for being messy and disorganized. Dorm rooms with pizza boxes scattered across any available surface, laundry thickly coating the floor, papers from three semesters ago piled upon the desk. Seem familiar?

Strangely, that was my life in high school, but it's turning out wildly differently in college. I believe this has everything to do with my tiny living space, and nothing at all to do with my actually becoming more responsible.

You see, my dorm room is absolutely tiny. Kind of adorable, mostly annoying. I honestly had to move my desk to be able to push the chair out enough to get up.

Because of this tiny living space, it's really easy to get it messy to the point of being unlivable. Honestly, all it takes is leaving my laundry out after my shower once and not cleaning my coffee cup in the morning. At that point, my room is too messy to ignore.

I used to be able to leave my stuff out for weeks before it bothered me. It now takes less than 24 hours before I can't deal with it anymore.

This means that - for the first time in my life - I have a regular cleaning schedule, and I actually pick up my messes when I make them.

A Typical Day:
7-8 AM: wake up, go to shower
Twelve minutes later: get back from shower, turn on coffeemaker, brush hair, finish face washing process and put on makeup, throw robe and towel on bed
After that: change into clothes for the day, realize that towel and robe are still on bed, be bothered, hang up both, finish making coffee, start drinking coffee
45 minutes after waking up: go to breakfast and then go to class
10 AM: get back to dorm, putz around until Calculus
11 AM: Calculus, enjoy professor's tangential jokes (pun kind of intended)
12 PM: lunch
until 1:30/2:30: maybe do some reading for class, probably putz around until class some more
after final class of day (2:20/4:20): begin studying/working on problem sets/doing reading/writing papers
later: dinner
after dinner: continue studying
evening: realize that coffee cup is still sitting there, and is dirty. Be bothered. Wash it. Get back to dorm and realize that room is disorganized again (when did that happen?) Organize papers, and put things away. Putz around for a a few more minutes, and then get back to studying
later in evening: realize that I have class at 8/9 AM. Go to bed.

What the hell? This isn't what college is for! I'm not supposed to learn how to maintain my living space/be responsible until I have a shitty apartment as a graduate student, and need to learn to take care of myself completely independently. Why am I jumping the gun on this?

And you know what I do on the weekends? Laundry! I do laundry. Every week.

I feel like I'm not having the right college experience here, guys.

Side Note: Uh, guys? There's weather in Ohio. Like, real weather. A couple of days ago, we had a huge thunderstorm. The day after it was warm and sunny. My little California mind is highly confused. But also a little excited. The trees are beginning to turn red, and there are crunchy leaves on the ground. That never happened before. I can't wait for snow.

aliceheist

UPDATE: I'm hoping to start updating every week (hopefully on Sundays, but that didn't work out this week.) Since I'm all being responsible in one area of my life, maybe it'll spread to you guys too. Don't hold me to it, though. I get distracted a lot.

on the past six months: part three

Part Three: March

March was defined by the play I was directing: "The Odd Couple - Female Version". This play was my senior project, and had been in the making since July of the previous year. There had been many twists and bumps along the way (I had to recast half of the cast at various intervals), but it was my baby.

So, at the start of March, the cast moved into the theater, and began blocking. Rehearsals began to get longer. This is also when the Great Vera Hunt came into being. My original Vera had stopped showing for rehearsals. She thought she could manage without, I knew she couldn’t. I told her she either had to come to every remaining rehearsal, or I would drop her. She didn’t come. I was out a Vera. I then cast tried to cast another girl for the role. She had to drop a week later due to conflicts with the other play she was starring in. A week later, I still hadn’t found anybody for the part, so I stepped in. A week after that, my best friend Linda mentioned that she wished she could be in the play. She was quickly ushered into the part, with two weeks to prepare for Opening Night.

Outside of the Vera Debacle, there was also the question of finding the remaining set pieces, props, costumes, and getting posters out. A concessions list was in the office, with no names until a week before the play. Most of the costumes and props were pilfered from my house, and unloaded onto any flat surface backstage. The poster came to me only two weeks before the show was to open, and I quickly made rounds posting them anywhere I could think to. Rehearsals were now going everyday after school, tensions were rising, and lines were still being memorized.

The weeks leading up to Opening Night, I was going crazy. There was too much to take care of, and too little time to do it. Things kept going wrong, and I was absolutely losing my ability to cope with anything else. I went to school in the morning, worked on the play whenever I got the chance, went to rehearsal everyday after school, went home, and was asleep by 8:30. My emotions were haywire, and it didn’t help that this was when many colleges decided to reject me.

Opening Night became Gala Night, and I had to find people to make me some fancy food for the occasion. Finally, the last rehearsal was over, and the cast was dressed and nervous backstage, ready for Gala Night. Food was on the tables, tickets were sold, people had come (thank God). And then we did it. The lights dimmed, the actors came on stage, and the play began. I sat in the tech booth watching what I had created unfold before a real audience.

It was after the first act that I realized Moody’s hadn’t included cream with their coffee, and that I had forgotten to buy utensils and napkins for the fancy food I had prepared. But otherwise, the play was a complete success. People laughed, all the scene changes happened just as they were supposed to. It had worked.

I had never been prouder.

The next week flew by. We had one rehearsal during the week, but we basically kicked back and let the show take its natural course.

Immediately after the play, my body gave up on me, and I came down with [SPOILER ALERT for part four] the flu, pink eye, and a terrible ear infection over the course of a week. It was simply too much.

However, I absolutely loved that play and cast to pieces. We really pulled something off with that show.

Hopefully part four will be up soon.
aliceheist

on why I'm not a very good blogger

I'm so sorry.
 I have never had a more difficult or insane set of swim classes in the entirety of of teaching career. Like, holy fucking shit. These kids are crazy. They are actively trying to kill themselves during the entirety of the lesson. Not even kidding.

So, this is me explaining to the world what swim lessons are, from a teacher's perspective. As parents seem to have an entirely different idea about this.

WHAT THEY ARE:

Swim lessons are an opportunity for your child to learn, from a trained expert, how to swim. They learn techniques to be a stronger and more efficient swimmer, in a safe and fun environment. Parents can, in fact, take this job on themselves, if they so desire. Anyone who knows how to swim can teach someone else how to swim. But they pay for this opportunity so that someone who really knows they're shit can do it better than they could.

Swim lessons are a class. This means that the child should approach the class in the same way they'd approach school. I understand that kids have super short attention spans. Like, I totally get that. Kids will get distracted, and they'll want to play. But they should also know that this is class time, and they should try to - oh, I don't know - listen to their teacher? Just an idea.

WHAT PARENTS THINK THEY ARE:
Half an hour of daycare, five days a week.

Parents: please, think about what I've said. Please, don't give your kids candy or coffee immediately before lessons.

I'd really appreciate it.

aliceheist
I teach swim lessons. Currently, the swim center I work for is teaching the summer sessions, which are two-week sessions that run five days a week. In my opinion, this is better for the class. Although it is harder on the instructor, it allows the kids to absorb a lot more of what is thrown at them in lessons. 

It also expands the ability for the instructor to bond with the students. Constant contact helps grow trust and affection. 

This spurred something wonderful to happen in the last session. I got my first "I love you" note from a student.

As a relatively new teacher, this is both a milestone, and a super great feeling moment.

On the last day of this momentous session, I was sitting in the lifeguard shack, sorting through the last-minute paperwork details of the end of a class. Then I heard a knock on the door.

I look over, and I see Genevieve, one of my preschool level 1 students.

So I go over to the door, and crouch down to see what Genevieve wants to say.

"I made these for you."

I look down, and she's holding three objects. She hands them to me, and I look through them.

One is a note, which says, "Dear Alice, I love you. From, Genevieve?" (NOTE: She absolutely did spell her name correctly. Some of the letters were reversed, but she spelled Genevieve - at four years of age - correctly.) I don't know what the question mark is for, but it was there.

Second was a piece of paper with a mandala drawn on it. Not a great mandala, but probably better than what I could draw. Especially as a four-year-old. It was green and blue and teal.

But the real kicker is the third item: a fully illustrated... toilet paper tube. Yes, fully. She even colored the inside.

It. Was. Adorable.

I gave her a big hug, and said, "Wow, thanks Genevieve." She kind of smiled awkwardly, and went back to wait for class to start.

I'm saving these forever.

aliceheist

on the past six months: part two

Part Two: February
 
There was only one major event of February, and it's not what you think it is. No, February was not defined by Valentine's Day, but by Santa Fe, New Mexico.

St. John's College was absolutely scrambling to get me to come to their school. They were doing everything in their power to convince me that I should finish my application and go to their school. They would email me twice a week, and when that didn't cut it, they started calling me. And when they called, they offered to fly me to New Mexico so that I could see how frakking amazing their school was and decide to spend the rest of forever there.

So I thought, "Sure. Why not spend a weekend in New Mexico. Might as well, even if I'm kind of using the school with no intention of actually changing my mind. Maybe I will..." 

And thus, a trip was born. They send me my flight information (a very early flight there, a very late flight back, and a minimum of time actually on campus), and say, "Can't wait to meet you!" (read: Love me please...)

And thusly, I go! I wake up at 4:30 so that I can leave for the airport by 5, arrive by 6, and fly by 7. I arrive, and take the hour-long shuttle to campus. This is the point where the unstoppable yawning - caused by my five hours of sleep - began.

I finally arrive at campus, and am quickly sent to visit a music class. This music class was discussing Mozart's "The Magic Flute" in seminar form. 

This is precisely the moment that I discovered I had absolutely no interest in this school.

As I was trying to act like I cared, the other visiting student in the class was actually paying attention and actually cared, laughing along with the professor's bad jokes and nodding in agreement. The other students were making insightful (read: repetitive and contrived) points. I was desperately trying not to look too tired and disinterested. And failing. 

But, I still had practically 24 hours left. And so the visit went on.

Due to my complete disinterest in the school and its curriculum, I had a slightly difficult time making friends. The visiting student from before - who turned out to be my roommate - tried talking to me, but because our viewpoints so wildly differed, she quickly stopped trying. I ate dinner in a corner of the dining hall with James Joyce as my companion, who turned out not to be such great company.

After dinner, I had one more class to attend. This one was twice as long as the music class had been, and ended at 10:00 at night. I should have known then.

Practically as soon as I had sat down, I was falling asleep in my chair. And that honestly just seemed rude. But I honestly couldn't stop myself from dozing off. At one point - while the class was discussing Dante's view of heaven - I think I actually conked out for a good 20 minutes.

There was no hope. But still they strove!

The next day - after an entirely insufficient amount of sleep - St. John's started throwing the interviews at me. Each interview went just about the same way.
 
Interviewer: So, what are you interested in?
Me: Astrophysics.
Interviewer: ... Why are you looking at St. John's?
Me: That's the thing. I changed my major, and now I'm not really interested in St. John's.
Interviewer: ... Well, St. John's is great for science! In fact, I think it's the best thing you could possibly do to advance your scientific career.
Me: Right.
 
Every time! Even though they obviously didn't believe it. Two seconds earlier, they were honestly befuddled at why a science major would ever choose St. John's.

I visited one more class - a Classical Greek language course - before I had to leave for the airport. I mentioned this in the final interview, that was with the woman who had scheduled the trip for me. She was deeply dismayed. "I know science is what you're interested in, it would have been good for you to see how we teach it here."

This is coming from the woman who scheduled both my flight AND my classes. She should know that scheduling me to visit a class that starts after my flight leaves is not going to work. Is that what they teach at this school? Honestly...

So, that basically sums up February. More mishap and adventures to ensue in March and beyond!

aliceheist
 I am trying desperately to write a resume and create a budget. But no matter how hard I try, something gets thrown in my way that prevents me from doing that. Nothing obvious, like lightning striking my papers from my hands or booming voice from the heavens warning me about impending adulthood. But small incidents keep cropping up that are ultimately too distracting, and prevent me from writing down the damn facts.

Of these incidents, one stands above them all: The Dancing Hobo.

It was a day like any other day. After I got off of work and showered, I decided that it was a good day to try being a real grown-up. So I grabbed my papers and unsuspectingly drove down to the local hipster cafe.

I entered the cafe, ordered my drink, and found there was nowhere to sit but the window seat.

"No matter!" I thought. "I'm just going to be being a responsible adult. I don't need a whole table to myself!"

So I battered my way through the chairs and tables in my way, plopped myself into the seat, and began making a budget like a motherfucking adult!

I was a couple figures in when I noticed a very large homeless man outside. This man had a magnificent beard stained with his earlier coffee beverage, still dripping milk. He also sported a wonderful potbelly, and a torn camouflage pack. He meant business.

 At the same time, some local acoustic group decided that now was the time that they needed to jam, because their soulful voices and laidback guitar melodies would truly augment my studies, but only if played as loudly as possible.

The hobo picked up on this very quickly. He immediately set down his bag, and began grooving to the music. Right in front of where I was sitting.

So, he was hopping around, tapping on the window, and the music was blaring behind me. I was now trying  -with herculean effort - to write this damn budget.

The hobo then changed tactics for gaining my attention. He left his bag outside, came inside, and sat immediately behind me, and promptly began banging on the table and muttering to himself. At this point, I was just trying to avoid any form of eye contact with this guy. The acoustic band was still playing, and making bad 1960's references.

When the hobo realized he wasn't going to get me to turn around, he went back outside and kept busting his moves in front of where I was, tapping on the window with more vigor than before. I was just worried for my safety at this point.

Finally, the Dancing Hobo went to use the bathroom, and I grabbed my stuff and bolted for the door, budget and resume forgotten in my mad dash to avoid contact with this guy.

God, if you're reading my blog, please let me get this stuff done. It's kind of important. Thanks.

aliceheist
Ow.

UPDATE: When I got up this morning, all of my joints popped. It was disturbing.

on the past six months: part one

Part One: January

So you heard about the majority of January. However, exciting stuff did happen after I stopped posting. In fact, all of the exciting stuff happened in the same weekend. The weekend of my first Star Trek Convention.

Friday:
My mom and I leave Mendocino early so as to get to a meeting in Berkeley. I've been personally invited by Professor Dan Werthimer, the director of SETI@home, to visit the Berkeley Space Science Laboratories. It's exciting.

On the way down (in which we are late), we get pulled over by the highway patrol for speeding. So, we're delayed and REALLY running late, when my bladder goes haywire and needs to pee RIGHT NOW.

So I'm squirming in my seat begging my mom to find a rest stop while we're already five minutes late and very important people are likely getting angry with us. So she says no. But I really need to pee.

So we pull over and we're more late and my bladder is thrilled.

We finally get there 20 minutes late. They already started the tour. Nonetheless, we catch up, and we see at least more than half of the building.

And let me tell you, it was fantastic. It was so pretty and clean. My God, I fell in love with my career choice. They showed me the projects they were working on at SSL, and tried to present to me what it would be like to actually be a research astrophysicist.

What would it be like you ask?

Awesome.

Saturday:
Day one of the Star Trek Convention. We drive over early for registration. We decided to change before we entered the very fancy hotel that was being held at, because hell, everyone else would be dressed too, right?

Wrong.

There were not very many people in costume wandering around the St. Francis Westin Hotel, let me tell you that. Especially ones wearing as little clothing as I was. It was incredibly awkward.

Finally, my mom and I figured out what room we were supposed to be going to, and we dashed up the stairs away from the scrutinizing looks from fancy tourists. And we were home.

People who had pre-registered for Gold Membership for the convention were the kinds of people that wore their costumes. And they looked good, too. Quite a few TOS uniforms, quite a few more AU uniforms. One girl walked by in a full (official?) Enterprise uniform.

Anyway, we registered and got our bracelets, but the doors of the vending rooms didn't open for an hour. So, we had to wander back downstairs to the Westin restaurant and grab some breakfast. It was mortifying. However, many other Gold members were wandering around with us, so the mortification just settled over us as a whole.

The rest of the day was mostly uneventful except for two events: The Klingons, and the Gold Membership Dessert Event.

The Klingons came first.

One of the featured events of this convention was that there were going to be a Klingon panel. That's right: Klingons is frakking San Francisco.

Even though I was only in the 3rd row, I knew I needed to get closer to get some pictures. So I moved to the aisle with my spiffy camera-phone and started shooting pictures. I was waiting for the perfect picture: one where they were standing close enough together to get a shot with both of them. But, dammit, they just never moved close enough together.

One of the convention workers came up to me (twice!) and told me to go back to my seat because, hey, people pay for first row seats. After a couple of rushed shots, I scurried back to my seat.

When I was halfway into my row, I heard the Klingons call after me.

Did I mention my costume? I was dressed as a typical TOS Captain's Girl: a powerful and important alien woman of some variety who just happens to only wear flowy glittery fabric and a glorified bikini. I happened to be wearing a black flowy top and gold lamé panties.

And boy, the Klingons were impressed. However, I was too far into my row to get back onstage.

Have no fear though, dear internet! We met again.

After the panel, they had an autograph signing period. As I approached the table, the ever-charming Martok spied me.

"Girl in the Panties!" he cried.
"That's me," I said.
"Do you speak French?"
"Uh... a little."
"Je voudrais coucher avec toi. Ici. Maintenent. Sur la table."
"Oh."
 
To those who don't speak French, that means: "I want to have sex with you. Here. Now. On the table."

It was very flattering.

Later in the evening was the Gold Member Dessert Event. This is where Creation Entertainment essentially thanked the people who paid too much money for the conference by feeding us ice cream and giving us a little show. This little show was the best thing ever. Four of the actors who had been on panels earlier that day (Including Armin Shimerman and Casey Biggs) performed in a band.

The best part?

They all sang a song lamenting the Ferengi costume titled "Rubber Butthead" that was to the tune of "Rubber Ducky." It was spectacular.

Sunday:
Sunday was the final day of the quaint convention that we were going to. Mom and I strapped our costumes back on because, hell, today was the big day. Today was the day that William Shatner and Sir Patrick Stewart came to the convention.

It was packed.

Not much exciting actually happened, except that William Shatner checked out my ass. Uh, mission accomplished?

Anyhow, that's January. I'll keep updating on the past as I catch up and the present as it happens.

Later, internet.
aliceheist

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